Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ho, ho, ho and a bottle of . . . bourbon?

Of course I have no pictures of the pie. Just trust me when I say this stuff is oh so incredibly tasty and you will love me forever if you rush over to this site right now and make this Cider Bourbon Apple Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crumble. While you're eating that bad boy up like it's the only thing you ever have and ever will be fed, you can come look at these pictures. It's Christmas after all and I think I'm entitled to laziness.

My daughter's letter to Santa
I have no idea if she still believes or is hedging her bets,
but I hope she'll bring the hilarity for years to come.

Making Christmas cookies, honey cookies to be precise
Surprisingly tasty too!

Small Christmas trees make your Christmas haul look bigger.

Tiny angel topper

Friends give the best ornaments

My favorite wreath yet

Who needs an elf on a shelf when you have Jolly Santa?

And his jaunty snowman friend

Monday, December 23, 2013

How Sew Beautiful Makes My Life

I bought my first issue of Sew Beautiful magazine the year before I became pregnant with my eldest child. I flipped though it slowly and carefully, in awe of all of the things I could never sew and promptly forgot all about it.

Twelve years later, I've finally bitten the bullet and started subscribing to a magazine that has become far more important to my sewing journey than I assumed all those years ago. I'm also proud to say that I can manage about half of the designs featured in those inspiring pages. So when I was looking for some Christmas ideas, it was only natural that I started thumbing through the pile of SB issues I keep nearby.

Isn't this pretty? It was designed and sewn by Janet Gilbert using the Pascale, a Sew Beautiful pattern that was released in issue #80 back in 2002. The silk reminded me of the green taffeta I bought from Joann's on Black Friday a few years ago. Mine is polyester but it was a good price and I was feeling brave. I decided that if I could find some decent embroidered ribbon, I'd give it a go.

I was pretty amazed to find Joann's had exactly what I was looking for. Usually, their ribbon selection is a wee bit lacking but I keep coming back because you never know what kind of magic you might uncover. While I was there, trusty coupon in hand, I picked up some poly organza for the underskirt. Because my ribbon looks markedly different from

I pleated the front bodice back in September, I think, a decision that sounds good in theory but is awful when you're the mother of a preteen in the middle of a series of body changing growth spurts. Also awful, the decision to force polyester fabrics through your pleater. I only broke one needle, however, and the piece that give me the long kiss goodbye didn't launch itself in the general direction of my eye.

It was a good day.

And so, I spend the next few months in various stages of procrastination. Around Thanksgiving I decided I needed to get a jump on and backed the bodice up for a road trip. I arrived in Florida (aka God's waiting room) with a ziplock bag of embroidery thread and some time on my hands. I did not, however, arrive with the exact color of DMC floss I needed to continue. I had to go to three stores before I found #610 and then it was time to take my forever ill prepared behind home.

Did I continue smocking there?

Nope, of course not. There is a reason I call my blog hot mess, more or less. Because that's what I am, a procrastinating hot mess who more or less manages to complete projects. But I digress, a phrase that was the second runner up in the "what shall I call my blog" informal poll I took. Instead, I waited until two weeks ago, knee deep into an advent scarf to wake my behind up and get to business. Once I got to it, business was booming.

In a matter of a few days, I went from those top two rows of smocking, to a complete front skirt piece. Within a day of that, I had the ribbon stitched down to the organza yoke.

Then finally, we had a Christmas dress.

Once upon a time, I would have oohed and aahed over a dress like this but written it off as too difficult or complicated for little old me. But I'd like to think a ten year love affair with the little sewing magazine that could has been the red bull to my sewing soul.

Now it's time to focus on my Christmas dress.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I'm beginning to feel like pinky just might have a dress to wear for Christmas. Or rather the Sunday before Christmas. After I finish those cute little hearts on the bottom row, I'll shadow it with at least one row of the olive gold. Then I'll be ready to build the dress. I'm really happy with the smocking and I'm very happy with PicMonkey for helping me edit the photo for a more accurate color depiction. The Color Picker feature is one of my favorites.

Friday, December 13, 2013

How many days until Christmas?

This would be the point in the month when I realize how far I've not come in my present/Christmas sewing game and start to panic. Advent scarf? What stinking advent scarf? Do you see all this smocking I prepped for in October and stuffed somewhere immediately after?

Words cannot express how much I love it so far which is why it has become the most important of my projects. The taffeta, a poly (shudder) that I bought two black Fridays ago at Joanns is just the prettiest color ever. It's not quite emerald and not a dark jade. It's something in that neighborhood and it's wonderfully light and shimmery. I couldn't resist even when I knew a pleater shouldn't have to deal with that high of a fake fiber content. I even broke a needle in my successful efforts to bend it to my will.

I'm using DMC floss colors 347, also known as very dark salmon but in reality should be called Rosie the Riveter red lipstick and 610, also known as drab brown but should be called Olive-y gold. The colors were pulled from a yard of trim I bought at Joann's a few months ago that's sort of renaissance looking. Or perhaps a 70's era interpretation of renaissance. That sounds hideous, doesn't it? But it's not, I promise.

Not all that impressive, is it? You'll just have to trust me when I say that it all works well together and I love it. So please don't remind me how many days I have left to turn all that above into all this below.

This dress is from an issue of Sew Beautiful Magazine, which issue I can't quite remember. Neither can I remember what issue features the Pascale dress I'm using as my base. But you can buy the pattern all by its little lonesome and in extended sizes to boot over at Martha Pullen's online store. I'll do a post later on all the details, including sleeve modifications to give it less of a little girl feel.

Can we have a moment of silence for my little girl, btw? 

I made her two pretty little dresses over the summer and this girlchild of mine has completely outgrew them. She's also outgrown their style. Alas, I believe the dress I'm working on right now might very well be her first and last traditional smocked dress. But truth be told, she's developed some ::ahem:: assets that don't fit behind a smocked panel all that well. So I suppose it's for the best. But still, WHY IS SHE SO BIG?? WHY IS SHE MY ONLY DAUGHTER??? 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Things that backfire

I don't always never get as much sewing done as I planned. That's just the simply truth and I need to own that. So when I looked down at my December sewing stack, I knew I needed to scale back. I quite simply have run out of time to turn out a fancy Christmas party dress for myself if I'm going to continue working on this advent scarf, make pinky a smocked Christmas dress, and pajamas for the kidlets by December 25th. Instead of fancy party dress with a fluffy petticoat, heirloom lace yoke, and possibly some beading, I decided I would do a simple sheath. 

To be honest, I wasn't all that enamored with the pattern when I first laid eyes on it. It's somewhat unremarkable despite the presence of those chevron pleats. But the fabulous thing about being a sewist in the internet age is you can google any pattern and a wealth information floods your sewing starved soul. What looked rather inspiring on the cover can be made into something surprisingly pretty. Judging by the many gorgeous versions of New Look 6067 out there, I was confident I could make a beautiful dress that wouldn't take up much of my time.

It just so happened FabricMart was having an awesome Black Friday sale on a pretty linen jacquard that is close in color to pinky's dress. Yes, I said linen. Yes, it's winter but look at this stuff! Besides, I live in the south.  Having a dress that can be worn all year round is a boon. (The fabric is still available too!)

I picked up the pattern the Saturday after Thanksgiving, standing in line with my 25% off coupon at Joann's and cut out the bodice almost immediately for a tissue fitting. Some patterns leave me feeling like Busty the eight dwarf so I knew I'd probably have to make a tweak here and there but some of the reviews mentioned it was roomy in the bust and I'd hoped to skate by. 

Dress, bra, same concept, same depressing results

NOPE. Denied. Not having it.

Okay, so FBA. I got that. For those of you who don't know, FBA is an acronym for full bust adjustment, aka hacking up a pattern to make it fit the sisters. Leila at Three Dresses has links to quite a few here. They are tedious but not terribly complicated UNLESS YOUR PATTERN LOOKS LIKE THIS!

Bodice piece before altering

Sweet baby jesus in a manger, what did I do? What did I do? So now a simple sheath dress has turned into a massive muslin requiring overhaul of epic proportions. I might have cried, I might have argued with God, I might have tried to convince my cleavage it should take a winter vacation to Florida whilst I slept. But when I returned to the google, these precious, beautiful versions of New Look 6067 taunted me, beckoning me, you can do it, you can FBA. Stop being a wuss.

Ignore the crooked lines. They are simply
proof that being able to sew a straight line
is rather irrelevant to one's ability to sew.

Never one for wussdom (unless it involves the possibility of huge old bugs falling in my hair), I decided to give it a go. The Mahogany Stylist did an FBA on her pattern but I have a long torso and need extra room lengthwise as well as width. So I took a deep breath, traced off a copy of the bodice piece and gave it a shot. 

Don't mind the blur, sorry about that.

Surprisingly, my first inclination was the correct one. I lengthened the bodice first, choosing to cut above the pleats to avoid having to redraw them. Then I slashed the center of each pleat all the way up to the armscye sleeve allowance and spread those pieces (just nod along if you don't sew, I won't judge.) 

Yes, those are my polka dot socks. Hot, amiright?

My first attempt wasn't quite big enough but the technique was sound so I slashed anew and spread a bit more. Then I pinned it all together and tissue fit it. So far, so good. I suspect I might need to add to the waist but as I'm planning to sew up a wearable muslin, I'll work that out then.

Look at the difference!
New pattern piece in white

Simple dress my left butt cheek. I should have known this would happen but can you say it isn't worth it? Check out these versions and tell me this isn't worth my time.

Beck and Lundy's Gray and Yellow
Vacuuming The Lawn's Brown Ponte
Sewmanju's Tessuti Gridlock

There are also a few here at Sewing Pattern Review.

If you're wondering about the advent scarf, I had a minor setback and frogged the whole thing. But I hopped back on that trike like a good girl and now I have days one and two finished. I'll do day three tonight, day four and five tomorrow and be all caught up.


Monday, December 2, 2013

I did something!

No, no. I didn't say I finished something. I said I did something. There is a difference. But I digress. What did I do? I started an advent scarf!

No, not that fiasco from last year with all of the repeats and the extras and the slip slip passolasso helps helps. 

I'm doing the Lila and Claudine Advent scarf found here on Ravelry. As I said in my previous post, I adore the idea of an advent scarf. But when I saw more experienced knitters posting about daily sections taking six hours our of their day . . .

I was persuaded, however, by the description. 

We have chosen 20 very easy patterns for you to knit. 

See those pretty bold letters? "very eaaaaaaaaaaasy." But like every craft, my version of simple may not be ravelry's version of simple so how about we just focus on the positive? I finished day one of my advent scarf! 

I'm afraid I must say that one more time:

I finished day one of an advent scarf!! 

I'm gonna covet your prayers that the next 19 days go as smoothly as the very simple, very few repeat section I just finished or that at minimum, I maintain some modicum of concentration on this project.

Wanna see what it looks like so far?

I want to knit all the things now, perhaps while Christopher Walken tells me stories about knitting on location in Vietnam.

I'd forgotten how soothing it is to work some needles with a lovely soft yarn floating through your fingers. It almost makes your forget that your children have been on your nerves all day and the dog is thisclose to being sold to Cruella DeVille if she doesn't stop barking at every car that rolls down your street with the bass cranked up.

Only slightly related but that song from Florida Georgia Line is awful. It's even worse when all you can hear of it is a snippet of the bass line over the sound of a rumbling truck that's being held together by duct tape, running on Milwaukee's Best, and driven by shirtless good old boys who graduated high school in body only.

Focus, Samantha. Focus!

I feel better already.