Friday, 28 December 2012

In the last week or so, I tried my hand at wood carving for the first time.The result is pictured below. Not a work of art no, but mistakes are an essential tool of the crafting experience and here's where I made mine.

Firstly, impatience. Yes, impatience again. For wood carving ideally you need a wood without a grain, something like apple wood for example. The piece I had to hand was a pine ring, rife with grain and texture. This meant for some of my strokes, I was tearing into the wood instead of cutting cleanly. This however taught me the difference between "fighting the grain" and "this tool isn't sharp enough", which despite the tool set being new, there were one or two less-than-ideally-sharp tools in the set.

Second was a typical newbie error, in which I wasn't creating enough depth with my cuts. This meant when it came to sanding the piece to soften out carving, I was erasing most of my work.

Third. If you zoom in on this picture, you'll notice little blue lines on some parts of the design (which, incidentally, is supposed to be a Tudor rose). I transferred my design to the wood using carbon paper, but I think I leaned too heavily and left too much ink on the wood. This would have been ok for deeper cut designs, but for shallower designs I probably would have been better off with a pencil lead technique.

End result - While the first attempt wasn't the best, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on some more co-operative materials and trying again.

Monday, 24 December 2012

The wrapping, baking and mixing is complete, meaning I'm as prepared for Christmas as I'm gonna be. As money and ideas for presents were short this year, I turned to some home made ideas for people who I knew would appreciate them.

Part of these gifts were a series of body-scrubbies, destined for different persons.And here's how I made them:

Orange & Lavender Sugar Scrub

-350g white sugar
-Zest of half an orange (if your orange is small, use the whole orange. The one I was using was huge!)
-1-2 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers
-20 drops lavender essential oil
-15 drops orange essential oil
-25mls almond oil
-100mls olive oil

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add the essential oils to the almond and olive oils and mix - this helps distribute the scent evenly. Add the oils to the dry ingredients, mix well, then spoon into a jar of your choice.

Orange & Cinnamon Sugar Scrub

-350g soft dark brown sugar
-Zest of half an orange (yep, the other half)
-15 drops orange essential oil
-3-4ml ground cinnamon
-2ml ground ginger
-25mls almond oil
-75mls olive oil

Mix the ingredients together as above for the other sugar scrub.This recipe uses less oil as brown sugar usually contains more moisture that the more processed white sugar. Be careful not to overdo the spices if you decide to add more than I have listed above, as too much ground spice can act as a skin irritant.

When I had finished these scrubs, I cut the orange into thick rings and placed the rings into my fan oven at 100oC for over an hour to dry them out. When they cooled down they were still a little sticky, but also begining to singe at the edges. I used slices of these to decorate the jars as above, with a cinnamon stick on the brown sugar scrub and a couple of sprigs of lavender on the white sugar scrub.

Peppermint Salt Foot Scrub

-200g salt
-1g finely grated cocoa butter
-40 drops peppermint oil
-25ml olive oil

Mix the ingredients as above for the sugar scrubs.

A note about the cocoa butter - this was really arkward to measure. I grated the cocoa butter with a tiny little grater, so the fine little curls caught a lot of air. The pile in the picture to the right just about tipped the scale at 1g, so this is what I've included with the recipe. I felt it was just enough to add a little extra luxury to the mixture, but you can add more of less as you like.

All of the jars above came from my local Ikea. The scrubs I made are just moist, which is the way I prefer my scrubs. If you prefer a wetter mix, just add more oils. I used a mix of olive and almond oils as I find pure olive oil too heavy on my skin, but experiment to find the mix that's right for you! Jojoba and castor oils are other good oils for skin care, but really there's no limit.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

I have reached a conclusion. It is that December sucks for crafts. It's not that I've been particularly busy with social calls, or doing other things, I just haven't had the motivation. I guess that was mostly because the next tasks ahead of me I saw as slightly awrkward, so I was putting them off as much as possible. But on the weekend just past, I took myself a liberal dosing of Very Good Company, and with a bunch of like minded people together, I not only made progress, but signigicant progress!

Here Suzie inspects my work and declares it acceptable. If it wasn't she would have stormed off in disgust, but considering she stayed to glare at the camera for another half-dozen pictures, I think I did well!

This work is completely hand sewn to date, and I'm pleased with myself for sticking with that. At the weekend, I finished off the second front bodice piece, then cut out strips of red wool lined with red taffeta and sewed them down to the bodice. The strips were cut on the straight of grain, as even today, cutting on the bias is a fabric-expensive technique. Hand sewing the strips helps the straight fabric strips to follow the curves. The taffeta lining helped the colour of the red wool "pop", and I love how it's come out. I think I might even have enough red wool to include a strip of colour at the hem of the skirt, just to tie in all together.

I had thought that when I completed the red strips (which I've been finishing off while waiting for the pics in this post to load), I'd be able to assemble the bodice and start on the skirt! But I was forgetting the lacing. On my court gown, I used ladder lacing, to create a horizontal lacing. But for the day garb, otherwise known as working class wear, the lacing is spiral, such as seen on the picture on the left. It also means I have to re-dig up my lucet to get that lacing done.

Three more weeks (and a bit) to the next event, so I have that long to get it done. *engage panic mode*

Monday, 3 December 2012

The end of my week was much busier then the begining, meaning things got done, but I didn't get time to load the pictures. And I do prefer to update with pictures.

The first thing worth sharing is the cookix christmas tree I made for the first xmas party of the season I was invited to. I love getting to make this at least once a year, and this years variation was butter cookies with glacé icing, with a dusting of icing sugar. Unfortunately it was a good deal more battered by the time it reached it's destination, but the Leaning Tower of Biscuit was still appreciated.

This impressive structure is made using a set of progressively sized star biscuit cutters that are stuck together with dabs of icing to create the tree effect. I'm not a very technical baker, I prefer to make things that are tasty. But tricksy cookie cutters like these can give even me the chance to make something impressive looking.

I've also managed to impress myself this week by making steady headway on my day garb! I picked up some linen scrim for the interlining and used it on the double, so I could have the added stiffness of the linen without too much added bulk or warmth. I've been sewing the back and both front pieces together seperately to create shell pieces which will then be sewn together. This will also make it easier for me to attach the wool strips to the bodice panels.

The picture above shows the back panel, finished but unpressed, and one of the front side pieces, sewn with backstitch, and still inside out.The one to the right, yes, the one with the really poor contrast going on, are my sleeves in progress. With these, I've sewn the upper and cuff seams and am finishing the side seams with a french seam to keep the edges need and hard wearing. I intend this dress to see a lot of wear, so I want to be sure if lasts.