Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Cards

homemade christmas cards stamps embossing

I love to make my Christmas cards if I have the time. I try to pick a different idea every year, not every card is identical but they are all on the same theme. This year I have chosen embossed snowflakes - gold and silver on different coloured card. Embossing is brilliant - you can use it with stamps but also on biro so you can draw or write a design of your own. If you don't know what it is, click here. You don't need to buy the expensive heating tool to melt the powder - just hold the paper over the toaster and watch the magic happen.

Hopefully you can see the embossing a little better here. It gives a lovely raised and shiny finish. I just love these snowflake stamps!

homemade christmas cards stamps embossing

Monday, 19 December 2011

Mince Pies

What can I say? It's just got to be done :)

easy homemade mince pie recipe

You will need:
500g plain flour
250g butter (or a mix of butter and lard)
1 egg
2 jars of mincemeat
Cookie cutters
Makes 24 mince pies or 12 mince pies plus one large pie with a lattice top

Sift the flour and rub in the butter until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix with a knife until the mixture forms large lumps, then combine by hand. Roll out to 1/2 cm thick and cut the bases, place into a buttered cupcake tin. Put a spoon of mincemeat in each one and cover with a pastry top. Brush with milk to help them brown. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 180C. I love mine warm with cream. Merry Christmas!

easy homemade mince pie recipe

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Homemade Tags

No need to buy any tags for your presents this year! These tags are made from last year's Christmas cards, all you need is a hole punch and some sparkly thread and you're all set.

homemade christmas present tags

Monday, 12 December 2011

Stained Glass Window Biscuits

I think these biscuits are aimed at children but who cares...I love them. I can't decide if I had more fun making these cookies or photographing them!

homemade christmas tree decorations stained glass window biscuits

I won't repeat the whole recipe on this blog as you can find it here

These will last this year if you want to hang them on the Christmas tree, but you can also varnish them if you want them to last longer. 

homemade christmas tree decorations stained glass window biscuits

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Orange & Clove Christmas Decoration

Just a short post today as I have got to get on making Christmas cards and mince pies (more on that later). Here's something I made yesterday which really captures the smells of Christmas. 

homemade orange pomander clove chirstmas decoration

You will need:
1 orange
Red ribbon

Wrap the ribbon around the orange like a parcel and tie a knot at the top to secure. Tie a bow or second knot further up so that you can hang it.

Dot the cloves in the orange in any pattern you like and keep in the airing cupboard until the orange has dried out. Enjoy the amazing smell!

homemade orange pomander clove chirstmas decoration

Friday, 9 December 2011

Stitched Cards

This is a really unique way to make homemade cards. It's a little more effort than the usual scissors and glue, but worth it I think. The amount of different designs and patterns you could do are endless.

homemade stitched cards pattern

You will need:
Blank card
Stitching pattern (search google images for "stitched cards patterns" or click here for snowflake or bauble)
Embroidery thread
Card liners (optional)
Stickers to decorate (optional)

Stick the pattern to the front of the card to keep it still. Use the needle to make all the holes in the pattern - the thimble helps here as some card can be tough to puncture. Placing the card on scraps of paper or card will protect your table if you don't have a craft mat. Using 1 strand of embroidery thread, stitch the pattern as required being careful to tie off the ends or stick them down with tape. To hide the back of the pattern, stick blank card over the or use a card liner. Decorate the front of the card if you like - I of course have gone for a Christmas theme!

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)

homemade stitched cards patternhomemade stitched cards pattern

homemade stitched cards patternhomemade stitched cards pattern

Friday, 2 December 2011

Mint Chocolate Crisps

These chocolates are perfect for a dinner party or for Christmas presents. They taste exactly like the ones you can buy. One of the best bits (for me anyway!) is decorating the package you put them in.

homemade mint chocolate crisps gift

You will need:
A bar of good quality dark chocolate
Demerara sugar
Peppermint oil

Very slowly (in 15 second bursts) melt the chocolate in the microwave until it is three quarters melted. Melt the rest by stirring until the remaining lumps. This helps keep your chocolate shiny and dark. Stir in enough sugar to add a good crunch and a few drops of peppermint oil to taste. You don't need much at all.

Spread the mixture out onto baking parchment or onto plastic - the plastic wallets you put in ringbinders is perfect for this. You can spread it as thick as you like depending on if you like your mints chunky or wafer thin. If you want neat shapes, cut the chocolate as it is nearly dry. If you like a more random look (or like me, you forgot to cut it up while it was dry) leave it in the fridge before cutting.

homemade mint chocolate crisps gift

Wrap in cellophane bags with ribbon or in pretty boxes

homemade mint chocolate crisps gift

I think this is best served from the fridge.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Knitted Hand Warmers

You really really can learn to knit this weekend. I promise! I don't think that this whole project is manageable in a weekend for a knitting beginner, but in two weekends you could definitely have these finished. 

homemade knitted hand warmers easy knitting pattern learn to knit

You will need:
4mm knitting needles (bamboo needles are better for beginners - bendy and less slippery than plastic)
DK size wool, about 125 metres will give you enough to practice with and complete 2 handwarmers, preferably washable (light colours are better for learning knitting)
A wool needle (big enough to thread wool)
Buttons, to decorate

If you know how to knit...
...here is how to make the handwarmers. Cast on 34 stitches, knit a row, knit 4, pearl 26, knit 4, repeat to get the stocking stitch with the garter stitch border which stops the edges from curling. Keep going until you have enough to cover your hand excluding your thumb when you stretch the piece a little. Weave in the ends and join with mattress stitch leaving a 2 inch gap for the thumb about an inch from the top.

If you don't know how to knit... 
...follow these videos and you soon will. These videos are done by the lady who taught me to knit - she is brilliant. You'll need to practice these skills before you get started on the handwarmers.

1. Learn to cast on here (the long tail method is better)
2. Learn garter stitch (i.e. knitting!) here and more explanation here
3. Learn to cast off here
4. Learn mattress stitch to sew your rectangle into a tube here

If you feel happy with casting on, knitting and casting off, you are ready to start your hand warmers. You need to cast on 34 stitches, and just keep knitting until you have enough to wrap around your hand (not too loose) excluding your thumb. Use your needle to weave in the tails and then use the mattress stitch to sew the rectangle into a tube. Remember to leave a 2 inch gap for your thumb (at this point just weave the thread into one side of the piece, not both, and weave together again for the last inch. If you go wrong, don't worry! It helps with the handmade feel.

The handwarmers in the picture are a different pattern to plain garter stitch. It's done with a mixture of garter stitch (in the border) and stocking stitch in the centre. For this you need to learn the pearl stitch which is also on Catherine's website. When you are on a pearl row, you need to knit the first and last 4 stitches to get this effect.

I hope you enjoy your knitting and you're really proud of your project - I am certainly proud of mine!

homemade knitted hand warmers easy knitting pattern learn to knit

Best served with mulled wine!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Easy Peasy Flapjack

Flapjack reminds me of baking when I was little, along with rice crispy cakes. You can add so many things to this recipe - try it with chocolate chips, chopped nuts, dried fruit....maybe a mixture!

You will need:
220g light brown sugar
350g butter
2 dessertspoons golden syrup
350g porridge oats

In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar and golden syrup until the butter has melted. Remove this from the heat and stir in the oats. Grease a tin and press the mixture in. Cook for 40 minutes at 150C. Leave the tray to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

easy flapjack recipe

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Button Heart

This is such a simple thing to make but it looks brilliant. I've made some of these to hang on the Christmas tree, I think they're good to have up any time of year. Buttons are easy to get online or at craft stores, but you never know what family and friends may have in the sewing box or in the loft, you might come across a treasure trove of vintage buttons :)

button heart decoration tutorial

You will need:
Wire (I have used 28 gauge and doubled up)
Assorted buttons

Lay the buttons out in a heart shape to make sure you have enough and you like the design. Thread the buttons onto the wire starting with the one you want at the bottom of the heart. Keep the buttons close together. When all the buttons are on the wire, lay it out straight. 

button heart decoration tutorial

Fold in the middle (this is the top of the heart) and then bend the edges into a heart shape and twist the wire together at the bottom. 

button heart decoration tutorial

On the back, twist the spare around into the wire in the pattern. My heart was a little flimsy so I have weaved another piece of wire around the back to strengthen it. Add a ribbon if you want to hang the heart.

button heart decoration tutorial

Monday, 14 November 2011

Shaker Cards

I love shaker cards as they are that little bit more interesting than a normal card. You get the interactive element to them!

shaker window homemade cards

You will need:
Aperture cards
Clear plastic or acrylic
Double sided tape
Foam mounting tape
Peel-off's or stickers to decorate

Open the card and lay it down with the inside facing up. Cut out a piece of acrylic about 1cm larger than the hole, surround the aperture with double sided tape and stick down the acrylic. Then place the mounting foam around the aperture without leaving any gaps. Be sure to stick this down well to stop the confetti getting stuck to it. Line the bottom of the card with double sided tape as this will help stick the backing down.

Place a pile of confetti in the middle of the aperture & carefully peel off the back of the tape. Fold down the left side of the card over the middle (be sure to fold the correct side else your card will open the wrong way!) and push down firmly to stick the tape down well. Now you can turn the card over and give it a shake! You can decorate the front of the card however you like - I have used peel off stickers on mine.

shaker window homemade cards
1. Line with double sided tape and stick down the acrylic

shaker window homemade cards
2. Line with mounting foam tape

shaker window homemade cards
3. Place the confetti in the aperture. Add tape to bottom of the card.

shaker window homemade cards
4. Remove the back from the tape, stick down left third of the card. Shake!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Autumn Tomato Chutney

I've been growing tomatoes for the first time this year and decided to use the extras to make some chutney for Christmas presents. I found a lovely recipe on BBC recipes (click here) although there are many other kinds of chutney (ideas here). Chutney is a lovely winter food...I like mine with the immense selection of cheese and crackers you always seem to accumulate around Christmas.

You will need:
Ingredients as per the recipe
Fabric, ribbon & stickers for decoration

homemade tomato chutney

The most important thing here is to properly sterilise the jars. You can do this by washing them and placing them in a low oven for 15 minutes. You must put the hot chutney into hot jars to kill the bacteria and to stop the jars breaking. The vinegar in the recipe preserves the chutney but you need to make sure there is no bacteria to start with. Be careful because the jars are extremely hot. Knock any bubbles out of the jars and fill them as high as possible.

I bought my jars from Hobbycraft but you can reuse old jars by steaming off the label and cleaning them well. Try not to use jars of strong smelling food as the smells are difficult to get rid of.

It's good to leave the finished product in the dark to mature for a month or so before using to get a better flavour, but it's not necessary.

I think these make really beautiful handmade presents.

homemade tomato chutney

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Felt Christmas Tree Decorations

I warn you now...I'm a sucker for Christmas. Nearly all of my posts from now until December will be Christmas related. Us crafters have a reason to get into the Christmas spirit early - there's so much to do!

You will need:
Coloured felt or fabric
Embroidery thread
Polyester filling (or cotton woll)

easy felt christmas tree decorations

Cut the 2 pieces of felt or fabric into any shape you'd like - shapes with round edges work best. It helps a lot if you make a template from card to draw around. Hold the two pieces together (pattern side out) and begin to sew around the edge. Remeber to sew the ribbon in so that you can hang your decoration. Once you are 3/4 finished, stuff the decoration with filling to give it some shape and the sew the remaining edges. The stitch that I have used on the edge of the star is called blanket stitch - it gives a lovely decorative edge. There's a good tutorial on how to do it here.

easy felt christmas tree decorations

easy felt christmas tree decorations

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Heavenly Banoffee Pie

A friend bought this to a dinner party and it is just incredible - I urge you all to make it!

best banoffee pie recipe

You will need:
300g (10oz) butter
250g (8oz) digestive biscuits
175g (6oz) caster sugar
425g (14oz) condensed milk
2/3 bananas
1 tbsp lemon juice
600ml whipping cream
25g dark chocolate

This makes a large pie, enough for 8-10 people. I have halved this recipe for an 8" dish.

For the base:
Melt 4oz butter in a saucepan and stir in the crushed biscuits. Press the mixture into a deep dish & chill in the fridge.

For the filling:
Put the remaining butter and the sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Stir in the condensed milk and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and stir for about 5 minutes, until the mixture goes a light caramel colour. Pour this over the base (be careful as caramelised sugar is very hot) and chill until set.

Slice the bananas and toss them in the lemon juice. Place these on top of the caramel. Whip the cream and spread this over the bananas. Decorate with grated chocolate and chill until 30 minutes before needed.

Look at the biscuity, toffee, creamy banana goodness. I'm sure it's one of your five-a-day, right...?!

best banoffee pie recipe

best banoffee pie recipe

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sloe Gin

October is the perfect time to make sloe gin. The best time to pick the berries is after the first frost, but you want to leave enough time for it to mature by Christmas, so I'm doing it now.

You will need:
Half a bottle of gin (British, of course)
Lots of sloe berries
100g caster sugar
how to make homemade sloe gin

I am lucky to have a lot of sloe berries growing near my house. The best place to find them is in hedgerows out on country walks in the autumn. You might also be able to find them at farmer's markets.

how to make homemade sloe gin

Wash the berries and prick them with a cocktail stick so that they can infuse with the gin. This is the laborious part of the process and the real reason why they call it sloe gin. Fill up most of the bottle and pour in the sugar and shake well. You'll need to shake the bottle once a day for a couple of weeks, and then once a week until Christmas.

In late December, strain the liquid into another bottle (or back into the cleaned bottle) and enjoy with ice or in cocktails on snowy nights.

You can use sloe gin in a G&T, or alternatively a great cocktail is a sloe gin royale. Use 25ml sloe gin, 75ml champagne and decorate with a raspberry or such like. Cheers!

how to make homemade sloe gin

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Vintage Cupcake Stand

This is a fun project for a weekend because it involves shopping AND crafting. What's not to like?!

vintage handmade cupcake stand

To make this cupcake stand you will need 3 pretty plates (one small, one medium, one large) and two small glasses such as sherry glasses.

Arrange the plates in size order with the glasses upsideown between the plates. Make sure everything looks as you want it and then glue the glasses to the plates. The best kind of glue you can use for this is a 2 part epoxy glue.

If you want to go all out you can buy the metal fittings for cupcake stands (just search for cake stand fittings on eBay), however you will need an electric drill to make holes in the plates.

vintage handmade cupcake stand

I got all of these pieces from local charity shops - in total this cost me about £6. The great thing about this cupcake stand is that you can have it in whatever size and colour you like.

Now I just need to bake some cupcakes to put on it!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Chocolate Pretzels

Pretzels with chocolate? Really?! 


If you are reading this from the US you'll probably know all about the little bundles of joy that are chocolate pretzels. In the UK most people have never heard of them, and that's a travesty. Don't be put off by the strange combination - they are so tasty and best of all they are very easy to make.

homemade chocolate pretzels

You will need:
200g good quality chocolate
Salted pretzels
Makes around 50, which, if you are like me, will last less than a day.

The traditional method of melting chocolate is to put a glass bowl over a saucepan of water, but that's a lot more effort and washing up. You can melt chocolate in the microwave as long as you only give it short bursts (10-15 seconds) and stir it well in between.

You want your chocolate to end up shiny, and to do this you need to go through a process called tempering (more info here). If you have a chocolate thermometer (like this) you need to make sure you've reached the right temperature. If you don't, just melt the chocolate in the microwave until it is mainly melted but there are still some lumps. At this point, just stir the chocolate and the heat will melt the remaining lumps. You don't want to get the chocolate too hot as when it's set it will "bloom", i.e. look white and streaky. If this happens it is still fine to eat, it just doesn't look as good.

Dip each pretzel in to the cholcolate and lay onto a baking tray or baking parchment. I find this easiest done with two forks. If the pretzels are getting too coated and you cannot see the holes, try pressing it against the side of the bowl and scraping off some of the chocolate. Leave to cool (preferably in the frige - they are ready quicker and I think chocolate always tastes better cold).

If you are giving these as gifts, place the pretzels in cellophane bags and decorate with ribbon. Otherwise, ENJOY :)

Friday, 30 September 2011

Japanese Cross Stitch Card

Welcome to my blog & thanks for visiting! I hope you get some ideas for craft projects that you can fit into a weekend.

I've been wondering where to start and a I think cross stitch is appropriate as it's one of the crafts I have been doing since I was little. A cross stitch card kit is a lovely thing to do over a weekend as you can leave it and come back to it whenever you want. A small card won't take too long and people always love to get homemade cards. I've just finished this cross stitch card.

cross stitch cards pattern

I love the blue and white theme as it feels so calm and serene. Isn't that lady gorgeous?! I'm not sure who to give her to yet, but I'm sure she'll go to a good home.

I used to do a lot of larger cross stitch projects when I was at school / uni but I have much less time now. I also find the large projects so daunting to start, as I know I'm unlikely to have the time to finish them. Recently I have just been sticking to small projects like cards and bookmarks which are quick to do. Sometimes I'll take a cross stitch project on the train (I get the train to work) which usually gets me some funny looks but it's the perfect time to get some stitching done.

 photo homeeee_zps214aed0e.jpg
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