Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Second chances

Hello again, if you are still out there that is. I'm amazed if anyone still visits here.
What a lovely summer it's been. I've been far too busy enjoying life to be mucking around on my blog, I'll tell you that for free.
I've had all sorts of adventures of the making-stuff kind, preserving lots of fruit and making pasta sauce and sewing dresses for myself. But lets talk about all of that later. Right now I'd rather talk about dress ups.
My children are too old for dress ups, in fact, they are teen/pre-teen sophisticated city kids that now find homemade stuff a little embarrassing and their parents even more so. BUT, does it ever happen to you that just when you think a phase is finished with, it re-enters your life and you get a second chance at it? It seems to happen to me all the time. We were in Dunedin in the holidays, the most wonderful city if ever you get the chance to visit, and we went to Toitu, the brilliant early settlers museum down by the train station. Toitu has many interactive displays (including a working Atari 64, does that make you feel old?), one of which is a set of Victorian dress-ups.
Well, we had a great time. The 10-year-old tried on all the little dresses and hats and aprons. It was a blast.

I promised her that I'd make a set of Victorian dress ups the minute we got home. And I did. I made a dress with a fitted bodice, a high neckline, and a hem at ankle length. I just made up a regular girl's dress pattern and lengthened the skirt. Easy. I made a funny wee apron to go over it.
Instead of choosing a drab brown floral as the dress fabric we chose a beautiful modern Cloud 9 fabric, designed by Gininne. We just couldn't resist it.
Finally, I made a bonnet (American frontier style, from this free pattern) because I just couldn't help myself. Please forgive the bonnet being modeled by a stuffed pineapple. My human model has stopped collaborating.

The clothes I made are hilariously inaccurate, but see if I care. Here's what Victorian children were wearing in New Zealand; mainly mid-calf dresses with lots of neck ruffles and not a bonnet in sight.
 Girls in standard four, Terrace School, Wellington

Girls in standard four, Terrace School, Wellington. France, T : Photographs of Wellington Schools. Ref: 1/2-080045-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Anyway, that's what we've been up to. What about you?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Time and Place

Hello Friends,

I've been working on a quilt. There was a time and place for this quilt. The time was about 5 years ago when I started it, and the place was on my son's bed when he was still young enough to like it.

I re-initiated work on this quilt because my suitcase of patchwork fabrics wouldn't close. That meant that I had to either finish or throw out the half-finished projects cluttering it up.

Well, I thought to myself, I should probably throw this quilt out because the crazy colours I chose are just too jarring. But then again, I thought, I could finish it and give it to a friend who has several little boys who just might like crazy colour schemes.

So anyway, I finished it. What's more, I really enjoyed finishing it! The colours don't seem crazy at all now. 
 The red parts that I thought looked too bitsy now look like awesome, like little propellers. 
Best of all, the whole thing reminds me of my lovely blog-friend, Iris, who sent me the cool robot fabric that sparked the whole project.
The other best-of-all is that my 12-year-old son really likes it, and wants it on his bed. The right place and time turned out to be here and now.

I'm sure there is some kind of life lesson in that.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Playing with dolls

Hello friends,

The other day my Mum was reminiscing about when my older sisters were little, and they played for about 3 years with ragdolls that she had made them for Christmas. The ragdolls were sewn wardrobes full of clothes, had furniture made for them, went on holiday, got married, and finally got divorced. I felt a melancholic twinge thinking how I never got around to making a rag doll family for my own children to play with. "My children are too old for that now", I confidently said.

As fate would have it, I was tidying away some old knitting projects when I came across a pattern that Melissa had made up and referenced on her blog. It was so cute, and had that perfect amount of silly that makes a project irresistible to me. I needed to make one myself, even though my children are Too Old for Dolls.

When I made him, he was instantly seized and named "It" by my daughter who is Too Old for Dolls.

"It" needed a bed so we made him one in an old cigar box.

The bed needed making so we used hankies for sheets, and made a quilt.
And then we made another quilt, and she who is Too Old for Dolls made a suite of comfy pillows.
"It" now has a room in the cube bookcase. A carpet is being knitted for the floor. Pictures from magazines make artwork to decorate the walls. "It" has a holiday planned and needs a suitcase. Polymer clay has been acquired to make various bedroom and kitchen accessories.

Turns out she isn't Too Old for Dolls, and neither am I.

Friday, June 5, 2015


Ah T-shirts, the frenemy of the home sewer who has learned to sew with woven fabrics. T-shirts pretend to be so easy, friendly, and achievable with their simple front and back and a couple of hems, but before you know it there's a wonky neckline or a band sitting out instead of flat, and your simple, smiley, fun T-shirt is showing off your incompetence.

Perhaps I could describe that better without anthropomorphising: T-shirts look so easy, but they are proving to be quite hard because I'm just not used to sewing with stretch fabrics. There, that's a little less emotional. However, I am not here to report my failures, which are many, but instead two small steps along the road to being a competent sewer of knits.

I made two T-shirts out of remnants picked up for $5 at a sale. That was tremendously satisfying in itself. Both were made using Kwik Sew pattern, which I have momentarily mislaid. For the first T-shirt, I substituted a neckband in the same fabric for the simple hem on the neckline shown in the pattern. Yes I know, it doesn't quite sit flat, but it's not too bad.
I also added a band at the bottom, which I really like when I'm wearing it. 
For the second T-shirt I used a pre-made stretch binding. I still need a bit of practice putting this kind of binding on, but I'm quite happy with this as a first attempt. It sits allllllllmost flat.
 I twin-needled the bottom hem. Twin-needled it. With twin needles. See?
Now we are all friends, me and the two T-shirts. And we lived happily ever after.

Friday, April 17, 2015

All about the blues (and greens)

Hello Friends,
You know, the internet provides the impetus to progress all sorts of projects. I don't just mean tutorials about how to do this or that, which are very useful I'll grant you, but also just the odd throw-away comment that suddenly resolves a problem and moves a project along.
The case I am thinking of was a huge bag of quilting fabric squares and off-cuts, which has sat in my stash for the last 2 years. The truth is, I was a little bit afraid of it. The fabrics were all beautiful, and were in every colour and shade. I didn't quite know where to start and feared that when I did make something, I would ruin it and it would be hideous.
Anyway, I was reading one of my favourite crafty blogs, Cozy things, and she mentioned that the first 20 or so quilts that she made she never paid attention to the backing. Well, that's an innocent enough statement, but what stood out to me was the "the first 20 or so quilts..." That was enough to remind me that like everything else, quilting and patchwork are ongoing learning experiences, and the only way to get better is to keep at it and make stuff, making mistakes and sometimes even making hideous things. 
I started by sorting out the fabrics in my favourite colours, which are blues and greens at the moment. My neighbour suggested to add some yellow and red, to stop it being a big insipid mess of bluey-green. That was good advice. Then I put it together in a random disappearing 9-patch. There are zillions of tutes if you're interested in how to make these blocks, so I won't bother with one here. Needless to say they are quick and very easy to make. I cut and pieced a king-sized quilt top in less than a week.
Here it is having a wee turn on the big bed to see how I like it every time I walk past the room. I like it a lot, as it happens. I'm now wondering about the sashing (maybe yellow?) and binding (perhaps black or red stripes?).
The backing will be simpler, and more modern. Possibly simple stripes of blue, grey, and yellow? Feel free to share your opinion.
Here are some other blues and greens; the sea and the forests of the Abel Tasman National Park. We went tramping (hiking/bushwalking) in the school holidays, it's so do-able for a family to walk this track. The terrain is "unchallenging", as seasoned trampers call it, but that's perfect for me. Three or four hours' walk every day, a comfortable hut to stay in at night, and beaches all along the route. Just lovely.
And finally, here is a cat in a washing basket. Just because. It is not my cat, but it is my washing basket.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Hello Friends,

Goodness, summer just went on and on in this part of the world, and it's only just dawned on me that it's on the way out. Nonetheless, it must be autumn, because I started to feel like a lamb roast for dinner, a bucket of feijoas arrived on my back doorstep, and I felt like updating my blog.

First up, I've made a shirt. New Look 6598 if you are someone that is interested in such details. It was easy, and so satisfying as I made it from a piece of seersucker in my vast stash of fabrics. I am always slightly amused whenever I sew seersucker into clothing because it is reminiscent of a tablecloth, and what mother hasn't felt like a kitchen accessory at one time or another?
Now that I am older and more patient I pay attention to small design details, instead of just mowing over them with a youthful devil-may-care attitude. Case in point, this small notch on the arm, which you make using a facing. Very easy and quite styley in my opinion.
The standless collar shows off the seersucker pattern rather well. Also, paying the extra money for good-quality woven interfacing has made the whole sewing experience just sooooo much better. I was given that piece of advice years ago but only recently acted on it. You were right Mary Anna.
This shirt is on an occasional rotation in my wardrobe because it needs ironing, and I am a "reluctant" ironer. Still, it's perfect for these late summer, oh lets face it, autumn, days, so perhaps I could get around to ironing a little more often.

Since we were talking of feijoas, I will leave you with the recipe for the feijoa cordial that I made last night. It's a good way of using up the runty ones.


1.5 c white sugar
1 C water
2 t citric acid
Juice and rind of three lemons
1 C feijoa (or any type of guava) flesh, mashed with a fork

Simmer all of the ingredients together for 5 min. Cool a little, then strain through a sieve and bottle. Keep in the fridge. To make it up, dilute with 4-5 parts water, hot or cold, or soda water. You could even use it to make a parochial NZ champagne cocktail.

Other fabulous feijoa recipes here!

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?