Saturday, August 27, 2011

Stuffed Heart

Fernando has been a hit with the littles. He spent a night resting on a cushion beside Lola, with a very small blanket placed tenderly over him. She even got up to inform me Fernando was ready to go to sleep so she would turn the light off to make it easier for him. A few days later, Pearl took a shine to him and spent an afternoon sucking on various limbs. Being filled with a natural substance like barley, I was curious to know what would happen if he got wet. After the slobbering, he now has a quite particular odour and I'm afraid he might sprout any day. He's also very heavy for a small thing. Someone threw him across the room at one point and he nearly took my head off. Good for intruders. Not so good for small children.

Nonetheless, he has a lovely, weighty feel in the hand and the barley made him fill out beautifully. Unlike this week's stuffing challenge...

We're heading to a party today, and the birthday girl turned four over a month ago, so she's already enjoyed our gift. But we felt it essential to bring a little something else - it is a party after all. Stealing an idea from one of Amanda Soule's books, Lola and I made a heart pillow - pretty and decorative, and with a little pocket on the back to stash secret notes in. I envisaged the whole thing from start to finish, complete with all the appliqued hearts on the front and buttons on the back. But in my visions, it was a lovely smooth, plump cushion, not the puckered thing we ended up with. Everything was going perfectly until we turned it right way out and stuffed it (polyester this time). Perhaps someone can help me out here. I clipped all the corners and even ironed it out before stuffing it. We tried using lots of filling first and then removed a whole lot to see if it made a difference. But no matter what we tried, we just couldn't get the curves and seams all nice and lovely and smooth. So is it the type of stuffing, the shape of the cushion or the fault of the really very inexperienced sewer?

Lola likes it regardless. We think it has a quirky cartoon-like quality to it. And who needs perfect? She's even requested one in exactly the same colours for herself.

Lovely ribbon and very cute buttons from my favourite lovely ribbon and very cute button supplier.

Friday, August 26, 2011

this moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. 
Via Soulemama

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Yarn Along in the City

The arrival in my mailbox of a new book yesterday has meant that joining in this week's Yarn Along is imperative. Other reading has been cast aside for Ysolda Teague's 'Little Red in the City', which, along with having some lovely patterns, is all about how to adjust a pattern to suit your own shape. As I write this now, I realise that in all the years I've been knitting, I have only knitted three proper garments for myself - not counting scarves and hats - and all of them have ended up being a bad fit.

Perhaps my first problem may be the little swatching block I possess. After reading Ysolda's chapter on that, I think I might just be dedicating the odd evening here and there to checking and rechecking my gauge before I launch into a new project. The way she writes, I think I might be almost convinced swatching is the best part of the whole process. And it's not just knitting a swatch and measuring it, oh, no. She recommends washing it, letting it dry, hanging it out with weights to see how it will be affected once worn, and even carrying the swatch around in your handbag for a few days to see if it pills. (A very sensible idea after I invested over $100 and lots of bits of lots of months knitting a beautiful vest in beautiful alpaca, only to find it misshapen after a few wears, and pilling like an old overused disappointing!)

I've always struggled with how to switch the recommended yarn in a pattern for something more affordable/available/already in the stash. Ysolda's in-depth discussion of yarn fibre, structure, drape, weight, loftiness, etc, makes me realise there's so much more to consider than matching stitches per centimetre and needle size (and thus why swatching is so important - take note, Greer, take note...)

Ysolda is a young Scottish designer. Ahh, Scotland. Such a beautiful place. Such a cold, cold winter I spent there. No wonder she designs such lovely woollen things...

All this talk of swatching has made me a little nervous about how my Abalone will turn out, given I didn't really do a very good job of...OK, I didn't swatch. I just started a few rows, did a quick measure and decided close enough was good enough. I'm about halfway through it now and if the finished product is a bad fit, I have only myself to blame...and Ysolda to thank for future perfect knitted wonderfulness.

Monday, August 22, 2011

One Year On...

Sometime over the weekend, this little blog turned one. That's one year since I started posting here regularly (I had a bit of a false start before that). And though my readership is small (but growing) and I am still finding my voice, being here regularly has made me very grateful.

I'm grateful for having this blog in the background of my often chaotic weeks to bring me back to centre. I'm grateful to have a small record of those chaotic weeks with this little family. I'm grateful to have discovered so many other amazing blogs and bloggers to inspire me to bring creativity into my days. And, most importantly, I'm grateful to have finally, after all these years of trying (and failing), found something that gets me writing on a regular basis. 

Most of my adult life I've been trying to be a writer. I've dabbled in playwriting, screenwriting and journalism. But I never found a rhythm, and I was never disciplined enough to do it often enough to see what could become of it. And now, without even trying to 'write', I'm writing almost every day. And it feels good.

So hip, hip hooray!

Sometime over the weekend, this little pair of peanuts hit the 18-month mark. One and a half years old! How did that happen?

So how about a few facts. 18-month-old facts. Here goes...

  • runs everywhere, rarely walks
  • can sing 'Happy Birthday To You' (but refuses to do it in front of anyone except us, or for a camera, so no-one believes us when we say she can do it)
  • calls her big sister 'Wowa!' and her twin sister 'Pow Pow' (Pearl Pearl)
  • is into slippery dips
  • is overwhelmingly generous with kisses and 'tuddles'. "Tuddle, Mummy?"
  • loves books as much as her big sister did at this age
  • is incredibly laidback until someone takes something she wants, in which case she shouts, "No, no, no, no, no. Mine! Mine!"
  • loves shoes

  • waddles about like a little old lady (I call her Doris)
  • has a funny little husky voice and is far more reticent than Stella, but often surprises us with a stack of new words she's been saving up
  • is the dancer of the family; will start the elbow pump and knee bend at the slightest hint of a song
  • will always choose the swing, and will swing for the entire time we're at the park
  • needs a cuddle top-up several times a day (much like a car needs petrol) - when she's upset she climbs up, burrows into my chest, has a bit of sigh, then runs off to play again
  • still has the longest eyelashes in the land
  • loves shoes

Hip, hip hooray again!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Do You Hear the Drums...

I had to give something out of this remarkable book a go. The Fluffy Draught Stopper was tempting, as was the Fur Rat Door Stop. In the end, buoyed by a reader request, I settled on Frog. 

The instructions were scant, dare I suggest inadequate. I ever so slightly enlarged the pattern and it ended up a bit fatter and squatter than the frog in the photo. My finished frog is a little over 10cm (4 inches) long.

I chose two vintage fabrics - both recycled sheets/pillowcases.

I sewed all around with a tiny stitch, leaving one foot open.

Then I wrestled a crocodile, I mean, turned it inside out.

Being square out of "fine canary seed", I filled it with barley.

Then I handstitched the open foot.

Eyes were added.

Et voila! We have named him Fernando.

PS I've finally done something creative on a Thursday so I'm joining in with Our Creative Spaces for the first time today.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Elegance of the Yarn Along

Back for the Yarn Along again this week. I neither knit nor read fast enough to have something new on a weekly basis, so it's probably best I stick to fortnightly lest I get repetitive.

I bought this book a couple of months ago on a bit of whim, having just heard something good about it. And just the other day I noticed that it has been, for goodness knows how long, on the list I keep on my iPhone of books I notice in shops or read reviews of that I think I might enjoy - a very handy and useful list given I never look at it. Nonetheless, 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog' has made it off the list and it is, thus far, quite good.

Despite the photo, I'm not knitting black. It's a pair of navy blue hats for a pair of young ladies who have requested something wooly for their heads as they wait for the school bus of a morning. Of course, I have procrastinated long enough that they probably no longer need them, with spring fast approaching. I've used Amanda Soule's My Hat of Choice for one and I'm going freestyle on the other. The yarn is Cascade 220, one of my faves.

And perhaps most importantly, I have finally mastered the magic loop method. I thought I knew what it was, having stumbled across it by accident some time ago. But the magic loop method I thought I knew never worked with small projects and I was always having to turn to DPNs - as I did the first time I knitted this hat. Now I know where I went wrong - two loops, one on each side of the work. So simple. Quite miraculous.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Puff Puff

Last week's pear and almond tart was a triumph. A very hastily consumed triumph. And there was a little tub of leftover frangipane in the fridge crying out to be baked into something. Hanging around the kitchen was a flyer I picked up from the supermarket with a recipe for rough puff pastry. I've made lots of pastry before, but never puff. "It's Tuesday," I thought. "Let's try something new."

The kid was disappointed that there were no eggs to crack, but she was all over the pressing of the 'pulse' button on the food processor. She quickly turned the butter and flour into something resembling coarse bread crumbs, then added the ice-cold water as I gently kneaded, brought it together and began the rolling. Roll, fold, fold, turn. Roll, fold, fold, turn. Roll, fold, fold, turn.

And rest.

Roll, fold, fold, turn...

You get the picture.

The leftover frangipane was smeared onto the pastry, which we then topped with sliced apples and some frozen raspberries. And then - an egg to crack after all - we brushed the pastry border with some egg wash and popped the whole thing into a hot oven to hopefully puff puff puff.

And puff it did. It landed on the bench top looking like something out of a rustic French farmhouse kitchen. The pastry had a beautiful, crisp, delicate crumb which combined beautifully with the cakey, fruity topping. Just the thing for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

I wonder how wonderful the unrough version will be! We might try that next week and make this Try Something New Tuesday a habit.

Rough puff pastry recipe from here - it made the perfect quantity for one tart.

The frangipane is from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook. I reckon this was about a third of the full recipe, so adjusted accordingly, beat 1/4 cup caster sugar and 60g butter until pale. Add one egg and beat well. Add 90g ground almonds and 20ml of grog - they say Grand Marnier, I used Cointreau. Or just leave that out if you like.

And I baked my tart for about half an hour, initially at 200 degrees Celsius, and then reduced to 170 after about 10 minutes so the apples could cook without the pastry burning.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quick Change Trousers

Just when I thought that every baby pants pattern was the same...

I dipped into my supply of vintage pillowcases this week to make a couple of pairs of the famous Quick Change Trousers from this lovely book by Anna Maria Horner. They're reversible - so that's really four pairs of pants in the picture above. They're a fab fit, fun to make and just so cute on those little tushies. 

I'll shut up now and let the pictures do the talking.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


May my future sprawling country garden have a grand magnolia as its centrepiece...

..countless fruit trees that burst into flower the minute winter lets her guard down...

..and great swathes of unruly jasmine to fill the air with the scent of my childhood for a few weeks a year.

Oh, and maybe another magnolia for good measure...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Hello, lovely new bag. Made by moi! Out of some Ikea upholstery fabric and a vintage sheet from the oppy. Using the Everything Tote pattern from 'Weekend Sewing' by Heather Ross.

It replaces the faded old khaki thing that I've been using as my baby bag for the past 17.5 months, which I received as a little bonus with the lovely Bourke Street Bakery cookbook a couple of birthdays ago. (Thank you, Garbageman.) It was designed, no doubt, to carry home one's semi-sour baguette and Sunday morning croissants, but I've been hauling around nappies and wipes and other babyphernalia instead.

And speaking of the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook...

We were invited to brunch last Sunday and grabbed a pear and almond tart from a little French patisserie on the way. Somewhere between pointing to it in the glass cabinet and handing over my 20 bucks, I thought, "I should have made this." When the oldest child, having enjoyed her slice, asked if we could bake one, the deal was sealed. And I turned to the oracle, my Bourke Street Bakery cookbook.

Before we could even get started, there was a trip to the land of all things exquisite and divine for vanilla beans. $34 worth - oops!

Then back home to begin work on the four elements - the sweet shortcrust pastry, the poached pears, the frangipane and the creme patissiere. That was day one out of the way.

Day two - this morning we set to work on assembling our tart. Pastry was rolled. Tins lined and blind-baked. Frangipane and creme patissiere gently folded together. Pears arranged like a glorious sunny-day daisy.

The result? Unbearably good. Far more rustic than the one purchased on the weekend, but tasting just like the BSB ones I've purchased far too many times.

As the Garbageman would say, yumbo yumbo.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Look! No Pattern!


I am nurturing, ever so softly and tentatively, a quiet desire to design my own knits. A few things stand in my way. There's so little time and so many other wonderful things I want to knit, it's hard to spend precious hours on potential failures. But more importantly, as far as design goes, I really haven't a clue.

So for a first effort, I'm pretty pleased with this little experiment in going pattern-free. It's plain, plain, plain, garter stitch all the way, with zero embellishments. But in terms of shape and fit, it's spot-on for this little girl and exactly what I had in mind - a tiny torso-warmer to see out the last weeks of winter.

I used some stashed yarn - Harmony 10ply by Naturally. It's 100% New Zealand merino and has a lovely almost felty texture. This little vest used about half a skein.

Oh, and I've finally been getting some time at the sewing machine in the past week. These little corduroy pants were a bit of a failure, however - far too short in the leg and the waist, despite adding the extra length given as an 'option' in the pattern. I ended up adding a thick lace ribbon to the cuffs so they wouldn't look completely like half-mast clown pants. 

Stella likes them, though. They match her red shoes. Or "soozh", as she calls them.


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