Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pillows and Packages

Summer is still hanging out in our neighborhood and our front porch swing needed some new accessories if we are going to use it comfortably into autumn.  Last year Mr. Lucky refinished the frame on the Nags Head Hammock swing that we've owned for more than twenty-five years.  This year I needed to make new small pillow headrests but, of course, couldn't commit to a fabric choice when there are so many outdoor fabric alternatives out there.  I settled on these coordinated prints from and then added two comfy pillows to brighten the area.  
The chevron like print is 

Swavelle/Mill Creek Indoor/Outdoor Glamis Peppercorn

and the ikat like print on the headrest pillows is

Swavelle/Mill Creek Outdoor Marva Volcano

I liked the fabrics when I opened the package a few weeks ago and I like knowing that lets me return them if they aren't what I expected.  Great deal for the price.
Speaking of liking package contents (ok, a bit forced, but a segue nonetheless) I also enjoyed seeing my friend Cathy on Friday and examining the contents of her first package from Stitch Fix, StitchFix an online personal styling service. You fill out an online questionnaire and a company "stylist" picks out items for you to try and purchase or return.  Cathy and I are both no longer working full time so we've had several discussions about what to wear each day....besides staying in my dogwalking clothes all day long, for instance.  There were three tops, one "dress".....more like a tunic for someone in our age range....and a necklace.  We agreed unanimously that the one top in particular was a real hit, of course the most expensive item since it was silk.  But it flattered her in the silhouette and the colors and it was something neither one of us would have ever tried on in a department a matter of fact, we wouldn't probably have shopped in that department at all.  The clothing choices trend to a younger market (hey, 40s are younger these days, yikes) so it was interesting to see if anything would fit our age and taste.  I still have enough stores near me to try such snoop shopping in real time but I can see a market for this service particularly for time-pressed women.  It's sort of like Zappos, free shipping both ways but someone is selecting the clothes and, with your feedback, can get better at discerning your taste and style.  It's a whole new business model for fashion and I'll be curious to see how it develops...and if Cathy buys that lovely blouse.   
I won't show you the gift package that I sent out on Saturday until after the recipient's birthday this coming weekend.  
Last set of packages that arrived early last week:

Mr. Lucky and I took a beautiful drive and country walk about one hour north into Pennsylvania farm land.  The peaches come from our favorite pick your own orchard and the tomatoes from a farmer who I met two years ago.  His daughter put him on craigslist and I think he's still surprised by the good response he gets.
Yes, it's canning and jam making season here.   From that to this:
and this:

Tomato Crostata With Honey-Thyme Glaze


  • 125 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 cup), more for rolling out dough
  • 75 grams fine cornmeal (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons), cut into small cubes
  • 35 grams grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 1/2 cup)


  • 1 1/2 pounds different-colored tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick (or halved if cherry or grape tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher sea salt, plus a pinch
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme sprigs, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 65 grams extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 cup)
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • Flaky sea salt, like Maldon


Make the crust: In a food processor, briefly pulse together flour, cornmeal and salt. Add butter and cheese and pulse until mixture forms chickpea-size pieces (3 to 5 one-second pulses). Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, up to 6 tablespoons, pulsing occasionally until mixture is just moist enough to hold together. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Spread out tomato slices in a single layer. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and let sit for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.
In a skillet over medium heat, combine vinegar, honey and thyme sprigs and bring to a simmer; let simmer 2 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Wipe out skillet, then add olive oil and garlic. Cook garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, or until garlic is golden and caramelized. Remove garlic and finely chop. Reserve garlic oil.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin. Gently roll out dough to a 1/4-inch thickness, dusting with flour if dough is sticking. Transfer dough to baking sheet and return to fridge for another 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Pat tomatoes dry with paper towels. Brush tomatoes with honey mixture (reserve the thyme sprigs). Leaving a 3-inch border, distribute cheese, garlic and half the chopped thyme leaves on center of crust. Add black pepper to taste, then layer tomatoes in an overlapping pattern, maintaining the 3-inch border. Drizzle garlic oil over tomatoes, sprinkle with remaining thyme leaves and lay the reserved whole thyme sprigs on top. Gently fold crust up around tomatoes, making a 2-inch border.
In a small bowl, whisk egg and 1 teaspoon water. Using a pastry brush, brush egg wash over crust and sprinkle top of crostata with flaky salt. Bake for about 35 minutes, until pastry is deeply golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
6 to 8 servings

I'm no food photographer but this recipe was fantastic and is sure to be in our summer rotation. 
I hope you've had good new discoveries this summer as well.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cool Weather Sewing in August

This beautifully textured wool knit has been in my resource center for several years, back from when Fabric Mart would sell designer samples (short 1-2 yard rough cuts) on hangers on the store side walls.  Now their store is overflowing and has tall shelves along those walls and back rooms filled in the same manner.  Thank you, sewing friends, for making their business grow when so many others have struggled.  
It's a medium grey with green undertones and I wanted a simple pattern that would highlight the fabric's uniqueness.  I turned to my classic and well-loved Pamela's Patterns Draped Front Cardigan. Pamela's Patterns Yes, I could have perhaps tried a new, more stylish pattern but I love this fabric and know that this will be a well-loved and well-worn new garment in my wardrobe.  It's very lightweight but also very, very warm and is probably 100% wool.  (Fabric aside:  I think Polarfleece is the best new fabric of the last century but there's nothing like a wool sweater knit for warmth.) I stitched it up last Monday when the weather was clear and cool, so surprising for Baltimore and early August.  I was still on my "high" from the ASG conference and this cardigan was already cut out and waiting for me in my precut project pile.     
Fabric Mart Fabrics wool knit sample piece

Pamela's Patterns Draped Front Cardigan.....I hesitate to think what number this might be in my wardrobe.
Hmmmm, my precut project pile, let me explain.  I would like to be one of those people who start one project, stay focused on that project and then complete....or maybe even abandon that project.  I am not wired that way but I do learn a tremendous amount from those of you who create like that.  When I have a challenging project, I like to walk away from it and take a break to mull over my next steps.  But I also still like to keep myself in the sewing room and that's where my TNT patterns and precut project pile comes in handy.  I have perhaps a half dozen simple sewing projects already precut waiting for me to pull them out and sew them up, somehwhat mindlessly, while the back of my head is stewing with that next project.  Whatever your work/sewing/living style is I hope it brings yo the same joy and satisfaction....and allows you to stretch and try new things as well.  

Later in the past week our August  days returned to more typical ones...steamy, sultry, lots of rain.  Good for many of my flowers and shrubs although this year the home tomato crop is dismal since we haven't had a lot of hot temps or dry days.  When it's this sticky I'd rather read than handle fabric or tissue paper patterns so here are a few more books that I've been enjoying:
My book group read and enjoyed this one tremendously and it might be one of my top two or three of the year.  
From Goodreads:
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

Someone recommended this English novel from the 1930's after I raved about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry earlier this year.  This was an absolute charmer and a hoot.  
From Amazon:
Who Knew One Book Could Cause So Much Chaos?
Barbara Bunde is in a bind. Times are harsh, and Barbara's bank account has seen better days. Maybe she could sell a novel ... if she knew any stories. Stumped for ideas, Barbara draws inspiration from her fellow residents of Silverstream, the little English village she knows inside and out.
To her surprise, the novel is a smash. It's a good thing she wrote under a pseudonym, because the folks of Silverstream are in an uproar. But what really turns Miss Bunde's world around is this: what happens to the characters in her book starts happening to their real-life counterparts. Does life really imitate art?
A beloved author who has sold more than seven million books, D. E. Stevenson is at her best with Miss Buncle's Book, crafting a highly original and charming tale about what happens when people see themselves through someone else's eyes.
I've mentioned my strong Anglophile streak before and this book seemed to be the "backstory" to my beloved Miss Read books of 20 years ago.  Oh my gosh, what happens when people recognize themselves in those little village novels.....and some of them are affronted by the perspective.  Delightful and I look forward to reading the sequel.
The British Royal Family are in the news this summer with a happy blessed new baby in the family.  (Isn't every new baby boy a prince in his own right?)  This next charming novel takes on the Royal Family in a slightly less obsequious manner.
From Amazon:
An absolute delight of a debut novel by William Kuhn—author of Reading Jackie:  Her Autobiography in BooksMrs Queen Takes the Train wittily imagines the kerfuffle that transpires when a bored Queen Elizabeth strolls out of the palace in search of a little fun, leaving behind a desperate team of courtiers who must find the missing Windsor before a national scandal erupts. Reminiscent of Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, this lively, wonderfully inventive romp takes readers into the mind of the grand matriarch of Britain’s Royal Family, bringing us an endearing runaway Queen Elizabeth on the town—and leading us behind the Buckingham Palace walls and into the upstairs/downstairs spaces of England’s monarchy.
Enough on the books,  my latest sewing project is a gift for a family member so I'll keep it under wraps for a few more weeks.  Now it's time to get off the computer and walk to the library to pick up a book on reserve.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Claiming My Blog

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Sewing, I'm semi-decent at that.  Knowing what the heck is happening with html and blogging.....I'm the Penny of the tech blogworld.  Let's see if blindly following what Bloglovin told me to do does anything.
Now, back to the sewing room....  carry on.

Monday, August 5, 2013

ASG Conference: Who I Saw, What I Learned, What I Bought

Every year the American Sewing Guild has a national convention with classes, a fashion show and vendors.  I've attended four of these conferences in the last 12 years: Birmingham, Philadelphia, and now the Virginia one for a second time.  The classes are longer and more detailed than at a typical "sewing expo" since the instructors are paid (still a pittance, IMNHO) for teaching rather than just making money from their booth sales....although booth sales are available.  I have taken many of this year's classes and instructors before so I spent my time volunteering at the ASG registration booth or as a classroom ticket taker/assistant for a few instructors. That's a nice benefit for the local chapter get to volunteer and get a free class for every three hours and admission to the vendor hall.  
For my own records and your small enlightenment, here's my report from the few sessions I attended along with my purchases.  
Gail Patrice Yellin gave a class on getting the most out of using your coverstitch and attendees got to rent the Babylock Evolution or bring their own machine.  She taught zipper insertion, tying off, the elastic foot and decorative stitching, my favorite part.  Gail has a book on embellishment and I like her subtle but sophisticated embellishment ideas with thread, beads and ribbon.  
Gail Patrice Yellin teaching the coverstitch

I'm going to use one of her embellishment techniques for my challenge fabric project.  I bought the book and enjoyed seeing her lovely garments on display.

Sarah Veblen demonstrates sewing, clipping and turning facings
My free session was with Sarah Veblen.  I sat in on her session on drafting, interfacing, sewing, clipping, turning and understitching facings.  Heck, I don't even sew many facings but Sarah's vast experience in custom dress-making means that you'll always learn something.  
After that session I slipped back into the vendor hall and picked up a useful set of tools from a new supplier, Zippershipper  Zippershipper  Wow, look at the huge array of zippers for all purposes.  I bought a tool for shortening zippers and some brass toned zipper stops.  I have a collection of zippers bought "on spec" from frequent visits to the PA Fabric Outlet for years.  I have stopped the buying habit and it's nice to have a tool that can make my collection the right size.  More on zippers later this fall, I promise.

On Saturday I was a classroom assistant for Lyla Messenger  LJ Designs  Lyla lives out west near lake Tahoe and her clothes patterns have a casual line with practical but stylish elements.  For example, she does lovely upscale details on plain polarfleece so that it is practical but also stylish without being cutesy or overly sporty.  She sews a great deal with knits and again makes them stylish with great fabric choices and design details.  Wonderful trunk show and generous explanations of how she achieves her effects on each garment.
Lyla Messenger
I bought two simple patterns, one for her Margarita tank top with wonderfully flattering lines and a simple shawl pattern as well as some of her very sheer 3/8 fusible tape and that plastic wire I've been wanting since I saw it on a jacket lapel this spring.

Oh, lovely readers, you've stayed with me this long because you knew that the best was last.  On Saturday afternoon I drove back to Baltimore so that Mr. Lucky and I could drive up to Stewartstown, PA for dancing and dining at the winery with our favorite band, Mood Swings.  They did not disappoint and it was a terrific, albeit late night.  Home by 11:30, walked the dogs then up again at 5:30am, walked dogs again and took off to go back to the conference. Why on earth, you might rightfully ask.  Susan Khalje, that's why.  Yes, yes, lucky, lucky me, I got to be the ticket taker for Susan Khalje's Lace Guipure skirt class that morning and had to be in Crystal City, VA by 7:45 am.  Mr. Lucky dropped me off while he headed out to play golf under clear, sunny skies.  I headed to the subterranean classroom but was cheered by the excitement of 19 sewists who brought their fitted muslin straight skirts, their spectacular guipure laces and their lovely silk charmeuses.  

Susan Khalje helps a student baste her muslin underlining to the silk charmeuse.
One of my personal favorites, from Britex in San Francisco  (How come I can forget so many things in my own life but can remember where almost strangers bought their fabric?)
From B&J in NYC
Also B&J, I think
I stayed almost all  morning, watching participants finalize their skirt fitting, cut out their muslin underlining and baste the underlining to the charmeuse.  Mr. Lucky came to get me before lunch so we could head home and take care of the dogs so I missed the other very detailed steps.  I'm not sure I want a guipure lace skirt in my wardrobe but I am definitely considering a lace top in my future sewing.  It was just special being around an inspiring teacher who is so kind, encouraging, challenging and lovely.  Great way to end the four days.  Now I am back home and filled with ideas.  The weather is cool and glorious for August so it's into the sewing room I head.  Hope your weekend was as enjoyable.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Off to the ASG Sewing Conference

If When you read this, I'll be enjoying four days at the American Sewing Guild conference being held in Arlington, VA.  I'll be acting as a general ASG volunteer and classroom volunteer.  I've seen many of these wonderful instructors frequently over the years so I am most looking forward to the vendor hall and the Saturday fashion show.  My photography skills aren't great but I promise pictures.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with pictures for our local chapter fabric challenge.  90 or so of us signed up to receive a yard of fabric (a generous yard since it came from Fabric Mart) to do with what we will. We'll compare finished projects at our local annual meeting in Ocotber.
Here's the fabric....a mid-weight slight stretch woven, 54" wide.
Challenge fabric
What would you do with this piece of fabric?

Hope your weekend is as filled with sewing fun, laughs and inspiration.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Style Arc Patterns and the Amber Woven Blouse

All winter long I waited each month to see what Style Arc's 'free" pattern of the month would be.  Each time I was disappointed that the "look" that month wasn't really me....until April when Patsy was the freebie.  So I sent off my order for these three patterns:
Style Arc April 2013 order
After having had some tunic success I decided to give the Amber top a try first.I don't normally wear raglan sleeve tops but wanted to see what I thought of this one since it had side darts.  
Lucky and I discuss the fit of the Amber top....are you noticing the similar colors in our outfits?.

I  bought a size 12 and added maybe 1/2 inch to the bottom six inches by my high and lower hip area.  I did have to do a small FBA to stop this top from swinging up in the front.  What surprised me, however, was that even before the FBA I had to raise the bust dart 1/2 inch.  I actually did a petite adjustment across the front, the sleeve and the back.  Now the armhole is a little higher, the bust dart is in the right place and the front and back are level.  I did a swayback adjustment of 3/4" and could probably do a slightly larger one but I'll live with the final results.  It's a casual woven tunic like top after all, meant to skim my body on hot summer days and good with skinny jeans.  It just might be a good summer dress, making that initial pattern investment from Australia even more worthwhile.
Both of us are smiling at the result.
Front and back hems look even to me.
This is my second mock up with the FBA test so I didn't use the center panel instructions, just stitched it up in a cross-dyed linen remnant from a dress last summer.  Very wearable and very happy that I have another TNT pattern to use in some creative ways.
Very bendy....

Isn't this jewelry a kick?  When I was at the fashion show where I caught up with Susan Khalje, I saw several of these bendable necklaces/bracelets.  I bought a few and enjoy having something casual but shiny for outfits like this. These are readily available on Ebay as well  Bendable Necklace They must have been a costume jewelry trend that I missed about three or four years ago (no surprise there) since I spotted one of these necklaces in a scene in a movie recently....and I'm always behind on movies, too.  
Speaking of movies, here's what my monthly potluck movie discussion group has been watching over the last four months.  
"The Women on the Sixth Floor"  The Women on the Sixth Floor was a delightful, charming film to welcome us back to Baltimore.  It is set in France in the 60's and the costumes and sets are fantastic....see it just for the fashions.  It was an audience favorite at Aspen a few years ago and we all could see why.  
In May we watched "Vitus."  Vitus  Wow, what a perfect film.  Just when you think it's going to be a cliche,  musical prodigy, pushy parents, we know where this is going....there are lovely subtle twists and wonderfully poignant moments.  We all raved about it.  This one won the Swiss Best Film and we agreed with the judges.....not that any of us had seen any other Swiss films from 2007 LOL.
In June we watched an Iranian film that was so gentle and sweet and endearing, "Children of Heaven"  Children of Heaven which was released in 1997 and nominated for an Oscar that year.  It's slow and quiet and we didn't have much to say other than we enjoyed watching it unfold.
This past month we would usually be going to one of the many outdoor movies in the Baltimore area.  But high heat made us change our plans and so the movie group enjoyed a Canadian film, "Sabah."  Sabah  It's an examination of a cross-cultural romance as Muslim immigrants find new homes and lives in Canada.  We enjoyed it and enjoyed discussing the themes and ideas.  
Now, must go pack for four days of fun. Will fill you in those details next time.  Until then, sew grateful......