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Archive for May, 2011

Houses never tidy themselves, but shorts do still make themselves in 30 minutes*.

This was a rather wild scrap from Bertie… hot pants were the only answer.

Oops this photo is a bit blurry. Much like my brain at present. The uncontrollable mess in the living room (mostly brought on by the washing moving inside on account of the weather) is getting to me. I think the only answer is to rearrange the room.

The fabric helpfully had its name emblazoned on the edge. I’m a bit sad that the pants are a little too big for Miss Rata right now – they fall down to her ankles – so they won’t be livening up winter. If it ever arrives. I wish it would arrive though – one of my parsley plants looked suspiciously as though it was was trying to bolt today. The answer to that wee problem is a howling southerly.

*Possibly if I made less shorts, my house would be tidier. But it’s also quite likely that little person wearing the shorts would make just as much mess as she always does, and I would go crazy.

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After repeated plays of this song, I now have it on repeat in my head, day and night. It is a marvellous ditty, and almost makes me want to go to Auckland. But not really, because Auckland is sprawling and sticky, while I prefer to dwell in small and perfectly formed villages. Having music on repeat in my head is handy when there is no music in my sewing room.

And I don’t know what instrument is being strummed in the intro there, but as with all of Lawrence Arabia’s music it reminds me of the things we had to play with at primary school. Now, to hit ‘Play’ again…

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And so we cross live to some autumn birthdays…

Lucy turned two! You might remember the little outfit I made for her last year. Corduroy again, eh? Well Lucy, get used to it. Winter is coming, and I demand that your birthday presents be practical! Up to a point. What use is a hooded cape? asked Louis. Well, I got the idea from here, and from a growing frustration in my own household that Rata’s jackets do not fit over her jerseys. Try changing a toddler’s clothes for fun. Better to sneak on an extra layer with just the flip of a button.

But then I began to doubt my enthusiasm. I got Rata to model it, and thought the necktie might be a bit tight. Or that it was digging into her chin. Here she is trying to take it off two minutes later. I gave it to Lucy for her birthday anyway, but said to her mum, Bree: ‘I’ll make a new collar for it if it doesn’t work.’

Lucy wouldn’t wear it for a few weeks, which made me doubt my genius idea even more. I had cut out several capes from the same corduroy for other girls-about-to-turn-two, but as another birthday party rolled around, and Lucy still hadn’t worn hers, I chickened out and gave Miss Sofia a windmill instead.

But lo! Lucy came to the party wearing none other than her autumn cape! She got interested in the button (which I was quite proud to match to most of the colours in the lining, it’s an old cream button with a greeny tint) and stood in the mirror for a while admiring it. And she says ‘Lotte!’ when she wears it. Ach! The cute of it!

So! After a particularly unawesome day with my own Mrs Toddlesworth, I headed back to the sewing machine for another birthday present, this time for Wilhemina. It has the same corduroy shell, lined with some pretty 70s tablecloth material. I’m trying to match the lining to each toddler, and by that I mean I’m trying to match the lining to the tastes and household decor of each toddler’s parents.

Then I had to model it myself, because Rata was fast asleep (for a change) and an adult can kind of fit it. Kind of. Whether the necktie is any more comfortable or practical is something I can agonise over while I get set for Lola’s birthday next month. 

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Something strange has happened. I have made a short skirt and worn it. Twice. And liked it. The first day I wore it with grey tights and my new top. The second day I wore it with the same top but green tights. And the ubiquitous black Glassons cardigan. The tights match the trim.

The thing is, although I wear skirts every day, they are always knee length. Or just below the knee. So this is quite a big thing. It would be an even bigger step to wear it without tights. But that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. You would see me wearing trousers first. And seriously, I haven’t worn trousers since 2002. Oh, there was a brief interlude in 2004. But that’s it, people. THAT’S IT.

The skirt is a soft wool suiting material found in some opshop. I followed the same method as these skirts but made the yoke shorter, did only four tucks at the front, kept the back of the skirt as one piece (without a yoke or pleats) and made a waistband. I also finished lining it – those two skirts are still without their lining. It turned out I had EXACTLY the right amount of green trim for the skirt – there was an overlap of roughly 8mm, and I decided on it entirely by accident as the only zips I had were the wrong colour so I went with mint green (and a button to match). The decision to add trim came right at the end – I had been thinking I’d make a very basic, plain skirt. Clearly I am not capable of that.

Admittedly, it is getting a bit chilly to be wearing shorter skirts. But as a means of making that shirt live forever, I have informally decided that it will only be worn with this skirt. So either I’ll be getting some thick woolly tights, or I’ll only be showing my thighs on cool but not cold days.

But first I’m going to clean that bathroom mirror… yikes.

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A recipe of cheaps!

Do millions of loads of washing in a year* and spend less than $10!

If we are friends on Facebork, you have probably noticed that I do a lot of washing. I talk about it sometimes. I talk about the weather and whether the washing is drying. I talk about the pile of washing on the laundry floor from two weeks of rain. I talk about flooding the laundry. And sometimes, like at this time of year, I talk about how it is too warm to have a fire, but too lame outside to dry the washing. Really, I talk too much about the washing.

But one thing I do not talk about is my laundry liquid. The other day I was looking aimlessly at washing detergents at Commonsense and their stated minimal impact on the environment and the number of washes you would get from the amount of detergent. All for a ridiculous price! Ridiculous, as in, unaffordable for my household and most likely many others. Which is why, I suppose, the benefits to the environment were stressed, as well as the number of washes for the price. I’m not really one for spending extraordinary amounts of money on things that should be cheap and straightforward. And my general experience of products ‘green’ is that they will try to trick you into thinking this is the only way to be green. In actual fact, whatever you want to do, there is bound to be a homemade recipe on the internet. And it probably involves vinegar and/or baking soda.

My laundry liquid does not involve either of those things, actually, but baking soda and vinegar do make up my stain removing bag of tricks (soak in water and baking soda, vinegar in the rinse cycle). Laundry liquid is almost as simple – soap flakes and washing soda. What I do is bring a litre of water to the boil, fill a bucket with eight litres of hot water from the tap, dissolve half a cup of Lux soap flakes (or you can grate a nice bar of soap) in the boiling water, add half a cup of washing soda and stir to dissolve. Then you take the pot off the heat, pour in the rest of the water, stir it around and then pour it back into the bucket. I do that little bit of back and forth with the water so that I don’t have to scrape out the pot with a rubber scraper or anything. You then leave the bucket overnight and it will have set into a white jelly. Then you use half a cup of this jelly sludge in a load of washing.

I often use a few drops of tea tree oil, always with the tea towels and sometimes with smelly things. I did once try adding essential oils to the bucket, but found it didn’t make any difference to the smell. You should just add drops to each load you do. Because that is something I haven’t mentioned yet – if you like your clothes to smell like washing detergent, you probably won’t like this method. In that case, you are welcome to pay for the smell of your favourite brand. I personally like the fresh, non-perfumed crispness of the washing, especially when it comes off the washing line. It doesn’t smell yucky, and it doesn’t fell yucky. That can only be a good thing if you’re a little baby with delicate skin or a grown up with allergies to any and all synthetic fragrances. And some adults’ skin is sensitive to soap powder, so there you have my family in a nutshell. And not a soap nut in sight.

As for the environmental impact, well, that I’m not so certain on. The box of washing soda lists a wide variety of uses, and says they contain ‘no phosphates, enzymes or bleach, making them environmentally safe’. And soap? Soap is normal… right? Here is where I come undone, but with plans to experiment. My earlier mention of flooding the laundry was no exaggeration – we have the option of either running the water from the machine through the sink and into the septic tank, or into the downpipe which comes out under the deck. The landlord looked at the downpipe, declared it dodgy and recommended I run the water into the septic tank (the reason for the downpipe being that a lot of people don’t like to overload their septic tank with water). But after a few mishaps of leaving things to soak in the laundry sink, then turning on the washing machine and later finding a puddle advancing down the hallway led me to believe that the perceived dodginess of the downpipe was probably from repeated flooding of the laundry by misfits such as me.

But hey! It’s a hodge-podge greywater system! So I’m going to make a garden beside the deck, fill it with thirsty plants (maybe artichokes too) and see if they flourish. My basic theory on the laundry liquid I make is that it is so diluted it’s impact must be minimal, but let’s test that one out. Let’s see if we can grow cucumbers that taste like cucumbers. And not like soap. BUT if you have a laundry liquid recipe that actually feeds your garden without damaging the planet, whilst ticking all my clean clothes requirements, you should leave a comment…

*This ‘year’ thing is unscientifically proven. I last bought washing soda crystals sometime in 2010 and still have half a box, while the box of Lux flakes was purchased in January of this year and the previous box purchased in September 2009. Plus we had flatmates last year…

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This is a piece of fabric I’ve had for a while, spotted at the Newtown Salvation Army in 2008 and one I felt was too special for me to cut up and potentially waste. At approximately 12.05am today, I decided that it was time. Partly because I was making a navy blue mini* skirt. Partly because I figured I could get a short-sleeved top out of it (just). And mostly it just was. Is, now.

Often I think of my unused white fir trees on navy blue flannelette as the coolest fabric I own, but this game board scrap actually IS the coolest piece. But now it is an actual garment! Stash busted!

It took a little trickery to get some sleeves. Just a little.

There will be proper photos soon, and some of the fabric itself. It seems to be an old board game, with various obstacles (Nazis included) and reminds me of my mum’s Peter Rabbit** board game from the 1950s (the one that taught me the world ‘HALT!’ at a very early age). It’s a nice cotton drill, and I have edged the sleeves with my scissor fabric. What I really wanted to do was trim the shirt with some dice fabric I have. But while the green background matches the green on this fabric, the dice were too white next to the creamy white bits on the ‘How To Play’. It made sense, but looked silly.

*I know. Am I crazy? Have you ever seen me wear a short skirt? What could possibly have gotten into me? Quite likely this. It has set the mood for short skirts and the colour blue. Now I just need to happen upon an envelope filled with cash so I may pay off my new satchel….

** Edit: I should probably clarify that Mum’s Peter Rabbit board game did not involve Nazis.

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Carrots!

‘Paris Market’ variety. I sowed two rows of carrots in January and only five germinated, all in the same spot. The eight rows I have planted since, in another part of the garden, have mostly started on the up. This time I should have some red carrots too – none of them germinated last time. This is going to be my gardening style for the time being – unless the usual version of something is incredibly easy to grow or incredibly expensive to buy, let’s just grow some oddball heirloom varieties. So, red or round carrots it is.

(These were delicious.)

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