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Foxes quilt & my sister’s flat

Nat's flat

My sister Natalie moved into her new flat a couple of weeks ago, and an Instagram I took went down well so I thought I’d share a few more photos, along with the housewarming gift I made her. I have house envy to be honest, it’s making me want to move and start over with ours!

Nat's flat

It’s a first floor flat in a low 60s block in East London. It’s light and pretty spacious, and she’s done a brilliant job decorating: it’s very ‘her’, cosy and colourful, but still in keeping with the 60s architecture. The sofa is from Made.com and do you recognise one of my old chairs? I donated it when we got a new armchair.

Nat's flat

My favourite part is the seating area in the long living room. The coffee table is vintage G-plan from Past Caring on Essex Road, and the fluffy round rug is Ikea. She’s got the same ladder shelf from John Lewis as we do in our bedroom.

Nat's flat

On the far wall she used the same Cole & Sons wallpaper as our bedroom too. (She lived with us while the purchase was going through so picked up a few ideas – as well as hand-me-downs!) The beautiful sideboard was another great vintage find from a shop in Finsbury Park.

Nat's flat
Nat's flat

She’s quite into foxes, can you tell? They basically informed the ‘orange and wood’ scheme. The print above the sideboard is from East End Prints and the spiral lightshade is from Wilkos.

Fox quilt
Fox quilt
Fox quilt
Fox quilt

For a housewarming/birthday gift I made her this sofa throw/lap quilt, to keep up the fox theme. You can read about all the nerdy construction details if you’re interested over on my sewing blog. We also made that cushion using dashwood studio fabric.

Nat's flat
Nat's flat
Nat's flat

Luckily the kitchen was modern and in good nick so didn’t need changing. There was a hideous textured glass-panelled wall with an old-fashioned serving hatch dividing the kitchen from the living room which came down, and a breakfast bar went in. The bar was custom cut by Unto This Last and looks great.

Nat's flat

She inherited my old table and chair (Ikea) to use as a desk. The gorgeous light is from Tu at Sainsburys, but seems to be discontinued; the typewriter print is from Paperchase.

Nat's flat

I made this storage cube for her, just by staple-gunning an old hinged-lid box with a layer of padding then flannel fabric from Plush Addict.

Nat's flat
Nat's flat
Nat's flat

She’s an English grad and works in a London museum, so there’s a literary and London theme throughout. A touch of Penguin book wallpaper in the bedroom!

Nat's flat
Nat's flat

This is the before! Scraping off the woodchip was a team effort – it took FOREVER but was definitely worth it. I’m so pleased she’s in and has made such a lovely home. It also means I have my spare room back, so next on the list is sorting out my own study/sewing space.

Boro at Somerset House

Boro at Somerset House

Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day, Michelle and I went down to Somerset House to check out the Boro exhibition. To quote the website:

Translated to ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for items – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required and had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families repaired and recycled fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down to the next and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Cotton was an expensive and sought-after material in rural Japan, so worn-out clothing was passed along and used as futon/bed coverings, the worn-out parts re-worked and replaced with new patches as necessary. The pieces are beautiful and mesmerising to look at, so have been appropriated as highly collectible artworks in Western countries. As a sewist, I was particularly fascinated to get up close and see the various woven patterns, fabric combinations, dyeing and embroidery techniques used to create such a richly textured surface.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Varying lengths and patterns of hand-stitches for decorative texture.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

I love these dense rows of stitches: nothing is measured or straight, and it doesn’t matter. It seems to tie into the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: imperfect beauty.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Some of these patch-pieced ones look like English fields seen from an aeroplane.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Look close and you’ll see layer upon layer of patterns and textures. Woven patterns remind me of ikat, one of my favourite types of fabric, and some pieces seemed to have had patterns created by resist-dyeing and shibori-stle knotting and folding techniques.

Boro at Somerset House

You can see why the pieces are compared to art works: some have the Cubist arrangement of a Picasso or Mondrian, where others seem freely expressive like a Pollock or late Matisse.

Boro at Somerset House

This was my favourite, the decorative embroidery looks like mystical cave symbols, and the tan corduroy with the shades of indigo is gorgeous. It was very inspiring to look at a different way of combining and manipulating materials, and really makes me want to create an abstract hand-pieced and -embroidered quilt. The free exhibition runs until 26th April, daily 10.00-18.00. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.

Dim sum masterclass at Ping Pong

Ping Pong Dum Sum

Last week Ping Pong invited me to take a dim sum masterclass at their Westfield Stratford restaurant. The restaurant only opened there last month, and I’m glad to have one close to home as I love their food. So I was excited to go and learn how to make their tasty dumplings myself…

Ping Pong Dum Sum

Armed with a delicious – and rather potent – cocktail (which may or may not have hampered our dim sum success) we first got an introduction to the art of dumpling from Ping Pong’s head chef, before being let loose on the ingredients. The dough for these steamed dumplings is made from fine wheat flour, potato starch and water, which gives it the characteristic chewiness. You can also add colouring from natural vegetable sources (spinach for green, beetroot for pink, carrot for orange etc) and they are then stuffed with a meat, seafood or vegetable filling before being steamed to plump deliciousness.

Ping Pong Dum Sum

There’s a technique to getting the perfect little scalloped shape: tuck, fold, press. Naturally the chefs who make up to 3,000 dumplings a day are pro at rolling out perfect ones each time, but us mortals struggled a bit to get the hang of it. With their encouragement, I got a few looking quite neat.

Ping Pong Dum Sum

Some of us took it more seriously than others…

Ping Pong Dum Sum

There was a friendly competition for the best dim sum roller amongst our group. I won, and got a bottle of bubbly for my efforts! I have to confess, I probably had a head start as I learned a similar technique on the Japanese cooking class I did a while ago.

Ping Pong Dum Sum

After our handmade efforts came back from being steamed, we got to enjoy them, then we were treated to several more classic Ping Pong dishes too. We all went home pretty stuffed and merry from the cocktails. If you fancy taking a class yourself, they can be privately booked for a group at a cost of £40 per head, which includes the masterclass and meal afterwards. Check Ping Pong’s site for details.

Panama type

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Recipe: Quinoa, avocado and roasted pepper salad

Quinoa salad

I’ve been trying to cut down on wheat lately: I don’t think gluten agrees with me very well, especially in the quantities I tended to eat it. As a veggie, it’s all too easy to make it the staple of every meal: toast for breakfast, pitta for lunch, pasta for dinner… which led to me feeling pretty bloated and sluggish a lot of the time and wondering if it was down to diet. I haven’t gone completely cold turkey on wheat but I have been making some switches which aren’t too painful and do seem to be making a difference. In fact when I had a fairly wheaty binge at the weekend I felt awful on Monday, which is good encouragement to keep at it.

Quinoa salad

So I’ve been enjoying porridge for breakfast (and not even missing my beloved toast!), lots of Mexican and Indian inspired dinners (corn, bean and rice-based meals are my new friends) and making lunches from scratch when I have the time on work at home days. My favourite easy lunch fallbacks are things like soup, avocado on GF toast or a hummus wrap in a corn tortilla, but when I have a bit more time I’ve been raiding the veg drawer and putting something more interesting together.

Quinoa salad

This is actually the first time I’ve ever cooked with quinoa – it’s a grainlike little seed that resembles bulgur or cous cous, but it’s actually gluten-free and high in protein rather than starchy carb. I never bought it before because it’s quite expensive and I thought it’d be fiddly to prepare, but I do think it’s worth the price as it’s so healthy and very quick and easy to make up.

Quinoa salad
Quinoa salad

I put together this dish based on most of my favourite flavours: avocado, tomato, pine nut, sweet romano pepper – charred to give a bit of smokiness – and plenty of lemon juice and hot sauce. Delicious as well as vegan and GF, oh so saintly! You could add all sorts of other things depending on what you have: blanched green beans, feta cheese or sweetcorn would all be tasty additions.

Quinoa, avocado and roasted pepper salad

Serving Size: 1

Ingredients

  • 50g dry quinoa
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 plum tomato
  • 1 romano red pepper, or 2 smaller paprika peppers
  • Pine nuts, small handful (optional)
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes
  • Your favourite hot sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Get the quinoa on to cook per the packet instructions: mine says to boil for 10-12 minutes in 250ml water
  2. Slash the pepper once or twice with a knife, then pop directly on top of the hob flame, turning often until blackened all over. (If you don't have a gas hob, halve the pepper lengthwise and place skin-side up under a hot grill). Leave to cool a little and scrape off any really black bits. Dice the flesh.
  3. Dice the tomato and avocado. I go a bit Jamie Oliver and just season it up while it's on the chopping board: drizzle with olive oil, season liberally with salt and pepper, add lemon juice and chilli flakes to taste, and mix up with your fingers.
  4. Drain the quinoa and while it's still warm, mix in the pepper and avo-tomato mix and plate up. Sprinkle pine nuts on top, add a dash of hot sauce if you like (a citrusy habanero is particularly good) and enjoy.
http://www.whatkatiedoes.net/2014/03/recipe-quinoa-avocado-and-roasted-pepper-salad.html

I’ve been saving more GF (and non-GF) veggie food ideas on my Pinterest board. Do you have any favourites to share?