Monday, 28 October 2013

Meet Matilda

Meet Matilda.

I have finally invested in a dressmaker's dummy.  She is quite lovely, slim and lithe, and curvy in all the right places. She is not quite my shape, but Matilda, as I have named her, will be perfect for photographing and blogging my sewing projects, much better than putting them on hangers then searching around the house for places to photograph them.

Speaking of which, photographing Matilda has made me realise that I need a designated mini 'studio' with changeable backdrops,  good lighting and a no furniture creeping into the corners of the pictures.  Must work on that one.

Here is Matilda in some of the things that I have made.

Chanel Jacket - a sweatshirt transformation, posted in 2011.

The Little Red Dress just waiting for facings and hemming.

A Willy Smith big shirt, made in 2011 with a pattern from the late 1970s.

A summer dress posted in 2012.

A Vogue outdoor jacket, made three years ago, but not posted.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Lamb Meatball Goulash - Cook Once East Twice

Lamb meatballs in a goulasch sauce served with tagliatelle.

 Now that there are usually just two of us at home, our motto is, 'Cook Once. Eat Twice'.  This is mainly because I still cook enough for a family. My mother was the same, and it pays off.  I love the fact that I can find another meal in the freezer a couple of weeks later, particularly when making it in the first place takes time.

Goulash is a good supper dish, particularly when the weather gets colder. This one is based on a recipe by Delia Smith for Waitrose, using ready-made beef meatballs.  Normally I do just that, but this time I had some lamb mince in the freezer, bought by accident when I thought it was pork, but that's another story.  Anyway, lamb works beautifully in this recipe.  It gives a certain richness to the dish. Verdict:  Delicious.

All the ingredients for the meatballs.

Patties made up using a Tablespoon of meat mixture each.

Ingredients for the sauce.

Goulash, hot and ready to serve.

How to make the meatballs:

2 pounds of lamb mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 a yellow or red pepper, finely chopped
1 egg
Salt, pepper and 1/2 cup cracker crumbs
(To make the cracker crumbs, use crackers with some flavour, like Krakawheat. Use a food processor or a plastic bag and a rolling pin to make fine crumbs.)
Mix all the ingredients together.
Scoop up a tablespoon at a time and roll into balls.  
Flatten like mini hamburgers for easier browning.
Fry in a little oil until brown on each side.
As you finish each batch, remove the meatballs from the pan and put to one side.

How to make the sauce:

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large chopped onion
1 red or green pepper (I used green for mine)
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
2 cans (400 grams each) chopped tomatoes
1 heaped Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon Hungarian paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste

In the same frying pan that you browned the meatballs, soften the onion, pepper and garlic.
Add the flour and the paprika and stir for 1 minute.
Put this mixture in a large, oven proof casserole dish and then tip in the tomatoes and stir.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the meatballs into the tomato mixture and stir again.
Bring to simmering point.
Put a circle of damp grease proof paper on top of the goulash then cover with the lid to keep the moisture in.
Put in a pre-heated oven at 140 C or 275 F.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Serve with tagliatelle, potatoes or rice and a dollop of creme fraiche, Greek yoghurt or sour cream.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The L R D - Little Red Dress

The dress with one sleeve.  Sleeved or sleeveless?

 While I was fiddling around with toiles, I found this dress, cut out and ready to put together.  It was next on my list, but I decided to pull it one forward.

The fabric is a beautiful double knit wood jersey which I got at a bargain price from McCulloch and Wallace (in London) because it was the last bit on the roll (about 1 1/4 metres). I had to squeeze the pattern out of it, but there was just enough.

This dress will be suitable for the holidays with a bit of jewellery and nice shoes, but it can be dressed down with thick tights and boots.

 My big dilemma is whether to add the sleeves or not. My gut reaction is that the sleeves look matronly.  However, in an English winter, sleeves are  a necessity.  I have decided to put it to one side today and look at it again tomorrow when I will cut out the lining and try it on again.

I need to make a decision about the neckline as well.  The original pattern has quite a deep slit in the front.  I may keep it simple and settle for a jewel neckline

The sleeve is just basted (tacked) in.  You can just see the pretty dart detail.

The original pattern, Very Easy Vogue 8824.  I decided against pockets.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Ina's Chocolate Chunk Blondies - Make these for the weekend!

Ina's Chocolate Chunk Blondies

I am a great fan of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  This recipe is a good alternative to brownies.  It contains two of my favourite ingredients - chocolate and walnuts. Blondies are great with a cup of tea or coffee, a glass of milk, American style, or served with ice cream for a dessert.

The most important thing to remember is not to over bake them.  I'm afraid I did over bake this batch, mainly because my oven was too hot.  Next time, I will go down a notch and see if that is better.

To make the blondies, you need chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.  I've discovered a good place to buy American goodies in London called Melbury and Appleton.  They are located in Islington, London, but I buy online.  However, I did not have enough chocolate chips for this recipe, so I bashed up some dark chocolate in a plastic bag.  Works well.

Ina's Chocolate Chunk Blondies

(This recipe can also be used for cookies.)
8 oz butter, softened
1 cup soft light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 extra large eggs at room temperature
2 cups regular, plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (I bash them in a plastic bag with a meat mallet.)
8 - 12 oz chocolate chunks

Cream the butter and sugars.
Add the eggs and beat well.
Add the vanilla
Then sift the dry ingredients and add gently.
Finally, add the nuts and chocolate and stir in.,

Put the mixture in a greased and floured tin 8 x 12 x 2 inches.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C or 350 F for 30 minutes.  Do not over bake.  The centre should be soft. (If you have a fan assisted oven, like mine, you might want to try baking them at 170 C or 325 F.)
Cool, remove from tin and cut into squares.

I used French chocolate, picked up at French supermarket.

Here's what it looks like.  I used two bars (about 8 oz.)

Friday, 18 October 2013

Making a toile before cutting into my fabric

The toile for my top. No need to insert both sleeves.

When you are using a new pattern, if you are unsure of the fit, it is a good idea to make a toile first. It saves all that bother of unpicking your good fabric!  

A toile (sometimes called a muslin) is a sample of the garment made up in muslin or another cheap fabric.  White or cream are good so you can mark the toile with a pen if necessary. Muslin is best,  but I had some inexpensive polyester cotton so I used that. 

I made a toile for two reasons:
1. My fabric is limited
2. I wanted to alter the original pattern and insert darts.

I found just enough fabric in my stash to make the two piece outfit I showed on my 10 October blog.  (See diagram below.) I like everything about the pattern except that the top lacks darts.  That would work well with a knitted fabric, but may not look good out of my wool mix tweed.  

Line Art
The original pattern, Vogue 8916
I searched on the web and through my pattern making books and could not find instructions for creating a dart.  (I remembered how to move a dart from my City and Guilds course back in the old 1970s.) Then I experimented with spot and cross paper by tracing the top front and manipulating it.  I just couldn't figure it out.  Finally, I searched through my patterns and came up with the dress pattern shown below and thought I could adapt that quite easily.  It had darts, the sleeve length I wanted and I  even liked the neckline. All I needed to do was fold up the bottom of the pattern to get the right length.

An old McCalls dress pattern, 2301, that I thought would make a good top

Success.  I'm glad I did this. The top is a bit snug and there would be no going back once I cut out my tweed.  I will have to add an inch in total to the bodice, but the darts are perfect as are the sleeves.  I don't like the neckline on me, so I will revert to the original pattern's round one, perhaps tweaking it a bit by making it a little wider and lower. (I may do this on the tole first.) It was a time consuming exercise, but worth the effort. Once I have the right fit, I will use the pattern for this outfit and again for a summer top out of linen or cotton, possibly sleeveless. Who knows, I may even make the dress some time.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Knit and Stitch Show - Oops, I've done it again...

 On Saturday I went to the Knit and Stitch Show at the Alexandra Palace for the first time.  What a mission to get there from South London! And it was mobbed.  But that's a good thing because it means that lots of people are knitting and stitching.
It is never a good idea to allow me near a place where they sell fabrics and this was no exception.  When I saw these Japanese cotton fabrics, I JUST HAD TO HAVE THEM! I always refer to it as 'a rush of blood to the head', but really, it is an addiction.  I wanted the whole lot of them - the whole stand's worth.  So probably, it is not a bad thing that I only bought six little bundles of 1/2 meter each. That's my justification and I'm sticking with it.
I love them.  I keep getting them out to gloat over them and I will make something with them soon. I think they would make a lovely quilted throw to use when watching telly and perhaps a couple of cushion covers as well.  What I love is that they are good quality cotton in such charming prints and that they coordinate as well.  I can't wait to get started, but I have a couple of other projects which must take priority.

The print on the left is the one that first caught my eye.

See how well they go together.

These two make a good contrast, they add a bit of depth.

And finally, these two add a bit of light to the mix.

These fabrics are from a shop in Chichister called The Eternal Maker at 41 Terminus Road, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8TX.  Tel. 01243 788174. Their website is

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Back in the Land of Blogging


I will be making this jacket out of the pink and purple tweed shown below.

Back to blogging and the land of the living again.  After a lot of travelling and 10 days of jet lag, I have finally had two good nights' sleep and feel ready to get back to sewing again. There are lots of projects I wish to start or finish. Now I just have to sit down and do them. Today my pattern arrived  and I found two pieces of fabric in my stash!  How lucky is that? I can't wait to get started.

The pattern is a Vogue wardrobe pattern, number 8916.  In the 90s I made lots of Tamotsu wardrobe patterns to wear to work.  I love Vogue patterns and have subscribed to the magazine (Now called 'Sew Today') for years.  They are always cleverly accessorised and I find the use of fabrics inspirational.  I also appreciate that Vogue patterns fit me.  I only have to make a few adjustments to get a perfect fit.  This time I am using the pattern for two separate outfits.  I will make the jacket in the purple/pink tweed to wear with skirts or trousers and the two piece in the grey tweed.  The two piece was inspired by an outfit in Hobbs.  It comes in mustard (which I love, but can't wear) and navy (which I can wear, but I feel I can make it for a lot less.)


I will make this two piece outfit  in the grey tweed below.  I copied the photo from the Vogue website and it is pixelated.  The photo on the pattern sleeve is a bit blurry. It's a no win situation.

Line Art

I may put the skirt on a bodice, so it fits nicely under the top.  I plan to lengthen the sleeves a little and to shorten the top so it rests nicely over the top of the skirt.

This lovely fabric has a slight bit of gold thread in it.  It will  make a super jacket.

And this grey tweed has a tiny thread of silver in it.  Very trendy.  Inspired by something I saw in the shops, I plan to make the two piece 'dress' out of it.