Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Red, White and Blue... And pretty darn tasty!

My Staycation is off to a fantastic start!  On Friday, I walked around town and had lunch at Eataly with my excellent friend, Magenta.I also bought myself some new cake pans. Saturday it was off to the races with Phin and a group of friends, where I won $12 on a horse named Boom Town Sally!  And on Sunday and Monday we barbecued with my family and then Phin's. Here's the cake I made for Phin's family bbq using my new cake pans... a towering patriotic strawberry shortcake...

Three layers of strawberry vanilla goodness!

This cake was so much fun to make because I just didn't know how it would work out. I used 3 different size cake pans (7", 5" and 3"). Things got a bit dicey when the whole thing started to imitate the Leaning Tower of Piza, but Phin came to the rescue with a shish kebab skewer. I speared the thing down the middle. Once it set up in the fridge, it was fine.

Here's a slide show of the construction and destruction of the cake!

Hope you had a great weekend, too!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Staycation and Planning!

At 5pm this evening, my "Staycation" will begin! No work until June 6.Woo hoo hoo! Phin's also taking the week off, and we've planned something fun to do together just about every day.

However, I will do some sewing. Aside from the simple truth that my dress isn't going to sew itself (I've signed up for Faye's Perfect Summer Dress Sew Along to help me on my way), I've had a growing sense of alarm all day - some kind of anxiety about my week+ off. This afternoon I was walking around the Garment District fretting about possibly not having a notion that I needed and getting stalled on a sewing project because of it. I started plotting activities to do with Phin that would bring us into the vicinity, just in case. This could be because I'm spoiled from working nearby and can run little sewing errands any time I want, but, between you and me, I think it runs deeper. I think I'm having a full blow case of Garment District withdrawal. I didn't feel better until I ran into SIL Threads and bought this:

Quite possibly the cutest tape measure ever!

We'll see if I survive going cold turkey on fabric and notion shopping this week. During that time, my sewing goals are:
  • Finish my Burda knit top on my Granny's sewing machine
  • Work out all the fitting issues with my dress muslin
  •  Pick my next 2 projects. Both should shout summer fun.
Expect updates while I am on Staycation! And have a lovely long weekend!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And Something New...

So, back to my dress dilemma. Thanks to those of you who commented - very helpful!

By Friday afternoon I found myself inexplicably buying seersucker at AK Fabrics. I don't think this will be dressy enough for the wedding, but it was such a good idea from Kimbersew that, well, I just have to have this dress in seersucker. So, I may end up making two versions. If I don't finish in time for the wedding, well, I do have a back up LBD in the closet that I can always wear.

The dress is to be fully lined, and the inexpensive batiste I bought last week will be perfect for lining seersucker. So, I decided to use the batiste lining as my muslin. I know that some may tsk tsk at me for attempting the "wearable muslin". But at $2 a yard, I have no qualms about this being just a muslin - I'll re-cut pieces as necessary. 

Over the weekend, I worked on the pattern (lengthening the bodice and the skirt each by one inch), cut the batiste and transferred all the markings. Last night, I stitched up muslin 1.0 and tried it on. Usually I have to do a whole lot of fitting to make a bottom work, but the bottom of this dress fit perfectly. The top is a different story.

The front looks ok in the photo (aside from the puckers where I was not so careful about easing), but in real life it desperately needs an FBA - the two cups are not even close to big enough for my bust. So, the dress sort of stands away from my body rather than draping over my curves. I was hoping that I would be able to just make the seam down the middle of the cup pieces smaller to make more bust room, but I don't think that will be enough. I'm going to have to make the cups larger and the bodice piece they attach to will need larger spaces for them. Also, I lengthened the straps a bit in this view, but am rethinking this - once the lining is in, this dress will be 5/8" lower cut than now. And, while I like a pretty décolleté, that would make the dress awfully low cut.Where it hits on the unfinished muslin, I think is perfect.

The back has a few easy-to-fix problems, like letting out the side or princess seams a little so it doesn't pull across the back waist. Also, you can't see it so well, but apparently I have narrow shoulders and there is quite a lot of extra fabric in the upper back. There was a pretty straightforward alteration for this in Fit For Real People, so this should also not be a problem.

Anyway, stay tuned for muslin 1.1 with adjusted bust and back.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Something Old...

Yes, that is a glass of red wine. That's just how I roll on a Sunday night sew-a-thon....

Back in the Fall, I posted about my grandmother's sewing machine, which, after more than a decade in purgatory (ie: my parents's un-air conditioned attic), was given to me. I recently had it serviced, despite my local sewing machine repair store warning me that it might be more expensive than it was worth. But they did a fantastic job and now it's humming right along!

I decided to play around with it this weekend. It's definitely more tricky to thread, adjust and operate than my primary SM. And it has a much more limited range of stitches and features. But just look at the stitching! So beautiful! (Hi, my name is Clio and I am a sewing geek.)

Look at how beautiful the stitches are!

Spurred on by this discovery, I decided to see how it operated in real world use on my Burda knit top, which I keep mentioning, but haven't shown you. It's this pattern from Burda (2/2011- 102) in the blue fabric in this photo. This is my second version - the first was too big, so this top is two sizes smaller. I basted and tested the fit, and now I'm sewing it up with a narrow zig zag stitch. Honestly, Granny is doing a better job on knit than my expensive, modern machine. How sad is that? I've never been one to collect machines and, up until a few months ago, I just had one machine. But now I have a serger too, and once I'm done with this top, I think I'll leave this machine set up for knits and topstitching. (Sigh. I fear that this is how a habit/collection begins.)

Speaking of things that are old, look what I won on ebay!

A circa 1940 McCall's slip pattern - my first vintage pattern! Princess seams are a curvy girl's best friend - and sorely lacking in most current lingerie patterns. My "Unmentionables" project has been on hold since I... um... had a minor hissy fit at KwikSew. Anyway, when I shift back to cool weather sewing, I'll get back to it.

Wow, it was really a productive sewing weekend! And I have more to tell, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.  Ta for now.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sewing for Occasions

I'm betting that it did not escape your attention that I've been buying up dress patterns lately. I've been wanting to sew dresses and just haven't made it happen for whatever reason. However, I now have 2 excellent excuses to sew up some dresses: weddings! I have 2 sets of friends who will be tieing the knot in the next many months - one in June and the other in September.

I have lots of time to decide exactly what I want to do for September (this dress is a strong contender). What I really need is your thoughts on the dress I plan to make for the wedding of a college friend on June 11. Here's the dress I am planning to sew:

The dress from V1042 Vogue Wardrobe

Now here is where I need your help: I'm really not sure what fabric to use. I've been roaming the Garment District over the last few days during lunch in search of fabric inspiration. All I've managed to buy is 5 yards of white cotton/poly batiste (H&M on 35th St) which at $2/yd is perfect for lining/underlining summer garments, and this fantastic lace from Chic Fabrics on 39th St (all laces were on sale for $4.99, so how could I resist?). It will make a great skirt or dress this winter.

Black zebra print lace with scalloped selvedges.(Shown on light fabric.)

Really, this is indecision at work. The pattern suggests "Silk Tweed, Crepe and Lightweight Gabardine". These are all light/drapey fabrics, which is not what I would immediately think of for a dress like this. In fact, before I looked at the suggestion, I was thinking something with a bit more body, like a cotton sateen. I think my concern is for the bodice. However, the bodice pieces are interfaced with "Nylon Fusible Knit" (um, anyone know where to get this mystery interfacing?) and the dress is fully lined. Am I fretting over nothing?  Will this dress work in a light drapey fabric?

I am going to do a muslin, so I have a little time to decide. Let me know your thoughts. What fabric would you use for this dress? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Look 6915 Top: Redux

New Look 6915 View D
It's a very dreary day here in the Northeast! But I'm feeling perky nonetheless in my latest version of the New Look 6915 top. And the beautiful silk charmeuse I used feels like wearing a cloud. I do love silk.

Just like version #1, this top doesn't need much fitting, which makes it a super easy, instant gratification kind of project.

It's really interesting how different sewing tools can make certain tasks easier... or not. As I mentioned, I started off using my narrow hem foot to finish the hem and sleeves. On paper this seemed like a good idea, but the fabric (maybe because of how slithery charmeuse can be?) did not cooperate. It refused to curl into a neat little hem. So, in the end, I pressed a double fold and then just stitched it with a regular foot. It looks good. On the flip side, I finished the seams and the inside edge of the cowl with my new serger. And that went swimmingly!  I feel like the insides look so very neat and professional.

Anyway, I'm not sure I'll make this pattern again, since I now have two versions of this top. But I do highly recommend it.

Happy sewing everyone!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wonder Woman: Cue My Theme Song

At the starting Line.
Today's SuperHero Half Marathon and Relay Race (I ran the relay with Phin) was a ton of fun. And it was great to be in costume because people cheered me on which really helped keep me going.

Here is the full view of my costume. I made the belt and cuffs from some spandex purchased at Stretch House in the Garment district, and ironed on stars to a pair of navy blue running capris and a Wonder Woman logo to a red tank top. The tiara started life as a Disney Princesses birthday party crown, which I spray painted gold and added a red star to. There were lots of people in costume...

Like this wonder duo - a female Superman and Robin. Seriously, these two could run - the are a blur.

And the Incredibles (also a blur). 

Oh look! I'm a blur too.
HA ha ha. Ok, I did not set any land-speed records over my 6.7mile leg of the race. But it was a real triumph for me to run that distance in a race for the first time. I'm feeling pretty super! 

I hope you had a super weekend, too!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Mash Up: Blogging, Hemming and Hero-ing

So here is the week-end mash up of things rattling around in my brain.

Blogger: Not sure if any of you noticed but Blogger seemed to have a few bad hair days in a row this week. I couldn't log in and some of your comments mysteriously vanished. (Thanks for all the compliments on my pants! I did see them before they disappeared.) It seems to have been system wide and is thankfully over.

New Look 6915

Hemming: I'm still not finished hemming my New Look 6915 top (above).  This is not for lack of effort. I made this top out of the most ethereal silk charmeuse; the dandelion seed print is perfect for such a light and airy fabric. I'm trying to hem it with my narrow hem foot, which you would think would be ideal for the job. This foot is supposed to curl the fabric into a neat little hem and stitch it all in one step, without me having to press it. But it isn't working out and, at this point, it would have taken less time not using the foot and just pressing and stitching the hem. Gaaah! Admittedly, I am not much of a weeknight sewista, so perhaps I will have better luck tomorrow morning.

Hero-ing:  In happier news, my costume for the Superhero Relay Race is nearly done. And I think it will be awesome. Naturally, fate has a sense of irony. I decided not to sew most of it from scratch, but to embellish running clothing I already own. Mostly, this required pressing. So, it isn't as though I haven't spent any time at the ironing board this week. Here's a sneak peek.

I'm practicing my WonderWoman Spin
Anyway, the race is on Sunday morning and I will show you a picture or two after. Wish me luck on my 6+ mile leg of the race. I'm feeling excited, but confident. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bottoms Up Pics - Finally!

I finally got around to photographing my finished Bottoms Up Challenge bottoms. They are Simplicity 2700 Amazing Fit Pants. This is my third version, done in grey Armani Collection wool blend (??) fabric that was a birthday gift from my mom, lined in dark grey bemberger. This version has some changes from the original. I eliminated the pockets on the front hip and added back welt pockets.

I love the picture of the back of the pants. Yay, pockets! However, I should have taken pictures with my "real" shoes, which have a small heel, and not my "commuting shoes", which are very flat. Oh well, I was under-caffeinated at the time.

But even more important, I am so happy these pants were rescued from UFO-ville. I cut the fabric way back on Labor Day weekend. Then they sat while I worked on my Lady Grey jacket. When I finally got back to them I was stymied by the welt pockets. But with a little perseverance, I now have a great pair of trousers for work. That said, I think I am done with this pattern.

Next up, photos of my second version of New Look 6915, this time with the cowl neck. That is, if I get around to hemming it tonight.

PS - Now that I've been wearing these pants for most of the day, I have to say I am LOVING the fabric. Not only did it sew up like a dream, but it feels so lovely on and is wearing nicely. Thanks, again Mom!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Petite Devil's Food Cake for My Angel of a Mother

I hope that all the moms and grandmas had a wonderful day yesterday. I was lucky enough to spend the day with Mom Muse and my two sisters, Calliope and Poly, who are the most wonderful mothers to my nephews.

This is the time of year in my family when there is constant cake. There is a birthday, anniversary or occasion every weekend, and it seems like one cake is finished just in time for the next. So, in the interest of our family waistline, I bought 7" cake pans to make a cute little cake for our celebration. I decided to use my go-to chocolate cake recipe King Arthur Flour's Devils Food Cake. If your only experience baking a cake involves a box, I encourage you to branch out. Homemade cake is a luxury, and not all that much more difficult to make. If you can cream butter and measure ingredients, there should be nothing holding you back.

All that's left
I really am terrible when it comes to photographing my kitchen projects. I forget to take a picture when the cake is all frosted and lovely. Instead, I wait until there is just one ugly, half-nibbled slice left. Sorry.

Anyway, the smaller cake pans allowed me to cut down the recipe by one quarter (so 75% of a normal size layer cake). I could have cut back even more - to 60% - but since my pans are professional quality, they are also deeper than normal. So, the extra batter was well used; my cake came out tall and chic. And 32 minutes in the oven left it impeccably moist. This cake is so tasty that all you really need is a sprinkle of confectioners sugar or a dollop of whipped cream. However, it being Mothers Day, I opted for a spiky halo of marshmallow icing.   

The end result: cake bliss. And not too many leftovers. Really, it was the perfect amount, too. It makes 12 nice size slices - plenty for my family to enjoy a slice each and have a few leftover for later nibbling. Yum! 

Anyway, there is a time and a place for "the box". But if you want a truly special cake, this is a real winner.

Tomorrow, I promise to get you up to date on my sewing. There are definitely things to show, just nothing 100% done or photographed. Stay tuned! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring Fever, Superheros and Support

I had a massive case of spring fever this weekend - I just couldn't bear to be indoors on Saturday. So, off I ran with Phineas to do a course preview run for our Superhero Half Marathon and Relay Race which is just 2 weeks away. We are officially registered to run as a 2 person relay team - The Sidekicks! So, we'll each cover a little more than 10k (6.2 miles). I did well on our preview  run - I hope I can channel my inner superhero on race day.

Early on, I was thinking of sewing a costume for myself. But I'm worried about not being comfy - it will be my longest race to date and the weather may be warm. So, running in comfy, breathable, non-chafing clothing is a must, and I'm just not willing to do the sewing, test running, tinkering, re-testing, etc to get it right. On a side note, I've noticed that female superheros don't seem to take jog bras seriously. Perhaps they are not affected by gravity; that would also explain how many of them can fly. But here at the Five Muses blog, where gravity is very much at work, we take things like support seriously.

That said, I will be running in costume. However, I plan to embellish/tinker with some running clothes and make a few accessories for my outfit, rather than creating a costume from scratch. So stay tuned.

Anyway, back to my spring fever. The point when I decided that I needed to head out of doors was also shortly after trying to do one tiny little adjustment on my Bottoms Up pants.  Although it solved one problem, it created a bigger problem. I took the waist in just one scant half inch at the back waist and it created this little puddling of fabric along the back center seam right in between the welt pockets. At that point I threw my hands up and went running. I plan to (fingers crossed) finish the pants tonight. Better late than never.