What's Up, Cupcake? Menu

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Featured Friend! Dressing Mrs. Exeter

As a new blogger, it's so great to have support from the many other sewing/crafting bloggers in the huge blogosphere.  One of my first followers was Dressing Mrs. Exeter.  She has an amazing sense of style and lives in one of my favorite places, jolly ol' England.  Like me, she is new to the world of garment sewing and constantly has wonderful posts about her gorgeous creations.  Read more about Mrs. Exeter below and make sure you swing by her blog!

What inspires you?

Inspiration is everywhere, and the problem is all the ideas chasing each other around in my mind.  

A little bedside reading...

I'm inspired by magazines, blogs, books, TV shows, Japanese craft books, films, exhibitions, vintage dress patterns and of course, people I see on the street.  London in particular is crazy - virtually every woman you see is put together in a unique way and I find myself just STARING at people!   I like classic English style, too, country clothes as spun by such style icons as the (current) Duchess of Devonshire. 

Duchess of Devonshire

I also love the vintage movement - it combines so many things I care about - fashion, glamour, making an effort, dressing as expression, re-using and recycling.  I'd love to join in, but I can't pick a decade - from 20s to 70s - I love it all!

What is your craft space like?
Oh dear, I don't have one.  Our house in the UK is very small and there isn't space to have a dedicated sewing room.  I cut out and sew at the kitchen table with the ironing board up and steamer switched on.  Actually it's quite a nice room as there are windows on two sides, so it gets lots of light.  I have to clear everything away each evening, though, which can be a bit of a bore.
Let us in on your stash... what’s coming, what’s in progress, what are you stumped with?

I don't keep TOO much of a stash (honestly!) - I usually buy something with a project in mind, and although it has to wait sometimes, it usually gets used up.  I'm accumulating too many scraps, though.  Pieces useful for a hat or bag or something .... seems wrong to throw them away, but it's getting a bit out of hand.  

Simplicity 6685

At the moment I'm making a black suit from a fun 1966 pattern, but before Christmas I'm keen to buy some faux fur  (I read somewhere that Karl Lagerfeld calls it 'fantasy fur' - isn't that great?).  

Fur inspiration from Burdastyle

I like the jacket on the front of this month's Burdastyle, and if there's any left I think I'll try to make a fur collar as Casey, of Casey's Elegant Musings demonstrated recently.

What's your favourite craft to work with?

I'm a newcomer to garment sewing (although I have been making curtains and cushions for years), and have a convert's zeal!  At the moment I'm zipping from project to project without much of a breath in between, so I've not much time for anything else.  I do knit, but I am incredibly slow, and only do a bit when I'm watching TV in the evenings (just try to imagine my rock-n-roll lifestyle!).  I bought the fantastic vintage knitting book A Stitch In Time by Jane Waller and Susan Crawford, and I'm dying to make something from it when I finish the sweater I'm making now.   I've never learned to crochet, and there are so many gorgeous patterns that I am going to make learning a New Year's Resolution.  I love the cute Amigurumi animals you can crochet, too.

What is your favourite thing you've created so far?

It would have to be the jacket I completed recently.  I was inspired by Gertie's Lady Grey sew-along and her tutorials and one-step-at-a-time approach were really helpful.  It was by far the most ambitious project I've embarked on, and I wouldn't have had the confidence even to attempt it without Gertie and all the other people who posted about their own coatmaking (including you, Christine!).

Where can I read more?
Dressing Mrs Exeter (a reference to my age and not-quite-supermodel proportions)
I'm also just getting to grips with Twitter, where I'm @MrsExeter.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

What's been keeping me busy?

I mentioned previously that on my birthday weekend and ramping up to it I was swamped with activities.  I have some pictures to share from my Scottish Highland dancing schools' annual 'Extravaganza' which help explain.

Our school decided to do a theme for the first time... which ended up requiring a lot of extra work.  We did 'Extravaganza in Wonderland,' where Alice falls into Wonderland that is being ruled by an Irish queen who only wants all things Irish.  However the people of Wonderland love Scottish music and dance and are fighting for the right to do it.  We have a few dancers at our school who do Irish and Scottish dancing (like myself) so we thought this storyline would be a fun way to incorporate both types of dance.

Of course, I shouldn't pick sides, but a majority of the dancing I did for the show was Irish as I played the character of the Irish queen.  As my Irish dancer classmates hadn't participated in a show like this before, I had to help put together a few costumes.  In preparation for the show, I made:

Jig dress with the new orange jackets. Circle skirts and their sashes.

2 green circle skirts (for our Irish/Scottish jig battle dance off)
Assisted in orange sashes to coordinate with the skirts
Made a vest for my husband, also an Irish dancer
Made an orange jacket to wear with my jig dress as my 'queenly' type costume
Helped put together the 'trees' used as the backdrop for Wonderland

The back of my husbands' vest

This was all pretty time consuming but looking back, it was all worth it.  I loved the way my jacket came out, and I'm happy that I was finally able to make a vest for my husband.  He's been competing in Irish for a while and has always had to don the black pants, black button-up shirt combo.  The vest I made him is black in front but with a nice green satin back.  I can't wait for him to wear it at a competition.

And now, some pictures from the show:

The Irish dancers in their solo dresses

The beginning of the show. Outside of Wonderland.

Alice is about to enter Wonderland

Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum. A sailor's hornpipe choreography

The flowers dancing a Flora

Dancers in their Aboyne costumes

Mad Hatter's tea party/cake walk

Final character dance

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sweet Treats Saturday: Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I've been on a chocolate and toffee kick recently and decided to mix it up a little with some pound cake.  I needed something to donate to my dance school's bake sale and thought this would be a nice treat that wouldn't be too sweet or messy.

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen where they paired it with a strawberry coulis.  I omitted that step and stuck with the cake itself.

The cream cheese was a nice addition to this pound cake and gave it a flavor that differentiated it from the store bought kind.  I also loved the use of almond extract.

I baked this in a bundt pan where the top came out so delicious and almost caramelized from the sugar.  It was a great contrast to eat a slice with the soft top but crispy, sugar base.  I made sure to wrap this up tightly so dryness was never an issue.  I think this would be terrific with some fresh strawberries and whipped cream or made into a trifle.  Mmmmm...

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Go to Smitten Kitchen for more details and their recommendations on variations.

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) Philadelphia brand cream cheese*, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract plus 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 10-inch tube pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Alternately, you can use a 12-cup bundt pan, and simply butter and flour it.
2. Place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, increase the speed to high, and beat until light and airy, at least five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla, almond, then the flour and salt all at once. Beat just until incorporated.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and shake lightly to even out the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 hours.
4. Place the pan on a cake rack and cool for 20 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Aren’t you plaid to see me?

Do you ever find those patterns that just call out to you the second you see them? Not only, ‘I must make that!’ but ‘I must make EXACTLY that?!’  Vogue V8701 was that dress for me.  I was looking for some retro inspired designs at my local craft store to see what my options were outside of Etsy and Ebay.  When I flipped the page to V8701, I instantly jumped up to grab the pattern.

I love a good plaid dress, especially in green, so when I saw dress ‘B’, I wanted it, as is, on the spot.  Alas, I’ve never been successful at finding the exact fabric used (I think they do that on purpose).  After visiting a few stores, I stumbled upon a similar green plaid that I thought would do the trick.
I was intimidated to work with plaid due to the pattern matching, but once I got it in my head that this would be my Thanksgiving dress, I jumped to work.  It really only took me two nights to make.  One to lay out the fabric and painstakingly cut to match the plaids, and next to put everything together.  It was a really easy sew and I only had a couple of concerns along the way.  One of which was the fit of the front.  

The front and back panels of the dress only connected at the sides, not at the shoulders.  It’s a pretty extreme boat neck so the connecting factor becomes the sleeves.  This was the first time I had sewn a dress like this so the front panel darts seem to have a funny placement to them when I first started.  In the end, it came together perfectly with the sleeves in place.  I just need to add two small darts to the top back.  I’ve worn it without them but I think it’ll fit a little higher up if I add them in.  The deep ‘V’ in the back is pretty sassy though and a nice touch to the shape of the dress.

This dress was so much fun to wear and I received so many compliments; my favorite being ‘where’d you buy that?!’  That was great to hear as I always worry that when I make things they will look too home made.  And guess what? matching the plaids wasn’t too hard?  The difference in the top from the skirt just wasn’t possible, but I think it looks good.  I think I’ll usually wear it with a brown belt just because I love the look.  The skirt front and back are pretty impressive (if I do say so myself).  All in all, a fun dress and another easy sewing project.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Birthday Wishes

Thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes! I had a wonderful weekend celebrating and received some great crafty gifts to add to my space. 

I'm so looking forward to this holiday week so that I can work on the many patterns that are now stacking up.  I may have to take advantage of some of the sales of fabric and yarn going on as well...

Lots of updates coming, including:
- peak at the dance performance from this weekend. Just thought I'd share some pictures and maybe video of the beautiful costumes and work that went into the show
- finishing up a vintage dress. Actually, my first official vintage dress. Putting it together has been a piece of cake and the fit is fantastic! Can't wait to post the details
- Starting on another Colette pattern... working on the Roobios dress. It's my favorite pattern to look at and hopefully to make too
- Some other fun crafts inspired by the many crafting bloggers out there who have posted fantastic tips and tutorials

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sweet Treats Saturday: Salted Fudge Brownies

I'm a sucker for sea salt.  One of my favorite baking blogs: Bake of Break posted a recipe for Salted Fudge Brownies which sounded like my idea of a good time.  Even better, everything in the recipe could easily be found in my pantry.

Cocoa powder and unsweetened chocolate.

Melted chocolate-y goodness...

This whipped up together fast and came out sooooo fudgy.  It was amazing.  I literally had to pry the plate away from my husband.  He's never been a fan of sea salt on sweets (crazy, I know) but he agreed that the flavor and texture was the perfect compliment to the rich chocolate in the brownies.

Ready to go into the oven.
I prefer brownies to be fudgy rather than cake like, and this met that to a 'T!'  Melt in your mouth deliciousness.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Blind Hem Stitch Help!

So I've been interested in learning the blind hem stitch with no success thus far.  I'm hoping some of you fellow sewing enthusiasts can help with some of my questions:

1. I have the stitch options on my machine but not the foot. Do you have to have the foot in order to do it?
2. Do you have any sites or tutorials that you recommend to aid with this? I've tried following my machine's manual and some random 'About' sewing articles with no success.
3. When do you use the blind them stitch? I was thinking for items like hemming my dresses and skirts. Do I have it wrong?

Thanks for your help! Looking forward to your advise. Oh, and stay tuned for a delicious Sweet Treat tomorrow, and many more blog posts next week.  I've been ramping up for my birthday with tons of crafting but just haven't had time this week to post.  I should be caught up after this crazy weekend is over.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mad Men Peggy Dress

The Peggy dress is complete!  This is my favorite creation so far though it probably involved the most time, blood, sweat and tears. Well, not quite, but it did have a few hiccups along the way.

The top looks baggy but I think it's just the lighting. It fits perfect!
My inspiration: the original dress.
The dress started as a vintage pattern, Simplicity 5086, but as I had upsized it on my own, I wasn't really happy with the fit.  I decided to merge the concept with another pattern I had: Vogue 8667.

Vogue 8667
Simplicity 5086
Neither pattern had contrasting pleat colors, so I had to do some research on my own.  Luckily, the wonderful world of sewing blogs came to the rescue!  I used several in putting together various aspects of this dress.

Sew, Mama, Sew's blog post on how to make a pleat was amazing! This walked me through the process step by step.  The patterns I had could explain the pleat, but they didn't provide details to add a different fabric to it.  Sew, Mama, Sew broke it down for me.  These are the steps I took:

Marked out and pressed my pleat. Took a strip of the fabric to go inside and cut to fit.  (The red strip is shown before cutting to size)

Insert the fabric into the pleat, careful to keep the pleats' original shape.

Pinned the pleat in place and stitched the back sides in place.

The red fabric is now secure in the pleat!
After completing the dress, my hubby and a few friends agreed that it needed something, but they weren't crazy about the buttons above the pleats in the original dress.  I personally loved the buttons but agreed that I don't have the svelt curves that Peggy has at her waist.

I remembered seeing Tilly's tutorial on a bow belt and played around with a few variations.  In the end, we agreed it needed the bow belt as is.  Her tutorial was also great and very easy to follow along with.  Brilliant!

Let me know what you think! I think I'm going to have to save the first wearing of this dress for something special like my actual birthday or maybe turkey day.  I've already started on another vintage pattern that is already my size.  I think it will be much easier to work with and will hopefully give me confidence to one day revisit this Simplicity pattern to do the upsizing again.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

With my birthday fast approaching, I decided to treat myself to some vintage patterns from a couple of my favorite Etsy shops.

I decided to stick to patterns that didn't require too much tinkering (upsizing, etc) as I encountered some bumps in the progress of my Peggy dress.  I'm still new to the world of sewing garments, especially vintage ones so I wanted to stick with something as close to my size as possible.

I'm having so much fun making all of these girly dresses though! I picked up a few more...

And check out the envelope that this came in? I'm just impressed with the amount/variety of stamps that fit onto the envelope.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sweet Treats Saturday: Brown Butter Toffee Blondies

Fresh from the oven... Brown Butter Toffee Blondies

Since stumbling upon this recipe online, I’ve made it a couple of times with great success.  There are a few steps, but it’s worth taking the time to follow the recipe.  I’ve made the recipe both with and without the walnuts.  I personally prefer them as it really compliments the flavor of the brown butter, but if you’re like my husband, you just don’t like nuts in cookies or brownies. 

Starting to melt the butter. Make sure it gets to a golden brown, but not burnt.
When making these blondies, don’t forget to melt and brown the butter.  The flavor is amazing and it just takes a few minutes.  I almost missed this step as I was treating them like regular blondies when I first made them.  Luckily I caught the step before I mixed the sugars.

Butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla... all combined.
Brown Butter Toffee Blondies
By: MarthaStewart.com
1 1/4 c. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup toffee bits

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. 
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it turns golden brown; remove from heat, and let cool. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine browned butter and both sugars; stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Attach bowl to mixer; add eggs. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla, and beat to combine. Add flour mixture, walnuts, and toffee bits. Mix until thoroughly combined, and pour into prepared pan.
4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. 

Adding the walnuts and toffee bits.
I wanted to sprinkle some sea salt on top before baking but I couldn’t find it on my spice rack.  Next time...


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Unfinished projects challenge

With all of the crafting that I set my sights on, a lot can tend to fall by the wayside.  I learned to knit last year and went on a rampage... until the weather started to warm up.  This has left me with quite a few knitting projects.  One in particular has been nagging me: a scarf for my husband. 

He likes to wander around the house saying 'woe is me' to all of the projects I'm putting together for myself, my dancing or others, yet aside for some fingerless gloves, he isn't the recipient of many.  I promised him that I would make him a scarf... last November... as it has now been a year since I started, I think it's time to finish it.  Maybe in time for his birthday at the end of the month?  We'll see. Just in time, Fia Lotta Jansson blog has come to the rescue!  Sofie has posted a blog challenge to finish your knitting projects.  I have a few I'd like to enlist, but for now, I'm going to stick with his scarf. 

Here's a picture of the scarf in progress. 

I'd say I'm currently about 20% done (it's now a bit longer than the picture, but still a ways away).  It's a super easy knit, and a pattern I've done before, but if you get distracted it can be easy to do a weird repeat in the pattern, thus making you tink back to your mistake.  I will not let this scarf get the best of me!

I accept this challenge and will start working on this pattern again! Just as soon as I finish a couple of additional projects I was already working on....

Dancing queen

This November is a busy month for me.  It's my birthday month (woohoo!), my Highland dance school's annual performance, and a regional Irish dance competition.  Due to the dance performance, I've had to work on some costumes for our show. This year we're doing an Alice in Wonderland theme but of course, tweaking it to suit Highland dancing. How do we do that? Well the evil red queen is instead the Irish queen.  Guess who got that role?

Front of the jacket

I'll be wearing my Irish solo dress for most of the show, but we are doing an Irish vs. Scottish jig battle towards the end of the show, and I'll be wearing my Scottish jig dress.  In order to show that I'm the Irish queen, I whipped up an orange 'queenly' jacket.  I used Simplicity pattern 3685.  It was so easy to follow and a fast project to put together.

Back of the jacket

I'm pretty impressed with how it turned out.  I was able to test actually dancing in it at our recent dress rehearsal, and it fit perfect.  I'll post more pictures after the performance in a couple of weeks.  Now to keep practicing my steps!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Peggy dress success!

A couple of weeks ago I posted a request looking for pattern help to recreate the Peggy dress on a recent episode of Mad Men.  I received a lot of suggestions and was able to find a few patterns to help me on my way.  In the end, I decided to try Simplicity 5086.

I had to upsize the pattern a bit and as it was a vintage pattern in a smaller size, so it was my first time using Swedish tracing paper.  So exciting! I'm in love with the stuff and can't wait to use it on more patterns.  I traced the vintage pattern and then enlarged the pattern on muslin.  Sense and Sensibility's 'How to Resize a Pattern' article was a lifesaver!  Elegant Musing's Vintage Primer was also helpful in getting me ready to work with my first vintage pattern.

Tracing the pattern on the Swedish tracing paper.

I'm almost done with the dress and am looking forward to the final result.  I'm just working through the red pleats and then I'll be attaching the skirt... More to come!

Just a peek for now...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...