It started with Spider-pillow

My photo
A while back when i worked at The Comic Book Shoppe (bank st) we had a regular christmas secret santa. The first year i was there i pulled Ted who had a thing for Spider-man. In one of those strange moments of brilliant clarity I whipped up spider-pillow. It was the old Spider-man logo with a round pillow in the middle and 8 3-D legs all made out of comfy fun fur....things have continued in this manner. This is my so called craft

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Success i grew a tomato

ok its tiny, very tiny. but hey its the first one and i have yellow flowers like no ones business at the moment. hopefully i shall soon have so many tomatoes that i will give them away to neighbours and make new friends.

incidentally while watering tomatoes this morning i looked down to see a man of asian descent looking up at my plants. he pointed to the plants and gave me a thumbs up. i said hello and was talking about the plants when he smiled and said "no engrish". ah well at least he liked my garden.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"cookies taste better in shapes"

in the grand tradition, and because i wanted cookies, i made a batch of my no chill sugar cookies. turns out i had forgotten all my cookie cutters; blaise is still confused on how that one happened.

so i purchased a rather functional but scalloped circle set, simple yet efficient. i was making lots of cookies when my official taster walked out of the office to perform his role.

he munched quietly on the still warm sugar cookie and said "its good but cookies just taste better in shapes". well i was off school, had a morning to kill and a desire to make blaise happy. with a paring knife and a toothpick and a laptop for visuals i made "shaped" cookies.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

baby steps to bento

so bento in simplest terms is a japanese box lunch made up of a variety of foods, usually involving a base of rice and some veggies, pickles and meat. they can be simple like an everyday lunch or they can be over the top in design and complexity.

well i have to start somewhere so i figured Onigiri and one-day pickles might be a good start.

Onigiri are the rice ball, made hot out of the rice cooker, shaped with salted hands and having (usually) a filling. Things i learned from this first onigiri: rice out of rice cooker extremely freaking hot, when doing filling for onigiri it is not necessary to prep an entire can of tuna. they do look the right shape though, i even got the seaweed hand holder on there.

The pickles were also an experiment, i took the recipe from here
i didn't have one of the types of seaweed and i used chili powder in place of a whole chili pepper.
i left them over night in the fridge and ... they're really good!! they only last a week, two tops but they won't be around that long.

so bento baby steps was a success.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

yummy salads

The plants...they won't stop growing. i expected growth, the climate alone would support that. and the lettuce i expected quite a lot of lettuce. i was right on that count; we've had 2 delicious salads so far and the lettuce keep growing. i'm just harvesting the outer parts and letting the middles keep growing.

The herbs are doing great too, lots of leaves. but man the tomatoes...
ok so back home before we moved i had planted a dozen heritage tomatoe plants but we had a really wet summer and they never grew well. we had lots of green tomatoes by the time we left but nothing ripened (i'm sure the new owner of our house is quite pleased though). i forgot how fast tomatoe plants grow given the right conditions. take a look at my plants. we are at 4 weeks for some of them and 3 weeks for the others. i'm a little worried about lack of bees being on a balcony, i think i'll have to look up how to hand pollinate the yellow flowers that are showing up.

look at my corriander

Saturday, November 15, 2008

i love the climate

so let me say this. i was worried about the amount of sun we might get. when i started planting i was convinced that growth would be really really slow. turns out we must be on a good angle for the sun.

the tomatoes are obviously getting bigger. i can look at them at the end of each day and see new growth. the lettuce is expanding monstrously and the herbs are doing great too. everything is growing like mad.

check out my garden. ^^bb

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

planting round 2

so after a rather awesome day relieving i came home in such a good mood that i was determined to finish up my planting.

i had more juice containers for the last of the coriander and more lettuce (for lettuce you need a 1.5L pot per plant so the 3L juice containers here are amazing). i wanted to move those roma tomatoes to the 18L containers and i wanted to get as many of the remaining tomatoes into containers.

so back to the drainage holes, washing rocks, filling pots with dirt. did all my transfers, planted new ones, watered everything, etc. now i'm really packed full on containers onto the balcony. i'm going to see if i can't find a cheap table for our office that is the height of the window. i think i'd like to put a lot of the herbs on the table so that i can give the tomatoes more access to the sun. right now i have to organize by height (shortest near front) but that means my tomatoes in the back get less sun because of the way the sun moves around here. but they're all growing so it seems to be good so far.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

what do the bus drivers think of Canadians?

so i ran out of dirt. and i was annoyed because i had just made the score of my gardening career. we were walking downtown a few days ago and we passed a rather large organic store. out front in a cart were a pile of large containers, 18.9L containers, that had once held chickpeas but were now empty.

i said to blaise "i wonder if we can take those" and when i ran in and asked the answer was a resounding "yes". they were putting out their empty containers for people like me who wanted containers for growing tomatoes. i scored 4 of them and they were sitting at home (with a fresh batch of rocks from Lyall bay) empty. my other plants were starting to get droopy, they needed to be planted soon and i wanted to transfer the two romas out of the smaller pots and put them into these larger ones.
but i was missing something critical...dirt.

so today while blaise was working i got up and got myself a bus day pass and headed back to the nursery to get more dirt. now last time blaise and i did this we ended up taking a cab back because we didn't know how to get home by bus. this time i had checked my route. i would take the 44 to get there but it only came by once an hour. but down the street i could pick up the 2 which would get me to Kilbirnie shops which i could transfer to a 3 which would take me home.

so i bought my first 40L bag and headed to the bus stop. for a distance of 2 blocks it was surprising on how heavy and freaking awkward the thing was. but i got my bus, hopped on, got a strange look from the driver and headed home. thankfully it was early and blaise had another hour of work so i figured i'd go get a 2nd load.

well first off i hit the same driver on the 44 who looked at me funny but didn't say anything. got another 40L bag of dirt and headed down to the 2. however by this point in the day there was a lot more people out and about. i walked onto the bus carrying my bag in a sort of "carrying a sleeping toddler" hold and there was giggles from all over the bus. the driver had the biggest grin on and said "well thats a new one"

hey i have no car!

kilbirnie transfer was just as bad, i swear they had radioed ahead "crazy lady carrying dirt". the driver there just kept snickering as i shifted my bag around on my lap trying to prevent my legs from falling asleep. but got the 2nd bag home. 80L of dirt...that outta do me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

the first batch planted

so blaise helped me get some dirt from a store called Palmers (which has an amazing restaurant called Chocolate Frog but i digress).

i had also accumulated over the last few days a large collection of empty pop bottles and juice containers of 1.5L to 3L. i have been raiding the recyling bins in the basement. every one gets a bath with boiling water to kill off nasties and i figure i'll fill them with herbs.

so with plants, rocks, dirt and containers on my balcony i was ready to go.

Step 1 - drainage
borrowing one of blaise's spare metal files i proceeded to sit outside and punch holes into the containers. the juice and milk containers were pretty easy but the larger plastic containers were thicker and required the "encouragement" of a hammer to punch through the plastic. each container was given multiple drainage holes. i'm idly wondering if i have made enough. not enough and the root rot will set in.

Step 2 - rocky bottoms
so i have been really careful and washed all my rocks i got off Lyall beach. wanted them to be salt free, bug free etc. then i carefully put a decent layer of rocks into each of my holed containers. that should help my drainage issues.

Step 3 - the dirt
we bought 2 bags of dirt, 1 standard potting mix and 1 veggie mix. the guys at the nursery suggested we not grow lettuce in the veggie mix as it would be too strong and burn the lettuce but they did suggest for container growing of tomatoes the veggie mix would ensure a good crop. so using makeshift tools (the bottom of small coke bottle) as a shovel i set to work loading the rock filled containers with dirt.

Step 4 - the plants
so then came the plants, i don't have enough containers at this point so i'm kind of restricted. i got the basil and some of the coriander in, the bay leaves, 2 romas, some of the lettuce and a couple of cherry tomatoes.

Step 5 - watering
container gardening means you need to water more often. not sure why but you need to water every day. and i don't have a watering can or a way to disperse the water in a rainspout pattern. my solution? make a dispersal mechanism.
i took the top of one of the milk containers i had cut off and took the file and punched a pile of holes into the lid. then its just a matter of pouring water through it...worked out pretty well...i was actually impressed.

oh and as a note, my drainage system works awesome!! it pours out excess water easily. success!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

let there be plants

so in my wandering to introduce myself to schools in the area for the purpose of teaching, i happened upon a beautiful school called Island Bay.

the gardening thing looks to be predestined because today they had a school fair including a gardening stall. so on a very wet and miserable day i took myself off to island bay to see what herbs and veggies they had.

i ended up being pleasantly surprised. i picked up the following:
6 cherry tomatoes
6 roma tomatoes
6 buttercrunch lettuce
6 Main summer lettuce
5 basil plants
1 chive plant
1 bay leaf plant
6 corriander
(and a new zealand plant called a silver spear which isn't a veggie, but decorative)
total cost in plants $21NZ

Friday, October 31, 2008

happy halloween

so halloween is here. its not as big as back home but its certainly being celebrated. but in this apartment its not likely that we would get tricker/treaters. but rather than mope blaise had an amazing idea, lets make caramel corn.

about 4 onces of cream (15% works best)
about 2 cups of brown sugar
a bit less than 1/4 cup of butter

well actually it was toffee corn because of the cream. we used a combo of a few recipes. essentially you heat butter,cream and sugar on the stove until you get a nice, rich, boiling syrup (slow boil btw, you don't want it to burn).
you have your popcorn in a tray, one bag of natural microwave popcorn and we added 2 cups of pecans cause blaise loves them.

you pour the syrup all over the popcorn and then stir it as best you can so it all gets coated.

next you cook it in the oven for 15 minutes, take it out stir it, put it back in (repeat twice).

at the end you have delicious golden toffee corn

NOTE: this stuff goes kind of 'damp' if not stored in an airtight container. its still good but not as crunchy if it gets 'damp'.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Container gardening part 1

I like fresh herbs, i like cherry tomatoes, blaise likes real tomatoes...and we have a small balcony with sun only till lunch time. 11 feet by 4 feet, limited sun but a supposedly awesome growing climate.

so i decided to make use of one of blaise's many wiki-ed links and look at container gardening.

now the 2nd issue is the cost of everything, dirt is pretty standard in terms of pricing but pots and rocks...gah!

so rocks are the easy part, i grabbed my lee valley canvas bags and with blaise in tow we headed down to Lyall bay

soon armed with two canvas bags full of small rocks and large rocks we headed home.

next up was pots. well here was where it was going to be harder. but i seemed to have the container spirits on my side. i walked down one day to throw out garbage and it appeared someone had done a spring cleaning. there was two huge square containers and 2 buckets. so i scrounged them and ran them upstairs and gave both the containers and rocks a good solid scrubbing in the tub.

so now i have containers and rocks. still need plants and dirt.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fridge magnets are hard to come by in New Zealand

you would think i could find these everywhere. in Canada i walk into a dollar store and i'm overwhelmed by options. even grocery stores carry them on the ends of aisles; not the case in New Zealand.

I found some at a $2 store but they were either to froofroo to imagine (think gossmer fairy) or just plain ugly (think frog wearing a sporting outfit).

what i did find was the following

12 magnets $1.50
5 small wooden cows $2

with the judicious use of some super glue i give you fridge magnets on the cheap. Blaise has requested i find wooden sheep next to use up the other magnets.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

How long did it all take?

I've been asked "how long did this take?"

i didn't really time it per say but i'll try and lay it out as best i can.

material prep (setting dye, washing, drying, ironing)- 5 hours
pattern prep (cutting out and ironing the pattern pieces) - 2 hours
actually sewing (putting pieces together, basting, sewing, pressing seams) - 16-20 hours
finishing (hemming, trimming excess, making belt and loops) - 2 hours
learning what all the words meant and what the heck i'm doing - 40 hours!

total hours (more or less) - 65-69 hours

"my god" you think, "i can't do that for a single dress." First off the learning curve was huge, every time i encountered a new snag it was at least an hour of reading to figure it out plus practice on scraps.

the material and pattern prep for the 2nd dress is already started. many of the same pieces are already cut out and there was only two small news ones to iron once cut out. the material prep i did one day as i was sewing. the finishing was hard to do by myself, hemming really needs a second person and making belt loops by weaving the first time was slow going until i figured out the motion.

the sewing was also long because i was learning to use my machine and working on a huge project with really specific instructions.

I honestly think the second dress i will have total time down to under 20 hours.
is it worth it?
1) i can make any style of dress i like,
2) in any material
3) and it fits me like it was made for me.
i've shopped so often for this style of dress only to get frustrated when i can't zip it over my bottom but the top fits right.
4) the cost is pretty low, material was only $40 bucks and i'm heading to a country (New Zealand) where stuff costs way more to buy so if i can sew dresses or shirts rather than pay i will.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Almost finished!

its a dress!!

so turns out the skirt i initially made also needed to be another size smaller.
plus i'm 'curvy' around the behind, damned hourglass shape. so not only is there a size issue there is also a puckering issue. It took 2.5 hours of fiddling with the zipper and then rebuilding the skirt to get it to fit smooth but dang it looks good. what do i mean by fiddling? well i put the zipper in with pins and basted it in so it wouldn't move. then i took my thread ripper and opened up the entire back of the skirt along that seam. with Kami's help (my sewing buddy) we pinned the dress around the zipper bottom. with that lying in place and flat it was just a matter of cutting off some excess skirt in a slanting up/in direction towards the bottom of the zipper.

final steps, sew the straps down permanently. get rid of the zipper
tabs at top (you can see them in the photo). hem the bottom. and
layer and press all the seams now that it fits for sure and i don't
have to resew. i made the belt already, just have to make thread loops.

might i say that Blaise is very impressed at the moment; come to think of it i am too. :P

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Resizing it all

ok we're totally resized. 2 sizes down. this bias thing plays a major role in dress making, remind me never to ignore it again. i had initially planned to pull apart the original bodice and just resize but i had cut off the excess material and couldn't find my working marks. fortunately the material i'm using had a spare foot or two at the end of the role and the store's policy meant i had to purchase it. i wasn't too upset it was cheap and i figured i could do something with it. turns out i used it to make a new bodice from scratch.

attached the completed waist/bodice to the skirt with pins

TADA!!! look i made a dress!!

still a little big on the top, i'll do a slanted cut and take out some
of the excess then put in the zipper.

Monday, August 4, 2008

That thing called bias

remember our sizing issue. well one of the factors playing into this is a thing called Bias.

let me try to explain is as best i can. you have a piece of material that is woven on a loom, and its woven in a back and forth motion. i'm choosing the simplest form here; so you essentially have a cross-hatch pattern.

now when sewing you want to find out which direction the threads run, this is called the grain direction. easiest way is to pull a thread on a raw edge from the bottom of your material and see which way it pulls off.

when lying out the paper patterns on the cloth for cutting you have to line the pieces up along the grain line. many pieces have marks and lines showing you which direction to lay it down. now on some of those pieces it shows you laying the piece diagonally along the grain direction. then on the pattern piece is usually a little chart that looks like the back of the envelope but it goes on about "the bias is 2.5 inches..."

turns out this is relatively important and i probably should have gotten more educated on bias before i started to sew. the reason some pieces are diagonal to the grain is because you want stretch. pull diagonally and there is some give/stretch on my material. you want to use this for certain pieces, the parts that go across breasts for example. what the little chart is trying to tell you is that if you are a size 14 according to the envelope you have to re-adjust using this little chart based on what they have figured out the bias/stretch will be. in my case because of bias my size 14 top is in reality a size 10-12 on the breast measurement; i'm supposed to make it smaller because its going to stretch because i'm pulling diagonally against the grain.

well thats part of my issue solved at least. thanks to my mom who walked me through this on the phone.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Vanity sizing

So i feel we need to have a discussion on sizing...

remember all the excess i had, well it turns out i'm really really screwed, i sewed the skirt to the bodice, we're talking tent.

well at least i can make it smaller, i would have cried if i had made it to small.

so when picking out which pieces and size to use you refer to the back of the pattern envelope.

then you measure yourself on three spots, bust, waist and hips. seriously get help its almost impossible to do this correctly by yourself as a beginner.

so then you take your measurements and check against the envelope. now i was measured at a 36 bust, 29 waist and 39 hip. this means i fell into some half sizes but thats ok you just choose the bigger size and assume you will do some small mods.

ok so according to the envelope i'm somewhere between a size 14-16.

when i initially did this at the sewing store i nearly died. welcome to vanity sizing.

when i shop at the mall i was always quite pleased that i fall in the 10-12 range (depending on year and store, i hate the random fluxes in the fashion world). so finding out i'm a size 14-16 was upsetting that first time.

buts it normal, retailed clothing sizes down so us ladies can feel good about ourselves. but sewing follows an actual table that existed before vanity sizing. so i'm a size 14 and proud!!!

the envelope also follow a table that was designed and doesn't take into account curves and odd shapes. plus there is a thing called bias. too mad right now to explain it ask me later.

my dress does not fit. rage fills me.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sewing buddy

So i have a sewing buddy. her name is Kami and she was in teacher's college with me. she expressed interest in learning how to sew and she wanted to make a skirt. so we've been meeting once a week to sew together.

Kami is also experiencing the steep learning curve; luckily i can explain some of it now that i now the "lingo" but we keep finding things on her pattern that make us both go "huh?".

we refer to the sewing bible a lot and talk out ideas which is turning out to be very helpful. plus its incentive to sew at least once a week for a solid block of time. and its fun to have someone to talk to while you work. its also nice to have someone there to help you measure and pin and look at your work when you try it on. sewing buddies rock; thanks Kam.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 5

ok first note to self: these patterns are making big clothes....going
to choose a couple of sizes down for the next bodice. apart from that
it looks right. just a wee bit big.

definately big. look at the overlap.

onwards! skirts what can i tell you... thats why they leave them to
the end, cause they're so easy to sew. straight stich here, straight
stich there....
so here are the two back pieces sewn together

and i'm a good girl so i pressed the seam.

Professor Carly says... I've actually been pressing every seam i sew. going over the fresh seam has a multiple purpose reason. 1) it flattens the piece so you can see what it should look like, now is the time to catch a wrinkle. 2) it evens up the thread tension (i'm told) 3)a flat piece is easier to work with

one completed skirt, front attached to back.

2nd note to self...choose a smaller skirt pattern. lots of excess on
this one too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 4

so after matching up the piece to look like the diagram on the
instructions and pinning and basting it i have my piece matching the
diagram on the pattern.

bad news is that when i try to turn the interface side in, it gets
this lump that won't lie flat....even an iron can't flatten this
puppy. i was pretty convinced that sewing up the sides of the bodice
and back prior to flipping the interface was wrong. so in the great
spirit of an adventurer i'm going to try it my way.

already i'm pleased. sewed the top edge first, then flipped it and
pressed it flat, the hole is there for the strap, it looks like it
does in step 10 diagram and i'm convinced that when i sew up the side
between bodice front and back it will be perfect ^^

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 3

ok today we are going to put the back of the bodice on. here we go,
pinned and basted. so far so good.

step 10 was written by someone who thought this was
english. ......... the diagram is less than helpful

ok i can do this... bring out "the book". ....reading, reading

hey i think i have it.......

ok didn't work....ok still thinking....we'll try again

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 2

ok gathering sucks. its a pain in the butt, thank goodness for the
sewing machine, doing that by hand would have been my end. you can see the gathered section in the upper left of the photo. so here we go, its basted, pinned, gathered, pinned again. ready for sewing onto the next piece

whooohooo!!! it looks like the top of the dress. i'm already to make
the next top's gathers even more even. but not bad for a first go.

you take the interface and you take the back piece....add heat....

interfaced back piece....ooooh stiff.

Professor Carly says...
Interfacing is used to make a part stiffer and stronger. in this case the part i'm stiffening/strengthening is the back where the zipper is going to be sewn into.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sew let it be done - Day 1

Today i officially started sewing. So without further ado a photo diary of how to make a dress.

what i have done here is take 2 pieces of one part of the top and sew them wrong side together and then turned them inside out.

Note: when the pattern instructs you to sew wrong side together they are taking about sewing the material with the pattern together (the side of the dress you want to see is called the right side)

so its pretty obvious now that i have made two of these things and that together they will form the bodice (or front top) of my new dress.

all the basting is done on raw edges and across the center. the long
white threads are my gathers, ready to be "gathered" when i get the
midriff done.

Note: because the top pieces of material are longer than the band that goes across the middle you have to gather the excess. gathering is simply when you loosely sew a straight stitch across a specific length of material leaving long threads at each end. when i gather it i will hold onto the threads at one end and carefully and gently pull the other ends of the thread; the material will pull and pucker along the threads. after you evenly distribute it across the length you will have a gathered edge.