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Monthly Archives: November 2011

So I haven’t gotten a lot of sewing done lately. Between being super busy at the beginning of the month, then being sick, then the holiday… I am on an upswing, though, and I am almost done with one item and have three more cut out and ready to sew! But in the meantime, what do you do when you can’t sew? Plan more sewing, of course!

Above is my latest contribution to the Stash Monster. Well, when I started sewing, I saw people mentioning their “stash” on their blogs, and I thought, “Ha, I only buy fabric I intend to sew right away!  I will make fabric purchases on a project by project basis!” Well, that sense of superiority lasted about a month. I absolutely only buy fabric I intend to sew, who doesn’t? Of course, the problem lies between what I intend to sew and what I actually do sew. So was born my Stash Monster. I tend to feed it with occasional big meals, made up of destination trips to the Crazy Fabric Store, or big sales at one of the online places. This particular meal is from the wool sale at Fashion Fabrics Club a few weeks ago (man, their shipping is slow! At least this time I got tracking information, so it at least seemed faster). I recently got a SmartWool bike jersey (for half off at the local outfitters!) and I totally love it – warm when you want, cool when you want, thin but substantial – and I wanted some of that magic fabric in other parts of my wardrobe. So this is five different wool jerseys in solid colors to make dresses, tunics, maybe even leggings! And I am absolutely machine washing and drying it, despite the instructions to hand wash or dry clean – too much work for easy knit garments. I’ve washed a couple pieces of it so far and they seem okay. Shrunk a bit, and they’re a little softer, but hopefully they’ll hold up through repeated washes. The fabric on the bottom is a coating that I couldn’t resist. Yes, another coat project even though I haven’t ever made a coat! It will happen… maybe next fall. I also availed myself of some Jo Ann pattern sales recently and increased the pattern stash by maybe 10 or 12… because I’ve got to make this fabric into something, right?

In addition to overstuffing the Monster, I certainly overstuffed myself on Thursday (and Friday, leftovers!), and I hope you did too! I love Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that’s just about eating! And drinking! How great is that? And if your turkey this year was not as good as you wanted, may I suggest the most excellent turkey recipe ever – the Emeril turkey. Beer brined, basted with Emeril’s spice mix (which he calls his “essence“… um, awkward. But so tasty!) For the gravy, we just blend up the veggies that have been under the turkey with the essencey turkey drippings and add a little beer instead of wine, and it’s the best gravy ever. Give it a try next year… or next week…

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For my birthday last month, I received from my other half a very nice card, inside of which was taped a needle with thread through it. This indicated, he told me, that his gift to me was a new sewing machine, but he in no way wanted the responsibility of actually picking one out for me (very sensibly, I might add). So since then, it had been my intention to get down to the local sewing machine dealer and check some things out. But between my terrible schedule and the limited hours of the shop, the first time I had a chance to go was last Tuesday. I was absolutely not going to buy anything on the first visit, you see, I was just going to try some machines out, then go home and do my research before I committed… Well, we know how that ended:

It’s a Bernina 1230, circa 1990. I had been thinking I would get a new machine, just cause, well, that’s what you buy from a shop, right? But when the proprietor asked if I would consider a used machine, I said, “sure”, because I was not opposed, I just hadn’t thought I would find any. But he had this Bernina… this totally pristine, all metal, made in Switzerland, smart-but-not-too-smart (I mean, touchscreens? really?) Bernina that was in want of a good home, so who was I to say no?

My biggest complaints about my old machine, a cheap Singer-from-Sears that I got from a friend, were noise and unreliable tension (recently I was tearing out about every other seam because the tension was wonky). I had heard that Berninas are famous for absolutely reliable tension, and the sewing machine dealer confirmed it (and he doesn’t even sell Berninas anymore!). This machine is quiet and sews so smoothly, plus it’s got all kinds of cool features (that I’m sure were even cooler in the early 90s) – needle down setting (it always stops down if you want it to, so great for difficult fabrics), 5 needle positions (I can topstitch at various distances from the seam and still use my presser foot as a guide), hands free presser foot lifter (I didn’t even know I wanted this until I had it), and an automatic buttonhole (I’m no longer scared of the Beignet skirt!). And it cost less than half what a new Bernina would (they are way out of my price range). So I really love it so far, we’ll see how it goes!

Plus it came with the original brochure:

Thank goodness I can lift my presser foot while I’m wearing nylons! I was worried about that.

Well, I’m off to work on my puffy ruffled blouse and a shiny vest for my darling husband, as thanks for an awesome birthday gift! Clearly my new machine can handle that sort of thing…

All right, so after all my worry about the dress I was working on for opening night (thank you all for your kind words and suggestions!), I ended up coming down with a terrible cold on Friday night and I stayed home sick Saturday! And Sunday, and I also had Monday and Tuesday as legitimate days off, so all that adds up to… still just 2 days for sewing. I will confess that I spent all day Saturday re-watching episodes of Doctor Who, and then all day Sunday re-reading Harry Potter… But on Monday I did feel well enough to finish the dress, and even make the obi belt Lakaribane suggested, and even put it all on and took some pictures:

And, well, almost. It almost works. I like the thicker belt, but my belt is not very nice (I think the fabric/interfacing is too stiff, and it gathers funny when it’s tied, which may also be because it’s too wide?); the dress almost fits (it looks good standing, but the shoulders lay funny and the back band sits too high and the sleeves slip down); and, well, I almost wore it, but I got sick. So it’s the almost dress.

The pattern is McCall’s 6069, which I like and I think is a good pattern (my full pattern review is here). This fabric (from my favorite place) may not have been the right choice for it – it’s what I can only assume is a matte jersey, because it’s a heavyish knit with hardly any stretch, but it’s certainly poly because it’s very slippery and very staticky. I thought it would drape well because of the weight, and it does okay, but I’m pretty sure the shoulder pleats that shape the cowls would work better in a lighter knit. With this fabric, they just make the shoulder seams really heavy. I also think I attached the back neck strap wrong (okay, I know I did), since I attached it when the instructions suggested, thought it wouldn’t work and ripped it out, then reattached it later in a haphazard fashion when it became clear it was really necessary (the weight of the sleeves pulled the shoulders down almost to my elbows!). In the back view, you can see it sits way too high, but I’m not sure if that’s where it’s drafted to sit or if I did that when I reattached it.

The print is pretty bold, though I love the colors, and it benefits from being broken up at the waist with a fat belt. I love the obi belt idea, but I don’t think I managed to execute it quite right. I just used basic quilter’s cotton from Jo Ann and terrible Pellon interfacing, and it’s either too stiff or not stiff enough, I can’t tell.  I like the shape, though next time I’ll make it an inch less wide (it’s 5 inches, and I think 4 would be better for me). Here it is on the table – though my topstitching is atrocious, don’t look too closely! (I wish I could say it’s because I was sick, but my topstitching is always dreadful…)

Overall, even though this dress is an almost, I think I may still try to find an occasion to wear it, and I am interested in giving the pattern another try in an ITY or something more suitable. But it’s done!
I was also able, in my time off, to make good progress on a messenger bag tutorial I’m hoping to post next week. And I also may have spent an hour and a half at my local sewing machine shop and walked out with a totally awesome new (old) machine! More to come on that as well, stay tuned…

I have almost completed a dress, which I intended to wear for opening night tomorrow, but I’m more than a little afraid it might be crazy. I wasn’t sure about the fabric when I bought it, but it was only 99 cents a yard (yep, from here), and I thought I might be able to make it work. But now I’m not so sure…

What do you think? Is it cute, or does it look like I traveled back in time 30 years and stole an old lady’s curtains? Does it need a skinnier belt? Are the sleeves too much? (Not that I really want to rip them out and finish the armholes…) I wasn’t planning on wearing it with tights (I just had them on for my outfit today and I certainly wasn’t going to take them off for a quick photo shoot), but maybe with black boots.  Also, it’s not hemmed yet, and I don’t know if the hem will make it a more flattering length or if it will just seem too short. (PS, the pattern is McCall’s 6069.)

So what do I do tonight? Hem it and call it good, modify it somehow with no time, or scrap it and wear something else? Help!

While I did make a delicious corn chowder for dinner last night (recipe here), I must say that soup is incredibly uninteresting/unappetizing to photograph (or at least it is when I try), so I thought I’d post the recipe for my most recent cocktail obsession.

When we were in Hawaii, we had a lovely dinner at 22 North, where every cocktail on the menu sounded amazing and every one we tried (which was a lot of them…) proved to be so. My favorite had only four ingredients, which I committed to memory so I could duplicate it when we got home. Muddled tangerine, gin, ginger ale and something called “orgeat”, which I assumed was a liqueur until I inquired at our local BevMo and was directed to the Torani syrups – it turns out it’s an almond flavor. The technique, as I recreated it, is to put two slices of tangerine (I can get four slices out of a mid-sized tangerine, for two drinks) in a glass and muddle them (press the heck out of with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon or something) with a little ginger ale. Add 1-1.5 ounces of gin (the restaurant used Tanqueray so I do too) and ice, then top off with ginger ale. I do think the type of ginger ale affects the drink quite a bit, and I think it’s better suited to something lighter and sweeter than a Reed’s Ginger Beer, but gingerey-er than Schweppes. This one (at BevMo but probably elsewhere as well) is really, really good, but I’m sure there are others out there that would work too. FInally, add a little bit of the orgeat syrup (I really mean a little, like a teaspoon, otherwise the almond flavor overpowers everything else) and give it a stir. Yum. I really should give it a name, since I don’t recall what they called it at the restaurant, but the best I can come up with is “Tan-gin-ger-ale”…so I think I’ll just keep calling it “That Awesome Tangerine Ginger Ale Thing”, since that describes it best to me!

I have been stupidly tired when I’ve gotten home from work recently (we’re in tech, which means even longer than usual days), so my sewing production has basically come to a standstill. Of course, when I can’t sew, I plan, which means buying even more fabric and patterns… I’m terrible. I do hope to finish a dress for opening this weekend – it’s a “one hour” pattern, which means it will take me approximately 5 to 10 I’m-too-tired-to-understand-these-simple-instructions hours to complete (I have already ripped out one seam three times because I kept doing it wrong), but I’m hopeful!

What’s that? I finished something? Something practical, that isn’t for a special occasion, in a solid, basic color? And it has pockets? (Okay, that last one isn’t very surprising.) But yes, indeed, it is a versatile fall staple that replaces a RTW skirt I ripped way back in the spring – a simple brown twill pencil skirt! I know, I’m pretty shocked too.

It is Simplicity 2343 (sadly now out of print, not sure when that happened), a pencil-skirt-with-pockets pattern that I bought last year sometime because it was absolutely the kind of thing I needed to make. Of course that meant that things I wanted to make kept pushing it down the queue. It moved up when I also ripped my only other neutral basic (RTW) pencil skirt the other week, and was left with no practical brown or tan skirts at all. The skirt went together pretty quickly and easily enough (though it was delayed by my other half’s urgent Halloween costume need), and I was able to add it in to the work-wear rotation yesterday. (Apologies for the terribly lit pictures, they were taken before I left for work at 8:30a, not prime picture light time… as if it weren’t impossible to photograph dark clothes to begin with.) Here’s a closer, if not particularly clearer, view (that shows the pockets!):

The pockets are constructed the same way as the ones on the Lonsdale dress, so that was a familiar technique for me, and I like the resulting pocket on both garmentsI omitted the ruffled pocket trim on the basis of making the skirt a more neutral piece, and also because it didn’t seem to me that they wouldn’t end up sticking out funny and being weird. I cut out view A, which is the longer length, but in the dark color the length was kind of dowdy on me, so I cut off about 2 inches and I suppose I ended up with closer to view C (not quite as short as that, though). Even If I had left it long, I wouldn’t have needed the back vent for mobility because the skirt wasn’t particularly pencily in the back.  I took the center back seam below the zipper in a little before I hemmed to improve the back silhouette, and I probably could have done more. I also made a FWA (“full waist adjustment”), term and technique courtesy of evil genius The Selfish Seamstress (rebranding successful!) . Looking at the curve of the waistband, I realised that in no way would that look good or be comfortable around my no-waist, so I traced and slashed and spread the waistband pieces a little to get a curve more similar to the waistband on my Marie skirt, which fits me well.  Here are the original and altered pieces:

I probably should have used a heftier interfacing on the waistband, since after a full day of wear it had acquired a bit of a crease, but I so dislike interfacing that I always err on the lighter side. But it fits well! Ultimately, I could have gone one size smaller and been okay (I cut a 14, though I usually make a 12 on bottom – the measurements on the size chart freaked me out before I remembered you can basically ignore them), so it’s a smidge big especially in the lightweight stretch twill (from FFC), but I’ll take the extra room to avoid another skirt ripping incident. I like the pattern, and I do think I’ll make it again, though I can’t decide if it would work better in something heavier to give the front pleats more crispness, or in something lighter to make them drape better. Perhaps I will experiment… oh, yeah, right. I’m totally going back to making more exciting, less useful things.

You can find my full pattern review here.

It’s officially the end of grilling season… not because it’s too cold to cook outside, which is the reason most people can’t grill in November, but because it gets dark too early now to see what I’m grilling. While I’m always bummed out by the shortening of the days, it is great to get back to all my favorite fall cooked-inside recipes. These quesadillas were a discovery last year on the wonderful Smitten Kitchen blog – they have acorn squash sauteed with poblano peppers and onions, garlic and jalepenos, making for a delicious, hearty, slightly sweet compliment to the cheese and tortilla. The accompanying tomatillo salsa is fresh and hot and beautiful bright green (though fair warning, I was still tasting garlic for hours afterwards!). I love that all these ingredients are in season and plentiful at the farmer’s market right now, and this taste combination is so fall to me. The carrot slaw is a recipe I discovered this summer in Bon Appetit and have made it to go with all the Mexican food I grilled since – it’s delicious. Of course, I could add lime juice and cilantro to just about anything and think it’s the best thing ever… I made it with purple and orange carrots so it ended up being unintentional Halloween slaw!

Here are the links to the recipes:

Acorn Squash Quesadillas and Tomatillo Salsa and Carrot, Cilantro and Chile Slaw (and I always use about 4 times the amount of lime juice called for in the slaw.)

I was so close last night to finishing my brown skirt, but then my serger thread broke and tiredness got the best of me… I just have the hem left to do, so I hope to finish it up tonight and wear it tomorrow!