Creativity is a drug I cannot live without
Show MenuHide Menu

Damson Gin :Time to make another batch.

September 26, 2014
Damson gin

Lyth Valley Damsons

The Damson Gin I made for Christmas last year was such a success that I just had to make some more. My Dearest wants two bottles for us and the rest for gifts. I have three 2 Ltr Kilner jars at the moment each of them containing nearly a kilo of fruit and a bottle of gin. I can assure you that we won’t be drinking 2 out of the three of this particular brew, but I’ll break it to him gently, once the other bottles are gift wrapped and given away. He thinks My Damson Gin is delightful, so do I but not two bottles- that’s just greedy, and besides, there are people I know who now know there will be more Damson Gin this year, how could I not share?

Damson gin

2ltr Kilner Jar, sugar, Gin
damsons

last Saturday, the sun shone unexpectedly and so we took my little sports car for a spin. We drove to our favourite place for buying Damsons in the Lyth Valley and bought 4 kilos. Most of them went in the gin, there were some which were too ripe, they got eaten just as they were. The rest were cooked with a little sugar, and put in the fridge to be eaten with yogurt for breakfast, they tasted wonderful.

So this year I have put 900 grams of Damsons pierced all over with the tip of a sharp knife, in each Kilner clip top Jar with a 75cl bottle Gin, and covered with a 400g of caster sugar, and sealed the jars. I have given them a good shake every day till the sugar dissolved.

damson gin

Gin sodden damsons

This Damson Gin will sit in a cool dark place for 3 months and then the contents will be strained and the gin bottled, ideally I’m told we should allow it to mature for another 6 months, but I doubt it will Survive Christmas.

Elderflower Liqueur: my own take on St.Germain

September 14, 2014
elderflower liqueur

This spring I was looking to make another brew from the hedgerow, I love the fragrance of elderflower, but didn’t want to make more wine, and elderflower cordial although lovely is readily available in supermarkets which one can buy and use without the fuss and effort of making it at home. But I had read about St. Germain an elderflower liqueur which apparently is currently very fashionable in cocktails. Well, I had to have a go at that.
A short walk in the lovely countryside with a carrier bag and a pair of secateurs, and a trip to the local supermarket for a bottle of own brand Vodka, a bag of sugar and a lemon, and I’m good to go.

elderflower

elderflower, headgerow pickings

 

 

 

A pint of elderflowers were picked from the umbels, put into 1.5ltr jar with 75cl of vodka, and topped with several pieces of greaseproof paper weighted down with slices of lemon to prevent the flowers rising to the top and going brown with oxidisation.

elderflower liqueur

I had to buy some St Gremain to compare

I did not agitate this brew but allowed it to steep for 3 months, on the cool windowsill in the downstairs loo, then strained off the elderflowers and added sugar.

elderflower liqueur

clear as crystal

It then stood for another week or two while the sugar slowly dissolved, before I strained it again and bottled it… and wouldn’t you just know it, yet again there was just a little over to taste it. It tastes divine, I put aside what little was left to take to my sister to share a little tipple with me, but next time I looked it had gone, about three shots of Elderflower liqueur necked by my Dearest ( written with gritted teeth) in one go. And then he has the brass neck to tell me he doesn’t like elderflower, grrrrr. I’m making more Damson Gin, He likes that.

Elderflower liqueur

Elderlflower liqueur bottled and ready for drinking

Waiting for inspiration to arrive, making cushions

August 28, 2014
1-IMG_1888

I have to admit I still have not completed a project I began months ago, making cushions for my garden furniture.

easy cut to fit

easy cut to fit

Partly lack of time, partly lack of inspiration, the cushion I made for the bench looked a little plain, amateurish, I’m still not sure whether to button it to pull the fabric tight,give it more character and a more professional look or just leave well alone. If I do button it I will have to button the chair cushions too.

Bench cushion: easy envelope closure

Bench cushion: easy envelope closure

I wanted to be able to fasten them in place with ties. Initially I was going to use the spare fabric to make ties but was worried the fabric was too thick, and would not be effective, I decided to use tape. Turquoise tape was my first thought but impossible to find, so I bought cream, on a market stall in Clitheroe, from a little girl helping out her Mother, or perhaps her grandmother during the school holidays. She didn’t understand measurement in yards, so I had to translate for her, and she didn’t know how to wind up the 6 yards of tape to put it in a bag. She began to wind it round her hand but then it got so tight she could not get it off and had to begin again. The stall holder and I both laughed at her struggles, and her nonplussed little face. I watched the stall holder show her how to wind the tape round her splayed fingers, and then close her fingers to simply slip the tape bundle off her hand and into the bag. It set me thinking about how many skills we have that we don’t even recognise as skills, which we do without thinking about and have no memory of ever learning. I don’t remember learning that trick or how to thread a needle or set a knot in thread with a twist and flick of finger and thumb, but I can.

cream tape for ties

cream tape for ties

I wanted the cushion covers to fit well and the cushions to look plump, To get a tight fit of the cover I decided rather than make the cover tight and then struggle to get the cushion in, I would make it loose, and then finish it with an “Oxford“ edge , two rows of top stitching round the edge, making the cushions appear wider, allowing for the slight raised edge of the chairs; while at the same time giving a neat tight fit and a plump appearance.

This cushion cover won’t come off to be washed, but I think I can put each in the washing machine as needed.
The fabric was cut on the generous side to allow about an inch of fabric all around. A narrow seam sewn on two sides with the tape caught in the seam close to the back on both sides, facing in, so that it is on the outside when complete. To close the back seam I tucked the raw edges in and tacked the opening closed, having put in the cushion pad. The top stitching would close the back opening. I tacked around the edge pulling the edges out and positioning the cushion pad at the same time so I had the same amount of spare fabric all round.

finished with an Oxford edge

finished with an Oxford edge

Now comes the difficult part, using a zipper foot, because I would have a lot of bulk on one side, I stitched around once; at this point the cushion cover still wasn’t tight. Going round again a quarter inch closer required a lot of effort, the cushion pad had to be pressed flat with my fingers to allow the presser foot to run over the fabric so close to the pad, and my stitching is a bit wobbly, but the finished article looks OK. One down, three to go, making cushions is easy. I might have them done before the clocks go back at the end of British Summer Time.

Looks Dapper

Looks Dapper

I’m in love with an idea, I want a shed

July 17, 2014

An idea has been bubbling away at the back of my mind, I want a shed. I’m loath to admit it, but I have shed envy.
Having seen many magazine articles and even TV programmes about people who have their own little outside space, garden room, beach hut, pavilion, Hobbit hole, garden shed, I have developed a yen for my own little space, another room to furnish and decorate without the need to move or build an extension. A space I can furnish on a shoestring, from charity shops and boot fairs, and use to sit in when I want to be outside but it’s not quite warm enough. That’s most evenings in a typical British summer.

this is what I want

this is what I want

I want a little summerhouse with roses round the door, a place I can sit and sew with the doors and windows open, garden smelling wonderfully, birds making their evening chorus, hedgepigs snuffling about in the undergrowth.
My only difficulty was where on earth to put it, my garden is lovely, but very small, any kind of wooden building would be intrusively large and would take up space where currently plants are flourishing. And why would I want to replace flowers with walls?

dirty little secret

dirty little secret

But I also have a dirty little secret, an overgrown patch behind the garage, where I have foolishly planted a rampant rambling rose which has grown way beyond its allotted space. I had intended it to grow through an old Elder tree in the corner of my plot, but one winter maybe 8 years ago the old tree fell, and the rose just kept on growing… and growing, it has grown into a tree in my neighbours garden, it has encroached upon two trees in my garden and it overhangs the garden of the folks on the other side of the fence. In fact last summer I spied them lift up the fence panel, climb into my garden and cut a whole bough from the rose, the cheek of it! I didn’t object, they took away the remains and disposed of it, and they would have been within their rights to throw the dead branch back over the fence. The rose has grown so high over the garage roof it must stand a metre higher than the roof line, and shades my garden. Despite romantic reminiscence of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale; sadly it has to go.

Dead wood that needs to go

Dead wood that needs to go

Despite the fact that it smells divinely in the spring, I have to cut it down. I’ve made a start but it’s a lot of work. When it has gone, and the fallen tree cleared, and a Holly tree too, I think I will be able to make a space big enough to accommodate my little garden shed. Of course I will be referring to it by some fancy name like “the garden room” but we all know in reality it will be a shed.

The old dead Elder tree

The old dead Elder tree

I’ve already been shopping for my shed, I think I know what I want, but I can consider it all winter while I get the site cleared, no rush, plenty to think about, …ship lap…log lap, tantalized or not… should it be painted…do I need to run electricity… what type of furniture, will it be insulated so I can use it in winter…how to heat it, safely. Curtains…rugs…comfy chair………bed? ( well that’s another story entirely)
I want a shed, my sewing room shed, my peaceful place.

lets hope this isn't the reality

lets hope this isn’t the reality

Another successful raid; charity shop bargains

May 11, 2014

Today was my regular trip to the hairdressers, for a cut and colour, as I was leaving we were all singing the praises of my favourite charity shop Wolfwood, which is just next door. I happened to mention that I am always on the lookout for nice glassware, when my Stylist remembered having seen some nice ones in there the day before. We went in together and found them, 4 lovely crystal wine glasses; £3. Not £3 each you understand £3 for all 4 of them, needless to say they came home with me.

4 crystal glasses

4 crystal glasses

Before I left I spotted two cushions, each in plain linen type fabric embellished with real shell buttons. two cushionsI snapped them up for £2 each. Now they are rather bland and beige for my taste but I didn’t buy them to use but rather to asset strip. Whilst walking home with my treasure I took a closer look, both cushions were sold by NEXT, and one still had its swing tag on, attached to the zip and tucked inside; whoever donated them paid £12 for that one. From the two cushions I have retrieved 1 cream zip, two cushion pads, 48 x 2.5cm natural shell buttons, which are quite thick and heavy , and 169 natural shell shirt buttons, plus two pieces of fabric suitable for backings once I’ve washed them. One is quite coarse, polyester /linen mix, the other a finer cotton/ linen mix.

169 shirt buttons

169 shirt buttons

Had I gone out to buy these materials the zip alone would have cost £4, the buttons I guess at least 5p each for the little ones and maybe 25-30p each for the bigger ones, say £30 worth of materials for £4.

can you believe it £2?

can you believe it £2?

I don’t feel bad about taking them apart because they were badly designed, the buttons being shell are heavy and the fabric they were sewn to is too flimsy, so the whole cushion front sagged, the buttons dragging the fabric down, which is probably why they came to be in the charity shop, almost unused. I have plans for all the materials, of which later, possibly much later.

can't believe my luck

can’t believe my luck

Having had good luck so far, I decided to check out the charity shops in town, and scored a pair of unworn Boden ¾ length pants in a pistachio green, the swing tag and spare buttons still attached, for £6, and a scarf which feels like silk but probably isn’t from River island for 99p. All in all not a bad haul, for £14. I love a good charity shop, bargains like hidden treasure, waiting to be discovered, if only you have the patience to search.

Paradise is a garden

April 23, 2014

Our Garden furniture has been looking rather tatty for a couple of years now so we decided to treat ourselves to new ones; a table, chairs and a parasol to afford shade or shelter according to the weather. Getting rid of the old ones presented a greater challenge than expected, we couldn’t get the table down the side path; too wide, and it wouldn’t go through the house either, same reason. The bolts too rusted to easily take apart we came up with a canny solution… wait till the neighbours went out, then passed the table over the fence, past the too narrow place, and back over the fence…shhhh, don’t tell. The new ones all fold up for easy storage, so we won’t have that problem again.

paradise in my own back yard

paradise in my own back yard

I’m not sure what we planned to buy when we began looking but we did shop around before we bought, did we want rattan… no, too likely to get dirty given the secluded position under trees, did we want glass and steel…Nope, too fancy and likely to rust in our damp climate. Wood then…hmm, maybe, maybe not, which wood? What about mosaic topped and painted metal? We finally decided on wood, but teak, not a cheaper alternative and something which could be easily stored indoors for the winter to extend its potential life. My Dearest insisted on an HUGE parasol, so that he can sit in the garden even when it’s raining and not get wet. I have to say there is something wonderful about sitting in our garden in the summer rain, paradise is a garden.

chair before teak oil

chair before teak oil

Being teak, I decided to give the furniture a coat of teak oil to help preserve it, my Dearest having determined to have nothing whatever to do with any noxious substances, said that was my job…as ever.
Next task making cushions to go on the furniture, we could have bought the cushions sold with the furniture, and I did like them very much, but I could not justify the expense, four small chair cushions and a bench cushion would have cost as much as 2 chairs! How much!!!

and after

and after

So off to town on Saturday for some upholstery foam, and to a local factory shop for suitable striped fabric, now all I need to do it cut the foam to fit, and cover with my chosen fabric.

yet another job for me

yet another job for me

With what’s left of the fabric I may make some more bunting or some softer scatter cushions. All told I think I will have saved £40 or more, if I don’t cost in my time, but then I didn’t have anything else to spend my time on now did I?

easy cut to fit

easy cut to fit

One thing I did find time for, down at the bottom of my street runs a little stream, and on the bank the City Council has planted the most beautiful cherry tree which is in full bloom, so on Saturday when the sun shone all day in a clear blue sky, I took the time to walk down to the stream with my camera.

white cherry blossom

white cherry blossom

finished the embroidery… now what

March 24, 2014

1-IMG_6189

So now I have finished the embroidery on this piece, I need to decide what to use it for, I have two embroideries each a different size. I think I want to make one cushion from the two pieces, so I need to size them up. Putting wider borders on the smaller piece and a narrower border on the larger piece, but a definite border on each.
I already had a piece of plain red, but it was a little too dark, not a good crimson like the gingham; having put so much effort onto the embroidery I didn’t want to use the wrong red for the borders, it would niggle me, forever.
So off we went to my local fabric shop hoping but not expecting to find a good match… I was in luck, not only did I find a fine crimson 100% cotton fabric which was an excellent match, I also found a bolt of 100% cotton blue and white gingham £2.99 a metre in the sale, I bought the lot, £15 for 5m of fabric, bargain!

see the border fabric to the left

see the border fabric to the left

That morning we had planned to go to the Lake District, on a recce to find suitable holiday accommodation , but we opened the curtains to sunshine and hailstones…big icy chips of frozen rain, so the trip was off. To cheer myself up and remind myself that spring really is just around the corner I took my camera out to the garden, to find a few spring flowers.

cherry blossom

cherry blossom

spring is going to be earlier this year than it was last, I hope.

Primroses

Primroses

A new technique; Broderie Suisse

March 12, 2014
Bargain: embroidery hoops

Bargain: embroidery hoops

I recently bought a collection of embroidery hoops, £2 for 5 at my local charity shop. I’m making a collection, not that I do embroidery you understand, the idea was to use them to showcase some of my beautiful fabrics, the ones I can’t bring myself to cut up, by using the hoops like picture frames and hanging them in groups on the wall of my studio.

showcasing favourite fabrics

showcasing favourite fabrics

See this one with a piece of patterned silk which my mother gave me.

everything I need

everything I need

I also had two pieces of red and white gingham, which had been languishing under the lamp table beside the sofa since Christmas, it had been used to wrap small gifts and being an avid recycler I could not bring myself to throw it away.

Then on Pinterest the other day I stumbled upon Broderie Suisse, (or chicken scratch) and thought….hmmm.

first attempt

first attempt

Embroidery silk… no problem, I have a large tin full under the bed… backing, because the gingham is a bit flimsy… no problem, I have some old sheet which will do… embroidery hoop… what size? I have plenty in varying sizes. Working from the photographs I found on Pinterest, because most of the tutorials are not in English, I made this little heart shaped embroidery.
Then I began something more ambitious …

lets try something on a bigger scale

lets try something on a bigger scale

When it is complete, I think I will make it into a cushion, perhaps a hop pillow, or a sleep herbs pillow, with herbs cut from my own garden, and dried.

Counselling with benefits; cheaper than therapy

January 27, 2014

I have been going to the same hairdresser for more than 20 years, every 5 weeks  I go and get my grey roots covered, I often see the same fellow customers who have also been customers for years, it is like a self help group. We have shared our ups and downs getting sympathy and advice, and giving it in return, sharing knowledge or simply a sympathetic ear. No doubt  I am talked about when I’m not there but I don’t mind, if my experiences can be of help, or dire warning to others all well and good, and if it merely gives folks something to laugh at that’s OK too. It’s certainly cheaper than therapy, and I get to give as well as receive.

furnishing silks 3
furnishing silks 2
furnishing silks 1

People also give what they have and don’t need, to those who might make use of it, and this is how I came to acquire some furnishing fabrics.  They are multi coloured samples of a heavy silk weight, probably polyester, which I think I can use for foundation piecing.

 

printed foundation

When I was emptying my cupboard , in order to move it without doing ourselves an injury, I found these pre-printed foundation patterns. I think I will make a rainbow coloured quilt from the silks.  It will turn out quite stiff, so it may end up being a wall hanging or maybe it could be a bag…… decisions …decisions.

My lost fabric materialised too late.

January 27, 2014

The fabric which I had been seeking for months, the fabric I wanted to use to make a quilt for a good friend of mine, it turned up the moment I gave up seeking it. Isn’t it always the way? A cupboard which usually stands at the bottom of the stairs, and holds that part of my stash which I’m not planning to use any time soon, needed to be moved.

We had invited my parents to join us for Christmas dinner which meant the dining table needed to moved to the dining room from the sitting room where it normally lives ( long story, don’t ask), and the two arm chairs which normally live in the dining room, had to move to the sitting room.  The Christmas tree which would normally be put up in the dining room, would not fit in there this Christmas, so we decided to set it up in the hall; the only place it would fit was the spot where the cupboard was standing.

The cupboard clearly had not been moved for some time, and once moved there were a number of lost treasures which had fallen down the back, a few socks, a scarf, and my precious stash of special fabric. So that was an unexpected piece of good fortune.  ( Note to self, clean behind furniture more often.)

Turned up at last

Turned up at last

This is a charm pack of squares, which I need to put together with another bought fabric to tie them all together, and an accent colour to brighten them up a bit, I originally thought of using the terracotta fabric I’ve placed them on but it isn’t right, it just isn’t looking good, so I might see if I can find a mushroomy grey beige for sashing, and a guacamole or mushy pea green for the accent.