Tuesday, February 28, 2012

DIY Fabric Printing

I've been thinking lately about printing my own fabric.  Initially, I was thinking about doing a rose print on cotton with celery.  (I'm still excited about this one, and it's definitely on my to-do list.)

Then I stumbled upon some linocut stamps on etsy, and have been dying to go to the craft store to get supplies to make my own ever since.

There's also screen-printing with embroidery hoops:

In high school I made stencils with freezer paper to print on bags and t-shirts, but this is so much more awesome.  Specifically I'm thinking about DIY-ing some border prints, which can be hard to find in fabric stores.

Source: wwepw.com via Mika on Pinterest

Source: eshakti.com via Mika on Pinterest

I also think this would be great for re-creating some of the cute animal prints that are popping up all over stores now.  Can you say whale-print shirt? Or hedgehogs?!

Coincidentally, there was very recently a post on A Beautiful Mess about using a foam stamp to add a print to a RTW dress.  I think that I'll skip the foam and try linocut or embroidery hoops though - they looks like fun, and will definitely allow for more details.

In actual, currently-existing project news, Minoru, my seam ripper and I have been spending some quality time together lately.  I fixed the rippley zipper issue, and then decided that there were a few more things I should tidy up.  Hopefully I'll have a finished and slightly closer to perfect jacket ready to post soon.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

One day I will learn...

To follow my own advice.

I knew that jumping ahead with my Minoru jacket was not a good idea.  But this morning I finished sewing the lining (the last step Tasia went through) and well, I figured why stop there? Well, Mika, you stop there because you said you would... and you knew that you should wait.

But I didn't.  And now my zipper is rippley.

Not. good.

Maybe the next 2-3 hours of ripping it out and re-doing it will teach me not to rush things. Or, well, maybe not.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chocolate-Espresso and Lemon-Mascarpone Macarons

Macarons are the new(ish) cupcake.  Laduree opened in NYC last fall, and they've been popping up in bakeries and on food blogs all over.  And they also usually cost nearly $3 each! For a 1-1.5" cookie!
I'm cheap and I like a challenge, so over the last couple of years I've tested a few recipes and can now usually come out with a "proper" macaron.  One with a flat top, good feet, and a shell-like exterior.

Yes, I said feet.  That's what the air bubbles that lift up the bottom of the cookie are called.  Feet.

I slaved over whipped up two batches of macarons yesterday for a silent auction at my boyfriend's school.  Aaand someone organizing messed up... no macaron bidding sheet to be found.  I was not a happy camper.

One batch is chocolate macarons with chocolate espresso ganache.  The other is lemon macarons with lemon mascarpone filling.  I was terrified that they wouldn't turn out (my sifter was acting up so I basically gave up on sifting, and my egg whites only aged for a day instead of my usual two).  Failure was not an option, since it would have been too late to try again, so I'm very relieved that it all worked out.  They look right, and, most importantly, they're yummy.  And even more importantly, I didn't need all of them for the auction that wasn't, so it wasn't a total loss.

If you're interested in making macarons, read up on Helene of Tartelette's tips.  I have not had any success with her base recipe, but I do use her technique to mix the batter - looking at the photos is essential to understanding when to stop beating the eggs, and to what consistency you should mix the wet and dry ingredients together.  A scale is not optional with macarons; do not under any circumstances ever trust a macaron recipe with measurements by volume. Once you have them down, macarons are a lot of fun to make - there are endless possibilities for flavor combinations.  

Macaron Base Recipe (adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook)
90g egg whites (from about 3 eggs), aged 48 hours
25g granulated sugar
180g powdered sugar
110g almond flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  1. Sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar
  2. Beat egg whites with electric mixer until frothy. Slowly add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.  
  3. Fold dry ingredients into wet until smooth.
  4. Pipe rounds onto parchment paper or silpat lined baking sheets.
  5. Let rest for 30 minutes - 1 hour, or until the tops of the rounds feel dry.
  6. Bake at 310 F for 15-17 minutes.
  7. Fill with ganache, buttercream, or other filling.  
  8. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 24-48 hours, remove and let come to room temperature, then serve.  (Refrigerating helps the flavors to blend, and also softens up crispy shells.)
For chocolate macarons: substitute 1 T cocoa powder for 1 T powdered sugar
For lemon macarons: add 1 T dried (leave out on a paper towel overnight) lemon zest to wet mixture

Lemon Mascarpone Filling 
Beat together until creamy:
1 cup mascarpone (chilled)
2/3 cup lemon curd (store-bought, or if your Whole Foods sucks and is out of stock too, make some with this recipe)

Chocolate Espresso Filling (adapted from Annie's Eats)
4 oz bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 T butter
1T sugar
2 tsp espresso powder

  1. In a small saucepan, heat cream, butter and sugar until simmering
  2. Remove from heat.  Add chocolate and espresso powder.  Stir until smooth and fully combined.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Finished: As Luck Would Have It Dress

As Luck Would Have It Dress

Pattern: Jalie 2921, modified (see below); Size R
Fabric: Cotton lycra knit from Mood - 1.25 yards.  One-way stretch; the pattern calls for two-way, but it really doesn't seem to make a difference.

This was my second time working with this pattern (you can see the first here.) I lengthened it into a dress this time, free-handing the shape on the bottom and adjusting it later to be more a-line and less balloon-like.  The top alone calls for 1.25 yds of fabric, so I had to cut carefully to make this work.  I ended up cutting the scarf collar with the grain running in the wrong direction since I was running out of fabric, but I think in the end this worked to my advantage; some reviewers have said that their collar pokes out a little at the back of the neck, and I was able to stretch the collar slightly there as I sewed to avoid that issue.

As Luck Would Have It Dress

In order to get a nice finish at the neckline on the inside, the pattern instructions have you sew up the front seam after finishing the shoulders, armscye, and collar.  I spent ages figuring out how to be sure the pattern matched up in the front while not wasting any fabric since I had so little to work with.  I had everything all cut out properly, and then I was so excited and anxious about matching the center seam that I did that first! I was not about to rip out the overedged seam, so I had to do away with the pretty inside finish.  And, of course, not doing the pretty finish meant that I didn't even need the center seam anyway! Oh well.  

As Luck Would Have It Dress

This pattern (whether you remember to follow the instructions or not!) is so great.  I'm completely over my fear of knits now! Also, I really have to stop making things with bows on them.  Soon 90% of my outfits will involve a bow.  Or maybe there isn't anything wrong with that... Emma Pillsbury gets away with it, why can't I?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mad Men Dress Challenge - Inspiration

I'm officially joining Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Dress Challenge, and have spent an inordinate amount of time over the last few days trying to pick out an inspiration dress.  I tend towards Betty's dresses mostly because I don't favor the more conservative looks Peggy tends to wear, and I do not have the curves to fill out one of Joan's dresses.  If only I had time to make six dresses (and finish my Minoru and my Agatha cardigan)... Here are my favorites - help me decide what to do!

Betty's Polka Dot dress:

Image source: tomandlorenzo.com

Betty's floral dress with a blue cummerbund:

Image source: tomandlorenzo.com 

Betty's floral picnic dress:

Image source: tomandlorenzo.com

Betty's floral stripe shirtwaist dress:

Image source: juliabobbin.com

Betty's floral eyelet shirtdress:

Image source: tomandlorenzo.com

Mash-up of Joan's blue and white dress (Julia Bobbin's re-make here!) and Peggy's blue and red dress:

Image source: tomandlorenzo.com
Image source: juliabobbin.com

The mash-up I'm envisioning would look like the dress on the left (plus sleeves), but in blue with white or red peeking through the pleat.

My favorites of these favorites are the last two, but I think until I buy the fabric I'll just keep changing my mind!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New Levels of Crazy

My sewing and money-saving obsessions converged today, taking me to new levels of crazy.  I spent over five hours on trains, ferries, and buses to get to and from Jo-Ann's for their Presidents' Day Simplicity pattern sale.  Was it worth it? YES! Will I do it again? Absolutely not.  I'm exhausted!
No matter how often they wrong me, I always put such blind faith in Google maps and the weatherman.  Well, the weatherman was right today, and Google maps was oh so very wrong.  An hour and a half to the store?  Not exactly!
I did come away with a bunch of patterns I'm super excited about though, and, according to my receipt, I saved myself a whopping $97 (though why anyone would pay $17 for a Simplicity pattern is beyond me).
And now, for the goodies!

I love the open back on this dress, though it lacks practicality.  I'm thinking two dresses, one with an open back and one not.  Maybe one in a gingham? Not a big fan of the sleeves here at all - definitely going for the sleeveless version.

I read this review of this pattern and it almost scared me away, but at $1 I figured why not get it anyway.  It has so much potential for a cute work dress, and I can never ever find RTW dresses in this silhouette that fit me - I always end up with some extra fabric flapping around in the hip area.  Not attractive.

This one is out of print, so I was thrilled to find it in the store! I'm thinking a bunch of versions with solid skirts and printed tops - sometimes getting dressed in the morning for work feels so impossible, and having a top and bottom all matched up and sewn together would make thing so much easier.  I'm also thinking about using this as a starting point for my Mad Men-inspired dress for Julia Bobbin's challenge.  More on that later!

Everyone and their mother has made this dress, and I'm ready to join the club.  Most likely I'll be blatantly copying the gingham version on the envelope - I love the bright yellow bow.

This one is pretty far outside of my usual style comfort zone, but I bought it anyway because again, hello, it was a dollar.  I think the giant ruffles are a little too much for me, but view B is appealing.

This is very similar to Simplicity 2444, but I like that its a little simpler and still interesting visually.  And really, is there even such a thing as too many dresses?

This one (New Look 6808) wasn't on sale, but it's been on my wishlist foreeeeever.  I'm trying really hard to make more separates, especially tops.  I'm thinking bottom left version - chiffon bow with the 3/4 length or cap sleeves for an Emma Pillsbury-esque top.

Yay for rudimentary photo editing skills!
This one is my favorite of the bunch.  I love the tiny buttons and the gathers at the shoulders, and I know I'd get tons of wear out of Version A and B and C (and D and E...) I'm thinking the cotton batiste I earmarked for a Sorbetto would lend itself nicely to Version B instead.

Whew! I have a lot of sewing ahead of me.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's my birthday, and I'll buy presser feet if I want to.

Another year older...

Aren't the bees cute?

And, since everyone deserves a treat on their birthday, I bought some new toys:

Sadly, however, I'll only be keeping the walking foot.  The invisible zipper foot snaps on to my machine, but the needle hits the side of it no matter how I adjust its position (my feed dogs are extra wide, and from what I understand this affects how my needle is aligned and therefore might explain why this foot doesn't fit...) The rolled hem foot, despite being described as "snap-on," came without a bar to snap-on to.  Because that makes sense.  Oh well.

In happier news, Joann Fabrics is celebrating my birthday weekend (ok, fine, they're celebrating some presidents.  whatever.) with a 99-cent sale on Simplicity patterns.  Patterns are the one thing you really can't find in the Garment District.  Especially for a buck.  So I'm going to take the subway, a ferry, and a bus to the Joann's on Staten Island this weekend and stock up.  What's your favorite, must-have Simplicity pattern? I'm not doing this again for a long, long time, so I don't want to miss anything!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

County Fair Bag

County Fair Bag

I first taught myself how to sew by making bags - I have more handmade bags in my closet than handmade anything else. I love making bags because there's no sizing to really worry about - if it turns out an inch smaller than I had intended, generally it's no big deal.

County Fair Bag

County Fair Bag

County Fair Bag

I made this one last year, inspired by a ModCloth bag I now cannot find a photo of.  It's made of a cotton canvas from Denyse Schmidt's County Fair line, with a coordinating vinyl back.  It's definitely one of my favorite and most often used bags.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's Valentine's Day without a little chocolate?

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

I started this blog with the intention of sharing recipes I like as well, and I'm finally getting around to it!

Chocolate Lava Cakes
Adapted from Budget Bytes
Serves two

1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 T sugar
4 T unsalted butter
1/3 cup dark chocolate (I used 60% cacao chips)
1 T flour
1 tsp instant coffee powder
additional butter and 1 T cocoa powder for dusting

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Grease ramekins with butter and dust with cocoa powder.
  2. Beat whole egg, egg yolk, and sugar until aerated.  
  3. Melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat (or use a double boiler).
  4. Add flour, chocolate & butter mixture, and coffee powder to egg and sugar mixture.
  5. Split batter between two ramekins.
  6. Lick spoon and bowl.  (I know, I know, salmonella.  But I've been doing this my whole life and I'm not dead yet!)
  7. Place ramekins on baking sheet, bake for 8-10 minutes.  
  8. Let rest for a minute, and then dig in.
These turned out slightly different from what I'm used to with lava cakes - the cake part was more airy.  I'm not sure which way I like better.  I guess I'll have to make some more and then decide.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Splat Skirt

I made a skirt.  I tried on said skirt.  I don't have a clue what to wear with it.  This is obviously not a winter outfit (hence the inside photo). 
Splat Skirt 1


Fabric: Silk chiffon print from Fabric.com and black bemberg rayon lining
Pattern: My own - 2 gathered rectangles of chiffon, 2 smaller gathered rectangles of lining, sewn together with a grosgrain ribbon slapped on top.  Invisible side zip - this tutorial was indispensable in dealing with the chiffon and lining with the zipper.
I'm feeling rather ambivalent about the skirt at the moment - I want to like the ruffled top edge, but I'm really not sure that I do.
Any thoughts on winter styling for this one?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Slow and Steady

Slow and steady sewing is a new thing for me.  I'm restraining myself with my Minoru and sticking with the sew-along, which means slow but steady progress.  I'm on track except for sewing the pocket to the lining - I need a finer needle to deal with the bemberg, so that will have to wait until tomorrow.  I'm pretty pleased with how it's coming along.  I've made a few minor changes (shortened the jacket body by 2", shortened the sleeves and collar by 1", cut a 4 and graded down to a 0 at the hip).  I've also decided to only do one pocket on the lining, and I'm moving it down to the bottom rather than having it up at the chest - I was concerned about having the pocket contents making the chest area lumpy, and there's more ease in the hip area to hide that.

Minoru Jacket shell

Slow but steady progress is also the story with my Agatha cardigan - I just made it past the cast-on for the underarms.  Along the way, I discovered this tutorial at TECHknitting (an amazing resource) for making backwards loop cast-on for adding stitches mid-project much better.

Backwards Loop slack
The slack yarn after knitting into my backwards loop cast on.  
Backwards Loop - fixed!
All fixed!
Backwards loop cast-on, essentially, sucks.  The stitches feel tight and are hard to knit into, but then you end up with a bunch of extra yarn at the end of the cast-on that makes everything ugly.  For the Agatha pattern you can't follow the TECHknitter technique exactly, because you cast-on the stitches in the middle of your work and then continue knitting, rather than knitting into your new stitches right away.  So, I followed the tutorial, casting on one less stitch than called for, knit the rest of the row, and when I came back to the new stitches I followed the tutorial to pick up the slack yarn for the last stitch.  It went a long way towards keeping things nice and neat.

Agatha Progress
That's all for now!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Learning to Love the Garment District

When I moved to New York City almost six months ago, I could not wait to get to the Garment District and go fabric shopping.  In my mind, I had built it up to be this magical place where you're magically guided to beautiful fabrics, and then you come home with the magic still in your fingers so that you can make the perfect magical garment.  Like so many other sewists out there, I had watched the contestants on Project Runway rush through the aisles of Mood, wishing that I too could shop at this holy place of fabric.  And then I went.  And after walking up and down 38th Street, then 39th Street, and then 40th, I came home with nothing but a yard of a cotton print for a pillow.

The single, sad and lonely product of my first trip to the Garment District
All day, I kept walking into shops like B&J Fabrics, Parons, and Mood and getting completely overwhelmed.  I knew there had to be something good that I could afford somewhere, but I didn't even know what I was looking for and there was just fabric everywhere.  Being surrounded by bolt upon bolt of fabric was exciting, but also somehow incredibly stressful.  Before I moved, my fabric shopping was essentially limited to Joann's, a discount fabric store with mostly costume fabrics, and the internet.  So walking into these shops where things were sometimes, but not always organized, and sometimes, but not always marked with a price, and where 90% of what I touched was over $15 per yard, I just didn't know what to do with myself! Fabric stores that don't sell thread? Zipper shops? What?!
Over the last few months, I've shopped exclusively online for fabric.  It always seemed like such a shame, when I can hop on the subway and get to the Garment District in less than 20 minutes.  So, this weekend, armed with a Living Social deal for half off at Mood and a gift certificate to Paron's, I decided to try again.  And I walked away with fabric this time!
It was still a slightly stressful experience, but I went with a short list of shops and copies of pattern line drawings.  Plus, I didn't have to be such a cheapskate, since I had the deal and the gift certificate.  I had the most success at Mood, where I picked up (evil!) rayon bemberg to line my Minoru jacket for $4/yd, plus a cotton batiste print (for a Sorbetto, maybe?) and a cotton lycra knit. 

Cotton Batiste
Cotton Batiste
Cotton/Lycra Knit
Cotton Lycra Knit

Parons was packed, and I didn't come out with anything - they're moving in couple of weeks, apparently, so I'm planning on trying again once they're set up in their new shop.  I also went to AK Fabrics, which I've heard good things about, but didn't walk out with anything from there either - it's such a small space, I had a hard time even fitting through the aisles!  I even tackled Pacific Trimmings for my notion needs - service wasn't exactly friendly, but they had everything I needed.

I think it's going to take me a few more trips before I really feel comfortable shopping in the Garment District - I need to learn to take my time, but also follow my instincts about what I like and want and what I don't.  And I'm a print junkie, something this last trip taught me.  I didn't look twice at any solid colored anything, even though I know that with the right pattern and maybe a little embellishment, solid colors can make great garments.

Have you been to the NYC Garment District? Does fabric shopping in new places stress you out?