Friday, July 25, 2014

Recipe: White Current Blackberry Jam

So the title is a bit of a lie. This jam's full of white currants, blackberries, AND raspberries. We have one little raspberry bush in our new garden, and while it's fruiting well, it's not large enough for more than a handful of raspberries at a time.

White currants and raspberries from the garden

My haul of berries was decent, but not quite enough to make more than a little bit of jam. But enter my mother in law to save the day! She discovered a patch of blackberries near the house, and had harvested a bag full of them.

So this happened...

Fresh jam

Currants are naturally high in pectin, so you can use them in lieu of store bought pectin (which is just a fruit sugar)! Handy huh? Unfortunately our two currant bushes produced about 4 cups worth of berries (the entire harvest for the summer) so I think this is all we're going to get.

In the meantime, there's jam to enjoy.

Fresh jam

White Current Raspberry and Blackberry Jam

  • 4 cups white currants (black or red would do just as well)
  • 6 cups blackberries and raspberries (I used a mix)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 lemon squeezed
  • Zested peel of 1/2 lemon
  • optional:1 tsp butter
  1. Clean and pick stems off currants.
  2. Boil water and currants together until the currants burst. 
  3. (optional) Strain seeds and reserve the currant jelly.
  4. Boil currant jelly, berries, lemon, peel, and sugar and butter for 20 minutes (The butter keeps it from foaming over and you won't taste it) or until the jam is set. How to test jam.
  5. Pour into sterilized jars, or can according to your preferred method.
  6. Enjoy.
Confession - E and I stared at those currants suspiciously all summer. We weren't quite sure what kind of bush was growing in our yard, and if the fruits were edible or ornamental. It took a bit of Google fu to figure out what they were. White currants aren't as common as the red. I don't think I'd ever even tried them until now, but they're not too sweet, and pleasantly tangy. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Blooms

I'm not up to my usual self these days. Things have been a bit tough in Walnutville, but hopefully this passes soon. I was feeling a bit blue and thought that some flowers would help cheer me up. Thankfully, our house is in full bloom, and I didn't have to go very far to put together a bouquet.

Summer in a jar, anyone? It smells like heaven because there are honeysuckle and lavender stems tucked in with the hydrangeas.

Summer in a jar. #flowers from the garden

That was my first foray into craftiness after a long spell... maybe it means the start of a more normal routine soon?

I'm all hope and crossed fingers.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The start of something new

Buying a House in the USA
[ Photo: Buying a house via Images Money CC]

After many years of searching and saving, we bought a house. I'm so excited, and not just because we'll finally have a permanent address. When I was a kid, I dreamed of picking paint colours and furniture instead of weddings or dresses. This really is a long time dream come true.

We have some renovations to do to the place and I'm already dreaming up projects like re-upholstery or refinishing cabinets. Also wonder of wonders, I'll actually have space for a desk!

Photos soon :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Flax and Lavender Dryer Sachets (Dryer balls / Fabric Softener)

El is obsessed with smelly things, and one of those things if fabric softener. Unfortunately, the chemicals give me headaches and rashes. I read up about different natural fabric softeners, and decided to try sewing flax and lavender filled dryer sachets.


I'm happy to report that they held up in the dryer really well! I put 4 bags in one dryer load. Flax retains heat so they were still warm even though the clothes had cooled by the time we pulled them out. They also still smelled subtly of lavender. Perhaps some other dried herbs would work too, but I had some dried lavender on hand from my cousin's garden.

The flax adds the weight needed for the sachets to tumble around in your dryer. I filled them with about a 2 tbsp of flax, plus 1 tbsp of lavender each. While not using these in the laundry they can help freshen my clothes drawers too. As a bonus, lavender helps repel pests and moths.

Sure I could have made them from prettier fabric, but for laundry, I just wanted to keep them simple with no chance of bleeding out on my other fabrics.

I don't have a tutorial for you, but if you want to make your own, you can even use old socks to make these instead: Dryer Balls from Old Socks, and Homemade Dryer Balls.

Notes: I omitted using essential oils because I have sensitive skin. Only use whole flax seeds.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sew & Tell: Boxy Chiffon Blouse

TealTop 002

Confession: I messed up the neckline again. There I was, carefully cutting out the sides hem of this top, but I miscalculated the width of the neckline. It was so large the top threatened to slip off my shoulders, and I was in a pickle again. This is one of those fabrics that is better with fewer seams, so I didn't want to stitch one straight down the front or back which would mean I'd loose some of the drape. Instead I resorted to an old trick - adding pleats to the neckline.

TealTop 005

It kind of looks like this other top I sewed, but this time I didn't add rolled sleeves, and created a hi-low hem. The edges are all done in Seams Soft, which you apply like fold over elastic. It's really great for sheers because it's so light (almost like netting) and it doesn't add any extra stiffness to the edges so your fabric still drapes properly.

TealTop 006

When I wear this it feels like I'm wearing silky pyjamas around all day. It's so comfortable.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tutorial: Let Out A Pair Of Shorts


Yet again, I bought a pair of shorts that were too tight in the waist because the larger size didn't fit as well everywhere else. I added a strip of fabric down the length of both side seams to widen them, which you can see above.


Here are the shorts before alteration. The shorts came with a belt / bow, in the same material. There was also a little hardware on the sides of the shorts to keep the hem rolled, but I removed it carefully before proceeding.

Here's how to let out a pair of shorts

1) Cut down each side seam.
2) (Optional) Serge or zigzag the edge of all the raw seams.


3) Take a strip of cloth and sew it down the sides of the rear part of your shorts, covering the serged edges. In this case, I cut apart the belt and used it for the matching fabric. Make sure you leave enough fabric to overlap the top and bottom hem of your shorts. If you're using a strip of fabric that has raw edges, fold the edges under before sewing your strip on top of the serged edges.


4) Carefully align the front and rear of your shorts before sewing the strip to the font piece.
5) Optional: Serge or zigzag stitch the ends of your long fabric strip.
6) Tuck the ends of your fabric strip into the interior of your shorts and top-stitch to secure the ends.


If you look carefully here, you can see the top-stitching I mentioned in step 6. Along the fabric strip are two rows of stitching. The first was made when the strip was sewn on, the second one secures the ends of the fabric strip to the underside of the shorts.

If the fabric strip was a different color it might even have a nice tuxedo stripe effect.

And that's all there is to it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Faux Leather Bottom Tote


I'm totes in love. Here's another tote! There's something so satisfying about sewing a bag when you need one, and because I was headed off for NYC, I wanted something large enough and comfy enough to carry around my essentials (plus maybe a little shopping).


I picked up a faux leather roll end for .99c at Dressew. the upper canvas is from a bolt of waterlogged canvas that I got for free. I cut off the water stained parts and the rest is perfectly usable. Total cost for this purse excluding thread? Probably about 5$. That's hard to beat.


This was the first time I tried out my new teflon foot and leather needle. It worked without a hitch. I didn't have any trouble sewing through 2 layers of faux leather. This is the technique I used for the handles.


I also added a couple of pockets to the interior. It was the first time I made a proper inserted zipper pocket too. Look how nice and flat and clean that is on the inside. Gorgeous.


Want to make your own? Here's the tutorial I followed via See Kate Sew. Note: The straps are different and I added pockets to the interior.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sew & Tell: Simple Tote with Pouch


Sometimes I run out of the office to pick up a few things I need in the day, or make a library run. It's nice to have a tote bag around 'just in case'. Sure I have a bunch of ones I use for the supermarket, but they've got logos on them, and don't fold up compactly.


I sewed this little tote out of what used to be a duster (house dress / mumu) in some bright batik fabric. I love batik, and I think it's a shame to wear such colorful fabric just around the house. I'm happy that now I can use it for something else. I sewed a little zipper pouch that fits the tote when I fold it up (about 4" x 4").


The tote itself is about 10" x 10" and is simply a long rectangle folded in half and sewn up the sides. I added some handles to it long enough to sling over my shoulder. It's simple, happy, sewing. So this cute little guy now lives in my purse, waiting for its next adventure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Letting Out Your Jean's Waistband


Do you ever get buyer's regret? These jeans fit perfectly through the butt and thigh, but while the waist band was a little too snug, the larger sizes didn't fit as well everywhere else. Maybe I'm just awkwardly shaped, but it's an issue I run into whenever I try to buy pants or shorts and it's very annoying.

I mourned my new jeans and their lovely dark wash. They sat in my closet for more than a year, only taken out when I didn't have to do a lot of sitting or eating (almost never). I considered donating them, but decided to try letting out / taking out the waistband.

Low and behold (as you can see in the photo), my jeans are comfortable. Helloo gorgeous. I added a triangle of denim (I saved from hemming jeans) to each side seam. I never wear shirts tucked in so I don't think anyone will know. The color is pretty close, and there's even a bit of yellow original top stitching to match.

Do your jeans fit well everywhere except the waist? Try it! I followed this tutorial posted at Cotton and Curls. Maybe you can give some beloved old jeans a longer life.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Alteration: White Dress to Crop Top and Skirt

Pink Jacket 021

This little white dress has been kicking around my closet since I got married in Greece 8 years ago. It's a cotton dress originally from Anne Taylor Loft, and I got it on sale for 20$ in the dead of winter, which was perfect for a civil ceremony (with a warm wrap) at the court house.

But... since I wore it to my wedding, I couldn't think of it as anything other than bridal wear until I found a tutorial online (that I can't find anymore!) for turning a strapless dress into a crop top and skirt set. Perfect! Now I can wear the bottom of it as a skirt if I want to, or a tiny bit of skin barring dress if I'm feeling adventurous. It's really just a tiny tiny bit, as you can see from the photo, less than an inch really, and I like it that way.


This alteration was painstaking. I carefully unstitched the skirt from the top, then refinished both raw edges. I added an invisible zip to the top, and kept the original zipper in the skirt (it's a side zip). I also took in the bottom of the skirt by a couple of inches to make it more straight rather than a-line.


So that's that! Looks like something I'd want to wear on a tropical vacation somewhere instead of my patio in the freezing cold spring. It was really cold out there. I'm glad you can't see me shivering.