Saturday, 28 December 2013

Look What Santa Gave Me For Christmas!!

The Sizzix Big Shot Machine with a introductory set of dies no less. I seriously didn't think I would get this because my husband  Santa just didn't understand why I would want it. Obviously, the answer is to cut fabric for quilting along with the myriad of other things this baby can do. I have a big problem in deciding which quilting dies to purchase first! 

I think Sizzix themselves must have been under the influence of some illegal substance when they designed the new look for the Big Shot - it looks something a nine year old girl would want, rather than appealing to the crafting community. However, it's what's inside that counts. 

When I used it for the first time, I was really worried that  I had damaged the cutting plates as the one at the top has marks all over it. I have been reassured that this is what happens and it doesn't impair its performance at all. 

And so I have been playing with the dies that come with the machine:

...which together makes:

And I have made a start on my Thank You cards...

I can see a lot of cards being handmade this year and hopefully some fairly painless patchwork quilting. Do you have a particular die that you use all the time, or one that you wish to have? I would love to know more.

Love Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

It is a very exciting end of 2013 for me. Not only have I just had my birthday (20th), but I have also just passed my 20th year of working in Local Government, and I am also planning a big career change for 2014. 

For my birthday, I had some lovely presents - the Collete Sewing Handbook for one (I am eyeing up the licorice dress already!). I was also treated to a wonderful dinner cooked by my Dad and Stepmum. I spent the morning relaxing and watching one of my favourite films, When Harry Met Sally. 

To celebrate 20 years of work I was presented with a gift of my choice (iPad mini) which I am trying to get to grips with after years of Android devices! Currently loving messing about with Garage Band! Would love your suggestions for other apps you would recommend.

Finally, I am applying for a place on a PGCE course to start September 2014. It is a big step for me as I will be taking voluntary redundancy in order to do this - I don't qualify for any government funding so my redundancy will need to support me through the year of training. I have been spending some time in a primary school to ensure that I have some relevant experience before I start. A year ago I would never have dreamed of taking such a big leap but now that both my children are at secondary school I have had time to reassess what I want to do with my career. I just need to cross my fingers that I will be accepted onto the course! 

Merry Christmas to you all x
Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Le Challenge - Precious Christmas Table Protector

For this month's Le Challenge, the theme was Precious. I wanted to make something Christmassy and had an Aspen Frost charm pack put aside for this challenge. I love Christmas, and apart from making some stockings, I haven't really done much Christmas sewing. 

At Christmas, I like to keep my lovely oak table bare, as I really like the warm wood, but inevitably it gets cluttered up with lots of mismatched mats for putting serving dishes on, so I have created a square protector to sit in the centre. I have just used a 4 x 4 pattern, using all the colourways from the charm pack.

I added in the thickest wadding that I have in my stash and quilted it as best I could!

I am in love with this Katie & Birdie fabric on the back! This is going to look so much better than crazy placements on Christmas day.

Come and check out the other Le Challenge entries:

Le Challenge

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Day Eight: Christmas Baking

Not the traditional Christmas cake or pudding, but a selection of cakes that would be great for Christmas. This includes a little recap of cakes already posted and some new ones too!

For an alternative Christmas Cake, you may fancy making the Mincemeat and Marzipan loaf cake which I made earlier in the year. It is nice and light and uses up ingredients that you might have around at this time of year.

Signe Johansen's Mor Monsen recipe would also go down well at this time of year - just a tiny amount of dried fruit and a nice moist cake too.

I couldn't do Christmas without a Yule log, and I always make one for my son's birthday in December. It takes a long time to make it and my kitchen looks a mess when I have finished but it is a wonderful cake. Here is this year's log:

The icing was a mess - I seemed to take up cake crumbs as I was spreading it, but it really didn't matter - a sprinkling of "snow" and all is well. I always follow Nigella's recipe for this flourless yule log. See previous logs here and here. With the leftover icing (it is so good, you cannot throw it away), you can top some chocolate cupcakes, and add some dark chocolate flakes.

On the theme of cupcakes, I have also had a go at making some Bakewell Cupcakes, adding almond essence to a standard cupcake recipe. Once they are cooked, cut a hole in the top of the cupcake and add some raspberry jam, replace lid and add some flaked almonds and icing sugar.

And finally, how about making some chocolate truffles for you or as an edible present for someone else - 

Love Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Day Three: The Humble Mince Pie

Whether you like yours made in filo, shortcrust or puff pastry, the mince pie is an essential Christmas element. I vary how I make mine, and the mincemeat is sometimes homemade, more likely shop bought. 

You can add extra booze, a grating of marzipan or a little orange zest as you please,  and decorate how you wish.

This year I have made my traditional mince pies with star toppings and something new:

...a barquette mince pie with holly leaves. 

So, are you making some this year?

Love Mrs Jones x

Monday, 2 December 2013

Day Two: Snowflake

On a search for beautiful handmade snowflakes, I stumbled across a Swiss blog with the most amazing handmade creations, one of which was a Solino Star. The star or snowflake is made from just one strip of paper!

Follow the tutorial over on the linked blog at your peril - once you start, you just can't stop! If you can't cope with the tiniest of folds and cuts, this is not for you.

Notice my mistake?
You start off by drawing parallel lines horizontally and this is your guide for where you are going to cut. Then you fold the paper in half, again and again, and finally cut your pattern out. At this point, you can  join both ends together to make a crown. You could pop this around a candle or bottle of wine as a gift, or continue to make the snowflake by sewing around the bottom and gathering up.

These would look great hung at the window or as Christmas table decorations.

Mrs Jones x

PS: do pop over to the creator's blog as it is packed with other crafty tutorials!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Day One: Frosty Mornings and Advent Calendars

Skimmia with frost

It's the first day of December and I have ordered my turkey, bought all my presents and made my Christmas cards, and I was thinking to myself that I am not as organised as usual! I am loving the fact that we have started to get some frosty mornings - everything looks so nice with a sprinkling of frost, and it is so much nicer than a wet winter.

Every year, I decide that I will make an Advent Calendar, but I never seem to get past the thinking about it stage! Pinterest is full of images of amazing advent calendars from matchboxes to envelope trees and toilet roll tubes. This year, I am going to have a go at making a Barn Quilt Advent Calendar from Lily's Quilts. She will be posting up the barns each day to print, colour and add a treat. I will let you know how I get on! 

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Top Ten Craft Tips in the latest Craftseller Magazine

Are you a regular reader of Craftseller Magazine? I tend to pick one up now and again, but this time I notice it has had a bit of a style overhaul and it looks great! 

I have my eye on making the Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake and am definitely using the free Christmas craft paper in my Christmas cards. 

And what's more, on page 90, you will see me and my top ten craft tips!

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Sewn: Overlap Skirt 08/2013 #130 Burda Pattern Review

From Burda Magazine

Pattern Description
Wrap effect skirt with angled zip.

My usual shop size is an 8 or 10. My measurements suggest I am an 8 (34) for bust and hips, but a 12 (38) for waist. I went for a size 10 (36) though, because I wasn't sure how much ease the pattern allowed, but to make it fit I eventually had to bring in the side seams and increase the darts in the back.

Did it look like the photo
Yes, although the hem of the overlap portion is not in line with the overall hem, which I don't find a problem.

These were super condensed and I had trouble with the placement of the zip as I hadn't traced the placement line! 

I hate tracing off these ridiculous busy sheets, but it was a free pattern. I only had to use my seam ripper once! I really like the fact that the overlap isn't so small that you are at risk of show your all-and-sundries on a windy day. I had trouble finding the right sized separating zip, so had to use a larger one and sew down the excess tape, which doesn't look great, but is not visible when you are wearing it.
Nope, it doesn't show too much leg!

Fabric used
Navy blue 8 whale corduroy from Calico Lane. I love this cord - it is really lovely to wear, but unfortunately picks up all sorts of lint, odd thread, cat hairs etc. 

I omitted the back welt pockets and the side pockets as I didn't think they were necessary, oh and it might be because I have never put a pocket in yet! I didn't want my skirt to be frumpily too long, so only added a little for the hem allowance, so it sits just above the knee.

Sew it again?
There is only room for one overlap skirt in my wardrobe, so probably not. 

Love Mrs Jones x

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Le Challenge: Stripes - corduroy overlap skirt

Le Challenge

November's Le Challenge theme is Stripes. Luckily I had already planned to make a corduroy skirt which I thought would fit perfectly with the theme of stripes.

I can safely say that this was the most challenging bit of dressmaking I have ever done, particularly because the overlap is asymmetrical, and the placement line seemed a little odd.

Here is the model in Burda Magazine rocking the skirt, sweater, hat combo. Sorry to say that I will not be sporting my version in this euro-chic style.

I am not a fan of the trace it off patterns, and this one was particularly crazy.

Here is the finished skirt, badly ironed in haste to get this post done on time. I will do a full pattern review later in the week.

You can purchase the pattern here, from Burda direct.

Don't forget to check out the other Le Challenge entries through the link above.

Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Cookies for now, for Christmas, for life

My boys got the munchies today, in one of is those "there's nothing to eat" kind of mood. This is because any treat foods seem to get snaffled up two days after the weekly supermarket shop! I heard that teenage boys cost about £3000 to feed for a year, and I can believe it.

So, we whipped up these quick cookies, even though it meant raiding the two chocolate Smarties penguins which were meant to be stocking fillers, just so there was something in the cookie!

100g each of butter and brown sugar
150g self raising flour
Tablespoon of golden syrup
Topping of your choice, chocolate chips, cherries, nuts etc.

1. Beat the butter and sugar together, then add the golden syrup.

2. Add in the flour. Mix with your hands if easier until it becomes a dough.

3. Preheat the oven to 160 C for a fan oven.

4. Scoop a ball of dough and shape into a ball, place onto a baking sheet and scatter with your topping. You will get roughly 15 servings.

5. Don't press the dough down. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just golden.

I used silver balls on some of the cookies to make them look festive, and because there aren't many mini Smarties to a chocolate penguin!!

I'm not keen on the way that the vibrant colour of the sweets has just blanched when they come out of the oven. 

If you are feeling generous, you could bake some and give them away as a gift. They will only last 4-5 days though.

Love Mrs Jones x

This recipe is based on a BBC Good Food recipe which I am unable to locate online, but is in 101 Cakes & Bakes.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Paper: Holly Dymo Christmas Cards - yes really!

This weekend, I started on making my Christmas cards. It does seem early to do this, but I do need to make a fair few (am I the only one whose Christmas card list gets bigger every year)? I used to make my Christmas cards every year, but haven't done so for two or three years.

I like my Christmas cards to be simple, because, believe me, you will be cussing when you get to the last car if you make it too complicated. Complicated cards need to be start much earlier in the year!

I like to use a small card from Papermania that has a little texture to it. These are A6 and cost around £3 for 10 cards and envelopes.

I have a small stash of patterned papers, from which I chose two contrasting greens and a red card.

This sweet holly paper was left over from the Christmas crackers that I made in 2011! I paired it with a brighter green holly leaf.

Using a one hole punch, I got my lovely red berries.

Looking a bit more festive! Let me at the Dymo...

That's better! Simple is best... and this is all that was required:

Are you making or buying your Christmas cards this year?

Love Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

4 Fantastic Crafts to Make your Halloween go Boo!

A crafty round-up of some great Halloween makes.

Spooky Sock Skeleton from Martha Stewart: I love how a simple sports sock is transferred into an amazing Halloween decoration. Whatever you think about Martha Stewart, you cannot deny that her crafts aren't amazing.

Martha Stewart
There is nothing scary about this sweet litter of pumpkin kittens made from a variety of different sized pumpkins and some ribbon (although it would probably work just as well with some washi tape).

All You
These paper spiderwebs from E-elise etc. are a clever twist on the classic paper snowflake, and would be a great Halloween craft idea for children. These would look good sillhouetted against your windows or lining a tray of Halloween bakes. If you love Halloween, check out E-elise's Month of Scares over at her blog now!

e-elise etc.
How about this for a Haunted Village from Ann-Kay Home! In the dark with a torch or tea light placed behind it, you get a fabulously spooky village.

Ann-Kay Home
I hope this has whetted your appetite for some Halloween crafts. Feel free to add a link to your Halloween Crafts in the comments section.

Love Mrs Jones x