Magazine photoshoot BTS

Being a freelancer is great. What’s even better than being a freelancer though, is running a magazine photoshoot. I’m working on a Christmas bookazine at the moment and just wrapped the second photoshoot. That’s 36 projects shot with three models at two different locations and one fantastic photographer.

A photo shoot isn’t something that is done at the end of the production cycle. In fact, it begins way back when thinking about ideas for the magazine. You need to establish a distinctive look and feel, think about the style of the projects or what you’re shooting as well as how you’ll shoot them, where the shoot will take place, who will be models and what props you might need.

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On this bookazine I have been lucky enough to work with my very talented friend Tom who also happens to be an amazing photographer. You can check out some of Tom’s photos here: https://www.flickr.com/people/mrjaba. I’ve worked with Tom before – he has shot a few bits and pieces for me for different magazines but this was Tom’s first full magazine shoot and we both had fun setting up shots, tinkering with lights and positioning. I’m so happy with how the photos turned out and can’t wait to show you!

Whilst a photo shoot sounds glamorous, it’s pretty hectic trying to manage so many people in a small space with bright hot lights on full all day, and so many different shots to get. It didn’t help that the weather was awful, raining one minute, bringing hot sunshine the next! There are some really great tips that I learnt on this shoot.

1. When shooting models get them to hold their arm slightly away from their body to give the illusion of a more slender arm. Although it looks odd at the time in the photo it looks great!

2. If you don’t have a second reflector to hand and need one to banish those shadows, a piece of card wrapped in tin foil does the job nicely and is great for getting rid of shadows under chins and against backgrounds.

3. Always get plenty of shots from different angles and with the model(s) in different positions – better to get lots of images to choose from the first time around rather than having to come back and set everything up again.

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Like I say, photo shoots are anything but glamorous and involve lots of hard work but are without a doubt a fun. On our first shoot we shot the still items and I found myself painting the Christmas pudding with a water and marmalade mixture to give it a nice gloss in the light. We did have the awesome job of polishing off the fudge and cheese after shooting it, after all, can’t let it go to waste! On our second shoot we had models and as well as feeding ideas and directing the shoot, much of my job involved making coffee and holding the backgrounds in place! 

More info to come about the Christmas bookazine soon!


Vick’s Moreish Moussaka


Little on calories, big on flavour! This is one of my favourite dishes and perfect for a midweek dinner…


Serves 2 (although I’m warning you now it’s easy to eat both portions! Not that I’m talking from experience or anything…)



200g Lean beef mince
1 Large aubergine

400g Chopped tomatoes
1 Onion

3 Baby sweet red peppers

30g Applewood Smoked cheddar

50g Light soft cheese
1 Beef stock cube

1 Tomato, sliced

Tomato puree

Fresh basil

Garlic puree

Salt and pepper

1 Calorie spray


Preheat oven to 180c (fan)


1. Chop aubergine into thick 1cm slices and grill on the George Foreman or in a griddle pan on a medium heat with no oil for 10-15mins.

2. Whilst aubergines are cooking chop and fry onion and peppers in a pan for five minutes on a low heat with garlic puree and a few squirts of 1 cal spray. Make sure lid is on so the onion sweats.

3. Add mince to pan and break up with wooden spoon, mixing until browned.

4. Crumble stock cube into meat and mix well.

5. Add chopped tomatoes and simmer for five minutes. Add a good dessert spoon of tomato puree and leave to cook for a further minute.

6. Add salt and pepper and fresh basil to taste.

7. Pour filling into an ovenproof dish.

8. Remove aubergine slices from griddle and place on top of the filling, covering completely.

9. Using a teaspoon, dollop small amounts of the soft cheese onto the aubergines, then lay sliced tomatoes on top and grate cheese on top.

10. Place in oven for 35mins at 180c in a fan oven for a nice crispy topping.

11. Serve with crusty bread and a lovely fresh salad on the side.


TOP TIP: If you love mushroom, add a handful when cooking the onions.




Project: Foundation Paper Pieced Boat


This cute simple foundation paper pieced boat design would make a great picture for a little boy’s room or you could make lots of them for a quilt!



Large scraps of seaside inspired cotton
Sewing machine
Picture fram (optional)
… patience!



I used fabric from the Marine, too collection, by Birch Fabrics, sent to me by Fabric Worm. You can buy the same fabric on the website.



Boat mini


Save the template on your computer and you can make it as large or small as you like!



1) Cut out the template then cut again on the thick lines. You will have three sections that make up the boat design.

2) Start with one section. Work in numerical order. The pattern is coloured in to help you to remember where to place the different fabrics. Cut a piece of fabric, at least ¼in bigger all around than section 1. If this is your first time it is best to cut the fabric a fair bit bigger than needed so you can get a feel for the process

3) Cut a piece of fabric at least ¼in bigger than section 2.

4) Take your fabric for section 1 and place it wrong sides together with the template, over section 1, making sure there is adequate seam allowance around all sides.

5) Take the fabric for section 2. Place this right sides together with the fabric for section 1. We we be sewing along the line that joins sections 1 and 2. Ensure the fabric for section 2 overlaps the line by at least ¼in.

6) Pin in place through paper and fabric.

7) Set the sewing machine to a short stitch length (1.5) – this is really important! Make sure to backstitch at the start and end. Sew along the line between section 1 and 2.

8) Take your template to your cutting board and fold the paper template on the line you just stitched to expose your seam allowance. Trim down to exactly ¼in.

9) Pop your template onto the ironing board, open the fabric up and press open well. You will notice that you are creating the design on the back of the paper template.

10) Work in the same way, adding sections in the correct order until you’ve got three complete sections.

11) Trim all sections so there is a 1/4in seam allowance overhanging the paper tamplate on all sides.

12) Place the sail sections right sides together and sew together using 1/4in seam allowance. Press and open out. Press again.

13) Sew boat bottom to the top section in the same way.

14) Press well.

15) Remove all paper templates carefully – you can get the teeny bits with tweezers!

16) Press again and pop in a picture frame or as a quilt block.





Recipe: Minted Lamb Bites


This fresh, tasty Greek-inspired snack is perfect for sitting in the garden with a glass of wine in the sun.


Serves 2



100g Lamb mince

½ Red onion, finely chopped

Handful of fresh mint, shredded

1 tsp Garlic puree

2 tbsp 0% Fat Greek yoghurt

1 egg, whisked

Salt and pepper



1. Mix lamb and red onion together with your hands until combined well.

2. Add garlic puree, half the mint, pinch of salt and pepper and a quarter of the egg.

3. If you feel the mixture needs a little more egg, then add a little more a time until you are happy with the consistency.

4. Make the mixture into small balls and place on a griddle pan or on a George Foreman. Press each ball until it flattens and looks a bit like a burger.

5. These won’t take long to cook. Cook for 6 minutes on the George Foreman or 3 minutes on each side in a griddle pan on medium heat. Check that middle is cooked by cutting one in half. The centre of the lamb bites should be brown all the way through with no pink remaining.

6. Whilst the bites are cooking, mix the remaining chopped mint into the greek yoghurt and pop a sprig of mint on top for decoration.

7. Serve lamb bites in a stack and dip into the minted yoghurt.


Project: Quick Ribbon Hair Grip

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You know when your kirby grips are getting a bit old and tatty but you don’t want to throw them out because they still work great? Well, I’ve got the perfect solution! With a piece of ribbon and some patience you can create cute bow clips to spruce up your kirby grip and your hair, too!



Leopard Grosgrain Ribbon (1in wide)
Kirby grip
Sewing machine
Fabric glue
Needle and thread



1) Cut a piece of ribbon 4in long. Fold it in half to find the middle point and finger press.
2) Take both ends and bring them to this centre point. The right side of your ribbon will be on the outside. Overlap the two ends at the centre by 1/4in. Pin in place.
3) With your sewing machine stitch across the width of the ribbon in the centre, through both ends and the other side of the ribbon. This section is now your bow section. I would not recommend pressing as this will flatten the loops.
4) Cut another piece of ribbon 2in long. Wrap this around the centre of the bow section to cover the stitching and hand sew the ends to the back of the bow section neatly. Place the centre piece under the sewing machine and sew two rows of straight stitch close together along each edge of the ribbon for decoration.
5) Cut the last piece of ribbon – a 1in piece. Slide this between the arms of the kirby grip, wrong side up. Dab a touch of glue on it and position the bow on top as desired, right side up. Place a book on top of the clip to hold in place for the first half hour whilst the glue gets tackier and leave to dry in an airy spot until completely dry.
6) Enjoy your new Leopard ribbon bow grip!


Project: Garden Garland


This lovely summery weather we’ve been having lately is great! You know what sun means – it’s time for rustic garden garlands! Break out that pretty fabric you’ve been hanging onto and put it on show for everyone to see in this fun, quick project.


1 Fat 8th patterned cotton
Garden twine
Fat 8th Bondaweb
Embroidery thread
Sewing machine



To create your pattern piece, stick two pieces of A4 paper together, widthways to create an A3 sheet. Draw a 5 x 12 in rectangle. On both short ends, find the centre point (2 ½ in). Now measure 1 ½ in outwards. Mark this point and join up with the corners of the rectangle. Repeat at opposite end to create your main flag template. See diagram below for a visual guide.


You can download the letter templates below. Print at 100% for full size.

Scan 18 Scan 19


From burlap:
5 x main template


1) Following manufacturer’s instructions, adhere the sticky side of the Bondaweb to the back of the cotton fabric.
2) Onto the paper side, trace one of each letter template and the heart.
3) Cut through Bondaweb backing and fabric neatly.
4) Fold all burlap shapes in half widthways and press to find the centre point.
5) Position a letter onto one half of each burlap shape and adhere following manufacturer’s instructions.
6) Take six strands of embroidery thread and sew a neat running stitch around each letter, about 1/4in inside the edge of each letter.
7) Cut a length of twine to desired length. I’d recommend at least 150cm so you have plenty toe tie it up with. Fold in half to find centre point. Using this as a guide, lay twine between the two layers of each burlap shape, along the fold and pin. Pin each shape evenly along the twine to spell LOVE with the heart at the beginning or end.
8) Set your sewing machine to a zigzag stitch with a width of 4 and length of 3. Using a neutral coloured thread, sew a zigzag along the fold of each burlap shape, sewing over the twine and through the burlap so the flags will stay attached in their position.

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Recipe: Low calorie Apple and Cherry Crispy Crumble


This delicious cherry and apple crumble is quick to make and low on calories! It’s a win win!

Serves 2


2 Granny Smith apples
Handful frozen cherries
100g Oats
1 tbsp Demerara Sugar
3 tbsp Runny honey
Handful chopped almonds
Squeeze lemon juice
1tsp White sugar


1) Preheat oven onto 200c.

2) Defrost your cherries in the microwave or leave them out at room temperature. Once completely defrosted, blend until smooth.

3) Peel and core apples. Chop into 1cm pieces and place in saucepan along with blended cherries, lemon juice and white sugar. Place lid on pan (this is important) and bring to boil, then simmer on lowest temperature for 15 mins.

4) Whilst sauce is being brought to boil in saucepan, combine oats, honey and almonds in a bowl and mix well to coat oats. Give them a good firm mix, break chunks apart and smoosh them around well to ensure they are mixed well. Sprinkle on demerera sugar. Pop in oven for 15 mins.

5) Mix topping half way through cooking.

6) After 15 minutes, spoon sauce into two serving dishes and sprinkle half the topping on top of each.



Review: Clover Clam Shell Accessories Case



This pretty Clam Shell purse was made using the new Clover Clam Shell Accessories Case and some fabric (the outer fabric) from the lovely chaps over at Dashwood Studio.

The Clam Shell Case came with full instructions and templates and you only need a few materials and tools: fabric, thread, scissors, pen, wadding, needle and glue.

Available in three sizes; small, medium and large and made from flexible, sturdy plastic, these templates make it really simple and quick to complete the project with a high degree of accuracy! It was a fun and relatively easy project that took just a few hours to make. It is suitable for beginner stitcher like myself and I’m very happy with the results. Although this was designed for accessories I think it’s make a very cute little coin purse instead! The kit itself or the finished product alike would make a lovely gift for family and friends with keen crafty tendencies.



The Clover Clam Shell Accessories Case is just £5.11 Small (CL8410), £6.30 Medium (CL8411) and Large £7.25 (CL8412) and is available nationwide from all good craft, knitting and hobby shops. For stockist information contact clover@stockistenquiries.co.uk




Project: Mix & Match Nautical Cross Stitch Bookmarks


Today we’ve got a great guest post from my crafty friend Katie Garner! Katie is a cross stitch genius so I’ll let her take over and you can start making these beautiful on trend bookmarks! If you’d like to read more from Katie just head over to her foodie blog! – Vick x

With the weather finally deciding to warm up, and the enticing beckon of lazy spring to summer days, what better time to whip yourself up some cheerful bookmarks? Ideal for marking your place in your latest read as you nip inside for an ice laden beverage, there is no way you would misplace these vibrant and bold seafaring statements.

Perfect for beginners, these cross stitch bookmarks use only whole cross stitch and backstitch, so they should take you no time at all to make. With a choice of three nautical slogans and three sailing motifs, you can mix and match which words you want with which picture.

Zweigart Scalloped Edge, 1 inch aida band – I used dark blue and red scalloped edge band, from Willow Fabrics (£2.21 per metre)
Anchor Stranded Cotton in the following colours (90p each from Hobbycraft)
Red, shade 1098
Blue, shade 177
Brown, shade 310
Dark Grey, shade 236
Tapestry Needle
Double Sided Sticky Tape
A4 Plain Felt Sheet in Royal Blue (50p from Hobbycraft)
A4 Plain Felt Sheet in Red (50p from Hobbycraft)

You can download the stitch chart here and print off to help guide you.

Mix and Match Nautical Cross Stitch Bookmarks – Charts


1) Firstly, cut a strip of aida band, longer than you need it to be to stitched on. ‘Ahoy Captain’ is the longest, with the example here measuring approximately 14.5cm in length, so I would recommend cutting a strip that is at least 20cm in length to give yourself plenty of breathing space. Leave a couple of cm gap at the end of the strip before you begin stitching your first letter.


2) Start by doing all of the cross stitches first, working you way across the aida band until you have finished the letters, and then you can work the cross stitches of the small motif at the end. Try to make sure that the top arm of each cross stitch faces the same way so that you have a neater finish at the end. For the cross stitch, you will need to separate two strands from the stranded cotton, as described on the chart.

3) Once you have finished the cross stitch, you will then need one strand of the stranded cotton to complete the backstitch. The backstitch is mainly used to outline the letters and to add definition on the motifs.

4) When you have completed both the cross stitch and the backstitch, it is then time to make up your bookmarks using the coloured felt. It doesn’t matter which colours you use with which bookmark, so just pick your favourite! Firstly, trim your aida band so that it is just 2cm longer than you want it.  Turn your aida band over so that the back is facing upwards. To avoid fraying, cut a small piece of double sided sticky tape and place along the small vertical edge at each end. Fold back the excess aida band with the tape on it by 1cm at each end and stick it down. This should leave a nice folded end that shouldn’t fray with use.


5)  Cut some more double sided sticky tape, this time to fit along the whole width of the bookmark. You should be able to fit approximately two long strips of tape across the back of your work. Peel off the protective layer on the tape and then stick the aida band on to the felt sheet. Line it up so that the corner of your bookmark fits snugly in the corner of the sheet, the bottom of the bookmark completely in line with the bottom of the sheet.


6) Once the aida band is firmly stuck down, nab your scissors and cut around the bookmark neatly. You should then be left with your aida band bookmark, backed on to a coloured felt strip that is exactly the right size.

7) Grab a book and hit the garden!

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Behind the Scenes: Long-arm Quilting

I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting Val and John, husband and wife, and owners of DaisyMay Quilting in Martlesham Heath, Ipswich. Val and John have been long-arm quilting prized quilt tops since 2011. Valerie’s passion for quilting and John’s love of all things mechanical turned out to be the perfect combination needed to start their own business. Val and John’s prized long arm quilting machine, a Gammill quilter with Statler Stitcher and Breeze Track, came all the way from America and had to be made shorter to ensure it fit into their home!

I arrived with my quilt top and backing, eager to see the process in action – and what a fascinating experience it was! I found myself in awe at the size of the quilting machine and nothing short of amazed at the amount of preparation and skill involved in long-arm quilting – having never seen the process in action before, I had pictured the machine just getting on with the quilting. In reality, the time spent quilting was a fraction of that spent preparing the fabrics, setting up the machine and aligning everything, and totalled some three hours for my small quilt.

First the top and backing were pressed to within an inch of their lives. Then we pinned the top and bottom edges of the backing onto the rollers. These were turned to hold the fabric taught and large clips applied to each edge to dampen unwanted vibration. Onto the backing went the wadding, which was stitched to the top edge to hold it in place. Once the wadding was secure, the next stage involved positioning the quilt top onto the wadding, basting it into place along the top, then down the sides in four sections, finishing up at the bottom of the quilt. This step ensures that whilst being quilted, the top doesn’t shift and that the top, wadding and backing all stay lined up, helping to prevent pesky ripples.





Before any quilting could be done, John first needed to set up the computer, establishing the design, the positioning and how many repeats per row. We opted for the Robinia pattern in a beautiful lilac thread, a contemporary, simple trailing leaf design which we felt would reflect the floral elements in the fabric and emphasise the beauty of the Gutermann fabrics.



Then came the moment I’d been waiting for – John pushed the start button and after a single stitch to pull the bobbin thread up, the machine was off, snaking its way across my quilt, with John standing constantly by to ensure a perfect result. It was truly mesmerising! Due to the size of quilts, they need to be quilted in sections, in my case two rows of stitching at a time; each time John had to reset the stitching, alter the position of the quilt on the rollers and ensure everything lined up, as well as checking that the pattern was still in line with the previous rows.



It’s clear to see John and Val have such a passion for quilting and turning fantastic quilt tops into professionally finished treasures. Usually clients will drop off a quilt top and backing and return a few weeks later to pick it up completed. Val and John’s clients tend to be local but their reputation for exceptional quality and customer service is quickly growing and DaisyMay Quilting is increasing in popularity further afield, too. If Ipswich is a bit far for you to travel, Val and John are happy for tops and backing to be sent in the post and to return the finished item in the same way. They offer a growing selection reasonably priced backings and waddings and Val also offers a binding service – she is well known for her trademark piped binding! DaisyMay Quilting offer incredibly competitive prices (just take a look at the cost calculator on their website) and you can be sure you’ll receive top notch service that will do your quilt justice.

If you’d like to make this quilt top, instructions will be in Simply Homemade magazine over the next few months. I’ll be sure to keep you posted when it’s out!

Website: http://www.daisymay.biz

Email: info@daisymay.biz

Phone: 01473 625951