Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bread: A Tragedy, by Me

It wasn't long ago that I had my first bread making adventure. A true success. But today I must install a post of a more serious and somber theme. The tragic bomb known as my first solo bread adventure.

I had a few things working against me.

1) High altitude
2) My KitchenAide literally started smoking about 2 minutes in.
3) Didn't have the right yeast
4) Not sure the water I used was warm enough
5) A colossal expiration date issue with the evaporated milk

Breakdowns aside, the boys like it and asked for seconds. Now, more about the expiration date bungle. I thought I had all the ingredients for the recipe from which I was working. Then I went to the cupboard where I knew I had no less than 4 cans of evaporated milk. Guess what I found? Two cans with a 2003 expiration date and two cans with a 2004 expiration date. Bust!

I thought, "Well, maybe they are exaggerating the suggestion to USE BY and it will be OK." Then I opened them. Oh my Lord. I knew the bread adventure was collapsing at that moment. Perhaps, actually, I should have known I was on a decline when I tried to find the yeast. But I did forge ahead with high hopes.

After a quick trip to Super Target (I heart Target) for some evaporated milk, I embarked on what would soon be a mechanical defeat courtesy my KitchenAide. You see, my teacher and beloved sister-in-law suggested that I use a BOSCH and only a BOSCH, but I wanted some time to run a cost-analysis and savings benefit (comparing purchased bread with homemade bread). What a deficient plan.

As soon as I dumped the milk into the flour my little mixer showed its true dud-ness. It started with some little noises. Then I started to smell its failure. This is when I kind of freaked out and pulled the plug -- literally -- on mixing the dough with a machine.

Kneading dough pioneer style is a false step. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But still I went along my merry road of fiasco singing tunes like, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen. Nobody knows but Jesus."

Did I mention that I halved the recipe? Anyway, I did. So I created two heavy, but little, plops of dough and set them carefully in their greased pans then put them to bed in my little oven. One hour later I found my lead balloons smelling sweet and yeasty, but looking more like lemons (the disaster kind, not the sour kind).

So, let's just say it. I'm a loser, a mess, a non performer. But I'm not going to let this misadventure get me down. No way! I will conquer the bread making challenge. And you, my friends, get to come along for the ride. Stay tuned for more missteps in the kitchen.

PS -- Hang in there on the sewing projects front. I'm working on a handbag that is really complex (for me).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Project Runway Created a Runaway

It's not my fault that I just bought 4 patterns for clothing. This is unheard of in this household, even with my compulsive shopping habits. Also, not a really great idea given my history. Who's fault is it?

Project Runway.

I'm addicted. There was some kind of marathon running yesterday leading up to the reunion episode. Oh honey, it was on all day. I didn't actually sit in front of the TV drooling. But I left it on and then just carried on with my day while I listened and then would stop in and check up on the story line. Ugh.

If you want my quick opinion on the designers, and even if you don't, here it is:

Chris March: Though he dresses horribly himself he shines when it's a glamour assignment. I don't really think he has anything new to add to the fashion scene, unless it's, "Let's go back to a bygone era and let women look like women."

Christian: OMG. This little boy can sew! I can't believe how fast he is. One minute he's sketching the next he's cutting then voila he has an entire line. But his hair, oh heavens. It's bad. I love his tote that he carries around everywhere. It's ginormous and I want to know where he got it. He's a winner and I agree he has something to say via his clothes. I'm just not sure I want to hear it. He's a little to cross-gendery for me and I shudder to consider all the ruffles on all those white shirts. It's like "shakespeare" in love gone wrong.

Jillian: Oh sweet, neurotic Jillian. Her stuff is truly elegant and I would love to see any of it land in my closet. I think she's single handedly trying to bring back the short flouncy skirt. And by bring back I mean, flouncy-er than ever and shorter than is necessary. I sense a lot of dancer/ballerina in her style. I like it all, but if fashion is headed that way I gotta get some liposuction.

Ramy: Nope. Don't like his stuff. Layers and layers and layers. Can a woman look fatter?!?!? He's talented. But not for me.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fan of the Fan Bag

My favorite bag so far...

This took all of an afternoon. I don't think the instructions in Simple Gifts to Stitch were really complete on this one. The pleat instructions were a bit hard to follow and I ended up just following what I thought I should do. I did use denim thread which I think is a nice touch.

The pattern did not call for a lining. I had to have a lining. So, I tried to make one up. It worked out, it's a little narrow in the very depths of the purse, but all in all it's great. This purse could use a snap closure or something like that. I'm definitely going to make it, again.
I'm on a stash diet, so of course this came from the stacks. It's Laurie Smith, again. (Are you getting sick of her fabrics, yet?) I'm thinking about trying this with a felted sweater. But, not sure... as I've never worked with felted anything. Might also be nice in oilcloth. Would be amazing in velvet -- though if I did it in velvet I would not do any topstitching on the pleats.
If you're in the finny and donk sew along and you're stumped on the pleats, you might want to think of them as french seams. That's what I did, and it got me through the missing spots in the directions.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Working Ahead: Ticking Tote

I know working ahead is probably not allowed, but I just had to do this tote. This is a pattern from the Simple Gifts to Stitch book -- part of the finny and donk sewing adventure. The fabrics are left over canvas made to look like ticking and a little valentine print. I departed from the pattern in a few ways:

1) made a lining with pocket
2) added bias tape to the edges of the outside pockets
3) used twill tape for handle

Ended up giving this one as a thank you to Cooper's teacher who watched the kids while I was sick. Remarkably easy pattern.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

It's Here: I LOVE IT

Modernjax, the sweet gal who had to sew for me in the Four Season Quilt Swap, sent me such a cute quilt that I'm going to have to find a way to "budget" my time and participate in this swap, again. Seriously, it is so cute it brought me back from the brink of breakup with the swap. (More on this later.)
So, aside from the cute quilt Modernjax sent me sweets, ornaments, and fun playstuff for my kids.
More on the sweets: She called them buckeyes but they were like crack. I popped them into my mouth, one after another, after another, tried to fight off my kids for the last one! Ridiculous. The quilt is just great. I love the tree, the fabric, the design, the craftsmanship, the mix of techniques.
More on the fabric: I have a few thoughts.
1. I applaud anyone who can make a fabric like the background fabric that she used work. It starts out dark and gets lighter. It MAKES the quilt. I'm not kidding. People, dare to do this. It makes a huge difference.
2. The binding fabric is light and beautiful and makes me think of sugar cookies. So precious and sweet and tames the funky shapes of the modern styling and the bold prints used in lime green.
3. And before I forget to mention it, the really brilliant part of this quilt was the quilting. She used both silver and red thread to outline stars/snowflakes and gifts (under the tree). I know what you're thinking... not a big deal... but the gifts under the tree were actually squares of fabric on the back of the quilt. This allowed the designer to work in the label as one of the packages. So fantastic. I love this idea for labels, because frankly a lot of labels give me the heebeejeebees (is that a word?!?!?!).
Now let's talk about the swap and my breakup thoughts:
I am facing a seriously busy spring. I was worried that I just couldn't devote the time to make a little quilt. So, I was just going to quit. Plus, it's not the quilt, or the size, or the system that intimidates me. It's the stress of pleasing someone out there that I've never met. I stew and stew and stew about it. But NOW with my cute little quilt in hand I'm reminded of how fun it is to get a quilt that someone -- whom you have never met -- made for you.
Also, the real reason I signed up for this swap (twice, now) was to learn something. That I have done. Both of the quilters who have sent me quilts have introduced me to ideas and techniques I would have otherwise never seen. And so, maybe I'll rethink my breakup and jump back in for Spring, too. IF Spring will ever get here. Have I mentioned that I AM BREAKING UP WITH WINTER?!?!?!?!?
In closing, Thanks Modernjax. You are a true sweetheart and really made my day/week/month.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Quilt: Folk Gone Wrong

Oh my heavens! When I look at this quilt I'm just kinda surprised it came from me. There is absolutely nothing about it that is even remotely my personality. Well, except that I love lime green and the background fabric was the palest color of lime green.
Crib size with lots of applique. I think I used blanket stitch on all of it.

Quilt: Christmas Nativity Scene

Have you ever loved and hated a quilt/project all at once? Here is a perfect example of love/hate relationship. I love, love, love the composition of this quilt. I designed every last bit of it. The black fabric of the scene is cut a little like a snowflake then satin stitched to the background (solid batik). Then I just cut strips and stitched them together for the border. I love the colors, the size, and even the quilting (just radiating lines from the "star").
I hate, hate, hate the techniques. I was such a beginner when I tackled this quilt. I used really puffy batting and it tufted through the back in a few places. It was also before I got a walking foot, so there are a few places on the back where it puckered and tucked a bit. I also wished I had used a higher quality black fabric. I think something a bit stiffer would have been nice. I also wish I had thrown in a bit more quilting.

Quilt: Wildflowers for Baby Girl R.

This is an early quilt, perhaps it was 2002-ish when I put it together. I was still learning and was experimenting with repeating patterns. As you can see, the intensity of the green leaves created a star type pattern and the wildflower pattern was nearly lost. It's crib size. It has an insane amount of individual pieces.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Three Muskateers Costume

My toddler asked for an "en garde costume" and I was like, "ding. ding. ding. ding."

I vowed to use scraps from other projects and I designed and finished it in about a day. The result, looks a little three muskateer-ish, a little coco chanel-ish. But he really likes it.

Button-Down Scarf: II

I made a quilty button-down scarfy thing for the Finny and Donk Sewing Adventure. It was a hit with my boys. Being the fabulous mother that I am, I whipped one up for them (they have to share). I used the very last of this hideous, lime-green, Disney Cars fleece. You'll remember this fabric from a nap-time tote I made for my nephew and a car mat I made for a friend's son.

Interestingly enough, son who will not wear anything. at all. ever, wanted to wear it on its own. Other son thought it was a "travel" blanket. By this I mean, have blanket, will travel. So, he'd spontaneously curl up on the floor and cuddle it every once in a while. Very cute.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Button-Down Scarf

So here's the deal. I've been sick and so I can't do a lot. But in my sitting around waiting for the antibiotics to work phase I've been doing a small amount of sewing. Mostly embroidery, but I did manage to finish this scarf. The scarf was a project outlined by the fine organizers of the Finny and Donk Sewing Adventure (a blog I've been lurking for months). If you want to know about it, just visit their site.
My scarf's concept was to have a flirty, wild look (velvet with wings) and a more "buttoned-down" button down scarf. So, tried to make it look like a wool pin-stripe suit. It is wool, but the stripe was created with the quilting.

It's rather comfortable and all the materials were on hand. I strayed from the pattern in a two ways, a) the dimensions and shape of the scarf; b) I added batting inside the scarf to make it extra warm and poofy.
When Coop saw it, he immediately asked for one. May have to find some kid appropriate fleece to make him one, too. All in all, fun project and will probably throw this in the gift stash for later gifting. Pattern found in the Simple Gifts to Stitch book.

PS--It is impossible to take a nice picture of oneself wearing a scarf. It looks all double-chin-ish. Or maybe I have a double chin. O.M.G.