Craft, stitchin' and sustainable living

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mini break

This and other fantastic images can be found here

Excuse me for my brief hiatus. I gave myself a bit of a break from blogging, and from sewing and creating, just for a little bit.

Lately I've felt the need to spend time thinking, questioning, plotting, planning. I've been feeling tired and run down - work has been exhausting, and even during these times I tend to keep the pressure on myself to keep up my usual stitching, cooking, exercising and blogging routines. This time I decided to give myself a break.

I heard a good analogy yesterday: an axeman is in the woods, chopping down trees, working vigorously and getting quite tired while his axe gets more and more blunt. A passer-by notices this and says "Axeman, why don't you stop and rest for a while? You can sharpen your axe and regain your strength, and you'll be able to finish the job sooner". The axeman replied "I can't stop, I've got too many trees to get through" and continues chopping.

We all need to take time out to sharpen our axes. In a few weeks I'm going on holidays to Tasmania, and it's going to be EXCELLENT. I can't wait to share my adventures with you. I'm also taking some steps to fix some minor health issues, and generally care for my wellbeing.

So dear friends, I didn't want you to think I'd dropped off the planet. I'm still here and will resume normal blogging programming shortly. And whaddayaknow?  I think I feel the urge to knit coming on...

Monday, September 17, 2012

The veggie patch

As you might remember, we moved into our new house about three months ago.  With Spring approaching we knew we wanted to start planting our veggie garden but we had one problem - the sunniest part of the yard didn't have a garden bed.  So we called in our local landscaper (so local, he lives in our street) and asked him to build a veggie garden bed for us.  

The newly built bed looked great, and once it had soil in it we were keen to get planting!  We put in some herbs...

(how cool is pineapple sage?  It really smells like pineapple!)  and some tomatoes...

Though they look happy, they still have a long way to grow...

And there are two rows of radishes that we are expecting to pop up very soon...

We have a big order in with Diggers for some wonderful heirloom seeds, but until it arrives we continue to water and watch every day.

What are you planting at the moment?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pleated Trousers

Here's a little project I've been working on - the Pleated Pants (Trousers) by Papercut Patterns.

First I'd like to say how much I like Papercut Patterns - not only do they have an excellent range of sewing patterns, but they also have a sustainable angle, with a goal to use 100% recycled and recyclable products.  As they say on their website "A good quality, well made garment can last a lifetime, so lets keep our earth alive long enough to appreciate our craftsmanship". I coudn't agree more.

Although I seem to have cut the pattern a size too big for me (me, make a muslin?  I don't think so!), the trousers still worked out quite flattering.  I think you can get away with 'a bit too big' in black.  Papercut pattern instructions are very well written and extremely easy to follow.  I thought sewing trousers would be a bit of a challenge for me (zip? fly? lined waistband?) but in reality they were actually quite easy to make.  Unlike many patterns I've made recently, I didn't have any "you want me to put what where?" moments.  The pieces all fit together amazingly well - even the waistband seams and side trouser seams match!  That never happens for me - at least, not without an amount of swearing and unpicking.

I'm really pleased with these - they will become a staple in both my work and casual wardrobe.  I'd really like to make another pair - this time the right size - and in another colour.  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

More pickles (because we love them)

Sunday afternoon at our house means two things: cheese and pickles.  We are completely addicted - smoked cheddar, blue castello, often a brie or a camembert.  And the pickles: sometimes gherkins, sometimes onions, sometimes both.  Making your own pickled onions is actually quite simple if you can find small onions, and they work out quite tasty too.

The most difficult part of the process is peeling all the onions.  I recommend wearing ski goggles for this part.  No, really.  This is not a task for the un-masked.  Then brine the onions overnight.

Give the onions a good rinse the next day.  At the same time, make heat a mix of vinegar and your chosen spices.  We like to use apple cider vinegar for its flavour, and a mix of ground allspice, mustard and a bit of brown sugar .  Let this mix cool.

Pop your onions into sterlized jars along with bay leaves, slices of chilli and peppercorns.  Then pour the cooled vinegar and spice mix into the jars and seal.  The onions will be ok to eat after a few weeks, but to get really pickley ones I recommend leaving them for about a month... if you can resist!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The socks are finished!

The good news is that the slow/fast socks are finished!  Yay!  What I hadn't mentioned before is that these socks were actually a gift for a friend of mine - hence the hurry at the end to get them finished.  I'm really happy with how they turned out, and I think I've figured out a knitting pattern that I really like - I will try to write it all out and share it here soon.

In other news, another of my colleagues is off to have a baby this week, and so I crocheted some face washers in soft organic cotton as a small gift.  I crocheted into the back of the stitch to give a ribbed effect - looks pretty neat, huh?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Teeny Tiny Beanie

There seems to be loads of women at my work who are pregnant at the moment.  And while I'm trying not to stand too close for fear that it is catching (joking), I am enjoying making all sorts of cute little gifts as their maternity leave time approaches.  This week another work friend of mine is off to have a little one, so I whipped up this tiny crochet beanie (gender neutral as I didn't know if it will be a boy or a girl).

I took the opportunity to try out making a fork pom pom.  This is a good technique to use for making very small pom poms.  This is how I did it:

Start with your yarn between the tines (spokes) of your fork and start to wind the yarn around.

Continue winding about 50 times.  Then tie a second piece of yarn tightly between your middle tines.

Slip the bundle off the end of the fork and cut the looped sides open.

You'll then have a flat pom pom.  Just roll it around in your hands to make it fluffy!

I still can't get over the size of newborn attire.  I always doubt that this could possibly fit on someone's head! But usually it ends up being too big.

Also, thanks everyone for your ethical fabric recommendations.  I have updated the link list on my blog (on the right side).  I also went and checked out all the links and now I have a terrible itch to go and buy new fabric!  Please keep your recommendations coming in for eco, fair-trade or otherwise ethical fabric so that I can continue to grow the list.


Monday, August 13, 2012

On choosing ethical fabric

Today I started cutting out a new pattern - the very excellent looking Pleated Pants from Papercut Patterns (here's hoping mine turn out just as excellent).  The fabric is nothing special - cheap suiting from one of those large chain fabric stores.  I went into the store to find a colour fasting product (which they didn't have) and came out with two metres of this fabric for around $4 per metre.

As I cut into the fabric I had mixed feelings.  One of the main reasons I make my own clothes is because of the horrible effects that the fashion industry often has on people, animals and the environment.  By making my own clothes I know that no one has been treated unethically in the process, and there was no packaging or shipping needed.  But the problem is that I'm still making these clothes from fabric that I don't know the origin of.

Who produced this fabric?  In which country?  Were they paid a fair wage?  Did the production of the fabric pollute a natural environment?  I have no idea.

It's sometimes difficult to find ethically made fabric - be it fair trade or environmentally friendly or both.  So I've decided to start a list of websites where ethical fabric can be bought - you can see it on the right side of my blog.  I'd love for you to share with me any companies that have ethical fabric - just comment here and I will add them to the list.

So far I have:

Some of these companies I have supported previously, others are new to me but I will make a real effort to support them in the future.

Do you know of others?  Please add them here!

Please share any ethical fabric websites that you know of!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cute boots!

Check out these cute boots!  I made them for a work friend who is going on maternity leave soon (or rather, I made them for the little one who will be arriving next month).  I saw this pattern on the lovely (and also expecting) Veronica Darling's Pinterest board and knew that my friend would like them, so I picked up the pattern from I Think Sew and whipped them up last weekend.

I chose a maroon corduroy and grey felt from my stash (I figured the felt would be extra soft and cozy for baby toes).  The boots open and close with velcro, which I suspect is much easier than fiddling around with buttons when it comes to little people, and the buttons on the outside are decorative.

It's such a cute pattern, and with a few of my friends due to have babies soon, I suspect it will get good use!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cropped Jacket

You can all be very proud of me... I got myself over my sewing 'hump' and finished my cropped jacket.

I bought this pattern from Salme Patterns a few weeks back, and bought two types of fabric to try it in.  One, a heavy blue-ish grey fabric with a bit of stretch and a bit of sparkle, and the other a purpley jersey.  I started with the former, happily cutting and sewing, thinking to myself "this is too easy!  I'll have this finished in a couple of hours!"

Alas, I got caught on a tricky bit of the pattern - a mitred corner in the front of the lapel.  The instructions were like reading origami ("you want me to put which bit where?" "this doesn't look like the picture!") so I took the pattern and half finished jacket along to Browls (otherwise known as "stitchy night") to ask some fellow stitchers.  Between three of us we were able to figure it out, and thankfully I came home and finished the jacket.  Really, this was the only tricky element, and the rest of the pattern was quite simple to read.

The jacket itself has come together very well - look at how nicely the shoulder sits with the lapel and all.  I think it will get worn for work and play, which is something I have been wanting more of in my wardrobe recently.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Today I would have liked to show you the cropped jacket I've been working on recently.  Sadly, I recently hit a snag when I couldn't figure out one of the origami-like instructions, and my jacket-making came grinding to a halt.  I have since figured out the mystery instruction with the help of some of my stitchy night crew (also affectionately know as the Browls, as in like, Brown Owls), alas, my sewing mojo has not yet returned.  Soon, I keep telling myself, soon.

With no inkling for sewing, I continued knitting my slow/now fast socks and again spent some time in the kitchen.  This weekend's bounty included lemon marmalade (with a hint of ginger) and pickled beetroot.

I absolutely love pickled and preserved goods, and I have always have good stock of glass jars ready to be filled should I have a glut of fruit or veg that need the preserving treatment before they go bad.

Next post: a finished cropped jacket.  Hopefully.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

One sock in

You may remember a while back that I started knitting my slow socks.  The idea was that socks take a long time to knit, so I should treat it as a relaxing, non-deadline based activity.

Recently I finished the first sock.  After 12 weeks.  Yes, it took me 12 weeks to knit one sock.  Sure I did some other stuff inbetween (move house, for instance), but that seems like a bloody long time to knit one sock.

And I starting thinking that knitted socks are really only nice to wear in winter, and if it takes me that long to knit another sock they won't get worn this year at all.

So slow sock mode is officially off, and I've set myself some deadlines so that the socks can be finished before winter is over.  I know that goes against the idea of having a slow-paced project, but in reality, I knew it would only last so long.  What can I say?  I'm an impatient knitter.

Other than knitting, I've been cooking up a storm of late.  I got the urge to cook this weekend just gone and ended up stocking up the fridge with quite a few meals.  I made:

Pumpkin, ginger and red lentil soup
Veggie lasagna/bake - using whatever veggies were in the fridge, and homemade pasta sheets
Slow-cooked beef cheeks (6 hours) with roast veg
Spicy chickpea loaf - recipe from this book which I borrowed from a friend
a loaf of bread
and let's not forget Dark Chocolate Brownies with sea salt

We still have loads of veggies in our fridge so I can feel a preserving session coming on.

What's been cooking in your kitchen lately?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

No plastic packaging challenge - six months in

It's now half way through the year (yes! already!) so I thought this would be a good time to give an update about my pledge of going a year without plastic food packaging.

One of the best parts of the week - our veggie box arrives!
To quickly recap, I wanted to cut down the amount of landfill I was generating just by eating food that comes in plastic packaging.  One day late last year I had scoffed down a quick takeaway lunch (as you do) and was about to throw the plastic container in the bin when it occurred to me that that plastic container, which took a heck of a lot of resources to produce and which would be around for eons to come, was actually used for about 10 minutes.

Image from here
So how am I going with my challenge?  Generally I would say pretty good.  It certainly helps that we are members of a veggie co-op so a large amount of our food is bought in bulk (in cardboard boxes) and shared between a number of households.  We also have a refill co-op shop (the kind where you fill up your own containers with grains, pastas etc) close by, which also helps.

We take our own reuseable bags and containers with us everywhere, which can be a pain, but it's easy to be caught out.  We've found we have to be hyper-aware when we are shopping, because food manufacturers will sneakily use lots more packaging than needed, and it's common to find plastic wrapping inside a cardboard box when it is totally unnecessary.

Things we are doing differently:
- Eating butter instead of margarine
- Baking our own bread
- Making our own yoghurt
- Buying other dairy in glass containers or other packaging
- Taking our own containers when we get takeaway meals (some restaurants will look at us funny, but they will still fill them up for us)
- Asking for my takeaway sushi in paper bag and refusing the little plastic soy sauce fish
- Having a go at making our own whenever possible - pizza bases, pastry... whatever else - we'll give it a try!

Elgaar dairy comes in glass containers, and you get a refund when you return them

Food that I miss:
- Marshmallows
- Packets of chips (crisps)
- Mexican burrito and tortilla wraps - I tried making my own, but haven't really got the hang of it yet
- Puff pastry

We're not perfect and there are still small bits of plastic packaging that sneak into our house, and I've mentioned before that travelling for work makes the pledge extra tricky (especially aeroplane meals!).  But we're definitely reducing the amount of landfill that comes out of our house, and as long as we continue to be aware of packaging and try to reduce it, I think that's the main thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Leggings for winter

There's nothing more comfy and easy to wear in winter than leggings.  I needed to boost my casual winter wardrobe, so I bought three types of fabric for making leggings.

Now you're probably thinking that leggings are not a very exciting sewing adventure to be blogging about, however I did draft the pattern myself from an existing pair of leggings.  There is an element of risk in doing this, because you need to be sure that the stretch of both the original leggings and the new fabric are the same, or could end up with one tight pair of pants!

With my first draft of the pattern I made this black pair. They weren't perfect but were definitely wearable.  So I tweaked the pattern a bit and then used the new pattern to make this patterned pair.

 I quite like the fun colours in this pair.  The fit was better, but still needed a bit more tweaking.  Then with the final changes I made this silvery grey pair.

And there you have it - three new pairs of leggings, and a self-drafted pattern to hold onto for future legging making.  I guarantee these will get good wear this winter!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

1000 new friends

We've never really needed a compost bin, because most of our fruit and veggie scraps go to these little critters - Winston and Clementine the guinea pigs.

They do an excellent job of eating our carrot tops, parsely stalks and the seedy, squishy bit from the middle of pumpkins (definitely a guinea pig favourite).

But there are a few foods scraps that guinea pigs don't eat, like potato peels, that we still had to put in the bin.  Until now!

Now, if you head down the back of our garden, by the laundry, you'll find this little house.

You open the lid, lift the newspaper "blanket"...

and there you will find our new worms!  1000 of them (or thereabouts).

We bought the worm farm on the weekend and got it set up straight away.  We are letting the worms settle into their new home for a few days before giving them some food scraps to snack on.  As if that wasn't cool enough, worm poo is some of the best garden fertilizer there is, and I have big plans for a veggie garden come spring.

Welcome little guys, enjoy your new digs!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Buttony gift

A quick and cute gift for a friend’s birthday recently – the idea came from here.  A sweet use of buttons, some leftover fabric and a wooden frame from the op-shop.  Very easy.

And another glimpse of our new home too – this little stand is on the landing at the top of our stairwell.  The stand came from Salvation Army store, I can’t remember how much it cost but let’s just say not much.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

All moved in

So we are all moved in to our new home!  Yay!

 We’ve been spending the last few weeks doing the final bits and pieces of the unpacking and putting the finishing touches on the house.  I’ve also been cooking lots of lovely warm wintery dishes (I splurged and bought a cast iron cooking pot, which is being used every weekend at the moment), knitting my slow socks, and generally snuggling up on the couch.  That’s what winter is all about, right?

Of course, I was itching to use my sewing machine as soon as it was unpacked, so I whipped up a table runner and cushion covers, as our previous cushion covers were old, faded and didn’t match at all.  So here is the first glimpse of the new house – even if it is just the dining table.  It is tucked under the stairwell which leads upstairs.

We’ve been getting LOADS of mandarins in our veggie co-op delivery, being citrus season and all.  I’m not much of a mandarin eater.  Any suggestions for good mandarin recipes?  Has anyone successfully made mandarin jam/marmalade?