Mind games I play with myself…

So I went shopping for fabric recently in the L.A. Garment District and bought several promising new pieces of fabric for summer sewing. But I promised myself I would sew up ALL of the fabric I had purchased last year at this time in L.A. before I embarked upon the exciting new fabric. The last 2 pieces were a swimsuit fabric I bought to make a tennis skirt (easily and quickly done) and this double sided plaid cotton stuff that looked for all the world like it would make a lovely shirt when I bought it, but I was having doubts. Then I washed the fabric and it turned into crinkle gauze. My recent default position for using up difficult fabric is to make sleep/lounge wear out of it if at all possible. Robes, nightgowns, pajamas, etc. This has worked for me several times and once again voilá, I have some VERY comfortable and versatile pajamas. I can wear the bottoms with an athletic top that I rarely wear to the gym anymore but still has plenty of life. I can wear the top with some plain shorts if I find/buy/make some one day. I can wear the set together. I’m so glad I made these happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care jammies with sort-of almost mostly matching plaids in the important places rather than sweating bullets trying to really match this impossible shifting plaid for a serious garment like a shirt! Besides which, who is wearing hot pink plaid shirts these days anyway? Here they are:

Would have matched that plaid had I known it was going to show through the reverse side of this fabric.

Would have matched that plaid had I known it was going to show through the reverse side of this fabric.

Simplicity 3696 pants

Jalie 2787


Here we are stash-busting with fabric AND pattern today. I’ve had this fabric and pattern in their respective stashes for a long time. The fabric is a tissue thin knit but surprisingly firm given how sheer it is. The only thing preventing this from being a see-through shirt is the ink of the print and the overlay design on the front. Definitely a cami is in order when wearing this top since there are no overlays on the back. I made my usual size T in Jalie knit tops and it is snug, but not unwearable. If I made it again I would size up if the knit was similar. For a stretchier knit, I would sew the size T again.

One comment on the design: the layer under the crossover portion is not stitched to anything at the top, this makes the design suitable for nursing, but I felt that the elastic that is stretched across the top of the piece before stitching it to the side seams could be a bit shorter to prevent possible sagging. I’m not convinced it’s going to hold up, but don’t want to risk tacking it to the under layer because I fear that would be unsightly.

Another comment on the instructions: they are not clear on step 6, figure 8, pre-sewing the partial side seams. Here is where you create the over/underlap and they make no mention of how it’s accomplished. It’s not hard, but neither is it obvious until you think about it. I had to pick out my first side seam attempt because I left a layer out. There are 3 layers going in to this partial side seam, the back, the underarm portion of one top front and the side (lower) portion of the OTHER top front. It’s not until the next step you finally add the bottom front, which is attached only at the side seams and then you can serge everything for a clean finish. They don’t say it, but you are basically basting the upper tops and then the front to the back with zig-zag stitching before making a final (optional, really) pass with the serger to clean finish everything. Here’s a picture of the front from the inside prior to the final pass with the serger, note that you can see more layers on the right side:


This is a first for me: I am going to leave this top un-hemmed. I can see why RTW is doing this more these days with the very lightweight knits. The fabric resists hemming, wanting to curl and puckering when stitched. I could fuss with the settings on my coverstitch machine in the hope of getting a more successful hem, but I really want to move on and am not sure how much I’m really going to wear this top, so I think I’ll just roll with it. Literally.

Gone fishing 

On a recent Monday, Logan and I strolled down to the water hazard on the golf course to catch fish. Reputedly, there are trophy size bass to be had but all we possessed for catching fish was a repurposed butterfly net. Happily, it was more than adequate for scooping up the teeming gambusia affinis which inhabit the shallows.

Incidentally, we also encountered a Great Blue Heron. 

So on any given Monday, if you can’t reach us, we may just be gone fishing!

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.


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:


  • 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



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.





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:


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:


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.