Saturday, May 8, 2010

Some good news…

Firstly, some very good news: Chris got a job!!! I am so VERY happy about this (time to pay off some credit card debt!!)

Next, I got a package in the mail today, from Australia! Inside were 2 lovely fat quarters (pieces of fabric!) and a printed fabric ‘made by’ label. They are from a swap on the down to earth forums, which I visit every day. I hope my swapee likes their parcel from me!!

And today, I attended a book binding (making journal/sketchbook type books, rather than binding novels!) craft class at the local gallery. The day didn’t start great with a stonking headache til lunchtime, but by the end of the day I finished something I am really happy with :)

The two books I made – the one on the left is my first basic attempt. The one on the right is the second attempt which I’m a lot happier with.

A close up of the second book. The cover is made of vellum (vellum was originally made with calf skin, but is more commonly used now to refer to semi-transparent paper – sort of a nicer version of tracing paper!), and it fastens with a simple loop of thread and a celtic knotwork style button.

The inside of the book – it has 80 pages, alternating muted gold and a lovely marbelled green. There is an ‘inner cover/front page’ of a gorgeous printed vellum .

I will definitely be exploring this more – I have a sort of ‘in progress’ idea of a nice little photo album made like this.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Walking barefoot in the grass…

I’ve been digging in the garden today, planting some cabbages (protected from the wind with little plastic collars, and from the slugs with organic pellets!). Then I sat still for a moment and realised it was the perfect day. 18*c, sunny, with a slight breeze. Just right. So I sat a while, walked in the grass barefoot (one of life’s simple pleasures), and took some photos.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Those cushions i mentioned…

… are done! :) I’m rather happy with them too!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Simple Sunday!

The sun is out with a light breeze – perfect garden day! So today in addition to what I was planning I will be getting some small jobs done in the garden:

~ Do Laundry, and hang out in the sun: Done!
~ Plant Potatoes: Done! 5x ‘Charlotte’ spuds went in buckets, and covered with fleece in case of a frost. Pink Fir Apple spuds will go out in a couple of weeks.
~ Check on Garlic: Done! Most of it has got going nicely. Really hoping i didn’t plant too late this time!
~ Sow Flower Seeds: Done! Very roughly dug over a bed at the front, and threw down (literally) some mixed flower seeds including sunflowers.
~ Make a Bean Cage: Done! i dug out some old metal mesh from shed, cut a long rectangle, and bent it to form a frame i can put over beans/peas to keep the birds off!
~ Take Rosemary Cuttings: Done!
~ Wash Up (hmmmmm… maybe Chris will be nice and do it for me ;) )
~ Clean Hamster Tank: Done!
~ Bake Something: Done! (cookies)
~ Cook Dinner: Done!
~ Make a Cushion Cover (tomorrow!!)
~ Prepare for Work! Done!

Not sure if i’ll get all this done, but I’ll try!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Come onnnnnnn Spring!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chitting potatoes and new chilli seedlings, the messy, truthful imperfection of my kitchen (handmade soap and an indoor garden), seeds glorious seeds, and a new stash of pretty fabric waiting for a burst of inspiration.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yay! I got a ‘new’ sewing machine from the local ads – it cost me £40 but is a lot more modern than my beloved old Singer, it does a lot more stitches etc and I’m hoping will be 100% easier to get special ‘feet’ for so I can do proper zips, buttonholes etc :) I’ll probably still keep the old one though, I’m very attached to it :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Adventures in Soapmaking

I made my second batch of homemade, ‘cold processed’ soap the other day. Although it has to cure for about a month before you use it, it looks great, a lot better than the first batch.

So, how do you make soap?

I used Rhonda’s tutorial at Down to Earth, with one modification – I did some research online and found out that instead of using a thermometer and heating the two sets of liquids to the same temp, you can leave them to cool down until the bowls feel the same warmth against your hand – so that’s what I did.


First you mix your oils together – I used the proportions in Rhonda’s directions. I had no problem finding these – Olive Oil and Rice Bran oil are available at bigger supermarkets, and coconut oil is sold in asian grocery stores, of which we have several even in a small town like Scunthorpe (Asian stores are a goldmine, I use mine for nuts, pulses, herbs, noodles, tofu etc all much cheaper than elsewhere).

In another jug mix up the caustic soda (lye) with water. Be very careful with this stuff, it can give you bad burns if you spill it on bare skin. Also, make sure to mix it with cold water – i used warmish water because I was impatient waiting for it to cool down (from being boiled to get some of the chemicals out of the tap water), and had a minor heart attack thinking it was going to explode, volcano style, all over my kitchen! Luckily it didn’t :)

Oh, and you should only use bowls etc for soapmaking and nothing else – I used cheap plastic stuff from tesco so this needn’t cost more than about a pound!

Once you have your two lots of liquid at the same temp, you carefully mix them together – after a few mins they will get a lot thicker, looking somewhat like cake batter. This is called ‘reaching trace’ – a trickle of the mixture poured onto the rest should stay on top for a while. This is the point where you add essential oils, colours etc if required. For my first batch I chose to keep half ‘natural’ and add essential oils (rosemary and peppermint) and colour to the other half. The colour, despite being made for use in bathbombs, soap etc turned from greenish to pink, whoops! Nevermind, nothing wrong with pink peppermint soap ;)

Then pour it carefully into greased molds – the more flexible, the easier it is to get the soap out once it’s hard.

After leaving it for 24 hours you unmould it and cut it into pieces – at this point it’s still caustic, so don’t be silly like me and get it on your skin!

Once it’s cut, you leave it to dry for several weeks on a rack. As you can see, my first effort wasn’t perfect – I mixed too much before pouring into molds, with the result that it was very thick and I got air bubbles – so it came out a bit crumbly. It’s still perfectly good soap though :)

And here’s my second effort, which as you can tell is a LOT better. There are a few plain bars, a big batch with added oatmeal and honey (i just eyeballed how much to add of those so will have to wait and see if it’s any good), and some really cute little individual sized heart soaps, some with lavender oil added and some of the oatmeal&honey. The colour variation comes from them being in various stages of drying – eventually they will all be a lot paler.

Next experiment… face wash and lip balm!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Goals for 2010

And yet again it’s been another month since I posted!! Must get back into the habit – a lot of it is that I’ve been using the old laptop downstairs rather than my computer in the cold room upstairs, and the laptop really doesn’t like photo uploads.. so I’ve been really bad with updating.

I’m proud to say I finally made soap from scratch! Using the cold process method with oils and caustic soda – it came out great in the end though thanks to my clumsiness it was a bit messy to clean up – next time will be better. I did take some photos so I will try to get them uploaded. This is part of my Grand Plan this year, which leads me on to….

Things To Accomplish in 2010

inspired by

  • Practice and experiment and learn to make really good soap
  • Learn to make a face scrub/wash using all natural ingredients
  • (Re)learn to make bathbombs (have done this before!)
  • Sew more! and…
  • … make one piece of clothing!
  • Eat less dairy, and make more of it ethical (organic/freerange)
  • Learn how to make a really good curry!
  • Learn how to make yummy authentic-ish mexican food
  • and finally, give more handmade gifts!

    What would you like to accomplish this year?

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Well like the rest of the UK we’re in the grip of winter at the moment with a long cold snap and lots of snow. Here in Scunthorpe there’s about 6″ in our back garden at the moment, which is very unusual. The roads are risky to drive on so lots of people are struggling to get into work, although we’re not too bad living in town and on one of the main road/bus routes (bus routes are gritted).

And now, a couple of projects i’ve been meaning to write about….

First, this was for for my mum for christmas. I picked up a cheap hardback, ring bound notebook and made a cover for it. I hand-embroidered my mum’s initials onto felt, made the cover (from a £1 fabric offcut from the local sewing shop), and zig-zagged the felt piece on. All in all it cost less than £4 including the notebook, and I love it. And hopefully she does too.

Then the gift I made for Kay. I picked up 1/2 a metre of this gorgeous fabric from ebay (the LAST 1/2m!). As soon as I saw it I thought of her (don’t you love it when that happens?). With some careful cutting I made it stretch to this box pouch and tote bag (with a clip inside for the pouch!) – using iron-on interfacing to give it some strength. Again I’m really proud of myself for this because I stretched my sewing skills but it came out great.

And finally, Chris’ gift. This is a hood i made for him for LARP (roleplaying / non-accurate re-enactment!). I used some gorgeous deep red, woolen fabric I found for a BARGAIN price of £1 – due to it being much narrower than normal. It will need some seams in interesting places to make something like a cloak but I could just about get the pieces cut out for this hood. I lined it with black cotton (as that’s what I had at the time), and it also has a sewn on ‘frog’ fastening at the neck (not pictured, as I sewed that on later). In real life it looks great, I’m really proud of it and it will keep him snug and warm at the cold events he goes to!

I haven’t yet chosen my next project. I’d like to have a go at soapmaking from scratch, but need to get a couple of things for it first (a pyrex jug and a non-aluminium saucepan, I think). I will probably have a go at screenprinting, as Chris got a kit for christmas. And of course I will keep working on sewing and improving my skills.