Organising Your Feet

The Works always seem to have lovely wooden boxes in stock. I got this one there but could not for the life of me find a link to it.

In my excitement I put the masking tape on before taking a picture of the box naked

Anyway, I thought it would be the perfect size and shape to keep the most commonly used feet handy and close to the sewing machine. At the moment, all my feet are kept in a biscuit tin in a wardrobe all the way across the room. If I want to change feet I have to….dun dun duuuun…GET UP! O the horror!

So I got out my tin of trusty black board paint and got busy painting the lid (inside and out) and the tops of the inside dividers.

I give it two layers of paint and let it dry completely before priming the surface with some plain white chalk. I labelled the sections using normal chalk but I’m pretty sure I have a chalk pencil somewhere round here which would look a lot neater but this will do for now.

*sigh* no more getting up for feet!

The best bit? It’s just the right size to slide under the extension table…..aah, simple things!

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Organising Your Feet

Mum’s Birthday, part 2: coffee walnut cake

So onto the interesting part, cake.

Every year, whoever is tasked with baking the birthday cake (me usually) ends up in a massive discussion about the cake. Mum always wants…..Victoria sponge!  Even with real cream and strawberries, it is the dullest of dull cakes. The cake to cream ratio is all wrong. To me, this is an everyday tea time sort of cake not a “yippee it’s my birthday!” kind of cake. So after the usual drama, we decided on this:

I made a regular 3 egg vanilla sponge cake and divided it up between 6 mini flan tins. Conveniently enough, there was enough batter left over for 2 fairy cakes. I cooked these in a 180° oven for about 15 minutes until a skewer came out clean and left them to cool completely covered by a damp tea towel (My mum can not abide a dry cake!). I whipped up 200ml of double cream with a heaped teaspoon of caster sugar and the seeds from a vanilla pod. The cream was dolloped onto the unmolded sponges and decorated with sliced strawberries and a little kiwi, for colour.

Cake 2

On Sunday we were expecting some visitors for tea and mum also wanted some cake to take to work today so I made a coffee and walnut cake. Usually I don’t go for cakes with butter cream icing but this icing was lovely and light, not at all what I remember from childhood cakes and nothing like the fluorescent cupcake icing you get on shop bought cakes. The recipe was This Mary Berry/Lakeland one with a few minor adjustments. The original recipe is an all in one cake but those never work out well for me so I stuck to the traditional method. Here’s how:


  • 225g softened butter
  • 220g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp coffee extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 270g self raising flour
  • 2 tbs double cream/milk
  • 75g chopped walnuts


  • 75g softened butter
  • 220g sifted icing sugar
  • 2 tsp double cream/milk
  • 1 tsp coffee extract
  • 75-100 walnut halves


  1. Preheat the oven to 180° fan. If you have a 12″×9″ tin grease and line it. I don’t so I used a square 9″ tin and a 9″ long loaf tin for the excess.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and extracts until they are pale and fluffy and there are no lumpy sugary bits.
  3. Add the eggs one by one beating well after each addition. If it looks like it might split, add a tablespoon of flour and continue.
  4. Sift in the rest of the flour and add the cream and walnuts. Using a spatula or metal spoon, fold until just combined. Plop it into the tin and smooth the top.20160710_092006
  5. Bake for 35-45 min if you used a traybake pan. Mine took about 30 mins. Cool on a wire rack
  6. To make the icing, put all the ingredients(except the walnut halves) in a bowl and stir gently. Once the icing sugar is incorporated, whisk until light and fluffy.
  7. Spread on the cooled cake and decorate with walnut halves.
Serve with whipped cream. In fact, serve everything with whipped cream!

If you are a mad icing fan, I would suggest doubling the icing recipe. This amount gives you enough for a thin layer on top. But so far this is one of my favourite coffee walnut cakes!

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Mum’s Birthday, part 2: coffee walnut cake

Make your own pattern weights

If you like rotary cutting, tracing patterns, can’t use pins on your fabric, etc etc, you’ll know how vital pattern weights are. Usually I just reach for the closest heavy objects, books, scissors, cup of coffee (you can guess how that one ended). So I nipped into John Lewis to see what they had. Of course I left empty handed and decided to make my own instead. This is how to do it:

  • Rummage around in the garage. Look for something weighty and flat bottomed.  Failing that go to a DIY shop and see what they have there. Washers are popular and inexpensive (and can be painted up to look like biscuits). I found some square and rectangular washer type things.
    Expect the man in the shop to look at you funny as you attempt to explain what you’re looking for

    On their own they weren’t particularly heavy but remember, you can stack them to get the weight you want.

  • once you get home give them a good wash to get rid of any greasy bits or labels and allow to air dry.
  • stack them up and decide on how heavy you want them. At this point you can glue them together if you like.
  • I cover mine in Washi tape.
    Around the edges first

    I start by sticking a strip of tape around the edge to keep them together and then cover the remaining sections with more tape

    Fill in the rest
  • I use different tape for different weights. The lighter ones are best for tracing patterns onto paper and the heavier ones are best for cutting out fabric.

    Left- 82g; Middle- 152g; Right- 69g





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Make your own pattern weights

Life hack: loyalty cards

These days it’s seems like everyshop has some sort of loyalty card. It’s great for saving money but puts a real (literal) strain on your wallet. So I stole this idea off my friend Claire,  who saw it on pinterest.

you will need


  • A hole punch
  • the ring bit from a key ring
  • a stack of loyalty cards

All you have to do is punch a hole in the top corner of each card.

Try to get the holes in approximately the same place on each card

You want to avoid punching the magnetic strip or any chips or code numbers. You might end up doing some upside down or back to front but that’s no big deal. I like to organise mine in catagories to make them easier to find:

  • Supermarkets
  • coffee shops/ food and drink/pubs
  • chemists/health and beauty
  • department stores

Then carefully I thread them onto the ring. If I have any paper cards I use plastic hole reinforcement stickers so they don’t tear off.

There, job done, all your cards are easy to find and not clogging up you wallet/purse. And everytime you go into a shop, the assistant will say “ooooh, that’s such a good idea!” And you’ll leave feeling a little bit smug 🙂

Life hack: loyalty cards

Ikea Magazine Rack Hack. Or how to organise your magazines

Every few years I will try to bring some organisation to my life. Unfortunately,  cleaning, tidying etc are my least favourite things to do. I can’t bear to chuck anything away. And quite frankly it’s just as well this time!


I found a load of these Ikea magazine racks in various stares of disrepair hidden away in cupboards all around the house. Some needed a little glue and TLC, all needed a good dust.

I wanted to paint them to start with but I’m planning an overhaul of my sewing space and I’m not sure what the new colour scheme will be so I thought I’d go simple.

Blackboards seem to be all the rage these days so I decided on a little blackboard panel on the front of each file. I used this cheap and cheerful paint from wilko.

First I wiped the wood down with a dry cloth. I only realised after I’d finished the first few that I should have given the front a light sanding to give a nice smooth surface….o well, I did that to the last lot. I used masking tape to mark out the area I wanted to paint.

Regular masking tape and that fancy painter’s masking tape

I used a non-bristle brush to paint on a thin layer, left it to dry for an hour then painted on another thin layer.

First layer on…you can see some streaky bits all right

This gave a good, even coverage. I let it dry overnight before removing the masking tape.

Tape off….nearly done

Although it didn’t say on the instructions, I’d read somewhere else that you’re supposed to prime the surface before you start writing all over it. I used the long edge of a piece of chalk to cover the black surface then buffed it off with a clean, dry rag.

Priming the blackboard surface


Job done!

All done!

Now only another million things left to sort out!


Ikea Magazine Rack Hack. Or how to organise your magazines

My new favourite thing #7, muslin face cloths

Waaaay back in the day, when my small sister was a baby (late 80s), muslin face cloths were everywhere. I got my one with a tube of hot cloth cleanser stuff and I rediscovered how fantastic they are! Especially for getting gunk off your face without getting your hair and clothes soaked. So I had a mosey around the local supermarkets and I couldn’t find them anywhere, neither in the adult beauty section nor the baby section.

So I went to a specialist baby shop…they had cloths of all colours of the rainbow! Pinks, blues, gender neutral greens and yellows! All in massive packets of 12. I started to leave, disappointed but on the way out I had a rummage in the bargain section (habit really, I don’t even have a kiddy). Guess what I found…? A lone, solitary cloth, 60cm x 60 cm

I got it home and cut it into quarters.

Quartered up and ready to sew

I hemmed the raw edges by folding them over twice as sewing them down. That was taking too long so I got out the hemmer foot which gave me a messier but quicker hem.

Top: hemmed with hemmer foot. Bottom: hemmed the proper way but forgot to mitre corners

So all done! I’ll have complexion perfection in no time!


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My new favourite thing #7, muslin face cloths

Utility/Japanese-Inspired Gardening Apron

I’ve been thinking about making one of those Japanese utility aprons for the longest time. Now the weather is heating up too its likely I’ll be spending longer and longer out there.

So I got my pinterest on. It seems there are two ways of doing this: prepare a big rectangle and two little rectangles for the straps. Or there’s the second way which I chose. I reckon this way looks a bit more professional and less thrown together. Also, I was supposed to start sewing my pair of self drafted jeans last week….o, and I got a new sewing machine for my birthday so I needed some serious practice.

I used this fabric,  the closest thing to denim I could find at a bargain basement price…..big mistake! This stuff thinks it’s on the bias….all the time. It was a little tricky to work with.

I was going go go all Chinelo Bally and draw the pattern straight on thd fabric but i chickened out! I started off with a great big bit of that burda tracing paper and folded it in half. I marked on CF and the length to the underarm and CF. I used  random bodice patten piece and traced around the relevant bits till I got a pattern resembling the ones I’d seen on pinterest. I decided to close the dart-y looking bit between the front and back bodices which opened up to give the skirt section a more A-line shape. 20160505_101436

I cut out the paper pattern and tissue fitted it to dollyP…

Paper fitting on dollyP

.A bit had to tell really but it looked ok and I got stuck in to cutting out the fabric.

I cut out the pocket pieces and even remembered to interface the tops and the neckline of the apron too. I was feeling a little nostalgic about my college days when carpenter jeans were all the rage so I made a few hooks by putting  long strip of fabric through the bias binding maker and topstitching it down. I couldn’t find little S hooks so I used carabiners and these clip things instead.

I decided to use snaps to open/close the apron so I marked the position and interfaced the wrong side. I used 10mm Prym snaps because thats what i had,  I think next time I would used a 15mm staple or add an extra snap.

Sew first then topstitch. Put the little metal bits on order and check they work before getting the pliers out

In my topstitching excitement I totally forgot to finish the ends of the straps properly so I turned the strap RST and sewed as close to the edges as possible. I turned them back out, pressed and pretended it never happened.

Snack pocket….not in the original plan

My new machine also sews those little tacks at the edge of pockets so I got busy with those too except, again, in my excitement I tacked down the second (accordion) pocket. Well, silver linings and all, as it happens, it makes a perfect spot to keep your mobile.

So here is dollyP modelling

And here I am flouncing around the garden.

I think if turned out pretty well despite a few careless mistakes. It was really useful practicing my topstitching and it was fun playing with my fab new machine.

Cost: 1.3m at £1.50 per metre, Gütermann thread £1.70

Time: 4 hours including drafting and all that

After I finished I discovered there are even easier options, Simplicity 1133 is very similar but it is finished with bias bindings so I might try that next time!


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Utility/Japanese-Inspired Gardening Apron