Monday, 25 August 2014

Tris' favourite classic choc chip cookies

Ever since my son, Tris was a little boy, he has loved these classic cookies. they were the most requested item when a friend was coming over and they all loved them too. I haven't made them in a while.....

Today is bank Holiday monday in England and the last one one before Christmas, it is right at the end of the hols and of course it is raining. So I am thinking about baking. At the moment, I am fueled by the wonderful atmosphere that is the Great British Bakeoff  here on television and it has encouraged the usual people to come out of the wood work. I love the show and never miss it. If you cannot get it where you are, look online. Very worth it.

But as usual, I digress! We are here to make cookies and here is a sneak peak....

Golden and yummy. Not all that healthy but I have a couple of solutions for that too, firstly, make the cookie dough and then freeze half (more about that in a bit) and secondly, make them for company. This means that you are not so likely to eat them all and the risk is spread out a bit.

So. What do we need?  Nothing special as it turns out!
Gather these supplies: To make 24 biscuits:
125g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
Good pinch sea salt
1 3/4 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
200g chocolate, roughly chopped
100g walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped

You will also need someone to supervise so that you don't eat the cookie dough while it is raw. My Cocker Spaniel Sally is my supervisor and looks on with disapproval if I even LOOK like I am going to cheat...

She sits on her chair away from the baking area and doesn't even blink. 

Okay, here is what we do...Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (moderate) and cut a piece of baking paper for your cookie tray. Then cream the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg and keep mixing. Stir in the flour and baking powder next and then add the salt, nuts and chocolate.

TIP: you will notice that I have said 'roughly chopped' for the nuts and chocolate. I like big pieces which do not get lost when they are cooked. But if you want smaller, chop the pieces more.

At some point, you will do better to get into the dough with your hands and mix really well. At this point, halve the dough and shape one half into a log. Wrap in clingfilm and put into the freezer. This means that when you want cookies again but you are a little pressed for time, just thaw and cut pieces off the end and bake. Voila! Cookies!

The remaining dough should be shaped into twelve even pieces and placed onto the prepared tray, allowing enough room for spreading.

Slightly flatten each cookie. Cool for about 10 minutes. Watch them too. The more they cook, the harder they will be when cold and you don't want them to go beyond the golden stage. If you are new to biscuit baking, be aware that they will be soft and feel uncooked while they are still hot. It is only after they are completely cooled that they will reach maximum hardness.

Cool them on a wire rack and then plate up to share!

I don't know how long they will keep for. Here is what they look like after ten minutes....

I forgot that it was school hols and Tris was home......the dog didn't do too much to stop him either leading me to suspect a plot....

Looks like someone with a secret!

Well thank you so much for stopping by. I do hope that you enjoy these. They are super easy to make and it is worth doubling the recipe and then freezing three logs for later.

Hugs and kisses

Friday, 22 August 2014

Craft market favourite - fabric tissue holder

Hi crafting friends!

I am in that scrap basket again today although regrettably not to fulfil my promise to make floral key fobs! One day I promise. My mind is all over the place and there are so (sew) many possibilities.

I woke up at 3.00am this morning and my mind was going crazy with ideas. That was not all that welcome but I managed to single out an idea for you which made sense (at the time) and I thought that you would find it useful. It is a scrappy make again and it is bright and breezy. Here it is.....

What do you think? Well let's see how it is done. First choose your fabric. I have found two reasonable pieces and they go nicely together so all good. This pattern is based on an average size of personal tissue packet (the sort where you get ten in a pack) that is for sale in Britain. I would think that other areas of the world are okay too - I can speak personally for Germany and Australia.

You will need two pieces of fabric - one for the outer which measures 14cm x 15cm and one for the lining which measures 17cm x 15cm. 

With the right sides together, sew the side seams. You will notice a bulge as the lining is larger than the outer. Don't worry, this is normal and the extra bit will form the trim on the front when it is flattened out.

See what I mean?  Now turn the casing the right way out and flatten so that you have a little bit of lining visible on each side.

Fiddle about a bit until the two trims on each side are dead even. By the way, the best way to do a job like this is to slightly damp the fabric with a fine mister. It makes the fabric behave differently and is easier to handle.
Next, bring the two outside pieces to the centre...

You might be wondering why the cover is so long at this point. It is because we are going to French Seam and we need the extra. Don't panic though, French Seaming is easy!
Sew across each end (and make sure that the cover is the right way out as shown).

Now fold it inside out and sew along the edges again, trapping the raw edge inside the new seam. That is what French Seaming is all about. It is used on very light fabrics and in situations where you will see the back of the project and you neither want to line it or see the raw edges. I am using it here because I don't want raw edges inside my tissue cover. 

TIP: when you sew the first seam (outside) don't make it quite as generous as usual.

Here it is, the right way out again....

Very simple and ideal as a stocking filler, yes, I know but you cannot deny that it is coming soon. It is a handy thing to have on a craft market table too. It uses next to no fabric, is made in minutes once you get going and is pretty enough to catch people's eye.

I have made some in other colours, they are worth making in quantity for quick gifts.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope that you have enjoyed this little make!
Hugs and kisses

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Buzz off flies! Patched fruit bowl cover.

I hate flies. I suspect that I am not alone in this and I was so sure that when I left Australia and came to live in England that I would be fly free - well less flies anyway. But no, they live here too and they sit on the fruit in the fruit bowl and just look sickening.

Rant over and thank you for listening! Now I am not someone who just whines, I like to do something about the problems that I have and here is today's big solution. This is a patched and pretty fruit bowl cover with....wait for it....beaded weights on the corners so the little critters cannot get under! How exciting!

Okay, let's get on with it. Firstly, choose your weapons! I have gone with a retro cherry print with some green flourishy-floral and on the reverse, a red and white polka dot print so that my critter cover is reversible. What do you think...

As you can see I have also chosen some larger beads in coordinating colours and I have some special beading cotton too. This is extra strong and you can attach it easily to the fabric cloth.
I threw in some clear crystals and a couple of bead caps. We may not use everything but you get the idea.

Here is the cloth spread out. You can see what we are making in this photo.

This make is built on an economy patch which is a square en pointe surrounded by triangles and a sash border of red and white polka dot fabric. Super simple and great for triangle practice. Here is the economy patch block on its own as it looks when it is sewn up...

Start with a square (cherry fabric) which measures 11.5cm sq. then cut another square (green fabric) which measures 13.5cm sq. 

Cut the green square into quarters diagonally.

Now sew the triangles to the square - first north and south...

And then east and west to complete the patch. Next, we add the sashing. Don't worry about the length of this, just pay attention to the width and then trim the excess off. Cut a strip of sashing which measures 5cm wide. Sew it to the top (north) and the bottom (south) of the block and then trim the length.....

Now finish with the other two sides and trim. It must be noted at this point that this little cover fits a small to medium fruit bowl. If you want it larger, simply increase all of the measurements until you have what you need.

Now place your finished, ironed top onto the backing fabric (right sides together) and sew all around the perimeter, leaving a small gap for turning out. Turn out through the gap and slip stitch closed. topstitch around the edge by hand or machine.

Finally, it is time to make the corner beaded weights. Thread a suitable needle with beading thread. You can use a 'proper' beading needle or a normal one with a very small eye. Firstly, anchor the thread at the corner of the cloth with the end in the cloth itself.

Take a look at your bead selection and decide how they might look nice. String them onto the the thread in reverse order keeping the larger ones at the bottom. I have added a tiny spacer to the end before drawing the thread back up through the beads and securing it on the corner of the cloth with very tiny stitches. Repeat for the other corners. Here is my bead charm up close...

That's all there is to it really. These are about making your life prettier. Of course you can cover a fruit bowl with paper but who wants to? This cloth takes next to no fabric (so it is very suitable for scraps) and it is quick to make. I have several fruit bowls in my house so I will add to my collection and even make them different colours for other seasons.
This is made of cloth so it can breathe but you could consider using some oilcoth on the back so that they fruit cannot stain. You can buy products online to turn any cloth into oilcloth with the touch of a hot iron so time to explore

Now I look around, there isn't a fly in sight! Oh well, roll on next summer!

Here is the cloth doing its job anyway.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope that you enjoyed this little make
Hugs and kisses

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Home sewn scrappy mats - English paper piecing.

I am pretty well into making mats for my house at the moment and I have been well and truly bitten by the English paper piecing bug too! 
I never thought that I would say that actually because I can remember being shown a hexie quilt made by an aunt when I was about eight or nine years old and I remember thinking how awful it looked! It was made from scraps and it had no style and no rhyme or reason. Of course I know better now and I love scrappy makes so I feel a little silly at the memory. I'd love to see it again now and see if my opinion is the same. Maybe it was just the quilt....could've been the aunt too....

Anyway, not to bore you too much with my meanderings down memory lane, I am stretching the idea now to include several shapes starting with a haxie in the middle and surrounding this centre piece with  squares and triangles. Here is a sneak peak....

I like the fact that the hexie is plain and the 'action' all happens around the perimeter. This is very practical and it means that you can use this little mat for a vase or a potted plant.

So what will  we need? Firstly, you will need a 2" hexie, a 2" square and a 2" equilateral triangle. Draft these yourself if you can - who says that you will never use those geometry skills!!
Next you will need fabric (the best bit). You will also need a scrap of thin wadding (batting) and some sort of backing fabric. Gather some scrap paper too for the EPP. Of course, you will also need your usual sewing supplies.

Here are my choices of fabrics...

And I am using carefully picked out scraps. Even though they are scraps, it is still possible to keep a theme going. Mine will be green and turquoise. It will depend on the pattern of the fabric and how large it is where it will be used in the pattern. I use plain ecru cotton fabric as backing for economy. 

Cut the paper pieces using the templates that you have drafted. You will need the hexie in the middle, six squares and six triangles from your chosen bits and pieces. As I mentioned before, I have opted for a plainer, low key fabric for the centre hexie as you won't see it if it is under a pot as I plan for this one.

Here is a very loose layout of the blocks so that you can get an idea of where I am going with this...

The next task is to cover each shape with the chosen fabric to make the pattern pieces. Your pieces will look like this now...

Now it is time for some organisation! Sew them together so that the top is the same pattern as the paper layout. Keep the stitches precise because it is very difficult NOT to see them from the 'right' side.

Here it is all sewn up and with the paper pieces removed. The mat is not yet ironed....

And by the way, always remove the papers carefully. They are boring to cut and they can be used again. 

Now layer the pressed top with the wadding (middle) and the backing fabric on the bottom. Pin securely and quilt through all three layers with an even running stitch. Here it is in mid quilt - interesting rather than beautiful at this stage!

Trim the excess wadding and backing away when you have quilted and then make some homemade bias binding from a coordinating fabric. Bind the mat with this. I have found some blue which worked quite well with the scrappy look...

All done now! This is a useful mat for other things too. I have pressed it into service under my favourite teapot...

Of course, it also works very nicely under a potted plant...

Be creative with its use. I am sure that you will make more of these and then wonder how you ever did without them!

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Best Sponge Cake Ever!

Hey fellow crafting friends!

Today is my Mum's eightieth birthday and I am making her favourite sponge cake for her big day. It occurred to me that you might like to taste it too and rather than invite the whole of blogland for one cake - here is the recipe so that you can make it yourself.

I can remember making sponges with my Nana in Australia in the seventies and she was SUCH a good cook too. This one is fairly straightforward but beware of a few things:
-use very fresh eggs - stop just short of holding your hand under a hen and waiting with a stopwatch.
-beat the whites first and use very clean beaters. The egg whites hold the key to the much need air to make the cake a sponge.
-lay everything out before you begin so that you don't have to run around looking for things midway. The egg whites will not stay beaten forever.

Okay, here we go!
Gather these supplies:
4 large eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup cornflour
2 heaped teaspoons plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Here's how you do it:
Preheat the oven to moderate (about 180 degrees celsius on most appliances) and then prepare two 20cm round cake pans by lightly greasing and lining the bottoms with baking paper.
Separate the eggs into two large bowls. sift the dry ingredients into a third bowl and put them aside for the minute. Beat the egg whites until peaks just form. Don't over beat because you will dry them out.
Here is what they should look like....

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl until they are thick, pale and creamy.
With a metal spoon (kitchen chemistry at work here) fold the dry ingredients into the egg yolks until they are mixed.
TIP: use big circular movements to add even more air.
Now take the same metal spoon and add one large (as much as the spoon will hold) scoop of beaten egg white. Fold this in with those big circular strokes, now add all of the rest of the whites in the same manner. Don't overmix.
Place half the mixture into each of the two cake pans and bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes. This will depend on your oven to a certain extent as all cook know. Don't open the door to check. have a look at the cake and see if it is starting to shrink back from the sides of the pan.
Allow the cake to cool a little in the tin and then turn out onto a rack to cool properly.

It is normal for the cake to shrink back a little when it cools. Trust me, you have done nothing wrong.

Mum's favourite treatment for this cake is passionfruit icing and whipped cream in the middle. I think that you are good to make the whipped cream and here is the icing recipe. It is a real Australian favourite and just tastes sunny!

Passionfruit icing:
50g good quality unsalted butter, softened
2-3 cups icing sugar
pulp of three passionfruit.

Take a bowl and strain the passionfruit onto the  softened butter through a fine sieve. Add some seeds back into the icing again. Not an essential step but it looks better to my mind.
Now very gently fold in the icing sugar until the icing is stiff but not impossible to handle.

This beautiful and fragrant icing is naturally a gorgeous yellow and it tastes just divine. Make it a couple of hours before you need it if you can because this will allow the flavours to mellow. Ice the top of the cake with this.
Here is the finished result again...

I made Mum a card too...

Have a lovely birthday Mum!
love Debs

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Handy, Eco Friendly Utility Cloth

Hey friends!

Who doesn't need a handy duster around the house for wiping up spills? But why do they have to be mundane looking? And why do they have to be disposable?? Let's do our bit to help the environment and make our home nicer at the same time.

Enter the handy utility cloth! This is easy to make and only takes a scrap of fabric. I have backed it with flannelette to make it absorbant and I have chosen a pretty coordinating cotton fabric for the other side. Add a ribbon tab and a button and you have something a lot more exciting than a scrap of old rag!

Take a look at these pretty things!

I think that we can agree that these are much nicer for wiping up spills!

So what will we need?

35cm sq. piece of flannelette 
35cm sq. piece of coordinating cotton fabric
a large button to match 
15cm piece of coordinating ribbon
Fray Stopper

Here are my chosen bits and pieces...

As you can see, I have two buttons. This can look nice if you can find one which fits neatly inside of the other. This is a little matchy-matchy but I think that it will work for a nice retro feel. Blue was the best colour of flannelette that I could buy on eBay (sooo wanted pistachio green...) so I had to find a cotton fabric to go with it. You don't have to match though, all up to you.

Firstly, place the two fabrics  right sides together and pin...

Sew all around the edge leaving a gap for turning out (mine is between the two blue pins.... 

Clip across the corners to reduce bulk....

Then turn the right way out. 

TIP: you can use a wooden chopstick or similar object to push the corners out so that they are super sharp.
See what I mean? This is an example of a poor corner...

And here is what we are looking for...

Slip stitch the opening closed and then pin so that the edges are even and spot on - no edge overhanging. 

TIP: to get the edges neat, 'roll' them between your fingers. Sometimes, misting them with water works because many fabrics behave slightly better when damp.

Now machine topstitch all the way around. You can do this twice if you want a nice solid edge. You can either use a twin needle or sew once around and then use the first line of sewing as a guide for the second.

Now cut the ribbon level on the bottom and coat the raw edge with a little fray stopper. Hand sew the ribbon to one corner of the cloth at an angle....

Then sew the button (s) over the top.

Now you have a washable and very useful cloth. It is easy to make and quite cost effective too. I have made others and they are all over the house, looking pretty and waiting to be useful. I use them for watering and wiping up after my indoor plants but they are good for babies, pet feet, kitchen needs, anything at all that you would use any other sort of duster for. The flannelette is good at absorbing a lot of water too.

Here is a final look plus one that I made in a different colour.

looks so good in the vintage home too as you can see on my 
Nana's sewing machine...

Thanks so much for stopping by! I do hope that you have enjoyed this tutorial and you will use it to bring more pretty things into your life!