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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The ‘Pastel Pastille’ Dress

I’m sitting out a Sew Weekly challenge. There, I said it.  I’m feeling totally guilty but after last week’s romper fiasco, I remembered that one of my goals for 2012 is to make things that are wearable.  While I definitely have some items that could have been used for the refashion challenge (including that romper), I wanted to make sure that I’m getting some other projects completed that I’ve had on my list, and I wasn't ready to work on my refashion just yet.

With that said, one of the projects that I did want to get done for this week was the Pastille dress for the Sew Colette sewalong.  I’ve had this floral print fabric in my stash for over a year. I wish I kept my purchase details, but I don’t think it was too expensive, and I always shop with a coupon.  When I saw the Pastille pattern, I knew that’s what the fabric would be used for.  

The Facts
Fabric: Cotton print. I think I got it from JoAnn’s over a year ago but I honestly can’t remember the price. I’m going to say it was approximately $15 for a little over 3 yards.
Pattern: Colette Pastille from the Colette Sewing Handbook
Year: 2011
Notions: 2 yards of lace trip $3, 1 zipper $2
Time to Complete: 6 hours
First worn: This past Sunday
Wear again: Yes! I love it!
Total Price: ~$20

The pattern was really easy to put together.  The dress shape reminds me of the top for Colette’s Crepe dress, but in a non-wrap from.  Which is awesome because I rarely have 5 yards of fabric to spare.  The biggest challenge was the bottom pleats.

I broke up the ‘tracing’ stitching by doing the front dress panel first.  After I attached the sides, I made sure that the back panels lined up, and then stitched in the tracing seams.    I think this helped to ensure that the pleats were even when it came time for pressing.
The pleats were the most time consuming part of the process.  Just lining everything up,  tracing the proper lines to the patterns, sewing in the tracing stitches, assembling, stitching, pressing... whew!  I added a little extra feature to the dress by adding lace under the final pleat.  It just peaks through, but I love the look.  It just makes it a little more girly.  Because of the final pleat design, I took a couple of inches off of the final hem.

A little lace trim on the bottom pleat
I love how the dress came out! I’d been looking forward to doing it, but got lazy whenever I thought about doing the pleats.  Now that it’s done, I’m totally happy with it and glad I had the sewalong to encourage me to finish it.

What I Watched:
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Dear Frankie (2004)
I was on a Gerard Butler kick...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Stitches West and Knitting Idols

This past weekend was the annual Stitches West convention in Santa Clara, CA. I’m lucky that this convention takes place in my backyard, and that I’ve been able to attend it for the last three years.  This year was made even more special when I met my knitting idol.

I went with a group of friends who had never been to a knitting event of this size. That’s always exciting because they don’t really understand the intenseness that is Stitches until they really get there.  While they were getting situated when we first arrived, I ran over to say ‘hello’ to another fellow knitter/dancer friend from out of town.  While hanging out with her and waiting for my friends to catch up, I noticed that the booth behind me had Ysolda Teague’s new books.  I had Whimsical Little Knits 3 on my wishlist and was just waiting to see it in person to pick it up.  While I was purchasing it, the lady at the booth said ‘you know Ysolda’s just down in the other aisle right?’  I must have looked completely stunned because she followed up with ‘I’ve mentioned it to a few people and I either get excitement or this look of ‘umm, who?’  I clearly had the former.  

In Ysolda's booth with her incredible knit sweaters
After that, they couldn’t ring me up fast enough.  I hurried over to the next aisle and saw her sitting in her little booth looking as cute as can be.  I went in to have my books signed and tried not to gush too much about how excited I was to see her.  She really is one of the major influences that I had when I first started knitting. Her first two books were my first knitting pattern purchases and inspired me to try new things with knitting.

With Ysolda. Definitely a 'squeeeeee!' moment

After that, I was wandering around Stitches on cloud 9. My ticket had now paid for itself.  Oh sure, I found some other fun things - mainly buttons from my favorite notions booth, Nifty Thrifty Dry Goods.  They always have a gorgeous booth with amazing displays. 

A few pics of some of the amazing items at Nifty Thrifty Dry Goods

I also picked up a new knitting purse from Jordana Paige, who was sharing a booth with the lovely Erin of Bobbin’s Nest.  They had incredible Hazel Knits yarns on display. Unfortunately I’m so stocked up on Hazel Knits yarn that I still haven’t worked my way through.  It’s one of my favorites to work with, but there’s just enough hours in the day!

Gorgeous yarn and knitting from Phydeaux Designs

All in all, another successful year at Stitches! I didn’t buy nearly as much yarn as previous years (only one skein) because really, I’ve got a bit of a yarn stash problem that I’ve got to work through.  But it’s always great to go and get inspired by the incredible vendors.  Maybe I can keep the momentum up to get some needlework done before the 2013 convention?

Ysolda's had a fun photo booth setup
So tell me, do you have a crafty idol that you would love to meet?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sad Little Sheep

So I had my little dance sister over the other night and thought it would be a good time to play around with sheep cake pops.  I thought these would be a fun Easter treat that I wanted to test out ahead of time.  Well, little did I know this night would be known as the 'sheep fiasco.'

Now, I don't normally post my crafting failures because I didn't think anyone would really care to see them, but one of my twitter buddies said she would love to see it.  And it's true! Not everything comes out being a total success.  Every recipe I make doesn't turn out and some of my sewn garments I've never worn again (or you never see because I'm horrified by the result and the pictures should be burned).

Well, onto the sheep.

It started with the fact that cake pops do take a lot of time to make. There are a lot of steps involved.  They're generally easy... if you have patience.  Well, I forgot the fact that in between putting in the stick, you should refrigerate the pops to get a solid base.  We had made all the little sheep faces and cut the legs (chocolate covered pretzels), and I was ready to start coating!  My sheep weren't in the same mindset.  Between falling off of the sticks from the weight of the coating, to slowly being speared to death, they were a sad mess. Legs only made it onto one sheep because I realized the proportion was horribly off, and I was too scared that they'd be falling off all through assembly.

There were a lot of laughs and squeals coming from the kitchen.  Unfortunately there were a handful of sheep pop casualties, and in the end, only three 'made it.'  I need to revisit the process and do it when I have a full day to just assemble pops with the right amount of waiting in between each step.  Until then, I'll stick with regular cupcakes.

The one on the left only survived because we held it up with toothpicks, laughing the whole time.
So readers, let's hear it... do you share your crafting failures? Or are they hidden away, never to be seen again?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Pink Lady Cupcakes

It's that time of year again... the time when I start craving strawberry cake.  

Every year I seem to get this strawberry craving - maybe because I don't see strawberry desserts all that often?  I mean when you go out to eat, it's usually chocolate cake or creme brûlée or something along those lines.  But strawberries? Nope.  So time to bust out the mixer and make my own!

I think I actually stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest.  I was inspired by the idea of a pink cake with a mint colored frosting.  Unfortunately I was a little light on the colors - I could have done a bit more of both the pink in the cake and green in the frosting, but I still like how they turned out visually.  Taste?  Amazing!  I brought these in to work and dance class and both audiences were gushing over them!  The strawberry taste is subtle but combined with the cream cheese - sooo good!

Pink Lady Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
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Ingredients for the cake:
4 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pureed frozen strawberries (I thawed them at room temperature then pureed them)
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
1 to 2 drops red food dye, if using (to make the pink color pop more)
Ingredients for the cream cheese frosting:
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions for the cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 3 cupcake pans (the recipe will make 3 dozen total).

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point. (Deb note: I must warn you not to try the batter at this point. Not even a smear of it. How unbearably good it is will shock you, and lead to more dipping. Only you can stop this from coming to pass.)

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk and red food dye, if using, to blend. Add the whites to the batter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 34 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.

Directions for the cream cheese frosting:
1. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. 

2. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Craft Room Re-do

It was a big weekend for me.  Magic happened in my craft room.

Ok, well not that kind of magic.

You see, while I'm lucky enough to have a dedicated craft space, I was using a crappy, makeshift sewing table.  It's not just a regular card table, but a long table that folds in half, thus making it just slightly less stable.  That meant that while I was using my sewing machine, my craft table would be bouncing all over the place.  Literally, I had to hold my machine down with one hand just to make sure that it wouldn't be jiggling all over the place.  One fan of this was my cat, Simon, who would love to lay on my sewing table while I was using the machine.  I don't want to know why.

I started to wonder if there must be a better way to go about this.

My old craft table
I was shopping around on CraigsList when I remembered the affordable furniture mecca...  Ikea!  I needed something inexpensive, but functional.  I found the perfect set online and added it to 'one day' list.  That day came this weekend.

Voila! My new, beautiful craft table

My shelving didn't change much but it is a little tidier
We had a full weekend of dance competitions but mine was supposed to end pretty early on Sunday.  That would leave enough time to go by and pick one up.  What I didn't plan on? Another cold. Yeah, I managed to weasel my way out of the last one, only having the sniffles for a couple of days.  This one? Not so easy.  Especially after a morning of competing... I wasn't feeling so great.  So while we were in and out of Ikea in 10 minutes, I started to go downhill fast.  That's where my wonderful husband came in.  He put it together while I was knocked out on cold meds.  I woke up to find my wonderful new sewing table assembled and ready to be filled up.  Well, I'm still working on that last half, but I can tell you that sewing on it is wonderful! My machine no longer bounces around making tons of noise, and my sewing is so much less stressful! Simon did come by to check it out. I don't think he was impressed.  Though he did enjoy a nice nap on it while I was assembling my dress for the upcoming Pastille challenge.

Well, with the dance competition and work, I've been crazy busy, so sewing has been a bit limited.  I think I'm sitting out the Sew Weekly refashion challenge and just going to work on Pastille and the next couple of challenges.  I also have a fun trip planned for the end of March so I went to get some sewing in for that.  More on that later!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The ‘Sparkling Diamonds’ Romper

The Facts
Fabric: 1/2 yard black cotton and 2 yards cotton print ~$18
Pattern: McCall’s 6331 $1
Year: 2011
Notions: Zipper $2
Time to Complete: 5 hours because of the muslin
First worn: For the photos
Wear again: Maybe... see below for more details
Total Price: $21

I’m no Nicole Kidman, but when going through Oscar nominated movies from my collection, I had the genius idea to make a romper, inspired by her first scene in the movie Moulin Rouge!
I’ve been wanting to make a romper for a while and happened to have this one in my stash.  It was going to take a little work as it wasn’t in my size, but I could see the potential in the design with the front flaps that looked just like those in her outfit in the film.  I wasn’t going to make an outfit covered in rhinestones, but I did find this print that reminded me of the original garment.
The pattern was actually a Misses/Teen design so not only did I have to grade up a size, but I found that the romper had little room for my behind.  Which was funny because it had plenty of room in the bust area.  Are teens supposed to have big boobs and flat bottoms?  Well, this was one of the few times that I knew a muslin would be mandatory.

I increased the pattern by one size, but also added more room in the seat of the romper.  I also increased the torso length by an inch as I had a feeling it would be short.  Good thing - it now fit perfectly.  I disassembled the muslin and cut out my fabric.  In order to make the front flaps fold down in black, I actually lined the whole top portion of the romper.  It seemed to provide better construction and stability in the top.
Would I wear this again? Wellll... maybe.  I’m disappointed in the pattern overall though I think my modifications helped.  I think I’ll be more likely to just try another romper pattern.  Though I am thinking about making a wrap skirt to go with it, for a little more coverage but also to make it more wearable.  It’s a fun outfit but not entirely practical.  It’ll be great in the summer for lounging in the backyard, but the colors don’t convey a summer feel. 

So my original intent was to take pictures on a swing as Satine descended into the room on one.  Well, I didn’t account for a packed park on a beautiful Bay Area day.  Just as we settled ourselves at the swing area, a herd of kids ran over to use the rest of the swings. So it’s gonna be like that, huh?  Well a packed park of kids and their parents does not a comfortable model make.  So we went to a quieter section of the park to continue, and eventually retreated back to the house.

What I Watched:
The Tenth Kingdom (2000)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Cupcake Bites (aka Cake Pops)

I received the Cake Pops cookbook as a Christmas gift and knew that one of the first things that I would make would be the cupcake pops.  I follow Bakerella's blog and love all of her creations.  They seemed like hard work and I've never considered myself to be very good at decorating cookies and candies.  Sure, I can use a piping bag, but the whole royal icing thing has always scared me off.  Receiving the book as a gift was excellent incentive to actually try it out.

The cake pops in general are time consuming and will require some planning ahead - at least to have a cake ready made and cooled.  That being said, they're also very satisfying to make and a fun treat that's perfect for parties.  Or for taking pictures of for your cupcake blog.  And you can make things in advance to help the actual assembly and decoration go so much faster. So, check out her blog, and her book, and in the meantime, here are the details for the cupcake bites.

Cupcake Bites
Recipe from Bakerella
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1 box cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
1 package chocolate bark (or candy melts for cupcake bottom)
Colored Candy Melts
(for cupcake top)
Candy Cup Mold (you can get these at your local craft stores that sell baking supplies or cake decorating shops)

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl. (The texture should be fine/fluffy)

2. Using the back of a large spoon, mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)

3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls (make sure they are smaller in diameter than that of your candy mold) and lay on wax paper covered cookie sheet.
4. Chill in the freezer for a few minutes, until they are slightly firm, not frozen.
5. Melt chocolate bark and candy melts in microwave per directions on package.
6. Using a spoon or squeeze bottle, fill each mold cavity with a small amount of chocolate. But as soon as you fill the cavity, go ahead and place one of your rolled balls into it. Carefully push it down until the force causes the chocolate to push up and fill in around the sides of the ball. You may have to experiment with a couple to get the right amount. Stop pushing once the chocolate reaches the top edge.
7. Place the mold tray filled with cupcakes in the freezer for just a few minutes to let the chocolate set. Remove and then gently pull up on the cake ball top to release from candy mold.
8. Now, holding the bottom of the cupcake, dip the top in another color of melted chocolate.
9. Decorate.
Makes about 50. Store in an airtight container and they will last for several days.
Tip: I split my cake into four pieces and only used what I wanted for the batch.  The rest I wrapped securely and stuck in the freezer.  If you don't use the entire batch of cake, you will also need to adjust the amount of frosting that you use.  You want the cake balls to be able to hold their shape, but not be too moist or too dry.  You can find more tips on Bakerella's page, as well as in the book.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The 'Liar Liar' Pants

The Facts
Fabric: Approx. 3 yards red cotton with 2% stretch $12, scrap fabric for pockets
Pattern: Colette Clover Pants, 2nd time making
Year: 2011
Notions: Red invisible zipper $2
Time to Complete: 3 hours
First worn: January 2012
Wear again: Yes!
Total Price: $14
Oh yes, red pants.  After making my first round of Clover’s I knew I wanted to tackle the pattern again with a better fit.  While wandering through the stretch cotton section at my local fabric store, I spied this deep red fabric.  A few short minutes later and it was being cut up with my hands itching to make a new pair of pants.
This time, I learned from my mistakes and went with my original gut (no pun intended) size.  The last time I made these pants, I, for once, made a muslin, buuuut... not in a stretch fabric.  So then I graded up too large for my final version, and had some loose fitting pants.  But not this time!
I actually think they fit really well.  They’re definitely fitted, but comfortably so.  Ok, honestly? I think I love them.  I don’t think I’ve ever had pants in a fun color before so it’ll be nice to have some bright separates. Oh, and even more fun, I had some leftover striped cotton from the Anchor's Away skirt, so I used them as the pocket lining. No one would really see them as they’re flush with the pants top, but I know they’re there!

So the hubby might need to fight for affection this Valentine’s Day, because I’ll be swooning over these pants.

What I Watched:
My Fair Lady (1964)
Swing Kids (1993)

Monday, February 13, 2012

The 'California Winter' Tunic

The Facts
Fabric: 2 yards cotton print. This has been in my stash for ages and I honestly can't even think of when I purchased it or how much I paid for it. Oops!
Pattern: Amy Butler Anna Tunic ~$12 (on sale)
Year: 2010?
Notions: 4 green shank buttons $3
Time to Complete: 3 1/2 hours
First worn: February 2012
Wear again: Yes
Total Price: $15 and stash fabric

While I've named this tunic my 'California Winter' tunic, I don't necessarily think it will get much use this winter.  I just tend to do a lot of off-season sewing, especially when I'm stash busting.

While waiting for my fabric to come in for my next round of Sew Weekly sewing, I had some time to squeeze in a couple of non-challenge projects.  I was stumped.  I literally paced around my sewing room grabbing bolts of stash fabric and any patterns that I may have associated with them.  I resisted the urge to go out shopping for new projects... I seriously have so many that I could do just from my stash alone!  Though I have to say that I've made really good progress on my stash busting so far...

I finally settled on this garment because I knew it would be quick, and I have been avoiding making eye contact with this bolt whenever I saw it on my shelf.  I only had two yards of fabric, I already had the pattern - wham, bam, thank you maa'm, I can do this!

I love the buttons on the back of the tunic.  I was originally on the hunt for an orange button, but found these instead.  I'm a sucker for green so it wasn't too much of a sacrifice.  

So really, a fast project.  I'm glad I finally did it.  I think it's pretty cute and I don't really have anything like it in my closet.  The weather has been incredible in California, so it's tricking me into thinking I can start wearing Spring clothes already.

Have you started thinking about your Spring crafts yet?  

What I Watched:
Kicking and Screaming (2005)
What Dreams May Come (1998)

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