Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rainbow brite x the big tent

Cruising the remnant piles at fabric stores, I picked up this vibrant-as-dart-frogs rainbow stripey fabric a few months ago thinking "oh! toddlers wear bright colors?!" and this weekend was the week to act on that impulse buy (because seriously...who buys fabric deliberately? Please see: my cupboard full of quilting cottons #don'twannatalkaboutit)

Abs has this adorable chambray dress I picked up at a holiday craft fair (#don'twannatalkaboutitx2) last year and I figured it was time to act on one of those "make a toddler dress tutorials" that promises all kinds of instruction yet offers none whatsoever. You know, the sort that says "take a dress you already have and trace it, then fashion that into your own dress and remember the right way to assemble a dress because you are already a sewing pro"? Familiar? Helpful?

Turns out, those are less helpful unless you are legit a sewing pro, but let me highlight some of the positive aspects and lessons-learned of poorly tracing a pattern off of an existing dress (without disassembling it because I paid good money for that chambray fantasy):

practice using the rolled hem foot

I rarely have a chance to use this scaled-down piece of evil, so it was good to experiment a little bit on her ruffled hems.
Lots of curses, but actually one of the better parts of this sewing expedition. 
This sewing machine foot (the rolled hem foot) is a pain in the ###, but this tutorial offered some assistance.
The near one is the first one...I like to think I got slightly better from one sleeve to the next. 

I should use some patterns with instructions

I had to approach and re-approach the ruffled sleeves a number of times. Why? Because my brain forgot the appropriate order for assembly and I stitched seams in the wrong order. e.g. stitching the bodice side before I attached the sleeves. What? It is like I wanted to rip seams. urg. So, I should sew some legit patterns to remind myself of viable vs. non-viable assembly sequences. 
ruffled sleeves, waiting for action.
Round three of "how tha heck do I make ruffles part of this dress?"

Toddler dresses are remarkably forgiving

Bodice doesn't fit? Who cares!? Dress is too long? Who can tell!? Baby girl moves so fast that you can scarcely see my error (of which, there are PLENTY.) I'm feeling more positive about making clothes for fast-moving blobs, place your orders now.
What baby?

I'm a big fan of my daughter

She's the best. Seriously.

P.S. Dress=success. Pleased to use remnants from Mishunky's playsuit; zipper is a little sloppy, but Abs isn't judgy. At least one of us isn't...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Peter Pan, the real deal

The muslin worked out pretty well! Once Abbie woke up I wrested her into her new art smock/asylum gear. She was into it.

Fit of the muslin

First studio assignment: Montage!
You can see there is a lot of extra room in the torso. Like, room enough for another baby. I ended up slimming down the body of the tunic so it didn't swallow her, and was also less likely to trip her up when she was crawling about.

The collar was splayed out a bit more than I wanted, though. In the final version, I made the slit less-deep than I did in the muslin (and then had to deepen it not once, nor twice, but THREE times for that big-headed blonde I call my daughter. Three times! Her head is so huge.)The demo muslin also allowed a bit of testing with the length. This version had a lot cut off of it, and I was able to knock off ~3 inches from the length on the final version.

Not bad!

Fabric Choice

I have a mish-mash of green fabrics that were all close-but-not-quite for Peter I went off in a different direction! Leftover fabric from Jennifer's Easter Dress plus an overlay of green organza from wedding crafts (still!).

As a reminder, this is our end goal. I had nothing that looked like this for fabric.



The Peter Pan hat is actually more-or-less the Robin Hood hat. This mix-up happened frequently! I used this Tikkido tutorial to guide my progress on the hat, though it was really back-of-the-envelope for drafting. It was made from the same fabric as the tunic, not felt, which was cute for the costume but slightly more difficult to get the shape right. Anyhow, I was really proud of the feather, which was some red skirt fabric cut to a feather shape, frayed to mimic the appearance of barbules, Fray-Checked, and starched to stiffness. The starching part didn't play out exactly as well as I hoped and the feather flopped like an amateur handshake when I was hoping for more of a veteran welder's handshake. You know, it isn't the worst/floppiest, but it could have been firmer.


Something needs to cinch that tunic! I had hoped to affix a cardboard dagger to the outfit but ran out of time. Eh. Baby's shouldn't have knives anyways. There is not too much else that can be said about stitching a rectangle of fabric together to make a belt (leftover from this dress). Notably, it is made from the same fabric as the...


Pretty proud of the moccasins because these were completely a shot in the dark. Really. I looked at some pics, sketched them out based on how long Abbie's foot is, cut and stitched, and they worked. Total Hail Mary.

but how did it look?

So cute! It looked SO cute.

Yep, poor little thing already has trouble keeping her can covered.
More action! Plus a good shot of the feather.
Best. Peter Pan. Ever.
I kind of set the bar pretty high. I don't know if I'll ever be able to make another Halloween costume this cute, much less draft one from scratch. Heck, my costume this year suffered even because all of my creative energy was zapped to cute-up that baby. 
Dude. I am quite obviously a Roomba. Sheesh.
But what was probably the most fun part was using all those scraps. I love scrap busters. 

Since Halloween, I've been poking along tortoise-style on a Colette Violet in an incredibly loud plaid I've hoarded for years. All that is left is to finish the sleeves and bottom hem and pull the trigger on snaps or buttons and then I've got a shirt! And yet here I am, not hemming. *shakes head* Wish me luck.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tiny Muslins--Abbie's Peter Pan costume

I have a forced sewing break right now since I finished the muslin for Abbie's Peter Pan costume and she is taking a nap. This is what has gone down so far...

This is my only weekend to sew Abbie's costume before Halloween since we are out of town next weekend, and I have to start from scratch. A sane, non-self-sabotaging person would buy a Peter Pan pattern if they wanted to make a costume, or for the love of everything download something so they aren't set up for failure.

You say using a pattern is easier than winging it?

I actually did perform a quick scan of the kid patterns in my Ottobre stash but didn't find anything that matched my idea of a relatively easy-to-make shirtdress that could be a Peter Pan tunic. Which meant trying to draft something. Oh man.

Past attempts at drafting something from scratch have...not really happened. I kind-of copied a headband from another headband I owned and liked, but I think that is where my experience stops. By the way, that copied headband is mediocre at best. Hair is only partially kept out of my mouth.

 First: image searching.
Yep. That is Peter Pan.

Second: get distracted. Hey, I finally fixed my old grey jeans! And a pillow case that Wolfie partially ate ~2 years ago.

Third: Sketch and mentally map your sewing approach based on your fragmentary memory of making Chris shirts.

1. tops of bodice
2. attach sleeves
3. sides of bodice and sleeves
4. collar (make sure it is stabilized)
5. slash 3 1/8" down center front at neckline
6. should I have 4 and 5 before 3? Would that be easier? uhhh, forget it, stick with this order.
7. Wait, maybe that would be better? No. This is good.
8. Better add an inner neckline stabilizer between 4 and 5, or else it will look pretty rough.
9. Shoes? I can just swaddle her feet with brown fabric, right? She doesn't walk yet. Oh man, what if she is walking in two weeks? No, don't think about that.

Fourth: get distracted again. I'm hungry. This is the baby shirt/dress model for the drafting. It was my niece Stella's dress/shirt when she was wee.
 Fifth: draft, re-draft, re-re-draft.
Wolfie is helping. !!!

Also, I found a new purpose for the Sac Bee! Somewhat easier to work with than tissue paper, but dirtier too. Not to be used with delicate or light fabrics.

Sixth: cut and stitch and consider pressing.

I hear some light squawks from the next room, Abbie may be up! time to put her in a shirt dress.

Next decision, fabric choice. I feel like I should do something absurd with that since you have that freedom with sewing. Not sure though...

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A week of four cakes

Summer is drawing to an end and it is cool enough to bake again! I've been yammering about baking a cake for months but not acting on it because baking a cake is more of an event than baking cookies, which is pretty "whatevs" in my book. Perhaps it is because cookie making is more casual and can be done in stages--I have no compunction walking away from cookie dough after I've creamed the butter and sugar, but once I start on a cake there is a time bomb waiting to explode in your kitchen.
*tick, tick, tick*

Sunday: Cake #1 Genoise with Cherry Cake Syrup and Chocolate Ganache Mousse

I didn't want to make my normal foolproof go-to cake, well, it is foolproof and that is boring. The Genoise, meanwhile...I royally screwed that cake up years ago and never re-visited it. 
Fresh outta the oven!
My first and only Genoise attempt/failure was right up there with the infamous Vert Vert cake (never. again.1 Monet was apparently a sick man with an unhealthy butter fetish.) for a common-to-me reason: I didn't follow the directions. I did not grow up with sponge cake (apparently those also require cake syrups?) or any other syrup-requiring cakes so I ignored that part of the instructions and hated the dry cake results.

Lesson #2 of cake syrups: actually get the syrup to the edge of the cake.
Trust me on this one. I put a bad photo up simply to illustrate my point.

If you are also unfamiliar with them, a cake syrup is pretty much just a simple syrup plus your flavor of choice and lemon juice, and the Genoise is flaky and disappointingly crunchy without it. When the cookbook tells you the cake needs a cake syrup, by golly it does.  This time I dutifully followed all of the instructions and made a cake syrup with some Heering Cherry Liqueur we had on hand because...yeah. How else are you going to use cherry liqueur? It is undrinkable. And cherry obviously goes with chocolate ganache. Obviously.

Sunday: Cake #2 Chocolate Genoise with Orange Cake Syrup and Chocolate Ganache Mousse

Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.
This cake was around when I figured out that my life might actually be better with a) a proper whisk, and b) a candy thermometer. As it was, I consistently scorched my fingers.

The internet instructions say, "Place the bowl over but not touching simmering water in a saucepan and gently whisk until the mixture registers 140°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 minutes." However, my cookbook says bring it to 160°F for a nebulous "couple of minutes. Bringing the mix to 160 takes ~over ten minutes, for sure, and at one point I even ran out of water in my double boiler. Huh.

After this cake was done, I determined that yes, I like the Genoise. It defaults as a single layer cake, which is nice because it is a more approachable amount of cake. When you make a two-layer cake you're swimming in cake for a week and eating cake in clean-up mode. Poor choices. Also, the Genoise is really versatile based on how you can change of the cake itself (e.g. this version was chocolate) or the syrups, or the frosting. And I quickly came around to liking the whole syrup aspect of it, not soggy at all!

Wednesday: Cake #3 Genoise with Cherry Cake Syrup, Lemon Curd, and Whipped Cream

There is no photographic evidence of this cake because I made it in a rush after work on Wednesday night, whipped the cream for the frosting the next morning, and actually frosted it in the break room at work. It was gone within 20 minutes of being frosted so...there you go. Instead, here is a slice of the chocolate cake (2nd cake of the week).

Saturday: Cake #4 Hershey's Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This was for Heather's birthday party so I had no wiggle room for goofin' or potentially screwing something up. I also wanted to spend some more time fancying it up since it is for a BIRTHDAY. And that biz is important! In other words, time for a foolproof cake. However many months ago there was some video I came across with fancy pants cake frosting techniques so I thought I would try that out, even going so far as to do the whole "crumb coat" thing. After the crumb coat had set for an hour, I tried the smooth frosting approach using Chris's bat'leth (Bialetti, whatever) and a Lazy Susan.
This is a warrior's cake!

While the Lazy Susan definitely helped, I may only use the Bialetti for high-drama cakes in the future; otherwise, a basic knife more or less does the same job.

After all of that, the cake looked nice but not whoooooaaaaaa! Luckily, I had also picked up some flowers to step this up to the next level. 
New territory for me! And yes, I washed all the flowers. :)

Notes about this cake--I don't think I would use coconut oil  again, stick to vegetable oil like they tell ya! Either that or all my frosting futzing somehow made it denser than usual. I choose to blame the coconut oil. So in other words, I somehow slightly goofed on the foolproof cake. Huh.

 1 While I say never again for the Vert Vert cake, I have been thinking of giving it another go--nine years have passed since I made Michelle a melting blobby cake for her birthday, maybe I can somehow make it work now? I'm smarter now, right?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Back in the sewing saddle?

Now that Abigail has arrived, there is a whole unexplored direction for my sewing goals—baby things. First up on that list was a boppy cover. What’s a boppy? Well, it is a little creepy looking...
In short, it is a weird partial donut-type pillow used for nursing. As Abbie gets older she’ll be able to use this weird pillow thing for developmental activities like tummy time and for support as she’s learning to sit. Of course, there was the option to buy the boppy with a cover (cutesy at best, foul ugly at worst), but I guffawed at that prospect since it was $10 more. $10 when I could easily make one myself?

And I could enjoy the guilt of procrastination (priceless)! Of course, then Abbie came almost three weeks early so I’ve been using this naked boppy with swaddling blankets draped over it because I couldn’t even find the sewing machine in the front room, much less use it.
Anyhow, finally got my act together and it looks pretty good! This was a good reason to use one of my many pink-tinged plaids for something I'll be able to enjoy daily. And nightly, for that matter. Thankfully this allowed me to overcome my sewing hurdle that has been in place for several months.
I used this tutorial/pattern and it is really quite easy, though I forgot some really basic sewing techniques, such as clipping the inner curve and tacking the zipper in place before I legit sewed it in. But after I remembered those tricks I felt so good about stuff that I sewed another cover so I would have one to switch out on laundry day.

Here’s hoping I’ll be able to keep sewing items at a good clip—especially since I’m hoping to burn through some of my stash to make Christmas gifts and save some money, though probably not save any swears. Fingers crossed!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cake a Week: The mission and the progress

One of the resolutions I made for this year is to bake a cake a week. There are multiple reasons for this, only one of which is the joy of being surrounded by baked goods at all times. I figured I have to live up to the title of cakemaker (only a title through my family, but still), eliminate some of my mental hurdles to baking, try new recipes, and to basically stop procrastinating. Simply put, it is probably a good time to be friends with me if you like cake. Here's the summary of January.

Week 1
Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake, as found in my Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook. Nothing to report there and no pictures (short-lived cake, ya know), but a durn fine coffee cake. Since we were short butter and yogurt (which itself was a replacement for sour cream), I subbed in olive oil and coconut milk, respectively. Super-recommended.

Week 2
Double cupcakes for CJ! Coconut and citrus yellow from the aforementioned Williams-Sonoma cookbook and Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, respectively.  The major lesson here is to take caution in baking 24 cupcakes at a time, because oven hotspots will become evident. However, I forgot to write down where our oven's hotspots are located so I will lose roughly 15% of my next cupcake harvest. Oven wins. Again.
Week 3
Your basic Hershey's chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, as prepared for Parks's taco birthday. This version of the decorative tacos (idea/inspiration here) was modified according to what we actually had handy--shells made of coconut caramels rolled flat, chopped raisins and dates for the "meat", coconut dyed green for the lettuce, and orange "cheese" frosting. I also had some fun with the Wilton's decorative frosting tips for this cake, super fun! (almost all decorations accomplished with tip 12.)
Lesson of the week? Move the pizza stones to a different oven rack BEFORE you put the cake in the oven; this simple move saves so much cursing.

Week 4
Another Williams-Sonoma cake, the Lemon Chiffon. Somehow I MURDERED this cake and, out of necessity, renamed it the Lemon Leather cake. Chiffon is supposed to be delicate and moist, but you needed a dinosaur jaw to hack through this disaster. I was cruising so high--woke up chipper and launched into making my weekly cake. I was separating the eggs to beat the whites then fold them into the cake to make it feather-y light whenChris came in and I started chatting with him. Next thing you know, I'd dumped the lemon juice and the lemon zest in with the whites instead of the yolk mixture; I panicked and tried to siphon off whichever was the top layer, but that...well, let's just say it was like resisting the Borg.
Midway through disaster, when I still thought I may be able to pull it off. Nope.
My next idea was that I would whip the foiled whites mixture as best as I could to make the cake light? Yeah? No. It ended up that whipping the egg whites and the lemon juice meant that the egg whites frothed and rose to the top while the lemon juice sank to the bottom, which sounds like what I wanted, except that I had already beat the living will out of the whites (they were only supposed to be medium peaks, not shellacked), so the damage was even further done. Oh, and it was supposed to be in a tube pan. No amount of glaze could save this mess.
Shortly before I admitted defeat.
 Well, maybe a little more glaze might have made it tolerable.

Week 5
Chocolate-Walnut  Cake with Caramel Sauce (Williams-Sonoma Entertaining cookbook)
This cake was tremendous and delicious and lovely. I should make it daily; especially because it calls for buttermilk and I love having the buttermilk cheat of adding lemon to regular milk--a very easy way to feel like you're pulling one over on the world.
The batter was so delicious the cake almost didn't make it to the oven.

The recipe called for store-bought caramel sauce (what?), so I stepped it up for my birthday and picked up Ginger Elizabeth fleur de sel caramel sauce. Totally worth the $8! At least, for a birthday it surely is.
Hi, reflection of Parks!
And that was January! Busy month, and my favorites are tied between the first one (coffee cake) and the last one (chocolate-walnut). Most humbling cake was easily the chiffon, that piece of garbage...never trust a cake invented by an insurance agent!

Thursday, May 1, 2014


I last posted here…a year ago. I may have lost the blogger temperament, since it no longer serves as a motivation to have somewhere to post projects; it started seeming like another burden on the list of to-dos. And I have a harder time sewing these days because I have a harder time on all fronts.

Three months ago today, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. In spite of our world being filled with wonderful and amazing things (like how I could grow such a perfect little person), Chris and I were also confronted with a terrible reality. James was born still.

James is our first child. To say he was taken away from me and that I miss him does not skim the surface of life now; to say that there are days you don’t want to get out of bed does not accurately describe the constant ache and confusion that is being a parent without your child. Nothing can touch that kind of misery and, mad though I was that I felt we weren’t warned about the possibility of stillbirth, nothing can prepare you for it.

Happy three-month birthday, James. Your parents love you.