Monday, August 19, 2019

A yellow bomber jacket

This is what I made when I was down the coast last time. I wore it to a friend's farewell drinks last night - off on posting to Geneva. I'd like to say we are going to visit her, but that would be a bit optimistic. My intentions of visiting are always good, but then they come back three or four years later, and I'm just "you're back already? really? was it fun?" and my life has trundled on without excitement or event. But Geneva does sound nice.

This is McCalls 7100 and I wish I'd googled it before I started sewing because it was actually one of their sewalongs! So there was a lot of information out there, which I didn't have until afterwards. It is not something I have ever made before, and to be honest it wasn't what I intended when I got the yellow cotton drill off the shelf. I was going to make more of a coat, but I didn't have enough fabric, so thought what the hell, I'll use it for the bomber jacket.


Oooo, so many chins. It was surprisingly fun to sew and not too complicated. Despite all the measuring the pockets aren't even, but I don't think anyone would have noticed (it is ALL I can see when I look at the photos).

I didn't really understand the instructions on how to sew the bottom facing and ribbing, but bodgied my way through and it turned out OK ... until I gave it the final press and MELTED the ribbing. I could have cried, it was so frustrating. But I didn't chuck it in the bin, I unpicked the facing, cut the melted bit off, stretched the ribbing so it covered the gap and sewed it back together. Swearing like a pirate at myself the whole time, and it certainly doesn't look super professional. But do-able. And the whole thing is strangely fun and very definitely easy to wear! Who doesn't need a yellow cotton bomber jacket with strange squiggles on it. I am under no illusion that it is flattering, but it is colourful.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Quilting again

I picked my broken sewing machine up on the weekend - all fixed and good as new. At least as far as I can tell ... it is certainly a lovely machine. My new bargain one had been doing very well, but the Janome is such a powerhouse. Super fast and a lovely straight stitch. I finished up the trip around the world top, but I wasn't feeling very scrappy for the next project, so I thought I would start a medallion. In bright happy colours (I don't know why, I wasn't feeling very bright and happy, but maybe that's the point?). The central squares are printed on the fabric, not pieced by me, it's very straightforward.

So that's the top so far. I probably won't add much more to it, just leave it single bed sized. The weather here hasn't improved much - I went for a run at lunchtime and the apparent temperature was 1.5! Actual temperature was 5, but there was a nasty wind chill even with the fog. Horrible, but luckily for me I have a thick layer of subcutaneous fat and it warmed up in the first two minutes. Short sleeves and short leggings (that is, knee length, I'm not talking short shorts here, that would be revolting) and I was just fine. Yay for blubber.

And I had to catch the bus home because number one son dropped me off at work and took his newly-minted P plates to school. ON MY CAR. I am trying not to be nervous about this, because it means I don't have to pick him up from uni tonight and can stay by the fire ... but still, so much to be nervous about .... MY BABY AND MY CAR.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The polar blast

Once again, Australia was surprised by winter .... it happens every year, especially when we get a polar blast that dumps snow anywhere inland. Canberra had a few flurries - very exciting - and solid snow in the hills. I went for a run Sunday morning around the lake which wasn't too bad, just a bit windy, but I could see the snowclouds hovering over the hills.

Number two was rowing at the same time and said it was a bit of an adventure. Even our funny little artificial lake had a chop from the wind, and the beginner rowing eight kept whacking their oars against it and spraying each other. But good fun he said! Each to their own. We sent number one son out in the car, on his own, to pick up his brother. Finally, a driving slave! My days of running everyone around are nearing the end...

These are my birthday slippers. That's one of the nice things about a birthday in August, I tend to get snuggly things and chocolate. Other than the run, and some errands on Saturday  morning, the weekend was very much about enjoying the fire, and some sewing. We went over to friends on Saturday night to admire their new swimming pool (from the window) and have a lovely dinner ... the boys stayed home. I think they would have enjoyed themselves but we can't really force them to go and hang out with our friends any more.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Quiet beach weekend

The title says it all - I had a quiet weekend at the beach. On my own, and loving every second. I sewed a cotton bomber jacket, which turned out surprisingly well. I've moved to approaching the garment sewing the same way I approach quilting - which is to make something that appeals to me for whatever reason, and not care at all about whether it will be useful. If I like the pattern and I like the fabric, then I can have fun making it .... wearability is an optional extra! Which is why I ended up with a mustard coloured cotton drill bomber jacket. No pictures yet because I haven't worn it, but I'm sure I will....

I thought I would have a bumper crop of lemons to bring back home but they are still not quite ripe. Beautiful - a greeny tint of yellow - but mostly not pickable. I think the bamboo is giving them quite a lot of shade, which might make the ripening process a bit slower. Or it could just have been a cold winter? I don't think it was ... it has certainly been a very dry winter. The countryside on the drive down was very brown.

There was also a lot of wind, and some pounding surf. I went down to the rocks below Mossy Point which I've never done before (despite walking the cliffs above the point hundreds of time) and the waves were smashing very spectacularly onto the rocks and misting me with spray. It was mesmerising ... and I took a lot of photos.

Friday, August 2, 2019

A pastel scarf

In the ongoing quest for pastels I think I might have gotten closer ... just a tiny hint of green, and of pink, and the rest cream. And plain cream on the warp as well, in case it was looking a bit vibrant.

This looks a bit wrinkled because the warp is the linen blend, and it certainly holds its body and is not a springy as pure wool.

There is just a hint of green, with a bit of pink, and a couple of points where they blend and it gives a brownier-green (or a brownier-pink, depending). What these photos don't show is that I used two skeins and my dyeing is terribly random. One dyed more green and one dyed more pink so there's a distinct shift in tone about two-thirds of the way down the scarf! Perhaps no-one would notice but me, but I think it's horribly obvious...

Monday, July 29, 2019

Back into the swing

After the gentle delight of having the house to myself for two weeks - and Parliament not sitting - it is now back into the swing of school, work, cold weather and cooking for others :( Not that I actually do much of the cooking, it is my poor long-suffering husband who makes sure there is food on the table for the family most of the time. And he had a monster cold last week thanks to being infected by his relatives! Honestly you  just want to go and say hi, and they give you germs....

But it was nice to have a proper weekend with everyone around. Or sort of around. Number one son went to the movies with a friend and spent the rest of the weekend locked in his room with various assignments, number two son went shopping with a friend Saturday afternoon and then Sunday morning decided he would try rowing! He saw a poster at school and headed off to the come and try morning, bless his socks. Sunday was an absolutely beautiful winter day, and he really enjoyed it, so will do it again. I went for a run at the same time and it was glorious - warm and clear. The photo above is the High Court which is where I started the cool down walk. I quite like it, but it's a bit concrete brutal. That was completely the colour of the sky.

Saturday my husband and I went to a Christmas in July lunch at friends that had a Middle Eastern theme.... no, no idea why. In fact there was nothing christmassy about it, so we could have just called it lunch, but I'm not going to disrespect a chance to socialise! We were on salads so I ottolenghi'd the arse out of it,  why not. It required hunting down the last bottle of pomegranate molasses in Canberra (because Middle Aged White Women) but was quite successful if I do say so myself. And pretty! We enjoyed ourselves very much and managed not to get too drunk, which is a good outcome with this particular group of friends, just saying....

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Yellow and grey scarf

I am still weaving as I finish up the projects I'm halfway through, and try not to start any more. I'm also still sewing of course - the new machine is sewing beautifully, and it's very pleasant to be quilting again. I've started with a scrappy trip around the world (so I didn't have to make any decisions) but I have lots of ideas for what I'm going to do next.

So this was a work in progress that I've now finished. For dyeing, I went with yellow and grey, not too bright. Of course it ended up super bright, I can't seem to restrain myself from putting more dye in! This may be a hangover from dyeing cotton fabric, where it's the saturated colours that are the hardest to achieve.

It looked much better woven up into a cake, but given the yellowness of it I decided to use my second-to-last ball of cream mohair on the weft. It it is still super fluffy and still smells like goat. It made for a very quick weave.

The cream made it much more muted, which I think is a good thing. Look at those tassles! A full scarf in that might have been a bit much.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Another small trip

It's the end of two weeks of school holidays, and this time my husband took the boys on a road trip to Queensland and back. They went via friends in Sydney, an airbnb in Nambucca Heads, a few days with his brother and family at Tumbulgum, a few days in Brisbane with his parents and a couple of days over at the beach house on North Stradbroke Island. Before driving back via Gunnedah ... several thousand km all up but number one son can share the driving now! It was a great opportunity to give him experience on country roads, and apparently he did very well.

They had a fabulous time exploring the countryside and catching up with lots of relatives. I couldn't really take any more time off given I've just had seven weeks; but I did sneak up to Brisbane on a plane to see them - just for one night. We went to the Mt Coot-tha botanic gardens, which were amazing, and number two saw succulents and cacti to his heart's content. 

We went out to Redcliffe on the bay, which was the first place I ever stayed in Australia when I made my first trip as a backpacker nearly thirty years ago. It hasn't changed much. We had lunch with relatives, went for a drive in the country, fed the lorikeets that flock on my parents-in-law's backyard and enjoyed the warmth! Brisbane in July is just beautiful, clear and warm during the day but a bit crisp at night. Delightful.

Redcliffe is also where the Bee Gees first lived when they moved to Australia as kids and where they started performing .... and so there is a laneway devoted to them! It was very interesting, with pictures and music and of course life size bronze statues to take your selfie with. We hummed Bee Gees music ALL DAY.

That is idiot son photo bombing with thumb next to Barry. My plane back was delayed so I didn't get home until about midnight ... the dog was very happy to see me and even more happy when I finally gave her her dinner. And now they are all back from their road trip! Just in time for school next week....

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Why I'm broke

Just when I was sadly facing weeks without my machine, the Spotlight catalogue arrived with half-price sewing machines. And I have been thinking about getting another machine for up in Canberra that can do zig zag and buttonholes, in case I want to do any garment sewing up here .... and some of the machines were really cheap ... and I don't need anything fancy ... so I went down to Spotlight and test drove a few. Of course the really cheap ones were very cheap and nasty, so I had to go up a little bit, but half price!!! Such a bargain.

Not the fanciest machine in the world but it sews nicely, has a needle up/down and all the bells and whistles that I will ever need. It's actually very similar to the machine I have down the coast which was three times the price when I bought it in 2005 .... things that were super fancy then are pretty much standard now. I'm starting with an old favourite quilt block -  scrappy trip around the world. Lovely.  I had a very enjoyable weekend avoiding the cold and sleety outdoors and sewing. This is taking the dog for a brief walk - that's a snow cloud hustling in from the south. Brrrrrr.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Why I can't have nice things

The night before last, I finally got the urge to do some quilting again. It had been building for a while, but I was never in the mood to tidy up the sewing room to get to my quilting stuff, so I ignored it ... until I decided just to do it.

I put the wool back where it belonged, dusted off the sewing table, unhooked the ball winder and the fringe twister, cleared off a couple of shelves (threw a heap of crap out) and uncovered my sewing machine.  I found some fabric, did some ironing, did some cutting ... then walked back into the sewing room, barged at full speed into the sewing table, and my sewing machine flew off the newly-dusted table at a hundred miles an hour and smacked into the wall. With a very nasty smashing sound. The thread mast snapped off and the wheel refused to turn at all and the presser foot wouldn't go down.

I've taken it to the repair shop and it is fixable, although it will take a while and cost several hundred dollars. Still cheaper than a new machine, but I was so cross with myself. The table has been in the exact same spot for thirteen years! And I have a massive bruise on my leg. Anyway this is a picture of some pretty pink clouds while I was walking the dog yesterday. Everything is very cold and wintry but the clouds caught a little bit of sun.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tartan trousers

Back in the 1980s I wanted tartan trousers DESPERATELY - we had a student teacher who had the coolest pair that she wore with a yellow jumper and I thought it was the best thing ever. But I never got my tartan trousers ... until now. I saw some in the trendy shops and thought, why not, they must be fashionable again! I know you're never supposed to wear anything you wore the first time round, but I couldn't resist. I couldn't find any pair that fitted my fatness though, so I had to make myself some.

I just went for elastic waist because of fatness (and comfort, and ease of sewing) but even so they took me forever to do! I think I unpicked and re-sewed every seam. Luckily elastic-waisted trousers don't have many seams.

And pockets of course, they had to have pockets! And a backside shot. In a hurry, between getting number one and number two son from school. I like them, they are super comfy and TARTAN.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Purple scarf

I've worn this scarf a couple of times this week because it is lovely and soft and matches my purple jacket.
The warp is the very soft and silky merino (I may have ordered some more, oh well, it was on special) dyed in various shades of purple and a bit of green, and the weft is more of the red alpaca blend. Of which I still have three balls - it lasts forever!!!

When you look at them just as balls they don't go at all, but once it's woven up they look fine. I am still surprised by this, I wouldn't normally put together a bunch of bluey purples and green with a reddish brown.

We all survived the first parliamentary sitting week. The first time the bells went off I nearly jumped out of my chair but you get used to it pretty quickly. Back to the grind...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The second new skirt

Here are some very bad photos of the skirt I was wearing on Monday that I'd made at the same time as the other one (the wool checked one) using a variant on the same pattern. But flouncier, and with flowers.

Not a great photo. There is only so much you can do before school, in the kitchen, with a six foot two photographer who doesn't realise he is quite so tall. This is the same McCalls pattern as before, but view F, which is basically a full circle attached to the yoke. Because I had the yoke sizing down pat, it was an easy sew, despite the sheer quantity of hand hemming.

I wore it because the new Governor General was getting sworn it at work ... not of course that I was invited to the swearing in, or following events. I am really the parliamentary equivalent of a scullery maid, so I got to peek over the stairs at the festivities before scurrying back downstairs. To scrub something.

This is from the back, you can see the fullness a bit better. It looks like the hem is doing something weird on the left, but it's actually super even. Trust me...

And here is the swooshy shot! There were a number of swooshy shots, and this is the least blurry. He's doing a media unit this year, but they clearly haven't covered fashion photography.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Beach again

It was rainy and miserable in Canberra this weekend so I had a couple of days down the beach instead! The rest of the family had things on - it's the last week of term this week and the boys are getting a bit weary - so I sewed and made a mess on my own. Saturday afternoon I went round to see a friend who has bought an on-site van at a caravan park about twenty minutes down the coast. It's very cute and has an annex with a full proper bathroom ... but still decorated with the classic early 1980s green and brown caravan look! He is loving having a base down the coast, and how it changes your mindset to have a little bolthole.... preaching to the choir I said.

 We went for a walk on the beach (he was testing the water, I chose not to) but it was a bit blustery and cold. Saturday I also made a muslin for a jacket which was pretty ugly, so I chose not to go any further. Irritating, but that's what muslins are for. Sunday I made some pants which took a ridiculous amount of time for something very simple, but they turned out wearable in the end and I'll take a photo when I wear them. 

Today I have on a skirt that I made last time I was at the beach so I will take photos and do a re-cap. I am thoroughly enjoying making clothes again. I'd forgotten the frustration of the failures (funnily enough I only remembered the clothes that I'd loved to wear, and blanked out the others) but the process itself is great. I don't aim very high, and only do easy things, but that's OK. Why change the habit of a lifetime?

Sunday was a beautiful day, so I went for a long walk. In a t-shirt. How crazy is that! When I dropped number one son at school at 8.30 this morning it was still minus 1. And an inch of frost on the ground.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

It's a dog's life

We hosted drop-in drinks on Saturday evening for friends who are going off on posting - a chance for them to say goodbye away from the chaos of a half-packed-up house and long long lists. It was lovely - we have some friends in common but not entirely, so we met some new people which is not to be sneezed at in my boring middle-aged life. My circles are pretty fixed by now.... Anyway the dog LOVED it. She had been groomed, and was clearly feeling super cute, and got plenty of adoration, which she lives for. And then people dropped food! All her christmasses had come at once.

This is her being adored by my  husband. She even smells quite nice after a thorough going-over by Shampooch.

This is her being adored by my son. I was backing the car out to go somewhere as he was taking her for a walk. Speaking of cars, he just has one more competency to be ticked off and then he is a probationary driver! And can go places on his on, in my car. That is soooooo scary both for me and the car, but I know it has to happen, and it will be great to not have to drive him everywhere all the time.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

I sewed a skirt

I actually sewed two skirts - from the same pattern - when I was down the beach last month, and one of them had its first outing to work today. It is made from a beautiful wool that was part of the haul I got via a work colleague from an elderly Japanese lady who was moving into care.

Lovely, but not very much of it. It would have been great in a jacket but I really only had enough for a fairly simple A-line skirt.

Sorry, terrible photo, but it is actually a nice skirt and quite a flattering cut. It has a wide yoke on the bias, centre back zipper and a gentle A-line. I used McCalls 7022 (view C) which was super simple to put together, and I didn't make many changes at all; just using lining for the yoke facing because I thought double the wool would be too much, and doing a bias binding hem because I had to cut it slightly too short due to the lack of fabric.

And here is the entire ensemble! Black and wool for the Canberra winter.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Strange dyeing, good weaving

The strange multi-coloured dyeing experiment from a couple of weeks ago (where I added the rust) continued to look odd even after I'd dried it ... but it wove up into something quite lovely! Wool is unbelievably forgiving; no matter how unpromising the colours the finished product looks quirky rather than revolting.

I did two scarves with the dyed wool on the warp - the first one had a fine browny-red fluffy alpaca blend on the weft. You can't really see it because it's so fine, but it's soft and lovely and blends in well with the warp.

The second scarf I used a chunkier bright pink wool blend that makes the whole thing super pink! But in a good way.

Here they are side by side by comparison. Both of the plain wefts calm the warp down, but in different ways. I didn't have quite enough for the second scarf so it is a little narrow ....

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Brisbane getaway

And my final getaway was the furthest yet - two days in Brisbane. It was my husband's uncle's 70th birthday party on Sunday and when we got the invite a couple of months ago we thought why the hell not, let's leave the kids overnight, hop a plane, book a nice hotel and have ourselves a mini holiday! The Monday was a public holiday in Canberra but not Brisbane (it was the Queen's Birthday holiday, Brisbane is not to my knowledge a republic, but doesn't feel the need for a public holiday) so we didn't even need to take the day off.

We took the first flight up on a very cold and foggy morning, got picked up at the airport and taken straight to the family lunch at Brad's cousin's house. Straight into the glorious Brisbane winter weather - it is so delightful. Warm, clear and pleasant ... there are four months of the year when I could definitely live there. The rest of the time, not so much. I hadn't been to the cousin's house before - this is the pool cabana!!! What an amazing spot for a party. The kids (and a European exchange student) went in the pool but it was a bit chilly for the rest of us.

After a lovely day with lots of food and lots of family we made it back to our hotel, which was very nice and had a beautiful view of the river. And on Monday we headed out to explore ... after a proper cooked breakfast. I love having breakfast out, I think it's my favourite meal to eat in a restaurant. And we sat outside, under a warm blue sky, watching people go to work (hahaha, and mostly wearing coats and scarves! Queenslanders are SOFT) before walking over the new pedestrian bridge to Southbank. 

We went to two extraordinary exhibitions at the State Library - one on the south sea islanders that worked in Queensland plantations in the late nineteenth century, and the second one based on a photographic business that took photos of peoples houses in the 1960s and 1970s and the State Library ended up with over sixty thousand of these photos in its collection. It was just incredible to see - ordinary houses but together giving you such a clear idea of what Brisbane must have been like. It totally has its own streetscape and architecture (mostly horrible brick suburbia to be honest) but of course my husband was loving it, because it is just the picture of his childhood. The exhibition included context, and individuals telling their stories, and explanations ... and it was mesmerising. 

After that we went to the Queensland Art Gallery and saw a really good exhibition of Goobalathaldin Dick Roughsey's paintings (which I knew nothing about at all, most ignorant, but now slightly less so) before stopping for a delicious lunch, walking back over the bridge and going to the Museum of Brisbane at City Hall. I hadn't been in the building before but Brad spent a moment reliving the glory of high school speech night. That is the stage where he received his year 11 Excellence in English award ... apparently his academic career has been on a downward slide ever since. 

Yes I am getting arty with the photo filters. The Museum of Brisbane had the up and coming designers exhibition which is the usual equal parts amazing, weird, hilarious and plain wrong. But we enjoyed it, and had a bit more nostalgia looking round the Brisbane part of the museum. Then we felt that was more than enough culture so went to some cafe underground for a coffee, poked around the shops, collected our bags and headed back to the airport. The plane was a bit late, so we didn't get home until after ten, but the boys were absolutely fine. I don't think they left the house, just sat around, played computer games, ordered pizza and slept. A lovely weekend for everyone.