Category: Christmas

Santa’s print shop

On the first day of December it feels a little rude to not present you with a Christmas post. I’m a huge fan of the festive season, so you’re lucky I held back as long as I did.

Last year I was meandering around a craft fair and spotted a lino print stall. Now I tried lino printing at secondary school, and it made me a bit cross. I am a big fan of precision and this craft definitely comes with a dollop of ‘rustic handmade’.

This was my first bash at lino cutting and printing since the age of 14 I figure the extra years of ‘get over yourself’ and the added dexterity contributed significantly to making this a very satisfying little project.

You do need a little more ‘specialist’ equipment this time than usual, but you can set yourself up relatively cheaply with the kit. I used a combo of Amazon and Handprinted.


You will need

Ink tray

Ink brayer


Lino cutter (preferably with a choice of blades)

Greeting card blanks

Soft cut lino sheets (the size of your card blanks)

Tracing paper or greaseproof


Step one

Draw around the outside of your sheet of lino so you don’t make your design too big.

Sketch out a word/picture. For your first cut I would avoid anything too intricate or with lots of corners. I went with letters in the end so I could cover up mistakes if I went wrong… I figured a lopsided squinty eyed penguin might just look a bit sad.


Step two

This is not essential but I outlined the design to make it easier to trace. This also helps neaten out/correct any mistakes.


Step three

Tape a piece of tracing paper or greaseproof to your design and draw over quite firmly in pencil.


Step four

Place the traced image upside-down on your lino tile, so that the pencil marks you just made are touching the surface, not facing out.

Scribble over the top to transfer the image to the tile. Be careful to use pressure without being too forceful otherwise you might make an indent on the lino that you don’t want.

NB: As an alternative to steps 1-4 you might prefer to draw straight onto the tile. However, again, be careful not to press too hard with the pencil and remember that your design will be reversed when printed, so any lettering needs to be back to front.


Step five

Place the lino in the middle of a chopping board. Nobody needs to go gouging any holes in their dining room table under my instruction thank you very much.

Using one of the wide cutters (labelled #10 in my pack) remove as much background space as you can. I started by making a gutter around my letters to avoid accidentally slipping into them.

My lino cutting skills leave a lot to be desired, but I’ll get better and so will you. Try not to worry too much if you accidentally cut something you’re not meant to.


Step six

Using a blade with a deeper and narrower u shape (I think this was #9) refine the edges around your design, ensuring there’s a fair bit of depth around them.


Step seven

Using an even finer, deeper v shaped blade (#2 was my choice) cut out any details. Doing things in this order enables you to practice a bit before working on the finer aspects of your design.


Step eight

Ink up your tray using a small splodge of ink and your brayer. You need less than you’d think so don’t over do it.

Roll the brayer back and forth until the ink looks like a smooth velvet. You’ll know it when you get there.


Step nine

Ink up your stamp by rolling the brayer back and forth. This took a bit more encouragement first time when the block was dry.

You can use the cutting tool to go back into the design where there’s ink and there’s not meant to be. I did that, and also lazily chopped a few corners off with scissors. Alternatively you can wipe excess ink with kitchen towel or even leave it there for that handmade look (which is pretty much unavoidable anyway).


Step ten

Firmly press your stamp onto the surface of a blank greetings card or your chosen back drop. I paid particular attention to pushing down the areas I knew there was design. You can always peel it back to take a peek or put a book on top and push on that to ensure an even press.

You could do some prints and frame them as gifts if you don’t fancy cards.


Step eleven

Ink back up and print away to your heart’s content.


Welcome to December everyone!

Count up count down

There’s lots of things happening right now. The first one to mention is that fabrefaction TURNS 1 TODAY! I know, crazy right? I will leave any sentimental ramblings to my new year post, but it seems mad to me that my first little blog about an advent calendar made from egg boxes was only a year ago.

The other major thing that’s happening is that MEGAN IS GETTING MARRIED. In 12 days no less. Gawsh.

In honour of this we had a hen party last weekend in beautiful Bath. For part of the afternoon we had time to kill and every activity we looked up was crazy expensive or not available etc etc. After some deliberation it was suggested that I conjure up something to do.

So in honour of Meg’s wedding, fabrefaction’s birthday, and being as close as we are to December, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use our make shift craft workshop to make an heirloom for Meg and Olly to obligingly hang at Christmas…at least as long as we’re friends…which will be forever, so…

DISCLAIMER: This post isn’t so much the usual step-by-step, more a little inspiration and a few tips along the way.


You will need

These little drawstring bags (or some like them)

24 little pegs (I got mine from Tiger, they’ve got numbered ones at the moment too)

3m ribbon to hang the pegs off

A whole plethora of Christmas themed haberdashery (The Range and Hobbycraft furnished us nicely)

A team of Santa’s little helpers


Now it depends how crazy you are, I rate as ‘very’ on the scale when it comes to craft. Cool kid I know.

Well, I didn’t quite fancy the thought of the hens free styling the numbers because I think a little bit of consistency helps the overall look of this kind of thing. Yes, I did tell them that as an introduction, and yes, I do have problems.

I printed the numbers in a chubby font to begin with using them as a template on felt.


If you don’t trust yourself to hold and cut at the same time turn the numbers upside down and draw round them very lightly. Then you won’t have pen marks when you turn them over. I was a bit heavy handed with the pen at first, so be warned.


I love a little blanket stitch on Christmassy craft. You basically need to put the needle through the felt at the height you want your stitching, and as you pull the thread through catch the loop so that it is held at the top.


Voila. Not fiddly at all. Nope.


If you are cutting regular fabric use pinking shears (the zig zag ones) so it doesn’t fray. Otherwise you may have to hem it all. The alternative if you don’t own pinking shears and don’t want to sew is to use felt, or just chance it with the fraying (but then we can’t be friends).

How cute are those little gingerbread buttons?! It helped to hold them down where I wanted them and half turn the bag inside out to sew.


I found it best to sew any details onto the individual items and then glue them down using a few dabs of PVA. You can be a lot more precise that way.


One down. Twenty three to go. Time to rope in some helpers…


Everyone got involved with the gluing action so don’t be ashamed. I loved little Rudolph with his number 11 antlers.


A few more.


The whole shebang! I love the way this turned out, and now Meg has a keepsake from some of her favourite people.

Thank you for visiting my little space of internets. It’s kept me going all year, here’s to another.


Drip drop

A couple of months ago my lovely housemate got engaged. A couple of weeks ago we celebrated that fact.

I decided I wanted to make some party food. Given that we’re fast approaching Christmas (I mean, it’s the 17th November already, what?) this little series of posts should furnish your party season with delightful nibbles and may double as last minute Christmas present/hostess gifts.

This one falls into the second category, so get online and buy yourself some cellophane bags and a roll of ribbon, your colleagues and your milk man will never have been happier. Well, I hope their lives are better than that, but either way, there won’t be any disappointment, and that’s all anyone’s looking for at Christmas.


Things you need

200g/7 oz White chocolate

200g/7 oz Milk chocolate

200g/7 oz Dark chocolate

Decorations (I used freeze dried raspberries, fudge pieces and pecans)

Cocktail sticks

Piping bags or strong sandwich bags.

Cellophane (from a florist or a craft shop, or you can use greaseproof but the bottoms won’t be shiny)

Food thermometer (ideally)


Step 0.5

Prepare your toppings if they need preparing. I wanted my drops to be quite small so I chopped up my fudge and pecans.


Step one

Now. This is the first time I have actually tempered chocolate. It was easier than I expected and well worth it for the shiny finish. I encourage it. I also encourage the purchase of a thermospatula. I’m not being paid to say that, it’s changed my life (in a small but significant way).

If you’re joining me on the tempering train you need to split the chocolate into a third/two thirds split. Ignore the photo above and just chop it all into big chunks.  I learned as I went with this one.


Step two

Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water; make sure the water isn’t touching the pan.

Add two thirds of the chocolate and allow to melt slowly. Stir occasionally. Mainly so you can feel like you’re doing something productive.

Bring to 45 degrees C and remove from the heat.


Step three

Add the rest of the chocolate and stir until its melted in. Keep stirring until the whole lot has cooled to 28 degrees C.

Step four

Place back on the heat and bring to 32 degree C.

Step five

Take back off the heat and dry the bottom of the bowl with a tea towel. Trust me, you don’t want water in your chocolate.

Step six

Pour into a piping bag.

Don’t trim the end yet. In fact, once you have twisted the opening to close it you should push any chocolate in the tip end back towards the rest, otherwise it will cool and solidify there while you’re tempering the rest.

Step seven

Repeat with the rest of the chocolate.


Step eight

Lay down the cellophane and start piping.

You want to hold the piping bag at a 90 degree angle to the table and squeeze. The chocolate will flood into a lovely little pool.

Add a small blob of another colour on top and swirl about with a cocktail stick to create a marbled effect.


Step nine

Sprinkle your decorations on top.

Some cranberries would go down well for christmas drops, but I was explicitly instructed not to buy any. These freeze dried raspberries looked rather pretty and tasted good too. See children? Compromise isn’t always bad.


Step ten

Keep going until you run out of chocolate/the will to live. But look…so shiny. You did well to temper it, it was worth it after all.


Step eleven

Go forth and make someone’s day.

2014 – The year of the game face

So Christmas has fizzed and New Year has popped. It was back to work for yours truly this morning after a glorious two week break, and boy did the world inside my duvet seem a lot friendlier than the one outside it at 6.30am.

Usually I don’t set much store in New Year, and I’m not the resolution making type – I figure that if you want to do something you just should, whatever the season. However, this year is already panning out to be quite different to the others I have spent on our fair planet, so I hereby christen it ‘the year of the game face’. Not because I expect it to be awful. Quite the opposite actually, but it will be new, and probably quite challenging, so insert game face here, I’m ready for you 2014.

One thing I’m particularly looking forward to is growing this little blog. While I do I would love any comments, ideas or suggestions that you might have. If you like fabrefaction you can add it to your RSS feed, subscribe via email, or follow along with a WordPress account. My next job is to set up Facebook, so keep an eye out for that too.

Oh, and if you make anything from the blog please show me, I just love to see it. Actually…to wrap up the festive season, I have a couple of projects to show you that brought a big smile to my face.

Homemade Advent Calendar

Above is Jane from Newcastle’s version of the Homemade Advent Calendar. Jane sources a different advent calendar for one of her friends every year, such a lovely tradition, I’m very glad I could share a little inspiration!

Below is gorgeous Miss Maija busily beavering away to make her calendar too. Maija lined up all her choccies by type so she didn’t end  up with the same one two days in a row. Great idea Maija, wish I’d thought of that!


Advent Calendar Maija

That’s all for now, Happy New Year!

Mrs Claus’ cocoa

It feels wonderful to be tucked up under a blanket when the wind is wailing and the rain is smashing against the window. But if you don’t have one of these in your hands, you’re missing a trick. Calorie counters, you might as well close your browser window…you are not welcome here.

Prepare your stomachs, this is for people who are serious about chocolate. A perfect treat for little elves to take a break from all the Christmas busy.


Things you need:

(Makes two large or three small cups)

300ml Double cream

350ml Full fat milk (2%)

70g Dark chocolate

50g Milk chocolate

Peppermint extract

Candy cane/mini marshmallows/sprinkles to decorate


Step one:

Chop chocolate finely. I find a bread knife works really well for this, as the serrated edge somehow stops chunks flying all over the place. Put aside in heatproof bowl.

Feel free to adjust the chocolate quantities to your taste. I am not only a chocolate addict but a huge sweet tooth, so I very much orientated the recipe to junkie level.


Step two and a bit:

Put 200ml of the cream, all of the milk, and the peppermint extract in a pan on the lowest heat. About 1/2 a teaspoon of peppermint extract will suffice, anyone particularly keen on mint can also whip some into the topping.

Speaking of topping, a little tip…my pot of cream was 300ml and also had a handy measuring gauge on the side. So I split 200ml into the pan, 100ml in a bowl and then used the pot to measure out the milk, simples. I got mine from Sainsbo’s, not sure if the other supermarkets do the same, but they should. Even if you don’t have this marker, just do it by sight, one third to two thirds. Use same principle for measuring the chocolate, this should be easy, no scales/measuring jugs allowed.

While the cream and milk are slowly heating, use a whisk (preferably electric – don’t burn and unnecessary calories now) to whip the remaining 100ml of cream until it thickens to a ‘dollop-on-top-of-a-hot-chocolate’ consistency.

Now, I didn’t get a photo of this but you need to heat the mixture until little bubbles cover the surface, and the steam sort of dances over it. You’ll know when you get there – I’m not mental. Make sure you stir regularly and try not to let it boil or burn. Be patient, it will pay off.

Step three:

Pour the hot crilk (cream+milk=crilk) onto the chopped chocolate. Stir quickly with hand whisk until all the chocolate is melted. Ladle into mugs.

The mixture should be hot enough, but if you have asbestos mouth, then you might want to pop in the microwave for 20 seconds, or preheat the mugs with boiling water first.


Step four:

It already looks (and tastes) super yummy at this stage, and personally I’m not usually one for whipped cream on my hot chocolate. BUT IT’S CHRISTMAS.

Divide the cream you whipped earlier onto your cocoa, and cover with mini marshmallows and sprinkles (mine were another Sainsbury’s buy), stick in a candy cane stirrer and prepare to enjoy.


(you’re welcome)

Gingerbread architecture: The final frontier

At last, time to decorate.

This is by far the best bit, and your opportunity to hide any blemishes. For me, that was a whacking great crack down the front, the odd broken window pane and some darker than attractive edges. So fill your piping bags, stick on a Christmas film, or phone a good friend using hands-free and enjoy!

There are no steps in this post, just some ideas to get you going.

Things you need:

Royal icing of course (you can use regular but I find royal dries quicker and looks whiter)

Piping bags

Sweets Sweets Sweets

A little tip

When you’re buying your sweets you should have a think about roughly what will go where, specifically in terms of the roof. Make sure you overestimate how much you think you will need, it’s always surprising how quickly everything disappears. Particularly if you adopt a ‘one for the house, one for me’ approach, which is the correct way to do this in case you were wondering.


I chose button tiles for my roof. The key is to make sure there is some overhang on your first layer, and then just keep going in lines, overlapping slightly, until you hit the top. Chocolate fingers or matchmakers work for a sort of log cabin look, or I’ve seen shredded wheat for a thatched roof (not sure who would want to eat that though!).

Once I had finished I dusted my roof with some icing sugar snow for a wintery look.


The last couple of years I’ve done normal houses, but I’ve decided to start theming them more now I’ve got the hang of it a little bit. So this year’s effort is designed to be an old fashioned sweet shop (it seemed apt given the sugar coma it put me in). Obviously it needed an awning or two! I just coloured some of my icing red and alternated between the two colours until I reached the end. If you want straight lines then the trick is to hover away from the biscuit a bit so you have more control over the direction.


What cosy winter hideaway is complete without some snow caught in the window panes? The idea here is to fill one of the corners a little more than the other, which I realised after piping the window in the centre…

And now ladies and gents…the finished article! Complete with flickering fire light (an LED tea light candle pushed through the doorway)

As you can see I bought mainly different coloured and sized circles: chocolate drops, silver balls, smarties and chocolate buttons. I like little dots of icing to decorate with too, but you need to decide what works best for you, it should be fun! I don’t really pre-plan, but buying lots of similar shaped things helps I think.





Oh wait!

That’s not all… remember this little guy?


Well I decorated him too. The base he was sitting on is actually the lid of a gift box, I won’t show you what’s inside though, incase the recipient is reading this (there needs to be some element of surprise!) This adds a lovely personal touch to any present, or can just be the present in itself!

The front and back are A6 size (A4 paper folded into quarters) and then measure everything else out based on that. You can get at least four of these guys out of one batch of mixture.

Before you go…just one more little idea…


A homemade festive gift without the fuss for someone you like, but not an ‘I made you a gingerbread house’ level of like.

To make a tree the easiest thing to do is to get your hands on star shaped biscuit cutters of at least three or four different sizes. You want around 16 or so stars for each tree, then just stack them with icing to stick each layer together. If you don’t have cutters then make some templates to cut round instead (you can do this using auto shapes on the computer). One batch of mixture should make at least 8 I reckon.

Pipe lots of blobs of icing and add silver balls, chocolate drops and smarties for decoration.

I used a candle holder turned upside down for the base, but a disc of cardboard covered in tinfoil would work just fine too. Remember, whatever you use, you aren’t going to get back!

The cellophane I used to wrap it was bought from a florist supplies shop online and was about £3 for the roll, which I’ve been using for various projects for about 2 years!

Cut a big square (bigger than you think), I made one as large as my roll would allow. Place tree on the middle and bring all the corners to meet in the middle. scrunch the remaining edges together and call for help (this will save your little finger aerobics when you’re tying the ribbon). With someone else holding it all together, double knot a few pieces of gift ribbon and curl the ends with scissors. Chop off the messy bits of plastic.


Gingerbread architecture: Phase 2


So, I have a confession to make, I didn’t actually photograph the assemblage of the big house. All my fingers and toes were required to hold it together until the icing dried, so there was nothing left besides my nose to press the camera trigger.

Instead I whipped up another half batch of dough and made a little one to show you how to, aren’t I lovely?

Things you need:

Royal icing

Piping bag/Strong sandwich bag (snip a corner off to pipe)



An extra pair of hands

Deep breaths


Step one:

Cover base in tinfoil/something pretty. Tin foil works well because it doesn’t soak up the icing. I used an upturned tray for the bigger one, and stuck ribbon where the tinfoil didn’t quite meet the edges. Chopping boards and baking trays also make a good base (but make sure you don’t need them for Christmas dinner first!) Alternatively you can buy one, but that would just eat into your sweets fund. Nobody wants that.

Step two:

Mix up your royal icing  and put in icing bag. It has to be pretty thick, or construction will be hard going. At the same time, make sure you can pipe it without getting hand cramp.

Step three:

Place back wall on a flat surface (if you use your base you have less far to travel when you flip it). Pipe along the two sides, as shown above.


Step four:

Attach sides and hold for a while until the icing starts to dry, you might want to get another pair of hands involved here, or the salt and pepper shakers to everything in place. Pipe along the top edges.


Step five:

Place the front on top. Definitely don’t drop it on your way over and crack it. That would be really silly.


Step six:

Flip it! This is where with anything bigger, you will need someone else to help.

Now you can see the crack *sob*. So this also happened to my big house, I might show you in the next post, but I’m still deeply saddened by that (the sugar windows stuck to the tray rather than me dropping it but still, a perfectionist’s nightmare). I’m basically a massive klutz. All is not lost though.

At this stage you are unlikely to want to make any more gingerbread. So if this happens you need to make do and mend. This can be done with royal icing, but you’ll get a white line along the cracked bit. A better (albeit more perilous) way to fix the cracks is by making a sugar syrup. Essentially all you need to do is melt down some sugar in a frying pan and voila, you have baking’s version of super glue. Dip the broken pieces into the sugar and stick. Be careful though, definitely not a game for children to play. Sugar syrup is dangerously hot. If you end up dipping your thumb in it, don’t let your gut reaction be to stick it in your mouth to cool it off. That is a most unpleasant experience. 

Some people use sugar syrup to put their whole house together, but quite frankly, I value my life more than that, I’m far too clumsy.


Step seven:

Now you have it upright and relatively stable, ice it all over. This looks a bit messier on a little house than a big one, but basically go around all the edges inside and out with icing. You can really go to town on the inside corners as nobody will see them, the more you can reinforce at this stage the better.

Step eight:

Stick the roof on and leave as long as you can to dry before decorating.

Step nine:

Stay tuned for phase three later this week.

Happy festive baking!

Gingerbread architecture: Phase 1

Three and a bit years ago I stumbled across a marvellous young lady called Anna. She gave me the inspiration to start a new Christmas tradition. I implore you to do the same, there is very little as satisfying as creating a freestanding gingerbread structure – and I won’t lie, it helps that you have a year in between to recover and block out all the royal icing acrobatics it took you to get there.

Apologies in advance for some of the slightly odd measurements below, the recipe is a bit inbred at this stage. Original credit goes to Anna, but I’m not convinced she would still want ownership given my Canadian to English translations and elaboration on the method (I lost the original).


Things you need:

Plain flour: 1lb 10.5 oz/750g/5 cups

Soft light brown sugar: 5oz/140g/1 cup

Unsalted butter: 7oz/200g/1 cup

Eggs: 2

Treacle: 5 tbsp

Golden syrup: 8 tbsp

Salt: 1 tsp

Baking powder: 1 tsp

Ground ginger: 2 tsp

Cinnamon: 2 tsp

Nutmeg: 1 tsp


Royal icing: probably 2 boxes

A lot of sweets

A base (I used an upturned tray)

Patience: a generous glug


Step one:

Draw out your design on greaseproof paper. I did write down the dimensions of mine but I suspect it ended up in the recycling with a flurry of lists and post-it notes, but it is relatively straightforward maths.

Some tips:

Measure your baking trays and base first. I hope that doesn’t sound too obvious, I’ve had to go back to the drawing board before now, after realising to my disappointment that I don’t own industrial equipment.

When drawing the chimney, draw it directly onto the roof so that it is definitely at the right angle to put on your house later (see photo above left). Don’t forget you need two little rectangles as well, one the same height as the short edge, and one the same as the longer side – they should be the same width.

Draw the front and sides first so you can take the measurements for your roof from those, make sure you add a little for overhang etc.

Mark x2 or x1 and something to identify the pieces on each – they have a tendency to become unrecognisable at some stage.


Step two:

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. You will need a large bowl.


Step three:

Put butter, golden syrup, treacle and sugar into a saucepan and gently heat until sugar has melted.


Step four:

Beat the eggs with a fork in a small bowl and mix into flour mixture. Alternatively you can mix them with the treacle and syrup at an earlier stage and not heat these with the butter.

Pour in butter and treacle mixture.


Step five:

Stir wet ingredients into dry. Place bowl outside or in the fridge until completely cool.


Step six:

Dust a large work surface thoroughly with plain flour. Take a third to half of the mixture and mould into a ball.

Sprinkle dough and rolling pin with more flour and roll out. Make sure you keep turning the dough to keep it as square as possible. You want it to be about 5mm thick.


Step seven:

Grease baking trays well and then cut out all your shapes.

A tip with the larger pieces is to define the rough shape and then transfer to baking tray, in order to finish cutting once it’s on the tray. This will stop it stretching when you move it, as it’s fairly important to keep the edges as straight as possible. Of course, if your baking trays hate you as much as mine do, then they will warp themselves in the heat of the oven just to mock you.

When cutting out the chimney, flip the template over so that you can have pieces with right sides facing out all around.

Keep rolling and cutting until you have all the pieces you need.


Step eight:

If you want a stained glass window effect then put some boiled sweets in a sandwich bag and pound them to dust with a rolling pin. This takes a bit of welly, so best to do it at a sociable hour to keep the neighbours happy…sorry Audrey…

Fill your window gaps with the crushed sweets.

The bottom-right photo shows you my fatal mistake. For any pieces with windows like these, put greaseproof on the tray first. Otherwise you might have a spot of bother removing it due to its size, fragility, and your patience levels…more on that later.

Step nine:

Bake the pieces in the oven at gas mark 4/180 C/350 F.

Keep an eye on them, as different pieces will bake at different speeds, from 10 mins to 25! It’s always better to go a bit over than under though, as you can cover the darker areas in sweets, but nothing can hide/save a caved in roof because the biscuit was too soft. Having said that, my sister did prop my first roof up with a gingerbread dinosaur when I had that exact problem, so all is never lost.

Step ten:

Stay tuned! I will be posting a guide to assembling and decorating later this week.

Stocking fillers: Christmas lollies

Continuing with the festive theme, here’s an idea for some stocking fillers; an afternoon’s entertainment for the kiddies; affordable presents for their little friends (or yours for that matter); or a little Christmas cheer to hand out at work.

These little chaps are fun and easy to make, and the best thing is there’s no need for any special equipment, just a little imagination! Even if you don’t have any of that, you can find a link to a template at the end of this post. No excuses!

A quick tip:

Try to time this activity between bursts of central heating, as chocolate doesn’t love an unexpected change in temperature (it’s sort of like your granny in that way). If you have the heating on constantly, that’s ok, but try to do this in the coolest spot in your house.


Things you need:

Chocolate (I used 300g of each milk and white)

Candy chips (for a splash of colour, but read on for more info!)

A couple of piping bags (sandwich bags will work too)

Cellophane or Greaseproof paper

Lolly sticks or equivalent


Step one:

Draw your characters.

This isn’t absolutely essential, you can go freestyle if you prefer, but I’m a touch OCD so I drew mine out first. The more rounded the shapes are and the less you have sticking out the better. The roundness for ease of making, the closer everything is and the less delicate, the lower the risk of arms and legs snapping off.

Once you have a couple of designs you are happy with, trace several copies onto greaseproof paper. Do this in pen so it’s nice and clear.

Either turn the sheet over to make your lollies straight onto the greaseproof, or, if you want a shiny back to your lollies you will need to get your hands on some cellophane/acetate to place over the top. I had a roll of florists wrapping stuff from a previous project, so I used that, but if you can’t find any/don’t want to buy some you can use shiny plastic wallets instead.


Step two:

It’s chocolate time! I got basics bars for 30p a pop. You might want to splash out a little more if you’re doing this for the grown ups, but for littles it makes this a really cheap and cheerful craft, and this way it’s not a problem if more ends up on them/in their mouths than on the lollies!

Hold a little bit back (50g or so), and break the rest up into a microwaveable bowl. It’s not a sin to melt your chocolate in the microwave, and let’s be honest, who can be bothered boiling a pan of water?! You DO need to keep a close eye on it though. Put it on for about 30 secs to begin with, and then 5-10 second bursts stirring in between, don’t get impatient here, it turns so quickly.

Once you have it just melted, chop the other 50g into relatively small chunks and stir until melted, don’t put it back in the microwave – the warmth of the other chocolate will melt it in a couple of minutes.

This is my nod towards tempering (a technique that makes the chocolate shiny and gives it a snap). Don’t worry too much about this, it’s supposed to be fun, if you want to be more precise about tempering then have a google, there’s loads of advice out there, but I won’t bore you any further here.


Step three:

Put your piping bag over the edges of a glass and pour in the chocolate. If you don’t have a piping bag (or don’t know how to make one) then you can use some good quality sandwich bags. The bigger these are the better, and remember you will need to tilt it diagonally to snip off one of the corners so don’t overfill it!

Pick up at the edges and twist to avoid the choc exploding out the wrong end of the bag.


Step four:

Pipe the lollies.

Starting in the middle of each section point the piping bag straight down and squeeze gently. The chocolate should spread out pretty evenly from the centre (hence the better the rounder). Don’t be afraid to use quite a lot for a nice chunky lolly.

Once you’ve got the basic shape and are fairly close to the edges, make a sort of stirring motion in the chocolate to push it out a little bit more until it reaches the sides.

Pipe the wings, be careful not to lift the piping bag too far away from the surface or you will lose control of the flow of chocolate.


Step five:

Put the lolly stick in.

Drop onto the thickest part of the shape and twist gently so that it is covered completely.

I used some wooden BBQ skewers that we had left over from the summer, I chopped them in half with branch clippers. Most craft or cooking shops (and even supermarkets) now sell packs of lolly sticks. As ever, you will find them cheaper online if you have the time to order them, or be resourceful with what you have – you don’t have to use sticks at all.


Step six:

Use a cocktail stick to pop any bubbles and tease out any features of your shape that you couldn’t make right with all that chocolate gushing out of the piping bag.

Cocktail sticks are your best friends when it comes to craft of any kind. Seriously.


Step eight:

Leave the milk chocolate to set at room temperature until it is touch dry. That is, when you can touch it gently and nothing comes off on your finger. Now it’s time to pipe on the penguin’s face and belly, using the same techniques as before.


Step nine:

Creature features. Ok, so this is where is all went a bit wrong for me. I’ve seen these candy chips all over the internet, mainly used to cover cake pops and the like, so I thought they’s be perfect for this project. Well after forking out a small fortune, I found them a bit of a nightmare to pipe, hence the rather wobbly scarves and beaks!

A tip – don’t be tempted to put food colouring in your chocolate as an alternative – it either splits it or seizes it up. In most supermarket home baking aisles you can find strawberry and orange flavoured buttons, though you have less colour choice, I have no doubt that they would be a bit easier to work with. Either that or you could use dark chocolate, or perhaps you know something I don’t about working with these chips – answers on a postcard please.

Whatever you choose to use, pipe the feet onto a spare spot on your acetate, they will dry really quickly (part of the problem with piping this stuff). Just flip the little things over and press them onto the white chocolate while it’s still wet. Pipe the scarves straight onto the lollies, you might want to let the chocolate set first.

Step ten:

Wait until the white layer is touch dry and put in the fridge to set completely. It is important you wait for this, so your lollies will be shiny and won’t melt at room temperature – no one wants a melted snowman in their stocking!

Once they have set, tie a little ribbon to the stick and store in a blacked out tin in a cool dry place until you want to re-home them. You might want to get your hands on some cellophane bags to present them in, just put the lolly into the bag face first and tie around the stick.

Oh and one more thing…

I promised you a template didn’t I? Here we are then: Little Penguin Template

Happy making!


Homemade advent calendar

When it comes to Christmas I’m still a massive kid. Waking up in the morning and realising there’s a choccie waiting downstairs is just about enough for me to drag myself out of bed on dark winter mornings.

There’s a problem though right? Advent calendars are either ridiculously pricey, or really rubbish quality. So here’s a way round that. It keeps the kids (or you) busy all afternoon and is actually something worth getting out of bed for.


Things you need:

Egg Box (or two)

PVA glue

Tissue Paper

Box of your favourite chocs

Glitter/Wrapping Paper/Bits to decorate with


Step one:

Prepare your egg box. I got mine from a local café where they use a heck of a lot of eggs. These ones are the best because the raised bits are level with the side of the box.

If you aren’t lucky enough to find someone who uses these, you just need to get two 12 packs of eggs (ask your neighbours/colleagues to save them). You will need to chop the raised dividing things so that they are level with the box. Keep the first box in tact, cut the second in two and stick the egg holding section into the lid of the first.

Me? I just had to snip off a line of 6 so I had my 24. It’s definitely worth trying to get hold of one of these.


Step two:

Tip all of your chocolates out, and choose your favourite 24. There’s loads of offers on these at the moment, the ones I used were £2 a box. I’m afraid I didn’t count how many there are, but I got two to be safe and they would have easily done two calendars. There might be a bit of compromise needed if you have two little ones! I got to choose all the best ones just for me.

You could also buy a block of chocolate/box of malteasers and wrap individual portions in tinfoil.



Fill your egg box, trying to make sure the sweets don’t go above the top of the highest points. A bit of extra twisting and poking required.

Step three:

Put a dab of glue on each of the divider thingys. Cover with two sheets of tissue, making sure that there’s enough overlapping the sides for turning under later.



Make sure to press the tissue down on each spot of glue, you don’t want to be ripping two days off accidentally. It’s ok if it seeps through a bit.

Set to one side to dry; no need to worry about the loose tissue around the edge for now.


Step four:

Unfold the chocolate box (or use a cereal box instead if you went along the malteaser route). Find something that’s smaller than the egg gap to draw round. Make sure you have 24 and cut them out. If you are doing this with very small people you may want to do this part in advance.


Step five:


Plonk yourself down in front of a Christmas film with a box of glitter and pens and let your imagination run wild. The best thing about these is that any age or ability can do one and it doesn’t matter what it looks like, Christmas is meant to be a bit kitsch!


Who doesn’t still love a bit of glitter at Christmas?! A cocktail stick will help you keep numbers really neat.


For any little ones (or bigger ones) who don’t like drawing or experimenting, wrapping paper is quick, easy, and effective.

Step six:

Turn over your egg box and secure the overlapping tissue to the bottom – great practice for all that present wrapping in a few weeks.

Step seven:

Use PVA to stick all your circles to the spaces above the chocolates. I also decided to stick some buttons and ribbons to mine.

Step eight:

Hide it away until the 1st December and enjoy!