Thursday, 23 October 2014

Clothes for a little boy

Clothes for a little boy. Comfy long johns, a warm scarf, a woollen flat cap, longsleeve, practical dungarees for climbing trees, undies and shoes. And as it is with little boys with red cheeks and tousled hair - if they run with their kite down the hill, the jacket* gets thrown somewhere in a corner because "I am so, so warm, mommy". Oh well, better get some cough tea ready...
It is so much fun making vintage-style clothes with a fresh and modern touch for little boys (and, for that matter, for girls). Putting together fabrics, choosing yarns, flipping through books from 1940's and 1950's was something I enjoyed a lot when working on this little rascal.

Storm stands 54cm/21" tall and will be available for a short auction on Hyena Cart on tuesday, 28 October, from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm EDT. More info about the where's and how's will follow during the weekend as well as a lot of photos - stay tuned. 



*for those of you who worry about this being a case of child neglect, Storm does have a warm jacket, just for the record. I'll make sure he will travel properly dressed to his new family next week ;-)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

DIY - How to instantly age wood

My workspace upstairs has recently turned into a wood workshop, I am cheerfully sawing, sanding and drilling for a larger project. Last week, when I posted this photo, I promised you a little tutorial on how to age wood so that it looks like as if it has been exposed to the weather for years. 

The thing I love most about making props or building small scenes is that often you only need one or two little secrets to make something look realistic. One of my favourite tricks is how to instantly age wood with only two ingredients, vinegar and steel wool (and a couple of hours waiting time):

All you need is a clean glass jar, white vinegar (mine is a 12% vinegar essence), fine steel wool and a paint brush plus plain wooden objects such as doll clothes pegs, baskets, ready-made doll furniture from the craft store - or anything else with an untreated wooden surface. 

** Make sure that the steel wool is one that gets rusty after some time. I prefer to use the fine steel wool that contains soap - the one you use in the kitchen to scour pots and pans. The best is to rinse it thoroughly before you use it to get rid of the soap.**

Put the steel wool in a jar and cover with the vinegar. Put the lid on, but only gently, so that the gas that develops due the chemical reaction can escape. Let sit for at least 24 hours, shake or stir gently every now and then.

Find a good place to work with the solution. The best is to wear an old t-shirt and to cover the work table. Use a paint brush to apply the solution. It takes a few minutes for the mix to react with the wood - better wait before you apply too much of the solution. 

If you want to paint smaller objects, such as miniature clothes pegs, you can also dip and dye them, it takes only a few seconds. Depending on the kind of wood you use, it will turn out darker or lighter.

For an even stronger paint solution, you can let the mix sit in the jar for a week or so. I always keep a jar in my craft cupboard and dilute it with vinegar or with water. Another trick is to throw in some rusty nails or the like. Some people use even strong black tea.
In the photo above you can see the difference between the untreated wood and the part where I used two, three brushstrokes. I also love that the mini clothes pegs look as if someone has forgotten to take them on a clothesline during winter.

The vinegar-steel wool solution is also perfect to age/ dye fabrics or paper or papier-mâché. If you want to use it on a larger furniture, I'd recommend a large (plastic) jerrycan because it is difficult to get exactly the same shade once you finished the solution. Also, try in a hidden spot on the furniture first - different kinds of wood react differently.

Have fun aging fairy doors, doll house panels and wooden Christmas decorations from the craft store!



Monday, 20 October 2014

Monday in my Studio - Week 43

Another monday, a new week.

A week that started stormy and with a basket full of chestnuts, brown like the eyes of this little someone - a boy doll that I am about to finish for an auction next week.

He really needs a proper haircut, but I have been avoiding those finishing steps in the past few days because the light has been so bad. I do have a talent for accidentally cutting holes (and for broken needles, that is), and when touching up the ears and sideburns with a mini trimmer, a good portion of daylight is of great help, but the past few days have been really gloomy here. You know that winter is on its way when it feels like dusk around noon already...

What else am I looking forward to this week? 
Making doll clothes and doing lots of wood work, starting on a few craft projects for our house, taking photos of the little fellow above and collecting the last daily flower bouquets of this season.

I hope your week started with a fresh breeze, too!



Saturday, 18 October 2014

Adagio Molto

  Through the woods, towards winter.
The falling leaves and the wing beats of the wild geese high up in the grey October sky sound like an adagio molto in minor today. 
We fill our baskets with the last chanterelles and crabapples. 
On our way back home I find a little raspberry and for a short moment, I can taste late summer days.

/// enjoy the weekend ///

Monday, 13 October 2014

Monday in my Studio - Week 42

Another monday, a new week...

I can't believe how quickly the last seven days have passed!

My sewing machine got completely neglected, apart from a few stitches on doll limbs. Instead, I spent the days in the (quite loud) company of a circular saw, grinding, drilling, hammering. So, week 42 started with chopping huge piles of fire wood - miniature, that is. With setting up planks and with tiling a roof.

I stained thin wood chips with a magic mix of vinegar and a few other ingredients (a tutorial on how to artificially weather wood will follow this week) and the man of the house complained that all pots were occupied with boiling odd blends of tea, rusty nails and the like (he calls my dye experiments rat poison brew ;-) and not with pumpkin soup or chanterelle risotto. That's how it is in a creative home, right?

My hands look like as scratched up and calloused as the hands of a 67-year old carpenter, and before I leave the house for tonight's choir practice, I'd better give them a go with lots of soap and a good brush. And with the image above I leave you, dear reader, with a little foretaste of what is to come in a few weeks...



(who is looking forward to sewing this week, I have been missing it quite a bit)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Monday in my Studio - Week 41

Another monday, a new week.

I spent most of the day in the company of a little boy with very warm feet (as you can see above), brooding over new patterns, stuffing limbs and watching colourful leaves gracefully twirling in the crispy autumn air.

I am looking forward to a rather calm week with few obligations - which means I will get a lot of sewing done. Our life is quite busy at the moment and I love those days when I know I can start early in the morning without many interruptions, following my own pace and simply enjoying the flow of work.

Wishing you all a sunny and joyful week!



Sunday, 5 October 2014

DIY Hydrangea Garlands

Something I do every year before the first frost nights put our garden to sleep under a brown and grey blanket is to pick the last hydrangea flowers and turn them into garlands. I love the dramatic change of colour at this time of the year, some of my hydrangeas turn into a bright turquoise, others into a dusty red or dark blue.

This is a simple yet effective craft project that won't take more than ten minutes. All you need is a hydrangea flower, either from your garden or from the flower shop in your neighbourhood, sturdy sewing thread (I use Nylbond), a needle and scissors:
Divide the large hydrangea flower into smaller clusters. From one large flower I usually cut 10-12 smaller ones.

Thread a sewing needle with about 2m of thread. 

Start with the first small cluster of flowers. Stitch into the small stem and gently pull the sewing thread through it. 

Wind the sewing thread a couple of times around the stem and make a knot to secure the thread and to keep the small cluster of flower in position.

Continue with the next small flower cluster and keep about 10cm distance between each flower. Hang to dry.
This year I used my hydrangea garlands to pretty up the windows in our living room (we have no curtains, they hang horizontally from one side to the other) and arranged a group of several garlands that hang vertically from the ceiling in front of a white wall. 

The powdery colours look so delicate, especially in winter - and it is a lovely ritual to wave goodbye to the year that has passed and to make space for the first flowers of spring end of February.

Have fun!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Happy Kanelbullens Dag!

Whether you like them or not, with or without a lot of nib sugar - today, 4th of October, is Kanelbullens Dag in Sweden, the official Day of the Cinnamon Bun. 

Established by the Home Baking Council (yes, such things exist in Sweden, the Hembakningsrådet) only 13 years ago, it seems to be quite a tradition in many Swedish homes to bake a lot of cinnamon buns especially that day. We did our best in joining the fun and had a cinnamon bun picnic in the woods, on a pile of acorn leaves, with a basket full of chanterelles and chestnuts...

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend - and happy crumbling (as Kiki would say ;-)

Monday, 29 September 2014

Monday in my Studio - Week 40

Another monday, a new week...

Week 40 started with early morning fog, a strong coffee and a bike ride to the village
With quiet in the house and the last colourful zinnias on the windowsill
With a rosy bum, with finishing touches, with a hurting wrist and a felting needle
With a doll that is almost done, and another one that I have started with yesterday late in the evening.

Seeing a nose, a chin and a curious smile emerging under my hands, on my work table, makes me happy...

Wishing you a good start of a new week!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Recipes from our Garden: Quince Jelly, Quince Bread and Quince Truffles

If there is a specific taste of autumn that I have been missing here in Sweden, it is the taste of quince. 

Quince bushes aren't very common here, probably due to the climate, and recipes with quinces are a rare find. In Germany, where I grew up, you can buy quinces large as apples at the farmers market or at the greengrocer's, here you really have to keep your eyes open to find any. Two, three weeks ago I started to ask around in the neighbourhood, asked the fruit farmers in the area, but no luck. 

We have a Chaenomeles bush behind our house, which is some kind of quince variety that is only grown for the bright-red flowers, not for the fruits. Last year it had a few very sad-looking tiny and stringy quinces which was why I pruned it quite a lot this spring. 

I have never used fruits from a chaenomeles and there are a lot of different flowering quinces (some might not even taste at all) but since mine smelled deliciously, I gave it a try. The following three recipes can either be made from the Cydonia oblonga quince, large as apples, or from one of the small flowering japonica varieties - as long as they taste anything (you might try to cook one first).
Quince Jelly

You'll need
1kg quince
750ml water
juice of 1 organic lemon
500g jam sugar
sterilized jars with twist-off lids

1. Rinse the fruits, cut in quarters and remove the seeds and the stem. Leave peel intact.
2. Place in a pot and cover with the water, bring to boil. Cook until soft, let cool.

3. Remove the core (I know, quite messy, but the cooking the core adds more flavour) and mash into pulp - I used a blender.

4. Set out a large pot, cover with a cheese cloth or a very fine mesh strainer. Pour the quince pulp in the cloth/ strainer, let drain and stand for an hour or so. 

5. Put the pulp aside (for Quince Fruit Leather) and add the lemon juice to the quince juice. 

6. Measure 500ml of the juice and pour into a pot. Add the jam sugar. 

7. Bring the juice and sugar to boil and stir constantly. Skim the foam and let simmer for at least four minutes, stir constantly.

8. Ladle the jelly into sterilized jars with a twist-off lid. Put on the lids and turn the jars upside down and let cool.  
A traditional sweet treat from my childhood is Quittenbrot (sometimes called Quittenspeck), literally translated Quince Bread or Quince Bacon. It is some kind of very thick and soft fruit leather and has nothing to do with bread or bacon at all, not even in regards to consistence. It is, however, delicious! Also, it is a great recipe for using the quince pulp when you make jelly.

Quince Bread

You'll need
1kg quince
750ml water
500g caster sugar
additional: ground almonds, chopped walnuts or grated coconut

1. Follow the steps 1-5 of the quince jelly recipe above (alternatively, use the pulp left over from the recipe)

2. Weigh out 500g of quince pulp, add 500g sugar.

3. In a large pot, bring to boil for about 60 minutes, stir constantly (I watch a movie while doing so). The quince puree burns easily, so stir stir stir with a wooden spoon - and change hand from time to time if you want to avoid a tendinitis ;-)

4. Cook until the puree is very thick - if you stir it, you should be able to see a "road" at the bottom of your pot (means that you can divide the pulp into two with the wooden spoon while stirring)

5. Cover two baking sheets with baking paper, spread the puree onto it.

6. Let dry in the oven at around 100° C, it will take between 3-4 hours. The quince bread should be rather dry when you touch it.

7. In a dry space, keep the baking sheets for three days. The texture is rather soft, not as dry as fruit leather, more like moist brownies.

8. Cut the quince bread into small rectangles, sprinkle with ground almonds, finely chopped walnuts or with grated coconut. Put in a bisquit tin, with parchment paper between each layer. Store in a cool and dry place.
Last but not least - quince truffles. I make them from quince bread leftovers (the edges from when I cut the quince bread in rectangles). I posted a photo on Instagram the other day and some people asked for the recipe. 

I must confess that I usually improvise the truffles, but I did my best to write down a few directions. Please note that it is a small amount (that was what I had at hand), it made only 25 truffles. If you want to make more, use more of the ingredients below ;-)

Quince Truffles

  You'll need
200g quince bread
1 teaspoon honey
30g soft butter
30ml cream
100g dark chocolate, grated
cocoa powder

additional: flavourless oil for your hands

1. Put the grated chocolate in a bowl.

2. Put butter, honey and cream in a sauce pan and gently heat until the butter melts and the cream is slightly simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the chocolate, stir.

3. Let cool and chill for a couple of hours. 

4. Add the quince bread and blend well until the mixture is smooth.

5. Lightly coat your hands in flavourless oil and roll the truffles between your palms*. I don't mind the mess and do it without the oil, works fine ;-)

6. Coat your truffles in cocoa powder.

7. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (three, four days are no problem at all) or freeze for up to two months.

*If the texture of the mixture is too soft, you can add ground almonds or whatever you find suitable. Sometimes I use some grated marzipan, sometimes I even use cake crumbs from freshly-baked dark chocolate brownies - whatever I think would go nicely with quince. 

If you end up with a terrible mess, just put the mixture in a blender, mix well, fill in small jars, put whipped cream on top and serve as a dessert ;-)


Have fun (and enjoy the taste of autumn)

Friday, 26 September 2014

About flowers, dolls and a house in the woods

A couple of weeks ago, Sonja of Feingedacht, a German journalist and blogger, asked me for an interview about flowers, dolls and about our Swedish home. A lot of my readers have asked us to translate the interview into English, and I am very glad that Sonja took the time to do so. You can now read the English version of our interview here*

The three flower photos above are part of my daily bouquet series on Instagram. Last year in May I started to pick a flower bouquet every day, took a photo and posted it on Instagram. Without exception, I posted one flower photo per day until the 1st of November. This year,  I started again in Spring and have since then picked many colourful bouquets in our garden, the meadows and fields nearby. I have still five weeks to go, despite the first frost nights, and soon our garden will fall asleep for a couple of months. Until then, I pick the last marigolds, zinnias and mallows and enjoy the sun (whenever it shines, that is, today has been awful weather).

Have a cozy friday evening - with less rain and less storm than us here in Skåne!



*also, if you prefer to read the interview in German, you can find it here

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Monday in my Studio - Week 39 (and a little delay)

Another monday, a new week - and a blog post with a little delay.

I have started week 39 with quite a project yesterday - sorting lots of props and material in my workshop. I have a little sunny studio adjacent to the kitchen where I do all the sewing. It is cozy but rather small, only 9m2 / 100 sq ft in size.

Upstairs I have another studio that is being used for crafting and for taking photos. The good thing about it is the two large windows facing south, it is very bright. The not-so-good thing is that the room actually is a large square hallway, with three doors, and it is a part of our house has been terribly neglected since we moved here last spring. 

I have still not managed to paint the walls (on my to-do list for late autumn now that I will spend less time outside in the garden) and even worse, I still don't have a smart storage system - and there are still quite a few unpacked moving boxes standing around. We are used to do some kind of slalom around cartons and storage boxes, even in the night when it is dark and we are half asleep and on our way through the house - but we can hardly expect our visitors to be as skilled as we are and find the trail through the clutter...

Some months ago, F bought me an archive cabinet at a local flea market, because I dislike digging in boxes to find what I am looking for. For more than sixty years, the wooden cabinet has been used for screws, upholstery nails and the like at the DUX-factory in Sösdala. It looks rather shabby and is in need of some renovation (also on my to-do list for late autumn), but it is oh so practical for all the small props that I use for my taking pictures of my work! Umpteen sets of dolly bedclothes, all the miniature china, copper pots and pans, little books and baskets and picture frames, tiny Christmas decorations - and a whole drawer for all the small garden props. Neatly labelled and sorted and a pleasure to look at! Also, one can see the floor again in the room upstairs ;-) 

Next on my list is sorting material in the large cabinet that I use for craft supplies and decorate the room - I am so much looking forward to having an uncluttered workspace upstairs that is worth the name! I'll save those horrible before-photos to the day when there are enough after-photos to show or else you'd start to question my aesthetic qualities ;-)

So, after a day sorting, decluttering and after severe attempts to get rid of the chaos upstairs, I had to do something more uplifting yesterday than writing a blog post about the mess in my workshop - hence the wee delay of updates.

I hope your week started less messy and send you my warmest autumn greetings from Snogerups Gård where it is sunny and calm today.