Thursday, September 29, 2011

A half finished project finally done

The school holidays, as always, seem to be sapping most of my energy. I've been doing some sewing and we've been doing some kids craft projects but frustratingly there's not been much time to write about it...

Earlier in the week I finished this doona (duvet) cover and pillowcase that's been hanging around half finished for a while. My motivation for finishing it was our broken washing machine, but that's another story (tedious but top of mind - 4 weeks with no washing machine in a 5 person house - arghh!).

Anyway... I used a lovely piece of printed linen that a friend had given me a while ago. She had intended to make it into curtains for her girl's bedroom but changed her mind.

If you've never made bedding, and have a large length of fabric to use up, I'd urge you to give it a go. I've made a few now and each time I just sew around all 3 sides, leaving the bottom edge open, then sew some velcro on for the closure and sew in a little on the left and right sides to close it up a bit.

Of course if you have expensive fabric or it's not wide enough it can be a pain and also more expensive than buying a set, but if you've got the right fabric, it's a quick and easy project. Mine needed a join in the middle but it's not too obvious. I also find it pretty hard to find bedding that I like in the shops, so it's a way of getting something you like.

OK, pretty much out of time, must go and prepare more food for the hungry hoards. Hopefully I'll get a chance to pop in here again sometime soon. Geez, at the moment I feel like something between a short order cook, entertainment manager, conflict resolution coach and housemaid!

* Apologies for the gloomy pics, it's been overcast and rainy here - just what you need for school holidays!

More creative spaces to lose yourself in over here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekend cooking - churros

The weekend's a time when I sometimes get the opportunity to cook something different or fun, a change from the quick and easy routine of weeknights. Come and see what I've been up to this weekend...

Yesterday we had one of those awful days here where it pours with rain so continuously that you can barely set foot outside the house, so I thought I'd make the kids (big and small!) a treat.

Inspired by a snack we had at a fantastic children's aerial theatre performance the day before, I hunted down an egg-free churros recipe and gave it a go. The recipe comes from here - Nigella Lawson's website, but a recipe from "Mexican Food Made Simple" by Thomasina Miers.

We all enjoyed them and I'll definitely make them again. They were easy to mix up, and use really simple ingredients. However the dough is very thick so squeezing it through the pastry/icing syringe thingy involved a lot of elbow grease! I was glad I hadn't made a double batch as my hands were sore!

We had some with cinnamon sugar as a morning tea treat and then I put the rest away for the evening (sneaking a few through the day - cook's privilege, right?). At dessert time I heated them briefly in the oven to crisp them up and made the chocolate dipping sauce from the recipe to go with them. I added a strawberry to the plates and the kids' faces lit up :-)

A nice treat for a dull day. Hope you had a sunny weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zakka house shoes

For a long time now, making a pair of slippers or 'house shoes' has been on my mental list of crafts to try. I've had my eye on this lovely pattern and was hoping to get around to it, but then I recently found another pattern and thought I'd try it.

I've noticed over the years that people have very different habits regarding footwear at home. Purely through observing friends and family (so this may be totally wrong!), I've noticed that people with origins in Europe seem to wear shoes all the time, inside and out, whereas Asian people kick their shoes off at the door and go bare footed. I guess this is partly cultural, perhaps due to climate, habit, and what is considered polite. Australians are notoriously casual in our dress generally and this also includes footwear (some people even wear thongs to work).

My habit at home is generally bare feet in summer and slippers or thick socks in winter. And considering that I am at home a lot these days, that's mostly what I'm in. So I thought it would be nice to try for something a little more stylish and civilised than the fluffy socks or bare feet ;-)

From the book I found in the library "Zakka Sewing" (love that cute squirrel tea cosy on the front!) I read that Japanese people take their shoes off at the door and slip on some house shoes.

As in the project in the book, I used linen for the uppers, gingham inside (leftover from my shirt) and some upcycled leather for the soles (also used on these baby slippers). Though instead of embroidering the little blueberry motif on each I just did a row of red stitches with embroidery thread all around the upper edge.

The book provides a pattern and details each step with diagrams and explanations. Despite the project being described in the book as "a challenging project", I thought it was pretty easy to follow if you have basic sewing skills, and would definitely recommend it.

For my first attempt at footwear I'm pretty happy with these. They're really comfortable and easy to wear. Though for how long they'll be pretty and clean I don't know - I'm sure the first drink or pasta sauce slopped on them will annoy me, and resisting wearing them outside (or to the corner shop ;-) will only be possibly for a short time, I'm thinking. What do you like to wear on your feet at home?

Pop on over here for more creative spaces.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kids clothes and a twirly skirt

Kids clothes have been on my mind again lately as KCWC comes around again in a few weeks time (where have the last 6 months gone?!), and it made me think of this skirt that I made my big girl a while ago but hadn't blogged.

She and I attended a school concert one evening and her outfit made me cringe slightly. Not because it was mismatched, I'm over the embarrassment that it used to cause me. No, it was the very shabby state of her outfit and the fact that I knew she didn't have anything much better in her wardrobe - the perils of being first-born I guess - no nice hand-me-downs from a big sister. So... some sewing was in order.

She chose a lovely Prints Charming fabric from my stash and asked for a skirt. I hadn'tLink wanted to make a particularly girly skirt but thought the fabric deserved a bit of flounce. I'd admired the lovely Insa skirt Fi had made her girl and thought this would suit, so made up a pattern with that as my inspiration, with the idea that the purple underskirt would anchor the busy overlay.

Then I added a pocket the same as on my dress, a style that was lots of fun to sew again.

I was happy with the skirt, and my girl loved it, which of course made me happy. It's very bright and girly, and it's hard to get her to not team it with a busy patterned top most times (maybe there's a little of that mismatch embarrassment still there afterall ;-).

Moving forward I'd like to try something a little more grown-up for her, in a simple way, if you know what I mean. I don't think we could go as far as a minimalist linen shift, mind you, just something in a different direction. Hmm, any ideas welcome!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Stitch Magic

I couldn't believe my good fortune earlier this week when I won this beautiful book from a giveaway on the inspirational Assemblage blog. Kirsten is the very talented designer of the sev[en] circle pattern that I enjoyed knitting recently, so I thought that any book she recommended would be a winner!

I haven't been able to stop gazing at it since it arrived in the post. There are instructions for techniques like pintucking and smocking.

Gorgeous photography, lots of cute projects to make.

And just the sort of beautiful sculptural forms that I love. This one will be going on my ever-growing 'to do' list.

And, perhaps most importantly for me, there's the section on that thing I want to try but have been too chicken to in the past... quilting.

Hopefully this book will help inspire me in that direction, just as that other lucky win kick started my knitting...

Hope you have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New bag

When my son was born just over 2 years ago I made myself 2 new 'nappy bags' (wash one, wear one). Essentially they're just big totes with lots of pockets and enough room to carry all the stuff that goes along with babies. I'd noticed them getting more and more tatty as time went on: stained and getting threadbare in places. I guess 2 years of being dragged around parks will do that! So recently I decided that they were so embarrassingly shabby that they had to go.

Maybe it was time to downsize and go back to one of my old favourite Nicola Cerini messenger bags, I thought. Afterall, I rationalised, my boy's not a newborn anymore, I don't need to drag that much stuff around now, surely! But, after a week of pulling everything out to get to that box of band-aids at the bottom, or having to take another bag with me to store the snacks and drinks I realised that it was not yet time :-( Never mind, that time will come again, but in the meantime it was an excuse for some sewing!

This time around I knew exactly what style would be useful, so I designed a large tote with large pleats, fully lined, with interior pockets and an adjustable strap.

For the outer I used one of my favourite Ikea prints from the stash (yay stash busting!) and for the lining I used some of my heavy denim (used here for a skirt). As the shade of blue clashed slightly with the outer fabric I turned it over and used the reverse side of the denim, which also gave me a lighter tone, much better for being able to see inside the bag.

I cut the buckles and magnetic snap off one of the old bags and felt good about being able to re-use them, the rest of the old bag going in the bin.

Just after I finished the bag I came across this fantastic post all about bag making. I urge you to have a look at it if you are interested at all in making one. I had a few 'a ha!' moments reading it.

So... yes, it's a huge bag, but so far doesn't feel too cumbersome. It's comfy and practical and I never get sick of that print. I guess time will tell how durable it is, but at least I don't have to carry around those other embarrassments anymore ;-)

Lots of lovely creativity to peruse here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Abuela's Table - an inspiration

Recently I came across a beautiful cookbook called My Abuela's Table, an illustrated journey into mexican cooking. I then stumbled upon the lovely story of the book, and thought you might be interested in seeing a few pages from it, if you don't already know of it.

I was drawn to this book for it's absolutely charming illustrations.

As a cookbook, although it's not particularly heavy on vegetarian recipes, it has so much character that it intrigued me (and made me laugh - see below). Interspersed with the recipes are personal touches like old family photos and stories. The book has such a lovely personal feel that you feel privileged to be allowed a look into her world... which is about a million miles away from the many slick, faceless cookbooks out there.

When I snooped around online I found that the writer/illustrator, Daniela Germain, is a Melbourne woman who produced the book as a student for her end of year project. This was then taken on and produced by a publisher! Any art or design student would be absolutely thrilled for this to happen to them. More details on her story here.

And little did I know that I'd already seen and admired Daniella's blog I bought a pair of Camper boots and now I am broke.

It's so nice to hear a lovely story like this. It kind of restores my faith in the big bad world!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Yummy egg-free date loaf

OK, I have to admit that date loaf doesn't sound so thrilling, and it also doesn't take a fantastic photo, but... this is so yummy that I made it twice last week, and all of the kids liked it, which is a plus!

The texture is bready and a bit chewy, and the dates give that lovely caramelish flavour. We ate it with curls of butter (shh!), but it's also yummy by itself. If it lasted a couple of days I think you could toast it too. Being suitable for my big girl, it's egg-free and nut-free (though I'd love to add a handful of walnuts to it if we didn't have allergies to deal with). It could also be vegan, or dairy free, if you need it to be, by using dairy-free margarine instead of butter.

So if you are at all partial to this type of thing I'd urge you to try it - it uses only 6 basic ingredients, is super easy and makes a great afternoon tea sweet treat.

Date loaf (based on this recipe)

1 1/2 cups chopped dates (leave some larger bits)
3/4 cup raw sugar (or 1/2 cup will do if you don't have such a sweet tooth)

1 tblsp butter

1 cup water

2 cups plain flour

1 tsp bicarb soda

Preheat oven to 160c.

Combine the dates, sugar, butter and water in a saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Sift the flour and the bicarb soda together and stir it into the mix. It will be very thick. If it seems so thick that it won't mix properly add a little more water (dates vary - some are plumper & more juicy than others).

Line a square shallow tin* with baking paper, then scrape into the tin, roughly flattening the top. Bake until brown on top and a skewer comes out clean. about 30-40 minutes*.

* Date loaf is normally cooked in a loaf tin, but as I needed it to cook quicker (so that I could get to school pick-up in time!) I used a square tin, making it flatter. I still sliced it and it made nice smallish pieces. You could use any tin you like or have though, just remember to increase the cooking time as it will be denser and therefore take longer to cook.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A day off school = craft time!

School was closed yesterday so I had my big girl at home with me and my boy (it was little girl's preschool day). I took them on my errands for the morning and along the way we popped in to a local thrift shop for a peek and had one one those rare lucky days where everyone found something they loved:
• paper weaving kit for big girl
• Eric Carle ABC book for little boy (with a bit of help from mama ;-),
• sparkly bracelet for little girl in her absence (can't leave her out!)
• pair of jeans for me, an old favourite style - Lee Rider low rise flares
• and
a huge length of heavy cream cotton, perfect for screen printing practice and making tea towels - yay!
The morning was off to a good start. We then dropped in to a local cafe for a milkshake and coffee and finished the chores before the boy's tiredness set in and ended in a tantrum!

When I'd asked big girl if there was anything she wanted to do for the day she did a little jump and said "craft!" of course! She mentioned this cute project that I'd had pinned for a while, so we set to...

She drew and painted...

and I did the cutting...

...and we got there in the end.

I'll admit that there was a bit of angst and frustration on my part. I don't seem to be able to complete a single craft project with the kids without getting a little frustrated or stressed at some point. Is it just me or do you too? Come on, make me feel better and say you do ;-)

Anyway, she was pretty happy with the outcome. If we made it again I'd make a few structural modifications, but still, a nice crafty afternoon regardless.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My grand old lady

After my last post about my love of sewing I think my sewing machine must have decided she needs a rest! Because as I was sewing last night, all sorts of things started to go wrong which led me to drop her in to the repair shop for a service today. I guess she's entitled to have a rest now and then - she certainly works hard for me. She's way past her long service leave and still happily running with just a yearly check-up.

Of course the problem might have something to do with the rather ambitious project pictured above that I was working on: a new bag for myself made from quite thick fabric, and in some places many many layers thick. Probably a job for an industrial machine! Now, I know she's up to the job, but a little R&R is obviously what she's in need of before we continue (are you feeling sorry for her yet?) :-)

I'm not really into naming things, but if I did I guess my lovely old lady would be called Flossie after my grandmother who passed it down to me. From my research I think it's a 1950's model, which probably means that Flossie bought it soon after arriving in Australia from England. She gave it to me when I think I was in my late teens, and she would have been in her 70's. Looking back she must have had a bit of faith in me to give it to me - an impatient teenager!

Over the years I've loved and enjoyed her. Whenever I've tried other machines I've scoffed at their plastic frames and flimsy bodies, though secretly admiring their fancy stitches - at times I've wished I had just a couple of other stitches apart from straight stitch - zip zag would be nice, and perhaps a buttonhole function. But overall I'm happy to stick with her. I also have an overlocker that my mum bought me years ago from a friend of hers who was upgrading, and that finishes my edges.

I'm hoping one day to find out what all of these amazing looking feet pictured below are for, sitting in their original box. Look at the one in front - what could that possibly be for?? If anyone has any ideas please let me know.

If only Flossie (granma) was still around I could ask her about the feet and more importantly, talk to her about her sewing experiences... and I'd let her know how grateful I am for her gift that I've loved and cared for ever since.

So, my old pal Flossie, come back soon. I'm looking forward to tackling that bag with you. And I've got a few other jobs lined up for you too ;-)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sewing makes me happy

... I guess that's obvious to you if you're a regular reader of my blog.

Last night after putting the littlies to bed I made this bag, repurposing an old baby sling for the outer (complete with elephant patch) and some grass green linen for the lining. I had bought both from thrift shops and this made it all the better - taking something unused and unwanted and turning it into (hopefully) something that will delight a littlie and be used to carry around all sorts of important treasures.

A while ago, when I was feeling tired, I think I'd been sick and I had been doing a lot of sewing, I realised I needed a break. So I decided not to sew for about 10 days. I thought it would be great, a proper rest each evening rather than my usual "right, which project shall I work on tonight" thought. I could catch up on things I'd been neglecting and just relax. But what I found was that I soon started to feel a bit lost, I missed the challenge, the problem solving, the overall enjoyment that it gave me - it made me happy.

I find satisfaction in my everyday life of caring for my family, but it can also be quite one dimensional. I think that's where sewing fits in for me personally - it fills a gap in some small way. It's a creative outlet, a challenge. And that feeling of making something useful is so satisfying.

So now I don't deny myself a bit of sewing when I feel it 'calling' me. Even if that means that something else gets left. Because I know I'll come away from it feeling happy. And a happy mama is a good mama, right? ;-)
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