Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Jammies

Thanks to our new son in law and his vowel initial our Christmas Jammy Weasley shirts (my kids names for them) spell the most appropriate word ever:  Jammers.    Pretend that we have a second M in there ok?  I have about five years before we can add another initial in there.

The shirts were super easy.  I cut the letters using the Cameo.  They are all done in the HP font available at dafont.com. I did have the adjust the settings on the machine to the heavy fabric setting.  The flannel did not want to cut nicely.   I don't use Silhouette's special fabric medium.  I just use standard Heat n' Bond.   I left the paper on the back to cut and then "R" did the ironing for me.  I did a super close zig zag applique with my sewing machine.  The whole project took me two days.  One day to cut out and one day to do all the sewing.  I did get some help from the kids on the shirts and cutting project.   "M" tried to help with the sewing.  He did two seams on "A"'s pants before he decided it was too big of a project for him.

The fabric is all JoAnn black Friday flannel.  It's not the greatest quality, but it wears well for pjs.   I am having a harder and harder time every year finding more grown up prints for my kids.   The boys prints are the hardest.  There are always a few that work for my girls, but the boys prints all seem to be for boys ages 1-5 or boys into sports.  Neither works for me.   Some nice neutral plaids, fantasy themes (swords, armor, magic etc.), music, books, etc.  would work for all my kids and it would be great to see them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A t-shirt for my Star Wars fan

My son has Constitutional Growth Delay.  It's not a syndrome.  It's not a disease.  It's basically what we used to just call being a late bloomer.  He grows more slowly than the average kid his age,  but for my son it's a bit on the extreme size.  He looks like a nine year old but he's actually 12.  Needless to say, he gets twitted about his size a lot.  A lot.  Older girls squeal and say things like "he's so cute!" but the boys tease and no one takes him seriously.  It's hard being 4'10" when your best friend is 5'8".

So one of his heroes is Yoda.  Of course.  Yoda is awesome and the fact that he's small makes no difference whatsoever.  He also has some awesome things to say about size.

Matt designed the shirt himself.  He chose the quote and I helped him work out the design.  We had a lot of fun with it.  And he loves it!

He was so excited to wear it to school today.

The design itself was so easy to do.  First I found a picture of Yoda on Google image.  I used this one because it gave me a great silhouette of Yoda and the extreme ears really worked for me. I imported the JPG into my Silhouette software.  Then I traced the image and chose for it to just trace the outer edge.   That was the shape of my letters.  Then I used pretty much the same technique as you would to make a circle monogram.   I stretched and shaped the letters to fill the shape and then used the crop tool.   It's a really fun technique to use and it would work for just about any shape.  I can't wait to use it for other quotes.

I'm really happy with this project and Matt has already come up with another design for me to do.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Still on Wedding Stuff--Table Decor

So, yes, the wedding was back in August and, yes, I'm totally milking this, but I did want to do one last post.   I was super proud of how the table decor came out.  It was a huge challenge to stay in budget and work out the arrangements the day of.  There were some logistics that really caused me some pre-wedding stress.  No worries, though, it all worked out.

We decided to save money by doing eclectic table decor.  That means that instead of all the tables having the same centerpiece, or even four or five repeating designs, every single table would have a different centerpiece.   This way we could borrow and thrift store shop for what we needed, bringing the cost of the centerpieces way, way down.  It helps that my mother in law collects vintage glass and had a storage shed full of pieces we could borrow.  We also did some second hand shopping to fill in the gaps and add in the all important metal pieces that were necessary to the steampunk theme.

The flowers were mostly from a large hydrangea plant in my front yard.  It did it's part for the wedding by producing it's largest crop yet of perfectly colored, light green flowers.

The wire trees were made by the groom.  He's been doing them for awhile and made a few more specifically to be used as table centerpieces.

Nearly every table had a doily from my mother's collection.  She has doilies that she has made as well as ones made by her mother and grandmother.  The purple and yellow flowers were ordered from a local flower wholesaler.

For some of the tables, Sarah and Ashton colored plain water to help bring the wedding colors into the table decor a bit more.  (It looks a little brown in the picture, but the water was a light purple.)

The books came from my mother in law as well.

I made large squares of fabric out of the dress leftovers and did a rolled hem on my serger.  They worked great to ground the arrangements and bring them all together.   For some reason I only have pictures of the green squares, but I did purple and gold ones as well.

We had a logistics nightmare with the wedding location.  Since it's usually 100 degrees in the shade the first weekend in August, we decided we absolutely had to have an indoor wedding.  Around here that means in a church building, or at the local National Guard Armory.  Not kidding.  You have to go more than 40 miles to find an indoor wedding venue, and we didn't have the funds for it anyway.

So we did it at our church, only you can't take pictures if you get married in the chapel and the groom wanted his family to feel comfortable doing so.  So out goes the largest room in the building.  The room usually used for weddings only holds about 75 which was going to be about 75 seats short of what we needed.  So that meant holding the ceremony in the gym,  the room we had to have the reception in, the room that was not big enough to set up for both.

We set up for the ceremony and made plans for how we would work the reception.  A friend came in the day before and helped plan out where the tables would go, then we put them all back.   The next day, she was in charge of making sure the tables were placed properly.  The night before the wedding, my husband, the bride and groom, and I all went up to the church and set up a single table.  We set up a centerpiece, then I took a picture of it, and it was put away in a box.  We did this for each one with every centerpiece grouping being in a separate box.  That meant twenty boxes.   That night I printed out the pictures of the centerpieces and the next day the pictures were put in the correct boxes.

For the actual set up, I had to count on the good will of our friends and family.   As soon as the ceremony was done I asked for help (in my very loud school playground monitor voice) putting chairs up and setting up the tables for the reception.  At first people just looked a bit confused, but as the groomsman and close family took up the challenge, everyone else pitched in as well.  I handed out the centerpiece boxes and people carried them to random tables and set them up according to the picture provided. I was really, really worried, but it went so smoothly.   The room went from ceremony to reception ready in less than 10 minutes.   Yes, 150 chairs moved and 19 tables brought in and set up completed with tablecloths and centerpieces in under 10 minutes flat.

From this:

To this:

My family and friends are awesome.  They didn't even complain about being free labor.   They all just complimented us on how smoothly it went and how the centerpiece pictures made them so easy to set up.

Then we had a lovely dinner consisting of five salads, Caesar, potato, broccoli, tabooli, and watermelon. We also had seven different flavors of home made English scones (half baked by me and half by my mother) and sliced meats and cheese. For drinks we had a lemonade bar with berries to mix into the lemonade.   It was all served buffet style on my my mother in law's glassware as well.  (Told you she had a lot.)  The glass serving dishes made it all look very elegant.   From what the guests said, it tasted great too.  I thought the lighter picnic style luncheon menu worked beautifully with the theme of the wedding and the summer weather.  Since it was a picnic, we did paper and plastic to eat off of.  It made clean up so much easier.

After dinner the bride and groom came back for a party.  She and her father danced to a recording of a song he wrote for her before she was born.   It was awesome and beautiful, and yes, I cried.

Then we played the shoe game to much laughter and enjoyment from the guests.  Steve moderated and asked the guests to ask the questions.   We got some really fun ones that way.  Then we danced.  A lot.  I danced barefoot because by this time my shoes were evil.   

Then she threw her bouquet.  
 And we said goodbye.

It was a good day.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sarah's Hat

As I said in the previous post, Sarah's wedding hat was also mine.  I had kept it in the top of the closet for twenty years.  I loved it the day I got married, but I had no fantasies that my daughters would want it.  Hats had gone out of fashion for weddings almost immediately after I got married.  I think I was riding the last little wave or may have even missed the trend altogether.  To be honest, hats still haven't come back, but when your girl decides on a steampunk wedding theme, you get to ignore current fashion trends with great abandon.

My hat had a veil that went past my knees in the back and a huge, leftover from the 80's bow on back.  The lace trim on the edge is the same lace that was on my dress.  It's easy to do things like that when your mother makes your dress and you trim your own hat.  I started with a blank white hat.  My sister and a family friend helped me wind on all that ribbon and tulle.  We hot glued on the fake flowers including a little bunch on the underside of the brim.  I loved my hat even if the weight of that monstrous bow and veiling tried to pull it off my head all day.

It's obviously dated now and it most definitely wasn't very steampunk, but the basic shape worked beautifully for a Victorian-ish wedding.  It's not perfectly time period appropriate, but steampunk is all about taking that aesthetic and tweaking it to your taste.

Since my daughter spent the summer working full time, I had the fun of retrimming the hat.  I removed the massive mess off the back and the ribbon twist from around the crown. The fake flowers  and lace stayed.

I made an eyebrow veil that covered the whole hat with tails that reached about shoulder blade length.  Over that I added a 20" ostrich plume.  That was interesting.  I had never worked with feathers before so I had to do some research to know how to form the plume so it bent the way I needed it to on the hat and how to attach it to the hat so it wouldn't fall off.  (Steam!)

She adored the hat.  It worked beautifully with her dress and looked very steampunk even if it wasn't a top hat.  The plume was just fantastic.  I ordered it off Amazon and it came pretty quickly and well packaged.  (Well, the packaging was ridiculously over sized, but the plume arrived in perfect condition.)   It's attached to the hat with both thread (at the front) and hot glue (at the back.)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Daughter's Wedding Dress

Like I said, my girl got married this month.   She and her husband have been good friends since seventh grade.  Last summer they started dating. They were engaged in March.   It was a quick time to put together a wedding, but it worked best with their schedule to do it this summer.  So we hit the ground running and I spent the summer up to my eyeballs in wedding prep. 

Sarah wanted a steampunk wedding.   Ashton didn't want anything too over the top or costumey.   We decided on a steampunk lite or, as I would explain it to friends, steampunk meets English garden party.   The steampunk aspect did get her this dress:

And from the back:

 We used a Butterick pattern for the bodice but heavily altered the fit and cut the neckline up so it looked better with the corset.  The patterns for the Victorian apron drapey parts, the skirt, and the awesome bustled petticoat are all from Truly Victorian.  I loved working with those patterns.  They were easy to follow for the most part.  We did make some alterations.  I did not sew the aprons into the dress.  They were made as separate pieces like the corset.  It made it much easier to sew the bodice and skirt together and install the back zipper.  With the corset over the top, you can't even tell it's not all one piece.   This way she can also take the apron and corset and use them with another dress for a steampunk costume of her own.  

The aprons were slightly modified from the original pattern.  I did two aprons with the top apron cut 6" shorter than the bottom.  We used Skirt A that already had the double sash.   I used a ribbon to finish the top edge and added a hook and eye to fasten them together.  And then since I ran out of time, we had to safety pin the back edges so they came together properly.  Ah well.  She can sew so she can add a hook and eye there too when she gets time.

The dress was made from a lovely ivory duchess satin.  It draped beautifully and was the perfect weight for the dress.  The corset and aprons are a shantung (Joann calls them blackberry and taupe.)
I'm sad to say we had to do the whole wedding on a very tight budget ($2500) so the fabric was purchased at Joann with a coupon or on sale and it's all polyester.   The fiber made it harder to work with, but it fit the budget.  Her ensemble cost around $300 including boots, hat trimming, fabric and patterns.  

She wore my wedding hat that I retrimmed (like a good Victorian woman.  Redo it to fit the new fashions.)  I'll do a post soon on the hat.  I've got before and afters.  Shaping the ostrich plume was an interesting experience.    

One of my favorite things we did for them on their wedding day was send them off on a picnic.   After the ceremony we did family pictures and then sent them off by themselves while the rest of us had a light dinner.  Sarah's grandma bought them the adorable hamper as a wedding gift and one of the bridesmaids packed it with a delicious meal.  I had the lemonade bottle already in my cupboard (yea for hoarding!) We just had to remove the labels.  Crisco worked beautifully for that.

The photographer followed them to the park for some private couple photos and then left them alone.  They had 45 minutes of together time before they came back to the party.  It was a good break from the crowd and the hectic schedule.  The guests were so busy eating and mingling that the bride and groom weren't even missed until 15 minutes before they were due to come back.  

It was a lovely day and Sarah and I were both very happy with her dress.  

*the photos were taken by the incomparable Jyl Read of Jyl Read Photography.  It's a lot to ask a photographer to drive 6 hours to shoot your daughter's wedding, but in this case, it was worth it.  She was amazing.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Our very own Weeping Angel

My daughter got married on Saturday.  We did just about everything ourselves and yes, that's where I've been for four months.  I've done a lot of crafts but I haven't had time to post any of them.   

One of my favorites was a spontaneous thing.  My husband and I were looking around a local thrift store for things to use as table decor for the wedding when I happened upon this lady:  

Isn't she just horrifically tacky?  That Iron Man-esque outfit, the vines picked out in green, she's just crazy.  But she's also perfect for a weeping angel.  See how her hands are posed and her head is tilted down like she's just barely uncovered her eyes?  Scary.  

So I bargained the thrift store lady down to $15 and brought her home.  We turned her into this:

The paint job was pretty easy.  We started with a flat spray primer in medium gray.  Then I painted her all over in a light gray acrylic paint.  Using a dry brushing technique, I added shadow and weathering with a deep charcoal grey mixed with a bit of chocolate brown.  It's pretty easy; you just want to lightly load the brush and then brush some paint off on a scrap of paper.  Then lightly brush the paint in the creases.   I paid special attention to all the places where rain would drip down and turn the stone darker.  I think her eyes could have used more attention, so I may go back and fix that later.  

The flecks of paint were added by dipping an old tooth brush in cream and chocolate brown and charcoal and then flicking my fingers over the brush.  It got a bit heavy with the white, but the tiny flecks really give it a stone look.

It may have been easier to just buy a can of stone finish spray paint, but I prefer the custom, varied appearance of the hand painted look.

She's one of my very favorite things we did for the wedding.  She stood guard next to the gifts and not one was stolen all night.  I think I may have heard of a guest that disappeared unexpectedly, though . . . .

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake Pie

One of my favorite desserts is a cheesecake with lemon curd.  It's a fantastic combination of creamy sweetness, and smooth tartness.   Just for fun I thought it would be fun to play with the idea of lemon and cheesecake.  The result was a beautiful lemon meringue pie cheesecake.  Meringue on top, lemon in the middle, and cheesecake on the bottom.

Start with your favorite pie crust recipe and make enough for one shell.  Partially pre-bake the crust.  Pull the crust about five minutes before you would normally for a pre-baked crust. You want to leave 15 minutes at the end for more baking. Make the cheesecake layer while the shell bakes.

For the Cheesecake:
8oz cream cheese
1/4 c sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 t lemon zest

Combine cream cheese and sugar, beat until smooth.  Add the other three ingredients.  Fold in until fully combined.  Do not over mix.   Pour into partially baked crust, and bake for 15 minutes or until set. Meanwhile, make the lemon filling.

For the lemon pie filling:
juice of one large lemon  (1/4 c)
2/3 c sugar
1/8 t salt
3/4 c +2 T water
3 egg yolks
zest of one lemon (minus the 1/2 t for the cheesecake)
1 T cold butter

Combine everything except lemon zest and butter in a small saucepan.   Cook over medium heat until it thickens stirring continuously.   When done, remove from heat and pour over baked cheesecake layer.  Immediately make meringue.

For the meringue:
4 egg whites
1/2 t cream of tarter
6 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla

Combine egg whites and cream of tarter.  Beat until frothy and add vanilla.  Slowly add sugar one T at a time. Beat until stiff peaks form.  Pour out over hot filling and spread to edges of crust, sealing the crust to the meringue.  Broil in the oven until the meringue begins to toast.  Watch closely because the meringue will go from beautifully tan to burnt in no time flat.

It was a fun change of pace from the lemon curd cheesecake.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Big Bag of Sunshine

Wanna see what came home with me from San Diego?

Sunshine!  That is nearly 10 pounds of Meyer lemons straight from a backyard tree.  They aren't all clean and polished like grocery store lemons are, but they scrub up beautifully.  Today, two of them will become a lemon meringue pie.  I'm considering make a bit of a twist to the recipe, but that will involve going to the store. That may or may not happen.

BTW, I didn't seek out the trendy lemon. It just happened to be what my brother in law had growing in his backyard. Meyer lemons just aren't available to me in my area at all, so it will be interesting if they live up to the hype.

I have a lot of cooking to do.  What doesn't get used this week will be juiced and the juice will be frozen.  I'm going to have to research the best way to save the zest.  I use more zest than juice in my cooking so it would be sad to not find a good way to store it long term.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Found Some Sunshine

At Balboa Park

and in the Balboa Park botanical building.  (So gorgeous!)

And in the cloisters.

And then we found more sunshine the next day at the LDS Temple in La Jolla.

The classic shot of this building taken with the world's dirtiest camera lens.

 And then we went and found some sunshine in the best place to look for it.

It was a good weekend.  (and no that's not me or anyone I know catching the waves.  But they do look cool don't they?)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Raisin Filled Cookies

Recipes and foods go through trends just as much as clothing, home decor and basically anything else we humans do.  Many decades ago when my parents were young, this was a common cookie to make kids in the little corner of the world where they grew up.  In fact, it was my father's favorite cookie.  My grandmother, his mother-in-law, would make a batch of these to bring to us every time she came to visit.  She would come in our back door looking for hugs and bearing a 5 quart ice cream bucket filled with raisin filled cookies.  My dad always got some, but they were a favorite with all my siblings.   I've always associated these cookies with my grandparents' visits.  Raisin filled cookies mean hugs, love, and cuddles.  I'm not even a fan of raisins and I still love these things. 

This year for my father's birthday I made him a big batch of these cookies.  He was delighted to see me come over bearing a big ice cream bucket of cookies and looking for a hug.  He only shared with my mom.  (He said they freeze well. They wouldn't go bad before he could eat them all so he didn't have to share.)

If you like fruit filling in cookies, this is a good recipe to start with.  Any flavor of jam can be substituted for the raisin filling.  The cookie itself is a soft, tender cookie with a lot of rise.  It's important to chill the dough well and use lots of flour when rolling it out.  

Raisin Filled Cookies

3/4 c sugar
4 t flour
1 c boiling water
1 c chopped raisins

Put the raisins in either a food processor or a good blender to chop them.  They need to be pretty thoroughly diced up, but not completely minced.  A few chunky raisins here or there adds a nice texture to the cookie.  Combine all filling ingredients in a small sauce pan and boil until thick.  Set aside to cool while you make the dough. 

1/2 c butter* 
1 c sugar
1/2 c milk
1 egg
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 T baking powder
3 c flour

Cream butter, sugar, and milk.  Stir in vanilla and egg.  Add flour, salt, and baking powder.  Stir just until combined.  Divide the dough up into three portions and shape each portion into a 1" tall disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours.  

When the dough is chilled, roll out very thin (under an 1/8") on a heavily floured surface.  Do make sure you roll it pretty thin.  It still needs to be manageable, so not paper thin, but thin.   There is a lot of leavening in this recipe, so if the dough is too thick you will get an overly thick cookie. This dough is very soft and sticky, so test the dough to be sure it's not sticking to your counter often as you roll it out. Keep your rolling pin well floured as well.  Cut out 3" circles and place on pan 2" apart.   Drop 1 T or so of filling on each cookie.   Try not to get it too close to the edges so it doesn't squeeze out the sides when you press the top and bottom together. 

Cover with another 3" circle of dough and pinch the edges together.    Like this:

You can brush the edges of the bottom cookie with water before you cover it to help the two cookies stick together, but the dough is sticky enough you really don't have to.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  The bottom and edges of the cookie will be lightly browned, but over all it will still be a pale color.  Let cool on the pan for a couple of minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.  These are excellent served warm, however, so don't wait too long to try one.

I gave you the recipe just like my grandmother made it.  If you find the soft dough a little too hard to work with, feel free to reduce the milk by a couple of tablespoons.  That will help it be a little more manageable, but not interfere too much with the basic structure of the dough.   You can also jazz up the raisin filling with citrus zest.  Either orange or lemon would be a good choice.  I would start with 1 1/2 t at first and adjust from there according to taste.   And as I said before, any jam will work as a filling.   One of these days I want to work up a date and orange filling.

Enjoy my little bit of nostalgia.  If you make these for someone, make sure you get a hug as payment.  That's the way it works with cookies.

*the recipe, being an old depression era one, calls for shortening.  I like the flavor of butter, but it does make the cookie harder to handle.  It's your choice here which you use.  Lard might be an interesting and era appropriate choice if you happen to use it in your baking.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Tailor Tacking: What is it? and why should you use it?

There are several different ways to mark the tailoring marks on a garment when cutting out.  The one I always go back to is the one I learned first:  tailor tacking.  It's simple.  It's quick. It uses items I always have on hand.  And frankly, you tend to go back to the things you know.

Tailor tacking uses items that every single seamstress has.   No matter how simply stocked your sewing stash, you always, always have a needle and thread.   That's all you need.  I prefer to use bobbins that were wound for other sewing projects.  It gets those bobbins emptied off and ready for a new project and I didn't have to throw out the thread or take the time to unwind it just to empty the bobbin.  Your needle choice depends on what you have on hand and your fabric choice.

A tailor tack is just a single stitch in the fabric.  You leave several inches of thread on either side of the stitch.  Leave it longer if you are going through several thicknesses of fabric (I like to leave four inches for two layers.)  If you are marking an area you will handle a lot during sewing, it's best to leave a little extra as insurance against pulling out the thread.

  After marking all the spots needed on the piece, remove the pattern and gently pull the fabric pieces apart.  When you have about 2-3" of thread between the fabric pieces, clip the threads.   Now it's ready to sew with.  You can remove the thread as soon as you are done sewing that piece (just be sure you won't need that mark again before you pull) or just pull all the tacks out when completely done with the garment.

Tailor tacking works for most tailoring marks.  All those little circles your supposed to match up, center line, fold lines, pleats, etc. are all great uses of tailor tacking.   This technique does not work as well, however, with things like stitching lines, i.e. zipper flies and scalloped necklines.  It's best to use transfer paper to mark those.  You also need to keep your fabric in mind.  If you are sewing with fabric that is easily snagged, it might be best to not be putting an extra needle near it.  Heavyweight fabric like extra thick canvas or leather isn't great for this either.  Leather just doesn't need the extra holes and you can hurt yourself trying to run a needle through thick fabrics.  Transfer paper or pens are useful with these fabrics as well.

If you are new to tailor tacking, you might want to leave your pattern pieces around so you can double check which marks are which.  The thread is just thread so it's up to you to keep track.  It may seem confusing at first, but you catch on pretty quickly and the marks are seldom complicated anyway.  I almost never have to refer to my pattern piece to interpret a mark.  If I do, 99% of the time it's because I'm working on a UFO without the factory instructions and I've forgotten what the mark was for.

I hope you learned a new technique and you find it helpful in your future sewing.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Leather trim houndstooth skirt

I took these pictures back in November, but I wasn't happy with them, so I delayed posting.  I have now admitted to myself that I will not be getting great pictures of this skirt.  This is it.  Sorry.  It is a great skirt though.

 It features a faux leather yoke and wool houndstooth skirt.  The skirt has five deep box pleats across the back.  And it's very fitted.  I finished it up after she left for college so I didn't have her to test the size for me.  If she were home when I sewed it, I would have let out the pleats a bit so it wasn't quite so tight.  But then that's how a lot of women's pencil skirts are being made these days, so whatever.  (by the way, the boots do look great with the skirt in real life.  The black and tan of the houndtooth blend more in photos than they do in person so the undertones in the colors are different.)

We used the same basic technique to build this skirt as I did for her wild print deep yoke skirt.   I did use a light fabric for the facing on the faux leather and I sewed down the facing at the top of the waist.  I also sewed down the seam allowance on either side of the seam as well as the darts at the waist.  

For the skirt, we decided on length, subtracted the length of the yoke and added in hem and seam allowance to get the fabric length.  Two pieces were cut.  One the width of the front yoke piece (including seam allowance) and one the width of the back yoke plus ten inches.    

The back skirt has five box pleats.  One in the center and two on either side spaced two inches away.  You could easily do fewer pleats or no pleats altogether.  Just adjust the width of the back skirt piece accordingly.