Sunday, January 29, 2012

The one person quilt retreat

I decided on Australia Day to quilt most of the day, without interruption. And I did.

Sewing table malfunction

Mostly. I had a sewing table malfunction when the castor wheel for my overlocker return fell off and couldn't be screwed back in. It's now detached from my sewing table and is sitting in the naughty corner with a business card box "chock" until the home handyman can get to the hardware store to get thread repair.

Kaffe Fassett diamonds quilt

First quilt on my agenda was the Kaffe Fassett diamond quilt I'd started in a class with him last year. I laid the remaining diamond on my spare bed, ready to sew into strips, and put the design wall back into action.

Kaffe Fassett diamonds quilt

This is all I had done before I had lost interest in my last quilting session. Personally, I find piecing diamonds HARD. My brain just doesn't tend to work beyond straight horizontal and vertical lines.

Kaffe Fassett diamonds quilt

Kaffe Fassett diamonds quilt

Before I knew it my design wall was getting full.

Kaffe Fassett diamonds quilt


Kaffe Fassett diamonds quilt

I was finding new uses for washi tape as the width of the quilt moved past the boundaries of my design wall.

Kaffe Fassett diamonds quilt

And by the time my shoulders started screaming at me to stop, I had this on the wall. I still have to sew the strips to each other, but I think this is great progress. It is going to be a massive quilt.

Kaffe Fassett diamonds quilt

Since Australia Day I've sewed two more strips as time allows. I'm really loving this quilt. It's kind of turned into a spectacular thing and I'm not sure I'm worthy of it. But I'll get over it.

Wonky quilt

With my shoulders refusing to cooperate at the sewing table any longer, I moved to the sofa, where fortunately I could hand quilt while watching the tennis. I enjoy the slow process of quilting this quilt. During an insane/tired moment, during the fifth set between Murray and Djokovic at about 12.20 am, I thought I could perhaps finish this quilt in time for show and tell at the first guild meeting for 2012.

And then I remembered that I don't do deadlines any more.

It can wait until the March meeting. Or April.

Or November.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Quilting by hand

Quilting the wonky quilt

It's been a while since I hand quilted a quilt. But I'd already thread basted the wonky quilt and want to finish it so it can be used. So it was time to get the perle cotton and my thimble out to play.

Quilting the wonky quilt

A lot of the marks I'd made back in August had faded, so I marked them again.

Quilting the wonky quilt

I ended up not using the sashiko needles as they were too hard to "rock" through the quilt. I used some No. 8 Clover needles instead. They are working out really well.

Quilting the wonky quilt

My stitch is not so perfect, but that's good as the quilt isn't perfect either. I've been enjoying the process of stitching all the quilt layers together while watching the tennis on the TV this week. It's soothing and meditative which is just what I've needed lately, and I can't stop. It will be finished in a week, at this rate.

Quilting the wonky quilt

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Maxi cheesy mini quiches

Mini quiches

In my last week of holidays, Cam and I had a bit of an online baconpalooza, Instagramming our photos of baconny goodness to each other each day. It was possibly the best week of my life.

I had a lot of comments on the mini quiches I made, so I though I should share the recipe. My brother showed me how to make these many years ago and I've been making them ever since, so all credit goes to him. They freeze well, making them perfect for school work lunches. And if you have leftover vegies or smallgoods in your fridge, these are perfect for using those up.

You will need:

  • 3 sheets of puff pastry, thawed
  • 5 eggs
  • milk
  • Fillings.* (I used 3 rashers of bacon, a couple of green onions/shallots and 3/4 cup grated tasty cheese)

Mini quichesPreheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, and grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

Remove rind and fat, and dice the bacon. Fry until cooked/crispy. In the meantime chop up the shallots. Remove the bacon from the pan and wilt the shallots. I add a little cracked pepper to the shallots, but that's a personal preference. Remove shallots from heat and let both cool a little.

Mini quiches

Cut 4 circles from each pastry sheet. If you use a 10 cm diameter ramekin this works perfectly! Then cut a slit from the centre of the circle to the outside. Place each circle inside the muffin hole, and press down gently, overlapping the pastry as required. Don't press down too much. Relaxed is what you want.

Mini quiches

In each muffin hole distribute bacon, shallots and cheese evenly.

Mini quiches

Lightly beat the eggs in a measuring jug, then mix in enough milk to bring it to about 450 ml. You may have bit left over, but better too much than not enough. The more fillings you put in the muffin holes, the less egg mix you will require.

Mini quiches

Carefully pour the egg mix into each hole. Make sure you don't go above the levee bank of pastry! MESSY!

Place in oven for 20-25 mins, until the top is no longer wobbly and it is golden brown.

Mini quiches

Cool in tin for 10 mins and then pop out of the tin and cool on a rack. Or eat. Whatever suits you! They are lovely warm or cold. With salad or scoffed all by themselves.

Mini quiches

* Other ideas for fillings: caramelised onions and blue cheese; spinach and fetta; chicken and leek; ham, cheese and capsicum. Let your imagination go wild!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Second day back

On my second day back to school work I wore a new uniform outfit that I'd finished making at the end of the school year before Christmas. Today promised to be hot, so it was perfect for wearing light summer work wear.

Embroidered skirt and Not Sorbetto top

Going back to work - doesn't it make you feel like you should be sharpening your pencils and nuggetting your shoes the night before? Yeah - neither of those things happened here, either.

Yes, it's another Simplicity 2938 top. I'm not even going to talk about it, except to say it's a very light chocolate-coloured voile from Spotlight and I quite like it.

But the skirt is something different. I drafted it myself. It wasn't hard. A rectangle for the skirt, and another rectangle for the waist band. I made the waistband to fit perfectly around my waist, and then played the rest by ear. In this case, I pleated the skirt. By ear. And then put a zipper in the back seam. There are no side seams as I cut the fabric along the length rather than across the width.

Embroidered skirt and Not Sorbetto top

The fabric is from Tessuti and I bought it online in early 2010 at the same time as I bought the White Flowers dress fabric. It is an embroidered cotton, and is very fine and floaty, except for the heavy embroidery which keeps it weighted down. I lined the skirt with a darker teal Bemsilk. Because I had no pattern I had to make up the lining as I went along as well. This whole skirt was made up as I went along. Let's be honest. But I think it kind of turned out OK.

Embroidered skirt and Not Sorbetto top

Of course I did a hand-picked zipper because I love them and not because I'm obnoxious. Oh no.

Having worn a self-drafted skirt for a whole day now, I can say that I was generally pleased with how it wore. However I wish I had made fewer pleats and made those pleats a bit deeper. I ended up with a small bubble of fabric around the bum, as there wasn't quite enough deep pleating towards the back zipper. I guess that's the problem with wearing a non-shaped rectangular skirt.

Embroidered skirt

My other mistake was running out of interfacing the day I made the waistband, and using that revolting stiff paper fusible interfacing out of a packet instead. It was in my stash. I have no other excuse for using it. It's not very forgiving, and as a result my skirt twisted around me all day meaning I was forever straightening it up. I think I've mentioned before that I have no feeling at all on the right side of my abdomen thanks to the surgery, so that may have contributed to the problem as I couldn't feel the skirt moving at all.

But really I'm happy with this outfit. It's very wearable, the cotton is perfect for a hot day at work and it looks good with red accessories. As a rule I don't wear chocolate brown as I find with my olive colouring and brown hair I tend to fade to invisibility while wearing it. But augmented with teal and red it seems to work OK for me.

For my next post I promise some quilting. Or cooking. I'm kind of over this dressmaking business for the time being.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

First makes of 2012

When I mentioned in my last post about taking it easy when it came to making things this year, I was deadly serious. I refuse to take part in any more deadline work - in fact the only deadline on my mind is the August quilt show, and if I work consistently towards that it won't be an issue. And if it becomes an issue, I won't put my quilt in. It's that easy. No stressing. I don't need things that I get enjoyment out of to stress me out. Life is for living, not stressing. If I learnt anything out of the drama that was last year, that was it.

Simplicity 2938

Here is the first make for 2012 - something I cut out before Christmas, started making between Christmas and New Year as time and energy allowed and finished sometime around the 2nd January.

Yes, it's another Not Sorbetto Simplicity 2938 - my fourth and definitely not last. I don't think I've mentioned how good this pattern is. It's a perfect fit, and that doesn't happen with patterns for me very often. In fact the other night I basted a shirt with an entirely different pattern for something different to sew, and it's a horrible fit. It is spending time in the naughty corner until I can rip the basting out and start again with a change in the darts and taking in/letting out at the seams. In the meantime, I'll stick to Simplicity 2938 because I know it works.

Simplicity 2938

The fabric is from Spotlight and it is embroidered cotton. When I first made this top I was concerned about how stiff the fabric was, even after pre-washing it. But on the second washing with soap and a good iron, it turned out quite soft and a little bit drapey. Which is just as well - I bought this fabric in another three colours.

Armorique shawl

And here's my first crocheted item of 2012. It's another Armorique shawl and I made it for a swap my knitting/crochet group were having this morning. I really enjoyed making this shawl (except for the deadline/rushing part) even though I've made it before and normally would have been bored with it. But one of the things that happened last year with the illness and surgery (and probably the large amounts of morphine) was that I lost quite large chunks of my memory. One of the chunks seems to be the first making of the shawl. I cannot remember a thing about it, but photos and the shawl itself prove that I made it. So it was like making something for the first time.

Armorique shawl

I can't even remember making these little leaves on the outside of the shawl last time. These were a  lot of fun. I left them unblocked - just flattened them down with my hands and hoped for the best.

Armorique shawl

Speaking of blocking, I didn't do it very heavily. I used wires across the top of the shawl, and then pinned out the rest, just loosely. The yarn is Glenora Merino/Silk/Possum and it's really lovely to work with, despite my possum allergy. Would use it again, definitely (which is good - I also have it in black).

Armorique shawl

I only managed to take one photo of the recipient wearing it today. I hope she likes it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughts on making stuff


I'm still on holidays which has been blissful except for falling ill on Sunday and the resulting self-banishment to the spare room due to me not wanting to spread my germs. Plus I've had asthma pretty bad, and there's been a little too much wheezing and coughing going on and the other person in the house needs to sleep as that other person had to go back to work this week.




Anyway, one of the benefits of sleeping in the spare room is that I can sit up in bed under quilts and do whatever craft is going to make me sleepiest (usually it's crochet). And in the morning I get to sit up in bed under quilts and be delivered cups of tea and orange juice and the newspaper. Spoilt much? Rubbish - I thoroughly deserve it.

Cup of tea in the morning

So while I've been sitting up in bed morning and night, under quilts I've made and rugs my mum crocheted, I've had a lot of time to think about what I'd like to make this year. Also - my quilt design wall faces me in bed and taunts me with it's unfinished Kaffe-ness. All the bloody time.

My design wall, taunting me from the spare bed

In addition, today I finally finished a shawl for a deadline. Loved making it, but hated it at the same time. Because it was deadline crochet and that just doesn't feel as nice to me as un-rushed crochet.

Shawl, soaking

With this crochet project finished, and the unfinished Kaffe-ness taunting me, and the fact that I am using a single sized quilt on a queen sized bed because the quilt I was supposed to have finished years ago still isn't finished and even though I love the colourful quilt, it's not the quilt that's supposed to be there and ... see what I mean?

Spare bed with spare quilt

Anyway. Here's what I've realised. *

1. I've realised that this year I don't want to crochet anything that isn't the red cardigan I have planned, or the grey cardigan I have to finish. Crochet isn't interesting to me at the moment and really a person doesn't need as many shawls, scarves and hats as I have. I don't need more.

2. In the last two weeks I have been decluttering like a madwoman. I have decluttered me-made sewn items, all because they didn't fit right, or were uncomfortable. I actually threw out quite a bit. It felt good to be completely ruthless and my wardrobe looks better for it. So this year, I want to sew good quality items that will be there for the long haul. I have a cupboard full of gorgeous fabric, and I want to make more skirts for winter and maybe some long sleeved tops and dresses for work too. I picked up some great books on garment construction last week, and I am going to learn how to adjust and adapt patterns better.


3. I want this year to be the Year of the Quilt. I want to go back to what got me into crafting communities, both online and real-life back in 2000. In addition to finishing the twisted hexagon quilt I started seven years ago, I want to learn some patience in my cutting and piecing. On Twitter, we have been discussing the Swoon quilt-a-long. Even though I know this quilt is perfect for training me to cut and piece better, I have been resisting joining in as I don't want to do what everyone is doing. But I also want to do what everyone else is doing. I am SO CONFLICTED. And you would be too. Swoon is, well, swoonworthy.

Swoon quilt
(photo by Sew&Sews)

And then my fellow Kaffe-aholic B-Fab talked me last night into making this Sarah Fielke quilt in, yes, another quilt-a-long. I'm totally in. Conflict schmonflict.


Photo from Lecien website

And then I also need to finish my Kaffe Quilt. I have a quilt planned for my Lotta Jansdotter fabric I bought in New York, and my Tequila Sunrise quilt never got off the ground last year even though the fabric is washed, ironed and just sitting there.

So those are my plans. I don't want to be frantic while I'm making. I don't want to be possessed by doing a million things at once. I want to eliminate deadlines. Learn patience. Become a better quilter and a better seamstress. I may very well sell the yarn stash. And I don't care if I do or don't.

The good news is I still have three days of leave and I'm starting to feel better. And I'm really excited about what I can accomplish this year. So excited.

*sorry for the ramble!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The 2011 Christmas frock

As I explained last year with the making of the Christmas Skirt, making something to wear on Christmas Day is a tradition I decided to bring back from the days my mum used to make me a new Christmas, or school break-up free each year.

This year was no different. When I picked up this gorgeous soft cotton drill from Mood Fabrics in New York in late October, I knew it would be a Christmas Dress. It was summery, light and cotton, and if I made it in a Not Sorbetto tea dress style it could look quite classic and wearable.

Question: What does this photo tell you?

Christmas Frock

Answer: I need to find a red vintage handbag to wear with this dress.

Question: What does this photo tell you?

Christmas Frock

Answer 1: That it was fortunate I didn't end up with a rose motif over each boob, a la the Jesus arms butt skirt.

Answer 2: That I don't do blond surfer streaks in my hair very well.

Christmas Frock

To be perfectly honest I'm getting a teensy bit tired of the Not Sorbetto (Simplicity 2938). Not wearing it mind you - just making it. I have quite a few versions of the Not Sorbetto in top and dress form hanging in my closet. It's a brilliant pattern, but enough might soon be enough. So I decided to change the neck details on this dress - instead of the inverted pleat at the centre, and the two knife pleats on the outside, I gathered the neck instead. I like the effect. If the facing actually decided to ever sit where it is supposed to, I would totally LOVE the effect.

Christmas Frock

I felt this dress needed something at the waist. I toyed with the idea of making a red belt to go with it, but then realised that all it needed was a little red trim.

Besides who needs to be wearing a belt on Christmas Day when your brother has cooked an amazing feast? Belts out a notch, anyone?

Luckily I had the perfect amount of red baby ric-rac in my stash from the Blythe clothes-making days to embellish my dress with. And I discovered that baby ric-rac is quite the little bastard when it comes to attaching it by machine. I tried three times, and ended up with a wonky mess each time. In the end I hand stitched the ric-rac down which took a couple of hours, but the result was worth it.

Christmas Frock

I did my third ever hand-picked zipper. I love doing these. I actually find them easy to do, and they are so accurate too. Much better than sewing in by machine and I love the look of those tiny little stitches.

I really love this dress and I think it might be my favourite dress of all time. I love the softness and also the density of the fabric. And the print is amazing with its pixellated roses almost looking a little like camo close up. I wore it tonight to dinner with friends and on the walk to the restaurant I felt taller and straighter than I have in a while. It's almost like I feel I have to have a better posture in order to belong in this dress. And that's a really good thing.

I have a wedding in late April to attend in Bowral and I think it might be a contender against the White Flowers dress I made for my brother's wedding. Matched with the red silk/satin wedding stole from my own wedding, I think it could look pretty cool.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mid-week break, with craft

On Wednesday the Mister and I took off for Sydney for a couple of days of F&F&B (fabric and friends and books). It had been a stinker in Canberra the days leading up to our mini-break, so we were really looking forward to sea breezes and, let's be honest, hotel air conditioning.

Sydney mid-week break

We (I mean I) decided we'd pop into Tessuti Fabrics in Surry Hills on our way to Potts Point. But first we had to quench our thirst at the Lord Albert Hotel down the street with a little non-alcoholic beverage.

Sydney mid-week break

Thirsts quenched, we went to Tessuti. Thank heavens for the husband sofas and good reading material because I was about to go a little crazy! I found this gorgeous fabric that reminds me of the rusty fabric my friend Wilma makes by leaving fabric in her back yard in the rain for weeks with washers and steel wool wrapped inside it. Ironically, this fabric is 90% cotton 10% metal.  And sheer as anything, but I had to buy it so I could make a skirt out of it. Don't worry - I also bought underlining for it.

Sydney mid-week break

And then maybe I bought some cotton silk voiles, and another underlining, and threads. Not too bad for an hour of shopping in the heat.

Sydney mid-week break

The real reason we were in Sydney though was to visit our friend Patricia. She came to our hotel on her way back from work, and that evening we traipsed around Potts Point and Kings Cross for an hour trying to find a nice place for dinner. In the end we dined about 50 metres from our hotel, at Fratelli Paradiso. My goodness - it was so good. Possibly one of the best meals I've had in Sydney, and I failed to take a photo of my pasta scampi, or my pannacotta, or Patricia's delicious looking cannoli. You'll just have to believe me. It was really good.

Sydney mid-week break

As much as I miss having her in Canberra with me, I love that she's become such a great excuse for us to visit Sydney too.

Sydney mid-week break

The next morning I was up early thanks to the sun, and on looking out the window decided I was not tired of this view, even after staying at the same hotel for almost 17 years.

Sydney mid-week break

Today was the day I decided to give up coffee for a while. Silly, silly me. But I was off to a great start with this freshly squeezed mango, banana, pineapple and grenadine frappe. Yum.

Sydney mid-week break

And then this heart-stopper of a breakfast. (The baked beans were rubbish, and who puts lettuce on a breakfast plate anyway?)

And then it was off to check out our favourite store in the world, Kinokuniya Books. With a caffeine-withdrawal headache of astronomic proportions.

Sydney mid-week break

I seem to have gone right off quilting, general craft/sewing and crochet books lately, but show me a dress making book and I'm all over it. I was thrilled to find that Pattern Magic was now in English - I have lusted after it for so long! Along with Vol 2 of that series, I bought a couple of books on garment construction, and a quilt pattern.

Sydney mid-week break

Then a few hours later it was time to get back in the car and drive home to Canberra. Thank goodness for the cricket on the radio - going home always seems to take so long.

Sydney mid-week break

But as soon as I got home I washed all my fabrics, plus another Tessuti fabric I bought before Christmas, and with the hot wind blowing they were all dry in 20 minutes.

If I hadn't been so tired I would have sewn something straight away. Imagine if I'd had a garment to show you in this blog post? That would have been insane. Instead you, and I, are going to have to wait.