Monday, February 28, 2011

knitting ahead

I have cast on for the child's tomten jacket for Hugo. It's an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern from Knitting without Tears. More on Zimmermann later. The gauge directions were for a newborn (5 stitches an inch) which I got with my needles and aran weight yarn.  So I added 8 stitches as directed to get a toddler size. How annoying then, that what I have is HUGE, much huger than Hugo. Perhaps he will fit it when he is five...
Anyway, it has been an ok knit. Lots of garter stitch, well, all garter stitch. I have switched to continental style knitting for this one because it's faster and less stress on the wrists. That style doesn't suit purling though, so it's only good for stockinette in the round or plain garter stitch on back and forth knitting, I've found.

 Also on my knitting radar are some gorgeous knits FOR ME! I have never knitted a garment for myself (or any other adult size) so this (Aidez) will be 'the big one'. What an awesome free knitting pattern website! I have only just discovered it after finding the pattern on Ravelry. It answers all my wants for something cosy and warm, bulky but shapely, chunky but detailed in the cables, and it calls for thick wool so it won't take too too long to knit.

The yarn for it is on its way. Chunky merino in a denim shade. Yay! 40 balls of it. Yay! I can knit anything without worrying if I'll run out of yarn.

Also with this wool, another 'big one' for me: the ever popular Owls sweater. Can't wait to have one. It will be denim coloured too. I'll  be wearing a lot of denim blue this winter. Beats the greys and blacks of all my previous winters!

This little 'milo' vest for Hugo is another matter. I have only 2 balls and it doesn't state a yardage (or how many metres/yards per ball). I'll have to wing it and if I run out near the end I'll add some colour work to the yoke. It's a very popular pattern. I finally bit the dust and purchased a copy (pdf download, so easy, wish I'd done it earlier). It's well worth the AUS$ 5.00 because it has sizes up to 6 years and variations for the cable panel in the front and every size adjustment is all mapped out for you.

This cone of wool was a dud purchase (though only $12). I thought it would be softer, but alas, it's as scratchy as those old handknits that made acrylic so popular in the 1970s. I can't think of a use for it, other than knitting dog jerseys for Mum's three, or just keep it as a giant cone of string for household use.

I also spied in the latest NZ FQ magazine that deep burgundy reds were back this winter for lipsticks (like the colour of my chair in the picture there). How that pleases me so. It was the 90s when it was last in (my teenage years) and it reminds me of Drew Barrymore and 90210. Denim and burgundy then. Navy and merlot. Nautical and plum. However you name it, it sounds pretty good to me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

brick support

These are shallots grown in our garden over spring and summer. We harvested them, dried them for two weeks outside, then plaited the leaves into this handy storage string.

This photo makes me feel uneasy today, because yesterday Christchurch suffered a massive earthquake sending many old brick structures to the ground (and some newer ones of other materials). The impact has been massive and many lives lost.

Our house has a brick facade (meaning it's structural core is wooden) and there are cracks in quite a few places. The most worrying part is our brick chimney which we think could fall into the living room during a large quake if it happened here. So we made some plans last night as to what we'd do and need in a major earthquake. My main job after the shaking has stopped is to turn off the gas mains outside and check the neighbouring properties' gas mains (and take care of the kids and check on neighbours!)

Perhaps this is a timely reminder for all of us to make preparations for such disasters. We never know when they will strike. Here is a useful source of information from Civil Defense.

My thoughts are with the poor people of Christchurch. Luckily my family there escaped unharmed (apart from one with minor injuries). We all want to know what we can do to help support Christchurch. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

toddler bed valance (bed-skirt)

A while ago we made a cute toddler sized bed for Hugo. It has his cot mattress on it (1300mm long).

While there is plenty available in the way of sheets and blankets, there are no valances for this size mattress.

The quilt I made last year had some scraps remaining and I have since planned to make them into a valance to match. Yesterday, finally, it happened!

Hmm, doesn't look so great close up, because of the fraying, but that was the intention to get it matching with the quilt. The rag quilt.

It hides the ugly boxes of toys under his bed and the ugly bed frame.

It's so good to finish a project.

It's made of some old sheeting, the edges sewn up onto a basic rectangle the size of the bed frame (and mattress).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Your window of soportunity

It is 11.11
It is the perfect time to go to sleep.
The perfect time to go to sleep is 11.11
“Eleven Eleven!”
If you close your eyes now
You will hopefully drift off into a wondrous slumberous dream
Leaving all thoughts and cares of the day
In your wake.
If you think too hard about it being 11.11
And therefore the perfect time to go to sleep
You may miss your chance
And misfortunately open your eyes to read the clock saying,
Gasp, 11.12, ‘…no…’,
Then shut them tightly and try
To get that drifting back.
The next time you open your eyes
The clock will glare in angry red
11.27. Twenty-seven!
And then you know you’re really stuffed.
You’ve missed your window and now you must prepare to fight
Insomnia as she whisps you under her black cloak of endless night.
You might as well give up,
Get up,
And write.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

little boy baking

He's been in the kitchen most mornings, either of his own volition or because I'm coaxing him out of a mid morning lull without his big sister to entertain him. However, why ever, he loves the baking!

He gets his little apron on, takes a bowl from the cupboard. Gets the eggs, cracks two in the bowl, peels the bananas, starts mashing them and then just helps generally with all the pouring and mixing. Last of all he licks the bowl with great delight.

We've just finished making a batch of banana muffins, his favourite.

The other day, we made these fruit buns, the old fashioned, long way. Proving bread actually provides a whole morning's worth of baking. He gets to do the mixing first, then take a break while it proves. Then pounding and kneading and poking, forming into balls. Then another break.

Then the eating!

The recipe is from Laurie Black's book, New Home Cooking.
I have adapted it by mixing all the milk with the yeast at the beginning and adding whatever fruit I have available. It works well with wholemeal flour too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ballet blossom

Georgia started ballet yesterday. She and a flurry of baby pink girls fluttered around the mums and bubs then into the hall and emerged very happy 30 minutes later.

It is with much fondness I recall my ballet years. So many hours of practising poise, plies and pirouettes. I never became a ballerina. Apparently my feet would have to be broken and re-set for me to ever succeed in pointe shoes. What a relief. I doubt a life as a ballerina is as glamorous as little girls believe it is. For little girls, it is all about the pink, the pampering and the pirouettes. I was glad to introduce Georgia to this new world knowing she will at least gain good posture, if nothing else (although I think she will gain a lot more than that).

To help with the pink side of things, I am knitting this ballet blossom cardigan, the pattern is again by Hadley Fierlinger. It is alpaca wool, so luxuriously soft and really warm, so it's not needed until the winter months. Good, because it will take that long to knit it. I have some other projects on the go, not to mention the sewing. And one that Georgia is going to help me make too!

What projects do you have 'on the go'?

Monday, February 14, 2011

sew the list grows on

I have a new sewing station. Everyone including me grew sick of having our dining table taken up with sewing machines and fabric and other associated items.
Back from the garage came our previous dining table, the fabulous formica! All I need now is some storage beneath it for the fabric-a-brac.

Adding to the chemo hats will be this versatile cardigan and top. It is apparently a rip-off pattern of a popular DKNY garment that can be worn in about 15 different ways.

I shopped for this fabric last week at the Global Fabrics sale. Pinks for my aunty, blues for me. Fine stretch cottons and slippery silks. I hope I bought enough fabric!

Adding this to my fabric stash, a mountain of other sewing projects either on the go or in the pipeline... I don't know. I seem to bit off more than I can chew sometimes.

But anyway, this is first on the list now. The kids will have to wait for their new merino garments for the winter.

baby bmx-ing

This was so much fun. She's done it twice now and considers herself an expert at all the turns and humps. I was never so brave as a child.

The bike is a balance bike, made from plywood by a NZ company. This one is a Runna bike.

Now, you couldn't do that with training wheels...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

harvest day

We have been digging in the garden.
How cool has it been to find fat vegetables almost overgrown and begging to be picked. The few days of rain we've had have meant beans and zucchinis have gone nuts. But the gherkins... I thought I had been keeping an eye on them.?
Tonight's tea is scalloped potatoes - here's why.

I have a lot of pickling and preserving to do.
Fat gherkin cucumbers.
Yellow zucchinis (courgettes) - which name to you prefer?
One is ripening into a huge marrow, I think we'll just see what happens to it so the kids can enjoy watching it grow.

Beans galore (Stringless scarlett).
Another round of strawberries.
Tiger lilies and dahlias.

I will share some recipes soon. Does anyone have something good for zucchini? Last year I did something with brown sugar and vinegar, a relish I think. But I can't find the recipe anymore.

What's coming out of your garden at the moment?

Friday, February 11, 2011

a wedding shrug

This one was for the bride.

Who knows what the weather will do on a wedding day, and with a strapless gown it's difficult to cover up with a regular cardigan without looking shabby. A shrug is just a shoulder coverer (if that's a word) and is constructed by sewing a little way up the ends of a regular rectangle.

This one I had knitted by a woman from my knitting group because I had only thought of this last minute and had no time.  She did a lovely mock cable throughout as I'd asked for a cable design for a celtic look. She was right that a smaller cable design wouldn't dominate the bridal gown.

Though I was happy with it, I had to pick-up and knit a ribbed band at the bottom to make it longer and keep it from rolling up the bride's back. It has a scalloped bind-off that I made up as I went along - for anyone who's interested, on k2 p2 rib it goes...

*k2, turn, p2, turn, k2tog, BO 2,  p1* rep until you reach the end of the ribbed section then knit last stitches together.

The rectangular section is 50cm across by 35cm top to bottom.
A small cap sleeve and slight collar is created on stitching the sleeve ends.

So easy to make - some fabric ones I made for the bridesmaids coming up soon, well as soon as I can photograph one properly while wearing it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


These were so quick to sew up and make the room so much prettier.

We have quite plain (ugly) curtains (or you may call the drapes, depending on your heritage) and I thought these would be a good solution to keep the curtains away from the windows to let in maximum light and prevent them blowing in the wind when the windows are open. They also double as a  decoration, and I guess you could change them with the seasons and your mood...!?

Simply cut a piece of fabric and a lining on the fold in this sort of shape, no pattern required, sew right-sides together leaving ends free, turn right way out, insert some loops of fabric (sewn through the middle) into the ends and ta-da, you have a curtain tie-back. I finished mine with some hand sewing in matching embroidery thread, as it's too thick to get the machine through.

Each morning, Georgia rises and ties the curtains back. It's a nice little routine.

The fabric is some vintage Sanderson from my fabric stash. I made some in French vanilla colouring to match our bedroom too. Perhaps I'll photograph them one day.

play stations and work stations

I don't know which is which, really, perhaps both - but my side of the table is equally matched by the kids' side for entertainment and attention at the moment.
I've been sewing, more on that later. Hugo and Georgia have been making play-dough and plasticine treats for their play oven.

It will probably stay like this for another few days until Chris and I are completely driven mad by the mess and want our table back for 'regular' activities.

But we are having so much fun!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

baby mary-janes

Laidey has a new pair of shoes. Little red mary-janes.
Just perfect for these in-between months when she sits most of the time, will soon learn to crawl and then will need proper leather shoes when she learns to walk. She's too old for typical baby bootees now so these have a bit of a grown-up look to them that really appealed.

I made these with some leftover Debbie Bliss cashmerino yarn in Aran weight. It was just right for this project. The pattern is from Hadley Fierlinger's Vintage Knits for Modern Babies again. I love this book and have a few of her other projects on the needles right now.

I have found this pattern to be an improvement on the crossover mary-janes I have made previously from this Ravelry pattern, but still, the strap was too long (or her ankles too narrow) so I placed the button way back on the button band. I think they need a dome too, see where it's gaping a little?

Anyway, these are really stretchy so I hope they will be useful until we hear the pitter patter of her little feet running down the hall in a few months' time. 

Next, I just have to dress her in her red and white dress with white tights and these shoes - is there a special occasion coming up? Do we need one?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

handmade by little hands

During the holidays Georgia learnt to write. It was a self-led process whereby she first asked how to write and spell her name, then the rest of the family, and it grew from there. 
I soon realised she didn't have a copy of the alphabet to work with.
The wonderful font 'Schoolhouse Printed A' shows pretty standard formed letters so I put together an alphabet and some pages of family names for her to read from.

She reads it during naps and in the morning sometimes, reciting the alphabet song. But otherwise all her writing is done by asking us to call out letters for whatever word she wants to write.

Understandably she wants to share her new skill with people so any picture she draws is usually dedicated to someone and their name written on it, then 'from Georgia'. 

You can see an early attempt here. She has chosen to write capital letters at this stage, so I won't confuse her with little letters until she's ready.

She went to Maggie's 4th birthday the other day so she made a card and some wrapping paper.

It was so cool to see her sense of pride at having made something herself to give. The present was, at Georgia's request, a small set of stationery so the birthday girl could give it a go herself.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Blackberry jelly making

It is blackberry season here. We are lucky to have an enormous supply of these growing in our 'back yard' at the foot of the forest behind the park we live next to. We have collected a few containers so far. They taste delicious on breakfast cereal just as they are, but many have quite hard seeds in them so I thought I would try jelly-making.

One fresh lot, one frozen, and a frozen juice collected from a tin of black doris plums - 

into the pot, a boil to soften the fruit and extract the juice...

strain away the pulp and seeds in a seive, add the sugar, dissolve it, then back on the stove for a quick boil to 'setting stage'.

I used my instinct to find the setting stage as I don't have a thermometer (but if you do it is 105 C) and I tried small amounts on a cold plate for sticking and wrinkling...

but the best guide I found was listening to it. The mixture quite suddenly takes on a change in sound in the way the bubbles become sticky rather than runny and that's when you know to take it off the heat.

It didn't quite fill two jars like I had hoped.

It set on cooling.

The good old Edmonds cook book had some great hints and following this page are some recipes with varying amounts and types of fruit and sugar.

For my blackberry and plum jelly I used:

  • 3 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup plum juice
  • 1 cup sugar (added only once strained through seive)
  • a wooden spoon (don't ask me why but it has to be wooden)
  • a stainless steel soup pot (the old aluminium ones apparently leech toxins)

all in all it took less than an hour to make, perhaps only 30 minutes.

So we're eating it on toast, in yoghurt, and on breakfast cereal. Yum! 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

chemotherapy hats or chemo caps

Please excuse my time away from the computer. I have had a week preparing for a friend's wedding then a week recuperating from the wedding. But I have been making things, so I have lots to share soon.

Cancer has been on my mind a lot lately. The awful but necessary process of enduring chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which not only cause one to lose their hair, but to feel unwell too, and for it to be no guarantee of survival or even prolonging life either - it is no wonder people have come up with many designs for a 'chemo cap'. They cover, cheer, provide dignity and even laughter.

Someone close to me is in need of some new ones so last night I got busy with my sewing machine, fabric stash and a new overlocker! Well, 1986 new, from Mum's forgotten cupboard to the fix-it man and $90 later I have a working one. Oh how long I have waited...

Sorry I couldn't get better photos or a better model!


and inside out...

The front and back views: This one made from an old t-shirt.

They were all made in a slightly stretchy knit (jersey) and in cotton, apart from the bright pink which is a cotton blend sweater fabric, probably too thick for a summer hat but it was the prototype (first made).

There are lots of free patterns available for these. I chose this turban design because it's similar to what she's already been wearing. They really are easy to sew but have a glamorous look when finished.

I made four of them in a night, taking approximately 15 minutes each. The pattern provides no photos so I thought I'd share some here if anyone is interested in making these for someone they love, or even for charity. They reckon a person needs three: one to wear, one to wash and a spare. I reckon my aunty needs one for every day of the week or even every outfit. If it makes her feel even slightly better to have a hat to match an outfit it's worth making.

The other requirement was bright colours, like gemstones. The last one I made (not photographed) was pink with orange gemstones sewn on the band at the front. It could be decorated with any other feature, like a brooch or false flower... Your choice!
I hope you can brighten someone's day too with one of these.