Archive for May, 2010

The naming of things

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am now the proud owner of two I-drafted-them-myself patterns. And I didn’t stop at simply making the patterns myself, I also sewed the little dresses (yes, they are dresses) and then named the patterns. And like my non-heroes over at Burda, I gave them girls’ names. After their intended first recipients. So, folks, a round of applause please (nods of recognition will suffice) for Lola and Wilhe!

(I’m thinking about making up useable (to other people) patterns for these bebes’ mamas so that they may replicate the joy of creating extra lashings of awesome. With their own stash bustin’ and fine skills, of course.)

So, in order of birthdays… the Wilhe Dress! I found in Rata’s Extensive Pile of Things Too Big a corduroy dress, frustratingly small in the waist but too big in all other regards. And she is a long, thin baby – how does it fit those bonny wee cherubs?

As you can see though, it was a little inefficient in the making the most of material stakes – awkward to cut out from what I had available. I’m trying to save a bit of this yellow for Rata, but needing four of these pieces meant I used a fair bit… and then have lots of fun shapes left over!

Sadly I stopped taking pictures here as I was well and truly in sewing mode and trying to get as much done as I could before Rata awoke (heaps as it turned out!). Aside from a bit of hand sewing and the hem, I was essentially finished by the time she woke up, clocking in at about 90 minutes of sewing and an hour before nap time of pattern making. Yuss!

And here it is! Finished! Minus buttonholes in this picture which I left until I got onto Kath’s sewing machine. It has a lot more room in the waist than the blue one. There are also less ruffles as that particular piece of brown fabric called for it. I may also have technically put the front and back parts of the bib around the wrong way. For ease of making this again, I’m going to alter the straps of the bib so that they button up. Sewing the pieces together was a real brain-twister, and I ended up hand sewing the straps together.

Also, after this picture was taken, it occurred to me that the top was around the wrong way, and that perhaps the buttons shouldn’t be on the front. I faffed around wondering if I could be bothered fixing that, until I realised that all I needed to do to remedy this was put the pocket on the other side (and a bit higher this time). So, huzzah! Finished! And then I found that polka dot fabric and decided to line the skirt to cover up all those fraying seams. This involved unpicking all the hand sewing of the waistband and sneaking the lining in, then re-stitching. I was just finishing the hemming when Rata reappeared with her aunties and grandmother – woot! All this AND the best afternoon at the op shops since I last went op shopping. I’ve really had quite a good run.

I have just got home from Wilhe’s birthday and can report that the dress went down very well and got lots of envious eyes from other mothers who clearly wished they were my friend too (I think). And Janieke, if you’d like a copy of the pattern, I will fix you up! Happy birthday Wilhe!

So, to the Lola Dress. Lola is turning two in a month’s time, but I have already shown her dear parents the dress so will not be spoiling the already spoiled surprise.

Made from the same fabric as the Wilhe Dress, this was the first one I sewed. The hem, you will see from this photograph, was extremely economical to cut out – very little went to waste in the four that I had to cut out. All I have left of that spotty fabric is enough to make a dress for Rata sometime in the future (when Lola and Wilhe have outgrown these creations, heaven forbid, perhaps…). And then that particular aspect of my stash shall be Officially Busted.

And here it is… also without buttonholes. I was kinda worried that I had made the dress too straight – that the top is about the same as the hem (there’s maybe three or four inches difference) and that Lola wouldn’t have enough room to move her legs. BUT there is a lot of room for her to grow in it, and there will be enough room for her stride now, and as she gets bigger in the chest she will also get taller and thus there will always be room for her legs to move! So I hope it will get lots of wear.

And here is the lining, an old curtain. I’ve been having some trouble finding fabric to line things as most of my stash is too awesome to be hidden away. But with the help of a few donations of old sheets from Imogen, I will be able to line things more often. Yay Imy!

So all that is left to say, really, is that I hope I don’t accidentally hit publish on this post before Wilhe’s birthday, and spoil the surprise… happy birthdays, bebes and mamas!


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I see now that I should have picked a background colour that better suited the turquoise corduroy, but oh well. Here is a dress for Miss Rata-pie, all 68cm of her, crawling around the dirty floor, dragging her knees into a filthy black state that never shall wash out. I made this dress for Wilhe’s birthday party (more on Wilhe tomorrow).

I was so happy to find that polka dot lining buried and semi forgotten in my stash. You may be thinking to yourself (if you are a devoted fan of the spot) ‘How could you hide that fabric in the lining – it deserves to be the outer!’ Well, my friend, that fabric, though severely cute, is pure sewing evil. It is thin, slippery cotton which pulls this way and that, refusing to conform its grain to a straight line. It frays like the devil and crumples at the slightest insult. As a lining, it is still a bitch to work with, but at least its twisted ways are less noticeable. It’s a great shame, because if it would JUST SIT STILL FOR FIVE MINUTES, it would make the cutest sun dress known to man, with a floaty skirt cut on the bias and thoroughly unsuited to Wellington weather. It came from my mum’s stockpile of fabric. I coveted it for many years before finally getting my clean hands on it when I proved my sewing prowess. But all those years eyeing it up came to nothing but heartache.

The corduroy/wool combination was used to great effect on Lucy’s Rompers and I was surprised to find I had another of those green and white buttons for the pocket! The dress is the same traced around copy as the Blue Velvet number, which is currently getting a lot of wear and has recovered from the incident involving the eating of the nappy balm (coconut, sesame and olive oils, beeswax, zinc oxide and horopito extract, nom nom nom). I have one more dress of this kind to make, already cut out and MORE polka dots, and then it will be on to bigger (yes) and better (different) things. Those things shall be revealed after Wilhe’s birthday present is gifted tomorrow, but that post has been itching to get out of my drafts folder. Oh, my finest hour so far.

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Cream Duffers

I tried my hand at Cream Puffs today and, well, failed. Seemingly on a mission to make every recipe in Ladies, A Plate, I thought it would be a fun thing to make for a 1st birthday: round and perfectly formed to celebrate one’s first trip around the sun.

Well, I don’t think it was entirely the fault of the recipe. My first mistake was not measuring the hot water for the choux pastry in milliliters. I just poured in half a cup. When I went to beat in the flour, I found that it balled straight away, rather than after I had returned it to the heat, so this mixture never cooked. Perhaps that is something important, that the butter, flour and water gets hot before you beat in the eggs. I certainly beat those eggs in well – it was glossy, but rather runny. It sat fairly limp and flat on the baking tray.

But the instructions to cover with a roasting dish to keep in the steam for 30 minutes were not for this mixture or, perhaps, this oven. They burned to a crisp. They didn’t even puff! Look!

With the help of Nicole’s ‘bible’, The Joy of Cooking, we tried a few other methods of baking this dud mixture. I sprinkled water around the blobs, used a heavier baking tray and loosely covered it with the roasting dish. Fail again: burned, but at least puffed and hollow inside! Then I just sprinkled water about, left the roasting dish out of the equation, and hey presto! Still entirely the wrong shape, but hollow and not burned.

Of course, my camera battery ran out of juice and these ones were eaten before I could photograph them. Louis thought they tasted like Yorkshire puds. Next time (there will be a next time) I might find someone who has made them before to show me the ropes.

And I had hoped my accidental over-salting of my porridge this morning would be the last of my culinary mishaps today… but at least we share with all three of our readers our ups and downs…

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Oh look at that! The Guardian have helped us all out with a how-to on bunting, ‘a quintessential British garden decoration’. Now, my bunting plans have fallen by the wayside as a new distraction involving endless cutting out of circles for a secret birthday present has taken hold. And these buntings look far more elaborate than I planned to make mine (bias binding? yeah whatever…). Bunting. It’s so hot right now.

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Coconut glory.

So I’ve been making these delightful gem iron cakes, and having a mixed bag of disaster and rescue. Firstly, the recipe lists milk in its ingredients but alas! I have read the instructions repeatedly only to find no milk directions enclosed. So I got out my Ladies, A Plate and looked up the ginger gems recipe for clues as to what to do with that dastardly milk. Add it in at the end! Hooray! And need it the recipe does, because it would be pretty stiff without it.

Well, I was going to start this post with an ‘Ode to Having a Baby in the House and What Good It Does For My Baking Preparation’. It had occurred to me that babies are a blessing for the baking prep as you don’t quite know when you can start mixing, but you can get all the ingredients together and give the butter time to soften. So I had measured the butter and cut up the bits to put in the hot gem irons, and was feeling quite pleased with myself until I cooked the batter. I had accidentally picked up the High Grade Flour. I wondered why the butter in the irons was sizzling around the sides of them while it cooked – it may have been that the flour didn’t soak it up. Or maybe because I put too much in. Regardless, these gems were more like rocks. Bricks. They tasted good but oh, they were ridiculous. Flat, heavy, retarded. I began to wonder if I would ever make a gem again. And then I looked at the bag of flour. Babies + baking still do not mix.

But I had already made up the jelly. The recipe said ‘leave until it has the consistency of raw egg whites’. Did I have time to make another batch? Surely. I tried. I conquered the recipe. Victory was mine. And then I had lots of time to clean up afterwards while the jelly cooled and set to its required consistency. The gems on the right are the ones that worked – those brick-like impostors are loitering on the left.

One thing I have learned from the experience is just how quickly jelly does set once it has cooled. While dipping the cakes one by one in the jelly and then in the coconut, it seemed to be thicker with each cake. And now I have a lot of jelly in the fridge, made with only half the water and super strong. When I cave to the temptation, there will be a serious sugar headache. Oh yes. I have tried to rescue the jelly by dissolving it in more hot water and resetting it. Fingers crossed. Meanwhile, let us look at the delightful sheen of my gem irons – the one on the right has been used more, hence being shinier.

It was too sticky and messy for me to get out the camera while dipping and rolling the gems, but here is the finished product. I’m just waiting for Aaron and Perrine to turn up so we can tuck into them. The recipe made ten – so no previews for anyone, not even the chef!

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Stash Bustin’

It’s quite an attractive sounding endeavour, isn’t it? A blogger whom I like is currently on a mission to unlock the investment of her fabric collection and turn it into actual useful items for wearing. She’s also currently on a me-made mission for the month of May, wherein she only wears items that she has made herself. But we can admire that aspect of her awesomeness on another occasion. For now, I am talking about Stash Bustin’ because it is what I have set out to do. Yes, bust some stash and make everyone like me. Here is how:

A sizable portion of my fabric stash is made up of weirdly shaped, small pieces of fabric I am not willing to make into a patchwork quilt. There happens to be a half-finished patchwork quilt in the stash also, testimony to the fact that I do not like patchwork much, and it is half-finished because I laid it all out, started sewing, realised it was going to be a lot smaller than I anticipated, realised also that I didn’t have enough extra blocks of the right things to extend it and GAVE UP. Patchwork and I are no longer friends.

But having a baby in the house (and the community, thank you dear friends who have bred also) has turned me on to the potential of my stash. All those awkwardly shaped pieces are just the right size for little baby girl dresses. And rompers. Dresses take only an hour or so. I like instant gratification. It feels like a bit of win going on here.

But there’s another project buzzing around my head. Because although these dresses take up some of these awkward pieces of fabric, they don’t use them all. There’s still a square here, a triangle there. And my house is clearly in need of some party decorations. So… BUNTING! Like this:

Except not, because, um, this bunting looks kind of girly and a bit wussy. My fabric stash has way more potential than this.

So, anyway, where was I? Oh, using up every scrap. It makes sense. I figure I can make some less than conventional shapes in my bunting, because nobody can really tell me off for it. And all those little strips from getting out the pinking shears? Well, I have started a bag of them, to use to stuff things. Like the small toys I may make for small people out of other parts of my stash.

The bunting is taking a ride in the back seat right now though, because a lot of my awkward shaped fabric is still usable for baby things. And I need to pace myself. I can’t make too many dresses in Rata’s current size: in theory she is supposed to grow out of them, though at present that’s not happening much (why? I don’t know). Plus, if I get too carried away making things for all the babies I know, Rata will end up with no fabric, energy, time left for her.

But this weekend I made a dress which I think MAY be the wrong shape… for a two year old… even though I measured her. But it may end up that it is not a dress for a two year old, but a smock for a five year old. Without spoiling the surprise, the fabric comes from this dress on the left…

…and I hope that the recipient doesn’t spill red wine on hers two nights in a row like I did. The one in the photo is currently in retirement, as in a moment of poverty inspired pillaging, I removed the zip for use in its negative copy:

I find the brown easier to wear than the yellow, mainly because it is brown and NOT yellow (much) but also, in the right lighting, I look like a Brownie Leader. Helped by the inclusion, by this here stylist, of a Brownie eye patch (made by me of course, who else would do such a thing?)

But Louis pointed out today, on viewing this latest mini-Lotte creation, that the yellow dress works in minature. So if it is actually wearable for its intended recipient, there will be a photo sometime soon. After her birthday.

Also on the cards is a miniature version of the Brownie dress, using two nice squares of the brown fabric with, perhaps, a yellow collar. The yellow fabric, by the way, was from the mythical haul of 2004, where a place called Geoff’s Emporium in Auckland had amazing fabric for $3, $4 and $5 a metre, and I think the yellow was $4. I also scored some grey cotton craft fabric with a scissor print, and the piece of fabric which classifies me as a fabricophile: the dark blue pyjama flannel with white fir trees.

Seriously, make pyjamas with such a fabric? Three weeks later it will be pilled, then they’ll be worn out, and you’ll have these pyjamas you can’t bear get rid of. No, I prefer to keep this fabric in the box, get it out and stroke it sometimes and never, ever use it. EVER. This plan has worked for five years, and I don’t see any reason to change it.

(I have since been back to Geoff’s and can sadly report that they no longer stock delightful cheap fabric, only cheap and nasty cheap fabric.)

Another piece of fabric is one I found in an equally trashy London fabric shop in Hackney, white with pink, green and yellow woven into it. I don’t like wearing white, though. And can you see me getting married? Ahem. No. So this white fabric, which reminds me a little of the fabric my mum would use for cushion covers back in the 80s, will keep the flannel company in the box. They can cuddle up to one another and maybe spoon a little.

So, I lose on the Stash Bustin’ front in one way, but win in so many others. I win the affections of parents whose babies I dress. I win the affections of my house, which needs a lift from its dreary valley location and pea-soup walls (why? why would you paint a dark room darker?) and Rata will one day thank me, I hope, for making her hilarious clothes and taking cute photos of her in them. And then putting those clothes away for future cousins/generations. No siblings, thank you.

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So, first, I have a new camera. Oh Imogen, you are too generous – the camera is for Rata and I for our birthdays, which Imy will miss while she’s overseas. But what Imy will also miss is a whole six months of Rata cuteness, so giving me a camera was basically a win-win situation.

A camera needs a bag. And if that bag matches Rata’s blue velvet dress, well, that camera bag passes all tests. And look, Charlotte! I finally used one of the buttons you sent me from Germany…

The bag took me all of 30 minutes on Tuesday, when Rata slept at my dad’s house and I hooned around on Kath’s sewing machine. It does button holes – bonus! It’s hardly perfect, but it does the job, has a pocket for spare batteries/memory cards, and that long velvet ribbon strap means I can sling it over my shoulder.

Another finished project are these pyjamas… imitation Nature Baby pyjamas, which Rata had a pair of when she was just a wee mite and which I made her wear until I realised she couldn’t stretch her legs out. But equipped with a stripey remnant of cotton/polyester/lycra at just $4.20 from Global Fabrics, I have redeemed my motherly neglect by whipping up a new pair.

I realise now that stripes are meant to go AROUND sleeves, not down them, but this is what the fabric would allow – 70 cm made exactly one pair of pyjamas, with legs added on to the main body of fabric. But even though I am chemically opposed to working with knit fabrics, what with their being all unpredictable and annoying and stretchy and stuff, I think I did a pretty good job. With the help of Imogen’s overlocker, and the ‘dollar dollar bills yo’ buttons from Louis’ worn out trousers…

And hey, I can even accidentally put the pyjamas on backwards…

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