Mulberry Jelly

An old post, slightly reworked.


This works wonderfully with cheese as well as on toast, scones etc. The apples provide the pectin and the long boil concentrates the flavour.

1kg mulberries- frozen and defrosted
1kg granny smith apples- roughly chopped. Leave the peel and seeds etc in.
sugar (see method for quantity)
juice of one lemon

Put each fruit to different saucepans. Barely cover with water. Boil each until soft. Strain through separate bags. combine equal volume of juice from each fruit (it was close enough, I used the lot). Add 2/3cup sugar for each cup of juice.(This worked out to 2.2L juice, I used 5cups sugar) Add juice of one lemon. Heat gently until sugar dissolved. Boil for 3/4 to 1hr or apparently until it starts spitting. I wasn’t aiming for a set but was aiming to repeat the excellent flavour of the not quite set sauce of a couple of years ago. However I seem to have a better set than last time, thank goodness I chose to put it in jars not bottles.



Ivory Silk Handkerchief Hem Dress

I had two thoughts for a frock to go under the velvet tabard. To show up the sheer velvet pattern, it needed to be pale. One thought involved a piece of ice blue silk satin, but the piece I have is small and the idea was still fuzzy. The other idea was to make a sheer ivory georgette shirt dress with a handkerchief hem. I thought I had a greater quantity of the latter fabric, so I went down that path.

This is one of those projects that has evolved as it went on. I had bought a large length of ivory silk georgette from a lady who used to make wedding dresses, eons ago, when I still lived on the other side of the country, >20 years ago now. However, circle skirts take a lot of fabric and I didn’t have the 10m I thought I had. So, the second layer of skirt needed to be made from a different fabric, for which I chose a length of slightly heavier silk crepe. Poetically, that was also bought in the same city, but more recently. Both being crepe means that hopefully, when washed together, they will pull up a similar amount and I might be able to get away with not pressing the dress? Circle skirts are also heavy due to all that fabric, so I decided to make the bodice lined, which makes the whole thing more robust and opaque than I originally intended. The collar and sleeve designs also had to change. The original ideas worked with the skirt hem, but after I realised that fabric didn’t lend itself to deep double fold hems, and even if it did, they would add even more weight to the skirt… I moved to simple zigzag rolled hems, and replaced the planned structured collar and cuffs with bias cut, single layer ‘not-frills’.


The entire thing is made of silk, including stitching thread. The only exceptions are the vintage shell buttons and any residue of polyester thread that I used to ease the not-frills. It came together more quickly and easily than I thought it would. The fabric is floaty but was actually very well behaved. It did seem to behave better if tension was applied to the fabric while stitching. Rather than stretching the fabric, this prevented the stitching from being too tight. It even took machine made buttonholes like a champion.


The bodice is a shortened version of my recent shirt pattern. This jellyfish view shows the collar well:


The skirt is two large squares with a carefully sized circle cut from the middle of each and with the points offset.


It is sized to don by dropping it over my head sans zipper. I’ve put a pair of small tucks in the front and a tie in the back for shaping.


I’m rather too old for ingenue but I’ve wanted a handkerchief hem garment for something like forever. Sigh, contentment.


Here is the whole thing on. I cut the bodice short, to allow for the weight of the skirt. Or so I thought. Not really short enough as it turned out, but it will do.


and with the tabard. Yes I’m giving my party frock plans away. Oh no! Actually, I haven’t decided yet whether I will wear this ensemble or the white frock alone, or proceed to work on the ice blue satin thought. We will see.


Working with beautiful things


I love to find beautiful things that are also excellent tools. This heavy crystal dish is perfect for beads or buttons about to be sewn. The walls join the base in gentle curves so there are no corners for the beads to hide in. Being almost flat, it won’t tip like a bowl does and the weight also helps it resist moving.

Oddly, I can’t remember where it comes from though I’m pretty sure it came into my life only a few years ago. Mum doesn’t think it was a family piece. I don’t remember buying it, though it’s the sort of thing that could well have come from an opshop. It might have come from a friend when she cleared out her china cabinet. I suspect it could have been made as a cigarette tray, the dimensions are about right. Or possibly the lid of a rectangular box. It’s a bit mysterious. I’m glad to have it regardless.


Velvet Tabard


I bought this gorgeous chiffon velvet in NZ in a sale, over 18 months ago. I had forgotten about it until I reorganised my fabric stash a bit and separated out all the velvet. Having found it again I was inspired to use it in my annual party dress manufacture. It announced to me quite firmly that it wanted to be a tabard type garment, sort of a long loose waistcoat. This threw me into a tizz because that made me think 1920s and I got it into my head that meant that the garment for underneath would need to be sleeveless, which I wasn’t happy about. Also, the tabard acts as an overgarment, so adding another coat would likely look and feel strange, though a wrap might still work. Thus I got grumpy and “threw it in a corner” (not literally) for a week or so. Then realised that if I set aside the 20s association, I would be more free in design for the underdress. I also thought that a tabard in this lovely stuff could be a generally useful garment for random formal outfits. I’m a bit lacking in formal clothes so that would be welcome.

So here it is. Who’s silly idea was it to design a garment that needed something like 9 metres of facing*? I was a bit shocked when I realised that, but it’s all done now. I’ve just taken a picture over what I happened to be wearing and it looks ok even over that. I rather think it will look better still over a drapey frock with stockings and heels.


The only seams are at the shoulders. The sides are closed only by ties, which I made from silk string, with discreet bling at the ends. The small beads are made from actual bronze metal. I think the larger ones are gold plated brass.


Sigh, yes it does look suspiciously like a sideless surcoat. Incorrigible.

Now I get to work on the underdress.

Edit: Woot! look what just arrived! My new elegant black labels. Well timed! I haven’t run out of the old ones but felt like some variety. First one sewn to a garment within a few hours of landing in the letterbox.


*Facings are double fold straight tape in black cotton poplin. They worked pretty well and because they match the underside of the velvet turn out to be nearly invisible. Certainly easier to work with poplin on velvet than anything slippery, though it was still a fight to seam the facing to the velvet surface. Handsewing the facings down was much easier, though time consuming.

Parsley harvest time again

I grow parsley through the winter, but as soon as the weather warms, it bolts. I have tried replanting in the warmer months but as soon as it’s grown a little it bolts again. So before the winter crop goes completely manky, I harvest a few bunches, run it through the food processor with a little salt and a glug of olive oil.


Oh, ok, I’ll do a second bunch.


Then I pack the resulting mix into ice trays and freeze. I’m amused that this year, each bunch must have been almost identically sized because they both filled 13 places. When frozen, I pop them out into a ziplock bag and have parsley available until next winter’s crop has grown. The blocks works just fine in anything cooked, or wet mixed like a dip. Just not for anything where you want the fresh texture. I’ve tried just freezing with no liquid, and freezing with a little water. The oil seems to work better to keep the flavour.


As usual, I’ve left one plant in the garden for fresh use until it goes well to seed.


Why do I blog?

To celebrate making a thing.
To pat myself on the back. To convince my subconscious that something has been achieved. I’ve always made things. A few years ago, I found that I was not getting any satisfaction from the making. I’m usually thinking about the next projects before the one underway is done, and when I finished something, I just brushed it aside in my mind and moved on. So I felt like I wasn’t achieving anything and it all felt pointless. If I write a blog post about each project though, it’s a little celebration of having made a thing. It does good stuff for my head.


Analysis and review
That may sound silly, but I’m never totally pleased with my makings. There are often good things to note, but usually also some things I wish I’d done differently. Choice of materials, construction errors, quantity changes. I find it really useful to spell out some of these to help myself make better decisions next time.


Journal and record
This is especially useful for recipe type posts. I rarely follow a recipe to the letter. I’ve learned that my future self appreciates it when I record what I’ve done.


I like to share
Actually, I was brought up to share. When I was a child, everyone in the family made things, and when something was done, or well started, we would all show each other. “Look, I made a thing”, or “what do you think of this?”, whether the thing was an item made or some task like achieving a neat garden bed. Now I do it online, especially when people are not available to witness in person. I’ll admit it, I love receiving “likes”, but intelligent comments, questions and discussion are even better.

Edit- Hmm, there is more:
To please and inspireI like to think I’m doing my little bit to put things of beauty or inspiration out there for people to enjoy. I hope my readers get pleasure from the posts, or the pictures, and maybe think “hey, good idea, I could do that”.

To rest
Sometimes I blog to make myself sit down and take a break. This is linked to the aspect of drawing a line under a project before moving on to the next thing.


The pictures are from a blanket I made 7 years ago and still love, dubbed “Queen of Hearts”. It’s on my bed right now even. One day I’ll make another thing involving embroidered pieces.



Fabric + Food Dye

The artificial food dyes one can buy in supermarkets etc, will easily and cheaply dye protein fibres. So this is a technique for wool, silk etc. Not cotton, linen* or synthetics. I’ve been playing with this since mid last year. I’ve been having great fun with it and quite a bit of utility too. I keep saying I’ll write up the basic technique, and I’ve just done another couple of pieces today, so here goes….

I had seen lots of references to dyeing wool fibre and yarn with food dyes, but I wanted to have a go on woven fabrics. This website has lots of information and recipes. I felt I had to read a lot of it to get any sort of summary though.

Materials needed:
food dye
protein fibre fabric (or yarn, or fleece, or finished garment)
gloves, because your skin is made of protein too

How much of each depends on what you are dyeing and how deep you want the colour and whether even colour coverage is desired.

Water: Use enough volume to allow your item to move freely in the water. Using too little volume will result in tie dye type effects (alternatively, you can do this deliberately)

Acid: I use vinegar. The cheap cleaning vinegar. I’ve never measured it, just slosh some in. It’s one of the things you can add a bit more of if the dye isn’t taking too well.

Food dye: I use Queens mostly because it’s stocked by my local supermarkets. I’ve also used the little drop bottles from McCormick. They work the same but the McCormick seems more concentrated. Again, use as much as you think you need. For 1.5m of wool suiting I used a whole bottle of Queens. Well half a bottle of red, followed by half a bottle of pink because it wasn’t dark enough and I’d run out of red. For smaller items, measure in drops (more useful for the McCormick stronger dyes), teaspoons or sloshes. The outcomes are always a bit random but with practice one gets better at predicting what will happen.


Heat: The website linked above says one needs to get the solution to 82degrees celcius for the dyeing to work. I’ve found the dyes are not all equal in this. Green and red are taken up more quickly and will start to be taken up at lower temperatures. Blue and yellow need the heat and more time to work. That variable speed of dyeing can be problematic if you are not planning for it but can give some interesting effects and can be used deliberately for ombre dyeing etc.

Tips to help get an even colour: -use plenty of water so your item can move in the dyepot and not be crushed up. Squashed fabric will resist the dye.
-pre wash your item. Dirt can either take the dye better than clean fabric, or prevent the dye from taking. Fabric finishings can change dye uptake too.
-have your item well wetted with vinegared water before putting it in the dyepot (put a little vinegar in the rinse of the prewash, or use the dyepot before the dye goes in. If the latter, take it out again before you put the dye in). The vinegar works as a mordant, makes the dye stick better to the fibres.
-try to ensure your item doesn’t have fuzzy bits, they will take the dye faster than tightly spun/woven/knitted sections
-mix the dye and vinegar in the cool to warmish water, then add your item, stir gently, then heat while gently stirring.
-then I let the item cool at least so it is comfy to handle, rinse in water of a similar temp to the item**, squeeze or spin, then hang to dry.

Small items I do in a stainless steel cooking pot on the stove top.

Larger items I do in a big plastic trug. Hottest tap water to start, then pour of part of the solution and heat on the stove if you feel the need, then return the heated liquid to the trug. Don’t pour really hot liquid into an empty plastic vessel though, make sure you have some cooler liquid in the trug. The trug technique works better for green and red than yellow or blue, the latter tend to need more heat. That pair of retro wooden laundry tongs below is marvellous. It belonged to my grandfather and I use it all the time. Amongst other things it helps me avoid sticking cooking spoons into dye pots.


It’s better not to put dye down the drain, so if my item doesn’t exhaust the dye fully***, I put a length of silk (I have ridiculous amounts of white silk I’ve bought cheaply) or a ball of knitting wool in the pot to take up the last of the dye. Or if you don’t have any spare bits and pieces to take up residual dye, be more careful not to use too much. Start with only a little and add more if you need. Take your item out of the dye pot before you add more dye though. Remember the colour will be paler when dry.

There are lots more variations one can try, or experiment with. Many are documented in the link above. Feel free to play with it. I’ve still got a few ideas for strange things to try.

Here are some examples of pieces of beige wool I have overdyed, starting with the newly dry pink from the dyebath above:


And some of the silk I have used to fully exhaust the dye. These were both white to start.


Of course one can over dye coloured items too. This is blue dye over a purple silk twill base.


*an exception found with a friend is that Queen red dye will turn linen a nice coral pink. None of the other colours take on linen. I haven’t done experiments with cotton, but I doubt that would be much different.

** to avoid thermally shocking the fibre. I usually don’t want to shrink the wool. Silk doesn’t shrink like wool, but also prefers to be treated delicately. Both like to have just a little vinegar in the final rinse.

***for example if I’m impatient, or can’t get enough heat, or don’t want the first item any darker. It’s pretty amazing to watch the dye be scavenged away to leave clear water.


Stove top pork belly

This is my invention, but I doubt it is terribly different to other recipes out there except that it has no alliums. I don’t eat alliums, they are mean to me. So I often need to amend or invent to come up with dishes that avoid them. I fed this to a friend a few weeks ago. She liked it and I promised to write up the recipe.

2T light soy sauce
1T honey
1T minced ginger
1/2t sesame oil
1 small red chilli, deseeded and chopped(or 1T sweet chilli sauce*)
About a cup white wine
Mix all above. I sometimes heat it just a little to get the honey to dissolve.

1kg pork belly, sliced into thick strips

Pack the meat into the marinade, I usually leave it 24hrs or more before cooking, in the fridge of course. Using the pot you will cook in for all stages** make this even easier.I aim to use a pot that allows the meat to be packed in a single layer with little extra space, because there isn’t a lot of marinade and it’s also the cooking liquid.

Put the pot on the stove, covered, and bring slowly to a simmer. Simmer about 2-3hrs or until the meat is falling apart. It can be eaten then, or if you want to reduce the fat content, chill overnight and lift off the solidified fat before reheating and serving. You can either serve the meat slices whole (if they are still hanging together) or chop the lot up before serving. I often use kitchen scissors for this.


I usually serve it with steamed Chinese veg and either rice or noodles. As an alternative, strain off the liquid and reduce to a syrup before serving. I could wish it was prettier dish. It’s not, but it is unctuous and tasty and comforting. Also easy.


You can use other cuts of pork, but the result won’t be as tender.
It works with chicken too, but reduce the cooking time to 1hr. I’ve only used dark chicken pieces and wings for this.

* I have to make my own sweet chilli, because all the commercial ones have garlic in. I’m nearly out though and it’s a challenge to make. When I get around to another batch I might write it up.

**mix the marinade + marinade the meat + cook.

How long to knit a pair of socks?

sock 6

Because I mostly knit socks in public, this is a question I get asked a lot. Last time I made an attempt to calculate this, I was working on only my second pair of socks ever, and got an answer of about 30hrs. I’ve been aware for a while that this figure would not be representative of my current speed. I’ve just started sock pair #26*. So I knitted a pattern repeat on that as fast as I could. It took me 25min including a bit of simple lace work , with a few quickly fixed mistakes in the mix. The socks I have on happen to be 27cm long. The pattern repeat is 2cm. Adding in a couple of repeats to allow for the heel**, I work it out to be 13hrs to knit a pair. A tiny bit faster without lace knitting, obviously a longer sock would take more time and a shorter one less. This doesn’t allow for major mistakes needing frogging and rework. Also doesn’t allow for design work or yarn preparation. So the answer does depend a bit on various factors including who is asking, but at least I have a new estimate. Oh, and of course that is not 13hrs elapsed, but 13hrs focused working. I sure can’t knit that long all in one stretch. About 30min in one go is as much as my arm will let me do.


*not pictured. These are sock pairs #6 and #15 of my knitting.

*my current favourite slip stitch heel is better for high arches, more complex and more yarn hungry than those pictured.

Ally socks, now plural

And the ally socks are done. I’m so pleased with these. I love the yarn, it was a friend’s cast off stash, I overdyed part of it to improve coordination of the two colourways, I used up all of the bright yarn and about half the dark. I like the diamond lace pattern and it works with the yarn.


Comfy, bright, thrifty, creative. All good. Now I get to start another pair.