Baking Day!

One of my favourite things about the Great British Bake-Off is how much discussion on social media. Whenever I can watch it live, I always tweet along and discuss how to make the various signature, technical and show-stoppers. I love finding out what people know how to make, what is considered difficult to make or not.

bagelsOne of these conversations eventually brought up the idea that we should have a baking day to swap techniques. After weeks of scheduling conflict after scheduling conflict it finally happened!

On Saturday, I had the lovely @Jenepel and @pennyplainknits over at my place and we made bagels, marshmallows and salted caramel cupcakes from scratch!

We started with the bagels and then moved on to making the marshmallows while the bagels proved. We took copious tea breaks, then got around to poaching and baking the bagels. Once we were done with that, the marshmallow was ready to cut. We found out that seeds really don’t want to stick on bagels, but that marshmallows really do want to stick to everything!

We ate the bagels just out of the oven, and they were warm and chewy and wonderful, especially once we filled them with cream cheese and salmon. Then we had way too many of the yummy marshmallows and we had to have more tea to stave off the collective sugar rush.

cupcakesMarshmallowAfter that we made my salted caramel cupcakes (recipe here) and realised that trying to do three recipes in one afternoon was a bit much. We finished off the evening with some actual food, Doctor Who and board games! I didn’t enjoy The Caretaker much, but playing 7 Wonders and Smallworld for the first time in forever made up for it!

It was a lovely day all round, and we’re already planning for a repeat! Next time we’ll be making scones and macarons, and we can have those with dainty little sandwiches to tie in with the rather extreme amounts of tea we’re sure to be drinking!


Salted Caramel Cupcakes & Other Crafts!

My good friends Brett & Rachel recently got married, which was a great excuse for indulging in many a glass of Pimms, a literal stack of cheeses, and best of all, ALL OF THE CRAFTS!

Between wedding cupcakes, a guest book and the most involved handmade present I think I’ll ever make, I spent a lot of time before this wedding doing three of my favourite things: quilting, bookbinding and baking.

The Giantest Quilt That Was Ever Quilted!

A few months back, I took a quilting class with @Jenepel. We both thoroughly enjoyed it and were already planning many a lap quilt when we found the gorgeous Downton Abbey fabric collection. We kept thinking how much the bride would love those fabrics and what a good wedding present a quilt would be, so we decided that one day-long class had probably taught us enough to attempt a full size quilt. On a deadline. A very short deadline.

quiltWe decided on making a quilt quickly, but discussed which pattern, which fabrics, how to arrange them together… for ages before we actually ordered any of the fabric and started working. Hence the tight, tight deadline. We’ll know better for the next quilt!

We chose a traditional pin wheels design and lots of blues, and then we cut, pressed, pinned and sewed frantically for evening after evening.

We watched lots and lots of episodes of Daria, and did our best to keep the cats from sniffing too close to the sewing machine. The scale surprised me, though I guess it shouldn’t have. In retrospect, the self-imposed tiny deadline made it a tad stressful, but all in all it was good fun. Now that it’s done and we’ve given it to the happy couple, it definitely feels worth it. Even that scary bit where the needle broke mid sewing and landed in my fingernail…

OMG, I Made a BOOK for someone’s WEDDING!

Shortly before the wedding, the bride and groom asked me to make their guest book, which I was thrilled about. I’ve made some books before, but I still watched a lot of YouTube videos to refresh my memory on coptic stitch binding. I found the channel Sea Lemon particularly helpful! Her tutorials are so clear and detailed, I’d definitely recommend them for beginner or advanced book binders.

WeddingBookThe book itself is A5 and portrait, which made it really easy to find material for the pages and covers. As per Sea Lemon host Jennifer’s advice, I bought an A4 drawing pad and used the paper for the pages and the cardboard back for the covers. The book is made of recycled paper and has twelve four-page signatures, so there’s plenty of space for messages.

For the cover, I was very lucky to find a vintage map of London in the first shop I looked. Because it’s in black and white, it works really well as a background and doesn’t clash with the other elements.

The colour scheme was purple, so I used purple card stock, ribbon and waxed bookbinding thread. I special ordered the thread instead of making my own because I wanted to be sure the book would last. You can’t see it very well here, but I’ve bound it in two different colours, which was totally a design decision and not an oh-darn-I’ve-run-out-of-thread decision.


BothCupcakesInstead of a wedding cake, there were many different flavours of cupcakes, all handmade by wedding guests.

I brought in two different batches, Cookies & Cream/Oreo cupcakes and Salted Caramel cupcakes. They were gone fast and I kept getting compliments for them all night long, which made me all giddy (definitely the compliments and not the Pimms!).

The Oreo cupcakes followed this Cookies & Cream Cupcakes recipe from Bakerella to the letter, as I’d had pretty good comments about it every time I made them. It’s a fairly straightforward recipe which makes a lovely and moist chocolate sponge. The trick is that the batter has some milk and hot water added in, which keeps it from drying out. I also used this sponge for the Salted Caramel cupcakes; one batch and a half yielded just about 24 cupcakes.

The Salted Caramel cupcakes went down particularly well, with several people asking me for a recipe, so I thought I’d share it here:


Salted Caramel Cupcakes Recipe



  • A batch of Bakerella’s chocolate cupcake (see link below)
  • A 397 gr tin of Carnation Caramel. You can also make Dulce de Leche by boiling a similar sized can of condensed milk, but buying the caramel will save you four hours.
  • 150 gr butter
  • 500 gr icing sugar
  • fine table salt
  • good quality sea salt, preferably Fleur de Sel

For the cupcakes:

Bake a batch of Bakerella’s chocolate cupcakes from this post, it should yield 12 cupcakes comfortably, likely more.

When the cupcakes have cooled a bit, use a teaspoon to make a small hole in the top of each, then spoon in a good dollop of your caramel and sprinkle on a small pinch of your good salt. This will take the cupcakes from nice-and-moist level into OMG-caramel-gooey-deliciousness territory.

For the buttercream: 

Mix the butter, about 50 gr of caramel, and two or three good pinches of fine table salt with an electric mixer. Once it’s reached a creamy consistency, start adding the icing sugar little by little. Taste to check that you’re happy with the saltiness, and adjust if needed.

Spread or pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes, and finish them up with a drizzle of caramel and a pinch of the good sea salt. Voila!![/box]

Let me know what you think if you try the recipe!!



After enviously reading quilting blogs for months, I took the plunge and went along with the ever awesome @Jenepel to a quilting class at Ray Stitch in Islington.

One of the reasons I was so interested in learning how to quilt, and also why I never tried it on my own at home, is that it requires many different processes.

Where crafts are concerned, I don’t like to spend too long doing the same thing (one exception being knitting, because I generally knit whilst watching TV, like my Mum did when I was little).

The thing is, many different processes also mean many different places where I could screw things up – which I wasn’t too keen on given quilting fabrics don’t come cheap, and mine were SO pretty. Behold Annali, designed by Stephanie Thannhauser for Dashwood Studio! I chose the collection for that gorgeous deep red fabric which is the backing of my quilt, and for the flowers and leaves multi coloured fabrics.


We picked this specific class because the aim was to make a full baby quilt in six hours. And we did it! We did overrun by an extra 45 minutes or so, but by the time we were through, we only had the very last step to do (a lengthy piece of hand-sewing). I’m saving it to do in front of the new series of The Great British Sewing Bee! Here’s the almost finished quilt – with only one side of the binding left to hem.


The class itself was lovely and our teacher Michelle was super helpful; she even made a special pattern for Jenn. and I because we had fabric pieces in a different size from what she’d asked for. With only six students, we each had plenty of time to get our head around all the processes and to ask plenty of questions. We picked up some nifty tips and tricks, like exactly where to pin our fabric for the best results and how to do the quilting itself by machine.

My attention span is abysmal, so the fact that each step can be done fairly quickly (ie. before I can get bored of it) really ingratiated quilting to me. I thought I would get annoyed with all the ironing (reading quilting blogs, it seems half of quilting is pressing the fabric!), but my main complaint versus ironing in everyday life is its uselessness. But it’s obvious from the first press that ironing is really pretty useful in quilting, so I didn’t mind it at all by the end.

Finally, let’s be honest, the neat freak in me was deeply satisfied with the precise cutting, pinning & sewing of fabric pieces, the very regular hems, and the visible quilting in a straight line exactly 1cm away from each seam. The final product looks gorgeous, if I do say so myself, and certainly better than anything I thought I would produce. Look how well these corners fit together! I honestly thought my quilt would end up messier than this.


I’m very, very happy with this quilt. I’d say if you love crafts with lots of different bits and pieces to do, and you like things to be neat and precise, you should definitely try quilting. I thought it would be harder and more frustrating than it was, I definitely want to do more, though I’ll have to practise my blind stitch for the final hem, because my hand stitching is SO not up to scratch for this.


2014 Costuming Projects!

It’s the customary New Year’s post, and as most of my resolutions are the exact same as last year, I won’t bore you with that. Instead, I want to talk about my costuming projects for the upcoming convention & events season.

In 2013, I attended my first residential conventions, and one of my favourite things about Nine Worlds in particular was the amount of costuming there. I had a blast wearing a Steampunk outfit on the Saturday and my Sally Skellington cosplay on the Sunday. I even placed third in the cosplay contest! So, I’m really excited to be attending again. The post-con blues will even be delayed this time, as I’m going to WorldCon the weekend after NineWorlds!

Sidenote: I am SO EXCITED about WorldCon, it’s ridiculous. Expect to hear me talk your ear off about it, because I’m also volunteering with them and I’m really, really jazzed about working with the LonCon3 staff. Anyway, COSTUMES!

NineWorlds and LonCon together represent eight days of con goodness. I seriously wish I had the time to make eight outfits, but that would be way too much work. Instead, here are my plans, vague as they are so far:

Steampunk Costumes

One of my favourite things about steampunk outfits is that they allow so much freedom and creativity, and of course making a character is part of the fun. I want to build more things from scratch or from recuperated bits and bobs. The aim is to focus on a few bigger pieces (maybe a corset, a skirt and a pair of trousers). Adding various accessories to that should allow me to assemble different costumes from these – I’ve got lots of ideas and I’ll be posting about them in more details soon!

Xena Warrior Princess

A few years back, a friend of mine organised a lasertag birthday party where guests had to come dressed as princesses. So obviously I went for Xena because I had way too much time on my hands. I spent AGES making the costume out of pleather handbags from the charity shop and various other things I had lying around. Sadly, one intense session of lasertag absolutely ruined it (though we all had an AWESOME time), but I’d like to make a new one, including:

  • A corset – I actually tried to MAKE this last time and I only barely managed to get something that didn’t fall apart. For the long run, I definitely think buying a plain brown leather effect corset will be the best way to go. There will still be lots of customising to do though.
  • The skirt with the MANY flaps – This was long to make, but actually pretty good fun too, so I’m definitely making it again. The process I used worked pretty well, so I’ll do the same again and hopefully I can photograph or film it for interwebs posterity.
  • The ARMOURED BITS!! – This is honestly what I’m most excited about making. Xena wears a really nifty breastplate that ties around her back with many buckles, as well as armoured upper-arm bands and gauntlets, plus studded boots in some references. I failed miserably when I tried to make these out of pleather and cardboard, but I cannot wait to try these out again with Worbla or Wonderflex.
  • The Chakram – I’m also very excited about the chakram too! It’s such a recognisable weapon, and it looks like it wouldn’t be too difficult to make. I’m also looking forward to the painting job on it.

Sally Skellington

This costume is comfy to wear and already finished, so it’s definitely coming with me to both Cons. I also like that it can worn as a more or less ‘going all out’ cosplay depending on the style of makeup used. It still needs some more work though, I’ve been thinking of a few things I could do to improve it:

  • Finishing touches – Add visible stitching all the way to the back; go over hand-drawn designs (polka dots, pinstripes, etc…) with screen printing fabric ink and heat set to prevent designs running out in the wash; possibly take in for size, though I don’t know if that will be necessary.
  • Make new arms and legs – These are constructed out of white tights, meaning that they tear and smudge easily and the previous arms/legs are now pretty ugly, after having been worn only three times. The plan is to saw on the stitches design instead of drawing it on.
  • Construct a ‘sew thyself up’ mechanism – in the film, Sally fixes herself up when her limbs get taken off. My big addition to the costume this year will be fake ‘wound’ with stuffing fibres coming out of it, allowing me to pretend re-sew my arm with a big fake needle.  I have an idea that liquid latex will be involved.
  • Make a prop – some kind of container I can keep my stuff in, maybe an upcycled basket, or a fancy jar of some description.  I always think it’s a shame when I’ve spent time on a costume and the effect is ruined by a mundane handbag.