Thursday, June 24, 2010

See what happens

when you're inspired by a good book? You start cutting little squares of fabric
and combine them with linen to make a gift for a friend...

but then you can't stop. You HAVE to make another.
You choose different fabrics, play with the sizes and you
fall in love with the look of linen and patchwork.
Still, you can't stop. Sewing. Changing dimensions. Adding a strap.

Can you see what happens when you get inspired by a good book?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fold'n Roll Tote

I've figured out a different way to make my simple shopping tote design more compact. The idea is to make it easier to have several of these totes along for shopping, minus the crazy tangle of long straps and balled up totes I currently have to deal with. The aim is to simplify the chaos. ;o)
See that pocket on the front of the tote?
That pocket works similar to a napkin ring, only in this case it works like a band to constrain that tote! No stuffing that large tote into the pocket. The tote is simply folded into thirds behind the pocket and the two ends of the pocket are snapped together to make this:

it's a fold and roll procedure. I'm going to give this design idea a test run at the grocery store tonight. If it passes the "test", I'm going to be adding these special pockets to the next batch of grocery totes I make.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cardstock + fabric scraps =

creative fun! June is a busy month for birthdays, at least for many of the loved ones in my life and the best reason for me to dive into my stash. ;o) I love making and giving handmade gifts. Although I'm still waiting for some handmade gifts to reach their new homes before sharing pics on my blog, I figured it's safe to show the cards I've made.

Finding a way to use even the tiniest scrap of pretty fabric always makes me happy and you know I love anything involving patchwork.

I'm also loving simple applique for cards. How about this bonus? I'm using machine needles that no longer are the best for fabric - extending their usefulness - by saving them for stitching on cardstock.

I'm seriously rethinking ever purchasing ready made cards again! I have plans to stitch a stash of scrappy fabric cards to have on hand for any occasion. More personal to give and a great way to get extra pleasure from pretty bits of fabric.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bake Me Something Good... Homemade Bread - Step by Step

I love homemade bread. I bake bread, sometimes a couple of times, every week, so I thought I'd give a bread making tutorial. My husband is wondering why I'm sharing a recipe instead of a sewing project on my "sewing" blog... a valid question, but hoping you will find this useful as I do get asked for this recipe.

Warning: this post is picture heavy (I may have got carried away testing out my new digital camera).

Can I tempt you you into giving this easy, yummy bread recipe a try?...
Oatmeal Whole Grain Bread

1 &3/4 cup boiling water

3/4cup rolled oats

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 oil (I use extra virgin olive oil)

1 & 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Combine all these ingredients into a medium sized, heat proof bowl. While this mixture is cooling, start your yeast in a small bowl.
1/2 cup warm water (between 90 to 115 F is the optimal temp)

1 Tbsp. dry activated yeast

2 tsp. sugar OR 1 tsp. honey/agave syrup/maple syrup (I usually use one of these & not sugar)
*** Sprinkle the yeast into the water AFTER you have stirred the sweetener in. Do not "dump" the yeast in as it will clump in the water. You want the individual grains to each be moistened, so that's why you should sprinkle the yeast in.***
This is how the yeast will look if you sprinkle it into the sweetened water. Note that some grains are floating, while others sank to the bottom.
Let the yeast ferment for up to 10 minutes. It will foam up as it feeds off the sugar. You want it to do this. If your yeast doesn't do this after several minutes, you may need to start this step over. I've had the yeast fail to ferment for different reasons. Here are some to consider:

1. water temp. was too hot (killed the yeast)

2. water temp. was too cold and the yeast won't respond

3. the yeast itself may be too old (past its use by date)

4. used water that was too chlorinated (killed the yeast)
Once the yeast has fermented, you are ready to add it to the first bowl of ingredients (containing the now softened rolled oats).
Stir this all together with a wooden spoon, to mix it well.
Now you're ready to start adding flour!

I use whole wheat flour OR whole grain spelt flour with equally successful results.
Start by stirring in 2 cups of flour, mixing it thoroughly. Then continue adding flour at the rate of a 1/2 cup at a time - stirring with each addition.
The dough will get stiffer with each addition of flour. Mix with the spoon until it's too difficult to manage and then you'll be mixing the flour into the dough with your hand.
I use the heel of my hands to work the flour into the dough.
You can't overwork bread dough, so don't be shy! You really want to push down with the heel of your hand to get the flour worked into the dough. Do not add more flour until your hands start sticking to the dough - otherwise you may find you've added more flour than you actually need.
I usually find that in total I may have used 4-5 cups of whole wheat or whole spelt flour to make the dough. I stop adding flour when the dough is just slightly sticky to touch.
Now that you have a firm and slightly sticky dough formed from all that kneading, you are ready to shape the dough into a ball. After forming it into a ball, put a good tablespoon's worth of olive oil (or vegetable oil) into the bottom of your mixing bowl. Roll the dough in the oil to give a nice coating to keep it from sticking to the bowl and the covering cloth while it rises.
I like to set my dough on top of my stove (burners are all off, of course!) to rise until the dough doubles in size (apprx. 45 - 60minutes). It's important to cover the dough for this step and to keep it in a warm, draft free spot.

Below, you can see I have two batches of this bread rising at the same time - in two different sized bowls.
This is my dough when it's risen to roughly double its original size.
A closer view shows the dough has expanded in size and is ready to be formed into loaves.
Before handling my dough, I prepare my bread pans. I liberally brush olive oil over the sides and bottom of my bread pans before putting the dough into them.
Using a sharp knife, I cut the dough into equal halves, as this recipe makes enough for 2 loaves.
I stretch each portion of the dough lengthwise and then fold up each short end.
Next, I fold the long edges towards the middle pressing the dough in on itself and covering up the fold I first made on the short ends.
The underside of the loaf is the side which I have been folding and pressing under. When you turn the dough over, you will see that it looks smooth and rounded in comparison. This rounded side will be the top of your loaf, when placed in the loaf pan.
Here's my dough, shaped into loaves and placed into the greased pans.
Once again, I place the dough to rise on the top of my stove. On really cool days, I have my oven set on about 200F to give extra warmth and encourage the dough to rise. It's again important to cover the dough with a clean cloth and leave it undisturbed for the time it takes to rise.
After an hour of rising, this is what my loaves looked like. In the final 10 minutes of rising, I preheat my oven to 350F.

(Again, I'm showing loaves made from 2 batches of dough).
Bake the loaves on the middle rack of the oven at 350F for 35minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and let cool on baking racks.

Carefully remove the loaves from the pans.

Enjoy! **Pyrex pans seem to need time to cool a bit before bread can successfully be removed from them. A little time with the pans set on their sides, like I show above, allows condensation to form, which in turn makes the loaves easy to remove from the pans.

Friday, June 18, 2010

My side of the swap

I can now show you what I made for Janelle - without it spoiling the surprise. Happily, my swap package to her has arrived.
Janelle loves Babushka dolls and I love the Rose bags she makes - we had the makings of a fun swap. I decided a handmade card featuring one of her beloved dolls would fit the bill.

Janelle also mentioned that she likes selvedges. Yep. A girl after my own heart. ;o) It seemed to me that I needed (you know me and my penchant for bag making) to make a bag to put the Babushka dolls into and this is what I came up with...

a fun way to use those selvedges!

The bag is quilted,

trimmed with self-made piping and lined with Kaffe Fassett fabric.

* The design for this bag is from Denise Clason's book, Quilted Bags and Totes. *

Here are the Babushka girls I made for Janelle in 'shabby chic' colours,

with a wee bit of selvedge to this doll.

The fabric combination on each doll varies,

but each has brown hair (like Janelle's real family).

Here they are for their 'group' photo. I hear that they're happily settled into their new home. ;o)

Thanks again for swapping with me Janelle!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I don't care if it's raining

because I received some "sunshine" in my mailbox today. Look at what Janelle sent:

a beautiful, handmade Rose bag (isn't it gorgeous???? and she let me chose the yummy chocolate colour - it will go with lots in my wardrobe), a bundle of selvedges (yay!), a sweet little babushka key chain AND a cute bag pattern (I now have my very first Rosalie Quinlan design pattern!).
Can I tell you how much fun swapping is? This was a private swap that Janelle approached me about (after I was on her blog drooling over the bags she makes) and I'm so happy she suggested it. I'm continually amazed at how blogging has given me the opportunity to share and get to make friends nearby and from around the world.
~Thank you Janelle for the generous swap - I'm delighted with each and every goody you sent. Talk about brightening my day!
** Has anyone else been having issues with Blogger??? I've been experiencing trouble today - I struggled to get even one photo uploaded. Pity, because I had more shots to show of Janelle's lovely bag. Maybe I'll try again later... at least with this shot you get a glimpse of what bounty I received.**

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bright, easy baby quilt

The whole idea for making this simple baby quilt came from seeing a strip of pieced flannels in the scrap bundle I received last month from Jacqueline. Feeling inspired, I took that scrap strip, squared it up and sewed it with the coordinating flannels I found at my local fabric store.

One side of the quilt is a meter and a half (or apprx. 60 inches) cut of Sandi Henderson's Farmer's Market
and the other side uses the pieced strip with a solid pink flannel. Now as quick and easy as the piecing went, it took me a little thinking time to figure out how to quilt it. I came up with a continuous, large flower design. Here you can see a close-up of my quilting.

I used a variegated pink thread to freehand machine quilt flowers to cover the baby quilt (along with a few intervals of stipple quilting to cover the corners and quilt edges).Once I had finished the quilt completely, I tossed it into the washing machine. Normally, I pre wash all my fabrics before starting, but not this time. The last two photos along with the first photo in this post show the quilt after I washed it. The fabrics shrank a bit but thankfully, in a good way. I love the softer, crinkly look it now has. Can you see how much more texture the quilt has when compared with the middle photos?

I just need to add a quilt label and this gift is ready to be given to the new sweet baby girl of a friend.
I'm slowly getting my "gifts to sew list" whittled down. I have more gift sewing to share, stay tuned. ;o)
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