Monthly Archives: September 2012


As part of preparing for the Apronalong, I stitched across the ends of my ticking prior to laundering it because it frays something awful. It’s also a considerably paler blue than the vintage fabric and doesn’t go with it as well as darker ticking would have done, so I’ve hatched a cunning plan to address that differential; of which, more later. While I had the sewing machine stoked up, I decided that, although it’s obviously not prone to fraying much at all, I’d also stitch across the end of the vintage fabric. Just to entertain myself, I measured how much of it there is: 12 yards. That’s quite a lot of fabric! And you might ask why I have so much in my stash?

Great Aunt bought the fabric to make her uniforms when she started as a student nurse many, many years ago indeed. Before she’d even cut the fabric, the hospital changed the check on its uniforms (going to a larger, slightly lighter blue). Great Aunt was left with, well, enough fabric to make all her uniforms and, well, not a lot else for which it was really suitable. But, being the thrifty woman she was, she hung onto it. She gave it to me some years before she died. I’d planned to make shirts for Boy (when he was quite young) but hadn’t done so, hence the fabric has languished in my stash for a long time, too. I’ve just given it a shake and, well, yes, there’s a lot of it!

12 yards is a lot of fabric! (Sorry for the slightly soft focus. I used my phone because it was handy)

Patterns for aprons? I plan to use the same one I use for all the aprons I make. It’s from an old Woman’s Day handcraft book and what it provides is a basic template, much like this one of Anne‘s or this one from The Purl Bee (which Karen has also suggested). What you do with it really is entirely up to you. What I intend to do this time is make reversible aprons: one side vintage fabric, the other side ticking. This will mean wrapping my head around rather more arithmetic than I’m comfortable with, but YoungB has a calculator and I’m sure he’d love to patronise me by using it to work things out for me! No, seriously, it’s not going to be that difficult.

I will, however, need to think more than usual about how I make the aprons because construction is not going to be as simple as my usual method calls for. I’ll have to plan hems (on thermal-backed curtain fabric, hems are unnecessary) and when and where and precisely how I’ll attach straps or loops and so on. And if I decide to use D-rings, which side will I put them on? (That’s not a deal-breaker, since it’s going to be the “wrong” side at some point, whichever side I choose.) Then there’s the question of pockets. Both sides? One side only? Stripes the same way? Stripes a different way? Oh, the choices. I’m all but paralysed by them!

Hope you’re having a good weekend and that you get lots of sewing done. (I’m now making nice progress with the White Caps Cowl, because every time I walk past it, I pick it up and do a few more stitches. That’s not to say I’ll finish it soon, but it’s progressing.)


Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Sewing


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too tired

There is sometimes a cruel twist in being both recorder and typist. Sitting through a hearing once is usually enough. Having to sit through it again several times (there’s no such thing as being able to type straight through with the majority of work we do, so you’re constantly going over and over bits to make sure you’ve heard it properly) is just malicious, I tell you, malicious. That’s been my very recent experience and I decided to finish work 10 minutes early because I couldn’t do another minute of the stuff without wanting to scream!

On a nicer note but almost as frustrating, I was trying to find a circular knitting needle that was somewhere between 40 cm and 60 cm. The shorter is the recommended size for the White Caps Cowl, but I’m finding it altogether too frustrating to work on. The longer is more than the recommended length but I suspect I may end up using it to get my work established, whether or not it’s the right size. It’s just not possible to cast on and straighten out stitches on the 40 cm circular, I’m distressed to say; not for me, anyway. So I’ve had to resort to my mother’s trick of doing the first few rows back and forward to get some stability going. Then I’ll try to join it and work in the round.

If you’re a knitter, you might want to tell me why I’m wrong to do it that way and I’ll listen politely but your arguments won’t sway me from my path. If it was good enough for my mother – a knitter in the days when everyone knitted their own socks and whose cunning tip might therefore be seen as born of long experience – then I see no reason at all why I shouldn’t make life a little easier for myself by following her example.

And it’s a long weekend here. I plan to sew and knit as much as I can. I have Apronalong fabric to sort out and patterns to tidy before I get cracking on that project. Still, the forecast is for a very wintry lot of weather indeed, so staying indoors sounds like a perfect plan. If you’re having a long weekend too, and even if you’re only having an ordinary one, I hope you’re able to get lots of sewing and knitting done.


Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Knitting, Sewing


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today’s inspiration

I’ve quite fallen in love with this lovely soft bit of warmth from the folk at Purl Bee.

from Laura's Loop

The yarns required are beyond my purse and I might struggle to purchase them locally, so I’m using this to inspire an adaptation for a forthcoming birthday gift (they just keep coming round, those birthdays).

PS: OK, something is not working quite as it should but I must go to bed or I shall never get to work tomorrow and that would probably be a bad thing! I’ll try to fix this tomorrow.

PPS: now things are OK. Good night!

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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Knitting


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I am never organised, or so rarely that it’s practically never. Why, then, was I organised enough to purchase all those metres of sheeting for YoungB’s Halloween Nazgul cloak? I ask only because, the other night when I suggested we’d soon need to measure him up for it so that I could get on with the sewing, he told me he no longer needed it. Oh-kay. The only thing I see as a positive so far is that I hadn’t purchased the stiff card to make the mask!

The black sheeting? Yes, I can see that there would be lots of uses for that. It would be good for the standard LBD. Only trouble with that is that black – despite how much of it there is in my wardrobe – is not a good colour on me. And to have one of those LBDs suggests a use for such a thing. I might have once dredged up a few occasions of need but nowadays? Not even for choir purposes (which, I should perhaps point out, has been one of the main reasons for my multitudinous black-and-white sartorial colour schemes).

Right, then. Let’s talk apron fabrics. I like the look of ticking (lots of images here) and it’s certainly versatile. It’s also fairly soft. My preference for an apron is something with a little more presence, so a crisper cotton (or, my actual favourite apron fabric, thermal-backed curtaining) would be a better option. Enter my cunning plan. I’d decided to use ticking for the aprons and do a trim using some very old blue-and-white-checked cotton. I know it’s old fabric because it predates me by a good many years. There are yards of it (yes, there are, we hadn’t gone metric back then; and it’s a yard wide). It’s nicely stiff, which is probably what you would expect of something originally intended for a nurse’s uniform. It would make excellent aprons. Then I could use the ticking for the trims. What do you think?

Either way, I’m too tired and sneezy (OMG, the hay fever!) to ponder the problem now. I’m about to put out the rubbish bins then I’m going to bed.

Any suggestions on a good way to use three metres of 240 cm sheeting?!


Posted by on September 25, 2012 in Sewing


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gambling or lucky dip?

Dr B does a lot of buying on eB*y. He’s one of those annoying snipers, I think. But that’s OK. I occasionally enter giveaways on blogs. What I do is seen as perilously close to gambling, according to him. Personally I think it’s more of a lucky dip. In any case, whichever it is, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of some largesse from Emily at Calico Stretch.

The arrival of the parcel was cause for hilarity. Last year, prior to PBP, Dr B and our postie were practically on first name terms because there seemed to be almost daily delivery of parcel or parcels of cycling gear from various online vendors. The pace has slowed some this year though it’s mostly the case that any parcels coming to our house are almost certainly not mine, even when I’m expecting something (for example, there was an ongoing drama with an anticipated parcel from the States that caused me great grief and afforded Dr B and YoungB much amusement while their several parcels turned up and mine didn’t).

Thursday was a cool morning here and nobody wanted to get out of bed, so Dr B was reading news online and I was pretending I was still asleep. YoungB had free lessons first thing and didn’t need to be out of bed at the usual hour, so he was genuinely still asleep. When there was a knock at the door, Dr B did the honours. He said the parcel was for me. I was trying to get out of bed – you know, half-heartedly struggling into my dressing gown and fumbling about for slippers – so I asked him if it was from New Zealand (which is where Emily lives). He brought the parcel to me after I’d repeated my question several times. He held it out and asked how could he tell if it as from New Zealand?

The bag in which it was packed was similar to these in the sense of having that same distinctive design and the white print on black background might also have given the game away. The postmark said New Zealand. The bag had New Zealand Post printed on it. The return address said New Zealand. The customs declaration asked for a value in NZ$. I have no idea how it could have been made easier for Dr B to figure out country of origin, but it seemed beyond him. Fine. He was probably just cross because it wasn’t for him!

I was running late by then, of course, so I intended to be good and not open the parcel before I rushed out the door. But I couldn’t resist!

Much better than gambling! Aren’t I lucky?

Not only had Emily sent me the very lovely fabric, she’d included a Stitch magazine and some felt flowers and a length of lovely, colourful braid. I took the magazine on the bus with me and very much enjoyed reading it. My mind was only half on my work all day, I’m sure. I was mentally imagining what I might do with the fabric. It’s a lovely, stable double knit with not a lot of stretch (around 20% as far as I’m able to figure it out; I haven’t tracked down the pattern from my stash that has a stretch meter on it but I know I have one). I am very happy to say that the colour is quite becoming on me (I love green but not all greens love me).

At a pinch, you could use the fabric with the stretch going up and down and probably not have too many lengthening dramas. (That’s a trick I learnt from my instructor back in 1994 when I did a stretch-sewing course, so it’s not unheard of or wicked, merely a little unusual.) That could mean a skirt with vertical stripes would be nice. I like skirts. I don’t wear them often because they create other problems, such as needing to wear something under them to keep warm and getting in the way when you’re crawling around under desks chasing leads and things of that nature. None of those problems is insuperable and if you’re willing, you can do anything.

Or I could perhaps make a longish jacket. I have fabrics that would be suitable for lining. Our weather is finally beginning to warm up (though not a lot, it has to be said!) but I still need a jacket that will see me through till the truly hot weather arrives. I don’t want to rush into making something simply to use the fabric. I’d rather give it more thought and use it wisely and to best effect. Dr B thinks a jacket might be the answer. I’ll let you know what I decide on.

In the meantime, I’ve aprons to be prepping! If you’re sewing along with Karen, have you chosen your fabric yet?


Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Cycling, Sewing


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why I haven’t or why, I haven’t

I mentioned in an earlier post (6 June 2012) that I hadn’t yet had an article published in Checkpoint; and why, I still haven’t, even though I couldn’t say for sure why I still haven’t. (Actually, there have been plenty of real cycling articles in it lately, a lot of big ride reports. And a very interesting article about an Audax Wife who photographs cemeteries, which helps to contribute to the photographic database that helps people trying to track down family histories and build family trees. There’s a purpose for everything and a job for everyone, it seems, even if they’re not cyclists.)

I work at it a lot, though, at least in my mind. It’s entitled, What I did while you lot were out cycling hundreds of kilometres in the wind and rain/scorching heat (whichever is appropriate; I deliberately leave some details vague). Each year, when the Fleche Oppy 24-hour team ride comes around, I find myself mentally writing a very long article indeed, because it always coincides with a rowing regatta, sometimes an important one. And if it’s the full 360 kilometres and the team that Dr B is riding with will camp overnight at our house? Yes, there are considerations there, there are indeed.

One year, while they were toiling up steep hills, I was driving Boy to an away regatta, braving the morning fog and what have you to ensure his presence where he was needed at the required hour. Then while they were toiling up more hills, I was doing a food dash to the local bakery to buy lots of food for hungry rowers (that prodigious appetite again). While they were descending hills, I was too, driving my sleepy Boy home from a day of rowing where he had seemed constantly to just miss out on victory but, despite that, had had a great day because he’d rowed hard and well. He sleepily commented that Australia is a big country because there are European countries we could have crossed several times in our day’s driving. He and his various crews had worked hard while Dr B and his team had worked hard.

Me? Well, you know, I sat about on the bank and watched and cheered and took lots of photos and found this, that and the next thing when asked (including that food I mentioned), and did all the driving (covering not quite as many kilometres in the car as Dr B on his bike) because that’s what I do.

In that particular year, the away regatta meant then having to set up bedding for overnight cyclists when Boy and I got home. We had to find mattresses and I had to locate bedlinen and it was all just a horrible rush and I was more than usually flustered when the team turned up. The previous year, I’d had an at-home regatta that gave me ample time to do the running about and find mattresses and bedlinen as well as prepare food.

The most recent Fleche Oppy, coming after Dr B’s accident, turned out to be a shorter one, a Petit Oppy. He took himself to the start while Boy and I went to rowing. It was the school state championships regatta and our school was the host club, which meant that for once someone else took photos for the school but only because I was doing other things: handing out bow numbers all morning and scrutineering most of the afternoon. Volunteering for the latter was a cunning ploy because it meant I was able to watch Boy’s Schoolboy VIII crew in its first ever race. So, yeah, I just had a good time while the boys were knocking themselves out in their respective sports, really.

Dr B came home for the night but we didn’t have to accommodate anyone else, so at least I wasn’t running about trying to find bedding and the like. I took him to the next morning’s 6 o’clock start then came home and just, you know, bummed about a bit laundering and doing all that sort of nonessential rubbish, before picking him up from the finish point at about 8.00. Sometimes I’m rushing about doing stuff and can’t rake up the energy to write, although I almost always have a notebook with me.

And today? Today I’ve been providing Audax input in a quite different manner. I’ve been trying to think up clever names for a 1000 Km ride that Dr B is organising for next year. It’s based on a shorter one he already convenes but he didn’t want the names to be so similar that folk would think it was just the same ride stretched out a bit. The Copper Coast Wanderer offers several distances up to 600 Km. The 1000 is that and nothing else. You can see why the extra distance required new nomenclature.

The ride takes in most of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, which is shaped somewhat like a leg; hence my immediate suggestion of the Shake a Leg 1000. I’d also proffered several other catchy suggestions, alluding to the maritime and agricultural history of the area, but this morning YoungB came up with a couple of delightfully ironic suggestions that had us in stitches and clearly beat my wit to a pulp. What do you think, for instance, of the Life’s a Breeze 1000? Dr B is conducting a poll among the Audaxians. And, no, I don’t suppose I’ll be writing about it though I’ll take my notebook with me when I’m doing support work, I’m sure!


More importantly than any of that – really – Karen has launched her Apronalong . Go get your button now. I’ve got mine! Although, unfortunately, my button doesn’t seem to be working, I’m sure you’ll be able to make yours work. And I’ll keep trying with mine.

Also, in case you were wondering, YoungB was still Boy at those rowing regattas. I haven’t really mixed it up!

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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Cycling, Musing, Rowing


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guess what I found?

You might recall I posted about knitting needle gauges back on 17 July of this year because I’d mislaid mine and been obliged to purchase a new one? I then had some difficulties measuring vintage needles that seemed to fall between sizes.

There’s an old Calabrian saying along the lines of, “The house doesn’t steal; it hides.” I did say my original gauge was mislaid not lost. And look:

I found it tucked inside a pattern book I’d carefully tidied away

It was.


Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Knitting




Karen has made a lovely apron and is talking of hosting an apronalong. What a fantastic idea. I shall certainly sign up for that.

I’m far from a novice when it comes to aprons. The first thing I ever made in dressmaking class was a pink, heart-shaped apron edged with fancy blue ricrac. It sounds awful but I suppose it was nicely made (my teacher would have seen to that even had I not had my mother to do so) and would have been useful to someone. I have no recollection of wearing it myself! I have made other aprons since, of the gardening and kitchen variety, for various family members and one for the kitchen at work. I’m not a great one for aprons, in the sense that I would probably not bother to make one for myself, but I certainly wear them because I understand their value as a means of protecting both clothing and person. I often encourage Dr B and YoungB to don an apron when they’re cooking in summer: it’s much better than having hot oil splatter over your bare chest!

You might wonder, after all that, why the idea of an apronalong has tickled my fancy. As with most things in sewing and life, there’s always something else to pique my interest in the way someone else has approached a certain problem, or the way they’ve combined colours to come up with something fresh and lovely. And, you know, it could be a good way to start the Christmas sewing.

At the time of Great Aunt’s death, I inherited not only her scrap bag but also three partly-made aprons. She was another who was not a great one for wearing aprons, perhaps because they’d been part of her work uniform for such a long time, and my own mother I don’t believe ever wore one. However, the story behind the aprons is rather nice. They’re cross stitched on gingham. Another friend, Auntie J, worked them all and sent them to Great Aunt for her to complete. It was, I believe, at a time when Great Aunt was struggling with depression about her job and a good many other things happening in her life and the lives of those around her.

Auntie J could well understand that. But her answer to help overcome the depression, as indeed Great Aunt’s answer in a different way, was to sew. Auntie J cross-stitched everything: cushion covers, teatowels, traycloths, tablecloths of all sizes and, of course, aprons. I know that Great Aunt appreciated the kind thoughts from Auntie J but either the depression was at that time too deep or it really was simply not Great Aunt’s kind of sewing, because the aprons languished, carefully folded with their instructions for completion, tucked away safely in the divan bed with other sewing bits and pieces, including a partly-completed dress which I also inherited (and more on that another time, perhaps).

The three part-finished aprons that came to me via this circuitous route are waist or half-aprons or pinnies (terminology will vary depending on where you are, I know) with little left to do: finish side hems, gather the apron, attach wasitband and ties and there I’ll have three aprons. I made an effort to finish one last year with Eldest Niece in mind, although I have to say I’ve never seen her in an apron; but Middle Aunt thought she might wear it if it were given to her and its origins explained. The particular one I’d picked out had horses embroidered on it, once Eldest Niece’s favourite animals. There is another with dogs, which turned out to be the one I ended up almost finishing because nowadays Eldest Niece has two dogs and, more prosaically, it matched thread already in my machine/on my bobbin. The third has a pattern of stars. Here’s the doggie one.

I ironed it carefully before I sewed anything, but it has been folded for nearly a year. Apologies for the wrinkles!

As is often the way with my sewing projects, it was not terrifically urgent so several others that were overtook it and I shuffled it to the back burner for a while. Karen’s idea of an apronalong has spurred me to thinking that, even if she does not host such a thing, I should really make the effort to finish at least one of those lovely aprons. I feel as if I’m letting down both Great Aunt and Auntie J although I know that both of them, very wise and compassionate women as they were, would understand life overtaking even my best intentions.


Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Musing, Sewing


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stranger and stranger

YoungB has returned from the rowing camp, bringing me a new sewing dilemma: please fix my shoe! There is precedent for such a request. I have a long history of repairing rucksacks and bike bags of varying sizes. A cloth shoe with a bit of elastic shouldn’t really be much different, right?

Newish shoe, not much use any more

It was not the sort of thing I could do on my sewing machine so out came the trusty “Let’s do some real work” needles and the sturdy polyester thread. I had to use a pair of pliers to pull the needle through the last bit, but I managed to fix the gaping.

This should last for a bit longer


It’s not precisely neat and who knows how sturdy it is really – I mean, it might come adrift again the first time YoungB puts any real strain on it – but for now, that was a useful afternoon’s effort.


Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Rowing, Sewing


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Might I take a moment to reflect on how time is flying. During the week, Dr B and I attended the school sports assembly. It was YoungB’s last such event, which is a somewhat sobering thought. We were delighted that the guest speaker was a rower; an Olympic finalist, what’s more. She spoke about the mental strength required to be an elite athlete. YoungB has yet to reach quite her level of mental strength but he has already proved that he can be focused and that he’s willing to put in a lot of hours to train for high level achievements. Fittingly, his prowess as a rower was recognised with the presentation of a Blue, the school’s highest sporting award.

The criteria are:

  • Involvement in, service to and leadership of the sport;
  • Commitment to the greater school sporting program;
  • General attitude towards the school’s academic program; and
  • Attributes as a role model.

We know our son with all his faults and quirky little ways and we know that he well deserved that recognition. His participation in and contribution to the school as a rower and all-round sportsman has been remarkable, especially to us, because when he started at the school, nobody would have picked him as a sporting type. He had a few physical handicaps, albeit minor but certainly drawbacks to sporting achievement, so the discovery of rowing was better than winning the lottery.

He is, as the citation suggested, a much-decorated rower and he has held a number of academic and sporting leadership positions throughout the five years he has been at the school. He is presently coaching junior rowers at a four-day camp, up on the big River. He will continue his association with the school, much as several of the other coaches are doing. When I waved him off and said I hoped he’d have a good time his response was along the lines of, “Four days torturing little kids? Sounds great!” Uh, I’m not entirely certain that that’s in the true spirit of a Blue!


Posted by on September 15, 2012 in Musing, Rowing