Local Heart, Global Soul

August 9, 2014

Ouch ! Only A Day Old And Here Comes The Knife!!!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s where back in October of 2012 I was busy taking photographs of the soap making process as practices by Nikos of  Hotel Des Roses in Platania, on the Pelion peninsular in Greece.

Nikos uses olive oil as the base of his soaps and infuses organically grown herbs and flowers to perfume them.

Following on from the last photographs in yesterday’s post we find Nikos pouring the fresh, liquid soap into the prepared trays which will later be cut into bars of soap.

Once all of the  (in this case lavender)  infused mixture has been poured into the tray, Nikos  runs around the edges of the tray to release any bubbles that might be trapped down the sides.

He then sprinkles dry lavender flowers over the top. The smell during the entire process is wonderful.

It takes roughly twenty-four hours for the soup to turn solid, the process takes a little longer in the hotter Greek summer months and just a day in winter.

I’m lucky to be able to see the process with a tray of  Rose infused soap that had been made the day before, Nikos takes a long guillotine blade that has a handle at each end and slots it into grooves in the tray so that when he makes the cuts, each bar of soap is of a uniform size.

He wears gloves to protect his hands at this stage of the process  because until the soap “cures”  fully the mixture would burn your skin.

The curing process involves the bars being carefully spaced apart and being air-dried for a month, after that the soap can be used and will not burn in any way at all. In fact it will be so soft and neutral that this sort of soap is ideal for people with eczema and sensitive skin.

I can vouch for this because Nikos insisted on gifting me some soap for my photography efforts. I have asthma and sensitive skin and soaps with perfume or colour are guaranteed to leave me with a patchy sunburn-like rash. Since we visited Greece in 2012 I have now had the opportunity to have tried all of Nikos’s soaps,  without the slightest problem of skin irritation and thanks to a constant supply via my in-laws it is the only soap I have used since our visit.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I also gave some of these as a “Thank-you” gift to a colleague because she looked after the plants in my office whilst I was on holiday.

She has serious problems with eczema, but also has no problems with any of these soaps.

Nikos also makes soaps using donkey and goat’s  milk and both are wonderful on your skin, which feels smooth and moisturised afterwards.

She has in turn converted several of her friends to the quality of Nikos’s soap and I enjoy helping a little family business by ordering soap regularly from Nicos via my in-laws to pass on to them.

I love knowing all about the “process” of how things are made,  I especially love that everything in these is organic and natural, there are no weird chemicals, preservatives or colourants, and I love to support a small family business who care about the environment and how their product is made instead of a large multi-national who are generally only concerned with the fee being paid to their shareholders or the amount of profit they can make. After taking these photographs Nikos has another photographic project for me, but first some tea is provided with a smile, using their own organic camomile  flowers, refreshing and delicious!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

June 2, 2014

Step-By-Step White Work… Practice Makes Perfect!

 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Sometimes Often I get a little stir-crazy at being housebound and less mobile. It’s difficult when taking morphine based pain relief, it makes me sleepy and my brain doesn’t make sense of much.

I know I have the attention span of a gnat but still have moments when I’m frustrated not to be “doing” something constructive.

I used to embroider constantly, tiny detailed work in miniature was my favourite but all the projects I’d been working on have lain untouched for almost four years now because I quickly discovered that making one mistake after another and unpicking a lot was more frustrating than not stitching at all.

To be honest I’ve been too tired and too sore to miss it most of the time, the idea of stitching again is nice but in practice it’s just too much effort. Back in 2013 however I saw a two day embroidery course to teach basic white-work (white embroidery on white background material) and since it’s something I’ve wanted to learn for years and years, decided to give it a go. During the entire time of the course it bucketed down rain , outside was stormy, dark and grey and I struggled with low light, as the flash photos were even worse. Luckily we used additional lamps to embroider by … hats off to the embroiders of centuries past who worked with candlelight and less than perfect daylight conditions.

The working of white-work turned out to have more steps that I ever imagined, it’s interesting to know and I’m pleased I had a go, but if I’m really honest my piece isn’t going to get any more work done to it now that the course has finished. The course was also given entirely in French, a good test for my rapidly rusting language skills. The top photograph is of the teacher’s amazing work:  I’m not certain if that’s inspiring or intimidating.

It’s concentration intensive and whilst I persevered for two days I’m just not going to carry one with this, or any sort of embroidery until I’m fully recovered from my accident. Still, at least learning more about the “process” is somewhat satisfying in it’s own way. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone sometimes, even if you only discover that you’d rather to retreat back into it again afterwards.

The first step is to outline your leaf with 2 millimetre long running stitches: first you make a line all around (it looks like – – – – – ) and then you turn around and come up in the centre of one stitch and go down in the centre of the next one. This looks a little like a miniature chain stitch in the end, but it’s very tightly packed…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now build up thick layers filling stitches within your outline stitch, following the natural form of the leaf and raised in the centre to give it a three dimensional, more realistic look. (don’t take any notice of the other outlined leaf  at the moment, I was in a queue of students waiting to learn the next step so started to outline a new leaf whilst I waited).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now begin to Satin stitch over the padding and the outline stitch, taking care to keep the stitches even and parallel, but at the same time “turning” slightly around the curves to follow the form of the leaf. (For me at least this is harder than it looks).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

… Working your way up the leaf. (We were told to always start the Satin stitch at the outside thinnest part of the tip of the leaf).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One leaf completed…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now outline and pad the centre of the flower… Satin stitch first in a north-south direction and then Satin stitch it again in an east-west direction to give it the necessary fullness.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Again, I found the Satin stitch a bit of a challenge. In the next photograph I’m working on the split leaf, I have outlined and padded one half, but you only Satin stitch between the small pencil markings of the central section of the leaf at this point.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now you outline the other half of the leaf, stitch the padding and it’s only at this point that you Satin stitch over the remain padding  and outline stitches as you work up the leaf. (There was a queue again to ask the teacher questions so I started to pad another leaf).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

My split leaf doesn’t look particularly natural, but for a first attempt, I’m happy enough. The plant stems need to be started by the flower and worked towards the main stem. Yes, they have to be padded too! (but not outlined). When the main stem is reached, taper off the stitches  so that you can blend them in smoothly later when the biggest stem is worked.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The main stem being padded, ready for Satin stitching…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This is as far as I managed in the two days of the course. Here’s another piece of the teacher’s work to show how beautiful white-work looks when worked properly in expert hands…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

January 4, 2010

“I ” bags” the bag!”… kid cuddle cosy bag for winter, that is…

Filed under: Craft,Step-by-Step Tutorials — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Our kids like to curl up  on the sofa in the morning and wake up slowly  in their pajamas in front of children’s TV,  whilst they eat breakfast until it is time for dressing, teeth brushing, school bag packing and out the door.

I will already be at work whilst all this activity is taking place so this is the routine that my husband likes too, can handle and orchestrate relatively smoothly in my absence.

It’s easy enough in the warmer months but when it’s cooler or downright cold, the gas heater takes a little while to get the chill of the room and the kids will often be fighting for a favoured super-soft blanket (of which we only have the one) and like as not the one who ” bags” it first will not always be willing to share.

Time for a solution… and no, giving away one of the kids is not the solution… but on some days when they are at their most squabblesome (like most  parents I suspect) I might consider it  … for a nano second.

What is needed is something that they can climb into, very soft and very warm for that snuggle time when they first get up and just before they go to bed.

Something that they will be totally comfortable in, roomy and soft… a cuddle cosy bag,

I also can’t be bothered to try and find a pattern or follow one,  because life is just too busy and tiring at the moment so decide to just improvise and see if I can make a quick, easy, lazy version.

I have detailed step-by-step photos using some paper cut-outs to represent the pattern because my fabric was dark and the stitch lines don’t show up well enough.

First I took a square piece of fabric that measured a decent length longer then  the kids feet at the bottom when the top of the fabric was level with their shoulders, and double the width of them ( with a baggy look, very roughly measured)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Then I folded the fabric  in half and cut it vertically down the middle (so each of the two places are wider than the kid and slightly longer.. in this pattern ” baggy” is good !)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now cut two squares off the top, these will be the sleeves.  NOTE:   Small glitch solved: Next time I make one of these I will make them more square rather than rectangular, because this gives a bigger opening into the sleeve and when I made the rectangular ones for my four year old the sleeves turned out about two times longer than his arms! That was less problem with my eight year old  because she has long arms anyway.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now cut a little semi-circle into the top of both of the long rectangle ” body” pieces. DO use one of your kids tee-shirts to measure roughly  the size it will probably be smaller than you think !  You can adjust these easily enough later if you need to.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now do a zig-zag around all the edges you have so far. Beware this soft fabric is easy to sew but it will leave a trail of fabric fluff as you handle it, so wear some old clothes when you sew this up (my clothes took several washes to get all the fibers off.)

Now…  you have all your pieces and they have been edged so that they won’t fray.  Take the two ” body” pieces and join the two shoulder lines together, stopping at the neck.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Where I have drawn the dotted lines on the photo above, turn the fabric over on the line and sew a small tunnel for some elastic later. Do this on both ends, making sure that you tuck the fabric over so that the extra fabric is on the ” wrong” side of the fabric.

Now  take  the sleeves and also sew a  “tunnel”  in the ends (the shorter ends if you have a kid with longer arms as their “sleeve” pieces will be more rectangular than square)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now place the shoulder pieces next to the body pieces, pin on the long side and sew ONLY along the line where the body and sleeve meet ( we will sew the rest closed later)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now, with all the seams on the inside, fold the whole ensemble over at the shoulder points and it should look like this:

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now ( turn inside out so that the ” right sides are together)  pin and sew: starting at the a wrist of one of the sleeves, sew towards the arm pit, then tun and sew down to the hem at the bottom. Repeat  for the other side.

Now all that needs to be done is to insert some elastic into the sleeves and into the hem and adjust the neckline ( only if needed) once you have tried it out on the child. Keep the elastic loose at the bottom because the child needs to be able to slip this over their head to get into it, and then can draw the elastic tighter once they are in it to keep their feet warm.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

My kids love to cuddle up with these over their pyjamas…. and they are really warm !

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