Hello 2015!

Ooh it’s been a busy Winter. Busy, but profitable. What has slipped has been writing (and housework…sorry Mark!). So here goes…a brief summary of 6 weeks in the life of Sue Deere, textile artist.

I have worked on a teeny weeny Artist Trading Card for the Very Berry Handmade swap:

I have had lots and lots of orders – many for pieces using the customers’ own photos, so I can’t really share them here while others were freemotion pieces and now Christmas is over, I can let you see!

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Royal Crescent, Bath

My photos as well as textile art:

I had a number of craft markets and hugely successful and enjoyable open studio with my friend and willow artist, Su Macpherson (involving plenty of mulled wine and mince pies too!) – for the Christmas Fair at Bath Library I even had a very lovely young French lady to help me run the stall.

Su and I treated ourselves to a half day fused glass course at Silversides in Larkhall:

Excitingly, Su and I have also decided to work together running craft workshops – a creative fun day out, suitable for the absolute beginner: Grownups Playgroup

Su and Sue6_instant
Sue and Su

We are now booking for:

  • 21 March 10.00 – 16.00 willow plant supports (only two places left)
  • 28 March 10.00 – 16.00 willow sculpting
  • 11 April 10.00 – 16.00 introduction to free motion embroidery

Please email grownupsplaygroup@gmail.com if you are interested in attending.

I will also be running a workshop for the Bath WI, making pincushions in teacups:

pincushion1

As well as all this crafty loveliness we have had a lovely selection of frosty mornings and Winter sunshine…stunning sunrises and delicate moonfalls.

A few brisk Winter walks to put roses in our cheeks:

lacock doors

Lots of wildlife to admire, including a kingfisher in the Botanical Gardens in Bath!

botanic 27 dec11

In contrast, the cats have been making the most of the central heating. Max has been experimenting with different resting places including Christmas presents, a hamper, boxes and a rather nice pack of truffles! Rio stuck to Mark’s dressing gown and the ironing board…

There were decorations…

…and lots of baking…

…injuries – little ones like burning my arm on the oven and bigger ones involving an ambulance ride to A&E when our neighbour tripped and cut her head badly.

burn

There were party hats, racing wind-up robins, cocktails, two Christmas dinners, accounts and my first tax return…

botanic 27 dec34

…and the new year started with a new hair cut!

me new hair

So here’s to 2015 and all the excitement ahead!

Mother’s Day afternoon tea

After some great sales of Mother’s Day cards It was time to make time for my own mother (and Mark’s) – afternoon tea in the garden, homemade sweets, flowers and, of course, a free-motion applique card. Sweet treats can be a bit of a challenge when dealing with both our mothers as mine is not supposed to have too much sweet stuff and Mark’s mum lives for creamy sugary treats (but rations them, obviously).

I wanted to give the mums some homemade sweets and Pinterest came up trumps. First off, I found some truffle type goodies that are made from dates, ground almonds, cocoa and honey (no butter, no cream and only the icing sugar they are tossed in to stop them being sticky). The recipe came from SkinnyTaste.com, is ever so easy and far healthier than traditional truffles.

Mother's Day sweets
Mother’s Day sweets
date and almond 'truffles'
date and almond ‘truffles’

These little lovelies are quite heavy on the sugar, but are small enough to easily ration. They are peppermint creams, but the originals are called Barrington mints and the author suggests making them for weddings (no doubt that is why they are made pink – although I was a little heavy handed with the food colouring!). The recipe is here: Sweet & Saucy.

mother's day feast 2014 - 16
pink peppermint creams
mother's day feast 2014 - 17
Barrington Mints from Sweet & Saucy

I had intended to make a show-stopper uber-pretty cake, but it seemed more fair to make one better for my mum. This is an Antony Worrall Thompson recipe from his Diabetes cookery book, made from allbran with apricots – and I added seeds and sultanas too.

mother's day feast 2014 - 05
All-bran apricot loaf

When we go out to dinner with Mark’s parents, his mum can never resist pavlova, so I thought meringues with a fruity, bluberry and vanilla cream might go down well…I think I was right!

mother's day feast 2014 - 08
making meringues
mother's day feast 2014 - 03
blueberry and vanilla meringues

Add some egg and cress and ham and tomato sandwiches and a few lemon squares on a tiered cake stand and a large jug of chilled homemade lavender lemonade and you have a quite satisfactory afternoon tea.

mother's day feast 2014 - 02
afternoon tea

Mark and I don’t have kids, so mother’s day is something I do for other people, but Mark – being very sweet and silly – turned up Friday night with a big bouquet of flowers and two blu-rays, allegedly from the two cats!

flowers 31:3:14 - 2
flowers for the cat’s ‘mother’

I had another gift on Saturday – our neighbour was clearing out her fabric stash and gave me bundles of real gems!

addition to the fabric stash
addition to the fabric stash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cards, cake and crafty nights out

 Very Berry Handmade artist trading card swap

Last year in my sewing exploration I stumbled upon artist trading cards (ATCs) through a swap organised by Ali at Very Berry Handmade (brilliant for all things fabric and sewing – lots of excellent tutorials). I have posted photos of my secret garden card, and here is Alix’s gorgeous Pride and Prejudice card I was lucky enough to receive.

DSC_0009
Pride and Prejudice ATC by Alix at Used-To-Bees

I am such a fan of Jane Austen and the card is so beautifully made, I was over the moon when it arrived. Alix writes a blog at Used-to-Bees, which is full of lovely things and well worth a look (I subscribe to her posts as I don’t want to miss anything!).

 

diamond anniversary cake

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time will have realised by now that, as well as sewing, I like to bake. Friends and family often ask me to make celebration cakes and this week I was asked to make a Diamond Wedding Anniversary cake…with two cats on it. It could have been a problem as I knew it was 60 years, but had it in mind that 60 was a ruby anniversary…eek. However, I checked first and switched from a sparkly red 60 to a sparkly white 60.

Hilary the Hippo wanted to help…

hippo baking - 3
Hilary the Hippo, “can I lick the bowl?”
hippo baking - 2
mmmm….springy and coming away from the sides
victoria sponge with vanilla butter cream and raspberry jam
victoria sponge with vanilla butter cream and raspberry jam
cat cake - 1366
black cat anniversary cake
cat cake - 8
diamond anniversary cake

 

 

the Bath WI crafty night out

I quite recently took over organising craft workshops for the Bath WI – what we like to call our ‘crafty nights out’. Yesterday lovely Eirlys at Scrapiana came over (with lemon drizzle cake) to show us how to make scalloped bunting. There is something so sociable and relaxing about sewing with friends. We talked non stop, ate lemon cake and flapjacks and even did some sewing. It was just a really good evening…can’t wait for the next one!

bunting making - 01
Eirlys shows us what we are aiming to make
bunting making - 03
you can almost hear the concentration!
bunting making - 05
I really covet Eirlys’ Singer Featherweight sewing machine…sigh…
bunting making - 08
can you tell we were having a good time?
bunting making - 09
Look at this teeny weeny sewing machine!
bunting making - 11
lemon drizzle cake and apricot flapjacks and earl grey tea
bunting making - 13
Sheila’s perfectly sewn bunting waiting to be sewn on to tape
bunting making - 14
Trish’s almost completed bunting
bunting making - 15
Kitty wanted pointy bunting and Eirlys was happy to oblige…and it looks fab!
bunting making - 16
love seeing everyone’s choice of fabric

I chatted far too much and didn’t actually sew my bunting until today…ta da!

my bright bunting
my bright bunting

 

Molly the mannequin? Delia the dummy?

You may have spotted a tailor’s dummy in the bunting photos – it is another early birthday present (this time from Mark’s mum and dad). I see her as a Delia…must be the apron!

Molly the mannequin? Delia the dummy?
Molly the mannequin? Delia the dummy?

 

And finally…

The cats have been as cute as ever…Max took a particular liking to a new shoe box, but it really wasn’t big enough!

IMG_2235
brotherly love

 

 

 

 

 

Max shoe box - 1
Max in a shoe box
Max shoe box - 2
cute or what!
IMG_2219
you could do with a bigger box Max!
IMG_2232
I did warn you…

 

 

Looking forward to 2014

So the presents were wrapped…and slept on…!

Mark and Max pre-Christmas snoozing
Mark and Max pre-Christmas snoozing
Max asleep on the Christmas presents
Max asleep on the Christmas presents

…the baking was done and food was eaten…

fir tree bundt cake
fir tree bundt cake
New York snow scene made from shortbread
New York snow scene made from shortbread
Boxing Day delights
Boxing Day delights
festive but healthy dessert
festive but healthy dessert
chcolate fudge brownies baked in ice cream cones and coated in white chocolate, sprinkles and edible glitter
chcolate fudge brownies baked in ice cream cones and coated in white chocolate, sprinkles and edible glitter

…Christmas afternoon snoozes were snoozed…

…paper hats from crackers were worn and games were played…

…and now it feels like time to take down the decorations and clean the house ready for the new year. I am not a big fan of New Year’s Eve. Whatever the opposite of a party animal is, that’s me. I do, however, love New Year’s Day. I like the excitement of opportunities ahead and the feeling like I have a clean slate and a little mini fresh start. I have a lovely piece of red velvet with little red riding hood’s name on it (metaphorically speaking) and a big roll of chalk cloth and 100 blank cards waiting for a bit of free-motion embroidery and a head buzzing with ideas (and not all of them totally crazy).

Flooding permitting we will go and get some invigorating sea air (while Sue and Don cat and house sit), hide all remaining chocolate (we were given loads!), rediscover fresh green food and ditch the sugary carb-heavy Christmas food habits, dig out our bikes for regular exercise, put up the raised beds where we cleared the turf, plant seeds in the grow house, decorate the bedrooms…oh and I will be grasping my new crafty person role with the Bath WI. See what I mean? The new year is really exciting! I have such a good feeling about the coming year…!

How about you? What are you all looking forward to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

anyone for tea?

Those who know me know I have a guilty secret…something of an obsession you could say; a ‘Fifty Shades of Tea Pot’. There is just something so comforting about a teapot – not to mention that I rather share the same body shape as a teapot (but without a handle or spout!). My rather lovely other half not only accepts my tea pot tendencies, he actively encourages it. Many of my tea pots were gifts from Mark (including the one shaped like a football that he thought expressed us perfectly as a couple!). So when we were away and I said we should not be frittering away money on more tea pots, he frittered away regardless and bought this elephant tea pot for me.

elephant teapot
elephant teapot

 

Now with tea pots comes not only tea (thank you Bath Tea House Emporium!) but cake. I just had to make some cupcake pincushions from silicone cupcake moulds, fabric, felt, toy stuffing and beads…and of course pins!

cupcake pincushions
cupcake pincushions
cupcake pincushions
cupcake pincushions

more cake making

I had a break from sewing to make a cake for a family party yesterday. So nice to get together with everyone, and thankfully it was not so hot that the galaxy revels musical notes slid off the cake, and it remained together (until cut and eaten!)

Today I am busy making zipper make-up bags – butterflies and teapots complete and now about to start on some velvet and silk ones (photos in due course). I love my job!

piece of cake!

I have been making and decorating cakes almost as long as I remember, but most particularly since I decorated my sister’s wedding cake (30 years ago this year!). My kitchen is not suitable for a cake-making business – too small and no suitable storage – but I like to make them for friends and family, and well they are craft of a sort.

This weekend is Mark’s mum and dad’s golden wedding anniversary, so I made a cake for the party. A little under-stated number with just a hint of gold lustre spray, edible gold leaf and an icing flower or two…

congratulations on 50 golden years!
congratulations on 50 golden years!
edible gold leaf on icing butterfly
edible gold leaf on icing butterfly
gilded butterfly
gilded butterfly
golden 50
golden 50

As I have cake on my mind (and edible glitter everywhere!) I thought I would pick a few favourites from the hundreds of cakes I have made over the years to share with you.

 

a gallery of cakes

I made this one for my colleague’s dad’s birthday – it’s made of sponge cake covered with fondant icing, with marzipan head and hands.

Stan
Stan
Stan
Stan

 

Nemo for our old receptionist’s grand daughter – nobody wanted to cut this one.

Nemo
Nemo

..and he looked so cute peeping out of the cake box!

Pleeeeease don't eat me!
Pleeeeease don’t eat me!

 

My ‘speciality’ is modelling people from sponge cake – these two are old work colleagues.

Mr V
Mr V
boss's 50th
boss’s 50th

 

Sometimes I paint straight on to fondant icing with food colouring:

leaving to have a baby cake
leaving to have a baby cake
Queen's jubilee
Queen’s jubilee
dog cake
dog cake

 

Sometimes I model in marzipan, which I then paint with food colouring:

Tigger
Tigger
piglet and pooh
piglet and pooh

 

I sometimes make wedding cakes – plenty of icing roses and I model the bride and groom from paper (not edible paper as it dissolves too easily)

rose wedding cake
rose wedding cake
Nicki's top tier
Nicki’s top tier

 

This one was for a fellow quilter.

quilting cake
quilting cake

 

The penguin slide is my most requested Christmas cake design:

penguin slide
penguin slide

 

You can’t go wrong with a few icing flowers.

Anne's 70th
Anne’s 70th

 

Finally I sometimes make cupcakes too – these spaghetti and meatballs (ferrero rocher chocolates in strawberry jam with grated white chocolate) were for comic relief.

spaghetti and meatballs cupcakes
spaghetti and meatballs cupcakes

and these garden cupcakes were for my brother in law’s birthday a few years’ back.

garden cup cakes
garden cup cakes

I think I should stop now; after all too much cake is not good for you!

 

 

finishing touches

I decided my bags and purses needed a little extra je ne sais quoi and ordered these fab little labels from Able Labels. I am very happy with themand will be stitching them in to everything from now on.

 

seaside shopper

I received them very quickly, but had already made this little seaside shopping bag…what is it about bunting that is so irresistable? I want to put miniature bunting on everything now!

seaside shopper
seaside shopper

 

greetings cards

Although I plan to mainly fill my Etsy shop (which I hope to open the week after next!) with sewn goodies, I also decided to get a few of my photos printed up as cards…here’s a few and I will put some more in the photos gallery.

seaside/countryside
seaside/countryside
birds
birds
bees
bees
butterflies
butterflies

 

strawberry gin

The strawberry gin is ready! I don’t quite understand how 70cl of gin, when left to stand with sugar and strawberries can now fill two 35cl bottles and still have enough left over to fill another small jar plus a good measure for the cook. I guess the strawberries must just have been very juicy.

I did find myself pinching the leftover gin-soaked strawberries as I cooked (mushroom and stilton pie) until I realised I was fast becoming a gin-soaked strawberry blonde!

gin-soaked strawberry blonde
gin-soaked strawberry blonde
strawberry gin
strawberry gin

 

and finally…

Last Saturday was the Flavours of the South West food festival in Bath and my cake won the WI Queen of Cakes title! It was a bit of a rush tracing the logo and filling it out with melted chocolate, and I managed to squish the icing while transporting it – I even forgot to take a photo (this was one the ladies (wo)manning the table took). I didn’t know there was a competition, but it’s very nice to win!

Bath WI cake
Bath WI cake