You are my sister

Many of you know what a huge influence Heather Ross has had on the sewing community and (if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time) on me. I am honored to call such an inspiring and talented artist my friend. She’s crazy funny as well. But here’s what I want to tell you: Heather’s twin sister, Christie, has been diagnosed with breast cancer and lacks proper insurance to pay for her treatments. This sort of financial burden could be completely devastating for their family. Heather has organized an event and auction at Hart’s Fabrics in Santa Cruz to help raise money to pay for Christie’s treatments.

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If you have a moment, please click over to Heather’s blog to read her post about it, learn more details about the event, or simply leave your words of support. Tee shirts, signed posters, and tickets (both tickets for the event and raffle tickets for those who are not in California) are available through Heather’s webstore. Please consider supporting this event; it would mean so much to me and to Heather. Thank you, friends!!!

Persimmon Skirt with covered buttons

And another project just for me, this red gathered skirt with covered buttons and pockets.

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Made with a very breezy-flowy Kaffe Fassett shot cotton in the color called Persimmon. It’s pretty lightweight but with a slip and black tights I think I’ll be able to make it work through at least October.

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If you click on the picture above you can really see the two colors of thread in the weave. I love the visual textures that shot cottons have just from those two different colors.

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Covered buttons make me happy. Not when I’m making them. Just when I’m looking at them later.

I’m sure I’ve said this before but I feel that sewing apparel for myself in solids tends to be more rewarding; the items are more likely to find something in my wardrobe to coordinate with (like the top I’m wearing in the pictures above from Anthro). BUT it’s always really hard to buy solid fabrics online, since you can’t feel the drape or thickness. So I try to stick with fabrics I can predict, and I’m always happy with the KF shots (the fabric here was purchased from Pink Castle, a quick check shows a few more here at Charmstitch). They are almost sheer and have a really nice drape and are really soft. I also love this men’s shirt Novita at very purple person made for her husband out of the same fabric!

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Pattern is a bunch of rectangles with pockets thrown in. Took my waist measurement, did a little Maths (you’re welcome for that link), and POOF! *OK not really*

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How does she always manage to do that? It’s hard to keep the toddlers out of the pictures around here.

It’s a MIRACLE I tell you I made BREAD!

This is completely unrelated to sewing, but I am so excited I have no choice but to share. I want to shout it from the rooftops. I have finally made not one but four successful loaves of bread. Yes, the kind you eat and make sandwiches with. Stop rolling your eyes and get excited with me. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Kermit arms everyone! Yes you!!

Photographic Proof. Exhibit A:

This may seem rather silly, but to truly understand how big this is for me you need to know how poorly my many, many attempts over many, many years at baking bread have been. Deflated, dense, or weird and beery, you name the Bread Failure, I’ve had it. Then I’d take a break for a year or so but eventually read a blog post, someone saying “Its SOOO easy to make bread!” or stumble across a recipe in a book and get sucked in and try it again. I actually amaze myself a little when I think about how persistent I’ve been despite my pathetic track record. Perhaps delusions of someday becoming Martha blinded me to reality. In my head, I’ve always been just a loaf of bread away from becoming the woman who makes her own yogurt and whole grain snacks for my kids before hopping on my thrifted bicycle with side baskets to go pick up the organic CSA box from the Farmer’s Market. The only thing in that previous sentence that is true of me is that I own a bicycle, and that I occasionally go to the Farmer’s Market. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever actually ridden the bike TO the Farmer’s Market, and again, it’s hard to even tell if the time I am picturing actually happened or was just a daydream of my Amazing Self.
Exhibit B:

Amy Karol has blogged a number of times about her positive results with Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day, but I pretty much wrote that off immediately because come on the woman is so very nearly Martha, totally in a different tier of capability than me (she makes her own deodorant for crying out loud). Honestly I was dubious that her results could be due to anything other than her general Amazingness. I am happy to report that this is not the case. I believe I have (despite forgetting several steps and not even using the baking stone they recommend) managed to make four loaves of bread, all of which have disappeared within a day of being made. I offer to you visual proof that this book is pretty stinking awesome (see Exhibits A, B, and C). My sister Kricket and her husband Ross came over the other day for dinner and they were shocked, shocked I tell you that the loaf of bread they were consuming was not only made by me but was also easy. And I can’t even believe I’m about to say this because it sounds so cheesy but I think the recipe/technique offered by this book is very nearly foolproof.

Exhibit C: (Mr Rae is starting to make fun of me when he sees me photographing my bread. He’s definitely impressed though. Or so he claims.)

Without giving too much away because that would not be cool, the basic concept is that you mix up a batch of wet dough that is enough for multiple loaves and store it in a covered container in your fridge. Then you just pull off the amount of dough you need when you need it and bake it. No kneading, no kidding. And though it’s a wee bit more complicated than what I have just outlined here, it is most definitely easy. The first few chapters outline the basic concept/tools/recipe and then the rest of the book is full of variations, including desserts (!) that are all built off of the basic recipe. If you’ve been burned by Bread Failure like I have, you owe it to yourself to go get this book from your library. But not from MY library, because I’ve got their copy and plan on renewing it as many times as necessary until the copy I ordered the other day arrives. Hneh-hneh-hneh, booyah!

So let’s debrief. Am I the last one to the party with this? There must be other fans of this book unless there’s some other bread craze I’m missing. And then, the question I’m really interested in: what’s your Amazing Self like? I know I am not the only person who has this. Do you think it’s better to set your expectations low so that you don’t get depressed when Amazing Self never materializes, or is it better to set high goals? I go back and forth on this.

So. Excited. Can. Hardly. Breathe.

Very soon I’ll be leaving Mr Rae and the kids and going to Blueberry Hill Sewing Weekend. For those of you who haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a weekend of sewing hosted by fabric designer extraordinaire Heather Ross. The workshop involves sewing in a barn, eating good food, cocktail hour, endless supply of chocolate chip cookies, ack!  Not only is the workshop, which lasts a weekend and is hosted at a bed and breakfast in Vermont, the coolest idea ever, I also to get to meet one of my favorite fabric designers, the amazing Heather Ross *dying of excitement*  And if that wasn’t enough, a few months ago Heather announced that Liesl Gibson, designer of Oliver+S fame, is going to be leading the workshop too. And oh yes then just the other day she casually informed us in an email that Denyse Schmidt will be there too. I’m terrified I’m going to spend the entire weekend immobilized by Sewing-Celebrity-Paralysis.

the book that inspired the workshop (minus dust cover)

For those wondering, this year’s two workshops are already full, but last year I kept a close watch on Heather’s blog and she announced the following year’s workshops pretty early in the fall.

Now I need to plan: what fabric to bring, what projects to work on?  Obviously I’ll bring the book, but much careful planning will be required.  I may have to charter a cargo plane to fly my fabric stash to Vermont to avoid having to make any serious decisions about what to bring.  Should I sew baby stuff so the fabric takes up less space or clothes for me since it’s MY vacation, or should I just sew cloth napkins so I don’t have to concentrate too hard on anything?  Just in case, you know, my brain stops working from Sewing-Celebrity-Paralysis? 

I got Mr Rae to procure an autographed copy as a Christmas Prezzie…awesome paper, eh?

And this is so pathetic I hardly want to ask, but what am I supposed to wear?  If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you know that almost every item of clothing I make for myself (see here, here, here, here, here) is from Heather’s fabric. So the question is, am I going to look like a total loser/stalker if I spend the whole weekend bedecked in Heather Ross fabrics?  Tell me the honest truth.

Seriously though, one of the reasons I am so excited about this is that it seems like events where you actually meet and sew with other crafters and bloggers are few and far between.  The current big events are things like Quilt Market (more of a supplies/fabric focus) and BlogHer Conferences (more of a business of blogging focus there) or Renegade (an art fair thing).  But there’s nothing really for US.  They even have a sock summit for knitters for crying out loud.  Right now there’s a Sewing Revolution going on right under everyone’s noses. So I demand a Sewing Bloggers Conference!!! It could have sessions led by all kinds of sewing bloggers, how to put in a zipper, how to attach piping, how to draft a pattern, how to take good pictures of your sewing. What do you think?  What other sessions shall we offer? What shall we call it? I think Detroit is a nice central location.  Can you come?

For now though, can’t wait to head to Vermont, will report back soon!

Rae goes into the kitchen and emerges with something other than an empty oreo box

Warning: this post is about food and not at all about sewing (I know, right? where did THAT come from?)

On Monday, in a not entirely unprecedented flurry of domesticity I decided to make whole wheat crackers.  I know, strange.  I’m not a huge cook, although baking is a little more up my alley. But you’re still thinking, crackers?  Let’s just say my kids (yes, both of them) eat about a metric ton of crackers each week and as most store-bought crackers have next to no nutritional merit I’ve been looking for a heathier replacement. Also: I always keep a box of flaxseed meal in the house and this seemed like a decent way to get it into our bodies where it could do some good.  I was pleasantly surprised a) at how easy they were and b) that they actually resembled crackers when I was finished. The key to a really good cracker is rolling it really super duper double dog thin and then baking the heck out of it so it’s nice and crispy.  Listen to me, I sound like a pro already.

Sorry if this grosses you out, I’m not exactly a food photographer.  Oh, did I mention I also made spinach and artichoke dip?  I mean, you can’t eat wheat crackers alone!?!

The crackers are a combination of this recipe from All-Recipes.com (yes, yes, the poor man’s Epicurious, but I am way too amateur for all that foodiness) and the comments that people left on the recipe, which you might want to peruse for tips and variations and such.  And would you also like my spinach dip recipe?  OK, OK. I made this one up myself after failing to find a single spinach dip recipe that does NOT call for frozen spinach.  We eat fresh spinach all the time over here and it seems like we always have the end of a bag sitting in our crisper.  Frozen spinach, on the other hand is something I would have to make a concerted effort to find at the store (or rather Mr Rae would, as it is he who buys all of our groceries) and is therefore, in my opinion, more annoying.

WHOLE WHEAT CRACKERS

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c flaxseed meal
3/4 tsp salt
1 c water
1/3 c olive oil
salt and garlic salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.  Combine ingredients until just blended (I ended up with some extra flour at the bottom and pretty dry dough.  Just toss the extra flour, you’ll still get plenty of crackers).  Divide dough into quarters and roll between two pieces of wax paper or parchment paper until it is super duper double dog thin, like a wheat thin.  If dough is a little sticky lightly flour it before rolling.  Place each rolled quarter of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet (you can bake it right on the parchment paper if you want but I reused mine for rolling).  Score with knife but don’t cut all the way through.  Poke holes with fork to give professional-cracker look.  Sprinkle with salt and/or garlic salt.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until brown and crispy (tap them with a fork to check).  Cool a bit and then crack them apart by hand.  If they are bendy at all and don’t crack apart easily, put them in for another 5 minutes.

SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP

2 c chopped fresh spinach (doesn’t have to be exact, I think I used roughly a 1/4 of a small bag)
1/2 jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (12 or 14 oz jar)
2 garlic cloves, minced (this is really garlicky, maybe just use one if you’re not a huge garlic fan)
1/2 c plain yogurt*
1/2 c cream cheese*
1/2 c mayonnaise*
1 c mozzarella cheese*
1/4 c parmesan cheese*
1/2 tsp worchestershire sauce (“wooster”)
dash cayenne

Throw ingredients in a saucepan on low to medium-low heat until spinach wilts and cheese melts and it bubbles a bit. You can also bake this in the oven in a baking dish but I find that too fussy.  Let it cool and serve.  It’s good warm or cold.  With wheat crackers.

*I’ve found you can adjust the amounts of the creamy stuff and the cheeses quite alot without changing this dip.  For instance you can put more mayo in if you don’t have cream cheese, and one time I used sour cream instead of the yogurt and cream cheese and it was still great.  The mozzerella and parmesan are the same way; there’s a lot of play here which makes this recipe pretty fail-proof.  I mean honestly it’s just a bunch of deliciously bad things thrown in with spinach and artichokes.  Easy, peasy.

Oceana Tote for Craft Hope

If you want a chance to own the Oceana Tote (blogged here and pictured below), it’s headed over to the Craft Hope shop (virtually that is) to help Doctors without Borders in Haiti.  According to the Craft Hope website, it takes about 24 hours for them to post each item, so if you’re interested you’ll have to watch and pounce.  And maybe this is overly ambitious, but I’m pricing it at $80.  I figure it can’t hurt to aim high since the entire purchase = a donation. 

If you think you would like to donate something to Craft Hope, the instructions are here.
Related: Some of you have emailed asking if you may use my patterns for Craft Hope donations, and the answer is yes.  Please feel free to use my patterns for the Haitian relief efforts, and honestly any other humanitarian cause.  No need to ask there, I say!

My boys


I don’t usually include much in the “family life” department on the ol’ bloggityblog, but since there’s been no sewing this week, I thought I’d share this picture from Father’s Day a few weekends ago. Elliot helping Mr Rae assemble a grill at Uncle Don and Aunt Sara’s (“Zahzee’s”) house. (picture by Aunt Zahzee)

Have a Happy Weekend!

Rally, people, rally!!!

Oh my…luvinthemommyhood has been kind enough to feature my Spring Top Tutorial in a Top Tutorial Vote this week. Just yesterday I finally figured out what was going on and realized I’d better get out the vote! There’s too much firstborn in me; I can’t help but get an eensy-weensy competitive. But of course I’m such a doofus, today’s the last day to vote! Durr, Rae.

:: click on image (courtesy of luvinthemommyhood) above to go vote ::

Of course, it makes it so much better to be featured along side of some of my favorite creators in Craftblogland (Dana, Traci, Alexis, and Chris) so I won’t be TOO disappointed if I don’t win…

Anyway, if you have time, go and vote for one of us (translation: me)!

Lickety Split Bag


Yesterday I decided it was high time to cut into my Anna Maria Horner Good Folks before another year goes by and we’re all still looking at the Good Folks projects. Case in point: have you noticed alot of Mendocino around here lately? Yeah, I acquired that last August. I didn’t want to think too hard about what to make so I pulled out my favorite quickie pattern, formerly known as the “stroller bag,” now known as Lickety Split, due to the fact that I can literally make one in 15 minutes (without the pockets) to 30 minutes (with pockets).

Like the Oceana Tote, this one is reversible although it’s bigger and not interfaced so it’s super lightweight and folds up to almost nothing. I added some blue and red ric-rac to the pockets, for a little extra cute.


: : which side should go out? : :

I made it up after studying a student’s book bag back when I was teaching a few years ago; although now that I look online at the pattern she used I see it’s smaller, doesn’t have the seam in the middle or the round ties. There’s a lot of this style bag floating around but the patterns for sale are either too small for what I want or don’t have the adjustable ties on the top. And as I write that I’m realizing just how much I complain about how not-quite-right every other pattern out there is. I don’t mean to be a whiner. I just don’t always find exactly what I’m looking for…


: : ties onto the stroller : :

: : or hangs : :

I’m hesitant to say this but I think this is my Perfect Bag. It works for library books, farmers market, grocery store, just over the shoulder, and because it’s adjustable I can hang it on any stroller. It’s big enough for baby and toddler gear but my little sister Kricket carries hers around so I know it’s not too mommish (that or she just switches to it every time she comes over…sneaky). And it’s wide enough at the bottom for a carton of eggs. Eggs!!!


: : Here are a couple others I’ve made recently (but with one pocket inside instead of four) : :

I’d be happy to scan and sell this if anyone’s interested (no commitment of course). I think I want to try out some automatic download software for PDFs so that if someone bought it they could download it right away. This might be the one to start with, but if you guys think it’s a bad idea I’ll save myself the time. I’m able to turn around most pattern orders on Etsy within a few hours, but that’s still a wait, and for a PDF it would be nice to get it right away.

Side note on wall color: A few of you asked about the paint color on my wall from last post; I have to admit the first picture here isn’t quite an accurate portrayal of my bathroom wall (which happens to be one of the only well-lit blank walls in my house with a hook); I played around with the tint/temp of the picture because I wanted it to be beachy. The real color is probably closer to the one you see directly above. The paint color is from Martha Stewart at Kmart, but I got it about four years ago so I don’t even know if they sell it anymore. But if you want that warm aqua look, rip out a Tiffany ad from Vogue and bring it in to your local paint shop; I’m sure you’d get the same look. And maybe if I get the energy I’ll waddle downstairs and see if I can find the name of that paint chip…