Weekend doodles, felting and domestic Superwoman!

Getting ready for workshops
Getting ready for workshops

I am doing some needle felting workshops this coming weekend, so I spent some time making sure that the templates and patterns were ready. I am doing a Movember moustache pin workshop at Eternal Maker and it has been great fun making lots of different types of moustaches!

Full moon needle felted picture
Full moon needle felted picture

Needle felting is one of the most relaxing ways to create textile art, there is no sewing you simply push one fibre onto another with a barbed needle. I decided that I wanted to show just how flexible this medium is, so simply played with the fibres until I made this picture. Its like painting with fibre, and so joyous!

I have been doing a little ‘life laundry’ this weekend, it must be in preparation for winter. I spent a happy day clearing out the larder, fridge and freezer. Making lists of what I have and making it easier to find things! It is surprisingly satisfying – giving rise to a domestic superwoman!

Use a plant spray bottle they are far more effective
Use a plant spray bottle they are far more effective

I felt in need of some pretty flowers to compensate for the darkening nights, I bought some lovely cyclamen and house plants, a very pretty african violet and some poor little things being given away because they needed some loving!

While I was there I bought myself a couple of plant sprayers. (you know my love of vinegar) a plant spray bottle is far more effective way to use vinegar effectively. However they were a little boring so I spent a rather blissful half hour creating my own little label using sharpies! I do love the idea that it is a little bottle of magic! Once started though I had to stop myself from brightening up everything I can get my hands on!

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And the winner is….

it deserves love
it deserves love

My experience with bicarbonate of soda/vinegar has been so successful that I wondered if there are other areas that could benefit from old fashioned methods rather than expensive branded ones.

The washing powder market is huge, the variation enormous, liquid, powder, tablets, sachets that dissolve in the drum, together with washing machine maintenance and anti bacterials that have created fears that never existed a few years ago.

I am growing sceptic by the day, we are bombarded with so much information that seemingly offers solutions and opportunities, but in reality what they are after is our hard earned cash. This market is very competitive because it reaps huge rewards, there is a huge mark up.

So with that in mind I thought I would give laundry consumables some experimentation. I was advised by the website, DIY Natural, (great source of information!) …. to grate an ordinary bar of soap, mix it with some soda and use it as a washing soda.

While I am on the subject of washing soda, this is an excellent cleaner for your machine, you can purchase a big box for around a pound but Calgon, (which I strongly suspect is simply a branded variety) costs lots more than that.
The other beauty of washing soda, is that it reduces the amount of detergent required to wash your clothes, a double saving! Especially if you live in a chalky area as I do in Sussex. Imagine money to buy more crafting books!

Love Vinegar

Back to the experiment…

The soap powder did its job, although my towel was a bit stained it did not really come out in the wash so I deemed my usual powder worth the cost. I use powder because it is the cheapest way to buy it, and it only takes a few moments in a cup of water to dissolve it before putting it into the washing machine dispenser.

As for the conditioner… the replacement fabric conditioner was vinegar with a little essential oils. oh my, how soft everything was! My towel was very soft, disappointingly the essential oils had virtually disappeared, but I am converted. The vinegar not just softens clothes but also cuts the excess soap from the machine another double bonus! As that extends the life of your washing machine.

Now as to the problem of the build up of bacteria, how inventive these manufacturers are! They have been telling us to turn down the temperature on our washing machines, and I agree it is better for the environment if we use less energy, but it does mean that bacteria can actually thrive in the nice warm, wet environment. It means that your machine will begin to smell, and worse your clean clothes will too! even after washing!

So they come up with a solution to a problem that they created – add more expensive chemicals! NO!

Temperature is Key!
Temperature is Key!

It’s simply a case of following in the wise footsteps of generations of women before us, use high temperatures to kill bacteria. Bacteria thrive in temperatures from 5 – 65 degrees, if you are washing all your clothes at around 40 degrees, then you are creating a wonderful environment for them to thrive.

Isn’t a boil wash environmentally unfriendly? Not really, you don’t have to boil wash everything, but it’s a good idea to use high temperatures for babies, older people and especially when you have been ill. I usually boil wash my bedding once a week, including the mattress protector. That is enough to kill off the residing bacteria in my machine without resorting to harmful chemicals that remain in the clothing and is absorbed through the skin when I wear them. Using more chemicals to kill off bacteria is not environmentally friendly at all. Be aware that products sold for home use is not as restricted as commercial products and can be quite harmful.

Did I also mention that vinegar has natural antibacterial qualities? Also, a litre costs just over a pound, more money for fabric!

So lets have a drum roll for old fashioned wisdom and the humble vinegar.

It deserves a lot more love
It deserves a lot more love

Falling in love with shiny!

 

I am not a Bree Van-de-Kamp, the Desperate Housewife with the perfect home, but there are times when I realise that I need to do something about the layers of dust and the kitchen floor appears to be changing colour!
 Housework is something that I seem to avoid – yet oddly enough when I spend time cleaning I actually find I enjoy it. (yes you did read that correctly, the word enjoy and housework in the same sentence!)
I have fallen in love with sparkly, and it is very easy to achieve, takes no elbow grease and is not hazardous to health. It is a simple mix of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

 

This is not my kitchen but one that is set up in the grounds of the Weald and Down Museum in nearby West Dean, I thought it illustrates to me just how much simpler and easier housework has become. Hot water at the turn of a tap – washing machines and electric kettles, it has never been an easier time to be a housewife. I believe that simple household products that have seen years of use. This little kitchen set up goes back to early in the 1900s.

 

Looking at the simple ingredients that were at the disposal of the housewife in her struggle to keep the house free from infection – it  made me ponder just how far we have come to rely on the ‘selling power of science’ We trust the cleaning products that abound on the supermarket shelf are safe and effective to use.These companies are in business to make money, they use enough science to convince us that their product will be the best, and easiest to use.
There are no restrictions on cleaning products for the home it may surprise you they are able to sell these above what would be considered a health risk if it were sold commercially. There have been links with air fresheners and cancer risks, and I believe that if our bodies cough to expel something that has been sprayed into an aerosol into our smallest room then it is pretty likely the substance we are ingesting might not be in good health.
Its easy to get everything sparkly, just spray with vinegar and sprinkle over bicarbonate! You can scrub a little, then wash down with water. Buff and sit back and admire a lovely shine! It lasts for a few days too. No coughing, no nasty chemicals, gentle on the purse too!

ttfn x

Forties style

 

Dresses used fabric economically
Dresses used fabric economically

Remember that wonderful dressing up box we used to have as children? Well the great thing is that we can have this feeling every day. The wave of Vintage style I believe is our desire to go back to dressing in a feminine way, and possibly some of the old fashioned values.

I go dancing to a wonderful venue in Brighton, it is set up just like a 1940’s dance and I really enjoy dressing for the occasion. I am at heart an old fashioned girl, I love to look feminine, I love hats, wool coats and summer dresses and I find it so wonderful that at last we can all dress in this style and for it to be accepted. I still get some rather odd glances at times but mostly I am thrilled that many people will compliment me in the street!

The difficulty I have is deciding what style I like, I do enjoy the victory rolls and fabulous music of the 1940s and love swing dancing, but I also enjoy the upbeat notes of the fifties which leaves me smiling just listening to it and the sheer joy of spinning with a circle skirt! Then again, I’ll watch Downton Abbey and swoon at the gorgeous cloche hats….

Being able to sew opens up a whole heap of possibilities, there are many wonderful retro stores available now, but I find its the detailing that really hits the note for me. So after that rather lengthy introduction here are some elements that might help you to ‘revamp’ a modern dress and introduce elements that can give you a more authentic look.

 

Single breasted, four gore skirt
Single breasted, four gore skirt

As you can see from this pattern the jackets were single breasted, skirts were made up of several pieces, often with seams at the front sides and back, this cut allowed the maker to cut more economically, as the pieces would be smaller.

 

 

A big feature of forties fashion was a yoke

A big feature that stands out in most of the forties fashion was the shoulder yoke, it reflected the male shirt, but was softened by details like bows and cuffs. Dresses had shorter sleeves (also an economy of fabric) finishing just above the elbow.

Use of drape
Use of drape

Forties fashion diverges – American Patterns was cut off from the influence of Paris, did not have the same restrictions as in Britain so you can often see more generous cuts and elements of the 30’s bias cut in US patterns at the time.

If you want to make your dress have an authentic forties feel, look to the sleeve cap, often this was full giving the sleeve a boxy look (a good balancer if you are pear shaped). You can see it more in the knitwear designs from that period.

What ever you decide, the important thing to remember is to have fun

ttfn xx

Book Review – Sweet Shop of Dreams

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…. its the time of year for snuggling down with a good book. We have spent a couple of Sunday afternoons companionably reading; the ticking of the clock being the only sound to compete with the beating of the rain on the windows. One of us will break to make a pot of tea – usually there’s some cake or other. 
I read many books at once: a lot of spiritual development books that simply cannot be read in one go, sometimes it is nice just to read something that is not to taxing. 
This book is a lovely read, the main character, Rosie, is very endearing, she leaves behind a rather grey existence in London to travel to a remote village in Darbyshire to tend to her elderly aunt, Lillian. 
Alongside the Rosie’s tale is Lillian’s story of lost love, a wartime romance that was never given the chance to grow. I found Lillian’s story deeper and somehow more substantial than Rosie’s comical exploits as she comes to term with living in a strange place. 
There appears to be a quotations from a ‘book about sweets’ with most of the chapters having a page dedicated to a particular type of sweet – old fashioned ones, fudge, liquorish etc. It is never quite clear if this is Lillian’s writing or simply quotations from an old book. With all three being separate it made it rather difficult at first to get into the story, but by the middle I became used to the disjointed nature. 
While it is a fairly satisfying read, I felt that it could have been better. I was waiting for Rosie and Lillian to bond, but oddly enough they never really have a good conversation. I found it most odd that Rosie arrived at Lillian’s house late in the evening and the following morning Rosie simply gets up and leaves the house to explore. I found that a little unbelievable, it would be incredibly rude so the relationship between these characters never really establishes itself. Rosie does nurse Lillian, but they are kept apart, the writer even resorts to conversations held on a child monitor. 
I imagined some form of connection between old and young, with Lillian tutoring Rosie in the art of sweet making, but all that happens is that Rosie simply orders sweets from suppliers. The sweetshop could have been far more magical. The sudden emergence of another character to help run the shop so that Rosie can spend time with her man seemed a bit too easy. 
I miss Mauve Binchy, she would have really brought the characters alive, I used to end her books feeling I was saying goodbye to dear friends, but I did not have that connection with Rosie or Lillian. 
Its an enjoyable quick read, like eating a boiled sweet, nice while it lasts but not really substantial, but then that is what Chick Lit is after all. 
ttfn x

Oops! Darn it!

There I am in the middle of my current project for a workshop at Eternal Maker, when suddenly I realise that I have cut through the largest piece of my project! Accidents happen and while it might be frustrating (the perfectionist in me says buy more material and start again) the realist in me says that its repairable. Ok so not perfect, but then its an opportunity to share a repair technique with you. 
I have used it on clothing and it has been surprisingly invisible, one of my favourite gypsy skirts got caught up in the chain of my bicycle and ripped. After repairing it this way, I was able to wear it again and as the fabric was patterned, no-one noticed (or if they did they were too polite to say!). 
The important thing is to prevent the ragged edges from fraying. 
Thankfully, iron on interfacing includes a heat activated glue that will seal off the edges nicely. 
Match your interfacing colour, use black on dark colours and white on light colours. 
Cut enough so that the piece has at least a 1cm allowance all around the cut. 
Iron the wrong side of the fabric, drawing the edges together as closely as possible.
Lay the interfacing on top, then a pressing cloth (if you prefer your iron to be free from glue)  
Press the iron firmly and try not to move it around. (movement will shift the frayed edges). 
Allow to cool slightly before moving the item so that the glue can set. 
This is the stitch display on my sewing machine, look for something similar. 
Stitch 22, 23, or 24 are all forms of darning stitches. 
If you don’t have multiple stitches then use a zigzag stitch set to a medium width and short length. 
The important thing is to get the right matching thread. 
I find it easier to use an appliqué foot
so I can see the edge and ensure the stitches bridge the cut.
If you use a normal foot just make sure the cut edge runs along the front groove guide. 
Allow the machine to go at its own pace, it will be slower than a straight stitch. 
While this close up shows the stitching its not quite so bad as it looks. 
I will post the project later and you will see for yourself. 
ttfn x 


Ode to Autumn – Make your own Harvest Wreath

I really enjoy walking my dog, we follow a path along a hedgerow and it is a real pleasure to see how much this changes over the seasons. It reminds me of school projects, collecting leaves from the nearby woods, the seasonal displays that seemed to create a wonderful rhythm with nature. 
Last year I was enthralled by the pretty shapes of the ivy leaves and they inspired me to make a winter wreath. This September the hedgerows are full of fruit and berries, the hawthorne berry looks so bright and cheery, blackberries abound but its the shapes of the foliage that catches my eye. Filigree leaved ferns, the flowers of the ivy, the marvellous variety of shapes of the leaves from oak to maple. 
These tiny crab apples simply spill from every branch, in clusters of tiny apple perfection – 
they seem like food for fairies. 
The wheat has gone, leaving behind stalks and dry earth but I felt inspired to pay homage to Autumn and create my very own Harvest Wreath. Salt dough is the perfect medium, as bread distorts the shape as it proves. It also means that I can keep the wreath to display next year if I want. 
Make a dough using half salt to flour, (I used two cups of flour and one cup of salt) 
Add enough water to make a dough and then divide it into three. 
Put two lumps of dough in a plastic bag until needed to prevent the dough drying out. 
Roll out with a rolling pin until about 0.5cm 1/2 inch, thick
Use a saucer or side plate to create a circle template. 
Then add a handle, (you can use the plate edge to create smooth curves) 
cut away the excess dough.
 Place the plaque carefully on a baking tray lined with parchment. 
Roll out sausages of dough in long thin strips and cover the ‘handle’ area. 
dampening the area with a little water to stick the strips to the base. 
Make a little bow at the curve and add a little mouse if you like. 
Place two paperclips with their closed end overhanging the base 
at the 11o’clock and 1 o’clock positions. 
Place a little dough over the top to seal them
ensuring there is enough visible to allow you to hang the plaque
Make the ears of corn: make a small sausage about 1cm half an inch long, 
snip along the sides with small scissors. 
Dampen the base a little with water, lay the corn down starting from the outside and 
working towards the centre. 
You can make bigger/smaller ears of corn if needed to fill gaps. 
When your dough model is complete place in a low oven until hard. 
Depending on your oven it can take hours or left overnight. 
If it doesn’t brown up as much as you like you can use watercolour paints
or felt tips to highlight areas. 
When you are happy, seal with a spray varnish. 
Hang your plaque somewhere you will enjoy seeing it, 
but protect it from excess moisture otherwise it will crumble. 
ttfn x 

Butter whirls Recipe

Oh my! the weather has changed considerably in the last few days, gone are the balmy sunny days of September with all the fruitful abundance, to the chill wet rain of October – I want to spend time in my warm, kitchen listening to the rain and hail splat against the window, enhancing the cosiness of baking and domestic bliss. 
A dear friend of mine was having a coffee morning so I made these butter whirls to take along, they are so easy to make and they look so pretty. 
150g of softened butter
50g icing sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla paste
100g of plain flour
50g of rice flour (or you can use all plain flour) 
Cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy, its best done with a mixer to save aching arms! Stir in the flour but teat it lightly otherwise you might lose all the air. 

Place mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large gage star nozzle. 
Pipe onto a greased baking tin, in small swirls. 
Its a good idea to keep the swirls tall, as the mixture spreads out in the oven. 
Put a cherry on the top and bake in a moderate oven (160/325 GM3) around 20 minutes 
or until pale and golden. 

You can be even more indulgent by adding a little jam and butter icing to make a biscuit sandwich, they will look like home made Viennese whirls. Or you can dip one side in chocolate… now that is a thought… ttfn x