Thursday, 28 May 2009

Far and Away

Over the lovely Bank Holiday weekend, we went to Norfolk, to stay with our friends, who live in the countryside. A nice change from our City life.

They have 2 daughters, similar ages to our sons, which makes our get togethers go fantastically well, as they all get on brilliantly.

As a present for them I made some cakes, and decorated some chocolate fairy cakes with chocolate buttercream, and little fancy chocolate decorations made using Chocolate Transfer Sheets.

I give my instructions for them here, I learned how to do these at the Brighton Sugarcraft show, that I went to a few weeks ago, at a demonstration by Julie Orton.


This is where I bought mine from: Have Your Cake and Eat It.
You can also try here or here.
Some online Directions:

Using any chocolate you like (I did use a dark Green and Black, but you can go for a cheaper brand, and any type as well, as it's a decoration, so you are not getting a huge taste hit)

All I did was carefully melt my chocolate for 30 seconds at a time in a PLASTIC container in the microwave (takes between (1m - 1:30s )

Get a baking tray, line with greaseproof paper and lay your transfer sheet on it. (You can pre cut it to the size you need - I cut a skinny rectangle) . You need the plastic side down and the grainy side facing up.

With an (offset) spatula, spread your chocolate on, thinly.

If your kitchen is cold, let it set , it should be semi set after a few minutes, if not pop into the fridge for a few minutes. Before it has gone hard, you can get cutters and cut out your shapes (I used hearts and stars, and just cut triangles with a normal sharp knife)

Put back in the fridge to set. Try not to handle too much as the chocolate melts very quickly.

When set, you can remove the plastic peel. Just take a corner and slowly peel off.

It can be tricky removing the hearts and star shapes, I found!

You make them circular, just wrap inside a tube, when it is semi set, to give the circle. You could then fill with mouse and berries!

For a cake:If you want to wrap it around a round cake: Then measure the circumferance of the cake, but cut your rectangle, do as above, when it is semi set you can stick it onto the cake, attaching it with a spot of chocolate. Overlap the 2 ends very slightly. Once set remove the plastic sheet. You can put the sheet out from where it is overlapped, with a sharp tug.

For a square cake, the instructor, cut 4 rectangles, just slightly larger than the cake, and stuck them on. You can easily trim the chocolate with a sharp knife, as it's so thin, to make the sides neat.

Tempering: You need to melt your chocolate bit by bit, no hotter than 34 degrees C. I half melted it, stirred it, and put it back in, if it needed more. Do this is 20 to 30s bursts. If you do it right! The chocolate remains glossy (when it has cooled down) and has a snap to it when you break it!

I would have photos, but they were all eaten before I got a chance! When I do some more, shortly, I will take some pictures and post them up!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

I'll have one of everything, please!

This is the I'll Have One Of Everything Bag from Anna Maria Horner's Seams to Me book.

I have to say I spent so long picking the fabric, buying in another quarter length or so, to make i it work, I didn't think I'd get there!

I have used Amy Butler's Midwest Modern range, choosing the pink and green fabrics which has given the bag a very summery look.

I added a pocket, after I got the lining in, that was awkward! There's no direction for a pocket, but it's useful, I think for mobile phone, keys etc.

The bag was pretty straightforward to make. I was a bit unsure how the side opening was going to work from the reverse, but when turned right side out, it was all perfect! Thank you Anna Maria!

With all my excess fabric, I'm working out quilt, based on Amy Butler's brick path one. Again decisions, decisions in layout!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Three Fabrics, Three Ways!

I have finally (nearly finished) my Emmeline apron! Just a few hand stitches up the sides, to finish it off! (Will do that this week).

Once I had almost finished the apron, I could see what fabric I had over from the project. Unusually it was a lot! This was because I had bought the wrong amount, so had to go back to the fabric store and buy more! Oops!

With my new ethos being to use all the fabric I have and turn it into things (clothes, bags, other items) rather than letting it take up valuable space in my cupboards. I had to get rid of it in the nicest way possible! My ethos is making me be more ruthless about fabric I have bought, and be more proactive into getting my jobs done. (plus my new machine is very persuasive!)

I knew the fabrics would make a lovely dress for my eldest niece. I used the Heather Ross Weekend Sewing directions again. Very simple and quick. The cuts of fabric that I had, meant I had to do a striped dress, but I think that works in its favour? I also hemmed it with the fabric turned over at the bottom (idea from Oliver & S website). My husband then said what was I doing for my youngest niece. I did not have a definite plan, as I did not have enough fabric but the idea of an apron was going round in my head (not as complex as the Emmeline). I used a child's apron as a template, again I only had pieces of fabric, so had to sew it in blocks. However, I think this works to its advantage. I used a piece of ribbon with a blue flower on it to cover up the seam and also use as the ties. I also put on a pocket, that I had appliqued my niece's initial on to. The straps round the head, I had to sew strips of fabric together, but I like that patchwork charm it gives it! I really am pleased how everything has turned out.

I am really pleased with my 3 items, and I know they are all going to get a lot of use and love!
Do click on the photos to see the fabrics, it's quite hard to see in these small pictures!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

New Patterns

Ok I shouldn't have, seeing as I still have a quilt to do and a few promised bags to make (for myself and others), a shirt and probably some other things that I have forgotten about! But when I saw this skirt pattern, I wanted it!
I came across this site today via Angry Chicken and then read this review, and well, I could not help myself. You see, my new machine can do buttons, so nicely, so it's rude not to give it a go. It's a little pricey, but the lady who runs the company, Colette Patterns, is starting out, so costs, I'm sure, are high.
I think a nice bright cotton for the summer, medium weight, and then possibly a heavier darker fabric for winter. Very exciting!
Colette Patterns ships to the UK as well!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Sewing Machine Joy!

I picked up my new machine last Thursday and took my time to read the manual before getting it out. It can certainly do a lot more than my old machine.

I first tried a few of the 225 stitches! I'm quite impressed with the range of those! Although it took me a few days to realise where the pictures were for those stitches were, they flip up at the front of the machine!

I was a little overwhelmed by all the different feet it has, and facilities, so I took a few days before I started a project.

The first thing I did was repair a pair of jeans, that needed hemming, as they were too long and had frayed at the bottom. First I used the over edging stitch, to stop any fraying and then hemmed them using a 3 line stitch, it all looked very good. I have another pair I also need to do.

Then I got out my Emmeline apron, that has been pushed to one side, as I ignored it. (Oh the embarrassment, I started this last June!) I started to redo what I had ripped out and pretty much finished it off, I just need to do some hand stitching tonight and a good iron, then it's ready for used in the kitchen!

I then knew exactly how much fabric I had over from that project (I made a bit of an error when I bought it, so had to go back and get more!) And I started another smocked sundress for my niece. All I need to do is add the straps and hem the top and it's done. The new machine smocked it beautifully! I need a project for my younger niece, as I can't send one something without making something for the other. I think a small apron, for when she's helping in the kitchen!

Oh and the husband asked me to mend 2 pockets in his shorts (I patched them!)

I will start quilting my quilt tomorrow. As the baby will be born this week. My friend is 10 days over already!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Fabric On Demand

How cool is this: Fabric that you design, a company prints for you and you use!

This is clearly a way forward for many people, who want to cover all aspects of creativity. I am so tempted, but do not use Illustrator or Photoshop, so not sure I would be able to get design something that I liked.

The first site I ever heard of was Spoonflower.

Fabric on Demand is another site I have found.

I have a feeling I read about another company doing it, but can't seem to locate them!

If you look at Etsy, there's lots of people selling their lovely fabric designs.

Top Row, l-r: Miss Black Pepper, PBJandJ, Scarletfig

2nd Row Down, l-r: Scarletfig, Scarletfig, beeskneesindustries

3rd Row Down, l-r: heartsandlaserbeams, swankyswell, swankyswell

Bottom Row Down, l-r: littlecrows, littlecrows, littlecrows

This is yet another way to individualise your projects!

I'm printing here Kim from Spoonflower's comment, as it's so useful. Thank you Kim!

Hi, Claire! Kim from Spoonflower here. I just wanted to say that you don't have to use Illustrator or Photoshop to be able to design fabric. Julia Rothman did an awesome tutorial on design*sponge awhile back about how to create seamless repeats the old-fashioned way, with paper, scissors and drawing materials. It can be found here: Hope you and your readers find it helpful. Happy designing!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Useful Things

Every now and then I go onto the Lakeland site, which is full of useful kitchen and homeware accessories, and fill a cart with useful and extremely grown up things (but not very glamorous items) and then never actually buy them! (Because of the sheer cost, plus I can't believe I'm a real grown up!!!).

But a few weeks ago my husband and I had a trip to Chichester, just because, and there was a bricks and mortar Lakeland, so we went in. I have to admit, I was pretty pleased to see it.

Well before you could say, how much, we had in our very real basket:this very useful bakeware organiser (no more mess in my newly spring cleaned cupboards!) I may go and get another one!

Potato and onion bags, I think they help, my potatoes were not green and took longer to sprout, but I wanted them not to sprout at all, within a week!This fantastic pizza cutter, which my husband picked out, and by chance it's suitable for non stick pans (he didn't notice that).
And he also chose this squeegee, for our very large windows (floor to ceiling) and for our shower. We love this! It's like a toy!
Clearly when you're in an actual shop, you can't just ditch your ready filled basket and walk out, no you have to take it to the cashier's desk and pay! I'm now regretting that I didn't buy this useful stuff earlier!

Saturday, 2 May 2009


I have moaned about this for long enough on this blog, plus to my family, that I have gone and bought a new sewing machine.

I have a lovely sewing machine shop in Brighton, who gave me great service, so after a lot of looking up on the internet, comparing makes and models (it's not easy, is it?) I have gone for a Janome Model DC4100! It costs £470, which I thought offered good value for money for all the features you get with it. The main thing for me, is a reliable machine, that sews consistently well and has a variety of dress and quilt making functions.
I like the automatic buttonholes it does. You also don't have to use a pedal if you don't want to! It can elongate stitches and has a stitch memory. Plus an alphabet. And speed control.

The man said they have only had this model in the shop for 10 days, he went to get me his last machine, and he'd already sold it, so due to the Bank Holiday, I should get it either Wednesday or Thursday! The shop also have a free 2 year servicing service, I can take the machine in as often as I want, to get it cleaned up. He reckons every 6 months, unless I've done a big job and it needs a thorough clean! Then I can buy a servicing contract from them.

This is certainly going to move me on a bit in what I'm able to achieve, so I'm pretty excited!

Hopefully you won't hear me moaning about this machine!