Gardeners’ World

It’s been a long, wet spring… difficult to get out in the garden and complete annual jobs… but the sun is finally shining and there’s lots to be getting on with.

After two years of clearing, weeding, pruning and planting, the garden is looking beautiful. It’s certainly worth the effort! Whereas last year we had such a dry start to the year and struggling plants, this year everything has benefited from the rainfall and there are so many fresh blooms. The roses are doing particularly well – these were pruned and trained around March time; the blue Irises are numerous and fabulous in the round bed in the driveway; and the new climbers we planted next to the pergola are romping skywards!

Hopefully there will be lots of fresh produce from the potager given the climate: potatoes, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and courgettes… and cherries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries…

If you are lucky enough to come and stay at Le Manoir this summer you can expect lovely fresh flowers in your room and fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables. Just click the reservation button on the homepage! SCH


Spring lunch for CS H-V

Recently, Le Manoir played host again to Cancer Support Haute-Vienne on the occasion of the association’s Annual General Meeting. It was a lovely day and I prepared and served up a large poached salmon, various salads and three enormous fruit pavlovas! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it’s always a great pleasure to support CS H-V as they continue to provide English-language support, by telephone, to people affected by cancer. SCH


A lazy lunch for charity

In mid-June I attended Cancer Support France’s annual fundraising lunch (Haute-Vienne chapter) in the Salle des Fêtes in Videix.

The event is normally held at the side of the lake at La Chassagne but given the continuing rains it was moved indoors. CSF volunteers served up a veritable feast: pommes boulangère (Baker’s potatoes); BBQ-ed meat; cheese and tarte aux fraises (strawberry tarts). There was a good mix of English and French locals which made for interesting conversation! There is still a real sense of community in France.

I was tasked with making the flower arrangements for the centres of the long tables. I chose soft pink climbing roses, honeysuckle and lavender and placed them in coloured, ceramic yoghurt pots. The flowers were freshly-cut from the garden at Le Manoir Saint Gervais – so pretty! SCH

IMG_8827 IMG_9614 IMG_8828 IMG_9615

Crafty afternoon: Christmas decorations workshop

Yesterday Le Manoir Saint Gervais hosted its first seasonal craft afternoon; the theme was Christmas decorations (but of course!).

Using garden and sewing room staples (twigs, holly, ribbon, tinsel, feathers, buttons, etc.) each attendee made a gorgeous twiggy and twinkly star decoration and an orange and clove tea light.

A big thank you to all the ladies who took part – what a fun and creative bunch you are! SCH





Garments and gifts: little girl’s shirred summer dress

This is a really easy and gorgeous summer dress that is available as a free pattern from

Note: the instructions didn’t come with any measurements but by reading the comments section of the website you will be directed to the sizing guide below:

Girls twirl dress measurements birth to 4 yrs Girls twirl dress 5 to 10 yrs IMG_5158 IMG_5159

I chose a fresh pink polka dot print for my eight year old niece. I took her measurements beforehand and cut out the fabric according to the online instructions and the sizing guide.

The dress is made up of six oblong fabric pieces: two straps; top and bottom front panels; top and bottom back panels. The two top pieces require shirring which is relatively straight forward so long as you wind the shirring elastic nice and tight around the bobbin (but not too tight!).The dress is secured at the back through a ribbon loop and a tied bow.

If you would like to make the dress yourself in a fun and inspiring workshop we will be covering it in our Garments and Gifts workshops at Le Manoir Saint Gervais. SCH.

Here is the finished garment – it took around a day to complete. SCH.

IMG_5296 IMG_5294 IMG_5295 IMG_5297

Exploring the house and garden

We are finally here. In France. In the house!

It is all we could have imagined, and much much more… It is BIG and echoey at the moment as there isn’t much furniture in it until the container arrives next week. But that doesn’t matter – it really is one big adventure.

The previous owners are living near by and have been on hand to answer questions about the house as well as living in France. On Thursday we walked around the garden together taking notes of the various trees, shrubs and plants:

– Honeysuckle; Clematis (Montana); roses

– Acer; yew; monkey puzzle; hazelnut; acacia; laurel; Christmas; Japenese maple

– Holly; Magnolia; Lilac; privet hedge; box; copper beach; Rhododendron; roses; lavender; hydrangea; peony

Aromatic herbs:
– Sage; oregano; rosemary; curry plant; chives; mint; bay tree

Fruit trees and fruit:
– Apple tree; Mirabelle plum tree; cherry tree; fig tree; olive tree; grape vine; wild strawberries, kiwi, blackberry bush

Next steps are to draw a garden plan as well as work out where the allotment and compost heaps are going to go. My gardening-mad family arrive next week so no doubt they will want to help out! SCH

IMG_4351  IMG_4387  IMG_4364  IMG_4391

The Great British Sewing Bee is back

I was really happy to see The Great British Sewing Bee back on our screens this week having recently completed a ten week dressmaking course, and now being in the middle of another term. The programme didn’t disappoint; ten new contestants of varying personalities, sewing experience and creative styles; three different sewing tasks; three types of common fabric: cotton, wool and silk.

Task one: a simple sleeveless, round-neck top in cotton / Task two: repurposing an ankle-length woollen skirt / Task three: making a made-to-measure silk nightie.

IMG_3962 IMG_3964 IMG_3967 IMG_3970 IMG_3971 IMG_3973 IMG_3975 IMG_3979

It’s amazing how many skills and techniques were covered by those three tasks in week one. Here are just a few that I jotted down:

  1. – Choosing the right fabric for the type of garment
  2. – Understanding how to treat / work with different fabrics
  3. – Measuring models and transferring measurements to patterns
  4. – Accurately marking, pinning and cutting out patterns
  5. – Matching fabric patterns (especially where it meets in the middle of a garment)
  6. – Adding darts / understanding body contours
  7. – Hand stitching (ladder stitch, etc.)
  8. – Understitching (e.g. necklines)
  9. – Rolling hems
  10. – Applying trims (e.g. lace)
  11. – Adding drama/impact
  12. – Following instructions and mManaging your time!

What have I missed out? Next week I’m sure the BBC will up the difficulty level. SCH

We’re changing names!

From today, ‘The Little Grange’ is simply to be known as Le Manoir Saint Gervais.

Initial feedback suggests The Little Grange doesn’t bear any relationship to the offering… a boutique B&B that also runs vintage craft courses… and was perhaps a tad confusing? I really value feedback and have taken on board these comments. We now have a new URL for the website ( and will run the B&B business and courses together under that name. I must say it is starting to make life a whole lot easier!

With the name changed we now have a Pinterest account set up ( as well as a Facebook account (

I was very fond of The Little Grange as a flexible concept (The Little Barn; La Petite Grange, etc.), but recognise it came about very early in the development of the business when a UK property was still a distinct possibility. Who knows, maybe we will get to use the name one day in another part of the business?! SCH

IMG_0526 IMG_0537 IMG_0542 936030_597010860322883_151866844_n

Upholstery course: day two

This is a progress update on the small stool I began re-upholstering last year (well, dismantling more like)!

I realised quite quickly that we had stapled the webbing to the wrong side of the chair last time round (fine if you are planning to build the seat up without springs – not so good if you have old springs to replace). So I began by taking off the webbing, cleaning up the woodwork and reapplying the webbing to the correct (under)side.

Next it was time to hand sew the springs to the webbing and create a sprung unit from the five springs by coercing them together with string. Then I nailed a layer of hessian to the frame – over the top of the springs – and hand sewed the springs under the fabric by ‘feel’.

That took most of the morning which meant the afternoon was spent hand sewing little cord pockets for the synthetic filling which would be tucked in to create part of the seat padding. The final step was to add another piece of hessian and secure with temporary tacks.

IMG_3719 IMG_3721 IMG_3723 IMG_3726 IMG_3733 IMG_3735IMG_3736 IMG_3738 IMG_3741 IMG_3742 IMG_3746 IMG_3751

This is as far as I got in seven hours. I am hoping that one more course day may bring me closer to the actual fabric cover! SCH