Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Crafty New Year's Resolutions 2014

In order to give some direction to my crafty makes and bakes this year, I though I would write a post detailing my Crafty New Year's Resolutions.  So here goes . . .
  1. I am going to make a piece of clothing every month - I'm hoping this will included at least a few knitted items and that 12 garments isn't too ambitious!
  2. I am going to learn to crochet and start a granny square blanket.
  3. I want to make more of my own pastry - croissants need to be baked.
I'm thinking that these three aims are rather on the ambitious side, so I shall leave it at that and commence the making :)  Any suggestions on books/youtube videos that would help me learn to crochet would be much appreciated. 

My new craft space ready for the makes of 2014

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Christmas Round Up 2013

Christmas seems like ages ago - especially as both my husband and I have birthdays in the two weeks following Christmas!  There were a number of Christmassy crafts that I managed to squeeze in during the Christmas period.

Fingerprint Christmas Cards
As our Christmas Card list topped 50 this year, I wanted to find a quick and simple card design.  After searching for fingerprint ideas, I found a lovely idea of making them into fairy lights.  I had them all finished within an afternoon, which was a bonus!

3D Bell Gingerbread
The idea for the Christmas Gingerbread was decided upon last Christmas - and the cutter had been sitting in my amazon basket all year.  The cutters aren't the most robust and could easily be squashed out of shape.  However, the result was okay - and I got better as more batches were made.  Again, I used Smitten Kitchen's Gingerbread recipe, as this makes the yummiest gingerbread that is packed full of spices.  I iced the individual biscuits before the bells were constructed and used thick curling ribbon to thread the biscuits together.  I bagged each bell up into plain bags, tied up with Christmassy butchers twine.  Now just have to find a new idea for Christmas 2014 . . .

Chocolate Orange Steam Pud
I'm not a fan of Christmas Pudding, so thought I'd find a replacement for Christmas Day.  I came across a recipe for a Chocolate Orange and Date Steam Pudding that looked stunning - so I just had to try it.  The oranges were candied before using them to line the basin before the chocolate pud mix was added.  It then steamed whilst we ate Christmas Dinner.  As an added bonus - we got given an indoor dessert fountain - it was huge (and tested the smoke alarm as it went out!)

Mince Pies
I used the fabulous recipe for orange pastry that I found last year for my mince pies again - I wholly recommend it!  I also got to use my Cath Kidston Christmas Tins I found in a Summer Sale :)

Christmas Tree Skirt
As much as I would LOVE a real Christmas tree, it's just not practical at the moment - so I have to make do with our fairly real looking tree from IKEA.  In order to make it look even more real, I decided that this year it needed a skirt.  I bought a Christmas fabric bundle from the fabulous Plush Addict website that I have recently stumbled across.  After making a paper template I cut out the different sections and got sewing.  I think I need to get some buttons to fasten up the opening, but that will have to wait till next Christmas!

That's it for Christmas 2013 - already started planning the Christmas Crafts and Bakes for 2014 :)

Monday, 6 January 2014

Other Wedding Hand Crafted Items Part 2

Bridesmaid and Bride's Handbags
In order to match the dresses, I decided to make my bridesmaids handbags.  I used a Emmaline bags pattern - they are fab patterns to follow with full colour picture instructions.  I also managed to track down some of the 'soft and stable' that was recommended - this made all the difference to the overall finish of the bags. I also added some pink sequins to edge the bag - but forgot to take a photo after this addition - I'll update if I can get a photo!

I used a different Emmaline bag pattern for my bag - which was a lot more fiddly and at one point I decided that it wasn't good enough - but after an additional insert of a rectangle of the 'soft and stable' it suddenly looked more like a bridal bag.  I even had a small amount of my lace left over from the dress to decorate the front. 

Bridesmaid and Bridal Bouquets
To save on pennies and because of the time of year, we decided to use silk flowers.  This meant that I could have peonies in my bouquet, despite them being out of season.  I used the bouquet holders to make the arranging easier.  To sparkle up the bouquets I added in wired beads from the floristry section in hobbycraft.  To the Bridesmaid bouquets I added some pink gauze to disguise the white handle.  I bought the flowers from a variety of places - eBay, garden centres, hobbycraft and ikea - they all had the pass the 'photography test' i.e. did they look good and potentially real when photographed.  It also meant that we didn't have to worry about someone collecting the bouquets before the wedding. 

Buttonholes and Corsages
Again these were made using silk flowers, floristry tape and sparkles.  I also added a brooch back for ease of wearing.  I made pink rose buttonholes for the men and then white and turquoise corsages for the two mums.  Although I though the pink roses were slightly too big, they looked fine on the day and added the splash of colour to which their main purpose was.   

Cake Topper
After we had decided that our cake would have a nautical theme, it made sense to make our own Blue Peter ship for the minifigures to sit on.  In keeping with the lego theme, we made our Blue Peter ship out of lego, which was then painted blue to keep the consistent colour.  The masts were added dowelling rods with cardboard sails and painted the same colour. The bride and groom from the wedding invite were added to the ship as a finishing touch.  I also found a perfect cake top from a fab etsy shop that makes laser cut acrylic toppers - although we did incur a customs charge (grr!) yet worth every penny :) For the third cake I made a 'rock' out of icing for the save the date mermaid to sit upon.

Wedding Cake
The wedding cake went through a rather lengthy design and production process with many different ideas which evolved throughout the year.  We decided that we definitely wanted the inside of the cake to be special and that we would have three different layers and in the traditional three tier style.  The top tier was a fruit cake that my mum made for us.  The second tier was a lemon cake and the third a chocolate cake.  I used the Jane Hornby's Simple Wedding Cake recipes from the BBC Goodfood website.  The chocolate cake was amazing and I would highly recommend it - both in production and taste.  The lemon cake was a bit underwhelming and dry - but that might have been my own doing through the adding of food colouring.

The chocolate cake had a hidden heart in each slice as it was cut up.  This was relativity easy to achieve.  Once cooled the cake was cut in half.  Using a cookie cutter that is about half the depth of the complete cake, pull the cutter round in a circle with half submerged, keeping equidistance from the edge.  Repeat the process with the top of the cutter in the corresponding cake.  Once the cake is removed, you will have two circles of half hearts to pack with pink cake crumbs (I just crumbled up a plain sponge). I added a jam layer to the pink edge and a thin chocolate buttercream to the chocolate cake - then a moment of calm before flipping the top cake back on to the bottom cake and praying that your circles match up!  I then covered the whole thing in chocolate buttercream before adding a layer of roll out icing.  I didn't have a rolling pin long enough, so I made my own out of a bit of plastic plumbing pipe, which did a lovely job!

The lemon cake took its inspiration from a rainbow cake - but in our wedding colours.  This worked out okay, but I think the problem with these types of cakes it that the colouring knocks any natural flavour out and also the thinness means they don't really rise as much as a whole cake might.  I think stripy cakes need some work to get them as tasty as they are spectacular - maybe layering up raw cake mix then cooking, rather than cooking separate layers?  However, it did look 'ooooh' which in my book is top priority.

We had thought that due to the surprise insides, that the outsides would be quite plain . . .  then I watched the Great British Bake Off final and saw Frances' amazing confetti wedding cake and decided we needed some more decoration. So the challenge then was to try and bring my (then) fiancĂ©'s idea of water cascading down the cakes into reality.  I decided on making the Christmas Cake icing that dries hard and split it into three colours (white, light blue and blue).  Then I spiked on the 'sea' to the cake, starting with the blue, layering up with light blue and then white.  Next out came the glitter - every cake should have copious amounts of glitter on!  We were rather pleased with the resulting effect and although it was a bit different to your traditional wedding cake, it matched with our themes.