Monday, 30 June 2014

quilt in progress # 3

If you remember the plan I drew for my quilt, it had green fabric in the middle sections. This green fabric had to be bought still - I was waiting for the look of the quilt panels to guide me and for the thrifting gods to present the perfect fabric to me. Just in time for this stage, I found a nice 1970s cotton pillowcase to cut up - thank you thrifting gods!

Because the fabric had a large one-way print, I needed to think how to incorporate it into my quilt to the best effect. To help me decide about where to cut my pieces from, I made a little 'viewfinder' ie. a piece of paper with a hole shaped like the quilt charm I needed to cut. It proved very useful in telling how different areas of the print would work:

Once the triangles were chosen and cut out, I could construct the larger statement pieces for the middle and the middle edges. I ended up with quite a different flower than in the original design of the pillowcase. I was quite stoked about how it worked out - just like the magic of kaleidoscopes.

The only little hiccup was that I needed to reinforce the centre of the largest piece - the way I sewed it together left a little weak spot, like a hole in the very middle. I stitched over it quickly on the reverse to make it perfect.

For the conjoining charms, I used the more solid green parts of the pillowcase fabric. Somehow they tied the design and the look of the quilt together, even though I was very tempted to feature more of the yellow flowers.

The real work on this quilt really began with inserting the statement pieces and the conjoining charms in between the four main panels. No more stitching in a straight line..! This stage required true accuracy and a lot of patient attention. Luckily I was in the mood, and managed it quite well with minimal amount of unpicking (and no swearwords whatsoever)!

The bits I had to unpick were the seam allowances joining up to the green squares. In the last picture you can see how I dealt with pressing the seam allowances apart - it was a trial and error process there, but aiming to achieve the flattest pile of them helped in doing the puzzle.

So now the majority of my quilt was assembled - next comes showing you what it looks like together, then choosing the backing, sandwiching the wadding and then the dreaded stitch-in-the-ditch!

I'm excited to be linking up to Michelle's Let's Make Baby Quilts link party.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

good stuff

A little photo record of some good stuff that's been happening in June (and a bit before) - to balance out the rainy, cold and very un-summer-like weather we've been having lately.

Not so long ago my sweet sister showered me with natural skincare products from a small upcoming Hungarian eco-brand, Manna. I've been feeling spoilt and pampered all month.

Spent another relaxed weekend at my boyfriend's mum's. While they worked in the garden, I sat on the computer and managed to bust all my crazy lists filling several notebooks and loose bits of paper, and figured out a way to go paperless with it (enter's boring but actually useful).
It's finally strawberry season!

Summer driving - enjoying the scenes whizzing past from the passenger seat.

And lastly - peering into empty pickle jars and thinking how they look like strange little aquariums.

Hope you guys are having a nice Sunday - and better weather than us here at the moment!

Friday, 27 June 2014

flea friday: a typewriter, a spotty bowl and a retro 'thingamajig'

Giving the baby theme a break, I promised to show you last week's finds from the spot of coffee & thrift I went out on with a friend. Here is what I picked up.

First the retro 'thingamajig' - it screams 1970s and it could be best described as a novelty messaging board. Or something like that.

I can picture the man (someone called R. Olavi, as stated on the design) with the lightbulb going ping! over his head just as he invents this quirky wonder... He is writing a note (again!) to his nosy demanding wife. She wants to know about his every step taken outside the home - is he gone fishing, or to the shop? And what time will he be back...? Grumble, grumble...only if a handle could be turned like on clock and all would be explained - wouldn't need to bother with time-consuming notewriting or speech...hmmm, there's an idea! Can you see it too?

The wall-hung messaging works like this: the long handle says 'We are...' and can be pointed at the flower petals with different options like 'At sea', 'At the shop', 'Fishing', 'In church' and so on. There's one petal left empty - maybe for the brave and the honest to write down a drinking related location... The short handle is meant to indicate the time of return.

In my opinion this odd little relic has a lot of limitations, but it has a naive charm and clunky playfulness too. I wonder how many were made and sold in its time? It's certainly the only one I've ever come across. The sticker on the back proudly states that it's a Finnish design.

Next, the cute little milk glass bowl with the dots. The glass is very Pyrex-like, but it was made in France. It could be vintage Arcopal, maybe.

I wished there were more to be found but alas there was just this one. I took the little orphan bowl home anyway to join my Pyrex collection.

And last but not least a purchase that wasn't made on the day, but way back in January during a thrift hop with the same friend in tow.

A handsome and working Brother typewriter for three euros, in cappuccino brown and beige. A bit scratched, needing a good clean and a touch of tlc. I do like a little refurb project every now and then.

In fact this typewriter was bought as a little project but soon after the purchase I found out that I was pregnant. So I figured I wasn't doing much paint stripping or stencil spray painting for a while...

Project postponed, but I'm glad that this beige and brown typewriter is with me now. It will have to linger in its hobo-like state until I can safely turn my tender loving attention and the spray paint nozzle to it. Whenever that might actually happen.

Sharing my finds with We Call It Junking, with A Living Space and with Thrifter, Maker, Fixer, Farm.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

super zingy lemon drizzle cake

Lately, I've been baking so many cakes - loaf cakes for our coffee - that I think I should upgrade my nice wooden whisk to a heavy duty metal one before it really breaks.

I mentioned in a post back in March that one of my favourite cakes to bake is the lemon drizzle one. We discovered it and loved eating it while living in London, and when we moved countries we needed to recreate it for ourselves because they don't sell it here.

The recipe is really easy and quick, and the cake - if it needs any introduction - is super zingy, juicy but not soggy, fluffy and soooo moreish. In the comments somewhere to that previous post I promised the recipe, so here it is below.

Lemon drizzle cake
keeps well for 3-4 days in an airtight container

225g butter (or alternatively 200g of virgin coconut oil)
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
225g self-raising flour (or alternatively 225g plain flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda mixed in)
1/2 teaspoon salt
some breadcrumb for the tin

for the light icing drizzle:
juice of 1 and 1/2 lemons
85g caster sugar
some lemon zest (optional)

1.) Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C).

2.) Beat together the butter (or cococnut oil) and caster sugar until pale and creamy, then add the eggs one at a time, slowly mixing through.

3.) Mix the self-raising flour with the salt (and in case of plain flour the baking powder and soda). Sift into the egg mixture, add the lemon zest too and mix well.

4.) Grease and breadcrumb a loaf tin, then pour in the cake mixture and level the top.

5.) Bake for 45-50 minutes until a thin skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Then take out of the oven and let the cake cool a bit in its tin.

6.) While the cake is cooling, mix together the lemon juice and sugar and the optional lemon zest until the sugar is dissolved. Then prick the warm cake all over with a thin skewer and pour the lemon drizzle icing over the top. Now leave to cool completely for a few hours before turning it out of the tin.

I hope you will give this cake a go and enjoy baking it and eating it as much as we do!

Monday, 23 June 2014

thai fisherman meets tablecloth

I made a pair of thai fisherman's pants the other day.

Making a pair of yoga pants has been on the list of to-do for this year. I had a few different styles in mind, in a couple of different fabric choices... I settled on trying out the thai fisherman's style first.

They fit the bill perfectly for my current state and purpose, which is six months pregnant going on seven (then eight then nine), need to be comfortable and would like to do some yoga sometimes.

I like the idea that I can still wear them once I gave birth because they are that flexible and also, if I happen to make a different pair in a girly fabric, my boyfriend can wear these ones as they are truly unisex.

I made my pair of thai fisherman's pants out of a vintage Finnish linen tablecloth which cost me a couple of coins from the charity shop. For the cutting and sewing I followed the instructions found here. The tablecloth, before it reincarnated as lounging bottoms:
I highly recommend making a pair as a quick sewing project even for a beginner. The pattern is so simple and straightforward you can even just measure and cut straight on the fabric, drafting a paper pattern is not really necessary. The sewing part is also easy and quick. I started pattern cutting after lunchtime and then I made dinner wearing my new comfy pants! 

Got to love an easy sewing project with a good result!

PS: You will need about 2 metres of fabric for this project - but it's possible to make them out of a tablecloth that measures at least 128cm x 172cm. The trick is to draft a side seam into the legs (so one leg is made of two pieces rather than one piece as in the instructions I referred to) and cut the waistband top hem and the legs bottom hem on the selvage - this saves quite a few centimeters on the turn-ups.

Friday, 20 June 2014

flea friday: a cot & a cot-cot romper

Picking up the thread from last week's post - the item that wasn't left behind in the thrifts by us was this vintage 1960's extendable baby's cot.

Here it is above set in its temporary place in this nook in our bedroom; we will move it closer to my side of the bed when the time is nigh. Until then it will be kept company by one of our favourite wall hangings and lovely old Paddington.

There's not a lot to know about the cot's maker or anything else other than this style of extendable baby's and children's bed was very popular in the scandinavian region from the 1950's onwards and all throughout the retro decades. It's been making a come-back lately but the new versions cost an arm and a leg... we got this sturdy old one in pale custard yellow for a silly small price. We love both the price and the colour.

By the way, please excuse the uninspired choice of linoleum on the floor...we can't do much more about it for the time being than cover as much of it as we can with thrifted rugs of our choice.

So that was the cot - and now the 'cot-cot' romper.

You see, chickens say kot-kot in Hungarian (and in Finnish, and in French...and possibly in many other languages too) - so I couldn't help myself when I thought about the title of today's post.

The same way I couldn't help grabbing the romper without thinking when I saw it in the second hand shop. The pattern was an instant decision maker, and the thinking came later when I looked at the size label at home. I'm still a bit confused about European baby sizing, being more used to the British sizing by age. But as long as next year's summer will be as cold and windy as this year's, baby will be able to wear this cute little terry cloth number.

It is made by Tutta by the way, a very nice Finnish brand who make fun prints in nice fabrics while trying to be as environmentally conscious and innovative as possible when it comes to colour printing on textiles.

We got some other baby clothes too, we are collecting them slowly, but I won't bother you with them in detail.

For next week in fact, I lined up some non-baby themed thrifty finds which I got while going out on a catch-up chat, coffee and quick thrift run with a friend.

I'm sharing this week's loot via my favourite link-ups hosted by Sir Thrift a Lot, We Call It Junking, A Living Space, Me and My Shadow and Thrifter, Maker, Fixer, Farm.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

washing day

It was the perfect day to do a big wash - hot, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. Here are some lovely old towels drying on my boyfriend's mum's patio in that hot sun - but they weren't what we set out to treat with suds on that gorgeous day.

There's a tradition in Finland to wash your cotton rag rugs by the river or by the sea on a nice day before Juhannus a.k.a midsummer. We own a few rag rugs too and they were overdue for a clean, so boyfriend's mum offered to help us. It's quite the physical job, scrubbing, lifting and wringing heavy soaked rugs under a huge mangle - I couldn't really give my all to it because of the bump. I did help a little but mainly boyfriend and his mum tackled the soapy rugs, while I hung around enjoying the sun and taking pictures.

The Finns have a nice traditional soap for this kind of job. It's made of pine resin and it smells like clean sauna.

The river water, which is set up to pump through the hoses and taps over the special rugwashing troughs was ever so clean. We were so desperate to clean up our vintage white rag rug which looked more grey than white at that stage, that we brought it along even though we expected it to be somewhat tinted by the algae living in the river water. But it cleaned up very nicely and surprisingly without any disturbing discolouration. That's a lot saved on the drycleaners' bill!

While the rugs were drip-drying on the wooden racks, we also dried ourselves in the sunshine and had a simple picnic. We forgot to bring a picnic blanket but my newly thrifted two-euro tablecloth-check dress made up for it I think...

It's Juhannus on Saturday - the longest and brightest day of the year.

With a sweet-scented sprig of Juhannus-rose (against our riverwashed white rug as backdrop), I'm wishing every one of you a lovely summer solstice in advance for the 21st! Let it be a sunny midsummer!

Monday, 16 June 2014

the ugly duckling chair make-over # 3

In part one we chose the right fabric, in part two copied and drafted the sewing pattern, so now, in this third and last part we can have a look at how to complete the covering of the chair.

First of all, iron your chosen fabric and cut out all the pattern pieces. Make sure the straight grain is correct when you pin your pattern to the fabric, and don't forget to transfer your notches onto the fabric pieces - I usually snip the fabric a couple of millimeters deep as seen below.

The sewing involves some quick machining and some hand-sewing too - and a lot of pressing the seams. To achieve the best looking result, always iron your seams apart right after sewing them! Anyhow, on this chair I started by machine stitching the seat cover.

1.) The seat cover

After sewing together the little side seams and the centre back seam on the long side strip that goes around the seat I basted a tidy hem on top.Then I pinned it onto the main seat cover part and machine stitched it with a narrow edge to imitate the way the original upholstery is done on the seat. Can you see from the photo what I mean? Instead of a plain joining seam, it looks more like piping.

A heads-up: always expect some easing to be done when dealing with curved shapes; this means one of your joining edges is longer than the other, so you will have to evenly distribute the difference on the longer edge when pinning and sewing - this will give you the curved shape that's required. 

Next came a quick hand-sewing phase. I pulled the seat cover over the chair seat, secured it into place with a few pins. Then I turned the chair over and pinned a hem on the underside onto the original stapled edge underneath. Then I hand stitched a tidy hem right into the chair's original upholstery.

I used a wide whip stitch which is a fast hand stitch and quite strong too, but not impossible to unpick if needed. With this the seat was done, so I moved on to the back rest.

2.) The back rest

First I machined the top part of the centre back joining seam on the back cover piece (above the oval cutout). Then pinned the front cover piece onto the back cover piece - there was lots of ease to deal with here. Next, I machined part of the cover together, starting from the widest point on the lower side, going along all the way on top then going down to the widest point on the other side. This way I was left with a long opening so I could pull the cover over the backrest.

A tip when dealing with curved seams: clip your seam allowance to reduce the bulk so when you turn your seam the right way out, you will have a nice round shape. Without clipping the seam allowance, a curved seam won't behave right!

There was one more thing to handle with before I could hand stitch the back rest cover closed: the oval cutout, that went around the metal bit in the middle of the back rest.

For this I slightly unscrewed both screws, only slightly, so I could push the raw edges of the oval cut-out under the metal edge. I used a flat headed screwdriver to push the fabric with - it worked great! Once I was happy, I tightened the screws back.

Now the opening in the back rest cover could be closed by hand sewing all along the bottom, and halfway up on the centre back. I used a small whip stitch here, to keep the stitching as invisible as possible.

3.) Done!

Now the chair was ready! After tidying up the sewing mess, I made sure to spend some time admiring my work and a little bit myself for the effort as well :)

I can report that since I have completed this project, the seat cover has held up well, and all the work I put into it proved well worthwhile!

The good thing about how this chair got a new cover is, that the whole thing can be easily unpicked along the hand stitched edges and the cover taken off in minutes. The sewing pattern is now ready to use, so a new cover can be cut in a new fabric if this one starts looking battered or if the chair needs a yet another, newer look.

I hope you found it worthwhile to read along this longish project and hopefully you find it helpful if you decide to do a similar chair re-upholstery project!

Friday, 13 June 2014

flea friday: the chair that got away

Funny how the universe works... If you recall that post from a few weeks ago with the perishing rattan chair that broke my heart a bit with its sad state of neglect - and then I walk into this perfect one on one of my recent thrift shop visits. It's all sturdy and lovely and going for very cheap (sixteen euros to be exact). Isn't that funny?

Even funnier is that after all that, we decided not to get it. Why? Well, mainly lack of space. We don't have a lot of space in our apartment for much more furniture, considering there's still a few baby-related things we need to accommodate without creating cramped rooms and those are much more essential than a rattan chair.

I considered justifying it as a nursing chair - imagine it covered with lovely sheepskin - but to be entirely honest, we already have the perfect candidate for a comfy nursing chair: our 70s leather recliner. So we let this rattan beauty get away. Instead, I dedicate the sixteen euros towards the slowly but steadily building pile of washable nappies, which I keep finding in the thrifts all brand new, unwanted and almost given away for a couple of tiny coins a-piece.

Apart from cloth nappies, there's been something else that we've been hoping to cross off our baby-themed thrift-shopping list, and unlike this chair, that something else has been not just spotted but also picked up, and it lives with us now. I'll show you next week!

I'm linking up to Thrifter, Maker, Fixer, FarmA Living Space, Sir Thrift a Lot, We Call It Junking and Me and My Shadow.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Amongst all the projects of to-do and busywork I tend to occupy myself with these days (and want to post about on this blog), I realize that sometimes I'd like to just be. Just be here, just rest and listen inwards, and try to find the words that describe what's flowing underneath the surface of the everyday.

There has been a definitive few days when the progression of this pregnancy entering this new, third trimester felt tangible. I feel heavier. New emotions are arising subtly but strongly. I dream about breastfeeding. I dream about my baby, and wake up feeling how much I yearn for him. And then I keep busy to ease the waiting feeling.

Just like right at the beginning I tend to rise really early, naturally - which feels unusual and new because all my life it was always difficult for me to wake up in the morning. I'm not - or I haven't been - a morning person. I always thought if only I could make a living out of sleeping in, I'd have such an amazing and lucrative career... but now it's different. At the crack of dawn I come to slowly, sometimes to the gentle kicks in my belly, sometimes just so, and by the time I'm done with turning from side to side in bed it's still only just gone five thirty. So I get up, quietly and naturally.

I'm usually nice and rested. It's blissful sitting in the quiet kitchen or on the balcony by myself - well, myself and the little person with the kicking feet and little stretching arms inside. I take in the morning air, the northern summer sun already shining quite high in the sky, birds darting around or answering echos. Just this ease of being awake in the world feels so good.

During these mornings while it's so early, I don't sew or wash up or do busywork. I usually read a little, from blogs or from the baby book, or write, or just sit somewhere and think to myself, or listen to songs like this...

And then, there are those mysterious tears of these early mornings. They seem to come on like a sigh deep from the chest, spurred by emotion and quite possibly hormones. They bothered me for a while with their regularity and their spontaneous triggering, but now I just let them flow. I stop while they are done with their overwhelming and while I can't see what I've been reading or writing through the tears. Nobody else is here to judge, or to ask questions, and I don't want to explain or quiz these tears much. They seem to just come to be part of these early morning times with myself. So I just let them flow. They feel like tears of happy, of yearning, of release, of letting go, and more.

I hope you don't mind me sharing this while I pause with all the crafting projects a bit. It feels nice to say these words, to tell how strange, how mysterious and how good it feels to be waiting for baby.

By the way, I'm still just about able to see my toes when I look down.

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