Friday, 30 May 2014

(not quite) flea friday: eye candy

Every now and again it's nice to shrug at the thrifts, and leave for a long walk around town instead in the mild weather.

Our town is a small town - its smallness is felt in many ways, all the positives and the negatives of it. One of the things I like about it the most is that you still find some nice old stuff standing amongst the samey glass-balconied blocks of flats popping up everywhere. Good old signs of times when the stuff of today's nostalgia was being lived.

I very much like spotting these signs of decades now retro, and cherish them while they are still there. For all I know, their days might be counted - they might be erased by the new breed of town planners and their bulldozers soon. (Do you recall the old wooden flea market building with that lovely tatty signage? For example, that's not there anymore...)

The old neon signs above grace the facade of a block of 60s buildings where both shops seem to be still in business there - one is a furniture shop, the other is a little garden supplies and florist's. Needless to state how much I adore those vintage fonts and colours.

We still got something from the thrifts though - I'll show you next week!

Linking up to Me and My Shadow, Sir Thrift a Lot, We Call It Junking and Thrifter Maker Fixer Farm.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


Oh, that so-called selfie... In other words the self-portrait, a picture of yourself, the (flattering) mugshot.

How do you go about it though, if you are a blogger as well as a shy person?

Shy as in not very confident in front of the camera... and maybe you are even a little vain. Shy and vain in the same time? Contradiction yes, but could it be explained easily like this: you think you are ugly...? Wait, actually you think you are all right but deep down you are afraid that you are ugly. Anyway, I seem to go through a lot of cringing every time when it comes to taking pictures of me, and it shows in the outcome.

So what's this all about? It's not about social media and selfies or such. It's about this blog's About page. And how I seem to have settled on a (kind of a) solution to include a selfie to give a face to this blog.

Because I know that it's nice to see the face behind the words. Hopefully it's still so, even if that face is from such a long time ago, it can be easily called at least retro...

While I'm trying to achieve a cringe-free picture of myself that is a bit more right now to put on here, I recommend Pia's post which is right on topic. Also have a look at Bee's selfie which is a wonderfully gorgeous simple snap - I want to be able to face the camera like that (and I want those glasses)!

How about you, do you find sharing photos of yourself on your blog or online easy?

Monday, 26 May 2014

quilt in progress # 2

Where was this quilting progress left off?

Oh yeah. So I laid out my panel with all the squares cut. Once I did that - although this has no photo documentation of it - I could play with the different fabrics and determine my triangle pieces which fill out the edges on these panels.

The easiest way to construct my panels was to stitch my squares and edging triangles into rows, then the rows into a panel. This way I could also save some time when pressing the seam allowances apart, which I did in one go when all my rows were ready.

I iron my seam allowances apart on this quilt, and this was decided after a little research and consideration. I haven't got any heavy fabrics in this quilt, and most of my seams are simple, so for me ironing apart was the best solution. For other quilt designs, ironing seam allowances onto the left or right might be more helpful but it all depends on your design and the fabrics used.

Well, once my rows were ready with seam allowances pressed, I could start lining them up one by one for sewing. It makes sense to pay attention at this point to line up the joining points ie. the vertical seams well, so if you are planning a stitch-in-the-ditch finish on the quilt you will be able to do it well. Also if you have more obvious colour contrasts between the fabric charms, any off seams will be more visible that on mine.

Seam allowances were pressed apart on the rows too, just like before. A little piece of good advice here: any time you iron your quilt, be mindful of not stretching the fabric out with the motion you use - it's better to literally press down than to left and right. Stretched fabric can cause issues later. If you managed to stretch your fabric, you can spray your stretched piece/s with water, wait a few seconds for the fibres to relax and press it again - it should help a little.

And here is my panel on completion.

I have done three more of this since, and thrifted a nice green fabric with yellow floral motifs to go into the middle bits. Cutting the middle pieces will be the next stage I'll show next when I come back with an update.

So far the quilt has been a great joy to sew, although it's still hard to tell what the final thing will look like as a whole. We'll see, huh?

By the way, I got a lot of good information on how-to and tips from this quilting tutorials page, for example on which way to iron the seam allowance.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

faded glory

I cannot help but wonder and feel my heart tingle with a little ache, when I see abandoned beauty going to waste, decaying, cycling back into nature slowly. Just like this vintage rattan chair I spotted on the roadside the other day. (Remember my Abandoned post from a while back?)

This still life greeted me quietly when I turned a corner not far from my apartment, while heading home from checking out the local fleas and second hand shops. I tell you, this lonely chair would have been the best thing I saw that day, if it was still how it was before.

I leave some headroom for you to ponder too instead of venting my chain of thoughts about it... The only thing I'll add is that this chair must have been MAGNIFICENT when it was still looked after, don't you reckon?

Friday, 23 May 2014

flea friday: finds for baby

Although it's not entirely unusual to see retro toys and kids' books popping up on Idle Needle every now and then, the difference now is that we are picking up kiddy finds for our little one on the way, and not just because I like to collect them.

A good example being the overexposed pile of somethings in the picture above - definitely not collectors' items and a year ago I wouldn't have seen myself skipping down the road with them on exit from the Red Cross store... You can probably guess what they are but I'll discuss them at the end of the post, once I  told you about the beautiful chalk board I found.

A chalkboard with added reading, counting and learning the time functions might be is a longshot sort of purchase for a baby that's just started kicking in the womb. To tell the truth I just melted when sighting this at the foot of a boring garish second hand plastic toys mountain. The count-your-ducks beads had me straight away, and I was sold even before I saw the price tag for two euros.

If you look closer under the white ducks at the bottom row, you can see the previous little owner Marjo carved her name in pencil onto the frame - I always find that to be a charming detail.

Since it's Finland where we live, you won't ever be able to set foot anywhere without seeing a few moomin characters around, especially in shops, thrifty ones not being an exception. I don't usually care for moomin merchandize, but this melamine Martinex bowl really appealed to me with its lovely condition, colours and tree-hugging theme. It also reminded me a bit of the look of my Arabia dish.

Again a little bit of a longshot purchase, but when baby gets to wanting to fling the dinner from the highchair, this bowl will be beautifully perfect.

And now for the more useful stuff for the more immediate future: rattling chewy toys and NAPPIES.

When you are a thrifty mum-to-be, you just cannot ignore four washable nappies in unused condition for 50 cents each, when buying one in a proper shop would cost 30 times more than that! Even used ones in a second hand shop normally cost more like 3-5 euros each...! So that's why I felt like skipping down the street with them, you know.

The Ambi Toys teddy rattle and chew toy mirror were a must I'm afraid. Well what do you do when they just sit there on the shelf abandoned, looking right into your eyes obviously needing a new home with a new nipper in it? I couldn't resist.

Next week come more grown up finds. I'm sharing this lot on A Living Space, Sir Thrift a Lot, Me and My Shadow and We Call It Junking.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

goji berry & hazelnut toasted oat cookies

The other day I had a spontaneous desire in the afternoon to bake something sweet - and because I didn't fancy going to the shop again I had a scout around my kitchen to see if I could bring something together from the stuff we had at home already. 

I found a recipe online to match my available ingredients and with some slight changes and additions some really quick and yummy toasted oat cookies were born as a result. 

This picture above shows the recommended number of biscuits per person to dunk with their warm beverage - it might look a bit too many, but believe me these cookies taste so delicious, it takes a bit of self-discipline to stop demolishing the whole lot at once! If you'd like to test your willpower with them, here's the recipe:

Goji berry & hazelnut toasted oat cookies
makes about 30 crunchy oat cookies

170g butter
220g rolled oats
65g plain white flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
220g light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a handful of crushed hazelnuts
a handful of chopped dried goji berries

1.) Preheat the oven to 190 C (reduce for fan ovens) and get two oven trays ready lined with baking paper.

2.) First toast your rolled oats by heating the butter in a wide pan or skillet until it's bubbling and light brown, then add the oats and stir them until they become golden in colour. This will take about 10 minutes or so, but do be vigilant not to burn the butter or the oats. Set to the side to cool.

3.) Mix together the flour, the cinnamon, the salt, the baking soda, the crushed hazelnuts and goji berries and set to the side.

4.) In a large bowl, beat the 2 eggs lightly with the sugar and vanilla extract for about a minute until well combined. It doesn't have to be beaten into a hard foam, just until it develops a little frothy sheen and nice and runny.

5.) Add in the cooled oats and the flour mixture, and combine into a mix. Stand the cookie mixture for about 10 minutes at room temperature - this will help with forming the cookies.

6.) With a teaspoon, take roundish balls out of the mixture and drop them onto the ungreased lined baking sheets. They need to be spaced out well on the oven tray as they will flatten and grow while baking. 

7.) Bake the two trayful of cookies as two separate lots, each for about 10-12 minutes until light golden. Remove onto a wire rack to cool. 

8.) The cookies will be crunchy and a bit hard as they cooled down - if you'd like them a bit softer and chewier, leave them on a tray uncovered on the kitchen table for a couple of days. Enjoy with coffee or tea! 

See the recipe I based mine on (quantities measured in cups) here.

I'm linking up with Dawn's History and Home Party.

Monday, 19 May 2014

the ugly duckling chair make-over # 2

Here we go with the next stage, step by step towards a transformed-looking chair. Fair warning - this post will be image-laden, to guide and explain the process as best as I could muster it.

Drafting a pattern for this chair was not difficult, because I could stick pins into its upholstery to first copy the pattern with fabric, then transfer that to paper. This is basically the essence of what needs to be done.

#2 Copying then drafting the pattern

First, find a suitable fabric for the copying stage that you don't mind scribbling all over, cutting up then throwing away. No-stretch is essential, cotton would be ideal. An old bed sheet for example is quite perfect for this. 

Pin it around the edge of the seat, make sure it's smooth but not stretched, and watch the straight grain to be straight, so your pattern pieces won't become skewed or stretched left or right. It's also good to iron the fabric (which I have not paid attention to do...alas) so excess millimeters in the creases won't distort your pattern.

After pinning, draw around the stitching line where the seat top joins the seat edges. Cut along this line - the cutting line should be just where the stitching line is in the chair upholstery.
Do the same around the chair sides too; pin at the top and at the base, if necessary turning the chair over. When you encounter seams anywhere along the process, like I did on each side and then at the back, make

Sunday, 18 May 2014

three times yummy

 A sudden 10 degrees warm rise in temperatures and amazing summer sun for this weekend for us! Much long awaited...

Now, how yummy is this?
Watermelon necklace by Lucie Ellen
Or this?
Club sandwich zipped pencil case by Lost In The Pancakes

Or these?
Felt ice cream set by Creation By M

They make me just a little more hungry for summer, which is almost here with its ice cream moments, cool watermelon snacks and sunny picnics in the park!

Check out the makers: Lucie Ellen from London UK, Lost in the Pancakes from Paris France, and Creation by M from California US.

Friday, 16 May 2014

flea friday: some more Granit

A little collection started a while ago, when I found my first Granit butter pot in a junk shop (which since sadly closed down).

For a short while, lots of Granit pots with different designs kept popping up on my thrift hunts, so I quickly added two new ones to my collection. They popped up so often in fact, that I left one decorated with little hearts behind, thinking that I don't have to buy right now, there will be more soon...Well, since then I have not seen any at all, so I'm regretting not picking up the hearts one when it was right there. Always a lesson to be learned, eh?

I nearly didn't get the apple one either, because it didn't have a lid. Luckily I decided to give it a home anyway, and now I use it as a flower pot for our Christmas cactus - they go together so well, and the lid is really not that important.

Despite really wanting to I haven't managed to gather any more info on these particular pots or this Hungarian pottery, than I did for my previous Granit post. I guess just have to keep an eye out for new info online and for more of the pots around. I'm hopeful that the little hearts design will show up once more out there in the thrifty wilderness.

Sharing my Granit finds with Sir Thrift a Lot, with We Call It Junking, with Me and My Shadow and with A Living Space.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

sourdough bread - by our own four hands

Mmm, the goodness that is a loaf of homebaked bread! I love how the scent of baking lingers and greets us the following day too.

All thanks to boyfriend - I would not have been brave enough to start this fascinating process of making the yeast starter from scratch then rolling up the sleeves to knead the first loaf just on my own. It's a creative experiment every time with an edible result, but it's easier than we first thought - it's a very addictive activity in fact!

We follow Paul Hollywood's recipe for the sourdough starter. There's also a lot of good tips to be found on how to make your own bread on his site. The recipe we use to make our bread is also a Paul Hollywood recipe, you find it here. We just do a 20% rye - 80% wheat version.

We share the workload of making the bread, especially with the kneading. The starter is a bit like a tamagochi living in our fridge - it needs checking and feeding!

It's totally worth bothering with keeping the starter alive - you make it once, and as time goes by the maturing starter root produces better and better bread. We've just finished our seventh loaf I think, and it was the best one so far.

The one below was probably number four or five, and I baked it upside down by accident...

Despite preconceptions and appearances, baking bread from scratch is an easy process actually. Once you tried it you will want to do it again and again! I recommend breadmaking for even nervous cooks like me - gaining confidence through baking and then eating a delicious loaf is priceless.

What kind of bread do you like to eat - do you have a special kind in your country?

Sharing on Dawn's History and Home Link Party.

Monday, 12 May 2014

the ugly duckling chair make-over # 1

Upholstery requires artisan skills & knowledge including understanding of materials and even special tools. 

So if you are like me and have sewing skills and know how to make dresses, it's not necessarily enough to achieve the effortless looking result that makes a curved backrest on a chair look good and proper.

I know, I know, what's wrong with ties or velcro or a loose cover? In theory, nothing, but that's not the look I wanted to go for with my chair above. Ties look messy, velcro fastenings don't make for neat curved seams and a loose hang-down cover just conceals everything be it nice or not so... 

Well, with no true upholstery skills or tools I didn't think I should start taking apart my chair. I also thought it wasteful to permanently rid a good vintage object of its original looks and perfect original condition. 

So I set out to come up with a dressmaker's solution for a 'mock-upholstery' makeover that fitted my skill-set, knowledge and sewing machine. It also happens to conserve the object as is, as well as it satisfied my idea of good looks for a chair. Here is the first installment of the how-to:

#1. Finding the right fabric

Just like when you design and make a dress, the fabric is everything. It practically decides how an idea will work. So the first task of the make-over is to find the right fabric. Right in looks, colour and pattern, but more importantly right for the function, and for the sewing machine and sewing skills you have. 

The search took me a while. My perfectionist me wanted to seek out a real piece of matching era upholstery fabric but my common sense told me I wouldn't be able to sew it. Upholstery fabrics tend to have a lot of texture, and tend to be thick or even tough. Not wanting to end up crying over a broken machine and bleeding fingers, I looked instead in my craft cupboard and in the thrifts for a mid-weight canvas type fabric, that ideally was made of natural fibres, had some sturdiness and also some texture to imitate upholstery textiles.

For me it's important to see how a solution might work before sewing: to handle the fabrics, to drape them on, just like when making a dress. These were the fabrics I looked at.

Vintage Jonelle curtain type fabric with a floral spray all-over design. The fabric had a good sturdy weave, and it was 100% cotton (ie. easy to manipulate under the machine and with the steam iron). The girly look wasn't right though for our living room where my sewing corner is.

A gorgeous original 1950s atomic era fabric. I adore the pattern! It's a soft, mid-weight bark cloth with a slight texture in the weave. I would have loved to go for this, but it wasn't right for the function. The fabric is a little too delicate for sitting on every day, and the cover would end up fraying with holes very soon.

Another original vintage fabric, this time a table cloth from the 1940's. This is a heavy weave of rayon type fabric, the acid yellow brocade details are great, and it's much more sturdy a fabric than it looks but alas it's white. Not a good colour for a messy crafter in blue jeans.

Then I happened upon this vintage woven cotton bedthrow that had sturdiness as well as looks. I checked for thin or worn-out patches - luckily it didn't have an issue. It had a reversible design, so after deciding that this fabric is it, I now needed to look at whether I wanted a mainly green or a mainly orange chair.

The orange version looked perky and rather tempting, but I leaned towards the more understated side of it - the green just fits in with our room decor better.

So there, the first major hurdle about finding the right fabric was tackled - next Monday I'll let you in on how the sewing pattern was drafted for this project. Any questions so far, just shoot away in comments :)

Thanks for reading and see you with the next part next Monday!

Sharing on Dawn's History and Home Party.

Friday, 9 May 2014


This week the scheduled posts didn't get written on time, so apologies for the half-baked but published, then withdrawn posts...I'm not too upset about it though, if you aren't!

It's been a good week, but attention has been elsewhere than writing.

We've seen our little person for the second time in the ultrasound - it was such a beautiful experience!

I'm also back at school now after the work placement has finished. I've been a sit-in visitor at a business and admin course to see if it's for me. So far I'm undecided, but it's been good to be able to do it.

I can also say that spring seems to have finally set foot here in the north too, and despite the still-low temperatures and icy winds it looks prettier around town. I'm hoping that the rain will go away soon and I'll be able to take a sunny walk to enjoy the blossoms and scenery, and that we'll be able to sow some seeds on the balcony too.

I leave you with a picture of a sleepy/moody cat in a shop window, whom I spied the other morning - he looked a little like he didn't get his coffee latte yet... :)

Wishing you guys a good weekend,  - I'll sort out the blog schedule this weekend and will bake those half-baked posts ready for you to read.

PS. I want to thank you, my faithful readers for the interest and attention, and for the lovely comments, it's always so nice to see your words drop in to my inbox - it's a great feeling that this little blog of mine has a keen audience! x x x

Monday, 5 May 2014

the ugly duckling chair - the story of a make-over

Let me tell you the story of a brown chair that was looking so much like the ugly duckling of the well-known fable.

Once upon a time there was a vintage utility chair that was bought by me for a very small price from the Finnish Red Cross store. In its youth it must have been an office chair, or a machinist's chair, and it was regarded with much respect for its ergonomic design and modern lines, which showed in its nicely looked after condition.

Now waiting quietly for a new owner in that Red Cross store amongst all the other abandoned and orphaned furniture, it just looked a bit sad. Its dark brown upholstery seemed to suggest by-gone times of different values, when the colour brown was much loved, because it tied together interiors by complementing turquoise and orange and sunny or ochre yellows and avocado greens.

Now it just looked a bit drab and boring removed from its true 1970s settings, but it sang to me with its shape, that nicely looked after condition, its reliable sturdiness and those aluminium legs and levers.

It's transformation into a beautiful swan (to carry on with the fable metaphor) took place slowly and with a lot of consideration, because I really wanted to conserve its original upholstery as well as to give it a new look. The plan I hatched sprung into action by finding the right fabric while still thinking up the perfect solution for constructing a clever cover.

I did it, and the ugly duckling chair looks like this now:

I have to say I'm very proud of this deed, because I love the look of my chair and also the fact that my design of the sewing pattern for this conserving make-over worked out like this.

Would you like to know how to do the same?
I will be sharing the steps of this non-destructive, original-condition-respecting make-over in three more Monday morning posts:

  • The first one will discuss the idea of mock-reupholstery ie. conserving while giving a new look and tips on choosing fabric and choosing a solution. 
  • The second one will tell you about how to draft a cover pattern for a chair. 
  • The third part will be about how to make up a well-fitted semi-permanent new chair cover.

I hope you will follow along to see how I turned my ugly duckling into a beautiful swan!

PS. I borrowed those sweet retro duck and swan illustrations from here.

PPS. Sharing this post on Dawn's History and Home Link Party and on Stephanie's Sunday Showcase Party.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

sweets, letters & tomatos (and the first stretch mark)

The last few weeks have been going by with hyper-speed... I'm doing a work placement again like last year, and together with the progressing pregnancy I find the days just exhausting. In the weekends and some afternoons I feel a bit more energetic. Here's a little catch-up on those more productive moments.

I wrote a couple of letters that I have been meaning to send for a while. I don't know why I don't write snail mail more often, it's so refreshing to compose my thoughts on paper in hand instead on the screen with the help of a keyboard.

I also got my precious heirloom tomato seeds sprouting, the ones that Mini Matriarchin sent me in January as part of her seasons greetings. They have sprouted in a matter of days in a dark cupboard, and now each in their individual peat pots are stretching their little green arms towards the sun in front of the kitchen window.

I hope that the weather warms up a little more. Days and nights will have to become more accommodating for keeping plants outdoors - our balcony is still barren! This morning at half past nine it was only barely 3 degrees Celsius... there's now short green grass everywhere in town, but apart from smaller or bigger buds, there's still no leaves or blossom on the trees. Hurry up warm weather!

For those of you who'd like some updates on how the baby bump is doing - it's doing great; in fact it's got big! We (both me and baby) have just gone through a real growth spurt, with constant food cravings and lots of time spent on eating food or making food to eat. My body morphed into a shape that is obviously the shape of an expectant mother. I love this silhouette, for me it's all about what I've been imagining for the last few years to happen to me. The kilos don't worry me that much, as during the first four and a half months I only managed to put on half a kilo. Now in the last two weeks, I've probably caught up a bit. And yes, I spotted my first stretch mark while trying on a pair of mama leggings in a shop the other day. I guess it's like the first of the swallows in spring - once you saw one it means the rest is coming.

Amongst the normally healthy food cravings (watermelon, yoghurt with honey, avocados, pickles) I've also been craving ice cream and other sweeties. Finland is a funny place for sweets. I'd say when you are offered your first tasting of black as the night salty liquorice and you spit it out thinking what the hell is wrong with these people to call something this horrible a sweet, you might be put off for life. Or like in my case, it could be the beginning of a slowly developing love affair with the Finns' idea of candy. Which, in my opinion is more reminiscent of a practical joke than the idea of 'sweet' that folks in other parts of Europe think of by default.

Right now, I limit my otherwise also well controlled liquorice intake - even though they come in such a temptingly illustrated paper bag from the pick and mix station on the way to the cashier in every grocery shop... They are little sugar bombs after all, and my teeth are not the most resistant type so I only let myself to indulge just every now and again. The two running favourites at the moment is an apple flavoured sugar coated piece of sweet horror, and the other one is a raspberry flavoured lozenge shaped mmmm followed by a salty ewww surprise. Maybe you have to be either a Nordic or a pregnant person to enjoy that.

Hope you are all having a lovely first of May!

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