Friday, September 14, 2018

I'll blame it on the menopause

It had to happen sometime, so I'm not really surprised that suddenly and randomly I feel very hot when no-one else is.

Quite possible it's overheating my brain.

I wasn't ready for the massive brain fog I experienced right in the middle of  my Taiko class a couple of weeks ago. I had great difficulty focussing on what I was doing, which ws really unfortunate as we've been learning a drum routine that involves moving around the drums in a coordinated fashion.

Brain fog isn't not very good for coodinated mobile drumming.

While my memory isn't great at the best of times, I've decided to blame my subsequent Taiko disasters in this change-of-life event too.

Last week I actually felt like I'd made some progress in learning the routine, but this week my ego back back to zero. I'm kind of competitive in a way - I don't have to be the best, but I really hate being the worst.

"I wonder if we are allowed to be beginners forever" I joked to a fellow drummer (who only started this term but is so much better at it than me). In response, she said that maybe I could talk to our teacher about it...

So because I hate to be the weakest link in the Taiko chain, I'm going to actually practice, and but I don't mean just watching the video of the advanced class doing the routine. I mean air-drumming and moving around the room like a ghost dancer.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

In a universe where I am a standard size

That universe happens to be this universe, back in the 60's and 70's.

It's a half-size pattern - Size 14 1/2 for bust measurement 37". Half sizes are for women with narrower shoulders compare with the Misses sizes, a fuller hip, and a height of 5'3" or 5'4". 

I think they must be for womanly figures (ie a bust that has been affected by gravity over the years) because the french darts and bust darts end EXACTLY where they are supposed to on me. (In Misses patterns the bust darts usually stop a little too high for me even when I don't "petite" the pattern.)

It's quite roomy at the hips but this is only partly because I'm relatively narrow hipped (compared to my shoulders - not compared to other women my height!). It's got quite a flared skirt so that's all good.

I only just finished my version of this dress late this afternoon so I don't have enough light for a good photo. But I will post one soon.

I made view B in a nicely textured navy blue cotton with little white stars/flowers all over (actually this would be great fabric for a summer jacket). I started out with long sleeves, but when I tried it on I realised it gave off a modesty vibe that I wasn't after. So I shortened them to just below the elbow dart. I also made some self-lined round patch pockets, because I hate to miss out on pockets.  They and the neckline are top stitched in white.

I still had to shorten the dress by probably 3 inches, so it finishes above my knee. It's got to be short or the modesty affect prevails.

Normally when I sew something with sleeves in a woven, the damn thing doesn't fit me until I take the sleeves off again. This dress fits great with sleeves (though the sleeves don't fit that well into the armcye - but I always have this problem with Big Four sewing patterns).

Monday, August 13, 2018

OMG - TLM is a teen!

The Little Madam turned 13 on Saturday.


She's definitely doesn't fit the stereotype of a teenage girl though - doesn't care about clothes (as long as they cover her up), completely uninterested in boys, and doesn't shower unless we force her to.

Based on what she's into now, TLM will grow up to make a living in graphic novel-writing, stand-up comedy or Pokemon. We love her so...

Sunday, July 29, 2018

At last, a compost bin

We have what I like to call a compost heap in our back yard, though in fact it's just organic landfill. I knew that just chucking banana peels and old cabbage leaves into the designated spot wasn't likely to produce the stuff that keen gardeners love so much. But I thought it would be better than putting them into the rubbish bin where there really will be added to landfill.

At last we have a "proper" composting system. A bin, with a lid, ventilation holes at the side and a sliding door (for retrieving the finished product) at the bottom. Woohoo! no more discarded fruit peels going mouldy from all the rain, no more wasps and no more feeling embarrassed when the man with the mower comes around...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

My reversible Tamarack jacket

At the risk of going full-on Chinese grandma, I give you...

the reversible linen, cotton and bamboo Tamarack!

Linen side out. It's looking paunch, but only because I wanted to show you the big sewn-on snap buttons ok?

Some pocket detail, with sashiko-inspired hand stitching

Back view - to show some quilting detail


  • linen from The Fabric Store (colour Marsala)
  • cotton chambray from The Fabric Store (also used for the binding)
  • bamboo quilt batting (140gsm) from Spotlight
So the only synthetic component would be the (lots and lots of) polyester thread.

  • Made it reversible by binding all edges and replacing the welt pockets with patch pockets 
  • Made a straight size 12 instead of a 10 as I was using 2 layers of batting. 

  • Should have stayed with the size 10 and kept the shorter length of my test garment (a couple of inches shorter). This size is fine but it is voluminous.
  • Should have known to remove bulk from the seams. As it is, the underarms seams take up too much room to allow me to wear a big jumper underneath.
  • Did not consider that I would get bearding! On the linen side, bits of the batting work themselves to the surface of the garment and it looks like pilling (I pulled it all off before taking these photos). This only started happening when I had worn it a couple of times.

Cotton side out, the back view

    Cotton side out. I used a classic chambray, which gives me a double
    -denim look if I wear it with my jeans (so I don't)
    and pocket details for this side out

    Sunday, July 01, 2018

    It's a bit soggy

    Yes I know it's winter and I shouldn't expect anything different, but - I am getting pretty tired of it raining all the time. It would be nice to have just a few more days of clear, sunny days interspersed among the days and weeks of showers, drizzle and downpours.

    I've been waiting for like 4 weeks to pre-wash and line dry the bamboo quilt batting that I bought to make my "real" Tamarack jacket from, as well as the burnt red linen that I'll use for the top layer. (I decided on a mid blue chambray for the inside layer, and that I'll do patch pockets instead of welt pockets because then I can make it completely reversible!)

    In more upbeat news, I am taking a week off over the school holidays, so I'll have more chances to do the aforementioned pre-washing and drying, plus cutting, quilting and construction. (If you're a quilter and the idea of line drying bamboo batting sounds like a really bad idea please tell me!) I may even finish it before the end of winter.

    And in even more exciting news, I am planning a trip to Hong Kong to see the relatives at the end of the year. The last time I was there was maybe 30 years ago - so I expect it will be even more crowded than it was then. But hopefully there will be more and better public loos than I remember...

    Thursday, May 31, 2018

    Tamarack jacket test garment

    I ran out of bias binding before I could finish the sleeve hems and side seams

    I've been wanting a quilted jacket for some time now, and nearly bought one last year while on a family getaway in Martinborough. I didn't though, because the boy thought it was a "granny" style. I suspect he meant "Chinese granny", as this style does have a bit of the Mao jacket look about it.

    That is probably why, when I decided to make the Tamarack jacket, I didn't choose an indigo blue fabric.
    Please excuse the inclusion of my faux-woolly blue polka dot socks
    The above is the test garment (but there is the possibility that I won't get around to making the "real" garment for a long time - that quilting takes so long and so much chalking).

    I used just two fabrics rather than the standard two fabric layers plus an insulation layer. The facing layer is a cotton poplin quilting fabric that was on sale at my local sewing, quilting and knitting shop. It's got variable brown polka dots on a black background and makes me think of a crowd of planets.

    The backing layer is actually from the boy's old grey sweatshirt which I had originally intended to use to make a sweater dress. Using this meant that I didnt have quite enough meterage to make the jacket or sleeves quite as long as I wanted - but actually the length is fine on me (high- to mid- hip length). The sleeves are definitely a bit short though, and I'm considering adding some "cuffs" to lengthen them.

    According to the instructions I am in between a size 10 and a size 12. The dimensions of the size 12 garment looked like it would be too wide on me, so I made a 10. Now that it's almost finished (I ran out of bias binding so didn't get the sleeves finished just yet), width-wise there is plenty of room around the torso but not a lot of ease around the armcye.

    So for my next version I may try either going up to size 12, or doing a 12 around the armcye and a 10 everywhere else.  

    2 Possible user errors
    I had never attempted a welt pocket before but was confident the instructions would be so good that I wouldn't need to do a practice on on scrap fabric. My first pocket was a disaster - the slash I made was about one inch wider - on each side - than the welt! I then re-measured the marking on the pattern versus the marking I'd made on the jacket but they match, so I don't know what happened there. For the second pocket I did not sew the rectangle according to the markings but instead based it on the width of the welt. This worked and the resulting welt pocket is something I'm not at all embarrassed for people to see.

    The sleeve was also somehow much wider than the jacket armcye, so I just made sure the top of the sleeve lined up with the shoulder seam and trimmed off the excess at either side. This might be why the finished jacket was relatively tight around there, so maybe I traced the wrong lines in that area (on front and back pieces)!

    Anyway, once I have finished binding the sleeves and washed all of the chalk lines off it (and sewn in some hook and eye closures) I will be happy to wear it around, outside the house even.