30.11.11

autumn's harvest


{Flower Harvest Vintage Charm Necklace available here}


The weather has been unbelievably wild and windy here these past couple of days that I doubt there's a single bloom in our garden now. But in my mind, it would be full of amethyst, lilac and heather purples paired with ambers, russets and ochres. Oh, and yellow daisies too. Plus a supply of pine cones for the fireside and lots of golden leaves to crunch on ...

And you?

28.11.11

plaid tova dress


I've been coveting a Tova dress for ages now. Jenny Gordy's patterns sell out super quickly so when she recently added more to her shop, I snapped one up immediately. There are many versions out there but it's those made in plaid that have captured my attention, it's almost as though Tova was made for it. And seeing as I am having a major 'check' moment, I decided to make my own. My last visit to Fabrics Galore certainly turned up trumps, they had such a good selection of flannel checks that choosing 'the one' took a while.

When it came to it, the flannel was a slippery little eel as it moves about so, and matching up the checks took some thought too. How I wish I knew how to put in the walking foot that my lovely mother swears by, insisting I, too, should have one.


The pattern, which gives an option of a tunic dress or a top, comes printed on sturdy paper in sizes XS-M, or M-XL, and is accompanied by several sheets of thorough, encouraging instructions along with several black and white photographs to reinforce them. It's expensive, too, in the same league as the Merchant and Mills shirts I recently made. However, like the M&M, there is scope for modification and they are both completely seasonless styles, making it a price worthy of paying in my book.

Now that it's finished though, I'm finding the flannel to be quite a clingy fabric but if I wear it with a silky camisole underneath and over jeans rather than something woollen, it might be OK. Nevertheless, the jury's out as to whether it ends up being shortened into the top, which I rather like the idea of anyway, so only time will tell. Besides, there are sure to be several more Tovas along the way.


Wishing you a great week!

24.11.11

cranberry


There are a lot of recipes out there for a festive cranberry sauce and I have to confess that previously I have made mine up on Christmas morning as I'm making stock from the turkey giblets and preparing vegetables.

For this year I wanted something a little bit different, but not too much. And something that will keep long after the turkey is finished, with extra to give away as gifts. Who else to turn to than the Americans, I reckon, and it was on Pinterest that I came across this lovely book. I only typed in 'canning' to get some pretty ideas and up it popped, time and time again. Then two or three days later, courtesy of Amazon, the book was mine!

There are a couple of good recipes for cranberry sauce but on Sunday morning, whilst the children sat at the kitchen table doing their homework, this was the one for which the ingredients were already waiting in the cupboard. Actually, not quite everything so, as per usual, I adapted it just a little.



Spiced Cranberries

4 x 300g packets cranberries, rinsed and destalked
1.1kg sugar
300ml freshly squeezed orange juice (approx 5)
300 ml water
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Put a small plate into the freezer. Sterilise jars.

Put all ingredients into a preserving pan and heat gently until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil over a high heat and then lower to a simmer and stir occasionally, until setting point is reached (a small dab of the syrup wrinkles on the plate when cooled), about 15-20 minutes.

Ladle into hot, sterilised jars and seal immediately.

makes 5 x 1pt jars


Ours are as yet unlabelled, call it a work in progress. But there are some really fun packaging ideas to download on Pinterest. And the cranberries are delicious, by the way!

Have you started making preparations yet?

PS - Happy Thanksgiving to those of you across the Pond!

22.11.11

cashmere and crochet




I had a bit of a scare yesterday. With orders gathering momentum over the last couple of weeks or so, and the countdown for the well publicised 'Cyber Monday' next week, traditionally the most popular online shopping day of the year, I have been getting busier and busier in my little room. And then it happened. My sewing machine came to a standstill .. mid purse. Talk about timing!

Fortunately my local sewing machine centre is reasonably close by so I hastily got into the car and sped away, foot down, fully aware that the school run was beckoning. Thankfully, it was just the pedal that had given up and the centre had another to sell. If my machine had had to be grounded for repair, I just don't know what I would have done. Apart from cry, of course!


It's pretty much purse city in the house at the moment, so I can't blame the machine for its hissy fit. I'm just grateful there isn't an expensive bill to dig deep for.

I think that cashmere and Christmas (oops, did I just type that out loud?) go together, and that's what I've been dreaming up lately. Cashmere, coupled with vintage Liberty, together with a little antique embellishment equals perfection in my book.


What are you up to?

18.11.11

blue


{Hearts and Crowns Vintage Charm Necklace available here}


I've had a boy at home sick with me this week so no crafting done (apart from finishing the mitts) and only a little photography achieved. Hoping next week brings better tidings.

Happy weekend everyone!

16.11.11

making mitts


I've been needing new oven mitts for a very long time. The ones I'd been using were distinctly decrepit. Falling apart and wearing away in the most needed of places and having been burned one time too many, I thought it only fair to give my suffering hands a fresh pair.

This project was one of necessity rather than desire. The fabric I used is nothing special, although robust and also given to me by a dear friend as part of her large declutter. Of course the magpie in me was never going to leave it behind but once washed, ironed and taking up valuable space, I became stuck for ideas as to how it should be used.

Much as I love surrounding myself with glorious fabrics, I really can't see the point of using them for something so industrious as oven mitts. Quite possibly a testament to my ruthless cooking methods, but mine quickly become charred, stained and distinctly unattractive. So once I had decided to make the mitts, choosing the fabric suddenly wasn't so difficult after all.


As predicted, I found this a boring task and one which has taken me over a month to complete. My boy has been at home with a tummy bug this week (there he is at the top, modelling in his pjs) so finally they were finished, with me hand stitching the cuffs whilst sitting, chatting, at his bedside. I'm not even convinced I saved much money doing them myself, but since I now have a reasonable supply of heatproof wadding, I will need to make more to recoup the cost.

I shouldn't be so negative really. The pattern, which came from this lovely book, was easy enough. I had fun swirling my pattern onto each side, despite the fact my basic singer wouldn't let me lower the feed dog and the manual didn't advise how to take it out. But because of the sheer bulk of the 'sandwich', not only did my newly serviced sewing machine complain but I doubt my scissors were especially happy either. I've never had oven mitts before, only the long, joined up types but already I'm thinking perhaps I made a mistake. Oh well, time will tell but at least there'll be no more burned hands ..


And you, if it's not a dull question .. mitts or gloves?

14.11.11

preserving autumn


We have an excellent farm shop nearby and because my Saturday morning routine invariably involves a visit, I have got to know the owner very well. In his shop at the moment is the most wonderful selection of apples and pears, a huge assortment in fact and even a couple from quite rare varieties. But, aside from their genus, the one thing they have in common is the fact they have all been grown on English soil. Many of the pears are over-sized, yet full of juicy flavour and the children are relishing these home grown fruits. It's beyond me that the supermarkets are crammed with apples and pears from far-away lands when the very best is available right here in our own.

I absolutely LOVE chutney. So much so, I will gladly eat it with most any meal and sometimes I even incorporate it into my cooking if something needs a bit of a 'lift'.


This simple chutney, which I can't recommend highly enough, has been adapted from Marguerite Pattens' excellent Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook, which is chock full of good, honest, no-nonsense recipes. Ours was made one rainy afternoon during the Half Term holiday, filling the house with the delicious scent of an English Autumn and, what's more, it tastes so good. If you dislike ginger, then simply leave it out.


Pear, Apple and Ginger Chutney

1 1/4kg firm pears (weight when prepared)
1 1/4kg cooking apples (weight when prepared)
675g onions
750ml cider vinegar
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp pickling spices (mace, cloves, allspice berries, etc) -
tied into a small square of muslin
450g muscovado sugar
450g raisins

Wash, peel (if desired) and core the apples and pears. Chop the fruits and onion into smallish chunks and put into a preserving pan. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Bring to a simmer and cook till the chutney is the consistency of thick jam, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking, approx 1 1/2 hours.

Ladle into hot, sterilised jars and seal immediately.
Makes 6 x 1pt jars


As I sit in my kitchen, with the morning cold and grey outside, I can see five glistening jars of English Autumn on the counter top and am lamenting the fact I'm one down already!

Wishing you a happy, fruitful week ahead!

10.11.11

a checked shirt


Well, the sun is very obliging this morning so I made myself a large cup of tea and took some hasty snaps of my latest sewing project. The minute I saw this fabric I knew it would be right for a shorter version of the Merchant and Mills dress shirt I made recently. It is a single-sided napped cotton, brushed on the reverse, and will be perfect for Autumn and Winter.

Thankfully I noticed the annoying flaw in the fabric whilst it was on the ironing board so I was able to keep it in mind when arranging the pattern pieces. I managed to juggle them around so that the final piece was as close to the flaw as possible so I still have enough fabric for another project. There's someone else in the house who has her beady eyes on these checks too!


The bib of the M&M pattern is designed to be cut out as two halves and then sewn together but I wanted a continuous line of checks. So I placed the pattern piece on the fold, overlapped it by 1.5cm (to take into account the seam allowances for each half) and cut it as one whole piece. When it came to stitching the bib to the front of the shirt, I took it really slowly to avoid the fabric shifting and throwing the checks out of alignment at the pleat. Thankfully it worked out pretty well.


The pattern is pre-cut into a long dress shirt so I decided on my final length and used a tape measure to mark the edges at each side. I also wanted to keep the curved hem, so I just moved the pattern piece upwards to meet the marked edges and then traced along the curve. I shortened my dress by 32cm.


Then, because the fabric is most definitely intended for the cooler months, I lengthened the sleeves too. I did this by simply extending the existing cutting line of the pattern piece with a ruler, and I lengthened it by 22cm. As with the first, there is a fair bit of optional edge stitching, around the bib, along the shoulder line, on the yoke. So I gave myself a reasonably wide hem on the sleeve and edge stitched that too.


The shirt was a joy to sew, just as I loved making the dress version, but I still had problems with the first sleeve. It had to be unpicked twice until it occurred to me to try it on the other armhole. Yep, you've guessed it .. doh!

I finally succumbed to the heating switch yesterday. Just for the sake of getting the family up in the morning you understand. Although I do realise my challenge to forego the heating for as long as possible is crumbling, I think the house will thank me for it. All that heavy rainfall has not helped the brickwork!!


Wishing you all a sunny, dry day!

4.11.11

nursery rhymes



Last year I made purses with some nursery rhyme fabric I had found and was delighted when they flew out of the shop like hot cakes .. or perhaps I should say hot jam tarts! Then the other day, whilst doing a spot of overdue tidying in the old fabric stash, I found another piece, some of which was promptly made into yet more purses. This set has been lined with vintage Liberty lawn in shades of blue and green and each purse is a unique mix of characters. There will be more to come but unfortunately I've mislaid the fabric again .. isn't that a sign of getting older. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this?!


Incidentally I have just discovered the joys of twitter this week. Ever behind the times, I opened the account about a year ago in order to join Pinterest but it's been lying dormant ever since. But when I accrued a couple of followers (thanks Tess x) I thought I'd give it a go. What a hoot - it would be lovely if you came over and said hello!

Happy weekend to you - I hope it's going to be a dry one, particularly for the fireworks display we'll be going to on Saturday.
,