Crafty Update

Hello!

It’s been a very busy few months for me but I’ve still managed to fit some craft projects in. I’ve also been trying my hand at a new craft: crochet. For years, I just couldn’t get my head around how to crochet but I was inspired by watching my very talented colleagues crocheting beautiful blankets over lunch, then I saw a cute unicorn crochet kit in Simply Crochet magazine and decided to bite the bullet. After a few false starts, here’s the final result:

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She’s called Delilah and now has pride of place on my desk!

I then set my sights on a trying a simple baby blanket in a treble crochet stitch. I didn’t use a pattern – just did a chain of about 90 stitches and went from there. Although it’s a bit on the wonky side, I’m pretty chuffed with the results:

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I’ve even started another one…it makes me think of pigs in blankets but it will (hopefully) be too big to do this soon:

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I’ve not just been crocheting though! I have also indulged in some hand embroidery. Another colleague is getting married, so I found the perfect excuse to indulge in my favourite craft. After having a nose around on Pinterest for some inspiration, I worked out my design and got sewing…here’s the final result:

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I loved the initials carved into a tree concept (thanks Pinterest!) so I decided to make this basis for my design:

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As it’s a spring wedding it just had to be blossom! Plus I can use all sorts of blossom-related puns like “love in bloom” and “blooming lovely” 😉 The French knots took ages but it was so worth it  – I love the effect:

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I finished it off with some love birds on the swing:

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I’m pretty pleased with my recent projects, although I really wish I had more time and energy to craft. The pesky full-time job does make it difficult! 😉

Until next time x

Allons-y: my first ever quilt

Hello there!

I’ve officially become a quilter! I finally finished my first ever quilt although I broke most of the quilting rules so the Quilting Police might want to look away now…

I’ve been dreaming about making quilts for several years – in fact I’ve started several but never actually got further than a completed quilt top before now. Long story short, I decided to make my friend RE a quilt for her birthday as I’d promised to make her one at some point and couldn’t think of anything else to get her because was so close to Christmas – she’s one of these annoying people with a birthday in January 😉 I started looking for fabric and found this lovely fat quarter pack from Hobbycraft:

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As soon as I saw this fabric I knew it would be perfect for my friend: a bit whimsical, a bit geeky and a lot of fun. In a bid to keep things simple, I decided that the quilt top would simply be 5-inch squares and bought two bundles which would be enough to make the quilt top and binding. I decided to prewash all the fabric for the quilt so it wouldn’t shrink after I’d made it. If you’re going to do this, I recommend trimming the edges with pinking shears first to stop them fraying.

Keeping the stripe print back to use as binding. I cut the remaining fat quarters into 5-inch squares. If you get your cuts right, you should be able to get 12 5-inch squares out of one fat quarter with a few leftover pieces to add to your stash. If you mess up and only get 11 squares out of your first fat quarter, ending up with 119 instead of 120 because you are an idiot, you can simply reduce the size of your quilt to compensate for this. Nobody will ever know…unless you write about it on your public blog! 😉

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Once I’d cut out all my squares, I laid them out on my quilt wall (aka my sofabed) until I was happy with the design. I wanted a random design but my need for things to be just so meant that I didn’t want any squares of the same design to touch each other. This is the result complete with Christmassy pyjamas and socks…in Janaury:

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I then set about sewing my squares together in rows. I used a ¼ish seam (the distance from my needle to the edge of the foot was more-or-less ¼ inch).

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When sewing the rows together, I kept alternating the direction, i.e. sew down one row then turn it round and sew up the next. All the quilting pros say you need to do this to stop the quilt bowing and mine didn’t bow so it must have worked! It was then time to make the quilt sandwich. For the backing I used half of a flat polycotton sheet from Dunelm Mill. Instead of using traditional wadding I decided to use a brushed cotton sheet – it was a lot cheaper and doesn’t need to be quilted as much. I bought a huge king size one which is enough for a few quilts of this size. Here’s my rather wonky quilt sandwich:

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I used safety pins to hold the sandwich together while I quilted it, I probably should have used more but I was getting bored and wanted to get on with the quilt.

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I opted for “stitch in the ditch” quilting which is where you quilt along the seam lines. I just quilted along the horizontal seams because my vertical ones didn’t always match up and unlike wadding, I didn’t need to quilt the sheet as much – just enough to keep everything together.

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I started in the middle and worked my way out to keep my quilting as even as possible. It was starting to look a lot more like a quilt now. I then trimmed the excess backing and wadding to the same size as the quilt top.

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The only things left to make were the binding and the label. I used some of the border from the flat brushed cotton sheet to make the label:

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I then folded it in half, right sides together and sewed the sides up.

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I then trimmed the seam allowance, turned it right-side out and pressed it.

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I left the bottom edge raw because I attached it under the binding. Speaking of binding, this was the final step in the process. I started by cutting the remaining fat quarters into 2.5-inch strips. I think I ended up with 18 in total.

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I then sewed the strips together in a long line – I just used straight seams because I didn’t want to mess up the stripes but you should really use bias seams to spread out the bulk then ironed the binding in half.

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I then forgot to take photos until after I’d finished the binding! It took me a couple of attempts to get the binding right and it was still quite wonky in places! If you’ve never made binding before I would definitely recommend this binding tutorial and this machine binding tutorial.

Here’s some of the finished binding:

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With the binding finished, my quilt was done! Here’s the final result – complete with fabulous Christmas bear socks 😉

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Here are a few close-ups:

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Despite its wonkiness, I’m really pleased with the final result and my friend loved it too. I also can’t wait to move onto my next quilting project! Stay tuned 😉

 

 

 

 

 

More Embroidered Travel Wallets

A few weeks before heading to New York on holiday, I decided that it would be an excellent idea to embroider travel wallets for myself and my friend RE, who came to NYC with me, resulting in some frantic sewing on my part 😉 I wasn’t 100% happy with the wallets I bought from Amazon so I decided to shop around. I found these wallets on Ebay for just under £10 each. According the label they are genuine leather and they were definitely much easier to sew (using sharp needle helped too!) The seam down the centre did cause some issues when thinking of designs because it split the front into two sections. I decided to keep the stitches simpler this time, using only backstitches and running stitches but I think the results are still very effective. Unfortunately the wallets were a bit fiddly to open and close but still useful for keeping all our important documents and loose change together! 🙂

For RE’s wallet, I decided to do something involving outer space because she’s a big fan of programmes like Doctor Who and is always up for an adventure. Obviously this is an artistic impression of Earth and a rocket 😉

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Choosing what to stitch for myself was really hard! In the end I decided the most fitting thing would be a snail, which I’ve been doodling on cards etc. for over a decade and it’s sort of become my trademark.

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The travel wallets definitely enjoyed their trip to the Big Apple and I expect they’ll be going on many more adventures in the future!

Embroidered Travel Wallets

I love embroidery because it gives me the freedom to be as creative as I want…plus it’s an excuse to watch loads of rubbish telly while I sew 😉

When my good friends KG and LJ said they were going on holiday to Venice, I wanted to make them something for it especially since it was LJ’s first ever holiday outside of the UK. I decided to make them each a personalised travel wallet which would tick both the pretty and practical boxes. I found these black fake leather wallets for £6 each on Amazon:

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Not bad for the price! I also love that they are lockable too. I decided to use green for KG’s wallet as that’s her favourite colour and coral/orange/yellow for LJ because they’re all colours she likes to wear.

It took me a while to decide on a design – it had to be simple and not take too long to stitch because I only had about 2 weeks before their holiday! Eventually I decided an aeroplane would work best so I looked online for a picture of a vintage-style plane to use which took ages because I’m so fussy 😉 When I finally found a plane I liked, I resized it in Word, printed it off, cut it out and traced it onto the wallets:

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Stitching was easier said than done because there was a layer of cardboard in between the fabric. It also didn’t help that I didn’t have a sharp enough needle. Typically I found all the sharp needles after I finished! I started off by backstitching the outline:

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I wanted the wallets to be versions of a theme to add some more individuality to them, so I started by having the planes face in different directions, I also stitched different patterns inside the planes. I did a cross stitch pattern for KG and a chevron-style pattern for LJ:

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I wanted to add a third layer of colour to the design, so I looped a lighter shade of green across KG’s wallet and added a smaller yellow chevron onto LJ’s one:

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To finish the design, I used a running stitch to create pale blue vapour trails:

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Before I show you the final designs, I thought you might want to see what the back of the stitching looked like. The layer of cardboard meant that the majority of the stitching was between that and the top layer of fabric. This meant that I didn’t need to cover the inside to hide the stitching because there were only a few knots:

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Here are the final designs:

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Despite the blurry photos, I’m really chuffed with the results. Both KG and LJ were thrilled when I gave them the wallets – hopefully they found them really useful too! I now wish I had my own personalised one rather than the one I bought a few years ago, so I suppose that’ll be my next project 😉

Triple Chocolate Biscuits

Does anyone else scribble recipes down on scrap bits of paper (receipts, envelopes, post-its…) or is it just me? 😉

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This recipe is based on a recipe from a German Dr Oetker cookery book my uni friend had and was originally just a vanilla biscuit mix but I decided it needed chocolate. Lots of chocolate! Sometimes I add chocolate chips, sometimes I add cinnamon, sometimes I leave both out but drizzle melted chocolate and crushed smarties on top. It’s a good base recipe that can be adapted depending on your mood/whatever you have in the cupboard. You can also throw all the ingredients in a food processor together or use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or just use your hands! I’ve made versions of this recipe for Messy Mornings a few times and they’re always popular with the kids (and grownups!)

For this version you will need:

  • 6oz self-raising flour
  • 2oz sugar
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • vanilla extract
  • 4oz soft unsalted butter
  • milk and white chocolate chips (about 4oz of each or 100g bag of each)

Ignoring the photo above, preheat your oven to 170°C (fan oven) and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Then put the vanilla and butter in a bowl:

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Then add the sugar:

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Then sift the flour and cocoa powder:

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It should then look something like this:

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Then get your (clean) hands in and get mixing! It’s much easier to do this if you’re not trying to take photos with your other hand:

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Then add the chocolate chips:

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Once everything is all mixed in, your dough should look something like this:

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Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to chill for half an hour or so. You could also leave it to chill overnight but you’ll need to take it out the fridge a good half an hour before you attempt to roll it out/shape it because it’ll be too solid:

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Then roll it out into balls, I made 16 good-sized biscuits:

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Use the heel of your hand to squash them out a bit:

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Bake for about 10 minutes – or longer if you want a crunchier biscuit! If you decide to roll the dough out and use biscuit cutters, the biscuits will probably be much smaller and should be baked at 160°C for 10-12 minutes.

You finished biscuit should look something like this:

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The biscuits should stay fresh for a few days if you store them in an airtight container.

I love the ‘homemade’ look these biscuits have. You might recognise this photo from my instagram page!

Although I’m more of a cake person than a biscuit person, I really love these. Do you have any favourite biscuit recipes? Comment below and let me know 🙂

 

 

 

 

Yoghurt Cake Variation

I’m taking a break from the Sewing Bee Sewalong for a while to focus on some more pressing craft projects. I’ve been doing a bit more baking recently because I was helping out with Messy Mornings. I didn’t have a huge amount of time to bake so decided to make a yoghurt cake for the first day. I decided to play around with this raspberry and chocolate yoghurt cake recipe. I decided to use jam rather than fresh raspberries, as I already had it to hand.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 small pot of vanilla yoghurt
  • 1 pot of vegetable oil
  • 2 pots of caster sugar
  • 3 pots of self-raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • vanilla extract
  • A few tablespoons of raspberry jam
  • 200g (7 oz) milk chocolate chips

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I started off making the cake the same way as I did in my original post. I preheated the oven to 180° C (fan oven), then greased and lined a 13ish x 9ish inch baking tray. I then mixed the yoghurt, oil, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and flour until they looked like this:

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I then folded the chocolate chips into the mixture. It’s easier to use a spatula or spoon for this:

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I then poured the mixture into the tin. Then it was time to get jammy. I found that the jam is a bit more manageable if you give it a good stir first to make it runny. I then dropped blobs of jam onto the mixture, like so:

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I then used a cocktail stick to swirl the jam around. The effect is really pretty:

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I then baked it for 20 minutes, until it was golden brown:

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I then left it to cool in the tin slightly before putting in on a baking tray to cool completely before cutting it into pieces. I might have rushed this bit because it was late and I wanted to get a photos for the blog. Here’s the final result:

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While I love the swirly effect of the jam, I definitely preferred using fresh raspberries. In fact I realised that I’m not that keen on jam, it’s just a bit too sickly for me…unless it’s on a scone with lots of clotted cream 😉

Having said that, my mum said she liked the jam version as much as the original. The children at Messy Mornings gobbled the cake up very quickly, so I guess they didn’t have any complaints either!

 

 

Sewing Bee Alteration Challenge Sewalong: Week 4

So I’m a little behind with this! I was really excited for Week 4 and getting to work with a sari. Finding a  used sari that I really liked and was within my budget was a bit of a challenge but I eventually found one on Ebay for £12.98 (including P&P).P1060499

The sari is a plain dark green Georgette. I would have preferred a patterned one but sadly I couldn’t find any I liked that were cheap enough to justify cutting them up! I did really love the gold border, here’s a close-up:

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Now it was just a case of deciding what to make. In the end I decided to make a kimono style cardigan. It is actually very easy to make. I cut out the piece of sari I wanted to use, folded it in half and cut it into a T shape:

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I then sewed up each side – that’s right, this make only has two seams! Then I turned it right side out and cut an opening on the top layer of the kimono:

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I decided to use binding for the opening, rather than hem it as I wanted to bring some of the colour from the border into the main garment:

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I then hemmed the bottom and sewed the border on. This was tricky because once the border was cut, it would fray like mad!

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All I had to do now was hem the sleeves and it was done. Here’s the finished product:

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Unfortunately the border pulls the rest of the kimono out of shape when I wear it because it’s much heavier than the Georgette. I enjoyed making it though and hope to try my hand at making kimonos again in the future! 🙂

Jess xx