Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Year of No Shopping...Roundup

At the beginning of 2014 I made a few crafty new year resolutions, so it's about time to look back at them....
Keep making my own clothes, and learning more difficult sewing techniques. - I've kept sewing, even more often as the year went on and tackled more difficult projects.
Wear a handmade dress to each of the 2 weddings I'm attending this year! - done..although I haven't shared either with you on here...I will do ! And it ended up being 3 weddings...
Learn to crochet so I can make a granny blanket- I have learnt to crochet, but the blanket is only half done currently.
Keep blogging regularly - Yes, although I want to keep to one a week.
Open a new Etsy shop for my free motion stitching, and get on with making more cushions with various city skylines on! - Yes, although I haven't spent much time on it really, I need to fill it with more items, which is this years plan!

At the beginning of the year, I also set myself a challenge. Which I'm sure I had blogged about, but I can't find anywhere, so perhaps not. I decided I would try to go the whole year without buying anything from the high street that I couldn't have a good shot at making myself.
And how has it gone?
Well this year I have bought... one pair of jeans and two basic t-shirt tops. And I got another pair of jeans and a jumper as a presents.

So all in all I think I did pretty well in my challenge. I didn't buy any skirts, tops, dresses but made them all myself. I even made myself a hacking jacket and a shirt. This year I've learnt to do invisible zips, flat felled seams, princess seams and dealt with collars, lapels and yokes. The one item I'm most proud about I think is my jacket.

So now the year is over, will I keep sewing all my own clothes or start shopping again?
Well I'm certainly not going to stop sewing anytime soon, but if I saw an item in a shop I really loved I wouldn't stop myself from buying it either.
What this year has done is made me really appreciate each item in my wardrobe. Gone are the days of buying cheap tat in Primark that I sometimes wouldn't even get around to wearing. When you make the effort to find fabric, cut, press and spend hours sewing together a garment, you wear it, even if its not as perfect as you'd like. It also makes me think about the hours put into making ready-to-wear clothing in factories out in places like Bangladesh, compared to how little we pay for it and I'm proud that I'm not as much a part of the problem as I used to be.

Here's to 2015!

Emily Kate

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Puffy Pouffes

Knitted pouffes seem to be the must have home accessorie for this year. Every interior magazine going has one featured in it's pages, and they can cost up to £100 ($150). Even the cheapest I found online was £40 ($60). So this is the perfect reason to DIY your own one. All you need is some acrylic wool, and basic knitting skills. All you really need to know is a long tail cast-on, basic garter stitch and how to cast off and be able to knit reasonably evenly. No increases, decreases or even purling.
The wool you use doesnt need to be expensive, in fact I think it's better using cheaper acrylic wool as it is put under quite a lot of stress pulling the lines of stitches together at the end. The pattern I used is from the brilliant Norwegian website Pickles, but it's more of a rough guide as you may need to adjust your cast on or how much wool you use, if you use a different wool weight.
I used Ice yarns atlas wool which is 100g and 130m long, and bulky weight. The pattern calls for superbulky/chunky yarn so I held 3 strands together and cast on 42 stitches. I made two pouffes for Christmas presents this year and ordered 12 balls of wool in each colour, but I only ended up using 6 so the cost of the wool was about £20, so only £10 per pouffe.
I cast on 42 stitches and then knitted in garter stitch until my rectangle was roughly 40inches long and 20inches wide, leaving a very long tail. Then I put the two short ends next to each other and sewed them together using a darning needle.
Using the long tail I put the needle through every 3rd stitch and pulled to bring the stitches together like a drawstring, then I carried on pulling stitches together until there was no hole in the centre. To stuff my pouffes, I bought a brand new double size duvet for each pouffe. Using a new one worked really well as it was already pre-rolled, so I was able to take off the wrapping and slip the knitted cover on like a sock, keeping the round shape. Then I used a new length of yarn to pull every 3rd stitch together like the other end. I did need to put in quite a bit of effort to keep pulling and bring the stitches together so there was no hole.

I'm really very happy with the final result, they turned out better than I hoped for, given the issues some people seemed to have on ravelry. I can't wait to have room to make a lovely mustard yellow one in my own home. The total cost for each pouffe I mate was just £18 ($27) less than half the amount of the cheapest one I found online.
Emily Kate

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Christmas Hamper Treats - Cranberry and Apple Chutney

Something that you find in pretty much every hamper, is a type of jam or chutney. Preserves are great gifts as they last for a long time, and one big batch can make several jars. I particularly like this chutney in a homemade hamper as its something savoury to go with all those sweet things, and its got ingredients that are in season in winter and liked by most. No worrying if you chucked in too much chilli for granny or where you're going to buy figs in December. Giving preserves as gifts is also a great reason to clear out the fridge of all those jam jars with a tablespoon of mouldy jam left in them and use them for something new!

1kg cooking apples, peeled and cut into small pieces
500g eating apples, peeled and cut into large pieces
450g sliced onions
50g fresh root ginger, chopped
1tsp peppercorns
500g sugar
250ml cider vinegar
508g cranberries

Add all the ingredients apart from cranberries to a large saucepan and pit on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely.
Bring the mixture to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for around 50mins. Until the apples are tender and no watery juice remains.
Add the cranberries and cook for another 10mins until the cranberries have softened and turned the chutney red, but only a few have burst.
Spoon the chutney into sterilised jam jars and seal. To sterilise the jars, wash them in hot soapy water then put in the oven at 120C/gas mark 1 until completely dry.
Wack a bit of ribbon round the top with a little label, and you're done!

I'm not a big chutney person myself but I always keep a jar back for me to make a few cheese, chutney, ham and salad sandwiches (in that order of course, no one wants chutney making your bread soggy)


Emily Kate

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Best Fudge You'll Ever Eat

If you're looking for an easy, quick treat to make for your friends and family this Christmas, perhaps to put inside a homemade hamper, this fudge is just the thing.
It's not too crumbly, but melt in the mouth  perfect. You can dress it up in some cellophane, like I've done here, or put it in a cute Christmas tin. Every mother and fathers day I put some in a leftover takeaway tub and post it to my parents, goes down a treat and is super cheap and easy. It's also a lovely food gift for anyone with dairy intolerance/allergy as it's very easy to make with margarine instead of butter and elmea buttermilk rather than cream.
450g Sugar
30g Butter/marg
325ml Cream
Few drops of vanilla essence or vanilla pod.
Small handful of white chocolate chips.
Add the sugar, butter, vanilla and cream to a large saucepan and put over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

Bring to the boil and let it boil, stirring constantly so it doesn't stick on the bottom of the pan. 
Keep boiling and stirring for 12-15mins, or until it has turned a golden honey colour and thickened. Check it is at the soft ball stage by dropping a drop of the mixture into a bowl of cold water. If you can roll it into a soft ball with your fingers in the water then it's ready.
When it's reached that stage, take it off the heat and whisk the mixture as it cools down. Chuck in the handful of white chocolate chips and whisk them in. When the mixture is getting too thick to whisk, pour into a tin lined with greaseproof paper.Leave to cool completely at room temperature. When cool cut into squares and wrap them in cellophane.
The cooking process takes less than half an hour and it's cool and ready to gift within a few hours. You could even make some chocolate fudge, add a tbsp or so of cocoa and of golden syrup at the beginning, and use dark chocolate chips at the end.
And there you go, a fail safe recipe for a sweet everyone will love as a gift, and perfect for a christmas hamper.

Emily Kate.