Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Last Two Questions

Well, gotta say:  this whole thing has felt like a school assignment, LOL!  More proof that I only want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it :-)  Anyway, here are the answers to the two questions I left unanswered yesterday.

My friend Cyndi asked this:  "I'd like to know why you don't put recipes on your blog. I know you have some great ones to share."

Here's some background.  Cyndi and her husband and son are friends of ours from St. Louis, although none of us live there now - we moved here and they moved to Portland, OR.  But when we all lived in St. Louis, we spent quite a lot of time together, and it often revolved around food :-)  Dinner at our house, cookouts at their house.  And my favorite:  picnics at some of the local wineries.  It may surprise you to know that there's a hilly, wine-growing region just west of St. Louis, and lots of the wineries have outdoor patios where you can bring your own picnic and buy some wine, then have a nice meal looking out at the beautiful hills.  So much fun, and such great memories.  

Stef (who I had the pleasure of meeting the spring before last) asked:  "Do you cook any recipes passed down from your mum or a close relative? If so, what?"  Stef's on a blog break at the moment, but if you scroll back through her pages, you'll see lots of mouth-watering photos of food.  But she's still pinning great recipes on Pinterest, and I've found plenty of good ones through her.

Here's the thing, Stef:  my mom has never liked to cook.  She still doesn't.  And my dad was a pretty picky eater.  So we grew up on a mostly meat & potatoes, hot dogs and hamburgers type of diet.  And casseroles of course - it was the '70s, after all :-)  So I don't have a lot of family recipes.  But there is one.

My mom makes the BEST potato salad in the WORLD!!  And here is her recipe. 

Billie's Potato Salad

5 lb. potatoes
2 lb. bacon
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
dill pickles, chopped, and some of the juice from the jar
garlic powder

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until done, about 45 minutes - 1 hour.  Drain then allow to cool.  Peel off the skins and slice the potatoes into a large bowl.

Chop all the bacon coarsely and brown in a frying pan.  Add the chopped onion when bacon is almost cooked, and continue cooking until caramelized.

Pour the bacon and onion mixture, along with a bit of the bacon grease, over the potatoes.

Add in mayonnaise or Miracle Whip and pickles to taste, along with some of the juice from the pickles.  Add in seasonings to taste and mix well to combine.

Now, I should probably admit that I myself have never made this recipe.  But Mom made it for many family gatherings, and I always stuffed myself with as much as I could!  If any of you try it, let me know!

And I'll go back to Cyndi's question to wrap it up:  I'm not really sure why I don't post recipes!  I never really thought about it, I guess!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Agenda Answers the Hard Questions

And some of them were hard, because like I said, I'm not at all introspective.

I was surprised I received so many questions, and that so many of you were willing to play along.  Sam has already posted a response to my question with a tour of the beautiful town in which she lives.  Check it out if you haven't seen it already!

Let's dive right in.  There are probably too many to handle in one post, so we'll see how far we get before it becomes a yawn-fest.  Please feel free to skip this if you're only here for the crafts!

Susan asked:  "What's your favorite story from your childhood?"
I have two brothers who are 6 and 7 years younger than me.  My next younger brother is quite the outdoorsman, and even from a young age used to love to go fishing.  We grew up 2 blocks from a lake, so when he was little (maybe 5 or 6) I'd walk down to the lake with him so we could go fishing.  Thing is, he wouldn't actually touch a fish!  And I wouldn't touch a worm!  (Still won't!)  So we made a pretty good team - him baiting the hooks, and me taking the few fish we caught off the line.  I think I got the better end of the deal!

He's way bigger than me now, LOL!

From Sam"I'd love to know what your perfect day would be."
Wow, Sam - this one was fodder for quite a few daydreams!  But in the end I decided to plan a perfect day that is actually within my grasp.

It would start, as all my days do, with a delicious cup of coffee made for me by my wonderful Hubby.  Then we'd head off for a nice long hike - preferably in a pine forest.  (OK, that part is not easily within my grasp, but a girl can dream!  Here's a selfie I took in Austria last month, enjoying the wonderful aroma of a pine forest.)

Big inhale!

Then, by some sort of magic, we'd be transported to some wonderful outdoor lunch spot, our hiking clothes having been replaced with something more chic (and preferable hand-sewn!).  We'd enjoy a delicious meal and a glass of wine or two while gazing upon some spectacular scenery.  After lunch we'd pop into a museum or gallery for a look around, then head home for a quiet evening watching some sort of comedy on Netflix.

Hmm, not super original, but I think it points to the fact that I have a darned good life!  I do a lot of these things pretty often, and feel blessed to be able to do so!

Tracey asked:  "I would love to know if you have always been so creative or is this something that has evolved over the years?"

Well, I can't remember a time when I wasn't making something.  I was lucky to be born into an extended family of crafters, artists and musicians, so I pretty much grew up with it.  My dad especially loved to experiment with different kinds of crafts and he and I used to enjoy exploring new hobbies together.  Just like Dad, I have one enduring craft love (knitting and sewing; Dad's was woodworking) but have tried a whole slew of other things.  I'm definitely my father's daughter!  But of course it was Mom who taught me to knit and sew in the first place.

Here's a Barbie dress I crocheted when I was probably about 7.  Don't ask me how it's supposed to go on!

Andrea and Lisa are both curious to know how many pairs of shoes I own.   Well, I have to admit this is kind of embarrassing for me.  My love of shoes borders on obsession - it always has.  I own far, FAR more than I need; shoes are my biggest extravagance.  I had to count the other day and I'm in the neighborhood of 150.  I do feel compelled to note that among the group of friends I used to hang out with in St. Louis, this was not a huge number!  We did a fair bit of going out and going to events back then.  And this is a collection that goes back close to 20 years.  I also do need to do a good weed-out.  But it's kind of silly:  there are some things I've been saving, in case my nieces want them in the future!  I remember being thrilled at receiving some "retro" pieces from my aunt when I was in my teens and early '20s, so I keep some of the cooler stuff around for that reason even if I'm not using it.

Me and Sal, having Fancy Shoe Knitting night.

Lisa  also asked what was the latest book (or books) I read.  Here are the last few:

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson - a small book, but it took me ages to read because it was kind of melancholy, so I wasn't always in the mood.

Quiet by Susan Cain - devoured it in a of couple days.  All about introverts, of which I am one.

And because I love reading for hours and hours when I'm on vacation, I read a bunch of Edith Wharton novels when we were in Turkey and really enjoyed them.  I was a French (literature) major in college, so I missed out on all the American and English literature that most people read while I was busy reading the French.  Now I'm going back and fixing that! 

Sonja had this question:  "Who would you be in an alternate universe? Is there something totally different from what you do now that you always wonder what would have happened if you'd explored it?"

I would be a mom :-)  We wanted to have children but I was not able to.  We were able to move past that disappointment and are quite content with our lives as they turned out, but I do sometimes wonder how things would be now if we had been able to have kids.

Shar asked what is my favorite time of day and why.  Definitely morning.  I'm such a morning person that I go to bed early (seriously early, like 8:30) so I can get up early in the morning.   I like the quiet, solitude and peacefulness of early morning.

early morning park bench in winter

There were two more questions which both related to food, so I'm going to answer those in the next post.  Thanks to all who played along!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bourbon and Blazers

As I said earlier in the month, October is all about blazers Chez Agenda.  Alongside my other projects, I've been slowly working on a pattern for a tailored blazer - an item which I'd love to own but which I rarely find to fit well in RTW.  You'll see why later in the post.

My friend Shar and I had been talking about doing a blazer sew-along in the fall, and so "Bourbon and Blazers" was born.  The name came from the title of an email I sent her referencing our plans and thanking her for the recipe for Salty Bourbon Squares she'd sent me.  Since we knew we'd be sharing a lot of our progress on Instagram, we decided to use it as our hashtag.  To our delight, a couple of our sewing friends have decided to join us:  Lisa and Andrea for sure, and maybe even a couple others are thinking about it.  We are all going at our own pace - there are really no rules or structure.  We're just having fun exploring the making of a tailored blazer together.  Please join us if you care to!  #bourbonandblazers

I had several blazer patterns in my stash from which to choose, and in the end I settled on McCall's 6172.  This is a Palmer/Pletsch pattern, which means it has lots of fitting advice, and fitting alteration lines are already included on the pattern.  Since I'm familiar with the Palmer/Pletsch method and fit is one of my biggest concerns in this project, I thought it would be a good place to start.  It turns out that all my sewing buddies have chosen this pattern as well!  I think it's great, because we will be able to compare apples to apples.

I started this project at the very beginning of October and just yesterday was able to trace off my final version of the pattern.  Between tracing, tissue-fitting and re-tracing, I've got about 10 hours into this project already!  I'm hoping all this work will pay off in a big way.

First I started by tracing my four main pieces:  the two fronts and the two backs.  I started with only these four because I wasn't sure if I should use the size 8 or size 10.  A quick tissue-fit of these main pieces verified that the 8 is the right size for me to start from.  It's interesting to me that my Palmer/Pletsch instructor also put me in a size 8, and all the adjustments I needed for this blazer were the ones I needed on the sheath dress we did in our class!

Once I had the correct size, I traced off all the other size 8 pieces, and then got started with my tissue-fitting.  I wish I hadn't done that though - I forgot that the shapes of the linings and facings would change to correspond with the new shapes of the front and back pieces.  So in the end, I ended up re-tracing those as well.

For my tissue-fitting, I was a little over-zealous at first, and had to back some of my adjustments out.  Once everything was done though (over the course of several fittings) I had made TEN adjustments!  No wonder the RTW blazers don't fit me well!  Here's my list as I kept track:

And here's what it says, but in the order of the adjustments:

* broad back adjustment of +1/4"
* shallow upper chest tuck of -1/4" 
* dart remains as it is - I shortened it a bit at first but decided I liked the original better
* forward shoulder adjustment -1/4"
* sway back adjustment -3/4"
* low round back adjustment +1/2"
* increase side seam from waist down +9/16"
* increase back side seam (between center back and side back) from waist down +3/16"
* make tuck corresponding to shallow upper chest tuck (-1/4") the length of the upper sleeve piece parallel to grain line, so that sleeve cap fits into new, smaller armscye
* full upper arm adjustment +1/2"
* shorten sleeve -3/4"

WHEW!  With all that tape, you can see why I wanted to re-trace my pattern pieces.  I have a bad habit of forgetting that I have tape on my pieces and then ironing over it and gunking up my iron!

Here are some pictures of my pieces in progress, in no particular order.

re-traced upper sleeve on left, adjusted sleeve on right

Paper Blazer, front

Paper Blazer, back

shallow upper chest tuck - extends all the way across the lapel; forward shoulder seam line

broad back adjustment and low round back adjustment

sway back adjustment

increased seams at hip area

final fit

I'm very happy with the fit I've achieved.  I only look unhappy in the photo because I've been suffering from sinusitis and a cold for the last several days and I had a massive headache!  Also, a pin was sticking me right in the armpit :-)

At this point, I was ready to re-trace my taped-up pieces and adjust my lining and facing pieces to match - the work of another couple hours.  But VOILA:

My pile of beautiful, fresh pattern pieces is ready to go!  I'm hoping to start on cutting out my fabric today!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blog Hop Side Step

Oh hai!  Anybody still here?  You may have noticed my enthusiasm for writing has gone astray of late.  Oh, I'm still crafting away in my free time, but all my current projects are of the slow type, as I promised over a month ago.  So no FOs to share at the moment.

Actually, I did make a short-sleeved Emery dress a few weeks ago.  It looks just like all my other Emery dresses, only with sleeves and a different fabric.  One of these days I might actually wear it.

The point of today's post is the "why I blog" meme that's been going around for the last couple months.  I'm both embarrassed and flattered that I've been tagged twice to join in - first by Pincushion Treats a month ago, and then by Ginger yesterday.  I optimistically promised Mela a post which never materialized; I was more realistic with Sonja, stating that it probably wouldn't happen.

It's not that I haven't been thinking about it - I have.  But as I said to Sonja:  I'm just not a navel-gazer.  Well, that's not entirely true, as I do meditate daily :-)  But I'm not in the least introspective, so I had a hard time coming up with any answers to the questions posed.  I also consider myself to be a rather unremarkable human being - no more or less than anyone else, just different.

That said, I really love learning the details of other people's lives.  I'm curious about people, but was raised to believe that it's poor form to pry, so I generally don't.

So I decided to approach this meme from a different angle.  Instead of blathering on (because you know how much I love to blather), answering questions which don't interest me a lot, I thought I'd turn it around:

Are you curious about anything about me?  About crafting, writing or just daily life?  Ask anything you like in the comments. 

IF there are any questions, I will answer them in a following post.  I'm suspecting there may not be too many (see "unremarkable," above) but you never know how many other nosy parkers there are out there :-)  And if any of you want to play along with this revised meme, I'd love the opportunity to pry into your life and ask some questions of my own.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October means blazers.

For months I've been planning to spend a fair amount of my fall sewing learning to make a tailored blazer.  I've gotten a small start on that, but to sort of ease into it - and because I wanted one - I decided to make an unstructured knit blazer first.

I've got plenty of blazer patterns in my stash, so I had a look through them and pulled out my favorites, then decided to go with Butterick 5926, which is made for "moderate stretch knit fabrics."  There are options for a shorter or longer length, and full or three-quarter sleeves.  I chose to make mine with long sleeves in the sorter length, which hits at my high hip.

My first version was a fit muslin but I was hoping (as one does) that it would be wearable.  Still, I didn't want to spend a ton of money on fabric, so I headed over to my local JoAnn's and picked up a couple yards of their Sew Classic Ponte Roma.  With a 50% off coupon, my fabric cost me $13; I spent another $3 or so on knit interfacing.  I'd never used this fabric before but for the (sale) price, I'd say it's fairly good quality - IF you check your yardage before purchasing.  I didn't, and after my fabric was washed I found a  large run.  Luckily, I was able to cut around it.  This fabric is 60% polyester and 40% rayon.  I was worried it might be too hot and polyester-y, but it's very soft and quite comfortable to wear.

I got a bit cocky and didn't take any flat pattern measurements or do a tissue fitting.  But I did look at the finished garment measurements, and decided to go with a size 10, which is where my bust measurement puts me.  I was surprised that the ease was pretty much perfect!

Before cutting, I made a bunch of flat pattern adjustments that are pretty common for me:

* Forward Shoulder Adjustment of 3/8" - less than my usual of 1/2" - 5/8"
* Broad Back Adjustment of 1/4" - again, less than my usual of 1/2"
* Sway Back Adjustment of 1"
* Shortened Sleeve by 1" and moved elbow dart up to correspond

I was pleased that the pattern had a center back seam and upper back shaping in the form of darts coming off the back neck.

So, how did it work out?  Well, I admit that I was a little underwhelmed when I first finished it.  I felt like I'd overdone it with the Forward Shoulder and Sway Back adjustments.  But I've worn it a couple times now and while I do think I can back off on those two adjustments just a bit, it's not too bad - not any worse than something I'd buy off the rack.  Here's me wearing it this morning, making my squinty face into the sun while Alicia took my picture:

I think this pattern is a keeper for me.  But there are a few things I will do differently the next time:

* reduce the Sway Back adjustment to 3/4" and
* narrow the shoulders by about 1/4" - this one is a surprise to me because my shoulders are on the broader side; it could be that I should really be in the size 8, but I like the ease I have here

The one thing I really don't like about this pattern is the placement of the buttonholes.  I worked them as written in the pattern and they are just too far in from the edge.  It looks a little ridiculous when buttoned.  It's not a huge problem because I'm not likely to button both buttons at once, but still . . .
these guys are about 1" from the edge.

There were a couple places I found the instructions a little lacking.  One was at the insertion of the collar, which wasn't too hard to figure out.  The other though was the hem.  The bottom hem is topstitched down, and while the pattern says to "trim" before hemming, it doesn't say how much.  I missed that part and fused the entire width of the hem back with double-sided fusible.  When I got to the point of topstitching, I realized that if I stitched at the edge of my turn-back, I'd be stitching through the pocket!  Of course, since it was fused down it was too late to trim it.  It won't show while I'm wearing the jacket, but it kind of bugs me knowing the excess fabric is there.

This ponte, while nice, is on the thin side.  I was a little disappointed when I tried the jacket on over some sleeveless dresses made from thicker ponte that the shoulder line became very lumpy. (P.S. this is my favorite dress, ever.  I have it in a gazillion colors, I love it that much.)  So next time, I may consider adding in some thin shoulder pads.  That said, it's pretty nice to have an unstructured, unlined jacket:  it feels like a cardigan but looks like a blazer.  I've been enjoying wearing this a few times in the week since I made it.

I did all my stitching on the regular sewing machine, using the "double stitch" as instructed in the pattern - really just two parallel rows of stitching before trimming the seam allowance.  I only dragged out my serger to finish the raw edge of the front facing.

I finished this last week, and tried a few times to get pictures of it.  As you no doubt know, trying to photograph a black garment indoors isn't the easiest thing to do.  This is the only picture from last week that came out half way decently - this is how I wore it to do some errands, with my white lace Renfrew, jeans, black flats and a sweet vintage leopard print scarf given to me by Andrea this spring.

And today I'm back at it with another Renfrew, jeans and a different pair of black flats!  Hey, if it works, it works!

Have any of you made this pattern?  Did you like it?  This one gets a thumbs up from me.  The great thing about an unstructured blazer is that even if the fit isn't stellar, I don't think it matters too much.  It's a pretty forgiving garment!  There's room for me to improve the fit here, but I'll enjoy wearing this one.  A black blazer was high on my list of holes to fill in my wardrobe.  I hope to do a more structured woven version someday, but this one will do for now!