Sunday, June 28, 2015

Scratch or Not

Around this time last year, after my discovery of sewing, I had this outbursting desire to make everything from scratch, with the freshest ingredients possible. We consume too many unnecessary additives nowadays. How many times have you read the ingredients on a product and realized that you cannot prounounce half of them? So for a long while, I made my own bread regularly; if a recipe calls for passata, I'd buy fresh tomatos and make my own; I made tortillas and used the leftover to make nachos...

When my parents-in-law came to visit in September, they brought me a pasta machine that was passed down to them (antiques?). One evening my father-in-law and I decided to make pasta. Homemade egg pasta tastes a lot richer than store-bought dry pasta. Our effort was well worth it.

The thing is, making-everything-from-scratch period didn't last too long. There was too much time going into this "food pureness", more time than I had on my hand. I've since then moved the pasta machine to a deeper end of my cupboard.

My father-in-law was hospitalized for almost two months this year, and the first thing he did after he got home was to sent me another pasta machine.... Now I've got not just one but two beautiful quality machines that I feel I should make use of, soon.

Since getting know to sewing, I've developed this goal to clothes myself and  my young daughter. I love the idea that our clothes we wear now are made from good fabric without  sweat shop labors, which is almost like avoiding the harmful ingredients in a food product to me.

The ideal way of living for me is to farm your own chickens and eggs, milk the cows and make the butter. But knowing my low limit of handling the mess and smell (let alone the fact that we live in a city), I'd say I should at least give growing vegetables a try.

Providing quality food has always been a focus in our household. I rarely cut corners when I go do a grocery shopping. There are too many other ways to save money. We don't go out to eat often. The cost of a previously-frozen-chicken-breast dish from a restaurant is usually more than my free-range premium cut steak.

Although I don't make fresh pastas or bread --- speaking of living a balanced life, a.k.a. more time to create, I do make a thoughtful dinner everyday and that's non-negotiable.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Winterland Outfit -- Poncho + Skirt Combo

Cape Town's winter is in full swing. When it comes to clothes, our priority is warmth and wind-proof. I don't know how I came up with a poncho. I've never had one myself.  The idea of being wrapped in a tablecloth shaped thingy has always appeared odd to me. But hey, we're sewing and creating nowadays. The motto is to try something new. Okay, I do change my mottos quite often, to whatever suits the theme.

This poncho is made from two pieces of rectangles --- the easiest pattern to cut out that can actually be made into a top/jacket, of some sort. The pattern is from this wonderful magazine which is loaded with a good variety of ponchos. One of these days, I am going to make one for myself too.


I had about one meter of this gorgeous fabric left after I've made my Grey Striped Pants. I shortened the skirt pattern a little to squeeze everything in that one meter. If I had the choice, I'd probably pom pom everything. It's just so cute. I got these pom pom trimmings from our recent trip, but they're running out fast.

At first C wasn't so sure of this poncho thing either. But the fabric did the trick --- it is sparkly. I'd know immediately whether she's a big fan of a particular outfit when she refuses to take it off after the photoshoot. This is one of the them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Hairdye Revolution

My original hair color is black, pitch black. Unlike many Asians who don't like the dull black, I loved my hair color. It was rich and shiny. In my teens, my friends often said to me "You have grey hair." I would remain calm and say to them "Look again, it's the reflection of the light." My hair was that shiny....

Both my parents went grey very early. So no matter how much Polygonum multiflorum Thunb or Ginseng I swallow, I cannot escape the inevitables. I started to spot grey hair in my late 20's. (Sigh) Since then I tried dying it a lighter shade plus highlight so the new growth was almost disguised.

The thing is I'm really getting tired of that monthly harsh chemical dosage. Go Natural is the slogan here. So I found this Caca Brun from LUSH --- Henna and Indigo hair dye.

I watched tons of Youtube videos before I went for it. This is a commitment people. You're in for a mess.
I left it on for 4 hours and wrapped my head up in the shape of a beehive. C didn't want to go anywhere near me, but I found the smell just herbal and weirdly soothing.... With any other chemical dye, I just want to hold my breath and can't wait to wash it off.

The result:
My priority --- does it cover grey? You shouldn't have too much faith in "natural" products. It doesn't. Period. It might give the grey a light tint, but after a week, the tint fades. Will I do it again? Yeahbsolutely. My hair felt so silky after the treatment. I've officially said my good-byes to poisonous chemicals that burnt my scalp. Let nature take its course and I shall embrace it. Grey hair is the new blonde as they say.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Linen Boy's Stand-up Collar Shirt

C got a birthday invitation from a boy in her class last week. She opened the envelope then the image of Captain America and The Hulk pop out. "Eww, this is so boyish. I will never go to that party." Okay, I suppose the boys probably have the similar reaction when they receive a princess themed party invite. C used to be very into Carstoon and Planes. Somehow since she started preschool, she started to realize there's an invisible but definite line between boy stuff and girl stuff. These boy characters were never heard of and look kinda gross. So it's no go for her.

The party was during the long weekend and I had extra time to prepare this present. Never miss a chance to create has become my new motto, plus I've never sewn boys' clothes before. Sewing a shirt is exciting. I got some linen from a lady who apparently hand dyed it, chose a pattern from Sew Chic Kids, and I was ready to go. To customize it, I added a freezer paper stencil of Captain America's shield's symbol at the back of the shirt.

Since I don't have a serger, I chose a pattern that has the most enclosed seams. See the collar to yoke to back, no open seams. Sometimes you take it for granted with a particular sewing project and you end up wasting time unpicking and restitching. This is one of those situations. I kept on making silly mistakes and resewed almost every single piece....Very forgiving fabric by the way.

The other day M asked me if I still enjoy sewing. Absolutely, I'm totally hooked. I'd rather spend hours on end making this shirt than go out and get a toy. Does it say anything to you?
I am slowly discovering a whole variety of other craftivities. Card making, fabric printing, knitting, painting, stamp making.... Ah the list is endless....

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

When C was two years old, she went through a night terror stage where every single morning 3 a.m. she'd wake up and cry. Right underneath us lived a couple in their 50's, with no kids. One week into the night waking crying routine, I got a rather rude email from our downstairs neighbor, complaining about the crying. Of course, I felt sorry that their sleep had been disturbed because of my child. I am usually an applogetic person but being a mom has made me sensitive when it comes to issue like this. The waking and crying was uncontrollable and there's little I could do. It's not that I left her in the room by herself, not at all. I gave a very straight forward reply and left no room for further correspondence.

We've since moved to a house when C turned three. 
This is what happened a week ago. Two houses down from us lives a family with two young kids. So one day when one of the kids was throwing a tantrum for about a mere ten minutes,  the neighbor that we share went to knock on her door. This neighbor, too, has no children of his own.

These two similar scenarios triggered my deep down voice today that came with the "mom package". I, too, had no idea what it would be like to spend day in and day out with children. It's something that you only learn once you've become a parent yourself.  Do we, as parents, like the sleep deprivation? Negative. Do we enjoy the unpleasant tantrum our children throw? Of course not. But we have learnt to understand that it's part of their growth to eventually being able to control their emotions like us. When those tantrum were bad sometimes I could literally feel my veins popping out and a headache brewing instantly. On rare occassions, I got so frustrated that I sobbed with my daughter and thought to myself "It's really hard being a parent." Now the last thing you want at this fire-spitting moment is for someone to tell you that you should control your child. Luckily, C is in a tantrum diminishing phase. In fact, I can't remember when she had a meltdown last time.

We are all ignorant in one way or another. I once read this picture book about a guy called Shon who did all the field work but thought his wife Sian had a much relaxed time working around the house, until one day they swapped duties. He made a huge mess in the house, only to discover churning butter and rolling oats weren't as easy as how his wife had made them appear to be.

One of the many many things that being a parent has taught me is to be more understanding and to try putting myself in other people's shoe. I feel humbled already at the thought of putting down that disgusting I-know-better arrogance. However, it doesn't mean to give in every single time. Principle is principle people. :D

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Border Gathered Pants

I had the urge to call them Pants-that-Look-Way-Better-without-Me-in-Them.  Originally I had planned a jacket out of this fabric. However, since I'm in the momentum of pants making and wearing, and especially in this moody weather of our winter, I feel obligated to fill my empty closet space designated to pantalones.

So when you are looking at a pants' pattern, you should rather give priority to the hip measurement than the waist measurement, right? I wrongfully chose a size that fits my waist but way too generous on my non-existing hips, which pretty much explains the unflattering look at the back. If only I had a curvy body..... 
I did lengthen 6cm religously as I will do to all future pants patterns from I Love Pants.

As to the construction, it's quite simple with a faux fly as a little extra detail besides the pockets.

These pants are not total failure. I wore them today with a long jacket, which covers the baggy problem at the back. The fabric is wool blend and I'm sure that's what kept me toasted. Sometimes you just have to give more credit because they're handmade and more so when you've made them yourself. It's a learning process....

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

No Offence

This week C has had beef lasagne for the very first time and she bolted her portion during dinner time. I had to sneakily constantly add more to her bowl. I was distracting and feeding her at the same time. If you are also a mother of an extreme fussy eater, you should know this feeling. It's like hitting the jackpot. So after a portion as big as mine,

C: Mom, I'm fed up.
Me: Huh? (Alert!)
C: I mean I've had enough of lasagne.
Me: ..... (Oh you mean you are fed up, literally....)

photo source and source

One day C caught a glimpse of a video clip about buddhist monks on Youtube.

"Mom, why are they wearing safety clothes?"

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Sevenberry Spring Jacket


Tim Gunn from Project Runway always chants "Designers, your journey begins and ends at Mood." Those words echo at the back of  my head like a church bell. It's very true. There's nothing better than having a good piece of fabric to work with.  The moment I laid my hands on this piece of Sevenberry, I knew a good jacket would be on its way soon.

As I get deeper and deeper into sewing, I start to discover some really beautiful Japanese fabrics. This Sevenberry polka dot cotton/linen/canvas mix is one of them. It looks very basic, with a stiff feel. I love polka dots. Who doesn't?! Yet these half invisible dots generate a more subtle and mature look.

This spring jacket is one of main reasons for me to get the book called Girls Clothes I want to make. After I browsed the book for the first time, I put the jacket making plan aside. It looks quite complicated with so many details, which means tons of fabric pieces to cut. It turned out, that I did spend one morning tracing and cutting the fabric on three different types of materials --- main fabric, facing and interfacing.  I guess I wanted to be super precise too.


Maybe not precise enough. When I trace a pattern, I always pay no attention to the button holes and sleeve marks. Did it backfire this time. I spent extra time ripping both sleeves off. Instead of side seams, this bodice has darts at the back, and each sleeve sewn together with two pieces of fabric--- not like anything I had sewn before. I called my backup, which involved M taking out a few jackets from the closet to look for mistakes with me.


The end result is still pretty solid. C is all dotted up in this outfit. :-)



Monday, June 1, 2015

Happy Handmade Gifts --- Skirts + Zipper Pouches

When is this wind going to stop? This winter has kicked off quite fiercely. We have been indoors with all the windows and doors shut, but this wind, apparently on a high dosage of speed, is testing the strength of the house. The story of Three Little Pigs comes to mind.

OK. Let's come to the skirts and zipper pouches. C got a birthday invite last week and being the last-minute gift shopper that I am, I waited till the day before the party when it poured and poured with rain, so naturally that gift had to be born from the house. I had been wanting to sew little things as gifts but that sense of accomplishment from a garment often overshadows the satisfaction from something much smaller. This time, I had no choice with my time allowance.

The skirts turned out to be so cute. For the pattern, you only need four pieces of rectangles and an elastic band. C waited patiently for me to finish, which doesn't happen often, then pleaded for the same one, which happens all the time. I knew I was going to make more than one skirt before I even started. May be I should start a kids birthday sweat shop by stocking up skirts and pouches? ;)

I once made an Elsa dress as a gift when I first started out to sew. It took me days to sew two at the same time. It was a challenge but I was really happy that I made it happen. The moment I gave it to the birthday girl, I felt confident. Now thinking back, I probably had forgot to use stretch stitches on knit fabric, or there must've been some parts that were done unprofessionally. But this is the thing about handmade --- It is imperfect. It's the thoughts and effort behind those stitches that really count, right?

I'm so into making things now. I mean it shouldn't be legal to feel so good about gifting people handmade or homemade stuff. We were supposed to go to a friend's place for breakfast last weekend, so the night before, this happened. 

C was feeling under the weather so we ended up cancelling the breakfast. But I shall call this it-is-time-to-dump-all-your-other-granola granola. It's that good. It guarantees your bowel movement too. And I have culinary science to back me up on that. The recipe is in this post.