Friday, December 28, 2012

Sewists' Secret Santa Reveal!

My Sewists' Secret Santa arrived before Christmas, but I've been so busy. So finally today I got some time to arrange a photo worthy of the lovely things I was sent.
Because there was no return address, and it isn't a direct swap, I have no idea at all where my parcel came from! Whoever you are, thank you SO much, you totally nailed my tastes :)
My 'brief brief' was that I love things red and gold. Even the wrapping paper was in my colours!
I got two lots of red buttons - the card ones are relief roses with a rope style border, to die for. The little ones in the bag are pearl style, just gorgeous. There was also lovely gold and pearl trim, red sequins and a pretty post card. AND, just peeking out, a phial of red and gold seed beads.
My dear Secret Santa, I thank you so much. This little parcel is so huge with creative inspiration!
I will faithfully blog all the uses I put these precious things to :)

Christmas Bounty

We don't go in for present giving much as a family - it's more of a random thing if the mood takes someone. Therefore, I don't have many presents to share, but each one is very special in its own way:
A group photo. The serviettes in the middle are from my friend Pam, who has been like an aunty to me all my life. She is a quilter also and finds such delightful gifts that are related to the things we are both interested in.
My M-I-L gave me this diary featuring artworks and designs by Erte. WOW. I don't think she even realises how brilliant that is to me!!
A CD from my brother of Australian jazz singer Michelle Nicole singing songs by Mancini. Special because he is the guitarist on this album. And he has the inside running on this cover photo - apparently the gorgeous jacket was an op shop find for only $10. We are all in awe of her!! And she sings like a dream too!
That's him top right - Geoff Hughes. It's a little blurred, sorry. 
My very own ring pin cushion made by Mum the Embroidenator. A little gold elastic band holds it on my finger. I absolutely love it and it is so useful. It looks like a little crown.
My beautiful, clever niece, Zoe, made this calendar. It says, "Live a happy life! Live a colourful life! You should love your life. Of course, as most wise people know, you only get one!" At 10, she is a very wise soul!
I feel so blessed to be from such a creative family who give of their own creativity like this. It blows my mind!
And, lastly a bit of fun from my sister who saw this and couldn't resist:
Such a piece of art! Heehee!
Update: I found this clip on YouTube of Michelle: it's so beautiful! And big bro gets a look in too :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

Well, it finally came, and happened. It was 30 degrees Celcius (86 Farhenheit) today, blazing sun and generally about as unsuited to a big meal as you can imagine!

This was our table back in 2009, but the lovely cloth is in service on our Christmas table in the shop, and we wanted to get the children involved. So, this year:

My nieces making crackers in hot pink, lime and orange, and cutting snowflakes out of wrapping paper. They are all getting so grown up, I can't call them children any more (Jess who is 18 next year took exception to me saying it, but they are growing up so fast!)
Some of the output of their labours

The table coming together. White paper table cloth - what a wonderful product it is! It also covered the buffet, and we have plenty left over. The Embroidenator made the cute glittery Christmas trees.
Dinner begins. I popped out of the kitchen to take this photo - only about half way through dishing up such a big group at this stage. My littlest nephew Peter has a keen eye for a camera!
And after all the food is eaten, the crackers pulled and the eaters dispersed, all that is left is carnage. The Embroidenator contemplating it all, and probably feeling the heat!
Jess made a gingerbread house. It is so beautiful, noone could bear to eat it!
The bunting was a great hit too. And I got a couple of very special presents I will share in another post.

Merry Christmas to you all, with much love from me.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Bunting Factory

Several people have come into the shop asking if we sell bunting, because we have bunting over our front door. So, I figured I'd make some to help out with the last minute panic present buying.
Then on the way to work yesterday I had a brainwave. I could make bunting for all my nieces and nephews. And if anyone wanted to buy a string of it then they could and I'd just replace it.
So that's what happened. I did sell some too!
Here they are - eight strings of bunting, each one personalised to the recipient's tastes. It was the best fun making it!
All folded up ready to wrap. I used a herring bone trim for the tops. It comes in a range of colours and I think it really adds something to the look. A brass curtain ring at each end for hanging and that's it!
All wrapped and labelled. 
Just SOME of the resulting mess...
The herringbone trim, and a few unsewn flags. I made three extras for tomorrow.
I have so much to do before Tuesday, but I really wanted to give all the children a little something and this was a nice way to do it. And what's the point of owning metric tonnes of fabric scraps if you can't make fun things out of them!
I hope your Christmas making is going well, whatever it involves :)

So, after all that,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Non-Post and Things I Have Learned About Coffee Sacks

The Non-Post

This is a non-post! It's a shameful, sorry I've not posted anything about the fantastic preparations for Christmas post. It's the hole in the dough nut post.

My camera battery is dead and we cannot find the recharger, so I have no photos. It's a no photos non-post. Instead I will put up a photo I DO have:

A close up of the "traditional colours" ribbon basket on our Christmas display. There is also a browns/olives/oranges basket, a blue/white/silver/black basket, an entirely metallic basket, and a hot pink/purple basket. So. Much. Ribbon.

So, what with our throughput at work tripling, preparing to feed 25 people on the day, and working on a new venture at work that we need to get started on now before the holidays, I've not had much time to find the camera charger, or write proper posts. Sorry! :(

Things I Have Learned About Coffee Sacks

In spite of being so busy, as a result of befriending the owner of my favourite coffee roastery in town, I got given a sack of coffee sacks. I had an idea about making things for Christmas out of them. But being so busy, this huge sack just sat in my office being tripped over. After a while, I began to wonder where the awful smell was coming from. was there some kind of plumbing malfunction under the floor? Then I remembered the Sack. Poo, they stink. Not, as it happens, of coffee, but of fermented beans. Like if you left some mung beans to sprout and forgot to change the water. For weeks.

So, I took them home, and started to feed them through my washer and drier. This resulted in our apartment smelling of damp coffee sacks instead of dry ones. Erk. And now all our laundry also smells of coffee sacks. Erk squared. To the power of ten! And the damn ink ran on most of them.

So now they are hanging on the railing outside my front door, 'airing'. It is working! They now just smell of beans, which is quite a nice smell in small doses. I am hoping noone in the building decides to take offence to this disorderly bunting. Can I convince them it is a hipster Christmas decoration? We have a lot of hipsters, they probably think it is really cool to have coffee sacks draped all over the place.

That's me, when I recover from the barrage of people wanting to make their own crackers and wrap presents and make presents and get their tents and trailer tarps sorted for the holidays and all of the crazy muddle of projects we help out with every day, and find that darned charger, I will catch you up on the doings. I've also unearthed my summer wardrobe and realised how man makes I've not blogged about. So, I will get onto that. anyone would think I live in three garments and a bunch of bought stuff, so parsimonious am I about blogging my makes!
And, I am loving every minute of all this crazy :)

Mwah Mwah, soon!! xo

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Segment 2 starring my Second Burda 7396 make!

Christmas Crackers and a quick look at napkin ring finishes. I finished this version of Burda 7396 at a quilting retreat in the first weekend of December. No time for quilting, me! :) I love it sooo much. It is a heavy cotton with 5% spandex. Normally a fan of more dramatic colour schemes, I still fell hard for this neutral water colour rose pattern. A touch of pintucked linen for collar and tabs.
Unfortunately it was the only make from that weekend to work first time. The other need fixing. I hope to post about them soon. Tooroo!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas episode 1

Helloo again! This is our second segment. the husband tells me I do too many take offs of kiwi accent in this one. Not sure why. Nerves? Anyhoo, here it is.

A word about our Samantha. She is such a honeypie! We get on like a house on fire and she is so supportive, keeping an eye on me and making sure the action keeps going. I love working with her and I so appreciate her asking me to come and do this.
Two more to go before Christmas. All to do with making a great table setting for Christmas Dinner. :)

Pattern Pyramids and TV Segments

I am sorry I keep going so quiet! I am as busy as a Busy Thing from Busyville! The shop is pumping with people wanting to make presents or decorations for Christmas, and what with teaching and telly and serving and ordering and making Christmas cakes (5) and puds (9) I just haven't had time to post.
So, also you may have read about our recent Wellington Blogmeet, which all the other attendees have posted about:
Joy at A Charm of Magpies
Kat at Modern Vintage Cupcakes
Joanna at Making it Well
Juliet at The Crazy Gypsy Chronicles
Mel at The Curious Kiwi
Nikki at Nikki Stitches
Thank you ladies for posting about our date! It was fun! :) It also resulted in a Pattern Pyramid Scheme, and everyone but me has started a pyramid. My contribution is to alert you all to the other ones that are still open. Great takings to be had, do check them out!
On another note, my footage is finally on YouTube!
Our first segment - rushed, disorganised (they were running behind) but such fun!

Beginner's luck methinks!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Talking Turkey

On Sunday evening we had our American friends over for a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner. All I do is the turkey, everything else arrives from a range of traditions covering the US from West Coast to East.
Anyway, everyone was very enthusiastic about the turkey, and I realised that every time I cook turkey, it is always well received. Apparently this business of cooking a turkey so it is moist and tasty is quite elusive, but mine are always like that. So I figure I owe it to the world to explain what I do, in case it adds to the collected wisdom in some small way.
You need:
 A Turkey (free range preferably)In this case, a size 4 (smallest I could find, still enormous!)
Streaky bacon made from happy pigs, about 250g
500ml chicken stock

Make sure the turkey is completely defrosted if frozen. I bought mine on Tuesday and it was only just defrosted in the fridge by Sunday! Remove the neck and other bits from the cavity. Give it a rinse out and a good drain before putting in a roasting pan. Ease your hand into the space between the skin and the meat, between the leg and breast. Gently lift the skin away from the meat, and start stuffing into it. And the cavity. Give the outside a good grind of pepper.
Now, arrange the streaky bacon in a herring bone over the whole bird. You know, on an angle alternating one side then the other, until the turkey is covered.
Cover the whole thing in foil, tucking it around it but not too tight because you're going to have to remove it a few times.
Put in an oven heated to 200 C, turn it down to 160 C and cook for about 3 hours, basting about once an hour. Take the foil off, transfer the turkey to another ovenproof dish and cook for another 15 minutes to brown. (I have a fan bake oven and I suspect without it, it would take longer) I think I need to say that one year, I put the turkey in the oven at 4.30am on 120C, same prep, and when I came around woke up at 10am, it was perfectly cooked. So, I don't think the cooking time is a factor - but length of time and temperature combined is.
To make the gravy, during the cooking time I sauteed the neck and giblets in a pot, added the chicken stock and the tops of the spring onions. Simmer for about an hour, covered, then drain. Discard the solids.
Put the oven dish on the stove top and turn any elements it covers to a low setting. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup flour over the tray, give it a good stir and scrape, then add the hot stock. Keep stirring until it is smooth and thickens up. Add the juice of the half an orange, and some pepper. I also added a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Finally, I sieved it to get any bits out but really, the bits are rather nice!
Now, that stuffing. It needs to be moist and tasty too. This is the one I did on Sunday:
6-8 thick slices of wholemeal bread, ripped into small chunks
about 250g chorizo, chopped
2 bunches spring onions, chopped up.
200g mushrooms, chopped up
a big handful of parsley, finely chopped
grated rind of an orange, juice of remaining half
about a cup of roasted cashews, roughly chopped
a sprinkle of drained capers
Lots of butter (sorry!)
This is all the wrong way around, as you make the stuffing first, so I used the same pot I went on to make the gravy in. Melt about 50g butter, and saute the chorizo. Add chorizo and the butter to the bread in a big bowl. Add another 50g butter and saute the onions, then add them. Do the same with the mushrooms. Add the other ingredients to the bowl, add a big grind of pepper, and using your hands, get in there and mix it all together thoroughly. Add a slosh of the chicken stock to it too.
Since you're all covered in it, get stuffing straight away. :)
I also do a stuffing using rice, for the gluten free bods in my life.

So why does this work? I am not sure. I figure the bacon is an essential part of the flavour and moistness containment. And putting lots of moist stuffing in under the skin, not just in the cavity too. And the foil.
So, happy turkey cooking, when the moment comes in...eep, 28 sleeps? Something like that!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My TV Debut

Well! Remember me scrubbing the floors last time I had great news I couldn't share? No time for that this time, I had to get stuck straight in!
I have been busting to tell you all my news, but really until it happened, I didn't want to tempt fate.
I, MrsC aka Maryanne aka The Crafty Lady, have a weekly spot on Choice TV's Brunch programme, demonstrating DIY craft ideas.
Choice TV is a national channel, and my segment is going out on Monday NZ time, between 10-11am some time. I have it on good authority that once the technical issues are sorted, my segment will be on YouTube.
And it was the best fun ever! I spent a happy 15 minutes in the green room talking to the world's first transgender politician, Georgina Beyer, a women I admire enormously, and who is absolutely hilarious!  Georgina is the political profiler for the programme.
So, you are probably wondering how this came about. I got a call a few weeks ago from Samantha Hannah, one of my all time favourite people, who is a presenter on the show. She asked me if I was interested and I said, probably not....kidding! I said yes please! Great publicity for my business, and great fun too.
and hard work. Oh my gosh, simplifying a project so much it can be demoed in 6 minutes, making 'here's one I prepared earlier' stages to whip out, all while talking flat out.
Anyway, I must dash. I took the camera out there to take photos of the green room and studio but really I didn't have time. I will add some links to our Facebook page etc when they are done.
Such fun! :)

Awesome pics

I am a terrible photographer. I own a camera with enough smarts to join Mensa, but I don't know how to drive it. One day I will learn how to do a better job. In the mean time, if I REALLY need good photos, I turn to my wonderful friend Sarah, aka Diana Villiers. She is an amazing photographer, and her work has featured here before (including my profile photo).
So, I thought it would be fun to share some photos she has taken of my makes recently, for Pinteresting purposes.
 Pillowcase dresses on the line.
 Close up of details.Such a crisp photo, makes me so happy!
 Felt rose as previously blogged about.
 Neat setting on the sewing machine!
 Happy tea cosy! All tea cosies are happy aren't they?
Oh that is such a great pic. 
I swear my stuff looks much better in a good photo! And I am SO grateful to Sarah/Diana for being the Goddess of the Lens!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Mother Daughter Project

 This is what The Embroidenator and I created together. She did the smocking, I did the construction. We have a smocking contraption in the shop, but because of its pattern, you need to 'pick up' gingham the hard way, following the squares. That was part of HER job, thank goodness!
 Little blue dress has yellow roses and bumble bees. Sorry about the slightly out of focus photos. Note to self, learn to use the fancy camera!
 Mauve dress has heart and flowers. Awww...
Matching hats - mauve is from a modern pattern, blue from a vintage pattern.

Why? A lovely customer asked if I could make these. I said yes and it took 7 months to finish them. YES. More work in these two outfits than the last wedding dress I made. They fought me all the way, just like a stroppy toddler. Partly because I was winging it with a mash up of a vintage pattern that had an unsmocked central panel, and whose sizing had me suspicious, and a modern christening gown. Partly because I was so busy I tried to do bits and pieces of it, which means no continuity. Hopeless with a make requiring focus.

Each dress had two rounds of sleeves, and at least three unpickings of sleeves, two collar remakes, and endless other problems. But we got there in the end and thank goodness gingham is cheap and plentiful!
I wish I had thought to photograph the insides before handing these over! Not a single raw edge anywhere - french seams, yokes and bias binding finished them all off.
I am proud of them but immensely relieved to have them off my table.  Class samples and some new clothes for myself are now able to flow more freely. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christmas Cake already!

Goodness me, how organised am I?! As I type, I am breathing in the gorgeous smell of cooking Christmas cakes. Last year's efforts were such a diasaster - I made nine at once, put several in my neighbour's oven, had the temperature up too high and forgot about them - resulting in burned outsides. A classic example of getting too cocky.
So, this year, I am experimenting. A month ago, I put over 2kg of cake fruit in to macerate with a can of Guiness. A week later, I added another can. I was concerned that using beer would cause the fruit to go mouldy or ferment or something. It turned out to be a huge success however. The liquor I drained off it today is thick and unctious, not too alcoholly, and not too sweet, which is what I was hoping for.
The fruit made two square cakes - usually I make round ones because I have so many round tins, but now I have access to all those cake tins for hire, why not! (We hire all kinds of cake tins out).
Anyway, once the cakes are cooked, a couple of hours to go I suspect, and cooled, I will prick them with a skewer and pour the liquor back into the cake. Yum.
Next up, the 'real' Christmas cakes, which instead of being entirely done with (top quality) fruit cake mix, include figs, dates, apricots, ginger and dried cherries. It doesn't need such a long soaking, which is just as well. Time is flying towards Christmas, and with the shop side of it as well as family and friends, I am needing to be a bit more organised.
Thank Goodness for MrC, who is holding the fort at the shop so I can escape and bake, and then go and sew. Happiness Aplenty!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My New URL

Darlings, possibly you may notice that I have changed the url of this blog. The reasons behind the original one are documented here, but it was a bit hard to remember, type and just wasn't thrilling me as a url.
My new url is very 'me'. I am resistant to technological trends, and when I started getting emails at work with the tagline "Sent from my iPhone", I started sending ones back saying Sent from my iRon, as it is the only i appliance I own!
And of course, we all know that pressing is a huge part of good sewing, so you will find me at the ironing board as often as at the sewing machine!
So, methinks a new photo is in order!

Purple flowers - and bears!

I have been teaching a beginner patchwork class over the past month. What an interesting class! Such amazing, diverse people, who have made different and gorgeous quilts for friends and family.
The project was a baby sized quilt, 30 x 40 inches, made from 6x8 blocks of a design called Puss in the Corner. It's a good one to learn on, as it is simple enough to tackle but complex enough to challenge. I like my students to learn as much as possible from their classes, so always go for something not absolutely basic as a starting point.
As it was a patchwork class, the quilts went off to Sue B for long arm quilting between class 3 and 4. In class 4, we bound them, but it is quite time consuming and so they all went home with their mitred corners pinned, to slip stitch the binding. And yesterday, Steve's quilt came to visit me, all finished, before it gets taken to the US as a gift to a friend today. So, I got out the camera to immortalise it!

As Steve doesn't have any babies to make quilts for, we decided to increase the size of the pieces by an inch, and make a lap size quilt, so it is 42x54. I thought he would choose all batiks but nooo, he fell hard for the purple flowers and came up with this surprising combination!
It's interesting how a photo affects a quilt - the lilac floral "reads as a plain" in the photo, so the white background forget me not fabric seems to form the background of a strange figure 8 formation made by the other three fabrics. If you can refocus on it, you can see the pairs of squares meeting (kissing) corner to corner, each hugged by a floral, and arranged back to back. Perhaps we should rename the pattern Hugs and Kisses!
When it came to choosing a quilting pattern, Steve went with Bears in Woods. I rather boringly suggested petunias, but the bears and fir trees won.

Maybe you can make out the cool quilting pattern?
I love this quilt for its mad, quirky combination of fabrics and patterns that really works in the end. It just goes to show there are no hard and fast rules as far as quilts are concerned!
Bon Voyage Steve and Tommy,  we miss you already!

Monday, November 5, 2012


The most fabulous Karen at didyoumakethat? has been leading an Apronalong (sounds like a town in Australia, or Fourecks if you are a Pratchett fan) and there must be some Apron shaped international vibe going on because way down here on the opposite side of the world, I've been teaching apron making by student request!
So, here I am modelling my two most recent aprons. It was at my first Monday of the month stitching group, and in the interests of full disclosure, I didn't bake the biscuits, and I didn't eat all the cake! But that is me licking the passion fruit icing off the plate. There are no depths to which I will not stoop for things passion fruit flavoured.
 Cathy's deeelicious cookies. My delicious apron, complete with giant red ric rac and hot pink bias trim. Pocket also has flower buttons.
 My lovely friend Karen (another lovely Karen!!) took the photos.
 The diabetic coma apron of sweetness. SO impractical mind you, being this light and plain!
 Mmmm, passion fruit icing. Who needs cake when there is frosting!
Goodness knows! I look like one of those cats that sit on the counters of Asian restaurants. Bump me and my left fist will start bobbing up and down!
For the record, I am wearing my favourite skirt. It is the top of a pair of black jeans that died, turned into a yoke, with layers of embroidered and figured denim added. It has cute decals on it that we cannot see on account of the darn aprons!
Thanks Karen in Walthamstowe for spreading the Apron love internationally :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Even More Apron Happiness!

Honestly there can never be too many aprons in the world, IMHO. And so, imagine my delight when I was contacted by a woman organising a 'hen party' who wanted to make aprons!!!
Well, with every new class, I need to make samples. So I can show them to the class, time the make and assess difficulty etc. Erk, that is hard. You just never know where people will be 'at'. But oh, the joy of being able to say, "Yeah, I just HAVE to make some aprons/pillowcase dresses/a baby quilt for WORK." My life is SO hard! NOT! hehehe
 So here is Sample #1. Inspired by an apron Miss Grace wore to work today, with bias bound wavy scalloped edge. I chose the stripy fabric because it was the one that went best with the stunning strawberry print bias binding that came in last week. That I just HAD to use on something. As you do.
 Scallopy pocket with strawberry applique. I used steam-a-seam. Um, because I only decided to apply it AFTER attaching the pocket, it is only held on by the steam-as-seam. This is not ideal of course, but the great thing about class samples is that you can use mistakes to show people what not to do! ;-)
Close up of the gorgeous strawberry bias binding. It is SO sweet, but it only works on simple patterns like stripes and plains. And I don't HAVE any plain fabric. PLAIN? Meh. hehehe
And now, I am off to work on class sample 2. Featuring giant red rick rack (Scruffy Badger eat your heart out!) and hot pink bias on a black background mod floral. It's delicious!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More from Aethercon

More fab if fuzzy photos from the recent Steampunk Convention in Wellington. :)

 A photo of me by Captain Neave R. Willoughby (say it out loud) who was the elegant gent in the last post with a camera in his hat.
 I loved this upcycle military look -I think it was made from old army trousers. Very clever!
 Those stockings are body paint. Cute eh!
 Mortimer was in the last post too, and here he is after wonderful facial makeup. Cyber explorer!
 Dante simultaneously demonstrating our fab steampunk buttons and his unerring eye for spotting a nymph.
 More Goth than SP but a great look love the sideburns!
 I do love this look. Such a sweet man too!
 Pure sass.
One wonders what swashbuckling adventures this intrepid traveller has experienced.

Tremendous fun!