FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Cranberry Carrot Loaf - My New Roots Recipe

Fast-Momma baked this delicious cake using a recipe from one of her new cook books, My New Roots by Sarah Britton

We're really enjoying exploring vegetarian recipes and trying to cut down our meat consumption a bit. If you'd like to give it a go the recipe can be found HERE

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Januarys Garden

I haven't even begun to sort out what we'll be growing this year!

Things have been so manic that I haven't gotten around to it yet.

What are you planting this month?

At the moment we have garlic in the ground and nothing else.

I'll have to dig out the seed packets and see what we have, Seed Swap anyone?

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Day Out! Ightham Mote - National Trust

A bit pic heavy compared to our usual posts!

As a joint present for Christmas the mother&father-in-law got us a National Trust Family Membership.

 One of new years aspirations for 2016 was that we would try to visit at least one National Trust site each month, but because I had some time off over Christmas we managed to sneak a visit in December between Xmas and new year, and one of the few sites near us that was open at this time was Ightham Mote.

 Ightham Mote is a 14th century moated manor house in Sevenoaks, Kent, described by David Starkey as 'one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses'.

Built nearly 700 years ago, this house has seen many changes and been owned by Medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high society Victorians.

When we went it still had its Christmas theme on and was dressed up in all the decorations of the different time periods, including the grand hall being laid out ready for a typical Christmas feast. We had a really great time but since it was cold and wet out we didn't do some of the trail walks but would definitely love to go again in the summer to explore the surrounding area.

Here's some of the photos of the outing:

Logan practising his map reading

The only Grade 1 listed Dog Kennel in Europe!

What time is it? It's adventure time of course!

Fast-Daddy and Little Logan

Christmas tree in the main hall

banquet table laid in preparation for the Christmas feast!


Fast Daddy & Logan

Fastmomma, Baby Aurora and Little Logan

where they keep the dragons locked up, according to Logan

Aurora having a whale of a time
Logan gives Ightham Mote a double thumbs up!

Logan gives Ightham Mote a double thumbs up, We definitely recommend that you visit if you're ever in the area :)

Monday, 25 January 2016

Spoke too soon...

Poor little Logan was up all night being sick so I took the day off work today to look after him. At 4.30am his temperature was 39.1°c and he said his throat and tummy hurt so we took him to the doctors when they opened. The little fella has been ill since the 18th of December, has had 3 different courses of antibiotics and a course of antihistamines for a cold, an ear infection, a cold, a cough, conjunctivitus, a cold again, a sore throat and now fever and sickess, our doctor is pretty useless and seems to just prescribe an antibiotic pulled out of a hat and hope for the best, and yet they wonder why antibiotics are losing their effectiveness?
Then to top it off a glass bottle of cider exploded in the kitchen, cider was the only thing being kept in glass because it wasn't supposed to be fizzy so I didn't expect it to blow. Lesson learned....again!
The silver lining of today came whilst I was writing this, Logan told me a proper joke for the very first time:
What do you get if you cross a cat with a parrot? A Carrot!
I don't know where he picked that up but I found it funny coming totally out of the blue from a 3 year old, he's never grasped the concept of jokes before so the punchline was always something random.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Lurgy in the House!

No rest for the wicked!

Everyone is ill at the moment, we've all got coughs and colds and both the little ones have conjunctivitis! We tried a swig of the homemade Elderberry Liqueur that was given to us by a friend, and although it was strong enough that we probably could have drank until we forgot about being ill, I can't say I felt the medicinal properties.

Still we can't have a moments rest, far too much to do.

The recent storms have once again torn the felt off the shed roof, and the existing felt was so thin and flimsy I'm surprised it's even lasted this long. Rather than replace it with more of the same I got a roll or premium grade green mineral felt used on flat roofing and re-felted the shed in that instead, it's more than twice as thick and heavy as shed felt so ought to last the next 10 years without me having to slide around on a stepladder in the mud again!
If the neighbours didn't already think I was mad then they surely do now after watching me carry the strips of felt up the ladder on my head on a miserable grey day. At least the shed is watertight again, ready for the arrival of the quail next month.

Then we nipped in to town to drop off some post for the businesses and whilst we were there I dashed in to the place we get our cheap spice from to get some more ground ginger for our ginger beer, and Logan decided to start asking me some of the many questions 3 year old boys ask, resulting in me picking up the jar next to the ground ginger. It wasn't until we got home that we nearly had madras curry powder beer instead!

Then Carly cut my hair as I was starting to look like Chewbacca.

Today I have roasted a chicken for the first time in history. Generally I stay away from cooking since Carly is so good at it, this was probably the first time in a decade that I've had anything to do with Sunday dinner and I'm amazed I didn't burn it beyond recognition, but it actually came out perfect.

We've just started another batch of ginger beer using grated fresh ginger so I'm looking forward to seeing what difference it makes to the finished product, I'll let you know in a couple of weeks. Next week our homebrew Hard Cider will be ready to taste, so providing it isn't like vinegar I'll do a post on that

I've baked another sourdough loaf, I haven't been having a great deal of luck with my foray in to sourdough but this one looks like the best one so far, its sitting cooling on the kitchen side as I type so I'll put a post up about that too once we've tried it out

Hope everyone had a good weekend, We always love hearing what you've all been up to!

Poor Little Logan, Still smiling through his conjunctivitis 

Friday, 22 January 2016

The 10 C's of Survival 10/10 - Canvas Needle

The canvas needle in particular is a fairly heavy duty strong needle which could be used for all sorts of applications.The tip of a canvas needle is pointed, but with triangular flat sides at the tip. It is slightly more than 2-inches long and about twice the thickness of a typical sewing needle. 
This little tool can be magnetised into a makeshift compass , be employed to repair clothing or shelters, dislodge nasty splinters, and for other delicate, high-precision operations.

As mentioned previously a needle can be incorporated within some tape so that it doesn't get lost or poke through anything in your pack. I keep a small sewing kit in my bag, you wouldn't believe how easy it is to split your trousers jumping on and off motorcycles!

Does anyone else carry a need or sewing kit with them?

Thursday, 21 January 2016


The blog is now 5 months old and has just passed 5000 page views,
I Just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone that reads and comments on the blog,

Fingers crossed the end of next month we'll be getting a dozen quail to start off our flock which will be an exciting adventure for us. The coop is almost finished and only needs me to staple the wire mesh to the back of it and attach the second door.

I've been thinking about the quails and how to make sure they have a variety in their diet and had been mulling over the idea of starting a mealworm farm in a bucket to give them the occasional treat, but I think I may have stumbled upon an alternative too. My mother keeps giant snails, and depending on species once old enough each snail will lay between 200/300 eggs twice a month through spring and summer, which would make a great snack for the quails. Add to this the fact that the snails eat only scraps and cuttlefish for calcium, which could always be substituted for powdered eggs from the quails. It seems to me that they would go hand in hand perfectly, but I'd be interested to hear thoughts on the idea


The 10 C's of Survival 9/10 - Cargo tape

Short and sweet one for number 9 of the 10 C's of Survival Series...

Cargo Tape. or what we more often refer to as good old fashion duct tape. You know what they say, "If you can't fix it with duct tape you ain't using enough duct tape"

From injuries to pack malfunctions, a roll of duct tape serves as many functions in the wilderness as it does in the city. Carrying a few metres wrapped around a card in your pack takes up hardly any space or weight and gives you more options. It's also a handy place to keep a couple of needles and/or fishing hooks taped in the middle of the card for emergencies.

Recently I stumbled across the new Camo Gorilla tape, it has a great "Realtree" type pattern in a matte finish and looks really good, something a little bit different to the bog standard black or silver.

A fun little project that doesn't take a lot of time is the duct tape wallet. I made one for Logan a while ago that he kept some old bank cards and some printed Toy Story money in to play with, but the wallet is a fuctional wallet for an adult too and can be made any way you want and when it starts to get worn out it can be repaired with tape.

Click here for a great "How to make a Duct Tape Wallet" tutorial

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The 10 C's of Survival 8/10 - Compass

The point of a Compass? North presumably...

I've been asked in the past why I carry a compass without a map. If your sense of direction isn't the best then a compass can be a handy companion to keep you on track. Sometimes if you're deep in the woods you can't see the sun or stars for a bearing and knowing which way you're headed helps stop you wandering in circles. Also if you found yourself stranded in an unfamiliar area you could sketch a map but no matter how hard I try I can't sketch a compass that works.

The Compass that stays in my EDC kit is a little vintage looking classic brass compass. It reminds me of a Grandfathers compass, of exploring and adventure. I picked it up online in 2014, but you can still get them on ebay for less than £2 !!

I'm very in to the classic/vintage style so fell in love with this when I saw it. Chinese quality control leaves a lot to be desired but on this occasion there are no faults with my item and it works more accurately than the compass on the smart phone so very happy with it.

It also glows in the dark!

When I first got it I charged it under a light for about half an hour before I went to bed and it was still glowing when I woke up. Again, very impressed.

Of course you can get compass apps on most phones these days, But if my phone breaks of the battery dies at least I have another option.

As always we'd love to hear your thoughts, Do you carry a compass?


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Frugal Food: Todays Bargains

Some real bargains picked up on the way home from work tonight. Venison sausages, venison grill steaks, meatballs, plums, potatoes and goats cheese, all this little haul for less than £4.50
Always worth a look in before closing time if you're passing

The 10 C's of Survival 7/10 - Cotton

Cotton On To This Survival Tool That Might Just Save Your Life....

Nothing fancy, just a humble square of cotton.
Our grandparents would never have gone anywhere without a handkerchief, but these days people seem to favour a bandana when it comes to carrying cotton.
A bandana is another one of those things that is useful for a thousand things but nothing specific.
From fire-starters to head coverings, from bandages to signalling flags, cotton bandanas are deceptively multi-use.

Since they weigh next to nothing and can be crammed into almost any space in a bag or pocket there is no downside to carrying a couple. The basic bandana can be picked up for less than £1 online, and there are now various fancy ones that have all sorts of survival info printed on them for around £10, You can even get them printed with local maps.

I found a handy infographic that outlines just a few of the infinite uses of the bandana, borrowed from Preparing4SHTF

So, do you carry a bandana or handkercheif? and if not, why not?


Monday, 18 January 2016

The 10 C's of Survival 6/10 - Candle

Probably what you least expected on the topic of candles...

The Candle in the 10 C's of Survival really refers to Candlepower, or Illumination. Although a genuine candle is useful for this, in an urban day to day situation, like trying to find your seat in the cinema, it is somewhat frowned upon to light up a candle and is safer for everyone if you stick to using a torch instead.

A lot of people carry the small keyring type LED lights to help get their front door unlocked in the dark and there is certainly no harm in having one of those and maybe keeping one on the zip of your pack too. When it comes to torches it really is a case of getting what you pay for. Although the cheap CREE torches from china are well worth the £2 they cost, they don't have the best reliability or the longest service lives. If I'm going to carry something every day I'd rather know that I can depend on it when it counts.

My EDC go-to torch is the LEDLenser Aviator, it is well built, functional and affordable. Housed in a splash proof aircraft grade aluminium body, It features two different light settings, Five high intensity white LED's for an ultra bright beam plus the added bonus of a high intensity red LED light to aid enhanced night vision.

LedLenser Aviator Dual Colour LED Torch

The two light modes work independently on two different buttons and can even be used at the same time if you wanted. The white is around 120 lumens and has an alleged burn time of 44hrs from 3 AAA batteries. This is more than bright enough for my needs, as I would only use it short range and also carry a headtorch for the times when I need to illuminate larger areas or long distance. I picked the Aviator because it is a good all rounder, the white light is great for lighting the way and to attract attention if you need to, and the red is excellent if you need a more tactical option for an escape/evasion type scenario 

BEWARE, more than half of the LEDLenser products one Ebay are substandard counterfeits, I strongly advise if you have bought LEDLenser products online you check how to spot a fake LEDLenser article HERE

I will do an article on the fakes at a later date, I would recommend only using an authorised retialer such as currently the Aviator is on offer at £31.99 with free UK delivery

Love to hear your thoughts as always, do you carry a torch?


Friday, 15 January 2016

The 10 C's of Survival 5/10 - Cordage

Can Cordage Save Your Life?

Yes you can fashion your own cord from all natural materials in the wild, but it is time consuming and inconvenient in a disaster, so mostly when it comes to cordage Paracord is the standard.

Look into anything prepping related and sooner or later you're going to trip over Paracord. Every man and his dog insists on tying a dizzying array of coloured paracord to anything and everything. 

There are HUNDREDS, if not thousands of uses for paracord and if you've got 15 minutes of your life that you have nothing better to do with you can watch this 101 uses for paracord video on YouTube

Essentially its very handy, very strong and you can unravel it for smaller strands of cordage. If you use Firecord it's even more useful.

I'm very much of the opinion that paracord bracelets and lanyards are far more fashion than utility, 
A lot of people talk about having lanyards set up on knives and whatnot, ready to take apart if they 'need' the paracord. Thing is, if you've put lots of time into putting a well knotted lanyard together, the last thing you want to do is undo that for any minor reason.  Far easier to carry a 100ft hank at the bottom of your bag and just cut is as and when you need it, its fairly inexpensive.

I wear paraboots every day on the motorcycle, and have replaced the laces with paracord because they will never break unlike normal laces, and I've always got the cord "if I need it"

and hopefully I never will need it. Most of the things we prep for we hope never to need, but its more  a case of rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. 

Your thoughts are always welcome in the comments below


Thursday, 14 January 2016

The 10 C's of Survival 4/10 - Container

Why do we need to carry a container?

All animals need water, and humans are no different

Enter the humble container, because carrying water long distances in your hands is not always ideal.

On a hot day you will be glad to have a bottle of water to drink, but it also comes in handy for so many other things, every thing from cleansing a wound to cooking food in.

Most people will recommend that you carry a stainless steel bottle as they are robust and you can boil your water directly in the bottle. Some people even go so far as to opt for a titanium bottle to save a few grams of weight, but this seems petty considering most of the weight of any bottle is the fluid inside it.

My preference in containers is the Crusader Cup made for the British Military by BCB.
 To be honest I carry the entire Crusader Cookset because it doesn't take up much extra space and gives me more options. 

Water is great in the summer but I'd much rather have the ability to brew a cup of tea in the Winter.

BCB Crusader Cookset

The Crusader Cookset comprises of a NATO 58 pattern water bottle and plastic cup, the Crusder Cup and a small stove unit. The stove can run on solid fuels such as Hexamine tablets, Methylated spirits etc Personally I use green Bio-Ethanol as it is relatively inexpensive, non-toxic, doesn't create an awful meths smell and burns clean so you don't get the black hexi soot all over your kit.

One of the advantages of this setup is that if you are out and about with company you have two cups so don't have to share, or if you are alone you can drink a cuppa while you're cooking food etc.

BCB Crusader Cookset packed away

When packed away it all stays in a small kitbag at the bottom of my backpack with teabags, powdered milk and tube of green alcohol to fuel the stove.

Do you carry a bottle of water on a daily basis? and if so what do you carry it it?


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The 10 C's of Survival 3/10 - Cover

Why is it so important to keep a shelter with you? Can you afford not to carry one?

Many people do no bother carrying any form of shelter, hell in this day and age most people don't even have a coat when it's raining! So many people in the prepper community have months of food and water stockpiled at home and overlook the humble shelter sheet, which I find odd since you can go for days without water, weeks without food yet you will die within hours of being exposed to extreme weather conditions.

Now you might think "that will never happen to me" but if you travel on dual carriageways or motorways I would beg you to reconsider.

No matter how far you travel by motorway, Imagine this situation:

It's wet and cold and you break down.

You need to leave your vehicle and wait in a safe place. A safe place IS NOT sitting in your car waiting until the friendly breakdown team arrives hours later. The reason you are advised to vacate your vehicle is regularly in the news when someone ignores the warning and waits in their car until another road user veers on to the hard shoulder and fatally collides with the stationary vehicle.

So seriously think about packing a shelter sheet of some description. If you break down, get out, travel slightly upstream of the traffic, climb over the barrier, call breakdown recovery and sit safe and sound under the shelter that you had the foresight to carry.

Personally I keep a lightweight waterproof poncho in the side pocket of my backpack and unless I need it I don't ever have to think about it again. If it rains I can throw it on and fit the family under it if we need to find cover from a quick rainshower, if the ground is damp I can use it as a groundsheet under the picnic blanket, there are too many situations that it can come in handy to list them all.

Kombat UK  Lightweight DPM Poncho
Back in 2013 I was out on the motorcycle and got caught in a snow storm which saw me stranded at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, and it was 6 hours until the roads cleared up enough for me to make my way home. If that happened these days I'd be sat under a shelter out of the wind and rain drinking a brew and would be far more comfortable.

And isn't that what we do this for? To make sure our lives are more comfortable no matter what happens?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below

At the time of writing the Kombat UK poncho is available on Ebay for £13.90 delivered


Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Handmade Xmas: Simplicity 1600 - Aurora's Christmas Outfit

Isn't this the most adorable outfit you've ever seen?

Our incredibly talented Fast Momma made this gorgeous little matching romper and bonnet to go with the handmade leather mocs from our earlier blog post HERE: Leather Fringed Baby Bow Moccasins

If you'd like to know a bit more about the fabric, pattern and construction then head over to Carly's sewing blog, Lucky Sew & Sew

The 10 C's of Survival 2/10 - Combustion

Today's hot topic is Combustion. We're talking sparks and flames, the ability to start a fire makes the difference between success and failure in a survival situation. Fire keeps your temperature from dropping too low, lights the way, cooks your food, marks your position to rescuers and can help ward off wild animals.  Sometimes I like to light a fire in the middle of the office to help prevent bear attacks.

There are hundreds of ways to get a fire started, but disposable lighters are the way to go as far as EDC is concerned. If someone asks you for a light in the street, they often don't have time to wait whilst you use your bow drill to create an ember by friction, and a throwaway lighter saves a lot of hassle. Disposables are cheap, light, easy to obtain and easy to use. But, since we all know that the first person to borrow a lighter becomes the new owner of it, it is useful to have a tried and tested backup. My preferred backup is a decent sized ferro rod. They're robust, work in all weathers and are good for thousands of uses and will be lighting fires long after the lighter gives up the ghost. One thing to bear in mind is that although almost all ferro rods are equal, the quality of strikers can vary wildly, especially with cheaper rods. The rod I carry is the basic Kombat UK version, and the striker is almost completely useless and produces a pathetic little spark that would be difficult to light a fire with. However using the same rod against the back of my knife I can create a massive shower of sparks capable of lighting any suitable tinder, so if you have ever struggled with fire rods, try using a decent bit of steel instead of the striker it comes with (old hacksaw blades are perfect for this).

There is something immensely satisfying being able to start a fire from a spark, if you have never done it before I suggest starting with a cotton wool pad/ball as they ignite easily and is a great way to get young ones involved in building the campfire.

One thing to consider is that the 10 C's of Survival does not account for any type of water filter or purifier, so we must assume that fire will be the main method of making water safe to drink whilst in the wild

At the time of writing, you can get the Kombat UK Ferro Rod Fire Starter, £6.95 HERE (no affiliation)

Let us know what type of fire starter you prefer in the comments below


Monday, 11 January 2016

The 10 C's of Survival 1/10 - Cutting Tool

First in this series of posts and possibly most important is the Cutting Tool/knife. If you have a knife then most other things can be made from natural materials if you have the skills and knowledge.
Now Certainly out if the wilderness a fixed blade is going to be your go to choice, but in an urban setting it may not be practical. Particularly in the UK, where if you carry anything sharper than a ham sandwich you will be seen as a lunatic. So avoiding the legal quagmire of carrying a fixed blade in public, for UK legal Daily carry you are only within the law to carry a sub 3 inch, non locking blade i.e a penknife. You do not need any reason at all to carry such a blade, you only need to provide got reason if your blade is longer than 3 inches or has a locking mechanism.

For my personal every day carry (EDC) I tend to alternate between 3 knives depending on where I'm going or what I expect to be doing. My Current Favourites are Lansky World Legal, CRKT Edgie and Elk Ridge Stockman folder

Closed, from Left to Right: Lansky World Legal, CRKT Edgie and Elk Ridge Redbone Stockman

Open, from Top to Bottom: Lansky World Legal, CRKT Edgie and Elk Ridge Redbone Stockman

The Elk Ridge Redbone Stockman, the gentleman's knife, is a traditional classic penknife, has 3 stainless blades and is very small and light, perfect to slip in a pocket and forget about. This knife is usually in my jacket pocket and is kept razor sharp, it has a slip joint and although a nice little blade it would not stand up to any serious cutting or hard work. At the time of writing, this little blade can be picked up for £9.99 at Blades and Bows HERE (no affiliation)

Next up is the Edgie made by the Columbia River Knife and Tool, aka CRKT. This is the knife that is usually with me when I'm out and about, it fits nicely in the "lighter" pocket on a pair of jeans and is noot too big or bulky, I barely notice I'm carrying it. The unique thing about the Edgie is that there is a small diamond sharpener built inside the handle, so every time you open and close the blade it sharpens itself, making it the first true self sharpening knife in the world. The only problem with this knife is that in order for the self sharpening feature to work, the blade had to be made of a slightly softer metal, which means that any abuse will put a serious nick in the blade and if you attempt to touch up the blade with a sharpener you run the risk of the self sharpening feature not working any more. In other words this is a great blade for around the office, for light duties like paper and cardboard but don't expect anything too demanding from it. At the time of writing, this little blade can be picked up for £11.95 at Heinnie Haynes HERE (no affiliation)

Lastly is the World Legal. This knife is not to everyones tastes but I absolutely love it. It is big, like seriously HUGE. It is as big as a UK legal EDC can get. Its also heavy for a pocket knife. It is an aggressive style of blade that is likely to attract negative attention if taken out in public as the UK public have been brainwashed in to seeing knives as weapons rather than tools. That being said it is my favourite, it is well designed, well made and nigh on indestructible. it handles any abuse you can throw at it and asks for more. The slip joint is so strong it is less likely to fold up on your hand than most lock knives. A real work horse of a knife, this is the one that most often finds itself in my pocket, and after a while you get used to the size and weight of it. At the time of writing, this little blade can be picked up for £16.95 at Heinnie Haynes HERE (no affiliation)

The Lansky World Legal Knife, my personal favourite

As with all tools, it is important to make sure they are as sharp as possible, a blunt knife is downright dangerous.

I'd love to hear from everyone about their preferences and what they carry, let us know in the comments below


The 10 C's of Survival

Instead of doing a giant list of items that I carry and why, I thought it might be fun to go through the 10 C's and show you what I carry for each of them.

The 10 C's of Survival is a checklist of the most essential tools for survival in the wilds, and is equally important to the traveller traversing the modern concrete jungle. The list was developed by Survival Expert Dave Canterbury of the Pathfinder School LLC, former star on Dual Survival.

What I like about the 10 C's is that they can be tailored to your own needs easily, as the list does not recommend specific items, just the role that they should fulfil. These items are all useful in real life day to day situations, in the words of Jack Spirko "if times get tough, or even if they don't". 

The 10 C's of Survival are as follows, the first 5 being the priority for survival, and the last 5 being immensely helpful as they are difficult to replicate in the wild;

(1) Cutting Tool - available HERE
(2) Combustion -  available HERE
(3) Cover - available HERE
(4) Container - available HERE
(5) Cordage - available HERE

(6) Candle - available HERE
(7) Cotton - available HERE
(8) Compass - available HERE
(9) Cargo Tape - available HERE
(10) Canvas Needle - available HERE

I will post an item each day showing my solution to each of the points on the list and why it is I carry them and would love to hear from people about what they carry etc

by Fast-Daddy

Saturday, 9 January 2016

New Collection - Marie Antoinette by Lucky Sew & Sew

As you may have noticed, Fast-Momma does a lot of sewing in her free time. 
What you may not know is that she is actually a lingerie designer and the founder and owner of Lucky Sew and Sew.

Today is the launch day of their latest collection, the Marie Antoinette collection now available in the Etsy shop,

Lucky Sew and Sew's items are all vintage inspired, hand made and tend to sell out fast so be sure to get yours while you still can!

It never ceases to amaze me the things that my wife is able to create, needless to say I am very proud of her.

If you'd like to find out more about how the collection was inspired and brought to life, you can find the full story HERE

Friday, 8 January 2016

What a feeling, Ginger Beer is on the ceiling!

Just as we sat down to eat dinner there was an almighty bang and crash in the kitchen which turned out to be a glass bottle of ginger beer exploding in every direction. Turns out when my mother wasnt exaggerating  when she said that exploding bottles were fairly common when my nan used to brew it. Guess I should have listened and used plastic bottles. That'll teach me not to think I know better! I bet my old nan is looking down on me laughing her socks off right now!
I had assumed that the kilner clip top bottles were able to withstand a good amount of pressure, but unless I had a faulty one I'd go with plastic just to be on the safe side. Luckily no one was hurt!
Now to clean up....

Handmade Xmas - Orton Bag by Merchant and Mills

by Fast-Momma

My Mum-in-Law is pretty in love with snails. She has those giant snails as pets. So when I came across a Riley Blake cotton that was covered in a colourful snail print, I knew it would be perfect for her.

I've long been a fan of Merchant and Mills. Their patterns, their fabrics, the haberdashery items, the whole aesthetics of their brand, I just love it. I'm desperate to try out one of their patterns for myself, but have always had other projects on the go. One of my goals for this year is to sew a Merchant and Mills pattern for myself. I will cut it from some of their delicious linen, with a pair of their awesome tailor shears, and use their glass-headed pins...hmmmmm. Anyway, I, when I found out that Merchant and Mills have a free pattern on their website for the Orton bag, I was well happy and knew I could put this to some use.

The Orton bag is an oversized shopper, with short straps made to fit snuggly on your shoulder. I really like this type of bag - it's easy to use, can fit a load of stuff in it, looks stylish and can easily fold away for safe keeping. Who doesn't love a reusable shopping bag, especially one that's fashionable (and especially since the plastic bag tax came in!).

The pattern is extremely easy and straightforward to use. The bag came together really quickly - in about an hour. My next one will probably be quicker than that, as is always the case when reusing familiar patterns. I love that you only need a metre of fabric to make one, and the size is easily adjustable, so you can make them in a few different sizes to shake things up a bit. The only thing I added was some reinforcement stitching on the bottom corners, just to hold everything in place really. This is the triangle shape stitching that you can see in the picture below.

This is a great project for a beginner, and I think they make great handmade presents. If you have a lot of friends and relatives to gift to, you could make them a bag each, from a fabric that's individual and matches their personality, and you have a satisfying project to sew that is straightforward with no stress, and you end up with some very thoughtful gifts.

Have you made an Orton bag yet?


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