Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twas the Day After Xmas

... And all thru the kitchen
the smell from the oven
was sooo finger lickin'...

With me in an apron
and Phin in one, too
we baked gooey cookies
like Gram' used to do.

Ok, ok. I know that "kitchen" and "lickin'" aren't an exact rhyme. And this post is late. Oh well.

Things have been a bit bonkers here in Whoville, and time for blogging has been non-existent. My backlog of posts is getting pretty long. I have finished socks, a finished baby blanket, and a rapidly growing giraffe.  My red slip is being sewn and my pimped pencil skirt is, well, being pimped. In addition, we've made candy, baked goodies and cooked three feasts. So, there is a lot to tell, provided that we manage to survive the holidays.

BUT in the interim, we wish you and yours a belated but heartfelt Very Merry Everything!  Here are a few of my favorite holiday moments.

Uncle Phin under attack by sword- and nerf-wielding nieces and nephew. (Phin provoked the attack)

A gift of potholders with artwork by my nephew Orpheus. (L to R: Swampfire, Stinkfly and Diamond Head from Ben 10)

Baking pie with 3yo assistant baker, Miss S.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Brown Sugar Cookies

Phin doesn't have much of a sweet tooth. He prefers desserts that show a little bit of restraint. My normal default setting for sweets, however, is chocolate. But every so often I want a something that isn't ultra decadent and isn't chocolate; a little pick me up to nibble with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon.

Brown Sugar Cookies

So, when my first issue of The Baking Sheet - a birthday gift from MarMar  - arrived, I knew I had to make their Brown Sugar Cookies. I thought that the cookies would appeal to Phin, and have some restraint at this decadent time of year.

And yet, when the cookies were in the oven, they smelled decidedly seasonal - they definitely have that holiday aroma. When they came out they were sweet, but not too sweet. The brown sugar gives them a distinct carmel flavor, and the spice is just perfect.

Brown Sugar Cookies
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 c (9 3/8 oz) brown sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 c (9 5/8 oz) all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger (I just used more cinnamon)
1 c (6 oz) bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
1 c (6 oz) toffee chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpat. Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg. Scrape sides of bowl. Whisk dry ingredients together. Mix into butter mixture until combined. Mix a few seconds more. Stir in chips if using. Scoop by the tbsp full onto baking sheet. Bake for 8-12 min (mine were perfect in 10). until edges just turn golden brown.Cool on pan for crispy cookies or on cooling rack for chewy cookies. (Makes 3 dozen plain or 4 dozen with chips.)

The dough was tasty, too. (Yes, I eat raw dough.)

The only change I made to the recipe is that I substituted more cinnamon for the ginger, since I was out. Uncharacteristically, I did not add in the optional chips since Phin requested that I leave the cookies plain. 

Phin liked these cookies so much that after a day he finally demanded that we share some with his brother and family, before he devoured them all. When we arrived at his brother's home, cookies in hand, I received the ultimate compliment from our niece, the 14yo Miss J. She asked for the recipe. Need I say more?


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Red Slip

Greetings from Las Vegas! Phineas and I decided on a last minute pre-holiday getaway. So there's no sewing happening this weekend. But here's some other red lingerie - courtesy of Madame Toussaud - which is definitely more Vegas style than what I'm making.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Addicted to Craftsy: itty-bitty Giraffe Bum

Is anyone else out there finding that Craftsy has become a bit of a... um... habit?

I'm making this critter in daffodil and flamingo pink!

This summer I took Kenneth King's Jean-ius class. Last summer I watched parts of Gertie's Bombshell dress class to learn more about boning and waist stays. And now I'm doing Susan B Anderson's knit giraffe class. I have another knitting class waiting for me, too. And a bunch of Craftsy's free mini-classes waiting to be watched - Know Your Wool, Short Rows, and Modern Buttercream. I didn't really mean for this to happen. But.... mmmmmmmm.... buttercream.

Phin's brother and his wife are expecting a new baby girl in February. Since I already made my SIL a diaper bag for their first child, I decided that it's time to start making stuffed animals, like the ones that were crocheted for me when I was small. I was never a babydoll kind of little girl, but I have a huge menagerie of stuffed animals that have been loved in a very Velveteen Rabbit sort of way.

Chickee, Babar and Bronto - my crochet menagerie

Here's the start of the giraffe. It's knit bum first. 

Giraffe bum

Am I alone in thinking this is silly? Phin is getting tired of me chanting "giraffe bum, giraffe bum, he he he" while I knit.

Before I signed up for the giraffe class, I had already bought the knitting book Itty-Bitty Toys, which has the giraffe pattern in it. 

Even better, there's a whole section on using up remnant sock yarn to make stuffed animals.

I have lots of remnant sock yarn

And now I'm thinking that when I'm done with the giraffe, I need to start making my remnant yarn into a herd of little elephants.

Elefante from Susan B Anderson's blog

Then they can trample my enemies.

I may need to knit some hippos, too. They could help with the trampling.

Anyway, knitters and sewists, what are your thoughts on Craftsy or other on-line classes? Are you as hooked as I am? Or do you do better with more traditional media - books, live classes, etc? I love live classes, but one of the nice things about Craftsy is that you can go back if you miss something. How do you like to learn new sewing and knitting techniques?

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Patterns: Lingerie Update

Over the weekend, I worked on two lingerie projects.

In addition to the vintage slip I started last week, I've been making a sleep bra from remnants of my kimono fabrics. I'm using McCall's 5651, an out of print "diy style" pattern.  I think it looks gorgeous.

Beautiful to look at; awful on.

Too bad it doesn't fit. Not at all.

I made the bra in a size M (34-36" bust).  It was pretty difficult to try on while it was half sewn, but try I did. I thought things were going well. But when I tried on the near-finished bra, there were some distinct problems. I love how the fold over elastic (FOE) looks on the edges of the cups. However, it makes the edges, which should lay flat against the bust and sides, stiff.  So, the cups are gaping on both sides. Additionally, they are just not quite the right shape and size, and the band is 3-4" too big. I should have made a size S with an FBA. I'm really not sure where to go from here. Ripping out the seams on this lace and with the FOE sewn on seems like it will be a nightmare. So, I think a complete and total do-over might be a better option if I want to try again. It isn't really wearable as is.

Once I was thoroughly frustrated with the sleep bra, I turned my attention to the vintage slip, which is also a McCall's pattern. I was expecting more frustration. Convinced that it would not fit in the end, I decided that I would quickly baste all the seams and then try it on before I wasted any more sewing time. I didn't even bother to press out the creases.

And guess what...

Carelessly basted, perfectly fitting.

The fit is nearly perfect! I'm utterly shocked. Shocked!

I'll have to take in the side seams just a scooch at bust-level. Aside from that minor tweaking, there are no other changes to make as far as I can tell.  Amazing, no? I think this was the best first try on I have ever had for a garment or muslin. Truly.

Since I basted it very poorly, I'm going to have to rip it all out and then sew carefully. There's a lot of fullness to distribute along the princess seams. But I'm feeling so optimistic about how this may turn out that it makes up for the disappointment of the sleep bra.

So, that is my tale. Another lesson on the merits of vintage patterns? We'll see, I guess.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Vintage Lingerie!

So, look what I started over the weekend!  It's a vintage slip pattern from my stash! Actually, it's the only vintage pattern in my stash -McCalls 5160 from the 1940's. I'm sewing it up in the same stretch silk as my kimono lining, only in a very Christmas shade of red.

At this point, I feel that I ought to add that there will not be any maribou feathers involved in this project before you either (a) get your hopes up because you would love to see me tackle the "Sexy Santa" slip or (b) cringe because you think the "Sexy Santa" slip is horrifically tacky. There will be none of this going on in the Craft Lounge. I want a slip that is beautiful and wearable - under clothing and in more months than just December.

Back to the pattern! Like other old patterns, there was only one size in the envelope. The pattern pieces were cut, but complete. And I loved that they had a cutting line (actually, a double line and you cut in between), a sewing line and just 1/2" seam allowances. The pattern was very clearly marked.

Real pieces and my tracings

One of the interesting/unusual aspects of this pattern (at least to me) is that the measurements were much closer to my actual measurements than any modern pattern that I've used. With princess seams, like this pattern has, I can usually adjust the bust as I sew rather than doing a small FBA. So, my changes to the pattern were pretty minimal. I added some length to the bodice and about 2" total to the hip by slashing and spreading the front and back side pieces, which is what the pattern instructions specified.

Aren't the instructions awesome looking?

Speaking of which, I'm just loving how the pattern instructions were drawn and written. They're minimal and assume that you know the basics of garment sewing, but they're very clear. I so rarely follow instructions anymore, but I'm giving these ones a shot. Oh, well, except for the closure on the side. This slip actually has a row of hooks and eyes down the left side. Since I'm using a stretch silk, I'm hoping to do without, but if it is too tight to easily get on, then I'll add the closure. 

Those of you who have sewn vintage patterns, what do you think of the measurements? The instructions and markings? 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kimono Reveal (BurdaStyle 07-2011 #124)

What better time to finish up some lounge wear than right in time for the holidays!?!?

Unfortunately, since this is lounge wear, all photos are by necessity indoor photos and have awful lighting thanks to the lack of sunlight this weekend. Oh well. So much for my goal of better photos on the blog.

Still in PJs at noon.

But can't you see me on Christmas morning creeping down the stairs to see what Santa left under the tree all cosy and wrapped in my luxurious kimono? I think so.

Action Shot on a lazy Sunday morning

That said, for clothing designed for relaxation and for a pallet cleansing "easy" project mostly involving sewing straight lines, this kimono was no picnic. Most of the problems were caused by my fabric choice. The inside of this robe is stretch silk and it is perfect. The outside is an inexpensive stretch lace and it was a PITA to sew. It stretched like crazy. There were several points where I thought I had made a cutting error because the pieces did not seem to match up length-wise. Nope. No error. It was just that some pieces stretched when others didn't. Sheesh. By the end, I was desperately wanting to be done with it.

Action Shot: Clio Steps on a Pin! (Ouch!)

It all worked out in the end. And once I slipped into my new kimono, it was all bliss. The robe feels lovely on my skin (yay silk), and I think it looks pretty luxe (it sure feels luxe). That said, this is not one of those projects that I would want another sewist peeking inside and inspecting the seams.  But there are some nice details:

I think this is actually the best shot that we got.

I love the sleeves, which have a sort of pocket for hiding love letters and other secrets.

The tie.

I also like the tie, which stays hidden on the inside of the robe when not in use.

However, my favorite feature is that I used a decorative stitch on the lining hem. It's about time I start using some of the 100+ pre-programmed stitches that came with my SM.

Chaff of wheat stitch

Nice, no? And since this stitch has some stretch, it's perfect for the fabric. I used a metallic variegated Sulky embroidery thread for the top thread and a neutral color for the bobbin.  Do you ever use the decorative stitches on your SM? What do you use them for?

Keys to success on this project:
  • Really, there was just one: Ignoring Burda's instructions. Aside from being near impossible to figure out, Burda has you sew the Kimono in a way that encloses all of the seams so that they are between the lace outer layer and the lining - this way the inside is finished. The problem is that the outer layer is lace and all the seams show thru it. (How dopey is that?) So I bound all of the lace seams in strips of the lining fabric so that they would be camouflaged and more stable, given the fabric's stretchy nature. I did this pretty quickly and messily, to be honest. It worked well. Anyway, do yourself a favor and read Inkstain's handy tutorial over at Chanel No. 6. It was particularly helpful on the sleeves. 
Overall, I'm thrilled with my robe. It's just what I wanted. Thank you to those of you who weighed in on the color of the lining. I'm really happy with this more neutral shade, which I've decided to call "whatevertheheck neutral metallic." I think it tones down the animal print lace to point where it doesn't look quite so gaudy or tacky.

Creative use of a yard stick and skirt hanger.

Now, what to hide in those sleeves? 

PS - Pattern Review here!