Thanks for visting Simply The Nest. I'm an English girl married to an Portuguese boy, and when I'm not working or taking care of our two adorable daughters, I blog about our house renovation, DIY projects, delicious recipes, inspirational interiors, and family life in a Victorian Manchester nest.

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I'm not a Facebook person, so instead here's a link to some kittens singing Beyonce in Northern accents.


Before and After

Here's the before...

...and here's the after:

Fellow dog owners may understand the link between the two - take one poorly dog with an upset tummy (he'd been eating Eva's modelling clay, the fool) who felt it was necessary to defile our delightful dining room and hall carpet, couple it with a spell of very warm weather, and the result was Andre calling me at work to announce that he felt he had no choice but to remove the offending carpet and did I mind? Bearing in mind that the last time Andre removed a carpet on a whim we ended up spending 300 hours patiently scraping lead paint off the stairs in the height of summer, I wasn't overly keen, but the alternative was clearly worse so I gave executive approval and the carpets were duly spirited off the premises forthwith.

Note for the benefit of anyone wondering why we didn't rip the hideous 25 year old carpets up as soon as we moved in - we decided to keep all the carpets on the ground floor in place in order to reduce draughts from the freezing cold cellars below that we can't insulate because the builders will need access to the cellar ceilings to install the new gas, water and electrics for the extension. However, we're hopefully a hop, skip (more likely several hundred skips - muwahaha) and a jump away from starting the building work (yay!), plus it's nearly summer, so we'll just have to cope with the occasional blast of cold air. 

Andre thinks it looks like a French house now and I can kind of see the logic - there's probably people who pay a lot of money for this kind of distressed chic :-)

Next up - wardrobe update!


How To Sew A Fabric Bag For A Child

Life has slowed down a little around here - Andre spent a week in bed with the flu (actual flu, not man-flu), I've been very busy working with the Love Withington Baths team (read more about the community-led campaign to save our local Edwardian swimming pool here), the girls have been busy crafting, reading and organising their toys (we spent a whole day sorting the deep litter in Eva's room into dolls, accessories, animals, monsters, craft and jigsaws), and even Enrique has been suffering from a sore leg, preventing him from enjoying his usual charge round the block every evening.

Natalia has also just come down with chicken pox, and is having a lovely time in quarantine at home ordering me around with demands for bikkits, sockies ("no not dose sockies, dese sockies"), locking me in the cellar, insisting on wearing her sister's purple trousers (too big) over the top of her tweed shorts (too small but she refuses to put them away), howling for more episodes of Peppa Pig (why are the episodes so short? Whyyyyyyy?) and generally being her usual menacingly adorable self. 

Penny, of course, has been enjoying her usual bustling lifestyle.

We have been making progress on the wardrobe - it's installed in place against the wall, the back, top cupboards and one of the main cupboards have been boarded, and I made a quick trip to Ikea last night to pick up the last couple of drawers (which were only available in store) and the internal lights, and was very pleased with myself for discovering the quick route  to the lighting area and warehouse - go through the cafe, turn right, push through a couple of unlikely looking temporary plastic doors and you're there (you're welcome...). Progress photos to follow shortly, but first, here's my latest project - a bunny dress for Eva to wear at Easter. 

The pattern and in-person instructions were kindly provided by my friend Carla, along with multiple cups of tea, chocolate Swiss roll, free babysitting, and an explanation of how to use some of the rudimentary elements of my sewing machine that I've been ignoring for the past eight years (what, that lever thingie at the side is to stitch backwards to secure your thread, who knew?).


It's reversible too...

Eva was beside herself - she knew it would be waiting when she came home from school and practically had her uniform off before she'd even made it up the front steps. 

I can't wait to see her reaction when she comes home and finds... a matching bag!

Here's how I made it. I reckon around 15 minutes of figuring out the pattern (sure, there's plenty of Pinterest versions to copy, but where's the fun in that?) and then 15 minutes of cutting, pinning and sewing. Super quick and super easy. 

I wanted to make it around 15cm wide, and 18cm high, so I added a couple of cm each way for seams and cut out two rectangles at 32cm x 20cm (doubling the width but not the height). Bunny fabric for the outer and plain white for the lining. I also made two tubes from the same fabric as the dress lining, which I ironed flat with the seam down the middle at the back. 

I had some flat wadding lying around (this is the kind of house that has wadding lying around) so I cut a couple of thin pieces and pushed it through the tubes by taping it to a pencil and pushing that through. I'm sure there's a tool that can be used for this purpose (Carla?) but I'm old-school, apparently. 

Pin the handles on top of the outer fabric. I used a ruler to position them roughly in place - you can measure it properly, if you like, of course. 

Then put the lining on top, reverse side up, and pin into place. Sew across the top about 5mm from the edge, through both pieces of fabric and the sandwiched handles.

Trim the handle excess away, and open up to take a look:

Fold in half with the outer fabric on the outside, and pull the top corner of the outer fabric back to reveal the liner underneath. Pin the two pieces of liner together.

Pull the top fabric back completely (it will now be inside out with the handles inside it) and sew along the bottom and two sides of the liner.

Then do the same on the outer fabric side. Be careful not to sew the handles by mistake - and leave a small gap at the bottom so you can turn the whole thing the right way round.

I then cut a couple of pieces of wadding into 15x18cm pieces, and stuffed them through the hole. This is akin to stuffing a tiny duvet into a tiny duvet cover, so skip this step if you're not keen. It just adds a bit of structure and makes the bag feel a tad more luxurious. Finally, I tucked the edges under and sewed the gap together with invisible stitches.

Ta da!

Eva'll probably stuff felt tip pens into it which will leak straight through the fabric, but considering how quick it was to make, I don't mind.  

Blogging done, time for more wardrobe. Got to work out how much space I need between each glass shelf to display my shoe collection to best effect; it's a critical decision.


Willows, Wildlife and Wardrobes

I've seen a few bloggers recently that I've been following for years posting about how they are updating their blogs less and less - most citing the immediacy and ease of alternative social channels such as Instagram as a primary reason. Personally I'm not a fan of Instagram due to the policy that anyone uploading photos automatically bestows upon Instagram the right to use the photos for any purpose, royalty free. I also sometimes wonder what future historians will make of our obsession for capturing the details - and that we're reducing the story of our generation to deliberately blurred photographs of our shoes, manicures, food and cats. You don't often see wide-angle shots on social media - it's not really designed for that purpose as we're mostly viewing images on a small glowing screen - and I think as a result there's a lot going undocumented. I still like reading blogs, and blogging myself, as it's a medium that records not only a fragment of an image, but usually higher-quality pulled-back shots, along with various musings that give far more insight into the personality of the writer than a bunch of hashtags. 

I came across a mildly horrifying article recently (on Twitter, of course) about how the Oxford Junior Dictionary has dropped words like acorn, conker, willow, buttercup, dandelion, catkin, kingfisher and magpie - all words that I strongly associate with my own childhood - and replaced them with cut and paste, broadband and analogue: blackberry with Blackberry. Feeling both alarmed and saddened by this, I turned to Eva, who was sitting next to me watching a Playdoh video on Youtube on the iPad (yes, really) and asked if she knew what a conker is. "They grow on trees, Mummy", she said. Close enough, little one. Even though we live in urban Manchester, we spend a decent amount of time scuffing through autumn leaves, collecting conkers, blowing dandelion clocks, holding buttercups under our chins and making daisy chain necklaces, because to me, this is what childhood means. Kids these days have to know how to operate touch screens because that's how the world works, but I also want mine to recognise an magpie when they see one (they can). 

We spend so much time looking at screens (often two at once), executing fiddly copy and paste between windows, and flipping seamlessly between Twitter and Chrome and Facebook and Outlook and Sonos and any one of a hundred apps because it's all available on your smartphone, right there next to you, from the minute you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. I've been feeling quite strongly recently that I need to step back from technology and become more mindful, more present for my children. I'm very much a crawl-around-on-hands-and-knees kind of parent anyway who likes to keep things as simple as possible, not for me the constant need to entertain kids with a stream of stimulating activities and excursions, but you can always do more to be present in the moment. More conscious of what's happening around me, more deliberate, and in general more observant and responsive to my own well-being and mental state. 

Which is a very long introduction to the purpose of this post - namely that after a couple of months of planning and procurement, we have finally started building what is possibly Manchester's most giant wardrobe ("it's a tower, Mummy!"). After three years of living with an absence of wardrobe and my clothes piled in random unruly heaps and stacks all over the house, knowing that in a few weeks I will have the ability to hang and store all my dresses, jeans, sweaters, tops, skirts and shoes on carefully curated and installed rails and shelves that have been designed specifically to accommodate the length of my Anne Fontaine shirts somehow gives me the same sense of mental serenity that I got as a child from sitting on the side of a brook on the moors, dangling my feet over the side and watching the water bubble endlessly past the time-smoothed pebbles. 

Here it is so far - main frame built, and drill-wielding blogger included for scale. Blurred and vignetted for ironic purposes.

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