Welcome to my Country Days Blog!

I’ve lived in Devon for over 30 years and while I spend most of my time working in my studio, or in front of a TV camera or on an exhibition stand, country living does give me some time and space… to think about my next project!

A crafter in the country is never bored – nature is a huge treasure trove! Beachcombing, walking on Dartmoor, or rummaging about in hedgerows (while Richard pretends not to notice) produces all sorts of goodies. Shells, feathers, wildflowers, leaves – natural things are so often the ‘light bulb moment’ that gives me an idea for something new!

I have hundreds – actually, make that thousands ­– of ideas and projects from crafts to cookery to flowers that I thought I could share with you through a weekly country-inspired blog.

I love hearing from fellow crafters and swapping ideas and useful hints and tips, so do please feedback your comments on my blog, I’m sure it will be a lot of fun!

New Foodie Collection in Signature Dies

Wowee zowee – it’s not often I am jumping about saying how much I love a new range of dies – but our new Foodie Collection in Signature dies – I am just loving to bits.

You can see from the samples, they are bright and breezy – you can paper piece or colour, whichever you enjoy and they make just the most wonderful cards.

I have had fun making a couple of doughnut cards for friends – it just amused me that we have to avoid the real thing like the plague (we are all on a diet!) but you can play with these as much as you like and add as many sprinkles and icing as you wish!

You can send chocolates and frothy drinks, cocktails and goodies galore to everyone and it’s such fun planning and colouring – these samples were made by Sylvie Ashton and they are fabulous!

If any of you have other foodie collections you fancy – why not email me at Joanna@joannasheen.com and I will see what our designers say!

There are five new food & drink themed dies:

Hot Chocolate, Doughnuts, Gelato, Cocktail and Chocolate Box.

Why not click here and have a browse at these and other Food & Drink inspired Signature Dies – perfect for making those celebration cards and projects.

 

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Lavinia Stamps

I had a lovely surprise enclosed with our latest delivery of stamps, a collection of cards from Lavinia Stamps. I have long been a fan and indeed have several pieces from demonstrations as I watched them taking shape at the NEC when we used to be sited opposite each other at the big craft show every November.

If you haven’t played with these stamps before, they are both fun and produce beautiful results. The stamps themselves are very reasonable I feel and collecting them can become a temptation! I would advise not using Stazon inks with them and a good tip is that they do produce a range of lovely backgrounds that make using the stamps to make wonderful projects, even easier.

Just thought I would like to share these with you all!

We stock a growing number of Lavinia Stamps and Scenescapes – why not have a browse by clicking here.

Joanna

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The all-conquering conker!

Conkers mean the arrival of Autumn.

I spotted a request for conkers from a friend’s mother on Facebook this morning. Was she about to stage a local conker championship or challenge her grandchildren to a match, I wondered? No… she was one of the many people who believe conkers can keep spiders out of their house! Hmmm, I thought, is there any truth in that, and are conkers good for anything else, other than looking lovely, confirming Autumn has arrived and entertaining kids in the playground.

Are conkers spider killers?

I hate to disappoint you, but there’s no proof this is true. The story goes that conkers contain a noxious chemical that repels spiders but no-one’s ever been able to scientifically prove it. Legend has it that if a spider gets close to a conker it will curl its legs up and die. Others say spiders will happily crawl over conkers with no ill effects at all. What do you think? Are you one of those people who have conkers strategically positioned around your house?

Bake a cake with conker flour?

Chestnuts, the edible ones!

Do not confuse horse chestnuts (conkers) with chestnuts, the latter is a pleasant and popular nut, the former is actually mildly poisonous! Despite this, I have read that those old stalwarts, the Victorians, wrote recipes for making conker flour. The seeds were shelled, ground and then leached to remove bitter flavours.

Conkers can cure sprains and bruises?

It is said that the horse chestnut is so named because its seeds were once used to treat ailments in horses. It has since been discovered that aescin, which can be extracted from conkers, has anti-inflammatory effects and is an effective remedy for sprains and bruises in humans.

Leave conkers in your wardrobe to deter moths

Horse chestnuts… the much less edible ones!

Is this another spider scam? It seems not. If moths are munching their way through your winter wardrobe then conkers could help stop the little critters. Conkers give off an aroma called triterpenoid that wards off pests. Place fresh conkers in among your clothes and as they dry out they emit the moth-repelling chemical. I shall be investigating this!

You can get clean with conker soap

Conkers contain saponins, which are soap-like chemicals that are sometimes added to shampoos and shower gels. It is believed that the Vikings (who were apparently surprisingly clean!) made their soap out of soaked, crushed up conkers. I’m not sure I shall be relaxing in a conker bath any time soon, but fascinating nonetheless!

 

 

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Happy Retirement!

Well, what I wonder is retirement these days? I suspect for me it will be something that may happen when I am too weak and feeble to lift an ink pad or fold a piece of card! However, some slightly more sensible people take time in their later years to relax, retire and either stay at home, move home, travel or take up new interests.

Having just had my 65thbirthday this weekend I am thinking back to when my mother and father were 65 and they moved down here to Devon to live a few houses away from us. For the next few years, they helped with parts of the business that they enjoyed (my mother made wondrous apple pies and homemade cakes), and they took nice breaks away and enjoyed their respective cooking and gardening pursuits.

If you have friends that are planning to retire or are newly retired, they too may opt for different retirement choices and choosing what to put on a card can range from Yay! No more work – to congratulating them on a move to a new house or perhaps celebrating the fact they are starting a brand new venture. Anything is possible at any age these days and just as we have entrepreneurs that are 14, so we can have successful new businesses started by 65-85 years olds!

These cards use the Bungalow and the Tudor Cottage from our recent range that combines all year round houses with Christmas as an extra. So you can utilise the dies with or without the snowy decorations!

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Crafts in France

Time for another of travel blog from Tina Dorr. Here, she gives us the lowdown on traditional and modern crafts in France…

France is a country steeped in traditional crafts, handed down generation by generation – from the master craftsmen such as stonemasons to families that love to make toys and household items out of wood. Go to any market or fete and you will find stalls that sell so many beautiful things that you would be at a loss as to what to buy first.

Wickerwork is very traditional and there are many beautiful baskets on sale. If you fancy one as a decorative piece, you can even buy some stunning dried flowers to put in them. They hang at the stalls in shades of blues, reds, yellows, lilacs and more, and are just so pretty.

Another popular and traditional craft is soap making and you can find soaps of all shapes and sizes in a range of wonderful perfumes, lavender being a huge seller. The fragrance is so strong they can scent a room.

At country fairs, you can still find old traditional crafts such as weaving, lace making, leatherwork and tapestry. Often, you can watch the craftspeople at work and it is fascinating to see such skill and see how things are made.

A lovely piece of upcycling!

As in the UK, other popular crafts in France include knitting, crocheting, painting and upcycling. Upcycling is big business here as you can buy good quality furniture cheaply from a ‘vide grenier’, upcycle it and sell it for a profit. (Vide grenier means ‘empty attic’ and is the French equivalent of car boot sales).

Sadly, from my point of view, papercraft is not huge in France, mainly I think because the French are not big on sending cards. Having said that… it does seem to be starting to take off, probably because of all us Brits that have bought houses here! I know of two large scrapbooking shops in Paris and you can now buy some things online. These are still quite expensive though – so thank goodness for Joanna Sheen!!

Our local hypermarket sells a small number of craft bits and pieces, but that is aimed more towards the children’s market. We also have a shop called Action that sells a lot of British stuff and has quite a large and not badly priced craft section.

I am certainly hoping that papercraft takes off more, in the meantime, I send my French friends and neighbours homemade cards and explain how I make them… You never know, I may get them interested yet!

 

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