Author Archives: veryberryhandmade

About veryberryhandmade

Mum, artisan, gardener, baker, home-educator

Book Review: The Crafted Garden – Louise Curley

Oh the rain! We have been inundated here it seems, over the last 3 or 4 days, and I have stared dolefully out of the window at the lush growth  outside, knowing that the are plums, courgettes and beans to pick, lawns to mow and weeds to hoe, but it’s too wet for me to get out. It has been rather disheartening, which is why it is such a pleasure to turn to a lovely book like The Crafted Garden to remind me why I love my little plot of land. DSCF1966

Louise Curley (the author of The Cut Flower Patch) has created a book that is full to the brim with lovely ideas for projects to make, flowers to grow, plants to forage so that you can bring all the beauties of your garden and the natural world into your home.

Not familiar with Curley’s style, before I received the book, I was a little wary because I wondered if it would be full of the kind of floristry projects that I would never attempt in a million years, first because of my skill levels, and second because I prefer my flowers arranged naturally. But my mind was soon put at rest – all the projects (and there’s a lot more than flower arranging!) are simple, stylish and enhance the natural beauty of the elements used to create them. The emphasis is on colour, shape, fragrance and, very importantly, sustainability:

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As you can see, there are are lovely detailed  instructions about how to put the projects together – with helpful photographs where they are needed:

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As well as the lovely projects, there’s an awful lot of information on the best plants to grow for cut flowers and natural craft projects. If like me, you are fairly new to gardening, this is invaluable information and almost worth buying the book for that alone. Because I am a huge fan of succulents, I was glad to see all the advice about how to grow and propagate them, and how to use them too:

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I have always had an ambition to create an auricula theatre (like this little beauty), but lacked the time and determination to get going with it. This adaptation is a wonderful alternative using alpines:

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And it feels like something I could put together in no time next spring – I can’t wait to have a go! And that’s one of the real positives about this book – everything feels really achievable, and is lovely and stylish, without being fussy and off-putting.

The book is sensibly organised so that the projects are arranged by season, and Curley encourages us to get out into the garden, and further afield (there’s some great practical and ethical advice about foraging) throughout the year, with an eye to our physical and mental health, as well as for the benefit of our homes and gardens. These Christmassy projects will definitely tempt me on a winter walk:DSCF1988 DSCF1982

This is a beautiful book (thanks also to the lovely photographs by Jason Ingram), with so much to enjoy, learn and have fun with, I really recommended it.

***

To order The Crafted Garden by Louise Curley at the discounted price of £13.99 including p&p* (RRP: £16.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG355. *UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas. The Crafted Garden officially releases on 3rd September and is published by Frances Lincoln.

 

(Disclosure: I was sent a free copy of this lovely book for review).

 

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Filed under Foraging, Gardening, Gardening & Nature books, Growing

All finished: Simple drawstring bag

Amongst other things, this week I have been working on a tutorial for a laundry bag/large drawstring storage bag for my friends at Ochre & Ocre. Here’s the finished item – and I am super-pleased with the very simple method – you could easily run up one of these in an hour (especially if you use bigger pieces of fabric rather than the patchwork section.

Finished1

I used Ochre & Ocre’s beautiful organic fabrics which are a home dec weight, so very practical for this kind of project.

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If you’d like to have a go (and the method is very flexible if you want to make a smaller version for back-to-school kit bags), then the tutorial is available on the Ochre & Ocre blog.

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Filed under Sewing, Sewing Patterns and Tutorials, Stitching

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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Filed under Fabric & supplies, Stitching

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!

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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!
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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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Filed under Sewing, Stitching

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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Filed under Fabric & supplies, Sewing, Stitching

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!):
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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.

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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).

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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).

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

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

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

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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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Filed under Sewing, Sewing Patterns and Tutorials, Stitching

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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Filed under Food and Drink, Ingredients, Recipes