Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Who let the air out of my cookies?

So today is my day to blog about my non-sewing hobbies.

I'm a far more proficient baker than sewista. It's something I've been doing for years and to a degree where I'm confident enough to tinker pretty extensively with my TNT recipes. But even experiences bakers have flops. And last weekend I learned a valuable and somewhat scientific lesson on the difference between baking soda and baking powder. Before you jump to any conclusions, I didn't mistakenly substitute one for the other.

I've gotten into the (very tasty) habit of resting my cookie dough for a day or more before baking. The results are unarguably better, IMHO. So, on Saturday, I whipped up a new-to-me recipe for Cherry Double-Chocolate Cookies that a colleague has been raving about. The dough (I do not fear raw eggs and tried some) was delicious, so I had high hopes. Into the fridge went the dough until Sunday night, when I baked the cookies up. That's when disaster struck.

Even flatter in person than photo if you can believe it.

Instead of cookie-looking cookies, what emerged from my oven looked more like "manhole covers" as Phin put it. The cookies were completely flat and thin with just a few bumps where a nut or cherry stuck up. He later added that they were indeed "tasty manhole covers". Giggle, giggle. It really amuses me to blog about my cooking disasters, which of all varieties of disaster are usually the funniest.

Anyway, after some on-line research and a read through some of my baking books, I learned that while Baking Powder (which was not called for in this recipe, but is in most of my other cookies) is heat activated, Baking Soda (which provides the leavening for these cookies) is activated by moisture and acid rather rapidly, instead of heat. Therfore, it will fizzle out if left uncooked for too long, like 24 hours in the fridge. DOH! So, essentially, the lesson of the day is that any recipe calling for baking soda needs to be baked right away. Period.

So, lesson learned. Next batch to follow...

Frantic Fun! Or the Victory I Needed

I had to post about the Frantic Fun Run simply because, well, who doesn't love a cow wearing sneakers? Also, it was a small victory after my miserable wadder of a 10k the other week.

I managed to finish this 5k run last night which supports a working historic farm (hence, the cow). It was a cross country trail - meaning that I was running over grass, gravel and woodland, past fields, ponds and event a few bovine observers. I've never run cross country before (city girl used to pavement and asphalt), and it is challenging in a very different way. You can't really zone out to your ipod because you're never running on even ground and have to be constantly on alert for roots, rocks and little divots and undulations lest you wind up wiping out. It was only 5k and, although I was beginning to feel overheated by the end, I pushed through and finished. It was a challenge - frantic and fun! - and I'm glad to have done it. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Two Stitches Forward, One Stitch Back

I made big progress on my dress this weekend, right up until I reached an impasse - actually three impasses simultaneously. On the progress side, I finished tinkering with the fit, the lining (formerly the muslin) is basically sewn and the dress fabric is cut.


I'm rather happy with how I fit the back. My wildcat alteration of sewing a dart into the muslin to deal with my narrow shoulders, and then using the muslin (with dart sewn and pressed/starched flat) as the pattern piece worked beautifully, at least on the lining. The back is now fitting very well - there's no gaping at the nape/upper back, but when I raise my arms or reach forward there is also no pulling or binding. Perfect, hooray! I can't really take credit for this "eliminate the dart" method. I first saw it applied to a small-ish bust dart in Fit for Real People. It worked well.

Muslin with dart = pattern piece without dart

Where I got hung up is these three things:
  • Topstitching thread - My seersucker is the classic blue and white variety, so I bought both blue and white topstitching thread last week with plans to test them this weekend. Both have mysteriously vanished into the vortex where stray socks and pen caps go. I'm convinced that I'll someday find the thread in the same Bermuda-triangle corner where my missing hair canvas went. 
  • "Nylon Fusible Interfacing" - This is what Vogue prescribes to interface the bodice. The problem is that I haven't been able to find it the NY Garment District... or online. So, last week I finally emailed Pam at Fashion Sewing Supply. Within 24 hours I received a very helpful reply saying that nylon fusible has fallen out of favor (sheesh, Vogue needs to get with the times) and suggesting some alternatives. On a side note, not only does FSS have the best interfacings IMHO, but their customer service is top notch, and Phin just let me know that my interfacing arrived this afternoon. Thanks, Pam!
  • Finally - and this is the one that kind of surprises me - I couldn't find Maxi-Lock serger thread in my usual notions stores last week. Maxi-Lock is what both Brother and the retailer where I bought my serger recommend. And since my serger is new, I haven't really bought any color thread beyond black. So, I had to order white serger thread on line, and it too has not yet arrived. Anyone have a source in NYC for Maxi-Lock? It seems odd that it eluded me. 
Anyway, lest you think I am stewing over any of this, I am not. I recently received an invitation to a shower for my very excellent friend, Magenta. It's on the 16th. So, despite not making this dress in time for one friend's wedding, I'll wear it for the first time to another friend's shower.

So, tonight I will be interfacing and getting started sewing the dress bodice. Hopefully my thread will arrive in the next day or two so seams can get finished!

Friday, June 24, 2011

In the Mood For On-line Shopping??

If you've been thinking about a fabric splurge but aren't near NY's Garment District, you are in luck. Mood Fabric is having an on-line sale to celebrate summer. Deets below. Enjoy!

(Oh, I should probably add that I am not affiliated with Mood other than spending way too much of my paycheck there too often. Just thought that those of you who can't get there in person may want to indulge in some virtual Mood-iness.)


25% off Orders Over $100.00 at*
To celebrate the start of Summer 2011 Mood Designer Fabrics would like to offer our clients 25% off their next purchase of $100.00 or more, this weekend June 24, 25 & 26!
To receive the discount enter Coupon Code
at checkout.
*Offer not valid on item beginning with Product Number PV.
Summer Swatch
Thank You, Mood

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekend Report: Muslin Progress and DNF: Baked Noodle!

Muslin Progress at last!
So the front of my dress is looking pretty good. The bust is now fitting just about right.

For the front of the bodice I enlarged the cups and the negative space they should fit into. Again, thank you Elmo for the helpful picture of what the bra cup alteration should look like. It took a bit of playing around with how much to add, but it worked like a charm. I also made the cups a bit wider and the bottom piece slightly deeper.

I'm still tweaking the back a little bit. I tried two different methods for narrowing the shoulders. A pivot and slide method made the back and front shoulder seams different lengths and caused me to have to alter the odd shaped shoulder strap pieces. And that got messy.  The other method- taking a tuck that ran the whole length of the piece didn't work because I need the extra room at the lower back (easing out the side and princess seams to compensate only worked to a point).

See, still some pulling in the tuck method
So I've made the excess fabric into a dart on the muslin. I'm going to then use the muslin piece (with the dart still sewn) to cut the seersucker, eliminating the extra fabric (in theory). I think this should preserve the grainline, which would look all wonky in seersucker if it was off or there was random darts in places. Um, wish me luck with this bit of creative fitting.

DNF: Baked Noodle Wadder
That is not a typo for DVF, who is fabulous. And it is not a cooking notation. DNF is what appears next to your name, instead of a finishing time, when you run a race and Do Not Finish. This is the running equivalent of a wadder.

On Saturday, I was signed up to run a 10k race, practically in my back yard. The race did not begin until 11am when the real-feel temp was 90 degrees. I don't do so well in the heat and there was no shade - not even a shadow. Despite being well hydrated, by the 1.5 mile water station I was overheated. I dumped several cups of water over my head to cool down. After a few minutes, my hands were still shaking. So I walked home feeling defeated, although I think it was a good decision. In all seriousness, I thoroughly baked my noodle. I was vapid and had a headache for the next six or seven hours - an utter waste of valuable sewing time!

Anyway, it was a defeat. But I've already bought some lighter weight running clothes and I'm going to do shorter but regular runs in the heat (to acclimate myself), stopping whenever I need to. Phin is trying to coax me into running in just a jog bra and shorts/capris. I'm not sure how I feel about this purely for vanity reasons. Although, if I just go for it, perhaps it will spur me to do something about the blob of ricotta that currently resides above my bellybutton? Hmmm... what motivates you?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Drive By

Just a quick howdy on this Monday. There was zero sewing going on over the weekend because I was in Chicagoland for a wedding, and a business trip mid-week will probably keep me out of the Craft Lounge even longer. The closest I got to anything sewing oriented was driving by the flagship store of Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL on the way to the wedding.  It had a big SALE sign in the window. What an incredible tease that was.

The only good sewing news is that the Summer Dress Challenge has been extended until Sunday. So, there is a chance - albeit a slim one - that I'll finish or mostly finish my dress on time. I hope you all had a more productive weekend than me! 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Broken Record: More Talk about my Bust

Sheesh! It seems like all I've done recently is blog about my bust. And here I go again.

I'm hoping that you can point me in the right direction with the FBA on my seersucker dress. I've searched high and low for an FBA tutorial specifically dealing with bustier style tops or for bras. No luck. So, I'm winging it. Here's where things stand:

I took a tuck down the center front to make the space between the cups closer together. And I enlarged the space that the cups fit into by basically tracing where the underwire of my bra hits and using that as the new seam line. (Compare left cup to unaltered right space-for-the-cup to see how much larger I needed it to be). As I had hoped, now that the bodice front seems to be the right shape and isn't pulling away from my body, the creases along the lower back have disappeared.  Hooray!

The remaining problem is that I need to make the cups larger. In the picture above, what I did was let out the center seam on the cup and use a smaller seam allowance attaching it to the bodice. My problem is that the cups are too flat now - not rounded enough.  I'm not really sure in which direction to add to the cup pieces - along the center seam? Along the seamline where it attaches to the bodice? Should I start by just cutting a larger size? Here is what the pattern pieces look like - any thoughts on how to make a cup size larger?
The pattern pieces - upper and lower cup.

My traced pieces
 Anyway, your thoughts on this are most appreciated!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Worst. Monday. Ever.

All kidding aside, I am having an epically bad Monday.  On top of it being my first day back in the office after my blissful staycation, I left my jacket on the train, started the workday with a phone call from a notoriously difficult person, and had to deal with a medical emergency which required an ambulance (everyone is ok). And while I'm a very cool customer in a crisis, now that the situation is over I'm thoroughly freaked out.

SO, to get my mind off my disaster of a day, I'm going to share one nice sewing-related thing that happened last week. The vintage sewing pattern I won on Ebay arrived, along with a lovely note from the seller.

Greetings from Kansas
Thank you for your purchase of the slip pattern. I hope you like it, and it serves you well.
These old fashions always remind me of the old black and white movies, where someone is riding on a train. Intrigue always follows!
Sewing has become a lost art. I'm glad this pattern is now in capable, deserving hands so it will have a chance at a second useful life.
Hope this finds you well. All the best.

This really got my imagination fired up.  And receiving such a nice note from a stranger who appreciates sewing, as I do, makes me stop and think about  how very glad I am to be a part of the sewing community at large. When I started sewing, I thought of it as a solo pursuit. I didn't realize that it would connect me to a whole community of people who share my excitement and enthusiasm. I'm always so grateful at the amount of encouragement, advice and kudos that I get from others. We're like that big quirky family from your hometown, with an endless number of aunts and uncles and cousins - too many to keep track of - that always seemed to be coming and going, and up to something fun that no one else seemed to really get. I always wanted to be a part of that odd group. And now I am! Ha ha!

So, a big thank you to all of you who stop by my blog - I am truly appreciative. And I appreciate each and every comment left. Oh, and if you haven't checked out the Stay Cool - Stitch up a Dress summer dress challenge blog, there's a whole bunch of other sewists at work there. I'm still working on my seersucker dress muslin - it's better, but still needs a bit more work before I show you the next version.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Next Two Projects: Part One

I confess: there isn't much sewing happening on Staycation.  But I have gone running, gotten a mani/pedi, toured MOMA, walked the High Line, gone on a tapas crawl, been to a Mets game and seen the new X-Men movie. So, it isn't like I'm doing nothing, although right now I'm sitting on the back porch while Phin is grilling some kebabs - a very nice kind of doing nothing. Any second he's about to walk through the back door with a glass of wine for me. 

Despite a lack of progress on my dress (um, I don't think I'll be done for my friend's wedding at this rate), I'm positively giddy about my next two sewing projects. Not only are they summery and fun, but they both might be controversial. I'm starting with the less controversial one.

I've been meaning to sew more from my growing collection of Burda-Whatever-We're-Calling-It magazine, and there was a lot to like in the most recent issue. I seem to really be drawn to their warm weather patterns. So, my next project is those easy elastic waist pants that they showed in both woven and knit fabrics.

Burda 6/2011 - 114

The exciting and possibly controversial part is that I plan to sew view A of these pants up with my very fun floral border print fabric that I bought on a whim at MetroTextiles. Now, I know that most people would look at this fabric and think "maxi dress", but for some reason I think "pants!" I'll probably make the legs a bit wider to show off the fabric more.

The one in the front, with the turquoise flowers.

Now, I'm not entirely sure that flower print pants are advisable. And I'm certain that they're different from anything I've ever worn. But I'm hoping they'll be crazy good rather than just crazy. And I trust that you'll tell me if I shouldn't wear them out of the house. Do we have a deal?  Thanks.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Blue Top Photo Shoot

Ahem: Here is the top that I stitched up with my granny's circa 1970 Kenmore "zigzag" sewing machine. Honestly, it was a dream to sew on. Now I understand the sewistas (and one very bold sewister) who thrive on these beautiful old machines. The only thing I did on my fancy modern machine was use a double needle for the hem.

This top is BurdaStyle 2/2011 -102. I'm sure this will become a staple in my work wardrobe. It's a great pattern, with a few adjustments and notes. The top is meant to be close fitting, possibly even styled with negative ease (I didn't measure, but it seemed that way). I was glad to have left 1" seam allowances on the side seams; I used them. Also, I'm fairly tall at 5'9", and normally add 1' to the top half of a pattern. I added nearly 3" to this top and still had a few photos that have been relegated to the "outtakes" file because of tummy peek.  See...

Tug, tug. Really, the skirt is riding a bit low, too.
The other thing to note is that this top is about as low cut as I would ever wear to work, and it has pretty wide set straps/sleeve-lets. I love this neckline, but will have to be more careful with the bra I choose. The racerback I was wearing in these photos is a no-go.

Tuck in those straps, Clio!
At the end of the day, I'm very happy with this top in particular and all the recent additions I've made to my professional wardrobe. But I think I'm done sewing for work, at least for now.  Next up is my seersucker dress. Then I have two incredibly fun summer projects which I just can't wait to tell you about and begin sewing... just as soon as I organize myself and my thoughts. More on this all in a few days! Happy sewing!