Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Fairy Lights

Whoa! Where has the year gone? I know I say this every year, but it seriously speeds up as the year comes to a close. It's like the calendar feels the need for speed once August is over, and whooooooosh! December is almost gone before you know it!

Sorry for my absence around these parts, and thanks for all the sweet messages for those who were wondering if I had been eaten by a feral dog or something. Nothing so exciting - just been super busy with work, setting up a new business (announcement coming in the new year!) and believe it or not, a bit of sneaky sewing on the side. I have so many new dresses to show you all - including one featuring cabbages. Yes, cabbages! Not real cabbages, obvs - that would be smelly, not to mention awkward to hang in the wardrobe. It's just a really awesome cabbage print. I think it might be my favourite dress ever! And it's not even a Vogue 8184!

Anyhoo, the real reason for popping in here today is to wish all of my readers a happy and safe festive period, and a totally friggin awesome year ahead. Thanks for all the blog love - every comment leaves a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart, and my world would be the poorer without this lovely space and all your kind thoughts. I hope you all have a terrific year end filled with your favourite kind of weather, good times with loved ones and plenty of soft focus fairy lights. Especially fairy lights. It just wouldn't be Christmas without 'em!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Yoohoo - anybody seen Jorth?

Green Dress In Progress

"Why won't she keep working on me?" asked the half-completed green dress in a tone of utter distress. "Has she gone off green? Stacked on the weight so now I won't fit? Decided that she's no longer a dress girl?

"Or is it me - have I done something wrong? Am I too creased? Too pleaty? Is it because my lining doesn't really match my fabric? For the love of all things sewing, somebody tell me what is going on - I'm going kerraaaazy over here!"

"Oh, settle down you stupid half-finished whippet!" snapped Sabrina, the fiercest dressmakers dummy in all of sewdom. "If you stopped thinking about yourself and your completion rate, and opened your eyes a little, you may have noticed that poor old Jorth is up to her eyeballs in work at the moment, leaving precious little time for sewing. At least she's spared a few minutes to work on you when she could - her poor old blog is a whole different matter! Last time I checked there were real estate agents knocking on the blog door, wanting to know if it was vacant, such is the extent to which she hasn't been there. So count yourself lucky, young miss!"

"My word!" breathed the dress. "Don't tell me she's going to retire her blog?"

"I swear", said Sabrina through gritted teeth, "you young dresses get stupider every year. NO! She is not going to retire her blog - she just needs to get some work out of the way, and then regular programming for both blog and sewing shall recommence. And for that I shall be thankful - I'll be pleased to get you off me and into the cupboard!"

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The frog pond experience

Frogged Knitting

The frog, who had been stretched out on his lily pad enjoying the sunshine and a dirty martini raised himself up on one green elbow as Jorth materialised in front of him, and looked about her with an expression of complete and utter befuddlement. "Hellllooooo!", he waved as Jorth gave a start.

"A talking frog reclining on a lily pad? Where on earth am I?" she wondered aloud.

"Fear not!", said the frog, hopping on over to her. "Welcome to the frog pond!"

"The frog pond?" said Jorth, wondering if she was going crazy.

"Did you rip out some knitting lately?" probed the frog, with the air of one who has asked these questions before.

"Yes, actually, I did" admitted Jorth.

"Well, then, when you rip it, rip it, you end up in the frog pond!" the frog concluded with a grin.

"Ohhhh!" said Jorth. "Rip it, ribbit. Bad knitting humour. Well, I should feel right at home. Except I don't. How do I leave this place, nice as it is?"

The frog smiled at her, and said "There are many ways and paths out of the frog pond, but each journey is unique. Some find they need to spend time on the Lily Pad of Frustration before they can move on. Others get marooned in the Pond Of Repeated Mistakes. Still others get lost in the Swamps of Too Many WIPs. It can be a complicated thing, this finding your way out business. The first question to ask yourself is how did it feel to be ripping out your project?

"Well", said Jorth, "I made an active decision to rip out my knitting. I'd made a couple of obvious errors, and had miscounted my decreases, and knew that if I continued I would always reproach myself for not going back and fixing my mistakes. Plus I had an inkling that the cardigan I was knitting was going to be far too warm for summer, and would be best put on the back burner as an autumn project." Warming to her theme, under the forgiving eye of the frog, she added in a burst of honesty "And to tell the truth, I was rather pleased with the prospect of starting on a new project."

"Hooray!" said the frog. "You have found the Exit Of No Regrets! It truly is the best way to leave the frog pond. So I suppose I must say now thanks for dropping by, and happy knitting!"

"Er, thanks", said Jorth, her mind already focused on her new project (a cardigan for Tyger) as the frog and his surroundings faded rapidly from her thoughts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Book review: Labour of Love by Vibe Ulrik Sondergaard

I stumbled across Labour of Love the other day, and immediately knew that I had to have it! It's a collection of knitting patterns for girls from 3 to 8 years, by Danish knitwear designer Vibe Ulrik Sondergaard.

The patterns are exquisite! Sophisticated without being too grown up, these designs are timeless yet also modern.  According to the designer, she wanted to make a collection of knitwear for children that would be functional for active children and be feminine without being too childish.

There are patterns for sweaters, cardigans, skirts, tops - even snoods! I am seriously hankering to pick up needles right this instant and start making all of the below for the Tyger. Swoon! If only that dress came in grown up sizes...

Labour Of Love #1

Labour Of Love #2

Labour Of Love #3

Labour Of Love #4

Labour Of Love #5

Labour Of Love #6

Note: the book is published in America as Lovely Knits for Little Girls. Oh, and in no way is this a sponsored post. I would totally declaim that shiz if it were. Nah, I just really, REALLY like this book and wanted to share :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to become a green dress

Green Fabric

Once upon a time there was some green fabric that had been bought on a whim, and had long since been stuffed in the sewing bureau and forgotten about. The green fabric tried hard not to live up to her colour's reputation for envy whenever she saw other fabric around her being removed, only to reappear as fabulous frocks days later, but it was getting harder and harder as time went by.

Unbeknownst to her, there was a pattern sitting in the pattern drawer of the very same bureau, sadly sighing and feeling the very same way. Day after day they remained there, undisturbed, each thinking sadly how marvellous it would be if they, too, could meet their perfect project match. All each wanted was to meet the one who could help them fulfil their shared destiny of becoming a dress. Not such a big thing to ask, was it? Yet the weeks and then the months slipped by as still they sat there, oblivious to each other, separated from their futures by a mere shelf of wood.

History will only tell us the facts as they occur, and often the impetus that propelled a fancy into a fact is lost to us forever, so we will never know what propelled Jorth to bring the two together. Did she experience a moment of textile-based psychic intuition? Did she perhaps actually hear their heart-felt sighs? All we know for sure is that on the 16th of October, 2012 Jorth took it upon herself to perform a little sewing matchmaking. Pulling them out of their respective sewing bureau prisons, she introduced the green fabric to McCalls 6320, and was much gratified to see how delightedly they took to each other. Here, at last, was the one they had been waiting for.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Red Lace Cardigan

Red Cardigan #4

Red Cardigan #5

Red Cardigan #6

I was a knitter on a mission. This cardigan had to be done by Saturday, and lookee here - it's only Thursday and it's finished. Hooray! Ironically, the weather for Saturday is looking awfully cool, so the chances are that Tyger probably won't even get to wear it to her godmother's wedding, but care I not. It's finished, so it's a big cry of HOORAY from me!

I must say, the cardigan has turned out well. It's the perfect weight for summer, and I cannot resist admitting that I am a total sucker for a lovely sweet knit over a summer dress. And who can resist that combo when it looks so.darn.cute?

The Tyger, predicably, LOVES it. Now I come to think of it, the kid has had a pretty darn good run of home made goodies of late. I think it's time to make something for me!

Project Details
Pattern - Sirdar pattern leaflet #1325
Yarn - 4 balls of Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK in shade 126
Size - 6-7 years
Needles - 3.25mm and 4mm

Ravelled here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Putting the 'need' in needles


Er, I just have one quick knitting public announcement to make: when you need a pair of needles in a certain size to do the finishing bands of a garment, make sure you haven't already, in your foolish new-knitting-project excitement, commandeered those needles for another purpose.

Not that any of you clever crafty peeps would ever need to be told something so obvious, so basic. Nope, no knitting fools around these parts. Nup,

(races off to put paper bag on head and hide in the corner)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Pattern review: New Look 6613

It's my best friend's wedding this weekend - hooray! Galumph has a brand new suit, and I've got a right old fancy frock to wear... but what about poor Tyger? She's gotta look spiffy too, especially since the bride is her godmother.

Since she's only going to the wedding itself, and not the reception, I decided that a simple and sweet summer dress would be just the thing. So I pulled out that favourite of ours, New Look 6613. This is the 3rd version of this I've made, and it's a wonderful pattern. It only took me 3 hours to make, from cut out to final hem, which is always a bonus. Teamed with the lacy cardigan I hope to finish this week, it will be dressy enough for this special occasion, but not so fancy that she can't wear it all summer long.

Especially with those crazy sparkly sandals!

Grey Dress #5

Grey Dress #4

Grey Dress #6

Project Details
Pattern - New Look 6613
Fabric - 1.5m of grey and red fabric from the "A Walk In The Woods" collection by Aneela Hoey for Moda Fabrics, purchased from GJ's Discount Fabrics
Notions - 12mm elastic

Monday, October 08, 2012

Rhubarb, apple and blood orange compote


Blood orange

Rhubarb Compote

In my constant bid to get more fruit into my diet, I am continually experimenting with quick and easy fruit recipes, and this has to be the winner so far. It's like eating the most delicious pie filling ever,  without the pastry guilt. And yes, I have been known to gobble up an apple and custard danish in my time, and brazenly call it one of my 7-a-day, which, even I can admit, is really stretching the concept. So for somebody like me, who can look at a platter of fresh fruit with an indifferent shoulder shrug and a "Meh!", a recipe that not only will get me eating fruit but actively look forward to it has to be a very, very good thing.

What - I've finally found a fruit dish I like and you want me to share it with you? Allright, allright, but only the recipe, mind!

Rhubarb, apple and blood orange compote

1 bunch rhubarb, stalks trimmed, cut into 4cm pieces
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
juice of 1 blood orange
2 tablespoons white caster sugar

1 - Place rhubarb, apples, orange juice and caster sugar into a pan with 1/2 cup water.

2 - Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, for 4 minutes, or until the fruit is tender.

Serve with yoghurt as a snack, or on top of cereal in the morning. That's if there is any left...

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Ballerina dress

I've had this idea simmering away in this old noggin of mine for a while, and since today was so warm that I deemed it prudent to keep my scarily lily-white skin inside for fear of sunburn slash frightening strangers it seemed like the perfect time to put the idea into action.

So: I made up a shortened version of a t-shirt for the Tyger, then wrestled with half a metre of double-layered tulle and some jersey, gathering it up to make a skirt which was then attached to the t-shirt. The Tyger, who had her nose stuck in a book, wasn't really paying much attention to what I was doing, but when it was presented to her she dropped the book to the ground, gathered the dress into her arms and slowly said in a tone of delighted disbelief "It's a ballerina dress!" As I grinned and nodded my confirmation dress she began to first chant then squeal it over and over again: "It's a ballerina dress! A Ballerina Dress! A. BALLERINA. DRESS! ABALLERINADRESSABALLERINADRESSABALLERINADRESS!"

Hee hee...I think she likes it!

Ballerina Dress #5

Ballerina Dress #4

Ballerina Dress #6

Project Details
Pattern - T-shirt pattern #19, from Ottobre Design Magazine Summer 3/2011, used as the base, with self-drafted skirt added
Fabric - 1m cotton jersey and .5m American tulle, both from GJ's Discount Fabrics

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pattern Review: Vogue 8815 - Peplum Top


Every year I do it. I go on a mad sewing jig, and make myself nothing but dresses, dresses and more dresses. And that's fun for a while - I mean, who doesn't love a good frock on a sunshiney day? - but one day you wake up and think "Gah! I have hairy legs, a thumping headache and I've got loads of running around to do. Today is NOT a day for dresses. I simply cannot be bothered. Today is pants."

But my problem is that I then go to the wardrobe and do you think I can find a half-decent top amongst all those dresses? The sad truth, which I discover and then obviously promptly forget on a yearly basis, is nope. Nut. Nihna nihna zero. But this year I decided to buck the trend. I was going to make some tops, and make them funky! So when I saw that Vogue had a peplum pattern out, I was all over it.

Now, normally I don't really follow fashion trends. I tend to just buy patterns that I like, and often it can take me years to get around to sewing them, but because I'm not slavishly trying to emulate what is currently in the shops then that isn't a problem. But I cannot go past a good peplum. Even the name is good. Pep. Lum. Yum! So for once I find myself in the curious, for me, position of being on-trend. I figured that since I was embracing the whole 'wear-what's-in-the-fashion-mags' thing that I may as well go the whole hog.

So peplum? Check! Florals? Check! Fluros? Check! People turning to stare at me when I wear this down the street because it's so peplummey/florally/fluroey? Check!

This pattern was easy peasey to sew up. I made a couple of adjustments, namely creating a double layer peplum, plus I omitted the binding from the armholes. Instead of using binding there, I did a narrow hem instead.

The double peplum was simple to create - I simply measured off one that was half the length of the original peplum pattern piece. When it came to attaching the peplum to the bodice, the pattern asks you to sew each peplum piece to the corresponding bodice piece, then sew your side seams together. Instead of doing that, I sewed my bodice pieces together first, then sewed my peplum side seams to each other. I then basted the two peplum layers together, then attached those to the bodice. That way my peplum floats free all the way around the bodice.

Would I make this pattern again? Sure! It's comfy to wear, hides the mummy-tummy well (also means you can eat far too much at lunch and nobody will ever know - cue evil self-satisfied laugh) and fits well thanks to the double darts in the back. And it only takes 1m of fabric. Can't go wrong with that!

Project Details
Pattern - Vogue 8815, view A
Fabric - 1m of Amy Butler fabric from the Lark collection, purchased from GJ's Discount Fabrics.
Notions - 51cm invisible zip, yellow bias binding for the neckline, hook and eye.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's show time!

Darn good day out at the Royal Melbourne Show on Monday. There were rides! And cute lambs to pat! And jelly slice at the CWA pavilion (jelly slice is never safe around me)! And yarn-bombing everywhere! And cranky looking chickens! And woodchoppers with rippling muscles on display doing their best to annihilate big logs of wood! And so many other awesome things to see and do that by the time the Tyger and I arrived home it was all we could do to kick off our shoes before collapsing onto the couch. We were tuckered out by all that Show goodness!

Royal Melbourne Show #7

Royal Melbourne Show #5

Royal Melbourne Show #4

Royal Melbourne Show #1

Royal Melbourne Show #8

Royal Melbourne Show #3

Royal Melbourne Show #2

Friday, September 21, 2012

She's inherited the crafting gene

A few weeks ago I found myself in Lincraft on urgent thread-buying business (don't pretend you don't know what that's like!) when I stumbled across these doll making kits by studiogirl. The Tyger, who was with me, pounced on them immediately, and asked if she could get one.

Who am I to deny my own offspring crafting opportunities? Plus these dolls were pretty darn cute! So I said yes, on the strictest proviso that it was put away until the school holidays. Tyger faithfully agreed, and the doll was duly placed in a cupboard, with only the occasional sneak peek by Tyger on the sly when she thought I wasn't looking.

Before we knew it, the last day of school had rolled around. Since it rained, we decided to skip the break-up party at the park, and headed on home to relax after a long term.

So there we are, a mere 25 minutes into our usual Friday afternoon (22 minutes of which it took to walk home) and who do you think is crafting away at the kitchen table? That's right, Grumbles. "Hang on a cotton-picking minute!" I said. "I though that doll was meant for the school holidays?"

"Muuuuuum", groaned Tyger with the air of one who can't believe that she's been saddled with such a daft git of a mother, "it is the school holidays." The silent 'Duh!' hung in the air, suffocating my attempts to explain that as far as I was concerned, school holidays officially begin on the Monday, as you would have gotten the weekend regardless.

An hour after that and the kid was done. I don't know whether I should feel exasperated or proud!

Doll studiogirl craft pink happy

Speaking of school holidays, our are jampacked with lots of activites, sleep overs, outings etc so I'm not sure how much I'll be around for the next couple of weeks, but I will try my darndest to pop in because I have loads, absolute buckets of finished projects to show y'all!

Ok, so by 'buckets' I mean two. But trust me, you'll want to see them! Right, I'd best skedaddle and get that Friday night pizza going. I've already slightly burnt the tomato sauce in my rush to do a thousand things at once... no wonder they say that multi-tasking is bad for your brain. To quote from this article, "Something's got to give," says David E. Meyer, PhD, director of the Brain, Cognition, and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. "Either your cell phone conversation will suffer or your driving will suffer."

Or in my case, the pizza sauce will suffer. Arrrgggghhhh!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yarn bombed tractor!

I'm not usually one for the whole whack-a-video-into-your-blog-post thing, but this was too cool not to share! According to a source of mine, the Royal Melbourne Show is going to be filled with yarn-bombed goodness this year, and this very same source did a time lapse video of the yarn-bombers bombing a tractor.

It's pretty frigging awesome!

I've totally got to tell my dad about this. He's got some pretty ancient Massey Ferguson tractors hanging around his farm that could definitely use some yarn-based jazzing up!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The lure of the new

Sublime 4 ply merino

Jorth came home from the Sunspun sale, and thrust five balls of Sublime extra fine merino wool 4 ply at a surprised Galumph, who said mildly "Thanks, honey, but deep magenta isn't really my colour."

"It's not for you, you daft git!" said Jorth. "It's for my summer cardi, but you've got to hide it from me. Lock it away if you must, just don't let me near that soft, silky merino goodness or I'll cast on immediately and poor old Grumble's lacy cardigan will stand no chance of being finished!"

Not wanting to trigger a knitting claims war between wife and daughter, Galumph wisely did as he was told. Anything for household peace!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monster Pet Rocks

Monster Pet Rocks


I was totally hoping to have a whole swag of finished garments to show you, but alas the weekend just trickled away without me getting anything done. Blast!

But I do have a Monster Pet Rocks article over at Mum's Business, so not all is lost, eh?

Signing off,
Jorth, who can't draw a scary face to save herself.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vogue 8815 in progress

Peplum In Progress

"You can say what you like about Jorth", mused Sabrina the dressmakers dummy as the half-completed peplum top was pinned to her, "but one thing is certain - girl ain't afraid of a bit of colour!"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

K1B vs K vs P1B vs P - whaaaaat?

As I mentioned yesterday, the pattern for the lacey cardigan I'm knitting for the Tyger is full of 'knit into back of stitch' and 'purl into back of stitch', and those two pesky techniques are seriously impeding my knitting flow. After all the work involved in the green dress, all I want is a fast speedy knit that I can have dashed off in a couple of weeks (if such a knit for me exists!) Instead I'm being bogged down with the ol' K1B and P1B.

So after I did my swatch, using the K1B and P1B, I had a cunning idea - maybe I should do another swatch, and sub the behind the stitch knitting with regular knit and purl. "Jorthy!", I said to myself, "you are a knitting genius! I bet it turns out just as well, and you won't need to faff around with the written instructions. Let's crank up the music and get knitting!"

Let's just say that it's just as well I did that swatch. The original swatch, featuring the K1B and P1B is on the left, and the other, where I just did knit and purl, is on the right.

Knit Stitches

Oh dear. Would you just look at those flabby, lacklustre stitches? What a mess! Even ignoring the fact that I was so busy rocking out to Hot Hot Heat whilst I was knitting that I accidentally added another pattern repeat, those stitches are ghastly. They're wonky. And messy. And loose, in a most unattractive way, whilst their behind-the-loop counterparts are as neat as neat can be.

So it turns out that if you want lovely neat stitches, particularly in a lace pattern, behind-the-loop knitting is the way to go. I did a bit of ye olde internet research on the matter, and discovered that this technique results in a twisted stitch, and twisted stitches result in a tighter, firmer piece of knitted fabric. And, as in this case, a much nicer looking piece of lace.

Ah, knitting. As always the truths of knitting match up to the truths of life. You can't have it all (super speedy knitting flow) but every cloud has a silver lining (neat stitches! and new techniques learnt!)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Next project: red lacy cardi

Red Yarn #1

Red Yarn #2

Oh you guys! No, seriously, you guys! Thanks so much for all the knitting love on the green dress - it totally, absolutely made my day. It's one of those weird sorta-summer sorta-not days here, but tomorrow an icy chill is heading our way, so you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be wearing my dress. Arctic blasts? Pah, I say - there's 14 balls of superfine merino in that baby!

Whenever I'm close to the finishing line on a knitted project, I like to spur myself on a little to reach the end. Alas, Olympic-sized stadiums full of knitting fans cheering me on are sadly lacking around these parts, so I do the next best thing: I jump on my bike and ride on over to Sunspun, and get myself some new yarn. Although I forbid myself from starting a new project until the current one is completed, just the sight of those lovely, unwound balls of yarn is often enough to send me into a frenzy of finishing. Hey, a knitters gotta do what a knitters gotta do!

This lovely red bamboo/viscose blend (Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK) is going to become a cute little lacy cardi for the Tyger to wear over summer, to stop her shoulders getting sun burnt. After my last 14 ball project, 4 measly balls feels like a total walk in the park! Especially since I'm finished the first one already.

(I'll just gloss over the fact that the knit- and purl-behind-the-loop stitch repeat is doing my head in, and totally ruining my knitting flow. Gah. Just as well this is going to be a small cardigan...)

What's on your needles? Any summer knitting planned? Would it be naughty of me to tell you that Sunspun has a sale on for two weeks, beginning on the 15th September? Just in time for the school holidays... I feel an excursion with the Tyger coming on!

*****UPDATE: The cardigan in question is Sirdar Pattern # 1325. Cute, huh?*****

Monday, September 10, 2012

One finished green knitted dress!

Green Knitted Dress #4

Green Knitted Dress #3

Finally, finally, finally, finally! The green knitted dress is done! Finito! Completed and ready to wear! And do you know what? I'm really, really happy with it. Thank goodness - imagine if, after all that effort, all those stitches, you put it on, stood in front of the mirror and thought "By gee, that looks CRAP!" I think I would hang up my needles for once and for all if that had of been the case, but thankfully it wasn't, and I shall live to knit another day.

Make no mistake about it - this dress was a lot of work. I think I used 14 balls of yarn (Filatura Di Crosa's Zara in shade 1889) all up. The knitting in itself took quite a while, but it was the finishing that was the real humdinger. It never seemed to end, but I was determined not to rush it and botch things up. I'm glad I took the time over it that I did, because it has come up beautifully.

I sewed up my side and sleeve seams using invisible vertical seaming, which is also known as mattress stitch, just to confuse things - you can learn how to do it here. They take a lot of work, but the result is absolutely worth it. Then, I had the fun task of attaching my sleeves and the sleeve tabs onto the dress. The key to making the tabs sit flat was to use a thin thread. In the past, I've simply divided a piece of yarn into its separate strands, but I didn't think the strands would be strong enough to stand the wear and tear of such a large piece of knitting, particularly the arms, which I tend to wave around a lot (anybody who knows me in real life will be nodding their head in agreement at this point!) The solution - I used embroidery thread in a matching colour, which is a trick I'd learnt years ago from This gives you a lovely flat finish, as your seaming doesn't end up bulky, and it makes your seaming stitches pretty much invisible, as they hide away nicely in between your knitted stitches.

The buttons were a bit of a challenge - I really wanted to give the dress a slight nautical look but just a slight one - I didn't want to come across all ho ho sailor, but couldn't find any suitable ones anywhere until I visited Buttonmania. They are just lovely - burnished metal, with the colour on each varying just enough to give them a vintagey, worn look. I was worried that the shanks of the buttons would mean that my buttons wouldn't sit flat, but I sewed them on tightly using the embroidery thread, nestling the shank in between knitted stitches, and they are as flat as I could have desired them.

All in all, it's a fab dress, and the knitting was, despite the amount, nice and easy. Maybe one in red for next winter?!? That Zara yarn sure is nice to work with!

Project details
Pattern: Robe No. 043-T10-273 from Phildar Creations Automne No. 043
Yarn: Zara by Filatura di Crosa, in shade 1889, purchased from Sunspun. I used 14 balls. This yarn is a superfine merino in DK weight.
Needles: 2.5mm, 3mm and 3.5mm
Notions: 12 buttons from Buttonmania, Sajou embroidery thread from L'uccello

Friday, August 31, 2012

What's on my kitchen table?

Buttons and thread

So glad you asked! Currently there are some lovely burnished metal buttons from Buttonmania - if you've never had the pleasure of visiting, make sure you check it out next time you are in Melbourne. Button heaven!

And look - there's also some gorgeous French cotton thread from the incomparable L'uccello - if you've never been to this shop, filled with French and vintage haberdashery goodness, then you've no idea of the beauty of which you are missing out. Truly, visit it right after you check out Buttonmania - they are just down one floor from each other in the Nicholas Building. No excuses!

Oh, and that green knitted thing you see in the corner of the frame? Well, with a bit of careful handstitching, and the addition of the aforementioned buttons, it shall soon be green knitting no more and shall instead be my new favourite dress. Squeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Green dress seaming

Green Seaming

Hold onto your hats, people. Grab the nearest armchair for support, if needed. Stock up on the smelling salts, prepare to fully and utterly suspend your disbelief - oh, and if there are any fainters in the audience I beg of you, for your own safety, to leave now, for what I am about to say is shocking and may be hard for the feeble-hearted to bear: I have almost finished seaming my green dress!

Yes, it's taken me all winter. Yes, it's probably not going to get that much wear this year, as I've left my run a bit late. Yes, it's probably going to raise a few eyebrows on the school run. But do you know what? I've made it all by myself, and I'm quite proud of that. I haven't been sucked into the trap of buying what the fashion marketers have decreed I should be buying this season. I haven't purchased something produced in a horrible sweatshop, endorsing such places by handing over my cash. I've opted out, and made something unique and even though it may have taken me quite a while to get it done, it's going to be super snuggly warm, the shade of green will suit me perfectly and it's going to be FRIGGIN AWESOME!

And in a world where global temperature rises are causing record Artic ice melt due to our inability to curb emissions, where child labour is still allowed so we can continue to feed our consumeristic ways and where ruining pristine environments to dig up tar sands that will send us hurtling towards runaway climate change is somehow ok just so we can keep on trucking, I think we need all the thoughtful, considered handmade goodness we can get!

Sorry - got a bit environmental on you all there. I just felt like I myself needed a reminder about why I take the time to makes things, because it's easy to forget why I do things the hard way when there are all these messages telling us to buy, consume, get get get. And then do it all again tomorrow!

Nah. Not me. I'm trying to tread as lightly as I can. And when this darn dress is finished, I'll be treading lightly and warmly. Win win! Although I might leave off riding my bike in this dress - imagine, after all my hard work, if I snagged it or got oil on it? Gah, doesn't bear thinking about.

Ok, pep talk over - back to the seaming! The sooner this dress is done, the sooner I can wear it, and it's going to be so amazing that I'm going to wear it forever. And then when I die, or get fat (whichever comes first) the Tyger is going to take it and wear it. I know this for a fact - she's already claimed dibs on it, along with most of my handmade wardrobe. So take that, disposable fashion!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Raspberry and banana bread

Banana Bread

The Galumph, after spending a few weeks being totally gluten-free, has begun to tentatively add small amounts of gluten back into his diet, to see how much his body can tolerate. So far the oat porridge has gone down well, as has the odd slice of bread. So when I wondered aloud if I should make some banana bread this morning, he was totally on board. In fact, he bounced around the table to put his hands on my shoulders, kissed me soundly on the cheek and said rather enthusiastically "You should absolutely make it!"

"But honey!", I said, "I'd hate to upset your tummy with all the gluten. Maybe I should forget about baking for this week..."

"Never mind my tummy!" interjected Galumph hastily. "Not when there is a loaf of your totally delicious banana bread at stake. The bananas! The raspberries! The slathering of butter onto a slice still warm from the wouldn't tease me like this by not baking some. Please, PLEASE make the banana bread - I'm sweet-treat deprived!"

Well, I'd be a cruel wife indeed to ignore such fervent begging pleas. Besides, the thought of a slice with a cuppa will be the only thing to keep me going as I devote a few hours to seaming my green dress (yes! actual seaming! break out the party poppers! this thing might just get finished yet!)

Raspberry and banana bread

150g butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 really ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
2 cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup low fat milk
1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed

1 - Preheat oven to 180 C. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until pale. Add the eggs one by one, and mix in well.

2 - Add the bananas to the mixture, and use a wooden spoon to mix together. Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon over the top, then stir together.

3 - Carefully add the raspberries, taking care not to crush them when stirring them in. Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan, and bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in tin, then transfers to a wire rack.

Best served cut into lovely thick slices with a slick of butter and washed down with a cup of tea (she says wiping crumbs from her chin)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Asparagus time

"Yippeeyiyay!" carolled Jorth as she cake walked down the street, interspersing the dance with a few shimmies and two-steps as the mood struck.

A couple of passersby stood and watched her progress. "What the heck is up with that crazy lady today?" asked one, to which the other replied "Oh, don't you mind her and her wacky ways - she's just found out that asparagus has appeared back in the shops."


That reminds me of the old joke: One day two asparagus stalks were walking together down the street. They were just stepping off the footpath onto the road when a speeding car came around the corner and ran one of them over.

The uninjured asparagus stalk called 000, and pretty soon an ambulance came to take the injured stalk to the hospital, where he was rushed into surgery whilst his friend waited anxiously.

After a long and agonizing wait, the doctor finally appeared. He told the uninjured asparagus stalk, "I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to pull through."
"Hooray!" said the stalk. "But what's the bad news, Doc?"

"Well, I'm afraid the bad news is that he's going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life".
Oh dear. Don't mind me - I think I have a bad case of spring fever! But how good does that asparagus look? I've been waiting ages for it to come back. Now the big decision is how to cook it... with scrambled eggs, in a tart, simply steamed, grilled on the hot place, in a risotto...decisions, decisions...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Baby blue knitted vest

It is with great pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, that I announce the crossing-off of another item from my winter project list. Presenting to you all the latest garment hot off the needles: a wee little baby blue vest!

Vest #1

Vest #2

Ok, so the vest isn't much of a talker, so I'll furnish you with all the details. It was knitted using a mere two balls of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, was a quick and easy knit, but boy oh boy - did this thing have a lot of finishing in it. I think it had more finishing per stitch than anything else I've ever done, what with the neckline, armbands and seaming. Still, it's all done now, which means that the green dress might finally get some attention. Ahem.

Project details:
Pattern - Tank Top from The Ultimate Book of Baby Knits by Debbie Bliss
Yarn - 2 balls of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in pale blue
Needles: 3.25mm and 3mm circular

Friday, August 24, 2012

Coconut Macaroons

Macaroons #1

The situation was desperate - it was afternoon tea time, and there was nothing sweet at all in the house to go with a cuppa. "Curse this gluten-free life!" cried Jorth as she rummaged frantically in the pantry, pushing aside packets of buckwheat noodles and quinoa as she searched for some sort of wheat-based sweet treat.

But alas! There was nothing to be found, no matter how many jars of lentils she jostled about. Poor old Galumph, deprived of his beloved gluten-filled flours, had thrown the baking towel in completely, and the trusty blue tin that usually housed a home-made sweet treat was sitting forlornly on the highest shelf of the highest cupboard, empty and alone.

Angrily slamming the pantry door shut, Jorth muttered "Well! If the mountain won't come to Mohammad, then I guess I'll just have to get baking!"

Half an hour and three egg whites later, Jorth was happily munching on a coconut-filled chewy macaroon, and the biscuit tin, filled to the brim, was once more in it's rightful place on the kitchen bench, ready to offer goodies to anybody who walked in the door.

(And trust me, pretty much any regular visitor to our place makes a beeline for that darn tin, prising off the lid and asking "What's in here today?" before they even remove their coat!)

Macaroons #2

Not to be confused with the French macarons, these macaroons are more CWA than Parisian patisserie. But to be honest, I much prefer them to their showy French cousins. They have a delectable chewiness that is just right for afternoon tea, and are sweet without being screw-up-your-face-in-pleasured-agony sweet.

Plus the Galumph can eat them. Several in a row, in fact, if last night's tin-raid was any indication! Thankfully he did remove his coat, but still!

Coconut Macaroons
3 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dessicated coconut

1 - Preheat oven to 180 C. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

2 - Keeping the mixer going, slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is used, and the mixture is thick and glossy.

3 - Turn off the mixer, then using a spatula, add the vanilla essence. Carefully add the coconut half a cup at a time, using the spatula to mix it in, keeping the mixture light and airy.

4 - Place heaped spoonfuls of the mixture onto a lined tray, and bake for 12 - 14 minutes, or until the tops are just browned. Remove immediately to cool on a wire rack. Makes ~30.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Spiced lentil and carrot soup

Carrot Soup #1

The poor old Tyger is home today with a temperature and sore throat. Gallivanting around as Anne Shirley yesterday must have plum wore her out! After tucking her into bed, and placing a well-loved pile of books next to her bed, I asked what she'd like for lunch.

"Soup!", she croaked.

No problem, honey. Except, of course, that it was. My plan for the day included doing a fruit and veg shop, not tending the fevered brow of my child, so it was with a little trepidation that I opened the fridge and critically examined the vegie drawer. Ach - the drawer was pathetically empty, apart from four carrots and half an onion.

Yes. Half an onion. Whenever I pull a stunt like frugally putting half an onion back into the fridge for another day, my brother calls me tight, my Dad calls me "careful" and I call it practising the finest household economy. Not that any of that mattered at the moment - what the heck was I going to do with half a friggin onion and a sick child?

Thankfully I always keep a pretty well stocked larder (there's a doomer inside me desperate to get out), so after gazing at the half onion for inspiration, I decided to invite some coconut milk, red curry paste and red lentils to the party, and see how well they danced together.

Thankfully those ingredients can boogie! We had a mighty fine soup indeed for lunch, and the Tyger perked up so much afterwards that she decided that she'd had enough of bed, and maybe it was time to watch a movie now?

I'll put this miraculous recovery down to the soup, natch!

Carrot Soup #2

Spiced lentil and carrot soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 brown onion, finely diced (oh go on, be crazy and use a whole one if you have it!)
1 heaped tbsp of Thai red curry paste
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup red lentils, picked over and washed well
400g tin of coconut milk
1 cup of water

1 - Heat the oil over a medium-low heat in a saucepan, and saute until soft. Add the red curry paste, and stir for a minute.

2 - Add the carrots, and stir until covered with the onion and paste mixture.

3 - Add the lentils, coconut milk and water, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Take off heat, let cool, then blend until smooth.