55. Word Bird

It has been a hectic week so far.  I realised this morning that I didn’t have a make ready to publish so decided to take an hour out this afternoon to get one ready.  I enjoyed making this so much that I forgot to take photographs at each stage and totally lost track of time. That must be a sign of a good make.

The directions for this make are by Ann Ellis in the January/February 2012 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors

I started by roughly drawing a body, wing and beak shape on cardboard as Ann suggests.

Then I cut the shapes out:

and this is where I got lost in a dream of tissue paper and glue and forgot to take any more photographs.

The steps are very simple: tear up tissue paper, stick it to the body, wing and beak. Then embellish.

Attach the finished bird to a skewer or other handy stick and admire.

50. Italian Nut and Chocolate Christmas Cake

Make number 50 already!  I can’t believe the year has gone so fast.

This week I’ve made Italian Nut and Chocolate Christmas Cake.  I don’t remember where the recipe came from originally but I’ve been making this version for at least 10 years.

It serves 10-12 and you will need a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin. (Or as I’ve done this year, 2 x 20cm regular cake tins)

  • 450g of nuts (I use hazelnuts and walnuts.  This year I didn’t have quite enough so made up the balance with pecans)
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 5 drops of vanilla essence
  • 65ml brandy
  • 1 level teaspoon cinnamon
  • 25g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • Finely chopped zest of 1 large orange
  • Unsalted butter and breadcrumbs to prepare the tin/s.

Preheat the oven to 180/350/gas 4.  Line the cake tin with greaseproof or baking parchment, then lightly grease this with a little unsalted butter.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Like this:

Whiz nuts and chocolate in a food processor or liquidiser until they are finely chopped but not ground. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in vanilla, brandy, cinnamon, butter and sugar.

Beat the egg yolks with a fork and then blend them in a little at a time to the mixture.

Add the finely chopped orange zest.

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff peaks and then fold these into the mixture gently a little at a time.

Pour mixture into one or two already prepared cake tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 45 mins for two tins or around 75 mins for one tin.  Test the cake by sticking a cocktail stick in the centre.  If it comes out without cake mix on it, the cakes are ready. (It will likely have melted chocolate on it, that is ok).

Rest the cakes for a five minutes in the tins, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

You can either store the well wrapped cakes in the fridge for 2 weeks or freeze them.

Dust with icing sugar and its ready.

48. The Best Fudge Ever

I think all the makes from now until the end will be suitable as gifts as I’m busy, busy, busy making things for friends and family for Christmas.

This week I’ve made fudge.

This recipe uses:

  • 125g butter
  • 1 can evaporated milk (410g)
  • 4 tablespoons double cream
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 250g soft brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.

1. Heat butter, milk and cream together in a large, heavy saucepan until it just starts to boil.

2. Turn the heat right down while you stir in the two sugars.

3. Turn the heat up again and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.  Keep stirring or it will stick and burn to the pan.  Boil it for about 25 minutes until it is roughly this colour:

4. You can test if it is ready to set in two ways.  (There may be more but these are the ones I use.) Either pull the spoon across the bottom of the pan and if it makes the mixture part so you can see the bottom of the pan it is done. Or, drop a small amount into a dish of cold water.  If it forms a soft ball that, if you push with your finger and it wrinkles, it is ready.  I’ve tried to take some pictures of this below.

Sorry, the second one is a little out of focus.

5. When it is ready, take it off the heat and beat in the vanilla essence.

6. Pour into the baking tray and leave to set.

7. After about 30 mins, cut the fudge into small squares – this is easy done when the fudge is still not completely set.

8. When it is set, remove from the tray, place into small cellophane bags and tie with a pretty ribbon.

36. Padded Cover for a Tablet Computer

I’m still working my way through my fabric stash and found this interesting charcoal coloured fabric with a geometric pattern.  Useful for all kinds of things except that it was bought cut into squares.

I wanted to make the cover a bit more interesting so cut the large squares into smaller squares and rectangles and framed them with some off white fabric.  I got the inspiration for this from a beautiful quilt featured on Craftsy.com. Below are pictures of the wrong and right sides:

I lined it with two squares of the charcoal coloured fabric and added a tiny pocket that I thought might be useful for keeping a train ticket or some change in.

I layered the inside and outside with a piece of  ‘bump’ curtain lining but you could use quilt batting or some old blanket instead.

I added a flap with velcro to the outside and sewed the two pieces (inside and outside) together.

And here it is:

28. Peach Chutney

It is peach season at our house this week.  We’ve had more peaches this year than ever before.  Several of the branches of the tree had broken under the weight of the fruit.   So after collecting several bags full the search for what to do with them started.

I’ve never made chutney before so thought I’d have a go at that. The only thing is that I’m not very keen on chutney with raisins so went on the search for  a recipe that didn’t require them.  As usual, I ended up merging recipes and added an idea of my own. I planted some chilli seeds in the spring and now have a beautiful plant laden with shiny, red chilli peppers. It seemed a shame not to include at least one in this recipe.

While you are cooking the chutney, put some clean, empty glass jars in a very low oven to sterilise them.

I’ve put rough amounts in here but I didn’t really measure anything out.


25g butter

3-4 cloves of garlic – chopped

1 onion – chopped

1  chilli – chopped

1kg peaches- roughly chopped

Half a cup of light brown sugar

Half a cup of cider vinegar

2 tablespoons of Cointreau (should have been brandy but we didn’t have much left in the bottle)

1 teaspoon ground pepper

Crank or two of sea salt

Melt the butter and add the garlic, onion and chilli.  Cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes.

Add the peaches, cook for another few minutes, stirring now and again.

Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook until the peaches are soft and mushy.

Add the liqueur and stir through.

Remove from the heat.

Spoon the chutney into the sterilised jars. I vaguely remember from high school domestic science that it isn’t a good idea to let the lids come in direct contact with the chutney as the vinegar can cause the lids to rust. Whether that is still the case, I don’t know, but thought I wouldn’t take any chances and covered the jars with greaseproof paper before putting the lids on.

I probably should have used that brandy – it might have turned out a more appetising colour.

25. Paper bag Made From a Comic

Another busy week at work so I was looking for something very quick and easy as a make and mistakenly thought a paper bag would fit the bill. I had several tries at this, this is the one that worked!  The bag is made just like wrapping a gift but leaving one end open.

I had some lovely heavy paper that was originally a poster that came free with a newspaper.

The picture above shows it cut in half with the top folded over about 1cm and glued down.

I then found a large heavy book and folded the paper around it. Folded over the edge again and glued it down.

Next I tucked in the base just like wrapping a present and glued it closed.  Standing the book upright on top of the glued paper held it all together while it dried.

I then sharpened the creased edges of the bag and  used a two hole punch to make holes for the ribbon on both sides of the bag.

I mentioned at the beginning that it was third time lucky for this make. Here are the first two efforts:

The first one I tried to make following instructions on a you tube video…disaster!

And this one looks good but would hold nothing of any weight at all as the bottom of the bag was made like this:

Cutting slits in each corner and then folding the bottom in.

I will get some card and strengthen this one but not today – I’m all bagged out.

17. Needle Felted Purse

This make came about because I wanted to make something special for a dear friend’s daughter’s 21st birthday. I’ve been waiting to post this until today as this is her birthday and I wanted to make sure that she opened it before she read how to make it!

I learned how to needle felt from Val who also showed me how to make paper. So far I’ve made many brooches and a couple of pictures but I wanted to make Lily something new and different.

I started off with a piece of soft felt roughly 48cm x 24cm.

Then using a needle felting tool I felted in some ‘Oliver Twist Silk Fibres’ (I bought these from Rainbow Silks – a treasure trove of beautiful creative supplies in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire – it’s next door to the Roald Dahl Museum if you want to make a day of it. They also do mail order if a trip isn’t possible.)

After I got the fibres in place, I sewed on some yarn and beads. (Scroll down for a picture.)

Once the decoration was all in place I cut a piece of lining fabric slightly larger than the piece of felt all the way around the rectangle.

For this purse I found a piece of beautiful, fine cotton Liberty print in my stash.

I pinned the lining to the felt, right sides together so that the lining would show slightly on the two shorter sides.

I then sewed the lining to the felt around 3 sides (the two longer sides and the short side just below the felted design). After turning right side out,  I closed the fourth edge by folding the lining over the felt slightly and hemming in place.

I then folded the fabric in three making a purse with flap and sewed up the sides of the purse part.

I used velcro to close the flap to the purse part.

At this point, I looked at the purse and thought, ‘This isn’t what I had in mind for Lily. Start again!’

I used black felt this time and followed the colours of the lining for the felting and beading.  I also added a label inside with her name and today’s date that I printed on fabric using Bubble Jet Set (more of this technique to come).

Happy birthday Lily!

17. Sun Dried Tomatoes

A complete change of category for this post.  I’ve always thought I would have a go at making sun dried tomatoes as they are one of my favourite foods but until now have never attempted it.

I saw a recipe in one of daughter, Sarah’s recipe books and realised that these could be a very easy make.  The recipe in the book suggested drying the tomatoes in a 50-60 °C oven. I’m not sure if my gas oven will go that low but I found the ideal place.  We have an old conservatory on our house that is freezing in winter and very hot in summer. When the sun shines directly on to it the temperature inside easily reaches 50 °C.

The first thing to do is halve the tomatoes.  I seldom weigh ingredients but the recipe suggested 500g.  I just took all the tomatoes I had out of the fridge.  Place them on a baking tray cut side up and sprinkle with salt, pepper, olive oil and a herb of your choice.  (I found a surplus of thyme in my cupboard when I made my spice bleachers so that’s what I’ve used.)

After they’ve been in the heat for about 7 hours (oops, should have put them in first thing this morning and not midday!) the recipe says to transfer to a kilner jar and cover with olive oil and sliced garlic.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Day 2:

I really wish I’d thought to make these at the beginning of this week when the weather was very sunny. Today was a bit cloudy so although the tomatoes are progressing nicely, I think I’ll leave them another day before jarring.

Here is how they looked the next day:

I think they are now ready to put in the kilner jar with some sliced garlic and olive oil:


15. Coaster from a CD

I was going to make something seasonal for this make.  My mum suggested some Easter Egg Hunt signs, which is a great idea and pretty simple. but as the weather has been so great I’ve been busy digging the garden and haven’t had the time to cut out and paint signs in time for Easter Monday.  Maybe I’ll make these for the next appropriate holiday…Hallowe’en?

This week I’m making a coaster from a CD.  This sounds like all you need to do is find an old CD put it on a table and set your coffee cup on it, which is exactly what I’d been doing until this week.  I’ve been looking for something to make from the many old CDs that have accumulated in our house and at last I’ve found it.

This is what you’ll need:

  • Old CD
  • Some interesting paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • PVA glue
  • Brush
  • Can of spray varnish

Trace around the CD onto the paper and cut the circle out.

Brush one side of the CD with strong PVA glue and then stick the cut out circle onto it.

If you would like to add any other pieces of paper at this point paste them on top with more PVA.

Wait until the glue is completely dry then spray with varnish.

Leave to dry completely before setting your cup on it.

12. Necklace made from fabric and polystyrene balls

I know this is another necklace, hot on the heels of make 10, the ruffle necklace. but I just had to put it in as it is so very easy, so dramatic looking and would make a great Mother’s Day gift.

You will need-

About 10 x 3 cm polystyrene balls – available in craft shops.

A piece of fabric.  1.75 to 2m long and 12cm wide.   I used a silk like remnant – it is a bit like the kind of fabric you might use for a neck tie.

Needle and thread.

First fold the fabric right sides together length wise.  Then sew a seam down the length of the fabric about 1cm in from the raw edge.

Press the seam open and turn the fabric the right way out.

Fold the fabric tube in half and note where the halfway point is with a pin. Slip one of the polystyrene balls into the tube of fabric.

When it gets halfway down the tube, remove the pin and tie a knot in the fabric close to either side of it.  Continue to add balls and knots to either side of the first ball until you’ve used up all the balls.

Sew the openings of the tube closed with small, neat stitches and that’s it – done.