Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts Show 2014

On Friday, I popped along to the Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show down at Westpoint, Exeter. It was a crafter's paradise, with stalls selling almost every conceivable item on your crafting wishlist. I went along with a firm budget in my head - you know how easy it is to get carried along by needing this bit of fabric or that die for your Sissix machine! And, I am proud to say that my purchases were very restrained and I kept totally within budget!

I bought the acrylic teardrop pendants from the Pinflair stand (although I can't locate the pendants on their website), which come apart and can be filled with sweets or decorated. I will be doing something Christmassy in them, but no real ideas yet!

The Christmas ribbons were from Crafty Ribbons, and there were some fabulous ones to choose from. They also had a great Advent Calendar kit.

I indulged in a purchase of just 1 metre of this gorgeous home dec weight fabric from Fabrics Galore. I have been lusting after some map fabric for ages, and I just had to have it! Again, I have no real idea what I am going to do with it - possibly some cushions, although I am also thinking it would make an awesome lampshade!

There were so many other stands, but a few really stood out for me: the Michael Powell Art stand sold amazing cross stitch kits in a variety of sizes, and all very original; the Storage 4 Crafts display was awesome - if money was no object (ha!) I could have bought one of their amazing foldaway craft units; and the Bexton Cheese (slightly incongruous to a hobby show) was delicious (I may have tried quite a few flavours...)!

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Autumn: 5 Recipes for using up a Glut of Cooking Apples

I am very fortunate in that my Dad has an orchard full of apple trees. This was created by my Grandad who planted an apple tree for each grandchild. We are all now in our 30s and 40s, and the apple trees are beautiful gnarled mature trees, and we are lucky enough to get some of this bounty each year. Here are some ideas if you are faced with a similar glut.

1. Chutney
Use your slow cooker to rustle up a Tomato, apple and garlic chutney which will also help you use up the last of any tomato glut (including any green ones) you may have lurking about.

2. Mincemeat
Get ahead for Christmas by making a batch of mincemeat now. It tastes delicious and you can also use it in a baked apple!

3. Baked Apples
This is such an old fashioned dessert, but is so easy to make, especially in a slow cooker. Here is my slow cooker Baked Apples version. To cook them in a conventional oven, bake in an ovenproof dish for around 30 minutes at 200C, or until soft.

4. Apple and Blackberry Crumble
You seriously can't go through Autumn without have a crumble! Whether you go solo with the apples, or add in blackberries, plums or pears, is up to you, but for me the classic combination of slightly tart apples with perfumed blackberries is a marriage made in (autumnal) heaven!

To feed a family of four, you will need:

3 Bramley apples (or other cooking apples)
A couple of handfuls of blackberries, washed well

Peel, core and roughly chop the apples and add to a pan with the washed whole blackberries. Add granulated sugar to taste and heat gently until the apples have started to soften. Take off the heat and decant into an ovenproof dish.

300g Plain flour
175g Demerara sugar
200g Butter

Put the crumble ingredients into a food processor and combine. Pour over your apple and blackberry mixture and pop in the oven at 180C for 40 minutes. Serve with cream, ice-cream or custard.

5. Bramley and Blackberry Traybake
This is a dessert/cake recipe which will feed a crowd. I made it as a cake, but would have easily had enough to serve as a dessert with cream or custard for a family of six, plus a slice each for elevenses the following day. The recipe is a BBC Good Food one, which you can find here.

Happy eating!
Love Mrs Jones x

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Bake: Chocolate Oreo Sponge Cake

Two weeks have gone by since my eldest's birthday, and I am only now getting round to sharing his Oreo cake with you! September is going at a crazy pace! After many suggestions from friends on Facebook on what I might base the Oreo cake on, I decided on making an old favourite, a chocolate sponge, with an Oreo cream centre. 

Can you see where one of my boys has swiped a bit of buttercream?!

Oreo Sponge Cake
175g margarine
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
145g self raising flour
30g cocoa powder
1 packet of Oreos
Buttercream (ready made or make yourself according to the recipe on the icing sugar packet).
Chocolate spread

1. Preheat the oven to 190C and grease and base line two 18cm round sandwich tins.

2. Beat the margarine and sugar together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs, beating well after each one.

4. Sieve and fold in the flour and cocoa powder, a little at a time.

5. Spoon into your two tins and bake for 20 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

6. While this is cooling, you can make up the buttercream and prepare the Oreos by crushing them gently in a bowl with the heel of a rolling pin or similar. You want a mix of crumbs and larger chunks. I used half a box of snack Oreos for this - you may want to use some of the others for decoration. Mix the Oreos into the buttercream.

7. Spread a thick layer of chocolate spread onto one of the sponges.

8. Spread the buttercream/Oreo mix on the other sponge and sandwich together.

9. Complete with candles, more Oreos and an iced message.

I did toy with the idea of putting another layer of buttercream on the top, but even though I have a thoroughly sweet tooth, I thought it might be a bit overkill!! Obviously, the birthday boy got the whole Oreo on top!

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Home: Sew a Peg Bag Tutorial

To make this:

You will need:
  • Newspaper
  • Approximately 1 metre of oilcloth fabric
  • A plastic coat hanger
  • Approximately 1 metre of bias binding
  • Sewing machine, thread, pins, tape measure, etc.

1. Place your coat hanger on the newspaper and trace round from the neck (where the hook is) out to the widest part is (the shoulders). Allow a little extra (1 cm) as a seam allowance. Then using a tape measure, draw a line straight down from the widest point for 35 centimetres. Do this both sides and finally draw a horizontal line to complete the pattern piece. Cut this out and use it as a template on your fabric. Cut two pieces, taking care if you have a directional print.

2. Cut a rectangle measuring the width of your template by 25 cm, again, ensuring that any directional prints are the right way up! This is your pocket  piece.

3. Cut one length of bias binding to fit the top uppermost edge of this piece and press in half with an iron. Place this over the top of the pocket, so that the binding straddles the edge and pin in place. Sew in place with a straight or zigzag stitch.

4. Line the pocket up to the bottom edge of one of the larger pieces of cut fabric from step 1, with wrong sides together. Place your other piece on top so that the right sides are together, and your pocket is sandwiched in the middle. Pin carefully (your pin marks may show). Sew with a straight stitch from the neck down on both sides, incorporating the sides of the pocket. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the sewing to lock the stitches in place.

5. Clip out a few notches on the shoulders, without compromising the stitching, before turning right sides out. Press into shape with your fingers (or you can use a warm iron if you protect the oilcloth with a thick tea towel). Push your clothes hanger up through the bottom and into place. It should fit snugly.

6. Measure another length of bias binding, just a little larger than the width of the bag. Iron in half as you did for step 3, but also iron in the raw ends. Pin to the base of the bag and finally stitch into place.

7. Fill with pegs! Enjoy washing days!

I am linking up with Stitch by Stitch today for Anything Goes Mondays!
stitch by stitch

Love Mrs Jones x

Monday, 15 September 2014

Patchwork: 8 Point Star Block Tutorial

Earlier this week, I showed you my first blocks for my Winter's Lane Quilt. If you want to have a go at making an 8 point star block, here is an easy tutorial. The basis for all my measurements stem from the chevron Big Shot die that I used which is 5 x 2 1/2 inches. Although, I am a metric girl at heart, I have had to work this out in imperial (sorry).

You will need:
8 Chevrons in your feature fabrics 5 x 2 1/2 inches - 4 must be right facing and 4 left facing.
8 Half Square triangles in white made from 3 1/4 inch squares, sliced diagonally
8 Half Square triangles in white made from 5 1/2 inch squares, sliced diagonally

1. Lay out the pieces in your block until you are happy with the layout.

2. Pin the smaller HSTs right sides together to the outer ends of the chevrons, as shown. Ensure that the overlap on the HST is even on both sides.

3. Chain stitch all eight of these at once, leaving a little thread between each one for separation.

4. Press the seam up towards the chevron piece with your iron. Repeat with the remaining seven pieces.

5. Then, place each pair of feature fabric pieces right sides together, matching all the points and pin then sew down the centre. Open out the centre seam and press on either side with your iron. Repeat until you have four pieces like this:

6. Either side of each piece you have just sewn, pin a large HST, lining the edge up with the outer straight edge of the existing piece. Sew, then snip off the additional triangle in line with the seam allowance. Repeat for the other side and you will end up with a much larger triangle (a quarter of your finished block). Press the seams towards the feature fabric. Repeat until you have four large triangles:

7. Taking two of the adjacent triangles, place them right sides together and pin. Sew down one side. Open the centre seam and press. Repeat for the other two triangles so again you have two large triangles (half the block).

8. Placing the two large triangles together, pin down the long side, taking care to match up the centre first, then sew. Again open the seam and press. Ta da!

If you have any questions, or think I haven't explained it very well, don't be afraid to ask!

Love Mrs Jones x

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