Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Simple" is not in my vocabulary

I wanted to make a quick, easy summer top. I've had two pieces of summery-type cotton fabric in my stash for about year, maybe two and I thought I'd just whip out a couple summer tops to wear. Yeah. Right. I finally finished the first top, which I started over a month ago. It really shouldn't have taken me this long and it wasn't all because my time has been taken up with work, French class, and the garden. Oh, and knitting.

First, I chose to make the top in plaid. And it was an unbalanced plaid (arrangment of stripes is different in horizontal and vertical direction), so it was even more difficult. It wasn't until I was almost finished with the top that I saw on the back of the envelope: unsuitable for diagonals and plaids. That would explain why some of the seams would never match but I still think it turned out ok.

Summer top

It's a little more loose fitting on top than I like, but I think it's wearable. I sure learned a lot about plaids and will hopefully be more prepared the next time I attempt to sew with plaid.

Here's what I learned about sewing with plaids:

  1. You need a lot of fabric . The pattern envelope often says "extra fabric needed to match plaids." Of course that's only on patterns for which plaid fabric is suitable.
  2. Match, match, match. There are so many places where you have to match the plaid and things you need to be aware of. Match plaid at side seams, shoulder seams, collar to collar stand, sleeves. Make sure plaid is even and balanced across the front, back, sleeves, and collar.
  3. Cut out plaid on one layer of fabric. This is a necessity because there is so much matching required. It is also a good way to make maximum use of the fabric. But you'll have to trace your patterns onto tissue or trace the other half and attach it to the pattern piece. The back piece and "skirt" pieces of this top were cut on the fold, so I just traced one half and then flipped the pattern over and traced the other half. When I laid out a pattern piece, I took the adjoining piece and marked references on it to where the plaid should line up. It was tedious.
  4. Baste, pin, use a walking foot, or a combination of these. The careful matching of all the plaid is wasted if you can't sew the two pieces together precisely.
Here's the rest of my review, which I posted on

Pattern Description:
Semi-fitted, unlined tops with side zipper, stitched hems, and side seam slits. Two different front styles with options to include a collar and short sleeves.

Pattern Sizing:
8-14 and 16-22. I made the size 18 in bust, increasing to 20 at waist and hips.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes. I was hoping to have a closer fit than shown on the model but mine came out a bit loose fitting as well. If I get up the guts to model it, I'll post a new picture so you can see how it fits on me.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
No problem with the instructions. They were easy to follow.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked the style and the finishing. The sleeves attach to about 2/3 of the arm hole and have a bias binding that encloses the seam and the lower 1/3 of the arm hole. The collar is 2-piece, which is nice. It looks like it's a one piece collar on the other front style.

Fabric Used:
100% cotton I bought from Joann's either last year or the year before.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I used an 18 for the top and increased to a 20 at the waist and hips. I could have gone smaller in the bust. I based the size off my full bust and also pin-fit it on my dress form. I thought it would fit. It's wearable but opens a bit low in the front. Better to be a bit loose than too tight though! I also increased the sleeves by 3/4 inches because I have plump upper arms. I marked a line through the middle of the sleeve pattern from bottom hem to the shoulder, slit it to 1/16" before the cutting line, spread it 3/4 inch, and taped it to a new piece of tissue.

I cut the lower part of the top on the diagonal, hoping to make it more interesting and avoid horizontal lines around my waist. Looking at the end result, I'm happy with the look but wish I'd made it longer than the pattern called for. I think the proportion is a little off and it may look that way because I put the bottom on the diagonal.

I put the zipper in per instructions but next time I would use an invisible zipper. I like the cleaner look of an invisible zipper and don't find them any more difficult to put in.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I do recommend the pattern but check the fit if you want something more fitted.

I was going to make this up again in a second, similar cotton that I bought at the same time, but I think I'm going to make something different. It's not that I don't like the pattern, it's because the other fabric is a stripe and I'm not sure it would work in the alternate style and I don't really want two similar shirts.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Zucchini Muffins - the bad

The zucchini muffins I tried this weekend did not turn out. Maybe I made a mistake somewhere or maybe there's an error in the recipe. I'd like to find out. I was surprised when I went back to look up the recipe that it's in a Bernard Clayton cookbook: Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. I hadn't made anything from this cookbook although we really like and use his other book The Breads of France: And How to Bake Them in Your Own Kitchen. Based on this one failure I was ready to give this cookbook away but I may re-think that.

I was going to print the recipe here but realized that I might be violating copyright laws by doing that, although a quick google search revealed that the recipe is already out there.

Here it is (with no reference to Bernard Clayton's book - shame on them)
And here it is again on a blog (with a reference) and it apparently turned out just fine for the author and at least one person who commented. Well. I honestly don't think I made an error. Perhaps it was the applesauce substitution. Or maybe my zucchini was overly moist. Maybe my oven (a Viking, gas convection) was too hot and they simply got done too soon on the outside and not enough on the inside. I have to say that my muffins did look like the ones in the picture on the blog.

Zucchini Bread - the good

This recipe was from a co-worker of mine, a long time ago. Margaret, wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I hope you're well and thank you for this recipe!

Grease 2 5x8 loaf pans
Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Blend together and set aside:
3 cups flour
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup nuts (optional, of course)

Mix together
2 cups grated zucchini
3 eggs
2 cups sugar (no, this is not diet bread!)
1 cup oil (I used 1/2 cup oil and 4 oz of applesauce)
3 tsp vanilla (oops, I realize now I forgot the vanilla and it still turned out tasty)

Mix well and add flour mixture to zucchini mixture. Pour into 2 greased 5x8 loaf pans
Bake 1 hour
Cool about 10 minutes in pan and remove

Monday, June 25, 2007

It's Monday already?

As usual, the weekend went by too quickly. I did some sewing, some baking, some vegetable harvesting, some TV watching, and even some studying for my French final, which is Tuesday night. I also did usual weekend stuff like going to a hair appointment, grocery shopping, and laundry. I somehow managed to stay away from Joann's big sale (don't they always have a sale?). I tried to come up with excuses - I need an invisible zipper for the Butterick, the regular one I bought will work just fine and the color is right; Butterick patterns for only 99 cents each...there's nothing I really want; don't I need thread for the next summer top?...I checked my thread box and I have the right color. So I saved myself from more patterns I won't have time to use and more fabric I certainly don't need.

And speaking of sewing, the Butterick 4549 top is almost done. Yippee! This is the pattern. :

I'm making the pink version but with the collar (or the orange version with sleeves). It's taking me much longer than it should but I'm a perfectionist Virgo. I still have to finish the zipper and hem it and then it'll be ready for its debut on the dress form. (what, me model?)

As for my baking, I made zucchini bread and zucchini muffins. The muffins unfortunately ended up in the compost bin because they were awful. The bread, however, was very tasty and we've polished off one loaf already. I'll post the zucchini bread recipe tomorrow. I got it from a co-worker of mine about 20 years ago. It's quite sweet and more like a cake than a bread. The failed muffins were from a bread cookbook I bought at the used bookstore. I can't say that we've ever made anything from this book before and now I'm quite leery of it! I was extremely disappointed in the results. And I hate wasting food too. The muffins looked like they would be tasty and included not only zucchini from our garden but fresh basil as well and were topped with grated Parmesan cheese. They smelled good but the insides were undercooked and did not improve with more time in the oven. They also didn't taste very good. I don't know where the problem was. The recipe called for one tablespoon of baking powder, which seemed like an awful lot to me but that's what I put in. Maybe the outsides cooked too quickly - the oven temp called for in the recipe was 425, which seemed high to me. Was it too much salt? The recipe called for 2 tsp, I put in just a little less. I'll post the recipe and maybe someone can spot the problem, if there is one. Maybe I made an error somewhere but I don't think so. I remember in 7th grade cooking school how I mixed up the amounts for salt and the sugar and made a mess in the oven. It obviously sticks in my mind so I read and re-read recipes now.

So this bread cookbook might go back to the used bookstore with our next load of books. The bread book we really like is: The Breads of France: And How to Bake Them in Your Own Kitchen by Bernard Clayton.

I'd like to make more zucchini bread but our zucchini harvest has actually slowed. Now the yellow crook-neck squash is coming in like gangbusters. I cooked some up with eggs Saturday morning. I fried up some onions from the garden in a little butter, added chunks of squash, some jalapeno peppers from the garden (they're really mild), then the eggs, and finally some Monterey Jack cheese. Yum! Saturday night we cooked hamburgers on the grill so I grilled some yellow squash and zucchini. The recipe booklet that came with our grill (bought about 5 years ago) came in handy finally. They had a recipe for a vinaigrette to marinade the squash so I tried that and I'm glad I did. I suspect if I'd just grilled the squash plain in the grilling basket, they'd have dried out. The vinaigrette was just some wine vinegar, olive oil, mustard, basil, and pepper. Easy and very tasty.

I had hoped to find some time to make some apricot preserves this weekend but the fruit will have to wait a few more days. It was too hot to work on it during the day and in the evening once I'm plopped down in front of the TV, I'm about done. Normally I knit while watching TV and I did start a new sock, however some shows require my full, visual attention, like Penn State football and really cool photography in HD. We finally got around to watching one of the Planet Earth episodes on Discovery Channel that we recorded and I must I'm amazed at the photography and their ability to get such incredible views of the animals on land and in the sea. The episode we saw (Shallow Seas) showed mostly marine life and it was fascinating to see the food chain in operation. I've seen sea stars at the Monterey Aquarium but had no idea what voracious eaters they are! They increased the speed of the film and showed how the large sunflower sea stars sweep over areas and how the other creatures "scramble" out of the way. When you see sea stars in the aquarium, they're pretty immobile so one would never suspect. There was also some really incredible footage of great white sharks attacking seals. So scary.

And one final bit of info to pass on: Oxi Clean. It's summer and summer means white t-shirts (for me, at least - they go with everything). But my shirts get a bit dingy and discolored, especially under the arms so I thought I'd try Oxi Clean since I'd heard that despite the annoying commercial with the guy who yells about the product, it does work. It does! I was doubtful, I tell you. I don't trust info-mercials, but I know Costco sells it and they had it at my local grocery store, so I figured I'd try a small size. Well, it worked quite well. I won't have to buy new white shirts this year and my white Burda jacket is white again. Word to the warning, it didn't work on a bloodstain (used Shout on that) and there are all kinds of warnings on the label to test it first on your clothes so don't blame me if it doesn't work for you or you have problems. I simply want to pass on that it seems to work for me and if I can save anyone else from having to replace all their white shirts, then great!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Silly quizzes, but they seem to know me!

J'étudie déjà le français! *

You Should Learn French

C'est super! You appreciate the finer things in life... wine, art, cheese, love affairs.
You are definitely a Parisian at heart. You just need your tongue to catch up...

*I am already studying French

Thursday, June 21, 2007

How does our garden grow?

Quite well indeed.

April 2007

June 2007

That orange blob in the lower right is a pumpkin. I've never grown pumpkins before and it's fun!

Shopping my stash

I know I have a lot of fabric but I still can't keep from buying more. Either I just don't have the right fabric or amount of fabric for something I want to make or the price is too good to pass up or the print is too fabulous. Or I'm traveling and want a souvenir. Or I just need a fix. There are a few fabrics out there in on-line fabric store land that I'm coveting right now. I have certain patterns in mind that I think would look great in these fabrics, but there's this nagging voice in my head that's telling me that I should check out the fabric that I already have. And no, it's not the voice of my husband. He tolerates my purchases and even enables my habit when we're traveling. If buying fabric makes me happy (and it does), then I guess he's just happy to have me happy.

I try to keep tabs on my fabric stash by keeping an index card for each piece of fabric. I staple a swatch to the card and write the fiber content, yardage, width, place where purchased, amount paid, and most importantly - the box in which it's located on each card. I punch a hole in the card and keep them on metal rings. I have a lot of cards. I also have a lot of nice fabrics. The cards make it easy to view the fabric and maybe match it with others to make an outfit. I can also take the card with me to find matching thread or buttons.

I found several candidates for the patterns I was thinking of making. It doesn't completely take away the temptation to buy the on-line fabrics I covet but it does help.

Now I just wish I could stay home from work and sew...and stay away from the computer where I am tempted to go on-line shopping for more fabric.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Time to catch up

Wow, it's been more than 2 weeks since I last posted anything. It's not like I haven't been doing stuff...I just haven't taken the time to write about any of it. My lack of posting is also because I want to show pictures and I haven't gotten around to taking them or uploading them.'s the scoop (sans photos):

The Butterick top is coming along slowly. I work on it for a couple hours a week if I'm lucky.

I'd like to whip up a new night shirt and couple of pairs of knock-around-the-house pants. I really need to make some easy things for a change.

I finished the Monkey socks and just need to show them off with a picture. I really like the way they came out.

I started some new socks and frogged them and retarted them, frogged them, restarted, get the picture. I can't find the right pattern. The yarn is bamboo/wool called Panda Wool from Crystal Palace. The swatch in stockinette came out soft and drapey and I want to retain the feel, especially since the yarn has a sort of mottled denimy-like look to it that would not show off an intricate pattern very well. I should just do a simple rib knit but I'm afraid I might be too bored knitting it.

My Rowan Bonita tank top is almost done. I reworked the last shoulder and found my error right away - I had misread the instructions.

We've been eating zucchini every night for the last week or so and there's still a lot more! Now that the hot weather has moved in the snow peas and lettuce are past and the berries are nearly over, but many other things are taking off. We enjoyed our first Early Girl tomato and first cucumber, sliced up in a delicious salad topped with dill from our garden. The yellow squash is quickly ramping up to zucchini-harvest levels so now we are enjoying both for dinner. I've picked over a pound of green beans so far and more are coming although the plants are taking a bit of a beating from the heat. I've picked one jalapeno pepper so far, which was mild so I sauteed it with some squash, garden fresh onions and basil, and served it over couscous. I look forward to more peppers, including Serrano and regular green peppers. Once the tomatoes pick up I think we'll be making fresh salsa. Our corn is looking promising, as are the eggplants. No sign of cantaloupes yet (just blossoms), but the pumpkins are getting big already. I took photos of the garden yesterday and I hope to post them soon so you can see how much everything has grown in two months.

Had a bit of a scare last week when I found pools of bloody vomit in the living room. When you have 4 cats, it's hard to tell who's doing what but we suspected that it was coming from Abby.

She was a feral kitten and is not totally socialized. We adopted her at 5 months and have had her now for over 4 years but she's still scared of us. She spends most of the day under the bed or behind the couch. Lately she hasn't been coming out for dinner and she was also sneezing. I've experienced plenty of cat puke in my years, but nothing like the bloody pools I found, so we took her to the vet. An exam didn't uncover anything obvious, except that she's a very scared cat, so they took blood and ran a bunch of tests. Some numbers were a bit odd but nothing pointed to anything obvious. The vet thinks she might have eaten something toxic. I'm searching my brain to think what she might have gotten into. This is a cat who will barely eat cat food and is not interested in people food or cat treats. She doesn't seem to get into mischief and doesn't climb on things. The plants look in one piece so unless there's something under the bed or behind the couch I'm not aware of, I just don't know what she could have ingested. I've joked that I have no idea how she stays at her weight (9 lbs) because I hardly see her eating and the other cats are quick to eat her share when she runs away in fear. It's a mystery. But she is doing better. The vet thought she might have a virus so she prescribed an antibiotic, which we are fortunately able to give her 2x day despite her skittishness. We have to close off escape routes and "chase" her down and she hisses at us (fortunately she's all hiss with no biting or scratching) but we can pill her.

So let's hope that it was a virus and not something toxic or some cancer or disease. She's an odd little kitty but it's still nice to have her around. She likes to be brushed (the only time I hear her purr) and even tolerates me cutting her nails. I hope she gets less fearful of us as she gets older but she hasn't really changed since we brought her home. We adopted another former feral kitten around the same time and he is also skittish but he at least interacts with us more and I can even pet him when I put his food down. If you have any ideas, both as to what Abby might have eaten and how to socialize her, I'd love to hear them.