For months now I have been searching without success for a stash of fabric I had put aside to make a quilt for a friend for Christmas, I had planned to make it last year but ran out of time and energy, so put the fabric aside in a safe place till I was ready to begin….but where? I can’t find it anywhere, and I guess even if I did now, I would not have time to make even the simplest quilt. I even pulled out one of my UFO’s and considered finishing it for her but decided not, I love her dearly, she deserves her own quilt conceived and made specifically for her, in her colours. It doesn’t have to be now and it shouldn’t be rushed or ill conceived, besides I am still having ideas about it, so clearly it is not yet a done deal.
However I am making something for her, her own stocking. I found in a charity shop some weeks ago a printed panel for a Christmas stocking, and bought it for £2.99, I guess it would have been £5 to £10 pounds or more to buy on a quilt shop.
I cut the two sides apart and cut out the shapes with a centimetre seam allowance, it need to be greater than a quarter inch because I will use the seam allowance turned in on itself to neaten the seam. I will sew it at 5/8ths and this will ensure no white will show at the edge.
I cut a lining from a plain white fabric I had to hand and a piece of wadding for each side, and sewed all three together along the top edge the front and the lining right sides together, with the wadding on the back.
Then the wadding was trimmed back as close to the seam as possible , and the printed panel flipped over so that the wadding is now in the middle. I neatly pinned the top edge then tacked it to ensure the lining did not roll out and show above the printed panel. I will top stitch when it has been tacked together to keep the top edge stable.
I have always enjoyed making things for Christmas, either to offer guests or maybe as presents, this year I have a number of liqueurs macerating in jars in the downstairs powder room, it’s cool and north facing.
This is one that really intrigued me, I found it on a website http://www.instructables.com and just had to try it.
Wash your Orange first. Make 44 holes in the orange and poke a coffee bean in each opening. Then put the orange in a jar.(I’m using a jar I picked up in my local charity shop for 50p) Fill the jar with 4 cups of grain alcohol/vodka. Then add your sugar over the top of the alcohol. The original recipe called for 44 sugar cubes but 6 tablespoons of sugar is enough.
You will need to store it for 44 days in a dark, cool place before removing the orange/coffeebeans. Be sure to shake it up every once in awhile to ensure the sugar dissolves. Do remember to make a note of the date you started, or make a note on your calendar of when it will be finished.
After 44 days, strain the liquid off the orange, decant into bottles, and enjoy chilled.
The two sides were quilted in circles using a CD and a circle cut from card as my quilting guide, and the zip carefully set into one side.the wadding cut back and the lining turned under and slip stitched to the zip fabric, to allow the zip to run. The whole thing then stitched round and turned out through the zip opening. Had the cover turned out to be too big, I would have top stitched around the edge to adjust the size, but it worked out just right.
So I finally finished the cushion, and proudly presented it to the 13 year old to be met with an unimpressed grunt, such is to be expected from a teenager.
The next day I noticed he wasn’t using it, “its scratchy” he tells me… it is so soft to the touch because it’s made from recycled, well washed fabrics!
Finally he asked could it be made smaller, could I “cut a bit off all round” so it will fit on the chair better? I admit I made it to fit the cushion I had, rather than the chair. Back to the drawing board then, what does a girl have to do to get some appreciation around here?
I have recently had a little problem which I hope to have solved, with a little judicious stitchery.
The 13 year old is on holiday from school this week, when he isn’t at school or asleep he is generally in his room on his computer playing games either alone or with “virtual friends “ who might be anywhere in the waking world. He sits on a computer chair which he finds less than comfortable so he will creep into my bedroom and take my lovely feather pillow in crisp white linen, to sit on!
As you can imagine, I’m not impressed by having to sleep on a pillow which has been in close proximity to a 13 year old boy’s rarely washed, and flatulent nether regions only minutes before I retire to bed and for probably the preceding 12 hours.
My solution is a feather cushion of his very own to sit on. I had one in my stash, but no cover for it.
Looking in my fabric stash, apart from my check shirts which are not negotiable, I have very little which isn’t rather too girly for a boy who does not countenance anything which might blight the tender shoots of his pubescent masculinity.
I found a shirt in cream and blue stripes, one of my early mistakes when buying shirts, it is striped not checked; two pairs of his father’s pajama bottoms, worn out at the seat but still plenty of wear in the legs (what does that tell you about my Dearest?) and a pair of his father’s boxer shorts size small from when he used to smoke 60 a day and had the hips of a racing snake, long time past.
I had seen the disappearing nine patch block but had not yet had the opportunity to use it, given the proportion of fabrics I had ( 3;4;4;1) it seemed a good choice.
I used the darker check from the boxer shorts for the centre square I’d only need 8 4” squares. The cream shirt and blue checked PJ’s for the sides and corner squares, 32 of each, and the striped pair of PJ’s for the outer border.
Make a nine patch, press it and slice it up again and across the centre in both directions to produce 4 blocks.
I tried two different placements of the resultant squares, so the two sides of the cushion are subtly different. It will need a zip, no doubt it will need washing frequently, and probably an inner cover to help keep the cushion clean. The 13 year old’s room is mainly blue and cream so this will blend in fairly well, by which I mean there is nothing here for him to take offence at, he may accept it without too much persuasion. We won’t need to consider “what people might think”, or any of those other concerns so particular to 13 year old’s.
Following my recent successful forays into hedgerow gathering for wine I have been considering what else might be lurking in the undergrowth which I might make use of. Rose hips kept coming to mind and eye. I have noticed as I drive around the country roads that the wild dog roses which can be found flowering abundantly in the hedgerows in spring are currently sporting bright red and orange hips on almost naked stems, waving at me in the autumn sunshine.
Whilst the thought of making them into wine appealed, I have a vivid happy memory of rose hip syrup. When I was a very small girl, back in the far distant 1960’s my mother gave my sister and I a teaspoon of rose hip syrup occasionally, probably through the winter to ward off coughs and sneezes. Perhaps she had happy memories of rose hip syrup herself being a child of the war years when rose hip syrup was made from hedgerow pickings and given free to children, because it is an excellent source of Vitamin C,( 20 times as much as oranges) which would have been a scarce resource in war time when citrus fruits were unavailable and leafy vegetables seasonal.
Then a blog I follow, lovely greens did a blog post on making elderberry syrup, (Hmmmm)… decision made, Rose hip syrup it is! I waited a few days of windy and rainy evenings, till we were blessed with a calm clear day, and went off to my usual gathering spot; a cycle path on the Lune estuary near Glasson Dock. We found rose hips in abundance, but the sun was going down. We only managed to pick half of the amount I needed by the time the sun set at the mouth of the estuary. My Beloved having been prickled and scratched, insisted we went home before we found ourselves benighted. As we walked briskly back to the car, on our right towards the west the sky was lit up in shades of coral and gold by the sun, already set, while on our left the darkening sky was lit by a beautiful full moon rising over a copse of beech trees. I had my camera with me but was being rushed back to the car in case it went so dark we got lost!!!
As we drove away from the car park we were passed by my sister and niece, waving enthusiastically they were arriving for a leisurely stroll in the dusk, a moonlit walk, how lovely, Dearest! Do you think we should send out a search party or might they have found their way home?
So thanks for idea Lovely Greens . http://www.lovelygreens.com, and thanks for the recipe Girl interrupted eating http://girlinterruptedeating.wordpress.com
Rosehip Syrup Recipe
400g of rosehips
1 pint of water
100g of sugar
1. Simmer the rosehips in the water for 15 minutes, mash and return to a simmer for a further 15 minutes
2. Strain through muslin to remove the fruit pulp
3. Stir in the sugar and warm over a gentle heat
4. Pour into sterilised jars
The last week in September I saw damsons for sale in my local Supermarket but at extortionate price, £4.99 a kilo, I ask you? As with my previous hedgerow makes it’s not the right thing simply to buy my ingredients in the sterile environment of a supermarket, I want to know where they were picked, to pick my own if I can. I wanted to make some damson gin for Christmas and perhaps some damson wine too, so I persuaded my Dearest that we needed to take a road trip up to the Lyth Valley over the County boundary in Cumbria.
The Lyth Valley has made the Lonely Planet beautiful world list. The Lonely Planet has published a new book to showcase beauty from across the globe,they describe the valley thus: “The unspoilt Lyth Valley is tucked in a hidden corner of Cumbria, where trees are laden with fruit and rolling hills are the most magnificent green.”
This hidden corner of Cumbria is famed for its damsons. In autumn, the trees are laden with purple fruits and roadside stalls appear advertising damsons for sale. That’s where we were headed; a stall we often pass and which I am always happy to see still trading. Up close it’s just a shack, but the produce on sale is good fresh locally grown goods.
We got the last of her damsons ripe to the point of no return. She advised me to use them up immediately, so I did, a brew of wine and a jar of damsons steeping in gin were put to bed that very evening. It may have cost me more to drive up to the Lyth Valley to buy my damsons but a glorious sunny autumn afternoon in the Lyth Valley is priceless.
Damsons were originally imported from Damascus for their dye, and given the name ‘damascene’ – later shortened to damson. ( Prunus domestica subsp. insititia, or sometimes Prunus insititia), also archaically called the “damascene”) some say it was introduced by the Crusaders but others claim the Romans brought them, and there were damson stones found in archaeological digs of Roman York.
The proprietor, had a wonderful elderberry tree hanging heavily in fruit, she told me many people had asked her what she planned to do with the fruit to which her reply was “absolutely nothing” she said I could help myself… if only I’d known a couple of weeks earlier.
The 17 year old set me an impossible task, she needed a new bag for College and she knew exactly what she wanted, the problem was it needed to be waterproof and it wasn’t. Knowing how important it is for her to have things which look right, which have credibility, I undertook to “try” to make it waterproof.
First step was to buy some proofing spray in the hope that we could give it a waterproof coating. My Dearest innocently believed he could simply buy the most expensive waterproofing spray from one of those outdoor activity shops, and spray it on, and Presto! It would cast water like a duck’s back. Ha! Great idea… two applications later no sign of it casting water.
I’ve always been a greater doubter than him so I already had plan B in my mind. If I could not make the outside waterproof then I needed to create a waterproof barrier between the outer layer and the contents of the bag.
We visited a number of shops to find a fabric with waterproof properties but found none. The internet is so wonderful, found what we wanted, ordered and arrived in a week and cost less than the diesel would have cost to seek what we wanted out of town.
I wanted the bag to look as close to what had been coveted and purchased at great expense, well great expense to one who has so little to spend. I determined to unpick the lining, use that as a pattern to cut the inner lining, and then line the lining, stitching the whole thing back together, so the inner lining is invisible.
I even made a little waterproof pocket for the back pocket which might otherwise soak up water from the outer and would have been the wrong side of the waterproof lining.It is almost exactly as it was before, I defy anyone to see any difference.
I just hope it works, because poor girl has a long a weary commute each day on bus and foot, if we have a wet winter she will have a very soggy wet rucksack and damp contents, her art work will not be improved by water. Let’s all pray for clement weather, cold but DRY.
So yes he did make me some labels for my lovely luscious wine , I’m not sure what it says about him, or me for that matter,(I did not model for the label that I can assure you) but it’s bottled, and “cellared”. I may give it a try at Christmas, or perhaps I should leave it till after Lent, as I will be abstaining again in Lent next year.
Having developed a yen for hedgerow harvesting; making good things out of my wild gatherings, I have begun another wine brew. A chance conversation with an expert brewer of wine set me off on a mission to brew a perfect red wine. Elderberry, blackberry and something else, a secret other berry, not strictly in season but easily available frozen, in various proportions to give perfume and body and tannins, will it be awful or perfect? It’s nearly ready to bottle now but it won’t be ready to drink till Easter, or maybe I’ll store it till next Christmas.
The first thing to gather were the elderberries, back to the spot where we picked the flowers in early summer, someone had been there before us so we struggled a little to find them plentiful and ripe, and equally not wanting to strip the trees bare we spent a little longer picking a few here and a few there. Washed and picked from the stems, they were frozen, with the intention that the freezing process would help break down the cell structure of the berries to release juice, colour and tannins.
Next were the blackberries, these took two days to pick, we went out to pick and were rained off, being a hardy Northern girl a little rain does not bother me, this was torrential rain, coming down like stair rods, the kind of rain which batters your head, runs through your hair and down your neck; even I admitted defeat.
The next day was bright and breezy, a perfect picking day, we still got scratched and nettled, but the berries were beautifully ripe and juicy.
The berries were briefly boiled to break down and sterilise, then soaked in a bucket with water overnight before the wine yeast, and nutrient were added and mashed for several days. Then the liquid was strained off the berries, the grape concentrate was added, and put in a demijohn to brew. The liquid fermented vigorously for a week but slowed to a gentle tick, and will be racked off the lees this weekend, cleared and bottled.
Perhaps my Dearest will make me a label for my bottles if I ask him nicely.
This is something I have been tinkering about with for months; I’m making a scrap quilt from all my Liberty lawns. I have many small pieces sometimes a quarter or half yard many with print errors which need to be carefully cut around, so scrappy quilts lend themselves to such a collection. All my Liberty prints are roll ends and misprints from the factory shop, but for a project like this they are perfect.
This block makes a wonderful scrap quilt but can just as easily be adapted to use only two fabrics or a carefully chosen mix of your favourite palette, the only stipulation I would make is that you need lights and darks to ensure clear definition, if you choose fabrics which are too close in shade or tone you will lose the pattern.
It would work with pastels on white or ivory, for a baby quilt; or two plains for the team colours of any keen supporter, claret and blue for a West Ham supporter perhaps. Imagine it in red and white, a striking alternative to the traditional double Irish chain. Perhaps it would work in black and red if you have a Goth in the household, or black and neon Brights if you want a stunner.
I’ll explain how it’s made and give the dimensions when it is finished, but there is a long way to go yet; now that the nights are drawing in and the days getting colder and wetter my garden needs to be “put to bed “, and then the quilting can begin.