Thursday, December 26, 2013

Geeky Christmas T-shirts For All!

Well, all of us except my husband and myself.

This year for the home made gifts for the kids, I did t-shirts.  I've been having a lot of fun cutting heat transfer vinyl on my cutting machine.  It cuts beautifully and I can make those specialty geek Ts that sell for so much in the online stores.    This year we have two Doctor Who t-shirts (the girls on the end who are my biggest Doctor Who fans. Oldest girl's shirt says "Souffle girl" with a Dalek;)  a Batman t-shirt that says "Because I'm Batman and I can say stuff like that."; a Ravenclaw T for my Potterhead; and two Star Trek/Japanese Ts.

The Batman shirt is a phrase that our 12 year old says all the time.   It's his own catch phrase he just made up because he thought it sounded cool.  More than half the time he uses a gruff movie Batman voice.  It cracks me up.

The Japanese Kanji shirts are supposed to be "live long and prosper."  The shirt in red reads correctly from right to left.  The one in black I did first and then remembered that Japanese reads from the other direction.  oops.  Good thing the boy with the right T is the one that is actually learning Japanese.   (He's our oldest girl's boyfriend.  They were friends in high school and both went to the same college.  They started dating this fall.)

I also sewed four of the five pj's pictured here.  I didn't make the Batman fleece ones.  The others are mine.

I kept things easy on myself this year.  I had visions of great projects and super gifts, but halfway through the month I realized that I was working way too much to be able to follow thorough.  I scaled back and I'm so glad I did.  I was stressed, but I only had one bad emotional day.  Letting go of the big dreams and doing less was absolutely the right decision this year.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas.  We were able to find some great deals and everyone ended up happy.  That's always a good thing.

Monday, December 23, 2013

We Live In a TARDIS

So things have been crazy this fall.  I've been doing crafty stuff, but of course, not posting any of it.  I did want to get this up though:

My kids are crazy Doctor Who fans and none more so than our oldest.  As one of her Christmas presents we decorated it to look like the door of the TARDIS.  To say she was happy with the change is a bit of an understatement.  She was speechless.  :)  

Here's a full on picture of the door:

The blue is paint and the rest is vinyl cut on my Cameo.   I layered the black and white to get the lettering.  It would have been easier to do the smaller white sign if I had printable vinyl, and as you can see we don't have a completely updated TARDIS because we are missing the St. John's sticker.  I couldn't get a good trace on it for a cut.  If you wanted to do one yourself, I would recommend the printable vinyl for that.  

When researching for mine I found a lot of people with interior TARDIS doors.  Most were awesome painted doors and a few did the vinyl like mine.  There are a lot of really creative Doctor Who fans out there.  Love it.  

We have gotten some great comments about it already.   One student at school asked me "what's up with your door?"  He thought it was cool once I showed him pictures of the TARDIS on my tablet.  Most of the comments have been from people who know the show and of course, they like it too.  

The thing the kids love about it is it fits so well with our house.  Our home is 60 years old and was originally only 800 sq ft.   Before we bought the place a 1400 square foot addition was added to the back.  You can't see the addition from the street, so most people who see our house for the first time just see a tiny post war bungalow when they first pull up.  However, when you open the front door you can see all the way to the back of the addition and down the stairs to the basement family room.  We often get comments very similar to "it's bigger on the inside!" 

(Yes, the exterior of my home is rough.  So far our remodeling money had been put into the interior sections where we live every day.  The exterior is on our list and will be done as soon as we can.  I know it's ugly, so try not to comment on that.  There isn't anything I can do about it right now, unless you'd like to finance the $20k siding project.  Thanks.)  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quick Tip: Apple Slices

Sometimes I do run across an apple that doesn't quite sit flat when sitting on its stem.  In that case, I'll usually do a little trim of the part of the apple that's sticking up and then cut the apple.   It does work.  It's so much easier to line the hole in the center of an apple slicer up with a flat apple than one that's sitting on its side.

Many of you already figured this trick out, but I thought I'd share anyway.  After all, you never know who's going to be one of the lucky 10,000.

Obligatory xkcd comic:

(If you're one of the lucky 10,000 that's never read xkcd, then get ready for some fun . . . and make sure you have time to waste before you open that link.  You're going to need it. )

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

Yeah.   I have a thing for a good buttermilk biscuit.   Tender, light, melt in your mouth goodness, especially when it's hot from the oven.  The only thing that can make it better?  garlic and cheese.   I make mine in the food processor.  Heck, the food processor changed my biscuits.  There is nothing better for blending the fat and flour together.  The food processor gives me a perfect, even blend of fat to flour.   It's awesome.  

My basic recipe started with the one from America's Test Kitchen.  They use half cake flour/half all purpose to aproximate the protien content in White Lily flour.  Since most of America can't buy White Lily flour off the shelf of their hometown grocery store, it's a good work around.  (I found it once in the self rising variety.  I almost cried when it was gone.  You Southerners are so lucky.)   ATK also uses butter instead of Crisco as the fat.  I'm good with that because you can't go wrong with butter.  

I did play with the recipe because I wanted to try and make a version of Red Lobster biscuits at home.  That means it had to be a drop biscuit and it had to have garlic and cheese.  Here's what I came up with, and it's a dang near exact if I do say so myself.  

Garlic Cheese Biscuits

1 cup cake flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t sugar
1/2 baking soda
1/2 salt
1 1/2 t granulated garlic (not garlic powder.  If that's all you've got you'll have to use more to get the same effect.)
1/2 c butter (you can use Crisco here if you're a biscuit purist, but you're missing out.)
1/2 c cheddar cheese
1 c buttermilk  (may need more depending on the consistency of your buttermilk)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees (biscuits like it nice and hot!) 

If you're using the food processor, take your butter straight from the fridge and cut it into 1/4 cubes.   That's pieces, not slices.  It takes a bit longer, but you'll get a better biscuit if you do this right.   Put all the dry ingredients into the food processor work bowl and process for about 30 seconds to blend.   Add in the butter and pulse until the butter and flour are combined evenly, should be about 12 times or so.  Dump the flour mix out into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the cheese.  Sharp cheddar is nice here, medium is fine if that's what you've got.  If all you have is mild cheddar, you should go shopping. 

If you don't have a food processor, you will have to use softened butter.  Make sure it's still cool to the touch and just gives a little when you press on it with a finger.  Over softened butter will just make your biscuits greasy.   Cut up the butter into chunks and blend into the flour with either a pastry blender or a fork.  Some people like to use their fingers, but I think that's a process you have to watch someone do to get right.   The flour/butter mix should look like big pieces of sand with every piece of flour coated with fat.  This is how you get light, fluffy biscuits. 

Next stir in the buttermilk.  Do not over mix. Just stir enough for the flour to be moistened.  If your buttermilk is older and has thickened you may need to add a few extra tablespoons one tablespoon at a time to get the right consistency.  The batter should be completely wet and quite sticky but not runny.   Drop biscuits are much softer than standard cut out biscuits.  You should not be able to touch it without getting it all over your fingers much less form it into a ball. 

Drop by 1/4 cup dollops onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake in the oven until the biscuits are golden and fully baked inside, about 10-12 minutes.  I like mine just barely done, but feel free to leave yours in an extra minute or so if you want yours more brown.    This recipe makes about a dozen biscuits. 

If you want that shiny, crispy finish like on the Red Lobster biscuits, you need to do an egg wash before you bake.  Whisk one egg white with a couple teaspoons of water.  Brush lightly over the biscuits with a pastry brush (this will also smooth out the dough.)   Bake as usual.   

I like to eat mine with a salad or soup so I can have more biscuits.   More is better.  Trust me.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dulce de Leche Swirled Brownies

 Remember my fudge brownie recipe?  Yeah, they're awesome.  You know what makes them even more awesome?  Caramel.   Specifically dulce de leche, a Mexican caramel that is pretty awesome.   You may also remember that "caramel in a can" fad that swept the internet a couple of Christmases ago.  Caramel in a can is basically dulce de leche.   It tastes lovely and it reacts well in other recipes, which makes it perfect for caramel swirled brownies.

Dulce de leche brownies:

1 cup melted butter
2 cups sugar
3/4 c cocoa
2 t vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

1 can dulce de leche 

Combine melted butter, sugar, and cocoa powder.   Stir in the eggs and vanilla making sure the eggs are thoroughly mixed in.  Fold in flour, salt and baking powder.  If you are picky you can sift your flour, salt and baking powder together before you add them to the batter, but I never do and my brownies always come out perfect.  Just dump in the flour first; then put the salt and baking powder on top of the flour.  They'll all stir in just fine.   When the flour is mixed in, pour the batter out into a greased 9x13 pan.  Warm the can of caramel.  I like to put it in a microwave safe dish and heat it for a minute or so.   Then drop large globs of  caramel all over the batter.    You can either leave it like that or drag a knife through the caramel to swirl it around.   Sort of like the picture below.  The top row was swirled and the rest was left alone (I ended up swirling the whole pan.) 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Let them cool completely.  I'm not kidding here.  I know it's rough but these taste so much better at room temperature.   You have to leave them alone for at least an hour.  Sorry.  I'm sure you'll be ok with it after you've had your first brownie.  

You're welcome.  

By the way, if you're looking for other ideas for how to use your caramel in a can (other than just eating it straight from the can) I'll be posting more recipes over the next month or so.  I'd rather do it faster, but my pants have reminded me that I'm not supposed to eat 3000 calories a day.  

Stupid pants.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's the details that count

I may have mentioned before that I tend to be lazy.  If there is an easy way to do something, that's the way I'm going to do it.  This means that I do shortcuts. In my sewing this translates into me skipping the details all too often.   I have learned over the last couple of years, though, that those extra steps make a huge difference in the finished project.

For example, can you imagine how boring the peplum top would have been without the piping, bound sleeve, and Peter Pan collar?  

That white contrast makes the polka dots look even better.   The three things added more than an hour to the construction time of the top.  The old me would not have taken the time and I would have hated the final product.  

And how about the pink dress redo?  Remember that ruffle?

It's the ruffle that really makes the shaped hem stand out.  It also pops the contrast stitching.   The ruffle is made up of about 3 yards of muslin that all had to be hemmed and gathered.   Yeah, time consuming but worth it.  (And yes, I've got a thing for contrast bound sleeves. Talk about details that really count.) 

There was also the Burda Jumpsuit with the contrast fabric for the pocket facing and the piping.  Those details took the jumpsuit from cute to fabulous.   The red ric rac and deep contrast band on the yoked skirt I made for my oldest toned down a very busy fabric and made it perfect for a teen girl.   I had to redo the stitching on the pockets on my middle girl's python jeans because I started out with white thread.  It matched too well.  Bright pink top stitching thread made all the difference.  

For your next project, take time to look at the design details.  Is there a place where you can add a trim?  Would contrast fabric make a design detail stand out in a great way?  How about something so simple as contrast buttons?  Piping?   Contrast stitching?  What can you do to make your next project unique and fabulous?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Peplum Top Pattern Hack

With peplums being so hot I couldn't help but make a peplum top for one of my girls.  And if you knew the project would come out looking like this, wouldn't you make one too?

This is my favorite pattern hack to date. Yes, that's a pattern hack, because I couldn't find a peplum top pattern for little girls. There's some great ones for women, but nothing smaller.   It was super easy though.  I attached a flared skirt to a little girls' dress bodice.   the back seam has a gap at the neck rather than the zipper and the zipper was moved to the side seam.  If I do it again I'll go ahead and leave the zipper in the back seam.  I like how it is now, but my girl finds it a little more difficult to put the top on.  

Don't you adore that peter pan collar?  None of my little girl dress patterns came with a peter pan collar, so I drafted this one myself.  My first attempt wasn't quite right, but the second collar fit perfectly.  It's exactly what the top needed.  (This tutorial from Burda Style is pretty similar to the technique I used, just in case your little girl dress patterns don't  have collars either.)  I finished the neck edge with single fold bias tape rather than drafting a facing.  It makes it more comfortable for her to wear.

There is something just so retro about this top and I love that.  I love the white piping at the waist.  That was a last minute addition and I'm glad I did it.  I didn't have any white piping on hand, but I did have piping cord (left overs from a project from many years ago) so i made some piping for it.  I had just enough white fabric to do it.

The fabric is  polished cotton with a nice stiff hand.  the skirt stands away from the bodice all on it's own.  I think that's the secret to a great peplum.  It should have some body to it so you get the full effect.  Something with a soft drape wouldn't quite work here.   Poplin, linen, polished cotton all are good fabric choices.  When choosing the bodice pattern, choose one with a bodice that reaches the true waist and fits somewhat close to the body.  You want around 1 1/2 to 2" of ease.

So how does one go about making a peplum top for a little girl?  It takes some math, so grab your scientific calculator, pencil, and pattern drafting fabric and let's get to work.

We'll be drafting a flared skirt, so we'll need to figure radius from circumference and circumference from radius.  If you don't remember from your high school days, the radius is the distance from the center of the circle to the edge.  Circumference is the distance around the edge of the circle.   The formula you need to know is C=p2r.  Circumference is C and r is radius.   You should know how to find and use the pi button on your calculator.  (You could also use an online calculator like this one.)

1.  First you need to know the exact dimension of the bodice waist.  So get to work and cut out your bodice.  Measure around the waist right at the seam line on both the bodice front and back.  If the bodice front and bodice back are two different lengths, you will need to make two different pattern pieces.  Start with the bodice front waist length. Subtract the seam allowance.  Multiply the result by 2.  This is the circumference of the first circle you will draw.  Plug this number into your calculator.  Divide by pi.  Now divide the result by 2.  This is Radius #1.

2.  Using this radius measurement, draw a half-circle on your pattern drafting paper.  I like to use a string tied around a pencil.  Just tie a non-stretchy string to a pencil.  Measure the string and hold at the radius measurement.  Mark your center point.  Hold the string down with one hand on the center point, and hold the pencil out with the string tight.  Now draw a half-circle with your makeshift compass.   This is the seam line for your peplum skirt.

3.  Now decide how long you want your skirt to be.  We went with a 6" skirt.  It was a great length for a little girl.  Hold a measuring tape up to your girl and decide where you want it to be.   Add that length+0.625 to Radius #1.  This is Radius #2.  (the 0.625 is your 5/8" hem.)

4.  Hold the string from your compass at the center point so that the string is the Length of Radius #2.  Draw another half circle.   This is the cut edge of your circle.

5.  Subtract 0.625 from Radius #1.   Draw yet one more half circle with this length radius.  It should be 5/8" inside the seam line half circle (the first one you drew.)   This is the inside cut edge.

6.  You should have a basic half circle.  Now we are going to add the side seams to your pattern.   On the flat sides.  Extend the  circumference of your circles by 5/8".  Draw a straight line connecting these.  You should end up with a pattern that looks something like this (not to scale, obviously):
7.  If your bodice back and bodice front have two different waist lengths, go back and draft the bodice back using the same steps you used for the bodice front.   

8. If you want to put the zipper in the back seam you will need to add a seam to the back center peplum piece. On the bodice back, fold the pattern in half.   Draw a new line right at the line of symmetry (the fold line.)  Extend the circle out 5/8" on each cut edge and connect them with a straight line.  You should have a pattern that looks like this:

If  you are going to do a side zipper, you do not have to put the center seam in the back peplum piece (step 8.) When sewing the bodice, follow the original pattern directions but do not sew the left side seam and leave the top 3" of the back seam unsewn.  Sew a button right at the neck and a little elastic loop on the other side.  Sew the right side seam of your peplum.  Sew the peplum to the bodice (be sure to sew piping to the bodice first if you are using it.)   Now install an invisible zipper in the left side seam.  It should be long enough to start less than an inch from the under arm and stop two to three inches into the peplum.  Finish the side seam and hem the peplum.  

If you are going to put the zipper in the center back, follow the original bodice instructions.  Then sew the peplum side seams and sew it to the bodice (adding the piping to the waist seam before sewing in the peplum if using.)  You should have an unsewn back bodice seam.  Install an invisible zipper long enough to reach from the top of the back seam to three to four inches into the peplum.  Finish the back seam and hem the peplum. 

You're done!

PS.  You can use the drafting method to make a true circle skirt any length you like.   

If you make your girl a peplum skirt, please post a link.  I'd love to see it!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Drape neck top and python jeans

I just love the stuff young teenagers can get away with.  They can walk the very edge of the trends because they have such a sense of fun.  Their energy  makes just about everything workable.   Case in point, bright nearly neon python print jeans.

That's Burda 9500 for the jeans.   It was easy to work with and fits pretty well.  It is designed for a younger figure.  My 13 year old started growing her grown up figure this summer so the seat of the pants was a little too flat for her.  We took in the waist, but if I were to make them again, I would cut the back yoke 1/2" taller in the center and grade into that from the sides.  She needed the extra coverage there.   

I asked her to do some model poses for me, which got me a duck face . . . and then a laugh.

 Love it.

 I took the time to do true flat felled seams everywhere I could.  Then I top stitched in hot pink top stitching thread.  Coats and Clark has added some great colors to their jeans threads lately and the hot pink was absolutely perfect for these pants.

I am pretty darn proud of that top.  I designed the pattern myself from scratch.  I used an old book called Debbie Moore's Pattern Drafting and Dressmaking to draft the pattern.  I worked directly from Marilla's measurements and created a basic bodice first.  (The method was similar to this one.) Then I followed the instructions in the book on how to convert it to a drape neck top and add drop sleeves.  I did about three drafts of the pattern and four muslins (good thing I had a ton of knit too small to use for anything else stashed around here) also working from the fact that we found the jersey knit fabric on the same day we bought the denim.  It was in the remnants bin and there was not enough to cut sleeves, hence the drop sleeve.  I'm really happy with how it came out.   My sister even took a tracing of the pattern for her very style conscious 15 year old girl who loved the shirt too.

I love it when my first try at something comes out so great.   

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chevron Messenger Bag

My oldest left this morning for college.  She and her daddy packed up the van, threw her bike on the back and off they went to her new adventure.  She is thrilled and excited.
This summer she requested a new book bag for college.  I made her last book bag, not only did she love it, it lasted five years of hard use. Naturally she wanted another one just like it.  This time instead of solid color (olive green canvas) she wanted a fun print.  

I love this chevron print.  It's youthful and current.  Perfect for a freshman on her own for the first time.  The fabric is also perfect because it's outdoor fabric with an easy care coating so she should just be able to clean it up with a damp cloth.
I even made a special water bottle pocket to fit her water bottle, which she left behind at home, of course.  Good thing it will fit just about any water bottle. 

Construction details:  It's 16x12 with pockets all over the place and a padded pocket inside for her computer.  The base has six large purse feet to keep it off the classroom floor.  It also has a plastic piece in the bottom so the bottom won't sag when it's fully loaded.
You can see the strap construction here and in the previous photo.  I found these awesome swivel clips and matching D rings and a slide so she could have an easily adjustable strap.  Who knows how she'll need to carry it?  Easy versatility is always best.
Here's a close up of the front 6" pocket.  It's got a zipper right at the upper edge to help keep things inside and still be easy access.  The back of the bag has a similar pocket that's 16"x10" with a zipper all the way across. There are also about eight pen pockets on this bag in various places.

The inside of the bag has even more pockets with some big enough for paperwork and a few smaller ones as well.  There at the bottom of the photo is the computer pocket.  We had a padded computer envelope that didn't quite fit her computer.  I cut it apart and used it to pad the front and back of the pocket.  for the sides and bottom I used a thin, dense upholstery foam doubled up.  It's closed with a simple Velcro tab.

She loves the bag and I am glad I got it done just in time for her to take it with her.  Now I just have to get the rest of the sewing she left for me done.  Between the three girls, I have a huge stack of sewing projects to do.  Some are done and I'll show off those soon (middle girl's first day of school outfit is completely home sewn!)  There's still a huge pile to get to, though.  I told my oldest I would have to send monthly care packages with her other projects in them.  The first one will also have all the stuff she forgot to take with her.  Since one of those things is her jacket, I think I had better get something done for a box soon.

PS:  My son wants a bag just like it (minus the cute, girly chevrons), so I'll be posting a detailed tutorial on how to make one yourself in a month or so.  It's got a lot a steps, but is pretty doable.  Since everything is rectangles, you don't even need a pattern to make it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A purple ruffle bag

Guess who made a ruffle bag?  She has a little friend who reached some personal goals recently and Sarah wanted to celebrate that achievement.  The girl loves zebra print and purple so this was perfect.   Her friend was ecstatic to get this purse.  It was a great sewing challenge for my dd.  She did a great job and learned some new skills.  
 I really love how she put the two matching ruffles on top and bottom sandwiching the other two ruffles between.  Since it was for a little girl, she left out the pockets on the inside of the purse.  

She has a couple of other sewing projects to get through this summer, including a ruffle bag for herself.  I have some other sewing projects of my own to do.  We'll see how quickly I get through them.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gathering Fabric the Easy Way

I know I just posted yesterday and here I am with another post.  Crazy, huh?  I just wanted to share the absolute easiest method ever for gathering fabric.  Remember yesterday's dress?  There is four yards of fabric in the ruffle.   It's way too much to handle with the traditional basting stitch.   That's where the couching method comes in.

Instead of sewing a basting stitch (or a pair of basting stitches) you adjust your machine to a wide zig zag stitch.   Grab a roll of lightweight fishing line and tie a big honking knot in the end.  I mean big knot.  If that pulls out, you basically have to start over. Lay your fabric out on the machine getting ready to sew.  Now slip the fishing line under the machine foot, lining it up along the seam line and letting the knot lay several inches off the back of the fabric.    Now keep the fishing line centered in the foot so the line is centered under the zig zag stitch.   (As shown in the above photo.) Sew the full length of the fabric.   Cut the fishing line so you have about 6-12" of excess line at the end.

Here's what it looks like sewn.    Now pull the knot end out a few inches, just a few though.   Go back to the other end and pull on the fishing line while sliding the fabric the opposite way.   Your fabric will gather faster and easier than it ever has before.   It's awesome and you will always keep fishing line around your sewing machine from here on out.  

If you are planning on making the ruffle bag or the  fat quarter ruffle bag couching over fishing line will save your sanity.  If you are sewing tulle skirts for little girl dresses, this will save you from swearing like a sailor (also, when sewing tulle use a round nose needle intended for knits.  I swear it makes a huge difference.)

And now you can actually have fun gathering fabric.  Good luck with your sewing.   

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Perfect Pink Dress Redo

Two years ago I found an absolutely gorgeous raspberry eyelet in the clearance section of the fabric store.  So dramatic, so perfect for my girls.  I bought what I thought would be enough for one dress.  When I came home I decided that I could make two with the amount I had.   This is what I ended up with:

The bodice is great.  I love how the border design covers nearly the whole bodice front.  I also love the bound sleeve.  It's cute and perfect.  What wasn't perfect was that skimpy skirt.  It just isn't big enough.  The girls didn't like the skirt either and told me the dresses were hard to walk in.  Naturally, since they didn't like the skirt, they didn't wear the dress.  So I had two dresses made from expensive eyelet just sitting around never getting used.  

Well, my cousin is getting married and she asked my two youngest girls if they would like to help out at the reception.  Since one of the colors is raspberry pink, I thought it was time to get those dresses out and put them through a redo.  

 I took the skirts off both dresses and opened them up.  I cut the longer skirt  to the length of the shorter.   I sewed the two linings together so the skirt was double the fullness of the original dress.  Then I took the lining and sewed a really full ruffle to the bottom.  It's 5 1/2" wide.  Luckily the lining is basic bleached muslin so it was easy to match the fabric.
 Look at that ruffle!  It's perfect.

Next I cut one skirt half up the center so I had a seam to put the zipper in up the back.    Then I sewed all the skirt pieces together.   I layered the the lining to the skirt and basted them together.  I used a couching stitch over lightweight fishing line to gather the skirt.   I sewed the skirt to the bodice and then sewed the zipper back in.
 It's done!  And I'm very, very happy with this redo.  This is the dress I should have sewn the first time!

She's very happy with it.  She's been super picky about her dresses lately and won't wear anything with tulle in it because "it's itchy."  This dress gives her another option.  It's comfy cotton and there are no itchy spots anywhere.   Of course, now I only have one dress when I used to have two, but it was worth it.  Now I just need to figure out what to do with the other bodice.  ;)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Sitting Room

Well it's as done as it's going to get for awhile.   The furniture is done and I have stuff on the walls.   It could use a little tablescape on the table between the chairs, but that will have to wait.  I haven't really been inspired and I think that will have to wait until I find the right pot for our pathetic plant.   But here it is:

Here's the fabulous handkerchiefs.  We found three perfectly sized double glass frames at Gordman's.  I painted the frames to match.   Obviously I'm still waiting for my mother to get the story written for the antique hankie.  The double glass works great with the hankies.  The glass is not perfectly sandwiching the hankies.   I took the thin wood piece that usually sits behind the second sheet of glass and put it between the glass sheets.   This gives the fabric of the handkerchiefs room to breathe so they don't fox or mildew.   This meant I had to find a way to hang them since I didn't have the pressure of the glass to hold them in place.  I used full strength liquid starch.  the starch will not harm the fabric or lace but does stick the fabric to the glass perfectly.  The large poly-cotton hankie is only stuck at the corners.  The other two were fully starched and then laid on the glass.  I put my large cutting mat behind the glass so I could get them perfectly placed.

And my lovely photo framed professionally.  I was going to go cheap with it but my husband had it done for me as a Christmas gift.  It came out lovely didn't it?  

Here's another angle of the room.  You can see my Chinese lanterns in the corner and my big pile of  pillows.  I'm actually kind of proud of the pillows.  I found four fabrics done by four different manufacturers that coordinate beautifully.  I love being able to do that.  It's so much more fun to put my own collection together than to just buy a pre-done set.

The curtains are inexpensive bedsheets.  They have a nice stiffness to them that works for windows but would be awful on a bed.  I trimmed the edges with a striped ribbon.
 There are still more things to do.  We need to replace the carpet some time soon.  I'm leaning toward a wood laminate.  We live in a neighborhood where that would be a standard choice, so I won't even feel like cheaping out.   We also need to replace the back door.   It's old, ugly and has never shut right.   We'll probably do a single full light door.    The window also needs framed out.  When this addition was built they didn't do wood framing on the windows.  There's only three windows so it shouldn't be hard to fix, I just need to get it done.

So there it is.  My sitting room.  It's not fancy and it's not perfect, but it's comfortable and it's the prettiest room in my house.  Not bad for under $500, huh?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sewing for Me

I really have a hard time sewing for myself.  Even though I've been sewing for over 25 years, I've never taken a class or really learned how to alter patterns.  Since I'm not shaped like a pattern model, that means that my stuff comes out not quite right most of the time.  This, of course, drives me crazy.  I find that skirts are the easiest to work with but I still have the issue with my bum being rounder than pattern companies design for so I have to make adjustments to get the length the same all the way around the skirt.  

Recently I sewed two projects for myself.  One was  a smashing success:
It would look better if I stood up straight, I'm sure.  Anyway, that's Simplicity 1716 View F with slightly shorter sleeves.  I wanted a true 3/4 and not the bracelet the pattern is designed for.  I also left off the silly ruching on the bottom sides.  That's what's giving the model in the picture the weird square hips.  It's not needed and it obviously doesn't lay right when it's done.   I love the shirt.  It came out great even though I made no FBA.  I used a super cheap cut of fabric I found at Walmart of all places.  It's lightweight with a great drape to it.  This was supposed to be my muslin.  I love it when the muslin ends up being good enough to wear for real.

My other project didn't turn out near so well.  This is Butterick B5849.   It looks great in the photo, but the fit on me is atrocious.  For your viewing horror:

So bad.  Obviously I should have done a FBA, but I didn't for many reasons that sound pretty stupid now.  1.  I've never done an FBA (which could explain why so many of the project I make for myself turn out like crap.) 2.  I have a high chest so my high bust measurement is only 2" larger than my full bust.  This result says I shouldn't have to do an FBA but obviously from this photo an FBA is beyond necessary.  (Especially since I in no way whatsoever even come close to wearing a B cup.  Really.  Not happening.)  So basically, what the crap do I do?  How much do I add and where do I add it?   My body is weird.  3.  This pattern does not easily lend itself to FBA for newbies.  

The back wasn't much better.  Because of the fit of the dress, I also should have done a sway back adjustment which I didn't do.  so the back looks like this:
This is after I already tried to fix that and it does look better, just not good enough.

My other issue with the dress is the neckline.  It's so close to the neck that it's uncomfortable.  I'm pretty sure it shouldn't be that close, but that's where it rides on me.  The shoulders don't want to stay where they belong and they ride up about 1/2" which doesn't help the neck line.   Also, it sticks out from the back of my neck like crazy.  It's way too big back there.  It's stupid looking and uncomfortable.  Obviously some change would have to be made, but I'm not sure what happened with it.
 I have worn this dress in public and actually got compliments on it but the fit is so off it's just uncomfortable to wear.  My husband says it's his favorite dress of mine, crazy man.   Luckily the fabrics were both super cheap.  This was my muslin, but the process was such a pain (tears on more than one occasion) that I doubt I will try again with this dress, which is sad, because the style is something that would usually be flattering on me.  The pattern is complicated and not something I would recommend to a beginner.

If anyone has any tips on pattern alternations, I'd be very thankful.  I need to do more to learn how to fit things to my figure.  I love sewing for my girls, but sewing for myself has not been fulfilling and that's just sad.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Awesome Closet My Awesome Husband Built

We have three girls sharing one bedroom with a walk in closet that was pretty much useless.  Across the shortest section of the closet were two rods and that was it.  I neglected to get before pictures again, but it was pretty bad.  There was no space for dresses and their shoes were always in a pile on top of each other and impossible to find or organize properly. 

Recently, we decided it was past time to get that closet useful and organized.  We found plans at for a fantastic shoe organizer with lots and lots of room for shoes.  Since two of our girls are teenagers, we needed the space.  

We had Home Depot cut the wood for us, which made things a whole lot easier.  It's possible to get straight cuts along a sheet of plywood with a circular saw, but it's a pain.  My husband took a cut plan with him to the store so he could have everything cut the way he needed, then he could just come home and start building.  

The plan for the closet gave the girls two shirt height rods the same length as they already had (we were able to reuse the poles) and we added a full length dress rod, as well as a shelf across the top.  Their closet was so pitiful they didn't even have a shelf before.   Obviously if this were my closet, I would have made an effort to organize things by color for the picture and make it look nice.  The girls organized it by owner and garment type so it's useful to them.  
 The wood is 3/4" maple plywood.  It was very reasonable priced.  Steve also added the laminate edging to the ends so make it look more finished.   It looks good doesn't it?

The "shoe shrine" was a very tight fit.  We altered the plans to make the tower the full depth of the closet and boy howdy was it a pain to get it in.  We actually had to *ahem* cut the top off and then put it back on once it was in place.  So basically, if you're going for a tight fight, make sure you build in place to begin with.

Ana's plans were great.  She does a great job of breaking things down step by step.  I appreciate the cut list.  It made putting together a cut plan for the plywood sheets really easy.   It can be very easy with this tower to get the edges misaligned, so do be careful and build on a solid, flat surface so your front edge looks good and lines up.  We don't own a pocket screw jig, so my husband took advantage of the fact that we were putting the edging up by putting screws on the ends of the boards under where the edging went.  It made the tower very sturdy and we didn't have to fill any screw holes.
Steve even added moulding at the base and crown at the top to really finish the organizer off.   He did a great job, didn't he?

The girls are very happy with it and I do have to say that they are doing better picking up their shoes and getting them put away now.  It's also a heck of a lot easier to find the pair they want to wear.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Shirtdress for my girl

So I've been sewing.  And teaching.  And getting a girl graduated from high school.  (What's that?  I don't look old enough to have a kid in college?  thank you.  That's very sweet and my profile picture is eight years old.)

The girl and I sewed this together to be her graduation dress: 

That's the recently out of print Simplicity 2403.  A Project Runway pattern, a line we've had very good luck with. (I don't know how long that link will be good.)  It's still available on line.  Yes, it's another Simplicity, and I do know how much I complain about their sizing.  They are super cheap though.  Every other month JoAnn puts them on sale for $1 a piece, so it's worth it to stock up and deal with the sizing issues.  Once we figure out the correct sizing, they fit my girl beautifully with very little alteration.  Their fit model must be an hourglass figure like my girl.

(I also would like to be clear that although this picture has been put through a few filters, she has not been photoshopped.  Girl is that skinny.  It helps that she's 5'2". I teased her and told her that she can't gain the freshman 15 and still wear that dress.  She laughed.   )

Sarah sewed most of the bodice including the ruffles on the bodice and the button placket.  She's not an experienced seamstress, so I'm impressed.  I couldn't have done a better job with it myself.  Then she ran out of time and had too much school and work to finish before graduation.   I did the skirt, which has pockets you can't see in the pic because we were that good matching the plaid.

I've been doing a lot more sewing lately.  I've made a t-shirt for myself I love, a dress I hate, another Burda jumpsuit for my youngest, and even helped youngest with her first sewing project.   It's been a big sewing month and there are more projects on the list.  I guess I'm just in a sewing frame of  mind lately.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Nutella Cream Pie

Obviously I need to practice  my food photography skills.  I promise this baby is worth it no matter how bad that picture is.

Most Nutella pie recipes are variations of the standard peanut butter icebox pie.  It's a great pie of course, but sometimes it's nice to do something a little different.  A cream pie is more rich than an ice box pie.  The thickening agents are egg yolks and cornstarch instead of Cool Whip and cream cheese.  It's a creamier pie with a smooth, silky texture.

Start with an Oreo crust.  Crush 16 Oreos either by hand (or rolling pin) or with a food processor.  Stir in 2T melted butter.   Press into a 9" pie plate and bake at 350 degrees until the crust is set and you can smell the cookies.  This will take between 10 and 15 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack.

For the filling:
in a medium sized pan combine:
2 1/2 c half and half (or 3/4 c heavy cream and 1 3/4 cups milk)
2 T sugar
pinch of salt

cook until simmering stirring occasionally.  While the milk and sugar cook, whisk together in a medium sized bowl:
6 egg yolks.  Yes, I said six.
1/4 c cornstarch
2T sugar

When the milk simmers carefully pour a small stream of milk into the yolk mixture while you quickly whisk.  Continue pouring until you've added half the milk to the eggs.  Then pour the egg/milk liquid back into the pan with the rest of the milk.  Continue cooking over medium heat until it becomes thick and a few bubbles burst on the surface, about 30 seconds.  Remove from heat.

Stir in one at a time until smooth:
6T butter, chopped into smallish pieces (1/2" cubes if you feel like being precise.)
1 oz unsweetened chocolate
3/4 c Nutella
2t vanilla

Pour into the pie crust and smooth out.  Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the pie filling and put the pie in the fridge to cool for several hours.  Serve with whipped cream on top.

I do suggest you cut this pie into at least 12 pieces.  And then really, really enjoy yours.  It's awesome.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Prom Dress!

Sorry for the exclamation point.  I'm just excited to have it done and worn.  We had some drama Friday night where it looked like the dress wouldn't even make an appearance.  But here it is, right before she headed out to the dance.

The fabric is a champagne colored brocade, but it looks a little on the pink side when a flash is used.  Sadly it was after dark, so flash is all I had.

You can see the bustle on the side in this shot. It's a full circle of fabric, folded in half and pleated on at low hip height.  The center of the circle hangs lower than the skirt so she could have that high/low look that's so popular these days.   It looks a little dead here in the pictures, but the fullness of the bustle gave it a lot of movement and life, really adding so much to such a simple dress.

See what I mean?  She twirled for me.  She loved how it had so much drama when she moved.

And here it is from the back.  There is just a teeny little bit of netting under the bustle right at the top to give it some fullness and make a prettier drape.

And a detail shot.  I do a lot of hand sewing with these formal dresses. The bustle was hand sewn on so I could make the stitching as invisible as possible and have more control of the pleats.  You might notice there's no zipper on the back of the dress.   We moved it to the side so it wouldn't interfere with the bustle.  It made getting into the dress slightly tricky, but it worked.

 And a last shot straight on from the front.  There's a couple of changes I would like to make here.  We have a rhinestone accent that I didn't put on before her dance and looking at the pictures I would say the dress needs it.  I will probably do it before she wears it for her friend's prom . . . if he gets himself ungrounded by then that is.

You can see my daughter loved it.  She's a lucky girl getting these custom dresses for Prom. This one wasn't quite as elaborate as last year's dress, which from the seamstress's perspective was great.   She still looked lovely and had a wonderful time and that's all you can ask for from Prom.