Bocce beautification project

  
This is the view from my kitchen window. It’s a lot of unrelieved green and gravel and the roots of the shrubbery are so thick there is no planting anything under it, so I decided to add a little interest with pots. This project started last spring with bulbs. Ranunculus foliage is irresistible to whatever pests are lurking in those Cherry Laurels and the bulbs were mowed down as soon as they popped up. Next up: bacopa plants. They were not eaten alive, but neither did they thrive. Round 3: our one remaining helpful local nursery man says “I know just what you need.” And he may be right! Poppies, violas and Carex grass. That sparkle of white is just what I wanted. It makes me happy to look out and see this view.

Shirt tales

Butterick 6026
This shirt pattern by Katherine Tilton is my new favorite pattern. I made this version first, earlier this summer. Loved it, wore it once, washed it with a new dress that bled dye in the wash and only this and another linen top picked up the red dye. I have since used Synthopol to get most of the offending dye out but it will never be the same crisp white and green that it was the day I finished it. Sigh. It’s been a long time since something bled out in the wash and colored everything pink. I’d forgotten that could happen.

B6026-2b

Here’s the next version of this pattern. Ms. Tilton very kindly drafted a second front and back to use with the sleeves. This is a drafting detail most patterns skip and it makes all the difference. The sleeveless version has a lovely design line over the shoulder that is not too revealing, but neither is it too wide. It looks like a sleeveless top that was meant to be sleeveless, not a shirt without it’s sleeves.

Butterick 6026. Fits like a dream, goes together easily, a winner in every category if you love a nice shirt with some feminine detailing.

Where’s the Honey?

HoneycakeSo we have this recipe we now call Honeycake but it hasn’t a drop of honey in it and it’s not really even a cake anymore.  Funny you should ask.  Skip down to the recipe if you don’t care a fig for provenance and just want to bake a tasty treat, read on if you have nothing better to do.

In 1979, the year I was married, I cut this recipe for Applesauce Spice Cake from the Modesto Bee and for a few years I made it often in my tube pan.  As time went by, I found other recipes, started making them more and forgot about this one that got shifted to the back of the cake section in my recipe box.

Speed forward about 20 years and a lot of cakes later and trans fats are getting a really bad rap and they are everywhere in baked goods so I’m looking for a recipe for a cake that doesn’t have butter (which hasn’t been rehabilitated yet) or shortening (none available yet without trans fats) and I come across this recipe that uses oil rather than butter or shortening.  I bake it up and offer it.  DH refuses it, saying he doesn’t like that cake.  Huh? I distinctly remember him appreciating this cake enthusiastically every time I baked it…in 1979.  I’m confused.  He just smiles.  Oh, okay.  So now I call it Honeymoon Cake and make it in 3 little loaf pans rather than the teflon-coated tube pan so it will make convenient slices and take I it to a tennis match to see what the tennis ladies think of it.  It’s love-love.  And the story makes it even better.  Sweet story, sweet cake.  Along comes DGS and he loves this cake, but what does a 2-year-old know from honeymoon, although he knows all about how yummy HUNNY is from Winnie-the-Pooh, and he knows what cake is and that it is also yummy.  So he shortens the name of this snack to Honeycake and some days he just can’t live without it.  Which is why I baked it today.  And FINALLY, here is the recipe:

Honeycake

  • 2 cups (9 0z.) All-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

 

  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz) oil
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 oz) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3.75 oz) packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz) applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 3 small 3×5 loaf pans or one bundt or tube pan. Sift together dry ingredients.  Combine wet ingredients in mixer bowl and beat until combined.  Add dry ingredients.  Mix on low until well incorporated and then beat on medium until smooth.  Bake in 3 loaf pans for 40 minutes.  If in tube or Bundt pan, 50 minutes.

If you’ve made this as a cake, the original recipe had a glaze:

  • 1 cup (4 oz) sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine and drizzle over cake.  To avoid that metallic taste you can get in frostings and glazes, heat the milk before adding it.  I really think the glaze is overkill on the sweetness front and prefer this served plain as a quick bread rather than a cake.  It’s really good served with a nice very lightly sweetened whipped cream cheese spread.

 

 

Waxing Elegant

Hardy, har, har.  I’m currently reading a book, a PUBLISHED book, wherein the author has used the phrase “hardy laugh” twice and the title phrase of this post once…so far.  I’m waxing eloquent and enjoying a hearty laugh at his expense.  Actually, I think I’m going to give him a pass on the use of waxing elegant instead of eloquent because it would be in character for the narrator/main character of the book to make that kind of gaffe, but the the continual enjoyment of hardy laughter by the characters is a brig to fare.  Spell check is obviously to blame, yet again, for not being able to catch typos that accidentally form other legitimate words, or the misuse of words that sound similar but have completely different spellings and/or meanings.  When are they going to come up with Phrase check?  Or Homonym check?  Or Does this writing make any sense at all check?

Where have all the editors gone, long time passing…

I’m about to jump off that bridge too far, but before I do, may I recommend The Elements of Style by E. B. White? I recommend it to all, not just to the aspiring writers among us, because it’s some of the best writing around about how to write and at the same time some of the best writing around, period.  That’s no easy feat.  E.B. White.  Ahhh.  Some writer.

Read any good books lately?

Postscript: that’s twice for “waxing elegant.”  Maybe it’s a Southern expression?  Could be one of those idioms that pinpoint the geographic region where you learned to talk?  That they might one day use to create a quiz like this.

 

Unbiased


V9006

 

So I have been looking for a very long time for a pattern that has a cowl neck for woven fabrics that is not cut on the bias.  People rave about bias cut garments and how they cling, swing and drape, but I can’t stand the way they feel on my body and don’t enjoy sewing bias-cut edges either.  Mind you, I don’t mind swing or drape in a garment but the clinging of a bias-cut garment feels more like binding to me.  Vogue 9006 is the only pattern for wovens with a cowl neck that is not cut on the bias to crop up.  I like it, but the fabric has to be very lightweight and have lovely soft drape in order for that neck to fall as it should and not make you feel and look like that Bazooka Joe comic character named Mort with his shirt covering the lower half of his face, or a bandido in an old western, take your pick.

And here’s another top I made this week, not as successful as the previous one, but not a total wadder* either:

NL 6895

I’m trying to use up my rayon challis and make some comfy loose tops for summer.  I have one piece left and now have to decide which pattern to use.  That often takes longer than the actual sewing.  And since bias, or lack of it is the topic of the day, I might add that bias facings and bindings are very good, and used on both of these tops, facing on the first, binding on the second, but a little bias in a garment goes a long way.

Note that my OPINION on bias is not at all unbiased, only the cowl neck top is unbiased and in my opinion, that’s a good thing.  Huh?

*Wadder: a sewing project gone so badly wrong all you can do is wad it up and throw it in the trash.

 

Mom’s stuffed mushrooms

The original title on this recipe is “Happy Hour Mushrooms” and the handwriting on the recipe is one I can’t identify so I can’t give attribution to the cook who shared this recipe with my mom, I can only say that we loved these mushrooms and I suspect she at least doubled the recipe when she made them.  If there had only been the 10 the recipe makes, riots would have ensued.

We used to make pilgrimages to a local mushroom farm to get the freshest and most consistently sized mushrooms available when she was going to entertain and we certainly bought more than 10.  In the absence of a reliable local mushroom grower, I would recommend buying from the bulk bin at the grocery store and finding out when they get their shipments because this recipe really shines when made with fresh mushrooms.  Here it is:

  • 10-12 (about 1/2 pound) medium-size mushrooms ( each about 1 1/2″ diameter)
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons shredded jack cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons dry white or red wine (I suspect Mom used white)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup fine cracker crumbs or as much as required to make stuffing mix dry

Remove stems from mushrooms and chop finely.  You may also buy and chop a few more mushrooms, thus 10-12 are called for in the ingredients.  Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and brush over mushroom caps, coating thoroughly.  Stir together the remaining 4 tablespoons of soft butter, garlic and cheese and chopped mushroom stems until well blended.  Stir in wine, soy and crumbs until well blended and hanging together.

Place mushrooms, cavity side up, on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Evenly mound filling in each mushroom, pressing filling in lightly.  Broil about 6 inches below broiler until bubbly and lightly browned (about 3 minutes).  Serve warm.  Makes about 10 appetizers.

 

May I sew…

At the end of April, I went fabric shopping in the LA garment district while attending PatternReview Weekend.  Here is some of the fabric I bought:

LA Fabric

Here are 2 of the 3 tops made from this group so far this month:

McCall's 6963 blue tropical

CJ V neck top brown abstract

And here are 2 tops from stash fabrics:

mod dots tank

Butterick 6026

This is the only one that’s a new pattern, Butterick 6026 by Katherine Tilton.  Love this pattern.  Made a straight 12, no mods but setting the bias on the armholes a little closer to the edge than called for as some reviewers on PR thought the armholes were big.  It fits and flatters.  I’m wearing it tomorrow with the white crops that are needing to be moved from the washer to the dryer, RIGHT NOW.  But before I go…

Also made a hooded après swim robe for the 2 1/2 year-old in my life, DGS.  He selected the fabric himself.  Go Giants:

IMG_0778

And while I was at all this sewing, I managed to make it through much of the Wool series of post-apocalyptic sci-fi novels by Hugh Howey.  Admittedly they are short and quick reads.  One of the better entries in that genre.  Thanks to DS for recommending the series.

Cover stitch hem preparation

 

 

 

 

CS Tutorial 1

 

This first photo is showing a hem pressed.  If you try to sew over this area where the serged seams are stacked up with a cover stitch machine, at the very least you will get a pile up of smaller stitches as the feed dogs struggle to push over the extra bulk.  More likely you will get skipped stitches.  So, open up that nicely pressed hem:

 

 

 

 

CS Tutorial 2

 

And see where the fold is pressed into the seam allowance.  Here is where you will clip to, but not through the furthest needle thread in the serged seam:

CS Tutorial 3

 

And flip the seam allowance in the hem the opposite direction from the seam allowance in the body of the garment:

CS tutorial 4

 

Now you can fold the hem back into place along the pressed line and the seam allowances will nest and be much flatter:

CS tutorial 5

 

Be sure to put a pin here to hold everything in this orientation before you begin sewing the hem.  I have been doing this for years and have never had a seam pull out in the hem area as a result of that clip.  Please ignore the bad manicure, or actually, the complete lack of manicure, and ragged cuticles.  I went straight back to the lotion after every hand-washing and cuticle cream at night regimen as soon as I saw this photo.

One size fits most

mod dots tank

 

This is the latest in a long line of tanks made from this pattern since every time I try to use up a knit from stash and I end up with a usable piece left over, I make one of these.  I finally got around to doing a much-needed FBA on the pattern because this knit is very limited in stretch and recovery ability, almost like a stretch woven rather than the true knit that it is.  I didn’t take that into account when I used it to make the first top, a 3/4 sleeve boat-neck number.  That one is wearable, but only barely.  This one is much better, thanks to the FBA.  Why the title?  This old Vogue pattern (see below, printed in 1997), which only goes up to a size 10 and I’m usually a 12, is so adaptable I’ve shared it and made it for many people of varying sizes by sliding it one way or another before cutting and making use of the seam allowance for adjustments.  I love the neckline, which is not your standard tank, but not quite a boat neck.  It’s unfortunate that this pattern is so obscure.  Doesn’t even come up on Etsy or a Google search or on Pattern Review. This little throw-away tank that seems to have no relation to the 2 main “fashion” tops in views A and B is a real gem, sort of like the flip side of an old 45 rpm record.  Remember those…and House of Fabrics and 1997?

Vogue 9708 pattern

BWAP, yes there is a plan

LA Fabric

Just because I’ve never actually sewn an official SWAP wardrobe, doesn’t mean I don’t plan at all.  Before heading to Los Angeles to PatternReview Weekend to buy fabric, I decided I wanted to buy knits to make tops that would coordinate with crop pants I own in basic colors and get some Ponte in solid colors to make pull-on stretch crops.  This is the group I picked up for around $14 at the FIDM Scholarship store after viewing the latest group of Oscar-nominated costumes on display there.  Later I went to Michael Levine’s and picked up 3 pieces of Ponte and a few other knit pieces in their by-the-pound loft. So I call it Buying With A Plan, BWAP.  The sewing comes later and everything should dovetail right into my basic wardrobe without a hitch, but I am flexible as to patterns used and have no firm plans as yet, unlike with a true SWAP wardrobe.  I adhered pretty well to my rules going in, only buying one fabric that wasn’t a knit in a basic color or colors that would coordinate with basic pieces in my wardrobe.  My go to solids are Navy, Dark Brown, Black and Red.  My stash reduction project has gone so well that I was mostly down to knits that I had purchased with someone else in mind that are not colors I generally wear.  So now I can start sewing quick knit tops again with my favorite patterns.

Before I left for LA, I sewed up a nice piece of batik using Simplicity 1614 and it turned out well with no real hiccups:

Simplicity 1614

The only changes I made to the pattern were the facings.  I always eliminate facings when I can and use self bias tape I make with one of my bias tape makers.  I’m pretty sure I’m not going to give up those little devices like our workshop instructor Lynda Maynard suggested we should, but I may try her stretch pressing method on the cut bias strips before running them through the bias tape maker to see if I get fewer ripples when I bind necklines and armholes.  I will definitely use her method of sewing darts with a single thread next time I have a dart to sew.  Now I’m trying to decide if I should sew my other hoarded piece of rayon batik with this same pattern or choose another, but that decision is on the back burner as I stage the knits I bought in LA with patterns and quickly sew them up for summer.

This rayon top should be a staple of my summer wardrobe as it will go with black or brown or khaki.  I love it when a plan comes together and I can reach in to my closet and have many options that all play nicely together. This is the magic result when you BWAP instead of on impulse.  Pretty fabric is often not really useful and useful fabric in the wardrobe doesn’t always look pretty on the bolt.  How long it has taken me to learn that lesson!  Useful is the new beautiful.

Many thanks to the wonderful volunteers who make PR Weekend events possible.  They did an amazing job of organizing this event and I had a terrific time!