Beautiful things for you and your home!

Lots of homely thoughts on sewing, baking, papercrafts, gardening and all the things that go towards making your house a home

Monday, 30 March 2020

Let's Try That Again

Hello, if there's anyone out there!

So, I had every intention of getting back to my creative blog and adding longer updates on what I've been creating. But, as it turns out, I haven't actually been creating all that much so there wasn't a lot to report on.

My main efforts were going into my next book (due out in April) and since then I've been working on the one after that so again, not so much with the other creations! I'm hoping that is going to change though as I feel I need to be doing something else so I'll be aiming to keep you updated.

In the meantime, I did create these online via Vistaprint I have a little tradition that once I get the final cover art from my publisher, I treat myself to a notebook and mug with it on. I've done some for giveaways in the past too which have always gone down well.

I love the springy colours of this one and we all need some of that sort of joy right now!

So I'll sign off for now but hopefully will be back soon with something fun to read for you. Stay home, stay safe and speak soon!

Love, Maxi

(ps, it turns out I've been away from Blogger so long I can't make it work properly so apologies for the wonky alignment but right now, done is better than perfect, right?)

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Hello Again!

I'm not sure if there is anyone left out there but if there are, hello! 

I'm hoping to restart this blog as a bit of an experiment to see how it goes. At the moment, I tend to use Instagram to record things which I'll still do but this will allow me to go further into things and waffle on a bit more if I'm so inclined.

As before, it is likely to mostly cover the crafty side of things. There have been various changes and I no longer really scrapbook just down to time restrictions really. I've focused more on sewing as my main hobby for a variety of reasons, and as I am also now writing full time, there's only so many hours (especially when you throw Fibromyalgia into the mix).

Incidentally, if you do want to keep up on how the writing is going, hop over to my Facebook Author Page here which is probably the best place to find the latest news about that. There's also my website here which shows all the various places you can find me lurking! If you love a romcom and/or a romance, I'm your girl!

So! Time to crack on and let's see how it goes!

Have a wonderful day and look forward to chatting soon!

Love, Maxi

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Making Sun Blush/Sun Dried Tomatoes in the oven

Normally around this time of year I am busy picking tomatoes most days and looking up more recipes to use them in along with my tried and tested Delia Smith tomato soup, and a yummy and very useful roasted tomato and mascarpone sauce recipes.

This year, I'm not sure what's gone on with the tomato crop but it's been a little on the pathetic side. And it's not just me. My Dad has an allotment and hasn't had much success either. Looking around the internet it seems to be a bit of a phenomenon this year. Bearing in mind all the effort that goes into growing them from seed, potting on and feeding and watering, it's pretty disheartening but there's really not a lot that can be done now.

I have had a couple of pickings and one lot I set aside to make some sun blush tomatoes. I'm quite a fan of these in recipes, more so than the sometimes too intense flavour of sun dried. However, they're really flippin' expensive in the shops, so if you have some tomatoes you want to use up, and a clean jar, then you can easily make your own.

First, sterilise the jar. This can be done either on a hot wash in the dishwasher or in the oven. It's the same process as you would do if you've ever made jam or chutney, etc. Put the oven on to warm up on the lowest setting. My one starts at 80 degrees centigrade so that's what I left it on.

Next, chop the tomatoes in half, and lay them skin side down on a baking tray. I use a magic liner from Lakeland on my trays as it makes cleaning up so much quicker.

Now, drizzle a little olive oil over the cut halves, followed by a teeny sprinkling of salt. It should now look something like this...

Next, pop them in the oven and just leave them alone. For sun blush at this sort of temperature, I'd say about five to six hours. Mine was a little over five but I was going to bed so had to turn it off. I did leave the oven door closed so they would have still been warming in there for a while. Of course it depends on the size too. If you only have cherry tomatoes, then just keep an eye as you don't want them all shrivelled up to nothing.
After this time, you can pull them out and leave them to cool. They should look something like this...

Ooh I'm blushing!
Once they're cooled, grab your jar and just pop them in. Pour in olive oil. Do this gradually to give it chance to seep into all the nooks and crannies and then just make sure it's covering the top. Pop the lid on and you're finished!
I keep mine in the fridge and they last a good while. You can sometimes find that the olive oil sets in the fridge but it's not a problem, just get them out a few minutes before you need to use them and it'll soften enough to get them out.
A much cheaper alternative to shop bought jars and if, like me, you don't spray any of your plants, then also a much healthier way to have these super flavoursome ingredients. Of course you could do this any time of the year with shop bought ones, but I do tend to find a lot of tomatoes in the shops don't always have a lot of flavour, so although the drying will concentrate the flavour, they won't be as tasty as the ones from your garden.
Happy Blushing!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Simplicity 2497 - Cynthia Rowley dress - Complete

It's done! I finally got over my fear of the invisible zip and the dress is done and has even been worn a few times. So I'm going to call that a result, if even it did take me longer than I'd planned. Although, to be fair, that was just due to other things happening and not the fact that there were any great issues with the pattern.

I chose a poly cotton gingham because, although I love the look of this in silk, this was my first attempt at making something from a pattern in quite a long time and I wasn't really keen on using something more expensive in case it went horribly wrong! I'm also a big fan of easy care clothing - I don't really do dry clean if possible. Making it out of something I can just bung in the washing machine is much more in line with my aesthetic. It also meant it was eminently more wearable than something in a 'fancier' fabric because the cotton lends an element of casualness. When I press it I tend to let the steam 'flop' the frills a little, just so that they don't stand up loads but that's an entirely personal choice. 
The pattern itself went together fairly well, considering it's the first I've done in a long time. I was a bit worried about a couple of aspects but once I started to actually try the different steps, they tended to come together quite logically.
I did have to look up how to do an invisible zip because it was the first I've ever done. I found this blog post really helpful and only got it on back to front once! It was in all honesty supposed to be a black zip but when I came to sew it, I realised I only had a white one. There's nowhere local to just nip out and get one so I went with what I had. It really is invisible for the most part - the most noticeable bit is where the waistband is as the thickness of the fabric there forces it apart a little but not enough to bother me.
There were a few alterations I made to the pattern - I took in both the bodice and the skirt a little as it was too baggy for my liking - I know the style is 'paper bag' but I found that it just wasn't suited to me so just pinned and stitched where I felt it looked better.
I also omitted the pockets, partly because I was pretty sure I was going to have to take it in at the sides anyway so that, combined with the side zip was just a bit too daunting for my first delve back in. I don't tend to put stuff in my pockets anyway so it was no great loss. I'm not a big fan of adding extra width to my hips anyway!
The skirt length was from the shortest view, rather than the one that went with this bodice. I held up the pattern against me initially and it just didn't look a flattering length on me so I chose this length instead.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with how the dress turned out. If I made another, I'd likely raise the neckline just a tad. It's fine as a 'standing up' dress but once you're sitting or leaning, you're likely to show off a little more than you aimed. I just solve this by popping a slip underneath - a cami would do the same job. It only shows a little but clings so bending is no longer an issue!
Just an aside, if you're a fan of making garments similar to those in films, etc, having watched 'Confessions of a Shopaholic' the other day, it struck me that the purple silk dress the main character wears for her first television appearance has definite similarities with this pattern!
I've got a huge list of things I want to make - all of them next so it's a case of picking one! If anyone follows my other blog ( you'll know that I'm madly writing and working on several writing competitions, but I'm hoping to get time to create something else soon. Now I've made this dress, it's really got me enthused to get back to it and do more.
Thanks for reading and I hope I have something new to show you very soon! Until then, Happy Sewing!
Love, Maxi

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Simplicity Cynthia Rowley 2497 - In Progress

I'd really wanted to up the amount of sewing I did this year but, between concentrating on getting a serious amount of writing done, and an ongoing health problem, it's not entirely worked out that way. I've decided to try not to stress about that too much. It's unfortunate but there's not a lot I can do to change it right at the moment so I'll just enjoy the sewing I do get to do, when I get to do it. That's the point really, isn't it?

I'm currently in the middle of making Cynthia Rowley 2497

I've had it in my stash for a while and have been wanting to make it for a while. I'm doing it out of a poly cotton gingham for two reasons really - one, because it's a bit of a practice garment. It's a fair while since I made a garment from a pattern, and really, I'm a bit out of practice. The second reason, is that using a cotton, rather than something like a silk, it makes it a much more wearable garment.
I'd originally planned to have this ready for a party but as that was a few weeks ago, that obviously didn't happen. 
There are a few changes I've already made with this. I didn't add the pockets - partly because although I love a pocket, I don't think I need any more bulk on my hips, thanks very much. Also, as the zip is on the side, adding the pocket in was just a step too far for my first foray back into Pattern Land. I also shortened the skirt, using the cutting line for View, rather than View C (the ruffle version I'm making). It just didn't seem a very flattering length on me as it was.
Another change that many people seem to have made is putting the zip at the back and I can see why this is a good move. It would certainly make fitting alterations easier. As it is, I've had to take in a bit at the sides so it's a bit more fiddly with the zip placement there.
Yesterday I  finished the waistband inside, and tacked the sides as to where I need to take them in to. It's about another centimetre each side, to reduce some gaping at the armholes and more fabric in the skirt than I like. It's not a 'fitted' dress by any means, but it's looking a little better. I'm not sure if it is going to suit me after all this but it's all experience!
Hopefully it will be wearable - that's the main thing - and I'll have learned something. I'm really eager to get this done as I have plenty more things in the queue to make. I'm looking forward to being able to update you all soon with a finished garment!
Has anyone else made this? What did you think of the 'paperbag' style - did you find it flattering? I'd love to hear.
Happy Sewing!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Sewing a Case for a Kindle Paperwhite

Apologies for the gap in posts on here. I am in the process of completely overhauling this blog so hopefully soon it's going to look much better, and be updated more frequently. I have to admit that I'm not the most technologically gifted person in the world, so I rely on hubby's help for this sort of thing. He's always up to his eyeballs with his own work, but we are trying to find some time to do this, so do please bear with me and stay tuned!

My most recent make was for a Kindle Paperwhite for my Mum in Law. The Kindle was a birthday present but we weren't entirely sure as to whether she was going to use it so, apart from keeping the receipt, I also held off on making a cover in case we ended up returning the item. As it turns out, she loves the Kindle and is using it all the time! So, time to make a cover!

For some reason, I rushed this and thought I could get away without making a paper pattern first - which is what I had done here and here. This proved to be a bit of a downfall as I ended up making it a teensy bit too small! Lesson learned. That 'mis-make' is probably going to be turned into a few padded lavender bags.

So, back to the stash to find some more fabric. The original version had been from a free fat quarter that had come with a magazine. The next fabric I chose also happened to be a freebie!

I loved this new fabric - it's so sunny and 'Springy'! The only downside is that it was far more mobile than the previous fabric so it wasn't as easy to work with. It also turned out that I was short on wadding. I had some bits and bobs, so I had a bit of a think and decided to 'make do and mend'. I chose one of the utility switches on my machine and stitched a few bits together to make a long enough length for the Kindle cover. 

It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but as it's going to be inside and covered up, I don't think that's too much of an issue.

So, in the end, I came up with this...

As I mentioned, the fabric is a lovely cotton, but it definitely didn't have the stability that standard quilting cotton does so it did move about a bit more than was ideal. Hence, it hasn't come out quite as well as I had hoped, or as the previous ones did. But that's just me. It is at least the right size and looks pretty.
I've now sent it on to Mum in law and she was happy with it, and the Kindle is now nicely protected and cosy in its new home.
Happy Sewing! 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Great British Sewing Bee -The Positive Effect of Blokey Bees

Like many other sewers, I am so happy to see the return of The Great British Sewing Bee - BBC2, Thursday night is now something really to look forward to!

I've loved all of these series but I'm amazed at how much more demanding the tasks are each time. All of the tasks in the first series were - if you had a basic idea of sewing - probably fairly manageable, although of course you did still have that dreaded time constraint!

However, when Series 2 bounced onto our screens, it was immediately obvious that the challenges were going to be a whole new level of demanding! Last year, at the Sewing For Pleasure show at the NEC, I went to a talk by Stuart Hillard from Series 1. A few of us were a bit early and Stuart was just chatting about things and mentioned how he was rather glad he wasn't taking part in it this year (Series 2) as the challenges were so hard! So, that was a fun little insight!

My husband isn't into sewing but he is very supportive in giving me opinions and helping when I run to him, flapping instruction sheets and crying 'I don't understand!!!!' He's also fabulous in doing the boring bits like cleaning my machine. That is actually good for both of us as I'm pretty accident prone and he is mechanically and technically minded (I am so very not!) so letting me loose on the mechanics is probably safer for both of us!

 However, he thoroughly enjoyed watching Series 2 of the Bee with me and I think this was enormously helped by the fact that a) it's just a super enjoyable programme, whether you sew or not, as my parents also watch it and neither sew either. But I also think the appeal is that there are blokes on it - and 'blokey' blokes at that so it's something he can relate to very easily. Policeman David (also known now as Dizzy Sew and Sew ) was the perfect example in Series 2. I think this aspect really added a huge benefit for viewing figures. On Series 3 , amongst others, we have a Lieutenant Colonel from the British Army - it all shows that you can still be an Alpha Male type but also enjoy sewing! And that's just brilliant! It opens the hobby up to absolutely everyone.

Interacting with other sewers on Twitter such as Jules from Sew Me Something and Heather, who won Series 2 of the Great British Sewing Bee (with the most gorgeous Couture dress EVER!), it sounds like the Bloke Effect of the Bee is filtering down. It seems that boys are signing up for their classes! Yippee!! At last! The stereotype of sewing being only for girls has been around for far too long and it's such a shame, and a waste! We've seen from the programmes that men can have a completely different take on things than women do, and I for one, think that's a fascinating aspect! Men and women do think differently and it's good to accept and embrace and learn from that!

So, to paraphrase 'Footloose' - Let's Hear It For The Boys!

(Apologies for there not being any pics on this post - I'm not entirely sure of the legalities of posting any pics from the BBC website and didn't want to get into any copyright murkiness. Pics next post, I promise!)

Happy Crafting!