Sweet Chilli Sauce

This post is as much for my reference as anything. I have made this before but years ago and I can’t find any notes. So I’m starting again to find a preferred recipe. I used this recipe as a base, but of course without the garlic. If you don’t have a problem with garlic, you probably wouldn’t want to bother making this, unless perhaps you have a glut of home grown chillis? I love sweet chilli sauce but haven’t found a commercial brand without garlic, so I make my own.

I did 1/3 quantity because that matched the chillis I had. I took all the frozen red chilli I had in left in the freezer, they had been there a long time anyway. Plus I bought three of the milder long ones, two of which I froze overnight to make deseeding easier. Below is a pic of them all on an aluminium tray to defrost.


150g red chilli (three large, rest bird’s eye)
1 cup vinegar (I used cider)1 cup white sugar.

(put gloves on) Deseed all but one large chilli. Don’t need to be too fussy because some seeds are expected anyway. Roughly chop them all and combine with about a quarter of the vinegar in a tall bamix jar. Blitz until chopped but not fully pureed.

Put this chilli mix into a small saucepan with the sugar and the rest of the vinegar. Heat slowly to dissolve the sugar, then (with the exhaust fan on high, really) bring to the boil, reduce to simmer for about 30min or until thickened. Bottle. I chose a tall narrow jar this time after spending too much time trying to scrape the very last bits out of the bottle of the previous batch.

I wonder how hot this is? It looks pretty strong. I reckon I could try it with a higher ratio of sauce to chilli next time, some of the other recipes use only a few chillis for the same sugar quantity.



Peacock cushion

I dug this pretty peacock out of a bin of $5 fabric scraps at the Laura Ashley warehouse sale last week.


It came home with me, plus a bunch of velvet fabric samples they were selling at 5 for $1 (and a few other things). I’d previously discovered that their cotton/viscose furnishing velvet feels lovely and lasts well.


The unembroidered sections of the peacock piece were floppy loosely woven cotton, whereas the embroidery was stiff. There was also some wrinkling between embroidered bits that I couldn’t press out. So I backed the whole thing with some mid weight cotton/linen and coursely machine quilted the two together, avoiding stitching over the peacock. This gave the floppy bits more body and camouflaged the wrinkly bits by giving all the unembroidered cloth more texture.


The back is pieced from four of the velvet samples and has shiny shell buttons for a closure. The cushion inner is a cut down feather pillow that once belonged to my grandparents. The dimensions match another pillow that I once made to fit on a folding chair, but has since been recovered a couple of times.


Here is the finished thing from the front. Not bad for $5.80 plus some stash and time.


Black stealth polkadots

New summer party dress! I’ve had this on the to-make list for a couple of years I think. Very light weight cotton lawn, embroidered all over with dots. Cool, comfortable and as dressy as one wants it to be I’d say. Way too cool for today. It’s only 17C deg in the house, so that pic of it on was done very fast, and while I was testing the strap positioning!

Front and back below. Empire waisted (which sounds nicer than “baby doll”) so it’s a great dress for big dinners, ha. No fastenings really, it pulls over the head and the fit is closed in with a drawstring under the bust. Nice wide straps to cover up underwear. I’d love to be able to wear shoe string straps decently, but that isn’t really feasible in an elegant fashion for me sadly.

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A close up of the bodice. The embroidery makes the fabric behave strangely. It actually looks neater and flatter before it is ironed. So hopefully the whole frock will work as a non-iron gament, though low spin to finish the wash is probably advisable. .

Here is a clearer shot of the pretty pierced hem. The skirt is simply four matched trapezoids, cut to use all of the border, which happened to be a bit shy of 3m. I angled the seams to give a 1.5x gather to the bodice, then curved off the top to smooth the waist edge.


As a development during construction, I decided to push the majority of the gathers to the back, because the bulk of the pull up of the drawstring is under the bust. So the finished effect when worn will be more even rather than having too much bulk at the front.

I made this bodice pattern a year or two and at least a cup size ago. The darts have ended up too high really for my current shape, but the frock still works. If I want to make it up again, I ought rework the pattern. Still, I’m pretty happy with this frock as is.


Here it is on.


Indigo Shibori Shirt #1

A few weeks ago I had a marvellous time having my first go at dyeing with indigo at a workshop run by Opendrawer. I dyed a bunch of short lengths of fabric, but all from two types of fabric. Below are the results hung to dry straight from the workshop. A few days later I washed them and lost a bit of the contrast. The dark sections are now lighter and the white has gone pale blue. The narrower solid pieces at the front of this pic started as white cotton poplin. Yet again, this is from a friend’s cast off stash. I was concerned about not having enough of this to make a shirt, so I threw a plain undyed piece in when I washed the dyed fabric so it wouldn’t look too stark. That thought worked, the plain piece came out matching the paler sections of the dyed cloth.


Yesterday I cut a shirt from the poplin pieces. It’s a while since I made a patchwork shirt. I used to make them in my student days, free clothing from Mama’s leftovers :-).


I used the plain piece to line/face the collar, yoke, button bands and hem. For fun I made a little self piped edge on the buttonhole band


Due to concern about sufficient yardage, and because the poplin is a bit stiff, I made the shirt shorter and a bit jacketty. The cuffs and collar are deep and interlined with linen. The hem too is deeper and more robust than is usual for a shirt. Definitely meant to be worn over top, not tucked in.


Here is a back view. I took care to place the starburst on the yoke, but the nice central placement on the upper left back piece is a very happy accident, I was just trying to maximise the used of the darkest and most interesting sections. I really enjoy the different patterns pieced together. I know some of my friends prefer a much more ordered aesthetic, but they don’t get to or have to wear this shirt.


From the front. I’m aware that the picture that gets picked up by FB is the last one in a post, so I like to select which that will be. Sometimes that messes with the natural order of the WP post.


cot sheets

I was invited to a baby shower and encouraged to bring second hand baby stuff for the expectant parents. I don’t have children, so instead I made new cot sheets out of an old rejected sheet of mine that had been laying about waiting for a decision on it’s future. So the fabric is second hand, but that means it is nicely pre-softened.

I worked out the size needed and cut out the pieces. Then I pressed folds in at the point that the sheet will curve over the edges of the mattress. That gave me lines to guide my freehand fun with fabric markers. I decided to only put the designs around the edge to limit skin contact with the baby. There should be no problem, but I have friends with some strange sensitivities.

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After the designs were drawn and pressed to set*, I made up the structure of the fitted sheet.


Then for the first time ever, managed to fold fitted sheets neatly. I don’t bother for my own sheets but these were little and a gift.


*the instructions on the markers said to iron on cotton setting for 4 minutes! That’s a very long time. I did 10-12 seconds with some steam and just that was enough to begin scorching the cloth. The ink will fade with washing. Evolving character I say. I know from experience actually that the gold/brown of the suns will wash to a pleasant soft grey.


Cornflower Hot Water Bottle Cover

Now this has been given as the birthday present it was intended to be, I can show you why I made that embroidered cornflower. Today’s birthday princess is fond of cornflowers and I prefer to make bed warming things from cotton velvet or similar, so nice to the touch. I had promised to make her a hot water bottle cover, and was thinking on what to do, when a lovely piece of blue velvet arrived in my life- yet again from a friend’s rejected stash. “Aha” thought I, perfect!

I made a simple drawstring bag of the right dimensions. The striped ribbon is vintage rayon. The velvet put up a fight as usual but we managed to get a neat rectangle even if some of the seam allowances ended up a bit random.


Of course I had to fit a label in there somewhere


Here it is all drawn up and ready to go. After sitting wrapped for 2 months it has finally been given.


Tartan Satchel

Hurrah. After days of gardening, travel and huswifery, I got to sit down and make a thing.

I bought some offcuts of tartan from a fancy kilt shop on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh about 8 years ago. I think what they do is make up a bunch of kilts and then shorten them as needed for whoever buys them. Maybe? Anyway, they were selling long narrow rolls of high quality pure wool tartan, woven in the mill at the top of the Royal Mile. How could I resist?


After not using them in 8 years, I nearly got rid of them. Then I had the thought that I could perhaps make something for my sister in law, who is proud of her Scottish heritage. So I’ve put together a satchel, almost identical to the pilgrim bag I made a few years back. Maybe with that double pleat it is more just a handbag, but in fabric, the pleat makes the bag sit better. Here it is with the flap open before I put the leather closure strap on:


I put a neat little pocket on the inside, with silver pull on the zipper to match the beltlets on the outside.


The whole thing is from stash, including other people’s rejected stash. The red cotton drill lining was from one friend and the zipper from another. Here it is on a body for scale. Not the outfit I’d wear it with, just what I had on.


And here is a closer shot of the whole thing. The beltlets are more for looks than anything. They are sold for kilt fastenings (also bought in Edinburgh, though one can get them locally now). I know I’d not bother to buckle the one on the flap very often.


I’m really pleased with it. Must make something similar for myself one day. I do hope SIL likes it.

Pearl Hair Stick

I’ve been wanting an elegant hair stick in nearly white. I’d still like one in mother of pearl or bone. I’m pretty pleased with this transformation though and it gives me a usable thing in time to wear with the ivory silk frock.

I started with a broken bamboo knitting needle. I’m really not sure why this was still living in my needle stash and hadn’t been thrown out, but I’m glad it was. I cut below the split with a fine hacksaw, took the edges off with a file, then drilled a hole in the end with my tiniest drill bit. The drilling was the bit I was most doubtful about and in hindsight, I should have waited the filing until after the drilling, but it worked more easily than I feared.



Then I took a hatpin blank, being the strongest headpin like thing I had. I drilled out a large pearl in stages with my tiny finger drill until the hat pin fit. Cut the hat pin to length so it went as far into the stick as possible with the pearl just resting on the end. I had meant to glue the pin in, but I used another piece of soft wire to stop it wobbling and the resulting interference fit was pretty tight, so I’ve left it like that rather than risk messy glue residue.


Voila, a pearl tipped, fairly elegant, pale hair stick.


It is really a few cm too long, but it works and is pleasingly shiny.


Spaghetti Marinara

Not the world’s best picture, but it’s not about the picture, it’s about the taste and recording what I did for my future reference. I cook marinara once in a blue moon. Every time I do I say passionately that I should do it more often. While grocery shopping today, the mix on offer looked amazing and was pretty cheap too. So… sans recipe but inspired by a Spanish fish dish I got from the writing of Charmaine Solomon:

500g fresh seafood marinara mix
1 dessert spoon brandy
2 dessert spoons olive oil
mix and marinate for 20-30min in the fridge

Bring pasta water to the boil
add spaghetti (Barilla spaghetti no.5 is my favourite)

heat about 1T olive oil in a deep fry pan/saute pan
fry seafood at a little below max heat, until barely cooked. Set solids aside in a clean bowl
Boil down released liquid by about 2/3
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1/8t salt
fresh ground black pepper
chilli of your choice to taste (I’m current using up an old jar of Carmelina Explosive Mixture 🙂
boil down until there is only a little liquid
Add seafood back into the pan, stir and serve over the drained pasta, with finely grated romano (or parmesan, or whatever) cheese.

So good. Even if I say so myself alone.