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?