Thursday, May 05, 2016

April catchup

Well I've been too busy to blog (or to sew much). The autumn is a busy time on a lifestyle block when you grow fruit and vegetables and raise cattle and chooks and try to live off of them. Most of the apples are harvested now and besides tons of applesauce and applejuice, I've tried to make cider. My first batch was just pureed Braeburn apples that had been frozen first and then thawed (presumably to break up the cell walls and release all the juices?). The mixture (with lemon peel and juice added) was left to ferment on its own for about 2 weeks and then bottled. It tasted lovely although I don't think it contains much alcohol. Certainly the bottles aren't looking like they want to explode!

My second batch of cider was supposed to be perfection - straight juice from 1/3 Cox-Orange and 2/3 Braeburn apples (no added water) and I put in cider yeast from Aqua Vitae, a brewing store in town. Well it still didn't bubble much even with the yeast added (maybe because I only had 7L and the pail is huge). After a week, I used a hygrometer to check the alcohol content - zero! I gave it all a stir, which got it bubbling for a day but now, another week later, it's not bubbling at all. So I'm going to have Ross taste it and see what he thinks (anything with alcohol in it doesn't ever taste the greatest to me so I'm a poor judge). If I get the thumbs up from Ross, I'll bottle it.

Although it's already May, I harvested all of these vegies this morning plus onions. The tomatoes plus some onions and peppers (sweet and hot) from the garden are now tomato puree. And the rest of the hot peppers are in the dehydrator. We're still harvesting parsnips, carrots, pumpkin/winter squash, silverbeet (chard) and I'm hoping the beetroot will get bigger soon. We've had a very warm autumn so far - up to 20-22C many times. But it's been very dry so we are getting desperate for rain. Soon we'll be feeding out hay to the cattle if the rain doesn't come.

Here's a photo I couldn't resist posting. Our dog Daphne found a possum up a gum tree recently and she couldn't resist trying to get to it. Unfortunately she wasn't too sure how to get back down! Ross did manage to save the damsel in distress.

The other fun thing taking me away from sewing this month was a tramping trip in the South Wairarapa on the Tora Coastal Walk. It was 3 days of walking carrying only our water and lunch. The postman delivered our bags to each destination! The food was all prepared for us in the evening and it was delicious. We went with friends plus several of their friends. We had good weather with great views of the sea and the rolling hills. Some native bush but not a lot. It was a private walk mostly through farmers' land.
At the top of The Trig

Doing dead ant exercises to get the lactate out after a lot of uphill walking

Ross managed to find a bulldozer at the top of a hill!

View of our destination at the end of Day 1

A fantail that was following us in the native bush on Day 3

 I have been slowly working on my daughter's quilt and only have 2 strips of the last border left to put on. Hoping to quilt it all before I see her in June, which may be wishful thinking, but fingers crossed I can do it. Here's a sneak preview of one of the 15 different block design/colour combos. More later.

 That's all for now.

Friday, March 11, 2016

StyleArc Kate dress

I've been looking for a casual but stylish dress that I could wear when I went out anywhere other than an audience with the queen. And I think this dress does the trick. Maybe I could even have an audience with the queen as it is the Kate Dress.

I bravely bought my fabric online without getting a swatch first and I wasn't disappointed. It's Impressionistic Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics and it is unbelievably soft.  I prewashed it in the washing machine on delicate cycle with cold water. There is a 26 inch repeat so I bought extra fabric (4y instead of 2.8y) but it was way more than I needed.  It was a little difficult to cut out as the fabric didn't hang perfectly straight. The straight grain was on the pattern correctly so I ignored the 'hang' issue and cut it on the grain matching up the fabric pattern everywhere including the sleeves.
I thought about eliminating the tucks on the right front because I thought the print might look weird but I kept the tucks and I think it looks fine. I also kept the tucks on the sleeve and the tie in the back.

Instead of the tearaway Vilene and elastic along the neckline, I used 1/2-inch Sewkey knit staytape that I bought through Nancy's Notions. I fused it onto the wrong side of the edge, turned the edge in 3/8 inch and topstitched at 1/4 inch (3mm stitch length). I used 1/4-inch clear elastic tape to stabilize the shoulder seams, sewing them onto the back SA with most of the width of the tape on the SA side.

For all the main seams, I used my Brother overlocker with 4 threads (matching Gutermann polyester thread in left needle, beige overlocker thread in the other 3), differential feed at 1.2, stitch W 6mm, L 3mm and a 75 stretch needle. One little tip: when topstitching the front edges where the belt has been attached, make sure the belt is pulled away into it's final position for tying it before doing the topstitching. I wasn't thinking and didn't do that so had to take out the topstitching at the belt and redo it.

Conclusions: This dress fits perfectly and is so comfortable I could sleep in it. Maybe I better make a rayon jersey nightgown! The hang issue (see above) was not a problem at all. I wore it last night for the first time and my only complaint is that the nor'wester with gusts up to 100 k/h is not an optimal situation for a wrap dress! I would happily make this dress again.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

A Few Quick Sews

Quick Sew #1
Simplicity 7869
Pattern from my stash dated 1968!! Yipes, I really must be getting old. Can't remember which version or what material I used back then. But I bought a cute cotton/lycra print at The Fabric Store in Christchurch that was mostly purple (I never wear purple) and decided to use it on this skirt pattern. 
I made View 5, 25 1/2 inch waist - same size I made in '68! I used a 0.5mmL, 2.5W zigzag fro the seams and then finished them with a 3-thread serge on my overlocker. Although not in the instructions, I underlined the waistline facing. The pattern says to sew the side opening edges of the facing before putting in the zipper but in retrospect, it would have been better to wait til I put in the zipper to do it.

Quick Sew #2
I then bought some 'First Class' viscose/spandex from Harald's Fabrics in Christchurch and made a Sewaholic Renfrew top View A but with 3/4 sleeves to go with the skirt. Of course, the best colour I could find was purple - so now I truly do wear purple! I prewashed the fabric in a cold hand wash.  I used a Janome blue tip needle and tried the Sewaholic's recommendation of a zigzag stitch (1mmW, 2.5mmL) and then overlocked the edges on my Brother overlocker using a ballpoint 70 needle. I'm not pear shaped (I'm 8 bust, 6 waist, 2 hip per pattern!) but I made B8, W8, H6 and it worked fine.  I'm very short waisted so I took out 1 inch at the waist and shortened the hem by 1 1/2 inches (measuring from the size 2 line). I sewed 1/4 inch staytape onto the back seam allowances at the shoulder with just a little going into the actual seam. For the ZZ around the neck, I used 4W, 2L.

Here's how it turned out. I love the top but any wrinkles in the skirt show through the shirt. The skirt pattern called for twill tape on the waist, which I used, but I don't really like it - feels too tight when I sit down. One of the threads has popped already on the waistband of the top so I guess I should have either used a shorter stitch length or just used the overlocker for the seams.

Quick Sew #3
McCalls 7290 jacket, view C, size medium. I bought a lightweight viscose/lycra knit from Fabric Vision in Christchurch. It has a black and white print on one side and 
solid black on the other. I prewashed the fabric on cold in the washing machine.  
I used a 75 stretch needle on my Janome sewing machine and Brother overlocker. I followed the directions as printed, shortened the bodice by 3/4 inch and ended up with a dressing gown (aka bathrobe). Should have made a small I guess! So I folded the sleeves up 2 3/4 inches and made cuffs. I did this by cutting off >1/2 of the back SA, folding the front SA over it and topstitching for the bottom 5 1/2 inches of the sleeve seam. I then pinked the hem edge, folded it over towards the right/print side, then pressed and topstitched it. Then I folded up the cuff and tacked it.

For the bottom edge, I cut off 2 1/2 inches at the back increasing to 4 1/2 inches off at the front. Then rather then just pinking the front and bottom edges, I folded them over to the inside along the bottom edge to approximately where the front edge starts to roll and then tapered to no fold and folded in the opposite direction for the front edges. It turned out fairly well and isn't too obvious where I transitioned. I don't think I'll make this pattern again though. I always seem to be fussing with where the collar and front edges fold. It might have worked better in a slightly heavier, less stretchy fabric. The pattern called for  'Fleece, Sweatshirt Fleece, Jerseys, Cotton Knits, Interlock, Sweater Knits'.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Wanaka Triathlon

On Feb 20, my husband Ross, neighbour Jo, and I did a team half Ironman in Wanaka. Fortunately it wasn't 32C like it was at home in Christchurch. When I started the swim, it was 12C, colder than the water! But the water was still pretty cold and there were huge waves as we headed out. Here's a photo of the lake and swim course the day before.
By the second leg, the swells were hitting us broadside but on the 3rd leg, they were helping us. The last leg was straight into the sun. Wish I had found out what landmark to head for as I couldn't see the buoys. I ended up going too far inland and being directed out by a kayaker and then headed too far out so it was a bit of a zigzag at the end. But I managed to do the 1.9+k in 38 minutes, which I was happy with. 

Then Ross hopped on the bike and set out to tackle the winds. He averaged 30k/h on the legs with a tailwind and 20k/h into the headwind. He enjoyed every minute of it - well maybe not the last half hour or so - headwind plus steep hill. It's a very hilly course with gorgeous views such as this one heading back from Glendhu Bay. 
Jo and I were starting to worry about Ross as the time rolled past 3.5 hours. 
90k and 3:45 later, he rolled in looking not much worse than when he started.
So off went Jo on her half marathon that she completed in 2:08 despite rain for the second half. We ran across the finish line with her so I don't have a photo (unless I pay $29 for the official one) but here's one of the weather at the finish.
It was a fun day although I did feel a bit of a fraud when at 9pm I saw some of the Ironman athletes crossing the finish line and I had only raced for 38 minutes! Here we are at home with our participant medals - no podium finish for us.
We came 161 out of 306 in the team division, which isn't bad given there were no age categories so we were competing against people in their 20s and all male teams. Next year?!

The day after the race was warm and sunny and the drive home was beautiful. 

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Summer at last

Well my sewing has slowed down a little because our wintery summer finally became a real summer. It was 32C today. I would rather the high had jumped from 15C to 25C but beggars can't be choosers. We had a warm week a few weeks ago and it was followed by a week of rain and now warmth again so the vegie garden is growing like crazy. We've just finished apricots, broad beans, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, and sugar snap peas. And now we're eating plums, Asian pears, cabbage, kale, green beans, kohlrabi, lettuce, zucchini.....  Yum!

We have 2 new calves this summer and they are enjoying each other's company. We thought they were both boys but I think the 2nd calf just had a prominent leftover bit of umbilical cord. Can't see any dangly bits at the rear end anyway! We named the first one Bam Bam (his mother is Wilma). So number two's name has been officially changed to Pebbles. 

My time is also being spent on tennis and swimming. Ross and I crazily said yes to doing a team half Ironman on Feb 20 in Wanaka. I'm doing the swim and Ross is doing the bike. I only have to swim 1.9k but Ross has to bike 90k with hills!

I am in the middle of sewing the Sewaholic Granville blouse in a beautiful liberty print. More about that once I'm finished.
Plus I have everything cut out for an Italian tweed jacket and for a StyleArc Kate dress. Just have to pray for a little rain.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Personalized Jalie 2908 stretch denim jeans

I have been desparate for a new pair of jeans for awhile as my 'good' pair is now being worn while I garden. I bought a jeans kit from Heather Lou Closet Case Files last year. It's a great kit including blue and black stretch denim - a generous amount, Im sure I could make a pair of jeans for my granddaughter with what is leftover, 2 zippers, 3 buttons, rivets, a packet of Schmetz jeans needles,and topstitching thread. I also bought Heather's ebook on making jeans and it is awesome. It contains endless little details that make the difference between an amateurish look and a professional one.

I didn't use the Ginger jeans however as I wanted a flared leg. I have big calves and it isn't unusual for my pants to get stuck on them - not a great look. So I used the Jalie 2908 stretch jeans pattern - 2nd place on the Sewing Pattern Review website for 2015 in the pants division. I

By my measurements, I am a size R on the Jalie sizing chart. I made a muslin using broadcloth as I didn't have any appropriate stretch material. It was scarily tight, especially at the waistband, so I didn't think the added give of the stretch denim would solve the problem. So I made the next size up - S.

I made a couple of changes to the pattern.
1. I traced off all the pattern pieces with a 5/8 inch SA. That way if the pants were still too tight, I had some leeway.
2. I had some cute stretch cotton print with little bicycles on it (from Blackbird Fabrics) in my stash leftover from making my daughter a bike skirt so I used it in the waistband and the front pockets. For the waistband, I folded the pattern piece in half lengthwise and then added the seam allowance to the fold side. Then I cut one piece from the denim and one from the stretch cotton. The only change I made in the front pockets was to turn the pocket facing over so it would be visible from the inside of the jeans rather than from the inside of the pocket. I did leave the pocket lining oriented as instructed in the pattern as I thought the edge of it could potentially be seen from the front.

3. I interfaced the back pockets before adding the personalized design.
4. I made the fly shield as described in the jeans ebook, sewing a diagonal seam at the bottom.
Sewing machines: Janome Memorycraft 6600 professional, Brother 3034D overlocker.
Needle: Schmetz jeans needle

To personalize the jeans, I wanted to put something different on the back pockets. As I am a dual New Zealand and Canadian citizen, I decided to put a maple leaf on one pocket and a kiwi bird on the other. I traced the design onto lightweight tracing paper then pinned it onto the pocket and topstitched directly over the pocket. I used what I think is called a saddle stitch (Mode 2, Pattern 05 on my Janome). Then I just tore away the tracing paper.

For the seams, I had to increase the thread tension to 5.5. I sewed a regular seam L 2.5mm, then trimmed it and overlocked the 2 seams together before topstitching using Gutermann Mara thread at a stitch length of 3.0. For bartacks, I used L 0.5, W 1.5.

The buttonholer on my Janome isn't very reliable so after 3 practise buttonholes and 1 1/2 failed buttonholes on the jeans, I just made the buttonhole using a ZZ stitch (L 0.4, W 2.5 & 5). After opening the buttonhole and applying fray stopper, I went over the sides (ie the 2.5mm width) a second time, just to be sure. I skipped the rivets as I had visions of making unhidable holes with the awl!

The pants fit very well and are really comfortable.  There are wrinkles on the back of the legs but my guess is if there weren't any, it would be hard to sit down.  They don't catch on my calves, no button digging in at the waist, comfortable when sitting, what more could I ask for? Plus I'm sure no one else has a Kiwi and a maple leaf on their back pockets!

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Jasper sweater

The pattern is the Jasper Sweater/Dress from Paprika Patterns ( shop/jasper-sweaterdress/). I made the sweater version with the hood. When I saw this pattern, I thought it would be perfect for my daughter who loves to wear sweatshirts with hoods. This pattern is quite stylish - not your standard hoodie. I found a medium weight, very soft, viscose/poly/spandex print with 35% cross-wise stretch and no lengthwise stretch that I thought would be perfect. I bought black ponte for the cuffs but in the end I decided it would look better with the cuffs made out of the same material as the rest of the sweater.

The instructions were easy to follow and I used the tutorials on the Paprika website to do the single welt pockets and the hood. They were very helpful although I still managed to cut the welts outside the pocket opening instead of inside - yikes! Managed to make it all look OK in the end but hopefully I'll never do that again.

Other than shortening the bodice and the sleeve to fit my daughter, the only other changes I made were to understitch the long edge of the hood and I used 2 buttons instead of 3 - easy as they are only decorative. Oh and I also sewed the little gap on the bottom outside pocket edges - not sure if the gap was due to an error on my part or not but it was easily addressed. I used a scrap of navy cotton jersey for the pocket lining.

I haven't mailed it to my daughter yet, so here it is on me. This is a great pattern - easy to make, fits perfectly and is oh so comfy. I would definitely make it again in fact I might have to as my husband didn't want me to give it away!