Tuesday, 30 June 2009


WIP, originally uploaded by soja.

Years ago I was quite keen on toy and doll making, I made a few jointed teddies, a few rag dolls, a few other things either for myself (I was still a child) or, later, as presents for friends and family.

I was thinking about this, that somehow I didn't find it difficult to make things then, and remembering being pleased with the results... so thought maybe I'd have a go at something now. I have the summer to experiment.

This rag doll is partly based on my memory of the dolls I used to make, and partly ideas, if not the actual patterns, in an old book of my mother's (Making Soft Toys for Children, by Pamela Peake). This is not the first version, it took a little fiddling to get the proportions right, but I think she looks about right now.

The idea for the feet and the hands is from the book, though my doll is smaller so I shaped more with handstitching than with the machine. It's a bit of a faff attaching the sole of the foot to the leg, but at the moment I think it's worth it. In the book there are two separate leg pieces, for the inner and outer side, which maybe helps with this, but makes cutting more time consuming.

So now I'm just deciding how to go about the hair and face. I used to stitch yarn together to make hair and embroidery on the face, in the book, for some dolls she uses long pile fur fabric - I'd love to try this but can't find any locally and the postage costs seem to be a bit hefty. Hmm, I used to embroidery separate lashes, pupils, irises, whites of the eye etc, but it was a bit of a worry getting the two eyes equal and symetrical. I notice that on all the beautiful, but often hugely expensive and simple waldorf dolls that are everywhere, the faces are very simple...hmm.

Hmm, why am I making dolls? Partly because I think they'd make thoughtful gifts for the children of some friends, I've noticed that a lot of handmade dolls around on etsy are actually made for adults, and though sweet, often with sewn on felt hair and sewn on clothes. Which is practical of course, but I remember being very sad if I had a toy with sewn on clothes that I couldn't remove, and playing with the hair was pretty important to me as a young girl too. :-)

And I'm wondering if I can ever make or sew something that I might actually feel able to put up for sale. I feel better when I have time in my day (or more realistically week/month) to make something, but it isn't always a cheap thing to do, which is fine, but it would be nice to fund it a little. Plus I have plans for the future which are going to need funds... so if I can not dig into my usual income too much for craft, that would help me live slightly less anxiously!

Oh, and why is she blue? Because I'd started out using some more appropriately coloured fabric, on trials that I had to scrap, so switched over to my 'lucky' blue trial fabric - so far every trial or 'muslin' that I have made with this fabric has worked out. This particular yardage was stained so the market stall lady gave it to me for free - so it was lucky even before it came home.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Summer food

Fresh!, originally uploaded by soja.

I couldn't decide what to have for dinner the other night, so was surfing and reading blogs. Then I saw Susan's post (on Fat Free Vegan), vegetable samosas, but with wraps rather than pastry. That's what I wanted to eat.

I knew I had leftover bean and potato curry in the fridge, some tomatoes, coriander and cucumber, a little sliced onion, a packet of wheat tortillas in the cupboard.... a bit of pepper, a little salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and some chilli sauce... dinner! Fresh and delicious.

I love fresh coriander, but it's quite hard to get here - another thing I should try to grow on the balcony - does it grow ok in pots?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Houmous-like herb dip

Houmous-like herb dip, originally uploaded by soja.

Houmous, hummus? I think I prefer hummus, simpler. Anyway, this is not humus because I had a lot of cooked white beans that needed using, rather than chick peas.

Anyway: 1 cup cooked white beans
1 dessert spoon tahini
juice of half a lemon
slug of olive oil (I guess about a dessert spoonful?)
a clove of garlic - I cut this in half and then sort of squeezed and smeared the 'juice' around the bowl, then discarded the rest.
a small handful of mixed parsley and basil leaves, chopped up
a little water (a couple of spoonfuls?)
Mixed up with a hand blender. All done. ;-)

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

Starting the holiday as she means to go on. I don't know how such a small cat can use up so much of a double bed, if she chooses. Of course, if she chooses she can decide that the smallest space she can squeeze into is also just right and perfectly comfortable for a nap.

Honestly, when I think of all the trips, on aeroplanes and coaches, cramped mini-buses with extra seats and no head room, let alone leg room, backs of cars, overnight trips on seats on ferries, bent backs and dead limbs - cats would make the perfect travellers. One stretch on awakening and ready for the day.

The holiday starts here

Or you know, three months unemployed with no income. But holiday sounds better. Last lesson today. Lucky and Jaffa already seem more relaxed, I feel more relaxed. Phew, it's been a short academic year, but not one I'd want again, and not because of the teaching. Ah well.

Champagne cocktail: one brown (guess should be white) sugar cube, add to glass.
add 2/3 drops angostura bitters to cube in glass
add 20-25 ml brandy
top up with champagne, or cava as here.
sigh and smile. Happy summer!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Sanchia's birthday gift

A bag organiser, tote bag and a zipper pouch (with a couple of little gifts added while wrapping up ;-)) This is from almost a month ago, but I wanted to wait until after the birthday, just in case I spoiled the surprise. Now I just have to try and remember what it was I did...

The blue fabric is furnishing weight fabric/home dec 100% cotton from Ikea. so quite thick and strong. I used a jeans (no. 16) needle. The lilac fabric was from the market, ribbon and zip from a local shop. The zipper pouch is from Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol, and I based the tote on instructions from this book too. I made the tote bigger, the handles longer and of equal length, and I didn't line it, just a strip at the top to neaten the edge and cover where the handles are attached. I did use french seams, so there are no raw edges inside.

The bag organiser was requested by the birthday girl. I googled and found a free tutorial kindly and generously provided by "The Giving Flower". Thank-you giving flower! There are lots of photos, making the tutorial very easy to understand. I mostly followed this, but added a tape to attach keys and a velcro flap to make one of the sections into a covered pocket. Another time I might add an elasticated pocket for a water bottle, but I didn't think of this in time. Perhaps a zipped pocket on the back too. It would be quite fun, though more work, to think of lots of little extras to add.

Anyway, I always kind of worry that I am inflicting handmade gifts onto people I love... but friend assures me she's happy with the results!

Still eating

Still eating, originally uploaded by soja.

Just to prove it. It's getting to the point where it just seems too hot to eat anything except horchata lollies and gazpacho. This was tasty, nothing spectacular, tinned sweetcorn, frozen peas, tinned chinese seitan and bamboo shoots, fresh spinach - and the exciting bit (to me) fresh nasturtium leaves from the balcony - home grown. Sometimes I miss my allotment...
My balcony is quite shady and very windy, geraniums and succulents are fine, but I've struggled to grow much else here. But this year the basil is thriving, the beans have grown to the top of their homemade support and the nasturtiums are all good.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Guest Slippers from 'Weekend Sewing' by Heather Ross

Ooof! This is from a couple of weeks ago... summer holiday is nearly here... One more lesson to go.

I think this is the medium size, they fit! Another time I'll adjust how I sew on the ric-rac so that more of it shows. I used wider elastic at the back, as it was what I had at hand, but it would have been better with narrower elastic - as in the instructions.

Inside of using felted sweater for the soles, I thought I'd use some fleece, but this didn't seem to be thick enough, so I decided to sort of cover it/quilt it with some furnishing weight cotton fabric from Ikea. This worked, but made it a little tougher to hand stitch to the bottoms.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Lucy's Kimono from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross

Easy to sew, took a little longer than it might have because I didn't want any raw seams, so pressed them open and then pressed each seam allowance under and stitched down. I used a french seam for the sleeve. It's a little bunched up under the arms - but I've noticed this on other examples in the flickr group too.

The fabric is a light printed linen from Ikea. I think there is a mistake in the book - 1/2yard of bias tape was not enough perhaps it should be 1 1/2 yards? The shop had only 65 cm of this colour left, just enough to bind the kimono without ties. I'll add poppers to fasten the sides - I'm waiting to find out whether my friend is expecting a boy or a girl before I sew them on!