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 :-)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thinking on Color

I looked out my window a little bit ago and admired the blazing pink, orange, yellow, and green clinging in a dazzling display to a spindly brown stick. That's right, its fall, and I'm in the country. The colors are really amazing, showy, and bold. Normal people don't dare to compete with these displays. Urban fashion, I've come to realize, reflects all the glory and splendor of asphalt and concrete. Really, it does. The "new black", ie the trendiest color of the moment, seems to shift constantly between white, gray, and black. They should just call it "the latest monochrome". All the pictures of the high fashion "it" girls in NYC are surprisingly the same: black leggings or skinny jeans, a black leather jacket, usually an off-white shirt underneath, maybe a few studs or rivets scattered about, and the usual sallow and cold model stare. Couldn't they be a little bit more lively?

Perhaps its that I've got the travel bug and I'm thinking of the amazing colors that the Peruvians wear, or the neon jungle colors in Brazil. Maybe its too cold too soon, and I'm missing Summer though its barely gone. Either way I find that the latest trends are quite boring. I picked up some red tartan plaid the other day to liven things up. I have an idea for it, but I'm still ruminating on the actual implementation. It seems odd to me but now that fall is hitting, I'm actually craving color more than ever. I'm not ready to lay down and succumb to browns and muted tones. Maybe I'll make up for it by cooking dinner in a red dress (I'm sure my fiance will appreciate it). I know, its very '50s' housewife but this way I can be a part of these crazy fall colors without having to be though of as literally crazy by the local townies. What a strange life I do lead...

Up next: my secret to Apple pie

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Home Improvement and the Boots Obsession

I haven't been blogging much lately because I haven't been doing much crafting really. It all started when I convinced my fiance that we could get the vanity+sink in the bathroom replaced in 1 day. When he asked if he could just rip out the old one, I didn't see why not, so it got destroyed in the process and is now firewood. Of course then we discovered that the new one we'd picked up at a steal of a price on craigslist was a tad taller than the measurements given, had a bit of a different design, and wasn't compatible with the old faucet. So now, instead of just replacing the vanity+sink, we had to get a new faucet, redo the electrical wiring, and redo the plumbing. Mind you when I say "we" I mean "him" (my fiance) since I'm really not comfortable that I would blow up or flood the house messing with that stuff. The house and kitchen have been a disaster area ever since. Its finally 95% installed now so I can clean up the mess and go back to 'work' on a dress or two, or maybe making a necklace.

On a side note, I am forever searching for the ultimate in over-the-knee leather boots and my latest find I would scoop up in a heartbeat if it wasn't out of my price range (someday soon I'll get a real job and a better purchase price range). The 'Candela NYC' boot is best in the black leather, but the brown gives you the idea:,&navCount=9&navAction=poppushpush&color=&pushId=W_COLL_BOOTS2&popId=WOMENS_SHOES&prepushId=
(Oddly enough, both Saks Fifth Ave and Urban Outfitters sell these boots... strange bedfellows)

I like them because they are flat (I'm too tall for 4" heels) without having a funny, bulbous look to them (ala the cheap Chinese Laundry boots ), aren't 'slouchy' (a style that makes my thin calves look like they are swimming) and have a nice natural sheen to them without being patent leather. I've come to the conclusion that a good boot is like good cooking... if you can't do the basic pieces right then no amount of heel, platform, or studding will fix it (as elaborate spices and presentation can't cover up a poorly cooked steak).