11th Jul 2008

New Design: Even More Tea Towels…

After the very disappointing Target tea towels (although, let’s be honest…what sort of quality was I really expecting from Target?), I did some searching online to see what the best fabric for tea towels was and (more importantly) where to find that fabric. The consensus among tea towel aficionados was that linen makes the best tea towels as it is the most absorbent of the usual fibers. As plain white 100% linen seems to be completely unavailable in Sacramento, I ordered some linen from Fabrics-Store.com last weekend.

What a superb selection they have…too much for me apparently. I had to do more searching to find out what exact weight of linen made for the best tea towels. I’d found one recommendation online for a weight of 5.3 oz./yard and so ordered some of that but also, after browsing through the “Doggy Bag” section of the Fabrics-Store.com website, ordered some slightly heavier (6 oz./yard) material as well.

The order arrived yesterday morning and so I immediately popped it into the washing machine and then hung it out to dry before heading off to work. (Oh, as far as weight goes, I’d order anything between the two weights I got. They’re both very good weights for tea towels.)

After work last night, I ripped the heavier fabric into tea towel-sized pieces and then edge-stitched the towels using one of the fancy stitches available on the sewing machine.

This morning it was time to try out making leaf prints. First up? loquats…

Loquat towel

For those who have never seen them, loquat leaves are quite thick and stiff. That might be part of the reason why the ink globbed a bit on that big leaf in the middle. I printed two towels with this pattern and another two using grape leaves.

Grape Towel

They’ll hang out to “cure” until tomorrow afternoon when I will heat set the ink with the iron. After that, they’ll have another trip through the washing machine to clean them up a bit (and also to create the edge fringe) then they’ll be ready to use!

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04th Jul 2008

New Design: Thank you notes

My friend, Cheryl, asked if I would design and print some thank you notes for a baby shower she’s hosting. One of the main decorative colours at the shower will be yellow and there will be lots of African mammals represented in other items.

It seemed like the perfect time to use one of my safari designs: the giraffe.

Thank you cards

My colour seems to be a bit off as the cards are actually yellower but you can still see Mrs. Giraffe and her baby.

For anyone planning a shower of any sort in the future, steal this idea: hand out thank you cards to the guests as they arrive and ask them to address the envelope to themselves. When the time comes to write those notes, part of the job is done for the lucky shower-ee.  What a time saver, especially for a new mother!

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27th Jun 2008

How to: Make a Dog Bed in Less than an Hour

And it won’t cost a lot either!

Oh, and it doesn’t involve sewing…

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 yard of 58″ wide fleece
1 20″ x 28″ x 2″ pillow

Start by cutting the fleece in half along the fold. This will give you two pieces of fleece measuring 29″ x 36″.

Create a fringe along all four sides of each piece of fleece by cutting 3″ long cuts, 1″ apart. You will end up removing a 3″ square piece of fleece from each corner. Once completed, your fleece pieces will look like this:

Fleece fringe

Next, put your fleece pieces on top of one another, lining up the corner cutouts. Form knots along one short and the two long edges using a single fringe piece from each side. Leave one short edge unknotted for now.

Knotted fringe

Insert the pillow into the fleece and knot the remaining fringe pieces together.

Voila! Dog bed…

Streaka's new bed

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24th Jun 2008

Design Tip: Making Swirls in Illustrator

Thanks to Jessica Jones over at How About Orange, I can now make really funky swirls in Illustrator. Jessica linked to this tutorial at Bittbox and this was the result of my first kick at the swirly can:


How fun! You know, I’d thought about printing a leaf design I’d done as part of my “safari” images on some pillowcases:

Jungle Leaf

Now I think I might just do swirly things instead!

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15th Jun 2008

Oops! The Beet Pickle Recipe

I should have included this in yesterday’s post, shouldn’t have I?

I got this recipe from the Spouse’s grandmother way back, even before the Spawn was born. Every year, I’d do up at least one batch (sometimes I did several batches as they were consumed) and, for as long as we lived in Metchosin, I entered a jar of them in the Luxton Fall Fair. I’m happy to say that these beet pickles won first prize at said fair for four years running.

The yield of the original recipe is 4 pints; I have doubled, trebled, and even quintupled it (yes, I had to look that word up!).

4 quarts of small beets
3 cups vinegar
2-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tsp. pickling spice
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. pickling salt

Cook beets until tender; drain and plunge into cold water. Slip off skins and trim if necessary.

Heat vinegar, water, sugar, spices, and salt to boiling. If spice bag is not used, strain out the spices. Add beets to pickling solution and bring to boiling. Pack into clean, sterilized jars, cover with solution, and seal immediately.

That’s the original recipe. I think it wise to add a ten minute spin in a hot water bath (85C) to the recipe. And, it should go without saying to follow all food safety procedures when making any home canning products.

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14th Jun 2008

Making Pickles

After our meeting this morning, book club headed off to the farmer’s market to buy the fixings for making pickles…both beet pickles and dilly beans. Leigh was good enough to document our afternoon with her camera.

Beans and peppers

Dilly Beans, up close and personal

I’ve put all the photos in a Flash slideshow (powered by Flash Slideshow Maker) which you can see here: click!

At the end of the day, we ended up with eleven pints of beet pickles and one pint jar plus 5 half-pint jars of dilly beans. Yum!

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03rd Jun 2008


Yesterday, I decided to try making something totally new for me…a ratafia. Initially, I was going to make an entirely vodka-based liqueur but then I found this NY Times article by Pete Wells: Bottling the Bounty of the Season. Google pointed me to this article because I had searched for recipes using loquat seeds. After reading it, I found I rather liked the idea of using wine instead of liquor to make the beverage. And so it was out to the garden to harvest some loquats!

Loquat Tree

This was taken this afternoon so, obviously, I didn’t need the entire crop …

I added a bit more fruit than the Times article called for and also added some of the loquat seeds. This is what ended up going into my fridge:

2 cups chopped loquats
1/4 cup loquat seeds
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vodka
750 ml Pinot Grigio

I also saved a whack of the seeds, just in case I do want to make the vodka-based liqueur after all.

If this turns out, it could make a really interesting way to capture the seasonal flavours. I reckon this will make a great beverage for midsummer; I bet it would be super made into a Pimm’s Cup sort of drink too…

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13th May 2008


Julia Rothman is guest-blogging at Design*Sponge this week and one of her first posts was a tutorial on how to make repeat patterns by hand. I couldn’t wait to try this out but, as I’ve been feeling a little tired/brain-dead today, decided to use one of my existing designs…my Fetterangus stationery design!

Fetterangus notes

Using that Pictish-inspired design, I was able to come up with what would make some pretty darn nice paper:

Fetterangus paper

This gives me tons of ideas for more paper designs…if only I knew where to get it printed!

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02nd May 2008

Glass Etchings

When the Spouse bought his bead blaster, one of the “selling points” in his pitch to me was “you can use it to etch glass for prizes”. I think he may have regretted that yesterday as I had him conscripted into helping me etch 54 pieces of glass as prizes for this weekend’s race meet.

I adapted a 1912 Ludwig Hohlwein design for the vinyl cutter; this meant a fair amount of detail had to be removed and some of the angularity softened. Once the vinyl had been cut, the actual design was weeded, leaving a negative image. The remaining vinyl was applied to the glass, the piece was masked, and off it went to the garage to get blasted!

And the results:

Etched Glass

In total, thirty glass plates, sixteen 6″ rectangular vases, four 9″ rectangular vases, and four 7″ large vases were etched. All the glass came from IKEA so this ended up being a pretty cost-effective load of prizes.

More importantly for me, etching these pieces gave me some ideas for other “negative image” pieces I might do in the future. (And I’m sure the Spouse will be glad to hear that they DON’T involve the bead blaster!)

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15th Apr 2008

QR Code Thank You Notes

QR Thank You Card

After last week’s brief foray into paper cutting, yesterday saw me finally getting back to stationery and working on another design — this time for thank you cards. A combination of low-tech (you can’t get a whole lot lower tech than Gocco!) and high tech (QR codes rock!) really appealed to my sense of irony.

Not quite so ironic was the nasty folding job done on the cards used. Very disappointing as I thought I’d found a more local source for cards. Around half of the cards were folded all wonky so I decided to shorten the run and put them all on sale.

When I get back from Oregon, I’ll run some more of these lovelies (and this time the fold will be perfect because I won’t be using Strathmore cards again, will I!).

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