Friday, November 27, 2009

A Tale of Two Dresses-Part 1

I'm missing some chromosomes. Specifically the ones dealing with girly stuff like making a pleasing hair-do, accessorizing, and matching colors. I'm never sure if I look put together and I'm afraid this extends to dressing my little girls too. So with this in mind I decided to make a different dress for each girl from the same fabric which I pilfered from my Mom's stash. This way, I reasoned, they would be sure to match when they have their picture taken together. What could be easier? Bah!

I don't usually sew from a pattern so I foolishly bought a pattern for each girl in the size they wear when we buy off the rack. I started with Buggy's and even went down a size, because she is such a slim girl, and made a 3. The half-finished dress hung on her like a tater sack, there was so much extra fabric at the sides and the v-neck was positively indecent. I looked around for ideas and Lier fortuitously posted about slopers around the time I was freaking out. (I left a comment and she visited my blog and left me a comment, eeeeee; what a classy lady!) But that's a whole new skill set, which I intend to learn, and this project needed help NOW since I intended to have the girls photographed around the time my baby turned one ( 2 weeks ago, whoops). So I hauled out a set of sewing encyclopedias I found at a garage sale last summer and opened the Sewing for Children book.

It had several good suggestions, like not using interfacing on kids' clothes, so that step was skipped and the dress looks fine to me. They also suggested buying a pattern in the size that fits your child's chest measurement and slashing the pattern to lengthen it where necessary. So for Buggy, I need a 12 mo. size baby pattern (I swear I feed her)! Luckily, I had the pattern for my baby's dress, so I traced a bodice from that and added the details I liked from the girl's pattern, like the shaped v-neck. I used the girl's pattern as a guide for the length of the bodice and made a muslin from this:

It was a little snug across the shoulders so I slashed the armscye and moved it over about a 1/4 inch on the front and back pieces (purple arrows) and lengthened the bodice a little more (blue arrows) as Buggy is quite long waisted:

Here is the (almost) finished dress:

You can see in the pic that it really wouldn't have hurt to make the dress a little smaller in the chest. The underskirt was not part of the pattern but the pilfered material is thin so it needed an extra layer and this was my solution. I used a piece of white sheet (I should do a post on all the places I've used that sheet) to make a flared skirt and attached a strip of eyelet trim to the bottom.

Stay tuned for Part 2, the baby's dress, which I am feverishly working on now.

Have questions or want more detailed info about how I altered the commercial pattern? Leave a comment or, if you're shy about everybody seeing your question, shoot me an e-mail.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Linens

I don't do much entertaining, when I do its normally of the paper plate variety. But for this Thanksgiving I've invited family for dinner and I wanted to be able to set a festive table. According to Martha's checklist I should be ironing my linens in preparation for the holiday, but I'm sure that's just a suggestion. Why would I do that when I could stay up half the night sewing napkins and a tablecloth?

And why not take the time for photos while I'm at it so I can show all of you? First, I should say that this is a story of making do with what I had on hand. I had some flour sack dish towels that I had purchased that were NOT high quality and I do NOT suggest that you also try this with cheap-o dish towels because they were a nightmare to sew.
The first thing I did with mine was give them a bath in strong tea to knock down the bright white color so people wouldn't feel shy about wiping their greasy lips on them:

I cut the dishtowels in half and they were really a little smaller than what I had in mind. When making these I suggest that you start with fabric that you can cut enough 20-inch (at least) squares to make the desired number of napkins.
So then I cut 3 1/2 inch strips from my tablecloth fabric and cut the strips into sections the width of my napkins. One long side of each strip was pressed 1/4 inch toward the wrong-side of the fabric:

Oh, look how nicely my iron burn is healing (ick, sorry)

Then I stacked them up in this order:
-napkin (right-side up)
-trim (right-side up with the un-pressed edge lined up with short side of napkin)
-trim (wrong-side up and with the un-pressed edge at top also)
-napkin (wrong-side up)

I folded each over a little to give a sort of cut-away view:

Sew around the perimeter with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. At the corners, leave the needle in the down position and pivot the fabric to make sharp corners. Leave yourself a 3 inch hole to turn. Clip the excess fabric at corners, turn right-side out and use some sort of poker-thingy to gently push the corners out. If you lined all the pieces up right it should look like this when turned and pressed:

Topstitch around very close to the edge. Remember that pressed edge? Topstitch along the pressed edge of the trim also making sure to catch the pressed edge on the other side:

Here is my finished set. One for each adult plus a miniature for Buggy so she feels special too:
All that cutting of strips left my tablecloth a little too short (oops) so I cut some strips of dark brown fabric for a border. It ended up giving it a nicer finished edge. Yay for happy accidents. And here is the squash I was thinking of using for a centerpiece:

Hmm, you're probably right. It would be hard to have a conversation around that thing. But what, I ask you, should I do with a 50 pound squash? This is actually what I was thinking of using:

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Grown-up Cake

Today is my sweet SIL's birthday and I was flattered when her equally sweet SOP asked me to make her cake. It was fun to plan a cake for a grown-up, I hope she likes it. He (SOP) asked for a chocolate cake but I forgot to ask what kind of filling so I tried Chocolate Ganache. The leftovers were yummy so I think it will be tasty with the cake. As a member of the Church of Chocolate, I firmly believe there is no such thing as too much chocolate; lets hope they are also Believers.

I've read a few posts lately on other blogs in which people discussed "Why I blog" and it got me thinking about 'Why I blog'. Not just to trick you into thinking that I'm ever-so clever and so you must buy stuff from my Etsy shop (in the event that I ever open it), that is one reason, but I think the biggest reason is to share knowledge. I love it when I stumble across a trick or crafty goody that makes me go 'Ooooh, what an excellent idea'. So in that spirit I offer the things I learned on this cake:

I tried the flower nail method when baking the cake. That is, I put a flower nail in the center of the cake pans and poured the batter around it before putting them in the oven. This is supposed to help the inside bake at the same rate as the outer part nearest the pan edge. There was a small dome to cut off but I don't think quite as much as if I'd left them out. Probably Bake-Even strips are still the way to go.

I also learned that it is a pain in the keister to pipe chocolate ganache in a chilly house. I knew I wanted the color scheme to be white, pink and brown, but when I tried tinting the white frosting with brown gel food coloring it just looked like... well, poop (literally, even Mr. SimpleHeart saw it lurking in a bowl and said "what the *@#^ is that"). So I had the bright idea I would use the leftover ganache, but it kept hardening in the tip so that I had to hold it over simmering water for a minute to soften it enough to pipe. The first try looked so awful I put the cake in the fridge to cool the chocolate enough that I could pick it off with a toothpick. Then out came an off-set spatula and a cup of hot water so I could give the cake a shave and start over. grrr. Probably a technique best saved for milder weather.

Speaking of ganache, I didn't have cream on hand so I made it with evaporated milk. I used about 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/4 cup milk and that worked great!

This was my first try doing corelli lace and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I've tried it before on a practice board and it looked, um, wrong. Then I read somewhere that its like drawing a bunch of cursive r's and s's together and I said "ah-hah". It totally helped to envision that while I was squiggling.

I made sweet SIL an apron for her birthday. I cruised the Anthro site for ideas and made her a knock-off of a cute one I saw. I took a pic of me wearing it but... bleh. We'll have to see if she'll send us some cute shots of her wearing it so I can show you.

China Hutch Redo

How it all started:

Act I
Mr. SimpleHeart: "Would you like a china hutch?"

Me: "Yes! Wait, is it made of wood or pressboard? If its a nice wood one then yes, if its the assemble-from-a-box sort then no."

Mr. SimpleHeart: "I'll find out."

Act II

Mr. SimpleHeart: "Is it wood."

GuyatWork: "I dunno, I'll ask my wife."

GuyatWork's Wife: "It must be, its over 40 years old."

This is what I got:

The most surprising thing here is not that the hutch is most certainly NOT wood, but that my husband asked me in the first place. Anytime we are having a conversation about furniture I know he is only half listening because most of his attention is focused on the answer to this equation:

This is what I made from it:

(please pardon the photos, its November in Oregon so lighting is an issue, but I really wanted to show you)

The first thing to go was that enormous moulding sitting up there demanding to know why my appliances aren't Avocado Green or Harvest Gold. I found a piece of moulding with clean lines in the scrap pile and cut it to size for the top and bottom.

Next, several coats of cream colored paint and that was about as far as my planning went. Then Mr. SimpleHeart suggested spray painting the inside which made it an easy job, EXCEPT for taping paper over the windows. Imagine wallpapering a hobbit's house while doing the Limbo and you'll get the idea. I stood in the paint section for a looong time before settling on a champagne color with metallic flecks. When I started the project I really thought I wanted color but...

1. I was afraid the wrong colors on the hutch would limit the color of dishware I could display.

2. We're renters and our landlady has a penchant for those stick-on wallpaper borders. There is a different one in every room, no really, the cardinals from the Living Room run right smack into the apples in the Dining Room. We're used to it now but I spent the first month we lived here staring up with my mouth hanging open. So really, we have plenty of color for now.

Sooo, I stuck with pretty neutral shades. It looks a little olive-y in low light but its growing on me. Now I just need some really great hardware and I've got my lemonade.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sticker Shock Goodwill. I've been spoiled by the good deals at our local thrift store so nearly everything we looked at went right back on the shelf. I didn't find any great sheets but I did find a couple pieces of fabric worth bringing home:

the floral one is home decor weight which I like to use for making handbags. Because anyone who has been to my home knows that cream colored fabric has no business being used to actually grace the furniture. The print is quite large though, it would have to be a pretty big bag, we'll see.
At the store I thought the red-ish fabric was a baby cord but its heavy, more like a denim. There is about three yards of it (not bad for $2), plenty for a jumper since Buggy needs some warmer dresses.
It was a fun trip to the "Big City", including a stop at Joann's for some Mod Podge. What is it about that store that makes children lose their mind?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Like a herd of turtles

I'm making slow but sure progress toward opening my Etsy shop. One of the things on the to-do list is making some lovely packaging. I had two criteria: it should be reusable and lightweight (shipping is a bummer). I had that thought in the back of my mind when I saw this tutorial on making string from fabric scraps. I liked the idea but sewing them by hand and with tiny scraps didn't seem realistic (2 kids, limited attention span...). Then, when I was standing on my head in the remnant bin rummaging around like a bum, I came across this fabric:

Since it was a remnant I have to assume that other people bought the rest of the bolt. What are they doing with it? This stuff is seizure-inducing!
But I digress, here's what I did with it (and a sneak peek at a shop item):

I cut it into 1 inch strips, folded it wrong-sides together, and stitched up the middle. Then I put it through the laundry since I was after a homespun, frayed look:
I dunno, does it look homespun or like a kindergarten class project? I'm planning a thank you hang tag to tie in the bow, so it should be completely reusable when untied. Would you reuse a fabric string that is about a yard in length for wrapping up a gift or ... whatever?
(That is a skillet handle cozy if you're wondering; or if your mind is in the gutter)