Thursday 25 September 2014

The Kitchen Front - Greengage Jam

Much of my September has been spent in the pursuit of the perfect set, this time, it had nothing to do with my hair, but everything to do with my Victory Garden harvest!

~ Greengage Jam ~

2lb of greengages 
1.5lb of caster sugar 
The juice of a lemon 
Half a pint of water 
4 1lb jars 
Wax disks and labels

1. Wash your fruit and check over for creepy crawly holes cut out any bits you think may be harboring maggots, maggot jam is not particularly pleasant!

2. Sterilize your jars. I filled mine with boiling water, left them to cool a little and then tipped out the water and then placed them on a tray in my gas oven on the lowest setting until the were needed.

3. Count how many greengages you have as you put them into the pan. This may seem super tedious and I know a few people who don't bother with this step, but I am not a fan of finding stones in my jam, so I like to do my best to get them all out and ensure no teeth are broken.

4. Place your fruit into a stainless steel pan and add the water and lemon juice, boil until fruit is soft. The smell at this stage is just lovely!

4. Once the fruit is soft it is time to scoop out all of your stones, this is where the counting the fruit as you put them in pays dividends!

5. Add in the sugar and set on a rolling boil for 10 mins, after 10 mins you will need to test the set, to do this take your plate and drizzle a little of the jam into the centre leave to cool for 2 minutes and then push your finger through the middle if the jam forms ripples, then it is ready to bottle if it's still runny then boil up for another 5 mins and then test it again! Repeat until you are happy!

Once you are happy with the consistency, ladle the jam into your jars and cover with wax discs, seal either with screw tops or cellophane circles and an elastic band, whilst still warm to ensure the jam stays fresher for longer!

Enjoy x

Friday 19 September 2014

The Butterfly Balcony Boutique

I finally have myself a little Etsy Shop and I have the business cards to prove it!

I say finally as I actually created it way back in 2010, but it has only been in the last few weeks that I have actually listed any stock! Which means it's been a long time in the planning, a little unnecessary really as it's dead easy to set up, but I am confirmed worrier and I do like to make sure I have everything checked and double checked before I hit the publish button, so it has taken me quite a while to get it started!

So what will you find? Well at the moment its a place for me to sell some of my vintage garments, ones which I have been hoarding in the hopes that one day they will fit! After realising I have owned some of these beauties for 10 years, without them even coming close to fitting, I think it is time that they moved on to someone who will love them just as much, but will actually get to show them off!

So there are some gorgeous 60/70s Dresses

1960s Black Chiffon Party Dress (34" Bust) // 1960s Pink Halter Neck Maxi Dress (32" Bust)
Plus the are a few larger size knitted items!
1940s Style Feather & Fan Knitted Jumper (SOLD) // Bottle Green 1940s Style Knitted Waistcoat (SOLD)
And a couple of vintage 70/80s skirts for good measure!
1980s Pleated Stripe Skirt (28" Waist) // 1980s Pleated Polka Dot Skirt (26" Waist)

Free UK shipping on everything!
Everywhere else I will only charge shipping costs, and will refund any over payments!

I will be popping a few more dresses up over the next week or so and I am hoping to have a few crafty handmade things in there before too long, along with some of the lovingly crafted things created by my mum who's been a confirmed craft seller from before I was even born!

Wendy x

Monday 15 September 2014

Sew it - Girls Gathered Skirt Tutorial

A little friend of mine, Keira, who turned 5 a matter of days ago, saw my crazy cat dirndl skirt and fell in love, well you can't blame her! As a cat lady in training herself (she has 'adopted' a scruffy black cat who lives down her street called Rosie, they are now the best of buddies, aah!) I decided as I had a little fabric leftover from my version I really ought to make her a skirt of her own, so that we could be crazy cat ladies together!

~ Girls Gathered Skirt ~
This skirt is as easy as pie to make, there is no need for a pattern just ready your tape measure, and in about an hour you'll have a skirt fit for a princess!

20" (51 cm) of 2/8" (7cm) Wide Elastic 
About 1/2 yard 45" wide Cotton/Polycotton Fabric
Matching Thread
Sewing Machine & Pins
Tape Measure & Scissors
Elastic threading needle or Safety Pin
Iron & Ironing board

Measure & Cut: 
Waist measurement x 2 = Width
I followed the similar principles to making the adult dirndl version, this will make the skirt nice and full, but as children don't have hips to contend with you could easily add less, it all depends on how much gathering you want and how much fabric you have! 

Waist to Hem + 5 inch = Length
To get the length measurement simple measure from the child's waist to where you want the skirt to fall, above/below the knee, and then add 5 inches to this measurement, that will give you plenty of fabric for the waistband and hem.

Sew It: 

1. Measure out and cut your fabric to size as described above, then zigzag or overlock/serge all of the raw edges of your fabric.

2. Fold the length of fabric together right sides of the fabric touching and sew the side seam within the 5/8th" seam allowance. Using a cool iron (if using polycotton or anything that might melt) open out the new seam and press it gently flat.

3. On the top edge of the hoop of fabric you have created, fold the fabric over twice to enclose the raw edges and to create a tunnel for the elastic this will be your waistband, pin in place as you go round.

4. Zigzag stitch around to secure removing the pins as you go. Start your stitching just past the first seam you created and ending a little before, this will give you a nice little neat gap to thread your gathering elastic through.

5. Thread an elastic needle or safety pin with 0.5cm wide elastic and thread through the hole in the waistband. Work the elastic around the waistband until you have returned to the beginning.

6. Once out the other side, gather the skirt to the required width, ensuring there is enough stretch still left in the elastic for the comfort of wear and ease of getting it on and off! Knot the elastic securely and tuck up into the waistband.

7. You will need to check whereabouts on the leg you want the bottom of the skirt to fall before pinning the hem. This will determine how much of the lower edge you will need to turn over to reach this measurement. 

8. Once you have found your measurement, hem the bottom of the skirt in the same way as you created the waistband, turn the skirt inside out and double fold the raw edges under. The only difference is, this time, leave no gap!!

9. You can either sew the hem with a zigzag stitch as the waistband or if you prefer a  simple straight stitch will do the job just as well.

10. Lastly, give the hem a quick press with your iron (same temp as above) and you are done!

Kiera's skirt was fashioned from a leftover fabric panel which was 44" (112cm)  x 17" (44cm).  I had to guess Keira's measurements as I didn't want to spoil the surprise, luckily I was not too far off, as you will see in the top picture it is a little bit big and I could have easily added less fabric to the width (waistband) of the skirt to make it a little less 'poofy', but if nothing else it will give her room to grow as the elastic can easily be let out when needed, so it should last her a few months at least! I also love the fact that this pattern could easily be scaled up to fit adult measurements, though it would be wise to use a thicker gauge elastic to avoid the waistband from digging in!

By all accounts, Keira seems to love her kitty skirt and on being given it choose to wear it straight away over the skirt she already had on!

A Success I'd Say!

Wendy x

Friday 12 September 2014

Sew It - A Dirndl A Day

Not very long after I moved from my room in Walthamstow to a flat in Woodford, I made a skirt, this skirt to be precise!

I blogged about this skirt (here) and thought this skirt was lovely, so pretty, so colorful and so quick to make. But to my shame I've never once wore it. Oh, I tried it on a few times but always decided and that it made my hips & behind look huuuuge and so stuck it back in my wardrobe and pretended it never existed.

That was until a few weeks ago, I don't have much wardrobe space so I decided it was time to be ruthless, if it didn't fit (waiting for that mythical 'thinner me') or hadn't been worn in ages, it was time to say goodbye. So when I got to this skirt, I knew it was time either to wear it or re-uses the beautiful fabric.

I tried it on and strangely my previous concerns didn't bother me quite as much, I could see past the big-buttedness and knew that this pretty skirt would be perfect for surviving the heatwave we were having. And now that I don't give (so much of) a damn how big my butt looks I have been wearing this skirt to death, it actually got to the point were I was sad that it had to go in the wash, this made me aware of two things:
  1. I am a fickle sod. I'm the same size as when I made this so my derrière must look the same!
  2. I was going to need more of these skirts and quickly to give me a chance to wear them before the good weather here in the UK disappears once and for all!
So I have made some more, well quite a few more, I now have six skirts, that's very nearly one for every day of the week!

All of these skirts have taken just under 2 meters of fabric to make and with the exception of the black one came from Minerva Crafts and cost £2.99 pm.  As before I followed Gertie's Dirndl Skirt Tutorial (Part One & Part Two) I did make a few changes to the pattern. Rather than using the measurements Gertie suggest I came up with my own, due to my hip to waist ratio I wanted less fabric in the skirt so I decided to just double my waist measurement which gave me a nice full skirt but not too full. Also I didn't make a paper pattern for either my skirt or waistband, as once you have worked out correct measurement the pieces, being cotton the fabric can be easily sniped & ripped to the required size, for me not having much space for laying out fabric to pin a pattern to, it really is a huge help!

Right, on to the skirts!

Just looking at this fabric makes me happy, its full of summer sunshine and one of my favourite colours and as far as I can remember this will be the first time I have ever worn yellow!

For some reason making this skirt was more difficult than the others, due to a zip that would not behave, I think it might be that this fabric was just a little lighter in weight than the others but now that I have stitched it into submission, I am so glad I persevered as its so lovely!

This was the most worn, so far, out of all of the new skirts I've made. I really love the way the pinks and dark blue contrast and luckily despite bringing more pink into my wardrobe ( I really thought I hated pink, must be in denial) it goes well with most of the tops I already own, hence why its being worn and worn!

The Fabric was from Minerva Crafts and is still available Navy/Pink Floral Print As much as I love this skirt it is the one where the fabric has not held up to general wear as sadly the colour is fading a little more with each wash but it still looks presentable.

Yes this skirt is covered in yellow Donkeys and Blue Zebras and I love it. Enough said!

This Fabric is Donkey Fabric from Minerva Crafts and I love it! It is totally wacky and kitsch and so to my mind echoes Some of the fabulously Kitsch skirts of the 50's.

As a teen I was never really a goth more of a brit pop tom boy, but my oh my I did wear a lot of black (and by a lot I really mean almost everything) all of the other skirts would have made me sick with fear! It has taken me years to fight back my black compulsion, I'm drawn to it.

So to appease the voice in my head which is always screaming 'make it in black' I made this skirt, it also acts to balance out all the floral funkiness going on with the others. Its made from a lovely black eyelet lace /  broderie anglaise which I have had lurking in my stash for an age so its nice to finally give it some life!

It would not be a craft blog without a fury pattern weight of some kind waiting in the wings to "help", my chosen species of helper is the cat. And the cat in my life, Beau puts his grumpy mark on everything, curtains, carpet sofa, even this skirt (see below) so why not make a skirt that reflected this impact and full outed me as the crazy cat lady I am.

This is Blue Kitty Polycotton from Minerva Crafts, and it is literally covered in kitty cats (it also comes in red and yellow and green) it must meet Beau's approval as he seemed only to eager to 'help' yet again!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So with all these homemade skirts under my belt, there are a few things I have learnt!

Working with polycotton is a lot of fun, as you can see its available in some wonderful and wacky prints, it tends to be lighter in weight than 100% cotton which makes for cool and floaty clothing and due to the blend of synthetic in the fabric it also means that doesn't need much ironing, so no annoying creases at the back from being seated at work all day! There is a downside to using cheaper printed cottons, be they 100% or of the mixture variety, there does tends to be a bit of colour loss on the darker shades once they are washed.

Top left after the wash / Lower right before the wash
I'd expected a little colour loss, I chose not to pre-wash the fabrics before sewing and so found while working that my hands and sewing machine were getting stained with blue dye, wonky donkey skirt I am looking at you!

Also I found that the printing didn't run true to the grain of the fabric, meaning if you have a very obvious stripe in your pattern you may not be able to get the pattern run parallel to say your hem, which is super annoying if your looking for precision, so its worth bearing these things in mind when choosing your fabric!

Anyway these issues aside I love all my bright and breezy skirts its just a shame, though I love autumn, that soon I will have to pack them away for next year, oh well I am looking forward to cozying up in my winter woollies too!!

Wendy x

Wednesday 3 September 2014

My Pattern Pyramid Picks

Hello, remember me? No, well I don't blame you its been a while! 

I promised to show you what patterns I picked from Karen's Pattern Pyramid and here they are! I'd fully intended to show off my finished creations along with my pattern choices, but things haven't gone quite to plan on the sewing front, so rather than leave it another month, while I continue faffing, I figured I should just get on and show you so...

I had a real tough decision choosing, as you will be aware there are some lovely patterns in there so it took me some time to settle on my favorites. My plan to make my decision easier was to think more practically, ie. no more fancy evening dresses thank you, to go for styles I could see myself wearing every day and which would also be perfect for summer, with these criteria in mind I chose Style 2136 and Simplicity 9171.

I love 1960s styles, it's the simple lines and easy elegance of the era that appeals, so I was instantly drawn to Simplicity 9171 a cute late 60s shift dress with slightly fitted shape and a natty little jacket. As much as this is a practical choice, it does take me a little out of my comfort zone shape wise. My early 20 were spent slavishly trying to recreate 60's styles from the high street stores, but as much as I loved them I realised then, that some of the iconic 60s styles don't flatter my fuller figure especially when you're not fond of showing off your legs! But I decided it was time to have another dalliance with the 60s, this pattern has a bit more shaping than your average A-line (it was probably aimed at the older lady, but I am fine with that) so might do my curves a bit more justice and my sewing stash could really use a quick to make dress pattern (Ha-ha I'm currently still battling, my own fault not the patterns) which could be ready in a few hours and help to fill the gaps in my wardrobe, fingers crossed this will be the one to do the trick!

Style 2136 from 1977 is a lovely floaty tiered maxi skirt, I have long lusted over a pattern like this. 1970s fashions are where I tend to turn when the summer heat strikes as they are floaty, just that little bit glamorous and above all despite being made of  man-made fibers are able to keep you cool! I was really hoping to have made this pattern up to show you all by now, but I'm really struggling to find just the right fabric for it. I have nothing in my stash at the moment that will do the job or anything that even comes close to the amount of fabric needed, 7.5 yards for the maxi! There is also the small matter of re-sizing it, which as its essentially a tiered dirndl skirt should not be too difficult (as you will see in my next post I've gotten quite good at sewing dirndl skirts) at least that's what I am hoping anyway!

So these were my pattern picks, but don't forget, if you want a chance to win some patterns from the Pattern Pyramid and see some beautiful handmade creations then make sure you follow Helen's blog Sew Stylish as she will be showing off her choices and hosting the next leg of its journey soon!

Wendy x