Friday, 24 April 2015

Anzac Day Soldier Biscuits

A beautiful biscuit this week in honour of Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand. And while Down Under, Australia and New Zealand are into autumn (which where I lived in South Australia doesn't look any different to any other time in the year), my little garden here in Norfolk is blooming! 

If we look out of the window, there are great things happening...

Such beauty coming to life....

Why does Checkmate always look as though he has been caught doing something wrong?

Maybe it is a mistake to look outside when the day is so perfect...

Actually, one more thing before I get down off the soap box...I get REALLY fed up with people always going on about the terrible English weather! It is just wonderful actually. We get some rain which keeps things green (no bushfires either, or snakes) and we get some snow which has to be expected. The rest of the year we get some beautiful clear sunny days with birdsong and flowers. I was never a fan of the Australian weather - the year we left, the temperatures did not fall below 46 degrees Celsius for a week!

The walks in the forest are lovely too and our sandy beaches (here in Norfolk anyway) are wonderful for walking for miles. Rant over and thank you for listening!

Before we get on with the topic of the day, I would like to claim bragging rights on another cover. This time it is in the beautiful Sewing World magazine in the UK and thank you so much to the lovely Julie who is the editor who made it happen. 

That's my cushion right there! It was super fun to make and is so easy. Brings summer into the room.

But back to business. First of all, what is Anzac day exactly? Anzac, or properly ANZAC stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps and the name forever bonds Australians with their New Zealand neighbours. It is a proud tradition and a day which is celebrated on the 25th April each year with private celebrations and a march of old soldiers down the main street of the towns. It is a time to polish the  medals and very old soldiers are so proud to take part,

Anzac day itself marks the anniversary of the first battle fought together by the Australian and New Zealand troops in the First World War. After having lived in Australia for forty years of my life, I think that I would be justified in saying that the day is dearer to the locals than the official national day, Australia Day which is celebrated with altogether less pomp and ceremony on the 26th of January each year.

I was looking through my grandmother's very old recipe book (from which she taught me to cook) and I found a recipe for Soldier Biscuits. Elsewhere in Australia they are known simply as Anzac Biscuits.The recipe differs slightly from time to time but the essentials are pretty much the same. Anyway, I would like to share my Nana's recipe which is out of this world and easy to make too.
Here is the book itself....

It is very fragile now with age and use.

And here are those biscuits.....

Such golden deliciousness and they will make your house smell divine indeed.

So let's get baking!

1 cup rolled oats
125g butter
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
1 cup flour
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 tablespoon boiling water

You don't need any special equipment, only a mixing bowl, a saucepan and a tray plus the usual measuring things that you normally use.

Here's how:

Step 1- Place the dry ingredients into your bowl (oats, sugar, flour and coconut).

Step 2- Place the butter and golden syrup into a saucepan and melt gently.

Step 3- Working quite quickly, mix the bicarb soda with the freshly boiled water and then put it into the melted butter and syrup.

Step 4- Stir this magical concoction quickly into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until combined. 

TIP: it is useful, if it feels as though it is too dry, to use your hands like mixing a pastry. this will help it to come together.

Step 5- Place just-a-bit-bigger-than-walnut sized amounts onto a baking paper lined tray, leaving room for spreading as they cook.

Step 6-Cook until golden brown in a moderate oven. Keep an eye on them so that they don't over cook.

Step 7- Cool on trays (they can be a bit of a trial to handle when they are too warm) and then enjoy!

By the way, they will be soft until they are fully cooled and then they are quite crisp and crunchy. The next day (if they make it that long) they will be back to a softness as you would find in a certain sandwich chain. They are still yum.

And our old soldiers? Forever. We will remember them.

Love and hugs
Debbie xxx

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Block of the Month- April 2015 Economy Patch

Welcome to the block of the month for April. This time, we are looking at one of my all time favourites. It is called the Economy Patch and I am sure that it will come to be a favourite of yours too.

I am going to give you a double serving too because last month, we made a Classic Four Patch so as well as showing you the Economy Patch, I will show you how to do a variation with last month's offering and turn that into an Economy Patch too!

Enough chat! Let's get on with it!! Here is the Economy Patch in all its glory....

And here is a variation...

As you can see, the variation has a patched square in the middle and this time the square is what we call en pointe. Soulds a little bit like ballet and  it means that the square is sitting on its tip instead of flat. Somehow sounds more exotic in French! The variation also only has one row of triangles.
Triangles can sometimes strike fear into the heart of beginners but there is a simple golden rule that you will read about later on.

So, to business! Let's concentrate on the basic one for now and leave the variation for a bit later on. You will need three different fabrics for this one.
Begin with the square. Cut a square 8.5cm x 8.5cm.

TIP: your starting square can be any size at all - we have to choose one so I have gone with the size above.

Next cut another square 2cm larger than the first one. This is to be divided into quarters to make some triangles like this...

You now have four triangles and they are added to the square. Notice that the triangles are flipped around though so that the long end goes against the square. Place the first one on this side....

then the opposite....

then the remaining two overlapping the ends....

iron it now and trim the daggy ears off and it is looking like this....

WARNING!!! When you trim, NEVER trim back to the point on the square! This is your seam allowance and if you trim it off, you will not get a sharp point when you put the next layer on.

Your block measures 11cm x 11cm at the moment. From your final fabric, cut another square 13cm x 13cm. Divide the new square diagonally again as you did before. Now flip and add these four triangles to the block as you did before too....

then the opposite and the last two....

I have pressed and trimmed so that the patch is now exactly 15cm sq. That's it! This little patch can be made in any size at all. The golden rule is to remember to always make your triangles 2cm larger than the square to allow for the seam. This is vital because the points on the squares have to be sharp enough to prick your finger! This would be wrong....

This is what you are after....

Now I did promise a variation and here it is. Take the Classic Four Patch from last month 

and measure it, add the triangles, measure the new square and add the last few triangles and you have this....

You don't need to have a solid square in the middle - for the ordinary Economy Patch, I guess you do but variations are how new blocks are born. You can applique too - sky is the limit!

I hope that you had fun with this one and, once again, thank you so much for stopping by!

Hugs and kisses
Debbie xxx

Friday, 3 April 2015

Simply Beautiful Easter Sewing

Are you a beginner sewist and wish that you could do more or just make something really pretty for spring? Or perhaps you are a time poor expert who needs a really quick gift. I think that I have something for both of you!
We sew and craft a lot at Christmas and just about any time of the year so don't let Easter slip by! Trust me, the bunny is coming...

Easter makes are full of pastel prettiness and this week, I have written a pattern for a pretty towel to make over the kitchen in an instant. Who thinks that I am joking? Try it and see, this little towel is practical as well as being just the thing for this time of the year. I have mine on my range and it lights up the whole room.

So what are we doing this time? We will explore raggy edged applique and free motion embroidery (FME) and this little make takes very little to make - both in terms of time and your stash. 

What will you need?
-41cm x 60cm of a pretty fabric
-a large scrap of a second one (bunny fabric)
-a teensy scrap of white for the tail
-45cm x 65cm of something to use as backing (plain white works)
-41cm woven ribbon to co-ordinate with your fabric
-41cm cotton lace to coordinate with the woven ribbon
-41cm small bobble trim to coordinate with the bunny fabric
-dark brown thread
-dark brown perle 5 cotton
-fabric glue stick
-FME needs for your sewing machine
-fray stopper
-your usual sewing needs
Here is the bunny template too. When he is printed off, he is about 26cm high from ear tip to bottom.

So how do we go about it?
Begin by making sure that your main fabric is straight on the edges and the right size. you will notice that the backing fabric is larger. That is done on purpose because fabrics ALWAYS move when they are together and this can be a disaster - much easier to trim the backing after you have sewn it.
Crease the fabric lengthways with your finger to find the centre. TIP: Crease the bunny too when you cut him out and then you only have to match the two creases to know that you are in the centre.

Use the template to cut a bunny shape from your bunny fabric and glue it into place about 8cm up from the bottom of the towel and centre the bunny on the creased line that you made earlier. Cut the tail from white and glue that on too....

Set your machine up for FME; each one is different so if you haven't done it before, consult your manual. Usually, you need a darning foot and to either drop the feed dogs or set the stitch length to zero. I do the latter beacuase I have a very cheap and older machine and the feed dogs stay put. Use the dark brown thread to stitch around the bunny two or three times just in from the edge. Do the tail too. Leave the edges raw (this the raw edge applique bit). It looks fab and it is so easy and quick.

What a difference!! It really jumps out now (pun very much intended)! So why dark brown? Isn't that a bit at odds with the normal easter pastel look? It is, but it works and it stops the over all look of your make becoming too twee and saccharine sweet. It sort of grounds it.

Next comes the lace and the woven ribbon. Cut this the width of the main fabric and attach it under the bunny (about 3cm), lace first. My fabric has distinct lines on it - if yours does too, use these to help you stay straight.

and then ribbon over the top of that. You might consider using a coordinating thread for the ribbon so that it is a little more invisible.

Here is what we have so far....

Iron the towel and then we put the back on. Trim off any daggy bits from the sides and make sure that all of the stray threads are gone from the back too (you will see these through the backing fabric if you don't).

Lay the towel front face down (right sides together) onto the backing and pin it. Sew all the way around the outside leaving a small gap for turning out. Trim the excess backing away and turn out throught the gap and slip stitch the gap closed. We now have a nice, substantial make - nothing like lining to add a bit of extra to your project and it is so easy to do.

Thread a needle with perle cotton now and topstitch (running stitch) around the outside about 1/2 cm in from the edge...

and along the top of the woven ribbon border.

Finally, attach the bobble trim at the bottom of the towel. measure a piece of trim the exact width of your make and treat the ends with fray stopper. I like to hand sew this on to make it really neat but you can do it by machine if you prefer.

That's it! You can make a label for the front too if you like. I have used an easter stamp with mine and some woven ribbon. You can find the link for label making on an older post here. Notice how using brown ink echoes the brown threads used and ties it all together? makes it look a bit vintage too. I have attached the label by machine and then put a cute little button on the top left hand side - the delight is in the details!

And here is the finished article again....

A very happy and safe easter to you all and happy sewing! Thank you so much for stopping by - it means the world to me!

Hugs and kisses
Debbie xxx