Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ring Sling for a Cool Dude

This is just a quick post to say, "Look I made another ring sling!"

You remember the ring sling I made during the SHB Sew Along, right? I use it every day.

Details here. 

Well, I've sewn another one. This time it's for my brother-in-law.  My younger sister is expecting a boy, due in mid-August. So an all black ring sling was requested.  Here is Phin happily modelling it with Taco, a more reluctant model.

Didn't we do this already, Mama? 

For this sling, I once again used a tutorial from MayaWrap.  They have a really well designed shoulder, which Phin actually didn't quite get on his shoulder.

Not quite on the shoulder

Phin doesn't use my ring sling, so he was not used to wearing Taco. But they lumped on through the photo shoot. Thankfully, for novice baby-wearers there are many resources on line. Seriously. Just google it.

And we're done

I mentioned how beneficial babywearing is for babies when I posted my own sling. Now that I've been wearing Taco for a few months, I have to say that it is beneficial for me, too. Taco started crawling right before I went back to work. So, if he is on the floor, he is going, going, going and pulling himself up to standing on furniture, toys, walls... But he is very content as my sling-worn sidekick. This frees me to bake, putter around the house or get things done when I have to, without having to watch the little guy like a hawk. In social situations, having him on my hip deters people from touching or kissing him and lets me mingle without having to worry that the situation is overwhelming - he's right there, content and secure being on my hip. Sure, I could hold him, but the sling is easier and much more comfortable for longer stretches of time since it distributes his weight.

Anyway, I hope my bro-in-law gets a good amount of use from this cool and understated sling. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Easiest. Bread. Ever.

Holy cow, it's been a long time since I've had a baking post. But I have been baking.  In fact, Taco seems to like being my sling-worn sidekick around the kitchen. So here is a bread recipe that I've made at least once a week for the last month or so.

I know what you are thinking: bread is difficult.

But not beer bread.

Cheddar Scallion Beer Bread variation

Beer bread is not just the easiest bread I've ever baked, it may be the easiest thing I have ever baked. Seriously. Taco and I can get this bread ready for the oven in less time than it takes for the oven to heat up.

Here is the recipe: 
Beer Bread Master Recipe
12 oz self rising flour (3 cups)
12 oz beer (any beer will do)
1/4 c sugar (optional)
Sift flour and sugar together. Stir in beer. Bake in a greased loaf pan for 50-55minutes at 375 degrees until browned on top. Turn out of pan asap and let bread cool before slicing.  
That's it. Three ingredients. And one of which is optional.

From this basic recipe there are a million billion variations. Very simply by using different beers you can get very differently flavored bread. When I used a wheat beer the bread came out light and smelling yeasty, but Guinness yielded a loaf that was darker in color and richer in flavor. I'm looking forward to trying more styles of beer (lambic, IPA, lager, etc) and even some flavored beers for interesting results. What I have noticed is that the higher the alcohol content of the beer, the "beer-ier" the flavor. I haven't tried it, but I've heard you could actually use non-alcoholic beer if you prefer.

Additional ingredients also enhance this bread. You could dot the top with butter or pour it on melted for a shinier, more glazed crust. About 2 TBSP should do, but up to 1/4 c wouldn't hurt. You could also sprinkle cheese on top.

Cheddar & Scallion Beer Bread with butter dotted top (made with wheat beer)

You could add any number of mix-ins. I tried both cheddar and scallion (green onion), and cheddar and bacon in my loaves. Both were delicious!

Cheddar & Bacon with extra cheddar on top (made with Pilsner)

About 1 to 1 1/4 cups of any flavorful ingredient should be fantastic - cheddar or another hard cheese, scallions, sauteed onions or shallots, pine nuts or walnuts, raisins or other dried fruit, crumbled bacon (4-6 strips) or other flavorful cured meat like chorizo or proscuitto, olives (I'd blot them dry first), or any other relatively dry ingredients. You could also add chopped herbs like thyme or chive, but I'd probably use only 1/4 to 1/2 cup.  My next loaf may be feta and olives. Doesn't that sound excellent?

Mmmmm.... bacon

We've been enjoying our beer bread as toast most mornings with a cup of coffee or tea. It's so easy and perfect to keep around.  I think there will be more in our future. 

PS - I have no idea about the provenance of this recipe. It was given to me verbally by a mom friend and a quick internet search yields tons of uncredited recipes. Feel free to share your insights.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Finished: Mademoiselle Jacket!

Here's the jacked I sewed as I was preparing to head back to work at the end of maternity leave.

I've always said that the little french jacket is not my style, but this came together in such a collaborative and supportive way that I couldn't be happier with it. And perhaps I'm a bit wrong about what is or isn't my style?

Rachel drafted the perfect back fisheye darts. 

Last May when I was in London for the NYLON meetup, the fabulous Rachel Pinheiro was wearing her self-drafted Mademoiselle jacket. A bunch of us had rented a flat for the weekend (non-stop pajama party!) and at some point it was suggested that I try on the jacket. The fit was nearly perfect since Rachel and I have a few of the same fitting needs and preferences - extra length, an  FBA and a high/tight armhole. The sleeves on commercial patterns almost never fit me well. Rachel's sleeves did. Amazing gal that Rachel is, she offered to trace off the pattern and mail it to me. 

Perfect fitting sleeves

Puu, who has been encouraging me to give the little French jacket a try pretty much since I met her, was rather quick to jump in. She used her superior fabric enabling powers to coax me into the purchase of some Liberty fabric for the lining of this proposed jacket. 

Lining with jump pleat 

The last piece of the puzzle was to find a tweedy boucle that I liked. Thank you, FabricMart, for this fabulous roll end. I think the most difficult part of sewing this jacket was figuring out what color thread to use for the boucle. Ultimately, I settled on orange. 

Not knowing if I would like this jacket in the end, I used the fast (ie. fusible interfacing and machine sewn) method of construction. Also, this jacket does not have any kind of closures or pockets, which really made sewing it quick and easy for a jacket. I did hand sew the lining in a number of places. Aside from some very minor fitting alterations, I made very few changes to Rachel's wonderful pattern. I drafted a facing for the back of the collar and added a hanging chain.  Also, I added a little width to the back lining so that I could make a pleat at the center back.

Hanging chain, facing and pleat

Oh, and I sewed piping into the seam where the lining and front facing meet. I just love that touch; it makes a jacket really look professional.

Liberty tana lawn lining with lime piping

Anyway, this is the perfect back-to-work piece for me. It goes with every color imaginable, dresses up every outfit, but also can be worn casually with jeans. 

I like the fit and style of this jacket so much that I actually may sew a few more in different fabrics. In addition, this project reminded me how much I like sewing jackets. There's just something so very satisfying about the process.

Thank you, Rachel! Thank you, Puu! Aren't sewing friends the best!?!?! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

M6991: Everything's Coming Up Rainbows Top

PI'm settling back into the hum of work life, and my little family is starting to work out our home routine, too. It seems like a good time to turn my thoughts back to sewing and blogging. Hooray! And it seems like a good week for rainbows as we celebrate marital equality here in the US (yay love! yay families! yay equal rights!), doesn't it?

I've been wanting to sew McCall's 6991 since it's release.

M6991 Faux Wrap Top

However, finding an appropriate fabric was a bit of a challenge. You see, the front of the top is all one piece of fabric that has been gathered and folded to create the mock-wrap drape.  This means that the front of the top shows the right side of the fabric on one half and the wrong side on the other. So, you need to use a fabric that doesn't have an obvious right side. This eliminated most of the fabrics in my stash.

I decided to try the top with a loud, rainbow-striped poly-cotton blend that I picked up from FabricMart some time ago.  I wasn't sure how the stripes would fall, but it worked out exactly how I'd hoped. The fabric is definitely much more crisp than ideal. It doesn't drape the way it ought, but I like the effect nonetheless. It's a cool and crisp top. If I sew it again, I would use a rayon challis, blouse weight silk or something like that for better drape.

I sewed view A minus the pocket and with the shirttail hem of view B in a straight size 12. I didn't even alter for length. The only thing I don't like about the pattern is that the armscye is very low and my bra shows if I don't wear a cami underneath the top. I've actually been wearing the top with a sportsbra-style nursing bra, which has extra coverage; I don't mind if it shows.

The pattern was very easy to sew. The only part that was at all a challenge was figuring out exactly how to fold the front piece over to create the wrap effect in the front. All of the markings were correct, as were the instructions. So, if you make this, just be sure to carefully mark your fabric and stick to the instructions, even if you can't quite see where they are going.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with this top. It's fun and summery. But I do worry a little that it makes me look a bit wide and boxy. I may actually sew a second version for work in a more appropriate fabric, possibly with sleeves. In a more drapey fabric, I think this top would be much more figure-flattering.

But for now we'll call this a win. It's fun and different, which IMHO is what summer dressing is all about.

What are you sewing as the days heat up? Or cool down if you are headed to winter?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Six Month Catch Up: WIPs and Taco

So Phin and I have managed to keep a new little human being alive - and thriving - for six whole months! This seems a cause for celebration.  Also, with just two weeks of maternity leave left, it seems like a good moment too pause, reflect and catch up.

I haven't been blogging often, but if you follow me on Instagram, you know I have a number of sewing projects in the works and have been baking regularly. Here are my WIP's, if you are not an IG fan.

To help transition back to a career mentality, I'm sewing a new jacket. It's a little french jacket, but done in the quick method, which is about as much of a time commitment as I can handle right now. It's all done except for a little bit of hand sewing.

I'm sewing a ring sling for my brother-in-law. He and my sister are expecting -  we are so excited that Taco will have a cousin near to his age come August.

I'm sewing a crazy rainbow colored blouse. I've been wanting to sew this pattern (M6991) for nursing for some time. The front is all one piece - both the right and wrong sides show. It took some time to find an appropriate fabric.

And I just started working on a diaper bag for my sister. It will be the same style as my own.

And now for Taco! I've enjoyed the last many weeks with him. He is in this wonderful little phase where he's able to sit independently, but is not quite ready to crawl. At six months, his personality is starting to really shine through - happy, chuckley, curious and determined.

He desperately wants to crawl

We have lots of afternoons where we put out a blanket and toys on the back porch, and sit out to enjoy the weather.

Taco gets spectacular bedhead

When the afternoons are hot, Taco plays in his splash pad. Water is incredibly fascinating.

But his favorite activity, it seems, is bouncing in his jumperoo.

Taco gets so wild, jumping up and down and laughing like a little maniac, that his bib migrates to his back like a cape.  In fact, even if he's not in his jumperoo, he'll still bounce if he has someone willing to help him stand. 

As active as he is, there are also some very sweet moments when Taco just wants to snuggle with me or Phin. Lately, he will reach out his arms for us to pick him up. 

My boys

Oh, yeah, and everything goes in his mouth since he began teething. 

Now that he's six months old, I feel like we're about to enter a new phase. I'm so happy that both Phin and I were able to take a step back from our careers and give Taco the very best start that we could. I've reached my own personal goal for breastfeeding, and Taco is growing bigger and stronger every day. He's managed to pull himself up to standing, which means he's officially outgrown his bassinet and is transitioning to a crib. We've been letting Taco play with his spoons and plates while we eat dinner. He has two little teeth now and is interested in watching us eat; he is ready for the adventure of trying food! 

Tasting a spoon.

It will be a big change, going back to work and becoming a working/pumping mom. I'm feeling fortunate that Phin and I are both able to cut back our hours so that, with the help of family, we won't need additional childcare. I suppose this is one of the benefits of becoming parents a bit later in life: flexibility and options.

Anyway, I may not blog much in the last two weeks of my leave; I have a lot to do to get ready for work and want every remaining second at home with Taco and Phin. Ironically, I'm looking forward to my commute. It's always been the time when I knit, read books and catch up on blogs. And now I hope it will be when I find time to write my own blog. 

Stay tuned for the next chapter! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What People Sewed: SHB Sew-Along Round Up

It was so much fun to see what everyone sewed during April for their SHBs (Small Human Beings) or for those tasked with growing and raising them.  If you haven't followed along, you can see all the amazing projects in our flickr group or on Instagram.

I loved seeing so many projects for parents.  Here is a round up of some of the amazing things that everyone sewed up in the "for Parents" category of our sew along....


Peapod carrier by Ofingleside

Mei Tai of Gondor by Hannah Sadar

And my lovely sew along co-host, Mikhaela...

We're ring sling twins

For Diaper changing in style:

Diaper tote by Nienke

Diaper Clutch by the very productive Ofingleside

Maternity and Nursing Clothing and Accessories:

sunnyb64's nursing cover

The Itinerant Seamstress sewed a plethora of fun maternity wear including this Plantain Tee, hacked for maternity

Sunnyb64's green maternity/nursing maxi

A photo posted by Dina (@babyoiscoming) on

I also loved Round-the-world-girl's nightwear!

And, although I don't think it strictly counts as "for the parents sewing," I loved Cindy - my other lovely co-host's - organization basket which she's filled with cute toys.

I'm amazed at how much sewing got done with new babies, soon-to-be babies and sometimes older siblings, too! One thing I've learned is that there are days when sewing one seam is real progress. Check out the round ups of the other two categories - Baby Clothing and Toys/Accessories (up soon!).  Also, Cindy will be announcing our prize winners! Yay, Sew-Along!

Next up: Back to some non-baby sewing for me!!

Friday, May 1, 2015

SHB Sew-Along Wrap Up!!

Where did the time go? It's May, which means that the SHB Sew Along has (almost) come to an end. The last thing to do is ask everyone who participated to hop on over to Mikhaela's Blog (Polkadot Overload) and let us know about your project(s) by May 7!  We have some awesome prizes - some random and some in each category.

Wasn't this a fun sew-along?

Taco sure thinks so!!!