A warm welcome to you all at the end of this Easter weekend.
In this Stitching News post I shall discuss:
- Problems with bedroom curtains!
- Progress on my machine embroidery course
- Sharing recipes!
It has been the strangest of Easters living here in Mevagissey, such a beautiful Cornish coastal village. The weather has been amazing, but the streets and shops empty! Scenes which will have been echoed all over the UK. Hopefully we are now beginning to adapt to the social isolation we are having to live with and beginning to create new routines.
We have been decorating, as are many other people it seems! Having finished the painting in our bedroom, I decided to wash the curtains before re-hanging them, just to finish the job properly! I washed them on a cool wash, but … they shrank! Now, I am not normally someone prone to expletives, but I couldn’t stop myself as I realised that what was just going to be “the finishing touch” was suddenly looming as a major repair job!
I decided to “sleep on it”. Come the morning I had the solution! I was going to make a patchwork border to hide the evidence!
I woke early and started gathering a selection of fabrics which I felt would be sympathetic to the blue stripes in the curtains.
The majority of these came from a jelly roll I had bought for another purpose, a few years ago. There were still plenty left. A few hand dyed fabrics increased the palette and introduced some “plains”. Most of the fabrics are cotton with a couple of hand dyed linens.
My mother was always saying to me: “measure twice, and cut once” so after checking measurements several times, I cut 5-6 strips from each fabric. These measured 7.5″ long, and between 2 1/4″” and 4″ wide. The measurement along the bottom of each curtain was 80″ but I also needed the border to wrap around the sides of each curtain, so I added another 6″ to give a final total of 86″. I had to make a border for each curtain, of course!
It took me just over two days to complete the task in between other chores, but I am pleased with the end result. It saved the day!
In between the decorating, and the gardening and of course the “normal” routines of daily living, I have also been working on my distance learning machine embroidery course. It is such a positive feeling to have a structure and purpose to my days ahead. I can work at my pace whenever time permits. I have been an early riser for decades, especially after the clocks change for summer time, and before breakfast is often the most productive time of day, for me! Every time I repeat an exercise there is always something new to learn. There are infinite ways to do most tasks, which is why it is always stimulating and interesting.
I have been through more exercises in this first Unit, but I had also put one on the back burner; the collage to be created from some of my mark making papers. A landscape was a possible option suggested in the text, and I had found one quite early on, but in my heart I knew that my procrastination was due to the fact that it didn’t inspire me at all! So I began trawling through photos I had taken this year and found one of a pheasant who has been visiting us regularly, every day, for many months. I took it in February. I seem to be “homing in” on birds recently, and this photo certainly attracted me. At last I felt some enthusiasm, and knew I could get on with the exercise now!
On the left is my original photo, copied in black and white. I have highlighted the shape of the pheasant in a 0.1 fine black drawing pen, just to give him a bit more clarity.
His actual colouring is not traditional. There are many variations down here, and this one is particularly silvery grey on his back. He struck a very elegant pose as I clicked away!
I also particularly liked the ceramic pot behind him. It was a welcome change of scale to all the small detail in the photo. The pheasant is walking across a pebbled area around our patio and pond. I knew that this surface would probably be labour intensive to collage and I wasn’t wrong! Looking for suitable papers, I turned some of mine over to the back, where I found many of the sort of marks I needed, for example the way the ink that I had painted onto the paper had seeped through to the back leaving pale tiny spots in patches, which were just perfect! I had also painted some bleach onto the inked side of the paper when it was dry, and although I was disappointed with the results on the front, but the way the bleach had also come through to the back, was just perfect for what I needed now!
The moral of this story, is “always try to look for a positive, or to put it another way “something that makes you think that perhaps it might be useful at sometime”. Save everything, throw nothing away! As I had written notes on everything I did, I was also pleased that if I needed to repeat the effects I knew how to start!
Another instruction was to tear the papers for the collage, where possible, so by far the majority of my collage has been created with torn papers. Very occasionally I have used a sharp cut shape where appropriate! Below is a photograph of my end result.
The collage did not have to be precisely identical to the chosen source photograph so there was room for manoeuvre, and indeed, whenever a collage is created, it becomes our individual interpretation and, therefore unique!
Because of the similar tones of the bird against the background of pebbles, I decided again to highlight the outline to give the pheasant “more substance” within the context of the collage.
He was the last piece of the jigsaw, so to speak, so I mounted the finished bird onto black paper and cut the outline leaving a minuscule black border. I know that the legs and feet have turned out too clumpy, but if I were to produce this in fabric, that would then be easily adjusted. Did I enjoy it? Yes, it really refreshed the process of creating a collage, and particularly the importance of the order of work.
Finally I decided to end this post with something that is not stitching related at all, but is a welcome “refreshment” when sewing!
Shortbread biscuits! I have home baked since my teens when every weekend I used to help my mother with baking for our family of five! I love it, and I know that many of you have eaten my ginger oaty biscuits, a favourite recipe that I have baked numerous times, including for all our customers when we had “Patches”; the number of baking sessions is certainly into four figures! However, I had never been successful with shortbread biscuits, that is until my dear friend Rosemary gave me one of hers one day when I visited her, and I LOVED it. The recipe never fails, and is very straightforward!
I am taking the liberty of sharing it with you, I know she would be tickled pink as we are both very happy to share our recipes. Whether this was handed down by a family member, or was one she found from a different source, I have no idea. Be warned, this gives a good yield! But they never last long enough!
Ingredients; 250 gm of butter. 1 cup of sieved icing sugar. 2 1/4 cups of plain flour. 1/2 cup of cornflour.
Method; Beat the sugar and the softened butter until creamy. Mix the plain flour and cornflour well and add to the creamed butter and sugar. Knead well until the mixture is well combined. Roll into two “fat sausages”, wrap them in cling film or an alternative and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Slice into biscuits approximately ¼” thick. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 170 degrees C, on lined baking trays. I check after about 13 minutes, they usually need another couple of minutes! They should be golden brown.
They are so simple. I mix everything in my old Kenwood mixer, using the K beater. When the flour is added, I keep the Kenwood working until everything is really well “kneaded” so that minimal hand kneading is then required.
For myself and Rob I usually add 3 chopped stem ginger balls, and a good teaspoonful of the syrup from the jar. I add this after creaming the butter and icing sugar. If you like ginger flavoured biscuits, this addition is delightful. Another variation is to add lemon essence, or the grated zest of half a lemon and a couple of teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Both of these make for excellent variations. It is also a great base for …….
Millionaires shortbread (A real treat). Make the shortbread recipe, and roll it out on a floured surface, and press it into an oblong tin measuring 12″ x 9″ (35 cm x 23 cm), bake. To make the caramel layer, heat the contents of a 397 gram can of condensed milk, 100 gm of butter and 100 gm of soft brown sugar carefully in a saucepan, stirring continuously until it comes to the boil. Still stirring continuously allow the mixture to simmer until it begins to thicken. I just use my instinct to estimate when to pour it over the shortbread! Spread it evenly. Then melt 50 gm of butter and 200 gm broken chocolate. (I buy Tesco’s or other supermarket home brand of chocolate…about (£1 – £1.50 per 200 gm bar). For me it tastes far better than “dedicated cake chocolate”) When it has all melted together pour over the caramel on the shortbread, and help it with a knife or spatula to the edges, and corners.
This is a great treat, as you will gather from reading the ingredients! It freezes well, and is therefore not too big a temptation when not in sight!.
The photo on the right is of part of a batch made yesterday, Easter Monday, which I cut into 32 pieces. It is rich, so a little goes a long way.
I put it into the fridge, so that the chocolate begins to harden before cutting it into pieces. If the chocolate goes very hard, it shatters when cut!
The photo on the right shows shows that the biscuits have some depth using this recipe with the quantities of ingredients given and baked in the size of the tray bake tin that I use.
Occasionally we really need a treat these days!
Happy stitching and creativity, until next time!
Stay safe, and well.