Sunday 30 March 2014

Happy Chocolate Day!

I had a lovely Mother's Day treat last night when I went out for a meal in Cambridge with all four of my sons... it's not often they are all free at the same time. Good food and lots of laughs... why it still amazes me the amount they can eat I do not know!
Today it was my turn to treat my Mum to lunch so I made a chocolate cake for dessert... funnily enough three of the boys were also available for lunch today as well!

The recipe from this month's Good Housekeeping unfortunately supplied dietary information... and without the chocolate truffles (they are truffles not giant Maltesers) it clocks up a whopping 856 calories per slice...

I tell you I could feel myself getting fatter before I even tasted it... but it was worth it. And I don't even like chocolate cake that much! But it was rich, dense and fudgy and worth every calorific mouthful. And I ate a truffle!

We did have a lovely long walk in the sunshine after lunch to burn some of it off!
Whether you are a Mum or have spent time with your own Mum, I hope you have had a lovely day too!

Thursday 27 March 2014

An Afternoon Well Spent

I was all set yesterday for a nice day out in London, meeting a friend for lunch. Left home to catch the 10.20 am into Kings Cross, bought my ticket from the machine... no such luxury as a manned ticket office during the day where one might get information and went to wait on the platform...
After 10 minutes there was an announcement that they were sorry for the delay but the train was running 6 minutes late. Not a problem! A few minutes later and the announcement changed to 8 minutes late, another couple of minutes it was 10 minutes late... and so it went on until 40 minutes later the announcement changed to there would be no more trains until further notice due to lines down at Harringay.By this time I was frozen... not being one to take my own advice of "Is that all you're wearing, you'll freeze to death, put on something warm"... and waiting rooms are another luxury we don't have out in the sticks. 

So home I came, warmed myself up with several cups of tea and decided to make the most of my unscheduled afternoon at home. I blame the Sewing Bee but I thought it would be fun to have a challenge... to make a skirt in three hours? The pattern (from Sew Me Something) and fabric (from Little Laura's Haberdashery) had already been bought on my trip to the NEC last week... not entirely sure how I feel about the fabric now as it was a bit of an impulse buy... I like it but not sure how it works as a skirt... but hey ho...

Four and half hours later I had my skirt (minus buttons and buttonholes)... and I think I quite like it.

It is obviously a mistake to have chosen a horizontally based pattern for a skirt with a curved hem because it looks as though my hem is wonky on the underskirt but I can live with that... I know it's straight!

This morning I finished off the buttons and buttonholes which took almost as long as making the skirt itself (how do they do it on the Sewing Bee?)

But I quite like the overall effect of the piping with the covered buttons

Best of all the skirt is reversible but I haven't got buttons for the otherside so I can't show you that.

Did I say how much I like the buttons?
So much so, I'm tempted to make another skirt... although I think my fabric choice might be more considered next time.

Sunday 23 March 2014

As Good as it Gets

It started with some early morning baking... apricot and marmalade muffins. I can't tell you how good my house smelled... a welcome change from the usual slightly stale sock smell that always seems to linger around in a house of young men... or is that only my house?
This was followed by a mile and a half walk to the neighbouring village to buy a newspaper and share the muffins with some friends who had invited us over for morning coffee.

Then a brisk walk home between rain showers and just time to gets some soup cooking

before we were joined by my step daughter and her partner for lunch.

There was no time to bake bread so I made savoury cheese scones instead.... which were rather too moreish and I ate more than I intended!

And then in the afternoon there was time for a little bit of a play in my sketchbook...

... drawing, cutting and sticking!

And then even time to get some stitching done too.

Stewart has cooked supper... (under close supervision, he wants to learn to cook) which was delicious, we've shared a bottle of wine and now I'm about to relax with a cuppa and my knitting.
A day doesn't get much better really... food, friends, family and stitching... just lovely!

Saturday 22 March 2014

Bag Lady

I loved making the first collaged and embroidered bag so much...
that I made myself another one, slightly smaller and more handbag sized. (The first one is in our exhibition and for sale at Art Van Go)

It has got a brightly coloured lining and a pocket for my phone

As well as a holder for my pen.

I even added a label.
There is a story to the labels. I had them printed many years ago, probably about fifteen years ago if I think about it. I was just dipping my toes into the world of making and selling and thought that it would add a nice finishing touch to my items. I made some children's clothes which I then sold at a fair at my children's primary school (which shows just how long ago it is). A fellow Mum, a "friend" in fact, bought one of my tiny waistcoats for her son but her reaction when she saw my label at the neck completely floored me. I can't remember what she actually said but her words accompanied by load guffaws were along the lines of "Who was I trying to kid... textile artist???"

I must have been feeling fragile because as a result those labels have remained wound up in the back of a drawer ever since... but no longer. They are coming out and will grace more of these bags... because I'm already working on my third one as well as the pattern for the bag.

Yesterday I wore my bag to the Fashion Embroidery and Stitch show at the NEC. It was a wonderful show with much to see...  purchases were made, opportunities discussed and I have come home buzzing. But all that will have to wait for another day... I've got a bag to finish and a skirt to make!

Sunday 16 March 2014

What a Swell Party

Well it was quite some party!
I'm not sure if the crowds came for the cake or the art but the crowds definitely came yesterday afternoon for the Spectrum private view tea party. There was a wonderful atmosphere... the cakes were fantastic... so fantastic I might have actually eaten four (I wasn't the only one)... four little ones mind you...
The artwork was amazing... very talented ladies.

Art Van Go made us very welcome... thank you Kev and Viv!

And the reception we received, the comments overheard and the feed back were all wonderful. We (that's a royal We... I didn't sell anything)  even sold some work which was very exciting.

At this rate I might even persuade the members of Spectrum they want to do it again!

Some people even made themselves a special frock for the occasion!

I was given some lovely flowers and a gift voucher... why, I don't know, because all I do is boss them all around, but both were very much appreciated.

And today I've managed to relax and enjoy the sunshine and actually get some work done in the garden. All in all a darn good weekend!

And I haven't forgotten... the recipe for custard creams...

I'm not going to type it all out but I'll give you a link to The Boy Who Bakes which is the recipe I use. Just a couple of things I would add, first of all I like to cut out hearts rather than circles but that's just me, and secondly  that the filling is very stiff and you end up breaking as many biscuits as you actually fill, which is not really a problem because you get to eat the broken ones! I tried to pipe it like Ed suggests but the nozzle flew off my piping bag breaking yet another biscuit. So I tend to put a blob of icing on one biscuit and gently flatten it with my finger and then carefully wiggle the top biscuit into place but do not put any pressure on them AT ALL or you end up with a load of crumbs. Of course you could just make a softer butter cream icing by using half the amount of sugar but then you would have to eat the bscuits the same day that you fill them so they don't go soft. But on reflection that's not really a problem!
And the person who asked for the spongey sponge recipe... it is just a Victoria sponge baked in a mini sandwich tin.

Friday 14 March 2014

A Plan

There was a plan... a quick trip to the supermarket and then a morning spent baking for our private view tomorrow, followed by an afternoon pottering in the garden and possibly followed by a bit of sewing...
I started with my speciality... the spongey sponge... but in individual sized portions.

While I was about it I made a full size version for my boys at home lest they feel left out.

Then there were lemon macarons...

Giant Jammy Dodgers...

but as I filled the Custard Creams at 6 pm I realised that perhaps things weren't going quite to plan... and the garden and sewing were abandoned for another time.

I know... why make Custard Creams when you can buy them at every little corner shop but humour me... I've enjoyed myself. And now we've lots of treats for the SPECTRUM Private View at Art Van Go from midday tomorrow. Do come and join us if you are in the area.
The exhibition is looking good!

Photo by Jill.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Fashion and Textiles

Do you remember me mentioning that amidst all the rubbish stuff going on I'd had a lovely day out in London? Of course you don't... but it was so good, and so inspiring that I'm going to tell you all about it whether you remember or not!
I went with Gill to the wonderful Fashion and Textile Museum, near London Bridge where they have an exhibition called Artist Textiles. In an attempt to make their work less elitist and more relevant to the lives of ordinary people, many 20th century artists designed  textiles for the mass market. This exhibition charts the course of this movement from Artists such as Raoul Dufy and Vanessa Bell through to Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.

Post WWII many artists were commissioned to design head scarves as part of a strategy of national recovery after the war. Henry Moore and Matisse were among those who designed some of these head squares but we rather liked these fruit and vegetable inspired scarves too, designed by Marcel Vertes.

I also liked this one by Salvador Dali with its whirling dancers.

But there is so much more to see than just scarves with a wealth of glorious prints and some fabrics made up into garments. I loved this floral furnishing fabric by Marc Chagall. It is a wonderful exhibition and if you are remotely interested in textiles it is well worth a visit, especially if you go on a Wednesday like we did, when there is always an excellent short guided tour at lunch time.

The weather was so good that we then had a stroll through Borough Market, another feast for the senses, and then all the way along the South Bank as far as Westminster Bridge. On our way we browsed through the shops in the Oxo Tower and discovered the amazing work of Lauren Shanley, who has a shop on the first floor. Lauren makes the most exquisite appliqued and embroidered textiles... yet more sensual stimulation! Her work is an absolute explosion of colour and she was lovely, spending ages chatting to us about her work... we even offered to come and do work experience with her!

And so I came home inspired to try my own version of a Lauren Shanley fabric and started piecing scraps of fabric together... and in no time at all I had a bag!

It was such fun to make and a great way not only to use up masses of scraps and all thoose little bits and bobs we hoard but also a chance to showcase a wealth of machine embroidery stitches.

I loved the technique so much that I'm already making my second one and I've got my machine embroidery class making their own versions.

Plus it was a chance to put one of the hand embroidered buttons I made a few weeks ago to good use. I think we could all do with more inspiring days out like that! What's inspiring you at the moment?