Sunday, 29 November 2015

Once Upon A Time Cake

Once upon a time - well last month to be precise - I decided to make a birthday cake for my eldest daughter's 18th birthday. Jen loves the TV series "Once Upon A Time", so I decided to use this as  a theme. The image that stuck in my head was the end of the opening credits with trees silhouetted against a night sky. I thought about stencilling the trees and then I remembered Karen Taylor's "Little Red Riding Cake" in Cakes and Sugarcraft magazine. I knew it would be a challenge but thought I'd give it a go. Like the path of true love in a fairytale, making this cake did not go entirely smoothly!
It all started well. I made the trees out of floral sugarpaste a couple of weeks ahead of time.
I was worried there would be some breakages, so I made a lot of trees!
I made the letters out of yellow florist paste and dried them around a cake time so they would fit on the finished cake. I smeared white vegetable fat on the tin to make the letters stick.
Then I painted the letters using a mixture of vodka and powdered gold food colouring. This was as far as I could go ahead of time.
This was where things started to go wrong. I made the cakes the evening before construction day, hoping they would be tall enough. I made a 9 egg Victoria sponge mixture, thinking that was sure to be enough. I was wrong - I was one inch short on the bottom tier. If I was doing this professionally, at this point I would have baked another layer. I'm not professional so I bodged it! After levelling the layers, I used the cake tops to patch together another layer. I knew I would be using dowels to support the forest canopy and as long as the dowels were held firmly, the squishy middle layer would only need to support the top layer.

A generous covering of buttercream filled in the gap at the outer edge and at this point I called in the cavalry.
My hubbie, Graeme, has a skill at smoothing buttercream which I need to learn when I'm not working to a deadline. 
The sugar paste covering was Cosmic Blue from Squires Kitchen. It reminds me of lace pillow cover cloths. At this point I remembered I had intended to cut my nails before I started. I looked at the thumbnail imprint and hoped I'd be able to cover it with a tree.

From this point it started to come together quite quickly. The first layer of trees went on.

With the second layer of trees, the bottom tier was finished. I added the top tier and stuck on the letters. The hug Jen gave me when she saw the cake made it all worthwhile. It was quite an investment in time and sugarpaste. but as Rumpelstiltskin says - "Magic always comes with a price"!

Sunday, 11 October 2015


Woohoo - after two years Sensu is finished! When the thread pack first arrived, I was surprised how many colours it needed but I've enjoyed using every single one. Sensu spans both phases 2 and 3 in the JEC curriculum, so it is packed full of new techniques to learn. I  learned a few additional things - such as long straight lines in couched goldwork are my arch-nemesis. I restarted the spine on the main fan seven times before I had a result I thought I could live with. I also learned that if I'm guessing where to stick my needle, it's time for a new glasses prescription. Alternatively, as I am short sighted, I could take my glasses off and get up close and personal with the fabric. There were some techniques like fuzzy and short-stitch holding I could only do without my glasses on.
 I think fuzzy was the new technique I enjoyed the most. Although I might change my mind if I have to do a whole piece in fuzzy. A technique I enjoyed returning to, was colour blending in the cord. Because Japanese Embroidery threads are twisted by the embroiderer themselves, it is possible to create threads to achieve different effects. Twisting 2 colours together allows even very different colours to be blended smoothly.

Another embroiderer commented that the colours look like autumn, so perhaps this was the right time of year to finish.


Sunday, 2 August 2015

Nuthatch in Spring

At the beginning of July, I was lucky enough to be able to attend one of Trish Burr's London classes. Trish designed this piece especially for the UK classes because the Nuthatch is native to the UK. I would recommend  taking a class with Trish if you get the opportunity. She provides very clear explanations of the techniques and lovely kits. I particularly like the way she explains how her approach to needle painting is evolving.

This was my first completely silk shaded piece of embroidery. I have done smaller amounts of silk shading on previous pieces but my results always seemed a bit crowded and clumsy. I was a bit nervous attending this workshop because I thought I might be aiming a bit high. But what a surprise it actually looks like a bird! Trish's choice of colours really helps of course and the steps are broken down clearly.

It's always interesting to meet other embroiderers at workshops.  Over lunch I was talked to lady who had been retired for 20 years about how her list of UFOs had continued to increase (quite dramatically) since she had retired. She has come to the conclusion she will never finish all of her UFOs and she just enjoys working on them. I have completer/finisher tendencies or to put it another way, I like to tick boxes. I also find myself thinking about the next piece of embroidery which means I get stressed about finishing the current piece. Recently I followed the Here and Now Meditation guide on My Yoga TV which is all about being present in the current moment. The conversation I had with the retired lady reminds me that I need to enjoy what I'm doing when I'm doing it, in the here and now. Actually finishing something is just a bonus. I think you can tell I enjoyed embroidering the Nuthatch.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Happy Birthday to me

It wasn't a big birthday this year - unless you're a geek like me and occasionally quote your age in hexadecimal - in which case I was 0x30! However Jen still made me a lovely cake. This was her first try at proper sugarpaste flowers and I would  say it was a very successful first go.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Whitework Button - Buttercup

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with Jenny Adin-Christie  at Embroidery Now in Winchester. We were given a choice of 5 button designs. I chose to do one of the simpler designs to give myself the best chance of finishing it. The strategy worked because here is the completed button. The design is small (1 1/4" across) and for the majority of the stitching I found it helpful to use a magnifier. It was my first workshop with Jenny and the fact that I was the only first timer in the room demonstrates what a great teacher she is. Jenny's kits are beautifully put together and include very detailed instructions - well worth the money. It was also my first time at Embroidery Now. I have been thinking of attending one of their courses for some time but it took until this year for the stars to align enough that I was free at the right time and spotted the class before it booked up. Their venue in Winchester is lovely and Jane Bennett who organises the courses made me feel very welcome. I'm definitely hoping to mage a return visit - I just need those stars to align again!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Fishing Teddy Bear Cake

It was my brother's 50th birthday on Easter Sunday which gave us an excuse to make him a cake. As my parents live near a canal he has been an angler since his early teens and he has soft spot for bears. So it had to be a fishing teddy bear cake. My contribution was baking the cake - the rest was all Jen. She followed an online tutorial to model the bear but the hat and sandwiches were her idea. The bite out of the second sandwich was a particularly cute touch. The lake was flood filled royal icing and the waterfall was piped royal icing. The grass was done with a special purpose grass and fur piping nozzle, which worked really well.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Beaded Kumihimo Necklaces

After having some success with a beaded kumihimo bracelet, last year I decided to try a simple necklace with size 8 seed beds. This has proved to be a very useful necklace and encouraged me to try a few more designs. Around this time I found  the Kumihimo Beaded braids  Facebook page and was overwhelmed by the inspiration. 

The first design I tried was  the Kumihimo Twins Necklace by Yvonne Roseanna Reavis in Beadwork magazine October 2014 with topaz AB seed beads and amethyst AB superduos . Using the superduos proved to be a bit tricky but the result has a nice texture.

I've recently redone this design with silver lined crystal seed beads and indigo orchid superduos. The effect is more formal I think.
While I was at the Houston Quilt Festival last November, I made my usual visit to the Accent Bead stand and couldn't resist the Trellis necklace kit, which uses Czech spade beads and long magatanas. I love this necklace. Despite the spiky look, it's surprisingly comfortable to wear.


I like the magatana section of the Trellis necklace but it tends to be invisible because it is designed to be at the back of the necklace. So my final necklace is white and crystal AB long magatanas and aquamarine AB seed beads. My inspiration for this necklace was frosty mornings but it also makes me think of seafoam.