though they can also work with more trendy stuff:
I went with a black/white striped cotton sateen from Fabric Mart, an on-line fabrics house. I played with the stripes to create a silhouette that minimizes width up top and adds width on the bottom: a halter-like orientation up top and horizontal stripes on the bottom.
Matching the stripes was challenging but fun. I cut left and right pieces separately: cut one piece, then flipped it over and put it on the fabric, right sides together, matching the stripes and cut the other piece. Cutting thus took more than twice as long as normal.
I started with the two front pieces, matching the stripes at CF, then cut the side pieces (side fronts and skirt side fronts), matching the diagonal stripes to the horizontal stripes where I thought most visually important (top of the side pieces up at the armscye and top of the skirt side front). Then I cut the side back pieces, then the back pieces. All the while I was telling myself, at least it was stripes and not plaid!
I added white pipings in some seams to play up the shape of the dress and also to visually break up the stripes and also to somewhat camouflage the impossibility of matching diagonal stripes to horizontal stripes. For the piping, I was going to use a bright color like fuchsia or kelly green or goldenrod, but in the end I decided on a more monochrome palette for the dress and went with white piping.
The pattern does not call for a lining, but since the sateen is somewhat light and slightly sheer, I added a lining. I used the same pattern pieces for the dress for the lining.
Construction-wise, the biggest issue I had was the bias binding around the cut-outs at the sides. (The neckline and armhole are also finished with bias binding but that does not present a problem.) The side cut-outs are a problem because they’re a flat two-dimensional oval shape rather than a three-dimensional oval like the neckline and the armholes. I simply could not get the bias binding to lay flat.
It seems to me that a bias binding, folded twice, simply will not lay flat around the perimeter of a flat oval. I suppose there may be some combination of stretching and easing of the binding and/or the dress that can accomplish that. Instead of the bias binding, I opted for a facing. I used the dress’ pattern pieces to draw up a pattern piece for a facing:
I joined the pattern pieces, overlapping seam allowances, then trace a 1 3/4″ wide facing pattern piece.
The construction steps are:
- Construct the dress and the lining in the same way, following the pattern instructions, inserting the hidden zipper in the dress.
- Join dress and lining wrong sides together and basted at the neck line and armholes.
- Apply bias binding at neck line and armholes.
- Slip stitch lining to the zipper tape.
- Stay stitch both dress and lining together around side cut-outs.
Sew facing to cut-out, right side together.
Trim seam allowances, clip, press seam allowances open, turn facing to inside, press again.
- Turn edge of facing under 1/4″ and slip stitch facing to lining.
I used a cotton plaid flannel which would normally seem more suited to pajamas than dresses, but turns out to make a pretty comfy dress. I trim the dress in white cotton. When I tried on the bodice during a fitting, I noticed that the Peter Pan collar and the white faux pocket flaps made the dress look too much like a Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform, so I spiced up the design a bit with a peek-a-boo tulle netting band near the hem. I trimmed the band with the same white cotton fabric used for the collar and pocket flaps. I slip stitched the band’s trim to the tulle so it won’t stick out:
I bound the tulle band’s raw edges with rayon seam binding. I also catch stitched the band’s upper seam allowance so it will stay in place up against the skirt.
And oh, I made a matching hair scrunchie, with the same white trim!
As you may know, I bake a lot, mostly traditional French baguettes. I used to be skeptical that rice flour can possibly work in a baguette, for the exact same reasons above: rice flour has no gluten, it will make the dough more dense, etc. Actually, the assertion I found way back then was that Vietnamese baguettes has mashed cooked rice in them! Mashed cooked rice?! Forget about it, I though. Until I actually experimented with using various percentages of rice flour in my baguettes. The rest is history! I am now a firm believer that yes, it is essential to use mashed cooked rice in Vietnamese baguettes. That results in baguettes with thinner (but still crispy) crust and much lighter crumb, neither of which is achievable with flour-only dough.
Since the venue is mostly dimly lit, and the atmosphere is quite sexy, everybody aims for hyper-revealing, hyper-glittery, hyper-sexy, costumes. If one has on a two-piece swimsuit, one might be overdressed .
I wanted something distinctive and sexy and creative that would stand out in the dark. I was going to alter my Dorothy of Oz costume to make it super short and more revealing, but then I stumbled upon some red 4-way stretch wet-look PVC that I’ve had around for a long time. Additionally, I have some red with white polka dots cotton left over from a dress which goes perfectly with the PVC. After a couple of design iterations, I settled on a “Minnie Mouse meets military officer” theme for the costume.
The main piece is a military-style cap. I had made a pattern for it a long time ago but never did make anything from it. For some extra definition of the cap’s shape, I added white piping around the cap’s crown and around its bill:
I drafted the pattern from the top from my body measurements with no ease since the PVC can fit skin tight and still allow for movements. I just “guesstimate” about things like the depth of the back and front neck lines, the armscye curves, etc. The result is not bad, I think.
For the skirt, I started with a draft of the curved low-rise waistband, copied from a pair of low-rise denim shorts. The waistband is 3″ wide, and the skirt is 8″ wide, resulting in a skirt 10 1/2″ long . Did I mention sexy? Anyway, the skirt is a straight strip of fabric pleated with 3/4″ pleats every 1″ or so.
I also made a backpack-style purse to carry some essential stuff such as phone and keys. I used a pants zipper for the opening. A YKK two-way zipper would have been much easier to open and more convenient. Also, the backpack-style straps, only on one side of the opening, mean I need to close the purse after every use since carrying it unzipped would leave it gapping, which would not have happened with straps on both sides of the opening.
As I mentioned previously, the bodice, in size 10, was too short on me. I attempted to fix that by adding extra length at the top of the front. That also required that the “drape” piece (that goes around the neck and down the back) be longer. The result fit much better, albeit still not quite 100% right.
The thigh slit meant adding a seam in the skirt’s front; not a big deal. The skirt front has darts so I just extended the left dart into a waist-to-floor seam/slit.
I did not want to have the flounce in front. In this case, it would not have been flattering to the wearer. I don’t know if many women can wear such a flounce since I think it emphasizes one’s tummy. I tapered the rear flounce’s width to nothing at the side seams. Also, I finished their edge with a two-thread rolled hem stitch on my serger because I did not think the stitch-fold-stitch-fold-stitch edge finish dictated by the pattern instructions would work very well on such a pronouncedly curved edge.
The fabric was a nice red cotton sateen. The fabric turned out to be more wrinkle-prone than I’d have liked, but it did have a very nice sheen which added glitz, especially in a darker room. The contrast fabric was a red embroidered polyester organza from Jo-Ann Fabrics.
I liked the method by which the neck and arm hole bindings were applied: straightforward and easy to apply and looked great.
With a 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ square (using 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper), the dimensions of the cuts and folds and overlaps are as follows:
Additionally, the shape of the stars makes it applying pressure while the glue dries quite problematic. I used “clamps” to hold the stars together: a string of rubber bands with ends hooked together with a safety pin:
I already had Vogue 2899, bought quite a white ago. Lengthening the hem to ball gown length will work perfectly. I went with a red polyester knit from Jo-Ann. It was a fairly cheap knit, I’m afraid, which is a bit against my usual approach of “if you’re going to put a lot of effort into a garment, make sure the fabric is worth it”. But it has very nice fluid hand and suited the dress very well.
I went with a smaller size 10; I’m normally a size 12 on top and size 8 on the bottom. The pattern I bought was 4-6-8 so I graded size 8 up one size. The pattern’s directions say “No provision made for above waist adjustment.” and they were not kidding about that! It turned out that size 10’s bodice is too short on me, so the cool shaping seams in the back ended up about 4-5″ too high and caused a lots of fit problems. Unfortunately, by the time I figured that out, it was too late to make length adjustments.
So I did the best I could to camouflage the fit issues by adding a drape across my butt. The drape covers some of the wrinkles and also draws attention away from them. I added soft pleats to the drape to match the pleated sides so the drape looked like an extension of the side pleats and blended in nicely.
The dress looked quite presentable in the end and I looked… smashing, in it if I do say so myself. It was a big hit at the party as well. But, you be the judge.
(The other dress in the last pic was my take on Vogue 8849. More on that in a future post.)
We had turkey and in the aftermath, turkey soup. The twist was that my sister-in-law made pistou, a “Provençal cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil”. That, plus super-sized garlic crouton made from a baguette made for a very memorable turkey soup.
I used a baking thermostat that beeps when a set temperature is reached. At 150 °, I turned off the oven and let the cheesecake sit until an inserted cake tester came out clean. Then I opened the oven door and kept it ajar for about twenty minutes, then opened the oven door all the way for another twenty minutes, and finally took it out of the oven and ran a knife around the edge to release the crust from the mold. Doing so relieved tension in the batter as the cheesecake cooled and shrank away from the mold, avoiding cracking. I let it cool on the table for another twenty minutes. That yielded a perfectly baked cheesecake: not too overdone, and no cracks.
I chilled the cheesecake overnight in the fridge, loosely covered.
I reserved a couple of tablespoon of the “plain” cheesecake mix and piped stripes on top of the cheesecake’s top pumpkin layer, then drag a skewer across the stripes to make the resulting pattern. The batter was liquid so the design was not as sharp and crisp as I would have liked: by the time I put the cheesecake into the oven, the design had begun to “bleed” a bit and became slightly blurry. Next time, I would wait until the very last moment before putting the cheesecake into the oven to decorate it so hopefully the top would start getting baked right away and not have time to bleed out.
My pea soup was pretty much the standard pea soup: onions and carrots, garlic, peas, chicken stock (no celery; Whole Foods does not have single stalks available, only in bundles). My differentiation was the prosciutto instead of ham hock. I rendered the prosciutto, took the prosciutto bits out, and sweated onions and carrots in the rendered prosciutto fat. I added garlic, then peas and chicken stock, simmered for about 10 minutes. I puréed the soup in batches, then put the prosciutto bits back into the soup, added ground dried pasilla chili, and simmered it for another while.
We ate the soup with garlic bread, made my way. That was a nice, hearty, cozy, meal for a chilly winter evening!
I signed up and decided to make some chocolate truffles. I followed America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe and process, as described on this page. I divided the recipe into four batches and flavored each differently. The flavors were: orange zest and ginger, bacon, pasilla chili, and Chihuahua de Mexico smoked salt.
I want to share with you my method, or rather what not to do! The recipe calls for putting the truffle mix into a parchment-lined 9″x9″ tray and chill for 2 hours then lift it out, cut it into rectangles and roll each rectangles into balls. I couldn’t do that since I needed to make four different flavors so I divided the mix into four small containers and flavored them separately. I planned to scoop the truffle mix out with a spoon. That sounded good in theory but was a nightmare in practice because the chilled truffle mix was stiff and difficult to scoop. (Once scooped out, the mix softened quickly in my hands so it was then not difficult to form into balls.)
Next time, I’ll probably make “dividers” in the 9″x9″ tray so I can chill all flavors in the same tray and then handle it as the recipe suggests.
They’re off the same design and construction, differing in fabrics and of course, sizing.
The top part of the dress is Simplicity 3618 and for the skirt is Butterick 6049.
The blouse is also from Simplicity 3618. I made half of the blouse in a lining material and the other half in lace.
I used blue gingham checked (what else?!) fabric for the Dorothy costume and a “fall harvest” cotton for the scarecrow costume. I made the hem high-low and trimmed the hem in 4″ wide ruffles. The white ruffles were on sale at Jo-Ann. I made the brown ruffles for the scarecrow costume from a brown polyester organza, cut and sewn into a bias tube 4″ wide and gathered into the skirt’s hem.
For fit and comfort, I added a stretch side back panel to the bodice on both dresses. The panels are lined in stretch lining. They allow the bodice to be very snug fitting without being uncomfortable.
I did a take on Texas chili this weekend, with a chili blend of equal parts of dried ancho, guajillo, and pasilla chili. I ground up all three chili in a coffee grinder. (Cleaning the grinder with a brush was good enough for me; no need to grind breadcrumb or rice in order to clean it.)
Then I made a mix of equal part of each chili.
The recipe is quite straightforward, pretty much similar to most stew. First I render some bacon:
then removed the bacon bits and browned cubed chuck roast.
Then I removed the meat and sweated the onions and garlic and added the chili, plus Mexican oregano and cumin, towards the end to “toast” them.
I deglazed the pot with half a bottle of beer (Lone Star, for that authentic Texas vibe ).
After the alcohol has evaporated I added beef stock, canned diced tomato, Grade A (formerly “Fancy”) Vermont maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, added the meat back to the pot, brought to a boil and simmered for two hours.
I like to cook my stews and chilis a day ahead and let it sit overnight in the fridge. That gives the flavors time to develop fully.
I have since also learned that instead of running the waxed thread between fingers, one can also run it under a warm iron to “set” the wax into the thread, to further reduce leaving wax residue on fabric.