Dough!

A few weeks ago, before we were all confined to barracks, I decided that it would be interesting to have a go at making sourdough bread. It takes a while to get the starter in a usable state and my first attempt just didn’t work – ending up watery and smelling rather unpleasant. Attempt number two was much more of a success and I have been carefully nurturing my lovely culture for a couple of weeks now. And then yesterday I noticed that it had gone mad and was bubbling out of it’s jar. So, the time was right to give it a go. I wanted to start simple and so I settled on a white loaf.

There’s mixing and kneading and leaving it to prove twice before finally knocking it back, shaping it in a basket and leaving it overnight in the refrigerator. after all the investment in time, I was itching to find out what it would be like. And the result? Delicious – a wonderful light loaf, not at all sour, but with a different taste to yeasted bread and a great texture. The next challenge is to keep the starter (now transferred to a much bigger jar) happy long-term and to experiment with some other flavours.

The recipe I worked from was in the Shipton Mill book A handful of flour. The starter is made with 1/5 wholewheat flour and 4/5 strong white flour, mixed with the same weight of water. I fed it every day for over a week, then every couple of days for another 10 days or so.

I like yeasted bread, but this is a rather good alternative – and how bread was originally made before commercial yeast was available. I’m really taken with the idea that every culture is unique because it’s the result of the person who makes it and the place and the specific conditions as well as the ingredients selected. So my sourdough will taste different to that made by anyone else – how great is that? Do you have experience of making sourdough?

Mend It Monday #7

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

Last week I started darning a second sock and that has now been completed. It’s a rare sock for me because I didn’t originally knit it myself, but it’s so comfy inside walking boots, that I really wanted it to last a bit longer. Anyway, once I’d started, it didn’t take long to make it usable again.

The embroidery problem that I mentioned last week was kindly solved by my friend Lizzie (thank you so much Lizzie), who sent me some black and yellow embroidery floss so that I could work a bee design over a hole in one of Mr Snail’s sweatshirts. When I came to look at it, there were two holes, so he’s got two bees. He’s threatening to make more holes in it, so he gets more bees! First I sewed around the edges of the holes to stabilse them, then it’s simple satin stitch to cover the holes, a running stitch “trail” and back stitch wings. The orientation of the bees is defined by the hole itself.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

Mend It Monday #6

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

I’m afraid it’s more darning this week. I was intending to do some visible mending involving some embroidery, but when I looked at my thread, I discovered that a key colour was missing. As I’m sure you’ll understand, just popping out to get the colour that I want is not possible right now, so that project has had to be put on hold (and may, in the longer term, be re-designed on the basis of the colours that I do have).

Anyway, there always seem to be socks to darn. There was a pair of Mr Snail’s colourful socks, knitted by me as well as hole in some thick socks I wear with my walking boots. The latter is a work in progress, but the former are all mended.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

Mend It Monday #5

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

This week I finished repairing the cardigan that I darned last week. Once the holes were repaired, I moved on to the frayed cuffs. In fact the fraying wasn’t too bad, only affecting the very ends of the sleeves, but sorting the issue out now will save a much more difficult mend later.

I started by reinforcing the frayed edge, so that it wouldn’t fray anymore, catching any free stitches to avoid ladders forming. Then I worked a row of blanket stitch around each cuff, a couple of centimetres in from the end. I used these stitches as the foundation for crocheting new cuffs. I worked two rows of double crochet, then three rows of treble crochet so that the work was long enough to fold over the original end of the sleeve and enclose the raggedy ends. Although the original cuffs were cream, I decided that black would actually be much more practical. I used sock yarn, so it should be robust and, hopefully, last a good few more years.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

ScrapHappy March 2020

The other day Mr Snail asked whether we had any greetings cards in the stash and when I ferreted them out I discovered that, whilst we did have some made by other artists, there were very few left from my last scrappy card-making session. So, I dug out a random pile of scraps in the hope that inspiration would strike.

Perhaps there’s some left-over inspiration in amongst this lot

During my last card-making session I had started to experiment with sewing paper and fabric together, and I want to continue to explore this. One reason is that, by sewing, I can avoid using glue, much of which is not very environmentally friendly. If I only use natural fibres, my cards will be completely compostable.

I discovered three leaf skeletons and I know that these always look effective on cards. One problem with working with paper is that you can’t pin it in place, but the clips that I use for bag making did the trick , as you can see in the picture below. I stitched the leaves onto fabric scraps (two bits were furnishing fabric samples and one a scrap from a very old dressmaking project – so old, I no longer have the dress!). Next these were sewn onto handmade paper scraps and then finally onto some folded card. By working in layers, only the last round of stitching is visible inside the card, and it doesn’t look too untidy The fourth card was simply made by framing a scrap of snail fabric using some strips of handmade paper. I’m less happy with this card than the others as it’s a bit wonky, but it has all been a bit of a learning exercise and the card will get used anyway – after all, it’s unique.

I had hoped to make more than four cards, but time got away from me, so there may be more next month.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate,  Tall Tales from Chiconia. On the fifteenth of every month lots of other folks often publish a ScrapHappy post, do check them out:

KateGun, TittiHelĂ©neEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan (me)Karen,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Sue and Sunny

If you fancy joining, contact Kate and she’ll add you to the list. It would be lovely to see more non-sewing posts, but any use of scraps is welcome.

Mend It Monday #4

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

After telling you about a cardigan that I don’t like in my last post, today I want to tell you about one that I really love… and that I have really loved for about 30 years. I am pretty sure that I bought it when I was a postgraduate student, and I haven’t been one of those for 29 years, so it can’t be younger than that. Anyway, it has started to show signs of its age and a couple of weeks ago I noticed a large hole and some smaller ones in one of the sleeves. Originally I thought I’d crochet a flower to cover the big hole, but then I discovered that I have some cotton yarn that matches the cream (also cotton) and thought that I would stabilise the holes first. Having done this, I’m going to leave this particular mend alone, as it has worked so well.

I am not, however, finished with this cardigan, as the cuffs are starting to fray, so more work is required before I feel ready to wear it again. If I notice any worn patches after that, I think I will add some black crochet flowers or leaves, as they would be fun to make.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

A long time coming

One of my current goals is to end the year with fewer unfinished projects than I began it with. Several of the items that I have on the go have been hanging around for absolutely ages and there are various reasons that they have been put aside: sometimes I’ve got bored, sometimes I’ve realised that I don’t really like/need the thing I’m making, sometimes I’m awaiting inspiration/supplies, sometimes it’s just a long-term project (like the sofa covers) and sometimes it’s because something more interesting has come along and distracted me. One of my abandoned projects, however, was put aside because the pattern I was following was just so badly written.

I started crocheting this cardigan to wear for a friend’s wedding several years ago. I didn’t manage to finish in time, but I battled on with a less than easy pattern until I came to the edging up the front and around the neck. And then the pattern made no sense – I asked other people what they thought and no one understood it, so I contacted the designer, asking if she could send a picture or diagram showing how the motifs were put together. Her reply basically told me to fiddle around until it worked… easier said than done because the very small motifs were crocheted together, with the final joining round constituting a large part of each piece, so I couldn’t make them all and then try to assemble them like a jigsaw. In the end, it was abandoned.

I did revisit it, thinking I might be able to use a different approach with snail-like spiral motifs that I could sew together, but I hit problems again and so, once more it was put aside… until this year. And this year I am determined not to be beaten by any project… so I had a re-think. I looked at the cardigan and looked at it and looked at it. I realised what a very strange design it was and that I would need to use a completely different method if I was actually ever going to finish it.

So, I crocheted rows to fill the gap at the top of the back that was supposed to be filled with flower motifs that didn’t fit. Then I worked around the bottom edge, up one side, round the back and down the other side, until the front edges met, before adding a buttonhole band on one side and a button band on the other and finishing with a small shawl collar. I used some antique glass buttons that I’ve had for ages, to give a nod to the flower motifs that were supposed to characterise this cardigan (and do still run up the centre of the back). Currently it’s pinned out on the blocking mats, as the edges were rather untidy and crumpled and when I put it on Mimi it didn’t hang well.

I’m not sure, now it’s finished, that I actually like it – it looks rather frumpy – but it’s pure wool and therefore warm, so it will be fine to wear around the house if nothing else. Plus it is actually finished and so that’s one fewer project lurking out of sight.

Watch this space for more finished projects as the year progresses (there are lots of them).

Mend It Monday #3

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

Something woolly again this week. A long time ago I made slippers for myself and Mr Snail. They have been mended a number of times already, and this week it was the turn of Mr Snail’s; they were in a sorry state:

I started by darning the worst of the holes to provide some structure, and then crocheted some circles to provide good thick soles under the heel and ball of the foot and these will, hopefully last another year or so.

The yarn I used for the repairs is the stuff they make Axminster carpets out of, so it is really hard-wearing. Even so, slippers that get worn every day need lots of attention to keep them going and I’m really pleased to be able to extend their life this way.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

Mend It Monday #2

“If it’s not worth mending, it’s not worth buying” …

Overlocked

This week I have a couple of mends to share. The first is a very simple seam repair. I’ve had this vest top for about 30 years and this is the first mend that it has needed. I really like the fit and I’m thinking of using it as the basis for a pattern to make a couple more. Anyway, it’s fully functional once more.

Then we move on to something I rather enjoy mending, but don’t own myself: jeans. I love the fact that denim lends itself so well to boro mending, but I detest wearing jeans. Fortunately jeans are Mr Snail’s preferred leg-wear, so there are plenty to keep me going. He’s quite happy for the mending to be visible, so I chose a red thread for this mend:

I also noticed that the bottoms of the legs of this pair of jeans were fraying and one had a split, so some quick zigzagging on my sewing machine and a bit of overlocking, and they were tidy again.

So, have you mended anything this week? If you’ve written a post about mending recently, do share a link to it – I love to see how other people manage to extend the lives of the things they own.

93 not out

Before Christmas Mr Snail decided that he’d like to learn to sew his own clothes. It all started when a kit arrived with the pattern and all the bits and bobs required to make a pair of boxer shorts. I’d ordered it because I fancied having a go and the pattern looked good (and had got good reviews). I opened the parcel and there was a little box, with the fateful words “A beginner’s sewing kit…” on the outside. “Ooh,” said Mr Snail “could I make these?”. Well, I really couldn’t say no, because a quick glance at the pattern suggested that they were quite straightforward.

Practice

The main issue was that Mr Snail had never used a sewing machine before, but he was convinced that it couldn’t be very different from playing race cars on his PS4 (which has foot pedals and a steering wheel). I did point out that if he makes a mistake in a video game, no one gets hurt, but that sewing your own finger is extremely painful. Nevertheless, he was sure that he would be fine… and so I gave him some scraps and let him play with my Bernina. Apparently, it turns out, a sewing machine is a lot more scary than a video game and nowhere near as enjoyable. So, we had a rethink…

Fortunately, my family owns a Singer 99K… we’ve had it from new (1927ish) and at least three generations of us have learned to sew using it. So, Sister of Snail dropped it off and, after some oiling and fiddling, we got it running ok (although it wasn’t as smooth as last time I used it, about 25 years ago). It really is much more difficult to sew your own finger with this machine, as you have to put all the effort in yourself, so Mr Snail was much happier.

I guided him through the cutting and construction, and he was able to make his own boxer shorts. A rather impressive first project in my opinion.

Anyway, I was a bit unhappy with the way the machine was running, so we decided to get it serviced. I was pretty sure that the tension spring needed replacing and the presence of an experienced Singer servicing/repair shop just down the road from the flat in Reading seemed like an opportunity too good to miss. On its return, this lovely old machine is running like a dream and Mr Snail has been able to complete a second project using it (which I’m sure he’ll blog about soon).

I’m so happy that our 93-year-old machine is still going strong, and still being used to produce garments. My mum says she thinks it was originally bought by my great auntie Dolly, who was a dancer and used it to make her costumes. I just wish I had some pictures of her wearing some of the things she made. Let’s hope it’s still going strong in another 93 years.

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