Handbags and Shoes, a cake for a 60th afternoon tea birthday party

I was asked to make a cake for a handbag and shoe lover – in fact the birthday girl just loves shopping for all things!  I haven’t made a shoe for a few years so it was good to revisit the skill.  I first learnt how to make a flowerpaste shoe in the cake decorating course I completed at college.  You need flowerpaste and a template which you can draw yourself or pop it into the google search and find one to print off, and time to allow the shoe to set.

I used edible glitter to give the shoe a shine and used some edible lace as decoration which I painted silver using edible silver powder mixed with rejuvenator fluid.

The handbag was made from rice crispie marshmallows, with pipped roses covering it.  I again used some edible lace as decoration to tie it in with the shoe.  The handbag strap was made from flowerpaste which was allowed to completely set before it was glued to the bag.

Vintage handbag and shoe themed 60th birthday cake (3)

The cake was an 8″ gluten free vanilla sponge with jam and buttercream filling.  Covered with white icing and decorated with edible lace.  It was the first time I had used lace on a cake and only the second time I had made it.  I still can’t believe how simple it is to make and it looks so effective.  I left the lace white however you can colour it by either adding gel colouring to the wet mixture before you make the lace or by dusting or painting the lace once it’s set.  The top of the cake was covered with a circle of blue icing which was embossed using a patterned rolling pin.

 

Vintage handbag and shoe themed 60th birthday cake (2)

The finishing touch was Happy Birthday Jane in blue bunting using my bunting alphabet mould.

Cupcake decorating at Oakmere Community College

I first met Rachel from Oakmere Community College back in August at the Liverpool Loves Business network event and we got talking about the college and we agreed I would get in touch to see if there were any workshops I could offer the college as part of their enrichment studies.

I headed down to the college and met with Rachel and Andy and had a little tour around.  The college feels really welcoming and everyone I met was lovely, it gave me a fantastic feeling about the place and the work they do for their students and I was keen to get involved.

The first workshop was cupcake decorating and we set up in the canteen which was perfectally placed next to the kitchen.  The room and facilities were fantastic.

The course ran for the catering and hair and beauty groups, so this was something a little different to compliment and widen their studying experience.

The theme was Halloween and each student was shown how to make 4 different designs.

ghost cupcake witches hat cupcake Pumpkin cupcake Spiders web cupcake

They all got stuck in and created some fantastic cupcakes, helping each other out, asking questions and resisting eating any of them for as long as they possibly could!

Sadly I didnt get chance to take any photos, but head over to the college website and check out the pictures they took Oakmere Community College News

 

Knitting fun – learning to knit from patterns and adjusting them to fit your need

Last year I completed a knitting course and it was my favourite course to date.  We had a fantastic group, an amazing teacher and we all enjoyed and learnt so much over the 10 weeks.  I have been trying to keep up my knitting skills since then and have found knitting for people is the best way to do it as you have motivation to make something, if you give it as a birthday present you have a deadline to work towards and I make the time to get it finished.

For Christmas my husband bought me a knitting book which contains everything you need to know and I have used it a lot when reading new patterns and trying new techniques. The book is a fair size and has a number or post it notes in pages to guide me back and forth between sections as I attempt a new stitch or embellishment.

So far I have made a few Christmas decorations and three different types of scarves, all short neck scarves with a different finish or fastening.  I have enjoyed making them and I have even been able to adjust the patterns to fit the design I want to achieve by reducing the width of the knit, adding button holes and I have also learnt how to knit a cover for a button.

My husband has asked if I can knit him a scarf and I think he would probably prefer a full length scarf rather than a mini neck scarf so I need to build myself up to start that one.  I would like to find a pattern with different stitches and techniques in so I can keep challenging myself and make him something unique, his birthday is in October so I have a while.

 

 

Distressed ink and paper crafts

Whilst at the stiching, sewing and hobbycraft event at Event City we tried out hand at the distressed ink technique. We had already visited the stall MDFMan earlier in the day and bought some fab hearts, stars and other shapes that I was going to cover using decopatch. The stall had been so busy at the time we hadn’t even spotted the table across the way running mini workshops. One our second time round we spotted the table and booked on to the next session.
We were given a wooden heart which we covered in PVA glue then stuck a piece of printed paper on top and smoothed it out. We then trimmed the edges leaving approximately 5mm edge of paper sticking out. Using a sandpaper block we sanded around the edge of the heart which sealed the paper onto the heart and removed the excess paper, leaving a smooth, slightly distressed edge.
We were then given sponges and picked out the colour of distressed ink we wanted to use and gently brushed the sponge around the edge of the heart which added a smudge of ink. This effect was fantastic, giving the heart an aged look. It was an amazing transformation that took no longer than ten minutes to do.
You can buy distressed ink and we checked with the workshop organiser as to how long it lasts etc as it isn’t cheap. She advised that it does last well and when it has run out you can buy replacement ink which will give up to three refills and it not as expensive as the pads. However you can use any ink pads. I tried it at home with some black ink I had for using with my stamps. It worked well although you have to be very gently with the application as I found the colour to be stronger.
Instead of buying specialist pads you can use the packs of makeup sponges you can buy at the pound shops etc. You can use any paper you want and decorate any surface you want too as long as the surface will allow the PVA glue to stick the paper firmly in place. You can again buy specialist sandpaper pads however you can use any sandpaper pieces. Just make sure you test your equipment and supplies out before using on your final piece.

DSC07317

DSC07318

 

Zentangle

One of my amazing friends Karen took me to the stiching, sewing and hobbycraft show at Event City this month and our ticket included access to Cake International.
When we walked through the door we were straight into the craft section with lots of stalls selling lots of wonderful crafty things along with mini workshops at some of the stalls where you can take part in a craft. We came across the Zentangle stall just as people were sitting down, so we decided to join them. It is advisable to book on these sessions ahead of the day, we were super lucky as they had two spaces free for the first session.
We then ventured into the world of Zentangle which neither of us had heard of before. In summary we best described it as professional doodling! We were given an overview of the craft and it was explained that a couple in America had come up with the concept and you can now by books and specific equipment for it.
We were all given a square piece of paper and asked to split the paper into four by drawing lines across it. We were then taken through four different designs including a quilted pattern, a spider’s web design, wiggly lines and straight lines. Once we had drawn these we were then shown how to shade them to create shadows and optical illusions using a pencil and smudging tool.

Zentangle and the stitch and hobbycraft show
We all felt very relaxed from the session and some of the designs and art work that was on display on the stall were fantastic. There was a gorgeous map of the UK split into counties with each county having a different design. There were Christmas cards, a motorcycle helmet, pictures and photo frames all looking fantastic simply by decorating them using the Zentangle technique. With the right pen anybody can have a go and it’s a fantastic technique you can use to jazz up a plain object or create the perfect hand drawn picture for your wall.

Check out the Zentangle website for more information – zentangle.com

 

Zentangle and the stitch and hobbycraft show

Zentangle and the stitch and hobbycraft show

Accessorising your home, matching colour schemes

If you like to colour co-ordinate everything in a room but struggle to find matching colours, you can always use the paint you have put on the walls or the wallpaper to accessorise.

I recently needed two photo frames and wanted them to match the colour scheme, but this was going to be a near impossible task. We had quite a lot of paint left that had been used to paint the feature wall so I decided to use this as it would be the perfect match!

I bought two photo frames from Matalan – they were multi frames in wood colour. They also did them in white plastic but the wood ones are much easier to work with when painting them.

I took all the glass and photo backs out, laid them out on some newspaper and gave them a light sand using a fine sand paper – just enough to get rid of any lumps and bumps and give the paint something to work with, I then wiped them with a slightly damp cloth and left them to dry for an hour.

I then painted them with the matt emulsion wall paint, letting them dry overnight then giving them a second coat. To give them a nice finish, make them last longer and deter dust and dirt settling they were given a coat of varnish using clear craft varnish. Left to dry again overnight, then pictures were popped in and the frames were hung on the wall. They look fantastic on display and match the colour scheme perfectly.

We also used the wall paint to paint the blank canvasses so the background matched the room colour scheme. A design was then adding to the canvass using colours in the wallpaper and butterflies which featured on the paper. They looked gorgeous and again matched the colour scheme.

You can use spare wallpaper to decopatch items, cut out pictures from the design and use them in pictures and art. When accessorising your room always take time to think if you can use any of the decorating supplies that are left over to create the look you want.

Covering dining room chairs

Covering chairs can be a cheap and simple way of brightening up your room, matching your chairs to your colour scheme or to just give them a spruce up.

I have recently covered 4 dining room chairs following a room being decorated. The colour scheme changed to purple and the room had new curtains of which some material was left over. This was used to cover the chairs.

To cover chairs you will need
Material
Scissors
Staple gun
Hammer
Staple remover

First step is to remove any existing material, staples and anything else that has been added to the chair. The aim here is to get back to the original cushion as this will reduce lumps and bumps when covering them with the new material. You can also check that the cushions are in good condition as you want the chair to be comfortable to sit on and any old, mouldy inserts may need replacing. The other factor is you never know what you may find if you were not the one to previously cover the chairs, you may uncover a beautiful seat that you wish to keep.

recovering kellys chairs (4)

You then need a flat surface to lay your material out on and place your seat cushion, top down on the material. The material needs to be wider than the cushion so it can reach round the edges and cover the bottom of the seat with a seam of approximately 4cm. Once you have checked the size cut the material – make sure you have the pattern/grain going the right way for your design or material.

recovering kellys chairs (5)

It is advisable to start from the front of the seat as this will allow you to ensure you start off with a smooth, straight edge and always start stapling from the centre – working out to each edge. This avoids you ended up with extra material in the centre of your cushion with nowhere to smooth it out to.

Pull your material tight and staple the middle, then place a few more staples in approximately 3cm apart. Then do the back of your cushion, pulling the material tight.

recovering kellys chairs (1)

Turn the cushion over and check you have a smooth finish on top. Any folds, bags or creases will need to be removed by stretching the material out and stapling it tight in place.

Staple each side into place, again pulling the material tight. You now have the material stapled in place. You will return at the end and put more staples in all the way along the material, however you need to do the corners first.

The corners can be the tricky part. Again, working from the front first fold the corners over and try to get the smoothest finish you can. Cut off any excess material making the corner fold extra bulky, fold the front piece first so if you do end up with any small creases they are on the side of the cushion. Use the staple gun to start fixing the corner in place, and once you are happy with it, add a few more staples to secure the fold. Repeat this on each corner.

Once all corners are done go around the seam adding staples to ensure a tight and secure finish. The last job is to take a hammer and knock the staples in slightly which will ensure a smooth finish.  This is best done with the seat placed on the floor.

Place the seat back on to the frame of the chair and secure in place.
Repeat on all chairs, then invite your friends round for tea so they can sit on them and admire your handy work!!

recovering kellys chairs (8)

We also treated the wooden chairs with a mixture of 50% teak oil and 50% white spirit.  Whilst wearing gloves use a cloth or brush to apply the mixture, then wipe off with a cloth to remove any excess and get rid of any drips.  Leave to dry.  This is best done outside or in a well ventilated room.

recovering kellys chairs (7) recovering kellys chairs (6)

Making cushions and inserting zips

I have made a few cushion covers over the last couple of years, mostly out of felt and fleece, using quilting techniques and button fastenings. This time I was making a simple zip cushion using chenille material to match the curtains and dining chair seat covers.

I started the cushions in my soft furnishings class, I didn’t have the zips with me at the time however I followed instructions and cut out the cushion shapes adding 2.5cm for the seam allowance and 4cm for the zip side.

I then machine stitched the cushions together on 3 sides and only stitched approximately 10cm in on each side of the zip edge. I then used the over-locker machine to go over all edges to tidy them up. Following class my mission was to buy zips for the cushions and we could finish them off in next week’s class.

However, I was unable to attend the next class and I needed the cushion covers to be finished before the following week, so I had to take on this challenge myself.

When doing something a new it is always worth having a search on the internet to see if you can come across any videos or instructions you can follow. When I searched for adding a zip to a cushion they all showed the zip being adding before you sew the cushion pieces together – well I had already done this and didn’t really want to have to unpick four cushions. I therefore decided to be brave and attempt to add the zips using my own initiative and gut instinct!

I managed to sew all four zips into the cushions and at first glance they look ok, however I used slightly different techniques for each one and by cushion three I was happier with the result. I definitely need practice at this and will be taking the other two cushions I have to make for a different project to class this week – one already has the two pieces sewn together and the second is only cut out. I am going to leave them like this and ask the teacher to go through two methods – one for adding a zip before you sew the pieces together and how to add the zip afterwards.

By the time it comes to making cushions with a zip for our own lounge I will be a master at it!

 

 

 

Kellys curtains (1)sewing kellys curtains

Exploring the art of Decopatch – fun with paper and glue

 

I am expanding on my craft skills at the moment by trying lots of new crafts and revisiting others I have not done for ages.

This time it was all about decopatch – fun with paper and glue!

Decopatch is believed to be a variation of Decoupage, which is an old technique used to decorate furniture by gluing cut paper/material onto a surface, varnishing, sanding and repeating.   It requires many layers to produce a smooth, polished finish.

Decopatch is similar but uses very fine specialist paper which can be torn to shape, is strong, easy to use and can be applied to almost any surface.  It is a technique easier to do and is a fantastic introduction to this type of paper craft.

You can get specialist glue and varnish, however PVA glue and any water based clear varnish works really well.

I had a couple of gifts in mind.  I wanted to make my mum something for Mother’s day and I wanted to make my friend Louise a photo frame for her birthday.

Photo frame

I purchased a plain wooden photo frame and gave it a little sand down and clean.  I then choose two different patterned papers to use and got busy tearing pieces and glueing them in place, overlapping each piece slightly.  Once it was covered I let is dry overnight then varnished it.  Once it dried again I gave it a very light sanding and varnished it again.

I was really happy with how it turned out and I think I may never buy a decorated photo frame again.  We have a couple of wooden frames at home with only a tiny area for a photo – my next frame project may be to improve these using the decopatch technique.

Louises decopatch photoframe before Pinks and blues frame Louises decopatch photoframe close up of HoF label

 Cardboard letters

For my Mum for Mother’s day I choose to cover letters spelling MUM which would allow me to play with decopatch on shaped items rather than a flat surface and I hoped they would make a lovely gift.

The letters are made from strong cardboard and I choose three different designs of paper to cover them with.  As a finishing touch I used a  perminant black marker pen to write inspiration words over the front of the letters – picking words that represent my amazing mum and the fantastic relationship we have.

I have since visited my mum and dads and the letters are on display on the mantlepiece.

 

Mum and heart boxMum letters decopatchmum with first layer of paper

Easter weekend fun with crafts and baking

This Easter weekend I made time to try my hand at a couple of new crafts – lampshade making and soap making, I also headed into the kitchen for some Easter baking for our family meal on Easter Sunday.

 

Lampshade making

I have been wanting to make a lampshade for a while now and my Niece’s birthday was the perfect opportunity as I knew she needed a new bedside lamp.  I ordered a kit from Amazon where they have plenty of choice of kits in different sizes.  I choose a 30cm kit however when it arrived it was rather large for the lamp I was using, I therefore had to improvise – challenging myself straight away!

I had purchased a lamp with a plain shade so I carefully un-peeled the shade from the wire frame and removed the purple covering.  This was now my frame and template to be covered.

I followed the instructions provided in the Amazon kit using my own frame, material, adhesive spray and double-sided tape.  I had a lot of fun making the lampshade however I can share no more until I have given my niece her present!

Hannahs lamp April 2014 (5) Hannahs lamp april 2014 finished

Soap Making

I was given a soap making kit from my friends for my birthday and was keen to give it a try.  I set up my working area in the kitchen next to the stove, as instructed in the guidance notes provided.  I made three soaps using the moulds provided and tried something different with all of them.

It was very easy to follow, although my technique needs some practice and some further trial and error is required to understand what can be added to decorate and fragrance the soaps.

Hours of fun soap making first attempt (1) Hours of fun soap making first attempt (2) Hours of fun soap making first attempt (3) Hours of fun soap making first attempt (4)

The rectangle one with soap on the top was made with the strawberry fragrance provided and done in two layers – the top layer had marigold petals in and the bottom layer has lemon grass in.

The pink square one was made with a drop of pink food colouring and shredded coconut in.

The green one sadly had to be thrown away as I accidentely mixed water in with the soap whilst it was melting.  This had a drop of peppermint flavouring in, with some edible green sprinkles (which dissolved and turned the soap radioactive green!) along with some purple edible glitter.

Easter fun in the kitchen

We were heading over to my brother-in-laws on Easter Sunday for a roast dinner with the family and I was in the mood to do some baking to take with us as desert.  I wanted to do chocolate cake and also try something new so I choose Simnel cake.  I had never tried Simnel cake before however as it was simply fruit cake with extra marzipan in so I knew we would love it!

I followed a recipe I found on BBC – click here to visit the site and made marzipan for the first time which was delicious.  I didn’t have any almond flavouring in so I added a tiny little bit of toffee flavouring instead which worked well.

I also made apricot jam from a can of tinned apricot halves in sugar syrup – I added a little extra sugar and boiled it on the hob for about 30 minutes until the liquid reduced – it was a little sweet – perhaps I didn’t need to add any sugar – however perfect for coating the top of the Simnel cake before laying the marzipan on top.

Chocolate cake Easter 2014 Simnel cake 2014 (3) Simnel cake 2014 (2)