Friday, August 28, 2015

Spring Skinny LaMinx Jacket

M said to me one day, "Oh there's some leftover fabric from one job at the upholsterer's. If you want, I can go get it and maybe you can make cushions or whatever." I was thinking of more like zipper pouch potentials, but generally I never say NO to fabric. When I finally met the 2.5 meters of Skinny LaMinx, I almost fainted.
I couldn't wait to get started. This fabric barely frails and holds its shape so nicely. Ideal for a jacket. With upholstery fabric, you really can't make anything else. Lots of images went through my head. I wanted it to be dramatic, without me looking like a couch though.
The pattern is from With My Own Style by Yoshiko Tsukiori, who is a major player in Japanese sewing books. The jacket was effortless to put together, except.... I forgot I have sloth arms. The sleeves are a bit short but if I pair it with a high collar long sleeve shirt, the sleeves are not drawing attention at all.
I have had these very special buttons since our March trip. It's like they've waiting for this jacket. What a perfect match.

This jacket is one of a kind. It's been a dream-come-true, with things sourced locally and produced locally. Thank you Skinny LaMinx for producing such beautiful fabric.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ambition, or lack of it

What do I wish I could have more? I say "time" every single time. Sometimes, I feel my days are drowned in cooking and and endless house chores. I just need that a few more hours that allow me to be more productive, or just to relax and read a book.

"Why don't you sell your clothes?" Some friends have been saying. Thank you for your faith in my wonky stitches. I wish it's that easy. I have the tendency to do it all myself. Originally, when I opted for sewing and crafting, I wanted to stay away from all the inferior quality goods made in China. Having worked in the trade industry many moons ago, I experienced quality problems personally, not only as a consumer, but as an importer/exporter. These years have shaped the way I am today. To sell my clothes and bring some income, is indeed a good idea. But I will have to rely on other people's work ethic. Call it trust issue. I prefer to work alone. And right now, I am clothing my own little family with trial and error. Until I am really good at what I do, I am not ready to branch out just yet.

"Why don't you get a maid, like almost everybody else does?" It's not that I think I can clean better, it's a combination of issues. There are dark days when I just feel like doing no more housework. I did explore the possibility of having people come to the house to clean. But none of them ended up long term. Would I rather deal with their issues or the housework? I'd choose housework everytime.

"You need to accept help and free yourself." When I was in my happy working days in my 20s, did I envision myself being a stay-at-home-mom whose main task is house maintenance? Never. But there's a silving lining to everything. We have family communal spring clean Saturdays now, when we all participate in the housework. Even C does it. It's all worth it when I see her waiting for tasks, or to know the fact that she almost tidies up the shower shelves everyday, out of habit. To not have a maid in the house, has brought us more joy, and taught us responsibility.

I am still at the very early learning stage of this sewing journey. Do I want to monetize my work one day? Of course, but only if it's growing in a very slow and steady pace. People call it "organically" nowadays, don't they? The last thing I want is mass production. I have this dream that one day, I'm going to open up a shop that sells only limited handmade things. It will be a good place for C to work during the school holidays, while I catch up with some housework.... :-D

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bring Winter Back For the Sake of Faux Fur Jacket

One day when we were waiting in the queue at a supermarket, a lady in fur jacket caught our eyes. C couldn't move her eyes away from that jacket. I asked her quietly, "Would you like a fur jacket too?" "Yes yes please." She almost answered before I could finish my sentence. Our winter is almost going (I hope), but being a sewing mama, I really can't say No to sewing request --- in this case, a partially initiated request.

To be honest, I wasn't very sure of sewing faux fur. For a starter, the shedding puts me off. The reality is even worse than what I had expected. I don't know how to begin to describe my sewing table, a.k.a. our dining table. All of a sudden, our two cats' loose hair traveling in the air had stopped drawing my attention. I got a pattern from Mano Akiko's book, and decided to eliminate the pockets and the back details. I didn't think my machine could handle four layers of this fur anyway. I used the bias tape to finish off the hems, and replaced the buttons with snap fasteners. Sewing with fur is quite forgiving. The stitches are buried deep and I never pressed or top stitched on this jacket.  As a result, this jacket came together really quickly.


By the way, C had a haircut the other day. She wanted to go for short(ish), and wanted me to be the hair dresser. I chopped off the bottom 3 times to eventually achieve the length she was looking for. It was hassle-free cutting her hair. During my first few years in South Africa, I was frustrated to find few western hair dressers can cut Asians' hair well, so I bought my own professional scissors, watched a few videos on Youtube, and started trimming my own hair. Guess I was then a budding DIYer already. Now I've been going to Korean hairdresser for almost two years. Life changer.

Back to the jacket. I asked C,"When are you going to wear it now that it's getting warmer?" She said,"When I go to London and New York in Winter." Yep. She's convinced that those two places have everything to offer --- all the toys that South Africa doesn't have. "Next winter school holiday when it's summer there can we go, pretty please?" *insert pleading emoji*

Once again, I paired it with a one-shoulder dress I made a year ago. This dress is so well used from all the dress-up play dates. It's been stained with chocolate ice cream a few times, the seams being ripped at a few places by mishandling, but I say it's definitely a survivor.  

She's checking if there's hidden treasure in the bag.
Happy weekend.

Tea and Crunchies Served

I have to admit. Sweet treats are usually not my thing. I must've passed it down to C one way or the other because she doesn't do treats either, unless it falls into the chocolate family.  For two and half years, every Friday she's exposed to some kind of baked treats at school where kids in the class take turns bringing freshly baked goods to the class. Sometimes the treats were intact, other times she'd just decline the offer. However, for the past two Fridays, she would go on and on about what she had at school, one being these oats biscuits, which is called Crunchies locally in South Africa.

Compared to other oatmeal biscuits, they taste sweeter and crunchier, thus the name I guess. I saved a recipe on my notebook but somehow I can't find and link to the original source.

Here is what you need:

150g butter
2T golden syrup (I used honey)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup flour

Basically you melt the butter and sugar and then mix everything together. Bake in a 180C-degree oven for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

You know what's the best part? C has opened up to rooibos tea. Not just dipping but drinking. One more thing added to the menu of my fussy eater. Success.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Homemade Chocolate --- not a total failure

I have one -- make it two --- chocolate addicts at home, not counting myself.  My daughter is extremely fussy, so much so that she doesn't eat sweets, except for the commercial chocolate that is categorized as candy due to its mass sugar content. She eats anything chocolatey, good chocolate, junkie chocolate, sweet ones, bitter ones, chocolate by-products.... you name it.

For a long time, I had wanted to make it count. Let's face it. Commercial chocolate --- bad; Homemade chocolate with the right ingredients --- good.  This time, I've gone all the way to the root. Normally I'm no fan of Superfoods, but considering the high amount of otherwise sugary products that loaded with addictives, I surrender.

Only 3 ingredients are needed to make this basic chocolate. Shocking. I count up to five times that on a package of a store-bought brand. What do people say nowadays? The less ingredients the better.

So to make this chocolate, you will need:

1 cup of cocao power
1 cup of cocao butter
1/2 cup of honey

Mix everything in a double boiler and pour into moulds. It can be cooled in fridge or room temperature. I had a little problem with mixing, as you can see in the picture above. I took out my blender to give it a final whisk, still it seems the oil/cocao butter and the cocao paste are not combining nicely. Maybe next time I will reduce the cocao butter amount. It was quite difficult to measure it by the volume to start with.

The taste? It's real deal. Now my 5-year-old asks particularly for the homemade chocolate and she is satisfied after one or two of them. Win-win. As the for the presentation, I shall work on that next time....

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Border Gather Pants 2.0 Version

Since June, I've been wearing my not-so-successful border-gather-pants a lot. I often pair them with long jackets to cover the back of the pants. Because I've put labor into these pants, I feel I should wear them. But at the same time, I wanted to give it another go, and this time really concentrating on the measurements.
I made sure there's no mistake by choosing a size M for the hip size this time. As usual, I added extra length to the pants, and as usual, they didn't quality to be full-length pants. I have no idea why this is happening all the time, so much so that I had to pull the elastic out of the cuffs so the pants would look slightly longer. At the end, I had to put on boots to cover the gap. That worked. From now on, these pants are to be paired with boots only.
Otherwise, the pants fit me quite nicely. Major improvement from the saggy 1.0 version as shown above. I used some double gauze from my stash. Have you heard of quadruple gauze yet? They are coming. I hope to meet them next winter. For now, double gauze is soft and warm enough for me. For those who are interested, pattern from I Love Pants.
I tried to squeeze some serious cow-boy expressions but I failed. I'm too predictable in front the camera. While I was sewing the pants, I really wished the machine could go a little faster. I got this Elna Explore 240 one and a half years ago and it was a low end model. I'm amazed myself at how much I've progressed with sewing. It's like I've finally found my place. I'm thinking perhaps it's time to get a serger now. I have proven I'm in for it, have I not?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

DIY Tee + Hip Hop Pants Combo

Lately this little girl has been claiming that she wants to be an artist when she grows up. It's not too far from the fashion designer career path she chose last September. My parents worked non-creative jobs and neither of them is artistic. As a consequence, I wasn't brought up exposed to paintings and drawings. In fact, I remember writing my homework from other subjects in art class. My creativity has grown a tremendous amount since the birth of C. Now I'm a big crafter in the house and I suppose it's what C sees everyday.

She's got this app called Toca Tailor on iPad that she says very often. It's all about clothing designs. Somehow she's stuck on one particular fabric pattern that's got black and white stripes. One day she asked me if she could paint it on the fabric. "Sure." What is a sewing mama for? So I helped her tear off masking tapes and we covered the whole front panel. And then we painted the whole thing black. Yes, she (we) had to paint over those masking tapes, just because painting is fun.

The tee shirt pattern is from Girls Clothes I Want to Make. I added about 4cm on the front neckline and 1cm each on both shoulders so the neck is not too low for the season. Instead of bias binding, I cut up a neckband, so it hugs the neck even more.

The sarouel pants (pattern from Simplicity) I made early this year are almost knee length now, so I guess a new pair is in order. As I am typing this, C's probably changed to this outfit and getting ready for her hip hop class. I'd say she does have some kind of Hip Hop attitude.

C does both Ballet and Hip Hop extra murals at school. She got very disappointed that she was chosen as a Ballet girl (again) for the school concert. Her logic is there're many Hip Hop girls already and not so many that do Ballet and Hip Hop, and she's on the ballet team because she does both. But, if she stops doing ballet, she should be in the Hip Hop team. It worked. I talked to the teacher and pulling her out from the ballet class wasn't a condition. C says ballet is not as fun anyway, so I guess she's Hip Hop all the way now.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Minion Outfit

Have you watched the new Minion Movie? We did during the school holidays and now we have officially caught the minion fever. Our food cupboard is currently loaded with one particular cereal brand because it comes with a mysterious minion figurine. We got 6 boxes just to make sure that we had all the characters covered.

Last weekend we went to the beach right next to a park. Between C and I, we had 6 pockets. When we left, we had four hands full of shells on top of our pocket loads. For future reference, pockets are inelimatable, especially for under-prepared treasure hunt moments.

The pinofore pattern is from this book, one of the many A Sunny Spot/Heart Warming Life Series. I got a piece of chambray instead of denim. Why? I'm really not a pro at turning the fabric tube inside out, despite multiple youtube videos. The basic tee pattern is from here. The tee has so many potentials and I find I've used the yellow + dark bottom combination a lot of times already, see here and here. Am I predictable or what? This time it's all for the love of Minions...

So after I moved the furniture and cleared out some space for the photo shoot, C said,"What about goggles?" Fair enough. Luckily I had paper cups and elastic is already in stock. It was a quick make. But then she says, they don't really look like the minions' goggles and they look silly. OK...She's got a point. You win some and you lose some.