Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pauline's easy shopping Bag

For all my friends that wanted to know how I made my bag, here is the pattern- easy peasy lemon squeezy!
Its shown here holding 2 queen sized bath towels & it's not even at full stretch!

Pauline’s easy shopping bag
This bag is very flexible in what requirements you need & what you knit it in. You could do it in 4ply if you like or even heavier yarn. There isn’t a tension that is critical- it’s not like it has to fit. If you want to do a really big bag then get another ball of yarn, but be warned this bag stretches & stretches & will hold lots-so you don’t want it too big or it will be too heavy to carry.

Great thing is it fits in your handbag without taking up much room & can be pulled back into shape when you take everything out of it.

2 x 50gm balls of 8ply knitting cotton or similar. Craft cotton would work.
5.5mm crochet hook (use bigger or smaller if you change the yarn weight)
5.5mm circular knitting needle. (use bigger or smaller if you change yarn weight)

You need to be able to;
Knit in the round

Not important, but should be looser than you would normally knit up your chosen yarn.
The instructions are very easy-& can be adjusted to suit your requirements- on how big or small you want the bag.

Sl-st slip stitch
dc- double crochet (single crochet for the Americans)
k2tog- knit 2 stitches together
yfwd- yarn forward

With 5.5mm crochet hook & chosen yarn make a slip stitch start & do 3 chain, join with a sl-st to form a circle.
1st row: 2 ch,7 dc into circle, join with a sl-st into top of 2 ch. (2ch counts as a stitch)
2nd row: 2 ch, 1 dc into same space , 2 dc into the top of each dc of the previous row, join with sl-st to top of 2ch. (16dc-first 2ch counts as stitch)
3rd row: 2ch, 15 dc into top of dc in previous row, join sl-st into top of 2 ch.
Repeat 2nd & 3rd rows, increasing every second row until the base of the bag has at least 64 dc’s- you can go to 128 but you’ll need more yarn & this is a really big bag.
Take loop from crochet hook & place on circular needle-knit up 1 stitch from each of the dc’s of the last row. You should have the same number of stitches as you had dc’s & you need an even number of stitches to do the knitted pattern.

Continue as follows:
Mark beginning of round.
K2tog, yfwd-repeat to end.
Repeat this row for as long as you want the bag- about 55 rounds. Do more rounds if you want a bigger bag-you need to have about half of your last ball of yarn left (if using 50gm balls).

Either cast off REALLY loosely or chain cast off with a crochet hook- it needs to be very loose or you won’t get your goodies in your bag easily! Do not cut yarn. Leave last loop on knitting needle & transfer to crochet hook.
2 ch to commence round, 1dc into each stitch of cast off row-if you had 64 stitches then you’ll have 64 dc’s in this round. Join with a sl-st.
Next row: 2ch, 1 dc into each dc of previous row, join sl-st
Repeat this row twice.

Make handles:
Mark the top of the bag roughly into quarters.
2ch, dc into each dc of previous row until you reach the first mark (I used pins).
Make a chain adding about 5-10 extra chains than the stitches that are between the marks (if you have 17 dc between the pins then do 25 chains)-dc into the next marked spot on the bag. Dc to next mark & repeat chain, dc to beginning of round & join sl-st.
Next row: 2ch, 1 dc in each st & ch to end, join sl-st to beginning 2ch
3rd row (handles)-2ch, 1 dc in each to end, join sl-st to beginning 2ch
Repeat 3rd row once (you could do another row, but if you make the handles too thick they will be uncomfortable to carry)

Tie off. Sew in end. Admire bag. Fill it with goodies. Expect comments wherever you go.

Few things to note.
If you make the handles too long then when the bag has stuff in it they tend to get longer & longer. This is not a shoulder type bag- more like the string bag my mum carried but the holes are closer together so things don’t fall out as easily.

This pattern is really just a basis for you to work on- add or subtract as you like to give you the size you like.

Please send me a pic if you make this bag. If there are any massive mistakes in my instructions please let me know- this if the first pattern I've written for anyone but me to follow!

Oh, what a week

Oh what a week it really was.....apologies to the song.

Last Sunday I got the phone call that all parents dread......I knew it couldn't be good when I saw which son it was that was phoning. We hadn't heard from him for quite a few weeks (for various reasons!), so I knew, as most mothers do, it wouldn't be good.

The first words out of his mouth were. "I'm OK, but we've had a car accident, a massive car accident." Hmmm, great, you think-he's alive & talking, so who isn't....

You see, this same kid rang me at work a few years back & asked me if his tetanus shots were up to date.....I enquired (as all mothers would)- was there a reason I should know about, as to why he was enquiring this at 10 o'clock in the morning. "oh, nothing much...I cut my finger at work, needed to check."

I never thought any more of this until I got a phone call at about 6pm the same night. "mum, me again. Can you come get me?" I asked where exactly did I need to come to get him & why (as all good mothers do). "Oh, I'm in hospital- I've just come out of surgery- they said I needed to be picked up."

YOU WHAT?! (mild hysteria at this stage)-you better back it all up a bit & tell me why you are having surgery (he was 18 so didn't need parental consent). Turns out 'the cut' on his finger was more like a slice & dice with a Stanley knife & he cut the side of his finger off & had to have a full thickness skin graft done! sheesh this one kid of mine always plays things down then you get a massive shock later.
So you can see my concern over 'a massive accident,but I'm OK.'

To cut a long story short- they rolled the car, several times, at what appears to be high speed, missing the oncoming traffic & going off into the scrub. His GF was not as lucky- she sustained a fractured hip-he dragged her from the car. The dog also escaped injury but ran off into the bush & wouldn't come back for some time. I feel this son of mine has a guardian angel sitting on his shoulder.

We drove straight to the hospital & spent Sunday night in the trauma unit. DH is not good at hospitals & I really wanted to leave him at home & take DD or the twin of the one that had the accident (although he always faints)- but no- he felt obliged to come & then I had to listen to him whinge about hospitals & can we go home yet- his tolerance level is about 1 hour- I knew we were in for a long night!

Thursday I received a phone call from our DIL asking me what she should do- our GS had had a fall at kindy- tripped on a mat. After discussing what symptoms he had I suggested a dentist & then get them to look in the mouth & see if anything else needed treatment by a doctor.

Turns out our GS tripped on a mat- fell onto a balancing beam- putting his teeth through his tongue & through his lip.

He needed surgery at Melbourne kids hospital to remove 1 tooth- he still has one very loose & 2 more that may have nerve damage- they stitched up his tongue & lip. He looks like he's been kicked in the head! After he slept most of the next day when he & his dad finally got home- he woke up & told his parents it looked like a nice night to go for a walk. Kids recover so fast & leave their parents in a heap behind them!LOL

We will leave this week behind- I need no repeats of it!

I managed to get my stockings knitted for the stocking exchange- I did little ones. I found some very old silk yarn in my stash & knitted one in that & trimmed it with holly leaves I made on the machine. Stitched the leaves onto organza, trimmed the excess away, then melted the rest to make them free standing. My parcel is already to be posted now.

I did a towel for my daughter for her Kris Kringle gift- the girl she drew likes fairies apparently,so I obliged by doing her name on the towel & adding a well known fairy- who is very naughty & changed the colours in the name to all bright ones!

DD likes this variegated thread so much she's asked if I'll do her some tank tops with any old word embroidered on the front- just for fun. She better tell me what words or I may put something inappropriate on there!

Yestserday I tried out the Grand dream hoop for my machine- it's been sitting in its box since I got the machine, waiting for me to try it out. I have a GF in the USA that has been nagging me (with my permission) to use it as well.

Found a large design for the GDH & loaded it up- put it on some lovely decor linen I bought the other day & used guitermann sulky cotton 30wt variegated thread. This is a beautiful thread, with very subtle changes in colour & as its slightly heavier gave a lovely texture to the design. I am very pleased with the result. Happened to show it to DD when she was here today & she has asked if there is more of that fabric, can I please have a set of cushions made!?LOL I do enjoy the fact that she loves what I make.
So looks like I need zippers now to put in the cushions! Just the excuse I need to go back to the fabric store!

I have a feeling I should be doing Christmas cards & pulling out nativity scenes & decorations-just not quite into the mood as yet!

And it's not that many sleeps to Christmas!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This weekend has been a very productive one, sewing wise, for me-I always feel that if I finish lots of tasks on my weekend, it's been a weekend well spent.
The weather has certainly helped. We've had gusting winds & rain on & off with intermittent bouts of sunshine-it has been one of those 'wait 5 minutes & it'll change' type weekends. Its also cold-it's not meant to be cold at this time of the year- we are meant to be warming up-have had to pull out the fleecy top & pull up the duvet this weekend. Guess in another few weeks we'll all be complaining about the heat!

Yesterday I embroidered names on 2 towels- these will be gifts for my DD & SIL-I haven't embroidered anything on the hand towel/face cloth/ bathmat-think that can be a bit of overkill with monogramming!

Also did 4 little hand towels that I had in stash with Christmas designs- one of these is to go in my stocking swap. These were so much fun that when I started sewing this morning I decided to do a few more- managed to get 5 into the one hooping, so now a few friends will get a towel as well. The designs I used were an old Amazing Designs set- Christmas Collection IV-apparently it is now not available- these are the cutest designs & really quick to stitch out as well.

Then I made another water bottle caddy. All week I had been trying to think of an alternative to embroider on the caddy, rather than a name, I'm not to keen putting names on things that kids use. I thought of H2Go- then someone told me that was already used by someone who sells bottled water!ARGHHH- why is it that I come up with these brilliant ideas & then find someone has beaten me to it!

After much thought & playing around I have come up with an alternative- EAU2GO-someone will probably tell me that's already in use as well!

Started my stocking for the stocking swap last night- why is it that I always decide to do things the difficult way? Picked out a cream pure wool to kit the one stocking in & its barely a ply of's super fine- the stocking is going to be very small by the time I finish it! Just the right size for a diamond ring perhaps?LOL

Also finished my string bag- but still need to write the pattern out for it-its one of those patterns that is very flexible.....

Received another postcard through the week, from the postcard swap-one left to come now & then the swap will be complete. I have such a lovely collection of postcards from all over the world & no 2 are alike.These are one of my favourite swaps as they are so quick & easy.

While I'm not using my laptop it switches over & randomly brings up pics from all my photographs-Today I have seen flashes of places visited, family & friends & wonderful holidays-what wonderful memories the pictures remind me of.

This week I had a student nurse with me for a couple of days. A male student nurse. A very good looking, young ,male student nurse!
You should have seen my oldies-the old girls! I need to take him with me more often! One old gal that I was going to give a shower to asked if Jason could do it instead....then said (after I said I was doing it)... well he can do my back!!! The next day I was back at her house as we visit her DH everyday & she calls out to him to come & chat to her in the bedroom while I fix her DH's pills up!!!

Shortly after we visit a very old gent who is about 96 & his DD, who lives nearby, is always at the house when we are there. Instead of handing me the undies & towels around the bathroom door-she is off giggling with Jason. When I go in search of what I need- she comes a running- chucks the things at me & high tails it back to keep chatting to the student!!!

This type of behaviour was evident all day with the old girls! Makes one think- how old do we have to be not to notice a good looking bloke!!!LOL-we aren't dead yet!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Well Under way

Today I finished my Kris Kringle gift for work. The person who I drew had me a couple of years back & bought me the most inappropriate gift for a KK I could ever imagine-even my co-workers were stunned.

Don't get me wrong- I have a great sense of humour,but, I don't think sex toys was appropriate for this type of exchange. If I'd have kept them I would have given them back to her-but I gave them to another staff member who I'm sure had fun with them.

Mind you, deep down I almost felt like returning the favour, but I just couldn't do that so made her a gift like I have made others in the past-maybe I should slip in a dildo or something as well...a gentle reminder that I know it was her.

Anyway the gift is done now-a towel that has her name on it, a bag-which I made more beachy as I know she likes to head off to the beach-a little zippered matching purse & a water caddy to keep her drink cool.

We have a $30 limit on the gift (can't be less)-but I know that everything I have made so far has not come to that- unless of course I add in my time for making it, then it would be more than that. The towel & fabrics have all come from stash- this is where I find having a well rounded stash of everything sewing/craft related to be so handy (I'm sure DH would not agree)-I can usually just put my hand on whatever I need at the time!

My hunt for the elusive machine cross stitch designs lead me down a different path today-I came across some smocking designs- the sort with picture smocking in the middle-it was like a light going on.

Hmmmm.....I think I can get that to work in my Aida cloth bands- its a simple stitch-shouldn't be too hard to set I downloaded 2 designs. (I know I said I wasn't going to buy anymore while the $ was down-but this was an emergency!LOL)

I lengthened the design & decreased the width slightly to fit it within the confines of the band & it turned out beautifully-I'm really pleased with the result. Never even test sewed it first!

Yesterday I went to the Gluten Free & Allergy expo- what fun we had-(I went with my sister & her friend)- we ate or way round the expo-everything was gluten free, which is great for me & gives me the opportunity to see what's new out there & what's available locally or online. I came home with lots of free samples, lots of purchased goodies & an electric pizza oven! I certainly didn't go with the intention of buying much at all!

Tried out the oven at lunchtime today with one of the bases the vendor gave me when I bought the machine- OMG was that pizza good- nice thin, crust that was crisp & not a soggy bit in it! My white corn tortillas should work well in there!

Tried a recipe I downloaded from the Morning Show (channel 7)-it was for a banana bread-I had rescued my 6 over ripe bananas from DH many times through the week when he thought they needed throwing out.

This recipe was a disaster- threw the whole thing out. The recipe called for 150mls macadamia nut oil-I think it should have been way less than this-it was just an oily glob, no matter how long I cooked it for. Guess you live & learn.
In the early days of my cooking GF- just about everything ended up in the garbage-was all pretty terrible- these days its a rare occurrence....oh well, I won't make that one again!

Beginning to wonder if summer will arrive anytime soon- the weather certainly hasn't been hot has warmed up on a few days,but no HOT days as yet.
Christmas preparations are well underway & I think I may even be organised this year!
What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations? Tinselitis

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Christmas Traditions- the pudding

Its 6 weeks to Christmas, time to start preparations.

Firstly, my great-grandmother's Christmas pudding.

Today is the day I had to marked as the day to get it done. The fruit has been soaking in brandy since last Monday night-I'd given DH instructions to give the bowl a shake each time he walked past it- I doubt he remembered, just not on his radar-but when I was at home I did give it a good going over.

My DDM (dear departed mum) cooked this recipe every year from before I can remember-my father's mother cooked it before that & her mother before's been a family tradition for a good many years.

My Grandmother, when we were all younger ,used to put a brand new 2 shilling piece in the bottom of our bowls, put the pudding on top & then load the whole thing up with custard & cream. I remember the excitement as we found the 2 shillings (20 cents in today's money) along with three pence's & six pence's....our money was worth something back then & the coins were all silver so they could go into the pudding. On a good slice of pudding you could get enough money to last you the 6 weeks of the school holidays as a big bonus to pocket money.

I well remember my next older sister digging her spoon through the pudding- on a second slice- declaring that there was no money in it & she didn't want it then-she still laughs about this even today!
Some years back I showed an interest in repeating the family tradition of cooking the pudding & my DDM shared the recipe & the tips for making it with me & then presented me with a set of coins to go into the pudding as well. By this time we were well & truly into decimal currency & the new coins are not suitable for putting in it.

Over the years my coins seemed to get less & I've had to beg & buy some replacements to keep my numbers up......but a few years back I came up with an idea that sees the return of all my coins-in fact it has my sister doing what she did as a child in her quest to have a slice with a coin in it!

I trade scratchy lottery tickets for the coins. I put 25 six penny pieces in & 1 threepence (seems those are the ones I find harder to get more of). For the 6d piece I give a $1 scratchy, but the lucky finder of the 3d gets a $5 scratchy (I call this inflation!)

I also have to keep an eye on the family who will sneak up into the kitchen to see if they can find some stray coins sticking out of the pudding & claim them as theirs! It has created a lot of fun & the safe return of my coins. No one gets to take pudding home with them as I can't be sure that it's a moneyless slice or that they will return the coins for the scratchies.

My DDM used to do a Christmas cake as well & I did for a number of years but it seems they all prefer the pudding to the cake & as its left for me to eat I can well do without it.

Mum used to plan an at home day to do the pudding & the cake- it would take her longer to prepare- I can only guess how long it must have taken my GM & GGM who would have done the whole thing by hand! It takes about an hour to prepare everything then 6 hours to boil it- I have never trusted my DH to watch it after the pork episode some years back.....we don't even want to go there, other than to say- Summer, roast pork left to cool with no cover & Aussie blow flies when you leave the doors open.......he didn't eat roast pork for years after that episode!

The pudding is now hanging under the stairs where it stays until Xmas morning when it gets its final boil-I'm pretty sure you could just zap a slice in the microwave but I prefer to boil it as the coins arc in the m/wave.

Some 10 years ago I was diagnosed with coeliac disease & the pudding wasn't suitable for me the way it was, so, after playing around with it I now make it GF & no one can tell the difference. I tried making 2 puddings for a while but I missed grandma's-its just so good!

So here is the recipe for my G-Grannie's Xmas pudding-if you make it please email me & let me know how you went with it.

Grandma's Xmas Pudding

*halve or quarter quantities for a smaller pudding-reduce cooking time to 4/2.


250gms plain flour & breadcrumbs

500gms butter, brown sugar, currants & sultanas

250gms mixed peel & raisins

125gms slivered almonds

9 eggs

150mls brandy

1 dessertspoon each of nutmeg & mixed spice

1 level teaspoon carb. soda.

1 metre of calico to tie the pudding into & some silver trinkets or silver coins if you want to add these.
Be careful if you are giving the pudding to littlies & check their slice before you give it to them. Do NOT use decimal currency coins in the pudding.

Large boiler & trivet or saucer for the bottom of the pot.


put all the fruit & almonds into a large bowl- pour the brandy over, mix well, cover with gladwrap & leave at least overnight-shake the bowl when you think about it.

In a large bowl (I use a kenwood chef & it all just fits)-cream the butter & sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. Stir in the fruit mix. Add breadcrumbs, sifted flour, soda & spices. Mix well.

Tie in a cloth & boil 6 hours the day it's made & 3 hours on the day served.

TIPS- these are most important to ensure it turns out- the family secrets to a great pudding!

Dip the calico/cloth into boiling water & wring it out (gets rid of the size if its new fabric & helps in the next step- you need the cloth wet)

Place the cloth in a colander (I have one of those large green tupperware ones- absolutely perfect size)-drape the cloth over the colander then rub the inside with some of your plain flour- this helps form a skin on the pudding.

Place the mixture in- don't forget to add your coins or trinkets if you are using them, gather the cloth up, tie tightly using string, leave room for expansion above the pudding & where you tie it.

Make a loop out of the ends of the string & tie the corners of the cloth together- these are what you'll hang it by.

Have the water in the boiler BOILING (I can't stress this enough, it must be a rolling boil)- only fill it about 1/3 full- you don't want it spilling out when you immerse the pudding (ask me how I know).Place the pudding in- note the time.

Check the pot every half hour or so & add more water as the level drops-add boiling water each time (I bring the kettle to the boil & add that straight away).Always keep the pot on the boil.

After 6 hours remove from the pot- its hot & heavy, so be careful. Hang until you need it.

On the day that you are going to eat it. Add water to the boiler, put your trivett or saucer in the bottom first ,bring to a rolling boil, add the pudding & cook a further 3 hours-adding more boiling water as needed.

If the water is not boiling the pudding will absorb the water & will make a soggy pudding-its still edible, but soggy.

Enjoy with cream, brandy sauce, custard or ice cream.....

For the GF method
Use GF plain flour & breadcrumbs & add 1 dessertspoon of xanthum gum. make as above.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

All Wiped Up-Tea Towels

This week has seen me embroidering on tea started while we were travelling-I managed to do 3 by hand- applique Christmas ones from the Heart to Art series by Nancy Halvorsen. I had picked up the Peppermint & Holly Berries book when in the US earlier this year and had ear marked the 3 teat towels to do. I love to decorate the house at Christmas time & always have Xmas themed tea towels & hand towels out.

Then while we were in Wagga Wagga I found 2 really lovely tea towels with Aida bands on each end of I thought I'd give machine x stitch a go on these. The 2 towels were a bit pricey at $14.90 each, so you'd not be getting a set of 3 as a gift from me!, but for someone special-absolutely perfect. The shop owner had one on display & I thought how lovely it looked- little did I know that this would hook me!

Picked up 10 cotton ones in Melbourne & found I had a stash of tea towels, after embroidering on a whole lot a couple of months back!

When we returned home from our road trip I managed to get a few free days to get in & get some done, by the time I returned to work I had done 17 tea towels.....I ordered more from a really great shop in Queensland- ordered them Thursday & they arrived Friday-6 more with an Aida band at one end...what is it with me that I just have to keep on adding to what I have?LOL

I have scoured the net for simple machine x stitch borders & have found nothing- they are either too wide for the band or way too involved with a million colour changes, which I'm just not into.
Machine x stitch was one of those things I tried when I first started with the embroidery machine- found it too tiresome with all the colour changes & jump stitches & never really did more than about 2 designs.

Now that I want simple kitchen borders I can't find any anywhere- even had my friends looking & asking for me as well. There is a market there I'm sure for designs for the machine that will fit in the width of an Aida band.

My attempts at producing x stitch designs in my software have been a dismal failure-so many stops & starts it drove me crazy & it never looked any good when I finished- I knew there was a reason I didn't digitize! Just proved it with this attempt.

I found a couple of designs & played around with them & was really pleased with the outcome, mind you not enough to do a large x stitch at any time in the future, but definitely on these towels!

One thing I did do was a piggy back hooping with 3 of the tea towels. I have done this in the past with small terry hand towels.

This technique works when you are doing small items or long narrow ones like the borders. I have not done it with bath towels simply because the weight of the towel tends to pull on the stabilizer & its too much bulk to deal with around the machine.

You need to hoop up your stabilizer only-load the design into the machine & with tea towels-move the design to the far left of the design field-baste out the position or check if you have an orbiting feature for placement.

The bulk of the item needs to feed over to the left or to the back of the machine if you have placed the design at the top of the hoop. So make sure the design orientation is correct. baste the item to the stabilizer.

When I'm doing the Aida insert ones I do my basting stitch in a dark colour on the stabilizer as it will show up through the little holes & make placement much easier from the right side. If you line up the needle with a hole in the Aida it will stitch out pretty much like hand x stitch- a blind man on a galloping horse would be pleased to see where it doesn't go in the little holes! Stitch out the first design.
Send the second design to the machine & move the design so it stitches out next to the first one but not on it-check with the orbiting feature if you have one,baste onto the stabilizer, then baste the item to the stabilizer as above.Pin the excess of fabric back out of the way to leave the stabilizer clear before you start.

The next design should come in on the far right of the hoop & you repeat as above- the bulk of the towels will go to the left, the fabric under the machine border will be pinned back out of the way.

Doing it this way saves re-hooping after each stitch out & saves on stabilizer as well-when you are only using such a narrow strip anyway. I did try patching the hole with a sticky stabilizer but found that the tension on the stabilizer was not as taut as I like-so played around & worked out this way. Anything to save time!

So my stash of emroidered tea towels is growing- the cotton ones are all embroidered as well-just with designs I had purchased & never got around to using at the now I have lots of ready gifts on hand!