Thursday, December 23, 2010

cookies, tea towels and lights

Yay! I made some Christmas Cookies! I don't know when was the last time I made some. J. isn't that big on sweets and I usually go straight for pure chocolate ...

These are the Christmas Chocolate biscuits from Nigella Christmas and I used Dr. Oetker sprinkles. The look really pretty in their clumsy way and taste great!

I also did some last-minute sewing. This is another tea towel with machine-appliquéd hearts. The idea and heart pattern comes from Cath Kidston's Sew! (I just looked at the Cath Kidston homepage and how cute are these candles?!)

I like the combination of the plaid and the two prints. Really pretty! Christmassy, but not too much so, so it can be used all year round - I hope.

It's been quite busy around here, but as you can see, I'm trying to cram in all I can before the Season is over!!! Yesterday we finally got around to decorating the tree.

I wish you all a very festive Season, Happy Holidays and all the best for you and your loved ones!

Friday, December 17, 2010

More kitchen-themed gifts

Remember these? I decided to embroider some tea towels to go with the spices to make a nice kitchen-themed set. As to other things to possibly go in such a set, I was thinking along the lines of these and this.

For the first two towels here I used Pleasant Kitchen Dishtowels designs by Alicia Paulson. The towels are from Ikea.

For this one I used a design from Decorative Embroidery which I borrowed from the library. It's a really good book for beginners, I think, and contains lots of pretty but simple patterns and ideas.

Love this central heart! I want to make more of these, they are so beautiful and fun. Also, the heart design gives many opportunities to try different colour combinations. Maybe some pillow covers with this design?

Since the jars of spices are a bit difficult to pack as presents, I covered a paper bag from one of my favourite little shops here in Helsinki with a page torn out of Kotiliesi magazine. Kotiliesi dates back to 1922 and the website claims that it was Finland's first women's and home magazine. The name means something like "hearth of the home" and I wasn't really attracted by the name. Luckily, my mother-in-law always gives me her old magazines and I now I really think that Kotiliesi is the best Finnish magazine in this category. There are always beautiful food spreads and table setting suggestions. Also, there are nice home stories and interviews. It's the perfect magazine the relax with, especially in winter.

There are still so many things I'd like to make before Christmas, but so little time. I guess I'll have to shorten my list ...

Have a great weekend!!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

10 Favourite Christmastime Movies

The Christmas mood is going on strong around here. Yesterday I went to see The Nutcracker at the Helsinki Opera House and it was a really beautiful production. I'd never seen this ballet before and I liked it a lot. In addition to that, it snowed so much here that today the roofs have to be cleared from snow to avoid any structural damage or accidents. So you can imagine, that I'm in a cozy mood and all I'd like to do is watch movies, drink hot beverages and do some crafting (a little work in progress sneak peek up there ...) Alas, I have to go to work in the afternoon, but that didn't stop me from making a list of movies I like to watch during this time:

Elf (Will Ferrell at his best!)

The Muppet Christmas Carol (A classic!)

The Ref (funny and mean family comedy with a brilliant Kevin Spacey ...)

Groundhog Day (this cheers me up whatever the season ...)

Three Wishes for Cinderella
(this is always shown on German TV at Christmastime, such a beautiful fairy tale movie!)

Ronja Robbersdaughter (a beautiful film based on a book by one of my favourite writers ...)

Pride & Prejudice
(Jane Austen starring Colin Firth, what more do you need ...)

Die Hard (the perfect action film for Christmastime ... Bruce Willis + Alan Rickman = great!)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (love the animation, love the songs)

Mary Poppins (great songs and my childhood crush Dick Van Dyke)

What are your favourite Christmastime movies?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sugar & Spice

Since moving to Finland, I think I understand the importance of Christmas much better. I'm not talking about religious references and meaning now, rather about the fact, that in the midst of this dark and cold wintertime we all need something to look forward to. At least for me, it's energizing and motivating to plan for Christmas, or even just dream about what kind of food we could have, how to decorate the apartment and what kinds of crafts to make and Christmas cards to send.

One of my favourite companions during these daydreams has been this:

(picture via

It really is a great book packed full of food, Nigella's cooking philosophy, decorating ideas and beautiful pictures. I'm aware that not every body is a great fan of Nigella's, but I am and I think this book is one of her best. Although I love the sparseness and simple photography of Feast, this one is just perfect for Christmas with all its eye candy. (The cover shown above makes me wonder if its digitally remastered, though ... On my version Nigella is holding a tray of oven potatoes, much more fitting, I think ...)

One of my favourite sections of the book is the one about edible presents. So this year I decided to follow some of the instructions. First, I made the Christmas-Spiced Salt, because it is easy to prepare, looks pretty and will last long.

I added some ribbon and some cute Cath Kidston stickers and it looks really cute, I think. I made five jars of this. The great thing about this is also, that one could easily come up with recipes of one's own and mix in spices according to one's own taste (or cupboard contents ...).

I also made the Vanilla Sugar, for the same reasons as above.

These jars are a bit bigger, I made three of them and because they are so pretty already, kept the decoration to a minimum. Now I'm thinking about what I could make next. I'd like to try some steeped fruits and also spiced olive oil. Some biscotti presented with a bottle of dessert wine would also be a nice present, I think. What I like about these presents is that I can prepare them in advance at my own pace at home. I think the preparation for Christmas is more than half the fun and this year these presents are part of it.

Another part, of course, is decorating. In our house the rule is that the Christmas decorations can come out on the first Advent Sunday, so this Sunday we started to decorate and will add the rest of our ornaments little by little.

I'm also working on adding to our inventory by making these. So much fun, but really slow going!

The village above was a present to us by my father-in-law some years ago. I think it's this one. Anyway, the manufacturer is Konstsmide. It has two light settings, one is a dim glow and the other a technicolor blinking riot. It rocks!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fabric escapism

After I made this for my friend, I wanted a wristlet for myself and I came up with this. Since J. and I got engaged and spent our honeymoon in Paris I'm a sucker for all those whimsical Paris-themed fabrics out there. The one I used here is a linen print by Kokka.

I decided to stick to the colours of the tricolore and use scraps from my stash with this print that have a vintage or rustic feel. I love that mock cross-stitch print in the top left corner! It's from the Sew It Book Collection by Red Rooster. I'm newly interested in cross-stitch and embroidery, not least because of Alicia Paulson's amazing new book.

As you can see in the pictures, it's winter here, although people are still officially talking about "autumn". It's great that it snowed, because of the snow it's not as dark as it would be otherwise. What better antidote to the darkness and cold than pretty fabrics, some sewing and daydreaming of Paris?!

The handy inside pockets are really cute. I love that blue flower print as well. A late friend of my grandmother's gave me a lot of her patchwork supplies and fabric scraps some years ago. She was a great fan of the colour blue and the scraps are all very lovely and old-fashioned in the best sense. It's strange and wonderful to think how fabrics and sewing can connect people in a unique way. I didn't really meet this woman very often or know her very well, but she knew I was interested in patchwork and that was enough for her to be so generous. Now her fabrics are a part of my little projects and they make me think of her.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Dress

So my cousin and my father-in-law came to the rescue and here are some pics of the dress! Sorry, there is only one a bit poor picture of the whole length, but at least the picture shows you the nice weather we had ...! ;-)

My good friend and namesake Eva made me jewelry for the wedding. I hope she can find it in her heart to forgive me for customizing it into hair ornaments! (Bridezilla alert!!!)

More facts about the dress: the pattern is from Burda magazine 4/2009 and I used 3.8 metres of polyester duchesse satin and 90 cm of guipure lace. Plus 3.15 metres of viscose lining and an 60 cm invisible zipper. And thread, of course.

My biggest concerns regarding making the dress were the slippery nature of the satin, the sewing of the lace and the invisible zipper. The satin was easier to sew than expected. I had a sufficient amount of notches and also pinned the pieces together at critical points for more precise construction. The problem I had with the fabric was more linked to ironing, my puny household iron wasn't able to open the seams at the required low temperature, so I decided to invest in having it ironed at the dry cleaners, who did a great job.

The lace was also easier to handle than expected. I found that all you have to do is to fearlessly sew across the "empty spaces" and you'll be fine. I finished the seam allowances of the lace with a narrow zig-zag stitch.

The invisible zipper is always a bit of a challenge and I was afraid the satin would make it even more fiddly to insert. So I decided to prepare for it extra carefully. What I did was hand-baste along the centre back seamline and then iron it to the wrong side. Like that you can easily see the line along which the zipper is supposed to be sewn. Also, I ironed the zipper from the wrong side. Like this, the "ditch" you have to sew in to precisely insert the zipper is becoming more pronounced and the zipper application is a bit easier. Attaching the zipper I used the invisible zipper foot of my machine. Other things that help with zipper application are basting or pinning. With invisible zippers I prefer basting. Here's a video I found about this topic. If the zipper foot compatible with your machine looks like the one in the video, you're in luck! We had the same kind in school, but the one belonging to my machine is much more fiddly.

Here's what the dress looked like in the magazine. In this picture you can see the hem, which I think is really pretty. I also can tell you why the models have placed their hands in front of the photostory bride's belly: SERIOUS Bridget-Jones-style underpinnings required. No, not the ones with the leopard print ...

There's some more wedding-related things I wanted to show you. First, the bouquet, which turned out exactly the way I had imagined it:

It was so beautiful! My grandmother had it dried and now it's in Germany decorating the guest bedroom.

Here's J.'s matching lapel corsage:

AND: the amazing wedding cake my mother's friends made:

It was three-tiered and very yummy!

Thank you for your patience and excuse me for taking so long with this!!! I hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mrs. Tease

So here I am, back in the internets! I'm sorry for being such a tease, and I'm afraid that you'll have to wait for a little bit longer to see pictures of the dress! Sorry!!!!!! As you can imagine, being the bride and all, I didn't really have the chance (nor was it the foremost thing on my mind) to take pictures of the dress, so I'm waiting for our friends' and family's pics to slowly arrive here to see if there's a good pic in there for you!

In the meantime, I'm hoping to be able to appease you a little with pictures of the beautiful decorations my grandma made for the dinner we had after our civil service ceremony.

In Germany it's obligatory to have a civil service ceremony, a church ceremony isn't possible without the marriage certificate from the magistrate. So, if you intend to have a church wedding in Germany, prepare for two ceremonies!

The civil service ceremony was held in a tiny old church that is nowadays owned by the magistrate and it was really beautiful. Only our closest family plus my maid of honour's family were present. In the evening we had dinner at my father's house, and my cousins and their families joined us there. We were 23 people and had a really nice time with rustic food from my home region. My aunt, grandma, cousins and uncle helped us prepare the food and the decorations for the evening. The room you can see there used to be a pub, my family had a little pub business until 17 years ago.

I'm really glad I took these pictures! My grandma really did such an amazing job!

Hope to be back soon with more pics!

Friday, October 8, 2010

tiny sneak peek of a big project

The scrap you can see above is from the lace I used for my wedding dress. We are getting married next Saturday and after giving it a considerable amount of thought, I decided to make my dress myself.

When we got engaged, a lot of people asked me if I was going to sew my own dress since I was training to become a dressmaker. My first reaction was that I wouldn't. I felt that it would be too much pressure. Me being a perfectionist in these things and all the other things that have to be organized for a wedding seemed to speak strongly against it. Also, there's the superstition in Finland that it's bad luck to make your own wedding dress. (I'm sure, though, that this originates from a clever marketing ruse of dressmakers and tailors of yore. Also, I'm not Finnish.) But then ...

... I saw a picture in a Burda magazine from the library. And got to thinking about how hard it would be to find a similar dress off the rack and how comparatively easy it would be for me to make it. And how little enthusiasm I had for scouting around various bridal wear shops in Helsinki without ever finding anything that I would like as much as the dress in the magazine.

So, I decided to make it myself after all. It's finished now and I'm (after one minor crisis) happy with the outcome. My good friend from school helped me with the fitting and gave design support when I wasn't sure about what to do. I'm glad I didn't have to make all the decisions on my own, but had someone to support me. As I'm trying to keep the dress a surprise for J, I won't show you a picture, yet. My friend said, the dress really looks like "me" and I feel comfortable in it (as opposed to "in disguise"), so I think that's a major point of success!

I'm already in Germany to get some last preparations on the way. Please cross all your fingers and toes for us! I'm already having nightmares of there being no food and such ... :-o ;-)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


This shirt is for my friend's little boy and looks great worn as a layering piece over a long-sleeved T-shirt for autumn.

I used two of my fiancé's old shirts for this. They were too worn at the collars & cuffs to be used at work, but apart from that still in good shape. The cool thing about this is that you don't have to bother with button holes and attaching buttons, since you can use the existing ones of the shirts!

I couldn't be bothered with a collar, either. Also, I think this bias edge looks much more relaxed and in synch with the mix of materials here. It's supposed to be a fun shirt for every day, so no fussy collars disturbing playtime.

I used a basic children's shirt pattern and made half-sleeves. Also I made a yoke which is cut on the bias to add further interest.

I like the pleats in the back, as well. Of course, you could also make something similar using only one old men's shirt. It's good to see this nice fabric getting a new lease of live!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Meet Herman!

This is Herman the Sock Monkey and made from two red heel socks like the ones in this post. I followed the instructions included with the socks and making him really wasn't difficult. I liked that the outcome and character of the monkey are all the time a bit of a surprise. Every little detail can influence the personality of the monkey like what kind of eyes you choose or how its mouth is going to look like. It is also a nice way of venturing into the new territory of making stuffies.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Some small sewing

It's my good friend Dana's birthday next week and I put a little package together to send to her. She and her boyfriend visited us here in Helsinki in August, so I decided that the items in it should follow a Finland theme.

I made her a pretty patchwork wristlet following the Pink Penguin's fun tutorial. I arranged the fabrics so that the panels represent the Finnish flag.

The fabrics I used were mostly scraps from my stash, some of them given to me by a friend of my grandmother's. The patterns are all so pretty!

The vintage zipper came from my mother's sewing box. Love the hardware!

I decided to quilt the patchwork panel and batting (I used one layer of flannel here) together with zigzag stitch and I love the look of it!

Cute little loop!

I took these pictures yesterday and today the weather is even greyer, so I won't even attempt to take pictures of the other goodies in the package. But here's a list with links: a tea towel with Finland-themed design (the bigger blue one), the best crushed cardamom for making Finnish pulla, some shop-bought mini pulla for those days one can't be bothered to start baking, some chocolate filled with salmiak (here's a pic in a Finnish review) and some delicious autumn tea. All things you cannot easily get in Germany or elsewhere except Finland. I'm really happy with this package and I hope it arrives safely and well in time for my friend's birthday.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I guess, I'll be multi-tasking this autumn ...

Forgive me the slightly forced title! It was too silly to resist ...!

Yes, this bag is made with Anna Maria Horner's Multi-Tasker Tote pattern. I know ... I think she has been responsible for 90% of my sewing output and inspiration this year! I'm really looking forward to her gorgeous new collection, but honestly, I think I could keep going for another year on her Little Folks collection alone ...

The fabrics I used are from Finnish brand Marimekko. I bought them in a sale they had a couple of years ago, because I liked the prints and colours. I didn't really know what to do with them, though, until I saw the Multi-Tasker Tote pattern and then everything was clear! The main tote fabric is a sturdy cotton as used for instance in curtains or tablecloths and the print is Tilkkula by Erja Hirvi. The lining fabric is a cotton satin weave with the classic Puketti print by Annika Rimala.

The tote pattern and instructions were very clear and everything came together nicely. I really enjoyed working with this kind of pattern, for a change. I'm usually using European patterns from magazines where you have to trace (sometimes even scale) the patterns and there are only quite meagre written instructions. This was really almost mindless sewing. And very relaxing. You simply cut out the pattern, the instructions clearly telling you at every step what to do. Plus there are how-to pictures for a lot of the steps! Definitely worth the money.

Well, the title isn't only silly, it's also true ... I have a lot of projects I want, have or have promised to do. At times it is slightly overwhelming, because (as probably many crafters know) just when you really don't have time for it, inspiration strikes. I feel like the more projects I'm taking on and the more I make, the more ideas I get, which would be great, if only I wasn't so impatient! :-P At the moment one big project is on the forefront, I've been working on it for a bit and it's already in a good stage of completion. I'll tell you more about it, soon.

After I finish that, there's an even bigger project waiting for me which I'm really excited about, but also intimidated by. I'll also tell you about that one, once the time is right. Well, I guess everybody knows about craft anxiety and the dilemma that the project at hand keeps you from all the other 1000 ideas you have. And the feeling that you would like to rush through things to finish everything right now, but you know that rushing is no good ... I guess it's good to take some little breaks from big projects once in a while and do something just for fun. Like this great tote!

Boxed corners are cool! :-)