Category: How-tos

Aug 24

Blackberry brownies

 

 

Brownies

Brownies

 

 

Blackberry season seems to have arrived, so here’s a magnificent way to use them.

These brownies are a-m-a-z-i-n-g. The basic recipe is now a family heirloom, developed from one my mother found in the 1970s. As an American who had moved to Europe in the late 1960s, she felt chronically frustrated by the absence of both brownies (bland British chocolate cake – more of a tinted Victoria sponge – was really no substitute) or any brownie recipes that would work with the ingredients available here. She finally found this one in a supermarket cookbook and declared that it passed muster, producing something with the necessary richness as well as the right texture: essentially a crust with some goo underneath, verging on the undercooked. 

I’ve substituted spelt for the regular wheat flour of the original recipe, but you can use almost anything to hand – rye, for instance, adds an interesting nuttiness. And I’ve added the handful of blackberries, but blackcurrants or raspberries will also work very nicely. The black fruits, in particularly, act as a wonderfully sharp foil to the rich, smothering chocolate.

This is enough to make 16 brownies. Enjoy!

 

You’ll need…

2 oz cocoa

4 oz butter

2 eggs

8 oz caster sugar

1 tspn vanilla extract

2 oz spelt flour

half a teaspoon baking powder

a handful of blackberries (or blackcurrants or raspberries – or whatever you happen to have to hand – you can use frozen ones too)

 

How to make…

1. Pre-heat oven to a moderate 180 degrees.

2. Grease and line a 20 cms/8-inch square pan with grease-proof paper/baking parchment.

3. Carefully melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Then add the cocoa to this and blend (it will smell really wonderful). Set aside to cool.

4. In a mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together till light and fluffy.

5. Add the cocoa/butter mixture to your eggs/sugar mix, along with the vanilla extract. Mix well.

6. Sift the flour and baking powder over this, and fold in gently.

7. Throw in a handful of blackberries (or whatever else you’re using) and fold just enough to distribute the fruit.

8. Turn into your prepared tin and bake for about half an hour. No need to test that it’s cooked all through the centre – it should be gooey, still sizzling, and be slightly squishy when you prod it.

9. Cool in the tin before cutting into 16 pieces (4×4). Drench with icing sugar and decorate with some extra fruit, if you like. I can recommend these served as a desert with more fresh fruit and a dollop of mascarpone.

 

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Oct 28

Jeans patch tutorial

 

 

My instructions for working this jeans knee patch technique have just gone up on the Sewing Directory site over here.

It’s a ‘tidy’ repair and so might not be to everybody’s taste. But here’s my elevator pitch. Mending, in general, offers bite-sized opportunities to test out a variety of needlework techniques. This repair is a great way to practise how to control a smoothly curved edge which is well worth mastering. Curve control is a type of fabric manipulation that’s used a lot in dressmaking (creating armholes, necklines etc) and in all kinds of other sewing projects (toy-making, soft furnishings etc), so it’ll stand you in good stead.

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In technical sewing jargon, this is also an example of ‘reverse appliqué‘ – because the patch goes beneath the damaged area rather than on top of it. So, you neaten the worn area and turn it into a kind of window, behind which your patch sits.  This repair is worked by hand, because it tends to be tricky to get a sewing machine into the restricted area of a jeans leg and (to my thinking, anyway) isn’t really worth the fuss of getting your machine out. But it doesn’t take very long to work, so please have a go. You should find that the resulting patch is smooth against the skin and comfortable to wear, while also feeling robust and secure. And if you try it and like it, then please come back and let me know! 

 

 

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Oct 15

Spiced apple cake

 

Apple+cinnamon+walnut+cardamom+sesame cake. #gardenapples #speltflour #spelt #comfortfood #autumnbaking

A photo posted by Scrapiana (@scrapianagram) on

 

It’s at about this time every year (mid-October) that the eating apples I lovingly picked from the garden tree back in August or September start to become a nuisance. Now shrivelling and/or rotting in little yellow heaps around the kitchen, they are attracting fruit flies and exuding the vague waft of ethanol decay around the house.

But, before jettisoning the wizened lot to the compost heap, this spectacular and comforting autumnal apple cake is the perfect use for at least some of them. I found the parent recipe in one of the Moosewood cookbooks about 15 years ago, and have experimented a little over the years with both the ingredients and the method. I love the use of warming cardamom as well as the more conventional cinnamon to spice the apples, and the fact that the cake is crispy on the outside (thanks to a sesame seed crust) and really succulent on the inside (the apples and oil see to that). I’ve chosen to use spelt for the less gluten-tolerant, but any general purpose flour will do. Sunflower oil is both an economic fat and also makes that ‘cream fat and sugar’ stage really quick and easy. An electric mixer is helpful; though it’s possible to work this by hand, but your cake probably won’t be quite as light. Peeling, coring and chopping the apples can take a while, but you can do that a day ahead and refrigerate your apple/spice mix until you have time to use it.

 

Apple cake to be. #bundtcake #caketin #sesameseeds #applecake #bakeyourgarden #autumnbaking #funnel

A photo posted by Scrapiana (@scrapianagram) on

Ingredients

  • 6 or 7 (500g) small eating apples – the average garden eating apple is perfect – equivalent to 3 cups of chopped apple
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 or 5 green cardamom pods, equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 375g (3 cups) spelt flour
  • 1 teaspooon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 400g (2 cups) brown sugar 
  • 350ml sunflower oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g (1 cup) walnuts (or you could use pecans, almonds etc)
  • 3 tablespoons apple juice (or milk or water)
  • 1 teaspoon of butter (or a dollop of vegetable oil) for greasing your tin
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • icing sugar with a little cinnamon added, to dust finished cake (optional)

 

Apple cake. #applecake #apples #gardenapples #lowfoodmiles #cinnamon #cardamom #spices

A photo posted by Scrapiana (@scrapianagram) on

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Grease a 10″ bundt tin and scatter sesame seeds in the bottom, turning the tin until the seeds have all stuck. Set aside.
  3. Peel, core and chop the apples, placing them in a medium-sized bowl as you go.
  4. Grind the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle, discarding the husks.
  5. Add the spices and vanilla to the apples and stir. At this point, you can cover with cling-film and store for a day, if need be.
  6. Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarb into a medium bowl.
  7. Place sugar and oil into the bowl of mixer and beat until creamy. Don’t worry if it doesn’t get creamy – just ensure that you give it a good couple of minutes of vigorous beating as it’s this stage that’ll give lightness to your eventual cake.
  8. Now add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
  9. Add the flour mixture, just mixing until it’s all incorporated (this is when you don’t want to knock out all that air you’ve just worked in…).
  10. Add the apple juice (or equivalent).
  11. Fold in the apples and walnuts.
  12. Dollop your mix into prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or till a knife/skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  13. Allow to cool 15 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a rack to cool; it will be heavy so move it with care.
  14. When cool (if you can wait that long…), move your apple cake to a cake plate and sprinkle with cinnamon icing sugar before serving.

 

 

 

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Dec 31

What 2014 has taught me

 

Here, in no particular order, are some things I’ve discovered in 2014:

1.

That very serviceable lotions and cosmetics can be homemade from nothing more than wild flowers, cooking oil (I used sunflower oil), beeswax and an old enamel bain-marie. Thanks to herbalist Zoe Hawes and Alice Park Community Garden for this revelation. I’m still using the Elderflower and Calendula lip-salve made at your workshop, Zoe, and it’s brilliant stuff. Homemade cosmetics and natural beauty products are definitely the way to go.

Elderflower and Calendula

Elderflower and Calendula

 

 

2.

That you can make yourself a really sturdy plant support from indigenous hazel branches and willow, provided you keep the pre-soaked willow sufficiently damp, and possibly cheat with the judicious application of cable ties. Thanks to Annie Beardsley for this new knowledge, and to APCG again.

Making plant supports at Alice Park Community Garden

Making plant supports at Alice Park Community Garden

 

3.

That you can make a perfectly functional barbecue from a large terracotta pot, a couple of bricks, some chicken wire and a discarded rack from a broken microwave. I had all these things lying around and pressed them into service on my allotment for Midsummer’s Eve. Look! It cooked chicken! 

 

An old flower pot, some bricks and a rack from a broken microwave.

An old flower pot, some bricks and a rack from a broken microwave.

4.

That even I can grow yellow courgettes, ruby chard, tomatoes, leeks, garlic, and sweet dumpling squash from scratch.

Grown on my allotment.

Grown on my allotment.

5.

That if you post a picture of your rear end in inside-out jeans on Twitter for Fashion Revolution Day, the sight might well collect 17,000 views. Blimey…

Rear-end selfie in inside-out jeans - all for a good cause.

Rear-end selfie in inside-out jeans – all for a good cause.

 

6.

That it’s possible to stop traffic on the A4 through central Bath wearing inside-out clothing. Nuff said.

 

7.

I hate to bang on about this, but I’ve found that it’s still possible to attract wolf-whistles when you’re 49. And I mean when not dressed provocatively or in inside-out clothing but, ironically, with minimal grooming: I’m down to an annual haircut, and you’ve already read about those homemade budget-beating cosmetics. This positive attention seems to be happening more of late but I suspect that some people might just need their eyes testing. Though one of my best friends has paid me the compliment of describing me as ‘like a teenager with wrinkles’. Please bear this in mind, all you TV producers; you’ll find my contact details in point 10.

8.

That it’s nice to make people happy, but that you certainly can’t please everyone so may as well stop trying. Do what you feel is right and ignore those who just don’t get it. There will be plenty.

 

9.

That if you require someone to knit a sweater for a real live Jersey cow, I’m a very good person to ask; I may not be able to do it myself but have all kinds of useful connections in the craft and making world. I was delighted to be able to connect the wonderful Send a Cow charity with the equally wonderful knitter Elise Fraser in Bristol (whom I met at the beginning of the year thanks to the Briswool project). And what a glorious jersey Gloria wore!

 

10.

That one might be asked to front a national BBC TV show, to write a book, and also to produce a regular column for a national craft magazine, but none of them may pan out for a host of painful and highly annoying reasons. Happily, I’m currently still available and open to offers, but you’d better get in quick before the rush. You might want to check out my professional website and contact me there to discuss any potential projects. I’d love to hear from you.

 

11.

That I can live without my beloved little car, the cuticle (‘cute’ + ‘vehicle’). Farewell, my little white Fiat! You are gone but not forgotten.

The cuticle always raised a smile.

The cuticle always raised a smile.

12.

That cycling is probably better for keeping me and my legs in shape anyway. And I love it, most of the time (barring uphill, or in horizontal rain, or when carrying very much). Here’s Violet, bought when I was carrying some very precious cargo: my younger son Joe in utero; he turned 15 years old earlier this month, so the old girl ain’t doing so bad.

 

Back to pedal power.

Back to pedal power.

 

13.

That, imho, my youngest son is a rather fine graphic designer already. He was aged just 14 when he sorted out a logo this summer for the Big Mend. Now studying Art GCSE. Anyone need a summer 2015 intern for an art-related opportunity? Do get in touch.

The Big Mend logo plus coffee.

The Big Mend logo plus coffee.

 

14.

That the ‘free’ coffee for Waitrose customers is a very useful thing indeed, and that people seem to like doing their mending in such public spaces. Thank you, Waitrose, for being so accommodating and allowing us to land on you for World Environment Day! And a big thank you to our happy band of menders! You know who you are. The Big Mend has now been going for almost 3 years, astonishingly. I wonder where it will head next?

Flash mend event

Flash mend event in Waitrose

 

15.

That if you put enough pressure on a carbon life form, it may well become a diamond – eventually. It’s been a very tough year or so and the screws have definitely been on. But I’m wondering if a ‘diamond life’ might possibly be in store for me after all in 2015. I really do hope so.

 

Thanks so much for reading my all-too-infrequent posts here on the subject of mending, thrift, textiles etc. Take care and have yourself a very happy 2015.

 

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Feb 02

Golden mending

 

 

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Cardigan with golden mending

 

This is an experiment in golden joinery, a style of visible mending which I think I first heard about via Morwhenna Woolcock in Bristol – her film about it is over here on Vimeo. It’s a textile nod to the Japanese art of kintsugi, a repair technique practised on precious Chinese porcelain from the late 15th century. In kintsugi, the damaged object bears conspicuous repair seams of gold-coated lacquer. There is absolutely no attempt to hide the damage, and in the process of repair the artefact becomes not as-good-as-new but even better than. The golden scars are integral to the aesthetic, and repair becomes an alchemical process. What’s not to love? You can hear more about kintsugi in this wonderful BBC Radio 4 programme, Something Understood, which aired last September.

My mission here was to repair a couple of moth holes on the upper sleeve of a Hobbs cardigan. It’s a common place to find moth holes on a woollen garment. Maybe it’s the way we tend to store our knitwear? Tucking arms inside as we fold, thus making an irresistibly snug spot for the average egg-laying moth. I didn’t spot any damage when I bought this cardigan second-hand, but washing revealed the two holes. Damn and blast. On with the mending.

So here’s what I did:

  • I stabilised the area first, tacking a small piece of pre-washed cotton tape to the reverse of the repair – this was to stop the area puckering or distorting during the mending process
  • Then I created a matrix of vertical threads with regular sewing cotton, securing each unattached run-threatening loop and also creating a framework for my darning
  • Next I reworked the stitches with Swiss darning (a.k.a. replica stitch) in gold thread

 

IMG_6902

One down, one to go

 

My verdict: this is a rather fine knit, making Swiss darning it quite eye-watering, and the gold thread I used wasn’t entirely co-operative: it wasn’t really flexible enough for the task. But I persisted. Here’s the thread I used, top right. It’s unfortunately lost its label but looks like pretty standard metallic thread designed for machine-embroidery use.

 

Golden threads

Golden threads

 

This isn’t the most accomplished repair I’ve ever worked, but it’s effective.  The area certainly didn’t pucker (which tends to make a repair look amateurish), and I love the impact of the gold – it reminds me of a square of gold leaf shimmering there. What do you think? And no, I don’t always wear orange knitwear, though I do like orange a lot; it reminds me of marmalade and warm afternoon sun, both much appreciated in dull old February.

 

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Golden mend, complete

 

I hope you’ll feel inspired to have a go at some kind of golden mending of your own. You might want to try a modern version on your broken ceramics. Let me know how you get on by dropping me a line in the comments – it’s always good to know that someone is keeping me company here! Thanks.

And if you happen to be in the Bath area and you have something textile you’d like to try to repair using this technique, please bring it along to the next meet-up of the Big Mend on Wednesday 26th February 7-9pm at the Museum of Bath at Work. More details about the Big Mend over here. I also include Swiss darning in my bespoke Strictly Come Darning! workshop.

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Oct 22

Scrap of the week #33

 

 

This week, the bling’s the thing!

I’m on a leather roll, and my scrap of the week is another offcut of upholstery leather, this time in bright banana yellow. With it, I’ve made a blingy version of the insta-bag for a very young and stylish friend celebrating her 40th recently. She happens to like very bright yellow.

I revisited the simple curtain ring as a cheap (sorry, affordable) bag fixture. This time, I used the widely available shiny new brass rings which happened to be on hand here at the homestead. These are just a fraction of the cost of antiqued brass D-rings.

 

IMG_4748

 

To make the most of these budget-friendly fixtures, I ensured that the metal seam (the line around the ring where the wrapped metal joins itself) was on the inside when the two rings were laid together – metal seam against metal seam – which you can just about see in the pictures. Because it’s nicer not to feel this seam or see it, but putting it on the inside adds a little helpful friction and grip to the rings when they are holding the fabric-square corners of your eventual bag.

 

IMG_4773

 

For tips on cutting the leather, and finishing off the handle, see my previous post. This time, I made a rather fetching cross-stitch in grey vintage linen thread. If you happen to want any of that lustrous grey thread (a very nice stocking filler for the keen sewist!), I’ve just listed some in my Etsy shop, alongside Merry Christmas sew-in labels.

The yellow leather set off both these Liberty fabrics very nicely, but I went for the shoe print in the end.  And here’s the eventual insta-bag, made up. Note that it hangs better when something is actually inside it. The beauty of this design is that you can carry it with you — fabric folded, handle folded — just in case you need it. It’s quickly deployed, and can be carried in your hand or on your shoulder.

 

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I realise that I promised to show you how to hand-hem a square of fabric (as above) to make the bag itself. But, dear friend, life has been so hectic of late that it will just have to wait until another time. However, you will need a square of fabric measuring roughly 75 cms in a fine, lawn-like fabric (preferably Liberty Tana Lawn). If you can get that cut and ready, please sew along with me next time. I’ll be back soon.

 

IMG_4781

 

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Oct 08

Nasturtiums and pauper’s capers

 

 

Looks like it’s going to get colder, so this is my last chance to praise the humble nasturtium before the first frosts do away with it.

Nasturtiums on wicker support

Nasturtiums on wicker support

 

The leaves are already turning yellow on the rampant nasturtiums of my allotment, a sure sign that they’re on their way out. So, a last hoorah for the lovable nasturtium!

Jolly and easy to grow (thriving on poor soil and neglect), nasturtiums were the first flowers that many of us were encouraged to grow as children. I only learned this year that they’re a native of North America, brought to Europe about the time that potatoes, tomatoes and tobacco made landfall. The name comes from Latin: literally ‘twisted nose’ as that’s what the peppery taste was supposed to do to your face.

We’ve been enjoying peppery nasturtium leaves and bright flowers in salads all summer. And I’ve been dying to try a recipe for mock-capers made from the seeds held up in triple-clusters on those succulent, crunchy stalks. To that end, I’ve been collecting the nice plump green ones. If you don’t have many nasturtiums, you can gather seed in batches, storing it in a bag in the salad drawer until you’ve amassed enough to fill a jar.

 

Yellow nasturtium

Yellow nasturtium

 

Pauper’s Capers 

So, this really couldn’t be simpler.

You will need:

a cup of nasturtium seeds. Just the green ones. Avoid any already turning brown; save those to plant next year instead.

a cup of white wine vinegar

5 black peppercorns (approximately)

IMG_4869

First, collect your nasturtium seeds

 

How to:

Wash any dirt or beasties off your seeds and dry them off with paper towel.

Place them in a jar: a preserving jar is great, but any jar will do.

Heat the white wine vinegar with the peppercorns in a small lidded pan. Once hot, pour the vinegar over the nasturtium seeds.

Seal the jar and, once cooled, place in the fridge. Leave for 3 long months, or until Christmas – whichever happens to be the  soonest.

IMG_4875

Pauper’s capers. Left: freshly pickled, and right: a month on.

 

My verdict: they were tested a little prematurely after just a month. Interestingly peppery with that vinegar kick, and still quite crunchy. Not bad, though not really capers. But who cares? It’s more thrifty garden food to add to the winter store cupboard. Farewell, nasturtiums, till next year!

 

End of the nasturtiums

Nasturtiums: all parts are edible, even the seeds! What’s not to love?

 

 

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Sep 19

Insta-bag handle

 

This is an update on Scrap of the Week #32. That scrap was a little offcut of brown upholstery leather and I wanted to create an insta-bag (instant-bag) handle, rather like the fabulous Hiromi’s. Here’s how I got on.

 

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Insta-bag handle

 

Cutting out

I first marked up my strip (measuring 24 cms x 2 cms) with ruler and my pen-of-choice, the Pilot Frixion*: a really great tool for crafters which I first heard about via Julie‘s embroidery and knitting blog, Button Button. The pen, which you should be able to find quite easily in your local stationery shop, is marketed as erasable and just happens to work brilliantly for marking up non-washable surfaces such as leather as it will simply rub away afterwards.  Wonderfully, Julie discovered that it also seems to disappear with the slightest application of heat – a light iron removes it just like magic – so it’s extremely useful for embroidery purposes. Do try it, but please test it first on a teeny scrap of your precious antique textiles before scribbling with gusto! [NB Please see addendum below]

Having marked up my strip, I cut it out with a good sharp pair of craft scissors – no need for blade cutters or fancy cutting tools.

 

IMG_4616

Cutting out

 

Constructing the strap

I grabbed 4 old curtain rings (I didn’t have any nice enough D-rings) and some linen twine. The curtain rings worked well as a D-ring substitute, though it makes the handle look slightly like a horses’s bit (which, personally, I don’t mind). Being strong enough to hold up curtains, they’re also guaranteed to be strong enough to hold your groceries without buckling. Which is reassuring.

Now, the metal riveting on Hiromi’s original had foxed me. I didn’t want to invest in more hardware but to use up what I already had. And I couldn’t bring myself to use clashing rings and rivets, so I thought I’d play with some thread instead. When stitching leather, it’s important not to use cotton as the leather will rot it. Linen is perfect, however. I rootled through my vintage threads and found some likely candidates, including a reel of heavy gauge Barbour twine.

Turning over my handle ends about 2.5 cms, and with the two rings tucked in place, it was time to punch a couple of holes in my strap with a small leather punch (a useful piece of kit which I use routinely to construct my hanging tags, by the way).

 

IMG_4619

Making the stitching holes

 

I eyeballed my measurements, but you might like to mark up first to get the positioning just right.

 

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Leather punch

 

To sew it, I folded my ends over my curtain rings.

 

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Attaching the rings

 

Then I threaded my rather bulky linen thread through a tapestry needle and passed it out through one of the holes from inside the folded end. I left a few inches of unknotted thread  behind, enough to tie a good strong knot later. I worked the thread through the holes several times before bringing the thread out where I’d begun, tying a knot (reef, not granny) to secure it and snipping the ends so that nothing showed on the outside of the strap. Incidentally, you can buy little cards of bookbinder’s linen thread for about £1.50, or reels of fine linen thread from about £1.60.

 

IMG_4621

Done!

 

And that was it.

I’ve modelled it (badly, and in artificial light too) with a classic old hanky/neckerchief, just to show you how well it will hold a piece of relatively light cotton fabric. I intend to make a Liberty square for this one from the fabric shown, but I rather like the rustic Little-Red-Riding-Hood look, perfect for toting cookies to Grandma’s. I’ll show you my preferred methods for hemming a Liberty lawn square (for use as a hanky, scarf or insta-bag) another time soon. 

 

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Finished insta-bag strap in use

 

*A note on the Pilot Frixion. Thanks so much to Mimi Kirchner for sending me this review of the pen’s performance at low temperatures subsequent to ironing. In summary, be careful if you’re thinking of using this pen for art purposes and don’t intend to wash your finished creation: the markings may reappear!  21/9/13

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Sep 11

Scrap of the week #32

 

 

I don’t think I’ve covered the subject of leather scraps before, so this is a happy first. I had an inspiring encounter at the Bath Artisan Market on Sunday and wanted to share.

A wonderful lady named Hiromi came to say hello. Hiromi doesn’t speak much English, but thankfully her daughter (who does) was on hand to translate. Hiromi quietly emptied various beautifully made Liberty (yes, I know, I am a woman obsessed!) bags out of her handmade linen shoulder bag, finally producing a large powdery blue square of Liberty lawn from one. If you don’t recognise the fabric, it’s Glenjade, the classic pattern which first appeared on Liberty Tana lawn way back in 1955.

She also extracted a short leather strap with two D-shackles on each end.

I watched, entranced, as she fed two adjacent corners of the fine lawn square through one set of D-rings (securing them with a half-knot, just to stop them slipping back through).

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Two corners in this side…

 

Then she did the same with the remaining two corners and the other set of D-rings.

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Two corners in that side…

 

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A half-knot…

 

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Insta-bag!

 

Hey presto! She’d created an instant bag! So chic!

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A capacious, stylish bag with a comfortable grip

 

By this time, I was almost fainting with excitement at this wonderful idea. To cap it all, Hiromi had made the leather strap herself, and (Oh still my beating heart!) she wanted to give it to me. Did I accept? Do bears sashay in the woods?! Yes, I accepted (probably just a little too eagerly), offering a couple of little Liberty button/patch items in return. Now I’m singling out a Liberty fabric from my stash to create my own impromptu carry-everywhere bag. How much more pleasurable to use than an old plastic shopper! Or a bulkier fabric one (assuming I remember to carry it, which I tend not to). All it needs is a simple turned hem each side. Supposing I remember to tote it with me, it could double as a impromptu scarf. Or table-cloth. Or napkin. The list goes on. Isn’t that just the BEST THING EVER? Thank you, dear Hiromi!

 

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Hiromi’s strap

 

Next, I want to figure out how to construct my own bag strap, so I’m eyeing several discarded scraps of upholstery leather with intent. Hiromi used a strong strip of leather about 2cms wide by 24cms long. This upholstery leather scrap isn’t quite as thick, but seems strong and unstretchy. It handles nicely. 

 

Leather scrap

Leather scrap for bag strap

 

My riveting experience is pretty limited, so I’m going to need some advice. It seems that what’s needed is a double-ended riveting kit. I’d like to make do with what I already have, and I bought an antique packet of rivets on one of my (very dangerous!) boot-sale outings with Ruth Singer this summer. Not double-ended, but they might just do the trick.

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Bifurcated rivets

 

Ideally I’d like them to match the rings, though. And I don’t have any copper rings of any type – D or otherwise. Do you happen to know where some might be found? Actually, I prefer Hiromi’s choice of antiqued brass for this colour leather, so I guess I’ll have to scout around and find some.

Copper rivets

Copper rivets, with tool

 

So, I have my work cut out. I’ll let you know how I get on. My apologies, in advance, if you receive one of these insta-bags as a birthday/Christmas/other special occasion gift in due course. The bug has really bitten!

Final thought: do you think these might possibly ever appeal to men? I’m wondering here about heterosexual men? Seems to me that the leather strap could look quite masculine, so maybe teamed with a fine lawn shirting of this, or this, or even a Liberty pattern like this, it just might work. Or plain black? Are premeditated fabric convenience bags a place Average Hetero Male will never go? I suppose you’d have to remember to pop it inside your man-bag… Do give me your honest opinion, and feel free to suggest fine, strong fabrics that you could use for this project, besides (very expensive!) Liberty lawn. The next year of family gifts might well hang on it.

 

 

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Sep 10

Patch-ology

 

 

Micro-patching is my current obsession. I’ve made up the term – at least, I think I have. It could already be some kind of hack in the world of software engineering (is it?) but here it succinctly describes using the teeniest textile scraps, usually of Liberty Tana lawn, to cover holes and other faults in a garment etc. Sometimes I apply them as reinforcements: around pocket edges, for example (see my purple granny cardi below). And sometimes I apply them just for the heck of it. To be honest, I need very little excuse to use Liberty fabric, so sometimes I don’t wait for a repair.

This week, my patch of choice has been circular, and my mission has been to cover genuine holes. Moth holes, to be precise.

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Micro-patches

 

If you have a similar woollen garment to repair, be sure to treat it first for moths; I hand-wash with an appropriate wool wash, air-dry flat thoroughly, then freeze for a week or two inside a zip-lock plastic bag. That usually shows the little blighters what for.

To make the tiny round patches, I’ve applied scraps of the lightest iron-on interfacing to my lawn scraps first, just to ensure that my patches are stable. This is my preference and isn’t absolutely essential as lawn is such a closely woven fabric that it won’t fray much (if at all) nor stretch out of shape, though it will get softer and collapse with wash and wear. So, I use interfacing to make them just a little more robust and shape-holding. Then I’ve cut out circles, using whatever round thing happened to be close to hand for a template: cotton-reels, buttons, money, thimbles, etc.

I had a lot of holes to cover, so arranging the patches was my next task. I tried not to draw attention to certain areas by using fabrics which toned with my flamey orange Brora cashmere tank top – a charity shop buy, incidentally, and cheap as chips because of its parlous moth-holed state. Other areas could carry more of a punchy contrast. You might feel a bit like a tattoo artist doing this, trying to figure where best to position a patch to enhance the wearer’s physique. Or not. If you have a really awkward hole (right over a sensitive part of the bosom, for example) you need to think very carefully about your repair. This might not be the right place for a micro-patch.

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Positioning patches

 

Once pinned into position, it’s a question of  tacking (even if you never usually baste or tack, I’d advise not skipping this stage for this type of work – it doesn’t take long and you can try on your garment more easily to decide if you’re happy with the result). Then it’s time for stitching over the patch by hand, getting decorative as the mood takes: spirals, concentric circles, radiating lines etc. I rather like a plain, simple back-stitch a few millimetres from the edge of the patch. Blanket stitch will cover the edges, if raw edges bug you, but it yields a slightly raised effect – fine, if that’s what you want. You could free-machine embroider, if you prefer; a few overlapping freehand circles would look really good. But this is hard (OK, impossible) to do on restricted areas such as sleeves etc.

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Back-stitched micro-patch

 

How small can you go with these micro-patches? Well, if you’re just covering a mark or soiled area, you can go very itsy-bitsy as there’s no repair to effect; so as long as you can secure it well to the background fabric, you can go wild with your teenies. If you’re covering a hole, however, I’d ensure there’s at least a half-inch margin of sound fabric all around the edge of the repair. Now, if you stitch well over your patch, it should hold up well. To be extra secure, you could even try sandwiching it, with one patch on the outside, another of the same size on the inside; this could be done without any interfacing for a softer, more yielding repair. And then you’re spared seeing the raw edges of your repair on the wrong side of the garment. 

 

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Radiating lines of split stitch

 

I get a real buzz from using up even the smallest jewel-like scraps of Liberty fabric. Do you? Seems almost criminal to throw them away. If you have a go, please show me how you get on. There’s a place to share your repairs, by the way, over here at The Big Mend group pool. Jump on in! The water’s lovely. 

I also love the satisfaction of working old-school tradition patching techniques which leave strong, finished edges; I will be teaching these (plus creative ways to repair jeans) in my half-day patching class, Patch-ologyPlease visit my classes page for details: forthcoming dates are Wednesday 18th September, Monday 7th October, and Friday 8th November. But I like to play it dangerously with my lawn, risking raw edges (which aren’t going to fray a whole lot anyway) and going smaller and smaller and smaller. Edgy stuff!

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Send reinforcements!

 

 

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