Friday, January 27, 2012

will it lay or will it crow?

These little chicks of ours are certainly keeping us guessing. At almost two months old they have proper feathers and are showing a lovely range of colourings. But which are roosters and which are hens?

Some seem obvious but others not so much. According to my Google research, the only way you'll know 100% for sure is when it lays, or crows!

Any opinions - based on experience, gut feel or wild guesswork - very welcome.

I'm fairly sure this pretty yellowish one is a girl, and I want to keep her.

that looks like a rooster tail to me, but he(?) doesn't have a lot of comb yet

possibly a girl, and rather lovely feathers

this one has the most obvious rooster-style comb and wattle development, yet no prominent tail

a girl, I think

fairly sure this is a girl - pretty much no comb or wattle development

here's the little rooster again showing off his beautiful blue-laced gold wyandotte colouring (certainly the best colouring of all the chicks)

girl? have we already looked at this one? they run about so much it's very hard to get good photos

a bit of comb and wattle... who knows
We may have found a home in the hills for one rooster. We're not allowed to keep any here in the 'burbs. The other boys are destined for the table at maybe five to six months of age. Of course we had to be prepared to do that before we decided to hatch the eggs.

We'll keep one or two hens as layers and any others will be bound for the chookyards of friends. I really hope we have a few girls to give away.

The two mother hens who did the hatching are about to start laying again any day now. They're making the right noises. Come on ladies, you can do it. It seems so crazy to have 13 chickens at home and have to buy eggs.

Next spring, maybe one of these babies will be hatching another clutch of eggs for us. We're definitely keen to do it all again.

- Jane x

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Andy's 40, how about a new dress?

Today is Andy's 40th birthday, but right now he's in Texas for work so there's not much I can do to help him celebrate. Which is a bit sad but we'll make up for it later. He's bought himself a pair of cowboy boots; very fitting for turning 40 in Texas I think. I wish he was here. Happy 40th my lovely. We sure do love you.

We have one last week of school holidays coming up here. Charlie decided he wanted to make himself a new pencil case for school. With the pick of my stash he chose some Heather Ross Owl & Pussycat fabric and some Tammis Keefe reproduction with cats and birds.

He decided on the dimensions he wanted and I followed this tutorial to help him. He did every bit of cutting and sewing himself, even on the zip. I just instructed and pinned. Somehow I got the zip teeth pointing the wrong way in the final construction and Charlie was so amazingly patient and unpicked it all so we could re-do it. His calm persistence amazes me. At his age I probably would have thrown the project on the floor a few times and maybe never finished it.

It takes some effort to hold myself back from my desire to jump in there and do a lot of the sewing for him. He's really becoming quite confident with the machine and obviously, the more I let him try, the more he'll learn. I guess I'm learning as a teacher, too.

Maybe dear Charlie is also teaching me a few things because these days, I sew with far more patience. I cut this dress out in early December... and finished it just this morning. I've grabbed small moments here and there between kid-projects and everything else. It could wait. No hurry.
Yes, it's my third Miz Mozelle. In Spoonflower organic cotton knit that was part of my Spoonflower binge late last year. Charlie was my photographer.
As with each of these dresses, one of the most difficult things was choosing the one perfect button!
oops, spot the stray thread
I actually sewed most of the bias tape on by hand. Since the hand-quilting I did, I've appreciated more the meditative nature (and satisfying result) of hand stitching. I used some Japanese linen bias tape that I've had sitting around for a while. It's wider than I've used before so it became more of a feature.

I took the time to add pockets in the side seams. I love pockets. I used scraps of voile so they wouldn't add much bulk.

Since I eked this out of two yards I ended up with a much narrower belt than the pattern calls for, but I don't think it matters at all.

lots of summer swimming means Jane is more toned and tanned than she's been in some years!
As it has previously, the dress turned out a bit long for me. So I turned up a nice deep hem and finished on my (ridiculously indulgent purchase) coverstitch machine. I even bothered to change the top threads to match. See, patience!
I wish I could find a bit more saintly patience over wanting Andy to be done with his work trip and be home with us. I'm a bit worn out and battling some sore throat thing. Only two-and-a-bit more days though.

- Jane x

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

some pre-blog sewing

That's a very dull post title isn't it? My apologies.

Seriously, with Andy overseas and three kids home on holidays, plus playdates, appointments and squeezing in some paid work, my brain is about the consistency of the lovely new lot of corn-fibre toy stuffing that arrived today.

Quick, a photo.
You know when you take a piece of exquisite fabric, and cut it just so, to use almost every scrap, and create a piece of clothing that you think your child looks utterly edible in?

So of course, child refuses to wear it? Yeah.

I made this over a year ago from some precious Liberty Tana Lawn - a half metre from eBay - to a pattern I sort-of traced from an existing top. It has French seams, side splits, neck binding painstakingly unpicked and re-applied to make it perfect. He's probably worn it about five times. So when he actually chose it from his wardrobe recently I had to take some photos.

Have you ever hugged a child wearing Liberty Tana Lawn next to their skin? I highly recommend it as one of life's most delicious sensations.

A disclaimer for the following photo: the clothes sit better than this when there is not a gale-force wind plastering them to me. Top and skirt both made, I think, pre-blog.
Top: New Look 6808 in a Japanese double-sided double gauze. This is really comfy and totally doesn't need the invisible zip I painstakingly inserted down one side as per the pattern, but then I like it loosely fitted. I added the contrast band down the bottom, and put an old glass button on the collar instead of the bow in the pattern. I thought a bow would be a bit twee added to the whole picnic tablecloth effect I have going on here. I think this pattern would look good extended down in an A-line shape to make a dress, don't you?

Skirt: Anna Maria Horner Proper Attire Skirt in a bamboo denim that I have used previously for Charlie's shorts.  I love this skirt, wear it to death and this photo does not do it justice at all. It's a reminder of how much wear I get from really good, plain basics. It's fully-lined, has great pockets and a really lovely shape.

The waistband is cut on the bias and the denim has a lot of stretch, even though interfaced. Next time I'd take the time to hang the cut waistband up to stretch then re-cut... a technique I saw somewhere and can't Google-find now, drat.

The photo above was taken on a day out at the Barossa Valley. It's a world-famous wine region but you can guess how much fun it is going wine tasting with the three boys in tow. One of the best parts was visiting a sculpture park set at a lookout with views over the whole valley. The boys had fun on, in and around the sculptures.

That Witchard, he gets around the place! (Oh yeah, he'll wear the dress-up garment made of nasty synthetic stuff... but I'm not complaining about that.)

- Jane x

Thursday, January 12, 2012

the house is out of control and threatening to eat us alive

on top of the piano
pram that's not been used for about two years that's missing a bolt so I haven't felt right about giving it away, plus bags of old clothes for charity
fishing gear that needs to go back to our neighbour, and other detritus
out of season fire = dumping ground

dust, er, spiderweb, er... toy corner
my sewing amidst other collected debris
the 'study'
potential archaeological dig site
And there's more, but you get the idea.

Before some reality TV show comes and uses our house as a cautionary tale for the rest of the world, I think it's time I re-kick-started Mission Declutter.

You know, just as my work is cranking up again and Andy is about to go overseas for ten days. Nothing like unrealistic goals!

- Jane x

Monday, January 9, 2012

school holiday highlights (so far)

Even though we've been taking things at a fairly slow pace around here, I feel like I'm getting behind in bloggable news. The boys are all a fairly good age for 'getting out and doing things' in the school holidays now, what with no daytime naps and most grumpiness able to be dealt with by application of icecream, cake etc.

We took Gillian's recommendation and went strawberry picking at Beerenberg in the Adelaide Hills. Despite a spell of intensely hot weather the pickings were exceptionally good. It was tempting to keep picking, and picking... however we limited ourselves to a bit less than five kilos. We ate quite a few fresh and in sorbet, and made two batches of jam. The first batch we did not mush up the berries and they all floated to the top of the jars. Live and learn.

Andy has been sourdough baking with mixed success. The flavour is really good but the texture is, as yet, a little too dense. He's working on it. And yes, he has worn that same t-shirt pretty much every day while on holidays. He's back to work today, but I have another week off, and I'm letting the boys have a lazy DVD day today.

Charlie and Jasper were eager to get to work on a new stuffed toy each from Fiona's lovely Hop Skip Jump book. They chose projects with a bit more complexity this time so the work was collaborative. I sewed tricky parts like gussets and string-jointing limbs. But apart from that they did all the tracing, cutting and stuffing, and most of the sewing, by themselves. I'd remind them about clipping curves and they'd say "I know!" I'm pleased to say that in line with the book's philosophy, and my 'Wombling' resolution, the materials for these critters were entirely from stash; mostly scraps from finished projects. One of the delightful things about making stuffed toys is how little fabric you really need.

Three weeks of no work and all of us together sounds like bliss and is for the most part. But I have to admit I actually find the 'doing not much' part a bit difficult sometimes and become anxious that I should be doing constructive things. Maybe that's why I make silly resolutions like 'make the bed every day'. A little piece of perceived achievement to make up for the lack of getting everyone packed off to school and childcare and going to paid work regular week stuff. Pretty silly that some of my sense of self-worth should rest on doing the stressful things.

I think I need to go and sew while the boys are happy with a DVD!

- Jane x

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wombling into the New Year

As a child I read Elizabeth Beresford's Wombles books. I also loved the little stop-frame animation Wombles series which must have aired on the ABC, probably just before The Goodies.

Feeling nostalgic, I bought some Wombles on DVD when Charlie and Jasper were very young. It was a revival series: new episodes, all in colour, and at a rather faster pace than I remember the old ones. But still pretty much true to the Wombles philosophy and still with the theme song:
"Overground, underground, Wombling free, 
the Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we,
making good use of the things that we find, 
things that the everyday folk leave behind".

Charlie adored the DVDs and found them especially soothing when he was ill in the middle of the night, as very small children often are. I know most of the episodes off by heart. One is titled "New Year, New You".
And so at New Year I can't help but think of the Wombles. And, wouldn't it be good to be more like a Womble?
They are resourceful; they were pretty much the original recyclers. They make use of what they have, and what they find.
Now I'm not going to be able to get by merely on stuff other people ditch. Well, perhaps I could, but I don't think I'm quite up to being a freegan just now.
But I do want to buy less, and use what I have more thoughtfully.
Less waste, fewer purchases. I'm thinking a lot about my fabric stash, but also about pretty much everything else we 'consume' in our household. We're reasonably frugal but could definitely be more so.
Perhaps I should start 'Wombling' by giving myself a Womble name, which they did by flipping through Great Uncle Bulgaria's atlas. And my Womble name shall be... (spins Charlie's world globe, randomly jabs finger)... Hohhot, which Wikipedia says is in Mongolia and the globe seems to place outside of this, in China. In any case, they quite likely live a more sustainably Womble-like existence than I do.

I'm not intending this to be a serious life-changing resolution. Just a new thoughtfulness that will, I hope, save us some money and the earth some resources.
I do have another resolution. One I seriously considered last new year but ditched as over-ambitious.
I'm going to make the bed every day.
Not everyone's in the house, just mine-and-Andy's.

Yep, I'm deadly serious. 365 days of bed-making. Look out world. I might even get around to making the matching quilt-cover for the pillowcases I sewed last year, but one step at a time, right? (The white part of the pillowcase above was made from an old sheet - how Womble-like!)

- Jane x

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