Monday, December 20, 2010

Anti-White Christmas


My son commented that Irving Berlin was crazy. "He's in Beverly Hills for Christmas, and he is complaining?"
"I know, I'd give serious money to be bored by the pool in Beverly Hills right now."
"And all these songs about winter being the most wonderful time of the year are just pro-winter propaganda."
Question: why does no one sing of the pleasures of being in California at Christmas? I grew up there, and believe me, it is a pleasure. It is usually warm, people can barbecue, ride bikes and walk by the beach.
It was snowing on Thursday when I was at the doctor's office. I mentioned that the snow was a shock still to a warm weather California girl like me. The doctor laughed. "This is nothing!", she said. "I'm from Chicago."
And people can stop with the weather one-upmanship too.
If I whine about the ice and freezing rain here in Virginia, I can guarantee that some wiseacre will inform me in a smug tone that they are from New Hampshire/Vermont/ Wisconsin/North Dakota/Canada/North Pole and there "We'd be walking around in shorts in weather like this."

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Little Stocking that Could


I found this little pattern from 1965 in my collection of patterns from my mother's stash. (I have patterns and fabric from her, Mr. Hunting Creek's mother and Mr. Hunting Creek's aunt. It's a whole family reunion in there.) "What a cute little train!", I thought. My daughter works for Amtrak, so a train stocking was indicated, even though the back of the pattern clearly states, "For Boy's stocking..."
Why can't girls have trains on their stockings? Why do only boys get planes and trains? "Because girls were supposed to stay home and take care of babies." said Mr. Hunting Creek. Bah Humbug to that! I immediately decided to rectify this grave stocking travesty of justice and make Ms. Hunting Creek a train stocking. It's Acela blue, with stars overhead to show the train running through America under the night sky.

The wheels are shirt buttons from my button stash. The train and stars are made from felt, and the smoke from the engine is from a scrap of sequin trim. Doesn't it look cute?
After making this I visualized a whole baby quilt made with train blocks and stars, train blocks and mountains, train blocks and cities...it's amazing what a little project can do to unlock one's creativity.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Paper Dolls


My sister and I used to play with paper dolls, (and Wonder Woman comic books, and Supergirl comic books and others)to fill those long hours while we waited for our parents at the airport. (They ran a charter airline, and this was back in the days when kids could play in airports, before they were turned into a modern version of the Stanford Prison Experiment. But, I digress.)
I was so excited to find these cool paper dolls! Dior, Armani, Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, and lots more. It's like a mini modern fashion lesson, in color.
Here's the description:
Along with eight paper dolls in swimsuits and underwear (two for each decade from 1960–2000), fashion historian Tom Tierney here renders 120 era-defining cutout costumes in full color. These are faithful depictions of outfits from such designers as Yves Saint-Laurent, Mary Quant, Halston, Bill Blass, Donna Karan, Bob Mackie, Laura Ashley, and 70 others
I bought one copy for myself, and a few more in case Little Hunting Creek Customers love paper dolls as much as I do. I though I'd frame some pages for my new sewing studio.
If you like modern fashion and paper dolls, find them here. But don't wait...when they're done, they're gone.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Be Warned

Don't let this happen to you:
My fellow stashers, be warned. We are in the process of changing my sewing zone from one floor to another floor. This requires all fabric to be moved from one floor to another. In my innocence, I let Mr. Hunting Creek pack up all of the fabric so he could re-arrange the former sewing cave. He started saying things like: I can't believe you have this much fabric. and You'll never sew all of these patterns in three lifetimes!
He broke out in a cold sweat. He started to freak out.
So be warned! Do not expose sewing rookies to the overwhelmingness of your awesome fabric stash. They. Can't. Take. It.
He's OK now. I talked him down.
(But it cost me a Pool Table.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

With Collar



With Collar - of course, with collar! And crisp linen, and white gloves and a hat. Perfect for cutting Don Draper down to size with cutting, teasing repartee. This dress is made for repartee.


Don't you love the witty seaming detail? The enchanting pocket flaps that have no pockets? (who wants pockets there, anyway?)
If this is your sixties fantasy, find it here. Hat, gloves and advertising executive not included.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Scary Patterns II


Any cat I have ever known would just as soon take a cold shower with a dog than wear a silly costume. What did McCall's do to get these cats to wear these costumes?
Feed them a whole can of sardines? (Laced with Valium?)


My sister's cat Matilda, famous for stalking and killing giant lizards, snakes, gophers, and even a hummingbird (!!!) scoffs at cat costumes.
If your cat loves costumes, find it here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Studio storage ideas

Check out this pretty fabric storage solution.
My studio and office are both painted, the office is done and in use.
Now the real work begins on the studio...
Please suggest any good ideas for fabric storage, thread storage etc.,in comments.
Thanks!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grinchy Thoughts

Christmas Carols I would be happy to never, ever hear again:
(and it's only been a few days!)

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
The Little Drummer Boy
Do You Hear What I Hear?
That song about buying Mama the new shoes so she can meet Jesus tonight - the worst song ever written.

I never mind hearing O Little Town Of Bethlehem and Silent Night. Those songs always fill me with Christmas Spirit.
But if I hear Last Christmas by Wham a few more times, someone somewhere will be getting a lump of coal.
What are your favorite and least favorite holiday songs? Here is your chance to vent.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Undergoing Renovations

Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Hunting Creek had planned to strip the wallpaper in the office/current sewing zone. This has entailed a great deal of domestic upheaval. During these times, when absolutely everything is messy, covered with tarps or otherwise in a different place, one reminds oneself that one is blessed to have a spouse that will strip wallpaper on a holiday weekend. That one should thank one's lucky stars that he likes to paint and decorate. I'll be so happy when it's done. I'll then be able to show pictures of my new studio.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I feel like we should be undergoing a butter-cream detox. I realized when I was making the desserts (my task this year) that I had used one entire pound of butter making three desserts. American Thanksgiving is definitely for people who are preparing for a long, butter-deprived winter.
We received rave reviews for the Crack Pie, the Pumpkin-Gingerbread Trifle and the caramel and Rum Cream Deep Dish Apple Pie(my own creation). When I found the Crack Pie recipe, these words immediately made me decide to make it: Anyone who has taken a bite of this Milk Bar best seller immediately knows the reason for the sassy name. Once you start eating this rich, salty-sweet pie with its oat cookie crust, you won't be able to stop.
That certainly pushed all of my dessert buttons. You will need a glass of milk or cup of coffee to go with it.
I had to have mine for breakfast on Friday because I was too full of Thanksgiving dinner to eat dessert. And it was very super delicious.
Of course, all this butter and sugar give us the energy we need for the holiday endurance Triathlon that is the Holiday Season.
Happy shopping!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The 22 Inch Waist Unlaced

An educational slide show about the history of women's corsets. Kind of makes you really appreciate lycra spandex in whole new way.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sewing Genius Bar

The cooking newbie has it easy. There are any number of easily accessible places where one can call in and ask why the egg whites aren't whipping, or why the turkey "looks funny". King Arthur Flour has a website with a blog plus recipes and pictures to show baking newcomers every little step. There are entire cooking TV networks with stars like the hunky Eric Ripert showing where he gets his inspiration. But sewing newbies...those poor people! They have to search. There is no equivalent Butterball Party Dress Hot line for sewistas in a panic to turn to. The pattern companies have incomplete, crazy or just plain weird instructions (I'm talkin' to you, Burda.) It can be scary. Plus everybody eats, so cooking advice is everywhere, but not everyone sews, so unless you know a sewista, where do you get advice?
My phone number is on my website, and so I get lots of calls from sewistas from all over asking for sewing advice. (Of course I'm not an expert, but I have been interviewed on NPR talking about sewing, so I guess that counts.) It occurred to me that sewistas everywhere need a Sewing Genius Bar (like Apple's) where sewistas at all levels of experience can call or write in and get help. I was on the phone this very morning with Jane from Alexandria (Hi Jane!) and she was looking for advice for sewing from the Italian sewing magazines.
(The Sewing Genius Bar will have an Italian Translator on staff...and a German one, of course.)

Jane had the following questions:
1. How do I know what size to sew?
2. How is the fit compared to the U.S. Big Four pattern companies?
3. How do I sew without instructions?

Sewing Genius Bar Answers:
1. Sizes are tricky. The measurements are listed, but in my experience, the European sizes run smaller than U.S. sizes. There is less ease, and they seem to be based on a smaller boned body type. So making a muslin the first few times to determine your size is a must. I recommended tracing a simple pattern, and then laying a tried and true pattern that you know fits you on top, lining up the center fronts and shoulder seams. Compare - do you need to go up a size? or down?
Make a muslin and try it on, making note of the ease allowed. This will give you a more accurate idea of what your Italian size is.

2. How is the fit? I find that the fit runs slimmer. The sizing block used fits better in the shoulders, but uses less ease than U.S. patterns. They seem to use a C cup as the base instead of a B cup like the Big Four. Since the majority of women in the US are C cup, this works for me. You may or may not have to do a full bust adjustment. Make a muslin! Do I sound like your mother yet?

3. How do I sew without instructions? Instructions? You really don't need them. (haha just kidding! We geniuses have a wicked sense of humor.) Anyone who has attemped to sew with Burda Whatevertheirnameisnow knows that bad instructions are actually worse than no instructions. Here's what I do. With basic patterns like t shirts, blouses and tops...well, they are all made the same way. First you sew the shoulders, then you finish the neck, then you add the sleeves, and so on. Use the instructions you already have as a guide to completing your Italian masterpiece, with a sewing guide like the Vogue Sewing Book or Reader's Digest on hand for questions. Think about this: if you were designing your top, there would be no instructions then. You would have to make up your own. Visualize yourself as the designer and imagine your own next step. In some ways I prefer figuring stuff out on my own anyway. But if you've never sewn before, you need to think of yourself as an apprentice in the middle ages and find a Master to Apprentice to, until you learn the ropes. If you really are a beginner, put DOWN the Modellina right now. That's for later, missy. Baby steps.

Do you have questions for the Sewing Genius Bar? Let us know. Who knows? This could be the beginning of Something Big.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gearing up Mrs. Santa's Workshop

Every year Mrs. Hunting Creek magically transforms her workshop into Mrs. Santa's Workshop. What? You thought Santa made everything? Ha. We all know Mrs. Santa does all the real work, there with her clipboard and MBA organizational skills. Santa just drives his red Ferrari sleigh, while he scarfs down Christmas cookies. Typical. If most men were in charge of gift giving, we'd all get beer and chili for the Super Bowl. No birthday gifts, no baby showers...just football related gifts...but I digress. We are thinking about the winter Holidays. In the Northern European culture that I sprang from, holidays are mainly the responsibility of women. We bake the cookies, make the gift lists, wrap the presents, plan the parties. Whew! I'm tired already.
But these fun activities make the holidays memorable, and build happy memories. The trick to avoiding a Holiday-induced nervous breakdown is to pick what activities are important to you, and delegate the rest. Every year I make little gifts for my family and coworkers. During the year I test out little projects to find something fun I'd like to make.

These little birdies are from Spoolsewing.com
My sister sent me the link because she liked the birdies, so I made a couple for her. They only took a few minutes to make, and will be cute decorations for her tree.
They also offer free patterns for a grocery tote, and a chef's apron.
Grocery totes and chef's aprons make nice personalized gifts, and they are fun to make assembly line style. Just decree that everyone gets an apron!
I made my whole office custom totes last year (I filled them with homemade treats) so I have been thinking...what about insulated totes and casserole cozies? This is potluck season, so they would come in handy.
To try out my new Insul-fleece, I designed an oven mitt. You don't need a pattern to make one; I traced around my hand. I cut four sets - two for the outside, and two for the lining. You can use matching or contrasting fabric - you are the designer. I used a cute 60's Volkswagen van print. I used 100 percent cotton fabric. Canvas or denim would also work. No synthetics, please. I then cut out a layer of Insul-fleece and a layer of thin cotton batting. Just for fun, I quilted the layers with my Pfaff's decorative stitches. (No quilting is actually required. I was just goofing around.)

Then I trimmed the seams, added a hanging loop and inserted the lining, remembering to leave an unsewn portion at the side so I could turn the whole thing right side out. (Yes, I really forgot to do this and then had go go back and use my seam ripper.) Then I turned it right side out and VOILA! Custom made oven mitt, with heat resistant batting.

If I were to make a bunch of these for gifts, I would not do the fancy quilting, because it takes too long. But I'm working on an insulated tote for my next project.
Here's a free pattern for a casserole cozy that I might try as well.
What kind of fun gifts are you making in your holiday workshop?
All good ideas will be warmly welcomed.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Favorite Website

Want to figure out what to make with the three green onions, two carrots and the half carton of cream in your fridge? Go play with supercook.com for hours of work procrastination enjoyment. Mr. Hunting Creek and I have always imagined an Iron Chef Challenge that involved the the chefs being forced to come up with something creative with the supplies in our fridge on a Friday evening, when all of easy stuff has been used during the week.
Deal with our end of the week fridge, Iron Chef!
Now will someone invent the same thing for my fabric, so I can type in "two yards gray rayon knit" and it will show me all of the patterns I could make?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sewing Room Makeover: Part I


Working on a long term project here: turning a child's former bedroom into a sewing room/guest room. In true backwards fashion we have thumbtacks first. I saw them at my supplier's and fell in love. Button thumbtacks! Must. Have. I don't even have a cork board yet, but no matter. I could not pass them by. If you need some too, they're here. Supplies limited, no two sets alike. Made from recycled buttons in Canada.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nightmares


This is even scarier than the Pig Dolls posted previously.
Can you imagine having one of these dressed up trolls? as a bunny? As Santa?
If having one of these insidious monsters is your fondest dream, find it here. Please don't post pictures. I can already see them when I close my eyes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Apple-Hazelnut Upside-down Cake


After the first time we have to turn on the furnace, it's Fall. Time to make fall food, like chili and stews and apple desserts. Every weekend while Mr. Hunting Creek indulges in a glut of college football (Go Bears!), I like to bake a new dessert. There's something about baking that appeals to me: the ritual of getting out all of the ingredients, the preparation of the pans....it's almost like a religious rite.
If you are a tentative baker, there are a few things that you can do to improve your baking one hundredfold: measure everything out ahead of time. Get out all of your ingredients and make sure you have everything. Prepare your baking pan. Preheat your oven. It's like the checklist that pilots do before take-off. My daughter measures out all of her ingredients beforehand and she makes the best Toll House cookies.
She attributes this to her mise en place ritual. Mise en place is just French for preparation - getting everything ready to go. Professional chefs rely on it to make their cooking as fast and mistake free as possible. If you get in the habit of doing it every time, soon you will be baking like a pro too.
This weekend I had fresh picked Virginia apples and so an apple dessert was indicated.
I used Nittany apples which are an East Coast variety (if you can't tell by the name) but any good tart baking apple will work. Granny Smith, York, Greening...something tart.

Apple-Hazelnut Upside-Down Cake


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease and lightly flour a 9x2 inch cake pan.

First we make the topping:
Topping:
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Two peeled and cored apples

Pour the melted butter into the bottom of the baking pan, and tilt it so it is evenly coating the bottom. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon and nutmeg and then sprinkle all over the bottom of the pan. Then slice the apples and arrange all over the bottom. You can arrange in a pretty design, or just dump them in. Just make sure that they are evenly spread in the bottom on the pan. I like to make a nice design, but I'm OCD like that.

Then make the cake:

2 tablespoons hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

First, put the hazelnuts in the food processor with 1/4 cup of the flour and chop them up until they are ground up. Then add the rest of the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix a couple times. Set aside in a bowl. While you prepare the wet ingredients

1 peeled and cored apple
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons rum ( I like dark rum)
2 teaspoons vanilla

I do the whole thing in my Cuisinart. Slice up that last apple into chunks and chop it up - about 5-6 times. You should have about 1 cup. I can tell by looking because I have done this a zillion times, but if you aren't sure, take it out and measure it.
Add butter and sugar and mix a few times, until smooth - about 30-45 seconds or so.
Then add the eggs and mix those in. Add the milk and rum and extracts. Mix a couple seconds. Then add your reserved flour mixture above. Mix just until blended, about 3 or 4 times. You don't want to over mix once you add the flour. This makes your cake tough.
Pour the batter over the apples in the pan, making sure they are all covered and the batter is even. This batter is super delicious, so DO NOT taste more than once.
Bake about one hour, or an hour and ten minutes. Mine only took an hour.
Let it cool for 10-15 minutes before unmolding. I like it warm, but it is good cold too. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or creme anglaise.

Now that you have your nut-fruit upside down cake template, mix it up by substituting pecans for hazelnuts, or use walnuts, or almonds. Use pears instead of apples. Try using brown sugar instead of white sugar for the topping. Use brandy or amaretto instead of rum.
Pretty soon people will be begging you to bring "that cake you make".

This recipe is based on one in Abby Mandel's excellent book, Cuisinart Classroom, readily available for 1 penny plus shipping from Amazon. Of course I adapted it to my own quirks.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Formal Jeans

Do you iron your jeans? Are the words "formal jeans" an oxymoron? Mr. Hunting Creek asked me yesterday if I ever ironed my jeans. "Jeans are work clothes, real work clothes. It may be against Rebel Law to iron them. Never!"
"Spoken like a true Berkeley Girl" , he said. "What do you think of jeans worn to movie openings and other fancy events?"
"I would wear jeans to the movies, but on the other hand, I didn't star in that movie, so there are different expectations for my dress, versus what the star should wear. I think Movie Stars should dress up."
"You may be the last person on earth to think so."
Who still pays attention to movie openings, anyway? Sometimes I wonder what all the fuss is about. Still, to me that's a professional obligation on the part of the actors, so they should dress accordingly. (Am I turning into my mother in law? That's just what she would have said!)
When we were in college we wore our jeans constantly, until they could stand up by themselves. (Mainly because we had to pay to do laundry, so we'd space laundry use out accordingly.) I prefer dark wash, and I like to fade mine naturally. I won't buy prefaded or already worn out jeans. That's cheating.
What do you think? Are jeans acceptable formal wear? Do you iron your jeans?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Zucchini News

Dateline Montana: woman uses giant zucchini from her garden to beat off a bear that was attacking her dog. Add this to your list of zucchini uses, should you have a bear situation.
Stephen Colbert, take note, and stock up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last Cakes of Summer


This is my Peach and Berry Cake from a couple weeks ago

This is the same cake only baked with the berries underneath, then flipped over, in classic upside down cake style. To make any cake in this style,for one layer, I melt 1/4 cup butter (half a stick) and pour into my greased and floured cake pan - this one is 9x2in - then sprinkle 1/4 cup brown sugar on top, then add the fruit of choice to cover the bottom of the pan. You can do this with cupcakes and make mini upside down cakes in various colors for a pretty party display.


This is the giant zucchini that my sister gave me with the blithe comment that I could make some zucchini bread...or something.
I did make chocolate zucchini bread (from Fine Cooking last month's issue) and Mr. Hunting Creek was inspired to make a Zucchini Parm variation of Chicken Parm (you see what he learns from watching the Sopranos on dvd)
That's a placemat it is sitting on to give you an idea of the size. I had to peel off the skin and remove the seeds, then I grated it on a cheese grater for the zucchini bread.
What would you do with a zucchini this size (don't say baseball bat)?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Quotable Friday

How many times has someone said, "Her dress/top/jeans look like they were painted on!"
Now painted on clothes can be a reality.

"The fabric, which dries when it meets the skin, is very cold when it is sprayed on, a limitation that may frustrate hopes for spray-on trousers and other garments."

Did we even have hopes for spray on trousers?
I wonder if we can get neon metallic colors?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Importance of Clothes

"I leaned back and closed my eyes - and instantly the whole day danced before me. I wasn't merely remembering, it seemed to be trapped inside my eyelids; the City, the traffic, the shops were all there, shimmering, merging. Then my brain began to pick out the bits it wanted to think about and I realized how the day made a pattern of clothes - first our white dresses in the early morning, then the consciousness of what people were wearing in London, then Aunt Millicent's poor dead clothes, then all of the exquisite things in the shop, then our furs. And I thought of how important clothes were to women and always had been. I thought of Norman ladies in Belmotte Tower-keep, and Plantagenet ladies living in Godsend Castle, and Stuart ladies when our house was built on the ruins - and hoops and Jane Austin dresses and crinolines and bustles, and Rose longing for a little black suit."

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith, page 84, 1948

Poor Rose! She and her sister Cassandra went to London and when they got there, they realized that they were dressed all wrong! We all know how awkward that feels. Ever show up for a party all dressed in party wear to disover that everyone else was dressed casually? Or worse, the opposite? We all hate that feeling - like saying the wrong thing. Oh wait - you are saying the wrong thing - but with your clothes.

Clothes have their own language, and we can all read it and speak it. We know someone's socio-economic status, their job, their social standing, their role in life itself by reading what they are wearing. Like any language, context is everything. Ripped jeans and shredded finery are a statement about fashion's fleeting nature, or they are worn by a homeless person making an even larger unspoken statement about the strange heartlessness of fate.
I always feel frustrated by people who say, (always with that tone of smug superiority) that they don't follow fashion. Everybody follows fashion. Whether or not you actively participate in either setting or following fashion, you have an influence every day on everyone you come in contact with. We all see your clothes and make judgements about you based on what you are wearing. Wouldn't it be in your best interests to influence those judgements in a positive way?
My grandmother used to joke when we were kids that she was going to dress us in pillowcases with a ribbon tied around us. Some people do make clothes out of pillowcases. But they are recognizably clothes. And they do speak a language.
Translate this - black boots, wool pencil skirt, cashmere sweater, pearl necklace. It says city woman, probably working in an office. Now take that same woman, but dress her in overalls. If clothes didn't matter, she'd get the same treament wherever she went. But they do matter, and she probably won't.
Now I work at home. I could wear anything. But I have noticed that I feel better and work better if I am wearing nicer clothes. I don't wear pajamas, although I have some co-workers who do; (they call them work pajamas.) If I have new clothes to wear I feel happier.(It's important to me that I look nice, even if no one sees me. I feel more in control.) I read one essay where the author worked at home in pajamas every day, but one day she was dressed to go out, and the UPS man said, "It's nice to see you finally dressed!' See? People notice what you wear.
My sister in law says that she loves new tshirts so much that she is tempted to just wear them once and then give them away. I'm not that extreme, but I won't apologize for taking an interest in sewing or fashion, because no matter what anyone says, it is important, and looking nice makes me happier. I've been going through my closet and getting rid of everything that doesn't work for me, and that made me happier too.
So when people give you humbug (as we used to say when I lived in Hawaii) about clothes or fashion, tell them they just don't get it. I give you permission to use a tone of smug superiority.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Halloween Comes Early


There are few words that would express my horror at being gifted with these dolls. Would they move in the dark? Would they sneak up with meat cleavers? Oh the cruel irony! Even Chuckie would be afraid of these.

Friday, September 10, 2010

All is Vanity

Imagine my surprise when I learned that men's wear manufacturers practiced vanity sizing! I had always labored under the (mistaken) belief that men's sizing was the last bastion of truth, and that a 36 waist meant a 36 waist, that Large was always Large no matter where one bought it, but au contraire!
Esquire Magazine has a very enlightening and amusing expose on men's vanity sizing.
It looks like Old Navy and Dockers are the worst offenders, I mean, flatterers. Last night my son and I were talking about sizes, and he said pretty soon, someone will introduce negative number sizes and then it will be a race to even lower numbers. You heard it here first.

Possible solutions to vanity sizing:
Color codes instead of numbers
No size at all, you would have to try everything on
Metric numbering
Sizes in Chinese dialects (since they make the clothes there anyway)

What solutions can you think of for the vanity sizing crisis?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cautionary Tale


Be careful when making pencil skirts not to make them too tight, or your head will correspondingly expand.
Penciled notes on the envelope read: Dec 1960, White fur-Carol. E-skirt 6/89- material left from folding seat covers.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not feeling the folding seat cover fabric idea.
Pattern found here, if you have a better idea.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dreaded Sewing Chores

There are certain sewing chores that we all avoid if we can. Some people avoid buttonholes, others hate gathering. I myself hate to fill bobbins. It just seems like such a waste of time when I'd really rather be sewing. They always run out of thread right when I am in the middle of sewing, happily cruising along in a state of flow. Then the Pfaff little bobbin low light comes on and the machine nags at me and stops everything. I swear, Mrs. Pfaff here is like sewing with a mother-in-law. A German dominatrix mother-in-law. When I do everything right, she purrs along nicely, but let that bobbin run low, or leave the needle in the too low position and WHAM, I'm in trouble.
I have a pair of blue linen pants to finish- except for the bobbin thread I could finish today. But that means that I have to set up the bobbin winder and wind it. Not exactly like chopping wood or working on the chain gang, but I resent having to do it. I want to be finished! I don't want to stop everything to fulfill Mrs. Pfaff's unreasonable thread demands!
It's funny. I don't mind ironing, or gathering or any other dreaded sewing task. I don't even mind cutting things out. (I like to see how little fabric I can use, so that's always a fun challenge.) But I hate winding bobbins.
What sewing chores do you avoid?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More Summer, please

We went to our local produce stand and bought more tomatoes, more peaches, more squash, more plums...summer is all about MORE, isn't it? (As winter is about doing more with less.)
I plan to make a tomato pie, a sub sandwich pizza (Mr Hunting Creek invented it this morning) and another peach cake. This peach cake is a little simpler than the fancy one I invented a few days ago, and smaller. But it is moist and delicious, and best of all, super easy to make.

Summer Peach Cake
(Adapted from Fine Cooking a few years ago, with dare I say, a few improvements)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 teaspoon rum, or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or add all three - sometimes I do)
2/3 cup plain yogurt (I have used sour cream or flavored yogurt when I was out of plain yogurt - it all works. Buttermilk works too)

Preheat your oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9x2 inch deep round cake pan.
Mix the flour with baking powder salt and soda and set aside. Beat butter with sugar until fluffy, then add eggs, vanilla and yogurt until smooth. Add flour, mix til smooth. Pour into cake pan, and top with a ripe cut up peach or nectarine, or some plums, or some peaches and raspberries, or blueberries. I like a combination. Sprinkle with sugar.
Doesn't that look beautiful? Bake about 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

What are your favorite summer treats?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Quotable Friday

In the "you have got to be kidding me" category:

For Lyz Olko, a designer of the punk-chic label Obesity and Speed, the layered floral/tough girl Elaine look is nostalgic. “My entire wardrobe consists of floral, denim and black leather,” she said. Recently Ms. Olko, a self-proclaimed pack rat, retrieved many of her ’90s dresses from storage to wear again. (“I was also into floral print rompers,” she noted, “but I’ve retired them.”) On a recent thrifting excursion, she emptied an entire rack of floral dresses into her cart.

“I went into Screaming Mimi’s the other day,” she said of the venerable vintage shop in NoLIta, “and it was all dresses you would see in Arizona.”

NY Times August 18

Sometimes I think that the New York Times zeitgeist-trackers need to get out more, and see some new people. And what exactly do they mean by, "all the dresses you would see in Arizona." Obscure Morman polygamist cult wear? Laura Ashley floral leg o'mutton sleeved atrocities? Annie Oakley costumes? Discuss.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New (Old)Technique: Pin weaving


In my newest addition to the website's Indygo Junction Patterns, this new one caught my eye. The Mosaic Purse uses pin weaving to create an unusual texture and design. I immediately thought, "I could do that! and also started to think of all of uses besides a purse it could be used for, like a pretty pocket or an insert on a hem or a cuff or collar. So I started my ritual of gathering all of the fabrics that I think might make a pretty combination. Since my favorite color is turquoise, I have a bunch of batiks in that color family that would work.
The pattern gives instructions on how to accomplish this, and I linked above to the Threads article on pin weaving. I was reminded of the potholders we used to weave for my mom on those little potholder looms. Do you remember those? We used bags of loops in various colors and made all sorts of designs. My mom must have had hundreds of those, because they were really fun to make. The pin weaving looks like it will be like that, except I make my own loom. We'll see. Famous last words...how hard can it be? (She says, hopefully...)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Consider the Peach

Smell a white peach and you will remember that peaches are cousins to roses. They smell like the most heavenly sweet perfume. Some perfume company should make a white peach perfume. When I'm not standing over the sink sucking down white peaches like a demented peach vampire, I try to think of peach desserts to make.
Something besides peach pie, and peach crisp, because I like to get creative.
I invented:

White Peach, Raspberry and White Chocolate Cake
(I'd show you a picture but there is none left)

3 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt(if using salted butter, only use 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened (I use a Cuisinart, so I never soften the butter)
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but really nice with peaches)
1/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt (I used greek yogurt)
2 cups cut up peaches
1/2 cup raspberries (or use blueberries, or more peaches)
1/2 bag white chocolate chips, optional but highly recommended ( 6 ounces?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bundt pan or angel food pan,(12 cup capacity, 10 inch size) I use the spray that has oil and flour mixed. The person who invented that should get the Nobel Prize for Baking.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt together, set aside. I mix mine in the Cuisinart then place in a bowl while I combine the rest of the cake.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using a mixer or processor. Mix in the eggs, vanilla and almond extract. A splash of Amaretto wouldn't be out of line either - maybe a tablespoon? You won't be sorry. Add sifted flour and buttermilk or yogurt. Then fold in the fruit and white chocolate chips. This is thick and very delicious,If you're the kind of person who loves cake batter, watch out, because it is wonderful, and you'll make yourself sick.
Scoop into baking pan. Smooth it out, (stop licking the spatula!)
bake about 55-60 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes in the pan before removing - hot cakes are more likely to break - ask me how I know.
Glaze or not as you like - we are a no glaze family, but for guests we'd probably add a vanilla-almond glaze, or maybe raspberry.

Hurry and make this, because after summer is over, you won't see white peaches again until next July.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bad Memories Circa 1980's


Sometimes we see a vintage pattern and think, "I want that! How beautiful!" This is not one of those patterns.
Did women really wear floral printed jumpsuits?
I have no memory of doing so, but time may have drawn a merciful veil over my youthful excesses. What vintage style do you remember with horror? Tie-dyed jeans? Ripped sweats? Leg warmers?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mini thoughts

My sister (who is taller than I am , and could wear minis with style if she wanted to) had the following comment:

"B-- and a lot of men at the lake seemed very interested in buying CDs from the young lady with the band at the Country Hoe Down that was selling the band's CDs. She had a little mini denim skirt on just below her butt with white boots. She was blonde, very fit with very tan legs.

None of the men mentioned that she looked undignified or child like, hee hee. They stood in line to get that band's CDs very patiently!

I thought it was funny. When one of the women asked if I would wear such a thing I said, H**** YES, if my legs looked like that AND I was her age.

It was very amusing.

However, if you are a normal woman, short skirts ride up when you sit and everything hangs out."

We are fortunate to live in in a place and time where we can wear what we want. I'd be the last person to tell a woman what to wear - I was voted Most Liberated in high school, after all. When I started high school girls weren't allowed to wear pants to school. (Part of our argument was that skirts of the 70's showed more legs than pants, and thus pants were actually more modest than the skirts in style at the time. Which was entirely true. We won.) But we can't rest on our laurels. It seems like every generation ends up having to fight for the freedom to dress as they please.
Other cultures and countries are still trying to control what people wear - for morality's sake (always their excuse). The Clothes Police even want to dictate women's underwear! France has outlawed full veils and Britain looks like it will follow.
In the interest of Free Speech (and what is more of an expression than what you wear?) I stand firmly on the side of being able to wear or not wear whatever we please. So it turns out, after some thought, that I am technically in favor of the right to wear mini-skirts.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mini Skirts - yes or no?


The pattern above would be cute made today at the above-the-knee length shown at right. But I would have never worn the mini length - my mother would never have let me out of the house!

I don't like clothes that require the wearer to be careful. That's one reason out of many why I don't like short skirts. I don't like fussing with my clothes, or watching how I sit or stand or lean over. I think skirts that are too short are sexist and make women appear childlike and undignified. I think that the super short skirts offered by stores like Anthropologie and Forever 21 are silly. But hey- that's my opinion. What do you think? Are short-short skirts a tool of male oppression (which sadly deluded women unthinkingly buy) or are they cute?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quotable Friday


“Mostly I decided to try writing because I didn’t have to be young and beautiful and thin to do it,”
Jennifer Salt, screenwriter for Eat,Pray,Love

"No one wants to see curvy women. You've got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly."
Karl Lagerfeld

"Instead of trying to downplay your curves, find a designer or style that glorifies them. There are designers who simply don't design for people with shape and there are those — like L'Wren Scott or Roland Mouret — who do exactly that. Once you find what looks best on you, stick with it."
Christina Hendricks


I would rather have lunch with Christina Hendricks than Karl Lagerfeld (that old mean lizard! Is he even human?).

My favorite part of Eat, Pray, Love was when she was trying on jeans in Italy and nothing fit because she had been eating gelato all day, every day, and she kept having to ask for bigger jeans! She had been so sad and fragile when she arrived, and as part of her recovery, had finally begun to learn to feed her soul.
The contrast of thin and fragile versus plump and happier was not lost on me.

What do you think of the war between curvy and thin? Who's right, Lagerfeld or Hendricks?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Something's Missing

A friend commented on my last post and she said the reason we like vintage patterns so much was that they were "grown-up clothes". Nowadays, she said, the clothes are all for kids. "They never show what the clothes look like on someone over 16." she complained. "or a person of color, or a handicapped person." I agreed. It's as if anyone old or handicapped or ethnic doesn't exist in fashion retail world. "Don't they want my money?" she complained.
A co-worker asked me how I shop for clothes now that I can't walk that far. I shop online or I sew my clothes, I told her. Going to the mall is just too hard for me.
"They don't make it easy to spend money." she said.
This made me start thinking, why is it so difficult to find clothes for grown-ups? And why does retail ignore older women, larger women, ethnic women, handicapped women...basically all women who don't fit their very narrow demographic? Something is wrong if almost all of my coworkers, in all ages and size ranges, feel left out by retail fashion. They have money to buy clothes, but they can't find anything that fits. Or they can fit into the clothes, but the clothes are inappropriate for adults.
"You're lucky you can sew", my neighbor said. Believe me, I know it.
I feel like Carrie Bradshaw by ending my essay by asking, "Where does a woman find grown-up clothes today?"

Monday, July 19, 2010

Just in Time



Just in time for Season 4 of Mad Men:Simplicity 4036. Admire the short fitted jacket with raglan sleeves and the understated tie neck. That dress neckline was made for an elegant brooch. Nothing was ever placed in those welt pockets on her hips. Nothing - a lady never has anything in her pockets, my mother always said, (So get your hands out of there!) I can see Trudy or Joan wearing this.


The back suggests, among other choices:...brocade, shantung, faille, silk alpaca, peau de soie, satin, wools, crepe, tweeds...
Just imagine wearing this out to lunch or dinner in an elegant restaurant. Men would rise when you walked in. (They don't do that when you're wearing jeans.)
They race to open doors and hail cabs for you. (They don't do that when you're wearing jeans!) The only things in that purse (which smells of Shalimar inside, faintly) is a lipstick (red!), a powder compact, a comb and cab fare.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Girls just want to have fun

My sister emailed me after my post below to ask:

"What makes underwear "fun?" The pattern? Little duckies on them?"

A question great minds have been asking since Ancient Egypt (That's what those hieroglyphs mean!)

Quotable Friday

In which we share our favorite quotes:

Françoise Sagan wrote: “A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to take it off you.”
The New York Times advises: Buy some fun, new underwear.

I'm always in favor of new undergarments. Can't go wrong there. But I wonder what dress would meet Mme Sagan's strict guidelines?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Being Wrong


It is pretty universal across the human race that most of us just hate to be wrong. It embarrasses us, makes us uncomfortable, makes us avoid situations where wrongness might occur. My BFF from high school and I both confessed that we had majored in certain majors in college to avoid the more difficult kinds of math. (Hello, Ancient History! Taking Classical Greek and Latin was nothing compared to my dislike of Calculus.) When I was a kid my dad would yell at us older kids because our younger brother would cry when we beat him at cards and board games, screaming, "Let him win for once, damn it!" (my younger brother turned out to be a perfectly nice person in spite of this, or maybe because of it. Who can say for sure?) We just hated to lose. We didn't like to be wrong at anything, and even now my sister cannot bear typos in letters or memos, and both my children are demon proofreaders and grammarians. (These things run in families.)
All this week I have been reading Kathryn Schulz's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, and sometimes stopping and reading the best parts to Mr. Hunting Creek (who after having been married for thirty years knows all about wrongness.)
Do you reload the dishwasher after someone else has loaded it? Do you reset the table, turning the knives the right direction and refolding napkins?
Don't you just hate it when someone corrects you? (Even though correcting others is a breech of etiquette and they very seldom appreciate it.)
The paradox of wrongness is that only by being prepared to be wrong and taking risks do we learn new things. Part of the fun of travel is being wrong in a new place. You don't know the customs or the language and the possibility of wrongness is ever-present. of course, that's what makes it fun, too. The tension of wrongness. I am always interested in the topic of wrongness because my work involves helping people who have made mistakes or encountered errors in software or programming and I have to diagnose their errors. And I have had a very personal experience with wrongness in the medical profession, as I was misdiagnosed for two and a half years before it was determined that I had multiple sclerosis. I was told that I was depressed, or had an ulcer, or cancer, or was imagining my symptoms. So yes, wrongness is a topic that I have experienced firsthand.
As a creative person, I have to be willing to take risks and try new things in order to create. We have all experienced the frustration when a project is not coming out the way we visualized it. Some of my fellow sewistas call their failures "wadders", and they mentally (or literally) wad them up and toss them. Not everything we make comes out perfectly. Sometimes everything goes right but we just don't love what we've made. It's a crapshoot. (Oh, but when everything goes right, we are so happy!)
We don't learn new skills if we stay in our comfort zone, so in order to grow as an artist, one has to be wrong a little bit, make mistakes, and flail around creatively, until one can be right. How very zen, yes? You have to choose wrongness to achieve rightness in the end.
Kathryn Schultz has been interviewing 'experts' on Wrongness on Slate this past month, and I have found the the conversations very enlightening. (I especially enjoyed Anthony Bourdain's remarks.)
After reading the book I resolved to not rearrange the dishes after Mr. Hunting Creek loads the dishwasher. (At least, not when he's watching.) And I'm trying not to always sound like I know something about certain topics, when any rational person could guess that I know less than nothing about making goat cheese, weaving baskets and training horses in dressage (all topics I have recently discussed with friends.)
It's an entertaining book. I was right to read it. And I love being right.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A summer wind, a cotton dress

Doesn't this dress just make you want to put on your gloves, spray on some ozone-depleting Aqua net and rush to the Junior League Tea to Fund Raise for some lady-like cause?



Here's the pattern back, for all of you Vintage Detail junkies.

This is a dress that wants to made out of some pretty cotton, with flowers. The kind of dress Richard Shindell was remembering.
If you want to be part of a Don Draper flashback, find it here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thirty Years and counting...


We took a blog break to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary.(Yes, Mrs. Hunting Creek was a child bride.)

My favorite part of Sunday is reading the wedding announcements in the New York Times. Sometimes people have cute meeting stories, like they were introduced by their dads, or met at a Halloween party, or sat next to each other on a flight with severe turbulance. We met at freshman orientation at U.C. Irvine, at a toga party.
The boys were having their faces painted with lightning bolts a la David Bowie. I was doing faces, and I did his face with a particularly fine bolt. He commented, "One day, we'll tell our grandkids that this is how we met." I laughed and signed my name on his shoulder with the eyebrow pencil so he'd remember my name.
(It worked for me, but your results may differ.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XX -Moroccan edition


On the hottest day so far, I tell Rachid I would like to look at fabric. We visit workshops where men sit on rugs sewing djellabas and embroidering the necklines. In the street, they card the thread, extending it and pulling it on to rolls. I resist ordering one of these splendid garments because it would hand in my closet until doomsday. I would like to find silk for table draperies or curtains. But most everything is precut to three meters, enough to make the djellaba. I find one square of antique ivory silk embroidered with apricot flowers.Rachid steps back when bargaining begins. Nothing ever seems to have a price, and I'm pressed to offer one. I offer so little that the seller appears to be shocked. Rachid puts his hand to his mouth to hide a smile. "What will you pay, madame?" I offer slightly more, then the seller says he must have four hundred euros. This is so far from what I would pay that I thank him, compliment him on the silk and walk away. He's dumbfounded that the American has escaped, having bought only a silver hand of Fatima.

Frances Mayes, A Year in the World pages 189-190, 2006

Do you shop for fabric when you travel? I have never been able to. I have travelled all over the world, but it seems as if there is no fabric anywhere I go. I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Hunting Creek has made it his business to avoid locations that have possible fabric buying opportunities. Once when we were in Thailand I had fifteen minutes of unsupervised shopping and was able to buy a handwoven wall hanging, but that's about it. If I venture to say that I might like to look at some fabric my daughter will say in a shocked tone, "Mom! You have enough fabric!" (I'd like to point out that I never say things like this when she looks at shoes, sandals, designer sunglasses and clothing.)

If you like to travel via reading before you actually, physically go somewhere, take a look at Frances Mayes' books about traveling. It's almost as good as going.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

School for Scoundrels?

Every Golden Bear had a chuckle yesterday (I laughed out loud, and Mr. Hunting Creek said, "What are you laughing at?" and I told him and he laughed too.) when we read the news that the famous student-poseur who had lied and was admitted to Harvard was also admitted to Stanford!
We always teased Stanford students about their lax admission standards across the bay, but as my kids say, seriously? (Just say that you cured cancer, found the Holy Grail and discovered a Lost City in the Andes! It seems like they'll believe anything.)

A few years ago I was working on a project with a famous Private University that will remain nameless, and I was the person in charge of creating log-ins for the users. I sent emails to all the expected users, with explicit instructions on how to access their site. I was too sanguine, of course; my instructions would have been explicit to a Cal grad, but not to the prestigious Private University users.
The access instructions read in part:
Your user name is your first initial, last name, with the last four digits of your Social security number. The first password is the name of the University. The system will prompt you to change it once you are signed in.
For example, JSmith1234 Password: Private University Name
You would not believe how many users called me to say that their user names weren't working. Yes, you guessed it! They were all using JSmith1234
Or if they figured out what the name part was, had trouble with the name of their prestigious Private University as their password.

Go Bears!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XIX


The people, that Christmas Party night, were indeed nice. We wore our formals: skirts not less than eight nor more than fifteen inches from the floor, dresses of light but not bright colors and of materials semi-transparent or opaque, necklines not more than three inches below the collar bone and sleeves long or elbow length. We all passed the requirements of the catalog, but with such delectable additions as long chiffon scarves twined around our necks in the best Nita-Naldi-brochitic manner, or great artificial flowers pinned with holiday abandon on our left shoulders. Two or three of the Seniors had fox furs slung nonchalantly about them, with the puffy tails dangling down over their firmly flattened young breasts in a most fashionable way.

The Gastronomical Me; M.F.K. Fisher, 1943

If you want to visit a Lost World, read about life in the 1920's and thirties in M.F.K. Fisher's semi-autobiographical book. I say "semi" because Mary Frances was never one to let the truth stand in the way of a good story. As my family would say, if it isn't true, it should be!
This was a time when people Dressed for Dinner, and there were very specific rules for exactly what one should wear. It is so different from our New Casual Society as to require translation, almost.
If you haven't read any M.F.K. Fisher, you are missing out on some of the most graceful writing of the twentieth century. It's a misconception that she writes about food; that's just the subtext. She is really writing about hunger in all of its manifestations, and that's a much larger subject.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XVIII - Historical Edition



When the Lord and Lady got up, servants and maids helped them wash and dress...Men's and women's dress was similar, both wore stockings made of wool or silk, then a shirt with long sleeves, which were often detachable and worn so fashionably tight that they had to be stitched on each time the shirt was worn. Detachable sleeves were a favorite gift, especially as a love token. A tunic or gown went over the shirt, secured with a brooch; above a full skirt a lady's gown had a tight-fitting bodice, while both the shirt and tunic might be slashed and laced above the waist to reveal her bare skin. Then came a coat, or surcoat, and in cold weather a fur-lined pelisse, often sleeveless, might be worn on top. Out of doors a mantle might be thrown over everything, fastened at the shoulder by another brooch. The poor wore shorter garments; for the rich the sheer length of their clothes was a way of displaying wealth- although the young Henry II became known as Curtmantle when he reversed the usual trend and set a fashion for short cloaks. Since clothes were made without pockets, coins and valuables were commonly carried in a purse attached to the belt, though they could be tied into a skirt or shirt sleeves...They wore thin soled leather shoes. It was said that the shoes of an elegantly dressed gentleman would fit so well that no one could see how he had got into them or imagine how he would get out of them again.

1215, The Year of Magna Carta; Danny Danziger and John Gillingham. 2003

My favorite part of history is learning how people actually lived their lives. And really, what could be more interesting that how other people lived hundreds of years ago? I love the fashion ideas from 1215 - slashed bodices and sleeves to show skin, (like torn jeans?), detachable sleeves (great idea!) and sleeves so tight that they had to be sewn on each time. Also what could be more itchy than woolen stockings? When you recall that they only had silk, wool and linen for clothes you begin to appreciate cotton and all of our modern fabric choices.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Half is better than none


Eileen danced on, unaware that half of Bob had become detached (again!) while they were walzing to the Blue Danube.
Debbie checks her magic charm bracelet. Is it time to restore Bob's missing half? No, she'll wait to the end of the dance, when it's her turn to waltz with Bob.
(If disembodied dates don't bother you, find the pattern here.)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Simple Gifts

I had a frugal moment at Trader Joe's. I usually use Agave Syrup to sweeten my iced tea, because I like it slightly sweet and sugar doesn't dissolve in the cold tea. I don't like it as sweet as Sweettea (all one word around here, from the Mason-Dixon line on south.) But while poking around at Joe's, I saw a bottle of labeled "Simple Syrup" for about $2.59 or thereabouts. (Agave syrup ain't cheap either.) Now simple syrup is commonly used by bartenders to sweeten cocktails; it is a mixture of sugar and water. I can buy five pounds of sugar for about $2.59. But what a great idea - a bottle of syrup to use to make my tea sweet- for pennies! (My inner Scrooge was delighted - more money left for goat cheese and dark chocolate!) I decided to make my own simple syrup for summer use, recipes for which are easily obtained in any classic cookbook.
I made mine by bringing to a boil one cup sugar and one cup water.(You can also use more sugar or more water. The ratio is up to you. I have seen 2 cups sugar to one cup water but that's way too sweet for me.)Then I let it cool and poured it into a cleaned and sterilized 16 ounce vinegar bottle that I had bought to use to make my infused vinegars.
You can flavor your simple syrups with lemon or orange peel, with a vanilla bean or with all kinds of fruit. When I make lemonade I infuse it with lemon peel. It also makes a nice hostess gift in a pretty bottle along with some nice tea and some lemons. But for my iced tea purposes, I leave it plain. It's decadant and frugal at the same time. It costs pennies to make. I know what's in it. And I feel smug every time I pass that bottle on the shelf at Trader Joe's.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Scary Pattern Illustration


I don't know why images like the faceless woman pictures disturb me so, but they do. I would even go so far as to avoid buying patterns that have faceless illustrations.
That's one reason (out of many reasons) why I don't like Connie Crawford's Butterick Patterns. The anonymous faceless robot women creep me out.
This style is a little KGB-agent for my taste as well. But if you don't mind wearing Femme Nikita's Blue Power suit, you can find it here.
Do you think those buttonlike thingies are control knobs?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Great Moments in Fabric Literature, Vol XVII, Fairy Edition



Everyone was dressed in the very height of fashion. The ladies wore gowns of the most exquisite colours (though to own the truth, very few of them were colours that Stephen could remember having seen before.) The gentlemen wore knee breeches and white stockings and coats of brown, green, blue, and black, their linen was a sparkling shining white and their kid gloves had not as much as a stain or mark upon them.
But in spite of the fine clothes and gaiety of the guests, there were signs that the house was not so prosperous as it once had been. The room was dimly lit by an insufficient number of tallow candles, and there was just one viol and one fife to provide the music.
"That must be the music that Geoffrey and Alfred spoke of," thought Stephen. "How odd that I could not have heard it before! It is every bit as melancholy as they said."
He made his way to a narrow unglazed window and looked out upon a dark, tangled wood under starlight. "And this must be the wood which Robert talks about. How malevolent it looks! And there is a bell, I wonder?"
"Oh, yes!" said a lady who was standing close by. She wore a gown the colour of storms, shadows and rain and a necklace of broken promises and regrets.


Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell
page 151-152, 2004, Susanna Clarke,

Friday, May 28, 2010

Go Long


The New York Times advised this week that longer skirts were now the cutting edge of fashion - long and slender.
This is a look that is easy to copy, but you have to get the length right. Too long and you look like Morticia Addams, too short and you just have a pencil skirt. You want that sweet spot just under your calf, where the calf meets the ankle. Vogue 8601 might be a good place to start your longer skirt explorations; when I was a mere slip of a girl they were called "midis".
Vogue says that they see this skirt in men's suiting,wool crepe and crepe-back satin. For summer wear I'd try a nice weight cotton twill or sateen. Virginia is too hot to even think about wool until November, no matter how fashionable it might be. (Don't even say "tropical wool" to me, that's as big an oxymoron as "jumbo shrimp" or "Liberal Republican".)
How Ironic that just yesterday we were reading about the Clothes Police handing out long skirts to women wearing what they considered "inappropriate attire", and our fashion gurus are subtly trying to get us to abandon shorter shirts in the guise of being fashionable. Coincidence?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Clothes Police are Real

Once again, I am grateful that I live in the United States, where we are free to wear what we please (for now anyway), even if it is in bad taste.

A real life example of the Clothes Police:
MEULABOH, Indonesia – Authorities in a devoutly Islamic district of Indonesia's Aceh province have distributed 20,000 long skirts and prohibited shops from selling tight dresses as a regulation banning Muslim women from wearing revealing clothing took effect Thursday.

The long skirts are to be given to Muslim women caught violating the dress code during a two-month campaign to enforce the regulation, said Ramli Mansur, head of West Aceh district.

Islamic police will determine whether a woman's clothing violates the dress code, he said.

The Clothes Police everywhere are always very worried about how women are dressed, I have noticed. Not so much men.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tesco Implements a Dress Code

Striking a blow towards preserving Civilization As We Know It, Tesco, a British grocery chain, implements a dress code:
After receiving many customer complaints of other shoppers in their night clothes, the supermarket, Tesco, has implemented a dress code for its Cardiff, South Wales store.
Shoppers at the Tesco supermarket are now warned by the new dress code signs:
"To avoid causing offence or embarrassment to others, we ask that our customers are appropriately dressed when visiting our store (footwear must be worn at all times and no nightwear is permitted)."
A Tesco spokeswoman stated:
"We're not a nightclub with a strict dress code, and jeans and trainers are of course more than welcome. We do, however, request that customers do not shop in their PJs or nightgowns. This is in response to other customers. We would never dictate to people, but we have listened to customer feedback that it makes them uncomfortable and embarrassed
."

My favorite comment on this:
Sky News presenter, Colin Brazier, wrote:
If you can't be bothered to change out of your night-clothes, it's not likely you possess any of the aptitudes which make the world around us a better place; stoical parenting, selfless duty to others, or the ability to hold down a job.

Here in the Land Of The Free, we are still free to shop in our jammies.(I particularly admired the Bugs Bunny jammies I saw worn at Wegman's, last time I was there. One of the many reasons why I love America.)
I wonder if they have Clothes Police stationed at the doors at Tesco?
(Thanks to my sister, who sent me the Tesco info. My daughter has actually shopped at Tesco, but not, I am proud to state, in her pajamas.)
Have you ever shopped in your pajamas? Would you?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The New Casualness

"Can't you see that Betty Helen has no idea what goes on here?" he said. "She's either evil or lobotomized, Why did she just tell you that the Western Union messenger was your friend?"

"It's hard for a normal person to tell who's an artist and who isn't these days," Guido said. "It's the new casualness. Holly says it's making slobs of us all. Betty Helen has the right attitude. Now, for example, the other day, a guy selling office equipment came in dressed like a bank president. Then the guy from the bank came in dressed like a college professor, Then Cyril Serber came in. He's the poet and classicist but he works out with weights. He came up on his way from the gym and Betty Helen probably thought he was from the delicatessen. So you see, it's easy to be confused."

Laurie Colwin, Happy All the Time, page 77. Copyright 1971

As you can see from the excerpt above, the New Casualness has been driving us all crazy since the 1970's. Once the iron curtain of rigid dress codes began to fall, there was no turning back. Yet we are all left adrift on a sea of too much choice.
In my own experience, I began high school in a system where boys wore shirts and ties and girls were forbidden to wear pants to school, and four years later we were wearing shorts and tshirts to class (with our swim suits on underneath so we could drive directly to Salt Creek Beach after class let out in June.)
My daughter says perhaps we need to implement new rules, a modern dress code 'containment' policy, so we will all know what Not to Wear in any situation. And certainly there is no shortage of advice out there.
(If you want to make a grown woman cry, just tell her she is invited to a daytime wedding and put semi-formal on the invite and then drop the news that it's outside. Or a beach wedding - what on earth would you wear to that?)
Do we need new rules? And if we do, what would those rules be?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Can't Judge D.C. ...

A commenter noted:
You can't judge DC based on the suburbs. Especially not the suburbs that are in a different state. The suburbs of DC are totally different from DC itself. In DC proper, everyone is quite nicely dressed, as they mostly work on or near the Hill (that would be Capitol Hill, for those of you who aren't up with DC speech
But, as we say in our family, "Au contraire!"
My daughter lives on Capitol Hill, and she reports that the women of D.C. dress exactly as the women of Arlington, Alexandria, and Mt. Vernon, which is to say: sloppily. Remember - I was talking about Weekend dressing, not work dressing. (Although I worked downtown at Metro Center for many years at several high powered law firms, and I Can say with authority that Washington is the opposite of fashionable. Instead people dress to blend in.)For every nicely dressed woman out there on a Saturday, there are ten other frumpily dressed sisters. And this is not just Washington! Co-workers in San Diego, Los Angeles and Las Vegas advise that the same phenomenon occurs there.
Some cities are fashionable - some are not.
What cities would you rank as fashionable? I recall Montreal as having nicely dressed people, yet Reno most emphatically did not.
Vote in the comments!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Anti-Fashion Show

Yesterday Mr. Hunting Creek took me out to lunch at our favorite Thai restaurant, THAI in Shirlington (Big Bowl Lunch Special $6.95!) before we did our Saturday chores. The weather was nice so we sat outside and watched the street scene. One thing became increasingly clear: Washington women (at least those in Shirlington and Alexandria) have no style. NONE.
They were wearing sweats in public, they were wearing baggy cargo shorts, they were wearing track shoes with shorts and men's' ripped up T shirts. I have seen Italian trash men that were better dressed. (One complaint to The Sartorialist was that he never shows women of Washington...based on what I saw yesterday, ladies, you need to step up your game)
I have had the good fortune to eat in cafes and observe the street scenes in many cities all over the world: Kyoto,Kuala Lumpur, Florence, Novara, Rome, Singapore, Vancouver, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Montreal...to name a few. And in every single one of those places the women were dressed better than the women of Washington. Why do they dress so casually? Is it that they just can't be bothered to make any effort at all? How you dress makes a big difference in your attitude and happiness. My sister never goes out without makeup and looking nicely put together; neither does my daughter. We were brought up that way.
Why are New York women fashionable on the weekends, and Washington women so very NOT?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Alien Fabric


I never used to plan my sewing. I would just make whatever I felt like making and buy whatever caught my fancy. I liked to think I was the Johnny Depp of sewistas...you know...a pirate!(we don't need no stinking SWAPS!).
But with age and experience comes, one hopes, wisdom. Just like with home cooking, we can't always make chocolate brownies all the time (or we should not make chocolate brownies all the time), into each life some salad must fall. A sewista must plan or be faced with a closet of delightful orphans, none of which can be worn with anything else.
At one point in my life, I decided that I would only have black, white, and tan shoes. Order in the Closet! Rules! I would no longer indulge in blue or brown shoes, because they could only be worn with a very few things. (This rule didn't last long, I have a zillion shoes in many colors). But the impulse was good. Fashion rules we make for ourselves are kind of like diets, aren't they? We decide - NO MORE BROWN! Or orange or whatever the offending item is, and we purge and sort and soon all remnants of the evil brown are gone from our lives, like what we should do with an ex-boyfriend's pictures.
Now I am sorting my fabric and patterns and really seeing and thinking about what I have already, and asking those existentialist questions that every sewista must eventually ask herself: Why did I buy so many ball gown patterns? Will I ever be size 12 again? and: Who is all of this hot pink double knit for, and why is she storing it in my sewing cave? (I don't even wear hot pink! Who bought this? Where did it come from? Are aliens adding fabric to my room at night?)
What patterns and fabrics have aliens added to your sewing room?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stripe Problem


Maybe the sewistas at Vogue had a different Home Ec teacher than I did. But couldn't they have matched the stripes on the front of this dress? I know I would have - they did on the back! (with big stripes you have to decide, where do I really want this to match? I'd think the obvious answer - at least to me and Mrs. Smithers my 7th grade sewing teacher - would be the center front...just saying'...)
I don't think I'm unduly modest, but for me, that's really low cut. To wear this I'd raise the neckline about 3 inches.(I exaggerate - maybe only 1 and a half - but again, I have to test to be sure.) I do like the idea of the low front and back, just not quite THAT low. To raise a neckline, in case you've never done it before, just draw a new line where you want it be, make a quick muslin of the bodice and test it out. Just do what my mom would call a 'quickie' front and back and see if that suits your vision. Look in the mirror - is that too low? Not low enough? (If you have a teenage daughter, they are very handy for this) Remember to allow for seam allowances and also don't forget to change any facings, if any, on your final version (I don't do facings for the test version.) Keep in mind that the skirt will pull the bodice down a little more, espcially if your fabric is heavy.I think I'd do a full lining on a dress like this. But I would match the stripes! (And you should too...Mrs. Smithers says.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Six is the New Fourteen


Every so often some reporter writes an article citing research that showing that every woman in the Western World has a poor body image (except for Heidi Klum) and these articles and reports are all followed by much teeth gnashing and wailing from normal women and duplicitous and defensive rejoinders from fashion and advertising land. Researchers point out that even very young girls are worried about dieting, and the fashion industry counters with a model over size zero. (Look, she has flesh on her bones! It must be the token normal woman!) Remember when Stanley Tucci tells Andy that Six is the new fourteen? Didn't we all laugh in recognition?
Ma'am, do you have this in the next size up?
Saleslady: Sorry, we only carry sizes 1, 3, and 5. You could try Sears.
(SEARS! Oh the horror of that comment.)
I have had co-workers tell me that they were told in fashionable New York boutiques that, "we have nothing for you here." They were size 16. I wonder, how is that really any different than being told to leave because of their race or ethnicity?
When Thurgood Marshall argued before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, one of the studies his team cited was Clark's doll studies, which showed how African American children had developed feelings of inferiority that caused life-long and lasting damage. There were no pictures of children like them in textbooks or class materials. There were no dolls or toys that looked like them. They were always made to feel invisible and second-best.
Even now there aren't enough faces from different races and backgrounds in our media. I'm sure this has an effect.
Now flash forward to 2010. When you watch television, or look at a magazine, the majority of faces are young, slender and attractive. While you occasionally see a plump man on a sitcom, he is almost always paired with a younger, much hotter spouse. Notice on 24, how everyone at CTU is more attractive than the norm, and never even slightly overweight. In the movies the fat, plump loser guy always gets the hot skinny girl. There are very few movies that feature women over size zero, and even fewer that show women over thirty. If you don't have a strong self-image yourself, you certainly aren't going to see a reflection back from TV, movies or magazine ads. If you are in your forties and over size ten, you might as well be invisible.
The fashion people pay lip service to diversity, but they don't do much to achieve even token diversity. Take a look at Burda- how many models of color do you see? Not very many - they barely even include brunettes in some issues! You know that this is a real problem by the fuss that was made when Italian Vogue did an issue with all women of color. It was so unusual.
In a perfect world, we'd see magazine issues where every single model was not size zero. And I'd be happy if I never saw the term "plus size" again. To me that means that those sizes are outside the "normal" range of sizes. They are "extra", they are "different", in some stores they aren't even there. "Oh those sizes? those are available only on the website." Why is that? Do they think they will get size 14 cooties on the size zeroes? (I don't mean to pick on my size zero sisters. They have their problems too, Everything is too big and too long on them.)( A digression -I recently lost 40 plus pounds, but no matter - size 16 is still plus size to our fashion friends! And I don't think it would be humanly possible for me to ever be a size 0-6, I'd have to have surgery to remove some bones.)
A fellow blogger commented that it bothered her when she saw the ads that said that real women have curves, because she felt like she was just as real, even though she was curve-challenged.
Since both men and women come in a variety of shapes and sizes, it would be refreshing to see that variety reflected back at us in our media.
What examples of size discrimation have you seen? Do you think we can ever get beyond it?