Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

Big This Week

Recent Posts

26 Feb 2023

Embroidered hand sewn mini bag

 Ive made another small bag to match the larger one out of the fabrics from the James and Joanna Inspiration Box. The lining of both bags is from fabrics I had left over from a table cloth and a drawstring bag that some bedfolk bedding was packaged in.

With one oblong piece of old French linen from the box of printed and plain fabrics this simple bag is just one piece folded over and lined. 

The decoration is freehand embroidery on one side and Ive cut out one of the printed pieces from the box to sew on the other side, add these embellishments before you sew the oblong into a bag. Once the decorations are complete, fold the fabric face side together and you can hand sew the sides together in no time. 

To make the lining I had a piece of fabric cut from a linen tablecloth which I had dropped wax on, so I cut off the end with the wax on, cut out the stained bit and still had enough of this pretty pink linen to make the lining and keep the table cloth. Make it the same way without decoration, just a bit smaller so it fits inside.  As the edge of the pink table cloth had a neat machined edge I had this just popping out of the top. Make sure you put the neat side showing and just sew along the top edge to hold it. 

For the strap I used the edge of a piece of grainsack that had been cut off and as its a strong type of fabric it is the perfect strength for a strap or handle. 

The last few small leftover scraps of linen with go to making cards probably, Im still playing around and having fun with the Inspiration box.  


20 Feb 2023

Embroidery and Patchwork project part two

My patchwork and embroidered bag is now nearly finished, perhaps I will add a press-stud to hold the top and may be enticed to embellish a bit more with another patch or sprig of embroidery. This has been made using the James and Joanna Printed Inspiration box available on their website and in the shop at Harleston. 

In an effort to only use recycled fabrics I began with the lining as an indication of the size of my bag. Recently I had a gifted delivery of Bedfolk linen bedding, the pillows and sheets came in lovely drawstring bags, also made of linen. I have folded over a small section on the top edge which you can just see, its a colour called Clay and fits perfectly with my palette here. 

Using this bag as the lining I laid out all the pieces of printed and plain fabrics in the James and Joanna box. Moving them around I worked out which I would leave blank and which I would embroider. Once the embroidery had been done on the printed pieces I started to join the different sizes of scrap linens and grainsack in a pattern that fitted the shape.

The beauty of the variations in fabrics brings interest and texture to this muted piece. Some of the strips of fabric lent themselves to the strap, bottom reinforcing and side gussets. 

Using the technique of English Paper Piece patchworking, I joined the pieces together into two top sides leaving an allowance for the sides and bottom. Tacking and pinning to get it right I hand stitched all the pieces together. Once joined I added a bit more embroidery to the plain fabrics, and Joanna enlightened me with a new bit of kit, a Frixion pen, which you can draw onto the fabric and with a hot iron it becomes invisible if you make a mistake or once its served it purpose. 

Using one long strip I made a long strap and sewed this onto the inside. I then reinforced the bottom with an extra piece of grainsack.

Once it was all assembled I put my lining bag inside and just turned over the top of it to give the top edge a bit more finish and stability. Again this was hand sewn in place. 

I still have some printed and plain pieces left over so theres going to be a few more makes, a greetings card and a small purse sized pouch are most likely. Once finished I will post them here. By the way, the cushion on the chair below is embellished with one of James and Joannas printed letters squares and I added a circle of red leaves then attached it to a linen cushion. I hope you like what Ive done so far, more to follow soon.  


13 Feb 2023

Embroidery and Patchwork projects part one

 Ive got a few makes on the go and these will feature on Instagram and in Preloved Magazine over the next few months. I thought I would show the progress of the makes here for anyone who wants a bit more information on how I'm putting it together. 

This first project is all made using the James and Joanna  Printed Inspiration Box.  Link to purchase this is here 

If you haven't seen James & Joannas products before then you have a real treat in store. All the printed items are made from hand carved blocks by James and the sewing is all by Joanna, they have a gorgeous shop in The Swan at Harleston Norfolk, but you can also order everything on line or drop them a message on instagram.

The shop is full of all kinds of hand made homewares and French brocante items, everything from little lavender bags made from antique linen, to furniture and cushions. Using old recycled French linen and grainsacks, there is a great ethos behind this family business. 

These Printed Inspiration Boxes really do inspire your creative mind, great as a gift for yourself or a crafter, the box contains many printed pieces of linen and also plain scraps of different sizes. Theres everything here to make a large patchwork piece, the grainsack strips could become bag handles or bracelets, the printed pieces can be embroidered or left plain, you could make cards, pictures to be framed, sew into the bodice of a dress, make bags ... the list is as long as your imagination.

Ive chosen to embroider some of the squares, the urn has a blank above for you to create your own bouquet of flowers or branches. Ive used stem stitch and chain. 

The butterflies square is a combination of chain stitch and satin stitch and the circle around the words was made drawing around a small bowl to give me a circle shape and then free-styling stem stitch, lazy daisy and fishbone stitch. I may add to these or leave them more minimal.  

As I often tell people I did actually do exams in embroidery but let's just say it was a few years ago, well a lot of years ago to be honest, it was in the 1970's when you could take O and A levels in embroidery at school. These days I need to refresh my memory quite a lot so I check out online for a memory jog, and hope my eyesight holds up. It is certainly helped by the Daylight Lamps from Native Lighting UK, which show you the true colours of the threads when working in artificial lights. 

My favourite relaxing Sunday is sitting by the fire with a pile of sewing and my cat. A big stock of fire wood from Lekto Wood Fuels 
for my log burner, I use a combination of their hardwood logs, Fire Logs and fire lighters get it going really quickly, fast flame and heat so you can settle down without lots of faffing, find a good book on Audible and you are in heaven.

Thanks to all the gifted items from my favourite collaborators, Lekto Wood Fuels, James and Joanna Design and Native Lighting UK. 

Check in again soon to see part two of what I make with this box of treasures. 


11 Jan 2023

East Anglia Molly Men and Plough Monday

 Well it's been a long while since I posted on this blog, perhaps though I will try to do more this year in 2023. I've been prompted to write this post because there are so few images of the Molly Men on the web as it's such a local thing, so for posterity sake I thought I would do this and share my photos.  

First of all, forgive any errors as I am not authority on this subject, but as it happens on my doorstep in Rumburgh (near Halesworth Suffolk) and because so many people were curious about this old English tradition, I am documenting this years event by the Old Glory group. 

My information has come from the internet so I have no way to fact check at the moment. I am mainly copying the information from this site https://old-glory.org.uk  where you can see the other events that Old Glory perform at. They are my local group who are in these photos. 

Many people asked if they were Morris Dancers and I would say they are distinctively different, in style and dance, a much stronger more workman vibe which relates to the ploughing and harvesting of this farming community.  

The following is from the Old Glory website; Old Glory was formed in 1994 to recreate the tradition of Molly dancing in East Suffolk, as we imagine it might have been in Edwardian times. Molly dancing traditionally only appeared during the depths of winter as a means of earning some money when the land was frozen or waterlogged and could not be worked. It is sometimes regarded as the East Anglian form of Morris. Traditional molly dance teams always included at least one man dressed in women’s clothing as a form of disguise; sometimes the whole team did so.  In times of civil unrest, it was thought that a man so dressed would escape arrest, since it was considered that women could not be held responsible for their actions.  The term 'molly' is an old word that refers to a man dressed in women’s clothing.  In eighteenth century England, there were 'molly houses' which were meeting places for men of a certain inclination, some of whom would wear female attire.  Old Glory's molly appears as the 'Lady' and is accompanied by an appropriately dressed 'Lord'. These two characters, parodying the local gentry, lead the dances. There are other characters in Old Glory, such as the “umbrella-man”, who acts as announcer, a “box-man” carrying a collecting box, the “broom-man”, who clears the way for the dancers, and the “whiffler”, whose job it is to marshal the dancers.

Molly dancing is also characterized by facial disguise; the dancers of old could not afford to be recognised since some of those people from whom they had demanded money with menaces may have been their employers.   In the 19th and early 20th centuries this was often achieved by blackening their faces with soot.  Molly dancers in the present day use face paint, available in other colours apart from black.  For the first 27 years of Old Glory’s existence, we painted our faces black, to represent the soot used by some of our predecessors.  Although, in our experience, people generally understand this, we are aware that there are some who associate the use of black face paint with the minstrel shows of the 20th century, in which musicians and singers blackened their faces and appeared as caricatures of 19th century black American minstrels, and are offended by its use, regardless of the context or historical basis.  In order to protect the dancers and musicians of Old Glory from any unjust and baseless accusations of racism we have decided to make a slight change to our facial disguise.  From the 2021-2022 dance season onwards, our faces have appeared not black but grey, in imitation of the use of ashes rather than soot.

Molly dancing is, by nature, robust and, some would say, aggressive. These qualities are emphasised by the sound of the hobnailed boots worn by the dancers, which were the normal form of footwear for farm workers in the East of England right up until the second half of the twentieth century.

There is very little known about the dances that Molly dancers of the early part of the twentieth century would have performed, other than that they resembled country dances, but danced using a slow, heavy step, and with much swinging about in pairs.  We have constructed our own dances, based on such information as we have, and we have developed our own distinctive style. The Molly dancers of Old Glory are all men, whilst the musicians are all women. The musicians play a variety of instruments, which may include at least one four-stop melodeon in the "Suffolk key" of C, recorders, drums, trombone and “tea-chest” bass.

Plough Monday (the first Monday after twelfth night or Epiphany) is historically the day which marked the end of the Christmas period for the agricultural communities in the eastern counties of England. It was an occasion for plough gangs, who would be disguised, usually by blacking their faces, to procure money or largesse by dragging a decorated plough around the larger houses in the parish, with the cry of "Penny for the ploughboys!".  It was said that if you did not contribute even one penny, you would find a furrow ploughed across your lawn in the morning. There may also be gangs of Molly dancers, sometimes accompanying the plough gangs. Before the Reformation, the Church sanctioned the collection of money, some of which went toward providing the plough-light, maintained by the ploughmen's guild in the parish church. This usually took the form of a candle or rush-light, placed before the altar, whose flame was never allowed to go out.

We all toasted the Plough to give us a good harvest this year, put pennies in the box and listened to songs about the plough boys. The musicians hidden at the back wore ivy head garlands and their playing was absolutely wonderful. If you visit this area please do try and see the troupe and support the pubs who host the events. Although the Molly Dances died out in the 1930's Im glad to see it alive and well and do hope that future generations will continue with it. 


14 Oct 2021

Song Of Seasons Autumn Styling and Gifts

Welcome Autumn with all your warm brown and russet tones which I've been incorporating into my studio setting for our Song of Seasons prizes this month. I've styled them up with a newly painted and sponged wall using Annie Sloan paints to create the background and foraged for ferns in the forest to bring a woodland theme indoors.  

There will be several good books coming your way over the next few months and two of them from our good Instagram friends Circle Of Pines and Hill House Vintage.  Pictured here is the romantic, slow living book "Little Stories of Your Life" written and photographed by  Laura Pashby from Circle of Pines, lots of beautiful whimsical nature shots and words about story telling and creativity. I will feature Paula Sutton's book soon, which is a perfect coffee table fun book with lots of styling, recipes and glamour. 

A real favourite for us at Song of Seasons are the candles from The Smallest Light, who for autumn have a few seasonal smelling candles and room fragrances like this one called Falls Gold. Cinammon, clove and vetiver create this cozy soft warming scented candle and you can get a subscription from them too so that you always have a scented candle delivered to your door to suit the changes in nature.   

You may well wonder why I'm all dressed up sipping cocktails in an evening dress, well it's because Ostens Official perfumiers are inspiring us to 'return to glamour' with their Impression Cedarwood Heart perfume, taking the transition from the summer Jasmine to the wooded notes of patchouli and moss this is reminiscent of a bygone age. There's a full review of this in my previous blog post and if you want to try a few of their exquisite blends then how about trying a mini library of testers, a great stocking gift too. Their perfumes really are of the highest quality and a perfect luxury gift for a loved one. 

Ellie Warburton cakes sent us two free sample boxes of their new range of fresh cakes delivered to your door and they will also send out a box of four cakes to one lucky winner. I've styled them here with the reversible napkins made in William Morris fabric by 'Winifred J'who will be adding these and Christmas stockings to her shop soon and also letting us have one for a prize on Song of Seasons for December. 

Cosy autumn days wouldn't be the same without a snuggly pair of wool or alpaca socks that are hand dyed by Jules Hogan Knitwear in natural botanical shades of subtle muted tones. Jules also makes stunning wraps and ponchettas to complete your winter style. These socks are perfect for keeping your toes warm around the house or teamed up with boots.

Our November to December prize list is growing longer every day, and we hope to make it double as a gift guide too as all these products can be bought directly from the makers or good book shops. We have a candle holder, scarf, book, Jigsaw, Soap, Christmas card set and Christmas stocking. All from our favourite accounts and makers on instagram. More to follow on that soon and over on the gram. 

Please join us with your photos of Autumn over on instagram by tagging us #songofseasons - theres more information on our dedicated account about how to enter and make us aware of your interest in winning a prize.  All the best Janice 

Blog Design Created by pipdig