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
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 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?