Saturday, December 23, 2017


This is my granddaughter's much loved bear showing off his new summer clothes made by me. I say they are for him but, really, they are for her. There's been much secrecy to get everything made in time for christmas as she doesn't like to be without his company for long and I needed him for fittings. He is such an odd shape but by sewing for him I've learnt quite a bit - mainly by trial and error - about pattern drafting like working out how to make sandals for a bear that doesn't really have feet!

Reading: Anything is possible by Elizabeth Strout. This is a short story collection in the style of Olive Kitteridge but the stories revolve around the character Lucy Barton (from My name is Lucy Barton). A beautifully written and compelling book. ***** 

Watching: Mindhunter on Netflix. Based on the true crime book of the same name. Two FBI agents interview serial killers to help them develop a method for criminal profiling. ****

Happy holidays to you. I wish you safe travels and good times. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

home and away

We've just had a wonderful week staying in Russell in the Bay of Islands. Russell is a lovely town and there's plenty to do up there.

I'd recommend
  • a visit to Waitangi and the new museum
  • a boat trip to Urupukapuka Island - the pohutukawa and flax were in bloom and full of bees and tui plus you often get to see dolphins in the harbour
  • doing the full circle walk from Russell to Opua to Paihia. It's a bit of a stretch - 14km - but you can stop half way at Opua for lunch at the marina.
  • Pompallier House - they now have a small cafĂ©. You can sit on the verandah drinking coffee and eating croissant while looking out on the garden and harbour.
  • swimming at Long Beach

And back home, the cornflowers are in full bloom and bringing lots of bees into the garden. And the christmas cake is fresh from the oven. It's a "blonde" fruit cake that can be made close to christmas. The recipe is Eliza's fruit cake by Annabel Langbein. It contains prunes which give it a wonderful, moist texture. Last year I spent ages decorating the cake with concentric circles of blanched almonds but this year I got lazy and simply scattered sliced almonds over the top. Have you made your cake yet?

Tin man by Sarah Winman. This is a novel about what might have been, memories, sexual identity and love - of childhood friends Ellis and Michael and, later, of Ellis and Annie. It's a well written book but it lost me about two-thirds through. ***

Bertie's guide to life and mothers by Alexander McCall Smith (44 Scotland Street series) I found this in one of the local book exchange cupboards when I was looking for something light and quick for a holiday read. Which is exactly what I got. I like McCall Smith's #1 ladies' detective agency series but Bertie's guide was just too twee for me. **

Listening: Tiny desk concert by Cat Stevens

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


A new apron for Gus - just like this one - made from her kindergarten fundraiser tea towel. It's very cute with each child's self-portrait printed on it.

And cranberry shortbread cookies. The recipe is available in Donna Hay's The christmas issue Dec/Jan 2018. Really good. I made them to take to a thanksgiving dinner at the across-the-road neighbours. A nice christmas gift too for family, friends, or neighbours.

Watching: Alias Grace on Netflix. This is based on Margaret Atwood's book of the same name. It's a fictionalised telling of the murders in 1843 of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in Canada. Grace Marks was a servant in the Kinnear household and was only sixteen when she and James McDermott were accused of the murders. ****

Have a lovely week.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


It's been three weeks since I posted but I'm sorry to say I don't have anything tremendous to share - I haven't been anywhere or done anything exciting. I just took an unplanned break from blogging and making things.

So... what's been happening?

Well, the cosmos is looking great. I planted some a couple of years ago and it brought some chaffinches to the garden. They seem to like eating the seeds from the flower heads. So I planted more cosmos this year but, sadly, no chaffinches yet.

I've "sandwiched" quilt #4 and started quilting it by hand - which takes me forever but its very enjoyable.

Everything is ready to begin sewing another dress for my granddaughter.

And I've started some new knitting. Free pattern here.

Other news is that we have a large orb spider living in the garden. It comes out of hiding at night to eat and to mend its web. Unfortunately a few bees have been caught in the web and I'm torn between trying to save them and wanting the spider to live in my garden. The web is huge and beautiful.

Also I've decided to rank books/films out of five - a brief summary doesn't really tell you much. What we really want to know is was it any good. Well, it'll just be my opinion but here we go ...

Aspergers are us - documentary about four friends on the autism spectrum who form a comedy troupe. ***

My beautiful broken brain - Netflix documentary about Lotje Sodderland who has a stroke at the age of 34 which leaves her unable to write and limits her ability to communicate effectively. Rather than let this hold her back Lotje remains positive and grateful for her new life. ** (Even though the story is uplifting and Lotje is amazing, there's just not enough to sustain a full length film, IMO)

Reading: Theft by finding by David Sedaris - his edited diary entries from 1977 to 2002. Entertaining and sometimes very funny.****

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

bears and mountains

Three things:
1. Sewing: At last I've done it - made something from a Japanese sewing book. It's dress "T" from Girls style book by Yoshiko Tsukiori. A summer dress in a cotton print for my granddaughter. It's a simple pattern. The only fussy bit was the bias binding around the armholes and neck that I stitched by hand. 

2. Yoga: I've been practicing yoga at home for a year now averaging one class a week. I'm not consistent. I have bursts of regular practice and then weeks with none but I benefit from my practice and always feel great afterwards. I keep a yoga diary - a small notebook where I jot down my thoughts about the poses or my mood or quotes from the teacher (Melissa West) that I find inspiring or helpful. I'd recommend the diary even if, like me, you're not really a diary kind of person.

3. Dancing: of the extraordinary variety by the tiny (5mm) peacock spider and the science behind it, if you're interested.

No ordinary Sheila - inspiring film about the life of New Zealand natural historian, writer and illustrator Sheila Natusch. The pages above are from her book Wild fare for wilderness foragers (1979). She was a true adventurer and free spirit. There is a lovely interview with her on Radio New Zealand.

Maudie starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke about popular Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. Brought me to tears.

Reading: Autumn by Ali Smith. Short listed for this year's Man Booker Prize. It's about Elisabeth, a 32-year-old lecturer in art history and Daniel Gluck, 101-years-old and dying in an assisted care facility. He was her neighbour and confidant when she was a child. He introduced her to “arty art” and taught her to always be reading a book. The story travels between the past and present and is, apparently, an exploration of how we experience time. I found much of this book really clever and amusing but other bits mystifying.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Another bundle of baby things ready to deliver to Little Sprouts. I think I've already posted about most of the makes but what's new is the grey striped merino baby wrap like this one and the pink singlet. The singlet is knitted in the round - I used a baby merino yarn - and has a button opening on one shoulder. It's a free pattern from Drops Design available here and on Ravelry.

Other things


I'm pretty keen on Japanese sewing books and own quite a few even though I have never made a single thing from any of them. I recently discovered Easy cute straight sewing by Yoshiko Tsukiori. It has 27 designs for dresses, jackets, pants, tops etc but comes without printed patterns as the construction of all the garments is based on straight lines (mainly rectangles) so you simply follow the dimensions and draft your own. Unfortunately it seems to be available only in Japanese. The diagrams are sufficiently detailed so that you could probably work from them without the text. However I have found a useful free, printable PDF list of common sewing terms translated from Japanese into English here on the Japanese Sewing Books website - which also has a cute Instagram feed @japanesesewingbooks and reviews (with flip-through videos) of many, many Japanese sewing books. I'm not sure if I have the confidence but I'd like to think I could wear some of the very oversized and loose fitting garments from this book.

Monday, October 9, 2017


We have two ornamental cherry trees in the front garden that look amazing - and attract dozens of bees - for the short time that they are in full bloom. Which is now. So we celebrated hanami in the rain yesterday with a small family gathering. Hanami (flower viewing) is a Japanese custom to enjoy the transient beauty of flowers and is usually celebrated with a picnic beneath blossoming cherry trees. Unfortunately we had to have our "picnic" indoors.

And the top for quilt #4 is done. It's a variation on this one. I'm going to focus on sewing for a bit. I've had sore hands that seem to improve if I don't do much for a while. Probably an RSI thing but so frustrating. It seems that crochet in particular and knitting are bad for me.

Some good news is that a local supermarket chain is going to stop supplying plastic carry bags by the end of 2018. I hope this will just be the start and that other supermarkets will follow and that eventually all plastic bags will be banned.

Reading: My father's wake by Kevin Toolis. This is part biography and part thinking about death and dying. The author, who is Irish, believes the wake embraces death as a normal part of living. Whereas the Anglo-Saxon world lives in denial of it. Not as gloomy as it might sound.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Some more hankies - like these ones. I've probably got enough now but it's a little bit of happiness to take a handmade hankie out of my pocket. The two outer ones are re-purposed cotton shirts that didn't make the cut (or did?) in a recent wardrobe declutter.

And a balloon in the bathroom. It's a portrait drawn by my granddaughter of my son simultaneously smiling and frowning.

The colours of this post remind me of a joke my father used to like to tell. What's black and white and red (read) all over? Answer: a newspaper.
And a childhood favourite of my son: What's red and invisible? Answer: No tomatoes!

Reading: This house of grief by Helen Garner. This is the harrowing true story of the trial of a man who drove his car into a dam killing his three young children. It's heartbreaking to read in parts but written in such a way that I almost feel like I'm on the jury. Was it a deliberate act or an accident?

Listening/watching: Podcast Wardrobe crisis with Clare Press episode Disentangling style from fashion with Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum from StyleLikeU. This is truly amazing. Everything I've felt about clothing and the fashion industry is so clearly articulated. Their What's underneath project on YouTube is so worth watching - short video interviews of (mostly) women talking about self image.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

birds and apples

A visit to the zoo this week followed by a walk through a local park to see the birds. This particular park has a lake and is always full of birds and, at this time of year, you can see cygnets, goslings and coot chicks.

And a play mat for Little Sprouts made from some of these fabrics and a surplus-to-needs quilted mattress protector as wadding. To make: cut the backing, top and wadding to size and make a quilt sandwich. But, instead of quilting, simply sew the layers together all around the edge, curve the corners and attach double fold bias binding. No need to quilt as the mattress protector is already quilted. Tutorial here to make a mat without binding.

Watching: Three (!) movies this week: 
Love is strange (2014) starring John Lithgow as Ben and Alfred Molina as George - an ageing gay couple who have been together for decades but after George is fired from his teaching job they are forced to stay with friends separately while they sell their apartment and look for cheaper housing.

Leviathan (2014) Set in a bleak coastal town on the Barents Sea, Kolya decides to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house and land will be seized. A powerful slow burner that I've been thinking about all day.

Frances Ha (2012) Quirky movie about a dancer trying to make it in New York City. One of my all time favourite films.

Drinking: Three ginger tea by Pukka. It's "a warming swirl of organic ginger, galangal and golden tumeric". Infuse for at least 10 minutes - spicy and delicious.

Friday, September 15, 2017

marbles and monkeys

Marble painting - drop a marble into paint, roll it around on a piece of paper on a tray and - ta-dah! - art. We had hours of fun with this book, Recipes for play: fun ideas for small hands and big imaginations written by New Zealander Rachel Sumner. Loads of simple ideas for pre-schoolers.

Sock monkeys - done. Pattern for cutting layout here. Variations - including the cute folded ears - alternative layout and detailed construction method with photos here. I'm especially fond of the plain grey one which I thought might turn out to be a bit boring.

Reading: The stranger in the woods by Michael Finkel. True story of Christopher Knight who disappeared to live alone in the woods for twenty-seven years.

Watching: The witness - documentary about Kitty Genovese who in 1964 was stabbed to death on a New York City street while, apparently, thirty-eight people witnessed her murder and did nothing.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


The early Spring weather has had me in the garden so I haven't been spending a lot of time making things lately. Instead I've been trying to lure bees into the garden by planting herbs - purple basil, mint, lemon grass, thyme and oregano - and a few flowers among the veges. We've also planted an avocado, a passion fruit vine and a bay tree. I can't wait to try drying our own bay leaves. Plus, even in a small garden, there's always lots of work to do after winter.

I did find time though to go to Fabric-a-brac last Saturday. I shopped without intent which was joyous.

Everyone in the house is away for most of this week. I always look forward to being home alone and imagine myself living a zen life - getting up early, doing yoga daily, taking long walks and eating raw foods but the reality is that I eat apple crumble for dinner, stay up late watching re-runs of Inspector Morse and sleep in. This time though I am without a plan. Today was taken up with a haircut for me, an emergency trip to the vet for the cat and a mad flurry of window cleaning - by me, of course.

Reading: The photo and recipe for the beautiful cured eggs coloured with beetroot and saffron is in Simple fare - spring, summer: guide to everyday cooking and eating by Karen Mordechai. This is a stunning cookbook with so many interesting but simple recipes that I'd love to try. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

fine spells

A short, quick visit to the Waikato last Sunday - in the rain - to catch up with some friends and see their new house near Cambridge. It's a long house so most of the rooms get that wonderful view of the river. We stayed the night in Hamilton - pre-dinner dessert at Duck Island, dinner at Dough Bros, and an excellent breakfast at Milton's Canteen (great name for a cafe in Hamilton, don't you think?)

Some new fabric - a couple of "vintage" prints that I'm very pleased with, a couple from Spotlight and an impulse buy of bright blue linen from The Fabric Store. All fabrics washed and ironed and ready for sewing.

And, in a moment of madness and for no reason whatsoever, I made a rabbit. The pattern and instructions are in Made for baby: cute sewn gifts by Ayda Algin.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance (a memoir) by Elna Baker. Baker is a Mormon living in New York and looking for a husband. She goes on a diet and only after losing a huge amount of weight discovers the miseries the world inflicts on fat people.

Urban jungle : living and styling with plants by Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

big red

Totally red crochet blanket for Little Sprouts. I know, it's a bit crazy, but I had the wool so I used it. And it will keep a little one toasty warm out and about in the stroller on a cold and windy day.
It's made up of twelve squares that I crocheted together - as I went - following this tutorial. This worked out well - nice flat joins, no ridges - and so much easier than sewing squares together at the end. I also discovered this method for working the first row of the border so that it doesn't end up wavy. (Blocking also helped.) The little edging stitch I got from here.

I'm fairly new to crochet and every time I make something I learn a new technique, thanks to all those generous makers who share their expertise on line.

Work in progress: sock monkeys.

Reading: Hunger : a memoir of (my) body by Roxane Gay. I've just started this one. It's a telling of the author’s life and of her everyday experience as a fat woman.

Monday, August 7, 2017


Six blue linen napkins. Finished. I started making them maybe three years ago but stopped when I had problems with the corners. As I'd already cut out the napkins and cut the corners diagonally I was committed to continue with mitred corners. I decided to hand stitch the hems so that I could tweak the corners as I went to get them right. I'm pleased with my effort. I find it such a relief to complete abandoned projects.

I've set myself a thirty day challenge - to draw every day - and to this end I bought Draw every day, draw every way by Jennifer Orkin Lewis. Actually I bought this book ages ago (end of last year?) as I've wanted to get back into drawing for some time but lacked the motivation. But it seems the book alone wasn't enough to get me started. I'm hoping that drawing every day for thirty days will create a drawing habit.

Reading: Let's explore diabetes with owls by David Sedaris - a collection of essay that manage to be simultaneously (a bit) funny and (a bit) wise.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

quilt #3

The quilt is finished and I'm happy with how it turned out. It's a small quilt - crib size 80cm x 100cm (32 inches x 40 inches) - so not overwhelmingly ambitious.

I think there's some tradition of naming quilts. This one reminds me of various parks in the city - green playing fields, people walking their little dogs, even geese if you're in the right park. I didn't want to name it after a particular park and, in the end, the best I could come up with was Quilt #3.

I've been gathering fabrics to make a second one (Quilt #4, I guess) - many from my stash but a couple of new fat quarters too.

July has been a wet and busy month. Both my (adult) children have July birthdays so there has been some drinking of champagne and eating of cake - which has taken the edge off the winter weather.

Reading: We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Short essay based on her Ted Talk. Why the gender divide is harmful for both women and men.

Listening: Stuff you should know podcast

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

hats off

Woolly hats ready to wrap up for posting to Crafty Volunteers - a group that supports various NZ charities including the Womens Refuge, night shelters and refugee services. Currently they are needing winter clothing and blankets. The ribbed hat is one of the "pull-on" hats from Erika Knight's 2010 book Simple knitting. It's a good basic pattern and one to get hold of if you can.

Yesterday and today we've had blue skies after days of heavy rain. It's been lovely to be able to open some windows, hang washing out on the line and go for walks in the sunshine.

Watching: Try something new for 30 days - a Ted talk by Matt Cutts. This isn't a new idea but Matt is pretty compelling. It's sparked a bit of conversation in our house. What to try - daily yoga, veganism, getting up early? Or, maybe, what to give up for 30 days?