Friday, 30 December 2011

My Sewing Machine - Vintage Bernina 700

 I proudly announce, my sewing machine!

There is a long story behind this machine, but here I just plan to add a summary for my memory's sake.

This is my late and much missed Grandmother's machine. Abba (we couldn't get our baby tongues around Abuela, Grandma in Spanish) was tall and beautiful, had a history of making her own clothes and studied fibre arts continuously. I can imagine her whizzing up beautiful clothes, she lived through the Mad Men era afterall!

 One day, more than 15 years ago, she gave me her machine. You can see her name on the box. She asked me never to take the name label off. So I never did. She passed away about 13 years ago. And one of the best things I have to remind me of her is this Bernina 700.

Have I used it much? I did at the beginning, I made curtains and a dress (which disappointingly failed to fit the recipient!). I made bolsters for a close friend's wedding anniversary.  Recently I upcycled a beloved quilt into cushion covers to keep it alive and useful.

However, this machine has also endured long years of waiting in an attic. Why? Because I got married and moved abroad, with just a car full of essentials. Thankfully family friends offered to keep hold of my Bernina. My mum had a few chances to get her hands on it, but none panned out.

Flying with a sewing machine:

Then this summer I was in London for a course. I decided I was not going to fly home without this machine. So a friend gave me a set of wheels that I could strap it to and I got it through Heathrow security, right to the gate as hand luggage! I have to admit when I was at the gate I lost my nerve (I was thinking about lifting this thing up into an overhead compartment - it's heavy!) and asked the steward to put it where they store prams and buggies. Which kindly he did!

In Hamburg airport I didn't know where to pick my machine up and got told off by a grumpy lady at the desk who said it was very irregular and I should have paid to have this item transported. Oh dear! Well, it turned out fine when I walked down between the luggage belts and found a pile of buggies and prams and my Bernina.

Next my machine was whisked off for a service at the Hamburger Nähmascinen-Haus in the Lange Reihe, Hamburg (after all it hasn't been used for 5 years and I've never once oiled it!).

Now she's home and safe. What shall I sew first?! I'm very excited...

What are you whizzing up on your machine?

PS. Are you into buying handmade? Yes? Then you should check out the amazing stuff in the Etsy Stock Take. If you sell your craft on Etsy, please come and join in :)

Follow Lifes Jewels on String

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Checking out Bloglovin...

I'm looking for a nicer way to manage my blogs that Google Reader, which I find clunky and sometimes annoying.

Maybe Bloglovin is the way forward... hence the weird bit of code down below, apparently I have to 'claim' my blog, I'll let you know if that turns out well!

Oh, and I'm also baking a cake, Sticky Toffee Pudding no less! Have to make my own now not living in the UK. Did you know that some unusual ingredients go in? Tea, coffee, even dates! Right, off now to make the Caramel sauce...

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Monday, 26 December 2011

Secret Codes and Hamburg Graffiti.

Secret codes in Hamburg. 

A topic that sucks me in. I remember working out what the runes in my childhood copy of The Hobbit spelt, one letter at a time. I still have the piece of paper tucked inside that book.

The Secret Symbols of Travelers and Thieves

Watching Mad Men, in one episode a homeless traveller marks a fence post with chalk, the picture representing how he was treated in the house he visited on his wanderings. Apparently those codes go back to the Great Depression of the 30's. Incidentally, those symbols were also used by thieves.

In a modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, an episode covers a mystery involving Chinese smugglers. Of course, Holmes and Watson don't know that to start with, all they have are some bright yellow spray-painted symbols and a murder or two to go on.

Imagine my interest the other day when I sighted on a series of symbols in Hamburg. I was walking down the Lange Reihe (going to collect my sewing machine from it's service, very exciting, more to come on that!) and kept seeing this little humming bird everywhere.

Is it a message? 

A challenge perhaps?

I think I like this type of graffiti. 

It's pretty. It's mysterious. It leaves me wanting more. 

Do you have any interesting markings round your way?

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Etsy - Best of 2011

Today is supposed to be Etsy Stock Take Week 51. But as I haven't made anything this week I haven't got anything to share.

Shame on me!

Instead I thought it would be nice to let you in on a couple of Etsy secrets, my favourite sellers of 2011. I have purchased from both these sellers and my excellent experience in each case means I can vouch for them.

Drum roll please...

Number 1: greenteajewels

I love this little shop so much that I am a repeat customer. Value for money, a great friendly generous seller, Jill, pretty packaging and such sweet quality jewellery mean that I can't resist!

Ceramic Love Birds

Number 2: PrinceDesignUK.

I believe that this shop was one of the first that caught my eye when I discovered Etsy a couple of years ago... I LOVED the little red heart birdie dishes so much that I used the image as the wallpaper on my mobile phone (it's still there!). At the time I didn't know how to favourite items so sadly I lost the shop.

Somehow I found it again a couple of weeks ago and was just in time to buy a ceramic butterfly for my sister's wedding anniversary. Although I was late in ordering, Elizabeth went straight out to post it and it arrived 2 days later on the morning of their anniversary. They loved it. Now I'm just waiting for an excuse to get myself those little birdies...

I think I'm going to take a break from Etsy Stock Take next week too, but I'll be back at the end of week 1 2012! Hope you'll join me for a very productive year.

What's the best thing you bought last year?

Friday, 23 December 2011

Recipe: Summer in Winter Hummus.

Recipe: Summer in Winter Hummus.

The other day I was thinking about what to do for an easy lunch and started going through my recipe notes.

I came across this sorry looking envelope with a load of scribble on it. What could it be? Hummus... Mmmmm That'll do it!

I enjoyed making this so much that I thought it deserved to be recorded beautifully with pictures.

Tah dah!


  • 1 400g can of chick peas, rinsed and drained*.
  • 1 clove of garlic (cut in half and remove the green stalk trying to grow inside, this is the bit that is hard to digest and makes you have bad breath).
  • Juice of one lemon.
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil.
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin.
  • A green chilli, optional but good if you are feeling adventurous. 

  1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl/blender. 
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of water.
  3. Blend until smooth, adding a bit more water if needed (you are aiming for peanut butter type consistency).
  4. Serve with salt, freshly ground pepper, paprika and a little extra olive oil. Toast or chicory leaves are perfect for scooping. 

That's it! So easy. And full of the cold fighting properties of garlic, so pretty good to eat in the winter. It's good in the fridge for 3 days. 
And it's yummy.

What are you eating these days?

*If you are using dry chickpeas you need to soak them overnight (or 6 hours). Rinse and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Then simmer for 1-2 hours until soft.

Monday, 19 December 2011

One down, one to go (sock making and other projects).

"Where's my twin already?"

I finished making the sock!

This is only the 3rd sock I've ever made so I'm still officially excited about making socks (although I am beginning to understand how this could wear off as I start to cast on the twin, sock number 4).

Things I learnt:
  • Cast on to the needles you need for the required gauge, but knit the rib stitch bit onto a size smaller needle. Then you get a proper tight rib (that's my fave bit).

Things I'm thinking:
  • I haven't got second sock syndrome yet - I've already cast on for the twin. Just in case it should hit me in the future I'm researching how to knit two socks AT THE SAME TIME! Apparently this is made possible using 2 circular needles simultaneously. I know, it's world-changing!
  • UPDATE: 2 socks on 1 circular toe up. I think I prefer this to the 2 circular trick. Thanks to Pinkundine's comment below :)
  • Turning the heel is the bit I enjoy doing the most, even if so far I haven't done it without a consultation with a trusty youtube video
  1. One sock finished.
  2. One down, one to go.
  3. One and a half...
  4. Then they were a pair!

I'm also working on other things:

1. The gauge swatch for Marmee's waistcoat. This is swatch number 2. Unfortunately it's still not the right gauge so I don't get to use my funky purple hook on this project, shame. 

2. This is a sneaky peek at something secret. I knitted up a swatch from my stash (leftover from baby blanket). It'll be send it off with a design of my own in answer to a call for submissions for Jane Austen inspired designs from an American online knitting magazine, Knitting Daily *excited!*

What are you working on?

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Etsy Stock Take - Week 50

  Etsy Stock Take Week 50 

I was rather uninspired this week and it looked like nothing would get added to my etsy shop... 
But then I got out my box of beads and mused over them for a while. Just playing, no particular idea in mind. It seems like that was a good idea. After playing about for a bit I came up with this little sweetie. It was born of an old bracelet with a broken clasp.
I like how you can see the wire through the beads. And the big ol'blue is a stunner. Catches the light very prettily. The turquoise beads are new ones that I bought in a sale in a lovely Geneva craft shop last year before moving to Hamburg.
What have you been working on?

Join me:

I hope that you fellow Etsian's will join me, somewhat in the manner of a blog hop.

On Sunday, when I post my new tally, please show your new items on your blog, linking back to my post. Then leave me a comment with a link to your post so that we all know how you're doing! I might even feature my favourite items in future posts!

Not a blogger? No problem, just leave me a comment with links that go to your new items in your Etsy shop. 

I'm hoping that my goal of one item a week will be a powerful motivator and a source of publicity for us all...
What do you think?
This week's new Etsy item is pictured above. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Book Review: The Moonstone

First one volume edition by Smith, Elder in 1871.
I have just finished The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. 

*Deep sigh and a big smile*

This book is widely considered the first ever detective novel and precedes the better known works of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's multitude of murder mystery novels.

Collins was a contemporary of Dickens and writes charmingly of the adventure of the Moonstone, a huge yellow diamond, on its travels from deep in India to mid-19th Century England.

Composed as a collection of accounts written by those characters that have contact with the diamond and its mysterious disappearance in a country house in Yorkshire, this book had enough suspense to keep me from putting it down. Night after late night I have struggled to continue reading as my eyelids battled against me, impatient to know where the tale would lead next.

Along with mystery, war, peace, romance, tragedy, country and city life combine to give you a vivid picture of life circa 1850.

I loved the book from the moment I started to the disappointing moment that I finished it. It's by far the best thing I've read for ages (even if I have read 2 brilliant Jane Austen novels this year!). I am sure this is one I will return to as the twists and turns will keep me on my feet after some time has passed to dull my memory.

Get it! It's great! 

The FREE Kindle edition is available at Amazon (it's a good quality file, this is how I got my copy).

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Etsy Stock Take - Week 49

Last week I announced that I had a plan. The plan is to list something new in my Etsy shop every week.

So far I'm managing to stick to it (yea it's only been a week, heehee).

Join me:

I hope that you fellow Etsian's will join me, somewhat in the manner of a blog hop.

On Sunday, when I post my new tally, please show your new items on your blog, linking back to my post. Then leave me a comment with a link to your post so that we all know how you're doing! I might even feature my favourite items in future posts!

Not a blogger? No problem, just leave me a comment with links that go to your new items in your Etsy shop. 

I'm hoping that my goal of one item a week will be a powerful motivator and a source of publicity for us all...

What do you think?

This week's new Etsy item is pictured above. It's a pretty little snowflake brooch.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Vintage movies for everyone!

Hepburn images and fashion.

Do I love old films? Is it snowy and cold where I am? Do I feel the need of a hot drink, blanket and an old movie? 

Yes, yes and yes!

Well then, I need to sit back and peruse the Entertainment Magazine's Free Movie Catalogue. 

This is a collection of films which have made it into the public domain in one way or another. You don't need to sign up with the site and you don't need to download anything. All the films are available immediately for streaming straight to your computer.

If you can hook your laptop up to the TV you're laughing!

I recently watched Charade. It's just so lovely. French Alps, Parisian apartments and a good dose of murder mystery. And at the centre of it all Audrey looks so innocent.

What will I watch next? Where's my easy movie knitting?

A big thanks to Mimi for bringing this site to my attention x

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Making Winter: Twinkle Lights.

I hoard jam jars. I can't help it, I just love them. (They say admitting it is the first step on the road to recovery. We'll see...).

We have a particularly big glut of them at the moment and when I bemoaned the fact that they won't all fit in the cupboard Mr C suggested putting candles in some of them.

Well, of course!

I could go all crafty (it has been known) and decorate each jar, but I think I am really liking the simplicity of them grouped as they are on the window sill.

It does make a winter evening that bit warmer.

Let's join Thrifty Household and Silver Pebble in their making winter better quest.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The first snow!

I am very happy to announce that snow has arrived in our parts. Very exciting because the only thing that redeems winter, in my opinion, is snow. Hurrah!

Reading the news I can see that it's arrived in the UK too, albeit up north.

Check out the red squirrel digging about for nuts under the falling snow - he's a courageous little thing!
It's hard to photograph snow, my camera has a 'snow function' but I should really learn how to do it properly and how it works...

Is it snowing where you are?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

This Week's Etsy Stock Take

My new Etsy shop plan for improving sales and SEO.

I've had so much fun setting up my Etsy shop in the last year or so and watching the number of views growing. However my view to sale ratio is not very good... Add to that my lack of inspiration in the last month or so that has seen no new stock enter the shop. Now this is just a hobby, but I would like to see it paying for itself!

The plan:

Here's my plan. I aim to create at least one new thing for my shop each week. I will post my tally of new items on my blog each weekend so I have a record of my progress. Regularly updated sites get priority in search engine results, don't you know? I've seen a definite decline in views with my shop stagnating.

Join me:

I hope that you fellow Etsian's will join me, somewhat in the manner of a blog hop.

On Sunday, when I post my new shop stock, please write a new post on your blog, showcasing your new items. Title it Etsy Stock Take and link back here.

Then leave a comment with a link to your post so that we all know how you're doing! I might even feature my favourite items in future posts! And I will compile a list of participants.

Not a blogger? No problem, simply leave me a comment with links that go to your new items in your Etsy shop. 

I'm hoping that my goal of one item a week will be a powerful motivator and a source of promotion for us all...
What do you think?

This week's new Etsy item is pictured above. It's a pretty little rose brooch.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Vintage Cars in Hamburg: Mini

I saw this little cutie parked in Eppendorf last Friday. 
Just thought I'd share... I love vintage cars, they make me happy. 
So maybe I'm going to start a little collection of photos. 
I'll take photos of old motors when out and about and update my blog with them... 

Yay! *Big smile*

For more in the vintage car photo collection:
  1. Mini Cooper
  2. V.W. Beetle 
  3. V.W. Beetle with vintage skis

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

How to: Sterilising Jam Jars.

I made hand cream recently and so needed to get my little jam jars squeaky clean. I learnt how to do this a year or so ago when I was making a batch of pickle. I'm happy to say it's very easy to do.

How to:

Wash out your jars well (I got these in the supermarket with jam in them and when we'd eaten the jam decided they were well too cute to get rid of - recycling at home!).
Mine went through the dishwasher (lids too).

Then pre-heat oven on a low setting. I used 100 degrees C.  Don't be tempted to use a high heat because you risk breaking the glass. Rinse jars, making sure they get wet everywhere inside. Pour out remaining water. Pop them in the oven and leave them there to dry out. Then switch of the oven and leave them there till cool.


What I learnt:

The lids can be tricky to get right in the oven, as some have a plastic seal which can melt and mess everything up (speaking from experience!). To get round that I now pop them in a sauce pan of water and bring to the boil. Let the water boil for a minute or two and then leave to cool.


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Parcel from Marmee.

A parcel came recently from my mum in the South of England. Among other things was a plastic wallet containing the leaves above. What a lovely thing to find in the post! What do you post to your family and friends?

Monday, 28 November 2011

How to: Handmade Hand and Lip Cream.

For a long time I have wanted to make homemade hand cream. Then a couple of weeks ago I started thinking about this again (cold winter weather was threatening to ruin my hands).

I am so sick of commercial creams, I either don't like the smell, or the texture or my skin doesn't agree with them because I have eczema on my hands. So I decided it was about time to do something about it!

I live in Germany and the most convenient way to get beeswax (a main ingredient) was to shop online with Kosmetikmacherei. 

I would recommend the site as it is easy to use. You choose the item you want, put it in your cart and complete check out with your name and contact details (all in German, no English I'm afraid). They email you an invoice, which you pay with a bank transfer to Austria (although I admit I was hoping to use PayPal).

Then a couple of days later a box arrives in the post - exciting!

Research began:

While waiting for my package I did some research. I found a great list of recipes online and a very informative blog post by A Sonoma Garden.

After some musing and adapting and converting, here's the recipe I came up with:

Basic recipe: 1 part beeswax to 3 parts oil.

 I'm planning on using olive oil this time, but maybe other oils would also work well, like coconut oil for example. I might also add some aloe vera gel and essential oils for added goodness.

I decided to use an egg cup for the measuring as it was far simpler than working out the American Cup equivalents in grams! That way anyone that reads this blog can make cream without any measuring headaches. 

What I did:

This batch = 2 egg cups of beeswax to 6 egg cups of olive oil.

I put the beeswax and olive oil into a big glass jar and put this in a saucepan of water (that came half way up the sides of my jar). I heated this on a medium/low heat until all the beeswax had melted, giving it a couple of good mixes with a fork.

 When completely melted I poured the mixture into little jars which I had sterilised.

 I then left these to cool to room temperature. Oh, they looked so sweet and almost professional! However at this point I wanted to add a splash of aloe vera gel and lavender oil to my cream. So I gave them a good stir to incorporate the new ingredients. 

This is where things started to look less than professional! I will have to try a new batch soon and see if I can get around this. I am wondering why the advice was to add extra ingredients once the cream is room temperature. Maybe I can mix them in to the melted liquid and let it solidify without any stirring? Or is heating the essential oils bad, maybe changing their properties or making them lose their strength?


I ended up with 5 almost full 50g jars. 

The cream is quite solid, but you can easily get a nice amount on your finger and it melts into the skin like a dream. A minute or so later it is completely absorbed and doesn't leave a greasy feeling. I am rather proud of them and will be gifting them to unsuspecting family members to see what they think. Yay!

PS. Are you into buying handmade? Yes? Then you should check out the amazing stuff in the Etsy Stock Take. If you sell your craft on Etsy, please come and join in :)

Follow Lifes Jewels on String

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A little bit of orchid love.

 I'm getting better at editing my photos on gimp so I wanted to share my new orchid pics, you can compare with some of my older unedited ones.

I've still got a lot of lighting issues as I don't even remember the last time we had a blue sky day here in Hamburg. Maybe I need to make a light box.

The photo below was an electric light job, but it's come out quite warm and not too metallic. It's my favourite orchid moment, when the flower is just deciding to wake up, slowly peeking out from behind it's ear flaps... Makes me smile every time!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Granny square disaster.

So I recently posted about my change of heart when it comes to granny squares, detailing the start of a granny square project.

Today I want to note the progress of said project. I think in my head it was to be a floor mat, possibly to go in the bathroom in front of the shower cubicle. I happily hooked up a tons of squares from yarn made from old t-shirts and started musing on how to join them together.

After doing some research, I decided to go with crocheting together the outside loops of the stitches so that the joining would only be visible on the back of the mat.

That bit worked a treat and I will be doing it again. However, you might have noticed that this particular project can be justly labeled a disaster. Can you see the problem?

Somewhere along the line I put down my giantest crochet hook and picked up the next size down! haha!!

Now I did notice that some squares were a bit bigger than others, but figured blocking before joining would sort it out. Then when they still seemed a bit squiff, I thought they'd get comfy when joined together - no problem right?


The big ones puff up cos they don't have room to lay flat, bless their little hearts!

What I learnt:
  • Only use one size crochet hook for an entire project!
  • Pack away other hooks while working on something to avoid confusion.
  • Don't try and join things that are very obviously not going to fit.
  • A rather nice method to join granny squares that is not noticeable on the right side.
What next:
  • I'm going to frog the lot and then start a new bathroom mat. This time I'm going to make a giant circle incorporating an old bedsheet.
  • I'm reserving my judgement on granny squares until I can successfully complete a project involving them. Watch this space!
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