Aug 30, 2013

Hooked on Jam Making and Hat Making Apparently

What do you do with 6 half pints of strange jam?

Empty those jars out into a big glass container and give it away to an unsuspecting relative who likes the taste, and make some new jam!

But this time, use jam making sugar with added pectin.

I really didn't want to waste any more good fruit, so I succumbed to the CSR Jam Sugar. A kilogram of fruit (and a little added lemon rind) and two bags of sugar, five minutes of boiling (not 50 minutes like last time) and it's done. Perfect Strawberry Jam.

Typically - I couldn't help myself - I made another batch (each batch makes 5-6 230ml jars). Then I went to my sister's and made a batch for her. Then I ordered some more jars and lids. Now I plan to make a half-batch with just one packet of sugar and 500g of mixed blueberries and strawberries tomorrow.

I will never buy strawberry jam again, it is so good. I feel like I need to have enough of this jam to last my family until next strawberry season (so I should make more right?), but then again summer's coming and with it peaches, apricots and plums. Jam making is addictive (too bad about all the sugar though). I'll have to branch out into making pickles so we don't get type 2 diabetes and cavities.

And for all those Aussies out there, did you know they sell regular mouth Ball Mason jars (the brand I used) in Big W? My local store doesn't have the half pint size like in the above photo, but I picked up a dozen pint sized ones for $29 and the lids are $2.97 a dozen. Beats paying and waiting for shipping!

And typically, I can't just sew a few hats for my kids, I have to go and make six more to donate to school fundraising.

I'm definitely going to up size this pattern to fit my head!

Aug 23, 2013

I made strange jam

I attempted to make some Strawberry Jam today. It was my first time at it, but I had high hopes. What a way to ruin 1.5kg of beautiful strawberries, four lemons and six ball jar lids.

I was following the Australian Woman's Weekly recipe (1.5kg fruit, 1.1kg sugar and 1 cup lemon juice), but I cooked it too long - just trying overly hard to get it to set on that darn frozen plate. It's not burnt, but it's not the Bonne Maman Strawberry Conserve I had in my preserving dreams.

It looks nice, but it is way too lemony and thick. I love lemon, but somehow it's just too much and you can't taste the lovely strawberries. I even water bath processed them, so they'll last a whole year on the shelf.

I want to try again, but what do you do with six half pints of strange jam?

I'm thinking lots of jam drop biscuits.

Aug 16, 2013

Book Week 2013 and other bits

It's that time of year again! Book week always seems to sneak up on me (and it doesn't help that school only gives parents a couple of weeks notice), we panic a little, and then go through every book we own and try to work out a character to dress up as. R wanted to go as the tree from the book Stuck (by Oliver Jeffers), but the nasty cold/chest/cough thing that I've had for the last two weeks put a stop to that. He went as Puss in Boots instead.

I reused the hat and belt from his Robin Hood outfit two years ago. Those medieval outfits just all look alike, so just add some felt for a buckle and knee high 'boots' (I even used a fancy stitch to edge the tops of them - and they sit above his black school shoes), a cape/cloak made out of panne velvet (which is awful to hem), a quick tunic complete with no hemming and his little brother's red pants and you're done!

Don't forget the whiskers and tail (which was borrowed from the little guy but sadly does not appear in the photos) and you're done! He was the only Puss in Boots this year, which was pretty cool.  Amazingly, nobody dressed as Harry Potter!

In other exciting news, I've made a couple more hats. An extra small one for my new little nephew and a camo grey one for R. Both these hats have lightweight black denim on the underside as well as the interfacing. I think the extra weight will help them stay put on a windy day. Such a great pattern - I've even cut out a few more for next year's school fete.

Somehow, whilst feeling under the weather, I began dreaming of making jams, especially strawberry as it's currently in season. I've never made jam before, or done anything else that goes in a jar hot, but the urge was strong enough to make me order some small jars, lids and utensils.

I also has visions of making my own tomato sauces, dill pickles and preserved fruit in giant jars, but then reality set in when I worked out just how much those jars cost, then the produce cost, storage space and then the worry about food poisoning and botulism.

I decided to go low scale and just make small quantities of seasonal jam and mustard pickles in half pint (230ml) containers. I'm thinking the small size will get used up quickly (so we won't get bored of the same flavour) and won't take up too much room.

I just bought a dozen regular mouth Ball Jars from Ozfarmers if you're interested. I really want ALL sizes of Ball Jar (especially the blues one) as I'm a jar lover, but it will have to wait until I get the gigantic kitchen of my dreams.

And now I'll just have to go and find some strawberries for a good price and get jam making. I'm still going to make some dill pickles with summer cucumbers, but I'll be making these Refrigerator Pickles instead.

Aug 4, 2013

The Clam Hat

If you just ignore the fact that the clam fabric is upside down, let me present to you the littlest guy's new bucket hat!

It is of course the fantastic oliver + s  free Reversible Bucket Hat Pattern. This is unfortunately the biggest size (21"), so I will have to look elsewhere for any larger sizes. Fabric is Clam Bake from Dear Stella on one side, dark blue homespun on the reverse.

It is ever so easy to make, I even did it on this:

Oh yes, I turned the Singer 99k into a hand crank! It like a new toy. The boys have been having so much fun with it too, cranking away while I steer the fabric (sewing even more lavender bags). I thought it might be tricky to sew with, but it really is very easy to guide the fabric with your left hand and turn with your right. The bobbin still even works (it's also a great arm workout).

I bought the hand crank from here. The overall quality of the hand crank isn't the best - not like the beautiful enamel finish on the actual machine. I think it's all just black paint on fairly rough metal, but it does it's job well. And as an added bonus - I have a working Singer motor to use on another machine!

It's so nice to be able to just walk up to the machine and start sewing - no foot controllers and power points to plug in, no worries about leaving the machine on and things heating up. The only downside it you were thinking of converting to one (apart from speed), would be the lack of light at night. This baby came without a light anyway, but I have come up with an alternative:

An IKEA led portable light that is conveniently magnetic! Press on and off. Fantastic. The littlest guy, thinking it was funny, stuck a bunch of fridge magnets on the machine, and guess what we worked out?  Flat magnetic fridge magnets can be used as seam guides! (I'm sure lots of people already know all this, but I'm obviously a bit slow).

Oh, and if I wanted, I could take her outside into the garden to sew while watching the kids play, or down to the creek to throw rocks, or on a boat, or in the car. Imagine what muscles I'd have...