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 :)

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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!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Black Friday through Cyber Monday.

10% off everything in my Etsy shop Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
Use coupon code: BFCM11 at checkout. Enjoy!!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

New Vintage Cape

Are capes still in?

I hope so because I'm finally getting round to wearing mine!

This was my fist BIG knit (ie. not a scarf!).

I chose to knit a cape because there would be no sleeves to fight with. I love it particularly because I knit it from a vintage pattern - it's the one on the left below.

Even better, I was able to find the actual suggested bouclĂ© vintage yarn in a very nice lady's stash in Ravelry. How great is that?! So I'm snuggling a cape that was super trendy 50 years ago in wool produced 50 years ago. 

So is my cape new or vintage?

Oh, and for the pros and cons of cape wearing, this is a must read! 

 For more vintage stuff you might like:

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Vintage Leather Colour-Blocking

Skirt from F.Kids, blouse and jumper from H&M
Here I am rocking my vintage leather skirt! 
It's comfy and very warm and has roomy pockets which is always a plus! 
I thought it was ideal for trying out a bit of colour-blocking, something that I've recently discovered (although as I rarely wear black I think I might be a natural colour-blocker...?!). 

Turquoise and purple. Does it work?

For more vintage stuff you might like:

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Left-handed guitar-playing

So I am a leftie. Recently we decided to learn how to play the guitar. The same week we found this bargain at Lidl's. Who'dve thought that was the place to pick up musical instruments?! Well, it was cheap, but we needed something to bash around while we got the hang of it.

What I've learnt so far:
-I want to hold the guitar the same way as right-handers. Phew, that's a relief.
-However, I can't shake the feeling that it would be better to have the low E string at the floor end of the row and the high E at the ceiling end. Things seem a bit up-side-down.
-I can finally do a decent job of the following chords: D, D minor, A, A minor, C, G, E, E minor (D and C are still tricky though).
-I don't like the way my right hand strums, especially upwards.

My friend has a left-handed guitar with the strings strung with the low E near the floor and the high E near the ceiling, I thought this was delightful until I learnt the point of this change.

It is done this way so that the chords can be played with the right hand and the strumming done with the left (so the guitar head is facing the other direction to normal). This is not so cool.

Left-handed guitarists (to name a few):
Jimi Hendrix
Kurt Cobain
Bob Geldof
Justin Bieber
Paul MacCartney
Paul's a leftie too.

I've decided that as I learnt to crochet the right-handed way, I'm just going to keep on playing the guitar that way too.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Radicchio rose.

Just a quickie today. I couldn't resist snapping this little rose that appeared while I was chopping up some radicchio for a risotto. Lovely.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

On my needles.

Socks for my hubby. The second pair I have attempted. And so far much more successful than the first pair! A nice tight rib on the cuff. I've just turned the heel, which is deeply satisfying.
Oh, and I got the confidence to work on socks here, a great video tutorial.

Details on ravelry. 
 What are you working on?

  1. One sock finished.
  2. One down, one to go.
  3. One and a half...
  4. Then they were a pair.

Friday, 18 November 2011


A year in the life of my geranium babies. 

I bought the seeds in a pack at Lidl's of all places! It was easy, I planted the seeds in Jan 2011. They didn't require much care and they are STRONG!

Now we've had frost I'll be following Thrifty Household's lead and pruning back and sheltering the plants and keeping the flowers in vases to cheer up the flat inside. 

PS. Like to buy handmade? Check out amazing stuff in the Etsy Stock Take. If you sell stuff on Etsy, please come and join in :)
Follow Lifes Jewels on String

Great Granny Square.

Christoper Kane Design

I used to have a pretty poor opinion of the granny square, I think it was all those 70's garish colours. 

However, recently I've started to reconsider. I thought I should at least try to make some before judging them so harshly.

So, not one to spend any money on an experiment, and one to enjoy cutting stuff up I first attempted to make t-shirt yarn from some old cotton vests:


Then to work granny squaring:

Things I learnt:

-Cotton vests that have a slight rib in the weave fray badly, losing lots of bits. Grrr.
-You need a yumbo crochet hook for t-shirt yarn! The one I used was size 10mm.
-I had to simplify my design to a VERY simple square to accommodate my yarn. 

-How on earth am I gonna join them together?
-What am I actually making? Maybe a bathroom floor mat?
-Will I ever be able to transfer the skills I have just learnt into making myself the glorious Christopher Kane Granny Square Biker Jacket (not 4 words you thought you'd ever see together!)?

Next installment...

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