Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monster Christmas Giveaway!

Monster Christmas Cards #1

Yikes! Do you know what tomorrow is? It's the first of December, that's what! Which means that I had really better get a skedaddle on, and start sending all of my overseas Christmas cards before I miss the boat.

Thankfully I have a most excellent card contact: Wendy June. She's an artist, illustrator and designer who makes some of the most awesome art I have ever laid eyes on. So this year I'll be sending some of her fantastic Monster Christmas cards to friends and family who live too far away to receive cookies in the post (I'm all about the grand plans at Christmas).

But here's the best bit: you can too! Wendy has generously gifted me with a packet of her Monster Christmas cards to give away on the blog. Hooray! The pack contains 6 cards with envelopes, proudly made by Wendy herself right here in Melbourne. To enter the draw, just leave a comment, preferably with a monster pun. I'll give you a couple to get started: Here's hoping you have a monstrously good Christmas! Or maybe Santa's coming tonight, tonight... oh no he's not. I ate him. Buuuuurrrrp!

Really? You ate Santa? Nah, these monsters are too sweet to eat Santa. Look at those eyes - they just want a cuddle. So leave a comment, and they could be yours. I'll close the competition on Friday morning Melbourne time, so if the winner is overseas I'll be able to post it before the international posting cut-off date. Good luck!

You can check out more of Wendy's fine, fine work at her website, shop or her Etsy shop.

Monster Christmas Cards 2

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chocolate and marshmallow surprise cookies

Cookies #2

Last week I had a bit of a groan about how bad I was, spending my evenings wasting time on the internet. I must say I have much improved since enforcing my evening internet curfew: I've finished both the front and back of the Tyger's cardigan, and gotten lotsa lotsa sleep. Yay! Go me!

But the internet is also a pretty darn awesome entity (try and keep me off it during daylight hours!). For example, when I first started using it, there were very few crafty blogs or websites. But there was Now, you can say what you like about Martha, but you can't deny the lady runs a pretty impressive ship. It's so good, and so far reaching that during my Christmas beach holiday of 2005, as I was cruising the aisles of the Aireys Inlet newsagency, I happened to chance upon an issue of Holiday Cookies, published by MS. "Ooooh!" I thought delightedly. "A Martha Stewart magazine! Here in sleepy Aireys Inlet. And it contains nothing but cookies! This surely will be a keeper!"

And it was, and has been ever since. Whenever I am in need of some biscuit inspiration, that trusty mag is still the first thing I turn to. But if it hadn't been for the wonders of the internet I wouldn't have known who Martha Stewart was. I probably wouldn't have let the magazine catch my eye, hidden as it was amongst all the other titles. I certainly wasn't looking for it - you don't expect to find incredible food magazines in the newsagencies of beachy country towns. And I wouldn't be enjoying these so-bad-but-so-so-good Surprise Cookies.

So thanks Martha, and the internet! And trust me when I say these cookies are good. They are so good you will keep gobbling them, even as you feel your teeth start to drop out from all the sugar. They are so good you may even renounce your Aussie citizenship, and embrace wholeheartedly all things American and marmallowy. They are so good that when you check the pantry pre-grocery store trip to see if you require any more rolled oats for porridge, you really are scanning to make sure you have enough cocoa and sugar and vanilla extract for your next batch.

Cookies #1

For the cookies:
1 3/4 cups plain flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
115g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
about 15 marshmallows, halved crosswise

For the frosting (or icing as we call it here):
3 cups pure icing sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 - To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 170 C. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl, then set aside. Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on a medium high speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce the speed to medium, and mix in the egg, milk and vanilla. Mix in the flour mixture slowly, until all combined.

2 - Using a tablespoon, drop generous spoonfuls of the dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake the cookies for about 8 minutes. Take out of the oven, press a marshmallow onto the centre of each cookie, then put back in the oven for another 2 minutes, or until the marshmallow has melted. Let cool on a wire rack.

3 - To make the frosting: Put the icing sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside. Melt the butter with the cocoa powder in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the butter mixture to the icing sugar. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. Spread about a tablespoon of the mixture onto the top of each cookie, covering the marshmallow. Let stand until set, about 10 minutes.

Makes about 30.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...



Er, it's a bit early, isn't it. I couldn't help it, though - I am helpless in the face of tinsel! Couple that with Ella Fitzgerald singing "Let It Snow!", and I am putty in the Christmas Season's hands.

I love all of it: Getting down the box of ornaments from the very top shelf, the oohing and aahing (and occasional groaning) at the sight of forgotten decorations, the bad Christmas playlist as we gather around to decorate the tree, and the magical moment, even after all these years, when the blinds are drawn and the switch is flicked and the Christmas lights douse the room with their festive glow.

But best of all is watching the Tyger. She becomes almost magnetically attached to the tree, and cannot stop herself from touching and rearranging the ornaments. She's been like that since she was a bub - every year you can count on a guilty face as a thoughtfully repositioned glass ball goes smashing to the ground. One year, in fact, she became so over-enthusiastic about showing the tree to a visitor that she actually made the whole tree topple on to the poor girl, whose name, ironically, was Holly. Fear not - nothing was hurt but a bit of pride. And another 6 glass ornaments.
Embarrassing tree-dramas aside, it's a pretty special afternoon. Now that the Tyger is a bit older, we bake biscuits afterwards as the lights flash on and off, and top off it all off with a glass of bubbly (grown ups only, of course!). Sigh - I lurve Christmas traditions. Wanna share yours?

PS If you want to see some pretty cute Lego animation, click on the Let It Snow! link. Since the Tyger received a Lego Advent Calender from her aunty, it felt rather apt!

Friday, November 25, 2011

What's for dinner: Roasted Vegetable Tabbouleh

Roasted Vegetable Tabbouleh #1

Roasted Vegetable Tabbouleh #2

You can make this dish any time you like, using whatever roasting vegetables are in season, but I love making it now, when the tomatoes are really coming into their own. With their rich juices intermingling with the lemon and feta, you can practically taste that summer is here!

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and roughly diced
250g jap pumpkin, peeled and roughly diced
1 zucchini, cut into chunks the same size at the pumpkin pieces
4 tomatoes, quartered
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
2 tbsp olive oil
200g feta, cut into cubes
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup of burghul (cracked wheat)
half a cup of chopped parsley

1 - Preheat the oven to 200 C. Place the vegetables in a large roasting dish, and massage the oil evenly into them. Season with some freshly cracked pepper and salt, and then roast for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

2 - Meanwhile, combine the burghul with 1 1/4 cups of boiling water in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, and leave for 10 minutes. Fluff the burghul with a fork once all the water has been absorbed.

3 - Combine the burghul with the roasted vegetables, lemon juice, parsley and feta. Serve.

Serves 4.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Internet Curfew (and hopefully more knitting)

Phildar Knitting

I used to quite like dinner time. A lovely home cooked meal, the happy faces of my family beaming back at me, the conversation flowing as we each chatted about our days.

But now I dread them. For I know that the Tyger will, at some stage, fix me with a piercing stare and ask "So Mum... did you get any knitting on my cardigan done today?" My only answer will be a head hung low in shame.

But tonight, tonight I am chaining myself to the couch and knitting like fury! The cardigan will...get...done! Before summer is over. I swear on the goddess that is Debbie Bliss!

Seriously, though, how did our grandmothers do it? In between all the washing and cooking and cleaning, and all without fancy new labour saving appliances. I asked my Dad recently about this, and he said his mother (a woman with a mere, oh, 7 children) just always had something in her hands that she was working on. Plus, I guess, they didn't have that marvellous time stealer called the internet. I know I personally waste too much time hopping from one site to another, not really being interested, just mindlessly clicking away. Better check The Age again, just in case there's a new headline. Oh look, there is - somebody went to court for embezzling something. Whoop-de-doo! Does it affect me? No. Can I do anything about it? No. Then why the heck am I wasting precious minutes reading about it?!?

Don't get me wrong - the internet is a wonderful place. I've met people through it who I now regard as dear, dear friends, gotten work from it, and am daily inspired by all the crafty goodness that is contained within my beloved blogroll. But I need to be more disciplined about the time I spend on it. My worst habit is slouching in a chair after dinner once the Tyger is tucked up in bed, and wasting a good hour at least just meandering through various sites. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but they are not even good crafty sites - it's usually bad magazines and gossip. This must come to an end. I want to be living my life, not just reading about what others are doing in theirs.

So less internet browsing for me, and more knitting. The evening curfew is a gogo! I want to look back at the projects on this blog and think "Boy! I really got some stuff done!" Moreover, I want to be proud of myself. It's hard to be proud of yourself when your evenings are often spend reading what Madonna is supposedly up to. And I don't even LIKE Madonna!

Just think of what I could be doing with all that extra time - I could be knitting up a storm. Or tracing out patterns. Or learning a new language. Or reading Simon Schama's entire back catalogue. But instead I'm reading about how weird Madge's face is looking of late. Nothing to be proud of there, but plenty to be ashamed of. It's not exactly setting a very good example for the Tyger, either.

What do you guys think? Do you waste a lot of time online, or are you more disciplined than I?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sabrina the dressmakers dummy

I'd like you all to meet my dear friend Sabrina. Not only is she one gutsy broad, but she totally rules the clothes hanging in my wardrobe. Nobody messes with this mannequin!

Sabrina #1

Nah, seriously, I often get asked about my dummy, so I thought I'd tell you a bit about her. She's pretty darn old - I'd say she was a 60's or 50's model. A friend of mine spotted her in a garage sale one day. She knew I sewed, and would love a dummy, so she went over to the lady running the sale and asked how much she wanted for her. The lady said "I really just want to clear this stuff out - I'll take what you'll offer." Much to my friend's embarassment, she only had $1.65 on her, but the lady said "She's yours!" and pocketed the shrapnel, presumably happy to have a bit more space cleared more than anything.

So Sabrina, as I named her, came to live with me (I tried to pay my friend the $1.65 back but she wouldn't hear of it!) As funky as Sabrina looks, she's not really in good enough condition to be used as a true dressmakers mannequin. Most of her parts don't slot together very well, and last time I tried to adjust her, the bolt I was twisting broke clean off in my hand. So I mostly just use her for photos, or for letting garment pieces hang until I am ready to sew them again. She wears the cover (spencer I believe somebody called it yesterday) because it keeps her insides warm. Nah, I think it is to give a smooth line over her moving parts. She's definitely not like the new models where everything fits together perfectly!

So that's Sabrina. She's pretty old, and fairly useless as a dummy, but I wouldn't be without her. Besides she's always good for a photoshoot, or to even insert as a character in those daft stories I can't help myself from writing. If you were after a good adjustable dress form, though, the Diana models are very good. Tessuti Fabrics sells them, and will be more than happy to order in a size for you if so required.

I'm feeling bad that poor old Sabrina is sitting up there all naked. This is a family-friendly blog - I can't be having any nudey rudeys sitting about! Better put something on her quick smart...

Sabrina #2

...oh look! That Butterick 5601 is coming along nicely, innit? (hee hee!)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Butterick 5601 in progress

Pink Dress In Progress

"Do you think it's a mid life crisis?" asked a red top plaintively.

"Who blimming well knows" replied a red scarf glumly. "All I know is that once upon a time it was us red clothes that did it for her. But now we've been ditched for pink. PINK!" The red scarf was so aggrieved by this fact that he would have spat in disgust if he could.

"At least it's quite a ballsy sort of pink" said a red coat that was smug in the knowledge that until Jorth sewed a new one, she at least would be worn again. "I don't think I could have borne it if she went crazy for some wishy-washy pale princess pink." She peeped through the wardrobe door at the dressmakers dummy and asked tentatively "What do you think, Miss Mannequin?"

"What do I think?" asked the dummy with evident pleasure. "All I know is that I'm feeling very Roland Mouret and I like it!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

Innocent fun and overlockers


Ach! Who needs a tv when you have hands and a pen, eh?

In other breaking news, I gave my first sewing class today. I was a wee bit nervous, but I think it went quite well! Even if I did have to do the tricky bits of overlocking for them. Actually, I don't blame them for handing those bits over to me - overlockers can be darn scary things. Especially if they decide to be tempremental halfway through a class, like mine was. Bad machine! Bad!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Broad bean, asparagus and zucchini green curry

Broad Beans

Broad bean, asparagus and zucchini green curry

What do both asparagus and broad beans have in common, besides being green and delicious? They both have super short availability, so don't wait to cook this! You could, conceivably, make this with frozen broad beans but I wouldn't bother, as they always taste of nothing to me. Fresh ones, however, sing with the flavours of spring.

Now, don't you start getting all angry at me, shaking fists in my direction and so forth, espousing "Maaaaaan! That Jorth, she is one crazy lady. Who she think she is, getting me to shell broad beans after a long day? She LOCO!" Trust me - it only takes a few minutes to shell the broad beans, and since they are added at the end of cooking, you've plenty of time to cook them whilst everything else is simmering away gently. I'd hate for you to miss out of the spicy, coconutty and fresh springy taste of this because you are worried it's too much work. It's not at all - you just have to do a few simple things at the same time.

Are you ready? I totally am - let's go!

15 - 20 broad bean pods
1 bunch asparagus, cut into thirds
1 zucchini, diced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp green curry paste (or more if you like your curries really hot, but I like this heat to be gentle so you can taste the vegetables)
300ml coconut milk
basmati or jasmine rice, to serve.

1 - Shell your broad beans, then take the bean and add them to a small pan of boiling water. Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes or until tender, then drain in a sieve, running cold water over the beans to stop them from cooking. Once they have cooled down, peel the outer skin off and set the beans aside.

2 - Meanwhile, heat the oil on a medium heat in a large saucepan or wok. Add the green curry paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and zucchini, and stir to coat with the paste.

3 - Add the coconut milk and 100ml of water. Bring to the boil, then gently simmer for 7 minutes, or until the vegetable are tender and the sauce has thickened. Add the peeled broad beans, and simmer for another two minutes. Take off heat and serve over rice.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Orange icypoles


Three freshly squeezed oranges + some icy pole molds + a few hours in the freezer = one very happy girl!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Weather-based knitting insults

Geranium Knitting

"Well!" said the leader of the knitting circle with a flourish of her head of tightly permed grey hair. "Another winter has come to an end, so it's time to pack away your needles, and we'll see you ladies again once the dreaded summer has passed."

"Really?", said Jorth in surprise. "But I'm just getting my knit on! Yes, I know I didn't have a great winter, what with waiting forever for balls of yarn to arrive, or just generally being a slo-mo, but I've hit my knitting stride. Do we really have to finish up for the year?"

The leader gave her a beady eyed look and said in a voice that she usually reserved for her 46 year old still living at home son, "It's summer now, Miss Jorth. Who on earth wants to be knitting in the heat?"

The rest of the knitting group looked on with no little anticipation. It was better than a tennis match, watching the verbal volleys going on between Jorth and the leader. Sensing that the ball was in her court, Jorth said "Well, obviously I don't want to knit with cotton. Boy, does that make my wrists hurt! But there's plenty of other lovely fibres out there, and with the extra daylight hours I'm sure I'll have all those cardigans I've planned for the Tyger knitted up in no time."

The assembled ladies sighed. As far as they were concerned, Jorth had hit the ball straight out of the court. The leader gathered up her knitting bag and said "May I be so bold to ask, Miss Jorth, what prevents you from knitting so much in the winter, when the conditions are far more favourable? Truly, I'm simply dying to know."

Jorth looked somewhat embarrassed at this scornful question. She fidgeted for a brief moment before answering, "Oh, well, when the sun goes to bed so do I."

"That would indeed explain it!" said the leader snootily. "So once again I shall bid farewell to those of us who can actually sit up in the winter nights to knit, and I'm sure that we all wish you the best with your summer knitting, and pray that your sweaty fingers do not sully your yarn too much." Smiling at her victory shot she sailed out of the room, leaving Jorth feeling rather small behind her.

"Don't worry about her too much" said a small women with a dowager's hump but a twinkle in her eye that Jorth hadn't really noticed much before. Leaning in conspiratorially she said "Sometimes when she carries on like that I imagine myself sticking a knitting needle in her eye, and it makes me feel ever so much better!"

"Ta!" said Jorth, suddenly grinning. "Although, I probably should be a bit more regular in my knitting. Perhaps an hour every day, after dinner, sun or no sun. Otherwise I'll never get through my planned project backlog."

Her new friend smiled. "The long list of projects is, to my mind, more a sign of a true knitter than the weather. But perhaps", patting her gently on the arm, "a little bit more regularity wouldn't go astray."

Please tell me I'm not the only one who knits away in summer (yes, maybe with the odd sweaty hands). Does anybody else have any summer knits planned?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mum's Business

Bunny Tail

Hello! Just a quick post today to let you know that I'm writing for a new website called Mum's Business. It's an online community for mums, full of clever ideas on cooking, crafting and doing fun stuff with your kids. There's even tips on running your own small business and making a stylish home.

I've got a feature article up at the moment on making a quilt full of memories for the Tyger. Hope to see you over there - it's a fun place to be!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunday on the bike with Galumph (and Tyger, of course)

Sunday #1

Sunday #2

Sunday #3

Sunday #4

Sunday #5

Sunday #6

Sunday #7

Sunday #8

Well there are worse things than staring at the water on a Sunday.
There are worse things than getting up at seven
To climb onto your bike
And go riding to Half Moon Bay
Dodging big fat rain drops
As you marvel at weddings
After lying in the sand
30kms from the city
On a Sundaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!
(My sincerest apologies, Mr. Sondheim. I couldn't help myself!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

What's for dinner: Tofu and vegetable stir fry



Marinated tofu is your friend. It sits there, quietly, in the fridge, just waiting for its chance to shine. And when you come home tired, and devoid of ideas for dinner, it will be there, ready to step in at a moments notice. In fact, if you listen carefully as you slump in front of the open fridge door, anxiously scanning the contents for possible dinner solutions, you may even hear it whisper "Use me! Find the somen noodles in the pantry, grab the few remaining vegetables in the crisper, and turn us into a delicious stir fry!"

Now, you may not consciously hear the little tofu voice. But you may very well hear yourself telling your eating partners, as you shovel mouthful after mouthful of tasty stir fry into your ravenous maw, that thank heavens you didn't ring for take away. Because this super quick, super easy and super healthy stir fry is that good! Trust me - tofu doesn't lie.

1 tbsp sesame oil
200g marinated tofu, cubed into 1cm pieces (I used Soyco Japanese Tofu - it's so good I could eat it by itself)
250g pack somen noodles
3 cups of chopped vegetables: I used mushrooms, red capsicum and broccolini, but bok choy, beans, asparagus - anything in season, in fact, would be good here)
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

1 - Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil. Add the somen noodles, and cook for 3 minutes. Drain.

2 - Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large wok on medium-high heat. Stir fry the vegetables until just tender (you still want a bit of crunch), then add the tofu.

3 - Add the sauces. Once the sauces are bubbling away nicely, add the noodles. Mix well, so all the noodles are coated in the sauce and serve.

Serves 4

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Balloon Dress

Balloon Dress #3

Balloon Dress #1

There's a whole lot of dress twirling going on chez Jorth this week!

Love, love, love this dress I've just made up for the Tyger. If you look really closely at the print, you can see some rather resigned looking rabbits and girls floating away with their balloons - hee hee!

It was a fairly quick and easy dress to make up. What I like best about it is the binding finishing done on the inside of the armholes and neckline. It sits so nicely, and is worth the extra time it takes.

The only alteration I made to this pattern was using a 30cm zip instead of the 12cm zip specified in the instructions. I'd love to tell you all that there is a jolly good reason for increasing the zip length, but to be honest, I don't quite know why I did it - I think I got my inches and cms mixed up in the shop, and grabbed the wrong zip. Can you still blame things like that on baby brain, 7 years after the blessed event?

Project Details
Pattern: #19 - Underdress from Ottobre Design Magazine 1/2005
Fabric: 1.5m of balloon print fabric from the Children At Play range by Sarah Jane for Michael Miller Fabrics, purchased from GJ's Discount Fabrics.
Notions: 30cm invisible zip

I really, really want to redraft this slightly and make a top version for myself. To be worn with skinny cigarette pants, bien sur! How nifty would that be?!?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Balcony garden



We planted our little balcony kitchen garden a few weeks ago. I can't get over how much everything has already grown! It's a veritable growing frenzy happening out there.

We've got loads and loads of cherry tomatoes, plus basil, mint, parsley, sage, dill, thyme and oregano. In the past I've been known to get over-excited in the plant nursery, and declare that we can totally grow beans and peas and melons and pumpkins in our pots. And then after a few weeks they all shrivel and die when the sun burns them to death. This year I was determined not to be known as Jorth The Plant Killer, so we've stuck only to the plants we know can hack it on our scorching balcony. I'm sorry, pumpkins. It just wasn't meant to be *sniff*

Now I think about it, I've never had much luck in the pumpkin growing department. I remember when I was just a wee thing planting a pumpkin seed in our yard, and watching amazed as it grew and grew. That is until my Dad discovered it one day. He took one look at it, declared that "those darn things grow like weeds!" and promptly ran over it with the lawn mover. The irony was that we didn't have anything else growing in the yard besides grass, so it's not like the pumpkin was taking over some precious territory, for land's sake! Poor old pumpkin *double sniff*

Whoooooosh! Let's step away from my tragic pumpkin past and move into the present, namely the balcony garden. So far this year, so good. There have been a few caterpillars having the odd exploratory munch, but those I can handle. What I can't handle is the Tyger's habit of smooshing her head into the tomato plants when she is meant to be watering them because quote unquote "I like how it makes my face smell!"

Hehe, I love that crazy kid!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Strawberry bonanza

Strawberries #1

Strawberries #2

When I spied this box of strawberries at the local greengrocers then I knew it was my duty to make sure they found a good home!

Although I must say that getting them home was the hard part. It was so hard to fend off the wandering hands that keep sneaking into the box, blatantly ignoring my prudish cry of "But they haven't been washed yet!"

Still, I'm please to report that quite a few are now snuggled into the freezer, awaiting their fate as strawberry smoothies. Or maybe yoghurt icypoles. Or perhaps rhubarb and strawberry compote. Any other ideas appreciated!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Pattern Review: Vogue 8723

Vogue 8723 #1

Vogue 8723 #2

Let's see... spots? Check!
Pockets? Check! (I do love a good pocket, particularly in a dress)
Fabulously swirly skirt? Check!
Happy Jorth? Check, check, check!

My only quibble with this dress was the frustration I experienced whilst doing the skirt gathering. Now, this in no way reflects upon the pattern itself - the pattern is great, well drafted and you are guaranteed a good fit across the bust as you can select your bust size when cutting out the pattern. No, the problem arose because I elected to make up this garment in a silk/cotton blend fabric. Whilst the fabric is pretty awesome, it was also rather tough, and when it came to pulling up my gathering threads that fabric just did not want to gather.

So I did what any impatient seamstress would do: I pulled harder. Predictably, all this did was cause my gathering stitches to snap. I gritted my teeth, unpicked them, resewed them and tried to pull the gathering stitches tighter again.

Snap! This thick, tough fabric DID NOT want to play ball, especially across the skirt sections where the pocket tops were basted. In despair I turned to my friend Google, and desperately typed in 'easy gathering techniques'. Lo and behold, I stumbled across this website, which provided instructions on how to gather tougher fabric using string. Basically, you cut a piece of string a bit longer than the piece that needs to be gathered, and then using your widest and longest zig zag stitch, you sew over the string in your specified gathering seam allowance, being careful not to sew on the string itself. Then you use the string to pull up your gathers. It was so easy! And much easier to make all your gathering even, if you ask me. I usually end up with dodgy bits where there's no gathering, then a whole heap of gathers bunch up together. This worked out much better - I'll definitely be using this technique again. Hooray for the internet!

The pattern actually calls for lightweight fabrics, such as cotton shirting, linen or gingham to be used, so I don't think the gathering would cause any issues if you used those, but if you were thinking of making up this dress in a silk or heavy weight fabric, that string trick might be worth keeping in mind. Despite the effort required, I'm glad I made it in this fabric - it sits out so nicely, almost as if I had a petticoat hidden away inside.
Now, I don't know about you, but I can't go past a twirly skirt. Even if it is potentially detrimental to my health. You don't want to know how many times I slammed into that brick wall when we were taking photos. But oh, such good fun!

Project Details
Pattern: Vogue 8723, dress B
Fabric: 1.6m spotted green and navy silk/cotton blend from The Fabric Store plus 1.6m cotton voile in navy blue for lining
Notions: 50cm invisible zip, hook and eye

Friday, November 04, 2011

What's for dinner: Red Lentil and Potato Dahl

I've been thinking for a while now that I might turn Fridays into a blog recipe day. Whaddya all think? I love food - I love eating it, talking about it, reading about it... in fact the first section of the newsagency that I gravitate to is always the food mag part. It's only when I've had a really good peruse there that I wander over to the craft section to see if the new BurdaStyle is in! So I thought that I might share what I've been cooking of late with you. Let me know if you find anything tasty!

As a family we rarely eat meat, so they will always be vegetarian recipes. I hope you don't mind. Let's kickstart it off with today's offering: Red Lentil and Potato Dahl.

Red Lentil and Potato Dahl

This is a great recipe for when the bank balance is looking rather feeble, as it's super budget friendly. It's also good for feeding a crowd, as you'll get at least 6 serves out of it. So if friends drop around unexpectedly with hungry tummies and imploring looks, don't fret - just welcome them warmly and say "Darl! We're having dahl - do come in!"

1 brown onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2 heaped tablespoons of your favourite curry paste or powder (or more if you really like a spicy kick)
3 potatoes, peeled and diced into 1cm pieces
2 cups red lentils, washed and picked over
800g tin crushed tomatoes
3 cups water or vegetable stock
3 big handfuls of spinach leaves, washed well

1 - Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Cook onion until softened. Add the curry paste/powder, and cook for another two minutes, stirring.
2 - Add the potatoes, stirring so they are covered with the paste mix.
3 - Add the lentils, tomatoes and water/stock. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally so the lentils don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
4 - Reduce to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. If it seems too thick, add some more water - lentils can sometimes need more if they are a bit older.
5 - Take off cover, and simmer for another 5 or so minute, or until the lentils and potatoes are cooked until tender. Stir in the spinach until it is wilted, then serve.

This is great served with naan bread or chapattis, and having a mango lassi on hand really makes it go down a treat. Don't be too fussed about which curry powder or paste you use - if you have a favourite then by all means stick with it.  I personally have found that this dish tastes equally good using any curry paste I've had kicking around. I've made with with fresh red and green pastes, and also with good ol' Keen's Curry Powder, and it's always tasted pretty darn good.

Hope you enjoy it, and that you have a superb weekend.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Gathered with string

Spotted Dress Dummy

The spotted dress sat upon the dressmakers dummy, feeling a lot better than she did the other day. Her raw edges were all overlocked, for a start. But there was still something bothering her. She quietly said "PSSST! Mannequin? Are you awake?"

The dressmakers dummy came to with a start. "Yes, m'dear?" she queried sleepily.

"There's something amiss with my gathers, I think", said the dress anxiously. "I know I'm only a new dress, and that I don't have much experience with all this sewing malarkey, but I think - actually, I'm pretty sure - that she's done my gathers using string!"

"String?", repeated the dummy in surprise.

"String!" said the dress. "She's pulled it all out now, but I must say, it does leave one with a rather odd sensation. Is that how gathers are normally done?"

"It's not how they are done, my dear girl", said the dummy wisely. "It's how neat they look, and I must say, yours look splendid!"

"Oh!", said the dress. "Oh. Well, that's all right then, I suppose."

"Yes it is" said the dummy magnanimously. "Yes it is."

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


Hey look! It's a cute dog! Isn't he the sweetest looking thing you've ever seen? I just want to pat that beautiful boy.


And what do we have here? Why, it's a cat! Every blog needs more cat, so they say. Very impressive whiskers. And I don't even like cats, but this one is soooooo handsome I thought, hey, let's whack him up on the blog.


Oh well, nothing else to see here, folks. You'd best be off to find some other crafty websites to look at. Really, nothing else going on around here. I wouldn't even bother scrolling further down this page - I'd hate for you to discover that there is absolutely, positively nothing else on this here blog to look at. Nope, nothing at all. I'll see you all tomorrow, hey?

No, truly - on your way. Seriously, there is zilch going on. I don't want you to get bored now. And loitering is a crime. Catch ya later!

Stop! Wait! Don't scroll! What do you think you are doing? Desist, I beg of you!


Eeeek! I told you not to scroll down! Quick, move away from this page before my stash probation officers discover I broke my fabric pledge and bought more. I couldn't help myself - it's bright pink! Please don't tell. I may even - gulp - put more cat pictures up if you just keep quiet. And I freakin' hate cats. But I'll do it if you keep this fabric buying business to yourself. Promise!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Melbourne Cup Day

Today is Melbourne Cup Day. Which means that it's a public holiday - hooray for the gee gees! Therefore there are two things you might find yourself doing today. One: You might be at the races, dressed in your finest, hoping your fascinator doesn't flutter off in the wind and casting an anxious eye at the grey clouds, praying that the downpour forecast doesn't occur, because flimsy chiffon gowns and raindrops don't mix.

Or, two, you could hang out at home, eating homemade biscuits on the bed (ooooh, rebels!) and knitting away with your favourite gal.

It's a no-brainer which one I elected to do. Maybe if we really get cracking we could knit up some racewear for next years carnival. Tally ho!