Friday, 18 July 2014

Messy Eton Mess...with a twist.

Eton mess is one of those classic English desserts that everyone's heard of, and every gastropub in the country now serves. Legend has it, it came about at Eton after a Pavlova or meringue dessert of sorts was dropped accidentally... much like the story of the tarte tatin. However Wikipedia tells me this is just urban myth and has been around much longer. Anyway whatever the origin, its become quite a fashionable dessert in restaurants recent years but is so ridiculously easy to make, why not do it yourself.

Now I've never been much of a fan of the recent craze in catering of adding an unusual ingredient to things, which somehow works. Hell, I don't even like sweet and sour curry or ham and pineapple. However I was recently brave enough to try the 'ol balsamic vinegar and strawberries tip, and I have to say it really works, really bringing out the flavour of the strawberries. Apologies for the photos... it really is impossible to make Eton mess look anything other than a mess.

300ml double cream
6-8 meringues (go for it if you want to make your own, but mostly I think lifes too short.)
300g punnet of strawberries
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tip icing sugar

  • Add 5-6 medium strawberries, hulled, to a blender and blend until mostly smooth.
  • Add the icing sugar and vinegar and blitz again, add more vinegar to taste if preffered.
  • Whisk the cream until stiff peaks form, and break in the meringues.
  • Hull the remaining strawberries and cut in half, add to the cream mix.
  • Serve in bowls or large glasses and drizzle the balsamic/strawberry sauce on top.

This should serve 4 people. It should. Doesn't mean to say it has to though.


Emily Kate

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Salme Playsuit Pattern Review

I've never really seen myself as the sort of person who would wear a playsuits/jumpsuit. Frankly there's a lot of pretty awful ones out there, but recently they've become a bit more stylish and flattering. So I put a playsuit on my list of things to sew for the summer, and after a bit of googling, came across this pattern from Salme patterns Etsy shop. They have some really nice looking everyday wear patterns and are pretty reasonably priced at around £4 ($6).

I used the navy cotton with white polka dots I bought from The Man Outside Sainsbury's at Walthamstow market, and although I thought at first it was a little stiff for a casual fitting item, after a few wears out and a wash I think it works rather well.

Pattern Description:
Playsuit Pattern. Beginner/Intermediate difficulty

Pattern Sizing:
 Size 4-16 US, 6-18 UK
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes. Phew
Were the instructions easy to follow?
 Reasonably, as there were no particularly difficult techniques needed. However I think for a beginner pattern it needed more guidance on which sides should be together when and just generally more intricate details. It assumes a reasonable amount of knowledge already, I only knew how to do a crotch seam from my pyjamas.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like the end product, although I think there is quite a lot of room in the bodice. I like the ease of the poppers, but they refuse to lie flat. I think there could have been more diagrams in the instructions, and the two pocket lining pieces were different shapes but the same in one of the diagrams.
Fabric Used:
Navy polka dot cotton
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I changed the shape of the pocket lining number 1 piece to match the number 2 piece as I couldn't understand why they were different, as they were the same in the diagram.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I may sew it again, although I'm not sure how many playsuits one person needs! I would recommend it to others.
It's a really comfortable, cute item of clothing great for summer days and cycling, although perhaps not the most flattering due to the extra space in the bodice.
And here it is in action on a Boris bike!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Birthday Presents!

It was a year ago yesterday I started my sewing life, as I received a sewing machine for my birthday. A year on, and I now follow a 'make not buy' philosophy, making almost all of my clothes so far this year. The reason I got into sewing in the first place was by reading craft/sewing blogs and also the first series of the Great British Sewing Bee. So I've been a regular follower of Tilly from Tilly and the Buttons fame, and when I heard her book was out, it was the first thing on my birthday list, along with the new Sewing Bee 'sew your own wardrobe' book.

I've had a quick read through of each of the them, so here's a quick review!

Tilly's 'Love at First Stitch' book is aimed at those who are just starting to sew, and haven't made anything before. It has only 7 patterns, but ideas for at least one variation on each of them. It also includes the pattern pieces so there's no printing and sticking one hundred million pieces of A4 paper together. Not that that bothers me usually... although the patterns are printed on both sides of the sheet, and over the side which can be as little inconvenient.

The patterns themselves are in my opinion, gorgeous, and I intend to make every single one of them, although they are aimed at a pretty specific demographic of teen-40 year old wish women that I fall into. The steps for each pattern are incredibly detailed and helpful, with photos rather than diagrams, with a colour coded system so you can skip the instructions for a particular technique if you are already able to do it.

My favourite thing about the book is the design variations she includes for each pattern, so you could make several items from the same pattern that are different at the same time, it also encourages you to come up with design ideas yourself. I did think that this book may actually be a year late for me, as I started sewing a year ago and have already sewn a fair few items of clothing. However it is full of great wardrobe staple patterns I think I will make again and again, with also clear instructions for techniques to refer to when you forget.

The Great British Sewing Bee 'Sew your own wardrobe' book is another aimed at beginner sewers, and is an improvement on the book accompanying the first series as it includes the pattern pieces, although they are a little jumbled over 5 pieces of paper. It also includes 'masterclasses', pages where they give detailed instructions on techniques, including the lapped zip I could not master on the tunic from the first book! However the pattern instructions still use diagrams which aren't particularly clear.

 The patterns included in the book include the best ones from the series, like the 60's coat and 1930's vintage blouse, and also men and children's patterns, so appealing to a wider range of home sewers.

However I have already started one of the patterns in the book and have already found several mistakes in the pattern and instructions. Firstly notches that didn't match up to anything, and different shaped pieces in the diagram. Frankly I found this surprising, and a great shame, as otherwise the book is great but as it is aimed at beginner sewers it could be entirely confusing. The mistakes just seem like something that could easily be solved with some proof reading!

So there you go. As you know, I'm not a big fan of reviewing pattern books without actually having used the patterns yet, as that's what really makes or breaks a book... so stay tuned for reviews on most of the patterns included in both books... eventually!

Emily Kate

Monday, 30 June 2014

Colour Block Tunic Dress

Now that I've been sewing a while (almost a whole year) and I've been boycotting the high street, I'm pretty much constantly thinking of what I want to sew next, particularly when I see people wearing cute outfits. The inspiration for this dress came from one I saw someone wearing in the street, and is now my favourite outfit I've made so far.

For the pattern for this dress I used the tunic from the Great British Sewing Bee book and added an extra 30cm or so on the bottom to make it into a dress. I cut the pattern pieces into two, to create the upside down v shape . I wanted the point to come just under the bust but I didn't measure it correctly so it's a little lower than I wanted. It was quite a bit of trial and error to get the seam right in the middle, but it just about worked out in the end, there's a tiny tuck in the fabric at the point but its barely noticeable.

I chose yellow and white as I thought they were perfect colours for spring and complimented each other well. It looks great with bare legs, sandals and sunglasses but on the day the photos were taken it was the first rainy chilly day in ages so I wimped out and put tights and my pumps on.

I'm pretty chuffed with the overall look of the dress, if fits pretty well and the whole geometric/colour block look in very in fashion at the moment.

If you want to create a dress like this, try adapting your favourite loose top pattern. I'm thinking of making another in the future so will try to make a tutorial for the centre seam. To make it simpler you could do just a straight seam across the bodice, perhaps in black and white for a really contrasting effect.

Whose beautiful garden, I hear you asking? Unfortunately my one bed London flat doesn't come with this kinda land so I borrowed William III's at Hampton Court Palace for a few photos.

Emily Kate.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Walthamstow Market

In my 'day job' as a musician and teacher, I'm a member of a woodwind quintet. Since last year, 3 of the others members now live way up in Walthamstow, so I've been trekking to the other end of the Victoria line on a fairly frequent basis. Now I spent quite lot of time complaining about when it was 9am on a Monday, but when we had some Saturday rehearsals I realised it was the perfect opportunity to go and check out Walthamstow market.

The first time I allowed half an hour to look round the market and fabric shops, stupidly thinking that was enough time, without realising how busy the place would be! The next week I had 2 hours so plenty of time for wandering.

I only actually visited a couple of places, as I set myself a budget of only £15. I loved the 'textile centre' behind the kitchen stall, which was full of really lovely patterned fabrics, particularly border ones, and I finally discovered 'The Man Outside Sainsbury's' - a great fabric stall run by a nice bloke who had great customer service.

If you are a recent convert to sewing, like myself I highly recommend visiting Walthamstow, despite the cost of getting there you will save so much money compared to most fabric shops that it is just 100 percent worth it. Yes it may be a trek, but at least if you fall asleep on the Victoria line it's the end of the line anyway!

If you decide to make a visit, check out Karen at Did You Make That?'s PDF map and informative posts from a local girl.

>>>>>>. And here are the fabrics I bought.

The blue polka dot was £2 a metre from The Man Outside Sainsbury's, and the other 2 were both from the Textile Centre, the border print was about £2.80 a metre and the flowery one £2.20.
All in all I got fabric for 3 outfits for about £12.50. That's what I call a bargain...!

Emily Kate

Monday, 23 June 2014

Elderflower and Lemon Drizzle Cake

It's that time of year again, or at least it just has been, when the elderflower trees are in bloom. My most favourite drink at this time of year in this lovely weather we're having (once again?!) is elderflower cordial. If there's still trees blooming where you are, then try my recipe from last year!
This year I had planned to scour London for elderflowers to make cordial, but by the time I had got around to it, the only ones I could see were alongside the railway line that I couldn't get to. There was also a huge tree covered in elderflower in Battersea park, right down the road from me, but surrounded by a high fence!
I still intend to make some but I'm waiting on a delivery of dried elderflower from my mum back in the shire.. In the meantime I'm afraid I cheated a little and bought a bottle of bottlegreen cordial to try out this recipe. Its the perfect cake for a summer picnic.

Cake:100g/3.5oz margarine/butter
100g/3.5oz caster sugar
2 eggs
175g/6oz plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
Zest of half a lemon
1tbsp elderflower cordial

2tbsp elderflower cordial
2tbsp lemon juice
3tbsp icing sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease a loaf tin.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and fold in.
  • Stir in the lemon zest and cordial.
  • Add a dash of milk if the mixture is too thick.
  • Bake for 40-50mins, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Mix the lemon juice and cordial for the drizzle together and pour half of the liquid over the cake, still in the tin, and allow it to sink in.
  • When the cake is completely cooled, tip out onto a plate. Mix the icing sugar with the rest of the lemon/elderflower liquid, just a tiny bit at a time until the mixture is able to run off a spoon still but is not too runny.
  • Use a spoon to drizzle the icing back and forth across the loaf cake.


 Nom Nom Nom...

Emily Kate

Saturday, 14 June 2014

DIY Tea Coffee Sugar Canisters

I'm getting to that age now where I'm starting to care what my home looks like. It's been a couple of years since I graduated and lived with friends as a student and it'll be good few years till I could possibly afford a house of my own (or more likely never in this city!).

Sometimes living in rented accommodation can be annoying, especially when you live in a flat with blue/green walls and all you want to do is paint them. So I like to decorate where I can, make nice throw pillows, buy art for the walls and have cute looking kitchen storage. Kitchen items can be pretty expensive sometimes for what they are, but I recently found a great quality ceramic bread bin at the flea market, and made these cute canisters for storage.

All you need is:

 I bought the chalkboard labels on eBay for a pound or two, and the chalk paint pen and fabric paint also. The glass jars are actually Dowe Egbert's coffee jars which are the perfect size. They were on offer but were still £4 each, which is not exactly cheap but I guess you get some pretty good quality coffee in the jar too!

All you need to do is wash the jars and peel any labels off. Place a chalkboard label in the middle of each one, and use the fabric paint to decorate around the edge however you fancy, then use the pen to write on the label.

And there you have it, a quick and easy way to have quaint kitchen storage canisters for less!

Emily Kate.