Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#CreativeBudget - DIY cosy rug

I have had a little break from the Abakhan Creative Budget challenge for a few months but this month it's back and I have a lovely little how-to for your home.

As ever I had a budget of £15 to spend - here is what I got*

1m Organic Cotton Hopsack drill in 'natural'
1m 'Lambskin' fur fabric in ecru
5m Beresfords double face satin ribbon 50mm in khaki

*now admittedly I ordered these items during the sale and they came in at £14.74 - at current website prices this little bundle will cost you £18.20 - still a bit of a bargain, I think you'll agree!

and this is what I did with it...

DIY Mitred Corner rug with ribbon trim.

Take your metre of cotton drill, fold it half width ways and cut into two pieces measuring approx 1m x 75cm. Put one piece aside - this will be the backing for your rug.

Cut the other piece into 4 strips -  two measuring 100cm x 15cm and two measuring 75cm x 15cm. These will form the 'frame' of your rug.

Cut 4 lengths of ribbon - two 100cm long and two 75cm long. Position these centrally along the 'frame' pieces.
I did this by folding a 5cm 'hem' along the long edge of my drill fabric and ironing the crease in. You can then align one edge of the ribbon to this crease and it will be perfectly central all the way along!

Pin the ribbon in place before machine stitching using a small zig zag stitch. Satin ribbon can be quite slippy so don't rush it and take care that it doesn't slide out of position.

To create the mitred corners take one longer and one shorter piece and pin them together at one end, right sides facing, ensuring that the ribbon trim on both pieces is aligned.  Measure in 15cm from bottom corner and draw a diagonal line from this point up to the top corner. Machine stitch along this line.

Trim off the excess fabric and press the seam open (make sure you place a tea towel or an off cut of fabric over the ribbon ends when you iron as the hot iron will melt the ribbon!)

Repeat with the other long and short piece and join the two pieces together to finish off your frame

Now you need to measure the long and short inside edge of your frame. Add 5cm  to these measurements (to allow for the frame not being totally 'square' ) and cut out your centre panel in the lambswool fleece fabric.  Place the frame and the fleece face down on your table and, starting from the centre of one short side begin pinning the two pieces, right sides together.

Once you have pinned all the way around, hold the mat up and check the centre panel is 'square' and the mat is not distorted. Then, using long stitches, tack the pieces together, removing the pins as you go. Now you can turn the mat over and place it on the floor to double check it will lie correctly before you machine stitch (tacking stitches are much easier to undo than machine ones. Trust me!)

When you are happy that your central panel is positioned correctly trim away the excess fleece fabric and machine stitch it in place - I found it easier to treat each side as a separate seam rather than try and go all the way round in one go as the corners were quite bulky.

 Finally take the other piece of the hopsack drill fabric. Pin it to your mat, right sides together and, leaving a gap for turning, stitch all the way around. Trim the seams, press them open and turn. Slip stitch the opening together. Give your mat an iron (on the back - your ribbon and fleece will both melt if they come into contact with a hot iron!!!) , lay it on the floor and stand back to admire your handiwork!

I am really pleased with the result! Yes it's a little wonky but that gives it character. Now I have mastered the 'mitred corner' I will definitely be making more of these floor mats for other rooms as it lends itself to being altered in a number of ways. I used the thick hopsack twill fabric because I wanted a sturdy rug that would stand up to a bit of use (and abuse) but you could use any pretty fabric if your mat is going into a low traffic area like your bedside (imagine sinking your feet into that cosy fleece every morning!). You could use fabric strips instead of ribbon for the trim or use towel for the centre panel and you have a bathmat.

You'll have noticed that our new kitten (more about him in another post) has taken rather a shine to the fleece centre and as I used only a tiny bit of the metre of fabric I ordered I have an idea of how to make use of the rest.  Stay tuned - I will blog that project at a later date...

ps -  apologies for the bad photographs. This project was done during the Snow Week and the natural light I usually take advantage of via our conservatory was all blocked out by about 10" of snow on the roof!

pps - if you would like to see more fab Creative Budget projects, Abakhan have just set up a board on Pinterest showcasing them all! You can follow it here

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Veggie Box Meals - Kale Pesto

Kale is one of winter's staple greens. It's packed full of nutrients and available in abundance but, well, there's only so many times you can eat steamed greens before they get a bit dull and Kale, with it's distinctive earthy flavour is not one of my favourites.

We have been getting rather a lot of kale in our veggie box lately and trying to find things to do with it has become a bit of a mission! Thankfully it freezes well - just bag it up and pop it in the freezer to use at a later date.  I have found a wealth of interesting things to do with kale on the internet and I thought it might be an idea to actually TRY some of them . . . 

Pesto is something I love to have in the fridge because you can use it so many ways. Add a spoonful to soups for extra flavour; spread it on crusty bread, add some cherry tomatoes and top with a bit of mozzarella and place under the grill for a lovely lunch. Or you could just stir it into some warm pasta for a simple supper.

There are several different versions of Kale Pesto out there, some of them more a traditional pesto than others. Here's my take using toasted walnuts instead of the usual pine nuts


bunch of kale (approx 150g)
clove of garlic, crushed
juice of 1 lemon
2 1/2 oz / 60g  walnuts
1/2tsp salt
2tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
4tbsp olive oil

First you need to toast your walnuts - spread them out on a baking tray and put them in a hot oven 200C/GAS6 for 5-10mins until they are lightly browned.

Add all the ingredients, including the toasted nuts to your blender/processor and blitz until reduced to a paste. You can add a little more oil if you want or a splash of water for a looser paste.

Stir into warm pasta or rice and enjoy!

 Kale pesto will keep in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container or freeze it in an ice cube tray for individual flavour hits for soups and stews!

There are lots more recipes with kale on my 'Veggie Box Recipes' pinterest board here. I suspect there may be a few more weeks of kale in the box to come so I hope to try out some more - although maybe NOT the kale smoothie . . .  *shudders*

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ecover Zero Review - New Fragrance Free range

Late last year I received a lovely pack of goodies from Ecover - a selection from their new 'Zero' range.

Ecover Zero washing powder, fabric softener and washing up liquid and a lovely waffle tea towel too!  You spoil me!

I have been a fan of Ecover products for a long time, particularly their washing up liquid which I find to be just as good as that well known brand but without the chemical nasties, so I was excited to give the new 'Zero' range a try. All the products in this range are dermatologically tested, suitable for those with sensitive skin, approved by Allergy UK and completely fragrance free.

Zero Washing Powder claims to be "tough on stains, even at 30℃" , dermatologically tested and suitable for sensitive skins. I found it to be perfectly acceptable for my regular washing although I would say that "tough" stains would need a little extra help - if you are bothered by visible marks - and I'm not sure how it would have coped with the piles of dirty nappies I used to wash on a daily basis! 

Zero Fabric Softener left my clothes beautifully soft and smelling like they'd been line dried - fresh and clean without that over powering perfume that most softeners add to the wash. Like the powder it is suitable for those with sensitive skin and I would definitely recommend it for a baby clothes wash!

Zero Washing Up Liquid was just as effective as my favourite Ecover Marigold and Chamomile washing up liquid. As with all their washing up liquids it doesn't produce quite as much foam as other brands - but trust me, that is a good thing! It left my dishes lovely and clean and, as a washer-upper who can't stand wearing rubber gloves, I was please to note it left my hands in great condition too! I will probably stick to my fragranced favourite but I would certainly recommend it to anyone with extra sensitive skin.

Unfortunately Ecover Zero products aren't yet available in supermarkets but some independent health food stores (like my local, Wyedean Wholefoods) now have them in stock. Alternatively you can shop the range online through EcoverDirect

Friday, January 11, 2013

Folksy Friday - Stow it away

Definition of stow


[with object and adverbial] pack or store (an object) carefully and neatly in a particular place

Now all the Christmas decs are back in the loft I have an overwhelming urge to get some order back into my home. Luckily I found some lovely items on Folksy to help me stow my clutter!

I am always losing my keys so this key holder made from an old oak cupboard door by skiprat creations would be an ideal addition to my kitchen! (I love the vintage key embellishment - I wonder if it fits the keyhole in the door?)

This beautiful and functional shelf is designed by Gafyn Owen of MijMoj Contemporary Furniture Design I love the dip in the shelf for loose change or keys and the inclusion of the single stem flower vase into the design is inspired!

This one off from Revival Furniture would make a great storage box for toys - quirky enough for kids to love and stylish enough to stay in the living room! Plus it doubles up as a handy stool.

I just love this idea! Vintage vinyl becomes useful book end in the hands of When the Music's Over who also produce clocks, letter racks and even jewellery from old records and tapes. This is repurposing at it's best!

Keep all your bills and lists in order so they are there when you need them with this fab wooden star peg organiser from Emma Lane Designs 


I love these cute owl print storage baskets from Alexia Claire . They are quite dinky but the larger of the two would be perfect for storing my latest knitted socks WIP!

There are more storage and organisation ideas on my pinterest board here


Saturday, January 05, 2013

Adventures with my bread machine (part 1)

I have had my bread machine for about three years now. Up until this point I have been quite happy just making bread with it. It makes a perfectly acceptable loaf without all the nasties in commercially produced sliced white.
The timer function is brilliant too. Waking up in the morning to the smell of a freshly baked loaf is almost enough to convince me I actually live in a cute little apartment above a boulangerie in a hip Paris back street . . . (then the Little Man jumps on me and says 'Wake up Mummy!' and it all comes flooding back! But I digress.)

Sometimes I use the bread machine to make the dough before shaping it and popping it in the oven. Some might say that's cheating but I disagree. My bread machine is like my assistant baker - it does all the hard work and lets me do the fancy creative bit and take the credit!  But I have often wondered what else my bread machine could do. I mean there are about 15 different settings on it from basic bread to wholemeal to fast bake, super fast bake and even jam. Luckily for me I got a bread machine recipe book for Christmas and after trying the basic white loaf (which came out lovely) I thought I would have a go at a fruity tea bread.
How it SHOULD look...

This no fat recipe is stuffed with cinnamon spiced raisins soaked in earl grey tea over night then added to the bread pan with egg, self raising flour, sugar and baking powder. I knew it wouldn't rise fantastically well. I also knew it would take a lot longer than just baking a cake in the oven (best part of two and half hours actually) but I'm a firm believer in trying anything once.

So was it worth it?

In a word - no!

It didn't rise at all and felt like a water logged slab of clay when I had finally managed to get it out of the pan. The cake crust was chewy, the inside was stodgy.  I didn't even get the benefit of lovely baking aroma throughout the house while it was cooking.  In all a complete waste of ingredients!

Out of the pan. Eventually!
hmmm not looking much like the one in the book!

You may wonder why I even bothered posting this to my blog but I thought it would be nice to show you that not everything we make and bake turns out wonderful! To be fair it didn't taste *that* bad, more like bread pudding (not a fan) than tea bread.
I haven't completely given up hope of getting more out of my machine - there are plenty of savoury and sweet bread recipes (using bread flour rather than self raising flour) to try but I think I'll shall avoid the 'cake' recipes in future. It really is just easier to whip up something by hand and in the oven.

In the meantime I shall continue to enjoy my 'Breakfast in Paris' early morning day dream . . .

Maybe you have some tried and tested bread machine recipes that are rather more successful than this one? I would love to hear about them!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Folksy Friday - My 'Handmade on Folksy' Style

I love clothes. I'm not a fashionista by any means (typing right now in the sloppiest Joe jumper you have ever seen...) and I am certainly no slave to fashion but I do appreciate quality clothes.

I have never really investigated the clothes and shoes section on Folksy before (mainly because I would consider bespoke handmade clothes to be waaaaay beyond my budget) but this week I thought why the hell not?

Here's a selection of my favourites!

I love this gorgeous shirt by Fashion Couture - made to measure in stretch silk satin and fine cotton lace. You can't get much more luxurious than this!  (Yes it IS waaaaay out of my budget but a girl can dream!)

Lovely wrap around jersey top from jaworska.  I love her drapey cowl neck tops too!

Isn't this just the cutest dress? I love the colour. I love the style. And I adore the screen printed umbrella motif dancing around the hem!  Visit There's Only One Amy Laws and check out the cute 'Cowgirl' dress too!

More screen printed loveliness - this t-shirt comes from Proud Cloud Creations  at the most bargainous (yes I know that's probably NOT a real word!) price of £16!  I am definitely gonna have me one of these . . .


I adore this floaty accordion pleat LBD from Recycled Love. Lovingly made from recycled and vintage fabrics, all of Helen's designs are completely unique and one of a kind.  Absolutely guaranteed not to bump into someone wearing the same outfit as you!

And last, but by no means least, no outfit is complete without gorgeous shoes.  These cute ballet pumps are made from upcycled leather - scraps and off cuts from
larger projects and are available from The White Ribbon in a variety of colours.

This is just a small selection of the gorgeous handmade clothing available on Folksy. Check out my Pinterest board for more of my favourites - Folksy liked it so much they featured it on their home page earlier this week!
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