Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Self Drafted Pencil Skirt Muslin of Triumph!!

I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself since I don't have a finished skirt yet. But my mojo and my Better Judgement have been high fiving each other and doing a happy dance for the last few days over this collaboration.

Apologies for the really bad selfie
It's muslin 1.0 of my self drafted pencil skirt with no alterations. I normally try to avoid muslin photos because I think you can drive yourself crazy trying to eradicate every slight wrinkle, pucker and shadow that the camera accentuates. But because this muslin fits so much better on the first baste than just about anything I've sewn out of an envelope before, well.... it's happy dance time! Seriously, my Better Judgement is blasting How Ya Like Me Now and acting uncharacteristically smug.

As a reminder, I used Kenneth Kings "The Skirts" CD book to draft the sloper. I'll do a review when I have a finished skirt. From the sloper I added seam allowances and was off and running.   

In this first version, the high hip needs a little reshaping to get rid of the elephant ears and the thighs need a bit more ease. So, I made those changes and did a second try on. Bingo! Things were nearly perfect.

I don't know about you, but I write on my muslins so that when I go to make changes to the pattern, I know exactly where and how much.

I transferred all the changes back to my sloper pattern plus one addition. My thighs pull the seams a little toward the front. So, I transferred a little from the back to the front to make the seam perpendicular to the floor.

This should have said "from back to front". But I still made the adjustment correctly.

Anyway, at this point, I'm pretty thrilled with the results.  I even impulsively bought more fabric to sew another pencil skirt after I finish the wax cloth version, which will be cut shortly. My mind is all lit up with the possible variations I could make. 

Anyway, I've decided to take extra time off for the Labor Day weekend. So, there will be lots of sewing, I hope. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Easy Like Sunday Morning...And Mom Muse's Pancakes

Just a few sewing thoughts and my mom's pancakes on this gorgeous Sunday morning...

First, thanks for all the comments on my sewing spat with myself. Fear not! My Better Judgement knows when she is beaten; I'm in no danger of sewing cake. I'm much happier when I sew the super fun or very fitted garments that I couldn't buy and focus on learning and using good techniques. It means that my output is lower, but my happiness is higher. Do you also go through a moment of sewing introspection when you see all the beautiful things other people are sewing, like I did at MPB day?  Do tell!

Next, all my sisters have reported in. The verdict is that the wax cloth wrap skirts fit very well. So, I'm adding a Pattern Review for KS2954 as well as the S5151 tote bags.

And just in case you think that the quietness on the blog reflects inactivity in the Craft Lounge, I'm planning to update you on my self-drafted pencil skirt muslin this week. Also, I've been watching Sew Better, Sew Faster: Garment Industry Secrets on Craftsy and am in the middle of 3 knitting projects. I've also been on a mini fabric and pattern bender. So, there's a lot going on, just not a huge amount to tell at this point. 

Now, on to breakfast!

My mom would be the first to say that she is not the world's best cook. For her, it was a chore to feed a family with five kids every night. That said, she totally aces the two most important meals of the day: breakfast and dessert.

Growing up, we had pancakes for breakfast almost every weekend. To this day, I'm always disappointed with any others. No matter how nice the restaurant, it's always a let down. My mom owns pancakes. When I want pancakes there is no choice but to make them using her recipe. Here it is:

Good Housekeeping Pancakes a la Mom Muse
1 1/4 c flour (5.3 oz)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 1/4 c milk
3 Tbsp oil or melted butter

Whisk together dry ingredients. Mix together wet ingredients. Add wet to dry and stir just to combine. There should be lumps. Let batter sit for 5 minutes while you preheat a pan or griddle on medium. Cook pancakes (I like silver dollars, but any size works) in a little butter or oil, flipping once when the edges become a bit dry and there are lots of small bubbles at the edges.

This is an incredibly easy recipe. The real secret is not the ingredients, but the technique. First, leaving lumps and letting the batter rest so the baking powder begins to act and the wet ingredients begin to hydrate the dry yields a moist, fluffy pancake. You will notice that the batter thickens as it rests. This is what you want.

Blueberry Banana version: not perfectly round

Second, you really do want a medium heat and a pan that has been pre-heated. Too cool and the pancakes don't set and run all over and get flat. Too hot and the outside scorches before the middle is done. It's a bit of a Goldilocks-esque just right temperature. You can find it by heating your pan and then dropping a few drops of water onto it to test the temperature. At the right temperature, the water will sizzle and dance for 10-20 seconds. This is called the Leidenfrost effect.

You can add any kind of fruit or other add in to this batter. This morning's variation was blueberry and banana, which is one of my favorites.  The only thing to note is that the pancakes will be a little less fluffy with mix ins.

I prefer silver dollar pancakes, but you can make them whatever size you want. And, if you are like Phin, you will go poking around in the freezer to find some bacon, sausage, ham, or all three.

I hope you are having an equally nice Sunday! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dear Self, You're really bugging me...

Dear Clio,
We need to talk about our sewing hobby because, right now, you are thoroughly annoying me... us... our self. You know what I mean.

Now, I like our sewing hobby just fine. Sewing gives us a sense of accomplishment, challenges us and, well, we both think it's fun to wear the things we sew, although you get a bit too excited when we get compliments from strangers.

Do too! You get all giddy and proud of yourself.

Like that time last week on the train.

Fine. You get "appropriately pleased".

Anyway, as our better judgement, it bothers me that you never, ever sew popular patterns. You know, the kind of patterns that other people have tested out and worked all the kinks out of, that yield good results for just about everyone and inspire sew-alongs because they are well drafted basics that are easy to fit.

Instead, you seem drawn to patterns that have 3 or less reviews on PR. Not that there is anything wrong with that; not all patterns are for all people's style. It's just that all that fitting is rather maddening and takes a long time and, well, would it really kill you to sew a Renfrew or a Scout tee? Sown Brooklyn did that awesome Scout sew along, complete with pattern hacks.

Ok, fine. Yes, I realize that sewing basics is not the best use of our limited sewing time. How about a dress instead? I mean, I know we are never going to sew a Cambie or a Macaron; sweetheart necklines and gathered skirts are just not our style. But would it kill you to give Tiramisu a chance?!?!

Really, this is like that time in high school that Nana bought us that very nice and on-trend white sweater for Christmas and you returned it just because it had little skiers in turquoise snow suits on it.

It was a very nice sweater! And expensive!

Yes, it was! It was too!

So what if it wasn't "edgy"?!?!?

Ok, fine. Bad example. You're right; it didn't go with our Doc Martins.

I thought we'd made progress when you decided to sew a Bombshell Dress out of our wax cloth. Loads of people have sewn it and there is even a Craftsy class. But, no! You are totally ignoring the class and now you're talking about NOT using any of the pattern pieces for the actual Bombshell dress. I mean, I understand that you don't think that our boobs should have an equator, but McCalls 6325 really doesn't seem to be working for us in muslin. Can't you see how this is all a bit frustrating for me: this constant insistence on trying new things and going our own way?

Muslin of M6325

Oh geez. This is the same fight we had over cake vs. frosting, isn't it? When I posted a sensible list of goals for the year and you freaked out and ran away with our mojo because it was "boooooring" and decided to put us on a Frosting Diet? Right. I'm really not going to win this fight, am I? 

Fine. Be that way.

But if you insist on sewing a Bombshell dress that's going to be out of season 10 seconds after you finish hemming it, then we're doing it as a two piece dress and I'm drafting us a pencil skirt for the bottom half. We were planning on doing that this fall anyway. I'll even use Kenneth King's instructions since he has some fitting help for hourglass/pear shapes. Look, I'm already finished preliminary drafting.

Pencil skirt back

Ok? Ok, I forgive you, too.

Clio's Better Judgement

PS - Do you think our Doc Martins are still somewhere in mom and dad's attic? They really were badass with our Catholic school uniform.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pattern Pyramid Giveaway Winner!

Shark Week has come to an end and so has the Pattern Pyramid Giveaway here in the Craft Lounge.

The winner is...

Gail of MyFabrication

Looks like this pyramid is heading back to Oz after a very brief trip to the northwestern hemisphere.  Congrats, Gail. Please get in touch with me.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bluberry Muffins with a Side of MPB Day!

Sewing meet ups are the best because of the other sewists! Where else could I talk about hand-worked buttonholes or finding the perfect sweater knit or the merits of hair canvas with people who get as giddy as me over it? Those of you who were there, I think it's time to petition the government to make MPB Day a national holiday. Are we agreed? And those who didn't make it, well, I'm sure that there will be re-caps aplenty in the next few days.

Thank you, Peter! What a great day!

So, right now I'm at home sipping coffee, seeing who else has posted reflections on the day, and eating a muffin. (How's that for a segue from sewing to baking?) 

One of the reasons I post my favorite recipes here is that a blog makes an excellent mobile cookbook, complete with the little tweaks I made and suggestions for future batches. When Phin came home with a small mountain of blueberries a few weeks ago, I was surprised to not find my go-to blueberry muffin recipe on the blog. It's from the White Dog Cafe Cookbook and has been a favorite of ours for years. In fact, this recipe came with Phin when we moved in together aeons ago.

Here it is:

Blueberry Muffins from White Dog Cafe

3 1/2c cake flour
1 1/2c sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4c oil
1 1/2c buttermilk
3c blueberries, preferably fresh

Preheat oven to 400. Combine dry ingredients. Whisk together wet ingredients. Mix the two together and then fold in the berries. Scoop batter into greased muffin tins - fill just to the rim. Bake for 30-35 min until just starting to brown. Cool 5 min and remove from pan.

The recipe says it makes 12, but I think those must be using enormous muffin tins since I usually get about 18 in my muffin/cupcake tins. I also bake for more like 25-30 minutes. Also, I am newly converted to the idea of using cupcake cups for muffins instead of greasing the pan. It makes it infinitely easier to get the muffins out of the tins without mutilating them.

What I like best about this recipe is that it has loads of blueberries. I hate a blueberry muffin that skimps on the berries. This is more like berries bound together with a little muffin, rather than muffin with a few polka dots. In my most recent batch, I had about 1/2 cup extra blueberries, so I tossed them in. A few of the muffins actually collapsed under the weight of the berries. So, in the future, I will probably stick to just 3 cups.

Loads of blueberries

My only other innovation was that I made a half batch of this previously blogged crumb topping and sprinkled it on before popping in the oven. Perfect!

I should also add that I've used regular all purpose flour, part "white" whole wheat flour, and part whole wheat pastry flour in the past when I haven't had cake flour and it's worked out fine. So is using milk and vinegar instead of buttermilk. It's a pretty forgiving recipe.  

Anyway, this is another TNT recipe for me. I just love summer baking! Do you bake in the summer?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

On My Way To MPB Day!

I hope to see you there! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Finished! Wax Cloth Skirts for My Sisters!

* There is still time to enter the Pattern Pyramid Giveaway! *

It feels like it's been weeks since I've had a sewing reveal!

So, I am thrilled about this fun and easy project which was completed during mojo-explosion 2013. It's a matching tote and beachy wrap skirt for each of my sisters. There are four of them. As a reminder, last autumn my dad gave me yards of wax cloth that he bought on a trip to Ghana to make something for myself and my sisters.

Gifts for sisters!
Anyway, for the tote bags, I used Simplicity 5151 and made 2 of each version.  This pattern could not have been easier and would be an excellent beginner project. My only changes were to use a jumbo snap instead of velcro as the closure and to top stitch around the opening of view B (that is the one without bamboo handles).  

Four bags for my four sisters!

The inspirtation for the skirt was the tiered wrap maxi skirt that my mom wore to the beach throughout my childhood. It was simply known as "mom's beach skirt" to all of us and was only ever worn to the beach.

For these skirts, I used Kwik Sew 2954, a basic wrap skirt pattern. My only customization was to adjust the length for each sister, and for my slimmest sister I made a slightly larger seam allowance since she is at the smaller end of the M size range.

Three skirts (one sister was pregnant so we've delayed her skirt)!

I'm impressed with the KS instructions for this pattern. I could have sewn this skirt without even looking at them, but I'm glad I did. This skirt uses some very good basic techniques that are explained and illustrated in a way that I think would be perfect for a beginner. Also, it doesn't skip steps.  For example, it includes understitching the waist facing and actually explains why you do this. It also includes top stitching. A lot of  "quick" or "easy" patterns tend to skip these basic steps, which ultimately leaves you with a sloppy looking finish. But not this one.

Understitched and top stitched

If I was teaching someone to sew, this would be an excellent first pattern choice since you would most likely use a very stable cotton and it does actually have some good "challenge" bits for a beginner, like darts on the back and an optional button hole for the tie to thread through.

Button hole

As you can see, I used my serger for large parts of this project. It really sped my sewing along.

Anyway, the skirts and totes are all either delivered or in the mail to my sisters. Here you can see that Calliope used her tote on our trip. Yay!
At the Acropolis...

In Santorini...
So, I've crossed the "sewing for sisters" part of the project off my list and now it is on to the "wax cloth for me" project, which is at the muslin phase! Stay tuned!

Monday, August 5, 2013

It's Shark Week in the Craft Lounge

And we're pretty psyched about it.

Dragon the Hippo loves Shark Week!

You see, while Phin and I were away, "the kids" apparently watched a lot of Sharknado. We had hoped that the Tramples would keep Dragon and his tv watching in check. But apparently they "got sucked in, too."

The Tramples as a School of Elephant Sharks

So, to... um... provide some slightly better educational content for them, we're celebrating Shark Week here in the Craft Lounge... with costumes.... Everything is better with costumes.

And the Tramples are helping to provide some educational materials for Dragon and Milkshake.

If it's on the internet, it must be true!

Reading time.

But Dragon still seems to like the scary side of sharks best and insists that, while highly unlikely, it is theoretically possible for a school of sharks to get sucked up into a waterspout and rained down on unsuspecting land dwellers a la Sharknado, especially if it happens in LA.

What can I say: we're shark-lovers. I've actually had two shark encounters while scuba diving - one with Phin and one without.* So, it was probably only a matter of time before there were costumes. These are very simple shark fins made from blue satin and a little bit of elastic.

Dragon and Milkshake eagerly count down to Shark Week!

Happy Shark week! And don't forget to enter the Pattern Pyramid Giveaway! Your chance of winning is MUCH better than your chance of being bitten by a shark.

*Now, I realize that if this was a horror movie, I'd be sealing my own fate by saying the following: There are only about 50 shark attacks globally each year and only 5 fatalities. Compared to mosquitoes (2 million deaths annually) and snakes (50,000), sharks pose as little risk to you as your pet dog. Oh, wait, many more people are killed by dogs than sharks each year. In fact, you are more likely to be killed by an elephant, a hippo or a cow than by a shark. So, I guess my little menagerie is a dangerous lot.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pattern Pyramid Giveaway!!!

Now that I've had some time to rifle through my pattern stash and select a pattern or two, I'm ready to send the Pattern Pyramid on it's merry way. Here's the pattern that is staying with me:

Simplicity Amazing Fit Shirt

I've had Rhonda's raised collar pattern hack on the brain lately. Wouldn't it be fun to do the pattern hack and lengthen the shirt to shirt-dress length? I think so.

Ans here are two patterns that I'm adding to the pyramid:

A Vogue Dress and a Simplicity top
And here's what's still in the pyramid after it went from Karen at Did You Make That? to dottie doodle to jessie kay makes to Down the Retro Rabbit Hole (sadly now defunct) to my NY-London shopping buddy Rachel of House of Pinheiro to Almond Rock to Oanh of Unique Schmuck to the curious kiwi and finally to The Perfect Nose, where I won it. Whew!

Oh, and there are a few Pattern Pyramid Make labels left.

You probably know the rules, but here they are just in case you've been living under a rock or on an extended vacation:
  • Anyone, anywhere in the world, can enter by leaving a comment on this post before midnight on Sunday, August 11, but you must have an active blog.
  • I will randomly select one winner (Person A) and mail them the collection.
  • Person A will then pick one pattern to keep for themselves, then host their own give-away. They will randomly select a winner, post the remaining patterns to Person B.
  • Person B will pick a pattern for themselves and promptly host their own give-away and post the remaining patterns to the winner, Person C. Person C will do the same and so on until there is a last pattern winner…you get the idea.
  • Some people like to replace the pattern they are taking with another from their stash, this keeps the pyramid going longer, but is not compulsory. 
Please make sure that when you comment, I have a way to reach you. Oh, and if you like, let me know where you blog - I love being introduced to new-to-me blogs!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Phineas!

Monster mode.
You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.  ~Ogden Nash

Would you believe that my Phin is 46 today??  Seriously. I must be keeping him young. (wink)

Phin has already complained about the number of pictures I've posted of him this week. So, here is one that is more his speed - a self portrait of sorts.

Self portrait of Phin

Happy Birthday, my sweet! What a funny and fantastic life we are living together!