RED CURRANT JELLY

 

It is that time of year again when the soft fruit is at it’s best… My two little red currant canes in the back garden have been loaded with fruit this season, so, once again I get my trusted, rather battered old preserving pan out of the larder, washed and ready for currants!

However before I go full-on into my jelly making, please let me share with you the glory of these little bright gems with these pre-batch snaps.

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As you can clearly see the sprigs are heavy with fruit…

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Ripe and juicy!

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Perfect little sprig!

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This is my huge haul exactly as I harvested them from the canes, few leaves, twigglets and a few green-unripe ones, all precious for a good blend of flavour and pectin content.

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I had a happy hour sitting on the back step, in the sunshine  picking the currants from the little stalks…

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What a lovely colourful picture!

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… and all the stalks ready for my compost bin…

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Washed and already in the pan.  I never bother to weigh the fruit at this stage if I am making jelly, as it’s the collected juice amount that matters for ratio of sugar required. I barely cover the fruit with water, bring to a simmering point, when the fruit is hot and popping, I bash the currants around to release all the juice, a wooden spoon squashing them against the side of the pan works well. This takes about 20/30 mins…

Then strain through a jelly bag or fine muslin over night …. ooooOOops, sorrree forgot to take a photo of this stage…

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Next day measure juice back into the washed up preserving pan, for each pint add one pound of sugar.  Normally I would use good old plain and simple ordinary granulated sugar, however as most of the fruit was very ripe (maybe I should have picked it early) I was concerned that I might not have a good balance of “ever-so-slightly” unripe fruit which you do need for good pectic value.  I invested in this sugar which specifically says good for currants!

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Sterilise the jars by pouring boiling water in them, then pop them on a baking tray in the oven (low heat) to dry and keep warm.  Boil up the juice/sugar for about 30 mins, test setting consistency, then pour into warm jars, seal with wax disc and cellophane while jelly is still hot…

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I wanted my finished presentation to be jolly and bright so chose this red fabric with tiny white pin dot.  Cut circles from the fabric,  make a bunch of little labels (see my past blog on how to make them if you want!) and look out my bakers/butchers twine.

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I do kinda love RED!  Popped my little stash into my mug cabinet to take this photo… I made TEN jars of jelly from my harvest this year, two jars are missing from this picture as I was sooOOoo excited I gave one to each of my neighbour’s before I realised I hadn’t finished the photo shoot!

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The jelly is rich and dark, full of flavour and because of the different sugar a firm consistency … perfect for toast or scones!

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Sweet!

Hope you enjoy having a little read of this current-currant blog, as much as I have enjoyed making, I will keep a couple of jars for those moments when you just need some thing sweet and fruity, the other jars I will give to my friends…

Jay xxx

Little extra snippet for you from Snoo   “… ants stretch when they wake up!…”

(I love the thought of these little creatures doing a big yawn, back stretch and say mornin’ to their fellow ants!)

 

CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW!

I had a CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW moment this morning!

SAM_5324May I share with you this bizarre experience with you… Let me set the scene…

It is pouring with rain, decided that it didn’t really matter about the weather I still needed to go out for fresh air and take the dog for a walk.

Ummm?  which way shall we go?  Several little walks from my house, decided on the direction so off we trot.  It’s one of our favourites, never normally see many people so expected to see no one as it was raining so hard.

In the distance I could see a dark figure standing on the over grown path, in dark coat, black boots, and I kid you not a tricorn hat!  Yep, saw it with my own eyes, oh yes I did!

As I drew near I was tempted to say some thing like “How ‘do my hearty…” but instead simply said “good morning…”

I kinda love these sort of totally unexpected little bits of life that flash by, especially so when they make you smile for the whole  duration of a rather wet and sodden dog walk!

Love Jay x

Little extra snippet for you from Snoo “… China’s Beijing Duck Restaurant can set 9000 people at one time…”

***STARS***

 

On a clear night I do look into the sky and see if I can identify constellations, but its really quite difficult if you are a novice like me, until you get the hang of it… try and block out certain stars to focus on the ones that form a recognised star constellation.  The best way I find is  to hold my Apple IPad up high, arms length, on a clear night in the garden (!) I have even been known to walk down to the playing field at the bottom on my lane… at “silly O’clock”!  There are all sorts of different site you can use to find the stars.

Not only have I found to my delight star formations in the night sky,  I have also seen the ISS (International Space Station)  moving across the sky, this is quite special to see. Go onto the site (I just tapped in ISS schedule over the where I live) and see if it’s in your evening sky, then you can time and plot a moment… some times it’s at a crazy time of the night, or early morning, but I think it’s worth setting the alarm to watch, maybe once!

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Besides the stars in the sky, there are loads of references to stars in our lives, we say the word “star ” lots in our every day conversations.  We see it  on posters, on the supermarket shelves,  they are featured in many  countries flags, we hear it on the TV and radio, read our stars in the newspaper or magazine’s, they are  in many song lyric’s (my favourite is that beautiful song STARS that  Javert sings in Les Miserables), many stories, we hear them mentioned at school, in the work place… just think about it, quite amazing how well used this little word, we all know so well.  It is used with such affection, and so often.   It’s a word that is mostly used for good special meanings,  for quality, bravery, and excellence.  Hardly ever do we hear it being used in a bad or negative way… There are a few exceptions I grant you…

** MY LIST OF “STARS” **

Lucky STAR

Chasing STARS

Future STARS

Super STAR

Film, Pop, Rock, Sports STARS

Risings STARS

Your’e a STAR

Seeing STARS

STARS in their eyes

STAR performance – STAR turn

STAR gazing

Reading your STARS

Shooting STAR

STAR dust

STAR bight

STARdom

Shinning STAR

STAR pupil/student/worker/colleague

STAR struck

STARred/STARring

Five STARS

… And then there are actual STARS…

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STAR of Bethlehem.  This picture is actually a Christmas card I looked out.  The artist Ivar Benavides is a mouth painter, what an amazing talent!

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Beautiful and colourful Quilts with STAR designs (there are lots of meanings in quilting star patterns)  This particular beauty was made by Cath of Wombats Quilts. Check her out at  wombatquilts.com

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STAR fabric

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Antique STAR jewell brooch, I bet this one sparkles, much like its value!

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The Lone Star of Texas

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The Northern Star

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STAR Clipper cruises (Highly recommended! Two ships in the fleet which are STARS… STAR FLYER, STAR CLIPPER and their big sister who is a star, however her name is ROYAL CLIPPER.

Chocolate STARS…

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I remember these little treats were a favourite of my daughter when she was a little girl.  I saw them in the local newsagents the other day so bought some – for research purposes for my blog only I might add !!

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This little guy ‘*’  is under our  noses every time we’re   on our computers!  I know some say asterick or asterix … An asterick is derived from the late latin word asteriscus,  the Ancient Greek word meaning “little star”.    It is a typographical symbol also, it is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star (details taken from google. Howerver, I do think this little star looks a teeny bit more like a daisy!

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Christmas STAR – STAR decorations

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The movie STARDUST OH go on, you must watch it, I found it delightful, bit cheeky and really quite entertaining if you fancy a light chic flick film to make you smile!

Back to my STAR GAZING!!! A few little facts for you about our starry night!

**CASSIOPEIA**

With a group of five stars that form a “W” or “M” at different times of the night or times of the year. To find it… opposite side of the pole to the Plough.

**DRACO**

The dragon! This is a long winding constellation of stars that is difficult to recognise.  If you find the Plough, Draco’s head is at the opposite end!

**VULPECULA**

VUL – The Fox.  A small constellation which lies as part of the Milky Way.

**URSA MAJOR**

The Great Bear… Many cultures have associated this constellation with a bear, the word “ARCTIC” comes originally from the Greek word for bear.

**PEGASUS**

Although one of the stars actually forms part of Andromeda.  The Great Square of Pegasus is an easily recognised land mark in the sky, mainly because there are very few stars in this area of the sky.  During fine night skies you might be able to count 12 or 13 stars!

**CAMELOPAR DALIS**

The Giraffe… A relatively modern constellation, proposed only recently in 1613 by Petrus Plancious.

**DELPHINUS**

A small but very distinctive constellation.  It is said to represent the Dolphin that rescued the poet and musician Arion from drowing.

**LACERTA**

The Lizard… Zig zag of stars not easy to recognise because it lies in a fairly crowded area of the Milky Way.

If you can think of any other STAR references PLEAES PLEASE do leave me a comment and I will add to my list!

I have really enjoyed writing this blog, it has made me smile very much indeed!

Best wishes to all,

Jay xXx

Little extra snippet for you from Snoo… “… sound travels almost five times faster underwater that in the air …”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LONG LIVE WELLINGTON BOOTS!

Not so long ago, I guess it could have been around Christmas I bought my self a new pair of wellington boots… An essential bit of foot wear when you have a dog and it’s winter! I suppose I do wear them for a couple of hours most days so they do get worn, but I had thought I’d get at least a winter out of them.  They were “mid” priced so did expect them to last a bit longer.

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I was really upset to see  the back seam on both boots has split apart, the foot part is fine and water tight.  With down turned mouth,  (hate waste!)  I was just about to toss them in the dust bin when I thought  “wait a moment” I have an idea… bit of a light bulb moment actually!

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Let me share with you the life of a lifeless (so I thought) pair of wellies…

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Kicking them off in the garden after discovering the splits

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The splits

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Getting out my scissors and cutting… and shaping…

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Scrubbing and pulling out the old baggy  inner…

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New pair of inner socks

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Voila’!

They are perfect for keeping by the back door and slipping my feet in when I either nip to the dust bin, or popping the washing on the line when the lawn is wet, and taking the dog for a walk in the very muddy park. Of course, going for a paddle in the river or sea might not be great with these guys on your feet as they would soon fill up over the bulkheads!

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I  have no particular rush to go buy a new pair of wellies now, I will invest in a tall pair soon  for those occasions  when “me and the doggie”  do want to splash through deep water, would be such a shame to miss out on those walks just because I only have a pair of “short” wellies!!

Bye for now, please send me a comment, especially if you feel like telling me I am a little bonkers!

Jay xxx

Little extra snippet for you from Snoo “…seeing somebody smile actually makes you happier…”

 

 

 

BLOCK, SPOT AND PIC…

Following on from my blog titled “Spots can be beautiful” I would like to share with you another project using the spot applique technique.  I didn’t think to take photo’s as I was making this one, however the procedure is almost exactly the same as “Spot can be beautiful” with the edition of a colourful block design in the centre.

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This fabric was fab to work with as it was a woven striped texture which was super for getting a nice easy curve on those spots!

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You can just about see the weeny stitches around each spot.  I also had a reel of fancy bright rainbow varigated thread which I decided to use for the quilting.  The stitching on the beige surround I did using  my sewing machine, normal straight stitch, and just wiggled the piece as I stitched to gain a wavy line effect. Really easy to do.

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The quilting on the block section I did by hand using the same colourful thread.  With a chalk pencil I drew circles varying in size all over, then simple stitched over the lines.  Brushed off the chalk makings once all stitching complete.

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I had a piece of turquoise left, and it was a perfect size for the backing.

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The binding was made by using up all the little left over pieces.  Easy to sew together, then add to the edge bringing the colour together for the whole quilt.

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I look this photo standing on a chair in my kitchen… just putting the chair back, and look who sneaked in to see what I was doing…

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This is “Pic” my cute fluffy Yorkie-Russell, she an  absolute delightful little thing even if she is a bit naughty some times,  sneaking onto my quilt, and flopping down for a little rest!  This quilt  is normally used as a topper for the dining room table.  Couldn’t resist taking this photo!

Some of my photo’s look really dull, some really bright, I guess that is just one of those things, I am an absolute amateur with regards to photography, little hit and miss.  The actual colour of the quilt is more like the bright snaps, if you are interested.

I have enjoyed showing you these photo’s, especially the doggie one!  Would love to hear from you.

Jay x

Little extra snippet for you from Snoo “… cows have best friends within their herds…”

SPOTS CAN BE BEAUTIFUL!

I am quite a fan of spots, dots… any thing with a  pin dot on or spotty bit of china, to spotty fabric   I   L-O-V-E   IT   ALL

So decided to use up my bits of  ROWAN FABRIC to make a  JOLLY SPOTTY wall hanging for my hall.  This is what I came up with with another favourite of mine…. appliqué!

I started off with collecting all the bits and bobs of really quite small little snippets of left over fabric. Cutting it into manageable squares approx.  4″ x 4″

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I like a clean edge to my appliqué shapes and I find the best way to achieve this is to use an iron-on VILENE product… these are the weights that work well with craft, patchwork and quilting 100% cotton fabric.

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I decided on a circle approx. 2   1/2″ to 3″ across the diameter, I actually hunted around the house to find some thing to draw around, actually my plastic pot of pins was the perfect size!   Draw out a bunch of circles onto the “fabric” side of the VILENE.  You can tell the difference between sides on close inspection , the slightly “shiny” side is the glue which you want to keep an eye on as you do not want this to stick on your iron.  The “matt” side I think of as the fabric side.  Cut out the circles.

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Remind your self which side of the VILENE is which, then place the “shiny-glue” on the WONGE side of the fabric and gently iron on low heat so the VILENE circle and fabric is bonded together.

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Cut around each circle approx 1/2 inch larger than the VILENE circle.

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Make as many or as few as you wish…. I got a bit carried away and used up all my little ROWAN scraps!

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Thread a needle with a strong thread (or double up) make  tiny running stitches the complete way around the circle approx.  1/4 inch from the fabric edge, as a guide roughly between the edge of the fabric and the vilene.

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Gently gather the thread so the vilene circle “takes shape” … you may have to tease the fabric/stitches a little to get a good circle look.  Much depends on the fabric chosen, most P&Q fabric works very well, the soft slightly woven fabric is great as it can almost be moulded.  I find stiff fabric or fabric with a close tight weave is difficult to “curve” batik is one I find difficult and try to avoid using with this style of applique.

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Secure with a small stitch.

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Once you have a little stash done, you might wish to lightly press them, I find finger pressing is more than adequate.

Decide on a backing fabric.  Maybe choose some thing without too much pattern other wise you may find the whole piece looks too busy.  Think where you might wish to hang the piece once finished may help your colour choice too!

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I went really neutral (some may say boring!)

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Arrange your spots, pin and tack into place.

With a shortish length of thread just nip the edge of the circle with  tiny slip stitch so you can’t even see it, continue around the whole circle. Repeat with all the other circles.

Once top is complete cut a piece of wadding (Americans call it batting) and backing fabric slightly larger than the piece.  Make a sandwich …. TOP appliqued piece, MIDDLE wadding and BACK (right side facing out) backing.

Quilt as much or as little as you want either by machine or by hand.  I chose by hand as the piece was quite small and could be handled easily. Bigger projects might be better to tackle using a sewing machine.  Or, you could always use a quilting service, there are plenty if you research.  If you find one who has a Gammel Long Armed Quilting machine thats a sign they are  serious about their craft.

Trim off the excess.

Finish the quilt by binding.  I like to double bind.  Cut a strip of fabric long enough to go around all four sides of your quilt.  You most likely have to join.  I find the best method to reduce bulk is to cut/stitch on the cross. Or, as I have done, four separate lengths. As this project is small and going to be hanging on the wall I decided not to cut the binding on the bias, as quite often is recommended.  Several reason why I didn’t.  Using up fabric I had. Knowing the quilt is going to remain still and in position on the wall rather than being “used” on the bed so no movement is involved.  And, I’m breaking the rules!

Stitch on the right side, fold over the edge and catch with tiny slip stitches.

Add a “sleeve” on the back of the quilt.  Easy to make, basically a tube wide enough to thread a length of dowel through.

Et voila!

Jay x

Little extra snippet for you from Snoo   “…there isn’t a word that rhymes with purple…”

OOOPs… Sorry, Just realised I’ve not added all the photo’s for this blog… will add them later, please pop back to have a look at the finished project…

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOM CREAN’S HAT

If you enjoy reading about adventurous hero’s of the past, you will probably know about this famous chap, TOM CREAN…

He was born a short distance from the village of Anascaul, which is in the beautiful Dingle Peninsula  Kerry Ireland in 1877.   He joined the navy as a young boy of 15  leaving his home, for a career on the high seas.  Later, he accompanied Scott to the Antarctic on two occasions, also Sir Ernest Shackleton on his expeditions.  He was a capable, intelligent, strong, quiet man, naturally an excellent choice to have along on such an adventure as he proved to be caring and brave towards his fellow comrades.  Please look him up on wikipedia to read all about this great man.

This a splendid iconic photo of him.  As this gentleman has a special regard with our family for his heroism, I decided to have a go at trying to replicate his hat!

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I had no pattern to go on, only this photo so I totally made it up as I went along from some wool I had!   As the photo is black and white, there is no clue to what colour his hat was… I am guessing grey, brown, tawny or one of the natural colours.

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I thought this Rowan DK felted tweed looked like it might do very well!

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I cast on 100 stitches onto size 3.75 needles.  I was thinking average adult head!

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Rib approx. 1  1/2 inches (knit two, purl two)

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Then just kept backwards and forwards,  stocking stitch, one row knit, one row purl until the piece measured approx. 15inches… This was a guess…

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I gave the whole piece a light steam press to stop the edges curling. Then I stitched  up the long sides together, with right sides together to form a tube shape. Another light press with the iron.  Still inside out I flattened out the tube so the seam was at in the centre, meaning the sides of the tube had no seam. Stitched  along the top, another light press.

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In the mean time I had made two little tassels like this:-

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Easy to make. Make two. With a piece of stiff card board box card cut a  piece approx. 4″ x 8″

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Wind the wool around the card about 20 times.  With a length of wool (double up for strength) thread the wool through the top of the wool while still on the cardboard.  Tie a strong knot.

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Carefully slip the wound wool from the cardboard, with another length of wool, wind and tie around approx 1′ down the skein of wool.

SAM_4854Snip the longer loops which instantly will form a tassel!

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At the top of the tassel thread the wool length onto a darning needle and secure a tassel into each corner while the “hat” is still inside out, do check to see if the tassel is right in the corner!

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Turn the hat inside out, turn up the rib to form a cuff… et voila!

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If you want a good book to get really to know this gent, treat yourself to this one by Michael Smith, full of fabulous photo, facts and information.  Another great book is “Unsung Hero” again, superb read.

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Should you want to watch a gripping drama – film – documentary, I would recommend this one “Shackleton” (played by the talented actor Kenneth Branagh) … Naturally our man Crean is featured in it.  Shackleton is also a special hero, and is up on the top of our family’s list of  great people  in history.

I hope you have enjoyed this post – craft and a little knowledge!

Thanks for dropping by, do let me know who has inspired you, from the past or living right now…

Jay x

Little snippet for you from Snoo “…. sea otters hold each others paws when they sleep so they don’t drift apart…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

RECYCLED CHRISTMAS CARDS?

What did you do with the  Christmas cards you received last year?  There are lots of things that you can make, this is what I came up with from last years cards… for this years pressies!

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The cards…

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So, this is what you start with a heap of Christmas cards from previous years that you have kept “just in case” …

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You  will need to treat your self to a few punches… I bought these four as I liked the traditional “luggage” style shape label, however I am rather fond of a circle label too!  They are fairly expensive, naturally pricy for the larger ones from £10 to  £12 ish,  the smaller ones about £5 to £8 each.  Good thing about this  investment is that you will NEVER have to buy a label-tag  EVER ever EVER  again!

Okay, off we go!

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Look through your cards, some are better than others as you can position the punch right over a cute Santa, Robin, Snowman or a little Christmas scene.

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Some cards are just brilliant for a funky pattern…

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With a bog standard stationery hole punch, make a little hole to thread your ribbon, string, curling tape…

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The “spoils” tip into your paper recycle bin.

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Wrap your gift and thread a label on to the ribbon…

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… or make a batch of  the labels ready for when you are about to start wrapping your gifts…

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And, the luggage shape style…

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Some made from plain  card, ideal if you have fancy gift wrap paper.

Do the same with saved Birthday cards…

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… and some from plain, spotty, stripy, floral novelty printed cards for really any subject or occasion!

The possibilities are endless…

Thanks for visiting, tell me what you have made with your last years Christmas cards.

Bye for now, Jay x

My little extra snippet for you from Snoo “….Humming birds are the only birds that can fly backwards….”

 

 

MORE BUNTING!

Easy peasey lemon squeezy!

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This pre-printed bunting is perfect! If you haven’t time to choose, collect and hunt for fabric to make bunting, can’t decide on a pennant size this pre-printed selection is perfect! If you want some, please scroll to end of this post…

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It comes in a variety of colour ways, with the same design, stripes, dots, little stars, large stars, stripe/floral…

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No instructions really needed, but just in case, this is how I made the two colours… BOY and GIRL… (see later photo’s)

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Cut out the pennants (easy!) I made sure that I snipped exactly in the centre of the unprinted bit (white) so it would be easy to judge the sew line without getting any “white” showing.

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Right sides together, pin a teeny weeny bit (maybe only 1 or 2 mm) inside the printed design.

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Whizz around on the sewing machine. Double stitch the pointed end about an inch each side of the “V” for added strength.

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See… I have machine stitched just inside the design.

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Turn inside out, gently push out the end tip.  I first tried a knitting needle but found the point went straight through the end, best thing I found was a pair of “closed” scissors, but go gentle…!

Press with warm Iron.

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Trim off little “ears” and loose thread ends.

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Decide how far apart you wish your pennants to be from each other. Pin and tack open side of pennants into folded tape.  I measured approx one inch.

(TIP although it takes a little longer I would advise to tack the pennants into the folded tape,  if you skip this step you might find the pennants/tape move as you sew and you end up having to unpick… hate doing this!!)

Finish off tape ends with rings or just fold over neatly.  Or if your prefer, allow a longer length of tape before and after positioning the pennants and use for tying.

Lightly press.

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… for little girl…

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…and for little lad…

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Done!

I have this fabric for sale in my Etsy shop if you wish to buy some, should you fancy making some quick bunting. I would be glad to make it up for you if you prefer, please contact me for costing.  Please visit me at :-thesewingwren  … a little thread goes a long way…

Once again, thanks for stopping by…

Jay x

My little extra snippet for you from Snoo “…China was the first country to use paper money…”

GOURDS…? SQUASH…?

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I hadn’t intended to do much for autumn apart from a few Halloween decorations on the day, but seeing all the pumpkins in the shops, and for sale at the side of the country roads, it has made me think differently especially when I saw these gourds (squash)? I’m gonna call them gourds as its a lovely word when you roll it around your mouth, lips sticking out with extra exaggerated force!
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They were incredibly reasonable at just 89p each (Aldi… I know, a surprise to find them!) they also can be used after enjoying them in a display, for cooking… and to save the seeds to have a go at growing my own in my garden next year. WIN, WIN, WIN !
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There were so many different shapes, sizes and colours I found it difficult to choose just a couple, so I bought a Gourd treasure collection!
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This one in particular I had to have as he is such an ugly warty character, but I do kinda love him for being so awesome!
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I went for a variety of colours, wasn’t going to get the white one at first as didn’t think it fitted in with the autumn – Halloween colour scheme. After a circuit of the shop, I went  back and got the white one! :0)
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While out with the dog later in the afternoon (beautiful soft sunshine and surprisingly warm) I found myself looking at the trees for their colour. I guess I was thinking about Fall in the United States being such a beautiful spectacle, having enjoyed some perfect times in New Jersey and New England at this time of year in the past, made me think I should collect a few fallen leaves to accompany my Gourds in a display.

My first display with out the ugly critter gourd and no rose hips … just leaves

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My next walk I collected a few little sprigs of rose hips and a few oak leaves to add a bit of red and green… and LOOK ugly has appeared!  Warts, carbuncles and all… such a character!

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Now in my front porch…

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I don’t know whether this autumn in the UK is particularly  lovely,  or maybe I haven’t really, really looked before. I’m feeling quite proud that we in the UK can do “Fall” even if it is on a smaller scale to the big beautiful bounty to our friends across the ocean.

Thanks for stopping by, would love to hear from you…

Jay x

Extra little snippet for you from Snoo “… On average 150 couples get married in Las Vegas each day…”