Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Aberdeen - A Tale of Two Sleeves

One of my goals in 2016 is to sew clothes I'll truly daylight...with pride.

A tall order indeed.

So, with that goal in mind, in February I got brave and made myself an Aberdeen tunic out of French terry fabric.  It was NOT a 100% success, but I learned a lot and it turned out well enough that I wore it IN PUBLIC a number of times, so it definitely counts. 

I added 6" to the length of this tunic and cut it in a 2x to get the look I wanted.
First things first:  Aberdeen is a pattern from Colette Patterns.  It is a downloadable PDF with almost terrific instructions for even the most beginner of us. It t-shirt tunic pattern, designed for knits...lightweight to sweater weight.  (Honestly, my French terry didn't have enough stretch, but that was ignorance on my part and nothing to do with the instructions.)

Going for an oversized tunic, I decided to make the pattern in 2x.  I wanted a sweatshirt tunic that would skim over my hips and fall below my butt.  The only adjustment I made initially was to add 6" to take into account my height of 5'10" and the slightly longer than normal length. 

All in all the construction went well.  The only struggle was adding the neckline band.  I think the instructions for inserting the band could be clearer...I really wasn't happy with the smoothness of the point of the v neck and the instructions really weren't clear to someone who had never done one before. 

See that weird rumple?  I couldn't resolve bugs me!!
A quick internet search did NOT net any clarification, either, so I just muddled through.   Overall, though, my first Aberdeen came together beautifully and I did some things pretty well, if I do say so myself.  The overall neck band turned out well, with the exception already noted.
Look at how clean that looks...
  Look at this collar band neat. The band met in back just perfectly!

Look at those bands meeting perfectly in the back...just gorgeous!

...those points line up perfectly.  The double stitched hem (a necessity with fabric that wants to roll!) also came out wonderfully.

A steady hand sewed those parallel lines! looks like the work of a twin needle, but it wasn't.  It was my mad skills at the sewing machine!

I confess, I was pretty pleased with myself when my Aberdeen was completed...

...right up until I tried it on. 

The sleeves narrowed too quickly for my long arms and were just too tight on my forearms (and I don't have big arms!).  I was so disappointed.  Ignorance fail, definitely. I should have known the arm length would need to be modified.  Duh.  So, I seam ripped the forearm seams and wore it around the house to see if it worked in other ways.  One day of wearing and I decided the tunic was worth trying to save.  French terry is sooo comfortable and I had just enough fabric left to take a chance on trying to modify the sleeves to redeem my project. 
New sleeve...3" added.
I calculated that I needed at least three more inches in sleeve length, as the sleeves narrowed too soon on my long arms and barely fell below my elbow.  That meant changing the angle of the line of descent from the dropped shoulder to the forearm hem.  So, I took the existing sleeve pattern, added a three inch strip of paper to the forearm hem and redrew the lines from the shoulder to the hem.   That way the shoulder wasn't altered in any way and the ending sleeve opening wasn't just took longer to get there. Since the tunic is batwing construction, I then just sliced off the sleeves at the dropped shoulder seam and attached my new sleeves.
Completed (again!) with longer sleeves.
 Success!  It worked beautifully and gave me an eminently wearable tunic for the cold winter months. 

In the grandest of compliments, the tunic has since moved to my teenaged daughter's closet.  For the win!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Gluten Free Cornbread - Quick and Easy (Updated!!)

Sorry for inadvertently posting of a draft post... probably not a good read, was it?  Anyway, this is the complete post with the recipe details.

In a wheat-free world, it is a struggle to find recipes for "old favorites" which don't just leave you longing for the original.  There are some really terrific gluten-free flour mixes out there, but as most of them contain tapioca starch/flour, we can't use those, either, so our baking possibilities are narrowed even further.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered Krusteaz Cornbread mix.  It is quick, easy, and contains nothing my family can't eat.

Still, I'm not a fan of buying box mixes if I don't have to, so when I saw how well the cornbread turned out using Krusteaz convenient mix, I went searching for a wheat-free recipe which was still quick and easy.  With a quick search, I found this terrific recipe from "Gluten Free Mommy".  (Have I mentioned I love the internet?)

from Gluten Free Mommy

1 cup white rice flour
3/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal
2 to 3 Tablespoons of sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt) together in a med. bowl and set aside.

Melt the one tablespoon of butter in a 10 inch cast-iron skillet or 8/9 inch round baking pan in the oven. This takes about three minutes. (Note: I just used an 8 x 8 pyrex pan.)

Swirl the butter around the pan coating the bottom and sides.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, milk, and 1/4 cup butter. Add this mixture all at once to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened.

Pour batter into the hot skillet or baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm.

Nothing weird, fancy, or hard to source.  In fact, I ground my own rice flour in the Vitamix, so I only had to buy cornmeal.  Both my husband and my son were amazed how quickly this came together and how easy it was.  That said, the next time I make it, they've requested I alter the ratio of rice to cornmeal...they want more corn flavor.  With a recipe this simple, I'm more than willing to play around a little to give them just what they want.

Now, back to Spring Cleaning...

Have a great day!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tote Bag - Success (with a little big of failure!)

Erin Gilbey of Dog Under My Desk has written some of the best patterns for purses and tote bags.  Her instructions are terrific and the photos accompanying each step demystify the process.  As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite aspects of her patterns is her insistence that no exposed raw edges be left in the finish product.  The resulting bags are just so much nicer and so much less "home made" looking. 

As always, spiral bound for ease of use during the project and storage later. 
Last week, I tackled the Outta Time Tote for the third time, this time sticking exactly to the dimensions stated in the instructions.  I've made it twice before, both times modifying the size to suit my purposes.    (Did I mention her patterns are easily modified for size and, in this case, dimension?)  Anyway, for this one, I stuck exactly to the pattern for the dimensions, creating a bag which is taller than it is wide. 

Finished dimensions: 14" tall, 12" wide, and 3" deep.  Really nice size.
As you can see, the bag came together beautifully. 
Structured enough to stand on its own when empty!
 For structure, I followed Erin's instructions and used SF101 woven interfacing, but instead of batting, I used Bosal Fusible Foam.  Pellon makes a fusible foam, too, which is nice for when I run out of my Bosal, as my source for the Bosal has been exclusively Amazon and running out is annoying.  The floral fabric is a Mary Engelbreit fabric, the straps are black webbing (instead of fabric), and the lining is just inexpensive cotton.   The zippers are #5 zippers of my spool of zippers by the yard.

My favorite part:  Black piping running up the panels and added to the zipper as well. 
I fell in love with this fabric, but my favorite part of this bag is the addition of the black piping.  I am especially glad I decided to add it to the zipper installation on the front pocket.  The piping just frames everything so elegantly.

Embroidery fail:  poor color selection ruined the whole thing.
What I didn't love and actually deemed a fail was the embroidery I added to the front pocket.  I picked the wrong color and the embroidery doesn't really show at all.  I should have gone with black instead of picking a color which matched the lining and coordinated with the outer fabric.  Unfortunately, until the bag was completely together, I couldn't see the problem.  Next time,  I must remember:  Contrast, NOT coordinate!   So, while the embroidery is technically well done, I deem it a fail.

Terrific overall bag, but the embroidery disappears...sigh.

On to the next project...

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pink Camouflage Wristlets

I have a dear friend who loves pink camouflage.  Seriously loves it.  For Christmas, I surprised her with a tote bag  (which I forgot to photograph) out of pink camouflage and, as anticipated, she loved it.  Really, really loved it. 
Pink camo - who knew??
Now, personally, I'm not a huge fan of pink camo (really, of any camo);  I don't understand it.  Are you hiding in the Barbie aisle at Toys R Us?  I just don't get it.  Still, it was a labor of love and she truly loved her Christmas present, which was my goal, after all.  I decided to use the leftover fabric to surprise her with another gift and I ended up having enough fabric to make a little something for her daughter (another fan of pink camo), too. 

Mother - Daughter gifts...
(I always by extra fabric when I'm making something specific...I'm terrified to run out of fabric.)  Anyway, it turned out that I had just enough fabric to make two of Dog Under My Desk's "The Essential Wristlet". 

Spiral bound from my local copy shop.  Lays flat for me to flip
through the instructions as I sew along, one step at a time.
If you haven't discovered Erin's patterns, you're in for a treat.  Her instructions are so detailed, and her photos so clear, you just can't go wrong.  Since I've been making her stuff, my skills and my confidence have increased tremendously.  Plus, I love that her  "thing" is that she loathes exposed unfinished seams, so you always have a nice, polished result when you make her patterns.

Pocket detail on the inside of each.
So, back to my project.  Two Essential Wristlets with boxed corners.  I also decided to embroider each woman's name on them, for a little added touch. 
Awesome pattern nets awesome results!

I think they turned out really well.  The wrist strap is detachable and the bag measures 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.5 inches, so its a really nice size.  I think my friend and her daughter will be pleased.  Best of all, no more pink camo in my fabric has all found its rightful home.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Food for Thought

Photo credit:

"It seems to me that no matter what religion you subscribe to, acts of kindness are the stepping-stones to making the world a better place--because we become better people in it."

 -Jodi Picoult

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Adorable Baby Coat

My son's friends had a baby last's a strange thing when you realize your kids are legitimately old enough to have friends who are married with children...I guess that means it is highly unlikely that I am still only 27.  Reality might be setting in...

Anyway, my son's friends had a baby girl last summer and I just made her the most adorable coat.   (I'm a terrible photographer, but trust me, this coat is truly adorable.)   I got the pattern from Etsy.  I really like the indie patterns available for download.  The ones I've found have tended to be terrific and the instructions make them oh so doable, even for a novice.

Too cute for words...I love the texture of the outer fabric.
The outside of the coat is a polyester suiting fabric...the texture makes it substantial without being heavy.

Love this bright, happy cotton print.
The lining is a lightweight quilting cotton.

Matching buttons...too cute!

The hood is designed to be folded back to show the lining.
I used the Hearts Hoodie pattern from Puperita. 

My local copy shop binds my PDF patterns for me.  Love the ease of this format!
It generously includes sizes from newborn to 5 years old.  Now that I've finished the coat, I can recommend the pattern with confidence.  It really was a breeze to make.  The directions were quite clear and easy to follow and the results were gratifying.

Just what a well-dressed baby needs for spring!
Will a 6-month old baby girl appreciate it?  Nah.  But her mom sure loves it!  Definitely a win.

Friday, February 5, 2016

You know you have a good life when... realize that you are fortunate enough to catch 99.9% of the pens that go through your washer BEFORE they end up in the dryer.  (We just won't talk about those sneaky lip balms.)

...and a 9-year old girl invites herself to your house to color with you (and she's not even related to you!!)...

Yes, my life is pretty good.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

It Really Is Enough...

Over the past few years, I've watched as my children chart their adult courses, trying to determine what they'll want their adult lives to look like.  It's fascinating.  One dreams of wealth and one secretly dreams of writing the "Great American Novel"...pretty typical stuff.  But one of my kids wonders why modest dreams are discouraged.  Why is it that we can't aim to have a job that allows us to provide well enough?  Are dreams only worth pursuing if they're flashy?  Do we really have to "go big or go home"?

This blog post by A Life In Progress is bouncing around FB right now and this blogger tackles the same issue, far more eloquently than I. "What if I all I want is a small, slow, simple life? What if I am most happy in the space of in between. Where calm lives. What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?  But what if I just don’t have it in me. What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted. Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?" Interestingly, the comments on the post are as powerful as the post itself.  She is not alone.  There are a lot of us asking the same questions about life. 

It seems to me that we need to start asking ourselves what definition of excellence we're using?  What definition of successful are we measuring ourselves against?  What value judgment are we placing the adjectives we use to define our lives?  Why are words such as "small", "simple", "plain", and "humble" deemed negative?  When we flip a coin, one side is not inherently better than the other, so why are we judging our lives in such a manner? 

I have loved being a stay-at-home mom.  Seriously.  I love this simple, unexciting-to-many life.  I don't dream of huge purchases (although the carpet is pretty bad!) or a lavish lifestyle.  I can't even imagine myself living that way.  I love my old car, it does the job for me.  I love CrossFit, even though I suck at it.  I love sewing, even though I still haven't made my own wardrobe.  I love having all these animals (four dogs, two cats, three birds, and one hamster, at last count!), even though it feels chaotic at times.  I love having time for my family and friends (although my sister and I really need to live in the same time zone!) and for learning new things and making friends where I live and being part of the community.   I especially love my family, even though they're crazy making at times.  I love myself, even though I'm not young or beautiful or skinny or cellulite-free.    

Before I lived this life, I was a secretary.  I loved that job, too...I love being behind the scenes, helping everyone stay on track.  I never wanted to be the Big Boss...I just liked making the Big Boss's life easier.  I've always been this way, as far back as I can remember.  I liked working at McDonald's when I was 16, I liked being a receptionist when I was 17, I liked being a hostess at a restaurant when I was 19, and I liked being a dispatcher for small company when I was 22.  I like When I was a very little girl, I wanted to be a nurse, never a doctor, because doctor's rushed in and rushed out, while nurses stayed to take care of the patients.  I've always wanted to be the caretaker.  It's just who I am and it is good. 

When I remember I like who I am, and ignore the messages of "not enough" the world sends, life falls into place.  My family is happy, my household hums, my spirit sings, and I have joy and friendship to share.  

So, as I counsel my child who is going to be rich, I say, "May I have a small guest house on your estate?".   

When I talk with the one who is secretly dreams of writing something that will be received with worldwide acclaim, I say, "Keep've always loved it."   

And, as I counsel a child who wonders if modest is enough, I have to say, "Yes, it really is enough".  

We need the modest and we need the flashy.  We need the quiet and we need the loud.  We need the chaos and we need the calm.  And we need everything in between.  There is a place for each of us, if we're brave enough to fight for it.