Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wide angle apples


My birthday present was delivered early today. Whee! No, it's not four apples, it's a new camera lens. (Four apples - that would be a crap birthday present! Unless, of course, you really liked apples.) I've been lusting over this for about two years now, and finally saved up enough, so as you can imagine I was one happy camper when it arrived.

Speaking of which, I've never understood the term 'happy camper'. I'm usually cold when I camp, which does not make me happy at all. And I usually only camp when Galumph takes us on a bushwalk, and because he's so worried about the weight we have to carry I'm usually not allowed to carry any knitting or books, which means that after we have finally set up the tent I'm cold and bored. Nah, me and the camping are not amigos.

Er, enough blathering. I'm off to take some pics!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pattern Review: Shirtdress #35 from Ottobre Design Magazine 4/2010

What do we have here? We've got pockets with pleating and binding. There's more pleats at the back, and flapped patch pockets. We have sleeve button tabs, a stand up collar, back shoulder darts and a whole lotta topstitching. Put it all together and whaddya got? One finished shirtdress - hooray!
Blue Shirtdress #1Blue Shirtdress #2Blue Shirtdress #3Blue Shirtdress #4This would have to be one of the more involved things I have made to date. None of it was hard per se, but there sure was a lot going on. Don't tell anybody, but I totally screwed up the button band placket. Silly me slashed my placket opening to make a square, rather than a triangle. D'oh - next time, read the instructions before you let the scissors anywhere near the fabric, Jorthy! I did manage to salvage it, but trust me - it was a close run thing, and there may have been swearing. Just a teensy bit, but it was definitely there. Ahem!

The tencel denim, which I bought when I was still at Tessuti, is so soft and lovely, but slippery as heck, so if you were new to sewing and wanted to make this, I would stick to a well behaved cotton instead. The tencel also creases before you can say "boo!", but it's so deliciously velvety on the skin that I will forgive it anything.

Erm, what else? I quite enjoyed doing all the bits and bobs on this garment, especially the pleats. I'm such a sucker for pleats - they are so easy to do, but look so impressive! I am also quite partial to the pocket edge binding. It's all those extra details that make a home-sewn piece look more professional, in my opinion.

I'm very very happy with the sizing of this - I sometimes find that the Ottobre patterns can err a bit on the side of larger rather than smaller, but this fits the Tyger like a dream. The only thing I would do differently is to use a finer fusing for the button band, as I feel mine looks a bit thick, but that's probably me just being nitpicky, and has nothing to do with that pattern at all.

All in all, it's a terrific, well drafted pattern - another winner from Ottobre. Just don't expect to get it finished in a flash - especially if you are sewing to a deadline, as there is a lot of work in this one. Still, I did manage to get it to the birthday girl only one day late, so that's not too bad!

Project Details
Pattern: Shirtdress #35 from Ottobre Design Magazine 4/2010, size 128
Fabric: 1.5m tencel denim from Tessuti Fabrics (purchased a year and a half ago)
Notions: 13 buttons

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Make a wish...

Blow Out Candles #1

Blow Out Candles #2

...if it's for more crafting supplies, dear Tyger, I will be totally down with that!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Birthday Girl

I swear it was only yesterday that you came into our world, but the calendar tells me that I'm wrong, for today you are eight. And without becoming too goopily sentimental about it all, these eight years have been the best - the very best - of my life.

There are so many things I love about you: The way you ask every weekend if you can go swimming. The ways your eyes crinkle up when you laugh. Your boundless creativity (as evidenced by the thread, wool, cut up paper, glue, sequins etc that follows you around the house). How you never complain about walking in the rain. The enthusiasm you show every single type of food ever presented to you. The grin that lights up your face when you thwack the ball at tennis. How Pride and Prejudice is your viewing of choice. How you still sing yourself to sleep with steam-of-consciousness operas that you compose nightly. How any form of slapstick provokes you to laugh uproariously, like a crazy old man. The care you show if anybody falls, or cries, or heck, even sneezes.

Ruh-roh - somebody sound the goop alarm. I'm hopelessly melting into a great big puddle of goop just thinking about how terrific you are, and how lucky I am to call myself your mother. Happy birthday, dearest darlingest Tyger. xo xo xo

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sewing interventions

Sabrina With Bodice Front

"What am I doing?" cried Jorth, feeling annoyed with herself and her lack of time management. "What was I thinking? There are pleats, and sleeve tabs, and pocket bias bindings, and button bands - how on earth did I think I would be able to snap my fingers and get this whipped up in no time?"

Her breathing became quicker, and shallower as the mental pressure built up. Just as the first hyperventilation dots began to appear in front of her eyes, Jorth realised that she needed a sewing intervention. Taking a few deep breathes, she glanced around the room, realised that she was by herself, and decided that in emergencies, a self-administered intervention was better than none. She took herself over to the mirror, and said "C'mon Jorth. You can do this! Just take your time, because you know when you rush you always totally screw things up. It won't be the end of the world if you don't get it finished in time for the Tyger's eight birthday - what matters is that you took the time to make it for her in the first place. So settle down, sit down, and get some sewing done, because before you know it she won't want you sew things for her anymore."

Having given herself a metaphorical slap across the cheek, Jorth pinned the bodice front to Sabrina the dummy, and began to work on the pockets of the skirt, all the while wondering how 8 years could have possibly flown by so fast. Whilst Jorth was thus occupied, Sabrina took the opportunity to get a little sentimental. "So!", she thought, "she's making the Tyger a shirt dress for her birthday. My goodness - I've never had anything made for the little girl pinned onto me before." Sabrina glanced down at the bodice, and in a tone of shock said "My dear! She's not a little girl anymore. She's very much grown up - look how tall she's gotten. Oh my... how so very quickly it goes."

Sabrina felt the cruel stab of nostalgia dig deep. It only seemed like yesterday that the tousled hair toddler had used to hide behind her in games of hide and seek, but now she was almost 8 years old. The days that had been filled with such giggle-filled games were now replaced with school days, and the whole house sat lonely and quiet until she came bursting into the door again in the afternoon. Feeling the first pricks of tears, Sabrina pulled herself up with a start. "Now, Sabrina, my girl, you too have to pull yourself together. Children grow up, and it's not your job to become maudlin over that fact. She's growing into a fine young woman, and you should be happy that her clothes are now also being pinned on you. Besides, crying will do no good to your movable parts - they're rusty enough as is! So stand up straight, and be glad that the Tyger still wants her Mum to make clothes for her."

Unaware of what the other was doing, both Jorth and Sabrina let out very small, slightly sad sighs for the days that had gone and would never return. Then both concentrated on the tasks at hand - Jorth on making the shirt dress for a daughter who made her prouder with every passing day, and Sabrina  on standing straight and proud with a bodice pinned to her that had been made with love.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chocolate and beetroot cake

It's kinda hard to believe that these...


...have ended up in this:


But it's true! I'd like to shake the hand of the culinary genius who first thought of pairing these two together, because they are magnificent! I'm really hoping that there is some left over after knitting club tonight, so I can have some for breakfast. Oops! Did I say breakfast? I meant morning tea. Really.

(shyeah right!)

Recipe here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quick! Make a shirt for the birthday girl!

Shirt Pattern

What with all the baby knitting, bike trips, article submissions, piano practice, meetings, cake baking and the never-ending piles of laundry, I kinda forgot that it was the Tyger's birthday in little over a week. Gulp!

Actually, let me clarify - I hadn't forgotten forgotten per se. After all, her presents have already been bought and safely stashed away in the cupboard, but what I did forget was my tradition of making her a special gift from my own hands. It wasn't until she turned to me the other day, and politely inquired if I'd created something for her birthday that the alarm bells finally went off. I patted her gently on the head, assured her that it was all in hand, and then excused myself to race into the bedroom, her parting line of "Cos it wouldn't be a birthday without something made by Mum!" ringing in my ears.

Boy, does that kid know how to lay it on with a trowel! In the privacy of my bedroom I flung open the doors of my sewing bureau/stash cupboard and sat there, rocking on my heels and gazing in desperation at the fabric. The fabric, darn it, chose to remain silent, offering me no hope at all. But then I remembered a purchase of yesteryear. Praying that it was still in there somewhere, and that I hadn't just imagined it, I began to scrabble about in the fabric like some sort of desperate textile junkie looking for a fix. Finally I found it - 1.5m of lovely soft tencel denim. Phew! Combine that tencel with the above Ottobre Design Magazine 4/2010 shirt pattern plus a few hours of my time, and we'll have one home made gift whipped up in no time! Well, hopefully by her birthday, at least. I sense some late night sewing coming on...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Knitting. Lots and lots of knitting.

Green Knitting

Shhh! Don't tell anybody, especially not Bob the Bobbinator or Jean-Luc, Master of Macramé, but all knitting on the green dress has been suspended. It's not my fault - people keep having babies, and requesting totally gorgeous duffle jackets for them. What's a girl to do - I can't let dem babies get cold now, can I?

The pattern I'm using is the Debbie Bliss Duffle Coat. How cute is that thing? Just as well it's adorable enough to make your ovaries squeal and demand another baby, because all that boring garter stitch is killing me. I'm on my second coat, and boy oh boy, if I never do garter stitch again then I'll not regret it.

Right, must go. Time waits for no man, and baby's growth waits for no handknits. So I'd best get cracking! Oh, and apologies for not blogging earlier this week - we went for one of our mammoth bike rides, and I came home with a cold, so I blobbed instead of blogged. With knitting in hand, bien sûr!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Coconut and passionfruit cake

Jorth, Galumph and Tyger were doing the last minute checks on their bikes before heading off on a ride.
"Tyres pumped up?" asked Galumph.
"Check!" answered Jorth.
"Chain cleaned and oiled?"
"Rims polished and shiny?"
"Er..." said Jorth, quickly bending to do a quick spit'n'wipe. "Check!"
"Cake baked?"
"CHECK!" said Jorth and Tyger, grinning with anticipation at the thought of the coconutty and passionfruit goodness that was to come once a few k's had been put under their belts.

Cake #1

Cake #2

Cake #3

Cake #4

Recipe here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Spiced cauliflower and potato soup

Spiced Cauliflower and Potato Soup

"So let me get this straight", said the cauliflower to the potato. "You're telling me that when Jorth sticks the immersion blender into this pot we are currently bobbing around in, and blends us to bits, that it won't hurt a bit. Correct?"
"Correct!", confirmed the potato. "There was this cute little russet I was in the sack with..."

"You dirty spud, you!" interjected the cauliflower.

"The POTATO SACK!" sighed the potato, wondering why he, of all the potatoes, had to get stuck with this smart alec cauli. Pretending he hadn't be interuppted he said "And by the way, I'm not dirty - just unwashed. There's a difference. Anyway, this hot potato told me it happens all the time when handsome vegetables such as us are made into soup. So don't sweat it!"

"I don't have time to sweat it!", said the cauliflower eyeing the top of the pot nervously, "for here it comes!"

The immersion blender came, it saw, it blitzed. Afterwards the cauliflower, as it happily mingled and merged with the potato said "Oooh! Just like being in a spa, really. A hot'n'spicy spa. Hey, your little russet would like, wouldn't she?!"

The potato groaned, and thought to himself, "Of all the saucepans in all the kitchens in all the world..."

Spiced cauliflower and potato soup

1 onion, finely chopped
1 small head of cauliflower, leaves removed and flesh cut into segments
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
4 cups vegetable stock or water
cracked pepper and parsley leaves for garnish

1 - Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan, and saute the onion until golden and tender. Add the cumin, coriander and chilli and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.

2 - Add the cauliflower and potato, and stir to coat with onion and spice mix. Add the stock/water and bring to the boil.

3 - Once boiling, turn heat down and cover pan. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the potato is tender. Leave to cool.

4 - Once cooled, use either an immersion blender or a regular blender to blend the soup until smooth. Pour back into pan (if using the regular blender) and reheat until hot. Serve topped with a good grind of freshly cracked pepper and parsley leaves.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Grace Kelly: Style Icon: Bendigo Art Gallery

Yesterday we took ourselves to Bendigo on the train, leaving Melbourne far, far behind. Good thing, too, as the weather in Melbourne yesterday was atrocious! But what was calling us to visit Bendigo, I hear you asking? Why, the Grace Kelly: Style Icon exhibition, of course! Oh, and the chance to sit quietly for a couple of hours and do some knitting (ahem).
Train #1

Train #2

Grace Kelly Wedding DressSigh. It was so very, very lovely. I could have stood and gazed at her dresses all day. She had a keen sense of personal style, and knew exactly what suited her.

My favourite part of the exhibition were the photos showing her meeting Prince Rainier for the first time whilst on a film promotional tour of Monaco. Upon opening her suitcase that morning, she was dismayed to discover that all of her dresses bar one were crumpled, and that there was no time for the hotel to press them before she met the Prince. So she put on the uncrumpled frock, met the Prince and lo! fell in love and sealed her destiny of become a glamorous, much beloved princess. I know you're wondering who made the dress. Why, it was a McCalls dress that she had modelled for the spring/summer catalogue! That fact made my seamstress' heart fill with joy!
Grace Kelly McCalls Dress

I think I need a version of that dress in my wardrobe, stat.

Grace Kelly: Style Icon is on at the Bendigo Art Gallery until 17th June, 2012. Bookings are absolutely essential.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Pattern Review: McCall's 5975: Purple Ponte Knit Dress

Jorth was walking past City Square, feeling rather resplendent in her new purple dress, when she spied the ragged gathering of people venting their feelings upon their soapboxes, with a surrounding crowd of sewing folk eager to hear what they had to say. Suddenly struck by an idea, she approached the man protesting against the Difficulties Of Threading Overlockers and shyly asked him if she might borrow his megaphone for a moment. He assented, and stepped nimbly off his box so that Jorth could have her say. Clearing her throat nervously, she gazed at the crowd before saying "Excuse me ladies and gentlemen. I'd just like to announce that I have my sewing mojo back!"The crowd cheered. One jolly soul even waved a measuring tape in her direction. Grinning back at them all Jorth handed back the megaphone and went merrily on her way, soon nothing but a flash of purple on the busy city street.
Purple Dress #1

Purple Dress #2

Project Details
Pattern: McCall's 5975, view D (minus fabric belt), size 8
Fabric: 1.6m purple ponte knit from Tessuti Fabrics (bought quite a long time ago, so I don't know if it's still available)
Notions: Knit interfacing

I LOVE LOVE BLOODY LOVE this dress! It was super easy to put together, and is a nice slim fit. It was meant to have a zipper inserted in the back, but I just thought to myself "Pffft! It's a knit dress. Who needs a zip!"

I know, I know - such reckless thinking has led me into trouble before, but there's a part of my sewing soul that's too rebellious to squash. Anyway, my ponte was lovely and stretchy, so no zip required. Yay!

This is a terrific little pattern. There's a choice of 4 different necklines, plus the options of sleeves or no sleeves. Unfortunately, it's been discontinued (boo! why do they always get rid of the great wardrobe building patterns? why???) but you can still purchase it from the McCall's website in the Out Of Print section, so if it takes your fancy, hop to it and grab one why you still can!

Will I make this again? You betcha! It's such an easy dress to wear - just pair with your favourite statement necklace and a belt, and you are good to go! Admittedly I am going through a major dress phase this winter - my poor jeans are beginning to feel lonely due to lack of wear - but you really can't beat a fab bright dress in winter time.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The finishing ticklish touches


"By thimble and thread" gasped the sleeve between fits of uncontrollable giggling, unaware that Jorth couldn't hear her, "please make this devilish tickling stop!"

"Stop? STOP?" bellowed Sabrina the dressmaker's dummy from the bedroom. "You daft violet fool of a thing! She's handstitching your hems so that you'll be finished and worn in no time, and you want her to stop?"

"!!!" thought the sleeve, before once more bursting into peals of laughter as Jorth carefully stitched the double-folded hem, tugging at the stitches occasionally to make sure that the sewing had enough stretch in it, unaware of the pleasurable torture she was inflicting upon her poor dress.