Monday, 28 July 2014

New Nordic Mat

Hey fellow crafters!
Okay, I know that couple of posts back, I promised a flower key fob or something quite like it and I feel quite bad that I haven't made that yet - my mind has been taken off onto other tangents. But I do promise one day.....

Today it is all about hexies and new Nordic design (apologies to my Nordic readers...this is a red and white design with a kinda Nordic feel to it). This little mat is a handy thing to have around the house and it uses English Paper Piecing (EPP) which is a great method if you are out and about because it is very portable. 

I am not going to tell you how to make the hexies themselves, this post concentrates on using what you have already and I promise that all of my fabrics have come out of the famous scrap basket so I am still technically on track!

Firstly, go through your hexie stash...sorry, you don't have one yet?? 
A hexie stash is a must and it is just the ticket for keeping track of/storing scraps from your stash. To make one, get a small plastic box, some papers cut to size and dive into your stash. Make hexies in your chosen size (or several sizes) and then put them into the box. Occasionally, there is a need and the hexies will all be there waiting for you!
Some very organised people choose a flattish box and colour sort. I prefer the tumbled approach because sometimes colours rest next to each other and come up with new combinations that you might not have thought of yourself.

Anyway, put some hexies out onto your table and have a look at them...

See what I mean about the rough and tumble approach? But this time, I am thinking red and white. My hexies are all 1 1/4" at the moment but I have plans for other sizes.

Choose 16 hexies. Three of these will be cut in half. Here is what I fished out of the organised mess...

Now who would have thought that this was hiding in there! You see half the job is done already because the cutting of papers and the basting (tacking) of the hexies takes time. You do this sitting in front of the TV at night and then just put them into the box for later.

The next step is to sew them together. I favour a hand whip stitch from the back and keep those stitches small. 

When you look on the 'right side' the result is very neat this way.

Keep going like this and sew the pattern together using the third photo as a guide for placement. At the last moment (it is an exciting bit) cut the basting threads and remove the papers. Do this carefully and you can use them again.

Remove the threads and trim the edges of the block if you need to - sometimes the fabric doesn't 'behave' properly. your finished block should look similar to this now....

Press it to keep it flat. Cut a piece of  plain ecru fabric for backing and place the top and the backing fabric right sides together. Machine sew around the edge leaving a gap for turning out. Turn out and slip stitch the opening closed. Here is where we are at the moment....

And a view of the back...

As you can see, it is a bit yumpy looking. It is in need of some stabilising. This will be achieved in the next stage.

FAQ: So why plain backing? Plain backing is used to a) make the project a little cheaper and, more importantly, b) to really make the fabrics come alive. A plain, light background purifies the colours. Sometimes, a coloured back would make some of the more delicate fabrics muddy especially since we are not using wadding.

Outline quilt around each hexie. Now it will look like this.....

See how it is flatter and straighter? The problem with hexies is the bias angle. It stretches and there has to be a bias angle. this means that from one direction, the hexie is on the grain and easy to use and from another side, it moves and distorts.

The finished piece....

I do hope that you have enjoyed making this little mat. They are like money in the bank around the house! tTry appliqueing one to a felt base for a really luxe feel.
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Have Lemons.....

Hey fellow crafters! 
Well it is summer time and here in England we are really enjoying some heat. Honestly, I don't know how I managed in Australia for so long where we could have temperatures as high as 46 degrees!

Anyway, my point was not simply to say something about the weather! I want to show you how to make homemade lemonade which sparkles! 

You can make the still version if you prefer but I love the addition of the sparkling water to make it fizzy.

So what will we need? 
Lemons of course. You will need about five medium sized.
1/2 - 3/4 cup caster sugar depending on variety
Boiling water
Your choice of still or sparkling water
Ice, mint leaves and lemon slices

TIP: if you choose still water, aim for a good quality filtered one and for goodness sake, make it COLD! Don't go to all the trouble of making your own drink and then just fill the jug up from the tap.

Equipment needs are pretty standard too. Get a large bowl, a sharp knife, a chopping board, a fine sieve and a potato masher. 
To serve, a nice jug.

Sugar caveat - this recipe has sugar and you cannot make it without. This is not a problem but if you drink too much, you will put on weight. Save it for a special occasion and share it with friends.

It is worth mentioning that different varieties of lemons have different levels of sugar/acidity. For example, at one end of the scale, Meyers (small, thin skinned and quite orange coloured) are lower in acidity and higher in sugar and Lisbons are larger, lighter coloured and much more sour. Supermarket lemons in the UK seem to be a mixture of the two so the amount of sugar is right for this recipe. Adjust if you are using extremely different varieties.

Okay, so here goes....
Wash and dry the lemons and then slice them  about 1/2cm thick. Place them in the bowl. Put the sugar on top. Boil the kettle and pour a very small amount of water over the sugar.

TIP: you will only need enough water to dissolve the sugar. Too much and you will dilute the flavour too much. And NEVER be tempted to boil the mixture to concentrate the flavour. You will make lemon marmalade, not lemonade!

Now take the potato masher and squash the lemons until they have yielded all of that lovely flavour.

Because you have the pith on, the lemonade will be slightly bitter (like the really expensive bottled varieties) To control this, don't squash as much.

Next, strain the pulp through the fine sieve into a wide container, squashing as you go to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the lemon pulp.

Use the lemonade a little like lemon squash (cordial). You mix it to taste with water. Add some lemon slices/ice cubes/mint leaves to your liking and find a shady spot to enjoy!

Think about variations too. Add limes or try some fresh grated ginger. Consider freezing as popsicles but if you do this, make the mix a little more concentrated than for drinking.

Have a nice summer day and thanks for stopping by!

Sort of Mango Sorbet

This recipe is one of the biggest sneaks that I have ever set eyes on! It is a complete fraud as far as a sorbet goes – it doesn’t even have any added sugar in it. Everyone knows that sorbet is loaded with sugar so what’s this all about? 

Well, it goes like this, mango has a lot of lovely natural sugar and if you have chosen a really ripe specimen, you do not need to add more. But one tiny warning - don't ignore the sugar thinking that because it is natural that it is all good - sugar is still sugar and this still counts on your daily intake tally.

Sorbet has a pretty special texture and trust me, you will have it without the hefty calorie price tag. And it’s easy. Let me show you what I mean.

Makes: 6-8 servings
Takes: 10 minutes plus freezing time
Nutrition: The best taste in the world and no added sugar means that this is a better choice as a slimmer’s dessert. You can have a scoop of this and know that you are only eating whipped, frozen fruit. Try it for fibre rich children’s ice lollies too.

Gather These Supplies:
3 large ripe mangoes of any variety

Here’s How:
This recipe does require some forward planning but that is usually not a problem – I am actually only referring to five minutes before bed. Grab a flat tray with a bit of a lip or a shallow cake tin and put just enough water in it to cover the bottom. Lay a piece of baking paper over it and press down so that the surface tension of the water holds the paper in place. Put it into the freezer and keep it level. Now go to bed. The rest can wait until tomorrow.

When the water is frozen, take the flesh from 2 of the mangoes, dice it (that’s the easiest way) and put it in a single layer over the baking paper. Pop it back into the freezer and leave it until it is quite solid.

When it is frozen, blend it in a blender until it is chopped up then add the diced flesh of the remaining mango and blend until it is smooth and creamy (looking!). Scrape down the sides of the blender if you have to and it may need a little fluid in the form of orange juice or even strained passion fruit if it is too dry. This can be a seasonal variation and it is quite unpredictable.

Put it back into the freezer to almost solidify and then serve it in decorative bowls. It will be too hard to serve straight from the freezer. Always remove it to a room temperature spot like a bench top at the beginning of the meal, it needs about 20 minutes to soften to usable consistency.

Try an orange and mango version by proceeding as above but when you blend the frozen mango cubes, add a generous tablespoon orange zest and a 1/3 cup good quality unsweetened orange juice.

Remember, this is not a no sugar recipe. Fruit has sugar. But it has no added sugar so it is as good for you as it can be. Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by.