Thursday, September 23, 2010

deco goodness: my Sencha blouse

Sarai at Colette Patterns has a real winner with this Sencha blouse; I went over there this summer and learned that she'd actually sold out of the pattern. Looks like she's got it back in now - click the link to go to the shop.

I made mine out of a floral-print swiss dot in black, but then I realized I'd (whoops) made it out of sheer fabric and (double whoops) used a white stabilizer on my facing. I tried to fix it by tea-dying the fused pieces (don't ask me HOW the whole thing didn't just fall apart), but to little avail. So, in order to mask the very-opaque, very white interfacing, I resorted to a bit of embroidery - a simple running stitch in a pale nude-pink that wraps around the keyhole and the neckline. Really, it was serendipitous, because I'm quite happy with the deco-feel that resulted.

details of the front and back. With such thin fabric, I opted to use snaps, but then chose to sew my filigree brass buttons over the snaps for a pretty look.

And here it is on. Cute, huh? I don't exactly plan to style it with jeans; I think pencil skirts are more this Sencha's type. Or I might pair it with the wool shorts I'm just finishing tonight - DIY'ed from an old pair of wool pants that were just a tetch too short.

Monday, September 20, 2010

save the summer

about now, many of my perennial blooms are starting to fade, and seeds are coming on strong. As our home has a little bank of windows in the utility room, I plan to try propagating from seed next spring. If it works, I'll have a bunch of plants to put into the yard and more to give to friends.

Here's a simple way to collect the seeds and grow more of your favorite flowers next year:

cut rough circles of lightweight fabric. It should be thin, rather sheer, as this will allow light and air to continue to reach the flower where the seeds are developing. Just make sure it's not so delicate that it can't endure a bit of weather (I wouldn't use silk, for example). The sample circles above (a quarter is in the middle of one, for reference) were cut from polyester organza leftover from making that veil. These were actually too small for most of my echinacea blooms, and I had to cut larger ones.

Using a running stitch, stitch all around the edge of the circle, a scant 1/4" - 1/2" from the edge. Leave long ends, as this will give you something to tie off later.

Pull the long ends to gather up the fabric along the running stitch. Gently fit the little fabric cup over the seed-head of your flower. Tighten the fabric around the flower's stem and tie off the threads. You don't want to cut the threads into the stem (so as not to damage the flower), but do tie it quite tightly - if the seeds should start to fall off the seed-head, you want the fabric to gather them all together and keep them contained. I just tied the loose ends in a bow, but you could knot them as well.

When the heads have developed as much as they are going to and/or the seeds begin to fall, cut the flowers at their stems and bring them inside. Allow them to dry a bit (perhaps hang them upside down, to help the seeds fall out and be caught in your fabric. Then carefully cut the fabric off the seedheads, pick out any seeds still remaining in the head, and store them away until spring.

because blackberries are a summer essential

Though we haven't had much of a summer this year, we at least got out one afternoon to pick blackberries. The haul wasn't good - the brambles were mostly picked over, and what few berries remained were small. We managed to net about 2.5 - 3 cups. What to do with too few berries for a pie or jam?


I used this recipe as a model for my own. I used all the fruit we had (so, more than twice the amount called for in the original recipe), cut the crumb topping, added vanilla, and stirred the fruit into the batter instead of placing it on top of the cake. I had to cook it more than twice the original length of time, but the result was a dense fruity cake (really, you could hardly tell there was any cake) that stayed moist over days without even being wrapped. Here's my version below:

Blackberry Coffeecake
1/4 c. canola oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. nonfat milk
2 tsp Mexican vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
2 heaping tsp. baking powder
dash salt

2 1/2 - 3 c. fresh blackberries, picked over, rinsed and drained.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9" square pan with sides at least 2" high. I used a 9" diameter springform pan with high sides.

Mix wet ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until a smooth batter forms.

Add berries to batter and gently fold in, using a wooden spoon, until berries are evening distributed throughout batter.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake about 60-70 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean (or with moist crumbs rather than wet batter attached).

Monday, September 13, 2010

african wax-print #3: the peacock oxford shirt

Finally! At long last, coming far far behind the heels of
african wax-print #1
african wax-print #2

I have made time to use the african wax-print cloth that Ari brought home for me from Rwanda. The women in the village agreed that this was "the most beautiful" of the local patterns, and I have to agree that it's gorgeous (plus, I love green). I almost went for black buttons, but somehow, at the fabric store, they looked too dark, too shocking. Though everyone disagreed with my choice of these navy buttons (except Cass), I don't think they're "too bright" at all; I mean, c'mon, it's ankara cloth - bright is part of the appeal, right?

To make this blouse, I used Vogue pattern V8598. I used the sleeve in view D (featured below) as a model, but cut it short to make a half-sleeve. Instead of adding the continuous lap, pleats, and cuff, I left a slit open at the back of each of my sleeves (finishing the hem with a shirttail hem, basically), and made the tabs from leftover fabric. To make a band collar instead of a foldover collar, I just cut the collar band piece from the pattern and not the collar itself. I skipped adding the collar piece in when I sewed the band together and voila! Continue like normal. =)

I think it's going to be a great piece for fall, especially with all the peacock-motifs out there this year. The only thing is that the green and blue dyes bleed, and even though I've washed this twice, I still ended up with a greeny-navy blush on my fingertips after sewing all night. I think a few more washes are in order before I actually wear it; just to try and keep that dye off the rest of my clothes and skin.
But it is nice. Though you can't really tell on the hanger, the princess shaping is good, and the top is fitted (but not tight) rather than boxy. Whew! Finally, back to crossing things off that summer to-do list! I've got another blouse cut already; hopefully I'll be able to show it to you in a couple days!


doncha just hate it when this happens?

(lesson learned.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

sweetest day

whew. I don't know if I'll make and embroider a veil by hand again - certainly not anytime soon. This absolutely absorbed every free minute for the past two weeks; and I didn't finish it until 10pm the night before the wedding - yikes! So things have been quiet around here while I've been hard at work, giving myself carpal tunnel.

Thank goodness it was a short veil! Each of the two layers is only 20" long, but of course the standard width for veils is 108 inches (or nine feet!), so I had a lot to do. The edge was blind-hemmed by hand. The floral motif was taken directly from the embroidery motif on the bride's gown. I embroidered two smaller versions of this central motif on either side, making a total of five embroidered motifs, each separated from the other by a length of palestrina knots (also known as old english knot), which I also used to trim the rest of the veil, embroidering the knots over the edge of my blind hem.

Though I'm glad to be done with it, I think a veil is something every bride could make for herself, especially if she wants a simple one - this would have been super fast if I had just been sewing ribbon or pearl-trim to the edge - and from what I read online, it seems that making your own veil is a good way to trim your wedding budget by as much as a couple hundred dollars (not much in the grand scheme of things, but it all adds up!). Here's the tutorial I used as the basis for making this veil, but there are a lot more out there - just google "diy wedding veil" and see!

I also made seven hairpieces to tuck into the top of the bride's updo (which I was also responsible for creating on the day of the wedding). The tiny white violets are my favorite; I think when my hands recover I might consider making a hairpiece for myself, just using these. To make them, I bought some ribbon that looks like little flowers linked together, like this:

click here to buy your own from things festive

I cut the tiny flowers apart, and stitched a single seed bead into the center of each one (mine were rocailles: clear glass with a silver-painted center), and added a few little stitches to subtly shape the violets into a more natural/organic form. I stitched them together, one by one. It took hours, I'm not going to lie to you. This is definitely not a craft for someone looking to finish quickly, but the final result was exquisite. The silvery leaves are from some expensive french lace that I bought and cut apart, tossing the flowers but keeping the leaves (I sealed cut edges with tacky glue to prevent fraying). The tiny faux pearls on clear plastic line I bought at a party goods store and cut apart, and the larger faux pearls I slipped onto thick headpins, securing with tacky glue. The little rosettes are made from a branch of faux spray roses that I cut apart, stitching about three little blossoms together for each of the rosettes you see above.

All in all, a lot of work for a few little glitzy bits and bobs, but totally worth it to help a beautiful bride on her special day!