Oct 13, 2013

I love school holidays!

For the first time in three years, we had a holiday with just the four of us. I didn't want to leave. I thought four days up at the Bunya Mountains would be plenty (before the kids developed cabin fever without all their toys), but they didn't want to leave too. Brisbane had four very hot days, so we were lucky to be up in the mountains where it was a few degrees cooler, with a beautiful rainforest just down the road and green parrots that ate out of your hand while we ate breakfast on the deck.


We hung out on fallen tree stumps.


Swung on vines.


Carried a three year old down to see the waterfall and then back up again. Twice.


And loved seeing these beautiful wallabies carrying their joeys just outside the door.

It's so peaceful and relaxing. The only bad parts were the ticks (I had a couple down my shirt!) and stinging nettles (yep, I stepped on one).

We've already promised the kids a long weekend next year in winter, just so we could use the fireplace.

After the three hour drive, we came home to this:


A chinese star jasmine explosion over our front gate. It smells divine.

And because this is my sewing blog, here are a few things I made this week:


A baby quilt for a family friend.


An a work in progress for the shop. I love school holidays!

Sep 21, 2013

I've been having fun putting food in jars

Forget sewing, I think I've found myself a new and delicious hobby. Stuffing yummy things into jars and boiling them for 10 minutes!


Yesterday I made more strawberry jam (as it's the last of our local strawberries) and just because the pot of water was still hot I decided to try out some Pickled Asparagus, with only two bunches of asparagus. I'm hoping these will taste great as they are very simple to make and asparagus will be pretty cheap in the next few weeks.

Today I made fruit chutney.


I used this recipe but changed the plums to apples and pears, and for the dried fruit I used a mix of dates, sultanas, prunes and cranberries. It is delicious! I actually made some a few weeks ago (just after my first jam success) and it's nearly all gone. This time I doubled the quantities. The house smells like barbeque sauce as it's cooking (I think you could actually water it down a bit and purée it and it would pass as barbeque sauce).


Both the recipes that I used above are written by Marisa McClellan, who has a fantastic blog called Food in Jars. She creates recipes that may only make 2-4 small jars of food, so you don't need to spend all day cooking or need to spend a lot of money on produce (or need a big area to store it all). I'm so excited by her recipes that I've ordered her book and am impatiently waiting for it to arrive!

As you can see from the photo above, I've been making a few small batches over the last few weeks:  Strawberry and blueberry jam (the best!), strawberry and apple jam (with less sugar) and just plain strawberry with grated orange and lemon peel. I think I now have enough strawberry products to last us until next year!

In other fun food news, I also made some Chai Tea/Milk Flavouring out of condensed milk.


It's just a can of condensed milk (I used the skim stuff) with a couple of teaspoons of ground cinnamon, some freshly grated nutmeg and ground cardamom (maybe three quarters of a teaspoon of each) and about a quarter of a teaspoon of ground cloves. Mix it up and store in the fridge.

I didn't have any pre-ground cardamom or cloves so I bashed them in a mortar and pestle. It's unfortunately a little chunky, so I'll definitely use pre-ground spices next time. To use it, just add two teaspoons to a cup of black tea (I also add a splash of milk too) and drink it up. Just don't drink the very last bit if you grind your own spices as it kind of makes your mouth numb...

The kids love it in warm or cold milk too. I shake it up in a unused jar and they drink it with a straw!

And with my flat-leaf parsley about to run up to seed, I quickly harvested a gigantic bunch, gave them a good wash, picked out three small caterpillars, spun it dry (the old fashion way - crazy spinning arm holding a bundled up tea towel outside), chopped it coarsely (just the way I like it), packaged into zip lock bags and placed it lovingly into the freezer with a big smile. There it will sit until I need a bit of parsley for some pasta sauce, and it's long gone from the garden (and it's overpriced at the shops).


Parsley freezes really well (and stays green), and if you don't chop it too finely (as it extracts too much liquid) it freezes all loose and not in a giant hard clump, making very easy to use in cooking.

I'm just hoping I got all the caterpillars out of there first!



Aug 30, 2013

Hooked on Jam Making and Hat Making Apparently

What do you do with 6 half pints of strange jam?

Empty those jars out into a big glass container and give it away to an unsuspecting relative who likes the taste, and make some new jam!


But this time, use jam making sugar with added pectin.

I really didn't want to waste any more good fruit, so I succumbed to the CSR Jam Sugar. A kilogram of fruit (and a little added lemon rind) and two bags of sugar, five minutes of boiling (not 50 minutes like last time) and it's done. Perfect Strawberry Jam.

Typically - I couldn't help myself - I made another batch (each batch makes 5-6 230ml jars). Then I went to my sister's and made a batch for her. Then I ordered some more jars and lids. Now I plan to make a half-batch with just one packet of sugar and 500g of mixed blueberries and strawberries tomorrow.

I will never buy strawberry jam again, it is so good. I feel like I need to have enough of this jam to last my family until next strawberry season (so I should make more right?), but then again summer's coming and with it peaches, apricots and plums. Jam making is addictive (too bad about all the sugar though). I'll have to branch out into making pickles so we don't get type 2 diabetes and cavities.

And for all those Aussies out there, did you know they sell regular mouth Ball Mason jars (the brand I used) in Big W? My local store doesn't have the half pint size like in the above photo, but I picked up a dozen pint sized ones for $29 and the lids are $2.97 a dozen. Beats paying and waiting for shipping!

And typically, I can't just sew a few hats for my kids, I have to go and make six more to donate to school fundraising.



I'm definitely going to up size this pattern to fit my head!

Aug 23, 2013

I made strange jam

I attempted to make some Strawberry Jam today. It was my first time at it, but I had high hopes. What a way to ruin 1.5kg of beautiful strawberries, four lemons and six ball jar lids.


I was following the Australian Woman's Weekly recipe (1.5kg fruit, 1.1kg sugar and 1 cup lemon juice), but I cooked it too long - just trying overly hard to get it to set on that darn frozen plate. It's not burnt, but it's not the Bonne Maman Strawberry Conserve I had in my preserving dreams.


It looks nice, but it is way too lemony and thick. I love lemon, but somehow it's just too much and you can't taste the lovely strawberries. I even water bath processed them, so they'll last a whole year on the shelf.


I want to try again, but what do you do with six half pints of strange jam?

I'm thinking lots of jam drop biscuits.

Aug 16, 2013

Book Week 2013 and other bits

It's that time of year again! Book week always seems to sneak up on me (and it doesn't help that school only gives parents a couple of weeks notice), we panic a little, and then go through every book we own and try to work out a character to dress up as. R wanted to go as the tree from the book Stuck (by Oliver Jeffers), but the nasty cold/chest/cough thing that I've had for the last two weeks put a stop to that. He went as Puss in Boots instead.


I reused the hat and belt from his Robin Hood outfit two years ago. Those medieval outfits just all look alike, so just add some felt for a buckle and knee high 'boots' (I even used a fancy stitch to edge the tops of them - and they sit above his black school shoes), a cape/cloak made out of panne velvet (which is awful to hem), a quick tunic complete with no hemming and his little brother's red pants and you're done!


Don't forget the whiskers and tail (which was borrowed from the little guy but sadly does not appear in the photos) and you're done! He was the only Puss in Boots this year, which was pretty cool.  Amazingly, nobody dressed as Harry Potter!

In other exciting news, I've made a couple more hats. An extra small one for my new little nephew and a camo grey one for R. Both these hats have lightweight black denim on the underside as well as the interfacing. I think the extra weight will help them stay put on a windy day. Such a great pattern - I've even cut out a few more for next year's school fete.



Somehow, whilst feeling under the weather, I began dreaming of making jams, especially strawberry as it's currently in season. I've never made jam before, or done anything else that goes in a jar hot, but the urge was strong enough to make me order some small jars, lids and utensils.

I also has visions of making my own tomato sauces, dill pickles and preserved fruit in giant jars, but then reality set in when I worked out just how much those jars cost, then the produce cost, storage space and then the worry about food poisoning and botulism.

I decided to go low scale and just make small quantities of seasonal jam and mustard pickles in half pint (230ml) containers. I'm thinking the small size will get used up quickly (so we won't get bored of the same flavour) and won't take up too much room.


I just bought a dozen regular mouth Ball Jars from Ozfarmers if you're interested. I really want ALL sizes of Ball Jar (especially the blues one) as I'm a jar lover, but it will have to wait until I get the gigantic kitchen of my dreams.

And now I'll just have to go and find some strawberries for a good price and get jam making. I'm still going to make some dill pickles with summer cucumbers, but I'll be making these Refrigerator Pickles instead.


Aug 4, 2013

The Clam Hat

If you just ignore the fact that the clam fabric is upside down, let me present to you the littlest guy's new bucket hat!


It is of course the fantastic oliver + s  free Reversible Bucket Hat Pattern. This is unfortunately the biggest size (21"), so I will have to look elsewhere for any larger sizes. Fabric is Clam Bake from Dear Stella on one side, dark blue homespun on the reverse.


It is ever so easy to make, I even did it on this:


Oh yes, I turned the Singer 99k into a hand crank! It like a new toy. The boys have been having so much fun with it too, cranking away while I steer the fabric (sewing even more lavender bags). I thought it might be tricky to sew with, but it really is very easy to guide the fabric with your left hand and turn with your right. The bobbin still even works (it's also a great arm workout).

I bought the hand crank from here. The overall quality of the hand crank isn't the best - not like the beautiful enamel finish on the actual machine. I think it's all just black paint on fairly rough metal, but it does it's job well. And as an added bonus - I have a working Singer motor to use on another machine!

It's so nice to be able to just walk up to the machine and start sewing - no foot controllers and power points to plug in, no worries about leaving the machine on and things heating up. The only downside it you were thinking of converting to one (apart from speed), would be the lack of light at night. This baby came without a light anyway, but I have come up with an alternative:


An IKEA led portable light that is conveniently magnetic! Press on and off. Fantastic. The littlest guy, thinking it was funny, stuck a bunch of fridge magnets on the machine, and guess what we worked out?  Flat magnetic fridge magnets can be used as seam guides! (I'm sure lots of people already know all this, but I'm obviously a bit slow).

Oh, and if I wanted, I could take her outside into the garden to sew while watching the kids play, or down to the creek to throw rocks, or on a boat, or in the car. Imagine what muscles I'd have...


Jul 26, 2013

I'm a guest blogger today!

Hello to my lovely readers!


Today, I've written my first ever guest post over at Make it Handmade. Go and check out my Handmade Confession, and while you're there, have a look at all the amazing tutorials!

Jul 20, 2013

Sweetness


49 of these.
Some sashing between.
Maybe a scalloped edge.
A vintage inspired quilt for my bed.
But it has to be hand quilted.
I need to learn how to do that.
Probably need a thimble too, right?

I've been inspired. A very quick tour through the Quilts Exhibition at QAG with the boys on the school holidays was all it took. Seeing all those lovely antique hand made quilts with imperfect stitches, I knew I should at least try. I wish I could have taken photos for you.

Oh, and I had to have the Hello Kitty Liberty Fabric Mug from the Gallery Shop.


As I cannot afford Liberty fabric, some similar (I can only assume as I have never touched the real thing before) Lecien will have to do. Especially at $7.95 per metre.


I wonder how long this is going to take?

Jul 17, 2013

Tiger


It started as a remnant.
He thought it was wonderful.
He's been wearing the tail for more than a month now, day and night, just tucked into his pants.
Every now and then he will meow.
Sometimes my arms get licked.
If he loses the tail it's the end of the world.
I've now cut it in half and sometimes I wear the other one. I am mummy tiger after all...

May 23, 2013

Baby Shower Gifts

I'm going to be an Aunty again soon as my little sister is about to pop! I did a little last minute sewing for her little one a few weeks ago. You can't go past a little home made baby shower gift.

Best thing for sewing:  Piece of leftover flannel (sitting beside the machine) collects and keeps all those pesky little treads before they go on the floor.
Boxed out bag for storing nappies or toys.  No pattern, just used half a yard of fabric with a few scraps left over.  The lining is Riley Blake chevrons.


Bibs backed with Organic Bamboo French Terry. The orange will hide those pumpkin stains.


Jumbo flannel wraps. 100% cotton flannel from Spotlight. So snugly for a winter baby.


And a zig-zag baby quilt. All beautifully matching the nursery Yellow, Grey and White colour scheme.


I can't wait for his/her's arrival, 'cause that means more sewing! Just no zips though.

May 21, 2013

The great fete sew up!

It's that time of the year again. Doing crazy amounts of sewing for our school fete. Unfortunately for my littlest guy, the manic sewing begins on his Birthday weekend. There's nothing like having a bunch of female members of your family over for some cake to inspire you to sew, especially when one sister does all the cutting, and you have to do is sit down and sew. Last year was bibs, this year contains plenty of zips!

We made:

Michelle Patterns Business Card holders, which my oldest is now using to transport Pokemon cards to school in (for swaps at lunchtime). I thought these would be great to put all those coffee and loyalty cards that overflow your purse in.

We all kept one of these ourselves!
Medium sized toiletry bags and coin purses (with little split rings) inspired by Noodlehead's Tutorials. We used whatever size fabric we had and made it up as we went.

I've changed that purple ribbon to yellow now.
Michelle Patterns Just a Pinch Pot Holders. These are the perfect size. Mum made these and she made two for me too.


Pencil Cases. The gathered ones are made by my sister.


And some larger toiletry bags. I will never buy a toiletry bag again, they are so easy to make.


I had a few donated pieces of fabric (Kokka sample scraps no less!), but the majority of the fabric and all the zips and notions came from the stash (and many expensive trips to Spotlight). There is a lot of heavy  interfacing in all those bags!  I figure I'm not going to be making cakes for the fete this year so I can go crazy with the sewing. Hmm, and there are a few really ugly bits of fabric that I managed to get rid of...

Not pictured are six small Michelle Patterns Grocery Bags already made and 6 waiting to be sewn and another 7 coin purses languishing as I've had enough of zips....

I think I'm almost sew out. It is nice to create these little things that I normally wouldn't sew. Also, even if it is only once a year, it's great sewing with my sisters and mum too.

And here's my littlest guy who's now 3. Little sweetheart, you're growing too quickly!

Apr 21, 2013

Pants Time

It's time for pants. It's finally getting cool, and the overlocker's loving the attention. So, goodbye summer pyjamas and hello long pants!


Seven pairs for the little guy who grows so quickly. Three very cute flannels and the rest cotton knits. Some with the Faux Cuff, others just hemmed on the sweet Singer. No bought pattern, just traced from some existing pants. I even made the elastic waist roomy for comfortable sleeping. I love this kind of mindless sewing. No pockets or zips. The final step of putting the elastic in takes longer than sewing the pants together.



I had to go back to Spotlight today to buy some more of that bicycle flannel. I bought the last 3.5 metres (it was on sale)!

With all this pants sewing I realised that I can no longer make a pair of pants for the little guy with just a half metre of fabric. A lot of the knits I buy online come in half metre increments (like that yellow Stella above), so there will be extra expense and a bit of wastage. Darn growth!  I guess there will be a stage when it's going to be really costly to buy more expensive fabrics for the boys. No more cheap half metre cuts or remnant knits for me. I might have to go to a store, but not Spotlight as they have zero printed cotton knit fabric at the moment. Nor have they for more than a year. Lucky I have some stashed.

And now for something smelly.


Lavender sachets. Or mini throwing pillows if you ask the kids. They smell so nice. Only one ended up in the linen cupboard, the kids claimed the others for their drawers. I need to find somewhere that sells dried lavender by the giant bagful, as it's so nice to sleep on sheets scented with lavender. Sweet dreams!


Apr 10, 2013

Simple Sewing

If you're looking for a simple and practical project when you're in a bit of a sewing rut (too lazy to cut out clothing pieces or commit to lengthy quilt piecing) and want something that sews up in about half an hour you can't go past the grocery bag. I have a few of these now and use them all the time. Now I have a mustard and grey one to add to the the pile.



I've used cotton poplin pear fabric from Spotlight and some solids to create this one. Sewn on the Singer and her new table. The table has become the perfect spot to charge phones and iPads at night, so a table topper has become a necessity (I don't want to refinish the top again for a long time!). A bit of Michael Miller Tammis Keefe linen/cotton has come to the rescue. Sewn together with a bit of batting between and concentric rectangle quilting. Terrible photo taken just now, at night.


I  have a heap of this fabric (maybe 6 yards) all rolled up.  I'll have to work out what to do with it.  I wish it was wider so I could turn it into a table cloth. It was a whole $4 a yard. Amazing.