Make: Book Binding Tutorial!

Hi folks!

So, if you were paying attention during our Mr. Moose post last month, you might remember that a few weeks ago I shared that my family had got me a day long book binding course for my birthday. I could NOT have been more excited (in fact, picture me doing a happy birthday girl dance when I found out!)

I make no secret of the fact that I am a bit of a nerdy bibliophile: case in point,  I have a book journal where I record all the books I have read —yep, a whole book just for my books! But in truth, its not really about ticking through title after title, for me its as much the feel, smell, weight and paper of a good book that’s important as the content.  E-readers and Kindles are nice and portable and can store thousands of books, blah-di-blah, and if I had 10p for everyone who has tried to convert me I’d have at least 50p in my wallet, but in my heart they will just never quite replace a good old hard backed book. I know its a bit dorky but I can’t help it.

In fairness, this is not a new love for me. I partly blame its origins on my Mum. She is a librarian and I think books might just be in my blood. In fact, book binding itself isn’t even really a new interest of mine. When I was in 7th grade at school we were asked to pick a job to go and do for work placement week . I picked ‘book binding’ ….. my school didn’t quite manage to arrange this (not to blame them, it is a bit of an odd request) but instead they sent me to shelve books at our local library for a week (which was fun but definitely not quite the same in my 13 year old opinion.)

 

 

Nigella Lawson’s library which I covet! 

In the end it all worked out for the best (as these things tend too). Turns out the world had a different career plan for me, which I love. But, in the background I have still always held on to a bit of a paper bug, which manifests itself as me spending hours umming and ahhhhing over stationary and sketch books and anything paper.

So, this is all a pretty circuitous way of saying that eventually, a few weekends ago I got my chance to actually give it a go and went for a day long course to Owl and Lion in Edinburgh. Owl and Lion is the sweetest little book bindery shop and workshop in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket and is owned by Isabelle Ting, who was recently featured on Kirstie’s Homemade Home (which in case your not from the UK, is a totally brilliant tv show featuring ‘Kirstie’ who tries out new crafts … as you can imagine, its one of my favourites!). Owl and Lion also have a lovely website and I totally encourage you to check out .

So, after all that how did it go? Well, I’m pleased to report it was GREAT! Literally everything I had hoped for and I loved every single minute (Phew, imagine if I hadn’t liked it after all that!) 😀 Plus, I finished with a book which looked very presentable, even if I do say so myself, and am totally desperate to have a go now at home and to learn more!

So I thought I would be fun to share the process I learned on the day to make the book, in the hope that I might demystify the process a bit and that you all might be inspired to give it a go (or at least learn some more for yourselves)  :D. It is a bit of an involved process start to finish, but actually not quite as puzzling as I had always imagined.

**(Just as a heads up, as ever we weren’t payed or perked or even encouraged to post about any products or services for you, we just like to share a good thing when we see it 😀 )

Book Binding: Sketch Book

Before I start I should just say a quick sorry for some of the pictures.  Isabelle was great and was happy for us to take pictures and videos all the way though so we could remember what to do, but its pretty tricky to follow what you are being taught, make a book and photograph it without your trusty sidekick there to hold onto things for you (Phil spent the day at home baking) but I did my best! 😀

Step 1 – Cut and Fold Your Paper

Books are, of course, made out of pages. The sketch book we made in class had 48 pages, made by taking 24 double sized pieces of paper, folding them in half and collating them into 12 packets of 2 pages each.

Thankfully the paper was already cut to size for us, so we just had to fold the 24 pieces of paper in half, using a bone folder to smooth the crease  so that you get a nice crisp edge.

Step 2 – Make a template for sewing

The next step is to make holes in all your pieces of paper as a guide for sewing.

In order to make sure that the holes (and thus your sewing) are nicely lined up, without having to measure and mark each piece of paper individually, we made a template.

Take a piece of scrap paper the same length as your page, and fold it in half. Then mark along the crease 6 holes (you made need more if you are making a very tall book). The top and bottom hole should be around an inch from the top and bottom of the page. The others should be roughly evenly spaced in between.

Step 3 – Make holes for sewing

Taking each of your bundles of 2 sheets, line the template up inside their center crease. Using an awl, make a hole through the marked template hole into the 2 sheets. This hole is used as a guide hole for your sewing.

Step 4 – Sew the books together

The books are sewn together, one set of pages at a time. In class we used a special book binding needle (which is very thick and long) and a waxed linen thread. The sewing stitch we used is known as ‘kettle’ stitch, although there are lots and lots of different stitches and techniques used for sewing together pages in book binding.

 

Step 5 – Cover papers

Each hard backed book has 2 cover papers, one for the front and one for the back, which attaches to the front page of the book pages, and the hard back cover.

Cover pages are often made with special papers and traditionally may be marbled. They are cut to be exactly the same size as your booklet pages.

You attach your cover paper to the front and back of your booklet bundle, using specialist book binding glue. There are a whole world of specialist glues used in book binding, but the one we used in class was a wheat starch paste.

Just run a thin swipe of glue down the spine edge front and back and stick your cover page to the thin glue line.

Step 6 – Rounding and Gluing the spine

The next step is to shape your pages to give your spine a nice curve. We rolled our booklet around a dowel and then clamped it between grey board to hold the pages in shape. The next stage is to run glue along the edge of the spine.

 

Using a soft bristled brush, apply the glue all along the spine in generous quantities, making sure to get in and around all the of stitching. Then using a finger scrape off as much of the paste as you can so that there is no excess left of the spine.

Leave to book clamped or under a light weight to dry

Step 7 – Apply the head bands

Bookbinding head bands are one of those things you barely notice about a hard back book but help to tie it all together and look finished. They are a cotton tape with two colours of silk thread sewn along the top.

Each book needs two headbands cut, one for the top and one for the bottom of the spine. Measure just a much as you need based on how wide your spine is and glue it to the spine using PVA.

Step 7 – Making your cover

Hardback covers are made of two thick pieces of grey board for the front and back and one thinner piece of grey card for the spine, glued to a piece of fabric (usually a specialist book binding cloth or buckram).

The grey board is cut to be around 1/8th inch bigger all the way around than the booklet which sits between it. The spine piece of card is cut to be exactly the same size as the width of the spine and the same length as the pieces of grey board.

You want to lay the pieces out side by side (as if looking at the open book) with around a 1/4 inch gap between each piece. Then cut a piece of bookbinding cloth big enough to give you a 1.5″ seam all the way around the edge.

The next step is to paste the wheat starch paste in a thin layer across the whole of the piece of fabric, and then carefully lay your pieces of board on the fabric in position. Carefully, without getting too many bubbles between the gluey cloth and the board fold the edges of your cloth round and over the board around the edges. A tip we were taught is that smoothing it with the bone folder as you go helps to keep the edges nice and crisp.

This board/fabric cover now needs to go somewhere flat to dry for a few hours.

Step 8 – Make it into a book

The last step is to attach your two bits together. Both the book of pages and the cover should be mostly dry from glue.

To attach them you want to spread a thin and even layer of glue onto the top page of the booklet and to the back page of the booklet. Now carefully place your book inside the cover and press with a heavy weight so that the booklet dries in place inside the cover.  You don’t need to glue the spine.

And there you have it – TAHDAHHH! A finished hard backed book. Phew.

If your still with me I’m totally impressed. It took us all day to make our book so it probably took you a loooong time to read this post.

As I mentioned before, its a super involved process and one which is so much better taught in person. But, the good news is that I’m now a bit hooked and am looking for other courses to go on to learn more skills! Turns out learning from someone who really knows what they are doing makes all the difference in the world.

We hope your all having a lovely weekend!

Posted in Make | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Bake: Deep Dish Blueberry Pie

Hey folks, so it would seem the summer has finally decided enough is enough and disappeared, and the outside world has become decidedly more chilly and blustery. Far from being a sad thing, these next few weeks are some of Sam and my favourite weeks of the year. It’s finally time for yummy warm autumnal recipes with lots of pumpkin and squash, wrapping up warm in coats and scarves and thinking about what we are going to do for Christmas. OK maybe the last bit is getting a little ahead of ourselves, but it’s all good good as far as we’re concerned.

In the spirit of the season Sam has been knitting mittens for just about everyone she knows, and I’m sure if she manages to down the knitting needles for long enough she may tell you about it and share her pattern at some point. Meanwhile I’ve been whipping up a bit of a squash frenzy, working my way through every type of gourd I can get my hands on in just about every meal; butternut squash, pumpkin, onion squash, gem squash… if only I could get my hands on a spaghetti squash! Any ideas where one might find that in Edinburgh? If you ask me, any which way we cook it, you can’t help but feel all snugly and autumn-y eating something with squash at its heart.

Embracing the season, and maybe a little bit longing to be back in Maine – the home of the worlds best blueberries in my very humble opinion, I decided the time had come to make pie. In fact I spent some time salivating thinking about it all last week at work (I think I may need a pie therapy group of some description). I’m sort of saving myself on the pumpkin pie front as Thanksgiving is still a little way off and don’t want to break into the stockpile of Libby’s Sam has mysteriously left sitting on the kitchen counter, so figured blueberry was surely the way to go.

My thoughts on good pie are fairly simple – deep = delicious.  With this in mind I grabbed all the blueberries I could possibly squeeze into a single pie dish and set too baking. Here’s how you can do it too…

Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:

For the pie crust:

2/3 cup cold butter

1 cup icing sugar (confectioners sugar)

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

2 tablespoons milk

pinch of salt

For the filling:

5 cups blueberries

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons corn starch

1) Dough ya think we should make a pie crust – In the bowl of your stand mixer cream together the butter and icing sugar until smooth (make sure you start on a low speed or you may find yourself breathing in a lot of sugary air).

Next add the egg yolks, vanilla and salt, then with the mixer on medium speed gradually add in the flour just until the mix starts to look like coarse breadcrumbs.

Finally trickle in just enough milk to make the mix clump together into a more manageable dough. Empty out the dough onto some cling film, wrap up tight in a disc shape and leave in the fridge for about 30 minutes to rest.

2) Rolling time  – Grab the dough out of the fridge and cut it into two equal chunks. Roll out the first into a disc about 4 inches larger in diameter than your pie dish, slightly less than 1/4 in thick. Carefully transfer the dough into the dish and work it into the sides, leaving the excess to just dangle over the edge. Pop the dish into the fridge to rest again while we make the top.

Roll out the remaining dough to a similar thickness to the base and slice into strips about 3/8 in wide. Here’s the fun bit! On a piece of baking parchment, lie alternate strips of dough equally spaced next to each other, leaving about an inch between each strip. You should end up with what looks like a round barcode.

Next taking one of your remaining strips at a time carefully weave under and over the strips on the baking parchment until you have a beautiful lattice top for your pie. I realise there is still the little matter of placing your new creation on top of the pie but we’ll get to that in a bit.

3) Blueberry-tastic – The pie filling couldn’t be much easier to make. Get a large bowl and add all the filling ingredients in one, give it all a good stir and you are all done.

4) Construction time – Take your pie dish out of the fridge and fill to the brim with the blueberry mix.

Next comes the slightly difficult life choice about how best to transfer a lattice onto the top of a pie. Some people like to opt for the sliding approach, whipping the baking parchment away as the lattice slips onto the top. But, I’m a big fan of the flip and drop technique, holding the lattice in my hand before flipping it upside down onto the pie – the choice is yours!

Once you have successfully transferred your top, trim and crimp the edges to suit your fancy and apply an egg wash for extra golden goodness.

5) Bake – Pop the pie in the oven at 200 C ( about 400 F) for about 50 minutes or until golden brown. If the pie looks like it’s getting too much colour early on in the bake, just turn the heat down to about 180 C (360 F) and it should finish baking through without colouring too much more.

I can’t really tell you just how much Sam and I enjoyed our blueberry pie although it’s usually a good sign that by the time I get around to posting about something it’s already all been eaten. I hope you are all enjoying autumn (fall) as much as we are here, especially all those lucky folks in New England where I’m sure it’s beginning to look a whole lot red, orange and amazing just about now!

P.S. Does anyone have any amazing squash recipes I might not have tried yet?

Posted in Bake | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Bake and Make: Almond Iced Sugar Cookies

I have always had a bit of a thing for beautifully decorated cookies,

like these from www.sweetsugarbelle.com

or these from  bakeat350.blogspot.co.uk

or these from sweetopia.net

The transformation of something as humble, sweet and delicious as a simple cookie into a totally beautiful and totally edible mini work of art has always seemed a bit magical.

Unfortunately, I am but a mere mortal, and the ability to ice those intricate and pretty designs has always intimidated the pants off me! My attempts at icing on Christmas cakes and the like always ended up being a bit ….. well ……. splodgy. I also seemed to get as much icing on my hands as on the cake.

So I decided that for our big first blogiversary (which was last week, and incase you missed it you can find it right here :D), I would face down the beast and have a go at icing our very own blogiversary cookies.

So, first things first I did what any self respecting girl does when faced with a technical challenge …. I Googled it. Luckily, the internet is a wonderful place and there are some very talented bakers out there, who have been kind enough to share their wisdom. Mainly I relied on the sound advice of Bridget at bakeat350.blogspot.co.uk and The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle over at www.sweetsugarbelle.com

I learned two things right off the bat. 1) I needed a bigger piping bag, which I went and duly bought, and 2) I needed a smaller icing tip, which handily was right next to the icing bags in my local baking store.

These things purchased I came home and had a bash and here is what I came up with …..

…. not bad in the end for a first attempt (kinda). :S

The good news is that I now have the cookie icing bug! Poor Phil may have more than his fair share of sugar cookies coming his way over the winter. I’m sure he won’t complain too loudly :D.

So, I guess the message of today’s post is, if there is something you fancy doing, have a go! It might turn out ok and give you the enthusiasm to keep trying (or it might be a disaster and you have to eat and entire plate of cookies so no one else can see them ….. either way, you win! :D).

I have shared the method I followed below, but with the proviso that I am absolutely a total beginner and hoping that before you give it a go yourselves you have a Google or head on over to one of the websites I learned from to get some advice from an expert! Never the less, here are my attempts!

Almond Cookies for Icing 

Having the right base for your work of art is so important. You want a sugar cookie recipe which will bake flat and even and not loose its shape too much in the baking process.

For my almond cookies I used this recipe which I found on Bake at 350, which I have reproduced below, making a couple of minor tweaks of my own. It is also worth saying that the almond flavor is totally optional. You could go for any flavor which took your fancy!

Ingredients

Will make around 25 – 30 3″ square cookies

1/2 cup of white sugar (we used granulated because we had run out of caster, but caster would probably work better)

110 grams of butter

1 small egg  (or half a medium / large egg – just whisk it and only add half in the recipe)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of almond extract

1 and 1/2 cups of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1)  Mix mix mix – Cream together your butter and sugar. Then add in your egg, vanilla extract and almond extract and beat to combine.  Mixing on low speed, gradually add in you flour and baking powder. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and mix again until just combined.

Bake at 350 notes that your dough should be crumbly, which mine was. Phew!

2) Knead and Roll – Scoop your dough out of your bowl onto a floured surface and give it a gentle knead until it comes together into a ball.

 

Now, gently roll roll roll out your dough to around 1/8th to a 1/4 inch thick. We had much too much dough to roll out at once on our kitchen table, so I rolled it out in two halves. I found that the key to stopping my dough ripping when rolling it was to follow Martha Stewart’s  advice and only push with the rolling pin, never pull. Also, make sure your surface is very well floured to stop any sticking situations.

3) Cut your shapes – The next task is to cut out your cookie shapes. You could use a cookie cutter to do this or if you are feeling adventurous and don’t have a specific shaped cutter, you could have a go and using a template and cutting with a knife, like we did.

We made a template by drawing out the shape of cookie we wanted onto a thick card and then simply cut around it. Then for each cookie we placed the card on the dough and drew around it using a sharp kitchen knife (a clean craft knife would also work just as well).

Now transfer your cookies to a baking parchment lined cookie sheet. After mashing a few cookies trying to pick them up with our fingers, we learned the easiest way to transfer them was to use a palette knife.

4) Freeze and Bake – This step is the most most most important step for getting cookies which hold their shape when you bake them. While you pre-heat your oven, pop the cookies on the baking sheet in the freezer for just 5 minutes. This really does make all the difference.

Bake at 175 °C, 350 F for around 10 to 12 minutes, until they are nicely golden around the edges.

Take out and pop on a cooling rack. Don’t try to ice them until they are totally cooled 😀

Decorating Cookies with Royal Icing 

First you will need to make your Royal Icing. When dried, royal icing will give you a smooth, hard and matt finish to your cookies. 😀

There are three ways to make royal icing:

1) Make using meringue powder. You can find a full recipe for that on Bake at 350. This is most definitely your best bet if you live in the US because the meringue powder uses pasteurized egg whites.

2) Make using fresh egg whites. This is probably your best bet if you live in the UK as meringue powder is super hard to find.

(Mini health warning, if you are using raw eggs make sure they are clean, stored in a fridge and are lion-marked to avoid any risks of salmonella).

3) Buy a royal icing mix.  You can buy this from the supermarket and make to the specifications on the bag ….. I’m pretty sure they only make the pre-mixed stuff in the UK though.

I made mine using fresh egg whites and it was surprisingly simple! 😀

Just mix 2 egg whites, 3 cups of icing sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar in a stand mixer on medium speed for around 5 minutes. When it is done you should have a glossy meringue which forms stiff peaks when you lift up the beater.

This thick mix is used for piping the outlines and any detailing.

The first order of business is to outline the design on each of your cookies using a small number 3 sized piping tip. Once iced, the outlines need to be left for a short while to just set firm on the surface before continuing, but I found that by the time I had finished outlining the last cookie my first was ready to use.

 

To fill the blocks of colour on each cookie we need to colour the icing. There are some really good powdered food colourings available for icing but we just used the standard liquid colourings available from the supermarket to colour small batches of icing at a time, mixing until we got a colour we were happy with. A good tip is to use a straw to add your liquid food colouring a drop at a time (then you can just bin it afterwards and save getting your fingers all stained).

The icing used to fill the big blocks of colour are poured rather than piped to give that really smooth finish. To do this it needs to be slightly more runny. To each of your coloured batches of icing, slowly add half a teaspoon of water at a time and mix thoroughly until you are left with icing the consistency of syrup.

Using a teaspoon slowly pour the coloured icing onto your cookies. We found it useful to take a small pin (a toothpick would work equally well) to help tease the icing into the corners of our outlined shape and pop any air bubbles.

 

 

Once filled with coloured icing, the cookies will take about an hour before the surface is set enough to allow you to add any further embellishment on top (like the C Q M & B piped on ours), and overnight before they are set firm.

We finished our cookies by mixing up a small amount of yellow icing at a piping consistency to add flames to our candles.

Phew, all done!

 

 

So, there you have it. Decorating iced cookies attempt number 1, finished. It was definitely a learning curve, but a very tasty fun one! Have you tackled any craft or baking challenges recently? You know we love to hear about them!

Hope your having a lovely weekend!

Posted in Bake, Make | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Happy Blogiversary!

One year ago today we started this little ole blog! We never had especially big plans for it. It was always just a simple way for us to record our weekend activities, mainly to help us journal for ourselves all the bits and bobs we had been up to. Also, it was a way for our families (who all live a very long way away from Scotland) to stop in now and then and see the fun things we had been up to.

We wrote our first post on the 24th of September 2011, and expected that probably no one would ever read it. The internet is a very big place after all, and how would anyone even find us?? Well, for the first 5 days we were right, we had about 3 hits (one at least of which was me, accidentally logging in without being signed into WordPress). But then, slowly slowly, we got the odd couple of hits here and there. After our 2nd or 3rd post someone liked us (which totally blew our minds! :D), and by about 6 weeks in, we were getting about 20 hits a day, and the odd lovely comment. We were totally psyched, and totally enchanted with the whole process of making things, getting to write about them, and people even reading our posts! In fact, we were excited enough that we even told the odd family member about the blog so they could have a read for themselves.

If you had told us back then, when we were totally astonished with every hit, that today an average day would be hundreds of hits, we would probably have snorted at you and told you that you must have had the wrong blog!

But, here we stand one whole year later and we are still as totally in love with the process as ever! Very very few people out there who we see day to day even know that we blog – Phil’s family, my family, a handful of close friends … you could probably count them all on ten fingers and ten toes. It has been a steep steep learning curve too! But, I can honestly say we enjoy making every post we write, be it long or short, making or baking, never does a post go out that we are not proud to put our names next to.

So, we thought, that as its our blogiversary, we would skip a tutorial for one post, to first of all say a big big thank you to you all for stopping by every day. You all make us happy campers! Seriously, having a blog means that every day we fill our down time with fun together projects and live life to the full, and even though we would probably still do it if we didn’t blog, it means the world that you all come along for the ride !!!

And, secondly we thought it would be fun to take today to share with you all a quick round up of what we have learnt, what we have achieved and our favourite moments from the last year of blogging! 😀

THANK YOU again. You all rock our socks. 😀

Enjoy! xxx

The ten most important things we have learned in the last year of blogging!

1) To be a good blogger you need to be a good photographer

I know this one might sound a bit obvious. If your an avid blog reader like we were (and still are), you will know that good blogs are usually choca-a-block full of clear and pretty pictures of food or crafts or diy projects. So, I guess 12 months ago we kinda figured that if your project is good the photos will be good too …… urm WRONG! You can have made the bestest best knitting project or cake and if the lighting isn’t good, and the composition isn’t together, and the background doesn’t work with the contents, and photo isn’t quite in focus on the right thing you end up with a big horrible mess of a picture which no one wants to look at. This was a lesson we learned the hard way. Phil is now our photographer in chief. He has basically taught himself from scratch, by reading tutorials, playing around with settings and taking 2500 ish pictures over the year.  Eventually when you take that many they have to get better! 😀

2) The Scottish sunshine is not good for blogging

This sort of follows on from point number one. When we started blogging, I guess we figured that once it got wet and gross and dark out in the Edinburgh winter we could just use the indoor lights to take pictures ….. wrong again! Good photos, especially especially good food photos need lots of bright natural daylight. And there is one thing Edinburgh in winter does not have, and that is bright natural daylight. Seriously …. we are talking about 6 hours of sunlight a day in winter, usually right when we are at work, and more often than not excluded by clouds and rain and snow. The sun also does this slightly maddening thing where it sits right on the horizon and just sort of hovers there. We have tried just about everything including multiple angled daylight lamps with reflector boards but there is just something about artificial light which doesn’t look the same in photos. So, some days, even though we have something ready to photograph, we just have to wait until it is sunny ….. easy to do for crafts, not so easy for cake!

3) People you have never met can be super super nice!

This one is really all about you guys! Our readers. We always hoped people would read our blog, and maybe even find it useful. We always hoped that people might even like it enough to pop back in and look at it again in the future if they liked it. We never ever expected that people would enjoy it enough to leave us the hundreds and hundreds of funny, odd, kind and totally unexpected comments which we have received in the last twelve months. The fact that people we have never met, take time out of their busy days, stop by and write to us how much they liked what we did. Well, that is just lovely. We really do appreciate and read every single one. Which is also why we try our very best to reply to every single one (not always possible, but we always try).  So, thanks!

4) Not all your projects go right

This one is not really a truth about blogging, more a truth about life. We are humans. Sometimes our cakes sink in the middle. Sometimes we accidentally sit on our knitting and pull it all off the needle and then curse and pull it back in frustration. Sometimes we sew the same leg onto a moose 4 times before it doesn’t look like he is going to fall over. Sometimes we make bread and accidentally add 3 tablespoons (rather than teaspoons) of salt and it is inedible…. get my gist? The important thing to remember is that the stuff we do are just projects. They aren’t life and death, they are just cookies, or bread or a crocheted moose. Even though its frustrating when things go wrong and sometimes it means we don’t have anything to post about, the most important thing is to not sweat the small stuff.

5) People search for the funniest things on Google

Many of our hits day to day are from people searching on Google (or other search engines) and us popping up in answer to their query. Usually these are pretty sensible searches like ‘diy Christmas decorations’ or ‘chocolate cake recipe’. But, occasionally the searches are either so odd, or so unexpected that they make us giggle. Here are a couple of our favorites from the last year:

“How do you make a cardboard fireplace?”  — urrm, please don’t! I’m not a fireman but I’m pretty sure that’s a bad plan. Just sayin.

“What do you do with a chocolate lollipop stick once you have eaten the chocolate off it not on the stick craft?”  — well said 😀

“Naughty naughty yummy girls” – hmmm, not sure they found what they were looking for on this blog, lol! Sorry to disappoint, but I’m sure there are a few other websites out their which might be better suited.

And, finally but most oddly, the thing which gives us the most impressions on google is ….. “spooning”….. yep……… not sure there is anything else to say about that, except that maybe some folks really like to spoon……

6) There are only so many hours in a day  (a.k.a we can’t blog every day :D)

Just like our photography lesson, this one was learned the hard way. Phil and I both work full time Monday to Friday (actually, often one of us (me) is more than full time some weeks). Which means that evenings and weekends are our blogging time …. and our sleeping time and eating time and laundry time and cleaning time and food shopping time and visiting family time. You get the idea. In addition, Phil and I both have to take professional exams every few months …. in fact last week I had exams on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday …. and Phil has an exam next Thursday. This means that we also have to squeeze many hours of revision into our already squished downtime. This means that sometimes something has gotta give. Usually, the thing that gives first is getting a post out on time. The thing that keeps us calm about it is that we know that, you, our readers, are patient, and understand, and realize we are busy and will be back asap! Just another reason we love you guys.

7)  Blogging about something takes 3 times longer than just doing it

Fact. To bake a cake on your own would maybe take a couple of hours. To bake a cake for the blog takes about 6 or 7. First you have to time it right so you have sunlight to photograph the process in. Next you have to have a clean and tidy space to photograph.  You then have to make the cake, whilst stopping every step to take a picture or 5 of the process. Then the cake has to bake, and you have to turn it out and take pictures of it again  … preferably with a nice background and plate and even more sunlight (that darn sunlight).  Then you have to upload the pictures to the computer, pick the ones which work, edit them, crop them, watermark them. Then you write your post and recipe, then you add in your pictures, then you label it with tags, categorize it, proof read it, wait and get Phil to proof read it (we always try to proof each others posts before they go out …. sometimes typos still slip through, but we do try!). And finally you can post it. Phew! This isn’t to say we don’t love every step…. but sometimes it takes a while.

8) Sometimes you end up being featured on the most random websites!

When people post links to your website from theirs it is lovely. It means they like what you did enough to let people know, and that it a good thing! What is slightly random is when you log in to your blog, scroll down to have a peek at your referrers to see (I’ll paraphase) http://www.ladies-who-are-very-well-endowed-and-in-their-birthdaysuits.tumbler.com …. so you click through to see who this might be, only to find blush-worthy picture after picture after picture, and then, right in the middle ….. a picture of your ottoman!! Turns out people can have eclectic taste 😀 (Also, did you know Russia has its own version of facebook? Neither did we.)

9) You totally can’t predict whats going to be a big hit

We are always proud of the posts we put up, so we always hope that people will like them, but sometimes people just kinda like ones that we think are really great (that was mainly back in the early days) and sometimes people L-O-V-E posts which we thought were just ok. I think over time we are getting better at predicting what readers enjoy and not, but sometimes you still surprise us by totally loving the most random things (like these Salt-Dough Star Ornaments which gave us some of the biggest hits we have ever had on the blog!) …. and we love that about you!

10) Just do your own thing!

You’ve got to love what you blog about. Especially if it is going to take three times as long to blog about it anyway! And if that is not what other people love, so what?! Just be you. Love what you blog about, and love blogging about it, and people will come and read and maybe even write a lovely comment. Don’t worry about how often you do it, or if it is as good as other peoples. Just do you own thing 😀

Our year in numbers

94433  – hits in the last year!

21522 – number of hits on our most popular post – Nail and Thread State Art Part 1

10000 – average number of Google impressions we make each day

3180 – number of people we have shared the love with and redirected to other fun, useful or down right lovely websites

3104 – most hits we’ve had in one day

1800 – average number of words per post (who knew we were so chatty!)

532 – number of photos on the blog so far

400 – average hits per day

147 -number of different countries we have had hits from including Swaziland, Palestine, Northern Mariana Islands, Rwanda, Angola, Faroe Isles, Iraq, Aruba, Gibralta and Guam. Hi!

84 – number of posts total

33 – average hits per hour.

32 – number of baking projects we have made (and eaten) this year… oopsy.

30 – average number of pictures we take for each post, only 5 – 8 of which get picked
making 2520 photos average this year

19 – number of exams we have collectively taken in the last 12 months while blogging, and working! Yuck.

15 – longest number of days between posts

7 – number of hours it usually takes to make a baking post start to finish

1 – number of times we have almost been eaten by a bear this year and then blogged about it :D.

Our favorite posts and your favorite posts!

Phil’s favorite post – Dried Orange Slice Ornaments

Take a few oranges, a sprinkle of icing sugar and you have on your hands the easiest craft project ever. I have to admit getting a little bit obsessed about cutting perfect slices and in the process discarding and then chomping through a whole lot of orange slices, but a little vitamin C never hurt anyone. There’s also something a little magical about the Christmas tree in the background too 🙂

Sam’s favorite post – Honeycomb Toffee

Sometimes the blogging gods align, and the day we made honeycomb just happened to be one of them! It was a beautifully sunny day (are you getting the idea we are weather obsessed here lol), our honeycomb worked magically and it tasted even better than the pictures made it look! This makes me one happy blogger.

Your favorite post –

As we mentioned earlier, sometimes posts are so popular they amaze us, and our Nail and Thread state art was one of them. It is still to this day one of our most viewed posts, it gets hundreds of hits every day and it is in the list of most popular of all time on Craftgawker. (Which means I probably shouldn’t tell you that we have already updated it on our kitchen wall and demoted it to the spare room. Things never stay still around here for very long :D)

So just in case you missed it, here it is again ….

So just to sign off a final thanks again to everyone. We’re super excited for the year ahead and already have a huge list of projects to share, from pie to cookies, bookbinding to Christmas decoration (almost that time again already :P). Stay tuned…

Posted in Bake, Cook, Make, Quilt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Make: Mr. Moose

Hi everyone!

Good news and bad news today (not very bad though, don’t worry 🙂 ). Good news is Phil fixed our laptop! He’s handy that boy (he has also been known to fix our washing machine, other people’s washing machines and even the odd dodgy bit of car in the past). Bad news, Phil and I are back into revision again (I know, it doesn’t feel like long since the last bout, yuck!!!).  So,  I’m take a study break to stop by this evening and share with you a super fun project I’ve worked on during evenings over the past few weeks.

So, without further ado, let me introduce Mr. Moose.

As with most of the projects we make, Mr. Moose has a bit of a back story to him. A few weeks ago was my birthday (I was 26. All I’m going to say is that my boy knows me too too well because between birthday festivities Phil made me an enormous Reese’s Pieces icecream cake … he’s a keeper that one! :D)

Anywho, it turns out my brother and his lovely girl Vicky also know me and my crafty ways too well because in addition to two sets of bamboo knitting needles (which I’ve been itching to try for a while) they also got me some of the nicest, most beautifully soft undyed wool I have ever owned. It smells like a sheep. I think that says it all 😀

It is made by Ardalanish on the Isle of Mull (which funnily enough is where I worked on one of my last knitting projects, you can read about here) and comes in three beautiful breed’s natural (i.e. undyed) shades:  Bluefaced Leicester, Manx Brown and Hebridean Brown. I got two balls of Bluefaced Leicester and two balls of the Manx Brown, and more or less from the minute I opened them, I knew they were perfect for the project I’d been storing up on Ravelry for a while, a cute as anything amigurumi moose.

A very brief word on amigurumi. Amigurumi is the japanese craft of crocheting small stuffed animals or toys. The animals are usually made using single crochet stitches and worked in the round to make each of the individual body parts, which you can then stuff and sew together. The lovely thing about it is that the single crochet gives you a pretty tough stitch which ends up being almost sculptural so you can make just about anything you can think of! (I’ve even seen a whole set of star wars characters before. Amigurumi yoda = heart meltingly cute! :D)

Unfortunately as I bought the pattern for the moose, I can’t share it with you here, but the pattern is by Brenna Eaves, and is available here on Ravelry or if your not signed up to Ravelry you can find it here on her Etsy shop. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It costs $7, which I think is a really fair price and it was easy to follow, very detailed and rarely for a pattern I follow, I actually didn’t make any tweaks at all as I went along (not bad going huh?). 😀  

Now, I should preface this post by saying that I am not a pro crocheter. I would always call myself a knitter first and foremost (actually, thats not true, I’d call myself a quilter, but in terms of working with yarn I knit far more often than I crochet.) In fact, my crochet experience only really stretched to the odd granny square for a blanket. So I knew the moose was going to be a challenge.

Also, the pattern does say that it’s is not suitable for beginner’s. But never one to shy away from a challenge (or perhaps just a glutten for punishment!) I gave it a go anyway, and slowly slowly made progress. When I encountered a stitch I didn’t know I searched for it on youtube, watched a few tutorials and practiced it until I’d got it down and then used it in the pattern. The nice thing about crochet too, is that if you get your stitch wrong (as happened many many times!) you can just pull a stitch back and try again (which is always trickier in knitting).

So, now that the project is finished what so I think about the ‘not suitable for beginners warning?’ Well, I would say I half agree (nothing like sitting on the fence lol). If today is your first day picking up a crochet hook then probably the moose is a bit of a big first step, so not for total beginners. But, if you are just new to amigurumi but have a little bit of time to persevere and like learning as you go I think its actually a great pattern to start on.

Luckily, Mr. Moose was finished just in time for taking on a very important job. My little brother, who is now sadly not so little at all, moved out last weekend to start his first proper grown up job and live in his first proper grown up flat all by himself. So, I tasked Mr. Moose with the respectable job of being a guard moose for my brothers new flat. After all, living alone for the first time can be a bit freaky for the first few weeks, so who wouldn’t want the company of a friendly moose to keep them safe on their endeavours in the big wide world?

So, before I embarrass him anymore (he he he), lets get down to the nitty gritty of making a moose.

I used:

a size 4.5 crochet hook,

1 and 1/2, 50g ball of brown wool in the Manx brown colour of the Ardalanish wool,

1/2 a ball (also 50g) of cream wool in the Bluefaced Leicester colour of the Ardalanish wool,

a couple of strands of black wool for the eyes

4 circles of card to sit in the hooves and add a bit of support to him standing up

a tapestry / wool  needle to sew everything together

stuffing

The first order of service was to crochet all of the constituent parts. This included a round oval body, a slightly bigger round oval head, a neck, 4 legs, a tail, 2 ears, and 2 antlers (which were made of one long sausage shaped tube and 2 little nubbies).

Everything was crocheted in the brown, apart from the hoof end of the legs and the antlers which were crochet in cream. I checked out a few mooses on the internet and I think a brown body and cream antlers is more ‘moosey’ and less ‘deery’.

Before finishing each shape, I stuffed it with a polyester filling (I don’t really like adding polyester to things, but the polyester filling is fire retardant which is actually kinda important for stuffed animals) then crocheted it closed ….. the pattern was very good about  telling you when to stuff each body part, so you didn’t accidentally leave yourself with too little room.

Before I stuffed the legs I popped a little circle of card in the bottom of each hoof to help him stand up nice and straight on a flat surface (it’s no good having a guardmoose if he keeps falling over!) 😀

Then all that was left to do was to sew each of the stuffed components together. I found an excellent video online, which you can find here, on how to sew together amigurumi crochet pieces invisibly. I can’t recommend it highly enough! It was great and as I was sewing my pieces together I was super thankful I had watched it first!

All that was left to do in the end was to sew on his eyes!

Here he is finished from behind …..

And right after he fell over mid photoshoot, oopsy lol.

The good news is that Mr. Moose arrived with Adam this morning, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be making friends as we speak.

We hope you all had a lovely weekend. I am enjoying another birthday treat tomorrow, as my parents have sent me on a bookbinding course for the day. I am super excited! I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures so share what I learn. 😀

Posted in Make | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments