Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Alteration: White Dress to Crop Top and Skirt

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This little white dress has been kicking around my closet since I got married in Greece 8 years ago. It's a cotton dress originally from Anne Taylor Loft, and I got it on sale for 20$ in the dead of winter, which was perfect for a civil ceremony (with a warm wrap) at the court house.

But... since I wore it to my wedding, I couldn't think of it as anything other than bridal wear until I found a tutorial online (that I can't find anymore!) for turning a strapless dress into a crop top and skirt set. Perfect! Now I can wear the bottom of it as a skirt if I want to, or a tiny bit of skin barring dress if I'm feeling adventurous. It's really just a tiny tiny bit, as you can see from the photo, less than an inch really, and I like it that way.

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This alteration was painstaking. I carefully unstitched the skirt from the top, then refinished both raw edges. I added an invisible zip to the top, and kept the original zipper in the skirt (it's a side zip). I also took in the bottom of the skirt by a couple of inches to make it more straight rather than a-line.

WhiteCropTopAfter

So that's that! Looks like something I'd want to wear on a tropical vacation somewhere instead of my patio in the freezing cold spring. It was really cold out there. I'm glad you can't see me shivering.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mom's Pink Wool Jacket (Refashion)

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This jacket had seen better days. My mom likes to tell me that she wore it when she was pregnant with me, some oh more than 30 odd years ago. I remember seeing her wear it when I was a kid, and always thinking of it as "mom's coat". I've always admired the stitching details on the shoulders and collar.

By the time I got my hands on it, the wrists and hem had gone threadbare. The lining was ripped in places and just falling apart. The pockets had also fallen out. I set out to do a total overhaul. I'm afraid I didn't take a before shot, but what I did do was cut off the arms, and add some dark pink wool color blocking to it. I also brought up the bottom hem by 2 inches to get rid of the damaged parts. The biggest job was redoing the lining. I used the interlining as a template to cut out a new lining, and fiddled with easing in the sleeves.

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Check out that luscious new satin lining. It was my first time "bagging a lining" and I'm surprised that by some miracle it just worked. It's silky and warm and cozy now. The interlining really made a difference! I sewed the original interlining back in because it was only a little raw in a couple of places. I actually sewed the lining twice, because I had no idea what it meant to ease in a sleeve and cut off the excess fabric (mistake!). The result was a lining that was too tight and restricted motion. I originally also skipped adding in the interlining and I could feel the wool poking through the satin, so I had to start from scratch.

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Here's a detail shot of the new pockets and sleeve. Now I have to confess... I messed up the pockets by putting them in backwards the first time around. I had to take them out and start again with some scrap satin I had lying around. I also replaced the original faded pink buttons with these white / chrome ones I had lying around in my stash. I'm not totally sold on the button color, but it is an improvement from the original. Maybe I'll swap them for dark pink or tortise shell someday...

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But now the coat is comfortable and useable again. Yes the original wool is a little bit worn out, but the coat's got so much sentimental value that I can't bear to part with it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Vintage Sequin Clutch

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This panel of sequin fabric has been kicking around my fabric stash for a very long time. It's actually quite special, so I wanted to make sure that I could turn it into something nice. The sequin fabric is a panel from my mom's debutante dress (the only thing that still survives from it). It's all beaded by hand too (WOW). It's been reborn as a sequin clutch purse, with a detachable pearl wrist strap.

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There's the panel in the middle, a panel of stiff felt to create the purse body, cotton to create a lining and a white zipper to close it all.

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So the first thing I did was create the lining. It's a simple zippered pouch without a lining. It's also inside out so the edges on the outside are unfinished.

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Next, because there's beading all the way up the edges of the sequin fabric, I hand sewed up both sides. I couldn't cheat with the sewing machine. When the sides were done, I slipped the felt inside.

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Then I put the lining inside the felt, and hand-sewed (again)the edges of the sequin fabric to the edge of the zipper. Add a strand of faux pearls around a detachable clasp, and the clutch is done. It's still very delicate and will be treated with care. At least now it won't be stashed away in the closet and will get to have another day in the sun.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sourdough English Muffins

I tried this recipe for Sourdough English Muffins over the weekend and I'm impressed with how well they turned out.

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These look like proper muffins, right? With great texture on the inside too. I didn't change anything in the recipe except to use cornmeal for dusting instead of semolina. I also used a cast iron pan to cook them and they turned out just fine that way. I didn't use a circle cutter, just shaped round shapes with my fingers so they're not all the same size, but I ended up with 10 muffins.

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They're calling for a little butter and jam... yum.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sew & Tell: Kimono Sleeve Robe

It's rained and rained, so I haven't had a chance to take many sewing photos lately. I haven't felt crafty lately either, just in the mood to curl up under thick blankets and sip on hot tea. All winter, I've been shuffling around the house in fuzzy robes and sweats, and my old robes were starting to get worn out so I decided to make a new one.

kimono robe


I had this funny velour (if that's what it is) fabric for a long time. Its silky if you smooth it in one direction, but bristles if you go in the other. It looks a lot like crushed velvet but it's got stretch, and it shed when I cut it. However, because it's a knit the edges didn't really need any finishing and the construction was pretty simple.

There are only 6 pieces:
  • One rectangle for the back
  • Two fat rectangles for the sleeves
  • One long thing rectangle (turned into a tube) for the shawl collar
  • Two rectangles with one corner cut off in an angle for the front panels
  • One long thing rectangle (turned into a tube) for the belt
It hits my knees, its warm, but thin, and because of the odd fabric, it stays in place instead of sliding open the way silkier fabrics do. I'm pretty happy with it!

Want to make your own? Here's a tutorial for something similar: Kimono Cool by Elle Apparel. Of course you can use satin, or silk, or jersey too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recipe: Crusty White Sourdough

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This is a delicious crusty sourdough that reminds me of a traditional European loaf. All those nooks and crannies that make this bread perfect for dipping in olive oil or soup.

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Crusty White Sourdough
Makes 2 small loaves or 1 extra large loaf
Total time: 3 hours + overnight proof + 40 minutes baking

Ingredients:
  • 230 g fed 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 455 g unbleached white flour
  • 255 g water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
Note: Doubling the recipe works great too.

Method:
  1. Mix all ingredients together, except the salt. Let it rest in the bowl for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the salt and knead the dough until it reaches a medium level of gluten development. It should take less than 5 minutes by hand.
  3. Transfer the dough to a wide oiled container, cover, and place the container somewhere warm like the top of the fridge.
  4. Fold the dough over once after 50 minutes
  5. Fold the dough again after another 50 minutes.
  6. After 30 more minutes, divide your dough in half and shape it into two loaves. I flattened it, rolled it, then put it into bread pans.
  7. Stick the bread in the fridge overnight.
The next morning:
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Take your bread out of the fridge and slash with a knife.
  3. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until it's golden brown.
  4. You can tell it's done if it sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom of the bread. If you hear it crackling as it cools that's also a good sign.
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Tips:
  • To add toppings like sea salt and herbs (left loaf in the photo), or sesame seeds (right loaf in the photo), rub a little water on top of the loaf before slashing the bread, then sprinkle your toppings. The water will make it adhere to the loaf better.
  • When I make this bread I'll feed the starter before work, prep the dough when I come home, stick it in the fridge and bake it the next morning.
  • If you are impatient, skip step 7, let the bread proof at room temperature for another 1.5 hours, then bake at 400 degrees.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Recipe: Light Rye Sourdough

speltbread

This is my go-to sourdough recipe, because it never fails. Substitute rye flour for whole wheat or any other fancy flour you wish. The loaf in the picture is actually made with spelt instead of rye, which gives it a slightly nutty flavor. Because it rises in the fridge overnight, the bread has time to develop deep flavors, and sourness.

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This is another bread that's excellent for sandwiches. I took this photo while the bread was still hot from the oven. It's so nice to wake up to freshly baked bread.

Light Rye Sourdough
based on the Norwich Sourdough
Makes 2 small loaves or 1 extra large loaf
Total time: 3 hours + overnight proof + 40 minutes baking

Ingredients:
  • 180 g fed 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 450 g unbleached white flour
  • 60 g whole rye flour (or spelt, durum, whole wheat)
  • 300 g warm water
  • 10 g salt
Note: Doubling the recipe works great too.

Method:
  1. Mix all ingredients together, except the salt. Let it rest in the bowl for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the salt and knead the dough until it reaches a medium level of gluten development. It should take less than 5 minutes by hand.
  3. Transfer the dough to a wide oiled container, cover, and place the container somewhere warm like the top of the fridge.
  4. Fold the dough over once after 50 minutes
  5. Fold the dough again after another 50 minutes.
  6. After 30 more minutes, divide your dough in half and shape it into two loaves. I flatten it, and roll it, then put it into oiled bread pans.
  7. Stick the bread in the fridge overnight.

The next morning:
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Take your bread out of the fridge and slash with a knife.
  3. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until it's golden brown.
  4. You can tell it's done if it sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom of the bread. If you hear it crackling as it cools that's also a good sign.
Tips:
  • When I make this bread I'll feed the starter before work, prep the dough when I come home, stick it in the fridge and bake it the next morning.
  • If you are impatient, skip step 7, let the bread proof at room temperature for another 1.5 hours, then bake at 400 degrees.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sew & Tell: Canvas and Denim Duffle Bag

A break from the bread posts today. There is sewing to share! I needed a bag for weekend trips away, something easy to carry and not something like wheeled luggage. The solution: a duffle bag with a shoulder strap.

dufflebag 1

When I think of a duffle bag, the first thing that comes to mind is a smelly nylon bag full of gym clothes. This is nothing like that.

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It's made of canvas and denim to reinforce the bottom of the bag. The denim was recycled from an old pair of jeans, and it's quilted so that the bottom has some firmness to it. A walking foot would have helped here (there's some puckering) but it still does the job.

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And it has a detachable shoulder strap, along with a little ribbon for the zipper pull.

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It's fully lined, and on the inside there is one long pocket along one side, and smaller pockets on the other. The seams are (very imperfectly) bound with bias tape, so there's no fraying, and it holds it shape better. I flipped it inside out so you can see the interior.

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It's not flawless but it's already gotten so much use that I'm super satisfied with it.

Improvements for next time:

I wish I'd designed some outside pockets. The pockets I originally included were too shallow to hold anything so I sewed them closed. The pockets on the inside are too low in the bag. They could have been an inch or two higher, even though they're large enough to hold my toiletries. Also, the shoulder strap isn't adjustable because I didn't have enough cotton webbing so I just made it the length I prefer.

P.S. If you fly discount airlines something like this comes in handy. I made this bag to fit Ryan Air's carry on luggage limits.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Recipe: No-Knead Rustic Sourdough

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This is a no-nonsense white loaf that's still packed with flavor. There's no kneading involved, and it's got a tight enough crumb to make it ideal for sandwiches.

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No-Knead Rustic Sourdough
Adapted from Bread and Companatico
Makes 2 small loaves or 1 large loaf
Total time: 5 hours rising + 40 minutes baking

Ingredients:
  • 500 g fed 100% hydration sourdough starter*
  • 300 g water
  • 600 g unbleached all purpose flour / bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
* Feed your starter the night before, then mix the bread in the morning for a slightly tangy loaf. Feed your starter in the morning, and mix the bread 6 hours later for a mild loaf.

Method:
  1. Mix the sourdough with the water and the sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Add the flours and the salt (last).
  3. Gently mix all ingredients together until all the water is absorbed.mixedDough
  4. Dump the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and seal the bowl with plastic wrap.
  5. Let rise at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size (around 4 hours).
  6. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape.
  7. Cover the shaped dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let it proof for 1-2 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  9. Slash loaves and bake for 35-40 minutes. 
  10. Optional: To create a crunchier crust, add steam. Put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven, or throw a couple of ice cubes into the bottom of the oven, or spritzing the loaves with water spray bottle. 

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sourdough Workshop: Cleaning Up

[photo Dishwashing by Christopher Cotrell]
Cleaning up flour and water can be a bit of a pain. You have to be extra careful not to get dough in your drain or you'll end up with a backed up sink in no time. I learned this one the hard way.

Here are some tips for cleaning up when you're baking
  • Use cold water to wash your bowls and floured utensils! Warm water will cook flour, and you'll end up with gummy sticky bits instead of flour dissolved in water.
  • Adding a little white vinegar can help break down the gluten, and make it easier to clean off your sink.
  • A bench scraper is exactly what you need for cleaning off a surface with fine bits of dried dough stuck to it. Scrape it off like ice off a car wind-shield, throw those dried bits in the garbage, then wipe your surface with a damp cloth to get the rest.
Happy baking :)

Start from the beginning: Sourdough Workshop Index.