Monday, December 31, 2012

A Chrissy Pressie...

The biggest problem I have with making clothing as a gift, is knowing what size to make.  This top is designed to be loose, so I felt I was quite safe in making this one the same size as my own.  Now this particular tee is a triumph I feel because actually it cost me nothing but time.  While Courteney was away tramping for the weekend, I very cleverly embarked on this project.

What makes this project so special is what I started with.  The blue fabric is actually a new but otherwise unwanted mens tee shirt that Courteney won in a sports competition.  By cutting the back out of the front and the front out of the back, I just had enough fabric for the new tee.  Once again I used McCalls 6359 and cut it 12cm shorter than the pattern, like I did last time.  I did not need to hem this one as I reused the hem on the original tee.  I again used the same lace as Courteney's Christmas dress.  I obviously bought way too much as these tops have not even made a dent in the left overs.

 Just as I did in my previous versions, I raided my scraps bin to make the binding to face the neck and armhole openings.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Secret Squirrel...shhhh!

There has been a lot of secret squirrel stuff going on behind the scenes here lately.  When my daughter went off to prefect camp and work I would pack up what I was working on  and dig out my secret projects. These pyjamas are one such project.

Courteney had mentioned to me that she would like a new pair of summer pyjamas.  I know she likes singlet type tops so knew McCall's 6559 could be adapted for the perfect top and this gorgeous star print cotton interlock from my stash was the perfect fabric.

I found some lovely baby pink satin on the sale table at Fabric Vision for $3 per metre for the pants.  I cut the shorts using Simplicity 3696 which is the same pattern that I used for my own pyjamas here

 This was actually  a really quick and easy make and I am really pleased with how they turned out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas.....A New Dress

I bought some beautiful Japanese linen from a clothing manufacturer when they cleared their fabric stock at the end of last summer and I knew straight away what I was going to make from the fabric.  It had to be a dress and when the Cambie was released it really was a no brainer.  I haven't yet found a Sewaholic pattern I don't like or doesn't work for me with very little alteration.  The full skirted version was not really my style but the A line version was perfect.  I only had 2 metres of fabric so I hoped I had enough.  It turns out, that with a little pattern manipulation, I did  have enough fabric, just.
I lined the dress with some lovely silky shirt fabric that I found on the $3 table at Fabric Vision in the perfect shade of green and luckily found the perfect green invisible zipper in Lincraft.  Once I finished the dress, I found that the A line cut was a little more pronounced than I would like so I lay my favourite Vogue A line skirt on the dress and recut it to the same dimensions.  It now fits me beautifully, not so much the mannequin.  I have lost a little weight and have been too busy lazy to alter the mannequin. Okay, if the truth be known I quite like being reminded of the fact and besides, by the time Christmas is done, the mannequin will probably be a better representation of my true size anyway.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Presents Are Wrapped....

As in most households, today was a huge day.  It started with the baking of two pavlovas, a Kiwi Christmas icon, 1 dozen Christmas mince pies, 1 dozen meringues, followed up by a batch of crostini.  There was just enough time left in the day for a spot of housework, some well timed last shopping and a Christmas drink with friends we won't be seeing tomorrow.

Tomorrow we will be having lunch for twelve at my sisters house, followed by the evening meal for fifteen at my mother and father in laws house.  I am pretty well prepared.  Tomorrow I have to make a salad, cream the pavlovas, pick some fresh berries and cut some ham.  It is time now to go to bed so Santa can come. I think I may well beat my very hyped 9 year old to sleep.


4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1t vanilla essence
1t vinegar
2t cornflour

Preheat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius.  Mark a 20cm circle on baking paper, place on an oven tray.

Beat egg whites until the peaks just fold over when the beater is removed.  Beat in sugar 1-2 T at a time;  beat until mixture is very stiff and the peaks stand up.  Beat in vanilla essence, vinegar and cornflour.  Shape mixture on the baking paper.

Bake for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until the surface is crisp and lightly coloured.  Cool on a rack; when cold, finish with whipped cream and fruit of your choice.


Saturday, December 22, 2012



Decorating ones house for Christmas is a trend which really hasn't taken off in New Zealand, probably because it doesn't actually get dark until after 10pm at this time of the year.  It was a real treat then to visit this outstanding Christmas display on Thursday evening.


If I look a little like a rabbit caught in the headlights it is because that is exactly how I felt.  It was mesmerising.  The story goes, that the owner of the property decorated his house and outbuildings with some 300,000 lights for his wife after she was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  It turns out that she was misdiagnosed and so together they decided to open it to the public.  I am pleased they did.  We arrived at 9pm, as dusk was approaching and stayed until after dark at 10.30pm.  Master 9 was so engrossed in the spectacle, he didn't want to go home. 

Now, my poor naked Christmas cake was starting to feel a little rejected, so after all of this Christmas inspiration, it was time to do something about it.  To be fair, Courteney is my icing specialist and she has worked over 30 hours this week so having her home long enough to work her magic was proving to be a problem.  After 8 hours working in a dusty warehouse sorting books on a 30 degree day, she was feeling like unleashing her creative talents and this is the result.  She made her own icing using the same recipe as last years cake but unfortunately made about 3 times the amount she needed so we still have mountains in the fridge.  I do like this recipe though, it is nice and soft and pliable to work with.

Fondant Recipe (I would reduce this by at least half next time)
1Tbsp of unflavoured gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1tsp almond extract
1/2 cup light corn syrup (I got mine at the Asian Supermarket)
1Tbsp glucose syrup
2lbs confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp white vegetable shortening

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Another School Year Is Completed

Today is officially the last day of the school year for my family.  My high school aged son finished last Thursday and my daughter, who was sitting exams, finished in mid November.  It has been a long week because master 9's school must be the last school in the city to finish.   He has done 12 swimming lessons in two weeks so he is well and truly ready for a break.
When I walked into the classroom, I was greeted with a completely empty room.  The desks and chairs were sitting on the playing field drying in the sun and the walls were naked.  The usually busy, cheery room looked a little sole less and sad.  The teacher that taught my son this year had also taught my 2 older children in year 4, so yet again it is another end of an era as my son moves into the senior half of the school.  This morning master 9 will spend some time in his year 5/6 class with his new teacher.  He is terribly excited to once again have a man teacher and is very much looking forward to a creative and sporting year next year.
Last year, I made my older son's teacher an apron using a vintage Mademoiselle sewing pattern and I was so pleased with the results that I decided to replicate it again for my youngest sons teacher.  This year's version is not as bright as last year's one but I thought it appropriate that using a vintage pattern, I also use vintage fabric.  The fabric I chose was a lovely linen type fabric from this op shop fabric haul.  I teamed it with some coordinating pink and grey tartan shirting fabric, from my remnants bin, for the binding.
My son gave Mrs H the present when he got to school this morning and announced "my Mum sewed you something" after seeing the mounting collection of gifted wine appearing on her desk.   We did joke that given she was going camping, she wasn't going to need the apron in the short term so perhaps it may well be better used to mop up the spillage from all of that wine!  She was actually really pleased with the apron, because like me she doesn't own a decent one and she is not alone there because neither do I! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lycra And Lace

I really didn't expect to like this style of top as much as I do.  After last years disappointing summer, I also didn't expect to really need too many sleeveless tops but so far this summer, the weather is not disappointing. 
I had some cotton lycra left over from this top and also quite a big piece of lace from Courteney's dress that I made last week.  I was initially going to use the lycra to make a tee to wear with my Megan Nielsen skirt but at the last minute decided to use it for this top instead.
Once again I used McCall's 6359.  I cut it to size 10 and shortened it by 12cms.  I hemmed it using my twin needle because I didn't have enough thread in the correct colour to enable me to use my cover stitch machine. 
 Once again I cut my own binding using some coordinating fabric from my scraps box.
I am really pleased with the contrast of the lycra with the lace and am pleased to report that the lace is actually nice and soft to wear and not at all itchy against the skin.  I must remember to be careful when I wear this in the sun though, I could end up with some very interesting tan lines!

Friday, December 14, 2012

In Amongst Pre Christmas Chaos....


Husband out of town on business, daughter away tramping, teenage son gone swimming, youngest back at school after illness and a new magazine arrives in the post.  It is too warm to be inside sewing.  One coffee, a Christmas biscuit and said magazine equals...ahhhh bliss!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Domestic Bliss

Doesn't everyone garden like this?

Dressed to the nines like a 1950's housewife!  Okay, I confess, this dress was never intended to be worn for gardening.  You, don't say, I hear you all chorus!  This is going to be the Christmas dress.  It was chosen and designed by Courteney and executed by me.   By executed I mean, she told me what she wanted and I had to make it happen.  My brief was, I kid you not, the dress of a newsreader on a tv show one particularly early Saturday morning.  I had to absorb every detail of this newsreaders dress after being dragged bleary eyed from my slumber.

We chose the fabric from Fabric Vision.  The lace was conveniently on the $8 sale table, the burgungy was on the $3 sale table and the satin lining was on the remnant table. 

I started with Sewaholic Alma in size 2.  The top is made of lace and underlined with satin lining. 
I was going to use Sewaholic Cambie skirt for the lower half but my burgundy fabric was a little too heavy for such a full skirt so in the end, I made it to my own measurements.  Fortunately the Alma is supposed to have a side invisible zip closure so this was pretty easy to translate into a dress.

The dress had to have a keyhole opening which initially I avoided but upon completion it was obvious that the size 2 was not going to easily fit over my daughters head so the keyhole was cut grudgingly in my newly completed project out of necessity. I made some bias tape out of the left overs from the skirt and this was used to finish both the keyhole and the arm holes.  The keyhole closes with a hook and eye.

Courteney is pretty happy with the results and it fits like a glove.  She wants to wear it, not with the pretty sandals, but a canvas pair of Vans....go figure!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

It Nearly Didn't Happen....

Every year I make a Christmas cake.  I have been given commercial cakes in the past but none taste as good as a home made one.  In past years I have tried many different cakes including a pineapple one.  This one however, I have found to be an easy and fail proof one and the one I have made for the past five years.  It didn't come out of a fancy  tv  chefs recipe book but was ripped unceremoniously from a local newspaper.  I nearly didn't make one at all this year.  Christmas seems to have crept up on me a bit and I thought I was out of time but after an afternoon of binge baking, here it is....

Easy Peasy Christmas Cake

Mix in a saucepan and heat:
1 cup of water
1\2 lb butter
1kg mixed fruit
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp nutmeg
1\2 tsp each of ginger, cinnamon and mixed spices
Boil then add:
1 tsp baking soda
1 tin condensed milk
2 tsp of any essence
Cool then add:
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1\8 tsp salt

*Mix well

*Prepare a cake tin by covering with a sheet of baking paper.  Bake for two hours on 150 deg Celsius or until tested with a skewer.  Don't cook on fan bake as this can tend to dry a Christmas cake out.

*Before placing in the oven, sprinkle cold water over the top of the cake mixture to stop cracking.  When the cake is cold, prick with a fork and brush over with sherry or whiskey.

*Ice if desired...I intend to.  Bon appetite!

Please note:  definitely no sugar or eggs are needed in this recipe.

Side note:  I apologise for the back slashes in the recipe above.  My slash on my keyboard has decided to go on strike so while I wait for my new keyboard to arrive, I must improvise. 


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Beach Bling

This picture is actually from the weekend.  Today is 30 plus degrees and blowing a howling gale, not beach going weather, a day best spent inside in front of the sewing machine, far enough away but just close enough to keep an eye on the ten or so 16 year olds that are celebrating after finishing their exams and signing out of school for the year by swimming in my pool and cooking up burgers and sausages on my barbecue.
I don't have many light weight tops for very hot weather.  My daughter chose this beautiful grey cotton knit with a gold blingy rose embossed pattern on it for me.  I was going to make another Renfrew out of it but decided to step out of my comfort zone, after a bit of encouragement by Courteney and make it into McCall's 6359.  Now, I was a little concerned that this style was a little too young for me, especially after she tried to claim it for herself, but reserved my judgement until the actual day of wearing.
I cut the top to a size 10 and made no changes except to shorten it dramatically.  The instructions called for a bias tape finish around the arm and neck openings but I didn't actually have any, so I made my own using some left over lightweight stretch suiting from my stash. 

I have actually grown to like the loose fit especially on a really hot day. It is the perfect hot weather top for a morning of lifeguard duties and dog walking.  I have teamed my new top with black cotton shorts from Barkins, gold Diana Ferrari sandals, me made beach tote and obligatory morning coffee.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012



I have dubbed this dress the Paua dress because that is what it reminds me of.  In other parts of the world Paua is known as abalone.   My fascination with this shell fish in the past only extended to jewellery made from the beautiful shells.  Even though it is an incredibly popular shell fish in these parts, I actually only tried it for the first time ever, a couple of weeks ago.  I think the inky black colour of it had put me off in the past.  I really didn't know what I was missing.  Marinated in oyster sauce, ginger and soy sauce it is delicious. Anyho, the print of this dress reminds me of the interior of the shells.   When Master 9 saw me wearing this dress, he called me mother nature.  That works for me as well!

The fabric I used was a piece of cotton rugby knit that I picked up at the Op Shop with this dress in mind for the frugal price of $6.  I used McCall's 6559 for the pattern and made view D with the racer back.  I cut the top to size 10 and graded out to size 12 in the hips.  I am pleased I did, not because it is extra tight in the hips but because it is quite slim fitting and quite snug around the hem to walk in.  In saying that, it doesn't cling anywhere that I want to avoid clingyness if you know what I mean.  I did have to raise the shoulders by 1.5cm because the neckline was a little too low for my liking.

I actually whipped this dress up on Saturday after hearing the weather man promise us a summery Sunday.  He  wasn't wrong and on Sunday with the mercury hovering in the early thirties, I was able to wear my new dress with a matching Paua pendant and my new nude coloured suede Clarks wedges for  a spot of Christmas shopping followed by a glass of Sav.

Now I have to say, I hadn't been entirely convinced about the maxi dress trend.  I love them on other people but wasn't sure that it would translate either to my shape or lifestyle but I am pleased to report that actually I love, love, love this pattern and it is definitely a keeper.  You will be seeing more of this pattern.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

As If On Cue...


What a difference a day makes!  We put up the Christmas tree this weekend and as if on cue summer arrived with a vengeance.  Temperatures over 30 degrees meant I could finally get photographs of my summery projects....but more on that later in the week!

I thought today, I would photograph my latest purchase...and no, it isn't another new sewing machine.  Actually, it is that fantastic cone holder sitting at the side.  With my old machine I was able to sit the cones in an old Vegemite jar.  I know, very Australian but the Marmite factory got damaged in the earthquake and is now like black gold, so Kiwis had to switch allegiances and eat Vegemite...but I digress!  See the lid on my new prevents the old Vegemite trick so I have been forced to wind my threads onto bobbins.  This is really a tedious task and made more difficult because of a lack of bobbins.  This new cone holder is fantastic and I don't know why I hadn't bought one before.  It is weighted at the bottom to prevent it falling over and the thread just behaves beautifully.  I will be adding this, my new bobbins and an invisible zipper foot, which I will be putting to use this week, in my November tally.   As usual, I am not going to include the items made for my kids in the total.

End of November Wrap Up
Embroidered Floral Shorts
Pattern Used Before $0.00
Fabric Left Over $0.00
Zip $3.90
Button Recycled $0.00
Total $3.90
Green Denim Shorts
Pattern Used Before $0.00
Fabric Left Over $0.00
Zip $1.99
Button Recycled $0.00
Total $1.99

Aqua Bikini
Pattern Used Before $0.00
Fabric $9.80
Elastic $1.25
Beads $6.50
Total $17.55
Orange Floral Alma
Pattern $25.00
Fabric $2.49
Zip $2.79
Total $30.28
Blue Floral Alma
Pattern Used Before $0.00
Fabric $12.00
Zip $2.99
Total $14.99
Blueberry Top
Pattern Used Before $0.00
Fabric Left Over $0.00
Total $0.00
Pink Lace Tee
Pattern Used Before $0.00
Fabric $6.00
Total $6.00
Vogue Peasant Top
Pattern $12.00
Fabric $9.50
Total $21.50
Cone Holder, Zipper Foot, Bobbins
November Total $116.67