Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Summer Tote

The material for this quick-to-make tote came from Finland from "marimekko's" factory outlet. They have a great big box with seconds, admittedly most of it was rubbish from my point of view. I guess that is because I was not intending to make just a little purse or such and many pieces had a very little of the intended print intact.

This morning I thought I better make this summer bag, so I can get some use out of it before it is autumn. I did not have a pattern, nor did I have a proper plan of what I intended to do. It is only a tote...

It all went well until I put the handles on and didn't think about putting the handle I had to construct from two pieces to the back of the bag. I just could not be bothered to change this detail after sewing it, as I am a true lazy bones.

I had had a fleeting thought of lining the bag, but the material is rather thick canvas and doesn't really need it, so thought why to complicate things further. The last thing I did was to topstitch the edges and this is where all the bother started. My machine was suddenly going totally haywire with bobbin thread tension. I think I sewed and used the unpicking tool after each other for an hour in one go. I still don't really know what was wrong, but I managed it in the end.

You cannot see in these pictures, but my tote has a little "mama elf" label on the front pocket. It was added after the photos were taken and the sun had disappeared at that point...Shameless self-advertising!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Sewing Saturday

Saturday afternoon was one of those magically super powered afternoons when sewing mojo was with me, Husband did all the kitchen duties and the Son was otherwise entertained.

A while ago I gave in and bought two metres of Anna Maria Homer's voile in kiwi and a smaller piece in "Little Honey Meadow" pattern. I had my plan of making a tunic from an old sewing magazine, which I begged from a realative, when I was visiting Finland last winter. The magazine is from 2003, but most of the clothes in that number are timeless pieces and many of them to my taste. This tunic was "the easy beginner" project, so that was all really promising. Actually the pattern and the instructions were really easy, but in the interest of public health and safety, I needed some sleeves. The tunic is sleeveless and I don't feel that I can at my age publicly flash my overarms any more.

I needed to draft the pattern for the sleeves and then the arm hole was not quite right either and needed small darts. All in all I think I faffed as long time with the sleeves as with the rest of the tunic. The colour is nice, but not quite what I expected, you know screens and colours and all that. It just isn't quite sitting right with me. I think it is a tad too yellow and far too light shade at that. So now I am comtemplating to make a shorter overlay of the patterned piece. It would also solve the problem of the sheerness of the voile. Otherwise I need always to have something under the tunic and that would be pity as it feels just wonderful on my skin. I would agree with several other bloggers that it has a "buttery" feeling to it. This unexciting picture shows the colour better:

Elf Husband had asked me to make a new holder for his new phone, which is bigger than the old one. None of my phone covers in my stash fitted, so I made an entirely new one. As he wants to have it attached to his belt at work, a belt strap was added as well. To avoid the strap being pushed together on the belt and to stiffen the whole works some plastic was added both inside the back and the belt strap.

Husband carries also a whole lot of keys at work. When they are in his pockets the trousers look awful after only a few weeks. I made a key pouch for him last year, but that has been worn down. I had bought the material for a new one, but had not made it yet and as I was on the roll, decided to tackle that as well. The pouch got the same new elements as the phone holder. It has got a loop added for the key chain, so the keys cannot get lost. The pouch is made of denim so thick that if you sew trousers out of it, they would stand by themselves, no problem. I even made it double in the main parts of the pouch. I would have never ever attempted on this with my old sewing machine, but my new one is just a dream. I think at one of the corners I had six layers of the said denim to go through and the machine did it without a hiccup! I love that machine and think that everyone should have one like it. It is so much easier to sew neatly with a good machine.

I was still contemplating the not quite pleasing colour of my tunic, when my creative juices started flowing to improve the look with long necklaces. Of course I had to make two of them to check out my theory. In the end I liked them even better with my white peasant blouse. I looked very hippy wearing them both together! I think the overlay for the tunic is definitely in the cards...

Have you had a super charged day of creating lately???Let me know!

Friday, 6 August 2010


I am back with a non-foody post, yihaa! Elf son insists having a red bathrobe. I managed to get one secondhand for him last Christmas. Unfortunately it had two draw-backs; It was advertised as being cotton, which it is not and it is made for bean poles. The overlap on the front is really not big enough and even on a bean pole it would open up with movement.
I also insist on cotton bathrobes as they are safer and in my mind nicer on the skin. I was given in my teens a fluffy looking fleece robe and it was the itchiest thing ever. After that I have only used toweling robes. If your child grows at the same rate as mine it is eyewatering exercise to buy something like a toweling robe. They come only in limited colours and are SO expensive. Ergo, I had to make it. 


Luckily the local fabric store had terry toweling in red. It was not the cheapest project, but certainly cheaper than a shop bought one. Elf son was pleased. I noticed that I had made it slightly short, I had intended to have a longer length to allow for growth. The sleeves have this, so I might simply add some length when the time comes. (Yes, with a really unprofessional horizontal seam...). Sorry about the horrendous pictures taken with flash, so dull here today and I had no patience!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Lemon Explosion

This cake must be one of my all time favourites. It is lovely and tart and hits all the right buttons. If you have ever been offered a shop made lemon cake and thought that lemon cakes are not really to your taste, give this a try - this very yummy cake explodes with lemony freshness in your mouth.

A while a ago a friend was visiting and she appreciated the cake as much as we do. She asked us whether the cake keeps well. Sheepishly we admitted that we could not tell as this cake does not make it overnight in our house. This is the reason why it cannot be baked too often, we would look like Humpa Lumpas in no time at all.

I had this excellent idea though today as I was baking it; making it to cupcakes gives me possibility to freeze some of it and the portions are "pre-measured". (We really need all the help we can get to restrain ourselves around this cake).

The recipe came from the aforementioned friend F, but I have since changed it quite a bit and now I call it "Mama Elf's Lemon Explosion". My friend was texting me yesterday begging for the recipe, as she cannot find her original, so here it comes F...One more thing; this is really good cake and people who are wheat intolerant can have it as well. If the problem is almonds, you can get around this as well, just look at the notes in the end.

Mama Elf's Lemon Explosion

3 unwaxed lemons
5 large eggs
175g caster sugar
175g ground almonds
50g polenta
10ml (2tsp) baking powder

1. Place the lemons unpeeled in a pan, cover with water and bring to boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for 45min or until the lemons are very soft. Drain and let cool for 30 minutes.

2.Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas mark 5. Grease and flour a 24cm/10" cake tin. You could line the base with a grease proof paper, if you wish.

3. Cut the lemons in halves and remove the pips. Place in a food processor or a blender and puré.

4. Whisk the eggs and sugar together, so that the the sugar is dissolved and the colour is light yellow.

5. Stir in the almonds/polenta/baking powder. I find it helpful to mix these ingredients together first, so everything is evenly distributed.

6. Add the lemon puré.

7. Pour into the cake tin and bake 40-45 minutes or until golden and just firm to touch. When filling cupcake forms, scrape the mix from the bottom of the bowl, as the lemon tends to drop down and you will otherwise end up with half of the cakes with no lemon and half of the cakes very heavy. If you are using cupcake or muffin cases, bake from 16-20 minutes depending on the size of the case. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Notes to vary the ingredients:
Here are some other ideas for composition of the dry ingredients. I tried this one today and it is fine.
1) 175g sugar/25g ground almonds/ 50g polenta/100g potato flour/50g dessicated coconut.

2) You could also take the almonds out of the receipe all together and bake with 75g polenta, 50g dessicated coconut and 100g potato flour.

Before icing the cake, drizzle some lemon juice and water mixture on the cake to make it really moist. You can aide the absorbtion by forking the cake top.


200g cream cheese
150-200g icing sugar (depending on your taste buds, I drop the amount of the sugar even lower quite often)
Few drops of lemon juice.
Mix together with a fork and spread or pipe on the cake.
Let your imagination loose with decoration. Mine is grated lemon peel and a tiny mint leaf.
Edited Note: I am not a brand loyal person at all, but have now tried this icing with several cream cheeses and only Philadelphia seems to work. I believe it is about fat/water contents. Other cream cheeses seem to make this icing a horrible runny affair. If you find any other make suitable, please leave a comment. 

Have fun and save some for your family!