Sunday, December 19, 2010

Being a mother is the most important job in the world. Being a grandmother is the best job in the world. Until you have had grandchildren you can not know, really. It brings a joy that can't be described but that every other grandmother knows as well. It is so totally different from being a Mom, apples and oranges. Being a grandmother is simple. It is easy. It can make you  more physically exhausted  than an iron man competition, but leave you exhilarated and joyful at the same time. It teaches you to not sweat the small stuff. You really learn what is important in life. It is truly God's reward. I am very very blessed with our 5 healthy grandchildren and thank God every night for that. The holidays are made so much more special with their presence. 

In the past two weeks I have indulged. I have spent the time making American Girl doll clothes for my Sophie. I have forgotten the joy that simple act of sewing can bring. As a child I made doll clothes with a vengeance. For my own children, I was just too busy, sad to say. There were a lots of struggles in a lot of ways in those early years. But now I can make doll clothes to my hearts content. If something isn't perfect, no matter. Sophie will still love it and never know the difference.  Making dolly clothes is certainly like eating potato chips, you just can't eat one and you have to see the bottom of the bag. Every time I foresee just a few minutes, I start another little outfit. Here are just a few of the things I have made, just a few.
I love this little plaid coat with the cut on sleeves and beret. I put some soutache on the hem and collar. All of the garments got real buttons and buttonholes, not snaps and a fake out button as the pattern usually recommends.
This reminds me of the little coat Natalie Wood wore in the Miracle on 34th Street. I made a fringed scarf and the beret to go with it.


This dress was a lot of work. I used bias ruffles for the petticoat. It reminds me of a mini version of the popular "Feliz" pattern. The sleeves and hem have gathered tulle on the edges.

This little top has matching pants and also coordinating jeans made from Grandpa's old jeans. I did a tiny fly on them and an appliqued heart. This looks like something Sophie herself would wear.

I made several other pieces too, nightgown, dresses, and today's effort an outfit very similar to one I myself wore as a child. It has a silk velvet skirt (!), silk dupioni cumberbund, and a topstitched linen blouse, all made this afternoon! I am just reveling in this fun and plan to continue after the holidays with some more jammies and a chenille robe.

Thanks for indulging this grandma.
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I've also managed to finish two more Noriko bags. I really like these. They are more substantial  than previous efforts. Hope you like......we have first an animal print tapestry with the silk houndstooth and a big wooden button. 
Next bag is made of a variety of Pendleton plaids with another big wood button.

I am keeping these two for myself! I haven't made one yet for myself and I could use a new bag.

 Our weather warmed up to near 30 º the past couple of days and DH took advantage to make paths all over our property with the snowblower. He even plows a path through the woods to our dear friends on the other side. We both make lots of use of this path and have walked home on it many a night in below zero weather, a flashlight leading the way and usually after a great night of friendship.

Now it is time to close up shop for a couple of weeks. We will be traveling to NH, MA and particularly Cape Cod. I can't wait to see the grandchildren's faces on Christmas morning. I wish you the same joy , no matter what your holiday celebration may be. God bless you all and your families, safe driving,  and see you in the New Year.......Bunny

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chocolate Coated Almond Gelees

You've been asking so here is my recipe. I devised it on my own from other jelly candy recipes I have found.

I box Sure Jell Pectin, use the YELLOW BOX, not the pink sugar free.
3/4 cup Solo Almond Filling, found in most supermarkets near the sugar and chocolate chips.
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup light Karo Corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp almond flavoring

For the Sugar Coating:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp almond flavoring

For the chocolate coating:

1 cup chocolate candy coating wafers
1 cup Callebaut cooking milk chocolate, I imagine you could use other milk chocolate
1 square bittersweet chocolate

Line a 9x9 inch pan with aluminum foil letting it come up and over the edges. That way you can lift the candies out for cutting. Spray it with butter flavored Pam.

In a small saucepan, about a 1 1/2 or 2 quart, combine 1 c. sugar and the corn syrup. Cook on med heat till boiling, stirring constantly till sugar is dissolved. Try not to splash the mixture around the pan because if it crystalizes on the side of the pan it will effect your mixture negatively. Now keep cooking on medium low until it reaches soft crack stage, 280º on your candy thermometer about 5-7 minutes. When done add the almond flavoring.

While that is cooking start in another small saucepan combine the Solo filling, the pectin , water and baking soda. It will foam up and look weird. Bring to a boil.  Make sure its a real boil, not the air from the foaming. Turn off until the the first pot is close to soft crack stage. Then bring it back to a boil. You are maneuvering two extremely hot pots so be very careful.

When the first pot has reached the soft crack stage, pour in a stream into the boiling second pot with the pectin. This should take about 2 minutes. Boil one more minute when you are done, stirring constantly.

Pour hot liquid into the prepared pan on a trivet. This is hot stuff. Let stand two hours. I put mine in the freezer to rush it up.

Once the jelly has solidified and is cool lift it out of the pan with the foil sides. Cut into one and a quarter inch squares. I used a large carving knife dipped in hot water. Put them on a sheet of parchment as you work.

Put the sugar coating ingredients in the food processor and process until fine but not powdery. Put the sugar in a ziploc. Add about 5 candies at a time and shake well. Lay the sugared candies back on the parchment. I put them back in the freeezer at this point.

Once they are all sugared and cold its time to get the chocolate mixture going. Make or use a double boiler. I did a ceramic bowl in a pot of about two inches of water. Put this on your lowest stovetop setting. There is no rush here. Put the chocolate ingredients in the bowl and let barely simmer for 20 minutes or so. Then stir until smooth and shiny. Keep those fingers out of the chocolate as any moisture introduced can seize up the whole mess. Get your gelees out of the freezer and start dipping them half way in and lay them on the parchment. You can dip them all the way but it is easier and less messy to do them half way. As you lift them out of the chocolate give them a twist to get a little swirl.  Lay them back on the parchment to get solid. I put the tray into the freezer. When they were frozen I packaged them all up in ziplocs and back in the freezer until it is time to package them up as gifts. These really freeze well.

I  hope you enjoy this recipe. I think I have only published one other. Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Three More Norikos!

Yesterday I finished three more Noriko bags. These would be great for resort wear, summertime, or for even just a fun loving teen. Next I am going to do some more serious heavy fabric  Norikos but until then here is what Santa is getting so far.
First we have the "Dancing Cranes" an Alex Henry print.

I think the hardest and most time consuming part of this process was picking out  the beads to make the little chotchkey that goes at the bottom of these bags. . It had to coordinate with the button and it really took a while to get a good match for the two.
 
This button refused to be  photoshopped to its actual color, an iridescent mother of pearl, no browns. Next is the bag with the metallic quilting.
This bag has the fabric lightly machine quilted with some copper and gold threads. I love the button on this one.

And last but not least a Noriko made with an Alex Henry fabric that looks like sharp edged grass reeds from the swamps of Louisiana. This one is my personal fave. DH goes for the cranes.
The beads on the bottom are iridescent and the button is wooden. This fabric is an ombre print, shadeing from the browns and oranges to the blues and greens at the other end of the spectrum. The opposite side of the bag is this color:
These bags were finished yesterday. Today we concentrated  on more AG dolly clothes and finished the day with another batch of candy. These are almond gelees dipped in Callebaut chocolate. I think they are my best treat yet and am having a hard time keeping my hands off of them. And I told you all I was not a candy eater, right....................Bunny

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Santa's Sweat Shop is Open for Business!

The past two days I have been punching the clock, breaking only briefly to make lunch and dinner all in an effort to help out Santa with his deliveries. First on tap are three Noriko bags. I am doing all three at once, production style and it is flying. Here are the fabrics:
The Noriko bag is the perfect vehicle for succumbing to the seduction of Alexander Henry quilting cottons. You know you have seen these awesome cottons in the store, but you are a garment sewist and these are "quilting cottons." Well now you can give in. I love these for the Noriko bag and here are the three I am working on right now.


The fabric below, for some reason, was begging me for further embellishment. So in a spirit of accommodation I free form stitched across the fabric with gold and copper metallic threads. This was done before putting the bag together but after I fused fusible fleece to the cotton print.


Now I needed to match up linings for these bags. When I choose a bag lining I like something bright, with contrast, so that when you go digging you have a bit of illumination around all the "stuff". Sometimes I use silk, sometimes poly silkies, sometimes cottons. What's important to me is the brightness so that when I open the bag I am not looking in a black hole. Here is what I chose for these three bags.
I should have these finished tomorrow morning.

I have also been churning out dolly dresses for the AG doll that Sophie will get from Santa, providing she is following her P's and Q's. These are so easy and whip right out except I decided to do a knockoff of a "Feliz" dress for her doll, definitely not a whip out. It came out really cute and I will have pics for you soon.....Bunny

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bags Done!

Well, the first, Vogue8609,  is nearly done!
First, I ran out of the red topstitching thread, right near the final stitching, of course. On the other side of the bag the topstitching is incomplete. I am not happy with the final TSing. Initially it went beautifully. Have you ever made a beautiful garment and then mucked it up with a nasty buttonhole at the end? That is sort of what is happening with the final topstitching on the top edge of the bag. So out it will come and be redone.
The lining is a basic quilter's cotton. It seemed more appropriate to me with the wool, rather than something silky. I don't even read the pattern directions any more for the pockets. For every bag I make the same two section pocket with darts to give it some space. A narrow pencil pocket and the key keeper finish up the lining. The interfacing is all Peltex on this one. It gives it sort of a suitcase feel, not sure how I feel about that.It looks like some fabric is tucked up in the bottom  but it does really sit straight with a little bother.
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Now for the bag I really like. This is a silk and faux leather bag with a cotton lining. It is Vogue  8661.  This pattern has some issues. Both of these bags are beautifully drafted and the oval bottoms fit perfectly ito the bag top, so no issues there. Here is the first of two problems. The notions requirements list 3 zippers being needed in 3 different sizes. The layout shows one side pocket, cut in one layer. So you have ONE specific size zipper required for the side pocket and the pattern piece also says "cut 1" side pocket.  Then when you see the directions on page three, number 15 and 16, it shows two side pockets with two side zipper openings. I just did one. Here is the zipper pocket on the front of the bag pulled open.


My next complaint is that if you look at the photos on the front of the pattern envelope or the technical drawings on the back of the envelope and in the directions as well, you cannot see that this is the type of closure this bag has. I have seen this closure before but here it is not particularly well executed in design. It's not that anything is particularly wrong. It's just that when it is all zipped up it hangs differently and has more of a slouchy look. So there needs to be a better description of what you are buying when you are considering this pattern. There is no mention of this cloosure design in the description either. I just think we should know what we are getting.
Once again the lining is a quilting cotton and the pocket configuration is the same as the plaid bag. I did edge the pockets with a strip of the silk houndstooth.
  To make the straps on this bag I took a simple approach. I cut the two straps on the fold so there was no center seam in the middle of the strap as directed by the pattern instructions. Why did the pattern do this?  Then I put them wrong sides together and cut the with my rotary cutter to get a sharp matching edge. I then edge stitched them twice to hold them together.
 Now, for my next act, it will be time to make the dolly clothes. Nothing too exciting with that but Santa will bringing an American Girl doll to Sophie if she is a good little girl and she will need clothes. The request is for clothes that match what I have already made for Sophie! Should be fun and I think pretty quick too. Felted wool with no edge finishing sound good??......Bunny





Thursday, December 9, 2010

Making a Key Keeper for Your Bag

It drives me nuts when I have to dig for my keys so I make one of these key keepers for nearly every bag I make. Here we go!
Cut a strip of fabric 1 3/4 inches wide and at least 15 inches long if not more. You can trim it later to be appropriate for your specific bag.
Press the strip in half. Press again folding the edges toward the center fold.
Put your edge stitching foot on. Stitch the edge on each side. I used 4 clicks from center.
Trim the ends. Run the strip thru the key holder. I've been known to run it through the wrong loop and make the entire strip. Don't do that dumb thing I did. You will only do it once. Don't try to sew the strip together the short way. It will NEVER line up. Instead, drop your stitch length to 1.5 and sew for a half inch on the length right down the center of the strip.
Trim the cut end of the strip into the shape of an arrow by angling the scissors on each side. If you leave the strip with a blunt end you will get all sorts of pokies and lumps when it comes to wrap time.

Give the cut "arrow" some fray bloc. Thread a full strand of embroidery floss about 30 inches long into a heavy, large eyed needle. I use a tapestry needle. Knot the end and trim. Put your needle between the two layers and pull to hide the knot between.

 Your needle should come out about a 1/4 inch below the cut point of the strap.Start wrapping the floss around the strap . Wrap going toward the point end. Don't pull tight as that will show a difference once you hit the doubled part of the strap. Once you get to the end with the point, start wrapping the other way back. Keep your strands nice and flat and consecutive. If it looks lumpy or uneven, try again. Wrap for about half inch or until there is about 6 inches of floss left. Run your needle into the strap and come out 1/8 inch up in the wrapped thread.


Weave the needle in and out ending as shown.

Insert the needle going back the other way, between the two straps to secure. Cut the floss  where you come out.  Wet the whole wrap with Fray Bloc.
 You are done! Now just pin the strap in between the lining side seams up near the top and you are good to go! You want your strap to sort of have the key holder sitting on the bottom of the bag. If its too long it will knot and mess up.  Now, when you use your new bag, just reach in on the side seam, grab the strap and pull out for your keys! ....Bunny

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards

She fought the brave fight with vigor and grace. May she rest in peace.

Monday, December 6, 2010

No Leopard, I Am Going Silk!


Tonight I will put the finishing touches on the plaid bag. Coming in right behind it fast and furiously is what was going to be a leopard and velvet zipper affair, again from Vogue 8661, View D. It's the upper right bag. Once I started pulling fabrics I made an entitled change. This bag will be a silk houndstooth with a copper colored passementerie for the center section and a paisley faux leather for the sides.I am cutting the pattern pieces and ironing them tonight and it will be full bore on this one tomorrow. The hand finishing on the plaid will take up TV time tonight. More to come and the candy making continues. ....Bunny

Friday, December 3, 2010

Vogue 8609 Once Again!


 I've  regrouped and am moving right along on Vogue 8609, the plaid bag. I was determined to not be undone by this and am glad I stuck with it as the re-incarnation is making me happy. First, the plaids - these are all Pendletons but I did not have enough of the white plaid for a redo. I interviewed various P plaids and decided on these four for sections of the new bag. I could have seamed the sections but because the  straps will be covering the seam I opted for a lapped constuction. I think this may eliminate a bit of bulk too. The pattern gives specific lines for laying on the straps. I had to make sure the sections lapped under the strap and you can see here they do.
The seams were pinked and it was time to move on to the suede.  At this point I have the straps partially topstitched as required, with the red thread,  and they are looking so good. It was so stress free to get to this  point.

I have to say this suede is positively gorgeous. It truly looks like a great ultra suede but it is woven. I picked it up on one of the 50% off clearance sales at Joanns. It was one of the home dec bolts. I have found some really great buys among that home dec clearance. Having worked in a fabric store for some time this suede felt to me like it would crock. That is when the color rubs off. I have found that there is a thickness and stiffness and intensity of color that exists when a fabric wants to crock. I was right in this case. I rubbed it on various other light colored fabrics. I steamed it with the iron. In all cases a bit of the color rubbed off onto the other fabric. So I washed it and rinsed/soaked it in white vinegar. That set the dye and all is fine now. I made sure.
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Ever since my children were really young I have made candies at Christmas, lots of candies. These are gifts for everyone from my immediate family to the our postmistress here in town. When they were little I would start in October and make a batch a week of something or other until it was Christmas week and time for the give aways. Everything went in the freezer and I haven't found a candy that didn't freeze beautifully. The odd thing is I am not a candy eater. I don't ever buy myself a candy bar and never put them in my grocery cart. They just don't exist in my house. I will serve my grandchildren fruit instead! But Christmas has always been different and I love the creative opportunity that candy making presents. What you see in the plate are "Salt and Crushed Peppercorn Caramels". They are fabulous. Have your ever lusted over something simultaneously sweet, salty, and buttery? This is it, in spades. The recipe is in the current Better Homes and Gardens. It makes a huge number of caramels, all of which I wrapped in waxed paper once they were cut.  So far I have made Coconut Gelees, Blueberry Gelees, Drunken Sugarplums, and the caramels. I have been trying to do a recipe a day. Tomorrow's effort will be either fudge or creme brulee marshmallows. I love the adventure of holiday cooking! Hope you have some time to invest in your creative holiday adventure, whatever  it may be....Bunny