Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Over the Blahs with the Over the Top Challenge!

I am officially over the blahs.

After sorting through my pattern stash over the weekend, I've decided to join Faye's "Over the Top Challenge" - basically a top sewing blitz during the first half of April. Such a short term project - fun, quick and easy - is the very shot in the arm that I need. Not only will it get me back behind the sewing machine, but it will be the boost that my wardrobe needs this spring.

In the interest of keeping this project easy, I've decided not to sew any pattern that involves setting in sleeves and to limit my selection to just 2 patterns. And I decided on a black and white theme because, given the rest of my wardrobe, that will give me maximum versatility. Here's what I plan to sew.

 First, New Look 6915 - with cut-on sleeves

And Burda 2/2011 102B

And here are the fabrics. Left - a knit that I picked up from Metro Textiles yesterday for the Burda; Right - for the New Look some sale silk from H&M fabrics.

All the Over the Top Challengers, including me will be posting about our sewing blitz on: Over the Top...a 15 Day Challenge.

I did end up indulging on some additional absolutely gorgeous fabrics at Metro Textiles yesterday. I'm not sure I've ever seen the store so bursting-at-the-seams full before. And that is saying something since it is usually crammed full. There were so many great fabrics for spring, that I'm definitely feeling the call of warm weather sewing. More on my fabric spree tomorrow.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Mash-Up: Lady Grey Blues, Sharp Scissors and a Revelation

I posted my final thoughts on my Lady Grey adventure on Pattern Review the other day: click here for review

And now that I'm finally done, I've definitely been suffering from a case of the blahs. Somehow, getting back to work on my pants with welt pockets just doesn't seem terribly exciting. I just don't know what to do next. Honestly, between Monday and Wednesday, I seemed unable to focus on any hobbies. Runs were planned and then canceled, cookbooks were flipped through and cast aside, Burda arrived and was ignored. But then, there was a very little ray of light: before I went to London I had mailed my shears, which had been very very dull, back to Gingher for resharpening. They arrived back yesterday, all sharp and pretty.

So, now I am eager to cut into some fabric. But what?  Then I saw that Faye has announced an "Over the Top Challenge" - sewing tops for the first 15 days of April as a blitz sew along. And Karin of Making the Seam just sewed up Burda 2/2011 102B, which I had also noticed when that terrific issue had arrived. So this is definitely a possibility.

Still a bit undecided on what next, last night I decided to flip through my patterns and get some inspiration and ideas. That is when I had a somewhat shocking revelation: I am a closet pattern hoarder. I never quite realized this because my fabric stash is so modest and judicious. And unlike my fabric, which is neat and organized, if you count 2 years of Burda magazines, I've got patterns stashed in four different places! Five if you count the stack of newest patterns that are on the nightstand as reading material! And I've got even more patterns in my shopping cart at several on-line pattern stores, just waiting for a sale.

So, project number one this weekend will be to de-clutter and organize what I already have before ordering a single other pattern. THEN I will hopefully have a plan for what to sew next.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Le Grande Orange: Montreal, Lady Grey and Camera Troubles

Well, I know I've been promising Lady Grey pictures for more than a week now. So, you would think that my trip to Montreal (3 days work, 2 days play) would be an ideal time to get Phineas to snap a few, since I wore my coat the whole time. And you'd be right. Except for the fact that my camera has decided to stage a strike; it is periodically refusing to open it's lens (the cover is refusing to retract) when I turn it on. So, in addition to the fact that Phineas hates taking pictures and I am a reluctant model, we now have temperamental equipment.

Le Grande Orange
However, all was not lost and we did get at least a few pictures in the old section of Montreal - Vieux Montreal - with me wearing Lady Grey, which Phin has now nicknamed "Le Grande Orange". (Sigh. Men and their baseball references.)

This was a cute little cafe where we had brunch on Saturday.

Montreal is a really fun town. It really does feel a bit more like Europe than North America, and that isn't just because of all the French speakers and French food, although sitting in a cafe sipping a cafe au lait and eating a croissant does help.  I think the best American comparison is that Montreal is a bit like Boston. The plateau section has a similar feel to Newbury Street and the old part of town looks and feels like the old sections of Boston. It is a great city for walking when the weather cooperates.

Walking down the street of Vieux Montreal, the old part of town

And from the back...

Sitting on Place Jacques Cartier
I am deliberately leaving out the photo that Phin took of me with traffic cones to show how similar the color is. Ha ha ha. But truly, I have no fear of being hit by a car while wearing this coat. The color is intensely eye-popping. And here is my very vain confession: I received many compliments while wearing this coat from random strangers (at the airport, in the hotel lobby...) and from business associates, too. And it felt wonderful - like all that work has really paid off. With all the black and gray and dark colored coats one sees, this one really stands out in a crowd.

Now that I've been wearing it non-stop for a week, I do have some thoughts on the fit and the pattern, etc. Full practical review to follow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Big Projects = Fabric and Pattern Binge

It seems like whenever I undertake a big sewing project, like my coat, I end up spending lots of time thinking about all the other projects I will sew when I'm done. The result is a fabric and pattern binge.

I took a quick tally. Since I started working on Lady Grey, I have bought 11 patterns and 18 yards of fabric.  This is not including my purchases for my IBOL bundles. Does this ever happen to you?  Here are my latest purchases...

Vogue V1220 - DKNY Dress

Vogue 1223 - Anne Klein Dress

Vogue 8333 - Claire Shaeffer Jacket

Vogue 1202 - Donna Karan skirt

The last two are my favorites. I am thinking of the Donna Karan skirt for fall.  And, although I have no plans for a jacket or coat any time soon, this Claire Shaeffer pattern is worth adding to your stash for the directions alone. It has carefully written instructions for all of the hand stitching, interfacing and underlining steps to make a truly tailored garment. If a jacket is in your future, you seriously ought to consider using the instructions for this jacket, even if you use a different pattern.

And here is my latest mini fabric binge. I spotted this at H&M Fabrics on 35th Street in NYC. They have been threatening to go out of business - and having a sale - for at least the last three years. But from the looks of it, they may actually be serious this time. This fabric - allegedly silk - was $2 a yard. 

Destined to be a dress, I think.

Anyway, I'm in Montreal at the moment. But I hope you are having a great week and getting more sewing done than me!

Monday, March 14, 2011

$30 of Fabric at Mood for just $15

If you subscribe to Groupon (or even if you don't), check out today's offer:

If Groupon is new to you, basically how it works is that you are sent an email every day with a limited time offer for (usually) 50% or more off of something. And if enough people sign up for it, the deal is on and you pay for your Groupon. Usually, you have 6 months to a year to use it. Offers are for things like $25 for $50 of food at a local restaurant, half off knitting classes, half off a facial at a certain spa, discounted shopping (like Mood), or a low price for a month of unlimited pilates/yoga/kickboxing/etc at a local studio.  It really runs the gamut. The catch, of course, is that you pay now for a coupon/voucher that you will use later.

Anyway, the offer for Mood expires on Thursday and you have a year to use the Groupon after that. Happy shopping! OH! By the way, I am not affiliated with either Groupon or Mood (I wish!). I just saw the deal, pounced on it, and thought you would like it too!

PS - I am at home now, but headed to Montreal on Wednesday. So, just passing through and a bit mixed up with what time of day it is (London time, daylight savings time... oy vey!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Heading to the airport...

Here is an action shot of me wearing Lady Grey on the way to the airport...

One confession: it still doesn't have snaps/buttons. But they are in my suitcase and will be sewn on while I'm in London. Full review to follow, once I am back home.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rounding third...

Very Quick Update: Tomorrow evening I leave for a business trip to London, and I am determined to wear Lady Grey to the airport. Right now, all that is left to do is final topstitching (the lining is in!!!), sewing the sleeve lining to the sleeve hem, and sewing on the belt loops and snaps (I decided on large snaps rather than buttons).

There are some optional finishing steps that I'll do if I get the time, like invisibly stitching the lining to the coat shell along the princess seams and sewing the lining hem to the coat hem. 

Thank you to everyone who has been cheering me on with this project - your comments have really kept me going. I can't wait to show you the final pictures!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mac + Cheese: Runners ' Edition

Over the weekend, I decided to whip up a version of mac +cheese that had been on my mind for some time.

At the outset of this project,  I declared that I was not trying to make a light or healthy version of mac + cheese. But I was inspired by my afternoon run... and Mark Bittman is one of my very favorite food writers and cooks... so you see, I couldn't resist trying out his lightened up version of mac + cheese that appeared in Runners World Magazine (recipe here), especially in light of the fact that I've been complaining about the overwhelming richness of most of the other recipes. 

Cauliflower Mac + Cheese served with Chinese-style Chicken Wings

The Details:  This is a very unique recipe, in that the butter, milk and cream are replaced with cauliflower. Yes, you read that correctly: cauliflower. Weird, huh? Essentially the idea is that you replace the white sauce with a white veg that has been cooked and pureed with some stock until it is a sauce-like consistency. Then you go ahead and add the cheese and other ingredients, mix with pasta and top with breadcrumbs. Then, you bake until it is bubbling and golden brown.

The Results: When I mixed the pasta and sauce together, I was definitely worried. There was a lot of sauce; it looked like cauliflower soup with a little macaroni floating in it. However, once baked, it really condensed. It was more like the consistency of very creamy mashed potatoes... with some macaroni mixed in.  Wow, I am really not making this sound good, am I? But it was very good and tasty, and Phin immediately started thinking up alternate uses for pureed cauliflower (eg: to top a shepherd's pie, as a gratin-ed side dish, as a mashed potato replacement for the carb-conscious...) The cauliflower has a very mild flavor, it is completely unobtrusive and it didn't make the dish overly-rich. I actually came back for seconds.

End notes:  This recipe might be worth tinkering with. I think that I must have had a very large head of cauliflower and that is why the macaroni and cheese elements of the dish did not shine - they were overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of puree. So, with less cauliflower, this recipe might end up more like the mac + cheese I envisioned.

All that said, my next version of mac + cheese will be back to the more standard button-bursting variety.