Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to Re-Cover a Clutch Purse


-         Clutch purse
-         Small screwdriver
-         Fabric for re-covering
-         Needle and thread

Time Commitment

 ~1-2 hours

How to Make it Happen:

Such a cute purse - but I wanted a different fabric

I was given this purse as a Christmas present – I love the style of the purse, but wanted a different fabric to cover it. Think of it as a mini-upholstery project!

Step 1 - Remove clasps

1) Use a small screwdriver to remove the small screws holding the metal clasps onto the purse- usually the purse itself has a cardboard base, so don’t try to rip the clasps off or you will have a horrible time trying to reattach them later. Set them aside and make sure not to lose the little screws.

Step 2 - Remove old fabric (try to keep it in one piece for use as a template)

2) Next, carefully cut off the old cover – as long as the padding underneath is still good, don’t mess with it. If you need to replace the padding, get some very thin foam or thick felt and cut it to size. This purse didn’t need new padding, so I just removed the cover.

Step 3 - Cut new fabric

3) Use the old cover as a template to cut out a new cover – in this case, I’m using a thin wool to recover the purse. Err on the larger side, since it’s easier to trim the fabric than trying to stretch it if you skimp on the size.

Step 4 - Sewing (the time consuming part)

4) Now that you have your new fabric, stitch it into place carefully. Start with one of the ends (where the clasps will go), then work down each side. Finish with the other end, keeping the fabric taut as you go. A thicker needle can make this step easier, just in case you have to make new holes through the cardboard. I use regular sewing thread, but heavy-duty thread will work too.

Step 5 - Stitching and trimming (the spool is just there to hold the purse open for the picture)

5) This picture shows the stitching for the last edge of the cover. At the bottom is the extra fabric at the other end (which needs to be trimmed flush with the purse before re-installing the clasps).

Step 6 - Replacing the clasps (spool is just to hold it open for the picture)

6) Carefully lever the clasps into place (making sure the fabric is secure under the clasp, not lose or poking out) and replace the screws to keep the clasp firmly attached to the purse.

Step 7 - Ta-da!

7) The finished purse!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Shire Toile Fabric Designs

I know this isn't a how-to, but I wanted to share my fabric designs...

So I recently joined Spoonflower, and I saw the Hobbit over Christmas, which led to the decision that a toile pattern based on the Shire would be awesome:
Blue Shire Toile

Green Shire Toile
Grey Shire Toile

These are the fabric samples, which look kind of dark in the pictures (but are actually quite bright in person). The actual designs are here:

Blue Shire Toile
Green Shire Toile
Grey Shire Toile

This experience has led me to realize that I really am a huge nerd...
...but I think I'll survive.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to Bottle Homemade Vanilla Extract

Baby Extract (Left) and Extract ready for bottling (Right)

As you can see above, the bottle on the right is ready for bottling – it’s dark and smells strongly of vanilla (just trust me on this)!


-         6 month old vanilla extract (see How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract)
-         Glass bottles and caps (I buy mine online in 4 oz versions- 2 oz bottles are better if you don’t use a ton of extract)
-         Funnel (I have a multi-size one, and use the small section for bottling and the large section for filtering)
-         Coffee Filters
-         Glasses (for filtering extract)
-         Optional – Bowl with spout (makes funneling easier)

Time Commitment:

 ~ 0.5- 1 hr, plus time to wash and dry bottles

How to Make it Happen:

1) Start by gathering your tools/supplies – I wash and dry my bottles and caps thoroughly, but you can also sanitize them if you wish. A 750 ml bottle of extract (minus some because space was needed for the vanilla beans) fills about six 4 ounce bottles.

Step 1 - Adventures in Bottle-washing
Step 1 (more stuff) - Assemble Team

2) Put a coffee filter in your funnel and place it over a glass. Pour the extract slowly into the filter, giving it time to drip through. This will get rid of the little vanilla bean shards - it also gets rid of the seeds, so if you want to keep them, use cheesecloth instead of a coffee filter.

Step 2 - Filtering

3) I like to use two glasses so I can bottle extract while more is filtering.
Step 3 - Tag Team Filtering

4) A bowl with a spout helps make bottling easier, but it’s not strictly necessary.  

Step 4 - Looks gross, but trust me, it smells amazing!

5) Place your funnel into a bottle and slowly pour the extract – make sure not to overfill the bottle or your kitchen will smell like vanilla for weeks!

Step 5 - Filling Bottles

6) After about half the bottle, I change the coffee filter. By this point it will have small bean pieces and lots of seeds stuck in it, and a fresh filter helps the process go faster. To change it, simply gather the edges of the filter and pull them together, twisting it into a little package. Gently squeeze the rest of the extract out of the filter, being careful not to put a hole in the filter (or you’ll get seeds and vanilla bean pieces in your extract).

Step 6 - If you're using cheesecloth, this doesn't apply to you

7) A row of finished bottles – now all that’s left is adding labels and enjoying your extract!

Step 7 - Finished Bottles

Here’s my finished bottles- I like to put a bottling date so I can tell which batch is which:

'Times Pirate' Vanilla Extract - Yes I like Rum/Pirate jokes...I am a nerd...


Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract

I love making my own vanilla extract – it’s a very simple process, and the hardest thing about it is waiting for it to be ready… Since it makes a lot of extract at once, it’s great for gifts (or, like me, you could use a lot of it yourself)!



-         Small knife
-         Paper plate
-         Vanilla beans (16 per 750 ml bottle of rum) – I buy mine online in bulk (~1/4 lb)
-         Rum (80 proof)


Time Commitment:

 <30 min. prep, ~6 months until bottling

How to Make it Happen, Cap'n:

1) Start by gathering your tools/supplies – because the beans will go directly into alcohol, I don’t sanitize my knife (but it is cleaned thoroughly) and use a paper plate so I don’t have to worry about a cutting board. I use 750 ml bottles and 16 vanilla beans per bottle to give it a deep, rich flavor.

Step 1- Assemble Team

2) Because the vanilla beans will take up space in the bottle, pour off about 1/2 cup of rum (per 750 ml bottle). Use this extra how you see fit (I recommend making rum cake, but that’s another story).

Step 2 - Excess Rum Extraction

3) Cut each bean in half, then cut each half lengthwise leaving about a half inch connected. If you accidentally cut it completely lengthwise it’s not a problem, I just find the used beans easier to find when making vanilla sugar (also another story). Add the split halves directly to the bottle of rum, making sure they are completely covered by alcohol. 

Step 3 - Perform Bean Surgery

4) After adding all the beans to the bottle, screw on the cap and give it a firm shake to help the vanilla bean seeds (the little black things in the bean) come in contact with as much of the rum as possible.

Step 4 - Exercise, Baker-style

5) Now your extract is ready for aging – put it in a dark, cool place (like a cupboard) for the next six months. Once or twice a week (or whenever you remember), give it a shake. Make sure the vanilla beans stay completely covered by alcohol – they won’t do your extract any good if they’re not. The extract will start to smell like vanilla (and you can use some) after about 3 months, but I leave mine for at least six months before removing the beans and bottling to make sure the vanilla beans give as much flavor to the extract as possible.

Step 5- Say Goodbye for a While

6) Retrieve it six months later (after forgetting about it, then opening the cupboard and wondering why you have a bottle of rum in the far back corner)...

The picture above shows your baby extract (0 months old) on the left, and a six month old extract on the right- the six month old is ready for bottling, see How to Bottle Homemade Vanilla Extract!



I use rum as a base because I like the hint of caramel and depth of flavor that it gives the extract, but I’ve heard of plenty of extracts using vodka, whiskey, or bourbon bases. I use 80 proof (40% alcohol) rums, since the water content of the vanilla beans will slightly lower the alcohol content of the finished extract.

A word of caution: Homemade vanilla extract smells strongly of alcohol when it’s in the bottle (which shouldn’t be a surprise). Commercial vanilla extracts also contain alcohol (35% by law), but they are made so that there is no alcohol smell. After bottling, I’ve found that the smell fades somewhat over time as the extract matures. Because relatively small amounts are used in baking and frostings, I don’t notice any alcohol smell when the extract is actually used (just the delicious, rich vanilla flavoring comes through).