Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Santa's Kitchen: Fudge and White Bark Balls

One of the things I did last week was make sweets for all the people I see at the holidays. I made peppermint bark and peanut brittle as I have in the past, but this year I realized that the time it takes to make chocolate truffles was a deal breaker. Plus Phineas had a cold, and it is a two man job.  So, I replaced the truffles with two much simpler sweets - Chocolate Fudge and White Bark Balls.

At this point, I need to come clean: these recipes are not the norm for me. I like things unprocessed and non-packaged. And my cooking/baking can be a bit fussy - it's a hobby and I love a challenge. So, I readily admit that I am a snob when it comes to what I make in my kitchen and what I put in my body. I definitely broke some rules with these two recipes. Anyway, here we go:

Chocolate Fudge and White Bark Balls

Chocolate fudge is definitely a relative of the chocolate truffle - rich and chocolaty, very very decadent. And yet, this recipe was maddeningly easy. If you've ever tried making fudge at home, you know that it usually involves a candy thermometer, waiting and lots of anxiety. Even when things seemingly go smoothly, sometimes the fudge doesn't set and you are left with a sludgy mess that - if you are lucky - you can pass off as fudge sauce. Not so with the aptly named "Absurdly Easy Chocolate Fudge" recipe that I ripped out of the NY Times last March.

The two keys to making a great fudge with this recipe are Sweetened Condensed Milk and good quality chocolate. Now, I realize that Sweetened Condensed Milk comes in a can. But I am not going to be judgy about it. It's the glue that holds this recipe together. And, I used really good quality chocolate, which makes all the difference. All you have to do is melt the chocolate (you can even do it in the microwave) with the other ingredients and dump it all into a lined pan. The fridge handles the rest.

Next, the White Bark Balls: these are basically a peanut butter Rice Krispy Treat. I used butter rather than margarine and opted for a "Natural" style peanut butter (see, total snob). But there is just no substitute for Rice Krispies - I'm not even sure what they are made of. So the only hope for using up the box of Rice Krispies that I now have in the kitchen is to make more of these - and I like this idea very much. Like the fudge, this recipe from the NY Times was ridiculously easy - just mix all the ingredients together and form balls. After a short chill, dip them in melted white chocolate. Voila!

Anyway, if you have ever wanted to dabble in homemade confections, these two recipes are winners and would be a great way to get you started. No candy thermometer necessary! I swear. But it could get you thinking about all the things you could make if you had one...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cut and Fuse

There is still no sign of my missing hair canvas. (Big sigh.) It would have been perfect to stay holed up in my nice warm Craft Lounge stitching away at my Lady Grey while the NY area dug itself out from the blizzard.

Oh well. But I did make some progress on the project! I was getting very nervous that my boucles fabric would ravel badly, especially once I snipped into it at the princess seams. It is a somewhat loose weave. So, I decided that a light interfacing that would not add bulk or affect the drape of the cloth (the hair canvas will do that), but would add some stability and keep the ends from raveling would help the situation. So, after testing all the interfacing in my stash, I settled on Pro-Sheer Elegance from Fashion Sewing Supply. It is the best.


So, I spent the majority of this afternoon cutting and fusing interfacing. I had to pause for about 2 hours when we lost power, but other than that, it all went smoothly. I admit that it would have been much easier to just block fuse the interfacing to the boucles before I cut it. But oh well. At least it is done. Now, back to searching for my hair canvas!

I hope you found a fun and productive way to ride out the storm if you are in the blizzard zone!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas! Gaaaahhhh!

Merry Christmas a day late! Here at the Five Muses, we spent the last week baking dozens of cookies, making candies, wrapping presents and cooking up a storm. Yesterday,  presents were opened, carols were sung, roast was eaten and candies devoured.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

So, this morning I woke up with nothing on my mind but watching the snow fall and working on my Lady Grey coat. Unfortunately for me, I could not find the hair canvas I bought specifically for this project. I looked in all the places that I would have put it - in the sweater box where I keep lining and interfacing, in my stash, in the laundry... It was nowhere to be found. I know it's somewhere in the house. The last time I saw it was right before family descended for Thanksgiving and the Craft Lounge got packed away. This worries me. It could be anywhere. Not good. And there isn't much to do until I find it or cave in and buy more. Gaaaaaaah!! So, my good intentions of working on my coat went up in smoke.

However, I did cheer myself up by admiring the fabric I bought from FabricMart during one of their holiday sales. It was fun to have a box arrive for me last week while gifts for others were also rolling in.

Beige netting , Anna Sui black netting with sequins, and Calvin Klein orange striped cotton sateen
I plan on using the beige netting for lingerie. It is really a nude kind of color and is very soft and stretchy. So, I'm thinking it will be perfect for something like McCall's 5651 or KS 3554. The Anna Sui fabric will be stashed for now - at some point it will be great as an overlay on a skirt or dress. And the CK fabric will join my creamsicle stash of orange fabrics.

More on my cooking projects during the week! And cross your fingers that I find my hair canvas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snip Snip Snip

I am knee deep in a bunch of Christmas cooking projects (more on this during the week), but today, I made time to cut my Lady Grey Coat shell fabric - finally! While cutting, I had a revelation: my dress shears are dull. Seriously dull. Cutting through two layers of wool boucles was much more difficult than I expected and one of my fingers even has a mark where it was repeatedly rubbed by the shears. So, I think it is time for new shears. 

Lady Grey pieces

I am totally fatigued from the afternoon cut-a-thon. Honestly, I think cutting is my least favorite part of sewing. It seems to take me forever. Maybe that is because I don't have a dedicated area for cutting. I have to clear off the dining room table and carry every thing downstairs each time I want to cut something and then clean up when I am done. So, I tend to cut in long sessions rather than short bursts. Then again, maybe I am just slow at it. Who knows?  But, the coat shell is cut, and tomorrow it is on to cutting the lining and the hair canvas interfacing pieces.

I have to laugh at myself about this project. It's the first day of winter and defintitely too cold in NY for this coat now. But, with any luck, I will finish it by the time the weather starts to thaw and it is the right temperature for this coat. So, perhaps my slow sewing will be right on time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lining a Coat: A Sewing Question For You

Well, I am home from my R&R break in Las Vegas. It was just what the doctor ordered. And now I am back into the holiday swing of things and in the Craft Lounge with my Lady Grey coat.

Help! I am stuck with my lining!
When I originally cut out the pattern pieces for the coat, I only cut the ones that I needed to use for the muslin. I didn't cut the pattern pieces for the pockets, belt, or lining. So, last night I finished cutting them.

When I got to the lining pieces, I ran into a question that I didn't know the answer to: given that I made changes to my muslin and ultimately to the pattern pieces for the shell of the coat, should I be making corresponding changes to the lining? 

For the pieces that are the same for both coat and lining (like the sleeve), I assume the answer is yes - same changes to both. But for the ones that are different - for example the back of the coat shell is 4 pieces with princess seams, but the back lining is in one piece - should I take the lining in by a similar amount to the shell of the coat so that it isn't too big - bigger than the shell??

Fellow fabulous sewistas, please chime in if you have any kind of experience or suggestions! Many thanks for your wisdom.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Comes Early for Clio & Phineas

I know I've been complaining about work related travel lately. So, it might strike you as odd that I would opt for a trip that I didn't have to go on. But between the mayhem of Thanksgiving, the holidays looming, and our anniversary (6 fantastic years!) approaching, Phineas and I decided that we really need to get away from everyone and everything - a mini-break from the chaos of the season.  So, this weekend we are off...

What happens in Vegas....? Not very much if I get my way.
If you've ever thought of heading to Vegas, early December is a great time to go. The prices could not be better (deals galore), the weather is 70° and sunny, and the crowds are elsewhere. My plan: spend time with Phin, eat good food, sip wine, pamper myself at the spa, and relax in our hotel room. I will take a bubble bath at some point. If I feel ambitious, I may wander down to the casino or indulge in an evening cocktail. No guarantees. With all the rushing around in November and December, and all the demands on my time and Phin's too, I feel that we just need a little down time with nothing to worry about but enjoying some R&R together.

I'm not really used to the idea of "doing nothing" or "saying no". I am prone to over-commitment. And I don't really get people who don't go the extra mile- afterall, isn't that mile the most worth running? I don't even like sleeping in because I think about all the things I could have done if only I had roused myself at a reasonable hour. This drives Phin nuts. But I'm working on all of this because it is good for me to put my own needs and wants first from time to time. Being good to myself will allow me to be good to everyone else in my life, including Phin.

So, as my Christmas gift to myself, I will be taking care of me this weekend and spending time with the person who takes care of me when I forget to or am too busy. And, with any luck, I will arrive home refreshed and ready to care for the people in my life and celebrate the holidays.

What are you doing for yourself this Christmas?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lady Grey: The Definitive Muslin?

Over the weekend, I knuckled down and tackled my Lady Grey muslin.  Hooray. I am now ready to take scissor to fabric! There is enough ease in the muslin that once I cut the fabric and add interfacing and lining, I think it will fit well.

Front: lapels laying flat.
Side: Lapels not gaping
Back: Just right, I think.

The only change I made after taking these photos is that I narrowed the upper sleeve. I wear short sleeves or fitted knit tops in all but the coldest winter, when I would not be wearing this coat anyway. So, I don't really need extra room in the arm to fit a bulky sweater. I took an inch out of the sleeve being careful to make sure it did not cause any pulling or make the sleeve too tight. It's now hanging pretty straight (woo hoo!)

On Saturday night, I used the wet-towel method of shrinking my wool - ie: I put the fabric in the drier with a wet towel to create steam and shrink the wool. But I only used one hand towel and I'm a bit nervous that I didn't get enough steam to really do the job. So, I think I may try again tonight, just to be safe. I'm also going to try the muslin on one more time, just to make sure everything is exactly how I want it. Then, I will cut!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cami update and RTW Confessional

Am I the only one that is plagued by garments that are 
simultaneously too big and too small?

As a recap, when I last updated you on my cami muslin, it was a bit snug across the bust and hips. In hindsight, it was also too big thru the midriff. So, when I added some fabric to the center, to widen it across the bust and hips and make the straps a bit further apart, it had the unintended consequence of making the fitting issues in the middle worse. Also, when I played around with the length of the straps, I realized that this cami is supposed to be worn quite a bit higher than I care for. This somewhat explains why the armscye was giving me problems - they were in the wrong place. 

So, I contemplated redrawing the neckline/armscye area more to my liking. To help figure out where I should redraw things I turned to an aging but trusty cami that I already own. Sure enough, when I lined up my trusty old cami with the KS pattern piece, I realized that I'm going to have to redraw the side seams too, if I am to make this work. That is when it hit me: I am just not shaped like this:  
A square with curved edges.
This pattern is perfectly straight from armpit to hip. And there is nothing straight about my body from armpit to hip. This is never ever going to work for my figure. Gaaaaaah!

So, where does this leave me?  Well, first, my confession: I went on a $200 "Cyber Monday" lingerie shopping spree rather than Christmas shopping. Bras, panties, a cami and pj's should start arriving in the next week. (Repeat after me: Ahhh... catharsis!) But this was not enough. And so I made the very rash - possibly brilliant - decision to dismantle my trusty old cami and use it as a template for new camis. It is now in pieces.

I guess this post is a bit of a cautionary tale and a learning experience. First, I should learn to look at the line drawing and not just the cover art of a pattern envelope when deciding what will and won't work for me. Sigh. Second, I shouldn't leave my seam ripper in such an easily accessible place when I am in a mood. It seems that my seam ripper is involved in a high proportion of my stranger sewing... um... mishaps and adventures. Third, I am avoiding working on my Lady Grey muslin because the armpit is too high/tight. (Just thought I'd throw that out there in case you were wondering why I'm misdirecting my sewing angst onto a defenseless cami.)

Anyhooo, wish me luck. This time, I think I really do need it... on all fronts. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Wrap-Up and PANTS!!!

I seem to say this quite often these days, but it is true: this week did not go according to plan.  I should have taken the advice I gave to the turkeys, and run for my life.

My hopes for spending most of the week in the Craft Lounge evaporated in a haze of last minute house guests, a Thanksgiving Day allergy meltdown and a nasty bout of stomach flu. Yuck. Basically, I was just really feeling better in time to go back to work today.

Today's outfit

That said, I was very happy this morning to slip into my new grey trousers, my one sewing accomplishment for the week.

As a quick recap, the pattern is Simplicity 2700, same as the black pants I finished/reviewed in September. This version is in a light grey tropical wool suiting from Metro Textiles and is lined in a grey bemberger rayon. The fabric was beautiful to work with and, aside from my little flubs it all came together beautifully and easily.

I think the one area that I really need improvement is my hand sewing. I hand sewed the hems with a loose catch stitch. The stitches are invisible, which is as it should be, but the hem is not. See how you can see the outline of the turned up part of the hems in the photo?  Any suggestions for how I can avoid hem show-through? Aside from the hem, I am totally happy with these trousers.

I am even more happy to say that, aside from an overnight trip to Chicago, I don't have any work travel in December. Pphew! So, I'm feeling recharged and ready to finally tackle my Lady Grey muslin. Also,next up in the pants department are the dark grey pinstriped version of Simplicity 2700 without hip pockets. The fabric is already cut and ready to sew. Plus, this week I will update you on progress (um, or lack of) on my cami muslin.

And now, back to your regular schedule of posts...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Run for Your Lives Little Turkeys!!!

Unofficial Turkey Trot Time: About 4 minutes faster than last year!

Not too shabby considering my travel schedule and the tail end of a cold.  I feel like I ran the best race I could have run today and I think that shaving about a minute off my per mile time is an accomplishment.

Now, on to the rest of the Turkey Day festivities!

Happy Thanksgiving: A Plethora of Pies

Wishing you and yours the best Thanksgiving - I hope your turkey is moist, your mashed potatoes are fluffy, and your pie is a la mode!

Pies Galore!

Traditional apple

Apple Cranberry Ginger

And Pumpkin

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just passing through...

Just a quick note to say "hi" while I pass through town. I'm back from Europe. My souvenirs are jet lag and a cold.

Tomorrow I head to Washington, DC, just overnight. Usually I would be moaning about the fact that my train is at 7:28am, but, thanks to the jet lag, I'm waking up at 5am anyway. So, no biggie. 

Anyway, the one thing that I am excited about is that I have taken all of next week off. I plan to spend lots of it in either the kitchen or the craft lounge. So, that should get me back on track with all of my projects. And not a second too soon! I had to get something from the craft lounge last night and it was looking neat and still and a bit eerie... Not good.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

If it's Sunday, this must be London....

There comes a point every spring and fall when, despite my belief that this time will be different, work related travel overruns my life. Well, that time has once again arrived.

I just arrived in London this morning after only 48 hours at home following a trip to Montreal last week. I'll be here in London all week for work, followed by a weekend in Paris for fun (ooh la la!). Then, after 3 more days at home, I will head to Washington, DC (again, work). Thankfully, I get a break for Thanksgiving, but then will be off to Chicago (work) in early December.  

Don't get me wrong; I love to travel. And I go to some great places. It's just that, in the past, I had time during my trips to sneak off for an hour or two to see a museum or take in one of the sights, or blog about my travels in the evenings. But lately, my business trips are becoming increasingly packed full. In Montreal, I was basically on the go for 15 hours a day, which is why you heard nothing from me.And since this is pretty much my one free evening in London, now that I have taken a nap and am feeling somewhat human, I am going to head out to have a pint, a bite to eat and a stroll around this town.

Anyway, the list of things I want to post about is growing daily, but am just not sure when I will get to them. SO, I hope you will hang in there with me and check back. I've got sewing, cooking and other things to talk about.

Wishing you happy trails, too or happy adventures at home!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

A very fun Halloween was had by the Muses and nephews, and so much candy was consumed by all that it will most likely be a very good Christmas for our dentists. 

I'm not sure I've ever dressed as a superhero for Halloween before. I loved it!  I may have to be a superhero for Halloween every year from now on. You may find my character - Hit Girl, a 10 year old vigilante described as "John Rambo meets Polly Pocket" from the movie/graphic novel Kick-A**- to be controversial. So be it. She is. But when I saw the movie last spring, I loved that she is strong and empowered, that her character and the havoc she wreaks is non-sexualized, and that she doesn't wear a trampy costume (why is it so hard to find a non-slutty Halloween costume these days!?!?). Plus who doesn't love a purple wig?

Hit Girl - My ten year old vigilante superhero alter-ego.
Here's a few more pictures from my day. I hope you had an excellent Halloween, too!

Mario and Luigi - Mom Muse really got into the spirit!

Venom (Spider Man's arch nemesis) and the cutest pumpkin in the patch.

Poly as a witch, Me as Hit Girl, Calliope as a rabbit and Erato as a cheerleader

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Great Scott! It's almost Halloween!

If you missed Glee last night, then you missed their utterly awesome Halloween homage to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But thanks to the Time Warp (and Hulu, where you can see the whole episode for a time), here is a little taste.

When I was a teen, seeing RHPS at a midnight show in Greenwich Village at the first opportunity that your parents wouldn't notice that you were not in your bed at midnight, was practically a right of passage, especially if you considered yourself to be somewhat of a misfit or outcast. And what teen doesn't feel that way? Anyway, it was so much fun to see this cult classic diced and spliced with the talent and enthusiasm of the Glee cast during the month when both me and Rocky Horror are celebrating 35 years. (Seriously, do I not have the best birthday month ever?!?!?!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Putting the Moron in Oxymoron

It was almost exactly three years ago that I received my first sewing machine as a birthday gift from my mom. Since then, I've learned a huge amount about sewing, and there are days when I feel very confident and capable about my work. However, there are also days when I feel like I don't know a thing. Lately I feel like I'm oscillating back and forth between sewing genius and class dunce. Perhaps this is a propos for being in the oxymoronic catagory of "advanced beginner". 

On Saturday, I had one of those truly laughable moments when I was working on fixing the lining and zipper of my gray pants. Everything was going fine and I was congratulating myself on so swiftly fixing the pulling problem. And then, in about a 20 second span, I managed to thoroughly destroy a perfectly good zipper. As you can see from the above specimen, not only did I manage to derail the zipper from the right track, but I also somehow managed to rip the teeth off of the tape. I have absolutely no clue how I managed to do this. Although, I will confess that I happened to be holding a seam ripper in my right hand when the trouble began. When I saw what I had done, I carefully put down the pants and slowly backed out of the Craft Lounge, being very careful not to touch or disturb anything on the way out, lest any other innocent notions or projects meet a sudden and untimely death at my hands.

Do you ever have moments like this? Either with sewing or another hobby?  That 30 seconds that take you from things going along swimmingly to utter disaster?

I did get back on the proverbial horse yesterday, and installed a new zipper. I am now attempting to finish putting in the lining. It's all basted together and (knock on wood) looking good. During the week I plan to finish sewing up these pants.  Um, cross your fingers for me, please!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Friday and More October Baking!

Another sunny and crisp October weekend arrives today! Hooray!

This is the time of year when I start to think about pies; rolling out the dough, filling it with apples, pumpkin or pecan fillings, sprinkling sugar on the crust to make it shiny and sweet, and the warm aroma of cinnamon and spice filling the house.

I went on a second apple picking expedition over Columbus Day weekend - a special trip to get granny smiths and winesaps, which were not yet ripe when I took my nephews apple picking. I now have a plethora of apples to eat and bake with. So, last weekend, I made an apple pie. If you've never made a pie from scratch, I have to tell you that there is something immensely satisfying about it. So much of cooking these days is about quick and easy - semi-homemade, 1-2-3, Rachel Ray... Not that there is anything wrong with that. But it doesn't really give you the same sense of accomplishment and satisfaction of a pie that is made from scratch, with apples you picked from the tree and a crust you rolled out with your own hands. Pulling my piping hot pie from the oven gives me a similar sense of satisfaction as finishing a successful sewing project - that moment when you try it on and say "Yes! Perfect!"    

Apple Pie! Mmmmm....
About apple pie... There are several schools of thought, but most divide along the following lines: raw vs pre-cooked filling and 2 crust vs lattice vs crumb topping. It all comes down to preference, and some people have pretty strong preferences. My mom's apple pie uses an uncooked filling, which I do enjoy, but in the last few years I've come to favor precooking mine. Some of the Muses (my siblings) think this amounts to heresy, but I find it more reliable - no worries about al dente apples in the pie or a burnt crust and raw filling or too wet or dry a filling. It takes some of the variables out of the equation. This filling recipe from Williams-Sonoma is a good basic one. I use a mix of Granny Smith and Empire apples, which makes a filling that has the right sweet/tart balance and doesn't get mushy, even after a long baking.  I also tend to make either a 2 crust pie (my primer on pie crust here).

This pie did not last long at all. But, since Phineas has already started mentioning turkey and stuffing and all things Thanksgiving, and I seem to have Autumn on the brain, I am sure another pie is in my near future - maybe a pecan one this time.

Anyway, I hope you are enjoying excellent Autumn weather where you are and getting out there and making the most of it! 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My first "Vintage" machine

Last week my Pop called to say he was evicting me and my sisters. Or rather, all of our accumulated junk from high school, college and childhood was being evicted from the attic. So, on Sunday, the Muses assembled at family headquarters to go through all our old toys, clothes, science fair projects and memorabilia.

There wasn't all that much that belonged to me: one box from high school and one from college, both of which contained some real gems - speech and debate awards (I was a nerd), yearbooks, notes from friends, concert ticket stubs, etc. And I did come home with one outstanding new-to-me item.

My Grandma's Sewing Machine
My Pop gave me my Grandmother's sewing machine. It's a Sears Kenmore 1320 "Zig Zag Sewing Machine" and it boasts of having 4 different types of stitches. I am going to guess from the funky avocado colored accessories and the instruction manual that starts with a letter to "Dear Homemaker" that it is circa 1975 or earlier. It has been in my parents' (un-air conditioned) attic for ten years, but it still had the tag on it from the last time it was serviced.  So, I was optimistic that it would be in working order.

There are a bunch of mysterious presser feet. How cool is this button hole attachment?
I took out and started the machine up last night - it weighs a ton!  The machine was still threaded and there were bobbins still wound.  The motor protested when I tried to wind another bobbin, a sign that it definitely did not like my parent's attic or is showing it's age. And there is something funky happening with the part where you load the bobbin. You actually have to take the throat plate off in order to load it, which is very neat.  But something isn't catching or clicking on the inside to hold the bobbin in, but I'm not sure what. So, I have some work cut out for me in figuring out how to operate my new toy.

My Pop also sent me home with my Grandma's tin of buttons.  I don't think any of the buttons are particularly noteworthy, but the tin is excellent. It says "Ward's Fruit Cake" on it. I'm sure it was kicking around my grandma's house since the '50's.

Anyway, I am probably going to have to get the machine serviced or repaired, so stay tuned for more as I investigate further. I can't wait to get it into working order so I can take it for a spin.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lady Grey Muslin 2.1

A business trip at the end of the week and into the weekend kept me from posting about changes to my Lady Grey muslin. It also kept me out of the Craft Lounge.  So, here is an update on how things were going as of last week.

Things are starting to come along. I did some strategic pinning, taking in all the seams by about 1/4 inch from shoulder to a little above the waist.

From the front with a bit of the collar pinned out to prevent gaping.

From the back - definitely an improvement from this.

From the side - less gaping.
Here is another view of the back.
I may need to do a little more pinning across the back. Plus I need to finalize how much to pin out of the lapel so there isn't gaping in the front and work on the sleeves. However, I think that once I have sewn this up in my wool boucles, sewn in the stabilizers and added a lining, this will fit pretty well with the right amount of ease. I think that some of the little distortions are caused by the pins, and by the extra ease. It is just so difficult to judge the back! I don't want to make the muslin too fitted and then have my jacket be snug.  

Anyway, that is where I am with this project - let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Weekend Sewing: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I should be feeling much more positive about my weekend sewing than I'm actually feeling. Although I made progress, I had some pretty annoying setbacks. And, as usual, there was just not enough time for everything I wanted to do. Here is the round-up:

First, I sewed up the second muslin for my cami, now in a size S instead of M, and with the FBA that I posted about on Friday.

Please ignore the red eye, black bra straps and ridiculous grin. 
It's better than the first version, so that is some progress. But now it is a shade too snug across the bust and hips. Plus the straps are still too close together in the front, probably on account of it being a smaller size. I plan to add a bit more room to the center front and see if that helps all three problems.  I do think that the size small armskye fits better than the medium.  I really want to be done with this muslin so I can sew on the beautiful silk that is staring me down in the Craft Lounge. With all my on-going, larger-scale projects, I need a simple, easy thing to sew. I need a win.... bad! Do you ever get like that?

Next, I haven't told you about my pants recently. That is because there was not much to tell. I was plowing ahead, little by little, when I realized I had gone too far and attached the waistband without dropping in the lining first. Whoops! So, a little backtracking and the lining was in. However, when I went to do the "final try on" before closures and hemming, it was a big old mess. I must have done something wrong when stitching the lining to the zipper fly area, because now the fly is pulling to one side, causing all kinds of ripples across the crotch/abdomen - it's very noticeable. Not good. So, now I have to un-do this part of the lining and figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. I really hope I didn't botch this project - I was loving these pants even more than the original version. And Phin commented that the bum was fitting perfectly, which is pretty incredible considering how awful the first muslin was. Aaarg!!  I'm hoping I just did something dumb that will be self-evident and easy to fix. So, that is another big step back.

Finally, I DID manage to make progress on fitting my Lady Gray. But, I will post more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Icing on the Cake

This weekend I celebrated my ongoing October birthday with an (apropos) Oktoberfest party at my parent's house. The weather was perfect for brewing beer with my dad in the yard during the afternoon, and then in the evening many of my favorite people dropped by for the party. I think everyone had a great time - I sure did! One (slightly unorthodox) feature of the birthday party was that I demanded to make my own cake this year. I'm sure there is some kind of bad luck associated with this, but oh-well, I think it was worth it. I made my old reliable yellow cake from KAF, which is buttery and delicious, and frosted it with a simple yet luxurious chocolate ganache icing.
Yellow cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting
 Easiest Chocolate Frosting Ever
16 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
16 oz (1 c) heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
Bring cream to a boil in a small pot. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth and add vanilla. Pop in fridge until somewhat set (about an hour). Beat with a hand-held or stand mixer until fluffy (2min). Ice  cake.  

This is another very simple recipe that basically relies on the quality of the chocolate for success. So, use what you love. It makes enough to very generously ice a layer cake or 24 cupcakes. Honestly, even if you make a cake from a box, this will significantly up your game.

I had lots of help blowing out the candles.

The rest of the weekend was also lovely - more apple picking, 2 great runs and some sewing. Actually, sewing was rather frustrating, but I will get to that tomorrow.

Friday, October 8, 2010

More Musings About Muslins: Unmentionable KS Cami

The other muslin that I have in the works, as you know, is for my KS Cami, which I decided last week needed an FBA (Full Bust Alteration/Adjustment).

Rather than a dart, Kwik Sew adds room to get over the bust by having you gather up some of the fabric at each front side seam and ease it into the back side seam (ie: the front piece is longer than the back until you gather it up, distributing fullness over the bust). I would love to keep this pattern dart-less, and, in theory, I should be able to. If I just add some room to the front where you are supposed to gather, I should be able to ease he fullness into the seam the same way as the unaltered pattern, without adding a dart.

Gather the front up between the notches and then ease it in between the back notches.

I consulted the Kwik Sew website, where I learned 2 important facts from their on-line Fit Guide. (Seriously, KS really is tops for user friendliness.) First, the cup sizing of their patterns varies according to pattern size (XS and S are sized for a B cup, M is a C cup, L and XL are D cup). Second, they add 3/8 of an inch to the length for each cup size. SO, since I am going down to a size small, and therefore will have to up-size by 2 cup sizes, I should add 6/8" of length.

My altered pattern

The other  piece of the equation, is of course having enough room across the front. Looking at a similar RTW cami that I own, I noticed that the straps on the KS cami are set closer to the center than the RTW one. So, I've added one inch to the center of the KS pattern so that there is more room between the straps. Anyway, I hope this will add enough room in the right places for the cami to curve around the bust in an attractive way that doesn't lead to gaping arm pits.

I'm sewing up the second version of this muslin over the weekend. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lady Grey Muslin 2.0

Over the weekend, I stitched up my second muslin for the Lady Grey Coat, this time in a size 8, with just 1 inch of extra length between the bust and waist. It definietly needs some fitting work. Obviously I want it to still have a good amount of ease so that it still fits once it is interfaced and lined, and I am wearing a sweater under it. But here is my initial assessment.

Front: There is too much room in the lapels and through the bust. The lapels gape forward away from my body, or they collapse to the side. So, I need to do the same alteration that sew-along leader, Gertie, did. (It's great that I have the same fitting issues as her, so that she can post the solutions for me, don't you think?)

Back: Funky things are happening across the back. There is still extra room between the shoulders. This photo is with a little bit pinned out from the center seam, but not enough. Although, now that I am looking at this photo, I am wondering if I need to let it out a bit at the waist. That might allow it to drape better across the waist and hip, taking care of those wrinkles across the princess seams. It is so difficult to fit the back of a garment on yourself.  Diagnosing fitting problems from a photo is not all that straightforward.  

Side: Actually, you can see the problems best in the side photo. See the gaping front and back? Yeah.  Also, I'm not sure what is happening with that crease along the sleeve from the shoulder to elbow. I have to investigate further. Looking at this, I am wondering if I actually needed the extra length that I added. I normally do need it, but perhaps that is what is causing some of the problems. Hmmm. That would be a ridiculously easy solution. Hmmm.

Anyway, I think this is much better than the original size 10 muslin, but it still needs work. I am going to play with it a bit and see how it goes and will get back to you, hopefully soon, with a finished muslin, or at least a new and improved version. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Birthday: An Ode to October

Pumpkin and apple picking with nephews and Calliope

I know that I am not alone in thinking that October is the best month of the year, particularly in the Northeast. Some people love October because of apple and pumpkin picking, hay rides and changing leaves. Others because of Halloween, jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating. And still others because October is football weather, or because the holidays draw near. And I do love October for all of those reasons.

Orpheus on the hay ride

But I've always felt that my love for the month runs deeper. It isn't that October is "my month", it is more that October is where I belong, where I am at home, where I am meant to be. As she nears - and my birthday, too - I start to feel invigorated and alive. I start to think about the year to come. Among the falling leaves and the cooling temperatures, I feel my place in life and I feel excited for what is next. October is all change to me. And some time between my birthday on the 3rd and Halloween, I look at the person I am and set my sights on the person I want to become. October is full of possibility for me.
I feel very affectionate in October. She is a snuggly month, and I am full of love and appreciation for the people in my life. At 35, my friends are getting married and starting families, my family is growing and my nephews and nieces are becoming beautiful and funny little people. I see new smile lines and crows feet forming, and I'm aware that these are joyful days. I'm lucky to have reasons to smile so much. I'm not sure yet what the first few grey hairs say, but I have time to figure that out while the leaves also change colors. It all adds character to the landscape at my feet and the face in the mirror.     

Oh, and it also doesn't hurt that in October I can finally get back into the kitchen and bake! So, here is what I baked on Friday/Saturday to get my birthday month off to a good start. By the way, I do plan on celebrating all month long.

 Legacy Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Legacy Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting**
2 1/2 Cups (10oz) white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice, or 2 tsp apple pie spice
1 cup (2sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup (7.5oz) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 cup (7oz) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup (2oz) boiled cider or apple juice concentrate
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups peeled, chopped apples (about 3 large apples, 1 lb)
1 cup (4oz) walnuts, chopped

Regular cake procedure: Mix and set aside dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs one-by-one. Add the rest of the wet ingredients. Then the dry. Stir in apples and nuts. Turn into greased layer cake tins or 13x9 pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes until set. 

Brown Sugar Frosting:
5 T (2.5 oz) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3.75 oz) firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 T (1.5 oz) milk
1.5 Cups (6 oz) confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Melt butter and sugar over medium heat untill sugar is disolved. Add milk and bring to a boil. Cool 10 min, then beat in sugar and vanilla. Spread while warm. 

This cake came out moist and delicious, and was even better the second day, I think. Saturday is my actual birthday party, so expect to see more cake!

** From the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mentioning the Unmentionables: Cami Muslin

One of the sewing tasks I did this week was to work on the muslin for my Kwik Sew Cami. And boy-oh-boy am I glad I'm into muslin at the moment!! I would have been so sad if I had used my pretty silks for this!

OK, I admit it: it doesn't look too bad in the above photo - it just looks like it needs some tapering from beneath the bust to the waist. However, a closer look at the armpit is revealing:

There is a lot of gaping - the fabric stands several inches away from my body. However, when I tried to take it in at the side seam, somehow it seemed to pull and not fit right across the bust. I also tried creating some darts with the extra fabric, but this also didn't really work at all. This has led me to a conclusion that I have been avoiding for some time: I need an FBA. (Non-sewing friends, this is a "Full Bust Alteration". Sounds rather drastic, doesn't it?) It fills me with dread.

Why dread?  Well, first, it seems somewhat complicated, involving cutting up, shifting and re-assembling the pattern. Second, I have a feeling that once I do it to one pattern, there will be no going back. I will have to make a series of alterations to every pattern I sew. Yes, before you say it, this is something I should have been doing all along. However, I seem to have been wily enough to choose patterns that have a forgiving fit across the bust. And I was acting under the assumption that my bust would be smaller post-weight loss and I wouldn't need to learn how to do an FBA at all. Alas, no.

But my craving for lingerie must be satisfied. So, FBA  here I come. Stay tuned. And if anyone has any thoughts on doing an FBA for a bias cut cami that has no darts, without messing up the grain, please do share!

PS - My panties, post-alteration, have been worn and are perfect! More of these to come! 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lady Grey Fabric!


What you are looking at is a red-orange boucles for the outer shell (it's a bit more orange in person) and a black, white and turquoise print silk charmeuse for the lining. Being a New Yorker, I definitely get stuck in a rut of always opting for black. It's practical, slimming and goes with everything. But I really want this coat to be a statement piece, and what color could be more perfect for autumn in the Northeast than orange? And the turquoise in the lining really makes the colors pop. Both are from Mood.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lady Grey Muslin 1.0

I always think I'm going to get so much more done on the weekend than I actually do. However, I did finish cutting my Lady Grey muslin pieces and I basted most of them together for a preliminary idea of the fit. You'll notice that I didn't bother attaching the second sleeve or the collar before donning a sweater and trying on... or pressing very well... or doing a particularly good job setting in the sleeve (the one inch allowance made it such a problem)... You get the point, this is a very rough draft.


I think adding 2 inches of length above the waist was probably too much, even with shoulder pads. I am going to edit out 1/2-3/4 inch.   


Even with an enormous cowl neck sweater, the front lapels gape.There is just too much fabric above the waist.


Just too big across the back, even with a chunky sweater. There is plenty of room in the bottom half, too, although I think it currently doesn't look so bad.   

Obviously, I want the muslin to have enough ease that the jacket will fit once a lining is added and I am wearing winter clothing. However, I am pretty convinced that the size 10 is too big. And since it is big everywhere, I think it makes sense to try the size 8 rather than trying to take in each and every seam. Seriously, sewing 4 princess seams with a one inch seam allowance was near impossible. I am NOT taking these seams in. 

Next steps: So, the plan is to make muslin 2.0 in a size 8, and last night I cut the pattern pieces.  I'm not much of a week night sewista, but I hope that tonight I will get to making the length alterations on the pattern pieces and start to cut a new muslin. I am not planning on re-doing the tedious method of drawing in the seam lines and enlarging the seam allowances. I just don't think I will need the extra room. OH! And I will be buying my fabric in the next day I hope.

Stay tuned...