Strawberry Pickings

 

Only a month off schedule (!), the strawberry blouse is finished! I actually finished it late last night but couldn’t be bothered to model it for photos then so I’ve done so this evening. Apologies – I was rained on earlier and so my hair’s a bit off and I have no make-up on as well as only about 2-3 hours sleep so if I look like I might collapse with tiredness it’s because I might.

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As usual, I took photos into my bedroom mirror so it looks like spotty fabric rather than white with tiny red strawberries but there are some clearer photos of the fabric further down when I took it off.

I am so happy with the fit of this blouse! Having always been a little bit larger in the chest department but with a narrow waist, normal shoulders and larger than average upper arms, blouses never fit correctly.  The closest I came was a wrap-around blouse from H&M (below) because I could make it fit with the waist tie! 525772_10151214491549922_1852978537_n
However, it was a little low cut for day-to-day wear! So learning to make blouses and shirts is a great skill to have. I also find a lot of blouses fall a little short which means it’s hard not to flash a bit of skin from time to time.

The main part that appealed to me with this pattern was the collar as I like the Peter Pan collar look. However, perhaps this one is slightly too large to be a Peter Pan? I’m not sure but it doesn’t really matter. The collar sits flat so I’m happy! 😉

I’m proud of this project because it’s neat inside as well as out. I used French seams throughout, level hems, and I even unpicked some stitches that weren’t in a straight enough line to re-do them!

 

It was such a delight to work with cotton again! Such a steady, easy to work with fabric compared to jersey or chiffon. I used tailor tacks for the first time to mark the darts and it helped to ensure the darts are symmetrical.

The buttons were metal casings which I covered in a thick red fabric I already had so that they contrast with the fabric a little and break up the pattern of numerous strawberries.

I wasn’t originally going to follow the sleeve pattern as they are rather ‘puffy’ but I kind of started without thinking and then quite enjoyed the assembly process! It reminded me of those flatpack kits you can make up into document boxes – ‘flap A folds in for flaps B and C to tuck in and hold flap D down‘, etc. Ironically, the first sleeve I made was the better of the two in both construction and fit so there is something to this beginner’s luck malarky! I was going to use red fabric buttons for the sleeves but I opted for pressers in the end as the sleeves would likely have been too tight with buttons – and I only had six 11mm buttons!

List of ‘firsts’ for this project: (Quite a few!)

  1. First blouse
  2. First time putting in darts of any kind
  3. First collared item
  4. First machine-made button holes (lovely and simple compared to hand sewing them!)
  5. First time I’ve covered buttons (very fiddly but worth it to have ones in the right colour!)
  6. First time using tailor’s tacks

Pattern: New Look 6732 (E)
Fabric: 45″ wide Sprig Strawberry Print Polycotton Dress Fabric at £2.55 per metre from The Craft Cotton on Amazon.co.uk

 

 

Al Cappuccino

Having made a batch of lemon drizzle cake earlier in the week, I wanted to try out a new recipe so I settled on Mary Berry’s Cappuccino Cake, as shown below.

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I mainly chose it because I already had all the necessary ingredients in the house (or so I thought). As it turned out I had less than half the amount of butter I needed so I also used some sunflower oil, thinking how well this had worked in the Death By Chocolate Cake recipe. Following the advice of various online bakers, I didn’t use 60g of oil for the 60g of butter I was missing – I used more like 40g. The cakes rose well and are very spongey so I think I got away with it – phew! By the way – totally worth writing the size of your baking tins on the bottom with a Sharpie. Prevents the need to hunt for a tape measure when you forget whether you own a 20cm one or not. 🙂

Whilst trying to make the icing earlier I discovered that single cream doesn’t thicken, no matter how much you whisk it!! Oops. Off to the shops I went to get some double cream instead… and £17 worth of other groceries in the process! I can never simply go to the shop for one or two things it seems.

So, double cream suitably whipped up, I added the coffee and sprinkled (hmmmm…) cocoa powder over the top as per the instructions. I’m not sure about you but I fine it really hard to ‘lightly dust’ the top of a cake with cocoa powder or icing sugar – I always get splots of dense ‘dusting’ so it ends up looking a bit heavy-handed. Oh well. All goes down the same way, I suppose.

Here are the obligatory photos so you know I’m not lying:

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I over whipped the cream – oops. I got a little bit side-tracked as I was also making pea and mint soup (had to use up the opened whipped-but-not-whipped single cream somehow) and a roast dinner – one meat and one veggie – at the same time.

In other news, how cute is my bunny mug?!

Photo on 29-05-2016 at 21.27 #2

I’m sat outside in the dimming light as I write this. How I love summer nights. 🙂 And yes, I have wonky fingers. Thanks for noticing.

 

What Have I Been Missing?!

In exchange for the New Look 6732 pattern for my strawberry blouse, the kind sender asked if I could post her a copy of June 2016’s Burda Style magazine as she lives overseas and can’t buy it herself. I hadn’t heard of it before but tracked it down online from newstand.co.uk (incidentally I found out the company will send issues abroad as well so will be passing this note on!) and it arrived 24 hours later.img_6936

Wow! What have I been missing?! I love the patterns it contains and it’s much more ‘grown up’ than Love Sewing magazine which, although I like, contains patterns for non-clothing projects that don’t interest me.

I love the maxi on the cover… But then again, I love maxi dresses full stop! Closest I’ll ever get to being Elizabeth Bennett…! 😉 (Though, in all honesty, I’m more like Jane Eyre if I had to pick a heroine I connect with – but that’s besides the point.)

My kind pattern benefactor had told me I should read it and trace out any patterns I want before sending it on so I’ve selected a few to copy;

I’m going to need to buy more tracing paper!

Of course, I already have tons of patterns to be getting on with but I can’t pass up an opportunity like this. I’m tempted to cancel my Love Sewing subscription and subscribe to Burda Style instead. It’s a bit more pricey but I’ll get more use out of it if June’s issue is anything to go by.

It also contains a pattern for a men’s shirt which I might make for Karl, and some cute girls’ clothes which are just begging to be made for one of my nieces.

 

The fabrics used are lovely but I imagine they are also expensive!

Speaking of fabrics, I ‘won’ some Cloud 9 fabric on eBay last month which I might make shorts or a skirt from as it’s fairly stiff.

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And I may have just bought a metre of this discounted fabric… Oops! Not sure what I’ll use it for but because it’s a very small pattern I’ll probably pair it with a plain fabric as well so it’s not too overwhelming.

Anyway, back to the machine I go. I start a new job on Monday so I doubt I’ll get much time to sew next week. Ideally I’d like to finish the strawberry blouse this weekend but it will be the first time I put in button holes on a machine so I won’t be rushing it!

 

May Day

(Written on the early May Bank Holiday but forgot to post until now!)

After all my talk of sewing a complete blouse this weekend, I have achieved exactly zero percent of it! One reason was lack of time as I had lots of other things to distract me, and the second was I wanted to finish the collar on my second Kate dress before it was assigned to the ‘still waiting to finish’ pile forever. I think I’ve ruined it spectacularly now so it’s still not finished as it needs the collar completely unpicking and refashioning. And we all know how much fun unpicking stitches from jersey is…not!

I spent Saturday in the usual way – shopping, cleaning, etc. – and then yesterday we went to the Bluebell Walk in the morning, which I’ve blogged photos from here. The afternoon fled by in a mix of running (we bought a treadmill last weekend) and trying to sew that blasted collar on. Today has also sped by at an alarming pace so I’ve not sat down to the sewing machine at all today. I have, however, been busy in the kitchen.

On today’s menu I had blueberry muffins (into which I accidentally added almond essence instead of vanilla), double chocolate chip muffins, and a childhood favourite – Nanaimo bars!

I first made these delicious bite-size treats in my teens when my little sister and I would follow recipes from a baking book containing only chocolate delights. I naively thought it was a unique recipe designed especially for that book but I know now that they are enjoyed by many people the world over and in various forms. Because we were poor, making nanaimo bars was a real treat and I considered them to be an ‘expensive’ baking project. I think this was largely due to the fact that few of our recipes turned out edible (like the eggless cake that came out of the oven no higher than it went in) and therefore the cost of all that dark chocolate was dear.

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I realised too late that the tin I was using was too big for the amount of mixture so they were exceptionally thin bars! More like a Diam bar thickness than a caramel shortbread! Still tasted good and is the perfect excuse to make them again! 😉

The muffins didn’t turn out too great… I really struggle to make good ones. Anyone have a foolproof recipe they want to share?!


I used Mary Berry’s recipe for the blueberry ones and then a Good Food recipe for the chocolate chip.

In other news, I got waaaaaay too excited about using the label maker to organise my baking supplies!


And here’s a peek into how messy I am whilst baking… 


It takes almost as long to clean up as it does to bake! 

Catch Up

Hi all,

I’ve been a bit AWOL the last few weeks as I’ve been busy at work, trying to tie up loose ends before finishing on Friday. I now have a week off before I start my new job so I’ll be squeezing some crafting in amongst all the other things I have to do!

My old colleagues know me well as, for a leaving present, they chipped in for a Hobbycraft gift card. 🙂 There’s a sale on at the moment as well so I’m looking forward to stock piling some bits and pieces! I’d like to try making some candles and I’ll probably get some more Boodles yarn as I enjoyed working with it when I did the pouffe (which still needs finishing!).

My colleague Jen bought me this cute little needle felting kit, which I’ll be having a go at this week:


Apparently it’s very therapeutic as you have to stab the felt and the polystyrene ball! 🙂 Another colleague did a great set of three penguins, which looked adorable.

Love Sewing magazine came in the post yesterday and there’s a pattern for a shirt dress that id like to make. However, I already have goodness knows how many projects in the pipeline so it may be a while!!

Also, how cute are these pom-pom birds?!


I love them! The artist who made them has an Instagram page which shows off even more talent, including this family of swans:


I’m in love!! 😍 Whoever knew pom-poms were more than just beanie hat adornments?!

As well as myself leaving the team at work, a couple of other people are going on maternity leave so I was asked to bake a cake for them. I choose Mary Berry’s Death By Chocolate cake as I’ve made it twice before and it’s always gone down well. It turned out really well and was quickly devoured!

In terms of baking I also made some blueberry muffins, some triple chocolate ones and some naiomino bars. None of them turned out quite right and I didn’t take any photos. I really struggle to make good muffins – they always taste too rubbery – so if anyone has a fail safe recipe they use please let me know!! The naiomino bars were too thin (I’d tried to fill too large a tin) so they didn’t have that richness that they did when I made them as a kid. I will be making some more though so I’ll keep you posted.

Update:

Oops, I tell a lie – I did take some photos of the muffins and even started a blog post about it! Will publish it in a few minutes. 🙂

Blue Seas

In its 25th year, Karl and I decided to visit the annual May Day Bluebell Walk in Warwickshire. Hosted by a private estate for two days only, the entrance proceeds go to two good causes (Meningitis Now and Molly Olly’s Wishes) and, judging on the number of cars continuously streaming in through the gates, it raises a lot! We timed it about right as we arrived just after it opened at 10am and we left around half 12… just as the queue to get in stretched miles back!

I was looking forward to the event as I wanted the opportunity to get my camera out (and dust it off!) again. Here are some of the snaps I took:

 

 

And, possibly my favourite photo of the day; Superman amid the bluebells! I think he was just chilling out – I didn’t see any damsels in distress or likewise! 😉

 

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The Bluebell by Emily Bronte

The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.

There is a spell in purple heath
Too wildly, sadly dear;
The violet has a fragrant breath,
But fragrance will not cheer,

The trees are bare, the sun is cold,
And seldom, seldom seen;
The heavens have lost their zone of gold,
And earth her robe of green.

And ice upon the glancing stream
Has cast its sombre shade;
And distant hills and valleys seem
In frozen mist arrayed.

The Bluebell cannot charm me now,
The heath has lost its bloom;
The violets in the glen below,
They yield no sweet perfume.

But, though I mourn the sweet Bluebell,
‘Tis better far away;
I know how fast my tears would swell
To see it smile to-day.

For, oh! when chill the sunbeams fall
Adown that dreary sky,
And gild yon dank and darkened wall
With transient brilliancy;

How do I weep, how do I pine
For the time of flowers to come,
And turn me from that fading shine,
To mourn the fields of home!