Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kitchen done (now quite a while ago)

Clearly, a full kitchen remodel (and the first time I've attempted such a project), starting back to teaching after a year+ maternity leave, moving into the new house and having two young ones proved a little too much for me to be able to keep up with my blog!  The remodel went great, the kitchen is beautiful and functional, and we've even remodeled a bathroom (!) since my last post.  Without further ado, shall we recall what the kitchen looked like before?

And the glorious after!

From the other angle, looking at the old eat-in dining area:

And the new, pared-down cafe table at which the boys eat breakfast:

We went with tile floors after we were unable to find a reasonable match for the engineered hardwood, but in the end I am infinitely more happy with it.  It's a great pale gray 12 x 24" tile in a brick style, with grout to match (hard to see in the photo).  The counter is Caesarstone in "Nougat" and the appliances are Bosch (save the fridge, which is Kitchenaid).  The only thing we kept from the original kitchen was the giant stainless steel sink (30" wide!). Here's a photo of the other side of the kitchen, where the fridge and walk-in pantry live (clearly taken before we moved in):

Okay, with the New Year mere hours away, I feel content having finished this cliff-hanger!  I'm not big on resolutions, but for this year, maintaining a better work-play-family balance is a high priority.  Hopefully, I'll be able to report on more projects in 2012!

(P.S.  There are many in-process photos, but I decided to skip to the fun end.  If any one wants more details or info about the process, message me!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The things I'll do for an externally venting range hood

We knew that there wasn't an existing exhaust vent in our kitchen when we purchased the house.  It seemed a trivial thing to install--run it between the floors in the ceiling out the back or front of the house (giving us some options!).  Unfortunately, the construction of our townhouse is crazy, and there are random perpendicular, load-bearing joists in all directions from our range, so literally no access between the floors for the exhaust.  Our contractor confirmed this when he opened the ceiling, ending the email with "Guess you'll have to get a recirculating hood".  No!  I will NOT have a recirculating hood!  I had a brilliant (foolish?) idea while in the shower to build a soffit to house the ductwork, but since we already had our cabinets, the ductwork has to make a convoluted path from the hood, up into the ceiling in the kitchen, dropping down into the soffit in the dining room to finally exit the back of our townhouse.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lights--LEDs in the lead

We are doing our kitchen renovation with permits, which means that the construction has to comply with all the county and state regulations in order to pass inspection.  And California loves their rules and regulations.  Which means that a simple (ha!) kitchen reno involves replacing stuff you didn't anticipate.  Like the lights.  They looked fine to me, but here in California, we have to abide by Title 24.  In effect, 50% of the lighting in a kitchen must be high efficiency, by wattage.  So for a singular 65W incandescent, you need 5-13W CFLs.  Translated into real-world practicality, my whole kitchen was slated to be lit with recessed fluorescent lighting.  Yack!

No, it wasn't this month's article in Wired that convinced us (which I actually only just read), but after poring over the actual regulations in Title 24 and doing some research, we opted to go instead with LED downlights.  For the record, the GU24 socket is what makes it acceptable with Title 24 so don't try to install an Edison-style housing socket--even for an LED lamp--and expect to pass inspection.  The CREE LEDs we're going with seem almost too good to be true--25 year bulb life, dimmable (to 5% with the CR6 model), incandescent-like quality of light (2700K--I know way too much about lighting now), and cool to the touch.  I guess the "too good to be true" resides in the price; at $52 a bulb they are not cheap, but 25 year bulb-life and 80% savings on the electrical bill?  Sign me up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kitchen Remodel

I've been resisting the urge to post about our kitchen remodel, since my focus here is more sewing and cooking.  But since all my time is now devoted to the remodel and I haven't had any time to sew, there is a serious dearth of posts lately.  Besides, maybe someone else can benefit from what I've learned!  This has certainly been a crash course in home ownership and renovations, and I've just bought an industrial-sized bottle of acetaminophen to deal with the stress headaches.

So here is the before photo:
I purposely took the photo to illustrate that there was this large wasted space on the right, intended to be a breakfast nook.  But it completely cramped the actual kitchen workspace and I'd rather have a functioning kitchen than an eat-in table (especially when there is an adjacent dining room).  Of course, what I'd REALLY like is both a functional kitchen AND a place where the kids can eat breakfast or do homework, so that is what we strived to accomplish with the reorganization of the space.  Even with the kitchen completely torn-down and cabinets ordered, we still don't have a perfectly clear plan, but there are a few options.  Other things needed for the kitchen: gas line for the stove and exhaust venting.

Yesterday, all of our brand-new appliances arrived (save the hood), and they are sitting in my living room.  Luckily, we don't live there yet!   At the end of Day 1 of renovations, we checked on the kitchen after hours, and they had completely ripped out everything.  Wahoo!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tutorial: Little Tikes Swing Cushion

As was the case with our beloved Antilop highchair, I've been thinking our little guy is bothered by the hard plastic of his Little Tikes swing.  Because the plastic is slippery, he slides down a little and looks miserable after a short while.  And then the fun was gone (kid's book reference, anyone??).  So, I've come up with a pattern and tutorial for a cushion!  Yay!

Antilop Highchair Cushion Pattern

Oh man!  All this time I didn't realize that the link I posted for the pattern to go with the Antilop Highchair Cushion Tutorial wasn't live.  Yikes!  It should be working now.  So sorry!

Just as a reminder--be sure to print the pattern without scaling.  Super important!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Thai green curry with tilapia

It's Tilapia Tuesday!  Today, I altered a recipe I make fairly often to include tilapia: thai green curry.  I'm always pleasantly surprised by how quickly this type of curry recipe comes together, especially if you have leftover rice (which we did).  My husband and I both enjoyed the substitution of tilapia for chicken, but I did have to reserve both fish and vegetables without sauce for the kids since it can be a bit spicy. We got our CSA box just moments before dinner, so I used some beautiful flat Romano beans, red peppers and carrots that we found in there, but you can certainly use other vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, etc.) instead.

Thai green curry with tilapia and vegetables
Two filets of tilapia, thawed and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cups of chopped vegetables (cut harder vegetables, like carrots, thinly)
3/4 cup chopped red onion
2 T. peanut oil or vegetable oil
2 T. (or more to taste) green curry paste (I like Aroy-D brand)
1 14 oz. can of regular coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves (I order them fresh and store them in the freezer, but you can omit or substitute more lime juice or a little lime zest)
1 teas. brown sugar (to taste)
1 teas. fish sauce (to taste)
1 T. lime juice
1 T. thai basil leaves (we planted thai basil this year and this was our first time using it!) or regular basil, chiffonaded

Heat oil in 12 inch skillet.  Add the curry paste and saute until fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add about half of the coconut milk and whisk together until smooth.  Add remaining coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and about 1/2 cup of water, whisk.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Add all the vegetables and simmer until the vegetables are just starting to soften.  Then, add tilapia chunks.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fish starts to flake. Then, season with brown sugar, fish sauce and lime juice.  Add thai basil, if desired.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Small projects

We just purchased our first home, our own (very tiny) piece of Silicon Valley.  When we purchased it, we knew we wanted to remodel the kitchen.  But having never done a remodel before, we couldn't even imagine the amount of time, research and money such an extensive project would entail.  And we haven't even closed on the house yet!  Anyhow, as a result, my evenings in my sewing room have been (and will likely continue to be) seriously limited. 

This clearly isn't a sewing project, but I thought I would share a "cute-ification" of a store-bought, hand-me-down outfit for my littlest one.  This simple, green romper (yep, more rompers!) definitely needed a little something.  Several years ago, I drew some very simple crayon drawings and scanned them to make digital files.  I then printed them on special iron-transfer paper, and Voila! 

(Note: if you are going to do this yourself, be sure to trim the image closely before ironing it on.  I had way too much space around the carrot and you can see it in the after image, above.) 

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Grilled tilapia with mango salsa

My local grocery had a deal the other day: spend $20 and get two mangos, two limes, and a bunch of cilantro for free.  Yes, please!  Here's what I did with it:

Grilled tilapia with mango salsa
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T. lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teas. dried oregano
1/2 teas. salt
3 tilapia filets

Mix together first five ingredients in a bowl.  Place filets in a zip-top bag and add the marinade.  Set aside while the grill preheats (gas grill = high).  Reduce the heat to medium-high, remove the filets from the marinade and shake a bit to remove excess oil.  Place on grill and cook until just opaque.

Mango salsa:
1/2 green or red pepper
2 T. chopped red onion
chopped jalapeno (to taste and optional--I didn't use it since the kids were eating the salsa, but I wish I could have!)
1 perfectly ripe mango, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 T. fresh lime juice
1/2 teas. salt

In the food processor, whirl green or red pepper and onion (and jalapeno, if using) until the pieces are small, but not pureed.  (I prefer these to be tiny, but a small dice would work just as well here).  Place the peppers and onions in a bowl, fold in the mango, lime juice and cilantro.  Season with salt to taste and let sit for 20 minutes or so.

I loved the mango salsa, and mixed the leftovers with some canned pinto beans for lunch the next day.  Yum!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Ironing board recover

So I had intended to make an ironing board recover tutorial, but as I started the project, I realized there really is no need to write out step-by-step directions.  What I'm going to show here, then, is how I did it in general terms--don't worry, you can recover your own ironing board without the explicit directions!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tilapia with pineapple rice

Aside from how good it tastes, this dish is incredibly fast and simple to prepare, and I usually have the ingredients in the pantry (well, except the green onions--I rarely just have those just lying around).  The recipe is from a magazine called "Clean Eating", so in addition to all of the other reasons to make it, it's very healthy too.  You know, so I can eat a bowl of ice cream for dessert :)  Here's how to make it:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Romper, part 2

I finally got around to making another romper!  This one fits considerably better, having taken the sides in a little and increased the length.  After reading a blog post about using a flatlock (or ladder) stitch, I used my serger to decoratively apply the rib knit along the edges.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pan-fried tilapia

This is what I make if I am uninspired by the contents of my fridge and/ or I'm in a hurry.  It always tastes delicious, so there aren't any complaints when I make it.  Here's the recipe (such as it is):

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tilapia Tuesday!

We all love fish, especially my 6 year old.  When I take the weekly poll about what everyone wants for dinner, he usually asks for fish (hotdogs are his unfortunate other request).  While other fish might be a tad tastier, I tend toward tilapia because it's mild flavored and fairly firm, making it easy to cook and versatile.  And unlike other fish (I'm looking at you, salmon) it doesn't suffer from being frozen.  As a matter of fact, I only buy tilapia in frozen form, which makes for easy planning and quick, last-minute meals.  Even better, US farmed tilapia is listed as a "Best Choice" on the Seafood Watch list.

Since we have tilapia so often, I'd like to start a regular feature highlighting our tilapia recipe of the week.  Full disclosure: we won't necessarily have the tilapia meal on Tuesday.  That's too much pressure.  :)

Overrun by Olallieberries, in a good way

Jars of jelly and jam, in my beautiful new jars!
Olallieberry ice cream
This past weekend, we made the trip back to Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport to pick olallieberries.  We went a little wild, picking over 12 pounds (and at $4 a lb!), and it was quite a task to dispatch all those berries before they went bad.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ruboff romper pattern

I've fallen in love with the short-sleeved rompers for my littlest man.  In the heat of summer, I'd keep him in only a onesie to stay cool, but his cloth diaper hangs out of the legs openings.  Not cute!  I bought the romper on the left and figured I could ruboff the pattern to make my own.  How hard could it be?  I had my serger out for another purpose, so the general construction was easy, but it took at least 4 tries to get the crotch gusset right.   And wow, the snap-tape I used for the bottom closure was such a pain!  I used a zipper foot to seam the edge, but it wasn't quite close enough and I had to manually push it through the machine.  I've caught my finger with the needle doing that in the past, so it's not my favorite method of sewing!

The finished romper turned out fine, but I've got some fit and construction alterations in mind.  Hopefully I get another done before summer ends!  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tutorial: Round scalloped edged table cover

Al fresco dining is on my mind these days.  Here in Northern California, the weather is phenomenal almost all the time, but the draw to go outside to eat is particularly strong now, with evenings warm and light enough to be out at dinnertime.  And it's strange for me, coming from upstate NY, but there are almost no insects here!  So, as a bonus, eating outside is not a battle with mosquitoes and deer flies!  Wahoo!  To brighten up our dining space, I love the look of Mexican oilcloth--it's colorful with some cute designs, but it's also water-proof and fairly inexpensive.   I've seen lovely tutorials for square or rectangular tables, but we have round ones, so I've put together some instructions for making a custom, fitted tablecloth (with a cutie scalloped border) for your round table.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tutorial: Cushioned cover with pocket for Antilop Highchair

As far as highchairs go, the IKEA's Antilop rocks.  Its compact, all plastic (yay for easy clean-up!), and slides perfectly right up to our table (without the tray) so baby feels like part of the action.  We owned one for our first child and when I didn't think we'd have a second, we gave it away.  I thought I'd try out a different highchair for boy #2, but it didn't compare.  So.... I bought a second Antilop. Thankfully, in addition to all the other great features of this highchair, it's also remarkably cheap ($25 including optional tray!).

All plastic is great, but I'm guessing it has to be a bit uncomfortable--not that the little one is complaining, but as a mom, I can't help but to project my own feelings onto the matter.  Even before we had #2, I looked for a cushion pattern and found the nice one that is floating around.  I even bookmarked it!  But when I went to make it, I didn't love the design and felt like a bib pocket in the back would be a nice addition.  So I designed my own.   I've made mine in laminated cotton, so it can be wiped off easily, but should you choose to make it in regular quilting cotton, the cushions are removable for laundering the cover.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Patternmaking class and dinosaur shorts

I'm starting an online patternmaking class today at Whipstitch and I. Couldn't. Be. More. Excited.  Wahoo!

To contrast that, I had to drop off my shy little boy at an unfamiliar summer camp this morning.  I still have a lump in my stomach.  Last night, I made him a pair of dinosaur shorts, mostly to make myself feel better.  They are as basic as basic can be.   The whole project (including tracing the pattern) took 40 minutes.  He opted not to wear them (not surprisingly--he only rarely wears shorts), but I think he liked the print anyway.  I traced a pair of Patagonia shorts that fit him really well (size 24 months--for my 5.5 year old!).  I was going to add pockets, but then I remembered how much sand accumulates in pockets after a trip to the park and decided against it.  Our couch will thank me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gifted zip pouches

I'm still recovering from this week--the last week of the school year for my Kindergartener and my birthday.  My big sewing goals (like, participating in the Week of the Summer Boy) had to be put aside so I could make gifts for my good friend's birthday and my son's teacher.  Sew Mama Sew featured a fabulous tutorial for a zippered pouch a while back, and it seemed like a great idea for both gifts.

I learned a couple of things the first time around--namely, the larger zipper teeth of a parka-style zipper is not optimal for this project, to say the least.  Second, I think the pattern must have been optimized with a thinner weight fabric than the home-dec I used, because the bag barely fit in the pouch.   Luckily, my friend is so very kind and assured me she wouldn't actually have to ever zip the bag into the pouch (isn't she so nice!).  I love, love the fabric of this one.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Taming the marker mayhem

The cardboard boxes that crayons, markers and colored pencils come in are virtually useless in the long run.  We toss them as soon as they are opened.  Instead, I've made zippered oilcloth bags for each type of implement.  Well, my son decided he was going to remove all the markers from one to put in stuff he wants to take on vacation to NY (in three weeks).  Clearly, a new bag was needed, and since he's now a reader, I decided to label the oilcloth with the contents.  Even though I have a brand new sewing machine (happy birthday to me!), it does not do embroidery, so I sketched and stitched the letters freehand.  The grid pattern on the fabric was super helpful there, but don't look too closely at the "S" at the end :)  Unlike the previous bags, I squared the bottom by sewing the corners so it can stand upright.

I love cute and functional!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Strawberry season = jam

This weekend, we went with our good friends and all four of our little boys to go strawberry picking at Coastways Ranch in Davenport, CA.  It was a beautiful day and the kids really enjoyed having their own containers to collect berries.  It's so very hard to resist the bright red beacon of the perfect berry, so we all picked way too much.  A failed strawberry pie became a pretty decent ice cream topping, but with still many, many berries left, I made up our first batch of jam of the season.  Some gorgeous Weck canning jars are in the mail, heading to my address as we speak, but perfectly ripe berries wait for no one (or jar).  While strawberry jam is tasty (especially on scones with clotted cream), my boys like olallieberry best.  Another month for those!

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 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!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Fabric: Sugar Pop for Moda
To me, it's incredibly satisfying to use the items I've made around the house.  I still love seeing Evan's quilt on his bed each day or putting on a cover during a diaper change.  I fully adore my mismatched napkins, with their mitred corners, made from sets of mixed fat quarters.  However, a kitchen can always use more, so I caved in to a lust for some lovely fabric and made eight more.  Now I can have a giant dinner party or avoid laundry for a few days, and still have enough napkins!

Napkins in their cage...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Top Sewalong

Flowery button-down by Nicole
Despite how much I wanted to, I was too busy being pregnant and teaching a night class to participate in last year's Spring Top Sewalong.  This year, both boys go down for the night around 8 and if there isn't good TV on (so sad Top Chef is over!), I can sew for a few hours.  I don't often make clothing for myself, but the Sewalong spurred me on, so I purchased some nice, lightweight voile and decided on a pattern from a book I bought a few years back, which I purchased solely for the shirt design (Downtown DIY Sewing, by Alice Chadwick).  It has an interesting yoke construction, princess seams in the back and a mandarin collar, but once sewn in, the sleeve was super floofy, so I ripped it out and reduced the fluff a bit a lot.  I took in the waist to make it more fitted and added a self-belt.  Even though the fabric completely reminds me of my great-aunt's cobbler aprons (Mom, can you back me up on this!?), and I came *this close* to throwing in the towel when I saw those poofy sleeves, I am very pleased with the result.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Big butt baby pants

As I knew would happen, finding pants that fit over Little Man's big, cloth-diapered butt is a challenge. I can only take so many pairs of baby leggings! In my zeal of nesting before the baby arrived, I made a couple of pairs of "Big Butt Baby Pants" from Made By Rae, but the baby never wore either--just too small in the waist. Last week, I used fabric from my stash to make two more pairs, adding elastic at the ankles so the little crawler could do his thing. My husband made a comment about bringing back MC Hammer pants, but I don't care; I think they're cute!

(The khaki fabric came from JoAnn's a while ago, and the green striped fabric is "Welcome Road" from the Nicey Jane collection by Heather Bailey. By the way, how much do I adore her laminated cottons? Too much.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Christmas gifts

With Christmas safely a month away, I can finally post photos of the projects I worked on for my family! In addition to diaper covers, I've been loving on making handbags. My niece Dani and sister-in-law Katie were the recipients of handmade bags this holiday. The fabric of this orange plaid bag (Katie's) is a vintage wool that I discovered at our local quilting shop and the one for Dani was a fine-wale corduroy. Sewing with both fabrics wasn't as easy as plain-old quilting cotton, but I did like the results.