Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Some more skirts....

It's been so long since I have posted anything here, I have been too busy with work, house building and family life. But, I have had some time here and there to sew. I have had a lot of fun recently making all sorts of things from dresses, skirts to a baby sleeping bag and hot-water-bottle covers (posts to follow).  
Here are the skirts I made. I used a really good free patten from StraightGrain.  It's super simple, easy and really nice.  The first one I made was for  my Big girl and she couldn't decide which fabric to have for the outside and the lining so I made it  reversible. She loves being able to wear it on both sides. 
The fabric in the photo above is organic fabric from Cloud9 fabrics,  This was meant to be the main outside fabric, but then I bought 25cm of the star fabric below and she was torn between the two.  

 The reversible skirt idea worked really well, I just made the lining the same length as the outside, and now she has a new skirt every day. 
 The second skirt I made was for a friends little girl who is one and a half years old but I wanted it to be a bit bigger.  My little girl is modelling it here, it's a bit too small for her.  She really liked it and asked if she could have one too but she already has so many skirts.....

 for this one I used a nice girly fabric and a green lining and edging.  

 The third skirt I made was for the girls cousin's 11th birthday.  I  used a heavy weight fabric with blue elephants and blue edging and lining. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to get any other photos of it.  It was very happily received and she loved the fabric.  
This is a really great patten and so easy, it takes less then two hours to make a skirt and they are just great.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Calendula Ointment

About 7 years ago, I started studying herbal medicine at the Scottish school of Herbal Medicine. It was a 4 year BSc degree course, in everything from nutrition, botany, physiology, clinical training to massage.  However I only completed 1 of 4 years, because the work load was too much in combination with raising my girls. I am still very passionate about it and I have every intention to continue at some point in the future
The bit I miss the most is making lovely, heathy, healing things with plants. I realised I hadn't made anything for such a long time and seeing as I have so much calendula (marigold as it is commonly known) flowers in the garden, I decided it was high time I make some Calendula ointment.
 Some facts about the healing properties of calendula: It contains vitamin A which is very good for skin healing, it has anti-inflammatory, anti fungal and anti bacterial effects making it a perfect plant for using on damaged skin tissue such as, laceration, sores, ulcers, abscess and dry chapped skin and lips.  
For the infused oil;
100ml almond oil (or any odourless oil) 
Hand full of dried Calendula flowers  
 For the ointment;
25g yellow beeswax 
5 drops of Lavender essential oil 
First of all, I made an infused oil using dried calendula flowers and almond oil.  There are two ways to make an infused oil. The first way is to place the flowers in a clear jar and cover with oil and leave in the sun for a week or two. I usually refresh the flowers after a few days by straining the oil through a muslin and adding new flowers to make a more potent oil.   The second way is done by placing the flowers and the oil in a bowl over a pot of boiling water and simmering for a few hours, without allowing the oil to boil.  With this method I also refreshed the flowers after an hour or so.  
Once the infused oil is beautifully golden it's ready to use for the next stage.  Stain out the flowers using the same method as before and pour the oil into a clean metal bowl over a pan of bowling water.  Do not let the oil boil. Once the oil is warm add the beeswax, when it has melted add the Lavender and pour very carefully into warm sterilised jars. Let it cool and set before moving it about. 

I have made this a few times now and sometimes they keep well and sometimes not.  If the ointment is too soft, it is best to kept it in the fridge once opened. I am using one I made two years ago that is still good. My girls love putting it on when they have cut or scratched themselves,  they call it magic Mama cream. 
These little jars of sunshine can be really lovely presents, especially for Christmas. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer shorts

 Oh Dear, it has really been too long this time! We have been so busy building our house that I haven't had time for anything else.  Last week I had a few spear moments and as promised, I made my big girl some shorts for her birthday. When I say big girl I really mean BIG, she has just turned 9. I can't believe how fast they grow sometimes.

I used the Oliver+S patten: class picnic blouse + shorts. It's a really good patten, easy to follow and understand and everything fit together perfectly at the end.  There were some moments where I did wonder how on earth it would all fit together and look like the picture,  but in the end it did.  I am now a big fan of these pattens and I will definitely get some more (when I have time). 

My big girl is so happy with them she hasn't taken them off since I sawed the last stitch.

I bought some light weight denim for the main part and I used some leftover liberty print fabric for the edging.  I made a size 10 which is a little big, but the back has an adjustable elastic that pulls then together nicely. 
I hope she doesn't grow too fast so that these shorts will fit her for a while. 

The Kitten just had to be in the photo as well!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chocolate Pecan Tart

This is my new favourite cake, I just can't get enough of it.  I have made it a few times in the past month, and every time it tasted better.  I found this recipe in the book 'Ultimate Chocolate Recipes' by Green&Black's.  I have changed it a bit and added a recipe for the pastry, it said to use ready made short crust pastry, which is a good idea if you want to make a delicious cake but don't have much time. I also changed the syrup type from golden to maple, but any kind of syrup will do.    

For the pastry; 
100g butter
1 tbs suger 
2 egg yokes
180g flour

First make the pastry by mixing the butter and sugar until smooth, then add the flour and egg yokes.  Mix well but not for too long, it might be easier to do this with your hands.  Make a ball from the pastry and put it in the fridge for later. 

For the filling;
100g chocolate 
100g butter 
2 eggs
150g maple syrup (or syrup of choice) 
1 tsp vanilla
100g ground pecans
100g halved pecans for on top

Melt the chocolate and the butter together and let it cool for a bit.  Mix the eggs and maple syrup together in a big bowl and then add the cooled chocolate mixture. Mix well and add the ground pecans at the end. Roll out the pastry and place it carefully into a 20cm tart/quiche tin and make sure it is even all over.  Pour in the chocolate pecan mixture and use the halved pecans to decorate the top.  Cook in the oven at 180'c for 40-50 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling is cooked but still soft. This tart goes very well with vanilla ice cream. ;-)  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A New Dress

I got the sewing bug again.  A while back I started following a blog about sewing called Straight Grain and it has really inspired me to dust off my sewing machine and get busy making a dress for little girl.  This dress had a few firsts for me; first pattern I bought, first time I bought fabric on the internet, first invisible zip and first time I have ever made something without having to unpick at some point.  The pattern I used was the Hanami top and dress from Straight Grain.  It is such a great pattern and I can't recommend it enough. It comes with a few different options; with or without the collar, two different sleeve types and an option for a zip back or a cross back with buttons.  I asked little girl how she wanted it and she choose to have the zip back with a collar and flutter sleeves. 

I bought the fabric from a lovely online shop selling beautiful organic fabrics called Georgette.   I bought two different fabrics, the one for the main part of the dress, it was blue with 'passing clouds' and one for the lining which is called 'up in the air', it has little swallows with light blue dots.  When the fabric arrived in the post I realised that the one I chose for the main part of the dress really was not suitable and didn't really go with the bird fabric. I loved the birds and really wanted to use it for the lining, so the challenge was to find something to go with it. I decided not to get something from the internet as it is so hard matching colour from photos, so I paid a visit to a little shop in town that also sells organic fabrics.  It wasn't too difficult to find something and I ended up buying some lovely vintage looking flower fabric that looks lovely with the birds.  They are both from a company called Cloud 9, they have some really gorgeous pattens and prints. 

The pockets weren't in the pattern, I added them on at the end and I wanted to turn them the other way around with the bird fabric on the outside but little girl was not too pleased with my idea and so the birds became the lining again. 

We have had some really lovely weather in the past few weeks and this is just the perfect spring/summer dress.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Orange Marmalade

 A few weeks ago we got given a box of Organic Oranges from a friend.  I was very happy with them and made lots of fresh orange juice for the girls.  I thought about making chocolate orange sticks with the peel but then I had a better idea to  make Orange Marmalade.  I have made it before with a friend but it turned out slightly too sour and didn’t really stiffen. So the aim this time was to make it a bit sweeter and to try and get it to set.  
It takes time and patience to make marmalade because the orange peel needs to cook for a while to soften and it also takes a lot of time to cut the peel into small strips. But it is well worth the work.

I used about 6 big oranges, I didn't weigh them but when making marmalade its good to use equal parts sugar to fruit. 

1 kilo of good quality oranges
1 kilo sugar 
1 lemon 
1 tsp of Agar agar (or any other thickener) 

First juice the oranges and save the liquid for later then scoop out the pulp, this can be cooked with the oranges for flavour.  

 Place the pulp in a muslin cloth and tie it into a bag with some cotton string.  Put the halved peels into a big pan with the pulp bag, and add 1 litre of water.  Bring it to the boil and let it simmer for 1 hour until the peels are soft but not too mushy. 
  Save the liquid by straining the oranges and lemon through a colander into a bowl and squeeze all the remaining water out by hand. With a spoon scoop out as much of the white pulp as possible and slice the peel into thin strips. 

   Once all the oranges are cut, add them to a big pan together with the juice and the liquid the peel was cooked in.  Then add the sugar and heat gently.  When the sugar has dissolved turn up the heat and boil for about 10-15 minutes.  It is important to do a set test; take the pan off the heat and place a spoonful of marmalade on a cold plate and wait to see if it sets, but if it hasn't, return it to the heat and test again until it does.  Let the marmalade sit in the pan for 5 -10 minutes before filling the jars. 

 It definitely turned out better than last time, it was sweet enough yet still had a that tangy citrus taste.  We have nearly eaten a whole pot and it tastes very good on toast.  
I also use this marmalade to make a very nice chocolate orange cake.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Big and small

 In the last few months I have had a lot of commissions to make slippers, big and small.  Here are some photo's of the smallest and the biggest ones I have made.  The smallest were for little babies and the biggest pair was for a man (size 43). They were the third pair of man slippers I have made and I always forget how hard they are to make.  It is much more difficult to get the right shape and colour combinations, because they are so big I need to use 3 balls of wool.    I was asked to make them blue and green,  this is how they turned out.  

Baby girl slippers

Little boys slippers 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fabric and Pillows

 Just before Christmas I went to a big fabric fair, I knew it was going to be big but when I walked in to the hall I was overwhelmed by the size, noise and the amount of people. I didn't know where to begin, so I just walked around a few times looking at all the different colours and textures. In the end I found a stand that sold  nice retro kids fabric and tried to take a look.  I say tried because there was so many people standing around I couldn't ever get close enough to touch or feel anything. When I  walked around again in the hope of find something else, I came across a little stand that was selling lovely, good quality fabric and other sewing accessories.  It was also busy but I managed to get close and have a good look around.  They had so many nice things I found it hard to resist buying everything. The lady working there told me they had a web-shop, (click here)  so I was happy to know I didn't need to buy so much there and then.  
I bought two pieces of fabric, one has retro telephones and flowers and the other has everything from hearts, birds, flowers  to windmills and hot air balloons. But I really fell in love with this fabric because it has a little horse on it that looks just like a Scandinavian wooden toy horse the girls have.   

This fabric I used to make a lavender pillow for a friends baby, (yes a lot of my friends are having babies). I cut out a small square, sewed it up and stuffed it with wool and dried lavender.  

  I then sewed on some nice red edging I found in my sewing box, it worked perfectly and gave it a nice neat finish.  

  With the telephone fabric I decided to make a cushion for my sister for her Christmas present.  I made the inner cushion just with white fabric and stuffed it with wool, then I made the cover with an opening at the back so it can be taken off for washing, if need be. 

 I used some green edging for around the opening and then sewed on little button to keep it closed. 

I am very happy with how the telephone coushin turned out and I will definitely be making more of them for us.