Thursday, September 29, 2011

There's nothing like the Royal Melbourne Show

Whooooooosh! I cannot get over how quickly the school holidays are flying by. It's been a blur of playdates, catch ups, bike rides and mother-daughter crafting sessions. We are having an absolute blast! But the highlight so far has been spending a fantastic day with some friends at the Royal Melbourne Show.

There were: animals to pet : chickens to cuddle : fairy floss to devour : tea and scones to scarf down at the Country Women's Association pavilion : prize winning preserves and cakes to marvel at : so much gorgeous craft to gaze at and be inspired by : rides that make you go wheeee! : rides that make you go arrrrgggghhhhh! : clowns on stilts : jumping castles : horses trotting by with perfectly attired riders : side show games with enticing stuffed animal prizes : food halls bursting with delicious samples : woodchoppers to show off their strength (and hopefully not chop off their feet - I always get so nervous watching those!)

And at the end of the day there was one very tired but blissfully happy little girl wanting to know if we could do it all again tomorrow.

Royal Melbourne Show #1

Royal Melbourne Show #2

Royal Melbourne Show #3

Royal Melbourne Show #4

Royal Melbourne Show #5

Royal Melbourne Show #6

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sticky date and oat biscuits

Biscuits #1

Biscuits #2

Biscuits #3

School holidays means baking. Lots and lots of baking! And that is allllllright by me (surreptitiously wiping crumbs from mouth...)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Finally - a finished pinafore!

Pinafore #3

Pinafore #2

Pinafore #1

Project Details
Pattern: #10 Pinafore Dress from Ottobre Design Magazine 2/2005
Fabric: 80cm light weight denim
Notions: Two buttons from stash, Gutermann topstitching thread

Well, after all the kerfuffle and mistakes, I am glad to say that I am very, very happy with the finished product! And Grumbles loves it. In fact, she's wearing it right now, and I'm pretty sure that when I sprung her in the prep classroom this morning she was showing it to her old and much adored prep teacher. That kid, huh!

I made this pinafore using a much lighter denim (a Bettina Liano remnant from The Fabric Store) which had a nice bit of stretch in it. I also did the bodice facing in a light Japanese cotton left over from this dress, which kept the pinafore light in weight. In the future I shall give great thought to which weight of denim I choose, because it really does make a difference between a successful sewing project or a disaster. Of that I am living proof!

In regards to the sizing, I made up a size 122cm, but didn't add any seam allowances to the side seams. This way I got the length I wanted without it being too wide. It's fine now - nice and roomy, without being huge.

I must say, I rather quite enjoyed doing all the topstitching. There's something so darn satisfying about getting it just right. Is that nerdy? Oh well, I'm happy to be a nerdy seamstress. It was especially fun doing the pockets, and getting them lined up perfectly. Oh dear, I've just sealed my nerdy fate by declaring my delight over pockets. The shame! Just as well you couldn't all see me happily beaming away as I changed the regular thread to the topstitching thread. I can hear you now: "What's she grinning about?" "Er, topstitching. It's a cause for joy, apparently!"

Right! I'm off before I embarrass myself further. Officially I'm off to do some grocery shopping. But maybe I'll actually be gaily rearranging my thread drawer so the topstitching threads are proudly displayed in the front. You'll never know, bwahahah! Have a happy weekend, folks!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pinafore Mark 2


Ahhhhh! See, this is looking much better! I have rejigged, redrawn, recut. I have also restabbed myself with quite a few pins (I'm rather clumsy) but it's been worth it, for I can see an actual, real life sewing success on the horizon.

Praise the sewing gods above! I was beginning to get a bit worried there for a moment.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What wrists talk about when nobody is looking

Pink Knitting

Wrist Number One looked over disconsolately at Wrist Number Two and moaned "How much longer does she have to go on this cardigan? This yarn is killing me!"

Wrist Number Two jiggled up and down in unhappy agreement. "Let me see... just a bit more of the body to do, then the sleeves. Thank heavens - I really don't know how much more of this yarn I can take. The darn thing has no give!"

"And no give", moaned Wrist Number One, "really makes us ache. Stupid silk cotton mix."

"Still, look on the bright side", said Wrist Number Two. "She'll be pattern tracing and cutting out today, so we'll have a reprieve from the knitting."

"Cutting out? Wheee! That's my favourite thing to do - after propping up an ice cream cone", declared Wrist Number One.

"Personally, I like stretching under the bed to sweep up the dust bunnies!" confided Wrist Number Two.

Wrist Number One looked at the other wrist incredulously. "You'd take dust bunnies over an ice cream? Dude, you're weird!"

Wrist Number Two glared, and said "I hate to break it to you, but we're a pair of talking wrists. We're BOTH weird!"

Wrist Number One conceded by saying "Hmm... you've got a point. Still, you can't deny that we're pretty darn handy!"

"I'm not even going to dignify that with a groan. It may only encourage you." said Wrist Number Two loftily as Wrist Number One chorted at her own hilarity.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Failure is an option


Today was meant to be a day of sewing glory. I was supposed to be uploading a post with gorgeous photos, all showing Grumbles happily gamboling through the city streets wearing her new denim pinafore. Once I had hit the Publish Post button I was going to retire to my blissfully comfortable bed of laurels, and wait for the raving comments to flood in.

But alas! I have no such photos. Why, you ask? Because I haven't made her an adorable new pinafore. I've made her a friggin denim TENT!

I haven't had such a major sewing disaster in a long time. I know exactly where I went wrong - I didn't bother measuring Grumbles, and blithely went ahead and cut out a large-ish size, thinking that it would mean she had room to grow. What I meant was grow upwards, but looking at the size of this pinafore, she could pack in a Santa-sized beer gut and still have plenty of room to grow outwards, too. The thing could have it's own Neighbourhood Watch program, it's that big.

Usually at this point I am filled with burning anger at my own stupid stupidity, but not this time. For one, I've gotten rid of my caffeine headache, which means I am much calmer now that it feels like my brain has finally stopped bouncing around in my head. It's a good thing, too, because after two days of that I was truly beginning to go a little bit loco!

Two: I've learnt a lesson - always take the time to measure PROPERLY, and not just rush in for the sake of getting the job done. Besides, since I'm going for total honesty, I may as well confess that the denim I chose was too heavy for summer. Not only would it have been too warm on those stinking hot summer days, but it was so weirdly stiff that the front and back of the pinafore stuck out as though they had their own private stratospheres to protect. Now I'm not sure what Grumble's stance on this would be, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to walk down the street wearing that thing and having people point at me in amusement, screeching "Look! A dress with a built-in denim ozone layer!"

So I shall put this pinafore away, and save it for when she is 10 or something, and can fill it out a bit more. Then I shall hunt for some nice, soft denim, measure Grumbles properly and start again. And chant continually to myself that if we never fail we never learn. And if that doesn't comfort me, then I shall reflect that it could be worse - I could have lost my employer $1.2 billion dollars. Now that's a boo boo that would be hard to recover from!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hot HOT chocolate

Hot Chocolate

There are a few mainstays in my life:
(1) whenever we decide to plan something - be it a wedding, a holiday, heck, even a supermarket trip - Galumph will suggest setting up a spreadsheet;
(2) The Guardian - it's the first site I look at in the morning, and the last one I peep at before I hit the sack;
(3) I will fall into a big tired heap around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and stagger through to bedtime in a weary, grumpy fug.

Now, the spreadsheet quirk I can't do too much about, and as for The Guardian, well, I wouldn't be without it. It makes me laugh, and sometimes makes me cry. It's the best darn reporting on the web. But the tired - oh, the tired I can certainly do without.

My vegetarian proteiney breakfasts have definitely helped keep my energy levels nice and stable until lunchtime, but I still get the mid-afternoon slump. I sat down and had a good think about this the other day, and realised that I always want a coffee and a sugar hit then. Then I began to think about how many coffees I have a day, and realised that I'm up to four. Yikes - that seems like a lot! Yet despite these cups of joe, I still felt that I was running on empty most of the time.

I did some internet research, and discovered that what with the caffeine and two sugars I add to each cup, I was setting up a classic low sugar level cycle. That would explain the constant desire for another pick me up, which only ever did a very temporary job.

So I'm taking a bold step, and going where adult Jorth has not gone before: I'm pretty much cutting caffeine out of my life, and seeing if that improves things. From what I've read, once you get past week 1 your energy levels should be stable all day, only dwindling down of an evening which is when you are naturally meant to toddle off to bed. So far, so good, except for the constant headache, but I'm assured that will go.

But there was still one little problem left: I LIKED having a hot milky beverage first thing in the morning. So I've come up with a compromise (since I don't like herbal teas that much): I'm going to have chilli hot chocolate in the morning instead, then peppermint tea the rest of the time. Now, there is caffeine in hot chocolate - estimates put it at between 10 - 70mg per cup - but I reckon that's a lot better than the 400mg I was consuming before. And I won't be having any sugar with it.

Besides, the chilli is sure to give a quick fire start to my day! I'll see how it goes - really, all I want is to stay up past 8:30 of an evening without nodding off over my knitting. I have a lot of knitting projects planned - I need the extra hours to get them all done!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011



In a remarkable show of self-restraint, I went to two fabric stores yesterday, and all I bought was some top-stitching thread. That stash-busting pledge of mine is coming along just nicely!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Scarf giveaway winners

Fern Kidsilk Haze

Are you ready? Seatbelts on? Helmets tightened? Ok, the lucky randomly selected winners are: Darby, Tas and Omlair. Congrats, guys - if you could send me an email with your addresses then I can post your prizes out to you.

Now I am going to step slowly but surely away from this computer and start cutting out a pinafore for Grumbles. That summer wardrobe of hers won't create itself!

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Gauzy Gathers Scarf - free pattern, and giveaway!

It is fine weather for ducks here today - earlier, it hailed so hard that the ground appeared to be covered in snow!

The weekend promises more of the same, so why not stay inside, make a nice cup of tea, and knit up this free, wonderful scarf pattern I have created? It only takes one ball of Kidsilk Haze, and makes a perfect gift.


And to celebrate the publishing of this pattern, I'm having a giveaway: Three lucky readers will receive a print out of this pattern, plus a ball of Kidsilk Haze in this gorgeous green shade (Fern) to make their own scarf! Simply leave a comment by Monday to be in the draw!

The Gauzy Gathers Scarf Pattern


1 ball of Rowan Kidsilk Haze


1 pair 3mm
1 pair 7mm


24 stitches and 18 rows to 10cm of stocking stitch using 7mm needles

Special abbreviations:

K2tog – knit two stitches together
M1 – Make one stitch


Cast on 42 st using 7mm needles

Rows 1 – 10: Knit stocking stitch for 10 rows, beginning with a knit row

Row 11: Using 3mm needles, knit 1 *k2tog*, repeat to last stitch, knit 1. There should be 22 stitches.

Rows 12 – 16: Continue in stocking stitch, changing over to 7mm needles on row 16.

Row 17: Knit1, *knit 1, M1* until last stitch, knit 1. There should be 42 stitches.

Row 18: Purl.

Repeat rows 1 – 18 fourteen times. Knit 10 more rows in stocking stitch, then cast off, weaving in ends.

That's it! Enjoy! And best of luck with the giveaway.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The red dress is finished : La robe rouge est finie

Red Dress #1

Red Dress #2

Red Dress #5

Red Dress #4

I am tempted - oh, so sorely tempted - to grade this pattern up to my size. Grumbles and I both adore it! It's warm yet funkily stylish. And the perfect red! Seriously, dresses do not come any better than this!

I made the size 8, so she could wear it for the remainder of this winter, and hopefully for next, so it's roomy, but not in a bad way. The yarn used was Woolganic organic merino wool, which was so pleasurable to knit with - lovely and soft, and made a nice firm stitch. It's also grown in Australia, dyed using low-impact dyes, and spun in New Zealand. A great little company making a fantastic green product. I'm very happy to support them.

A quick note on construction: I started off doing the side seams in invisible vertical stitch, but after I had seamed half of one, I had a bit of a play and pull at it, and didn't like how much the stitched seam stretched. To my eyes it looked very messy once stretched a bit, and since this is a dress that will be worn by a child, I'm expecting a fair bit of seam stretching to go on as she jumps and runs and skips and plays. So I undid the invisible stitching, and did my good old usual backstitch, which doesn't look quite a neat, but sure is a heck of a lot stronger.

The only other alteration made was that I left off the fausses poches (false pockets), as I had a feeling they would just look messy, and add nothing to the design. Plus, if I can get away with not doing any extra seaming, I will. Man, it's a boring job!

Project Details
Pattern: Robe #6 from Phildar Enfant Automne/Hiver Magazine #23
Size: 8 ans (8 years)
Yarn: 8 balls of Woolganic organic merino yarn in Chilli Pepper
Needles: 4mm and 4.5mm (In order to get the correct gauge with this yarn, I went up a needle size)

Do you know what? That's my last winter project finished! I'm onto the summer sewing and knitting now - huzzah!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The lament of the red knit pieces

Woven Ends

"Do you suppose it will happen today?", asked the back listlessly. "It's just that I don't want to get my hopes up, you see."

"With any luck!" said the front cheerfully. "I'm sure she'll sit down immediately after lunch and start seaming us right away. We'll be a finished red wool dress for Grumbles in no time!"

"That's what you said yesterday, and the day before", grizzled the collar. "Yet here we lie, heaped together in a bag, still stuck in the cupboard. I don't believe she'll ever get around to it."

"Hush now!" said the front. "She was very busy yesterday - she had the shopping to do, and all the washing that piled up from the weekend, and had to run to school to give Grumbles her lunchbox, which had been left on the bench, popped in to see her friend with the twins and then they had the student-led conference in the afternoon. She can't do it all, you know"

"Well...", piped up a sleeve bravely, "she'd best get us done soon. It's meant to be cold this week, and I'd love to be worn by Grumbles in time for the weekend. Imagine if she doesn't get us done at all, and we lie here in pieces until next winter. Oh, the horror!"

"Hear, hear!" roared the temperamental collar. "I want to be serving my purpose, which is to keep a young neck warm! What's the good of being 46cm of ribbing if you're not snugly wrapped around something?"

That appeared to be a question with no good answer. Pondering it all silently the pieces huddled closer together in the bag, and hoped as hard as their stitches would let them that they would be seamed together soon.

Monday, September 05, 2011

22 handknit beauties

Facewasher #1

"So", said Galumph, as they sat down to a dinner of steaming vegetable, chickpea and paneer curry with rice, "how was everybody's day?"

"Pretty good!" said Grumbles, adding through a mouthful of rice " I did lots of monkey bars!"

"Mine was pretty good, too" said Galumph. "Fixed some code, had a few meetings, solved that interface problem that had been bugging us. How was yours, honey?"

"Productive!" answered Jorth. "I was cleaning out some cupboards when I came across a whole pile of WIPs. Actually, I think we all know that they had long since ceased being WIPs and were now UFOs, so I took them out, shook off the dust, blocked them, wove in all the ends and now they are FOs. All 22 of them!"

"Er, sweetheart - what language are you speaking?" asked Galumph, completely flabbergasted by the above explanation.

"Knitting, Dad!" said Grumbles. Taking pity on her poor father, she translated "Mum found all those facewashers that she was knitting over summer, and finished them off so now instead of being UnFinished Objects or Works In Progress they are Finished Objects. Right, Mum?" she said, glancing over at her mother, who was beaming with pride at her little knitter and giving a nod of confirmation.

"So let me get this straight: you finished all the facewashers, so we're all going to have plenty to use from now on?" said Galumph. Gazing at the two heads nodding back at him, he said "Well, let's drink to that!", and they all raised their glasses of raspberry lassi and chink-chinked their understanding and plentiful facewasher situation.

Facewasher #2

I can't believe I started knitting these facewashers two and a half years ago. UFO indeed! Still they are done now, and I'm quite looking forward to using them. There's no recipe for them per se - I just cast on 40 stitches on 3.5mm needles, and knit in single moss stitch until I had a vague square shape.

The yarn used is an organic cotton from Ecoyarns. Lovely, lovely stuff, and Fairtrade to boot.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Spots, drops and balloons


What's that I see on the clothes horse? That's right - it's the new fabric, freshly laundered, ready to be made into Grumble's summer wardrobe! I am especially in love with the balloon print. Ach, if only it came in a colourway to suit me (light blue isn't really for me).

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Father's Day to all the great dads out there. Especially ours. We love ya, Galumph!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

French knitting definitions


I was delighted  - nay, enraptured! - to receive some Phildar knitting magazines in the mail the other day. I just adore how beautifully designed the patterns are. The children's patterns, in particular, never fail to warm the cockles of my heart. They are so fashion forward, yet age appropriate, and just as snazzy as any branded knit you can find at a fancy department store (cough cough Seed, Country Road, Catimini, Stella McCartney Kids cough cough).

I have decided to make it my mission to get all of you lovely knitters on to the Phildar patterns, because they are that good that I don't want anybody to miss out on their awesomeness. However, there is just one little hitch: they are written in French. But fear not: I am here to provide crucial translation, and get you tricoter (knitting) in no time.

Now before you begin to protest that you can't do it, I shall confess that yes, I have studied French in the past. I did three years of it at high school, and then did some adult french lessons a few years ago. But I can honestly say, with my hand firmly on my heart, that not once did I learn the french for casting on, or decreasing stitches during my clasess. I had to figure all that out for myself. Plus, my French is FAR from fluent. Trust me on that. I have a French friend, and whenever she speaks to me in French beyond 'hello' I usually just sit there bewildered, staring at her mouth and have to ask her to say it again, s'il te plaît? So trust me -  if I can muddle through a French knitting pattern, so can you!

Materials and equipment
Qualités (nombre de pelotes) - Materials (number of balls of yarn)
Pelotes - Ball of yarn
Tailles - Size
Aiguilles - Needles

Clothing terms
Dos - Back
Devant - Front
Manches - Sleeves
Epaule - Shoulder
Pull - Sweater, jumper
Robe - Dress
Gilet - Cardigan
Jupe - Skirt

Knitting Terms
Mailles - Stitches
Rangs - Rows
Côtes - Rib (if they say côtes 1/1 it means 1 knit 1 purl rib. If they say côtes 2/2, then it means 2 knit 2 purl ribbing)
Jersey - Stocking stitch (knit on right side, purl on wrong side)
Echantillon - Tension/gauge
Endroit - Right
Tricoter à l’endroit - knit on the right side of work
Envers - Wrong
Tricoter à l’envers - knit on the wrong side of work
Assemblage - Assemble the pieces i.e. sewing the pieces together
Après - after
Faire - make
Monter - cast on (monter 45 mailles = cast on 45 stitches)
Rabattre - cast off
Haut - high, or length of knitting. For example if they want you to knit for 10cm after the ribbing, the instruction will be: à 10cm de haut après les côtes 2/2...

The best part about the Phildar patterns is the mathematical way they have of doing decreases or increases. In English you often get quite a wordy and confusing paragraphy about how to do the armhole decreases. In French, they give you a formula like this:
rabattant de chaque côtes tous les 2 rangs: 1 x 3 mailles, 1 x 2 mailles, 4 x 1 milles, toules les 4 rangs, 5 x 1 rangs.
Which means:
Decrease at each end every two rows: decrease 3 stitches 1 time, 2 stitches 1 time, 1 stitch 4 times, then every 4 rows decrease 1 stitch 5 times.

Trust me - once you get the hang of it it's very easy!

If you really get stuck there are loads of French to English translation sites out there (I quite like this one). Plus quite a few people have done some French knitting dictionaries: Chez Plum has a fantastic one (and much more thorough than mine), and there is also a good one over on

I hope this post helps anybody who was looking into the Phildar patterns but was feeling a wee bit overwhelmed by the instructions. Phildar does publish a handful of magazines each year in English, but until that wonderful day comes when every mag comes en anglais we'll just have to fudge our way through.

Happy knitting! Heureux tricoter! And here's some more pics to get you drooling (and hopefully inspired!)