Saturday, 31 December 2011

Small stitches

The house is quiet for a day before the next onslaught of festive visitors, so a chance to make some little things.

I love making my felt leaf brooches and have created several new ones, always enjoyable to play around with different colours and threads.

This morning I made some more elaborately beaded ones with little pearly buttons on the front and brooch bars on the back instead of pins.

I think a few more of these will be made when I get some more quiet time. Have a Happy New Year.

Friday, 30 December 2011

A Festive UFO

I have managed to snatch some time to sew over Christmas.

I've even finished a UFO.

A very soft,warm, cuddly UFO which I'm looking forward to snuggling under this evening: made using brushed cotton fabrics, hand stitched with gentle cotton shashiko threads, backed with a soft cotton weave fabric and warmly fleeced inside...perfect for a Winter's evening and it has been very pleasant hand sewing with such soft,warm materials.

I'm not alone in liking this quilt. Competition has been stiff for ownership. I've had to do the embroidery and quilting when someone isn't looking, threads waving about are just so very tempting.

I was determined to photograph this today, despite the cold,wet gloom to the point of twilight we've had all day long, so not the best of photos, but I wanted to mark the finishing of the quilt...but I was not alone...

see the big lump in the quilt? What can it be?

Whatever it is, it moves FAST....

what a surprise...Rita kitten cat.

Will I have the quilt to myself on the sofa this evening? I rather doubt it.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The latest inhabitant of the Christmas Sideboard of Cake

Some more cakey goodness and some festive decorations- Happy Christmas one and all!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Christmas Sideboard of Cake

The sideboard has a couple of new inhabitants, a Lemon Almond Drizzle cake and the little Velvet Christmas Cake. I don't get the chance to make lots of crazy cakes often, so I'm making the most of it. More to come before the 25th happens! Have to get back to my knitting now, only two pairs of gloves to go.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Welcome to the Gingerbread House

Creep through the trees past the snowman and come for

a tour of this year's Gingerbread House.

Baked yesterday morning,

decorated and stuck together in the evening,

then the chocolate button roof and the flake log pile were added this morning.

Now on display.

But on the jolly festive sideboard, where today it is rather dark and gloomy: rather than the unfestive ironing board near a window where there was enough light for photos!
One cake done and decorated, three more to go....

Monday, 19 December 2011

Starting the Christmas Bake-a-Thon

This evening I got started on the Christmas Bake-a-Thon. Lists have been made, decorations adorn the kitchen and make it sparkle,

cake baking and decorating accessories have been mustered

....let baking commence. The serious baking will happen tomorrow, this evening one of the most delicious smelling Christmas cooking events took place. Cranberry sauce making. Very simple to do, all you need are cranberries, orange zest and juice, cassis and sugar. The colour and smell are intoxicating.

The sauce starts off brilliant red, the berries go really shiny once they start to warm up and the contrast with the bright orange zest is startling.

As the berries cook and the juice comes out it bubbles up and makes a delicate pale pink foam around the shiny crimson berries. The sauce matures and darkens, when it is ready to pot up it has become a beautiful, rich claret red.

Into hot jars it goes- all but a couple of left over spoonfuls...oh the pleasure of 'cook's perks'- that little bit of left-over sauce and the scrapings from the pan. Sweet and sharp, a hint of orange, a deep after note of blackcurrant and wonderfully fruity bright cranberry flavour. Yum.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Felt leaves again.

These felt Oak Leaf brooches have proved popular and in between the Festive excitements I've been making a new batch of them. Available in my webshop and my folksy shop.
The weather has been so gloomy, working with colourful felts and threads and pretty beads has been a real tonic. I find doing blanket and chain stitch very relaxing. In the evenings I have been using a hand quilted quilt over my knees to keep cosy and the urge to start hand quilting again is very strong; I think that this afternoon, now the Christmas cards are all made and posted, I can justify the pleasure of getting some fabrics out, stroking them a bit and doing some planning before the light has completely gone. I have some squares already made that are crying out for a quilt.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Gingerbread House Planning Time

I am planning my Gingerbread House. Every year I wonder if I should bother with a gingerbread house, then I see them for sale in the shops- £75 in John Lewis for, admittedly, a large house- and I come over all " blimey, I could make a really nice one for way less than that" : I remember the heavenly scent of cooking gingerbread and the fun of making it- officially, the house making is happening next week, but the planning stage has started. My current hunt is for small 'flakes' to use as a log pile- it used to be easy to find packs of short flakes, the sort that enhance an every day ice cream cone and turn it into a luxurious '99', but for some reason this year they are proving elusive. As are BIG bags of Buttons. Big bags full of small bags of buttons are easy to get hold of, but it is so tedious emptying all those tiny bags. I find myself spending absurd amounts of time at this stage in the year staring at the price tags in supermarkets trying to work out the very cheapest way of purchasing large amounts of Buttons, big bags are not necessarily cheaper per 100g. Buttons make perfect roof tiles.This year, as they were on offer, I have purchased LARGE Buttons for the roof. Many decisions to be made:Should I attempt a chimney this year? Shall I put windows in and a chocolate finger door? If I make gingerbread trees, what design shall I use? Stacked stars or tree cut outs? I am looking forward to using my squeezy icing bottles and nozzles to decorate the house: after experimenting on my Hallow'een gingerbread I am feeling absurdly optimistic about my icing prowess, the icing bottles are described as being 'perfect for children to use'. I should be fine then.
I have recently acquired some rather wonderful additions for the House, a postbox, with Robin, to stand at the end of the garden path, made from gold-foil covered chocolate coins.

A sack of toys-possibly to go on the roof next to the chimney, assuming I'm brave enough to make and affix a chimney.

A major part of my festive excitement is getting out the little box of Gingerbread House bits and bobs.

Wire trees- just like the ones that my Mother had for the family Christmas Cake- one year the writing read "Merry Christ" as she ran out of space-never underestimate the importance of planning. The two small glittery Snowmen who live in the House, their snowman and their Christmas Tree.

I have a rule that things for the house must not be made of plastic, they need to be proper SOLID decorations, like the little plaster ones I recall from my childhood, and searching for new additions is fun.
This was my first effort, made a couple of years ago- apologies for the rubbish photo-the house isn't great and the decoration is minimal, but the two-tone gingerbread board it rests on I do think I will try again, leaving a space this time around to insert the coin pathway.

Gingerbread house making is addictive and can become an obsession, every Christmas in Stockholm there is a competition, run by the Architectural Museum, well worth browsing the entries for ideas. Awesome.
Once the house is planned, then we move on to the knotty problem of the Christmas Cake decorating...subtle or completely over the top? Delicate, icing paste floral realism or chunky, colourful bold designs...oh the pleasure of deciding whilst rooting through my festive cake decorating items.

Getting festive

Slowly but surely the house is getting festive.Sitting room and stairs first.I love it when the sun comes out and catches on all the glittery bits on the mantelpiece.No chance of that today- rain pouring down outside. If anyone knows where I put the fairy lights in my big tidy and sort out earlier this year, do tell.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Making it up as you go along

I've been busy making several of these 'kimono' cases to hold templates and rules for patchwork/sewing, this has been eating up lots of my time lately. I made the first one some years back, making it up as I went along. I did a class with my sewing friends that taught me how to do the kimono. So I had a kimono and nothing to use it for...I also had some lovely Japanese fabrics and various templates and rulers that needed somewhere to keep them tidy and carry them about, so I fashioned a 'tea house' for the kimono as the front of the case and then created the rest to hold my bits and bobs. Lately I've been having quite a bit of excitement as Lady Sew and Sew asked me to teach a class making the case, so I've been spending days and days working out instructions, refining the design, titivating and changing the kimono and making different versions of it. There is the world of difference between making something up as you go along and creating foolproof instructions for someone else to make it from scratch. I have lots of different kimonos now, some pretty disastrous, and I'm on version three of the case, which I think will be the final one:

I taught some brave ladies to make it the other week and will be teaching it again next year, which is very exciting, and there is one more to come... a fourth version and I must photograph every stage....more about that when the time comes.