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Friday, May 19, 2017

Colour Coded Pincushion

Pincushion for sewing machine needles
Doing different things with your sewing machine means using different sewing machine needles. But if you've been using a universal needle for a small project, you wouldn't throw it away just because you change the needle to a quilting one, for example. So what do you do with the first needle in the meantime? And how do you keep track of which is which if you don't happen to put it back in the pack?

These questions go through my head every time I put a different needle in the machine. Usually I just put the other one next to the machine. Not a great system!

I've been thinking that I should make a pincushion for the machine needles, but that still didn't solve my problem with telling them apart. Until when I had a flash of inspiration the other day: use the colour coding of the packs! So simple!

Pincushion for sewing machine needles
So I had a look at the needles I have and picked some solid scraps of those colours and made this pincushion. They're just small rectangles, 2" x 1½" each, because the pincushion doesn't need to be big. It really only needs room for one of each needle type plus a hand sewing needle.

This is really one of those "why didn't I think of that before?!" moments. But now I don't have to worry about dropping the needles and I'll know which is which just by looking at it's place in the pincushion. I just have to memorize the colours for each one! :-)

Pincushion for sewing machine needles

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Join The Quirky Creatures Club!

It's time for a new stitchalong club! This one, oh my, I've wanted to do it for years. Not just one or two years, no. More like five years.

So what is it? I call them Quirky Creatures. That's the official name, but their working title is mini monsters. :-)

They started out in my sketchbook about 10-11 years ago (!), as a doodle-y creative exercise. All of a sudden I had all these creatures filling the pages.

Now it's time to stitch them! I'm not putting it off any longer. I hope you will join the club and stitch some creatures too!

The creatures have lots of personality, they are quirky after all! And I think what I especially love about them is that you can't really tell what they are. Are they animals? Aliens? As old as Yoda? Male or female? They just are what they are and you can add your own interpretation.

I like when toys or clothes or decor isn't aimed specifically at girls or boys. So I think the creatures are particularly great for kids. They're even simple enough that kids can stitch 'em too. Basically, if you know back stitch, you don't really need to know anything else. I think my plan is to use mostly back stitch.

How does the club work?

When you sign up, you will be able to download a welcome PDF. You will be added to a club email list. The list will only be used for this club, I will not add you to my newsletter list. (But if you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can do that right here.)

You will get 15 creatures in total, three every two weeks, starting on May 23rd. It's a nice slow pace. Or maybe you want to save them all up for your summer holidays? Along with the creatures, you will also get a couple of ideas/tutorials for fun ways to use the creatures, apart from embroidery. You will receive everything via email to download and print at home. or at work as long as the boss isn't looking. ;-)

Each creature is 3" tall. There will be a reversed version of each creature so you don't have to reverse it if you use an iron on method to transfer.

Timeline for the club:
May 23: First club email
June 6: Second club email
June 20: Third club email
July 4: Fourth club email
July 18: Fifth club email

If you have any questions, do get in touch: carina@polkaandbloom.com

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Recipe :: Vegan Croissants

Vegan croissants
Since going vegan, there hasn't really been much I've missed. Except perhaps for croissants. Croissants are the perfect combination of flaky, soft, sweet and salty. But they are of course made with butter and perhaps some milk and brushed with eggs. So no thanks to traditional croissants for me.

Tony did make an attempt at making croissants but it turned into a mess with 'butter' melting and oozing all over the place. So I really thought that I'd never have a croissant again.

Until! A few months later I was going through some old magazines and I came across a recipe for homemade croissants. It wasn't a vegan recipe but the ingredients were easily replaceable. The thing that made me think 'this could work!' was that the flour used is Italian (style) 00 flour. This stuff is the kind used when making pasta but it also makes bakes more crunchy.

It took me a little while to find some '00' flour because nowhere local sells it. So I ordered some online. '00' flour is sometimes called pizza flour, but don't mistake it for pizza base mix, that's not the same thing.

So I tried making croissants and you know what? It worked! It's not completely like a regular croissant, but it's close enough. And I think the difference is mostly in the flakiness because of the amount of layers you can make by hand compared to what a machine could do.

Anyway, on with the recipe. It's not really difficult to make the croissants but it is somewhat time consuming. Which is worth it because croissants! ;-)

Approx. time required: Making the dough: 30 minutes; proving time: 2 hours + 1 hour; preparing the croissants: 30-45 minutes; baking time: 15-20 minutes.

Ingredients (for 10-12)
250 ml unsweetened soy milk (or other milk you prefer)
25 grams fresh yeast
2½ tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
500 grams '00' flour (set aside 50 grams because you may not need all of it)
50 grams soft vegan butter/margarine (I use Pure Soy) take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you start putting the dough together.
100 grams cold vegan butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the milk on the hob until finger warm. Transfer to a large bowl and dissolve the yeast in the milk together with the sugar.

Add 250 grams of the flour as well as the salt. Mix well.

Chop up the soft butter and mix with the dough. Then add another 200 grams of flour. Mix together until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Add a bit of the extra flour if necessary.

Remove any excess flour from the bowl. Put the dough in the bowl, pour the oil over the dough and turn the dough in the oil so it's covered all over. This will prevent the outside of the dough from drying out as it rises. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave the dough to rise until double in size, about 2 hours.

On a surface dusted with flour, roll the dough to a 40 x 30 cm rectangle. Spread some of the chilled butter on one half. Not loads of butter, about the same as if you were buttering a slice of bread. Leave 3 cm unbuttered all the way around.

Fold the unbuttered half over and pinch the edges firmly together.

Roll the dough out again, to a similar size as before. Repeat the butter on one half, fold over and pinch.

Repeat the above step as many times as you can. The more times you do it, the flakier it will be. But equally, the more times you do it, the harder it will be to roll the dough. I think I managed four or five repeats.

Finally, roll the dough out to approximately 50 x 40 cm and cut into triangles.

Roll them into croissant shapes starting at the wide end.

Put on a baking tray and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to rise for 1 hour.

Brush with plant milk of your choice and bake for 15-20 minutes at 180°C (fan).

Eat them straight out of the oven (once they have cooled of course!) or re-heat them just before eating. They can also be frozen. That is if you have any left to freeze. ;-)

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Finished Object :: Embroidered Watch Strap

Repurposed watch
A few years ago, I won this watch. I liked it. It was different and colourful. But shortly after, I became vegan and as you can maybe tell, the strap is leather. I didn't want to wear it anymore. So it's been in a drawer for ages. For some reason I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it.

But then, a little while ago, I had a light bulb moment: I can make a new strap for it! I make things, surely this can't be that hard!

It wasn't hard at all. I cut off the old strap and then I took off the things on the back that hold the strap in place. And then I could get started on making a strap.

Repurposed watch
Hello new old watch! :-)

Repurposed watch
It took me longer to make the plan reality than I had thought. Because I had no idea what those clasp-y things on the ends might be called. I found a clasp for making bracelets, but that was way too small. So the watch making stalled for a bit.

Until a friend happened to post a picture on Instagram of exactly the thing that I was looking for. So finally I could ask someone "what is that thing called?!" It's a ribbon crimp or clamp, in case you're wondering.

Huzzah! The watch making was back on!

Repurposed watch
I made a template that would fit through the watch and be wide enough for the clamp. And long enough to fit around my wrist. It was a bit too long, but that turned out to be a fortunate mishap.

The strap was one long piece to start, but because the ends were wider than the watch, I had to cut the strap in half to assemble the watch. So I lost a bit on the length, where it's sewn together in the middle. But it's no biggie, the clamp has a small chain on it so the strap still fits.

Repurposed watch
I also underestimated how difficult it would be to sew the strap together and then turn it right side out. Pretty much impossible because I had used this denim on the back and a stabilizer as well. So I had to sew one side together from the outside, using zigzag stitch because of the linen I used on the front. Lots of learning opportunities here! :-)
Repurposed watch
I don't mind that it's not the perfect watch I was imagining. I quite like that it's a bit on the rough side. I think it's nice when you can see that someone put effort into making something. When you can see that a human made it.

And I kinda like how the zigzag stitching adds an extra texture to it.

Repurposed watch
The only thing I wish I had done differently is doing the pink flowers right by the watch. Obviously, that's the part of the watch you look at the most. But nevermind, I can always make a new strap - I bought extra clamps just in case! ;-)

I am really happy that now I have a watch again. I haven't worn one in years because "I can just look at my mobile, I don't need a watch!"

But you look at your mobile to check the time and then you see an email notification which you *have* to check and while you're at it, just check Twitter and hey, look at that someone commented on your Instagram post and then before you know it you've wasted half an hour doing nothing, just because you checked the time. ;-)

Am I the only one who does that? Well, I'm going to try and be better about that.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

California :: Part One

Clouds [Feb 9]
I have finally started going through the photos from my California trip and I'm going to share some of them with you. I took a lot (!) of photos, so I'm going to split them between a few posts. I don't want you to get photo overwhelm! And it's probably best not to sit and edit dozens of photos in one go.

Canada [Feb 9]
Canada from above. I spent quite a while just standing by the window in the galley looking out/down. Sadly, it was cloudy when we flew over Iceland and Greenland, but Canada isn't too shabby!

Actually, it's kinda weird that I can look out of an airplane window, because I am not goo with heights at all. Maybe it's because it's kinda surreal to be that high up, so the fear is overridden by 'holy carp, this is so weird and amazing!' Or something.

Golden gate Bridge [Feb 9]
It was raining when I arrived in San Francisco. But the Golden Gate Bridge was still nice.
Marin County [Feb 9]
I really like this blurry shot of somewhere in Marin county, taken from the car. The rain on the window gives it a beautiful depth. :-)

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge [Feb 10]
The following day was a completely different story. Look at this, blue skies and just a bit of cloud. My sister had a doctor's appointment, so I tagged along to keep her company.  This causeway goes through San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It was beautiful, with lots of different birds.

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge [Feb 10]
So beautiful.

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge [Feb 10]
Some kind of bird. My sister is mad about birds, many birds were pointed out on our various drives. Birds are not my thing, but I did learn to recognise a turkey vulture.

San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge [Feb 10]
Ack, so pretty! There was a lot of extra water because they've had a lot of rain this winter. In some places trees were almost completely submerged.

Outside Napa [Feb 10]
A common sight in Napa Valley in spring, rapeseed flowers.

Mural in Napa [Feb 10]
On Instagram I follow an urban art magazine, and a few weeks before I went to California they posted about a mural that had just been completed, as part of the Rail Arts District Napa. It looked beautiful, so I had to go check it out. I'm so glad I did!

Isn't it stunning?

Mural in Napa [Feb 10]
It is called 'Knocking on Heavens Door' by artists Bezt of Etam Cru & Natalia Rak. More pieces are coming - I think one has just been finished right next to this one. (This link should show you where they are on Google Maps.)

Mural in Napa [Feb 10]

Orange tree - nice for breakfast [Feb 11]
Second day in CA. Orange tree in my sister's garden. Imagine having freshly picked oranges for your morning juice! It was delicious. :-)

Driving to Concord from Napa [Feb 11]
Driving from Napa to Concord. Beautiful hills.

Driving to Concord from Napa [Feb 11]
I think this is Mount Diablo.

Hula [Feb 11]
The reason we were going to Concord. My sister is a hula dancer! She got hooked on it when she lived in Hawaii. It was interesting to see!

If you come across the Nā Mamo No'eau hula dancers, that's my sister's crew. :-)

Driving from Concord to Napa [Feb 11]
More pretty hills, driving back from Concord.

JoAnn's haul :-) [Feb 12]
Ah yes, we stopped by JoAnn's in Concord on the way back. This is my (modest, don't you think?) haul of a few fat quarters and quilting rulers and a few other bits.

In the garden with sister and niece and nephew [Feb 12]
Look at these guys! Helping my sister with the weeding. Making mischief more like! :-)

Carrie Fisher and George Clooney [Feb 12]
I brought over a pair of unstuffed whale softies for the twins. A flat whale takes up less space in the suitcase! Meet Carrie Fisher and George Clooney. :-D

At DiRosa Art Museum in Napa [Feb 12]
Third day in California. The whole family went to a nearby di Rosa art museum.

At DiRosa Art Museum in Napa [Feb 12]
Set in a beautiful park with sculptures. Although we didn't see those, because that was a paid tour. And with a couple of two year olds, that probably wouldn't have been ideal. One of the people in the museum gave us an introduction to the current exhibition, but again, with at least two of the adults trying to keep the kids from touching the art, he could probably have picked a better audience. ;-)

At DiRosa Art Museum in Napa [Feb 12]
I really liked this painting. Unfortunately, I can't remember who painted it.

At DiRosa Art Museum in Napa [Feb 12]Or this one. Maybe I can look it up somewhere. If you know any of the artists, please let me know.

To end the excursion, we had lunch at a restaurant which the kids were very exited about!

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Creative Magazines for Sale

Have you heard of the Minimalist Game? It's a declutter/minimizing challenge where each day for a month you get rid of a number of items corresponding to the day of the month. So, one item on the first day, two on the second day, five on the fifth day and so on. I'm doing that this month and it's forcing me to take a good look at some of my stuff. So much stuff! Some of it doesn't have much value to anyone (why have I been keeping it?!), some is going to the charity shop and some I'm selling.

If you feel like it, you can follow my challenge with my special hashtag on Instagram: #carinasminsgame. If you want to check out other random people doing the challenge there's this hashtag: #minsgame.

I have some magazines and other bits that will go on eBay this weekend, but before I do that, I thought I'd offer them to you first. If you want any of it, just send me an email: carinascraftblog@gmail.com and will sort out the details.

I have a stack of lovely, creative magazines that I think you will like.

Each is £4 + £2.90 postage (in the UK). I think I can send 2-3 magazines for the same postage. And if you want to grab more than one, I'll make you a deal: 2 mags = £7, 3 mags = £10 and 4 mags = £12. That's a good deal! Buying these magazines from the shop will cost £10-15 each!

Flow magazines destash
Flow magazine, the English version.

Uppercase magazines destash
Uppercase magazine.

Work Life 3 from Uppercase - destash
Work Life 3. A directory of illustration, also from Uppercase. Same price as the magazines.

Momijis - destash
These cute Momiji dolls have a small compartment where you can hide a secret message for someone. So cute. Even cuter because they are Hello Kitty Momiji. Perfect for Japanese cuteness lovers.

£5 each + £2.90 postage (UK). £8 for both and the postage should be the same.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Liberty Challenge :: LMQG

LMQG Liberty challenge 2017
In the quilt guild, we have a challenge at the moment. We were each given a few pieces of Liberty lawn fabric at the start of the year to use in a quilt. There were some rules to how we could make it. I think it was something like we can only use the Liberty fabric we had been given, so no adding from our stash (not hard for me since I barely have any Liberty fabric!) and it'd be good to use fabric in our stash/repurpose fabric.

I was sorta inspired by the Japanese technique of kintsugi, where pottery is repaired with lacquer mixed with gold dust and this makes the pottery even more beautiful.

So I had a look at my stash of Tony's old work shirts and picked one that was fairly neutral. I cut up the Liberty fabrics and sewed them into thin strips. Then I just started making random cuts in the shirt sections. I deliberately didn't think much about which print to put where, I focused more on finding a strip of the right length.

Once I had used up as much of the Liberty strips as I could, I pulled a solid colour from my stash. I used that to add to the short sections to square them up into blocks. And then I sewed the blocks together. It's all a bit wonky because it's cut only with scissors. No squaring up with ruler and rotary cutter.

LMQG Liberty challenge 2017
This is the result. For now. I have tried really hard to not judge the result or compare it to what I may have imagined it would look like. It does mostly look how I imagined. But. But, but, but. I'm really not diggin' it. I can't put my finger on why, exactly.

I have no problem with the wonkiness. I like that you can tell that some of the fabric used to be a shirt. I don't know. Maybe it's the overall shape of it. I've been thinking I might take another old shirt and do the same thing with the Liberty stash I do have and then sew the two together to make something that is more square. Or atleast bigger. Or something.

LMQG Liberty challenge 2017
Then again. Whenever I fold the quilt top, like in this photo, or the one at the top, I keep thinking "oh I quite like this section, or that section". So maybe I'll just cut it into square-ish squares and make a top from that. Who knows. I have put it aside for now and then I'll come back to it with fresh eyes at some point.

Playing with Liberty scraps
I had some tiny Liberty scraps leftover. Liberty is too pretty to throw away so I saved them. Pondering what to do with them for a couple of weeks. This is what I did with them: ironed them onto some light weight interfacing so they wouldn't fray too much. I cut out random leaf and circle shapes. And then I just started playing with a layout.

Once I found something I liked, I tacked it all down and now I'm slowly stitching the shapes to the background. What I'll do with it when I'm done, I have no idea. I'm just enjoying the process of simple stitches. :-)

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London
As promised, here are some photos from the Josef Frank exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. I am so glad I went to see this exhibition, I've had a reminder in my calendar for months. So if you're in London and you're interested in pattern or surface design, don't miss it.

Seeing all these different designs together, I think you can really see how big an influence Josef Frank has had on the design you can find at IKEA.

I'm not going to say a whole lot, the beautiful work will speak for itself, I think! If you want to know more about Josef Frank, check out this Wikipedia article. There's also this article on the Guardian website and they have a photo gallery as well.

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London
I love-love-love these tulips. :-)

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London
Once you get up close to the designs you really notice how much details there is. 

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London
Josef Frank did lovely watercolors of still lifes, especially flowers, and of landscapes. Most of these have not been exhibited before.

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London
This scene just looks so very Swedish. :-)

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Josef Frank Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum, London

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