Friday, 30 May 2014

April's Garment: Bette Top with Keyhole Neckline

April's garment was another top out of the fab Knit Vintage book.  Because of my experience of knitting January's garment, I decided to check with the publishers before I started knitting that there weren't any mistakes in the pattern before I started; with the pdf I was sent, comparing it to the book it seems to all match up!  As I knew this project was going to take me longer than a month to complete, I may have started knitting back in February . . . it's 4 ply wool (Stylecraft - beautiful wool that doesn't cost a fortune, I am amazed at how soft it knits up) so I knew it was going to take me a while.  I was right, and now at the end of May I am still knitting.

I currently have the front, back and one sleeve.  Once I finish the second sleeve, I then have to block everything to allow the lace pattern detail to look its best.  Any pointers on good blocking practice or any blog tutorials would be most welcome.  Once I've blocked it, I then need to stitch it together and pick up many many stitches to add the cuffs and neck band.

Fingers crossed it will fit.  When I started knitting on the recommended needles (2.25mm) it just looked far too small, so I frogged it and started again on 3mm going up to 3.25mm and it seems to look okay.  I was glad to find out that the back piece didn't have the complicated lace sections - although I am amazed at how something that looks complicated on paper, even I started to remember the stitches after knitting for a while.  It has a 10 row pattern repeat, so enough to help it grow quickly, but also not too many rows in a pattern repeat to take forever.

I shall keep knitting and keep you all updated .. .

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Bonus May & June Garment - Sew Mag Drape Top

This top certainly wasn't planned and if I had stuck to my April's resolution it shouldn't have even happened! In April, I decided that as crafty magazines are so very expensive, that instead of treating myself to the occasional magazine I would instead buy a crafty book from Amazon that was probably the same price as a magazine (I bought The Meringue Girls and have made this rather scrummy afternoon treat!).  However, I hadn't taken into consideration that joyful notion of perusing and buying on impulse a new magazine (I am especially swayed by 'freebies' on the front cover!)

Last week in Sainsbury's I went to do a quick shop for essentials but 'happened' to have a quick peek at the magazines and really couldn't resist the latest Sew magazine.  It had a cute free pattern for dolls and also I really fancied making the top on the front cover, so breaking my own new rule I bought it (I think I will also buy next month's as the 60s inspired dress pattern that comes free with it looks like my cup of tea).

I was determined not to spend (too much) money on making the top and found some lovely material I had bought on our trip to Chester a couple of months ago.  The only problem being that it was rather see through and I didn't have anything to line it with.  So I bought 1 metre of pale yellow cotton, in hindsight it's probably a bit too heavy a fabric and maybe I should of bought lining instead, but I didn't want a synthetic material underneath.

There is only one size to the pattern and I wasn't convinced it was going to fit, especially the back piece, as I thought it might gape.  The fit however is lovely (I'm a 8-10 size on top, so you would have to grade this pattern up if you wanted to make a bigger size), although I may add an inch to the bottom of the top if I make it again.  But that's probably as I prefer longer tops.  The instructions are clear and I made the top in a few hours - Having the two fabrics didn't help matters as I had to tack the pieces together so that it would sit nicely together.  The top fabrics frayed terribly, so it was probably a good thing I had the cotton underneath as there was something for the zig-zag stitch I did around the edges of every piece to hold on to!

I really should be getting on with my April knitting project and also the real project of May, which is a 1940s inspired Tea Dress that I am planning to wear to a wedding at the end of June!  I better get sewing.

I worked from my mum's last Friday, so I could dog sit her pooch, on the way I passed (okay maybe took a little detour) the amazing fabric shop in Birmingham called Barry's.  After finding the material that was on my list - I had a quick glance at their Crepe & Georgette fabric pile and picked up a metre of this beautiful blue and red pansy print - at £3.95 a metre I couldn't resist!

A couple of hours sewing on Sunday morning meant I had a new top - this one was certainly much quicker as I didn't have to line it and it has a lovely drape to the fabric. I didn't use all of my fabric, so have more than enough left over to make the 'Bridgitte Scarf' project in Tilly Walne's new book Love at First Stitch  that has just arrived on my door mat :)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Baking Round Up

For my Easter cupcakes this year, I made chocolate cupcakes with a concealed mini creme egg inside that were fab and worked really well.  My husband had the crazy idea that we could upscale this to a big cake with normal sized creme eggs . . . so when we had 6 creme eggs left over, it seemed like a good idea to have a go.
I used exactly the same recipe as last time and also froze the creme eggs over night.  The cake took rather longer to bake than the cupcakes and I nearly under-baked it as I was worried about the creme eggs.  After a few minutes cooling I decided to pop it back in the oven as the middle was still rather raw.  Thankfully this didn't upset the bake too much and I didn't get a sunken middle.  I decided that chocolate icing was a better option for the big cake and then topped with chocolate sprinkles.

Well, apart from having a (major) grump after getting it out of the oven, as I was presented with this awesome cake on instagram and suddenly mine seemed rather insignificant, I resisted the urge to chuck my cake!  When we cut into the cake later on, it had partially worked.  The creme eggs had, as you would expect, sunk to the bottom, but they were largely intact.  However, when eating it seemed that normal sized creme eggs can't really survive being baked and the fondant had almost caramelised.

I also baked 'Earl Grey Cupcakes' from the GBBO book 'How to Bake'  for the non-chocolate cake fans.  These are delicious cupcakes and you add the taste of earl grey tea by brewing your tea bag in milk that is added to the mixture.  Perfectly topped off with lemon butter-cream icing too!  

With two different cakes, it was an ideal opportunity to get out the 'tea party' boxes and put some of my stuff into action. I even put some bunting up in the garden :)

Last weekend I got a new recipe book (my failed attempt at not buying crafty magazines by treating myself to something out of my amazon basket - it seems I still can't resist an interesting looking mag) 'The Meringue Girls'. After having a look through I settled on the Cookie Dough Meringue Slice.  I even managed to find some of the recommended egg whites 'Two Chicks' in my local Sainsburys (next to the pastry and butter in the fridge).  Reading through the recipe I quickly became unstuck, the ingredients list clearly only has caster sugar in, but the method talks about caster sugar and brown soft sugar.  It really amazes me when there are such basic mistakes in a cook book - surely at least the ingredients and method are checked through before publication?

After a quick google search I found out the missing quantity of brown sugar was 100g, so I could proceed.  I'm not sure whether I melted my butter too much, but it definitely didn't cream into the sugar as the recipe suggested.  Nor was my mixture 'crumbley' when I took it out of the mixture and tipped it onto the baking tray.  I think next time I will not melt the butter, and maybe cut down on the sugar, as it was very sweet.  The meringue topping is going to take a bit of getting used to making, as I nearly scrambled my egg whites whisking in the hot sugar.  I think next time I will peak the meringue topping rather than laying on a piece of greaseproof paper.  

The book is rather yummy looking and I look forward to making more recipes.  There is even a section at the end with recipes to used up those left over egg whites! I just need an occasion to have a go at the Meringue Kisses tower.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Crochet Challenge: Step One - Hook Holder

One of my New Year's resolutions is to learn to crochet.  I've decided that the optimum time to start this project is during our holiday to Spain.  As we are only taking hand luggage, I thought I should get some bamboo crochet hooks - I didn't want my metal ones confiscated during check in!

I also didn't want to spend a fortune, so found a set on Amazon that looked okay and the number of positive reviews outweighed the negative ones! They arrived in a rather horrible plastic wallet, thus my first step with my Crochet Challenge was to make a hook holder.  I made this up as I went along, cutting out three rectangles to form the back, front and flap of the holder from the lining and cute outer fox fabric.

I decided against lining the holder, maybe some lightweight lining would add a little structure, but it doesn't seem to be too flimsy so far.  Next time I am going to draw on my lines for the pockets - after taking out all my pins, it seems that I really can't estimate 2cm gaps, so I've ended up with 14 pockets rather than the 12 I was aiming for!

I think I may have to make one for my double-pointed knitting needles that float around the bottom of my knitting bag.

I am going to attempt to make Attic 24's Summer Garden Granny Square Blanket - hoping I haven't bitten off more than I can chew for my first crochet attempt! I'm going to use Stylecraft Classique Cotton in 9 different shades with a cream border - which I hope will give a soft but durable blanket.

Step One of the Crochet Challenge Complete!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Pill Box Hat and Clutch Bag

So after making my fabulous pink shift dress in March, I decided it would be perfect for a wedding we were attending in April.  However, this meant that needed a hat and a bag to transform it into a wedding guest worthy outfit.  After much searching and exclaiming 'how much' rather too often, I decided that I could make my own pill box hat.  Explaining my ideas to my Grandma of how I was going to cut up a Cart D'or ice cream tub, she disappeared and returned with a beautiful Camembert box, that she had 'saved just in case'.  it was the perfect size!

I covered the box with some thin foam, so that I would be able to sew things to the hat base.  Then I covered the box with some navy fabric, before lining the inside with pink.  The glue gun was my friend here - stitching was going to be just too fiddly.  I used double-sided tape to attached the ribbon round the edges (definitely not a Sewing Bee worthy hat!) and then I glue-gunned on some silk flowers (of which I have a HUGE bag of left over from our wedding table decorations . . . I'm sure they will pop up in makes for many years to come).

I had bought two lengths of 'hat netting' (not sure what its proper name is) off eBay, pink and navy, as I wasn't sure which would look best.  I went with the pink netting and spent a while pinning it in different ways on to the hat until I was happy with it.  The I used small stitches to fix it in place.  The hat is held on the head with a piece of elastic that goes round the back of my head and is just about covered by my hair. I was rather pleased with my creation, especially as I spent a grand total of £9 for the netting and that was it - a much more reasonable price than I had found with 'ready made' fascinators.

The clutch bag that I made to match was the same pattern that I had used for my bridesmaids clutch bags.  I still had plenty of the 'soft but stable' stuff that really makes the bag look professional and the fabric was already in my stash.  All I needed to buy was some navy thread and decide how I was going to accesorise the bag.  After a bit of playing around (at one point there was going to be many more flowers on the bag) I decided on a simple addition of ribbon and one flower to match the hat.

I thought I had a navy cardigan that I could wear to complete the outfit, but after putting it alongside the dress it looked very faded, so a new navy cardi purchase was in order.  After a bit of searching I found the perfect addition in Monsoon to complete my outfit.