Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Crazy Pants

I made crazy pants.

Can you tell that I really kind of like them?

I've been feeling like the summer has flown by. Taco's ongoing nap strike along with a somewhat complicated sewing project for Phin (to be blogged) has really eaten into my sewing-for-me time and made me feel, well, a bit depleted. So, a quick win was in order.

You've seen these pants before. They are Ralph Pink's Hareem pants, which I made twice last spring, once in jersey and once in stretch silk. Harem pants are kind of crazy to begin with, and now I've made them out of crazy... aka hot pink and orange snake print cotton jersey.

I've worn the first two pair of these pants before, during and post- pregnancy. The easy fit made them ideal and I always get compliments. Becoming a mom can really leave you in a style rut because almost your whole wardrobe becomes transitional as you gain and then lose weight. Also, your needs change as comfort becomes more of a priority. If you are not careful, you can end up wearing the same baggy yoga pants for days on end. A pair of really fun and casual pants for pushing the stroller around town, chasing after my increasingly mobile Taco and meeting friends for brunch/coffee/ice cream, but that were NOT yoga pants is what I was after. I think I succeeded.

I actually felt pretty cool pushing the stroller yesterday, in my mind if not temperature-wise in this late summer heat wave. I really should have made them sooner since the fabric is pretty light and relatively comfy in the heat.

Honestly, I don't think this is the last time I will make these pants. They went from being a style I was not sure about to a real staple item. And they sew up in a jiffy on my serger. And they look great in different colors and prints. So, I guess these are sort of a "basic" in my wardrobe, if you can consider hot pink and orange anaconda knit a basic...

Anyway, Phin was getting punchy by the end of our little photo shoot. This is my "I mean business, mister" face.  And now, if I could just finish my very summery project for Phin, I could move along to some fun fall sewing. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Finished! A Beautiful Bag

What else can I say about Butterick B5005, which is sadly OOP?  I've sewn it 5 times now, including for myself.

Diaper Bag and Changing pad

This version is for my sister, Terpischore, and my new nephew!!!

My very first version of this bag was for Poly, one of my other sisters (I have 4 of 'em). So, I called her to see how well her bag had held up. I was considering using Amy Bulter fabric, like I did for her's back in 2009 and wanted to make sure it would be durable. She reported that after using it daily until she no longer needed a diaper bag for her first child, she retired it to "beach bag" and was still using it. Even better, she reported that it machine washed beautifully and - six years on - the only real visible wear and tear was on the straps. That was all I needed to hear and I'm hoping that this bag holds up equally well for Terp.    

I wrote about the hardware that I've used for bag sewing when I made another version for a dear friend. The only elements that I've added since then are the zip welt pocket, which I first did for my own diaper bag (here). And now this fun "Handmade" plate from Emmaline Bags.

Zipper double welt pocket 

I never can get good pictures of the insides of the bags so I took the above and below inside photos before final assembly. They're a bit dark since I took them inside. But you get the idea.


On my bag, I use these nice sized pockets for diapers and wipes. 

The only other detail is that I made a matching changing pad.

Isn't the changing pad pretty with it's hot pink bias edging? As always, I used iron on vinyl.

 Here's a few detail shots...

Metal zipper

Outside pocket with a magnetic snap closure; webbing straps

I really think this may be my best looking bag yet. I'm just wild about the color combination and prints; they really pop!  And on that note I have to confess that I hope it's my last bag, at least for a while. When you do a bag right and add so many little details it becomes a big project. And frankly, I'm feeling very eager to get back to some non-baby-oriented sewing.

Anyway, I can't wait to meet my nephew and drop off this diaper bag in the next few days. I hope it serves my sister well! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Quick Quiche!

One of my favorite things to bake and eat over the last year has been quiche.

I really craved dairy during pregnancy and found it equally satisfying during the early months of motherhood. With limited time and patience for baking, I developed this very basic recipe for a crustless quiche that was the perfect use for leftovers. My quiche making eventually got to a point (obsession?) where I started trying to generate more leftovers in order to have more quiche fillings.  

Calling this a recipe is an overstatement. It's actually a ratio based on how many eggs you want to use. The basic ratio is: 
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 oz cheese (cheddar, gruyere, a blend...)
1 oz of one or more fillings
salt and pepper to taste
So, if you want to use 4 eggs, you would add one cup of milk, 4 oz of cheese and 4 oz of as many fillings as you would like. When it comes to cheese and fillings, you really can use more or less to suit your tastes.

Leftover Veg, diced leftover ham and gruyere

What do I mean by fillings? I mean leftovers. For example, the rest of the broccoli or spinach from last night's dinner. Or leftover roasted chicken or ham that's been diced. Or a few strips of bacon that you've crumbled. You really can use just about any vegetable or meat that you'd enjoy as long as it isn't too wet. As for cheese, use whatever suits you - cheddar, gruyere, mozzarella, blue cheese, feta..

Leftover bits of broccoli, mushroom and sauteed spinach.

Just put all your fillings in a pie plate (for a 3 or 4 egg version) or another small or large dish that will hold everything, keeping a bit of the cheese aside for topping. In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mix over the filling and top with cheese.

With a dusting of parmesan on top!

About 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven should do it. Just be careful not to drop yours onto the kitchen floor.

Yeah. This happened. 

Enjoy your quiche warm or cool with a side of soup or salad.  I ate my many quiches during the winter with this awesome and easy tomato soup. Perfect!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Socks!

I love how these socks look.

They are Tennarisukka ankle socks; the pattern is a free Ravelry download which I knit up in Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn. This is probably why I love how these socks look. Isn't the colorway beautiful and fun?

But the yarn itself is kind of scratchy. I think they will definitely exfoliate my feet when I wear them.

The yarn wasn't scratchy enough that I didn't like knitting with it, but these socks definitely don't feel buttery soft. The yarn is much less springy than other sock yarns I've used and has little in the way of give. I think that this may be my one and only pair of Noro socks. I'll have to make the other colorway I have at home into a stuffed animal. Wouldn't that be fun?

As for the pattern, it was very easy and satisfying. I think it makes a nice looking sock with minimal effort or skill; the pattern is entirely knit and purl stitches. It was a winner for my first pair of back to work/back to commuting socks.

And now I am back in the swing of sock knitting and commuting. Sort of. At least that's what I tell myself.

How do you get back into the swing of sewing or knitting after a hiatus?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ring Sling for a Cool Dude

This is just a quick post to say, "Look I made another ring sling!"

You remember the ring sling I made during the SHB Sew Along, right? I use it every day.

Details here. 

Well, I've sewn another one. This time it's for my brother-in-law.  My younger sister is expecting a boy, due in mid-August. So an all black ring sling was requested.  Here is Phin happily modelling it with Taco, a more reluctant model.

Didn't we do this already, Mama? 

For this sling, I once again used a tutorial from MayaWrap.  They have a really well designed shoulder, which Phin actually didn't quite get on his shoulder.

Not quite on the shoulder

Phin doesn't use my ring sling, so he was not used to wearing Taco. But they lumped on through the photo shoot. Thankfully, for novice baby-wearers there are many resources on line. Seriously. Just google it.

And we're done

I mentioned how beneficial babywearing is for babies when I posted my own sling. Now that I've been wearing Taco for a few months, I have to say that it is beneficial for me, too. Taco started crawling right before I went back to work. So, if he is on the floor, he is going, going, going and pulling himself up to standing on furniture, toys, walls... But he is very content as my sling-worn sidekick. This frees me to bake, putter around the house or get things done when I have to, without having to watch the little guy like a hawk. In social situations, having him on my hip deters people from touching or kissing him and lets me mingle without having to worry that the situation is overwhelming - he's right there, content and secure being on my hip. Sure, I could hold him, but the sling is easier and much more comfortable for longer stretches of time since it distributes his weight.

Anyway, I hope my bro-in-law gets a good amount of use from this cool and understated sling. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Easiest. Bread. Ever.

Holy cow, it's been a long time since I've had a baking post. But I have been baking.  In fact, Taco seems to like being my sling-worn sidekick around the kitchen. So here is a bread recipe that I've made at least once a week for the last month or so.

I know what you are thinking: bread is difficult.

But not beer bread.

Cheddar Scallion Beer Bread variation

Beer bread is not just the easiest bread I've ever baked, it may be the easiest thing I have ever baked. Seriously. Taco and I can get this bread ready for the oven in less time than it takes for the oven to heat up.

Here is the recipe: 
Beer Bread Master Recipe
12 oz self rising flour (3 cups)
12 oz beer (any beer will do)
1/4 c sugar (optional)
Sift flour and sugar together. Stir in beer. Bake in a greased loaf pan for 50-55minutes at 375 degrees until browned on top. Turn out of pan asap and let bread cool before slicing.  
That's it. Three ingredients. And one of which is optional.

From this basic recipe there are a million billion variations. Very simply by using different beers you can get very differently flavored bread. When I used a wheat beer the bread came out light and smelling yeasty, but Guinness yielded a loaf that was darker in color and richer in flavor. I'm looking forward to trying more styles of beer (lambic, IPA, lager, etc) and even some flavored beers for interesting results. What I have noticed is that the higher the alcohol content of the beer, the "beer-ier" the flavor. I haven't tried it, but I've heard you could actually use non-alcoholic beer if you prefer.

Additional ingredients also enhance this bread. You could dot the top with butter or pour it on melted for a shinier, more glazed crust. About 2 TBSP should do, but up to 1/4 c wouldn't hurt. You could also sprinkle cheese on top.

Cheddar & Scallion Beer Bread with butter dotted top (made with wheat beer)

You could add any number of mix-ins. I tried both cheddar and scallion (green onion), and cheddar and bacon in my loaves. Both were delicious!

Cheddar & Bacon with extra cheddar on top (made with Pilsner)

About 1 to 1 1/4 cups of any flavorful ingredient should be fantastic - cheddar or another hard cheese, scallions, sauteed onions or shallots, pine nuts or walnuts, raisins or other dried fruit, crumbled bacon (4-6 strips) or other flavorful cured meat like chorizo or proscuitto, olives (I'd blot them dry first), or any other relatively dry ingredients. You could also add chopped herbs like thyme or chive, but I'd probably use only 1/4 to 1/2 cup.  My next loaf may be feta and olives. Doesn't that sound excellent?

Mmmmm.... bacon

We've been enjoying our beer bread as toast most mornings with a cup of coffee or tea. It's so easy and perfect to keep around.  I think there will be more in our future. 

PS - I have no idea about the provenance of this recipe. It was given to me verbally by a mom friend and a quick internet search yields tons of uncredited recipes. Feel free to share your insights.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Finished: Mademoiselle Jacket!

Here's the jacked I sewed as I was preparing to head back to work at the end of maternity leave.

I've always said that the little french jacket is not my style, but this came together in such a collaborative and supportive way that I couldn't be happier with it. And perhaps I'm a bit wrong about what is or isn't my style?

Rachel drafted the perfect back fisheye darts. 

Last May when I was in London for the NYLON meetup, the fabulous Rachel Pinheiro was wearing her self-drafted Mademoiselle jacket. A bunch of us had rented a flat for the weekend (non-stop pajama party!) and at some point it was suggested that I try on the jacket. The fit was nearly perfect since Rachel and I have a few of the same fitting needs and preferences - extra length, an  FBA and a high/tight armhole. The sleeves on commercial patterns almost never fit me well. Rachel's sleeves did. Amazing gal that Rachel is, she offered to trace off the pattern and mail it to me. 

Perfect fitting sleeves

Puu, who has been encouraging me to give the little French jacket a try pretty much since I met her, was rather quick to jump in. She used her superior fabric enabling powers to coax me into the purchase of some Liberty fabric for the lining of this proposed jacket. 

Lining with jump pleat 

The last piece of the puzzle was to find a tweedy boucle that I liked. Thank you, FabricMart, for this fabulous roll end. I think the most difficult part of sewing this jacket was figuring out what color thread to use for the boucle. Ultimately, I settled on orange. 

Not knowing if I would like this jacket in the end, I used the fast (ie. fusible interfacing and machine sewn) method of construction. Also, this jacket does not have any kind of closures or pockets, which really made sewing it quick and easy for a jacket. I did hand sew the lining in a number of places. Aside from some very minor fitting alterations, I made very few changes to Rachel's wonderful pattern. I drafted a facing for the back of the collar and added a hanging chain.  Also, I added a little width to the back lining so that I could make a pleat at the center back.

Hanging chain, facing and pleat

Oh, and I sewed piping into the seam where the lining and front facing meet. I just love that touch; it makes a jacket really look professional.

Liberty tana lawn lining with lime piping

Anyway, this is the perfect back-to-work piece for me. It goes with every color imaginable, dresses up every outfit, but also can be worn casually with jeans. 

I like the fit and style of this jacket so much that I actually may sew a few more in different fabrics. In addition, this project reminded me how much I like sewing jackets. There's just something so very satisfying about the process.

Thank you, Rachel! Thank you, Puu! Aren't sewing friends the best!?!?!