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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A spot of dyeing

I confess, it's been a while since my last post. So much creating has happened, no less a little baby boy called Emrys being one of the most delightful of them. It's been a busy time with no time for blog posts, but this is something I hope to correct in 2013. Is it too early for resolutions. Christmas hasn't even passed yet.

Anyway, before the baby wakes here is a spot of dyeing that I did recently on a silk shirt that I chanced upon at the Melbourne Suitcase Rummage. I finally got those Silver Dollar Eucalyptus leaves to pay out their red orange tones and I love the result.

It's amazing what a few leaves, a handful of rusty nails, some string and a little water can do. I've run into two of my fellow Beautiful Silks India Flint workshop companions in the past month in Melbourne and on both occasions we have all by chance been wearing eco-dyed silk garments. Thank you India for your inspiration.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Sourdough Crumpets / Blueberry Hotcakes

These Sourdough crumpets or hotcakes have been a revelation in our house. They are absolutely divine. Forget pancakes these are so much better! So light and fluffy, yet crunchy and a perfect vehicle for butter and honey, or cheese, or blueberries and bacon and maple syrup New York style.

For anyone with a sourdough starter I can only say, you must try this! For people without starters, it is so worth starting one just to make these. I have a dedicated jar of sourdough starter just ready for making crumpets whenever we need them.

Step 1: Get your starter ready - take two tablespoons of your regular sourdough starter and place in a large jar with 1 cup of white spelt flour (or regular unbleached white flour), mix with warm water thoroughly to make a porridge like consistency and leave jar out covered with a cloth for a few hours to activate the mix before retiring to the fridge until you are ready to make crumpets the following day or whenever you get around to it. It doesn't matter how old your starter becomes, it will perk up when you add the bicarb just before making the crumpets.
Here is the recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour

Sourdough Crumpets / Sourdough Blueberry Hotcakes
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp bicarb soda in a little water
Pour out what starter you have from your jar in a mixing bowl (the remnants of your starter in the jar will be enough to get your next batch of starter ready for future crumpets - add 1 cup of flour to the jar with water and mix to a porridge like consistency and return the jar to the fridge with a cloth lid)
Add salt and sugar to the starter and mix well. 
Heat a good quality fry pan with a little butter and lightly grease your crumpet rings/egg rings or cookie cutter rings and place them on the pan to heat up. If you don't have rings, don't worry, just blob the mix on the pan without rings and they'll be more like hotcakes. 
Just before cooking, add the bicarb water mix and mix into the batter well. Put a dessertspoon full of mix into each ring, cook on a medium to low heat. You need to cook them until they dry out on top and the bubbles burst. Might take up to 10 minutes. Try to use the mix up in one cooking batch as the bicarb will wear off quickly unless you get the batter cooking. 
If you don't have enough rings while you wait for them to cook, just pour the rest of the batter into small fry pan and make one really big crumpet which you can cut into segments and toast. 
When the top has dried out, remove the rings, flip the crumpets and just cook for 1-2 mins on the bubbles side just to brown. 
Before serving, lightly toast the crumpets then lather on butter and honey, or stack them up pancakes style with fruit, yogurt and maple syrup.
Variation (as pictured) - Sourdough Blueberry Hotcakes: try adding a handful of frozen blueberries to the mix before cooking the crumpets or hotcakes and serving New York style a stack of them with crispy bacon and maple syrup. 


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Postpartum Recovery Pack - Because I'm Worth It!

With the birth of our second just around the corner, I wanted to share this postpartum pack that I've put together to help myself to a few different postpartum health and wellbeing traditions from other cultures. In the West new mums are generally given a couple of weeks to get themselves together and are then expected to go on doing whatever it was they were doing before childbirth. Well I'm planning on taking it easy and living it up in the first few weeks!

This pregnancy I've been reading a wonderful book by Aviva Romm called "Natural Health After Birth - The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness". Based on some of the things I've learned from this book I've put together a pretty beautiful postpartum recovery pack that I think all new mum's should be given. I think it would make the perfect gift for a pregnant friend. The baby gets loads of pressies but the Mum needs all the support she can get...A happy supported mum is a happy healthy baby.

The pack includes:

Hot Water Bottle with wool felted cover - ( just an old blanket with a needle felted design on the front). Traditionally heat is used a lot in the postpartum period across many cultures. Romm says "If any single theme from traditional postpartum care emerges from one culture to the next worldwide, it is the importance of keeping the new mother warm....heat usually goes beyond just keeping the ambient temperature warm, but also incorporates techniques for infusing heat deeply into the woman's body specifically for the purpose of facilitating postpartum healing." Mother Roasting or Fire Rest the practices were sometimes called. Also pictured here is the beautiful Weleda Nursing Tea, and of course nourishing superfoods in the form of raw chocolate by Loving Earth...
In Chinese traditional medicine Moxabustion was essential, so I have also included Moxa sticks which you can buy at most traditional chinese medicine centres...Use the moxa sticks to treat the area of the body over the sacrum on the back and on the front just above the pubic bone.
Bathing was another important traditional postpartum treatment. I made up some lovely herbal bath tea bags with Comfrey, Lavender and Calendula. This is a beautiful blend that is uplifting, soothing and healing. You simple boil a bag in a large pot of water, steep covered for 30 mins and pour into a hot bath. You can take the baby in the bath too for it will help heal the umbilical site. You can also use the spent tea bags directly on the perineum to help heal and soothe. Even better add a few drops of Hypericum/calendula homeopathic tincture to the muslin bag before applying to the perineum.

Nourishing herbs for the postpartum mother include: Motherwort, Shepherds Purse, Dong Quai and Nettle. There are more but these are the ones I chose and I had a naturopath make up a body tonic of these four herbs. 
Nettle is used for enriching and enhancing breast-milk production while providing optimal nutrients and energy for the mother. Motherwort is a bitter herb that helps reduce tension in new mothers and is used for strengthening the cardiovascular system. It is excellent for reducing nervous heart palpitations and anxiety and it is a uterine tonic which can help return the uterus to its nonpregnant size and allay cramps. Shepherds Purse helps to reduce postpartum bleeding and Dong Quai is a Chinese tonic herb that helps relax the uterine muscles and manage uterine cramping among many other things...
Massage is another important postpartum practice, in Malawi the midwives were noted to use their head on the abdomen on the mother and massage upwards to help return the uterus to its non pregnant position. Weleda's Arnica massage oil is gorgeous and slightly warming and arnica is brilliant for helping that feeling like you've just been hit by a bus. 
Did I mention Chocolate? What postpartum healing pack would be complete without a selection of raw chocolate bars by Loving Earth. Chocolate releases endorphins and is stimulating and has so many health benefits I can't possibly list them all here!

So there you have it. I hope someone will see this and be inspired to make themselves or a loved one a similar postpartum pack because I think it would be the best gift you can give yourself or a new mother close to you.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Making Hand Dipped Beeswax Candles

Well, trying to anyway... I've always wanted to make my own hand dipped beeswax candles. Being due any day now I also envisaged birthing at home in the light beeswax candles that I'd made myself. A bit of a romantic notion and instead of lovely long tapered candles I ended up with three potted candles from beeswax that we collected from around some hives one weekend.

Around the hives at Heidi gallery in Heidelberg, Melbourne, we found some curious lumps of beeswax in the grass, some was really black. It smelt gorgeous and so we collected it up to see it we could make something of it.

I'd read that it was important to purify the wax before you melt it down to remove debris and other bits you might not want to burn and breathe. You do this by boiling the wax in a muslin bag so the wax floats to the surface and then repeating the process with finer mesh bags until your wax is lovely and clean. 

After it has boiled, you place the pot outside to cool and then you are left with a lovely solid disc of wax...
Break this up and put in a finer mesh bag and repeat the process, I used an old rolled oat sack...
When your wax is clean, break up and melt it in an old tin can...
Then you can begin the tedious process of dipping the wicks. I must admit this is where it all went horribly wrong. Because I had such a small tin can I could only dip the wick in a little bit. I ended up with candles that looked a little like this...
Hmmm. Decided these wouldn't really do so I ended up melting the wax and pouring it into little glasses with a wick in the centre instead. But not before knocking over the pot of hot wax and having to peel it off the kitchen and remelt and try again...

They actually burn beautifully so all was not lost and they smell lovely too...

Saturday, 7 July 2012

More darning at the markets and a bit about nesting

This morning was too nice a day to pass up one last day at the markets before baby... Just wanted to share a few pics from the market. I had another darning client whose favourite little knitted jumper had a huge hole at the elbow. I love the way it turned out and am considering just doing this to unholy jumpers just for the sake of it!

darned first in the traditional woven stitch then layered with merino wool tops
and needle felted with dotty accents


Quite a bit of nesting has been going on in the past few weeks. Pre-washing nappies and generally beautifying the house. I love the look of these beautiful organic cotton muslin nappies hanging on the line...

Although technically it isn't Autumn, I finally got around to making another Autumn Leaves Mobile for our Melbourne house...

... one more bonnet for baby. This one will be the perfect fit from birth, it's one of Elizabeth Zimmerman's patterns, it's called the Maltese Fisherman's Hat from the Knitter's Almanac. I added an attached icord around the front which really finishes off the pattern nicely I thought. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Extreme Darning and an Aussie Afternoon Tea

Yesterday at the markets, probably my last before baby arrives, I did a spot of extreme needle felt darning. A young gentleman had holes all through his favourite jumper and requested my darning services. The holes were enormous and required traditional woven darning before being reinforced with some spotty needle felting.

I say extreme because of a number of circumstances, namely the gale force winds, the cold, the rain, the time pressure and the large and numerous holes in the fabric. Not to mention my extremely pregnant state! Just two weeks to go!

Anyway, it was a bit of a challenge for my still new darning skills but I liked the results, definitely more interesting than before. I just hope the jumper remains a favourite of his! 


Today it has been raining all day and lately we've all had a bit of a taste for crumpets since it's winter so I decided to try the homemade variety. 

I didn't have the traditional circular crumpet rings so we ended up with crumpets in the shape of Australia, a koala and hearts. 

To go with this very Aussie afternoon tea we had Native Roasted Wattleseed Tea (delicious!) and lashings of butter and Aussie bush honey. All very comforting on a cold wet Melbourne afternoon. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Knitting for Baby

I haven't been able to post as much as I'd like to because I just haven't been able to put down the knitting and sewing needles long enough. Our new baby is due in about three weeks and I've built up an adorable collection of baby knits that I've been dying to share with you all.

I'm especially in love with the patterns by Elizabeth Zimmerman who is just such a genius and writes patterns in such a casual way that you end up having to use your own nut and invariably learn a whole lot along the way. Great for relatively new knitters like me.

Can one baby have too many booties? In my quest to find the perfect bootie pattern I ended up trying five different patterns. My favourite is definitely the Elizabeth Zimmerman Bootees pattern from "The Opinionated Knitter"

Noro Yuzen yarn Wool/Silk/Mohair
Eki Riva Casual Baby Alpaca

 Second favourite knitted booties pattern is the Purl Soho Baby Moccasins pattern. I added little needle felted dots to them like I have been doing to everything of late...
Eki Riva Casual Baby Alpaca
 I found these two top down cardigan patterns a lot of fun to knit. The first is The Babykit for Melker by Pickles. I loved their colour choice and so did the same. It turned out to be the perfect size for a newborn and can't wait to dress the little dumpling in it!

Eki Riva Casual Baby Alpaca (my favourite yarn for babes)

I made little fabric covered buttons to match
Second cardigan is the Baby Sweater on Two Needles by Elizabeth Zimmerman in her brilliant Knitters Almanac. It has a little ceramic button that my partner made so it has a bit of him in it too which is nice.

What baby can be without a beautifully soft baby alpaca bonnet? This was such a fun pattern and quite ingenious too I thought. It's the Purl Soho Baby Bonnet. So adorable and so lovely and soft in  Eki Riva Baby Alpaca (again!)

 I'm quite proud of this little wool playsuit which is my take on the Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Leggings pattern again from the Knitter's Almanac.

I found the rise in the crotch way too long even from a fully cloth nappied baby bottom so I cut through my knitting, salvaged the yarn and added the stitches back on the needle to continue knitting upwards. I added a long rib top and continued up the back, splitting the stitches into two straps that have three button adjustments so hopefully these will last baby a couple of seasons.

Well thank you for indulging me and my baby knit obsession. I can put it down to a combination of hormones, nesting instinct and a little bit of anxiety that I may not be able to pick up the needles as much as I may want to in the first few weeks/months of baby II's arrival. With three weeks to go, I may even add to the collection, I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Needle felted darning

I came across a great idea for darning holes via a wonderful dutch designer Heleen Klopper and I've been actively seeking out holy woolly garments to mend ever since. You can buy her packs of wool tops and needles from the totally brilliant Third Draw Down design shop in Fitzroy, Melbourne. However since my house is brimming with the fluffy stuff I have been darning to my hearts content.

This is a little woollen top that I have had since I was about 12 years old, I still remember the shopping trip with my mum to buy it. I've almost worn it to death and the moths have tried to consume it over the years but I've managed to save it from the scrap heap. It's felted over the years and too small for me now but I might cut it up and make a little kids waistcoat with it, we'll see.


I like the random placement of holes, if I was embellishing it purposefully I don't think I could have come up with this pattern. There are about 32 moth holes in this. Someone's had a feast.


Here is another. I felted this old jumper, darned it and cut it up to make this little waistcoat for a 2-5 year old.

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