Minerva Crafts

Recently, I was lucky enough to be chosen to be part of the Minerva Crafts Team. As part of this team, we get to choose some lovely fabric from a selection sent out each month. We then commit to making a garment and a blog post which is then put up on on their website. You also have to commit to completing the garment and the blog within 4 weeks of receiving the fabric. There are many of us in the Team and I think we are from all different backgrounds and have different styles and levels of sewing experience.

The choice of fabrics is a bit overwhelming but in a good way! I decided that my criteria for choosing would depend on the time of the year and any gaps in my capsule wardrobe  for that season. I also wanted to use patterned I had not used before and maybe try out some new fabrics.

For my first project I chose some rayon challis in a teal colour. I made the Buttons Bettine Dress, a casual, easy to wear dress, for summer. This is the one I am wearing above.

I was really pleased with the final product and it went live on the Minerva Blog on 17th June.

For my second project, I chose some micro fleece to make a warm top. I used another Tilly pattern, the Nora top. This one is due to go live in September.

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The Cinema Dress

Don’t you just love it when something turns out just right!

I had admired this dress made up on Instagram but also the pattern photo made me want to make it. It looked so comfortable, stylish and wearable. The pattern is produced by Liesl and Co. I used the paper version and found it easy to use and the directions easy to understand. This relaxed-fit dress pattern features a front and back yoke, V-notch neckline, and back button closure. Both views have easy-to-sew welt pockets and cuffed, three-quarter-length sleeves.

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I bought some lilac chambray from eBay which cost £22.50. I chose lilac because I don’t have anything in this colour and I think it goes nicely with my now grey hair. I thought this could be part of my Autumn Capsule wardrobe if it went to plan.

The fabric was lovely to sew. The instructions were easy to understand. I really enjoyed making it and made sure I took my time.

I originally was going to make the longer length but after reading the measurements I decided that the shorter length at 45 inches would be best.

I wasn’t looking forward to doing the buttonholes as I always panic about the positioning being right, but I practised first and they turned out ok. I bought some lovely wooden buttons from Ebay to finish it off.

I am very happy with the final product and plan to wear it tomorrow!

 

What makes the garden look great in July?

Well, it’s that time of the year again when some of our hard work reaches fruition. We’ve had some produce from the garden and a lovely display of flowers that makes it all worthwhile.

The garlic has now been harvested and is drying out in the greenhouse.

 

We’ve had several meals of our delicious early potatoes. What’s nicer than a bowl of warm herby and buttery potatoes from the garden to eat with fish or salad?

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My first lot of basil didn’t do very well. I wondered if this was because I bought them for a £1 at a cheap supermarket, but I sowed the rest of the packet and its looking great. I will pot them up individually and that should keep us going through the summer for pesto and tomato salads.

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The bell peppers look fantastic and are actually dripping from the plants! I have used one in a stir fry and very good too.

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We have had beetroot, radishes and spinach from the veg patch already. The aubergines have loads of flowers which I am hoping develop into some decent fruits. The tomato plants in the garden and in the greenhouse are all fruiting now. I can’t wait to have those.

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The flowerbeds are looking lovely. Just a few gaps to fill to keep it looking that way. We have dahlias, arum lilies, day lilies, cosmos, jasmine, honeysuckle, alliums, crocosmia, passion flowers, love in a mist, to name but a few.

The wildlife pond is almost covered in lilies and will need some thinning out later in  the year.The newts have done their thing and have now disappeared from the pond again. They’ll be hiding under rocks and stones in the garden.We won’t see them again till spring. There  will be a few little ones in the bottom off the pond growing up. I only know their are there because when I use a net to get the blanket weed out, I sometimes capture a little wiggly newt. I just leave him/her on the side to slide back in. There are loads of  damsel flies about, their beautiful blue bodies shimmering in the sun light. I have yet to see any dragonflies but they will come.

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I’ve tried over the years to have a succession of plants in the garden throughout the year but always find August a bit of a struggle. I’ll let you see how I have done next month.

By then I also hope to have harvested some tomatoes, which I am really looking forward to.

How to make a very good Sourdough Loaf

 

My son gave me some of his sourdough starter so I could have a go myself at making a sourdough loaf. I have tried before but it wasn’t brilliant. I can’t eat it myself as it’s made with gluten flour. My partner Mark loves it though.

I wanted to have the sourdough ready to eat on Sunday so the making process had to start on Friday.

The starter is kept in the fridge so I took it out on Friday morning, as per the instruction from son Marc. I divided it in two and threw one half away. I then fed the remainder with a cup of rye flour and some water. This was mixed together and then left on the worktop for a few hours.

In the afternoon I measured out 100g of the starter. I put the rest back in the fridge for the next loaf. I then added:

  • 300g water
  • 100g-stoneground flour
  • 400g white strong flour

 

I mixed all this together to make dough and then left the in bowl covered with a damp tea towel for 2 hours.

I then added:

10g fine sea salt and 15g cold water

The salty water was pushed into the dough with the fingers. This was left for 10 mins

After 10 mins it was time to fold and turn to get the traditional holes in the sourdough. The dough is pulled up and folded forward, and then the bowl is turned a quarter of a turn.

This is done a 3 further times with 30 minutes between each and a final 15 mins rest at the end.

After this the dough is shaped into a ball and wrapped it in a flour dredged tea towel over a colander and put in the fridge to rise overnight.

In the morning I pre warmed the oven to 220 degrees  for 30 mins.  I put in a Le Creuset casserole dish in the oven to heat up too.  Once it was hot, I also put in a roasting dish with boiling water to provide some steam.

I sprinkled some ground rice on the bottom of there casserole dish – you can use semolina – so that it didn’t stick. I slashed the top of the loaf, put the lid on and cooked it for an hour. After an hour, I took the lid off and cooked for a further 10 mins.

Let it cool as long as you can – that’s not long in our house!

 

 

 

Making Elderflower Champagne

Well, its just as well I picked all my elderflowers before the rain set in. I managed to get the Champagne bottled and its now sitting in the garage getting fizzy.

I made this last year for the first time and art was a great success. I doubled ups the recipe as we were having a family party. It went down well.

Heres the recipe – its a Women’s Institute recipe which I got from a google search. I used some of the last Spanish lemons which I had in the freezer.

Ingredients 

25-30 elderflower heads in full bloom

2kg white sugar

2 litres water

4 lemons – juice and zest

1-2 tablespoons of wine vinegar

Pinch of dried yeast

Method

Boil the water and put onto the sugar in a large bowl or bucket (sterilised)

Stir until the sugar dissolves and then make up to 6 litres with cold water.

Add the lemon juice and zest, the flowerhead and stir gently.

Cover and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days.

After a couple of days – check to see if it fermenting – if not add pinch of dried yeast.

Leave to ferment for a further 4 days.Strain the liquid through a muslin lined sieve.

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Pour into sterilised bottles – the ones with a glass and rubber seal.

Seal and leave to ferment for at leats a further 8 days before serving chilled. Make sure you doing fill to the top, to allow the gas to expand.

I found that it kept to August last year. It may of kept longer but it got shared and drunk!

The champagne is really fragrant and makes a lovely summer drink.

Whats happening in our garden in June?

I started to write this blog last week and this is what I had written …At last we’ve had some rain! I know I shouldn’t wish for it but I have planted a lot of new plants into the ground so they needed a good soaking.

Well we got some rain and more and more and more!! I suppose its my fault then we had so much ….

So here’s what’s happening (good and not so good) in our garden in June.

The Hot Border

I have added in some of the red dahlias (called Bishops Children) I grew from seed  last year. Let’s hope the slugs leave them alone. After all that rain it’s unlikely…

The peonies have come out but the rain has bashed them down now sadly.  There are a couple of pink ones which need to be moved to the long border as they don’t really fit with my hot colour scheme, which is reds, oranges and purples mostly.

The honeysuckle on the back fence behind the border is growing well. It’s gradually covering the right hand side of the fence and I am trying to train it over the grey curved wall.

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The four new lupins are finally starting to bloom, albeit one is pink and should be purple! I thought they would be a darker purple than they are but they still look very pretty. They will look better next year.

The Long Border

The delphiniums burst out and joined the alliums and the roses, which both looked lovely, until the rain came. The geraniums are still being thuggish and I’ve had to pull a load out.

The Pond

The white iris  and water marigolds have died down now and the yellow flag irises are just coming out. The water lilies are out and look as lovely as ever. There  will be lot’s more  to follow throughout the summer.

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The Greenhouse

This year I have had a lot of success with my seed growing. I have loads of parsely, coriander and lettuce. The tomatoes and basil  are now in their final places and the marigolds are planted beside them to help keep the white fly away.

The aubergines and bell peppers that  bought as organic plants look really healthy and I have great hopes for a good crop.

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The cosmos are now in the long border and are growing well. The alyssum are a bit a slow and the rudbeckia didn’t all germinate.

The Woodland Garden

I have now planted the plants I bought from the Malvern Flower Show, the Tiarellas and the Spotty Dotty,  which both like shade. I had also been a bit ambitious and planted the Eucalyptus Tree I dug up from the long border. It started as a small shrub but has now grown too big. I’m not sure whether it will survive but we’ll see. It looks a bit sad and dead but I’m not giving up yet. We have loads of poppies which have sprung from nowhere. They have survived the rain just about.

The honeysuckle I have trained up the dead tree is gradually climbing up the tree. I’ve put some wires up to give it a helping hand. Once it takes hold it will cling on by itself and hopefully look as if it has been there for years.

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The Vegetable Plot 

We aren’t doing too good this year. The birds have pulled up beetroot, spinach and spring onion seedlings and some things have failed to grow after I transplanted them, ie.the chillies. We’ve planted more in the hope that the birds will leave them alone this time. Last year they all came up and we didn’t cover them so why it’s happened this year I don’t know. Still that’s gardening for you!

The potatoes Mark has sown in sacks are doing great.

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The garlic will soon be ready to harvest and looks good.

The Lawn

Hmmm… Mark was spent a lot of time trying to get the lawn back up to its best. However, there are now patches which he has had to re-seed but they are growing. We will add some more nematodes in July and hope they prevent the leatherjacket grubs from eating the lawn.

The Courtyard

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The Arum Lily is my pride and joy. It comes up year after year and looks more splendid each time.

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So that is it from me for a week or so. Hopefully we will get some sunshine  and the garden will look its best.

 

 

Summer Capsule Wardrobe 2019

This year I have made quite a lot of my summer capsule items myself.  I decided that I would use the following colours :

Pink

Teal

Blue/Denim/Navy 

White 

Purple

I haven’t stuck to this rigidly as I have carried over some items from Spring (my mustard trousers)

I have only bought 4 items and I have made 7 of the items – not all this year.

The capsule is comprised of 29 pieces :

Dresses – 4 – Blue chambray sleeveless dress – I made this last year. Its easy to wear and is very flattering. The pink/teal/blue floral stretch one below, I made to wear to a wedding in Sept but I want to wear it before that as I love it. The white denim linen dress I bought from Next about 3 years ago. a real bargain at £22 but I have worn it every summer and it still looks good. The teal dress is the one I have just finished for the Minerva Crafts Blog. Its is really comfortable and so easy to wear.

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Jackets -2 – Just the denim jacket and the navy blazer – I am looking for a white denim jacket to make a change from the white one but it needs to be from eBay and cheap!

Cardigans – 4 – I have included my 2 lovely Boden cashmere cardigans (pink and light blue) as they are so soft and summery,  and cost a fortune, a few years ago. I also have included a white one I bought ages ago and which comes out every summer plus a pink floaty one I bought in Cornwall a couple of years ago.

Sleeveless Tops – 3 – One cream floral one – bought from Primark last year, a blue floral I made last summer and 1 navy plain one I  bought from M&S last year .

T-Shirts – 4- Pink, Pale Blue, Light Teal. I bought these all this year when I was doing my colour matching exercise except for the pin/white stripe one which I made this Spring.

Tops – 2 classic cotton white t-shirt which I made and a purple and white one in the same style.

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Trousers – 4 – Cropped jeans – bought last summer from Gap. The cropped white trousers and the white linen trousers, I have had both of these for ages. Mustard trousers – I made these in the Spring.

Shorts – 2 – White ones just bought from M&S, Blue stripe ones – I made them a couple of months ago. ak+fc2wnS4+i7BjjLx%rMA

Skirt -1 – This is the only skirt I own – a denim one which I have worn all year round. It cost me £50 last year but its been worn so much, I think itv was worth it.

Shoes –  4 – 3 pairs sandals and 1 pair white tennis shoes

Accessories – 1 Panama hat – this was Marks but he didn’t wear it so I pinched it. 4 handbags which I already had.

Jewellery and watches – I am not a great lover of too much jewellery but I have enough old pieces to get me through the summer.

In case you were wondering, I do have a smaller stay at home/yoga/walking the dog/gardening/ lounging wardrobe but they are not very interesting 🙂 so I’ve not included them.

How to make Elderflower Cordial – no cooking required!

If like me you like a cold, refreshing and non alcoholic drink, you probably like elderflower cordial.

You can buy it in the supermarket but it is quite expensive. If, however, you can get your hands on some elderflower heads at this time of the year (in the UK) then prepare yourself for a real treat. Be quick as they aren’t around for long!

Ingredients

Elderflower heads

1.7 litres/3 pints boiling water

900g/21b caster sugar

50g/2oz citric acid – available from online stores or chemists

2 unwaxed lemons

2 unwaxed oranges

You need to collect about 30 elderflower heads. I make sure that these are not growing by the roadside, so they are not contaminated by car pollution. Just snip them off near the flower, with not too much stalk.

You may want to give them a quick rinse, to get off any little insects.

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Put 900g of caster sugar in a large bowl and pour in 3 pints (1.7litres) of boiling water. Stir and leave to cool.

Add the slices of lemons and oranges, the citric acid and finally the elderflower heads. Give it a stir and leave covered for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. You will be able to smell the elderflower fragrance almost immediately.

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After 24 hours, strain the whole lot through some muslin and transfer to sterilised bottles.

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Serve by diluting with water, sparkling water, or sparkling wine for a delicious cocktail.

I am going to pick some more to make some brilliant Elderflower Champagne and will give you the recipe soon. I made some last year, in June and we opened it at a family party we had in August. It was really fizzy and delicious.

 

Sewing with Streeeetchy Material

Well, I’m addicted to the overlocker machine, or serger as some people call it. It makes sewing with stretchy material a doddle. I can whip up a tee shirt in a few hours now.

I’ve  made a 2 short sleeved t- shirts, 2 long sleeved t- shirts and almost a dress. Oh and a Barbie skirt with Nell!

 

The threading of the overlocker takes a while but once it’s threaded, it’s not often that you need to re- do it. It sits on top of my sewing table so I don’t need to put it away each time I use it. I now have both machines side by side on the table and can go between the two, when necessary.

I have also learnt to use a twin needle in my sewing machine which is used to finish neck edges and hems. It runs a double edge of top stitching making it look neat and professional. Underneath it does a zig zag stitch so suitable for stretch fabrics.

All the the garments I  have made on the ovelocker so far, have been made with cotton jersey. I have yet to try other types of stretch fabrics but I will have a go. I want to make a sweatshirt/hoodie next.

The sewing patterns I have used are the Lark Tee by Grainline Studios and the Joni Dress and Baseball Tee from the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch Book. The most fiddly bit on the T- Shirts is the neck band. I watched a couple of You Tube videos and have now got the hang of it, but my top-stitching could be improved so I am going to practise before I do anymore.

 

The Joni Dress has a twisted bodice which I thought would be complicated. It was, but I managed to do it and am pleased with the result.

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Sewing the seams using the overlocker is sooo satisfying. Sewing, neatening and trimming in one press of the foot. It’s brilliant!

The Joni Dress is nearly done and I will definately make another for the summer.

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