The sewing groove

I’m getting into a bit of sewing at the moment – new job, new wardrobe.  Woohoo! I’ll have an update on the patterns and fabrics I’m using in the next day or so, once I’m over my shivery head cold.

In the mean time, I thought I might let you know about a couple of things I’ve come across on the intertron over the last few days.

It’s free pattern month over at Grosgrain and I can say the half slip tutorial is fabulous in its detail and description. That tutorial’s from Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing which I’ve been enjoying after discovering it recently. Gertie’s also over at BurdaStyle and her blog is great for her commentary on dresses, how-to, fabric selection, almost anything to do with sewing. Gertie’s particularly strong on vintage fashion and can have me drooling on a regular basis.

Another project I’ve come across is the IOU Project which seeks to bring together artisan weavers from India, designers from Europe and consumers from everywhere. Apart from the intrinsically wonderful idea of supporting the craft and employment of the weavers, I love that it is a promising new business model that show what can be done with the internet. You can find out more about it here.

I’ll shuffle over now and try not to drip on my sewing or the keyboard.

Korean Adventure

Myeong-dong night market

5 nights and six days in Korea is a mini-adventure. It was my first trip to Asia, since one can hardly include stopovers in Hong Kong or Changi Airport as a trip.

This was a business trip, fraught with cultural and linguistic difficulty. We persuaded our Korean-born colleague to accompany us and without her we wouldn’t have achieved anything. Certainly we would have gone hungry or simply eaten our way through American food chains.

The hotels we stayed in were generally the standard business kind of hotel. Except for the one in Daejeon, a dour science and technology city. It’s as though the hotel wanted to make up for the dreariness of the city.

Korean country hotel

By far and away the very best parts of the trip were the meals eaten in side street cafes or tucked away nooks. Chi would take us in, chat to the owners about what was available (the menus were definitely neogtiable), and we sat down to Korean hotplate with deliciously grilled on the table meat, an array of side dishes, a little rice, kim chi and soybean paste with chili.

Inevitably, the owner would ask Chi at the end  of the meal ‘Did she like it?’ indicating the only Westerner to hit their restaurant that decade. Smiling and bowing vigorously, I backed up Chi’s assertion that I did. Oh yes, lots!

Have eye mask, will travel

In my very last hurrah for my current job, I’m spending a week in South Korea. While the travel time is only 13 hours in total and not 30 hours I still want to be comfortable. So I made my own eye mask on the basis that I’m not likely to be upgraded to business class where they have the really soft and comfy kind of eye masks.

I was thinking about this during my trip last year to the Netherlands so I kept my eye mask to use as a model. Here’s how it went.

Firstly, I just traced around the eye mask to get the shape. I cut out two fabric pieces (right sides facing).

I used quilt batting for cushioning and cut that 1cm inside the fabric line.

I planned to layer the pieces then apply bias binding. To keep the batting in place, I basted it to one of the fabric pieces.

The next step is to put the elastic in place. Again, I basted this since I’d be machining one side of the bias binding down. I cut the elastic from the airline eye mask and reapplied it to this one.

I forgot to take a photo of the bias binding step so it we’ll jump straight to the finished product.

I could have gone for the usual kind of black bias binding but I remembered the soft, Nani Iro binding from cotton double gauze. Why not?


On a recent late summer afternoon, I spent a little time on our back deck doing a little harvesting.

Plenty of wearable, out-grown kids’ clothes go to our local op shops. Some are too favoured to be let go. Some are just too full of possibilities.

The beauty of taking my time to do this is letting the look and feel of the fabric shift my view from ‘this was a shirt’ to ‘this could be…’

I cut up a complimentary spring green shirt and wondered about a cot quilt. Some softly worn trouser fabric as backing, perhaps.

What’s not to love about this kind of harvesting? It’s thrifty, eco-friendly and gets the creative juices flowing.


When is a UFO a WIP?

The yay-ness factor of terminating the UFOs diminished slightly when I discovered that the sleeves for my Red Oak jacket were at least two sizes too small.

But I faltered only slightly before ripping them out and starting over.

I have finished all the turned up hems, finished the edges of the jacket and given thought to closures. I think I’ll go for hidden hook and eyes rather than the duffle coat look. All in all, not too bad.

It does make me wonder the tipping point between UFO and WIP. Looking through my projects on Ravelry I’m thinking it’s 85%. Before that you’re still likely to be working through sleeves and what not; after that I think you’re contemplating all the seaming which is where I can stop. It’s not intentional, it’s just one of those things where I wait until the weekend because seaming on public transport is not recommended.

So of dozen UFOs I uncovered, perhaps I can shift two or three to the WIP pile. It makes me feel a little better.

Terminating the UFOs

I started on a tidy up of my sewing/knitting/make anything room yesterday. I cleared possibly 1sqm of space and came up with no less than one dozen unfinished objects.

So I’ve decided that an absolutely necessary part of this clean up will be terminating the UFOs. I made a start last night on my Red Oak jacket – so close to finishing that all I had to do was find the remaining balls of wool, finish the collar and seam. Already up to the seaming!

As part of my return to regular blogging and a motivation to keep tidying up, I’ll post on my terminator progress.


Like everyone else, we’ve been shocked at the destruction first in Christchurch and now in Japan. We’re pretty strict on not letting the kids watch or hear too much of the news about these kinds of events – it’s too easy for them to be overwhelmed  or to think the event is repeating or will happen to them. We explain what’s happened, what’s being done to help and so forth. We’ll select a news video on YouTube for example, one we’ve already checked, and talk them through that.

There’s usually plenty of questions and we do our best to answer those. A Montessori curriculum helps here – they have an above average general science knowledge – so our discussions can be clear, factual and reassuring. Being on the most geologically stable continent on earth helps since our two our natural worriers.

But yesterday I saw something that I hadn’t seen before. The lass has a self-assemble doll house and she had that set up, full of furniture and her very small pets. A friend was over yesterday and I heard them chatting about the earthquake in Japan. The friends’ mother had been in Japan recently on a business trip and there was talk of ‘I’m glad it didn’t happen while she was there’. I recalled also that I had spoken of Christchurch – I visited during a conference some years ago – and how beautiful it was.

Sometime during the afternoon I realised the dollhouse was a ramshackle mess, missing walls etc. I asked later what had happened. ‘An earthquake’ the lass calmly explained.

I took a closer look later and realised all the inhabitants had been moved out before the earthquake.


Of board games and yoghurt

We’ve pulled out the boardgames this summer – the lad and lass now old enough to enjoy playing more complex games. It was a quiet achievement for the lad to play Scrabble, undaunted by picking out words and spelling. Mind you, spelling ‘fart’ has never presented a problem for him, regardless of his dyslexia.

At the moment, the three of them are at a game of Chameleon which I haven’t played yet. But I did see how the lass beat the Bloke in her first game so I think some respect might be in order when I come up against her. I watched for five minutes and was told to leave the room or keep quiet. I can’t help myself – something like Tetris or Chameleon and I start shouting out where the player should go. Which means I get told where to go.

I’ve been pursuing my own passions since Christmas, kindly fuelled by gifts. The Bloke gave me Saraban, the latest cookbook by Greg and Lucy Malouf. Oh my, it’s beautiful. The food looks good too. I’ve already prepared a few meals and realised just how much yoghurt is used. This is not a bad thing but it would mean anywhere between $10-15 worth of yoghurt a week. What to do? Make your own.

First I tried the simple method that is recommended in the book which means using a tablespoon or two of a commercial yoghurt as your starter culture. This turned out fine but it was thinner than I prefer. So, just a few minutes noodling on the net and I found Green Living Australia who supply yoghurt cultures. What you see above is my first batch of Greek-style yoghurt!

It’s delicious with a full, lingering taste. I shall divide this 1 litre batch into three and try it flavoured with honey, salted and the last will be drained to make labneh, a soft yoghurt cheese.

It was so utterly simple to make that it seems ridiculous. The dried culture will make between 80-100 batches and cost about $12. No particular equipment is necessary, though I decided that I would buy a tightweave cheesecloth, calcium chloride (2-3 drops ensure a thicker set) and a set of mini measuring spoons.  Separately I bought a dedicated 1 litre thermos since I’m not keen on coffee-infused yoghurt.

All up, a $50 outlay means I’ll be able to make two litres of yoghurt for the rest of the year (for each alternate batch I’ll use four tablespoons of yoghurt as the starter rather than the dried culture).

And I’ve noticed that Green Living Australia have a feta making kit. Yum!


I’m emerging from my annual bout of spring hypomania, wrangled this year into something unrecognisable by time zone changes, daylight savings changes and heightened anxiety during the Netherlands trip.

The words are coming back now. For such a long time my words have been huddled in a dark corner. I can’t find them, much less use them, when that happens. But there’s some light in my head now and I can begin to find them and take them back into their proper rooms.

There’ll be more words, soon.

Of memory

I suspect every major Dutch town has one of these –  a statue in memory of the Nazi Occupation from 1940 – 1945.  Their beauty lies in simplicity. The Amsterdam and Rotterdam ones are singular, evocative figures and like this one in Leiden, the plinth is engraved only with the dates.

I visited the Anne Frank Huis today. It’s something that I wanted to be prepared for, to have time to take it in at my own pace. As a museum it tells a complex story with simplicity and humanity. I read the book as a young teenager – I have to confess my aspie special interest was (and remains) the Holocaust – and to see and move inside the house was a revelation. To have come inside, to be confined, to walk from daylight to rooms with blackout curtains was to understand the enormity of hiding as survival.

Primo Levi, an Italian Holocaust survivor and writer of his experiences, said of the popularity of Anne Frank’s story:

“One single Anne Frank moves us more than the countless others who suffered just as she did, but whose faces have remained in the shadows. Perhaps it is better that way: If we were capable of taking in the suffering of all those people, we would not be able to live.”

I think perhaps that also explains those single figures who stand for the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands. That in the singular we each find and share the universal.


The Dutch like to be cosy and friendly and they have a special word for it: gezelligheid. Coffee is an integral part of this and we are always offered coffee at the beginning of an interview. And not just instant coffee – every workplace has some kind of coffee machine delivering at least four different types of coffee. You can appreciate how lovely we thought this coming from our Melbourne cafe culture.

This is where a health warning needs to be issued: the Dutch like their coffee strong. Heart starter strong. And it’s really not a good idea to take up the offer of coffee at every interview if you have a string of them in one day.  We learned that lesson very quickly.

Gezelligheid is also seen in the architecture and interior design. Even the business hotels make an effort not simply for comfort but for gezelligheid, an atmosphere of relaxation among friends. Some are more successful than others. The one we’re staying at the moment hits it rather well. This is the view from my window. In the bottom right corner is my knitting. Perfection!

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