Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day".

I wish you a very happy and peaceful new year.

Gertie xx

Friday, 25 December 2015

Saturday, 28 November 2015

November's bake of the month

My nemesis in the baking world seems to be cherries. No matter how many tips and hints I follow to stop them from sinking to the bottom of the cake, the little devils always do!!!!

One of my motto's is 'I'll never be beaten' so the kitchen was prepared for yet another cherry v Gertie showdown...

Rather than attempt the usual cherry cake recipe I decide to add another player in the ring – a layer of marzipan. I was hoping the marzipan would be a good ally by forming a protective layer to stop the cherries from all sinking to the bottom.

On the other hand my plan could backfire. The cherries could simply do what they usually do, but this time twice in one go to add insult to injury.

What was the result – you'll have to wait until the end of the blog to find out.

Let the battle begin !!!!!!!

Cherry marzipan cake  
(adapted from a Good Food recipe)
  • 8oz (200g) butter/margarine, softened
  • 8oz (200g) caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 8oz (200g) self-raising flour, sieved
  • 8oz (200g) glacé cherries, chopped
  • 4oz (100g) ground almonds
  • 9oz (250g) marzipan – doesn't matter if it's golden or white
  • 2oz blanched almonds, cut into half lengthways
  • Icing sugar, optional

  • Preheat oven to 160ºc/Gas Mk 4. Fan oven 140ºc.
  • Line a deep 8 inch/20cm round cake tin with baking parchment or a cake liner. Using greaseproof paper or baking parchment, make a 7 ½ inch/ 19cm round circle template. Put to one side for now.
  • Beat the butter/margarine together until light and creamy.
  • Gradually add in the eggs and flour, a little of each at a time, beating well before adding any more. Incorporating the small amounts of the eggs and flour together should stop the mix from curdling.
  • Fold in the cherries and ground almonds until they are evenly incorporated.
  • Spoon half of the mix into the tin.
  • Roll out the marzipan then cut out a 7 ½ inch round circle using the template you made earlier.
  • Gently lay the marzipan circle on top of the cake mix already in the tin, then add the rest of the cake batter, leavening the top of the cake with the back of a spoon.
  • Finally scatter the almonds evenly on top of the cake.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours, or until a skewer (I use a piece of spaghetti but you could use a clean knitting needle or cocktail stick) comes out clean. To stop the top of the cake from burning cover it with tin foil after 1 hour.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  • You can dust the cake with icing sugar if you wish.


** Did I finally claim victory over the cherries or was it business as usual. Long silence to add to the dramatic effect.... 

I won !!!!

Friday, 30 October 2015

October’s bake of the month

The Christmas pudding, or plum pudding as it’s sometimes called, has a history dating back to Medieval England.

The pudding would be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity; it would contain 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his 12 disciples and every family member would give it a stir from east to west to honour the Magi (the Three Wise Men) on their journey. 

Unlike the Christmas pudding we know today it was actually a savoury meat dish with consistency similar to porriage. By the 14th century citrus fruit and exotic spices had started to be added, and by the end of the 16th century the addition of eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit made it more in keeping with what we know of today.

Contrary to its name, the pudding has never had plums in it. In Victorian times dried fruit, such as raisins and currants, were called plums, which was why it was called ‘plum pudding’.

Christmas pudding is traditionally made on ‘stir-up Sunday’, the last Sunday in November. Each family member would gather round take it in turn to give the pudding a stir then make a wish.

I’d always wanted to make a Christmas pudding but steaming it for hours and hours then doing the same thing on Christmas day kept putting me off. Shortly after buying ‘Captain Slow’ (our slow cooker. Yes I know we’re terribly sad at giving things names....) I came across a recipe in a slow cooker cook book for a Christmas pudding. There was no stopping me now !!!!!

Christmas pudding 
(adapted from a Delia recipe)
  • 4oz (110g) shredded suet
  • 2oz (50g) self-raising flour
  • 4oz (110g) white bread crumbs (roughly three slices of bread)
  • 1 level tsp ground mixed spice
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg (either freshly grated or dried)
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 8oz (225g) soft dark brown sugar
  • 4oz (110g) sultanas
  • 4oz (110g) raisins
  • 10oz (275g) currants
  • 1oz (25g) mixed chopped peel
  • 1oz (25g) almonds, chopped
  • 1 small cooing apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • Grated rind of ½ large orange and ½ large lemon or 1 small lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp brandy or rum
  • 5fl oz (150ml) stout or dark ale – not beer as it’s too bitter
  • Lightly grease a 2 pint (1.2 litre) pudding basin.
  • Pre-heat the slow cook on high for about 20 minutes.
  • The day before you want to make the pudding take a large mixing bowl and add the suet, breadcrumbs and sugar. Sift in the flour and spices then mix everything together thoroughly.
  • Gradually add the grated orange and lemon zests and apple.
  • Break the eggs into a small bowl then add the rum/brandy and stout/dark ale. Beat everything together thoroughly.
  • Pour the egg liquid over the other ingredients and thoroughly mix together. Now is the traditionally time for everyone to have their turn at mixing the pudding and making a wish – but don’t tell anyone your wish or it won’t come true.....
  • The mixture should be a rather sloppy consistence - it should instantly fall off the spoon when it’s tapped on the side of the bowl. Add a little more stout/dark ale if necessary.
  • Cover the bowl with a tea-towel and leave overnight.
  • The next day pour the mixture into the greased pudding basin. Cover with a double sheet of greaseproof paper and a sheet of foil then tie securely with string.
  • Have the basin standing by the slow cooker as you wait for the kettle to heat up. Once the kettle has boiled put it next to the basin. You need to have everything ready on hand so not to lose too much of the cookers heat once the lid is removed.
  • Place the basin into the centre of the cooker and add the boiling water to about ¾ of the way up the basin. Don’t let the water touch any overhanging greaseproof paper as it may seep into the pudding. Quickly replace the lid.
  • Leave it to cook on high for about 10 hours, checking on it every now and then to see if it needs the water topping up, and if so, fill it back up with boiling water.
  • Once the pudding is cooked, allow it to go cold then replace the greaseproof paper and foil for fresh pieces. Store it in a dark, cool place until the big day.
  • To re-heat it on Christmas day repeat the cooking instructions (eg pre-heat the cooker etc) and cook on high for four hours. Serve with brandy/rum sauce or custard.
  • I find it best to chop the apples last so not to let them go brown. You could also pour a little lemon juice over them as the lemon stops them from discolouring.
  • If you like your pudding a little more alcoholic then substitute some of the stout/dark ale for brandy or rum. Not all of it though as you don’t want it 100% proof!!!!
  • As there’s such a lot of ingredients I find it best to tick off each one off as I’m weighing them out, and also as I’m adding them to the mix, so nothing gets forgotten about.
  • Make a handle with the string to help lift the basin out (the internet will show you how to do this. I’m hopeless at tying knots – mine always come loose – so I just use oven gloves....).
  • Any leftovers can be re-heat on Boxing day in the microwave or how about making some Christmas pudding ice-cream. Yum, yum !!!!

Monday, 28 September 2015

September’s bake of the month

I thought I’d give you something slightly different this month. Whenever we have a party or go to friends parties we have to provide this.

It only has three ingredients so is very easy to put together. They’re incredibly sticky and moreish that one is simply not enough...

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t like them – well, maybe a vegetarian!!

Sticky Sausages


  • 2lb cocktail sausages – frozen ones are ideal.
  • 3 tablespoons of runny honey
  • 5 tablespoons of hoisin sauce

  • Pre-heat oven to 200º c/Gas Mk 6. Fan oven 180ºc.
  • Combine everything into a bowl or large sealable freezer bag and leave to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight in the fridge.
  • Remove the marinated sausages from the fridge half an hour before you intend to cook it to allow it to get to room temperature.
  • Put the sausages onto a roasting tin which has been lined with a double layer of foil (or use a disposable foil roasting tin) and cook for 35 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Allow to cool slightly before you try to eat them as they will be very hot !!!!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

August's bake of the month

Rock buns, or rock cakes depending on which part of the UK you come from (for me they’re buns....), are similar to a fruit scone.

Whilst they won’t win any baking beauty contests, they are wonderfully crumbly and so delicious eaten still warm.

They are perfect for introducing children to baking as they’re very easy to make. Similarly they’re ideal if your other half decides he wants to help you in the kitchen!!!

Rock buns


  • 8oz / 225g self-raising flour
  • 4oz / 100g margarine or butter (cut into cubes if using block margarine or butter)
  • 2oz / 50g granulated sugar
  • 4oz / 100g dried fruit (sultanas/raisins or a combination of both)
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk
  • 1oz / 25g demerara sugar

  • Pre-heat oven to 200º c/Gas Mk 6. Fan oven 180ºc
  • Line two baking trays/sheets with baking parchment or non-stick liners.
  • Add the flour and margarine/butter into a bowl and rub together (just like making pastry) until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Next add in the granulated sugar and dried fruit. Stir in the beaten egg and mix until it forms a firm dough. If the mix is too dry add a little more milk.
  • Divide the dough into 12 blobs then place on the baking trays/sheets. Make sure to leave plenty room between each one as they will spread during cooking.
  • Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the blobs then bake in the oven for about 15/20 minutes until golden brown.
  • Allow to cool on the trays/sheets for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

For something slightly different why not try making rock bars.
  • Instead of dividing into 12 blobs, line a brownie or tray bake tin (approx 11 x 7 x1inch/ 28 x 18 x2.5cm in size) with baking parchment.
  • Put the mixture into the tin, pressing it into the corners and levelling it off with the back of a spoon.
  • Sprinkle over the demerara sugar then cut into 12 bars. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Allow to cool before removing the bars from the tin.

If like me you find it difficult getting things out of the tin here’s a great little tip:
Take two wire racks and place the first one over the tin. Flip the rack and tin over so the tin is now upside down.
Carefully remove the tin then place the second wire rack on top of the bar to create a sandwich effect.
Gently grip the two wire racks (too much force will squash and break the bars) then turn the racks over.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

July's bake of the month

I have fond memories of this tart. It was a family favourite but would only be made either at Christmas or Easter as it was deemed too special for any other occasion.

I’ve no idea where the recipe came from as it was scribbled on the back page of one of my mam’s old recipe books.

It’s similar to a cheesecake though as the title suggests it’s chilled instead of baked.

In the original recipe it had a ginger biscuit base. Mr Gertie isn’t a fan of ginger so I substitute the ginger biscuits for digestives. I’ve included both in the recipe so you can make it whichever way you prefer.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of it to show you so you’re going to have to trust me. However I promise you it is truly delicious and as the saying goes the proof of the pudding is in the eating....

Chilled lemon tart
  • 3oz / 75g margarine or butter
  • 8oz / 225g ginger or digestive biscuits
  • ½ pint of double cream
  • Large tin of condensed milk (218g)
  • Grated rind and juice of 3 large lemons

  • Using either a food processor or a large freezer bag and a rolling pin crush the biscuits until they resemble fine crumbs.
  • Melt the margarine/butter in a saucepan or microwave then stir in the crushed biscuits.
  • Press the biscuit mix into the base of an 8inch/20cm loose-bottomed tin. Chill for ½ hour. If you don’t have a loose-bottomed tin, line the tin with baking parchment, allowing an overlap over the side of the tin so you can pull the tart out when it’s set.
  • Whisk the condensed milk and cream with the juice and rind of the lemons until thick. If you have an electric whisk it will only take a couple of minutes.
  • Carefully spoon over the biscuit base then chill for at least four hours.
This tart recipe is so versatile: 

Instead of one big tart simply spoon the biscuit mix into six or eight individual glass dishes then top with the lemon mix.

You can also make a chilled lime tart by replacing the lemons with four limes.

How about a chocolate lime tart? Mix 1 oz / 25g of cocoa powder to crushed digestive biscuits then decorate the top of the lime tart with grated chocolate.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

June's bake of the month

I’m going back to basics for this month’s bake of the month, and what could be more basic than a sponge cake.

The traditional two, four method is probably one of the first cake recipes that children (and men...) are taught when they embark on their baking journey. It’s so easy to remember – two eggs and four oz’s of butter, sugar and flour.

I’m going to make things even simpler. All it requires is for you to remember one number. The eggs, still in their shells, are weighed, in grams as it’s more accurate, and whatever it says on the scales, you weigh out that amount of flour, butter and sugar. It really is as simple as that.

So for a two egg cake mix if the two eggs weigh 137g measure out 137g of self-raising flour, caster sugar and butter/margarine. No matter what the eggs weigh always use the same weight for the flour, sugar and butter/margarine.

 Lemon sponge cake
  • Two eggs
  • Self-raising flour
  • Caster sugar
  • Butter/margarine
  • 1 level tea-spoon of baking powder
  • 1 lemon, grated
  • Lemon curd
  • 4 table-spoons of icing sugar
  • Juice of one lemon or Jiff lemon juice

  • Line two 7 inch/18cm round cake tin with baking parchment or non-stick liners.
  • Pre-heat oven to 180º c/Gas Mk 4. Fan oven 160ºc
  • Weigh the eggs, still in their shells remember and whatever the eggs weighs in grams, that’s the amount you’ll need for the flour, sugar and butter/margarine.
  • Put the sugar, butter/margarine and grated lemon into a bowl. Sift the flour along with the baking power into the bowl then add the two eggs.
  • Beat well until everything is combined and the mixture is smooth – to the point that it will drop off the spoon when you tap it against the side of the bowl.
  • Pour the mixture into the cake tins, trying to get the same amount in each tin (I weigh them to make sure). Make a slight well in the centre of each cake. This will stop the centre from rising too much.
  • Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Try not to open the oven door during the cooking as this can stop the cakes from rising. If you think that they may be browning too much only open the door when you are past half way into the cooking time.
  • To check to see if the cakes are cook gently press the surface of the cake you’re your finger. If it springs back it’s cooked. You can also test it by using a skewer (or knitting needle or a piece of spaghetti). Pierce the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean then it’s done.
  • Once the cakes are cool, spread the lemon curd over one of the cakes. Try not to get the lemon curd too close to the edge as it will spread naturally to the edge when the other one is put on top of it.
  • Take the other cake and carefully put it on top off the lemon curd layer.
  • Sift the icing sugar into a bowl to get rid of any lumps. Add a little of the lemon juice/Jiff lemon juice and mix together carefully until the icing is slightly runny but is still quite thick in consistency.
  • Pour the icing into the centre of the cake and spread it out to the edges. Don’t worry if the icing runs over the sides. Wait until the icing has set before cutting into it.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The wanderer returns

Sorry for the radio silence. Whilst I love sewing I find I need to recharge my batteries every now and then so for the past few weeks I’ve only been doing just a small amount of sewing – hence the lack of postings.

I’ve been using the time to catch up on some reading. I’m slightly dyslexic so it takes me a while to finish a book.  I’ve also been trying to get my head around social media for Gertie’s Bags business.

My Flickr account is up and running and I’ve taken the plunge and become a tweeter. I took an online twitter course so am trying to put what I’ve learn into practice. Next to conquer will be facebook.

While I’ve been away I’ve had a couple more Gertie’s Bags sales; another from eBay and my first one from Etsy. Hopefully once I’ve mastered (or at least got my head around it....) social media it will generate more sales.

One of the things I’ve been sewing during my time away is some potholders for a friend’s house warming present. I worked on the similar idea I did for my friend’s potholders last year, though instead of cats, I used items from a kitchen.  

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.

Friday, 29 May 2015

May's bake of the month

Who doesn’t love bourbon biscuits? These were my favourite (and still are if I’m honest) as a child.

I would break the biscuit into two (getting crumbs everywhere much to the annoyance of my mam!!!) and eat the top layer first then the yummy creamy bottom.

If, like me, you find rolling things out a pain, here’s a great tip for stopping the dough sticking to the work surface and rolling pin. Roll it out onto cling film. Works every time....

When sandwiching the biscuits together instead of simply spreading the filling over the biscuit, here’s a great tip for making them look really elegant. Take a freezer bag (any size will do) and snip off about ¼ inch/1.5 cm from one corner. Fill the bag with the filling then pipe a couple of strips onto the biscuit.

Bourbon biscuits
  • 2 oz/50g margarine (or softened butter if you prefer)
  • 2 oz/50g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4oz/110g plain flour, plus a little extra if needed
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate soda
  • ½ oz/15g cocoa powder

  • 2oz/50g margarine (or softened butter if you prefer)
  • 4oz/100g icing sugar, sifted
  • 2tsp cocoa powder, sifted
  • Few drops of hot water

  • Pre-heat oven 190º c/Gas Mk 5. Fan oven 170ºc.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment or silicone liners.
  • In a large bowl or mixer cream the margarine/butter and sugar together till pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the golden syrup then sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa. Mix to a stiff dough.
  • Tip the dough out onto a work surface and knead well.
  • You can do this next bit by either flouring the work surface or using cling film.
  •  Roll out the dough to a depth of ¼ inch/4mm.
  • Cut the dough into long strips about 1 inch/2.5cm wide then cut these strips into 2 inch/5cm lengths.
  • Carefully transfer to the baking trays then prod several times with a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes until the edges are slightly scorched.
  • Leave the biscuits to cool on a wire rack.
  • To make the filling cream the margarine/butter, icing sugar and cocoa together in a large bowl or mixer till you have a spreadable consistency. You may need to add a few drops of hot water to it.
  • Once the biscuits are cold sandwich two together with the filling, gently pressing them together.
  • Now for the really hard bit. Let the filling firm for about an hour before eating.... 

Thursday, 30 April 2015

April's bake of the month

Made it by the skin of my teeth again....

Chocolate cake or a simple plain cake. When you want can’t decide which cake to have, why not have both.

A marble cake is perfect when you want the best of both worlds. Whilst it looks impressive, it really is so easy to make.

The beauty of this cake is you can mix and match the flavours. How about a chocolate and orange or chocolate and coffee. The possibilities are endless.

Like I always do when I’m making a sponge cake recipe I weigh the eggs, still in their shells, and whatever it says on the scales, I weigh out that amount of flour, butter and sugar.

For example the two eggs – still in their shells – weigh 187g’s. Measure out 187g’s of self-raising flour, caster sugar and butter/margarine. No matter what the eggs weigh, always use the same weight for the flour, sugar and butter.

Marble cake

  • Two eggs
  • Self-raising flour
  • Caster sugar
  • Butter/margarine
  • 1 level tea-spoon of baking powder
  • 25g cocoa powder

  • Pre-heat oven to 180º c/Gas Mk 4. Fan oven 160ºc
  • Line 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment or non-stick liners.
  • Weigh the eggs, still in their shells. Whatever the eggs weigh, that’s the amount you’ll need for the flour, sugar and butter/margarine.
  • Put the sugar and butter/margarine into a bowl. Sift the flour along with the baking power into a bowl then add the two eggs.
  • Beat well until everything is combined and mixture is smooth, to the point that it will drop off your spoon.
  • Pour half of the batter in a separate bowl – don’t worry if it’s not exact – and leave to one side. Add the cocoa powder to the remaining mixture and beat until it’s has been combined.
  • Starting with the batter mix that was put to one side, take an ice-cream scoop (or a tablespoon) and dollop spoonfuls of the mixture into the tin. Then fill the remaining gaps with the chocolate mixture. There are no hard and fast rules here, be as creative as you like.
  • Finally to make the marble effect take a skewer and swirl it around the tin a couple of times (I’m afraid I forgot to do this...).
  • 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.

I like to serve my marble cake ‘naked’ but it would be just as lovely decorated with melted chocolate or water icing.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

What’s in your bag?

Thank you so much for your comments of support about the custom bag. They really took away any niggling doubts I had that I did the right thing. 

As I haven’t got any sewing to show I thought I’d show you something different, the contents of my sewing bag. I like to keep in this little bag (it was first attempt at making a quilted bag) all the essential items I need whenever I’m sewing.

Here we go:

Plasters (or band aids for our friends over the pond) – for when needles or pins attack!!!

Light and dark tacking threads

Small scissors

Vanishing fabric marker pens

Sewing needles (and a safety pin)

Left-handed tape measure – yes they really do exist...

Flower head pins

Thread nipper

Seam ripper


Thimbles – and a little sticky-tape to help it say on my finger...

Measuring gauge

Needle grippers

Sewing gauge/point turner

Hera marker – for making creases/marks on fabric

Seam presser

Compensation plates – when starting to sew through thick layers of fabric, these little bits of plastic slip under the machine foot to keep it level

What do you keep in your sewing bag?

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.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March’s bake of the month

Opps I nearly did it again!!!! These months are really flying by. Before I know it, Christmas will be here....

So what have I got for you this month? How does double chocolate chip cookies sound. They’re really easy to make but incredibly yummy.

As with all cookies recipes you can add or change things to suit your own personal preference. Say for example, you like white chocolate but not milk. Simply replace the milk chocolate chips for white ones.

Or, what about adding some nuts to the cookies. Chopped walnuts, pecans, Brazil, macadamia would work. The possibilities are endless. Just have fun making and eating them....

Double chocolate chip cookies
  • 4oz/100g butter/margarine
  • 3oz/75g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 5oz/125g self-raising flour, sieved
  • 1oz/25g coco powder, sieved
  • 4oz/100g chocolate chips (I used both milk and dark but any will do)
  • 2tsp milk

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180º c/Gas Mk 4. Fan oven 160ºc.
  • Grease or line two baking trays (I used Lakeland non-stick liners but greaseproof paper/ baking parchment would be fine).
  • Beat the margarine until soft then add the sugar and cream until light and fluffy.
  • Stir in rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  • Place spoonfuls of the cookie dough onto the baking trays – I used an ice-cream scoop as I’m hopeless at getting things the same size.Flatten the cookies slightly with your fingers, and make sure the cookies are not too close together otherwise you’ll end up with one giant cookie.
  • Bake for 8 -10 minutes then leave them on the tray for one minute to firm up slightly before lifting them onto a wire rack. I found they were too soft to move otherwise.
  • Leave on wire rack to cool. Resist if you dare!!!!!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A sour note

Gosh has it really been a month since I last blogged. Where has the time gone !!!

Thanks to everyone for their comments about freebies. It certainly has given me some ideas.

So what have I been up to whilst AWOL. I made another three 'Jenny' bags. I'll put them up on the blog once Mr Gertie does his David Bailey with them....

Speaking of photos. I'm slowly coming into the 21 century with regards to social media as I've got myself a flickr account. There's only a handful of photos on there at the moment as I haven't had time to do more. However I'm coming to a quite spell, sewing wise, so I should be able to get more up.

Shortly before Mr Gertie retired I made a list (think jumbo size loo roll!!!!) of jobs that needed doing around the house. I'm pleased to say that painting and decorating the living room and dining room can now be crossed off the list.

On the 'Gertie's Bags' front I had another eBay sale and also a request for a custom made bag.

The customer liked the 'Jenny' bag she's seen on eBay and asked if I could make it in a different foxy print fabric. As the correspondences about the bag progressed (what size did she want etc), she gave me details of what fabric she wanted (a lovely non-foxy print from Cotton Patch).

She also came back with images of a backpack she'd seen elsewhere and asked if I could make one like that instead as she wanted lots of pockets. I pretty much had to design the bag from scratch but I love a challenge so it didn't bother me.

When I finished the bag I contacted the customer and the good relationship we'd built up turned slightly sour. She wasn't happy with the price - £40 - and asked for a complete breakdown of the costs as she had been expecting to pay £25, the same as the 'Jenny' Bag.

The raw materials (as well as p&p) came to over £25 and I only charged £15 labour - £1 per hour - even though I spent a lot more than 15 hours designing and making it.

To be fair to the customer, she did accept that as she had requested a custom made item she would have to buy it, but would like the bill to be reduced to something more favourable (I'm guessing no more than £30). I thought long and hard about it and decided that as I wasn't prepared to reduce my hourly rate down to 33p I withdrew the bag from sale.

I know some would say that I cut off my nose to spite my face as I've now been lumbered with the bag when I had a sale for it. When I set up 'Gertie's Bags' I did so because I loved sewing and wanted people to enjoy having something that was completely unique. I knew that as she wasn't happy with the cost instinct would make her dislike the bag. The last think I wanted was for the bag to be stuffed in a cupboard because of the issue of the price.

No doubt you'll tell me I'm mad.....

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.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

February's bake of the month


Phew!!! Just made it in time for this month’s bake of the month.

I always feel sorry for fruit cakes, as with the exception of Christmas and Easter, they’re pretty much ignored for the rest of the time. Not today.

This cake is slightly different to the more traditional fruit cake. Whilst there’s alcohol in it, it doesn’t use the conventional rum, brandy etc. It uses beer (porter/stout to be exact) which gives it a lovely flavour.

The method used to make the cake is also different. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar as you would normally, most of the ingredients are put in a pan and left to simmer. This allows the fruit to absorb the fabulous flavours of the orange juice, mixed spice and beer.

The end result is a beautifully light, moist cake which I’m sure even fruit cake haters would enjoy....

Fruit porter cake (adapted from a Goodfood recipe)

  • 6oz/175g butter
  • 1lb/450g mixed dried fruit
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 6oz/175g light muscovado sugar
  • 7fl oz/200ml porter/stout (Guinness, Caffrey's or whatever you like)
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 10oz/300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice

  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp Demerara sugar

  • Pre-heat oven to 150º c/Gas Mk 2. Fan oven 130ºc.
  • Line a deep 8 inch/20cm round cake tin with baking parchment or cake liner. 

  • Put butter, dried fruit, orange zest and juice, sugar and porter/stout in a large pan. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until the butter and sugar have dissolved, then simmer for 15 minutes.

  • All the mix to cool for 10 minutes then stir in the bicarbonate of soda. The mixture will foam up but don’t panic as that's supposed to happen.

  • Stir the eggs into the pan then sift in the flour and spice, mixing well.

  • Pour the mixture into the tin, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon, then sprinkle over the flaked almonds and Demerara sugar.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours. To test if it’s cooked insert a skewer (I prefer to use a piece of spaghetti for this but you could use a clean knitting needle or cocktail stick) and if it comes out clean, it’s done.
  • Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.

The addition of the flaked almonds and Demerara sugar gives the cake a wonderful crunchy topping. You can simply leave them out if you prefer.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A round up of the news

So, what’s to report since I last blogged. 

I was drastically running out of storage space in the workroom so had a massive clearout. Even though it’s only a small room, it was full of stuff (I even found two dolls belonging to my niece and she’s 27 now....), so it took several days to get through it all. It was well worth it though as I now have space. Yippee!!!!

On the sewing front there’s still an awful lot of fabric left from Mr Gertie’s work shirts so I looked around for ideas to use them in another quilt (or several....). There was a lot of blue fabric in the work shirt collection so one pattern really stood out. The lighter shades came from Mr Gertie’s shirts, the darker colours were bits of fabric I had lying around.

It’s not quite finished. I’ve still got the backing fabric and the actual quilting to, but at least it gives you an idea of what it’ll look like completed.

For Christmas Mr Gertie got some new photography equipment, and as he needed to test them out, I suggest my bags would be perfect for this. It was a win-win situation as he got to play with his Christmas toys and I got some updated photos for eBay and Etsy.

Speaking of eBay, I’ve had another sale!!!!! A large make up bag. That really put the nail in the coffin for the Folksy shop as it’s hardly getting any viewings.  So, I’ve moved all that stock over to my new Etsy shop. It’s only been up and running two days but has had more viewings in that short time than Folksy had since it opened.

I’m still ploughing my way thought various books about selling online, and in particular, promoting via social network, as that seems to be the way forward. As I’ve mentioned before I’m a total social network phobic so might have to employ a teenager to do my marketing for me!!!!!

When I mentioned to my sister that I was setting up ‘Gertie’s Bags’, she asked if I was going to give away any freebies with every order.  I can see where she was coming from as I’ve often received little gifts (key rings, sweets etc) when I’ve bought things online and it does seem good PR. 

I ran the idea past Mr Gertie but he thought it was a waste of time and effort. He can’t see why I make little matching fabric key ring purses that are attached to the zips of all the larger bags. What do you think? Do you give your customers little freebies, and if so what? If I did go down the freebie route it would be only something simple, like a fabric bookmark, which would take no time at all to make.

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, 1 February 2015

The Jenny bag

Two years ago I made a rucksack for my friend Jenny. She asked if it could be similar to her favourite bag that was getting a little old and worn.  With paper, pen and a tape measure I came up with a design.

Rucksacks and backpacks are very much in vogue (I’ve been using them for years so yeah I’m trendy!!!!!) so I thought I’d put one into production for ‘Gertie’s Bags’.

I didn’t want it make it too big so slightly tweaked the bag pattern that I made for Jenny. The front pocket was made wider and deeper, more internal pockets added and the straps were made longer.

Pattern sorted, now the fabric. I wanted something that would appeal to both young and old. Having bought rather a lot of fabric recently (think credit card yelping!!) I couldn’t justify buying any more. Well, I could, but there would be lots of tutting from Mr Gertie...

I chose something that came from a fabulous shop in Stratford upon Avon. It’s only little, but boy, do they pack a lot of fabric in. It was so good that I went back the following day for more.

I now need to decide where to sell it from. Because Folksy has been pretty disappointing I’m giving Etsy a try so am moving my Folksy stock over to there.  However my first sale came from eBay. I think the only solution is to make another then each will have one.

That still doesn’t solve the problem of which one first so I suspect it’ll be heads or tails !!!!

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.