Saturday, 20 January 2018

Keeping my hand in

I'm mostly  keeping up with my 'resolution' of trying to do something sewing/embroidery related every day.  Well. I am if I take an average.  And if I'm a bit loose in my definition of something sewing/embroidery related.

I've done some more card. The first was using some super sparkly vinyl:
The other was a simple appliqué, for a guitar-playing friend:

I've also agreed to do a name banner for another friend.   I had to do some tests on my machine as she didn't accept vinyl as a stabiliser last time I tried.

Firstly, I had to try winding a metal Brother bobbin on my Janome machine.  It wasn't great, but I managed it in the end.   Banners are seen from both sides,  so I can't have white/black bobbin thread (which are the colours of thread on the prewounds I use).  I need to actually load a bobbin with matching thread.  Fortunately, I had purchased some proper Briethr metal bobbins, exactly for this sort of eventuality,  a few weeks ago.

 The real testing though was how to actually stabilise the letters.    On my previous, single needle, machine it was easy. I just hooped some clear vinyl, and off we went. Vinyl works really well for banners - it's impossible to get cutaway or tearaway off the sides completely.  Soluble stabiliser is a bit of a pain on letters.

I tried hooping vinyl the other day - I was trying to make a little gift card holder - and it was hopeless.  The machine just chewed up the vinyl, spat it out, and complained about the vinyl bits in the bobbin case.    I thought that maybe soluble stabiliser would work.

The test turned into several tests.  The first was a letter using soluble stabiliser, using an EZ Frame.  This was OK, but the top right corner was rubbish.   The fabric also wrinkled when I used a damp cotton bud to dissolve the stabiliser round the edge, and then pressed the finished product.  Not great.
The second attempt was vinyl stabiliser, in a normal hoop, with the hoop just the size of the design.  That was OK, but it was impossible to get scissors in to trim closely enough before the satin stitch round the edges,  so it looked a bit scrappy off the machine.

The third attempt was the same as above, but I attempted to cut the shape beforehand.  That was a disaster.

Until my new clamp frame arrives from the US, the best way is vinyl, properly hooped... but I need to try it in a larger hoop to give me more room (with the risk that it doesn't hold the vinyl tightly enough, and I end up with another dodgy top.

On the plus side,  I took the time to use vinyl-in-a-hoop to stitch the letters of the name, without fabric.  This means I can move them over fabric to find exactly the right bit of fabric for each letter.

I've agreed to do the banner anyway now, as I know I'll be able to do it - I just need to sort out the best method.


It was my sister in law's 60th birthday yesterday,  and my brother had arranged for them to go on a breadmaking course near me.     They've recently got a breadmaker, and have been enjoying making their own bread, so he thought (correctly) that J might like to try real home made bread.    I rarely make bread by hand anymore (I use a breadmaker to make bread,  or to make dough for hand finishing,  and a mixer to make bread for pizza and nans and other flat breads),  but it sounded interesting.

We went to the Willow Micro Bakery  What a fab day it was! 

It was a basic course, so we made white bread, wholemeal bread, soda bread,  and Nicky demostrated sourdough and proper rye breads.   

DH and I chose to make slighly different loaves to each other, so we could compare and contrast.  For example, I made a 100% white loaf,  he made 50/50 with Kamut (Khorasan) flour.     I made 100% wholemeal,  he did a 50/50 with some specialst italian malt flour.

Soda bread I've made many times before, but I learned that I handle the mixture too much.   The textur of the stuff we made on the course was better than I make normally.

It was interesting to use fresh yeast. I haven't done that for many years. 

And it was very interesting to learn about shaping the loaves - how to do it properly to make sure the tension is right to give a good crust.

While we were there we were talking about using mixers and bread makers.  Nicky was completely unsnobby about breadmakers,  which was good.   We discussed the merits of various mixers.  She's gettting a specialised mixer soon, and I asked if it was going to be an Ankarsum Assistent.   It kneads using rollers, which is the closest a machine can get to replicating hand kneading.  It also has a different roller for making sourdsough and rye breads.
Pic from John Norman's blog

I found one of the  blog entries from my on-line friend, John Norman, to show her a picture.   She's getting a bigger version, but it's the same sort of thing.

I read John's various entries again, and semi seriously considered buying one.   But I just don't make dough in large enough quantities to make it worthwhile.  But you could make large batches and freeze them ready for baking..... the little voice in my head whispered.

And I replied How about we see if actually bother to make, shape and freeze large batches first?  Then I'll think about getting one.

That, I suspect, is the end of that.

The story of John's initial purchase is here    He occasionally writes about it in his blog.     A recently entryy, 3 and a half years on from his initial purchase,  shows just what a master he has become