Pink!

Some months ago, my niece pointed at a picture in a book and said “I want that one”. I didn’t see the picture, but I’m told it was a bag made from a pair of pink jeans. I needed to organise a present for her and this is something well within my capabilities. She may not even remember the picture, or the wanting, but I hope she likes it anyway.

An opshop provided a pair of size 8 ladies jeans in brilliant pink. I chopped them below the fly, inserted a rectangular base and handles, cut from the legs.

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I then put a coordinating lining in.

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I left the button and fly functional for fun. Then I realised that gave access to the space between bag and lining for the putting of things, and a five year old would. So to prevent the inevitable struggle of having to get them out again, I sewed through to catch the placket closed. Pity I didn’t think of this until the lining was in, so that stitching shows on the inside. Oh well. If I ever make another I shall try to remember.

And the backside:

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I reckon it came out quite well. It occurs to me that my old jeans would make good grocery bags made up like this with a squarer base. I wonder if I’ve kept any?

Tamarillo Kasundi

10 days ago, more random free fruit came into my life. In this case, 800g of home grown tamarillos that needed a good home. Now I am really not familiar with tamarillos. I think I’d only ever handled and tasted one once before, around 20yrs ago. I had a vague memory that they were a bit like tomatoes. So I thought I might make a chutney or something from them. A bit of reading confirmed the tomato similarity. In fact they are called “tree tomatoes” in some places. That made me smile.

Here is my lot, with their ends slit prior to being covered with boiling water and peeled.

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See, they do look tomatoes inside, though the outer flesh seems a bit starchier. Here are a few peeled and halved:

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Then yesterday, a friend was talking about the indian pickle “kasundi”, usually made from tomatoes. Add to this that there was a preserve I used to love that was sold as “Indian tomato pickle”. I’ve long thought that might have been a kasundi relative. So I started looked for recipes. I couldn’t find a straight tamarillo kasundi recipe, but this recipe suggests one can use tamarillos as a substitute for some of the tomatoes. I decided to use their recipe as a base, and bravely make it up with my 800g tamarillos plus white grapes and green apples to make up the other 700g. Well, one can substitute all over the place with chutney, so why not try?

So I’ve used:
800g tamarillo flesh (peeled, destalked and cut into eighths)
~500g white grapes, halved
~200g green apples, peeled, cored and chopped
hing powder instead of the garlic to make it allium free (3 good shakes from the jar)
20 of my tiny thai chillis
crushed ginger from a jar

Otherwise, I’ve followed the recipe attached above.

Below is the mixture after all was in the pot, before bringing to a simmer.

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Those apples refused to break down and needed to be mashed late in the cooking. The grape skins also didn’t break down as well as I’d hoped. Still, it smells amazing and if I make it again, it will most likely be from tomatoes, unless more tamarillos materialise.

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Resurrection

Isn’t it nice when a plan works? My thoughts on how to best resurrect that well worn coat were enacted pretty much exactly. First I removed the lining. It was cut away from the sleeve slits and cuffs. Only the front and neck facings were unpicked. My take on unpicking these days is very much to minimise it. If one can get away with cutting the unwanted parts away, then do. Life is too short and my arm’s work capacity is limited.

Then the wool outer was washed, gently.  Then I dyed some of the fine but strong and hard wearing beige wool suiting in stash to a nice green. It didn’t go quite as dark as the forest green would have liked but the hue is really good.

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Then I cut a deep facing for all the edges (except the hem)from the newly dyed cloth and applied it by machine except for the hem finishing. This will be fine for it’s intended use and the whole refurbishment still took me about a day of labour spread across three. Oh and I top stitched down all the seams because they are no longer protected by a lining. Plus I added straight grain reinforcing for some seams, such as the shoulders. It won’t last for forever but should do another couple of years.

From this:

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To this rather more respectable version:

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The owner is pleased. As he should be.

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6mth Blogversary

My little blog is half a year old. Or it was 2 days ago. I had plans to post on the day but my time got filled with other things. An obsession with boxes (more later) and preparation for very welcome house guests.

I have mostly written here about finished projects. Today though I’m going to share a longer term labour intensive project that will take many more months to finish.

I have a fondness and admiration for Liberty Tana Lawn. I know I am so not alone in that.  I’ve made quite a few shirts over the years out of it, and saved the cabbage. I’ve also purchased a few remnants. I’ve been keen for years to eventually come up with a patchwork project to combine and use these. Then I had a 3wk trip to plan for, which of course includes deciding what handwork I would take with me to keep me happy and occupied. I often take sock knitting, but the other thing I like to do as a travel project is English pieced patchwork.

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Hmm, but what design to use? I felt that all the Liberty scraps did not divide well into sufficiently contrasting shades, so they all needed to be treated as one. I did however want some contrast to make things “pop”. I played with image searches and eventually decided that a lattice design with black as the contrast might work well. I drew up a trial version on engineer’s graph paper to test the thought and decide on proportions. It turned out to be remarkably difficult to reliably identify the correct intersections to draw to!

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I did like the plan though so I cut a bunch of fabric shapes and much more carefully cut the papers. By golly it’s hard to cut the papers accurately!

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After a couple of weeks of travel and amusing myself working on this, I laid what I had done out. Thankfully I like it a lot.

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Now, several more weeks on, I have 52 blocks made. Many more to go to!

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Blood Plum Fest

I said I wanted some plums to bulk out my teeny tiny crop of damsons. A friend of mine is in the process of selling her house and she offered me some of her last crop of mariposa plums. I offered to help her pick them. Ta da, a lovely time picking, chatting and meeting one of her other friends ensued and I got what turned out to be 9.4kg of plums to take home!

What few fruit my rather young damson tree offered up this year:
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and the mariposa haul on a very different scale:

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My first aim was to make another batch of the spicey plum sauce I like so much. It’s fabulous with sausages and coleslaw and I’m on my last bottle from the previous batch. It’s basically a ketchup type thing made from plums. The recipe I use is from Stephanie Alexander’s “Cooks companion”. Below is what I did, which is a slight change in method. However, her suggestion of stoning the plums first and using a bag for the stones is a much better plan. Passing the stewed fruit through a sieve gives a lovely texture but is a silly amount of work and my arm is hating me for it.

Spiced plum sauce

1.5kg plums (except I scaled the whole thing up for 2kg of plums)
1 1/2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger (I cheated and used the stuff that comes in a jar)
3 cups cider vinegar
4 tiny hot chillis, seeded and chopped

Bring all to boil until plums collapse.
Pass through a sieve to remove stones and spices.
Boil uncovered until it thickens. Note it thickens further on cooling. (aiming for a bit thicker than regular tomato sauce).
Bottle in sterilised vessels.
Wait at least a month before using.

4 bottles of lovely dark plum sauce:

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Erbowle is a medieval plum pudding thing. It is basically plums stewed in wine, passed through a sieve, sweetened with honey and flavoured with salt and spices (I used cinnamon, pepper, clove, nutmeg) all to taste. I made it on my recent trip while helping in the kitchen. It occurred to me a little later that I could make it, bottle it and preserve/”can” it by boiling in a water bath. So, I did, though I left out the rice flour thickening for fear it would catch in the water bath boil. Hopefully that separation will stir back in after opening.

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This is a plum chutney I have made before. I made double the recipe and used half again as much sugar, for some crazy reason. Why? Silly me. Next time I’ll try to stick to recipe. It caught a bit towards the end of cooking. I really hope I didn’t burn it. I couldn’t taste burn, but there are so many other strong flavours. Fingers crossed.

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I also made jam. I tend to think that plums need a bit of help in the flavour department to make a nice jam. I’ve used this this rather excellent spicy recipe before and it was lovely in a rather savoury kind of way, so I cooked it again. It makes a very dark jam because of the wine I suppose.

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All the above recipes were done in 2kg batches. The remaining plums I stewed up with a little wine and sugar and froze in batches to eat with my breakfast. Yum.

Sadly, my arm now hates me. Boo. I have a huge list of things I want to do and all.

Preserved memories

This possibly my first? or one of my first pieces of sewing. A pattern darned hessian cushion made mumblety years ago when I was a fairly small child. The outer fabric was starting to fall apart, from UV degradation I suppose. Mum was just going to throw it out, then decided to save it so we could have a look at the stuffing together.

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One can see through the holes that it was stuffed with fabric scraps, so we cut it open to discover what was there. All these fabrics are of course older than the cushion, dating back early into my childhood and before.

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Here are all those scraps, split into possible keepers (green bucket, all cotton) and those definitely destined for the bin (mostly synthetics). I actually only took away a small handful culled from the cotton scraps. The fabrics were in pristine condition though. Crushed of course, but bright, crisp and not even musty. The benefits of a dry climate. Most of them are unused offcuts from garments made by Mum and her Mother. A few are from used clothing. We remembered many of the garments they were from, but some eluded us. It was fun, I’m glad she saved it for a spot of mutual reminiscing.

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The few keepers will very likely turn up in some future patchwork.

Lacy Handbag Resurrection

A few months ago, a friend invited me over to go through her remaining fabric stash and take what I wanted. Very generous. Amongst the bag of bits I took home was this old hand crocheted bag that had seen better days. I wanted to have a go at making it both useful and pretty again and give it back to the lady.

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You can see above that the outer section of the lacy edge was quite badly damaged. My first thought was to fix that by sewing it together, using beads to enliven it. I started doing that but the fibres were just falling apart as I worked. So instead, I decided to snip off the worst of the damage. Thankfully the crochet was worked in rounds so taking off the outer section was easy.

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Here it is sans damaged section.

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I was sad about having to lose that lovely depth of lace trim. So to both replace the fancy and give back some weight and drape, I decided to sew the beads all around the edge. Besides, doing that was fun. The beads are a mix of ones I had in my stash.

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Beginning the bead trim:

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It needed a strap. I was a bit stumped for what to use until I thought of plaiting one from a mix of almost right colours. Thread from my stash. I think it looks quite good.

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Then I built a liner for it. The blue silk I hand dyed. I had hoped for a more purple colour, but this is what I got and it’s pretty as is. The green is lightweight cotton drill from another friend’s stash rejects.

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It has a pretty zippered pocket in a mix of colours

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Then I stitched the liner to the lace outer around the opening edge. I forgot to get pictures of that. Here is the whole thing finished though:

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and a good detail of the beading with the liner in place

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She should have it by now. I very much hope she 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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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Apricot leather

I’m battling a mild cold. Just enough that my composition brain isn’t really here. I want to bring my preserving posts across so here is one from April this year. A friend has a very productive and wonderful apricot tree, for which I have been pleased to have picking permission over the last maybe 8 years or so?

Yet another thing with apricots. This was a kilo frozen, halved, overripe apricots found in my freezer on defrosting the other day. Defrosting this gives lots of liquid and sludgy apricots, not neat halves that one could dry. So my latest experiment was to try for dried apricot leather.

Boil down the apricot goop as far as you can. I got it to a thickish paste. The dehydrator I have on loan didn’t come with supports for fruit leather, so what to use? I went with flattened patty cake cups. They sort of worked but were not the best thing. I took the rounds to dry enough to sit on the drying racks without sticking or falling through. By that stage, the fruit had glued itself to the papers. I got the rounds off with a flat knife but it was hard work. Then I further dried the rounds to a successful result.

I’d say the technique works, but I need better substrates for the initial drying phase. Even proper baking paper would be better I think.

The finished dried rounds:
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This is the half dry stage:
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The borderline functional papers
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1kg apricots safely stored in a jar and not in my freezer, yay.
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