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Archive for August, 2011

Kick out the jams, motherf*ckers!

The crazy jam making continued this week, with two more batches of jam being turned out of my kitchen.  This was entirely unplanned.  I had intended to make one more batch next week, as my friend Tracey had promised to bring me some plums from her garden when I next saw her.

My mother had other ideas.  She came home on Thursday evening with no fewer than fourteen punnets of strawberries that she’d picked up cheaply at the supermarket.

Ok, they were reduced to 20p a punnet, and that is very cheap, but she then handed them over to me.  Fourteen punnets of strawberries therefore became my problem.

Have you any idea how dull it is hulling that many strawberries?  Let’s move on, because you don’t need a description of that, do you?

So I naturally thought I’d make strawberry jam (jelly, strictly speaking, as I don’t like seeds or bits in my preserves).  Strawberry with a hint of lime (because strawberry on its own would be too sweet, and a bit boring).  How hard can it be?

Harder than I thought, which is harder than the jelly was.  It took two attempts to get the first batch to set.  It refused to set the first time, but I put it into jars anyway while I thought of what else I could do.  I knew that strawberries have bugger all pectin, so I’d used jam sugar instead of plain granulated.  I’d even put in one apple to help add a bit of extra pectin.  Still the jelly was resolutely liquid.

I contemplated simply labelling the jars as strawberry syrup instead, but that felt like accepting defeat: and I wasn’t going to be beaten by soft fruits.  No sir I was not.

In the end I emptied all the jars back into the saucepan (and had to clean and sterilise the jars again *groan*), added a whole bottle of liquid pectin and wished it the best of luck.  Thankfully it did set, although it is the softest jelly I’ve made so far.  Tastes good though.

I still had a pint and a half of strawberry juice left… but I was buggered if I was going down the strawberry-on-its-own route again.  So I stewed up enough apples (left over from my scrumping the other week… and there are still more left to use up…) to make a 50/50 mix of strawberry and apple.  Thus yet another batch of jelly appeared this morning, perfectly set thank goodness (got to love those apples, eh?).

I’m now completely out of jars.  My mother managed to get quite a few from her friends, which I had intended to use for the plum jelly in due course, but which have all been used for the two strawberry based jellies instead.  The next few days will be spent trying to scrounge some more jars from somewhere in time for Wednesday, which is when I think I’ll be getting the plums from Tracey.

In the meantime I have labelled all the jars, and cut cute little cloth covers for most of them, and I must say that they do look very pretty!

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The lovely Kirst over at The Leopard Anchor has started a Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt (to view Kirst’s run through of the details click here).

I thought it would be fun to take part, particularly as I’m having a little hiatus from studio work at the moment, and to make the challenge a bit more difficult for myself I decided to theme all my photos on the great outdoors.  As a bit of a change from my usual camera I also decided to use the camera on my phone so that I could vintage the photos up using the Vignette app.

Inspiration

My studio, which is such an inspiring little place to work.

Something I made

The beehive compost bin I made out of leftover wood earlier this year.

Motifs: Birds

The beautiful bird cage I bought at the Chelsea Flower Show this year.  I love this so much and take an obscene amount of pleasure in simply looking at it out of the window when I’m sat at my desk.

Supplies

Not traditional crafting supplies, but supplies as provided by nature.  I’ve been making a lot of jam lately, so fruit has been upmost in my thoughts!

Holiday

Some people bring home keyrings or rock when they go on holiday… I brought home bits of an old ship which I picked up in the Orkneys.

Thanks for viewing my entry for this month’s Scavenger Hunt.  Please do pop along to Kirst’s blog to find links to the other people who are taking part.

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Some time ago I fell in love with the work of Abbots Hollow Studios.  They make (amongst other things)  beautiful journals with the most expressive faces.  I really wanted one but couldn’t justify the cost of treating myself to one.  I make notebooks for crying out loud, how could I possibly buy one?

Still, my thoughts kept returning to their books, and when I saw this guy I finally had to act.

I got in touch with the seller and proposed a trade.  Thankfully he and his wife did actually like the things I make (we wouldn’t have got very far if they’d hated everything in my shop!) and after going back and forth for a bit we agreed on a trade and last week we both sent our packages out into the great beyond and wished them the best of luck.

This afternoon Clem arrived.

He’s absolutely bloody FABULOUS.  Just as well made as he appeared in their shop listing, and (what you can never convey online) he feels so sumptuously soft.  The leather he’s made with is lovely, and stroking him it feels as though I’m stroking a real creature.

Clem is officially my New Favourite Thing Ever and I’m looking forward to having him in my studio with me.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever bring myself to write in him, but I will certainly enjoy chatting to him – and who knows, perhaps he’ll start to talk back…

You might be wondering what I sent as my half of the trade.  Well it turns out that most of the things they liked were Hogwarts related, and in the end they chose a couple of books from this one of a kind set.  I’ll never make another set quite like that one, but I had a few of the books (which I’d originally kept for myself) hidden in a drawer, so they chose two and I included a third as a little extra.  I haven’t heard from them yet, but hopefully their package will be arriving with them within the next couple of days.

Please do visit Abbots Hollow Studios and see the other wonderful work they do, and if you can afford to then treat yourself: you won’t be disappointed.

If you make handcrafted items and would like to propose a trade with me then please feel free to contact me.  I can’t guarantee I’ll say yes (it depends what you have to offer, and how tempting it is), but (as I’ve found) it never hurts to ask!

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It may only be August, but there’s a definite autumnal feeling going around.  There’s that telltale crispness in the air, the days are now noticeably shorter, and last week I was seized by the desire to make jam.  So, after bringing home a rather ridiculous quantity of scrumped apples and elderberries I spent Sunday morning making jelly.

I ran out of jars, which is why I ended up having to use the wee taster sized pots too, but I think they’re actually quite a good idea as I can send little pots to friends who are further afield.

I still had quite a lot of apples left over, so I also made some apple cupcakes (recipe from here).  The recipe worked well; I substituted demerara sugar for the golden caster sugar, which gave the cakes a little bit of crunch, and meant that they are very similar to banana bread in texture and taste – just with apples instead of banana.  Yum!

I’ve still got an inordinate amount of apples left, so I’m hoping to get some more jars this week…

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I’m back from my little holiday, and my fascination with maps and pockets continues.

The pages are a mixture of fine white 100gsm and coloured sugar paper, and they are punctuated with portfolio pockets that have been made using pages from a vintage atlas.  The covers, too, have been made using pages from the same atlas.  It’s a fun, and very colourful, book and I think it’d make a nice travel journal for someone.

This is the first in the series, and I have another two which are almost finished (they just need to be stitched together).  Once those are done I’ll pop them all on Etsy.

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My attack on the stash of calendars in my studio continued today, and the follow up to Dali was Alan Titchmarsh’s 2004 calendar:

I decided to make another portfolio with this, but using my preferred coptic binding instead of the accordion binding I used last time.  All twelve of the calendar pages were used to make envelopes/pockets, and then bound in chronological order so that this portfolio is the perfect place to store notes, plant tags or small packets of seeds throughout the entire gardening year.

A close up of one of the pockets:

The front cover of the calendar was used to create the covers for this portfolio.

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Last week I made a start on making some stationery from an old A-Z.  I’ve since made a few more bits to go with the previous items.

A set of six postcard-style notecards

A set of six regular notecards

and a set of six postcards.

The previous set of notecards had matching envelopes, also hand crafted from A-Z pages.  This proved very time-consuming though, so I dug out some regular cream coloured envelopes from my stash to use with these.

These will be added to my Etsy shop today.

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