Thursday, October 31, 2013

Zombie Apocalypse: Not As Bad As You Think

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I'm back in my own timezone for a few days and thought I'd give you some cheery news about the impending Zombie Apocalypse.

As you know, here at Clio & Phineas HQ we take ZA preparedness seriously.

Learn more at

So, it was with relief that I read that the impending doom will not be as bad as originally predicted. Apparently, Mother Nature will kick some serious zombie a$$. Yay, nature!

As for me, after much consideration, I've decided to share my top secret strategy for surviving the first wave with you: Zombies don't swim. Phin and I do. We'll be headed out to sea in our neighbor's boat, where the undead can't get us. Our neighbor doesn't know this yet, and I'm pretty sure that Phin and I can outrun him along with the hoard.

Anyway, have a great Halloween. I'm taking my nephews trick-or-treating today, but will be back to my usual mischief soon.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More Geekery: Hand-Picked Zipper and Waist Boning

I'm a little pouty. I didn't finish my skirt over the weekend which means I'm not taking it on the business trip I'm currently on and not wearing it to the fabulous place that I am going to while on said trip.

Yeah. Oh well.

This is mostly because I  made the slit on the wrong side of the lining. Naturally, I realized this only after finishing trimming the slit with this lace. 

So, I had to spend some quality time with my seam ripper. Oh well. So, instead of showing you the final results, let's geek out some more about the details.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah: Hand Picked Zipper
I was really enjoying the hand sewing, so I decided to hand pick my skirt's zipper. Also, because this zipper needs to zip a snug corselette, I decided to use a metal toothed Excella instead of an invisible zipper for extra strength. Combined with the hand stitches, this should be a very secure closure.

I did a hand picked zipper once before, when I sewed a silk dress to wear to the wedding of a dear friend. I had a great recap of the skill in Susan Khalje's Craftsy class. But if you are not taking it, you can find the tutorial that she did for Threads magazine here. In truth, I think it's easier to master a hand picked zipper than a machine sewn one. The slower pace of sewing by hand means you have much more control of the fabric.

Hand picked zipper
I have a confession. I used bees wax which I pressed into the thread before stitching. You may remember that I once said something along the lines of "pressing beeswax into thread is not something that I ever foresee myself doing. Honestly, I think it would be just one thing too many - the straw that breaks the camel's back".  Yeah. What can I say? I drank the Khalje KoolAid on this one. It was delicious, btw. There are many things that I have not foreseen; I'm glad I have the flexibility of nature to allow for a change of mind.

Have a Seat: Boned Waist
Gail asked a very astute question about whether I would be able to sit in a skirt that had boning through the waist area. The short answer is yes, I plan to sit in this skirt. But I thought we should have a chat since it's an excellent question and was a consideration. Here's how I know that I can sit...

First, this was not an original idea. Marina of Frabjous Couture sewed a beautiful high waisted pencil skirt with boning that she documented for Burdastyle, and which I had the pleasure of actually examining in person. So, others have done it before.

Next, choice of materials is one of the most important in sewing, right?  Most RTW boning that I've experienced has been the horrible plastic variety that is rigid and when you sit or bend tends to dent inward poking you mercilessly in the ribs. It warps easily and, once bent, will forever jab you in that same place.

Top Rigilene; Bottom Spiral Steel

Thankfully, not all boning is created equal, and what is available to those of us who sew is light years ahead of the RTW junk. The two that I have tried are spiral steel and rigilene. Both are much more flexible than plastic bones and bend with your body as you move and then bounce back instead of jabbing you. I chose the rigilene, which is so flexible it comes on a roll.

Incredibly flexible spiral steel boning.

Lastly - and here's where I've got a question for all of you - after I sewed the boning to the corselette, I basted on a zipper and wore it around the house. So, I know that it is wearable. When I sew a muslin, once I think the fit is good, I wear it for more than a perfunctory try on. I walk down the stairs, sit on the couch, rummage in the fridge, head back upstairs, sit on the bed, pick things up off the floor... Am I alone in doing this sort of roving try on?

Anyway, as I hinted, I'm currently in London, crazy busy with work and not wearing my skirt. London friends, if you happen to be free on Saturday morning/early afternoon I will be around - just holler. I know, I am terrible for giving no notice.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hotcake Winner

When our usual giveaway impartial judge decided to sleep in on Saturday, Milkshake happily offered to step in to do the drawing for us.

We used the clutch I made back in June to hold all the entries. 

Milkshake dove right in

And picked...

The winner!
Claire Quimby

Claire, shoot me an email so I can send this hotcake off to you!

Thanks to everyone who entered and said what they would do with this fabric. I love how everyone imagines it in a different way - blouses, lingerie, to line a jacket, kimonos...

Happy sewing, everyone. More on my skirt this week.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pattern Play + Gorgeous Fabric + Couture Sewing = Pencil Skirt Excitement!

I'm *so* excited about my current sewing project that I'm going to tell you everything! Really, really excited. Like, I-might-explode excited. Wow, I hope I don't bore you with the uber-sewing-geekiness of this post. Here goes:

After my successful wax cloth pencil skirt, I couldn't wait to start playing with my self-drafted pattern. I know, what could be so exciting about a pencil skirt?  Just go with me here.

So, as you recall I had been thinking about sewing a matching bustier style top to go with the skirt, but I put that on hold after a few muslins didn't work out. I had already bought boning and I had taken a Building a Bustier class with Kenneth King, and I'm currently in the middle of watching Susan Khalje's Couture Dress Craftsy class. All of these things swirling in my brain started to converge into the idea of a high-waisted couture-style pencil skirt.

Like this.

Here's what's done...

Pattern: I traced off my pencil skirt (minus seam allowances), converting two of the four front darts into princess seams, and then added a 4 inch extension for the high waist. I did this by extending the seam lines straight up, slightly changing the dart width to address the very slight difference in size between my waist and midriff. Then I added 1" seam allowances. 

Center Front Piece with extension

Side front with dart with extension

Muslin:  Once I was happy with the drafting, I cut and carefully marked a muslin of just the top 8 inches of skirt - the waist extension to four inches below the waist, so that I could see how my drafted changes worked. 


The other reason I chose just the top 8 inches, is that I will use boning in this area to make sure that the waist doesn't collapse. Since my (very firm) muslin fit perfectly, I decided to use it as the layer that will hold the boning - basically a built in corselette, to support the skirt's high waist. 
One of the things I learned in Kenneth King's class is that it's perfectly fine to use rigilene  boning.  For my first project that required boning, I used spiral steel boning, which is wonderful, but more time consuming to work with. The nice thing about rigilene is that you can sew right on it instead of having to add casings to contain the bones like you would with steel spiral. I think this is the right decision for a skirt that is a blend of RTW and couture techniques.

With boning

Fabric: One of my best recent Garment District discoveries is Beckenstein Fabrics/Fabric Czar. They do bespoke tailoring and also sell beautiful suiting, linings and shirtings. My discovery: they have a remnant table where you can get 1-ish yard cuts of crazy beautiful suiting for $40 (aka less than a pencil skirt at Banana Republic). The 1 1/3 yard piece I bought is a gorgeous wool with a textured weave. It's so unbelievably soft that I suspect that there is some cashmere in it. Also, it was 64" wide. More than enough for my skirt.

Wool suiting from the Fabric Czar

And since I was now working with beautiful suiting, I decided that it needed equally awesome underlining. So, I pulled out this leopard print silk organza from my stash. It's from my "hot sauce" haul of fabrics.

Leopard print silk organza - it's somewhat darker in person

Sewing: Fabrics were cut, underlining was basted by hand to the suiting, and the lining (Bemberg) was sewn last week. This past weekend, the skirt seams were sewn, too, and I've been catch-stitching the seam allowances to the underlining during the week. So, this is really moving along. I've been doing a blend of couture techniques (mostly hand sewing) and machine/RTW sewing.  I think this has been the best bang for the buck for this project.

My catch-stitched seams

I still have a lot to do. I have to sew in the zipper, which I may do by hand. Also, I need to finish the slit. Oh. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I decided that instead of a vent or slit in the back, there will be a slit on one of the princess seams on the front, a la Vogue 8873 view A. Lastly, all the layers need to be joined at the waist where I will also add a waist stay. Then, I'll just have to hem.

Have you ever been so excited by a project that your sewing geek side really goes bananas?  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Hotcake" Giveaway

A party without cake is just a meeting, as they say. So, as promised, here is a small birthday "hotcakes" giveaway.

Silk charm

You know by now that I like luxe.  This is a generous 2 yard cut of silk charmeuse that I bought as one of the possible candidates to line my leather jacket. I eventually chose a turquoise version of the same fabric - this one is a mix of hot pink and orange. I figured that it would become lingerie if I didn't pick it for the jacket. Phin's kind of surprized I'm willing to part with it, but it's too pretty to languish in my stash any longer. So, I'm hoping to find it a good home.

Also, as the temperature starts to drop, perhaps you would also like a pattern to, um,  help heat up the night.

More accurate color on this picture

Hotcakes? I think so. 

It's just one of many things you could do with this silk - obviously, make what you will love. (BTW, did you know there is a lingerie sewing contest happening at PR right now? Details here.)

Anyway, here's the small print for my giveaway: Just yell "Hotcakes" by midnight EDT on Friday, October 18 to enter this random drawing. And do make sure I can reach you. I will mail anywhere that mail goes. I hope you will also tell me if you've sewn lingerie before or what you might do with this fabric.

Happy sewing! Stay tuned for my next (totally, totally awesome and exciting, IMHO) self drafted pencil skirt project in a few days.  Seriously, I am giddy about it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes: Best of Both Worlds

This morning it feels like Autumn has arrived in the NY area. So, posting a recipe involving pumpkin seems apropos. 

If you don't know it by now, for the last decade cupcakes have been a big deal in NY.  But in the last two years, there have been predictions that pies will be the new cupcakes. But I say, why choose when you can have the best of both in one dessert? 


Dessert is taken seriously in the Muse family. So, for my birthday, there were two cakes. One was chocolate (previously blogged here and frosting here) because it wouldn't feel like my birthday without chocolate cake. The other was Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes. Mmmm... I love Autumn and all the flavors that go with it.


Pies are a lot of work, but these cupcakes were a breeze with help from my 10yo nephew, Orpheus. The recipe is simple but interesting; it's basically a pumpkin version of a molten chocolate cake. Essentially, all you do is make pumpkin pie filling and add just a bit of flour and leavening.

As the cupcakes bake (for a mere 20 minutes!), they set around the edges like a cake, but stay custard-y in the center, like pumpkin pie. It's the very best of both worlds.

Is it a pie or a cake?

Once cooled, we piped a little bit of stabilized whipped cream with some cinnamon mixed into it onto the cupcakes. (To stabilize whipped cream just add a little cream of tartar to your heavy cream as you beat it with sugar and vanilla.)

We under-filled our cupcake tins to make 16 instead of 12 cupcakes, so they are on the small side. But that's fine. In the future, I'll make them normal size. Oh, and yes, these will be made again. I have any number of friends and family members who lament that pumpkin pie comes but once a year.

A few last thoughts on my birthday party and family...

I love being an Aunt.  And I had two really big reminders of why over the weekend. First, my 7yo nephew Linus made me a birthday gift. When his mom asked what he wanted to give me, he told her that he wanted to make me a necklace, because "Aunt Clio is good at making things".

The macaroni necklace has come a LONG way!

Look what an awesome job he did! And I could see how very proud of his gift he was, which made it all the more wonderful.

And then my 10yo nephew, Orpheus, and I baked our awesome cupcakes together, and he gave me a subscription to a baking magazine and made me promise that we would bake together from it.

Being "good at making things" is important to me. If you read this blog, you too! In addition to the hours I spend each week actually sewing, knitting and baking, I also devote time to learning more about these pursuits. So, realizing that I actually have been passing that love of creating along to my nephews made me feel tremendously happy on my birthday. 

Are you passing your love of creating along to others?  Do tell.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sssssssslithery Snake Print Top! Love at First Hiss

I've been sewing with a lot of colors and not-my-normal fabrics since about May - knits, linen, and wax cloth in bright colors and prints. It's left me feeling a bit out of my element lately. I'm a native NY-er of the Brooklynite variety; black is my normal.

So, once I finished my rather loud pencil skirt, I turned my thoughts back to (a) black, (b) silk and (c) animal prints. Yay for normal!

V1247 in Snake Print Silk

This snake print silk charmeuse has been in my stash for a while. I've pulled it out many times and mused about what to make with it, but never settled on anything. Then I saw Tia Dia's V1247. After that I had dinner with Puu, who has made it a few times. And then, while tidying the Craft Lounge, I was caught in a pattern avalanche and out came V1247. Clearly, the universe was pointing me in a direction.

Vogue 1247 Rachel Comey top

For tops, I normally sew a 10 with an FBA in Vogue patterns, but because this top is meant to be very loose fitting, I cut a straight 8 and it fit exactly as I would want. That said, even though it is loose, the interesting seaming, shoulder pleats and Hollywood dart (that's the one at bust level) give it shape. I approve.

Styled for work

Sewing this was not perfectly smooth sailing, but all the problems were my own fault, and not the pattern or instructions.

Silk charmeuse can be unforgiving, prone to fraying, slippery and easy to stretch on the bias. My first mistake was not immediately stay stitching the neckline. When I went to sew it, one side had stretched out a little. I don't think it is particularly noticeable, but it's a good reminder for the future.

Can you see that the right neckline is slightly longer than the left? I dunno.

Next, right sides facing is so ingrained that french seams (ie: wrong sides facing) - which are one of the best finishes for seams in ravel-prone fine fabrics - tend to hurt my brain.  And, since either side of this fabric could have been considered the right side, well, my seam ripper was the hero of this project.

Last, I tried to finish the sleeves and hem while severely jet lagged. It didn't go well for me. Both sleeve and hem are now 1/2 an inch shorter than drafted because I mangled them on the first go round. So, I waited a week, trimmed the damage away, recut the sleeve cuff/facings, resewed and re-hemmed.

I like the sleeves at this length, but definitely would like extra length in the top.

Here's the view from the back.

Overall, I really like the style and fit of this top. So, I wore it styled casually for my Oktoberfest themed birthday with my family on Saturday. And I have to tell you, I think this top will be (a) worn a lot, (b) worn casually instead of to work and (c) made many times more, although I think I'll add some length.

Oktoberfest: Check out my new beer stein courtesy of my Pop.
(Yes, that is a mini keg that was tapped for my bday)

What do you think?

More sewing, knitting and birthday baking to follow! I'm really liking all the projects that are in the works at the moment.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

B is for Birthday! (and Buttercream)

Oooh, peeps, it's my birthday today (and all month long, thank you very much). And I'm excited. Why? I have no idea. But isn't birthday reason enough for excitement and happiness? I think so. 

Oh, and this was my lunch...

I love Cupcake Cafe

Seriously, one of the unheralded perks of adulthood is the autonomy to decide every so often that it's fine to skip a meal and head straight for dessert. Yay 38!

I know what you're thinking: I don't act my age (exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, exhibit D). It's true. I prefer to act like me, rather than acting like a number.

I doubt that any of these minis will be left by 5pm

But this year my thoughts are all about change. I can't shake the feeling that this is a metamorphosis year.

Change can come quickly. Both Phin and I are on the cusp of potentially large changes in our respective work lives. It's invigorating, but will mean that we have a lot of decisions to make moving forward. I can't wait. Change excites me.

I don't really know what's to come. But I think it's prompting some kind of internal changes, too. It's hard to put my finger on. Perhaps it's that when the scenery changes, it's easier to see yourself clearly and figure out what is important. Possibility is a great motivator. I hope to carry this feeling with me through the year.

OK, enough sugar-fueled introspection.  Phin is about to arrive and take me out on a birthday date. But stay tuned for a give away, a few yet-to-be blogged projects and more bday celebration fun.