Friday, 30 August 2013

Tess' One Hour Bag

My daughter mentioned that she had an invitation to a friend's birthday party.  We decided to make a gift and personalise a bag for my daughter's friend, Tess.

This Week's Pin:  One Hour Bag
Who's This For:  Tess
Price:  Under $15

My daughter took control of this project and chose the fabric and the Pin for the bag pattern.  This delightful Asian-inspired spotted cotton was gorgeous.  She also chose a green for the lining.  She has only sewn one project before, so we felt this was a simple project that she could tackle.

We made our own pattern from the tutorial.

We also cut felt to insert between fabric and lining to give the bag a little firmer shape.

The instructions were very clear and easy to follow.  It's a simple process of sewing the fronts and backs together (leaving an opening for turning), clipping seams on the curves and sewing the lining and felt to the inside of the fabric.  We made the shoulder strap long enough to wear over the head on the opposite shoulder.

We added press studs on either side of the inside to close the bag and then sewed buttons on the outside of the bag over the press studs.  This makes it easier to clip and unclip without pulling on the stitching or the fabric.

It did take longer than one hour but an experienced sewer could manage it under time.  It's the perfect project for a teen like my daughter, as it's personalised and so usable.  I'd call that a bag success.


"Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned."
Peter Marshall

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Brownie Sandwiches - yummy, well not so much.

Caramel recipes are abundant on Pinterest.  I Pin a lot of recipes with salted caramel.  The cheesecakes topped with caramel look divine and the flourless chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce is screaming at me to try it soon!  The brownie sandwiches combined two things that are my son's favourites; brownies and caramel.  So, I tried it.

This Week's Pin:  Brownie Sandwiches with Salted Caramel
Who's This For?:  My son

I gathered all the necessary ingredients and discovered that the recipe (here) needed dark chocolate.  I had milk chocolate on hand so I substituted it.

The melted butter and chocolate became grainy, oh no.  I thought it should still work as the chocolate mixture would blend into the brownie.  Keep going, it'll be ok in the end.

I whipped the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla until they were really creamy.

At this point, I was a little confused.  The recipe stated, 1/2 cup plus 2 T all purpose flour.  What on earth is a 'T'?  Earlier, I melted 3 T of salted butter with the chocolate.  Without even thinking, I assumed this was tablespoons and merrily continued.  It was only when I reached the point where I needed to add the flour, that I became a little unsure about the quantities.  

Making biscuits that only have such a small proportion of flour is unusual.  Trying not to get discouraged, I continued.  As Mr Wonka says, "Onwards and upwards."

I added the chocolate mixture and rested the mixture for 10 minutes.  The mixture really resembles macarons not brownies.  When I put spoonfuls on the tray, they were not as dark as I had hoped, but slid them into the oven anyway.

While they baked, I made caramel filling from the recipe here.

The biscuits were filled with caramel filling and sandwiched together.

Yes, they were chewy but were they brownie biscuits?  No, not really.  They were very much like very thin macarons, and not great ones.  They had no bulk, no biscuity-ness (yes, that's a real word look it up) and were severely sweet.  I have a sweet tooth and like so many types of biscuits, cakes and desserts but sorry these were disappointing.  The chocolate flavour came through but not like a brownie hits you with soft, rich chocolatey-ness (yes again, look it up).

If you'd like to drool over sweet things take a look at where you'll find extreme amounts of sugary goodness and Fry-day she'll deep fry things like cheesecake!

With so much potential but alas, something about this week's recipe was not right.  Never mind, there'll be a new Pin to try next week.

'I don't believe in failure.  It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.' 
Oprah Winfrey

Friday, 16 August 2013

Burp Cloths

This week I decided to jump into the sewing room and make something desperately needed and easy to do.

This Week's Pin:  Burp Cloth
Who's This For?:  Baby Nina
Cost: Nothing - fabric scraps, thread and a little love

A couple of months ago I made a small quilt for my niece who was expecting her first child. The baby girl has arrived and she's a delight.  Mummy is doing very well and managing her life with baby Nina like the fabulous mum that she is.  However, Nina has a habit of making a very big mess on Mummy's shoulder after every feed.  Baby Nina might be allergic to cow's milk so that doesn't look like it will improve any time soon.  That means that Mummy can not consume anything with cow's milk or else - blurp.

So if she brings up milk a couple of times after every feed and she's feeding perhaps 6 - 8 times a day, then that's a lot of spilled milk!  I thought that if I quickly made up some more burp cloths they would come in handy.  I know she has a few, but at this rate, a million would never be enough.

I liked the above Pin, perfect burp cloth because the shape is like a figure '8' with indentations to sit against your neck.  I had these when I had little ones and I thought they were a God-send.  They're a good size to lay over your knee when you've got the little one face down on your lap while you await the bubble of air that needs to come up (and with it that other little treat of sticky milk).

So I needed to convert the measurements to centimetres and here's what I calculated.  

The length is 50 cm, the widest part is 24 cm and the narrowest 17cm.  Mark these points on a large piece of paper and roughly draw in the curves.  Remember what this item is - it doesn't need to be perfectly shaped!

I found some scraps that were big enough and cut a pile all at once.  Towelling fabric on one side would be ideal, so using old cloth nappies would work and perhaps those baby wraps you no longer need.  Woven cotton is fine, but you need to have a more absorbent fabric on the reverse.  I used cotton poplin, cotton jersey, flanelette and mix and matched all the fabrics.  

It was a simple process of sewing two pieces of fabric together, right sides facing, with a hole left for turning.  I sewed a 1 cm hem and I didn't sew wadding into mine.  I wanted them absorbent, yes, so I used soft and thick fabric but also I understand that Mummy will be using and washing these continuously so they need to dry quickly for her.

I clipped all the corners, turned it right side out, pressed it quickly and topstitched around the edges.  I finished seven in an hour.  My son commented "One for each day".  Oh, if only that were true.  These will be going around and around the washing baskets all day.

I received a text from my niece saying how excited she was to receive a surprise parcel in the mail.  So glad I could help. 

Is there anything you can't live without for your baby?  Let me know.  


"You can learn many things from children.  How much patience you have, for instance."  
Franklin P. Jones

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Turning Quotes into a Picture File

This Week's Pin:  How to make your favourite quote into a picture file 
Who's This For?:  Creative computer users who need a little help from a tutorial

Pinterest is filled with quotes and memes (look it up) like this...

The sisterswhocan website detailed instructions on how to use Microsoft Word and Paint to turn your favourite quote into a picture file.  I followed the link to the updated version which details how to create a picture file using Powerpoint instead.

So, Step 1 is Open Powerpoint.  Geez, that needs a step?  Ok, so I open Powerpoint.

Step 2 Select all boxes.  Yep.

Step 3 Delete all formatting boxes.  Note:  Now you have a blank white 'page'.

Step 4 Click Insert 

Step 5 Word Art.

Now surely that's only one step:  Click Insert Word Art.  Done.  We could have cut that down to one step.

Step 6 Use Word Art to create your quote.

Yes, it's bad.  The pink font is just awful.  However, because the quote is about the colour pink, I'm experimenting and hoping that I can make the background a complimentary colour to make the words 'pop'.

Step 7 Add a background.  A rectangle was recommended.  Yes ma'am, rectangle coming up.

Wow, it's really looking good.  

Step 8 Select the shape, then right click to 'Send to Back'.  Sorry, but my apple doesn't right click for anyone.  So Ctrl Click will do the job.

Step 9 Manipulate your shape so it's the size, colour and placement you want.  Then select all objects on page.  Ok, hang on a minute, I've got a lot of tidying up to do now.

I added a picture, a gorgeous black and white of Audrey Hepburn.  Yes, the quote's one of hers.  I centred everything and squished up the text to the left, fiddle, fiddle, adjust, move and send to back, done.  The only extra touch was to make the text have a white solid background instead of being transparent so that the photograph didn't show through under the text.  If you don't know how to format some of these things, double-click on the item you wish to change and see what menu pops up.  That's standard procedure.

Step 10 Group everything.  This means, select all items after they are perfectly in place and right click (or Ctrl click for those with an apple mouse) and select group.  This will group all separate items into one piece.  Don't do this until everything is perfect and you've checked you're spelling.

Step 11 Here it is!  Right click (I've told you already about that) and 'Save as Picture'.  So it saves the border, the text and the image but not the white background around it.

Step 12 Name the file and put it somewhere you can find it later.  Thanks, I'll file mine under Random Acts of Artwork.

It's so easy to upload to the internet and of course, I pinned it.

Well, this process was super-easy and steps were clear.  However, the finer details of the formatting and 'tweaking' are up to you.  You're on your own with that tricky stuff.  Now you too can make those clever quote pictures that are all over the internet.  Give it a go.

'Till next week,

"The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity."
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, 2 August 2013

Surprising Leather Cleaner

This Pin is called the 'jean stain purse removal' but I think perhaps it should read 'removal of jean stain from purse'.  In no way is there purse removal involved.  However, the image below makes it pretty clear.

This Week's Pin:  Removal of jean stain from purse   
Who's This For?:  Me to use on every piece of leather in my house
Cost:  $5.69

At first, I thought that this was impossible.  I ran upstairs and grabbed an old handbag that I don't use for this precise reason.  The jeans I wore that season transferred some colour to the bag.  With nothing to lose, I found my daughter's Simple facial cleansing wipes (which are the exact brand used in the above Pin) and wiped away.  Eureka!  Stains transferred immediately to the cloth.  No leather colour was removed either.  The bag ended up perfectly restored.  Where else can I try this?...

My car has bone-coloured leather seats.  My jeans have stained the edges of the driver's seat with an Indigo hue.  Let's try it.  Huzzah!  I don't have any photos for you but the results were as good as the yellow handbag above.  My dining chairs get a bit grotty on the top where everyone's hands touch them.  That worked too.

If you were to purchase leather cleaning wipes, there are a few brands available.  I found some Official Oakwood Leather Wipes for $6.99.  Face wipes such as Simple facial cleanings wipes are $5.69 at the Chemist Warehouse.  

Comparing the two products, the leather wipes list warnings about testing on a sample before use and not to use more than two or three times a year.  It doesn't list any ingredients.  The Simple brand facial wipes are what my daughter uses every day.  

What about other brands?  Well, it just so happens I have a packet of Neutrogena facial cleanings wipes and they worked equally as well. recommends using alcohol free wipes and suggests that even baby wipes might work.  Use what you have and try it.  If it's safe enough for your face, or your gorgeous baby's bum, then it can't be too harmful for some old cow-hide.  And like me, if the item is no longer usable because of the old stains, then you've got nothing to lose by trying it.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
   Theodore Roosevelt