Wednesday, 24 December 2008

table decoration

The winter solstice got me thinking about bringing some holy and ivy into the house. We have some decorating our yule log and in the wreathe over the fireplace but I wanted to bring some to my parents on Christmas day.

I haven't done any flower arranging before so it was all a bit trial and error. I found a small terracotta plant pot and brought a round piece of oasis that fitted in the top. I was hoping the glue gun would secure it but that wasn't a great success. I think a bigger piece of oasis so it can be pushed right to the bottom of the pot would be better. I pushed the candle in the top then used the glue gun again to make it a bit more secure.

I cut lots of holy, ivy, rosemary, and lavender in longish lengths, most of which I ended up cutting down so it didn't get too mad.

I started at the bottom of the oasis and worked up to the top where the candle is. Starting with the holy, then smaller ivy sprigs and finally filling in the gaps with smaller lavender and rosemary.

Keep turning it round as you go so it looks good from every angle. I also left one sprig of holy longer than the rest so the whole thing had some shape rather than being round. One really handy thing to do is cut some individual big ivy leaves because they can be placed exactly where you want and fill any holes.

As all the red berries have been eaten I made my own by threading red beads onto wire and pushing them into the oasis in random places so it doesn't look to regular

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

more bags

On Sunday I had another meeting of Sew n' Sew, the bag making workshop. Again my belief that the universe provides if you know what to ask for was proven right. I advertised on the Transition Cambridge mail out and knew I had a few people coming. The problem was material, I was starting to run out and with Mill Roads push for going plastic bag free there will be lots of opportunities to run more work shops.

So what to do about material? I've asked in a local curtain shop if they had off cuts but apparently not. Then on Saturday a lovely lady called Gerrie called me to say she couldn't make the bagging but that she had lots of material to donate! So I now have a huge bag of all sorts of material, some big pieces for bags and some cut into squares for patch work, which has got me thinking about patch work bags!

I ran up three bags on Sunday all made out of several different colours, but was thoroughly out done by Jo's technicolour bag!

bath bombs

Well bath cubes really

I been having a bit of an experiment with the bath cubes. I ran two small workshops last week where everyone brought some different shaped ice cube trays to try out. It seams that lots of shape will work, especially in the soft rubber trays. But to get them working really well you need to wait until they are really dry, a good couple of hours. We had pretty good success with hearts, fish and stars.

  • The texture needs to be just damp enough to hold together when you press it with the back of a spoon
  • I've noticed that a little too much water means they stay a bit soggy in the middle and wont come out of the tray. Just leave them for another couple of hours until they are thoroughly dry.
  • I made a batch the other day that had a really lumpy texture on the top. The only thing I can think was that the house was very humid from making marmalade!
  • Work quickly to fill the trays otherwise the mix starts to dry out and wont hold together. Some of the trickier shaped trays meant filling them took longer

Thursday, 11 December 2008


It is not all cosmetics and sewing. yesterday was the NHM learning departments Christmas party. renown museum wide for the fancy dress costumes the theme this year was under the sea.
So armed with a second hand parasol for a baby's buggy, the plastic sheeting that the bed came wrapped in and an awful lot of bubble wrap, I set about transforming it all in to a jelly fish costume. After taking the fabric off of the parasol I cut triangles of the plastic slightly bigger than the original, and stuck them on with sellotape. The bubble wrap was cut into to strips, mostly straight but wih some curvey ones for added interest (thanks Mark!) and stuck to the inside with tape. No need for glue or sewing the tape worked really well.
A few finish touches of strips of pink pvc and it was all done in record time! Completely recycled and with a total cost of 60p it was bargain costume

Sunday, 7 December 2008

cold cream

The other thing I have been wanting to make is some face cream. My skin is getting more sensitive as I get older and like to stay away from chemicals but I have been finding it hard to find a recipe that doesn't use something harsh as a preservative or a chemical emulsifier.

In the end I found a recipe for cold-cream. Made in the 16th century it originally used cole-seed oil, and was called cole-cream but the name eventually became cold cream. The recipe uses a small amount of beeswax, almond oil, a herbal infusion and a few drops of essential oil. It also uses a 1/4 teaspoon of borax as the emulsifier. Borax is a mineral that has lots of uses about the home and was used as an emulsifier in creams long before the chemical industry invented chemicals like steareth 20. I feel happier using borax over man made chemicals.

The recipe said to melt a tablespoon of beeswax in a double boiler. That seamed like a bit of a faff for such an small amount so I used the microwave which was much less fuss. Just make sure to check it every 20 seconds or less and once it has mostly melted keep stirring until it has all dissolved. I chose to add a marigold infusion (petals soaked in hot water) and geranium oil. Marigolds have soothing and healing properties and geranium is very balancing so all in all I thought this would be a good mixture for my skin which is currently suffering from the effects of the cold and is a mixture of red, dry, flaky and oily patches! Also the marigolds were ones I had grown over the summer and dried.

The tricky part of creams is mixing the oil and water phases together. Beeswax has a high melting point so if the herbal infusion is too cold the beeswax tuns to sold lumps before you can mix it in. I found it easier if the infusion was quite warm, then it is just a case of drizzling the infusion in with one hand and beating it all together with the other - easy!

It has made a nice creamy texture, it's a little oily when you first put it on but soaks in well. I think it will be a lovely night cream.

I scalded everything I used with boiling water first and boiled the jam jar that I poured it into. By keeping it out of direct sunlight it should last a few months.

bath melts

This morning I finally had time to try out a bath melt recipe that I have had for a while. Instead of using bicarb and being fizzy, this recipe uses coco butter and makes a solid oil cube that melts in the bath. As well as the coco butter it has creamed coconut, honey, ground oats and almond oil and I chose to add a little vanilla oil too. I think vanilla is perfect with the warm chocolaty smell of coco butter.

It was an easy recipe, just melt the coco butter in a double boiler, add the creamed coconut, mix everything else together and add it to the coco butter. The only trouble I had was that the gluten in the oats went goopy so it didn't mix in very well, just made a sticky layer at the bottom. In the end I poured the oil mix into an ice cube tray and scooped in the goo at the end. The only trouble with that is when I turned them out (after chilling them in the fridge) they have a darker sticky blob on the top that doesn't look appealing. Oats are soothing so it would be a shame to leave them out, perhaps I just need to be quicker with the mixing next time.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

webby stuff

Well despite saying I couldn't design a website I have had a good go at modifying this one! With help of course, but even so I am rather pleased I could follow along with the HTML. The heading photo is of a flower that sprung up in the garden at the beginning of the summer, no idea what it is but I liked the colours. Then with a combination of blogger, gimp, agave and Marks brain we made the picture the right size and edited the colours in the rest of the blog

I think I could spend a lot of time fiddling with the colours...

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

first steps

A couple of weeks ago I took the first steps towards sharing my creative side by running a workshop in making shopping bags. Inspired by I had an open house and 5 lovely people made six bags between them.

It was a really lovely day. I enjoyed being able to pass on my skills and enable other people to gain some confidence using a sewing machine, and make some damn fine bags! On top of that I have been inspired to think up a design that has a pocket after helping Suzie to make a pocket in her bag.

It was also a great learning experience for me in how to co-ordinate people and resources and how to make sure everyone gets something from the day.