Tuesday 23 December 2014

Ready for Christmas

We have been very busy working towards Christmas this year with 27 over 12s, plus 3 children and 3 babies coming.   We have 4 family members from Australia  who are visiting the UK which is very exciting.

The trees have been up for a while in the house and barn and the pile of pressies is growing larger as everyone keeps adding to it.  The turkey is stuffed and ready, and in Bijans boot as the fridge is nearly bursting.  I always cook mine on Christmas Eve as there is too much else to cook on Christmas Day with catering for so many. We always have a peeling party on Christmas Eve which is fun.  We prepare the mountain of vegetables and eat and drink some special food.   Many hands make light work as they say.

The table in the barn is nearly ready.  We will all be seated which is quite a challenge with our large number.  All the table needs is some glasses and some more chairs.

 I also finished my cake today.  I was inspired by a lovely Pinterest post by Diana Rose. I just love Pinterest!

Thank you to everyone who has visited my Blog in the past year.  I hope you all have an enjoyable, healthy and happy Christmas and that 2015 brings nothing but good things.

Friday 19 December 2014

Maple Cardigan - part one

As soon as I saw this Rowan knitting pattern by Marie Wallin I knew that I had to try and make it.  As I taught my self to knit my technique is not brilliant but I have been knitting for over 35 years now and so I decided to give it a try. I changed some of the colours from rust and blue to pink and blue which suit me better and the yarn is Rowans Felted Tweed which is a merino, wool and alpaca blend.

  I started knitting the cardigan in August and it was very slow going.  The rib knitted up quite nicely but then I found I could only knit a few rows at a time as it was hard work keeping all the wools from tangling.  I took the unused wools across the back catching them every few stitches.  I finally knitted most of the back and then my aunt Gila from France who was visiting us at the time, showed me how to catch the wools every time.  I had a little try and felt that this technique produced a better finish.

To the horror of my friends who had seen me battle on for weeks with the cardigan, I unpicked the whole lot!  I am now trying to knit with this new technique and find it slightly faster, or maybe I am just getting better at untangling wools! Here is the first pattern section finished.

The knitting is quite firm and less stretchy.  My goal is to finish the back by the new year.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

The Hexagon Bug - 3

To make the centre of the quilt larger I decided to make some small flowers to put all around the edge of my hexagons, with  single pink hexagons to fill in the spaces left.

I tried different coloured backgrounds on which to sew the centre of the quilt and settled on this dark grey. It is strange how quilts develop a life of their own and dictate what they need next.
Himani being a typical cat wanted to get in on the act, though after settling down for a good fuss is not sure about my I pad looking at her!

Friday 12 December 2014

The Hexagon Bug - 2

After making lots of hexagon flowers I decided it was time to start sewing some together.  I  laid some of them on the floor to plan how I would place them and decide if I needed to make any fillers. 

I sewed all the centre pieces together and then played around with some coloured hexagons to find the right colour combination for the next round. 

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Choo Choo Chai Cake

Here is another recipe from "The Clandestine Cake Club"  called the" Choo Choo Chai Cake" by Janet Currie which I had to try as it sounded very unusual . The first part of the recipe was straight forward and so I didn't photograph it but recorded the next stages so you can see the result.

Serves 8-10


200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
200ml soured cream
1tsp vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
2tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1tsp ground cloves
1tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp bicaronate of soda

Soaking Milk

200ml double cream
200ml sweetened condensed milk
100ml chai syrup(or 4 tbsp strong chai tea)


250ml whipping cream
1tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/   Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas mark 4.  Grease and line a 23cm round, loose bottomed cake tin.

2/    Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add two of the eggs and 1/2 of the sour cream, beating well to combine, then add the other two eggs and the remaining sour cream, then the vanilla.  I must add that mine curdled badly at this stage!

3/   In another bowl mix the flour, spices and the bicarbonate of soda and sift over the cake.  Fold in until combined.  I found that my mixture still looked curdled and so I put it back under the mixer and whisked it some more and  I ended up with a lovely light cake mixture. 

4/   Transfer the mixture to the tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  I actually found it took 1 hour and 20 minutes in my oven, though I turned my oven down a little to stop the top from burning.  Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

5/   Line the cake tin with cling film place the cake into it.  Prick the top all over with a tooth pick.

6/   Mix the cream, milk and chai syrup  into a jug or bowl and then pour all over the cake.  Cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or over night.

7/   Take the cake out of the tin and place onto a dish with a lip to collect any of the soaking liquid that has has not soaked in.  Whip up the cream with the icing sugar and spread over the top.  Lightly dust with some more cinnamon.

We loved the cake at home and our visitors also liked it. I will definately be making it again as a dessert served cold from the fridge. It has a very moist consistancy with a lovely spicy, creamy flavour. We were left with some half tins of the milks and some cream and so I made the most yummy creamy rice pudding which was an added treat!

Sunday 7 December 2014

The Hexagon Bug - 1

The first quilt I ever made was a hexagon quilt over papers 32 years ago.  The hexagons were quite large and I didn't have a clue what I was doing.  The quilt went together quite nicely and I tied it all over to keep the layers together.  Around the early eighties it was quite difficult to find a variety of nice cotton fabrics and so a lot of scraps were used along with anything else I could find.   I was quite disappointed with the finished quilt and I realised later it was because  there was not much contrast in the fabrics and I didn't know a thing then about design.

Over the years the quilt has mellowed and I have grown quite fond of it even though it is falling to pieces in places.  It has certainly been used and loved to death! The edge repair was made 30 years ago when it was left to close to Eric the hamsters cage and he took a large nibble!

As you can see I didn't have a clue about putting a quilt together.

In the last few years there has been a lot of interest in English patchwork techniques and some gorgeous examples have been made especially coming from Japan.  I have noticed  a larger amount of hexagon quilts at the Festival of Quilts and my friends have been making some lovely ones also.  The beautiful quilt below was made by my friend Jenny Manning.

With advice from Jenny I downloaded some ready made sheets of templates from the Internet to save me having to copy them all out.  I found this great website that had all different sizes so I downloaded one and made some photocopies, which I have just cut out as I needed them.

Another bit of advice that Jenny gave me was to just cut out squares of fabric.  this made things much quicker as the fabric could be cut with a rotary cutter.  The extra fabric on the back  could be removed at a later date or just left in.  By just just tacking the fabric on the back of each hexagon and not stitching through there is no need to remove any stitching later.

I went on a trip and took with me some of my Japanese taupe fabrics, and started to make some of these hexagon flowers not knowing where this was going to lead.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Christmas Decoration - part one - Tutorial

The Textart07 group challenge this year for our Christmas party exchange is a Christmas tree decoration.  This is my creation and how I made it.

 Note - You need to know how to free machine stitch to make this project.
You need to be able to drop the feed dogs of your sewing machine so that it can move inependently and have a free machine or darning foot.

pelmet vilene measuring 12 inches by 4 inches
2 pieces of bondaweb each measuring 12 inches by 4 inches
2 pieces of gold or silver fabric each measuring 12 inches by 4 inches
freezer paper or ordinary paper measuring 12 inches by 4 inches
gold or/and silver beads and sequins
I large bead or crystal to hang in the centre
gold or silver thin braid or cord for hanging
water soluble material ( I used Julliette)
 machine silver or gold thread
sewing kit
iron and ironing board
silicon paper or baking parchment to protect the decoration and your ironing board and iron
sewing machine

1/   Using the silicon or parchment paper to protect your ironing board, place one piece of the bondaweb paper to one side of the pelmet vilene with the paper side upwards.  Lay over some more parchment paper to protect your iron and without using steam, iron it on. When the vilene is cool, peel off the paper and lay the silver or gold fabric on top of it, right side upwards.  Again covering it with parchment paper iron the fabric to the vilene.  Repeat this process on the other side of the vilene so that it has been covered both sides with fabric.

2/   Out of the freezer or normal paper draw and cut out three rings with the inner hole being 1 3/8  inches in diameter and the outer ring measuring  3 6/8  inches in diameter.  If you are using freezer paper lightly iron them into one side of the vilene otherwise you can pin the rings in place.

Cut each ring out.

3/   Fold the water soluble material over trapping the the rings inside.  Pin the water soluble to hold it in place and then you can cut the rings apart for easier sewing.

4/   Thread up your sewing machine and prepare it for free machine stitching by dropping the feed dogs, changing the foot to a darning one and altering the tensions.  If you have never done this before you will need a short lesson on machine embroidery.

Starting in the centre, I sewed on and off of the edge of the ring making little tails out onto the water soluble material, and moving around the ring.  After I had finished the centre I sewed a wiggly line across the ring to the outer edge and repeated the process again. After that I sewed a running stitch on the water soluble material linking all of the tails to give them a little more support.

To finish the rings I stitched around them from the inner to the outside edges in wavy over lapping lines until the whole piece was sown together and decorated.

 5/   Carefully cut away any excess water soluble material.

6/   Soak in some warm water, agitating it every so often to help dislodge the water soluble film.  Run under a warm tap to make sure all the film has gone.

7/   Leave somewhere flat to dry.

 -Continued in Christmas Decoration -  part two - tutorial.

Christmas Decoration 2014 - part two - Tutorial

-Contination of the Christmas Decoration 2014.
8/  Sew as many beads and sequins as you like on one side of each ring.  You may wish to decorate both sides and that is fine but it just takes longer.

9/ Fold the rings in half to make a crease line at the top and bottom of each ring.  Lay all of the rings on top of each one, lining up the creases and with some double thread or on the sewing meachine sew them together, through all layers on the crease line .Cut off a length of gold or silver cord and loop it around the decoration refering to the photograph.  On the outer edge tie a knot with the cord to keep it in place.

10/   With some double thread sew a bead between each part of the decoration at the bottom moving around in a circle and sewing around again through all of the beads to provide extra strength to the decoration.  Repeat this at the  top of the decoration.  This helps to keep the decoration in shape.

11/   Sew a large bead or crystal in the hole of the decoration centre to add a little more interest.

You may need to press the decoration under a book overnight to help create its 3 D shape.

The same method could be used for other shapes.