Monday, August 25, 2014

Sew & Tell: DIY Maternity Band

Belly Band 3


If you're pregnant and want to wear your non-pregnancy pants for a little longer, a maternity / belly band can help.

How it works: leave your pre-pregnancy pants unbuttoned or unzipped, then slip a belly band over top so that your pants don't fall down.

It may sound a little silly, but right now I'm too small to fit into maternity pants, and my regular pants are too tight around the waist, so this is a lifesaver. They can also help post pregnancy when you're in between sizes. I've rolled up my shirt so you can see how it fits.

Belly band

They were out of black bands at the store when I tried to buy one, so using a bit of leftover black jersey, I whipped one up in about 20 minutes, and you can too! See, it's just a tube with 2 seams. In the photo above, I've flipped the band inside out so you can see the seams.

Belly Band 2


I followed this tutorial by Make It and Love It. It's so simple but it works! I'm so tempted to whip up a bunch more in different colors.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sew & Tell: Elephant Plushie

A lot of my friends have been having babies lately, and I've tried to sew all of them a little soft toy as a present. One of my friends absolutely loves elephants, so I wanted to make one for her son.

Untitled

This little guy is made from an old sweatshirt and some scrap fabric. He's totally squishable.

You can find the pattern and instructions for free here via Birch Fabrics.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fresh Figs with Yogurt and Honey

While we're still on the subject of figs...

This is hardly a recipe at all, but it's my favourite way to enjoy figs fresh: Greek yogurt topped with figs, almonds, blueberries, and a drizzle of honey. It's as good as any desert, so simple, and good for you too.

Figs with yogurt

Monday, August 4, 2014

Recipe: Fresh Fig and Almond Pie

It's fresh fig season right now, and while it doesn't last long and I loooove fresh figs there are so many that I'm looking for ways to use them before they go bad (which is quickly). There are only so many figs one can eat in a day!

Sooo... here's something that might last a little bit longer. Might. The almond is only lightly sweetened so it's not overwhelming, and so easy to eat waaay too much of it.

The instructions look long, but its really just as simple as making a pie. You could always use a ready to bake pie shell to make this quicker.

Fresh fig and almond tart. Still hot. Drooling while I wait for it to cool off. It smells so buttery.


Fresh Fig and Almond Tart

Ingredients:

Pastry
  • 250 g flour
  • 4 oz butter / 124 g (cold) cubed
  • 6 tbsp cold water
  • pinch of salt

Filling
  • 4 oz butter / 125 g (softened)
  • 1/2 cup vanilla sugar (regular sugar is ok)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup almond meal / ground almonds
  • 3 tbsp flour
Toppings
  • 5 - 6 fresh figs, quartered
  • Honey for garnish
Method:

Preparing the pastry
  1. Cut butter into flour using a pastry cutter, or your fingers, working it until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the salt, and water.
  3. Bring the dough together into a round flat shape, and refrigerate for 15 minutes covered in plastic wrap or parchment paper.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Preparing the filling
  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Add vanilla and eggs.
  3. Mix in almond meal and flour.
Assembly
  1. Roll your dough into a round shape slightly larger than a pie tin and then place it inside, pressing the pastry into the sides of your pie tin. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Let the extra dough overhang the edges for now.
  2. Spread the filling into the pie tin.
  3. Top with figs.
  4. Fold the extra dough back over the edges of the filling and figs.
  5. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes
  6. When the tart is finished cooking, brush the top with honey heated in the microwave for a few seconds so that it's runny. This will give it a glossy look.
  7. Serve warm or cool.
  8. Leftovers should be refrigerated.

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

Ingredients:
  • 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
Method:
  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.

LaundrySachet

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

ShortWiden

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.

ShortWiden1

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.

ShortWiden2

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.

ShortWiden3

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.

ShortWiden4

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.