Friday, September 28, 2012

White Jean-ius Pants Endnote

For some unknown reason, when I was making my Jean-ius Trousers and trying to figure out how to add the darts to the pattern, it did not occur to me to look at the class discussion board - which is searchable - to see if anyone had asked Kenneth King that same question. They did.

Maybe this is because I sew so much Burda and therefore conditioned to just wing it. But here's his answer, which I'm posting for my own future benefit, since it is way better than what I did, which I will not be posting since it benefited no one.
"Very easy. When putting the organza to the jeans, where the dart falls, do two things: One. From the back, measure the depth (take-up) of the dart. Two. Fold out a corresponding-sized dart in the organza that sits directly over the dart, and pin on the dart.. Mark this in pencil as well. Then keep smoothing the organza over to the side seam--you'll incorporate the shaping into the organza that way." - Kenneth King

Thank you, Kenneth! 

Don't you hate it when you finish a project and then figure out a much better way to do one of the tasks that gave you trouble? And it was right there staring you in the face all along? All you can do is smack yourself in the head and yell "D'oh!"

Anyway, I hope you all have a great, d'oh free weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apple Episode Part 3: Apple Franken-Tart!

It's probably not entirely evident from my blog just how much I actually bake. At least one thing - and often more than one - comes out of my oven every week.

I don't re-post TNT recipes that I've already blogged - if I did you'd be seeing my brownies and chocolate chip cookies on a monthly basis. And I don't post so-so recipes. Why perpetuate mediocre baking? Lots of things are baked, but only the best recipes get blogged. Oh, and the kitchen disasters, too.

Apple crumb tart

So, it's a bit of a surprize that in 3 weeks I've had three recipes that I thought deserved posting. This week, it's a franken-tart: an apple crumb tart that I made utilizing parts from three different recipes.

First, I made the crust from my summer berry tart, which for some unknown reason I didn't post the recipe for. (It's below). It's a sweet, almost cookie-like crust, and very easy to make - no rolling out! just press it into the pan. 

Crust from berry tart +

Then, I used the filling from my apple pie, which I let cool while I made and rested the dough. One batch of pie filling generously filled a 10 1/2" tart pan.

Filling from Apple Pie +

And finally, I added a crumb topping, but not the one I used for last week's apple crumble. This crumb topping has walnuts in place of the oats. And actually, I think I like it even better than the oat one.  It stayed crispy even after refrigeration.

Walnut Crumb Topping = Apple Crumb Franken-Tart!

I loaded it all into my 10 1/2" tart pan and baked for 35 minutes at 400 degrees. The result is a thin and elegant apple crumb pie, which we ate with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Whipped cream would have been even better.


Here are the recipes for the crumb topping and the tart shell.

Pate Sucree tart crust

1 1/4c flour (5 1/4 oz)
8 tbsp butter (1 stick)
1/4 c sugar (1 3/4oz)
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla

Pulse first 4 ingredients in Cuisinart to form a crumbly meal with pea sized lumps of butter. Whisk next three together and then pulse into the butter flour mix. Dough should hold together when squeezed. Turn out into your tart pan and press into all the corners and across the bottom to form the crust.Rest in fridge for 30 min. You can blind bake this crust after pricking it all over for 10-15 min at 375 if you want to fill it with a non-cook filling.

Apple crumb topping (from KAF Baker's Companion)
1/2 c plus 2 tbsp all purpose or pastry flour (2 5/8 oz)
2/3 c sugar (4 3/4 oz)
7 tbsp butter (3 1/2 oz)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 c (4 oz) chopped walnuts

Pulse first four ingredients in a Cuisinart to form a crumbly meal with pea sized lumps of butter.  Add the nuts and pulse a few more times to combine all. Sprinkle over your tart. 


Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn: White Pants Reveal, ya know, 'cause I'm a Jean-ius that way.

So, just in time for my favorite season, here is my completely unseasonable pants reveal!

White pants!

I think we can all take a moment to praise the sewing goddess for the existence of the aptly named Kenneth King.

I stole this pose from Tanit-Isis.

I'm pretty thrilled with these pants, even if they are out of season by a few weeks. I keep hoping for Indian Summer so I can wear them, but alas, it doesn't look like it's in the cards. Here are the finer points.
If you have RTW pants that you really like, KK's Jean-ius Pants Class on Craftsy is well worth taking. While my pants aren't 100% perfect (I'll get to the flaws in a minute), they do fit really well. I made a few fit improvements over the RTW version in the muslin and basting phases of this project, so these pants are even better than the pants they are modeled after.

Front view

As for the flaws, there is still a little bit of wonkiness around the darts on the back side. And the crotch isn't perfect. There were a few shots (not posted) where there was some distinct rippling thereabouts. I think that pinching a little out of the crotch on the next version will fix things.

Back view

One of my pet peeves is any kind of show-thru on white pants. It kills me when you can see pocket bags or panty lines. So, I used a pretty heavy cotton which has a visible woven pattern, and I lined it in bemberg. The fabric has some stretch, but is not flowey/drapey. Fabric Mart would probably say the fabric has a "wide cone" drape that will "stand away from the body". (Close-up of the fabric here.) This may have contributed to the dart issues. That said, since white pants can go wrong in any number of ways - most easily when they cling where they shouldn't - I think my fabric choice was pretty right-on.  (Update: I've just identified when and where I bought this fabric: it is Calvin Klein white cotton in a waffle weave that I bought from FabricMart in Sept 2010.)

Face it: my pants rock

Another improvement that I would make to a future version is that, although I tested the waistband/waist fit, in the end there is still some gaping in the back and the pants started scooching down a bit as the waist stretched. Honestly, I'm too curvy around the mid-section for a straight waistband band. So, a contoured waistband will be an enhancement for next time. Also, I omitted any pockets on these pants, simply because I hate the show thru and because I wanted a very simplified first version.

Final thoughts?  Yes, I have a few.

Yaaay pants!
First, I need to get Phin to take me somewhere warm so I can scuba dive and wear white pants in Autumn. (Phin, are you listening?) Second, I need a photo shoot location with better light. But those are besides the point. I really am tickled with these pants - my first white pants ever! Obviously, there are a few things I'll improve on for next time, but I would not put these in the wearable muslin category by any stretch of the imagination - they are way better than that. Let's call them a pilot version.

My final thought is that KK's Jean-ius pants class is fantastic.  Not only did I learn a method for knocking off RTW clothing, but it really is chocked full of great tips and tidbits. I had several "aha" moments, plus there are some great construction methods and fitting techniques for pants - like the fly front instructions. This will now be my go-to method. So, two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Next up, since it's Autumn, finishing my leather jacket is the top sewing priority...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sewing Pattern Websites and My Pattern Hoard

Last night, it almost happened: that incident that lets you know that your pattern stash has perhaps grown too large.

V1317 - Chado Ralph Rucci
I'm a pattern stasher. Patterns are modest in size, and I stash them in a few different places around the Craft Lounge where they are out of sight. So, it's easy to convince myself that my pattern buying is not a problem, not a habit. But last night I realized that my hoard is too large to keep track of; I nearly bought a pattern that I already own.

So, today let's talk about pattern buying habits since I'm thinking about my habits. I don't live near a JoAnn's or anywhere else that has in-store pattern sales, and finding patterns in the Garment District takes some effort. Aside from my Burda subscription, most of my pattern acquisition happens on-line. And I've definitely formed some habits that have skewed my pattern stash in particular directions.

B5454 - Wrap dresses are a staple in my work wardrobe

First, sales. I am a sucker for sales. Last night's purchase happened during BMV's $2.88 for Vogue and $1.44 for the other brands sale (um, yes, I am a Club BMV member, because I'm a sucker like that. So, I get a bonus discount). With shipping, my order came to $20, which is about the regular price of one of Vogue's designer patterns. Not bad for 7 patterns, huh?

V1314 Tracy Reese

Second, website useability. Simplicity, for example, is underrepresented in my stash. This is because my tolerance for their website is low. The problem? Not large enough images of the garments/patterns in their gallery and too many clicks to get at the info that I want. Plus, when you click on "dresses" you get 9 pages of dresses, with no way to narrow the assortment down. I usually click away from the site thinking I'll come back when I have more time...

B5813 - Says retro, but I'd style it modern for office wear

Third, past experience. I have been burnt by patterns from indie designers - radically off sizing, cover art that was very different from the finished garment and mistakes in the instructions. And while there are several indie patterns in my stash and I've had some amazing successes too - most notably my Lady Grey jacket - my early bad experience always makes me hesitate before plunking down money for those inevitably more expensive patterns. 


Fourth, style. I will never wear a peter pan collar or a pussy bow. Those styles are simply. not. me. Indie patterns tend to be targeted toward a niche audience, stylewise. I wish Colette Patterns made more patterns that were more my style. Everything about the Lady Grey pattern was great - the instructions, the pattern itself, the illustrations, etc. Same for Jalie. I buy a lot of Burda and Vogue because they design styles I like and that easily fit in my lifestyle.  I haven't really found an indie brand that really speaks to me.
M6602 - Well, I'm sure I could find a way to fit this into my lifestyle...

So, that's it -some of the major contributing factors when it comes to my stash. What about you?  Do you buy on line or in person?  Do you have preferred brands and why?  What are the habits that affect your pattern buying? And most important, do you hoard patterns like I do? Do tell!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Apple Edition Part 2: When Things Crumble

My Jean-ius trousers are done, done, done, but not photographed yet. So in the interim, here is the second episode of my apple adventure...

The weather in the NY area was SO gorgeous last weekend that on Sunday morning Phin and I added to my apple hoard. We picked 22lbs of apples. (What can I say? I get my money's worth out of my U-Pick season pass.) About half of the apples are for eating and the other half are for baking.

Once we were home, my head was in a cookbook. Since I wanted to use up lots of apples, a crumble* seemed like the way to go. I reached for my trusty KAF Bakers Companion and was off and running.

Thirty minutes later, crumble was in the oven...

At this point there was a ninety minute interlude while the crumble baked and the house smelled so incredibly good that I was climbing the walls. After that...

The crumble cooled, while I paced. Then it was time to eat...

Everything tastes better in a stemmed glass

 A little vanilla ice cream over warm gooey crumble is a thing of beauty.

om nom nom

I've made loads of crumbles and crisps in the past, but I've never had a real go-to recipe. But both Phin and I were so amazed at how good this was that there really is no contest with past versions. The apples were tender, the sauce was a caramel gooey goodness, and the crumble topping was crisp and buttery.

Yes, that gooey sauce IS as good as it looks

Apple Crumble
3lbs apples (7 med to lg) 
1/4 c rum or cider 
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp boiled cider optional 
3/4 c brown sugar (6 oz)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
3 tbsp flour
Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4" thick pieces. Place in a bowl with remainder of filling ingredients and mix (I used hands) to coat thoroughly. Spoon into a lightly greased 9x9 baking dish.

Streusel topping
1/2 c flour (2 oz)
1/2 c rolled oats (1 3/4 oz)
1/2 c brown sugar (4 oz)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking powder
8 tbsp butter (1 stick)
Stir together the first 6 ingredients to combine. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly, like making a pie crust. 

Sprinkle the topping over the apples. Bake for 90 minutes at 350. Cool for 20-30 min and enjoy warm. 

A few notes:
  • Apples - the recipe called for granny smiths and macs, but I used a mix of Greening, Empire, Cortland and another that I'm forgetting at the moment. Use what you have/like.
  • I wanted to use more apples than the recipe called for and a 9x13 dish. So, I used about 10 med and large apples, but left the rest of the recipe measurements alone. 
  • Since I really love cinnamon, I replaced the nutmeg and ginger with more of it. 
  • I used my Cuisinart to make the topping. 
  • Don't skip the rum - I used a Jamaican rum. It doesn't make the crumble at all boozy, but really enhances the sauce's flavor.
  •  I did skip the cider. Next time I won't. More sauce. 
  • Next time I may cut down on the sugar by about a third. This is about as sweet as I would want it, and that was using more apples than called for. 
* I've heard that the difference between a crisp and a crumble is that a crumble has oats in the streusel topping while a crisp does not. But I've seen crisp recipes with oats in it. So I think there is enough confusion that the two are pretty synonymous. I won't even get into varieties that have nuts in topping... or mention cobblers... or brown betties...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Double Trouble: Apple Edition

I was going to start this post with a happy little story about apple picking with my nephews last Sunday. But it's been that kind of week here at Clio & Phineas, and the week isn't even done.

At the same time some of you were emailing to say that my blog was setting off the malware alerts, I was in the kitchen baking with my annual apple picking bounty. I wanted to try a new-to-me recipe, and Phin selected the Bolzano Apple Cake from The Essential NY Times Cook Book - which is a fantastic compendium. (recipe below).

In truth, I should have known that something would go wrong when the recipe was described as a clafoutis. You remember my first attempt at clafoutis, don't you? The one that will forever be known as Zombie Pie? Well, there have been several more attempts to master clafoutis. All equally unsuccessful. Anyway, things were going just fine up through the first five minutes of baking. Then I started smelling something that reminded me of burnt pancakes. NOT good! When I checked the oven, it turned out that my spring form pan was leaking batter onto the bottom of the oven.

When good cakes go bad...

Seriously, what is it about clafoutis?!?!?  I did manage to get the pan out of the oven and onto a baking sheet, where it continued to ooze. Once the oven was clean and re-heated, and the cake had been transferred to a cake pan, I put it back in the oven. This is not a strategy that I endorse, but what choice did I have? I was not expecting good results.

But I was pleasantly surprised!

Look at how brown and lovely my cake is! And thanks to parchment paper and a very generous coating of butter and flour, I was able to get it out of the (non-spring form) pan without mutilating it.

Phin was pretty wild about this cake. It's actually much more tart-like than cake-like, with layers of thinly sliced apple held together with a minimum of lightly sweet, eggy, buttery crust-like cake. Right up Phin's alley. For me it was a bit eggy, but still enjoyable. And we both agreed that a dollop of whipped cream would be the perfect accompaniment.

Layers of apple..mmmmm....

I think Phin is already angling for me to make this again, since it's all gone. (If he is smart, a new spring form pan will magically appear in my kitchen.) And to be honest, this is exactly what I would make for family, company or just for myself if I wanted apple pie without the hassle of making a crust. Plus, the recipe seems to be fool-proof. So, two thumbs up, despite my equipment fail and near disaster.

Bolzano Apple Cake

8 tbsp butter plus extra for greasing pan
2 large eggs
1 c sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
1 1/4 lbs apples
1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c whole milk at room temp

Heat oven to 375. Melt butter in sauce pan and set aside. Beat eggs with half the sugar. Gradually add rest of sugar while beating. Batter should form a ribbon when dropped from a spoon. Add vanilla seeds to batter and bean to cooling butter. Peel, quarter, core and thinly slice apples. Remove vanilla bean from butter. Stir butter into batter. Combine flour and baking soda. Stir into batter alternately with milk. Stir in apples, coating every piece with batter. Pour into parchment lined, buttered and floured 8" spring form pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Rotate and bake for another 25 min. until cake pulls away from the pan and is brown on the side. A knife inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool for 30 minutes and then unmold. Serve warm with a sprinkle of confectioners sugar or dollop of whipped cream. 

om nom nom

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Coast is Clear...

Thanks to those of you who emailed to let me know they got a malware warning when they tried to visit or post a comment on Monday. Tech support (aka Phin, my resident Mr Fixit) says that the coast should be clear now. My blog didn't have any malware on it, but there were some blogs on my reading list that did, and that set off the warning bells.

Anyway, I hope you will come back and visit Monday's post!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Clio Does It? Cabana Edition!

First off, let me just say, back attcha, Oona! As we kiss summer  - and my vacation -  goodbye, here is a summer project that just didn't make it to the blog before now.  There's a bit of a back story...

No worries here.

Way back when I met the fabulous Oona in LA, I came home with about 1 1/2 yards of an orange stripey knit that we'd split rather than amuse the staff of Mood with a catfight in the knit aisle. Plus there was a challenge: that we'd both make something from it and post on our blogs.

My half of the shared fabric

I felt like I'd been issued my very own "Oona Does It" challenge, AND from the master, herself no less! Oona had already decided on harem pants, which didn't go according to plan. But I knew she'd save the project and make something fantastic. (And she did - seriously!) So, since I'd been in a beachy frame of mind, Cabana was my inspiration.

Now, I'm definitely not the quick-and-easy/instant gratification sewista (How's that for an understatement?!?!). Nor do I have much (any?) experience radically altering the design of a pattern. But somehow I talked myself into basically taking a sweater pattern, and turning it into beachwear, and doing it in a day - warp speed for my sewing!

Onion Patterns #5039

First, the sleeves had to go. Next, the back. (Yes, the back. Nearly down to the waist). Then, the shoulders in the front. Finally, I needed some extra length. Here's what the pattern looked like after I was done - you can see the pieces I removed. 

A few prayers to the sewing deity and a little bit of creative piecing on the cowl later, and my dress was cut and ready to sew, with just inches of fabric to spare. I was a little worried that the back would be droopy, so I made the remaining bits of fabric into a bias strip to make a casing for elastic. And because this is me, I matched up all the stripes.

Yards of bias strips with matching stripes

Ultimately, I liked the bias tape so much I used it to finish the hem, too. A little fitting later (I decided a plunging neckline was just fine) and my beach cover-up dress was done done done!!

My Cowl Neck Striped Cabana Dress

I think this is perfect for throwing on over my favorite bathing suit. And I just love backless dresses.

The bias binding that runs across the back and up to the neck has elastic in it so that it hugs slightly instead of drooping or gaping around the armscye and across the back. 

So, does Clio do it?

Not sure why the color is off on this one.

I think so!

I wore this coverup all summer and now it's packed away for next year. Sigh.

Dreaming of summer on my back porch.
Be sure to check out Oona's fantastic creation over at her blog

Friday, September 7, 2012

V for Victory! And Back to School Week!

So, I've been back from my wonderful vacation on the Carnival Victory for several days now and am firmly in denial. In my mind I'm still on a different latitude. My office is a far cry from the coral reef I was exploring on Saturday morning. BIG sigh.

There's not much to report from the Craft Lounge on the sewing front since I last posted. I worked on but didn't have a chance to finish my jean-ius pants, which are currently outsmarting me.This is no fault of the brilliant Kenneth King. The problem is the darts on the back, which were not part of his class. They just won't lie flat. I think I've messed with the laws of dart lenght v. dart width and it's literally biting me in the a$$. I plan to spend this weekend (hopefully) sorting it out and finishing these pants.

However, with a 4 hour flight to and from San Juan, plus some commuting knitting, I do have half a sock to show you - "Victory Socks" from Toe Up Socks for Every Body.

I know this is confusing since I dubbed my very first pair of knit socks "Victory Socks" as a reward to myself for completing a half marathon. And these new victory socks are also made of cashmere.But the pattern is completely different. So, we'll have to refer to these as "Creamsicle Victory Socks."

Anyway, I'm working with a new toe and heel on these as well as a pretty complicated lace pattern, but it's coming out beautifully I think.

I don't know about you, but now that Labor Day is in the past and the days are starting to shorten, I'm in that back to school mindset. I've got more sewing and knitting projects swirling in my head than I can count. Maybe this is also a sign that my physical therapy is working. Whatever that case may be, I'm feeling motivated and, since the weather will be getting cooler soon, I will need a jacket, preferably a leather one. So, look for that in the weeks ahead. Additionally, it looks like a new niece or nephew is on the way on Phin's side. Since I made my SIL a diaper bag for the first baby, I think a knit gift is the way to go.

Have a great weekend and stay tuned!