Sunday, 29 April 2012

KCWC - Part 2

flashback tee

It's been a very busy week and I've had a lot of fun, but I think I'll be quite happy to have a holiday from my sewing machine for a bit. Today we decided to go for a drive out to the country, so I didn't get to do any sewing today and sadly I didn't get to finish the hoodie vest, but I'm surprised with the amount I did get done. Roman had lots of fun running around in the park and playing with the autumn leaves. Most of the photos we got of him have his tongue poking out! Here's a look at what I whipped up during the second half of the week.

I wanted to try out Rae's flashback tee pattern to make a long sleeve top and was lucky enough to get all of the pieces from another one of hubby's old t-shirts. I made use of the hem on the bottom of the t-shirt for the sleeves and used the double needle to do the hem on the bottom and around the neckline. I'm loving this pattern! The fit is great on Roman and I think all his tops until the age of 5 are going to be made from this pattern.

trackies trackies

I had an idea in my head to make a tracksuit for Roman with a zip-up hooded vest for the top. I had some grey tracksuit fabric in my stash so pulled it out and cut out all my pieces. The pants came together easily, using the pattern I made for my toddler jeans.

hoodie vest hoodie vest

Then I started to tackle the vest...what a mess! The tracksuit fabric is a lycra blend. Great for making me a pair of stretchy trackies, but not so good for trying to add a zip. I ended up having to hand sew the zip in, which is why I didn't get the vest finished, but I'm close. I just need to finish around the arms and maybe and some decorative stitching, but I don't know if it will turn out a mess because of the lycra...I'll let you know how it goes. I used this tutorial to make the vest, but made my own pattern.


This t-shirt is another using Rae's pattern and yet another of hubby's old tees. This one had a heap of little pin holes in it (I have no idea what from) so I had to cut around the holes. I love how the print looks on this and perfect for a size 2 top! I used contrast coloured thread for the hems and I think it matches really well. I made this top up just because the tee was lying around and it's now one of my favourites.

Hello from Roman!

flashback tee

Thursday, 26 April 2012

KCWC - Part 1

Well, we're half way through the week and so half way through the Kids Clothes Week Challenge. So far it's been lots of fun and I've been good and organised. Well, organised enough to get lots of sewing done, but not enough to post a project each day. It's been raining all week and so dark I can't take any photos. Anyway, here's what I've made so far:

Boys Skinny Rib Boys Skinny Rib

First up I made Roman another pair of pants that I've named 'Boys Skinny Rib'. They made from ribbing, and are almost leggings, but a little more loose. I made the pattern up from a pair of Bonds skinny ribs that he has and I love! I really like the slim fit, they look very cool and modern. I've made 3 pairs of these previously and thought it was time for another. They are 2 pieces cut on the fold (so there are no outside leg seams) and have a wide cuff on the bottom. The best part is they're nice and comfy for Roman and easy to take on and off. Just a simple elastic waistband to finish them off. I did all the seams on the overlocker, except the waistband, so they come together in an hour.

Rainbow Slippers

I've been wanting to have a go at making some soft soled shoes for a while. I have some leather that I want to use to make a pair, so did a test run in denim first. I used an old pair of jeans for the outer, some scraps from making a sleeping bag for the lining and a scrap of suede for the bottoms. They're lined in the middle with some polar fleece so that they can be worn as slippers. They're a bit big for Roman at the moment as I made them to fit when he grows out of the slippers he has now. I used this tutorial and pattern to make them.

T-shirt Polo

I've been stock piling old t-shirts of hubby's and mine to recycle into tops for Roman. This challenge meant I finally got around to doing it. I usually make up my own patterns for clothes, but I'd heard so many great reviews of Rae's flashback skinny tee that I decided to buy the pattern. The sizing goes up to a 5, so I figured I'll get a lot of use out of it. The pattern is great and the instructions are really easy to follow.

I made the green t-shirt up first to test out the pattern. Roman's head circumference is off the charts huge, so I cut the neck a little deeper at the front, but probably didn't need to because I finished the neck off with self-binding rather than ribbing, which makes the opening a bit wider. The top fits Roman really well and I love him in it, because the top reminds me of his Dad. The colour look great on him too!

The polo was an old one of mine that I didn't wear a lot because it was a little narrow on the shoulders. Again, using Rae's pattern it came out great! This was a very quick project because all the neckline was already done on the polo, I just had to add in the re-cut sleeves and sew up the sides and the hem.

I'm also in love with my new double needle. I used it to finish the hems on both tops and they look so professional.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac Biscuits

It's cold and stormy today, and the weather has put me in a baking mood. With Anzac Day tomorrow, I thought I'd make up some Anzac biscuits. These biscuits were originally sent by wives to their soldiers during World War I. They had a long shelf life so travelled well. Back then, the recipe didn't use any butter, but over the years it has been added to improve the flavour and texture of the biscuit.

I like my Anzac biscuits nice and crispy, with a tiny chewy bit in the middle. The brown sugar gives these a dark golden colour, like brandy snaps. You can use white sugar if that's all you have.

Anzac Biscuits
makes about 30

1 cup (150g) plain flour
1 cup (90g) rolled oats
1 cup (175g) brown sugar
3/4 cup (60g) desiccated or shredded coconut
125g butter, chopped
2 tablespoons golden syrup or treacle
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda (baking soda)
1 1/2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F).

Place the flour, oats, sugar and coconut in a large bowl and stir to combine, squashing any chunks of brown sugar.

Put the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the butter has melted. Mix the bicarb soda with the water and immediately pour into the butter mixture. The mixture will bubble up as you stir it.

Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir until well combined. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls, place them on a lined baking tray about 5 cm apart and bake for about 15 minutes. A little less for chewy, a little more for crispy. Allow to cool on trays.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Kids Clothes Week Challenge

So I've signed up for the KCWC over at and I'm excited about it! I've had a few projects in the back of my mind, so this was the perfect excuse to actually make them. The idea is to spend 1 hour each day for one week sewing some kids clothes.

Meg hosts the KCWC twice a year and I love the concept! If you think you'd like to sign up too, head on over to the KCWC sign up and add your name.

I'm hoping to make Roman some shoes, a few pairs of pants and some tops. At the end of the week, I'll show you what I've come up with.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Bean Bag Toys

Bean Bags

No, these aren't the kind of bean bags you used to sit on in the 80's... These are the little bean bags you can toss around! They are quick and simple to make and easier for toddlers to grab a hold of than a ball. Plus, they don't roll away under the couch, leaving your toddler crying until you fish it out! You can use different textures, colours and patterns of fabric, which can make them learning tools too (just don't tell your child that).

These also work well as boo boo bags. Just keep one in the freezer, for when your little one gets a scraped knee.

Bean Bags

For one bag, you'll need:
2 x 10cm x 15cm pieces fabric (6" x 4")
about 1/2 cup rice
sewing supplies

For each bean bag, cut out 2 rectangles 10 x 15cm (6 x 4"). Put the pieces rights sides together and sew around the sides, leaving a gap for turning and filling. Clip the corners. This step is optional, but if you have boys who are likely to throw these until they burst, sew a second row of stitching in the seam allowance, or serge.

Turn right side out. Poke the corners out and using a funnel, or a cone made from a piece of paper, fill the bag with 1/2 cup of rice. You can also use any other dried legumes or even sand. The bag should be about 1/2 full.

Bean Bags Bean Bags

All that's left is to sew the opening closed. You can stitch it by hand, but because I'm not very confident in the strength of my hand stitching I used my machine. Tuck the seam allowances in and very slowly stitch about 2mm (1/16") away from the edge. When I get to the end, I turn around and come back, so that the seam in reinforced. Make sure the rice is well away from the seam. You don't want to break a needle trying to sew through it!

Now make heaps more!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Home-brewed Ginger Beer

Ginger Beer

We all love Ginger Beer and have talked about brewing our own for a while, so one day I just decided to give it a go. I had a look around at a bunch of recipes, which were all pretty similar, but based my batch mainly on this recipe from forgreenies.

Ginger Beer is made by starting a 'plant' that is fed for a week. It is then strained and added to sugar syrup and lemon juice. It's pretty easy, but takes about 2 weeks from start to finish. I already had all the ingredients on hand, so all I had to do was collect the bottles to store it in.

Ginger Beer
makes about 6L

For the Plant
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon of dried yeast (I used bakers yeast)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
7 teaspoons sugar, extra
7 teaspoons ground ginger, extra

For the Ginger Beer
600g (4 cups) sugar
6 cups water
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 L cold water
2 lemons

To make the plant, put the water and yeast into a glass jar and mix together. Add the sugar and ginger and stir well. 24 hours later, add another 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp ground ginger, stirring well. Continue to add the sugar and ginger every day for the next 5 days, stirring well after each addition.

To make the Ginger Beer, mix sugar and 6 cups water in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the cream of tartar. Juice the 2 lemons and strain the juice. Add the cold water and lemon juice to the syrup. I had to transfer mine to a big casserole to fit it all in.

Stir up the ginger plant and strain through a double layer of muslin, keeping the liquid. The liquid will look cloudy and muddy. Add the liquid to the syrup mixture and stir together. Bottle the liquid. I used 1.25L plastic bottles cleaned out with sterilising solution. I filled the bottles, leaving a 2 inch air gap at the top, because apparently these can explode! It's best to store them in the garage and always open away from your face.

Leave for about a week to brew. You know they're ready when the bottles feel as hard as rocks. If the weather is warm, they'll be ready sooner. Put in the fridge to stop the fermentation and enjoy nice and chilled.

You can keep the plant going ready for your next brew by dividing the plant mass into 2 and discarding one half (or give it to a friend who is impressed with your ginger beer making skills). Add 1 cup of water to the plant and repeat the feeding process for 6 days.

If you are really interested in giving this a go, I'd also recommend reading through the comments at the bottom of the forgreenies recipe, which offer some great tips to get the most from your batch and to minimise explosions.

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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Paskha - Another Russian Easter Treat


Paskha is another traditional Russian food that is made at Easter. It is similar in flavour to cheesecake filling. Typically, it is blessed along with the Kulich and eggs, and then spread on slices of Kulich when it is eaten each morning. Like most traditional foods, every family's recipe is different. I tend to make the same recipe for the Kulich each year, but like to change the flavour of the Paskha to keep things interesting.

makes about 2.5 cups.

300g cottage cheese* (see bottom of post for alternatives)
75g butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
150ml whipping cream

Flavourings - (Add as many or as few as you like. This year I used the vanilla and cardamom.)
2 vanilla beans
4 green cardamom pods
50g sultanas or other dried fruit
50g slivered almonds
Zest of a lemon
Zest of an orange

Beat the butter and sugar until pale. Add the yolks, one at a time and beat until well combined. Stir in your flavourings and the cheese. Mix well. Whip the cream until it is lightly whipped and then fold through the cheese mixture.

Dampen a cheese cloth, and line your container of choice with it. The traditional mold is wooden, but I use a clean flower pot. You need something with holes in the bottom. A colander or the little plastic basket that some cheeses come in would work well.

Fill the mold with the cheese mixture, wrapping the excess cheese cloth over the top. Stand it on a plate or bowl to catch any drips. Refrigerate for 1- 3 days before unmolding the paskha. It should be firm to touch so that it will hold its shape. Mine is still in the fridge, so no final photo yet.

Open out the cheese cloth covering the top and turn the mold upside down on a plate. Carefully remove the cheese cloth. Serve with slices of Kulich.

*Every recipe for Paskha uses a different name for this cheese. They include, farmers cheese, fresh curd cheese, tvorog, ricotta and cottage cheese. Use whatever you can find. I like to make my own ricotta for this, which is actually very simple and works well in the recipe. When I make mine, I use vinegar instead of the lemon juice, and leave out the salt.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Little Lion Soft Rattle

Little Lion Rattle

I made up this little rattle the other day and he's pretty cute! It was a quick project and I'm happy with how it turned out. My best friend's baby is getting Baptised and I wanted to include a couple of handmade gifts among her presents.

This is a great stash busting project. I had the fabric already from making another toy and also had the ribbon (no idea what I originally wanted 5m of brown grosgrain for).

Here's how I made the rattle:

I traced out the shape of the head by hand, it is like the shape of a t-bone steak. Then I marked where I wanted the features. They are all backstitched, with the backstitching going around the edge of the felt nose. For the mane, I pinned the folded ribbon pieces in towards the middle on one of the pieces and then stitched them down in my seam allowance. I also sewed a length of ribbon to a toy ring and sewed that to the top. That way, the rattle can be secured to a pram or car seat. Then, I put the 2 pieces together and sewed around the outside. The little rattle box is in a fabric pouch which I sewed into the seam too, to make sure it stays put. I then turned it right side out, stuffed it and hand stitch the opening closed with ladder stitch. Simples!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Strawberry Iced Tea

Strawberry Iced Tea

I served this at hubby's birthday at it went down a treat. It looks really fancy, but is very easy to make. Use any fruity tea bags you like, or even plain old black or green tea would work, although you might want to squash some of the berries in that case to get more berry flavour.

Strawberry Iced Tea
makes 2 litres

4 fruity tea bags (I used Twinings Cranberry and Pomegranate)
1/2 cup sugar (or more or less to taste)
1 bottle sparkling water*
1 cup strawberries
A handful of mint leaves

Put the tea bags into a 1L jug, and fill with boiling water. Stir in the sugar to dissolve. Leave for several hours or overnight to infuse. You want it nice and strong.

When you want to serve it, chop the strawberries into halves or quarters. Get a 2L jug, add the tea mixture, strawberries, mint and a handful of ice. Top with sparkling water and serve.

I find the strawberries go funny if they sit in the liquid too long, so serve it at the last minute. If you want to do some of the work ahead of time, chop the strawberries and keep in an airtight container.

*Sparkling water has a nice light fizz. If you prefer your iced tea without any fizz, then just use regular water.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Kulich for Easter - Russian Easter Sweet Bread


Kulich is a sweet Easter bread and a part of the Russian Orthodox Easter tradition. Hubby's family is Russian Orthodox, so I was quite excited to take up this tradition in our house. The bread is similar to the Italian Panettone.

Traditionally, the Kulich, along with coloured hard boiled eggs is blessed by the Priest before the Easter Mass. It is then eaten as the first food of the day for the week following Easter, topped with Paskha.

The Kulich is baked in tall tin cans, such as coffee cans or tomato tins. After baking, it is decorated with a basic glaze icing and a candle is put in the top.


Makes 2 x 1kg coffee tins or 4 x 400g tomato tins

1/3 cup sultanas*
2 tbsp vodka*

1 cup milk
Pinch saffron threads*
2 tsp dry yeast (or 1 sachet)
½ cup caster sugar
60g butter
3 tbsp honey
Zest of 1 lemon or orange*
500g plain flour, may need a bit extra for kneading.
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Allow sultanas to soak in vodka overnight.

Heat milk to lukewarm. Add saffron threads, yeast and 2 tsp of the sugar. Leave yeast to foam for about 15 mins. Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan with honey and lemon zest. Allow to cool slightly.

Combine flour and remaining sugar. Pour in yeast mixture, butter mixture, sultanas and eggs. Mix to combine well. It is a sticky dough, but should be almost elastic. This can also be done by hand in a big bowl. Flour bench and tip dough onto bench. Knead until smooth and elastic. Put dough into an oiled bowl and cover with cling wrap. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size. This for some reason, always take a few hours.

Butter and line cans with baking paper. Preheat oven to 170°C. Remove dough from bowl and knead for a few minutes. Divide dough into balls and fill cans about 1/3 full. Cover and allow dough to rise 3/4 the height of the can. They will rise to the top of the can in the oven. Bake in oven for about 30 mins or until cooked through.

Leave to cool in cans for about 5 minutes, then remove from cans and put on a baking rack to cool.

Decorate with a simple glaze icing made from icing sugar and lemon juice. Enjoy slices topped with Paskha or butter.

I always make more than I need and they last well wrapped in foil in the freezer. It makes a delicious bread and butter pudding.



Monday, 2 April 2012

Sewing a Winter-weight Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Bag

My sister in law and I were talking and both mentioned that our babies need sleeping bags for the upcoming Winter. I've been wanting to make one for a while, but could never decide on what materials to use. I don't like the idea of polar fleece as I get very sweaty in it, and my thoughts were the same for polyester batting. Wool batting was a nice idea, but it's so expensive!

I then had a brainwave to use an old woollen blanket for the batting. I did some googling and found that many resourceful ladies use them for quilt batting, so thought 'why not?'. Hubby's Aunty had a heap of them at the holiday house, so I managed to score some for free! After washing twice in warm water to get any shrinkage out of the way, off I went. I used the same method that I followed for making my Summer sleep sacks, but first I overlocked the blanket batting to the lining pieces. I then treated them as one piece.

Sleeping Bag

We managed to make 2 sleeping bags each out of 2 blankets and there was enough leftover for me to recover the ironing board. This was a great upcycling project as I also used some flannelette sheets for the lining and outer of the bags.

My approach to testing the tog rating of the new bag was very scientific. I stuck one arm in Roman's old grobag, which I know is 2.5tog and stuck the other arm in the new bag. After about 15 minutes, I decided they were equally as toasty, so therefore the new bag is about 2.5tog.

To make a sleeping bag for your baby, follow my tutorial here. For great results, I also recommend cutting the lining pieces slightly smaller so that they sit flat inside the grobag. Also, make sure you grade your seams.

The only thing I'm wondering about is how long they'll take to dry after a wash, but I've got two, so it should be ok.

Sleeping Bag Sleeping Bag

25/05/2012 - These sleeping bags have been getting a very good work out and are wearing well. I've had no trouble with the wool shrinking and they don't take as long to dry as I thought. 1 day inside out, 1 day right side out. I don't find they get a musty smell either, so really happy with these. I'd recommend making one if you need a Winter weight sleeping bag.

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