Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer halter top

Lest you think I was idle last weekend while stewing over my pants issues, I wasn't. I actually had a very productive weekend, preparing future projects and getting down to work on my summer top. It needed considerable altering for size. Essentially, next time I will just start out making it 2 sizes smaller than I did this time. I tend to err on the side of cutting things too large rather than risk them being too small.

I made a few changes to the pattern that are working out well. First, I changed the length when I traced the pattern. I added about 2 inches total to the midriff, so that the top hits around my hip. Next, rather than sewing a bottom hem, I used the scalloped edge of the fabric as the hem. I am really psyched about how this looks! Finally, I decided (for a little extra room at the hips) to make the sides vented rather than sewn up. This weekend I will add the back zipper. I really hope it will be warm enough to wear it soon.

Also this weekend, I plan to cut the checked fabric that I am going to use for a shirt for Phineas. I'm using the same KwikSew pattern that I used for his baby blue shirt, but one size smaller. The blue shirt is very roomy, and for this shirt, I thought a little closer/cleaner fit would be good.

Since today is Friday, I will leave you with this parting shot: a self-portrait of Phineas modeling my top.

I think the chin stubble really makes the photo, don't you? Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sulking over Pants

I am not happy about this statement: I can not make any more pants that I know are not perfect. Sigh. There. I made up my mind.

My sewing hobby is motivated by the urge to make pants that fit. And I want to do it in the best possible way. I know that "best" is subjective. But it was really interesting to hear Connie Crawford's critique of the big pattern companies - about their fit, their patterns, etc. I take it with a grain of salt - she was, afterall, hawking her own line of pattern and her books. But many things she said about patterns and working with fabric made very good sense to me. So, this means working with my sloper so that I can make my own patterns.

To help me on my way, I bit the bullet and purchased two of her books. Luckily, I was able to get a copy of her Guide to Fashion Sewing on for half the cover price. She really did have many good tips in her 'Sew Like a Pro' presentation, which I am already putting to good use. I feel like my sewing education thus far has been very scatter shot. Maybe going thru this book carefully and systematically will fill in the gaps and ensure that I develop good habits and techniques.

I walked over to the FIT Bookstore yesterday afternoon and picked up her pattern making book as well. There were no copies on, but - lucky for me - it was 25% off the whopping $100 cover price at FIT - and autographed, to boot! I think I will be making return visits to their bookstore.

The other pattern drafting books that I browsed thru were so incredibly complicated and dry. Looking at them hurt my brain. Her book was definitely more user friendly and well illustrated. And, I have to admit that the young outfit on the cover of this book gives me hope that I will be able to create styles that I will want to wear. As a further incentive, when I flipped thru, I noticed that it had instructions for creating a deep cowl neckline - a style I love and haven't been able to find elsewhere.

Sloper on right and tracings on the left.

Anyway, over the weekend, when I started to lean in this direction - putting Simplicity on hold and working on pattern drafting instead - I traced my sloper to pattern paper, lowering the waist by 2 inches. Or, rather, lopping off the top 2 inches, whichever way you want to think of it. I also traced a basic pattern for a skirt, using my pants sloper as a base. Now, I have to learn how to eliminate the front darts so that I can make a flat front pant and skirt.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gift for a Domestic Goddess in Training

I delivered this Emmeline reversible apron to Terpischore on Sunday. It came out super-cute, no?

One of the things I like about this pattern is that, since it is double sided, the finished apron feels substantial - like a good hefty apron that you actually would wear for heavy-duty cooking, baking or cleaning. Plus it is machine washable (essential, since one side is white!). Cute, yet functional.

I did make a few changes to the pattern. First, instead of using a contrasting fabric for the waist and neck bands, I made a two-tone bias trim from the two fabrics I used for the project (basically I took bias strips of each fabric and sewed them together). I also added a ruffle to the bottom. Since I was making bias already, it was easy to just make some extra and use it for the ruffle.

I may actually make one of these for myself at some point. However, I would definitely change how the neck straps are attached (awkward construction) and change them from a tie neck to some kind of closure (like a D-ring) so that you don't have to tie them every time you use the apron.

Anyway, this apron is very "Susy Homemaker"-esque. Have fun pulling pies from the oven in your sassy new apron, Terp!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Atonement

Like every other red blooded American, Phin and I did our patriotic duty and pulled out the Weber this weekend. Therefore, after everything I ate over my 5 days off (lamb chops, burgers (2x), a hot dog, bratwurst and rib eye, not to mention pizza and nary a vegetable), I am putting the Tuesday Blue Plate Special on hold for the week while I try to repair the damage done to my arteries.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sewing School 2: Couture pants

Thursday's Pant with Couture Fit session was not what I expected at all. In fact, I am not really sure what I expected. Essentially, the session was a seminar on making a sloper, which I did last summer.

First off, I should say that Connie Crawford is a proponent of taking industry best practices and applying them to home sewing. I like this approach. Some of the things she pointed out about commercial patterns and home sewing techniques are things I have noticed myself. Why make something that looks homespun? I want the things I make to look polished and high-end. So, philosophically, I like her brand of sewing.

However, I probably would have had a very different experience with the class if I wasn't such a hand-raiser. When Connie asked for a volunteer to use as a model for a sloper, my hand shot into the air. I was chosen. So, now I have a brand new sloper, made by a professional!!!

Sloper for yours truly by an industry expert.

I couldn't understand why more people didn't volunteer. Then I understood all too well. It was not just the making of the sloper that I volunteered for; it was Connie's running commentary on my figure and its uniqueness (read flaws). It really was enlightening. And horrifying. Definitely a bit nightmarish. Imagine your figure being discussed as an "example" for a whole class and having parts of your body being pointed out as flaw
s. (sigh. one word: jodhpurs) But I walked away with a clear sense of what my body is and is not. I though that I had a short crotch. Nope. Turns out I didn't really know where my waist is, and I have a high waist and long crotch. And my waist slopes. My problem, it would seem, is not about crotch length, it is about where I like my pants to sit.

That said, I now have a big dilemma: I don't know what to do with this information. Do I scrap my plans to make more Simplicity Amazing fit pants now that I have been clued in to many of the problems in pattern company designs? Should I make a muslin from the sloper instead and work on pants from that design? I've invested time in both potential projects at this point and this was supposed to be my weekend to work on pants.

But while I stew about this, I decided to make myself a summer top from this Butterick pattern in the white eyelet that I bought from Kashi at Metro Textiles.

Now that I know that I have a longer torso and I like my waist to be lower than it is, I went ahead and traced and cut out the pattern, lengthening it by 2 inches. I pinned the pattern pieces together to check the fit and then cut the fabric yesterday. I'll sew this afternoon.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sewing School 1: Fashion Forecast

Yesterday morning's fashion forecast session was truly interesting. It focused on Fall/Winter 2009-10. The message is clear: in these lean economic times, buy less, but buy better. Apparently, fabric quality for the mid- to value-conscious market is taking a serious nose dive. However, high end lines will continue to use fine fabrics.

As far as styles go, I was thrilled to learn that the (hideous) high waist pant is out after a brief resurgence and we should not expect to see palazzo pants any time soon (both styles require too much fabric). Also gone are washed out or destructed jeans.

Do expect to see lots of texture - thick and thin yarns and "hairy" knits, tweeds, boucles. Lace and sheers, updated with geometric patterns rather than flowers, will also be in, with nude underneath and nudes with tatoo-like designs on them. Fabrics will also be laquered and metalized. Bright, more summery colors - reds and purples, cobalt and sky blue, pink and fuscia - will be mixed in with black, grey, silver and brown for day; black, white and grey will be the colors for evening. Prints will continue to be big. Plaids and stripes will be in, but expect the stripes to be irregular, particularly for mens shirts. Oh, and ladies, for us, silk shirts with victorianesque frills will be in. In pink. Yeah. Wear it under a tailored suit or an "H" silhouette dress (ie: seam across the waist, either high, natural or drop waist).

That is a lot to absorb, so I will leave you with the 2 notes I wrote to myself: "wear black lace with nude underneath for xmas" and "make silk pjs".

The rest of the class was devoted to a few sewing tips and tricks. I really benefitted from this part of the class. It had really helpful procedures for cutting (something I have always felt that I was not particularly good at), bindings, and also on creating a few different kinds of shirt plackets. Very helpful.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Back to school: More on Pants

Today I am taking a class at my local sewing shop on what else but.... PANTS!

Sewing & Pattern Fit Workshops with Connie Crawford

Fashion Forecast and Sew Like a Pro
10am – 12 noon
Connie Crawford, one of the industries top designer and sewing alteration experts, will present her Fall 2009/Spring 2010 forecast for fabrics, colors and styles and then provide valuable industry sewing techniques and shortcuts to make your sewing more professional, efficient and satisfying. Topics include efficient cutting, notching, pin basting, bias treatments, linings and more.

Drafting Pants with Couture Fit
2 - 4pm
Learn the simple draft technique that results in correctly fitting pants. The keys to couture fit are found in understanding how various waist slopes, crotch depth and overall crotch formulas control the overall pant fit. This terrific seminar will be helpful to full-figured women with difficult-to-fit bodies.

I'm not really sure what to expect, but will report back on what I learn. I plan to bring a note pad and scribble down anything that can help me make better pants.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday Test Kitchen & Blue Plate Special with Phineas

Last night I did a mash up of my Tuesday Blue Plate Special, my very first test recipe for Clio's Test Kitchen and In the Kitchen with Phineas.

Basically, Phin had cooked black-eyed peas, I received my first test recipe - sweet potato biscuits - and it all converged on a Tuesday. The writing on the wall was clear: make a southern-themed meal this week as the Blue Plate Special, incorporating what Phineas had already cooked, the biscuits and some country ham that was in the freezer.

Here's dinner: Sweet potato biscuits with country ham, black-eyed peas and collards (ok, ok, it's sauteed spinach, not collared greens, but close enough for this country feast).

I have never really been a sweet potato lover. I find them too sweet, and that is before people pile on the even sweeter ingredients like maple syrup and marshmallow. The times I have really enjoyed sweet potatoes have been when they are used as a sweet counterpoint to something spicy or highly seasoned.

But these biscuits were delicious. The addition of cider vinegar balanced out the sweetness of the spuds perfectly. Instead of coming across as sweet, they came across as buttery. You cannot even imagine how good the kitchen smelled as they baked. Also, the clever use of cake flour instead of all purpose flour made for very light biscuits - how they are supposed to be rather than the hockey pucks that they usually are. Really, the flavor and texture was right-on: delicate and crumbly, light and buttery.

However, the biscuits were not without problems. The bottoms scorched before the tops browned and they were *just* done in the center. In fact, I probably would have baked them a bit longer if the bottoms weren't scorching. My oven tends to run cool, not hot, so I am not sure why this happened.

Mmmmm... sweet potato biscuits

The remaining biscuits are now tucked away in the freezer for future use as breakfast sandwiches. I filled out the feedback survey and I can't wait to see the recipe come out in the Cooks Country magazine (in 6 mos or so), knowing that I had insider knowledge. I wonder if they will change anything. Oooh, I am so excited.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Foiled again....

At the moment, all of my works-in-progress are gifts. This leaves me nothing to blog about. Or, at least, it leaves me no photos to post unless I want to totally ruin any surprise.

Terpischore already knows I am making her an apron. But I haven't shown her the fabrics I picked out. It is nearly done and is really coming out super-cute! So, I want the final reveal to be a fun surprise.

See, isn't it annoying to not post a picture of this gift?

I am also gearing up for more embroidery, but, since all of these projects are to be baby gifts for my sister and other women in my life who are expecting, I'm not sure how much to post about. What is a blogger to do?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pinstriped Pants: AMAZING!

So as you already heard, I finished my pinstriped pants on Saturday.

Despite a major snafu, they came out really well! Essentially, problems arose when I couldn't tell my left from my right and basically did the waistband backward. (I know: ridiculous! The fact that I didn't realize my mistake until the very end is even more mind boggling.)

See how the long part of the waistband (on the left) is on the wrong side? It should be on the right, covering the zipper guard thingy. Ridiculous, no? At this point, my two choices were to redo the whole waist, cutting out new fabric, OR to... um... edit the design. So I removed the zipper guard thingy and then shortened the long side of the waist, making it into a simple hook and bar closure.

Voila! Here are my pants!

And from the back:

There is a little wrinkling under the bum and I am not sure why. But, in general, I'm happy with the basic fit. It is much better than any RTW pants I own (sad, but true). To remedy the bum issues, I will try out Debbie's fish eye dart to see if that will fix it for future pants.

However, I did have some problems with the directions. I think it will go more smoothly on subsequent pairs. Speaking of which, I've already purchased fabric for the next pair... or three.

I'd been meaning to check out Metro Textile Corp for a while because I'd heard so much about Kashi, the wonderfully helpful owner. Last week, I trekked over with my list of needs/wants: seersucker for my next pants and white eyelet for a halter top. I ended up leaving with all that plus a great black cotton for additional pants as well as a white cotton/poly blend that Kashi says is the perfect fabric for white pants because nothing will show thru. (I've tried to find white pants with nothing showing thru for about 10 years. How could I say no?)

L to R: Eyelet, Seersucker, White Cotton/Poly and Black Cotton

Anyway, I am trying to decide which fabric to make into pants next. I'm taking the two days before Memorial Day weekend off for sewing - including attending a workshop on pants fitting at my local fabric shop. And that is when I plan to tackle my next pants.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The noodles were...

... good. But not great. I guess Erato was right.

That said, it was a welcome change to the usual weeknight repertoire. And I think the sauce would actually be perfect as a dipping sauce to go with satay or anything else that you might want to serve with an Asian inspired sauce.

On the Menu: Sesame Noodles

For tonight's Blue Plate Special, I am reviving a forgotten recipe: Sesame Noodles. I lost the recipe in a move and always meant to find a new recipe or recreate the old one thru trial and error, but years passed and I forgot about the noodles. Then, a few months ago, Erato found a copy, which I had written down for her. Hurray! But here's the catch: the noodles were not as good as she remembered. Tastes change. So, tonight we will see if my longed-for noodles live up to my memory of them. Here is the recipe:

2/3c smooth peanut butter
1/4c water
1/2c soy sauce
2Tbsp sesame oil
2Tbsp dry sherry
4tsp rice vinegar
1/4c honey
4 cloves garlic
2tsp minced ginger
3Tbsp peanut or neutral oil (as needed)
Dump all but the peanut oil into a Cuisinart and take for a spin. Add peanut oil gradually until the sauce is smooth and, well, saucy. Toss sauce with 1lb noodles (of your preference) and whatever garnishes you would like - julienned carrot, scallions, sprouts, a handful of peanuts.... Add shredded chicken, cooked shrimp, or another protein to make it into a meal.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Brain Dump

What a weekend! Here is a short version of my goings on...

On Friday evening, I went to Michael's to buy transfer paper and tear away stabilizer for future embroidery projects. The Michael's near me never fails to disappoint. Not only couldn't I find what I wanted, despite their enormous aisle of floss and hoops, but the employee that I asked for help actually asked me, "What's embroidery?"

Then Phineas helped me pick out new running/gym shoes. Yes, it is that time of year when I feel compelled to move my workout to the great outdoors... Since I am a bit lighter (more aerodynamic, perhaps?) we'll see if I can finally make a dent in my goal of running for 30 minutes without feeling like I want to die.

Air Pegasus - maybe will give me wings?

Back at home, I finished embroidering my veggie and fruit onto the apron. No final decision on what to do about the iron mark yet.

Saturday started with a yoga class that culminated in a surprise. I did this pose:

A half handstand (feet on the wall).

It was a super-cool accomplishment; my first inversion. I haven't been able to get to yoga more than twice a week in the last many months and didn't think I would have progressed or had the upper body or core strength for the pose. But I did!

After yoga, I made a fun tee for my mom for Mother's Day with an iron-on transfer:

Her gift was green-themed.

Then I finished my Amazing fit pants, which will get it's own post.

After pre-mother's day dinner with my in-laws, I finished the day by baking my mom's favorite sour cream coffee cake. Sadly, I didn't take a picture, but here is the recipe. It is super rich and delicious - loaded with butter and sour cream.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake (So easy, so good!)
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2c sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1c chopped pecans
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease/flour a springform pan. Mix first 5 ingredients together. Mix next 3 in a seperate bowl, then stir into wet ingredients until just combined. Set aside. Mix nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour half of batter into pan and top with half the nut topping. Add the rest of the batter and finish off with the rest of the topping. Bake for 50-60 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 min, remove springform and then finish cooling or serve warm.

On Sunday, I relaxed over brunch with my family and then chased my nephews around the playground - swinging, sliding and showing them how I could do a handstand. A great weekend and a great day!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Another Domestic Goddess in Training

Terpischore has always claimed that she has no skill or talent in the kitchen. I think she was scarred by a cooking mishap involving mistaking a cucumber for a zucchini at an early age. However, in the last few years she has come into her own in the domestic arena. So, as a very (very, very) belated birthday gift, I am making her a fun reversible apron!

A sassy apron for a fellow Domestic Goddess in Training

Last night, I cut out the pattern. I love how it's darted so that it is girly-shaped, rather than just being your standard boxy apron, and the ruched bodice is another really nice touch. Plus, I devised a few alterations, which I hope will make it an even more sassy apron.

Sewing will commence just as soon as I finish with my pants (tomorrow, unless disaster strikes).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tuesday's "Placa Azul Especialidad"

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, a pseudo-holiday in Mexico, last night's Blue Plate Special was pseudo-Mexican food: fish tacos. Olé!

First I made a quick salsa fresca of tomato, jalapeno, white onion, cilantro and lime juice. Then on to the fish - halibut cut into fingers, dredged in Wondra and pan fried in a tiny bit of oil.

Finally, the taco... soft tortillas, avocado, romaine, and some of the chimichurri I made last week rounded out the fixings. We served our tacos with leftover black beans that Phineas had made.

Is that picture upside down? I can't tell. It looks off.

Muy delicioso!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pinstriped Pants: The long and the short of the Crotch

I spent some time before flying to Vegas and again this weekend working on my "Amazing Fit" pants.

Crotch length

Mostly, I've been working on the crotch. It's pretty easy to alter pants for the fit at the waist/hips by adjusting the side and/or center back seams. But at the crotch, where 3 seams come together, the fit can make or break a pair of pants. If I can master how the crotch fits, I should consistently be able to make pants that fit me well.

There seems to be a lot of confusion in the sewing world about alterations to the crotch - crotch length, crotch depth, "scooping out" the crotch.... I am just starting to wrap my head around the terminology and what they mean in regard to how pants actually fit.
Crotch depth

RTW pants rarely ever fit me well in the crotch - they are always long with extra fabric in the front. In the fitting room mirror, if I lift or roll the waist the crotch looks better. Anyway, these pants started out a bit long thru the crotch - much better than RTW, but not 100% perfect. So I adjusted the crotch length by taking in the inseam. However, I think the crotch depth may also be a problem. And the best (read only) alteration to fix it is one that you do to the pattern before cutting the fabric. I did measure my length/depth and compared it to the pants pattern before I cut. So, I am not exactly sure how to account for this.

That said, the pin-stripers are looking good! (photo to follow) Even though the crotch is not perfect, they are light years better than any pants in my closet. Hurrah! And the next pair will be even better...

Monday, May 4, 2009


After a number of attempts, Magenta's and my schedule finally coincided, and I delivered her long-awaited birthday present over the weekend!

Ta-da! A ruffly throw pillow for her boudoir.

Here it is in it's new home.

I used an Amy Butler pattern from her book, In Stitches. You can see her version of the pillow on the cover.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy Friday!

From Clio...

And Phineas...