Dec 31, 2013

D225&6: Making do and doing

If only there was a day created for every idea.

I need new clothes.  I don't like shopping.  It's hard to shop with a little person because your thoughts are often interrupted.  Worst still, if you're sleep deprived, you tend to make odd decisions sometimes.

Today, for instance, I had the presence of mind to return a transparent top to Target during the sales.  But I didn't try on either of my replacement purchases.  Why?  Because it's awkward with Bub in tow, but I should've done it anyway.  When I did get a quiet moment at home I tried on this tunic and remembered how coat hangers lie...

Was I going to return this one too? Nope. How likely was I to wear this? Not very.  It's problem for me was the waist, which was cinched with an inch wide elastic and, for someone who isn't particularly tall, it just made me feel shorter, and dumpy.  It slipped to my natural waist, creating this vague ballooning around my ribs, but adding no shape or anything.  (Why Target? Why?)

And then it occurred to me! I can remove the elastic! A quick check to make sure it was attached at the side seams, and off I went.  The worst that could happen? I'd wear it less than I otherwise would and it goes to the charity bin in very good nick.  First world problems.

Clockwise: inside snip made near pocket top, elastic drawn out; as much elastic pulled out as possible towards one side seam; snipped; elastic pulled through as much as possible, scrunching the fabric to the other sideseam, and snipped; a pin marking the amount of elastic remaining.

My plan from now on is to pick something I can turf for each thing I buy.  Further to that, there're some things I don't wear very often and I'm going to try updating them so they can go another round.  It can only improve my skills, at the least, and I promise I won't put them in the charity bin in a unwearable state ;)

And then there are all the THINGS!! This quilt! The bag I want to make my mum for her birthday! The quilt I need to finish! The other one I want to start! The unfinished activity board that's fast becoming useless! Ugh! Where are all the days??!!

Complete: Bench seat cushions

These cushions were made with 5cm thick foam from Clark Rubber.  I used medium density foam, which is not the longest life span but is firmer.  Each cushion was 49.5cm wide x 55cm deep and cut in the shop.  

Each cushion was covered in a close-fitting calico cover that was hand stitched shut.  The cushion cover fabric was from Spotlight.  It's a furnishing fabric, in a cream bone colour, with a long spacious gumleaf matelass√© pattern.

Dec 27, 2013

D224: Where was I...?

That's right: MORE!

Another full set of colours cut out, plus two each of the greys and light blues, and (hopefully) enough whites to match.

Dec 24, 2013

D215: MORE!

Little squares have been sewn, pressed, cut and pressed...
And I need more! More patterns of more colours!

D216-23: And now, for something completely different.

Oh Christmas.  What else can inspire silly aspirational gift projects in the time-poor.  Nothing, that's what.

So, my MIL had mentioned a desire for some seat cushions, some time ago, and I'd thought it might be a nice gift.  I had nothing else coming to mind.  At some point, about a week and a half ago, I asked my FIL if he'd measure up the seat, just in case this worked out...

I coincidentally had a need to be around Nunawading, so I dropped in on Clark Rubber and had some foam cut... And soon afterward I happened to be able to shop at Spotlight without Bub, which is an opportunity for good decision-making, so some fabric was bought (way too much, but oh well).

Then I made a pattern...

I covered the foam in calico, being careful to not squish it.

Before I knew it, I'd found enough time to make a prototype and cut out another cushion cover.  From a not-so-promising beginning, I've come through to bringing the machine along to the inlaws' to sew up the remaining covers.  This meant I couldn't surprise my MIL with it very well, but that's not a big deal.

The only real misfortune: yesterday, for the second time ever, I broke a needle sewing over a pin!  This was very frustrating, as everyone was out and I had a few hours to myself to get it done, and then - BAM - thwarted! It took me a while to regroup after that because a piece of needle hit my eye and had me rattled for a bit.  

Today, while Bub was occupied by family, visits to the pool and pottering around, I finished them off. Hurrah!  A proper post about them later, but here's the short version: both MIL and I are very pleased with them. Right now, however, I'm Christmassing.  

Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season. :)

Dec 5, 2013

D214: Sad face

The first three squares sewn up,
and all are slightly crooked.
I really do want a new machine.

This makes me sad becuase I love my Bernina 807 minimatic.  It has lovely design lines, it has history, it has tenacity.  My mother bought it second hand from the high school, who'd gotten it second hand too.  It's a fourth-hand machine.  It's been good to all of us.  I hope it is good to Bub in the future too, should she want it. To me, it has gravity.

But it is loud and heavy (that's about 10kgs of the gravity).  It has only six stitches, which have served me well for a long time and I've sort of prided myself on that.  But a scalloped stitch on a hem for Bub would be nice. 
And now I'm quite sure that the foot and the feed dog aren't working together.  It may be that a service could right that problem, that there are gears or a belt worn enough to slow something down, but when I put it all together...

I want a new machine  :(

On the other hand, I now have a preferred Christmas gift...    ৻՜:)

D213: Chipping away amongst it all

So I made that cake last night so there was something for my folk when they visited for lunch. Too rich! Too rich! they said.  Oh well, more for us!

According to this, I'll be making quarter-square triangles (QST), not half-square triangles (HST).
I've been double checking my method for making up the QSTs.

I am planning to make up my QSTs by sewing two squares together, right sides facing, then cutting the sandwich into four triangles (squares when unfolded at the seam) by slicing corner to corner twice.  I'm hoping that what I've got will be sufficient for a cot quilt, otherwise I'll be wishing I'd discovered this HSTx8 tutorial before I began cutting:

There is also this tutorial for HSTs. I watched it with the sound off and it still made great sense, it's that good.

I also really like this tutorial, which also works without sound. Isn't video grand?

Four per square is not bad and it has meant I've clipped small portions off my scraps rather than using whole pieces.  There are some fabrics that wouldn't give me an 8" square, so all is well.  My only concern is not warping the pieces when making it up, but that's something to be careful of regardless of your grain direction.

D212: Industry

Today's creativity was in the industry.  I made a beef/carrot/potato mash and a chicken/leek/arborio rice risotto, both for the freezer, plus a chocolate cake. The knife hit the board at 8:40 and the dishes were done by 10:10pm.  Not bad for me and my distracted brain.

Unfortunately for Hub, the cake didn't come out till 10:40 or so, too late for supper.  Then half of it disappeared to play group. Aw.  Don't worry, more baking on the horizon, Hubby! 

Dec 2, 2013

D211: Getting traction

A bit more planning.  Think I'm ready to break ground!

Update: 9 colour ways, four prints in each, and a white square for each of those will give me about 134 squares. Or something.

Dec 1, 2013

D210: Getting a run up

I feel my mojo returning.

Baking is not yet on the cards, but fingers are itchy...

Seriously thinking of asking family for $$ to go towards a new machine for Christmas.

Nov 28, 2013


For a few days after my previous post I worked on the baby quilt.  I even purchased some fabric to make some binding and tried to problem solve the front and back being a little uneven (this is why people do plain backs).

I also made some spicy pumpkin muffins in preparation for the inlaws visiting to babysit while we went to our dear friends' wedding.  But I haven't been well so all else has paused since Friday night.  I've not been bed ridden, but I've been poorly enough to be completely disinterested in online shopping and three of the muffins went mouldy.  My crafting mojo is dormant.  Dark signs indeed.

I have continued pinning and liking things though.  I mean, I'm not dead.

Nov 14, 2013

D209: Eco goop

I've been splurging on the little fruit puree pouches from the supermarket.  They are, admittedly very quick and handy for Bub.  Although they instruct you to put it in a bowl, or spoon it, Bub loves sucking it straight from the spout.  A pouch of goop has been a very handy thing on the run.

Home made goop - Apple & pear with raspberry, mango or banana
Still, the pouches the fruit goop comes in aren't recyclable and they aren't reusable because you can't see how clean they are.  So I've bought these so I can make my own.  I suppose we shall see how well they fare after a few uses.

D208: Simple & complicated

Well, its not terribly creative but it is made.

Bub now has a small stash of chicken and leek risotto in the freezer.  Luckily she seemed quite happy with it for the next day's lunch.  It is exactly what it sounds like:
One finely diced leek, softened with a bit of oil in a saucepan, about 200g of chicken mince added and cooked, about two handfuls of arborio rice heated through and then about 21/4 cups of water, added a half cup at a time, and stirred through until the rice is tender.  I added some thyme, rosemary and a smidge of dill and salt.
Two trays went in together - the tall ones are from the top rack :)

These are the spicy pumpkin muffins I've made before
I had a little extra pumpkin so decided to increase the recipe in proportion and, although it was only an extra fifth of stuff, I added a second egg.  

I know egg binds and acts as an emulsifier, and I've definitely had brownies that have had a yucky egg flavour, but otherwise I wasn't too sure what it would do.  Nothing disastrous, it would seem.  This time...

Nov 12, 2013

D203-7: Secret Purse!

A wonderful friend of mine is getting married soon.  She's so wonderful she reads all my blog posts, even with the crappy photography.  So, while I've been preparing a gift for her I haven't wanted to reveal it here*. On Sunday night, however, it was completed and now that I've been able to hand it over all can be revealed.

Both sides of the purse

The clasp and ribbon

Well, not quite all.  I didn't take photos as I was going, but if you hold you hand over part of the pictures you'll get the same effect.

This friend has carefully and diligently made beaded purses for her friends during their engagements, so I've been looking forward to returning the favour.  Once I knew she was having bridesmaid dresses with a rose pattern I had my heart set on echoing that in this purse.  I'm not sure it was the most sensible decision.  I feel the last beaded purse I made was smoother, maybe more elegant.  It was certainly much quicker, with the purse's shape being built by simply sliding more beads as you went down the purse rows, while knitting the same number of stitches.  Maybe I should've just done another of those...

I am frustrated with the few loose rows. They were hard to detect while I worked and it took me half a side to get my groove, I think.  I kind of hate that this precious gift is not as even as I'd like.  Time was not on my side, however, so redoing parts was limited to only the frame being resewn, and only once I knew I had time.

I recommend keeping a set of pliers on hand when knitting beaded purses.  Use the pliers to break and remove any beads that are thinner than usual.  There will certainly be enough beads to cope with culling the irregular ones.
This was a step I did with the first purse and it was worthwhile for a design that used so much repetition, where unevenness is easily spotted.  In this design it makes for a bead that flips it's direction more easily than the rest.  While the regularly sized beads all sit in the same direction, the thin ones flip from side to side.  If you're feeling particular, get rid of the thin ones as you go and you won't feel the need to (uselessly) fiddle with their arrangement later.

The ribbon is secured with little beaded stars
Before I started I had a choice of beads and thread colours (the other set shall be used for another's wedding - my friend has kicked off the tradition in me too!) and a few patterns to choose from.  I even considered getting enough beads to do this pattern in reverse, with the blank parts being beaded and the beaded stitches being plain.  I thought it might build a cleaner picture of the roses however, having never done this pattern before, I thought it prudent to stick to the instructions.

I am glad to have chosen a larger purse too; I want my friend to be able to use it for lipstick, tissues and an atomiser should she want to.  Or for some other thing like, oh I dunno, storing her silk stockings ;)

One thing I have hesitated to share here is the big mistake I made.  It may be hard to see at first, but it is so very clear once you see it.

I was fairly pleased with the letters, as much as they could be done on such a small scale.  I spent some time, too, considering the symmetry and balance of the initials. (See it yet?)  I share an initial with the groom, so we were even able to make jokes about how the purse is about my friend and I - a ha ha!
So I was a bit miffed, to put it mildly, when I realised that I hadn't thought how the reverse knitting of the pattern (while fairly inconsequential for flowers) would change the letters.  True story.

At the start I was glad to have symmetrical letters because they were easy to plan.  But now I wish there's been an E or something so I could've seen it happening before I was finished! Ugh! Amateur lament!

Glitches and dumbfoolery aside, I do think it looks quite vintage and pretty (naive at the very least).  I hope my dear friend has a use for it in the future.
All my best wishes!

*I'm writing the post before having given the present. I won't be the least bit surprised if she's already figured out what it is!

Nov 5, 2013

D202: Square Lemon Drizzle Cake

Works so much better in a square tin.  I knocked back the syrup sugar to 75g and it was still light and sweet with a fresh tang.  Something happened in the creaming and the sugar didn't dissolve that well - I can still see little square granules around the edge of the cake.  Maybe that's because it browned so well...

Regardless, I was quite glad to be able to take this along to a Cup Day catch up.

Nov 4, 2013

D201: Citrus lactation cookies

Bub has been unwell these past few days - a bit of a fever and actual malaise.  I'm not sure I've witnessed malaise before. It seems such a generic, vague description, but she demonstrated it perfectly.  Today the doctor said she had rosiola, thank goodness, coz I thought it was measles.

As a result we won't be cancelling our Melbourne Cup Day visit to our lovely friends tomorrow!  So lactation cookies are on the books tonight because I love donating them to my lovely friend!

Usually I make them with grated apple (to counter the peppery flavour of the flaxseed, and add some moisture), apricots and sultanas.  However I'm out of apricots right now, and while sultanas are always about I thought a bit of a variation might be nice.

These ones have the juice and zest of a large orange added to the flaxseed soaking stage.  It was basically a big ball of juice so I added a little more flaxseed to the first step.  I planned to split the recipe and put dried peel and sultanas in one third, and chocolate chips in the other two thirds.  The peel, however, had seen better days, and once I smelled the lovely zestiness in the mix nothing but chocolate - dark chocolate - would do.  I'm hoping my friend will put aside any guilt about chocolate for the cookies: she's mumming three beautiful kids, breastfeeding and house-holding it all together. Two choc chip cookies a day are the bare minimum in my opinion ;)

Nov 3, 2013

D190-200! Persistence and indulgence

Two hundred?! I thought I'd be doing something special for this little milestone. But no, we're just chugging away at the moment.  Anyway...

Last weekend I had some much loved friends from my teaching degree visit for dinner and some telly.  For quite some time now (4 years?) we've been meeting at my place every few months and catching up on episodes of Supernatural.  It's marvellous, indulgent, cheesy and so good for the soul.  This time was our first evening catch up.  Previously, they've been during the school holidays, but Bub can no longer tolerate such a long time of me being so distracted and her nap doesn't occupy her enough.  We managed to organise delivered Thai and bringing a dessert each.  Genius.  Supernatural evenings may become more common :D

Next to the ice-cream and the apple & rhubarb and apple & apricot crumbles (yum!) was my bread pudding.  If you happen to be on Pinterest, and you happen to follow my board for food, you may have seen my pin for this recipe.  It is a beautful looking website and the photos are gorgeous, but there're lots of them and they're huge.  I found it very frustrating to have to wait for the photos to load; every time I'd scroll down to get the recipe a few more pics would load and it would shuffle down again!  I'm copying the recipe here, exactly as it appears, to save you small-device grief while you cook.

It went really well, although I used some surplus wholemeal bread and my new cinnamon is Dutch Cinnamon, which has a subtly different flavour to regular cinnamon.  I'm not sure I won't replace it soon and keep the Dutch stuff for beverages, or something, or find specific recipes for it.

Ugly, messy and yum
I also managed to make the butterscotch sauce, which I've never attempted before.  I'm very happy with it!

All my other days have been spent keeping on with my secret project, less the two I used for completing my tax return. (Ugh. I seriously considered subtracting creative days from my count, it was that uncreative.)   The project is going well, about 40% done if I do all I hope to do.  More like 60% if I skip a step.  It's not exactly as I'd like but I'm not sure it could really have been any different, all things considered.  I hope the recipient likes it anyway.

Today I'm doing the bread pudding again, but using left over crusts and a layer of maple syrup on the bottom with sultanas mixed throughout.  It probably doesn't need the syrup on the bottom as well as the butterscotch sauce, but when has less been more with desserts like these?!

"Recipe: Classic Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce
4 Cups Dried White Bread (I used a french loaf, crust removed and cut into cubes)
2 Eggs, Slightly Beaten
2 Cups Milk
1/4 Cup Butter, Melted
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
Vanilla Sauce:
1 Stick Butter
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Whipping Cream
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
Bread should be stale. Either cut into cubes and let sit out overnight or preheat oven to 300 degrees and place cubed bread into oven for about 15 minutes or until they feel stale to touch.
Grease a 1 1/2 quart casserole, or 9×13 pan and set aside.
In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.
Pour mixture over bread cubes and let sit about 5 minutes. Pour into greased pan and bake, uncovered for 50-55 minutes or until puffed and browned on top.
Remove from oven and serve warm with vanilla ice cream and sauce.
Sauce Directions: 
Combine all sauce ingredients except vanilla in a small saucepan. Heat until melted and begins to boil. Once it comes to a rolling boil, remove from heat and add vanilla. Mixture will bubble up, this is normal. Stir in vanilla and let cool. Pour over ice cream and bread pudding and serve. Store in a jar for up to 2 weeks and use as a topping on all your favorite desserts!
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook."
from by Bee of Mikey's In My Kitchen

Oct 22, 2013

D185-9: Lemon Impatience

While that is an excellent name for a dessert, it's not what this one is called.

This Lemon Drizzle Cake comes from lemons: recipes and remedies ("text by Sara Burford" it says, which is apparently different to being the author). It's the sort of book you'd find at a $5 discount bookstore, and I think that's where I got it, years ago.

This was my first experience at making my own self-raising flour.  According to CTAW, you add 10g (1 tbsp) of baking powder to 300g (2 cups) of plain flour.  It seemed to work out fine - hurrah!

I was surprised at the ingredient measurements as the weights were all less than the amounts suggested.  For instance, it asked for "225g/1 cup of unsalted butter" but I've always counted a cup of butter as 250g.  All the gram measurements were similarly less than expected, and somewhat explained in the back with a conversion table that I'd call just plain wrong.

Density anyone? 225ml what?
Then, after I'd read "4 eggs" I was surprised to see this go into a loaf pan.  I even lined the square tin I've used for all the brownie recipes, which have comparable amounts of flour, butter and eggs, but decided to do as the recipe said as I've never made a syrupy cake before.

In hindsight, I wish I had used the 23cm square tin.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to evenly drizzle the syrup across the size of a square cake but the pastry brush did a very good job and I shouldn't have worried.  It would've also meant that the syrup would've soaked further into the cake, and hopefully the heat would've gotten through the thickness better than on this occasion. 

At 50mins, the cake was beginning to burn on the edge but, eventhough the skewer came out clean, it sunk considerably (more shallow than when it started!) once the syrup was on.  We also cut it while still warm coz Hub and I couldn't wait for supper and as, as he said, you couldn't break it any more!

Here is the recipe, with [my adjustments].

Lemon Drizzle Cake
  • Zest of 1 lemon (finely grated)
  • 230g / 2 cups self-raising flour [300g]
  • 225g / 1 cup sugar [250g]
  • 225g / 1 cup of unsalted butter (softened) [250g]
  • 4 eggs 
  • Topping: juice of 11/2 lemons and 110g / 1/2 cup of caster sugar [125g]

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Line a loaf tin with grease proof paper. 
  1. Place the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each new addition.
  2. Add the lemon zest and sift in the flour. Mix together well.
  3. Transfer the mixture into the loaf tin and level the top.  Place in the oven and bake for 45-50 mins. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a little.
  1. Place the lemon juice and caster sugar in a bowl and mix together to make the topping. [Microwave for three 10sec bursts to help dissolve the sugar, but do not make it warm.]
  2. Prick the still-warm cake with a fork and then [use a pastry brush to] drizzle the topping over the cake.  Leave in the loaf tin until completely cooled.
  3. Once cooled, remove from the tin and serve.

Obviously, I haven't spent four days making a cake.  I've been chipping away at my secret gift too.

Oct 17, 2013

D181-4: Pastie Rolls

No, it didn't take me four days to make these.  The first three days were spent working on my secret.
But today saw the invention of Pastie Rolls! 

These are an effort to sneak vegetables into Bub's diet.  She's been slow to take on carrot and zucchini, and even potato is a bit hit & miss.  She likes meat though, and always has our pastries when we're out so I'm hoping she'll take to these.  I have ended up with an awful lot though - about 40 - so I might share them with a friend!

I am completely confident, sure and convinced that the likes of these have never ever been seen in any other place on the face of the earth in the history of cooking ever forever and ever after, amen.  I must surely be the first to have put these ingredients together in such a way, yes?  I'd better write it down then, ay.

These are for my Bub, who has few teeth, so I've grated the vegetables. I'd prefer to finely dice them to make it more 'Pastie'-like.

Pastie Rolls

Score into thirds
  • 1kg puff pastry (6 square sheets)
  • 500g beef mince (ground beef)
  • 2 medium potatoes 
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 zucchini
  • About 4 tbsp plain flour, in a saucer or plate
  • About 2 tbsp of milk, aside
  • Some water with a pastry brush

This takes about 20mins to prepare, 20-25mins per tray, plus construction time.

To make: 
Grated veggies
  1. Heat your oven to 220°C (430°F).
  2. Grate your unpeeled veggies (not the stalks) and squeeze out as much of the juice as you can.
    (If you prefer to finely dice your veggies, squeezing out the liquid isn't necessary.)
  3. Thoroughly mix the grated veggies with the meat. (Using hands works well.)
  4. Use a sharp knife to score or cut your pastry into three even strips.
  5. Collect a small handful of the filling and squeeze out excess liquid again.
    Form it into a roll about as thick as your thumb (or my thumb - about half an inch across).
  6. Roll this in the flour and place on a strip of pastry, near the edge.  Do this three or four more times until you've a long roll of filling going down the length of a strip of pastry.
  7. Brush the opposite edge of the pastry with water.
  8. Use the backing plastic to curl the pastry into a tube, rolling it closed and using the wet edge to seal the tube.
  9. Cut the roll into lengths as you please.
  10. Place on a tray covered with grease proof paper. Arrange the roll so that the overlapping pastry is underneath.  Glaze with milk, and put in the oven.
  11. After 10mins, drop the heat to 190°C (375°F) and cook for a further 10-15mins.
One strip rolled, cut into thirds and upside-down!

Cutting the pastries into thirds makes 18 rolls.  If you cut these into:
~ Halves, you'll have 36 Pastie rolls;
~ Thirds, you'll have 54 Pastie rolls; and
~ Quarters, you'll have 72 Pastie rolls and should open a shop.

Yum! and Yum says Bub! Hurrah!

Sewing machine review: Bernina Minimatic 807

As inspired by Sew Mama Sew and using their set questions.

Sewing Machine Review

What brand and model do you have?
Bernina minimatic 807

How long have you had it?
My mother bought it from a local high school in the 70s (think they got it 2nd hand too). I acquired it from her after I left home, soon after 2001 (4th hand?).
How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
These days? Not much. Less than $300 AUD at a guess.
What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
Clothes, softies, mending, home deco projects, some quilting
How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
I sew maybe 5-10 hours a month.
Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I love my machine for its longevity and nostalgia.  I love that the daggy clothes my mum made me come from this machine.  I love the look and the tone it gives the room.
I like the simplicity of the diagrams and layout, as well as the ruler on the front and little things like the way that bobbin winding is done, and the little thread cutter on the foot lever.
What features does your machine have that work well for you?
It's simplicity, it's sturdiness and that I can generally work out what's wrong if it goes wrong.  It's mechanical nature is comforting - I can have we go at gently fixing it and servicing it myself.  It's not very mysterious.
Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
It's a bit noisy, so it's hard to share a room with others. It does tend to shuffle itself when the right frequency is reached, adding to the noise.  
It's almost too simplistic - if it had 2 or 3 decorative stitches, I'd never consider replacing it.
It does have it's limits with thicknesses, so I haven't attempted bags.  It also seems to munch fine fabrics, no mater how sharp the needle.  It's as though the feed is too coarse.
It's heavy - about 12kg.
Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
Yes, it's a great starter machine and it lasts.  There's nothing cryptic about it. It's like a beta model they got right.
What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
It's cost to benefit ratio, which is hard to predict this when a new machine might bring about a new range of projects.  If I were to have done my last 18months of projects on a new machine I imagine it would've been worthwhile, and would continue to be. It may be even more valuable if I continue with that frequency and add trickier projects such as ones that need a walking foot, or use stretch or fine fabrics, or decorative stitches.  
Any score given for a new machine would be x1.5 if it were quiet!
Do you have a dream machine?
Bernina 830! Or, if I was on a budget, the Bernina 740 QE.

Bonus: Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
Well, it's my only story, though I'm not sure it's a great story ...
A few years ago I was working in the city (Melbourne, Aust.).  My partner and I were without a car those days, and my heavy Bernina Minimatic 807 had died beyond my surgical skills.  I asked a colleague who drove past my home if he would be so kind as to give me a lift to work one day, via a sewing service centre, so I didn't have to pay for a taxi or haul the machine around town.
My colleague was pretty old school and rather sexist but generally well meaning and harmless.  It seemed to take and lot of conversation for him to wrap his head around the idea that I needed my machine serviced and that it wasn't easily portable.  "What do you mean, it's heavy?" he asked, about three times. "It's heavy, like, 12 kilos. I can't do 12 kilos on public transport." 
"And what's wrong with it?" he asked again.
"I think the compressor's gone."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean it has a compressor and it's stopped working."
"On a sewing machine?"
"Yep. It's old, and sometimes the compressor cacks it."
"That's what's wrong with it?"
Good grief, I thought, which bit is confusing him?  Last try: "The hamster died."  
Of course, on the day, he was very gentlemanly and offered to take the machine out of the car during the drop off.  But he put it on the footpath for me to take into the store, saying "Gee, it's heavy isn't it!" 
"Yes. Yes it is." 

Oct 12, 2013

How to: No-Sew Wet Weather Gear in 10 Steps

Want to get out in the wet weather but haven't a coat or boots for your Little One? Do you have a few meters of waterproof fabric, or even a big garbage bag? DON'T WE ALL??! Well, guess what? Freed from the house you shall be!

This project makes a poncho, a rain bonnet and 'shoe cover' booties that give good* cover in rainy weather.
(The photos are of the prototype, before trimming.  The final product was a lot less of a trip hazard.)

You will need

  • A child, wearing their outdoor clothes and shoes 
  • About 1.5m of a waterproof fabric.  A cut open garbage bag may work, but I haven't tried it (yet).
  • Elastic - about 40cm
  • Sticky Velcro dots - 4 pairs
  • Scissors
  • Wide sticky tape of gaffer tape, or a sewing machine if you're able
  • Measuring tape, or string to collect lengths

Priorities for this project, from highest to lowest: safety, speed, accuracy, looks.


1. Get two measurements.
A = child's shoulder to knee x2
B = child's wrist to wrist, +10cm (4")
Cut out a rectangle that is A x B for your baby's poncho.  If A or B is close to the width of your fabric, use that width.  

2. Fold the poncho in half twice, with the back of the fabric showing (so half one way, right sides facing, then half the other way).  You should have a corner that's all fold, and no edge.

3. Measure across the top of your child's head.
If you can find something round that's as big as your child's head, use that to trace a quarter circle on the fold-corner.

Otherwise: Halve that amount.  Measure that amount down the edges from the corner and mark.  (So, if it's about 16cm across the child's head, measure 8cm down each side.) 
Cut straight across from one mark to the other, or if you like it fancy, draw in a bit of a curve to cut along.

3. Open poncho.  
Decide which straight edge is the front.  
Make a 5cm-ish snip from the neck hole pointing straight down the front.

Neck cinching dots.

4. Put poncho on child.
Take a pair of Velcro dots and join them together (i.e. 'Do them up') so you have them connected and with their stickiness exposed. 

At the neck opening, next to the top of the snip, stick your Velco to the inside of a corner.  Then take that corner towards the child's opposite shoulder to close the neck opening and make it fit better.  
Attach the Velcro dot wherever it fits best.

Wrist cinching spots.


5. Take one side edge of the poncho.
Find the middle point and hang it over the child's wrist.
Like before, connect two Velcro dots with their stickiness exposed and attached them to the poncho under your child's wrist.
Do the same for the other side edge.

Optional step: trim the corners off your poncho, however you like.

BOOTIES (shoe covers)

6. Get two bootie measurements with shoes on.
A = ankle to ankle, going under the foot + 10cm
B = front of ankle to top of heel, going under the foot + 10cm
Cut two rectangles that are about A x B.

7. Tie some elastic around the child's ankle so that it's snug, but not tight.  
Check you can take the elastic off before you tighten the knot or trim the elastic.  
Make two loops this size.

To put on booties, take the short edge of the rectangle and hold it under the ankle.  Wrap the length of the plastic under the shoe and over the foot and hold in place.  Hook the elastic over the toe and drag it up the back of the heel, collecting the sides of the plastic.  Vwa la!


8. Get two bonnet measurements 
A = shoulder to shoulder (bottom of the neck), over the head
B = from eyebrow to back of head (the crown)
Cut one rectangle that's about A x B. 

9. To construct bonnet
With tape: Fold in half, wrong sides facing, so that you have two A edges folded in half.  Hold one edge closed and open the other so you can see the inside of the closed edges. Overlap the closed edges and tape them down.
With sewing machine: Fold in half, right sides facing, so that you have two A edges folded in half. Sew down one folded A. Turn out.

Poncho too big, bonnet too small. Perfect prototype.

10. Put the bonnet on your child with the seam going down the back of their head.  Bring corners under their chin and attach some Velcro spots to hold in place.

Dress your poor child in their travesty of an outfit and admire your work.  Takes a few pics before you head out or Child rips it off.

Go and enjoy your day of floating paper boats down the gutters, searching for pearly spiderwebs, or poking earwigs under bark.

Some children don't like wearing rain bonnets.

*Better than good: good enough.

Oct 11, 2013


A little jump here - I've been working on my secret project so shall clock the days but here's not much to say for them. 
Thursday, however, was eventful!
It was raining gently, with no wind, and I was desperate to get out... But no wet weather gear for bub meant I was hesitant.  How dodgy would it look if I cut a few holes in a garbage bag?... Would someone call the Welfare dept on me? (In our area, quite possibly!) 
Then I remembered I had some waterproof fabric from another debunked project... CRAFTARAMA!! Snip, snip! Fold, trace, snip! Knot, twang! Trim, stick, restick, test, restick... And TADA! CAFE AND PARK AHOY!! Stay tuned for a tutorial. 

Yeah it's a bit big...

Still a bit big... But better...

Off we go!!! (She wouldn't let me put the bonnet back on her.)

 To the cafe!

I didn't get any pics of us at the park, but it was lovely.  Down the back of the oval we found some logs and looked behind bark to check out the bugs and slugs, poked the dirt with some sticks, pointed at all the birds who we're out to scavenge after the rain.... It was grand!

Oct 3, 2013

Pattern: Linen-stitch Kimono Booties

These booties are modelled on Chaussons mignons by Pruline (Ravelry link).  They should fit an 11cm foot, which is 9-months-old for my small baby.
You may make the sole as long as needed for your baby and, at the sides, cast on about 3 stitches for every cm of sole.

Linen stitch kimono booties

A tunnel shank button
Linen stitch is a woven stockingette stitch. The weaving is formed by slipping every other stitch with the yarn in front of the work. It is usually done with a two-row phrase of slipping every second stitch in one row and every first stitch in the other.


  • Two small buttons, preferably tunnel shank
  • About 80cm of matching thin elastic. 
  • 3.75mm needles
  • 50g Aran yarn (10ply). The example uses Debbie Bliss Aran Cashmerino in grey (colour way 28).


12st x 43rows = 4cm


CO = cast on
K = knit
P = purl
sl1p = slip 1 purlwise
st = stitches
yb = take yarn to the back of the work (away from you)
yf = bring yarn to the front of the work, between you and the work.

Bootie body 


CO 15 st (leave a long tail for construction)
Row 1: *P1, yb, sl1p, yf* - repeat ** to last stitch, P1
Row 2: K2, *yf, sl1p, yb, k1* - repeat ** to last stitch, K1
Repeat these rows (linen-stitch) till work measures 10cm (4" - approx 42 rows), finish with a knit row.


Next row: turn, extend work by CO 30 st purl wise. Do not turn - work these stitches as normal as follows: P1, * yb, sl1p, yf, P1* - repeat ** to end.(45 sts)
Next row: turn, CO 30 st knit wise, then, without turning, work these stitches as normal as follows: K1, *K1, yf, sl1p, yb,*, repeat ** to last two stitches, K2 (75 sts)
Continue in linen stitch until new section measures 5cm (2" - approx. 25 rows) (or as long as your original cast on is wide). 
Finish with a knit row and cast off as follows:
P1, *yb, sl1p, pass first stitch over slipped stitch to cast-off 1, yf, P1, cast off 1* - repeat ** to end.
Bind off with a long tail for construction. 

To make up:

Hold your work so it looks like a T, purl stitches facing up (linen pattern down). The up-down part is the sole, with a bar across the top being the back and sides. The instructions describe making up each bootie as though it's facing you, with the toe pointing towards you and the heel away.

Baby's Left bootie

Take the left arm of the bar and fold it so that its short edge matches the end edge of the stem (the toe). Fold the right arm over to sit on top of them. Match the length of the toe edge and the corners. Whip stitch from left to right (big toe to little toe) through the three layers, continuing down the right side. Whip stitch down the left side (from big toe to heel). 

Baby's Right bootie

Arrange as for the left bootie but overlap the bar arms left-over-right, stitching from right to left and down the left side, and then stitching the right side. 

Both booties

Count 18 stitches from the toe on the upper layer of the bootie and flag this stitch with a safety pin. Count 40 more stitches, along the back if the bootie, and flag this stitch too.
Take one end of your elastic and tie it to your button.  Use a yarn needle to thread the other end through the hem, beginning at the one marker and finishing at the other. The elastic in these booties is threaded through the edge for the first and last 8 stitches, but through the purl stitches below the edge around the heel, to pull the bootie up the back of the foot. 

Tie a knot where the elastic exits the hem. Make a loop, using about 1cm of elastic, by tying the end in a grannie knot behind this first knot. 

Thread the ends of the elastic into the inner sides using the purl loops inside the bootie.

Oct 1, 2013

D176: Neat feet

One of the great things, if not the great thing, about these booties is their simplicity.  It's a big T shape crossed over and sewn.  Badabing, that's it.  And as sweet as the symmetry is, feet just ain't symmetrical in the same way.  I mean they are symmetrical, just to each other and not in themselves.

Consequently, I've pitched these just a bit too small for Bub, and I think they'd work best on a foot about a centimeter shorter.  Which is no biggie, but there you go.  
Some excellent friends of ours had the good foresight to have their first girl about 364 days after ours, so all our handmedowns will be seasonally appropriate!  It may seem silly, but knowing their little girl may get some wear out of these come next June is enough to make it worthwhile for me! 

Here I am trying to get the placement of the elastic and button right.  I thought I'd centre it, initially, but the foot shape doesn't suit it so I'm trying to figure out which way and how much to adjust and create some balance.

I decided to thread elastic all the way around, rather than just on either side, or even using a yarn or elastic loop (too fiddly).  Green is not my first choice for button colour, but the set-in shank is.  I thought a regular eye-hole button would be awkward and bulky with the elastic and a regular long-shank button would be uncomfortable when crawling.

I'm currently trialling the elastic being threaded below the cuff at the back, to counterbalance the roominess in the corners.  Anyway, still a bit of remaining trial & error that bub hopefully has the patience for!

Pattern to come, hopefully soon!

Sep 29, 2013

D175: Can't say

Well, I can say a little bit: I'm still chipping away at the little Linen Stitch Booties, but I've also started on a project for a friend that's a gift, so cannot share it here.  Sorry.

Sep 28, 2013

D174: Moosehead Brownies

All the brownie recipes I've tried thus far have melted the butter and chocolate together in the pan.  This one, however, using the creaming method.

Sometimes, when I can't be bothered (or haven't time) to wait for our frozen butter to melt I've zapped it a bit to speed things up.  Done too fast and you get melted butter, not softened butter, which separates the oil and translates to a shine in the cake of final product.  This shine is something I've realised I expect to see in brownies, but it's not in this one.  So it felt a bit more like a chocolate slice, but that essentially semantics: 

I made it for a grand final BBQ and none of it came home.

Apologies for not catching a snap of the cut brownies.  Pretty sure I can fix that soon.

Here is a typed version of the recipe, including a few extra weights.  Photo of a photocopy of the recipe is below, taken from The Age back in 2005 (!) who got it from Mollie Katzen's The Moosewood Cookbook.

Moosewood Fudge Brownies

Preheat oven 180°C/390°F

  • 155g dark chocolate
  • 250g softened butter (not melted)
  • 1 cup (180g) brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup (150g) plain flour
  • Buttered or lined 23x33cm pan

To make
  1. Melt chocolate* and set aside
  2. Cream butter and sugar and add eggs
  3. Add vanilla
  4. Beat in chocolate, then flour
  5. Pour into pan
  6. Bake for 20-30mins (mine was 25mins)
  7. Let sit in pan for five mins before putting on rack to cool. Leave the cutting until serving time.
*To melt chocolate:
In microwave: Heat chocolate on medium/50% in 1min bursts, stirring after each.  Mine took three goes and then it stirred smooth. Chocolate holds it heat, as do many glass microwave, so use stirring when melting chocolate to avoid burning.
On stovetop: put some water in a small/medium saucepan and find a glass bowl that will sit in it's rim, without touching the water.  Put the chocolate in the glass bowl and bring the water to the boil. Stir the chocolate with the water simmering/boiling beneath it until it's smooth.   
Do not get any water in your chocolate - it'll seize up and become useless (except for sulky-spoon-licking on the couch coz you ruined your chocolate).

Sep 25, 2013

D172-3: Designing trial & error

I'm trying to create a table runner with the left over pieces from a previous project.

Current design

The design is built from a squashed diamond shape made from a motif in the fabric.  This motif, together with the shape of the fabric scraps, has determined the size of the whole thing, in a way.

Design idea doodle...
There's some plain-coloured contrast fabric remaining too and I hope to use the pattern fabric as two patterns - parts with birds and parts with just flowers - and sort of get three 'patterns' but I still wish I had another pattern to contrast...
This doodle is my ideal, but it has fat lines and I need something specific.  I was thinking I'd be able to create a leaf shape from the negative space made from tiling the motif piece, which didn't quite work out. The motif shape doesn't have the right kind of symmetry or depth in the curves and, thanks to the scraps, it's not that flexible.
Yesterday's effort, trialling negative space shapes
At the moment, I'm working on splitting the motif shape to create that sweeping line in the doodle, the one that breaks it into three levels, and then extending the design to capture the full motif at least twice.

I might end up paper-piecing this project (here's a how-to), which I haven't done before but I'm willing to try!