Wednesday 28 December 2016

WOW: Phew!

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
Phew, it's over! Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas but when it's scorching hot and there's so much going on, it's easy to lose track of things - like time for instance. I had no idea it was Wednesday today. I only just realized a few moments before blogging this post which is why it's so late. Perhaps I shouldn't admit that I've lost track of the days, but it's true.

How was your Christmas?

Ours was hot. We had turkey and were hoping right until the last minute to do everything inside, but a forecast of 36c meant that we decided to cook everything outside on the BBQ. It was the only way to go. In my household, Christmas is always hectic, for right after the day itself it's straight into preparations for my youngest DD's birthday and it's a super busy time all round. The stinking heat just makes everything seem harder. Mind you, we have air conditioning so I shouldn't complain, but we do all feel fatigued and I can't wait for this hot spell to pass.

Hope you're all having a beautifully calm, family focused break. As for me, I'm grateful that my DH stocked up well before Christmas which means we don't have to venture out into the crazy sales and rush that's going on right now.

It's the last Wednesday for the year! 
What are you up to today?

Saturday 24 December 2016

A Very Hot Christmas Eve

The wafers are made and resting (below), and the dough for our once a year 'mlinci' is finally done too. I'll post the full recipes later in the week. 
Today I've been cleaning and setting the table for what will be a scorching Christmas Day - 36c!
Today was also 36c although our outside house thermometer, which is always more accurate that the news report, reached a reading of 38c. Yes, it's going to be a very hot Christmas!

There are some dishes we only make and eat at Christmas which I always look forward to making with my DDs in the week leading up to the day, but this year we scaled back our cooking plans at the last minute to just the essentials. We have air conditioning and it's fine inside our house, but I find the weather makes cakes and other baked goods misbehave. So we're keeping it as low key as we can this Christmas.
With the temperature soaring, we've decided to bake our Turkey on the BBQ rather than indoors, and will keep our oven working to a minimum.

Now I'm off to water the poinsettias before bed, I don't want them expiring before Christmas Day lunch !

Wednesday 21 December 2016

WOW: Christmas Baking

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
Wow, what a year it's been! I'm surprised that it's Christmas time already and even more surprised that it's Christmas baking time. It just doesn't feel like December to me. Oh well, there's no doubt it is and I just have to mentally catch up to start 2017 feeling like it really is a New Year.

Many years ago, we moved to gift free Christmases as we realized that we had everything we needed and wanted. In the years since, Christmas time has been free of any shopping frenzy and we usually spend the week leading up to Christmas together at home, baking and talking about the year ahead.

Some years, it's simply too hot to bake in Australia and other years, like this year, we're doing more assembling than 'baking' itself. Today I'll be making Wafers with my youngest DD who finished work yesterday, my other DD finishes work on Friday so she'll just enjoy our wafers and miss out on our kitchen gathering this year. We'll be talking lots of photos for her and no doubt I'll post the recipe here once we've finished. The yearly recipe cycle is an important one on my blog because no matter how many times I write my recipes out, or how many times my DDs watch and join me in making it, they always want the recipe again. Now, they just check out my blog! Are you ready for Christmas? Is it just me or does the Festive Season feel different this year?

What's Your WOW?

Sunday 18 December 2016

Peach Biscuits for Christmas

***This is a re-post from 2010***

I first posted this recipe in 2008, it's one of those recipes that's just always been in the family, always impresses and is a real treasure to share. And I always re-post this blog entry in the week before Christmas each year, as about now is the time when people start calling me for the recipe! There are a few versions around, but they all end up at the same place: an almost too cute to eat peach. Perfect with tea and delightful in the afternoon....or anytime. It's fun to make with children and a wonderful classic to introduce into your 'what to bring?' repertoire. With December fast upon us, if you haven't made a peach before...why not try one now?

I'm always being asked about this recipe and make a point of making them at Easter and Christmas. They have a very special place in my family and have become a family favourite. I have tried a few different versions in all the years I've been making them and they were all delicious (except for the shortbread version which completely crumbled - what was I thinking??) but this recipe below is the staple I keep returning to. 

Feel free to experiment and make it your own. You have extra liberty with the filling - my favourite is firmly nuts, leftover crushed biscuit and condensed milk with a splash of rum. But I've enjoyed nutells mixed into crushed nuts, a paste of dried raisins and rum and even lindt chocolate balls softened in the microwave and then squashed between the two sides. You can really do anything as long as it holds and keeps. Another nice touch is to add a sprig of stem to the peaches (break off a piece of pretzel) and add mint leaves immediately before serving. 

I was planning on making an extra large batch this year, but it's been too hot down my way. It's over 41c today and Christmas day is forecast for 37c with hot days all between - the worst weather for biscuit making, so it looks like I'll be giving my baking a miss this year. Still, for those of you able to bake and interested in trying out this traditional, charming biscuit - here it is:

click the read more tab below to view the full recipe and instructions.

Saturday 17 December 2016

My Sweet Bee Background!

I'm still going on with my new background idea. I will be removing the aqua border as it just doesn't work. I added an extra 1.5 inches to my background measurement, but after stitching lines, it shrunk more than I expected and I am now running short for the border.
Can you even believe it? Such basic mistakes! What am I doing?!
 So it looks like I will have to mix up my borders between the black and yellow. 
 Like so:
With Christmas next week, I was hoping to get this wall hanging done, but I no longer think this will be possible. For one thing, I'm not 100% about my background yet! I think I will pause for now and watch and see what everyone over in the Sweet 2016 Group is opting for on their backgrounds...I need some perspective!

Friday 16 December 2016

Sweet 2016: Choosing a New Background !

Nope, those lovely plates just don't work! Seeing my last Sweet 2016 background fabric on screen confirmed to me that it wasn't right. The lovely plates were lost behind the domes and the beautiful cake domes were lost in all the visual activity going on. I guess I got lost because of my love for the plate print fabric. I will put it away and use it some place else. Perhaps a table runner.. but that's a whole different project.
I've had numerous background ideas - from red velvet, to charcoal, to aqua, to floral prints. I've been completely spoilt for choice and ideas. But now it's time to narrow it down and commit - and I've been really struggling with this.Which is no good because I did plan on finishing this wall hanging by Christmas but I'll never get there without deciding on the background fabric first. 
After even more playing around, I've been taken by the idea of a bold yellow and black background (without the light aqua print border you can see in the first image above, that will go and be replaced by a yellow or black border.)
I've stitched strips of black and yellow together to create the top and I plan on stitching yellow lines over the black and black lines over the yellow and I'll let you know how I get on..

Wednesday 14 December 2016

WOW: A Mystery No More!

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
This month I released Part 11 & 12 of Sweet 2016 together to everyone who started this BOM on it's launch - allowing original starters to get their blocks in order before the end of year. And this means, it's not a Mystery anymore! I always feel a little sad when a BOM ends, which is silly, but I do miss the monthly excitement of revealing each new part. Now it's time to put my domes over my chosen background and I must admit. I'm in two minds about it. First I loved it, then I didn't. Now I'm not sure. The lovely border is a bit washed out in this pic above, it looks better in real life (as below)
The problem is, I'm so in love with the fabric, but is it too crowded? I think so. Then again, maybe that's OK? I need fresh eyes. so I'll put this aside for a week before I take a final critical look. What do you think? And have you selected your own background fabric yet??

What's Your WOW?

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Sweet 2016, Part 12: Strawberry Layer Cake

All good things must come to an end. Can you believe it’s time for the last cake? This month the final dome is ready for either a strawberry layer cake or a black forest gateaux. Whichever you make, there’s only room for one on the wall-hanging, so choose your favorite. I’ll be making the black forest option for a cushion to sit on a nearby sofa and I’ll also be making another festive cushion to bring out at Christmas with my 'spare' plum pudding block. 

Remember, only make one for the wall hanging!

Here's how I made my strawberry layer cake
I went for a sponge / biscuit colouring, but it would also look stunning in chocolate hues
 As always, number all your pieces and work in stages 
I picked a lovely fabric for the strawberries, but if you can't find one that's right, you can always indicate in the inside colour tones with permanent pencils / pigments
Keep checking back to the pattern for size accuracy
 The other cake option is a black forest gateaux with  cherries on top, so pick whichever you love
 and this brings us to the end of our great cake adventure!

Now all you have to do is select your background fabric if you haven't already. Tomorrow I'll show you how mine looks..I'm rather undecided at the moment!

'Sweet 2016' is my current Mystery Applique BOM
It's just $3.95 per month
Delivered digitally, to your email inbox each month

Understanding the pattern release schedule: anyone can join Sweet 2016 at any time and when they do, they will receive a new block each month from that point onward. The day they receive each new block will depend on the date they signed up and made their first payment. Everyone who starts Sweet 2016, starts at the beginning, Part 1. Specific blocks cannot be purchased out of turn. 

Whenever you choose to start this BOM, be sure to keep us updated on your progress by sharing your work over in our Sweet 2016 BOM Facebook Group, see you there!

Monday 12 December 2016

Sweet 2016, Part 11: The Last Mini Dome Cake!

This month it’s time to bake the last of the mini dome cakes, and this one is finished with a decorative stripe detail. Whether it be a vanilla cream, a salted caramel or a chocolate swirl cake, it’s topped off with a gumpaste rose and petals. 
If the stripes are too challenging to applique, consider using thin ribbon or thread to indicate the lines. I had planned on a bold white background with red stripe cake (like a candy cane) but fell in love with a decorative ribbon and brown fabric combination which moved my cake into a chocolate caramel zone—so go with what you love. 
This month is also a good time to make a final decision regarding the scalloped fringes on your trays. I’ve been going back and froth throughout the BOM, regarding whether to fringe some, a mix or all. I’ve finally decided to fringe all the mini dome cakes and I’m still deciding on the larger domes (the scallops remain the same size). You could of course also choose to add ribbon detailing or lace. 
These final details might be influenced by your background fabric and I will make my final choices when I add my cakes to the final print background I’ve selected. Depending on the overall look, I may need to add contrasting lines to the bottom trays to stand out from the background print. I’ll decide when I have it all pinned down.

 Just 1  more block to go!

'Sweet 2016' is my current Mystery Applique BOM
It's just $3.95 per month
Delivered digitally, to your email inbox each month

Understanding the pattern release schedule: anyone can join Sweet 2016 at any time and when they do, they will receive a new block each month from that point onward. The day they receive each new block will depend on the date they signed up and made their first payment. Everyone who starts Sweet 2016, starts at the beginning, Part 1. Specific blocks cannot be purchased out of turn. 

Whenever you choose to start this BOM, be sure to keep us updated on your progress by sharing your work over in our Sweet 2016 BOM Facebook Group, see you there!

***Original starters (those who joined the BOM in or prior to February 14th 2016 will receive both Parts 11 AND 12 this month to wrap up the BOM on schedule.**

Wednesday 7 December 2016

WOW: Saving The Christmas Table Cloth

 WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
Last year just before Christmas, I pulled out my favorite Christmas tablecloth. It's a stencilled tablecloth that is based around my quilt Red December. This quilt was released as a free Christmas project several years ago and I loved the motifs so much that I re-used them to create a similar matching pattern on my table. The idea was to hang Red December on my kitchen wall and enjoy this tablecloth on the table. Well, I just loved this tablecloth, but thought it was missing something. So last year I added a red trim. I did this in just under an hour, it was an easy project and it finished the tablecloth beautifully. 

Then, after lunch, I bundled it into the laundry and forgot about it until after the New Year. And after that, I just popped it into the machine without a second thought. I had planned to spot clean it. But you can guess what happened next - I didn't color test my red trim fabric because it was in the 'safe' stash and I was sure it would never run. And it did run, and now my tablecloth has a pink tinge to it. 

The fact that I have a colour testing tutorial on my sidebar is not lost on me - why don't I take my own advice?! I put it away earlier this year as I couldn't deal with my Christmas tablecloth disaster and had thoughts of simply re-making it. So today, I'm soaking it and trying to save it one last time. I'm using Synthrapol and hoping for the best. Just lately I've done this with several batches of my hand dyed stash and have been amazed at the colour run - especially as I did everything so meticulously during and after the dying process. It just goes to show, you can never be too careful. Hopefully from now on, I'll take my own advice. 
What's Your WOW?

Sunday 4 December 2016

Love Entwined by Jenn Dewey Rice

What a wonderful treat it is for me to add yet another Love Entwined quilt to the LE Gallery. Today it's Jenn Dewey Rice's beautiful creation. Oh Jenn, I love your colour scheme here, the yellow and blue really draws the eye into the centre and of course, the pink motifs are gorgeous! LE is such a large quilt and as well as being a big undertaking, it's hard to photograph full in, up front. Jenn, thank you so much for taking the time to send this image in, it's wonderful to see the workmanship of another LE and I'm impressed that you managed to make it within 3.5 years. WOW!

Like Jenn, I also think about the first woman who made the original quilt. Initially I thought it was a girl, but looking at the elements realized that it must have been a woman and that left me wondering about the purpose of the quilt. As with every finished LE, the mystery lingers.

Here's what Jenn had to say about her quilt in her own words:

"My name is Jenn Rice Dewey and I am from Scotts Valley, California, USA 
I loved the pattern from the first time I saw it. I loved working on all of the pattern. Each time I started a new part I loved what I was doing. I love any kind of a challenge. I always seem to pick things to do that will give me a challenge. 

I heard someone say that in the 1790's they used bright colors. I wondered if the lady that first made the coverlet was a young girl adding to her wedding things for after she was married. I started this quilt 3 ½ years ago. I could only work on it when I wasn't working to take care of my parents. 

I want to thank Esther for allowing us to have this pattern. It was very challenging but also fun. It makes me want to be more challenged in the future."

Are you making LE? We have a dedicated LE Group over on Facebook (click the image above to join) and don't forget to add your own LE to the LE Gallery - and remember, you can always email me updates or more pictures if they occur at any time.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

WOW: Head All In A Spin for 2017

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
I've been somewhat quiet this last week - I'm all in a head spin for 2017! 

First up, I'm all excited about my new BOMs being released in the new year. My only problem is, I have 5 designs to choose from and I'm really struggling to narrow it down and commit. If you read my blog, you'll know that I have commitment issues when it comes to quilt related projects and fabrics. I'm really trying to decide which pattern is the right one for 2017 but each time I decide...I end up changing my mind! It sounds like a good problem to have, but it simply ends up frustrating my attempts to be organised.

And then there's the issue of fabrics. Oh boy, don't talk to me about fabrics. Why is it so hard to choose? I find a gorgeous palette but then I think the tones are wrong or it's missing a vital then I have to match it to another range that does have reds but now the greens are all out of balance. I'm exhausted just typing it. Take for example, my background for Sweet 2016, which on last count had 7 very possible and completely gorgeous background options. I loved each version and that's the problem. Today, I've actually cut into this fabric, which last time I reported on it was just being draped for style. Now, I think, that's it- it's cut and it's my official background. I've committed myself and can move onto the next project. Hopefully.

What's Your WOW?

Wednesday 23 November 2016

WOW: Jenny Henry's Love Entwined

WOW = WIPs On Wednesdays
Talk about exciting news! I think Jenny Henry might be the only quilter in New Zealand making Love Entwined and she just let me know last week that her LE had won Viewer's Choice for Amateur Quilt at the Auckland Quilt Show! WOW Jenny, what an achievement! Look at these beautiful tones, they're just incredible and it all looks so lovely, shining with it's own beauty and grace. 

It really makes my day when quilter's let me know how they're getting on and when they share such happy news as this, well it's too good not to share! Well done Jenny!

What's Your WOW?

Monday 21 November 2016

Making The Bra Based Bodice

This is my Bra Based Bodice
In my last post I mentioned how I created a bra based bodice with corsetry elements, specifically spiral metal boning sewn into channels just like a corset but unlike a corset in that it consists of an inbuilt supportive bra and is closed with a zip. It's decidedly not a corset even though I erroneously referred to it in my own mind as one (and the corsetry class  I took on Craftsy was invaluable in mastering it). It's also not a bodice as it's so much more than a simple upper body shaped garment, so I'm calling this hybrid a bra based bodice.

The inspiration for creating a bra based bodice shape came from Marfy's 2630 pattern which I have never set eyes on, but have seen the finished bodice, as below:
This image is of the Marfy 2630 bodice from Poppy Kettle's website (click image to go there)
As you can see, they are very similar, this is because I relied on the Marfy visual to create my own bra based bodice. The major difference is that my bra has been created for large busts DD+ as both a functional support bra and formal gown outerwear. My bra based bodice also has extensive boning all around the waist to lend the required support and structure. Like the Marfy, it is lined internally and externally. I have also added a wide strip over the cups to enforce the stylistic idea that it is a formal wear garment. You can't see it here as my image on the right is already lined but I have also used the save V boning channel as the Marfy appears to have. My V channel is actually a double channel on each side before the side channels start and wrap all the way around. Again, this has been created for support. 
Who knew such a visually simple garment could cause so much hassle? 
When it comes to creating the bodice, you can follow any pattern, it's really very basic sewing. When it comes to creating and using channels to insert spiral boning into for support, I recommend that you take a class on corset making to learn these fundamental sewing techniques. The Craftsy one I used is listed beneath this post. I highly recommend it as I found Allison Smith to be a great tutor and personally very helpful. 

Of course, corsets are not bras and do not have this bra style look about them. For that, you have to create your own custom cups to sew into a bodice base. What is unusual about this bra is that it has no stretch. It is fashioned out of coutil which is very stiff corset fabric. It is then lined for comfort. So the template you create has no 'give', you are creating a bra that is immediately outerwear and the fitting is like stepping into a coutured fabric shell. 

This is how I created the coutil bra to sew into the bodice
Start with a normal bra that fits you well
It must be padded to the degree that it has shape
thoroughly layer the external cup with masking tape - thick enough to serve as a template
Like this. You can see in the background that it took several goes for me to understand which process would work. I started out pinning the bra extensively to map out a pattern. Don't waste your time. Go straight with this masking tape method.
Gently remove the tape, keeping the shape in tact
Maintaining the cup shape, draw in 'segments' 
In this image you can see 3 segments. I ended up using 4 segments (below)
The amount of segments you draw in depends on the cup size
Smaller busts will be fine with 3 segments, larger busts will require 4
Carefully and accurately cut out your segments, one at a time to create templates
This is an extra piece I drafted over the template pieces to add a wide stylistic strip on top of the bra
It's optional
These are my bra template pieces. I cut them out individually, then connected them 'flat' 
and this is my bra in segments, ready to be sewn together for the first fitting
It looks like this
seam detail
Treat this bra as a garment - stitching neatly and pressing open seams
This is the inside, turned inside out 
Both my coutil cups
a sight for sore eyes- my beautiful, 3D cup. I was so happy when I held it in my hand!
Now it's time to sew the cups into your bodice base and alter as required. As you can see, I had a few minor alterations to deal with at this stage. What you are looking at is only coutil. 
After this stage, line inside and out. 
The finished bra based bodice
In this image the bodice is lined with the wedding dress fabric on the outside 
and lining fabric on the inside
Clean, simple lines
a perfect fit ready to be sewn into the skirt. 

And the best bit? This coutil bra is so structured that no other bra is required, for this bodice IS the bra. The fit is also so fitted that no stay is required to be sewn in. This is important as I see so many brides 'wiggle' into their dresses throughout the day and I think it's so unfair that they have to do this. It's something which should never happen and could so easily be prevented if bridal shops simply bothered to sew in basic stays! Of course, if you sew a bra based bodice like this one, you won't need one. My DD was busy all day, got in and out of a helicopter and wore her dress to dinner and never had to wiggle once - all thanks to this bra based bodice.

movement = no problem and no wiggle
I'm ahead of myself showing these photos because, by the time I'd finished the bodice, I hadn't even stitched the skirts, but I did want to show you here how important the bra based bodice was to the dress - and this photo shows it. 
The bra based bodice was the icing on the cake after all my bodice and bra making dramas. Before it came along I was trying to make ordinary bodices do extraordinary things - which they simply couldn't. How I wish I'd started a bra based bodice first! 

It took me so long to conquer bodices and get to this final version, that I was sewing the wedding dress 24 hours before the wedding. In my next post I'll blog about what I did next, against the clock, to finish this dress on time. 

In September 2016 I made my DD's wedding dress using the Butterick Pattern B5731 as a starting point. I then created my own variation of a semi corset with a built in bra as a replacement to the pattern bodice. I took the Craftsy online class 'Sewing Corsets' with Alison Smith which I can recommend as essential viewing for anyone interested in sewing corsets or formal wear bodices with corset elements. In fact I even received personal advice from Alison and am happy to recommend this class to anyone who's interested.
 Sewing Corsets with Alison Smith
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