Speed record – dress in one day

I’m in the market for another wedding dress, but this time it has to be on the cheap. So yesterday arvo I ventured out to the salvos in Red Hill. This is a massive op shop, with separate “boutique” section with a high end selection and a well organised and huge “normal” section. It seemed to be my lucky day, with a wonderful wedding dress at display in my size! However, its price tag of a 1000 dollars didn’t really fit my budget. So I had to rely on my ingenuity and went to work. Alas, the Australians are simply too short, so it was though going. After a good hour of  deliberations with tops and skirts, I wandered into the section with fabrics and saw this perfect off-white tablecloth with silk embroidery, complete with 8 serviettes. Finally something I could work with to create a full-length wedding dress that fits!

The plan was to make a “square skirt” from the table cloth, which is a simple as cutting a hole that fits over your hips and finish said hole with a (elastic) waistband. The serviettes would have to be assembled in a top in some fashion. After an evening of plotting and scheming I had the rough outline of a plan.

This morning Linecraft proved to have the perfect ribbons and other haberdashery to make this vision a reality, so I ended up spending more on this than on the fabric itself.

Next step: cut a big hole in the table cloth. No guts, no glories! After that first big step, the rest was rather smooth sailing and before afternoon tea I had transformed a table cloth in a proper dress. I’m not showing the whole dress for now, since it will be a few weeks before I get to wear it. Don’t want to spoil the surprise, that would be bad luck *grin*.

I’m actually quite pleased with the end result, having a bit of a twenties vibe about it. Now all that is left is to trash it a bit, but why that’s necessary is another story.

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16 years togetherness

Selfie time for this old couple in West End.

Last week we renewed the lease on our West End unit and tonight we celebrated the 16th anniversary our first kiss in some of the local establishments. Seems like we’re here to stay a while longer 😉

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I work out

I’m in need of external motivation to work out, so I’ll be counting my buttons in public in this post.

Big button equals 25-30 minutes on the cross trainer at level L, followed by a mini circuit of 3 x B repetitions of weight lifting , with stretching as an active break in between.

Small buttons equals a mini circuit of 3 x S repetitions elbow planking for x seconds, body weight squats and push-ups or  backwards push-ups, with stretching as an active break in between.

2016-08-01/07 – Mon/Wed Canberra Fri/Sun Charrette, aka workworkwork
2016-07-25/31 – Sat boat and jet ski license, Sun Mnt Glorious bike ride
2016-07-18/24 – Thu radio exam, Fri Urban climb + Northbrook gorges, Sat Straddie snorkel
2016-07-11/17 – 3 x Urban climb
2016-07-04/10 – Thu Habitat drinks, Fri whiskey tasting, Sun Cherub dive
2016-06-27/03 – Wed/Thu trip to Sydney
2016-06-20/27 – Botanica gym, pool night, urban climb, mooloolaba reef
2016-06-13/19 (3kg, L10, B10x. S10x, 40s) Visit to Canberra messed up my schedule, but I made it up in the weekend.
2016-06-06/12 (2kg, L9, B10x, S10x. 30s). First full week
2016-05-30/5 (1kg, L8, B10x. S10x. 30s)
2016-05-23/29 (1kg, L8, B10x, S10x)

6 months

According to some random blog (by the New Zealand government), 6 months in is about the time when you enter the “fright state” and should be preparing for the low moods to come. According to a trusted friend, this is when you enter a limbo state where you’re done settling in in the practical sense, but are still months away from building a network of friends and acquaintances.

I’ll formulate my own opinion on this in a few months time, but for now the 6 month milestone seemed reason for a celebration. So we baked cookies :).

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This weekends rainfall had a much more sensible timing, so we enjoyed a walk in the rain at dusk. When it rains it pours!

I do hope that this concludes the very wet weekends for now. It’s the second weekend in a row we had to cancel our scuba diving plans, while the weekdays remain familiarly sunny. But I guess there are worse things, like damaged houses, flash floods and power outages.

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And then there was one

We came to Oz for me to replace my colleague Alex, but there was a comfortable overlap of almost 6 months. This has now come to an end, as Alex and his family have boarded the plane that will bring them back to Europe. There have been plenty of good-bye-lunches, drinks and barbies this last week, one of the benefits of having multiple offices.

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One of the things I was not looking forward to coming out here was to have no direct colleagues around in the same room, or even the same time zone. I’ve really enjoyed the company of Alex in this starting up period. Always good to have someone to talk shop with and complain to and have fun with. Monday is the start of a new era, where I still have plenty of friendly people around, but will fly solo on all company matters. Hey ho, here we go!

I hope Alex and family have a safe journey back home and find it easy to settle in again. They weren’t looking forward to leaving Brisbane, but are happy to be closer to their family again. Jaap and me both are happy it’s not us yet that are moving back, so I guess we like it here :).

In unrelated news, I’ve been plenty active these last few weeks with some sewing. You can find more details on my sewing blog: purr-purse  and you-say-mens-shirt-i-say-my-shirt/

The photo at the top is to show it’s not -always- sunny in the sunshine state. (By the time I found my way to the roof on this lazy Saturday morning the worst had already passed.) Today we saw quite some rain in South-East Queensland, although from the comfort of our apartment it was less impressive than I had expected. There was enough excitement elsewhere though: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/qld-authorities-happy-with-rain-response-20160604-gpbmmb.html


You say mens shirt, I say my shirt

Another method to turn a formless shirt into a fitted shirt. Some would call the original a mens shirt, all I see is a shirt that is long enough to cover my upper body, but lacks any shape or form. The latter is more easily fixed than adding length after the fact!

I found a nice red shirt, not quite as large as I would like, but half price at Vinnies, so who can complain. This time I used a black tailor made shirt I had ordered with Bivolino as my inspiration. The end result is a fitted shirt, that’s comfortable enough to move around in. I think I might use this method more often, so I’ve described the process below.

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I used the iron board as a pin cushion, when copying the pattern pieces from the Bivolino shirt. This works very well, as long as the pattern pieces fit on the board.

I matched the two front panel pieces at the arm hole (overlapping so that the seam lines match). The center front piece follows the center front of the shirt (button strip) off course. For the second panel I matched the bottom corner with the shirt. Of course there was some excess fabric to trim at the sides.

There was not enough room to actually cut the princess seam, but the since the overlap of the pattern pieces was something of 1-2 cm short, I decided to replace this seam with a small dart. (The picture below is from after I already put the dart in, so it’s less clear.)  The dart starts where the pattern pieces lose their comfortable overlap (fortunately below the breast pocket), ending straight at the hem of the shirt.

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You can see why the original shirt should ideally be XX-L or XXX-L. It is because arm holes in a straight cut are pretty wide, whilst in a fitted shirt they are much smaller, therefore you need more width in the fabric higher up. Since was only a L, I had to get creative.

For the back panel, I simply put the Bivolino shirt straight on top of the red shirt, marked the size and trimmed the excess fabric at the sides. Here I did not need to use the entire width of the shirt at the bottom. I did add up to 2 cm by eye, over the length of the back darts, to have enough fabric to add those. I drew each side separately by hand, hoping the front panels would still match (i.e. be the same length as the back panel). This worked better on one side that the other, but the end result is not bad enough to necessarily do it more precise next time (although I should).

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Because the arm holes ended up larger than the Bivolino shirt, I had to cut the sleeves a bit wider as well. Instead of measuring as I should have done, I made a lucky guess which was close enough. But next time I should definitely spend the extra 5 minutes to do it properly.

I kept most of the original shape of the sleeve head (which I separated carefully of the original, allowing me to use the complete length), which worked out well. Using a wider arm also allowed me to keep the original cuffs (at the smallest position), which is a necessity I think. That’s a benefit of a smaller shirt, the cuffs are less wide.


By the by, here is a photo of the end result of the project I mentioned previously, but forgot to put online.


Purr purse

March 2014, Singapore, an emergency purse is bought in absence of a handbag needed to go clubbing.  Turns out it is -the perfect- purse, including a soothing kitten to stroke in times of need for something soft. In fear of it falling apart (it was dirt cheap), the search for a replacement begins, but fails miserably. The size, the phone pocket, the arm strap, the many pockets on the inside, and of course the soft kitten to stroke. All simple features on their own, but combined they make for an unique purse it seems. So a new search begins, for enough courage to make a copy. Loads of how-to’s on line are read, for purses with some of the features, but never all. Then, after more than 2 years have gone by, the Work begins! Fabric is bought, a toile is made,  then a first attempt which is soon ript apart to start again. And then… I proudly present you the Purr Purse, together with the inspiration.

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Since this was quite the project, I wanted to make a manual on how to do it. Not an easy task and it made me appreciate the sewing descriptions available even more. Also, drawing is hard! But I persevered, so here it is.

Stuff you need:

  • Fabric cut in rectangles of 12.5 x 19.5 cm, which is including 1 cm seam allowance:
    • 2x outer material (yellow)
    • 2x fusible interface (not used this time, but would recommend it)
    • 4x faux leather (purple)
    • 8x lining (white with constellations)
  • More faux leather for bits and pieces:
    • P: 2x zipper pull tags (1.5 x 2 cm)
    • E: eye for hook (1.5 x 6 cm)
    • Z1: zipper end enclosure (4 x 6 cm)
    • Z2: zipper end enclosuer (3 x 3 cm)
    • T: 2x enforcement top (3 x 19.5 cm)
    • S: arm strap (1.5 x 32 cm)
  • Soft fabric for kitten (5 x 10 cm, brownish purple)
  • Non-fabric things
    • 3x zipper (15, 17.5 and 21 cm) The long zipper might have courser teeth.
    • bias band to finish lining seams (roughly 120 cm,  white)
    • hook to attach strap to loop (copper)
    • 2x small rings (1 cm diameter, copper)
    • thread matching all fabrics (i.e. yellow, purple and white)


At every step, consider which colour thread to use. Always use same color for top and bottom thread for the best result.

  • Step 1: Prepare the faux leather bits and pieces
  • Step 2:
    Step 2
    Step 2

    Inner pocket zipper. Insert zipper for the inner pocket, including the zipper end enclosure Z2 (see drawing). Don’t sew zipper into the seam allowance. Leave room to tug away the zipper ends. Add lining.

  • Step 3: Prepare inner pocket. Top stitch the zipper, be careful not to sew into the seam allowance. Sew lining and faux leather together within the seam allowance, to make things easier in later steps.
  • Step 3 and 4
    Step 3 and 4
  • Step 4: Prepare inner halves of the outer pocket. Sew faux leather and lining together (r.s. together), top stitch (w.s. together). Sew lining and faux leather within seam allowance (w.s. together).
  • Step 4a: Prepare ending of the main zipper, as explained with step 9.
  • Step 5:
    Step 5 and 6
    Step 5 and 6

    Combine. Sew inner pocket and inner halves of the outside pockets together at 3-4 cm from the edge. Inner pocket is positioned 1 cm downwards relative to outer pockets. Use thread in the color of the faux leather, this will show in the end result. Catch zipper enclosure of large zipper (see step 9) within this seam.

  • Step 6: Finish inner pocket. Put the inner pocket together inside out, i.e faux leather sides together (purple thread). While doing this, bundle up the inner halves of the outer pockets, to get them out of the way of the seam. Sew together, making sure to trap the zipper endings in the seam. Don’t forget to include the eye for hook attaching the arm strap at the opposite side of the ending of the large zipper (see step 5). Finish the seems with bias band.
  • Step 7:
    Step 7 and 8
    Step 7 and 8

    Side zipper. Apply fusible interface to outside material (yellow). In 1 outer side, cut an opening, similar to halve a welt pocket, to insert the side zipper (2 cm from the sides, 3 cm from the top). Add lining to zipper. See also the drawing for this step.

  • Step 7a: Kitten. Cut kitten shape and sew to other outer side. Position it, such that your thumb will rests on it when holding the purse.
  • Step 8: Phone pocket.
    8a: Attach faux leather top enforcement to other half of the zipper and top of the side panel, folding away the “welt pocket triangles”. Top stitch zipper.
    8b: Add lining to top half of zipper.
    8c: Sew outside fabric + 2 layers of lining together within the seam allowance. Trim excess lining fabric.
  • Step 9:
    Step 9 and 10
    Step 9 and 10

    Main zipper. Attach zipper enclosure Z1 to start of the large zipper (see drawing) and insert zipper to outer sides, similar to the inner pocket zipper at step 2. Make sure you enclose the zipper endings.

  • Step 10: Outer pockets. Fold away the inner pocket and 1 inner half. Sew together the first outer pocket. Repeat for the other outer pocket. Procedure is similar to inner pocket at step 6.

And here once more the same description, now in all it’s hand written beauty.

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Climb every mountain

If it is true that we do not conquer the mountain, instead we conquer ourselves, then today I have defeated myself… At least it was a worthy opponent :).

My airbnb host Morgan from Melbourne was visiting his parents in Brisbane with his girlfriend and invited me and Jaap to come along for a hike up mount Tibrogargan. Morgan warned me that we would spend most of the time on all fours hugging the mountain, but he assured me we wouldn’t be needing climbing gear like ropes and things. With our bush walking experience in the mountains of Flinders Ranges, I figured we’d be all right. Long story short, I climbed farther than I initially dared, but when my muscles started to twitch involuntary, I decided enough was enough and found my way back down.

So today I learned a thing or two about rock climbing, and I now fully understand the difference between bush walking, rock climbing and mountain climbing. That, and I know fear when I smell it.  I guess we’re not in Holland anymore.

Fortunately, there was a lovely plan B. So while Morgan and girlfriend made their way successfully to the top, Jaap and I found our way to the lovely Victory tea parlor around the corner, where the host got stuck in the fifties, serving tea and cakes in style to all who venture into her garden.

But no worries, I’ll be back. Just give me some time to grow actual muscles. Next time I’ll make it a bit higher up (I hope), but in any case there’ll be cake in the end.

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Expect the unexpected

We know how to prepare for life changing events. Ask anyone who ever helped us move or who were involved in the planning of our wedding. We prepared for our move down under the only way we know how: thoroughly. The number of to-do- and where-at-lists we made (and length thereof) is probably more than normal people can stomach. But hey, that’s how we roll. As a result our move and settling-in went quite smoothly. Yay us :).

Still, some things here are not as expected. Not in a bad way, just unexpected. Which is telling in its own way I think, so mostly for my own memory I made a list of things that come to mind.

  • The weather. How could I not start with the weather. It’s amazing how much simpler life is when the weather is always sunny. I hoped I would adjust to it, but I did not expect I would like it as much as I do. It’s just so easy. Even though some of the other points in this list might seem to contradict this, they don’t. They’re just a different side of the same coin.
  • Your stuff. No matter how well you try to imagine your new life when you decide what to bring and what to leave behind, you make mistakes. For example, I hardly wear any t-shirts down here and I brought so many! Between the Deltares polo’s and my singlets (of which I made a bunch before we left) a T-shirt is just too warm. Things might change in winter though. This is just a silly example, but many a time I have found something, wondering why we brought it and other times missed the stuff we left behind. Maybe this should teach you to just leave everything other than a suitecase with clothes. Especially considering the next item in this list.
  • New stuff. Starting a new life starts with buying loads of stuff. And then some. And some more still. It got to a point that I decided against buying some things, just because. Silly of course. I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it. All you do those first weeks/weekend is hang around in malls. It can suck the life right out of you.
  • Adventures. Life down under is pretty much just that: life. We work, eat, sleep, repeat. No exiting trips every weekend, discovering this whole new continent; no diving all the time; no coffees and lunches and dinners out every day. Basically we’re still boring old us, just in a different location. What also doesn’t help is the sun. You can be dissuaded from leaving the shade of the apartment pretty easily in the middle of the day. You really need to plan your outings for the start of the day, or else you might not find the courage to go out.
  • Exercise and diet. Since I no longer have a proper bicycle ride in the office every day I actually have to make an effort to exercise. It looks like I found my rhythm though. I try to hit the gym (cross-trainer) and pool at least twice a week. Should be more, but what can I say. Food wise, lunch in the office is generally not a cheese sandwich over here. Often people go out for lunch, which basically means you have dinner twice a day. All the more reason to exercise!
  • Internet. Emigration nowadays is not a big deal as it once was. Especially for folks like us, who live half their lives online anyway. You stay in touch with friends and family on Facebook and Skype, and with you colleagues on email. Apart from the timezone difference, which is less inconvenient now because of Daylight Saving Time, you hardly feel the distance. Also, sites like linguee.com help you navigate a new language more easily. And stuff like Netflix is just as available as anywhere :). Did I already tell you Oz TV sucks balls even more than Dutch telly? But to be honest, these are things we did foresee while planning, so I’m cheating by putting them on this list.
  • Kids. Don’t worry, I mean other people’s kids :). Those are the people in your life with whom it’s hardest to stay in touch with over the internet. Just talking gets boring pretty quick. And at the same time, they are the ones who change the most. We’ll have to get to know them all over again in a few years time. Which will be fun too, no dramas!
  • Visitors. I sure did underestimate how much I would want to share the fun bits of our new neck of the woods with the people I love. These blogs help, but I can’t wait to show my parents around town next weekend! Also, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law will be here in winter. Good times!
  • Books. I actually read a lot more down here. Less distraction maybe, but breakfast on the balcony every day without a proper newspaper to be found in Queensland sure helps. Maybe this is not such a good thing after all.
  • Sewing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’ve learnt here that – even more than I thought – I’m happiest when I can sew. Can, not must. Just knowing it’s one of the possibilities is sometimes enough.

And on that note, and because I wanted to add a photo, I started work on Project Purr Purse this weekend. More on that as the story unfolds.



Hot cross buns

A good three months in and we’re checking all the boxes. By now we’ve had our first visit to the GP, gotten a haircut, (some of us) got a facial, went on a short holiday in SA (more on that will follow), had our first dive and most importantly, our first barbie. Still no thongs though, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere!

During the long Easter weekend (Good Friday is exactly that over here), we joined the lovely people of UniDive on a one day trip to Tweed Heads (NSW) for a shore dive. We saw a spotted eagle ray within the first minute, and a turtle soon after that. But the highlight of the trip was an encounter with a super chill porcupinefish, that did not mind us checking him out while he was getting his scales cleaned. Never knew they had such puffy lips! Jaap shot an amazing video, but I got an image online for this post. According to the sign on shore there’s plenty more fish to be seen, so we’ll definitely be back. Also because it’s practically the only shore dive you can make from Brisbane. At the barbie afterwards we made many an omnivore envious of the shashlicks and burgers we made. Go veg!


And Easter over here is all about hot cross buns. It’s like a krentenbol, but different. For some reason, everybody goes apeshit over them.