Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chocolate Easter Bunny DIY Tutorial


It's that time of year again! There are little green buds on the trees, flowers in the garden and the mornings are light and bright. The shops are full of chocolate eggs of every shape and size, covered in colourful foil - waiting to be hidden in the back garden and hunted down by eager children! Looking at Easter eggs these days makes me feel wonderfully nostalgic - I loved coming down to breakfast on Easter Sunday and seeing my Easter eggs all laid out on the table. The smell of milk chocolate takes me right back to those lovely mornings!




















I can't imagine eating a great big slab of milk chocolate now though - can you imagine the headache? These days I like my chocolate dark, bitter and preferably organic!

One of my favourite moments from our trip to Paris a couple of weeks ago was walking along the Rue des Martyrs early on the Saturday and Sunday mornings, looking in the windows of all the sweet little boulangeries. As well as freshly bakes croissants, pain au chocolat and baguettes, nearly all of the shops we passed had beautiful displays of dark chocolate Easter eggs! In fact they didn't just have Easter eggs but hens, ducks, sheep and even a lobster - all made out of beautiful dark chocolate!




The Easter goodies looked absolutely mouthwatering and tres chic, wrapped up in clear cellophane and tied with ribbon! The prices were eye watering though so I decided to have a go myself and you can too!

This is a super easy DIY - there's really nothing to it! There is only one step that is a little bit fiddly if you've never done it before and that's tempering the dark chocolate. Just in case you're a newbie chocolatiere (like me!) tempering chocolate basically involves heating it in a specific way so that some rather esoteric sounding 'beta crystals' form. This is what will give your finished bunny it's lovely shiny look and dark, uniform colour. If you were to simply melt the chocolate it will harden with a more creamy, milky finish and will have a matte surface (but will taste totally fine so if that's what you want, go for it!).

I cheated slightly and tempered my chocolate for the first layer only - for the second layer and for the white chocolate I just set it over a pan of simmering water and let it rip. You would never notice though because the outside looks as shiny as can be!



Equipment:

- Chocolate mould (I ordered my Easter bunny mould from Squires Kitchen but you could also try ebay)

- Thermometer (I used a home brew thermometer but you can buy fancy chocolate thermometers at Lakeland!)

- Large heatproof bowl set over a pan of water (make sure the bowl is spotlessly clean and doesn't come into contact with the water)

- Pastry brush

Ingredients:

- Organic dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids (around 250g - 300g depending on how decadent you're feeling)

- Organic white chocolate (to add some contrasting white chocolate accents if you fancy)



Step 1: Break your white chocolate into cubes and place it in a clean bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, use a pastry brush to brush it onto any parts of the bunny that you want to be white. You can spread it on thickly for an opaque finish or more thinly for a feathery effect!




Step 2: While the white chocolate sets, it's time to temper your dark chocolate! After much Googling I found this awesome tutorial by David Lebovitz to be the most clear and concise method:

1) Break your chocolate into cubes and place two thirds of it in a heat proof bowl set over a pan containing a couple of inches of water (I found it easier to control the temperature by starting with a pan of cold water and heating it up super slowly on the lowest setting). Slowly heat the pan of water - as your chocolate begins to melt you'll need to watch your thermometer like a hawk. You want to bring it up to 46-49C / 115-120F.

2) Once your chocolate has reached the optimum temperature and has all melted, remove the bowl from the heat and allow it to cool for a minute or so. Drop the rest of your dark chocolate (this is known as the 'seed chocolate') into the bowl and stir it gently whilst it continues to cool (this helps those magic beta crystals form!). You want it to cool down to around 27C / 80F.

3) By the time mine was sufficiently cool all my seed chocolate had melted but if yours hasn't, just fish it out with a clean teaspoon and eat it.

4) Be zen as you place the bowl back over your pan of water and gently re-heat it to between 31-32C / 88-91F exactly. Watch that thermometer carefully and remember it might carry on rising for a few seconds after you whip the bowl of the heat so try to judge accordingly. If your chocolate goes over 32C or 91F then you'll have to start the whole process again, except you now have no seed chocolate left so...




Your chocolate is now fully tempered and ready to roll!

Step 3: Take your freshly tempered chocolate and brush a thin layer over the inside of your two moulds. It will start to harden quite quickly so work fast! Once you're finished make a cup of tea and put your feet up for 30 mins or so while it sets completely.




Step 4: Re-heat your chocolate ready for the second layer! If you watch it carefully and don't let it get above 32C or 91F then it will still be tempered but don't worry too much if you blow it - no one will see this layer until they're eating the chocolate bunny and by that stage they definitely won't care. Pop the two  halves of your bunny mould into the fridge for 5 minutes and then spread a second layer of chocolate on, nice and thickly. I found it helpful to spread some extra chocolate round the rim of the moulds to make it easier when you come to join the two halves together. Don't worry if it gets messy and you have chocolate spilling over the edge - we'll get rid of that in the next step. Leave to harden completely - this will take 2 - 3 hours.



Step 5: Take a big sharp knife and cut away any excess chocolate that's spilled over the edges of the mould. Chocolate shrinks slightly as it cools and if you turn your moulds over you might see that the chocolate has already started to come away from the plastic in places. Give it a gentle helping hand by pressing it slightly from the outside and your two bunny halves should plop right out onto the work surface.



Step 6: Heat your dark chocolate one last time and spread a nice thick layer around the rim on one half of your bunny. Carefully bring the two halves to meet each other and make sure the bunny is aligned right the way round. Leave it to cool on it's side for an hour or so and you're all done!




















I love that you can make a chocolate Easter bunny (or any fun shape of your choosing) at home! You could have fun dreaming up your own fillings - what about edible confetti and a little hand written note, or perhaps an engagement ring if you're thinking of popping the question? You could blow someones mind with a totally unexpected filling or just make their day with more chocolates!




If you give it a try do let me know how you get on! I'm going to do my best to make my bunny last until Easter Sunday but I'm not making any promises...

Friday, April 11, 2014

A weekend in Paris...


Last weekend Ciaran and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary in Paris! I can't believe it's over a year since we tied the knot (you can see our wedding photos here, here and here!). We both agreed that this year has been the quickest ever - we've been non stop busy since the day we got back from our honeymoon so it was lovely to get away for a couple of days!

This was one of my favourite ever trips and do you know what? I hardly took any photographs! My camera is usually glued to my eye but this time I decided to relax and be in the moment a bit more. It must have worked because we managed to cram so much in to our two days!

Here are a few snaps and a few little highlights from our weekend...


On Saturday morning I discovered my absolute favourite street in Paris! The Rue des Martyrs is a pretty little street populated by boulangeries, chocolatiers, fruit stalls and shops selling fresh oysters, clams and other succulent shellfish! My good friend Rachel (who I went to visit in Paris with my girlfriends last Summer) told us about The Rose Bakery - a cute little cafe run by British born Rose and her French husband Jean-Charles so we woke up bright and early and made our way there for breakfast! The cafe itself is gorgeous and reminds me of the little bakeries you get down in Cornwall - it has little curved windows, a low ceiling, whitewashed walls and a nice, relaxed vibe. We were in the mood for coffee and eggs (which were both absolutely delicious) but I'll definitely be back one day in the afternoon to try some of the beautiful looking cakes!

We loved the Rue des Martyrs so much that we went back on Sunday morning too! This time we bought takeaway coffees and pain au chocolat from one of the little boulangeries and walked up and down the street in the sunshine. It was lovely to see the good people of Paris patiently queueing out the door for freshly made baguettes and pastries! Some of them had lovely wicker market bags - I would love to know where they buy them!

We walked all over Paris on Saturday - over 11 miles in the end! Here we are enjoying the sun outside the Louvre! It was a treat to walk in the shady Jardin des Tuileries afterwards - we also went to the Musee de L'Orangerie to look at Monet's tranquil waterlilies. 



Spring has most definitely sprung in Paris and the flower stalls were piled high with colourful blooms - I love these pink and purple tulips not to mention the yellow ranunculus!

So many of the shops had pretty little Easter displays in the windows! They reminded me of those eggs you used to get, made out of cardboard with pictures on that you could put things inside, do you remember them?

Of course we had to stop off at Pierre Herme! We bought four colourful little macarons and took them to the Jardin du Luxemborg to eat in the sunshine. By this point it was early afternoon and the park was full of people reading in the afternoon sun! I love the way they have chairs scattered about that you can just drag over to whatever spot you fancy. We walked around the whole park and saw people playing a rather civilised looking game of boules as well as sailing boats in a sweet little pond.



We walked along the Seine and over the Pont des Arts and even squeezed in a visit to the Canal Saint Martin! Such a dreamy weekend.


Goodbye Paris! I miss you already!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

March according to Instagram...


White freesias that smell like heaven, a new rug for the living room, charity shop owl rescue, strawberry and vanilla cupcakes, an Anthropologie necklace, more Spring blooms, coloured pencils on my newly painted sewing box, coffee and sailing, fruit tart, Spring blossom, Toby Cat and my favourite pastry of all time (Pastis de Nata!)

P.S Don't forget to follow me on Instagram!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

An Evening With Liberty & The New Craft Society...



Last month I was invited to attend a special evening at Liberty hosted by the Liberty Art Fabrics Design Studio and lovely ladies over at The New Craft Society! The event was to celebrate The New Craft Society’s first blog Birthday - congratulations girls! A group of fellow craft bloggers and I enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, scones, macarons and dainty little cakes whilst the Liberty design team treated us to a fascinating presentation all about the inspiration behind the new seasons collection of prints as well as a sneak peek at what’s in store for Autumn / Winter 2014!



As the starting point for Spring / Summer 2014, forty design briefs were tucked into Liberty print envelopes and handed out at random to Liberty’s in-house designers as well as guest artists and collaborators. Inspired by a 1970’s map of the store, each of the design briefs related to a particular department within Liberty. The colour pallets for the collection were all drawn from artists materials – Winsor & Newton pigments, Faber Castell coloured pencils, Sennelier oil pastels , Pro Arte brushes and Stabilo pens. I loved hearing how each of the designers had interpreted these starting points in different ways and the diverse processes they used when developing a design!

Anisha / Jennie and Steve


We got to see original sketches for the ‘Anisha’ design which was built up with layer upon layer of wax crayons and represents the furniture department as well as glass tiles painted with the beautiful flowers that would go on to form the print ‘Jennie and Steve’, inspired by the old decor in the Liberty cafe. I found it fascinating to see how the designers worked with different media in different ways and how these elements were then brought together, worked into repeat and printed flat onto fabric. It’s incredible to think of a Liberty prints journey from the initial inspiration to being drawn, painted, sketched our cut out of paper, then being worked up into a final design and printed. And that’s just to make a bolt of fabric –  the prints then get bought by the likes of me and made into all kinds of things that go on to have a life of their own!




As well as designing new prints from scratch each season, the Liberty Design Studio also frequently re-vist their extensive archive and these archive prints are often re-coloured or re-worked into a new collection. We were so lucky to hear Liberty’s head of archiving Anna Buruma talk about the great wealth of history that Liberty have stored in their warehouse in Bermondsey – they have a record of almost every print ever created since the 1880’s! Although often (especially with the older prints) the individual designers have only left their initials against each design so we have no way of knowing the artist behind each print! Anna showed us the most enormous book from the Liberty print archive – it was massive and full of original drawings and fabric samples. I think Anna might just have the best job in the world – you can read a really interesting article all about the Liberty print archive over on the Liberty blog here.




As we looked at each of the prints in turn there was so much to take in! It was fantastic to get a guided tour of the store afterwards and see the departments that  inspired each of the designs. Here's a little peek at some of my favourites from the new collection!

Forget-Me-Nots A / Handbag from Liberty's handbag department.


Forget-Me-Nots -  This is one of my favourite prints from the new collection and is based on all the little bits and pieces we ladies carry about in our handbags! I learned that this type of design is called a ‘conversational print’ – basically a print that portrays recognisable every day objects. The name seems apt as this print really does speak to me – It was named Forget-me-nots by the designer because these are the things that you wouldn't want to loose from your handbag. I treated myself to some of this fabric and am planning on making one of my DIY Liberty print quilted zipper pouches. I think the name 'Forget-me-nots' is perfect because although some of these items are really current (like the iphone, oyster card and little tin of Vaseline!) in 20 years time I might not have an oyster card or an iphone but I'll still have the little pouch I'm going to make so the print will feel lovely and nostalgic.

Daniel DJ C / Fornasetti plates from the Liberty gift department.


Daniel DJ - I absolutely love this design! Inspired by two 1950’s sun prints this design is was also heavily inspired by the iconic Fornasetti plates found in the Liberty gift department. This print was hand drawn in Rotring ink and Stabilo felt tips. I love the sketchy, 1950's line drawings and the way you can just make out the serene faces of the suns!

Queue For The Zoo B / Clothes from the Liberty childrenswear department


Queue For The Zoo by OK David - It was so lovely to meet David, the children's author and illustrator behind this fun and clever print (which has actually gone on to be Liberty's best selling print of all time and represents the childrenswear department). David spoke about the way that he approaches his children's illustrations by giving his animals and characters props to help express their personality. I love the detail in this design - the giraffe is wearing miniature Nike X Liberty wedge trainers and the elephant has just thrown a paper plane!

Alexandra C / Gem stones from the Liberty Jewelrey Department

Alexandra – Representing the jewelry department, this print feels so modern and fresh! I love the way the gemstones have been layered up – it looks so opulent and rich! This print was created digitally and is a nice contrast to some of the more traditional, floral prints. This print is available printed onto 100% silk as well as classic Tana Lawn – wouldn’t it look beautiful as a simple tank top in the Summer?

As for what Liberty have in store for us next season, let's just say if you're a fan of beautiful floral designs you won't be disappointed!

Thank you Liberty for such a lovely evening and a big thank you to The New Craft Society for organising the event! It was so lovely to meet some of my favourite craft bloggers and we each took home the most marvelous goody bag crammed with beautiful, crafty bits and pieces. I'm looking forward to sharing more soon!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Tea Cosy & Coaster DIY Tutorial




When the lovely ladies over at The New Craft Society told me about Hilarys Blinds country crafts competition I jumped at the chance to enter! The competition involved first picking one of the four gorgeous fabric designs from Hilarys Blinds new Country Retreat range (a challenge in itself) and then transforming it into an object of my choosing!




After much deliberation I chose the Calluna Amethyst design. Calluna Vulgaris Amethyst is a variety of heather and you can really see echos of this hardy and vibrant flower in the print – the abstract, painterly brush strokes are fresh and Springlike! I especially loved the way the print changes from being quite concentrated to being more open and sparse and I knew I wanted to incorporate this element of the design into my project!




































 I found the print so uplifting I immediately thought of the breakfast table – I imagined having breakfast on a bright Spring morning and I knew what I wanted to make - a tea cosy and matching coaster set!

Here's how I made them - you can follow my tutorial using this or any medium-weight woven fabric of your choosing!



Equipment:

Printed fabric (approx 1/2 meter, depending on the side of your teapot)
Cotton batting (as above - double the quantity if you plan on using a double layer)
Lining fabric (same amount as the printed fabric - I used some lovely heather grey cotton from The Cloth House)
Bias tape  - approximately 2.5 meters
Thread
Pins
Needle for hand sewing
Sheet of newspaper and a coloured pencil to make your pattern!
Fabric scissors
Tape measure
A rotary cutter & cutting mat (these aren't essential but will make cutting out your fabric much quicker!)

To make the tea cosy...

Step 1: First you’ll need to grab your favourite teapot and take some measurements – measure how wide your teapot is in centimeters from handle to spout and how high it is from base to lid. I have two teapots that I alternate depending on my mood so I measured up both of them to make sure that my tea cosy would be able to accommodate both.



Add 8 cm to your width measurement and 4 cm to the height - these are the basic measurements for your tea cosy! These measurements allow for a couple of centimeters wiggle room and a 1.5cm seam allowance around the sides.

As an example, my two teapots averaged 36cm wide and 22cm tall – This meant that my finished tea cosy needed to be 43cm wide and 26cm tall!




Step 2: Armed with your measurements, grab a folded sheet of newspaper, divide your final width measurement in half and place a mark this far along from the folded edge at the bottom of the sheet (so I marked 21.5cm along from the edge because 43 divided by 2 is 21.5!). Now check your height measurement and place a mark this far up the folded edge of the newspaper. Connect these two marks with a nice soft curve either freehand or using a curved ruler. Picture a tea cosy shape while you’re doing it and it will turn out fine! Once you’ve finished cut along the line you just drew, unfold the sheet of paper and hey presto! You have a lovely, symmetrical tea cosy pattern!



Step 3: Time to cut out the fabric! If you’re using a rotary cutter and mat, fold each of the three fabrics in half so that you have a double layer (I used a double layer of cotton batting so my tea would be extra toasty – this meant that I had a whopping 4 layers of cotton batting to cut through but with my super sharp rotary cutter it was easy peasy!). Place your paper pattern on top of each stack of fabric in turn and place something heavy in the middle to weigh it down. Carefully cut around the edge of your pattern, slicing through all layers of fabric at once! Repeat until you have your printed fabric, cotton batting and lining fabric all cut out.

If you like the look of my Liberty print pin cushion, you can follow my easy DIY Liberty print pin cushion tutorial and make your own!



















I placed the bottom of my paper pattern (the bit that would become the tea cosy opening) on a part of the fabric that was quite densely patterned. This meant that the pattern became lighter and more sparse towards the top of the tea cosy! I think it gives it a nice fresh vibe, like Spring bulbs growing!



If you’re using regular old fabric scissors first fold each piece of fabric in half so that you can cut out two layers at once. Pin them in position so they don’t slip while you’re cutting then place your paper pattern on top and draw around the edge using a water soluble marker or tailors chalk. Cut out as normal.



You'll also need to mark and cut out a 7cm by 9cm rectangle from your printed fabric.

Step 4: Take your rectangle of fabric and fold it in half lengthwise, right sides together. Sew along the long edge and trim the seam allowance (you can use pinking shears for this if you have them!). Turn the rectangle the right way round, press and set to one side.






Step 5: Make a fabric sandwich as follows: One piece of cotton batting (or two pieces if you’re using a double layer!), one piece of printed fabric with the right side (RS) facing, one piece of printed fabric with the wrong side (WS) facing and finally the last piece of cotton batting. Pin the layers of fabric together around the edge, inserting your fabric loop upside down into the middle of the two layers of printed fabric. Machine stitch right the way around the curved edge (but don’t stitch along the straight edge – that will become the tea cosy opening!). Grade the seam allowance down to help reduce bulk and then snip notches close together right the way round and turn the right way round (so the printed fabric is on the outside and the batting is inside).








Repeat the process with the lining fabric – place both pieces RS together and sew around the curved edge before trimming the seam allowance down and clipping notches all around the edge.

With the lining still inside out, insert it into the fabric pouch you just made and pin all a round the outside edge to keep the layers in place.



Step 6: Time to reach for your bias binding! I followed this great tutorial by Coletterie and made a continuous strip of bias binding using a piece of my lining fabric but you can buy it ready made if you prefer.



















I used a vintage wooden cotton spool to store my hand made bias binding - it helped keep it folded neatly until I was ready to use it!





If you followed my Liberty print hot water bottle tutorial back in December you already know the drill, if not, unfold your bias tape and place it RS down on to the RS of your tea cosy, lining up the edges. Pin the tape in place then machine stitch into the fold nearest to the edge of the fabric. Remove the pins and re-fold the bias binding. You might need to trim a little of the seam allowance in order to wrap the bias binding around onto the inside of the tea cosy. With the edges still folded pin the bias binding in place so that the raw edges of your tea cosy are enclosed. Slip stitch the binding in place – stitching into the fold of the bias binding and catching the lining of the tea cosy just in front of the line of machine stitching will result in an invisible seam and a magical, stitch free finish.








Tea cosy done!

To make six coasters...




Step 1: You’ll need something to use as a template for your coasters – I used the rim of a glass! Cut out 6 identical circles from your printed fabric, cotton batting and lining fabric.



When I cut out my circles I made sure that I started in a densely printed area of the fabric and gradually moved across into a lighter area. I love that my coasters are all different!



Step 3: Make six little fabric stacks as follows: lining fabric WS facing, cotton batting (only a single layer needed here), printed fabric RS facing. Pin in place.



Step 4: Open out your bias binding and with WS facing, pin it onto the RS of each of your coasters in turn (exactly the same as you did for the tea cosy). Take your time easing the binding around the curved edge and if any folds want to form in the tape, just use extra pins to shift them out of the way from where you’ll be stitching. Machine stitch around the edge of each coaster, into the fold of the bias binding.








Step 5: Remove the pins and re-fold the tape. Again you may need to trim a little of the seam allowance in order to wrap the bias binding around onto the WS of the coasters so that the raw edges of the coasters are enclosed. Pin the binding in place and then secure by slip stitching into the fold of the tape.




Congratulations! You now have a brand new Springtime tea cosy with matching coasters! Time to pop the kettle on, warm the pot and brew up a storm!