Five for Friday: What I’ve been up to early 2019 edition

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a life catch-up post. So long, that some of the things I’ve been collecting for it feel like they happened years ago… I’m pretty sure it’s only been months, but life is moving very fast for me!

So what have I been up to?

1. Lots of visits to Zealandia

My lovely in-laws gave us annual passes to Zealandia for Christmas (best present ever) and I’ve been blissfully indulging my love of/obsession with New Zealand’s native birds at every possible opportunity.

Mr D is not quite so obsessed with birds, but he’s delighted to go along with any activity that doesn’t involve costumes, movies with subtitles, or the weekend vege markets, so he’s been loving the weekly (or more) trips to Zealandia.

Hihi at Zealandia thedreamstress.com

Zealandia has been such a feature of our lives this summer that I’m probably going to gift/inflict you with a post all about it, so I’ll try to restrain myself from posting 1000 pictures in this one.

The photo above is a hihi (stitchbird) – a bird which has the distinction of having the best Maori AND English names!

Hihi are extremely rare nectar eating birds that were driven to extinction on the main islands of NZ, but have been reintroduced through sanctuaries like Zealandia.

2. Re-upholstering some chairs

Our dining room table had chairs that were upholstered in this exceedingly attractive 1980s peach fabric:

Chairs to be reupholstered thedreamstress.com

So chic…

Chairs to be reupholstered thedreamstress.com

Re-doing them had been on my to-do list ever since we bought the table, but it never quite made it to the top priority. In mid December I decided it was something that was going to be done before the end of 2018 (or else), and I spent a day with the staple puller and the stapler.

And now I have a set of fun, significantly more attractive, chairs:

Reupholstered chairs thedreamstress.com

Every chair has a different fabric, but they all coordinate.

Reupholstered chairs thedreamstress.com

3. A bit of baking

Finding the time to bake is a huge indulgence for me. Mr D isn’t a baked goods fan, so if I make something it’s either to bestow on friends or students (or friends/students) or to try to work my way through on my own. And I’m time poor, so any time I manage to make something to take somewhere is a huge achievement.

But one place where I always try to make time to bake is peach season. Peach kuchen made from the Tassajara baking book recipe is one of my all time favourite desserts (though it’s easily eclipsed by mango kuchen, its ‘we live in Hawai’i and you can’t buy peaches but we have mangoes coming out of our ears’ cousin’).

Peach Kuchen thedreamstress.com

Yummm…. Summer in a slice of pie.

4. Sewing!

I’ve done so much modern wardrobe sewing I haven’t blogged, in addition to the historical sewing I have blogged, and the Scroop Patterns stuff you’ve seen as model samples, etc.

I’ve made jeans:

Jeans thedreamstress.com

I’ve tried both the Closet Case Ginger Jeans (pretty good pattern, but the grainline is off and makes the legs twist on most people, and the super perky and handholdy instructions aren’t my cup of tea) and the Cashmerette Jeans (great pattern at most sizes, but the grading is off in the pear fit in the smallest 3 sizes, and I slightly prefer the Ginger’s sewing techniques)

Jeans thedreamstress.com

And swimsuits:

Closet Case Sophie Swimsuit thedreamstress.com

It’s been extremely warm in Wellington this summer (nice in a very short term way, extremely scary in a long term way) and I’ve been swimming a couple of times a week, so made a couple of swimsuits. I’ll probably do a blog review on those.

And I’ve made a couple of dresses, and a couple of skirts, and a couple of T-shirts, and a couple of blouses, and some pants, and probably more…

But it hasn’t all been work, because I’ve also been:

5. Watching the world’s most spectacular sunset

Sunset on the west coast of Wellington thedreamstress.com

I’m from Hawai’i, and live in New Zealand, so I have seen some pretty amazing sunsets over the years. This one, however, was beyond special.

Sunset on the west coast of Wellington thedreamstress.com

We went for a walk around the coast, and it just got better and better as we walked, finishing in a blaze of striped clouds, with the South Island glowing purple in the distance. Wonderful.

Sunset on the west coast of Wellington thedreamstress.com


  1. Sharon Grossman says

    You have been very productive with fun in between. The perfect life!

  2. Sharon Grossman says

    You have been very productive with fun in between. The perfect life!

  3. Deanna says

    Your chairs look great, and are color coordinated with your tape measure. 🙂 What are those lovely tufty plants catching the sunlight?!

    • Thank you! I don’t know the name for the tufty plants – some kind of grass. I call them ‘bunny grass’ because the puffs are super soft, like bunny tails. They are green in spring, and then dry out over the course of summer.

    • OK, I just did a bunch of googling about grasses in NZ, and I’m feeling practically psychic. The grass is Lagurus ovatus, which is known as….(drumroll here)…hare’s-tail grass or bunnytail grass!

      And it’s an invasive pest here in NZ 🙁

      • Deanna says

        Ooh, bunny tails! Good job you. 🙂 I will try to focus on the positive and think of them somewhere they belong.

  4. Lynne says

    Jeans!! Impressive! To have jeans actually made to fit you! I would have so loved that in my jeans-wearing days. (Thin old ladies look okay in jeans – fat old ladies in wheelchairs do not.) My first jeans, back in the early sixties, were men’s jeans (I don’t think they even did boys’ jeans, back then!) which involved sewing an enormous dart along the back seam – because men didn’t have waists – then washing the jeans in hot water, putting them on when coolish, and wandering round until they dried. Then do the hems. Ah, the bad old days! Still, having jeans that fitted from the start… bliss.

    Love the idea of the Zealandia visits, and all the new knowledge that brings. And what a fantastic sunset!

    • It’s laughing! Te Reo Maori (and Hawaiian) vowels are pronounced A = ah, E = eh, I = ee, O = oh, U = ooh. So hihi is heehee 🙂

  5. Elise says

    What a wonderful and joyful post! Thank you so much for sharing with us. The sanctuary seems so neat. Please do a post! Here in Texas, I live near a butterfly sanctuary, which has been in the news for having protected status but still about to be destroyed for Trump’s wall. So I want to read about another nature project in solidarity. Besides, NZ birds are so interesting-looking. Please tell us more.

    Your clothes look like fun. Are you saying that these brands of patterns have different grades for pear-shaped, apple-shaped, no-hip, etc? Now that is really cool and really feminist.

    Also, I love the chair backs. Yes, yes yes, the wonderful and whimsical (but not twee) covers. And the chair-backs!

    Ah yes, I second the lack of peaches in Hawaii. Also, no apples and no tomatoes or potatoes. Luckily, there are so many other fruits: Mountain apples, mangoes, bitter melon, guava, ulu…yum…. Are you enjoying working with colder-weather fruits? I enjoyed working with warm-weather fruits for the first time in a non-Mexican way (I don’t know how to bake Mexican pastries) Thank you for sharing your recipes–they look oh-so-tasty!

    • Seeing that butterfly sanctuary was one of my life goals. 🙁 I’m just devastated that it might be lost.

      I will indeed post all about Zealandia!

      Yes, Cashmerette has different patterns for different body shapes (as do other companies), but I’m pretty torn on it as a sewing teacher. There are so many ways to put together a human body that it’s really not as simple as apple or pear shapes. For example, I get a better result with Cashmerette jeans pattern in the Apple fit, with one easy fit adjustment, where I have to make 4-5 not nearly as easy or obvious fit adjustment with the Pear fit, although by any standard I’m much closer to a traditional pear. It’s just my exact shape. When that happens to students without as much sewing/fit knowledge they assume they are failures, or that their body is very weird and wrong, because the thing that says it is made for them doesn’t work. And if it does, it’s given sewers a fish, instead of teaching them to fish: they don’t learn to really analyse their body, and make the same adjustments for themselves with other patterns. But sometimes you need dinner right now, instead of a lesson on how to fish! And it’s obviously great for the sewers who do happen to fit the exact block – and they were often an underserved community. So mixed feelings.

      You can grow peaches in Hawaii – they grow beautifully in upcountry Maui and the Big Island, just not in large enough quantities to be sold commercially. Apples too. And tomatoes will grow all over Hawaii, you just have to keep them under insect cloth to keep out the fruit flies. My parents grow the most amazing tomatoes I’ve ever tasted on their farm. And they can grow spring potatoes, but not the floury baking ones. But those are all things that require lots of work!

      It is fun to cook with apples and peaches, and I’m OBSESSED with NZ grapes, but still love tropical fruit far, far more. What I wouldn’t give for some baked ulu chips for dinner tonight…

  6. Wow. I am so impressed you can sew jeans. That’s quite the talent. Love, love, love the chairs covered with different but coordinating fabrics. And those sunset photos are dreamy!


    • Thanks! Sewing jeans may seem daunting, but it really isn’t that hard compared to a lot of things, and like every project, it’s just one step at a time! Do them all, and eventually you’re done!

  7. That’s indeed a spectacular sunset. I’m completely a child of boring suburbs, and I’ve probably only seen three sunsets in my life! It’s funny, they’ve all been in the same place: on a beach in Israel in the winter, watching the sun go down over the Mediterranean.

    To my great joy, my city is launching a pilot project wherein my library card gets me in to all the local attractions for free, which means I can spend some time at the botanical gardens! We don’t have an aviary or butterfly sanctuary, but as a child of boring subsurbs, I feel a bit divorced from nature in a way that I don’t like, and am anxious to change, so the botanical garden will be a lovely start.

    • Wow, I can’t imagine not having seen hundreds of sunsets! I’m such a child of the country and beaches. The pilot project sounds amazing – access to nature is so important.

  8. Interesting to know the grainline is off on the Ginger jeans. I have made a pair of gingers, I haven’t noticed the leg as particularly twisted on mine but I haven’t paid close attention.

    • There have been a number of updates to the Gingers, all tweaking the angle of the leg, so it may be that one update caused this, and another fixed it.

      It’s definitely off from a standard hip angle on mine, and all 10 of the students who made Gingers with me last spring (including ones who ordered the paper pattern) had the exact same twisting issue. As soon as we moved the grainline about 7 degrees – no twist!

      • Wow, interesting. I’m trying to remember when I bought the pattern (I bought the pdf) and whether I have ever received any updates. I’ll definitely take a close look when I decide to remake it, as I like the pattern overall. I find your insights and pattern expertise so helpful.

  9. PepperReed says

    BIRDS!!! Yes, please do a post on the native flauna/flora. I’m always interested in seeing the natural world — even when it’s on the other side of the planet from me. Besides, we’re SO OVER the winter here in The Mitten of Michigan USA, so a ‘lush green songbird land’ sounds a bit like heaven right now.

    Jeans! I’m getting closer to making a pair, so your comments are very helpful. They look great on you!

Comments are closed.