Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

My end of 2012 delight has been to finally sit down for an hour or two and read through postings on my blogroll.  The holidays at our house this year were rather subdued since we are in the midst of a construction project that resulted in half the furniture put into the other half of the condo while new floors were installed in two rooms.  The delay right now is that the remaining edge molding has been caught up in shipping, what with two holidays in the midst of each week.  So our at home time has been jumbled and unsettling.  We have enjoyed  lovely times with friends, however, and just have to let go of our expectations for construction timeframes.  So it's been nice this morning to catch up on reading about holidays around the world among the sewing bloggers I so enjoy.  Whether it's warm weather in Hawaii, Australia or my own Florida or the chills of Canada, Europe and the stormy cities of the northern US, I do enjoy seeing the various ways humans celebrate and gather in community.
Despite our ramshackle living, I did get to some sewing while the construction was going on but not much exciting to post.  One of the results of an enormous amount of anxiety that has plagued me the last five months has been that I've unexpectedly lost about eight pounds.  (Trust me, for a foodie like me that's rather unusual and not a system I would ever recommend.) It's not much on someone tall like me but enough that my jeans with lycra could use some altering.  So my mindless work has been to rip out about five pairs of jean seams and remake them into a smaller size and even turn a few into narrow legged versions, making me feel a little more fashionable.  
However, you did not come here to read about renovations or tedious jean altering so I do have a new favorite knit cardigan pattern to share and a new year sewing project round up.
Here's McCalls 6444.  

McCalls 6444
I stitched it up in some orange poly knit that has been hanging in my stash for years, ever since Hancock's closed here in SWFL.  I tried a few other knit tops from similar fabrics but hated how hot and clammy they felt on me.  An open cardigan is the perfect use for this fabric, however, since it doesn't cling to me if the humidity rises.  

There are two more versions already cut out and stashed away for my "sewing while house selling" time starting sometime in February.  Only three pattern pieces means it's an easy project to start and finish in one sitting. I didn't even bother with a FBA and it seems just fine to me.

And now, for my own record keeping and enjoyment, here's my sewing tally for 2012:  15 tops, 12 skirts, 9 dresses, 5 pillows, 4 booties, 3 pants, 3 jackets, 3 cardigans, 1 nightgown, 1 quilt.   I"ll review my goals and thoughts on the sewing year at another time but it was encouraging to look back at my previous posts and feel a sense of accomplishment that otherwise is escaping me at the moment.  
And also for my own record keeping, here's the jumble of our lives for the last 12 days:
Living room piled with kitchen and family room stuff

Guest room filled with sewing room furniture and all the closet stuff
old floor removed
Former cutting table on its way to oblivion....but still in use until then!
Can you believe dry wall holes just to rewire one hallway in order to restore phone service to all the rooms in our condo.
Tonight we'll be taking a picnic for sunset at the beach followed by fireworks at 7:30.....yup, living in SWFL means that even New Years is an "early bird special."  Tomorrow I'll head out for some retail therapy at the wonderful annual Dillards sale, a department store that we don't have up north in the Baltimore area.  Since I anticipate that this will be our last Florida winter, I'm looking for boots and warm weather clothes for the upcoming year.  No matter where I am this year or next, however, I get to enjoy some wonderful friends, some great family and the happiness of sharing a passion with like-minded people around the world.  Happy New Year to all of you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

New Mock Up, Old Traditions

Ah, now I remember why trying out a new pattern is so frustrating.  It's a pain to work out the adjustments that you need on your own, transfer them to the paper pattern properly and then sew up another mock up.  I'm at the first stage in this Vogue pattern and with holidays and our construction project starting shortly, I'm packing it up to head north for sewing retreat help.  But here are the pictures of Vogue 1262 and I'd love your opinions.

I was quite unhappy with the pulls at both shoulders since that armhole is very tricky to adjust and I'd like to avoid it and/or a bust dart if I can.  Then I looked at the pattern picture and those sames lines are there so maybe I'm just getting too picky:

As for the back, I may extend those back pleats further down the back since I am narrow there but then add some width in the back side seam area.
I've sewn it up in an old sheet and haven't decided yet what I will use for the final jacket.  
In the meantime, I've had some lovely days with friends this week (which nicely counter balanced the infuriating experience with an acquaintance earlier in the week.)  Wonderful lunch with sewing friends on Wednesday and then a fun movie discussion night last night at our Cineclub gathering.  We watched Shall We Kiss?, Shall We Kiss?  a romantic comedy with an interesting perspective on our friendships and relationships.  We carried over the discussion about men, women, friendship versus physical attraction and romance all the way to the dogpark this morning and had many laughs and revelations along the way.  Last night we brought a plate of cookies and I thought I'd share the recipes with you.....and keep them here on my blog as a reminder to me in the future.  These are some of my favorites from The America's Test Kitchen Baking Book  baking cookbook

Molasses Spice, Mexican Wedding and Chocolate Chips cookies 

Molasses Spice Cookies (Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, January 2002 and America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook)

1/3 cup granulated sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces)
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (11 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (I had whole allspice which I coarsely ground)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup molasses (about 6 ounces), light or dark

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir in cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and pepper and cook until fragrant (about a minute). Pour the mixture into a large bowl and cool slightly.

4. Using a whisk, mix in the white sugar, molasses, brown sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla into the butter until smooth. To easily pour out molasses, I spray the inside of a measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring the molasses out. It makes cleanup a lot easier.

5. Stir in the flour mixture until combined.

6. Pour some white sugar (about 2-3 tablespoons) into a shallow bowl or plate. Take a heaping tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Then, roll the ball lightly in the sugar until well coated and place it onto the baking sheet. If the sugar doesn't stick, you can lightly moisten your hands when rolling the dough into a ball. Space the balls about 2 1/2 inches apart.

7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9-12 minutes until the edges are set and beginning to brown, but the centers are still soft. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through.

8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack 

Mexican Wedding Cookies (Pecan or Walnut Crescent Cookies)
2 cups whole pecans or walnuts, chopped fine, divided
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon table salt
½ pound unsalted butter
(2 sticks), softened
1/3 cup superfine sugar (see note)
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups confectioners' sugar for rolling cooled cookies
Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix 1 cup chopped nuts, flour and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
In work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process remaining chopped nuts until the texture of coarse cornmeal, 10 to 15 seconds (do not overprocess); stir into flour mixture and set aside. (To finely grind chopped nuts by hand, roll them between two large sheets of plastic wrap with a rolling pin, applying moderate pressure, until broken down to coarse cornmeal-like texture).
In bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed or by hand, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 1½ minutes with an electric mixer or 4 minutes by hand; beat in vanilla. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula; add flour mixture and beat at low speed until dough just begins to come together but still looks scrappy, about 15 seconds. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl again with rubber spatula; continue beating at low speed until dough is cohesive, 6 to 9 seconds longer. Do not overbeat.
Working with about one tablespoon of dough at a time, roll and shape cookies into balls, crescents, rings or cigar shapes. Bake until tops are pale golden and bottoms are just beginning to brown, turning cookie sheets from front to back and switching from top to bottom racks halfway through baking, 17 to 19 minutes.
Cool cookies on sheets for about 2 minutes; remove with metal spatula to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Working with three or four cookies at a time, roll cookies in confectioners' sugar to coat them thoroughly. Gently shake off excess. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to five days.
Before serving, roll cookies in confectioners' sugar a second time to ensure a thick coating, and tap off excess.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Note: You can buy superfine sugar in most grocery stores. Or you can process regular granulated sugar to superfine consistency in about 30 seconds in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
- Source: America's Test Kitchen

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Cook’s Illustrated May/June 2009)
I made mine slightly smaller and baked them for about 11 minutes.
1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter
½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
3. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whish for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use a #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet.
5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10-14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Hope your sewing time is productive and your Decmber holidays of all traditions are a delight.

Friday, December 7, 2012

TNT Versus Something New

As I watch SWAP participants start to work out their wardrobe plans on Stitcher's Guild (where I lurk and seldom post) I recall about a half dozen years ago when I wanted to participate but didn't have TNT patterns in my repertoire.  I knew I would spend way too much time making muslins, adjusting and re-sewing patterns to ever make a deadline so I never joined in.  Now I have a slightly different challenge in my sewing life.  I have at least a dozen or more very happy TNT patterns and I have to almost force myself to start the muslin and fitting process with a new one.  I still don't participate in SWAPs since my simple daily life doesn't require a coordinated one at the dogpark cares when I have shown up in the same seven hoodies and tops for the last 9 years:-)  I have used the SWAP concept when I did my travel wardrobe two years ago Travel wardrobe from 2011  so I heartily endorse the plan, just don't need it annually in my life.  
Long intro to say I'm starting that new pattern process with Vogue 1262
Once again, it was a jacket that I tried on at Sandra Betzina's October trunk show and I immediately fell deeply in love with it.  I have a large collection of ponte knit up in Baltimore just eager to turn into a few versions of this jacket.  But first I have to get through those initial steps.  I think I'll fit it here in Florida and then take it back north when I go up for the wonderful January sewing retreat in Winchester, VA.  

The Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Sewing Guild just opened registration and my check is already speeding its way northward.  I bought my airline ticket this summer and can hardly wait to be amongst the room full of happy stitchers once again.  But first, it's time to cut out, mark and make preliminary adjustments here.  My mind can get so far ahead of my actual work......  Here's hoping that this new pattern ultimately ends up being a TNT addition to my collection.  
Which do you prefer, TNT or new to you pattern sewing?
Old sheet about to become new mock up jacket

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Preparation for Disruption

Changes in our lives can come surprisingly rapidly ( those recent multi-million dollar Powerball lottery winners are feeling that impact) or develop slowly, erratically, sort of like my sewing skills over almost two decades.  Putting our Florida home up for sale is definitely in the second category.  Every week we're doing projects or arranging for home repairs to be done.  We've put off a flooring decision in two rooms for almost ten years so now our procrastination means a little bit of a rush as we prepare to move all the furniture out in preparation for workmen late next week.  What that means is that my sewing room will be out of commission for a week or so....and that the wonderful cutting table that I've enjoyed for these years will be gone after that, to be replaced by a bedroom staging set up.  Fortunately I'll be keeping my sewing machines in place, of course neater and more staged....actually covered and tidied up each day (now that will be a change.)  The "extra" machines, fabric and patterns are already packed up in the storage unit.  
All of this preparation explains why I haven't been sewing this past week but I have been cutting out sewing projects at a rather manic pace.  I need sewing projects to keep me happy and sane when other things around me aren't in my control.  Here's what I've stashed for sewing in the future months:
A new to me McCalls cardi to try, several Jalie twist tops and one dress version, an Ottobre knit top and another silk chiffon Vogue 1291

A few Magic Pencil skirts and three Style Arc Elle pants along with  a Vogue bias top and Kwik Sew swirl-y skirt

A Vogue 8699 merino knit top to wear up north in January and a Simplicity 2364 lace and slinky combo dress
I figure once we go on the market, I can sit and sew and put away projects rather easily and quickly since they are already cut out.  In the meantime, thanks for your good luck wishes.  We have not sold a home in 28 years and even then my former company bought our little CA place as part of my relocation package.  I'm reciting the little engine mantra, "I think I can...I think I can..." as we go through this process.  I'm so grateful for the support and encouragement I get from in person and virtual friends.  I get so much inspiration when I see the accomplishments of other bloggers who manage complicated, challenging lives and retain their good humor and positive outlooks.  Here's hoping that 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Vogue 1291, A Surprising Winner

Back in early October I got to see Sandra Betzina's trunk show and luckily for me I also got to try on her garments since we are the same size D in Vogue's Today's Fit patterns.  This was a sleeper pattern that held no interest for me.....until I tried it on.  Loved it with Sandra's knit and chiffon versions so here are my results from the past week's sewing:
Vogue 1291 in silk chiffon

This was my second version and I cut it in a size D until the high hip area where I cut between the D and E lines.  I also took my time and stitched small hems on the armhole edges (stitch at 1/4", turn up the 1/4" right on the stitching line, trim the raw edge down to about 1/8", stitch again using a stitch joining foot moved over to about the 4th needle position and turn up the edge one more time....usually machine stitch again but this time I hand stitched to make the edge even neater.)  
Not easy to see on this picture but that vertical line in the center of the picture is my hemmed edge.

That's the reverse side of the hemmed edge.

3/8" bias trim around the neckline
Sandra worried that the neckline might be to small for some heads but even my large head had no problem with the neckline in size D.
So far my two versions have used the shorter length top ending at the high hip but I will try the longer version eventually.  The longer versions are what seem to be part of Vogue's picture illustrations.  My first version was in a medium weight knit with a lot of stretch and I had to keep taking in the bottom of the knit to make it fit snugly in my high hip area.  The knit fabric has a lot of open weave areas and doesn't drape very nicely but it certainly is functional and will serve a purpose in my wardrobe.  My preference will be to use a drapey knit or more silk chiffon in future versions and, yes, I do think there will be some future versions, surprise to me!

Vogue 1291, Today's Fit

Vogue 1291 in a medium weight knit
Bat Woman tryouts
There must be something in the air with this pattern since Cennatta just posted her two lovely tops this week as well....I really love it with her black leather skirt.  The Mahogany Stylist  
Hope you are getting some pleasant surprises in your sewing projects.