Needles and thread: things I made in January & February.

Hello!

In the past few months I have been rather prolific at knitting and sewing. It seems that writing my post about planning for the upcoming seasons spurned me to cast on and cut out. A little motivation and a few crafty evenings with my ladies means that I’ve completed a few projects well in time for the cooler months.

Even though I update my Ravelry somewhat regularly, I thought it might be fun to do a monthly round-up of what I’ve been working on and/or completed. It will give me an opportunity to share what I’ve made as well as share where my patterns or inspiration have come from. Seeing as Ravelry is only for knitting, crochet etc I’ll be able to keep a good record of sewn projects here too.

So, here we are in March (my, that came around fast) and for now I’ll try to do a short but sweet look back at my creative year so far.

FLT_4_10Mar15Both of these hats were made to celebrate the first birthdays of some of our little friends. The one on the left is an improvised pattern inspired by  Kim Hamlin’s pattern published in Joelle Hoverson’s Last Minute Knitted Gifts.

On the right is yet another Stella Pixie Hat. There’s not much to say about it, apart that I really like the colours of this one. It’s knitted up in some BWM 12ply (Eucalypt and Charcoal) that I had on hand.

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This gorgeous little hat (modelled by a none-too-happy Delphi) is another free pattern and is super fun to knit. The pattern is written in 8ply, however, it would be easy enough to play around with different yarn weights and get beautiful results. I can’t decide if my favourite thing about this bonnet is the seed stitch or the back decrease detail. Again, I used yarn from my stash, Naturally Heather in Mossy Green.

FLT_1_10Mar15This cardigan (Baby Girl Fair Isle Cardigan from the Purl Bee) may be possibly be one of my favourite things I have ever knitted. A big call, right? What I love about it (apart from the aesthetic) is that it’s my first fair isle garment apart from hats and I adored knitting the chart. All that aside, I actually didn’t love the construction of the pattern, specifically the way the arms are joined, and have since cast on a different version which I am altering slightly. Lucky really seeing as the kidlet I knitted this for will be too big for it by winter so I’m knitting up a size and will squirrel this one away for next time the perfect recipient comes up.

Needless to say, I am fairly keen (no pun intended!) on sinking my teeth into a bigger fair isle project at some point in the future.

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Next up on the completed list is a great little kimono pattern. I don’t know a parent who doesn’t love side opening jumpers. The less wrangling whilst dressing, the better. Beyond Puerperium is such a versatile pattern. It comes with instructions for 4, 8 and 10ply options and is sized newborn through two years.

I knitted this one up in 4ply BWM (again, from my stash) and chose to leave the arms short as sometimes I despise knitting little, tiny sleeves! Just as an aside, when I knit sleeves I either use a short, 20cm circular needle or the magic loop method.

On the sewing the front I’ve been a little slower. In the evenings, it’s hard to get motivated to do much more than sit on the couch and knit. It may just be me, but I find sewing is a method of making that requires so much more concentration than knitting.

I did whip up a skirt for each of the girls using a simple method where the circumference of the waist is the width of the fabric (i.e. selvedge to selvedge). The only measurement I make is to ensure the correct length (including seam allowance for hemming and turning the waistband) and join the edges for a back seam.

I’m not great at explaining what I mean, so here’s a good tutorial for anyone interested, although I should note that I use an overlocker to sew all my garments.

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The left skirt (Anouk’s) is made from a Japanese Lawn I picked up at Spotlight not long ago. I’m so pleased they were stocking something so beautiful, hopefully they get some in every season. Due to Lawn’s light nature and the fact I want Anouk to wear her skirt throughout the cooler seasons, I added a second layer in a contrasting fabric (thanks for the idea Mum).

The right skirt (Delphi’s) was just a cotton remnant I picked up in Lincraft one day. It’s pretty satisfying to make an $8 skirt and have fabric leftover!

Ok, so that’s it for now. I do have a couple of other things I practically finished last month (apart from buttons needing to be sewn on) but this post is long so I’ll bump them to next month.

 

 

 

Watermelon Salad – a really awesome recipe.

Hello world!

I just wanted to pop in to share a recipe that I made up a few weeks ago and have been meaning to blog about ever since. I don’t know how actual bloggers manage to get ‘pen to paper’, but every time I even think about sitting down and doing something personal, one of the kids (the smallest is the usual culprit) ambles up to demand a cuddle. Oy. Lucky they’re cute as their complete lack of awareness of personal space means I’m often inches from one of their faces.

Anyway, all that aside, this watermelon salad is such a great summer dish. It has the perfect balance of sweet and salty and is something you can really make your own depending what you have on hand in the fridge etc.

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Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

Watermelon (at least 1/4 to make a decent sized dish)
Baby Spinach
Mint
Basil

For the Dressing

Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt Flakes (I use this brand, but any sea salt will do)

Method

I feel kind of stupid writing a method for a salad, but here it goes… combine all ingredients and then top with dressing and toss.

Easy.

I do think you should cut the watermelon pieces to a consistent size, or if you’re going full vintage, melon ball it. If you so desire, you could also add flaked almonds or pepitas for some extra crunch.

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Anyway, hope you get a chance to enjoy this before the Summer really ends!

P.S. If you’re looking for some really nice watermelon, this stall at the CRFM is the place to go.

P.P.S. ‘Watermelon, watermelon, I love, you love watermelon’... it’s been stuck in my head most of the Summer. Thanks Playschool.

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Living in the present and looking ahead.

Nick and I have been chatting recently about the nature of the life we are cultivating, one where we live in a rhythm with the seasons and use our hands to make everything we can. We choose to do this because of the satisfaction that comes with each bite of a home grown zucchini, or the extra warmth a homemade jumper seems to bring. Healthy, hard work makes for happy people that don’t seek validation through consumerism… or something like that.

Anyway, my point is, despite living as the earth turns, we’re required to look forward, to prepare and plan, otherwise once the moment arrives, we’ll be stuck. Attempting to grow our own food takes research and we’ve made a lot of mistakes. Nick has studied our soil for the past two or so years and now we understand what we need to add, what to take away. We’ve read many books and websites, made list after list of vegetables we want to grow, only to fail miserably and feel disillusioned, left wondering why nothing worked. We’re lucky we have the freedom to try and fail and still have the Farmers’ Market 20 minutes down the road.

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That rocky area you can see is actually the garden beds for our crops. Not all are in use, but hopefully by next summer, all will be fully prepared.

This morning I have been working on our planting list for Autumn and Winter. We’re still eating cherry tomatoes straight from the bushes and wondering what we’ll do with our glut of zucchinis (friends, be prepared for chocolate zucchini cake every time I’m asked to bring a dish somewhere), yet here I am, thinking about what we’ll need to grow to make hearty winter soups and slow cooked stews.

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A notebook, diary and a couple of reference books to help me plan. If you’re a local who likes to garden, I highly recommend The Canberra Gardener (you can buy it from Dymocks in the Canberra Centre).

Nick has been out chopping up naturally felled trees, calculating how much wood we’ll need to keep us warm throughout the winter. With the girls and I home every day, we need to keep the fire roaring for quite a few months on end. Luckily for Nick, the weather has been unseasonably cool so he hasn’t been as hot and sweaty wearing his safety gear and swinging the chainsaw around.

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This year I want to make as many clothes as I can for the girls and myself. I’ve been getting better at sewing and have an extensive spreadsheet of what I need to make and what materials I can use from my stash rather than buying more. Anouk is at the point where she is floating between toddler and child size clothing and I believe this Winter, she’ll need a whole new wardrobe as she’s grown like a weed this year.

The weather has been confusing me recently and I’ve been knitting super fast thinking I am running out of time before the real cold sets in. A couple of mistakes have been made… miscalculating the amount of yarn I needed for one cardigan and making a cardigan too short to fit Delphi in the next four to six months. Luckily both mistakes can be rectified with a little patience and time.

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Potatoes and zucchinis nearly fill these rows. Towards the end there are pumpkins and somewhere in the middle a handful of carrots.

Living in this way appeals to a person like me as I’ve always loved planning and can be extremely organised. Numerous times I’ve told Nick I much prefer planning a dinner or party than actually executing it. I don’t think I am in the minority, but as a young woman, I felt silly for lacking spontaneity. Organisation and habit is often mistaken for controlling and what this lifestyle has taught me is that no amount of organisation or habit can guarantee control.

So onward I go, planning our garden, preparing wardrobes to keep us warm or protected from the sun, figuring out what days I need to make yoghurt or bread to keep our tummies full… and hoping it doesn’t all fall apart.

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Roma and a watermelon vine in the greenhouse.

 

A Post for the New Year.

Hello and Happy New Year!

I really wanted to write this post a few days ago, but our internet has been intermittent for a while so it didn’t happen. Hopefully I have more than ten minutes of wifi time to get this published.

Like many parents of small children, we spent the night in, not even making it until midnight and thankfully not being up at dawn. A happy new year indeed.

So, this year I have a few resolutions. I quit using Facebook a couple of weeks ago after becoming vexed at myself for spending so much time reading junk instead of novels. I also felt irritated at the tripe many people post and rather than let it get to me, I did the responsible thing and stepped away from the situation. How mature of me, right?!

Anyway, my point is, I want to read more. Pre-babies, I would devour books at the speed of light yet after two tough pregnancies and a refusal on my part to sleep-train the girls, I have sort of forgotten how to read. I’ve been plodding along taking months on end to get through a single book, and even though one of them was Murakami’s 1Q84 which checks in at over 1000 pages I think it’s a poor effort.

After switching off Facebook, I finished Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions in a couple of days and have since moved on to The History of Love (Nicole Krauss) which I can’t get enough of. Part of me wishes I could read it more slowly as I never want it to end. Oh the trials of a book lover!

Also, on the pile next to my bed are The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton), Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children (Sarah Napthali), Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki & His Years of Pigramage (Murakami) and Sensational Meditation for Children (Sarah Wood Vallely). My aim is to have them read before Easter along with any bookclub titles that come my way.

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Another resolution I have is to write to the girls once a week. I have always dreamt of keeping a journal so that at the end of my life there are piles of black, leather bound notebooks full of my ramblings. The reality is, it’s just not going to happen. Time is fleeting these days and I have given myself a pass and be setting aside a bit of time once a week to type some notes and hit save. It’s far less romantic than my youthful self pictured, but then, so is life in general.

Other than that, I don’t have many brand new goals this year. I want to continue exploring ceramics and perhaps make some plates this year. It may not sound like much but throwing a plate on the wheel is tough and far beyond my reach at this stage. I also want to work on my sewing skills more and have a few patterns to whip up including this one (which I have made a toile for but believe I need to size down) and this one, which was a birthday present from my mum.

Little bowls, made by me.

Little bowls, made by me.

I’ll continue knitting as I love it and at this stage it would be stupid of me to buy anything woollen ever again. Over the last 18 months or so, my speed and technique has moved into the advanced realm and nothing I can buy will please me as much as something I make. I am aiming to use my stash to knit from, rather than buying new yarn for everything, though we’ll see how I go come winter when Anouk will need new jumpers and cardigans and all sorts of beautiful yarn hits the shops.

This bowl will eventually hang in my bedroom, planted with some sort of lovely plant.

This bowl will eventually hang in my bedroom, planted with some sort of lovely plant.

So that’s that really. A hurriedly written post as I race the clock before the internet cuts out again. I hope anyone out there reading is seeing in this year with high spirits and a satisfied heart.

P.S. Nick and I also have a super, duper resolution to finish our house this year. Everything on the inside anyway seeing as the garden is a whole to-do list of it’s own. Fingers crossed we can pull it off!

 

An early Christmas with two desserts.

This year our family has been lucky enough to start Christmas early by celebrating with our whole family last Sunday.  We had all the siblings and partners in one place, at one time so took advantage of that by cooking up a storm, chopping down the biggest Christmas Tree the farm had and exchanging gifts.

Nick went and cut down this giant tree at a Christmas Tree Farm nearby.

Nick went and cut down this giant tree at a Christmas Tree Farm nearby.

Ali made this beautiful wreath from natives on our property.

Ali made this beautiful wreath from native plants on our property.

I (with the help of Ali & Pete) made two cakes… one kind of raw and one not. Both were super tasty, even though one was a massive failure. The first, a ‘Raw, Not-Raw Chocolate and Strawberry Yoghurt Cake’ was inspired by a recipe in the unbakery cookbook. I visited the unbakery when I was in NZ recently after being a total fangirl on Instagram for a while. They certainly didn’t disappoint and I was so excited about ‘baking’ something from this book, however the recipe just didn’t work for me.

Deconstructed Raw, Not-Raw Chocolate and Strawberry Yoghurt Cake.  Topped with fresh strawberries and meringue.

Deconstructed Raw, Not-Raw Chocolate and Strawberry Yoghurt Cake. Topped with fresh strawberries and meringue.

The cake actually didn’t end up being a cake… we called it a deconstructed cake to make us feel better about fact it was a bit of a failure. The flavour was excellent, however upon attempting to build the layers with yoghurt between, the base crumbled completely. It was quite a shame really as I had visions of a tall chocolate and strawberry tower topped with fresh strawberries, whipped cream and crunchy meringue. Alas, it was not to be, and turned out as you can see above… in a big messy pile that we all enjoyed anyway (a bit like life perhaps).

Anyway, seeing as the base was not a great recipe, I won’t bother sharing it here. I will however share the frozen yoghurt recipe which was totally perfect.

Healthy(ish) Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt.

Ingredients.

3 cups of chopped strawberries
2 cups of natural, unsweetened yoghurt (I make our yoghurt, but something like Jalna Biodynamic would be perfect)
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
1/3 – 1/2 of a cup of golden caster sugar
1 cup of chopped 70% chocolate or raw cacao nibs

Method

  1. Chop strawberries into small chunks. If they’re cut too large, they will freeze through and be too hard and big to bite into easily.
  2. Combine all ingredients, apart from the chocolate, using a mixer or by hand.
  3. Churn mixed ingredients in an ice-cream machine as per the manufacturers instructions.*
  4. Just before churning has finished, throw in the chocolate and ensure it’s mixed through evenly.
  5. Place into a container in the freezer, and leave until solid. This time mine was left overnight but generally, about five hours will do.

* If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, here’s some links for ways to make frozen desserts without one.

This was quite a hard frozen yoghurt, so I took it out of the freezer about 20 minutes before serving to soften it up.

The partially laid decorated table.  We served the food buffet style from the kitchen island.

The partially laid, decorated table. We served the food buffet style from the kitchen island.

Centrepiece close-up.

So, the other cake I baked was much more traditional and actually looked like a cake. It was one I had baked before and to be honest, the only reason i made it for Christmas was the look of disappointment on Nick’s face when I told him we were having a raw cake for Christmas dessert. To make up for almost ruining Christmas, I also whipped up some homemade custard using the recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion. It was a Merry Christmas after all.

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Chocolate, Cherry & Coconut Cake. (Adapted from Wholefood Baking).

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of white spelt flour
1/2 cup of raw cacao powder
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of bi-carb
2 tspns of vanilla extract
3/4 cup of natural, unsweetened yoghurt
125g softened, unsalted butter
165g of rapadura sugar
70g of golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup of chopped cherries
1/2 cup of moist coconut flakes

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C (350F) and grease and/or line a 20cm cake tin.
  2. Combine softened butter and sugars into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Combine dry ingredients into a bowl, whisk and set aside.
  4. One-by-one, add eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well after each egg.
  5. Add vanilla and yoghurt to the wet mixture until just combined.
  6. Add dry mixture to the wet mixture, using the slowest setting on your mixer until just combined.
  7. Throw in the cherries and coconut and mix through evenly.
  8. Place mixture into lined tin and smooth top over.
  9. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until inserted skewer comes out clean.
Chocolate, Cherry & Coconut Cake

Chocolate, Cherry & Coconut Cake

 

 

 

Confessions of a lazy seamstress.

Not long ago I made a skirt for Anouk (the one she’s wearing below) and got many compliments on it. Great, one may say, however I felt as though such compliments were undeserving.  You see, to the untrained eye, I put together a few pieces of fabric and it magically became a skirt but to me it was a pretty rubbish job.

The badly made skirt that made me crazy enough to want to start another creative endeavour!

The badly made skirt that made me crazy enough to want to start another creative endeavour!

I wouldn’t say I am bad a sewing, or even a beginner, however, I tend to be super lazy. I don’t always press my seams, and when making the skirt in question, I didn’t bother buying the correct colour cotton or even changing the bobbin (meaning the top was grey and bottom, black).

So, feeling super ashamed of my laziness, I’ve decided it’s time to improve my sewing skills and put in the amount of effort the fabric and process deserve. I don’t want my girls to turn 15 and be sad they wore homemade clothes, I want them to think it’s awesome!  My mum made nearly all our clothing when we were kids and even though I may not have thought it out of the ordinary at the time, now, I know how extraordinary it was to provide everything for five kids.

For my first project, I chose to make Anouk some shorts. I chose this pattern, free from the team at Purl Soho as it only had a couple of pieces to cut out and enough detailed finishing to give me something to take my time and care with. I first saw the pattern when Felicia at The Craft Sessions* made a pair. She has a way of explaining her projects that make them seem so accessible, and obviously her finished products are divine.

I dragged my mum over to Addicted to Fabric  in order to choose some good quality fabric. Unfortunately Canberra doesn’t have a lot of choice when it comes to fabric shops and I am not yet confident enough with my knowledge of them to buy online, so a 45 minute drive it is! Luckily, my mum is a regular there as it’s a mecca for quilting fabrics and I was able to make a quick selection without the little ones making a mess. Incidentally, they loved being in the store as some of their favourite things to do are play with fabrics, yarn etc.

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I ended up choosing a light cotton for the main colour and some lovely Moda fabric for the contrast. I believe it’s technically a quilting cotton, but it has a much lighter weight than usual and sits beautifully. I made the decision to use a ready-made bias binding, rather than track down a bias tape maker and creating my own and I’m really pleased as I think the contrasting tape is super cute.

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It took me quite a few hours to get these done. I stopped and started over about a week, making sure to read and re-read each step in the instructions and pressing every single seam. I did use the overlocker for the inside seams rather than sewing them and then zigzagging the raw edge… it would have been stupid to do otherwise!

Mistakes were most definitely made. I had to unpick and re-do one of the bias details on the leg and upon finishing, I realised that on both legs, I’d ever so slightly missed the underside as I came around the corners.  Not to worry though, my mum’s already taught me a better technique for next time.

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I ended up doing the waistband four times. At first it was too long, then I made it too short (twice) and finally I got it right.  I think next time, I’m better off cutting the waistband just before I’m ready to attach it, so that it can be measured to the exact length I need. Finally, there are also some seams that don’t match up, but that’s ok, at least I used the right colour cotton this time!

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I made them in the 3 – 4 size even though she’s still a size 2 as I’m hoping she’ll get some wear out of them next year again… if not, there’s Didi who is destined to live her life in hand-me-downs! Overall I loved making these shorts (and so far Anouk loves wearing them) and I’ve already cut out a second pair from a piece of black linen I removed when altering a skirt of mine.

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