Monday, 16 February 2009
Thursday, 12 February 2009
The idea behind the quilt was to scrounge fabric sample books from curtain shops, which they often give away for free, and recycle the pieces to make a simple lap quilt.
I'm really impressed by Jenny's results - the quilting lines are nice and straight, and there aren't any wrinkles. The binding looks great too. I would give Jenny an A+. She says in her email that she is starting a new quilt soon. Can't wait to see the results!
I also had an email from a teacher requesting to use my instructions in her crafting class at school. It's nice to know that I can be of some use occasionally.
Monday, 3 November 2008
Sorry for not posting in a while; the reason is that my sister and I have temporarily swapped roles. I've been knitting and she's been making chutney!
Anyway, I thought you'd like to see my latest project. I knitted this for a friend using Sirdar Big Softie, which is lovely and cuddly (and pretty good value in my humble opinion). I used almost a ball and a half of each colour, which is a lot, but I did 30 stitches accross and then sewed it up so it's basically a big tube. It's just straight stocking stitch, so you get nice curly ends. Incidentally, I read a pretty negative review of this yarn, so just for the record: I didn't have any trouble knitting with it, and I'm a pretty rubbish knitter.
(Sorry - colours don't come out too well here)
My next project is set to be rather more challenging, and it'll also require Rachel's hat felting expertise... Oh dear - I'll keep you posted!
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Monday, 8 September 2008
Here's what I'm cooking tonight. A friend made it for us a couple of times without the cornbread. It was delicious - I'll let you know how I get on.
Anyway, I was going to post a pic of an ipod sock I knitted over the weekend, but sadly it looks like a dog's dinner. Thanks again for the knitting lesson Emily! I have to admit, I have learned to knit before but have always got myself into hot water. The sock worked, even if it did look rubbish, I think because Emily wisely got me to stick to one stitch throughout. I got a bit over-excited over the breakthrough and when I got home I thought I'd do another one in stocking stitch (knit one row, purl one row for novices out there). Within 5 minutes I was back to being utterly confused, sticking my needle in the wrong way and wrapping my wool round backwards.
Any helpful memory links as to which way round the right needle should go in and which way round the wool needs to go would be gratefully appreciated. I think if I were to do all the stitches backwards it would probably work, but the inconsistent, incompetent look doesn't exactly do it for me...
Saturday, 14 June 2008
Thursday, 5 June 2008
Our veg patch is looking superb at the moment. Everything is full of promise and bursting with life. We don’t use any chemicals or fertilisers on the garden so I’m constantly finding things to compost down to improve the soil. Even so it’s a struggle to make enough compost for the whole garden, especially the large impoverished looking borders in the front garden.
I decided to buy some bags of soil improving stuff from B&Q to mulch around the plants. I was amazed at the price! £4 for a small 50l bag of manure. I bought a bag and it barely mulched around 4 rose bushes.
Being the skin-flint I am I took matters in my own hands and called up a local riding stables to try and blag some manure at a slightly better price. ‘Of course!’ said the nice stable lady. ‘If you dig it out yourself you can have as much as you want’.
I admit, there was a moment when I nearly lost a welly through suction from the enormous dung heap that I wondered if perhaps £4 for a nice sterile bag from B&Q was the more sensible option, but now I am the proud owner of 12 sacks of lovely crumbly rotted manure for the princely sum of £0 I have changed my mind. What could be nicer than spending an hour digging on the world’s largest pile of horse poo on a sunny evening in June?
The son of the stable lady drove me over the fields to the dung heap, and helped me stack the sacks in my car boot so I gave him a fiver for his troubles. A small price to pay for what would have cost me the best part of £100 at B&Q.
Tips on collecting manure from a stables
Phone up first, and offer to dig it out yourself.
Ask which is the oldest poo and dig from that. If it still looks like straw and poo you don’t want it because it will burn your plants. The heap I was taking from was about the size of 2 tennis courts (I’m not kidding) and the stuff on one side was about 3 years old, compared to the younger stuff which was still very fresh and a bit stinky. The old stuff won’t smell at all, and should look black, crumbly and just like expensive compost. If it’s full of worms you know it is good stuff.
Take wellies and gloves. Dung heaps are the perfect environment for nettles who love a rich soil to grow on. If the heap is covered in nettles you know it will be old enough to have broken down.
Clear off any nettles and plants and remove the top layer to make sure you aren’t importing weeds into garden. The whole point of mulching is to reduce your weeding, not bring more in!
Use strong bags as manure is very heavy. Reusing old plastic compost bags is ideal as they are tough. Those woven plasticy mesh sacks you get coal in are also good. I had some very thick rubble sacks as well. Normal bin bags won’t be strong enough.
Thursday, 8 May 2008
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Saturday, 3 May 2008
Here are my nettles, rinsed in clean water, ready to use.
Onions and garlic...
I think I'll go nettle-picking again next weekend. I want to make nettle tea and nettle omelette (you boil them for a few minutes before adding them to the egg to avoid nasty surprises).
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Monday, 21 April 2008
For best results use a non-stick pan. Failing that, heat a little oil in your pan prior to putting the rice in and spread it all over the bottom.
Now rince your basmati rice in a sieve.
Add it to the pan with 1 1/2 times (that's right - not twice!) the amount of water. Keep a lid on it for the rest of the cooking process.
Keep the heat on high, and the moment it starts to boil (not just simmer, but boil properly) turn it right down to low. Now you can just leave it without any attention until all (all, mind) the water has been absorbed. Best to leave it too long rather than too little, and as your heat is on low you don't need to worry about it burning.
Fuss free, perfect rice.
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
At last - we are at the final stage!
Read part 1
Read part 2
Read part 3
Read part 4
Read part 5
Read part 6
Read part 7
This is the kind of thing that is so easy to show but very hard to describe, so I've drawn little diagrams to try and explain. There are lots of different ways of binding the edges of your quilts. I am showing you this way because it is totally machine sewn, therefore very fast, and doesn't involve tricky mitred corners.
First cut your 2 inch wide binding strips. Don't use a very thick fabric for this. Use a light cotton, maybe some of your left over sheet backing. Fold the strips as follows:
Iron the creases in really well. Open out the strip again and position it as shown
Turn over the quilt and fold back the binding strip along the fist crease, like this:
Fold in the right hand edge, and then fold it over again down the centre crease. Sew through the whole lot as neatly as you can close the the folded edge of the binding. Trim off the ends. Thats one side done! Repeat on the opposite side of the quilt
For the other 2 sides position the binding strip as before, (face down on the wrong side of the quilt) but this time with 1/2 an inch extra at the ends.
Again, turn over the quilt and fold back the strip
To neaten up the edges, fold in the ends like this:
As before, fold in the right hand edge, the fold again to close up the binding. Sew close to the folded edge. The corners will be bulky so go slowly and don't panic.
Use up scraps by sewing together off-cuts, then cutting out the 2 inch strips.
I never pin, but fold and position as I go. Try it and see.
Percieved wisdom says that your binding should be darker in colour that your quilt top, but I don't heed this advice. I use up scraps, or go for a contratsting colour to create a frame.
If you don't like the effect with the stitching on the front face then the traditional way of binding is to place the strip face down on the right side of the quilt first, sew down the crease, then turn it over, fold in the edges, and hand sew it down. You can do mitres too but I don't usually bother unless it's a really special quilt.
So - thats it! You've finished your quilt. That wasn't too hard was it!
Monday, 7 April 2008
Firstly, aubergines are a fruit. (I think I should have known that - but it would make a good odd-one out-exercise).
Secondly they can be all sorts of pretty colours. Here you can buy seeds to grow lovely pale green ones in your own garden.
Apparantly early varieties of aubergine were smaller and white, a bit like eggs, hence 'eggplant'. I bet you didn't know that. I learned that here.
Anway Jane my advice is 1) be adventurous and 2)make some friends. We used to live by a huge african market and lots of shops here. They sold some wierd and wonderful things. Stand and look lost (and European) for long enough - about 5 seconds in my experience - and plenty of fellow shoppers would be only too glad to tell you what things are, give you cooking advice and recipes, tell you how much to buy, how long it will last etc etc. To be honest, it used to restore my faith in humanity apart from anything else.
Just remember to take a pencil and paper, and be prepared for linguistic misunderstandings. It took my red raw hands three days to feel even remotely normal after cooking with seemingly innocuous african peppers, and I'm sure someone did try to warn me...
Thursday, 27 March 2008
1 tin chopped tomatoes
half a white cabbage, chopped
2 or 3 carrots, chopped (the original recipe I got from a friend had green pepper but I much prefer carrots)
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chili powder
enough stock to cover the veg
coconut milk/creamed coconut, as much or as little as you like
Fry the onion in a little oil then add all the other ingredients except the coconut. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the veg is cooked. Add the coconut and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes (Emma often make this ahead of time and then add the coconut when she's reheating it). Serve with baked potatoes, rice or crusty bread.
Thursday, 20 March 2008
Anyway, this is Alex's absolute favourite. It's my corruption of a West-Indian dish a friend used to go on about.
I've given you a recipe using chicken breasts, because it's healthier I suppose and I know what the cooking time should be. But I much prefer using chicken joints. Increase the simmering time accordingly.
Chicken Satay (for 4)
3 or 4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 large onion
a few cloves garlic, crushed
a little oil for frying
2 carrots (or 1 if they are really big) cut into small pieces
2 different coloured peppers, cut into bigger chunks
1 tin tomatoes
1 squirt tomato puree
1 chicken stock cube (and no, OXO won't do)
a good glug of lemon juice
chilli (fresh, dried, sauce, whatever. Depends how hot you like it!)
3 big tbsp peanut butter (or more...)
Fry up your onion and garlic for a few minutes, and add you chicken. When it has gone white add your carrots and pepper and continue frying for another few minutes. Add your tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, lemon juice, chilli; cover with water (it looks too much, but it will thicken with the peanut butter) and simmer for 20 mins. Stir in your peanut butter, season to taste and serve with rice.
Coming soon: chocolate brownies (the best you've ever tasted).
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
I was being ambitious, and tried to make it from scratch: laying out the wool fibres, felting them together, shrinking the felt sheet over a bowl, then shrinking it more it over a hatshaper until it was stiff and held it's shape.
Felt Hat making: Hard Lessons Learned no.1
When laying out your wool fibres make sure they are teased out thinly and run in all sorts of different directions. I didn't do this very well and the layers of fibre felted only within their own layers, so I ended up with a sort of 4 ply felt that peeled apart easily. The top layer of felt kept peeling and rolling up like bad sunburn when I was shaping the hat.
Felt Hat Making: Hard lesson learned no.2
Don't be so keen to get it on the hatshaper - let it felt up and stiffen quite a bit first, rolling it lots in your bamboo mat or bubblewrap. It's much quicker and effective than hours and hours of shrinking by hand on the shaper. My hat did eventually shrink to fit, but it took about 3 hours. My hands were like prunes.
Felt Hat Making: Hard lesson learned no.3
If the instructions say 'leave to dry naturally on the hatshaper' then follow this wise advice. My hat was looking a pretty good tight shape (apart for the peeling areas) but then I got impatient and put it in the washing machine for a spin cycle. When I took it out it was lovely and dry, but enormous and more like a Sou'wester than the neat little cloche I had prior to the spin.
There is a good little video of how to do it properly here. Scroll down the the bottom of the page and click on the moving pictures. (Sorry I couldn't get it to link properly.)
I will be trying again tonight, and will let you know if my technique improves. I am determined to make a wearable hat before it gets too warm to wear it.
Sunday, 16 March 2008
Find your local chinese supermarket.
Now you just have to be prepared to look fairly silly as you spend ages trawling past shelves for something you recognise.
I only had the guts to go in mine fairly recently and I'm hooked - things that I would buy in Tescos (creamed coconut, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil... the list is endless) are so much cheaper, but on top of that I've only just begun to discover delicious new things. My latest favourite is Thai Green Curry paste, which will feed about 12 hungry people per jar without being stingy, and is fabulous when you want dinner on the table in 20 mins (I use frozen fish for minimal fuss and its mouthwateringly good).
I still wander around in hopeless disorientation, but I do plan to get a book and start being adventurous (green curry doesn't count, I know).
Apparantly the one in North London sells things half to the third of the price of the one here. I can smell several bargains...!
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Read part 2
Read part 3
Read part 4
Read part 5
Read part 6
Quilting is necessary to hold all 3 layers of the quilt sandwich together. Traditionally you would do this with tiny running stitches. I have hand quilted one quilt in the past. It looks lovely, and was therapeutic, but it took a long long time. Now I only machine quilt - much faster!.
There are loads of books available to tell you how to do this, but let me bust a myth. It’s just sewing lines. The only tricky part to it making sure your 3 layer sandwich doesn’t slip about. That’s why good basting is essential.
Decide on your pattern of lines, and colour of thread you want to see. The quilting lines will become a beautiful feature if you use a contrasting colour. On this quilt I used white so that you could see what I was doing.
Use tailors chalk to mark up your quilting pattern. Use a ruler if you want straight lines. As this quilt is supposed to be an easy project I opted for simple straight diagonal lines.
If you don’t want to buy tailors chalk, try this: line up the edge of your presser foot with the seams of the pieced blocks. By doing this you will sew a line that is a nice consistent distance from the seam and is always straight. Most of the quilting I do is wobbly and wavy on purpose so that I can skip the marking up step. I’m aiming for the ‘naïve’ look. Works for me!
Another way to keep the quilting process simple is to run your sewn lines off the edges of the quilt to avoid having to pull through loose ends and tie them and tuck them inside. The above diagonal pattern does exactly this - I start at one side and sew right across to the other. All the end of the threads will eventually be tidied up in the binding.
Before you start, layer up some scrap fabric and wadding to test how the quilting lines will look and to check the tension on your machine.
When you are ready, dive right in and get quilting. A nice play on Radio 4 is the perfect quilting entertainment.
After I had finished the diagonal lines I decided it needed more quilting so I kept adding more and more stitching. Personally I am a fan of quite dense quilting. This part is up to you though – be creative.
Tips for successful machine quilting:
Manoeuvring such a large thing through the machine can be hard. Roll up the sides of quilt if you are fighting with it, and it should fit better through the machine. I use bicycle clips or safety pins to keep the roll together.
If your quilt is large, place your ironing board on your left hand side, adjusting it so it’s at the same height as your table. You can then rest the quilt on it, which takes a lot of the weight from your left arm.
Try not to pull the quilt through the machine, or allow it to drag back. Let the feed dogs pull it through naturally.
Use your fingers to gently spread and flatten the quilt as it goes under the needle. This will help avoid any wrinkles and puckers. I find that I always get more wrinkles on quilts with thick puffy wadding than I do when I use the flatter wadding, which is why I don’t like to use the thick stuff.
To keep the middle layer of wadding in place in the long term you should ensure there is not more than 6 inches between the quilting lines. Otherwise you will get lumpy duvet syndrome. Yuck.
My machine has a walking foot attachment which is perfect for quilting. It has feed dogs (the little caterpillar tracks that grips the fabric) on the top as well as the bottom meaning that the quilt sandwich feeds through evenly. Having said that, I have made loads of quilts with a normal foot.
If you basted using safety pins take them out as you go. If you used running stitch wait until the end and then pull them out. If you used spray you don’t need to do anything!
Practice makes perfect. You will get better as you practice, and the stitches will come out more even and straight.
The final step is to finish the edges and you're done. Come back soon!
She has been doing so well she emailed to say that she had caught me up and was waiting for the next batch of instructions so she could carry on! Now that's perseverance!
Here is a snap of her quilt top, ready for basting and quilting. It looks absolutely fantastic to me. It's flat, with lovely straight seams and perfectly aligned corners.
Well done Jenny!
Jenny is now eligible for the big Greenlaces Annual Award, for which there will be an excellent prize (to be announced.) Emma is also entered, after making falafel, but with a cunning twist.
If you want to be considered all you have to do is email a photo or tell us about your efforts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Read part 2
Read part 3
Read part 4
Read part 5
Now you need to ‘baste’. Nothing to do with turkeys you’ll be glad to hear. The idea is to temporarily hold the 3 layers in place so you can pick up the whole thing to quilt it.
Lay the backing on the floor (right side down) and smooth it out. If you are on your own sellotape the corners to the floor. If you can get a friend to help it’s much easier. Lay the wadding over, followed by your pieced quilt top and smooth out any wrinkles.
The traditional way to baste the quilt is to use large running stitches. Start from the middle and sew a line of large running stitches across the whole quilt.
Repeat with more lines about 6 inches apart until you’ve covered the quilt. Then do it all again perpendicular to the first lot. Frankly I can’t be arsed to do that. My knees can’t take it. I either use safety pins, or for the true speed merchant, quilt basting spray, which is essentially a spray on glue. Quilt basting spray is marvellous but for a larger quilt you definitely need a helping hand or you’ll drive yourself batty trying to get it stuck down straight and flat.
For the safety pin method I use quilter’s safety pins which have a cunning kink in them which helps you to pin while keeping the whole thing flat on the floor. Put the safety pins about 6 inches apart right across the whole quilt keeping all the layers smooth.
When it’s all basted trim off any excess wadding and backing so it’s about an inch bigger than the quilt top. You will neaten up the edges later.
Now you are ready to quilt your masterpiece!
(Or in Jane's case, another gin.)
Monday, 10 March 2008
This is surprisingly fun and very satisfying. It's a bit like something you did when you were five, along with potato printing. Remember to ask an adult to help you.
You will need....
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup bicarbonate of soda
1/4 washing detergent (I think this may be optional, but I haven't tried it without so wouldn't like to say)
a bowl and spoon
a painty thing (a pastry brush is perfect, if not just use the spoon
a scrapy thing (a fish slice is perfect, or a spoon...)
a 'clearing up' thing (hoover is best, or dust pan and brush)
Put your oven on high, and while it's heating up mix up your ingredients in a bowl. It should make a paste. If it's the wrong consistency, add some flour until it is. Put your bicarbonate of soda in slowly, or it will fizz everywhere...
When your oven is hot, switch it off, open it and paint the whole of the inside with the paste, using your painting implement of choice. Close the oven door and leave for at least an hour.
(Here's one I painted earlier)
Now it should be dry and cooked, and you get to scrape it all off. Scrape away the grease! You'll get powder all over which is why it's handy to have a hoover on standby. If your oven is black, make sure the door or something you can see is really gross so you have the satisfaction of seeing all the cooked on horribleness disappear.
Now wipe out the inside with a damp cloth to get the rest off.
I'm conscious that Rach's posts are more interesting than mine because she uses more pictures. So here you are:
(Don't try this method on this type of oven)
Cousin Jenny, for her quilt (pics to follow)
And the award for Entrepreneurship goes to:
Colleague Emma, for her black-eyed bean felafel (which she said was very nice, and a bit pink)
(round of applause)
Please send all nominations via comments for our next round of awards. There will of course be a round up at the end of the year (can we cobble together a prize Rach?), so get busy!!
Sunday, 2 March 2008
Try it as a must.
And since we appear to be on something of a chick pea theme at the moment, I just wanted to let you know that soaking and boiling a huge vat of chick peas and then freezing them in small batches works really well. You can just run them under the hot tap to defrost them as you need them. Readers will remember my earlier chick pea mistake... I don't plan to go back to tinned, and given that my freezer is kept on anyway (and apparantly they function more effectively the fuller they are), I think this way uses a lot less energy than tins, even if you recycle them.
(The tins I mean, not the chick peas.)