Saturday, 25 June 2016

A Flower Brooch Tutorial... Again

Many thanks to those of you who kindly said you would like to see a tutorial for the flower brooches... and even more thanks to Diana who tactfully pointed out that yes, I had indeed already done this a couple of years ago! I had a sneaky feeling that I'd already done it before. But more thanks again go to Diana who also suggested I just repost but with some updates... so that is what I have done!

So first of all you need to select your fabrics - you can use the same fabric for all five petals, choose five completely different fabrics... or like me choose five different but toning fabrics. What is important is that they are thin fabrics... too thick and your flower will be too bulky. Patchwork fabrics work well.

You will need to cut 5 circles of fabric, approximately 8 - 9 cm  in diameter. I found that the lid from a large Golden Syrup tin to be the perfect size template!

Thread your needle with a strong thread and make a knot at the end of your thread. Taking your first circle, fold it in half.

Fold it in half again making a quarter circle.

Now stitch along the circular raw edge with small running stitches, making sure you are stitching through all four layers of fabric.

It should look something like this...

Fold your second circle of fabric into quarters and without knotting or cutting off your thread stitch along the curved raw edge of your second circle with small running stitches.

Repeat for all five fabric circles. They should look like a mini string of bunting when you've finished.

Now, gently but firmly gather up your thread. You want to gather as tightly as possible without snapping your thread (this is why you use strong thread)

When you have gathered it up as tightly as you possibly can, tie a knot at the end to stop the gathers coming undone...

and then working from the back, join the first and last petals with a couple of over stitches.

You have now finished your first round of petals!

Using a smaller template of approx. 6-7 cm... I used the lid from a small tin of Golden Syrup... cut another five circles of fabric

Repeat the method and make another circle of fabric petals. By now you will realise that by selective folding you can position designs/colors/patterns on your petals.

Next you will need a pretty button, large enough to cover the raw edges and gathering stitches of your smaller circle.

I did originally try stitching the button onto the small fabric circle but it is really difficult to keep the button firmly in place so that it covers all the raw edges. So my advice is to use a hot glue gun to firmly position your button in the centre of your small circle of petals.

Using the glue gun again, spread some glue onto the back of the small circle of petals and position it centrally onto the larger circle.

You should now have something that looks like this....

Next you need a circle of felt, about 4 cm diameter, a circle of firm card (card from cereal packets is the perfect weight), about 3.5 cm diameter and a brooch back.

With a matching thread start to stitch the felt circle onto the back of your flower brooch, using small slip stitches. About half way around, slip the card circle in place behind the felt circle.

Carry on slip stitching around the felt circle securing it firmly in place

Then stitch the brooch back into place onto the felt backing.

And with a bit of luck your flower brooch is ready to wear... pin it on your jacket, your hat, your bag... or spread the love and give it to your friend!

Me... I'm just filling up my case with more to sell at Open Studio weekends (which are now only two weeks away!)

But as you have so patiently read through this ressurected two year old post... I'm also going to spread a little love and give one of these brooches away. Just leave me a comment by Saturday evening next week (2nd July) and tell me your favourite colour. I will then pick a winner at random and make a brooch specially for you.

And talking of comments... where I can, I have always replied directly to comments by email as it has always felt more personal and I will continue to do this. But many people these days seem to leave "no-reply" comments and so I have also enabled replies directly in the comment box so I can reply to you too!.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Five on Friday... A snapshot of my week

I'd like to report that I'm feeling perky and back to my usual self but I'm still struggling to pick myself up and get motivated...  I need someone to come and give me a good talking to! My foot has been painful this week too which doesn't help... and although I try to keep politics away from my blog I feel depressed at the news this morning in the UK. But nevertheless life goes on and this is a snapshot of just some of the things occupying my time over the past few days

1. Lavender

I don't teach my regular machine embroidery class in the summer term. I'm not sure why, it's historic. I inherited the class about eight years ago and was told they didn't do the summer term because the ladies liked to spend the summer in their gardens rather than stitching. Hard to believe looking out the window at the torrential rain as I start to write this post on Thursday, but I digress. So, once a month throughout the summer the ladies abandon their gardening to meet up for afternoon tea. On Tuesday I joined them at Hitchin Lavender, where I had a very nice buttered scone, bought a bag of lavender and came home inspired to make some lavender bags. There will be virtually no new artwork on the walls at my Open Studio this year but I'm hoping to divert attention from the fact by bribing visitors with cake, puppy cuddles and lavender bags!

2. Birthday Cakes

June... sigh...  Three family birthdays in the space of two weeks but I managed to get away with only two cakes. Son no. 3, Joe, has reached the grand age of 27... Husband no. 2, Stewart is a bit older than that (but still not as old as me as he likes to point out). Both had chocolate cakes. I'd had the idea for the anti gravity Guinness cake for a while but it looked a whole lot better in my head than the reality. But at least it still tasted good and they both enjoyed their cakes.

3. A Commission

There was a third birthday cake but this was not for family members. I was commissioned to make this cake several weeks ago by a couple who had found me through an advert. My brief was a square fruit cake for Nancy, a keen sportswoman who cycles and plays golf and her daughter Jade who is a play therapist...  Really... you want me to make a cake to incorporate all that? I confess I was stumped by this one for quite a while but eventually came up with the idea of a golf course with children playing in the bunker. The hand prints feature on Jade's promotional leaflet. I was a little taken aback when Nancy's Mum, who commissioned the cake expressed disappointment that I hadn't included a bicycle, but overall I think they were pleased. I hope so!

4. Brooches

Not much to say about these flower brooches. They are useful little projects for those odd spare moments and they are great for using up fabric scraps. More Open Studio fodder! I was thinking of writing up a little free tutorial for them... That of any interest to any of you? I don't think I've done this before but humour me if I have!

5. Puppy School

Do not be fooled by those innocent eyes... He is a pest! He was a star at puppy class last week... Good eye contact and sitting on command, very well behaved... Everyone thinks he's gorgeous. Then the minute he gets home he digs up my vegetable beds again... Naughty puppy! Back to school again this morning.
Wishing you all a good weekend.

Joining in with Amy for Five on Friday

Monday, 20 June 2016

Oreo Cookie Cake

It's that time of the month again for revealing what I've baked for the cake slice bakers. It sort of crept up on me last week and we really didn't need more cake in the house as I'd already made two large chocolate cakes for family birthdays as well as a fruit cake and cupcakes for other people... But at least we had family visiting over the weekend so most of it has been eaten. The choices this month from Maida Heatter's Cakes were a Sand Torte, which I thought was a rather plain sounding cake, a Jelly Roll i.e. a Jam Swiss Roll, which didn't excite me much, Blueberry Muffins, which I'm sure are great but I've made enough blueberry muffins for this not to seem like much of a challenge and finally an Oreo Cookie Cake. Even if I had really loved the sound of the other three choices this still would have been no contest... I can't resist anything with Oreo Cookies! (Although I'm glad to see the others have made all the other cakes!)

The cake itself was quite a plain mix but baked in a bundt tin which I think always makes a cake seem special... and of course it has those lovely dark cookies broken up and stirred through the batter. It rose up beautifully with a fabulous thick crust, which then of course becomes the bottom of the cake, which gave a lovely crunchy texture to the base of the cake..

Maida Heatter does say the cake can be served plain but I thought it looked a little too plain so went for the optional glaze.

And I also had a sneak peek at Laura's version on Facebook before the weekend and liked the way she had used extra broken up cookies to decorate the top, so I did the same.

It was met with delight by the family because they thought I'd made a giant iced doughnut, however they weren't disappointed when they tasted it and it was declared a "Good Cake".

And should you wish to try this yourself (I can recommend it) here is my version of the recipe:

Oreo Cookie Cake (adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes)
You will need a bundt tin buttered well and dusted with  breadcrumbs. (See method here but I'm  sure you could dust with flour - what is important is that the cake does not stick)

  • 14 Oreo cookies, which is what you get in a packet, plus extra for the top (optional)
  • 385g sifted plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 227g  unsalted butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 200ml sour cream
  • Preheat the oven to 350 deg F, 180 deg C, 160 deg fan.
  • Place the cookies on a board and cut into quarters, it doesn't matter if they break up into smaller pieces and crumble. Set aside.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • In a jug, gently beat the eggs to break them up and add the vanilla and almond extracts.
  • Using a mixer or hand whisk, beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, until soft and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs a little at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour with each addition and beat until well mixed. 
  • With a large spoon, fold in the flour in three additions alternating with the sour cream in two additions.
  • Spread about a quarter of the mixture into the base of the tin. It will be a thin layer.
  • Gently fold the broken cookies into the remaining mixture and then add it to the tin in spoonfuls, spreading it over the plain batter
  • Bake for about an hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about fifteen minutes before turning out to cool on a rack.

To make the glaze melt together 60g milk chocolate, 60g of plain chocolate and 55g unsalted butter - I do this in short bursts in the microwave. Stir until smooth and then stir in 1-2 tablespoons of double cream. This will thicken the glaze so you have to work quickly to spread it over the top of the cake. Top with more broken cookies if you feel like it... and if like me you happened to have bought a double pack in the hope of some left over!

This is defintely a cake I would make again. A good moist crumb and the cookies soften to the texture of the cake giving little chocolatey hits. The flavours of cookies and cream ice cream in a cake... what is not to like!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Out of Kilter

Last weekend I was away teaching at Missenden Abbey for what was my last ever City And Guilds weekend. I will be back for summer school in August with my Stitched Graffiti (only a couple of places left... But you can book here) and there is a possibility I'll be back there for future weekends but not with Bucks CC and not teaching C & G. So it feels like the end of an era.

Of my eleven students, ten achieved their C & G certificate... The eleventh didn't merely due to the time constraints of a full time job and young family. She just hasn't finished yet.

But every single one of them produced beautiful work of which they should be very proud. They certainly made me proud of their achievements.

I'd like to say this picture heavy post represents work from each of them, but unfortunately it's more a showcase of my better photographs.

But they are a good representation of the standard of work overall.

Beautiful finished items, beautiful samples and some fabulous design work

So well done Penny, Elza, Judy, Judith, Christine, Chris, Helen, Diane, Roz, Shirley and Claire! You are all stars!

Since coming home it has felt like a funny old week so far and I don't seem able to settle to anything... a bit of this and a bit of that but nothing actually useful.

It is a week of family birthdays so there has been plenty of cake. But I'll share that with you another time...

And I've started to think about Open Studios. But haven't really got beyond the thinking stage... it just makes me want to curl up and hide!

There has been a visit to the vet for Hector for final injections, which has meant some short walks around the village and a visit to the physiotherapist for me about my ankle. Apparently I'm making good progress although it still feels frustratingly slow. But apart from that I've dithered with this and dallied with that and haven't really settled to anything at all. And I hate feeling like this!

Perhaps next week will feel better. Meanwhile this little chap is keeping me busy as he is in to everything and I need eyes in the back of my head. Now isn't this a guilty look if ever there was one... He'd been digging up my vegetable beds, naughty boy! He was also very sick last night (probably something disgusting he ate in the garden) which did worry us... but today he is back to his usual mischief with a very healthy appetite!

I'll be back soon with cake and hopefully feeling more upbeat.