Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My hipster honey in Colette's Negroni.

Sam in his new Negroni shirt, designed by Colette Patterns but stitched up by moi.

I am coming out of blogging hiatus to debut my most recent sewing success. I am proud to say that I did it! I finally finished Sam's Negroni shirt. You may remember that I promised him this shirt as a 30th birthday gift, back in April of 2011. Well, now more than 14 months later I have finally made good on my promise. And no, it does not take 14 months to sew the Negroni. I just procrastinated a lot. Like, a lot!

Sam feels great in the shirt and I think he looks sharp. I am proud of my craftsmanship, both outside and inside the shirt. Read on for a pattern review, or just to admire the pictures of him looking hip at our favorite Austin coffee shop.

The Negroni from the back, with a very handsome yoke. I fretted and fretted about his fit across the back shoulders, wondering if it pulls or wrinkles too much down into his armpit. But then I realized all mens shirts seem to do that. Maybe it is natural?
The instructions clearly walked me through flat felling the seams, even at the arm. I messed up a few times and nearly gave up, but it turns out perseverance and a bit of easing on my perfectionism was key.
Pattern Review: Colette's Negroni Shirt No. 1012

Pattern Description:
The Colette Pattern's Negroni shirt is a classic men's casual shirt with a modern slim cute. The back is shaped with a yoke and two pleats. I made some pattern adjustments and converted the camp collar to a stand collar and added button plackets.

Pattern Sizing:
Multi-sized S-XXL for a 34-52 inch chest. I made Sam a size XL.

Fabric Used:
I used Carolina 1" Gingham Navy by Robert Kaufman. Carolina Gingham is a 100% cotton simple woven fabric; warp and weft overlap one another to create a pleasurable, classic plaid pattern.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
We did several tissue fittings in order to make adjustments. The biggest issues to work around were 1) getting a slim fit in the yoke and the back shoulders, and 2) adjusting the fit of the collar and neck area, to avoid a big gape that inevitably shows up when Sam wears Ready to Wear button ups. Tissue Fitting I showed me where I would needed to adjust the shoulder width in order to give it the slim fit that Sam really likes. In Tissue Fitting II we re-sized the shoulder. I relied heavily on a shoulder-fitting post by Peter of Male Pattern Boldness in making this adjustment.

To address the shoulder fit, I matched the shoulder seam to Sam's pivot point at the top of the shoulder. To do this, I think I narrowed the shoulder width, which of course meant making changes to the yoke, the back, the front AND the sleeve.  I used Peter's example of taking fabric away from the shoulder yoke and front of the shirt and transferring the excess into the sleeve cap as my guide for this adjustment.(THANK YOU Peter!)

The front issue around the collar was solved with a 3/4 inch square shoulder adjustment (adding 3/4 at the shoulder pivot point and tapering to nothing at the collar). By decreasing the shoulder slope, I seem to have fixed some of that issue. To be honest, I forgot to look when he was wearing the shirt, and in the dizziness of the gingham I can't really tell if the fabric is still folding. But all in all I think it worked.

The length was perfect for Sam, as he has a long torso and long monkey arms. No length was added or subtracted.

As far as design changes, I added a stand collar following Peter's wonderful tutorial - Part I, Part II and Part III. I then also added a a button placket (covered by Peter in Part I). I cut the yoke and the pockets on the bias. I wish I would have cut the button placket on the bias too.

Doesn't he look handsome from the side? The length and the bold gingham are slimming and very manly.
I cut the pockets and the back yoke on the bias for design detail.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
This was a wonderful way to learn mens shirt tailoring. As with all Colette patterns, the instructions were impeccable (in their cute little book), the pattern was well tested and everything came together well. I am a big fan of the button placket and have a hunch I would have disliked the front facings in the original pattern, so I am glad I swapped those out. I don't have any major dislikes.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I highly recommend this pattern to anyone attempting a mens shirt for the first time. The pattern is great, plus the Colette pattern community really provided the additional resources and  tutorials needed to learn the techniques. I may end up sewing this again, although I am a selfish seamstress. Plus, at the rate I finished this I am not sure I will get to another one for another several years. Ha.

Colette Patterns excels at timely yet classic designs in patterns that are easy to follow and produce outstanding results. The Negroni shirt is no exception.
This really is just the perfect shirt to wear in Austin. That's my hipster honey!
I made a mistake on the front button placket and did not measure my gingham spacking correctly. But, it was too late to redo everything by the time I figured it out, so we are leaving the double thick blue stripe as a design feature. I actually think it looks better in person than in the pictures. It almost looks like it could have been done on purpose. Almost. But Sam says he doesn't care.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When a blog goes silent.

Wow. This space is pretty empty. I mean, I haven't posted in months. Not even the requisite "What I baked for the holidays" posts. Nothing. I am full of excuses. The busy holidays. I work a lot. Blah blah blah. The truth is simply that blogging has fallen off my to-do list for the past several months. To be honest, it's also sort of fallen off my I-want-to-do list too. I dunno why, but I am just not driven to post.

I do sort of miss it, but what I miss is the enthusiasm for creating something worth of a post, rather than the posting itself. I remember when I would sit and plot my blog entries by the dozens. When I would fantasize about the amazing entries yet to come. It was a time when I would undertake projects and recipes and adventure with my primary motivation being to document it on the blog. It wasn't so much about the journey, or the destination, but my ability to blog it all. I know those of you that blog know the feeling.

But I've lost that blog-lovin' feeling. It's gone, gone, gone. So, for now, I am just going cold turkey MIA. Sure, I have a few minor twinges of guilt in making that statement, or maybe it's more a feeling of defeatism, but I am reconciling those feelings with the logic that this decision should not affect many folks. After all, as I am pretty sure my mom is my only loyal blog follower (Hi Mom!).

I think (I hope) the desire to blog will come back to me. After all, I do have some fun stuff to write about. In fact, I have been hoarding some unfinished post; they are just waiting for a bit of TLC and for me to hit "publish." That, and I have some projects lined up to work on soon. And they are blog worthy. Plus spring is around the corner, so that might increase my blog desires. Who knows? One thing I can say for sure though is that I am pleased this space will remain here, mine, and ready for whatever I choose when the time is right.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The ghost of Thanksgiving Past.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all of the wonderful Thanksgiving's of my past:

2010: Our friend Jarret joined us for Thanksgiving while his wife traveled to see her family. He brought delicious mashed potatoes. In true Kate and Sam style, we promised dinner about 3:30 and actually sat down around 7:30 p.m. It always takes about twice as long to cook as I imagine.

2009: Dinner with our friends Lucy and Kipp, and Lucy's mother and grandmother who were visiting from Denver. We brought brioche clover rolls and Mario Batali's panchetta and thyme Brussels sprouts, and also a deep dish pecan pie. I enjoy spending the holiday with friends and their families, who are often so loving and friendly  that it feels like I could be at home.

2008: We headed home to Colorado to share Thanksgiving with my family in my sister Ellen's place. She was house sitting a beautiful, old mansion house in Boulder just off of Pearl Street, and it made a lovely setting for Thanksgiving. My Grandmarj  flew in from South Carolina and after dinner we enjoyed cigars on the patio. It was a picture perfect Thanksgiving.

2007: Sam and I traveled to Paris and Amsterdam for our Honeymoon.  Thanksgiving was our first night in Amsterdam, and we went to an Indonesian restaurant recommended by our B&B hosts. The food was nothing like a traditional Thanksgiving, but somehow the many dishes of brightly colored, flavorful dishes felt perfect for Thanksgiving. Plus, Amsterdam had such a lively and friendly feel after the more quiet and refined feel of Paris that it felt like we were sharing our meal with friends and family. A definite Thanksgiving to remember.

2006: Sam and I drove out to Big Bend for a long weekend in the National Park. It turns out all the campsites were booked, so we had to drive back out of park grounds and find a place to camp in the wilderness. We brought pre-made Thanksgiving food from our local Central Market and reheated everything in the dark by headlamp.

 ... and of course there have been so many more. In 2005 we spent Thanksgiving with our friends Chris and Alex in Padre Island at the home on the sea-side canal. We brought Pumpkin Beer because we knew Alex loves beer, but it turns out he only likes Lone Star! In 2004 Sam and I stayed in my rental house in San Antonio and attempted our first solo Thanksgiving, getting the meal on the table about 9 p.m. The year before his Dad visited from Tucson and I learned the hard lesson not to commit to yeast-risen cinnamon rolls for breakfast on the same day we are also cooking a full feast. It's too exhausting!

My sophomore year of college my roommate Elizabeth's family came to visit for Thanksgiving and we all spent the long weekend together site seeing San Antonio! I spent my collegiate Thanksgiving with my suite mate Amber at her family's house in Austin and learned about the UT/A&M football rivalry firsthand. And of course the Thanksgiving's of my childhood were always spent with all six of my family members gathered around the kitchen dividing and conquering the various cooking for the dinner while we watched the parade. 

Last week we shared a pre-Thanksgiving "Fakesgiving" or "Spanksgiving" with friends in Austin as part of their annual gathering of friends tradition. And today, even though I wasn't with my family, I got to FaceTime them on the iPhone and see their beautiful meal and feel almost like I was at the table. And tonight I ate a lovely homecooked Thanksgiving meal with my wonderful husband, who humored me with a FULL Thanksgiving feast even though it was only the two of us. Tomorrow, we head to our friend's John and Lauren's for a day-late Thanksgiving with their family. The moral of this is that I am a very lucky woman with so much to be thankful for.  If I am very lucky, there will be many more memorable and loving Thanksgivings in my future. Let's hope so. Gobble gobble.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Estes Park and Pumpkin Pie

In September I flew home to Colorado to take part in a family tradition - heading to Estes Park to hear the elk bugle while eating pumpkin pie. The two go hand in hand. Well at least sort of. Sure, you can have pumpkin pie without hearing elk bugle. But in our household you certainly cannot hear the elk bugle without pumpkin pie.

The time in Estes Park was good old fashioned family fun. We camped, we ate chili by the fire, we hiked, we listened to bluegrass music and drank beers. And we met new friends. In fact, the running joke of the trip was that on that trip I met the couple that will be my new best friends someday when we move back to Colorado someday - my sister Claire's friend and coworker Carissa and her husband Dave. Claire was so cute and excited when she described how well she thinks Dave and my husband Sam will get along. Dave is a software developer; Sam is a software developer. Dave has a beard; Sam has a beard. And throughout the weekend we found more uncanny similarities. Dave likes to buy shirts from shirt.woot.com; Sam likes to buy shirts from shirt.woot.com. Dave was raised vegetarian and hated it; Sam was raised vegetarian and hated it. The list kept growing and growing, making the joke of new BFFS even more hilarious. I wished Sam had been on the trip to meet our new BFFs too.

The elk bugled all night long (they don't eat or sleep during the rut, those crazy bulls!), we enjoyed pumpkin pie and the crisp mountain air, and I was able to see leaves changing and fall approaching in a way that doesn't happen in my South Texas home. And I got to take part in a family tradition for the first time. It was a lovely trip.

When I said the trip was about pie, I wasn't kidding.
Claire smiles with pie.
He/she who takes the biggest bite wins.
Chili in front of a roaring fire.
Watching those elk bugle in the distance.
Hiking in the golden aspen leaves.
The trail with the aspen canopy.
Relaxing in front of the fire.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guest Blog: Chickens for Anne, cake for all.

It has been a long while since we've had a guest post, but they are back! Today's post is brought to you by my sister Anne, who has the most adorable hen coop in her backyard, constructed by her husband Blake and decorated by her. In it, she keeps some lovely little chickens. I was introduced in September, and we are all anxiously awaiting some home laid eggs. That is because Anne is very, very good at baking cake.

Anne holds Penny before releasing her into the garden to peck.

Chickens for Anne, Cake for all.
by Anne Eden

I have a dirty confession to make.  I'm allergic to eggs.

Most of the time this unfortunate but not deadly allergy makes more problems for others than it does for me.  Inviting me to your place for brunch guarantees at least a few moments of bafflement as you try to envision a savory breakfast dish that does not rely on eggs to make it delicious.  The same goes for dessert, sauces, and nearly all breakfast burritos. So why then would I bring four chickens into my life?

Barbarella (Barbie for short) is the first chicken I have ever held, and she was sweet as can be.

Adorable chicken antics, that's why.  It's also the thrill of discovery each morning, checking to see if the ladies have left me any (non-poop) surprises.  It's spending the afternoon on my deck watching the ladies tear into the late-summer remainders of my garden, tearing into each tomato like it's the last they'll ever have.  It's the sense of self sufficiency should the global apocalypse arrive.  It's the pleasure of naming and caring for four funny pets (for the record,Lucy's the blond, Penny the redhead, Barbie is black and white, and fancy Fatima will someday lay blue eggs).

Also, although eggs in their natural state make me feel terrible, eggs once they've been cooked into something like rich golden pound cake suit me just fine.  Albumen, the protein in the white of the egg, is denatured at high temperatures. Once my ladies begin to lay, I'll have nearly a dozen fresh eggs a week.  I plan on making cake.

Their coop is a happy home, with an area for roosting, and area for laying, and plenty of space to peck around.

Eggs are necessary in baking for several reasons.  First, they act as a binder, holding all the other ingredients together within their protein-rich matrix.  Additionally, beaten eggs add air into a batter,leavening your cake as the air expands in the heat of the oven. Some cakes use beaten eggs as their only source of leavening.  And the fact of the matter is the fresher your eggs the better they will express these binding and leavening properties within your recipes.  I don't just want to make cake; I want to make the best damn cake possible.To do that, I need a steady supply of fresh eggs.

Did you know that if you buy eggs carton labeled "fancy fresh" this means the eggs are around 10 days old?  Anything not labeled "fancy fresh" is even older than that, since eggs keep well for more than a month if properly refrigerated.  The problem is that time ages us all, eggs included.  Old eggs have yolks that lose their shape, gummy whites, and even if they haven't become home to massive bacterial colonies they will make your cakes sad.  With my own mini-egg production unit out back, I have the pleasure of knowing exactly where my eggs come from, how fresh they are, and what the chicken have eaten.  I want happy cakes to fill my home, and the chickens are step one in that process.

So this fall, if you need me, I'll be out in the backyard having cake with my "ladies"

Have you ever seen a chicken coop with mini prayer flags? So cute. So Annie and Blake.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The papa bear nesting bowl.

For our fourth wedding anniversary my husband broke down and gave me an early birthday gift. We weren't going to exchange anniversary gifts this year, but he was so excited. Now I know why. I opened the carefully packed box to find the fourth bowl to complete my vintage Pyrex nesting bowl collection. I've had my eye on these bowls for ages, and when I got a new job this past spring and felt flush with cash I went ahead and purchased the three-piece set on eBay. Well, now i have the fourth. To celebrate I made him pancakes with it. I think what I love even more than the bowl is knowing a married a man who pays attention to my vintage Pyrex affection and knows enough about our kitchen to complete the set.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A little DIY for memories from abroad.

We spent a lot of time in beer gardens, brew pubs, and eating and drinking establishments on our trip to Germany and the Czech Republic this summer. So naturally, we ended up with some great memories and some coasters. Sam brought them home as a memento, but what to do with them? We could tuck them in a box, save them for an album, or put them in the junk drawer. Or, he thought, we could display them in a frame. So a little DIY project was born this long weekend.

We purchased a pack of really inexpensive frames from Target - 3 frames for $6 I think - and stuck in the coasters. But it was a bad fit. Too much white space. Glancing around, I saw our used guidebooks and the weathered map sticking out of the edge. I know we won't need it again, so I traced out the relevant areas on the map to create a backing for the coasters. Viola, they are not more visually interesting, the two coasters from the same trip are unified as a set of art, and our memories are easily jogged with images and stories from each place when we see the coasters. It was a simple but interesting little project and we hope to continue the collection with future trips and future coasters.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A place for things.

Do you like my new dresser? I do. I found it a few months ago on a trip to Austin when Anne was in town. The sticker in the South Congress thrift store said it is Tiger Mahogany, and the dresser drawer is stamped with "Northern Furniture Company, Sheboygan." I guess it was made up in Wisconsin sometime in the 30's-1950s. It's a sturdy piece with a lovely mirror, and we bought it for $260. Now, I don't know if you have shopped dressers anywhere lately, but a plywood piece-o-nothing will cost you almost $250 at Target. So I feel like we got a deal.

It looks so pretty in the dining room that I bought a bunch of pretty pink peonies to decorate. And thanks to the mirror its almost like I bought TWO bunches of peonies. Do you see our big brass peacock too? We found that in Austin a few months ago, also on South Congress. That street matches my sense of decor!

I was actually really surprise when Sam agreed to purchase the dresser, but I think he was inspired by a little furniture opportunity we fumbled recently. You see, Sam and I walked to the gym on a Saturday afternoon, and in the parking lot was a rummage sale. There was a beautiful, and I mean BEAUTIFUL, mid century china cabinet for sale. It had golden wood, old glass, and turquoise colored inlay handles. It wasn't too big, maybe five feet high by four feet wide, but still it was too big to put into our overfilled apartment. Logically I knew we shouldn't take it home. But I loved it and kept staring.

"Make me an offer." the rummage director said. She wanted rid of the piece. I looked stumped, thinking to myself "Should I offer $200? Would she accept that little?" She said "How about $35, and we'll drive it to your place right now." I wavered. I wanted that piece. I knew in my heart of hearts it was worth more, and I also could see myself putting it in my future house someday. Darn it, I wanted that furniture.

Sam, ruled by logic and good sense, did not. There was no logical way to fit it into our house. So we walked away. Me begrudgingly. Well, I Googled that piece of furniture a few days later found an exact match of the cabinet, sold in Colorado for $380! I wish we would have purchased the cabinet, if only to resell it for a small profit. But mostly I wish it was in my future house holding pretty things.

But you know what they say. Alls well that ends well, because now we have a new dresser. And we even rearranged the apartment for the better to make it fit. I think Sam was feeling some guilt for being so logical that we passed up a steal of a mid century piece, and it led him to be extra accommodating in the rearrange process.

I am happy, with only a twinge of longing for the lost china cabinet. I think our new dresser is a pretty piece, completely solid and sturdy, and now I have a place to stash all of my sewing fabric and supplies. It's a win win for everyone.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Negroni: Tissue Fit II

After the Negroni Tissue Fit I, I diligently traced and marked the pattern for alternations (so I don't ruin the original pattern). Then, we had tissue fit II where I made some pattern adjustments. Tell me what you think. Am I on the right track?

Tissue Fit II, no alterations (ignore the silly/scary face):

Looking at the fit, I can see the biggest issues to work around are 1) the fit of the yoke and the back shoulders, and 2) the fit of the collar and neck area, with that huge gape. As a key to these photos - the original pattern lines are in blue, and the original stitching line based on size XL is in orange. This is where I pinned for the first tissue fit. The lines I redrew to show a new stitching line are in black (I have not redrawn the seam allowance on here yet). From this, I hope you can get an idea of where I will be removing fabric and adding back fabric.

For the back, I knew I want to address the shoulder fit by matching the shoulder seem to Sam's pivot point at the top of the shoulder. To do this, I think I will need to narrow the shoulder width, which of course means making changes to the yoke, the back, the front AND the sleeve. Yikes, it's intimidating. The good news is that Peter's Negroni Sew-along covered this alternation in detail, so I have a good point of reference.

I used Peter's example of taking fabric away from the shoulder yoke and front of the shirt and transferring the excess into the sleeve cap as my guide for this adjustment. You can see the new line of the shoulder in black in the above. Since Sam is not narrow backed, I am tapering the new stitching line back to the size XL under the arms.

The neckline issue is a bit more ambiguous. See that orange line? The collar is very, very high at the center front neck. On Sam's ready to wear, I notice this causes a crease or a buckle of fabric around the unbutton neck as this excess caves in on itself. I can take a wedge of excess out of the chest, as I have shown, but that leaves me with a weird line to true around the front button placket. Since the pattern is gingham and will have an obvious grid, I don't want to throw anything off grain. I could just redraw the neckline, but my instinct tells me there is something more with this alteration - that either the shoulder slope or the armhole fit is the culprit. Any suggestions?

My instinct wast to pin a wedge out of the neckline to bring it down. But this might not be the right move. I forgot to see what this does to the hemline, but I can tell from the photos that the alterations swings the center front across his body at an angle. I want to be really careful about what I do to the grain line of the fabric because I want the gingham grid to line up neatly up and down and side to side.

As I look at this wedge and what it does to the pattern, I think it actually pulls the slope of the shoulder down near the neckline, decreasing the slope. So perhaps rather than a a wedge, I should do a square shoulder adjustment by adding some fabric near the shoulder, to change the slope of that shoulder. Without the seam catching on Sam's pivot point and holding the rest of the shirt up, the entire bodice front will be able to pull down lower on his chest, bringing the neckline down too. Is that sound logic? I guess there's only one way to find out.