Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Nice End to an Old Year

Dear readers - I haven't been a good blogger this year. At least not on Craft-Werk. I have been very active in my photoblog 2picsaweek and have also started a German language blog on my life in love-exile. There was little time for crafting in my busy life between college, computer and home.

So a happy new year from moi to you ;-).

The mug you see above was a project I did a while back. You can read about it here. I am selfishly regurgitating it because it has just been featured in Jamie's fabulous blog "Sew Rockin'". Don't be fooled by the name of the blog - there is more going on there than just sewing. Her "Sew Rock Fridays" are a great showcase of projects that other crafters have done, so swing over there and have a peek ;-).

That concludes 2011 - let's see what 2012 brings. Lots of crafty love!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear/Deer Candlestick

Here comes post number three of the drawing room mantle series. Yep, sorry, but you must get through this before I go on to bigger... better... different things. The remaining crafty bit is - have you guessed - the candlestick-y arrangement on the mantlepiece. Which, upon closer inspection, turns out to be... *tada*... deer antlers...

The easiest project if there ever was one. And yet I had this coming for aaaaages. The idea was born a couple of years ago. You see, my dear better half used to have an extensive skull and bone collection as a boy young man. *um* No, nothing sinister about that, just a genuine interest in all living things. Except that they were dead. *eh*.

Anyhow, his collection resided in his parents' house, but when they moved out, the time had come to transfer the precious collection to our own quarters. Was I horrified? No. Am I morbid? Emphatically no!! I love the sculptural quality of skulls and have occasionally photographed them for projects like the one on the right. (That's a marmot skull by the way...).

I have also previously turned a large skull into a sculpture for the drawing room - if Damien Hirst can do it, then so can I (with the help of a little silver spray paint...). Check the old post here.

Right, but to get back to the point...

Deer antlers with their pointy points are just natural candle holders. There was only the problem of attaching the candles to the antlers. I thought about drilling holes and pushing those candle holders for wreaths into it. Then I though about simply putting nails into them to stick the candle on. And finally I realised that something from my Christmas stash would do the trick nicely - those old-fashioned clip-on candle holders for the Christmas tree:

Luckily the holders come with a little swivel headed candle tray, so you can twist them in such a way that the candle will be (roughly) upright and therefore not splash wax all over the place when lit. I am delighted with it - I like the rustic feel it gives.

Dead animal parts in the house are bad for Feng Shui???


Let's cosy up at the fire, pretend we are in an Alpine hut, fresh in from a whizz on the slopes...


PS: Promise - tomorrow you won't get a view of my mantlepiece again!!!

Back with a Splash

Ah, it is wonderful to be welcomed back to the blogging community. I almost feel ashamed that I have been so quiet in the last while... Two of my favourite craft-bloggers have just posted my XXL star on their wonderfully resourceful sites. Thank you, Rayan from Design Confidential and Michelle from Somedaycrafts - I am more than chuffed that you found my project worth passing on...

If you don't know these sites already, then it is high time that you check them out, fellow crafters!

Design Confidential is a a great resource for anything a crafter needs. See those neat little boxes above the post? They will lead you to all kinds of projects, tutorials, links, before and afters, you name it. She covers a lot more than exclusively crafts - this is a one-stop-shop for all things design, DIY, craft etc. Go on, and spread the love ;-)

Someday Crafts on the other hand focusses on crafts. And especially on those that catch our eye. We bookmark them and decide to do them. Someday. :-) I love the do-ability and accessibility of the crafts Michelle features on her site. And you will, too. So have a little snoop-around and don't be surprised if you find yourself bookmarking half her site...

What a good start - I think I'll write another blogpost right now...


Don't forget to check this ouuuuuuuuuuut:


Monday, December 19, 2011

Best Buy

Never in a million years would I have thought that this was going to be one of my favouritest most favourite deco buys of all time - a fake Christmas garland. I bought this, I remember it well, on the 23rd of December 2006 for about 20.00 Euro. And boy did I have a guilty conscience about this.

And why would anyone in their right mind get their moral knickers in a twist over a Christmas garland? Because it is artificial. *hisssss* Oh, that does not sit well with me. I love my real fir in the house for Christmas. But I have to say that the artificial garland is absolutely fabulous.

Sure, the closer you get, the more artificial it looks. But it comes out of the bag every year, virtually undamaged despite having been squished into the attic and having endured two months in close proximity to the fire.

As you can see above, I have wound some ordinary and cheap Christmas lights around the garland. I don't even bother taking them off when I put the garland  back in storage in January. The little bulbs are resilient and look really cute when switched on. Heck, they even look nice when switched off (see right).

While the garland goes up in the same spot every year - namely the drawing room mantlepiece - I tend to decorate differently every year. Last year, as you can see in the image above, there were just the Christmas lights on it. This year, I decided to go a bit more blingy and added some big sparkly stars.

Best thing about the artificial garland: I can go on Christmas holiday on Wednesday and return the following week, not worrying about a heap of needles on the floor that needs brushing up upon return.
Hooray for plastic trees!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Star XXL

If the title makes you expect to read about some X-Factor loony - either from this side of the Atlantic or the other - who is going to torture our ears endlessly with some tackily re-recorded and Cowell-ised, jingly-belled and synthesized crap, you can stop right here. This is about what you see in the picture below:

Christmas is now less than a week away. I bet everyone is done decorating. But in case you aren't, I intend to show you a few easy, quick and cost-efficient decorating ideas in the last few remaining days until the big one. The picture is my starting point for a few posts over the next week. Yes, I intend to post every day, now that I have been released from the prison called college. And contrary to what you might have assumed, I actually have had my sitting room decorated for weeks (I just have not had the time to show any of it). The picture above shows a few things I wanted to share via my blog. And let me start with my pride and joy, the wall deco.

Wall decorations have been very much in fashion for the last couple of years. And I am not talking paint effects or fancy, shiny wall papers here. Three-dimensional wall decorations are pretty in - from starburst mirrors to quilled flowers to Christmas baubles blue-tacked to the wall. With that in mind I resurrected my favourite Christmas project - and went XXL.

Previously the starting point of the Christmas star was a sheet of A4 paper from which I cut paper squares 21x21 cm size. This time I went double that - 40x40. And used slightly thicker matt black crafting paper that you can buy in A1 size sheets in craft shops. This makes you an XXL star about 120cm long when assembled. So you need a pretty large wall for that. If you want to know how to make a Christmas star, hop over to the original blog post which I wrote a hundred two and a half years ago.

The best thing about this wall deco: It is suitably Christmassy, yet I think it will still look well on the wall when I don't take it down in January. I intend to let this sit for a while. And I don't see why not... ;-)


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kriskindle Has Been

The penultimate semester of college has been put to bed. And finally, after producing a 6.image-photo project, accompanying documentation, proposal and evaluation, plus getting ready for an official exhibition of the work, I am ready to enjoy Christmas 2011.

I have been longing to write some posts here, show what I have been up to in terms of Christmas decorating and crafting. There was just no time for that - between college, journalistic work and occasionally pretending to be on top of the housework, never mind spending time and looking after my children, all else fell by the wayside. Not anymore. Today I am back and I hope to get a couple of posts out before I set off to Djermaniiiiiiiiie for Christmas.

What better way to start off into Chrimbo mood than with a Kriskindle parcel that has been sitting on my kitchen dresser for a good few days now, waiting to be unwrapped. Do you know the Kriskindle idea? Essentially, in a group of people/family/club/school class you write all names on a piece of paper, put them in a hat and then everyone pulls a name out. This is the person you'll be giving a pressie to.

I had participated in one such scheme through my favourite internet forum, a women's forum called "Weibernest". Most of the members are based in Germany, but a few of us live all over Europe, and so I received a parcel from Slovakia. Inside were some yummy Christmas cookies (a typical German thing, culinary Christmas with a least five different types of homebaked cookies a must!!!), a hiking guide to the Tatra mountains (undoubtedly to lure me over there ;-)) and two sheets of original and therefore wonderfully retro stickers of old East German production. (I could tell because the price printed on the back was still for "0.30 Mark" - that is two currencies away from the Euro and was the currency preceding German unification in 1990!!)

Great. Now we can get down to proper Christmas. I shall show some stuff that I have done this year and hope anyone will see it.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We are off

My favourite time of year has just started. With Rememberance Sunday (and Thanksgiving, for those of you who are living in the US) over, I can start turning Casa Craft-Werk into the Christmas Grotto I like it to be.

Well, I wish I could, but there is one little problem: Mister Craft-Werk is not into Christmas. Not one little bit. A bit of a clash of cultures here. Poor, poor Irish man - he just doesn't know what he is missing. And in any case, little do I care, Queen of Christmas Crafts - except I need him to hoist my two tons of Christmas gear down from the attic. And with cooperation not forth-coming, the Queen of Crafts had to think on her feet. Christmas deco, kitchen-style, so to speak.

My wonderful friend D___ had recently visited me from back home. And she came laden with a present that will now double up as the first bit of Christmas deco in our house. She made me and my family an advent calendar. (You probably know this bit of Christmas tradition that originated in Germany. Here is the advent calendar I made for my kids a couple of years ago.) D___'s advent calendar didn't come in a specific mode of presentation but consisted of 24 individually wrapped presents. In previous years I have attached ribbons to them and hung them on a wreath. This year, I decided to simply display them on the kitchen mantlepiece. They look colourfully Christmassy there and were the easiest bit of decorating I have ever done :-)

Oooops, just noticed that a Whiskey bottle has sneaked into the picture. Ah well, all there for Santa when he comes down the chimney.  As we will start opening the pressies, one a day, and there will be more space on the mantlepiece, I will replace the empty spaces with bits and stuff from the deco boxes. But for the moment, we have this to remind us that Christmas is coming - and to remind us of the friend who so thoughtfully is spoiling us with a surprise that lasts 24 days.


Monday, October 17, 2011

She *Do* Use Jelly

In fact, jelly is the only fruit spread she likes. No pips for me, please, I want it pure and clear. And on the spur of the moment I decided yesterday to get down to it and make some raspberry jelly.

Jam making is one of the easiest tasks in the kitchen. Now, I am a self-confessed non-cook. I really do not enjoy cooking at all (I am a baking queen, however!). But this is the one thing involving pots and pans that I *do* like doing. Once you have made your own jelly for the first time, you will never go back to mass produced, shop bought jams, I promise you!

I know, it is a little bit too late for jam making. Raspberry harvest is long over. But I cheated and bought some frozen raspberries in the supermarket. They work just as well as the hand-picked ones from your own garden. So here is what you do:

Making jelly involves one more step than jam making. You need to turn your raspberries (or any other fruit) into juice in order to get a clear, pip-less jelly in the end. So put your berries (or other fruit) into a pan and boil them up until the berries become mushy and disolve.

Hygiene is imperative when jam-making. So while your berries are bubbling away to make juice, sterilize your jam jars. I steam sterilize mine with a handy little gizmo that is still around from my kids' baby days: a microwave bottle sterilizer. You simply pour a bit of water into it, put the jars into it and the lid on and pop it for 12 minutes into the microwave.

Handy and easy - but extremely hot when coming out of the microwave, so do take care.

The best way of sterilizing the lids, by the way, is simply by boiling them in a pan. 5 minutes will do the trick nicely!
While the berries are boiling and the jars are steaming up, squeeze the juice from 2 lemons or limes. The acid of the lemons will add a nice little edge to the sweetness of the jelly! (Aside: Do you like my juicer? That head is supposed to be German chancellor/head of state Angela Merkel, a woman who is known for her cheerful countenance... ehm... I couldn't resist this wonderful kitchen implement on a trip to Berlin last year where I bought it in a shop right behind the Reichstag, Merkel's place of work... )

So here are your berries, boiling away:

Sorry, couldn't resist including this photo. Aren't the colours just gorgrous? I wish I could've recorded the smell for you *mhhhhhhh*.

Now it's time to make the juice: Take the pan off the hob and pour the whole lot through a sieve into another pan in order to separate the pips from the juice. (I know that a muslin is recommended for straining the juice, but I find a fine kitchen sieve will suffice!)

In order to make jelly, you need as much jam sugar in weight as you have juice. I only had half a packet of jam sugar left.

I carefully measured 400ml of raspberry juice and added my 400g of jam sugar to that.

Now bring this to the boil, carefully stirring all the sugar in so that there are no visible lumps of it anywhere. (Note: Deliberately artsy-fartsy blurry illustration - I just loooove how the highlights are leaving burnt out trails...)
Right, now comes the only tricky part: The juice and sugar have to boil for exactly 6 minutes (at least according to my sugar factory advice). Let it bubble vigourously for whichever amount of time it says on your packet of sugar. Then test whether the jelly is ready to set by putting a few drops of the liquid onto a clean, cold saucer. Let it sit and cool for a few seconds, then push it with your finger. If it "wrinkles", your jelly is ready to take off the hob.

I put the sterile jars on a plastic try for the next step - pouring the jelly into the jars. Do this swiftly and up to the brim. You may have to top up the jar before you put the lid on. The more jelly you get into the jar, the better the chance that it won't get mouldy of the storage time!

Make sure you get your jar airtight by turning the jar upside down after filling. Leave to set until the jar is cold enough to handle. (As I said, I didn't have much jam sugar, so I didn't produce enough jelly to fill two jars :-(  )

But that's it. Your jelly is basically ready for consumption right away. The whole procedure takes less than an hour. Tastes best on freshly baked, white bread. Accompanied by a cup of milky tea. And the Sunday newspapers. In bed :-)


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Happy Campers

I have just packed up my tent for the winter. Yes. Outdoor season has officially ended this weekend. At least the season for sleeping outdoors (every other outdoor activity you can pretty much do any time of year in Ireland - this poor deprived country only has one season all year 'round, anyway.) My end of season marker is the great big open air music festival Electric Picnic which is on in the Irish sticks on a country estate in the Irish countryside the first weekend of September every year. It's a weekend of music, music, music, some art and literature, and camping. (Oh, and some MAJOR drinking for most the revellers there. Yours truly would love to, but is a responsible parent, so doesn't.)

You may remember that I mentioned the festival the other day when I showed you my rock chic outfit. It has become one if my favourite garments which I wear even when not at a festival. Hey, that's because life rocks, anyway. Especially now that it has been washed a good few times and the hem is nicely frayed. So I must say, it really rocked. Here is the reminder (right):
There were plenty of faded denim skirts out there. But none in combination with cute polka dotted wellies ;-). At some point a woman approached me and said "Hey, we are wellie twins!" Ha, wellie quintuplets, more like - I saw at least three other girls with the same wellies, but I did not have the heart to tell your woman after I had already shocked her by saying we were wellie cheapskates - considering that they were bought for € 20 at an Irish chainstore.

Anyhow, you have to bear with me today, I am still in full swing - literally - after the musical delights of the festival. I have been dancing the morning away. No kidding, dusting off the old hips in my study and rocking away to Foster the People's "Call it what you want". Click the vid and get an instant boost of energy and good mood!)

Bear with me, I am recording this for posterity. Skip the red part if you couldn't be bothered with this music stuff. We watched 22 shows. I measure their success in a) how much I danced and b) how much I remember of the gig at all. So in order:
  • Sinead O'Connor (grande dame of Irish rock - bit lame, actually)
  • Foster the People (full tent and some serious rocking go on)
  • Santigold (nice soulfull voice, but didn't quite hold my attention)
  • PJ Harvey (can only remember her odd headpiece and the rain. Gig can't have been outstanding)
  • Interpol (rain. Some dancing. I guess I was only just getting into it)
  • Bitches with Wolves (prize for the worst stage outfits - all of them. music was actually not bad)
  • Codes (ehm, no recollection, sorry guys)
  • Undertones (classic punk, really well done even without Feargal Sharkey)
  • Jape (hands of fire got me dancing)
  • Lykke Li (hm, lame - must be the stage: main stage is outside, not much of a spark)
  • Death in Vegas (rrrrrrrrrrrocked!! Serious dancing going on. Even converted the GG)
  • Arcade Fire (good show - but that almost distracted from the music, so not the full marks from me)
  • Trentem√∂ller (like him better when not live - the singers were not my thing... good dancing, though)
  • Chemical Bros (punctuality, guys! great gig, but again the outdoor thing doesn't work for me)
  • The Minutes (ehm???)
  • Oh Land (just 15 minutes of this Danish band, nice, smooth, but banal sound)
  • Gemma Hayes (my surprise gig - really good, some swinging along, have to check her)
  • James Vincent McMorrow (packed tent, we stayed outside. as good as expected, some seriously off-key background singer though)
  • The Japanese Popstars (yay - fantastic, would love to see these guys playing a smaller venue, dance central!!)
  • Big Audio Dynamite (surprisingly good - even without much previous knowledge)
  • The Drums (didn't really spark for me - maybe because we stayed outside the tent and I was freezing)
  • White Lies (my top gig of the weekend - unexpectedly. Their rendition of Death had the packed out tent dancing and jumping in unison. a seminal gig? certainly for me!)

Will she ever get to the craft bit? Yes, she will now. My point of all this preliminary talk (apart from looooooooooving to see my own writing *hahaha*) is, that there was camping involved in the weekend. And at the beginning of the summer I sewed some handy sheetbags (guys, no joking here, I have heard them all before, really! I AM familiar with Irish slang and foreign accents...). Ok, I know, camping season has just finished - unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere. Any readers in Australia? New Zealand? Well, Fiji, anyone? Ok, maybe you don't need sheetbags there, considering the climate... But here we go, this is it:

I started off with a kingsize duvet cover.

I measured it carefully and then cut it into three parts.

Well, obviously not carefully enough, because I was unfortunately left with one rather narrow strip of material that was too small even for a skinny ten-year-old.

I took one of the strips and laid it out on a flat surface. The fact that it was one of the side bits of the duvet cover meant, I only had to sew down one side of the material to create a sheet bag.

To determine the size of the pillow I used a regular pillow case as a pattern and cut along it across one half of the material strip, leaving an inch extra for hemming in.

I first hemmed what was going to be the opening of the pillow case. Then I sewed the pillow case onto the back of the sheet.

Next I sewed another hem along the blankety bit of the sheetbag.

Lastly, I made the sheetbag by sewing down along the long side, leaving a bit of a slit at the top so that you can fold it down and wriggle yourself into the sheetbag.

These instructions are not very detailed, I know, but it is all rather self-explanatory and logical once you make this. We put them to the test on our summer holiday in the South of France - and they worked beautifully. The pillows were snug in the casing of the sheetbag and the bag itself big enough to hold an average sized adult. Apparently I have no evidence that I ever finished this project - no images do exist. And the sheetbags have already been stored away with the tents. So you'll have to do without it and believe me.