Thursday, 27 June 2013

Zips Galore!

Hello Everyone, how are you all doing?  I hope this post finds you all fit, well and happy.  I have been trying to push forward with my sewing skills, although my crochet and knitting beckons from the corner of the room, making me feel very guilty about not giving them my full attention.  I am not sure if you remember the old wooden chest of drawers which I bought quite a while ago in a vintage fair.  This was one almost the same as mine but this is in better condition than mine was.
My lovely husband has tried his best to smarten it up for me but the wood was rather poor quality and didn't improve with sanding down.  He did have a go at painting it but this was a disaster so came up with the idea of covering it with fablon.  I had thought of covering it with fabric but again, this didn't seem to behave itself on the wood.  We think the chest itself is probably from the 1940s when wood was in short supply because of the war.

What do you think of it Folks?  I had many glamorous designs in my head about how it would all turn out but my poor husband was literally tearing his hair out trying to get the box into some sort of reasonable condition.  I think at times he was ready to throw it in the bin whilst I was out at work but knew that I would only go and rescue it again. 
I think he made a good job out of it really taking into consideration the poor state it was in when I bought it and the wood he was working with.  I am thinking of lining the drawers with some fabric but have put in some fancy little papers which are given free in the craft magazines for now until I decide.  Any ideas lovely Readers, I am thinking of using it for embroidery threads as they will lie quite flat in it and I could arrange them in colours so could quickly find what I was looking for.   I do wonder what it had been used for and as I have seen quite of few of these since and they are all of the same design and quality, I think they may have been used in shops, maybe drapery stores.  Do you have one similar?  Would love to hear from you all lovely Readers.
 Now, getting back to my work.  I have a couple of pieces which I must finish off over the coming weekend including my crochet cushion and a felted bag which are gifts for two lovely ladies.  I also have to start working on the fingerless gloves which are hopefully going to form part of my 'Christmas Collection' - makes me sound like one of those grand designers such as Stella McCartney when in actual fact these are the Christmas gifts I am planning to make for my friends.  Would love to hear what you are all planning.  I do struggle each year looking for something new and exciting - over the past years I have knitted tea cosies, cushions, bags and made festive shopping bags from Christmas tea towels!  What is going to be in your Christmas Collection - I am excited to find out.
After my struggles with the dreaded zip last week I decided that I had to meet the enemy face on and practise more.  Whilst on my lunch break I had walked through the market and found a small embroidered tray cloth which was in really good condition for 10p.

I thought the embroidery was quite pretty and for 10p it was an absolute bargain taking into account the good condition it was in, it looked really new so probably had been put away for years in a drawer or cupboard.
After thinking about what I could do with it I came up with the idea of making a small bag with a zip...........I lined it with a tea towel which had been lying in the kitchen drawer, never having been used.  I must admit I love using tea towels as they are quite sturdy and usually bright and cheerful.  As you can see I decided to try and keep the pretty lace edging of the tray cloth outside to give it more impact.  I realised though as I was sewing it up that the zip I had was on the small size but I was so keen to have a go at it I just kept going.
I must admit that I have a 'thing' for tea towels - sorry Readers I do have many obsessions!  I have quite a few stashed away as I am always drawn to them in the shops, especially the really pretty ones, it seems such a shame to use them for drying dishes.  This one had a vintage feel to it and I thought would be a good contrast to the plain outer fabric.
This is the finished piece and although it looks quite nice I did make some mistakes.  Firstly I underestimated the length needed for the zip and only used a smallish one when a longer one would have been much more suitable.
One side of the zip fitted in really well and I was so pleased how neat it looked.  Feeling rather smug with myself I carried out and what happened Folks - the second side wasn't as neat, although the photographs I took don't really show it properly.  I learned a valuable lessons here - don't rush things, just check and treble check every time before sewing.

Hopefully one of my granddaughters will like the bag for their hairbands or little trinkets and it will find a good home somewhere.  Years ago this would  have been used as a handkerchief holder but we don't tend to use hankies any more, although I still do love them.  Are any of you out there lovers of old hankies, I know I am, particularly the Royal celebration ones and the ones from abroad.  I'd love to hear what you particularly like.
Onwards and upwards I thought.  Do you know lovely Readers that writing a blog has really concentrated my mind on being much more diligent with my creative work.  My blog is constantly on my mind and I know that I need to work and make things so that I can write to you all.  This is such a pleasure and I am finding friends from all over the world which is an absolute delight.  The power of blogging is huge which I hadn't realised until now and the potential to make new friends is incredible.  Craft people are so talented, friendly and generous in giving their time and expertise and sharing it with others.  Thank you lovely bloggers you have taught me so much already.
Many years ago I bought a Clothkits pack from a vintage shop for around 50p, yes, 50p.  In the 1970s when my boys were small I always wanted to buy something from them to make but they tended to sell doll and dress kits so I didn't ever purchase anything from them.  When I found this little dress in the vintage shop I took it home, had a look at it and then put it away and forgot about it.  I decided this week that it was time to bring it out and make something with it.
Here is the front with the patch pocket.  I must admit lovely Readers that I loathe the colour, green and me do not go together at all.  I am always drawn to the reds, pinks and baby blues.  I would be interested to know what you think of the colour - I call it apple green, not sure really.
This is the back section which is cut into two and I also used some of the white lining material which I had left over from the dress I made a few weeks ago.  There should have been lining with it but it wasn't in the bag so was obviously used for something else.  I wasn't sure how it would work but I followed the instructions to the letter and also watched the Youtube clip about making up a Clothkits dress a couple of times.  This was so helpful as I am a very visual learner and have to see something demonstrated or photographs to help me understand more.
Below is part of the back section with the placket sewn in - it is strange as the fabric looks more beige than green, must have been the flash on the camera. 

The bag also contained buttons and at first I decided to leave these off and just use buttons with press studs - that is my usual trick with buttonholes as I have never ever attempted them.   However, knowing you were all watching me I decided that I had to bite the bullet and have a go.  I looked up how to do it in one of my sewing books and also had a look on Youtube before starting.  I measured a line down the placket to make sure that they were all straight and the first one was a big success.
However, after that it was downhill all the way Folks!  The second buttonhole was way off beam so I have had to unpick this very carefully in readiness for having another go.  I must admit that I was making up this dress after a full day at work and trying out the buttonholes very late into the night so, as always, I was pretty tired.
Little note to myself - try to do things like this at a reasonable time............does anyone else do silly things like this or is it just me?  Would love to hear your stories.
Well Folks have to leave it there and leave you in suspense like a Hitchcock movie - will it ever be finished, will she crack the buttonholes.........I have a ton of marking to do but need to return to the dress very soon before I lose heart.  However, for a first attempt it was ok - I want to completely finish the dress for you to all see which hopefully won't be long.
Well lovely Readers I have loved having you here and spending time with you, you are all such delights, time moves on so fast.  I will speak to you all very soon but please leave some comments if you are able as I do love to hear what you have to say.
Have a wonderful day tomorrow and I hope the sun shines on you all day and you have lots of merriment and joy.  Take care of yourselves and see you all soon.  Lots of love, Dorothy :-)xxxxxxxx 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Hectic Week

Hello Everyone I do hope you are all well and happy.  I am sorry that it has been a long time since we last met, the week has whizzed by as always but these last seven days have been so so busy it has been unbelievable.  I hope you have all have a more relaxed and comfortable time of it.  Do come and have a sit down and chat for a while - let's put the kettle on.
I am sure you must all get fed up with me going on about how work is so busy and pressurised, I am sure that you all have equally busy lives but still find time to create and craft.  This week I have managed to find odd pockets of time in order to do a few things here and there.  I am still working on the projects which will eventually become gifts and I am conscious of the time which is running away with me.
I was up early this morning catching up with work and had a quick glance at the paper supplement from yesterday. 
Take the ultimate personality test - always intrigued by these things so I had a quick scan of it.  As usual with me I didn't have time to look closely at them all but picked up on the workaholic test.
I am sorry to confess lovely Readers but I fell well and truly in the bottom section, although I do not agree that I am chained to my desk!  I won't tell you my score as I am too embarrassed but it wasn't good so it is back to the drawing board now in terms of managing my time more efficiently if I want to carry on crafting and blogging. 
I had to go to Liverpool this week on business but managed to pop into John Lewis one of my favourite stores for a coffee.  There was a huge sale on but sadly I didn't have time to have a shop around.  I had a quick dive into the haberdashery department and picked up some small pieces of gorgeous fabric which was all half price - do I need more fabric, of course I do!  Silly question.
I also had to buy these little containers which I thought were so sweet, again half price.  Not sure why I keep telling you they were half price - anyway they are jewellery boxes which all stack together but I just saw them loaded with buttons, fasteners and pins and can't wait to fill them.  My granddaughters will just love filling them up for me.


I think they are just so cute and I know that I will get a lot of pleasure out of them - I have so many buttons as I have collected these for years, at home we always had a button box which was the source of many pleasurable hours just sorting through them with my friends.  What simple delights they were in those days - no computers then.  
I am very conscious that I have so many little delights stored away in boxes in the cupboards so am looking for ways of making them more accessible to me when I am making things as I seem to spend a lot of time searching for buttons, threads and so on.  I have a box of old buttons which I just look at from time to time so I need to get these organised as it is such a shame for them to be put away out of sight. 
Do you love buttons lovely Readers, even when I have knitted things up as gifts I have been loathe to put my old buttons on in case they get lost or thrown away.   Maybe I need some treatment...........
I did try to get in some practise putting in zips.  I had found a little kit from Clothkits which I had bought years ago so decided to have a go at making a little pencil case for my granddaughter.
The pencil case came with a zip and the purse just has a press stud fastening so as time was short (ha ha) I just had a go at the case.  It was very simple to cut out and put together and came with a lining as well.  I followed the instructions to the letter and it came out pretty well.
I felt pretty pleased with the result although the final case could have been a little bit neater.  I know that I have to spend more time on the cutting out and finishing process which I always seem to rush.  Good preparation is the key to all types of craft and this is something I have to work on lovely Readers.  Would be interested to hear from you all with regards to your time management of things, am sure you are much better at it than I am.
Onwards and upwards I thought - after getting home from Liverpool with my gorgeous new fabrics |I was very keen to do some more sewing.  So, after tea (it was getting quite late now so not good news here Readers!), I cut out some fabrics and decided to make a small make up bag with a zip. 
Once I started it I was like a woman possessed and although I was getting very tired and should have had the sense I was born with, I carried on and on and on.  I firstly added some beads to the fabric, then had a dry run of putting the zip in with pins which came out fine.  So, my confidence running high I carried on. 
The result wasn't that good, although if you look at the photography it doesn't look too bad.  I added the small flower the following day.
As you can see one end of the bag is quite neat - I had put in a small piece of fabric to cover the end of the zip and it worked quite well.
Now experienced sewers of a nervous disposition should look away now or go and have a lay down in a darkened room. 
This is the other end which was a complete disaster as you can see - obviously this is not a gift and is staying firmly in my room!  I found fitting in the zip with the machine so fiddly as I couldn't really see what I was doing so was working blind.  It is all a mess.  I also made the mistake of sewing up the lining and the bag and realised that I hadn't put in a line of stitching under the zip to keep both lining and outer fabric flat. 
Lovely Readers I was getting very tired now and fed up with the whole things so decided, quite rightly to go straight to bed and forget about it all.  I had a look at it the next day and had thought about adding a little flower anyway so decided to carry on.  I think it looks sweet, but shame about the finished bag.
The pattern for the flower comes from the Tilda book which I love and have had for years, before I started sewing as the photographs are so gorgeous to look at.  Some people find them quite twee but I have always liked them - what are your views Readers, I would love to know.
I think this bag is so nice, could see me carrying my crochet and knitting projects in this - real cute.
This is the rose pattern I followed but using the smaller of the two - I am going to have a go at the bigger flower as I do find the small one quite fiddly and as you have probably picked up, I am sometimes short on patience.
I did have a go yesterday at a small brooch which came out ok and I quite like it but would prefer the bigger rose.  I am going to set some time aside today lovely Readers and have another go at this - I am determined the crack the zip problem and know it is only practise, practise, practise and then it will all fit together. 
Well lovely Readers it has been a real treat to see you all, I have missed you.  I am going to try and get on with some crafting today and will try and speak to you very soon, I do hate leaving it a week as it is too long.  I do love blogging and have such delight when I read all the many wonderful blogs out there, wish I had more time to write and read all the wonderful stories that are available.
I do hope you have a wonderful day and a good week ahead with some warmth and sunshine and lots of happiness.  Do leave some comments if you have time as I do love to hear from all of you.  Bye for now, lots of love, Dorothy :-)xxxxxxxxx 


Sunday, 16 June 2013

Pork Pie Day

Hello Everyone, I do hope you are all well and happy.  Cannot believe that it is now Sunday already and we are pushing on towards another week - not far from the longest day in the year and yet we still wait for summer here.  I hope you are enjoying a little warmth and sunshine.  Yesterday was so cold and rainy in Shropshire where I went with my eldest Son to make pork pies.
Now lovely readers I think I did mention that I have been a vegetarian for over 40 years now but have cooked meat and fish for my family throughout that time.  At the time I decided to stop eating meat and fish it wasn't so popular in Great Britain as it is now.  I took two years to 'come out' as it was thought of as something quite 'hippy' and people didn't really understand it as well as they do now.  I would just make excuses about not eating meat and fish.  I had little set excuses such as 'Don't feel like meat today, would love some cheese' and so on.  

I can remember telling my GP that I had become a vegetarian.  He was of the very old school and was horrified and told me that I would never be well and would eventually have to revert back to eating meat and fish.  Suffice it to say but he died when he was in his early 50s of a heart attack - he was a heavy smoker and when you visited him for a consultation he would always be smoking a cigar - unbelievable now in this day and age.  He also said that people should take a tot of whiskey every night before going to bed - I have always been teetotal so was not going to survive very long in his eyes.
Anyway, on with the story.  The pork pie making day was held at a lovely Victorian Farm in deepest Shropshire called Acton Scott.  Those readers in Britain may have watched the Victorian Farm series on TV and this is where it was filmed.   The Scott family have long supported environmentally friendly practice in the management of the estate and have chosen to preserve the 19th century skills and knowledge.  It is such a lovely place to visit and you can also stay there in the holiday cottages.  They also offer such a wide range of courses which are all linked to some of the skills we may have lost over the years. 

Our lovely Tutor for the day was Sally who had a wealth of experience and knowledge about cooking and baking.  She was so welcoming and friendly.  What was surprising lovely readers was that, apart from Sally, I was the only female so pork pie making must be a 'man thing'!  There were only six of us on the course which was really nice as we all got so much individual attention from Sally. The recipe we used was one that her great grandmother had used so it was a really family tradition to make pork pies.  Sally had kindly adapted her recipe for us to have a more manageable one to work on.


Sally had provided all the ingredients from the master butcher in Ludlow and told us that although today's palate is more towards the leaner cuts of meat, the pork pie does need some degree of fat to give the flavour it needs.  The anchovy essence also adds saltiness meaning that no salt has to be added to the recipe.   

The meat was then chopped up in a blender and mixed together, although it can be cut by hand, especially if there are larger pieces of meat but it does need to be quite finely cut.

We also chopped and added thyme and sage leaves and this is where Sally suggested that we could eventually make our own recipes to suit our tastes by just experimenting with the herbs we used.

After mixing all of this together and getting what Sally called - a real pork pie smell to the meat - we started on the pastry.  Now I had just assumed that the pastry would be similar to other pastries and would be rolled out and shaped.  However, the pork pie pastry uses hot crust pastry which I have never used before.

We had to weigh out some lard and then put it into a pan of cold water.  This was then heated up gently until the lard had dissolved and then added, very quickly before it cooled, into the plain flour.  We all stirred the lard and water into the flour and the dough formed very quickly.  We then had to manipulate it with our hands to get the right consistency and then divide it into four portions.  From each portion we took a walnut sized piece out for the top of the pie.  If you look at the photograph I think they look like potatoes!
We then had to quickly shape the dough whilst it was still warm into cup shaped pieces and fill with the meat.  An egg wash applied to the edges of the pie and then the top placed on and stretched to cover the whole pie.  After that the egg wash is then reapplied to all the pie.  This procedure was done with all the four pies and they were ready for the oven!
As we had to wait for the pies to cook Sally suggested that we break for lunch and have a walk around the farm if we wished.  The lovely little café is the old schoolhouse which the children from the estate would attend.  It is so cute and hardly seems possible that such a small number of children would attend their own school.   The door at the back of the school was just so nice.
The wall plaque was dated from 1937 to 1946 and showed the names of some of the pupils from the school and where they eventually went after leaving. There was also a plan of the school showing the exact layout as it was.  This is where we had our lunch.
These were some of the children who were attending, it didn't have a date on the photograph unfortunately but judging from their clothes it would appear to be the 1940s, what you do think lovely Readers? 

The top photograph is the picture of the school and it looks exactly the same today, the lower photograph is obviously taken much earlier than the previous one - not sure what date that would be - any ideas?
After a delicious lunch of quiche and potatoes and a large slice of Victoria sponge cake we both went back to see how our pies were going on.  The lovely Sally had stayed in the kitchen and looked after everyone's pies as they were cooking. 
The next part of the procedure entailed putting in the jelly - I had thought that this would go in at the time of cooking but it is added later when the pies have cooled.  This obviously makes more sense to me now but I hadn't really thought of it before.  The original recipe for the jelly was made up of pork bones, pigs trotters, onion, carrot, parsley, celery, black pepper corns, thyme, bay leaves and cloves.  However, Sally suggested that we use leaf gelatine which can be bought in the cake making section of any of the large supermarkets.  This can be made up with stock or water. 
I hadn't realised why pork pies were constructed as they were.  Sally told us that, historically, pork pies were made to use up all the scraps of  meat which were left over and couldn't be used for anything else.  These were all put together and baked in small pies, however, the men found that carrying them in their bags when they were walking to work meant that the motion of the meat rattling around inside the  pie then cracked the pie crust and the whole thing would just fall apart.  They came up with the fabulous idea of putting a seal of gelatine around the meat to cushion it and keep the pie intact!  Well I thought that this was just ingenious and it obviously worked as they have been around such a long time

I wasn't able to get any photographs of this procedure, sorry, as it had to be done quickly and my hands were rather greasy!  It doesn't look very appetising in the photograph but Sally assured us all they would be delicious - I have to take Sally's word for that.
A tiny hole is made in the top section of the pie and small amounts of the jelly poured slowly in, allowing it to sink in and set.  This takes a little time to do.  Once the jelly is inside the pies have to be left for 24 hours before they can be eaten, or if you don't wish to have the jelly in then you can leave them as they are and they can be eaten straight away.  My Son decided to leave one pie without the jelly so he could have his for tea!
Would you like to see the pies everyone?  Here we go
Now, although they don't look like the normal shape of a pork pie, Sally suggested that they were more attractive because of their rather rustic look - not sure, would love to hear from you on this.
She had kindly made a couple of her own pies the previous evening and these were shared out between everyone (except me of course) for a taster session with a lovely cup of tea.  Together with, the most delicious lemon cake (my second piece of cake in a day folks, not good for my waistline) - I didn't manage to get a photograph as everyone was busy eating.........
We had the most fantastic day and I am really looking forward to her next course later in the year.  Sally was a really welcoming and highly experienced tutor and I learned so much from her yesterday, so a big thank you to Sally.  Next time I will hopefully get a photograph of her to show you. 
Now lovely readers I am sure you think I am neglecting my work here - I promise that although time is tight at the moment with my full time work I am cracking on with my projects.  I have said that there are some which are gifts so won't show you yet but I am working on a little present for a dear friend and am making progress.   So to show you all that I am still keen and conscientious in my work here is a photograph as evidence......
Well lovely Readers, I have to leave you now as my other work beckons unfortunately and I have deadlines for tomorrow that I have to meet.  The sun is starting to break through outside in the garden but I must stay in here and get on with my other jobs.  I do hope you are all having a wonderful Sunday and a Happy Father's Day to all you Dads all over the world.  Have a pleasant evening and an even better Monday than usual.  It was, as always, so lovely to have you call by and visit me.  I hope you will come back soon and leave a comment if you can.  Lots of love, Dorothy :-)xxxxxxxxx