October 28, 2009

Slowly moving along....

I know I've been quiet lately. I really haven't been that productive, honestly...it's been difficult for me to find time to craft this fall! But I do have a little progress to show, so here goes...

1. The skirt fitting class. The lessons are all up, the chats are done, and I spent most of it feeling behind because of how long it took me to fit the muslin. But I know I wasn't the only one in that class having trouble with it--and mine was relatively easy compared to some. I did finally get the muslin fitted pretty well, I think, and so since I had some unexpected time off yesterday, I made my master pattern.
To give you an idea: I made my muslin from McCall's 3830, a basic straight skirt, in a size 14. The black lines are the the original waist and darts. The red and orange ones are what I had to do to make it work-- 1" seams on the side or more, tiny little darts, the waistband lines up with the red line, and I had to make a contoured waistband to use as my default because a straight one was way too gappy. (I did have a larger view of the muslin with the two lines, but I seem to have accidentally deleted it from my camera. Oops.)
This is my master sloper pattern that I made yesterday. At my mom's brilliant suggestion, I put it on heavy non-fusible interfacing, because that would be more durable than paper, easier to store than posterboard, I can see pattern lines through it, and I can iron it! So, theoretically, if I make a skirt from this pattern it should fit quite well.

Given all that I have going on, my original plan (which I formulated about halfway through the class) was to get my sloper made, and then put this aside and try fitting another pattern with it later. I don't think that's going to be happening, though-- some of the ladies in the class had the idea during the last chat to do a sewalong to work on our second skirt muslins, and the teacher said she'd try to stop in and check on our progress every so often. So I kind of feel like I should do that while I can still get the help.

Item #2: I was house/dogsitting this weekend, and my plan was to use the time to get a good chunk of my bedspread quilt for my new bedroom done. I actually did make some rather good progress, considering that the plan evolved into also hanging out with another friend who came down to keep me company while I was alone in the house/helping her a bit with her Halloween costume/taking a couple of hours to go to a flute recital. (My first flute student from back when I was in college is now a college senior majoring in music ed, and she had her recital on Saturday!) My quilt top consists of 15 blocks, which will have strips between them, and then borders and stuff. But I got all 15 blocks sewn together with little drama, other than thinking I'd lost half of the pieces to block #4. But I kept moving through them, and my suspicions that they'd gotten stuck with another piece proved true. (#14 to be exact. That's what I get for trying to sort them and watch FlashForward at the same time!) I also got all of the leaves fused onto the blocks, and started appliqueing a few of the stems. But I didn't get very far on that, because the lighting in her living room wasn't the greatest and my machine hasn't had a working light for years, and I was getting rather tired by this point of Saturday night anyway so I gave up and watched the last of my Star Wars trilogy run without sewing. This is a sample of two of the blocks, just to get an idea of how they work together. I think I'm really going to like the way it turns out!

October 17, 2009

Mission accomplished!

I'm happy to report that my baked potato soup experiment seems to be a success! I ended up abandoning the crock pot idea....figured that once the prepwork was done, it would be pretty quick to throw together on the stove. So I ended up more or less combining the Alton Brown and Cooking Light recipes. And since I liked it, I wanted to get the new recipe down before I forget!


Baked Potato Soup


Ingredients:

4 baked potatoes
7 slices bacon
2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 tsp minced garlic (though I used the stuff in a jar, and didn't level it, so it was probably closer to 2 1/2, or about 5 cloves)
2 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 c chicken stock
3 1/2 c fat free milk (I like the organic stuff, because it's sooooo much thicker and creamier and yummier than the conventional!)
8 oz light sour cream
1 1/2 c cheddar cheese
Fresh chives for garnish

Instructions:

1. Take the baked potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise, scoop them out, and put the innards through a ricer. (I baked them yesterday and cooled them in the fridge overnight--the nice thing was this made the skins peel away from the potatoes somewhat, so it really maximized the useable part of the potatoes. I do wonder if the potatoes being cold made it harder to put through the ricer, though! That was hard!)

2. Cook the bacon in a cookpot big enough to hold the soup over medium heat. Remove the bacon and set aside.

3. Cook the leeks and garlic in the bacon drippings until translucent. Add the salt and pepper and toss it around a bit more.

4. Add the chicken broth, then the riced potatoes, milk, and sour cream, and mix them up well. (I used an immersion blender because I wanted a really smooth soup. The immersion blender is FUN. Yes, I'm a dork.)

5. Add the cheese and mix it in, then crumble up the bacon and add that; let the soup heat through. Garnish with chives.

A couple of notes, and to give credit where it's due...
  • From the Alton Brown recipe: the idea of using leeks instead of onions. (I don't like onions--they're too strong-tasting to me. That seems to run in my family, because I also have several relatives who don't like onions, including my mom, my brother, and at least one uncle.) The major contribution of putting the potatoes through the ricer, which helped a lot in getting that creamy texture I wanted. Also the additions of the sour cream and using chicken stock instead of broth--even though I used a carton of stock from the grocery store, I figured that would give more depth to the flavor than just plain broth.
  • Other than the ricer, I took most of the preparation steps from the Cooking Light recipe--cooking the leeks and garlic in the bacon drippings, adding the stock and milk directly to the pan (Alton suggested heating up the stock separately first and then whisking the potatoes and dairy together separately, but that would make extra dirty dishes and I didn't want that.) Cheddar instead of parmesan. The proportions of chicken stock to dairy were more in-line with this recipe, though I didn't exactly follow the ingredients here either. (Alton called for buttermilk, and CL for 1% milk, but I didn't feel like drinking the leftovers and figured the fat-free would make up a bit for the bacon grease.) Also, the bacon--the lack of was the major shortcoming in the AB recipe.
  • The AB recipe called for 2 1/2 tsp of salt, and the CL for just 1 tsp. I didn't think one would be enough, but I originally tried just two. When tasting it later, it seemed like it needed more, so I went ahead and added the other 1/2 tsp.
  • My own twists: using the immersion blender to make the soup smoother, and adding the bacon to the actual soup rather than just as a garnish. The reasons for this were that I wanted the bacon flavor to infuse the soup more (I feel so Iron Chef saying that), and the more practical reason of the leftovers would just have the bacon sitting in the soup anyway.
It passed the "Dad test" too, although he's hands-down the least picky eater of my entire family. (He likes to test my food creations though, since my mom's highly restricted diet means she doesn't really cook meals anymore. And I guess it's a nice break from the ginormous salads he usually eats for dinner.) But he went back for seconds and even stated "you could sell this." That was nice to hear.

Now test #3....let's see how it freezes.

October 15, 2009

Not dead yet.

I've just been super-busy at work. But here's a little of what's been going on in my crafty world lately...


1. The Pattern Review class. I've been kind of feeling a bit behind, mostly due to needing to get the feedback from the instructor on the fit and that usually takes several days (I post one day, she posts the next, I fix and post again, etc.) So far, it's been helpful, though, and I think I'm getting close to the point where I might actually have a muslin I can make a real sloper out of. Here's where I'm at:
I think the front is actually fitting pretty well. Still having a little trouble with the back, but hopefully the instructor will be able to let me know what to do and I can get the actual sloper made soon.


2. I've actually started to make some progress on things for the bedroom makeover. Nothing actually in the room yet, as my brother hasn't finished moving his things out. I might have to just box them up and stick them in the middle of the room and work around it. But I did start priming pieces for the computer desk as of Monday. And since I've felt the need for a sewing project that I can work on in between bouts of muslin-tweaking, but nothing really demanding of my brain, I've been working on this instead.


No before pictures, as I forgot to take one, so an in-progress one will have to do. Basically, I'm just taking my cream-colored (at least, it used to be cream....use and the occasional spilling of tea have taken their toll) IKEA storage ottoman--it's similar to this one but more square-shaped (the lid's a little off here, which is why it looks more like a Super Mario mushroom tower)--and recovering it with this blue moire. I'm hand-sewing it directly onto the old cover because I'm feeling too lazy to figure out a pattern for the cover of the top. Especially since it would involve about 3 zippers and hammering in some grommets in the exact placement it would need to screw in the little feet on it that helps it sit in place within the box. I am leaving the handles on, though planning on leaving them tucked inside the box. What I store in there are things like my high school and first half of college scrapbooks (which are this odd bigger-than-12x12 size with no page protectors and therefore a bit unwieldy for a bookshelf), old journals, etc., so it doesn't get the lid taken off too often. In my current room, the idea was to use it to sit in front of the computer, but it's really more of a dumping ground for my stuff since I generally just sit on the bed instead. In the new room, I'm planning on using this more as a window seat of sorts, to give me a nice place to sit and read.


3. I was planning on going backpacking this weekend with the outing club at my church. Since the forecast basically sucks and I don't want to spend two days straight outside when the temperature isn't going to crack 40 (and be raining and possibly snowing for much of it), I decided to wimp out and stay home and work on stuff for my bedroom and whatnot. (Besides, I got scheduled to play on the worship team even though I already told them I wasn't going to be there...and my brother is the one in charge of the scheduling and was standing right next to me when I blocked out the date and he still didn't realize I was supposed to be gone! Go fig. I guess I should cut him some slack since this was before the wedding and he's only been married for a week and a half.) Anyway, since I'm staying indoors, I'm on a quest for the perfect baked potato soup recipe. I'm feeling inspired by this awesome potato soup they used to have at Bennigan's, may it rest in peace, so here's my rules:


  1. It must be more or less smooth instead of chunky.

  2. It must be creamy and use bacon.

  3. It must also be a healthier version (since the inspiration is decidedly not, and I want this to be something I can eat on a regular basis!)

  4. It must be able to be made in a crockpot, since I basically just want to dump all the ingredients in something and then be able to prime furniture for a couple of hours.

  5. It must taste good. (Obviously.)

So I'm arming myself with a recipe from this book, this magazine, this tv chef and this blog, and basically just taking all of my favorite parts from each to create my own recipe. We'll see how it turns out. And when I actually end up making it...there's a fairly good chance I won't have to go into the garden center tomorrow due to the crappy weather (I got sent home early today), and if that's the case, I might just make it for lunch tomorrow. Possibly even on the stovetop, just for kicks. (And warmth...we're getting a new heater installed and therefore we don't have heat right now!!)


October 10, 2009

What do you think?

I've been so bad at keeping up with this blog this week...between trying to recover from my brother's wedding/stay caught up on work/use almost all of my free time working on my Pattern Review class (which I'll probably post on later, once I have time to make a muslin to show for it), I just haven't had time to write!! But after the huge fiasco that was sewing my dress for my brother's wedding, I'm thinking that maybe I should get a bigger head-start on making a dress for a friend' s January wedding that I'll be attending. And I'm weighing my options, so I'm blatantly fishing for feedback on this one!

This is the pattern I'd picked out, Vogue 7762. I'm planning on trying the one sketched in purple in the middle (which is actually also the one in the photograph) because I love those funky elf sleeves. And I have a problem with finding long-sleeved dresses that don't look frumpy on me, but since it's January and I get cold easily, long sleeves are a must. I don't think a sleeveless dress and shrug are going to cut it. Problem #1: When I bought the pattern, the sketch was on there and in the pattern catalog, and the photo was not. And in the photo, the dress looks a little...boring. I don't know if it's the color or the way she's posing, or what, but I liked it much better when it was the sketch! But I'm thinking that making it out of a print instead might liven it up-- I kind of like the look of it with the print on the sketch to the right.

So question #1: Print or solid? (And if you say print, should I go for something really graphic or more understated? I'm thinking understated since I don't want to draw attention away from my friend the bride, but I still want to look good! And, admittedly, funky prints are way more my style, as you've probably figured out if you've been following this blog for any length of time.)

The second issue: The dress calls for a woven. And it looked fairly fitted on the sketch and the pattern drawing when I was looking at it. But when I was reading it more closely after buying it, I noticed that it called the dress "semi-fitted", and that set off some alarms for me because one of my usual biggest fitting "problems" is my waist. It's not a bad problem to have--it's just small compared to the other curves, so I guess I'm pretty much an hourglass figure. But that means I have to be very careful about wearing clothes that aren't fitted at the waist, because that can easily make me look pregnant! Also, there aren't really any darts around the chest. So what I'm seriously considering doing is making this dress from a knit instead of a woven. It would probably be more comfortable that way, both for the hour-and-a-half or more drive to Baltimore and if I actually make it out to the dance floor (we'll see, because I'm not going to have a date for the wedding. I'm not a believer in asking some random guy to go to a wedding for two people he doesn't even know just so I don't have to sit by myself. I don't know anyone I could ask anyway. And it's not like I won't know anyone there--my best friend is a bridesmaid. I just won't get to sit with her for dinner, that's all.) Also, from a sewing standpoint, I figured then it would be a lot easier to make it more fitted at the waist and still accommodate the fact that I'm not flat-chested without getting weird "I don't fit" wrinkles.

So question #2: Go with what the pattern says, or take a chance on a knit? Also, other than eliminating the zipper and making it pull-over, and maybe eliminating the back dart, any advice on such a drastic change in textile?

If I don't go with a knit, I need to figure out what to make it out of. The dress calls for "Lt.wt. Wool Crepe, Soft Faille, Silk Like Crepe, Matte Jersey and Lt.wt. Double Knit." I don't want to go too lightweight, though... I'll get cold!! And I can't wear wool because then I'll break out in hives.

Question #3: With the potentially big fitting issue, should I just go for a different pattern altogether? If so, any suggestions for what won't look too old or frumpy or high school on an almost-29-year-old?

Decisions, decisions....

October 1, 2009

And now for something completely different..

At least, different for me. You may be wondering what the outcome of that dress in the last post was. Well, I went to Goodwill on Monday and found a cute vintage-esque cardigan to wear over top of it. As for the wrap, I'm most likely going to recycle it into some pillows. At least then I'll be able to use SOME of the fabric I bought for this outfit!!

As for this....yes, I'm making a quilt. (My mother is so proud.) This is my inspiration. It's a quilt I saw years ago in a Coldwater Creek catalog, and for some reason it just jumped out and grabbed me. Something about the combination of greens and the leaf print. So I decided back then that if I ever got the urge to make a quilt, this just might be the one to do.

As it so happens, the idea also goes perfectly with the bedroom makeover I'm getting started on--it's very nature-inspired. So I've spent the last two nights getting the blocks cut out (with some help from my mom, who had to explain the most efficient way to do it.) This is the color scheme that I'm using for the quilt, mostly. There's going to be 15 patchwork blocks with tan strips in between, and the main border is going to be the fabric that inspired the color scheme of the room--it's kind of a hexagon print in green, blue, tan and white. And, of course, leaves appliqued on the blocks.

I won't be starting on the sewing right away. For one thing, I have to make the leaf template. For another thing, my Pattern Review sewing class starts on Monday. And I also have a weekend near the end of the month where I'm going to be house/dog-sitting for a friend, and so my plan for that time is to watch a lot of movies and sew as much of this together as I possibly can. (At least the patchwork blocks and the appliques. I should probably wait to cut the in-between strips until I see the finished size.)