Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Kaftanmas

I decided not to travel anywhere this Christmas, because travelling at Christmas is nuts and we always do it. It involves hours in a plane, and then hours in a car or train, or else 8 hours in a car south or 15 hours in a car north, and last Christmas we did BOTH families over 7 days both north and south which was just ridiculous, so this year I stayed home and spent Christmas Day with my Spoolette friend Amanda and her husband.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

Amanda recently made a kaftan - and it was fabulous, and not in a hippy, folk singing, creepy, key-swapping way either. When it was decided that I would gatecrash Christmas, she declared Christmas to be Kaftanmas and holy crap what's a girl to do but join in? I mean, in Canberra it's likely to be hot and sunny and we are both originally from Queensland so a kaftan is all shades of perfect for Christmas attire.

I fully embraced the concept of making the kaftan, and then realised that any shapeless kaftan on me could make me resemble Demis Roussos without the beard and the eyebrows, and a lady can't have that for Kaftanmas. Luckily I realised that Simplicity 2929 (and here I go again) View B is perfect for kaftanning it up, so I bought some blood orange tropical voile from Remnant Warehouse and I was off.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

Whoo! Kimono sleeves!

I cut the dress out on Tuesday night and I sewed it up on Wednesday afternoon after I'd finished work. It took me exactly 2 repeats and 4 songs of the latest Hilltop Hoods album which would be, I don't know, about 2 hours? Except for the slash at the centre front neckline, this view is a lot less fiddly that my usual version D or E.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

Look I'll be honest here and tell you that I don't think this is really my style. Especially not in tropical prints. But on Christmas Day it was perfect to wear - we had a very hot, extremely humid day, and if it hadn't rained so much we'd have been sitting in the park across the road so the cover up on my shoulders and arms was a lot better than my usual sleeveless style. This dress was very cool to wear, extremely comfortable, and we managed a lot of eating, drinking, more eating and even did a jigsaw puzzle before I went home and collapsed in a hot sweaty heap. And then jumped up again and got the tripod out and took photos of my kaftan for Kaftanmas. Hence the wrinkles. But it's held up pretty well I think! I wore it out to dinner with friends on Christmas night and it was still going strong and the elastic around the waist got a good workout throughout the day with all that food.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

The centre front slash I did is not perfect, but the print hides a million sins. I also slightly pressed down the neck opening because I can't stand shirts that flap around and can't make up their minds as to whether they are open or closed. Or both. I'm tempted to put a closure on the neck for future sun protection - and it actually looks quite nice closed up.

I think this is the last Simplicity 2929 I will make for a while - time to try some new dress patterns. Although I will always end up going back to this one I think. It's so versatile.

Merry Kaftanmas - Simoplicity 2929

Merry Kaftanmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat Dress

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

I made another Simplicity 2929 dress, this time to copy Princess Mary of Denmark.

I know, right? The similarities are frightening. We are so alike *snort*

Anyway, a few years ago, Tessuti Fabrics were selling this gorgeous silk/cotton voile border print that they called "Banana Gate". Hugo Boss made a dress out of it, apparently, and on Tessuti's blog post they even included a photo of Princess Mary wearing her dress to tempt me further.

Between you and me, they had me at "Hugo Boss". The only way I was ever going to fit into their clothes was to make my own from their fabric.

So I did. Might have taken me another three years, but I did it.

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

And I love it.

I used the same view as all the other S2929s I've made, but for the first time ever, I lined the skirt in cream Bemsilk. It was pretty easy - cut and sew together the same four pieced skirt, baste it to the skirt, then attach to the bodice. It wasn't even that hard to make a casing and insert elastic.

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

Here's a photo without the belt, just to give you proof on the elastic waist. Yet again, it's another confortable skirt, although I possibly could have take the skirt seams out a little as it's a bit squeezier than my others.

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

Another fabric loop, and a vintage button from the collection, and I had myself a pretty nice dress. I wore it today to my last day of work before the Christmas break, and it was very floaty and so nice to wear. I loved it! Might be a new favourite. With the bodice not being lined, it does have a tendency to cling to my bra a little bit, but it's not enough to truly annoy me and cause me to fiddle.

Princess Mary Hugo Boss Copycat dress

I can't emphasis enough what a great pattern Simplicity 2929 is. It's simply, is easy to adjust, doesn't involve bust darts, and probably the trickiest thing is working out the facing. But once that's done you're on the home stretch.

I have one more 2929 in me I think, this time in a different view. Perhaps it's my Christmas dress. Maybe then I'll retire the pattern.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Blue Japanese Double Gauze Dress

I made a dress using Simplicity 2929, almost 4 years to the day that I made the first version of this pattern.

Simplicity 2929

And this is what's so good about having a blog where you record your makes. I got to see how I made it, how it looked, and what variations I tried. When it came to making this version I decided to do away with my original adjustment of adding a couple of inches of length in the bodice. Looking at these photos, I'm really glad I kept to the original pattern. I still get the blouson look I love, but without all the extra fabric at the waistband.

Simplicity 2929

The fabric is a gorgeous navy blue Japanese double gauze that I purchased at Nomura Tailor in Kyoto. I've sewn with double gauze before, but from Spotlight, and it was pretty horrible as it detached from the punching when I cut it, and washed like a rag. This fabric, on the other hand, sews beautifully, has the most beautiful weight for a dress, and when I wash and dry it on the line, it barely needs ironing. Not bad for 100% cotton, and for a dress I have worn pretty much constantly since I made it.

Lesson learned - avoid Spotlight. Don't get me started on their cotton sateen prints that fade after one wash.

Simplicity 2929

The necklines of all my S2929s have never been as high as the one on the pattern packet - something I am thankful for. I don't like being strangled by my clothes. I didn't make any variations to this pattern except for extending the gathering an inch on each side of the darts, so I get a smoother gather and not so much middle-of-the-boob bunching.

Simplicity 2929

I also couldn't find my embroidery thread box when it was time to sew a thread loop for the back button. So I unpicked the back facing and sewed a fabric loop in. I prefer it - it looks neat. And how perfect is that vintage button?

Simplicity 2929

I'm thinking of making another Simplicity 2929. It's the perfect pattern - quick to put together, comfortable as all heck (I've been to a few Christmas parties wearing this frock, and the elasticated waist e-x-p-a-n-d-s to make things just a little bit easier when seated!

Actually, maybe I should make more than one.

Simplicity 2929

Come back tomorrow or the next day to see if I did.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Oy! Moyashi!

We're back from Japan and yes we had a fabulous time, and yes we cried when we left, and yes we're already planning our trip back. There's something about that country that just grabs you and fascinates you, and oh yeah, it's beautiful to boot. Sigh.

 I will confess that I am not a massive fan of Japanese food. I love tempura, in very small quantities, and ramen and miso broth and tonkatsu. I got addicted to sushi rolls a few years ago, but now can't even look at them without feeling queasy. So eating in Japan for me was always going to be a little bit of an issue. Amanda, Susan and Melanie, recommended we do a do a food tour in Tokyo, so we did, on our second night there.



We started off by having yakitori (grilled things on a stick) at a tiny yakitori restaurant in Yurakucho and they were absolutely delicious. It started a hunt for good yakitori every else we went, but while the place in Kyoto we found was very good, it wasn't close to the amazingness of this place.

Back to the train station and a few stops later we were in Tsukishima and our guide was cooking us Monja-yaki (which is this weird - and delicious - batter which goes kind of gelatinous and takes on every single flavour that is put into it. In this case, pork, tomato, cheese and pesto.)

Monjayaki makings

Sylvia making monjayaki

(this photo was blatantly stolen from the Tokyo Urban Adventures Instagram account ;) We weren't looking our best because beer, heat from the grill and 3 days in the same clothes due to no luggage. But we were happy. So happy.)

And then, because we obviously hadn't eaten enough, we had okinamiyaki, the famous pancake from Osaka and Hiroshima. I loved it that night although I was filling up fast!  But the second time I had it, in Kyoto, I couldn't handle the taste of the sauce (otafuku) and the mayonnaise that you put on the top once cooked. I know I'll end up making this at home though, minus the otafuku and the kewpie ;)

Okinamiyaki makings

In Hiroshima I had a beautiful pork ramen in pork broth which was so damn tasty, but that I'm still feeling the after-effects of. I should have known better - not having a gallbladder means that usually your system can't handle rich, fatty foods. And Melanie had warned me about the pork broth ... but I did it anyway. Let this be a warning to those of you without gall bladders, or who have badly functioning ones. THE PORK BROTH WILL SEDUCE YOU THEN TRY TO KILL YOU. Don't do it. However, as a weight loss method, it works, but probably isn't worth (ooooh watch those spammers come out with those magical words!!)

We went back to the same restaurant of the pork broth the next night as I was determined to find something on the menu that I could eat. And I did.

Moyashi - Gaba

It's called Moyashi, and it has bean sprouts and pork and vegetables and it's bloody delicious. We also had some gyoza and yakimeshi (fried rice) and the whole combo was so good we went back the next night for exactly the same thing.

We both loved it so much I searched for a recipe for Moyashi when we got back so I could cook it. I googled and came across a few, but I really liked this one, and I adapted it to what I tasted that night in Hiroshima at Ga-Ba, and the vegetables that we liked to eat. Looking at the photo above and what I now cook though, I think I might have included the vegetables we had in the yakimeshi (which I have also since cooked) and inadvertantly combined the two! Nevertheless, my version is so delicious, and people have asked me to share it, so here it is.

Moyashi (adapted from this recipe)
Feeds two people

  • 1 packet of bean sprouts (the packet I get from the supermarket feeds 2 hungry people)
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, very finely diced
  • 1/2 red capsicum, very finely diced
  • 1 zucchini, very finely diced
  • 15 chive stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 minced garlic
  • 250 g free range, organic pork mince (or chicken mince would probably do nicely too)
  • Sake (rice wine)
  • Soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Dried chilli flakes
  • salt, pepper, sesame seeds to taste

Boil some water on the stove, and add the washed bean sprouts for about 20-30 seconds. Drain and rinse in cold tap water, and set aside.

moyashi ingredients

It's important to have all your ingredients prepared before you start cooking. Put all the vegies except the garlic on a plate.

moyashi pork

Heat some oil in a wok on medium-high heat, and gently cook the garlic. Before it colours, add the pork, and break it up really well with a spatula as it cooks. When it is near to being cooked, add a large splash of sake, and a teaspoon of sugar. Combine and let the sake cook off the alcohol.

moyashi stir frying

Add the vegetables to the pork. Make a space in the middle of the wok and add a tablespoon of soy sauce. Let it sizzle a little bit then combine the pork and vegetables through it. Cook until vegetables are soft.

Turn the heat up and add the bean sprouts and chilli flakes. Stir so that the liquid and ingredients are combined.  Cook for about 8 minutes, adding salt and pepper and more soy sauce to taste.

Serve hot. Add some (or lots of!) sesame seeds as a garnish. In Japan they grind their sesame seeds with a special grinder - I need to get one. You can have boiled rice with this, but we never do.

moyashi finished