Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cub Scout Scripture Bag

I've been so excited to show off the scripture bag I sewed for my son.  He absolutely loves being a cub scout, and when he wore out the knees of a pair of (expensive) cub scout pants, I had a hard time throwing them away.  Those cargo pockets are just so cool...


So when he got his own set of scriptures for his baptism, inspiration struck.  There was just enough space before the blown out knees to cut side panels for the case.  I curved the corners a bit when I cut.

I loved the wolf logo on the coin pocket, so I picked it off the pants and hand sewed it onto the plainer pocket.

I searched for the right zippers and didn't find what I wanted.  I had settled for using two zippers (because I couldn't buy a double-pull zipper that opened in the middle).  When I started cutting, I looked at the pants and realized that the perfect zippers were already there on the zip off legs!

I used strips from the bottom of the legs to make the parts that attached to the zippers.  I couldn't get long enough pieces from the pants, so there are random joins.  Then I cut out a rectangle for the bottom of the bag.  Before sewing, I interfaced all the pieces to stabilize the weaker points.  Then I took my friend's advice and decided to line the whole thing, adding pockets on the inside.

The first step in sewing was to sew the zippers to the strips and lining, then turn it right-side out and top-stitch.  After doing each side of the zipper, I zipped it all together and stay stitched the ends of the zipper and cut off the excess.

Next I enclosed the ends of this long strip by sewing them between rectangles of pant material and lining (forming the bottom of the bag).  I had to fold it up a bunch to do the second edge, but it came out very nice.  I top stitched those seams as well.

Before sewing the sides to this "circle", I basted the lining to the side pieces. Then I basted on handles of webbing.  I then pinned like crazy to make sure the zipper circle fit the sides and sewed it all together.  I could have finished the inside seams with bias tape or something similar, but instead I chose to do two lines of top stitching through the seam allowances, and then cut the seam allowances very close to the stitching.  It's not perfect, but it will hold just fine.

Personally, I love how it turned out.  I figure you could do this with any cargo pants if you don't have an old pair of cub scout pants laying around!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Natural Yeast and trying to Make Great Bread

A couple of years ago (or longer) my sister and I shared with each other our mutual desire to be able to make really good bread.  I had just checked out "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day" from my local library.

Since then I've made quite a bit of bread off and on, some of it good, but little of it great.  My tried and true simple basic whole-wheat bread recipe suddenly didn't work with the same proportions of water to flour.  Then my loaves would crack on the sides.  Sometimes the loaves were too dense.

Then I moved to Virginia, which changed my humidity dramatically and my altitude by almost 5000 ft.  Everything in baking changed again.

I finally decided I need to get more educated if I wanted to bake more consistently.  I stumbled across the book "The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast", and was almost instantly won over by the health benefits of baking with a natural yeast (or sour dough) start.  Of course this started my baking journey all over again before I'd even mastered it with active dry yeast.  From this book, I also learned about "The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book", full of even more information on whole grain baking.

Meanwhile, I saw my sister at Thanksgiving, and she baked the most delicious loaf of artisan bread.  Really wonderful stuff.  Way to go Sis!

A couple of months ago, I got some wheat from a friend who was moving out of state.  About 15 buckets of white wheat.  I started using the wheat to make flour, and my new natural yeast to make bread at about the same time.  I've made at least 5 batches of bread that really flopped.  At the same time, I was reading much more about bread making, and had a bunch more possibilities to consider that could make my bread not rise well.  What the natural yeast start not healthy? Was the dough too dry?  Did I use chlorinated water? Did I over-knead the dough in my mixer?

It took me forever to realize the obvious; my "new" wheat was old, and although it was supposed to be hard white wheat, and should have had plenty of gluten to make good bread, it didn't.  It made delicious muffins and pancakes and waffles, but very poor bread.

I finally got out some of my "old" red wheat, and Yippee!  I finally made some bread that rose!

It still has lots of recognizable problems (it's over-baked, cracked on the side, and a little bit of white-cap.  But it was delicious!

After all this, I'm hoping to talk one of my kids into doing a science fair project on the gluten content of different flours.  One guy on the internet even makes a balloon out of gluten!