Wednesday, 26 February 2014

February's bake of the month

This is simple to make yet tastes absolutely delicious. The cake is light and crumbly and has a yummy topping of chocolate fudgy icing. It would be perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon....

The cake is made pretty much in the same way as ‘the jam sponge’, in that the eggs, still in their shells, are weighed and whatever it says on the scales, you weigh out that amount of flour, butter/margarine and sugar.

Suppose the two eggs weigh 4 ¾ oz’s (I always work in ‘old money’ but it’s the same principal with grams). Measure out 4 ¾ oz’s of self-raising flour, butter/margarine and caster sugar. No matter what the eggs weigh, always use the same weight for the flour, butter/margarine and sugar.

If, like our friends over the pond, you don’t use scales to weigh things out, simply use your favourite sponge cake recipe instead.

Simple chocolate fudge loaf cake

  • Two eggs
  • Self-raising flour
  • Caster sugar
  • Butter/margarine
  • Cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder

For the topping:
  • 4 tablespoons of icing sugar – sieved
  • 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder – sieved
  • Water

  • Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment or a non-stick liner.
  • Pre-heat oven to 180º c/Gas Mk 4. Fan oven 160ºc
  • Weigh the eggs, still in their shells. Whatever the eggs weigh, that’s the amount you’ll need for the sugar, flour and cocoa power combined and butter/margarine. When you come to weigh out the flour and cocoa powder, start with the cocoa powder and weigh out 1 oz then make up the rest with the flour.
  • Put the flour, cocoa and baking powders, sugar and butter/margarine into a bowl or mixer then add the two eggs.
  • Beat well until everything is combined and the mixture is smooth to the point that it will drop off a spoon.
  • Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and make a slight well in the centre of the cake. This will stop the centre from rising too much.
  • Bake for 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown. To check to see if the cakes are cook, gently press the surface of the cake with a finger. If it springs back it’s cooked. You can also test it by using a skewer (or knitting needle or even a piece of spaghetti). Piece the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean then it’s done.
  • Leave the cake to cool for about five minutes then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • To make the chocolate fudge topping mix the icing sugar and cocoa powder with enough water so the icing will drop off the spoon to form ribbons. Go careful when adding the water as it’s much easier to add a drop more water to thin the icing than adding more icing sugar to thicken it.
  • Finally pour the icing over the cake. Don’t worry if some of it runs over the sides – it just means some lucky person gets more icing !!!!
Gertie xx

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The magnificent seven

Many thanks for your lovely comments following my oilcloth tutorial last week – and thanks for being so gentle with me.....

As you may have read in my posts 'Here's one I made earlier' and 'Here's another one I made earlier' I make my own frocks. Being rather short shop bought dresses are always way too long and I begrudge paying for a dress only to lob off six inches of fabric. 

We’re off on another cruise in June and as there will be two formal evenings I always try and make at least one cocktail dress per cruise. I’ve scoured the various pattern websites for dress patterns and I’ve finally come up with a shortlist.

As I’m a self taught dressmaker I’ll tackle anything so it makes no difference if the pattern is for beginners or advanced, I buy it simply because I like it. There have been times though when I’ve ‘improvised’ or done it my own way to make things easier. May and Patrick from the Sewing Bee would be horrified !!!!

Here’s the final seven. I’ll definitely be making one, possible two, but I can’t decide on which one.  Which one would you choose?


Have a great week.


Gertie xx

PS why not pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Oilcloth tote tutorial

After my post about ‘not fearing the vinyl’ I thought I’d show you how easy it is to make something using ‘the dreaded beast’ !!!!

The oilcloth I used for the bag was an impulse buy. We were in our local haberdashery shop looking for some vinyl to make ‘Wizzy’s bag and I stumbled across it. I had no idea what I was going to make with it. We had no need for a table cover and given the size of the pattern, I couldn’t make anything small out of it (decapitated teddies on a make-up bag just doesn’t do it for me !!!). That didn’t matter. I still had to have it.

When I finally decided to make something, a large tote bag, I took some photos of the process so I’ve put together a tutorial on how to make a tote bag using oilcloth. Unfortunately I forgot to take some photos towards the end of the make – sorry about that  – hopefully you’ll still be able to follow what’s going on. If not just pop a query in the comments box, drop me an email, and I’ll do my best to explain.

Please be gentle with me as this is my first tutorial......

The size of the bag is approx 15 inch (h) x 12 inch (w) x 4 inch (d) with 12 inch (h) x 1 inch (w) handles.

A seam allowance of ¼ inch has been included to everything except the handles. I found it easier to mark in pen a ¼ inch seam allowance line on the back of the oilcloth.

When stitching the oilcloth you’ll need to use a slightly longer stitch length than you would normally use, and please don’t backstitch/oversew as this weakens the oilcloth. Instead leave a long thread at the beginning and end of your stitching then knot to secure.

You’ll need:
Oilcloth – I bought a metre length and used about half
Lining fabric
Thread for main and lining fabric

For the front and back:
Cut two 17 inch (h) x 12 ½ inch (w) pieces from the oilcloth
Cut two 16 7/8 inch (h) x 12 ¼ inch (w) pieces from the lining

For the sides:
Cut four 17 inch (h) x 2 ½ inch (w) pieces from the oilcloth
Cut four 16 7/8 inch (h) x 2 3/8 inch (w) pieces from the lining

For the base:
Cut one 4 ½ inch (h) x 12 ½ inch (w) piece from the oilcloth
Cut one 4 ¼ inch (h) x 12 ¼ inch (w) piece from the lining

For the handles:

Cut two 13 inch x 4 inch pieces from the oilcloth

For the lining base:
Cut two 4 1/8 inch (h) x 12 ¾ inch (w) pieces from the lining
Cut one 3 1/2 inch (h) x 11 7/8 inch (w) from strong cardboard

Start with the sides pieces.

With right sides together take two main side pieces and secure them in place (I used clothes pegs but you can use paper clips).

Sew the two pieces together, stopping at the pen line you’d drawn earlier and leave a long thread so it can be secured with a knot later. Repeat with the other side.

Finger press the side seams open.

With the right side of the side seams facing sew two lines of stitching 1/8 inch either side of the centre join.

This is what the wrong side will look like, with the seams secured down.

Attach the side seams to front and back of the bag. Again use clips to secure it.

Finger press open the seams as before.

Turn over the bag so the wrong sides of the side seams and front/back are touching. Finger press the side seams to create a fold. 

With right sides facing edge stitch a 1/8 inch seam down the length of the bag. Continue until all the sides have been stitched.

The bag will now start to look ‘box’ like.

Attach the base to the bottom of the bag.

Like before, turn over the bag so the wrong sides of the base and front/back are touching. Finger press the seams to create a fold then edge stitch a 1/8 inch seam along the base of the bag. I found it easier to stitch the two long ends first. Don’t secure the thread ends with a knot, thread them through to the wrong side then secure with a couple of stitches in the seam allowance.

Take the handles and draw a line down the centre length wise. Fold the two edges meeting at the pen line.

Next fold the handle in half completely hiding the edges.

Stitch a 1/8 inch seam along both edges of the handles.

Sadly this is where the photos end. Hopefully you’ll understand what I mean....

Make the lining as per the oilcloth but omit to edge stitch the 1/8 inch seams. Press open the seams as you would normally.

Turn the lining inside out so the wrong side is facing you and place it into the bag (both the wrong sides of the bag and lining will now be touching), matching up the seams.

Finger press a ¼ inch hem all around the top of the bag then fold down 1 inch to make a band in the lining. Stitch down the band as close to the edge as possible then add a line of edge stitching around the top of the bag.

Attach the handles to however wide you would like them to be – mine are three inches apart.

Confession time.... You may have spotted in the main photo that there doesn’t appear to be any stitches on the front of the bag holding the handles in place. I didn’t want any showing so attached the handles before folding down the band.

Finally make the lining base. With right sides together stitch along the two long sides and one short side. Press the three seams then turn so the right side of the base is facing. Insert the cardboard, turn under a hem, then hand stitch the seam closed.

There you have it, an oilcloth tote bag. Happy sewing.....

Have a great week.


Gertie xx

PS why not pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.

Monday, 10 February 2014

It's harder than it looks

Following on from my previous post 'don't fear the vinyl' I was going to do a tutorial on how to make a simple tote bag out of oilcloth.

That was the plan in theory but not necessarily in practice. I thought I just had to write a couple of lines of explanation to go with the various photos and I'd have a tutorial. How wrong I was !!!!!

I don't know if you've ever tried to write a tutorial but it's a lot harder than it looks. Hopefully I'll have it done by next week - famous last words....

Have a great week.


Gertie xx

PS why not pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Don’t fear the vinyl

Thank you so much for the lovely comments regarding my ‘Mahon’ bag. Whilst I have a love/hate relationship with leatherette I’m still going to continue making bags out of the fabric. If anything, it’s made me more determined as it’s such a versatile fabric.

One of the reasons why I don’t like leatherette is you can’t unpick your work. OK that’s not strictly true. You can but you’re left with the needle holes, and sewing over the holes isn’t a good idea as it can cause tearing.

What it has taught me to do, seeing as I can’t unpick my mistakes, is to take my time. I’m lucky as my sewing machine has a variable speed setting so no matter how hard I press the foot pedal, it won’t go any faster.

If you fancy making something out of vinyl fabric but are weary of leatherette, why not try oilcloth. It’s very much similar to leatherette but isn’t as stiff and bulky. You can make your own oilcloth (plenty of websites will show you how) but I prefer to buy it ready done. There are loads of places where you can buy it now. We even stumbled upon a lovely little shop in Sete, France which sold just oilcloth. I wish I bought more now......

There are a couple of things you’ll need to make life so much easier when you’re working with vinyl:
  • A roller or Teflon sewing foot as normal sewing foot tends to stick. You can also use strips of wax or tissue paper. You simply place it on top of the vinyl, sew over it then pull the paper away.
  • A leather or denim sewing needle. These are much sharper than normal sewing needles so are less likely to tear or damage the vinyl.
  • Paper clips and grips to hold your work as pins will leave a hole. If you’re using metal paper be careful as the points can tear or scratch the vinyl. If you can use the plastic coated coloured ones. I use clothes pegs when I have long seams to stitch. If you really must use pins then please make sure you pin in the seam allowance so the holes won’t show through.
  • Select a longer stitch length than you would normally use as the closer the holes are to each other, the more likely they are to perforate.
  • Use a thicker sewing thread as this will make the seams stronger and don't back stitch, as again this can cause the vinyl to perforate. Simply knot the thread ends securely.
  • Invest in a Hera Marker and a Finger Presser. As you can’t use heat on vinyl (well, you can but the consequences are disastrous!!!) these little plastic devices take the place of an iron.  The Finger Presser does just that, it presses seams opens. The Hera Marker makes creases so making a fold in the bulky vinyl is so easy. Simply score on the wrong side of the fabric (this is very important as it will cut the vinyl otherwise) and you end up with a perfect fold.
I hope this has alleviated some of the fears of vinyl. Give it a try. It’s only a piece of fabric after all.....

Have a great week.


Gertie xx

PS why not pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.