Xuli costume

One of the joys (?) of having a toddler is your immersion in cbeebies. I’m now an expert in all kinds of pre-school tv, but one of the Monkey’s favorites is Go Jetters about four young explorers who are taken round the world by a disco dancing unicorn, finding out about geography and dealing with an incompetent baddie. As you do!  She loves it, whenever the music comes on she makes us all dance with her and comes and finds us.

When she asked for a Xuli costume (one of the characters) I decided it was doable and a fun project. The outfit is basically a purple all in one with yellow detail. To make the all in one I used the same teddy pram suit pattern as I have made twice before. Teddy pram suit for a friend and Yogi Bear fancy dress for the monkey. I extended the pattern at the bodice and put a zip in the front, but otherwise kept the pattern the same. I had thought about putting elastic at the ankles and cuffs, but turned out not to be necessary.

We had a trial fitting before I put on the arms and detail, which turned into a trip to the park. I thought she actually looked pretty good in it.


The final job of putting the yellow detail on was pretty quick as I did it in felt. The only thing that didn’t quite match up was the hood detail at the back, but it was only a small miss. It’s still missing the Go Jetters badge on the front, but my husband is going to make that in the next few days, and the monkey didn’t seem to notice.

Overall I’m happy with the end result, and so was the monkey. She wore it for a walk in the wood yesterday. A suitable global adventure for an explorer!



40 before 40 #7 take my daughter camping

August bank holiday weekend in the UK. Traditionally a weekend of rain, festivals and being surprised that it is raining. This year, despite about four months of pretty continuous glorious weather (I met a baby in July who’d never seen rain!) the bank holiday weekend managed to stay true to form and rain.  Granted, the Saturday was nice, but the Sunday was wet across most of the country and we joined the throngs of soggy campers up and down the land.

We, however, had our own private campsite and the rain didn’t stop us having a marvelous time. The monkey has a little play tent in our lounge and had started to ask to go camping.  The husband isn’t one for camping so I roped my aunt into coming with us.  Not that she took much persuading, she’s always up for an adventure. We have family links to a Peak District farmer who very kindly invited us to camp on his farm, which enabled us to combine toddler obsessions with camping and tractors into one trip.

The whole thing was a huge success, we got a ride on a tractor and to borrow a quad bike. Cue huge toddler grins and repeat asks for another go. We also visited the cows (two of whom have now been named moo and clip clop) a number of times. Along with big toys and no noisy neighbours the other benefit of our campsite was fantastic hospitality. We were invited into the farm kitchen for 18th birthday cake, which enabled us to have a warm up and some very tasty cake  along with the monkey’s first taste of orange juice. We also had excellent camping facilities of the farmhouse bathroom for toddler bath time. Result!

The rain didn’t limit us apart from one thing, once the monkey was in bed we couldn’t go outside to drink our wine as it was too wet, so had to join the early night. And how did she sleep? Well she spent two hours going ‘I can’t do it’ and then once I moved her into the middle spot she was out like a light and slept through to normal wake up time.

We had a fantastic time and are so grateful for being invited over and looked after so well.

As an aside, in preparation for the trip I got her a camping based story from the library which she is now obsessed with, and insists on reading to me every time we get it out!


(I’m back at work next week, so my blogging is going to slow right down again!)

Creating my own dress

As you may have noticed, this summer has been pretty hot here in the UK.  Summer dresses that I haven’t worn for a few years have come out, and I was beginning to get bored of the wearing the same ones every week. So i decided to make myself a new dress.

I had some leftover fabric from making my Three hour slouchy cardigan mark 2 but no pattern that worked so decided to have my first go at making a my own pattern.  It ended up being a combination of Another stretchy dress (Simplicity 1360), A sixties dress (Newlook K6145) and copying the top of a colleagues dress.

As the first pattern is a maternity dress I had to do a lot of reducing of fabric to make me not look pregnant. I also rediscovered that the back has far too much fabric so had to do a lot of slimming down once I had cut it all out. For the top I kept the v-neck front but rather than including the gathered waste used an extra panel to make a looped front. I managed to pattern match the seams too.

As a first attempt at creating my own pattern I think it went okay.  It isn’t the neatest creation ever, but is wearable if we ever get another baking summer, typically I finished it just as the hot weather ended, so have only worn it once.


40 before 40 #6 Go into space!

This one wasn’t actually on the list before I headed off, but my list still doesn’t have 40 things on it and if I’d known this existed earlier it would have definitely been on, so it’s allowed to count.

Space Expo is a museum linked to the European Space Agency just outside Noordwijk aan Zee in The Netherlands.  It’s not a huge exhibition but includes lots of things  I found very interesting.  It’s pretty hands on so there were activities to learn about gravity and making hydrogen to fuel rockets among other things.  There was also a life sized rocket base which blasts off into space every hour with accompanying lights and smoke alongside a 4.3 billion year old meteorite you got to touch!

I also got to geek out on geography a bit too.  There was a section dedicated to different satellite images of The Netherlands showing sea currents, land movement, areas of dense population and sea controls and plenty of other things.

But actually going into space, well there were two exhibits where we did that.  The first was a simulation of the cockpit of a shuttle.  All three of us crammed into the little seats and went through take off, docking with the space station, re-entry and landing.  Lots of juddering with accompanying sound effects and views from the window (including re-entry flames).

The second was a model of the interior of a space station (I’m assuming model, I guess they never actually come back to earth). It felt so real going in there, like you should be floating and pulling yourself around rather than clumpily walking round.  There was something about it that made me stop (doesn’t happen very often), that other worldliness about it, the bright, clean lines and feeling that you were somewhere you never thought you would be. At the end was a viewing hatch, where we sat for ages watching the world go by underneath us.

The whole place is a great morning out. If you ever find yourself in this corner of The Netherlands I’d recommend it.

The space station


Inside the space station


The rocket


One shopping trip, three fabrics, two dresses (so far)

Last year I made the monkey a dress (and a matching one for me!) Now the UK’s summer sun has arrived I realised that she’s grown faster than I was expecting over the last year, and her dress is now better utilised as a top.


This meant I got to make her a new one, and I love a good excuse to do some sewing.  I didn’t have any fabric that would work, so took the monkey shopping.  She was very excited about making herself a dress, and as soon as we got into the shop she made a beeline to some very red fabric and gave it a big hug.  She wasn’t to be swayed by offers of red leaf patterns or any other red fabric, that was the one! We then had more of a look round and between us found some great fabric with airplanes on and another one with fire engines, racing cars, police cars and helicopters.

The monkey is a big fan of vehicles.  We live under a flight path and she has great fun waving at the airplanes that fly over the garden and telling me they are going home (they’re coming in to land).  She is also a fan of all the things on the other fabric too, so having gone in for fabric for one dress we left with enough for three!


The pattern I used is really simple, the same as I used last year. The challenge this year was sewing with a toddler on my knee.  I’m really pleased that she has started to take an interest in sewing over the last few months and is enjoying helping me sew.  She is now very good at taking the pins out of the fabric as I sew, and putting them in the pin cushion.  She also tries to help guide the fabric through with me, but hasn’t quite got that one down yet.

So the results, two dresses so far.  That’s all she really needs for this year, so I’m holding on to the airplane fabric until next year as I bought slightly more of that.

(I forgot to photograph the red dress when she was wearing it properly yesterday, it wouldn’t normally need a t-shirt underneath it. The swimming badge does seem to be pretty compulsory mind).

The red fabric was slightly thicker so doesn’t ruffle up with the elastic as well as the thinner ones.  It still works as a dress, but is a bit looser.


40 before 40 #5. Eat food from 5 countries I’ve not eaten from before

I love food and generally think I’m pretty adventurous (as long as it doesn’t involve a mushroom, evil fungus those things).  When I was starting out on this 40 before 40 list, this was an item I adapted from someone else’s list.  Having included it, I then started to wonder how easy it would be to do this without travelling as I have tried most of the common options available in the UK.

I think I’m fortunate that my organisation’s Head Office is on Lower Marsh in London.  For a while the road has hosted a fabulous street food market every lunchtime.  Not great for the wallets of those who work there everyday, but for the monthly or so visitor like me, a real treat.

I’ve been using the market since it opened, but have generally stuck to the same favorite stalls including Dim Sum, the amazing falafel wraps and the Italian stall which gives you enough food to survive off for days.  For my last few visits I have been challenging myself to choose a stall from a cuisine I haven’t tried before. It’s been great fun and very tasty!

First stall – Venezualian

My abiding memory of this stall was the yellow corn bread.  A distinct taste served with a burger and lots of crunchy salad.

Second stall – Syrian

This could be argued to be the same as may Eastern Mediterranean stalls, but I’ve never had a Syrian salad box before so it counts. Skewered chicken, boiled egg, olives, salad. Very tasty and filling.

Third Stall – Peruvian

This one was a lamb and potato stew with rice.  Less lamb in the mix than I was expecting, but its flavour had really got into the stew.

(Very tasty inserted visit – Masala Dosa)

Yes, I’ve definitely had Indian food before, but the queue for the Senagal stall was too long and I was in a rush. I had veggie curry with the dosa and coconut chutney.  Not really a fan of the chutney, but the dosa and curry were very tasty.

Fourth Stall – Trinadian Curry

Chicken curry with a roti.  Trinadadian rotis include split peas inside them.  I wasn’t expecting that, but it was a pleasant surprise and went well with a good curry.

Fith meal – not a stall – Ghana

This meal  wasn’t from Lower Marsh, but a shop near Liverpool Street station called Chop Pot.  A big bowl of red Ghanaian spicy meat and rice.  I have to say I wasn’t a huge fan, but I suspect it’s one of those meals that once you eat a few times you keep going back to.

Overall I enjoyed expanding my culinary horizons, and will definitely keep trying any new exciting looking stalls I see.  My favourite was the Trinidad curry, followed by the Syrian salad and Venezuelan burger.

Three hour slouchy cardigan mark 2

A while ago I made a Three hour slouchy cardigan, it’s a good pattern and useful in the summer, but it took me a lot longer than three hours to make and I didn’t get the sizing quite right.

It’s been a while since I made myself some clothes and with spring (supposedly) just around the corner I thought this would be a good quick make using some stretch fabric in my stash.

I started off by tracing off the xs size. As I was using using my over-locker I didn’t need the seam allowance and so the small size was too big. I paid a lot of attention to trying to pattern match as the cardigan would have looked pretty dodgy if I hadn’t.

The pattern has some interesting front pleat details which I’ve never quite figured out how to do properly.  This time I think they ended up being wider than required, but at least you couldn’t see the zig-zag holding stitch.  I also had the issue that I had lost my twin needle.  This wasn’t really an issue as I just sewed the pleats and all the hems twice instead.

Once I’d done the pleats it was a case of paying attention to the pattern matching when I put the three peaces of the pattern together.  I had to cut a little off the arms on the back so everything was the same size, but otherwise the pattern matching worked.

The fit on this one is much better, and the whole thing didn’t take much more than four hours to make. Now we just need some sun!