Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nine little words

I've got nine words for you, and they are "Fa la la la la la la la la". Christmas is fast approaching and I feel strangely relaxed. Normally there is that free-floating anxiety, the one that forms into "Have I remembered everything?", "Is there anyone I've forgotten to get a present for?", "Do I have to bring a plate to the end-of-year do for [enter function name here]?". But not this year. Both the kids have tallied up what they know we'd spend on them and requested just one thing that they really want, so the shopping's all done and dusted. We don't do stockings so I'm not racing around trying to find cheap stuff to fill them with. This feeling of relaxation is just ace, I tell ya. I think this is definitely one of the perks of having older children, there is less pressure to make them an amazing Christmas because they're pretty good at making it amazing by themselves.

In the weekend the kids set up the nativity set, which I found one year at the junk shop.
I just love nativity sets. And junk shops.
They also got out the tree and then decorated it by themselves. They brought out all the decorations we've made over the years and I heard them reminiscing about when we made them. That was pretty cool, I thought. Here is the Christmas seagull that Harry made from dukit, last year I think it was.
Here is a Christmas robot made a few years ago, and in the background, a crochet pavlova I bought at a craft market and one of the decorations the kids made at preschool.
A cross-stitched deer, which I made a set of the year-before-last:
And this is the one that cracks me up the most. Personally, I think it's hideous, but the kids think it's the fanciest and most special decoration of all. I am NOT responsible for making this, I hasten to add.
I also like making new decorations, if I get around to it. This year, I made some decorations "inspired by" some in Scandanavian Needlecraft. This is what the ones in the book look like, very good taste and all that.
Here are my ones, a little more rumpty, but I like them that way:
So that's our Christmas tree, what does yours look like?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Glad I spotted ya!

Hello Friends,

Summer is upon us here in the Southern Hemisphere, and I found myself reaching into the depths of the fabric stash and patterns to make myself a bright and happy summer dress. I found some ridiculously cheerful blue fabric with bright white polka dots, a veritable symbol of summer good times.

However, one must be careful sewing with bright fabric and bold patterns. In particular, there are good reasons to NOT sew with bright blue and white polka-dotted fabric, and here they are:
Yes, that is Bozo the clown.

And yes, that is Minnie Mouse.
When sewing with polka dots, one really wants to be making something that a gorgeous person, and not a clown, would wear. Perhaps like this:
So I made my dress up using New Look 6799, which had some nice details like a roundy neck and a waist bit (these are probably real sewing terms) that I could put some piping either side of. What do you think?
Sorry about the slightly snotty expression - I need to work on my photo face, or perhaps my real-life face. I blame it on general malcontent related to the state of my hair. I'm growing out a fringe at the moment, and my hair's just all over the shop. I'm sure you all empathize with this kind of hair suffering. We've all been there.
I digress, back to the dress. There is some red piping either side of that bit in the middle, and I like that detail rather a lot. I lined the whole thing to make it easier to wear, and I'm glad I did, because it's so comfy, it's like trackies. Now, I know real sewists would show the zip and how the piping matches up at the seams etc, but I'm not going to because it's all very imperfect.
BUT, I love it.  A woman who I don't even know said to me in the street "I have to tell you that I LOVE your dress". She even said it in capital letters, just like that. Now that's a sewing victory, people.

Friday, August 15, 2014

To line, or not to line

There I was, sewing a summer dress, back in the summer this was, and I said to my sister, "I can't decide whether to line it or not."
"Line it." She said, "because then it's a three season garment, rather than a one season garment."
Well it turns out that she was right, because I lined that dress and I wore it in summer, autumn, and now, with tights and boots and a cardy over top, in winter as well. Three seasons, just like that. I might even wear it in spring, which is just around the corner now, making it a four-season jackpot.
This dress is, hmmm, now what pattern was it now, oh yes, New Look 6080. I've also made the top from this pattern, which was very nice. I particularly like the wee line of pintucks down the front.
After I'd finished making the dress it was a little unshapely, an issue that I addressed thusly:
First, I put this wee elasticated gather across the back by stretching elastic across then using a very wide zigzag to hold it in place.
Then I made a belt, which just ties in a simple knot. That pulls it in a little more, and also covers the gathering at the back. There, that's much better.
And here is some proof that spring is just around the corner now, just in case you need it. Daffodils....a little droopy as I couldn't find my camera a few days ago, but they have been cheering me up all week.
And so has this modest arrangement of junk-shop finds on my china cabinet. So often my bits and bobs end up in messy piles on my office desk. I really must take more care to arrange them aesthetically, because it is nice to take the time to appreciate them.
The world and everything in it. Not too much to ask, is it?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Here comes the rain (-y print top).

Hello friends,
The air is thick with autumn-ness here, the sun is sitting lower in the sky and its light is yellow and faded, the leaves are turning from yellow to red to brown, and the smell of quinces is all through the house. I made some quince jelly this year, rather than quince paste, because I thought there was a better chance of getting around to using it. It looks beautiful...
But oh my stars! Somehow I missed the setting point and it is rather hard and rubbery. I'm glad you can't tell that from a photo. I will pretend it's supposed to be like that, cutting it into hard little pieces as required and calling it "quince jelly jubes". I really do fancy myself as a good jam maker and this is somewhat of a humbling experience. Oh well, I'll pick myself up by the bootstraps and make some more when I get some more quinces.

In sewing news, I am pleased to report that I have now successfully used a facing, rather than bias strips, to complete a neckline. It works surprisingly well when you follow all of the instructions (I often skip interfacing, but this time I didn't). I did all the layering and understitching malarkey and well I never, it really does sit flat. I also handstitched the facings onto back of the shoulder seams and that helps a lot with making it sit flat too. I found this rainy fabric with its autumn colours just irresistible, especially at $6 per metre.

Here's one of my favourite parts, the label that I unpicked from an old tie years ago and have kept all this time, stitched on the back so that my top looks like a bought one. Entirely for my own amusement as no one else will see it, but if one can't amuse oneself then that is a very sad existence indeed.
(I just had one of those "I'm becoming my father" moments. He used to save EVERYTHING and once in a blue moon when he used a hinge or a rusty nail or whatever he'd say "I'm so glad I kept that"). I really do miss him sometimes.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hunting: A country scene

The latest from the "Are you sure that's a good idea?" files of sewing is my new top, featuring two jaunty horseriders with dogs and country scenery, portrayed in a mosaic pattern. How could one resist such a crazy, funny print? Many might say "Easily", but not I, readers. This "refashion" is made from a scarf, the kind that junk shops have in the hundreds. I have always thought that scarves in the charity shops have the *best* prints on them, and have secretly harboured an ambition to turn them into clothing for some time now.
There are some good reasons to NOT sew with these scarves, not least of all that most of them are 100% polyester, so slippery and squeaky to sew and sweaty to wear. Still, the price of fashion is comfort and all that....I could not be dissuaded. I purchased an extra large scarf from the junk shop for $3, and made it up using New Look 6162.
Check out the print close up: 

Dogs, horses, men, trees, sky, and clouds. Irresistible, no? Or are you screaming "NO!" at your computer screen?

I made the pattern mostly according to the instructions, except I put bias binding, made from the offcuts of the scarf, around the neck and armholes. Here's a closeup of the binding, below. I don't know about you but neckhole facings always seem to pop out or sit funny. Perhaps I am sewing them wrong. Dish out advice, if you have some.
Actually I'm loving wearing this top, it cracks me up. It's not particularly sweaty to wear, and I love the brightness of the print on these autumnal days. It's as cheery as a hot cocoa, a toasted sandwich, and orange leaves blowing down from the trees. Happy autumn everyone.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

George, and Lilac Spuds

This monkey is called George.
I made his dapper little suit last weekend, because the sewing machine was out when he came to stay, and I thought it would only take 30 minutes. It all started off so well, the pants were a snip and the jacket was going together nicely. I had the outer and lining sewn and was just putting them together when I realized that I had cut an extra sleeve instead of a back piece. Now the sensible thing to do would be to recut a back piece and resew the lining. But oh no. I thought "I'll just cut another panel and slot it in." Well, a piece that doesn't fit still doesn't fit if you add in extra bits. You can imagine how frought with difficulties that was. Honestly, the language! It would have made a sailor blush. Anyway all's well that ends well. The suit jacket turned out to be coolio. Lesson: Just go back a step and fix the mistake. Remind me of this next time, please.
Unrelated, but interesting if you like potatoes or sibling rivalry. When I was down in Dunedin recently, my Mum pointed to my sister's potato plants and said "Look at those! They're better than yours!", closely followed by "Well don't give me THAT look, they're better than mine, too". Well the photo below is for you, Mum and Miriam, look how crazy beautiful and perfect my purple heart potatoes turned out: 

And even better when covered in light cream, parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper and then baked for 1 hour at 200 degrees C, which is what I did immediately after taking this photo. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hello and welcome

Hello friends, good gracious, another year has started already. You know, I checked my stat counter the other day, and was surprised to see how many hits there were. It really is so good of you to pop into visit this blog even though my posts are rather sporadic these days. I had thought of deleting the blog altogether, but somehow it has a small life of its own and I would be too sad to lose it, and all of your comments, if I shut it down. So thanks for being such good visitors.
So now for a somewhat tardy Christmas recap...I made quite a few presents this year, one of my favourites being this bag from the wonderful book Sweet and Simple, by Melissa Wastney, which has lots of projects for adults as well as for kids. True to the title of the book it was simple to make, all the bits fitted together just as they should, and the construction was the easiest of any bags I've made in the last year or two. I made it in corduroy, with a light green striped business-shirt-like cotton lining. The ironic label use (my label is "Miss Smith") was particularly satisfying, as I made this bag for another person called "Miss Smith". True story!
I also made some pillowcases from the same cotton- these were for a 22-year-old nephew of mine. A difficult age bracket to buy for as I have no idea what young men are into in this day and age. When I was 22 all the lads I knew liked playing Doom on large computers and drinking beer. Things may or may not have changed since 1995, but surely all lads like a nice matching pair of pillowcases. Well at least I didn't sew him some underpants. That would have been much worse. And embarrassing.
Here's one of the loveliest presents I got, a big bunch of hydrangeas. Not a single stem, as that would be a Lone (hyd) Ranger. Heh heh heh.
And now that Christmas and New Year are over, I am head-long into preserving season again. So far, I've done beetroot, plums, plum jam, and tomatoes. When I was done bottling the plums I had some juice leftover and it would have been terrible to tip it out, so I added some gelatine and made it into a jelly. That reminds me, I once went to the launch of a cookbook about desserts, and the author said "Never serve jelly at a party after 10 pm. The guests will throw it around." I hadn't forgotten that piece of advice so I served the jelly as an afternoon tea treat. It was received warmly, and wobbily, by all of the children present.
Now that I think about it though, just what kind of a party is it when jelly IS served after 10 pm??? The whole idea gets weirder and weirder the more I think about it. Well, there's something to ponder on for 2014. Don't say you never get inspiration for deep reflection reading this blog.