Meet the girls- my painting collection

Helloooo lovely reader: So, I got a bit carried away (again) with the intro for this post, so if you just wanna skip to the pretty pictures, you just scroll on down my friend, I won’t judge. Well, much 😉

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‘Carnival Queen’ (WIP- left) and ‘Nebula’ (right). My two acrylic on canvas works.

Hello guys!

So I know it’s been a while since I last posted something on here- I’m sorry! Things got a lil’ hectic with me moving back up to university in mid January, and I actually managed to leave my camera at home- shock horror! So as a result I was left unable to take any photos to go with my blog, and let’s be honest, it ain’t really a great blog if there’s no pretty photos for you all to look at!

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No name. Self portrait, acrylic on paper.

Aside from the accidental leaving the camera at home fiasco, it has also been an incredibly busy few weeks for me in terms of academic workload. I. Am. Exhausted. Second year Theoretical Physics with Maths is NOT a walk in the park, and the lecturers are clearly sadistic and really enjoying watching us struggle as we try to learn all the new content that’s being thrown at us… at least that’s how I see it.

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Carnival Queen- Work in progress

But I have to say, it feels darn good to be back!

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‘Cuentos de Hadas’ feat. Zoe.

I am so excited about the content that I’m going to be posting on my blog during 2018; I can’t wait to finally find time to do some more DIYs and yummy recipes for you all. I also want to start adding a few more ‘lifestyle’ posts, seeing as that is what I originally started A Little Mad Smith for.

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No name- a quick self portrait.

So that brings us to today’s post. Reunited with my camera, today I’m bringing you a happy mixture of my usual craft style post with just a hint more ‘lifestyle’ thrown in for good measure; today we get to have a little look at my paintings!

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‘Nebula’ feat. Olivia

Meet the girls- a collection of my favourite paintings that have made their way onto my walls at university. I adore painting female portraits, and I’ve steadily accumulated a little collection over the past two or so years as I’ve honed my technique and discovered my style.

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‘Night Dreaming’ feat. Fairlight

I LOVE painting. I love art. I studied two art subjects at GCSE level when I was in high school, before going on to study an A level in Fine Art at college. My interest for portrait painting was really sparked when I was 16, and I discovered the work of three artists in particular: Charmaine Olivia, Paula Bonet and Agnes Cecile. These women paint the most beautiful portraits I have ever seen, and all three have such unique styles! I immediately fell in love with Charmaine Olivia’s wonderful use of colour in her oil work, Agnes Cecile’s dramatic watercolour technique and Paula Bonet’s unique mix of pencil and water colour.

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‘Festival Queen’ feat. Chloe

These three women have been a huge inspiration to me, and have massively influenced my own artwork over the years. I don’t have time to paint as much anymore, due to my intensive degree subject, but whenever I get the chance I always enjoy picking up a paintbrush and seeing where it takes me.

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‘Night Dreaming’ feat. Firelight

For those who were wondering (if any), yes, I am super sad and name my paintings. Not all of them, but sometimes some of them just look like an Olivia or a Zoe and I name them that. Almost all of these are drawn originally using a photo of my face as a starting point, but they hardly ever turn out looking like me. I like to give each one it’s own personality and style.

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No name. Self portrait, acrylic on paper.

This painting here was one of the first I tried in acrylic. I was super happy with how it turned out, I really like the contrast of the blue with the orange. This is one of the only few that actually kept a bit of a resemblance to me in it, at least I think so. I especially love that she’s holding a pencil.

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The festival queen pictured below is called Chloe. One of the funnest parts of doing this one was adding all the feathers to her hair (above); it turns out they’re actually really easy to paint! Chloe actually turned two last week, I painted her back when I was 18 just after Christmas with a new set of paints that I’d gotten from my parents. She’s one of my favourites.

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‘Festival Queen’ feat. Chloe

So that’s all from me today guys, I hope you enjoyed this little look at some of my artwork! I really do miss having the time to spend on painting that I used to, but that’s why I love having this blog as a creative outlet for me!

I’m hoping that I can find more time for my art throughout 2018; I’m also actually hoping to start a bullet journal which I intend to document on here!

Do you enjoy painting or drawing? Or is your creative outlet something different? Let me know in the comments! 

Thanks to you all for reading, and best wishes to each and every one of you. It is a genuine pleasure to be able to interact with you all as I do and I am incredibly thankful for it. 

Until next time,

Maddie x

 

 

Making Beeswax Soap- Review and How To!

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Hello you lovely people! How are we today?
Today’s post is all about my first experience of beeswax soap making! As some of you may remember, for my birthday back in September I did a HUGE Hobbycraft haul, returning home with innumerable crafting goodies, supplies and kits that I was just dying to try out. One of those kits was this Kirstie Allsopp Beeswax Soap making kit.

Soap making is one of the few popular crafts that I hadn’t tried out prior to purchasing this kit, and I was super excited to give it a go and see how it turned out. There were a couple of other soap making kits available at Hobbycraft during my visit, but I loved the luxurious vibe of this one, thanks to the beeswax.

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So how did I find it? 

This kit retails for £10, and contains enough ingredients to make four square soaps. You also get a mould for your soap, an instruction booklet with some background information on the process of soap making, and an inspiration booklet.

This kit uses a Melt and Pour base to make the soap. This means the process is super easy, and all you have to do is melt the base, add your preferred fragrance and colour, before pouring into your moulds. Your soap will be ready to use after just a few hours of setting time. This makes the kit great for novice soap makers, like me, and great as a gift for young adults too.

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The process was super easy and I was really pleased with the result. I began my soap making endeavour by melting my beeswax pellets in a double boiler and setting it to one side. Once I had done this, I melted the soap base in the double boiler before adding the beeswax.

I then removed my mixture from the heat and stirred it thoroughly, before adding a few drops of fragrance. Then all I had to do was pour the mixture into the provided mould and allow my soap to cool over night!

I loved the look of the finished soap, and actually ended up wrapping some up to gift to friends over Christmas. Also, the fragrance provided with this kit smells divine- it’s a wonderful sweet honey scent.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed making this soap, and I think this kit would make a great gift for the crafters in your life who are wanting to try something new.

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Do I think it’s worth the money? 

I do think this kit is worth the £10 I paid for it. I had great fun making the soap and it does make a wonderful homemade gift for friends and family.

I probably wouldn’t repurchase this kit, but I would definitely purchase the soap making ingredients individually. I usually find with trying out new crafts its always better to start out with a kit and then purchase your ingredients separately from there on; it normally makes things cheaper in the long run, and prevents you from repurchasing unnecessary instruction booklets and moulds.

That’s all from me today folks! I hope you’re all having a wonderful January, best wishes to you all! 

Love as always,

Maddie x

5 Top Tips to save money and stay healthy on a student budget

Carcassonne markets, fruit and veg stall

Hi all! Seeing as it’s a new year and all that, I thought I’d do something a bit different for today’s post. So, who’s been making New Year’s resolutions? I’m one of those people who only makes resolutions that I can keep, to save me from being disappointed in myself when it gets into February and I find myself surrounded by empty chocolate wrappers even though I swore I’d cut out chocolate this year- we’ve all been there. Last year my resolution was to start a regular home yoga practise, a resolution that I’m very proud to say I managed to keep! I now practise yoga daily. My only resolution for this year is to drink more water, something that I know I really should be paying more attention to.

I’m pretty sure that one of the most common new year’s resolutions is to be healthier, whether it be eat better or start a regular exercise routine. Another popular choice seems to be save more money! So today’s blog post is bringing you a little combination of the two- how to eat healthily and save money!

As some of you will know I am currently a second year student at Lancaster University, England, studying Theoretical Physics with Mathematics. Following moving out of my family home for the first time and learning to look after myself, I’ve come to know a few tips and tricks that have enabled me to really save my pennies when it counts. I also like to eat a well balanced diet, so I’ve gotten used to shopping in a manner that allows me to make plenty of healthy meals whilst saving my money.

I’ve put together my top 5 tips that I have learnt during my time as a student that have allowed me to make my money go further, whilst also maintaining a healthy and well balanced diet. Enjoy!

Meal plan! This is without doubt the most important thing I could tell you about budgeting. Weekly meal planning has saved me so much money over the past year, as it ensures I won’t go hungry while keeping waste to an absolute minimum. I will not buy anything unless I know I will definitely be using it for a meal that week. Make a plan, write your list and stick to it. Meal planning also means that you can concentrate on making meals which all use the same basic ingredients, and also ensuring that you will be eating a wide variety of healthy foods over the week ahead! Almost everything I cook will feature the same basic ingredients, whether it be a curry, chilli, risotto or quiche. I purposely buy veg that I know will work well together and in a variety of different recipes, such as onion, red pepper and mushrooms to name a few. Cook with the same kind of oil all the time to save you buying several, whether it be vegetable oil or olive oil. Purchase a few carefully chosen spices that are good all rounders, such as black pepper and mixed herbs. These will allow you to add favour to your dishes without requiring a full spice cupbpard to store them in!

Buy veg individually and focus on carbs Purchasing your vegetables individually will keep costs low. Buying just one or two carrots every week as opposed to a pack will mean that less food is wasted and also less money. I do this will all my vegetables, and usually only pay a few pence per item. You’ll already know exactly how many of each vegetable you will need thanks to your meal plan, so stick to it and don’t get carried away buying 3 for 2 cauliflowers when you know you’re only going to eat one. Opting for veg instead of fruit is also a great way of eating your five a day whilst on a budget; it’s cheaper and can be used to make several different dishes. Focusing on carbs such as rice and pasta is also a good way of maintaining a healthy diet while on a student budget. You can purchase a kilo bag of pasta for just a few quid, and it will be a great foundation for so many meal possibilities! The same goes for rice; open up your mind to curries, chilli and risotto, all using the same main vegetables, of course.

Learn the lifetimes of your groceries This is something that you will get to grips with within your first two weeks of moving away, though you probably won’t have given it much thought before. Think about it, if you live in a house with four people and you all drink milk, you’ve probably never seen that milk go off before, seeing as you all drink it daily. But if you go and buy yourself a 4 pint of milk just for you, you’re probably not going to drink it all before it sours. The same goes for your eggs, fruit, veg and meat. Learn the lifetime of your food! Once you know how long things will last, you can evaluate if its worth you buying 12 eggs or 6, and if its really worth buying a full pack of bacon just for you.

Make in bulk I have to be honest with you, I don’t freeze food. I wish I was more confident with that, but it’s just not something I’ve ever done. I do still, however, make food in bulk. Cooking for just yourself is strange, you’re dealing with much smaller portion sizes that will probably only require, like, a quarter of a pepper or something. I make things like veggie chilli and pasta salad and keep these in the fridge in tupperware for about three days. This means that I can still use full vegetables when I cook, and it gives me some really quick and easy no-cook meals later on in the week! To avoid getting bored of eating chilli three nights in a row, I’ll mix it up by serving it with rice one day, sweet potato another day and maybe tacos on the third day. But, of course, if you don’t fancy eating that much of the same thing and you’re comfortable freezing your food, by all means, go for it!

Buy the cheaper brands– OK, so I know this is probably not the piece of advice that you wanted to hear. You like your Heinz tomato ketchup and your Kellogg’s cornflakes, I get it. But cutting down costs does means that you have to make some sacrifices. I’m not saying you have to give up everything; decide which brands you cannot live with out and which ones you’re open to change with. I don’t like cheap baked beans as much as Heinz baked beans, so I still buy Heinz. But I purchase the supermarket’s own brand of bolognese sauce and honey. Making these decisions and being open to trying new brands really will cut down your weekly spending.

There you have it guys, my top 5 tips to help you save money and live healthily on a low budget. Going from living at home to managing your own finances at university can be challenging, and daunting for some, but with these top tips I guarantee that things will be a little easier.

So remember: implement your meal plan and stick to it, don’t buy perishable items in bulk, learn the lifetimes of your groceries, make large batches of food for the fridge or freezer, and be open to making sacrifices.

I hope that you’ve found this helpful, whether you be a student or simply looking for a way to cut down your weekly spending!

If you would like any more advice on food shopping on a low budget, or anything else for student life, please get in touch in the comments! You can also check out my other post on student life, Packing for university, here

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

Gingerbread House Recipe/ Welcoming in the New Year

Homemade gingerbread house- perfect for celebrations over Christmas and New Year.

Hi guys! I hope you all had a magical Christmas and are now eagerly looking forward to the New Year and anticipating what 2018 will bring you. I am pleased to say that a great Christmas was had by all in the Smith household; though a somewhat smaller affair than previous years, we had a wonderful time playing games, eating good food and enjoying each other’s company. Despite the obligatory workload that I must tackle before my return to university, I have been thoroughly enjoying my increase in free time, and have spent many a day in the company of Jason and my family. I will be sad to return to Lancaster in January.

Homemade gingerbread house- perfect for celebrations over Christmas and New Year.

But the holiday season is not over yet! Something that I have come to notice as I have gotten older is that I can continue to enjoy the festivities of the holidays even after Christmas Day has been and gone. Being 20 means that I can enjoy welcoming in the New Year more than I did when I was a kid, and I’m full of excitement now that Jason and I have begun our holiday search for 2018.

Make your own gingerbread house with this super tasty recipe!

So with the festive season in mind, today I bring you my homemade gingerbread house recipe. This was the third year in a row that I tackled baking my own gingerbread house from scratch. When I was younger, I used to get the kits with ready made gingerbread pieces, so that all you had to do was assemble and decorate the house. Now that I’m older and have developed more confidence in the kitchen (and my mum’s developed more confidence in my cleaning up the kitchen abilities!), I love to bake the gingerbread for the house myself.

Homemade gingerbread house- perfect for celebrations over Christmas and New Year.

It’s no small feat; making and rolling out the dough for this bad boy will take you a good few hours- let alone the hours spent icing it- but I think it’s totally worth it. I am never more proud of a bake than I am of my gingerbread houses. There’s something incredibly satisfying about not only achieving baked to perfection gingerbread, but also achieving a minor structural engineering feat while you’re at it. Plus, decorating gingerbread houses is a thoroughly enjoyable activity. I spent my Christmas Eve icing and adding all the sweets to my house, before settling down to watch a Christmas movie with the family; a suitably festive activity in my opinion.

Be the envy of your friends with this homemade gingerbread house recipe!

The original recipe that I used for this house is from the queen of British baking herself, Mary Berry (find the original recipe here!). Truth be told, this isn’t the tastiest gingerbread that I bake (at least in my opinion). If you’re looking for soft, spiced gingerbread cookies, you should check out my best gingerbread man recipe! But of course, seeing as you will be constructing a house out of your gingerbread, you need it to be a little harder than these and more structurally sound! Unlike my favourite gingerbread recipe, this recipe doesn’t contain an egg, making it a little firmer when baked. And don’t get me wrong, it still tastes really good!

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Recipe (original recipe from Mary Berry, on the BBC Good Food website):

Ingredients:

For the gingerbread: (Find the template here!)

  • 375g/13oz unsalted butter
  • 300g/10½oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 150g/5½oz golden syrup
  • 900g/2lb plain flour
  • 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger

For the icing:

  • 3 free-range egg whites
  • 675g/1½lb icing sugar, sifted

To decorate:

  • 15 boiled sweets. I like to use a variety of colours!
  • 1 x 30cm/12in square cake board, or the back of a baking tray I as used
  • 200g/7oz giant milk chocolate buttons
  • A battery powered candle to go inside, or a small string of fairy lights

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (fan 180C).

  2. Begin by melting your butter, sugar and syrup together in a large pan.
  3. In a bowl, sieve your flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger, and combine. Make a well in the centre, and pour in your syrup mixture.
  4. Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, knead it together to form a dough. Divide this dough into five evenly sized pieces, before cutting one of these pieces in half, so that you have six pieces in total.
  5. Roll each piece out on a sheet of greaseproof paper, until it is about 3/4cm/1/3″ thick. Using the template (linked above), cut out the pieces for the walls, roof and front and back of your house. Top tip for ensuring a well cut out house: “Use a ruler and the rim of a cup to cut out the arched windows on the front and sides of the house. Using a star cutter, cut out a star in the front and back of the house.”
  6. Roll out the left over dough so that you can cut out your chimney and two trees. Bake your gingerbread for 7-8 minutes.
  7. While this is baking, place your sweets in a plastic sandwich bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they are a rough sand texture. Alternatively, if bashing things with a rolling pin isn’t your jam, you could use a pestle and mortar for this.
  8. Remove the gingerbread from the oven. Re-trim the sides of your pieces and the windows using a knife if your gingerbread has spread a little. Sprinkle the crushed sweets into the windows, before popping the gingerbread back in the oven to bake for a further 3-4 minutes.
  9. Remove your gingerbread from the oven and leave to cool on the baking trays for a few minutes, before trimming around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges. Leave to cool completely.
  10. Now you can make your icing! Whisk your egg whites until frothy. Start to add one spoonful of icing sugar at a time as you continue to whisk. Continue until all of your icing sugar has been mixed in- it will be a very firm icing texture. If you’re not using your icing straight away, cover it with a damp towel.

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To construct your house:

  1. Spread icing onto your cake board/ baking tray that you will constructing your house on.
  2. On the back of the front piece of your house, pipe a thick line of icing along the two sides. This is where you will attach the side walls of your house. Now pipe a thick line of icing on the cake board, where you wish to position the front of your house, followed by two lines of icing where you will position the sides of your house. Place the base of the front of your house on this line of icing. Holding the front of your house in place, attach one side of the house, followed by the other. Add the back piece of your house, followed by the roof.
  3. Leave your house to dry for a minimum of four hours, but preferably over night, before decorating!
  4. Decorate your house as you wish- this is the fun part! I love to ’tile’ the roof using chocolate buttons, I think this looks great. Add sweets and ice as you wish, before dusting in icing sugar! Pop your candle or fairy light through the door of your house and watch as your windows light up!

There you have it guys! I hope you enjoyed this gingerbread house recipe- be sure to let me know how it goes if you try recreating it! Don’t feel daunted by making your own gingerbread house if you’ve never tried it before. I know it looks like it may be tricky, but this is actually pretty simple to do! 

If you’d like any help or advice in recreating your own house, please don’t hesitate to get in touch- I’d be happy to assist!

That’s all from me today folks!

Thank you to each and every one of you for all of your comments, likes and support throughout 2017. I wish you all the best for the New Year. 

Maddie x

The Best Gingerbread Men

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Hello you lovely people! How are we all today? Running around like crazy people trying to purchase the last of the Christmas presents? Same! Today has been hectic. I’m trying my best not to be too hard on myself for the fact that I’ve left everything to the last minute, but I am still cursing myself for not starting in July. Eh well, there’s always next year.

I have sooo much baking planned for this week- first up, my favourite gingerbread men! Baking gingerbread men has become somewhat of a tradition for me during the week leading up to Christmas. The first time I tried making my own gingerbread men was way back when I was in year nine at high school (so back when I was 14- that’s six years ago!). Pleasantly surprising myself with the result, several of my friend’s ended up receiving gingerbread men that year. And so it became a yearly tradition for me.

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This recipe gives the tastiest, soft spiced gingerbread men that I’ve ever had. I’ve tried a few different methods of making gingerbread over the years (I also like to make a yearly gingerbread house, which requires a slightly harder textured gingerbread), and I can safely say that this is my favourite to eat! With just the right amount of ginger and cinnamon, and a wonderful soft texture, these gingerbread men are the perfect little festive treats for all the family. Plus, they fill your home with the BEST Christmas smell.

In short, if you leave these out for Santa, you’re sure to be put on the nice list!

Fancy making your own? Find my recipe below!

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbs golden syrup
  • 75g dark soft brown sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg

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Method:

  1. Begin by greasing two baking trays and preheating your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas mark 4.
  2. Melt your butter, sugar and syrup in a pan, stirring continuously as you do so.
  3. Once your butter and sugar mixture has melted, combine your dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a small well in the middle and pour in the syrup mixture. Stir well.
  4. Beat your egg before adding it to the mixture. Combine well. The mixture will be incredibly sticky at this point- don’t worry! That’s what we want!
  5. Leave the mixture to rest for ten minutes.
  6. Once the mixture has rested, roll it out on a floured surface to about 1cm thick. Cut out your gingerbread men! The cookie cutter I used for my men was approx 13cmx10cm, with my stars being about 4cmx4cm. Place your cut out shapes on a baking tray and pop them in the oven. If you’re using a cookie cutter the same size as mine for your men, they will need 12-15 minutes in the oven. My smaller star and tree cookies take between 8-10 minutes to cook.
  7. When ready to come out of the oven, the gingerbread will still feel soft to touch, but they will look nicely baked on the surface and the edges may be starting to darken ever so slightly. Remove them from the oven and leave to rest on the baking tray for five minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool. P1240180.jpg

Once cooled, you can ice your gingerbread like mine, or maybe melt some chocolate to drizzle over! Maybe add a bit of lemon juice to your icing to spice things up a bit. For my icing I mixed a little amount of egg white with some icing sugar for a firm consistency before outlining my gingerbread shapes. I’m afraid I don’t have measurements for this- I sort of just see how it goes! But if you do wish to do the same as me, sieve a small amount of icing sugar into a bowl before gradually adding egg white. Don’t add too much egg white, otherwise the icing will turn out far too runny!

That’s it from me today guys, I hope you enjoyed this post! What are you up to this week leading up to Christmas?

I hope you’re all having wonderful days, and best wishes to each and every one of you,

Maddie x

Christmas stocking DIY

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Hello! One week today until Christmas; are we all excited?! I’m back home from university and fully getting into the festive swing of things. Following a wonderful (but cold!) Friday night spent with Jason at the Manchester Christmas markets (featuring food, mulled wine, and more food), I’ve spent the weekend watching Christmas movies with the family.

I like to think that I am an incredibly organised person. I always have my coursework ready to hand in the day before it’s due, and I plan my meals for the week way in advance- but somehow this Christmas has completely sneaked up on me and I am feeling totally unprepared! I’ve still got a shed load of Christmas making and baking that I want to do- that was today’s job!- and I haven’t even finished my Christmas shopping yet! I still need to make some Christmas cards too. In short, I’m exhausted. But thoroughly enjoying myself.

Today I bring you one of the few Christmas projects that I made well in advance of December! I actually made this Christmas stocking back in September, before I’d even started my second year of uni! Now, one term in and one week away from the special day itself, I finally got around to getting it up on the blog for you all to see!

I love this stocking! It took very little time to make and I think it turned out looking great. It was a pretty easy sewing project, great for beginners as you get to practise two different types of machine stitching.

For this project you will need:

  • Approx 1/2m of fabric for the body of the stocking. (I decided to use a different fabric for the front and the back of my stocking because I couldn’t decide which I preferred- haha!).
  • A contrasting white fabric for the top of the stocking
  • A contrasting Christmas fabric for your initial
  • Matching thread
  • A small piece of ribbon
  • Fabric scissors
  • A sewing machine
  • Greaseproof paper or similar to create a template
  • Chalk
  • Pins

Instructions:

  1. Begin by drawing and cutting out your template. I drew my stocking shape by hand, but if you’re not too confident in your drawing ability you can find plenty of stocking templates and sewing patterns online! If you are drawing yours by hand like I did, remember to include enough fabric for a seam allowance (that is, the fabric that will be inside of the seam once you have sewn the front and back of your stocking together).P1230071
  2. Place your template on the right side of the fabric that you want the main body of your stocking to be made out of. Draw around it using some chalk, before carefully cutting the shape of the front of your stocking out using the fabric scissors. Flip your fabric over so that the right side is now facing away from you, and draw around it once more, before cutting it out to create the back of your stocking. You will now have the front and back of your stocking.
  3. Now create a template for your initial. Again, I drew my M freehand, but you can find plenty of lettering that you can trace online. Place this template on top of the right side of your chosen fabric (that is, with the patterned side of your fabric facing towards you), and draw around it using your chalk before cutting it out.P1230074
  4. Place your initial on the front of your stocking. Once you are happy with the placing, pin it into place. Nows the fun part! Set your sewing machine to a zigzag stitch. You want the zigzag stitch that sews the ‘tightest’ zigzags, so its basically sewing tiny horizontal lines back and forth. This will create the thick, coloured line of thread that you see around my M. Now, carefully begin to sew around your initial using the zigzag stitch. This was actually easier than I had thought it would be, and I didn’t have any issues with the fabric bunching up. Ensure your tension is right, take your time and use lots of pins!P1230078
  5. Once you have sewn all around your initial, you can sew the front and back of your stocking together! Place the front and back together with the right sides of the fabric facing each other (so the two sides of the fabric that you wish to show when the stocking is complete should be facing each other; your initial will be on one of these). Pin around the edge and use a straight machine stitch now to sew all around the edge of your stocking, leaving the top open- you need somewhere for Santa to leave your presents! Once you have done so, trim a couple of small triangles along the seam where the stocking curves (for example, on the toe and heel). These little triangles will prevent the fabric from gathering at the seam when the stocking is turned the right way out.P1230080
  6. Turn your stocking the right way out. Now all that’s left to do is add the cuff! Use a tape measure to measure the circumference of the top of your stocking. Your cuff will have to be the same size as this opening. Add 1″ to whatever the circumference of the stocking measured (this will be for your seam allowance), and now cut a rectangle from your white fabric that is approximately this long and 10″ wide.
  7. Fold the rectangle of fabric in half lengthways (with right sides of fabric facing outwards) to produce a rectangle that is half as wide. Press with an iron to create a nice, sharp fold. Now fold the rectangle in half widthways. Pin along this open end, 1/2″ away from the raw edge. Sew along this line.
  8. Place the cuff inside the top of your stocking, so the raw edge of the cuff is along the raw edge of the stocking (ensure the seam of the cuff is visible at this stage). Create a small loop of ribbon and place it with loop pointing downwards, in between the layer of the stocking and the cuff. Pin around the top of the stocking, pinning the stocking to the cuff and the ribbon into place. If you are unsure around the placing of everything at this stage, try turning your cuff out so that it is on the outside of your stocking. You should have a nice clean seam on the top of your stocking where it meets the cuff, and the seam of your cuff should now be inside.P1230087
  9. Once you are sure you have pinned everything correctly, machine stitch along the top of your stocking where you have pinned. You can now turn the cuff out, so that it is on the outside of your stocking and all your rough edges are hidden inside!
  10. Ta da. A stocking so good, Santa would be proud.

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I hope you enjoyed this sewing project today guys, its been a while since I did a sewing DIY on the blog. Would you be interested in seeing some more? Let me know!

That’s all from me today, I hope you’re all having a wonderful day/evening, wherever you may be in the world!

Best wishes,

Maddie x

Homemade Chocolate Bark- a super easy gift idea!

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Hello you lovely people! How are we doing? I’m feeling full of festive cheer and excitement today, as my parents are coming to pick me up from university tomorrow and bring me home for Christmas! I am soooo excited to go back home and spend time with my family and friends; this whole festive period is my favourite time of year, and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather celebrate it other than back in my home town.

When this post goes up, I’ll be out enjoying an early Christmas dinner here in Lancaster with some friends from my course at university. Seeing as few of us get the chance to see each other over the holidays, it’s really nice to be able to celebrate Christmas early together.

As a little ‘thank you’ to my friends for all the good times we’ve had in 2017, I decided to make some small individual treat bags for each of them, filled with some homemade chocolate bark.

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This chocolate bark was so easy to make, and I think it turned out looking really cute! I especially love the freeze dried raspberry pieces on the white chocolate bark- I love the flash of red it adds! I decided to keep it pretty simple with flavourings with this chocolate bark, seeing as there was going to be nine guests for Christmas dinner and I wanted something that everyone would enjoy.

In the end, I opted for a milk chocolate bark with fudge pieces, mini marshmallows and golden sugar stars to keep it seasonal, and a white chocolate bark with freeze-dried raspberry and fudge. I drizzled both with some melted dark chocolate to make it look super classy 😉

I think this would make a great gift idea for work colleagues, or to take to a dinner party! I popped some pieces of bark in clear plastic bags, and finished them off with some ribbon. All in all, making the bark took well under ten minutes (excluding cooling time of course!) and I think it turned out looking great. Fancy making your own? Find my method below!

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Ingredients:

  • Chocolate! The amount depends on the amount of chocolate bark you wish to make. I used a 200g bar of milk chocolate and a 200g bar of white chocolate. This made sufficient bark for eight people.
  • Toppings! I used freeze dried raspberries, fudge pieces, golden stars and mini marshmallows, but use whatever you fancy! I definitely want to try making me more with peanut butter next time!
  • Chocolate in contrasting colour for drizzling (optional).

Method:

  1. Line two baking trays with kitchen foil. (One for milk chocolate, one for white).
  2. Break your chocolate into two microwavable bowls. Pop each bowl in the microwave for one and a half minutes, take out and stir your chocolate, before putting it back in for another minute. Repeat this as necessary until the chocolate is melted.
  3. Pour your chocolate onto your baking trays, slowly. This stops the chocolate from spreading out too much and keeps your bark thick. If your chocolate doesn’t spread out as much as you’d like on its own, smooth it out with the back of a spoon.
  4. Add your toppings! Sprinkle on whatever you fancy. You could optionally drizzle some melted chocolate in another colour over the top of your toppings like I did for extra style points.
  5. Pop your baking trays in the fridge for a couple of hours or until the chocolate is set.
  6. Remove your bark from the baking tray and break into pieces ready for serving. Ta da!

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I love how quick and easy this recipe is (if you can even call it a recipe!), and it’s so easily adaptable too! Mix it up by adding nuts or dried fruit, or maybe your favourite toffees on the top!

I hope you enjoyed this post guys, and I hope you’re all having wonderful weeks! What have you been making recently? Let me know in the comments! 

As always, best wishes to each and every one of you,

Maddie x