Further Adventures in Pants

Emboldened  by the success of the first pair of boxers I made, and somewhat overexcited by the re-opening of charity shops, I decided to make Julian some crazy new boxers.

I came home with this haul of old garments:

And from them I made this pile of pants:

These take a up a lot more fabric than the girly version. I only really got one pair per garment, except from the stripey swing top in size XL, from which I got two, at the price of giving up on pattern matching. Averaging just under £3 per pair and I made them all in a short day of sewing.

Definitely never buying pants again.

Jeans That Fit From Jeans That Don’t

You know how it is: you buy a pair of secondhand jeans without trying them on, maybe you’re too lazy or maybe you’re buying them online and there’s no option, but you’re safe because these are from a company you know, they are a style you have already tried and they are the same size as the ones you already have.

Nope. You cannot trust that shit. I mean, one of my recent purchases had one size on the label in the neck and a different size on the inside of the skirt seam. This is how these things end up on eBay I guess.

The jeans in question fit so badly there is not even a “before” picture for this post. I could, technically, get them on, but it was not pretty and I will not subject you to it. Almost every aspect of them was wrong. There was a bit between about mid-thigh and over-knee that was fine, but aside from that, every damn thing needed to change.

Challenge accepted.

First, the silly flap pockets. Off! And the newly orphaned rivet buttons, likewise, which left holes in my back pockets, but that’s why god created buttonhole stitch. So far so easy.

I also took in the outer side seams on the legs between over-knee and hem because these were beyond boot cut and I like straight cut.

I needed about 2 inches adding to the waist and hips area for a decent fit, so I set about unpicking the side seams.

I started by removing the waistband from everything else for a strech of a few inches either side of the side seam.

And proceeded to rip about half a dozen over-sewn, top stitched, crazy-secure stitch lines… why? Your crappy short-staple cotton will give way LONG before the seams! Oh, for a decent long-staple denim!

But anyway, seam ripped, waistband cut and I had basically flayed these jeans from mid-thigh upward.

I cut four rectangles of denim from the non-knackered bits of some knackered jeans I’d kept (always keep the non-knackered bits of your knackered jeans!) and extended the waistband with an insert on the outer and lining sides.

And from the same bit of old leg, cut some long triangles to add as a sort of upside-down godet.

The results look decidedly customised, which is exactly the look I love. I have a roll of thick orange thread that makes a very authentic topstitch. Details count!

I’d added a bit too much, really, at the waist, and they gaped (in the normal way, you know what I mean, don’t you?) at the back of the waistband. So I opened the top only of the waistband either side of the back belt loop and added small darts either side.

Fairly subtle, but making a curve out of what they always cut as a straight section of waistband. Why do they do that? Everybody always has a four-finger gap at the back of the waistband unless they really have no arse to speak of. These were even meant to be “curvy” jeans. What curves? My knees? WHAT CURVES?!

Anyway, the end result was pretty damn good. Probably a little too loose in the waist for wearing without a belt, but that’s fine by me, I’d rather the belt did the heavy lifting than the jeans anyway. Maybe not less fat rolls, but certainly subtler ones that way.

Now I just need to add a phone holster and I’ll be on my way.

Pirate Puffling Pants

I wanted to call them pirate pants. Julian suggested puffling pants. It was inevitable.

You may (if you have been paying attention) remember that my enormous stash of knit fabrics contained some awesome stripe stuff (pictured below under some less-desirable green fabric). It was actually cream, gold and dark green when I bought it but I felt it could benefit from a round of green dye. I’m quite pleased with the result.

Part of the inspiration for this was a youtube post by all round rad lady Morgan Donner about Historybounding, the act of wearing everyday clothes that are in some way remeniscent of historical clothing without going the whole, period-accurate hog.

I am so in. Especially where breeches are involved. I am working on another look that skims the silhouette from an 18th C gent and does it in slinky knit fabrics, but I may be getting ahead of myself…

There was only *just* enough of my awesome stripey fabric to make a pair of breeches, so I had to piece it a bit to get the inseam curve, but on the plus side, I had next to zero waste after cutting. One bit of waste I did have become a hair accessory. Trés piratey, non?

Sorry, no info on the making process because I was winging it so completely, I didn’t even photograph them in the making. I will do better.

Teapot Leaf Mould Roller-majig

Inspired by the one we saw at Harlow Carr, I decided a couple of days ago to make a leaf mould roller/container in the shape of a teapot.

For one thing, it’s something to do with the rolls of fencing wire I have somehow acquired over the years, and the chicken wire (I don’t even know where that came from) that’s been stored outside the shed I just took down.

After an entire iteration of this project that, while I won’t call it a failure, didn’t come up to the mark in terms of quality (falls apart at the seams when rolled) or appearance (more of a blob than a globe), I decided to just go right ahead and improve on the design.

Looking at my blobby, wobbly mess of a non-spherical first attempt, I decided that measuring and being careful were maybe worth trying. So I put some marks on my deck and marked the fencing wire lengths at 50cm intervals.

They cross over at the bottom, fed through a loop in one of them. I used some smaller gauge wire to weave a bit at the bottom to keep the wires pointing in roughly the right directions. I also put small loops in the main frame wire at the marked 50cm intervals for some latitudinal circles, which I had to make of the lighter gauge wire, but it is too bendy, really. I think I should have used the heavy stuff. Still, the overall stiffness of this design is better than the first.

I cut the chicken wire into big triangles and bent/twisted it around the wires, or later, itself, in an attempt to make the seams on this one more robust. The first one was rather haphazardly thrown together, and also the leaves we put in it were already wet and compressed, making them heavy and awkward to roll.

We haven’t filled it yet, but hopefully, between drier leaves and a better design, this one will do the job better.

Anyway, it looks super cute.

Vegan Wedding Cake

It had been a while since I made a fancy cake, and as usual, the longer the while has been, the more I feel like doing a thing. So when my neighbour told me she and her (husband? What time is it…?) were getting quietly hitched today, I thought, aw, thanks, man! Just the excuse I needed.

I have not traditionally been a vegan baker, because I am not vegan and because all my vegan cakes turned out horrible when I gave it a try a few years ago. But time marches on and culture changes and the vegan/plant-based arguments are getting pretty hard to argue with… I get a litte more vegan each day/month/year. So it was time to try again.

Happily, I nailed it. Here’s the recipe:

I used two 6″, one 4″ and a glass tumbler lined with paper. You can use 6 muffin tins or a single loaf tin or any similar volume. Grease and line the tins however you prefer to do that. Turn the oven on to about 170 or so.

Ingredients:
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup white caster sugar, or whatever sugar you like
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of bicarb
1-and-a-bit cups (300ml) oat milk
1 tablespoon vinegar, any kind
1/2 cup oil, something not too strong tasting
1 big splash of vanilla

Don’t worry too much about being exact with all that. Measure however you measure. Substitute whatever you want, within reason. Stick spices in it, get wild. The important thing is the mixing technique and how you bake it.

Put all the dry stuff in a bowl and run a balloon whisk through it as a way of avoiding sifting it.

Mix the oat milk and vinegar and set aside briefly to curdle/thicken slightly. I am actually doubtful this makes a huge difference, but it’s traditional by now. Then add the oil and vanilla and wisk this mixture up.

Pour the wet over the dry and whisk vigorously for a good minute, till very smooth and then a bit more, using the balloon whisk. If you use a spoon, beat it longer. If you use an electric whisk, I have no advice, sorry.

Pour it into the pans, whack it in the oven and set a timer for 20 or 25 minutes, depending on the surface area to volume ratio of your chosen baking vessel situation. Mini-muffins will likely be done after 20 minutes. A single tall 6″ cake will take longer. It should be browning on top, firm to touch and if in doubt, a skewer in the middle should come out clean. This is a moist cake by nature, so don’t be tempted to underbake it for fear of dryness.

Cool it to pretty much room temperature before you take it out of the tins, as it can be a little prone to breakage when warm.

Then decorate it however you want.

I used buttercream made from vegan spread and icing sugar, plus sugarpaste from the supermarket, edible powder colours mixed with gin for painting and a tiny goblet from a charity shop. And a sprig of new cherry leaves for garnish.

The sugarcraft stuff, the stacking, covering, piping and painting, etc, I am very happy to teach you on one of my courses, please get in touch if you’re interested. A very tasty course, that one.

The detail work is a little chunkier than I usually achieve, because I tried to do royal icing with chickpea water/aquafaba and I  **FAILED** so utterly that I threw the soupy mess out and piped with leftover vegan buttercream instead, which is always more challenging. Someday I may try again.

So there it is. Now I am waiting for them to arrive for their tiny afterparty next door, which looks to be a lovely little event from the decorations I can see over the fence. I suppose I’d better get on with some real work in the meantime…

Knits. Not Knitting.

Like most sewists, I was terrified of knits. Especially super-drapey-floopy knits that look and feel divine, but NEVER do what you want when you put them through a sewing machine. But I am fearless. It’s my thing. So I spent the week figuring that shit out.

I had somehow (I don’t know how this happens!) acquired a maaaaassssive stack of various colours of lovely knit over the years. I maybe shouldn’t be allowed into Abakhan ever again. But I think I couldn’t bear it.

Step one was to make a pattern. Luckily, I’ve been doing this long enough now that I can just whip one up off the top of my head. And luckily I had enough fabric to perfect the pattern as I went along.

The main seams were mainly a task for the overlocker, but the hems allowed me to get some sweet, sweet double needle action in my life! I love a double needle.

So here’s the gallery of finished products. Some accessories and bits are not part of the collection (two underskirts and a scarf) but everything else is what I made this week!

 

 

And here’s a timelapse video of me making one of the cardigans.

Hey, did you know I teach this stuff? If you want to learn how to make something, let me know (grace@imakeeverything.co.uk) because I am dying to teach you.

Balloons!

I decided quite a long time ago that my atrium should be a gallery of sorts for an ever-revolving supply of crazy lampshades. These aren’t that crazy, but they are lampshades, and I think they are quite charming in their simplicity. Also they really suit the newly bright and light space.

As ever, I started with a bit of crap someone was throwing out. In this case a poly-cotton sheet I bought for a pound at a charity shop.

I did a rough design on paper to come up with the pattern and cut six panels for each of the seven lampshades.

I made the tassels from cotton thread that I bought for the purpose. One day I will make super-fancy tassels and dip dye them and all sorts. But these are quite plain. The hoops, necessary to keep them from collapsing, are made of basket cane.

The sewing did become quite monotonous, as you can imagine.

But the results are really pleasing. None of the pictures really do them justice, partly because it’s the way they move relative to each other and float in the space as you move around it that’s kind of dreamy.

 

 

 

The Atrium

For a much more detailed look at this space and its recent transformation, see my other blog about building a house. But here’s the short version:

So, I’m building a house and it has an atrium. Yeah, I know, I feel really weird about that, but I was obviously aiming a bit high when I designed the place and now I’m sort of stuck with it, however much of an entitled plonker it makes me sound. Still, if you’re going to have an atrium, you might as well adorn it with italianate fresco-style ceiling paintings, right?

This actually started back in 2017 when we had not even really enclosed the place, but I am not one to let a detail like that stop me from doing the fun little finishing jobs rather than the boring important basics. I spent some time making scale models and miniature pencil versions of various designs.

Come the following June (I am not a fast builder) I had the loan of a scaffolding and I thought as I was up in that inaccessible corner of the building anyway, I might as well get it done. So I designed it and drew it and Alec painted it and I eventually stuck it to the ceiling and then tried to forget the trauma for 3 years.

Here I am 3 years later and just relived the trauma. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. I mean, there was trauma. But I’m used to that now.

Here’s the painting in progress.

It’s painted in cheap acrylic paints on decent quality lining paper.

I thought using the extra-wide lining paper was a good idea… for reasons that escape me now. If I had it to do again, I would use the narrower stuff just to avoid the debacle of trying to put meter-wide paper up on a ceiling. That bit was a nightmare.

But it does look rather magnificent and I am proud of it. It is PEPPERED with flaws, but I am quite happy to ignore them/embrace them.

I think I’ll do something quite small scale and undemanding next…

Mars Bars With No Cow

My latest culinary experiment has been a… success? It didn’t feel that way at certain points in the process, I’ll tell you. But by god, they were tasty…

Ben, my housemate, can’t eat cow’s dairy products. But he loved mars bars as a kid and has missed them for years. And I love a challenge.

Job number one was to figure out the wily ways of nougat. Nearly all of the information I found on the net was about the italian kind with the nuts in, which is disgusting and not what I wanted. But googling “homemade mars bars”, (who’d have thought) yielded some more relevant results.

The making of the nougat went okkaaaaayy. I think I stopped beating it too early (it was still quite warm) and it lost a lot of its foaminess in the setting. And thus never really quite set. But it tasted amazing, so I forged ahead.

The caramel, which was more of a challenge on the dairy-free mission, was where the real disaster unfolded. All the instructions tell you not to stir your caramel, because it can go grainy if you accidentally over-evaporate a bit on the side of the pan and then stir it in to start the sugaring process. So I mindlessly followed that instruction even though my main ingredient, Biona sweetened condensed coconut milk, quite obviously wouldn’t behave the same if I’d stopped for even a second to think about it. Turns out it’s *crucial* to stir your coconut caramel.

That batch went on a plate to cool (without scraping too much of the blackened stuff off the bottom) and was amazing on toast for the next several days. Waste not want not.

The next batch went better. Two tins of sweetened condensed coconut milk and a bit of goat’s butter, low heat, stir stir stir and reduce to soft ball stage.

I poured the caramel onto the nougat and let it all cool and then tried to cut it. The nougat made that a laughable goal through its unbelievable stickiness. If I had done it right and kept beating til it was cool, it may have been slightly less sticky, but as it was, it was literally the stickiest substance known to man. So I put the whole lot in the freezer for several hours and tried again. With a hot, wet knife. Rinsing the knife in water from the kettle between every cut.

With all that, it was only a pain in the ass, not literally impossible.

Thereafter the dipping commenced, which was not as difficult as I thought it might be, possibly because of the cold fillings, possibly because vegan milk chocolate is easier to work with, possibly because I know what I’m doing these days? Anyway it went ok and there were several that looked not too bad.

Obviously they got messier as I got toward the end of the bowl of chocolate, and the last one was a matter of duffing the last nougat-caramel bar into the bowl of melted chocolate dregs and handing it to Ben with a spoon, which was very much to his delight.

All agreed that they tasted very much like mars bars, albeit with a coconutty edge, which was fine. I will probably try it again sometime but I think I will wait for the memory of the stickiness disaster to subside.

Ceiling Painting

Just starting work on the second half of a ceiling painting we started back in 2018 in my fancy straw house where I make everything.

The pencils are all done; 4 panels of 1x2m each. Makes it a bit difficult to match up patterns at the edges, something I’m not that great at at the best of times. But it will be on a ceiling so nobody will notice all the mistakes!

I just finished the first panel’s fancy painted bits. This was my first time doing that bit since Alec did it last time. Big shoes to fill. I think it went ok. More on this later, but for now, here’s a fun timelapse video.