What I did today…..

Today was a good day, a very good day indeed. For starters, it was a much appreciated day off from an exceptionally manic run of work, so I treated myself to a lay in rather than being rudely awoken by my pesky alarm clock, ate breakfast in bed, stayed in my pyjamas until after lunch, and giggled in to a cup of tea whilst listening to back to back podcasts of the Xfm breakfast show that I have been storing up for many, many months but not had any time to listen to. I also got some quality time with my much-loved sewing machine who no doubt has been feeling a little abandoned of late. And this, my friends, is what I made:

A bow tie bib for baby Henry

Ta dah! You see, my incredibly wonderful friend Charlie has a beautiful baby boy named Henry, and next weekend Henry will be attending his very first wedding. Charlie has carefully selected a gorgeous little outfit for Henry to wear, and I thought I would make him a little bow tie bib to go with it.

In order to make the bow tie part of Henry’s bib, I used this tutorial from Mumtastic to guide me, but made a few alterations a long the way to fit my design. It was so much fun and so easy to make, and a good way to use up scraps of material. I have a feeling that bows will be very heavily featured in my up and coming creations.

Image courtesy of mumtastic.com

I then used this fantastic tutorial from craftpassion.com to create the bib. It comes with a brilliant free pdf bib pattern that will fit babies that are 6-12 months old.

Image courtesy of craftpassion.com

I decided to line my bib with some towelling to make it ultra absorbent. I simply bought a plain white towel from Ikea to cut the bib from and it worked perfectly well. I’m thrilled with how it all turned out, and I hope that little Henry and his mummy like it🙂

Monty Mcvitty goes to work

Our little Monty has settled in beautifully at Mr Sharp’s office, and he takes his role very seriously indeed! Every morning he fills his little head with a dose of caffeine, nibbles on a biscuit (or three), and sets about helping Mr Sharp with whatever the day has in store:

Montgomery McVitty the accountant

Montgomery McVitty the telephone operator

Monty just loves manning the telephone lines. He sure does rock that headset! Hang on a minute….. Is Monty talking with his mouth full?! I will have to have words with him about that, how very rude……Tsk tsk!Mr Sharp and little Monty make a fabulous team, and I’m sure that if Monty had arms those two would be high fiving each other all day long. It’s wonderful to see them becoming such good friends, bless ’em! Between the two of them they manage to consume an extraordinary amount of biscuits, which gives me a fantastic excuse to get my bake on, something I get great pleasure from. And, as all the biccies get eaten by Monty and Mr Sharp, I am saved from the temptation of those calorific little blighters while it’s bikini season, phew! I can bake and stick to my bikini diet all at the same time, huzzah! Monty’s favourite biscuits by far are my Vanilla Shortbreads, which is lucky because they are also my favourite biscuits to bake! They are so ridiculously easy to make, and are completely fool-proof, so I urge you to give them a try, you won’t be disappointed: 

Ingredients:

  • 325g plain flour
  • 200g chilled salted butter
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large free range egg yolks

Method:

  • Tip the flour into a food processor. Cut the butter in to small pieces and drop them into the bowl, then whizz together until the mixture looks like bread crumbs
  • Add the sugar, vanilla and egg yolks and whizz to until it comes together as a dough.

OR

If you haven’t got a food processor, rub the butter in to the flour in a large bowl, then add the remaining ingredients and mix to a form dough with your hands.

  • Roll the dough in to a sausage shape approximately 5cm in diameter. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30mins.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180c/gas4/fan 160c.
  • Once the dough has chilled, remove from the fridge and take off the cling film. Cut the dough in to slices 1cm thick and place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
  • Bake in the oven for 18-20mins. Once cooked, sprinkle the shortbread with golden caster sugar while they are still warm.
  • Eat and make yummy noises, for they are darn tasty biscuits. Nom.

I hope you are all enjoying the fabulous weather we currently having here in old Londinium. It’s so good to see the sun again, I had almost forgotten what it looked like. Fingers crossed it will be here to stay for the duration of the Olympics! Today I shall mostly be making bunting, for bunting is awesome and I love it so. It’s impossible to be miserable in the presence of bunting, it’s just too darn jolly! xx

The Adventures of Montgomery Mcvitty…..

My Mr Sharp works very hard, very hard indeed! I wanted to give him a little something to make him smile; something he could have on his desk at work to cheer him up when it’s all getting a bit stressful. I pondered a while. “What does Mr Sharp like when he is feeling a bit overworked?” I wondered…..”Tea!” thought I. “And what is better than a mug of tea?” I asked myself….”Tea with biscuits!” I replied! I thought and thought of how I could combine the two to be a permanent fixture on his desk at work. And from my pondering, Montgomery McVitty was born.

Biscuit mug!

Montgomery McVitty is no ordinary mug… oh no. Not only does he sport a well-groomed moustache and a distinguished gentleman’s monocle, Montgomery the mug has a mouth. “A mouth?” I hear you cry. “Yes, a mouth” says I. “But what use does a mug have for a mouth?” you ask. I agree, it’s quite obserd. But then again, it is actually a very useful thing for a mug to have. Our chap Monty simply looooves biscuits. He can’t get enough of them! When you fill his head with tea, biscuits are what he craves. So pop some tasty biscuits in his mouth and he will willingly share them with you whilst you sup tea from his brow.

"Nom!" says Monty as he stuffs biscuits in his mouth.

I do hope he will enjoy his new home at Mr Sharps office. I will be sending him a fresh supply of biscuits every Monday to see him through the working week. This week, Monty had Double Chocolate Chip Shortbread, and he decreed that he liked these very much. They really are truly delicious. So delicious in fact that the batch I made on Sunday to last all week had been devoured by Monday evening – oops! I’m now hurriedly baking another, much bigger batch to hopefully last Monty and Mr Sharp until Friday.

The recipe is very easy to make with just a handful of store cupboard ingredients. Here’s the recipe incase you fancy baking some too:

Ingredients

  • 175g butter, softened
  • 85g golden caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g chocolate chips (milk, white or dark)

Method

  • Mix the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon. Stir in the flour and cocoa, followed by the chocolate chips – you’ll probably need to mix it together with your hands at this stage. Halve the dough and roll each piece into a log about 5cm thick. Wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hr or for several days. Can be frozen for up to 1 month.
  • Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Slice logs into 1cm-thick rounds, transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment and bake for 10-12 mins. Cool on the tray.

Shortbread is definitely one of my favourite types of biscuits to bake at home, but I always feel guilty eating them when I have seen just how much butter goes in to them. I wonder if there is such a thing as a healthy, low-fat biscuit that actually tastes good? If you have such a recipe, I’d love to hear from you!

Biscuit mug

While Monty’s face would cheer the most solemn of folk, he does look rather sad whilst bobbing around in the washing up liquid…. His happy little face suddenly looks a bit panicked. Fear not Monty my friend, we won’t let you drown, it’s merely bath time dear chap! You need to look smart for your first day at the office.

Hope you are all having a wonderful week so far folks🙂 TTFN! xx

Attention knitters! Battersea dog’s home needs you!

Battersea dogs home in London is appealing to knitters everywhere to help them to knit comfort blankets for their foster dogs. Some of the dogs need to stay with foster carers as they have been through terrible ordeals and do not cope with life in kennels well. Others are recovering from illness, injury or operations and need that extra bit of TLC while they make a full recovery.

10 year old Marcel with his much loved blanket.

Battersea are appealing to those who can knit to help create security blankets for these poorly pooches, as they have been found to help them to feel safe and warm. They’re hoping to have enough blankets to put one in every doggy bag, which also include food, bedding and toys, and are given to foster carers when they look after a dog. When the dog is rehomed, they can then take their blanket with them to their new home. The blanket will help to offer them comfort and familiarity while they recover and adjust to their new environments.

The blanket pattern has been designed especially for Battersea by Lauren O’Farrell from whodunnit.com. She explains: “Most people had a special toy or blanket when they were young which they loved to bits. The plan is to make blankets which Battersea’s foster dogs can love just as much. It will be a woolly treat to put in their doggy bags, and they can take their blanket to their new home, so it will smell really familiar and be a handmade friend in a new place.” She has designed the blanket to be made in patchwork so that you can tackle it in manageable chunks, or even join up with fellow knitters to create a blanket together. If you would like to get involved you can download the knitting pattern here. Alternatively, you could come up with your own blanket design. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, it just has to be comfy and warm. For more information Battersea’s knitted blanket appeal or fostering opportunities, please visit their website.

So, who’s with me? Does anyone out there fancy joining forces to help create as many blankets as we can? Sometimes the thought of creating an entire knitted blanket can seem like a very daunting task, but if we all combined our efforts we could achieve something truly wonderful. Wether you would like to contribute one square or twenty, I’d like to hear from you. Let’s give this wonderful charity a helping hand and give those pooches something to love and find comfort in.

Finished blankets can be dropped off at any of their centres or can be posted to:

Dog blanket appeal

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

4 Battersea Park Road

London

SW8 4AA

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Easter ……

Here’s a sneaky little peak at whats been occurring in the sewing laboratory over here at Gizmo and Stitch Towers:20120328-150353.jpg

The sun is shining splendidly over London town, so it’s the perfect opportunity to sit on my balcony, soak up some rays, and do a little bit of hand sewing. I have discovered that I am very much a seasonal crafter; In the autumn and winter I knit, and in the spring and summer I sew. What with all the glorious weather we have been having over here in Blighty recently, I have cast aside my knitting needles, and picked up my sewing box again, and boy am I having fun! I often forget how much quicker it is to make something in fabric than it is to sit and knit it, so I have surprised myself with how many of these little rabbit finger puppets I have managed to whip up in just a couple of hours! They will make perfect little gifts for all the small folk that I know, and a wonderful alternative to chocolate – although I’m sure there will be lots of that being passed around too, it is Easter after all, the perfect excuse to a gorge yourself silly on ridiculous quantities of chocolate and end up feeling a little bit sick, yet very satisfied. Mmmm, chocolate….

Anywho, I digress. I found this wonderful little felt bunny finger puppet tutorial over on the extremely gorgeous blog The Purl Bee.

Image courtesy of The Purl Bee

Image courtesy of The Purl Bee

The tutorial has fabulously clear step by step instructions to follow, and I can assure you that the bunnies are an absolute delight to make. You can find the tutorial by clicking here. I can’t wait to pop the finished little bunnies in to the post for all the gorgeous little children I am lucky enough to know for them to play with this Easter. I am even going to have a go at making my own eggs with a kit that a bought last Easter but sadly didn’t get enough time to use. Fear not Easter egg molds, for this Easter you will fulfill your Easter egg making destiny! Nom nom nom….. x

A wonderful mum

Me and my mum, 1983

I am blessed to have a wonderful mum, and a wonderful mum is she. She raised me with patience and love, inspired me, taught me, encouraged me, mopped my brow when I was sick, held my hand when I was scared, wiped away my tears when I cried. She put up with me as a moody teenager and still loved me unconditionally. She made my world a beautiful place filled with the wonders of nature, imagination, books, art, theatre, museums, galleries, experiences and adventures. We have been through a lot together me and my mum, but we’ve been there for each other every step of the way, standing strong together. I don’t know what I would do without her.

I often forget to take the time to tell my mum just how much she means to me. So, this mothers day I decided to make it a little bit special. I cooked a special lunch, baked the very best treats, laid out the best china and put flowers on the table.

A real hit was the cheese and onion tart I made, mum even asked if she could have a copy of the  recipe. I thought you guys might like a copy too, it’s so easy to make!

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 125g butter, cold and cubed
  • ½ tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 2 onions, sliced into rings
  •  1 tbsp oil
  •  2 eggs
  • 284ml pot double cream
  • 250g of any cheeses you like!   – I used a third each goats cheese, cheddar and brie

Method:

  1. Put the flour, butter and salt into the bowl of a food processor, then pulse until the mix looks like fine crumbs. Splash in 4 tbsp cold water, then pulse to a dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a smooth disc, then wrap and chill for at least 10 mins. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Roll pastry out on a floured surface until large enough to line a 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Line the tin with the pastry, leaving any excess pastry overhanging. Line with baking paper, then fill with baking beans. Bake on a baking sheet for 15 mins. Take out the paper and beans, then bake for 10 mins more until pale golden and cooked.
  3. While the pastry cooks, soften the onions in the oil over a medium heat for 10 mins until golden. Beat the eggs and cream together, then season to taste. Crumble up the hard cheeses and chop or pull the creamy cheese into small pieces. Scatter the cheese into the pastry case, add the onions, then pour in the egg mix. Turn the oven down to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3 and bake for 40 mins until set and lightly golden.
  4. You can serve it warm, but I personally prefer to eat it once it’s been chilled in the fridge.

In keeping with my handmade pledge I made her a card using buttons from the button tin that has been passed down from my grandma, to my mother, and on to me.

Now that my mother has raised us kids and has taken retirement, she finds great joy in tending her garden, so I decided to buy her a cherry tree as a new addition for her little haven. Cherries are her favourite fruit, so I hope it will give her lots to eat!

It’s also my mum’s birthday tomorrow, so happy birthday mum, I hope you have a wonderful day and get spoilt rotten! You deserve it. xx

Ribbons and bows make the world a prettier place

I love ribbon. For years I have squirreled away bits of ribbon in a little box, for you never know when it may come in handy. But alas, my little ribbon box is starting to overflow, and much of the ribbon is not fulfilling it’s ribbon destiny of making the world a prettier place by being kept prisoner in my box. I couldn’t keep it shut away in the dark any more, no, I felt so cruel. It’s time that I set some of that ribbon free, and help them to fulfill their dreams. So I pondered a while, and I hmmmm’ed and I ahhhh’ed, when suddenly I cried out  “bows!”. Of course! I would turn those unfulfilled bits of ribbons in to bows, for they too make the world a happier and prettier place.

Be Happy print by LouisestArt on Etsy

I shall make bow broches, bow hair clips, bows for presents, bows for christmas trees, bows for pups, bowties, bows for jewelry, bows for toys, bows for, well, just about anything. I found some fabulous tutorials out there in blog land to help me on my bow making quest, and I thought I would share them with you, just in case you get in the bow making mood too.

Zipper Bow Tutorial by Funny Rabbit

Zipper Bow Tutorial via Handmade by Funny Rabbit

Medallion Bow by Martha Stewart (Click next on the webpage for the tutorial)

Medallion Bow via Martha Stewart (click “next” to see the tutorial)

Felt Bow Tutorial by The Moonlit Nest

Felt Bow Tutorial via The Moonlit Nest

DIY Splendid hair bow by Momtastic

DIY Splendid Hair Bow Tutorial via Momtastic

Bow Ring Tutorial by Elisa Mclaughlin design's

Bow Ring Tutorial by Elisa Mclaughlin design’s 

Bow Cuff Tutorial by I still Love You

Bow Cuff Tutorial by I still Love You 

Bow belt tutorial by Momtastic

 DIY Bow Belt Tutorial via Momtastic

Toddler Bow Tie Tutorial by Say Yes To Hoboken

 Toddler Bow Tie Tutorial by Say Yes To Hoboken