Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Lovely Liberty

Liberty Fabric

I feel like I'm moving into a new phase with my clothing. Most of my clothes are really old and ready to throw out, so while I'm pregnant I'm taking the time to think about what I want to wear when I get back into regular clothes and sewing/shopping accordingly. I don't think I've bought clothes for at least 2 years...that's pretty bad!

Like most crafters, it's rare that I actually make something for myself. Most things I make are for Roman or gifts for friends. I do the occasional repair of my own clothes, but don't make a lot for myself. I'm hoping to spend some more time sewing for myself this year. So, I decided to splurge and get myself some Liberty of London Lawn. I figured that having such lovely floral fabric around would entice me to do some 'Me' sewing!

I have already used one of the Liberty pieces to make this top, using New Look 6871. I had to make some adjustments to the yoke as it was a bit wide for my shoulders, but now that I have my perfect pattern pieces, I'm looking forward to making a few more.

I used my own construction method for the top, using the magic seams tutorial from BurdaStyle to put the yoke pieces together. Then I gathered the bodice pieces, did the side seams with French seams and overlocked around the arm hole. Then I folded over the overlocking and stitched it down to make a tiny hem. I then tucked the bodice pieces into each yoke piece and put it all together. This may seem like an odd way of putting it together, but it gives a lovely finish and there's no need for bias binding! You must think I'm allergic to the stuff... the lengths I go to to avoid using it!

The colour of the fabric is much more accurate in the top photo. The wall in the photo below is meant to be cream. The cream walls in this house and all the wood panelling make taking accurately coloured photos a nightmare! I can't wait to move into the new house with its white walls!

Have you made anything with Liberty?

Liberty New Look 6871


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Pan Coat Cake Release - my Baking Secret

Pan Coat

I first learnt about this stuff years ago. As a teenager, I was a bit obsessed with wedding cakes (I have no idea why) and borrowed all the books in the library to do with cake decorating. I'd flick through the pages for hours looking at the pretty cakes and how to make the little sugar flowers. I can't remember where I first came across the idea of 'Pan Coat' but I feel like it's one of the few baking secrets I have.

This stuff is amazing! No more problems of cakes getting stuck in the tin. Cakes just fall out of their tins and it's so easy to apply and also easy to make. This stuff keeps pretty much forever and I've read that you can keep it in the pantry, although I like to keep mine in the fridge, just to be safe. If the shortening goes rancid, it will smell bad so it should be pretty easy to tell when it's past its best.

This is great for fancy shaped novelty tins that have a lot of corners, like the tin I used for my White Chocolate Christmas Cake. You simply paint the Pan Coat onto the inside of the tin with a pastry brush. No need to flour afterwards, or line your tin with baking paper.

The original recipe uses 1 cup of each ingredient, but I like the consistency best using the amounts below. If it separates a bit over time, just give it another good mix.

Pan Coat
makes about 2 cups

250g (1 1/4 cups) Crisco/Frymasta Blended Oil/Trex*
185g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour (you can substitute with rice flour for gluten free baking)
1 cup vegetable oil

Make sure your Crisco (or substitute) is nice and soft, like softened butter. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together with a fork until smooth. Store in a sealed container in the pantry or fridge.

To apply, use a pastry brush to give an even coating to the entire tin, making sure you get it into all the corners.

Pan Coat

*If you're in the US, you'll find Crisco
*In the UK, you'll find Trex
*In Australia you can use Frymasta Blended Vegetable Oil. It is found in the fridge section of the supermarket, next to the butter. It's in a gold wrapper with red writing. Copha can be substituted, but you will need to melt the Copha first.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Whale of a Time!

Whale softies!

I belong to a Facebook Group called 'The Sewing Library'. It is full of members from all over the world, although I think most of them are from Australia. It is one serious collective of a sewing question? Someone on there will know the answer!

The group is currently running a soft toy drive. Crafters have been lovingly creating girl dollies, boy dolls, rattles and softy animals for kids and babies in hospitals around Australia. I loved the idea and was keen to get behind it. I was originally going to make some more boy dolls but quickly realised that would take me ages! I was also unsure about the buttons on the arms...choking hazards and all that!

Whale softies!

I came up with the idea of making some whales. They're cute and reasonably unisex, although in  my stash busting mood, I ended up picking a lot of pink fabrics...oops! I drew up the outline on a piece of paper, using up virtually a full A4 sheet.

They sew up quickly as there is just the outline to sew around. I used the triple stitch on my sewing machine to make sure the seams are super strong! The eyes are painted on with fabric paint. One great tip I got from the sewing group for making softies is to stuff them, then leave to settle overnight. It's surprising how much more stuffing you can get in there on the second go!

Click this link to download the basic pattern.

If you would like to take part and make a doll or other soft toy to send to Aussie hospitals, join the group to get in contact with your nearest collector. If you're overseas and want to take part, then you're welcome to join the group too! TSL Dolly Drive on Facebook

Whale softies!
(I'm not sure what they are whispering about)

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snickers Ice Cream

Snickers Ice Cream

I've always wondered why anyone would buy a Mars Bar when a Snickers is soooo much better. Unless of course you are allergic to nuts. Anyway... peanuts, caramel and chocolate make a great flavour combination for Ice Cream, not just chocolate bars. Here's my recipe for Snickers in Ice Cream form! It's a pimped-up version of my Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Oreo Chunks

This batch was actually made for a Christmas gift, which is why there is a nice neat photo of it in the tub and not me greedily eating it!

Snickers Ice Cream
makes about 1 litre

2 eggs
2 cups cream
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
70g chocolate
1/3 cup roasted peanuts, unsalted
1/2 - 1 tin Top n Fill caramel/dulce de leche

Grate or finely chop the chocolate. Set aside. Chop the peanuts and also set aside.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to combine. The sugar won't entirely dissolve now, but will as the mixture chills later in the fridge.

Take 1 cup of the mixture and put into a separate bowl with the peanut butter. Mash with the whisk and stir to breakdown the peanut butter. Once evenly mixed in, pour back into cream mixture and whisk until well blended.

Chill in the fridge for a few hours. Give it a quick mix and then transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions. When the ice cream is almost done, drop in most of the chopped nuts and chocolate to mix it through the ice cream.

When the ice cream is done, transfer it to a tub for the freezer and drop in blobs of the caramel. Decide how much caramel you want in there as you're going. You can use the whole tin or leave some to snack on later. Use a knife to barely stir the caramel through, swirling it through the ice cream. You want to still have chunks of the caramel in the ice cream. Sprinkle on the left over nuts and chocolate. Put into the freezer to firm up for a few hours.

Friday, 18 January 2013

It's a Boy!

That's right, there's going to be a new pooping and screaming bundle of joy here soon! I'm about 21 weeks, so just past the half way mark... Boy has it gone quickly!

We found out last week that the new bub is a boy, so hubby and I can stop thinking about a possible name change for the blog and start thinking of names for the baby! We were in total crisis mode for a while! What if it's a girl? Will we change the name of the blog? Will I start a second blog?

We also decided that there wasn't enough going on so we bought a house! We will be moving in 4 weeks. We bought a heap of boxes on Saturday morning and spent most of the weekend packing. We managed to get quite a bit packed, so I'm feeling less overwhelmed by it all. My sewing stuff hasn't been packed up yet, but all the cookbooks are gone. Suddenly, I have a very strong urge to flick through them...

Back to the pregnancy chat... My Nana sent me this tunic but it was waaaay too big and looked like a night shirt...not very me! I chopped off the sleeves and took in the sides and now I have a lovely, breezy Summer dress that is belly friendly.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Adding a Divider Pocket to the Big Tote Bag

Knitting Bag

Have you ever made a hand-made gift for someone and wished that you could keep it? Well, that's the case for me with this version of The Big Tote Bag! Last time I saw my friend's knitting, it was living in an old plastic bag. So, I decided that for Christmas she could do with a gorgeous new knitting bag so that her projects would have a happy home! I'm so pleased with the result though, that I want to keep it. :( I guess I'll have to make another one for myself.

Knitting Bag

I used a royal blue cotton duck cloth for the outside of the bag and a retro sewing pattern print drill from Spotlight for the lining. I love the print and the divider is super handy. I put my own knitting projects in there to take the pictures and they were grumbling at me when I said it was time to get out. I had a current project on one side, my patterns and needles in the middle pocket and a heap of yarn in the other side.

Knitting Bag Knitting Bag

This tutorial shows you how to add a divider across the middle of The Big Tote Bag. The divider is also a pocket, giving you a lot more options for storing all your stuff! You can buy the PDF pattern for the bag in my Shop. Then follow the tutorial to add the divider. You could also take your own measurements to add the divider to any bag.

Add a Divider Pocket to the Big Tote Bag

You'll need:
The Big Tote Bag Pattern
All the supplies as listed in the pattern
A 40cm (16") zip
approx 30cm/12" fabric for the outer of the divider (I used the bag lining fabric)*
approx 30cm/12" fabric for the lining of the divider (I used the bag outer fabric)*
*See below for exact dimensions needed

For this bag, I did not use any interfacing. I felt that the fabrics were sturdy enough on their own.

Start by cutting out all the bag pieces as required in the pattern. If you are adding the slip pocket to the lining, add it now.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Cut out the pieces for the divider. Cut 4 rectangles 43cm wide x 28 cm tall (17" x 11"). Cut 2 from the divider outer fabric, and 2 from the divider lining fabric.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Take your bag lining pieces (the pieces for the actual bag, not the divider rectangles you just cut out) and cut an 8.5cm (3 3/8") square from each of the bottom corners. You will be cutting 4 squares in total, 2 from each bag lining piece.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Use the squares to add tabs to the ends of the zip. Sandwich the end of the zip between 2 of the squares, with the squares right sides facing. Stitch along the end. Fold fabric over, right side out and press.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Repeat on the other end of the zip. You want the tabs to overlap the divider piece by about 1 inch on each end. See pic above.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Lay a lining divider piece down, right side up. Put the zip on top right side up, lining the edge of the zip up with the top of the fabric. The tabs on the ends of the zip should overhang evenly on each end of the fabric. Lay a divider outer fabric piece on top, right side down. Pin and sew along the zip edge.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Press both fabrics to the right side.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Repeat on the other side. Top stitch along each side of the zip to keep the layers neat.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Fold the divider in half, with the right side facing out. Use your fingers to 'finger press' the edges nice and flat. You should be able to play with the zip now.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Now you need to sandwich the divider in the bag lining. Take one bag lining piece and lay it down, right side up. Place the divider on top, lining up one side edge. Make sure the bottom corners line up. The divider will the shorter than the top of the bag. Lay the ther bag lining piece on top, right side down. Pin and then stitch the side seam. Repeat on the other side.

Note that the lining pieces are wider than the divider so you'll need to fold up the middle of the lining pieces. You can see in the picture above right that the lining piece is folded up along the left.

Trim any extra from the zip tabs that is sticking out on the sides (see pic above right).

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Now sew the bottom seam. Again, line up the edge of the divider between the 2 bag lining layers. You will have flaps sticking out on the corners (see pic above). We will sew them up in the next step. Now, pin along the bottom and then sew the bottom seam.

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Pinch the two points of the flaps on one corner and pull them apart. The side seam of the bag and the bottom seam should be sitting on one another. Sew the seam (shown vertically in the pic above) to 'box' the corners of the bag. Repeat on the other side.

Have a look inside. Your lining and divider are complete!

Adding a Divider to the big Tote Bag

Turn the bag lining wrong way out, so that the divider pocket is on the outside of the bag. Pick up your Big Tote Bag pattern and follow the pattern to make up the rest of the bag, starting with the bag exterior on page 7 of the pattern.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Cherry Frozen Yogurt

Cherry Frozen Yogurt

I have had this recipe book-marked for a very long time, I'm guessing about 5 years, so it was about time I actually made it! This is based on the recipe for Coconut Pinkcherry Yogurt from Smitten Kitchen. The only thing I've really changed is to use Coconut Cream instead of Coconut Milk because I didn't have any on hand. It doesn't really add any coconut flavour just a richness that makes you think it's super bad for you...but hey, it's yoghurt and fruit - that's healthy right?!

The almond extract is optional, but it amplifies the cherry flavour, so if you have some, put it in. If you want a stronger coconut flavour, then substitute the almond extract for coconut extract.

It was about 40°C (105°F) out in the garden when hubby and I took this photo, so I apologise for how melted the frozen yogurt looks.

Cherry Frozen Yogurt
makes about 1 litre

2.5 cups Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup Coconut Cream
3/4 cup cherries, pits removed and roughly chopped

Mix together the yogurt, sugar, almond extract and coconut cream. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it's about about half-way done, add in the cherries. I added mine all at the start, but they clogged my churn a bit.

Put the frozen yogurt into a container and freeze for a few hours to firm it up. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

How to Finish Seams with your Serger/Overlocker

I've been asked how to do this by a few people so I thought it was about time I took a few pictures and made up a tutorial. Overlockers are great for seams, especially on knits, but if you don't secure your threads, they can come undone.

There are a few different ways of doing this, one of which is to thread your chain through a needle and then work it through your stitches. That sounds too hard to me! I like the method below because the seams are finished as you are serging/overlocking so you don't need to do anything later.

To Secure the Threads at the Start of a Serged/Overlocked Seam

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

To start with, you should have a bit of a chain coming from the machine. Put in your fabric and sew a few stitches. Stop, making sure the needles are down. (I have taken my presser foot off so you can see what I'm talking about.)

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

Raise the presser foot and gently tug on the thread chain to stretch it out. Pull the thread chain to the left, around the left side of the needles and under the presser foot.

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

Above is the same picture, but with the presser foot back on. Lower the presser foot and sew about 1 inch, while holding the thread chain forward. Then pull the thread chain over to the right so that the knife will chop it off. Keep stitching.

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

Above you can see what the secured threads look like at the start of your seam! They are nicely locked in and not going anywhere.

To Secure the Threads at the End of a Serged/Overlocked Seam

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

Serge to the end of your fabric and then go one stitch off the end of the seam.

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

Raise the needles and the presser foot. Gently pull the threads forward above the needles to loosen them a little.

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

Pull the fabric back. The slack you created by loosening the needle threads should let it come out.

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

Flip the fabric over so that the underside is now up. Bring it around to the front so it looks like you are at the start of the seam.

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

Put the fabric under the presser foot and stitch over your seam for about 1 inch. Make sure your fabric is just a tiny bit to the left so that your seam stitches don't get cut by the knife.

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

After about 1 inch, stop and raise the needles. Loosen the threads again and pull your fabric out to the left.

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

Now that you're off the fabric, stitch a chain to finish.

Finishing Seams for Serging/Overlocking

This is how it will look. Trim off the chain and you're done!

It's not so tricky once you know how to do it, is it? I don't usually bother to secure the threads if I know that seam is going to get cut later by the knife when working another seam, but otherwise I do this on all my seams.

Online Sewing Class

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Fun with Softies!


I recently decided to have a go at making softies, and boy is it fun! I think I'm hooked. The hardest part is deciding on the face, but once you stitch it on, they really come to life!

I made a doll for my best friend's daughter's First Birthday and had so much fun making it that I decided to make up a boy version for Roman! I top-stitched little pockets and a fly onto his pants to give him some little 'jeans' and they're so cute!

We asked Roman what it should be called...he said 'Nana', so hubby made the executive decision that it should be named Andy. A bit more suitable than Nana, I think!

Softies! Softies! Softies!

The pattern I used for both of the dolls is the Violet doll from the book Hop Skip Jump by Fiona Dalton. It's a beautiful book and I'm looking forward to making up some of the animals from it too. Have you made any of the sofites from the book?

Once I had made up and stuffed the dolls I took a photo of the blank face on the iPad and then used a drawing app to play around with ideas for the face. It's tricky deciding because there are so many options, but it's fun at the same time.

It took a while to get my head around the idea of embroidering the face on AFTER the doll is stuffed and sewn up...I mean how do you hide your knots? Watching this YouTube video from Bit Of Whimsy made it all clear for me though and it was easy and most importantly, the knots are neatly hidden. I can't imagine how I would have done them if I made up my own method!

I think you will be seeing a few more soft toys on the blog this year, so stay tuned.

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