Winner of the Liberty Giveaway

Hello all – just a quick check in to let you know the winner of the membership of my Liberty Quilt Club:

Quilt Club winner

Comment number 20 was left by Linda D – so huge congratulations to her. So sorry about the rest of you, but thank you so much for your enthusiasm for my beautiful fabrics!

 

 

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Textile Artist Trading Card: My Favourite…. Cuppa

Here’s my completed card for our 7th Very Berry Textile Artist Trading Card Swap. The theme this time round is ‘My Favourite….’ because I really wanted to see all the different kinds of things people would choose to illustrate on their little cards.

My resolve over the last couple of years has been to take pleasure in the small things… so I decided to feature one of my favourite daily treats… cups of delicious Masala Chai – black tea brought to life with a wonderful collection of spices. I love this warming brew which never fails to cheer and comfort in times of stress, but which also revives when I am feeling worn out, although I don’t sweeten it with the traditional condensed milk!

DSCF1725

I printed my own background fabric with words connected to the theme, then I tried to keep a slightly Indian theme, using a paisley patterned Liberty lawn called Karm as the main feature fabric, some red Capel (also Liberty lawn) and vintage lace as a trim inspired by the beautiful India saris I used to see every day in the shops on Green St in east London when I lived nearby.

I even tried to include a little sari sparkle – and did some of the tiniest stitching ever. I think these ATC swaps might cause my eyesight to give up one of these days – I always seem to be reaching for the magnifying lamp!
DSCF1631

There have been some fabulous interpretations of ‘My Favourite…’ in the Flickr Group. I urge you to go and admire all the brilliant creativity!

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Celebrating: A Liberty Lawn Giveaway

5th Blogiversary

Please celebrate 5 years of Very Berry on WordPress with me. I can’t quite believe it has been so long (and I was blogging over on Blogspot for 3 or 4 years before that – so this blogging business has been going on for quite some time!). Thanks to all of you who pop round, read, contribute – it’s mostly because of you lot that I have stuck with it over the years – it’s been a real pleasure.

Moving from Folksy to Etsy…

Whilst I hope that the Very Berry blog will continue to go from strength to strength, another bit of my online life is coming to an end. For various reasons, I have decided to close Very Berry Fabrics & Handmade over on Folksy. For a while now I have been running shops on both Folksy and Etsy, but this has become just too much for me to maintain, so with some regret, I have decided to trade on Etsy only. Many apologies to all my regulars on Folksy – please come and see me on Etsy. Or you are very welcome to come to me direct by email with your requirements!

A Liberty Lawn Giveaway

To publicise this change, and, more importantly, to celebrate my Blog Birthday, I thought a giveaway was in order. The prize is membership of my Liberty Lawn Charm Square Club for 7 months. The winner of the giveaway will received twenty die cut 5″ squares once a month for 7 months, building up a collection of 140 squares (50 Liberty Lawn prints in all).  Here’s what just part of your collection will look like….

Liberty giveaway 1

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning then just leave a comment on this blog post telling me what you might possibly do with all this Liberty loveliness (I won’t hold you to it!). If you’d like to get yourself an extra chance or 2, then feel free to share the giveaway on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), but PLEASE leave extra comments to tell me you have, or all that hard work will count for nothing! The giveaway will run until 8pm (GMT) on Wednesday 26th August, and is open to anyone, anywhere.

Enjoy!

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Tutorial: Printing on fabric and printing the back of an ATC

You probably know that you can buy special fabric to print on, using your home printer – but it’s pretty expensive. If you have an inkjet printer, there’s a DIY method that is really quick and easy, and much cheaper. The completed fabric is washable (although I’m not sure I’d use it on something that needed to be washed lots of times), so it’s a great fun way to add a totally personal note to accessories like bags, purses, notebook covers and more. There’s a very similar method to this using freezer paper, so if you don’t have any spray mount, but do have freezer paper, and want to have a go at this straight away, you might want to try it instead. I find it generally less successful because the freezer paper doesn’t feed through my printer so well.

ATC swappers – this one is especially for you, because this is a fab way to create unique little bits of fabric for the front of your Artist Trading Card, and a fantastic way to print the info you need for the back of the card.

You will need:

  • An inkjet printer – this method is not suitable for laser printers.
  • Some spray mount, a piece of A4 paper and some fabric to print on.
  • A cardboard box and waste paper to protect your work surfaces.

Method:

First cut a piece of fabric about 1/2in bigger on all sides than an A4 piece of paper (if your printer takes different sizes of paper, use whichever paper you would like to put through the printer). Iron the fabric as smooth and as wrinkle free as possible and remove any bits of lint, stray cotton and bits from the fabric too. It will spoil the quality of your printing if there are bits of thread stuck to your fabric.Printing back of ATC 1

This is what the spray mount looks like – it’s easily available in art shops/stationers (I love an excuse to go into art shops!):
Printing back of ATC 3

Put the paper in a shallow cardboard box – I find post office mailer boxes ideal for this, or you can cut down the sides of a larger box. This will stops spray mount going all over your work surface. If you want to reuse the box for further sprayings, it makes sense to line it with newspaper/waste paper.

Printing back of ATC 2

Give the piece of paper a light coating of spray mount. Read the instructions on the can, but this generally involves spraying lightly all over the paper from a distance of about 6-8 inches.

Gently lay the prepared fabric onto the paper. I have found the best way to do this is to drape it from  the bottom, working upwards, and then smooth the wrinkles out when you are done. If you totally mess it up the first time round, don’t worry, you can peel off the fabric and try again. If you really really mess up, you might want to start again with a new piece of paper. I hope you can see my fabric, now stuck to the paper (I cut my fabric a bit small, so there’s not much overlap – it’s much easier if you give yourself a bit more fabric to play with).

Printing back of ATC 4

Now trim the fabric edges so it is exactly the same size as the A4 piece of paper – the easiest way to do this is with a rotary cutter and ruler. Your fabric is now ready to pop into your printer tray. Make sure you know how your printer feeds paper before loading up the fabric – on my printer, for example, the fabric side needs to be face down in the printer tray.  You might also want to convert the printer setting to ‘Thick Paper’ or ‘Cardstock’ to make sure that the paper/fabric feeds through easily – although I have to say I haven’t had to do this with my printer (an HP Pro 8600).

Once you have printed on your fabric, all you have to do leave the ink to dry for a few minutes, then peel of the backing paper, press the fabric to finish, and then use it in your work.

Read on if you are interested in printing the back of your ATC…

First up, create a useful sized template in some photo/picture editing software. I use the (excellent) free software called Paint.NET, because I don’t have Photoshop – but you can use Photoshop or other some other free picture editing programme.

These are the dimensions I used to create my template – you can see down at the bottom there it says Print size – I have entered 3.2 by 2.2 inches. It is best to make your image smaller than the size of an ATC, to make sure that the text will be well within the margins of the back of the card – and to leave room for stitching round the edge.

Printing back of ATC 5

You could now add text within your image editing software, but I like to use PicMonkey for the text because I really love its funky font selections. So I open my blank ATC reverse template in PicMonkey:

Printing back of ATC 6

Then I add the text. Remember, your ATC has to have your name and date on the back, as a bare minimum. I like to add the title of my ATC and my email address too:

Printing back of ATC 7

Then I save my completed ATC  back. If you want to keep your blank template for future cards, give the finished back a different file name.

Because I find that printing direct from my photo/picture editing software can cause troublesome sizing issues, my final step is to open a text document and insert the image I have just created. In my software (and I think in Word too) you just select Insert, Picture, From File (if you want to look at a bigger version of the image below – just click on it).

Printing back of ATC 8

Then find the ATC back picture file you created and insert it into the document:

Printing back of ATC 9

Then I press print and tada! The reverse of the ATC all nicely printed and ready for me to cut out and use.

Printing back of ATC 12

You can see I printed some fabric to use on the front of my card too:

Printing back of ATC 10

I hope all that makes sense – give me a shout if you have any questions about the process. And a disclaimer! I have never had a problem doing this using my inkjet printer – but can’t take any responsibility if your printer isn’t so happy with it…

 

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Recipe: Banana and apple loaf – new and improved

Food is a big deal in our house… Sandy and I are both extremely enthusiastic about using delicious ingredients in our cooking and baking. When our kids were born I had no doubt that they would learn to share our foodie enthusiasms – how could they not? Well, little did I know!! Both our boys are autistic – and autistic people can often have a very complex relationship with food.

This isn’t quite my usual Very Berry style I know, but I wanted to write a little bit about this because it is so little understood or appreciated by other people or even by health professionals. Most autistic people have sensory difficulties – it can be an extreme sensitivity to touch, or noise (even just certain types of noises), or it can be an under responsiveness to cold, heat or pain – there are loads more, which I wont go into now – but if you know an autistic person, this is a really interesting read, which gives an insight into how tricky it can be.

The senses of taste and smell are often affected and one of the reasons why this can be a particular problem for autistic children is because us parents (and other adults) understandably get so hung up on kids eating well – and it’s not just about nutrition, it’s a measure of good behaviour too. So, people see a brattish child having a tantrum and refusing to eat anything on their plate, where there is actually a child who is utterly overwhelmed by new smells, textures and flavours that are at best scary and stressful because they are unknown, at worst, actively unpleasant because the messages between senses and appetite are getting scrambled.

Years ago, whilst talking over our worries concerning our kids’ diet, I remember our paediatrician saying, well, they might not eat much, but at least what they eat is healthy, and I have hung on to that encouragement over the years. We have become masters of the art of sneaking ingredients into their diet (something we said we would never do!) – Sandy makes fishcakes which contain swede and boiled eggs, and I batch-cook tomato sauce which has secret carrots, garlic, onion, celery and chicken stock. But it makes sense to start with something they already like and build on it to extend their food boundaries. Baked goodies are always popular (within limits – nothing with icing and definitely not sponge cake or anything with chocolate – unbelievable I know!), which is why there are so many recipes for nourishing baked treats on this blog. Recently, I have been thinking outside the box a little, trying to work out ways of adding nutrition to their food using ingredients which are unfamiliar to me.

Our foodie tendencies are becoming focused on providing maximum nourishment for the whole family, so I was really glad recently, to be given a couple of packs of vegan protein powder from That Protein to try, because for a while now I have been wondering about how I could change my baking habits to add to the nutritional content of their favourite breakfasts and snacks. I’ve been doing some reading, researching and experiments, and I thought I’d share the first very small success with you – adding a little Happy Hemp powder to one of our favourite breakfast bakes – Apple and Banana Loaf. 

I say a very small success because I have only added a very small amount of the powder to the recipe – afraid that my super-tasters will cotton on to my experiments… But the good news is, the hemp powder’s soft nutty flavour worked really well, and the loaf was greeted with the usual enthusiasm, and devoured – next time I am going to up the hemp content, but in the meantime, here’s the recipe for you – if you don’t want to use the powder (but why not give it a go?) just leave it out and substitute an extra 20g of plain wholemeal flour.

New and improved banana and apple bread

Banana and Apple Loaf

  • Servings: 12-14 slices
  • Print

Ingredients
7g dried (or fast action dried) yeast
150 ml luke warm water
2 ripe bananas
4 tbsp of apple pureé (equivalent of one large Bramley apple)
20g Happy Hemp powder with Baobab
280g plain wholemeal flour
150g plain white flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 level tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
100g sultanas

Method

  • Line a 1lb loaf tin (the one I use is 21cm long by 11cm across by 6cm deep) with baking parchment. You can use a bigger tin but your loaf will be flatter when it comes out of the oven.
  • If using dried yeast, your first step is to dissolve it in the water – omit this if you are using fast action dried yeast.
  • Mash the bananas in a large bowl and stir in the apple purée.
  • Add the hemp powder, both the flours, mixed spice and salt to the bowl. If you are using fast action yeast, add it now. Give the dry ingredients a stir to combine with the apple and banana .
  • Add the honey and the water/water and yeast mix and beat together, then add the sultanas and stir until thoroughly mixed. The dough should be wet and sticky – somewhere between a fruit cake mix and a fruit bread dough. If it feels a little dry and solid add more apple puree if you have some, or a tablespoon or two of water.
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared tin and smooth the top of the dough with wet hands. Put the tin inside a large polythene bag and leave in a warm place until the dough is teetering on the brink of rising over the edge of the tin.
  • It usually takes about an hour for the bread to be ready to bake, so after about 40 minutes of rising time, pre-heat your to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
  • When your bread has risen, transfer the tin carefully to the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes until the top of the loaf is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when you give it a tap.
  • Remove from the tin straight away and leave to cool on a wire rack. This is delicious when it’s still warm from the oven, and brilliant toasted too.

New and improved banana and apple bread 2

 

If your family like nuts and seeds, then these would also be a fantastic addition to this recipe – maybe 50g of chopped pecans, walnuts or pumpkin seeds. You can also omit the honey entirely, or replace it with 25g of sugar – whatever works for you.

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Vintage look Liberty hexies

Ages back, before Christmas, I picked up a lovely glass frame from one of my favourite local(ish) shops, Alcove. The frame has a clever little hinged design, which allows it to fold open – and I though there would be room for something that was thicker than a photo – maybe a bit of crochet or embroidery, to be enclosed it it. I bought it, thinking that it would be a good way of displaying part of my collection of artists’ trading cards.

Then an idea started to unfurl in my mind, of creating something, using Liberty fabrics and lace (maybe my own crochet lace) that looked pretty, a little bit vintage, a little bit old-fashioned, a little bit like something I might discover spilling out of an old suitcase at a Bric a Brac market.  I pulled out some of my smallest Liberty scraps in dark and light blues, put them through my 1 inch hexie die cutter, then painstakingly paper-pieced and stitched them all together.

And then I got stuck.  I wasn’t sure where to go next with it. Originally I added a narrow border of white linen, but it looked so bright against the blues, and far too clean to be vintage, so I swapped in some hand-dyed linen/cotton mix, which looks far better. Then the lace….

I tried some crochet, but it wasn’t quite the look I was going for. I needed thinner, more delicate thread than the #8 cotton Perle I had chosen. I decided I would look out for something that was more suitable at the Festival of Quilts. Mooching round all the stands there for something that I could work with, I spotted a lovely little stall selling all sorts of beautiful bits of vintage trims (I can’t remember the name of the stall, I am sorry to say), and I pounced, of course, spending my last fiver (it really was!) on a lovely load of beautiful lace.

And here’s the finished something:

Vintage style mini hexies 3

Vintage style mini hexies 4

Vintage style mini hexies 1I’m pretty pleased with the result, although next time round (and there is definitely going to be a next time round), I am going to aim for something a little less pretty-pretty and a bit more distressed-looking. It was fantastic fun to do, and so nice to just play around with ideas. And as the finished piece was just 4in by 6in, it also got me thinking that a textile postcard swap might be a fun project along the line… do let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in me organising – maybe as a little change from ATCs. 

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Making Strawberries

I am absolutely a novice fruit and veg  gardener, but there is one veg garden task that I do, that makes me feel like a total expert, which is potting up strawberry runners. To be honest though, there’s absolutely no skill to this whatsoever, because strawberries grow like weeds – but there’s something about making new plants (for free!! – well almost… I guess you need to buy compost) that makes me feel I’m getting the hang of this garden thing.

Strawberry runner main

Apparently it’s a good idea to replace your strawberry plants every three years, otherwise the cropping will diminish, so potting up runners is a great way to increase your plant supply so you can replace old plants. Here’s how you do it (and now’s about the time), if you want to have a go.

Runners are long stems that will be growing away from the strawberry plants at this time of year. They have little nodules of preliminary roots along their length. This is what it will look like:

Strawberry runner 2

Have a look at your strawberry plants and identify likely looking runners and figure out how many you can pot up, bearing in mind how many strawberry plants you actually want. By the way, strawberry plants they make great gifts for gardening friends (well, the ones without strawberry beds of their own!).

Grab yourself some compost and enough pots, some plastic-covered garden wire and some wire cutters. I usually just use whatever peat-free multi-purpose compost they have at the local DIY place, and pots that I have lying around the place (they need to be at least 4in across at the top). Wash the pots if they are old ones, and cut a piece of wire about 6in long for each pot.

Put the compost in a bucket or trug and add some water to make it nice and moist (this saves you watering later), then fill the pots pretty much to the top. The compost needs to be pretty firmly tamped down:

Strawberry runner 1

 

Take a piece of wire and bend it to create a narrow hoop like this:

Strawberry runner 3

Now take your first runner and place it on top of the pot so the roots are in contact with the compost. Push the hoop of wire across the stem that comes from the main plant, close to the root nodules (without damaging them), so that the root nodules are held against the compost:

Strawberry runner 4

 

Strawberry runner 5

 

And that’s it! All you need to do now is wait for the roots to become firmly established, then you can cut off the stem that attaches them to the main plant. Usually I forget to do this until the depths of November, but I don’t think it takes very long at all for them to become fairly well established and you can do it sooner.  Then you have lovely new plants to put in your strawberry bed/containers to enjoy next year. It’s such a satisfying feeling!

 

 

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