Monday, January 31, 2011

Dress up your cheesecake

With Valentine's Day coming up, you're probably thinking about romantic food.   What?  That's just me?

Oh.  Well, anyway, I'm here to confess that I'm not particularly fond of cake.   It's not bad and I'll eat it sometimes when it's offered.   I would always prefer cookies, pie, or cheesecake instead.   There is nothing that can compare to a well made New York style cheesecake.   So creamy.  So rich.   So perfectly balanced in flavor and texture.  I have a favorite recipe that costs an arm and a leg to make but it's so worth it.   It's the cheesecake in my favorite cookbook, of course.  (Last page of the "cake" section.)  It's great, but sometimes it's nice to dress it up a little bit.

Method one:    Make your favorite cheese cake recipe and just before you put it in the oven drop fruit jam by the tablespoon randomly on the batter.  Swirl it in with a knife.  For Valentines day you can use a red jam like raspberry and drop the jam in a circle around the pan.  Run the knife in a circle around the pan passing through the center of each jam drop.   You should get a pretty circle of hearts running around your cheesecake.   Or you can just swirl the knife lots and really get that jam swirled into the cheesecake.   My favorite jam to use is huckleberry.   It really makes the cheesecake special.

Method two:   ATK recommends using ganache to make a chocolate swirl.  That works beautifully.   What is even better is adding chocolate ganache and caramel swirls.  Choose a thick caramel sauce that can stand up to the long baking.  You can also add a thin layer of caramel on top of the crust before you add the cheesecake batter.  Sprinkle some pecans on top after baking and use finely chopped ones in your crust and you've got a Turtle Cheesecake.   Sprinkle roasted peanuts on top with a chopped up candy bar and you've got a Candy Bar Cheesecake.

Method Three:   Stir in 3/4c of miniature chocolate chips, a few drops of green food coloring, and a little bit of mint extract.  Use a chocolate cookie crust.   Grasshopper Cheesecake.

Method four:  Stir in a little lemon extract and lemon zest in the batter and bake as usual.   Spread with 1 1/2 cups lemon curd.  Either make it from scratch or warm it up before spreading it on the cheesecake.  Chill until the lemon curd sets.   You get an amazing Lemon Cheesecake.    You could do the same thing with orange extract, zest, and curd as well.

Method five:  stir 1.5 oz melted, unsweetened chocolate and 3/4 c cocoa powder  into the cheesecake batter.   Use a chocolate cookie crust and sprinkle chopped high quality semi-sweet chocolate over the crust, then pour in the batter.    Swirl in a white chocolate ganache.   Decorate with chocolate curls just before serving.   A chocolate cheesecake that will make you a legend.

Sure a New York cheesecake with a strawberry sauce topping is a classic, but isn't it nice to have a little fun with your food?

Friday, January 28, 2011

From Pattern To Purse: Phase Two, Creating the Pattern

(Not the bag I'm describing here, but I thought it would be nice to have something pretty to start the post.)

Here's the bag I'm making a pattern for:
 Before you start it would be helpful to pull out your sketch and graph paper drafts of your purse design.  Keep them with you to refer back to often as you create the pattern.

Last week we left off with a list of all the pattern pieces I would need to make my slouch bag.  As a refresher, I'm going to be making these pieces:

For the slouch bag we need:
2 large rectangles for the outside
1 oval base
2 straps for the sides (measuring longer so we can attach the D rings)
1 center strap finished measurement about 7 1/2"
1 center strap that will wrap from the bottom back of the bag all the way around to the front
1 handle, 20-24"  (gotta ask the girl what she wants)
3 D rings
1 clip or metal closure of some kind

For the lining:
2 large rectangles
2 zipper pouch pieces
1 pocket piece
1 12" zipper

You need to evaluate your graph paper sketches the same way.To figure dimensions we'll add 1/2" to each side for seam allowance.  Most clothing patterns have 5/8" seam allowances but I like 1/2" on the bag patterns I make because I like lazy math.   With a seam allowance all the way around the rectangle of my bag will be 1" longer and 1" wider than the finished measurement, or 16"x13".   I can draw out a rectangle on my pattern fabric for that.   Then I mark how many of what fabrics I need to cut with that piece.   Usually you need a front and back out of your outside fabric, 2 lining pieces, and 2 interfacing pieces.   Write all that down on the new pattern piece itself just like a commercial pattern has those things listed on the pattern.  When you write it down, you don't forget what needs to be done so you don't have to redo your work.

The accent straps up the side are easy to figure because they go the full height of the bag, or 15".   I'll need 1/2" at the bottom for seam allowance and I want an 1" at the top to sew the D ring in.   All together that means the strap will be 2 1/2"x16 1/2".   Does your bag have accent pieces like this?  Stop and figure out how much fabric you need for them.  If you are sewing in D rings, you can always have the piece be a little longer than you think you need, just in case.   If you are sewing patch pockets on the front, you will probably only want a 1/4" seam allowance around three sides and 1/2" to an 1" at the top edge.   Pockets sewn into the seams will need the same seam allowance you've added everywhere else.   If you've sewn a bag that's similar to the one you're making now, look at that pattern for pattern ideas.   How did that pattern work?  What pieces did it use and did it work for you?

For the strips that go around the middle of the bag, I'll need to slightly more complicated math.  Just slightly, though.   The strip on the front will have 1/2" seam at the bottom and add another 1" to sew in the swivel clip assembly.  Since I want it to reach half way up the front of the bag, that means the finished measurement is 7.5".  So the pattern piece is 2 1/2"x 9".  (finished measurement+bottom seam allowance+top seam allowance.)

For the wrap around strip, I want it to have it start at the bottom of the back side.  It will reach all the way up the back (15") and then wrap around the front to attach to the clip (7.5").  I'll need 1.5" for the seam allowance. The clip is 3" (including D ring).  I want the strap about 3" shorter than it would need to be to reach around.  So the math is 15+7.5+1.5-3-3=18.   Now, the strap will be seen from both sides, so I'll want two pieces sewn together for this one.

Here's those four pieces all drafted out.  Notice I've got my quilt cutting mat underneath my pattern fabric.  The grid shows through quite well and keeps my corners square and my lines straight.  I do use my quilt ruler to draw the lines so I can measure as a mark and be sure I'm getting perfectly straight lines.  

For my bottom piece, I want an oval.  I like the softness the round shape will give to the bag and it will be easy to sew on this bag that has no separate side pieces.  To start I'm going to draw a guide for the oval shape.  It will mark the widest and longest points of the oval.  For this bag I want a finished measurement of 4"x11".  This will make the bottom actually smaller than the width of the bag.  This will soften the lines of the bottom of the bag.   It will also make drawing the oval easier because I'm gathering fabric into it.  I don't have to worry about making the bottom the same circumference as the bottom of the bag.   The guide will measure 5"x12" to allow for seams.

Next, I will sketch in the curve on one quarter of the guide.  I just lightly work with my pencil until I get a curve that satisfies me.  I'll need to be careful to get the ends nicely rounded so the oval doesn't resemble a football.  When I'm happy with it, I darken the line I like best so it stands out from the rest.

Next I mountain fold my pattern fabric.  (origami term.  Fold the wrong sides together here so the pencil marks are on the outside not the inside of the fold.)  Then I trace the line.

Mountain fold the fabric in half the other way and trace the half oval.

Open it up and I should have a full oval on the front of my pattern fabric.
Now mark on your bottom piece what fabric needs to be cut with this pattern piece.  For the bottom we need one from the lining, one from the fabric, and one interfacing.

There's a lot of calculation in pattern making.  You need to know how much fabric it takes to do what you want.  Use your rulers and tape measures to get a feel for size and shape.  Work with the numbers and if you need to, cut a sample piece out of cheap fabric to see if it will do what you want it to do.  Adjust your pattern as needed to make everything work.  It's always best to start with something simple, like a rectangular bag, so you can get a handle on the basics before you jump into the more complicated stuff, like curves and gathering.

For the lining I already know I'm going to have two pieces the same size as the outside of the bag and that is marked on the pattern piece.  Now I need to calculate and cut my pocket pieces.   I want pockets on one side of the lining and I want it to reach halfway up the bag so the finished measurement is 12"x7.5".   Add in the seam allowance and that makes the piece 13"x8.5.    For the center pocket I want it to be the same width as the bag and reach about halfway up, so I'm going to cut it the same size as my side pockets, 13x8.5.

I've decided on a 24" handle that will be 1.5" wide (for now.  I can change my mind on this at any time.  The handle will be sewn last.)  I like two piece handles rather than one piece that's folded in half.  I also use 1/4" seams on my handles because I'm too lazy to trim seam allowances. That means I'll want two long rectangles measuring 25"x2".

Just so you know, most of the time when I'm making a purse pattern I do not make all the pattern pieces.  I make the ones that curve or are more complicated, but the basic rectangles just get listed in my directions for the bag so I know what to cut.  Since I use my quilt cutting tools, I really don't need the pattern pieces.   You can do this as well, but be sure to fully document exactly what pieces you need and what size they should be.  You can mark this in a set of directions that you keep with the other pattern pieces.  I'm drawing out most of my rectangles partly because there are so many of them and partly to demonstrate the process of creating the pattern. 

I've shown you how I go about creating a pattern.  Some patterns will have lots of pieces, some will have very few.  It's all in the design of the bag.  Don't be afraid to look at other patterns to get a feel for how the pieces are shaped and how the bag is constructed.   If you've got an old bag you don't mind destroying, cut it apart so you can see what the pieces look like flat.  Look for construction details that tell you how the bag was put together and why the pieces are shaped the way they are.   Next time you are out shopping, take a detour into the bag section.  Inspect the bags.  Flatten them out.  Count the pieces that were used to make it.  See if you can figure out how they added a particular detail you like.  Look for accents and shapes that appeal to you that you can put into your bags. 

Have fun with this.   Don't stress over the pattern because next week we will get to tweak and perfect as we make the mock up bag.   Have a good week and see you next Friday for part three.   (Or you can show back up all week to read my other posts.  It's ok.  I love visitors.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Think Bigger: Handmade Especially For You

I don't know about you, but for me a scarf can be just like a security blanket.  I've got a thing for blankets anyway.  Scarfs are soft and comfy and warm.  At a time when you need some extra love a scarf can do that for you.  Especially if the scarf was a gift who just wanted you to know that others were thinking of you and felt that you were worthwhile. 

That's why I love today's charity:  Handmade Especially For You, a charity that gives handmade scarves to abused women in shelters.  These women have taken the first courageous step they have taken in a long time.  They managed to face their fear and decide that they do deserve to live and to be loved.  They have walked away from a bad situation and they just need a little extra care, a little extra love.   A scarf can be their security blanket reminding them that someone out there does think they are worthwhile and beautiful.   You can be that someone.

Donation particulars are on their website along with scarf patterns.  They do say they have yarn and just need crafters to knit or crochet it into scarves.  If you have time but not extra materials, this may be the perfect charity for you to get involved with.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

30 minute pillowcase apron

I'll bet you've been "thrifting" lately like the rest of the craft blogging world.  And I'll bet you looked at the vintage pillowcases and even brought one or two home.    If your daughter has all the pillowcase dresses she needs, why not make something for yourself?  (yeah, I should totally have cleaned up the iron cord before I took the picture.  By the way, those of  you who guessed yellow would be the next ugly beach towel of choice just earned a gold star.)

The front of one pillowcase + Just barely over 1/2 yard of cotton + 30 minutes of your time = One very pretty hostess apron.

To start, cut the front off the pillowcase.  A lot of these older pillowcases have gotten a bit warped over time so be sure that you are cutting the case square with the design edge.  Also be sure you keep the design centered on the front.   I cut mine 20 inches long, but you can make it as short or as long as you wish. 
Now cut three strips of fabric out of a coordinating cotton.   Two should be 7"x45" and one should be 7"x the width of the apron front as cut.   If you want to keep this project to 1/2 yard of fabric, you can just cut your strips 6" wide.   That will give you a 2 1/2" wide sash which should be plenty.  I just like wide floppy bows on sashes so I wanted a full 3" sash.
Now sew the long pieces to either end of the short piece with a 1/2" seam.   Press the seam open.
Finish the sides of the pillowcase with a narrow handkerchief hem.   Basically, just fold the side 1/4" press it down and then fold it 1/4" again.  The raw edge should now be hidden.  Sew it down close to the folded edge.

Now sew the top of the apron front to the sash.   With right sides together, pin the apron front to the short section in the center of the sash.  The edge of the apron front should match up with the seams in the sash.  Sew it with a 1/2" seam.  Press the seam up toward the sash.
Now fold the sash in half with the right sides together.   Sew together with a 1/2" seam starting at the sash seam, down the sides and across the ends.  Do not sew across the apron front.  Trim the corners. 
Turn the sash right side out and press.   Turn the unsewn section of sash under half an inch and press.  Pin down and sew closed.  You can do stitch in a ditch, top stitch or hand sew.  I was feeling lazy so mine is top stitched about 1/16" of an inch from the edge of the sash. 
Super quick.  Super easy.  Super cute.  Now you are ready to host a party.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My sewing machine table

I've got a small house without much space for crafting.  I tend to take over the dining table, which means we eat at the counter for dinner.  Not exactly great family meal time.   So for Christmas my sweet husband made me this:

 The shelves hold my machine and have plenty of room for me to store current projects and notions.  I just need to get some cool boxes to hold everything in.

The table is nice and wide with two drop down leaves so if I ever do decide to sew a queen sized quilt, I've got enough table space to hold it. 
 Here's the leaf lifted up.  (Yes, he missed a few spots with the yellow.  I'll touch it up eventually.)

He used the Sewing Table For Small Spaces plan at   It was pretty easy to put together and he did a great job.  If you are making this though, I would measure your machine before installing the shelf.  I didn't need as much space as the plan allows for and I would have liked the upper shelf to have 12" of clearance.    It is only 10" and it's going to complicate buying bins a bit.  Other than that, though, it's been great.  It's nice to have a place to sew and still have a place to eat.

In the works is finding space in the basement for the table and getting my laundry room finished so I can hang the ironing board back up.   I so miss that ironing board.  I'm sure you all are holding bets on which color of ugly bath towel I use as a pressing cloth next.   Will it be green?  Purple?  The all time ugly not quite blue?  I have no clue.  But you will see ugly beach towels for a little longer because the laundry room still has bare studs.  I'm not looking forward to mudding dry wall again.  Not a favorite activity.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicken With Lemon Caper Pan Sauce

This isn't the best food photo in the world, but it was a really, really good pan sauce.  If you like lemon with chicken and you like inexpensive dinners that take less than 30 minutes you'll want to make this one.

(I'll bet when you read that I feed my family dinner for $5 or less you pictured them getting hamburger helper and spaghetti didn't you?  Nope.  I'm telling you, you need ATK recipe books.)

I always cut chicken breast into cutlets because there's no reason why anyone needs 8oz of chicken in one meal.  If you want cutlets, just lay a chicken breast out flat on a cutting board.  Place your non-dominate hand on the chicken to steady it, but make sure your hand is completely flat.  Do not let your fingers droop.  With your dominate hand slice the chicken in half parallel to the cutting board.   Cut all the way through so you have two thinner pieces of chicken.   Super easy and now 2 chicken breasts will feed four people and the cutlets cook in half the time. 

Chicken Cutlets with Lemon Caper Pan Sauce

2 chicken breast halves cut into cutlets
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c low sodium chicken stock or white wine
1/2 c low sodium chicken stock
Zest from one lemon
juice from one lemon
1 T capers
1 t sugar (optional)
3 T cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/2" pieces

Pat the cutlets dry with paper towels and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour 1/2 T of olive oil in the bottom of a skillet and heat just until the oil is shimmering.  (The oil will look like the surface of a pond on a windy day, with little ripples running across it.)  Cook about 3 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature reaches about 165 on an instant read thermometer.   Remove from pan and set aside.  Tent the chicken with foil to keep them warm while you make the pan sauce.

Next you're going to deglaze the pan.   Basically you pour a liquid in the pan and let it boil up all those lovely pieces of frond left on the bottom of the pan.  (Frond is the crispy bits of chicken and fat stuck to the pan. It's very good stuff and very flavorful.)  I use chicken stock to deglaze but you can use white wine if you prefer.   Pour 1/4 c of stock (or wine) in the pan and let it boil away.  With a wooden spoon, quickly scrape up the frond from the bottom of the pan.   When the boiling dies away, pour in a half cup of low sodium chicken stock, the zest and juice of one lemon, and 1T of capers.  Do a quick taste test.  If it's too bitter for you, stir in up to 1t of sugar. Let the sauce reduce by half.  Reduce the heat to medium low.  Quickly stir in the butter  one piece at a time.  I just rest my spoon on the butter and swirl it around the pan until it's melted.

Serve the sauce alongside the chicken.   If you are watching your calories and you just winced at all that butter in the recipe, relax.  You only need about a tablespoon of sauce or so.   We had it with brown rice and veggies and it was so good!   I love doing pan sauces with my chicken.  There's so much variety you can do with them and it makes a simple chicken cutlet something special. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

From Pattern to Purse: Phase One, Sketching and Graphing

 You've seen my purses I'm sure.  The ruffle bag.  The fat quarter ruffle bag.  You may have seen some of my other purses.   I know that I don't post down loadable PDF patterns like a lot of other crafters do, and many of you probably haven't tried making my purses because of that.  Honestly,  there's a lot of reasons I don't do printable patterns, but mostly it's because I think anybody can create a purse pattern.  If you can dream it up, you can make a pattern for it.  Purse patterns are much simpler than clothing patterns.  Most of the time a purse is a modified rectangle or a simple oval.  You just make changes to a basic shape to get what you want.  

Have you ever looked at a purse and thought "that is almost what I want, but it should have  . . . ."  Ever dreamed up the perfect bag and couldn't find a bag or bag pattern anywhere that would work for you?  Make the pattern yourself.

I'm going to walk you through the steps to making a bag pattern all the way through the actual finished bag.  There will be a new post in the series every Friday until we're done.  It should be three to four posts.  My example bag will be a slouch bag for my 15 year old.  (I think my girls are really benefiting from this blog.)

Start with a sketch book.   No fabric.  No pattern paper.   Just your sketch book and a pencil.  Make a quick drawing of what you want.  Just suggestive lines, basic shape, hint at detail.   Now decide how big your bag needs to be.   Is it a shopper?  a small just essentials bag? a medium bag?   What will you use it for?  Write down the answers to these questions.

For the slouch bag, I've decided to make it larger so it's going to be 15" tall by 12" wide.  I want top stitched straps up each side and in the center with a strap that wraps around from the back to close the bag.  The closure will probably be a clip of some kind. I need to look at notions to decide for sure.  The strap will be shorter than the bag to help create the slouch shape.    There will be pockets in the lining, the standard pencil, cell phone, and extra pocket as well as a zippered pocket that will divide the interior in half.  I'm thinking a solid colored bag with a super bright lining like hot pink or lime green. 

Now get out your graph paper.   If you don't have graph paper on hand, you can print your own.  I used a graph paper PDF from a site called Incomptech.  Make a rectangle the size of the outside dimensions of your bag.  Fill it in with a large, detailed sketch.  Do full front and full side sketches as well as a 3/4 view, just like house blueprints. You need to fill in where stitching lines will be and what you want the hardware to be.  Draw in pockets, ruffles, patches, etc.   Color it if it helps you visualize better.   Keep your sketch in proportion.   That's what the graph paper is for.  Use it.

Notice on the front of the bag I've marked that the straps will be 1 1/2" wide and extend the full length of the side of the purse.  I've also shown that I'm considering a 3" clip assembly.  It feels in proportion to me.  I've also marked the top stitching on the straps.  Notice that the bag is a basic rectangle.   I've also noted in the corner that I'm using two squares to equal an inch. 
On the back of the slouch bag I've written down that I want the center strap to be shorter by about 3" to create the slouch shape.  I've marked where the strap should be sewn down to the bag and where it should start hanging free.  You'll also notice that I've drawn in the fact that the handle strap will be attached with D rings.  These little details really help when it's time to start creating the pattern.

When you draw the bottom of your bag you need to decide if you are doing a separate bottom or just extending the fabric for the bottom.  Whichever you choose should fit the style of bag you are making.  Look at manufactured bags online or in person to get a feel of how each type of base works and what it does for a bag.  It's your choice but don't be intimidated by separate bottom pieces.  They are super easy and can really add structure to a bag.   I wrote a quick tutorial on sewing separate bottom pieces in purses if you need a refresher.

For the slouch bag, I wanted to soften the base.  I've planned an oval base that is too small all the way around the bag.  This will create gathering and curve the profile at the bottom of the bag.  I've also included top stitching and purse feet.  (oh purse feet, how I love them.)

On to the lining!  This is where making your own bag gets really, really fun.  Manufacturers do not understand the needs of modern women.  Most bags have a single zipper pocket barely big enough for your once a month emergency supply.  There's nothing in there to separate your keys from your cell phone from your lotion.   I always add pockets.   At the very least there will be two pen pockets, a cell phone pocket, and an extra pocket across one side of the bags I make.  Many bags have more than that.  My daughter's book bag has 15, although that was her choice and I'm still just a teensy bit bitter about it.  15 is a bit excessive. (In age and number of bag pockets.)
For this bag, I'm putting in the pockets along one side and a key clip near the top.  I've even got marked off where the sewing lines will be to separate the pockets.   I've also marked down the finished dimensions of the zipper pocket divider. 

Now you need to decide how many pieces of fabric you need to build the purse.  Does it have a separate bottom and side pieces?  What do these look like? How will you attach your strap?  How long with the strap be?  or are you using a manufactured handle?  How will it close? Zipper? Snap? Clip?

The Slouch bag, as I've noted will have D rings to attach the strap which will be 20-24" long.  I will only use a clip to close it so The Girl can get in and out quickly.  (Which is just an excuse to avoid the zipper issue.)

For the slouch bag we need:
2 large rectangles for the outside
1 oval base
2 straps for the sides (measuring longer so we can attach the D rings)
1 center strap finished measurement about 7 1/2"
1 center strap that will wrap from the bottom back of the bag all the way around to the front
1 handle, 20-24"  (gotta ask the girl what she wants)
3 D rings
1 clip or metal closure of some kind

For the lining:
2 large rectangles
2 zipper pouch pieces
1 pocket piece
1 12" zipper

Next week we'll take all this information and build our pattern.   This is where the graph paper comes in very handy.   You'll want to have pattern tracing fabric on hand.  You can buy either the blank fabric or the fabric with the 1" grid on it.  Which ever works best for you.

So get started sketching and then move on to the next step in Phase Two:  Pattern Construction.
When you've got your pattern you can start Phase Three:  sewing the lining

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Think Bigger: ConKerr Cancer

Here's another sewing craft charity:  ConKerr Cancer.  They distributed brightly patterned, happy pillowcases to seriously ill children in hospitals around the world.   Their pillowcases bring smiles to children who don't have a lot to smile about in their lives.  It's just a little bit of hope and love to brighten up their hospital room and the children respond.  Do take a minute to read the "about us" page on their website with thank yous from families whose children have received a pillowcase.   It will make you start thinking about that stash of cottons you have sitting in your cupboard waiting for the "right" project.   I hope this is the right project for you.

I also want to just quickly remind you that the QLD Flood Relief project is still underway.   You still have time to buy something from an Etsy store or buy a raffle ticket or bid in an auction or just plain donate.   The master list of those participating is up at Make it Perfect.   I've bought a raffle ticket for a beautiful hand crafted item.  Have you?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Easy Flip Case

As promised, a Flip camera case that's easy to sew.  This one you can make in an hour and there's no zippers.  It's just a simple envelope with boxed corners and a flap.  This one is also padded.  The padding isn't going to save your camera if you drop it.  It's just a little extra protection as it's getting knocked around inside your purse.   I'm not sure I'm keeping the flap I have on this one.  I may swap it out for something an inch longer.  That flap just looks skimpy to me.  I'll give the longer measurements for the flap in the directions.
Start by cutting two rectangles 10.25"x3.75".    Cut two small rectangles 4"x2 5/8".   Set a coffee mug upside down on one end and trace it to get the nice curve.   Cut a piece of interfacing for the flap and fuse it to the lining.
Sew the flap together leaving the straight end open.   Clip the curve.
Turn the flap right side out and press.
Fold the large rectangles in half the long way and sew up both sides. 

Fold the outside piece so the seam meets in the center and the bottom makes two points.   Measure one inch across each point and mark that with a pencil.  Notice how the half inch is on the seam and the edge of the measuring tape lines up with the edge of the fabric at zero and 1.  This is how you know the line is straight.   Sew across that line.  Repeat for other point and for the lining piece. 
Now you have two little boxes.  Aren't they cute?   Press them along the sewn point and along the other edges of the box if you wish.  Leave the lining inside out and turn the outside right side out to press.
Turn the lining right side out.   Sew the flap down so the lining faces down and the outside faces up.  It needs to be centered along one side of the top edge. 
Now cut out your foam.  It will be 9.5" long and 3" wide.   You need notches in the center of the long side.  They are 1" long and 1/2" deep and should line up with the bottom of the camera.   Measure and mark carefully.
Now turn the lining inside out again and slip it over the camera.  Fold the foam around the camera and hold the sides together.  Slip the outside, right side out, over the whole assembly.   It will be a snug fit.   Fold down the top edges of the fabric 1/4" on both the lining and the outside.   Hand sew the the outside to the lining.   Attach a snap or button or some sort of closure to the flap and case. 
You're done.  The hand sewing on the top edge is because the foam isn't sewn down anywhere which makes it impossible to keep it in place and turn the case inside out or anything like that.  I constructed it this way to keep from having extra bulky seams.  Since that top edge is barely more than 6" around, I figured it wouldn't be a big deal.  It's not.  It's five minutes of hand sewing.  Easy peasy. 
And that is a camera case a beginner can sew.  Have fun.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Keeping Kids Entertained On a Rainy Day

We're all getting a bit stir crazy around here these days.  We don't live in the Great White North, just the North Enough To Be Cold and Snowy and Boring From December to March.   My kids have also had a four and a half day weekend. 

When things get desperate around here and sending them outside isn't an option, I fall back on my favorite craft site for kids:  The Toymaker.   Marilyn Scott-Waters designs 3-D paper craft printables for kids.   The projects are simple  to do with beautiful artwork.  She has paper dolls, race cars, mice that roll, and tiny puppet theaters, and little books to read.   My kids love her stuff. You can also check out her book on, The Toymaker's Christmas.  Her first book, The Toymaker, is not in stock new from Amazon but you may be able to find it somewhere else.

If you've got an older child you need to keep busy, you can also check out Canon Creative Park.  They have lots of more complicated projects and right now have quite a bit of Valentine's Day crafts. 

For simple 3-D paper crafts usually a glue stick is fine.  I do find that over time glue stick joints will break.  If you are doing a big project (like a castle) you may want to use white glue applied with a small paint brush.  It will hold forever.  Be sure to have good sharp scissors with a nice point for the detail cuts.  

Have fun and I hope you have full ink cartridges. ;)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Caramel Chocolate Popcorn

 Doesn't that look good?   It was.   Want some of your own?

Start with a great big bowl of popped popcorn, about 1 c kernels before popping.  We call this bowl "the popcorn bowl" because that's our favorite use for it. 
 Then you get to make the caramel.   Combine 3/4 c salted butter, with 2/3 c white sugar, 1/3 c brown sugar, and 1/3 c light corn syrup.  Cook over medium heat, stirring, until it starts to boil.
 Like this.   Let it boil for about 3 1/2  minutes. 
 Stir in 1t vanilla.  Then pour out over the popcorn.
 Stir it around.  Then spread the popcorn out over two large cookie sheets.
 Now you get to melt the chocolate.  I used milk chocolate and white chocolate chips because they drizzle so nicely, about 1 c of each melted in separate bowls of course.
 Melt in the microwave for one minute, stir, put it back for another minute, stir.  Repeat until the chips have all melted.  Then drizzle over the popcorn.
 Pretty yummy.    You can stir the popcorn a bit if you like or just leave it in the drizzled state.  
Sprinkle on about 3/4 c of roasted salted peanuts.   Let sit until the chocolate sets.   I put mine in the fridge because I couldn't wait.

This makes a great special treat for your family or even a valentine gift for friends and family.   Enjoy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Padded camera case

I had a friend point out that I had my comments section on the wrong settings and a lot of people were not allowed to post on my blog.  I have since changed that.  If you wanted to post to my giveaway for the little girl skirt, the blog should let you do that now.  I'll leave the contest open until next Wednesday at 10pm MST to allow everyone who wants to play an chance to get in on the fun.

Now for today's project.   I got a Flip camera as a gift for Mother's day last year.  I love it but I needed a cute case.   I finally got around to making one this week:

 Cute huh?   The case is not a beginner project.  It has some more complicated steps and the piping is annoying to sew.   You can leave the piping off if you want to simplify it.   I'll post a simple envelope style bag next week that would be easy for beginning sewists.   Either bag is super cheap to make and uses very little fabric.  You probably have enough scraps laying around to make several.  You will also need to have 1/8" upholstery foam.  I found it in the decor fabric section at Jo-Ann.  It's a high density foam with a knit fabric fused to one side.  You will only need 1/8th of a yard to do a small camera case.  You'll have a ton of leftovers besides.

This technique works for any sized pocket camera.  I'm not going to give measurements for the most part.  Just use this process no matter what brand or type of camera you own. 

To start, wrap a zipper around two sides of the camera, with the zipper closed and the pull at the top edge of one side.   Mark the far edge on the bottom.  The zipper should be as long as two sides of the camera.  Trim the end off.   Next, take a couple of small squares of fabric right sides together and sew them across the ends of the zipper with a 1/4" seam allowance.  If your lining is different from your outside, make sure the outside is on the front of the zipper and the lining is on the back.  Your zipper will look like this:
 To make the pattern, lay the camera down on pattern tracing fabric and trace around each side.  You should make a top, a bottom, a top edge, and a side edge.   Now add 1/8" to one side and one end on each pattern piece.   This extra fabric allows for the camera to fit in easily and makes space for the thickness of the padding.   Draw another line 1/4" out all the way around for seam allowance.

If your camera is like mine, the front will be just a little bit bigger than the back.  A standard sized Flip will have a front piece that's about 1/8" wider than the back.  It is important that you keep track of which piece is the front and which is the back.  Mark them with disappearing ink.  Sew a stitch.  Put them in a different pile.  Whatever you need to do, but you need to know at all times which pieces are which and you won't be able to tell just by looking at them. 

To make the pieces for the zipper sides, fold the side piece in half.  trace it on the pattern fabric.
 Now add 1/4" seam allowance along one edge.   I use my seam gauge.  It has a very handy little hole in one end and I can set the guide 1/4" away from that hole.   I just keep the guide lined up, put the pencil in the hole and draw away.  I do this to add seam allowance for every pattern I make.  It saves a lot of headaches and messing with tape measures.
Do the same thing for the bottom end piece.   If your camera doesn't have a rectangular shaped end, you will need to make a half piece (plus seam allowance) for the each side.   For my Flip camera I made one small zipper end piece that had a curve along one long side and one that had two straight long sides. 

Ok, cut one front, one back, one side, and one bottom from your outside and your lining.  Cut two zipper sides from the outside and lining.  Cut fabric and lining for the ends as well.  Do not forget to keep track of which piece is which.

Now we get to start sewing.  If you are doing piping, sew the piping 1/4" from the edge all the way around the top and bottom outside pieces.  They should look like this:
 I'm keeping my pattern with the fabric pieces to keep track of which is which.

Now sew your side pieces together.  Be sure you get the lining and the fabric sewn opposite of each other.  For your zipper side, sew the long edge together with the bottom edge for each half.
 Now put them together and baste them together in the center for an inch or so on each end.  Press that seam open making sure to also press the un-sewn center down 1/4" as well.  (see next picture.)  Now sew all your side pieces together in a loop.   Sew the sides to the front and back pieces. 
 Just like that.  Be careful when sewing the outside that you get close enough on the corners.  That can be harder to do with piping.
 Next, take your pattern pieces and cut out the foam to the size of the original tracing line.  This is the line you had before you added the seam allowance and the 1/8" extra.    You need one piece for the front, one for the back, one for the bottom, and one for the long side.   Again, keep track of which is the front and which is the back. 
 Carefully tuck the long side piece into the outside camera case.   Then add the front, back, and bottom pieces.  If they do not quite fit, trim them down until the cover is smooth and everything fits properly.  Pin the foam in place.
 Ok, this is where it gets tricky.   Fit the lining into the outside, wrong sides together.   See that open section on the sides?  You're going to fit the zipper along that side between the outside and the lining.  Open the zipper up. Keep the pull at the top.  Take your time to get the front and the lining lined up along the zipper so it's straight and fits how you want it to, pinning it as you go.    Sew the zipper in place. 

No I don't have pictures.  I've told you before zippers hate me.  We won't discuss it.  I'm sure your zippers will be beautiful.  Anyway, when you are done it will be pretty and no one will ever tell you if your zipper wasn't done perfectly.  They won't even notice.   At least no one's ever commented on any of my zippers, and that's saying something.

The construction method can be a bit tricky.  I'm going to make another one and see if I can make this case easier to sew.   In the meantime, please experiment around with this and let me know if you find an easier way.  Drop me a link in the comments so I can see what you are doing.  

Also, this case does not have a strap on it.  It would be pretty easy to add either a simple wrist loop or a flat strap across the back side. 

Play around with the pattern and as always, leave me a link so I can see what you are doing with yours!