Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Poor Neglected Blog

My poor blog. Its being neglected as much as my craftiness is. Moving and starting a new job are rough on my creative time, but I'm determined to set aside some time sooner rather than later. I will be back :-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gift Guide

The holidays are upon us and I'm already done with half of my shopping, woohoo! I even scored a treat for myself on cyber-Monday :-)

I am an admitted etsy addict. I simply love the idea of paying artisans directly for their unique work, rather than paying to keep up a retail store. There are also some good deals to be found on etsy, especially for the most competitive category which is jewelry. I'd love to promote etsy more but I do think it can be a bit overwhelming at first for newbies because there is so much stuff! So I put together a gift guide for people to check out that includes some really unique pieces as well as some good deals! Its roughly arranged to have more expensive items on the left and less expensive items on the right. The respective links are copied below the picture.

For her
For him
Child or Animal Lover
The Gardener
Fancy Schmancy Stocking Stuffer
Unique Gift Ideas

These are, of course, only single items from some great sellers. If you like something I'd definitely recommend browsing the artist's store.

Happy Shopping!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Finished product

Done duh done done DONE :-) My latest project has turned out looking pretty cool. Of course now I've been coming up with plenty of ideas to make it better. As you can see, its kinda like a kilt reinterpreted as a bustier. While I'm happy with the end product, I can think of quite a few ways to do it better next time. The most important part would be to use better fabric for the tartan outer layer so that the lining can be lighter. There is a lot of simplification that could be done as well and still keep the overall look the same... but I'll leave that alone for now. I think its time for me to move on to finishing final layer on the practice wedding dress.

I also want to get going on creating some jewelry for Christmas gifts. That should be fun :-)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Progress and Yumminess

Its been so long since I last posted! Life has taken a turn towards the crazy lately, and I've been so determined to finish the plaid bustier that I just haven't had anything to report. I've done some wood cutting and painting and fixing up the exterior of my house, but its brown and really not very visually or narratively stunning so it hasn't inspired me to write.

What I do have to show is some very awesome lemon meringue pie that I made the other day. Why? Our chickens started laying eggs so we had to think of things to make that require lots of eggs. Why on earth the first thing I thought of was lemon meringue pie, I don't know. It makes no sense because as far as I can recall, I've only made it one other time in my life in middle school or early high school. Anyway, since my inner psyche was craving lemon meringue pie I obliged and it turned out AWESOME. Other than the crust being the usual messy pain in the a$$ process it was relatively easy and quick to do. The "free range" eggs have almost orange yolks, so they turned the lemon custard a deep yellow marigold color and made for a nice stiff meringue. Next time you're looking to impress someone try this pie. Its not something you see around much and if you do, it is highly likely its the jello version which doesn't taste nearly as good. The only real tips are to use real lemons for the lemon juice, only grate the zest of the lemon not the white rind, and let it set up in the fridge for a few hours before eating it :-)

...and finally... Done! Sorry, but I don't have the completed pictures here, only the in process ones. It turned out looking cool but because of the bulk of the fabric, its not quite as slimming as I'd hoped for... but still worth it. Unfortunately it took a RIDICULOUS amount of hand sewing time which means its completely un-manufactureable and definitely not something I could make and sell on Etsy because its hard to convince people to pay for the weeks worth of time if its still made with polyester blend fabrics from the craft store. I wish there were a decent fabric shop that was closer than 5 hours away :-(

I'll get some completed pictures up on my next post.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pear Shaped

The latest and greatest creations

Black flannel bustier and pict of interior and boning

Evidently I am a pear shaped person. The supposedly size Small/Medium Singer sewing form that I'm using now (shown above) has the bust at the smallest adjustment possible and the hips at the widest adjustment possible. I've always known that I'm about a size larger on my lower half but this is just ridiculous... I'm 36C on top which is the upper half of the spectrum, yet for a "Medium" form somehow I'm at both the large and the small extreme. This is crazy. The other crazy part is that the torso can't get any shorter but it can extend longer. It works for me at its shortest, but I'm a tall person, all 5'11" of me! Who could possibly want it extended? I don't think Singer has updated this thing since 1950, and I don't think it worked very well then either :-P

Oh well, enough ranting and raving on that product. Thank goodness it works, just barely. On a high note, I've finally got a good fit on my bustier (made from the wedding dress pattern) and used it to get the dress form in the right shape! The plan is still to turn it inside out and put a plaid layer on the outside, but it hasn't happened yet. At least the important part is done! I've been distracted by so many things lately and I'm starting to lose faith on my ability to break even on my Etsy shop, but I am very certainly getting better at sewing and adjusting. Its awesome to see an idea that was in your head work out for real. Now I just have to finish all of the projects I've already started!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


In an effort to get a near perfect fit on the dress I'm making (and to get a bit more practice in before sewing on expensive silk) I've used the dress pattern to make a bustier/corset style top. I'm doing it in two layers, a lining with the boning attached, and an overlayer. Last night I finally thought I was finished getting the perfect fit... and today I put it on and it looks a bit baggy. AUGGGGHHH! Baggy on a fitted top does NOT look good, so I've still got more work to do. I guess I will just fit it on a good day and hope to god I'm not bloated on a day I want to wear it (or plan three days in advance to avoid ALL salt in my diet... would that work?).

My creative work has been few and far between lately but I did put together some new earrings for my Etsy shop. My favorite is this cluster of moostones. Moonstone has a VERY light blue and rainbow iridescent shimmer that is really pretty but its so subtle that single little moonstones by themselves tend to simply look off-white most of the time, which is ok but not really very impressive. In these earrings I've clumped a lot of moonstones together which means that at any given angle at least a few of the moonstones will be reflecting their blueish rainbow creating an overall milky, glowing effect. The other earrings turned out nicely but I haven't been able to get good pictures of them yet.

My project for today is a telescope cover for my fiance's very large (like six feet tall) telescope which can't leave the living room and go back to the shed until it has a cover :-P That and readjusting the bustier so that it fits perfectly (and applying those changes to my practice wedding dress pattern)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Apple Pie!

Ever since fall started to hit I've been thinking of apple season, cider, and apple pie. Growing up we lived near orchards so in the fall we'd go through and pick the apples that had been left on the trees unripe at picking time and were now ripe and occasionally a little bit punchy with fermentation. Unfortunately I'm not in an apple orchard area now, so I have to wait for the grocery store shelves to overflow with the onslaught of apple harvests.

This is usually the only time of year that I make pie. Its a lot of work and for most things a crisp is just fine, but for apples it is just so much better as pie. I learned how to bake when I was a kid (I went crazy for a few months when I figured out you could MAKE candy!) so I figure it'd be charitable of me to share my essential tips to those who don't do it often enough to perfect their own technique, not to mention my secret ingredient for ultra yumminess :-) I think my main motivation for sharing is that I downright hate badly done apple pie. Apple jelly + Crisco crust does NOT make a real apple pie and shouldn't even be allowed to bear the name "Apple Pie". If you intend to use this as an actual recipe, please read to the bottom before starting.

First off is the crust. Most recipes are pretty basic: flour, shortening, water, salt, and maybe a touch of sugar. Here is one that is close enough: I always use butter instead of shortening. It makes a huge difference in the texture and flavor. A half and half mixture of butter and shortening is also acceptable. The IMPORTANT thing in making a crust is not to knead or process it too much, as it loses its crumbly flakiness and becomes tough. The first step to make sure it isn't over kneaded is to very thoroughly cut in the butter to the flour (with a pastry cutter, fork & knife, or food processor) until the whole mixture has a bit of crumbliness to it. When adding water in the next step, I end up using more water than is called for (depending on the recipe) to avoid kneading the dough. Mix the watered dough very carefully until at least 95% of the mix is sticking in what usually looks like shredded clumps. Gather everything together and press it with your hands a bit to get it to stick together. Knead the dough 3-4 times (DON'T over knead) before putting it in the fridge and eventually rolling it out, rolling the flattened circle back onto the rolling pin, and then unrolling the dough over the pie pan. Be careful to have lots of flour on the dough as you roll it out, because the extra water makes the dough slightly stickier.

Now for the apple filling. The best apples for pie are Jonathans, Jonagold, or similar. They are also great to mix in with other apples, such as Golden delicious. Do NOT use Granny Smiths or Fuji apples. These varieties are too hard and take too long to cook, leaving you with a potentially burnt crust (they can be used if you cook them down a bit first on the stove like you would apple sauce). Peel and cut the apples into roughly quarter inch slices (the harder the apple, the thinner you should make your slice). If you make pies more than once a year, an apple corer/peeler/slicer is a great little tool to make this go faster. If you aren't sure how many apples to use, pile the apples into the empty pie pan until it looks like about the height you want it. Put all the cut apples into a large bowl and add about a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon or more of nutmeg (I LOVE fresh ground nutmeg), sprinkle in a quarter cup or so of brown sugar (the brown sugar gives the apples a bit of caramel flavor but you can use white or turbinado sugar if you prefer), and a bit of flour or corn starch (guess 2 Tbsp flour or 1/2 Tbsp corn starch). Mix it all up, then add a half cup of a sweet whiskey (Crown Royale or Seagrams work well, no smokey whiskeys though), toss, then cover and let sit for at least an hour, though I like to let it sit overnight.

No, this isn't going to make your apple pie alcoholic (it all cooks off) nor will it taste like whiskey (kind of like fondue doesn't taste like kirsch). What it does is help to soften the tartness and sweetness and bring out the caramel and thick cider-like flavor. Put it all together and bake at 350 F until a butter knife can be easily inserted into the apples. Take it out, let it cool a bit, and then enjoy! (Mine is cooling on the rack right now :-)