Tuesday, December 29, 2015

More & Less in 2016

Do you get excited about the New Year? I often treat it like no big deal, but this year feels different. I feel more compelled to put some serious thought into the coming year, lest it slip by un-noticed. I don’t want more of the same old, same old. I want this year to be special. So I’ve put together a list of things I want LESS of and MORE of in my life.

  1. LESS Stuff – The clutter growing in my house and the clutter growing in my mind both have to go. Even though most of the extra junk in the house is hidden away in the attic, the basement, and the closets, I still want to get rid of it. I want to pretend I live in a tiny house. I want MORE open space and lightness. I want to detach from material things even more.
  2. LESS Worry – I will not allow myself to worry about the future, about my children, the bills, all the sadness in the world… I want MORE trust, MORE faith, MORE joy. I give all the troubles over to God.
  3. LESS food. Yep, just less overall eating. We eat well around here. We eat clean,  homemade, often homegrown, gluten-free (3 out of 5 of us), and delicious. I just eat too much of it. I know I can do with LESS food. I want MORE energy, MORE yoga, MORE walking.
  4. MORE organization – of the stuff that gets to stay in the house and of the stuff in my head. This may require some furniture swapping or repurposing as well as more self-discipline. Ouch, it hurts already.
  5. MORE creativity in many ways, but definitely in sewing ways! I hope to do interesting projects that push me to learn new things. Last year I tackled zip flies and buttondown shirts. 2016 will be the year of the welt pocket! 
I've never done a year-end round up post, but I do think they are a good idea for a couple of reasons. First, I have gained quite a few new followers recently so I thought it would be a good idea to show some of the highlights. Second, it is so beneficial for me to look back through the year and see what stands out and think about what to do this year.

The following represent my very favorites. Some are favorites because they feature a technique or pattern or fabric I love. Many are featured because they have been worn so much that it deserves to be mentioned. 

January was a good, busy month for sewing producing lots of well loved clothes for Elena. These all include some fun handiwork with reverse applique, crochet, and a freezer paper stencil. Click the picture to go to the post.
Otium Sweater with reverse applique
McCall's 6785 with crochet trim

Freezer paper stencil tee and yarn/bead embellished skirt

February was still bitterly cold outside but I escaped by thinking about summer and sunshine. I love the colors of both of these outfits. I especially love that the carnival printed dress was a window valance I found at the thrift store. 

Caroline Party Dress

Bow Back Otium and Tiered Skirt

March was a slow month, but did result in one well-loved piece for Olivia. We had fun collaborating on this one. Anytime she actually wears something I made for her, I call it a win.

Pernille Pencil dress turned tunic
April showers brought out the need for flowers before May. I just couldn't wait after the longest, coldest winter in a while so I made flowery Twisted Trousers and some pieces to mix and match.

Spring Essentials to Mix and Match
May brought on the nice weather and brought out the summer clothes! I sewed a lot, but these are the most worn pieces. Most of these include some kind of upcycled fabric along with pattern hacks. I love changing patterns up to suit my needs.

Maternity skirt to Japanese pattern shorts
Hello Kitty Gumnut Dress Pattern

Izzy Top in knit and a recycled scarf
Kimono Tee color blocked

June was another very productive month of sewing filling in the gaps in Elena's wardrobe. These are the pieces that were worn the most.

Flowery shorts and sweet halter
More Twisted Shorts and a foxy tank

July wasn't a month for much sewing. Summer is a busy time and I like to take the time to be outside as much as possible. I did however, cross a major item off my sewing bucket list by making myself a buttondown shirt to sew along with Sew the Show Parenthood.

Sewaholic Granville in gingham

August and the return to school is always inspiring for me. I tried hard this year to plan Elena's wardrobe to be very comfy and very mix and match. This month I found time to add hand embellishments again and that made me very happy. 

All the stripes
Hand-sewn bindings on a modified Nessie Top

Embroidered skirt and a Mini-Sutton blouse

September allowed me to cross off another bucket list item. I sewed jeans! It wasn't really that hard. This was my third zip fly, and I think I've got the hang of it now. It's good not to be afraid of things. Now I have choices. I don't really have much trouble buying ready to wear jeans, but knowing I can sew my own, is pretty empowering.

Butterick Jeans

October was a good month for creativity. We had gorgeous weather the whole month. My sister was in town for a visit. I had successful sewing experiments. It was a good month.

Rose embellished Tinley Tee
Self-drafted Circle Shorts

November was a dud. I sewed a little, but mostly unblog-worthy nothings. I spent quite a lot of time on this jacket and am proud of myself for making it, but I admit I haven't worn it once. That's partly because I'm not sure how to style it, and partly because it's just a bit big all over. I find the waist length awkward for most of my wardrobe. So no link here. If you  really want to read about it, you'll have to search the archives. Lol. I also made myself quite a few t-shirts, but there wasn't anthing special to them so I never photographed them.

December was much more fun than November. I participated in a very fun blog tour called Sew the Show: 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon. I made a couple of looks inspired by the movie Princess Bride. I enjoyed this challenge so much. This pink Bimaa has been worn so much already it's crazy. Andrew's performance season hasn't begun yet, but I hope he'll wear his black buttondown as much or more than his ready to wear one with the too short sleeves. He also said he would be willing to model for me again so now I'm thinking he can be part of my January look for Sew the Show: Downton Abbey. We'll see if I can get him to leave the house for pictures next time. (Both pictures go to the same post.)

Prince Humperdinck in a pink Bimaa and velvet skirt

Marco Shirt 
Well that was the longest post EVER! I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that you may have MORE or LESS of whatever you desire too! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sew the Show: 6 Degrees of Separation

Welcome to the next stop on the Sew the Show: 6 Degrees of Separation Blog Tour. This is a not a costume series and it's not a competition, but it is a series celebrating the love of Hollywood and all the sewing inspiration found in our favorite movies and tv shows. How many of these sewing bloggers do you recognize?

The whole tour begins and ends with Kevin Bacon! Each stop along the way connects through an actor, actress, director, or significant other. There was one crazy hour on Facebook where we hashed it out to see who had the fastest fingers and I was quick enough to land the 15th spot. My lucky moment came when The Nightmare Before Christmas was picked by Ula of luluandceleste.com so I quickly picked out Chris Sarandon who is in that and also starred in the Princess Bride. It is such an iconic, funny and sweet fairy tale to draw inspiration from, and it's one of my whole family's favorite movies. There aren't many movies that our entire family can enjoy together having children that are 17, 15 and 4, but this one is perfect for us.                                                                                               

Image result for The princess bride

I definitely wanted to sew something based on Chris Sarandon's character, that scoundrel Prince Humperdinck. Elena was soooo disappointed that she wasn't going to get to be Princess Buttercup, so I thought I'd better make this appealing somehow. And if you know me at all, you know it also has to be practical, useful clothing. Prince Humperdinck wears lots of heavy velvet tunics with billowing cape-like things. I'm not sure what they are, but I settled on a skirt and cape with a comfy Bimaa sweater. I chose rich jewel tones and of course, there is velvet and trim.

Can you ignore the graininess to get the idea?

The blue velvet had been passed down to me and was just waiting for this challenge to come along. I cut the cape out first and based it on a Big 4 poncho pattern I had in my stash. I added the trims, lined it in purple, and added a metal clasp.

Remove the cape, and you have a practical outfit. I made the skirt based on what fabric was left, which wasn't much, but it allowed for 3 inverted pleats on both front and back. It has a zipper and button hidden in the center back pleat. The waistband is handstitched inside for no visible stitches on the outside. The hem was also done by hand. I love how it turned out.

The sweater is a LouBee Bimaa made out of leftover sweater knit from my Jalie Drop Pocket Cardigan. Although I've made many a Bimaa in my days, this was the first time I used the hoodie option, and I absolutely love it! So does Elena. I loved it so much, I made 2 that day. 

So Elena was happy, but there was more sewing to be done. My nearly 16 year old son Andrew is making his blog debut here, as inspired by the dashing Westley. Andrew's only condition was that all pictures would be taken inside our house, no location photo shoot for him. As you wish. Andrew plays electric guitar in the Pit of our high school's show choir. He is nearly 6' 4" tall with extra, extra long arms. Those arms come in really handy as a swimmer with hopes of competing in a Division I College program, but they are a real problem when trying to buy dress shirts. 

Sis Boom Patterns was so kind to give me the Marco Shirt Pattern for this post. (While I received the pattern for free, my opinion of this pattern is my own and is not influenced by that.) I sewed it up in some black Kona cotton from Joann's. The members of the Pit are not to be seen so they have to wear all black. Westley of course wears a black peasant shirt with laces up the front. No young guy dresses that way these days, but the Marco fit our needs perfectly. Replace the sword with a guitar, and here is my young Westley.

I can honestly say that sewing this shirt was a great experience. I had made myself a sleeveless buttondown this summer so I was halfway there having done a standing collar. The new parts were the cuffs and sleeve plackets. The Marco directions and tips worked perfectly. I sometimes don't enjoy the precision required with this kind of sewing, but this went so perfectly. Everything matched up so exactly. The topstitching is so good too. (Patting myself on the back.) I really took my time spreading it over several days. I will be making many more of these for him over the years. 

The only trouble I had is related to my sewing machine. It always balks any buttonholes that are on anything slightly uneven. The only one I had trouble with on this shirt was the top collar buttonhole, and I still have to resolve that, manually I suppose. He does have to wear a tie and black dress pants for performances.

You've probably noticed his hair and facial hair. It's quite alarming for a mom to see her son looking so wooly and grown. The lack of shaving is a swimming thing. He won't shave until high school Districts in February! Can't imagine how he's going to look by then. I also made him a black slouchy beanie to cover some of that hair. I used an old shrunken sweater of mine, taking advantage of the ribbing at the bottom for the hem of the hat. The mask is from Elena's "Incredibles" birthday party so it's not quite the right shape, but close enough.

So that's it folks. Please be sure to check out all the stops on the tour, including today's bonus stop. Click the image to hop over.

If you'd like to join the Sew the Show Facebook group you can do so here.  If you are feeling inspired and would like to sewalong, you can link up your projects using the hashtags #sewtheshow, #sixdegrees, or even #baconsewsexy
Thank you so much for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How I Make Homemade Yogurt & Frozen Yogurt

Are you hungry? Did you eat a good breakfast today? This is what I've been eating lately: fresh, homemade yogurt with honey, granola, and fruit. It's a great way to start the day. I've really enjoyed learning about making yogurt at home and wanted to share some tips with you. There are lots of tutorials already out there for different methods, but I want to show you what works best for me.

The process starts with heating your milk to about 210 degrees F. I use regular whole milk because I haven't managed to find organic whole milk that isn't "ultra-pasteurized" at my local grocers. My milk is free of growth hormone though, so that's something good. For thicker yogurt, hold the milk at that 210 degrees for about 30 minutes to let some of the water evaporate out leaving you with thicker milk. This makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Yes, I'm screaming that, so don't ignore that tip.

(Yesterday, I got a stock pot just the right size so I won't have to overfill this pan anymore. I may have burned the bejeezers out of a previous pot forgetting about dinner on the stove one day, but I won't admit it. I've been making-do, but I'm happy to have my new deeper pot.)

After 30 minutes, move the pan into the sink filled with cold water (and ice if you want) to cool it to around 110 degrees. Stir now and then to help it cool faster. When it gets to about 120 or a little less, remove one cup's worth and stir in plain yogurt (either from last week's batch or store bought). I use 3 quarts of milk and 1/4 cup or so of yogurt. Pour that back into the pot and stir well. I use a glass measuring cup to do that and then I use it to fill my 3 quart jars too.

So far we have spent about 45 minutes total on this, which may seem like a lot, or too much in your opinion. But most of that is watching a pot steam, or watching a pot cool, so it gives plenty of time to get some other work done in the kitchen. You can chop dinner up and get it in the crockpot, or wash the cabinet fronts and windows, or make cookies. Everybody wins.

The rest is super easy. I sit my jars in a hot water bath (110 degrees) in an old cooler and don't touch it or move it for 8-10 hours. The water should come all the way up the jars to the same height as the yogurt, roughly. This old cooler doesn't hold the heat on it's own after about 6 hours, but I like it's size so I sit it on a heating pad and cover it with some old towels. My tap water is the magic number of 110 degrees so I can use it straight out of the tap. You don't want to stir or shake the jars at all because that is reputed to cause grainy yogurt. I don't move it and my yogurt is silky smooth so I guess that works? Also, be careful to make sure your milk has cooled to somewhere between 110-120 at most or you will kill your good bacteria.

I generally start my yogurt making around 9 am while Elena is at school. It's in the cooler (or incubator as they say) by 10 and I leave it until 7 or 8 pm. Remove the jars and put them in the fridge and that's it. With the additional step of steaming the milk for that 30 minutes, my yogurt comes out nice and thick. If you want to make Greek yogurt you will need to strain it. Pour it into a cloth lined strainer or a fancy "nutmilk bag" if you have one and let the whey drain out for 30 minutes to an hour.

You can see in the above photo how decently thick and creamy it is already, before straining. After straining for 45 minutes and adding some toppings, it looks like this:

Now if that's not tempting enough, you can also make your own frozen yogurt so easily you won't believe it. Take one quart of unstrained yogurt and stir in one cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. Put it in an ice cream machine for 30 minutes or so and then pop it in your freezer for a couple of hours before serving. I have an electric Cuisinart ice cream freezer I got for $40 a long time ago. (I keep the canister part in the deep freeze ready to go so I can just fill it and put it on the machine for spontaneous ice cream making at any time.) This frozen yogurt  tastes sooooo tangy and delicious it's just amazing. Add a warm, fruit crisp and it's heaven.

It's no secret that I'm a pretty thrifty girl and love to save money. My Aldi's sells one quart of vanilla Greek yogurt for $3.69. That's super cheap compared to Chobani and other major brands that are more than $5 a quart. I buy a gallon of milk at Aldi's for $2 and I only use 3/4 of it. So I wind up with 3 quarts of regular yogurt or about 2 quarts of Greek yogurt for $1.50!!! More money to divert to the sewing budget!!!!

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section. If you want to try making yogurt, I'd recommend you read lots of other tutorials too to make sure you understand the process and think about what incubation method will work for you. What do you think? Will you give it a try?