Saturday, September 23, 2017

birds and apples

A visit to the zoo this week followed by a walk through a local park to see the birds. This particular park has a lake and is always full of birds and, at this time of year, you can see cygnets, goslings and coot chicks.

And a play mat for Little Sprouts made from some of these fabrics and a surplus-to-needs quilted mattress protector as wadding. To make: cut the backing, top and wadding to size and make a quilt sandwich. But, instead of quilting, simply sew the layers together all around the edge, curve the corners and attach double fold bias binding. No need to quilt as the mattress protector is already quilted. Tutorial here to make a mat without binding.

Watching: Three (!) movies this week: 
Love is strange (2014) starring John Lithgow as Ben and Alfred Molina as George - an ageing gay couple who have been together for decades but after George is fired from his teaching job they are forced to stay with friends separately while they sell their apartment and look for cheaper housing.
Leviathan (2014) Set in a bleak coastal town on the Barents Sea, Kolya decides to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house and land will be seized. A powerful slow burner that I've been thinking about all day.
Frances Ha (2012) Quirky movie about a dancer trying to make it in New York City. One of my all time favourite films.

Friday, September 15, 2017

marbles and monkeys

Marble painting - drop a marble into paint, roll it around on a piece of paper on a tray and - ta-dah! - art. We had hours of fun with this book, Recipes for play: fun ideas for small hands and big imaginations written by New Zealander Rachel Sumner. Loads of simple ideas for pre-schoolers.

Sock monkeys - done. Pattern for cutting layout here. Variations - including the cute folded ears - alternative layout and detailed construction method with photos here. I'm especially fond of the plain grey one which I thought might turn out to be a bit boring.

Reading: The stranger in the woods by Michael Finkel. True story of Christopher Knight who disappeared to live alone in the woods for twenty-seven years.

Watching: The witness - documentary about Kitty Genovese who in 1964 was stabbed to death on a New York City street while, apparently, thirty-eight people witnessed her murder and did nothing.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


The early Spring weather has had me in the garden so I haven't been spending a lot of time making things lately. Instead I've been trying to lure bees into the garden by planting herbs - purple basil, mint, lemon grass, thyme and oregano - and a few flowers among the veges. We've also planted an avocado, a passion fruit vine and a bay tree. I can't wait to try drying our own bay leaves. Plus, even in a small garden, there's always lots of work to do after winter.

I did find time though to go to Fabric-a-brac last Saturday. I shopped without intent which was joyous.

Everyone in the house is away for most of this week. I always look forward to being home alone and imagine myself living a zen life - getting up early, doing yoga daily, taking long walks and eating raw foods but the reality is that I eat apple crumble for dinner, stay up late watching re-runs of Inspector Morse and sleep in. This time though I am without a plan. Today was taken up with a haircut for me, an emergency trip to the vet for the cat and a mad flurry of window cleaning - by me, of course.

Reading: The photo and recipe for the beautiful cured eggs coloured with beetroot and saffron is in Simple fare - spring, summer: guide to everyday cooking and eating by Karen Mordechai. This is a stunning cookbook with so many interesting but simple recipes that I'd love to try. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

fine spells

A short, quick visit to the Waikato last Sunday - in the rain - to catch up with some friends and see their new house near Cambridge. It's a long house so most of the rooms get that wonderful view of the river. We stayed the night in Hamilton - pre-dinner dessert at Duck Island, dinner at Dough Bros, and an excellent breakfast at Milton's Canteen (great name for a cafe in Hamilton, don't you think?)

Some new fabric - a couple of "vintage" prints that I'm very pleased with, a couple from Spotlight and an impulse buy of bright blue linen from The Fabric Store. All fabrics washed and ironed and ready for sewing.

And, in a moment of madness and for no reason whatsoever, I made a rabbit. The pattern and instructions are in Made for baby: cute sewn gifts by Ayda Algin.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance (a memoir) by Elna Baker. Baker is a Mormon living in New York and looking for a husband. She goes on a diet and only after losing a huge amount of weight discovers the miseries the world inflicts on fat people.

Urban jungle : living and styling with plants by Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

big red

Totally red crochet blanket for Little Sprouts. I know, it's a bit crazy, but I had the wool so I used it. And it will keep a little one toasty warm out and about in the stroller on a cold and windy day.
It's made up of twelve squares that I crocheted together - as I went - following this tutorial. This worked out well - nice flat joins, no ridges - and so much easier than sewing squares together at the end. I also discovered this method for working the first row of the border so that it doesn't end up wavy. (Blocking also helped.) The little edging stitch I got from here.

I'm fairly new to crochet and every time I make something I learn a new technique, thanks to all those generous makers who share their expertise on line.

Work in progress: sock monkeys.

Reading: Hunger : a memoir of (my) body by Roxane Gay. I've just started this one. It's a telling of the author’s life and of her everyday experience as a fat woman.

Monday, August 7, 2017


Six blue linen napkins. Finished. I started making them maybe three years ago but stopped when I had problems with the corners. As I'd already cut out the napkins and cut the corners diagonally I was committed to continue with mitred corners. I decided to hand stitch the hems so that I could tweak the corners as I went to get them right. I'm pleased with my effort. I find it such a relief to complete abandoned projects.

I've set myself a thirty day challenge - to draw every day - and to this end I bought Draw every day, draw every way by Jennifer Orkin Lewis. Actually I bought this book ages ago (end of last year?) as I've wanted to get back into drawing for some time but lacked the motivation. But it seems the book alone wasn't enough to get me started. I'm hoping that drawing every day for thirty days will create a drawing habit.

Reading: Let's explore diabetes with owls by David Sedaris - a collection of essay that manage to be simultaneously (a bit) funny and (a bit) wise.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

quilt #3

The quilt is finished and I'm happy with how it turned out. It's a small quilt - crib size 80cm x 100cm (32 inches x 40 inches) - so not overwhelmingly ambitious.

I think there's some tradition of naming quilts. This one reminds me of various parks in the city - green playing fields, people walking their little dogs, even geese if you're in the right park. I didn't want to name it after a particular park and, in the end, the best I could come up with was Quilt #3.

I've been gathering fabrics to make a second one (Quilt #4, I guess) - many from my stash but a couple of new fat quarters too.

July has been a wet and busy month. Both my (adult) children have July birthdays so there has been some drinking of champagne and eating of cake - which has taken the edge off the winter weather.

Reading: We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Short essay based on her Ted Talk. Why the gender divide is harmful for both women and men.

Listening: Stuff you should know podcast

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

hats off

Woolly hats ready to wrap up for posting to Crafty Volunteers - a group that supports various NZ charities including the Womens Refuge, night shelters and refugee services. Currently they are needing winter clothing and blankets. The ribbed hat is one of the "pull-on" hats from Erika Knight's 2010 book Simple knitting. It's a good basic pattern and one to get hold of if you can.

Yesterday and today we've had blue skies after days of heavy rain. It's been lovely to be able to open some windows, hang washing out on the line and go for walks in the sunshine.

Watching: Try something new for 30 days - a Ted talk by Matt Cutts. This isn't a new idea but Matt is pretty compelling. It's sparked a bit of conversation in our house. What to try - daily yoga, veganism, getting up early? Or, maybe, what to give up for 30 days?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Another weekend away. This time to Omapere. We had perfect weather and got in some long walks, the mandatory meal at the Boatshed Cafe in Rawene and a trip on the ferry to Kohukohu.

The puerperium cardigan is finished. This is the second one I've made. I love this pattern. It has no seams - comfortable for baby and no sewing up. Knitting the tiny sleeves in the round can be a bit tricky. Last time I used the recommended "magic loop" method but this time I used double pointed needles and found this easier and faster. I did struggle to find seven matching buttons in my button box. Luckily there were loads of op shops on the way up north with plenty of great buttons - that I've already sewn onto cards for my collection.

Reading: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. You may've seen the television series of this starring Frances McDormand but I'd still recommend the book. I am so loving it. It's really a series of short stories beautifully written.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


I spent last weekend beside the sea up at Omaha staying with friends. Not the best weekend weather-wise but great in every other way. We managed a couple of walks along the beach in between the showers. That top photo looking over the dunes at that line of Norfolk pines is one of my favourite views of Omaha.

Nothing completed this week but I can report that the quilt is quilted and that the pattern for this striped sweater - one of my favourite baby knits - is now available here for free.

And you might like this short (2 minute) video starring the tiny and amazing insect, the springtail.

I hope your week is going well.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

hats and mittens

It may look like I've had a very industrious week knitting three hats and a pair of mittens but two of those hats - the pink and yellow - were knitted quite some time ago using this free pattern. I finally sewed up their seams and got them finished. The grey hat was a way to use up yarn left over from the mittens. And for that I used this pattern from Adorable baby knits by Jody Long.

My granddaughter asked me to make her some mittens. It hasn't been a particularly cold winter (yet) so I'm not sure how much wear they'll get but she seems to enjoy trying them on and showing them to everyone. And I enjoyed making them. I used an old Kaiapoi pattern. Mittens are deceptively easy to knit on two needles and don't take too long if you're knitting for little hands. There's a free pattern here for "the world's simplest mittens" that goes from toddler to large adult size and doesn't require any grafting. Apparently mittens are warmer than gloves - something to do with trapping body heat because your fingers are all snuggled up together. Cosy. ☺

Reading: The woman in cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This is a mystery/crime novel about a woman being thrown overboard from a cruise ship except all crew and passengers remain accounted for. So far, a page turner and the protagonist isn't even on the ship yet.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Three completed hankies. I make these for myself whenever I find the "right" fabric - a nice light cotton, usually voile. I cut a 12 inch square and narrow hem by hand using slip stitch. I tried to master the rolled hem but I couldn't get the knack of it so I just iron a small hem about 1/4-3/8 inches and double fold as I sew. I try to "embrace the wonky" and not be overly fussy - no fancy mitred corners. The floral fabric I found in my stash, the stripe was a bargain from Spotlight and the spots from fabric-a-brac. Speaking of which, the next fabric-a-brac in Auckland is September 2nd. It's always worth a visit plus the proceeds go to Mercy Hospice.

And the work in progress is another "puerperium" cardigan designed by Kelly Brooker. This is a free pattern available here. So far this little cardigan is going very well - probably because this my second top-down knit and I now know how it works. Top-down is a bit of a mystery first time round.

I like to have a few projects going on at the same time these days. I used to like to start and finish a project before starting something new. Now I prefer things a bit mixed up and go from one thing to another. And, strangely, it seems easier. I think doing many things at once takes the focus off completion and puts it instead on the process. And for me it's really all about the process. I make things because I like the making. How does it work for you? Are you a multi tasker or a starter-finisher?

Reading: Mrs D is going within by Lotta Dann. NZ writer's sort of sequel to Mrs D is going without - her memoir which tells the story of how she quit alcohol (which I haven't read). This second book is about developing coping strategies (other than alcohol) for dealing better with life.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

small change

Three little re-makes because it's the little things that count.

A new succulent - a stapeliad, I think - bought from the Tauranga farmers' market in its newly painted sleepy head pot. I don't know why but I'm thrilled with this. Possibly because I think about projects for such a long time - about how to do it and what could go wrong - so that when I do make the thing and it works out ok it's a huge relief to me.

I wasn't happy with the pyramid lavender bag that I made last week so it's now a regular old rectangle. But it was doing such a wonderful job that I added a ribbon to another bag so that I could hang two bags in the wardrobe to intensify that fantastic lavender smell. I made the embroidered bag ages ago from a salvaged moth eaten tablecloth that belonged to my mother. It's lovely to have some little part of her in my home.

And, finally, this is the tea cosy that used to be covered in tiny flowers but I tired of them a few years ago and chopped them all off - even though they took me ages to make and to sew on. So for a while the yellow teapot wore a sad looking beanie/cosy thing until yesterday when I realised that what it needed was a bright orange pompom.

Reading: We have always lived in the castle (1962) by Shirley Jackson - described as "gothic horror" this is certainly a bit of a creepy thriller

Watching: The handmaid's tale - haunting, engrossing and shocking tv series based on Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name and starring Elizabeth Moss

Friday, June 9, 2017


On a weekend road trip a couple of weeks ago we stopped at the excellent farmers market in Tauranga where I bought a bag of dried lavender to refill my lavender bags. It turned out to be a bigger task than I thought it would be but so worth the effort as the new lavender smells so amazing.
With the leftover lavender I made a new bag using this embroidered linen backed with the blue floral cotton voile. I'm so pleased with it. Embroidered lavender bags would make nice gifts - a set of three tied together with a ribbon.

I also wanted a lavender bag to hang in my wardrobe so had a go at one of these pyramid bags. These are easier to make than they appear but they're a bit of an odd shape for a lavender bag, I think - not something you can easily tuck in between the sheets in the linen cupboard. Cute, though.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

linen and a vase

Linen napkins - I bought the linen as a bundle labelled "place mats" at an op shop last summer. Hardly used, colours still bright. I'm particularly keen on the mustard. I cut them down to simple everyday napkin size and then hand stitched them with narrow hems. I decided this was easier than winding bobbins for the six different colours and mitering corners. Plus, as you know, I like hand stitching. It's quiet, relaxing and can be done almost anywhere.

Doodle stitching on some of the left over napkin linen. I don't know where this is heading but it's another pleasant thing to do.

And something new for the kitchen window sill - a lotus pod vase by Auckland potter, Ann O'Sullivan purchased from my new favourite local florist, Here among the wild. I like that it's handmade and can hold just one stem or many - especially at this time of year when there's not much happening flower-wise in the garden.

The flower workshop : lessons in arranging blooms, branches, fruits, and foraged materials by Ariella Chezar with Julie Michaels
Styling nature : a masterful approach to floral arrangements by Lewis Miller
Bringing nature home : floral arrangements inspired by nature by Ngoc Minh Ngo

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Winter officially starts in a few weeks and it's getting noticeably colder here. I cooked a pot of pea and ham soup last weekend. And used my last bouquet garni bag from the pile I made a couple of years ago. I find the bags so much easier than tying bunches of herbs together. Fill with fresh and/or dried herbs - even pop in a few peppercorns - then draw up, knot and trim the twine. When your soup is done fish out the bag, let it cool down and put the whole thing into your compost bin. I made more bags today. They're quick to make - no accuracy or seam neatening required - just a little draw string bag made from cotton "butter" muslin threaded through with cotton cooking twine.

I've also been experimenting with drying herbs. I've probably left it a bit late in the season but I've started with oregano which thrives in my garden. I rinsed the oregano first and gently shook off excess water. Tied it up in small bunches and hung them in my pantry from a little makeshift clothesline. Apparently you should dry herbs in a cool, dark place. You need to leave them there until the leaves are crisp and brittle. This took three weeks. Once dried just crumble up the leaves and store in an airtight jar. From a decent bunch of oregano I harvested about one tablespoon of dried herbs - which isn't much but does prove how much more potent dried herbs are over fresh. I'm encouraged and have started a second batch. Next autumn I think I'll do a larger quantity but also try other herbs like thyme or sage. Have you tried drying herbs? What worked for you?

Reading: The rules do not apply a memoir by journalist, Ariel Levy. The blurb says "in 2012, at age 38, when she left on a reporting trip to Mongolia, Ariel Levy thought she had figured it out: she was married, pregnant, successful on her own terms, financially secure. A month later, none of that was true." I'm only up to the married part. Too soon to comment but so far, so good. ☺

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


An apron made from a tea towel for the grand one. 

To make an apron you'll need:
a tea towel
ribbon for the ties - I used 2cm wide cotton twill
a pair of "D" rings
Hold the tea towel up against your child to calculate the length, the width of the yoke across the top edge and the placement of the ties at the waist. Cut off any excess length and fold up and sew a narrow double hem. Draw a line on each side connecting the corner of the yoke and waist. Add a seam allowance. Cut away triangle corners and sew a narrow double hem along sides of apron. Attach side ties folding under raw edges. Double hem the tie ends. Attach the "D" rings to the end of one neck tie. Attach both neck ties. 

We had a great morning last week wearing our aprons and baking.

Ginger bread cookies
100gm butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp golden syrup
1 cup wholemeal flour or wholemeal spelt
1/2 cup plain flour

Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC. Line baking trays with baking paper.

Cream butter and sugar until pale and soft. Sift and add ginger and baking soda. Add golden syrup. Gradually add flours. 

Gather the dough together using your hands and turn it out onto a well floured surface. Roll the dough out using extra flour so it doesn't stick to the rolling pin. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and carefully place onto trays. Decorate with dried fruit - currants, glazed cherries etc. 

Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden.