May 17, 2014

D294: Today's sewing prowess

The green ring turned out, the blue ring and stand sewn up too, all ready for stuffing and batting. Three pin tops sewn, three more prepared (awaiting bases and stuffing) and a ball shell. 

May 13, 2014

D293: A brownie by any other name...

There must be as many brownie recipes as there are types of chocolate.  This one is quite simple and from CTAW.  I didn't have walnuts so chucked in some choc chips.

It's meant for a 18cm pan, and mine is larger, but I'm pretty sure that the shorter cake, plus 25°F less on the dial, helped this be nicely done.

Last piece... Almost missed it...

D292: Empty rings

For a toy ring stacker...

The inner and outer circles of the red right were done with a regular zigzag foot. The orange and yellow with the BSR foot.  But the green had the outer with the zigzag and the inner with the BSR as a darning foot.  I thought I might be able to use the circles to practise some freemotion sewing. However the BSR foot really needs the thickness of a quilt to work properly.  It was better as a darning foot (with the cable disconnected) because I could use the steady rhythm to map the needles around a steady curve. But even then, the thinness and  and my clumsiness wasn't satisfactory.  I didn't want to have the curve ruined by poor practise.

The other thing that made me think of the BSR foot was the joining seam, which is very tight.  See the green one partially turned out? It needs a seam 3/4 of the way around the circumference - that pinned raw edge - and it barely fits comfortably around a regular zigzag foot. It's certainly fiddly while sewing and very hard to maneuver the inner edge of it without catching the bulk.  The BSR as a darning foot has been worthwhile in that front, but...

Longer story shorter: I'm about to hand sew the green ring's joining seam :|

May 11, 2014

D268&288-91: Toddler pants completed!

Blogging is taking more and more of a backseat to making these days.  I'm not sure it's a bad thing but I will continue to at least photo-journal what I do, if only for myself.

There were a lot of days and steps for this and I kind of learned a lot doing this project.

I know I used a different fabric in the main pieces, and lining, so I think these turned out ok all things considered. I think it would fit better without the lining but I'm still learning how to work with stretch fabric on my regular machine.

I actually used the balance function on the machine!  This is the honeycomb stitch without the balance changed on the left, and then I turned it up after a few cm. 

The waist tie (above): I did not do a good job of this.  I'm not sure I would do this technique again. I just couldn't seem to get something so narrow through the feed without any stretching (which equals curling, even after pressing).  Maybe a walking foot?

The lining. I'd add a cm of length to this coz I wanted to cover the seam there with some hand sewing.  It wouldn't reach as it was.  Maybe a different kind of fabric would work better, but I'm not sure I'd be interested in substituting anything other than a flannel or stretch cotton for this cotton, which is kinds the same...

I'm still learning which stitches are best for what situation. Even though Bernina have helpfully provided a page describing all the practical stitches' uses, there seems to be so much overlap across them... I need a reference guide or something that shows the ideal situation for each stitch.

So when I say I 'kind of learned' stuff, I feel like I learned what not to do but I'm not too confident about what to really do instead. All the same, these I will be warm pants that will fit Bub, maybe in about two months (?) but certainly for a long time. :)

May 10, 2014

D287: Moussaka

We had this while visiting the in-laws' over Anzac weekend. It was so yum I stole the recipe and shall brazenly share it with you here soon.  

I haven't made moussaka before.  I would call lasagna a triple-bake - you pre-make two things before the third and final bake.  With moussaka, it's a quadruple-bake: eggplants, meat sauce and bechamel sauce are all made before layering it for the fourth bake.  We add a fifth cook to this recipe with a layer of sliced potato.  Yum!!

Seems the oven is pretty even...

Here tis...

May 4, 2014

D285: Scones and quarter circles

There are lots of tutorials about making quarter my circle templates.  This one at Sew Inspired blog was just the second one I found, and close to how I imagined I'd be making mine, so off I went.

The main difference between my quarter circles and most on the net is that I want to take my curve to the very edge, not short of it like in a Drunkard's Path block.  So I decided to make my own and have made an instructional post for that. 

In the meantime, Bub and I made scones!!  

Tip of the day: Any time you ever make or do something for the first time with one of your children, get someone to take photos.  I'm a bit sad I didn't drag in Hub from the shed to take snaps.
Scones, Cookery the Australian Way

We used the recipe from CTAW.  I probably didn't need to rush as much as I did between steps, when I was asking her to wait while I faffed about with ingredients and tools.  Although I've looked forward to cooking with Bub, I've been a little worried about how it would go - nothing like having your dreams dashed with pure indifference.  But I needn't have worried so much, she was darling and I loved watching some much of her character come out in the activity.  It also helped that she really likes scones.

There are probably lots of tips and instructional posts about cooking with toddlers too (hundreds? Probably.) But, obviously, I don't care.   Here are my pointers for cooking with a littlie, keeping in mind I have a toddler who can focus on a task.  Some of these are pretty obvious, but I put them here in case you're new to baby-sitting or just wondering...

Set expectations to 'Low'.  Start with a simple recipe, something with mixing and pouring, where mess and waste don't matter.  It doesn't even matter if the food is no good.

Pull out all the ingredients and tools before you start.  If you're using the oven, set that off early too, unless you're up to teaching that part.  If things need to be chopped preparing that prior might be good too, unless your helper has an activity to do while you're chopping.  

Choose to make something they already like to eat.  I mean, I rarely cook things I don't like eating... And this way, they can get excited about the result.  

Prepare an accessible space for your helper. If they can't easily reach across the bench top, do it at the table or on the floor.  We have some picnic cloth, left over from a previous project, that I threw on the kitchen floor.  This is just the sort of thing I imagined using it for.  One of my friends sits her bubba on the table top.  I opted out of standing on a chair at the table because we're discouraging standing on chairs right now and she's too young to understand 'special occasions'.

It's called 'hands on', not 'eyes on'. Any 'thing' they can do that's related to the task is worthwhile, even if it's not what needs to be done right now, or even needed at all!  At step 2. I used my crumbing tool; Bub stirred with a spoon and scooped the flour about which was 'very important help'.  Scooping and pouring are tricky and occupy her well.  Every now and then I'd point and say "More here please," or she'd say "More?" and she'd feel involved.

Pouring is a great way to involve your helper.  Some people hog this task for fear of spillage.  Please don't - there's no real need.  At step 3. I measured the milk and she poured it in with my guidance.  While bub held the handle I had my fingers on the base of the jug.  My table top friend will break eggs into a cup and her little one will tip them in.  Use as many containers as necessary.  The involvement is what it's all about and the dishes are worth it.

Pretending still counts.  Although I pulled the dough together and got it into a ball shape, I was able to put a big bread board on the floor mat and we took turns kneading.  Bub also put her hands on the middle of the rolling pin, while I used the handles at the ends.

Get tools that help your little one.  Bub was a star with the cutter.  I got cutters with handles over the top especially for her.  She needed help to press hard enough, but I pressed my fingers on the circle rim when I helped, not on her hands or the handle.

Don't be in a rush.  Bub was really good at the procedure of cutting ("Scone!" every time) then putting the cut-out on the pre-floured tray.  Just pulling the dough out of the cutter is new and tricky and putting each scone in it's own carefully chosen place on the tray is a thoughtful task.  If you've done anything with toddlers you may already know that rushing something (or someone) that shouldn't be rushed is a sure-fire way to create trouble*.
Look at that messy tray! So much shuffling :)

Mess means it's going well.  I use a little sushi dipping dish for milk when brushing.  Bub hasn't been very good at painting - very random and without much concern for colours or making a mark - but all her concentration went into loading that brush and carefully putting milk onto each scone.  She was very deliberate and thorough, with milk going everywhere because she wanted lots of it on her brush.  It was cute as all get out.  By the end she even had the obligatory flour in the hair.  This is what washing is for.

The next time we make scones someone will take pictures.  I might even make it into a picture story for Bub because she loves the photobooks of family holidays & activities.  As I type this, I think I might actually have become one of those mummy bloggers for real.  Pictures stories of our scone baking?  More pureed fruit for the reusable food pouches?  Oh, and Hub was busy in the shed cutting out parts to make a stepping stool for Bub - because we're that adorable.  I can least reassure myself that I still have rubbish photography on my blog.  Plus I don't remember when the laundry was hung up and I have no idea how to grow veggies.  Stereotypical perfection is a long way off for me folks!

"More scone?"
*I think there's probably some law out there about it... "The stamina and creativity of your toddler's resistance is inversely proportionate to your task's urgency and importance." Or some such.

Instructional: How to make a Quarter Circle template with a straight ruler

This method is helpful for drawing circles of uncommon widths, or whenever you need a circular curve but have no circular ruler.  To jump ahead, here is a picture of the tool I made to draw the curves in this template.

Both pieces of my template, the 'pie' and the 'crust', overlapped to make a full square with seam allowances.

You will need:
  • At least one piece of paper big enough for your quarter circle.  
  • A pencil with a sharp point
  • Scissors
  • A ruler
  • A pin
  • Thick cardboard that's bigger than your circle (corrugated is good)
  • Sticky tape (optional)*

To make:

1. Draw two squares that are the width of your chosen quarter circles.  (Having trouble making a square corner?  See **) 

My squares are 4" wide. (This would make 8" circles.)  You don't have to put seam allowances on these yet.  I did, but to remind me of my pivot corners without marking the square itself. 

Two 4" squares ready for quarter circles
2. Cut out a strip of paper that's at least an inch longer than your squares.  Mine is 6" long. 

3. Rule a line down the strip and mark a zero point near one end.  Measure your square's length from that point, as well as a seam allowance before and beyond that length.  My seam allowance is a quarter inch (6mm), so my marks were at 4", 3.75" and 4.25" respectively.

My completed paper compass.  First hole: Pie seam allowance. 2nd hole: Circle arc.
3rd hole: Crust seam allowance. 4th hole: zero, the pivot point.

If you want to use sticky tape, put a strip on the back to reinforce the paper.

Use a pin to put holes in the measured points.  Make the 'seam & allowance' ones big enough to take the pencil tip. (I used a darning needle for this.)

4. Place your paper on your cardboard.  Take the pin and put it through the strip of paper at the zero point.  Now put it exactly through a pivot corner, pinning the strip and paper to the cardboard. (See pic below)

5. Short version: You're going to use the first and second holes (the top two) to mark two arcs on one square (making the pie piece) and the second and third holes to mark arcs on the other square (making the crust piece).   

Long version:
5.a  Poke your pencil through the hole for your circle edge (the middle of the three holes) and a draw corner-to-corner arc on your square, using the strip like a compass.  Here are both my squares with their quarter circles drawn.

Two quarter circles.  Note the pin is stuck through the cardboard.
Choose one to be your 'pie' piece - the quarter circle part - and the other to be the 'crust'.

5.b  On your Pie piece, pin the zero point to the same corner as before and use the outer pencil hole to mark your seam allowance arc.

5.c  On your other square (the 'crust' piece): again, pin the zero point to the same pivot point as before.  Use the inner pencil hole to mark a seam allowance inside (below) the quarter circle edge.

The seam allowances marked on both pieces.
6.  Mark a seam allowances on the corners. Using the same pivot point helps keep track of the pieces.  In the picture below, that's
- the lower and left edges of the top square for the pie, and
- the upper and right edges of the bottom square for the crust.

Seam allowance added to the crust piece (bottom square).
7.  Cut out your template pieces along the seam allowance lines. All done!

Both pieces cut and ready to go.

* I know in the US it's call cellotape, and such, but in Australia we call it sticky tape.  Coz it's sticky and it's tape. 
** If you only have a straight ruler, with no grid or right angle, it can be hard to make a perfectly straight square. The corner of another piece of paper can be a good guide.  However, a piece of firm paper (not wrapping paper, which can warp) folded twice - once to create a straight line and again in exactly the opposite direction - can make a good reinforced right angle to guide you.

May 1, 2014

D284: Cutting Pants!

I'm still into cutting everything out at the moment, dreaming of sitting down and just zip zipping everything together.  Foolish girl... As if it'll be that quick!! Any hoo...

These are the pieces for the City Mouse Pants from Ottobre 4/2011.  Yes that is a rather crazy lining, but it wont be seen.  It has a similar stretch to the fleecy outer and I wanted a bit of a wind breaker in these.  Murphy's Cousin strikes again.