Sunday, 20 July 2014

Summer moments

Summer moments. 

Taking a swim in Bosarpssjön late in the evening, picking chanterelles in the forest and flowers in the fields. Moving the desk and the table with the sewing machine outside in the garden. Counting tomatoes and chilies. Drawing sketches, painting old windows, meeting new friends, eating cake and the neighbour's raspberries. 

(all photos originally posted on my Instagram)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

From the garden to the plate

If there is something that fills me with instant gratification, it is dark soil under my fingernails and a basket full of homegrown vegetables from our garden. Nothing beats picking ripe berries and digging up the first potatoes of the year. Just the imagination of snapping a crisp sugar snap makes my fingers itch.

Walking down the meadow to our kitchen garden is like walking down a hallway to a pantry, filled with the finest, mouth-watering food, ready to make its way from the garden to our plates. Yesterday's pickings from the garden included carrots, red and black currants, almond potatoes, radishes, onions, rhubarb, a handful of tiny forest strawberries, beetroots, lettuce, raspberries, sugar snaps, oregano and parsley. 

Swedish summer at its best!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Monday in my studio, week 29

The new week started with a lot of energy and a good portion of perfectionism. 
An almost finished custom doll on my work table, a freshly picked bouquet with lavender and mint on the window sill, a cup of tea within reach...

I am just making the right nostril a little bit more neat, I said to myself. Just three stitches.

Then perfectionism took over. And it happened. The needle broke.
Inside the head.

Still, I was full of energy. Such things can happen, right?
And I removed a few stitches. Nothing. 
I took the doll apart, gently. Removed the string around the head to pull the fabric up from the bottom of the neck part. No luck.
I removed all the stitches of the mouth, the eyes, the ears. 
I removed the first layer of fabric, the second.
I removed about thirty, no, three-hundred-and-fifty-six stitches. Maybe even more. (Probably a whole lot more)

No luck.

I removed the nose. 
I removed the cheeks.
I removed the chin. 

Somewhere, deep inside that woolen head (that no longer looked like one), the top of a needle was laughing at me. Humiliating, to say the least.

That doll had been almost finished monday morning and only a few moments later I knew I was thrown back at least 18 working hours! I started to feel the urge to burn huge fabric piles, the urge to embarrass myself by dancing naked through the village, hysterically laughing, to open a bottle of red wine or to throw some porcelain on the floor (one of my friends has a special drawer with old plates just for such occasions). 

I did none of the above, fortunately. Instead, I took a deep breath, did some laundry, made myself a strong coffee and continued. Patience is my second name when it comes to work and now, eight hours later, the head is ready to get covered with the first layer of fabric again. 

Dear week 29, your start was rather bumpy. You taught me a lesson, less perfection, less perfection. Now thank you, and can we please continue in a more modest way? No more broken needles this week!


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Hot pink, cool turquoise

Hot pink and cool turquoise is the colour combination of this little girl who already found a new family some time ago. 

Her sweet smile reminds me of a very warm and sunny afternoon when I took these photos and tells me that summer is just a few moments away on a rainy sunday morning like this. It is the perfect weather for sorting photos, enjoying the quiet in our house and having yet another cup of tea while our wellies in the hallway are waiting for a quick walk through the wet meadow, down to the raspberry patch.

Enjoy your sunday!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Monday in my studio, week 28

The new week started with early rising and freshly picked wood strawberries
With a long breakfast in the garden together with our Dutch summer guests
With raindrops, paper work, a little bouquet with fern and clematis 
With crocheting and knitting and discussing ideas
With a heavy thunderstorm and me nervously watching the flickering light bulb of my sewing machine, brrzzzzz, brrzzzzz, brrzzzzz. 

I am very much looking forward this new week, work-intense and in inspiring company...

Sending you a fresh summer breeze from Skåne,


Recipes from our garden - Elderflower Jam

A spoonful of a golden summer taste for those long winter days...

Every year I almost forget to pick elderberry flowers, and every year, in the nick of time, I find myself standing in the kitchen in the wee hours, making elderberry cordial and jam. 
This year was no exception, but I keep on telling myself that, instead of making and baking, cooking and preserving, I am enjoying the summer days, the warmth, the light, the scents in the garden... 

Here in Sweden the black elder is still blooming in a lot of places and yesterday I managed to fill fifteen jars with delicious elderberry jam (actually it is more like a jelly). Despite dark circles under my eyes after a long night, I am quite happy that I managed to do so, at the last moment, as every year ;-)

This is how I make elderflower jam:

18 elderberry flower heads
750ml apple juice (use pure, unsweetened juice)
juice of one large organic lemon
1kg jam sugar 

clean and sterilized jars with screw-on lids

Pick the elderberry flower heads on a sunny and dry day, preferably in the afternoon. Do not rinse, just shake gently to remove insects.

Place the flowers in a sauce pan or bowl and cover with the apple juice. 
(I put a heavy plate on top of the flowers to make sure all of them are covered with the juice)
Put a lid on the saucepan/ bowl and keep in a cool place for two to three days.

Pour the juice and the flowers through a sieve, press out the flowers. 
Strain the liquid through a muslin or clean kitchen towel. 
Add the sugar and the lemon juice and stir until dissolved. 
Bring gently up to the boil, then let simmer for five minutes. 
Take a skimmer and remove the foam on top of the mixture. 

Pour the jam into the sterilized jars, put on the lid and turn them upside down. Leave to cool.
Store in a cool place, your basement or buttery, I recommend to use it within a year.


Additional note: If you want to make a larger batch, please cook the jam in small portions. Alternatively, you could let it boil longer, but this will cause a loss of flavour.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Monday in my studio, week 27

The new week starts (almost) the way the last week ended: gently, gently...

With a trapped nerve, a chiropractor who is on vacation, all you can do is try to stay patient, portion work in small bits and even smaller bits to ease the pain. Also, you can see the positive - to iron and to sew with the left hand instead of the right one does train the other cerebral hemisphere of the brain ;-)

I try to raise my spirits by putting colourful wildflowers in a vase. Frilly poppies, yesterday's pickings, spread cheerfulness on a chest of drawers in my studio today. In the afternoon, a handful of wild strawberries, found in the woods nearby, does the trick. As long as I don't move too much to lift the spoon, that is.

Enjoy the week, dear reader!


P.S. And if you have to lift something very heavy - concrete pavers and old oak beams, for example - don't be shy, ask someone for help. Unless, of course, you like to work one-handed for a week, just like me ;-)

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Summer Party

Time is flying. One week ago, we celebrated Midsummer's Eve, the brightest day and the shortest night of the year.

A party in the green, picking flowers in the meadow, strawberries, seven sorts of cake (as is right and proper for a midsummer coffee table), early potatos and herring, dancing around the maypole, lots of sunshine and wonderful guests. 

In the night we sat by the bonfire, watched the sky above the treetops and waited for the morning light. From dusk till dawn, with only a wisp of a wind between...

Have a lovely weekend!

[image No. 5 © Fredrik Frostengren, with kind permission]

Monday, 23 June 2014

Monday in my studio, week 26

I start the week with a huge portion of escapism...

Between nightfall and daybreak, after a heavy shower of rain, the peonies behind our house have started to bloom.

While sipping my tea in the morning, I flipped through Hélène's herbarium. I have thought of her quite a lot lately, every time when I gather flowers for my daily bouquets. On a walk in late August 1884, she picked the bouquet above. The colours have faded away, but when I take a closer look, Hélène and I have found the same varieties, 130 years and 1.700km apart. I wonder who she was, that young woman whose album with pressed flowers I bought years ago at an antique book store in Leipzig.

On the window sill, three small bouquets from Midsummer's Eve, witnesses of a wonderful day with our dear friends to celebrate summer solstice. Picture-book weather and mosquito bites, lots of cake, bonfire and a bright night. Summer has started with a fantastic prelude.

And on my work table today? Two orders to finish, a brimful mailbox to work myself through, monthly accounting, stock-take of materials. Back in reality, hello monday!

Enjoy the start of a new week!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Alpenglow, seen from my window

To be in two places, at the same time...

From one of the window in my studio, I can see a Swiss mountain panorama. I can hear the purling of a little mountain stream and the cawing of the eagle. I can smell the scent of wild thyme and juniper. I see glaciers and green high pastures and far, far away I can spot a chamois.

Whenever I need a change of scenery, a little blue box, fixed to the window pane, catapults me 1.500km southwards. During a couple of years, I was living both in Berlin and in Switzerland, and every now and then, deep in the Swedish woods, I can miss the Swiss Alps and wish I had a pair of Seven League boots. That is when I stand by the window, enjoy the view and take a deep breath of crispy mountain air.

My little blue box is a small viewer for single slides. An old-fashioned yet beautiful way to watch a moment, captured on film. The slides I have are fifteen years old. The colour is fading, but the eagle is still circling above the tarn at the foot of the glacier, the Alps are still there...

And three seconds later, I am back in my studio, open the window
and let a Swedish summer breeze fill the room.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Monday in my studio, week 25

Last tuesday's bouquet, rearranged, still pretty, on the cabinet,
Two orders to be finished, waiting on my work table,
A flowery shadow play, a hot iron, a new old book on sewing, from 1950...

A new week, and it feels like a holiday, although it is not.
I have a lot on my to-do list for the coming days, and most of it is marked as 'work'
(some of it underlined, with three exclamation marks)

In a few days, we are celebrating midsummer in Sweden.
To be honest, instead of working, 
I'd rather sit in the garden today, like I did in the early morning,
ponder over cake recipes and flower decorations
and watch the beans grow along the trellis, slowly.

Enough talk. I should better get sewing ;-)

Happy monday to you

Saturday, 14 June 2014

DIY Crocheted Rag Rugs

A sunny hello from Skåne!

As promised, a tutorial on how to make these crocheted round rag rugs from colourful fabric strips. I love making these rugs for our house and the garden, not only are they practical, easy to clean (just put them in the washing mashine), they also add a lot of coziness and colour  - something I really enjoy when the Swedish winter is long...

If you know the basic stitches in crochet (chain stitch, slip stitch and single crochet), this will be a piece of cake for you. If you are a novice in crocheting, this will be an easy project for you to practice the basic stitches.

Making crochet rags from fabric strips is a great way to use old t-shirts or bed sheets. For this tutorial, I have been working with jersey strips, but any cotton fabric will do. If you are lucky, you can find a supplier who sells selvedge (some spell it salvage) strips, the finished edges of fabric that is being used for sewing. 

Material needed: 

If you don't purchase ready-made strips, tear or cut fabric strips of 3-5cm width (1"-2") from bed sheets or old clothes. The narrower the strip and the thinner the fabric, the softer the rag rug. To get very long fabric strips, I often tie the ends of the strips together, sometimes I just join the ends and use a zig-zag stitch, it depends on how lazy I am. Wind the strips to a ball, like a yarn skein, because it is easier to handle while you crochet.

You will need a chunky crochet hook, mine is size 7 (European metric, UK size would be 2, if you use US size, it is 10 3/4). Try what works best for you and for the fabric you use. I made my very first round rag rug with a size 4 (European metric), and while the result was really nice, my wrist was protesting quite much after some time.
And this is how you crochet the rag rugs:

1. Start with a slip knot and...
 crochet six chain stitches [image 2]
3. To close the centre ring, insert your hook into the very first chain stitch and draw the fabric strip through the loop on your hook:
Your centre ring is now complete.
Now let's start crocheting rounds!

4. I use a variation of a single crochet - I crochet only in the back loops of each stitch. This creates horizontal 'ridges', it looks a bit like a knit rib. You can see a more detailed description in steps 9-12. If you are a novice in crocheting and find it too difficult, you can use a normal single crochet stitch or any other basic stitch, just make sure you increase the number stitches as described below.
Crochet in rounds and increase the number of stitches (steps 5 - 8)

1st round: two single crochets in each of the six stitches (= 12 SC)

continue in rounds, with single crochets in every stitch and increase the amount of stitches:
2nd round: increase with two single crochets in every other stitch

3rd round: increase with two single crochets in every third stitch

4th round: increase with two single crochets in every fourth stitch

5th round: increase with two single crochets in every fifth stitch


See? It is not exact science, but a really simple pattern.

I usually stop counting after six, seven rounds because I spot when I have to increase or decrease (the latter can happen if I combine different sorts of fabrics). It is wise to put the rag rug on the floor from time to time and check whether it still is flat. Undo stitches if you see that your rag rug starts looking like a bowl (unless you have changed your mind in the meantime and want to make a bowl of fabric strips of course, those can be quite useful as well ;-) Continue crocheting in rounds until your rag rug has the desired circumference. Don't forget to take breaks if your wrist starts hurting, the larger the rag rugs gets, the heavier the fabric.

Now to explain the in-the-back-loop stitch, this is how I do it: It is basically a variation of a single crochet, only through the back loop, instead of working through both loops that a single crochet creates. The front loop is the one closest to you, the back loop is the one furthest from you.

Insert your hook under the back loop [9], pull up a loop [10], then wrap the fabric strip around your hook and pull it through both loops [11 and 12].
If you ask Google, you will find a lot of useful tutorials on how to make rag rugs like these. I am self-taught in crocheting, and the advanced crocheteuse certainly will throw up her hands in despair when reading the description above. However, if something goes terribly wrong based on my tutorial, unravel your fabric-strip-whatever-you-call-your-creation and save those scraps for another crafty project. 

Tassels made from fabric strips seem to be quite in fashion at the moment, too ;-)