Tag 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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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.

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Step Four:
Admire your stitching job.

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

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

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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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Homemade Everlasting Vanilla

Here’s a great DIY project that any baker will appreciate. And it makes a fabulous gift, too! (In fact, this was part of my thank-you gift to my lovely bridesmaids)

Homemade Vanilla!

This project is so easy, it’s amazing more people don’t make vanilla themselves. I guess the most difficult part of the whole process is collecting all your supplies (and really, it doesn’t take that much effort to find the stuff). And if you’re giving vanilla as a gift, you need ample time to let the ingredients sit (I’m talking weeks, or months!) So you still have time to do this for Christmas! 😉

Anyone who bakes regularly knows how essential good vanilla is. And how expensive the real stuff is! This homemade vanilla will never run out, so long as you have vodka on hand to replenish the bottle. The vanilla beans just keep infusing the alcohol!

SUPPLIES:

homemade vanilla supplies

  • Vodka (the cheaper the better)
  • Whole Vanilla Beans (two per bottle)
  • Glass Bottles with tops

I found my vanilla beans on Ebay, and searched around for the best deal. I found these cool “Boston round” bottles at an online supplier called Specialty Bottle – lots of bottles to choose from! (But you can find bottles from lots of sources – be creative!)

The method is very simple! Take your vanilla beans (2 per bottle) and with a sharp knife, slit them down the middle, length-wise, part way (don’t cut them entirely in two). This will allow the vanilla to infuse much quicker and easier than whole, intact beans.

vanilla beans, bottles, vodka

Insert the beans into your bottles, and fill the bottles with vodka (using a funnel makes this easier). Cap the bottles tightly and store them in a cool, dark place (like a kitchen cupboard) for several weeks. Every so often, check on their progress, and give a gentle shake. Your vanilla will slowly turn light brown, and eventually, it will be a beautiful amber color, and smell like…well, vanilla!
The longer your vanilla infuses, the darker and richer it will be! And any time you use some, just add in more vodka, and it will never run out! Not too shabby 🙂

Homemade vanilla!

For a fun touch, add a printed label and a bow.
M & I modified an awesome label designed by EatDrinkChic that originated here. Another great vanilla label can be found here. And here’s a great resource for blank vintage labels you can customize!

If you’d like the exact label that M & I created, you can download it here: Vanilla Labels

Above all, have fun with it. Happy crafting!

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Birdie sneak peak, updated!

A little while back I showed you a pair of cute little birds I had made out of clay. Well, they’re all finished now, fired and glazed!

However, they are really little – only about 1.5 inches tall. And my master baker uncle (who is making our wedding cake) told me that, despite being adorable, a cake topper needs to be larger than that because otherwise they’ll just get lost visually.

So I decided to put my little birdies on a platform, to make it a whole set-piece rather than just the two little actors.
Here’s what I came up with:

(Aren’t they cute??) Now my teeny birds are on a 4″ diameter platform with a cute arching trellis  to give it more height.

I don’t have step-by-step pictures of how I made this topper, but this is the basic way I did it:

My supplies were – a 4″ diameter round foam disc (about 2″ thick), green fabric, white lace applique trim, silk flowers (green and white ranunculus), floral wire twigs, and my birdies.

I took my bare foam disc and wrapped it tightly with my light green fabric, securing with my hot glue gun. On the under side of the disc, I glued a 3″ cardboard circle to cover up the fabric edges.

Now that I had a fabric base to work with, I trimmed the circumference with my lace, which also folded over the top edge.

Then, on top of the lace, I hot-glued the individual silk flowers around the top edge of the base, keeping them tightly spaced.

Next, I made two small holes in the fabric on either side of the top of the base, to place my wire twigs. I just pierced the foam with the ends of the twigs and played with the bend and curve until I liked the shape the twigs made.

All that was left was to put my cute little birdies in their new home! Ready to be placed atop a beautiful wedding cake! ^_^

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Another Wedding Project – Paper Cones

As a wedding guest, one of my favorite parts of the festivities is when we get to shower the newly-weds with something – rice, rose petals, dried lavender, confetti, whatever! There is something so celebratory in the act of tossing a big fluttery cloud of WOO HOO! I don’t know, it’s just fun, and as a guest I feel like I am even more connected to wishing the couple happiness and prosperity through this ritual.

M & I aren’t planning a big exit from the party at the end of the night (heck, I want to stay till I’m ready to drop!); lots of couples have the big send-off exit with the confetti tossing (or sparklers or whatever!) after the reception. But that doesn’t make sense for us. Rather, we will have our big “exit” when we head back down the aisle after we’re pronounced husband & wife, and our guests can toss stuff at us then. I was hugely inspired by this post from Style Me Pretty back in January.

This DIY bride made paper cones to put confetti in for her guests. I love the double-sided paper, and the simplicity of the idea. Plus, the little sticker informs the guests on what to do and when.
Our variation on this idea will be to hang the cones (with ribbon) on the backs of the chairs at the ceremony rather than hand them out to guests.

M really liked the idea, especially since it involved cool paper (he’s such a graphic designer…he drools over fonts and papers!). So we hit up a few paper stores until we found some really cool designer paper at a cute little store in Wallingford called Paper Delights. We wanted to find a double-sided patterned paper in our color palette, and though we were hoping to find some navy blue & white damask paper (no luck), the green and light turquoise pattern we bought is just beautiful.

So here’s how you do this…

The paper we got was 24″x36″ so we could cut them into 6″ squares and get 24 cones per sheet (not too shabby). A paper-cutter made this waaaaay easier than cutting by hand.

After making a stack of paper squares, I popped in a movie and got to work taping. I quickly realized that forming a perfect cone is not easy to do freehand. The paper does not want to cooperate which can be very frustrating. My solution? I made a kind of template out of stiffer cardstock, so then all I would have to do is wrap my pretty paper around the template cone to get the right shape! This definitely made the whole process easier.

So with template cone in hand, I would wrap a paper square, grab a little piece of double-sided tape, and tape the edge down near the point. Then with a larger strip of tape, I’d tape the rest of the edge down to finish it off.

I alternated which side of the paper faced outward so there would be a bit of variety.

We still need to design stickers to put on the front of the cones, and also punch a hole in each one to string with ribbon. But the tedious part of taping the cones is done 🙂

I envision these hanging from the chairs at our ceremony, filled with rose petals, ready to be tossed joyously into the air as M and I walk back down the aisle ^_^
Yes, it’s the little details that make me smile.

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fabric flowers for valentine’s day?

I am loving this post from 100 Layer Cake on making the cutest fabric flowers!

They have a great tutorial – they look so simple! But I’m sure it is a time consuming project if you’re making a lot of them.
I totally have visions of deep red fabric (maybe felt?) flowers hung all over my house for Valentine’s Day. We’ll see if I get that ambitious, haha!

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DIY Sewn Bench Cushion

Most people who are not from the Pacific Northwest have no idea how beautiful our summers are. Summer in Western Washington is in a word: ideal. The temperature ranges from the seventies to mid-eighties, the humidity is very low, everything is lush and green, and the mosquitoes are few. This is why we chose to have an outdoor summer wedding – because we know how gorgeous it will be, and we want to share that especially with our out-of-state friends & family (local folks already know how good they have it, haha).

This means getting my parents’ yard to idyllic condition will be key. Slowly but surely we are planning our course of action. Not many things can be done far in advance, but I’m tackling the little things that can.

One small detail is a wrought iron bench, which sits under some shady boughs at one end of the property. I want to make that spot inviting. I had found a very cool length of upholstery fabric at a thrift store that I didn’t know what to do with, and my mom suggested a comfy bench cushion. Genius!

This project took very little time and was also very cost effective. Here’s what I did:

First, measuring is important. The benchseat measured 48″ long by 18″ deep. And I wanted a thick comfy cushion, so I decided 2″ thick would be good.

To get the fabric cut to the correct lengths for this end result, I would have two panels of fabric measuring 51″x21″
(Take your length and add 1.5″ to each side – the .5″ is for seam allowance)

Next, pin your 2 panels together, good sides facing each other, and sew all the way around, leaving about a 6″ opening so later you can turn it inside out and stuff it.

Once you’ve sewn the perimeter, put your hand inside the corner and lay it flat – this is how we get square corners. Here’s a little diagram I whipped up:

(you may need to click to enlarge the diagram!)

Here’s what your square corner will look like:

square corner detail

Once all four corners have been squared off, turn the case right-side-out, and you are ready to stuff it! ^_^

When your cushion has been filled (I used about 52 oz of poly-fil) the opening needs to be sewn closed. I just did this by hand – pinned the two layers together and then stitched with a needle and thread.

So at this point, I had a big mound of a cushion, so to tame it, I sewed three buttons to pinch the pillow down.
And the buttons just happened to be 3 of my own design and crafting, so it’s extra special 🙂 You can check out more of my ceramic buttons at my Jadeflower shop!

button detail

So there you have it! I can’t wait to bring my finished cushion home and try it out on that bench. Oh my mama will be so proud 😛 haha
Maybe some coordinating throw pillows are in order, too!

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