Saturday, 29 October 2011

Where's Wally Costume (part two)

I bet you've been on tenterhooks since the last thrilling instalment... so here is the Where's Wally costume in all its glory! Things were all going well on Thursday night, I had been in a knitting frenzy and had nearly finished the hat at my craft night round a mate's house.  I was also looking forward to a very rare child-free day on Friday with my husband; my parents were visiting and were booked in to look after the children.

But then I woke up at 5am yesterday feeling as sick as a dog, and not because of a wild party either.  So instead yesterday was spent horizontal in a darkened room with a bucket by the bed. I am so rarely ill that it was a bit of shock.

Luckily my lovely mum finished off the hat, I'd already done the bulk of it and had started the decreases, and The Boy and his dad had made an excellent pom-pom. The walking stick is also husband's work, made out of the cardboard tube from the inside of wrapping paper and LOTS of parcel tape (the man is a genius). Add in an old pair of specs with the lenses removed and the outfit is complete.

Felt much more human this morning so had time to tack up the sleeves of the t-shirt, but this project really has been a family effort. And considering that the hat was a bit of a guestimate, the sizing is just right (phew).

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Where's Wally Costume

My children have been invited to a birthday party - it's fancy dress... It's also Halloween on Monday and while I am not quite convinced about the whole Trick or Treating thing, my five year old is desperately keen to go out. The Toddler is a bit of a diva and will probably refuse to wear anything apart from maybe a bit of face-paint, so I'm focussing my energies on the child that will most appreciate it.

So he would like to be Wally, from the Where's Wally books (I believe he is Waldo in the US). I am secretly pleased about this as the costume would also come in handy for World Book Day.  I have been scouring shops for a red/white striped t-shirt but no joy, and then today most serendipitously I happened to be talking about fancy dress with a friend over coffee. It so happened that she had a suitable t-shirt in a bag of stuff to go the charity shop - perfect!  It's a woman's long sleeve top so is a little big, but I'll tack up the sleeves and put a few stitches at the neck. The Boy has a new pair of jeans and from the illustrations Wally appears to be wearing blue trousers so I think we're sorted there.

Which leaves us with the hat... I've never knitted a hat before so it's a new one for me. I did think about knitting it in the round but I don't really have the right size needles. The yarn is some specially purchased 100% acrylic from the local cheapy shop, wasn't keen to use some of my lovely yarn stash for this project!

So the heat is on, can I produce a creditable Where's Wally bobble hat before Saturday afternoon? Tune in next time to find out...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Toddler Art Critic

This weekend we have been up in Liverpool visiting family. Today featured a trip into town where we visited the new Museum of Liverpool and then moved on to the Tate.

DS enjoyed the 'Little Liverpool' gallery at the Museum, which is designed for the under-sixes, lots of hands-on exhibits (including plenty of water!). In search of lunch we wandered round the Albert Dock to the Tate and popped into their cafe. Despite the shocking news that they had run out of fish and chips, the whole party ate well and suitably refreshed decided to do the decent thing and have a look at some Art.

Now... I remember visiting art galleries and museums before having children. It used to be an experience that consisted of gentle wandering, spending time in contemplation. This is no longer the case. Today I spent quite some time pretending to be a bird, crouching down behind exhibits on instruction from the Toddler "because it's not a good place mummy, we gotta hide". One thing she did like was Dali's Lobster Telephone, which elicited the critical response of "funny".

Sadly I couldn't persuade the group that we needed to get a haberdashery fix at the local branch of Abakhan, so we went to the newly-opened Lego store instead. Maybe next time...

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Patchwork Christmas Stocking

This is a prototype patchwork Christmas stocking that I made last night. I had some bits of festive fabric left over from making bunting last year and just did up a simple patchwork with squares. I made myself a stocking shape template out of stiff card so that I can make more of these.

The stocking is lined with an unbleached calico - I thought that I could embroider a name on the strip at the top to personalise it. The back of the stocking is more of the tartan fabric as I had a larger piece of this one.

The patchwork is a little wonky in places, but this just adds to the handmade charm (keep saying it enough and it might be true!).

I went down to the really inappropriately named Nylon Shop today - they sell loads of fabric, it's a complete Aladdin's cave type place, cluttered but lovely. And it's within 15 minutes walk of my house.  Much of what they sell is not nylon, so why the name I don't know... I found some more of the red/green tartan plus a small green/gold holly print and a red cotton with snowflakes and baubles.  I am however very much coveting the one of the Scandi-style Christmas bundles from Fabric Rehab.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Christmas Cake

If you only bake one thing for Christmas, it should be a Proper Christmas Cake - unless you don't like fruitcake in which case you are let off, but hey, I say make one anyway and give it to someone who does... But I digress, I thought I would share the recipe that we use in this house. I wish I could say that it is an old family recipe but the truth is that it's one I found on the interweb about 10 years ago.

Even if the recipe isn't that old, Christmas Cake is definitely one of our family traditions, with everyone in the house getting a stir and a wish. There is also the element of delayed gratification, as a rich fruitcake like this is best made a couple of months before Christmas.

You will need:

225g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
200g butter
200g dark brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp marmalade
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
4 eggs, lightly beaten
800g mixed dried fruits (usually sultanas, raisins and currants)
100g mixed peel
150g glace cherries, halved
100g blanched almonds, chopped
Brandy (optional)

Also a 7 inch square tin (or 8 inch round) and preheated oven at about 150 degrees

How to make:

  1. Weigh out your mixed fruit, peel and cherries. To make the cake lovely and moist, soak the fruit overnight in lashings of brandy (this bit is optional if you're not into booze in cakes)
  2. Grease and double-line your tin with baking parchment
  3. Sieve flour, salt and spices into a bowl
  4. In another large bowl (I once made this in a clean washing up bowl as I didn't have a mixing bowl big enough) cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs to the creamed fat/sugar a bit at a time, with a spoonful of flour with each dollop of egg.
  6. Mix in the rest of the flour thoroughly, add a bit of vanilla essence at the same time
  7. Now time to add the fruit, tip it all in and mix well until all combined
  8. Pour the mix into your prepared tin and smooth into corners
  9. Put in the oven and cook for up to 3 hrs, time will depend on your oven. I find it helps to put a sheet of baking parchment on top of the cake to stop it browning too much.
  10. Swear and realise that you forgot to include the almonds but decide that it doesn't matter too much as who likes nuts in Christmas Cake anyway?...
Store in an airtight tin and forget about it until Christmas Eve when you suddenly remember that you need to decorate it.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Fabric Stash

At the moment I am trying to be good and to use up my growing fabric stash. This little zip-up purse is made from a cotton print from Fabric Rehab. If you've not visited their site before, they have a great range of retro-style and quirky prints - lots of Japanese and Scandi stuff.

And although I'm trying to be good, I'm telling myself that because I have a couple of Christmas Fairs coming up, I have the perfect excuse to add to my stash! So purely in the interests of research I have been drooling over investigating fabric shops.

I'm lucky to have a branch of Fabricland just a bus-ride away. Their website is pretty terrible (in fact I'd say that someone in 1992 probably wants it back!) but the staff in the Bristol store are always really helpful. They have an amazing range of stuff and are very reasonably priced. I nearly always manage to pick up something cool from their remnant bin too, always worth a rummage....

Through Twitter I discovered The Fabric Loft, I haven't ordered from here yet, but OMW (oh my word) some of those prints are cool... some really lovely retro florals and generally tempting bundles. Decisions, decisions!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Best Flapjack in the World (probably)

I was never that bothered about flapjack, too many times I'd had something that was just too sweet and greasy, then I tried making it in school and must have over-baked it as it just welded itself to the tin.

But then I was introduced to this recipe by a friend of a friend and I am converted. I have tried it with several different combinations, but the version I made the other day was particularly tasty...

You will need a largish tin as this makes quite a lot. I have a traybake tin from Lakeland which is about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Line with baking parchment and preheat oven to 160 (fan) or 180 (conventional)


125g of butter/margarine
100g of golden syrup
150g of brown sugar
50g honey
350g oats
250g of 'other stuff' e.g. fruit, seeds, nuts (for my latest batch I added 100g of mixed seeds, 100g of raisins and 50g of dessicated coconut)

Making it:

Dead easy!  After weighing everything out, melt the fat, sugar, syrup and honey over a low heat in a large pan. Then stir in the oats and your 'other stuff', make sure you mix it thoroughly. Put the mix into the tin and push down firmly.  Cook for 15-20 mins.

Leave it to cool in the tin.  When it's completely cool, remove from the tin and use a sharp knife to cut it up into squares/triangles or whichever shape you like.


p.s. I have a friend who is a flapjack purist and thinks that adding 'other stuff' to flapjack is a desecration.You decide...

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Demonic Pincushion

This little birdie pincushion was one of the unfinished projects I uncovered during The Great Tidy-Up.  All I had to do was finish stuffing him, sew the seam closed and give him some eyes. But the red sequins I used to make the eyes, together with the particularly wonky angle of his head, conspired to give him a demonic look. The pins jabbed viciously into his chest don't help I s'pose...

Still, he is at least complete, and that was the aim of the exercise. He was supposed to be a prototype robin (for Christmas decoration purposes) but I think I need to fiddle with the pattern to make the shape more robin-like.

Next stop on the Finishing Things list are some embroidered bookmarks that need a ribbon backing to cover up all the messy threads. Although I have to ask myself, who uses bookmarks these days? I am the daughter of an antiquarian bookseller and do love old books, but I'm not sentimental about bog-standard paper backs and mostly read fiction on my Kindle these days.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Good Housekeeping

So after all the rush of preparing stuff for stalls, as well as the whole back to school malarkey, things had got pretty messy in my house. To be fair, they are often pretty messy as I have good intentions but rarely the inclination to follow through. There's always something more exciting to do than housework...

But now things have quietened down a bit I've had time to tidy up my workroom (aka The Spare Room). In fact the hoover has been sighted in other areas of the house too, but I'm hoping the family won't get too used to it. Clearing up means more space for making and I also discovered a plethora of almost completed projects that I am determined to finish off. There's a couple of tapestry pieces that just need framing or making into cushions, and a bag that I started (and blogged about) some time ago.

I'm looking forward to meeting up with my craft group tomorrow night (I'm hosting) so might take the chance to do a bit of finishing. And a new project that's been buzzing round my head is some plans for 12 Days of Christmas Bunting. I've started making some sketches and I think it's going to be a bit of a labour of love.

The other exciting thing is that madebytamsin is now in the blog directory at UK Craft Blog, home to all sorts of interesting and useful articles about all things crafty - and how to blog about them! Now I just have to work out how to add their button...