Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Eggy-Bear Bake

These days I'm finding myself increasingly traumatised by the words, "Can I have a sna-ack?".  But one snack is never enough.  Especially on cold January evenings after an action-packed afternoon at nursery. 

"Can I have another snacky-wacky-woo???"

I'm all for a bit of snacking, but as a mother, my main concern is that after 3 rice cakes with honey, a snack bar, half an apple and God-knows-what-else, he won't eat his dinner.  

Enter the bear shaped baking mould.  Instead of snacking, I entice him with the promise of cracking eggs and a bear shaped dinner.  It's pretty exciting.  And as long as I get the butternut squash in the oven to roast and the mushrooms sautéeing the second we get in from school - while he has his perfectly acceptable snack #1 - getting him to crack eggs into the moulds and spoon over the vegetables and watch them bake (for 7-10 minutes), manages to hold his attention long enough to put off his asking for another snack before dinner is ready.

And he thinks that eating an eggy teddy is pretty funny too.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Toddler Tutu

This pretty little tutu skirt is fast becoming a favourite make for friends with little girls (I love sewing for little girls; boys are so unappreciative of Mama-makes!).  This latest tutu was made for possibly the most adorable little girl I know, Lula-Rose, who celebrated her second birthday this weekend.

So simple and satisfying to make and easily grade-able for any size (of course I'm wondering... Could I get away with it???), so I reckon I might have to put together a little tutorial... at some point... but don't hold your breath.  Things are getting busier over here.

Friday, 27 January 2012


It is a happy, happy day - and a very long time coming - that I get to introduce Lady, my new studio assistant slash dress-up dolly!

I don't know what's taken me so damn long to get a mannequin.  I'm pretty sure I've made my life up until now unnecessarily complicated by not having one, and I'm pretty sure I'll look back and wonder how the hell I ever managed before.  I guess I kept putting it off for lack of funds to just casually splash on a hobby, and I can definitely blame my chronic indecisiveness for all the time spent deliberating as to whether I should be getting new or vintage, adjustable or fixed, pretty or functional... In the end I went with the Lady Valet; new (vintage too expensive), adjustable (sewing is no longer just a hobby and getting commissions means catering for all shapes and sizes), pretty AND functional (dark wooden stand, ecru fabric, and yes, I got the chalk hem marker accessory!).  Score, I say.

I now finally feel skilfully ready and suitably equipped, to tackle my Everest... a real life Wedding Dress (not for me)... Prepare yourselves for some serious duchess silk satin, georgette and lace shenanigans on the horizon!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Slowly But Surely

Observant types may have picked up on a secret project going on in these parts... It was meant to be the ultimate Christmas present - a Memory Quilt, commissioned by a Mother for her Daughter, made using her dear, late Father's shirts. 

Much to my regret, I didn't finish it in time... And things like that cannot be rushed.

So with what I had, I put together what I could: a written explanation illustrated with photos to be printed off and given on the Day, a promise of the quilt to come. While work on the quilt still continues, slowly but surely, now that the cat is out of the bag for the people who matter, I get to share with you the piece I wrote ~

Wrapped In His Memory

Two months ago I received a very moving message from your Mum asking my advice on having a quilt made for you, using all of your Father’s shirts. We met, discussed, designed (and had to sneak around a bit!), and eventually I found myself in my studio, rotary cutter in hand, a neat pile of your Dad’s shirts on my table, terrified. Not only is this the most challenging quilt design I have ever worked on, but easily, and so terrifyingly, the most emotionally valuable project I have ever embarked upon. I think I spent two days just staring before I could bring myself to cut the first piece.

After sewing the first ‘flower’ with my heart in my mouth, I saw how truly beautiful this quilt could become. So I kept going… cutting and sewing, arranging stripes, colours and textures, finding the special details to take pride of place as the flowers’ epicentres and keeping aside labels and buttons to incorporate later…

As expected with a project such as this, things never turn out exactly as planned. There have been hurdles, changes to the design and minor set-backs. But despite the extra time, these hurdles have only added to the beauty of this quilt – like the addition of white shirting ‘pathways’ to accentuate the flowers, the decision to hand-tie the quilt with individual threads rather than quilting by machine, realising I had miscalculated the width and therefore having to make more strips to bulk it out!

Darling Camilla, 

This should have been under the tree for you today, but being the work of Love that this is - from the love you shared with your Father, to the love from which your Mother conceived the idea for this Quilt, and the silent, humbling love I feel as I cut and stitch each piece – this is something that could not be rushed or hurried. And so, disappointed as I am that it is still a work of love in progress, I only hope that this is enough, for now. 

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Morning After...

Feeling a touch hungover this morning after having danced the best part of last night away, I couldn't think of a better pick-me-up than a strong cup of sweet, milky coffee and sewing up a quick and simple (quickle?) Springtime Snood on this sunny Sunday morning.

Based on Purlbee's Pompom Cowl, but made with two 1 metre lengths of supersoft viscose sandwiching the pompom braid between the edge seams (as opposed to Purlbee's version that uses one length of fabric and sews the braid directly onto the edges), this lightweight neckwarmer took only half an hour to make, and I can already see that this will be getting a lot of wear.

Now time to soothe my poor, aching (but very happy) feet in a steaming hot bath.   A lovely evening to all.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

First Finished Garment of 2012...

...and what a successful start to the year, if I do say so myself!

After having put my son to bed last night at 7:30pm, I sat down on my sofa feeling completely and utterly exhausted.  It had been a long non-stop day, I'd been up late the night before doing God-knows-what and up pretty early that morning.  Blurry eyed and yawning, I put the kettle on for a cup of my favourite Rose Yogi Tea and a hot water bottle.  As I scrolled absent mindedly through everyone's latest Pins, I remembered a beautiful skirt I'd seen... and a decent amount of red polyester crepe I had left over from this (still unfinished) dress and this pencil skirt.  Would there be enough? I wondered, as I poured boiling water into my cup.  Definitely for a paneled skirt, but what about a 1/4 circle skirt?  I certainly wasn't awake enough to embark on a self-drafted paneled fiasco, but after recent successes with self-drafted 1/2 circle skirts I thought I may as well have a go.

please excuse the nightmare mess of my studio, but I just had to get a shot mid-make, still exhausted and slightly unable to believe how beautifully this skirt was turning out to be!
I really can't even claim that the pattern for this skirt was self-drafted, but in fact completely eye-balled, as I literally lay out my fabric on the floor, and cut out a very rough curve from the corner that more or less equalled my waistline.  I didn't even bother adding a seam allowance as I knew this curved edge would end up stretching slightly.  Then I cut out and sewed a super basic waistband, inserted an invisible zipper, seamed the skirt up the back and attached the waistband.  And to prove exactly how haphazardly I went about the making of this skirt, just take a look at that hem (pre-hemming of course):

Almost shameful.  But quite funny.  Wouldn't have been so funny if this had turned out to be a disaster though...

By this time it was barely 9pm, my tea was cold, and I was feeling significantly less exhausted, possibly even a little adrenaline rush-y at the prospect of having pulled off a floor length, perfectly cut, disturbingly elegant skirt whilst practically half asleep.  All that was left to do was hand stitch the waistband fastening.  

I'd decided to make a waistband that, instead of overlapping, simply met at centre back so I could use a pretty metal hook & eye closure I once got in a vintage sewing stuff job lot on eBay.  Luckily I had 2 sets, as the hook part instantly snapped off as I was playing around with placement.  Obviously not a thing of quality then.  I sewed on the other eye part, so I now have 2 loops through which to thread a ribbon or lace to tie the waistband together.

(That old shoe lace pictured will not be residing with this fabulous skirt much longer... Just until I find something sufficiently beautiful to replace it)

still need to press that back seam...
And now to admire my new favourite skirt that took me little more than an hour and a generous dose of blind faith and spontaneity.

Actually, it seems as though recently my most successful projects have been the ones approached with exactly that let's-just-jump-right-in blind faith.  I wonder if I can apply this to other aspects of my life...?

Apologies for this narcissistic series of photos... I'm just really proud of this skirt and how well it fits!  And when I'm old and haggard at least I'll have evidence that once upon a time I had a small waist and a pert-ish bottom!!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Actually Really Healthy Cupcakes

While most of us girls begin a new year with ambitious goals of health and fitness, all those Christmas feasts usually equal a stretched out stomach that insatiably screams to be fed for weeks after, making it very hard to curb the apetite... That, and certain Bourbon Custard recipes popping up on my reader...

And so it was on this grey afternoon, unable to shake that permanently peckish feeling, I gave in and made a batch of cupcakes.  However, having just seen a pretty healthy recipe over at Jennifer Casa's blog I was determined satisfy my cravings and do my body a favour at the same time.

Using Jennifer's recipe as a vague guide (omitting the yoghurt as my son is allergic to dairy), I came up with the following recipe which is not only delicious but really is packed with super healthy ingredients and not a gram of crap.  As most of the ingredients are wet, I have done the measurements in cups as opposed to weight.

~ Peanut Butter Cacao Cupcakes ~

1 egg
1/3 cup manuka honey (ultra antibacterial and immune system boosting)
1/3 cup agave nectar (honey-like syrup, very low GI, even ok for diabetics)
1/3 cup rapeseed oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup self raising flour
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter or almond butter even better
2 tbsp ground flax
1/3 cup raw cacao nibs (insane health benefits)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Mix all wet ingredients in a bowl.
Sift in flour and incorporate.  
Mix in the peanut/almond butter, flax and cacao.
Spoon the mixture into 12 cupcake cases and bake for 15 mins.
Eat while still warm... and don't feel too bad about having another!

Christmas Makes, A Retrospective

Despite having had highly creative intentions for January 2012, it seems all I have actually accomplished so far is getting the car serviced (and other boring, but very grown up household stuff) and repeatedly writing list after list of Things To Do, Things To Make, Things To Find, Trips To Plan, and the lists go on...  I do love me a good list writing session.

But these days list writing is the only action my hands have seen since the last minute speed-knitting and power-cookathon that was Christmas Eve.  But I'm ok with that.  I've been savouring these last days of the Christmas Holidays, doing some light home reorganisation, falling even deeper in love with my sweet little boy (as if I didn't love him enough already!) and bonding with our new little Whippet pup, Mr. WhippoorWill.  Trying, and succeeding for now, to take the pressure off and really slow things down and keep myself firmly rooted in the now.  You know, Mindfulness and such.  Noticing, appreciating and absorbing, not only in relation to my son - who even at the age of 3 is growing up way too fast - but everything else from enjoying these calm and cosy white skied days, to remembering to acknowledge myself and being grateful for (and doing my best to maintain) my own health and youth, and spending as much time as I can with my family and friends whom I love so very much.  Especially two of my favourite girls who will soon be a lot less available to me as this month will see my incredibly talented sister move to Venice for 6 months to teach Art at our Grandmother's school, La Scuola Internazionale Di Grafica, and my best friend start a very fabulous but very full-time job.

So anyway, coming back from the tangent... I had just wanted to gather and share some of the things I made as Christmas presents, which for obvious reasons I couldn't document before they were given.  Some of these things came out so well that I'd definitely like to do a couple of remakes for myself and share some patterns with y'all.  Marie, are you ready to give DPN's a go?  Surprisingly easy and very profesh-looking!

This Elfin pompom hat and snood set was probably my favourite present I made.  The hat is based on a hat of my Mum's that she's been asking me to copy for ages - she got one too in red - and the snood is largely inspired by the flawlessly simple design made so famous by Karen, only with a series of yo, k2tog buttonholes through which I inserted a crochet chain drawstring with pompoms hanging off the ends.  Not for shy or retiring types, this set is pretty whimsical, possibly even comical, but unbelievably cosy knit up in Rowan's Big Wool.  The only reason I was even able to hand this over to my sister was thanks to the burnt orange colour choice - very her, not so me.

Another success using Rowan's Big Wool: a sort of decorative cabled neckwarmer held in place by a kilt pin, made for my Paternal Grandmother.

This Christmas Hamper was made for my last contribution to the Oxfam Fashion Blog, using a thrifted suitcase, but this never actually made it under the tree...

Supersoft cabled wristwarmers as seen above on my gorgeous little cousin.  My stepmum and brother also got wristwarmers similar to these.

The grown ups got little bottles of my homemade Limoncello which went down very well.  

These chunky red socks I made for my best friend, which although you can't see completely in the picture, have an intarsia heart on the heel, inspired by this free pattern.

My littlest sister got a skirt very similar to this one made using a paisley rayon and 2 layers of cherry coloured netting and there were a few hot water bottles given based on this tutorial, also put together for Oxfam.

So that's pretty much it (a few gifts still have to be made... The Colette Negroni for my stepdad and a silk dressing gown to be made from a 70s pattern for my Dad) - this retrospective has mainly just been for my own reflection and documentation but also to officially move on from 2011, saying a big Thank You not only to my family for the BEST Christmas and New Year EVER, but to everyone who has taken the time to read, comment, and generally support and encourage me on this blog.  I certainly wasn't prepared for the amazing journey it would take me on, and the wealth of inspirational bloggers I have discovered as a result.  I could gush some more about the creative/parenting blogging community, but I think anyone who writes a blog will know what I want to say, so instead: onwards and upwards to 2012!
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