An adventure in quilting hexagons: part 3 – cutting & arranging

So, this project had to take a little hiatus as it turns out it’s practically impossible to get a 10″ half hexagon ruler here in Australia! In the end, my solution was to get my father to make me one out of perspex.  It doesn’t have any grid lines on it or anything, but it’s durable and does the job:

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Having a ruler, and having chosen the fabric for this project already, it took no time to get around to cutting.  The cutting process is actually very fast if you make 4.5″ strips first and then cut hexagons from them, and it turns out this quilt is actually a great fat quarter project: if you cut your fabric wisely you can actually get four full hexagons (eight halves) out of one fat quarter!  I used some fat quarters, along with some other scraps, and ended up making around 100 or so full hexagons I think, so this quilt will finish up double bed size.  However, if you wanted to make a smaller quilt or table runner or whatever takes your fancy, it’d be a really quick project!

Next up was layout. I didn’t make many hexagons of each fabric – the yellow accent one has the most, the others are mostly around 4 hexagons per fabric, so I knew I wanted a random arrangement.  I find the best way to do this is to just lay the pieces out without thinking about it at all at first, then to stand back and look, rearrange to fix balance of colours and patterns, then look again and repeat!  You want to make sure you don’t have too many similar fabrics adjacent to each other, and that your lights, mediums, darks and accents are fairly evenly yet randomly spaced.  However, at the end of the day it’s meant to be random – when you get to the point where you’re just changing minor things, it’s best to stop!

Here’s what I came up with:

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Notice how it looks kind of complex, but because they’re half hexagons, it actually makes neat rows?  This is what will make it heaps easier to sew than the horrible Y-seams you get when joining full hexagons, which basically rule  out anything but hand-sewing.  Which is no fun, and takes forever!

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Speaking of sewing, I’m out of time at the moment so that’ll have to wait for a bit… so I’ve packed it all up neatly, ready to quickly lay out again for sewing to begin! I find labelling my rows is really helpful when I have to stop at this point, like this:

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Happy sewing!

A belated Merry Christmas and some gingerbread house tips!

Wow, long time between posts… this is my favourite time of the year, but sometimes it does get so busy and just fly by!  I really wanted to share this, my first ever gingerbread house, before Christmas – but that didn’t happen. So I guess I’ll share it now just to hang onto the Christmas spirit for a bit longer, and you can have some very early tips for next year’s Christmas baking! (Or I guess you could just make a house whenever you like – gingerbread is tasty any time of the year, right?!)

So here it is, the finished work:

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I’m pretty proud of it, especially for a first attempt – it just goes to show you don’t have to have a lot of experience to make an awesome gingerbread house!

So, here’s some tips to make it work for you:

  1. Search around Pinterest or google some ideas for gingerbread houses first – you may even find patterns with dimensions which makes it really easy to construct something neat!
  2. Don’t roll your gingerbread too thin. Remember it’s essentially building material – it needs to be strong!
  3. Give your gingerbread time to dry out before you assemble your house. A few hours or even overnight is fine! Again, it needs to be tough.
  4. Decorate any vertical/angled pieces e.g. walls while they are still flat – it’ll stop your icing running everywhere.
  5. Speaking of icing, you should use royal icing – the egg white will give your icing much more body and strength to hold up your house!
  6. While you’re at it, don’t go lightly on the icing – make sure your house is well stuck together.
  7. Construct the house gradually – e.g. stand up the walls, then wait to dry before you add the roof. It’s better if you let the icing set to make sure your walls are strong. Be patient!
  8. Go as crazy with the decorations as you like, but remember simple can be effective too! As you can see, my house is on a really big cake board, so I decorated the space around it too.  To make some special decorations:
    1. Cut holes in your unbaked gingerbread and place a barley sugar or similar hard boiled lolly in there while the biscuit bakes to make windows!
    2. Bend candy canes as I’ve done around the door, and to make swirls on top of some of the little stars – this takes a bit of practice to get the candy at the right temperature to not be brittle, nor so soft as to melt completely, but looks really effective.

And finally – some progress shots and different angles! The roof in particular is my favourite part 🙂

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Happy baking!

A recent ‘bracelet’ project

I mentioned in my last jewellery post that I was going to try to get back into beading. I started with simple, but thought this time I’d try something totally different and a bit more involved. I ended up with this:

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I say ‘bracelet’ because that’s what it was meant to be, but I got a bit carried away with the beading and it ended up much more like ankle length on me, oops! However, I do have quite small wrists, so it may be more comfortable as a bracelet on some people! I would recommend though, if you use this pattern, that you keep measuring as you go because the full quantity of beads makes a bracelet far too large for me!

This now anklet is based on this ‘oriental’ bracelet pattern.  You will notice it’s not quite the same – I got part way through and decided it didn’t need any more ornamentation – I’m a fan of small, light, delicate bracelets – but if you wanted a bit more sophistication, you could of course keep on beading!

Also, please don’t be afraid of this project! It may look complicated, but I have very little experience in bead weaving techniques and I found this easily manageable! Have confidence in yourself :).

Here’s a couple more shots to show the front, and the back with the clasp as well: (ok, I know, not the best photos – I’m still learning!)IMG_3281IMG_3284

What do you think of this project? Are you a fan of the delicate and simple, or more opulent and fancy?

Dark chocolate & raspberry cookies

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These are vastly different to the last cookies I made here – let me know if you’d like the recipe for those too!

Chocolate chip cookies are an all time classic, and for good reason – they are delicious. But if you’re looking for a modern twist on the old favourite, or a way to squeeze in a little extra fruit (it still counts if it’s smothered in chocolatey goodness, right?!), you might like to give this a try.

These cookies  are based on a recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod with a couple of slight variations to make them even quicker and easier.  My version have a bit more of a soft, cakey texture too, which I really like – but if you prefer a crisper biscuit, feel free to leave out the milk!

The best thing is that you’ll probably already have the ingredients for these in your cupboard, so why not drop everything and make them right now?!

Dark chocolate & raspberry cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa
125g unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup frozen raspberries 

Note: leave the berries in the freezer until the last minute! I'll explain why in a minute...

1. Preheat oven to 175ºC and line two trays with baking paper.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl; whisk together.
3. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until fluffy; mix in egg and vanilla.
4. Gradually add dry ingredients to mixer and mix to combine. Add 
milk. You may need to add more flour - your biscuits will be the 
right texture when the dough comes off the side of the bowl like 
this:
IMG_32625. Add chocolate chips and mix in briefly.
6. Remove frozen berries from freezer.  It doesn't matter if you're using the last of the bag like I did and they're more like crumbs than whole berries as they'll break up a bit anyway. Also, this is why it's important to leave them in the freezer until the last 
minute, as you don't want to puree them - just mix them in briefly or you'll have no beautiful chunks of raspberry left!
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7. Roll/pick up chunks of mixture, place on a tray and flatten 
slightly. The quicker you can do this, the better - as the berries start to thaw, the mixture will get softer.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then leave on the tray to cool a little (as they will still be quite soft) before transferring to a wire   rack to cool completely.

Recipe: Apple, loganberry & walnut slice

 

IMG_3254Welcome to Summer! With it’s vibrant flavours and colours, and using the two ingredients we have an abundance of at the moment – loganberries and lemons – I think this slice is a beautiful way to welcome the season.  I suppose you could also say it looks vaguely festive, with the bright red berries, but even though it’s December I’m not quite ready for Christmas baking just yet ;).

But seriously, check these out. Nothing beats fruit straight from the tree or the vine!

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This slice is pretty easy to make, but looks beautiful.  It’s really an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation, as many good recipes are – the furthest back source, so far as I can find, is the Smitten Kitchen.  There, it’s made with pistachios and apricots, but as you can see I’ve changed up the fruit and the nuts – it really is a versatile recipe, just use whatever you have on hand and trust your instinct in combining flavours!

Here’s how to make the slice:

Apple, loganberry & walnut slice:
Base
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 125 g unsalted butter, cold
Topping
  • 110g (3/4 cup) walnuts
  • 1½ tablespoons flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 75g sugar
  • 70g butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 350 grams (approximately) apples and loganberries
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Icing sugar to dust
METHOD
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and line the base and sides of a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. In a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter, in chunks and process until clumpy. Press the dough firmly and evenly into the tin. Bake for 15 minutes or until pale golden. This is about right:IMG_3244
  3. In the unwashed food processor, finely grind the walnuts, flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and process until combined. Add the egg and vanilla, blending until it forms a smooth paste. (if, at this point, your trusty old food processor breaks like mine did, you can mix it to a paste by hand if your nuts are crushed already).
  4. Spread the filling evenly over the cooked base.IMG_3246
  5. Slice apples and de-stem loganberries. Combine with lemon zest and juice, and evenly spread over the walnut paste.IMG_3248
  6. Bake the slice for around 50 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into the filling comes out clean. Leave in pan to cool.
  7. Dust with icing sugar to decorate and cut into squares, or serve however you like.
  8. Left-over slice (if there is any!) will keep in an airtight container in the fridge, I’d imagine for a couple of days.

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Create: Honeycomb card

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This is just going to be a quick little post today, to show you a card I made. You can never have too many handmade cards, right? I think it adds the perfect personal touch to any gift, or even as a card alone, shows the recipient that you have thought about them, and that you really care.

Recently, upon searching through my collection of cards I’ve made and not yet given, I discovered I don’t have a lot of gender-neutral or more male appropriate ones – the majority of what I have left is on the feminine side of things. So I decided, for my next one, I had to make something a bit more versatile – and this is what I came up with.  However, you could use this idea and go with any colour scheme you like!

I decided a pentagon accent would be nice to maintain the geometric feel but create contrast and edginess (get it, it has one less edge than the rest?!)

You really don’t need much to make something like this yourself:

blank card + hexagon-print scrapbooking paper + acrylic paints (I used lemon yellow, ultramarine blue, lime green and gold) + a brush + scrap of green card + pentagon stencil + sticky foam (to attach raised pentagon) = an easy card!

It’s quick too, you just have to allow time for the paint to dry… so maybe not one you want to make the same day you intend to give it ;).

Here’s a progress shot or two, because why not: