Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My new Lotta book

Is there anything more exciting than receiving a new longed-for craft book in the post? I think not! And particularly when it's a stylish and beautifully photographed book like Lotta Jansdotter's Handmade Living.

Like a lot of crafts people I am hugely inspired by Lotta's simple, pared down Scandinavian style. Her projects are always simple and achievable.

I'm enjoying working my way through the book page by page, reading Lotta's tips and thoughts on design. A few projects I have bookmarked so far are:

• fabric baskets (which are everywhere at the moment but somehow Lotta's look better)

• kids blind decoration

• quilt for my bed - a classic example of Lotta's style - great fabrics quickly cut, sewn together and enjoyed. Based on the 'Gee's Bend quilts' (first time I've heard of this - sounds much more my style than ordinary quilts needing precision, accuracy and patience!)

Now I just need the big new (old) house to decorate ;-)

I know I'll refer to this book many more times in future, as I do with her printing book. Have I justified the cost well enough yet?! Do you have a favourite craft/homewares book at the moment?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Prints Charming screen printing workshop

Pic: Prints Charming

On the weekend I finally got around to doing something I'd been wanting to do for ages - a workshop on screen printing held by Prints Charming. I've been a fan of theirs or several years and have happily used their fabrics on some favourite projects like this dress.

At the workshop I enjoyed the whole process of printing, which I hadn't done since school and uni days. Cath and Kirsten teach the paper cut method, which is easy enough to pick up, and I guess you can just read about it - there's a chapter on it in their book, but I find there's nothing like being there in the flesh to partake and ask a squillion questions in the process!

As the purpose of the workshop was to learn the technique, as opposed to focussing on design, I stuck to something very simple and resurrected the little cloud design that I've been block printing lately, seen here and here. My technique was a bit rough, but nothing a bit of practice wouldn't iron out. Cath & Kirsten gave tips on everything from technique to where to buy supplies.

Another aspect of the workshop that I really enjoyed was hearing about how Cath & Kirsten started their business, their backgrounds in textile design, finding a market for fabric etc. I love hearing stories of creative businesses and partnerships. All good food for thought and I had a fabulous time!

Even though it was just a practice piece, I'm still looking forward to using my little fabric square. I'd settled on making a book bag from it but then my little girl came along with a request: "Can you make me a dress with the clouds, mama? Pleeeeease". We'll see!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Photo

New block and ink waiting for that design in my head to pop out shell collecting on a recent beach visit - lovely way to spend some time with my girls • gotta love a new craft project

looking in wonder at nature enjoying wearing my new thrifted red cardigan with my sev[en] circle • exploring

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another little friend

I'm such a sucker for my kids' requests... my big girl has been carrying around the little teddy (in my last post) since I made him, saying how much she wished she had one. So naturally I had to make her one... to order, of course: a bunny please, grey wool, striped tummy in pink and maybe blue. OK then.

To amuse myself I added a little pom pom for his tail. He's just as shoddily made and wonky as the last one (maybe I'm expecting my knitting to improve too quickly - but at least I don't have holes happening anymore :-), but when my girl woke and saw him sitting beside her bed this morning (yes, I'm that much of a sook) she was suitably excited. He was carried around all morning then reluctantly relinquished for school.

Sookiness aside, I'm enough of a realist to know that he will surely be forgotten sometime soon and end up under the bed getting cosy with the dust bunnies. But hey, I had fun, she had fun, win win! Now the little girl has requested a doll version (yikes!) and that means I'll have to make the boy one too.

On another note, apparently these little toys (pattern here) are perfect for using up scraps of leftover yarn. I have no idea how the pile above has ended up in my knitting bag, bought specifically for the little toys... um, maybe the knitting fairy bought it? Who could resist the beautiful gelato colours. Not me. Oh well. I've promised myself that when I'm done with this latest obsession I'll either make a throw blanket/toy play blanket for the kids or pass it on to the local charity shop for someone else to have so that it's not just hanging around. Fingers crossed ;-)

Lots of other creative goodness to be seen here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Harriet's teddy

I have my friend Lamina to thank for my latest craft obsession - little knitted toys. Her post about making gifts for friends had me going straight to the pattern she'd used for her cute bunny and thinking about whether my fledgling knitting skills were up to it.

Technical doubts aside I couldn't help myself and decided to dive in with some scraps of yarn I had lying around and the kneedles I'd used for my sev[en] circle. When my little girl asked me what I was knitting I quickly thought and told her it was a little teddy for Harriet, the doll I made her a couple of years ago (a little on Harriet here). I thought it was safest to say it was for Harriet as: A. if it turned out dodgy (almost guaranteed to) it wouldn't matter and B. it would reduce the "Where's mine? Why is it for her/him and not me?" factor that's always a possibility.

Something amuses me about a soft toy having a knitted teddy (hee hee), and I enjoy setting Harriet & teddy up in amusing (to me) situations.

Those other than Harriet have taken to little teddy too so I will definitely be feeding my obsession and knitting at least 3 more.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Giveaway goodies & Etsy shops

I thought I'd show you what the 2nd prize was in my giveaway many moons ago. Adriana won this set of my hand printed artichoke design tea towel and bamboo utensils (plus a tissue holder thrown in ;-).

I love printing teatowels. This artichoke design is a favourite and I've got lots more foodie images in mind, and more kitcheny products too. Many teatowels have been given away as gifts and I've sold a some at a great local handmade store. Now I'm thinking either of setting up a new Etsy store for the kitcheny things or perhaps resurrecting my old Etsy Bubala shop. I miss having my Bubala shop, but when the childcare and housework got the better of me a while ago I found it was best to let something go and that was it... now I've got itchy feet again to create things to send out into the world. Hmm, if only there were more hours in the day ;-)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where there's a will...

... there's a way... just. Squeezed into a toddler nap gap today was a bit of stamping.

So many times in the past I have intended to send thank you cards to our friends for gifts they're given the kids, but haven't gotten around to it. The issue tends to sit in my mind nagging me until it's so late that I finally admit it's pointless, that I've missed the boat. In fact, if I'd spent all those little bits of time actually doing them, they'd be done... arghh! Know what I mean?

The other thing that sometimes holds me up is trying to work out the perfect design. So this time, with a self-imposed deadline of one week after the party, I've gone with the 'just get it done' route and done the first thing I thought of: stamped card with ball motif (to suit the ball-mad birthday boy).

I carved a ball, then a bouncing dotted line, cut out the cards, printed them, wrote individual messages, stamped the envelopes, sealed them and then heard... "mama!". Phew, just made it to the end of nap time.

It sure feels good to have this little task done. Now to deliver them and not let them languish in my bag for the next week!!

Creativity spaces aplenty here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Birdseed biscuits

Perhaps as a backlash to our recent sugary binges, yesterday I made a pile of healthy but yummy crackers. We call these crackers 'Birdseed Biscuits', but they are indeed people food. Based on a simple wheat cracker recipe, I add lots of seeds for the crunch and pop of flavour. They're great as a snack with cheese or just on their own. Good for school lunch boxes too, if your kids don't mind a bit of hippy food!

Birdseed biscuits

1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
100g cold butter
cold water
assortment of seeds
(eg: sesame, poppy, black onion (nigella), cumin, linseeds)

Put both flours, baking powder and salt into food processor. Pulse until mixed. Add cubes of butter and process until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add cold water until the dough just starts to come together. Take out dough and place onto floured bench. Roll out a portion with rolling pin as thinly as possible, then sprinkle liberally with seeds*. Roll again to press the seeds into the dough.

Cut into rough square shapes (or whatever you like) with a knife or pastry wheel, which gives a nice fluted edge. Do the same with the remaining dough. Bake in batches at 190c for about 15 minutes or til starting to brown. Cool on trays.

* You can also add salt flakes or ground pepper at this stage

Monday, August 15, 2011

Party craft

We had a birthday party in a local park on the weekend for our boy's 2nd birthday, and of course I couldn't let the opportunity to do some craft slip past!

The craft centred loosely around a ball theme (for the ball-mad boy of course) and including orange and green colours. I made an invitation from a photo of birthday boy kicking a ball, a pom pom garland in a great grassy green yarn, and little round take-home parcels.

I'd seen a few examples of little sewn parcels around (good one including tutorial here) and wanted to try them. I used an old (but beautiful) furniture catalogue, from which I cut CD sized circles, and sewed 2 together, leaving a gap for filling, adding a large ribbon tag and then sewed up the gap, leaving a couple of millimetres for ease of tearing.

Whenever we have a kids party I agonise over take-home 'party bags', as I know many friends do... firstly, to do them or not to? Kids love them (and expect them!), but packing them with cheap plastic toys seems wrong, as they'll surely end up as landfill sometime soon. Decent little toys end up very expensive when you're buying in bulk. And as for lollies (sweets/candy)... generally the kids have consumed quite a bit of sweet food already by the time the party's over, so should we be sending them home with their poor parents to either eat more and run around on sugar highs, or have screaming tantrums because they're not allowed to eat them? Both are familiar to our family and neither is fun. We've seen a lot of tantrums over 'treats' lately and frankly I'd like to go and clear our pantry of anything sweet, ban buying and receiving gifts of sweets and have a sweet-free month, I'm that over the whole the sweets mania. Argh, I've obviously got an issue going on here!! I could write a whole post on this topic, but I won't bore you with that ;-). Lets just say that I hoped that the novelty of ripping open their little parcels would make up for the small quantity of sweets (just enough M&M's to fill out the parcel).

It was a simple party and we tried to keep it age appropriate (despite pressure from the 6 year old big sister who would have liked Pass-the-parcel etc ;-). Balls to kick around of course, a game of Crocodile Crocodile, big bubble blowers and chalk to draw on the paths.

OK, yes, this is the boy with his face in his cake! If you can't get icing all over your face when it's your birthday, when can you, right?

* Party pics courtesy of my lovely friend L who knows I always forget to take photos so takes my camera and gives it back to me full of great images. Thank goodness for you L :-)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Photo

top I'd love to make one of these beautiful 'grass' rugs (pic by Lionbrand Yarn) Homemade vegetarian laksa, eaten as leftovers, mmm • this little ball-mad ball of energy turned 2 this week.

a fresh curry leaf featuring in 'Savoury chickpeas in tomato glaze' from a Kurma recipe making pom poms to decorate above birthday boy's party • I'd forgotten how yummy boiled peanuts are til I bought some this morning from a local fruit & veg shop. And noticing the amazing patterns in the shells.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finished sev[en] circle

I almost can't believe I've finished knitting my sev[en] circle! All the reviews I read on Ravelry said it was a joy to knit, and I was a little skeptical as I'm such a newbie to knitting and thought it might be frustrating, but I've got to say I loved knitting it. The pattern designer, Kirsten Johnstone of Assemblage has such beautiful style. Check out her patterns on Ravelry if you haven't already.

And wearing it is just as good. I love the slightly crazy design (mine looks quite medusa-like to me). And it's so warm. It bunches around the back of my neck (great for those with short hair like me) and then drapes around the neck and chest.

Happy as I am with it, I did make lots of mistakes on it though - little holes (missed stitches??) all over the place, one section where I must have accidently twisted the needles and a totally weird bit that looks kind of stretched!! Oh well, hopefully those will lessen as I keep practicing ;-)

I'm looking forward to making another, now that I know how to do it. Next time I'd like to do one section in a contrasting colour. Still, I'd better not get too cocky... feeling slightly clever at having worked out this pattern, and keen to keep knitting, last night I tried to start another of Kirsten's designs, the Looped-Loop, and totally stuffed up the provisional cast on, even with the help of YouTube! Oh well, back to the drawing board on that one!

More creative spaces to gaze at over here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vegetarian sausage rolls

With our little boy's birthday party approaching I've been thinking about kids finger food, particularly in winter. Not that it's been winter-ish here lately, a warm spell has seen us with temperatures in the low 20's (c). But I'm sure it will be chilly again soon.

I've been making an adapted version of Delia Smith's vegetarian sausage roll recipe for a few years now, and really enjoy it. Delia's recipe calls for a homemade flaky pastry, but mostly I use frozen puff pastry, which works well and takes a lot of time out of the prep. These make great after school snacks and can be carried around while playing (if you don't mind that kind of thing!).

Vegetarian sausage rolls


275g fresh breadcrumbs*
225g tasty cheese, grated
1 small onion, grated
3 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon mustard powder
salt & pepper to taste

Pre-rolled frozen puff pastry sheets

Place all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Then place a sheet of pastry on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cut it into three strips and lay the filling in long rows along the centre of each strip.

Brush a little milk or water along one edge of each piece (to help the edge seal), then fold the pastry over and seal it as carefully as possible. Turn each roll over so the sealed edge is underneath. Press lightly and cut the rolls obliquely, so that they form little diamond shapes, then brush with a little milk. Repeat with the other portions of filling and pastry. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes. Then leave them to cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

* I put slices of bread in my food processor and pulse it til I have large loose breadcrumbs - bigger than the commercial dried ones

- - - - -

In other unrelated goings-on:

• We are in full 2 year old birthday planning mode. Big girl is making him a barn for his animal collection (ah, sisterly love :-), and I'm making things for his party this weekend, which I'll hopefully show you next week... if they work out, or maybe if not too ;-)

• My seven circle is coming along really well (for an amateur!) and I hope to finish very soon. Though this warm weather is not so encouraging - I'm almost wishing for a cold spell so that I can wear it!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cloud gift tags & wrapping paper

One of the nice things about making your own stamps to block print is that they are so versatile. After using my little cloud on fabric I got out the ordinary stamp pads to make some prints on paper and card.

I needed a gift card and wrapping paper for friends who've just had a baby boy, so I experimented with printing onto different cards and papers. I think the one on cross-hatch textured gray card (top pic) is my favourite. It was also fun to team the cards with different ribbons, or in this case plain old cotton string.

On the technical side, I'd highly recommend the Versa Magic brand of stamp pad. Mine just keep going and going and this white gives a lovely chalky finish.

Lots of creative spaces to enjoy exploring over here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More cloud prints

Straight after I printed my new cloud print onto the Mr's pj's, I turned around and saw the plain t-shirt I'd just sewn for the little boy and thought 'why not?'. Sometimes the things I plan least turn out the best, and I think this is one of those cases.

I printed a few random clouds on the front and then one on the sleeve (plus a little star and heart on the bottom hem ;-)

The t-shirt itself is a design that I made by taking a pattern from an old t-shirt and adapting it. All blue jersey knit fabric is from my stash (trying to keep the stash bustin' momentum going) and I used a contrast fine stripe for the hood lining and the cuffs.

"Now where did that ball go?"

I'm thinking of doing a tutorial on cutting patterns from existing clothing. If you would be interested let me know and next time I cut a pattern I'll document it and make a post from it.

Hope you're having a nice week so far.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weekend craftiness

After falling in love with the Sev[en] Circle recently I spent far too much time researching it and daydreaming about it, and finally yesterday got my act together and bought supplies for it.

They're not great, but they'll do. Very average yarn and not quite up to scratch needles (blast that Spotlight, I wanted the pretty metal ones!), but if I'd not taken this step I'd still be daydreaming - sometimes I just have to push myself to actually start... then it's all OK - know what I mean?

So after starting (this pic), I couldn't stop and went to bed way too late last night but happily got the first ring done!

The pattern is not feeling so much like another language to me now that I've tried all the stitches and it's starting to take shape. I wanted to do this as my second proper knitting project (remember the first one?) because:
A. I love the design
B. I thought I would learn a lot on the journey
C. It's such an organic shape that I thought any mistakes would be less likely to show

So far all three are happening. Can't wait to see how it grows ;-)
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