Sunday, 14 September 2014

Le Challenge: Era - A Cross Stitched Christmas Heart

Look away now if you can't bear the thought of Christmassy things this early in the year! For this month's Le Challenge, I have stitched a Christmas stag design heart from a kit which I purchased back at Easter. The kit contained the pattern, the Aida, the thread (albeit not great quality), the stuffing (not enough) and the ribbon. It is such a long time since I cross stitched anything that it took me a while to fully get into it.

I added in the felt holly and a little red heart button which you may just be able to see at the top. Don't forget to have a look at all the other Le Challenge entries this month by clicking on the link below.

Le Challenge

Love Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Bake: Low Fat Carrot & Sultana Cake

Continuing from my spell in hospital in the Spring, I am left with some relatively minor health issues which require me to take steroids, possibly for the rest of my life. I am thrilled that they make me feel so much better and that without them, I couldn't survive, but unfortunately, they have really made me put on weight and I have never been heavier. So, I am for the first time ever, dieting and exercising on a regular basis, but I don't want to deny myself the occasional treat, so I checked out the Hairy Dieters (Bikers) book for this recipe.

Carrot & Sultana Cake - 10 slices, 239 calories per slice

3 Medium Carrots (I used just 2 small ones as that was all I had), grated
3 Eggs
100ml Sunflower oil
100g Demerara sugar
200g Self Raising flour
100g Sultanas
Zest of 1 orange (I didn't use this)
1tsp Ground cinnamon
Some grated nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp Baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 190C and grease and line a 23cm round cake tin.

2. Beat the eggs in a bowl, add in the sunflower oil and sugar and whisk until combined. Add to this, the grated carrot followed by the flour, sultanas, orange zest, spices and baking powder. Mix well and then pour into the tin.

3. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake feels springy to the touch and just shrinking back from the sides. Leave for 5 minutes to cool before turning out on a wire rack. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar.

Unfortunately, despite mine being springy to the touch and shrinking from the sides, it seems a little undercooked right in the centre, but I am going to enjoy it anyway. It's a really nice, but not too sweet cake.

Love Mrs Jones x

Monday, 8 September 2014

Starting a Winter's Lane 8 Point Star Block Quilt

At the end of August, I left work, and the kind ladies that I worked with bought me a fabulous layer cake of Winter's Lane by Kate & Birdie of Moda. I love this fabric line and last Christmas, I made a stocking out of some of the fabric. 

Source: Trixie Lixie

Rather than dive straight in, I have taken some time to work on a quilt design using the Quiltography app for ipad - this is brilliant because you can take photos of each of your fabrics, design your own block and see a mock up of the finished quilt. Then you can play around designing before cutting into your precious fabric. So, I made an 8 point star block using chevrons, squares and half square triangles.

To make the cutting out a whole lot easier, I used a chevron quilting die in my Sissix Big Shot- it is just a dream to use. Shame I didn't also have the right sized HST die, as I have had to cut all these by hand, but never mind!

Unfortunately, my first attempt at the first block failed because I didn't understand the whole Y seam issue, and so my squares also became HSTs, which meant I could use straight lines all the way without resorting needing to delve into the murky underworld of Y seams! The sewing is so ugly, I wouldn't even dare post it on here!

Then I struggled with the correct size of the HSTs because when you see it in 2D they all look like they fit together, but in real life, it just doesn't work - I had forgotten to take the seam allowances into account when working out the size. This meant a bit more liberal use of my seam ripper than I had planned for, but eventually it all clicked into place and this beautiful block was complete:

...and then I made another one, with no trouble or seam ripping necessary! So, I am going to continue with my blocks while I have a think about whether to also incorporate some sashing between the blocks and whether to keep them linear or stagger them across the quilt.

Today, I am linking up with Anything Goes Mondays over at Stitch by Stitch:

stitch by stitch

Mrs Jones x

Monday, 1 September 2014

Looking forward in September 2014

Wow, August went by in a flash, didn't it? For me, it was a whirlwind of holidays and a big build up to leaving work, with only a tiny bit of time for sewing (self drafted top and fabric strawberries, shown above). I didn't get anything done to my quilts in progress, but I hope to rectify that this month.

So, what have I got lined up for September?

I am determined to finish the chevron quilt that I started a few months ago, but first I need to figure out how the heck to sew a Y seam - any tips would be greatly appreciated! I need to get this one finished as I have been given a layer cake of the beautiful Winter's Lane by Katie & Birdie as part of my leaving gift from work, and I have already mapped out the quilt pattern on Quiltography (this is such a useful app). 

I have neglected my Folksy and Etsy shops this year and they are in desperate need of a refresh, and as I have time on my hands (when I am not applying for jobs) this is my big plan for September. 

For the whole of August, I have been without an oven as it needed a repair. Now it is fixed, and with a renewed interest in baking with the Great British Bake Off back on the screens, I am planning lots of lovely cakes. Albert has requested an Oreo Cake for his birthday on the 11th, have you tried an oreo cake recipe that you could recommend? I would love to hear from you if you have. 

I am linking up with Lily's Quilts Fresh Sewing Day - do pop on over there and have a look and see what everyone else got up to in August.

Fresh Sewing Day

Love Mrs Jones x

Monday, 18 August 2014

Craft: Fabric Strawberries

The Summer is nearly at an end - on the one hand, I feel that it has lasted forever, on the other I am just not ready for everything that Autumn signifies. Am I ready for Albert's GCSE results next Thursday and his impending move to college, or for the return of Fred to Year 8? At the end of this week, I am taking redundancy from a job which I have been in for just over twenty years. I feel like I am just about to take a step into the abyss. 

So, it's no wonder that I want to cling on to Summer a little longer - on to the last vestiges of what I know as safe and secure. My escapism is my craft and sewing, and I have been playing with fabric to make these cute strawberries.

Love Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

My French Holiday Journal 2014

Last week, I was in sunny France, staying in a gorgeous gite (for details, click here) in the Mayenne district. Here are some extracts from my travel journal:

Saturday 2nd August 2014
After an early arrival in France (6:45 am), we set off from Ouistreham on our journey to Laval, stopping at a wonderful town, Domfront, perched high on the crest of a hill. The approach to Domfront is very impressive with the medieval town dominating the landscape over the bocage

Our second stop was at Jublains which is a little village on the site of an old Roman town where you can wander around the remains of a fortress, amphitheatre, temple and baths. The museum is well worth a visit and has a great interactive display which my boys loved.

Sunday 3rd August 2014
Even though it wasn't a long drive to our gite yesterday, we decided to take it easy with a local day out to the town of Laval and some time chilling at home. The gite is in a wonderful location and the owners are so friendly. We have two sheep and two donkeys in the adjoining field as well as a small fishing lake. There is nothing nicer than lying on the deck with a glass of wine and watching the lizards darting around. It is rural bliss! 

Monday 4th August 2014
A long, tortuous journey to the Zoo de la Fleche, after following just about every tractor in the area, but it was worth even the €80 family entrance fee just to see the polar bear, the hippos and the white tigers! 

Tuesday 5th August 2014

We hired a Bateau Electrique at Chateau Gontier this morning, with strict instructions (en Francais) on which arches to steer the boat through. Nothing quite like messing about on the river and spotting potential holiday homes along the way!

Wednesday 6th August 2014
I somehow got roped into going on the High Ropes which were local to Laval, because my 16 year old didn't want to go on by himself!! But, as usual, I did enjoy it - although (luckily) there are no photos because my husband took my other son off to play football. It is always an exhilarating activity even though every muscle in my body ached for days after!

Thursday 7th August 2014
France is brilliant for Velo-Rail, which is like a cart which has been adapted to cycle on old railway lines. We went to our nearest one at St Loup de Gast which although is relatively short, has an amazing section over a viaduct. 

Friday 8th August 2014
Our final day in France, and we were looking forward to seeing some old friends in the afternoon who live in Holland but were holidaying nearby. We had a great tour of the local Chateau in Laval in the morning by a local guide for just €2 each.

Hope you are having a good summer too.

Love Mrs Jones x

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Sewn: Self Drafted Summer Top

I made a version of this top last year when I first started dressmaking, and it has been hidden in a drawer since then because it was basically unwearable. My stitching back then wasn't all that great and it looked awful. But I found it and love the fabric so much that I thought it deserved a second chance.

So, I adjusted the neckline, adding in a little pleat and button, and re-drafted the back neckline too as it was just wrong!

 I am loving this top with my jean shorts this summer - nice and cool.

Love Mrs Jones x