Friday, 27 January 2017

Fancy Pants Pot Plant Mat

That's a helluva title for a mat to live up to! Well I have had this thought in my mind for a while now that I would like to do this inlaid effect on felt. It happens a lot in the woodworking world and I wondered if it might be possible with textiles.

Turns out the answer is an emphatic yes! It does work with a few caveats. You have to use a reasonable quality wool felt and make sure that when you choose the two colours of felt that they are the same thickness. Other than that, it is actually quite easy.

I found a cute little leaf die in my never ending stash from Sizzix. It is from the magnetic Movers and Shapers range and it is fabulous because it can be moved to anywhere and because it is a single die, you cannot miss punch and ruin your mat so easily.

I also went that extra mile and crocheted a border with metallic copper thread which was the time that I decided that this was all getting a bit fancy pants. The rest is history.

You will need a couple of 30cm (12 in) squares of felt in your base colour. Mine is fairly thick and pure wool.
You also need a second contrast for the leaves. Get some perle 8 coton to match your main colour and a ball of copper metallic crochet yarn. Mine is Anchor Metallic.
I have used a PVA glue for the laminating and inlaying and of course you will need a good strong needle and a crochet hook appropriate to your yarn.

Begin by cutting two felt circles. Doesn't matter how big. A plate is good to draw around. Mine is 25cm (10 in) diameter. Put one circle aside.
Cut leaves around the edge of the other circle at random, turning the die this way and that to get the effect....

When you have finished, count the holes and make as many leaves from your second colour....

Now spread the other piece of felt with PVA glue, quite thickly and quite evenly. Lay the die cut felt circle on top and put the leaves in...

It needs to be aligned really well too. Some trimming is possible but do your best to make it perfect as you go along.
This is what you have now.....

I really love the muted grey melange felt and those green leaves. Put it somewhere warm to dry overnight and put a couple of heavy books or similar on the top to keep it nice and flat. You will see now why I said that the two felts had to be the same thickness? You don't want a step where the leaves are. 

TIP: if it is unavoidable and you really haven't been able to find the felts that you want in the same thickness, try two leaves on top of each other. The books should compress them enough to make the surface perfectly flat.

When the mat is dry, make a blanket stitch with the perle cotton right around the outside of the mat like this....

The idea is to give your scalloped crochet edge something to cling to without having to go through two layers of glued felt! Now come back with the metallic crochet yarn and make a chain 4 stitch into every second blanket stitch.....

Finally, treble 5 (US double crochet) stitches into each scallop. SS into each space in between.

*Please excuse my brilliant crochet pattern writing. Only a newbie so that shows you how easy this really is!

Fasten the yarn off and weave in the end. How cute is that! Now find a deserving potted plant to sit on your masterpiece.

Thank you so much for stopping by and visiting me. I hope that you have enjoyed this quick tute. 

And you know what? It doesn't have to be leaves. think circles, feathers or hearts. 

So long as the die can be moved around a bit or has enough clearance around it so that you don't accidentally cut your mat, it will work!

Love and hugs

Friday, 20 January 2017

Rope Coil Bowl

I am sure that you have all seen these gorgeous bowls around. They are having a bit of an Instagram moment for sure and there are some really lovely examples around.

I think that my favourite aspect of a rope coil bowl is how easy they are to make. 

They can look quite artisan depending on your choice of materials and they are actually useful. What's not to love!

Shall we have a go at making one? I used 6 mm (roughly 1/4 in) jute twine for mine and my sewing machine with a 'normal' universal needle handled it just fine. My bowl used 10 m which is around 10 yards of twine. It doesn't have to be exact.

You will also need some fabric scraps and a glue stick. I have put a felt circle in the middle of mine for the only reason that I didn't remove the tape because I didn't expect this to work as easily as it does. I just sort of had a go and suddenly it was fabulous! Of course by then, I couldn't get the tape off (and I certainly wasn't about to unpick!). So a felt circle it had to be.

Begin in the centre and fold your twine over on itself and coil a bit. set your machine to a zigzag stitch wide enough to go from piece of twine to piece of twine and start sewing and turning.

Go super slow and stop before you turn to save the needle from breaking.

As you sew, stop from time to time and wrap the twine with a scrap of fabric. I found that gluing this and then wrapping worked best. you cannot really plan this ahead and get it all done in advance because it is hard to imagine where the wraps will end up. just stop, wrap and then keep going.

When the base of your bowl is the size that you want, it is time to turn it into a bowl with sides.

As you can see from the result so far, it would work brilliantly as a mat too. I have some plans for my houseplants.

To shape the sides, turn the bowl so that the bit you have sewn so far rests against the side of your machine...

Keep sewing and wrapping until you wither run out of twine or the bowl has sides as high as you want. 
I found some really nice lurex copper bias binding on eBay (I know it sounds perfectly ghastly in a 1970s sort of way) but it actually looks wonderful here and there against the roughness of the jute.

I have finished the end with a bit of Kraft-Tex paper. Leather would be fab too. Sorry but my potted succulent Enid wanted to be in every photo. Succulents are a bit like that. Don't get mixed up with them.

Here is Gladys. Succulents do seem to go with the bowl! Maybe a mat for the plants WILL be next! Gladys is still being acclimatised to my house and I am going to pot her on tomorrow. I found the little ceramic watering can at a charity shop and I think that it will be a perfect home for her.

Well anyway...thank you as always for stopping by and I do hope that you have enjoyed this. 

I think that I may make more of these and if I do, you will be the first to know!
Love and hugs

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Sugar Free Blueberry 'Jam'

I have a sweet tooth. Admission number one. I also have a body with a tendency to hold onto weight. Admission number two. The two things do NOT go together!

I have a background in medical sciences before I decided to make my way in life writing sewing patterns and with the degrees in biology, comes a special interest (and a masters degree) in food science. So let me clamber up onto my soap box and declare that I am not impressed by our attempts to reduce sugar by replacing it with other things which may not be any better for us in the long run. I don't pander to my taste buds. I am trying to reduce my need for sugar and that means to leave it out and to leave all sorts of other things out which mimic it.

Rant almost over I promise! But before we get onto the business of this week's post, I just want to say that 'natural' doesn't actually matter when it comes to sweeteners. honey, maple syrup or whatever else is all recognised and processed by your body the same way. Most honey has NO special health benefits!
I have recently had an enormous success with 25 kg (around 50 pounds) weight loss on the ketogenic diet - it is beyond the scope of this blog to go into that too much but if you Google it.....

But I still have a sweet tooth. Sorry. I need something to round off a meal and I don't want to add a sweetener - sugar is a no-no on this diet and the other 'artificial' options don't impress me much. I am very aware that fruit has sugar in it and that you will have to know your own carbohydrate tolerance limits if trying this but if you are not doing a strict diet but still want some thing healthy and delicious, make this five minute, TWO ingredient jam! That's right folks - two ingredients!
It looks like jam and behaves like jam and it is really delicious.

Okay, I have waxed lyrical ranted enough now and I expect that you would like to know how to go about harnessing this miracle for yourself?

You will need-
2 cups frozen blueberries
1 teaspoon gelatin

Grab a nice jar too 

and a microwave proof jug. Oh, and a really weird piece of kit called a 'muddler' which is used in the cocktail industry for extracting the juicy goodness of fruit. 

I bought mine here. If you haven't got one of these, anything that has a bit of a flat base and will stamp on the fruit like a winemaker will do the trick. Don't reach for the blender though. Jam is not puree. it should have juice plus bits of fruit in it and the colour should be deep and rich.

Here's how to go about it.....
Put your fruit into the microwave proof jug

Microwave on high for three minutes until the berries release their juice

'Muddle' to crush the fruit completely

Add the teaspoon of gelatin and the stir it in well. Microwave for another minute on high and then pour into the jar

That's actually it! Now sugar is a preservative too and it is part of the reason that jam doesn't go mouldy very quickly. This 'jam' doesn't have that so it does need to live in the fridge and it will keep about a week to ten days.

It is gorgeous on Keto style breads 

and I love it on whipped cream. Swirl it into the cream and it is just sweet enough. About a tablespoon is right for me and it doesn't harm my progress.

If you do not have a microwave, you can also make it on the stove top. Simple simmer until the juice in the berries is released and
then add the gelatin and keep going for about another minute. Try not to stew the fruit and change its flavour using this method.

If you want a slightly runnier result, use less gelatin. If you want it thicker, you need slightly more. If you are vegetarian or vegan, use whatever substitute that you normally prefer. After a night in the fridge, you will be rewarded with the most delicate tasting jam and I have fooled children with this so I am arguing from an expert point of view here!

Get less sugar in your life and enjoy the real taste of food.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope that you find this delicious - if it isn't sweet enough, go cold turkey on sugar and try it again in a few weeks. You will be so surprised at the difference.

See you soon!
Love and hugs