Tweed beanie

Warm. Easy on the eye. Strong yet soft at the same time.

Oh, and the beanie ain't half bad, either. Ha!

Beanie #1

This was meant to be an intricate yet still manly cabled beanie for Galumph, but once I started doing the ribbing, I realised that the cable detail would get completely lost in the tweediness of the yarn. So I did some mods, and made a simple stocking stitch beanie instead.

Although I was rather looking forward to doing all the fancy cable work, I really like the simple gorgeousness of the tweed. It reminds me of clouds on a stormy day - full of blues and greys and blacks and greens.

I'm kinda hankering after some tweedy goodness for myself, now!

*off to peruse patterns on Ravelry*...

Project Details
Yarn: 2 balls of Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed in Ash 120 from Woolarium
Needles: 3.5mm and 4.5mm circular needles (magic loop method used)

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Perfect weather for knitting


Grey

As I sit here, it's steadily raining outside. The sky is one big sheet of grey, and I am knitting a beanie for Galumph and feeling blissfully happy. I LOVE the cooler months. I'm such a Cancerian crab at heart - liking nothing better than to be pottering around inside, sewing or knitting up a storm and thinking up new ways to keep my beloved ones warm and well fed. You can keep your summer days, with your posing bikini-clad beach goers, and melted ice creams, and sapping heat. As far as I'm concerned, the only good thing about summer is wearing summery frocks, and I reckon knitting on the couch as the rain gently pitter patters outside trumps even that!

Speaking of knitting, there's still a few spots left in the class I'm teaching this Saturday morning over at Handmaker's Factory, so if you fancy knitting up a storm this winter as well, come along and be shown the ways by moi! Not only will you have bucket loads of fun and learn a new skill, but you will also help me in my life long project of converting everybody I meet to the knitting way. Come, my friends... come over to the knit side!


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Quince paste

This morning I woke up to discover that I had a young daughter with the sniffles and a temperature. Checking the radar I discovered that there was a whole lot of rain also headed my way. Blast! Looks like I wasn't going anywhere soon.

Thankfully there was all those quinces just lying around the kitchen counter. I had sugar in the cupboard, and a whole day to fill in. Quince paste it was!

I've always been a bit trepidations about making quince paste. For some reason, preserve making in general fills my soul with terror. Maybe it's from studying years of microbiology at uni, but I always have a fear that something won't get sterilised properly, and I won't realise until I have proudly offered one of my nearest and dearest a taste of my home-made jam, only to watch them drop dead in front of me. However, I decided to gamble on making successful quince paste. After all, the thing is so jam packed (ha!) with sugar that even I couldn't muck it up, and no nasties would be able to live on it if they tried, sugar being such an excellent antibacterial.

So I said "Jorthy! Get thyself into the kitchen, and get cooking, you big old scaredy cat!", and I did. And now I am kicking back triumphantly, revelling in my quince paste-scented kitchen, waiting for the pots to cool down so I can gobble it with an oat biscuit and some stinky blue cheese.

Tyger is also lurking about, wondering when she can snaffle some, which makes me think that somebody will definitely be fine for school tomorrow.

Quince Paste

Quince paste

1.4kg quinces (about 4), peeled, cored and roughly cubed
125ml water
600g sugar

1 - Combine the quinces and water in a medium-sized saucepan, and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, and simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2 - Allow to cool, and then blend the water and quinces together until smooth (I used a stick blender, so I didn't have to wait aaaaaages for it to cool down). Then add the sugar to the quince puree, and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

3 - Turn the heat down to low, and cook very gently for 2 hours, stirring regularly to make sure the mixture doesn't stick and burn to the bottom of your pan. Watch out - the thing will begin to burp and splash out after the first hour. Cook until the mixture is very thick, and has turned a deep reddish colour.

4 - Take off the heat, and transfer into little pots or containers. Allow to cool, then cover with gladwrap and keep in the fridge until required. When serving, bring back to room temperature, and serve with a dry biscuit and some really nice blue cheese.

Make 4 small pots worth.

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Mad Men Challenge: A floral Betty dress

As soon as the marvellous Julia Bobbin announced her Mad Men sewing challenge was open, I knew that I had to absolutely, totally enter! The purpose of the challenge is to find a character who inspires you fashion-wise on Mad Men, and create a garment using them as inspiration. You could try and replicate a costume exactly, or just use their style as a loose guide - it is open to interpretation, as long as the vintage-y fabulousness of Mad Men style is paid homage to.

I had no doubt about who's style I wanted to emulate. For me there will only ever be one Mad Men gal who's frock I covet, and that is Betty. Yup, I can't go past Betty Draper Francis in full Jackie Kennedy glamour mode, and she rocks a floral print like nobody else.

Betty5

So I dove into my stash, found some perfectly Betty bloom printed cotton sateen and got sewing. The fabric was the easy part - it was choosing the pattern that gave me some grief. I was spoilt for choice, being in possession of quite a few vintage patterns, but was limited by only having 1.8m of fabric.

In the end I went with a modern pattern with a definite vintage feel: Simplicity 1873. Betty does love a full skirt, and the cute side tabs with buttons gave it a late 50's sliding into the 60's vibe that I just couldn't go past.

Look at the floral print! Adds a hint of warmth to a cold-hearted gal. Look at the prim and proper silhouette! Her life may be a mess but her dress is just the thing!

Big big big thanks to Julia for running this sew-a-long. I can't wait to see what everybody else come up with!

Betty1


Betty2


Betty3


Betty4

Project Details
Pattern: Simplicity 1873 (Cynthia Rowley)
Fabric: 1.8m printed cotton stretch sateen from Clegs
Notions: 55cm invisible zipper, lining, interfacing

Ok, so now I have the dress. If only I could have her hair, cheekbones and pearls as well!

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DIY T-shirt dress


DIY Tshirt Dress

Fancy turning a t-shirt into a gorgeous dress? Then I have the tutorial for you! I recently wrote a tute for Mum's Business showing how to upcycle a t-shirt into a funky frock - it's a brilliant way to give a new lease of life into a beloved tee that might not quite fit length-wise anymore, but still has plenty of wear left in it.

So hop on over and check the tutorial out! Not only is it quick and easy, but it's also an ideal project for beginner sewists. Seriously, Tyger has barely taken her version off since we made it!



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Who wore it better: Hermione or Tyger?

With cooler days rapidly approaching, it was time to gather the family together and ask some very important questions. Namely, who wanted a hat, and what colour did they want it in?

Being most excellent and supportive relations of me, both Galumph and Tyger showed appropriate levels of handknit excitement. In fact, after all these years I would be rather disappointed if they didn't start bouncing up and down with gusto at the very mention of knitting, if only to keep me happy. So I jumped on Ravelry and after far too many not enough hours spent browsing the patterns on offer found the perfect hat for Tyger.

"Quick, child!" I bellowed. "Come hither and tell me if you would like one of these! Fancy a hat like Hermione wears in HP6?"

Now, we're not quite at the teenage attitude years yet, but let me just say this: once Tyger clapped her eyes upon the fetching cable and eyelet beanie, I wouldn't have been surprised if her answer to my stupid question had of been "Duh, Mum, I totes want one", complete with accompanying eye roll. Thankfully she graced my idiotic query with an answering "Yes, please!", and then joined me in persuading Galumph that a trip to Woolarium was required, pronto. Have I mentioned that I love my girl SO MUCH? No eye rolls, and loves a good trip to the yarn store. I've hit the jackpot!

Two days later, and a fair whack of knitting on my part, and we now have a hat-off. Our version is a little bit more slouch than beanie, cos that's how we roll around these parts, but I will admit that Hermione does have better styled hair. As she would want to - it looks like she has her own personal stylist assigned 24/7!

So, who wore it better? Hermione or Tyger?

Hermione Hat #2


Hermione Hat #2

You know what - I'm calling it a draw. Any sort of knitted hat is fine fine fine with me. Viva le knitting needles!

Project Details
Pattern: Hermione's Cable and Eyelet Hat (and it's free! Hooray!)
Yarn: 1 skein Spud and Chloe Sweater in colour 7501, from Woolarium
Needles: 4mm circular

I did alter this pattern a smidge: I did a twisted rib for the ribbing, and went up a needle size. I used the magic loop method rather than dpns, too.

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Knitting is merely an excuse for apricot and pear cake


Cake


Sometimes I think that the best thing about knitting night - apart from the chance to do some knitting with some freaking awesome gals! - is the baking that goes along with it. Yay for cake!

Ach, who am I kidding? I would probably host a dog-poop-scoop-up walk if I knew that there would be cake at the end of it.

Recipe here.

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Mad Men Musings...

Mad Men Musings

Hold on to your hats, people - I have a big Thursday night planned! That's right, I'll be at my kitchen table, thinking cap firmly on the old scone, trying to figure out which one of these I can make out of 2 metres of fabric for Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Challenge.

I *really* want to make something out of the pink roses fabric in the background - it's so Betty, n'est-ce pas? - but if worst comes to worst then I'll just have to switch my allegiance to Joan and make a va-va-voom number out of 3 metres of red fabric that I have hiding in my stash instead.

Who else is Mad Men-ing? I'd better get my sew on - it's due by the end of the month. Yikes!

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Monthly menu plan - March/April


Fruit bowl

Nom nom nom! I love it when the days begin and end with a cool crispness, but you get that lovely soft warmth in the middle. The last of the summer fruits are just begging to be stewed and baked into cakes, and the quinces are starting to shyly make themselves known to the porridge bowl. Plus there's Easter, and all the chocolate-related excuses it brings!

If anybody wants me, I'll be in ze kitchen!

Week One
Monday - Baked potatoes with red coleslaw, sour cream and cheese
Tuesday  - Spinach and ricotta cannelloni in a chunky lentil and vegetable sauce
Wednesday - Ham, cheese and pea frittata with salad
Thursday - Caprese soup with garlic bread
Friday - Vegie burgers with sweet potato wedges
Saturday - Out for dinner with friends. Yay!
Sunday - Homemade ravioli (made with Tyger, I'll let her pick a recipe on the day)

Week Two
Monday - Tomato, olive, mushroom and bocconcini gnocchi bake with salad
Tuesday  - Pumpkin curry with silverbeet and chickpeas on brown rice
Wednesday - Jamie's spicy pasties with garden salad
Thursday - Silverbeet and potato soup with savoury scones
Friday - Lentil cottage pies with buttery corn cobs
Saturday - Spaghetti and meatballs
Sunday - Roast chicken

Week Three
Monday - Creamy chicken and vegetable pasta (with leftover roasted chicken)
Tuesday  - Chickpea, silverbeet and roasted cauliflower wraps
Wednesday - Ratatouille on cheesy polenta
Thursday - Pea, asparagus and rice soup
Friday - Smoked salmon, almond and broccoli pilaf
Saturday - Homemade burgers
Sunday - Butter chicken with rice and vegetables

Week Four
Monday - Roasted vegetable lasagne
Tuesday  - Sweet potato and coriander falafels
Wednesday - Chicken and lentil soup
Thursday - Roast pumpkin and feta tarts with rocket salad
Friday - Salmon and broad bean pasta bake with salad
Saturday - Tofu burgers with coleslaw plus a tomato salad
Sunday - Homemade pizza

Week Five
Monday - Tortellini with pumpkin, sage and cream sauce plus salad
Tuesday  - Lamb and cashew biryani
Wednesday - Baked potatoes with all the trimmings
Thursday - Hearty lentil and vegetable soup with cheesy toasts
Friday - Tuna pies with potato topping, and salad

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More mermaids!

When Tyger was younger one of her favourite books was called More Bears! The tale recounts the efforts of a poor author who is attempting to write a story, but is continually interrupted by a voice from just over the page demanding that the story contain "More bears!" So the author is obliged to quiet the maddening, demanding voice the only way he knows how - by adding more bears to a story that initially he was determined would have no bears at all. Poor old chap.

As you can imagine, Tyger LOVED this story. Especially since I would have do raspy bear-requesting voices plus an increasingly disgruntled author voice. She's pretty big on funny voices, which is quite a relief, as I am pretty big on doing them, and can see myself not growing out of that habit any time soon.

Anyway - to the point of this blog post. As I have measured and cut and stitched and sewn and stuffed this week, and watched a growing pile of softies form on our sad cracked vinyl couch, one little sentence has kept popping in to my head these last few days.

"MORE MERMAIDS!"

Mermaids

The darn school fete sure better appreciate these, that's all I can say!

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Yellow stripes and black buttons


Yellow Stripes Dress #2


Yellow Stripes Dress #4

Tyger loved the other version of this dress that I made so much that I thought I'd best make her another one before she grew too tall for it. Why oh why can they not make children's dress patterns in a size larger than 8 year old? Big Four, I'm looking at squarely at you.

This version has sleeves, and I will say this: although I generally love this pattern, the sleeves were a pain in the behind to put in, and really don't warrant the effort involved. Bias binding and an elastic casing that doesn't even go all the way along the sleeve edge? What were they thinking?

Niggling sleeve issues aside, Tyger is very happy with this version, and I am happy that I have done some (trumpets please) STAAAASH BUUUUUSTING! I'm sure there is some law of fabric buying out there that states that if a sewist uses fabric from stash, they are then eligible to purchase more fabric to the power of 5 to replace said fabric. Use a metre? Congrats - now go get 5 metres to replace it. Lucky you!

What's that you say? There's no such law? There totally should be. I'm happy for it to be called Jorth's Law of Stash Vs Fabric Purchasing. There, look - it's all official now! Y'all can thank me later when you are quoting it to exasperated cohabiters who are concerned about the stash slowly but surely taking over the entire house.

Project DetailsPattern: New Look 6884, view B (minus the side ties), size 8
Fabric: 1.8m cotton quilting from stash
Notions: Iron-on interfacing, 6 buttons


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Mermaid

It's that time of year again. The time that sends a shudder down any crafter's spine. That's right - it's time for the school fete. Yikes! And since softies always sell like hot cakes (much to the chagrin of the people of the cake stall), it was time to arm myself with some drafting paper, some felt and enough stuffing to fill an elephant. Or a mermaid, in this case.

Considering it took only 2 hours from idea on paper to actual mermaid toy, I'm pretty darn pleased with her. Yes, the arms could be lengthened, and she is a bit on the slim side but it could have been worse - I could have given her a beer belly. That's what usually happens with my softies!

Mermaid

I'm well pleased with her. In fact, I think it all went swimmingly. HAR! That's right, folks, I'll be here all week. Hold the rotten tomatoes, please!

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Better than pancakes


Waffles

Can you believe it? For once we didn't forget that it was Shrove Tuesday, and busted out the pancakes for breakfast. Yay us!

"Coughcough" interrupts Galumph.

Ok, ok. So we made waffles instead. Close enough, and totally within the celebratory Lenten boundaries. Seriously, no need to be picky!

"CoughcoughWHOmade'em?" interrupts Galumph (again).

Geez! Who are you, the blog honesty police? Alright already, so Galumph made the waffles. I didn't even think of doing them, as I was too busy doing my zombie walk into the shower. I am no good to anybody until I've had at least 3 minutes under the water to wake up in. Plus 2 cups of tea.

"CoughcoughWHOmakesthetea?" interrupts you know who.

Good grief man! Ok, you're my hero! Breakfast and life in general would be far more miserable without you around. Happy now?

Strange lack of coughing. But there is the sound of waffles being demolished. I'll take that as yes, he is happy now. Enjoy your Lent, peoples and remember, it's not too late to make some pancakes (or waffles, even!) for dinner tonight if you are as hopeless as I am in the mornings. Especially drenched in maple syrup and topped with sliced banana. Yummo!

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Striped Christmas Dress

Ach! This is a lesson in the art of prompt photography. For if you don't take a picture of your girl wearing the dress you finished for her in December, by the time you do it at the end of February she will have (a) grown another 4 inches and (b) be covered in bather tan marks!

Ok, so maybe not quite 4 inches, but she sure has shot up this summer! She better get as much wear as she can out of this frock during the last of the heat, because by the time next summer rolls around it will be a tunic on her, rather than a dress!

Christmas Dress #2


Christmas Dress #4

Ok, so to the pattern review. I wasn't a big fan of this dress. Mostly because I really wanted the petals to sit right up on the bodice line, just like on the pattern photo, but since the petals are one-size-fits-all, if you are making it up in a size 8 like I did, then they just sit weirdly halfway along the bodice length. Bah humbug! So to remedy this I ended up redrafting the entire bodice piece, then altering the waistband to make it all fit. That's a lot of faffing around just to get some petals looking nice.

And then, of course, the darn petals just flopped everywhere after the first wear, so now I need to hand sew them flat to the bodice. STUPID PETALS!

I also ran out of fabric to make the skirt band. Not sure if this was my fault for reading the pattern requirements wrong (is it just me, or is figuring out your fabric requirements super tricky for the Project Runway patterns, what with all their options and choices? I thought I'd erred on the side of caution, but apparently not!) or if the pattern itself was at fault, but I ended up with a skirt not quite as long as I would have liked, event though I did lengthen the skirt to make up for the bodice alteration shortfall. I could always go back to the fabric store and buy some more fabric, but I feel the moment has well and truly passed, people.

The dress has buttons on the back (I went for cute red and white polka dot ones, to contrast against the stripes), but I feel a zip would have done the job more easily and neatly.

Anyway, despite the faffing around, it ended up a very sweet dress to wear to Christmas mass, and for our Christmas day family picnic. And having a happy girl at Christmas is what it's really all about.

Project Details
Pattern - Simplicity 2265
Fabric - 3m of 115cm wide cotton quilting
Notions - Lining for bodice, interfacing, 3 buttons

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Creative Frenzy


Yellow Stripe Dress

Boy oh boy, it sure is busy around these parts. My days are filled with freelance content writing, knitting up samples for my own range of knitting patterns, sewing dolls for the school fete, finishing off some clothes for Tyger, and scratching my head and wondering why oh why did I rashly promise to make jam for the aforementioned fundraiser. I don't even do jam for us!

So if you pass by my house and notice smoke issuing from a window, fear not - that's just me burning rubber with my sewing frenzy. And if you see sparks coming from an open door, don't call the fire brigade - that's just me knitting so hard I could start a fire with my needles. And if you smell burnt marmalade then... well, maybe go for the raspberry at the fete jam stall instead.

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Monthly Menu Plan - February/March


Bananas

I am so glad that it is beginning to cool down around these parts. Hot weather knocks me for a six, and I don't even want to think about food, and am happy to just eat the same salad day after day - anything, as long as I don't have to turn on the oven!

So bring on the cooler weather, I say, and I'll bring my cooking mojo back! Starting, naturally, with this meal plan.

Week One
Monday - Cucumber and lettuce vichyssoise (from River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Tuesday - Sausages with potato salad and coleslaw at the park
Wednesday - Roasted pumpkin soup with garlic bread
Thursday - Macaroni and cheese with rocket salad
Friday - Chard and new potato curry on brown rice (from River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Saturday - Attending a wedding, so no cooking for me!
Sunday - Tofu burgers


Week Two
Monday - Frittata with summer vegetables and garden salad (from River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Tuesday - Summer soup au pistou
Wednesday - North African squash stew (from River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Thursday - Lamb and burghul pilaf
Friday - Bruschetta with asparagus, French beans and feta, plus a tomato salad
Saturday - Asparagus and zucchini green curry
Sunday - Roast chicken


Week Three
Monday - Chicken pasta with rocket
Tuesday - Tomato, thyme and feta tart with a gardens salad (River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Wednesday - Smoked trout baguettes with chilled pea soup
Thursday - Lemon pepper pilaf
Friday - Ravioli with tomato and basil sauce
Saturday - Hamburgers with apple coleslaw
Sunday - Home made tacos with roasted vegetables and spicy tomato sauce


Week Four
Monday - Jambalaya
Tuesday - Rocket pesto pasta with roast pumpkin, cherry tomatoes and feta
Wednesday - Cauliflower curry with quinoa
Thursday - Jacket potatoes topped with fresh vegetables and roasted tomato sauce
Friday - Home made pizza (mushroom + cheese, plus roasted veg)

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New yarn!

Oh my goodness! I seriously think that this might be one of the most exciting days of my life, for the yarn for one of my designs is now in my hot little hands!

Spud & Chloe Yarn

I'd chat more, peoples, but I've got swatching to do with this pure unadulterated lusciousness!

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Kimono Jacket

What's there not to like about a baby knit, eh? They are pretty quick to knit up, look super cute and are a great way to teach yourself some new skills without having a major yarn investment involved. Likey like!

Kimono Jacket

I only wish that I was a better knitter when Tyger was born. She would have looked pretty darn sweet in a ballerina wrap top like this! I am loving that moss stitch border. If only it wasn't going to be 40 C tomorrow, I would sit and moss stitch all the day long.

Project Details
Pattern: Kimono Jacket from Noro Collection #1 by Debbie Bliss
Yarn: 4 balls Filatura Di Crosa Zara in yellow
Needles: 3.25mm and 4mm

Find it on Ravelry here.

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A big yellow hug

I have been working like fury on launching my own range of knitting patterns later this year, and while I await delivery of the first batch of yarn destined to be knit up for pattern #1 (exciting!) I'm taking the time to finish up all the half-finished knitting projects lying around.

That included this soft and cuddly hot water bottle cover. I have wanted to make this ever since I saw it in Rowan Knitting Magazine #28 over 10 years ago, and finally got around to knitting one up. Once it was all finished, and we gave it a trial run, Tyger took hold of it and exclaimed that it was like "having a big yellow hug!"

Hottie

Well, who can say no to a big yellow hug? Not me!

Speaking of all things huggable and knitting, if you fancy a big yellow hug of your very own but lack the knitting skills, come along to one of the hand knitting classes I teach at Handmaker's Factory. Next one is Feb 15th. I'll have you knitting like a pro in no time!

Project Details
Pattern: Hottie by Kim Hargreaves, from Rowan Knitting Magazine #28
Yarn: 2 balls Rowan Kid Classic
Needles: 4mm and 5mm

Ravelried here.

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The Cats Pyjamas

Galumph is a man who really likes lounging around on lazy weekend afternoons, totally comfortably in his pyjamas. He would also, given the choice, have a fat purring cat nearby but alas! allergies have put the kibosh on the cat dream.

So Tyger and I put our heads together when making his Christmas present this year. He might not be able to have a cat, but there's nothing stopping us from making him some cat pyjamas!

Using an ancient Simplicity pattern that I will probably be using when I'm 98 to make myself some jimmyjams, I set Tyger loose with the good scissors and the pins, and lo and behold she pretty much made the pjs all by herself! I helped out with some topstitching and inserting the elastic, but apart from that they are almost 100% child labour. Er, that's a good thing in this instance, right?

PJs #1

Tyger was chuffed with her efforts, and as you can from the pictures the pyjamas have slotted in nicely to the Sunday afternoon lounging sessions.

PJs #2

Project Details
Pattern: Simplicity 5338 (out of print)
Fabric: Japanese cotton/polyester cat print from GJ's Discount Fabrics
Notions: Elastic for waistband

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