Monday, April 29, 2013

The story of my new boots


I bought a new pair of boots on the weekend. I love them - they are black, fit exactly right,  and have a cool chunky exposed zip. Classic with an edge. Perfect with jeans, perfect with winter dresses. You can spend decades looking for the perfect boot, so I am really really really glad I found it.

And the best part is that the boots were made here in Australia. I can't remember the last time I saw shoes made here in Oz, but these were. Admittedly they were on the pricey side, but every time I thought about getting a cheaper pair I kept having images flash in my head of the poor people buried alive in the clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh. Sure, the other boots might have saved me a few dollars, but at a morally reprehensible cost to somebody else. And that I just couldn't do.

So I paid the big bucks, and walked out of the shop happy that I had chosen a pair of boots that were made in decent conditions by well paid workers right here at home. Plus these boots can be resoled and reheeled for years to come - if I look after them properly, I should have them for a long long time. My well made, well looked after boots will be the very antithesis of fast fashion. And even though I have pretty much blown my entire clothing budget for the year on them, I think I've made a good choice.

I know I touched on the subject of fast fashion only a few weeks ago, but this latest tragedy has made me realise once again how far removed we are, as consumers, from the production conditions of so many of the things we buy. There's a great opinion piece in today's Age newspaper, and one of the points made really struck a cord with me. The author states:
How much are my modern first-world luxuries dependent upon the dark satanic mills of a Dickensian global south? And if I would never buy battery hen eggs then why on earth would I buy clothes made in similar conditions?

Exactly. So that's my goal from now on - if I can't be making my own clothes (or those of Tyger) I shall be doing my utmost to make sure that the clothes I do buy are from companies whose workers get fair conditions and proper pay. I might not have a bulging wardrobe, but at least I won't have a guilty one.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Monthly Menu Plan - April/May

Zucchini Pasta

Yay for autumn! There are so many things I love about this time of year - rugging up in coats and gloves, leaves fluttering to the ground in front of you like a golden blessing, shops all brightly lit on grey days. But one of the absolute best things is being in the kitchen, enjoying all the autumn produce.

I am a much bigger fan of hearty food than I am of salads and light things, so autumn cooking suits me right down to the ground. It's also much easier to be frugal in the kitchen this time of year, with all the pulses and grains coming in to play, which is awesome if you are watching the dollars. I love being able to grab an onion and some root vegetables from the grocer, then come home and rummage in the cupboard for some lentils and voila! Some tinned tomatoes and an hour later you have one awesome winter soup bubbling away on the stove. Just the thought of it makes me happy!

Yup. Soup. I could totally do autumn all year round!

Anyway, enough of that and my soup love - on to the menu plan.

Week One
Monday - Zucchini and pea risotto, topped with loads of parmesan and fresh rocket
Tuesday - Puy lentil, pasta and vegetable soup (an on the fly minestrone, if you like)
Wednesday - Tomato, spinach and potato dhal
Thursday - Pumpkin and silverbeet penne
Friday - Cauliflower and cheese soup with garlic bread
Saturday - Vegetable pasta bake
Sunday - Silverbeet and potato soup

Week Two
Monday - Roast chicken with vegetables
Tuesday - Pumpkin laksa, using left over roast chicken
Wednesday - Potato and leek soup with olive foccacia
Thursday - Chickpea and spinach curry with quinoa
Friday - Tofu burgers with wedges
Saturday - Spaghetti and meatballs with garden salad
Sunday - Spinach crepes with mushrooms

Week Three
Monday - Tuna shepherd's pie with salad
Tuesday - Silverbeet and cauliflower wraps
Wednesday - Sausage ragu with parmesan mash
Thursday - Curried sweet potato soup
Friday - Home made pizza with salad
Saturday - Chicken and pesto lasagne with salad
Sunday - Spiced carrot and coconut soup

Week Four
Monday - Sweet potato and ricotta cannelloni
Tuesday - Silverbeet and feta parcels with roasted tomatoes
Wednesday - Bacon, vegetable and lentil soup with crusty bread
Thursday - Roasted vegetable, chickpea and feta couscous with lamb chops
Friday - Zucchini pasta

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Totally awesome yarn interview

Purple Yarn

Hello everybody! Here today on Jorth we are interviewing these lovely balls of Sublime yarn. G'day, fellas! Although, now I look more closely, there aren't as many of you as when we first met. What's happening?

Yarn: Ya, dude, I know! Our numbers are being, like, totally depleted. It's pretty full on.

Interviewer: Tell us about it! There used to be 12 of you, but now we are down to 4! Can you explain that?

Yarn: It's like this Dapple dress, dude. Jorth is knitting like a maniac. Something to do with some shiz she was sprouting about getting it done in like, I dunno, 3 weeks or some crap? Anyway, she's blitzing through us like a gnarly dude carving up some air!

Interviewer: Wowsers! She certainly is knitting you up quickly, although you are yet to see the needles yet. How does that feel?

Yarn: I'm like, you know, totally missing my comrades and shiz, but I hope to join my brothers in yarn soon. She's like whacking through a ball a day. Soon we'll all be together dude! And, you know, we'll be a dress and shiz, but I'm cool with that. Handknits are like totally dope, bro!

Interviewer: Indeed! Well, thanks for joining us, and we'll be watching closely to see if Jorth can indeed get a dress knitted in 3 weeks.

Yarn: Laters, dude!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coconutty Jam Drops

Jam Drops

I am a fiend - an absolute fiend - for coconut in baked goods. Cannot get enough of the stuff! So when Galumph and the Tyger decided to bake some jam drops on Sunday, I was all "YO! PUT SOME COCONUT IN DEM COOKIES, Y'ALL!"

I'm not sure why I hollering at them in an atrocious home girl accent, but it worked. They whacked in some coconut, and boy oh boy - are these things hot diggity dog delicious!!

Coconutty Jam Drops

125g butter, softened
1/2 cup raw caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cup self-raising flour
2/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup raspberry jam

1 - Preheat oven to 180 C (or 170 C if fan forced). Line two trays with baking paper. Use an electric beater to beat the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until pale and creamy. Add the egg, and mix until combined.

2 - Sift the flour into the butter mixture, and add the coconut. Mix well to combine.

3 - Roll teaspoons of the mixture into balls. Place each ball onto a baking tray, leaving some room for the biscuits to spread. Flatten the biscuit slightly, then use a finger to poke an indentation into each biscuit. Fill the indentation with jam.

4 - Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown. Cool on tray for 5 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Beach #4

Beach #2

Beach #1

Beach #3

I'd forgotten how good it feels to get sand between your toes. And to breathe in briny, chilled air. To walk for miles, and not see anybody else. Just you, the ocean, your footprints. Which rapidly are reclaimed by the sea.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Knitting vs Nature

"C'mon, honey!" implored the Galumph. "Put the knitting down for a while, and come for a nature ramble. There'll be fresh salty air, ocean views, native forests to walk through - you'll love it!"

Jorth eyed him hard over the top of her ribbing. "Will it be a nice clean walk?", she asked. "There's rain forecast for the next seven days, so I don't want any post-walk muddy laundry hanging around."

"Clean as a whistle!" assured the Galumph. "Your sneakers will be so clean by the end of it that you could eat off them, if you so wished."

Dirty Shoes

Dear Reader - he lied. Next time I'm staying home with the knitting!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The beginnings of Dapple

Purple Cables

Thanks for all the knitting love yesterday - you guys are the best! And what do we have here? Could it possibly be more cables? Yessiree, it is!

So emboldened am I by my cabling success that I have thrown myself giddily at another cable project: Dapple by Kim Hargreaves. Can't. Stop. The. Cabling! And after using 3mm needles for so long, these 5mm needles are making this feel like one speedy knit. I only started it at the beginning of the week, and I'm already up to my raglan decreases. Wheeeeee!

I'm going to go crazy here, and give myself 3 weeks to get this dress done. Back done one week, front done the next, sleeves and seaming the week after. Can it be done? Ach, what's life without a few challenges now and then, eh?

Over to you folks!

3 weeks to knit a dress? Can old Jorthy do it? free polls 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Isabel Cable and Little Branch dress is done!


Cable Dress #2

Cable Dress #3

Cable Dress #4

Cable Dress #5

Finally! After much blood, sweat and tears, the Isabel Cable and Little Branch Dress is done!

Ok, so there wasn't any actual blood spilt whilst making this dress, but there was a lot of sweat, and I could have cried tears of pure frustration at certain points. I'll admit - this was a challenging project for somebody who had never done cables before, and I frogged the back 3 times before I got it right.

The first time was totally and utterly my fault - I made the classic mistake of crossing my cables the wrong way. I didn't discover this error until I'd done another two pattern repeats. Then, when I finally did clue on, I decided to ignore it, and did another couple of pattern repeats, hoping that it would all just disappear. But that mistake just wouldn't evaporate into thin air, no matter how hard I wished it would. It keep catching my eye, and that annoying school marmish voice in my head keep warning me that I would regret it FOREVER if I didn't fix it. So with a great big sigh, I frogged.

As I frogged, I reflected that it was probably a good thing, as I seemed to keep making another mistake during the first row of my pattern repeat. Where there should have been seamless cables there was instead a big lumpy mass of purl stitches. Putting it down to my cable inexperience, I carefully did my pattern repeats, but that pesky error kept resurfacing. So I frogged again.

And again. Geez - was I turning out to be bad at this cable business!

However, after the third frog I decided that surely it couldn't be all me. I jumped on the internets, and found - to my mingled horror and relief - that the pattern was written wrong. GAH! I knew I couldn't suck that badly!

So if you ever make this dress, do the following for the back: Knit the first pattern repeat as written (rows 9 - 32), but then start your pattern repeat from row 21 through to 32. Repeat until done.

My other worry was that the dress wouldn't fit. There had been some chatter online about how small the sizings of the garments in this book were, so I was fretting a bit about it fitting Tyger. Thankfully it does fit her, but I will admit I steam blocked like heck, stretching it out as much as I could without distorting it.

Apart from those niggles, I am super super super happy and proud of this dress. The yarn (Amy Butler Belle Organic) knitted up like a dream, and is warm without being too weighty. Quite a few people who have made this dress up on Ravelry have only knitted the back pattern, but I'm glad I took the plunge and did the branch pattern for the front. The joy of doing those bobbles alone made it worth it (cue cringing from readers over my admission of bobble fondness).

Would I knit it again? Sure - but only if it came in a grown up size. How awesome would that be?!?

Project Details
Pattern: Isabel Cable and Little Branch Dress from Labour of Love by Vibe Ulrik Sondergaard
Yarn: 7 balls of Amy Butler Belle Organic DK (50% organic wool/ 50% organic cotton) in shade #032 (Ash)
Needles: 3mm, 4mm and 2 cable needles

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tyger demands handmade!

I was chatting recently with Tyger, my daughter, about the Handmaker's Factory pledge - basically, to minimise your clothing footprint, you choose to make as many of your clothes as possible. This lead to a great discussion about how little our clothing costs us now compared to other times in history, and how the back bone of our cheap clothes is often poor exploited workers with no rights in third world countries. It's a dreadful case of out of sight, out of mind, yet our desire for $8 t-shirts has a devastating effect on so many people every day.

I could see the Tyger chewing over this new information carefully for a while. She then announced that she'd like to take the pledge too.

Now, I'll admit - my first reaction was to panic. "For the love of mud, child!", I thought. "As if I don't have enough to do, without making all of your clothes as well!"

But then I thought, dammit Jorth - don't be such a hypocrite. Why shouldn't me and my girl get together to make her new clothes as needed? This is what I figure - if we can teach them young to avoid the consumer culture that has such a damaging effect - not only on people, but on communities, the environment and even the loss of once-common skills - then it really doesn't matter that I might feel too busy to do this. My girl wants to make a difference, and by gee - I'm going to help her do it, even if it means burning the midnight oil.

So we devised her a winter wardrobe plan, and one most excellent shopping trip later, came home with these:



The fabric will be made into a couple of shirts and three dresses. I'm quite excited about the prospect of an elephant dress. How cute is that going to be?!?

The yarn will be made up into a Sea Princess Cardigan and this Sirdar cardigan, using one of my all time favourite yarns, the Amy Butler Belle Organic. You should have seen me race over to Sunspun to snaffle up as much as I could when I heard it was being discontinued. Noooooooooo! It's such a blimming awesome yarn - warm, brilliant stitch definition, great colours. I feel I'm losing a reliable friend to a far off destination, ne'er to be seen again. Sniff! Anyway, it's heavily discounted at Sunspun, which made these two cardigans absolute bargains, so if you love it as much as I do, get yourself some pronto!

So that's me kept busy for the next few weeks, err, months. Busy fingers and clear conscience. Just the way I like it!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Pattern Review: Oliver + S Pinwheel Tunic

Oliver + S #1

Oliver + S #2

Oliver + S #3

As soon as I laid eyes on the gorgeous Pinwheel Tunic by Oliver + S, I knew I had to make it! There are so many things I love about this pattern: the flounce, the bias binding finishing, the keyhole back tied up with a bow - it is an ideal pattern for little girls who like to actively play, but still appreciate the girly details. And that, in my mind, makes for a perfect child's pattern: it allows the wearer to feel good in their clothes, without compromising on comfort, wearability or constrict them in any way.

I made this up in a size 10, which is a wee bit big for the Tyger at the moment, but since we were heading into the end of summer, I figured I'd make it with next summer in mind. She loves it - and who wouldn't fall for a sweet cherry-on-pink motif?

Check it out more over on Handmaker's Factory - I think it might now be time for a cup of tea and some knitting with the Tyger. I love school holidays!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Knitting and sewing classes


Hurro! I am super excited to announce that we are now running classes over at Handmaker's Factory! We are doing both sewing and knitting classes, so if you have always wanted to learn how to make your own garments, then you should come along!

Now, I know what you are thinking (besides "YAY!", of course): What the devil do those biscuits have to do with learning how to sew or knit? Well, we couldn't have you come along and not feed you delicious homemade treats, now could we?

And if that's not enough to hook you in, there'll be endless cups of tea and coffee, the scintillating and dazzling company of yours truly and Nichola of Nikkishell, and if you are really lucky, you'll probably also be subjected to one of my bad jokes. What's not to love?

So book a class on our web shop, and we'll look forward to seeing you there!