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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The ‘Jumping in Puddles’ Dress

The Facts
Fabric: 3 yards of Japanese cotton print. On sale for $24
Pattern: Colette Parfait. Second use so $0
Year: 2009
Notions: 2 leftover buttons and red piping from stash, and red zipper $1.50
Time to Complete: 5 hours
First worn: January 21st, 2012. I paired it up with a cardigan so I wasn’t freezing.  I was indoors watching a dance competition all day.
Wear again: Yes!
Total Price: $25.50

Sometimes we do crazy things for sewing challenges.  Mainly, make a summer dress... in the middle of winter.  But I am in California and our idea of winter is most places idea of a cold summer day. Well, the Bay Area finally decided that it was going to do it's own take on winter!  We were having a wonderful warm spell when the rain finally started.  But that’s just in time for the this week’s theme - celebrating the opposite season in honor of our friends down under!  
It’s only fitting that the dress be Colette’s Parfait.  I made a version of this last year that was probably that dress that I wore the most last summer.  I thought I would save some time by having the pattern already cut out, but I probably used all of that saved time back up by the details.
I added a red piping to the middle of the dress and pockets.  I used Adey’s tutorial to insert the piping, and while it was time consuming, I totally love how it changes the look of the dress.  I also had two red buttons leftover from the last Parfait that I made, so I used them for the straps.  I left the buttons off of the pockets since I already had red piping on them.
It had just rained the morning of my photos and it was a tad chilly, but I put on my galoshes and ran outside to get some pictures.  I know, I know - California winters are wimpy and I have nothing to complain about.
I actually ended up wearing it for the rest of the day, but more sensibly paired with a cardigan and a jacket.  Luckily, I was indoors for most of the day so it was doable.  But I can’t wait for summer so I can wear this more often!

What I Watched: 
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Moulin Rouge (2001)
Sugar and Spice (2001)
Strictly Ballroom (1992)
The first two were more Oscars research. The third... I can't explain... it's a guilty pleasure. The fourth, I just love.

Creative Itch

Monday, January 30, 2012

The 'Petals and Prints' Skirt

The Facts

Fabric: 2 1/2 yards cotton $18
Pattern: Meringue from the Colette Sewing Handbook
Year: 2011
Notions: Invisible zipper $2
Time to Complete: 3 hours
First worn: January 20th, 2012
Wear again: Yes!
Total Price: $20

This garment wasn’t sewn as part of the Sew Weekly, but for the Sew Colette challenge being hosted by Miss Crayola Creepy and Rhinestones & Telephones.  Their challenge in 2012 is to sew all of the garments included in the Colette Sewing Handbook.  Luckily, I have this pretty little book in my possession and was excited to sew along with them.
As I’ve probably mentioned a few times in this blog, and as evidenced by all of the Colette garments I’m constantly making - I love Colette patterns.  This sewing book is also the source of my revelation with installing invisible zippers in my garments.  That being said, I knew that motivating myself to sew the garments within the book would be a challenge... I'm wise enough to not want to cut the patterns straight from the book insert, but I am so lazy when it comes to tracing patterns. But I couldn’t just cut them straight from the book! What happens if I want to make a different size in the future? I can’t just buy a new book each time that happens (though that would be very good for their sales).  So, I dusted off my Swedish tracing paper and set to tracing the Meringue skirt pattern.  A piece of cake considering there’s only 6 total pieces, 4 of which are small facings.

My final Meringue skirt, with my previously made Jasmine blouse
The second obstacle... I had a really hard time picking a fabric for this skirt.  With the petal base, I wanted something that would compliment it, but wouldn’t look weird.  This pretty much left me with the option of solid fabrics.  I wasn’t satisfied! I thought about doing stripes (like the example in the book), but I was worried about the illusion of width that might be created with vertical stripes. Alright, scratch that idea.  I was getting ready to give up, and just bypass this garment in their sew-along.  I was wandering through the aisles of my local fabric store... when... EUREKA!  I found this fun, dotted cotton.  The pattern was busy, but would still showcase the unique shape of the skirt.  And it was on sale!  Time to get cutting!

A closeup of the print.  It's hard to see in the photos. Oh, and the tag I made from some cupcake ribbon in my stash. Partially because it was cute, and partially because I'll never be able to remember which is the front and which is the back of the skirt.
I only needed 2 1/2 yards of the cotton, though it’s all cut on the fold of the fabric.  Oh, it made assembly so easy!  All parts of the skirt assembly - from cutting the pattern, up until the petal hem - took me two hours.  Once at the hem, I had to focus my attention to matching up the facings, trimming the excess selvage, pressing and then finally tacking down the inner facing.  That took the last hour of assembly.  It was a really quick project and so easy to put together.  If I were completely new to garment sewing, this would have been the perfect start.

The back of the skirt
Now I’m back onto my Sew Weekly garment schedule and getting ready for the next Sew Colette garment, which I believe is the Pastille dress.  I can’t wait!  Are you sewing along with any other challenges?

Also, I'm curious - those of you who have custom garment labels... where did you get them from?  I'm thinking about ordering some, but I see them so sporadically that I never think about it long enough to act on it.
What I Watched:
The 10th Kingdom, Part 1 (2000)

EDIT: My Meringue was featured!  Check out some of the final versions from the sew-along here:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Red Velvet Cupcakes

I love trying new recipes, especially a variation to some of my staples - like this Red Velvet Cupcake recipe from Brown Eyed Baker.

The main differences that I found in this recipe from other red velvets that I usually make, is the use of regular flour instead of cake flour.  But I didn't find the cupcakes lacking in lightness/fluffiness.  The recipe also made a perfect dozen, and the frosting was just enough to cover it.  So often I find recipes where I'm left with a big difference in the frosting to cupcake ratio, which can just get wasteful. Then I have to find other ways to make it match up (doing a half batch of one or the other), or just save some of the batter or frosting for a later use.

The flavor was delicious and the frosting wasn't overwhelming in flavor... in fact, it was just right!  So if you're looking for a new red velvet to taste, add this to your list!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
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Ingredients for the Cupcakes:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons red food coloring (I used a gel, so I only needed about a teaspoon)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar (I used a cider vinegar as it's what I had on hand and usually use for my red velvets)
Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin/cupcake pan with liners.
2. On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
3. In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.
5. Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.
6. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.
7. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cupcakes from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

8. To make the frosting: Using the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese on high speed for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl down as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium high and whip for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Featured Friend: Meg the Grand

You read that title right! If you've been following from the start (or peeked back into the archives), you'll see that I used to have a feature interviewing fellow bloggers.  Well, I fell off the wagon. However, since becoming more involved and interactive with other bloggers, I wanted to revive that feature and start introducing some of the other talented people that I follow in our online community.

So I return this feature with the lovely Meg of Meg the Grand.  Her contributions to the Sew Weekly and her blog posts are so fun.  She's a talented seamstress and always has great pictures showcasing her projects... and has excellent taste in tv shows.  Located in the Windy City, one day we hope to meet and have the ultimate California (or Chicago - I'd love to go there too) Accordion Sewing Extravaganza Meet-Up!  Until then, read on for the interview with Meg:

What inspires you?  
Colors inspire me.  While I realize that black, grey, and white are all completely necessary for the corporate environment I work in (I'm in Human Resources), I LOVE color.  Orange is my favorite color, but lately I've taken to wearing a lot of pink.  I'm on Pinterest, and my Sewing Inspiration board is full of things that I would love to make. Overall, I enjoy classic looks and curved lines - I'm a curvy person and I embrace that.

What is your craft space like? 
My craft space is an absolute disaster.  I wish I could say it was organized and I knew where everything was, but in the effort to be 100% honest, my space consists of piles of upcoming projects, refashions, pattern pieces that need to go back into their respective gallon zip lock bag, and pieces of fabric that just don't fit on the shelves.  It doesn't help that as I unpack boxes from our move three months ago, I find fabric wrapped around breakables. I don't know about any other sewing enthusiasts out there, but since people have found out that I am a seamstress, I seem to be getting fabric from all directions!  Between my Grandmother's old craft stash (an entire closet full), a woman's fabric hoard from her storage locker (approximately 8 garbage bags), and my parents and their friends (boxes every few months), I've been supplied with enough fabric and refashion items to last for several years.
Let us in on your stash... what’s coming, what’s in progress, what are you stumped with?  
I'm currently working on a jacket, a cape, two dresses, a robe and my Little Mermaid costume for the Disney World Princess Half Marathon.  I like working with a few projects at once, as you can tell!  

What is your favorite craft to work with? (Sewing, knitting, etc) 
Definitely sewing, though I've just bought my first embroidery book and I am so eager to learn!  I would love to start working embroidery into some of my outfits that I am creating for the Sew Weekly challenges.  

What is your favorite thing that you’ve created so far?  
It's a toss up: I love my snowflake jammies (I wear these all the time) or my flannel Annie Savoy skirt, but skill wise, I would have to say my Colette Ceylon is my favorite piece - it took the most effort, but came out exactly the way I had hoped.

Where can I read more? 
You can find me at  http://megthegrand.blogspot.com/ or onPinterest

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 'Polka Dot Party' Dress

Going Steady Dress from Shabby Apple
The Facts
Fabric: About 2 1/2 yards of black and white polka dot cotton ~$21
Pattern: New Look 6968 ~$1
Year: 2010
Notions: Red invisible zipper from stash $1.50
Time to Complete: 5 1/2 hours
First worn: For the photos, January 2012
Wear again: I’ll definitely be wearing this for a night out!
Total Price: ~$23.50
One of the great things about knowing how to sew garments is that you can make a lot of the items you would want for your closet.  Some of which I wouldn’t typically picture in my closet, or that I probably wouldn't go out and buy, but I’d still love to own them for special occasions.  This is the dress.  I don’t know if I have ever had a ‘wiggle dress’ in my closet, but I think this classifies.  And I love it!

The dress that inspired this is the Going Steady dress from Shabby Apple, retailing at $82.  The fabric is large polka dots on cotton that I believe I picked up from JoAnn’s.  But really, polka dot fabric is pretty easy to find, I just liked the larger size as it was closer to the original dress design.
The original dress was one top/bottom piece, but I used New Look 6968 as it had the same shape that I was looking for, in a fit that I knew would work for me.  The dress was simple to assemble, but the seam finishing still took ages. Sometimes I wonder if a serger would be faster than using my regular machine to overlock the edges.  I also used a zipper from my stash.  I only had a red invisible zipper in the right length, but luckily I’ve become such a pro at putting in invisible zippers that the only hint of it is the little red zipper pull at the top of the dress back.
So yes, this is my ‘sexy dress’ for a night out on the town.  Maybe wine tasting at the local wine bar? Maybe a dress for Valentine’s Day? I have a cold so I've been confined to the house, but otherwise, I can’t wait to wear it!

What I Watched: 
The Secret Garden (1993)
Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog (2008)
Gladiator (2000) (I realized I should start thinking about the upcoming Oscar theme).
Also, you will see that there is no rhyme or reason to what I decide to watch.  Whatever strikes my fancy! Can I also tell you that there is no better way to feel old than by looking up the dates that movies came out? Was Gladiator really 12 years ago?! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Getting Things Done

When it comes to my sewing and baking, I'm often asked, 'when do you find the time?'  I've been thinking about how I manage the amount of crafting that I do, and started to really formulate my crafting strategy after reading a post about how to follow the Sew Weekly challenges online.  

In case you aren't familiar with the Sew Weekly, it's an online community where 'challengers' attempt to make one completed garment a week, for an entire year.  I participated in a few of the challenges sporadically in 2011, but I really want to make an honest effort to keep up with it in 2012.  This has forced me to really plan out my sewing and figure out how to fit it all in.  

I store my project length fabrics on bolts - free from your local fabric shop. Just ask if they have any empty ones available. This helps me organize my space so I can find everything faster, and I attach a piece of paper with yardage details to each bit of fabric.

Here are some of the ways that I make it work:
  • I use a lot of pattern companies that I generally know fit me right: Colette, Simplicity. Though I do go off of the measurements for other companies (McCall's, Vogue) and know if I need to make adjustments usually.  When I don't though I...
  • Make muslins for questionable fits.  If it's a new technique that I'm really unsure about or a fit that I think might be weird, I make a muslin. But keep in mind, I hardly ever make muslins.  I'm pretty lazy about it and would prefer to...
  • Just baste something in place if I want to test the fit out. Then try it on myself or my mannequin 'Emmy' (get it? From the movie? Ok, nevermind).  If I see fit issues, then I'll take out the basting, otherwise I then sew it properly into place.  But really, I live by Emmy.  If you can, pick up a dress form.  I purchased mine on sale at JoAnne's.  If you sign up for their mailing list, they'll send you coupons, and they will let you know if there are special discounts on things like dress forms.  You can also make your own - there are a few tutorials floating around blogs about how to do one that is your exact shape.  I considered doing that before I picked Emmy up.  I liked her because I could adjust her size and add padding to specific areas that needed it.
  • Just baste something in place if I want to test the fit out. Then try it on myself or my mannequin 'Emmy' (get it? From the movie? Ok, nevermind).  If I see fit issues, then I'll take out the basting, otherwise I then sew it properly into place.  But really, I live by Emmy.  If you can, pick up a dress form.  I purchased mine on sale at JoAnne's.  If you sign up for their mailing list, they'll send you coupons, and they will let you know if there are special discounts on things like dress forms.  You can also make your own - there are a few tutorials floating around blogs about how to do one that is your exact shape.  I considered doing that before I picked Emmy up.  I liked her because I could adjust her size and add padding to specific areas that needed it.
Laying out my pattern pieces and reviewing the instructions ahead of time, so I save time during assembly.
  • I also try to get everything together for each project so I'm not scrambling around finding everything.  It's like my sewing 'mise en place.'  I have all the notions, threads etc, already setup.  I think Colette had done an article saying to fill at least two bobbins at the start of a project to save time.  That totally works for me.  I also try to do similar things at once.  If I have the pattern pieces and the instructions want me to only do one set of darts, unless I see elsewhere in the pattern reason to do it later, I will do all darts at once.  I hate doing darts so it gets it out of the way.  Two birds, one stone.
Two projects ready to go! All notions, interfacing, patterns, and fabrics are kept together when possible.
  • Veronica Darling also called out another method I follow too often. When hand stitching is needed, can I top-stitch instead?  I personally don't have an issue with the look of top-stitching, so if a pattern recommends hand-stitching, I try to avoid it whenever possible.
  • And finally, I watch a lot of tv while I'm sewing.  My husband has an extensive dvd collection that includes many of our favorite tv series/movies, and we get Netflix.  So over the course of sewing, I can watch and entire season of Buffy, or watch a couple of movies.  Whatever I'm in the mood for.  It's usually shows or movies that I've seen so I don't have to worry about sewing over my finger or spending too much time watching, but it gives me a break when I get frustrated, and is just nice to have going in the background. Speaking of which, I'm going to start listing out what I watched while I created a garment.  This is generally how I measure how much time it takes me to complete an item, though sometimes this number can be off...  Particularly if I get engrossed in the movie and taking a lot of sewing breaks.  
Two more all set. Now I just need to figure out what movies to watch...
In addition to all of this, I try to set aside time at least a couple nights a week to go into the sewing 'zone.'  I pick out my movies, think about what I want to make - sometimes pacing the room holding up different fabric to different patterns, etc, make sure that I have everything I need to make it (or make a shopping list if I'm missing any notions) - and get to it!  This is usually time at the end of my day.  After work, dinner, dance classes, family time, etc is done.  Sometimes I do this in the middle of the weekend, but I usually find that time flies way too fast when I do that, and I can end up eating up a whole day crafting.  Not that it's bad, but I'd rather spend time crafting time confined to when I would otherwise be sitting on the couch channel surfing.

Tilly actually did a whole feature on her blog about Sewing Productivity.  It's really useful stuff, including how to pre-plan your sewing, prepping projects, and getting into the right crafting mindset.  

What about you? What crafting tips and short-cuts do you have?

P.S. I finally figured out how to activate Blogger's 'reply' feature on comments. So now I can actually comment back appropriately! Bear with me though, as it only seems to work a percentage of the time. I'm trying to figure out how to get it to work consistently. I think it has to do with my browser settings...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Savory Sunday: Brie en Croute

I swear I don't just make dessert! I love to try new recipes for dinners, appetizers for parties, brunch items, etc.  So, in addition to the weekly Sweet Treats posts, I'm hoping to share a savory recipe about once a month.  I'll store the recipes in the Sweet Treats archive page, in case you're looking for a particular recipe.  Let me know what you think!

This recipe is soooo easy to make, but looks so impressive.  Everyone will think you put a lot off effort into this or that you bought it already made.  Regardless, it's a great party appetizer, and one that I make frequently.  There are many ingredient variations that you could try: sun-dried tomatoes, honey, etc, but first, you should try this sweet and savory version.

Brie En Croute
Recipe from Paula Deen
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  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, pre-packaged
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (8-ounce) wheel Brie
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Crackers, for serving


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Defrost puff pastry for approximately 15 to 20 minutes and unfold.
3. Lay the puff pastry out on a flat surface.  Slice off top of rind from brie.  Place the brie (rindless side up) in the center of the pastry.
4. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the walnuts in the butter until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon and stir until walnuts are coated well. Place the walnut mixture on top of the Brie and sprinkle the brown sugar over the mixture. 
5. Gather up the edges of the pastry, pressing around the brie and gather at the top. Gently squeeze together the excess dough and tie together with a piece of kitchen twine.  If you don't have twine, you can probably just lay over the edges of the puff pastry, so that the brie and mixture is completely covered. 
6. Brush the beaten egg over top and side of pastry. Place the brie wrapped in pastry on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes until pastry is golden brown.
Serve with crackers.

Bay Area Sewists Fabric Meetup

For the last year, a group of Bay Area members of the Sew Weekly community have been talking about scheduling a meet-up.  One of the members, Meghan, was nice enough to setup an official group on Meetup.com, that also reached out to other crafty people in the area.  The end result?  The Bay Area Sewists Meet-up Group.

We were already planning some future outings, but I was thinking about making a trek to San Francisco to check out the luxury fabric store, Britex.  I posted it to the page and lo and behold, our first meet-up was formed!

Britex, street-view. A four story fabric shop off of Union Square.

A cable car driving through Union Square

Britex is right off of Union Square in San Francisco, pretty much the heart of downtown.  I arrived a bit early and peered into the store windows in awe at the gorgeous fabrics on display.  I wandered around for a bit and by the time I returned, a small crowd had formed.  We did introductions and I was impressed by the number of people who actually weren't from the Sew Weekly group (considering that's where our original discussions started) but excited to find that there were so many people who were interested in garment sewing.  In the end there were about a dozen of us though a few left early while we were still window-shopping.  I say window shopping because while the fabrics were gorgeous, they were totally out of my price range!  Definitely eye-candy and some good inspiration - and it gave me an idea of what's out there if I really want to search (or splurge).  Alas, pictures were not allowed inside the store so I can't share the glorious fabrics.

The group post-shopping
Unfortunately I couldn't hang around for lunch afterwards, but it was great to meet everyone!  The group is going to hold other outings, including the mega-flea market that is known for their great vintage and fabric finds, as well as more shopping trips, fit clinics, etc.

I did pick up a couple of fabrics from their remnants/sale area.  I've already started one dress with the Japanese print (the one on the right).

My fabric finds
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