A little jaunt to Amsterdam

As part of my work here – yes, I am doing have done some work – I discovered that the train system is completely unlike Melbourne’s. It’s frequent, reliable and goes to places that people need to go to. Oh, and they have lots of people working at the main stations in each town. And their ticketing system works. And…you get the idea.

So I trotted off to Delft to conduct an interview on Tuesday arvo and returned rather more quickly than I expected. If I could get to Delft so easily, I reckoned I could spend the afternoon in Amsterdam today. Which I did.

And I’ve come back to tell you that I reckon everyone should spend at least one afternoon in Amsterdam. I only did one museum, the Amsterdam Historisch Museum, which was rather good but quite labyrinthine and clearly they don’t think you ought to be able to delete a century or two to get out a little bit quicker.

I’m very pleased to report that I didn’t get lost. The Dutch are rather fond of a grid system, thankfully, and my intentions were simply to get a feel for the place before I spend 36 hours there before flying home. Which means I didn’t try anything other than a reasonably straight line from the train station and out to the first canal ring. It’s remarkable that all one needs to do as a tourist with a brain is to walk parallel to the main strip by just one block. It’s just as interesting, has slightly fewer people and far less of the tackiness.

I did a canal tour which was lovely and quiet and I took some photos just to see how they turned out (I was next to a window). The weather looks rather dour in the first but it stayed fine and warm enough for me to be quite glad of the sunscreen.

This next shot is a replica of the first Dutch East India Company ship. I’m not entirely convinced of the historical accuracy of the colours. I know the ships were painted but I can’t see Calvinists going all out for razzle dazzle.

There are 2,500 houseboats in Amsterdam across 100km of canals (see, I was paying attention). I couldn’t live in one but they usually look very attractive.

I’m spending the morning in Leiden tomorrow – time for a stroll, some photos, a couple of souvenirs and a chat over coffee with a political scientist* from the university – and then off to Amsterdam. Rather looking forward to it, really.

*I re-typed this word three times. My typing kept going Dutch or German on me.


I am knitter, hear me sigh

Not gnashing of teeth or wailing or rending of garments. Just a sigh when you realise that swatching didn’t tell you everything you needed to know.

Like how linen rib doesn’t behave in the same way as wool or even cotton rib. Once stretched out, it will stay that way. So, make your swatch bigger and be prepared to rip out 20cm of your back piece and start all over again a size smaller.

Bamboo, another vegetable fibre, will do precisely what you tell it to do, no more and no less. And when the double lattice stitch brings everything together nice and cosy it will stay that way and not loosen up. So even pedantic attention to swatching will mean ripping out 10cm of double lattice, swatching again, changing needle size and garment size.

Lesson: if you’re using bamboo or linen do not expect them to work up like cotton does. Make your swatches extra large, pull and stretch them and see what happens to them. Then start your project and hope you don’t have to gently sigh, and begin ripping.

PS. Thanks for your words of support. We’re getting closer to a diagnosis and that’s always a very good place to start. Apparently so is doe, but that’s another post altogether.

A fistful of zips

Our summer holidays were a tad more eventful than we planned and surprisingly included nearly a week down on the Mornington Peninsula. Which is more than enough time for a carefully planned and executed visit to the plethora of op shops on The Peninsula (dahhlling). The visitor info centre in Dromana can supply you with a double sided page listing all of these shops and their opening hours. Including the warehouse one (I know – an op shop warehouse! We now how to do thrilling holidays).

I know not to expect fabulous finds everytime but quite frankly, I was completely outscored by the rest of the family.

While I came back with those zips and these knitting patterns

and impeccable pantaloons

it doesn’t seem to have the same ring of success as well-fitting, excellent condition black docs for the Bloke (who needed black boots and dismissed the idea of paying $4oo for a pair); a pair of well-fitting excellent condition roller blades for the lad PLUS he got a fully lined, with interior pocket, leather biker’s jacket for kids. The lass demonstrated a good eye for clothes, choosing  a great selection of t-shirts, and a rather funky little skirt.

But all those zips for the grand sum of $1.50 is not a bad day’s op shopping.


Does anyone else remember yelling that in the school yard? Baggsing a seat, or a turn on some play equipment? It’s frequently used in our family in the car – a sudden shout of ‘Bags car!’ as a particularly cool/sleek/vintage car goes past. The Bloke insists on shouting that out for Winnebagoes and other campervan type stuff, even though he’s got absolutely no competition for them. The lass has a penchant for convertibles, the lad loves his motorbikes and I look out for the Austins, Jags and other sleek types.

Which is a round about way of getting to bag-making, notably sooz’s shoulder bag.

I’ve mentioned before that I made it as a gift for my mum (and she loves it) and now I can show it in pictures and say that I loved making it.

I have to admit that  I was crazy enough to do this in the six days between our house move and Christmas. Rather than sewing it in one hit, I had to find bits of time. It wasn’t really a problem as it turned out; the instructions are clear and step by step so I could finish at one step and walk away without worrying about confusion when I got back to it.

Enough fabric was supplied that I could centre my pieces over the geometric print and match them up.

I recommend pinning the ease in to make sewing it a great deal easier. Don’t be afraid to manipulate the fabric as it turns the corner.

Putting together the lining and main fabric is straightforward. Love your iron at this point – iron down the hem allowance for each piece before you put them together and you’ll get a very neat result.

This is a nice little example of what not to do. The strap should have been threaded up and then over the centre bar. I discovered this after I’d sewn it in, of course.

Ta da! This was just the right size for a shoulder bag – something a little informal and chosen to complement mum’s wardrobe. Since I had to replace the strap, I asked mum if she’d prefer a different kind of strap. In the end, she found a woven belt the same colour as the base cloth and I fitted a non-adjustable strap. We’re both happy with it and I’m looking forward to making my own version with a different piece of Ink & Spindle cloth I purchased last year.

Moved by Christmas

Don’t ever move house ten days before Christmas. It sucks and then it drains Christmas energy out of you and your extended family you’re desperately hoping will feed you and let you hang out at their place so you don’t have to face unpacking all those boxes.

But we managed it with grace and sanity intact and sailed through one of the most relaxing Christmases I’ve ever had.

My first ever, solo, with masterclass from Mum, cloth Christmas pudding turned out beautifully.

Christmas Pudding

On both sides of the family, there was plenty of food, conversation and laughter, bubble blowing, backyard cricket and wheelbarrow races.

Nearly sisters

They’re wicket keeping, of course. And if you thought they were cousins you’d be wrong. “If our mums are sisters, that makes us nearly sisters” explained the lass.

Addendum to hot/not

Under the heading of ‘not hot’ I placed the election of the Mad Monk as the new leader of the Opposition. This post over at Still Life With Cat explains why this is the case far better than I.

And to play along or see what others are doing, check out loobylu.

Hot and Not

I was wavering on doing one this week and then I read sooz’s blog. Her creative partnership announcement is just so hot, it has to take top billing.

The rain on the weekend (see here) is also pretty damn good. If nothing else, it may help my kids get over their inordinate fear of catastrophic weather events like rain. Or clouds. I was briefly woken on Sunday morning by the lass asking, ‘I saw a big puddle outside. Will there be a flood?’.

The lass and I had huge amounts of fun at ‘The Way We Wear‘ fair at Williamstown Town Hall. I scored two vintage sewing patterns from ‘Madame Weigel’ who was based in Lennox St, Richmond (here in Melbourne). They’re both 50s dresses and one of the comes in my bust size which is so nice. I picked up two copies of a Dutch sewing magazine ‘Marion’ which I think was a promotional booklet for their season’s sewing patterns. They also included patterns for three of the styles in each issue. I’ll have to do a separate post to do this outing justice, especially the lass’ growing appreciation for vintage fashion and the fact that she scored Dorothy shoes in her size within five minutes of entering the hall.

The not hot stuff is rather little: my little toe which I re-broke two weeks ago. An x-ray this morning seems to show the toe and some bones around it look rather ‘interesting’. I don’t think ‘x-ray’ and ‘interesting’ used together in the same sentence bodes well.

Footnote of the day

I don’t want to turn this into a political science blog but I wanted to share a footnote that has brightened up the 30cm stack of articles sitting on my desk.

Universal male suffrage ranks among political science’s best oxymorons, although it is rivaled by the name of Mexico’s longtime dominant party – the Revolutionary Institutional Party.


Father’s Day a.k.a Bump out

In the ten years I’ve had kids I’ve never reliably remembered when Father’s Day falls. I don’t remember Mother’s Day either, so at least I’m not biased. In the month prior, the kids will come home with a card or present made at school and urgently whisper the secret in my ear. The fact they usually tell me this when their dad isn’t home doesn’t obviate the need for either urgency or whispering.

Loud ads that keep telling me about a date in September don’t help either. I don’t know anything about dates; I just know that the week after next the lad has a music soiree or that the next weekend we’re going to my mob’s place for dinner.

It falls into place ten days beforehand when the Bloke reminds me he’s doing Johnno’s show next week. Aha! Johnno is a friend of a friend and directs a high school production. The mutual friend and others do audio, lighting, special effects etc. It requires ‘bumping in’ (bringing all the technical stuff in) and ‘bump out’ means taking it all down and out. Johnno’s show is always the first full week of September.

So the last Sunday of Johnno’s show will be bump out, which means it’s Father’s Day!

In case you’re interested, it was pancakes with maple syrup.

(almost) Singing in the Rain

It rained last night. For more than a few minutes. And get this – the ground was still wet this morning.

It started raining before I went to bed which was very nice because I had my best night’s sleep in over three weeks. And as much as our kids are Melbourne born and bred, and should be used to weather with a W, the sound of rain freaked them out. They probably think the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are Fire, Flood, Wind and No TV.

I was over living in Melbourne yesterday. I’d had enough and I think just about every other Melbournian had, too. It was, as a friend put it over lunch, like everyone in the whole city had PMS. And there was swearing in the crafty blogosphere. Real grown up swearing.

I think this is the safest we’ve all felt for nearly a month (touch wood).

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