Category Archives: tutorial

Experimentation with Fermentation! Part 2

My maiden name is Guenther, and my dad’s side of the family has a pretty German heritage, but somehow or other I don’t think I ever tasted sauerkraut until I was an adult. Most likely my mom, who is all Irish, didn’t fancy the stuff. So it just wasn’t something I ever ate as a kid, and I must have therefore figured it was a “yucky” food, and never sought it out. Until one day I was visiting some relatives on my own after college, and they had sauerkraut as a side dish. I enjoyed it from the first tentative bite! It was like pickles, sour and salty and a bit crunchy. I started buying it at the store from then on – not religiously, but when I remembered it as a flavorful condiment.

After learning more about fermented foods, recently, I have decided that homemade sauerkraut is the next project!
And not only that, but I decided I first needed to make my own ceramic crock to ferment it in, being that I am a potter, after all.

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My first attempt at a handmade fermentation crock

Now that I had a crock to ferment in, here’s the process I followed for homemade sauerkraut!

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Chopped Cabbage and Salt

I filled a huge bowl with chopped cabbage. Just one head, about 2 lbs. One head of cabbage was more volume than I expected! But then I added sea salt, probably about 3 teaspoons (I didn’t measure), and started squeezing the buhjeezus out of it.

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Massaging the salted cabbage

This got the cabbage all coated with the salt, and already it started drawing the water out. After walking away, and then coming back to repeat the massaging process every 10 minutes or so, the cabbage really started releasing its juices.

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Cabbage juices pooling in the bowl

After an hour of this, I felt the cabbage was sufficiently reduced in volume and wilted enough to start packing into the crock. I tossed in a teaspoon of caraway seeds (because Michael Pollan added some to his in Cooked), and then into the crock it went, handful by handful.

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Pounding down the cabbage

I used a cocktail muddler to really pound down the cabbage. This forces out the air, packing it down, and it gets the water to continue squeezing out of the cabbage. The cabbage juice (or brine) needs to be at a level above the solid cabbage; this protects the kraut from exposure to air, which can cause it to mold (bad).

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Weights to keep the kraut submerged below the brine level

Once I felt I’d pounded enough, and the cabbage was sufficiently juicy, I topped them off with two half circle ceramic weights I’d also made when I made the crock. These will keep the kraut from floating to the top and getting moldy. The bacteria that transform the cabbage in to sauerkraut prefer an oxygen-free environment, so that’s the environment I intended to create.

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Adding water to the moat creates an airlock

The photo above shows my little helper Ethan, pouring the water into the reservoir around the crock lid. The water will let CO2 out (it’ll “burp” to release pressure), but won’t allow any air to go in.

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My kitchen helper

Look how proud he is, helping Mama. Nevermind that he spilled most of the water on the counter, haha. By the way, how is it possible that this kid is two-and-three-quarters already?? Obligatory observation on how time flies.

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And now we wait…

So that’s it! Now my pretty little crock will live on the kitchen counter for a few weeks, and hopefully it will produce a yummy, probiotic sauerkraut!

And out in my studio I’m working on improving my design. Swing over to my Jadeflower Ceramics Etsy Site – I’ll have crocks like this (better, even!) for sale in my Etsy shop.

Here’s to my continuing fermentation adventure! Bye for now!

 

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DIY Pull-over Bib with a Bow Tie

OK, so having a baby now doesn’t give me as much time to do the millions of things I have swimming around in my head. But here’s a project I absolutely forced myself to carve out time for.

DIY Bib with bow tie

The little guy is a big drooler at the moment (he’s almost 4 months now, so I guess teething is a thing that starts around now?) and he basically soaks through 2-4 bibs a day. A lot of the bibs that he was gifted (usually as a set with a matching onesie) are teeny, and not really very useful. But two that we got were basically towels with a hole cut out for his head. Ah Ha. So I decided to try my hand at a cute version  – with a bow tie! Perfect for those “special” occasions, ya know. (Seriously, with wedding season coming up, not to mention just fun holidays and stuff, this little extra detail will be my one effort to cute-en him up).

 

Pull-over Bib with Bow Tie Tutorial
Materials:
>terry cloth (I bought1/2 yard at the fabric store, but you could easily use a towel)
>backing material (on my first bib, I just used another layer of terry cloth. on this one I used polar fleece)
>double bias tape
>stretchy rib-knit fabric for the collar
>colorful fabric for the bow tie
>thread, pins, scissors & sewing machine

bib fabricStep ONE
Cut out your terry cloth and backing fabric to 15″ x10″

 

cut head holesStep TWO
Cut out the hole for the head. My babe is about 4 months, and I wanted the bib to be somewhat snug while still comfortably fitting over his head. I made the opening diameter 5 inches. Positioned 2″ from the top and centered from side to side.

 

two layers sewn togetherStep THREE
Pin together your two layers (right sides facing outward). Sew a 1/4″ hem all the way around, and radius your corners (I used a light colored pen to mark the corners as a guide).

 

Trim the fabricStep FOUR
Trim your shape to about 1/8″ from your stitching. This will get covered up by bias tape later. Pin around the neck hole.

 

Pin bias tapeStep FIVE
Sew around the neck hole with a V stitch (or use a serger). Then pin your bias tape around the perimeter of the bib. (This is a pretty good tutorial on how to sew with double bias tape and not have it turn out all wonky)

 

bias tape addedStep SIX
Stitch on the bias tape!

 

assembling the collarStep SEVEN
Cut a strip of knit ribbing 2.5″ x 11″. Fold it in half and sew the ends together with a V stitch. Then fold the whole thing over like a turtle neck.

 

pin collar to the neck holeStep EIGHT
Pin the knit collar to the neck hole, matching the tops, bottoms and two sides. This will keep the stretch of the collar uniform.

 

collar attatchedStep NINE
Sew the collar to the neck hole with a V stitch, making sure the sewn part happens on the back side of the bib. (This was probably the trickiest part of this project for me.)
And there you have a functional bib!

…and here’s adding the bow tie detail…

rectangle for the bow tieStep TEN
With your colorful fabric, cut a 5″ x 4.5″ rectangle. Fold lengthwise, right sides facing inward. Stitch almost all the way around with a 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving enough of a hole to flip the rectangle right-side-out. Once it’s flipped right-side-out, fold in your opening hole, and then stitch all the way around as close to the edge as you can.

sew the tie middleStep ELEVEN
Sew a tube for the middle of the bow tie. I did mine from a long rectangle 2.5″ wide, giving me a 1″ strip when it was turned right-side-out.

pinch the middle to make a bow shapeStep TWELVE
Pinch the middle of the big rectangle (like an accordion fold) and wrap the smaller fabric strip around it. Trim off the excess from the strip, and stitch it into place. Now you have your bow tie!

attatch the bow tie to the bibStep THIRTEEN
Position the bow tie pretty close to the collar and pin into place. Hand-stitch all around to secure in place (this will keep little hands from grabbing loose edges and pulling the bow tie off, with their orangutan strength).

 

And there you have it! Slip the bib over your little one’s noggin and enjoy the cuteness. (Pay no attention to the crazy-eyed daddy)
bow tie bib

Something I learned while making this bib – terry cloth is MESSY! Cutting it will make a confetti of little cotton snow all over the place. And it will probably take a couple washings before the bib stops shedding them. Pbbt 😛

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Pigs in Space costume: Happy Halloween!

So here is my final post, wrapping up my process of creating a Miss Piggy Halloween costume – the Pigs in Space 1st Mate Piggy costume!
Where I attempt to transform myself into this iconic pig:

Miss Piggy – Pigs in Space

In my previous 3 posts, I went over how to make Miss Piggy Ears, sew a Pigs in Space uniform dress, and make a Pigs in Space felt logo decal. Now we put it all together with accessories!

First Mate Piggy – finished costume!

Now, you can see, I stitched the felt decal onto the front of the dress. And I also stitched the ears onto the wig itself – which was great, since there was no bulky headband or obtrusive clips. And I can snip the threads later if I want to use the blonde wig for something else in the future!

First Mate Piggy costume – headshot

So here’s the breakdown of the Pigs in Space costume accessories:

First Mate Piggy, accessories!

Now, the above collage is more of a wish list for this costume, but I think I made due with what I had, or could get on short notice 😉

First! A blonde wig. Very important to have the right hair. The wig I found was a tad bit too blonde, if you know what I mean. Classic Piggy hair is really more of a dirty blonde. You know, ‘cuz she was natural back in the day. (It’s so obvious that Piggy bleaches her hair these days, haha).

Classic Miss Piggy – pigs in space

Next, the eyes! Piggy’s signature look is thick luscious eyelashes and a pink/purple eyeshadow. Also, her eyes are slightly downturned. I achieved this look with a thick line of eyeliner, false eyelashes, and a layered application of pink and purple shadows on the lid.

sultry Miss Piggy eyes 😉

Next comes all the silver! Miss Piggy always wears gloves, and in her Pigs In Space costume, she trades her signature purple gloves for silver ones. I found mine on Amazon.
Then you’ll need a silver belt. Of course, you can make one, but I lucked out and found a shiny metallic belt at my local Goodwill for $4. Score!

Then we get into debatable territory. Since most Muppets don’t exist below the waist, the only reference I had to go on for the bottom half of Piggy’s costume was from an action figure:

First Mate Piggy doll

You can see she has silver leggings and silver knee-high boots.
As luck would have it, I already owned some shiny silver leggings (from two Halloweens ago – when I dressed as a Cyberman..er..woman). They are from American Apparel, and pricy, but I’m glad to get multiple uses out of them!

Then the boots…well, I didn’t want to splurge on silver boots when I’d probably never wear them again. So instead, I used my off-white boots, which were from my Princess Leia costume from 5 years ago. Lol…yes, I generally choose very nerdy subjects as Halloween costumes. I’m cool with that.

First Mate Piggy costume – Happy Halloween!

So there you go! Happy Halloween to all you folks. Hope it’s a fun one! Kissy kissy!

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First Mate Piggy Costume Tutorial: Pt 2 – Sewing Piggy’s Space Dress

OK! So perhaps you have your Miss Piggy Ears, and now it’s time to get moving on the actual dress of your First Mate Piggy costume.
As I mentioned last time, I’m planning on a Miss Piggy costume for Halloween this year – specifically, in her Pigs in Space outfit. Since I didn’t find much on the interwebz to help me make a costume, I’m writing up a tutorial on how I’m constructing mine! Enjoy 🙂

Disclaimer: I am not an experienced seamstress! Most of my methods are just from figuring things out as I go, so take these instructions with a grain of salt. If you have pointers, tips or other suggestions for folks who may try to attempt a similar costume as the one I’m making, feel free to share in the comments!
Also, I’m about a size 8. This dress design is a loose-fitting babydoll shape until you add a belt, so I’d guess it would work for sizes 6-10. Again, this is just a basic how-to. Please adjust your own costume according to your needs! 🙂

First Mate Piggy costume tutorial – before adding accessories!

Materials:
2 yards light purple fabric (I found a lavender flannel with silver sparkles! what!?)
1/2 yard silver metallic fabric
matching thread
polyfil stuffing
eyes & hooks (or other fastener of your choice)
Piggy Dress Pattern as measurement guide

purple flannel and silver metallic fabric

First, using the PDF guide I made above, cut out the dress shape. The front and the back are identical, so you’ll need two.

dress shape cut out

Please ignore the fact that I didn’t iron my fabric (for shame!).

Next, pin the two pieces together inside-out (making sure the good side of the fabric is facing inward) and using a 1/4″ seam allowance, stitch the sides and the shoulder straps. When you turn it right-side-out, it’ll look something like this:

stitched edges, right-side-out

Next comes hemming the bottom edge. I did a 1/2″ (or so) hem, and used a zigzag stitch so it would lay nice and flat.

hemming the bottom of the dress

You’ll also want to hem the armholes in this way, too, for a nice finished edge. I used a 1/4″ hem for the arms (sorry there’s no photo!).

Soon, we’ll be gathering in the neckline, so the next step is making a slit down the back, so you can fit your head in when it’s done! Find the center of the back, and make a 6″ cut straight down.

6″ cut for the head opening

Pin the edges back about 1/4″ inch and hem it.

pinned – ready to hem

Once that’s hemmed, we’ll begin pleating the neckline.
Find the center of the front, and make a 1″ accordion-type fold, like so:

first center pleat of the neckline

Continue folding pleats on either side of your first one, pinning as you go. Make sure they are symmetrical. I got 5 total pleats.

front pleats, pinned

I used lots of pins, just to make sure it didn’t come apart when I took it to the sewing machine!

sewing the front row of pleats

I was surprised at how well this worked! (haha) It really brought the neckline in, and the dress is starting to look like a real piece of clothing.

pleated neckline – front

And now, because the dress is still all floppy and open in the back, we need to pleat the back, too!
Using the same folding and pinning method, add pleats to the back of the dress.

back pleats, pinned

I got two 1″ pleats on each side of the slit. Pin it up and then take it to the sewing machine!

At this point, you can sew a set of eyes and hooks to the top of the head opening, so that you can clasp it closed.

eye & hook

Next it starts getting trickier, because we’re adding the silver trim to the dress. And I didn’t take as many pictures of this part as I should have. Forgive me!

We’re moving on to the puffy silver collar on Piggy’s dress.
Cut out a piece of your silver material that is 4″ wide and 18″ long. Stitch this into a long tube, with open ends. Then turn the tube inside out. Then you take this silver tube and pin it to the neckline of the dress. (There will be extra fabric hanging off either end)

silver trim pinned to neckline

Stitch them together with a good tight stitch. When you finish this step, you should have something like this:

silver neckline, sewed on

Now we need to stuff that collar! Grab your polyfil and pack it in good and tight through the openings at either end.

adding stuffing to the collar

Once the collar is filled to a uniform density, trim off the excess silver fabric, but leave enough to fold over twice – you’ll sew each end closed this way. Add another eye & hook to the top of the collar for closure.
Here’s what the padded collar should resemble:

padded collar

We’re almost done! Next up we have the silver shoulder loops, or epaulettes if you will, which complete the look. I made a simple template with paper – it’s a 7″ diameter circle with a teardrop shape cut out of the middle. The width of the loop is about 2.5″ and tapering at the ends. Cut out 4 of these in your silver fabric.

prepping the epaulettes

Stitch 1/4″ all the way around, except leaving a 2″ gap somewhere so you can turn the shape inside-out.

stitched up with a 2″ gap at the inner top

Turn it inside out, and it looks like this:

epaulette, ready for filling

Add your polyfil, just like you did for the collar. When it is filled, stitch closed the opening (I used a needle and thread, not the machine, for this).

finished epaulette, ready to attach to the dress

Once you have two of them stuffed and sewn closed, they’re ready to sew onto the dress. Using a needle and thread, attach each epaulette to the top of the shoulder, as close to the collar as you can.

finished dress with trimmings

And there you have it!

the finished dress

Add a belt to complete the shape.

Add a belt to complete the shape

But of course, the costume isn’t finished yet! Lots of accessories to discuss, next time! See you then 🙂

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First Mate Piggy Costume Tutorial: Pt 1 – Piggy Ears

October is here, and that means pumpkin flavored everything, changing leaves, and of course, gearing up for Halloween! I love Halloween, and the craftiness that goes along with it. Ever since I was a wee one, my mother always made our costumes – I don’t think I once got a store-bought one. At times I thought this was so unfair – seeing those shiny racks of pre-made costumes at the store. But now it is quite obvious to me how lucky I was to have a mother with creativity and the desire to make something from scratch for her children.

To this day, if I wear a costume, you can be sure I made or assembled it myself. This year is no exception! I got it in my head earlier this year that I wanted to do something Muppet related. Then I narrowed it down to Miss Piggy. But Piggy is such a fashion diva! I couldn’t decided on an appropriate outfit.

Then – inspiration! Pigs in Space! First Mate Piggy has the most rockin’ space getup. Light purple with silver accessories. Iconic and classic.

Pigs in Space First Mate Piggy

I’ll have a full tutorial on how to make a Pigs in Space outfit soon.
But first! No Muppet pig is complete without ears, so here’s how to make a simple pair!

Materials:
Pink/Peach colored felt
Thread in matching color
Ear Template: Piggy Ear Template
Straight pins
Sewing machine (optional)

Step One:
Print and cut out your ear template. Trace 6 ears onto your felt.

Miss Piggy Ears step 1

Miss Piggy Ears step 1

Step Two:
Cut them out. Each ear will use 3 pieces (I used a red layer, because I ran out of pink – don’t be like me!)
I used three layers to make the ears more solid and sturdy.

Miss Piggy Ears step 2

Step Three:
Line up your three pieces and secure with a few straight pins. Stitch a seam, using the Template as a guide (be sure to leave an opening for turning it inside-out). A sewing machine makes this super quick, but it can be done by hand too.

Miss Piggy Ears part 3

Step Four:
Admire your stitching job.

Miss Piggy Ears part 4

Step Five:
Carefully turn the ear inside-out, so the seam is on the inside.

Miss Piggy Ears part 5

Step Six:
Using your fingers, smooth out the inside seam and shape the edge into a nice ear-shape.

Miss Piggy Ears part 6

Step Seven:
Pinch the open edges together so the ear cups in to form a concave shape.

Miss Piggy Ears part 7a

Miss Piggy Ears part 7b

Step Eight:
You can use your machine again to close this seam, or you can do what I did and hand-stitch it closed. Be sure to get through all layers of felt.

Miss Piggy Ears part 8

FINISHED!

Miss Piggy Ear finished!

Then you’ll make a second ear the same way, because they work well in pairs.

Miss Piggy Ears – the finished pair

From here, you can attach them to a headband, or hair clips, or stitch them directly onto a blonde wig!

I haven’t decided yet which method I’ll use. But they sure are cute ^_^

me in my piggy ears

Stay tuned for my First Mate Piggy space dress Tutorial later in the month!

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Made in the Shade – a unique planter pot Umbrella Stand

It’s been a busy month (ahem, yeah, my last post was over a month ago), but M and I have finally been getting this house to feel like a home. One of the projects I really wanted to tackle was for our outdoor space  was a stand for my patio umbrella. Here’s how I did it!

DIY Planter Pot Umbrella Stand

I’ve owned this super cute, small canvas patio umbrella for years now, but it’s been in storage for a good 3 years or so because our last apartment didn’t have a space for it. Now that we have a big outdoor area to play with, I really wanted to bust it out!
The problem was, after scouting around to find a nice umbrella stand, I discovered that there are basically two camps: super ugly and cheap OR classy and way too expensive. The other idea was to find a thrifted patio table – the kind with the hole in the middle – but it turned out to be a much more difficult search than expected.

Finally I decided to make my own solution! An umbrella stand that would be unique, changeable, and inexpensive! Here’s what I did:

DIY Umbrella Stand Materials

Materials:
*Large Planter Pot – proportional to the size of umbrella
*Small Cinder Block (8x8x6)
*Length of PVC tubing – wide enough for umbrella handle
*Gravel
*Dirt
*Plants

Ceramic planter with drainage hole

Be sure your pot is a good size. Since it will be outside (and have plants that need water), be sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom!

Planter with cinder block

Place your cinder block in the center of your pot. Be sure it’s in a good position to put your PVC tube right over the drainage hole.

PVC tubing - Painted & Holes Drilled

I spray painted the top portion of my tubing a dark gray color, so the white PVC isn’t so noticeable. I also used a drill bit and my hand-held drill to put a few drainage holes in the bottom of the tube.

PVC & Gravel

With the PVC tube centered over the drainage hole, fill in the cinder block space with gravel until the tube is securely lodged in place.

Adding dirt to the planter

At this point, make sure your planter umbrella stand is located where you want it – it’s about to get really heavy! Next step is adding your potting soil.

pack it in there

Pack the soil in really well around the cinder block – you don’t want it to move!

Planter filled with dirt!

Once you’ve got the block hidden and the planter all filled, it’s time for adding pretty things! I had a few marigolds and snap dragons, but it turned out my planter wasn’t that big, so I just did the marigolds. If I were to do this again, I’d probably choose a trailing flower, like petunias or something, but I do think the happy yellow marigolds are cute. 🙂

umbrella stand planter with flowers

So there you have it! Simple yet effective!
Those flowers will fill in a bit, but even sparse as they are, I really like how this project turned out! And what’s great about it is, since I didn’t use cement or something permanent to affix the PVC tubing, if I get tired of this arrangement, I can disassemble the whole thing and I still have a great ceramic pot to use!

And the break down for price is pretty great:
*Ceramic Pot: $16
*Potting Soil (way more than needed for this project, btw): $5
*PVC tube: $1.25
*Spray paint: free (already had it)
*Gravel: free (gathered from the back alley)
*Cinder block: $.95
*Marigolds: $.95
TOTAL: $24.15

So yeah, good luck finding a nice free-standing umbrella stand at the store for under $25!

Outdoor living, here we come!

And now with the summer weather finally arriving in Seattle (we hope!), we’re one step closer to some awesome outdoor living!

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Starting my Spring “garden”

Every spring I have such great hopes of an apartment Deck Garden, but some years I just drop the ball entirely and don’t get my seeds started in time.

Not this year though! (Well, I’ve made a start, anyway)

I had a couple of cardboard egg cartons that I didn’t want to toss, and thought, “why don’t I turn you guys in to seed starter pots?!” Much more economical that buying those peat-pots, which are great, but any time I can use something I have on-hand, I’m gonna.

So, not that an idea this simple needs a step-by-step….I’m gonna do just that!

empty egg cartons, separated

So I took my lovely egg cartons and cut the tops off at the hinge. I also removed the little flappy bit at the front. Originally I was thinking I’d use the carton top as a tray, but changed my mind, as you’ll see.

egg cartons with dirt!

So logically, I took my cartons out to my deck, where I have a bag of dirt left over from some other planting project. I discovered that along with the dirt inside, it also had a whole colony of these teeny annoying fungus gnats! *Scoff of frustration*
Well, right then and there, I knew i wouldn’t be bringing my seeding pots back inside – I didn’t want to expose my indoor plants to these little pests!
So taking my chances that these stupid bugs will disperse once the dirt is out of the closed-up bag and not harm my seedlings, I went ahead and filled my egg cartons with dirt and sprinkled in my seeds.

I’m starting slow, but plan to plant more seeds. Right now I’m just starting with LOTS of basil, and some fun decorative greenry and chinese lanterns (we’ll see if they sprout).

So I’m leaving my seed pots outdoors – it’s well past the danger of frost here. And just to give my seeds a little bit more security/cover I decided to use the egg carton lids as…well, lids.

egg carton seedling pots - lids on

Not very attractive, I know! But perhaps the added cover will act like a slight greenhouse when the sun shines and will warm up the seeds, and they’ll think it’s time to grow.

If anyone else wants to try out the egg-carton method of seed pots, and you don’t have the problem of pests in your soil, you can definitely do this indoors until your sprouts are ready to transplant. Just be sure you have a water-proof tray underneath, because the cartons will absorb the water and get pretty soggy. You don’t want to damage your furniture!

The absorbent nature of the egg cartons will make sure your soil stays nice and moist, incase you forget to water them for a couple of days…I’m sure this will be the case with me!

Hopefully in the next couple weeks I’ll be seeing something like this:

Basil Sprouts picture via House No.8

pretty basil picture from here!

Fingers crossed. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Anyone else getting their planting on? What do you plan to have in your garden this year?

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