Friday, 11 December 2015

Tutorial on how to make (feathered) friends!

A post a bit out of the ordinary this, but as 'tis the season to be kind and compassonate, I want to share with you a great way to score some last minute brownie points with Santa!

It is no big  shock for anyone who knows me, that I am very fond of animals. Always have been, and always will be. I don't disciminate, either. I think all animals deserve to live a full life, and if I can help when things are tough, I will.

Not my photo, but I've had lots of these pretty birds coming to feed :)

Winters here in Norway can be hard for our small wild birds. And I guess this applies to many other areas of the Northern hemisphere, too. The daylight hours are few, and the little critters spend most of their day trying to find food just to stay warm. There are no insects this time of year, and seeds can be covered by several feet of snow. It surely is a scramble for survival.

These two fell for my bribery!

So far this winter, it has been very mild and it has hardly fallen any snow. This is good news for the birds, but things rapidly change, and today it is frosty. 

Since having more time on my hands, I have enjoyed setting up a birdy restaurant in our garden. It is right outside of my sewing room (aka the dining room), and I can sit and watch them come in. Mr P even made a copy of our house, with a detachable roof, to put seeds and breadcrumbs in! 

You can buy fat ball for wild birds in various stores, but I have found they are old and rancid and contain quite a lot of sand. Poor value for money, and poor nutrition for the birds. So I decided to make them myself :) And my rep as a birdfeeding establishment has gone through the roof. I now have three times as many different spieces as before, and it is really fun to watch. And I am hoping for squirrels, too :)

Here's how to get new friends. You will need:
  • 500g coconut fat, or (unsalted) lard if you don't mind using animal products.
  • Leftover wholegrain bread (about half a loaf/ 300-400g)
  • 1 cup of rolled oats (use the small, steamed ones)
  • Sunflower seeds without husks
  • 250g peanuts (dried, unsalted, non-roasted) for birds
  • 2 cups of wild bird seed mix
  • Whatever else you have in your cupboard (I found some outdated sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and hazel nuts)
  • Small containers
  • Twine or cord of some sort
Melt the fat slowly, do not let it boil. Put aside.
Take your dry bread and tear into small pieces and put in a blender. Blend to crumbs. Lightly blend your peanuts and various seeds, just to get a bit smaller pieces. You dont need to blend the sunflower seeds, or wild bird mix.
Put all your dry ingredients in a big bowl. Pour over the melted fat, and mix it with a spoon. Get out your twine and cut into foot long pieces, and tie the ends together, forming a long loop. Leave the ends a couple of inches long, as they will secure better in the finished ball. Get out your containers. These can be anything from little yoghurt cups, to coffee mugs or tea cups. Milk cartons or any other cartons, halves of coconut shell, you name it. I used candle holders and coffee cups. Put them on a tray with baking paper (you will spill some.....). Fill your containers, and be sure to put a twine loop in every one. Use a spoon to tuck it down to the bottom. Set to cool.

The recipe is just an idea of what you can put into them. You could also put berries in along the seeds. I have budgies, and they don't always finish all of their seeds, so I blow off the empty husks and save them for when I make wild bird food.

When the balls are completely set, dip the containers it hot water, to get them off. Hang the balls into trees, if you have left overs, put them in the freezer for later.
All that's left is to enjoy all your new birdy company!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Little works of art!

Hello again!

A few weeks back, I decided to teach myself how to tat.
Now, in 2015 it rather rare to find women happily tatting away on their doilies and chemise-edgings, so I struggled a bit with finding the right tools for the job.

I ended up needle tatting on some tapestry needles, and although it worked alright, I knew I was going to need shuttles for proper tatting. The only ones I could find in Norway was online, and made of plastic. I was not feeling the enthusiasm, and had a look on our beloved Etsy, to see if I could find some that I liked better. What can I say, I like pretty things :)

I came across a Hungarian Etsy-shop called Banyek, that had many different lovely tatting shuttles, hand made in wood. I think I spent and entire evening, looking at all the pretty shuttles, but ended up ordering two. I didn't know which size to go for, so the two are slightly different in size. The smaller on is 2.5" and the larger is 3".

I was very happy with my purchase when they arrived. They were properly packed and shipped by registered mail, and arrived quickly. So if your in the market for a shuttle, Laszlo is your man! I think it feels very good to support small businesses, and talented crafty people.

I tried the smaller one yesterday evening. I have to say, having learnt how to do something one way, and then doing the same thing entirely the opposite way, is quite the challenge for ones brain. I could just feel the new neural pathways forming!!

I struggled a bit figuring out how to handle the thing and hold the thread with the left hand, but after 30 mins (and a few youtube videos later) I got it. The tatting gets much firmer and more even, because I no longer have to keep the stitches loose enough the slide over a needle eye. But there is still a long way to go. The technique is quite different with a shuttle, so I have lots of practicing to do before I have anything remotely worth showing :)

Here you can see the difference in quality. The shuttle tatting is on the left, and is much more even and with smaller stitches. The ring on the right is needle tatted, and has about one third fewer stitches than the other ring. It is floppier and fatter because the stitches are so loose.

I am really excited to get tatting now! I love my Hungarian shuttles :)

Have you learnt any new skills lately?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

All I want for Christmas is a...... plaid dress?

Ho ho ho, everyone!
Yes, it's drawing near now, isn't it?

When it finally dawned on me just how few weeks there are left until the holidays, I put my Victorian stuff aside for a bit. You have to make priorities, right?

You see, for the last couple of years, I've had grand plans of a plaid Christmas dress of some sort. But every year has been the same; so many plans, so VERY little time! Since becoming unemployed, that is not the case this year, and I will  finally (hopefully) have a me-made dress for Christmas! Yay :)
I opted for a dress not too dressy, just classic lines and a bit of grown-up appeal.

When choosing the pattern, I wanted one that had something new. I have never made anything with plaids before, so you would think that should be enough novelty for one project... But noooo.
Princess seamed dress for the win!

This is Maudella #5204, in a 35"bust.
I cannot find a year on it, but it's probably mid-sixties.

I think princess seams was why I initially bought this pattern in the first place, because the cover art design is not something that awakens my desire, if you catch my drift. Man, those ladies have properly sloping shoulders!! Luckily, the pattern inside was not made for nearly as extreme anatomical features, and my first muslin fit me beautifully with no alterations other than adding a smidge in centre front and back panel. I didn't take any photos before I took apart the pieces, to use as pattern for my fashion fabric.

Now, on to the cutting. I tried to be a brain-monster and get it all right, but you know how when you really concentrate on something, another detail that is usually a no-brainer goes wrong? Right.
So I managed to match the horisontal lines, but as I discovered when assembling the six main pieces, the two front sides, and the two back side pieces did not quite mirror each other. It is not anything glaringly obvious, but it is kind of annoying. I have extra fabric left, but I am still debating whether I'll make the jacket to match. I'll take some measurements of the faulty side piece, and if I can use it for the jacket, I might re-do. Otherwise, it is just a big waste of fabric for such a cosmetic flaw. So I am trying to live with it for now :)


I am sorry for this rubbish phone-photos, but you get the general idea. This is the back half of the dress on my ironing board, and as you can see, those two sides are not "on target". The front is better,

My plaid is a lovely wool blend fabric, that is nice and light. I will obviously need to line it because of the itch-factor, but I think I'll be fine on that one. My plan is to just make up a second dress in lining fabric and drop it inside. How hard can it be, right?

It's panning out to be a fun project with lots of new things to learn, and hopefully I'll have a finished dress to show you shortly! In the meanwhile, I wish you lots of success on your Christmas preparations ;)


Thursday, 3 December 2015

Making a lobster tail tournure (pt.1)


Next step in my Victorian outfit is the bustle support that goes under all your skirts, to make the famous big victorian butt! Back in the day, these came in lots of different varieties and a lady probably had more than one, to suit her different dressing needs.


From the V&A museum.


I decided to make mine without a pattern. If you think about it, it is just a simple half-dome shape that needs to be collapsible (lengthwise) for when you sit down. And with all the excellent photos around of extant garments, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

I also did look for tutorials online, and remembered seeing one at the American Duchess blog. I used that as my starting point. To make the back panel that holds the boning channels and gives the whole thing it's shape, I started with a piece of fabric 30x32 inches, that were folded in half along the shorter side. I drew on the curve for center back, cut off the excess, and made a french seam along this now curved edge and all the way down.

Pardon the wrinkling, this is actually on the inside
of the thing. Mid construction.

Next was marking the boning channels. Now, I made my bustle using just a single layer of fabric, so making channels would require a way to encase the boning. I didn't want two layers of fabric for the whole thing, as the muslin I used would get very heavy if doubled. There is finished boning tape on the market, but since I now find myself on a budget, I had to think of something else.

In hindsight, I don't know how smart this was, but I decided to make ruffles! They certainly add volume, but I am not sure how they will behave under petticoats. I only hope they don't get all lumpy. If it all fails, I've learned a valuable lesson, and it is quick to make a new, unruffled one. Also, when thinking about it, the bustle is probably heavier now, with ruffles, compared with using  two layers in the back panel.... Doh!
Oh well, if anything, it looks cute...

So I marked the boning channels on my back panel first. By the way, I suspect the drawing on the AD page to have an error. If you look at how the channels are placed on the sideview drawing, the ends of the two top ones are further apart at the sides. In my head this does not make sense. They need to be closer together, to form a rounded dome shape. (Other than that small niggle, the tutorial is fantastic!) So at this point, I put aside the tutorial, and went with my instincts.

I sewed the gathered ruffles ontop of the marked lines, and then did a second seam (7mm) under it to form a boning channel. The ruffles are placed so that they cover the top of the next one. The sides of the top two are tapered towards the sides, because the channels are closer here. I found it looked better like this.

Top ruffles are tapered at the sides, so wider/longer at the centre.

 For boning I went to the hardware store and got a drain cleaner! These are better value for money than corset boning, and I didn't have to order it from the UK. It came in a 7.5m coil, which I then cut into the lengths I needed. I filed the edges round, and applied 5 coats of nailpolish to every end. I left them to completely dry for a couple of days. These steps are important, so the boning doesn't cut its way through your fabric.

If you ever decide to try drain cleaner spring steel, get a decent quality. I first bought a very cheap one, that I could bend with my fingers. Obviously, this would not hold up to wear and would quickly get dented and loose it's shape if I were to sit on it. Get steel that spring back to it's shape when bent and released. Most does this, but just be aware.

I decided to just bone the top half, so only four bones. I don't think it is necessary to bone it all the way down, but I might be wrong. I also wonder if it needs to be this long, but I'll leave it for now.
One of my bones ended up slightly too long, so this is how far I have come with my bustle. Just waiting for the nailpolish to dry on the new bone now :)  Next is attaching the tie strings on the inside, and then the side panels and waistband.