Sunday, January 30, 2011

miss adorable frock

Straight and to the point: The project! I'm trying to make everything in the "Sew La Tea Do" book. No particular order, just what strikes my fancy...

miss adorable frock

This dress was a delight to make, the instructions were easy and it was the first time I didn't have a melt down. It was also my introduction to front and back facing. Great way to learn on something this small. I did everything (laying out, cutting, sewing, and finishing) in one night while everyone slept.

My only compliant is that as a novice seamstress I wasn't to sure how to quite finish up the back facing area. The instructions in Sew la tea do kind of didn't explain how to neaten and finish. I worked it out and I think it came up neat and tidy.The pocket in the pattern was too small, totally unlike the generous pocket pictured in the book. I improvised.

Also the dress is really sized for a petite 3 year old, the pattern suggests it will fit a 12 month old to petite 4 year old. I have a petite 15 month old and it was way too big, perfect on my petite 3 year old though. Luckily I have all bases covered when it comes to sizes of children. Eliza just wears it as a top.
up to something

At first the dress did earn what was becoming a trademark "aaarghhh! I hate it!" from her. Maybe it's the fact that I am yet to actually wash the fabric before I sew it so she's probably just squirming in it feeling itchy. None the less her reaction is always a little disheartening.

I will report though that she has worn the dress three times so that's progress, and tonight while we walked on the sand she figured out she could put shells in the pockets!

Friday, January 28, 2011

friday still life

menu I, originally uploaded by various brennemans.

it was all yellow

tasmanian buttons
There are a few things I am really loving at the moment, thought I'd share with you just what has inspired me and what I have produced as a result.

I am in love with Yellow, full stop. This colour was so overlooked by me, never got my love, now I want to be bathed, in it want to wear it, want to paint with it. Me and this new love took drastic measures to seal our commitment to each other: I painted a Ikea kitchen stool in Dulux's "Daffodil yellow."

Wow. I love it, the kids think it's awesome and it is certainly a pop of colour.

I am finding fabric so inspiring whether it be some new bargain ream of end of line floral blue, yellow and orange cotton or some old pillow cases with retro prints. Seeing my little baby's chubby feet poking out from some newly made yoga pants is too scrumptious, 30 pictures later and I think I may have one to share.
yoga pants I
Receiving fantastic vintage buttons from Beatrix whilst she was away in Tasmania, we both adore buttons. I love the "will not be hurt by hot iron". I am imagining all the ways to use these blue buttons picked up by the friend she was staying with who knew about my obsession with old buttons.
boil tintedall purpose
Fabric bundles even made it to the eye level shelf in the dining area- sewing area
cookbooks were moved down a level, then My heart said "no", I love you both. So bundles ended up on top shelf where some precious things inherited from my mother in law were moved to a safer place. I put those in my glassed cabinet away from my climbing, scaling every surface baby. We are living at the moment with chairs on tables, it's just easier this way.
scrap stack
Making a fabric doll for Circe my baby out of scraps and then having Eliza claim it as her own. After all previous attempts from me to gain some of her love for my sewing projects have gone unappreciated and worse still been given the aaarrhhh. She even rejected the adorable Little Miss Frock in light blue polka dots with a deep pocket for stashing whatever a 3 year old stashes, usually their big sister's stuff.
little yellow companion
I am loving pockets I want pockets on everything. When you're a mum there is always LEGO and pegs to pick up. I don't exactly know why pegs make the #2 most common item on the floor in my list of 100 most common found useful yet useless item when bunched with 10 other useful items. So I want everything I make to have a deep pocket, very useful when holding a baby for school pick up, keys can fit in front pocket.
Note my adorable patchwork pocket, see special projects for the disaster of pattern misprint resulting in a way too small dress for Me but fitting 10 year old daughter.

I am filling my recently meticulously scrubbed (thank you Aaron!) fridge -front with Eliza's amazing drawings, here she is at work. She spends and an hour and a half then takes a day or two break then wants to work on them some more her dedication and patience are awe inspiring
four louworking bea
All my children are talented, Beatrix spent a day this week making a matchbox bed mattress, doona, and two pillows, for a tiny figurine she had bought. Her blanket stitch is fantastic she too is digging yellow.

Thought I'd share the little nibbles that keep me sane, while sewing. Quince paste on mini toast with leg ham, a square of dark chocolate ,ginger ale and cucumber slices maybe with a dash of pims depending on how indulgent I want to be or how many children I am looking after, and how frustrated I am by said misprinted pattern. Yes I ought to be pretty sloshed by the time I make that last stitch.
working feast

Monday, January 24, 2011

apricots, sewing delight, and a few late nights

rainy day paper

So after a several busy busy weeks of sewing I still had more projects to do. Each one I finished made two more open up. But that all of that had to wait because food and I needed to touch base again.

Wow. I have made rice paper rolls, spinach pilaf with lemon, we've made trifle (and meringues as you do after you make custard and end up with a whole lot of egg whites), we've had shepherd's pie, stewed apples, apricot couscous (with agave syrup). And, in attempts to distract phoenix from pancakes we've had crêpes. Again.
pale breaky
Some of the cooking was necessity, though. Our fruit trees are are beginning to bear down and drop a lot of fruit, so you have to work at the tree's schedule not your own. They're apricots, of which many have been shared. We can't make use of them all. Fruit leather has been made and eaten and more is being dehydrated as I write. This fruit leather is amazing, just cook it a little and then puree and spread out the puree on these special trays. Even Phoenix who doesn't like apricots will eat heaps of this.
fruit leather
Apricots also made it into the trifle by Aaron. He spent all afternoon on it, we watched it all pile together into beautiful layers. Then he took it to work and they ate it all.

The apple tree is beginning to litter the path with all of it's first not-so-good apples. There is a lot of clean up to be done with just these two trees, I won't even mention our enormous fig in the back yard which looks to give many fruits this year.

In amongst this and that, I was two children short for a while last week, that was different. Sewing was allowed!

I had sent my ten year old on her way to Tasmania on a Friday evening with a just-made pair of yellow pj botttoms, my new favourite colour.
it was all yellow
My son then went camping for four days on the Sunday after, I remembered then what it was like with just two children. (It must be said though that a newly walking, climbing baby is like in five places at once so I think she made up for their absences.)

My nights came sooner. The bit of the night that is mine, that is. Sometimes I barely get any, but now there was no "I can't sleep" from my ten year old, no "Water, please" from the little one.

Ohhh the things I got done.

 the wrap skirt

My wrap skirt got finished, and that skirt is one from my special projects, so Yea! to me. I had real trouble at one stage trying to work out sewing the finished sides of the skirt. This book sometimes skips a step or two, but I wasn't sure. I looked and scratched my head and looked again, and pretty soon 45 minutes had gone by with me just standing there.

Aaron was laughing and cursing me to just do something, anything. He said it would be faster to do it wrong and unpick it than to just stand there. He eventually left me standing there with my head in my hands while he went off to read.

I cursed a little bit too, after he left. Bloody wrap skirt! I even gave a little stomp.

I was suddenly dumbstruck. Wrap skirt. I held it against me, and if I sewed the sides together it would be as big as a house. Wrap skirt, darrrhhh. So there was some unpicking and some "rahhh rahhh" going on, but I ignored him.

My only excuse is that it was 1:30 in the morning.

The next day my neighbour and I had a sewing afternoon at my place, that was such fun. Having someone else round seeing what they're making, getting help and giving advice, it's priceless.

This skirt got finished that morning. It did entail a waist band with a tie connected to it, this was "very long" as the pattern stated, but once done I felt like I'd really accomplished something. The instructions for the hem were a little odd, laying hemming tape over the raw edge and then just sewing over that 1 cm from the edge, mmmm not sure if there was an error there, I am guessing maybe.
a long strip
My neighbour and I got to try on our new wares and even eat dinner out in the garden, she in her citrus toned patchwork belt and me in my orange and green wrap skirt, how perfect.
wrap skirt II
We thought of how we ought to get all our crafty neighbour folk in on our little sewing buzz and have craft night. Coming soon!

Friday, January 14, 2011

rainy day, paper boats

rainy day paper

A paper boat, how dreamy how wonderful things would be if we could just set sail on one. To voyage out to distant lands, maybe out to a place where the wild things are.  When I was little I remember my teacher reading to us Sadako and the 1000 paper cranes, a story of a little girl in Hiroshima.  She was making 1000 paper cranes to try to stave off her death from Leukaemia caused from radiation from the atomic bomb. One version says she only made 644 before she died and her friends completed the others and buried them with her. I had always wanted to do the same.

As my city was awash with rain, sweltering with 97% humidity we all complained of wet clothes, damp and just not drying even indoors, sticky floors my smoke alarm going off at the slightest boiling of water for tea. I made paper boats to sail down the gutters on my street bright and cheery, we wet our hair and our clothes we didn't mind it was warm. My baby only rarely having felt the rain on her skin was dripping, sopping wet  the shrieks of joy the smiles from ear to ear a joy to see. My clothes clinging to my skin my bra visible through my t shirt, I didn't care this was play, play with my children wild and freeing. These colourful boats rushed along the gutter bumped against one another then glided freely again. My 7 year old asked "will the rain ever stop?" 

I wondered myself. It had been steadily raining for six days, it sure seemed like it would never stop. How must they be feeling in those small towns in Queensland, this steadily rushing stream in my street would be nothing compared to what they had seen there. We had dry clothes inside, towels and more paper to make more boats, our boats tattered and tore along the drain as the cranes were meant to as they are strung together and kept outdoors as a wish for recovery from illness or injury. If only things were so simple a 1000 paper boats would fix everything in those little towns.

rnconcrete reefstoplight

friday still life

incomplete evidence obfuscation

Thursday, January 13, 2011


i can't believe it's got butterbread final

If you let me I have so much to write and so many things to show, but I will restrain myself. Just one thing to say tonight, I'll save up the excitement...

I realised on Sunday that I hadn't left the house in days. In all my sewing frenzy, the other love in my life has taken a back seat: my love of baking, of cooking. (And eating, of course!) So Monday there I was in the supermarket, trying to be inspired by food again.

I have been on a tight budget recently, Christmas and some poor planning left us a little short. So I was hesitating in the bread aisle. I am a baker's daughter, in fact there is baking so far back in my blood line that I really ought not be even looking at store bought bread. I was about to spend five dollars on a fruit loaf when I thought, "No I can bake my own darn fruit loaf."

On my tightish budget I sought out some dates and dried apricots, everything else I had. Normally I go for dried figs but I really felt the date urge. Also I am about to be inundated with figs soon, so many that I will be dehydrating my own.

So back to the bread. I had tried the sour-dough starter before but like anything I have to tend (other than small children and babies) it died. I am not that good at looking after things. Other than feeding babies, like I said. Granted this week in my sewing frenzy I have on several occasions forgotten to do that.

So I had this bread recipe I had made up a while back. It was re-tweaked, made to fit what I had in my cupboard so as there was less expense. Out with fancy flour, nothing other than baker's flour in the house. No LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond) mix or anything. There is, however, some star anise which I find heavenly.
the cooked
So come on everyone, bake this on one coolish Summery day. There are a few of those coming up with this big wet we are having here. Or all you Notherners in the freezing cold, many of you housebound due to snow, fire up your oven, fog up your windows and smell that aroma of fresh bread, and star anise this really is good. Then eat it warm with lashings of butter. Great for eating whilst beavering away on small projects. Rich like a brioche, made with milk and butter great for keeping you going.

Even my gluten-free-wheat-free-pain-in-the-bum husband stole the crust out of my hands tonight with the words "is that the last bit of that bread!"

star anise fruit loaf
30g fresh yeast or a 7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tbsp honey
390 ml warm to almost hot milk
3 1/2 cups bakers flour
handful of pumpkin seeds
handful dates cut in half
1/2 cup dried apricots roughly chopped
40g melted butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
a good pinch of salt
3 star anise
Optional - a small handful of walnut would also go well in this recipe

  • Start by give the anise a good pounding in the mortar pestle, sift to use only the powdery bits
  • In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in all the milk add the honey and let it sit till all spongy on top, about 10 minutes
  • In a large bowl add the flour salt, butter, dates, apricots, and ground up star anise
  • Mix to form a soft dough add more flour if needed, or slightly more milk (really it's Ok)
  • Knead for about 5 to 10 minutes till soft and elastic
  • Cover with a tea towel away from draughts for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or till double in size
  • Punch down knead a little and shape into a loaf, bake on a tray or in a bread tin lined with butter and dusted with flour
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 200C, till hollow sounding when knocked and beautifully golden
  • Let it sit for 5 minutes and then turn it out, serve with butter or some nice cheese.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Something in the water

This week has been a little reflective for me, somewhat sad and a little eye opening. I had a funeral to attend this week to pay respects to someone I will miss seeing and chatting to, a neighbour of mine and a relative of my Sister's. The funeral, her loss, the effect on my sister and her family, it's made me think again on the passing of my in-laws this last two years. I know how greatly that neighbour will be missed by her family, how much my family misses Aaron's parents.

The morning of the funeral I got reacquainted there with a neighbour from my childhood. I left that day feeling so grateful to have crossed paths with her again. She had so many insightful things to say on life and on death. I realised that someone's passing just makes you see this life you have , the past, the present and the future. It is a big pause button on your fast moving life, that unfortunately a funeral is what it takes to make one reflect. I wanted immediately to be home to hold my children, my husband, to take the time to be in the moment. We are all vulnerable, and we're only here for an indeterminate amount of time.

Time washes over us all, rich and poor young and old.

My eldest daughter's little world just got a little wider this week. On Friday she left for a holiday with her best friend and her family, without us, going to Tasmania for a week. How broadening an experience for her that will be! I remember taking them there two years ago: The children were younger, Eliza the exact age Circe is now. I am trying to remember was she talking, was she walking? How did I take three children on a plane on my own, I am also thinking, was I crazy? It was a time where I needed to be in the company of a friend where the kids could feel a little free away from the city. I treasure that experience, that time, and I keep my memories tangible and close by, in a jar.
They are all growing up. My son, too, is gone away for three nights from today, he will be camping with my neighbour and her son. I'm sure he will so benefit from this, but I will miss him terribly. With Bea I know she will be fine, she has been away to camp, but for Phoenix this is the first real long time from home. I see him as a bit less robust, he is the smallest in his grade. Tough in his own way, though.

I am glad I have an excuse to get to the beach again on Wednesday to pick him up. They grow so quickly and right before your eyes too. Life is short I am choosing to give them them opportunities to be independent, to wear mismatched shoes or paint their nails blue as Eliza does. To make their own mistakes to feel the vulnerability of their life so they can make the most of theirs. To open their eyes wider to the world but to maintain their closeness to home, to know that they are loved and accepted for who they are.
window II
Coming home from the service, what a contrast I had at home for me. There I had seen this beautiful woman's life remembered in photographs and in home movies, and here at home I had a little life just taking on the world, new and fresh everyday something more than the day before. She's growing too, my little Circe has been making her presence hard to ignore, especially in the frenzy of my sewing.
She wants in on all the action, she wants to see what all that thread does what all those smells are, what is up there when I push a chair up. Her new found interest in her abilities led me to need to get out of the house, to bring the world to her. The day after the funeral I wanted to experience some life. What better way than to get to the beach, I mean WOW what must that be like for a 15-month old.

I know every summer when I see it again for the first time in months I am amazed, my kids love it. We even found starfish this time, my daughter wanted to go back and fetch her diary to draw them. My son thought it was the best day ever. He said those exact words, "Thank you Mum, this was my best day ever!" That was worth the sand I had to wash away from my kitchen sink, and the sand I am yet to vacuum from the car.

It's not just my children. Everything is growing, moving into the future. My garden this year provided me with impressive artichokes, well this week one that had kind of fallen behind had been left to flower. What a spectacularly gorgeous flower they produce. How could I not photograph this?
artichoke, drawing, and twig
Time's passing is sometimes sad, sometimes even terribly sad. But it brings joy and beauty, too. My children, knowing my love of delicate things, bought in a gift for me this week, a tiny egg from our front garden. How special, how beautiful, they were bringing the world to me: A life had come from this egg. A reminder to me to tread carefully on this here planet, to stop and take notice or I will miss the beauty life has to offer.
free at last

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

reds and blues

paws, from the brenneman.
Well, after making pants last weekend, I felt like I'd opened a door, one that since being in high school - choosing what I'd do after year 12 - I had firmly closed. I may have said before that I really wanted to be a fashion designer back then.

The sewing part just seemed so out of my grasp. I wish I had found out (or was shown!) then that it is actually quite enjoyable. So with my new-found confidence and the doors to the clothing world wide open, I thought I'd have a go at a skirt. Which is easier to do than pants. Just elastic waisted no frills or anything. My little cherub Eliza loves red, I knew. After dinner I asked her to choose what fabric she'd like her skirt to be made in, she picked red with tiny white polka dots.

Great this was good, she wanted a skirt and a skirt she'd have. Well off to bed she went, whilst skirt making was taking place. A great free pattern is offered on lazy days skirt free pattern, It makes a skirt for any age girl I can attest to, seeing as I have three of them. You just measure their waists and figure out what length they'd need or like.

So not-even-my-bedtime and my skirt was all done. I was really pleased with the ease and quick result, you can make one in an hour. By her bed it sat till morning.
embrace me
She woke to find it... One would have thought, she picked out the fabric, the colour, she'd be happy, ahhh ahhh. Still bleary-eyed and waking after a second night of croup, I guess she too was tired. That is the only explanation I have.

"I hate it, I hate it, It's stupid." I made it for you, I said, "no you didn't dad did!" Was it that bad. I mean it's the right-side out there are no strange fringes, I was not comprehending. She tried it on, I'll give her that, but I wished she hadn't, after.

There were sequinned shoes (as you do, first thing in the morning) and as soon as the skirt was on she wanted it off. Really wanted it off. Pulling it down, getting the sequins all stuck, the rubber heals all tugging. Her temper and frustration like a volcano, she and this red skirt were going to explode. When the skirt did come free, she threw it over my head, and stamped her sequinned foot "I hate it, you didn't make it", crying so furiously.

Off to her room she went, I'm back to buzzing around the house. The sound of blocks was there, and somewhere in my head 'maybe she went straight to playing blocks.' No it was her bed, the slats coming off her bed, the mattress being already thrown, the blankets all of it. What, it was a skirt?

Later that day when things had calmed and memories of the morning were behind us, I spied big sister brushing and tying Eliza's hair back, what do you know she's got her into the skirt. You look very nice, "I like the skirt sometimes" Ok then.
Another take on the same design was had by Beatrix. She wanted a linen top with a yellow-orange floral border, and with orange polka dot pockets! Drawings were made, fabric was sought, a bit coming from our neighbour after she'd found a great sheet at the op shop that day.

Pockets were the trickiest here as I'd never done them before. Once the first had been unpicked I'd realised, after looking it up, that they were not too hard after all. Seeing as how ours were cut separate, in a slight deviation from the pattern, Beatrix and I needed to work out how to connect them back on. The result, a beautiful tulip skirt with floral border and a peek a boo polka dot pocket. Miss Bea has been wearing it for three days straight. We'll make you another one, I say, in charcoal linen next with a light blue border. Her eyes go wide, "Really? Mum I am loving you making me clothes." That's all the affirmation I need.
I was in a sewing whirlwind now. My kitchen, what kitchen, the table is under there somewhere. It's infectious, too... Aaron is sewing, he never takes my advice. His fabric choices are girly and, well, because he never listens to me, it's always a little wonky in the end. Corners don't match, or it won't lay flat, always something.

But you know, how many husbands will sew with you?

I will add, too, that when I am close to tears because I've gotten to some weird bit in the pattern where, after doing something that seems unnatural and impossible and everything gets pulled the right way out of this tiny gap you've left... he is always able to help. Being more technical and logical than I can be. He used to be my bobbin boy before I learnt how to do it for myself. I like getting one over him. He likes it too.

This room still morphing in and out of sewing studio to eating cooking space. Somewhere in these days that are fast becoming one, raspberry and cream crepes were made at breakfast. Phoenix's obsession with pancakes was getting a little, well, old. Crêpes, lets have crêpes. These were so good, we ate them dusted with icing sugar, two each was almost not enough for some of us.
sugar crusty thumb
Fuelled up, natural sugars. Mostly.

More fabric was bought. Miss Bea and I took a couple of hours negotiating a massive fabric sale. And consequently how to hold seven rolls of fabric, and buttons, and thread, then line up in an equally massive queue. I didn't care, she didn't care, she in her skirt. The two of us realising we'd had only toast and it was almost three o'clock, we were going to have to tough it.

When we did get out of there, we found a café except they shut the kitchen at three. So we sipped tea and added extra sugar.

My own project from the night before had been needing a button, and in the sale I found these button covers to do your own fabric buttons. In love with this idea, and eager for the kids to be all in bed that night so as I could try this out. Now complete, the "cute as a button vintage clutch" from my Meet me at Mikes book and may I say a darn professional looking item.
toy story bluesclutch
Thank you Pip Lincoln, this clutch is going to be my saviour: keys, mobile and lipstick will all fit nicely. Now I need to actually tear myself from all this sewing business and get a sitter and have a date night with Mr. technical and logical, because this clutch is too cute for just looking at.

But if you spy the top picture I am sewing the next piece, a little surprise...