Sunday, 27 January 2013

Quilted bag

Over the years my fabric stash has just got bigger and bigger. It's mainly off-cuts from evening dresses, sun tops and skirts and Mr Gertie’s old work shirts. 

I mentioned to my Mam that I might have a clear out of my fabric stash as it was taking too much space in my work room. She suggested instead of throwing some of it away, why I didn’t make a quilted bag.

She goes to a Quilting Group and a few months previously one of her quilting friends had passed round a pattern for a large tote bag.

I don't know whether this was a ruse to get me into quilting, as my Mam, who's a beautiful quilter, has been trying for years to get me interested in it. 

I remember making some kind of ‘patchwork thing' when I was in primary school, but it was using the paper method (you use paper as a template for each piece, hand sew them all together then remove the paper. Extremely boring!!!!), and ever since then I've associated patchwork and quilting as being monotonous….

My Mam promised me the bag was simple to make and a great introduction to quilting. See – told you!!!!! 

I had to admit that the bag did look nice, and being a woman, you can never have enough bags, so said I'd give it a go.

My Mam was over the moon and couldn't wait to have a good rummage through my fabric stash for colours she thought would make a great bag. Hang on a minute – who's bag is it!!!!

The bag was made up of 46 five inch squares cut from Mr Gertie’s old work shirts and some off cuts from a couple of summer skirts. All I had to do was cut them out then stitch them together.  Sounds simple. It would have been had I read the pattern correctly….

I had assumed that the finished squares were five inches so had cut the squares to five inches then added the required seam allowance. However the five inch squares had already included the seam allowance so the correct finished size was 4 ½ inches.  Oops!!

So, instead of having a gargantuan bag made up of 46 squares, I scaled it down a little by not using all the squares. 

Once I stitched the squares together I quilted the bag simply by using the sewing machine footer as a guide and outlined the edges of the squares.

The flap was made by stitching two squares together with a little interfacing sandwiched in-between them.  For decoration a button salvaged from an old knitted cardigan was attached to the front of the flap. A press-stud was stitched to the underside of the flap and to the front of the bag. 

For the lining I simply stitched three long pieces of fabric together.

To make the bottom of the bag sturdier stiff cardboard was cut to the size of the base then covered in lining fabric. 

I later added a pocket inside the bag by hand stitching one of the spare squares to the lining. 

Gertie xx

Saturday, 26 January 2013

January's (second) bake of the month

When I was growing up this cake was always a big favourite with everyone at home. My mam would usually make it on a Saturday afternoon and we'd sit at the kitchen table drumming our fingers and staring at the oven waiting for it to cook.

The anticipation was even worse when it came out of the oven as it's fabulous warm so we’d sit at the kitchen table waiting impatiently for it to be cool enough to eat.

Unlike normal fruit or spice cakes, the butter and sugar aren't creamed together. Instead the flour and butter are rubbed together, just like in making pastry. This is what gives the cake it’s beautiful texture. 

 As the cake is quite crumbly, if you try and cut small slices, especially when it’s warm, it disintegrates. So, the only solution is to have large slices !!!!

Country spice cake

  • 8oz/225g self-raising flour
  • ½ teaspoon of ground mix spice
  • 3oz/75g margarine or butter
  • 4oz/100g soft brown sugar
  • 4oz/100g raisins
  • 4oz/100g sultanas
  • 2oz/50g mixed peel, chopped
  • 2oz/50g glace cherries, chopped
  • ¼ pint/150ml milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten into the milk
  • Pre-heat oven to 180º c/Gas Mk 4. Fan oven 160ºc.
  • Line a 7 inch/18cm round cake tin with baking parchment. You could use one of the special cake liners (Lakeland sell them and they're brilliant), however I think a fruit cake tin deserves to be lined the traditional way. 
  • Sift the flour and mix spice together into a large bowl then rub in the margarine or butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs – just like when making pastry.
  • Next add the sugar, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel and cherries to the bowl and give it a quick stir to mix everything together. 
  • Finally mix in the beaten egg and milk. The mixture should drop from a wooden spoon when shaken. If it doesn’t then add a little more milk. 
  • Pour into the tin then make a slight well in the centre – this stops the middle rising too much.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. I prefer to use a piece of spaghetti for this but you could use a clean knitting needle or cocktail stick. Leave it in the tin for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Resist as long as you can before cutting into it !!!

Gertie xx

Monday, 21 January 2013

Glasses case

Glasses case and lens cloth cover

When I got my reading glasses they came in the horrible case you get given free from the Opticians. 

There was an excuse if ever I needed one to get sewing. I looked through my craft books to see if they had any glasses case I could make or adapt. There were a couple but I wasn’t keen on them – too old fashioned….

Out came my trusty left handed tape measure (yes there is such a thing !!!!) and I did some measuring. Then using graph paper I plotted out the pattern. 

The needlework stitches I’d decided to use were ‘Rhodes stitch’, worked over 10 threads, and ‘cross stitch’ worked over three threads. The wool wasn’t anything fancy, just ordinary double knitting. 

After cutting out a piece of 12 hole tapestry canvas and allowing a generous seam allowance, the edges were then taped with masking tape to stop them from fraying. 

Once the needlework had been finished I stitched the case together. Using some cream fabric I made the lining then hand stitched it to the cover. Finally I stitched a press-stud to the top of the case to stop the glasses from falling out.

I made the lens cloth cover exactly the same way as the glasses case.

Gertie xx

Saturday, 19 January 2013

January's bake of the month

Hello there. I'm Gertie and welcome to the first entry in my ‘Makes and Bakes’ blog.


Although it’s called malt loaf it bears no resemblance to the malt loaf that you buy in the supermarket. I won’t name names but you know the one. 

It could go by the name of bran loaf but that sounds too healthy !!!!! This is a lovely, moist fruity loaf which is both delicious hot or cold. It freezes beautifully too. Just cut the loaf into slices then place a piece of greaseproof paper in-between each layer to stop them sticking together. If I’ve forgotten to get a slice (or two…) out of the freezer I pop it into the microwave and set it to defrost for about forty seconds. Out comes lovely warm slices of malt loaf. 

There’s no complicated measuring required to make this as everything is measured using a tea cup. Just remember to use the same tea cup throughout. 

Don't ask me why but you don’t get the same texture if you use bran flakes so I wouldn’t recommend you use them.

As it's so quick to prepare, whenever I decide to make a malt loaf, I always make two.

One word of caution. The batter mix sets like concrete to the bowl if it isn’t soaked in water. You have been warned !!!

Malt Loaf
  • One cup of ‘All Bran’ breakfast cereal (or supermarket equivalent) 
  • One cup of milk 
  • One cup of caster sugar (use slightly less than a cupful if you want to make it less sweet) 
  • One cup of sultanas/ raisins, or a mixture of both 
  • One cup of self-raising flour (you don’t need to sieve it)


  • Start the day before you intend to make the loaf. Taking a tea cup put all the ingredients except the flour into a bowl and mix well. Cover with a tea-towel and leave overnight. 
  • The next day pre-heat oven: 180º c/Gas Mk 4. Fan oven 160ºc.
  • Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment or a non-stick liner.
  • Stir in the flour, making sure you scrape the sides of the bowl thoroughly, then pour into the loaf tin.
  • Bake for 1 hour. The top of the loaf does have a tendency to burn so cover with tin foil half way throughout the cooking time. 
  • Leave to cool slightly before removing it from the tin and placing on a wire rake. 

Gertie xx