Category Archives: Crafting!

Oops! Catching up with crafts and jam

Pretty Little Folks voileWow, it has been a busy summer.  I don’t know how it is mid-August already.  Between house projects, syllabi, and article editing, the months have really flown by.  I hadn’t crafted in ages until yesterday, though I tend to make a lot of stuff in the summer.

And this is one easy craft, so I’m not sure how much it counts, but I’m taking it, anyway.

Right there is a little pile of voile–super-soft cotton–in the Little Folks line by Anna Maria Horner.  It’s adorable with little houses, trees, deer.  When I saw it on sale at Sew Mama Sew, I thought it was time to buy myself a little something to make myself a little something.

So I made this:
Little Folks infinity scarfIt’s called an infinity scarf.  I know it’s hard to see here, but I take awful self-portraits.  Essentially you make a big tube.  And wrap it around your head.

Here, have a tutorial:  http://thecottagehome.blogspot.com/2011/05/lightweight-spring-infinity-scarf.html

I sort of fudged sewing the short ends together to make the tube, but my sorta ugly seam is well-hidden when I wrap it around my neck.  This whole project took me all of a half an hour, and the payoff was faaaaantastic.

If you like easier projects, I think you should also take a stab at canning.  A lot of people find canning intimidating.  It can be, I suppose–sometimes you have to be fast on your feet and you do spend a lot of time in a warm and humid kitchen.  But the recipe at Food in Jars for this particular jam takes a  lot of the chaos out by making it in the slow cooker.

Blueberry ButterFirst you have to have a LOT of fruit, in order to make 8 cups of puree in your food processor/blender.  I think I used nearly 4.5 pounds of berries.

Then you put them in the cooker with a little sugar and, if you want, some spices.  I didn’t want any–the reason I was trying this recipe is because I wanted a spread (technically this is a butter) with pure blueberry flavor.  My other blueberry jams tend to taste more sweet than blueberry-y.  This recipe uses less sugar and no pectin, and the results were amazing.  It cooks down for several hours and then you process it in a water bath.

Don’t take my word for it–Marisa at Food in Jars has legions of happy commenters on this recipe!

As the summer winds down, I’m planning on making some salsa verde and canning it; we made a half-batch of three pints last year and this year I’ll make a full, as we loved it.  I did make seven pints of sweet pickles that are now in the basement with the cherry jam and this butter.  With the fall I’ll make apple sauce and maybe some vanilla/pear jam in between.  That’s it, though–a leaner canning year, but that’s ok.  I’m hoping to find a cheap chest freezer on craigslist and step up the preserving next summer, or get some tattler lids (bpa free, reusable plastic?  sweet!) and do tomatoes (last year a bunch of my lids got rusty spots on the inside–the tomatoes were probably fine, but it made me nervous).  It’s almost time to start planning Christmas gifts, so the less time I spend over the canning kettle, the more I can spend on that.  And in two weeks, it’ll be time to reunite with my eager students and start another semester.  Wow, the time goes so quickly.

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Thing-A-Day Catchup: Projects 2 & 3

DIY lavender linen spray (and clothing stink remover!)Project 2: Lavender Linen Spray and Deodorizer

I’m playing catch-up and cheating a little, as I actually made this on January 31 but really wanted to share it. It’s a lavender linen spray, made from rubbing alcohol, water and lavender oil. We recently bought a natural latex mattress topper, to try and extend the life of our not-so-old-but-really-sagging mattress, but despite several days of airing and being on the bed it still smelled a little like memory foam. The Mr. wasn’t keen on it. So I made this linen spray. The downside of it is that you have to spray it with at least 5 minutes of drying time–otherwise you can really smell the rubbing alcohol. Other recipes call for vodka, which might solve that problem. I didn’t have vodka, though, and this being a state with endless blue laws, couldn’t get any on the Sunday I planned to make it.

Another handy use of this stuff is as a deodorizer. I tried making a deodorizer a couple of weeks ago–websites swore that spritzing white vinegar on the armpits of old sweaters, for example, was a cure-all since the vinegar dries odorless and/or could be washed out. My experience ran contrary, though, as one of my favorite coats now smells vaguely like salad dressing and one of my old sweaters still stinks a little. But yesterday I wondered if this lavender/alcohol mix would do the job–the alcohol, like the vinegar, kills bacteria, which often causes smells-and I sprayed it on the pits of my workout jacket, which is made of nylon track-suit material. Lo, it worked! They’re in the wash now and smell better than they have in a looong time.

Basic recipe here: http://www.helium.com/items/1478956-how-to-make-linen-spray

Total cost, including bottle of essential oil and spray bottle, about $10–but I can make many more rounds of the stuff!
Rigatoni and cauliflowerProject 3: Rigatoni with Cauliflower

This is one of our favorite vegetarian mains: rigatoni with pan-roasted cauliflower, tomatoes, and topped with buttered, toasted bread crumbs.  It’s one of those dishes I have to walk away from, lest I eat all of it myself.  It’s easy and pretty quick.  The recipe is from Serious Eats, which got it from a cookbook called Salt to Taste.  Totally worth making.  Here’s the link to the recipe:  http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/02/rigatoni-with-cauliflower-pecorino-hot-pepper-and-bread-crumbs-recipe.html

Learning to needle felt

New friend from new hobbyI decided a couple of days ago that I wanted to learn to needle felt.  After seeing the tiny animals Blair’s daughter made over at wisecraft, I thought I’d give it a go.  I found a local yarn shop, Creative Fibers, not super far from my house that sold the needed supplies–wool roving, needles, and foam block–and, since I have little to no patience, got in the car.  By last night on my first try I had most of this penguin together.  Today I re-did his face so he’d look more like a penguin and less like Eddie Munster, with his widow’s peak haircut.  I hope to make a whole flock of these guys to be this year’s holiday ornament gift.  Last year, I made Danish-inspired felt birds; the year before, patchwork birds. I’m not sure how to make him an ornament yet–where to put the hanging thread?–but I’ll figure something out.

If you’ve ever thought about needle felting, I suggest you try it!  The upfront investment wasn’t a whole lot, and the quick payoff–voila!  penguin!–pretty exciting. I followed the basic felting instructions that came with my stuff, and these particular instructions from

What I’ve Been Up To

Refinished chairI feel like I’ve been away a long while.  With the start of the semester, life got a lot more complicated.  Not only was there work to do–lectures to edit, assignments to create, classes to teach, papers to grade–but I’ve had a pretty substantial uptick in meetings to attend.  There have been many days I’ve come home exhausted–or woke up exhausted–in these last few weeks.  I love my job, but September is always a whirlwind.

I did, however, refinish an old chair.  We had a black rocking chair in our dining room for the last several years; it’s circa 1970, and used to belong to Mr. Pea’s parents.  It had gold trim.  Gold trim, people.  I talked for years about refinishing it, but knew it would be a project.  To save time (ha), I used a soy-based stripper to get the paint off, which didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.  It took the paint off, but really only off of flat surfaces.  Flat horizontal surfaces.  As you can see in this photo, that’s not much of this chair.  It meant that the rest of the surfaces–the top, the spindles, the lower legs–were gloppy with residual stripper but not particularly free of paint.  That’s when a lot of washing and sandpaper came in.  Here, this is the chair in progress.  Chair, in processIt still has a lot of paint on it, though you can see the wood grain beneath.  This was about when I gave up and went paint shopping.  I got some at Benjamin Moore–it’s a low VOC paint, white, with primer built in.  Two coats and lots of touch ups later, the chair was more or less done.

Phew.  Every time I refinish something, I swear I won’t do it again for five or six years.

So then this was done, and I had a nasty dizzy spell a day or so later.  Those of you who have been readers a while know I went through a long period of vertigo last year.  This one, thank god, is not as bad, but it’s still irritating.  I’m always nervous one will come.  And while I keep doing the exercises the doctor told me to do this time, they’ve gone from being really helpful and me feeling quite well to me feeling a little less well.  There could be lots of reasons for this–hypersensitivity (this happens when I’m freaked out about something–I tend to see/feel it more often), ear popping/blocking (turns out to be a jaw problem I need to fix–who knew?  But he did say it might impact feelings of woozy dizziness), or just the process of my inner ear righting itself.  In any case, I tend to get irrationally crabby about this whole thing.  The patience I once carefully cultivated falls away and I sound a little like a whiny toddler.  So I need to work on this–finding my patience again, my center, so that when I feel angry about feeling unwell, I don’t feel overwhelmed.

Today I was feeling very cranky about this and other stuff, so I settled into a project.  Making something start to finish usually makes me feel better, and today was no exception.  I took an old, accidentally felted wool sweater, and used a sleeve to make these adorable baby slippers for a friend who just had her first wee one:
booties, from old sweater, accidentally feltedThey are a little big for newborn, but not as enormous as they seem on the chair. They look big enough for me, there.  Aren’t they cute?  I feel better now.

Fall has finally, it seemed, settled in–hopefully we are all done with the heat and humidity that’s plagued us all summer/early fall.  Today’s gorgeous–lots of sun and blue sky.  I’m inside, but I still appreciate it.  Time to start making everything with pumpkin…

Hmm, skirt.

But this angle looks good! From this angle, this skirt, I think, looks pretty good.  It’s that one I told you about a week or so ago, the one cut from a totally inaccurate pattern I drafted.  I added a strip of cotton, as you can see, to make up for the narrowness of the cut skirt but the hips on what remained were a disaster.  One side–the side with the strip–I recut and was able to smooth out.  It works well because the seam runs the length of the skirt, pulling any remaining bumps out.  The other side, however, the one I’ve hidden here, is what bugs me.  It has the zipper and the slit, and though I might be obsessing, I don’t think it’s that pretty.

Also, I have short legs.  So when I show you the whole length…Wool skirt I'm on the fence about.

Yeah, I don’t know.  Does it look like an ill-fitting wool box to you?  Does that zipper side look really wonky?  Am I spending too much time starting at photos with bad flash, posing in ill-fitting tank tops?  I think that might be true, but any sewing wisdom is definitely welcome here…

Better! A-line skirt made with vintage towel

Skirt made with vintage Hawaii towelPardon the awful flash.  The long mirror in our house is in a dim hall, so that’s the best I could do, short of getting Mr. Pea to wield the camera.  Which I could’ve, but didn’t, do.

This skirt is based on another one in Sew What? Skirts.  The one in the book uses a vintage tablecloth; I, on the other hand, had only a vintage dishtowel–a Hawaii towel, ca. 1950s/60s, that I found at an antique shop last weekend.  So I made it the top layer of the skirt’s front, with a dark red underskirt/back.  It looks a little like an apron, but I like it, anyway.  I cut this pattern too big–I seem to have a hard time customizing to my own measurements–but too big is way easier to fix than too small.  A few new side seams and I was in business.  Hawaii, the 50th state, and my second skirt this summer.

Except for finishing the wool skirt pictured yesterday (I fixed my lump and buckle problem and now just need to hem and put a waist on the thing), I think this is my last major project of the summer.  I still have one syllabus to start, lots of documents to find, online portions of classes to create.  Ah, summer.  You were awfully hot this year and I am looking forward to sweaters and oatmeal, but I will miss the flexible schedule!