Monday, 30 March 2009

Fabric and photos

This last week or so, I've finally been getting into a bit more of a routine with my sewing after a spell of accomplishing nothing much. I'm really enjoying the coin quilt. Progress is slow, but I like the fact that it's nice and methodical, something that I can pick up and work on for an hour and put down again without feeling I need to race through the whole thing. I'm generally a binge-sewer, so it's good to work at a slower pace sometimes. My coins are now pieced, so I need to decide on the finished size of the quilt before I go any further.

pieced coins

I've also been admiring my recent acquisitions from a fun day fabric shopping in London. I can now see why Ruth has been spending so much time in Fabrics Galore just lately! I came away with this stack of fabrics and was left wishing I'd bought more. I also discovered that it is physically impossible for me to buy less than a metre of anything; I did try to buy just a half metre of the first print on the table, but just felt I had to have a little extra, you know, just in case. The tweeds and green prints will be bags and moleskine organisers, but the two brighter prints are destined to become summer frocks for my girl.


I've cut out a bag from the green herringbone which will be lined with the lovely Liberty print though I've had to put that to one side until I buy some matching thread (why is it that there's always one essential item that's missing?).

Elsewhere this week, I've been having fun looking through my Dad's archive of old family photos. There are some hilarious ones over the years! Here I am in a favourite corduroy dress made by my mother with my most-requested loopy plaits hairstyle. Looking back at these photos I'm most impressed that my mother always seemed to have a set of matching hair accessories and ribbons for my outfit - I must try harder around here as I can never find a matching pair of anything in the mornings when I do my daughter's hair.


Saturday, 28 March 2009

Earth hour

In around 50 minutes time, we'll be switching off the lights for an hour:

Thursday, 26 March 2009

apple tart

just out of the oven

I'm in a bit of a baking phase at the moment - as I type there is a a chocolate banana loaf cooling in the kitchen ready for breakfast (if Bill says chocolate is a breakfast food, then that's good enough for me). Tomorrow there'll be a plum crumble cake to use up the surfeit of plums in the kitchen (also from Bill's Food). Last week, there was the coffee and walnut cake that I just had to bake. Then there's my mum's apple tart. Jo's post about heritage cake the other day got me thinking about the apple tart recipe that I've grown up with. My mum would rustle this up most Sundays to be popped into the oven after the roast was cooked.

Okay, so I know there will be purists out there who will insist that this is an apple pie (I think the technical definition is that a pie has pastry both underneath and on top of the filling, whereas a tart just has pastry underneath). It probably doesn't matter (you say pie, I say tart, let's call the whole thing off) ... however, I'm not budging on this one. For me, pie seems like a hearty option - thick pastry, chunky apples - whereas this has thin and crisp sugar encrusted pastry and thinly sliced apples.

Anyway, here's the how I make mine:

125g butter or block margarine
250g plain flour
a few tablespoons chilled water
5 or 6 sharp eating apples or 5 bramley cooking apples
1 egg
lots of sugar

Take the butter or margarine straight from the fridge, cut into smallish cubes and put it in a mixing bowl with the flour. Then, using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs and no large lumps remain. Then, make a well in the middle and add a couple of tablespoons of cold water. Using a knife/palette knife, draw the flour/butter into the water, adding more water if necessary until the mixture begins to hold together. Don't add too much water or you'll end up with a sticky mess. Just when the mixture is beginning to stick together, get your hands back in and pull it all together into a ball. If you like you can then rest the dough in the fridge for 30 mins wrapped in cling film, but I don't do this and I don't remember my mum ever doing it either!

Cut the ball of pastry in half so that you have two pieces, one for the underside and one to cover the filling. Roll one ball out so that it's the right size to fit your plate (I use a pyrex plate - any plate will do, approximately the same size as a dinner plate, as long as it is ovenproof). Grease the plate then pop the pastry on top and then cut off the excess with a sharp knife.

apple tart in the making

Take your apples and peel them, slice them into quarters, then remove the cores. Slice them as thinly as you can lengthways. Layer up the apples on top of the pastry-covered plate, with a good sprinkling of sugar over each layer (you will need considerably more sugar if you're using cooking apples than for eating apples). When your apple filling is nicely heaped up, roll out the second ball of pastry to form a lid for the tart. Use a little of the beaten egg to moisten the edges of the pastry on the plate so that the lid will adhere. Pop the lid on the tart and press down around the edges with your fingers. Make a few holes with a knife in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape. Cut off any excess pastry with a sharp knife.

Paint the lid of the tart with the beaten egg, and if you like, make an apple and leaf from the pastry cuttings to decorate it (I either get my children to do this, or just pretend they have done it as my pastry art is never very expert!). Sprinkle lots of sugar over the top of the tart, then pop in an oven preheated to gas mark 5 (190C / 375 F) for 30-40 minutes on the middle shelf or lower. It needs plenty of time to cook the apples through as you haven't precooked them, so if the pastry begins to get too brown you can just cover it with a foil lid.

If you have small children, give them the remaining pastry scraps so that they can either make jam tarts or just meld them into a soggy lump as the fancy takes them.

The best bit about this recipe is that there are no quantities to remember - you just take about half a pack of butter (ours are usually 250g in the UK) and use twice as much flour for the pastry. Couldn't be simpler! It's quick enough that I wouldn't think twice about making one for tea on a school night on a whim, though I am not the fastest apple peeler on the planet.

slice of apple tart


Thursday, 19 March 2009

Crafting catch up

taking over the dining table

Still getting to grips with my new computer - which for the record isn't huge, nor am I an elf, it's just a funny angle! My old photo editing software apparently doesn't like the new operating system, so it's back to the drawing board. Hopefully taking the photos from my flickr will work!

Having been unable to use the internet (at least not without a good deal of frustration) for a couple of weeks, I've had plenty of sewing time on my hands. Whenever the small people have been out and about at school at playgroup, I've been trying to be super organised and do a lot of batch cutting and sewing. Truth be told, I haven't yet mastered the idea of cutting out several identical items at once, but even working on different items, I find it much more efficient to cut out a number of different projects at once.

There have been baby shoes for friends with new babies:

elves and the shoemaker
baby shoeses in twoses

a new cosy which matches my living/dining room curtains (I am a tea fiend and find it annoying how quickly a pot of tea cools rendering it undrinkable - this one is interlined in insul-bright so it should retain the heat!):

quilting lines
tea cosy

and my personal favourite, a little red riding hood cape for a little girl who had to dress up as a character from a book for world book day (and she won a book!):

red riding hood

Ottobre design came up trumps with the pattern for this one - a cape and I would have winged it, but I was a little nervous about the hood! The pattern from the 6/2008 issue was just perfect, right down to the pointed tip to the hood (though this did not go down well with my daughter who was constantly trying to flatten it!). This is the red velour that I originally bought to make a Christmas dress for my girl - the Christmas dress that never was!

I also have a number of bags in various stages of completion - all in need of a single item to finish them which I have run out of, so they're laid to one side for the moment. Instead, I've rummaged through my scraps to put together some fabrics for a Chinese coin quilt. Chickpea Sewing Studio and Orangeflower are having a sew along, which was the perfect excuse for me to start on this project. I'd been looking at the one in Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts for a while without ever taking the plunge.

coin quilt colours

These are the fabrics I've decided on - various scraps (and I mean scraps!) of Barefoot Roses, a bit of Liberty Tana Lawn, and one of my favourites, the Flea Market Fancy print. It's been so sunny this last week, it's put me in the mood for a nice Springtime project! I've started piecing them already, which a slightly eccentric method of chain piecing which left me losing track of the order I'd decided on, but all is well, and I think I'll end up with four strips of the same length. I think I'm really going to enjoy this one!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Hooray for my new laptop

My new laptop arrived today and it's red which is a source of great joy to me! Now there's the small matter of getting it to behave and install my very old version of photoshop elements so that I can sort out all my photos. The itnernet downtime has been good for me in a way as I've managed to do a fair bit of sewing without the distraction of the world wide web and the fabric window shopping opportunities it affords!

I'll be back with some photos of all the crafting once I've got everything set up. Now to catch up on reading everyone's blogs!
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