Friday, 13 January 2017

The Red Riding Hood Winter Coat

Way back in 2009 I picked up a piece of cheery wine red wool at a good price in a fabric shop that was closing. I wanted to make a winter coat from it, but there wasn’t enough for what I had in mind. Soon afterwards I stumbled on a piece of wool in the same quality, but a shade or two darker, in a charity shop, at an even better price. This could work, and I quickly cut out some of the pieces for it. And then life happened. And happened again, and again. I would pick it up, do some work on it, and then it would creep back into the UFO pile.


When I got it out this summer, seven years and two children later, it didn’t fit very well. I had to do some hard thinking, and then, with the help of piecing and added panels, will it to do as I wanted it to. In the end, the finished result turned out all right, if not perfect. The style had changed a little since I cut out the first pieces, but overall for the better, I think. The coat itself is made from the lighter red wool, which also lines the hood and pelerine collar made from the darker red wool – the winters here are mostly wet and windy, and the cold goes straight through you. Extra layers of wool are a good thing. 
The coat is also piped here and there in the darker red wool. In the pictures, the contrast between the lighter and darker fabrics show best in the hood.


For the construction of the hood I took my inspiration from 18th century hoods, with the pleats radiating out in the back. Since mine was made from double layers of thick wool, the centre of the pleats wouldn’t quite close, so I covered a button in a scrap of wool and stitched it over the hole.


When it was time to line the pelerine collar, I didn’t have any piece of fabric large enough, so I ended up piecing it together from twelve smaller scraps. The facings in the front is also pieced together from four pieces each, and both the sleeves and the lining of the hood ended up being pieced from two pieces each. I wanted a long row of buttons down the front, and luckily I’d salvaged a dozen buttons from an old, worn-out coat I’d made, which would do quite well. I put two of them in the back, and the remaining ten down the front. Even the lining was reused from something else. All in all, the coat looks nice, maybe even expensive, but it’s all clever scrimping and recycling. Elegant economy, as they say in Cranford.


One morning about a week ago it was snowing, and of course I’d have to take the opportunity to get pictures of the coat. After all, a backdrop of snow is much prettier than a backdrop of mud and sad looking, beat down grass.


 Ever had to completely remodel a project after taking it from an extended time in the UFO pile? 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Miniature Row of False Books - Tutorial

Much as I prefer books with proper pages for miniatures, I saw someone’s hack on how to quickly make a row of leather bound fake ones from an old book. Realising that sometimes mass is desired, and every individual volume won’t actually be properly seen, I wanted to try it, but had the wrong kind of book. Instead I came up with a method that worked with the book I had at hand. I had planned to toss it for quite some time, but kept putting it off, as I thought the cover could be of some use - a good decision it turned out.


First, do not use a book of cultural or economic value. Just don’t, it’s a big no-no. Second, use a book with a leather spine or a complete leather cover.

Start with removing the pages. If the book spine is wide enough to make two rows of books, you can then cut it in half. If not, cut close to one side.


Trim the insides and draw the size of books you want. You don't want the top and bottom, so start a bit from the top and bottom edges. I decided I wanted my books to be a series, so I wanted them the same size. Carefully cut out the “books”. Ordinary household scissors might do, depending on how tough the cover is.


Wrap the former book spine round the side of your new “book” to make a cover, and glue in place. Trim if necessary.


 Play around with the books to see how you want to arrange them – individually or in groups, neat or untidy. If one cover happen to be particularly nice, and you plan to glue the books together, put that in front just in case it'll show.


I drew lines with gold pen on the spines of one group of books, but left the others plain, to make it less obvious that what turned into two groups of books were really made from the same material. I plan to eventually have my books sit properly in bookcases, so I glued them together neatly, one with a book leaning at one end for visual interest. 


For now though they are part of The Room of Hidden Things that I wrote about in my last post.

The Room of Hidden Things

Yesterday I quickly made a couple of rows of miniature fake books (tutorial here), and was keen to display them. The fact that my sister in law had given me a lovely little bell jar, just shy of 4" (10 cm), sans bird topper, for Christmas may have contributed.

I don’t yet have enough miniatures to make a sensible scene, so I collected bits and bobs, some that I’ve got and some that I’ve made, and put together a little attic room scene – or is it a corner of The Room of Hidden Things, one of the many guises of The Room of Requirement?

A rickety stool with a broken bird cage on it (a pendant on a necklace that I got on sale once with miniatures in mind), some outdated and forbidden books and odd pieces of parchment.


A copper pot and a basket, probably disposed off by house elves.


A wooden crate, a handwritten old scroll, more books and a goblet.


An old mirror and a cat – don’t know how that got in there, but I dare say there are enough mice for it not to starve. I hope it will escape the Fiendfyre....


I like how it came out, though both the crate and the stool are plain - as I don't know what permanent scene they'll end up in I'm not yet willing to commit to staining or painting them. I will likely add some more things to the group as well. Miniature scenes where there is always something new to notice are the most interesting ones after all.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Belated Glimpses of Christmas

Well, I had several posts planned before Christmas, but for some reason, the writing just wouldn’t come together. As I’m sitting here on day six with a chest cold (but no longer a fever), I might as well show you a few glimpses of how our Christmas decorations turned out, before I take them down again in a few days or so. I have liked them more than usual this year, and am not really at all keen to take them down, even though I put them up earlier than I generally do. 

First, our Christmas tree. Actually, it'll be mostly about the tree, as the pictures of the other stuff didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. It’s a fake tree that we got from IKEA a while back, and though I like the smell of a proper tree, at least this one looks very real, and having it has saved us a lot of money over the years. It’s a small tree, just over 5 feet (152 centimetres), and has a functional but dull plastic stand. This year I wanted a new look, so I put the tree in a copper tub I inherited from my grandparents, and it made a huge difference. Not only did it bring the tree up a bit – I put a couple of broken concrete slabs in the tub (the tub protected by a towel) partly for balance, and put the tree on top of them – but it also looked much prettier, and more real. I’m ridiculously happy with how it came out. Some might think it’s a bit on the sparse side, but this is how many real spruces look here, and makes it feel more realistic. All in all, it's a very Scandinavian tree.


I've made most of the ornaments myself, some a long time ago, but most I've made this - sorry, it's New Years Day now, last year - makes me wonder what we had in the tree before.... The year before last I tied lots of bows from strips of fabric I had in my stash. I didn't hem them or anything, and just lay them on the branches. Simple as can be, but adds a lot of character.




These button spruces are new. I was a bit unsure of them at first, but it turns out I like how they look on the tree. 



The little jingle bell ornaments are really cute, and not at all too small for our petite tree.



These little sacks were originally a bunting I got from my mum, but never quite knew how to decorate with. A year or two ago I cut the string of the bunting into pieces, and the now individual sacks make charming ornaments.



I had attached braided linen cord loops to some spruce cones for ornaments. Pine cones are prettier and sturdier to work with, but the spruce cones were easier to find as a big spruce grows by the playground, and anyway, these looked more natural on our imitation spruce tree.



The crocheted hemp twine stars looked nice.



As the tree is such a central part of the Christmas decorations, the one all eyes are drawn to, I make some of the ornaments remind us about Christ. Not that good food and presents aren’t nice (I love food and presents!), but they are not the most important part of the celebration for us. Almost ten years ago, I made tags (all the rage in the scrapbooking world back then) with snippets of English and Swedish Christmas songs or scriptures about Christ written on them. Every tag had a unique décor on it, and some I'll confess I’m no longer too happy with. I might retire them eventually, or use them differently, but for now, they have a place on our Christmas tree. 


These stars I also made this year, and I had a tutorial and free printable of the ten silhouettes depicting the Nativity story planned, but life happened. I might do a post about them later. These are probably my favourite ornaments on the tree this year.


I have some vintage keys, and as they are so pretty they make good ornaments, but they also remind me to let Christ into my life.



The boys had received a countdown candle, that helped them visualize how many days were left until Christmas. 



In mine and Tobias' bedroom I put a 14th century reproduction drinking pitcher, tied a ribbon round it and filled it with holly sprigs I'd picked. In a matching bowl I stored spare tea lights and matches.


Above the window I used more of the vines from our wedding (same as I used round the windows in the kitchen), trimmed with red bows, made from strips cut from a piece of fabric in my stash.


Home made sweets is tradition. This year we kept it simple and only made chocolate fudge and chocolate balls. The boys helped with the latter, much to their amusement.



Mum always used to make nicely decorated bread for Christmas, and that is a tradition I like to continue. I love holly, so a holly sprig seemed fitting. (On a side note - as I do like holly so much, I was very pleased when the Pottermore sorting announced that my wand was made from holly and unicorn tail hair.) Here is one of them, pre proofing. Mmmm, bread....


We had a very quiet, comfortable  Christmas - the kind I like best. How was your holidays?

A bit silly to have a look at the Christmas decorations in January, but there you are :) I wish you all a Happy New Year, filled with love, peace and creativity.


Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Swedish Saffron Buns - a Must Have on St Lucia

Today is St Lucia, celebrated in Sweden with singing by Lucia and her followers, but I won’t go into all that too much, as it’s quite a complicated thing to explain properly, with its different origins, evolution and present day traditions – if you want to see how it’s done nowadays, search for ‘Luciatåg’ on YouTube, and you’ll get everything from performances by toddlers and school children to professional televised shows accompanied by popular Swedish singers, or you can read the (mostly accurate) Wikipedia article.

This post will be all about the must-have thing to eat on St Lucia in Sweden – saffron buns, called saffransbullar, lussekatter or lussebullar in Swedish. 


They serve them in school lunch rooms, sell them in cafés, bakeries, supermarkets and petrol stations, but the best ones are home baked. I must confess that the last few years we haven’t had them on that day in our family since it’s our eldest child’s birthday so we eat birthday cake instead, but we do bake and eat them on the first weekend in December, or on the first weekend in Advent, whichever comes first. We also have them for breakfast on Christmas Eve, as that was tradition in my dad’s family when he grew up, was continued in his own family, and is now done in his grown children’s families. Usually they are baked as separate buns, but for our Christmas Eve breakfast, all the buns are put next to each other to make one huge break bread, sometimes in the shape of a tree. EDIT 24th December: This is how it turned out this year: 


END OF EDIT.


Making these is a good family activity, even toddlers can take part with a bit of help. Of course there are dozens, if not hundreds of recipes for Swedish saffron buns, there is something for every taste, but this is a classic one that I use. For convenience I often use dry yeast (it stores much longer), but fresh yeast works just as well. If you use fresh yeast, change the work order accordingly, dissolving it in some of the buttermilk rather than mixing it with the flour.

Ingredients:
Butter: 175 grams
Milk: 500 millilitres
Yeast: 50 grams (or the same equivalence in dry yeast)
Sugar: 175 - 200 millilitres
Ground saffron, ground: 1 gram
Plain wheat flour: about 1500 millilitres
(Egg: 1)
(Raisins)

Start by melting the butter in a saucepan. While it’s melting, grind the saffron in a mortar to release the flavour. You don’t want a weak saffron flavour, so feel free to add a bit more saffron than the recipe calls for.


When the butter is melted, add the milk and saffron, and heat to finger temperature.


Pour most of the flour into a bowl or dough mixer. I’m one of those weird people who rather like to mix bread dough and whip cream by hand. Add the sugar, salt and dry yeast, and mix well. 


Add the egg and mix it in. (Optional, but it will give a more flexible dough.)


Pour the finger warm saffron buttermilk over the flour mix, and stir thoroughly. Add more flour if needed. 


When the dough is of a good bread dough texture, letting go of the bowl, sprinkle it with flour, put a tea towel over it and let it proof to double size. (Note: if in doubt, better leave the dough a tiny bit too wet than to dry. It's easier to add flour later if needed, than to remove any.)


Put the dough on a floured surface and knead thoroughly, until it becomes smooth and elastic.



Make the buns. Take a piece of dough, roll it out, and then coil the ends to make a somewhat exaggerated curly S-shape. Traditionally many different shapes were made, but this one is most common today.


Put the buns on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment, push a raisin into the middle of each coil (optional – I don’t like raisins in bread, so we leave some of them plain), cover with a tea towel and let them proof again, for about 30 minutes.



The buns have proofed enough when they spring back when gently poked. Give the buns an egg wash and put them in the middle of the oven, at 225-250 degrees Celsius. Depending on your oven, it will take about 5-10 minutes - they should be golden brown on top when finished.


Eat them as they are. Yum!


A common thing to have with saffron buns is julmust, a non-alcoholic, carbonated drink flavoured with malt and hops. Non-Swedes usually dislike it at first try, but for Swedes it is such a typical thing to drink in December, and many people have opinions on which brand is the tastiest. If you feel like giving it a go, I believe many IKEA stores have it, but I can’t vouch for how good it is – we have another favourite in my family ;) If julmust is not an option, milk, tea or coffee are other common drinks to have them with.

If your're Swedish - do you have any family traditions with regards to lussebullar? If you're not Swedish, have you tried saffron buns? How did you like them?

Friday, 9 December 2016

Waltz of the Snowflakes

When perusing Pinterest sometime last autumn I came across some adorable paper ballerinas with snowflake tutus. Grown up though I am, I really liked them, but thought maybe they wouldn’t work in our home; they seemed more suited to little girls, and I’m the only female in the family. After several weeks, I reconsidered, thinking “well, there’s no guarantee I’ll ever have any daughters, and even if I do, they might not like ballet”. So, I decided to make a few snowflake ballerinas anyway, and have them as decoration for the “girls’ night in” I was planning with some friends.


In the summer I had made snowflakes from mini Hama beads that I had left from a project I did years ago. I made every one unique, though some of them are rather similar.


Then a few weeks ago I got caught up in making snowflakes with paper quilling; there are lots of tutorials on YouTube and on Pinterest if you’re interested to try it. All in all, I had enough suitable items to make a proper Walts of the Snowflakes decoration.


I used this template for the ballerinas, but edited out the skirt, which I then cut out of thin cardstock. I chose to make all three of them hold the same pose, to echo the feel of a corps de ballet, but made the tutus different, just as no two snowflakes are alike. The tutus were made from classical folded and cut paper snowflakes. I made the ballerinas rather smaller - 13,5 centimetres (5 5/8") from head to toe, smaller than my hand - than the inspiration pictures, as I think smaller quite often is prettier. I cut the snowflake tutus up the back, and glued them together again, using strips of paper, once they were in place on the ballerinas. The join is almost invisible. 


I hung the dancing snowflakes from the lamp fitting over our kitchen table, together with the quilled paper snowflakes and mini Hama bead snowflakes. On the threads that I hung the snowflakes from I also strung white glass beads, and put some threads with glass beads between them here and there to fill out any spaces. It became a very pretty, wintery decoration, the pictures really doesn't do it justice. The ballerinas make pirouettes when the heat from a candle under them makes the air move. I am quite delighted with them, and my boys also like them. It is not exactly a Christmas-y decoration, so it’s probable it will stay up well into the next year.


Have you made something similar? Please share a link!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Button Tree Ornaments

These little ornaments are a bit whimsical, but cute. They also make a nice craft for children. Remember those bags of non-matching buttons I mentioned in my last post? A while back I decided to get some use out of the green ones. I apologise for the poor quality of the WIP images, the lighting was pretty bad.


The supplies I used were green buttons of varying sizes, wooden beads for the trunks, yellow glass beads for the toppers (star shaped buttons are nice too, but I was working from stash), and I stringed the ornaments on green linen thread that I’d twisted to make thin cords.


I put the wooden bead on first, making sure it was in the centre of the cord. Then the largest button went on, after that one of the smallest ones, and then a large one again, as the trick to making this look like a spruce/Christmas tree and not a cone is alternating the buttons of a decreasing size with really small ones.


For buttons with two holes the cord naturally will run through each of them, and on four hole buttons, the cord will go through two holes diagonally across from each other. When all the buttons are stringed, add the bead on top, tie off the cord (make sure the knot is big enough to prevent the glass bead from slipping off), and your ornament is done!


This is a great project for left-over buttons, and if the buttons don't match from one tree to another it's actually not a bad thing, as no two trees look exactly the same in real life. If one would someday want the buttons for something else, they are easily redeemable.


Have you made a neat holiday craft using buttons? Please share!