Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Harry Potter Halloween II: Floating Candles

Making floating candles from empty kitchen towel/toilet paper rolls and electric tea lights for Harry Potter parties is quite common now, and there are several good tutorials online – Google or Pinterest it if interested. I won’t write another one, just show you pictures of how mine turned out.

Most tutorials recommend using only kitchen towel rolls, as the toilet paper ones will look stubby. But I decided to use both kitchen towel rolls and toilet rolls, and cut down about half of them, as I wanted as wide a range of candle heights as possible, from as tall as they come, to as short as I could make them and still hide the tea lights in them. I felt that would make them look more real, organic, and interesting.

While most people let the “molten wax” (made from hot glue) run only halfway down the candles or so, I made it run down the length of some of the “candles”, and continue into thin air, especially on the short ones, to make them look as if they had burned and dripped for a long time. I wanted people to feel like they could get a splash of molten wax in their hair if they didn’t watch out. 

Our family not being big users of it, I would never have managed to collect this many kitchen towel rolls on my own in less than about two years, but luckily I received quite a few from my mum, mother-in-law and a couple of friends. In the end I had 33 floating candles in the kitchen, and two in the window next to the front door. I didn’t have quite enough electric tea lights to go round, especially since I wanted to use some to add depth to the other decorations, so on a few of the shorter candles I braided a “wick” from black yarn, and waxed them to make them behave like real, blackened candle wicks. I think it looked rather neat.

 The electric tea lights are very weak compared to real ones, so having them as a principal light source is very impractical, unless you can afford hundreds.

 As a decorative element, however, they are very effective. As soon as our guests walked in they oohed and aahed, and exclaimed “it’s just like in Harry Potter”! I’m sure to make more of these for future Harry Potter parties, as they do look best in large numbers.

Friday, 6 November 2015

A Harry Potter Halloween II: My Costume – Sort Of

Despite having started working on the Halloween decorations several months before, I was still running out of time before the party started. Little One has really been hanging in my skirts for the past couple of weeks, and often been sitting in the wrap on my back, and it does slow you down, and prevent you doing some things, like climbing on chairs to put up decorations. When the first guests arrived I had only just changed, and not even put on any make-up yet. My hair was up in an unexciting bun on the back of my head. I didn’t get any pictures of myself either (maybe just as well), so the other day I dressed up as I would have wanted to look, and went out to take pictures. 

With hubby away for thesis work, and with the kids in tow, the self-timer had to do. I had to work quickly before the children got entirely fed up, especially Little One, who for most of the time was confined to his pram, so as not to get himself into trouble. We did go for a picnic in the play park when I was finished, so they were rewarded for their patience.

As I’d been putting so much focus on the decorations, I had to improvise my costume a bit – how disappointing is that for someone who loves costuming like I do?? Tut-tut... I wore my fuchsia dress combined with the Cinderella dress, new sleeves and all. I accessorised it with the witches’ bonnet I made last year, but have since given a minor makeover, and my wand. For the pictures I added a necklace I made years ago, and the old Jane Porter boots

The weather was misty, which created a nice backdrop for the pictures. I like mist, unless I have to travel by car. I suppose it might be an introvert thing, to appreciate being hidden from the gaze of the rest of the world... Which might seem ironic, as I post pictures here - but they have all been carefully chosen, and don't really reflect my private life :)

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A Harry Potter Halloween II: Wizarding Biscuits

A few months ago I found a neat thing on Pinterest (link further down), and thought it might work well for biscuits. I then thought of another thing that would look nice, and so I made biscuits in two varieties for the party:
- owls, because they are very important in the wizarding world, not least so as messengers
- green-and-purple ones, as these colours are supposed to be symbolic of the two sides of magic, and is often combined in clothing to show who you are when out in the Muggle world.

I used the same dough for both biscuits. It’s a common Swedish recipe, but I’m sure many other recipes would work just as well, or better, for this.

About 300 grams plain flour
100 grams caster sugar
200 grams butter
1 egg 

- Mix the flour and sugar – don’t put all the flour in at once, it’s tricky to know exactly how much you’ll actually need!
- Cut the butter into pieces, add to the flour mix.
- Add the egg and work into a dough.
- Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- Make the biscuits.
- Bake in the middle of the oven at 175-200C for 8-10 minutes.

For the owls I took inspiration from this, but used something more food appropriate than a pen for the feathers on the tummy, used a pastry brush dipped in cinnamon to decorate the wings, and chocolate for the eyes. I chilled them well before putting them in the oven, to prevent them melting too much, but I still think I need to find a better dough for them in future, or put a bit more flour in them.

For the green-and-purple ones I just put a bit of green food colouring in the dough. When properly mixed, I rolled the dough into a log. I turned this in sugar I’d coloured purple the day before. I put the sugar coated log in the fridge to chill a bit, before cutting it into biscuits.

And that's it: yummy biscuits with a wizarding twist – they were very popular with the kids.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

A Harry Potter Halloween II: Pumpkin Juice

Halloween is over and I can now start blogging about it properly.

Pumpkin juice is mentioned loads of times in the books, and I always wondered whether it would actually taste good – pumpkin and squash on their own doesn’t really taste all that nice, I think. As always internet is very helpful, and I found loads of recipes inspired by the pumpkin juice sold at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. I looked at a few of them, considered what we like (and don’t like) in our family, what we had in the cupboards, and tweaked the recipes accordingly. 

The pumpkin juice was by far the most popular refreshment I made for the party, and vanished quickly. I got requests for the recipe, so here it is.

1 butternut squash
1 large pear, or two smaller ones
2 decilitres apple juice concentrate
1 litre water
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
A dash of vanilla sugar

- Split the squash in half, and let it roast in the oven at about 175C until soft - about 40-60 minutes.
- Remove the skin from the squash and pears, then put the fruits in a blender, together with the apple juice concentrate. A hand blender also works – if you use one, you can at this stage put everything in the pot you will later use for cooking it, saving on dishes. Mix to a purée.
- Stir in the spices and add the water.
- Bring to a boil, and then let simmer for a while – I let it simmer for 45 minutes, but I’ve seen them doing it for about half that time in other recipes.
- Strain the juice from the surplus pulp. The pulp can be used when baking bread, so no waste here.
- Serve hot or chilled – both are delicious. If too strong for your taste, dilute with a bit of water.

As it turned out, I liked this a lot better than I thought I would. It's slightly spicy, and neither the apple, pear or squash dominate too much. I'm sure to make it again!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Lace-on Sleeves for the Cinderella Dress

One of my all-time favourite dresses (that's not historical or some kind of costume) is the olive green “Cinderella dress” I made a couple of years ago. I love to wear it with delicate blouses in the summer, but adding sweaters in the autumn takes away from the look I think. 

I decided to add detachable sleeves, and thus extend the season for it a bit. I asked for advice as to how best to go about it, and the lovely Alessandra told me of her experience with something I was leaning towards, and ended up doing.

I did have a bit more of the dress fabric left, but not enough to make full length sleeves without piecing. I decided to make short puffs at the top, and the lower sleeves are cut on the bias. The puffed part of the sleeves have a slightly shorter, fitted lining, attached to the lower sleeve, which makes sure the puffs are keeping their shape nicely.

I put piping at the sleeve head, the seam between upper and lower sleeve, and at the wrist, matching those on the dress bodice.

The sleeves are attached by lacing strips around the armscye and sleeve head. I stitched down the strips on both sides, but left openings every three centimetres, with those of the sleeves staggered from those in the armscye. I braided a cord from cotton yarn, and that was it – works a charm.

For now I use laces in a shade close to that of the dress, but for variety I could use different colours and materials. How tightly I lace can also be varied, from being so tight the sleeves look stitched on, to a wide gap between bodice and sleeve.

 I think this dress will need more upgrades to be perfect: it’s a bit tight across the bust - breastfeeding can have that effect - so I’m thinking of opening up the front seem and adding lacing there too, with a modesty panel from the dress fabric behind it….

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A Harry Potter Halloween Party II: Wands

The Harry Potter Halloween party we hosted last year was so fun that I plan to make it an annual thing. I’ve been working on the preparations since the summer in the hope that by adding a little each year, sometime in the future I’ll be able to transform our whole home into that of a common wizarding family in the Harry Potter universe. Here is the first post on what I’ve made this year.

As wands are such basic things for witches and wizards, I wanted hubby and me to have one each, though it’s unlikely we’ll be carrying them with us very much at the party. I tried the hot-glue-on-a-stick method, but didn’t like it much. I wanted neater wands, made from real wood.

 I got wooden dowels (10 millimetre diameter) from the local craft store, and as they were too short to make nice wands on their own, I searched my stash of craft supplies for the other things I needed. I found wooden beads and other turned wood shapes – if anyone have a good name for them, please share. I meant to assemble these different elements with a combination of screws and glue.

First I played around with the materials a bit, deciding how I wanted our wands to look. I didn’t want them to look identical, but a as I had a limited choice of materials, I had to work with what I had. I decided that the wand with the larger handle would be hubby's, as he has larger hands than me. I also chose wooden beads of different colours, as I thought that could be a nice touch.

After I had decided on the basic design, I whittled patterns on the dowels. They are similar, but not identical. As I’ve said before, I’m not very good with woodwork, but all in all, I’m happy with how these turned out. After the carving was done it was time for sanding. I used round objects of different diameters (knitting needles and a round building block borrowed from the kids) to wrap the sandpaper round, to help get a nice, even finish to the carved areas. I also sanded the dowels to taper towards the tip, and made mine a smidge thinner than hubby’s, for a more feminine look. Unfortunately I only remembered to take a picture of one of the dowels at this step.

I drilled holes in the “handle” ends, and drilled corresponding holes in the turned-wood-things.
With a screw I then attached the wooden bead and the turned-wood-thing to the dowel of what would become hubby’s wand, adding a bit of hot glue for strength. I would have preferred wood glue for this, but we didn’t have any. With hot glue I attached the other turned-wood-thing, and the first wand was assembled.
For mine, I screwed the turned wood thing to the dowel, again securing it with hot glue, and then added the bead and small peg with more hot glue.

After that I painted the wands with acrylic paint that I had diluted with water for more of a stained than painted effect. 

When they had dried I sealed them with two coats of a semi glossy varnish. Ta-da! 

 The different coloured beads worked out well, especially as I painted the wands in shades to compliment them.

 The finished wands are rather pretty, and comfortable to handle - a very important feature, I would think, for objects that are allegedly used countless times every day, and are always within reach of their owners. Hubby's wand is 12 5/8" long and mine is 11 3/4". What wood type and core they are supposed to be made from is still undetermined.

 Sometime I’ll need to make wand boxes for storage (or display – I plan a very nerdy curiosity cabinet with "souvenirs" from books and films I like), with the Ollivander label on them, of course.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Green Plaid Skirt

A couple of years ago I had a period when I picked up a lot of fabrics (mainly old curtains, sheets and the like) in the local charity shop. It got a bit out of hand, with me bringing home stuff I had no idea what to use them for, and therefore I gave myself a one year shop stop on fabric, which I kept – go me! I’ve become much better at controlling myself because of it, so I can recommend that to anyone suffering a similar problem – I know there are plenty of you out there ;) But that still left me with lots of fabrics that needed to be dealt with. I bought them, it would feel very silly indeed if I didn’t use them for anything. None of them was too horrible, but a few would not have come home with me, had there been prettier alternatives.

Recently I decided to make a skirt from a tablecloth that had been weighing on my conscience. Though I liked the pattern, the bright green is not the first colour that comes to mind when my wardrobe (or home décor) is concerned. Still, I decided to make it work. 

The skirt is constructed from two panels of fabric, pleated to a waistband. It closes with two buttons and buttonholes at the left side, and have a huge pocket in the seam at the right side. I made two tucks close to the hem of the skirt, for visual interest and to help keep out the fullness. The hem has a wide facing of plain off-white cotton.

This is mostly machine sewn, another pat on the shoulder for that. I’m actually beginning to appreciate my machine. Still, a few things just look better when made by hand.

I took these pictures a few weeks ago on one of the last summer days. It’s now decidedly autumn, my favourite season. I have become quite fond of this skirt, and when worn with more sober coloured cardigans, or white delicate blouses, it still “feels like me”. I sometimes wonder if I should have made it a tad shorter, but I love long skirts, so I’ll keep it as is.

At the moment I’m working on several projects at once, not all involving sewing, besides being there for my family. I almost feel bad for posting so seldom, but I have much to do, and less time to do it in, so I’ll just have to do my best. There will be updates on them when I have the time.