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.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

2013 KDVS Fundraiser

Ah, KDVS fundraiser! We have our annual fundraiser to...raise funds (ahem) for operating costs (spare parts for turntables, CD players, light bulbs, and so on). It is one week long and the source of 2/3 of the annual budget; our goal is $60,000 and we need every penny of it. Lot of stress riding on this one!

Per usual, I sewed some things that will be given away as premiums to people that pledge during my show from 8-9PM on Monday. All of these things will be available at 8PM on Monday and not a moment sooner! :) That also means the links below will show up as "not in stock" before my show starts, but will be in stock after 8PM. Ah heck, just look at the crafts!

The 1st KDVS Record Bag
I'm quite partial to this color combo, it makes me think of water nymphs and stuff. You might notice that it is the straps and bottom are the same fabric as my playsuit from a couple of years back. 

A damask I've had lolling around for a bit, I made Cate some fancy pillow cases from most of it and have been working through the rest ever since. The yellow? Oh, you know...another playsuit.

The third (and final) KDVS Record Bag
It may look familiar from a purse some time ago...and a skirt.

A cassette holder, you can get at least 22 tapes in there. (bam!)
The salmon brocade is a remnant from Lucille's stash that was passed on to me a couple of months back. I love using fabric scraps! The fabric lettering is from a very foolish point in my life where I thought it made sense to buy fat quarters. (still living that down)

Since the bloomers take five yards of fabric, I couldn't very well use scraps (bummer) because I don't have five yards of anything laying around. Available is a variety of sizes! Size XSSize SSize MSize L, and Size XL.
DJ Sister will add the stitching later...
Yeah, so please call in to the show! It will feed my DJ ego. :)
Monday, April 22nd
8-9PM (Pacific)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Making time for sewing...Office Hours!

2012 was marked by an abysmal lack of sewing. We could blame it on a lack of pressing or interesting projects, or say that higher priority tasks and world travel edged out my sewing time, but it wouldn't be true. I simply didn't make sewing a priority. After the banner year of 2011 where I more-or-less completed a project each month, 2012 reeks of failure and smirks at me most unattractively. Stop it.

In spite of constantly proclaiming each January that I'm not a resolution-type person, I want to fill 2013 with the racket of my sewing machine and decided a resolution was the way to do it. My 2013 sewing resolution is to dedicate two hours* a week to sewing--I'm calling it my sewing office hours. Hopefully by giving the resolution/time commitment a pseudo-responsible title, I will not blow off my two hours a week or postpone indefinitely, or end up doubling up or tripling up my time commitment and invariably return to my infrequent sewing binge schedule. 

My first set of office hours was tonight since I had the flu last week (I actually did sew two hours worth last week, but that's another story). What can you accomplish in two hours of sewing? Well, not a whole heck of a lot. 

  1. Seam rip, cover, and reattach two straps for my lamb bag (they were starting to fray, stuff was getting real)
  2. Cut, embellish, and stitch two rice bags
  3. Sketch, do the maths, and start cutting fabric for my forthcoming fabric cover for my new planner
There it is. I suspect that in future weeks I will make it through some larger projects, or at least through parts of some larger projects. But here is to a good start!
*Two hours a week is a minimum target, not a weekly prescribed exact amount.