Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cupcake Wars

This summer I've decided that I want to find the perfect cupcake recipe.  This is not so good for the waistline, but I have to say the DH is pretty happy about testing these out!

Last week I made some amazing lemon cupcakes, but did not take any pictures.  I will have to make those again now that I have something to compare with and post on the blog.

This morning I made what I'm calling Nancy's Simple Vanilla Cupcakes.  OK, not so original, but it will help me keep track of the recipes!  I looked at several recipes, found what was the same in each, and then adapted the amounts in the other ingredients.  (Same thing for the frosting.)









This did make 12, but we ate some...
Here's my version:

Nancy's Simple Vanilla Cupcakes

1/2 cup softened butter
3/4  cup sugar
2 xlg or jumbo eggs  (we buy local and organic, so it's hard to judge the size.)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup milk ( some recipes said "cold", others "room temp".  Mine was close to room temperature.

  • Preheat oven to 350°F and line 12 cupcake tins with paper liners.
  • Using an electric mixer (or by hand), cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and beat after each. 
  • Add vanilla and milk
  • mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and add slowly to mixer bowl.
  • beat until smooth.
  • Use icecream scoop to fill 12 muffin tins 2/3-3/4 full
  • Bake at 350°F 15-20 minutes, or until slightly golden, and knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (I used convection, so it only took  10-12 minutes.)
  • Let cool in pan about 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool
  • When completely cool, top with Amazing Cream Cheese Frosting
Amazing Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8oz package cream cheese
  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) softened butter
  • 2-4 cups powdered sugar (I used about 3)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  1. cream together cream cheese and butter. 
  2. add vanilla
  3. Gradually add in powdered sugar until you have the desired consistency.  I used about 3 cups
  4. put about 1/3 of the frosting in a pastry bag and cut off the tip (I have these, but I'm sure you could use a quart size ziplock and cut off one corner.  The pastry bags are really worth it though IMHO)
  5. Squeeze frosting onto the top of each cupcake (I used about 2/3 of the frosting I made.  I put the rest in another pastry bag and used a rubber band to close the open end.  This will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.  Let it come to almost room temp and knead it before using again)
  6. Top with colored sugar or sprinkles if desired.
*cupcakes frosted with cream cheese frosting should be kept in the refrigerator.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Shirr Delight


I solved my shirring  problems, and this is how...
Shirr Delight - Emma's maxi

I bought this machine online several months ago online and was really disappointed.  It had missing prices, broken parts, and was lopsided.  I fixed what I could and put it aside.  Well, I pulled this baby out, loaded a bobbin with elastic thread and did a test run.  Perfect results!





















I didn't have to adjust tension or anything.  I just used the longest stitch and used the edge of the pressed foot as a guide for spacing.
Here is the front
 and the back




It's important to keep the fabric flat / stretched out as you stitch.



For this dress I used a narrow serged hem on the top and bottom edges,  using embroidery thread in the upper looper on the hem.

The fabric is left over from a dress I made several years ago.  It is a rayon crinkle.  It has so much crinkle that it acts almost like a knit.










My little 3-1/2 year old granddaughter already has her own sense of style.  She loves maxi dresses, shirring, and drapery fabric, so I'm pretty sure this will be a hit.  As soon as I see her next, I'll take pictures of her in it.  I sure hope its not too long.  I used another dress of hers as a guide, but it was a little short.  I estimated how much longer I needed it to be.  Hope to find out soon!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Emma Dress

It started out as the Emma dress, but after I realized how short it was, it became the Emma-top!  I've been wanting to do some elastic thread shirring and even bought a big cone of elastic thread.  I looked at all kinds of tutorials on line.  I have done this before, but on a different machine.  It was a whole different story.  With my top loading bobbin on the BabyLock, I had to take the needle plate cover off every time I had to change the bobbin.  And for using fabric 44" wide, I could do about 2 and a half lines of stitching, and then I would have to change the bobbin.

Another alternative would be to zigzag over the bobbin.  I found a cording foot in my arsenal, and this really helped make that job easy.  But of course, then you have to try to pull all the elastic threads evenly to get the gathering even.  Although I eventually got it done, I think next time I will try doing it on my other machine and see if that works any better.  Here is how I made the dress.

  1. Cut the fabric 2X the desired width (chest circumference X2)  You could go 1.5 X as much and use a smaller stitch.  Cut the fabric the desired length.
    1. I originally cut the fabric about 1 yard long.  Since I did not have GD here to decide what length to make it, I was worried that it would be too plain as just one piece, so I cut the bodice part about 16" long
    2. I decided that I wanted ruffles, so I cut the first tier 2X the width of the bottom edge of bodice and the next layer 3X .  So, I cut 5 strips 4" x 44"
  2. Sew 2 of the 4" strips together to make a loop and then sew the other 3 together to make another loop.  On both of these loops, mark at 4ths to get your 2 side seams and  CF and CB
  3. Use a narrow hem or rolled hem foot (That's what I did) to finish the top edge of the dress, and bottom edge of the largest loop.
  4. With elastic thread hand-wound in your bobbin and a longer stitch length (I used a 4), stitch parallel rows 1/2" apart (I just used the edge of my presser foot as a gauge.)  Leave long tails on the edges in case you want to tighten up the gathers when you are finished.  I ran rows of shirring for about 3-4" parallel to the upper edge.  **Be sure to practice this first on a scrap of fabric, since all machines and fabric are different, you will get different results.
  5. Since my machine was not pulling the gathers tight enough, I adjusted them by hand.  This is not easy to do and get it even.  I did not think of the zigzag thing until after I was finished. 
  6. Run 2 rows of long stitches along the top edge of both loops in order to gather.  I stopped and started stitching at each of the seam allowances to help with the gathering, but do whatever works for you.  It's a lot of gathering!
  7. For the straps I cut one piece 22x3.5"  I folded it in half, opened it out and folded the edges into the middle.  I then folded it in half again so that the raw edges were enclosed and stitched along the edge.  I cut each strap at 11" and marked 1.5" from each edge.  This mark was set even to the top of the bodice.  You can play around with this and put the straps as far apart or close together as you want.  
After I finished the dress (DGD was still not here) I realized it would be way too short.  As soon as she got here, I tried it on her.  I ended up making a pair of shorts to go with it.  All in all, this little outfit was cut and sewn that morning, and then I cut and sewed the shorts after lunch.  She wore her new outfit that afternoon!  I'd like to make her another dress with shirring, but I'm going to practice on one of my other machines until I get it with the right amount of gathering with the least amount of effort!



Sunday, June 21, 2015

Retirement Party dress on the move

As I drove up to my driveway, I smiled to see the stop sigh that said "Stop! Party here!"  Then I saw this






It was a great party!  
There were about 25 people, so just about the right size.  I think we had enough food to feed four times that many people!  The beat part was that I didn't have to do any of it.


After I got dressed, my daughter was shocked that my dress was too low cut.  Fortunately I had e trap fabric, but no extra time.  The magic of safety pins!  Here's a shot of me with my two wonderful kids
And, a full length shot of the dress with Andy, the DH
  I can see there are still some things I Need to tweak on the bodice of this dress to get it to be the most comfortable and fit the way I want it to, but all in all, I was very happy with how this dress turned out.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I can turn a 20 minute task into a 2 hour project

And that's exactly what happened on this dress.  I knew that all I had to do was put in the zipper and attach the straps.  Simple.   Arghhh!  Exhibit A:



My machine does this sometimes.  It will be sewing along fine for months, and then it will start this crap.  Looping threads on the bottom and skipping stitches.  So, I ripped out the whole zipper.  For whatever reason, I could not get the stupid thing in straight after that.  Finally, I got it in, matched the bodice seams, and had to tweak the top edge with some hand sewing to get them to match (sort of).

But now, the dress is finished!  It's a little low cut for the party, so I stitched up the front of the bodice by hand.  Still low, but not as bad.  I'll take pictures tomorrow after I get ready for the "big event"!

 Actually, I'm sure the party will be low-key and lots of fun.  Great group of friends.  I'm pretty sure now that my brother is NOT coming, but we will all have a great time anyway.  Food, wine, friends, great summer weather (well, if you call 100+ degrees great, but we do have A/C), and the river.  What else could you ask for?  Oh yeah, and I didn't have to do any of the planning or work!  Thank you DH and my great friend, Jennifer!

Retirement Party Dress - #maxisewalong

I didn't work on my dress yesterday.  Migraine.  Boo.
But, today is a new day.  Headache almost gone.  I must finish this dress today since the party is tomorrow, and I'm kicked out of the house for most of the day!  I know there are some surprises, and I'm not asking questions.  hehe...  I think am hoping that my brother is coming out from Tennessee, but that may be a long shot.  BUT, I still have that feeling - ya know?

Anyway, dress progress.  This dress has a fully lined bodice as I said before.  And the way it's done means no alterations after it's put together (that's always scary!!)  I did make a muslin, but that's never the same as actually putting the dress together with lining and a zipper.  Sigh.  I guess I could baste in the zipper and see how that goes.  That's all. I. have. left. to. do. Yay! (oops - forgot I will need to tack in the straps too)   I've even hemmed the thing.  I don't think I have hand hemmed anything in over a year, but I was zoned out from my headache yesterday and watching a little SYTYCD and America's got Talent on the On Demand.  It started with a little hand sewing of the bodice.  The whole thing is lined and then they have you attach the skirt and leave a raw edge.  What's with that?  I see this over and over in patterns.  The thing is, the bodice is lined in parts, so it's not like you can really just pull that lining over and cover up the raw edge of the skirt.  I decided to bring in a little Hug Snug and cover that baby up.  Magic.


 I love this stuff.  But, at almost $10.00 a roll, I only have white, pink, and black.  Of course, I have had these rolls for about 8 years, so definitely worth the investment.  Use it for so many things.
One thing I love about things that are lined and underlined is that you can do handsewing and never touch the outer fabric.  No stitches showing!









I had already sewn stretch lace to the hem.  I hate when a curved hem has to be "pleated" to hem up.  On fuller skirts, I usually just do a narrow or rolled hem, but on this, I wanted the weight of the hem.  I decided to sew on the stretch lace, stretching it as I sewed it so that the top of it would be smaller than the bottom.  It worked perfectly.  I even had a package of orange in my stash!  (Love to search yard sales and thrift stores for things like this.)  So, I decided to go ahead and hand stitch the hem too.  I'm glad I did because it really does not show on the outside at all.  Love prints and textured fabrics for that!


So here it is on poor old Myrtle, still waiting for a zipper.  All I have in the stash that's even close to working is pink.  Not going to drive 45 minutes to get a different zipper.  It will have to be pink.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Maxi Love

I've been wanting to make a maxi dress (actually several) this summer, but have been having trouble finding the "perfect" pattern.  Even when searching for a pattern to buy, I still haven't found anything I'm that crazy about.  I finally settled on New Look 6774.  It has the look I'm after.  Unfortuately, this crossover bodice front does not work for me.  I would guess that it does not work well for most large busted women.  Or maybe I'm just doing something wrong.  The problem is that little crossover piece that goes under the bust.  It doesn't actually go under the bust.  It kind of cuts across it.  It seems to work OK on the front piece, but the under piece definitely wants to let it ride UNDER the bust.  This causes pulling up of the under-bust band and gapping in the front.  Not a good look.  I struggled with this on my summer top, and now here we go again.  I ended up redrafting the front of the bust and hopefully this will help.

Since I am doing the stash contest on PR, I decided I better find something in my stash to use.  I originally bought this cotton fabric to make another dress with a really full skirt.  Most of the fabric I have is in smaller cuts; not enough to make a maxi dress.  This fabric has more than enough.
I'm calling it a madras / seersucker combo.  Andy is throwing a retirement party for me this Friday night, and I figured this will be the perfect dress to wear.  (If I finish it.  If it fits.  If it looks good)

Madras / seersucker for Maxi dress

I worked on this almost all day yesterday, but still have some things to finish up.  Right now it is pinned together.  This dress is a lot of work.  Each bodice piece is interfaced and lined.  That includes 2 bodice fronts, 2 bodice backs, 2 straps, and an underbust band.  Also, those straps are a pain in the you know what to put on.  They are very steep curves and you are putting them onto a straight piece in the opposite direction.  Not fun.  Especially since I altered the top, many of the dots and notches did not line up.
I happened to be checking out some reviews on PR and linked through to "Sewn by Ashley"'s blog.  She is hosting a Maxi Dress Sew Along along with That's Sew Amy, so I'm in.  Perfect timing!
  I will post more pictures later!!!
(Gotta go.  DH wants to watch a little TV together.  It's too darn hot to do anything else.)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summer top - S1426

It's been getting hotter every day here.  It is 101 today and going to get hotter later this week.  I can stay inside where there is A/C, but I can't live my life indoors.  Well, I can, but who would want to?
UntitledAnyway, I decided I wanted to make a few summer tops.  I hate wearing a bra when it's over 100 degrees out.  It's just one more layer that I don't want.  Strapless bras NEVER work for me, and I've tried dozens.  The one that actually works the best is the nu-bra adhesive bra, but when you are dripping sweat, this is not the best option either.  And forget going completely braless.  Not happening.  Well, it will happen with the right top - and that's exactly what I was looking for.





Enter simplicity 1426.


FBA to S1426Now mind you, I am 57, so I am not talking about going out in public, but for at home, and working in the yard, this is perfect.  This pattern would be fast and easy if it fit right out of the envelope, but for this girl, that's not going to happen either.  The first thing I did was try to figure out how to do a FBA on this.  Here is my first shot.





Untitled

 I think I will need to make some further adjustments.  It fits OK, but not exactly right.  I cut off part of the curve down at CF to avoid gapping, but now it is too tight there and pulls the CF up at the band as you can sort of see in the above photo.



I actually got the cups to fit almost perfectly, but I moved them farther apart at the center.  The only problem with this was that I had already cut the band and they did not fit correctly into the band.  What I SHOULD have done was eliminate how much I moved them apart from the side seam.  Unfortunately, I had already sewn the upper band, so that was not an option unless I wanted to take the whole thing apart.
This is good enough for now and for working in the yard.  I'd like to try it again making different alterations.  Also, the other views are all cute and it's going to be a long hot summer...



Untitled


A lot of people were confused by the band instructions on this, but if you followed it step by step, it was really fine.  The problem I had was with the original pattern darts.  Look at this.  Any ideas WHY the size 4 would have a deeper dart than the size 12?  This just does not make sense to me.


S1426
S1426S1426

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Fun With Fabrics

Over the past year I have collected quite a few Cutting Line Designs patterns, although I have only made one up to this point.  I think I actually got this pattern at the PR pattern exchange at PR last month.    The pattern in Fun With Fabrics.  I had decided to make the top sleeveless, but after looking at the pattern pieces, I figured I better make it with sleeves first to see.  I didn’t have enough of the white fabric that I wanted to use to make it with sleeves, so I pulled this brown linen out of my stash to try.  I originally bought this to make a pair of summer pants, but after I got it home, I realized it was too thin and would probably be so wrinkly and light weight that it would look like pajamas!

Fun With Fabrics in light weight linen
I enjoyed making this top and the construction process.  The neck is bound with bias binding, but I must have bound it too tightly because now I can barely get it over my head!  Next time I will cut the neck larger because I’m really not a fan of jewel necklines, although I don’t think it looks bad on this.  
Fun With Fabrics in light weight linen
The band across the bottom with the buttons is a nice detail.  


Although it is really hot here in summer, and I don’t wear sleeves very often, this will be perfect for chilly mornings or evenings.


I usually go for more fitted styles, but this will fit my new RETIRED lifestyle just fine!
Fun With Fabrics in light weight linen

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Cascade Skirt



imageA while ago, Deepika posted a review for Megan Nielson's Cascade Skirt.  I really liked it, and finally bought the pattern.  I'm not a big fan of digital patterns.  Getting them printed at a copy shop is expensive and putting them together is time consuming.  Since I went through putting this thing together, I will definitely make it again!







Cascade Skirt






I have had this Rayon georgette fabric for years!  I got it in a rayon mystery bundle from Fabricmartfabrics, probably about 10 years ago.  I've never known what to do with it, but when I decided to make the cascade skirt, this was one of the few fabrics I had enough of that was suitable.  This skirt takes about 4 yards of fabric! (plus lining if you use it!)

This is the first time I've used a Megan Nielson pattern, and the directions were great.  It was easy to put the skirt together, and I liked that she has you use French Seams.  I was working with a rayon georgette, so I would have used them anyway, but it's nice to have that finished seam no matter what the fabric.  On this type of style, your seams will show.

If you've ever worked with georgette, you know that it is really easy for the fabric to shift while you are cutting it out.  I'm always so careful to keep everything on grain, but sometimes, it just doesn't happen.  I should have picked up my pattern pieces and recut them, or cut everything in a single layer.  Then, maybe, this would not have happened:
Cascade skirt - hem-tastrophy!
I don't know if this happened because the fabric was off grain when I cut it, or something else, but I had to lay this out flat and cut evenly 2" away from the lining all the way around.  It was just this one side that was hanging down.  Even though it was "fixed" after I wore it today, I can see that it is still hanging down more on that side than on the other side.
Untitled
Although it doesn't look as noticeable from the back:
Cascade Skirt

Using a rolled hem foot was a real time-saver on this thing.  Both the lining and the skirt needed to be done.  Even though I had to fight with it part of the time, it still makes a great finish and I love it.  I think it's one of those things that the more you do it the easier it gets.  That's why I hemmed the lining first!

I'm not sure why this skirt swings to the back.  The only way I can think of to correct this is to lift up the CF and wrap edge of the skirt.  However, If I do that, the skirt will lose a lot of its drape in the front.  I don't like it though, and am not sure how to fix it.
Cascade skirt - side swing
I probably will make this skirt again with a few tweaks. Another thing I will do is lower the waist line on the skirt front edge. The pattern piece really goes up, and this causes the front to move toward the side seam. If I lower the upper edge (essentially taking a dart off the top) this will bring the skirt farther across the front which will keep it from gaping open so easily.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Details on La Strada Tee

I blogged about this top a couple of posts ago, but I wanted to add some details.

First of all, the neck edge.  I like the v neck and the way it is made, but I wasn't thrilled with the unfinished neck facing so I serged it.  Unfortunately, it hits right at the top of the bra line, so it shows as a ridge.  I will probably cut off the serging and let it stay unfinished for a smoother look.




















Here you can see more detail on my falling-over-sideways dress form.  Not sure how to get her standing up straight again.  She's a leaner now.






Here's a couple of details that I really like.  The gathering on the front really takes this T from ordinary to unique.  Unfortunately, it was a booger to figure out and get straight.  Both sides do not have the same amount of curve.  It was hard to tell how much to sew where, so I guessed it.  Next time I will do more marking than is indicated on the pattern so that both sides come out even.















I love the back on this.  You can't really tell from the pattern envelope (well, I didn't notice) that the back of the collar is gathered.  I think that looks pretty cool.  Also, the gathers on the back are really nice. I think this top would lend itself nicely to a mixed-media approach.  Maybe chiffon or crepe de chine.  It would need to be something with some "flow" to it I think.






I think I would like to make this top about 4-6 inches longer so that it would be long enough to wear with leggings.  I'm not really a leggings wearer, but I'd like to try it and I think this would be a good tunic.  It's long enough to cover the rear, but not long enough in the front for my taste in order to wear it as a tunic.  Maybe if I was 20 and in good shape - he he...













And here we are with the armhole issue.  I don't know if its because the top is so wide on me, or the armholes are just too big, but there is no getting away from the bra-showing problem.  I'm afraid that if I sew the side seams up any further they will be too tight.

Well, this is a crappy picture of me, but I think it is a better look to have jeans or darker pants with this colored top.  I was at JoAnns today and they had a dark red fabric with lengthwise stretch that looked like it might be bengaline.  I may have to go back and get that.  I've been wanting to try the Style Arc Barb pant (I think it was a free download awhile ago) and that might be a perfect fabric for it - and it would look good with this top!