Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rediscovering the mojo.


More than two months. Man, really? Has it been that long?
Unfortunately my sewing time has been cut rather short (read: to nil) by a combination of DIY (husband building shed = me having to watch the kids so they don't play with the power tools = no sewing time); house-hunting (open homes all weekend + stressing about putting in offers = no sewing time, nor sewing mojo); and one half-finished Burda jacket sitting on the dressform awaiting a collar and a lining (= complete and utter sewing intertia.) I don't want to do the jacket, cos it's wool and we're now well and truly heading towards summer, and I don't want to start anything else, cos the jacket is sitting there staring at me saying "finish me...finish me....get me off the dressform and into the wardrobe before a small child spreads yoghurt or weetbix or kiwifruit over my woolly self."

Sigh. I really should suck it up and just sew a little A-line skirt or something, to break the drought, but I've got myself well and truly into a rut.

Anyhoo...enough complaints. I do have something to show; this is a top I made a couple of months ago using New Look 6648 and some very lightweight, floaty rayon (I think) knit from stash. The colour is a bit dark for this time of year, but in the interests of using up stash, it's fine, and the hand of the fabric is right for the style of top. I'm mostly happy with it; the kimono sleeves are really comfortable and breezy; and I'd probably make it again in a more summery fabric, as it sews up really quickly. My only complaint is that the gathering of the band is a bit of a pain; next time I might just gather it onto clear elastic rather than faffing around with gathering threads. I've broken the blogging drought, I'm all set to break the sewing one. What do you do when you hit the wall? I'm open to any and all suggestions :-)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Milo for pudding


The other day, I counted all my knitting UFOs. Well, I started to, and then I was so mortified I stopped, shoved them all in back in their various bags and boxes and went off to partake of that age-old art of procrastination, the Cup of Tea.
Me and casting on new projects: great buddies. Me and finishing things off, sewing in ends, or doing-the-boring-bits: not so much. So, when I came across this groovy little pattern on Ravelry, I had to (of course) abandon whatever was on my needles and cast on.
The pattern is "Milo", available from Ravelry as a downloadable .pdf (how good is that for an instant-gratification-monster like myself? Not even any waiting for the post...just exercise the credit card and wham! new stuff. Cool indeed.) If you haven't already, check out the pattern designer's blog at for more knitty goodness. (the link is in my sidebar, too.)
The pattern is clear, comprehensive, and beautifully presented, and I really enjoyed knitting this vest - it's the perfect combination of meditative stocking stitch, with the added piquancy of a funky little cable, and the bonus at the end of not having to sew anything other than a few ends.
I knit the 2 y.o. size, and it fits - just - my exceptionally rotund 2-and-a-bit year old. Entirely my own fault, though - the pattern instructions are very clear about using chest measurements rather than age to determine the right size... I'm just a lazy knitter. Ahem. Gauge? Measurements? yeah...nah. I'm more of a "cast on and hope for the best and if it doesn't fit then ah's a good thing knitting's stretchy, aye?" kinda knitter. That, and my two year old is a wee bit of a pudding. Hence the post title ;-) (I mean that in the nicest possible way. As far as puddings go, he's pretty darn cute ;-) )

The yarn is Twilley's Freedom Spirit, bought a year or so ago in an earthquake sale (there are still a few bits of wall and dust in the bag with the wool), and I used two and a bit balls.

Sewing-wise, I'm itching to finish the jacket that I started with Maryanna at the PP tailoring course we both attended. Progress has been slightly thwarted on that, however, by the aforementioned, delightful child traipsing through the house, across the carpet, and across part of my cut out and stitched jacket lining, pouring enthusiastically from a can of olive oil from the kitchen. Right. Through. The. House. Yeah. Not impressed. Luckily, the most excellent people at Smart Dress Fabrics in Mt Albert still had more lining on the bolt, so a complete disaster on the fabric front was averted. The carpet, I fear, is a different story.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Simplicity 3692


I recently discovered a new (to me, at any rate) fabric shop, only about 10 minutes drive from where I live. They mostly specialise in hand-painted silks and velvets, which are of course wildly inappropriate for standard mum-wear. Anyway, I decided to pay them a visit one day since they had a 50% off pattern sale, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that as well as the silks (which are beautiful, if perhaps a little bright for my personal taste) they are also starting to stock a variety of other natural fibre and organic fabrics. The colour range isn't huge at this stage, but I ended up buying some beautiful avocado-green bamboo knit. The fabric has a lovely drape, feels amazingly soft against the skin, has a four-way stretch so has really good recovery, and is just generally pretty darn cool. The sustainability factor of bamboo fits well with my inner Green Party voter, too ;-)
It sat on my shelf for ages waiting for the right pattern, one that wasn't fitted but would show of the drape of the fabric. I ended up deciding on Simplicity 3692, and I'm really pleased I did. The gathers and the sleeve shape really show off the fabric, and it's immensely comfortable to wear.
I toyed with the idea of elasticating the bottom edge, like in the sleeveless version, but in the end, laziness and the desire to be finished won, so I just hemmed it instead. I like it tucked in, and left out, and also worn with a belt (which I didn't get a picture of.)

All in all, a success, I long as I don't wear it with a brown belt or brown boots...cos then I end up looking like a wood elf, according to my Lord of the Rings-obsessed four year old.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pants, pants, pants.


So, I finally finished Vogue 2907. They've been sitting in my WIP basket for a few weeks now, through a variety of sewing machine malfunctions (I still have my doubts about technician man. The machine's working ok, but still seems a bit temperamental at times.)
I used a biscuit coloured cotton sateen with a bit of stretch, and some quilting fabric for the piping. Overall, I'm pretty happy with them - the fit in some parts is good, in others it's not good, but it's a pretty good jumping off point for a first pair, I reckon.
I like the shape of the legs, and the fit in the front is ok, I think. Front thigh width is ok, too; but I'm wondering if I need to take a bit out of the back thigh area? I definitely need to alter the pattern at the waist - I took out four inches at the top of the CB seam (that's not a typo) and at least an inch on either side, tapering to nothing just above the hip. Without it you could have posted an encyclopaedia down the gap at the CB. The waistband is different to how the pattern looks, too, because I didn't take a seam in it at the sides to accomodate the excess I pinned out at the side seams - I decided to fudge it and let the band wrap further around the front. Next time I'll do it properly ;-)
The main problem, as I'm sure you can see, is the serious wedgie I've got going on. This is straight out of the wash - after wearing them for a couple of hours, it's not so bad, but it's certainly not a look I was going for. I've scanned through good old Pants for Real People, but I'm still not 100% sure on how to alter the crotch so this doesn't happen. Ideas? I'm pretty happy with the fit across the rest of the ...what's the polite word they use?...."derriere"...but it's just not cool having that kind of wedgie going on. Not cool at all. There's also a bit of pulling on the fronts of my thighs when I walk, and I wonder if this and the wedgie issue are connected?
The bubble in the middle of the CB seam, comes, I think, from where I tapered up to the waistband at quite a steep angle to accomodate my sway back. I could try to smooth that out a bit, I guess. Can I fix the wedgie at this stage of construction by sewing a deeper crotch curve? Or do I just have to live with it?

I'll definitely try another pair - I love the style and apart from the obvious issues they're really comfy. I'd love to hear any fit advice you might have, though.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spring on the inside

It's been a pretty long and grim winter around here...well, probably not by the standards of any truly cold and grim place, but for a soft-bellied Aucklander, it's been freezing. Finally, though, a walk around the streets has yielded glimpses of stuff like this:


...and this....


...which led me to think that this:


...would be a nice lining for this jacket, BWOF 2008-08-115, made in black wool:


...which I am looking forward to making at the Palmer Pletsch tailoring workshop I'm attending at the end of the month.

So there you go. A woolly jacket with a little bit of spring on the inside. Just the thing to bring a bit of fabricy good cheer to a cold day.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fun with dangerous tools



One of the things I have learned as a mother of two boys is that when it comes to tools, the pointier and more dangerous, the better. Apparently. Oh...and "sewing's boring" (unless I'm making a Jedi robe, or a lurex suit of Mithril mail a la Bilbo Baggins, among other costumey things.) Anyway, today I felt the urge to get crafty and avoid the mountains of laundry that need to be folded, so I decided that rather than attempting to sew for myself, and gritting my teeth through the ensuing whingeing and mischief-making, I'd attempt a project that spoke the kids' language a bit more. One with pointy dangerous tools.

Our computer chair has been in a dire state for quite some years. In recent times, it's been covered with a crochet throw from the op shop, but I've become sick of putting it back on to the chair innumerable times each day. I'd bought this short length of upholstery fabric from the remnants bin at Nick's fabrics months ago for $3, and so armed with a serious industrial-style staple gun, we got stuck in. A variety of pointy tools were poked in a variety of holes in the chair by the four year old and the two year old; a fair amount of paint was worn off with a rasp while I was downstairs getting more staples; and an old oak cabinet I inherited from a great-uncle came within inches of being "distressed" with a few choice hammer blows. Ahem. There was a close call with a hacksaw, but no-one lost any fingers or eyes, and we now have a chair that isn't a complete embarrassment.

In sewing news, my machine came back from its second service and is, I think, sewing ok - I've lost my sewing mojo a bit in this cold and miserable weather, and am instead spending the evenings in front of the fire with my knitting and a glass of red wine. I'm also slightly embarrased to admit that I've developed an addiction to Pam's white chocolate buttons. Low-brow in the extreme, but so very delicious. I urge you to try them before you laugh too hard ;-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

For the canals of Venice and the streets of Paris.


I made this quick half circle wrap around skirt for my Mum, as a birthday present (somewhat belated...sorry Mum) and as something new and fresh to take away with her on a trip to Venice & Paris. Oh how I wish it were seems like such a ridiculously long time ago, pre-children, when my husband and I were in those places. Ahhh.... I was 5 months pregnant travelling through Venice. Wow. Aeons ago.

Anyway. Less misty-eyed nostalgia; more sewing. Ahem. Not much to say, really - this was so quick and easy to sew up it's ridiculous, and the perfect sort of skirt to sew for someone else because it fits no matter what. Half circle, bit of a waistband, buttonhole (don't be a muppet like me and accidentally run the buttonhole off the waistband and into the unreinforced skirt bit, though, cos you'll have to do the old "patch it up with a bit of interfacing and hope for the best" trick.) Rolled hem on the overlocker (I found the manual, finally ;-) )

The fabric is some cotton voile stuff from the dreaded Spotlight and that's pretty much all there is to it.

In other news, my machine has just been taken back for its second visit to the technician. It unfortunately came back from a service with a whole lot of problems that it never had before the service (bobbin thread breaking; needle position out of whack) so I had to take it back. Fingers crossed it's all good when I get it back or I might be in the market for a new Mr. Fixit. I've got a nearly-finished pair of Vogue A&O pants that I really want to wear, so I'm hoping it's soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Blame it on the boogie (and the riesling)


Technically speaking, I probably should say "Courtesy of the Boogie" but since the King of Pop doesn't have such a song in his oeuvre (and I can't say I blame him) I'm sticking with my original title. Which means, in a roundabout kinda way, that thanks to a couple of late nights sewing whilst nostalgically rocking out to old-school Michael Jackson, glass of riesling in hand, I have finally. Finished. The. Nappies. Actually, that's not entirely true. Me, Michael and the riesling did spend a couple of very long nights with the nappies, but I also had a full day when Mum watched the kids and I sewed like a maniac to finish them. Productive times....can't say I ever want to be a machinist - I could hardly see nor straighten my arms afterwards, but it was great to just be able to get stuck in to get them finished.

I can hardly believe that they're no longer on the "must sew before doing fun stuff" list. That list is totally gone. I am a free woman, sewing-wise, no longer bound to the shackles of PUL and resin snaps.

Anyway, suffice to say, I'm pretty happy they're done - all 24 of them. 10 have already made their way to the UK; these 14 will be winging their way there (via a brief sojourn in Venice and Paris) this time tomorrow.
Just in case anyone's interested in making nappies, the pattern I used is found here, and all fabrics and gadgets I used (PUL, microfleece, lastin, resin snaps and snap press) are all found here. The pattern is one of the newborn ones, sized up to a small, and tweaked slightly to fit my chubby babies - I'm hoping it'll fit my twin nieces for a decent length of time.

Sigh. Many fun sewing times have been had to the sound of a bit of good ol' Michael Jackson. I sew so much better with a good bit of music in the background, and it's funny how evocative some songs are. I still have really vivid memories every time I put on a particular Prince album that I played a lot while making my wedding dress...I can exactly picture crawling all over our hard wooden floors in our old flat in Melbourne, cutting out the huge skirt, whilst watching the Melbourne cup on TV. Weird.
So...what music keeps you stitchin? Anything in particular?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Zen and the gentle art of unpicking....

I really wanted to give this post another title, but I think I would have had to change the "uses rude words" setting of my blogger profile. I'm hoping you can smell the sarcasm on my breath...

I decided to tackle my first BWOF pattern, and chose an easy, 3-pattern-piece, knit top 02-2009-108. Traced it off during one of Mr 2 years old's rare daytime naps; added seam allowances; cut it out that evening. Tried to sew it up last night and a combination of tired eyes and brain led to a whole lot of swear-inducing unpicking. Grey thread on grey marle knit, at 9 pm, with a pair of eyes that I suspect need to visit the optometrist, is not a good combination.

Anyhoo...I got it finished. I used a cheap $4/m cotton/lycra-ish stuff from Nick's Fabrics (Dominion Rd, AKL) as it was supposed to be a wearable muslin before I cut into my merino stash. Very happy with the fit, though I might just lower the front neckline a smidge as it's a bit snug against my throat.

I cut a 36, and added about three inches to the body length (not due to a pattern malfunction; just because I've got a really long back and and am no longer of an age that I like to show off my belly button ;-) )I added clear elastic to the neck edges (which I inadvertenly stretched on the back neck edge and ended up with a slight gather)and stabilised the shoulders with same clear elastic (serged on). I also shaved about 1.5cm off the top of the sleeve cap (as per suggestions on PR) and sewed it in flat...with the overlocker. Which I probably won't do again as it was a tiny bit stressful...or if I do do it again, I won't try to do it whilst simultaneously cutting off the 1.5cm seam allowances. Duh.

All in all a great pattern, and one that I see myself making again and again. It'll be great to have some high-necked merino tops to wear for the remainder of the winter, since most of the styles I've found in shops this season seem to be low cut. What's with that? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of it being a warm woolly thing? Or am I just being a nana?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

They don't look this bad in real life, honest...



Sewing mojo has been seriously absent in my house over the last little while, thanks to that winning combination of winter lethargy, sick kids, and the boring bits of life in general getting in the way. I've also had a pile of "must sews" glaring at me which have been aggravating me to the point of total craft-inertia; this weekend will hopefully see the end of the nappy-sewing marathon and I'll be good to go with the projects that have been buzzing around my head for the last few weeks.

Anyway, I have finished one thing. A couple of weeks ago I attended a Palmer/Pletsch pants fitting workshop and it was fantastic. I learned so much and am really looking forward to a future wardrobe of pants that fit. We spent a lot of time altering the fit pattern, but despite flaring the legs out by a factor of lots, and dropping the waistband about 5 cm, the pants have managed to retain a certain je ne sais quoi that reminds me of their supertapered, stopping way above the ankle, high waisted origins.

I cut a 10, but then took out about 4cm through the back; I think I'd actually be better off cutting an 8 and adding the required extra to the hips. They've also sagged out a bit in the back and the knees, and are not helped at all by the fact that the photo was taken in harsh afternoon sunlight in all their unironed glory.

So, all in all, not the coolest pants in town; but in the spirit of blogging and sewing verisimilitude, here they are, in all their unironed (but very comfy)glory. I'm definitely looking forward to having a go at the alterations on a funky pattern, and I've got a couple of the Vogue Alice & Olivia ones in mind. Will endeavour to be back soon.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The weather made me do it.


I haven't been spending much time with my sewing machine lately, mainly because the evenings have been so cold and it's depressing sitting in the cold dining room (where my sewing machine is) when the rest of the family is in front of the fire in the lounge. I can never go all that long without crafting something, though, so I've picked up the needles again, and have rediscovered my knitting groove. I also went to Devonport last week and visited the amazing Wild & Woolly yarns and might just have bought myself a few little this beautiful moss-green Sublime.
I actually started knitting this in the hope that it would fit Mr 2 - the pattern is a modified version of Elizabeth Zimmerman's "Baby sweater on two needles" from Knitter's Almanac, and calls for 4 ply. I used 8 ply, 4 mm needles, stocking stitch instead of the gull lace pattern, and a very unscientific guess that it would turn out "big enough"....ahem. Unfortunately, this is not going to be the case, but nevermind. I think it's coming out about 6-9 month size, so I'll just have to put it away into the new baby present box just in case anyone I know has a new little person to put in it.

If I had the money, I'd knit everything in this yarn. It's so soft and springy and has the most beautiful sheen. It's also really interesting how the stitch pattern ends up looking like one straight (vertical) line and one angling one in stocking stitch - I think I remember reading something about this on once and it was something to do with the way the yarn was plied, from memory.

Anyway, I've got a few sewing projects in the wings but for the moment I'm loving knitting this mindless stocking stitch with my feet in front of the fire. I can't think of much better to do on a cold Friday night, though I hate to think what my 21 year old self would have to say about my party-animal 32 year old self. Hmm....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Balls for little people


In a perfect world, my kids' rooms would be filled with beautiful, handcrafted toys made out of natural materials. I love, in theory, the idea that the simpler the toy, the more creatively little people play with it. Unfortunately, the exasperating reality is that our house is well and truly overrun with plastic crap. It breeds. It is my nemesis.

Last week I went to a Playcentre workshop on felting, and learned how to do basic wet felting, and a little bit of needle felting - and, because I clearly need a new hobby (sarcasm intended) I've become hooked. It's so very, very satisfying, squishing a soft ball of wool into a felted ball. It's messy, it's squelchy, it's fibre and colour and warm water all rolled into one.
So, in the spirit of handmade-natural-gifty-goodness, I made these balls for a little friend who has just turned one. I needle-felted the spots and spiral onto them before wet-felting them; the darker one is wrapped with Tekapo summertime yarn (which is sort of felted into the ball.)

We've done this on session at Playcentre with some of the older kids, and it worked really well as an activity...I tried it at home too and it wasn't so successful. Just in case you were feeling similarly inclined I just thought I'd let you know that it's quite possible for balls made by kids to end up looking a little scraggly...maybe just a little like something the cat spewed up. Just sayin'.

I got my felting wool from here, and similar instructions to those I received at the workshop can be found here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Like wrestling eels.




It's like wrestling eels, trying to get a four year old to stand still and be biddable for a photo. Note the surly "this is booooring Mum" expression. These were the best I could get, but at's done.
I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I'm almost as relieved this project is over as I was when I finished my thesis.

I'm actually really pleased with how this turned out. It was heaps more work than I had initially signed up for, but I learned a lot doing it - how to set in a sleeve; how interfacing makes the fabric far easier to control in a coat (next time I'll fuse the whole lot rather than just the edges); how sewing on leather strapping and toggles is not something I ever want to do again. Hey, I also learned that my machine came with an edgestitching foot - I've had it 10 years and never noticed. I've even been wondering about buying one. Guess it pays to read the manual, huh?

I'm slightly disappointed with the way the toggles and loops hang - I used the exact measurements Burda recommended for the cord, but I think they need to be shorter to close the jacket fully and not droop. I used leather strapping for the loops, which is perhaps a bit stiff, but I wanted to funk up the jacket a bit - while the fabric is beautiful, in combination with the red satin lining it was all starting to look a bit serious and mature for a four year old boy who still can't quite put his own socks on. I covered the ends of the loops with leather tabs - the pattern recommends using the fabric, but since the recommended fabric is a fleece-backed stuff that is probably non-fraying, I decided that leather would be better.
Because of the loop/toggle issue, I ended up handsewing a little metal snap at the neck edge to counteract the gaping at the front.

The sleeve hems are huge, in the hope that I'll be able to let them down in a few years to get a bit more wear out of the jacket.

Anyway, he likes it, and it's been worn...which, given the great fickleness of children, is a grand achievement in our house.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A little ignorance goes a long way.


When I was at high school, one of the teachers had a sticker on her office door that said "a little ignorance goes a long way". For some reason the saying has always appealed to me.

I think it relates pretty well to sewing, too. I've been sewing clothes for myself since I was about 11, but in the absence of any close family members who sew, I pretty much taught myself through making a whole lot of mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes, including old chestnuts like sewing the crotch of a pair of pants together "what? Surely it's quicker if I just fold the fronts and backs of both legs together and sew it in one pass!" Yeah. I learned that one the hard way. Along the years there have been many more, of course: corduroy trousers cut out not according to the nap layout; little satin miniskirts with unfinished edges fraying into oblivion; straps that are wider on one side than the other. And notches? Who needs 'em? Most of the time I got myself into trouble by thinking that I was cleverer than the pattern instructions, and then found out that there was a logical reason for doing things the right way.

Anyway, finally I've come to a situation where the instructions are not in fact the best way to do things. Yussss. After battling with the set-in sleeves of Mr 4's duffel coat lining, I went to visit Mary Anna for a little tutorial on how to set in sleeves the right way - and Oh. My. Goodness. Why, oh why, don't the pattern instructions tell you to do it this way? It makes so much sense, and took about half the time that all the faffing around with gathers did, and - this is the most important part - They look really good!
Mary Anna showed me how to do one sleeve, while my children ran amok in her living room, then I went home and did the other sleeve that night. I'm a total convert, and am looking forward to setting in sleeves with confidence from now on. At least that little bit of ignorance in my sewing vocabulary has now been banished....although I'm sure there are plenty more.

So. The coat. We're nearly there. I've been trying to figure out how to bag the lining, but I think (and correct me if I'm wrong) the fact that the pattern doesn't have a separate facing, means that I can't do it the traditional way. I've spent ages trying to figure out the instructions over at Threads but my sleep-deprived brain can't quite comprehend them. I've sewn the lining to the front edges, right around the hood, so just need to finish the sleeve and body hems and attach the toggles and I'll have it done, and not a minute too soon. I'm looking forward to sewing for myself again, that's for sure.

So...tell me...When has ignorance got the better of you? What have been your worst sewing stuff-ups?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A little palate cleanser...


I think I've mentioned it before, but just in case I haven't, I'm an instant gratification kinda gal. I see something I want to make, and I want it made, right now. Along the way, I do actually enjoy the sewing process: the satisfaction of a neatly pressed hem in a crisp cotton; the feel of manipulating fabric through the machine; the rhythm of taking tiny handstitches and drawing the thread through the fabric. Those are the good bits. Often though, I get overwhelmed by an urge to finish the garment because I just want it done - and of course, this is where it all invariably turns to ...y'know. Crap.
Lately, though, I've been trying to be far more measured and patient, inspired by my sewing neighbour-from-across-the-road Mary Anna. From what I've seen, her way of working is the antithesis of mine: patient, meticulous, self-controlled, and her garments are always beautifully finished. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to cut corners wherever possible; find lazy ways of doing stuff; and rush to get things finished. I often find myself swearing at a totally botched garment at midnight; a garment which was in good shape and had potential a mere half an hour earlier.
Anyway, I'm trying to take a leaf out of Mary Anna's book. If something isn't working, I stop. If it's 11:30 and I can barely see, I stop, even if there's only the hem and some topstitching to go. If I'm experiencing any sewing rage, I walk away. So far, it's working well :-)

The set in sleeves in Mr 4's duffel coat are giving me grief, so I decided I needed a little break from it. A sorbet; a palate cleanser between courses, if you will ;-) So I decided to whip up a quick knit dress for myself. I've had this idea kicking around in my head for ages, and have been searching for the perfect pattern to use. I've actually found quite a few candidates, but in the interim, I used good old Simplicity 3835, here in the dress version. I added about three inches to the length, gathered the neck with clear elastic (quartered and stitched on with a 3-step zig-zag), then encased the gathered neckline in a bias binding. I needed to repeat the colour of the binding somewhere else on the dress for it to make sense visually, and had thought about edging some pockets with it, but instead opted for a mock button tab on the sleeve edge. In the end I omitted the pockets entirely, because I thought they'd make the whole thing look too busy.


The fabric is a wool blend from the Kate Sylvester sale - all of $2 a metre or something, and the binding is cut from a fat quarter of some art-deco-ish leaf print quilting fabric. All in all, the verdict is good - it's warm, albeit a little scratchy at the waist underneath the belt (solved with a little cami underneath) and it's suitably casual and comfy to suit my lifestyle.

Right. Sorbet over. Time to move onto the main course - jacket body, here I come.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I can't stop thinking about clothes.


I really can't. Everywhere I go, I feel like my eyes are out on sticks checking out people's clothes. I lie awake in bed thinking about pleats and darts and different ways of constructing things. I absent-mindedly make things out of napkins at the table, trying to figure out an idea that's been buzzing around in my head. In short, I think sewing is taking over my life.

Yeah. So, there up above are a few of my recently acquired patterns. Looking forward to sewing them up - I'm particularly keen on the coat and the top at the bottom left. Just got to find the time to do it.

Anyhoo...there's a dress I've recently finished that I'm totally pleased with, but due to the darkness in the evenings when my resident photographer returns home from work, it'll have to wait until the weekend. Until then, I'll just have to settle for documenting my increasing mania for making stuff. Sleep? For the weak. I think I'll just stay up and sew instead ;-)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Second body syndrome


I've come to the conclusion that sewing a lining for a garment is the sewing world's equivalent of the knitter's second sock syndrome - i.e., while it might be fun to do something once, to do the same thing twice gets a bit tedious, and kind of takes the shine off the whole project. Bearing that in mind, I decided to sew the lining of this coat before I constructed the outer. A bit like eating the boring bits of a meal first and saving the good bits for the end; something which, incidentally, I've stopped doing this since I've had kids - if I save the good bits for the end, small grabby fingers seem to pinch them off my plate before I've had a chance to enjoy them.
Anyway...back to sewing. My eldest is, in his own words, "a boy who likes to be warm" and in a benevolent mood one day I agreed to make him a duffle coat, a la Paddington Bear. Technically, (well, according to the picture) this Burda pattern is for girls (a fact which caused a look of intense consternation on his little face) but since kids are all just kid shaped at that age, I figure it didn't really matter. Just in case, though, I ran the side seams straight down rather than tapering in and out at the waist - time will tell if this was a good move or if it will result in the whole thing looking like a box.
I'm pleased I did the lining first, though, because I've been reminded of a couple of things. It's been a while since I did a set in sleeve, and now I remember why - I loathe sewing them. I can't stand all that faffing around with easing in the sleeve cap, and I always seem to end up with poofy Snow White sleeves no matter how long I fiddle with the gathers for. I've only basted them in so far - I had planned to sew them last night but there was a really good Agatha Christie on the telly so I was glued to the couch. Hopefully with a bit of steam they'll sit a bit better once they're sewn in; and if they don't, hey, it's only the lining. Hopefully the sleeves on the body will work better....if you have any set-in sleeve tips, please do share them :-)
The other thing I need to take care of is the fray-factor of the polyester shantung I've used for the lining. In true satin style, it's fraying like nobody's business, and I hadn't planned on overlocking it, thinking that since all the seams would be on the inside, it would be ok. Bad move, apparently...I think I'll have to figure out a lazy slacker way of finishing the edges so the whole thing doesn't disintegrate before I finish it.
I've fused interfacing to the centre front edges, sleeve hem, and body hem, but I think I probably should have fused the whole lot. Not much more work, really, and I think it would have made the fabric more manageable. Time will tell - and hey, it's only for a four year old, so it's not a big deal if there's a bit of sag in the fabric, I guess.

Hopefully this'll get finished in the next few days, so I can move onto some more stuff for myself - I have a list that just keeps getting longer, and it's definitely no longer the weather for my recently finished summer tops.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Roll on summer...


I cut this top out many months ago, and finally got around to finishing it just as the weather is turning a bit chillier. Having said that, though, there are still some fantastic clear, sunny autumn days, so I have been wearing it a bit. I really like the style - the placement of the gathers is good for the small busted among us, and the shape of the yoke and straps is a pretty good foil for my square shoulders, I reckon. Apologies for the crapness of the's 5 pm on an autumn evening, so the light isn't great and you can probably see the goose bumps on my arms.

The pattern is Kwik Sew 3575, and I think from memory I cut a small (or maybe an XS). As hilariously ugly as some of their styles are, I do quite like sewing from Kwik Sew patterns - the instructions are really clear and the solid paper pattern pieces are sturdy.
This top was a pretty straight-forward project, although the construction of the neckline was a bit fiddly in places. The pattern calls for a back zipper, but there's no way (at least on me) that it's necessary - the top slips on quite easily without it.
The pattern has the belt stitched to the front waistline, which is gathered in place before you attach the belt. I had decided to keep the belt loose, since I quite like the top tucked in as well as belted, so planned on just hand-stitching some belt loops into the side seams using matching embroidery floss. Unfortunately, however, I buggered up the belt by deciding to try to rip a section off the last scrap of fabric I had. I'd thought it would rip straight, but it ended up being thick at one end and thin at the other, so here we are. Tucked in it is.
I also had to take in a centimetre or so at the tops of the side seams, as it was a bit gapey. I can't believe I've never realised it before, having always found lazy slacker ways of altering the fit of garments on which I've already attached the facing, but the construction of this one finally alerted me to the fact that I could just fold up the facing and run in both the facing and the side seam in one pass, then fold it back down again. Duh.

The fabric is another Geoff's Emporium cheapy - in fact, I think I intended this to be a wearable muslin but I quite like it as it is. I might sew the dress version for next summer, though.

Next up: I have my eye on a BWOF pattern...just have to get brave enough to trace it off.

Sunday, April 12, 2009



Ahem. Despite assurances to myself that I would be more moderate with my fabric buying, I appear to have inadvertently accumulated a rather large pile of new, delicious fabricy goodness. Ah. Not quite sure how that happened. (Well, excuse is that after 31 years of living in Auckland, a hidden gem of a fabric shop has come to my attention, courtesy of Mary Anna. I had to make up for all those years of lost patronage, you see. Entirely selfless, of course...I like to think that I'm doing my bit for the recession ;-) )
There's something so fresh and enticing about the potential of an uncut piece of fabric, just like there is in a brand new exercise book or a pristine to-do list. In my defence, however, I have plans for all of these, and unlike in the relatively recent past, I really feel like I'm in a good place, sewing-mojo wise. Unusually for me, I've actually been completing things, rather than just either: a) buying the fabric and the pattern, and waiting for the two to engage in some sort of weird paper/fibre symbiosis and produce the garment without any input from me; or: b) buying stuff, cutting it out, then putting off sewing it for so long that I lose pieces and end up getting in a huff with the whole project and starting something new (or maybe just doing a) again.)

Anyway, I'm off to drink milo and stroke two metres of silk velvet. I have no current plans for it (wet weather gear for Playcentre, perhaps? No?) but just couldn't resist the fact that it was only $10 a metre. I really am a sucker for a sale.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The good the bad and the old man pajama fabric.


So, here's another version of Simplicity 3835. I'm feeling a bit meh about it, to be honest, which is a bummer, cos I really started out having high hopes for this one.
The fabric is a beautifully soft rayon from Global Fabrics, and feels like a very drapey cotton sateen. Unfortunately, unlike a nice friendly cotton sateen, this fabric has rather more attitude - everywhere that is even vaguely on the bias stretched, so much so that some of the little flower motifs doubled in width. Due to the fabric shimmying around during cutting (and..ahem...partly due to the fact that I had a 4 year old helping me at the time) the front is ever so slightly off grain, and pulls to the right a bit. Not so much that anyone would probably notice, to be honest, but it aggravates me and probably means that I won't end up wearing it as much as I would have otherwise.

I also changed the sleeve, adding a bit more length and making the bottom more of a bell shape. I hemmed the sleeve edges with black satin bias tape, and then gathered them with a 1 cm elastic (25 cm long, for my records ;-) ) I ended up facing the neckline with bias tape, too, then stitching a channel for the elastic, because turning it under and hemming it was an extremely swear-worthy experience.
I like the sleeves, and I love the feel of the fabric, but I don't think that the fullness of the sleeves works with the fullness of the body - I think the proportions and balance are much better with the sleeve as it is in the pattern.

So...not a total wadder, but probably more of a wear around the house type thing. My confidence in this one wasn't at all helped by my husband saying "mmmm. Looks a bit like old man pajama material, doesn't it?" of course, now every time I look at it, I imagine just that. Cheers love :-) (In his defence, though, he had just taken both boys grocery shopping for two full hours so I could sew. Many brownie points were earned.)

Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Craft from the past

IMG_5564, originally uploaded by JenNZL.

I love this chair. We bought it off Trade Me when my eldest son was still a baby, and it has seen countless nights of rocking already, within its four years in our house. Underneath the blankets, it's a worn, threadbare brocade, and the springs are a bit tired, but I still love it.
The blanket on the back of the chair was made by my great aunt, and every time I look at it I'm reminded of the amazing resourcefulness of that generation, inspired of course by necessity. She's used every last scrap - in some places, each half of one of the little shell corners of each granny-square is a different yarn.
The blanket on the bottom was made by another great aunt for my grandmother, to keep her warm while she zipped around the cold streets on her mobility scooter. I love the way that home made stuff enables you to pack up and post a little bit of yourself to someone when you can't be there in person.
I remember this same great aunt patiently teaching me how to crochet a granny square when I was younger - using a tiny scrap ball of pink wool and a crochet hook with a red plastic handle. We went to see the Sesame Street live show together and I crocheted in the dark.

Anyway, with two boys sick at home it just got me thinking about all the little familiarities of home that make it the best place to be, particularly when you're not feeling all that flash. Making nests on the couch with quilts and pillows and soft toys. The familiarity of the smell of washing powder on fresh sheets. It's funny, the things that stick in your mind as really vivid memories of things that were real comforts growing up. Not always the things that were big, or perhaps even significant at the time. It's got me pondering on which traditions and experiences will become significant to our family.
I've got a couple of things cut out and ready to sew, and while I'm itching to get at the machine to sew them up, I'm thinking a quiet day in, maybe adding a few more rows to the slowly-developing crochet throw might be a plan. Maybe a bit of playdough. Maybe some baking. Can't really go wrong with chocolate chip biccies on a cold rainy day, can you?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Buy it, wash it, cut it, sew it.


Buy it, wash it, cut it, sew it. Not generally a mantra that is repeated much in my house. Generally, it's more of a "buy it, sneak it into the house, find somewhere to stash it, fondle it, wonder what to make with it, buy it some friends cos it looks lonely" kinda thing. Much more my style, because as we all know (well, the stash accumulaters among us), it's the having it that counts. Not so much the using. Just the warm, fuzzy, secure knowledge that there are metres and metres of fabricy deliciousness awaiting delectation at any time...none of this having to rush out to the shops and get what you need at the moment you need it.

Anyway, in a move very unusual for me, I bought this fabric (with two boys in tow, bribed with crackers and raisins and maybe an easter egg) from Global Fabrics two days ago. Yes, for barely two days did this reside on my shelf before being cut out and turned into a wearable top.

It's the first thing I've sewn using the pattern adjustments from the Palmer/Pletsch course, and I'm impressed so far. I've sewn this pattern in a knit before (the pink top a few posts back) and realised that it needed far more ease in the sleeve if it was to work in the recommended woven fabric. One quick adjustment to make the sleeve bigger, another to deal with my sway back, and voila - one well fitting top that enables me to move my arms. ( peeve alert. I am constantly astounded at the number of people in the online universe who write "viola" when they mean "voila" . Yes, I am a tad uptight about such things. No, I don't wander around correcting grammar on signs with a Vivid, but I must confess it is pretty darn tempting sometimes.)
The only part I'm not 100% happy with is the bottom of the sleeve - while the top fits well, the bottom is a bit snug, and it finishes at a really aggravating place, right on the elbow. This means it's always getting pushed up which is a bit of a pain, so next time I think I'll either just sew the cap-sleeved version, or lop an inch or so off this sleeve length so it finishes just above the elbow. I do like the satin binding on the sleeve edge, though - the difference in textures between this and the matt cotton is a nice contrast, I reckon. to feed the masses. Till next time.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


IMG_5482, originally uploaded by JenNZL.

The title and the picutre pretty much sum it up, really. This, evidently, is why people don't tend to make skirts out of old and slightly perished curtain fabric, it seems. Bugger.

Anyway, I allowed myself to wallow in a little bit of stash-enhancement therapy after this incident. I've cut something out already from the stuff I bought from Global Fabrics yesterday and am planning on sewing it up once the kids are in bed tonight. Here's hoping they cooperate.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


IMG_5486,originally uploaded by JenNZL.

So after the granny-square blanket fiasco of last week, I came home and ruminated on why I want to collect other people's cast-offs. Why? Really?
Part of it is that whole craft-orphan thing - it doesn't seem right that something that had so much work put into it ends up turfed out in a bag destined for the Sallies. Who knows where these things have been? I mean that in both the "ick...who knows where this has been" sense and also the "wow...I really wonder where this has been" sense. Whose lap it has warmed at the end of a long life; who has it covered and comforted on the couch while watching daytime TV and pulling a sickie; what is the provenance of the scraps of yarn - what memories were evoked each time someone saw these little reminders of garments long since outgrown? I'm really drawn to the history of handmade stuff, since it is just that - handmade. It's spent so long in someone else's hands, being slowly and lovingly crafted, stitch by stitch.
Anyway, without wanting this post to end up overly sappy, it got me thinking. I particularly love the old crocheted blankets my grandmother and great aunts made, because they are imbued with meaning that is precious and specific to me, to our family. There's a bit of the fluffy pink jumper that Grandma made me when I was 6 or something, that ended up with moth holes through it. There's some ugly mustard coloured wool I remember from some 1970s crocheted monstrosity. There's fluoro wool...and if that ain't a memory of the 1980s, then I don't know what is.
So I decided to start my own little piece of history. The plan (a plan which resides on my very long list of "stuff I would like to do/have/be in a perfect world where I'm a domestic goddess and my tidy-but-not-OCD house is filled with lovingly handmade deliciousness and I bottle all my own fruit") is to make a simple, cheery, crocheted afghan to live on the couch, made from bits and pieces left over from garments I've made for the kids. I'm chipping away at it slowly, but that's ok. I've decided to embrace the slowness of creating it, since I hope it will have a long and fruitful life ahead of it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How do I not fit thee? Let me count the ways...


I spent two full days without the kids this past weekend, which in itself was a rare and exciting treat, made even better for the fact that I spent it doing sewing-type stuff. Not actually sewing, but learning how to fit my patterns properly using the Palmer/Pletsch system. It was fantastic. It's such a straight-forward, intuitive way of doing things that makes so much sense, and doesn't require complicated use of body measurements - just a good eye for wrinkles (who hasn't got one of those at this time of life ;-) ?) and the very helpful text book. I was lucky enough to be the only one in the class, and so got one-to-one tutoring on how to fit first a basic fit pattern (McCall's) and then four fashion patterns which I had brought with me.

I'm absolutely itching to sit down at the machine and get sewing, but I have a small pile of jobs to get through before I can do that without guilt, so I'll have to wait, dammit. Not something I'm particularly good at, being an instant-gratification kinda gal.

Anyway, must sign off and get the small people into bed. 24 nappies are calling my name: I'm well and truly behind schedule and my nappy mule leaves for the UK tomorrow, so I see a late night ahead of me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Op-shop avariciousness


A house full of people with dodgy tummies does not result in a lot of satisfying crafting taking place. A lot of laundry: yes. A lot of chicken noodle soup and dry toast: yup. But crafting...not so much.
Anyway, having survived the last few days, I had (courtesy of having a husband at home) some free op-shopping time today - meaning I got to shop unencumbered by kids and buggies, and I nearly, nearly scored big time. I found three granny-square blankets, and lugged them around the shop trying to decide if I really needed them or not. And...get this...I was stalked. A middle-aged woman followed me around the shop, fingering the blankets when I put them down to look at something else. Anyway, I decided on one out of the three, put the others back on the shelf (where they were immediately snaffled by my stalker) got to the counter and asked the price of the granny square blanket I had chosen. $25.00. Since when does anything cost $25.00 in an op-shop, let alone something with some slightly suspect staining on it? I mean, and I don't want to sound uncharitable, but that kinda thing totally takes the fun out of the bargain-hunting experience, doesn't it?
To be honest, the blanket was a tad on the ugly side, albeit in a homely, friendly kind of way. I really only wanted to buy it because it was sitting there, a lonely craft-orphan, begging me to take it home. Nothing that has that many hours of work put into it should be spending its retirement amidst the faded polyester sheet sets and dubious, hairy dog blankets in our local sallies. It's just not right. In the end I didn't buy it, though, because I really couldn't justify spending that much on it. Sigh. I guess the recession is getting us all.

PS the photo has no real relevance to the post, except that it serves to remind me of the good old days when op shop bargains were found for single figure prices. I found this wooden recipe card box for $3, a couple of years ago.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Half circle skirt

IMG_5430, originally uploaded by JenNZL.

Gotta love a skirt that fits even if you've eaten too many pies the day before, right? I made this half-circle wrap skirt from a cotton voile from Spotlight (a shop with which I have a love/hate relationship) and it's had heaps of wear this summer.
I started following the directions in the "Sew What: Skirts" book, then quickly abandoned that when I realised that the maths that they provided didn't work at all (or it did, if you were a person half the size of your measurements, IYKWIM.) So, good old pi and high school maths was dusted off from the far reaches of my brain (it was pretty dusty. I needed a lot of reminders of which equations to use, which was a little embarrassing) and the skirt came together really quickly. It's got a temporary overlocked hem, again because I couldn't find the manual for my overlocker to do a rolled hem. Will be definitely making another one...I'm trying to decide if it would work in a more winter-weight fabric, or if it wouldn't end up draping all that well. Thoughts?

A surprising success



Almost the best sort of success, isn't it, the surprising one? Y'know (in the immortal words of Dr Seuss) when you "practically, almost, had given up hope"...and then bam! Out of the blue, everything turns out ok. This was what ended up happening with my curtain skirt. Ok, so it's certainly not high fashion. But I like it- it's comfy, fits well (which was a real surprise) and I like the fact that by making it, some new life has emerged from a sad old pair of curtains that were languishing amidst the wee-stained blankets and drooled-on pillowcases at the Sallies.
The pattern is a very old and daggy Butterick (I can't remember the number, and I can't be bothered looking for it since it's probably OOP anyway). I did a centred zipper, rather than my usual invisible zip or lapped zip, and I think I'm a convert. It was so easy to put in, and doesn't have either the scratchy bit at the bottom that you tend to get with invisible zips, nor the issues with the upper edges not lining up properly that I get when I do a lapped zipper.
I'm particularly chuffed with how the trees line up across the almost looks like I did it on purpose, when in fact it was just a happy accident. Probably shouldn't admit that.
On to the stinge-ometer: fabric: $4; zip: 70 cents from Geoff's Emporium; Binding & ric rac: $2 per roll from Kate Sylvester sale. Being a (cheap) surprising success: priceless.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Selfish sewing

I don't believe it. For the first time in goodness knows how long, I have the house to myself (well, by that I mean that I'm the only one awake and it's a respectable hour.) Kids in bed by 7:30, husband at work drinks. Hey...hang on...where are my work drinks? Sigh. Not only are us SAHMs unpaid but we're under-beveraged, as well.
I've got a fair few sewing plans afoot for this weekend, barring any disasters of the bread-knife variety. Mostly I have to sew nappies....a lot of nappies. 30, or thereabouts. While I'm very happy to be doing them (they're a gift for my brother & sister-in-law, who are expecting twins in a couple of months) I'll be pretty darn glad when they're all finished and shipped off to the UK, courtesy of a friendly relative with room in her suitcase. I like to call her my nappy mule. I suspect she wouldn't take too kindly to being labelled as such, so in the spirit of family congeniality I reckon I probably shouldn't 'fess up.
Anyhoo, said nappies have been hanging over me for a fair while, now (a slightly frightening image, isn't it; nappies hanging over you. Especially some of the nappies I was intimately acquainted with today...eewww.) Once they're done, I think I'll tackle a dress, something along the lines of the top in the picture above, but made to a slightly different pattern. The top is made from a teeny bit of the 6 or so metres of merino knit I got at the Kate Sylvester sale, $2 per metre. (You may be starting to think that I am a tight wad, since in every post I seem to refer to the bargain-ness of my fabric. You would be right.) It's a great pattern (Kiwk Sew 3593) - I really like how the front is gathered but the back isn't, so the overall look isn't too boofy, for want of a more technical term.
For the dress, I'm thinking something with some kind of pleats at the neck, rather than gathers; not too full, with 3/4 sleeves; in a heavyish charcoal/grey-marle type knit, maybe with some funky binding somewhere. And pockets. A girl's gotta have pockets (well, these days I do. Where else do you put your keys while you're buckling the baby into the car? If I try to do this without having pockets to put my keys in, I feel decidely discombobulated (love that word.) Almost like leaving the house having forgotten to put your knickers on or something.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What pushes your craft-rage buttons?


Before children, I used to love having time to get totally absorbed in a project, sitting for hours at the machine, really getting into "the zone", y'know? Now, it's a good day if I get half an hour here or there, and I'm having to develop new ways of doing things. I find it exceptionally frustrating, but I'm slowly learning to be content with just doing a few rows of knitting, or perhaps cutting out a pattern one night, and the fabric the next. Last night, despite getting two children into bed by 7:20 (trust me, this is a major achievement in our house), I only managed to baste the pockets onto my curtain-skirt, before sitting brainless in front of the television for an hour. I kind of lost my sewing mojo a bit when I realised after basting the pockets on that: a) the curtain-skirt is in fact starting to resemble an old faded apron from someone's 1950s home-ec project; and b) the pattern I'm using, which is one that I used to make exceptionally poorly-constructed mini-skirts from when I was about 16 or 17 is just maybe a tad snug around the hips. I suppose I should have realised that 2 children later things wouldn't be in the same place as they were back then. Bah.

Anyway, it got me thinking about all those little things that are energy-sappers in the creative process. For me, the main one is when something goes wrong. Major craft-rage ensues. It's so demoralising, isn't it, when you've carefully worked for ages on something then have a senior moment and do something like getting the middle of the skirt caught up in the overlocker and chopping it off.
There are plenty of other things that aggravate me, too...things like ironing interfacing onto things, or re-threading the overlocker, or pressing and stitching the final hem. Projects can sit for months with one of these things needing to be done to them. So, (and I guess I'm asking this of the one and only person other than my husband who actually reads this thing ;-) )...what pushes your craft rage buttons?

PS the little woolly pants in the photo still need to have the ends woven in, which is yet another knitting aggravation. They're from this pattern, and are knit in Cleckheaton Vintage Hues.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Circle skirts for the mathematically challenged


I found this fabric in our local end-of-line-cheapy fabric shop, and despite its potential ugliness (there's a fine line, isn't there, between pleasantly bohemian and bad ugly 70s tie-dye throwback) I took it home. It's printed in half-circle panels, so all you need to do is buy two (in this case for the princely sum of something like $4 per panel), cut them out, figure out how big to make the waistline and bingo! You've got an instant circle skirt.
This project was the ultimate in lazy sewing. The waistband is overlocked, zig-zagged to a circle of elastic then folded in and top stitched. The bottom edge was just whipped through the overlocker - I had intended on doing a rolled hem but I couldn't find the manual to remind me which bits I needed to change on the machine so just did a temporary whiz through with a normal 4-thread, using a variegated brown thread in the loopers.
It's comfy, and I've worn it quite a lot, despite the fact that the hem is uneven (I didn't hang it to let the bias drop, because I couldn't face figuring out how to level the hem from the waistband edge to maintain the pattern around the base.) now to a fun day in a house full of two little boys with colds. Which may, of course, mean that some Bob the Builder is watched...and I get to knit quietly for a bit. Bliss.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Winging it.


My sewing style is...relaxed, shall we say. Perhaps a little...lazy. Slapdash. Haphazard. Suffice to say, me and my unpicker aren't the best of friends. If I can wing it without unpicking anything, I'm a happy camper. So, I was pretty pleased with how this top turned out, considering I completely omitted the darts at the back and ended up inadvertently making myself a mumu. (I'm never sure how to spell that word...but you know what I mean, right?) Anyway, disaster was averted with the zig-zagging on of a few rows of clear elastic in order to pull the back in. That part worked fine, then since I didn't have a stretch needle handy to finish the hems, I chucked the top into a pile of random stuff, and I didn't see it again for a few months. (That sort of thing happens quite a lot in our house. Stuff just vanishes into piles of other stuff. I can't imagine why; it's surely nothing to do with my domestic-goddess skills.) When I unearthed it I was struck with a fervent sense of "I'm going to finish this no matter how rubbish it ends up looking" so I took to it, still without a ball point needle, and with kids under my feet (a recipe for disaster no matter which way you slice it). So, here it is, resplendent in its dodgy-hemmed glory, skipped stitches and all, courtesy of the wrong needle. It's still rather comfy, though, I must say, and has had a few outings. The pattern is Simplicity 3835, the fabric is a viscose/spandex knit from Centrepoint (the shop, rather than the commune) and it is lovely and cool, although a little too crushable for my liking, since I'm not all that well acquainted with the iron. Domestic goddess..yeah...nah.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A nice cold one

Ahhh. I'm sitting here in a patch of afternoon sunlight, with a nice cold beer at my side. It's a Speights "Summer Harvest" and Oh. My. Goodness. It is delicious. Granted, the last 23-ish months have been a pretty dry spell beer-wise, for me; but nonetheless, it's a damn tasty beer. All apricoty and beery and mmmmm. I guess there has to be some plus side to the depressing reduction in cup-size post weaning Mr nearly 2, right?
Anyways, alcohol aside. It's been a pretty slow weekend on the craft front. I've had a half hour or so to do stuff, and this little macro shot is from the pocket of a skirt I'm working on, made out of a faded pair of curtains I picked up at the Sallies. It was one of those purchases that feels good at the time, but has you wondering on the walk home "what on earth was I thinking? Why am I bringing yet more crap into the house to sit on the shelf and not be used?". I'm still not a hundred percent sure it won't end up looking like a dodgy apron or house coat from the 1950s, but we'll just have to see.

In a triumph for the slack sewists among us, I'm pleased to report that of the two techniques I used to apply the satin binding and ric-rac to the pocket edge, the "be careful and pin, trim seams and baste" one ended up disastrous and very sweary, while the "bugger it I'll just hold it on and sew it and hope for the best" worked a dream. I feel truly vindicated.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's craft, Jim, but not as we know it

I'm no Martha Stewart, that's for sure. There are piles of stuff in my house that eat other things, like single shoes, and cellphones, and important bits of paper. Unfortunately, it seems that the rot has also set into the file structure on my in, I haven't the foggiest idea where some of my pictures have ended up. Since I couldn't find any crafty ones, I've had to resort to a little bit of pictorial randomness...a last little taste of NZ summer. I'm going to tell myself that it's vaguely related to craft, because as the weather here has been getting chillier, I've been thinking a lot about what I'm planning on sewing for autumn.

So...I really need some new clothes. Well, technically, I don't, since I can't currently close my drawers as it is; but you know how it is. I REALLY need some new clothes. For someone who professes a love of sewing I am embarrassed to say that I pretty much live in a wardrobe of clothes from Glassons. Give me a racerback singlet and a pair of jeans and I'm ....well, I'm looking the same as I did yesterday. And the day before that. But enough, I say! Time to get serious ;-)

One of the main reasons I wear so little of what I sew (apart from the fact that so little of what I sew actually gets finished) is that stuff tends not to fit. So, in order to remedy this, on the advice of the wise and expert Maryanna-from-across-the-road, I've booked myself into a Palmer Pletsch fit workshop at the end of the month. Woohoo! I can finally find out from an official source all the ways in which my figure is imperfect (oh joy) and start to factor in my big-bum-overly-wide-shoulders-no-boobs statistics into all my sewing endeavours.

This autumn, therefore, I am pledging to myself to make at least 4 things that I will actually wear. I'm mulling over patterns at the moment, but so far I'm thinking some kind of hoodie; some comfy jeans/cargo/mum-trousers type things; a couple of skirts to wear with boots; and some kind of funky-casual dress to wear with boots. Hopefully all stuff that will fit into my playdough-and-spaghetti encrusted lifestyle. Functionality...bah. I've never really been all that good at that part of sewing. Most of the stuff I made pre-kids was pretty, going-out type stuff. I even (partially) made a black, beaded corset as a kind of wearable muslin before making my wedding dress. Deluded? Me? I mean, I know life before kids did involve a much more exciting social life, but a beaded corset? WTF? Maybe I should dig it out of storage and wear it to make some cheese on toast for the kids, just for a laugh. Now that would be a sight indeed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On the bandwagon

I have a looong list of stuff I want to make. Every time I visit a new blog, I add to my list. My list is starting to stress me out, which kind of defeats the purpose of "craft-as-meditation", right?

Anyway, many moons ago, I admired the whole pencil roll/needle roll thing that seems to appear on every second blog. I added "Pencil roll" and "needle roll" to my list. And, astoundingly for me, I actually did something about it and made one of each. Sadly, not for myself (my knitting needles reside in a kid's shoe box and a holey snap lock bag); but for a friend who'd just had her second baby. I figured since she'd done all the work, she should get the best present ;-) In the spirit of not-making-anyone-feel-stink, though, I also made something for the older brother. Oh, and the baby. But cos I'm a slow crafter, I'm saving the needle roll and baby clothes for another slow news day ;-)
Here's the pencil roll, at any rate. Pretty much another instant gratification project, and all from stash, which adds a nice virtuous shine to the crafting experience. I also made him a little drawstring bag for all his boy stuff. A trainee "man-bag", if you will.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Small things

I have a jumper for myself that's been on the needles for nearly a year now, and shows no sign of being finished anytime soon. Maybe I'll plan for it to be a bedjacket in my retirement ;-) Small things, on the other hand, like this jumper from "Simple knits for cherished babies" by Erika Knight, are like the knitting equivalent of chocolate biscuits. Instant(ish) gratification. I like that. I clearly like chocolate biscuits, too, since for the past three days that's all I've had for lunch, followed by a chaser of jelly snakes. What a stunning nutritional example I'm setting for my children.

Anyway, I'm off for an evening of stitchin' and bitchin' tonight - I can't wait. And the best thing of all is that I don't even need to get organised...since it's just over the road, I can just sneak out the door at the last possible minute, and leave the bedtime battles to my lovely husband. Ahhh...

Monday, March 9, 2009

A new bag for an old bag

IMG_5315, originally uploaded by JenNZL.

Ok, so, technically speaking, I guess at 31 I'm not really an old bag...but many days, I certainly feel that way. Especially since Mr nearly 2 has decided that sleep is for the weak and that he'd rather party at all hours and no longer nap during the day.
So, this bag is unfinished, but since I didn't have anything else to write about today I thought I'd just put it up anyway. The plan is to finish the blanket stitching around both the circles on the front, which are currently steam-a-seamed on and won't last being thrown into the car and sat on, amongst the many other indignities that the bag of a harried mother has to endure.

The pattern is based on this one, but I added a few inches to the depth of the bag and also added heaps more pockets to house all the gadgets I find myself lugging around. Muesli bar pocket? Check. Place for snotty tissues? Check. Home for random Lego men and dried up crusty bits of playdough? No worries.

I angled the sides of the bag and the strap a bit to make it less boxy. Good old op-shop grey blanket provides a cheap and sturdy outer; it's lined with some Amy Butler stuff from our local sewing shop; and the little embroidered fantail on linen is based on an image from an old NZ postage stamp. (who? me? a sheep? ...isn't it compulsory to have at least one backstitched-bird-on-beige-linen in a craft blog? ;-)

It's yet to pass the acid test, though, of life with two small children. I'm always on the lookout for the absolute, all-time, bag-of-perfection that will solve all my crap-carrying problems. I'm just loathe to admit that probably what I really need is a suitcase on wheels. Or a porter.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

finger vs. the breadknife

Guess who won?
Slicing your finger with the breadknife isn’t ideal at the best of times, but it’s particularly crap when you’ve just arranged to have an entire morning sans children, in order to get stuck in to some sewing. Kids are dressed, teeth cleaned, ready to head out the door. I’ve got that nice warm anticipatory feeling in my stomach, looking forward to uninterrupted me-time at the sewing machine. Feeling benevolent, I figure I’ll just slice a couple of passionfruit open for the kids before they go. And there you have it. The breadknife won. Damn wobbly slippery fruit.

The kids still went out, but I ended up spending the morning on the computer, eating chocolate and feeling sorry for myself, with my stoopid stoopid sore finger held at shoulder height to stop it throbbing. Bah.

Anyway, I did manage a few handsewn projects, after the chocolate and panadol kicked in. And on a brighter note, I’m fully planning on using said munted finger as an excuse not to do any dishes tonight…thus freeing up more time for craft. See, always thinking ;-) (except while cutting passionfruit, evidently.)