Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The gift that keeps on giving.

I am sitting with a mug of peppermint green tea and a few salted caramel butter cookies capped in milk chocolate. It's a nice way to round out a damp day, with the sun streaming in through the windows, the sounds of early commuters on the road humming up to my second-story window, and the giant box of Trader Joe's goodies finally unpacked and ready for consumption. That is, if we can bring ourselves to consume.

My husband and I are sort of food hoarders. We don't mean to be, but we struggle between the naughty angel on one shoulder that encourages us to purchase delicious treats, and the good angel on the other shoulder reminding us that apples are better snacks than cookies and dessert is not always necessary. Since both these angels are vocal, this leaves a space in between filled, and I mean FILLED, with boxes and bags and tins and jars of uneaten deliciousness in our house. Seriously people. We have an entire shelf in our pantry dedicated to candy, some of which has been there for years. We have a large box of imported alfores cookies from the November 2009 Argentinian food festival at our local market. Last week I finally threw away a box of Girl Scout Tag-a-long cookies from the freezer that have been in there for at least 18 months, maybe more.

It's not that we don't eat. Believe me, we eat. It's just that we tend to buy impulsively, and then restrict ourselves in what can best be called an irrational way. Sure, I might add an extra slice of cheese to a grilled sandwich at lunch, but break into the Maui Loa Toffee Covered Macadamia Nuts we carted home from Hawaii in April? No way. Don't you know those things are full of fat?

But, in an odd twist, one of my New Year's Resolutions is going to be: Eat the box of delicious goodies. That is because for Christmas my parents shipped us a box filled to the brim with the kind of tasty treats we covet and hoard. Behold:

Wine Crackers
Hazelnut Pancake Mix
Tiny box of Portebella Mushroom Soup
Brandy-filled Chocolates
Salted Caramel Butter Cookies
Jar of Salted Caramel
Dried Green Beans
Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee
Buffalo Jerkey
Dark Chocolate Orange Candy
Wasabi Pea, Nut, and Cranberry Mix
Mint Green Tea
Tissues (with the cutest graphics and sayings on the box)

The Trader Joe's box will be a challenge, but in a good way. I made progress this afternoon by breaking into the tea and the cookies. And it was a delight. Some people like to say "Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels" but I prefer to work with the phrase "Looking at a shelf of hoarded treats does not taste good at all, and you can always go to the gym tomorrow."

Wish us luck eating.

p.s. Also, down at the bottom of the box was a non-Trader Joe's treat, a bag of custom blended hot cocoa from the kitchen of Mike Rawley. I am a lucky girl!

Monday, February 14, 2011

My heart beets for you.

This Valentine's Day, my heart beets for you my love. Er, I mean beats for you. Or do I mean beets? Yes, I think I mean beets, as in beautiful farmer's market beets striped inside with pink and yellow. To celebrate this day of love, Sam and I cooked a day early, an old French classic that first appeared on the blog in January of 2008, my first real post. It's an oldie but goodie, and like a true love, I know you too will find it comforting, satisfying and easy to go back to again and again.

Happy Valentine's Day to all, and especially to my Sam. My heart beets AND beats for you!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crepe Sewalong: Muslin IV and IV.5

Progress = Thumbs up! I am so close to finalizing this Crepe bodice that I can almost, just almost, see the finished project in my mind. This yellow gingham version is my fourth muslin. It features the shortened side and waist darts, deeper and reshaped armpit seams, and a lowered and widened neckline. As you will see, it still requires some additional tweaks. However, all in all, I am getting close.

Observe below for more photos and analysis. And PLEASE chime in with advice and fit tips. In this home stretch, I don't want to leave anything unaltered that might need to be.

Muslin IV:
This version IV features significantly shortened vertical darts that have been curved to nip in fullness under the bust. But I am not sure they are exactly correct. They are so short that they end before my bust starts, and therefore are no longer fitting the bust area. Rather, they are releasing into a significant "poof" of fuller fabric around the low bust. I made some changes to try and correct this, see Muslin IV.5 below.

Another issue is the bodice hemline, it's all wacky and slanted, due to my over-zealous alterations. I had been attempting to lengthen the front bodice without altering the side seams at all (as I think the back length is correct). So I opened a horizontal dart/wedge from the lower side seam to the center front, adding a gradual 3 inches of length to the center front (you can see the pattern alteration here). However, what I have ended up with is a bodice pattern that is about 3 inches or more longer at the center front than at the side seam. Go figure!? You can really see this on the profile picture below. I still do think I need extra length on the front to pull down over my roundish belly, so I wonder if I could create a long, swooping "U" shape to the curve of the lower bodice, to allow more length. Because I have taken length out the shoulders it makes sense I might need to add it back to the front and back.

The armhole fits much better now that i have lowered everything and adjusted the shoulder seam. The bust dart is still too high, it just keeps getting moved up as I play with the shoulders. I may move it down another inch or so to put it back at the apex, but i don't think its the worst thing in the world here either.

I am getting drag lines from the apex to the side seams, not sure exactly why but I am certain it has to do with having a very full bust. The interesting thing is that the bodice does not feel too tight. I don't feel binding or pulling. I just see it. I am not sure the best way to correct this, and may just leave it as is and call it a consequence of my bust size. But if you have a good idea for correcting, let me know.

The back is looking pretty darn good, except for two main issues:

1) The back darts are too center-back for my aesthetics. They are running parallel to my spinal column, just a few inches outside each side of my spine. If you remember in the earlier muslin stages, I had removed the back darts to accommodate my wide waist. However, I put them back in to gather up some of the extra fabric I found in the back. So these darts were pinched out of the back to pull up the fabric exactly where the fabric wanted to be gathered. Therefore I worry about moving them. Any advice?

2) There remains excess and bunching over the shoulder blade. It's not terrible, but also not great. When I asked my husband if he could help me pinch it out and pin it so that I could try to figure out the necessary alteration, he got sort of finicky and told me the bodices looked really good and to stop being a perfectionist. However, I have already made FOUR muslins, and I am not about to quit when something is not quite right. So what do you think?

Below is my current solution to the back shoulder blade bunching AND the issue with the darts. I appreciate any feedback you can offer.

Muslin IV.5 (basically, Muslin IV with new darts and the back pinched up):

So, this is the muslin with the front waist darts altered back to a standard inverted "V" shaped dart (as opposed to the shorter curved darts of version IV). I tried one lower (my left, your right), and one higher (my right, your left). I like the look of the higher dart that is nearly at my apex. Other than adjusting the darts and the hem length, I am feeling good about this fit.

I do still need to work on the back a bit more. The excess over the excess at the upper shoulder and upper arm bugs me. It's just not perfect yet. (Also, I want you all to know that I admit upon reviewing these pictures that I had the ties pulled a bit to tightly. There is a lot of pulling around the darts and waistline. Although the bodice did not feel too tight, it surely looks it. I think a bit more ease in the ties will help this.)

To try and figure out the needed adjustment, I pinned out a tuck across the entire back shoulder blade about an inch deep, perpendicular to the grain line. On my body, you can see the tuck curve down near my outer arm, although the actual alteration was straight across. This seems to have lessened the excess in the back without restricting movement or binging mobility.

Finally, I believe the bodice front and back both need lengthened by an inch or two, to accommodate both for these tucks in the upper chest/back and the straightening of the shoulder seam. Also, I want to give the dress room for the length that will come up when the skirt is attached.

I plan to work on these alterations a bit more this weekend and hopefully trace a final pattern noting all the alterations on Sunday. In this home stretch, any advice is appreciated. Let me know your fit thoughts and advice. Thanks!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Day!

Wednesday and Thursday it was only 29 degrees in San Antonio. And last night it dusted snow across the city, and today we have a snow day! There is about .0001 inches of snow, but the roads are slippery. In fact, all of the highways are closed. Things are frozen and nobody here knows how to unfreeze them. Hehe. I love an unexpected snow day!

I am going to sew my (hopefully) final Crepe muslin, bake a 6-banana bread recipe (a double batch, to take one to the Lake House tomorrow), and hopefully prepare my pattern for a self drafted dirndl skirt to be made of my long-hoarded Liberty fabric. And I plan to drink tea and eat soup and look out the window at our South Texas Winter Wonderland a lot.

It will be a lovely day. I hope yours is safe and warm too!

p.s. It also gave me an excuse to break out by plastic Diana lens for my camera. What do you think of the above and below pictures? The Diana is often described as "dreamy" and I think that soft blurry haze is indeed a bit dreamy. Although it has blurred out my face in a bit of a ghost-like way...