Monthly Archives: July 2012

{bespoke wallet}

i was introduced to these adorable and practical wallets in a post on very berry handmade.  i crossed my fingers as soon as i saw her photos, thinking ‘pleeeeease tell me there is a free pattern for these’, and, hip hip hooray, there was.  (as an aside, i love veryberry’s blog, and i wish i had access to all of the stunning fabrics she sources.  you folks in the uk may want to check out her compendium of uk fabric shops…you’re so lucky!).

the tutorial for these is the work of confessions of a fabricaholic.  it is filled with step-by-step photos and instructions to walk you through your first ever home-made wallet.  thank you, fabricaholic, for sharing your marvy tute!

i’ve made a small collection of these now, and have learned a few lessons along the way.  i’ve used medium-weight cotton for all of these, so i interface the interior and exterior main pieces, as well as the front and back of the zip-pocket, and the largest and smallest card slots.  i interface both the interior and exterior tab pieces, as well.  i’ve learned to cut the interfacing just shy of the seam allowances, as it becomes super bulky if you don’t.  the exception, though, is the tab.  because you trim the seam allowances away and it’s so tiny, i’ve found that full-sized interfacing helps to prevent fraying (i had to remake two tabs because they started to come apart after i turned them).  and back to the card slots – i serged the top edges of the three pieces that remain exposed, just so they don’t fray.

i didn’t like the look of the round, silver snap that i used on my first take (and i found that it didn’t close very securely), so i went with what has become my signature sewn-in snap tab closure, which i’ve used on my phone cosies and computer cosies.  i’d like to try a magnetic closure, but i wasn’t sure about the effect this may have on credit cards inside the wallet.  i’m also playing around with the idea of using buttons with an elastic loop (because who doesn’t love buttons?), but i’ve become pretty loyal to the clean and simple snap tab, and i’m not sure i’m ready to abandon it just yet.

one other  step i tweaked was the zipper insertion.  i worked with a 3/8″ opening instead of 1/2″ – it’s surprising what a difference an eighth of an inch can make, but i do think it makes for a tidier looking zip (certainly tidier than the one shown above).

i’m still working on my edge-stitching.  it’s just not that lovely, is it?  i find the corners particularly difficult to navigate beautifully.  i’ve noticed that very berry’s corners are perfectly curved and very smooth.  how do you do it,  very berry?  what is your secret!?  i know i need to work on symmetry and having my edges perfectly square.  with all of the layers and the turning, this can be difficult to achieve.

since my adorable one-of-a-kind bookhou wallet is on its last legs (i’ve used the heck out of it for five years now), i think it’s time for a bespoke wallet of my own.  now to choose some fabric…

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{lavender shortbread}

as i’ve said in previous posts, it doesn’t take much to make me don my apron (random cravings are usually considered valid excuses to bake), but this week i do have a legitimate need to bake: it is my duty to contribute 6 dozen delicious cookies for the studio tour this weekend.

last year i baked up a couple of batches of ginger crunch and they were received with oohs and aaahs.  i was planning a repeat performance this year until inspiration struck when i was cutting some lavender from my garden.  i dug out my ‘celebrate lavender festival 2002 cookbook’ and read through the recipes.  there’s a lovely lavender sugar cookie dipped in dark chocolate which i’ve made several times, though i envisioned them all melting together in the heat this weekend and decided i needed something sturdier.  lavender shortbread cookies fit the bill perfectly.

these pale and speckled little bites taste like summer (well, like my imaginary summer in the south of france).  they are mysteriously fragrant – buttery and floral.  they are indeed sturdy, though they taste delicate and soft and not at all like they should be consumed with egg-nog.  they are so easy to eat on their own, one after another, though they beg to be paired with some lavender lemonade on a hot afternoon, or to be taken with tea (proper cup and saucer, and at least one lace doily).

this recipe is as simple as it gets.  the most taxing step is making the lavender sugar, and really, it’s not too taxing at all.  the notes suggest using a food processor or spice mill.  i found my food processor didn’t mince up the lavender buds adequately, so instead i pounded them with my mortar and pestle, which ground up the buds nicely.  the contents did look much like lawn mower clippings, but i went with it and everything turned out beautifully.  as long as the buds are broken up into little threads, you won’t detect their texture in the finished cookies.

my plan for the weekend cookies is to sprinkle them with some lavender sugar prior to baking so they look a little more dressed up (but i’ll sift the lavender out because, though the whole buds do look pretty, they aren’t so nice to chew on).  i hope that they will garner a few oohs and aaahs as well!

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lavender shortbread cookies (from ‘the 6th annual celebrate lavender festival 2002 cookbook’, this recipe was contributed by ‘the herbfarm cookbook – 2000’)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, but take out of the fridge 15 minutes before making the dough
4 tbsp fresh lavender buds, or 2 tsp dried lavender buds
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour

• make lavender sugar: you’re basically grinding the lavender buds with the sugar and there are a few ways you can do this. if using a spice mill or coffee grinder (clean, of course), mix the buds with 1/4 cup of the sugar and grind until fine, then mix in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. if using a food processor, mix the buds with all the sugar and blitz until fine. i used my mortar and pestle (see notes in post above) to grind up the lavender buds, then mixed with 1/4 cup sugar and ground some more, then stirred in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
• beat the butter (which was on the counter for 15 minutes) with the lavender sugar in your stand mixer on low-speed until the mixture is smooth and there are no detectable lumps of butter when you roll a tsp of the dough between your fingers. DO NOT beat until fluffy. add the flour all at once and mix on low-speed until it forms a cohesive dough.
• turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface (i use a tea towel*) and form it into a smooth rectangular block with no cracks. using a rolling-pin (and more flour, sparingly), roll dough into a 12″ x 9″ rectangle, 1/4″ thick, rotating the dough a quarter turn (gently) each time you roll to ensure it doesn’t stick (i never have this problem when using a floured tea towel). using a straight edge and a paring knife or pastry wheel, cut the dough into 3″ x 1 1/2″ bars, or cut with cookie cutters (i cut into smaller squares and slightly oblong bars). using a spatula, transfer cookies to parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving 1/2″ between the cookies, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before baking.
• preheat oven to 300 f. bake cookies until they are coloured lightly like sand, not browned, 22-25 minutes (mine were ready at 18 minutes so start checking early! you don’t want these golden or brown, just pale). lift one to check the underside; it should be just a shade darker on the top. place pan on a rack and cool completely on the pan before moving. stack the cooled cookies in an airtight container and store at room temp for up to a week.  makes 24 cookies (unless you cut them smaller, like i did).  enjoy!

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{reversible headband}

i’ve been busily sewing lately, trying to churn out goodies for an upcoming studio tour which kicks off in, gasp, 12 more sleeps.  this will be my second year as a guest artist of my friend, the super-talented kim (who not only paints, draws and creates amazing mosaic glass pieces, but is also a first-class baker who has been sharing some of her recipes at crumbsbykim).

one of the lessons i learned last year was: for goodness’ sake, do not leave all of your creating to the last-minute.  last year my procrastination lead to blood, sweat and tears in my sewing room (i am not exaggerating), and too many exclamations of “why, oh whyyyy am i doing this?”.  crisis-driven sewing and crocheting is not fun.

characteristically, despite my hard-learned lesson last year, i find myself once again frantically trying to come up with just the right items to tempt this year’s discerning studio-tourers.  will i never learn?  to add to the struggle, i’ve been working on a few me-designed items which have taken significantly longer to refine than one would think, including some jersey-knit infinity scarves (more on those in another post) and these reversible headbands.

they look simple enough, don’t they?  sure, now that i’ve sorted out the pattern and the process, i can make one rather painlessly, though getting to this point was far from painless.  i spent an entire day doggedly trying to come up with the right shape, drafting and re-drafting, sewing lousy muslin after lousy muslin, muttering curses and vexing myself for pretending i was capable of coming up with something on my own (much the same experience i had with my phone cosies and my tobermory hat).

despite all the head-banging, i’m pretty happy with the results.  overall, this is a comfortable and flattering headband that actually stays put (yes, it’s true!).  being reversible, i think it’s a little more fun than a standard, one-print number, and it’s certainly more versatile.  i really  struggled with the seam that joins the elastic to the ends of the headband, until i came up with a really simple solution which you can see in the close-ups.  the best part?  no hand-stitching!  and no necessary top-stitching, though i may go back and add some for accent.

once the studio tour chaos passes, i plan on writing up a tutorial for the headbands (as well as keeping my long-standing promise to write-up the patterns for the cosies and the hat), though, fair warning, i may procrastinate the tutorialing for just a bit longer so i can do some sewing for myself (i’m desperate to try making a hazel and some summery skirts, though i’m afraid by the time i get to make them, it will be fall).  in the meantime, i’d love to hear from any of you who have experience selling your homemade wares – how do you do it without losing your sanity (or your shirt)?

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