Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gingerbread 2008

Making gingerbread houses is our favorite thing about Christmas.

This year, Darin was inspired by Sanford and Son.

My theme was Illuminati Dinosaur Bloodbath

Monday, December 22, 2008

Latest Painting

Here is my latest painting. It's for my friend Quentin. It's not quite this yellow, but it is pretty close colorwise. (We are low on natural light in my studio right now.)

Oil on canvas, 12/2008.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Nicest Thing I Ever Made

I have a new skirt! It is yet another version of the Hot Patterns Plain and Simple A-line skirt.

The fabric is a olive wool blend tweed from Fabric Mart. I love love love it. I omitted the waistband and sewed the lining directly to the top of the skirt (right sides together), added some twill tape in the seam allowance to prevent stretching, flipped the lining to the inside and then topstitched through both layers. I handpicked the zipper and attached the bottom of the lining to the skirt with french tacks. I also hand sewed the hem down. It fits great and I feel like I made something of real quality.

What's not so great about this skirt?

I am not so happy with the serged edges. They actually look fine, but I would like to take the quality up a notch. I'll need to add some length to the skirt next time so I have enough to turn over the edges on the hem.

Things I learned:
  • Wool is great! There were some wrinkles in the waist after I did the topstitching, but I steamed the hell out of them and they went away.
  • By taking the waistband out, I realized the skirt was still too big in spots. I took it in about an inch-and-a-half at the waist and a quarter inch at each side and it fit much better.
  • I am much better at putting zippers in by hand. It's not too much trouble and it looks way better than when I use my machine.
I also made Io a scarf for Christmas. Just a quick drop stitch pattern.

I am currently working on a muslin for the Hot Patterns Deco Vibe Delicious Dress. It it works out, I am going to make a black silk version for New Years eve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Read it!

So I am reading this book called The Nine by Jefferey Toobin about the Supreme Court. It totally rocks. I suggest that you put down your computer and go to the nearest bookstore/library and indulge. I never knew that Clarence Thomas was both a serious nut job and the friendliest of the justices. Oh, the things you can learn.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Knit Blocking for Folks Who Sew

I like to knit. I go through periods where I like it more than others, but in general, I always have something on the needles. I especially like to make sweaters. Scarves and hats are okay, but I really enjoy the thrill of a new cardigan, even when making something for Io.

Here is the newest masterpiece (not only does my camera hate taking pictures of knits pinned to a plastic-covered grid, but it totally hates this color):

I enjoy the blocking process, because that is what turns the wonky, wadded up thing that I just knit into a beautiful, fine fitting sweater. (This particular sweater is Loppem by Norah Gaughan; more info when it is finished blocking.) Sweaters that are knit in pieces are blocked in pieces and then assembled into the sweater shape. Knit-in-one-piece sweaters are blocked before I weave in all the ends. Here's how I work my magic:

  1. Finish knitting all the pieces of a sweater. (Actually, if the sweater is really big, I knit and block the body, and then knit and block the sleeves.)
  2. Get the pieces damp. I do this one of two ways: 1. Roll the pieces up in a wet towel (or towels) that have been through the washer and let set over night. (I coordinate doing my laundry with this one.) (This tip is courtesy of Bonne Marie Burns.) 2. Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water, put the pieces in to get completely wet, and then throw them in the washer on the spin cycle for a few minutes to get all the water out. (I only do this when the piece is going to need a lot of blocking help. It is also how I wash my knits, with the addition of a little Eucalan.)
  3. Because I sew, I have one of those big one inch-gridded cardboard thingies than many of us lay on the floor and cut our patterns on. (See picture above.) I also have large plastic sheets lying around because that is just the kind of person I am. I lay the plastic over the cardboard and pin the knits to the cardboard using the grid to help me lay the pieces out in the proper dimensions. It's not fancy, but it always works and I didn't have to buy anything new to do it.
  4. Let the pieces sit until dry and then sew together (If applicable,) weave in ends, and do whatever finishing needs to be done. Ta da. The End.
In sewing news, I was very lazy while Io was down from college for Thanksgiving, so I have nothing to show. I am working on a new tweed A-Line skirt (what else?) and I have some new patterns and fabrics that will be making their way to this blog shortly.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pear Sidecar

Here is my new favorite alcoholic beverage courtesy of the Jan 2009 (really, are we there yet?) issue of Fine Cooking Magazine.

Pear Sidecar (serves two)

1/2 cup Pear Brandy (I use Clear Creek Distillery's Williams Pear Brandy)
1/4 cup triple sec
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 thin strips lime zest

Combine the brandy, triple sec, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well and strain into two chilled martini glasses. Twist the lime zest into spirals and drop one in each glass.

So, I skip the zest, just use the juice of 1 lime, and shake in whatever glass I have handy. This is a strong drink with the brandy that I use, but it is verrrrrrry good. If the brandy was cheaper, I could get in a lot of trouble with this one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bits and Pieces

I am just starting to feel like a person again. I hate hate hate being sick. I haven't had the energy to do anything, and haven't been sewing at all. I do, however, have a picture of the McCalls 5480 swing coat in action outside of my favorite izakaya.

I don't love this coat, but I do like it. I wish it was a little longer, and that I had known that the lining was not going to be attached at the bottom. (I would have finished the edges of the lining a little better.) The buttons are pretty big, so I decided to put snaps under them rather than make giant button holes. I was recently at Macy's and saw a black coat with white interfacing peeping out of the buttonholes. Ack. Since I used a white interfacing here, I didn't want it to show through as well. This is my first coat, as well as my first lined coat, and I am pretty happy with it. I think I am going to make the long version to wear with my holiday dresses.

I also have pumpkin pictures. We take pumpkin carving very seriously here at the compound, even growing our own squash. Io and her boyfriend video-conferenced in from college and carved with us. Also present was my co-parent, his son, co-parent's girlfriend, daughter, niece, best-friend, her husband, and daughter. A fine time was had by all.

Darin's evil masterpiece:

My slightly less evil concoction:

Friday, November 7, 2008

I have a cold.

I have a really bad cold, which is why I have not updated in awhile. I also broke out in hives tonight while watching a version of Twelfth Night that takes place on the Bayou. We left during intermission. I had to explain what was going on to Darin because he gets very confused by iambic pentameter with a New Orleans accent. It was honestly one of the most god-awful things I have ever seen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Sweater

I have a new sweater and I love it!

It is a Scoop Du Jour designed by Bonne Marie Burns in Black Knit Picks Swish Superwash (which I hear is not really that superwashy. I guess I'll find out. Although, I like the sweater so much I may just handwash to make sure.) I have made this pattern before (in fact, it is the green sweater in my previous post) and it works wonderfully as a basic-wear-everywhere layer. I would like to note, however, that it took me 5 months to knit this. Part of that was due to the fact that I have not been in a knitting groove. The other fact is that this is a mind-numbingly boring thing to work on. Nothing but stockingette and some ribbing. This was fine when I was in school and my brain was on overload, but unless I get super busy again, I am afraid I will not be making this sweater again any time soon.

I have been sewing a lot, but not taking any pictures. I have three tops that didn't work out so well, and honestly I don't want to memorialize them. One is a blue T-shirt that is wearable, but a little big. I need to work the kinks out this pattern before I make it again. The same problem with another Simplicity Built by Wendy pattern: it's a little big and the fabric I chose doesn't do it (or me) any favors. I also have another shirt from a tried and true pattern that was made from crap materials when I was feeling icky, and it is no surprise that the shirt sucks. It will be wearable for what I need it for, but I will not be feeling like a princess, let me tell you.

I am working a new swing coat from McCall's 5480 and it is really turning out well. So far there is only one thing that I feel looks wonky, but it is one the inside and no one can see it. (But I am not done yet, so we'll see.) It is made from a navy corduroy with some cheap polyester lining. However, not only is it my first coat, it is my first lined coat, and I am viewing it as a possibly wearable muslin.

I had a hell of a time trying to figure out how to attach the lining to the hem and was getting really frustrated because the instructions made no sense to me. There is a pleat in the back and I could not figure out how to get the lining to deal with that. I looked in my Reader's Digest sewing book, which didn't help me figure that part out, but did mention that some linings hang free at the bottom. I went and reread my pattern instructions, and yep, the lining does not attach. I am soo happy to know that. I can now finish my jacket.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Denim Skirt

Here is the picture of the denim skirt that I made a couple of weeks ago using the Hot Patterns A-line skirt pattern.

I got the fabric from and I really love this denim. It is very dark and has a lovely look. (It's hard to tell from this picture; one of the rare sunny days up here.) (The hem folded up during the wash and I had a hard time pressing it back down, which is why the hemline is so noticeable in this picture.)

After I finished up this skirt, I realized how to fix the fitting issues I had with this pattern. The pattern is supposed to fit at the natural waist, and this one hits right below it. Not far enough down to make it unwearable, but low enough to fit just a little funky. This is an easy fix to make, and since I love this pattern, I'm happy to figure out what is wrong with it. I love wearing an A-line skirt with tights and a cardigan in the fall

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Chado Ralph Rucci: New Vogue Pattern

I have seen comments in the blogs both for and against the new Ralph Rucci Vogue Pattern. I think the styling of the outfit is not so great, but the dress itself is lovely. I just received a used copy of Ralph Rucci: The Art Of Weightlessness. It is such a lovely book. I can't say I love all of his designs, but the detailing of his garments is exquisite, and his use of piecing and embroidery is inspiring.

I made another Hot Patterns A line skirt, but it is in the laundry because I could not wait to wear it. As soon as it's clean I'll post a photo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Sometime a lot can go right with a dress and yet, it's just not that flattering. Exhibit A:

This dress is actually pretty cute. The fabric is camo made up out of little army men and the dress fits pretty well. The pattern is Butterick 5031 and it looks nice on the package. I had a few problems with it: it's cut waaayyy too low and the markings on the waistband do not match the markings on the bodice. Once it again the zipper sucks, but I don't like the dress enough to do it over. I also have issues raising up my arms, and for some reason, it really hikes down in the back. (I need to check one of my fittting books to see what is up with that.)

I just don't like it on me. I managed to close the wrap a little more, and I could always go in and fix the zipper to make it a little more professional. But, I'm just not that thrilled. I'll probably wear it, (I wear almost everything I make) but I'm not gonna love it. However, I am totally crampy and I may like it more when I am in a better mood. I'll also check with the husband to get his input; he usually has some good feedback.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Empty Nest

We dropped Io off at college yesterday. I already miss her.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Finally. I have been waiting forever for my lemon cucumbers to come in, and I just got enough to make a dozen jars of bread and butter pickles. Last summer was so crappy that I canned less than 10 jars. I am hoping beyond hope that I will have another crop next weekend.

I use the recipe from the Joy of Cooking canning book, which got me a blue ribbon at the Puyallup Fair two years ago. I highly recommend it. I love making pickles. I make the vinegar ones and my husband makes the fermented ones (pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut.) I also make jellies (sweet and hot) and pickled jalapenos.

This year's plan is to make:
  • More bread and butter pickles if I get more cukes.
  • Lemon jelly, maybe with ginger.
  • Pickled Jalapenos with carrots.
  • Maybe some grape jelly (I don't really feel like picking blackberries this year).
  • Some kind of hot pepper jam. My habaneros do not look like they are going to do anything, but I have some of those hot Thai peppers that might do the job. I could always buy some peppers, but it's not the same.
My mother and grandmother both canned when I was kid, and I decided a couple of years ago to keep up the tradition. I love having a little bit of summer shine through in the winter months. If I am able to put up some more pickles, I think I'll give a little tutorial.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I'm in Ashland, Oregon for the week visiting my friend Scott and being very, very lazy. Here is the obligatory water shot. (We just went to Hyatt Lake for a few hours to read comics and relax. There were too many flies.)

I did get some projects done before I left home. I finished one of the sushi pillowcases that I am embroidering for my daughter.

I also made Simplicity 3867. I needed a dress to wear to some fancyish occasions. It was a little more complicated than some of the stuff that I have been making, but that is why I chose it.

This is not such a great picture, but the dress is both flattering and pretty. I tried to install an invisible zipper, and that didn't go so well. I probably could have gone down a half a size at least, so I had some fitting issues once I inserted the zipper, which I hacked my way through. I am electing to view this as a wearable muslin.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sometimes you just know

Sometimes you just know right away that it isn't going to work out. That's how it was with my muslin for the Hot Patterns Plain and Simple Fitted T-Shirt.

I knew right away that I would not finish this, but kept going to see what I could learn.

Bad things:
  • Waaaaay too short for me.
  • Sleeves are too tight.
  • Serious drag lines in the front.
  • (The fabric is too thin, but that is not the fault of the pattern.)
  • Body may be too loose.
Good things:
  • Finally configured my serger not to stretch the hell out of knits. (I've just been using it to finish the edges on woven fabrics. Lame, I know.)
  • I made a bound neckline for the first time, even though it looked like I was drunk when I did it.
  • I will learn a lot from working to get this pattern right.
I will need to check my fitting books to figure out how to solve some of the problems. We'll see. It may just be easier to try another pattern. (Although where is the sewing lesson in that?)

Monday, August 25, 2008


We went camping this weekend in the North Cascades National park and it was lovely. Here is the view from our campsite.

You may notice a familiar theme when comparing this picture to previous vacation photos: the presence of water. I love love love being on the beach or on the river. It just makes me happy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Plain and Simple A-line skirt muslin

I made a muslin for the Hot patterns Plain and Simple A-line skirt and it turned out pretty well. I got the fabric on sale at Joann's (of course) and it's actually a really nice piece of bottom-weight cotton from their "Craft" apparel line. ( I know I shouldn't use nice fabric for a muslin, but sometimes I am just bad.)

The skirt fits pretty well, but I am not too sure about the darts over the stomach and the line of the hip. (What I'm not too sure about is whether it is me or the skirt I have concerns about.) I think I need to wash the skirt and get a sense of how it really falls before I move on. If it is the skirt, then I will need to make another muslin after I figure out how to fix the areas of concern.

This was the first invisible zipper I have ever put in, and well, it could be better, but it definitely could be worse. I also did not construct the garment in the order given in the instructions. I like to put in the zipper before the front and back are joined to give myself enough room to maneuver around. I also did not line this version since it didn't seem to need it, and I did not use the hem facing. I just serged the hem and turned it up.

I liked this pattern a lot. I think it will make a great starting point for a lot of interesting designs. I have plans for 2 of these skirts and 2 of the Plain and Simple pencil skirts in my basic fall wardrobe.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Janina Pant Muslin #1 - Not So Much

Actually there is not much wrong with this pattern except for the size I chose is too small. I thought I was in between sizes and could compensate by using smaller seam allowances. Nope. I need to go back and trace the next size up.

The patterns I am using is off the Burda Sytle website: Janina. Using the patterns from this site are pretty easy, but a little time consuming. First you have to download the pattern in pdf format and then assemble according to the instructions.

Then you should probably trace the pattern onto some better paper. It is conceivable that you could use the photocopy paper but it is kind of too thick, and if you cut out the wrong size, you might have to print it out all over again. I trace onto the backs of patterns that I bought on super sale and then decided I wasn't really going to make. Maybe not the best way, but it uses materials I already have on hand.

I'm going to go up a size and see how that works for me. Since this is the first time I have used a pattern from this site, I'll need to figure out how the sizing works. I somehow managed to mangle the zipper application on this one, so I might do some reading up on that. I'm also a little concerned that these might sit a little too low on me, so I may play with the waistband in the next muslin. (I didn't bother to put the waistband in this one.) I was a little confused by the hip yoke on the pockets because I had never seen that before, but I can see how that would work to keep the pockets from dragging to the side.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Sew Stylish

This weekend when I was up in Bellingham, I picked up the new Sew Stylish at the Local Co-op. I was very pleased because
a. I was glad to see a sewing magazine in a grovery store and
b. This issue rocks.

It's along the lines of the Fall 2007 issue (where they took one wardrobe pattern and modified everything in it several times.) This issue is about designing your own pieces from scratch and includes more info about modifying existing patterns. Topics include a primer on draping and creating your own sloper. This is a great inspiration issue. A lot of the articles are revised versions of earlier Threads issues, but if you don't have a big Threads back catalogue, most everything will be new to you.

Friday, August 8, 2008

New Patterns

I took advantage of this weekend's sale at Joann's and bought 4 new patterns. I used my new sewing goals (fitted, nicer, and more complicated) to help me choose.

Vogue 1026: I don't have any nice dresses at all, and this one looked both fun and challenging enough to get me going. Even though it is in the easy category, the reviews I read on Pattern Review said that it was harder than that.

Vogue 1044: I am totally in love with this. I saw this made up in the window of my local fabric shop and had to buy it.

Vogue 2899: This is for my daughter. She has just the figure for it.

McCall's 5522: I just need a nice fitted shirt.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Two more blouses

I have a very bad habit of making the same blouse over and over again in different fabrics. If I like something a lot, I figure it can't be bad to more than one (or 5) of it. My most-made pattern to date is Simplicity 3887. I have made the short-sleeved version so many times. I'm not ashamed.

These pictures are not so great, but I'm working on that.

Blue Flowers:

Red Tulips:

I know that neither of these fits within my new sewing goals, but I already had them cut out and ready to go. I am waiting for a Hot Patterns order to come in so I can work on my lined skirt. Over the weekend I also cut out a muslin for a pair of Burda Style shorts and traced and graded up a Burda World of Fashion tunic. We'll see how these two projects go.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Look what I found last night at Half Price Books. Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Not Quite Ready for Primetime

So. I am currently in the process of making some new shirts and I realized that it has been a very long time since I have made anything that was complex, fitted, or special. In fact, I really need to work on my sewing skills. This was all brought home to me when I bought this:

Mrs. Stylebook is a Japanese pattern book where you have to draft your own patterns and then figure out how to put them together. I was completely overwhelmed by this last night. There is no way that I am ready to tackle this. However, I have decided to focus on improving my skills to the point where I could make anything in this magazine. I have loved sewing all of my life, and now that I am no longer in grad school, it is time to focus on what is truly important to me. I'm still gonna make those loose-fitting tops and dresses that I have been enjoying, but am going to try to intersperse learning projects in there as well.

Here is my plan of attack:
  1. Read all of those sewing books I bought.
  2. Go through all of my Threads magazines and pick at least one article in each one to create a learning project.
  3. Make more fitted items.
  4. Make more complicated items.
I am currently finishing all of the stuff that I have cut out and have ready to go. I think my first learning project will be a lined skirt. I have made lots of skirts, but I have never lined one, and I will probably want to work on getting the fit perfect.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On Vacation From My Vacation

We are back and glad to be home. We had a wonderful time on the big Island and this was the view from our porch:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In Hawaii

Just spent 5 days on Maui. Ehh. It's a little touristy for my taste, although still very cool. We are now on the big Island until the 20th. Much more to our taste.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Two New Blouses

Aha! 2 new summer blouses. Both are from McCall's 5388.

Changes I made:
  • Took in 1/2 inch from each side. (I went one size down than my usual pattern size and that was not quite enough.)
  • Shortened the length by 4 1/2 inches. This shirt was really long.
  • Turned straps into ties.
Shirt #1: Blue cotton from Joann's.

Shirt #2: Light weight seersucker from Thrift store.

Two pretty tops for me. I love the power that comes with being able to make your own clothes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sewing Frenzy

My goal this week is to sew 5 tops. I have them all cut out and ready to go. We will be going to Hawaii in about 2 weeks for 2 weeks and I need something a little more tropical than what is standard here in Seattle.

An earlier project is the Amy Butler Anna Tunic, which I love on other people and only kind of like on me.


It looks Okay on me, but it looked worse before I adjusted the Yoke. The original pattern has these little wings that go over the top of my arms, but they just weren't that flattering on me, so I folded them over and sewed them down. Solved that little problem.

On the art front, I have been working on paper cuts which have been a lot of fun. Here is my first one. Nothing too earth shattering, but enjoyable none the less.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I finally finished the vest for my daughter. She is very happy with it, which is great. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could fit her correctly and make something that she wanted. This is the second really successful knitting project that I have made for her.


Ms. Marigold by Sarah and Rachel at Zephyr Style
4 skeins Knit Picks Swish Superwash DK in White.

It was a very fun and quick knit.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


So I went to South Korea for a week and my camera broke on the first day. Then I went to Japan for a week and got tired of fish. Then I was jetlagged for a week. Then I got a cold. It's been a great month!!!!!!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mug Shot

I managed to finish the Placed Cable Aran last week and Darin was kind enough to take a picture of me in it. I am not so photogenic and it kind of looks like a mug shot. The sweater is soft and warm and I love wearing it in my prison cell. You can't really see the cables, but they are there. I promise.


I also made sushi last week. I've done a ton of sewing, but haven't taken any pictures. Oh well. Here is the sushi anyway.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Placed Cable Aran

Finally, I finished the second sleeve of the Placed Cable Aran, only to realize that I just had the space to block the body and one sleeve. Ack. And I had a lot of trouble getting even a decent picture.


Placed Cable Aran by Cathy Payson
Interweave Knits, Fall 2007
Knit Picks Main Line Antique Rose
Needle #7

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Cards

Io and I had some fun with the Print Gocco

I love Io:


Io loves me:


Yes, the chicken is eating the heart. Io is a little grumpy sometimes.