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Ready Steady Craft – finished article

29 Sep

With Stitchy broken  luckily I had a non-sewing project up my sleeve. I have spent a lot of time pondering my Ready Steady Craft project for Emma. MANY hours have been spent on Pinterest in pursuit of this project!

So what did I make?

This:

IMG_2044became this:

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Photo frame peg board with initial. I have populated with Emma’s passions but thought she could add little photos if she wanted.

and this:

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Crating salver. Just a little platform for her to display her crafted wares upon. I had a couple of mini-disasters with the salver which means I am now properly unhappy with the finished item, but hey had fun doing it so that’s the main thing!

Here is what Emma made for me…
From this:

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To this:

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Can you believe how much stuff she managed to make from it!!

Here is the list:

  • embellished sunflower to go on the parcel shelf of my car
  • Tiger themed desk tidy
  • Frog Ornament (to link with husband!)
  • Pussy cat pin cushion
  • Photo frame with Emma and I’s initials and a photo of us together

I just love all of these things and think she is so talented.

We both agreed this was great fun and would do it again. Now we have done it once we both would select slightly different things but it was great fun. I think this may become a great fun holiday ‘thing’ we do!

Over to you:

  • Have you ever participated in a Crafting swap?
  • How have you fulfilled your creative needs when you’ve been without your sewing machine?
  • What would you have crafted?

Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Salty Caramel Cupcakes

13 Mar

I *promise* this is not becoming a food blog but I have to rave a little about this recipe for Salted Caramel cupcakes:

If they don’t look good enough already they have this little secret in the middle:

They took me absolutely hours to make, I even made the sauce from scratch.
But they are the best thing I have ever baked:

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in this one you can see that delicious caramel poking out the bottom… mmmmm:
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Over to you:

  • Have you ever tried salted caramel?
  • Do you consider ‘baking’ as part of your creativity?
  • Have you ever tried this recipe?!

Leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you!

Bacon Meats Cake

1 Mar

This is not going to become a food blog – mainly because I don’t do the cooking at home. The joys of being married to a Modern European Man means that he does all the cooking. I think he might actually do the cooking because he can’t lower himself to eat my British culinary exploits – but if he does think that he is savvy enough not to share those thoughts with me!

Since I’ve had this blog I have been sharing my exploits on linky parties which are invariably populated by North Americans and I have seen an awful lot of food creations linked up. One thing which has caught my eye has been Bacon Cupcakes. Now my initial reaction is probably the same as yours: “this is wrong” but people are absolutely *raving* about these things on the blogosphere. Just to put this in historical context, we British used to mix meat and sweet stuff in pies in the 1700s – our Christmas favourite Mince Pie began this way:

So a few weekends ago I gave this a go. Now just to be clear, these recipes are not for a kind of ‘breakfast muffin’ where you have a deliberately savoury item mixed with something sweet to give a little flavour twist. No, these are full on sweet treats to be eaten as a pudding or dessert. Hmm. Interesting notion. I browsed lots of recipes and plunked for this one:

I also was quite taken with the candied bacon on these ones:

So I decided to put the two together.

As I was making them Mr Frog kept popping in to look over my shoulder. One minute I was cooking bacon, the next I was whisking a cake batter. On each return he began to look a little more concerned; this is a man who culturally eats frogs’ legs and snails. I began to worry.

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Speaking of wrong, this is a photo of the frogs legs consumed at New Year at our friends house in France a few years ago – they were cooked before eating.

So, I’d cooked, candied, baked, whisked and was ready to assemble and… it still felt most strange.

Here is what they looked like:

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And the verdict:

They weren’t unpleasant, we certainly weren’t gagging after each bite. They were just, well, wrong. The bacon tasted nice but gave an utterly wrong texture to the cakes and the stuff on the top was just too conspiculously ‘meaty’ even with all that sugar. The icing on its own was lovely, but just too sweet for the cake. It is probably a blessing we didn’t enjoy them, the calories in those things must have been through the roof!

If you are ever considering something unusual and thinking – ‘well I like all the things that have gone in to it, I am sure I’ll like it’ – you might want to reflect on my experience here!

Over to you:

  • Have you had bacon cupcakes?
  • What strange food combinations have you tried?
  • Does this combination sound utterly wrong to you?!

Leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you!

Cat eats goat (kid you not)

7 Feb

Here is a summary:

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Horatio 1

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Goat nil

You may remember the post on this scarf:

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You know, the one I painstakingly and lovingly weaved from skeins of Dartmoor fleece at Craft 4 Crafters?

You may also remember that my fluffy cat Horatio is a ‘challenging’ animal (see, I’m a teacher, he isn’t “Bad”). I’ve regaled you with the tale about when he peed on my sewing machine. Well the little sod has struck again…

Picture me bleary eyed one morning on my way down to breakfast and I happen upon this:

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N.b these are recreation photographs as if I’d had the camera near at the time it may well have become a feline colonoscopy

And now look at the state of it!

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The aroma of the goat locks overcame him, and the die was cast. I put it down to jealousy, anything fluffier than him must go.

I think it is unfixable as I don’t have a peg loom to reweave it, hence me letting him have another go for the photos. Au revoir monsieur chevre; vive le chat touffu.

unbelievably, no animals were harmed in these events

Over to you:
Have your pets ever ruined one of your projects?
Do you know how I might fix this monstrosity!?
Any ideas what I can do to reuse 100g of beautiful ethical fleece?!

I’d love to hear from you!

Unlocking serger shopping

1 Feb

Last birthday, February 2012, after just six weeks of sewing I upgraded my sewing machine to the Janome DXL 603 and I simply love it. I bought it in person at The Sewing Studio in Redruth Cornwall but they also sell online. What a fantastic experience it was to go and try out all the great machines in the shop and whittle it down to the one which fitted me like a glove! The lady was so helpful and knowledgable; she showed me how to use every feature and foot. I brought it home and it was christened…

meet Stitchy:

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In the intervening year I have only had one issue with my sewing machine…

meet Horatio:

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He took the christening to another level – by PEEING on Stitchy! This led to the cat being deeply unpopular for at least a day (could you resist the little swine!?) and the inside seizing up (machine, not cat). I phoned the Sewing Studio and as I had to travel the hour and a half from Plymouth and could only come at the weekend they made me an early morning Saturday appointment. Then, get this, as it was a quick fix they didn’t even charge me! I mean, what service!?

So when my family offered to club together for my birthday this year so I could have an overlocker / serger there was only one place I would visit. Two weekends ago my lovely husband took me down to test drive some models and learn all about these machines.

Upon arrival we were assisted by Darius who I *think* is the owner, he is at least the engineer. He showed me three different machines:

Entry level:

Milford Sound in New Zealand

Janome 9300DX £259

Pros:
Good entry level machine
Colour coded thread guides
Instructional DVD
Comes pre-threaded
Personal one: would match Stitchy beautifully!

Cons:
More complicated on the threading than other machines
Can only do three or four thread stitches
No integrated waste basket

Mid range:

Milford Sound in New Zealand

Pros:
Top of range Janome
Can do two thread stitches
Easy threading of lower loopers with a clicky thingy
Colour coded threading
Simple rolled hem conversion
Cool accessories box which fits in to waste basket
Instruction DVD – they have it on their website too

Cons:
No needle threader
Personal one: I don’t like the grey as much as I do the red!

Top of the range:

Milford Sound in New Zealand

Juki 734DE

This bad boy looked amazing and apparently is a Bernina in all but name – they come from the same factory – but it was out of my price range so I didn’t dwell too much in case I fell in love!

Test driving

I decided to try out the mid-range Janome. Darius showed me the basic operation of an overlocker – in short you start the machine going and THEN start sewing to get a thread chain – and then he let me loose.

First reaction? These beasts are fast! Wow! You can tangibly feel the increased power and speed from a sewing machine!
I played with it for a while with Darius demonstrating the features and then asked him to change it to three thread, two thread and finally rolled hem. He was quite happy to do all he could to answer my questions and demonstrate anything I asked. It was great to try everything and he was so knowledgeable.

The shop has a lovely cafe inside with the holy trinity: muffins, magazines and material – who could ask for more!? After a lovely cuppa we went back to where I had been playing with the overlocker and I began playing with it on my own while the shop assistants were serving other customers. Call me silly, I am, but this is when I started falling in love with Her. Darius kept talking about the machine like it was, well, a machine! Hey,he is an engineer to him that’s what it is. But to me, it needs to be so much more. It was this time I spent alone with it, playing with it, accidentally breaking the threads (and turning it in to a nest!) that made me feel this was my new baby. Bless him, Darius had the patience of a saint, rethreaded it and answered all my questions when he came over.We had a great experience and everyone was so helpful.

Reflection
I came home to research my shortlisted machine. There were hardly any reviews, which felt strange as the design of the machine wasn’t particularly modern. After a little digging and I quickly found this machine used to be called the 634D which had lots of good reviews. Particularly as a mid-range model, it means I can begin as well as grow on this baby.

So I put in my request to the birthday fairy for the Janome 6234XL – they were on sale until today so I hope he bought it in time!

Have you got a serger or overlocker? Do you like to ‘fall in love’ with machines, or are you more interested in sepcifications? I’d love to hear from you!

I wanted to say I am not affiliated to The Sewing Studio – just impressed!

Fleecy scarf on a peg loom

26 Jan

A while ago Miss P wrote a post about why it’s worth buying good yarn. Well this weekend I indulged in a new craft which meant me using the softest ethically raised goat’s fleece from local supplier Newmoor Barn based in the stunning Tamar Valley and I have to say – it was totally fantastic!

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Sorry I can’t link photos – this photo is from the Newmoor Barn website linked above. You can see their blog here

I was visiting a craft exhibition in Exeter called Craft for Crafters and it was a great day out. My crafting buddy, Emma, and I decided we would try and do a couple of workshops and this post is about the afternoon workshop, in fact the last of the show, run by a company named Westcountry Creative – it was called ‘scarf on a peg loom’.

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I have never done ANYTHING like this before and I have to say I was pretty sceptical as to whether I would enjoy the process. In summary it was fabulous fun! The teaching was great – I’m sorry I can’t remember the name of the instructor – and she made it very achievable for everyone. The main focus of the session was to be creative and enjoy immersing ourselves in the wonderful natural materials. I mean, the woman hand rears the Angorra goats – you don’t get much more authentic than that! Although the fleece has been washed and dyed it still has an earthy rustic quality which is just marvellous to experience. With the instructor nattering away about her love of her goats in the background you really feel a connection to the natural fibre.

If that weren’t impressive enough the whole thing – materials, tuition, everything cost a measly £6 – less than the retail cost of the fleece on their stand and website. My only criticism would be the length of the workshop – one hour wasn’t enough time and I had to rush to get it finished even though we stayed an extra twenty minutes. In fairness to the instructor she said she would stay longer but the show was finishing so we felt the need to hurry.

So here is an overview of the process we went through to make the scarf:

To start with we had a three peg loom – you’ll need to either buy one or they could probably be made pretty easily at home if you have a propensity to handyness.

We then decided the length of our scarf and cut three lengths of wool double that length and threaded them through the ‘pegs’ on our loom. Then we tied the ends of the wool together (of the six threads knot 2 to 3 and 4 to 5 then tie 1 just below the 2/3 knot and 6 Just below the 4/5 knot). This wool matrix would form the structure of our scarf.

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Then it got really fun! I got to choose two skeins of the delicious fleece which, quite frankly, was the hardest thing about it!

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I chose a glorious turquoise and a more natural silvery grey. In addition to this she had some little goat ‘locks’ which were so genunely rustic they still had straw on them! Sorry, ignore the red colorway in this photo – I took the photo then changed my mind!

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Once you’ve chosen your colours you tie the first bit of the fleece on then begin weaving and twisting around the pegs, pushing down each time. You join the fleeces by ‘feathering’ the ends then twisting together. Sorry to go on, but the texture of this stuff is simply awesome and shredding it in to usable streaks was a treat each and every time. I tried a little extra by twisting a pink variegated yarn through the dark fleece every now and again as well as the goat locks of spoke of earlier.

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Once your pegs are ‘full’ you simply pull up the first peg, push the weave on to the yarn matrix and put it back in the hole. You do that for all three, then start again – so easy!

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Before you know it, a scarf if forming! Just keep going!

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Here is Emma’s scarf coming together too:

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(Notice her nails match her scarf!)

Once you’re done – I used two full skeins of 50g fleece – you redistribute the weave evenly along the lenth of your wool skeleton until you are happy with it.

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Finally, you simply tie up the wool ends in the same way you did at the start – et voila! Finished scarf!

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(Yes, I’m wearing that homemade top again! I do have other clothes I promise!)

This was a really fun technique to learn and we had a great time at the workshop. I don’t know whether I would want to own my own peg loom and make lots of these as they feel more like special one off items. It may be that if I did one of the full day workshops I would see more uses for the craft and be happy to get more in to it. I would definitely do the workshop again though if I had the chance and would recommend the craft to others.

And to finish here is my cat look enquiringly at this new goaty beast amongst my other craft fair purchases!

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Have you ever used a peg loom? Have you done any crafts with these delicious natural fleece products? Do you know any other uses for this craft? I’d love to hear from you!

I’ve linked up with:

sew can do linky party
market yourself monday