Friday, July 29, 2011

Make This Look

Yesterday I mentioned a website that provided pattern ideas for popular dresses, and then I was so excited about my own dress project that I forgot to link you up! Here are a few I'd love to try:

And many more at Each post has a few tips to help recreate the inspiration. I'm excited to see what else they come up with!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mission: Homemade Party Dress

OK, now I know I tell you guys all the time that I've got this new pattern and fabric and I'm going to make this and that and then I never do. I know I have dozens of sewing projects all ready to go, notions and matching thread just waiting to begin. I know I can't even walk through my sewing room without wading through the sea of individually bagged projects.

But this is different.
Seriously, I went to SEVEN stores yesterday trying to find a party dress. I've googled my brains out, and come up with nothing. Is there a law somewhere that though shalt not attend thy party lest ye be adorned in skin-tight, barely-there apparel? I have a ton of dresses already, but for once it might be nice to wear something a little festive, a little fancier than usual. And so you see how I'm left with absolutely no choice than to make my own, right? This is a perfectly logical plan. Or, it was until I decided I wanted......

(brace yourselves)


Can we even refer to this as merely a dress? It shall be henceforth known as the most utterly perfect confection of times past. Because of course it's vintage, and nowhere to be found. And even if it were, it would have a 20-inch waist and cost several hundred dollars. At least.

Here's how this happened. I was browsing Pinterest (where all insane ideas begin, naturally) and found this brilliant website that provides pattern ideas to knock off popular pricey dresses. Truly genius stuff. I found this:

...Which I thought would be really cool in more evening-appropriate fabric. Unfortunately, the pattern is from Burda, which makes me want to hurt myself. So I browsed the un-ridiculous pattern websites in search of something similar, but the closest I could get was this:

...Which is probably better anyway, considering the double-tier looks exactly like an Barbie dress I have, a la 1985. But what fabric to use? Here were my first ideas:

One * Two * Three * Four * Five * Six

I don't know what it is with me and tulle. It just is, ok??

Obviously I would not do all the crap on the bodice of numbers two and three. I like how the bodice is satin or taffeta or something, and the skirt is tulle. And I like the color contrast, but I like the monotone too. Hmm decisions...
The rest of them present the same problem as the vintage one- How do I drape that tulle? I kind of have an idea in my head, of cutting the overlay piece larger than the pattern, then gathering it down on the sides, then constructing it with the pattern piece. But rarely do the ideas in my head actually turn out like imagine. And then there's the issue of the boning. The thought of the zipper alone makes me sweaty, so obviously I have no business messing around with boning. 

So I've got three options here. (Well really four if you count not doing this at all.)
1. Easy- NO TULLE. Just some kind of plain fabric that will require only one layer.
2. Medium- Fabric bodice, tulle overlay skirt.
3. Yeah Right- Recreate the vintage dress.

What do you guys think?
Even with the medium option, I'll need help- How many layers of tulle do I need? Should I just lay it on top of the pattern piece fabric and sew them at the same time? Or should I make a separate overlay skirt and apply it? If I wanted to try the vintage one, what are they using anyway? It doesn't really look like tulle. Could I do a blush pink for the base of the dress and then brown or black for the overlay? Would it show through like the tulle? That one has way more gathers in the skirt than the pattern, can I wing it?

Halp!!! I would be eternally grateful for any tips or suggestions.

Update! It has been brought to my attention that this pattern would be more appropriate!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weekend In Photos

Last weekend was our annual Bible convention, which is a fantastic time for seeing family and old friends and of course learning. It's been kind of a tradition for me to make a special dress for Carly, and one year we had matching dresses! But this year the plan kind of fell apart. I don't know what is wrong with me. I can go to work aaaaaaand... that's it. Nothing else. Maybe if I get started now, I'll have one ready by next year? hehe

Anyway, here are some photos from the weekend, courtesy of my widdle bruvver:

Look at that precious grin!! (His, not mine)

Carly wanted "bowereena hair" with her fancy dress.

Carly helping Felix "read" the Bible Story book ;)

This is the custom hair clip that was made just for this dress by Cookoorikoo. I can't believe how perfectly she matched the fabric to the dress! It was my favorite part of the outfit, and I could definitely wear it again with something else as a brooch, or pinned to my coat.
I had high hopes for this dress, I saw it weeks ago on Ruche and fell in love, excited to find something modest that wasn't the length of a generous t-shirt. BUT when I got it in the mail, I was seriously disappointed. It was poorly constructed and there were threads hanging out everywhere.
I hacked off several inches from the hem, bringing it up to my knees. It would have had to been redone before appearing in public anyway, plus pre-surgery it hit right at the calf, extremely unflattering. I liked it much better after I switched the scrap of fabric they call a belt for a wide leather brown belt. I wish I had more pictures of the whole thing, but the original looked like this:

I doubt I'll ever order anything from them again- I wrote an email complaining about the terrible quality, but never heard back. Which is a shame, because they have some really cute stuff.

ANyway, back to the baby photos :)

 3-month-old Baby Henry. I can't wait to get to know him!

Baby Felix! Well I guess I can't keep calling him "Baby" anymore, because he's like 18 months now. But still, I can't help it. I cannot tell you guys how much I love this kid. 

And here are The Producers of The Offspring. The most precious offspring known to mankind, I'm pretty positive. Which makes perfect sense, look how darling The Producers are!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

50% Off Sale!

Hey guys! Just wanted to let you know I put up a 50% off section in my shop this morning, these are the listings that I will not be remaking anymore. Ever. Either due to the fact that I no longer have the supplies for them, or they were a pain in my butt to make, or... Maybe they're just plain ugly. But maybe you like plain ugly? Also I'm going to spend August and September focusing on listing some new styles and stocking up before the autumn shopping season, so I'm going for a fresh look in the shop.  Check it out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nook Cozy

I am so pleased that this custom Nook cozy was ordered! It's my very first cozy for anything this size, and the construction design was kept the same. The customer loved chickens, so she asked for my traditional garden design with a chicken somewhere!

I love the chicken. I want to make more pieces with the chicken whom I will affectionately name Stacy, after the fantastic customer who ordered this! Here is the color scheme she chose, inspired by this photo of a handmade wedding bouquet:

This is why I love custom orders. I never would have thought to put these colors together, and definitely not a chicken! This was also the first time I've embroidered words on anything in a loooooong time:

It was really fun! I hope I'm able to find time to make more soon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nutella Cannoli

Yep, you read that right. Sweet Nutella filling oozing from a tangy, crispy fried shell.
Now this is not your traditional Italian cannoli recipe. This is more like frosting in a fried cookie. I have no problem with that.
I wanted to make something special for this month's Movie Night with my girlfriends, and the theme was Italian. I had never even had cannoli before, I didn't really know what it was. But when I stumbled across this recipe for Chestnut Chocolate and Hazelnut Cannoli, I became obsessed. They're so beautiful! Now with my feeble baking skills, I really didn't think I was going to pull that one off. I don't even know what marsala is. So I looked around for the simplest shell recipes, and I will share with you the resulting Frankenrecipe. If you want a more traditional one, go with that link above. I also made a very different filling that didn't even include ricotta, which is pretty much the main ingredient. I tried it both ways, and the ricotta just wasn't doing it. Of course I could have been doing it completely wrong, so experiment away!

 Now there are two things you need to know before you start making cannolis. First, you're going to need something on which to wrap the shells while you fry them. You can buy stainless steel tubes at kitchen specialty stores, they look like this:
They're about 5 inches long and nearly an inch wide. They're super cheap, but I needed them in a hurry. So my dad made these for me!

 Dads are awesome.

If you want to skip the whole dowel-chopping, dough-making, and shell-frying fiasco, I've heard you can buy the shells at the grocery store. But if you relish the thought of destroying frying things in your kitchen, you'll love making them yourself.
Another thing, if you are going to make a traditional filling with ricotta cheese, you need to drain it for like two days ahead of time. I didn't have a strainer, so I made this apparatus:

It's cheesecloth inside a colander resting on a measuring cup in a mixing bowl and covered in plastic wrap. A quarter cup of liquid drained out, so I guess it did the job.
On to the recipes.....

Cannoli Shells

  • 4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • cinnamon
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup vinegar 
Set up your frying pot before you begin making the dough so that the oil can heat. Pour a few inches of oil (I used vegetable oil) into a medium-sized pot or saucepan. Heat on medium low. You'll know it's ready when a few drops of water sizzle and bubble in the oil. Get your cannoli forms ready by using oil or shortening to grease them up a little so that the shells will slide off easily. Set aside a small dish with one egg white to use for sealing the dough before frying.

Cut the shortening into the vinegar, then mix in the sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, stir the egg whites into the vinegar, then add to the dry ingredients. Work the dough with your hands until... Well, until it looks like dough I guess!
Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about 1/8" thickness. Cut out circles with a drinking glass. Roll each circle out a little thinner into an oval shape. I recommend cutting and rolling one batch at a time (about three or four depending on the size of your frying pot.) Otherwise, they'll shrink back up a little by the time you get around to frying all of them.  
Pick up a circle, hold it with two fingers, and flop it around a bit so that the dough rounds out a little on one of the long sides. This little extra length is what you'll use to secure it closed.

Now you can make the shells in two shapes- long or short, basically. The first time, I rolled the ovals around the forms the short way, and they turned out mini and way too thick. Then I rolled them onto the forms the tall way, and they turned out much prettier, I thought. If you want to make the short ones, I suggest rolling the dough thinner or using a smaller glass to cut them out.

Short way:

Long way:

Anyway, whichever size you decide to make, lay the oval on the table and begin rolling the dough onto the form from the flatter side. When you reach the pointy part, apply a dab of egg white to the underside and press it into the flatter end to make a seal.

If your oil is hot enough, carefully drop the tubes with dough into the pot. Now here's where my years in a bakery paid off- You'll notice that the dough automatically wants to roll around to one side and stay there. No matter how much you flip it, the darn thing keeps rolling back and you have no choice but to stand there for ten minutes corralling all the tubes to the right sides so that they cook evenly all around. I did that for like two hours. Then I had a genius idea:

My colander was the perfect size to sit on the top of the pot. It submerged the forms without squashing them, letting them cook evenly all around so that you can go about your business. Unfortunately, I thought of this brilliant plan on my very last batch.

Here's how I got them out of the pot- with two wooden spoons. Is this the professional way? Is this safe? Use your own judgement here. 
Anyway, keep cutting, forming, and frying the dough until you get really sick of it and give up. Or until you use it all up, bless your heart. I got about two dozen done before I chucked the rest of the dough because I was too tired to finish hehe. So this recipe will probably make close to forty shells.

When the shells cool, you can make them pretty. Or do what I did, and make a disaster:

For the dip, I guess you'd call it ganache, heat a cup of heavy cream in a saucepan just until it starts to simmer. Take it off the burner and stir in two cups of chocolate chips and anything else you want in there for the garnish. Like... hazelnuts or something, I dunno.

Nutella Cannoli Filling:

  • small jar of Nutella
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • powdered sugar
  • two 8oz blocks of cream cheese
  • Kahlua
Soften the cream cheese in the microwave, or leave it out way ahead of time to soften the right way if you're a smarty pants like that. Toss it into the mixer with the cocoa, Nutella, and a splash of Kahlua. Add powdered sugar until it's a consistency that will be good for piping. Sorry, I have no idea how much powdered sugar I used. About a quarter of the bag, which really tells us nothing because I don't remember what size the bag was. Don't worry though, you got this.
Now use the big stabby-looking pastry tip to pipe the filling into the shells, or use a ziploc bag with the corner cut off. Whatever. It's going to taste the same either way.
I've read that you should put the filling in immediately before you serve the cannolis, or the shells will get soggy. Probably if you made the nice Italian shells, that would be true. But trust me, these babies were still crunchtastic at the end of the night. 

I like this recipe because you can really get creative with the filling flavors. I made a few of these for my dad with peanut butter in the mix, and they were sooooo good. Next time I want to try amaretto with some chopped cherries!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Movie Night! Letters To Juliet

For this month's Movie Night, we chose Italian food. Again. We really like Italian food. The movie was Letters To Juliet. The first time I saw this by myself at home, and I pretty much enjoyed it. It's not like the best movie I've ever seen or anything, and I probably wouldn't buy it, but it was a pleasant way to satisfy the chick flick mood. The story line was really sweet, but there were some gag-me-with-a-rusty-fork moments too. Anyway, when you watch it with a group of giggling girls those bits kind of get lost among all the cackling, leaving only the parts where we make childish vomiting noises during the sappy scenes.

(That was definitely one of them. And they did a really gross lip-suck kiss too. Shudder.)

Anyway, I made cannoli (cannolis? cannoles? I made whatever the plural form of cannoli is.) Courtney made pistachio gelato and bread salad. Talaya made tortellini spinach bake. Jamie brought wine and cheese, and Nichole made sangria.
Talaya added chicken, double cheese, and extra garlic, making it extra delizioso!

Bread salad is really... neat. Or some Italian word that means neat. Recipe is officially called Panzanella Salad, and you can get it here. I highly suggest you do. I didn't think I'd like all those veggies, but I did! And it's so pretty too.

 I don't know what was in this sangria, but all three glasses that I had were amaaaaazing. And may or may not have been responsible for uncontrollable giggling and Google+ post attempts:

(Jamie and Nichole. Aren't they adorable?)

Oh, and my husband made this... stuff. It has cherry tomatoes, black olives, and mozzarella tossed in salad vinegar with basil. I'm pretty sure I ate several pounds of it over the weekend.
I'm going to post the cannoli recipe/process tomorrow, so stay tuned!