Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Coastal Comfort

Even though Del makes all of the food around here, I sometimes flip through his cookbooks and foodie magazines. A few years ago, I came across this Philadelphia Clam Pie Recipe in Gourmet. It sounded so good that I asked Del to run out and get some clams so he could make this dish as a pre-New Years Eve treat. Did I ever mention that I have the most wonderful husband on earth :) ? Anyway, we had a friend in town (who happened to be having a birthday), and we invited him over to join us. The weather was cold and snowy, but the delicious clam pie warmed our hearts and filled our bellies. This year, that same friend was here, and he requested this comfort food for his birthday meal.

Del makes the clam pie according to the recipe with a couple of modifications. Rather than shucking the clams, he steams them until they open. Then instead of using clam juice, he just sautes veggies in the steaming broth. He also uses a basic shortcrust rather than puff pastry.


Last night, the "sous chef" helped make the crust for the first time.


The filling went into the bowls with bottom crusts...


which were covered with the top crust.


The end result is sooooooo delectable. If you love clams, and you love pot pie, try this recipe!


On the subject of comfort, here is the runner that I made for my mom's Christmas gift. She specifically requested it for her guest bedroom. She'd seen one at a hotel in Florida, and loved the look, but couldn't found one to match the blues in the room. I had so much fun with the embroidery! The beautiful floral motifs are from Designs by Juju's Jacobean 2 and Jacobean 4 SWAK packs. The runner adds so much to the bed (which I get to sleep in when we visit :) ).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hemming fleece

Fleece is very popular for no-sew projects like fringed blankets and scarves because it is easy to cut and doesn't fray. Since fleece is a knit, however, it tends to misbehave when it gets around a sewing machine. It wanders, warps, and stretches like crazy. Hemming can be especially troublesome. One of the most hilarious things I ever made was a fleece beret with a hemmed opening. The thing ended up twice the circumference of my head!

Fusible tapes like Stitch Witchery and Steam-a-Seam take all of the trouble out of hemming fleece. They give a perfect fold, and minimize stretching during sewing. I made a few throws/blankets as last minute gifts, and used 1/2" wide Steam-a-Seam Lite. I took a few pictures of the process so I could post a little tute :) .

The first step is to cut the fleece to the desired size. Fleece generally comes in 60" widths. For a big, squarish throw, I generally buy 1.75 yards and use all of it. For a tinier "lovie" size, a yard will be more than enough. Even if you use the full cut from the fabric store, you'll probably need to trim off the selvages and even up the cut edges.

Tear off a manageable length of the tape and align it with the edge of the fleece. Steam-a-Seam is self-sticking once the backing is peeled away, and can be finger-pressed into place.

Fold the edge over the width of the tape.

Set the iron to the absolute lowest temperature that can produce steam. Fleece is a synthetic material and can melt, so you might want to test the heated iron on a scrap. Place the iron on the folded edge and steam away. Leave last 2" or so unpressed so that you have room to work in the next length of tape.

Continue taping and pressing all the way down to the corner.

Resume the taping process at the folded edge. Continue until the entire perimeter is pressed into place.

Time to sew! Use a universal needle that is suitable for medium to heavy weight fabrics. A smaller/sharper needle won't make visible holes in the fabric, but it might skip stitches. For best results, use a zig-zag or a staggered zig-zag (my favorite) stitch.

I like to fold the edge over a second time before stitching. It gives a heavier edge (which is nice on a blanket) and hides any rattiness in my cut edges. For a garment (which is worn right side out), I would just stitch the single fold.

Stitch down the center of the fold. Just before you reach the corner, fold the next edge over a second time. You may have to lift the foot manually to get it up on the thick corner. Stitch until you reach the starting point.

And there you have it - a quick, easy throw/blanket that is sure to be snuggled and loved! This one was a gift for my brother and SIL. They have two little pugs, Pearl and Ethel, and are expecting their first non-fur covered child in March. I included an article on introducing the new arrival to the doggies. I highlighted the suggestion of wrapping the baby in a special blanket in the hospital, and bringing it home for the dogs to snuggle. They LOVED it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ding ding ding!!!

Bells are ringing because 1) it is Christmas Day and 2) we have a winner! The CarlaC eBook of choice goes to...Leslie! I am a big fan of her custom creations, and her kiddos are just precious!

Thanks so much to all who posted to let me know that I was not alone in my last minute crafting efforts! I had a pretty light day on Tuesday - caught up on laundry, did a little packing, and wrapped a few gifts. Louie and I listened to 80's music while we worked/played. Compared to the mad crafting frenzy of the previous two or so weeks, it was very nice. I even found myself dancing around the house, full of holiday spirit.

Around 7:00 p.m., I sat down to congratulate Leslie and post a little tute on hemming fleece. I was feeling a little sleepy, so I decided to grab a quick nap. I climbed into bed, thinking of all the things I had to do before our trip (finish packing, swap out the car seat, put the lights on a timer, change the goldfish bowl...). The next thing I knew, it was 4:00 a.m. and time to hit the road!!!

I managed to get it all together pretty quickly, and didn't forget anything (except my blog post, of course). We had a safe, easy trip down to Richmond. In my family, we open our presents on Christmas Eve. The handmade gifts were a HUGE hit! There are a few gifts I haven't posted about (mainly because they were the last things I finished, but also because the recipients were reading this blog :) ). I'll get those pictures and the fleece tute together soon. In the meantime, here is a sweet picture of Louie helping us "make" the holiday!

Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The final push!

I mailed out 10 packages yesterday, which is definitely a post office record for me. Included in those boxes: 3 tote bags, 2 aprons, 3 bowling shirts, 4 dollies, 1 pair of pajama pants, 2 name pillows, and 5 loaves of bread (Del's contribution). Almost everything was made during the Thrifty Under Fifty Challenge, and I came in well under budget (I think my total was something like $7). I think I've already posted about everything but the name pillows and the pj's, so here they are:



They are gifts for Del's niece and nephew (who is also a Delmar). The fun pillows are made from the Kimberbell Kids Personalized Name Pillow eBook from YCMT. I used the machine embroidery version from SWAK embroidery. The pants are Easy Fits (of course).

I have about 2.5 days left to make two pair of grown-up sized jammie bottoms, a quilted bed runner, a few photo/decoupage projects, and lots of little embroidery projects. I'm pretty sure I will be able to finish it all, but it is definitely feeling like "crunch time."

So what is everyone else up to...are you still crafting/sewing??? If so, what are you making? Post a comment (hopefully letting me know that I am NOT alone in my last minute frenzy), and you will be entered to win a CarlaC eBook of your choice! I'll do the drawing Tuesday (12/23) p.m. Hopefully by that point I will be finished up and wrapping presents!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Strap happy


I made tote bags for two of Del's fabulous bosses and a very helpful administrative assistant. I wanted the bags to be practical, yet chic. I had no trouble choosing the pattern - the Aivilo Pocket Handbag is as functional and stylish as they come. Fabric selection, however, gave me fits. I've been very good about using my stash for giftmaking, but I really didn't have anything suitable for these recipients (polka dots and cutesy prints just weren't going to cut it). Since the "Thrifty Under Fifty" challenge ended on the 15th, I lifted my spending freeze and made a trip to Super JoAnn's. Del and Lou were with me (actually, they were in the neighboring Home Depot, thank goodness), so I didn't have all that much time to shop.

I wandered around, finding lots of fabrics that would be great for other projects, but nothing for the bags. It was getting close to our lunchtime, and I knew Lou was going to pull the heart-wrenching "I'm HOOOONGRY" routine on his dad. In the interest of time, I narrowed my search to the Legacy Studio quilting prints. These fabrics are in line with what you find in a high-end quilt shop (both in terms of quality and price). They are normally $8.99 /yard, but were on sale for $6.29/yard - yippee! I decided to go with the cool-colored, gold-touched Asian prints. There were six different ones, so I figured I would just get them all and use 2 for each bag.

When I got home, I played with the pairings a bit, but wasn't all that inspired. I put the fabric aside, hoping that I would have a more creative brain on a non-shopping day. Nope - even well-rested, I couldn't come up with three winning combos. The problem was that the collection looked so great all together. I thought about doing a patchwork thing using ALL the prints in ALL the bags, but decided that it would look too busy. Plus, some of the bigger motifs would be lost. I came to a compromise and went with three prints for each tote - 2 for the pockets, and 1 for the main bag.

Feeling proud of myself for finally coming up with a solution, I got out the rotary cutter and cut out my pieces. All went well (meaning no mislicks or blood) until I came to the strap. Because of my little modification, I didn't have enough length - WAH! There was no way that I was going back to the fabric store, so I decided the only solution was to piece the straps.


After stitching my pieces together, I started to worry about durability. Even though I had used good thread and small stitches, I was concerned that a full tote would put too much strain on the seams. And no matter how good looking the fabric combo, a busted strap would be an ugly thing (and could result in the boss having bruised apples or blemished books - ack)! I had to come up with a reinforcement.

Interfacing was a possibility, but all the stuff I have on hand is pretty flimsy. I also considered cutting strips of canvas, but I was really sick of using the rotary cutter at that point. I had a little webbing, but not enough for three bags. In the same snakepit of a drawer, however, I found the perfect solution- grosgrain ribbon!


Ok, I know it doesn't match, but it is the perfect width, very strong, and I have miles of it (post-Independence Day clearance). I noticed with the first strap that the fit was a bit tight in spots where I didn't do a perfect job with the folding. So for the remaining straps, I used a little tool to improve my accuracy.


I cut a piece of cardstock that was just a bit larger than twice the width of the ribbon, and used it as a folding template.


I folded the edges over snugly and pressed (the iron is disgusting at this point, so no action shots).


After pressing the edges, I folded the straps in half lengthwise and pressed again.


I then unfolded the straps and tucked the ribbons inside.


I refolded the strap and stitched. I'm pretty happy with the finished products. The straps have a nice, substantial feel to them. I think the ribbons will provide the support needed to mitigate mechanical failure of the seams, but if not, at least the apples/books will be saved, and the boss will get a patriotic surprise!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hello Dolly!


A few weeks ago, Kimberbell Kids Dolls made their debut on YouCanMakeThis.com. I had the pleasure of helping Kim, the owner of YCMT, bring them to life in eBook form. These cuties are based on Kim's wonderful applique designs. Our objective was to take her 2D drawings and turn them into huggable 3D friends. We spent many hours brainstorming about size, structure, materials, etc. Many "interesting" prototypes were made. In fact, right around Halloween, dozens of limbs were strewn about my dining room. It felt like "Nightmare on Sesame Street" - LOL!!! Anyway, after extensive research, development, and testing we arrived at Dolly's final form.


Dolly is a cuddly 24" tall, and is crafted from materials that are inexpensive and easy to come by. She is amazingly FUN and EASY to make, too. I love trying out different hairstyles and outfits! In fact, I spent the past few days making dolls to give to some special little girls in my life. Since Kim and I have lots of outfits and accessories planned for 2009, I decided to do a little R&D while I was at it :) .


Meet Jenna, the cheerleader. She is an adorable little redhead who is full of energy and spunk. She comes from a long line of LSU fans. Geaux Tigers!!!


Meet Emily, the baker. Her dad is a chef, so she really knows her way around the kitchen. This girl is as sweet as cherry pie!


And last but not least, meet Marissa, the girl in Paris. She loves shopping with her brother, mom, and grandma. Doesn't she look fabulous in purple?

Can you tell I'm having too much fun with these dollies??? I still have huge list of gifts to make, though, so I need to put away the stuffing, yarn, and felt for now. My focus for the rest of this week is going to be finishing the gifts that need to be mailed. The goal is to make a big post office run on Saturday morning. I will then spend the remaining days before Christmas making gifts to put under the tree for my nearest and dearest :) .

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reversible Cuffed Pants Tutorial

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Reversible pants are really easy to make. Basically, you make 2 pairs of pants, sew the waist edges together, flip everything right side out, and finish off the leg openings. Of course, that last finishing step can make or break the entire garment. The pants pieces have to be perfectly aligned to get nice stitching on both sides. I've been making reversible pants ever since Lou was a baby, and have been optimizing my "protocol" along the way.

Pattern modification

If you are using my Easy-Fit Pants pattern, very little modification is needed. To calculate the length needed to make pants with a 3" cuff, plug the current outseam measurement into the basic pants formula.

Draw the pattern as the instructed, then take 3/4" off the top. You are ready to go!

Figure 1: Easy-Fit pattern modification
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If you are using a commercial pattern, you will need to shorten the casing and and lengthen the legs. In the illustration, I show a 1 piece pants pattern (meaning no side seam), but you could make the same modifications to both pieces of a two piece pattern.

The top cutting line should be a half inch above the original top of the finished waistband. Some patterns have the waistband position or the casing allowance marked right on the pattern. If not, look at the instructions to determine the casing allowance. It will probably be between 1 and 1 and 1/2", depending on how the wide the casing is and how it is finished. Since the elastic will be inserted between the two layers of pants, you will cut off all but 1/2" of the casing.

Once you know where the top of the pants will be, you can calculate how long to make them. Determine the current outseam by measuring the recipient or a pair of pants that fit them right now (I'd much rather measure clothes than wiggly children). Add in the desired cuff length (I usually go with 3") and 1/2" to account for the top allowance.

Figure 2a: Paper pattern modification
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Figure 2b: Paper pattern modification (continued)

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You will need 2 bias-cut strips that are 2 and 1/4" wide. I make my strips by folding a half yard of fabric diagonally and cutting the strips very close to the fold. This gives strips that are about 25", which is ample for most sizes. If you are making a pair of very wide legged grown up pants, you may need to start with a larger cut of fabric. After you cut the strips, trim them so that they are slightly longer (about an inch) than the width of the bottom edge of the pants pieces.

Cut 2 sets of pants pieces using the modified pattern.

Figure 3: Cutting
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Cuff Preparation

You will stitch the strips to one set of pants pieces, 1/2" from the edges. I'm usually a "minimal pinner," but in this case I recommend using plenty of pins to keep the bias strip from stretching and distorting.

After stitching, the strips are pressed down and over the edge of the pants leg, and are then trimmed flush.

The bottom edges of other set of pants pieces are folded under 1/2". If you have the Easy Fit eBook, you can use your folding template here :) .

Figure 4: Pinning and stitching the bias strips
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Figure 5: Pressing the bias strips
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Figure 6: Trimming and pressing
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Pants Assembly

Sew the pants together as instructed. Unfold the leg openings before you stitch the inseam.

Since the edges will be incased, there is no need to edge finish (though you certainly can zig-zag or serge if are fanatical about those kinds of things). If you are working with a commercial pattern, trim the seam allowance down to 1/4" (you are already there with the Easy-Fits).

The two pairs of pants are then put together, right sides facing, and sewn together 1/4" from the top edges. The pants are then tucked, twisted, and turned so that the right sides are facing outward.

Figure 7: Sewing the pairs of pants
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Figure 8: Putting the pairs of pants together
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Figure 9: Turning the pants right side out
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The casing is formed by running two lines of stitching, 0.25" and 1.25" from the top edge. Don't worry about leaving an opening for the elastic - we will make that later.

Figure 10: Stitching the casing

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I'm going to switch over to step-by-step photos to illustrate the all-important final steps for each pant leg .

Refold the strip into place against the layer to which it is attached. Stitch right through the seam on the right side with a basting stitch (long stitches, low tension). Make sure the other pants layer is out of the way at this point.

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This stitching serves two purposes - 1) it provides a perfect alignment reference for the other layer and 2) it keeps the strip perfectly positioned when the layers are stitched together.

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I use my all-time favorite notion, Wash-Away Wonder Tape for the next step. You can find it in at most fabric stores (at my JoAnn's, they hide it with the quilting supplies).

Stick pieces of Wonder Tape just above the stitching as shown in the photo (yes, I am stingy, but the small pieces are also easier to position).

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Peel away the backing, and align the folded edge of the other layer with the basting stitch. Press with your fingers to get a good stick.

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Stitch through all of the layers, 1/8" above the folded edge of the taped pants piece.

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Remove the basting stiches. Voila - a perfect finish on both sides!

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Of course, we aren't finished until we put in the elastic. Using a seam ripper (usually reserved for disasters, I know), pick out the back seam between the two lines of casing stitching.

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Insert the elastic into the resulting opening. Pull through, and stitch the ends together your favorite way.

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Arrange the folds in the openings back into place, and stitch through all layers, very close to the folded edge.

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And there you have it - reversible, cuffed pants that will grow with your child!