Thursday, 30 October 2008

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Jorinde jacket - Part 1

Photo from ebayshop fabricsaurus, chunky bottle green 100% corduroy fabric. See link below.

The jacket I have decided to have a go at sewing. It is a blazer style jacket with one button at front, an interesting yoke, that goes from the front round the neck and over the shoulder to the back on each side of the neck and a lapel collar.
It is a free pattern available (to registered users, registration free) at Burdastyle.

It's definitely the most complicated sewing I have attempted. I thought having the instructions in English would make it easier...but I'm not sure I understand any more than I would in Spanish! ;-) The pattern includes instructions but not step by step pictures, much like the Burda magazines. I began making a rough version from calico ("a muslin") this weekend so that I can work out what to sew, where to sew it to and how, and make sure I understand what I'm doing. It's been interesting, not stressful, as making mistakes is part of the reason I'm making a muslin, so I'm not fretting about ruining fabric.

My first mistake was printing out all 26 pages of the pattern, carefully trimming each sheet and sticking them together, drawing the pieces onto the calico...only to realise that the printer had enlarged everything by I had to print out another set of pages, this time checking the sizing, then stick them altogether again. But at least I hadn't cut any fabric! Note to self - check printer settings first. 

I know that I have a long back, and have worked out that I have to elongate pattern pieces by 2-2.5cm. I was a bit worried that there were no elongation lines on the pattern. The waist was marked, but as the pockets were inserted in the front pieces above the waist line I didn't want to elongate at this point as the pockets would have been positioned far too high up my torso. So I worked out a line somewhere above this - another reason I was grateful that I was making up a rough draft. So far, I think I've got it about right. I'll try and photograph this adjustment and post it here for future reference.

I'm also using the muslin to practise sewing the flapped, bound pockets and lapel collar on the muslin too. I'm finding the instructions a little tricky to follow. The pockets were easier than I thought they were going to be, but I haven't worked out the lapel yet. My old 1970s/80s "Collins Complete book of Needlework" doesn't have quite enough information, so I looked and found an old edition (1976 I think) of "Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing" on Amazon for 55p, so hope, despite not being the latest edition, it'll be able to help me with the construction. I want to change the button hole to a bound button hole at the front too, I'll practise first, I'm not sure how to do that with the lining as well as the top fabric.

The blazer is made up in fine/baby corduroy in the Burdastyle example, that looks lovely, but then I'm biased towards corduroy and green, the colour they have used. I have ordered some chunky 100% corduroy in bottle green from an ebay seller.
I hope this won't be too difficult to work with - I realise that the fine cord is probably easier. I'm going to take my time, and cross my fingers. The pattern needs around 1.9m of 140m wide fabric, the cutting layout requires the fabric folded double. Unfortunately the corduroy I've ordered is only 110cm wide, but I've ordered 3m, I hope that I'll have enough for the jacket and a skirt, perhaps a short skirt....

Because of unexpected flat stuff - a new hob being installed on Friday morning, renting, I lost a lot of time on Saturday cleaning the kitchen of dust and muck as the work top had been circle-sawed to fit the new, slightly bigger hob and everything was covered with a layer of dust. Still, least it's safe, a gasman doing an annual check earlier in the week had said the hob was leaking gas - so guess I'm lucky it hadn't gone bang.

I found some black shoulder pads in a local shop - no choice of styles, and not things I use very much, but I'm going to try them in the muslin and see how they look. I think that I should be able to buy the lining material, thread and buttons from the market on Tuesday. I've ordered some woven fusible light/medium interfacing from another ebay shop, and will see how it feels with the corduroy. All in all, so far an interesting project - and a necessary one - I'm missing having a jacket, it's cooling down here in the evenings!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


First, the cat. I decided that my plan would be to put food down for the kitten for a couple of days, win his trust so that I could get close enough to pick him up without him running under a car, take him in and then try to find him a home or get him to a rescue centre. Stripey cat is right, there are ex-pat run rescue centres a few miles away on the coast so I was hoping that I'd be able to get a colleague to drive me there if needs be. As it was, I gave the kitten a small can of food, he carried it under a car and gobbled it up, so apart from being a bit dirty and having sticky eyes he seemed to be fairly strong and fiesty. He wouldn't come close to me. I noticed that some one else had put down some milk. When I went to check on him a few hours later there was no sign of him anywhere. So I think, and hope, that whoever had put down the milk came back for him and gave him a home.

Nothing has been noted here for a while partly because nothing notable has been done. This is not a diary after all. I had a friend visiting and the new school year has kept me busy, I have had no time to sew/print/knit/draw. Or at least, if I have had the time I've been too tired to do anything with it. And I haven't been cooking, or for that matter eating much, except when out being a tourist with my visiting friend.

But I have lots of plans, I need to make a few more christmas gifts, possibly cards too, and as I left my only jacket on the train I need to sew a jacket. Possibly a bigger sewing task than I had planned to tackle just yet. Still I've found a free pattern on Burdastyle and ordered some lovely bottle green chunky corduroy to make it with. More soon, I'll need to make lots of notes on these projects.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Life: I wish we would handle with care

So there are things I like about this country I have chosen to spend time in, and things I appreciate of course, I don't believe in going to live in a country, by my own choice, and then complaining about it. But I hate this time of year, not the change in season, sometimes that isn't evident at all, and this year having Autumn is quite exciting. I've missed it, in this part of Spain we have gone from Summer straight to Winter.

But the abandoned animals break my heart. The problem seems to be worse after the summer. People take in, or get animals from somewhere for the summer. When the summer ends they abandon the animals. Walking my dog, we've seen more street dogs since September, and more cats. I lived in a city in Catalunya for a couple of years, and this didn't seem to happen, but here in the South-east it seems more prevalent. 

I hate it, I feel powerless to make any difference. In class, we talk about pets and animals, and I gently introduce the ideas of responsibility to care for animals at home and adopting animals from the street or a rescue centre rather than buying pets. I have pictures of my cat and dog in class, the children are keen to talk about them and ask questions, I am always clear that they were both abandoned animals from the street. (I teach English to children in Spain, pets is a common topic with younger children).

Opposite my flat there is a tiny siamese looking kitten living under the bins. I saw him/her last night for the first time. Very small, dusty, with eyes that look a bit sticky. I don't think he is more than 6 to 8 weeks old. He's making that strange loud miaouwing noise, too big a noise for his little body. I thought he might be part of a group, other cats to huddle with and find food with, but I haven't seen any others. He is too scared to let me get close, I've tried a few times, but he backs away. I'm scared he'll run into the busy road if I get too close. Perhaps with some food I can tempt him out. 

And if I can, then what can I do? I suppose give him a home, but with a boisterous dog and a young cat that doesn't like other animals it wouldn't be easy. Cowardly, I wish I just didn't have to see all these poor animals, I wish that I was living somewhere else. Or maybe I just wish that we all handled each other, and every living thing, with a little more care.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Chickpea and roasted vegetable lasagne

Must be autumn, I've turned the oven on. Hopefully I'll have left overs to help me get through Monday and Tuesday lunchtimes. Phew! It's busy being back at work....

I soaked the pasta in hot water for 20 minutes, as instructed on the box. I made the filling from a standard tomato sauce preparation (well, my standard anyway), tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, a bay leaf, and a little thyme and rosemary and a splash of sherry, pinch of sugar. The vegetables are roasted and frozen in bulk for later use. Here onions, courgette, aubergine, red, green and yellow peppers, garlic. The chickpeas too, were pre-prepared, soaked and then cooked in the slow-cooker on Friday.

There are two layers of pasta. The top layer covered in some tomato sauce and then a white sauce made simply from soya milk and nutrional yeast flakes. Baked in the oven at around 180-200º for hmmm, phone went, maybe 40 minutes?

Served with steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Very tasty.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Story so far

Story so far, originally uploaded by soja.

The cooler weather is making hand craft much more doable. I've mostly finished the outline, worked in holbein stitch with two strands of floss, over two strands of linen. I've left the lower trunk undone so it doesn't get worn and rubbed in the ring while I stitch the rest of the design.

To pull the sampler together, I've used the same filler stitch for all the leaves (I think this is the same as the original, there is a photo in the book, but no details of which filler stitches are used where). The rest of the strange fruits will all have a different filler stitch each. I'm going to work these with one or two strands, for a little variety in tone.

The rest of my brain is filled with gocco ideas and thoughts of teaching, classes start again on Wednesday.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

First Gocco Print

Well, I did it and the process is really easy, no problems, after reading maybe all the posts on the gocco group at flickr I was prepared for disaster. I'm used to labour intensive linocutting - this almost feels like cheating, and I'm intrigued by the detail that is possible, looking at the prints and hundreds of wedding invites posted to the flickr group.

I had delayed having a go, worried about wasting a master and bulbs (needed to make the master screen for printing). The Japanese company, Riso, has stopped producing the press and supplies are reported to being scarce. In the end I thought I should just stop deliberating and have a go. 

Friday was a quiet day at work, still raining, and I ended up spending time doodling. I guess rain is on my mind. On the way out of work on Friday night I photocopied the doodle and printed it out today.

And then couldn't stop! I'm not sure what to do with all the prints. I may never buy stationary again, I hope my friends don't get fed up of the image on every card and note they get from me from here on in. 

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Rain rain rain.

Rain, rain, rain. Not a bad thing. It's still warm, and this part of Spain needs the water. but it's strange. Three days in a row of rain and a spectacular thunder and lightning storm on Sunday. Over the last couple of years, it'd seemed that down here in the south-east there were only two seasons, summer and winter. Summer lasted, and then ended promptly more or less on the 31st October and winter began on 1st November, almost as if the weather looked at the calendar. I went from having nothing but a sheet on the bed to both layers of my four seasons quilt within a week. Perhaps this year there will be an autumn.

Jaffa is mesmerised by the rain falling and splashing on to the balcony and Lucky tries to shake himself dry in the middle of wet rainy walks. I think he likes the mud on his paws. The days are drawing in. September is a mixture of beginnings and endings. The academic year is about to start, new students, new books, new pencils, and at the same time winter nights are looming, the days are getting shorter, the end of the year approaches. Beginnings and endings.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Oh me oh my

Not even back teaching yet and look what is happening! Spent the weekend learning how to edit in imovies and then how to make dvds in idvd for work instead of doing things for me, although a little stitching got done.

Almost cooling down enough in the evenings to make me feel like knitting again.

Think I'll trace out a skirt pattern from 'Diana Moda' and order some decent interfacing so I'm good to go and get started when I can. Tomorrow is market day so maybe there will be some usable material around.

Still got to finish those Christmas presents too....

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Bits and pieces

Hmm, no photo today. Back to work this week, but not properly. It's the no-man's land of work. I have to be at school, but classes don't start until 1st October. A mixture of being busy and trying to look busy.

Still excited by the prospect of gocco-ing, just trying to get hold of some paper/card samples to print on. This week I hope. I also picked up a paper cutter at Lidl today and it seems to work really well. I'd bought a cheap cutter years ago and took it back, it was awful, just a stanley knife blade that ripped the paper, but this seems to cut cleanly. It also comes with a blade that perforates and a wavy blade. I think it'll be a big help cutting up paper for the gocco....

The blackwork sampler is coming along, most of the outline is stitched, I hope I'm not making it too small to work the filler stitches, I'm hoping that with 32 count linen I'll have the space I'll need.

I wore the blouse to work yesterday and I was really pleased with the fit and look, the day before I wore some linen drawstring trousers I'd sewn and it feels great wearing clothes that really fit well and are comfortable. I hadn't realised how different it would feel - I hadn't thought that the clothes I normally wear didn't fit...

Last note to self - that curry was delicious! Maybe the wine and coconut made it special? Hmm, the freshly ground coriander didn't hurt, and the mustard seeds - yum!

OK, that's it.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

New project - Blackwork

New project, originally uploaded by soja.

I've wanted to start this for years. I've completed several different types of samplers in the past, maybe even started one or two more, but never a blackwork sampler.

was really taken with this design, based on a really 1970s looking tree and weird fruit and birds. The original design is from my old Collins Complete Book of Needlecraft (1978,1981). I've changed the shape of the tree just a little and I'll get some technique help from The Complete Book of Needlecrafts introduced by Caroline Ollard (1983,1984).

I'm going to work the design on mulberry coloured Belfast linen (32 counts per inch) in black cotton. The linen is a much brighter colour than I had realised when I saw it on my mac on ebay, but no matter, I think it'll be fine.

This project should keep me busy for quite a while, I don't plan to rush it or work on it exclusively.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Felt tips as fabric markers

I saw these amongst all the back to school stationary displays last week and the washable bit caught my eye. I wondered if they could be used as fabric markers. I would have preferred something with a thinner tip, but these turbo tips were especially marked as being completely washable at 40º. Well, if they hadn't worked I could have always used them as felt tips for classroom displays and lesson prep. They were €2.99 for twelve, which makes them cheaper than pens sold as fabric markers - which I can't buy locally here. I use triangular blocks of tailors chalk, but this isn't always fine enough.

Anyway, as the blouse in the last post was going to be a practise version I used the grey marker and drew on the fabric. I ironed it too, wondering if this might change the washability of the marker...but I washed the blouse last night at 40º with my usual detergent and success! No marker, it's worked. The blouse is made from light-weight 100% cotton fabric, maybe on other material the results might be different and obviously it'd be no good for material that can't be washed at 40º I won't be using it for embroidery that I don't intend to wash, but generally anything I'm going to sew to wear is going to be machine washed so I think these will be a good cheaper alternative to fabric markers. Great!

Friday, 12 September 2008

More finished

Wey hey, first Burda magazine pattern finished - not bad as I had a Spanish edition and so was trying to follow the instructions in Spanish...

This came together pretty easily. I like the button loops, neck and sleeve binding and the overall style. I traced size 40 and added 2 cm to the back length. I also chose to finish all seams as well as I could either with false French seams, or binding (the armholes) etc instead of zigzagging them and I like this very much. Nuts, I know. Anyway, this will be a smartish blouse for going back to work.

NB The Spanish magazine version has a different cover and name - but the same patterns and pattern numbers as the international magazine. So this is blouse 103 from the August 2008 Nueva Burda or Burda World of Fashion.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Underneath it all

Oooffph. Ok, now I need to make a note on what I've been doing. First, I completed my first ever bra. This had been put aside a month ago because I was having a lot of trouble sewing through the elastic, slippery materials. I think part of the problem was also that I didn't really like the materials. 
As it was my first go, I had thought I'd be better off ordering a kit with all the necessary materials to go with the pattern. I ordered the Elan Bra 511 pattern and kit from Sew Sassy in the US ( 

My first problem, almost immediately, was that I couldn't identify which materials were which. The materials supplied in the kit were not labelled and the pattern stated that I should have tricot and lycra. I emailed Sew Sassy, and got a quick polite response, and then a day later the answer. Good customer service, and generous amounts of the two main fabrics. Unfortunately, to me the tricot and power net (they had substituted for the lycra, which is what had confused me I think) were a bit shiny and 'cheap bra' looking to me, not really anything I would chose.

Second, I found sewing the elastic to the power net difficult, and unpicking impossible.  I had to scrap my first two attempts. I was using special stretch needles.

Well, I managed to solve the second problem. I just placed tissue paper between the fabric and the machine, under the elastic or whatever, and no problems. Great! After that, the bra came together pretty quickly and looks fine, although the fit is not perfect. The centre band does not sit against my body, so now I have to work out how to solve that.

As I had plenty of spare tricot (the shiny slippy stuff) and power net (stretchy, rubbery mesh) I decided to practise and have another go. This time I took apart my favourite, and too old to wear anymore, bra and made a pattern from each piece, noting down what stitches were used and in what order I undid the bra, so that I could reverse the order for making a new one. This information from Cindy Elan was very useful (hhtp://

I also took the underwires and casing from another worn out bra. I made up one side of the bra (one cup, side, back etc) and am really surprised that the fit seems to be pretty good! So I'm going to continue with this. I'm also looking round the net for some nicer looking materials in small quantities. I have seen a pattern for making bras from woven non-stretchy materials (Kwiksew 2489), so might consider buying one as it would give me a wider choice of fabrics and I prefer cotton stuff anyway.

However, then a parcel of fabrics arrived, including the corduroy that I needed to finally finish my lingerie was abandoned! Think that will have to be a separate post.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Bean rice bag sacky paper-weight things

Phew it seems to be getting more humid here. I have had the fan on in the flat while cutting out and sewing - but finding that I had pattern pieces flying here are these things to help keep the paper on the table. I was inspired by a post at "A Spoonful of Sugar" (, Lisa had made some much bigger and elegantly tassled ones to hold the pages in her books down. 

Well these are a little smaller. I cut out an equilateral triangle with 10cm sides from a piece of card, drew round this on the fabric, and used the line as a sewing line. Four triangles for each triangular pyramid. I then stuffed them with rice or lentils or couscous and that's it. Quick and simple. I did make the mistake of throwing one in the air in sight of now I have to hide them from him, because he thinks they are really interesting. They'd make good toys for children too, for throwing and catching games, obviously, and learning to juggle or just balancing them on your head...

(Um, yup, I did change the photo. I hate seeing horrible photos taken late at night under electric light. I know this isn't much better, but it's enough of an improvement. ;-))

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Little T-shirts for a little friend

So this stabilser thing then. It works - all sewn on cotton knit and no puckers. Great. I used a stabilser called "Avalon" by Madeira, purchased from Jaycotts ( £4 for 5m. It is a transparent fabric that dissolves in water, but isn't ironed on. I chose it mostly because it said it was environmentally friendly and that it was ideal for sewing onto knits and for machine embroidery - exactly what I wanted to use it for. I had wondered if it would work, I thought I might be better off with an iron on stabilser, but it worked really well, the machine didn't seem to object at all, no chewing of fabric or tension problems. I used some medium light cotton for the appliques, shapes made up by me. The "J" because the little boy's name begins with a J ;-) and the bus because his father is a little bit bus crazy. I don't think the inside is rough - I did line the sun with a bit of light knit material as I thought that the gold thread was a bit scratchy, so hopefully this will be fine. I bought the t-shirts, size 18-24 months, from Eroski.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Sausage and Apple casserole

OK, bad lighting because it's dark and this was taken in the kitchen.

I must write down what I did while I remember, if I remember, this was absolutely delicious - I think because of the long cooking time, between 1 and 2 hours somewhere. My little, less than sociable, nervy young kitty decided that she actually wanted to curl up on my lap and I was loathe to disturb her. Funny little thing.

Ah, but um, yes, back to the point. Slice one smallish red onion (think that a normal onion would be fine in this, but only had red left) fry in olive oil with 5 0r 6 small cloves of garlic. Thinly slice (on the diagonal) 4 carrots (thin and youngish), peel core and dice one eating apple and thickly slice 3 sage and apple sausages (see Sunday's post). Add to pan. Add about a teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds, ground mixed pepper, 1/2 - 1 teaspoon rosemary, thyme and oregano. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric. Chop and add two big tomatoes Fry until a little brown. Add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 2/3 tin of dry white wine, 1-2 tins of water and about 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas. Add a pinch of brown sugar and 2 stock cubes (vegetable, low salt). Add two bay leaves. Bring to boil and then simmer. Yum yum yum, very simple, and pretty similiar to lots of things I cook when feeling lazy, but this just seemed to taste really rich and um, yes, delicious - thanks to Jaffa the cat for her part in the proceedings.

Monday, 1 September 2008

A little something for me

My New Bag, originally uploaded by soja.

She tried a big bag, but it was too big, she tried a little bag, and it was too small, but she tried a medium-sized bag and it was just right! Well, ok, that's not how the story goes and I'm not Goldilocks.

I wanted a bag that was big enough that I didn't need to transfer my money into a smaller purse, but still small enough that it didn't look like I was going to work or away for a weekend!

It's based on a free downloadable pattern from Ottobre (

I made a few changes - obviously the fabric. The blue bottom fabric is a thickish cotton from Ikea and the top fabric (also used as the lining fabric) is something I picked up from the market. It looks sort of like blue denim on one side and silky grey on the side I chose as the right-side. I used heavy interfacing, but I'm still not completely happy with this, will definitely try fleece or something next time.

I changed the straps, I made them longer than the pattern so that I could wear them over my shoulder. I also changed the construction. Ottobre tell you to interface them, stitch them right-sides together and then turn right-side out. This sounded like it would be a near impossible task, especially as I had lengthened them. So I folded the seam allowances under and stitched on the right-side, then folded again and stitched again. Not such a smart finish, but I think it looks ok.

I also added an internal zippered pocket, like for Allison's bag (using this tutorial: This went slightly better this time, I understood what I was supposed to be doing and the finished result is a little neater. Anyway, this is no reflection on the excellent tutorial - the wonkiness is all my own work. Practise, practise....or pockets without zips..

Instead of velvet ribbon I used some brown hem tape and black ric-rac, this way all the colours I wear are more or less represented on the bag so it should go with everything....

I'm the toughest girl I know

I'm pleased with the bag, I estimated the dimensions and handle lengths, based on bags I already own. I wanted this to be a very light simple, unlined bag that could be folded up and taken along in another bag for groceries. However I didn't want any raw edges, so I used french seams and folded the handles carefully with the top edge so everything is all neat and lovely. Fortunately the sewing machine didn't seem to mind all the layers, I guess as this isn't furnishing fabric, poor little machine. It's plain medium weight cotton from Ikea. On the front I added some fabric paint direction - my first attempt. Hmm, well, you know I was going for a childlike style.....This bag is just a useful fun present (I hope) to put another present in...also to be sewn and yet to be created. 1st September and hey - the Christmas gift making is going at a decent pace. :-D

NB, I saw this wording a year or so ago on something or other, a t-shirt in a shop, or maybe a bag, and I liked it. I think the recipient will too.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Sunday Lunch

A little blurry, much like most Sundays...such a strange day, even during the long summer holiday. Bit hot and heavy again too.

I do like a bit of lettuce variation, and despite the iron saga, one good thing to come out of all the visits to Eroski (the supermarket) was finding that they had some oak leaf lettuce whole, not just in those little bags of mixed leaves, good stuff, that's what I say. Sometimes it's a good idea to get happy over little things....

The sausages are based on a recipe by Julie Hasson at Every Day dish (see link on right-hand side). The first time I made up her recipe "Spicy Italian Vegetarian Sausages" I followed it as closely as I could, with what I could find here, using rice flour instead of chick pea flour for instance. And they were great! I like the texture and taste, so much better than anything that I had bought, and I can't easily buy anything pre-prepared and veggie like that here anyway.

I now often add in some breadcrumbs (I did this time), as suggested by Susan at Fat Free Vegan (link on the right-hand side), not so much to change the texture (Susan's reason I think) but to make them a little cheaper - breadcrumbs are a lot cheaper than vital gluten. Not mean, resource conscious...

This time I added: 1 cup of breadcrumbs, and one cup of cooked mashed up chickpeas, one apple (peeled, chopped and microwaved with a little brown sugar to make a puree), I didn't have any chick pea or rice flour, so just left it out, and I added about a generous teaspoon of dried sage.

The sage is the main flavour, unfortunately the apple taste doesn't come through, maybe because I just had a royal gala on hand, which are pretty bland. I'd like to try this using a good cooking apple. Instead of making 8 sausages, like Julie (I usually make 10), I made 16 smallish sausages. A tasty, light variation.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

60 seconds of squeak

Lucky's new toy....he loved it so much he ate it....He's still trying to make it squeak.

Oh dear, not so much iron luck around here, happily trotted off to get a new one, happy to find a decent looking model on special offer. Took it home and... no steam or spray, just lots of drips. Oh. So I waited for it to cool down, packed it all up again and went back to the shop. Got a replacement and... it steams well enough, but the spray still doesn't work. Humph, might just keep it and use a spray bottle. 

I did get the gift finished though! And shucks - just realised I've wrapped and packed it all up without taking a photo. Ah well...perhaps I can get the recipient to model....

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Verduras a la plancha, pero la plancha no va...

Oh, my iron has broken! The light is on, but it's not heating up... sewing is at a standstill, just as I'm trying to get a gift finished to post off tomorrow. Shucks! Only one hem to go too. Least it didn't affect dinner (guess this word-pun only works in Spanish...) Yum, these vegetables were good, coated in an olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and rosemary mixture lovely. And plenty leftover to eat cold over the weekend. Ah, summer food, it was worth standing over the griddle for.

New feet

Picked up two parcels on Tuesday morning, unfortunately neither were the fabric I am waiting for. The first were a couple of craft punches, the second was two new presser feet and some stabiliser from Jaycotts. A pintuck foot, for making 2mm pintucks with a double needle, and a foot for free-motion embroidery. It's good trying something new and different. I love the look of pintucks, anything really that adds texture and interest to otherwise plain fabric. I tried it on some light cotton and I got ridges rather than pintucks, then I tried it with some really light cotton and I did get rows of even pintucks. Hmm, I tend to use heavier fabric, it's what I can get, ... but I'll still find some uses for that. The free motion foot made an immediate difference - I can see why it is essential for the free-motion quilting now, no need for a ring to hold the fabric, it's going to take quite a bit of practise to get pretty shapes, but it's good to have the option.

Anyway, this was really fast service from Jaycotts this time, I guess because the parcel was lighter they didn't have to contact me with the postage costs - they didn't charge any more for shipping to Spain - great. The double needles are 2mm organ needles, purchased ages ago in anticipation from an ebay shop. 

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Matching potholders

Matching potholders, originally uploaded by soja.

Two more gifts done! I might add a couple of recipes and wooden spoons or something to each apron/potholder.
The cheap (2.50€) fleece blanket from Ikea seems to work well as the padding in these. Easier for me to get hold of than wadding, so must remember this in the future.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Aprons - surely what everyone wants for Christmas...

Well, I hope so, because I've made these last night for two of my closest friends...Tell me that the dark striped apron looks masculine, or at any rate, like something a man is not going to object to wearing, heck, he bakes bread and makes sushi - surely he needs an apron. I'd wear it. Oh, that doesn't really count, being a woman and an' all. Humph.

Blast that I can't take decent pictures at the moment, not that it matters really, but somehow seeing them here and on flickr makes it worse, those coasters look better in real life, what can I say? I can't really blame the light either, not living in Southern Spain, but it's hard finding a clear space without a dog poking his nose in, hmm, whose fault is that? Not a question I want to answer. 

Anyway, the machine is reasonably happy at the moment so this were quickish to make, and I'm pleased with the results I'd be happy to receive one of these, so I hope that means they are good gifts - they are going to be packed up with matching pot holders (sewing on binding now).  I'd add some home-baked delicious something or other too, but the postage from here is staggeringly anti-social. It's cheaper in reverse, but that doesn't help me.

I must measure the pink stripey apron, because I did not use the dimensions in the book (Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol - "angry chicken" blog on the right). I did use the dimensions for the ties, and more or less instructions for the kangaroo pocket. I love the pocket. I'm more of a chefs apron type person, but I do like this apron a lot. The stripey apron is basically the tea towel apron, but I made the fabric into a tea towel first, perhaps slightly bigger. I didn't put in darts 'cos it's for a man, and they don't need this is a man's apron, really it is. All the material is from Ikea. Even the thread.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Let the coasters decide!

Double-sided coasters, originally uploaded by soja.

An idea for a Christmas present: double-sided round coasters with two choices, flip the coaster to decide what to drink (or eat or do etc).

I like the idea, I think it's a bit of fun, and I can imagine the person these have been made for sort of liking them (what do you give friend's husbands for Christmas anyway?!).

I thought that they needed to be round, to emphasise the "flip" bit of the idea, but this was quite fiddly to turn out and finish. At first I tried top stitching in straight stitch, but it looked a little wonky, then in a zig-zag, and eventually I hand stitched a running stitch around the edge with embroidery cotton, which I like the most. The cotton circles and letters are lightly interefaced, and there is a layer of batting in each coaster. These need to be pressed, the colour is off, probably because of the time of day, but there we are.

The lettering also took quite a while to cut out and applique, I did find myself thinking that if I had been making one-sided coasters I could have made four for the same time and effort. I'm tempted to make up some square, one-sided coasters with just the shapes, no lettering. I think they'd make pretty sets of four, though less fun.

I have lots of other ideas for decisions, I like the double-sided/flip idea. Perhaps I could stamp the letters or something to make them less time-consuming to make? Anyway, another Christmas present made...

Paper and card

Hmm, having problems uploading to flickr. Anyway, to remind myself what I've been doing. Playing with black silhouettes on white card. I've made a birthday card and this anniversary card, and am playing with some different shapes, birds, fish etc. hand cut from black sugar paper. The coloured punched out hearts are cut from plain origami paper, silver kitchen foil and pink foil from chocolate wrappers. I've added coloured leaves to black birds and colourful seaweed to fish silhouettes.

The rubber stamps I picked up at Lidl yesterday, I wasn't sure how well they would print, but the alphabet is fairly clear and crisp. Eighty-six stamps for €3.49 was worth the risk. I'm not sure if I'll use them for stamping exactly, but the letters are a good size for applique and it saves me a little time, not drawing my own letters, and I'm wondering if I can use the animals as embroidery guides...maybe. And now I have blue fingers. ;-) I wonder if I could use them to stamp on fabric with fabric ink?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Serving its purpose

So, the good thing about taking those photos of the trousers...I could see for sure that they needed to be let down for a half inch or so. So keeping all this stuff together here on the blog is working. Also want to remind myself that I used the overlock stitch on the sewing machine for the first rime and it sort of worked and that I reduced the the seam allowance to 1/4" from 5/8" as it was easier for me to 'eye' this width. 

Experimented with free motion embroidery for the first time last night, just squiggles on calico, but it seems like fun. I've ordered a free-motion presser foot from jaycotts (and a pin-tuck foot) to play with. I think it might be a good way to add a pit of originality to bags and aprons and things.

I also actually managed to get up and go to the weekly market this morning, by not sleeping last night :-(, only to find that none of the usual three notion/haberdashery stalls were there. So no hunt for bra elastic... The 1€/m stall wasn't present either. But I did find a 3€ for a random length (around 1.5m) stall and got some interesting brown brushed cotton type stuff, some grey/blue suit/denimy fabric and some tan cotton (?) fabric with little red hens printed all over it. Hmm, good to have some variation from Ikea.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Daft portrait of the artist as a young(ish) woman

I can't take a picture of myself in these!! I don't have a full length mirror or a remote, so I used the timer and dashed in front of the camera. :-) Anyway, they are really comfortable and I am happy with the fit.

They are made with the pattern for the "yoga pants" (makes me think of gym knickers....) from S.E.W. by Diana Rupp. The only problem I have had with the book is the sizing - everything turned out way too big, so I made the small size, which should be too small but fits perfectly, so hopefully that will solve future problems.

These are made of what feels like cotton, from the 1€ a metre stall in the market. They are so comfortable and soft that I have been wearing them despite the colour which is a little brighter than my usual choices. My mother will be thrilled ("Darling, it's not black!"). I plan to make up another pair in some beige linen, when it finally arrives. Hmm almost two weeks, perhaps I should follow that up.

Oh, and hi Leopold Bloom, the title is for you.  

Our walk

Across the road, round the side of the old (not in use) bull-ring, turn left, a quick run in a loop in delight at the feel of grass under your paws and a sniff of the palm trees. Then a walk along the river, phew, fortunately not too smelly today.  Meandering from tree to tree, stopping here and there, cool grass and warm sun. Noticing how well Lucky is camouflaged  in the speckled light filtered through the leaves above. Amongst all this green being reminded by the sprinklers embedded in the earth and the graffiti sprayed on the walls that we are living in a city, all be it a small one. An urban dog and urban art. 

Too hot on the paws for our normal walk, so a little play on the stretch of rough grass the other side of the football stadium, chewing up some blades - what has he been eating? And then home for more coffee and more plans while it's still summer and there is still time for this slower pace, still time to idle way the day planning and thinking. Maybe with a purpose, and maybe not. Ah well, as the poem goes, "What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stop and stare?..."

Fabric, fabric, fabric

Ah, now just got to sew it all into something to justify buying it in the first place...

Taking myself to Ikea is an almost all day expedition, only one train every two hours, a 25 minute train journey, then a 15 minute walk to a bus stop for the bus, only one an can take a long time to even get there in the first place. I'd happily buy the fabric from a more local shop.... if there was one. The fabric in the weekly market and in the shops in closer larger cities, seems to be almost exclusively synthetic.... so Ikea has been my main source of materials. And when I'm offered a lift by a couple of colleagues I feel like I have to make the most of it and buy while I can. 

Hmm, which is a bit, um, uncomfortable for me. I decided to make gifts for my friends and relatives this year, and make my own clothes and furnishings, to avoid buying things just for the sake of it... and here I am buying fabric just for the sake of it. Oh. But kind of with plans for it. The plan wasn't so much to save money, which is just as well, because I don't think I have. I was fed up with buying gifts that I wasn't sure would be wanted. At least if I have made them they have been made while I have been thinking of the recipient, and I hope that even if they aren't wanted (eek!) the person receiving the gift knows that it has been made for them, with thought and love, handled with care. And it has stopped me buying clothes just because they are on sale, or because I feel like something new. 

The problem is, to make the making more enjoyable and satisfying for me, to help me practise and learn about what I am doing, I need to make more than one version of whatever it is I am making. This leads to having extra bags and bibs around that have been handled with care, but not with a purpose. Oh well, they are being saved up as future gifts. 

Friday, 15 August 2008

Alli's Bag

Alli's Bag, originally uploaded by soja.

OK, not perfect, but as a first go at making a bag completely from scratch, rather than altering an existing pattern, I'm pretty happy. It has ended up looking like they way I had planned it to look, so that can't be bad.
It's a messenger style bag, made from four basic pieces, the front, back, flap and then the bottom, sides and straps are one continuous strip of fabric. The strap is adjustable as it is tied. Next time I might try using a buckle and d rings, maybe with some webbing. I have some coming via ebay...
On the front, covered by the flap, there are pockets made from one lined and pleated piece. The larger pleated pocket has a snap fastener/tape closure. I made an inner zippered pocket for the first time, a little bit wonky...but hey - it's black and inside.
The outer fabric is red rust corduroy from the market (+ light/medium interfacing, perhaps a bit puckered...but I didn't think my sister would like a floppy bag), the inner fabric is black cotton from Ikea. lot's of things to work on, I've tried lining bags with brushed cotton (U.S. flannel, recommended in BTRS), but they are a little floppy, not sure about the interfacing either, this is a little puckered, maybe quilting with some wadding (batting) or something? Though maybe just some better interfacing - this stuff looked dodgy.

I've ordered some lovely olive green corduroy to bind the Spring Garden quilt (can you bind a quilt with corduroy? I don't know, it's my first quilt and I just have this idea of having it bound with corduroy...ah, making things up as I go along). I'm hoping that there might be enough fabric left over to make a bag for me. One thing my sister and I have in common, we love corduroy, so there you go. And if Allison is reading this, well, I guess you knew it was going to be a bag, and if Jeannie sees this, yup, you do recognise that fabric. :-)

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Breakfast Muffins

Breakfast Muffins, originally uploaded by soja.
I don't usually have sweet stuff for breakfast, but have been eating up the pineapple cake with coffee and felt like continuing to have a change from toast and marmite. And I think with the heat I am craving sweeter things.

The recipe was slightly adapted from "The Joy of Vegan Baking" by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I couldn't find oat bran so used wheat bran, corn oil instead of canola, and some almonds instead of walnuts. Half filled with strawberry jam, and half with ciruela (plum) jam, but as they are ripe green plums, I think maybe they are what I'd call greengages. Because I don't usually eat jam either, yet have three jars of it in the fridge,  I wanted to use some of it up, I like having the splodge of jam in the middle.

N.B. Recipe made 12 not especially big muffins, not 16 as stated in book.

Cooler today, 32º, well I guess it's all relative after 40º yesterday it seems cooler, and the wind is fresher, so our walks today have been much more pleasant, and it wasn't too bad having the oven on to bake these. Now, I had better eat up that split muffin with a cup of strong black coffee....

Monday, 11 August 2008

New hat!

Terrible pictures, but it's hard to take a picture of a hat on my head and Lucky didn't feel like obliging by either wearing the hat or taking the picture...

Anyway, I'm really pleased with this (despite slightly wobbly top stitching). The fit is great, I made it just slightly, slightly smaller, maybe by 1/8" all round as I know I have a pin head. The brim is not too floppy and no puckers. I made the hat reversible, one of the suggestions in the tutorial. The fabric is thick, 100% cotton from Ikea.

The great tutorial and pattern is provided very kindly, and for free, at: I can't see the name of the provider anywhere, but thanks to them very much. 

Sunday, 10 August 2008

A Vegan Lunch Tin

A Vegan Lunch Tin, originally uploaded by soja.

Gosh, stainless steel shiny things are hard to photograph.

I thought I'd enter the contest at "The Vegan Lunch Box". I really enjoyed looking at all the different lunches she was making when her son was at school and thought it would be good to join in.

I'm going to try to write down my "recipes", all a bit vague, as I just do it as I go along, anyway, the easiest first...

Red cabbage and carrot coleslaw

1 cup finely sliced/shredded red cabbage (though it's purple...)

1 cup shredded/grated at a pinch carrot

1/2 finely sliced very small red onion


2 tbspn peanut butter (I used crunchy as it's what I had)

1 tbspn apple cider vinegar

dash (1 tspn?) olive oil

Black pepper, freshly ground

Whisk together and use to coat coleslaw.

Three-bean red pepper hummus

N.B. I soaked and cooked all three beans together, which means the pale coloured beans end up an unappetising greyish colour because of the black beans. This is no problem here because they are mixed with the red pepper. However, for a pepper free version it would be best to leave the black beans out, or if you are using pepper but are soaking a big batch of beans and want to use some of the beans for something else, just soak/cook them separately.

1/2 to 3/4 cup each of dried chickpeas, haricot beans and black beans, or any other combination, soaked and cooked (I cook in a slow cooker, fuss free). Or canned/jarred beans rinsed.

1/3 cup roasted red peppers (I used tinned peppers that also contain a little onion)

1 tbsp olive oil

juice of 1/2 to 1 lime

2 tbspn tahini

2 - 3 tbspn water

Black pepper, freshly ground.

Mashed up with an immersion blender.

Good as a dip too, being hummus and all.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Christmas boxers...

This came together easily, this is the large size from S.E.W. by Diana Rupp. I have been a little disappointed with the patterns, the info in the book is great, the first bag I made was simple and looked good, but the clothes patterns seem to be a bit shapeless and I've needed to adjust the three I've used so far (nightie, tank top and wrap skirt). Anyway, I think these look fine, they needed to be pretty big for the recipient...The cotton is really soft and I hope not too colourful, and of course, from Ikea...


Pineapple Ginger Upside-down Cake, this isn't burnt, I used a caramel type syrup for the top/bottom as I didn't have any golden syrup or stem ginger to use instead. It was the closest thing I could find here.
The recipe is adapted from one in "The Vegan Cook Book" by Nicola Graimes. I prefer the look of rings of pineapple instead of chunks, no stem ginger and I had no self-raising flour so used plain flour adding in 21/4 tspn extra baking powder, 1 tspn salt and 1/2 tspn baking soda. (N.B. to convert plain flour to self-raising, for every cup of flour add: 1 tspn baking powder, 1/2 tspn salt, 1/4 tspn baking soda). 
The recipe says to use an 8" round pan, I used a lined 7.5" pan and it rose and rose right over the tin, so next time I should use a bigger one. Taste is good, ginger just right and moist without being stodgy. Good with strong black coffee.

Pencil and Crayon Rolls

Pencil and Crayon Rolls, originally uploaded by soja.
These are going to be Christmas presents...... Trying to make use of the time I have now. All fabric is from Ikea, they are based on the pencil roll in Joelle Hoverson's 'Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts'. No lining layer as the Ikea fabric is more than thick enough. Pleased with the machine applique I added, N.B. if it's going to be visible on both sides (like the fish NOT the heart) it needs to be something that lokks fine upside down on one side (like the fish). Seam binding tape used for the ties. Crayons instead of pencils as I thought these might be easier for a young child. I like the way these came out....wonder who else I could give one to.....

Sewing machine cover

Sewing machine cover, originally uploaded by soja.

Yeah! Daylight.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

She knows; I'm crazy

How come when I'm stitching bags with multiple layers of fabric my poor little machine can't cope.....yet when I use more layers of fabric, and interfacing, to make a cover for her she sews through it all as easy as pie? And how come my machine has acquired a gender? (My inanimate objects are usually male, if anything, must be because lots of other sewers seem to have "she" machines, must have rubbed off.) And how come I'm thinking about a machine knowing what it is sewing and that's it for her/it. I must be going crazy. But I'm pleased with the cover.

 The dimensions were taken from the flimsy plastic cover that came with the machine. The top is interfaced to help the cover drape neatly. The outer fabric is thick cotton from Ikea and I lined it with some light lavender cotton. I added a small pocket to one side for a reel of cotton, so if I stop mid-project I can slip off the reel from the top of the machine and store it, so that the cover will still fit properly.

The handle slit is bound with home made (non-bias) binding using Autum's great technique (  Wonderful! She has just saved me from having to buy any more tape makers and now I can easily make any width tape I want. I'm really grateful! Cutting a strip of cardboard and folding the fabric over before I pulled it under the needle helped me to make both folds equal.  Bit dark for a photo tonight.

Other things, I am becoming a crazy pet person, I bought Jaffa a fluffy springy mouse toy and Lucky an inflatable swimming pool today (no more than €2.99 was spent on these items...) He didn't eat it, but didn't go in it either, he jumped into a shallow concrete pool on his walk and loved it, lying down in the water, which surprised me as he was a little scared of the sea last summer and doesn't like baths.  He was hit by a car yesterday evening, fortunately he's fine. He was on his lead as always, but suddenly took fright at something and jumped off the curb, luckily the car was travelling very slowly as the road is very narrow in that area and of course I pulled him away immediately, we were both pretty shaken. The photo at the top of this post was taken last summer on his first trip to the beach. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Birds and pouches

Birds and pouches, originally uploaded by soja.

And here are the birds from Joelle Hoverson's "Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts". They came out a little wonky, my fault, where I was having problems with the tension and having to unpick and resew the material got a little chewed and the filling was a bit lumpy, (filling taken from a cushion...). They are still pretty cute.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

I've been busy!

I've been busy!, originally uploaded by soja.

What else to do when it's too hot to sleep and you end up deciding it's better just to get out of bed, make some coffee, start the day, watch the dawn and have a siesta later? Well, cutting fabric is quiet, bibs and rectangular pouches are easy to cut out, and by the time things are pinned together, the toast has been eaten and the coffee drunk, it's not too early to start the sewing machine. The patterns for both are from Amy Karol's beautiful and inspiring book, "Bend the Rules Sewing".  Hey, and notice the use of the handmade bias tape. ;-)  These would have been quicker to make if my machine hadn't had tension problems, maybe because of the variety of thicknesses of the fabrics, from thin printed cotton (the white and pink fabrics) and the much thicker, almost furnishing thickness fabrics (everything else). And I decided making things in bulk was the way to go for gratification, less changing  of thread colours, and I could do things in batches, all the pressing together, all the turning right-side out, all the zips... I also made some matching little birds from Joelle Hoverson's very different but equally beautiful "Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts". I just need to stuff and hand stitch the openings on them. Course this all happened yesterday, which meant that I really over slept today, making up for a nights lost sleep. Well, I suppose it all balances out in the end. Much like many things in life. And balance is a good thing. Though maybe that depends what's being balanced.