Natalie Sandifer Artisan Gifts

Update on the atelier renovations

projectsnatalie sandifer

At long last I have started on the atelier renovations! We have only owned this house for two years! and how quickly those two years have passed by.

One of the main selling points for us, about our home in Cressat was the two storey building in our garden which previously had been used as a plumbers workshop on the ground floor and two additional bedrooms on the second floor. This meant we had ready made workshops for my husband and I.

 Our atelier.

Our atelier.

Unfortunately I drew the short straw when it came to the viability of using my new workshop immediately, my hubby on the other hand, although having gained a dirty, cobweb ridden space was able to move his tools in and make use of the space almost immediately. All he had to do was sweep up, build a work bench and organise the myriad of tools he owns, into the convenient shelves and storage cubbies installed by the previous owner, job done!

I, on the other hand gained two rooms which had become a haven for filth and wildlife, specifically what looks like thousands of flies. Having given birth to our daughter just two weeks after moving into the property (we bought the house in May and only moved in the July) I had not given much thought to the workshop and in that time hubby had found it a good place to store anything and everything he could not fit into the cellar or garage, so on top of the grime there were now boxes inhabiting the space too.

Now two years later........ I am finally dedicating some time to renovating the spaces. The first room will become a space for candle making, silk painting, wood burning, screen printing, air brushing and anything that involves making a mess, as it has a tiled area with a sink.

The second room will be shared sewing room for hubby and I, with our sewing machines, fabrics, threads, yarns and so on for upholstery, sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery and the like.

I also hope to create a space where our daughter can have the freedom to express herself creatively. Until now we have been making do with our dining table as a creative space, which is not ideal.

During the last two years I have been imagining that all it required was a quick clean and a lick of paint - how wrong was I? Hubby had been in and done some filling of cracks to prevent further fly infestations but I was not fully prepared for the work ahead of me.

I recently ventured into the rooms to take pictures for my "before" shots and was confronted with more than I bargained for, this was going to need more than a lick of paint. The doors and windows were covered in fly dirt, (we live in the countryside - flies are a fact of life here, but this looked like it had become a refuge for every fly within a 5km radius.) There was a thick layer of dust covering the floor and any other surface it could cling to. Spiders had spun a lot of webs from walls to ceiling (which seem to have been completely ineffective at catching said flies.) There was a sad sight of the body of a local lizard which had obviously met his fate after being trapped in the room and to top it off there were bird droppings on the walls and floors, yes, that's right bird droppings. My heart began to sink, I would not be getting my creative juices flowing here just yet.

So two weeks ago, armed with wire wool, rags, sugar soap, my trusty hoover, glass cleaner, scrubbing brushes and rubber gloves up to my elbows I embarked on my mammoth task of cleaning up and to date I have spent probably 15 hours removing the grime from every wall, pipe, window and door frames, doors and light switches; hoovering, cleaning windows and preparing the room ready for painting. I'm leaving the wooden floors until last.

As of today a small patch of tiling around the sink remains to be cleaned but I can now venture into the room without having to wear gloves.

Next up, it's time to get painting and clean the floors ready for the installation of shelving and workbenches, then finally move my collection of craft tools and materials into the atelier and start creating.

Here are some before pics, I'll take some photo's before the paint hits the walls.




Fête du Muguet

French customsnatalie sandifer

The first of may is the Fête du Muguet here in France, it is also labour day, we all have a day off, hurrah!

On the Fête du Muguet French give each other a sprig or small bouquet of Lily of the Valley, it is thought to be a lucky charm, the equivalent of our four leaf clover. Pagans also believed that this flower was lucky.

The tradition of giving Lily of Valley was started by a young King Charles IX in 1561 who gave the flowers to all the ladies in his court, the custom spread through France and still alive today.

All the supermarkets and florists are full of Lily of the Valley flowers.

I vaguely remember my grandmother having Yardley Lily of the Valley toiletries when I was little and I have always though the tiny flowers were very pretty.

This year, we have purchased two small Lily of the Valley flowers in pots, to give to our neighbours on Saffrons behalf. On Monday 1st May we plan to take Saffron around to the houses and hand over her gift. Our neighbours have been very kind to us since we moved in and love to give gifts to Saffron, so now we have a chance to participate in the tradition and for Saffron to learn a little too, about giving and also French customs.


 Good luck Lily of the Valley

Good luck Lily of the Valley

Upcycled denim car tidy

natalie sandifer

Travelling with a toddler can be challenge, we live in a rural area so travelling by car is a must and keeping our daughter entertained during any journey means the car can get a bit untidy after a while, with all her travelling companions. We needed a solution that was cheap and cheerful.

Luckily I had a few pairs of old jeans hanging around and decided to get the sewing machine out (I must note here I have not used the sewing machine since June 2014!). I cut up the leg of one pair, keeping the pocket intact, then cut off pockets from a couple of other pairs and arranged them on the leg around the existing pocket.

A few lines of basic stitching later and hey presto! a car tidy appeared.  Admittedly it is a bit crude and only took me of hours altogether with cutting, pinning and stitching but it does the job, and I got to reacquaint myself with my machine again.

I can't wait to get the machine set up permanently and get some more long overdue projects on the go.


Saint Cochon themed market Jarnages

Market Lifenatalie sandifer

The first themed market of the year is here. It's 6.40 am on a fresh, dimly lit Sunday morning in the Creuse and my alarm has just gone off, time to get to work.

The St Cochon festival is a celebration of the humble pig, and across the country events take place at different times of the year, there is no specific date. Each festival is different, for example in Mazirat, Allier where they celebrate for two days in March - the event features a pig race, a demonstration on how to butcher a pig, lots of pork products, traditional bands and a concert which lasts into the early hours of the second day, and many other attractions, although to our great disappointment, no pulled pork!

At 7am after making Saffron's morning milk (as quietly as possible so as not to wake the sleeping beauty) I sit and drink my coffee, listening to an array of songbirds as daylight begins to break over the village. Albeit an overcast day but at least the forecast for fog has not been made good on. I prepare myself for the morning ahead, making sure I have packed the last minute additions - going through the checklist in my mind.

I say a hushed goodbye to my husband before setting off for the short drive to Jarnages, 5km from Cressat to start the day, wondering if the market place will already be filled with stallholders? or if I will find the place deserted? and will there be any live pigs?

Shortly after 7.30 am I arrive in Jarnages market place and ask the placier which space I can have today. The majority of stallholders have already arrived, those that have already set up their stands help the others who still have lots to do.

My space is next to the main marquee and opposite the plant seller. There is a vacant space where I usually have my stall and I wonder who will arrive to take it as I begin to assemble the gazebo and unpack my wares.

By 8.30 am my stall is ready and I pause to take a few photos and confirm there are no live pigs at the market today. A friendly face arrives in the market place - our friend James is out and about putting up posters and handing out leaflets to advertise his and his partners venture -  a newly opened tea room on the outskirts of Jarnages.

Before I know it it's 10 am and the market place is beginning to buzz with customers, the radio is being broadcast over the speakers throughout the village and all the stall holders are anticipating a good morning whilst speculating on the chance of rain as grey clouds gather in sky above us. Thankfully we are only met with a few spots of rain.

At 10.30 the star attraction arrives and parks in the vacant space opposite me, La Ferme des Trois P'tits Cochon (fresh pork products) and a queue starts to form as he sets up the stall. Before long the queue is at least 30 people long with a wait of at least 20 minutes to be served, and all the while clients wait patiently in line, greeting friends with the obligatory kisses to each cheek and chatting to the next person in line. By noon or midi everyone has been served and the queue has almost completely disappeared leaving just a couple of late comers to be served.

As the morning progressed I met some more friendly Brits, some I knew and some I met for the first time today. It always feels good to meet other expats from the local area and I love to surprise British visitors to the market when they browse the stall and watch their faces as they are met with a very English "hello", or "good morning". I also get to meet some interesting locals too, today I met a photographer who was browsing my greetings cards and explained he produces post cards from his photo's and how he aims to produce something a bit different from the traditional post cards stocked in the shops.

Another photographer stopped by the stall, he was taking pictures for future publicity material for the market (which is aiming to have a facelift by the end of the year, but I'll tell you about that in another post). He liked my knitted pigs and stopping to take a few shots, mentioned he might use one in the marketing material for next years St Cochon market.

You can always tell when lunchtime approaches on the market; the number of people has suddenly reduced, only a few stragglers remain and the stall holders start to pack up and slowly leave. I too begin the task of packing away my stock, folding up the tables and cloths and packing it all into the car, before saying my goodbyes to the regular stall holders and exchanging more kisses on each cheek.

It takes only minutes to drive home and I am greeted by my husband Phil and Saffron with a big hug and become Mummy and wife again.


My Ten Tips for Savvy Sale Shopping

Tipsnatalie sandifer

It's sale time and with only two official sale periods each year here in France, it's important to make sure you make the most of this opportunity for a bargain.

I've been caught out in the past, I can't count the number of clothes I've bought that have ended up at the charity shop, still with the labels intact because I bought something too small in the sale just because it was a bargain.

With my past mistakes in mind, here are my top tips to savvy sale shopping, enjoy!

Pyrographic Christmas Decorations

newsnatalie sandiferComment

With only 4 weeks until Christmas it has been a quick turn around for my latest project, Pyrographic Tree Decorations.

I've wanted to undertake a wood burning project for a while now, and last year for my birthday my husband bought me a heat tool for fabric fusing and wood burning, and this year I found the time and perfect project; tree decorations.

I am lucky to have a supply of wood from our hazel trees, and two years ago the trees were pruned - I cut the branches into lengths suitable for our wood burning stove at the barn and left them to dry. Since then we no longer need the wood for the stove, it was such a shame to waste it and the branches were just the right size for decorations.

My husband helped me to slice, sand, de-bark and drill the disks for decorating, then I set about creating the decorations.

I sacrificed a weeks worth of I'm a celebrity..... to create nine sets of decorations. Each set features 1 of each of six designs; star, holly, reindeer, angel, snowflake and Noel and I have to say I'm pretty pleased with my creations.

Each decoration is finished with a coating of natural oil to bring out the wood grain and protect the decoration.

With production taking place all week, last night meant finishing and packaging the decorations, at 1am this morning the last of the decorations was packaged and ready to take to market at Jarnages today.

 The finished product: Pyrographic Christmas tree decorations

The finished product: Pyrographic Christmas tree decorations

So far the feedback from customers has been really positive, so don't leave it too late to order yours, these decorations won't be hanging around very long.

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

newsnatalie sandiferComment

This year I decided to expand the product range into Christmas cards. I already make greetings cards so I thought I'd try my hand at the art of paper rolling; aka Quilling.

Quilling or paper filigree is the process of manipulating thin strips of paper into all manner of shapes and I love it. Although a bit fiddly it is actually quite therapeutic.

I have a couple of designs I am working on, Holly & Ivy and two snowflake designs.


 Finished 3d snowflake design

Finished 3d snowflake design

 Work in progress - Holly and Ivy design

Work in progress - Holly and Ivy design

Each card takes around 2 hours to make. In one week I made 10 cards during my free evenings to launch at the market last weekend and they are proving to be popular.

Next blog I will fill you in on my second Christmas project, which I am rather excited about.

The Pom Pom Factory

newsnatalie sandifer

The past few weeks I have been making Pom Poms, 50 to be exact.  Why? I hear you cry, well..... my daughter has a knitted hat with Pom Poms on it that her grandmother made for her and everywhere we go we get such positive comments about her hat.

C'est mignon! It's cute! is just one.

So I decided to make a few to sell on my stall at the market and on my website. There is a special wool themed market in Jarnages on the 4th December so I am building up my knit wear stock for the event.

An idea which has turned out to be a labour of love, each hat has 7 Pom Poms (or Pon Pons as they call them here in France) so as the hat is available in 7 colours, 50 Pom Poms are required. Luckily I can make these as I relax in front of the TV of an evening, but I can safely say I won't be making any more Pon Pons in the near future.

The hats themselves will be available to buy on the website and on the market stall soon.

 Saffron in her Pom Pom Hat

Saffron in her Pom Pom Hat

 The finished product

The finished product

 Colour option 1

Colour option 1

 Colour option 2

Colour option 2

Live at last

newsnatalie sandiferComment

Welcome to my new website! I am thrilled to announce the new website is live.

My old website closed in December 2013 and having moved from Swindon in the UK to Central France in 2014, moved house again within France and given birth to my beautiful daughter in 2015, the new site has been in the pipeline for a while now and I am so excited to see it live.

I'm going to keep this blog post short and sweet, so welcome to my world - I hope you enjoy the new site.