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.