Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Best of May

I woke up today and it was cloudy.  The windows and streets were wet from rain and the cold weather seemed to sneak into our apartment.  There was the unrelenting sound of hammers driving nails into dry wall.  Whacks! Thud, thud thud! and whirrs! from all the construction below us.  [The apartment below us is currently being remodeled.] 

And yet I couldn't be happier. 

Because shortly after my rude awakening, I grabbed my computer and checked my daily blogs, emails and websites.  And boy was I happy to find that when I clicked on Burda Style, there I was!

On the front page.

Viewed by all to see!

I had been grouped together with some of the most creative sewers throughout the interwebs as one of Burda Style's: Best of May.

My inner Hiro Nakamura yelled out, "Yatta!" and I started to prance around the bedroom in my pajamas, all under the bewildered looks of Thom and Connor[The cat], who hadn't thoroughly woken up just yet.

Without making this into an overly long Academy of Awards Speech, where they awkwardly cut you off with the cue of some cheesy music,  I really do want to thank Burda Style, all of their sewing community, my followers, my friends and my family for watching and supporting me in my sewing adventures.  I think it's amazing that there is such a large community of sewers, all around the world, that reach out and help one another.  And I've been completely inspired and amazed by all that they do!

I used to think that sewing was old timey and outdated.  Trust me, my mother had made me some questionable clothing when I was younger.  (Matching pinafore dresses for my sister and I.  Ankle length flannel nightgowns.  Any one remember those acid washed jeans???  Yeah, I BEGGED her to make me a pair of black and white acid washed jeans.)  And looking in retrospect, I had thought that you could only make unflattering and old fashioned clothing articles that involved complicated instructions and intimidating sewing machines with scary looking needles.  Boy, was I wrong...

So you see, it's creative and supportive people like those at Burda Style and founding and nurturing people like my mom, that helped me realize that sewing can be more than what is shown to you.  Sewing can be whatever you want it to be and more. 


Put all my cheese aside, I truly am blessed and thankful to have overcome such negative thoughts and moved on to creating pieces that I now love to show others and wear.

To view my spot in this month's feature, head on over to Burda Style and click through their slideshow.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Projects completed and in progress

Please forgive the Myspace-esque photo above.  It's hard to model and take photos without a tripod.  Anyway, here's one of my knitted cowls that I finished a few weeks ago and [again] never posted.  I saw a great post from The Purl Bee on a herringbone stitch and so I tried it out, using this iridescent shimmering blue yarn that I bought at Artfibers.  The tutorial asked for circular needles and seemed quite difficult at first, so I thought I wouldn't be able to do the stitch with regular needles.  Thankfully, a helpful follower left a comment on the post on how to knit with separate needles, involving the use of a doubled up knit and purl stitch.  I am a fan of simple and mindless stitches that involve NO pattern.

 I'm currently working on another small knitting project and am unsure where it might be going  regarding the pattern but for now, I'll keep adding.  It will probably be another cowl/scarf, which is funny since summer is pretty much here and there would be no need for such things.  But being in San Francisco, I sadly found out that the summers can be very cool and foggy with temperatures staying around the high 50's!  Needless to say, I think that my cowl/scarf making is justified.  :-)

Finally, I received my quilt back from New Pieces Quilt Store.  I'm very happy that I made the decision to get my queen-sized quilt machine quilted by a service.  I choose I simple meandering line that added a subtle touch to the quilt without overpowering the nice patterns and fabrics.  While I was there, the ladies had suggested that I choose a yellow thread that complemented and tied in the mustard yellow color scheme.  It's such a small detail that I absolutely love and makes my first quilt that much special.  I am currently hand sewing the binding on and cannot wait to have it finished on my bed!  So many thank-you's go out to the helpful ladies at New Pieces for being completely supportive and helpful while I was there choosing a pattern.  They really know their stuff and the store has such a wide variety of fabrics.  It's probably a good thing that they're located in far away Berkeley or else I'd be buying fabric everyday!

I hope your projects are going along well and that you all have a wonderful Memorial Day!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How the local news spurs the usage of things like Cacao!

Before I begin, I think it's important to note the extreme randomness of this post...

Okay, starting today and for the next week or so, Thom's brothers will be visiting all the way from Rochester, New York.  So, to welcome our new guests, I tried the recipe on the Jiff Peanut Butter Jar.  I know, random.  But I promise that there's a reason for such randomness.  You'll see...

The thing is, Thom and I lost our premium cable services from Comcast.  Why might you ask?  Oh, well that's a long and drawn out story on how they just pulled a bait-and-switch on us half way through our contract.  ANYWAY.  Because of Comcast, we lost HBO, HGTV and other important channels and now we're forced to watch local news channels each morning as we drink our coffee and check our emails. 

So, sometimes local news isn't real news. 

It's "fluff" news. 

It's where you find out secret recipes from neighbors, when to find the next town hall meeting and how to vaccinate your dog.  Today, a random woman came on the local news show and talked about chocolate and how it helps your heart.  She kept emphasizing the importance of special dark chocolate, made from...CACAO!  Honestly, if it weren't 8am in the morning, her mentioning Cacao would have ended up to be a drinking game.

So, with Cacao on the brain, I made cookies.  I made the cookies just so I could use my Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips that I randomly bought the other day. 

You see how it all makes sense now? 

I just wanted to further emphasize the fact that I'm using Cacao...it's such a fun word. 


Monday, May 23, 2011

A biased post on a finished dress...

Today I ended up finishing my ruffle dress.  I figured if I didn't push on and work/finish it today, I wouldn't get a chance until after June 15th!  (Many reasons why this date specifically, mainly because I will be flying back home.)  So this morning I worked through the last steps of this dress and added my own finishing touches.

To begin where I left off, I had just finished piecing together the top piece of the dress and finished the edge of the ruffle.  My next step was to sew a bound seam on all unfinished arm hole seams and unfinished collar seam.  In order to do that, I had to make my own biased tape.  A good portion of this post will be a quick tutorial on how to sew your own biased tape/binding. 

You can find and buy biased tape at any sewing/craft store and it comes in handy when you can match colors correctly and want to finish off a project quickly.  My pattern called for standard 1/2" biased tape and I suppose they assumed that I would either (1)find black biased tape or (2)somehow procure the exact same patterned biased tape as my dress.  But if you have ever quilted or just looked at packaged biased tape, you'd find that it's actually very easy to make.

Quick Tutorial on DIY Biased Tape

To begin with, you'll need to find the cross grain (otherwise known as, bias) of your fabric, it's the stretchy side perpendicular to your selvage.   Cut 1 1/2" strips. 

 Connect strip together by placing the ends together, right sides together in a "L" shape, and sewing across at a 45 degree angle, from outside edge to outside edge.  (If you sew from inside edge to outer corner, your strip will not form a straight continuing strip!)

Trim excess fabric and press open the seam.  As you see in the second photo, the strips sewn and pressed open create one continuous strip.  Once you sew and connect all strips together, fold in 1/2" on one side, right side out, and press with an iron.

Since I am going to attach the biased tape to my dress, I won't need to fold and press in the other side of the tape.  Technically, this would be called single-fold biased tape.  (Two sides pressed together is called double-fold biased tape.)

This is very simple to make on your own and creates refined looking garments when used for bound seams!

To continue with my dress, I attached my biased tape to the ruffle and collar, sewing through all the layers.  I then turned the biased tape back towards the inside of the dress, pressed and carefully sewed back through all the layers.  (Some sewers like to hand baste instead of machine stitching back through to create a clean and polished look but my instructions called for me to edge stitch across all edges of the dress thus making my "sew back" plausible.)

Here you can see a finished look at how the bound seam creates that nice finished look to the dress.  I also created a bound seam on each of the arm holes.

Next I worked on the skirt of the dress.  I gathered both the front and back of the dress between the markers I had cut out from the pattern.  I then sewed together each of the side seams of the skirt.

I pressed open all the side seams and also pressed down the gathered parts of the top of the skirt.  (I found that pressing the gathers made it easier to attach the top piece and skirt together.)

With the skirt prepped, I then lined up and pinned together the top piece and the skirt of the dress.  (Turn top piece wrong-side out and upside down into the skirt.) I then sewed the two together.

Once I had sewn the top and bottom piece together, I could have basically been done with the project (save for the bottom hem), but I knew a final try-on would tell me otherwise.  I should have figured that the dress would be a bit loose since it did not call for a zipper and it needed to be wide enough to allow my shoulders to pass through.  I didn't like how loose the fit was and instead of ripping open a seam and adding a zipper, I choose to add elastic tape to the front and back gather of the dress again.  Besides those terrible zig-zag lines that you can see at the top of this photo, I think that this was a genius move.  With the added elastic, I am able to slip on and off the dress and still have a nice structured fit to the dress in my waist.

Once I was satisfied with the fit, I finished the hemline (with a double fold and sew) and added a small black button to the top of the collar, connecting the two sides of the ruffle together.

And fineto!  A finished ruffle dress to my 100% absolute likings.  :-)

Friday, May 20, 2011

How ugly printed fabric saved me $

I started a new sewing project yesterday with a new Japanese black cotton fabric that I picked up at Britex...and no, it's not the ugly print that I referred to in the title of this post.  This fabric is pretty, soft and floral.  It has a nice weight and feel to the fabric.  The ugly fabric that I am referring to happens to be found on a lovely structured and cut Nine West dress that I came across while internet shopping.
I found the dress on Dillards.com and I really liked the ruffled style at the collar and length.  I did find that the weird pink, yellow and brown Aztec/floral print to be a bit disarming.  But I shop like an idiot sometimes and impulse buy.  So I was close enough to buying it, until I saw the price.  $237.00, eeek.  In my mind, I know that there are a lot of other very important things I could be buying, besides a $237.00 dress with a weird Aztec/floral print that I kinda liked.  So I searched for an old dress pattern in my fabric bin and found one that I could alter, similar to the Nine West dress.

 I began by finding a simple pattern that also had a ruffled collar.  (Would you believe that I picked up the pattern at a Walmart?!  For a $1!)  I cut out the pattern to my body size and pinned it to my fabric.  If your pattern pieces have been sitting around for a while in an old storage bin and are wrinkly, like mine, just press them with a low set and warm iron.
The best thing about patterns is being able to create sizes that fit your body.  For example, I have a small chest, wide waist and a long torso.  Not exactly a perfect size that fit within the pattern size chart.  So I was able to mix and match to find a perfect "me" fit.  [Note on picture:  You should always fold your fabric wrong side out and then pin on your pattern pieces.  That way you can easily draw any markers from the pattern onto your fabric.  I only worked with it right side out to show the fabric pattern.]

 Cut out your patterns.  And transfer any marks from the pattern onto your fabric.  Also be sure to pin and cut out any interfacing that is needed for the dress.  Here you can see fabric cat terrorizing my fabric and patterns...

 I started with the top and took in the front darts.  Always do a sample try on to check the fit.  I then sewed the top shoulder and side seams together.  I used a felled seam to give the seams a finished look.

 Next, I worked on the ruffle for the collar.  I had to double fold the outer edges of the ruffle by pinning in place and ironing.

 My next step was to pin the ruffle onto the top piece right sides facing out.  I matched the markers that I had originally made on the fabric to align the collar perfectly.

This is my progress so far.  Next, I'll need to attach the ruffle with biased tape, structure the skirt and attach to the top piece.  This dress is by far a simple silhouette compared to the Nine West dress, but hey, it's hundreds of dollars cheaper and made by me, for me!

These next few weeks will be getting a bit crazy, since our apartment will be known as "Hotel ThomandErin".  I have one of my oldest friends coming to visit this weekend and then next week BOTH of Thom's brothers will be staying with us for a while.  So for now, I had to break this post up.  I'll be posting the next few steps when I can get a break from playing hostess.  I hope everyone has a great Friday!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


These are the images for a final project that I had completed this [now officially over!] spring semester at the Academy of Arts University.  This series is inspired by the story Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen and the idea of a small girl living in a very large world.  All humans photographed are of myself and special thanks to Connor for the cat modeling. [ha ha]  Costume was also sewn by yours truly and a special cat modeling tip:  Laser pointer.

It was a great experience working with some new contemporary artists that I've met.  And I am impressed by the school's large amount of resources and support that they have for their students.   I look forward to this summer's classes and continuing my journey towards a MFA in photography.  I'll be looking over my past semester's work and will post a few later.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Catch-up

 For some inconvenient reason, Blogger was down yesterday so I wasn't able to post a few things that have been going on lately.  This week is the last before finals.  Things are a bit hectic but very productive.  I added a few new pillow covers to our couch and Connor and I have been enjoying all the sunshine that we've been having lately.  Thom and I added another decal to our great room.  It's large and insanely detailed.  I keep telling Thom that he'll have to duke that one out when it comes to moving and removing.  But for now we're enjoying the view.

 Another thing that I just received today was my very first Le Creuset cast iron!  Thank you so much to Thom's mum, Sue, who found an amazing deal and sent one out to me.  It's amazing and I cannot wait to begin cooking, baking, sauteing, etc, etc etc.  I will have to try this recipe...so easy, I guess a four year old can make it.

Speaking about cooking and baking, etc, etc, I've finally perfected a waffle iron recipe that I can make and freeze over and over again with satiating results.  To back this all up, let me say that I am a breakfast person.  I could never skip it and will wake up early, just to include it in my day.  And sorry to say, cereal just doesn't cut it.  The only thing that ever keeps me full until lunchtime are pancakes and waffles.  (I love carbs!)  Yet, I've always known that eating waffles everyday could induce me in a carb-coma since I can [shamefully] eat a full set of the four waffles and then some.  This recipe is half whole wheat flour and half regular.   So it fills me on only two waffles, making room for a yogurt or piece of fruit.  I also add vanilla extract and cinnamon for a more sweet and dessert like taste to them, a tip from my old college roommate.  The key to a perfect waffle is in the way you beat the eggs and how long you leave the batter in the iron.  Below is my recipe, adapted from Allrecipes.com.

Waffle recipe for waffle iron:
(Double batch measurements)

-2 C. Regular Flour
-2 C. Whole Wheat Flour
-1/2 tsp. Salt
-8 tsp. Baking Powder
-3 Tbsp. White Sugar (or opt for brown sugar)
-2 tsp. Cinnamon
-4 Eggs
-3 1/2 C. Milk
-1 C. Oil
-1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1.  Preheat the waffle iron and spray each waffle plate generously with non-stick spray.
2.  Add all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk together until well mixed.
3.  Crack the eggs and beat them until well frothy.  Pour into the bowl of dry ingredients and add the rest of the wet ingredients to the bowl.  
4.  Mix until all ingredients are combined.  Lumps are normal in the batter.  Do not overmix.
5.  Add the batter by the half cup onto the pre-heated waffle iron until batter is spread evenly.
6.  Cook each waffle for 4 minutes.
7.  Use a fork to remove the waffle, eat and enjoy!

Like I said, a very eventful week.  I hope yours went well too and that you all have exciting plans for this weekend!