Friday, 29 July 2011

Coffee fabric for Spoonflower contest

This weeks Spoonflower contest takes the theme of coffee as the starting point, a popular subject if ever there was one! The design restrictions were to only use 3 colours in your fabric. 

My attempt is a sort of whimsical collection of coffee beans, all my illustrations feature a coffee bean shape within them, and underneath each pic is a coffee related name.

I haven't voted yet as there are a lot of entries to wade through this week so be warned if you go for a look. My internet connection is poor at the best of times but it has been even more slow and painful over the last 24hrs so I'll have to vote when I feel in a more patient mood as I'm getting frustrated with the computer!

Strawberry eco bag

I seem to have had a few strawberry themed posts recently, so continuing with that, here is a pic of a little fold up strawberry eco bag which I picked up in Tesco this morning. They had bananas too, I'm not sure if they had apples as I would like one of those also.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Lavender bag fabric fish

Earlier in the year I was in a gallery gift shop with a friend and she saw some knitted fish which she liked, they were quite groovy and urban looking, done in metallic threads. I flippantly said something like 'I'll make you one for your birthday' rather than paying the huge price tag on them!

Anyway about 5 months on and with my friends birthday rapidly approaching in August, the knitted fish isn't exactly happening! There was little chance of me knitting one with my skills but I thought if I could find a pattern for a crocheted fish then at least I stood a chance. My search for a crochet fish pattern has proved unsuccessful so I set about Plan B, a fabric fish. 
I thought I'd stuff it with lavender and then at least it has a purpose as there may be some disappoint when she opens the pressie and finds no knitted fish staring back at her!

So here's my fish, I used an old calendar tea towel for the back and highlighted her birthdate in embroidery silk. The front is a recycled tray cloth with a few embellishments added.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

the Jam label

After all the faffing making the jam I had fun making the labels today.
In homage to one of my favourite groups I present The Jam labels, 'this is the modern jam'!

My first attempt at jam making

The last 48hrs have seen me in full blown jam making mode.
So impressed was I with the flavour of the strawberries I picked in Driffield last week, that I was determined to go again and make jam to preserve that flavour of summer.

After a lot of rain last week I wasn't sure what state the strawberry field would be in but non the less I went down on Sunday afternoon and it was fairly dry under foot. Optimistically I took a large punnet but it was a bit of a struggle as the strawberries were nearing an end. I had hoped there would be enough left to be selective so I could pick uniform small sized ones for the jam but I had to pick any size that looked ripe and even then I didn't fill the punnet.

So I returned home with about 800g for jam making and some spare to eat.

That evening I prepared the strawberries, opting for the leave overnight layered in sugar method to give me a head start the next morning.

The next morning I enthusiastically popped my strawberries in sugar into the pan along with my lemon juice and started to heat slowly to dissolve the sugar. All was going well.

However, the aga wasn't hot enough to get a rapid boil so I transfered to a camping stove and soon there was a lovely pink froth and a sweet smell in the air. I think at that point I realised my cooking pot might not be big enough so I transferred to another pan and put it back on the aga as it was now frothing too much.

Not long and disaster struck, I looked away for a minute and the jam boiled over, the above picture is after I cleaned all the sticky mess up! All I could smell then was burnt jam! 
After the allocated boiling time I tried the set test on a chilled saucer and nothing, it was as runny as water still. 

It was on and off the boil on both camping stove and aga for the next hour trying to get the stuff to set. I was rapidly losing enthusiasm and the strawberries had begun to lose their shape. 
I took the decision if it wasn't set I'd try some more another day and try the pectin method and I'd just bottle up what I had made and call it a sauce!

About 3 hrs after starting, here is the jam bottled.

I can happily reveal that after it cooled, I had some that night for supper and it had set quite well but more importantly it tasted good. Yippee, all was not lost!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Blaenavon & local produce

Finally, the last day of my Wales trip was rather nice and I visited the world heritage site at Blaenavon, also on Escape to the Country this evening.

What an amazing place, high up on the Brecon Beacons. Full of history about coal mining and the ironworks. There's a great visitor centre with spectacular views across the valley and it has an art gallery above (It was full of fabric work as you can see below).

You can wander for free, in the restored workers' cottages in the grounds of the ironworks. The interiors have been done very sympathetically, it certainly makes you think what a hard life these people had.

The town of Blaenavon has a real mix of architecture, rows of neat terraced houses and some really quite grand town buildings.
I also found a cheese maker, how convenient was that for a foodie like me! The couple who own the shop are passionate about cheese and they happily explained all the history and inspiration behind their fabulous cheeses. I was in my element tucking into the generous tray of samples and I came away with some Oak Smoked cheddar which is smoked in one of the old mine shafts 300ft below ground. I also got Dragons Breath which is cheddar blended with chilli mustard and ale, and my final choice (you get 3 of these rounds for £10) was Blaenafon Cheddar which has the Penderyn Welsh Whisky blended in it with chunks of ginger. These cheeses are amazing, the depth of flavour and the ingredients you can taste in every mouthful is something quite special, beautiful texture too.

If you want to enjoy it too you can buy from them online so check out the link

Tintern & Hay on Wye

I was watching Escape to the Country tonight and they were in Monmouthshire, which reminded me to finish recording my pics of Wales.

Two of my favourite subjects in this post, you guessed it... food and books!

I'll start with Tintern, lovely little place on the banks of the Wye with the stunning Tintern Abbey but I didn't manage any pics of the abbey as the car park was too full to stop. 

However if you need a snack you must seek out the tea rooms at The Old Station in Tintern. You can eat inside the old waiting room or if the weather is nice, outside on the platform.
I had a feast with the Station Masters Platter, the cheese was lovely and there was homemade bread & tomato relish. A good hearty plate full but by no means stodgy.
Something this place is known for is its Lavender cake so I couldn't resist and it was lovely, not too flowery, just the right balance.

A very pleasant place and after you've eaten there is a nice little walk to do along the side of the river and the old railway line.

Hay on Wye is somewhere I've only driven through once when it was the book festival and it was just a crazy, busy place with nowhere to park.
This time was different, finally got a look around but as it was late in the afternoon the visit was brief. I couldn't believe the amount of bookshops, just books everywhere. Most of the shops I went in had shelf upon shelf of dusty books, out of stock books, you name it!

The Hay cinema bookshop was a place on many floors and where you could easily get lost, it was like being in a strange library. 
The Castle bookshop was a quirky old building, all musty and dusty and crumbling inside, reminds me of where I'm living! Outside, in the bottom picture, there are bookcases full of stuff they are more or less giving away, they have an honesty box for these books. I guess the books stay out in all weather judging by the state of some of them.
Interesting place.

Mollie Makes - Issue 3

I've had issue 3 of Mollie Makes for a fortnight and I'm still enjoying flicking through it, yet again, another brilliant issue. I think I've lost interest in any other magazine I used to buy since this has come on the scene.

It brims with innovative ideas and often sews the seeds for new ideas to spring off the back of features which I find very inspiring.

This time I have really enjoyed the Fairytale Stitches embroidery and have made 2 little pouches. There's a Red Riding Hood pouch to hold tissues which I've done for my friends birthday so hope she's not reading this! I've also done a lavender pouch for my nanna who is 101 next month.

When I get time I'd like to try some more crochet flowers and have a go at one of the little felt doggies.

Spoonflower skirt contest

I think I set my sights too high in this contest as only 60 people entered compared to often about 130 entries. I had hoped to come within the top 20 but I came 20th out of the 60. Fairly respectable I suppose.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Wet summer

Well I'm glad I stayed in and didn't venture out to the Driffield show as the weather has been torrential. I saw the local news coverage at lunchtime and it's looking like a washout with estimated numbers down by about 10,000 which is a shame. I think we must have had our months worth of rain in the last hour.

My pictures are looking out onto a normally gravelled drive but it's looking more like a lake at present!
Could this be yet another wet summer!

Driffield Show

Today is the 136th Driffield Show. I was playing it by ear whether to go or not based on the weather but I think I"ll give it a miss. What with the torrential rain yesterday and the predicted heavy showers again today, I fear the fields could turn into a mud bath and I don't really do mud very well!
I'll wish all the best to my networking friends who are having stalls.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Networking on the farm

Last night was what we call our Summer Social networking evening, our last before we take a break to resume in September.
Our hosts were Heather & Lynnda. We met at Heathers farm where she runs the Calf House Studios, it's like a mini artists community, they've renovated stables and outbuildings into lovely little studio units where Lynnda has her stamping emporium.

On the farm they are currently pea vining 24 hrs a day, there was a lovely smell of peas in the air and Heather had made some delicious pea dips for us to dunk things in. We had a fascinating tour of the farm and studios, hearing the history about the place as it's been in Heathers family for centuries. And although not summery, we didn't get rained on!

We then made for Lynnda's studio and she gave us a demo to stamp and texture some card and make an inspirational fridge magnet. Then we got stuck into the inks and stamps and made our own. I think they look really effective, good fun to make.

Finished the evening with a bit more networking, catching up with old friends and nibbling more pea dip!

These are some of my artworks of Calf House Studios, Heather uses the green one as their logo.
Bottom photo is my inspirational magnet.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Spoonflower - fabric & contest

Yippee, a bit more Spoonflower fabric has arrived this morning. I had some of my artwork printed onto a fat quarter, I'm hoping I got the size right and that I can cut out the little artworks and use them as a front panel for an ipod or iphone case.
I've also tried my butterfly design on a different colour background to enhance the pale coloured butterflies.

I've entered this weeks Spoonflower contest which was to design a skirt cut and sew pattern to fit on a yard of fabric. I have created a child's skirt as a yard didn't give me enough material for the sort of adult skirt I wanted to do. Voting starts tonight.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


It's funny how things just happen unexpectedly. 
I popped out late this afternoon with a pile of post, most of it work related and one parcel following a sale in my Folksy shop. I decided to walk past the fruit shop to see if they had any strawberries as I have half a carton of cream wasting in the fridge. Well, it was after 4pm and the fruit shop had packed up for the day.
So, dilemma, do I go home and not have a pudding tonight or should I see if the pick your own field has any picked.

No pudding was not an option so I called by the strawberry field, I've never been in the 3 years I've lived here but I've heard they are supposed to be good. The lady in the shed had quite a few punnets picked but it turns out to be £1 cheaper if you pick yourself so despite the grey sky off I went.

Slightly concerned at first because I thought the punnet was too big and I'd be there all night. Also wondered why the few other people picking were way off in the distance as if they'd found the best ones and there were none near where I was at the entrance. Anyway I soon started finding some, quite small at first and then I got a bit more adventurous seeking out the big ones. It was really rather satisfying and fun and I can honestly say I only ate 3, just to test the quality. They seemed very nice and in 26 mins I had filled my kilo punnet which I thought wasn't bad going as I haven't done this since I was a kid. Just got back before it rained, excellent timing!

Tonight I've tried them with black pepper which was also a first for me, really delicious. I have to say these are some of the tastiest and most fragrant strawberries I've had in years. I don't think the hydroponic ones are a patch on the field ones.

It's been a bit of a strawberry related week here as my nanna was featured in the local paper as being probably the oldest strawberry picker in England as she nears her 101st birthday next month. She still goes picking to a local farm where she turns the strawberries into her award winning jam. Following the newspaper coverage, our local ITV news programme has been to visit her and filmed her doing the picking and then with her jam, cakes and bread she still makes. I hope I'm still making and doing at that age!

This has got me thinking that I might try making some jam now I've found a great strawberry field. Ah, that is assuming the oven will be hot enough to boil it!