Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Jeans shouldn't be this difficult

All I wanted was new jeans. Both the pairs I was wearing pre-pregnancy and returned to after N's birth have worn through at the thighs, and even though I'm planning on patching them, I still wanted new jeans, for those occasions when wearing patchy jeans didn't seem quite the thing. I have one brand and style of jeans that I've been buying since I was 19, so although it isn't the most ethical choice, at least I know that I will wear them all the time. Normally I'd just trot out and buy a new pair, unhappily aware that it won't count towards my ethical fashion quota for the year. But times, my friends, they are not normal, and so obtaining new jeans has turned into a bit of a saga.

To start with, they stopped making my jeans sometime when I was wearing maternity jeans. Now they have some other style options in bootcut jeans that are not the same, and don't fit well. Rats. I decided that if I was going to start from scratch finding a new style of jeans that I liked, I should investigate ethical options.

Result of investigation: disappointing. Even if I could get past buying jeans from a 'collection', the vast majority of the ethically produced jeans on the market are designer jeans and intended for skinnier people than I. Possible there are ethically produced size 16 jeans out there, but my google-fu could not find them.
This was a somewhat depressing moment, and resulted in a binge of ethical clothes buying for N, which I shall detail in a later post.

So I went the op-shop route. Found a very nice pair of soft denim in a local op-shop for $8. Because I had N I couldn't try them on, but I figured if they were a terrible fit I'd just re-donate them. They fit fine, but there was a problem with the zip - it wouldn't stay up. This really irritates me. People, thrift shops are for clothes in good condition that don't fit you, or don't suit your needs or your taste anymore. They aren't a dumping ground for clothes with problems. Grrrr.  Took to a local alterations place and got the zip replaced. Cost more than the jeans did, but all up less than a brand new pair would have cost.

I feel good that I finally have a pair of jeans (which are to me a wardrobe staple) that I can say are a fairly ethical choice, being second hand, a bit ashamed that it took my regular jeans disappearing from production before I made that switch, and still irritated at whoever donated those jeans with the dodgy zip.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Recent baby makes

I've actually managed to get some sewing done over the last month!  Mostly items for the little guy, because they work up relatively quickly. It is starting to get easier to do some craft than blog while he's awake, so some of these items have been finished for over a month.

Bibs - I was given a few handmade bibs as a leaving/baby present from one of the customers at work. I didn't really use bibs at first - I just let N. drool and spew over clothes. I had way more clothes for him than bibs.  When he started solids I knew I'd need more but was very time crunched so just decided to buy some.
And I hated them.
About the same time, my sister gave me a lovely Poppy and Belle bib which reinvigorated me to make some of my own. I bought a metre of terry towelling at Lincraft and went to work. My first three are backed with some lovely tales of Beatrix Potter fabric, and unfortunately they turned out a bit wonky. The next three have some cottons from my stash that are less interesting and turned out much more even. Possibly better this way, as the cute print distracts you from the flaws, whereas the plainer fabrics are more unforgiving!
The bibs draped over his high chair - vintage, as it used to be his father's!
Then I used some of the extra terry towelling to make some simple square face/hand cloths for post-meal clean up.

Jackets - many months ago I wrote about UFOs in our old blog, Jupiter Hollow. (And by "many months", I mean "back in 2012".) Listed as 'still want to complete' was a child's cardigan. Finally finished that! I needed to get some extra wool for the collar and while it isn't an exact match I think it is barely noticeable and blends well.
Finally, finally finished!

I made Nate another jacket from a falling-apart dressing gown (handed down to me from my grandmother) consisting of gorgeous narrow woven panels of fabric, Japanese I think.
The lovely fabric I reused for the jacket. 

The pattern I used, from Making Baby Clothes by Robert Merrett (a long ago present from my sister) used a zipper, but I wanted buttons. I ended up using wooden toggle buttons and created buttonhole loops with detached buttonhole over a magic ring.
A close up so you can see the detail of the buttonhole loop. 
The sleeves are too long, but they show the dark lining when rolled up, and this way the jacket should take him all through this winter.
N models his new jacket. 

I have also made a pair of fleece pants (just visible at the bottom of this photograph) but the pattern needs a lot of tweaking - the pants are wearable but I'm not sure I want them to be 'outside' pants yet and I definitely don't want to blog about them yet.  The jacket however I'm very pleased with. He's fascinated by the drawstrings for the hood, and I hope my grandmother will be very happy with the new life of the dressing gown. I've got a small amount of that fabric left, and I'm trying to think of something else to make with it. Any suggestions? I had thought a little clutch purse, but then remembered that I am not a clutch purse type person!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The recipe backlog

In addition to a modest cookbook collection, I've spent years buying cooking magazines and tearing out recipes that appeal to me. I enjoy cooking and experimenting with ingredients but our actual meal planning tends to get stuck in a rut. As part of my being a stay at home mum experience, I've decided to shake that up and clear some of those torn out pages at the same time.

Every week, I'm trying two new recipes from those pages, one savoury and one sweet. Recipes that are either not that good, or more trouble than they are worth, are discarded into the recycling; successful recipes also end up in the recycling but get written up in my recipe book first. The only pages I'm keeping are the 'to tweak' recipes - ones that were ok but I suspect can be made better and into regulars on our meal line-up.

So far we've had a very successful one-pot mustard chicken, a tweakable chorizo, chicken and potato gratin (my husband wants more chorizo, I want a bit less thyme, so we'll try those changes and see), possibly more trouble than they are worth chocolate cherry strudel (filo pastry!) and jaffa friands (6 egg whites!), some rather uninspiring lamb, pumpkin & couscous salad, and one or two others that were clearly so 'meh' that I've already forgotten the details.

Decluttering the house by two magazine pages a week might not sound like a lot, but I'm enjoying the chance to actually try these recipes that I've saved over the years and start to whittle away at the recipe backlog. I've also vowed not to buy any more cooking magazines for at least 6 months.

In parallel to this, I'm working on ways to make our meal planning a better experience. At the moment I'm considering 'meal packages' - a set of three meals that have some ingredients in common to lessen waste - and 'prompt cards' - writing index cards with recipes by major ingredient (so chicken recipes, bean recipes, etc) so we can say 'well, we have chicken in the freezer; this week we should do one of the chicken recipes' and just grab the card and have a look.

I'm too afraid to start looking online for meal planning techniques because I just know there will be a flood of ideas and I'll get overwhelmed!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Craftsy crazy

My wonderful sister gave me two Craftsy classes as a birthday present last year, and since then I've thrown myself into it with enthusiasm. I bought some others for myself and got one from my father as a Christmas present.

Craftsy sells patterns and craft supplies as well as the classes, but the classes are the distinctive feature of Craftsy. Each includes hours of video instruction, often downloads of patterns or instructions, and ongoing support from the teacher in answering student questions. You can also upload photos of your own projects based on the techniques in that class. The video class format wasn't one I necessarily thought I'd like as I am a fan of book learning, but it has been much better than I expected. The Craftsy platform has a few quirks but is generally robust and makes things easy to follow. I love the ability to add your own bookmarks to the videos.

They've got an excellent selection of quilting, knitting, crochet, cooking, cake decorating and sewing classes and they've recently dramatically increased the number of fine arts and photography courses they offer too. They are adding new courses all the time. I have to remind myself that I don't actually have enough time, energy or talent to do all of the courses that appeal.

I've gone a bit wild with the free mini-classes as a result. I may have enrolled in... let's just say 'quite a few' and leave it at that.  I mean, free!! How could you not? Even if you did have willpower.

I particularly like the free cake decorating classes, as I have a lot of interest in cake decorating but am realistic enough to know I will never buy the supplies or take the proper time to get into it as a serious hobby. So buying a full class would be a waste, but I'm loving watching hours of free video on fondant and buttercream techniques, daydreaming about cakes I will never ever decorate in real life. Bliss.

Friday, February 21, 2014

How to not make a sunhat

Which should really be titled "How not to make a sunhat for a baby, with a baby, in two and a half weeks" but they'll never make that movie.

Failure is that much more disspiriting when it happens in 15 minute intervals.

 Day 1: Realise existing sunhat is too small for your four month old son. Think about buying a new one.

Day 3: Scoff at self. Sunhat does not look complicated. Decide to sew new sunhat.

Day 4: Go through stash and choose fabric.

Day 5: Intend to prewash fabric, but then it rains.

Day 6: Actually prewash fabric.

Day 7: Iron fabric.

Day 8: Son has vaccinations. He is cranky and spikes a fever. Forget sunhat exists.

Day 10: Start drafting sunhat pattern.

Day 11: Finish doing so.

Day 12: Cut out fabric pieces.

Days 13-15: Plan to sew hat. Continually forget to take sewing machine out of its storage place while the boy is awake, and don't want to make that racket when he's asleep.

Day 16: Move sewing machine to living room. Find matching thread.

Day 17:  Start sewing hat. Realise that somewhere along the line your maths has failed, as one piece is far too small. Try to patch that up. Make things worse. Realise that you don't have enough fabric to recut the offending pieces. Swear.

Day 18: Take a good long look at the mangled fabric and decide to abandon the project.

Bonus extra:
Day 20: Take previously-crocheted hat with brim, too big for boy. Use safety pin to make smaller. Put on son. Go for a walk.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year and a new routine

Happy New Year!

New Year's Day is, of course, the traditional time to beat oneself up over the failures of the last year and make highly specific and probably unachievable goals for the next. The existence of N. has short-circuited both of these processes. As I've expressed on FB earlier this week, I read several 2013 retrospective pieces from friends and thought "I've been so unproductive... but wait, I grew a person in me." And I know that any goals I make for the next year will have to fit around caring for him.  (For instance, the first part of this paragraph and the last were written an hour and ten minutes apart, as N. woke up and I had to deal with changing him, feeding him and playing with him. It would have been even longer, but he is now enjoying some 'daddy cuddles' and I get a few minutes free to do this.)

It has been very easy to not do very much since he's been born, and not really have goals for the day beyond  caring for him except little things like 'do a load of washing', 'go shopping', 'go to parents' group', 'go to social event'. This is mostly because as Benj is taking long service leave, I feel obliged to let him enjoy this time off work too, so we've been lazing around a lot. Not to belittle the overwhelming demands of 'caring for N.' - we are finally on top of a lot of things, but his patterns seem to change every few days. We spend LOTS of the day feeding him, playing with him, holding him, settling him to sleep, bathing and changing him, etc. So it only seems fair that a lot of the rest of the day is relaxed.  But when Benj goes back to work, things will need to be different and I'll need to get into a new routine, one that tries to have a structure to my day and week and month.

I'm going to try to set up a 'crochet station' near his playmat, for example, so I can crochet for a few minutes while he's happily occupied. He doesn't really need more than voice input from me while it is moving around. If I have the project in a bag, it can just sit next to the mat and I hope I won't forget to work on it.

I think that is the key - having projects set up in easily accessible places so I can snatch minutes of time without having to waste them searching out materials.

I'm also going to vary things and listen to more Craftsy lessons while I'm feeding (mostly I've been reading on my Kindle or going online on my phone).  I've been going a bit crazy over Craftsy lately, which will be the subject of a whole other post.