Tuesday, July 31, 2012

unintentional bonsai

One of the things I was drawn to when we bought our house twelve years ago was the number of large, mature eucalypts in the vicinity. The native birds love them and they provide good shade.

But... one of the things I love the least about our property these days is the number of large, mature eucalypts in the vicinity. They suck the moisture and nutrients out of the soil, overshadow our yards and make it very difficult to grow fruit and veggies in our garden.
Exhibit A: Blood orange tree, planted at least three years ago and fed continually with chook manure, compost and occasional conventional fruit tree fertiliser. Approximately 30cm high... more or less bonsai-ed by the effect of the neighbours' two massive eucalypts.

Exhibit B: Broccoli, grown from seed three to four months ago. And in our garden I'd kind of class this as 'vigorous':

It's a little disheartening. And wouldn't you know, I campaigned some years back to keep our large eucalypt street trees when the council wanted to replace them all with something smaller. This was before I twigged to the bonsai effect. So they are now replacing them in (very, very slow) stages and I guess the one out the front of our house will be the last to go. My own fault!

Anyway, enough on the sad garden front. I haven't sewn anything in the last week but Charlie has very quickly picked up the idea of making log cabin quilt squares.
I thought he might like to make a cushion cover out of the scraps from his quilt. With just a little basic instruction he was off and running. The idea is to make four 12-inch squares for a large cushion cover.
He's on the second square. How proud am I?

School had a 'pupil free day' yesterday (second one in three weeks right after school holidays? harumph) so I offered the boys extra pocket money to clean our car. They did an excellent job of the inside and to be fair, the outside was extremely dusty after a trip into the mallee scrub. This is after washing:

I'm choosing to regard it affectionately. That mess was made with a lot of effort and enthusiasm (and cost me $14).

- Jane x

Saturday, July 28, 2012

have a great weekend

because this guy says you must, okay?
(more Jasper work)

- Jane x

Sunday, July 22, 2012

production line sewing

I tend to get all excited about making one thing and just go for it. Although I might then make more of the same, it's not really in my nature to methodically cut out multiples of something and line up the sewing in stages.
Except I did this weekend and it's pretty satisfyingly productive.
Using my old faithful Ottobre Best T-shirts pattern I made these two, and two others - being made for gifts - are almost finished.
Jasper's is a Spoonflower print (organic cotton jersey) from an order I got a while back. I know I rave about this fabric all the time but it is just so, so soft and a joy to sew. And Charlie and Jasper choose their Spoonflower t-shirts over anything else, any time they can.
Clem's is a 'Lilofant' print in a lovely thick cotton interlock. I bought a half metre in green and yellow (both equally bright!) about a year ago and his green one has been worn a lot and is a bit small now.
Note that Clem insists on wearing these pants with the worn-out knees, on their third winter I think... they're comfy, I suppose I should just patch them.

And check out this pose that the two of them used on me yesterday when they were begging to go to the DVD shop to borrow some movies... "pleeeeeeeeaaase!"
Ack, what am I supposed to do in the face of teamwork like that? Anyway, while they watch movies I can sew!

Do you ever sew production-line style?

- Jane x

Thursday, July 19, 2012

beeswax shoe polish

For about a year I've been trying to convince myself I don't want another pair of my beloved Duckfeet boots. When I finally put in my 2010/11 tax return I caved and treated myself to some green ones.

In comparison, my old ones looked sadly neglected. One suggestion from the friendly Duckfeet folk was beeswax, and I found a recipe here, that used things I actually had on hand. And haven't they come up well?

The polish has a lovely soft texture, gorgeous golden colour and a mild, natural smell.

And it's so simple to make:

1/2 cup food-grade linseed (flaxseed) oil
1 tablespoon beeswax

Melt together in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Once combined, pour into a glass jar (Vegemite jar works a treat!) and label.

Rub onto leather with a soft cloth. (Totally non-toxic and relatively mess-free for kids.) After a few minutes, buff with a clean cloth.


After (the darkness lightens up and evens out after an hour or so):

I tried it on wood, too. Why not? It smooths on beautifully and the finish is not sticky or oily.

I think our whole kitchen bench is crying out for a coat of this now.

On a completely unrelated note, check this out, poor chooky:

But lucky Clem.
(He managed all of the white and about half the gimungous yolk.)

- Jane x

Sunday, July 15, 2012

the kitteh love the quilt

Charlie's quilt is more-or-less finished, except that it's a continuing work in progress as I add some hand-quilting detail with perle cotton. That is, when I can find the quilt unoccupied by boy and/or feline.

Elodie was rather suspicious of me hanging it on the line for a photo.

No really, I'm not looking at it, this is not bothering me at all.

The fabric is Tula Pink's Prince Charming, for my boy who loves frogs and green. Plus a couple of linens: one from the stash (Japanese I think) and some chocolate linen from the shop-around-the-corner.

There's a reasonable amount of wonkiness, which I don't mind since the original rows of patterned fabrics were bothering me a bit with their... straightness. The stretchiness of the linens and the wanderings of Charlie's sewing together of all the rows have given it that handmade look I prefer. (Even if I have had to patch up a few seam holes.)

It's rather jolly vast - longer than my washing line will wind up off the ground - and wasn't the easiest thing to manipulate under the machine to quilt along each row.

And I think I'll keep going with the perle cotton stitching for quite a while. The more I do the more I like it (and the more it distracts from the imperfect machine quilting). And wow, I've never used perle cotton before. It's so much lovelier than standard embroidery thread to use. And isn't hand stitching soothing? Hand quilting by the fire is something I can see myself doing for many winters to come.

- Jane x

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

if I was to look on the bright side

of being home most of these school holidays while the flu makes its way through our family
(and what would be the point of looking on the crappy side, it's just too easy to see)
I would be thankful for

modern medicine that gives us effective pain and fever relief

dependable places for outdoor low-possibility-of-infecting-others entertainment when the littlest one is only displaying vague first symptoms

the delight of a new melon-baller (by his special request) and having all the watermelon to himself since nobody wants his germs

mama-made pyjamas being worn and worn and worn, and the fire doing excellent service

Dadda bringing home helium balloons when Jasper's birthday sleepover had to be postponed, and boys attaching various critters for a ride

a large jigsaw in progress, and a dear boy who is not sick but doesn't mind too much slouching about the house

oh yes and movies, thank heavens for Apple TV and being able to rent movies without moving one's germs outside the door. Chipwrecked (better than I expected), Journey to the Mysterious Island, Men in Black (when Clem was out), Matilda (I got a bit teary), Muppet Treasure Island

Jasper using his new birthday oil pastels

lots and lots of cuddles with this one, including a whole night with him breathing into my face, which is probably why I am suffering now, and... hankies of course!

Yes our couch really is as dirty as you can see, and more.

I was supposed to be back at work this week so I am also thankful for that being mostly non-urgent and manageable by email.

I wouldn't wish this flu on anyone but I'm doing my best to find positive moments in this unscheduled halt to affairs. I'm hoping we can make it through this without the need for doctors and antibiotics.

And oh, maybe next year I'll go back to carting us all off for flu vaccinations. Do you get the flu vaccination? Does it seem to work for you?

- Jane x

Friday, July 6, 2012

and for his tenth birthday...

...Jasper requested all-in-one dragon pyjamas. Now that's the kind of challenge I like!
His original concept sketches were a touch more ambitious,
 but he's genuinely thrilled with the end result and so am I. (Scroll on down for details.)

He was simply jumping out of his skin to be reaching double digits and had been counting down the days for a month or so. He's always been a very intense, jump-out-of-his-skin in excitement kind of chap. He was a 'surprise' baby; Charlie was only five months old when we discovered I was pregnant again. Jasper has such an insistent, vibrant energy about him that it seems as if he willed himself into existence.

And yes, he just about burst a few capillaries over these Skylanders Wii game characters he wanted (moderation in all things, ya know), and  this awesome huge book that Andy found him, about all that fossil-rock-dinosaur kind of stuff he adores.
 He sang along to his own 'Happy Birthday' over a carrot cake Charlie volunteered to bake for him.
 Charlie also made him a fabulous card... from an eleven year old to a ten year old, check it out:
And so, some more about the pyjamas.

Pattern: Kwik Sew 3714
Highly recommended and there's even an adult version of this pattern... everyone else in the family is eyeing these enviously. I stuffed about with the placket for a while but it was my fault, due to some dodgy tracing. The sizing was spot-on for Jasper. There's meant to be some elastic at the back waist inside a casing but I decided it didn't need it. There are even pockets!

Fabric: Cotton sateen with a little spandex, from Spotlight.
I was not totally sure about the texture because we were hoping for something more snuggly but Jasper and I were sold on the dragon-esque print. In fact it sewed like a dream and is lovely and soft with a little stretch across the width. Jasper designed and cut the wings from some orange velour from my stash. I zigzagged them on using the walking foot. Collar and cuffs are some cotton knit ribbing from the stash.

He'd wanted a separate tail but when I suggested an applique version like the wings, he was very happy. Original plans for a hood were discarded. He was, in fact, far more flexible with his artistic vision for these than I expected.

 Feet are meant to be a non-slip 'grip' kind of thing which I didn't have. I substituted scraps of polar fleece which are warm but a bit slippery.
The finished pyjamas are reportedly very comfy and have even passed the bouncing-on-trampoline test.

Happy birthday to our wonderful Jasper. It's a privilege to share this wild ride with you.

- (Mama) Jane x
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