Wednesday, 26 December 2012

DIY: Last Minute Food Gift

Chocolate Nutty Fudge

I absolutely love Christmas and try to be as prepared as possible before the big day. Despite my big attempts at organisation I always seem to get caught out whether it be a gift from someone I wasn't expecting a gift from or a last minute invite over to a friends on New Years day.
I'm not sure how big a deal it is elsewhere but in Scotland no-one would ever show up at a house on New Years Day without a gift of some kind. So I decided this year to avoid the stress and made a big batch of Chocolate Nutty Fudge.

This recipe is so easy and quick to make that it's done and dusted within 30mins and doesn't take long to set in the fridge. The packaging afterwards is your choice- I opted for jam jars and used remnant fabric to decorate along with leftover ribbon from Christmas wrapping.

Chocolate Nutty Fudge Recipe

What you'll need...

370g Caster Sugar
170ml Evaporated Milk
20g Unsalted Butter
100g Mini White Marshmallows
250g Good Quality Dark Chocolate
100g Brazil Nuts (roughly chopped)

Square Baking Tray (20cm x 20cm) lined with greaseproof paper (extend paper over sides of baking tray for easy removal.
Medium-Large Saucepan to mix ingredients

1.  Put the sugar, evaporated milk and butter into the saucepan and heat on low until the sugar has dissolved. While this is going on break up the dark chocolate into small pieces.

2. Give the mixture a stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved completely. Now put the chocolate into the pan. Keep the heat low to ensure the chocolate is not over-cooked. A little tip I learned is that chocolate should be melted at low temperatures to ensure it remains shiny and full of flavour. Stir every couple of minutes until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

3. While the chocolate is melting roughly chop up the brazil nuts. If you're unsure of how small they should be think about the size of your finished fudge pieces. I cut mine up quite small to fit into the jars so I had to cut the Brazil nuts to ensure there would be a sufficient ratio of chocolate to nut in every bite.

4. Stir in the marshmallows until they have melted into the mixture.

5. Take the saucepan off of the heat and stir in the brazil nuts. At this point the mixture will begin to be thicker and may be a little harder to stir. Transfer the mixture immediately to the baking tray and use a palette knife to smooth the top and spread the mixture evenly. If you don't have a palette knife, use the back of a spoon.

6. Leave to cool for ten minutes before transferring to the fridge for a couple of hours.

7. Once the mixture has hardened lift out of the baking tray and cut into pieces ready to box up.

Additional info...

1. The marshmallows offer a sweetness to the mixture because they are melted all the way through. They shouldn't be chewy in the same way as a Rocky Road cake. This means that the fudge is suitable for most tastes. However, if you would prefer a more sophisticated option then you can leave the marshmallows out so that the bitterness of the dark chocolate is more apparent.

2. Feel free to add cranberries or chopped up biscuit to the mix. There are so many possibilities- I'm sure you'll be bursting with ideas while you're making the first batch!

3. If you would like to decorate in a similar way to mine I bought the jars for around £5 from Lakeland, the tags are around £2 for 20 from WH Smith, the ribbon was £6 for 50 metres from Simply and the fabric is a remnant. Oh and you will need elastic bands to secure your fabric around the jar before disguising with the ribbon.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Crafty Exploits: Embroidery 2

Thought I would share a new embroidery with you today that I've been working on over the past wee while. This piece of work began as a series of drawings and screen-prints that I worked on a couple of years ago. The prints and drawings had a lot more blocked in colours particularly the sleeve, cuff and socks. The original drawings had a handful of teeth as well, individually shaded.
I wanted to try something a bit more linear so I tried to avoid the temptation of filling in large spaces with satin stitch and tried to use pattern instead to give depth.

I'll be working on a series of smaller embroideries over the next few weeks so keep your eye out for those...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Last Typewriter!

The news of the last typewriter being manufactured in Britain, made me feel more than a little bit sad. I remember being five years old and being greeted by a shiny new red typewriter on Christmas morning. There's something about using a manual typewriter that has a completely different atmosphere from using a laptop. For me, it has the same feel as sketching, starting off with a blank sheet of paper that could be messed up at any point. I like having that level of unpredictability when I'm working which is probably why I have never fared well using illustration software to complete any of my artworks- I'm old school all the way with my drawing!
Here's some fifties typewriter ads to lift the mood...

Friday, 9 November 2012

Shop of the Day: Girlie Pains

Girlie Pains, Gift Bags

Girlie Pains, Christmas Gift Tags

Girlie Pains, Scene Mean Zine

Girlie Pains, Stationary Set

My favourite shop today comes all the way from Brisbane, Australia. Girlie Pains comes from the creative mind of Mel Stringer, a freelance illustrator and visual artist. I love that the designs are cute but not too sugary sweet. The colours and shapes have a japanese feel to them and there are plenty of designs to choose from. The Christmas Tags are definitely on my must have list .Think they would go well with a nice red/white candy striped paper. As an aside Marks and Spencer are actually selling a roll of red/white paper for £1 which would be perfect. If you would like to check out more of the Girlie Pains range you can find them on Etsy

Fabric of the Day: Sanderson

Sanderson, Dandelion Embroidery Fabric
Sanderson, Fifi Wallpaper
Sanderson, Park Life Fabric
Sanderson, Perpetua Fabric
Sanderson, Portobello Fabric

I love retro designs on fabric and wallpaper. Sanderson's Dandelion wallpaper is probably the most recognised (and maybe over-used) design but they also have other great designs inspired by the fifties. The simple shapes matched with splashes of bold colour are timeless. Couple of these made into cushions would be lovely on my sofa- watch this space!

Films to Craft to: Kamikaze Girls

One of many versions of Kamikaze Girls DVD covers
Scene from Kamikaze Girls (above)

I spent pretty much all day yesterday embroidering. I haven't been too well and had to find something to while away the hours since i've been confined to bed rest.
I don't know about you but I always like to watch a film when i'm crafting- if its something quite complex i'll opt for listening to music instead. Kamikaze Girls is one of my top ten films to craft to (i'll reveal the rest of the top ten in the fullness of time!) for a few reasons. One being that its easy to watch despite having subtitles. Ususally a subtitled film is a no-no if you're trying to multi-task at the same time. Two, is that the main chraracter, Momoko, is obsessed with embroidery and even the local all girl biker gang appreciate a good piece of embroidery when they see it.

If you haven't seen Kamikaze Girls or even heard of it i'm not going to promise you'll love it as much as me, it tends to get a lot of mixed reviews! But if you love Japanese pop culture, enjoy visually colourful films and want something easy to watch then i'd say give it a go.

The film has been adapted from a graphic novel series and has developed a bit of a cult following over the years. You can get a copy for around £7 on Amazon if you want to give it a go.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

D.I.Y. Crafts: Embroidered Ryan Berkley Illustrations

For those of you who haven't seen my ever expanding bump, I'm seven months pregnant! We're in the process of decorating our spare room for our new arrival and i have been looking for some fun projects to adorn the nursery walls.
I came across these lovely dapper chaps on Sublime Stitching website. For those of you who don't know about Sublime Stitching, it's an independent company run by artist/embroiderer Jenny Hart. They stock everything from embroidery tools to transfer patterns by a variety of illustrators. The two designs above are by illustrator Ryan Berkley and are part of a pack of four (also including a cat and a rabbit).
I have a lot of odds and ends of embroidery thread and these patterns were a great way to use it all up! I wanted to keep a linear quality to the embroidery so i made the decision to block fill the jackets and leave the rest as a series of coloured lines.
If you would like to try some for yourself just follow the link here. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Crafty Exploits: Embroidery 1

Legs and Laundry (2012), Embroidery on Linen Canvas, Michelle Woods

I thought i would share an image of an embroidery i have been working on for quite some time. To be honest this one has taken forever!
The image is taken from one of my line drawings which is part of a series focusing on domestic objects and body parts. I always work with fineline pens (0.05 nib) and build up line and pattern to give depth to the drawing. I then add splashes of colour here and there to help focus the eye. 
For this embroidery i wanted the finished piece to still have a drawing-esque (don't think thats actually a word!) quality so i used a fine embroidery thread on A1 sized linen canvas.
It's been with me for so long that i'm actually a little sad that its complete but hey roll on the next one!