Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Friday!

I can't believe it's the last day of January already! After a fairly mild start to the year it feels like Winter is now in full swing and most mornings the view from my little sewing room looks something like this.

This weekend I'm looking forward to having two lovely lie ins, meeting our friends for coffee and cake on my favourite antiques shopping street (no coincidence that!), doing a bit of sewing and hosting a lovely, lazy Sunday brunch. I hope you wrap up warm and have a wonderful one wherever you are!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Liberty Print Pincushion DIY Tutorial

I recently acquired an old fashioned wooden sewing box and decided it would be a good excuse to have a little re-jig of my sewing equipment and supplies. One thing I was missing was a good pin cushion so I decided to make my own!

I wanted the pin cushion to be nice and big - nothing worse than a fiddly, flimsy pin cushion when you need to grab a pin in a hurry! I also wanted it to be fairly heavy so I can grab pins from it quickly without it sliding about on the work surface! This bad boy delivers on both counts and looks pretty too! I chose my favourite Liberty print - Betsy!

Materials & Equipment:

Two pieces of your chosen fabric
Two pieces of lightweight interfacing
Around a cup full of barley (or other dried grain)
Polyester toy stuffing
Matching cotton thread
Embroidery thread in a colour of your choice (for creating the tufts)

A round bowl to use as a template (I used an 15cm Mason Cash pudding bowl!)
Fabric scissors
Sewing machine
Sewing needle (for hand sewing)
Large sewing needle or tapestry needle


Step 1: Lay both pieces of your main fabric in front of you, wrong side (WS) facing. Place a piece of interfacing fabric on top of each piece of the main fabric.

Step 2: Using your pudding bowl as a guide, draw a circle onto each stack of fabric (you'll be drawing onto the interfacing and this will not be visible once the pin cushion is complete). Pin the two layers of fabric in each stack together and cut out both circles.

Step 3: Taking your two circles of fabric, place the right sides (RS) together, then pin and sew around the edge with a 1.5cm seam allowance. Leave a gap of an inch or so - you'll need this to turn the pin cushion the right way round. Once you've finished, go back and sew another seam, around 2mm from the first one in the seam allowance - this will make the seam extra strong! Clip into the seam allowance all the way round (apart from when you get to the gap you just left).

Step 4: Turn the pin cushion inside out through the gap, so that the RS of the main fabric is facing. This part is quite fiddly but you can do it!

Step 5: Your pin cushion should now look like a sad, deflated balloon. Pour the barley into the pin cushion through the little opening you left then start to fill with stuffing. As the pin cushion fills up, give it a careful shake so that the grains are sitting on the bottom half of the pin cushion. As you continue to fill the pin cushion try to push the stuffing into the top half and get it right into the edges to fill out the seam. You'll be surprised at how much stuffing it will take! You want it to be really firm so go ahead and cram as much in there as you can.

Step 6: Once the pin cushion is full to the max, hand sew the opening closed.

Step 7: Take your embroidery needle and thread and sew into the middle of the pin cushion, leaving a tail a good 6 inches long. Hold onto this tail while you continue to pass the needle around the edge of the pin cushion and back through the middle, spreading the stitches out evenly. Once you've finished, pull the loops of thread as tight as you can to create the pretty 'tufted' look and tie in a double knot.

Stick some pins in and you're all done! Enjoy your brand new pin cushion - mine has inspired me to get cracking on some lovely Spring sewing! What are you working on at the moment?

Friday, January 24, 2014

A DIY Liberty Print Hot Water Bottle

I'm really feeling the love for my Liberty print hot water bottle DIY tutorial at the moment! Those clever ladies at The New Craft Society gave it a go as part of 'Try It Tuesday' using hand made Liberty print bias binding and the result totally blue me away! Check out their blog post here! If you're not already familiar with Try It Tuesday, this is the brainchild of Kate, Kendall and Emily, the crafters behind the awesome blog Trends With Benefits. The aim is to encourage craft bloggers to try out each others DIYs and share the results via their blogs and social media platforms (using the hash tag #tryittuesday) on... you guessed it, Tuesdays! I think it's a great idea and can't wait to get involved.

You can see my tutorial over on the Liberty Craft Blog but seeing as the weather has taken a turn for the chilly and I have a feeling we've got a long, long Winter ahead of us, I wanted to share it here also. Time to grab your hottie bottie and get sewing!

Here's a tutorial to make a quilted hot water bottle cover using gorgeous Liberty print cotton. If you're in need of a little inspiration, take a peek at Liberty's new season Spring fabrics here! You'll need some batting fabric also - I personally like to stick to all natural materials so I love the 100% cotton batting that Liberty sell in their habadashery department. You can have fun playing around with different fabric and bias binding combinations - I think a plain hot water bottle and patterned bias binding would look equally marvelous!

Materials and Equipment:

Liberty print cotton fabric 60 x 50 cm
Cotton batting 50 x 120 cm
Plain cotton fabric (for lining) 60 x 50 cm
Bias binding
Matching cotton thread for sewing bias binding
Contrasting cotton thread for quilting and tacking
Needle for hand sewing
Ruler and / or tape measure
Fabric scissors
Paper scissors
Tracing wheel (or tailors chalk)
Sewing machine
Sheets of A4 paper
Hot water bottle

Before you begin: Wash, dry and iron your fabric according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Making the Paper Pattern

1. Tape together 4 x pieces of A4 paper to make one large sheet. Place the hot water bottle in the centre and draw around the outside of the bottle. Remove the bottle and using a ruler, draw a straight line from the ‘shoulder’ of the bottle straight up to the top of the spout.

2. Using a ruler and pencil, mark 3 cm away from the outline of the bottle every 3 cm or so, right the way round.

3. Join up the dots to form the cutting line for the pattern (use a ruler to help straighten the sides). This will allow for a 1 cm seam allowance and 2 cm wiggle room for the hot water bottle once it’s full.

4. Cut out your pattern along the outer line.

5. Using this pattern as a template, draw and cut out two more identical pieces (so you have three hot water bottle patterns in total).

6. Label one pattern piece as ’1) Front’ and set aside. Using a ruler, draw and then cut the next pattern piece across horizontally, approximately 2/3 of the way up (just before the ‘shoulder’ of the bottle starts to curve). Label the bottom section of this pattern piece ’2) Lower Back’ and discard the top.

7. Taking the remaining pattern piece, draw and then cut a line horizontally, 3 cm lower than the top edge of pattern piece 2. Label the top section ’3) Upper Back’ and discard the bottom section. Pattern pieces 2 and 3 will form the back opening of the hot water bottle cover – the idea is for the edges of pattern pieces 2 and 3 to overlap slightly once the bottle is inside.

You now have three pattern pieces as follows:

1) Front
2) Lower Back
3) Upper Back

Cutting the Fabric Pieces

1. Layer your fabric as follows:

Lining fabric – wrong side (WS) facing (if applicable)
Cotton batting (folded in half to form a double layer)
Main fabric – right side (RS) facing

2. Pin each pattern piece to the stack of fabric and cut out all four layers of fabric at the same time, being careful not to angle the scissors as you do so. Remove the paper pattern and re-pin the edges of the fabric together. (It’s helpful to pin each corner first to help stop the layers sliding about.)


1. Using a contrasting thread, tack around the edge of each pattern piece, making sure the stitches are pulled firm, then remove the pins. Using a sewing machine, sew a few lines of stitching horizontally across each pattern piece – this will help stop the layers from sliding about when it comes to the quilting. Changing direction with each line of stitches will help prevent the fabric from slipping.

2. Using a ruler and stitch marker, start in the bottom left hand corner and mark diagonal lines across the whole surface of the fabric, placing the lines a ruler’s width (or 4 cm) apart. Once you’ve covered the fabric with lines in one direction, start at the bottom right hand corner and work your way across the fabric the other way – making sure the lines meet each other at 90 degrees so you’re left with perfect squares after quilting. Repeat for all three pattern pieces.

3. Starting at the centre and working outwards, machine stitch along all the quilting lines using a contrasting thread. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each line. Changing direction with each row will help prevent the fabric from bunching. Repeat for all three pattern pieces, then remove the horizontal lines of tacking stitches.

Trimming the Opening

1. Taking pattern pieces 2 & 3, cut two strips of bias binding to fit both opening edges

2. Unfold the bias binding and with the right side (RS) of the fabric and wrong side (WS) of the bias binding facing you, line up the edge of the bias binding with the edge of the fabric. Pin along the length of the bias binding (pinning on the far side to where you will be sewing).

3. Thread the machine with the matching cotton thread and sew carefully along the crease, 1cm (depending on the width of your bias binding) away from the raw edge.

4. Re-fold the bias binding and wrap it round onto the WS of the fabric (you can trim a little of the seam allowance if you need to). Using a slip stitch, hand sew into the fold of the bias binding attaching it to the lining fabric just above the line of stitching.

Assembling the Hot Water Bottle Cover

1. Assemble the hot water bottle cover as follows: Pattern piece 1 wrong side (WS) facing, Pattern pieces 2 & 3 right side (RS) facing with pattern piece 3 topmost. Pin all three layers of fabric together in this position.

2. With RS of pattern piece 1 facing, cut a length of bias binding to go all the way around the edge of the hot water bottle cover.

3. Open out the bias binding and with WS facing, pin to RS of fabric (same as in step 4) gently curving the bias binding around the corners and pinning any folds up away from the fold where you will be stitching. Machine stitch into the fold of the bias binding all the way round.

4. Un-pin the bias binding. You may need to trim the seam allowance by 1/2 cm or so, enough so that you can re-fold the bias binding and wrap it round onto the WS of the hot water bottle cover. Pin into position then slip stitch in place.

5. Your hot water bottle cover is ready! To use, simply fill your hot water bottle and insert it into the opening on the back. Once the hot water bottle is inside, the back of the hot water bottle cover will overlap, safely covering the bottle inside.

Congratulations! You're now the proud owner of your very own hot water bottle cover! If you feel tempted to give it a try do send me a picture, I would love to see what you've made!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Recipe For Home Made Granola

Clockwise from top left: rye flakes, oats, coconut, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds

Breakfast is by far my favourite meal. Sometimes I go to bed at night feeling excited because soon it will be time for breakfast again! I'm not even joking. Obviously we all know by now that breakfast is the most important meal of the day - it stabilises your blood sugar levels (giving you energy and making you less susceptible to a mid morning Love Bar disaster), gives you energy for the morning ahead and kick starts your metabolism. So now that we're all on board the breakfast train, why not make your breakfast work that little bit harder? Pack it full of organic goodness and make it the best it can be.

Way back in October 2012 I shared a recipe for my version of Cranks home made breakfast cereal - a hearty, wholesome powerhouse of oats, seeds and nuts which you can whip up in less than an hour. I've made this cereal every few weeks or so ever since and have gradually honed and toned the recipe to my liking so I thought it was about time I shared this new and improved recipe - breakfast cereal v 2.0!

This granola isn't overly sweet - I prefer to add extra sweetness (usually in the form of honey) on a day by day basis depending on how I'm feeling and what extra fruit or yogurt goodness I'm adding. I'll be sharing some of my favourite combinations on the blog over the next few weeks. In the meantime I would love to know, what is your favourite breakfast? Are you a green juice macho man or a pancakes with extra streaky bacon girl? Tell me in the comments!

Home made granola with yogurt, chopped apple and toasted almond flakes.

400g Rolled oats
100g Rye flakes
100g Sunflower seeds (hulled)
100g Almonds
100g Dessicated coconut
50g Poppy seeds
100g raisins
100g saltanas
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla essence
Pinch of sea salt
250ml of warm water

Preheat the oven to 160c (or 150c if it's a fan oven)

1. Combine the first six ingredients from the list in a large mixing bowl.

2. Pour about 250ml of hot water into a measuring jug and add the coconut oil, honey, vanilla essence and salt. Keep stirring until the coconut oil has dissolved.

3. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients (I find it best to do this in two goes, stirring the mixture thoroughly in between). Mix well.

4. Divide the mixture between two roasting tins and bake until the mixture is a deep golden brown. I find this usually takes around 30 mins and I take the roasting tins out and stir the mixture every 8 minutes or so to prevent it burning (the almonds are particularly susceptible to this).

5. Allow the granola to cool in the tins and then transfer back to the mixing bowl. Stir in the raisins and saltanas then pour into an airtight jar. I find a big, 3 litre Le Parfait jar does the job perfectly (and looks pretty on the kitchen counter too!).

Storing the granola in something airtight will keep it fresh and crunchy for up to a month (though if you love your breakfasts as much as me it won't hang about that long!).

Rise and shine!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Guest blogging on the Liberty Craft Blog...

During the run up to Christmas I was delighted to be asked by the team at Liberty London to contribute a sewing tutorial to their wonderful Craft Blog! I jumped at the chance (of course!) and a few days later a thick envelope full of fabric plopped onto the doormat with a satisfying thump. I got my thinking cap on and came to the conclusion that at at this time of year the only place to be is curled up under the covers of a Sunday morning with a cup of tea, the papers and of course a hot water bottle! Not just any hot water bottle but one made with beautiful Liberty print fabric, quilted with cotton batting so it's squishy and soft and finished with bias binding! My tutorial is now live on the Liberty Craft Blog so hop on over to check it out!

The Liberty Craft Blog is a wonderful resource for fans of their iconic prints and is full of project ideas from some brilliant craft bloggers. Some of my favourites include how to make a DIY baby quilt by Hannah and Rosie of The New Craft Society, make your own cafetiere cover and coasters from the new book The Liberty Book Of Simple Sewing and these awesome DIY embelished glasses purses by Charlotte Smith of the gorgeous craft blog Lotts and Lots!

I'll be posting the tutorial in full here later on in the week - if you need a quick fix of Liberty print in the meantime check out my Liberty Print Hair Scrunchie DIY Tutorial (which received a mention in issue 3 of Sew Liberty Magazine!)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Liberty Print Dress...

 I made this dress in the run up to Christmas as I wanted something Wintery and a little bit folky to wear to parties and for crisp morning walks in the park. The pattern is New Look's # 6224 and (as you can see from the pattern envelope) I was totally inspired by the photo on the front with regards to my fabric selection! I chose 'Bourton' - a classic paisley Liberty print 100% cotton fabric in the fiery orange, red and blue colourway. This is the first dress I've made in years so I just took my time and did little bits here and there. The Bourton print is very detailed so super forgiving - all my seams and darts are pretty much invisible! Whilst the print is directional, once the fabric is gathered and draped that's all much of a muchness so I didn't worry about matching the pattern on the seams. I'm so pleased with how it turned out!

The neckband and sleeves are finished with bias binding which, now I know how to use it, is my favourite thing! It leaves such a neat, crisp edge and is super easy to manipulate.

For this project, instead of cutting out the paper pattern I bought some very sheer interfacing fabric and made a copy by placing the interfacing over the top of the paper pattern (after ironing it of course!) and tracing the lines with a soft pencil. The lady in John Lewis who sold me the interfacing disapproved of my methods and tried very, very hard to sell me pattern tracing paper instead but as this was only the second or third garment I've ever made, I was happy to throw money at the situation (about £15) and get the interfacing. I found it so much easier to work with when it came to pinning and cutting the fabric as it moves and drapes along with the fabric underneath and grips it nicely.

The pattern has four variations featuring the same bodice and skirt with different sleeves and neckbands. I can definitely see myself making this dress again and again so I'm glad to have a more robust version of the pattern to work from (paper patterns usually prove just too tempting for Toby).

This was my first attempt at inserting an invisible zipper! Pretty cool huh?

The construction of the dress was really straight forward - I found inserting the sleeves the trickiest bit as you have to gather the fabric and then ease it back out to fit the arm hole. I find gathers especially hard - by the time I've spread the fabric out evenly and got it pinned together half way, the gathers at the other end have usually come loose and I have to re-tighten the fabric and re-distribute the folds. And after all of that my sewing machine has a tendency to move the fabric around as it sees fit so it's practically impossible to end up with perfectly even little folds of fabric. But once again, the print here hides a multitude of sins! I French seamed the whole thing which creates a satisfyingly crisp finish. I'm already planning my next project and I think another Liberty print might be on the cards? If you would like to create a Liberty print dress of your own you can take a peek at their new season fabrics online here!

Monday, January 13, 2014


Happy Monday! The evenings are starting to draw out that little bit longer and I can't wait for that first morning where it feels like Spring is on it's way. For now though, it's still absolutely freezing outside (and will be for many months to come) so I've been mostly occupying myself indoors these past few weeks. Here's a look at what's currently floating my boat!
The Lomography Diana + F 'Mr. Pink'...

Ciaran bought me this gorgeous camera for Christmas and I love it! I've wanted to upgrade my beloved Holga for a little while now and I’m hoping that the Diana will be just that little bit more user friendly and predictable so I’ll at least stand a chance of taking a photo that’s somewhat in focus.

Cute socks from Korea...

These awesome socks were another Christmas surprise - they're from my cousin and his Mrs. who's Korean. I love the simple shapes and geometric patterns! Not to mention the awesome colours - they remind me that brighter days are on the way! I can't wait until the weather gets warm enough to show them off - for now it's ankle boots all the way!

Chamomile Tea...

Long time readers will already know how much I love  My New Roots - a blog about healthy, vegetarian cooking by Sarah Britton (who has a cook book on the horizon for Spring 2015 - woohoo!). I first read about the benefits of chamomile tea flowers (vs the little bags of dust you get in the supermarket) in this blog post. I buy mine from Neals Yard Remedies in Covent Garden which is an experience in itself. The shop smells amazing and the back wall is filled from floor to ceiling with esoteric looking jars of herbs with names like Agrimony and Mugwort (I like to pretend I'm in Harry Potter but that's just me...). The herbs themselves are light as a feather so you get a lot for your money.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Most of my reading seems to be of the blog variety these days so I've been looking for a new novel to get my teeth stuck into for a while. I loved The Secret History so am really excited to delve into Donna Tartt's latest offering. I like to make a little ritual of reading a few pages before I go to sleep and find it really soothing to give my eyes a break from looking at a bright screen - it definitely it helps me switch my brain off at the end of a long day!

Liberty print fabric in 'Betsy'...

Last but not least, here's a sneak peak at a super practical and simple DIY sewing project coming soon!

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year! I do love fresh starts and new beginnings so the start of a New Year always feels like the perfect time to take stock and figure out where I want the coming year to take me. So much can change in a year and that's a really exciting prospect! I've come to realise that for me, the best way to approach New Years resolutions is less about setting a list of arbitrary goals (go to the gym three times a week! Eat healthily! Stop leaving clothes on the bedroom floor!) and more about gently steering myself in the right direction. Here are my hopes and dreams for 2014, will you be making any New Years Resolutions this year? Tell me about them in the comments!

I resolve to...give myself a break!

Last year was brilliant but throughout the whole year I couldn't shake the sensation that life was whipping past way too quickly and I was always behind schedule and struggling to keep up. This year I resolve to take matters into my own hands and regain a bit of control over my time. This will include giving myself a break and not stressing myself out over self imposed deadlines, knowing what projects and opportunity's to say yes too and which to say no to and not biting off more than I can chew. Experience has taught me that when I spread myself too thin, nothing gets done.

I resolve to...keep up the good work!

2013 was the year I finally got into exercise in a big way and started taking a barre class every Saturday morning. Towards the end of the year I also started to dabble in Ashtanga yoga and the combination of these two classes has worked wonders for my muscles and posture! Yoga in particular is exciting me in a big way and I can't wait to add some more classes to my weekly schedule in 2014 as well as swimming and some long, outdoorsy runs too. It's funny how the more excises you do, the more you want to do isn't it?

I resolve to...make our house a home!

Like many, Ciaran and I are nowhere near being able to afford to buy a home of our own. We're (mostly) at peace with this and are lucky enough to rent a beautiful 1930's ground floor flat which overlooks the garden and has beautifully high ceilings, enormous windows, a shed, garage and enough spare rooms for us to have an office space each. The downside of course is that this is where basically all our money goes. I don't mind spending a ridiculously high percentage of our combined earnings on putting a roof over our head but I want our space to look and feel like home. We've been here for over a year now and whilst we've finally unpacked all our boxes and even put up some pictures, the space isn't quite 'there' yet. This year I really want to get to grips with each room in turn and get the whole place looking wonderful. I'm actually itching to get started and am looking forward to sharing some room tours on the blog in the coming months!

I resolve to...shake things up on Stone Cold Comfort!

I really enjoyed creating my DIY Liberty Print Scrunchie Tutorial and this year will see the content of Stone Cold Content shift slightly more towards the crafts DIY side of things - I'm planning more sewing DIY projects (both things to wear and things for the home) as well as some knitting how-to's perfect for anyone who's been itching to learn for a while and needs a simple project to get started. We won't stop there though, I want to keep up the DIY vibe and inspire you to bake your own bread, biscuits and cakes, style your home to reflect your personality, brew your own ale and be entirely self sufficient in the realm of preserving. It will be like The Good Life but with Liberty print and luxury.

Well there it is! Twelfth Night is upon us once more and it's time to pack away the Christmas decorations and jump feet first into 2014. I have a good feeling about this year! As always thank you for taking the time to stop by and have a very Happy New Year!