Mini vegetable fritters

It took me a while to realize that my children, like us adults, enjoyed a bit of presentation with food. When making things to entice my picky eaters, it wasn’t quite enough to make a delicious dish – it helps to present it nicely, too. Like these yummy, nutritious, baby-sized veggie fritters.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I make these veggie fritters all the time. They are easy and you can pack all the veggies in one bite. They are perfect for daycare / preschool lunch.  You can put it together from pantry and fridge staples, so it’s great when you don’t have anything interesting in the fridge. The fritter has always been a hit with my kids, but of late, I noticed that they are getting a little bored…

Time to spruce up the presentation – same old fritters, but this time in baby size! Accompanied by steamed carrot flowers! Sour cream quenelle, and a bit of dill for the finishing touch! Sometimes I enjoy reliving my student days at Le Cordon Bleu. Miss M’s eyes suddenly sparkle with joy – “Is this for me?” She carefully carries the plate to the dining table and digs in.

Please don’t get me wrong, my kids don’t eat like this every day. I am no domestic goddess by any account. In fact, it’s particularly on days when I feel like my whole little castle is crumbling down – the house is in a terrible mess, my two uncontrollable devils are busy doing more damage to the house, and the laundry is piling up high…. that I start doing something a little time-consuming like this.

Don’t ask me why. Well, maybe it’s because when I feel overwhelmed and out of control, I like to do one little thing that I can control and do well – while totally giving up on other stuff. So I feel satisfied about at least that one thing.

Anyway, here’s a recipe for the fritters.

Veggie Fritters

1 medium sweet potato
1 medium carrot
1 zucchini
1/2 small onion
2 or 3 eggs
1/2 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, swiss, any yellow melty kind)

Grate the sweet potato, carrot, and zucchini. Finely chop onion. Or if you are lazy like me, shred everything in a food processor. Mix with the rest of the ingredients. Heat oil in a frying pan – medium heat. Drop a tablespoon of the fritter mix in the pan, shape into nice little rounds, and cook 4-5 minutes on each side.

You can use any veggies — corn, potato, mushroom, capsicum, etc. I like to use some sort of potato because it gives a nice structure. Sometimes I use curry powder or herbs like oregano and parsley for a different flavour.

Then go crazy with the presentation! Your kids will love it and thank you…. and it might well be the highlight of your day when everything else is going down the toilet.

Pattern-making exercise

So I’ve been secretly itching to make children’s clothes again, now that things are going pretty well with Piggledee. I used to make a lot of things for Miss M to wear when she was a baby, using commercial patterns (mostly from Japanese sewing books). But when she turned about two and a half, she began to be choosy about what to wear — flatly rejecting several of my lovingly-made outfits. Never mind it took me hours, or that I splurged on precious fabric like Liberty of London. She was unkind and ungrateful. I didn’t take those rejections very well, and I stopped making her clothes.

But now I want to try again, for several reasons. First, ready-to-wear clothes don’t fit Miss M properly. She has a stocky body with no bottom. Pants just fall off her butt. Dresses that fit her chest have sleeves that are too long. And so on. It makes sense to make it myself so things will fit her better. Second, I want to try my hand at pattern making. Not that I don’t like commercial patterns – I do, there are so many cute designs out there. But I’ve always wanted to know the logic behind those patterns, so I would understand better how to modify those pattens properly. Third, and most importantly, I am a huge Project Runway fan.

I used this book as a reference. Metric Pattern Cutting for Children’s Wear and Babywear, by Winifred Aldrich.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made a basic body block using a combination of Miss M’s measurements and the standard measurements for 3-4 year-olds. This was a bit confusing at first, and I had to read and re-read the instructions several times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my first project, I wanted to make something rearlly simple. Also something that doesn’t require button holes because my sewing machine is broken in that regard. I decided to make an apron, like this one my mother had bought in Japan a while ago… and which is now a little too small for Miss M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cute, isn’t it? I totally ignored all the good design features like pin tucks, lace trim, the button closure, and even pocket. I copied the basic body block onto another sheet of paper, and drew over it to make it look like an apron.  The square neckline looked tricky to sew, so I made it round. I also made the yoke longer so I wouldn’t have to factor the armhole curve into the bodice pattern. The back will be closed by two sets of ties.  Simple, simple, simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love that children’s patterns are so tiny each piece fits onto a regular A4 printer paper.  The bodice part doesn’t have a pattern – it’s just rectangles (about 1.3 times wider than the yoke) to be shortened with a gather to fit the yoke. Can’t get any simpler. I used a home decor fabric I had in my stash, and sewed up a trial version this afternoon. Here it is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to disclose that I had made aprons like this before, using a modified commercial pattern. So I knew how to put it together already. But the point of the exercise was to make the pattern from scratch.

I think it looks decent and wearable… if somewhat wider than I had imagined. Does a girl really need 12cm of ease around the chest? Hmm. Maybe for something like an apron, which may be worn over a sweater. But for a dress, maybe that’s a bit too much?

The yoke should have been a little longer as well, because around the armhole, it got a bit too bulky and unsightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait to try it on Miss M when she comes back from visiting her grandmother. Then I’ll adjust the pattern and make a proper version – this time maybe with pin tucks and a pocket.

Then my next project will be… a jumper skirt. Not sure how to do it without a button hole but I’ll find a way.

So much fun.

——

Later: I did try the apron on Miss M. At first she was in a rejection mood, but when I pleaded “But Mommy made this for you! Can you please try it on?” – she brightened up and decided to wear it. The difference between 2 and a half and 3 and a half may be that she now has a budding sense of compassion. Or appreciation for other people’s efforts. Maybe.

Anyway the apron was a perfect size for her over winter clothing. It could be a little longer though.

Slack environmentalism

Recently I was invited to have a stall at an arts and craft fair called Creative Lane in Marrickville on July 31st (Sunday). The energetic organiser of the event, Suki, was preparing a brochure for the event featuring the stallholders, and she wanted each of us to contribute a full-page content for it. At first I thought I didn’t have time for it (really, how many weeks has it been since my last blog post?), but upon further encouragement from Suki, I decided to just do it. This is what I came up with:

I’m a slack sort of an environmentalist. I always have the best intention of doing my bit to save the earth, but when it comes to the grind of daily life with two little ones, the sad truth is my actions often don’t live up to my ideal. Often I don’t have the energy or patience to make sacrifices for a cause. Remember that Murphy Brown episode where a hungry and tired Murphy orders a delivery of takeaway, and it arrives in a Styrofoam container she’d vowed to boycott? She hesitates but sends it back in the end. If it were me, I would eat it in a heartbeat. I’m weak that way.

Take cloth nappies, for example. I used cloth nappies (and cloth wipes) for my first child. But when the second one arrived two years later, there was a lot of washing to be done with the two of them in nappies. And the “one size” cloth nappies I had bought didn’t fit my youngest well. There was a lot of leakage… and hence more washing. So I gave in and started using disposables.

But other “green” choices are easier for me to make, because they don’t require any sacrifice on my part – and offer only benefits. I buy used kids’ clothing because it’s cheap and wearable. I adore the feel of natural fabrics like cotton and linen, and use them whenever possible in lieu of synthetics. Organic food is not only earth-friendly but tastes better. And composting? I love how I don’t have to squeeze all the garbage into the bin every week to make it fit.

The handmade accessories I make reflect my penchant for no-sacrifice environmentalism. The fabric lunch bags are great alternatives to bulky plastic ones since they’re lightweight, easy to store, and machine washable (i.e. more hygienic). Same with my daycare bags, which are machine washable and for that reason alone  better than stain-prone plastic backpacks in the shops. And when wiping those grubby little faces, I much prefer using my organic cotton washers in lieu of disposable wipes or tissue – they’re prettier, feel better in your hands and on my kids’ delicate skin, and have no nasty chemicals. The things I make for my shop are things I love using every day – and as a bonus they happen to be earth-friendly.

Because, seriously, parenting is hard work. We all want to save the earth, but if we can do our bit without a big sacrifice… wouldn’t we all prefer a win-win situation?

Sounds good, doesn’t it? The thing is, upon writing this and sending it off to Suki, I suddenly began to feel guilty. Guilty about the disposable nappies I’m still using six months after Miss M was toilet trained. Guilty about still using my apartment-era clothes dryer sometimes, even though our new house came with the biggest Hills Hoist ever, just because I like my towels soft or because the weather is a bit chilly outside.

Driven by this wave of guilt, I remembered a book review a while ago, about a family in New York who, as an experiment, lived a whole year in a sustainable way — in an extremely sustainable way in fact: no driving cars or using public transport, using no disposable anything, including coffee cups and toilet paper, and not even using an elevator.  The book is called No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. I bought the Kindle version of the book and started reading it straight away.

Well I’m still reading it, but so far, No Impact Man is having a devastating impact on my conscience. All the more so because Beavan is such a fantastic writer and the book is an entertaining read – there is a lot of interesting family drama involved in his experiment (his experiment applied to the whole family – his fur-loving wife and their 18-month-old daughter). In particular, Beavan’s account of how he struggled to reduce – to zero – the vast amount of garbage the family had previously generated, including disposable nappies and take-away containers, is sending my level of guilt and shame to overdrive.

Forget that I compost, recycle, use “earth-friendly” cleaning products, or use cloth handkerchiefs — suddenly these things seem like trivial trickles in light of the ocean of transgressions I am making elsewhere. How could I have possibly thought it was okay to buy yoghurt in plastic squirt tubes just to placate my whiney kids while grocery shopping? How can I justify driving my gas-guzzling V6 car for 40 minutes each way to an organic market? Or anywhere for that matter? And all that fabric I buy from overseas… how much damage in carbon emission is that causing?

I am not a slack sort of an environmentalist. I am just slack.

Things will have to change. I can’t give up toilet paper or avoid driving altogether… but I cannot avoid making sacrifices anymore. I need to go beyond my yuppy comfort zone. I am hopeful though, that “sacrifices” may not feel like sacrifices anymore when you  begin to realize your wants and needs were unjustified to begin with. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate win-win situation?

Introducing…. a perfect bib

It took me a long time to make bibs for my shop — because, aside from the fact that everyone else was making it, I am not a big fan of bibs. Bibs basically look all the same, they cost about the same, and frankly, they all look silly and undignified on kids no matter how you dress them up with pretty fabric. In fact, the prettier the fabric, the sadder it looked to me. And plastic bibs? Total abomination.

That’s why I hardly ever used bibs for Miss M when she was little. I made her a few bibs for her mealtime mess, but even then, I preferred to dress her in aprons instead, or I just resigned to washing her clothes more often. It didn’t bother me.

Then Mr. A turned up, and he was a natural-born drooler and spit-upper. As a breastfeeding baby, you could count on him to spit up every single time, staining not only his clothes but also mine, the feeding pillow, and the bedding below. In between feedings he drooled buckets, especially once he started teething. I was amazed how fast his clothes got soaked wet, and poor thing, if I didn’t change him fast enough he would develop rashes. So for Mr. A, a bib was a sheer necessity. A survival item even.

Now, while I still think bibs look silly, at least I understand why parents need them. So, with that in mind, I strove to make a perfect bib for my shop. A perfect bib would be:

  • comfortable for little ones to wear – must be lightweight and extremely soft around the neck.
  • absorbent! A bib is no good if a stream of drool rolls right past the surface to soak the tummy area.
  • offer good coverage without making your little one look like a frill necked lizard.
  • cute but in an understated way.
  • closed by a snap: easy to put on and off, but difficult for little hands to yank it off.
  • versatile – from newborn to toddler, and for messy eaters and well as droolers (or both).

And here it is — a perfect bib!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know this is the softest, lightest, and super absorbent 100% cotton double gauze from Japan. For the backing, I used organic cotton jersey, which is not only light and incredibly soft, but also absorbent. It has a beautiful white colour. If you wore this around your neck, you wouldn’t want to take it off because it’s so warm and cozy. The adorable elephants print is just sweet enough for little ones without being a try-hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is pretty large for babies, offering great coverable. And you can use it all the way through toddlerhood and beyond (if you wish) — here is Miss M loving the pink elephants bib.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does wearing matching bibs foster sibling love? Or wait, is Miss M saying “go away, it’s my photo shoot”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which colour is your favourite? The bibs are now available in my shop.

Perfect porridge

Before I had children, I’d never dreamed of eating porridge for breakfast. I mean, it’s all gooey, soft, and bland-looking. Old people’s food, was my impression. I much preferred good old toast with lots of butter and jam. When I first started making porridge to feed my children (as everyone does in Australia), sometimes I’d have a little taste, and still found the taste bland and texture unpleasant. My kids didn’t care for it much, either. We all ended up eating toast most of the time.

But everything changed when I was browsing one of my favourite cookbooks, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything one day. He recommended that we should always choose normal rolled oats, not the instant kind. He also suggested throwing a bit of butter at the end to enhance flavour. Intrigued, I gave it a try.

And oh my, what a difference real porridge was from the instant kind. It had beautiful, soft-but-chewy texture, like al dante pasta or rice. It only took 5 minutes or so on stovetop to cook, I don’t know why people bother selling the instant version in the first place. And butter! Who knew butter in porridge would be so lovely (well, I should have known because butter in everything is lovely – we Japanese people even put butter in a warm bowl of rice and eat it with soy sauce when there is nothing else to eat – and it’s delicious).

Encouraged, I started adding more goodies to the porridge mix bit by bit – more for my enjoyment, but also to entice my reluctant little eater Miss M. A handful of coconut here, cinnamon and brown sugar on top, yoghurt…. And now I have perfected it.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An unbelievably yummy, steamy bowl of porridge on cold winter mornings!

For me and my kids, I cook about 1 cup of rolled oats with 1/3 of dried desiccated coconut and dried mango strips (so nice!), with about 2 cups of water. When cooked, add about a tablespoon of butter. Serve in a bowl, with sprinkles of cinnamon and brown sugar (don’t need much because of the sweet dried fruit), top with (dreadfully expensive) banana slices, and a quenelle of yoghurt on top.

I eat it faster than my kids, but surprise, surprise, my kids now totally eat this up. A nice big bowl each. Do you know how precious this is? That porridge fills their tummies up so well, they don’t come back an hour later begging for unhealthy snack. If you are the kind of person who equates butter with guilt, I assure you, these benefits far outweigh the cost.


Little things

I have been making little things lately for upcoming markets (in particular a school market at  Lorien Novalis (Sydney) on July 23 and Mathilda’s Market (Sydney) on August 27). I thought my market collection needed something small, pretty, useful and wallet-friendly. So I started with pincushions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pincushions didn’t come out as I planned. My plan was to make $5 pincushions that are super, super-fast to make, using scrap fabric I had been hoarding, and hence doesn’t cost me anything. Well, as I started with simple two or three-patch pieces, it got boring. I wanted something prettier, something a little more precious. So I ended up making mini log cabins (or technically, I think they are the beginnings of a pattern called “courthouse steps”). Very pretty!

And then Mark suggested that I scent these, so I thought, why not? I do happen to have an embarrassingly large collection of essential oils from my other (now forgotten) hobbies (making soap, perfume, and natural skincare products, if you must know). And if you were to scent these cushions, how boring would it be to use something so ordinary like lavender. I chose Rosewood Brazil, which is exquisite (and expensive).

I love these pincushions, especially when they look all cozy together in a basket. But I beat myself up afterwards for spending hours and hours on something that is supposed to be super simple and inexpensive. My business brain has been defeated by my creative brain, yet again.

So, to atone for my pincushion indulgence, I also made these popcorn bags, a la Gymbaroo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the simplest bags, about 6″ x 4″, filled with popcorn. At Gymbaroo they called these bean bags, and use them as a stimulating toy for babies, or for target throwing for older children. You can play with them in a lot of ways basically, which is why I love simple toys. I used popcorn just because the beans I had in my pantry were large and menacing looking. Popcorn seemed more friendly.

I’m happy that I made at least something that’s pretty and wallet-friendly. And useful, too – if your kids are in need of a snack, just rip one of these open and make popcorns!

Rainy day (mini) pizza

It’s been raining like mad here for days. Now I like rain. I used to love it in fact – there is nothing better than curling up inside your home on a cold rainy day with a good book and a hot cup of tea. But that was before I had children.

Children – well, my 3 and 1 year olds at least – just can’t seem to sit back on a sofa, relax, sip their babychinos and browse picture books for hours. Why not, is beyond my comprehension. The destruction that goes on inside my house when the kids are cooped up on a rainy day? It’s too painful for me to describe.

So I need to think of activities. Activities that would pin the kids to the table so that they don’t go destroy my sewing machines or spill milk on my precious fabrics. It’s not easy, but I found a good one yesterday just when I was on the verge of losing sanity.

 

Mini pizzas! Which you can make with your children!

It’s an extension of the bread-making idea really, but it is more elaborate than just play dough, and thus keeps the kids busy for a longer period of time. First there is the usual play dough (this time with rolling pins!), then there is “helping mommy” shred cheese in a food processor, then decorating the dough with tomato sauce, the toppings, and then cheese. You can really stretch the activity time if you are a little creative. And even after the pizza-making is over and the children are reverting back to their natural destructive / whiney state, you can effectively distract them with: “Oh hey, do you want to come see how those pizzas are doing in the oven?” etc.

Then, when the horror hours of the evening descends on you, and your sanity is really being tested, you can pull out your final card: “let’s sit down and eat the pizza you made for dinner!” I guarantee, your bewitched children will turn into angels of compliance. My children adore eating what they made. Even Miss M, who is normally finicky with food and doesn’t eat much at all, devoured the pizza, vegetables and all.

You might think pizza isn’t healthy. But I disagree completely. Here’s a basic recipe that is very healthy, wholesome, and unbelievably tasty as well. And if you have never made a pizza dough from scratch, it’s really the easiest thing.

Wholemeal Pizza (from scratch)

Pizza dough
Adapted from Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classical Italian Cooking

  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • about 1 cup water (you may need a bit more or less)

Put all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add olive oil and most but not all of the water. Start mixing on low speed with a dough hook. If you see dry stuff left at the bottom of the bowl, gradually add a little more water, until all the dry stuff is absorbed. Again you are looking for the consistency of play dough. Knead at low speed for 7-8 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can mix and knead on a table top. When done, cover the dough with a little olive oil, cover the bowl with a plastic wrap, and let it sit somewhere warm for a couple of hours (or more) till it roughly doubles in size.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce (for the pizza base).

Easy tomato sauce

  • 1 large onion, or 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3-5 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cans of diced tomato
  • a handful of (preferably) fresh mixed herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves are great), finely chopped (leave bay leaves whole, and remove after cooking)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a pot on medium heat. When hot, toss the onion and garlic, and stir for a few minutes until they are transparent but not burned. Add the tomato and the herbs. Add some salt. Cover, bring to the boil, and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens up nicely. Leave it to cool.

The key to this recipe is fresh herbs. Please use a lot of them, like a good handful. It makes such a big difference. But if you don’t have fresh herbs, dried ones are okay, too.

Note this recipe makes a lot of tomato sauce. You only need half of it for making pizza, but the leftover is delicious, and you can use it the next day to make lasagne or other pasta dish.

Toppings

The beautiful thing about pizza is that you can pretty much use any topping you can think of, or whatever you have left in the pantry and fridge. The only essential thing is cheese. Yesterday for example, I only used vegetarian sausages, chopped mushrooms and red capsicum.

Assembly

When the pizza dough has risen, bring the children in and have them sit at a table. Sprinkle a bit of flour in front of them, give them a handful of the dough, and show them how to roll them thin with a rolling pin. My children completely ignored my instructions and did their own thing (which, for Mr. A, involved a lot of eating and licking the dough – I know, yucky, but do you know the most useful thing I learned at cooking school? That bacteria dies at about 80 degrees Celsius.). The main thing is they had fun. In the end I made sure all the dough pieces were more or less flat and round, and placed them on a baking tray.

At this point, turn the oven on to preheat at 220 degrees Celsius (to kill off that bacteria!).

Now into the second activity phase – topping the pizza. Let your children spoon the sauce on the dough, put toppings on, and sprinkle the cheese over each pizza. Again the mantra is, “if it’s messy, it doesn’t matter.”

When it’s done, you can put it in the oven straight away. Unlike proper bread, pizza dough doesn’t need a second proofing. Bake until the dough is golden around the edges and the cheese is bubbling.

Another great thing about homemade pizza is that, you can turn leftover veggies, a block of cheese, and basic pantry staples into a most delicious, home-cooked meal. Perfect for rainy days when you really don’t want to go out there grocery shopping.

Good luck surviving the rainy spell, everyone.

Double gauze

Today I received another shipment of Japanese goodness:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Double gauze! With baby elephants in an assortment of colours. And blue “working cars” print. Just how cute are these fabrics?

Double gauze is my newest object of infatuation. It is the softest, cushiest, most snuggle-able cotton fabric ever. It is also extremely lightweight – it’s like air. If you have never seen one in person, it is like cheese cloth (or muslin in Australia) but with two layers of them fused together to make a more dense, workable fabric.

In Japan, people make children’s clothing (even adults’ clothing) with this material. It is especially perfect for baby clothing and accessories because of its incomparable softness, lightness and absorbency. This type of fabric may not be Japan’s invention, but only in Japan does it come in such wonderful range of children’s prints.

What will I do with these double gauze prints? Why, make accessories for babies of course. I’ve been wanting to make things for babies. But the usual suspect of baby items – you know, bibs and wraps and such – didn’t inspire me creatively because they are so overdone. I mean, go to any retail shop and you’ll find an overflowing amount of pretty baby goods. I thought I had nothing new to offer in this market. But now I do!

Actually I’ve been making washers lately with double gauze and organic cotton jersey or bamboo terry (towel material). These are divine – so soft, absorbent, and just a delight to hold in your hand. Useful, too, for wiping little noses and as a wash cloth in bath. I just listed a few in my shop.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for other baby items using my brand new stash of Japanese double gauze.

In the mood for quilting

It is officially winter in Sydney, though it feels like it’s been winter for months. It is the coldest winter I remember in the six years that I’ve lived here. And I am no longer the hardest worker in this household – it is our new Paloma gas heater, without which we’d all perish in this cold, cold house.

And what do I think as I curl up in front of our new heater friend? Quilts. I am yearning to make quilts again. Quilts in warm, cozy colours to snuggle up with at night, or to wrap around a shivering child after a bath… Actually I have a million quilts already at home, but it doesn’t matter.

Last weekend we went for a stroll to Auburn Botanical Gardens. It is such a magical place, with a large Japanese garden, a majestic reflection pool, rose gardens, ducks, geese, swans, and even kangaroos and wallabies. Its magic is doubled when you consider its unlikely location – Auburn, a working-class neighbourhood with a large Muslim population.

Yet while strolling through this wonderland, I kept my eyes on the ground and thought of quilts. I mean, look at these amazing bricks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I walked on these brick roads, I saw them in a myriad colours recreated as quilts. The brick designers and quilters must have similar minds. Maybe they are even the same people – brick layers by day and quilters by night? The middle two brick pattens would be particularly stunning as quilts, I thought.

I haven’t started on any brick quilt yet…. I have been busy. But I cannot stop thinking about them, so I will have to find the time soon.

I did manage to put together a simple cot quilt top in warm, autumn / winter colours though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I pinned it with pure wool batting for extra warmth and loftiness, with a beautiful vintage Amy Butler fabric as backing. It is ready to be quilted – by hand, I think. I suppose it is not a typical cot quilt of bright pastel or juvenile prints. But I could not resist. I hope, when it is finished, the quilt will find a good home where a precocious baby or toddler might appreciate the colours of falling leaves and golden autumn sun…. And if not, Miss M or I can always use another quilt.



A lampshade hat

Every now and then, a friend or family member asks me to make something specific for them, something that is not in my normal line of child-friendly products. I love these challenges because they give me a refreshing change of scenery.

Last week I made a sun hat for a relative in Japan (yes, it is getting towards summer over there). I sent her a few photos from one of my favourite Japanese craft books, called “Stylish Cloche,” by Ohko Ishida. I love this book not only because of the gorgeous hat patterns, but because the photos are styled exquisitely, sometimes featuring an older model, which is unusual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My “client” chose this last hat for me to make. She picked this design because of the large, bucket-shaped brim to avoid evil UV as much as possible. She requested a cotton linen canvas fabric in a beige or off-white polka dot print. She also added: “please make it look good!” I’m sure she didn’t mean to give me any pressure or anything. Lucky for her, I’m the kind of arrogant crafter who thinks she can make anything – especially if there is already a book with a pattern to trace. Easy peasy, I thought.

This is the hat I made:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I call this the lampshade hat, because the moment Mark saw it, he said “lampshade!”

I know, I look cool and breezy in those photos, but in truth, I was sweating as I made the hat over one long afternoon. It wasn’t as easy to make as I thought it would be. I didn’t examine the pattern closely before I offered it up to my relative (further proof of my arrogance) – but it turned out the top of the hat had four tiny darts to give it a rounded shape. Fiddly! I also had trouble getting the right interfacing – I ended up using heavy-duty interfacing for the brim lining (so it won’t cover your eyes blind), while using no interfacing at all for the crown of the hat (so it won’t be too hot to wear in Tokyo’s sweltering summer). With all this cutting and re-cutting, I nearly ran out of my lining fabric, causing me to panic because I could not have sourced more of it easily.

In the end, I’m 95% happy with the result. In fact I love this hat, and I might make one for myself next summer; I’m sure I can sew it more easily the second time around. But the real jury is still out, because I had just shipped the hat off to Japan… I hope she will like it, too!