Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Roast chicken in cast-iron with pan gravy. Seriously good, and easy.

I make roast chicken a lot...about every week.  The best roast chicken I've ever had was at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.  After the meal, I bought the cookbook to get my hand on that chicken recipe.  I've made the chicken and it's great, but the recipe is picky, takes a long time (dry brining for days, kind of length), and you have to find a 2.5 pound chicken.  All in all, it's not a make-every-week type of recipe.

So, I fall for it every time a cooking magazine claims to have the "Easiest Recipe for the Best Roast Chicken EVER!"  The variations include cooking low and slow...cooking high and fast....flipping the chicken half-way through...shoving herb butters under the skin....etc. etc.  Each time, I am disappointed.  At our house, we like just salt and pepper, plain-jane roast chicken, heavy on the crispy skin.  My husband does the dishes, so for him, easy clean-up is equally important (so much so, that I actually tried using disposable roasting pans).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Linen shorts for my honey

I make lots of clothes for other people--the kids, especially, but other family members too.  After apparently feeling neglected, my husband finally expressed his dismay that I hadn't ever made anything for him to wear.  Sure, I made him a quilt when we were dating, but it wasn't that great (we don't even own it anymore!).  So I finally moved it up to the top of my to-do list, grabbed a pair of his favorite shorts (that they don't make anymore), and set out to recreate them.  Since I couldn't take them apart like I did for my own top, I laid them on "Pattern Ease" and traced the pieces.  They had this odd crotch gusset thing (not sure if there is a more appropriate word to describe this!), zip and button fly, side pockets and no separate waistband.   I'm growing to love the challenge of reverse engineering a piece of clothing, and the zipper was definitely something of which I feel pretty proud!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Congratulations to the Giveaway winners!

At dinner tonight, my sweet Kindergartener chose #99 (out of 146 comments) for the winner.  Congratulations to Jo--she will receive the lovely apron!  But...I couldn't NOT give away the diaper covers too, so the random number generator produced #20.  Congrats NinjaEema--she will be getting two custom diaper covers!

This was my first time participating in the SMS Giveaway Day and it was so wonderful hearing from so many people.  What a fun way to see all the incredibly crafty stuff going on in the world!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May Giveaway Day! Which will you choose?

Choose two of these.....
To celebrate Sew Mama Sew's May Giveaway Day, I'm giving away not one, but TWO custom cloth diaper covers!  These are wrap-style, waterproof covers to be used with prefold diapers and I'll make two in the size and color you specify (solid colors only).  To see the available colors, visit my Etsy store: Z as in Zebra and click on a custom cover.  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tutorial: Tipped burp cloth

I was "on-call" the day I was scheduled to have my labor induced, which means I just had to wait and wait (and wait!) for the hospital to let me know when to come in.  I can tell you, the call didn't come on the early side of the 24 hour window I was given!  There isn't much like nervously waiting to be told when you're going to have a baby, so like a good nesting mom, I sewed.  So, on the day I gave birth (technically the day before, since I delivered just after midnight), I made a bunch of these tipped burp cloths.  Easy, mindless and useful sewing.   Here's how to do it yourself.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Giving it a go

After submitting my entries into the Sewalong, several lovely fabrics were still staring at me from my stash.  I'm trying hard not to buy 1) more fabric or 2) more patterns, since I have heaps of both, so I set out to match fabric to pattern for a new shirt.  These days, of utmost importance is the ability to hike up my top for breastfeeding, so that precludes any shirts that are fitted or have back/side zippers.  I don't even really care for front buttoning tops (who wants to have their shirt completely open??).  I liked the raglan, elasticized sleeves of this pattern, but not the buttons down the front.  Easy fix, just find the front center (it was even marked on the pattern!) and place that on the fold of the fabric instead of cutting button plackets.  I decided against facing the neckline, instead opting for the cleaner-looking (and easier) bias tape finish.  Tried on half-finished garment and *of course* it was too big (see previous post).  Looked like a tent with elasticized arms.  Okay... darts in front, darts in back, making sure I could still wiggle my body into it, and it was starting to look more like a backpacker's tent instead of family-sized one.  But, and I wish I had taken a photo of it, the neckline was bizarrely open--like if I went to my son's class, the children would have gotten a serious show at the low kiddie tables.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm a finalist...Again!

Wahoo!  I submitted two tops to the Made by Rae Spring Top Sewalong, and BOTH made it to the first round of finals.  Crazy!  Please vote for my "Flowery button-down"!

This contest has really gotten me excited me about sewing for myself again.  Using patterns had been making me insane because you go through all the work of choosing fabric and pattern, cutting and sewing most of the seams, only to try on the partially-finished item and have it not fit.  And it seems like they *never* fit, usually erring on the side of enormous.  However, with this top in particular, I was determined to make it work (yay Tim Gunn!), so I made some big changes to the pattern.  I know, I know...patterns can (and should!) be altered, but now I have the confidence to not get discouraged when the original design doesn't work.  

I made a jaunty, off-hand (maybe regrettable?) comment to my husband that I might not buy another top this summer, and I think I'm going to try to stick to it.  When does the summer end?  :)  Wait, it hasn't even started yet!  I'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Last post about diaper covers? Maybe?

So I've written extensively about diaper covers already (because, hey, when you have an 8.5 month old, it's a fairly consuming topic), but I've got exciting news to share!  For a long while, I'd been wondering if Little Man was bothered by the bulk in his midsection (between doubled cloth and wide cover).  There's not much I can do about the doubled cloth bit, but the covers I can change.  After measuring my purchased covers, looking at several patterns, and using this tutorial, I have created my own diaper cover design!  With this new and improved version, I've narrowed the wings and lowered the front rise (which increases the back rise).  Little Man doesn't complain much, so I don't know if he enjoys his new cover more than the old, but I think they look a little more streamlined.  I've even put some up for sale at my Etsy site (with more on the way)!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm a finalist!

My second top made the finals at the Made by Rae Spring Top Sewalong!  Yay!  Voting starts Monday (tomorrow) and this top will be in that round.  There is also voting on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the other finalists.  There are so many wonderful entries, and seeing how this is the first sewing contest I've ever entered, I feel very honored and excited to be in the finals!

Please, support all of the fabulous seamstresses and go to Made by Rae to vote!

Also, my top was given as an example of the use of voile at Whipstitch!   Thanks!

"Waiting in the Pastry Line" is a finalist!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Spring Top Sewalong Entry #2

Spring Top Sewalong #2
Before the seam ripper
I’ve been ruminating about my second entry for the Made by Rae Spring Top Sewalong for so long, it’s crazy…how to create the pattern, which fabric to choose, how to assemble the darn thing…it’s been preventing sleep for a few weeks now. One of my all-time favorite tops was no longer wearable due to some unfortunate accidents while eating, so I took the seam ripper to it to trace the pieces for the outer and lining patterns (they were not the same!) After several discarded fabric choices, I finally gave in to my original vision for the project and ordered Anna Maria Horner’s Pastry Line Voile in lilac, using white cotton lawn for the lining from a local fabric store.

Invisible zipper--can you see it? :)
Obviously, the most critical aspect of recreating the top was matching the stripes. I had to cut two versions of the bodice to get the right placement of the V, the zipper was applied twice to match seams/stripes (see my tip below), and much care was taken to space the vertical stripes on the “skirt” so it would appear seamless (there are actually 6 panels on the skirt). Other than the darts breaking the lines in the bodice, I couldn’t be happier with the result.

I am not a professional seamstress, so without explicit instructions, the installation of the full lining (that didn’t involve copious amounts of hand sewing) was a mystery to me. After a first failed try, I consulted an unlikely source: this “singlet bag” tutorial. Additionally, while it may be a well-known technique in the business, I figured out a great way to apply an invisible zipper to match seams or stripes (or both, as in this case): lay the zipper where you want it to end up, mark both sides of the coil and use those marks for reference when sewing in the zipper. Worked perfectly!

Shirred strap detail
Back with matching stripes
As per the original blouse, the straps were shirred at the top.  It was my first time shirring using elastic thread, which I found to be easy and fun. I’ll have to incorporate this technique into future projects.

Even though this shirt is completely impractical for me at the moment (as I can't hike it up for breastfeeding) I am very pleased with the final product!