Tuesday 29 April 2014

The Dress Formerly Known as Pillowcase

What, a post about sewing? Surely you jest I hear you say. And quite rightly, because anyone who knows me knows that I do not sew, or rather, I don't do sewing machines. For some reason, they and I do not get on. Its not like I can't machine sew, I have a pair of floor to ceiling living room curtains, fully lined, that I made myself. BUT, and its a big but, that's because I had someone else there to make sure the machine stayed working properly. Because that's where it all falls apart. If its not perfect and therefore starts to not sew properly, left to my own devices, no matter what I do, I cannot fix it. Give me a spinning wheel, I am fine, sewing machine, not a hope.

That said, someone has suggested to me that perhaps I should keep an eye out for a working hand crank machine, plenty of these vintage beauties about and still sewing, because they have so much less to go wrong. And can be picked up cheap. Who knows, I may do yet. I haven't so far. However, I was watching the Great British Sewing Bee on the beeb and every time children's wear came up I would sigh and wish I could do that. Because I love my little miss in darling little cotton frocks. In fact I have bought rather a lot for her. Especially now she is toddling.

So one day I was having a discussion on twitter with a couple of friends, and saying I can hand sew but not machine sew, when Clare from Little Pink Teacup asked me if I had seen pillowcase dresses before. I said no and promptly did a Google search. Lo and behold I found instructions, and yes, this was within my capability to hand sew. So the idea was born. Its all her fault. So I hunted high and low for pillowcases in a fabric I liked, and came across a pair of these:

So following the instructions, I cut the closed top end off the to correct length for my miss (measured from one of her dresses), cut some arm scyes, and a couple of straps from the closed top end. The instructions were actually for tied bias binding straps, but I opted for proper straps, just personal choice. Then, as instructed, I created channels front and back for the elastic, opting for a back stitch for a strong seam, and installed said elastic. Leaving me with this:

Then it was a case of installing straps, adding bias binding round the armholes (unfortunately stretching them a little, but this is my first attempt so I will let myself off) and added a trim down the hem to catch the turned back opening for a pillow, so she can't get her feet stuck in it. And there we had it, a finished dress!

Despite the stretched armholes, its very wearable and she looks adorable in it (in my humble opinion!). I actually love how it hangs and billows around her, and its very comfy for the summer. Very pleased with my first foray into sewing! And I have another of the same pillowcase and enough trim to make her a bigger one when she grows out of it! And more experience too. Over all, I'm a happy mum, pleased to dress her in something I've made. And her dad loves it on her too! I am just not telling him it used to be a pillowcase!

Till next time!

Tuesday 22 April 2014

THE Birthday Cake

Hi and hello blogland!

Its been a while and I hope everyone had a good Easter. Easter was exceedingly busy for us here and I am most definitely glad that my son is back at school today. But today's post is all about him! Over Easter, on Good Friday in fact, my special boy turned 5 years old! Aside from the fact that I wonder how on earth that happened - where did the last five years suddenly go? This led to several important tasks.

It has been a joy that despite his social issues, that he has felt that this year he wanted a party, and he had friends he wanted there, and plenty to invite. Good Friday is an odd day for a party, but he wanted a party, he was getting one. And of course, that meant not only a cake, but a cake big enough for him and all his friends too.

The thing is, he does have some sensory issues when it comes to food. I spent years thinking he didn't like cake, until he came back from preschool with cake from another child that he tore into. And I started to piece the puzzle together. The cake in question was a brownie cake, no icing whatsoever. And with the door open we tried all sorts, and we managed to narrow it down. He doesn't like fondant, its too sweet, but peel it off and he'll eat it. The day after he got it, when he's forgotten it had fondant on it in the first place. Buttercream or ganache is fine as a filling, but on the cake... not on top if its a fair cake, but on a slice of cake as long as its not up the sides you are okay.

Can you see that he's a bit.... particular yet?

So when it came to the cake I asked him what he wanted, and I was given a list of specifications to adhere to.

Chocolate cake
Chocolate in the middle
Chocolate shell on the outside
Has a number five on it
Five candles

Aside from the massive chocolate overload, I was good with all this. It was his birthday, so he would get the cake he wanted.

I bought tins, found a recipe scaled the recipe, and then I dry ran it. It tasted great, though for some odd reason it was very fragile. I have a faux pas with the candy melts I was using as chocolate icing (combined with the fragile cake it was quite something) leading to something almost impossible to cut. But when I took it to share at toddler group it vanished very quickly. The important thing was that I learned about what to do, what not to do, and practised the processes I needed to make the cake he wanted.

So the Easter break rolled around, and on the Monday before his birthday, I nervously started to bake.

I am not quite sure what I did different, (I suspect it was something to do with the baking powder I'd gotten wrong on the first attempt), but getting the base cake was a dream. It was nowhere near as fragile, it tasted amazing (not a sweet chocolate cake at all, which was good considering what was coming!) and came out of both tins and liner perfectly. I let it get cold, and Tuesday I made chocolate buttercream icing, and put the layers together with the boy eagerly looking on, before going in the fridge to get firm and cold.

I opted for cheap, ordinary supermarket chocolate for the shell this time and had learned from all my mistakes. I wound up with a perfect shell that was a dream to cut. I sank smarties into the cooling chocolate around the sides to stud it, and then went to the decorations. I bought some gorgeous sugar paste decorations, off enough from ebay of all places (and proceeded to break the number five and had to glue it back together with gel icing!). BUT, I was done! I had the cake he had asked me for!

I'll never make a pro decorator, I will leave that to others, but my son was over the moon with it, and that was all I wanted. We are still eating left overs days later and loving it as much as the first piece, so I must have done something right. But hopefully next year I can bake something smaller!

Till next time!