February 25th, 2016

First Saori piece

My WX60 arrived! I ordered it from The Saori Shed in Diss, which fortunately for me is only 20 minutes down the road. It’s in a really nice building and is a fun place to visit and try out Saori weaving for a couple of hours…which is what I did the summer before last, and why I decided to get one of these looms! Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling well when it arrived, but my mum is awesome and went to pick it up for me.

Out of the box it looked like this:

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Putting the other bits on wasn’t hard, the instructions were pretty clear. I can’t actually remember everything I did, but I think it was just putting in the back warp roller, the harnesses and reed, the shelf, and the bobbin winder. I just needed a screwdriver for the shelf, and a hammer for the bobbin winder. Nice and simple. And because it came ready warped, it wasn’t long at all before it was ready to go!

And yes, my helpful helper also likes helping with weaving:

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The warp that came with it was 6 metres x 150 threads of black cotton. This is 30cm wide on the loom. I figured with that much fabric I should be able to make a garment, so I picked a bunch of coordinating colours and got to weaving.

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The initial plan was the grey non superwash coned yarn, and some teal leftover sock yarn. Then I decided it needed a bit of magenta, so found some sock yarn in that shade, and also shoved in some bits of merino fibre I had in teals blues and purple. There’s also a teeny bit of leftover handspun in grey and teal in there.

The final fabric off the loom was 5.15 metres long. And very hard to photograph on a windy day.

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After wet finishing, the fabric was about 26 x 475cm. I say ‘about’ because my selvedges weren’t especially neat, so the width varied a little, and the length was very hard to measure cos it was so long!

After a lot of sketching and calculating, I figured out the easiest way to make it into a top. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough fabric for a hood, but I still love it.

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And because someone asked how I made the pattern, here’s the basic info:

Each piece was zig zagged on both sides of the cut line before being cut, all sewn seams were somewhere between the width of my sewing machine foot and the 10mm guide, depending on how neat my selvedges were. Seams were ironed open between each stage of sewing.

I cut 4 pieces 40cm long, which I then sewed together into a tube for the body.

The remaining length was folded almost in half, with one side a couple of cm longer than the other, and cut. This gave me 2 pieces approximately the same as my arm span.

The longer piece was again cut in half.

The raw edges of this last cut were folded under and stitched to finish the front neck opening.

These two pieces were then joined to the body tube making sure the V was centered. The back strip was joined in the same way, making sure it was all lined up. The top sleeve seam was sewed, leaving a gap 5” either side of the centre for the neck hole. Finally the underarm seams were sewn.

Then I went round and folded under and sewed all remaining raw edges…the collar, the sleeves, and the bottom hem, and folded in and sewed the corners of the top front slit to give the neckline a shape I liked.

It took me about 3 weeks to weave the fabric, and less than 3 hours to sew it. I’m not 100% sure I like the big baggy sleeves, I may well taper them if I find the extra fabric gets in the way, but that’s an easy change to make.

And pretty much as soon as that was off the loom, I was planning the next thing. I did this!

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Yup, my loom now has 4 harnesses. Adding the extra 2 harnesses was a lot simpler than I expected, but I needed help, partly because there was a screw that was too tight that I couldn’t undo, and partly because it’s a lot easier to hammer a cap onto the end of a rod with someone else holding the far end of the rod to stop it shifting rather than having to do it all myself. Still, it didn’t take long to do.

Then I figured out the easiest way to wind a warp while sitting down:

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368 ends, and while I did need to take breaks cos my arm got tired, it’s way less tiring than direct warping the rigid heddle on top of the table. Although of course, now I have to actually thread all that onto the loom.

January 25th, 2016

Facing my fears – Ginger Jeans!

I do not like sewing very much. I think about sewing, and my brain image is of me sitting at a sewing machine stitching, and I think ‘oh that’s not so bad, I like that!’. This is true. However I always forget that this accounts for only about 20% of sewing. The rest is ironing and pinning and cutting and playing furniture tetris because my room isn’t quiiite large enough for the table fully extended and the ironing board and space to easily move between them, and I find this part physically exhausting and quite boring, there’s too much stopping and starting to get into a good rhythm with it.

However, this time I am going to persevere with it, as I want some jeans. I find jeans very hard to buy as I have a 12″ difference between my hip and waist measurements, so I end up eventually finding a pair of jeans to fit my hips (which could be anywhere between a size 8 and a 14 depending on brand and cut) and having to ignore the fact that they are too big at the waist and gape horribly at the back.

I’ve been aware recently of the internet hype over Ginger Jeans (well, as much as there CAN be hype over a sewing pattern) and decided to give them a try. The pattern is fairly expensive, but it is SO worth it, and for relative sewing noobs like me it’s a perfect pattern to try as it was also done as a sew-along on the authors blog, so there are extra hints, tips, and photos for bits that are harder to figure out.

I am making the size 12 to fit my hips, and took a couple of inches out of the waistband in two darts before cutting the pattern, and also did a full seat adjustment as explained in the blog post to add extra butt space and hopefully stop the back waistband pulling down when I sit. I added about a centimetre to the back seam, though from having quickly basted and tried them on, I think next time I’ll add two.

While waiting for my fabric to dry I cut and taped the pattern together, then it was time for cutting!

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The pattern said I would need 2.1m of 60″ fabric for my size. I was only able to buy in 1m increments, so I had to get 3m. On examining it, due to the fact that I’m not making the largest size and the fact that my fabric is actually 62″ wide, I realised I could amend the cutting layout so I can actually get two pairs from the fabric I have. Score.

I cut all the denim, interfacing, and lining. I picked a pretty pink and blue fat quarter for the pocket linings as although they won’t be visible when worn, it looks fun as I am putting them on.

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The process took longer than anticipated as I had to stop many times to remove the cat from the fabric, or from the ironing board, or from my chair, as well as having to take lots of breaks to stop myself getting too tired. Here is my helper helpfully holding down my pattern instructions so they don’t get lost.

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And here’s what I’ve got so far…pockets! It’s the first time I’ve done topstitching with a thicker contrasting thread, and the first time I’ve used my serger for curved seams, but it’s going okay so far without any major disasters.

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The topstitching could be neater, especially around curves, but I’m sure I’ll improve with practice, and a few wonky seams are worth it to have jeans that actually fit me!

January 20th, 2016

Preparing for loom arrival!

So provided nothing horrible happens between here and Japan, my loom should be here within the next couple of weeks. I sorted all my ravelry stash and added the colour tags so I can easily sort by colour to remember what yarns I have in various colour families. While doing so, I realised that I don’t have very much cotton at all, pretty much only a load of dishcloth cotton, which is wonderful and makes awesome squishy teatowels, but is fairly limiting as it’s rather fat. So I hunted around the internet for some cheaper cottons for practicing 4 shaft patterns with. I ended up buying this surprise mixed box from yeoman yarns. 4 kilos of cotton for £30 including delivery!

They allow you to have some input in what you get, so I said it was for weaving so I’d prefer mostly finer weights, and that I like natural colours and bright jewel colours, please no pastels.

This is what the postman brought me!

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It is all unlabelled, so I have no idea what it is, and many of the items are mill ends or otherwise unrepeatable, so it’s not a great thing to buy if you want to know exactly what you’re getting and be able to order more, but for learning purposes without spending a lot of money, it’s perfect, and I’m really impressed with the great value for money.

In closer detail:
random small cones given as freebie
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bright red. very fine. 2 ply, approx 44 wpi, 2 cones, 282g each including cone
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raspberry, purple, green, and beige. 2 ply yarn cabled (2 x 2ply) approx 515g including cone, 30wpi
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natural, about fingering weight, 22 wpi, 3 ply, 595g including cone
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turquoise, 4 ply, 18 wpi 553 g including cone
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natural, singles, thin with thicker slubs, 515g including cone, 30wpi
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I also got bored of reading and thinking about weaving, so decided to actually DO some. I got my rigid heddle out with a couple of skeins of wollmeise (campari orange and herzblut), a ball of my very first handspun in coordinating colours for texture, and made these two scarves:

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Fingers crossed the saori loom gets here soon, and that it’s not too hard to assemble, then I’ll be doing all sorts of twills and other fun things soon!

December 26th, 2015

I have too many hobbies (the great unfuckening)

I am getting a new loom in a month or so. It’s a Saori WX60, which is pretty small for a floor loom, but it still required I tidy my craft room to make space to use it in there, as over the winter it had become a dumping ground for xmas presents, clothes, and empty boxes. I managed to get a bag of rubbish, a bag of recycling, and a box of stuff to donate out of there, but it’s still pretty packed full, and I can’t really get rid of anything else because I love all my stuff! I just have too many hobbies. So I thought I’d give you all a quick tour of the room while it’s mostly tidy (but still uncleaned, the vacuum cleaner is rather heavy to carry upstairs, so please ignore the messy floor and the cobwebs).

Firstly this is what you see as you enter the room. Shelves stuffed full with fabric. These will be cleared and all the fabric folded, but it’s a rather long task, so it can wait for a while. There’s a mix of clothing fabric, quilting fabric, old sweaters and shirts to reclaim, and a few bits of handwoven stuff I’ve not found a use for yet. And an interested littlecat.

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Actually inside the room. Ahhh, much less messy.

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And working around the room in a clockwise direction: Dressing table area –

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1. Passap knitting machine. It’s awesome, but takes up a lot of space, so it’s currently disassembled
2. Knitting needles, spindles, blocking wires, pens, and scissors
3. Bits for my current quilting WIPs
4. My desk ‘inbox’ of stuff i need to deal with. Has a jumper in that needs frogging, some pegs from a peg loom, and some mini skeins of sock yarn.
5. random bits and bobs. Lint roller, lens caps, lighting gels sample books.
6. Plastic bags for putting spinning fibre in
7. Zips and small bits of fabric for making doll clothes
8. Sewing things. Threads, feet for the machine, scissors, chalk, rotary cutter etc
9. Blocking mats

Above the dressing table:

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1. My dad’s old meccano set!
2. Old crappy loom
3. Doll boxes
4. A box of bags. That I don’t really need. But maybe one day I will!
5. The rest of my current quilting WIPs to go with the bits on the desk
6. A bag. With nothing in. But it has owls on.
7. A box of boxes! I culled my cardboard box collection somewhat, but kept a few cos they are useful for spindle WIPs, storing rolags, thrummed knitting WIPs, and probably other things
8. Coned yarn, mostly silk.

Drum carding shelves:

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1. Strauch drum carder. It is awesome
2. Bag of bags that I do actually use, small foldable project bags
3. Carder stuff, one box with accessories like batt pick, brush, and flick carder, one with angelina and nylon sparkles
4. Dyed merino
5. Stuff that isn’t merino, some dyed, some not, all ready to spin/card
6. More stuff that isn’t merino but in larger quantities, again all ready to spin/card.
7. Cutting mats and rulers

Top of bookcase:

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Coned yarn, mostly wool

Inside the bookcase:

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1. Wollmeise Molly
2. Sanguine Gryphon Bugga!
3. Wollmeise Lace
4. Wollmeise sock
5. Other sock yarns
6. Boooooks
7. More sock/lace yarns that aren’t in skeins
8. Ironing board and knitting machine table, that I don’t need for my current machine as it has a stand, but its a really useful narrow folding table.

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Even more books and mags at the bottom of the bookcase. Mostly handknitting, but a few machine knitting, weaving, spinning, dyeing, and a couple of random ones on other things like basketweaving and home brewing.

Under the table:

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Loom bag for my Ashford knitter’s loom containing spare heddles, lease sticks, warping post etc, and a huuuge bag of drumcarder waste and leftovers for making fun batts.

On the table:

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It’s clear! it’s a miracle! Just the sewing machine and a couple of pots of pins/bobbins etc. The table is older than I am, it was our dining table when I was a kid, then got relegated to craft table status, then eventually was given to me.

Yarn cubbies

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1. Knitting machine bits and bobs
2. Doll clothing and wig making stuff
3. Fibre that is washed but not ready to spin, wool and alpaca mostly
4. More fibre, including 4 colours of Jacob that I combed last year
5. A leather case that I bought at a jumble sale cos it was cool, but never use
6. Long term knitting WIPs that I’ve not worked on for a while
7. Acrylic and mystery (alpaca maybe?) yarn
8. Acrylic
9. Single balls and yarn i have no plans for
10. Sweater quantities
11. Undyed yarn. Sock, lace, and gansey yarn
12. Leftovers, mostly sock weight
13. More sweater quantities, but in various colours for fairisle/stripes
14. Handspun – large skeins
15. More sweater quantities, and a sheep
16. Handspun – samples, small skeins, and leftovers
17 & 18. Fibre, luxury and hand dyed.
19. Super awesome bright light, holding a felted scarf

Small shelves:

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1. Overlocker
2 & 3. ‘Inboxes’ where I put stuff that I bring into the room before I put it away, at the moment has my swift and ballwinder in, and some socks that need darning. Also used for new yarn that still needs entering into my ravelry stash.
4. Art supplies that haven’t made it to the art cupboard downstairs yet either because there’s no room, I’m too lazy, or I don’t want anyone using my stuff.
5. Iron
6. The only box of crap! random stuff that needs sorting out and putting away, old pens, cables etc
7. Spinning stuff. Bobbins, 2 sets of carders.
8. Spinning and weaving stuff. Standard and jumbo flyer for my wheel, and all this stuff that came with the crappy loom. Such cute mini shuttles!

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The reason I don’t want people to use my art supplies, they might mess up my colours!
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In the built in cupboard:

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1. Enormous cushion pad and bag of fibrefill
2. bag of really really old wips. In crappy yarn. That i will never finish or wear. I will throw them away one day.
3. Curtain fabric left over from my bedroom curtains
4. Tripods and light stands. And an easel
5. Yarn that I was going to destash but the post office is sooo far away and I never know when I’ll be well enough to drive there. So maybe I will weave it instead.
6. Random odd balls of yarn with no projects planned, but too nice to get rid of. I will use them eventually.
7. More photography stuff, lights and cables and reflectors and things.

And that is the tour of my craft room and all my things! There are also many other things not shown as they dont live in there. My knitters loom and a box of kitchen cotton live under my bed, my current knitting WIPs and my interchangeable needles live in my bedroom, my spinning wheel, wool combs and niddy noddy live in the dining room, and my dyepots, dyes and other related stuff live in the utility room. Oh and there are more raw fleeces than I can count in the garage/loft. SO MANY HOBBIES AND SO MUCH STUFFFFF. But I don’t think I’ve reached the point yet where my stash will last longer than I do.

August 30th, 2015

Tomatoes 2015!

Rather than trying to remember next year which tomatoes we liked best, I decided to actually write it down! Most of these are heirloom varieties from The Real Seed Catalogue (who I can’t recommend enough by the way), a few are just from the depths of the seed stash. They were grown in the greenhouse unless otherwise noted, and were mostly neglected. We generally manage to water when needed, but miss a few shoots that should be pinched out, and often forget to feed as often as we should.

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1. Garden Pearl. Teeny tiny cherry tomato, great for hanging baskets. Super prolific, but not especially early.
2. Latah. Bush type. Grown outside. very very early, very prolific, slightly bumpy tomatoes, fairly small. J’s favourite for flavour.
3. Grushovka. Bush type. Grown outside. Moderately early. Large pink heart shaped tomatoes with firm flesh. Very yummy. Fruit is very heavy and the plant doesn’t support it well, so needs protecting from slugs. Surprising amount of fruit from a small plant.
4. Costoluto. Great plum tomato. Not especially early.
5. Green Zebra. Pretty stripey green/yellow when ripe. Not hugely prolific, but very tasty.
6. Skykomish. Well, it’s a tomato. Not hugely exciting, but yellow is pretty I guess. Tastes nice, but nothing mindblowing. Moderately late, moderately prolific.
7. Amish Paste. Very prolific, mid season, sizes from medium to enormous. Kind of a pain in the ass cos there are just too many folds and the bit at the bottom where the flower joins often makes a big black bit that needs cutting out. Taste is fine, good for sauces, but we’ve grown it for 3 years now and it’s probably too much of a pain to bother growing again.
8. Rose De Berne. Very prolific, mid season, pretty large pink tomatoes. Taste lovely, probably my favourite this year.
9. Black Cherry. Very prolific, mid season but go on and on for ever, pretty purple cherry tomatoes. Only grew them cos we had a few seeds left over, but I’m glad I did.

June 8th, 2014

MSD onesie pattern

Yeah, so I am a baaad blogger. But rather than rectify that by talking about all the things I’ve done in the months since my last post, I’m just gonna forget about it and get on with explaining how to make a onesie for a MSD (42cmish) BJD. My doll is a ‘vivi’ by Xinmeng, purchased from Mirodoll.

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This pattern isn’t for complete beginners. Not really because it’s hard, although there are a couple of slightly fiddly curved seams, and putting in a zipper needs a bit of practice if you’re not done it before, but mostly because I have never written a pattern before and don’t really know what I’m doing, so a bit of background sewing knowledge will be helpful so you can understand what I’m talking about!

Things you will need:

Old t-shirt, or similar fabric
Matching thread
Zipper long enough to reach from your dolls crotch to an inch or so above the top of her head (longer is fine, it is trimmed to fit) I believe I used a 10″ zip
Pins
Sewing machine with regular and zipper foot
Iron

Pattern notes:

The pattern is made to be sewn on a machine, so there is a 1/4″ seam allowance, you can reduce this if you’d prefer to hand sew. The outer line on the pattern is the one you should cut around, the inner line is the size of the piece without seam allowance, if you’d prefer to draw your own. Due to the software I used to make it, the edges are rounded, you don’t need to cut them like this, square corners are fine.

Unless otherwise specified, all seams are to be sewn with right sides facing, and pressed open.

The pattern covers two sheets of A4 size paper. If you live in a country where other sizes are standard, then print it at 100% and allow cropping, hopefully nothing useful will be cropped!

Get the pattern by clicking on each of the two below images, then click more actions > download/all sizes and choose the ‘original’ size.

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Instructions

Print out the pattern, and tape it together, making sure the lines for the legs match up

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Roughly cut out the pattern pieces and lay them out on your ironed t-shirt. If you are using fabric, then fold it half, each pattern piece is meant to make two symmetrical pieces. Cut another pattern piece that is a little wider than your zipper, and 4″ long.

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Pin your pattern pieces to the t-shirt, and cut them out, cutting through both layers of fabric. You will end up with 10 pieces, 2 backs, 2 fronts, 2 hoods, 2 sleeves, and 2 zipper tabs.

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With right sides facing, pin the two hood pieces together, and sew around the curved top/back seam.

With right sides facing, pin the two back pieces together, and sew along the seam from the crotch to the top of the neck.

Press seams open. It’s a bit fiddly to do the inside of the hood, but as long as the top and back part are flattened, the middle doesn’t matter too much.

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Pin the front pieces to the joined back, and sew along the shoulder seams. The lines you should sew are marked below.

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After ironing these seams flat, pin the hood into place. Line up the centre hood seam with the centre back seam, and pin in place around to the front. Make sure you pin the shoulder seams flat. Sew this seam.

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You should now have a crazy robe looking thing!

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Take your zipper, and cut off the bottom, just below the stopper

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Line up the zipper with your onesie, starting at the crotch, and cut off the top level with the top of the hood (I actually cut mine a bit shorter, but if I did it again I’d err on the side of longer so the zip comes closer to the top of the hood)

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Take your zipper tabs and fold over 1/4″ on each end, and iron.

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Fold them in half, and iron again

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Put the zipper inside the tab, half an inch or so deep, pin, and sew across to attach the zipper to the tab. I forgot to take a photo of this, but it’s relatively simple. When this is done, cut across the fold line at the bottom, open it up, and trim the end of the zipper.

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Repeat for the top of the zipper, you will have to do this with the zip open to stop the pull getting in the way of the sewing machine foot, so make sure you pin carefully.

With the right side of the zip facing the right side of one front, making sure the zip is the right way up, pin in place, deciding how much tab you want at the top and bottom (excess can be trimmed after sewing).

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Using a needle and waste thread, baste the zipper in place (some people can get away without this step, and sew a zip in that is just pinned in place. I am not one of those people)

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Put the zipper foot on your machine, and sew the zip in. Start with the zip in one position, then stop half way through (leave the needle in the fabric and lift the foot) and slide the pull past, so it doesn’t get in the way. When you sew the tab on each end, sew a diagonal line from the line of the zipper stitching to the edge (so a triangle will be visible on the front when finished).

Repeat for the other size of the zipper.

Press, and top stitch all the way round the zip.

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Put the regular foot back on your machine, and prepare to sew the arms. Pinning them is a little fiddly, so just take your time

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When both sleeves are sewn in, fold over the ends of each arm and leg 1/4″, iron into place, and sew

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From here, I got so excited to be on the home straight, I forgot to take any more photos. It’s pretty simple though.

Make sure your zipper is open, or you won’t be able to turn it the right way out at the end!

Line up all the edges, pin, and sew. There are three seams: wrist to ankle on each side, and the inside legs . Nothing complicated here, just nice straight lines.

When you’re done, turn it inside out and give it a quick press, then try it on your doll!

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August 16th, 2013

Garden evolution

So yeah, I’m an awful blogger, I’ve done a million things and not blogged about any of them. So, in my usual style, here’s a quick round up of what’s changed in the garden this year.

My previous lodger was very anti-garden, he used to say that given the choice he would concrete over the lot, so it’s been so nice to have someone who can actually help me do things. All the manual labour in the following projects has been provided by J, but I did all the things that can be done while sitting down, the planning, planting of seeds, and the ‘supervising’!

First, we relocated the chickens. They’d turned their area to mud, so we moved them onto a clean area of lawn, planning to re-seed their bit. The plans changed somewhat as we went along, so the layout is different now, and we’ve still not moved them to their final place, but the garden is looking nicer now, and we have an extra small raised bed.

The area has gone from mud to being covered in grass and overrun by a giant pumpkin plant in just a few months.

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Our major project has been a new greenhouse (shut up, we DO need 4 greenhouses!). I saw this one offered on freegle, and while it needed a lot of work, it was freeee, so we went and picked it up. It wouldn’t fit in the car, so we had to saw each panel into 3 and reattach at home, but it was totally worth it. We also managed to score some extra bits of glass on freegle to replace the ones which had been broken.

All it needs now is a bit more putty round a couple of the windows, one pane of glass adding to the door, and for me to design and build a vent. I have the timber for it, but I’m still procrastinating about the best way to do it that’ll let it open easily and still be watertight when it’s shut. I finished building the bench in there today and moved my Abutilon, chillis, and a grape vine in there. Hopefully it’ll be the least drafty of all the greenhouses once it’s finished, so I can keep my non-hardy things over there in winter, and maybe move the heater in there if it still gets too cold.

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The front bed which is home to my cherry tree had a makeover and was turned into an alpine/succulent bed. It’s filling out really nicely now, and I made a little succulent wall hanging to go above it.

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I also got to see a sempervivium flower for the first time. Of course it was one of the ones in the wall hanging that decided to do it, so the flower went all curvy trying to get vertical, but it still looked pretty.

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We harvested lots of things, and even remembered to photograph a few, including my first ever honeyberries!

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We are currently overrun with cucumbers and trying to give them away to everyone we know. But hardly any tomatoes yet, only a few cherry ones, the late winter has set everything back, and it’s not faaaair, I want my tomatoes now, they are doing SO well. There are also baby peppers and melons hiding under the mass of foliage in the greenhouse.
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The pond was looking very unhappy earlier in the year, there’s a tree behind my garden which fills it with leaves every autumn. I had the gross job of pulling out piles of rotting leaf muck, and then I put in a water lily and some oxygenators, and the water is now clear, and the newts are very happy. This autumn I must remember to put a net over it.
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In unrelated news, I finally got a new car. I loved my old car, but the windows didn’t work, the locks didn’t work, and every MOT it needed more and more work. My parents are getting a new car and decided to give me their old one, but in the end they swapped their old one for something that was cheaper for me to run. The man at the dealership was unsure as to whether I’d be able to fit an 8ft length of timber in, which is clearly of prime importance, so I made sure to get some roof bars too. And now I have a cute little mazda 2 that has working windows! and actually locks! and has a CD player rather than a tape player! And, my absolute favourite thing: air conditioning!!!!! I looooove my car.

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And my final new thing, bought with a combination of birthday money and destash proceeds…a 20″ ashford knitter’s loom. I’ve only had it a few days, but I’ve managed to make a teatowel (best teatowel ever!) and a scarf. I was concerned that it was going to be too physically hard for me, and using it on the stand was very tiring and hurt my back, but I figured out a way that I can use it while sitting in bed, by propping up the end on a plastic box, and it’s much easier to use that way.

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April 25th, 2013

Huge garden update

So it was winter. Then it was more winter. Then I was beginning to lose hope that we’d ever see temperatures above freezing, then all of a sudden IT WAS SPRING. I prepared a little by planting many seeds indoors, and set up a complicated hardening off system involving moving seedlings from indoors, to one greenhouse, to the other, then finally to outside, but I couldn’t actually DO much out there until a couple of weeks ago as the ground was frozen solid.

But this is (as much for future-vampy’s information as your edification), the state of my garden as of today.

Firstly, a couple of months ago I exchanged some Tesco clubcard vouchers for Thomspon and Morgan vouchers, and tried to take advantage of as many special offers on their site as I could so I could pay some attention to the non veggie part of the garden. Here’s what I ordered. All pics are taken from the T&M site, but I am sure they won’t mind as this is good advertising for them…so buy your plants from them, they have awesome bargains!

Firstly, I ordered some perennials from their collections. The plants you get are teeny tiny, but I don’t mind, I put them in pots in the greenhouse to get big and strong before planting out. I got a similar pack last year, and aside from one plant that got eaten by slugs, all are doing well. I got:

A Coreopsis Sunray
B Echinacea Magic box mixed
C Scabiosa blue jeans
D Digitalis Foxglove dalmation peach
E Papaver pizzicato
F Silene Jack flash

A Coreopsis Sunray
B Gaillardia Arizona Sun
C Scabiosa Blue Jeans
D Papaver pizzicato
E Silene Jack flash
F Aquilegia Swan mixed
G Gaillardia Arizona Apricot
H Delphinium Pacific Giants
I Lavender Munstead
J Heuchera Palace Purple

perennial collection

The pic isn’t actually of the actual things I ordered cos they substituted some, or I didn’t download the pic when I ordered and they changed the pack or something, but it’s all good, I love everything I have. Well, except the foxgloves, and that’s not for any aesthetic reasons, but because bees hide in the flowers and then come out buzzing ‘HI THERE I AM A BEE’ and scare the life out of me. But I like bees and I like them being around to pollinate my things, so it’s a good thing really.

I also ordered lots of seeds. I didn’t bother making a photo of the veggie seeds, cos I know what veggies look like, but I’m still very much a novice with flowers, so I stole the pics so I knew what to expect. These are all planted, and most are doing well, although there was an unfortunate incident involving lizards roaming around in the greenhouse and deciding that clambering all over my seedlings was more fun than sunbathing on the rock or eating the greens planted especially for them, so there were several casualties. Hopefully I’ll still have at least one plant of each variety, if not, I guess I’ll have to plant more seeds next year.

flowerseeds

I went outside to potter and do a few chores and get some pics of everything. LOTS of pics. So erm, here you go. pics because it did indeed happen.

As ever, the bed beside the back door is the most finished, and has the earliest blooming flowers, so it looks pretty good already:
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The herb part is in need of a few additions, i have flat leaf parsley, coriander, and basil all growing on my bedroom windowsill waiting to go out:
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I have my first hanging basket! I was scared of them before cos i know I am rubbish at watering stuff in summer, but with it being fleece lined and having a water holding sheet in it, fingers crossed it’ll survive:
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The chickens have been temporarily relocated to the lawn area so we could reseed their area. The honeysuckle and rose are having their first year of not being cut back to the ground, and are enjoying climbing the arch:
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We decided to move things around a little and put the swing seat against the hedgerow, so the chickens’ fence will go in a different place to before, which is a bit annoying, as we planted the line of daffodils along the old fence, so they are gonna need relocating. The new layout at least means I could squeeze in another bed next to the greenhouse, for our squashes. At the moment there’s a courgette planted in the ground under the cold frame, and I moved the peas in pots in there to get a bit bigger before planting out. The straw is down to hopefully keep the grass seed moist enough to grow:
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The view from the swing seat:
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I got some water damaged floorboards on freecycle a while ago, and made a nice 3 compartment compost bin to replace the circle of chicken wire I was using before. J dug out the compost for me, and there were several barrowfuls of really good compost at the bottom, which have been put into the greenhouse and a couple of the beds. And there’ll be more to come next year!
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The back bed is next on the list for adding more plants to. J bought me a dicentra and put it in the other day, I looove it. The pond isn’t so happy, too many leaves fell in it from the trees in the garden behind, so I spent ages fishing them out and pulled out a ton of rotting leaf mud gunge from the bottom. I recently put in some more oxygenators and a small red waterlily, so hopefully the algae will clear once the lily grows. It’s not toooo unhappy though, I did see a few newts in there the other day:
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One of the best things about going outside is checking the chicken house:
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I love all the different colours, even if they do end up a bit poopy. I kinda want a chicken that makes blue eggs:
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The veg area is looking very bare, it’s too early to put most things out. The broad beans have been there over winter and aren’t doing too well, i think they got snowed on too many times:
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The asparagus is doing okay though, plants here range from 1-3 years old. Not tooooo much longer to wait until we can pick it:
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The fruit bushes in pots are pretty happy. They’re mostly blueberries, with a couple of honeyberries and a blackcurrant. The plan is to make a big raised bed and buy a load of ericaceous compost so I can have an actual blueberry bed:
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I wasn’t very good at picking celery last year. I am completely amazed that it survived the winter:
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One artichoke did awesomely at getting through winter. The others less so, though that might be related to cat digging rather than temperature. The blackcurrant bushes at the end of the bed are looking good, may even get some fruit this year, and the raspberries in the bed behind are running rampant as ever:
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Unfortunately the front patio is a huge big mess. It’s somewhere down the list to tidy:
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The sempervivium in the front bed is doing wonderfully though. It was growing on the roof of the garage, so I asked gren to get it down for me a couple of years ago, and planted it. It had a million babies, and this is one of the babies making baby plants of its own. There are at least 10 of them in this bed now, and they are great:
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At least my pots and canes are organised, even though there is mess everywhere else!
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We had too much garlic, so i stuck some in a pot, it seems happy enough:
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The easiest way to plant potatoes: Make a big mound in the centre of the bed, and plant a row of potatoes each side. Then when it comes time to earth them up, you can just push soil down from the mound and not have to find it from elsewhere or worry about hurting any potatoes by digging soil from around them:
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Stage 2 in the hardening off rotation, a cold frame inside a greenhouse. For a while I put a tube heater in here, but it’s getting warm enough now that it doesn’t need it. It has mostly peas in in this shot, but I moved them to an outdoor cold frame and switched things around:
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After moving stuff around in there…basil, sweet peas, beans, melons, broccoli, chillis, aubergines, and some rather leggy tomatoes that i left indoors too long:
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Here’s the greenhouse with the cold frame, kiwis, tobacco plants, tomatoes, and various other things in:
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The other greenhouse is full! This bed is the ‘lets grow some salad things before we need to put other plants in’ bed. It has radish, carrots, rocket, mizuna, spinach and chard in.
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Here’s some of the perennials from T&M in pots waiting to get bigger before going outside, and a couple of tomatoes to the right that were started off under a grow light indoors, along with the tobacco:
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More perennials, tobacco, sunflowers, marigolds, and tomatoes. And maybe a couple of other things:
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It’s a hard life being a cat:
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Especially when someone covers up the catmint to stop me lying on it. This is the first time I’ve managed to keep catmint alive without the cats trashing it. Yay for hanging basket covers and tent pegs!
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Do you mind? Taking cat drugs is serious business, do not interrupt!
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Hey, I want in on the drugs! the lavender in the back of the pic is from one of the T&M perennial packs last year. It’s doing really well.
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How dare you come near my run without bringing food!
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And now some closeups:

The hebe my dad got me last year:
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Pear tree:
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The kiwi plants have leaves, and pink balls. I assume the balls are going to become flowers, so maybe we’ll get some fruit this year. I bought the plants last year and they were really small, so I guess I should look into whether i should allow them to fruit or not this year.
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The grape my dad bought me last year is alive, woo!
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I potted up some strawberry runners last year, I have no idea what we’re gonna do with them all:
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We took some cuttings from the rose last autumn just for fun, we got at least a 50% success rate, which is great, though again i have no idea what to do with them!
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HI, I AM MINT! CAN YOU SEE ME! NO? OKAY I’LL JUST GROW SOME MORE THEN!
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And a few more random flower pics:
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January 1st, 2013

Black olive bread recipe

The other day I made perhaps THE MOST AMAZING bread I’ve ever made. Unfortunately the recipe I started from was awful and made flour soup rather than dough, so I improvised a lot. I made it again today so I could write up the recipe for future awesomeness.

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Makes: 2 medium sized loaves, or 4 single (large) serving baguettes.

Ingredients:

575g strong white flour
1 7g sachet of yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oil leftover from jars of sundried tomatoes (if none available, use olive oil)
75g olives (approx 25), halved
350ml warm water (just above body temp)
Dash of olive oil
Handful of coarse cornmeal

Method:

(This is mostly written out in a way so my bf can understand it. You can of course knead the bread by hand or make other changes such as rising in the fridge overnight. Also, if you’re not my bf you won’t get killed in the face for making a mess. At least, not by me.)

1) Put all the ingredients into the large bowl for the mixer. Mix, using the dough hook, for 10 minutes, on speed setting number 2. The dough should be solid and slightly sticky, leaving the sides of the bowl mostly clean, but sticking if left to touch the surface for more than a second or so.

2) Turn out dough onto a floured surface. Put the dough hook into warm water to soak IMMEDIATELY so it’s easy to clean later. Use a little flour to rub off any dough that has stuck to the bowl and add it to the lump of dough, and knead a little so you can form it into a ball. Pour a dash of olive oil into the bowl and rub it around with your hand, making sure to get right to the top of the bowl to allow for growth as it rises. Put your ball of dough back into the bowl and turn it over a few times until it’s nicely coated in oil.

3) Cover with cling film and leave in the airing cupboard for an hour, or until doubled in size.

4) Turn dough out onto floured surface, and punch down, then form into loaves/batons. Squish the dough out into a rectangle, oriented lengthways in front of you. Fold the bottom 3rd up, then the top 3rd down, and pinch the seam closed. Turn over and squish with your hands until it looks like a pretty shape. If you want to be really posh you can use a very sharp knife to make slits in the top.

5) Put a silicone baking sheet onto a metal baking tray, and sprinkle a handful of cornmeal over the baking sheet. Place bread on top, and cover with oiled clingfilm (lay clingfilm on cabinet, pour a couple of teaspoons of olive oil on, rub in with your hand, then invert and place over the bread).

6) Preheat oven to 200C. Leave bread for 20 minutes or until it doubles in size again. Put it in the airing cupboard to do this if the kitchen is cold, otherwise it’ll be fine left out on the counter. If any olive oil drips off the cling film onto my clean sheets in the airing cupboard I will kill you in the face.

7) Once the oven is hot and the dough is risen, remove the clingfilm and put it in the oven on the top shelf. Chuck half a mug full of cold water onto the bottom of the oven and immediately close the door. The steam makes the crust extra nice and crusty while leaving the inside moist. Cook for 15-25 minutes depending on the size of loaves you made. The bread is ready when it has a fairly dark crust, and sounds hollow when you turn it upside down and tap it.

8) Put on wire cooling rack for as long as you can bear, then EAT ALL THE BREAD. Once it’s cool, wrap in a clean teatowel to stop it going stale.

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All the stuff in the bowl

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The mixer doing its job

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Dough ball ready to go into the airing cupboard

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After rising

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After making into loaves, ready to stand for a while before baking

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Out of the oven. The 3 on the left are ready to eat, the one on the right was cooked for 10 minutes, and is waiting to cool before being frozen, will attempt to finish cooking from frozen sometime to see if I can have fresh bread whenever I want with no effort.

November 9th, 2012

Homemade frozen pizza

We make pizza reasonably often, and since I got my awesome stand mixer for my birthday, I’ve been making more stuff in bulk. So we decided to make a load of pizzas and attempt to freeze them so we can have them whenever we want without all the hassle of waiting for dough to rise.

We mixed:

1kg 00 flour
2 7g sachets of yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
650ml lukewarm water

And then let the mixer knead it for 10 minutes with a bit of a rest in the middle. We covered the bowl and stuck it in the airing cupboard for an hour or so, then J cut up toppings while I made 6 strangely shaped bases. We made 2 pizzas as normal, but the ones we planned to freeze I put in the oven at 230C without toppings for 4 minutes to partly cook, then slid out onto cooling racks to cool for a bit before topping, wrapping in cling film, and freezing. I put a handful of coarse cornmeal to spread on the trays to prevent sticking, which also makes the crust taste extra nice.

UPDATE: We have made these several times now as they are SO good. To cook from frozen, preheat the oven to 180C and cook until the top is browned, about 18 minutes. These have ruined shop bought pizza for me as they are just so much nicer.

Pizzas ready to freeze:

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Pizzas we ate:

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The cost was flour – £1.99 (stupid waitrose expensive organic hippy flour), yeast – 20p, salt, sugar, oil – 30p, passata – 89p, sweetcorn – 40p artichokes, olives, sundried tomatoes – £1, mushrooms – 50p, green pepper 50p, mozarella 79p (reduced, woohoo!), cheddar 50p.

So yeah, I guessed some of the costs, and we weren’t exactly trying to keep it cheap, and the total was £7.07 for 6 pizzas! So it’s £1.18 per pizza! way cheaper than frozen pizzas from the shops, and with about 3 times as much stuff on!

In other news, my dragon is growing fast!!! so cute!

growthchart10wks