Saturday, August 27, 2011

how can you not love a rat (or three)?

hairy underarm problem
Seriously, now. Since we've had these little pets, the kids have watched less TV and barely bothered with Wii or even asking about the computer. (Okay, Jasper's been banned from those last two for about six weeks but all the same.)
The boys are learning a lot about the responsibility of looking after pets, and how to play gently with them.
These little things are active, inquisitive and genuinely friendly. Sometimes Andy and I even get a rat or two out to play with after the boys are in bed.
We don't even need to remember to buy them specific food because they mostly eat breakfast cereal, popcorn and a little spinach from the garden.
Honestly, I can't think of a better first pet for kids. Yay for... you know... small furry things, that need a better name!

- Jane x

Monday, August 22, 2011

pear and semolina cake

I love these plates,  'Clematis' by Crown Lynn of New Zealand,
via Hindmarsh Disposals, a favourite treasure haunt of mine
Pears are a fruit with a small window of opportunity when they are just right. Plus, they don't travel well to school. Therefore in the past few months I have often found myself with a few overripe pears on my hands.

This is a variation on my fig and banana cake recipe, rather more simple and if I do say so myself, pretty good! Tonight, Andy is home late and we're kind of, uh, having this for tea.
It uses three large ripe pears.

dry mix:
1 cup wholemeal self raising flour
1 cup fine semolina
3/4 cup soft brown sugar
2 tsp mixed spice

wet mix:
120g butter, melted
2/3 cup natural yoghurt
3 eggs

3 large ripe pears, cored and diced (skin on)

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
Mix dry ingredients together well.
Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then stir into dry ingredients.
Stir through the diced pear.
Pour into a buttered large ring tin.
Bake for around 45 minutes or until a skewer just comes out clean.
Allow to cool in tin for about 10 minutes to help it all hold together, turn out and enjoy!

- Jane x

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Miz Mozelle Dress - the details

I found the post at Flossie Teacakes about her experiences making Miz Mozelle very useful. She pointed out that on her, the keyhole turned out too large so I made mine smaller right from the start.
For my fellow sewists, here are some details from my first version, in case anyone finds them useful in making their own.

1. If you have wide fabric, you can probably get away with considerably less than the pattern specifies. My fabric was 150cm wide and I easily cut the whole thing out of 2 metres, whereas I bought 2.7 metres (3 yards) as specified. Check out the pattern pieces before you buy your fabric. I could fit a skirt front or back, plus a bodice front or back, across one width of the fabric.

2. The bias tape requirements are quite small so it could be worth making your own if you fancy something pretty. I can imagine a plain navy dress with Liberty bias trim, for example. Mmmmm....
I find using a zipper foot helps me sew the bias tape on accurately
3. The pattern specifies single fold bias and double fold bias. Now - after a bit of Googling and confusion - I have discovered that double fold is really the same thing, just folded in half again. And all the pre-made bias I've ever seen is only single fold. So all you really need for this pattern is half inch single fold bias tape (or quarter inch double fold, essentially the same thing), and two metres or yards of it would be more than enough.

4. I found the attachment of the collar hard to visualise. The collar is sewn onto the right side of the bodice and then bias tape is used to cover the join and make the seam turn towards the inside. Here's a (dark) picture of how it ends up, which is rather clever and neat:

Using contrast-coloured bias tape led to difficulty with coordinating thread colours and I ended up with a bit of pink stitching going across the keyhole bias.
the button is a sweet pearlescent glass one I got in a bunch of old buttons from eBay
In this case it would have been preferable to stop just short of the keyhole bias and 'invisibly' hand-stitch the very ends of the collar bias down.

5. The pattern specifies 'cord' for the button loop but I made a narrow self-fabric tube, as you see above, which works quite well. It would probably look good made from the bias, too.

6. I cut a size 12 bodice and 14 skirt, according to my measurements. I think a straight 12 would have been fine.

7. The skirt is gathered slightly to join onto the bodice. The difference in size is so minimal however that I am thinking of cutting the top and bottom as one piece next time:
this is a 12 bodice and 14 skirt - the size difference would obviously be even less with 12/12
8. There is elastic at the waist, in a casing made with the seam allowance of the skirt/bodice join. I zigzagged the pieces together then overlocked/serged the s/a before sewing down, for a clean inside finish. 1/4 inch elastic was specified but I only had 1/2 inch, which was a squeeze, but it fit!
bodice/skirt seam at bottom, seam allowance serged, pressed upwards and sewed down to make casing for elastic
And for my next Miz Mozelle....
I think shirring at the waist would suit this pattern really well. If I cut the bodice and skirt pieces together there'd be no waist seam and I could shirr up and down as far as I wanted. That would probably work really well with a lawn or voile as well as jersey.

This pattern is so simple and sweet, and came together in one afternoon and evening - including the dreaded tracing off the pattern. The hardest part for me was finding a decent fabric!
this rather bright choice was 'the best I could find' at Spotlight and although nothing special, was still $15/m! 100% cotton, soft and a nice weight but the quality of the printing is horrible.
I still find shopping for knit fabrics quite confusing and frustrating. I prefer natural fibres (narrows the selection massively). I don't want 'baby' prints. Most of the plains I find look and feel, I don't know, cheap and nasty. Or too 'ordinary' plain for something like this dress. Maybe I just don't have the eye for them yet. Or perhaps I need to head back to the dyepot! Any tips on selection and sources?

- Jane x

Friday, August 19, 2011

My (first) Miz Mozelle

I say first because I'm sure there will be more.
I love this. I'm so excited to get pictures of it up, I will have to do a more detailed post on it later.
My natural tendency is to go on about how it's not the perfect fabric and point out the sewing mistakes and apologise for myself in general.
But look. It's a cute pink frock! The sun came out! How can I not be happy?
Clem is yelling 'huuuuug meeeee' because he wants to be picked up and I am pretending it is a photo opportunity to look like we're dancing on the cold, damp bricks
Pattern is Miz Mozelle Dress by Jamie Christina.

- Jane x

Monday, August 15, 2011

sunny weekend, grey Monday, can't complain

"Mama, can I have a mine* and a blanket, and pillow and Miffy?"

These words are music to my ears late on a Monday morning because it means Clem will be having a little rest on the couch for a while.

*A 'mine' is a muslin wrap - we have many - which Clem uses as a comfort object. "Mine" was one of his earliest words (how toddler can you get) and somehow these became named 'mines'.

Today is grey and rainy, and I had to be at work for a 9am meeting for which the client never showed. I normally work Tuesdays and Thursdays. Client has apparently now seen the presentation by email and phone, and was very positive, maybe out of guilt, ha. Blessing in disguise?

Anyhow, a perfect time to relive our sunny weekend.

I love it when our own city has surprises for us. Like this new corner of the Botanic Gardens.

More child-friendly water features: shallow, flowing and touchable. Love!

This stunning new ginkgo-leaf-pattern gate. The large middle piece swivels between the outer panels to open and close at the start and end of day.
We had a picnic by the creek, which was flowing.
Who would fall in first? Surprisingly, neither.

Charlie made this hat about a year ago, with a minimum of help from me.

Loving the gradual emergence of spring, and loving my family... mwah!

- Jane x

Friday, August 12, 2011

the stripes do not love me

What is wrong with this picture?

(You know, if that's a little bit of underwear show-through, photo left, let's pretend it's not, okay?)

I am standing ever so slightly skewiff. But those stripes? It's not just the way I'm standing.

Somehow I managed to match one stripe with the one below it when folding the fabric to cut out the front of this top. A fact I was unaware of until I had the thing almost finished. Poop.

The twin needle and I have had a bit of a tiff, too. Oh yes it was my new BFF just a little while back but now we're discovering our differences. Like how completely fussy it is about tension, and thread type, and how that relates to different fabrics, and different again when you've used fusible tape to hold something in place before stitching. And how it doesn't like to turn corners. Twin needle, you take me back to the days of learning to sew with my Mum looking critically over my shoulder. When I was onto some world record attempt of broken needles from ordinary straight line sewing. Twin needle, much more crap from you and you're off my Facebook friends list, okay?

I guess I'll just finish this thing off and wear it a bit, under things, you know.

I do have enough of the fabric for another try. Yawn. Spring is in the air and stripes may find other callings....

- Jane x

Thursday, August 11, 2011

more from the haphazard dyepot

Experimenting with the theory that an aluminium pot can act as a mordant. Same sad old (formerly) white cotton top as before.
 Once again, lacked time and patience to pre-soak or really follow the instructions in the lovely book, like soaking overnight in aluminium-pot-water.
 Dumped loads of coffee grounds in with cotton top and water and brought to the boil for half an hour or so. Partway through, thought hey, maybe I have a source of iron-as-mordant too.
 Who knows? Worth a shot. Normally used in the garden on things like my yellowish macadamia tree.
So yeah, cooked it up for a while, let it sit for a bit. It looked to be going a fair bit darker than the first time. Then I went to rinse it out. Which is where I found...
 Our source of mordant-rich water! Yes, the rusty old rainwater tap in the laundry. The orange-tinted water that comes through the rusty pipe is exactly what was called for! I could actually see colour processes happening as I rinsed: the rust-coloured water became quite a dark grey.
 I will spare you any further gruesome underarm shots - suffice to say that the aluminium content is still working away and the top is no more wearable than before.
 But what a cool experiment!
Um, here's our pretty cat Elodie, and some weeds. Happy Thursday.

- Jane x

Friday, August 5, 2011

more Sydney

outdoor iceskating

needed to be carried a lot (we chose not to bring the stroller - mistake)

that landmark as seen from ferry (Dadda's show was in the Studio theatre on the bottom level)

in the skyrail heading uphill at the zoo
Sydney Aquarium - just fabulous, unless you are three, overstimulated and only interested in your next sugar fix

dugong + lettuce


Miffy enjoyed all of Sydney with us

post-Aquarium meal - we ate seafood, what else?
Small kids and big cities are an interesting combination. By the end of the first day (including first ever plane flight for all three), our boys were rather overwhelmed and full of questions.

We hadn't actually planned our time a lot and the boys were desperate to know what we would be doing, when. I remembered something I'd read about in the book I wrote about here, about grounding and calming kids with a sense of predictability. So Andy and I sat down on the first night and worked out a basic itinerary, and once we had laid out these plans to the boys, they seemed a lot happier. It made life easier for me too when I could quickly and confidently answer Clem's questions: "when are we going ice skating?" "two o'clock today".

I think since having kids I've become less and less of a planner. Alright, I never have been much of one. But as parents we have so many best-laid-plans go awry, I find it best to have very few expectations. So it's a fine balance. Give the kids plans to look forward to and have a sense of order... and deal with their devastation if it doesn't happen because someone's sick/overtired/takes too long/misbehaves?

We also spent a bit of time just chilling out in our apartment to give the boys a sense of a 'home base'. Er, and to give Mama a break from dragging three boys around a city while Dadda worked.

It was a slower pace than an adult holiday, but in four days we took in a huge amount.

And the good memories are the ones that linger, aren't they?

- Jane x

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

if it's worth doing, it's worth doing half-arsed and learning from the process

In Sydney, I was super-excited to go to the awesome bookshop Kinokuniya. I would have spent hours there poring over their selection of Japanese pattern books and crafty booky goodness, only I had the three kids with me and they had chosen their books and were not at all interested in mine.

I did however manage to hastily select this beautiful book, and get all excited about dyeing my own fabrics using plants.

When I have a new crafty notion, I want to jump straight in. Make do. Make it up. Whatever.
Dyeing with coffee sounded like an excellent place to start. We make heaps of coffee grounds at home, and apparently because coffee contains tannins, these act as a natural 'mordant' i.e. binder of colour to fibre. I had an old white top that would do for an experiment.
I didn't soak the fabric for an hour or more like you're supposed to. Too impatient.

Just plunged it into a saucepan with cold water and a heap of old coffee grounds, and gradually heated to a simmer. Simmered for 20 minutes then left to steep for about an hour. Wrung it out and rinsed it well.

The mordants that I speak of? One recommended is alum, or aluminium sulphate.
Deodorant? Full of aluminium.
Old white top? Full of deodorant.
eww! I post this, you understand, in the interests of better crafting
In fact I grabbed it out of my drawer, where (gulp) it might have gone back after a light wear and not even been freshly washed.
yep, that's probably even deodorant that got onto the bottom when I pulled it over my head
Poor old white top. On the upside, it certainly demonstrates the effectiveness of using a mordant.
Live and learn.
(Am excited about possibilities of dyeing with red cabbage though, and looking forward to trying with some untainted, fresh, soaked fabric!)

- Jane x
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