Shopping Bag Mk II

The floppiness of the Mk I version did not please me. Looking again at the synthetic original, it has bound edges which act as stiffening. I’ve made up the same pattern again with a few significant changes:
1. The seams are done as inside out french seams for the stiffening effect
2. The base reinforcement only extends to the fold line, not beyond
3. Stiffer fabric. This is a pretty linen canvas (or so I conclude) remnant from Laura Ashley. Good fabric for the purpose.


This folds nicely more easily too, which pleases me. If I make the handles a cm shorter each side, the folding will work even better. Hurrah, I have a workable pattern and several bags to be going on with.



Pink Quince Chutney

and some other things.

I’ve had a lovely time the last three days, working on making things out of quince for the first time.

Back in June I bought some quinces. I’d been thinking on things that could be used to give character to cider made from boring commercial juice. I got all excited when I thought of quinces! They are in the same botanical family as apples. I’m not alone in this thought. At least one of the Tasmanian cider houses makes a cider partly from quinces. So given we were just past quince season, I thought I’d see if I could still get some. Yes! I bought 4 crazy knobbly yellow quinces. Roughly peeled cored and chopped, rested in water until all were done. Gave 1.5kg (admittedly wetted) quince flesh. I put that in a bag in the freezer to begin the juice process.

Then two days ago I took them out of the freezer, let them defrost a little on their own until the pieces could be broken apart. Put them into the slow cooker, added ~100g sugar (the last of the dextrose I had), a kettle of boiling water and a litre of cold. Left this cooking on slow for 10 hours. Yellow fruit flesh turned pink.

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I’d never cooked quinces before. I was a bit surprised that they taste and smell so marmelady. After musing on that flavour for an hour or so I decided to add a bit of honey. Then added pectinase for juice extraction and clarity. Also a camden tablet to sterilise. Keep it warm 24hrs, then filter through a bag to extract the juice. Combine with commercial apple juice and pitch some yeast to make a cider


After juice extraction, I was left with about 500ml of pink quince pulp, less than a quarter of the original fruit volume.


What to do with it? Chutney I concluded. I decided to try to keep the pink colour though. I had fun coming up with a recipe I thought might manage that, and keep the flavour to the elegant, floral side of things. This is what I came up with:

500g quince pulp
6 granny smith apples and one pear, grated (~1.2kg)
~120g strawberries, chopped.
2 handfuls currants
white peach pulp, dried (was from 1kg fruit, used to make cider previously)
500g white sugar
500ml white wine vinegar
1t pink peppercorns (picked locally), coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle
Seeds from 6 green cardamom pods, a bit bashed
1t powdered ginger (because I have way too much in the house)
1/4t rose water
One cassia stick
One whole star anise
Split vanilla pod used twice before
Apple and quince juice from the cider density sample

The spices looking pretty before addition:


The mixture before cooking:


Bring the lot to a simmer. There was not a lot of liquid, so I cooked it for half an hour or so with the lid on, then with the lid off for maybe an hour? Until one can expose the bottom of the pan briefly by dragging the spoon through. Turn off the heat and rest for 10 min, then bottle to sterilised jars


Yay, it stayed pink! Here’s hoping it tastes good too in a month or so after it’s had time to mellow. As is traditional in my kitchen, some of the mostly exhausted spices are doing last duty in stewed fruit for breakfasts. This is 4 large pears, half a punnet of strawberries, about a dessert spoon of sugar, half a glass of white wine and the vanilla and cassia from above.


Prosaic Project

This isn’t fascinating but I’m still pleased to have done it. I’ve been meaning to replace my collection of synthetic shopping bags with cotton or linen ones. This is a good start. I like the shape of the supermarket issued ones, so I copied the measurements. Mine are floppier which might be a bit irritating in use. They sure feel nicer to the fingers though. The fabric is a brushed, dense cotton twill suiting left over from a pair of trousers.


They look neater folded flat. I doubt this will happen often though. They may never look this neat again.


I’m a little disappointed that I miss positioned one of the handles. Oh well.

These are done with my first thought on construction. Front/base/back is all one piece for strength. There is an extra layer in the base for reinforcing. The sides are separate pieces. I have a few other different thoughts and plans to make a few more. Patterning and/or construction decisions might well be influenced by the shape of the fabric pieces.

Of course I had to put labels on.


Strawberry Sauce and Parfait

It’s a while since I’ve posted food things here. Some of my more experimental recipes get recorded elsewhere. I suppose this blog feels like it’s becoming focussed on fabric, fibre and sewing. I’ll mix it up today with some food.

It’s strawberry season here. I weakened and bought another three punnets a few days ago, so I had to decide on something to turn them into. I settled on a paired set of recipes where one uses the leavings of another, and happily consumes leftover ingredients I happened to have in the house.


Strawberry sauce

500g strawberries, washed hulled and halved
200g sugar
~3T lemon juice
the vanilla pod left over from a brewing adventure.
~1/2c white wine

Bring all slowly to a simmer, take off the heat. Mash the fruit until it’s pulpy. Put the lot through a sieve but don’t get too fussy about getting all the juice out. Put the pulp aside and chill it. Put the juice back in the pan and bring back to a simmer for 5min. Bottle into sterilised containers. This made ~400ml.


Strawberry Parfait/Semifreddo

This is inspired by a Cassata recipe much loved by my family. It’s easy and tasty though one needs to be willing to eat uncooked eggs. I make lots of versions of this.

3 egg whites
small pinch salt
heaped half cup icing sugar
1 cup cream
3 egg yolks
the strawberry pulp from above

Beat egg whites with the salt to firm peaks, slowly beat in sugar. Put aside. Beat cream until firm. Beat in egg yolks. Mix in strawberry pulp. Fold together with the egg white mixture. Freeze.

One can stir it during the freezing so that it doesn’t set so hard, or just leave it and serve in slices.


Gold Waistcoat

I’ve been meaning to make a waistcoat for a while. My old ones don’t fit (sadness). There was a party last night that made a good excuse. I took the fitted bodice pattern from this dress, converted it to princess seams, added length and flare below the waist. Then pin fitted it and proceeded with little more review so I could have one made in time. It has come out a bit too roomy, but it’s wearable. I’ll have a another look at it when I have enough brain to possess the needed critical eye.

The plaid shirt is not the best pairing, but it was hanging to hand. The gold fabric was left over from a waistcoat I made maybe 20yrs ago. Old cabbage! It’s a loose woven cotton with a hand loomed look and lurex thread through it.


The back and lining is fine linen and has a simple tie belt set into a pair of tucks.


Here  it is on. I wanted this one as a comfy corset alternative, so I do need to take it some I suppose.

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With the rest of the ensemble. I adore my top hat, any excuse to wear it! The tail coat is well worn but not by me. I bought it cheaply in NZ over 2yrs ago. This is it’s first wearing since. The poor thing needs a bunch of mending. I really must do that and have it cleaned so it can be safely put away for next time. It’ll look tattier with the moth holes mended, but still wearable, at least as fancy dress.

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Possibly the best thing about this project…. it’s the first thing I’ve sewn on the 1230 after it came home from it’s service. She has behaved so far. Fingers very crossed for that to continue as long as possible. Completely ridiculous though if it turns out that I put myself through over six weeks of drama and distress for a machine that just needed a service.

Shirt for a New Blog Year

I knew I’d started Makkinschtuff about a year ago but I wasn’t sure quite when. Turns out that WordPress tells you, and the answer was yesterday. 113 posts, 2824 views in my first year here. So I’ve been posting about every 3 days on average. Not bad. I never promised or intended to post daily.

Today then is a new blog year. To celebrate, or just because this is where I’m at, I’ll show you the shirt I’ve just made on the new/old Bernina 830.


The machine came home on Tuesday, running smooth and smelling of machine oil. I had therefore to take her for a spin. This length of fine cotton plaid shirting was washed, pressed and hanging in the corridor waiting. I bought it in a Christchurch opshop back in early February. Now it’s a shirt.


I thought the neck frill would soften the plaid and the plaid would soften the costumey effect of the frill. I’ll see how I feel about it in the wearing. Instead of a collar stand, the frill is sewn straight onto the shirt neckline and bound with self bias.


The cuff fullness is gathered to echo the neck frill. Buttons are of course shell, shiny caramel coloured this time to pick up the caramel stripe.


The machine behaved beautifully. Maybe it was running even better by the end of the shirt? Maybe I was just getting used to it. I like the sound of it better than my 1230 but I sure miss the stepping motor. I’ll be picking up the 1230 later today after nothing more than a thorough service.  I wonder how she will behave? I suspect some of the problems might recur, we will see.


Chocolate Velvet Jacket

I’ve been wanting a new evening jacket and a big special birthday party gave me a good excuse to make one. I had a piece of chocolate brown silk velvet in stash that I kept coming back to. It’s sombre but luscious. There was only 2 metres. Not enough for my first design thought that involved a handkerchief type hem. A redesigned version was manageable though. I figured that I needed to work with an existing pattern to get it done in time. So this is my much used shirt pattern, cut short at waist level, with a few pleats for shaping and an eight gore peplum with a high low hem.


I’m pretty pleased with it. It comes out with a bit of an early 20thC feel. Here are a couple more views:

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The velvet behaved itself better than I expected and consented to be sewn by machine as long as the seam was pile to pile. Any joins that were pile to flat fabric were sewn by hand. The lining is ultra slippery rayon satin. Gorgeous cloth to feel, really frustrating to work with. It wouldn’t stay on the ironing board, on my lap, on the sewing table. It just slithered off! Lovely to wear though now it’s trapped inside the jacket.


The buttons are shell again but with a difference. Cowrie shell this time, which have a bit of a leopard print look. They also tie in the white dress I was planning to wear on the night. The button loops are done in a lovely vintage silk twist that a friend found a few years back.


Here is a pic of it on. Of course there are a few mistakes and things I might do differently. Never mind, it’s wearable and rather lovely anyway.


Feeling Fortunate

A sewing machine story, but a positive one this time. The 1230 is still in the fixit shop with no diagnosis as yet. Regardless of what happens with it, I decided that another quality machine was needed in my life, preferably one that isn’t subject to circuit board faults. I can’t keep the lovely loaned 1030 forever. So I’ve been looking out for a Bernina 830. I think I wrote before that these are well respected. They are also familiar to me as I did a lot of sewing on my mother’s one in my teens and early 20s. I’d seen several for sale but the location was not ideal or they looked in poor condition. Then this one turned up on ebay. It was local, only a few suburbs away and claimed to be little used. The pictures looked pristine. Wonder of wonders, I won the auction!


I picked it up this morning. The lady selling it said she had bought it in 1975 but barely used it. I got it home and yes, it’s in outstanding condition. The only problems I could see come from it’s long disuse. The sewing mechanism still runs, though with a bit more resistance than it ought. The presser foot mechanism is all gummed up though. After stuffing up the last machine I tried to work on, I decided such a jewel should be sorted by the professionals. So I took some photos and took it around to my local repair people. That was more fun than I anticipated. It’s always nice to be the source of the good kind of amazement. The chap I spoke to was astonished at both the good condition of the machine and the modest price I’d paid for it. Definitely raised eyebrows and excited voice territory. He confirmed what I had suspected, that if I happened to decide not to keep it, I could easily resell it and probably even make money doing so. He has had several customers looking for this model willing to pay much more than I did.

Look how shiny. I did find a tiny bit of lint right under the feed dogs, but that was it other than the sticky old oil issue.



and yes, she came with all the bits


Sewing machine woes: Return and loan

This, for posterity and my non FB audience, is a rewrite of a bunch of short FB posts on progression of my sewing machine dramas. I hope I’ve caught all the necessary tense changes:

I woke up the morning after this post thinking that clunky feed dog thing was a deal breaker if it couldn’t be fixed. Sproingy clunk every time I touched the knee lever, which is every few seconds of sewing. So I called the shop and told them so. They said to bring it in so they can look at it. I felt better for having got to that point.

Then there was a weekend, during which I thought I’d better check carefully to get the best understanding of the problem I could manage.

So very glad I checked before going back to the sewing machine shop. The knee lever on my old machine *does* drop the feed dogs! I’d never noticed this in all those years! However it does so much more smoothly and quietly than the new machine, and doesn’t grab and shift the work.

A careful comparison of the two machines exposed this: Two main differences were pissing me off.
1. that the feed dogs on the 570 drop with a loud, spring like reverb, whereas the old one is almost silent.
2. the new one drops the feed dogs almost instantly on pushing the lever while the old one lowers them gradually, silently and recoverably for about half the range of lever movement. Only if one pushes past half way do the dogs drop fully and have to spring back when stitching resumes. which means one can partially lift the foot, swivel the work and resume without the feed dogs intefering with fabric position. Yup, got it.

On the following Monday I took the 570 back to the shop: “There is nothing wrong with it, they all do that, no one else has complained, we sell a lot of these, there is no adjustment or fix because it’s not broken”. I was just about in tears after this conversation. I raised the possibility of a return, which they brushed off. I asked them to check two things with Bernina for me.
1. Whether there was any way to adjust the knee lever action on the feed dogs, including deactivating it.
2. If there is a needle plate available for this machine with metric seam markings at the front.
While they did this, I left the machine in the shop. I knew that if I took it with me, I might not have had the nerve to go back. Then I went and visited some friends for a couple of hours.

The answer to both questions was no. Argh. After some angst ridden thought, I decided I’d be miserable if I tried to live with it. I can’t live with such an expensive machine that makes unexpected loud sproingy noises when I use it the way I prefer to, which is supposedly a perfectly fine and recommended way to use it. So back to the shop, and returned it, as in, got my money back. Their tone had changed when I went back, polite and agreed promptly to the return. I do wonder how much of that was due to my (somewhat imposing and male) friend coming with me as back up. Regardless of whether his presence changed their behaviour, I’m grateful to him for the emotional support.

Gah, I didn’t mean, want or expect this to be such a saga. I was relieved but sad, confused and needing to start again with the search. I’m distressed that the obvious option of buying a current model Bernina is off the table.

Replacing my 1230 seems to be a truly difficult task, so putting a bit more effort into trying to keep it going is reasonable. The current state of play is that it’s with a third and recommended fixit man to see what magic he can manage. He had a nice simple theory, which would be so good if that is all the problem. Fingers crossed.

Then, a week later, my longest friend gave me even more reasons to love her. This is her machine, very kindly lent to me. I’d forgotten she even had a Bernina. It turns out to be a 1030, a mechanical version of mine, including the same knee lever action…. and wonder of wonders, it has a stepping motor!!!! AWOOGA, AWOOGA. I want one if I can possibly get one!!. Pity it’s a 30yr old machine. One might come up for sale? Maybe? There are a couple of features lacking, but it’s mechanical nature means it should last many more years. The electronic nature of mine means it will die eventually, even if it can be improved in the short term.


So far the borrowed machine has made a pair of jeans and is partway through a silk velvet jacket. The sewing action is a bit different to what I’m used to, but it works well.

Then another friend said that her sewing machine mechanic has a 1030 that he is working on prior to selling it. On the other side of the country, but still. Fingers very crossed!!

Updatery: It turns out that the 1030 is not fully mechanical. It does have a circuit board. So it’s not as age proof as I had hoped. I had been told that stepping motor and fully mechanical were if not totally mutually exclusive, then close to it. So I’m not completely surprised.

bernina 1030 circuit board

Almost Jeans Untwisted

I was really pleased with the last pair of almost jeans, except for the twist in the leg seams. I made pattern alterations pretty much immediately, then lost time to sewing machine dramas and a trip away. I got a pair cut out a few weeks back, but didn’t have a machine to sew them up on, hmm, I haven’t told that story here yet. Now I’ve got a very welcome borrowed machine, I’ve finally got these assembled.

Obligatory pockets shot


I have managed to banish the leg twist, yay! The pattern pieces look strange, but they work on my curvy, short legged self. Minor argh moment that I didn’t take a pic of the pattern, maybe later. Here are a few small pics of the new troosers on. Of course I hate the pics, but I do like the troosers.

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Note for fit assessment that this is woven denim with no elastane. I’m not totally happy with the fly, either sewing or fit. I am pleased though that I managed to shorten a metal toothed zipper. One can just rip off the unwanted teeth with pliers it seems.

Next step is to have a go at altering the pattern to a proper jeans cut. I have a few other things to make first though.