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Eight Rainy Day Homewares

8 rainy day homewares
It’s an August Bank Holiday Monday in Britain – and tradition has it that it’s normally a bit grey and rainy!

As someone with Celtic heritage who is married to a Cumbrian, I actually quite like a drizzly day. I’d have to: family holidays in Ireland, annual visits to the Lake District and much-loved trips to my favourite cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh are often rain-filled affairs. Also, although our part of Essex is generally quite dry, the big, Constablesque skies we have mean that when the weather isn’t so sunny you are often treated to panoramic views of stunning slate grey.

So, let’s celebrate the rain and embrace those cosy grey days with my pick of shower-themed homewares…

Eight rainy day homewares

1: If Storms Should Come… Print, £35 at Iapetus:
2: Rainy Day Blanket by Donna Wilson, £195 at
3: Cloud Felt Coaster Set, £14.50 for four at Etsy: 
4: Handmade Ceramic Soap Dish, £21.37 at Etsy:
5: Cloud Cushion $199 at Cumulus Living:
6: Mid Wedgwood No113 Paint, from £20 a litre, Myland Paints:
7: Cloud Pencil & Eraser Set, £10 at Red Candy:
8: Cloud Kids’ Rug, €135 at KSL Living:

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How to show you care… write a letter, send a card

Ella Johnston Stationery collection (c) Ella Johnston

I love letter writing and I like sending friends and colleagues little notes and cards.

Handwritten messages are a wonderful thing. It’s a real delight to receive a handwritten letter or card, so much better than a text or an email. Plus you can keep a handwritten piece – I store my favourites in a little box and if they’re particularly lovely, I display them on my kitchen pin-board.

That’s why I like to make stationery that is really special – one you can send yourself or give as gifts to others. For this handprinted collection, I’ve drawn and carved out a leaf design on a rubber block then used rich pigment ink to colour it. I’ve then stamped the motifs over quality card and paper to create a stationery set that is unique every time. Just like a piece of handwriting.

Handprinted stationery (c) Ella Johnston

I currently have two products using this technique – a stationery box set and a notecard box set.

The stationery set has ten leaves of A5 size handprinted writing paper, five A6 handprinted postcards, 15 handprinted envelopes and ten recycled handprinted paper gift tags.

Handprinted Stationery (c) Ella Johnston

The notecard box contains ten leaf postcards, five in orange, five in blue.

My leaf stationery sets are available to buy on Not On The High Street.

Handprinted stationery (c) Ella Johnston

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DIY: make your own lampshade

Red heart lampshade (c) Ella Johnston

I’m embracing the DIY ethic this month and have just made a really easy lampshade with my own fabric. I have to say I’m very pleased with it – and you can easily make one too.

This summer I’ve been creating new designs using a rubber block print technique. I simply draw, then carve out a motif from a block, ink it up and start making lovely prints with it.

These block prints look great when translated into fabric design so, after ordering a few designs from my Spoonflower shop, I used my red heart fabric to make a lampshade.

To make the shade I used a 20cm Oval Lampshade Making Kit from Needcraft. I’ve worked with the round lampshade kits before and found them really straightforward to make with, so I branched out this time with a slightly  more unusual shape. The kits contain two lampshade rings (one with the fitting), one self-adhesive lampshade panel (to adhere your cover onto), self-adhesive tape and a rolled edge tool for finishing – all you need to do is add fabric to cover. It’s as easy as that. As with the other kits the picture instructions and step-by-steps were easy to follow so the shade was made in around 15 minutes.

I didn’t want a pendant shade and, because I wanted my creation to have maximum impact, I chose a small base so my hearts take centre stage. Of course your choice of base is down to you. If you have a lamp base that could do with an upgraded shade, I’d really recommend it.Red heart lampshade (c) Ella Johnston


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Darling Dahlia

Dahlia (c) Ella Johnston

I couldn’t resist sharing this pic with you. These gorgeous dahlias, so prevalent in the month of August, were actually grown in our garden. There are so many blooms coming from it, we’ve had to cut some for the house in order to let the little blossoms thrive.

Forgive me proper gardeners, I’m still quite new to this. In fact this is our first year of growing dahlias so I’m really pleased with this, having learnt that planting flowers for the garden is all about celebrating the little successes. I’m hoping this wonderful abundance of velvety flower heads isn’t a fluke and we have the same again (or even more) next year.

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Pleasant way to spend a Sunday

Despite the rain this afternoon I’ve had a very pleasant Sunday. Amazingly it was spent generally tidying up the house and, particularly, the garden.

Poppy heads (c) Ella Johnston the past month or so we’ve been enjoying the flowers that late summer has brought us as they mingle among the wildness of dried allium blooms and silvering poppy heads. The latter were starting to look scruffy though, rather than romantic, so today I did a bit of dead-heading and cutting down, which gave me a whole new set of things to display in the house. I like showing off dried flowers as a great, cost-effective way of adding notes of interest to a space; they look very effective as floral arrangements and are a nice way of gently preparing yourself for autumn.

Allium head (c) Ella Johnston

So, that done, I’m also treating me and the good Dr to one of his favourite dishes, a roast tomato and pepper broth with potato, butter beans and greens. It’s warming – perfect for a rainy day like today – but the tomatoes and peppers give it a sweet taste of late summer. Find the recipe here.

Roast Tomato and Pepper Broth (c)


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How I made a baby blanket from a crochet granny square

How I made a baby blanket from a crochet granny square

A granny square was the first thing I learned to crochet. This was about three years ago. I won’t lie – I did find it a little tricky to get my head around them initially, but now I can do them in my sleep. Well, perhaps not in my sleep but I can make them while watching telly, on the train and while my family are all arguing about the relative merits of George Orwell and Charles Dickens (I kid you not – getting into some crochet was a good way to duck out of the ‘action’).

Crochet CThe thing I love about granny squares is that their easy pattern means that once you get into the rhythm of making one you can make a collection of little ones, joining them up to make a patch-style throw or crocheting one large square to create a blanket. Plus, their classic, regular design allows you to be really creative with your colour combinations and yarn textures. Crochet A

I made this baby blanket for a very special little person and two lovely big people. My dear friend Ruth Crilly aka A Model Recommends has just had the most adorable little baby girl and I am delighted for Ruth and Mr AMR. Crochet 10

For this blanket I used Debbie Bliss cotton DK in Ecru (cream) and Butter (yellow) for main parts of the cover. I like to play with texture so I also added a grey and orange accent by crocheting a strip of Debbie Bliss Eco Baby in Silver and Burnt Orange. You can get these yarns at Love Crochet.  Crochet 8

To make a big blanket I simply crochet a basic granny square and keep on going, working my trebles and chains into the spaces and around the corners.

Crochet 3

If you’re new to crochet and unsure about the stitches and the classic granny square design, I suggest you follow a video step by step (I find them a big help when trying something new), visit Top Crochet Patterns – not only is there a granny how-to but it also talks you through basic stitches. The site has lots of additional free crochet patterns –ready for when your talent and crochet confidence grows.

Crochet 1

Crochet 4

Crochet 6

Crochet 9

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Creative ways with watercolour… birds

Watercolour by Ella Johnston

I’m treating you to a sneaky preview of some illustrations I’m working on at the moment. They are not finished by any stretch but I thought you may be interested in seeing them in their ‘raw’ state.

I’ve been trying out some creative ways of adding texture and colour to my avian drawings with watercolour paints for some time now. I feel that this painterly method creates further interest and depth when illustrating the individual bird’s plumage than a line drawing. I also think it imbues a sense of vitality and movement in the composition. It’s also really simple to achieve.

Watercolour by Ella Johnston

My illustrations are made on non-textured watercolour paper – it has a lovely quality that absorbs water and ink really well. I first draw a light sketch of my subject in pencil, loosely highlighting key areas in pencil. Then I apply layer of watercolour washes to the illustration. Each layer is very watered down and I like to build up the colours gradually – this gives me more interesting colour combinations and a pleasing overall texture. Once I’m happy with the colour, I leave this to dry before applying a detailed ink drawing over the top.

Watercolour by Ella Johnston

You’ll be able to see the finished drawings in a book of wading birds published by Dunlin Press next year.

Watercolour by Ella Johnston

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7 lovely things for the weekend

It’s been a busy week here at Ella’s Place – I’ve been sending my Christmas stationery sets to the printers (more of that in good time) and drawing and painting for an upcoming book project (more of that later, too) as well as editing magazines. In the thick of it it’s lovely when little things fall in front of you that inspire you, take you to a different place or simply make you smile. Here are seven things that did just that this week.

Heleniums – 7 lovely things for the weekend at B took this photo of the little clump of heleniums and blue agastache growing in our garden. Such colours!
Lorien Stern via – 7 lovely things for the weekend at really like the playfulness of Lorien Stern’s ceramics. You can see more of them at
Hello House via Design Milk – 7 lovely things for the weekend at fun! The Hello House is a new facade on a Victorian house in Melbourne, Australia. It certainly beats a doormat saying ‘welcome’. See more at Design Milk.
Mlle Hipolyte paper jungle wall deco vis Fubiz – 7 lovely things for the weekend at Hipolyte’s paper fresco in relief called Tropical Jungle is amazing. It features exotic birds and a black panther – and it’s really on trend for the coming year. See more at
Tori Murphy cushions – 7 lovely things for the weekend at Murphy‘s homewares, all woven and made in Nottingham, are lovely – but I particularly like this shot of cushions all piled in a corner. It’s got more impact than seeing one cushion on a chair – and of course it makes you want to dive right in.
O is for Owl LO RESThis folky little owl is actually a musical instrument. He seems to have found his way into the middle of this wooden O. O for owl.
Vietnamese thatched hideaway via Dezeen – 7 lovely things for the weekend at’s been such a busy week I’ve been dreaming of escapes – this thatched and bamboo hideaway in Vietnam looks just the thing. Via Dezeen. Have a great weekend!

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Easy garden furniture refurb with Americana Decor

Simple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana Decor

Last Sunday I got to spend time in our little garden while doing some quick garden furniture maintenance. As you can see above, the folding chairs we’ve had for well over a decade have taken the force of some dismal British winters – and summers, for that matter – first on our London balcony and then here in Wivenhoe. Of course we should have moved them indoors when it rained – but when it rained it was rainy, so we didn’t venture outside. In winter we’d forget about them. Surely we’re not the only ones!

I recently got hold of some really rather lovely Chalky Finish paint from Americana Decor. It’s a matte chalk paint that doesn’t need priming or wood to be sanded down before using – perfect to upgrade an old piece of furniture when you’re short on time (or perhaps just a little lazy). To protect the surface the quick-drying paint is finished with a choice of waxes and varnishes. It really was so simple to apply.

Simple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana Decor Simple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana DecorSimple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana DecorSimple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana DecorSimple garden furniture update decoration at with DecoArt Americana DecorThe chair was finished in less than a couple of hours– which left me free to enjoy the late-afternoon sunshine.