It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.

Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas, filled with love, joy and mincepies.

And presents, we can’t forget the presents. Which is what I wanted to share with you today – I made each of my family a little something to go in their stockings this year, which I didn’t want to put on the blog until after they’d seen them, as you never know what little elf might share the secret before the big day.

For my sister, who loves African prints, I made this tote bag. The two clashing prints were from a shop on Petticoat Lane – I forget the name, but there are lots to choose from! Although I needed less than a metre to make the bag, the fabric only comes in 6yd lengths, but don’t worry I have big plans for a full skirt from the bird fabric, which makes up the lining, and a fitted shift dress from the fan fabric. Gift for my sister, gift for me! The wooden button was from my stash, but I think it goes quite nicely.

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The pattern is from the Cath Kidston “Sew” book – which I picked up for a few quid in the charity shop near me – all templates still included! I’d previously made up this tote for my mum, so I knew I could pull it together quickly (due to reasons, mainly a job change in the last couple of weeks, I’d been quite busy and so my decision to make presents was very last minute!). The reason I like this pattern so much (apart from how easy it is to put together) is the inclusion of both a front and inside pocket, so you’ll never lose your lipgloss or keys at the bottom of your bag again!

Also from the same book, I made my dad a little drawstring washbag, using a lovely pinstripe fabric from my stash. The pattern calls for shower curtain fabric on the inside, but the only shower curtain fabric I could find cost about £16 per metre, and I would have had to wait for it to be delivered. So instead I just went to Argos and spent £2.50 on a basic shower curtain, which works perfectly once cut up, and nobody is any the wiser! I have a lot of this left over now, so I guess there are a lot more gifted washbags on the horizon.

I stupidly forgot to take a photo of the finished product, but it looks much the same as the one in the book (although I omitted the side piping because of time, and not having anything suitable to hand!). Again, this was an easy make, but I actually found the instructions in the book a bit lacking. It was ok for me, having some experience in sewing, but they felt a bit bare in places and left me scratching my head in confusion. Although perhaps I’d just had a little bit too much Christmas cheer*.

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And finally, I knitted my mum some fingerless gloves. I hadn’t planned on knitting my mum some fingerless gloves. I had planned on making her the glasses case from the same Cath Kidston book. In fact, I pretty much did make her the glasses case, but so badly I decided it wasn’t worthy of my mum. The problem wasn’t the pattern or the instructions (although again, they were strangely bare, for such a hand-holdy friendly style book), it was more with me rushing to try and get it done before Christmas came.

So to solve the issue with rushing to get a present done before Christmas, I decided to rush and start to knit a present just a few days before Christmas day. Oh, and my parents arrived on the 23rd, so it’s not like I could sit around in the evenings and knit… 1419839240703

But, I managed it! Luckily the pattern was for quite a chunky yarn. I don’t know what it is, because it all came in a kit free on the front of a magazine – I AM SO GENEROUS I KNOW, but time was of the essence – but it was for 5mm needles (I used 6mm to get the right gauge).

I also made my boyfriend some pocket squares for his suit jackets. Not much to say about these as they only needed some hemming. But don’t they look cute?

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Did you make any presents this year? Did you plan ahead, or were you making them right up to midnight on Christmas Eve?

 Today’s quote is from Mother Teresa.

*Booze. Always booze.

To do list 5: On the other hand, you have different fingers

Oh dear, I seem to be slowing down on completing my crafty to-do list. However, I finally got around to finishing the three pairs of fingerless gloves I’d planned for my three closest friends for Christmas. Luckily for me the first chance we had to all get together was at the end of January, which gave me some much needed bonus time on the needles. But hey, better late than never, right?

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The fingerless gloves in all their glory. Spot the deliberate mistakes.

I got the pattern from a book my sister got me for last year’s birthday (I feel bad, she didn’t get a pair herself) – and knitted the gloves up pretty quickly (my issue was with picking up the needles to knit, not the knitting itself)using some dk wool from John Lewis. Three balls in 3 different colours were enough to make 2 pairs of gloves – in fact I think there would be enough to make 2 pairs with to balls of yarn, as long as you swap around the colour contrasts.

This is how they’re meant to look.

It’s a really straightforward pattern – the two ends are in 2×2 rib, and it’s a simple stocking stitch for around 15cm in the middle. It’s knit flat, then sewn together with mattress stitch. You probably can’t tell from the pictures, but only one of those pairs went to plan – I sewed up one of the purple pair inside out so now the seam is on the outside, and the blue pair I somehow managed to knit upside down. Ah well. My friends seem pretty happy with them!

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So back to the to-do list. What shall I tackle next?

Today’s quote is from Steven Wright.

Five people that win… December

1. Beyoncé, obvs.

2. Anyone who made these Miley-inspired Christmas decorations.

(There’s still time to make your own – visit this website for a template!)

3. J-Law. Always, but especially for this face.

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4. Whoever came up with these Christmas decorations in the Landmark Centre, Hong Kong.

 

(Apologies for the amateur video – this is my first time trying to record one. Who knew portrait mode was a stupid way to take a video?)

 

5. Calvin, with special mention going to Bill Murray for his wonderful assist*.

* Full disclosure: Calvin wins December every year.

God bless us, every one. Have a wonderful Christmas everybody x

There was an Old Person of Putney; Whose food was roast spiders and chutney; Which he took with his tea, within sight of the sea; That romantic Old Person of Putney.

It’s that time of the year when thoughts turn to sterilising jars, cutting out circles of fabric with pinking shears, and the sickly sweet smell of cooking sugar and vinegar starts to permeate the flat. Well, if you’re me anyway. Yes, it’s time to dig out the kilner jars, and start making chutney.

I’m not in the country for Christmas this year, and I’m very busy with house things, and practising the ukulele for a cabaret I’m in (sorry to my new neighbours, it’s not the best sound to hear coming through your walls on an evening), so I thought I wouldn’t try anything different this year, and instead make my life a bit easier by revisiting an old favourite – Mary Berry’s Christmas Chutney. This also has the benefit of needing to be made in advance, then left in a cool dark place to mature for a month or so before eating. As I most likely won’t be handing out presents until as while after Christmas day, this suited me fine.

“What could go wrong?” I thought to myself. “I know this recipe like the back of my hand.”

In a genius time saving flash of inspiration, I decided to chop all the vegetables the night before, ready for me to chuck them in a pan as soon as I got home from work the next day (there is a lot of chopping involved in this recipe. I recommend using a) a food processor or b) a gas mask, in order to save your eyes when finely chopping 7 onions. I used neither, as I thought it would be a lovely relaxing thing to do in front of the TV. Relaxing, if running away from the chopping board every five minutes screaming “My eyes! My eyes!” is how you like to chill out of an evening.)

Look! at all the lovely chopping I did… Glance! at the recipe below… Gasp! as you slowly realised you forgot to read the section where it instructs you to peel the tomatoes before chopping… Weep! at the acceptance that you will be having tomato soup for dinner every day for the rest of the week… 

Tomatoes. So many tomatoes. And none of them any use.

Tomatoes. So many tomatoes. And none of them any use.

If ever there was a lesson to be learned about reading the recipe in full before embarking on a project, this would be it.

The recipe makes about 2.5kg worth of chutney. This is a lot of chutney. A lot of chutney. It will fill a lot of those fancy schmancy “presentation jars” you fell in love with at Lakeland. So you need to get sterilising those jars.

Jars. Lots of jars.

Jars. Lots of jars.

I don’t have a dishwasher (although I’m hoping this will change soon – hello, January sales), so my preferred method is to wash the jars in hot soapy water, before placing them upside down on a couple of sheets of newspaper on the oven shelves and putting them in a pre-heated oven (275°F/130°C/Gas 1) for about 15-20 mins.

To stop the glass jars shattering, remember that hot food goes in hot jars, cold food goes in cold jars.

The recipe is below, from the BBC Good Food website.

Ingredients

900g tomatoes

3 red peppers, 1 large aubergine and 1 green pepper (total weight of about 900g/2lb)

6/7 small/medium sized onions (about 700g), peeled and fairly finely chopped, by hand or in a food processor

4 fat cloves garlic, crushed

350g granulated sugar

300ml/½ pint white wine vinegar or distilled malt vinegar

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed

1 tbsp paprika

2 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Peel the tomatoes. I repeat. PEEL THE TOMATOES. To do this, prick them with a sharp knife, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for a few seconds then drain and cover with cold water. The skins will now come away easily. “Easily”, but not quickly. Do this bit in front of the telly.

2. Chop the tomatoes and aubergine and seed and chop the peppers. Put in a large heavy-based pan with the chopped onions and crushed garlic and bring to the boil.

3. Cover with a lid, lower the heat and gently simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally, until tender.

4. Tip the sugar, vinegar, salt, coriander, paprika and cayenne into the pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to boil for 30 minutes or so, until the mixture achieves a chunky chutney consistency and the surplus watery liquid has evaporated. Take care towards the end of the cooking time to continue stirring so that the chutney doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. I’ve often found this bit has previously taken me almost an hour to do, so make sure you’ve left enough time in your evening. I was sterilising jars and spooning chutney at way past 10pm. Not ideal.

5. Ladle the chutney into sterilised or dishwasher-clean jars, sealing them whilst still hot. Leave to mature for at least a month in a cool dark place.

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The finished product! Not sure how to decorate these yet – need to raid the fabric scraps.

 Today’s quote is from Edward Lear.