Friday, June 26, 2009

Because I'm not busy enough

I decided to make E a dress for 4th of July. I actually bought the fabric for this over a month ago, but of course, being the procrastinator that I am, I didn't start sewing until 2 days before we had to leave town. Needless to say, I was up very very late.

My original idea was to do a halter-style dress, with 3 gathered tiers, so it would be nice and twirly. I bought 3 different patriotic-themed prints of fabric and started cutting. Well, no matter how I arranged them, the 3rd fabric (it had stripes and stars) just never seemed to fit in quite right. So at the last minute, I scrapped the bottom tier and replaced it with a thick band. I also opted to make my own bias tape for the top and ties so that I wouldn't have to fuss with turning and hemming the armholes. In fact, now that I think about it, I pretty much did zero hemming on this project! Score!

I drafted the pattern myself by more or less tracing part of an existing top that I liked the shape of for the bodice. Then I measured the width of the bodice (12" each side) and multiplied by 1.5 for the skirt. Sewed that into a tube, gathered it and attached it to the bodice. For the band of trim at the bottom, I cut a piece the same width as the skirt, sewed it into a tube, then folded the whole thing lengthwise so that there were no raw edges sewing. It's a method I picked up from making the Portabello Pixie peasant dress, and it's my new favorite way to add a finished touch to the bottom of a dress (as you can also see from the last two shirred dresses I made).

Because I love shirring and hate making casing for elastic, I decided to continue the binding along the back and shir that for a snug fit.

I'm super happy with how this top turned out. It fits her exactly. In fact, if it were even an inch narrower, I'm not sure she'd be able to get it on. It's a good thing that the 4th is next week! I still sort of wish it were longer so it could be a dress, but otherwise, I can't complain. I'll probably make more of these for E to wear the rest of the summer since it's been so unbelievably HOT. Next time I'll attempt to make a tutorial.

And here's the matching reversible hat. It's from an Ottobre pattern, but minus the rickrack and interfacing because I was too lazy. I've never sewn a hat before, and it was a bit trickier than I thought it'd be. I had some trouble with the two prints lining up quite right, but I think that's because I had to add the seam allowance myself when I cut the fabric, and it wasn't exactly scientific. Like I said, I was in a bit of a time crunch. It's not as perfect as I'd like (nothing ever is), but I'm happy enough with it. I think the crown part is too deep and pointy, but again, I chalk that up to hasty sewing. I'll probably try another soon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hats, shapes, another crayon roll

I've been pretty caught up in my new cooking blog, so it's been a while since I've made anything non food-related. A couple weeks ago, I went to a knitting night with some mom friends though, and I got back into doing a bit of crochet. Even though I prefer the look of knitting, crochet is what I turn to when I want to make something quickly.

I had been playing around for some time with a pattern for a hat that uses a criss-cross sort of look. It's not quite perfected yet, but I think I'm getting close. The color of the pink cotton yarn I was using reminded me of watermelon, which is E's latest obsession, so I decided to use that as inspiration to make her a watermelon hat. She calls it "water-lemon" which always cracks me up.

IMG_10257 by you.

IMG_10259 by you.

I'm not entirely happy with how the brim turned out. I think I increased too much, which is why it looks ruffle-y instead of flat. I also used a different kind of cotton yarn for the brim, which contributed to the floppiness.

I also finally finished up some stuff commissioned by a mom-friend. Another crayon roll, made from more of the dinosaur fabric (I'm so glad I bought extra - I love that fabric!), and some crochet shapes.
IMG_10262 by you.

She had originally asked me for a sun, moon, and star, but I had a hell of a time with the moon. I usually come up with my own patterns, but I was kind of at a loss for where to start. Even after Googling extensively for patterns, I only found one pattern that was remotely close to what I had in mind and it still needs quite a bit of adjustment. I'm going to make it my vacation project next week.

In the meantime, here are the sun and a star. I think they turned out pretty cute. E loved them too and was sad when I told them they weren't for her, so I'll probably be making her a set now too.

IMG_10263 by you.

I stuffed these with Eco-craft instead of my usual poly-fil. If you're not familiar, it's this environmentally friendly, man-made corn-based fiber. Interesting stuff. It definitely is not as fluffy as poly-fil, but it is softer to the touch. I feel like the finished products were a little more dense than usual. I have a couple bags that I'm going to try out, but so far, I'm not quite sold. I'm going to wait and see how it performs for stuffing some plush animals before I make a final decision.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mmmm...more food

I'm on a big cooking and baking streak lately. One of my favorite recipe blogs is 101 Cookbooks, which has a lot of great vegetarian fare and healthy baking ideas. Last night, I made her Summer Squash Gratin using some zucchini and yellow squash from the farmers market. It turned out sooooo good! Savory, crunchy, herb-y deliciousness! Definitely a great way to use up zucchini from the garden...if I had a garden.

My notes:
I don't own a mandoline slicer, so it was a wee bit labor intensive to slice the potatoes paper-thin, but definitely worth it - just make sure you have a very sharp knife. I also didn't have fresh bread crumbs so I substituted panko, which I think worked out perfectly. I probably could have browned my butter more, but I think the difference would have been negligible since most of the crumbs end up browned in the oven anyway.

I loved the lemon zest in this recipe. It really added a nice bright flavor to the dish and I think I'll probably add more next time, maybe even mix it in with the squash and potato mixture so it's more evenly distributed. I also think reserving some of the pesto to drizzle on top was a waste. I may just use less olive oil next time for a smaller yield and mix everything in.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I've been busy with family and travel lately, so no new crafty stuff to post as of yet. I did get a chance to bake yesterday though, which has become a rare treat ever since I started dieting last month. I've had this chocolate matcha (green tea) cake bookmarked for a while now, and used a Knitting Night as an excuse to finally make it.

It was pretty easy to whip up, although the batter did look very very curdled after I added the milk (probably because I didn't quite let it get up to room temp). But once I added all the flour and such, it was fine. I love the deep green color of the matcha batter.

The whole thing baked up like a dream, including the little heart cupcakes I made with the leftover batter,

but I had a horrific time trying to get it unmolded from my pan. I used to never ever have problems with this pan but I seem to have lost my magic touch, even after greasing the bejeezus out of it. This was the end result :(

With a little careful surgery, I managed to do get most of the rest out of the pan and salvage a little of my pride, but I was still pretty bummed. It never fails that this always happens when I'm baking for other people, dammit.

In any case, the cake itself was quite delicious. I did not get quite the deep dark chocolate color that Bakerella did, but then I used natural cocoa powder, not dutched. I suspect that Dutch-processed cocoa may have yielded a different result. Here's a shot of the cake after sliced.


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