The garden in august and september

It is already autumn in my part of the word (small town outside London) but it still feels like summer. Right now, the garden looks messy as I have lots of deadheading, tidying/cleaning and grass cutting to do (path between the raised beds in the front garden). But despite its shivelled look, I love this garden, I can see some progress made every year, it is getting greener, prettier and more productive.

Here are some pictures taken in august and september.

Back garden

I didnt’ have much time to work on the back garden, I hope to focus more on it next year. One thing I did was to plant some dahlias and zinnias as companion plants to a gooseberry plant (this is the plant last year) and a fejoya goyava (planted last year also), both are each in a 55cm pot. The banana plant you see there is still small as I keep it in a 35cm pot.

dahlia zinnia bananaMost of the strawberry plants in one of my blue raised planter have died so I planted lots of other stuff in it: cosmos, marmalade rudbeckia, thai basil, vietnamese coriander, lemon verbena, lettuces and some chives.

previous strawberry planter

I also planted an early moorpark apricot in the raised bed against the garage wall.

Side yard

I wanted to incorporate a sort of mini orchard in this area and I am glad to say that I finally made it happen, I planted some fruit trees in the ground along the boundary wall (I lifted some paved tiles and planted them there). Some of the trees are doing OK, a few are struggling, I have to wait till next year to see if they all make it or if I need to replace some of them. The varieties are: opal plum, czar plum, early rivers plum, lord napier nectarine.

side yardI planted a clematite with each fruit tree, I find that if planted together at the same time, the clematite fares better. This one is with the greengage Reine Claude Ulena tree planted last year (the 1st planted in the ground in the side yard).

clematite up a greengageI plant most of my tomatoes in pots here as it is south facing. In this 55cm pot there are 2 tomato along with 2 cucumber plants (next year i think I will only put 3 plants per 55cm pot).

tomato cucumberThe midget pear tree is having 5 fruits this year.

midget pear tree with 5 fruitsI also grow most of the courgettes here, these are the varieties I planted this year: black beauty, golden zucchini,  round de Nice and lebanese. The lebanese one is the most prolific, each courgette becoming huge before I get a chance to harvest them so I make a courgette lasagna with them.

2014 courgette varietyThese autumn raspberries are not very prolific in a pot so I will re-plant them in the ground later on (don’t know where yet) so that they can give me as much fruit as the summer raspberries planted in the ground in my back garden.autumn raspberriesI feel that there are not enough flowers in this area, so I wil try to amend that next year. Here is the only purple ricinus planted here, it is still small as it was sowed very late.

ricinus plantAnd an exciting (for me) purple flowering tree – abutilon suntense –  that I grew from seed in 2012, you can see it as a baby tree here. It hasn’t flowered yet and I want to keep it small so it is currently in a 35cm pot.

abutilon suntense treeFront garden

This is the nicest part of the potager. The pear tree flowered profusely but it only has 7 fruits.

front garden potagerOne of my arches collapsed due to several gale force winds, and also because I planted a new squash there this year which I thought has small fruits but the squashes are big and heavy, to heavy for this kind of arch.

collapsed archAnd some of the raised beds.

veg raised beddahlia raised bedrhubarb raised bedAs you can see, I struggle with the grass in this area (it grows faster than I  can trim them), I want to change the path between raised beds into a gravel path eventually so I am saving to pay for that.

I am already dreaming of next year’s garden and hope that this winter will be as mild as last year.

How is your garden growing?


Sewing a russian doll fabric minky baby blanket

I’ve just finished sewing a baby blanket for a customer using a minky fabric for the back and I thought I would share tips on how to sew this fabric. For this blanket, I used a japanese Kokka fabric with russian doll for the front, and a cream raised dot minky fleece fabric for the back.

First, minky is a lovely fabric to touch, it is so soft and velvety, and feels lovely on the skin. You can find plain minky and raised dot minky. It is a popular choice of fabric for customers who wants a baby blanket so I offer a selection of it. But for us seamstresses, it is a tricky fabric to sew. These are the tips that work for me each time I have to use this fabric:

russian doll blanket 11. Minky is polyester so it will not shrink, therefore it is not necessary to pre-wash it before sewing it. If you use another natural fabric with it (cotton, linen, etc) then you must pre-wash that fabric as natural fabrics tend to shrink the 1st time you wash it.

2. Minky is a very slippery fabric so you must pin and pin your fabric layers (minky plus the other fabric you use), I pin everywhere like I am making a quilt.

3. To get a straight sewing line, I use a soft sellotape as a marking line on the back of the cotton fabric and sew along that line. Make sure you use a tape that easily comes off, I once used a super strenght doubled side tape and it was a nightmare to take the sticky bits off the fabric.

russian doll baby blanket4. I also pin on both side of the stitching line to make sure that the fabrics do not shift while I do the sewing.

5. Use a quilting needle and a walking foot on your machine. I also increase my stitch lenght, so use a 3.5 stich lenght instead of the standard 2.5.

6. One last tip: if you use a raised dot minky as a backing, then iron your cotton fabric really well before you start stitching as once your item is finished, it is not a good idea to iron your blanket (if you do then the raised dot will flatten out).

kokka russian doll fabric baby blanketYou can buy this blanket as a custom made item in my shop.

24% discount in the shop and featured sewing room

Just a quick note to let you know that there is a currently a 24% DISCOUNT in my main SHOP. The discount code to enter at checkout is   24FOR24DISC  There is no minimum order (shipping is free in UK and $5 for the rest of the world), and the discount is valid only for 24 hours today.

And I forgot to tell you that my sewing room has been featured on American Quilter (magazine/online site) in their Dream Studio giveaway. One of their editors saw pictures of my sewing room on flickr and asked me if they could use one of my photos. Of course I said yes, I was very flattered as my sewing room picture is next to some really pretty ones (links below).

my sewing room in american quilterStudio photos: (top to bottom) (1) Emma Jean Jansen,; (2) Caroline Hulse,; (3) Brook Wilhelmsen,; (4) Laurraine Yuyama,; (5) Camille Roskelley of Thimble Blossoms; (6) Lotta Jansdotter Studio by Jenny Hallengren; (7) Dawn Hansen,; (8) Lova Rajaonarimanana,; (9) Jacquelyn Gering of Tallgrass Prairie Studio; and (10) Anna Maria Horner,

You may have also noticed that I  finally finished the In the Press page on the blog. I still need to tweak this blog but it is getting there slowly.

PS: for those of you who sent me private emails, sorry I am late with my reply, I will get back to you all so please be patient with me



Winner of the ipad cover giveaway

Thanks a lot to those who participated in the ipad cover giveaway. The winner is Karins28 (I have sent you an email asking for your address so please reply to that so that I can post you your prize).

For those who haven’t won, I have emailed you a 25% discount code that is valid in my etsy shop.

Here is a picture of a 55cm pot in my back garden. I originally planted a pink rose there, the rose is 8 years old now so is not looking its best anymore so I added several plants in the pot to brighten things up (all grown from seeds): a tall pink cosmos, 2 rudbeckia marmalade, 1 dwarf orange cosmos and 2 frilly red lace mustard (that I use in salad). This pot is very typical of the way I garden, I mix flowers and vegs together and plant things closely together.

55cm pot


Ipad cover giveaway

Sorry I haven’t blogged for ages, and thanks to those who keep reading this blog despite the long absence.

As promised, I am giving away 1 ipad cover this month, this is the one I made for the Handmade Gifts book. To win it, all you have to do is check out my etsy shop and tell me – by leaving a comment here – what is your favourite item in the shop. The giveaway is open till August 4th midnight (GMT time). It is open to anyone anywhere in the world. You can enter even if you have won previously. I will select 1 winner randomly.

ipad cover handmadewithjoymy ipad cover in Handmade Gifts bookThe giveaway is for the ipad cover only, the iphone cover on the picture or the book are not included.

Here are some pictures of the garden (taken mid july):

2 grape vines, each in a 55 cm pot, underplanted with spring anemones bulbs, strawberries and purple violas. There are 6 bunches of grapes this year.

2 grape vinesThis is a peach tree, that was supposed to be a nectarine tree from Thompson&Morgan that costs £34 (they completely ignored my complaint so I do not recommend them for fruit trees). It has 3 fruits on it but they are not ready yet. It is in a 66cm pot and I underplanted it with borlotti beans and dwarf french yellow beans.

container peach treeSome squashes climbing up an arch (potimarrom and gem rollet varieties). Because I have a small garden, I only grow small fruit squashes and pumpkins that can be grown up some arches. This year, I grow each one in 35cm bottomless pot (in the front garden raised beds). 3 pots to each side of an arch.

potimarron and gem rollet squashesThis is an eucalyptus gree that I bought very small in a 9cm pot, I grow it in a 35cm pot so as to keep it small as I do not want a big tree. It is now in its 3rd year and is looking lovely.

STA60037Some desiree potatoes, growing in pink flexitubs (£3 from tesco). I only grow potatoes in these pots now. The other potatoes that I am growing these year are the setanta variety.

setanta potatoes in pink potsA lebanese courgette, growing in a 55cm pot along with 3 tomatoes. If you look carefully, there is a huge courgette there that I forgot to harvest on time so it grew very big.

lebanese courgetteThis is the peach tree in the back garden. Despite being treated with a bordeaux mixture, it still got some curled leaves (which I forgot to take off on time so they profilerated). But I got 20 fruits from it this year, and they were big and tasted lovely.

peach tree in backgardenThis was the 1st peach of the year.

huge peach from my gardenI recently bought some peaches from Aldi and they tasted somewhat like a mango so I saved a stone and will try to grow it. I will have to do some research as I am not sure if I should grow it as a tree or grow it and then get a cutting from it to graft on my existing peach tree. Have you grown any fruit tree from a stone or done some grafting? Do you have any advice for me?

Sewing wise, I have finished a batch of these ipad covers, they have a pocket which is big enough for an A5 size notebook and some pens. You can find it here.

russian doll ipad coverGood luck on the giveaway.

Magazine interview


I have been lucky again, as I was recently interviewed by a french magazine, called Coudre c’est facile (it means Sewing is easy). My feature is 2 whole pages in the May/June 2014 edition of Coudre c’est facile magazine (page 40 and 41). I have been asked about how to get a feature in magazines so I will share how it happened to me (for all my press features up to today: book and magazines).

coudre c'est facile magazineI don’t contact journalists, they do contact me. They usually find me via one of my shops: via my etsy shop for the feauture in Quick & Crafty magazine, via my folksy shop for the book Handmade Gifts, and via my dawanda shop for Coudre c’est facile magazine. So for those of you who are making and selling handmade items, my advice is to sell via etsy/folksy/dawanda as that is where journalists go and look for items or sellers/bloggers to feature in their magazines. It is really worth having those shops. Even if I don’t sell much via them (most of my sales are direct sales – meaning most buyers buy from me directly rather than via those shops), I will always keep those shops.

french press featureYou don’t get paid for magazine features like this. But it is a good exposure for you as a blogger or for your shop/brand. In terms of revenue, I don’t get much sales from them as these magazines are for people who already sew (so I am assuming, that if they like something I make they would rather sew it themselves instead of buying it from me). But still, it is wonderful to be in a magazine and I am very grateful for the opportunity.

lova in french magazineFor this feature, the journalist sent me a serie of questions to be answered by email and also requested pictures. She then wrote the feature about me, so the text is by her and the photos are by me. I am really happy with what she wrote as she managed to beautifully  convey what I wrote in my answers. The magazine is french so it is sold in all french speaking countries (including Canada) but you can also find it in the international section of your magazine/bookshops such as Borders etc if you don’t live in a french speaking country.

handmade with joy in the pressThis feature prompted me to revamp my blog, it is not finished yet but I’ve made a good start. It’s a bit time consuming as I do it all by myself but it is not complicated (wordpress makes it easy for anyone to update or change the look of their blogs). I much prefer it to the old design. What do you think? Do you like it? I still need to add some pages at the top menu (press features, blog links, etc) and I need to update the about me page and the FAQ page. I also want to add a special page for french readers.

I know I said that I will do a giveaway when this magazine is out, I haven’t forgotten about it so will organise that for my next post.



Garden photos

Some pictures of the garden this spring.

Mid march:

We had a mild winter so the bottlebrush plant stayed green all winter long (it lost all its leaves last winter), I hope it is going to flower this summer.

bottlebrush plant

The unknown plum tree is the 1st fruit tree to flower in my garden. The olive tree also stayed green and healthy all winter long.

plum and olive trees

This week in april:

In the side yard:

One of the peony trees have 6 lovely flowers.

peony tree

The dwarf lilac is starting to flower.

dwarf lilac

3 Honeyberry plants, they have finished flowering and I can see small green fruits now (they turn blue/purple and are ready to eat in june, they taste like blueberry with honey).


A corner of the side yard with the pink magnolia tree (underplanted with swiss chards), I still have lots of deadheading and weeding to do!

magnolia tree

Front garden:

The lovely blossom of the japanese cherry tree. This tree is bang in the middle of my potager and really needs to be moved.

japanese cherry tree

Back garden:

This is the corner with the red flesh apple tree which is just starting to flower. I’ve planted a few things around it last year and want to make a border out of that area up to the rose arch as it is just mainly gravel at this time. I have no design nor plant combination in mind yet so will wait for inspiration to come.

garden corner

The japanese acer on the patio looks lovely already.

japanese acer

This is the small raised bed in the area where the peach tree/kiwi/raspberry plants are. I’ve planted some wallflower there with tulips (just poking out) and a new (to me) perennial geranium plant that I’ve grown from seed, I can’t wait to see it flower in summer. What look like odd things on top of the soil are egg shells and oat straw (the bits left over after I’ve made an oat straw infusion drink for me).

small raised bed

The cherry tree with all its lovely blossoms.

cherry tree

And finally a corner of the gravel area in the backgarden.

back garden gravel area

That’s it for now. I’ve just received my copy of Coudre c’est facile (a fab french sewing magazine) where there is 2 pages about me so stay tuned as I will blog about that next time.