Thursday, December 26, 2013

Victory Patterns Hazel - my 'watermelon dress'

As soon as Andy saw this completed he dubbed it my 'watermelon dress' and Clem followed this up by saying I should embroider some black pips along the hemline. I don't mind... I'm quite happy to be a giant watermelon in the gorgeous summer weather we've been having. And I do love this dress - the Hazel by Victory Patterns.

I've been wanting to make this dress for ages and when the samples for these linens came into the shop, I knew I'd found my Hazel fabrics. It's pretty much inspired by the pattern cover but I put my watermelon-pink on the bottom. They're both 100% linens.
I was halfway through making this dress when Victory Patterns designer Kristiann actually popped into The Drapery for a visit! She had let us know she was coming to Adelaide and said she would try to call in. She was utterly and totally lovely, and tall, and effortlessly glamorous... truly a rockstar of sewing pattern design. We were a bit star-struck, teehee! So I was all the more inspired to get this dress finished to wear for Christmas.
ridiculous pose #273
I made a muslin, which was a very quick and easy process because honestly the most complicated part of this pattern is the neck tie, which isn't too hard really anyway, and not necessary for the muslin. I cut a size 10 and the only modification I made was to take out about an inch in the bodice at the 'lengthen or shorten here' line. Oh, and I left off the sleeves and finished the armholes with self-fabric bias. Apart from that it was a nicely cool and loose, yet flatteringly fitted shape. Just perfect for a 33 degree Christmas Day in Adelaide, with plenty of room for a big lunch!

I top-stitched the neck tie, which wasn't in the instructions but I felt would make life easier when ironing this linen after a wash. The linen makes a somewhat pouffier (if that is even a word) bow than the fabric on the pattern cover but I am mad for linen so I rather love its creased bunchiness.
The skirt is lined, and I used an organic cotton cambric which is super-soft (excuse the creases). I hand-stitched the hem on the outer skirt and also hand-stitched down the bias on the armholes. I'm learning to enjoy some of these slow-but-satisfying hand-finishing touches that make a garment feel a little more special in the end.

That's a friendship bracelet on my arm. Jasper made it for me, which kind of melts my heart.

I love this Victory Hazel dress to bits and I would love to make it again. Totally recommended.

- Jane x

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve, 2013

Ah, this time of year. It's just the best. And since Andy and I are both on holidays we have another couple of weeks of this to come.

Yesterday we gathered sticks at my parents' bush block, looking for long, strong, straight pieces of timber to help construct/adorn a new gate for the chook yard. Clem-as-Miffy was sure he found the best, straightest piece.

Today we have played an early Christmas gift game from uncle/aunt/cousin, a very fun thing called 'Rapidough' which is kind of like Pictionary but you make dough models rather than draw. You can probably see that Charlie's 'Loch Ness Monster' was a bit easier to guess than Clem's red 'submarine'. Interestingly though, Clem's sculptures often have a simplicity that cuts quickly to the essence of an object. He's not bad at it!

Andy has been hard at work putting the chook gate together. My contribution was the vital task of holding the post perfectly straight while it was concreted in. The pretty sticks will be attached to the front in a very-decorative-slightly-functional way while the serious stuff holds it all together from behind.

Our scrappy little Pinus Radiata in a pot is indoors again, performing its yearly duty. Strange and lovely felt ornaments have been sewn. Puddings are cooked. We planted basil. Snacks went out for the man in red and his team. Big boys have watched Dr Who. Little boy fast asleep. Muppets/Sufjan Stevens/Sting/Boney M/Bob Dylan Christmas music playing.

Merry Christmas - or whatever you do or don't celebrate, happy days - to you and yours.

- Jane x

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Brewing water kefir

Every sewing, chicken-keeping, veggie-growing blogger these days seems to be fermenting something-or-other for all its probiotic goodness. Hello, bandwagon. May I jump on?

I was given some water kefir 'grains' by my sister-in-law, and spent a bit of time Googling up how to deal with them. Kefir grains are a kind of 'SCOBY' (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast - how I love an opportunity to use the word symbiotic). Apparently the kefir liquid created with these grains is chock-full of beneficial organisms for the digestive system. There's also a different sort of kefir that is done with milk, which I guess is more of a yoghurt type of thing.

I'm so pleased with how it's been going. How's this for a recommendation, it's:

  • cheap
  • very, very easy
  • no waste
  • delicious!

Does it get any better than that?

Here's how I have been brewing kefir.


A ratio of:

1 tablespoon fresh kefir grains (mine came in some sugar-water so I just drained them)
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
1 cup water, if using tapwater, leave to sit for at least 12 hours to allow chlorine to evaporate
2 - 3 thin slices fresh ginger

I started with about 3 tablespoons of kefir grains and the resulting (roughly) 3 cups of kefir is a great amount to share amongst the five of us in the family.


1 large glass preserving jar
piece of mesh/tulle to cover top of jar, and a rubber band to hold it on
1 large glass jar or bottle with hinged, airtight lid


In a saucepan, heat a small amount of the water together with all the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rest of the water to cool it down. When it's no warmer than blood temperature, pour this sugar-water over your fresh kefir grains. Add ginger slices. Cover the jar top with the mesh  (I used a piece of tulle left over from these alien masks!) and allow to ferment at room temperature about 48 hours. That's the kefir grains at the bottom of the jar in the photo below.

Remove ginger slices and drain kefir into the sealable jar. Repeat the sugar-water process with the grains to start brewing your next batch.

Close the lid of the sealable jar and let it sit around 12 hours at room temperature for a second fermentation (a slight fizz will develop). Refrigerate and drink!

With the added ginger the flavour really reminds me of the ginger beer my brother used to brew at home using a ginger beer 'plant' that somehow involved sultanas and, I guess, wild yeast. Yum! The boys all love it and we have a fresh batch available every second day. I have actually noticed a slight similarity in flavour to the yeastiness of Coopers Pale Ale... perhaps that means that a Pale contains beneficial tummy-stuff?? (One can only hope.)

Initially I was using raw sugar but I think the fermentation has been better since I switched to soft brown sugar. The colour looks slightly less appetising though, ha. But check out the fermenty-froth!

From what I have read, the grains like the minerals in richer sugars. Gradually, the grains should multiply. After about a month I have been able to divide my batch in two and share grains with a friend.

Are we feeling healthier? Eh, who knows. I don't want to jinx us by supposing that we've avoided any ills by drinking this. But it's yummy, and fun. And if it's helping our guts, well, that's a bonus.

- Jane x

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

So easy, it feels like cheating

I finally got my mitts on a copy of the book 'You Sew Girl' by Nicole Mallalieu. For some time now I've been wanting to try her 'Pattern-free Cowl Top' that's in the book. I shopped my stash and the fabric I came up with was actually long enough to try a dress: exactly the same technique, just longer, as the book suggests. (It's a light cotton knit with a touch of spandex, I think originally purchased from Crafty Mamas.)

I'm ridiculously pleased with the result. For one thing, I never thought a dress in this style would suit me (lumps and bumps, hello). For another, it was so insanely quick and easy to put together. It just seems almost wrong for a dress - or even a top - to come together this fast! Nonetheless, it's the clever techniques in the book that make it work.
Sure, it's not a perfectly-fitted sheath but that's what I like about it. The cowl neck kind of gives it permission to be a bit drapey and moveable all the way down. It's about as comfy as a giant slipper. And if you want it more fitted, the book can guide you.

I think the book would be worth purchasing just for this garment alone. But there are plenty of other things in there that would be worth a try too, and as usual Nicole Mallalieu's instructions are clear and precise. (No, no-one's paying me to say this... although the book is available in our shop :D   Oh actually... better check on stock and order if need be! This shop-running thing is still all new.)

If we hadn't just begun summer here, I'd be immediately planning one of these in merino wool knit. To be honest I probably have enough summer dresses so can't really justify another of these but I probably do need a top or two....

- Jane x

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Anna Maria Horner + Melody Miller

Anna Maria Horner's beautiful Painted Portrait Dress pattern meets Melody Miller's gorgeous arrows cotton/linen blend (by Kokka)... a match made in heaven! (Well, South Australia. But it's pretty nice here.)

This is my second version of this dress, which I made before in linen, here.

I actually made it a while ago but it spends a bit of time hanging in the shop as a sample (I want everyone to know how awesome this pattern is!) so it's taken a while to blog it.

Things I love about this pattern:

1. It's loose and easy to wear, but has lovely shaping so it's not just a big ol' sack. The side panels and yoke effectively give it princess seams.
2. Massive great capacious pockets.
3. Incorporation of one button - chance to find that perfect button from the stash!
4. Totally wearable on its own or layered with things under and/or over it.

I had some fun figuring out the pattern placement with this beautiful border print fabric. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I ummed and ahhed about using the scalloped border and flower again on the yoke, and cut it out to try, but in the end just went with arrows. The yoke is fully self-lined so the flowers and scallops ended up inside! It's quite a fabric-efficient garment. I can't remember exactly how much I used but it was definitely less than 2 metres (1.7 maybe?).

If I made this pattern again, and there's a high likelihood of that, I would probably try to figure out a minor FBA. It's a size M and in the linen, which had a bit of 'give', there's a bit more breathing space than this version. Shouldn't be too hard to add a teeny bit of width at the side panel where it meets the bottom of the yoke, should it? (Tips welcome!)

- Jane x

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