A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Author Archives: The Crafty Crusader

One of my favourite purchases from Wilderness was this vintage jacket. I had been very tempted by a mass-produced capelet covered in holographic sequins. Relatively cheap at £25 or so, they were extremely popular at the festival. I held off, aware that such an item would only be useful for fancy dress and very much against my pledge to buy more mindfully this year. When browsing other stalls, I spotted this beaded jacket in one of the vintage tents.

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Although it’s not my usual style at all, it really caught my eye. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. It had a lovely drape and weight to it. Another tempting factor was this.

The jacket has no labels in it and I have absolutely no clue about how much vintage beaded items normally cost. Still, the fact that it was reduced piqued the interest of my inner miser. The label also indicated that the jacket had been sent by Goldsmith Vintage (which funnily enough is quite near my work). The little shops around the Portobello area normally have good-quality items.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist and bought the jacket. Out in the Oxfordshire countryside the evenings were much cooler than they have been during the heatwave in London. I wore the jacket every night and it was surprisingly warm.

On my return to London, I had a bit more time to inspect the jacket properly. Being a maker helps one to appreciate fantastic workmanship (or, more likely, workwomanship). The jacket really is exquisitely made and finished. I’m sure the beading must have been done by hand, which would have been an incredible amount of labour. There were quite a few broken threads and I have a feeling that I lost some beads over the course of the weekend.

I looked up a few articles on repairing vintage beading. I couldn’t find much, though this blog post was quite helpful. Since I don’t have any beading stuff, I decided that I would just do what I could to prevent any more beads from getting lost. I inspected the jacket for broken threads. When I found them, I treated them like ends that need to be woven in on a piece of knitting. I knotted the threads underneath sequins and then hid the ends between the jacket and lining.

Of course, I don’t really know if this was exactly the right thing to do but I hope my instinct will help to keep this jacket wearable for a bit longer.

It was a learning process to figure out how to remove the threads without losing more beads, so I had a few sparkly casualties. I’m going to hang onto these beads and sequins since I might try and fill in some of the bare areas at a later time. Reading the article I linked really did get me interested in vintage beading and it might be something I start looking out for when I’m in secondhand shops.

I just love the subtle beading on the back. It reminds me of the night sky.

I spend a good few hours working on the jacket and it’s interesting to have a ‘project’ where the end is almost indistinguishable from the beginning. If it can give this beautiful item a good second life with me, I will consider the time very well-spent indeed.

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After my last attempt at a chia breakfast pudding, I did some experimenting to see if I could come up with a tasty recipe for a chai-spiced pot. I realised along the way that the weird taste, which I had attributed to the maca and lucuma powder in the previous iteration, was partly down to the chia seeds, which have a bit of a weird taste in themselves.

Ingredients

  • 300ml milk, any
  • 2tsp black tea
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 green cardamom pod
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tbsp sugar, any (e.g. honey, coconut sugar, cane sugar)
  • 3tbsp chia seeds

Method

Measure your milk into a small saucepan. Halve the vanilla pod and add the seeds to the milk. Do not discard the rest of the pod.

Add the tea and whole spices. You can either put them into a tea infuser (apart from the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod) or straight into the saucepan. Put over a low heat, watching carefully so that you do not allow the liquid to boil over. As it comes to the boil, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for two minutes to allow the spices to infuse.

If you have used an infuser, give it a squeeze to release the extra-concentrated flavours lurking within. If you haven’t used an infuser, strain.

Stir in the chia seeds and decant into a container to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

I served mine with a couple of tablespoons of speculoos butter, Greek yoghurt and pomegranate arils.


Last week I went to Wilderness festival. I have been mostly blissfully ignorant of the rubbish problem when I have attended festivals before. I’m sure I felt a little bothered by the bins full of disposable cups and plates, and the massive piles of perfectly good items that attendees leave behind. But now my eyes are much more open to the problem.

I armed myself with my vacuum flask, water bottle, keep cup, metal straw and cutlery.  This was quite a lot of equipment to have with me at all times, but I brought my beloved yellow backpack along largely for the purpose of carrying these items. Aaaaand…. like the best laid plans of mice and men, it went completely out of the window.

Delicious food that I felt a little bad eating

I learnt that I actually find it very difficult to make a special request for myself when the infrastructure is not set up to deal with it. All of the plating was set up and I just felt bad asking the vendors to change it so that it would fit in my containers. Wilderness has a lot of ego-massaging placatory messages, such as the dishes being compostable, but of course there is a lot of upstream waste associated with making the disposable items.

Because I am extra af and dangerously addicted to espresso, I took my stovetop coffee maker and milk frother for my morning flat white. So I at least didn’t use any coffee cups during the weekend.

One thing that the zero waste mindset helped me with was with making purchases. Wilderness is a festival where people feel very free to dress outlandishly, which I am very much on board with. This year was one of my first festival experiences where I had some disposable income available. It would have been very easy to spend a lot of money on items that are just not wearable in any other context. I was very much enamoured of this pompom headdress.

In the end, I bought a vintage beaded jacket that was actually very restrained for the festival, but just about straddles the line between jazzy and useful in my real life.

I also bought some little sparkly jewels to wear on my forehead because I couldn’t resist getting a little something.

The festival did allow me to get out some much-loved but seldom-worn items. I wore my rocket Southport dress for just the second time and it was perfect for this event.

I brought the circuit sentiments kit I have had at home for years and used it to fashion my own light-up headdress using a flower crown I bought a few years ago on eBay. The LED kits are the kind of impulse craft purchase that I would like to stop making as much. I used a few of the items to make my Port Charlotte jumper light up when I was pretending it was a Christmas jumper.


This recipe is inspired by the rainbow pie with hazelnut crust featured in Straight from the Source, the magazine made by the bulk store I frequent.

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Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1.5 cups hazelnut meal/blitzed hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 3/4 cup flour (I used ordinary plain flour, use tapioca flour to make this pie gluten-free)
  • 1 egg
  • 100g butter
  • A good pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 5 eggs
  • 2tbsp milk or cream
  • 3tbsp pesto (I used this recipe)
  • 1 small sweet potato, diced and roasted
  • 100g gruyere
  • 1 small courgette
  • 1 small yellow pepper
  • 30g spinach/red pak choi if you can get it
  • 1 red onion

Method

Note: You may be able to see from my pictures that I followed a slightly different method. Do as I say, not as I do!

Preheat the oven to 180C

Grease a 25cm pie tin. I used a 23cm one because that’s what I have and just meant the pastry was a little thicker.

Mix together the pastry ingredients until they form into a ball. Do not over-mix.

Press into the greased pie tin and bake for ten minutes. If you haven’t already, roast your diced sweet potato at the same time.

I allowed the crust to rise above the edges of the tin deliberately- the pastry burns very easily. This way, any blackened bits can easily be trimmed off at the end.

While the crust is cooking, finely chop the onion and cook in olive oil or butter until translucent.

Chop the other vegetables.

Layer the spinach, onion, pepper, sweet potato and courgette in the crust.

Beat the eggs with the cream/milk and pesto. Fold in the diced cheese and sundried tomatoes. Pour over the vegetables in the crust.

Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the eggs are completely cooked.

I have to say that if I was going to bother to go to the effort of making a quiche again, I would be more likely to go for a quiche lorraine. But it was fun to try something new.


I’ve been so busy writing about all my zero waste and cooking stuff that it could appear that I have not been doing any making. The truth is that I am working on a few things, but there isn’t much to post about. Sewing-wise, I am working on one project that I can’t write about yet and held up on another by a technology problem. I will have very little sewing time until September because I have a few trips planned. I can’t wait to get away, but I’m definitely a little frustrated by how little time I have been able to make for sewing.

Knitting wise, I am chugging away very slowly on my She Loves Wool. This project is probably the most suited to travel knitting, so hopefully I will make a bit more progress during August. I’m having a bit of time off from Mermaid Humboldt since I found it quite stressful to decide how I want the colours to look on the sleeves. I have also nearly run out of turquoise KidSilk Haze so I need to get some more.

ANOTHER unexpectedly time-consuming project has been shortening my League sweater. Although I wasn’t as ecstatically happy as I had hoped when I finished it, this sweater has turned into a great workhorse garment during the cooler months (i.e. pretty much all of them in London.) However, I have never been happy with the fit. I always finagle it for pictures so that it looks okay, but it is simply too long.

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I don’t like the way that the combination of relaxed sizing and additional length works on my body. Somehow it took me nearly two years to realise that I could make it shorter (facepalm emoji).

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Looking better already!

This project hit a bit of a roadblock after my Mermaid Humboldt made me realise that I could not re-knit the Titus yarn without washing and stretching it out first. I absolutely loathe winding yarn, so it took me about two months to get around to it.

I also wound the remaining yarn that I harvested from my blue ivy cardigan.

Very much regretting that I only cut the front of the sweater, which means I still have to unravel, wind, wash, hang and re-wind the yarn for the back.

On a more positive note, I have started re-knitting the ribbing on the front. I had to increase a few stitches because somehow my numbers didn’t add up. I’m fairly sure I haven’t dropped any stitches so no idea how that works.


Last week I got my second OddBox delivery.

You may notice that there is a kohlrabi hiding within the more ordinary British produce. I had never eaten it before but used the stir-fry recipe included with my box as a jumping-off point. I had vegetable stir-fry for breakfast four times and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I added protein most days because I am strength training

I always think of myself as hating vegetables. I never liked them as a child, partly, I believe, because they were typically served with most of the goodness boiled out. I must admit to being a convert since I was happily chomping down five different types of root and leaf in a single meal. Due to my narrative about not liking vegetables, I tend not to buy them unless I have a recipe in mind. As I had hoped, a great bonus of the OddBox is encouraging me to go beyond my food comfort zone.

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I had in mind that this pie (separate post here) would mostly come from the box, but in the end only the courgette and pak choi did. I’ll write a separate post about the aesthetically pleasing rainbow quiche.

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My adventures in experimenting with reducing the amount I waste continue. Not least of which is coming up with a name for this new feature of my blog. Since I’m planning to write on this topic weekly or, I was considering Trash Tuesday. Waste Wednesday was also an option but I already have an intermittent alliterative Wednesday feature. It’s also a worrying imperative, though I suppose trash Tuesday is too. Ideas on a postcard (or in the comments).

I did get a little sucked into the hipster lifestyle/aesthetic on my second visit to the Source, due in large part to the biggest enabler in the world aka my flat mate.

I had managed to resist this beautiful vacuum container on my first visit, but it made its way home with me on my second. Look how cute it looks though. I love this thing.

We got completely hooked by the beautiful little recipe booklets they keep by the till. I experimented with making the most hipster meal ever.

However, it turns out that I am not a huge fan of random vegan powders. This contains lucuma and mesquite (which I understand is another name for maca), neither of which I will be troubling myself with again. However, I might conduct some experiments to see if I can develop a chai-spice chia breakfast pudding. That could be delicious.

Coincidentally, I am working on cutting out tea bags. I seldom have tea since I’m more of a coffee person and I have an easy system for low-waste coffee. But I do like the occasional cup of green tea. I’m trying out a few different teas from the Source. I was so pleased that I managed to find this novelty tea infuser I bought a few years ago.

I also made a big pot of dal makhani this week. I’ve been meaning to try this recipe since returning from India in January, but I really struggled to find black lentils (urud dal). I finally managed to pick some up in a random store in Finsbury Park, in plastic of course. Source sells beluga lentils but I’m not sure if these are the same thing.

I used this recipe doubled and followed fairly closely. The dal was tasty and I would make it again.

Weekly tilt

A disadvantage of trying to reduce waste is becoming hyper-aware of how wasteful society is. Here I share things that have bothered or worried me.

  • My local council does not offer a food waste recycling scheme. Hammersmith and Fulham boasts about its low council tax rates but I feel the level of public service on offer as a result is significantly worse than in other boroughs. I would rather pay more and get more.