Monday, November 28, 2011

Help request

There may be a temporary dearth, or complete absence, of posts regarding new creations for a while.  I am full-tilt into Holiday sewing, and gift-sewing mode, and cannot posts gifts that haven't been gifted, yet.
I do, however, have one quick project looming that isn't a surprise, and i could use a little advice:

I am piecing a quilt top out of all Minkie fabric.  It's a pre-cut kit, that was on sale at a great price.
Because the Minkie stretches quite a bit, I am wonder how best to handle all the stitiching required for a blanket.
My options are:  my Pfaffie, with its incomparable walking foot; or the Baby Lock serger with Differential feed.  Because I am joining minkie to minkie, the differential feed setting ought, theoretically, be Neutral, but that may well not be the case, and I like having the option of making adjustments as I go. 

The serger uses a LOT more thread, and, since it's a blanket, ravels aren't an issue, so I can't really justify the expense, or added bulk.  But sergers go really fast, and -- well --  I like that!!!

Still, Pfaffie has never let me down, and she's all ready threaded with the right type/size needle and the right colour of thread, and the 1/4in. guided foot.

Since this was a pre-cut kit, I don't have any remnants with which to experiment, so I appreciate having the benefit of my readers' experience.

Any thoughts???

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sarahbelle's Superb MacCheese

Note:  This recipe, is the Gluten-Free version of my original, classic dish.  It differs from the original only in the grains used for the flour and the pasta.  Using traditional, wheat flour and pasta does not change any of the amounts, cooking times etc.    Easy cheesy.  {sorry. very bad pun.}
*Note 2:  the recipe calls for half-and-half, which I never buy.  I always have milk and heavy cream on hand, so why buy a third, seldom used ingredient??  If this does not apply to you, use half-and-half.
*Note3:  I like a mix of shapes.  Large Elbows are preferred by my family, and they come in a handy 1-lb. bag.  To that I like to add some farfalle. (bow ties).  I think it's pretty.  You should use whatever shape and size you like.


1/3 Cup  GF AP flour blend of your choice
1tsp Lawry's Seasoned salt
1/2  tsp  dry mustard
1/4 tsp  white pepper
 1/3 Cup butter   (NOT margarine  --  I'm NOT kidding!!!)
*1 qt. half-and-half
*1 1/4 lb. corn/rice macaroni.
Lots of cheese.
Lots of coarsely shredded cheese.
The details vary somewhat (according to what is on hand, in the fridge, or on sale), but one has some standards. (!)  here are mine:
Approximately 1 1/2 pounds, total, of which 1 pound must be Longhorn Colby.  [I am particularly fond of H-E-B's house brand, but if you don't live in Texas, you'll just have to do your best.], and 1 thick slice of Smoked Gouda, from the deli.  [I always have them cut 2 or 3 slices, to insure that 1 will actually go into the MacCheese.] For the remainder of the cheese, scour your fridge for leftover bits of Swiss, Cheddar, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Butterkase, Havarti, Fontina, Romano.  Avoid Mozzarella and Provolone as they tend to stretch a bit. On the other hand, if someone is coming to dinner that you don't particularly like - stretchy cheese can be funny.

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Butter a deep 3-qt casserole dish or stoneware baker.
In small bowl, thoroughly mix flour, salt, mustard, pepper.  Set aside.
Fill stockpot with 6 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil.  Salt liberally.
While waiting for water to boil: in heavy 3-qt saucepan, over med-high heat, melt butter.  When butter  has begun to brown, take it off the stove, and whisk in dry ingredients.  Return to heat, and gradually add half-and-half, whisking to blend smoothly.  Reduce heat to medium, stirring occasionally while sauce thickens.  [BTW:  you just made a Basic White Sauce, here.  Keep this in your back pocket for the basis of many great sauces and casseroles.] When thickened, use a wooden or silicone spoon to add appr. 2/3 of shredded cheese.
Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente (Italian: "to the tooth"  ie: firm), drain well.
In buttered dish, layer half of pasta, third of remaining cheese, half of sauce.  Repeat.  Mix all layers somewhat.  Sprinkle on remaining cheese.
Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until bubbly, and smell is beginning to draw a crowd.

I promise.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Piece-y Work

This little outfit for my sweet granddaughter, Emma Rose, came about during quilt class.

As previously mentioned, I am taking a block-of-the-month class at Scharmann's in Longview.  The blocks are coming along nicely.  The zig-zag sashing, triangle insertions, and and block borders - not so well.
In September's class, the instructor mentioned that 4 of the squares we were constructing would not be used.  Why construct them??    Let me explain:   These are made of half-square triangles (HST).  Made by cutting squares, then sewing two squares together, with 2 seams diagonally, and cutting between the stitching lines, the result is 2 identical squares made of identical triangles.

As soon as she said that we wouldn't need them, I asked if we were to save them for a future block (3 more months/blocks in the quilt, after all).  I was told no, to throw them away.   Throw them away????  Toss something pretty on which I have labored????   I hardly think so!    My mind immediately started churning with possibilities.    Embellish a throw pillow??  Book mark?  Kitty necklace??    Then I thought of how nice the batiks we were using would look against denim.   Knowing I had some denim in my prodigious stash, I set about mentally planning the ensemble.   With the squares sewn together in a line, it would be just the right length to embellish a little jumper for Emma Rose.  By the time class ended, I knew the jumper needed a coordinating shirt, and a piping border edging the strip of piecework would be just the thing.  I purchased a half-yard of the blue batik, which I really liked next to denim, and, after completing the block, I went to work.

I couldn't find a jumper pattern in Emma's size in my collection that I really liked for this, but I found the Burda for Kids 9829 that also had a great little shirt.  I know this will get used again!
I even followed the pattern's advice and added ruched strips to the shirt's front.  Cute, nes pas??
I debated about the very heavy, clunky ceramic buttons  --  they seem a bit weighty for so little a girl  --  but aren't they perfect with the batiks??
I can't wait to see Emma in this!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Another Weird Skirt & and a Great, Basic Top

While I was visiting Fredericksburg, TX  this past July, I learned about a great fabric store in nearby Kerrville.  Having never been to Kerrville, despite living in San Antonio  for 4 years, I decided to make the side trip.  The store, Creations, is a wonderful source of mostly quilting fabrics, but, also of garment fabric, patterns, books, and inspiration.  Plus, they have a shop-cat that fetches faxes.  He, alone, is worth the trip.

I found some wonderful rayon challis in a print to make of a pattern I had bought at Expo last year, and a coordinating solid for a top.  The wonderfully helpful staff talked me into buying a pattern for the top.  I can't remember the last time I paid full-price for a pattern!!   I drove away cursing myself for paying $15.00 for a pattern that makes a cap-sleeved top in 3 lengths, and nothing more.  It turned out to be totally worth the price.  Designed by the folks at The Batik Butik, the Kintamani Top & Tunic, is simple, elegant, versatile.  Designed to make the most of the very type fabric I had purchased, I shall, nonetheless, make this again of silk charmeuse, handkerchief linen, silk muslin, bamboo jersey, Japanese lawn, etc. & etc.  {yes, I know  -- that's redundant  --  you get my point}. Besides being a great, basic design, the pattern instructions feature some wonderful construction techniques, that will show up in many more of my garments - regardless the pattern's origins.  For instance:  for the neck facings, one is instructed to sew only one of the shoulder seams in the facing, (both shoulder seams have all ready been sewn in the garment), attach the facing from open seam around to open seam, and then sew the seam.  For a perfectly flat, round  neck edge, the traditional 5/8in seam might not turn out to be 5/8 in. Doing it this way insures a facing that lies flat, regardless the drape or 'give' of the fabric.  It sounded weird, but worked perfectly.  One caveat:  is is sized for extreme comfort  --  read:  BIG.  Next time, I shall cut at least one size smaller than the size chart advises.  That said:  it is comfortable!!!

The skirt is weird in both its design and construction.  But, you know, I like weird.
From L.J.Designs, the Chardonnay Skirt attracted me at first sight.  It drapes, it glides, it swishes, and it has a deep front flounce.  Turns out  --  the flounce hides the zipper.  Weirdest zipper insertion ever!!!
The skirt is constructed of one piece of fabric.  That's right:  one. So, when the info on the back of the envelope gives yardage requirements for 54in and 60in wide fabric  --  there's a very good reason.  The single piece cut on the fold means that while the center back is on the straight grain, the front flounce cum zipper is on the bias.  Now:  this gets interesting!!!
Careful marking of darts and zip line is a must!!!  You will want tracing paper for this.
When I got to the point of inserting the zipper, I read the instructions through several times, not quite comprehending.  When am I supposed to cut the fabric for the zipper to open???  Eventually, I decided to just do it, carefully, step-by-step, and hope it worked out.  Of course, it did.  One doesn't ever cut the fabric, because each half of the zipper is sewn to the center front, allowing the fabric to the side of the zipper to cascade into the flounce.

Below the zipper, the fabric is left open in a de facto slit.   Greater modesty can be had by using a zipper longer  than the 18in one called for.  However, on me (I am 5ft, 7in tall), the opening began only a little above the knee, and the skirt is full enough to not ride up when I sit.  again:  worked perfectly.
My new ensemble is comfortable, colorful, and eclectic enough to be interesting without getting myself talked about too much.
I hope.
Well  --  maybe.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Of Cats & Sewing

Fergus is mad with me for rejecting his offer of help in cutting out a shirt for Emma Rose. 
He has turned his back on me.

I suppose I can cut it out later.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I love getting packagesl!!

Look what came in the mail for me!

This is all from Nancy's Notions.  The fabric is a wonderfully soft, drape-y, bamboo jersey. I have sewn with this before.  I love wearing it  -- it hugs, without clinging - it glides over one's curves.

The book is the real excitement:  (I nearly always get excited over new books - College Biology was a rare exception)  It shows how to adapt a basic crew-necked, faced T-shirt into 14 different T's!! 

I can't wait to get started!  Which one shall I make first???

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Skyline Redux

Sometimes I am not quite as finished sewing a garment as I think I am.
Such was the case with the skyline skirt.

The first wearing of it illustrated 2 significant flaws:   1) tiny bits of the lace edged lining showed in 2 spots.  Had the showing been even all around, I should have called it a design element, and pretended it was intentional.  Such was not the case.  I had a spot of lace an inch deep X 4 inches wide showing in the right side, and another spot 1/4inch deep X 2 inches wide in the front.  Also: 2)  Despite what I thought were careful measurements, the waist was a little loose.

Fixing both were relatively easy, if atypical.  Typically, if a hem is too long, one turns it up and re-sews.  This may, or may not involve letting out the stitching of the original hem. This method does not work when the hem's edge is the scallop of a lace.  Another option would have been to remove the original stitching that affixed the lace to the lining fabric, move it up an inch, and re-stitch.  This method, however would have involved an act that is as anathema to me as playing with snakes, that is:  ripping out stitches.  I rarely do this, as I don't do it well.
Since this overall look of the pink silk-and-lace lining is decidedly feminine, I chose to add 2 rows of small horizontal pleats just above the top edge of the lace, neatly taking up and inch-and-a half of length. 
Pretty, non???

As for the waist - that, too, was simple.  I shored up my resistance and ripped out the tiniest possible number of stitches - sometimes there is simply no good alternative - on the ribbon band at one side seam (which is where the elastic ends were affixed), and removed 4 inches of elastic, and re-stitched the end.

All better now!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How Does This Happen to Me?

See the small spool of thread in the picture???   That is what I went to the store to buy.
See everything else in the picture?   That is what I brought home from the store. 

S * I * G * H

However, I should like to point out that the serger cone was 50% off, and matched the stitching thread perfectly (which I didn't expect), and, as for the fabric  .  .  .  Snakeskin print rayon challis, 64in wide for $3..00/yd.  How could I possibly have left that behind??

Skirt, or pants - what do you think??  I have 3.125 yds., and I'd love to hear specific pattern ideas!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Skyline Skirt, Ode to Basic Arithmatic Skills

I think the reason I am calling this The Skyline Skirt is pretty obvious (if not, check out the border design), but if I were more candid, or reveling, I might call it The Design, Re-Design as you Go Skirt.  Because that's what I did.
I bought this at Golden D'Or in Dallas several months ago. I was there with my daughter Varina, mostly checking things out for future use.  She had actual needs, which this deceptively huge, labyrinth of a a textile emporium meet more than nicely.  I had no real intention of buying anything, since I currently have more fabric and patterns than time to sew.  Then we went to the bargain section in the back.  Quell surprise!  I thought the whole store was a bargain section!  wow.  Seriously: wow.  No description of mine can do justice to this store's inventory or prices; you must, if you find yourself within 100 miles of Dallas, go there.  But go in the daytime.  Not one of Dallas' finer neighborhoods.

This fabric is a cotton gauze embellished with vertical lines of metallic threads and sequins extending from both selvages. At 60in wide, I figured I had some considerable room for creativity, so I bought 2 yds.  My original plan for this was a simple, tea-length, 6-panel skirt in which one of the borders would be the hem.  Later (inspired by a skirt I saw on Dharma & Greg  --  I love Dharma's wardrobe!!!), I decided to make the back much fuller than the front, slit the CB up to the knees, and add a narrow ruffle all around and up the CB out of the solid fabric that I cut off. (Dharma's skirt was a 6-panel with 3 rows of narrow ruffles at the hem).  Then I held it up to myself to gauge for length, and that's when things got hinky.

I discovered that the border was so deep, that to achieve the length I wanted, I could only cut off the other border - leaving no solid fabric to be ruffled.   H-mmmmmmm.   A quick perusal through 25 years of Threads magazine (AKA: the sewist's BEST print resource!!!) revealed several articles on  CB skirt insertions.  Then, I was re-inspired.  Instead of a ruffle/slit on a CB seam, how about a CB panel, whose border is pleated???  The more I pictured it, the better I liked it.  Now:  to cut it out.

Of course, this design existed only in my head. So the pattern would have to be drafted.  First: some measurements.  I knew that I wanted the CF panel to be roughly the width of my knees when standing with feet, shoulder-width apart.  I don't know how I knew this.  Somethings, you just know.  My husband took that measurement for me, and some quick mental math told me that that measurement multiplied by 3 (number of panels in skirt's front) would be just about right for half of my hip measurement + a little ease. [Note how I am describing the measuring process without actually revealing the skirt's actual measurements, and thereby risking revealing MY actual measurements??  This is intentional.  Try and keep up.]

I wanted the back to be much fuller, and, I abhor waste, so I cut the CB panel to the same measurement as front panels, and used the remaining fabric for the flanking back panels.  I wanted a sleek, straight-ish look in the front, with a few surprises in the back. As my waist is, so far, smaller than my hips, I took the difference between those two measurements, divided by  12 (number of seam allowances), added 3/4 in to that, and reduced each seam allowance the resulting number at the waist, narrowing to 0, at fullest point of hips.  Taken step-by-step, this is easier than I just made it sound.  Then I cut off the border from the bottom  of the CB panel, and cut a piece of the leftover border from the first cut that was 4 times the length of the piece I had removed.  I don't know why I thought I would be reducing the width by 1/4.  I had several inches of fabric leftover! I must have been tired.

I pleated the fabric unevenly, because the embroidered lines are uneven, and I thought that was more interesting.  (maybe that explains why my math was off in the amount needed for pleating!).  Here is the  panel, during the pleating process.

At this point, I realized that the fabric was much more sheer than I originally realized, and I wanted to line it.  Unable to find a lining color that matched this funky brown/taupe, I went with pink.  why?  I can't really say.  Sometimes, these things just come over me.  Unable to leave well enough alone (or pretty enough  -- although:  when is pretty enough really enough???), I sought some lace from my prodigious stash to embellish the lining.  I thought this lovely, elegant ivory Leaver lace was just the thing, don't you? {Yes, I know -  no one will ever see it but me.  Yes, I know - satin ribbon, china silk lining edged in lace that serves only to put a smile on my face when I am getting dressed is completely impractical and decadent in the extreme.  Why, yes.  It certainly is.}

The lining was attached via serger, prior to finishing the waist, so the two fabrics were treated as one.  I faced the waist with a heavy satin ribbon (not yet pretty enough).  The front of the waist was stabilized by sewing twill tape to the underside of the ribbon, and elastic was inserted in the back half, easing in the fullness.

She is done.  What do you think?  I am wearing her tomorrow with a pale pink silk sweater, and gold kitty necklace I bought at the Smithsonian. (the necklace is a reproduction of one given to Jackie Kennedy when the First Couple visited Egypt.)    Classy enough for a Faculty Meeting??

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cutie Pattotie Birthday duds!

Happy Birthday Emma Rose!

I have not seen Emma since Christmas, when she was just 5 months old, so I had to do some wild guessing as to size, color/style preferences, etc.
Ottobre, and my local quilt shop, The Whistling Chicken, helped a lot!!!

When I saw this adorable ensemble in the Summer 2009 issue, I knew I wanted to make it.

It was in the size range that I guess Emma to be, so I only had to find fabric coordinates. Not a problem!!!!!

Carthage's local quilt shop is just lousy with beautiful cotton muslins (perfect for quilt-making, n'est pas?) that I thought would make this up beautifully. The toughest part was narrowing down the selection to only 3 fabrics. When I saw these, I loved the way the severe brown worked with he girly-pink, and the juxtaposition of preppy plaid, mod flower-power, and sweet tiny calico.

I added only lace to the brim of the hat. A girl's gotta have a touch of lace!

I love the Ottobre designs, and the construction methods. A word of warning: Ottobre assumes a level of experience somewhat higher than does most American pattern instructions. They aren't necessarily difficult, but they don't hold your hand through every step. If you are a beginner, you might want to have a more seasoned sewist on stand-by to help interpret.
But don't let that stop you from trying!

I shall post pictures of Emma Rose wearing her new birthday suit, as soon as someone takes them and E-Mails them to me. Ahem!!!!~

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weird new Dress or: Why I Like Weird

Truthfully, there may be no real explaining why I like some weird things.

Kosher dill pickles and Dr.Pepper when you are no longer pregnant?
A dyed-in-the-wool Southern Belle who hates Summer, heat, sweating, catfish and most fried foods?
An avowed lexiphyle who, nonetheless, says "y'all" frequently?
Somethings will remain mysteries.

I can, however, explain why I like atypical, eclectic, okay - weird - clothes: they can never be dated.

Haven't you sometimes had an item of clothing that you loved so much, you wanted to wear it forever? As long as it was intact, and still fit, you wanted to wear it even if it did scream, "1987". But you relegated it to the back of your closet, and the fond-memory portion of your brain because you knew that every time you wore it people would wonder why you were still wearing clothes that went out of style 27 years ago.
Here's my theory:
If you wear clothes that are artistic, outre, avant-garde, that is: clothes that never were mainstream trendy, or never were 'in style', then they can't really ever go out of style, can they?

Here is my latest foray into the artistic, outre, avant-garde style of dressing.
Vogue 1234, designed by Sandra Betzina.
Yep. This is one weird dress.

Sort of princess-seamed, but with bust darts. Pocket-like projections that aren't pockets, and, amazingly, don't give the impression of hips that are the results of a cheesecake-only diet/ never exercise lifestyle.
This was the strangest thing to sew I have tackled in a long time.
The instructions were surprisingly confusing. I say, "surprisingly" because one of the reasons I gravitate to Sandra Betzina designs is for the wonderful engineering, excellent construction techniques, and clear, understandable instructions.
The pattern pieces don't look like any typical pieces. They are narrow in strange places, stop abruptly, and jut out strangely in improbable spots, and it is nearly impossible to look at individual pieces and see the end result.
I did not find this in the least daunting. This was not the first time I had sewn something of pieces that did not make sense initially, or during construction, but worked perfectly at the end.
The instructions suggest labeling dots on the pattern pieces to be matched by a letter/number combination. Thus: 1A, 1B, 2C, etc. Then, when constructing, match correspondingly labeled dots by keeping the patterns on the fabric, until matched, then sewn. Okay. If that's such a great idea, why wasn't the pattern so annotated when it was being printed?? This pattern retails for $27.50 -- Vogue couldn't spend the extra ink to label dots according to the designer's instructions? I found the whole 'label and match' thing to be way too complicated and time-consuming. I kept the pattern instructions open and handy, and followed the pictures. No problems.
This actually went together beautifully, making more and more sense as pieces were joined.

I made it of a silk/rayon jersey that I ordered from Gorgeous Fabrics. Their name is not an exaggeration - gorgeous, indeed!
The pattern required a 2-way stretch, and I worried that my, frankly zaftig, body would not be flattered by a clingy knit. Not to worry -- this knit doesn't cling - it glides. It feels wonderful, resists wrinkling, and machine washes easily. I shall buy this again!

A word on the relative value of so expensive a pattern: It may retail for $27.50, but I certainly didn't pay that! For that kind of money, the pattern would need to contain more than 1 dress, with only a sleeve variation; or would need to have some very unusual sewing technique that I wanted to learn. I bought this on one of Hancock's sales for $3.99. Let me suggest that you sign up for their loyalty card so that you, too, will know of each and every sale. Vogue patterns @ $3.99 is not to be missed!!!

Next up: Birthday pretties for Emma Rose!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Clown pants (and a pretty top)

Yes, I know they look like clown pants.
I don't care. This pattern makes a pair of pants that is wildly comfortable, goes together quickly with next-to-no fitting, and is extremely adaptable.
I was first attracted to this pattern for its wearable art possibilities. I used the pattern's option of dividing the center panel into irregular blocks, and setting them cross-grain, straight-grain, on the the bias, and not quite any of those.

This was all ready figured, printed and cut, by the designer, Carol Lane-Saber. Another option would be to cut the center panel on the straight grain. here's where the possibilities begin:
1) center panels could be cut of a different color of the same fabric as rest of pants
2) center panels could be cut of different fabric as rest of pants
3) center panels could be print, with sides a coordinating solid
4) piping or lace could be inserted in panel's seams
5) panel's seams could be embellished with decorative topstitching
6) & beyond Whatever you can dream!

The fabric is one of those in my rather prodigious stash that I should like to tell you about, but can't. I am sure I didn't buy this fabric, because I think I would remember choosing something this bold. I think I would only buy something this distinctive if I had something particular in mind to do with it, and I would all ready have done it. I know it has been in my stash for several years. I could never decide what to do with it, but couldn't quite give it up, either. A burn test reveled it to be rayon, so I know that my mother didn't buy it - she hated rayon. The mystery may never be solved.

It was the blue that decided me.
One day a few weeks ago I wore a lapis blue sweater, and received 3 (three!) compliments before lunch! Each one saying, "That is your color!" I came home and searched my stash for some fabric in that color, and could only find this. One of the blue colors is the same as that sweater, the other blue in the stripe is a turquoise that I like very much. And so, the search for a pattern for this fabric began.
I can't really say why I thought that taking this busy stripe, and using it in an even busier pattern was a good idea, but somehow, it grew on me.

In my defense, I can only say that if those rat-bastards at AARP are going to persist in sending me invitations to join, thereby implying that I am old, then I am going to exercise the option of dressing like a crazy old lady.

Now for the coordinating top.
Again with the blue.
Thinking that the clown-pants were excitement enough for one ensemble, I wanted a top that was a little more subdued.
I bought this pattern, designed by Lyla J Messinger, at Sewing & Stitchery Expo last March, and have been looking for the perfect opportunity to make it up.
Now that I have, I am brimming with ideas for making it again, but differently. [stay tuned - next time, there might be colour-coordinating lace at the edges!]
Made of rayon chiffon in the two blue stripes found in the clown pants, this pattern went together quickly, and easily. I constructed it all of French seams, and used my Pfaff for the rolled hem.
The rolled hem could have been done a little more quickly on the serger, but that incorporates a lot of thread into the hem, and, as the fabric was very lightweight, and the hem cut, in parts, on the bias, I didn't want to risk a lettuce-edged effect. Pfaffie did not let me down!

Next up: a truly eclectic, crazy-old-lady dress of a lilac/blue silk jersey. Take that, AARP!!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why Quilters sometimes Sew.

I am currently taking a Block-of-the-Month class at Scharmann's Sewing in Longview. The gorgeous fabric collection selected for this quilt is all batik, called Tonga Rhapsody.

I have always loved batiks. Everything from traditional 1-colour wax-relief batiks, to the myriad of multi-coloured batik-style prints that are currently en vogue - I love them all.

A couple of months ago, when our block kits contained a new batik of mostly purples, corals and black; I took one look at 'Fig' and said, "Skirt!" The class thought I was nuts. [The preacher's wife in the class thought I had Tourrette's, and was simply grateful that I hadn't uttered something a little more classically Tourrette-like, but, I digress] They are getting used to my brand of nuttiness, so the instructor merely replied, "It's available by the yard."

It took a while to decide which skirt to make, and, although I have several recently-purchased skirt patterns that I haven't used yet, this New Look favorite from 1990 was selected. I chose the view with the front drape, and pleated swag. I wanted something a little atypical. Something casual, yet classy. Something no one else would wear, but not because it's too weird. {Although a little weird is always good with me.}

This skirt works up quickly, and resents few problems. The one thing I did different this time around is the waist treatment.
I do not have the same body I had in 1990. Yes, some grading up of sizes was involved. I decided to replace the 2-in straight, stiff waistband, with a 1/4 in bias-bound edge. I am very happy with this adaptation.

What do you think?
I can't wait to see this fabric made up into a quilt!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Duckies and a Onesie

The other 2 fabrics that were mentioned in the previous post, are now sewn up and on their way to a new home.

One of the fabrics was a long and wide length of super-soft cotton interlock that has little rubber duckies on it. I bought it to make a dress for Emma Rose, but as you see, it was enough to get a dress, pants, and ducky applique. There was still nearly a yard left over that is gone to Emma's Aunt Katie who will make something wonderful for Myra of it.

The dress and pants patterns are from Burda Issue 12/2006. The pattern directed me to sew buttons at the top of each godet insertion on the front, but I thought embroidered duckies were a better idea. That success inspired the ducky applique on the coordinating top. Sometimes, I just don't know when to stop myself.

Of course, the ensemble wasn't complete without an actual rubber ducky. When Fergus tires of playing with it, I'll send it on to Emma. I will. Really.

Also, at a deep discount was this darling little pink/purple/yellow bug print. Whilst visiting Myra's mommy, I found the perfect pattern to use for it: from the recent issue of Ottobre, I found this wonderful onsie-with-skirt. Seriously: how cute is that???

Binding made of coordinating hot pink interlock finished the garment, but the outfit was completed with the addition of hot pink sandals, and hot pink, sparkly shades.
Emma will be so chic!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

$2.00 Outfit --- $2.00!!!!!

I pretty much always love sewing something cute for my adorable grandchildren, but how great is it when I can make something for them with so little money!?!?

This outfit for Brody began with a trip to Jo-Ann's for zippers to replace 2 that had broken. I went to Jo-Ann's for zippers. Just zippers. Really. I only needed zippers.

Alas, the Clearance section in the back of the store beckoned me. Haven't you ever had that happen?? Here I was, headed to the checkout with my 2 zippers, when a small, yet insistent voice could be heard from the back of the store, "Sar - ah. Sar r-r-r-ah! We have bargains back here." It would have been rude to not go and look.

I found 3 super-cute cotton interlock prints that needed to be children's tops/dresses. 2 of them will be outfits for Emma Rose (to be blogged about on completion), but this little print wanted to be part of a new short set for Brody. It told me so.

The fabric was $3.00/yd., but I only needed 1/2 to 3/4 of a yard to get Brody a shirt. Allowing for the possibility of shrinkage, I bought 3/4 yard. After deducting my professional discount, and adding tax, I paid just under $2.00. There was no shrinkage, and it was much wider than needed, so Katie (of will likely get a shirt for Duncan out of the remnants.
The pattern, thread, and ribbing were all ready on hand - remnants of sweatshirts/T's made long ago - and so, cost nothing.
The shirt wanted a cute pair of shorts to go with it, so I rummaged through my stash and found a great length of linen/rayon gabardine that I bought to make a skirt or pants for myself of. I haven't decided what to make of this gab, so I don't really know how much I'll need; but it is a weird width - 58 in. - so I used the 13in. difference in its width and a standard 45 in., to cut a pair of shorts. That way, I still have plenty of length for whatever I ultimately decide to make. The thread, elastic, and embroidery thread for the shorts were all leftovers from other projects, so my only investment is the original $2.00 spent on the interlock, and a coulple of very enjoyable hours. It goes in the mail Monday.

I can't wait to see how cute Brody is in it!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Problem (s) solved!

Sometimes, completing a garment, or project, doesn't mean your are done working on it. (Sewing is kind of like husbands that way.) Such was the case with these two items.

The knit top is made of a cuddly, albeit bulky-ish bamboo. I love the colour, and the feel, but the pattern I chose had a little idiosyncrasy: the front facing would NOT stay put. I graded the seam, and understitched it, of course, but it persisted in rolling out at inopportune moments. I considered many possible solutions, but the best seemed to be the easiest -- stitch alongside the tucks through all layers of fabric.
I'm not sure I should have liked this solution had it been made of a print, or a woven-in design -- I might have felt that the extra stitching was too busy -- but perfectly matched silk thread atop a solid-coloured fabric is just the thing. I actually like the looks better, now. Win, win!!

Fixing this skirt was a little trickier, and far more frustrating.
When I finished this skirt I was very happy with it. I wore it frequently with several different tops, blouses and jackets. For an atypical design, and busy print, it is surprisingly versatile. Yes, I was very happy with it -- until the zipper burst as I was putting it on last week. For this fix, a replacement zipper should have been all that was needed; and would have been, if a simple replacement is what I had done. Oh, no. I had to get creative!
Originally, I had installed the zipper, then assembled the lining, and attached it at the waist, hand-stitching the opening at the zipper to the zipper tape. Pretty standard stuff.
However, that hand-stitching was pretty labour-intensive, as the zipper tape is quite stiff. So, this time around, I decided to overcast the skirt opening and the lining fabric as one. That part worked great. But it left me with an inch at the waist on either side of the zipper that was, well -- ugly. Really, really ugly.
I tried all sorts of folding, trimming, turning under and stitching, and each maneuver made the problem uglier. I finally gave up and went to bed, deciding that I should either re-do the whole thing [horrible thought!!!], or resign myself to only wearing it with blouses untucked to cover it.
Laying in bed, fighting Fergus and Max for space (The cats won't sleep with each other, but they both want to sleep with me. Just my luck -- two guys fighting to sleep with me, and they are both neutered.), the solution came to me:
I could sew buttons on either side of the zipper top, and connect them with a little piece of elastic. All sewn by machine, the fix took less than 5 minutes to execute. Yippee!!!
Now I can wear this skirt with any kind of top I please! Although, I kind of like the looks of my fix, and will probably wear it only with blouses I can tuck in.
Which means I shan't be wearing it with the coral bamboo top I made to wear with it, as it isn't quite long enough to stay tucked.

s * i * g * h

Good thing I like a challenge!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It adds up to Quilting


It has been a while since I have blogged. Some of you may have thought that I quit sewing. au contraire. I was working on a project that is intended to be a surprise for my husband, who occasionally see my blog posts when they are cross-posted on Facebook; and, since the surprise is for him - I couldn't risk ruining it.

Most quilts have a story, a reason (a rationale, if you will) that the artist chose to create that quilt, with those fabrics, in those colours at that time. While I believe that "I wanted to" is reason enough to start ripping fabric, this quilt does have more of a story.

My husband teaches High School Math - brilliantly, I am told. A month or so ago, he was notified that he is receiving an award for his endeavors. One of his students was given the assignment (in AP English) to write an essay chronicling a person of influence in his life. He wrote about David. The English teacher submitted his name for the award, and a committee of august School Board members concurred. I should note that David, a retired Green Beret, who spent 2.5 years in Iraq post-retirement, and only finished college recently, while convalescing from injuries sustained in Iraq; has only been teaching for 3 years. This is his 1st year at this High School. Yes -- I am understandably proud of him!

When David told me about the award, I wanted to commemorate it, somehow. I remembered that he has a favorite saying, "We all use Math every day." He has this saying on a small sign in his classroom, (a bumper sticker, actually), but it is getting quite faded. I wanted him to have something more permanent, and bigger. So, with the combined help of my Elna embroidery machine, my Pfaffie, outfitted with 1/4in guide and walking foot, and the staff at Carthage's own, The Whistling Chicken [thanks, Diana!!!], I eventually produced this banner.

It not only features David's favorite saying, but I incorporated as many mathematical examples as I could. Featured in the piecework are: right angles, isosceles triangles, right triangles, rectangles representing 2:1, 2.5:1, 3:1, 3:2, 3:1.5 proportions, and squares. There are arcs in some of the stitching.

I'm giving it to him tonight, just before the Banquet. What do you think???

Fergus likes it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why sewists sometimes quilt.

Followers of my blog (at least those few of you who are not related to me by blood or marriage) do so mostly because you are fellow-sewists. Some of you may wonder why anyone who can fairly quickly sew up clothing - fashions - that can be worn out, shown off, embellished and enjoy publicly and privately might want to spend the considerable time (and money!) making a bed covering that will never see the topside of a red carpet. (okay, neither will any of my clothes, but the theoretical possibility exists!)
Truly, there are as many different reasons for quilting as there are quilters. Certainly the same is true for sewists. I can only offer you some of mine:
1) Creation/re-creation. There is something oddly satisfying about taking a lovely solid piece of fabric, hacking it into little bits, attaching it in differing ways to other hacked-up bits of fabric, and having, as a result, something completely different than any of the originals, but as equal or more, lovely than the originals.
2) Challenge. Saying that quilts are hacked-up bits of fabric, attached to different hacked-up bits of fabric hardly does justice to the plethora of innate talents and learned skills involved in creating something pleasing to the eye and touch.
3) Documentation/memories. Saving bits of the clothes you have made for yourself and your loved ones to later be sewn into quilts is a lovely way to keep those memories alive.
4) Expression. Few things say "I love you" more than tangible evidence of time and talent spent creating something warm, soft, cuddly and beautiful.
5) Personal satisfaction. There is an inestimable, and indecipherable "itch" in artists that causes them to be inspired to creation by seeing other lovely creations. As a flower or a sunset inspires painters, architecture inspires fashion designers, nature inspires architects, etc & etc, so quilters are inspired by each other. Towards this last, I offer the following image:

I received an advertisement for this quilt kit in an E-Mail, and immediately thought, " oo-oo-oo. I must make that!" Not: 'I must buy that' or 'I want to have that' but 'I must make that.' Yes, of course, I want to have it. But more than that, I want to make it. I want to hack up those pretty, pretty fabrics, and re-attach them in such pleasing ways, so that I can have both the pretty colors to look at, and the satisfaction of knowing that it is so, because I made it happen.
So, then: we are quilters, sewists, artists, creators, because we are hopeless narcissists?

I can live with that.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Party (mix) Time!!!

I was recently reminded of the fact that, when I started this blog, I said that it wouldn't be only about sewing. It would also be about food, family, kitties, and anything about which I care to rant. A co-worker reminded me today that, in nearly 2 years, I have only posted 1 recipe. Actually, what she said was (mouth full of Party Mix that I brought to work), "Sarah, why haven't you posted this recipe on your blog?" Okay.

But, first -- an explanation: I was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, necessitating an immediate and strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. That sounds simple enough. Don't eat anything made of wheat, rye or barley. But wait! Oats, while not a naturally-occurring source of gluten, is frequently cross-contaminated by wheat in the field, farm, and processing facility. There's more. Food manufacturers put wheat flour, wheat starch, hydrolyzed wheat protein in prepared foods that, if made at home, I should never do. So every label must be read at every shopping trip. (manufacturers frequently change formulas, or suppliers). Then there's malt. Malt is made of barley, and used to flavor many things from Ovaltine to Corn Flakes. [Need I tell you that dining out is a nightmare???]
I share this so that you will know that, henceforth, any recipe that appears on this blog can be assumed to be Gluten-free. Such is the case with my NEW AND IMPROVED Party Mix.

The Gluten-free imperative knocked me for a loop. I confess, I was seriously depressed for a while. I am now crawling my way back to some semblance of normalcy, and beginning to enjoy a smattering of this challenge. What follows is a personal triumph. It is an adaptation of Chex's original party mix - tweaked. It is undoubtedly the best Party Mix I have ever made!! Now, you can make it, too. Please note: when I specify a Brand-name food -- I am not kidding - it really makes a difference.

Sarahbelle's Party Hardy Mix

1/2 Cup Butter [NOT margarine!]
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce -- Lee & Perrins
2 scant tsp Seasoned salt -- Lawry's
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp Tabasco
4 Cups each Corn and Rice Chex cereal
1 Cup Gluten-free Pretzels
1 Cup Gluten-free Sesame sticks
1/2 Cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/2 Cup dry-roasted, unsalted cashews

In a 9 X 13 in baking pan, scatter butter that is cut into chunks. Place pan in oven while it pre-heats to 350.
When butter is melted and just begins to brown, remove from oven and stir in all seasonings until dissolved and well-mixed. Add cereals, nuts and sticks in increments, tossing well to coat with butter mixture.
Bake for 15 min.
Remove from oven, reduce temp to 325, stir mix well, return to oven and bake for 15 more minutes.
Remove from oven, reduce temp to 300, stir mix well, return to oven and bake for 15 more minutes.
Remove from oven, reduce heat to 200, stir mix, and keep warm until ready to serve.

Seriously. best. mix. ever.

can't. stop. eating.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Men's wear


I knew it had been a while since I had blogged, but I didn't realize it had been this long!!!

mea culpa

I have, actually, been working on several projects, but none of them are bloggable, yet. One project is a quilt-of-the-month club project, and so, won't be done until next January, or so. Another is a surprise for someone who reads my blog, and I wish it to remain a surprise, so --- no blogging about it. Another project is a skirt that is still mostly in my head . . . . well, you can see how all of this diminished the appearance of my output.

I did, however, finish a shirt for my husband, David.

It's really nothing special - it's a simple men's sport shirt. Not custom tailored, no French cuffs, no real fitting to speak of. It has only 2 features that are at all noteworthy: his initials are monogrammed on the left front pocket (chic, non?); and the inside features NO RAW EDGES. Okay, I am pretty fond of that last point. It was constructed completely of flat-felled seams, even the armsceye, excepting the hem, which was overcast and double-stitched on my serger. Have I mentioned how much I love my Babylock, lately???