Thursday, May 31, 2012

Where my sewing bloggers at?

Still Life: Sewing Machine with Thread

The Commander-in-Chief strode into the operations room, and starting barking orders. "I want to know where those sewing bloggers are at, STAT!"

"Who would you like, sir?" gasped the nervous surveillance officer.

"Damn good question!", said the Commander, who was awfully good at giving commands without putting too much thought behind them. Stroking his chin, he said "Let me see... we know Nikkishell is doing fine, having just made that mini New York cape... Julia Bobbin has just finished off that terrific Bedazzled dress, so we don't need to check up on her... Oonaballoona is dazzling them as always with her fabulous creations...JORTH! Give me Jorth! Let's see if she's bounced back from that pink coat disaster yet."

The now heavily perspiring surveillance officer fiddled with some controls at his computer. Suddenly the 68 inch screen in front of him lit up, showing a macro view of Jorth hard at work at her sewing machine. The Commander came up closer to have a better look, and the surveillance officer, suddenly aware of how close a proximity he was to greatness squeaked "It's the hidden video camera in her sewing machine that's broadcasting this for us, sir. If you just let me zoom in a bit further, we might be able to see what she's working on."

"Zoom away, my lad" said the Commander, slapping the surveillance officer jovially on the shoulder. Gentle though that slap may have been, it still caused the weedy officer to almost fall out of his chair. Recovering himself, he quickly zoomed in, and then announced breathily "It looks like she's working on McCalls 5975. In fact, she's ready to attach the skirt to the bodice. She'll have finished that dress in no time!"

"Jolly good!", said the Commander, and decided that since all was going well in the world of sewing blogs he might as well take the rest of the afternoon off to work on his golf swing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rhubarb and Yoghurt Cake for Knitting Club

Cake #1

Cake #2

Recipe for a fine winters evening:


One brand new knitting club, having their inaugural meeting
A good dose of fine yarn and bamboo needles
Freshly baked Rhubarb and Yoghurt Cake, served with lashings of cream

A sprinkling of gossip and a measure of friendly banter
Tea and wine, and plenty of good cheer


Mix together well, and then consider it a job well done. Mind that the wine doesn't cause any dropped stitches!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pattern Review: New Look 6006: Hot Pink Coat

Finished Pink Coat #1

Finished Pink Coat #2

It really did seem like it was meant to be. I'd been eyeing off this hot pink wool coating fabric at Rathdowne Fabrics for months now, and finally got back to the shop with the hope of getting some in my hot little hands. But alas! Just as is always the way when you have left buying the fabric until too late, the pink was nowhere to be seen.

Morosely I cruised the aisles of the store, half-heartedly patting the other fabrics when I heard a squeal from my aunt who was rummaging around the remnant bin at the back of the store. She had found the very last piece of the pink fabric for me. It was coming in at a scant 1.6m, which was a bit smaller a length than I wanted, but we both decided that I'd be able to squeeze the shorter coat out of the length.

Happily I trotted over to the counter, where the woman proceeded to charge me $22.50 for it. "Er, I'm pretty sure the tag said $36", I said (I'm nothing if not honest.) "Don't sweat it, dahl!", she replied. "My mistake, your piece of good luck!"

So there I was, the proud owner of the pink fabric, and I'd paid far less for it than I'd anticipated. I was thrilled, especially since the original price came in at $45 a metre. With visions of pink coats dancing in my head, I got swiftly to work.

Ahhh, it seemed to be going so well. The pattern was easy to follow, the fabric was a dream to sew with, and it came together fairly quickly. It all appeared to be smooth sailing, until after I'd put the lining in. I don't know what the heck went wrong, but that lining was just too darn small. I double-checked my pattern, but it didn't appear that I'd done anything wrong, but when the lining was in the coat it made the back outside of the coat buckle up in the most atrocious manner. I consulted with my aunt, who is quite a sewing gun, and she recalled reading in a BurdaStyle magazine years ago that if the lining is of a tighter weave than the outside fabric, then the aforementioned bunching may occur, as both fabrics cannot find a happy medium in which to relax with each other. For that reason the magazine recommended actually cutting a longer hem on the lining, so you could take it up afterwards if need be on the inside of the garment, without resorting to any drastic measures.

As you may have read, drastic measures were what I took, as I had no intention of unpicking the whole coat, and buying new lining fabric since my lining was obviously too small. Instead I slashed open the lining from the side seam to side seam in the back of the garment so the lining could relax and the garment would hang properly. Once I was satisfied with that fit, I created a patch which I inserted into the lining slash, and carefully hand stitched the original lining onto the patch. It's not pretty, but it did the job. It was, however, rather disappointing to have to make such an alteration.

Other issues I have with this coat: It's nowhere near as fitted as I'd like it to be. I'd made the size 8, but I really needed to grade it down to about a 4 to get the snug, fitted look I prefer in a coat. Also the arms are way too wide and long. And the pockets are far too big - they actually hang down right onto the hem of the coat.

So all in all, you could say I'm not exactly thrilled with how this coat turned out. However, in my opinion, coats are like jeans - you can spend years looking for the perfect one, so I shouldn't have been surprised that this one didn't turn out to my expectations on the first go. By rights I really should have made a muslin, and tweaked away until I was satisfied, but like a fool I rushed right in.

You know how in the Harry Potter books our three intrepid heroes need to tap the Marauder's Map with their wands and announce "Mischief Managed!" in order to make the map look like a blank piece of parchment again? I feel like banging my head against my ill-fitting coat and declaring "Lesson Learnt! Make a bloody muslin!" Oh well, we live to learn again.

Project Details
Pattern: New Look 6006, View C (shorter style)
Fabric: 1.6m hot pink wool coating from Rathdowne Fabrics, 1.6m stretch satin for lining from GJ's Discount Fabrics.
Notions: 1m jacket fusing, 4 buttons from Duttons For Buttons, Harrogate, England.

Verdict: I don't mind this coat (after all, it IS hot pink!) but with the fit issues it'll never be my number one. Sorry coat!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ratatouille Stew with Poached Egg


"Farewell, dearest summer!" cried Jorth, as she simultaneously clutched the last of summer's produce to her chest and also tried to batten down the hatches for the coming wintry storm. "I shall miss your fresh tomatoes, your basil picked at whim, your ripe glossy eggplants and your never-ending supply of cheap as chips zucchini."

"But...", she continued, as she dumped the vegetables onto her cutting board and began to rummage in her cupboard for her favourite saucepan, "all good things must come to an end. We'll celebrate together tonight with a fine garlicky ratatouille stew, mopping up every last delicious drop with fresh crusty bread and maybe a little zinfandel to really make an evening of it."

"Let's just not get drunk and end the evening slumped on the table bawling out "We'll Meet Again" like we did last year", suggested Galumph.

"Oh yeah!", said Jorth, blushing as red as the last of the summer's tomatoes. "I'd conveniently forgotten all about that!"***

Ratatouille Stew with Poached Egg

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1 eggplant, cut into fat dice
1 red capsicum, cut into chunks
1 zucchini, diced thickly
3 cloves of garlic, minced
800g can crushed tomatoes
1 egg per person
2 tsp white vinegar
fresh basil leaves and cracked pepper to serve

1 - Place the eggplant pieces into a colander, and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave for half an hour so the salt can draw any bitterness out, then wipe the salt off.

2 - Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the red onion. Cook for a minute or until starting to soften, then add the other vegetables. Saute gently for 5 - 7 minutes, until all the vegetables are beginning to soften, then add the tomatoes, garlic and 1/2 cup of water.

3 - Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, or until the stew has thickened and all vegetables are beautifully soft. Stir in 10 torn up basil leaves, then take off the heat. Plate up when your egg is almost ready.

4 - Do eggs one at a time. Bring a half-filled saucepan of water plus the vinegar to the boil, then turn the heat down so that it is just simmering. Crack your egg into a shallow small bowl, then use a wooden spoon to swirl the water in the saucepan so that a vortex is created. Quickly slide your egg into the vortex, and cook for 3 minutes for a soft yolk or 4 minutes for a firmer yolk.

5 - Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove your egg from the saucepan, making sure all water is drained off. Carefully place on top of the ratatouille, and top with cracked pepper and fresh basil. Cook the other eggs in the same manner.

Serves 4

***Didn't actually happen. But you just never know what the last of the season's basil can do to a girl...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pink Coat Operation

Pink Coat #3

It was a good thing that Jorth was carrying her, for the pink coat was feeling a little weak and light-headed after her ordeal. Jorth carefully arranged her on Sabrina the dressmakers dummy, and then left the room quietly.

As soon as the door had shut, all her fellow garment friends began to call out to her, wanting to know how it all went.

"Well", said the pink coat, "at first I was horrified. When she said she was going to slash my lining, I really did think that was it for me. But then she laid me down on the table, and cut the lining open so deftly that I barely felt a thing!"

There was a collective intake of breath at the coat's bravery. One impressed little sock called out "Was the cut deep?"

"Oh yes!" answered the pink coat, beginning to enjoy herself. "It went from side seam to side seam. You could see right inside me!"

Plunk! went a bracelet in the jewellery box. The other bangles helped her back up, and tittered amongst themselves that she had never been good around garment medical stories.

The pink coat continued on. "You should see how many stitches she put in me! I'll admit, I did feel a little bit queer as she was applying the patch to the cut, and then stitching me up, but after she quickly pressed me to make my lining sit nice and flat I felt as good as new. I'm like the bionic coat!"

"So brave!" said Sabrina, impressed for once. "Not many clothes could handle a textile operation like that. Still, it did need to be done. That too-small lining was making you sit so crookedly at the back, and no garment wants to go out looking like that. Now that the alteration has been a success, does that mean that you're now officially finished?"

"Uh huh!" said the coat happily. "All I need now is my photo shoot on Jorth herself, and I'll be able to join you all in the wardrobe."

"Hooray!" cheered the other garments, except for one miffed half-finished purple dress, who grumbled quietly to herself "Huh. Hope that Jorth gets around to finishing me next!"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 6

Green Knitted Tab

Where were we? That's right: Jean-Luc, evil man, had gotten created evidence of Jorth breaking the rules of the Dress Marathon event. He was going to use this to blackmail both Jorth and Bob - Jorth would be disqualified from her Olympic event and Bob would have to quit his beloved radio show, confessing his sins and being scorned by the entire crafting community. It's trying times here folks, so make yourself a coffee (or perhaps a stiff drink if you are of a nervous disposition) and settle down to find out what happens next in the 2012 Crafting Olympics story...

When Bob had rung Jorth, and told her that she needed to meet with him in his office immediately, Jorth immediately dropped what she was doing, and headed into the radio station where he had his small pokey office. Without knocking she opened the door, and came across Bob and one of the Crafting Olympic Inspectors, both looking grave. Jorth looked at Bob. Bob looked at Jorth. The inspector gazed at them both, and was a smidge startled when both Bob and Jorth both threw their arms in the air and shouted "Wooooohooooooo!"

After enveloping Jorth in a quick bear hug, Bob exclaimed with glee "We've got him! We totally got that little piece of macraméd work! I knew he was up to something sneaky and dirty! Tell you what, Jorthy my girl, you were brave putting that bugging device on him like you did, but it's done the trick, and now we've both got him on tape, organising for you to be framed so he could blackmail us. He'll never wriggle free now!"

Jorth sank into the easy chair with a look of relief on her face, as the Inspector scribbled notes onto his notepad. Grinning up at Bob, she said "Urgh! I've done some unpleasant things in my time, but cuddling up to him to attach the bug to one of his macramé beads was seriously in the top 5. All I could feel was his dangly bits pressing into me as he squeezed me in tight. Gross!"
Bob looked alarmed at this piece of news. "His dangly bits? He got that close? That's disgusting!"

Jorth looked at Bob in confusion. "Er, yeah, the dangly bits from that stupid macramé belt he always wears." Looking up at Bob with comprehension dawning on her face, she said "What dangly bits exactly were you referring to, Bob?"

Bob shifted his feet, and began to mutter in an embarrassed fashion, but thankfully the Inspector came to his rescue. Tapping his notepad, he said "So, let me get this straight: Jean-Luc has attempted to show that Jorth was beginning a new project - which we all know is against the rules - by hiring a hack to send her yarn sale emails, and then getting the aforementioned hack to take pictures of her in the act. He was then going to use this evidence to force Bob to admit that Jorth was hopeless on air and had no chance of winning gold, and then renounce his job at the radio station, resulting in Jean-Luc having the program all to himself. If that didn't work, he was going to spill a secret about Bob, which would force Bob's hand and make him resign. Is that correct?"

Both Jorth and Bob nodded their heads emphatically.

"And you have the evidence...?" asked the Inspector.

"Sure do!", said Bob. "Jorth placed a bug on JL, which recorded his dealings with the hacker, where he organised for the hacker to send her yarn sale emails and to take pictures of her buying the yarn. This nifty little device," he said patting a machine on the table, "was able to receive the transmission from the bug on Jean-Luc. Then, when he came to blackmail me, I used the device to record our conversation, all of which is contained on the tape I have given you."

"Very good!", said the Inspector. "I shall, of course, need to listen to the tape, but I trust that all is in order. You are both free to continue on as you are, and I shall have a little chat with our friend Jean-Luc."

"Just one question, Inspector", said Jorth, somewhat nervously. "Am I truly clear to keep competing in the Crafting Olympics? You see, I only swatched for a new project in the shop, because I knew that Jean-Luc had sent that Hansel fellow to take pictures, and I wanted to make it look as realistic as possible. But swatching isn't against the rules, is it? Please tell me I can still compete. I mean, I want more than anything to see Jean-Luc be brought to task, but I would also still like to compete and get that Dress Marathon gold medal."

The Inspector graced her with a smile that he usually reserved for only the best crafting athletes. Pulling the latest edition of the rule book from his pocket, he riffled through the pages until he found the one he want. Clearing his throat with an impressive, if somewhat phlegmy, noise he read "According to Section 12, Subsection 8, Rule No. 4b, a Dress Marathon entrant may swatch only for a new project whilst competing in the above event." Looking at Jorth, he said "Can you prove to me that you have swatched, and swatched only?"

Jorth beamed with relief. "Sure can!" she said, fishing the knitting shop bag out of her backpack. Within was contained the receipt, showing that she purchased 6 balls of yarn. 5 of these were still intact, except for one, which had be used to create a very little swatch, still attached to the needles.

The Inspector glanced over it, and then said "Everything seems to be in order. You are free to compete!"

"Phew!" said Jorth, sinking deep down into the easy chair. The Inspector smiled at her, and began to gather up his things. As he put on his hat, he said "Well, Miss Jorth, Bob, with that I shall take my leave."

"Halt!" said Bob rather hoarsely. "I... I have something I want to confess to. I know what I am about to say may shock you - heck, you may even scorn me for life, but it's been hanging over me like the bloody Devil himself, and it's time to be rid of it. I want to tell you the secret I've been keeping all these years, that Jean-Luc was trying to expose. I'd rather tell you myself that let that weasel have the pleasure, and to be frank, I'm sick of living a lie. I know that this may spell the end of my textile career, but I'll never be free until the truth has been told."

Jorth and the Inspector stood in silence, both nervously awaiting what Bob may have to say. Finally the Inspector found his voice. "Shall I take a seat? Will this take long?"

Bob rubbed his hands fretfully together. "Yes, you'd best. Like unravelling a piece of poorly made lace, this may take some time."

Whooooooaaaa! What could it be that Bob feels the need to confess to? Will Jorth remain his friend? Will the Inspector still feel easy about attending Bob's monthly poker games once Bob has revealed all? And who dares create poorly made lace? Stay tuned for the latest in the twisting saga of the 2012 Crafting Olympics!

Enjoyed this? Why not revisit the rest?

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 1

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 2

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 3

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 4

The 2012 Crafting Olympics - Part 5

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ginger Citrus Salad

Ginger Citrus Salad #1

My dad has a sliding scale he uses in order to determine how ill somebody is. Off-colour means that you're not quite yourself. Pasty usually means that not only have you turned a delicate shade of green but that you need to be tucked up into bed pronto, preferably with a bucket at arms reach. Crook indicates that you truly are sick, and somebody should call you an ambulance forthwith. Heheh, I love my Dad!

I have been feeling a little off-colour myself this week. Not sick, exactly, but not well either. I couldn't quite figure out what was wrong with me - all I knew was that my body was craving something, but I couldn't nut out what it was. Then my glance fell upon our fruit bowl. Suddenly it all came to me: I needed grapefruit! And ginger! And oranges! And boy oh boy, I needed them now!

10 minutes and some deft knife work later, I had a ginger citrus salad before me. Reader, I am ashamed to say that as soon as I had finished snapping these pics, I wolfed it down in the most unladylike manner possible. But it was good, so good - exactly what I needed. In the Dad Sliding Scale, I am back on top with all pistons firing. Phew!
Ginger Citrus Salad #2

Ginger Citrus Salad

1 ruby grapefruit
1 orange
small knob of ginger
1/4 teaspoon raw caster sugar (or to taste)

1 - Using a sharp knife, remove the peel from the grapefruit and orange, then cut the fruit into slices. Place into a bowl.

2 - Remove the skin from the ginger, and grate a 1cm piece on top of the fruit. Toss to combine so the ginger mingles in nicely with the fruit juices.

3 - Scatter the sugar on top, then munch away.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A pink coat disaster

Pink Coat #2

By all rights, Sabrina the dressmakers dummy should have been happy. It was a glorious autumn day, and the sun was streaming in through the window, flooding the room with a bright cheering light. But Sabrina was far from happy. She was too hot, for starters, and found no pleasure in the dazzling sunshine. She stood straight on her stand, and kept up a low-level grizzling monologue, all of which the clothes in the wardrobe knew better than to interrupt.

One brave blouse nudged her neighbour, and whispered "If she's so hot, why doesn't she just take the coat off?"

Her neighbour, a fine pair of black pleated pants, answered gravely "Look, kid, you're fairly new around here, so I'll explain how things work. Garments being sewn by Jorth generally stay on Sabrina until the garment is finished."

The blouse was nonplussed. "But it looks plenty finished to me!"

The black pants sighed. "Listen up, Blousie. If the garment is finished, then it gets hung up in the wardrobe, here with us. Obviously the pink coat ain't finished." Lowering his voice so that the blouse had to lean right in to hear, he said with great seriousness "There's been a sewing disaster - the lining isn't fitting into the coat properly, making the back of the coat sit in a rather unflattering bunched up manner. Jorth is so browned off that she's left the coat on Sabrina for the past week, and Sabrina ain't none too happy when that occurs."

"What's going to happen next?" asked the blouse, beginning to tremble gently with ghoulish anticipation.

"Well, just the other day I saw Jorth standing next to the coat, scissors in hand, gesticulating to her husband. I couldn't quite catch what they were saying, but I have a horrible feeling that Jorth is going to do a slash."

"A slash!?" said the blouse, aghast.

"A slash!?!" said the pink coat, quivering from the lining out.

"Yup", said the black pants. "A slash."

It was just as well that the pink coat was sitting securely on Sabrina's shoulders, otherwise she may have toppled to the floor in the swoon. Sabrina, completely aware of the whispered conversation, declared "I don't mind what happens at this point - I just want this coat finished and off me!"

Friday, May 18, 2012

Veg Box

Veg Box

It was the moment Jorth had been waiting for. She had politely shown the organic fruit'n'veg delivery guy into the house, smiled with patience as he made small talk about the mandarins, and had given him a cheery wave as he got into his van.

But no sooner had his van begun to putter on down the street than Jorth slammed her front door shut and raced back into the house to rejoice over her bounty. She practically had to stifle a moan as she gazed in delight at the autumnal haul. After lovingly inspecting all the fruit (although she was a wee bit disappointed to find an eggplant in there - she and eggplant just couldn't be friends) she took out a fresh piece of paper, found herself a nicely dulled grey lead, and began to compose her weekly menu plan.

Friday: Cauliflower, brussel sprouts and bacon mac'n'cheese with salad
Saturday: Silverbeet and potato pie with rocket and tomato salad
Sunday: Spinach and lentil soup with garlic bread
Monday: Broccoli, ricotta and roasted tomato spaghetti
Tuesday: Sweet potato and pea samosas with roasted carrots and raita
Wednesday: Ratatouille with poached egg on top
Thursday: Beef stew on creamy garlic mash

Hope you all have a lovely weekend, filled with delicious things to eat!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Crafty spells

Pink Coat In Progress

Jorth stood muttering over her spell cauldron, casting a spell to stop the heavy grey winter skies from dampening her spirits. Hoicking up her sleeves and beginning to wave her arms over the steam rising from the pot she said:

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
I need something to cheer, on the double!
Something to banish gloom from grey skies.
Something to dazzle all of our eyes!

Suddenly sparks issued violently from the cauldron, and Jorth stepped back just in time, for a huge crack rent the air, and the room was filled with smoke. Coughing somewhat, Jorth approached the pot once the smoke had cleared a little, and was delighted to find some lovely bright pink wool coating, matching lining and Simplicity pattern 6006 sitting in the bottom of the cauldron.

"Excellent!" she grinned. "What better to dispel the winter blues than with a hot pink coat!" She laid the fabric on the table, opened a window to let the last of the smoke out and immediately got to work.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Bellarine Rail Trail Ride

Queenscliff #1

Queenscliff #2

Queenscliff #3

Queenscliff #4

Queenscliff #5

Queenscliff #6

Queenscliff #7

Queenscliff #8

You can't beat a stiff ocean breeze for clearing out the cobwebs, and we certainly got that when we rode our bikes down to Queenscliff along the Bellarine Rail Trail, after catching the train with our bikes to South Geelong.

Now, there's a lot to be said for travelling in a car - it gets you from A to B in quite the speedy fashion, and in relative comfort. And cars are darn useful things. Ambulances, fire trucks, Mr Whippy vans - I wouldn't be without them. Bikes, however, give you a whole buffet spread of experiences that you just don't receive in the sealed confines of a car.

For example? The salty tang of the air. The crunch of gravel under your wheels. The sharpening of senses as you leave the city's dust behind. The thrill of achievement when you spot your destination just over and beyond the next hill. The big daft grin as you coast down the hill into town, the wind turning your cheeks rosy red, and your heart full of gratitude for the life-affirming exultation a bike ride can bring.

I wouldn't miss any of it for the world. Not even the sore knees. They are a reminder of a job well done!