Making the 3 Hour Slouchy Cardi

Where has the time gone!?

I’ve still been sewing but just never found the time to write about it, reason being that my baby suddenly exploded into a boisterous toddler all of a sudden. These days I can’t even sit and type on my laptop as he’ll run over and want to sit on my lap and play with the mouse. He is having his nap now so I thought I’d better get round to my blog.

I’ve been sewing mostly children’s clothes over the last few months for the simply reason that it’s easier to trace the patterns (only one sheet usually required) and much faster too. I’ve mostly made jersey t-shirts for G with fun prints like the one below.


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I also do some personalisation on onesies in the odd moment or two when my hands feel itchy but not itchy enough to put something together 🙂

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And to get me off to a good sewing start in 2016 I’ve picked the 3 hour slouchy cardigan from the Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric book.I’m quite excited about this one as spring is around the corner (although the papers say snow is too!).

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I’m sufficiently confident these days about sewing with jersey so I’m quite excited to be making this project! Now to trace the pattern out 🙂

Autumn (mis)Adventures

Autumn in London is always a curious experience especially when you’ve experienced the colorful canopy of red and gold leaves cascading everywhere in other parts of the world. Predictably, it is a wet and cold day today and I’m waiting for the bubs to wake up before taking him for a stay and play session. We have had a busy schedule this September without even meaning to. I suppose its part and parcel of integrating with local community life and being inevitably drawn into the rounds of mums and bubs sessions.

My sewing has been much like Autumn in London. Rather unpredictable, indifferent, and at times, dispassionate. I blame it on spending too much time ogling at Tamal on the Bake Off…

I started and then stopped sewing this Vogue pattern for a long sleeved shirt and now regret the waste of a pretty cotton lawn fabric.

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I suppose this happens when you try to take shortcuts and leave out interfacing which was what happened. I was a little too lazy to interface the neckline and while it turned out okay-ish without it, the hemming was rather awful to look at and barked “HOMEMADE” rather than “handmade” if you know what I mean (see pic below).

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Setting in the sleeves was similarly a ‘meh’ experience with too much bunching on one side.

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By the time I got to cutting it through the front to sew buttons I was ready to trash this project….

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I know, I know…its a great waste of fabric and truth be told, it’s a lovely comfortable cotton lawn that looks great with jeans and is just right for this autumn weather. I got as far as sewing buttons on, but then realised that I needed to sew in another button right on top and was just too demotivated to switch the presser foot again. So the blouse is currently on the backburner and folded away in my sewing cupboard to take up again on another day where hopefully flashes of sewing brilliance will inspire me with it.

For now, I’ve returned to my comfort zone of sewing for my son. I managed to squeeze in a long sleeved envelope neckline shirt for the bubs and here he is with it looking like he’s pole dancing 🙂

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Onesies

A quick browse through Etsy will show that many shops sells customised onesies but few actually sell onesies sewn from scratch.

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Dont ask me why but the idea of sewing your own bubba a onesie from scratch appeals 120% to me. Yes it involves knit fabric. Yes it involves snapping on fiddly poppers. But knit fabric and poppers are just really so much easier when it’s for someone who weighs less than 10kg 😇

What I used

I know there are quite a few PDF patterns that you can download on the internet to sew up a baby onesie. The one I contemplated using was by Shwin and Shwin  but in the end I decided on Simplicity 2291 as I wanted the flexibility to sew a long-sleeved onesie for the bubs. Nonetheless, Shwin and Shwin’s webpage is a really good tutorial/pictorial on how to put together a onesie which is pretty invaluable. Plus what an adorable baby to look at as well! 🙂

I used knit fabric for all three versions I sewed from Spotlight. You need about half a metre for a onesie, and this includes bias binding if you choose to make it yourself. Also, poppers, as well as matching or contrasting threads.

Sewing the Onesie up 

Simplicity’s pattern is a teeny unconventional insofar that it doesnt have an envelope neckline, but rather 2 poppers each on both shoulders. This can be quite tricky because quite frankly, there isn’t much time to measure equidistance between poppers when you’re looking after a teething baby 😉

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Version 1 was a fun doggy print. In this version, I made my own bias binding and used white thread. The pattern instructions are pretty clear and I had no real issues with it at all. My seam allowance was clearly over-generous but heck, babies grow!

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Version 2 was a really sweet bird themed knit print. In this version, I hacked off the sleeves to make it short as its much better suited to tropical weather.

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Word about the poppers, you need to source for small poppers otherwise they take up too much space. Also, put in the poppers AFTER you sew the bias binding on the neckline and set in the sleeves. Otherwise, it’s a really tight squeeze as you have to maneuver around them.

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In Version 3  I decided to play around with the poppers! I thought, since they are so fiddly, why not just use one big popper per shoulder instead?

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This was the least successful 😂

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As you can see from the pic one big popper doesnt do the trick.

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It just didnt sit flat at bubba’s shoulders and makes a rather messy neckline. I also had some serious haywire sewing on the bias bindings!

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The bubba was a good sport about it, however ☺

Sewlosophism

Sewing a onesie entirely from scratch may seem daunting. The commercial world will try to convince you, that there is no point reinventing the wheel when thousands of factories churn out thousands of onesies every day. Why not just customise a onesie with appliques? Indeed I have (my next post! :)), and customisations can be really fun and cute. But there is nothing quite like sewing something 100% handmade for your nearest and dearest, even if the poppers and bindings aren’t perfect and are somewhat of a mess.  Plus, you can go wild on fabric choices and really stand out from the baby crowd! 😉  Handmade clothes are always full of love, good tidings, and fond memories, even if it has the odd sewing mistake here and there 🙂

Review of Simplicity 1566A dungaree pattern

 

Ain’t he cute? LOL. The shameless motherly adulation of her lovely first born son 😉

I was gifted this Simplicity pattern pack 3 months ago but spent a month faffing about and then another 2 months getting visas processed and movers hired. And then when I cut out all the pattern pieces I realised I had run out of poppers. Then when I came back from the shop I promptly broke my rotary cutter! Anyway, tools sorted out, this was a very very easy pattern to put together. In all fairness, it isnt quite a traditional dungaree that comes with a pinafore top (e.g. the one that was sewn on Season 2 of #GBSB). I prefer that pattern, but thought this was cute in its own way and frankly, it also makes a more comfortable fit as you can use knit fabric instead of the usual fabric choices of denim or corduroy. Conversely, this also makes it less ‘formal’ but I find that since babies grow so fast, its fun to sew patterns like this for him to run about in at home thus maximising the cuteness factor!

A few mistakes with this one – the pattern didnt match across the dungarees. The buttons and buttonholes were reversed but I thought that was a little negligible in the name of fashion progressiveness. The pattern calls for snap tape to be sewn into the diaper opening of the dungarees, but you can’t find snap tape for the love of God in Singapore so I just sewed in bias binding and then put in the snaps.

The pattern also provides the option of sewing a star applique on each leg, but I really (like really!) do not like sewing appliques as I find it way too tedious. But I can easily see how it would look oh-so-cute especially on stretch denim.

I usually put Boop straight into this without a onesie as it can get very hot in the afternoons. So far I’ve had no screams of protests and both snaps and buttons are still sturdy. I plan to make this again for Christmas as it will be cold by then and dungarees will come in very useful.

A small claim to fame – so I tweeted this pic of Boop to @Simplicity and it got retweeted as Simplicity’s Tweet of the Day!! Now how cool is that for an 8 month old baby ! 😉

Jung Chang’s Dowager Empress Cixi and other books

Despite my resolution *not* to buy more books in anticipation of shipping my considerable collection over to London, I ended up with these two books after half an hour’s browsing at Popular

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Reading was and still is a great passion of mine. I like books, both as objects and subjects. The bookshelves in my room easily hold about 100 books and many are more than a decade old and falling apart at the bindings. I have an expressed preference for English literature, social history and historical biographies. An odd nod to Mary Higgins Clark, John Grisham, and those GBP10 books at Tesco and Waitrose that make for light bedtime reading with a packet of crisps. Otherwise my shelves are filled with 18th to early 20th C books. I have been given many funny stares by friends, who can’t understand how I can plow through the ostensibly boring minutiae of life depicted in Pride and Prejudice, the sheer cynicism and human cruelty portrayed in Brighton Rocks, the hyperbole of Great Expectations, or the depressing lilt of The Remains of the Day. The greatest novel in my opinion? Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy. Best autobiography? Out of Place, Edward Said. Historical biography? Nicholas and Alexandra, Robert K Massie.

Even worse, or so it seems, is my love for social history. What value is there in reading about what people wore in the 18th century? Who cares how they cussed in those days…The irony is that I was never a history student. I studied geography right through to my A levels and even contemplated majoring in it at university. But then I ended up in government and this annoying little concept of path dependency arose during policy formulation.

Why do we undertake historical analysis? No doubt for its own sake, but also to understand the roots of today’s policy, as well as to serve as a comparator. I have the greatest respect for authors of history/social history/biographies because they have a tough job of triangulating views and voices, as well as distinguishing between primary and secondary sources. On hearing that I had bought Jung Chang’s Dowager Empress Cixi, a friend dryly remarked that “the author has written works of fiction”. My knowledge of Chinese history is sufficient, but not robust enough to have studied the original records of the Qing court to decrypt the scholarship. But it’s quite clear from the outset, that the portrait painted of Cixi by Jung Chang is revisionist. I have no quibble about Jung Chang’s attempt to rehabilitate Cixi’s image as a power-mad tyrant who ran a corrupt court filled with evil eunuchs thriving with poisonings and executions. But there is considerable airbrushing in this book. My own personal view is that Cixi was no more ruthless than other rulers. She introduced some reforms in the last years of her life; getting rid of foot binding, understanding the need for industrialisation and military reforms. But then again resentment against the Qing dynasty was so strong it collapsed 3 years after her death. She had political instinct, but within the confines of the Forbidden City. She was no stateswoman, and put a stop to sending children abroad for study after the British Warships fiasco.

So this brings me to the big question. What happens to all my books, in addition to the Other Half’s equally considerable book collection !? Well of course we hope that Boop will pick up reading as a habit. And by reading, we mean good old hard-copy books. Not e-books, as the tendency for young children to quickly skip the page to ipad game apps and what not is just too tempting. For now, Boop’s book collection consists of the usual nursery rhymes, fairy tales, sensory books, and the Children’s bible. He has a bed time reading routine, and is beginning to learn how to turn the pages.

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It will be interesting to see where Boop’s reading will veer towards as a teenager. The Other Half’s reading is similar to mine only where the Booker Prize shortlist is concerned, as well as the odd text from the secondary school English Literature curriculum. [ Duchess of Malfi, anyone!? 🙂 ]The Other Half likes to read and used to write poetry. Apart from a brief schoolgirl crush on Emily Bronte and her poetry, I do not. We both, however, buy copious amounts of recipe books and intend to buy more from this list http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/the-10-best-childrens-cookbooks-8588949.html, especially the Roald Dahl one for Boop to join us in the kitchen! For now, however, he is our little supermarket mascot 🙂

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Environmentalism and a Baby in a Garden City

“Sustainable development means more than environmental concern. What are the links between social policy and sustainable development?”
Ah, exam questions. Don’t you just love the anticipation, the adrenaline, the rush, the fear…and then the sheer physical and mental pain of scrawling and scratching away with a pen for the next 2 or 3 hours trying to argue your way as concisely as your head and handwriting will allow? I found an old exam paper from my MSc days chucked away at the corner of my cupboard as I was yet again, battling to find more space for Boop’s books and toys. Back when I was attending lectures for this module, I tried going vegetarian at least 3 times a week and downloaded several apps in an attempt to reduce my carbon footprint in other ways. Sustainable development and environmentalist philosophy is fascinating in the UK and US with dedicated activists expanding Transition Town networks across countries, as well as other localised trading systems or alternatives like time banks that use the exchange of time to forge stronger social capital in neighbourhood communities. And of course there is the Green Party and their key policy demands of a “Citizen’s Income” for all.
In Singapore, we are green, green garden city. We are, in fact, beautifully green with Gardens by the Bay. Who can forget the 50-meter-high solar-powered “supertrees” and climate-controlled biomes after a visit? They were the superb vision and sheer energy of Lee Kuan Yew, who sowed the first seedlings in Singapore – “I sent them on missions all along the Equator and the tropical, subtropical zones, looking for new types of trees, plants, creepers and so on. From Africa, the Caribbean, Latin, Middle, Central America, we’ve come back with new plants. It’s a very small sum. But if you get the place greened up, if you get all those creepers up, you take away the heat, you’ll have a different city”.
And of course, dotted around the island, there are troves of recycling bins, or just bins lest you get the infamous fine for littering. National policy aside, there are NGOs like the Edible Garden City that champions the “Grow Your Own Food” movement in land-scarce and import-dependent Singapore. This infectious group of Singapore farmpreneurs not only help corporates with foodscaping, but also seed the knowledge of food growing in schools. The Growell Pop Up, as its name suggests, is a pop up that hosts community based workshops on food sustainability. So there is stuff going on, just not perhaps on the scale where a discernible, ground-up narrative can be articulated. Back in LSE, the ideal was touted as a narrative that led to the emergence of a newly empowered ‘welfare citizen’ with ecological citizenship (Fitzpatrick), and this required a certain degree of self-actualisation and change in lifestyle expectations and values.
So anyway, since coming across that exam paper, I have been thinking again about my carbon footprint,over-consumption, and really, how to live simply. It’s trickier now, with a baby as much of what I do revolves around his schedule. Well, we did our weekly sensory play activity and did it on a shoestring budget of $5. I used sago and brown rice, as well as some pasta. The most expensive item at $.250 was shaving foam. wpid-20150401_134513.jpgBoop was a little puzzled when I first handed the bag to him but once he realised how fun it was to squish foam with green sago seeds and rice he played with it on his own for the next 10 minutes, and then on and off for the rest of the day.
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Food-wise, well, ha. My efforts to be healthy just went out the window…. partially because it’s just easier to grab ingredients you have in your fridge rather than run across to Giant when you have a baby. So I ended up roasting pork belly, which came out with unexpectedly fantastic crackling. Im not too sure if this was because I bought the unfrozen slices on the racks rather than the whole belly from the butcher, but I roasted it at 180dc for 45 minutes, and then turned it up to 200dc for about 5-10 minutes. No fancy ingredients other than olive oil, salt and thyme.
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I figured that with one sinful eat, why not make it two? 😉
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This blueberry cheesecake was an amalgamation of no-bake cheesecakes found online, consisting of cream cheese, sugar, double cream and blueberries. Digestive biscuits and butter for the base. It wasn’t the best cheesecake, but it did satisfy my cake craving which sort of sprang up suddenly at night after Boop fell asleep.
As for Boop, he loves his vegetables! So at least one person in the house was both healthy and environmentally friendly! So I’m not too sure I reduced my carbon footprint at all. But I guess it’s about recognising our limitations, both circumstantially as well as personally,while still making a daily effort at it in our own small way.

Cooking and Eating with Baby G

 

 

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Baby G is in his second month of weaning, and so far we’ve been cooking with recipes from Annabel Karmel and Emily Dupuche. We’re not averse to store bought baby food, and he has enjoyed pouches from Cow & Gate and Ella’s Kitchen when we were 2 weeks in London, as well as Geber and Heinz over here. His absolute favorite food, whether home cooked or store bought, is Cauliflower Cheese. He allows me to vary this by adding Broccoli and in general, can wolf down a whole portion within 10 minutes. He seems to have more of a savoury tooth for now; with an expressed preference for vegetable trios like carrots, peas and sweet potato, over apple purees. He hates bananas.

Anyway the point of this post was really about me wanting to ‘walk to the talk’. If I have every intention of encouraging my child to eat healthily and if I’m going to steam or boil everything in sight for him, then so should I for myself! So for today, it’s sweet potatoes and peas for Baby G, and a litre of celery, broccoli and apple juice for myself.

We each probably know someone in our social circles who is into healthy living, or even perhaps alternative food movements.I remember I first heard of raw foodism on Season 6 of Sex and the City, when Samantha was trying to get into bed with Jason Lewis’s character. I’ve never been to a raw food restaurant, and probably never will. I confess I have tried coffee enemas during my occasional ‘clean living’ resolutions that usually come about when I need to squeeze into an unforgiving cheongsam for a social event or function. I have, however, over the years, been quite persuaded by the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” by Joe Cross. The documentary is available on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mS0YA465ts. Cross has also made a follow-up documentary at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kLSs4OhS0o. Both are fascinating explorations into food ethnography and ethical eating.

I have no ethical objection to eating meat. My Facebook friends will know my love for cooking and eating through my album “Adventures with my Tefal”. Moral philosopher Peter Singer has argued that meat consumption is not necessary to the health and survival of most people living in developed countries. But eating meat has been a significant component of human evolution and is synergistic with what makes us human. From an animal consciousness perspective, I love animals but I love the taste of meat even more and much of my food obsession flows around mounds of pork belly, duck breast, and roast chicken. I acknowledge cognitive dissonance here.

Health-wise, Nobel Laureate Professor Harald zur Hausen has suggested that high red meat consumption is linked to both colorectal and breast cancers, highlighting the low incidence of both cancers in India where beef is not consumed for religious reasons. Some epidemiological studies also suggest a link between certain cooking processes e.g. grilling, and the production of carcinogens. A 2012 Harvard study showed evidence that regular consumption of red meat was linked to an increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality. However, the study also underlined that choosing more healthful sources of protein over red meat, conferred significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity and mortality. I do like beef, but I am not a regular consumer of red meat – beef is not regularly available at my local Giant and NTUC. Also, you cant really for the love of God find a restaurant in Singapore that serves a good steak (London has spoilt me).

But I consume chicken and pork regularly – you cannot really get by southeast asian cuisine iwithout! I do like my vegetables, but don’t eat them often enough. I therefore choose to juice as it sort of helps cram and compress these huge quantities of vegetables in one go, and is vastly more pleasant than actually eating vegetables. I have been doing this on an ad-hoc basis, so i’m making a resolution to make a litre of fruit and veg juice for myself while I cook Baby G’s portions every morning. I also hope to steam and poach more than fry, and for a start, will dedicate steaming to Monday, poaching to Wednesday, and Friday to boiling.

Poached salmon for tomorrow then? 🙂