The monster ball

It’s half-term holidays and my craft table has been taken over by a melange of junk modelling, cut and paste collages and a troupe of plastic princesses wearing animal heads (apparently en-route to a masked ball). So I’ve packed away my sewing machine and decided to dedicate this week to completing some portable hand sewing projects instead.

Today I finished the neglected gang of soft toy monsters. They’re made from left-over fabrics from previous dressmaking projects. 

I’ve become particularly attached to the Paco twins who are made from remnants of a piece of psychedelic Paco Rabanne printed cotton I found in a tiny fabric shop in Brighton’s North Laines 10 years ago. Sadly the matching dress no longer fits me…

Lost and found in the village

As a resident of Worthing Village I went along to the Sidney Walter Centre for their packed Heritage Open Day. 

Fascinating to map the changes Worthing has undergone over the last 150 years.  Changes of the kind that lead from Broadwater Cemetery resident Richard Jeffries to today’s obsessions with psychogeography.  A good place to get lost, and then find yourself again with a cup of tea with wedge of cake for £1 from the Sidney Walter Centre kitchen.

Currently listening to... Ukulele Kuricorder

Kuricorder Quartet are a super-group of multi-instrumentalists who straddle everything from folk to post-modern disco. With roots in the Tokyo underground scene, they’re a Japanese ‘can do anything’ band whose collaborations with sanshin player Yasukatsu Oshima brought them to my attention.

They were in London recently and forwarded me their ukulele covers CD which includes versions of songs as diverse as Power To The People, Einer Kleine Nachtmusik and Bohemian Rhapsody, all played mostly on ukulele and recorders.

Ukulele Kuricorder is brilliantly produced and expertly played but also a bit bonkers – like The Clangers landing on planet ukulele.  On first listening the recorders and swanny-whistle sounds dominate, but on repeated listens the exquisite ukulele arrangements shine through. To give you an idea of their sound, here’s my favourite track from the album. It's Kuricorder’s cover of Deep Purple’s 'Highway Star' on concert and tenor uke, pianica, mellophone, bodhran, tuba and ankle beads. Enjoy!

A new bag for my Flea

For my birthday I bought myself a large piece of Sanderson’s beautiful Hayward fabric in turquoise. The print is inspired by the textures and patterns used to decorate 1950s Poole pottery and it's from Sanderson’s collection of reprinted iconic 50s designs (which includes Lucienne Day’s Perpetua, Marian Mahler’s Mobiles and Jacqueline Groag’s Festival prints). I wanted to make something special from the fabric, but also a thing I could use every day so I decided to attempt to make a new gig bag for my Flea ukulele.

I found an easy-to-follow guide on the Instructibles website (thank you tewharau), so took that as my starting point but added a side panel to give the bag more structure and shape (as is standard on all those dreary black uke carry cases). I put a shorter zip along the bottom of the bag as I thought it looked neat and channel quilted the bag to give it a luxe feel. I sewed a strap adjuster with D-ring onto the strap so that I can sling it across my back when I’m cycling, or shorten it into a handle to carry in my hand. 

Making a sewing pattern by drawing round my Flea

Preparing to cut out the pattern pieces

My favourite part is quilting wadding onto the fabric

I quilted curved lines to echo the shapes of the vases and also the Flea's curves

Adjustable strap

Zipped up bottom panel
The lining fabric I used is BRITTEN DÖRR by Emma Jones for IKEA
I’m very happy with the end result and already have orders to make two more bags for friends. My daughter is also begging me to make one for her battered yellow Mahalo…

My Flea uke gig bags are now available for sale!  Visit

A visit to Highdown Gardens

As a non-driver, I’m always looking for countryside places to visit that can be reached by public transport (or bicycle), and at the weekend I was delighted to find out how easy it is to get to the beautiful Highdown Gardens in Goring-by-Sea.

Highdown Gardens were created out of a chalk pit overlooking the South Downs. They were developed by Sir Frederick and Lady Stern who bought the land in 1909 and worked for 50 years to prove that plants could thrive on chalk with very little soil. The gardens include many rare and beautiful plants and trees and are a really magical place full of lush colours and scent – they remind me of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s ‘The Secret Garden’. They are also perfect for a game of hide and seek!

To get there, catch a train to Goring-by-Sea, and then it’s a 15-20 minute walk from the station culminating in a gentle plod up the steep road to Highdown Tower. The gardens are hidden away at the very top of the hill just beyond the tower, right on the edge of the Downs with a distant view of the sea. The roadside walk from the station is easy though the walk up hill up to Highdown could be a challenge for some, but my six-year-old daughter managed it and wants to go again - as do I.

 Entry is free; picnicking encouraged, or reward yourself with lunch and a cream tea with ‘award winning jam’ from the excellent Highdown Tearooms.

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