Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blue Cowl Dress

It was just as I suspected - warm woollen stockings and a singlet did the trick, and starved off any chill that may have been felt whilst wearing my new cowl neck dress. That, and my old faithful winter coat when riding my bike - that back neck cowl really wouldn't have stood up to any winter winds!



Project Details
Pattern: McCalls 6069 - Easy 1 Hour Dress
Fabric: 1.6m viscose/polyester print jersey from Tessuti Fabrics (and a remnant piece at that - score!)
Notions: Elastic (1cm wide) for waistband.

This was a quick and easy dress to sew up, but I would never, ever have gotten it done in the one hour claimed by the pattern envelope. I would say it took about 3 hours to sew up all together, but I did take my time about it. For example, I sewed every seam on my normal machine using a stretch stitch, and then finished the edges with the overlocker. I also hemmed the cowls properly, instead of just leaving the edges raw, as I prefer a nice neat finish. If you just used an overlocker for this dress you might just get in done in an hour, but I don't think it would look as good. Besides, I'm always leery of using an overlocker instead of a machine to join seams, as I find that the overlocker can quite often stretch and splay fabric. Not a good look, and it doesn't make for a nice straight seam. Maybe it's just my overlocker that does it, but I do prefer to take my time and get a good finish.

The only alteration I made on this dress was to lengthen the sleeves. It's a funny thing about me - even though I always pull my sleeves up, I don't really like three-quarter length ones, and prefer to have longer ones to hoick up. Strange, but true.
It's very comfortable to wear, and great for cool but not really chilly days - provided I have my tights and singlet on! I'm already planning another, and you can get no better compliment than that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Brown sugar apples

The quince season had come to an end, and the fridge was devoid of any fruity goodness to ladle over the morning porridge. The natives were not only restless, but also exceedingly grumpy. Their chant of 'Compote! Compote! Compote!' as they sat in front of their naked oats boomed through the house like the beat of a jungle drum, and only intensified when Jorth, stupidly, suggested that perhaps some sliced banana would do the trick. The glares on their faces told her in no uncertain terms that it would not.

Once the natives had trundled off to school and work, Jorth looked around the house in a panic. "Crumbs!", she thought. "I've no time to do any shopping today, and the fruit bowl is looking awfully bare. Just a few sad apples..." She eyed them speculatively, then headed to the cupboard and fridge and began to rummage around.

Half an hour later, Jorth sat down to a small bowl of brown sugar apples. "Man!" she said, "this is so good that I could eat the whole darn pan!" However, once she realised what the natives would do if they discovered she had, she wisely decided to put the rest away in fridge, ready to appease Grumbles and Galumph with in the morning.


Brown Sugar Apples

5 apples, peeled and cut into 1cm pieces (I used Fuji, but any cooking apple would be good)
50g butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sultanas
2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 - Melt butter over a medium heat in a saucepan. Add the sugar, then the apples and stir to coat.
2 - Once coated, add the water and sultanas. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 7 minutes or so, until the apples are nice and soft, but still holding their shape.
3 - Add the cinnamon, then serve.

It's great by itself, or on porridge (so the oat eaters tell me, I'm more of a toast girl myself) and could also be used to make apple puffs or pies. Yum!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


"Blast!" said Jorth, standing at the window and shaking her fist at the fat grey clouds blanketing the sky. "Literally! Curse you, stupid Arctic blast that is heading our way - I wanted to wear my new dress tomorrow, but I don't think viscose knit will stand up to your icy winds, and probable hail. Grrrrrr!"

Suddenly Jorth was struck by a thought. Winter, in Melbourne, was all about the layering, was it not? Yes, admittedly, with that deep scoop neckline on both the front and back the wearing of a spencer underneath wasn't an option, but a singlet was. As were thick woollen stockings. Feeling much chirpier, she strode off into the bedroom to rummage around in her smalls drawer. The dress, left alone on the ancient mannequin, gazed out the window and began to quietly chant to herself "Please let me be worn tomorrow! Please let me be worn tomorrow! Please let me be worn..."

Meanwhile, outside, the clouds kept their own counsel, and remained as heavy and threatening as before.

Blue Cowl Dress #2

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sleeve Island

There was once a wonderful knitter called Becky, who ran a blog called Skinny Rabbit. Despite producing a prodigious amount of knitting, she would often lament that fact that she was stuck on Sleeve Island.

Well, folks, give me a moment to pull off my boots and tip out the sand, for it seems that I have had an extended stay at Sleeve Island myself.

If this is the part where you begin to scratch you head and wonder "What the heck is Jorth going on about now?!", then sit tight and let me explain:

You find a new knitting project. The need to begin practically consumes you, so you rush out and buy all your yarn and supplies. Coming home, you settle yourself in your favourite knitting spot, steaming hot beverage of choice at your side, and begin to knit. You remain like this for the next week or so. Children may come in demanding your attention, dishes may remain unwashed, dinner will probably go uncooked, but nothing can distract you from your knitting. It's your favourite project ever!

Until one day you wake up, and just can't be bothered with your favourite project. You've begun the sleeve, having completed the front and back, but what yesterday was exciting is now decidedly ho-hum. I mean, really, how excited can one get over a sleeve? Particularly when there are two of the darn things to knit. Boooooooring! Life once more begins to take over, and the knitting is put aside. Whilst you are busy listening to your previously neglected children, cooking those dinners and washing the grotty dishes, somebody dumps a pile of stuff on top of the knitting, and before you know it you've forgotton all about it. Which is convenient, as sleeves are dull. And when you do remember it, it is with a guilty twinge, and no intention to seek it out again.

That, my friends, is called being stuck on Sleeve Island. However, the guilt has finally gotten the better of me. I've found my way off the island, am back of dry land and yesterday not only finished sleeve no. #1, but also completed the ribbing for sleeve no. #2.

Let's just hope that I don't get stuck on Seaming Island. It's a dreadful place, surrounded by the treacherous Ocean of Mattress Stitch. Now, there's a place I don't want to go! (Just grit teeth, Jorthy, and get stuck into it)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sneak peek


Shoulder pleats AND a cowl? Man, this is going to be one snazzy dress!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Slow Poached Quinces




Walking Grumbles into the school yard this morning, she greeted the principal with a cheery "Hello, Principal!"

"Well, hello there Grumbles!", he answered back. Regarding her fondly, he said "You are full of beans this morning - did you eat them for breakfast?"

"Oh no", said Grumbles. "I had porridge with quinces!"

"Porridge, hey?" said the principal. "Yes, porridge is rather good--- hang on a sec. Did you say quinces? My gee, I've heard of porridge for breakfast before, but never with quinces." Giving me a hard look, he said "Did you do the quinces yourself?"

Before I could answer Grumbles butted in. "Yep! Mum does them for us all autumn! Dad and I looooooove quinces."

Throwing me an admiring look, the principal said "By gee, you're good!" before sauntering off to (presumably) find out what some other child ate for breakfast.

As I walked home, blush slowly fading from my face, I pondered the fact that many people consider quinces to be a difficult thing to cook. Let me debunk this right now - they are as easy (in fact, easier) as pie. The only essential ingredient is time. So stick with me, and you too could be ladling glorious, fragrant, syrupy quinces on your porridge in no time, too!

Jorth's Master Slow Poached Quince Recipe

4 (or more) quinces, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar
5 cups of water

Traditional: 1 vanilla bean and 1 cinnamon stick
Indian: 1 vanilla bean, 4 crushed cardamon pods and 1 star anise (take this out after the first hour, so the quinces don't taste too liquoricey)

1 - Preheat oven to 155 C/310 F
2  - To make the brown sugar syrup, place the sugar and water into a saucepan, and bring to the boil, stirring regularly to make sure the sugar doesn't stick to the bottom. Once the sugar is dissolved, set aside.
3 - Place the cut up quinces into an oven-proof casserole dish. I use my Le Crueset for this, and it works a treat, but previously have done it in a ceramic dish with foil on top. Add your spices of choice, then pour in the sugar syrup.
4 - Place dish in oven, and cook for at least four hours, or until the quinces are a lovely deep maroon colour. Serve on porridge (heehee!) or for dessert with a sharp, tangy yoghurt.

A quick note on cooking time: I always do my quinces on a day I know that I'm generally going to be home. I start them off first thing in the morning, and then when I go out to do my errands, I simply turn the oven off and let them cook in the residual heat. Then when I get back home I turn the oven on again, until next time I go out and so forth. So mine tend to be in the oven all day, which makes the house toasty warm, and filled with an incredible scent.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Colour therapy

Ever feel that life has got you down? That you got out of the wrong side of bed? That the grey clouds are not only sitting heavy and leaden in the skies, but also in your heart?

Then maybe you need some colour therapy. Seriously - that, a cup of tea and some choc-chip biscuits work a treat as far as Grumbles and I are concerned!


There's something so lovely about sitting and nattering to Grumbles about, oh, any old thing as we wield our sticks of colour. It certainly has the power to drive away the mean reds (emotions, not the pencils. I would never banish the actual colour red. As far am I am concerned, to live without red would be to die! Actually, that reminds me - I must show you all a picture of my new glasses. They're, um, red. Really red!)

The colouring book we are are using (and very much loving) is The Usborne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Colouring. This book has been such a hit in our house. Now, if only the darn textas didn't keep running out...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Liberty Shirt

Once upon a time there was a girl (let's call her Jorth) who decided that she wanted to make a shirt. This was a decision that she made with some trepidation, for generally shirts did not suit her. A long torso combined with a skinny (elegant, her father used to say, but she knew the truth) neck did not for a happy shirt wearer make.

But this girl worked at a fabric store, which was selling lovely, sumptuous Liberty wool/cotton that was just begging to be made into a shirt. So the girl went online, and looked and looked for the perfect shirt pattern. To be truly honest, most were so... so homely that she recoiled from them in horror. But there was one which kept catching her eye. To be sure, in the pattern photograph it was no oil painting, but the need to make a shirt was beginning to consume the girl, and she decided to take a chance on it.

The shirt progressed slowly. It was labelled as "Easy to sew", but the sewing was painstaking and finicky. If an edge wasn't pressed to exactly 3mm, or a seam sewn perfectly straight then the garment would look very average indeed when finished. The kind of project, in fact, that you would inform people that you had made yourself, and they would reply "Yes... you can tell." So Jorth progressed very slowly, and took a lot of care to make the shirt as skillfully as she could.

Finally the day came. Jorth sewed the last button onto the button facing, and went into the bedroom where the full length mirror was. Pulling off her top, and slipping on the shirt she had a moment, just a moment, of quiet panic. What if it looks awful? What if the fit is all wrong? What if it sits lopsidedly? What if it just looks crap?

LibertyShirt1Looking into the mirror she saw that the shirt was none of the above. The fit was fantastic, and the shirt itself looked amazing paired with jeans and a belt. It gave her a slim, modern silhouette - exactly what she had been dreaming of. Jorth smiled, and now that the stress and worry had passed began to think that maybe, just maybe, she should make herself another!



Project Details
Pattern: Simplicity 2255, size 8, Style A
Fabric: 1.6m Liberty wool/cotton from Tessuti Fabrics
Notions: 10 buttons

My favourite part? The tabs. I'm loving those tabs!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Pyjamas for two

It started off simply enough, with the brilliant idea of bouncing on the bed for the photo shoot. What better way, after all, to show off the pyjamas that Grumbles and I had made during the school holidays? And when I say made, I mean that Grumbles made hers all by herself, with only a smidgen of help from me, and the occasional sign of the cross when she waved the super-sharp sewing scissors around like a maniac, or put her nose thisclose to the moving machine needle.

Despite my fears, the jimjams were made, all digits remained intact and now we had pictures to take. What could be more carefree than pictures of us merrily bouncing on the bed, with the sun streaming through the window and Galumph snapping away, capturing our freshly made jarmies for posterity.

What I didn't count on was the sun refusing to come out from behind the clouds, Galumph getting his usual case of parky hands, and Grumbles producing a continuous ear-splitting squeal. Granted, it was a squeal of delight (after all, how often do you get to jump on the bed with mum?) but I fear my eardrums will never be the same again.

So what began as this (Look at us jumping! Isn't this fun! Bouncy, bouncy, bounce!):


...rapidly became this (Oh lawdy, my ears! My legs! And I think we've killed the bed frame! I'm officially deaf, lame and have no place to sleep. Waaaaah!)


Project Details
Pattern: Pyjama pants for both women and children using Simplicity 5338 (out of print)
Fabric: Flannelette cotton from GJs, using 1.5m for Grumbles and 2m for me
Notions: Elastic for waistband casing.

Good, handy pattern this one. I bought this years ago, and haven't actually cut out any of the pieces. Instead, I just trace them out whenever I want to make some jimiejammies. So far I've made pjs for Galumph, myself and now Grumbles out of it, and see many more pairs in the future, as there is nothing more snug, more comfortable than pjs you have made yourself. And in regards to quality, they reign supreme over anything you can buy in the shops.