Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The What, Where, And Wear Of Java!

java islandWhen you hear the word Java, do you think ‘island’, ‘coffee’ or ‘programming language’?


java language

Be honest, could you find the island on a map? For years I knew it was near the Volcano Krakatoa. That had a spectacular eruption in 1883 – the year our church was founded [no connection, I am sure] But mistakenly I believed the volcano was east of the island

krakatoa 1

That was what the film was called, after all. However, it is west of Java. The Hollywood producers actually thought ‘east of’ was more romantic than ‘west of’ so abandoned geographical accuracy! Five years later the film was re-launched, and this time round, they called it ‘Volcano’. I have no idea whether cinemagoers in Java bothered with either film!

krakatoa 2

Why the interest in Java? Well, it is famous for its beautiful sarongs – and I received a lovely one as a belated birthday gift on Saturday. The card with it said my friend had been saving it to give to someone who would make something with it.

What she didn’t know was that the other gift which arrived Saturday was a pair of shoes from my daughter. Look at this photo…


Isn’t that a fabulous match between the blue and navy shoes and the print of the sarong? [The navy and white strip with triangles is the matching scarf] The shoes are Clarks Idyllia Dance – and will be needed for something special** which is happening to me in the middle of June. I now have the perfect fabric to make a dress to go with the shoes. I shall use that Lisette pattern again – I’ve already made a skirt, top and tunic – so getting my money’s worth from it!



Thank you S & K for your gorgeous gifts.

**more details to follow later – but I must stress I am not going anywhere near islands, Java or volcanoes!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sweet And Simple

Over the after-church coffee last week, my friend Gemma asked me for some help. She’d bought a pattern to make a dress for her little girl, Charlotte, but couldn’t work out the instructions. We spent a happy couple of hours together and produced this…


It’s very similar to the dresses we made at Sewing Club a few years back, to send to Africa. There’s a pattern here too. I suspect Charlotte will end up with a wardrobe of these this summer. Two half-metre lengths of fabric will produce two dresses in ‘opposite’ colourways. Doesn’t the dress look pretty? [that’s an IKEA print btw]

Monday, 21 April 2014

Now The Day Is Over

52 projectsThis one has been a Work In Progress for a long time – nearly 3 years. But at last it is finally finished! I blogged in 2010 about Lucienne and Robin Day, the wonderfully talented designers.

polyprop chairThey were married for 68 years – and she designed amazing fabrics, and he produced furniture, most memorably the remarkably useful polyprop chair. I blogged again a year later, when we were clearing out some ancient, damaged chairs from a room at the church.



Stripping off the ripped plastic and foam revealed an orange polyprop chair- but sadly the seat was rather damaged and the surface was quite rough in places, and damaged by staples. I left the chair in the corner, where it got things piled onto it, but wasn’t much good for sitting on.


When my very old PVC apron developed a tear at the top, I decided to repurpose it as a cushion pad for the chair. It has the right mix of colours. I made a paper pattern, and fetched out my little vintage tin of sewing machine needles. The ‘leather’ ones are good for sewing PVC. I cut a top and base, and three layers of fabric from an old teeshirt to give just a little bit of padding.IMG_1861     

I stacked the layers and sewed round, then turned it inside out and top stitched. Currently the cushion is held down with some double sided tape. If it proves satisfactory, I’ll use something more permanent.


The stained areas and sharp, rough bits are covered up now.

The chair looks much more cheerful – and the old apron has been creatively re-purposed.

The 52 Projects is becoming increasingly addictive – check out Dreamer’s Blog where you will find a list of other people involved in the challenge – producing some fabulous items!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

An Easter Story

visited planet

Once upon a time, a very young angel was being shown around the glories of the universes by an experienced senior angel…he was beginning to feel a little tired, a little bored- there was an awful lot of it all. Finally he was shown a galaxy system of which our planet is a small part…

"That," replied the senior angel solemnly, "is the Visited Planet."

"Visited?" said the little one "you don't mean visited by ! ?”

"Indeed I do…Close your eyes for a moment," said the senior angel, "and we will go back in what they call Time."

The Earth went on turning and circling round the sun, and then quite suddenly, in the upper half of the globe, there appeared a light, tiny but so bright in its intensity that both the angels hid their eyes.

"I think I can guess," said the little angel in a low voice. "That was the Visit, wasn't it?"

"Yes, that was the Visit. The Light Himself went down there and lived among them; but in a moment, and you will be able to tell that even with your eyes closed, the light will go out."

"But why? Could He not bear their darkness and stupidity? Did He have to return here?"

"No, it wasn't that" returned the senior angel. His voice was stern and sad. "They failed to recognise Him for Who He was - or at least only a handful knew Him. For the most part they preferred their darkness to His Light, and in the end they killed Him."

"The fools, the crazy fools! They don't deserve ----"

"Neither you nor I, nor any other angel, knows why they were so foolish and so wicked. Nor can we say what they deserve or don't deserve. But the fact remains, they killed our Prince of Glory while He was Man amongst them."

"And that I suppose was the end? I see the whole Earth has gone black and dark. All right, I won't judge them, but surely that is all they could expect?"

"Wait, we are still far from the end of the story of the Visited Planet. Watch now, but be ready to cover your eyes again."

In utter blackness the earth turned round three times, and then there blazed with unbearable radiance a point of light.

"What now?" asked the little angel, shielding his eyes.

"They killed Him all right, but He conquered death. The thing most of them dread and fear all their lives He broke and conquered. He rose again, and a few of them saw Him and from then on became His utterly devoted slaves."

"Thank God for that," said the little angel.

"Amen. Open your eyes now, the dazzling light has gone. The Prince has returned to His Home of Light. But watch the Earth now."

As they looked, in place of the dazzling light there was a bright glow which throbbed and pulsated. And then as the Earth turned many times little points of light spread out. A few flickered and died; but for the most part the lights burned steadily, and as they continued to watch, in many parts of the globe there was a glow over many areas.

"You see what is happening?" asked the senior angel. "The bright glow is the company of loyal men and women He left behind, and with His help they spread the glow and now lights begin to shine all over the Earth."

"Yes, yes," said the little angel impatiently, "but how does it end? Will the little lights join up with each other? Will it all be light, as it is in Heaven?"

His senior shook his head. "We simply do not know," he replied. "It is in the Father's hands. Sometimes it is agony to watch and sometimes it is joy unspeakable. The end is not yet. But now I am sure you can see why this little ball is so important. He has visited it; He is working out His Plan upon it."

"Yes, I see, though I don't understand. I shall never forget that this is the Visited Planet."

[This is an excerpt from “The Angels’ Point of View” by J B Phillips – you can read the whole story here]

Christ Is Risen!

Oh, Your resurrection power
Burns like fire in my heart
When waters rise
I lift my eyes
Up to Your throne
We are more than conquerors, through Christ
You have overcome this world, this life
We will not bow to sin or to shame
We are defiant in Your name
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins
Our Lord, our God, our Conqueror
I will sing into the night
Christ is risen and on high
Greater is He
Living in me
Than in the world
No surrender, no retreat
We are free and we're redeemed
We will declare
Over despair
You are the hope

[Rend Collective, from their 2014 album ‘The Art of Celebration]

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Frohe Ostern!

That’s German for ‘Happy Easter!’ [but you probably knew that] Last Sunday my friend Marilyn gave me a gift after church – a German cake tin – for making an Easter Lamb. She’d seen it in a CS, and really wanted to buy it, thinking it was a baa-gain, but then decided she would never use it.

IMG_1851The name ‘Zenker’ is imprinted in the metal, and a bit of research led me to the website of this German company, and various recipes for using the mould IMG_1852

I also read that some people found their moulds leaked, and recommended adding a few small ‘bulldog’ clips for added security. IMG_1853

The recipe insists that when you take the cake from the oven, you wrap it in a damp towel to ensure it cools properly. Clothespegs were helpful at this point!IMG_1857

Once out of the tin, it looked more like a duck, but I cut off the bottom so it would stand, sprinkled it with icing sugar and stood it on a field of green paper ‘grass’IMG_1862

Two small choc drops made eyes. I have now made two cakes – one for us, and one as a thank you gift for Marilyn.

Frohe Ostern!

2 eggs [separated]

120gr of butter or margarine

110 gr sugar

1 tsp of vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

½ tsp of baking powder

160gr plain flour

icing sugar

Separate mould into two, grease well with butter. Join together and sprinkle with 2 tsp semolina or flour, and shake around to coat. Preheat oven to 160°C [fan] Beat the whites till stiff and put on one side.
Whisk together the yolk, sugar, vanilla sugar and the butter until it is creamy. Stir in the flour, then fold in the beaten egg whites
Spoon into mould, bang firmly on base to ensure all parts are filled. Bake in 160°C [fan] for about 40 min [check the cake with skewer]
Wrap the mould in a wet cloth when it is baked and let cool completely before removing the cake [by releasing the side clips and lifting mould away] Cover with icing sugar

There are other recipes on the website, including one with lemon zest and lemon icing. You can also cover with piped buttercream [too rich for me!] You DO need to make sure your cake mix is stiff, rather than a runny batter. I think a chocolate sponge, with white icing, leaving a dark face might look, and taste, good.

I took the sponge cut from the base and served it with sliced banana and cream, drizzled with a little caramel sauce for a fun pud [love food, hate waste]

Does your family enjoy any special foods over the Easter Weekend?

Friday, 18 April 2014

Hot Cross…


Here’s a different take on the usual Good Friday Bun. Just a regular muffin recipe – but I added a teaspoonful of cinnamon, and a handful of dried fruit. Once they were cooked, I made crosses on the top using a skewer heated in the gas flame. We had some this afternoon, and will toast the remainder tomorrow.


I had to eat my muffin very carefully due to toothache. I am very grateful to the Leicester Emergency Dental Service who was able to see me this afternoon and prescribe the necessary medication for the gum infection round my wisdom tooth. I am confident the pain will subside soon.

Good Friday

jesus carries cross

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God shouldst die for me?

He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race!
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Three Minutes On Thursday #11 - Ripping Yarns

3-minutes [3]

This will be my last TMOT post for a while. I’m busy sorting out my sewing and craft room at the minute [it will be needed as a guest bedroom frequently in the next few weeks] so I thought I’d share some hints and tips on organising supplies.


Balls of wool are fine when they are new, but at the end of a project, the remaining yarn can easily collapse into a tangle. Make sure you wind the wool neatly into a tidy ball. But do not pull the wool tightly – that will take all the life and bounce from the yarn.

woolThere is an easy to follow guide here. My own practice is to wind 10 times in one direction, then turn through 90º and wind 10 more, then through 90º again – thus I am winding front to back, side to side, and ‘round the equator’. That gives me an evenly shaped ball.

If you are troubled by balls of wool rolling under the sofa, or being attacked by the cat, keep them in a wool holder. In my youth, Grannies had strange beehive shaped containers. You can still buy plastic wool holders - or you can simply recycle an empty wipes box.


wool holder


Don’t let your embroidery floss get into a tangle. The plastic storage boxes are not too expensive and usually come with a set of ‘floss bobbins’ – or make your own from cardboard.

dmcstore box

floss cardshomemade cardsIf you do rewind the skeins, my tip is to get into the habit of copying the DMC shade number from the paper band onto the card [whether it is a pristine white bobbin, or a piece cut from an old Christmas card or cereal packet]

I don’t do much stitching from fancy charts nowadays, but knowing the shade colour is helpful if you want to match up some 702 Kelly Green anytime [that colour pops up frequently in Christmas Charts I have noticed] Don’t forget too, if you are making your own bobbins, to cut 2 slits, for the start and end of the thread, to stop it unwinding and tangling.


If you store bias binding or ribbon wrapped on cards, make a note of the length. It saves a lot of time [and unwinding] if the card says “1.5 metres”

I usually tuck in the end of the tape, or slip it through a slit in the card- pins have a nasty habit of rusting, marking or leaving large holes.


Finally, whether you are up there with Heather, Tamara and Chinello, as a potential GBSB finalist, or just someone who replaces the occasional loose button, never despise those mini sewing kits. You know, the ones that come in the bedside drawers in some hotels, or in Christmas crackers, or as wedding favours for lady guests [I always regard that as rather sexist, actually!] Now you have decluttered your purse of all those reward cards [like this] you will have room to tuck one of these little marvels in there. Or put one in the pocket in your filofax, or in that little pocket inside your handbag or laptop case. Because they really are incredibly useful.

  • the safety pin can help when there is a zip malfunction
  • the needle is useful for removing splinters, adjusting the time on a watch [or car clock]
  • a piece of thread can often hold things together without actually needing to be stitched.
  • I used my kit to mend a friend’s spectacles once – she had lost the tiny screw holding the arm – and the fine needle went through the hole, and I was able to sew the arm in place temporarily till she could get to the opticians.

Keeping threads, tapes and yarns tidy means they will be usable for future projects. Happy stitching!