Monday, 29 September 2014

A By Hand London Polly top

After fighting with the fitting of a pair of trousers (more on that another day) I decided it was time to make up something quick so I could retain my sewing enthusiasm! For me that means nothing overly fitted, no facings or fussy stuff, no slippery fabrics (that's a lot of "no" things).

Enter the By Hand Polly top. Whilst I have made some Colette Sorbetto tops I was not so sure about the panel in the Polly top but there are some wonderful makes out there so I decided to go for it.
The fabric is left over from my make of the Anna dress. I presume its some kind of polyester and it is a little crisp but it matches the texture of the Liberty Lawn panel (which I bought for my mother who decided later on she did not want on her shirt). 

There is not too much to say about the make - it was a really easy sew. I always struggle with what finishing to use for armholes and  necklines as I really really dislike the look and flappiness of facings.
However after making the Alder shirtdress which uses bias binding that is folded back on the inside and top stitched down I think I have found a new favourite method! Thanks to Jen from Grainline yet again. I do like being able to use contrast binding to keep interesting details on the inside.

While I am at it, there is something that bothers me about PDF patterns and I think I have a love hate relationship with them. I love that they are instant and downloadable, but I feel like I am wasting what feels like a lot of paper for a small pattern. I mean, check out all the paper for 1 top ...Having said that all the bits off the edge go into my compost so its not all bad. Can't win them all I guess....and its not stopping me from downloading any PDF only ones! In fact, since I am impatient and never home for parcels to arrive PDF patterns are a bit of a godsend. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Jewellery Roll project

I made this awhile back sometime last year when I first bought my sewing machine. It was a simple yet effective project that taught me the basics of zips etc. (needless to say dressmaking is significantly more challenging...) and used up spare fat quarters from John Lewis that I bought on a whim without realising at the time what a fat quarter was actually for. It was probably the only time I pinned and measured super carefully since I was so new to sewing at the time and I think it was worth the effort.

Best of all, its functional! I like it a lot for when we used to do a lot of travelling. Sadly, we have not been anywhere much this year given we bought a house and adopted 2 dogs but it is a more than satisfactory substitute for being on the road exploring places all the time (though I still do love doing that).

Back to the sewing, I cannot remember where the pattern is from but thank you to whoever came up with it!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Last of summer in the garden

I love roses, especially the David Austins. My piano teacher in Australia used to have a wonderful garden and she loved particularly these roses. When I went to the Chelsea Flower show for the first time after moving here I was completely amazed by the display. Of course then the first thing I had to do to the garden was to buy roses. I did not exactly plan the timing of starting the garden particularly well since August is the end of the season, but lucky for me the local nursery had 2 standards - a Harlow Carr and a Sophy's Rose. The ultimate plan is to plant a few more standards along the fence line, but they are now out of stock until at least the end of the year.

The Harlow Carr (twin roses picture) smells and looks divine and makes me happy everyday I look outside. Also super pleased that I found Anna's Gardens to come and dig the flower bed, remove the existing topsoil and refill with compost / new topsoil - makes my gardening life so much more enjoyable! Highly recommend.

Next up - buying bulbs for autumn and winter flowering! 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Archer button-down shirt from Grainline patterns

Its been a long blogging break, but since I have been trawling through other people's sewing blogs which are super helpful in terms of looking at patterns that have come to life, I am restarting my blog to document my own adventures!

I made a shirt this weekend, the first completed project for awhile. I have not bought a pattern in forever, having been working from my own blocks. However, I just don't have time to self drafting patterns all the time, there are talented people out there who are passionate about patterns, and there have been phenomenally good reviews of the Grainline Archer shirt pattern. Bit late to be jumping on the bandwagon but hey! Despite the time required to tape 46 pages of pdf printout, I am inclined to agree this is a fabulous pattern. I made one up for TT to bring back with him to deliver to my mother, and I am so pleased with the way it turned out. 

The fabric is my mother's choice though admittedly it is from my stash. I actually had planned on making a full Archer shirt with the checked fabric (I still might since I love love love this pattern) but mum got there first in there first and wanted it for the contrast trim.

Fabric: Red Chambray from Croft Mill
Contrast trim: Paul Smith Pigeon Force, also from Croft Mill here

In hindsight it was not the greatest mix and match from a textural perspective and the loosely woven Paul Smith fabric was difficult to work with compared to the tightly woven chambray. Should have thought of that before I started .... in any case, there are many imperfections and there was much time spent trying to align the checks (even worse given it had to be cut on the bias). And never again will I be doing a project without an overlocker unless its silk or sheer! Its high on my to-buy list!

I did make some adjustments - I like my cuffs and button bands soft, so skipped the interfacing. Also reduced the sleeve length since the pattern is way too long for my arms (and my mum's). The below is a size 14 at the top but I graded it down to 12 for the hips. 

Completing this was a mega achievement for me given the unexpected challenges, all my own fault for making it difficult for myself. But here's hoping mother will wear it and send me a photo!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

I want a pony! (when I'm retired)

I've been obsessing over horses for the past few months. Whilst I have horse ridden previously on several occasions and was totally disappointed I didn't get any equestrian tickets at the Olympics last year, it wasn't until I found an equestrian course on Groupon which covered stable management as well as the riding aspect that it suddenly opened my eyes up to a wonderful of horsey goodness. Accessibility is a bit deal - there are stables scattered around seemingly at every corner of Greater London, many of which you can get to by tube (that being said they are all a pain to get to when you live in zone 1), whereas in Sydney there are only the a small cluster in Centennial Park and that's about it ... unless you want to fight traffic for >1hr up to somewhere like Dural.

I've gone to a few riding lessons whilst in Toronto just to keep it up and since here everything is BYO, I bought a helmet and boots / chaps. Then Jeaneva (who shares the arena with us during my riding class) told me that Greenhawks is near our house so I went for a looksie and bought my first pair of jodhpurs! Unfortunately unlike learning music you can't really practise at home, so lessons it is ... here's a picture of Billy who was assigned to me. He was definitely an excitable jumpy fellow rather than a leisurely school horse that didn't want to move...

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Toronto food adventures

So I've been in Toronto for almost 3 weeks. Fortunately, Toronto is pretty friendly to someone who is on a cash saving mission (plus I live at home when I'm here) as there's not much to do ... so eating and horse riding (mutually exclusive events) have been the highlights of my trip. Here are some of my favourite foodie experiences so far.

1. Shiso Tree Cafe

Japanese cafe that sells pasta, regular style and J-style. I mean, seaweed and tartare sauce on your fries? Genius. Plus, they have a salad / pasta / garlic bread combo at lunchtime. Here's some of the weird and wonderful stuff we ate

shisochips shisoeel shisovongole shisosalmon

2. Ten Ren tea house

Bubble tea plus taiwanese food, great for cheap snacking or lunching. Bring on the tapioca and brick toast with condensed milk!!!

tenrentoast tenrentea

3. Asian Legend

I love asian food shop names eh, but this one is actually pretty legendary as far as their siu long bao goes (I have no idea what this is in English, soup-filled pork dumplings?) And they had a crispy rice with seafood thing ... was almost like eating deep fried rice crispies. Sounds weird, but it was awesome.

crispyrice siulongbao pocketbread&pork

4. Yoghurtys

Froyo is in abundance here and we're fortunate enough that we have one round the corner (ok its 10min walk but by Toronto standards its around the corner). I love the marketing, love the flavours, love love love just generally. Miss B and I went on a froyo walk on more than one occasion and this was definitely the winner for me. Who can resist flavours like caramel corn, tiramisu, passionfruit, green apple, peanut butter and pistachio? Plus about 50 different toppings?


5. McDonalds.

Yep, its as good as Sydney here. Mr T and I go and eat Maccas everywhere we go just for comparative purposes and Toronto is pretty high on the list. There's also a Maccas at either end of our street (no kidding and its a recipe for disaster!) Can you believe the strawberry sundae actually had chunks of strawberry in it ... sooooo exciting!!! and they even asked if you wanted peanuts! (we ended up giving these to dad who ate them as part of afternoon tea) There was also a mysterious McChicken sauce, who on earth knows what kind sauce it actually is ...

maccas2 maccas1

6. Assortment of random yummy food

I love food here, its almost like being back in Sydney. Even the lettuce tastes good. Below is a mixture of family food at home and some more yummy stuff outside ... oh and I gotta finish off with the orange juice. Extra pulp orange juice! Unheard of! (don't worry I know you're shaking your head at this already so I won't bother with a picture .... though I did take one). I also made a couple of cakes whilst here, but more on that next time.

tenrennoodles gelato soup

Till next time, Happy Eating guys!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Victoria Sponge

I'm back! After celebrating my temporary retirement with a blog reading session, Marlene inspired me with her "healthier take on victoria sponge" (thanks Marlene!) Whilst I admire her healthier treats, I would personally prefer to go all out with fat and sugar content and attempt to eat less of it or go to the gym more (note the use of the word attempt). Don't get me wrong, my mother also used to try and reduce sugar content in cake and I followed suit for years  - until, one day my meringue batches collapsed as there wasn't enough sugar in it.

Since that day, I'm back to full sugar and full fat. I never realised the Victoria Sponge was such a "thing" here until I started noticing them in shops and Marlene / wiki confirmed it was a British thing - seriously I thought it was just a regular sponge cake that my mum made out of the Australian Women's Weekly, and that Mrs J had a real knack for sponge cake. I've been burnt by sponge cake in the past, and my biggest failure in memory is making my own birthday cake as a tweenie. After loads of hand held beating, the batter went flat because I made the rookie error of beating in the melted butter instead of folding. To top it all off, not knowing how to make buttercream properly I later doused the cake in a runny glaze ... you can imagine the results right? Never again. In any case I'd like to think I have improved over time :-)


So I need to make another confession - having tried several Victoria Sponges, and read a number of recipes, I'm not a mega fan of the British way of making the sponge. Its just not fluffy enough for me and in these situations I prefer to go back to my favourite Aussies - Maggie and Simon, Stephanie Alexander, and Mrs J. Yesterday Stephanie Alexander won on the sponge cake base, with a delightfully simple recipe called "Jackie's mum's Genoese sponge cake" which I must say has never failed me or been temperamental, despite huge swings in oven temperature using my unreliable oven.

What you need

Cake: 5 eggs, 3/4c sugar, 150g flour, 60g butter

Filling: Berry jam (usually strawberry or raspberry I think, but can really be whatever you want), whippable cream, vanilla, icing sugar.

Note: the process will be a lot easier if you have a stand mixer.

How to for a 9" round cake tin.

1. Preheat oven to 180 deg and line a cake tin with paper

2. Put 5 whole eggs and 3/4 cup caster sugar into the stand mixer bowl and beat at medium speed for 10min until the texture becomes mousselike.

batter1 battertexture

3. While the stand mixer is doing its work, melt 60g butter in the microwave and cool, and also measure out 150g plain flour.

4. Then gently fold in the flour into the batter.

5. Trickle the butter in the side of the bowl, and fold in as well (make sure it's cool and that you fold in gently - mine is never very thoroughly folded after my tweenie disaster, but it doesn't seem to make much difference).

6. Cook for about 15-20 min until golden on top and skewer comes out clean. Do not open the oven door until at least 15min is up. 


7. Once the cake has cooled, slice in half and fill with whipped cream, jam and strawberries (I like to put icing sugar and vanilla in my whipped cream , if you overwhip do not fear, just add milk and mix it in to soften to a spreadable consistency).


8. Dust the top with icing sugar.

cake2By the way, the Victoria Sponge tastes even better today - think its because the wonderful fruity flavours have sunk into the cake, but the cake hasn't become dense.  The cake has definitely worked its way back into one of my favourites!  Less than 24hrs and its half gone already....

Till next time, happy caking!