Lazy Approach to Patching Trousers

My son loves his ‘pocket trousers’. He has four pairs, and they each acquired a hole in the left knee. By the time the holes appeared, the trousers had long left the shops, and as they had not become too short, it seemed wasteful to toss them. It was a cold winter, so I was able to ignore the stack and hope he would outgrow them by the time the warmer weather came. Last week I patched them, using some black cotton drill scraps that have been loitering in the cupboard for far longer than I would like to admit. I felt lazy. I had dreaded patching them because of the stupid approach I usually use, where I try to sew seams parallel to the leg seams without ripping the legs open, from the outside. ( I have the patch on the inside.) It is an insane approach, that I think developed from a desire to sew using as few seams as possible – that is, sew everything without stopping the machine, without cutting the thread. Last week I used a far easier approach.

hole in trousers

1. Turn the trouser (or at least the leg to be patched) inside out.

2. Cut a strip of fabric large enough to cover the knee area, the full width of the leg. (If you are patching jeans, a couple of layers of flannelette is really lovely for Winter wear.)

patch prepared

3. Stitch the patch onto the trouser seams, inside the seam allowance, along the sides of the legs.

stitching sideseam

4. Turn the trouser leg right way out and scrunch it onto the arm of the machine, bottom of the leg first, and begin stitching parallel lines, first along the bottom edge of the patch (which can be felt from the outside), and then alongside each side of the hole, and finally along the top of the patch. A few extra lines can be stitched, of course.

horizontal stitching

When stitching, begin with a few short stitches, backwards and forwards, then adjust stitch length for the ‘real’ stitching, then end with a few short stitches back and forth again. Raise the foot of the machine, and pull the leg back around the machine arm, to commence stitching from a new point further up the leg. There is no need to cut the thread at this point, but do pull on the leg sufficiently to ensure the fabric is not too bunched up for stitching. I did cut the top thread each time though.

5. Turn the leg inside out to cut the bobbin threads from the back of the patch.

bobbin threads to cut

Ta-Da! The patch has been neatly applied without too much bother.completed patch

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simple meal

simplemeal1The photos are terrible, but the food was delicious. I hope I remember to prepare it again some time. 

My son has pizza once a week. I make it with a thin crust, and it spends less than 10 minutes in the oven. Given the amount of time it takes the oven to reach the correct temperature, it seems wasteful to cook just one pizza in it. So I bake a large batch of vegetables as well. Some we eat that night, and others reappear the following few nights, sometimes with leaves and such to make a salad, sometimes with some pasta for he who eats it, sometimes in frittata, sometimes in risotto. These nights it is a bit cold for salad, and we have eaten a little more rice than usual, so last night I was inspired by the baby pak choy I had bought on impulse at the supermarket, and made a very simple meal that I enjoyed very much. 

In the frying pan (lowish heat, where onions normally go translucent after a while, without burning):

1. chopped capsicum (1/3 – 1/2 a capsicum)

2. once capsicum translucent, chopped pak choy layered on top, with finely chopped garlic clove and finely chopped ginger, same amount as garlic

3. sunflower seeds

4. the old roasties (potato, sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin and parsnip), just to warm.

No further additions! I think it was just what I needed.

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simultaneous sleeves on circular needles


I have too  many projects on needles at the moment. I did not mind having two projects, the mohair throw for my nephew, and then a jumper for myself. However, I then noticed that my son’s need is greater than mine, that the elbows of one of his woollen jumpers are too worn to expect the jumper to provide a lot of warmth this winter. He has had it for a couple of years, and his jumpers require fairly frequent washing.

Since the drama of the green alpaca, I have decided to follow the advice of Elizabeth Zimmermann, and begin with the sleeves in order to determine gauge, and to knit them on the same circular needles that are used for the body to gain an accurate measure. When knitting the sleeves for my jumper, I used two circular needles, and kept forgetting to increase when necessary (the rounds just went so quickly). So for my son’s jumper I am knitting the two sleeves simultaneously, and I am increasing the stitches more regularly, at the planned intervals. 

When knitting narrow tubes, people have a variety of needle options.

Sometimes I use double-pointed needles, but as my gauge seems to be a bit loose these days, I preferred to use my circulars both for consistency and because the circulars are slightly less than 4 mm in diameter.

Some people use the ‘magic loop’ method with a single circular needle, but I find the manual pushing of stitches around the cable becomes very tiring and my arm begins to give the warning signals of injury to follow. It is not for me, and it is the reason I use the smallest cable I can to hold the stitches when knitting larger (body) tubes, usually 60 cm including needle tips.

So I use the two needle method, two circular needles. (If I did not have sufficient needle tips, I would use a smaller tip for the end that holds the stitches before they are knitted.) The description I read in  ‘Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines’ (Kay Gardiner and Anne Shayne; and they refer to ‘Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles’ by Cat Bordhi) made it clear to me. The most important detail is that each set of stitches (so half the tube) has its own needle, and the needles do not ever knit the stitches belonging to the other needle (until that very last round, when the sleeve will be abandoned, waiting for the body to be ready for its incorporation).

I used to have trouble setting up the stitches, and would do a bit of shuffling around after casting on, while knitting the first row (and sometimes was very glad that I could screw off the ends of the needles with just a few stitches on them). This time I amazed myself by realising when I needed to cast on and knit each group of stitches, so I took a few photos to demonstrate, and to remind myself. I also gave myself an easier time by using two balls of wool, yarn pulled from the centre, sitting snuggly side-by-side in a bag. Working from a single ball enables too many twists and tangles, although it is not impossible and I have done that several times when knitting gloves. 

1. cast on one cuff. using a second circular needle, knit half of the first row.2circularscaston12. cast on the second cuff on that first circular needle.2circularscaston23. knit the first half of the first row of the second cuff, onto the same circular needle as the first half of the first cuff. (The first needle is running across the top of the photo, and shows yarn ends at beginning of cast-on, the second needle is wound in a circle at the bottom of the photo.)2circularscaston3

4. needles arranged parallel to each other, it is time to knit the second half of each row. 2circularscaston45. Notice that only one of the pieces of knitting has its yarn at the tips of the needles – it is the only section that can be knitted, and this is how it is when knitting simultaneous tubes on two circular needles. There is no need to worry about working out which piece needs to be worked next – only one is available.2circularscaston5

6. It can be confusing, working out how to arrange the needles if the work needs to be put down at this stage. But it cannot always be avoided. So breathe deeply, and calmly twist the needles so that all of one needle is at the front or on top of the work, and the other is behind or underneath – no twisting of the cables allowed!

2circularscaston67. More pictures to show sets of stitches owning a needle, and that only one set of stitches is available for working on at any one time.

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Big Blue


I have been doing a fair amount of machine sewing lately. Some of it has been modification of unused items, some of it has been the small projects that are ‘free’ on the front of magazines, and I have patched some of my jeans. I also made a flannel blanket for my son, a very large one that should help hold the toys in bed with him. Oh boy. The more serious sewing still lies ahead of me, the fleecy jacket for my son, the black tops for me.

bigbluesketchThe project that impressed me most was inspired by my son’s lament that he needed a bigger cuddly toy to take to bed with him. The larger toys were not soft enough, and his tigers not large enough. I was not keen on a large stuffed toy entering the house. However, he had been having trouble sleeping, disturbed by low-level nightmares that the dreamcatcher could not filter (school art project). As he fell asleep, inspiration struck. I did not want a big toy to enter the house, but I had no objection to a pillow coming in, as it was time his pillow was replaced, and they tend to come in packs of two, so one for his head, one for the toy. I scribbled a couple of ideas on a scrap of paper (I have had decades of being told not to use scraps of paper, they get lost, but it is like running through the house, a habit that has been impossible to break), and a few days later bought the corduroy (cotton, but soft and fluffy-ish) to make Big Blue the cat.

bigbluefeaturesSo far Big Blue has been a great success. My son is sleeping well. I am amazed that he is something I made, as he does not look made-by-me. I handstitched the eyes, as my attempt to sew the centre of the eye onto the larger piece of fabric was terrible, and it is not something I want to do often enough to take the trouble to work out how to do it properly on the machine. I tacked the shape of the mouth and position of whiskers before backstitching the real thing. Limbs, tail and ears were stitched on with a smaller stitch than usual, several times, to ensure they won’t come out. 


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green alpaca jumper

greenalpacasideseamI dabble in several different crafts. However, I try to restrict myself to a single project in progress in each of those crafts. I make the rules, so I make the exceptions. Small projects that can be completed within a week can be performed at any time, provided they are completed within that time frame. The large project is set aside for that time. Projects that would be tedious, such as the mohair throw, can be worked ‘on the side’, with a small amount to be completed each week. It makes a nice change for the hands, to be using such thick needles, but requires more attention than my regular knitting, so I don’t want it as my main knitting project. 

mohairthrowupdateAnd occasionally, just occasionally, a large project can be set aside and ‘forgotten’. 

This green alpaca jumper was one of those projects.

It should have been a simple project: I have knitted 8 ply alpaca from Bendigo Woollen Mills several times in the past. I assumed my tension would be the same this time as previous times. I knew the measurements of the recipient’s favourite jumper. The calculations were simple. I merrily cast on the body (circular needle, so a huge tube) and knitted. Then after knitting a ribbed band and perhaps 10 cm of stocking stitch, I made the mistake of measuring the width of the tube. I was sure it was too narrow. I made more calculations, pulled out what I had knitted, and resumed with more stitches. 

There was an interlude due to a finger injury (RSI? arthritis? old injury suddenly aggravated?). When I resumed knitting, I blithely worked until I finished a 200 g ball. I measured the tube. It was very wide, much wider than I wanted. By then I had had enough of working on the jumper. I put it in a cloth bag and set it aside. It was not forgotten, just banished from the work basket.

I picked it up again a couple of months ago. It had not made itself narrower during its year of exile. I could not bear the thought of pulling it out again. It seemed doomed to never be the correct width. Instead, I decided I would compensate afterwards. I would make a padded side seam instead. So when casting off a few stitches for the armholes, I cast off extra, the amount that would be lost in the seam. Then I shaped the top of the jumper as normal. Sewing up was ‘fun’

greenalpacastitching seam1. I sewed side seams using mattress stitch, as I usually do when sewing together flat pieces of knitting, right side of the knitting facing me.

greenalpacamarkingseamcentre2. I turned the jumper inside out, and stitched along the centre of the seam using a contrasting thread.

greenalpacaseamcentre3. I flattened the seam, so that the centre would align (approximately) with the seam I had stitched.

greenalpacacatchingseamsides4. I stitched each side of the excess knitted fabric to the body of the jumper, catching just one horizontal bar of yarn every few rows. 

I am now hoping that the recipient does not notice. If he does, I will be flippant, and suggest the extra padding will keep his sides especially warm. It is a relief to have completed this project.

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Cardboard, Sawdust and Styrofoam

I have had a couple of months of feeling I was some experimental subject being fed gluten-free wheat-substitute baked goods. My mother baked a special cake, some shortbread and some almond bread biscotti at  Christmas, and I felt horribly ungrateful for not finding them delicious. The cake seemed to be made with a fine sawdust, and the biscuits were far too sugary for my taste. I hadn’t really missed eating cakes and such, as I had largely given them up when my son was young and I was keeping refined sugar out of his diet because teething was so painful that he refused to allow a toothbrush in his mouth. (So far, no fillings, the damp face washer rubbed gently over the teeth and the lack of refined sugar was sufficient to protect them, even though he chewed on dried apricots every day.) 

Then there was the toast I ate at a cafe, and I was expected to consider it some gourmet delight, even though I have never liked gluten-free bread (my parents-in-law liked a gluten-free cafe for its egg-rich menu – I hated the cement-filled stomach followed by sudden extreme hunger).The recently tried gluten-free bread resembled slices of a multigrain supermarket loaf of bread, something usually disdained in this house, and tasted the way I expect cardboard would taste. 

After all of that, I had a sudden craving for a pleasant cake to eat. So I baked an orange and poppyseed cake, as these often have a good amount of almond meal in them. I could not be bothered looking up a recipe, and took the attitude that it is usually 60 g of butter per egg, and that the dry ingredients are usually added to create a ‘slop’. So I decided to make it up as I went along, as someone must have done originally in the past. 

The cake keeps its shape better if allowed to cool in the tin. The first time it collapsed when released.  



60 g butter, melted 

1 egg

juice of half an orange (very juicy, 20 – 30 mL)

3 tbsp (1/4 cup) marmalade (lemon & lime, because that is what I have)

1 cup almond meal

1/4 cup poppyseeds

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cloves

Mix all ingredients together.

Pour into 10 cm square tin.

Bake at 160 C fan, 40 minutes.

*double ingredients to bake in loaf tin, same amount of time, as it will be the same distance to reach the centre of the cake from the outside.

*spice measurements can be adjusted to taste, or omitted, and if the batter seems a bit stiff more juice could be added (marmalades vary in how liquid or solid they are). 

*our tablespoon measure is 20 mL, and 3 tbsp is close enough to 1/4 cup, where a cup is 250 mL.


Note: There are two gluten-free substitute foods I consume regularly. There are the popcorn biscuits that are acceptable with nut butters spread on them. I would not bother with them if I could still eat real bread, but I would rather eat styrofoam than cardboard or sawdust. The other substitute, the most successful I have tried, is the weet-bix made with sorghum instead of wheat. They taste more the way I remember weet-bix tasting when I was a child than weet-bix really taste (my son did not like them when he tried them about six years ago, so I ate all that remained in the box). 

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A few Easter chicks


I have been wanting to make some sort of lavendar bag for months. It has been an insane urge. Maybe a few drawers are a bit musty when opened, but wouldn’t it make more sense to toss the stagnant items? Sigh. There just never seems to be time. But there is time to sew chicks. Huh.

Anyway, several sources of inspiration converged recently.

There was the stench, very slight in this house, that came from the sewer upgrade works (thank goodness the holes in the road near here were open for less than a week – some intersections have been closed for months with huge access holes). I distracted my nose with a small dish containing some chai tea and lavendar (my stomach can’t handle black tea anymore).


There was the library craft blog session, with the suggestion that favourite craft blogs be shared. We did not reach that point in the session, but when looking at old favourites I came across Molly Chicken (, no longer active, but the archive is beautiful and the chicks in the banner seemed to be just what I needed.

And finally, instead of making a pattern, I just cut the first directly from the fabric, then used that as my pattern (but then traced afterwards, just in case…). This is the approach used by my son and my nephew when making anything from paper or fabric (or, let’s face it, Lego). It is the best way of cutting shapes from felt, particularly small circles for making eyes. After cutting, I then sorted them according to size to create pairs, trimming one or two where needed. 


Placement of beak and tail before stitching. (Couple of beak positions used.)


Stitching the bottom with one of my favourite machine feet (the saleswoman seemed uncertain of the wisdom of that purchase with the machine, yet I use it as often as the regular foot).


Steps in production.


Happy Easter!

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