Girl’s panelled twirling skirt

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I love this skirt pattern and thankfully so does my daughter! It’s a total nightmare to photograph spinning children though!!!

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Just ignore the fuzziness, you get the overall impression – it’s a twirler! I drafted this patten last spring, the construction is a bit of a fiddle but I think it’s worth it. It is made with slightly flared panels and godets (the proper name for triangular wedges) which you sew in between the panels to add extra flare to the hemline. The result is that you end up with a very twirly skirt at the hem that doesn’t have metres of fabric gathered around the waist, perfect for fusspots that can’t stand bulky waists but still like to spin! I may write up a tutorial for drafting and making this skirt if people are interested?

Gluten-free crusted goats cheese

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Soft creamy goats cheese, walnut tannins, sharp and sweet red onions – say no more!

Want to make it?

Take a small handful of walnut pieces and either a few gluten free breadsticks or crackers and whizz to fine crumbs in a food processor. Slice a goats cheese log into rounds, dip first in well beaten egg and then into your crumb. Place in the fridge to chill for half an hour at least. Bring the oven up to 180C and pop the goats cheese rounds onto a non stick tray. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden.

Serve with a leafy salad and some red onion marmalade or chutney. I had neither, so I quickly sautéed some red onion slices until very soft and added a spoonful of balsamic vinegar and let it reduce until the onions were soft and sticky. Divine!

Gluten-free almond chocolate seed cookies

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These cookies don’t last long in our house, quick camera snap, turn away to write up blog post, look back and they’re gone!

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They’re soft, crumbly and have an interesting texture from the almond. You could omit the seeds if you wanted to, my lot all love seeds though so I tend to throw them in anything I can.

Here’s what to do:

125g butter or marg
100g soft brown sugar
1 cup of ground almond
Half a cup of gram flour
Half a cup of gluten free plain flour, I always use Doves Farm flours
1 egg yolk beaten with a drop of milk to bind
50g dark chocolate cut into rough chips
25g mixed seeds

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the almonds and the flours, then add just enough egg yolk beaten with milk to bind the mixture. Mix in chocolate chips and seeds if you like them.

Pop teaspoon size blobs of the mixture onto a non-stick or lined tray, flatten slightly and bake at 150C (fan oven) until they are cooked and turning golden – mine took about 18 minutes with two trays in the oven. Cool on a rack.

Fabric printing with kids – a step up from potato blocks

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I meant to write about this some time ago but I hadn’t taken the right photos at the time, so today when my daughter asked to do some fabric printing I grabbed my camera!

This is a simple and effective printing project; an alternative to soggy potato stamping on paper and so much cleaner, especially if you have a child that cannot bear having slimy or sticky fingers. It uses fabric paint, foam precut shapes and wine corks – yes parents of the world, you did read that correctly, you may have to drink some wine in preparation for this activity!

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Using a hot glue gun, or good strong glue, stick a selection of small foam shapes onto the flattest end of some corks. We used precuts that came in a craft pack that were a bit thicker than sheet foam. Ideally you want the shape to fit within the circumference of the cork, if it overhangs then you might not get such a good print or you might need to get your child to use the end of a paintbrush to help firm those bits down onto their work.

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Here she is applying some metallic fabric paint, we’re using that at the moment as it was half price in my craft store. I suppose if you don’t have fabric paint you could use acrylic paint, so long as you don’t intend to wash the project. Applying the fabric paint with a brush gave a good even print result but for younger children you might wish to just blob some paint out onto paper plates and let them dip their corks in.

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We find that printing onto plain white cotton is most effective, we tried denim and that didn’t work so well. My daughter likes to make these printed panels up into little cuddle cushions that she gifts to her friends.

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Here is one that she made for herself with a little bit of assistance cutting out. With younger children I’d suggest taking their printed panels and turning it into something for them, or you could give them a pre-made item, a little bag or an apron maybe, and let them print directly onto it.

Friendly quilt-along: progress report

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Yes. Yes. I am fully aware that I haven’t published a block since July and this was meant to be a year long project… Sigh, I suppose I got a little distracted. However, the project is not abandoned and I have got another couple of blocks made this last week. I think that takes me to 9 of 12 completed.

So without further ado…

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This block is called the spiral and I must confess that it is driving me into a spiral of despair. It seems to me that there is something wrong with the piecing on the top and bottom rows that breaks the symmetry of the block. I have double and triple checked it with the pattern and it is pieced correctly but it is niggling away at the perfectionist in me and I might yet get the seam ripper out on this one and go against the pattern.

The next block is probably the best I’ve done so far in terms of quality of the piecing. I’m not a huge fan of pink so it doesn’t really sing for me but I’m sure when it is pieced into the final quilt it will be perfect.

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The remaining few blocks I hope to complete over the next week and then I need to decide on the colour of the the sashing and backing. I suppose it might be finished and quilted by Easter!

Ruffle yarns – or why I can’t stop making scarves

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Ruffle yarns…aren’t they just the wackiest thing ever? The first few I saw in the shops had me intrigued. I picked them up, examined them closely and could not work out at all what to do with them and hurriedly put them down again and ran away. Then a friend started sharing some of her fabulous ruffle scarf projects with me and demystified it all – oh my word, they are addictive!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about then here’s a couple of Phildar yarns I’m working with at the moment.

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See, it’s a mesh yarn or a yarn with a looped edge that you knit through just a few stitches back and forth to create these lovely ruffled scarves. You just cast on a few stitches on that mesh edge and start knitting normally using the loops of the mesh. There’s plenty of videos out there showing you how to get started.

This…

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….becomes this…

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And this really unusual yarn by Belgian creative store Veritas….

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…becomes this, when knitted up in a slightly more complicated way.

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I think the fact that you can make a scarf within a couple of hours is a large part of the appeal, in terms of project completion they are really rather satisfying. They also look really effective; recipients of your handiwork will ooh and ahh for quite some time unable to work out how on earth you knitted it! Clever stuff!

Play pizzeria in a box

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It’s been a while since I’ve had a play with felt; it’s still one of my favourite making mediums, especially for play food. It’s very easy to work with and looks so effective. A friend of my daughter recently had her birthday and, as I knew she had received a beautiful wooden play kitchen for Christmas, I decided to make her a pizza set just like the one she’s had so much fun with at our house.

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If you’ve never made felt play food before then a pizza is a very easy starting project, it’s made from two circles of beige felt with a layer of thin batting between. Cut the pizza sandwich into even-sized wedges, blanket stitch over the edges of each wedge using a few strands of embroidery thread and stitch a border to define the crust.

The toppings are just pieces of felt cut to shape; tomato and cheese layers, olives, pepper, anchovies, salami, mushroom. You can add whatever you like – my daughter has added onion rings, capers, ham and pineapple to her set. Embellish with a little embroidery if you wish.

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I added a simple gingham apron and a menu card to the set, which I think add to the role play opportunities.

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The whole project is packaged in a clean unused pizza box courtesy of the very nice people at the local takeaway. Pizza boxes are available from catering suppliers but I could only find them in packs of 150, which seemed a little excessive!

It’s such a simple project but remains such a popular toy with my daughter and her friends even though they’re approaching the age when games consoles and MP3 players can easily take over. They still love to fetch out the pizzeria and the bakery and set up shop on the table and that’s serious satisfaction for just a little bit of mum magic!

Reindeer guaranteed!

One has to make sure that Santa’s reindeer know where they’re needed and what better way to encourage them to your home than with some ‘magic reindeer food’. Scatter on your lawn on Christmas Eve and hurry off to sleep and let the magic do its work!

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Belgian children don’t really understand much about Father Christmas, here the big crazy kiddy celebration is on December 6th, the feast of St Nicholas or Sinterklaas as he is known in these parts. My daughter has sometimes had concerns that Father Christmas might not find her here and a little sprinkle of magic reindeer food on the lawn has become a big part of keeping that tradition going for her. This year she decided it would be nice to share the tradition with her closest friends, so she made some little hessian sacks and I devised a little rhyme in Flemish explaining the tradition. I don’t honestly know how this will be received but heh, we’ve had years of sucking up and playing along with the local traditions, it’s definitely time to share a little of our own magic!

Just mix up some wild bird seed and oats and add a little edible glitter – it couldn’t be easier!

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If you’re in a similar situation in a Dutch speaking country then feel free to use the rhyme if you wish to replicate this activity.

Gluten-free shortcrust pastry

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With Christmas approaching, I was determined this year to crack the art of gluten-free shortcrust pastry. I too want to have my mince pie and eat it!

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Achieving a good, crumbly pastry is no mean feat. I’ve tried all sorts of variations on a theme; adding egg, different flours, using almond meal and coconut to give flavour. Results have varied between something resembling cardboard to being nothing short of bin worthy! But I am not a woman easily defeated so, after doing some more research and a bit of experimentation, I have come up with something that works. It tastes like pastry, it cuts like pastry, it’s crisp and it’s crumbly.

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Here’s how to make it…

150g gluten-free plain flour blend
50g gram/chickpea flour
100g soft butter/marg or a mix
25g caster sugar (omit if making a savoury dish)
half a tsp xanthan gum
Pinch of salt
2-3tbsp cold water

Mix flours, salt, sugar and xanthan gum in a bowl. Add the fat and use a fork to blend until it resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water and use a knife to bring it together. The amount of water you will need will vary depending upon your flour blend, some are more thirsty than others but just keep an eye on it, the last thing you want is it too wet. Bring the dough together lightly with your fingers and then wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least half an hour.

When ready to use, roll out the dough on a well floured surface. It may crack but it’s quite forgiving when you need to mould it into a tin. If it tears, just squash it back together or use a scrap to patch it. This recipe made 9 deep mince pies with tops, so you’d probably get a full tray of shallow filled tarts or a regular flan from it.

I really can’t tell you how happy I am to finally be able to make a light and crumbly short pastry. Now please excuse me; someone has to eat that mince pie I cut up to photograph!

A month ago I couldn’t knit…

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It’s official folks – you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! My poor patient mother has tried several times over the years to teach me how to knit, even as recently as last Easter, but on each occasion I have totally failed to ‘get it’ and given it up as a bad job.

I don’t know what drove me to try again this time, perhaps just inherent stubbornness or possibly the small child pestering for a pair of leg warmers and me refusing to pay shop prices! However, I decided to try again and bought some chunky yarn and needles (in the hope that it would knit up quicker) and booked myself an afternoon with a load of online videos.

Here’s the outcome…

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I’ve only gone and cracked it! Totally chuffed with myself, despite the fact that it’s only taken me 30-odd years to get my brains and hands around it. Now I just need to learn to unknit my mistakes!

My next project is slightly more complicated, a simple lace scarf that is getting me to use basic increase and decrease stitches. So far I’ve only had one major lapse of concentration. that has required a seasoned knitter to come to my rescue. I’m not sure if the intended recipient will see this here but if so then they can let you know if I succeeded or not in December!

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