Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Denim Skirt

I wear jeans a lot. When I say a lot, I mean almost every day. The trouble with this is I tend to wear through a pair in just a few months, and most of my pairs go the same way. A hole will appear, normally on a seam somewhere. I'll think about mending them and then notice that there are two or three more baby holes just ready to spring into life, so I just pop them to the back of the wardrobe and buy a new pair. As the holes are all fairly localised to one area and most of the material is fine, I feel bad throwing all the old jeans away and so I hoard them. Then I feel guilty for taking up so much space with useless clothes. What to do?!

Then I found this:

Skirt made by Christephi at 'Christephis Sprouting Flowers'

I got quite excited. A whole new skirt make from all those jeans at the back of my cupboard. I dug them all out and totted up - five pairs of jeans all with plenty of usable material. So, last month, I thought I'd give it a go.

I drew out a pattern according to the instructions and based on a 72" hem line (maybe I should have gone bigger with this?), and cut out material from four different pairs of jeans. I decided to try and utilise the existing hems as this would save me time later - though this did mean I had to reject some of the material being rather worn out!

Next I had to decide how to arrange my strips. I had eight pieces that were all a fairly similar dark blue, and four paler, striped bits. I laid them out in a regular pattern and then rearranged them using a random number generator, and decided that I preferred the regular arrangement (no surprises there).

The next stage was to think about waistbands and pockets. I wanted to make these from a contrasting material rather than more denim and so delved deep into our material box and found some bits left over from making my handbag last year.

Everything now assembled I started sewing together the strips, starting at the hem end of each to try and get as even a hem as possible.

Once I'd sewn together six of the strips (half way there!) I considered the pocket. You've guessed it - I found an online tutorial and whizzed up a pocket set between two of the navy strips. Then I continued to sew the pieces together until I had eleven pieces attached.

Then the zip. I was so pleased with my a-line skirt that I copied this technique, and then finished off the side seam. Finally I made it into the round by sewing along the last of the long seams.

Having then tried it on I decided that the fit wasn't quite right and decided to tighten the seams between each of the panels across the back of the skirt - the equivalent of putting in a couple of darts - so that it fitted snuggly around my waist.

All that then remained was to tidy up the waist. This proved trickier than I had originally thought, mostly due to my stupidity. When I had cut out the waistband I had made it rectangular based on the measurement at the top of the skirt. I think this would have been fine before I tightened the seams, but in doing so I added quite a bit of tapering between the measurement at the top of the skirt and one inch further down. I attached the waist band either side of the zip, then sewed along the top with no problems as this was the length that had been measured. It was only then that I discovered that there just wasn't enough fabric to stretch zip to zip at the bottom of the waistband as it was that bit further down the skirt. Make sense? Probably not - I'm rambling!

After a lot of easing the material into position and careful pining I added a couple of snips to the waistband and hand sewed it to hold it in position on each of the seams so to hide the stitches.

So what should have been a quick finish turned into a bit of a faff. But its all learning - I certainly won't make that mistake again!

Casual skirt made out of old jeans. I've been wearing this one a lot since I finished it, denim wearing habits don't die so easily! What do you think?

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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Friday, 26 July 2013

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Fruit of the Garden - July's Harvest

July has come and almost gone so it feels like a good time to post an update on our harvest. It has been a month of many salads with the perfect weather to get us into the mood, strawberries to go with the Wimbledon final and the first of our potato harvest. We also had some stray garlic that had been flattened by something so I dug it up and tried smoking it, as it was all quite small. More on that to come later!

Arran Pilot

More Sweet Peas

Smoked Garlic

Pentland Javalin


Mixed Salad with Nasturtium Flowers

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Sunday, 21 July 2013

A series of cards

I love making hand-made cards for friends and family, for anniversaries, birthdays, mothers days and any sort of day really. Making something unique each time can sometimes be trying but once I have an idea the implementing is where it gets fun. Here are a few pictures of some of the better cards I've made over the last few months. As you can see paper-cutting features highly - its my favourite technique at the moment.

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Friday, 19 July 2013

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Grapefruit Sorbet

Has anyone noticed that summer seems to have arrived? We've been really enjoying the beautiful warm and sunny days with dinners outside, long evenings pottering in the garden and a bit of hard work finishing off our dining table. Naturally that's left us reaching for the ice cream. As our supplies dwindled my thoughts turned to a book we'd picked up for a couple of quid last summer; maybe prices were low because no one was making ice-cream in the wet excuse for a summer that we had last year?

Ices Italia takes you through recipe after recipe of sorbets and ice-creams almost all of which are mouthwatering (I'm yet to be convinced that there is a place in this world for pesto sorbet. Anyone else agree?). I just couldn't resist! I found three grapefruit's in the reduced section of our local supermarket and picked up a tub of value strawberries (because at this time of the year even value strawberries are British, ripe and juicy).

We had every intention of doing this the hard way, and saved the ingredients until the weekend so the whole thing could be given a beating every hour or so. But then we caved. We (and Joe in particular) have a penchant for gadgets - and kitchen gadgets are no exception. We bought an ice-cream maker. I'm not sure where we're going to put it, but I'm sure we'll find a hole somewhere!

The Strawberry Gelato recipe came straight out of Ices Italia, so rather than abusing their copyright I'll just pop up some pictures of the process. It tastes brilliant - exactly what I'd hoped for. Just like strawberries!

Make a custard

Add strawberry puree

Mix them together

Play with a new toy

One strawberry gelato. Mmm mmm!

.... but Grapefruit Sorbet was absent from the book and since we both adapted the lemon sorbet recipe and cobbled it together with a few internet finds I have no qualms in sharing this one with you. I'm pleased with the refreshing sharp yet sweet flavour produced. As the ice-cream maker was already in use (and requires 24 hours of freezing between uses), we did actually do this properly, so I'll include that in the recipe too.

250ml water
150g caster sugar
zest and juice of 3 grapefruits (about 300ml of juice)

1. Put a freezer proof bowl in the freezer.

2. Put the water, sugar and zest in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool.

3. Juice the grapefruits.

4. Sieve the water, sugar, zest mixture and the grapefruit juice into the frozen bowl. Stir. Put it all back into the freezer.

5. After an hour scrape any frozen crystals from the bowl into the middle and give the whole thing a quick beat. Repeat ever half hour or so until the whole mixture is a slurry rather than a liquid. Transfer to a food processor or use a hand blender to blitz the mixture.

6. Put back in the freezer and leave to finish freezing.

Roll on the rest of summer!
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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Summer Knits: 2. Oh Bother

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I decided to do a sanity check on measurements, gauge and size of my cardigan after knitting around 10cm of the bottom. The bad news is that I needed to start again!

Firstly, because I didn't have the 3mm needle the pattern recommended, but did have a 3.25mm needle I decided not to both with a gauge square - there was no way it could be too small if I'm using bigger than suggested needles. Wrong. The gauge was still a tiny bit too small. Clearly the wool I've chosen is rather different from the one the pattern recommended. However, this isn't so far out that a little gentle stretching while blocking won't sort it. Fortunately for me I was on the larger needle to start with.

So why, I asked myself, can I not wrap the material around my hips and have it fit?
Cue waving a tape measure and the pattern at Joe to see if he could see where I was going wrong - the answer came back loud and clear - you're making the wrong size!

I then spent a while looking at the pattern trying to work out where the mistake had come from as I hadn't just picked a size at random! Turns out I looked at the bust measurements at the top of the pattern and chose the size accordingly to match my bra size. Uh-uh (imagine loud buzzy noise). The bust measurements listed are the full bust size - not the under bust size. That would explain it then! Rather frustratingly I have now unravelled it and started again. I'm glad I checked everything was working before it had gone too far, and now that I'm making progress again I'm much happier than I was for the five days the whole thing sat in my knitting bag and couldn't be worked on, but its still very annoying.

Anyway, lesson learnt - a little less enthusiasm to get started, and a little more time checking the pattern doesn't go amiss. Maybe one day this lesson might sink in?!

Progress take two - slowly getting there!

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Friday, 12 July 2013

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Bakewell Puddings

There is a tradition in my office of bringing in something edible from where you have been on holiday. Having been near Bakewell it felt appropriate to bring something from there. Rather than bring back a couple of large puddings I decided to bake a batch of mini bakewell pudings. I used this recipe from the BBC but with a more traditional cherry jam - this seasons first cherries were just in. Here are the photos of the results:

Cherries ready to make jam
Jam in the puff pastry cases

And add the almond topping

The first dozen

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Sunday, 7 July 2013

Summer Knits: 1. Casting On

We were on holiday a couple of weeks ago and for us that means one thing - new projects! It was while camping a few years back that we decided to each learn a new skill. I chose to learn to knit while Joe focused on crochet. Sitting around in our camp chairs with a ball of yarn has since become a bit of a habit and this year was no exception. Recently Joe's also started to learnt to knit and so this year we both got out our circular needles for some cardigan making. (A little unorthodox I know...)

I've made a start on a new lightweight cardigan for myself to bolster my summer wardrobe. Ironically I'll probably be finishing it just as autumn kicks in, but it'll be there for next year. I'm rediscovering all sorts of items that have been hiding in the back of my cupboard at the moment as I make an effort to break that habit of a lifetime - jeans and a t-shirt. Hopefully this new cardie will fit in nicely.

I had great difficulty persuading my work to sit flat for a photo
and ended up using the ball of wool as a weight on one end.

Joe, on the other hand, is knitting a cardigan for a small person and enjoying the challenge of his first piece of lace knitting - rapidly expanding his knowledge of knitting stitches.

We'll keep you up to date with the progress of these projects as we continue.

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Friday, 5 July 2013

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Fruit of the Garden - June's Harvest

This is hopefully to be the first post of many. We decided that the best way of keeping up with the garden over the summer is to post pictures of our harvest. As we had a long winter this year (and didn't plant any spring crops in the autumn) the first produce is only just coming in, eggs aside. Our potatoes are almost ready and our salad crop is coming on nicely. The tomatoes (in the conservatory) are flowering and 4 feet tall and we have a few flowers blooming away quietly. I shall try and include some of the flowers in here too even if they are not part of the traditional harvest.

Wooden bowl full of mixed salad leaves
Thinning out the salad crop - it would be a shame not to eat it!

A purple allium opening into bloom
Our alliums have been with us all month, blossoming quietly outside the window.
A vase of pink and purple sweet peas
The sweet peas have just opened this weekend.

Pink, bell shaped flowers.
We don't know what these are but they needed pruning and look pretty!

Linking in with The Impatient Gardener and Veg Plotting this week - everyone's enjoying their gardens it seems!
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