A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Modification Monday: Vintage dress to skirt

When I was in Indonesia last year, I was drawn to an embroidered dress in a vintage shop, despite the fact that I knew the shape of the dress wasn’t for me. A year later, I have finally finished converting the dress into a skirt.

This is the dress as I bought it. The bust and top back are made from a jersey material, which complicated the alteration.

This is what the skirt looked like partway through. I’m not going to share a vast amount of information about the alteration because I just did it how I felt, and I’m fairly sure there would have been a much better way to go about it.

Basically I cut off the jersey part of the dress, and used the under-bust part as the waistband. The dress was already partially elasticated- you may be able to tell where the elastic is in the picture below. I added a thicker strip of elastic, partly to disguise where I cut the jersey. I recycled the strips of embroidered woven fabric to cover the elastic at the back. It buttons to the elastic, and to itself, to keep the two halves together and flat. I may remove this part in future and just leave the elastic visible- I’ll see how the skirt wears before making a decision.

Here’s a side view.

Overall, I am fairly happy with the finished product. I just love the embroidery, which is why I purchased the dress in the first place. The fabric isn’t drapey at all (maybe it’s a light cotton?), so for me it’s not ideal for a skirt of this style, but I think it’s fine overall.

Butternut squash daal

As always, I came back from holiday wanting to cook and eat fresh, healthy food. I briefly considered doing Veganuary, but then I remembered that I will be going out to eat quite a bit in January, and I don’t like to be limited on food choices in restaurants. I will probably try going vegan for a week at some point instead.

I had been watching Jamie Oliver’s Superfood on Channel 4 and, despite my many annoyances with the show, pinned a few of the recipes that looked nicest and easiest. This is Jamie’s butternut squash daal with fried eggs.

I made a few changes. Morrison’s didn’t sell curry leaves or black mustard seeds, and they were out of coriander.

For the temper, I used garlic and chilli as specified, 1tsp English mustard, 2tsp cumin seeds and 2tsp coriander seeds. I omitted the coriander altogether. I used sweet chilli sauce in the yoghurt instead of coriander leaves, but in future I won’t bother with the yoghurt bit at all as I don’t think it adds to the dish. I also didn’t bother with the poppadoms. Instead, I served with a bigger salad and roasted cherry tomatoes.

I got seven servings from the recipe. When I take this to work, I heat up the daal in the microwave. I fry the eggs four at a time and keep two each in separate plastic containers. I only cook the eggs for about 2-3 minutes, then heat for a minute in the microwave at work. This is also the method I use when I take nasi goreng to work, and I haven’t got salmonella yet (touch wood). I also take the salad separately.

Looking back on 2016

I don’t think I need to comment on what a strange year 2016 was. There were also many ups and downs for me personally. I’m not really in the mood for lots of reflections, so let’s get to the meat- reviewing the goals I set in January.

Win Olympic Gold medal for knitting.

Last year I completed ten knitting and crochet projects, which is a drastic reduction on the previous year (twenty). As I noted in last year’s round-up post, I think I developed so much in 2015 as a knitter that I feel I’m lacking in places to go.

This year was a mix of projects I’m happy with, and disappointing results.

Continue to improve my sewing, and make some garments that I am happy to wear

I’m very happy with the progress I have made as a sewist last year. I went to a couple more workshops to develop my skills, but importantly also bought a sewing machine so that I can make things independently.

When I went away over the Xmas period, two garments stood out as super useful and wearable.

My zebra shorts

My tiny dancer trousers

Read more books written by women and POC

I’m ashamed to say that I only finished three books in 2016. What was that about? They were all by women, though.

Work on finding balance

No idea whether I achieved this.

Focus on health. Eat well and be active in ways I enjoy

Last year, to my own surprise, I took up running, and managed to run 5k, which was a massive personal achievement.

Take more and better photographs

I think I achieved this.

Specific project goals

Fix Orza


Finish Princess of Power hat


Finish crocheted baskets

Not done

Add belt loops to Cigarette Pants


Make something out of my beautiful Indonesian silk

Not done

Overall, I would say a moderately successful year. Next year, I want to work more on making things that truly fill gaps in my wardrobe, rather than buying fabric/patterns on a whim. I’m hoping to feel that more of my projects are successes rather than learning opportunities.

The tale of Lupita and Monique

On La Sirena estancia in Uruguay there lived a feisty sheep called Lupita.

One day, a gringo named Monique came to stay. Monique wanted to be friends with Lupita, but at first the sheep wasn’t sure. Monique spoke a strange human language, and seemed unusually interested in her woolly coat.

Monique tried befriending some of the other animals. Margarita the cow shared her milk with Monique.

Cookie-eater the horse showed Monique around. Lupita thought maybe she wasn’t so bad.

Monique and Lupita shared some quiet moments on the farm. They had a lot in common.

Monique had to leave her new best friend behind, which made her sad.

Lupique 5eva.

How to: Mini Xmas Tree Hat

My travel knitting this year has been dedicated to Innocent hats. This isn’t entirely selfless as I’m trying to write a pattern for a baby hat, and I’m testing out different ways of doing the decreases. 

You will need

3.25mm circular needles/DPNs (or similar size)

A small amount of DK weight yarn. I used Baby Cashmerino for the brown and 

  1. CO 32 sts
  2. Work 5 rounds in K1P1 rib
  3. Garter stitch for 7 rounds, ending with a knit round
  4. K6 k2tog* *repeat to end of round 
  5. Garter stitch for 6 rounds, ending with a knit round
  6. K5 k2tog* *rep to end of round
  7. Garter stitch for 5 rounds
  8. Ssk k2 k2tog* *rep to end of round 
  9. K1 round 
  10. Garter stitch 3 rounds
  11. K1 k2tog* *rep to end of round (11sts rem)
  12. K1 round 
  13. Change colours and kfb in every stitch 
  14. K 12 rnds. 

Encourage the top to curl whichever way you prefer. I’m going to work on the top part as I think it could look better, but this is just the first iteration of the pattern.

FO Friday: Fuchsia Zebra shorts

I’ve finished my holiday shorts!

The cutting out and machine sewing took about fifteen hours. I’m a bit baffled by the sizing on these shorts. My original cigarette trousers, a 10, are quite big, but these shorts are on the small size despite only being an 8 at the waist, and grading up to a 10. I also forgot that there is an error in the waistband piece of the pattern, which nearly caused me a big problem as I didn’t have any leftover fabric to cut out a spare.

Here I am trying them on. I had to let out the crotch and side seams a little. At first, I was stressed out because the waist looks a bit crap, but then I pulled my t-shirt down and remembered that the waistband will never be on show. It can be hard to maintain perspective when you have spent hours and hours working on something.

Overall I would say that I am very happy with this make, which, sadly, is unusual. The fabric only cost £12.20 including delivery, so the total cost of the materials was well under £20. And I think it’s safe to say that I am the only person in Rio strutting about in hot pink zebra pants.

Chocolate and cream cheese cupcakes 

There’s nothing that makes you feel warm towards your colleagues like going on holiday for an extended period! Since I’m about to go away, I decided to bake for the last team meeting of the year, and I’ve had these chocolate and cream cheese cupcakes pinned for a while. I believe the non-PC term for these is black bottom cakes, but I decided against mentioning that in the office.

The recipe is available here. I did enjoy these cupcakes, but I found the eggless chocolate sponge a little dry and uninspiring. I DID like how easy it was to have two contrasting flavours and textures- much easier than faffing around with frosting. The little pops from the chocolate chips were lovely too. If I made these again, I would probably swap out another recipe (maybe the ultimate chocolate cupcake?) for the bottom part. However, if you’re after a quick recipe using mostly things that will always be in the store cupboard, this is a good’un.

I had enough batter for 24 mini cupcakes and four or five full-sized ones.