Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Sew For Victory Giveaway Winner is...

Morning! So it's time to reveal the winner of my little giveaway, thank you all for taking part I really wish you could all win!

So after using a number generator thingamajigs...
and it picked No.4, which by my calculation is...Sarah from Lilies and Remains, congratulations my Dear, looks like you do win things after all :)

Wendy x

Monday, 29 April 2013

From The Grower To The Sower

Do you ever feel you work harder on the weekends than you do at work? I can honestly say that being at home, cooking, cleaning, gardening, and of course crafting, is exhausting. It doesn't help that I always try to cram a million things into my two precious days off a week. I'm starting to feel that I actually go to work for a bit of a rest, and a nice sit-down! So today as I'm feeling a tad worn out I thought I'd share something simple and yet beautiful! 

I found a link through Pinterest to the Smithsonian's Seed Catalog Archive, it's jam packed with the most amazing artwork ranging from the mid-1800s to the beginning of the last century, I'm sure in their time they would have gone a long way to inspire many a gardener! I have chosen just a few of my favourites here, to perhaps inspire you all to green-fingered pursuits of your own. Enjoy!

Wendy x

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Sew for Victory - A Little Giveaway

Hello dear readers, as I am a bit behind on my planned blogging of late (sometimes life just gets in the way) I thought I would just quickly pop in and treat you all to a little impromptu giveaway to fill the gap!

As I was sorting through my sewing patterns on the weekend, I realised that I have two copies of my Sew for Victory pattern (well three if you count the very delicate and torn original). One copied directly from the original pattern and one I made my own personal adjustments to. Which means that rather than hoard another copy I will never use again, I thought I should give it away!

Blackmore 5755
  • Hand copied onto medium weight brown paper
  • Seam allowances of 1.5cm added
  • Bust approx 38" 
  • Waist approx 30/32"
  • Ideal for a slightly stretch fabric, such as jersey or velvet.
I have added a few annotations to the pattern pieces where necessary, which hopefully should help anyone a little dubious about sewing something with minimal instructions. It is honestly a very simple pattern to make up, and any questions, well you know who to ask!

So what do you have to do to enter? 
1. Be a follower via one of the feed readers in the sidebar.
2. Leave me a comment below - It doesn't need to be anything fancy, simply a 'count me in' or 'Hello' will do!
3. Do the above before 12pm (UK BST) on Monday 29th April 2013

I will draw a winner using one of those random generators and post the winner's name here and if possible contact them directly. If I am not contacted by the winner before the 6th May 2013 I will draw a new winner.

I hope you like it, please don't be shy and have a go, I am more than happy to post worldwide so no one needs to be left out :)

Wendy x

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Victory Garden - March - We dig dig dig dig...

"March winds and April showers, Bring forth the May flowers."

I think it's about time I filled you all in on March progress in The Victory Garden. Late again I know but as the weather seems to be about three weeks behind what it should be this year, I have had to put some of my plans on hold. March, it is said, comes in like a Lion and goes out like a lamb, well not this year. Oh no, winter has been in full roar through all of March and most of April, though I have fingers crossed that this weekend's warm weather is set to last!
Cold and frosty Morning!
Thankfully the upside to the cold and frosty weather is that I have almost reached the end of my digging, just a smallish strip left to do, I couldn't be more pleased! Though I do feel that I've turned into one of Snow White's Dwarf's as I can not get Hi Ho out of my head, and judging by how tired I am feeling as I type this it's probably going to be a close call, between grumpy and sleepy :)

"We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig, we dig the whole day through!"
Whilst I am sadly, not digging up 'diamonds by the score'  I did find a gold engine turned cross, which was a nice sparkly surprise amongst the mud. I am guessing it belonged to one of the last tenants, perhaps the Portuguese ex-farmer who had the plot prior to the hoarder lady we took over from, either way, it's now mine!
Some pretty shards of pottery and a golden machine turned Cross.
As I said above, having such a chilly March has meant that the plants, which should be planted out by now are still either sitting patiently waiting in their packets or have been put in my cold frame, in the hopes that the occasional burst of sunshine will spark them into life.

My February planted Broad Beans are only just beginning to show signs of life, which is actually quite a relief as I had thought they had rotted away. I am regretting not labelling up the trays to identify which verify is which, as they are all completely muddled up, I am just hoping when they get a bit bigger I might be able to tell the difference.

Over the last few years of vegetable growing I have acquired quite a seed stash and as I have had a bit of a struggle finding many of the varieties I would like to plant, I have decided to be frugal and make do by using up the seed I already own, I have actually been quite surprised to find a few heritage varieties lurking in my stash!

Wartime Seed Varieties: Cambridge Early No.1, Cambridge Late No. 5, Cambridge Main Crop No. 3, Clucas' Favourite ,Darlington, Dwarf Gem, Harrison's XXX or XXXX, Laxton's Improved, Rearguard, Rouslench Early, Rouslench Late, Timperley's Champion, The Wroxton, Pride of The Market, Matchless, Little Gem.
"A small packet of seed is enough for each of the cabbage family. Seed may be sown in seedbed drills about 1-1/2 in. deep––1 ft. apart––from third week in March to end of April. Sow thinly, allowing 1/8 in. between each seed. To protect seedlings from birds use black cotton or wire guards and do it immediately after sowing." Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 03 1945
'Evesham Special'
I have planted a whole seed tray of Brussels, partly because I utterly adore them, and partly because I have had terrible luck in the past getting them to germinate, fingers crossed this year I have better luck!


Wartime Seed Varieties: Prizetaker, Walton Mammoth London Flag, Musselburgh, Rentons Monarch, The Lyon, Emperor.
"Sow thinly in mid-March in shallow seedbed drills." Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 03 1945
'Autumn Giant 3' from Wilkinsons
Again I am sewing my seed into trays and I will then transplant them when the are big enough to fend for themselves.


Wartime Seed VarietiesAll the Year Round, Feltham King, Lobjoit’s Green Cos, Arctic King, Stanstead Park, Hardy Winter White Cos, Webb's Wonderful, Tom Thumb, Black Seeded and Jumbo.
"Begin in March to sow very thinly in drills, half a row at a time, 1/2 in. deep, the rows being 1 ft. apart. Continue to sow at fortnightly intervals until July. March-sown lettuces attract slugs, so line the surface as a deterrent." Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 03 1945
I have put planting my Lettuce on hold until it is just a little bit warmer as I want to plant it directly into the soil. I have my seed at the ready Tom Thumb which I bought from Premier Seed Direct on eBay.


Wartime Seed Varieties: The Student, Tender & True, Hollow Crown, Dobbies Select, Improved Hollow Crown, Lisbonnais.
"May be sown from mid-February to mid-March. The Ministry's cropping plan (300 square yards) provides fro three rows. Soil for parsnips should always be deeply dug and worked to a fine surface tilth before sowing. Sow in drills 15 in. apart and 1 in. deep, dropping the seed in small clusters of three or four, 6 in. apart. Thin seedlings of each cluster so as to leave only one." Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 03 1945.
'Hollow Crown' from Wilkinsons & 'White Gem' from the 99pStore
I want to plant two rows one of each variety this year.My first row of 'White Gem' is already in as I planted it last weekend, which was rather more fun/difficult than I expected as it was very windy and the seeds are very light they kept blowing out of my hand and off to the neighboring plot holders seed beds!


Wartime Seed Varieties: Alaska, Alderman, Blue Bird, Blue Prussian, Early Bird, Essex Star, Harrisons Glory, Kelvedon Wonder, Laxtons Supurb, Lincoln, Meteor, Onward, Pilot, Senator, Standard, Thomas Laxton, Timperly Wonder.
"NEVER SOW PEAS IN WET SOIL Wait until it is just nicely moist and works freely. Sow in broad, flat drills from 2 to 2-1/2 in. deep, made with either draw-hoe or spade.  Don't just scatter the seeds slapdash in the drill: set them out in three rows (as illustrated) allowing about 3 in. each way between seeds. This may sound unnecessarily finicky, but it is worth it and the job takes only a few extra minutes." Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 03 1945
'Alderman' & 'Lincoln' - Thompson & Morgan and 'Sugar Bon' from Homebase
I have some seed left over from our first year of planting which luckily are still to date, and are from fortunately from Thompson & Morgan heritage selection! I have planted up a seed tray of each (about 12 seeds of each) and will be planting some more once they have germinated so that I have a constant supply of Peas this summer.


Wartime Seed VarietiesBedfordshire Champion, Ailsa Craig, Rousham Park Hero, Up to Date, Giant Zittau, White Lisbon, Improved Banbury, James' Long Keeping, Potato Onion, Rousham Park, Hero Sutton's Globe and Giant Rocca, The Queen, Unwins Reliance, Silver Skinned.
"The Ministry's cropping plan provides for eight rows of onions. There are three ways of growing them for storage:––
1. by sowing seed under glass or in warm frames in January and February, and transplanting in April;
2. by sowing seed in the open in February or March;
3. by sowing in early autumn and transplanting in March." Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide Vol. 03 1945
'Stuttgarter' from the 99pStore
I have been umming and erring over planting these in the allotment knowing full well the weather has not really warm enough, thankfully after watching Gardeners World last weekend, something I really should do more often, Monty Don suggested planting onions and shallot sets into small sectioned seed trays to start them growing!

So that was March in The Victory Garden, I had better get cracking on Aprils planting now the weather has taken a turn for the better, I get the feeling I am soon going to be somewhat overwhelmed with baby plants, how exciting!

Wendy x

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Kitchen Front - Scouse

After our little trip out into the cold Easter weather, to take pictures of my finished Sew For Victory dress, we needed something delicious and warming to come back to for dinner. Luckily I had the foresight to have just the thing awaiting our return, something warm, filling, with bags of flavour and a dish that has been a firm favourite since childhood, Scouse.

Now I'm sure many of you will have never heard of this dish which hails from Liverpool and which you might have guessed, gave its name to the local accent! The dish the called 'Labskause' (Norwegian for stew) and was brought to our shores by European sailors, the sailors settled in Liverpool and over time the word became more Anglicised to Scouse. It has been a common meal in the homes of the working class Liverpudlians for generations, it is essentially a hearty stew usually made from mutton or lamb (can also be made from beef), which is slowly cooked with vegetables to tenderise the cheap cut of meat. Blind Scouse is a vegetable variation and would have been eaten by the poorer people who simply could not afford the meat.

As simple as it is, it is utterly delicious! When we were kids it was a huge treat when staying with my Granddad in Liverpool, for Mum to take us into town to the La Patisserie and order a big bowl of this stuff, which was served with beetroot, and crusty bread! Yum! I have to say that I remember the cream cakes there were very enticing too!!

You can find the traditional Scouse recipe here, though there is much debate on what the 'official' recipe is, as every Liverpudlian family has their own recipe. Also, there is a fabulously tasty version of 'Blind Scouse' for Vegetarians here, though the traditional way would be just to leave the meat out. My version varies a bit from the traditional, it contains red wine! But then I am a southerner and so I give you...

- Soft Southerners Scouse -

500g Beef steak (or lamb) 
2 Vegetable Stock Cubes 
Carrots - Peeled and chopped 
Potatoes - Peeled and chopped - Keep them chunky 
Cabbage - Shredded 
Olive Oil - As much as you need to brown the meat
Worcester Sauce - Splosh to taste! 
Red Wine - I used a mulled wine but plain old red will do! Leave this out for a traditional Scouse recipe

The Kitchen Front Scouse Recipe the raw ingredients

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and then brown the meat

2. Peel and Chop the veg, bung in a casserole dish, or slow cooker

4. Break up the stock cubes and sprinkle over the vegetables

5. Add in the meat and give it all a good stir

The Kitchen Front Scouse Recipe Browned the Meat

6. Add as much wine as you feel fit, then top up with boiling water so the mix is still just peeping out of the liquid, add as much Worchester sauce as you like

The Kitchen Front Scouse Recipe Ready to serve

7. Pop in the oven at Gas mark 2 for 3-4 hours. Remove the lid to check and stir every hour. If you want to make the sauce a little thicker then you can stir in a tablespoon or so of gravy powder towards the end of the cooking time.

8. Once the meat is soft and tender Serve. Add a topping of Grated Cheese, Pickled/plain Beetroot or Pickled Red Cabbage, if you like it! And a side of Bread and Butter. Enjoy!

The Kitchen Front Scouse Recipe Ready to eat with pickled Cabbage

I've just learnt from my lovely German friend Xenia, that there also is a link between this dish and the German 'Labskaus' a traditional dish from Hamburg. It's served slightly differently, a bit more like a corned beef hash, but essentially it's the same ingredients, and topped with beetroot, gherkins and pickled herring, which would certainly explain the origins of the slightly odd, but delicious, pickled beetroot or cabbage topping on the Liverpudlian version!

Wendy x

Monday, 1 April 2013

Sew For Victory - The Reveal!

Well, it's finally time to show you the finished Sew For Victory Blackmore 5755 dress, which I have been busily working on to finish in time for today's deadline.  I must say that Sewing for Victory has been a lot of fun, I have learnt so much, simply by slowing down my sewing and paying attention to the little details I feel I have created something that's made to last and that I will enjoy wearing for years to come.  Also seeing the wonderful creations from the other participants has been endlessly inspirational and motivational, just see for yourselves on the Flikr group.

 I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that I totally love this dress! Being able to put some serious time into getting the fit and fabric just right, and then not rushing myself just to get it finished (ok well the belt was last minute, but that's just a little thing), was a revelation to me,  I don't honestly think I have ever spent so much time on one single garment before, (not counting the abandoned to UFO status items, of which there are many!) so for the first time I can say that there is no slapdash stitching here! 

 I changed a few things in the bodice section from the muslin version (see it here) the button band I folded over about 1/2 an inch over the neckline (rather than it finishing at the V)  and rather than sewing the band down with a row of stitches I used four mother of pearl buttons to hold it in place. I also added a cream/white lace frill around the neck, I was rather hesitant about adding this feature, but I am so glad I did as I really like the contrast!

It'ss also taught me new methods of contortion, as getting into it is a breeze getting out is a little more...lets say ingenious, due to the way the sleeves taper in slightly at the cuff making them stick to your arm as you try to get free, something I could have remedied by adding a smidgen more width to the sleeves, but its a small problem, which must be quite hilarious to watch so I am happy to overlook it!

To celebrate my finishing on time, I though a trip out, to get some well-lit photographs of me in my new dress, so we trundled off on Easter Sunday to Wimpole Hall.

This was not my smartest move, the house and grounds were breathtaking, but unfortunately so was the weather. Being Easter, the grounds were packed with tourist, and children running about rummaging in the bushes on Easter egg hunts (I'm too old for that lark...apparently), all of the above were wrapped up toasty and warm in their welly boots, hats scarves, gloves and not forgetting their super thick coats.

I, on the other hand, much to the amusement of the said tourists, had removed my scarf coat and gloves and was parading about the gardens in just my dress, desperately trying to think warm thoughts clutching my 1930s copy of Julius Caesar, in an attempt to copy the poise and snooty elegance of the lady on the pattern envelope.

I would like to say, I managed to keep my composure, that I acted like a pro, and that you can't tell how cold I am feeling from my posture or my face, but we all know I would be lying :)
Even though it was cold, and my pasty skin was turning purple, it was a bit of a laugh. I can at least say that I have done my national duty in making a few tourists holidays complete by letting them witness first hand, the behaviour of a typically eccentric English woman!.
So as I wander off into the gardens in search of my gloves, scarf, coat, and a flask of whiskey, all that's left to say is a huge THANK YOU to Rochelle and of course Lucille, for taking the time to organise such a wonderful sew along, it has been a blast!
Wendy x