Sewing for the Baby Boomlet

The babies are arriving here and there and so I’ve been sewing baby things like burp cloths and these little tunics/dresses:

May I just say that Brindille and Twig has the best patterns going for baby clothes that fit and are practical? This is their angled dress, second and third iterations.

  • It’s still fun to sew for the boys as well. These panels for a play mat were an irresistible find at a quilt shop I visited recently. If I had it to do again, I’d make 4 separate mini mats that could be reconfigured in various ways, but doing it this way has produced the desired effects:
    • When the boys play with it, there is room for both of them.
    • It doesn’t scoot around or get wrinkled, but lays flat and stays in place.

    This was prior to quilting and binding, but you get the idea. Here is my new setup for free-motion quilting using rulers. This is a huge step forward in quilting on a home machine.

    Another reason for making 4 smaller quilts is that they would have been much easier to maneuver on my machine with its small harp area. It felt like wrestling with a bear at some points during the process.

    Now it’s time to sew a few things for myself for this summer. I’ve got white thread in my serger and coverstitch machines so I think I’ll make up some things that will not require rethreading. Lazy-girl sewing!

    False advertising

    This summer we raised Thai Eggplants to use in curries. Specifically Thai Green Curry. We had to raise them because, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, they are not to be had in any market at any price here in California, in spite of their presence in this photo on the entry door of a local supermarket. Just above the geeen tomato…

    Problem solved

    Uncle Si had plenty of wisdom to impart but perhaps his best bit was, “Most problems will solve themselves if you just leave them alone.”

    Here’s a perfect example. This cart return is possibly the worst piece of engineering I’ve ever seen. As originally designed, the carts would roll right back out every time I tried to put them in since the return was high in the middle and low and open to the parking lot on both sides. Presumably this was to encourage drainage, and if so, that goal was met. I’ve never seen water standing in this structure. However, the PRIMARY goal of keeping carts from rolling willy-nilly around the parking lot was completely unmet by this feat of engineering.

    For about 5 years, I would heap disdain on the designer of this useless cart corral each time I shopped here until one magic day I noticed that the asphalt had heaved at the junction with the concrete of the cart return a good 1.5 inches…enough to stop the carts from rolling out! Thus did the problem solve itself. Now I think of Uncle Si and his infinite wisdom every time I shop here and return my cart.

    Cabbage Dolma

    Cabbage Dolma is the ultimate winter food, slow, savory, warming. Here’s how:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 large heads of green cabbage
    • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
    • 2/3 cup rice
    • 2-4 Tbsp dried minced onion, or equivalent amount of fresh red onion, shredded.
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 2 Tbsp. dried basil
    • 2 small cans tomato sauce

    Method:

    Bring a large stock pot 2/3 full of water to the boil.

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    Cut the core out of the cabbage with a sharp knife.  Make sure that you have cut out enough of the core that all the leaves are no longer attached at the center.  Then submerge the cabbage in the water and keep at a simmer while you separate all the leaves from the core and transfer them to a colander to drain.  You are par-boiling the leaves, just softening them enough to pull them away from the head using tongs and a large fork and allow later rolling around the meat filling.  They will cook thoroughly later.  Use any torn leaves and the innermost leaves that are too small to form rolls to line the bottom of a 12 quart stockpot.  If you only have one, you’ll have to re-use it after par-boiling the leaves.  Dump the water out of the pot, but preserve it for later.

    Mix the meat, salt, rice, onion and basil thoroughly to create the filling.  Add a little water to make it easier to mix everything together.  When everything is thoroughly mixed together, begin rolling the leaves around the filling, placing about 2 Tablespoons of filling on a leaf with the thick end of the leaf facing away as shown:
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    Roll the cabbage leaf around the filling, tucking the sides over as you roll.  When you reach the thick end of the leaf, cut away any part that is too thick to roll.  Some leaves are so large you have to cut them down the middle.  Some are too small.  This one is just perfect and will probably not require any trimming but will form a nice, neat roll.  Place rolls closely packed together in the stockpot as you work.  When the bottom of the pot is covered with rolls, make another layer, and another until you run out of meat.  You shouldn’t run out of leaves.  If you do, you’ve not put enough filling in each leaf.

    Pour the tomato sauce over the rolls.  Cover the rolls with any leftover leaves.   Add enough of the cabbage water or fresh water to just barely cover the rolls. Place a sturdy stoneware salad plate upside down over the rolls and gently press down.  This serves as a weight to prevent the rolls from floating around and coming undone.  Cover with the lid of the stockpot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1.5-2 hours.  When done, you will have to carefully remove that plate before serving directly from the pot or transferring the rolls and plenty of the cooking juice to a serving bowl or deep platter.  That plate is covered with tomato sauce and looks like it will never be the same again, but a trip through the dishwasher will put things right unless the plate is cracked or chipped in which case it’s time to toss it anyway.

    Serve with Bulgur Pilaf, wet Lavash (run your pieces of dry lavash under warm water on both sides, stack on a plate and cover with a damp kitchen towel for 20 minutes) and Greek Style Yogurt (made into Tsatsiki-style sauce if you like) for a real traditional Armenian meal.

    Okay, Bulgur Pilaf:

    Bring 1.5 cups of water, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. dried minced onion and 1 Tbsp olive oil or butter to a boil.  Add 1 cup of coarse Bulgur (#4).  Allow to return to a boil.  Stir, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 25 minutes.

     

     

     

    Sewing for the Train Gang

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    This t-shirt project is an experiment in 3 ways:

    First, it is impossible to find decent t-shirt fabric at local fabric stores so I bought a Men’s XXL T-shirt at Target, washed it, ironed it and cut out these 2 t-shirts, happily using the hems where possible. The only hem I had to sew today was the bottom of the smaller shirt. Plus I re-used the ribbing at the neck on the smaller shirt. So, an experimental fabric source.

    The patterns were traced from the Kwik Sew book, Sewing for Toddlers. Yes, this book is wildly outdated, but the patterns are basics and toddlers generally don’t care if their clothes are up-to-the-minute stylish, they want simplicity and comfort. And trains. I traced the T1 size for DGS2 and the T3 size for Big Brother but used the T4 length. My experience with these patterns is that they run a little wide, but nothing like the usual Big 4 patterns for kids and babies. The shirts look about right, but they haven’t been tried on yet. So, experimental patterns.

    About the trains. We were wandering through Beverly’s Fabrics a while back after an unsuccessful hunt for zippers for the fleece jackets that are all finished except the closures and suddenly this rack of embroidered appliqués appeared many aisles removed from the sewing area. Full stop, back the train up and choose one for the upcoming t-shirt project…ooh, they have TRAINS. I wasn’t looking forward to sewing these appliqués on so imagine my delight when I took a closer look today and realized they were IRON-ON. Sweet. They seem well adhered, but who knows how they will wash. I suspect they will curl and pull away and eventually fall off. But babies and toddlers do not wear their clothes for long. So, experimental appliqués.

    Tomorrow I deliver them and we see how they fit and find out if there will be more in the pipeline. I am considering using Men’s XXL t-shirts for fabric to make my own tees.

    Motivation

    2016 Sewing for Children Contest
    And I downloaded a Brindille and Twig Romper pattern, have got snaps and a snap setter on the way and have had the Mickey Mouse fabric on hand for some time, should be enough to make the romper for Ryan and a Tee for Logan. In order to comply with the rules of the contest I can’t start actually sewing on this project until August 1st which is still a week away, but I’ve got plenty to keep me busy until then. My current goal is to finish the white jacket my wardrobe so desperately needs and which has been in progress for 2 months before I begin sewing for the boys.

    What have I been doing for 2 months when I should be able to finish this in under a week you ask? Finishing up another project with an actual deadline, that drawing of Lemon Boy Cucumbers.

    Serger Thread Storage


    You can buy these Closet Maid over-the-door organizers at Target as of 7-2016. Aisle C-41 in my Tarhet. Are the aisle numbers consistent from one Target to the next? 

    Serger cones fit perfectly in this pitifully easy to assemble and install rack. Lots of them. And who has a serger and doesn’t have lots of cones of thread? This is not my original idea. I found it on the forums of Patternreview.com while desperately searching for ways to organize my sewing room. I am merely passing it on. Paying it forward if you will. It’s a great idea, so thanks to the original poster, whoever you are.

    Updated to add that the serger cones fall over so it’s best to store them lying down and they fit fine that way too.

    Easy Orchid Centerpiece

    • Just buy Orchids in small pots. 
    • Buy some cloth napkins that coordinate with your event theme or color scheme or make your own out of quilting cotton. You want napkins with a little body. Batiks are a nice complement to orchids.
    •  These I made with a rolled hem using bulky nylon on my serger. They are small for napkins, only 14″ square. I think I was trying to get 3 napkins across the selvedge-to-selvedge width of my fabric. For these small pots they are perfect. 
    • Use rubber bands like they use on broccoli bunches at the grocery store. Start saving now if you’re having a big event. Hope you like broccoli!
    • Place a pot on the center of a napkin, gather the fabric up and around the base of the orchid, stretch the rubber band up and over the pot until it settles around the base of the orchid.
    • Find the corners of the napkin and gently pull and shape them to your satisfaction.

    So quick and easy yet festive and fun!

    Artist’s Bridge DIY Hack


    You can buy a manufactured artist’s bridge from Blick, or you can stop by your nearest hardware or home improvement store and get a paint stirring stick. Attach some erasers with rubber bands. Please use new rubber bands and unused erasers. Alternately, get 2 sticks and cut one down to make 2″ long risers to glue in place on the underside of your stick. Stick felts or other surface protectors on the bottom.

    Lemon Boy Cucumber

    Here is a photo essay showing the progress of my latest Botanical Illustration:



    Things I learned on this drawing:

    • Polychromos pencils smear like mad, leaving a green haze over the white areas of the drawing. This necessitates new strategies to protect the paper, including wiping newly sharpened pencils with a cloth, stabbing the points in to a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser pad, using an artist bridge and blowing fine particles off the drawing with a Giotto’s Rocket Air Blaster rather than brushing with a soft brush as I have long done with Prismacolors.
    • It’s probably best to do a few small studies after a long dry spell before jumping in to a complex composition with a deadline.
    • Using Prismacolor Black Grape in shadows on botanicals is not for the faint of heart. Best to stay with the Polychromos Indigo.  Changing mid-drawing is a really bad idea.
    • Irojiten Mulberry has potential as a replacement for Black Grape, needs further investigation and sampling. Save this for a few of the deepest darks. Nasco sells Irojitens open stock.  Update, 2020:  Nasco might still sell Irojiten pencils open stock but they have closed their retail outlet in Modesto and as a result I usually order things from Dick Blick instead.
    • The adult coloring book craze has decimated the colored pencil market and replacements from open stock are going to be hard to get until the fad runs its course. Further 2020 update: now it’s elastic, fabric and sewing machines that are in short supply due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the need for facemasks.  Pencils are mostly available again but some art supplies are also hard to get as people shelter in place.  Adult coloring books are still out there, but not as popular.  What goes around comes around.