Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My computer hates me

...Well, that's how it feels when the rotten thing won't work.

I have things to show you:

* momentos from my weekend alone with my lovely big girl

* my finished Minoru jacket (yay, finished at last!)

* and some freshly screen printed fabric to be made into cushions to match a new print...

But instead I sit here on the Mr's iPad, grinding my teeth at my computer downstairs, it's photos all ready to go but not letting me in... I just hope it's not some awful virus...

AND a comment on my last post from Nic, including some very helpful suggestions on crafty places to visit in Hobart, has been eaten by Blogger - Nic, if you're out there, thank you!...

I'm hoping it will all right itself and I'll be back here soon... wish me luck!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My creative space: my Minoru jacket

My creative space this week is all about my Minoru jacket in progress. It's my single crafty focus at the moment, which I was thinking was a bit boring of me until I read this post over at Make it Smirk on 'circle's of completion'. I love how other bloggers come up with topics that make me think - my life could definitely do with more circles of completion, so I'm going to keep going with this until it's properly done - scraps of fabric folded and put away, pattern neatly put back in the envelope etc. Another reason I'd like to get this one done and dusted is that I seem to be incapable of thinking about much else at the moment!

And what's keeping me so interested, night after night, is that there are so many fun details to work on with this pattern. It's certainly the most complex garment I've ever sewn. There are zips, elastic, lining, pockets and top stitching galore!

One of the reasons I started this project was because we are going on a family holiday to Tasmania in April (yay!) and I thought I could do with a new jacket for the cooler weather there. Can anyone recommend any crafty places to go around Hobart? I'd love any recommendations.

More creative spaces to explore over here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

2 piece t-shirt

Lately I'd begun to notice that my summer t-shirts were looking pretty shabby. You know, faded, stretched and generally crappy. But I guess that's what happens when you've hardly ventured into a clothes shop in the past 6 years (my big girl is 6). Dragging between 1 and 3 small children through crowded shops is not my idea of fun. For me or them. And in my precious time alone I don't want to be looking at my post pregnancy/breast feeding wobbly bits in brightly lit changing rooms! Plus it's expensive. And often bad quality. I could go on, but you get the picture. Do you feel the same? Or is shopping still fun for you (or was it ever)?

Anyway, I digress... Looking at all the lovely flowy jersey t-shirts around got me thinking about how I love simple shapes and hey, it probably wouldn't be too hard to make one. So I started with Tessuti's 'fave top' pattern (free!) as a basis. I knew I'd have to change it, but boy it looked awful on me. It was probably because my black & white striped knit fabric from my stash was too thick, but it just draped terribly and looked wrong. It consisted of just 2 pieces of fabric, no set in sleeves to deal with, and I liked that and thought it was something I could work with. So I got in and hacked it up, sewed new seems, hacked it up a bit more, sewed a bit more etc til I was happy with the basic shape.

For the hems I turned the edge over twice and sewed a straightstitch. Then, as it was looking a bit plain (and not drapey at all) I added a little pocket to the front (making it 3 pieces, technically). Then some elastic to the edges of the sleeves to give them a bit of shape (the same way I did it here).

Then the hem didn't look quite right so it got the elastic treatment too. As you can see its pretty rough, but I do like the bit of shape it adds and the visual link back to the sleeves makes me happy in a sewing-nerd kinda way.

So there you go, a bit of creativity with the scissors and sewing machine. I highly recommend it over jostling with teenagers and loud music while trailing tantruming toddlers and preschoolers behind ;-)

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In other sewing news my Minoru jacket is underway and I'm sooo enjoying it, trying not to stay up really late each night sewing. It's so tempting though!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Menu party

As I love talking about food and could do with a little push along to get myself organised to plan the week's menu, I thought I'd join in Inner Pickle's Monday Menu linky party. I'm a little late seeing as it's Tuesday, but better late than never I guess!

If you haven't seen Fi's post, the idea is to post what you're planning to eat for the week, add your link to her post and be inspired by others' ideas. So here are my thoughts for this week:

Monday Vegetable and cannelini bean stew with big ('Israeli') cous cous
Tuesday Bean burritos
Wednesday Sesame tofu and vegie fried rice (quick easy meal after girls' gymnastics class)
Thursday Home made pizza (brother and SIL visiting, want to cook something nice)
Friday Pasta with lentil sauce and fetta
Saturday Japanese cold noodle salad with fried tofu, and smoked salmon for the Mr & kids
Sunday Soup? Something easy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

New cushions

I'm not sure if I've mentioned here before that we have a pretty small house. The rooms are reasonably generously sized in inner Sydney terms, but we really could use more of them (2 bedrooms, 5 people) and we're feeling the squeeze as the kids grow. But moving house is not an option at the moment. I remember my SIL saying to me a while ago "think like a European and make good use of your space". Good advice. So we've been making a few changes here and there lately, involving trips to Ikea (of course!), some carpentary and many trips to drop off unwanted stuff at the local charity shop.

As part of that we've changed the layout of our lounge room and I couldn't stand the look of our tatty old cushion covers so I finally got my act together and made a couple of new ones.

I had been saving some lovely off cuts from Cloth to use in a Lotta-style quilt (still not game enough to tackle that one!), but decided to use them for this worthy cause instead. Julie Patterson from Cloth is my favourite Australian textile designer, I just love the way she captures the beauty of Australia and she also uses lovely fabrics - textured linens, cottons and hemps. Each time I have been to her shop I have picked up a scrap pack and drooled over her fabrics by the metre and also her new bed linen range. If money was no object I would have her things dotted all over our house... Yes, I can picture it now... an architect designed simple holiday house somewhere out in the bush (bellbirds singing in the background), plenty of wood, steel and corrugated iron, minimally furnished and beautiful soft furnishings by Cloth, ahh! Anyway, enough of the daydreaming ;-)

In this one I used a piece of Julie's Currawong print, teamed with a couple of others in sympathetic colourways and backed with oatmeal coloured linen.

And for this 2nd simpler design I used a lovely piece of white print on oatmeal coloured linen, added in a vibrant orange strip and a textured chocolate brown cotton. I teamed it with a piece of grey linen, which I kept thinking must be wrong as I was mixing warm and cool tones but I love the contrast and thought I'd just go with what felt right.

I'm looking forward to another trip to Cloth to re-stock on the scrap packs for that mythical quilt ;-)

- - - - - - -

In other unrelated goings-on, I met up for the first time this morning with a bloggy friend, the lovely Fran from Lovely Little Sweet Peas. It was so nice to meet another like-minded craft nut and blogger and talk craft, kids, Etsy and all things in between :-). Fran has a great Etsy shop selling her fab kids art satchels and has also been selling them to local shops. Good on you Fran. And thanks for spending time with me and my 2 crazy littlies!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Weekend cooking - fresh pasta

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..

Last weekend I did two things that I haven't done in 7 years - I went to a yoga class (yay!) and made fresh pasta. I know it's been 7 years because I was pregnant with my first baby last time I did these things. And she turns 7 in a couple of months. I guess in some ways I feel like I'm at last sticking my head out of the fog (good fog, but fog never-the-less) of having very small children, and starting to enjoy a few old favourite things.

Apart from being too busy and sleep deprived, another reason I hadn't attempted homemade fresh pasta in that time is that I've only ever used recipes containing eggs, and as you may have heard me mention before, my big girl is allergic to them. But I recently did some research and found that using semolina flour, as opposed to ordinary flour, does the trick.

Commercially most pastas are made without egg, just using flour and water, but they use machines to knead the dough, and without the elasticity that the egg adds I was worried that a homemade version would be awful. But I shouldn't have worried because it turned out really well. The kids kept asking for more and we ended up eating the whole batch (no leftovers for the next day :-( I do love leftovers ;-)

And it was fun. The kids watched with interest rolling out with the dough with the pasta machine, and then they played with the scraps after dinner. Here's my trusty assistant getting to grips with the process.

I should point out here that this is not a quick and easy meal, rather a slow and leisurely activity, perfect for when you're at home on a rainy Sunday, or something like that. I use an Italian pasta machine to roll out the dough by hand, and this takes a bit of practice and confidence, but it is fun, and if you're interested I'd encourage you to try it - feel free to email me with any questions - I'm not an expert (last time was 7 years ago afterall!) but I may be able to help. You can roll out the pasta with a rolling pin instead, but I think it would be hard work as it is quite a stiff dough.

Egg-free fresh pasta

3 cups semolina flour (I used Grenoro brand)
1 tsp salt
2 tblsp olive oil
About 1 cup warm water

Mix all ingredients together to form a firm and moist but not sticky dough (you may need a little more or less flour). Knead for about 10 minutes until silky smooth. Using a strong mixer with dough hook attachment is a good option here if you get tired arms (or are lazy like me ;-). Cover the dough and let it rest for about half an hour.

Roll out into flat sheets using a pasta machine according to the instructions, then cut into what ever shape you like. Here we've done ribbons or fettucine.

Cook in boiling salted water until al dente. This is usually just a few minutes - much less than dried pasta. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid to keep it moist.

Serve with a simple sauce. My pics show fettucine with a simple tomato sauce topped with broccolini quickly fried in olive oil and garlic (courtesy of the Mr).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Happiness is...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments on my last post. It sure is an interesting topic - essentially how people communicate online and what is appropriate. I guess there are insensitive people in our everyday communities, but the internet allows for more anonymity than in other situations, so those people feel free to let their negativity out. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" seems apt here.

Anyway, on to more cheerful things :-)

Happiness is: (or was for me last Saturday)

• Hopping in the car by myself and heading off for a couple of hours. I love being with my kids, but a couple of weeks without any time alone takes its toll - and one of those weeks was solo parenting, so it felt like a lot longer!

• Going fabric shopping (what else? ;-) for supplies for my eagerly awaited Minoru Jacket pattern

• Finding a fabric for the outer that I'm happy with, after doing about 20 laps of my favourite fabric shop The Remnant Warehouse

• The lovely and extremely helpful sales assistant showing me to the remnant zipper boxes (3 for $1!)

• Looking for inspiration for contrasting zipper and top stitch colour (a la Very Purple Person's lovely version) and finding a gorgeous chartreuse coloured silver metal toothed open-ended (double opening!) zipper (OK, now being excited about that is really nerdy, I know)

• Finally finding an excuse to purchase some gorgeous, long-time coveted fabric (Amy Butler's Laurel Dots in cilantro) - for the jacket lining. The background colour works beautifully with the zipper and top stitching thread and the pale blue should pick up beautifully on the subtle texture of the exterior fabric. Ahh, don't you love it when it all comes together :-)

• Happily watching the lovely sales assistant measure said beautiful fabric and hearing that it's the end of roll so I get even more for my money, which will allow me to use it for the sleeve lining too!

• Waiting to pay for my goodies and learning that I'd qualified for a $20 discount on my loyalty card. Woo hoo!

Now I just hope that my sewing skills and patience will allow me to do the pattern justice, and that the vision in my head actually turns out looking good! It's always a gamble.

When I told the Mr and kids about my exciting afternoon, there was a pause then the Mr said "mummy doesn't get out much". True, but funny (and nice) how little things can make me happy :-)

There's nothing wrong with a grown woman hugging her fabric... is there?!

Sunday, February 5, 2012


While browsing through Pinterest recently I got a nice little surprise when I saw someone had pinned something from my blog. So out of interest I looked to see what else may have been pinned. Then I saw a heap of comments after one pic (from my polymer bead necklace tutorial post), starting with the first person's "yeah, not a fan". It then went on to "we make these in bible school. Too childlike" and so on. OK, so not everyone has the same taste, but I wonder why they felt it necessary to make a negative comment. A reasonable amount of what I see on Pinterest is not to my taste but I don't see a need to put someone else down because of it.

This really shouldn't bother me, but it did a little and it got me thinking about how when you put yourself, and your style, taste, likes and dislikes out there for the world to see, I guess you open yourself up to criticism. In my working life as a Graphic Designer I learned to sift through negative comments to work out what the issue was, and take the personal nature out of it. But sometimes it still stung. Maybe it's a hazard of what we do. Maybe it's just my ego.

How do you deal with negativity? Do you let it roll off your back? Are you calm and rational, not taking it on board? Do you write a polite little correcting statement to set the record straight? Or do you feel like emailing that twee-loving, styleless oaf and with a comment back at her "yeah, not a fan" ;-)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Girly dress no. 2

My lovely piece of Nani Iro japanese fabric has been sitting around in stash waiting for "the perfect dress pattern" to appear. So I got realistic and decided that it wasn't going to happen soon, and I'd rather wear and enjoy it in an OK form than not at all. So... I just used the trusty Simplicity 3835 AGAIN. Yes, I can't say I haven't had my money's worth with this pattern!

And as with the 1st "girly dress", I made a few modifications til it was right for me. It's easy to wear and great on a hot day. Looking at the photos taken last week though, it makes me shiver a little as our temperatures have plummetted and we have non-stop rain. Which makes for interesting child care conditions, as I'm sure you can appreciate. Still, at least we're not flooding as other areas are.

Please excuse the headless shots - the hair and makeup people hadn't been in that day ;-)

More creative goodness to see over here.
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