Saturday, August 31, 2013

McCall's 6074-Summer Sew Along #2, Day #2

Today we'll put together most of the dress! You should have already cut out your fabric, based on day #1 (click here) of this sew along. This is a quick sew because there are only 4 long seams, 2 shoulder seams, some hemming, and the gathering in front.  However, because you have to sew each seam twice, I think it takes more than an hour (the pattern envelope says one hour)! I'll split the sewing into four days, with today constituting the majority of the dress, tomorrow focusing on the front gathering, and Monday focusing on the hemming. I'll try to post both tomorrow and Monday's sew along instructions tomorrow in case you want to do it all at once.

I recommend that you glance over a few tutorials on sewing with knits. The pattern instructions recommend to stretch the fabric slightly while sewing. You want to retain the stretch of the fabric (if your stitching is tight, it won't stretch!), but I've found that if you stretch the fabric, the stitching looks bunched up. I have read quite a few tutorials and decided to hold the fabric taught but not stretched. It's very important to use a stretch stitch, though! If you use a regular stitch, then you'll lose the stretch of the fabric. On my sewing machine, the stretch stitch is #5. If you don't have a stretch stitch, I've read that a narrow zigzag stitch will do.

Check out these two helpful tutorials/descriptions of how to sew with knits: this one from Birch Fabrics and this one from Sew Mama Sew. I didn't do everything they suggested due to lack of supplies, but the general tips are very useful. I used a regular narrow needle (though one did snap into pieces at one point). I also didn't try to do the mock coverstitch thing (will come into play Monday) because I didn't have the special needles. I apologize that both examples focus on children's clothing! I guess there are just a lot of knit kids clothes.
The stretch stitch on my machine. The
number on yours will likely be different.
Look for the lightning bolt shaped stitch.
Remember, I'm following the instructions for view A! Some of the instructions in the actual pattern itself are mislabeled (for example, the sleeve instructions say they're for View C, when on the pattern envelope, View D has the sleeves). If you're making sleeves, it really doesn't matter which view you chose, just find the correct instructions! I am not providing sleeve instructions here.

I'm going to walk through the steps on the pattern instructions and include my own commentary and photo descriptions as we go. I'll also indicate what you'll do differently if you're making one of the two variations I listed (reversible or maternity). Before starting, read the "Sewing Information" on the front page of the pattern instructions, next to the pattern layouts. This defines words and diagrams the pattern instructions will use.

1. Stitch the outer seam of BACK (1) using a double-stitched seam. Press seam allowances to one side.

This means you're going to sew one 5/8" seam, and then afterwards, you'll sew another seam so the seam allowance can't roll and add bulk to your dress. I chose to make my second seam an overlock stitch. In theory, you could trim your seam allowance before starting and use ONLY an overlock stitch, but I felt more comfortable doing a regular stretch stitch first.

Here's where I probably added a LOT of time (but also made my final product look nicer): I pressed the FIRST seam open and then back together before sewing the seam allowance together! I did this because once you've sewn the second row of stitching, you can't get into that first seam with the iron to really make it lay flat. I use my standard pressing technique: press over the stitching, press the seam one way from the right side of the fabric, press the seam the other way from the wrong (visible seam) side of the fabric, and then finally press the seam open. Then I just pressed it flat again before sewing my second seam. This added a lot of time, so it's totally optional, but it looks nice.

I previously described the overlock stitch here.
Pin together the two back pieces, right sides
together. Remember to match up the piecs
using the notch you cut!

Friday, August 30, 2013

McCall's 6074-Summer Sew Along #2, Day #1

Today we'll prep the pattern and cut and mark the fabric. This dress should be really easy to sew. The biggest difficulty will be getting used to sewing knits. This pattern could be easily modified, so I'll include instructions for two simple variations (a reversible dress and a maternity dress) at the end of each day.

Here's what you should do today:

First, read through all the pattern instructions so you have a sense of what you're going to do and what each pattern piece corresponds to. Also, make sure you understand what the grainline, crossgrain, and selvedges are. If you don't, check out this previous post. Commercial patterns like this one include seam allowance, so you don't have to worry about that. I'm making View A, so I only need pattern pieces 1, 2, and 3.

Cut out your pattern pieces. Don't cut right on the line,
leave a nice inch or so for now. If you're making one of
the short versions (like View A), you can cut right along
the hem line for View A.
Save the bottom piece of pieces #1 and #2
(the front and back). Make sure to label
them clearly! You'll want these pieces in the
future if you choose to make a different
style of the same dress.
Iron the tissue paper pattern pieces. Use low heat, no steam.
It's best to use a dry iron (no water inside) so you don't
accidentally get the tissue paper wet. You want your
pattern to be flat-a big wrinkle could change the size of
the pattern piece.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Slight delay in Summer Sew Along number 2

I decided to wait to post the first day of this sew along to tomorrow in order to have the main sewing days posted over the weekend. I don't think the fabric prep and initial sewing will take two days!

Check back tomorrow, early afternoon, for day #1 of the new sew along!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wedding Guest Book

photo by Sean Marshall Lin
Our wedding was game-themed.

No, we didn't have people play games or anything, but our table names were some of our favorite games (instead of boring table numbers), our favors were decks of cards, our Save the Date was game themed, we had a Candyland table for a dessert candy bar, etc.

For our guest book, we used the game Jenga. Our guests signed Jenga pieces. We just played our "guest book" for the first time, and it was so much fun! Each time we removed a piece, we read the message aloud. Once the tower toppled, we read all the pieces that never got pulled out. We had enough for two sets (or potentially for one extremely large tower).

I loved our Jenga guest book, and it fit perfectly with everything else!
photo by Sean Marshall Lin

Summer Sew Along #2: McCall's 6074

McCall's 6074, click the picture to purchase online
As promised, I'll start this second sew along soon (the end of August, 2013). I plan for Day #1 of the sew along to be a week from today (Thursday, August 29th). Like last time, I'll have you spend a day or so cutting and pinning with minimal sewing, and then I'll feature the bulk of the sewing over the weekend.

This pattern is VERY EASY. The most difficult aspect is that it uses knit fabric, which can misbehave while sewing and cutting.

I'll walk you through how to follow a commercial pattern-what different marks mean, what certain instructions mean, etc. Don't feel intimidated if you've never followed one before!

There is no zipper, so all you need for this pattern is the correct amount of fabric (calculate your size based on measurements, and then purchase your fabric accordingly). This pattern calls for a stretch knit fabrics, like jersey. You should pre-wash your fabric as you would wash the future garment. Most jersey knits, etc., can go in the dryer, but they might shrink, so make sure to do this before any cutting!

You'll also need matching thread and 1/4 yard of 1/2" elastic. The elastic goes in the center front under the bust where the dress is gathered.

There is a current pattern sale on the McCall's website through today (August 22nd, 2013), so if you haven't purchased the pattern yet, order it!

At this point, just make sure you have your pattern, fabric, thread, and elastic, and wash and dry the fabric before next Thursday when we'll start.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Thai Lentils and Cabbage

Inspired by this recipe from Pinch of Yum, I decided to make my own version using ingredients I had on hand. My major substitutions were to use red lentils instead of brown, purple cabbage instead of green, and potatoes instead of squash. I didn't have the tom kha paste, so I tried to incorporate similar flavors with some ginger, coriander, and red curry sauce.

Here is my variation as well as a self-critique for future improvement! I served this with rice.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Garden Update

We were on vacation last week, and we brought some of my plants with us. The individual pots of basil, Thai basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, and the rectangular pot of mint came to the beach. The other plants stayed behind under the supervision of a neighbor.

All the plants are alive and well! The cherry tomato plant had some yellow/brown/rotten looking bottom leaves, which I have since trimmed off. I think they probably just got too much water/got too wet. The regular tomato plant is growing OUT OF CONTROL, and I had to add four tall stakes to hold it up. The regular (better boy) tomato had one ripe tomato when we got back, but some creature had chewed it apart. I had to throw it in the woods. So we're still waiting for big ripe tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes are holding us over, though.

I never figured out for sure what happened to my Thai basil. The other three Thai basil plants are growing happily (and are huge). My best guess is that it was caused by a leafhopper because they are the only insects I was regularly seeing in the garden. I find it strange that it would only affect a single plant, even when there are others in the same pot, but it doesn't really matter. I threw away the plant (didn't want to keep it in with the rest in case it was diseased). Today I saw a cucumber beetle, but it flew away before I could crush it. Hopefully my plants are sturdy enough to survive a few pests!

Gardening with Bobbins of Basil - a leafhopper
Did this cute little guy kill my Thai basil? I've crushed a
bunch of them. Then I read that petunias ward off
leafhoppers, so I planted some in with my big tomato
pots about a week and a half ago. No more leafhoppers
(at least in the last two days). and no more dead plants.
Here's what happened to the Thai basil.

Here's my garden as of August 18th, 2013!

Gardening with Bobbins of Basil
Cuttings rooted over the past month or so.
Click here for details! 
Gardening with Bobbins of Basil
Can you believe how good these look after their shaky
start this summer? Click here for my "saving baby
orange tree" post.

Rooting cuttings to clone your plants

There are so many plants you can grow from cuttings! I've done this with mint and basil for a long time, but this year I have also rooted pineapple sage, rosemary, petunias, and even lettuce!

There are two ways to grow new plants from cuttings. The first is the easiest (but slower and more likely to fail). Simply cut a stem from your plant. If there are flowers on your stem, pull them off. You want all the plant's energy to go toward generating roots and not toward anything else at first. Pull off any leaves right near the bottom.

For basil, mint, etc., you should cut just like you would to harvest/trim it (down to a spot with two leaves). 

Now, put the cutting in a glass of water. I finagled this cute little bowl just for this purpose to allow me to use short little cuttings. Change the water every few days to prevent mold from forming. After a little while (a few days to a few weeks depending on the plant), roots will form. Then, move the plant to some soil.
Rooting cuttings to clone your plants | Bobbins of Basil
My cuttings bowl. A little glass bowl with a duct tape
grid to hold little plants in place. 
This year, for the first time, I tried using rooting hormone and allowing this whole process to occur directly in the soil. I've read that this will create stronger roots, and you don't have to transfer the plant while the roots are still fragile. I tried it out, and it went well! Now I have several new plants from my originals! Here is a step by step description of the root hormone method:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Easy breezy skirt, day #7

This is the last of seven days of a sew along in which we created a pattern based on measurements and turned it into a cute skirt. Here's the info on the sew along, and here's the first day. If you've been following along from the beginning, day #7 is Wednesday, August 7th.

Today's an easy day. Hem your skirt and put it on! Make sure you hung the skirt for a while (preferably overnight) before hemming.

I used a rolled hem for my skirt. You could choose a different type of hem if you know one. For a light, flowy, fabric I prefer a rolled hem. I purchased a rolled hem foot for my bridesmaid dresses, and I love it!

Before hemming, try on your skirt and cut it to be the desired length plus the hem allowance. I've found that when using a rolled hem foot, you lose ~1/4-3/8" in the hem. If you're going to do a narrow hem without a rolled hem foot, it might cost you a little more. Look through these tutorials to figure out how much excess to leave. If you don't have a rolled hem foot, hemming will involve folding and sewing once, then trimming the excess before folding and sewing again. There's no trimming step after you start sewing when you use a rolled hem foot.
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #7 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Trim your skirt to the desired length.
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #7 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Make sure the skirt is even. Trim for fit and for evenness.
Sometimes fabric will stretch a little along the bias, which
is why you hung the skirt overnight before hemming.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Easy breezy skirt, day #6

We'll finish the whole skirt except the hem today! This is important—hang your skirt overnight before hemming. Don't finish the skirt today unless you're really in a rush to wear it.

Today will primarily be a hand sewing day. There are two parts of the skirt you need to hand sew: you need to sew the waistband lining to the waistband/zipper, and you need to close up the gap below the zipper.

Before we start hand sewing, finish the top waistband seam above the zipper:
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #6 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Sew all the way to the edge along the white
dotted lines in the picture. Do this on both
Next, prepare to hand sew the waistband lining in place. If you didn't do it yesterday, press the raw edges of the waistband under 5/8".

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Easy breezy skirt, day #5

I'm posting this a little early in case anyone wants to do it tonight!

Today we'll put the zipper in on the right side of the skirt. When you put the zipper in, don't catch the lining; keep it loose. You'll hand sew that down tomorrow.

I won't reinvent the wheel here. There are a lot of good invisible zipper tutorials available online, and I've made a step by step video for the coffee date dress sew along that you can view here. I would recommend following this invisible zipper tutorial from Consult this tutorial and watch my video, and then follow the steps below:
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #5 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Iron the zipper teeth flat.
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #5 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Pin the zipper in place. The top of the
zipper should reach the top of the fabric
(and will ultimately be encased by the top
seam). Treat the bow piece as part of the
waistband (just let it fold back on the
back of the waistband).

Easy breezy sew along, day #4

Don't forget to use #easybreezyskirt if you're sharing photos of your creation!

This will be a fairly short day. I'll also post the next day (Monday, August 5th) a little later this afternoon so you can speed up the pace if you want. I made day #3 (Saturday, August 3rd) the longest day, and each other day should only be ~30-45 minutes of work for a beginner.

Before you start anything today, mark the middle of each skirt piece at the top (the narrower end). Make sure you can still see your markings on the waistband pieces (darken them up if they've faded).

You should have two skirt pieces, one front and one back. They're really the same exact pieces (each is 1/4 of a circle). Decide which side you want to be the front and which side you want to be the back. If you have a solid fabric, then it really shouldn't matter. If you have a print, it might matter to you.

Place the skirt pieces on top of each other, right sides together, with the front piece underneath the back. Then:
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #4 | Bobbins of Basil
Pin along the right side (so when you open up the seam it
will be on the left side). The front piece is under the back.
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #4 | Bobbins of Basil
An alternate view: pin along the right side. Sew along this
seam (where the pins are) with a 5/8" seam allowance.
Press this seam open.
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #4 | Bobbins of Basil
Lay the waistband out flat, right side up, with the bow
pieces closer to you.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What's wrong with my Thai basil?

What's wrong with my basil?
What's wrong with my Thai basil? The edges are kinda metallic looking
(not showing very well here). It's wilting. All happened very suddenly,
and only to one of four plants (two in this same pot).
My basil has been doing GREAT, especially what's planted with the tomatoes. The tomatoes are also doing great. I gave the Thai basil a nice haircut the other day because it was growing like crazy. Then the next day one of the two basil plants potted with the cherry tomatoes started wilting and getting a copper hue around the edges of the top leaves. Today, it was even worse. I've removed most of the wilted leaves, but now the whole plant looks terrible.

What's wrong with it? Should I remove this plant from the pot? It was doing so well, and the trimmings look perfectly fine in a glass of water. I don't want whatever this pest or disease is to kill its pot-mates (another Thai basil plant, parsley, and cherry tomatoes).

The only insects I've seen in these pots have been scarlet and green leafhoppers. I've read that they can cause damage to plants by spreading disease and sucking the sap from the stems, but this all happened very suddenly.

What's wrong with my basil? This picture is before any problems
What's wrong with my basil? This picture is before any problems
08-01-13 Trimming
What's wrong with my basil? This picture is before any problems
08-01-13 Post-trimming
What's wrong with my basil? This picture is before any problems
08-01-13 Post-trimming

Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #3

Today, we'll start sewing! Make sure you also have your iron ready. Today is the most involved day of sewing. By the end of the day, the waistband will be complete. Attaching the skirt is actually really easy. We'll do that tomorrow.

First, make sure your sewing machine is ready for your fabric type. Sometimes when working with thinner, flowier fabric than usual, you need to adjust your machine's tension. Practice on some scrap fabric. If you think the stitching looks funny, consult the manual for your sewing machine for instructions on how to adjust the tension.

We'll start with the waistband:
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #3 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Make sure you have the right type of needles. Smaller
numbers correspond to thinner fabric.
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #3 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Fold the bow pieces lengthwise, right sides of the fabric
together (you'll sew them inside out). Pin along the open
edges. You want the pins to be perpendicular to the edge of
the fabric so you can sew right over them. Do this for both
waistband pieces. Leave the straight edge (the one that
doesn't end in a point) open.
 Easy breezy skirt sew along, day #3 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Leaving the straight edge open, sew along the edge of the
bow piece with a 3/8" seam. Your sewing machine should
have markings to indicate how wide your seam is (you can
see the numbers on mine, the 15 and 20 are mm, and the 5/8,
etc. are inches). This is the only seam that will be 3/8" (it's
pretty narrow). 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cocktail night

Some tasty cocktails to power us through wedding thank you notes!

Mine: Gin, tonic, rosemary, lime juice, grapefruit juice
His: Jack Daniels, triple sec, thai basil, lime juice, lemon juice, agave syrup, fizzy water

Cocktail night | Bobbins of Basil

Easy breezy sew along, Day #2: Cut out your fabric

Today's an easy day. We'll do most of the actual sewing over the weekend. Let's get to it... cutting out fabric for the easy breezy skirt (don't forget, #easybreezyskirt for instagram, twitter, etc.).


First, fold your fabric lengthwise along the grainline so the selvedges are together. If this doesn't mean anything to you, check out my post here for details. Lay it out flat on a table. Take your skirt pattern piece (the quarter circle) and CUT ALONG THE DIAGONAL line. Now you have two pieces, each an eight of a circle! You'll place each on the fold of the fabric so it'll really be double. One will be the front, and one will be the back.

Lay out your pattern pieces more or less like mine, following the notes below.
Easy breezy skirt sew along, day 2 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Place each half of your skirt pieces along the fold, with the narrow
sides not quite touching. Place the bow piece along the side with
the selvedges. Make sure that if the selvedge has holes or a label
on it, you adjust so that part gets left out. Make sure to leave ~5/8"
of space on either side of the circle pieces.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Saving baby orange tree

Citrus Tree Rescue | Bobbins of Basil
My little citrus trees had quite the journey while moving. They moved to my parents' house back in the end of March. Once it got warm enough, my mom moved them outside. The lemon tree grew a bunch of new leaves there. Then, after our wedding, my husband's parents took them to their house. Then they brought them here on July 3rd.

The little orange tree was in bad shape! The leaves were yellowing, and over the next few days they got way worse even though I repotted them immediately into some fresh citrus soil. Then, three of the 13 leaves fell off. I knew something was wrong.

Easy breezy skirt sew along. Day #1: Create your skirt pattern and prep your fabric.

Ready to make your own skirt? Whether you're a newbie or experienced seamster, this skirt is sure to please. Use hashtag #easybreezydress on your favorite social media outlet to share your progress and boast about the final product. I'm trying pinterest's "image hover" feature for your pinning purposes. Let me know what you think and whether you prefer the button up top.

Today we'll just prep the "pattern," prep the fabric, and make sure you have all your supplies ready. If you want to cut the fabric as soon as you prep it, just wait until tomorrow to do it all.

I mentioned that if your fabric isn't quite wide enough for what I recommended, there are a few things you can do. You can A) Shorten the skirt, B) Lower where the skirt sits, or C) Get rid of some of the body of the skirt. I've written a separate post on how to do each of these three things. You can view it here!

While you prepare your skirt pattern, pre-wash your fabric if you haven't already. Some flowy fabrics can't go in the dryer, so be sure to check that before pre-washing. You should wash your fabric exactly as you would wash the skirt in the future.

Get a piece of big paper. The kind stores use to wrap fragile items is ideal, but tissue paper will also work (though it will tear easier), as will newspaper (though you have to watch for it rubbing off on your fabric), as will wrapping paper (though it's a little thick).

Calculate your total circle radius for your skirt. If you ignored my calculations for purchasing your fabric, that's ok (except not really because I originally calculated as if we'd have the waist opening for a FULL CIRCLE, oops). You don't need to worry about the letters (A,B,C,Z). Just look at the length from the middle of the circle to the end. The total circle radius is your desired skirt length (L) plus what's necessary for your waist and extra for the pleats.

Circle radius=L+[(waist+12)/π].
Easy breezy skirt sew along day 1 | Bobbins of Basil #easybreezyskirt
Your pattern will be the part of the circle in gray.

Add a hem allowance to this number. We'll do a rolled hem, but we'll do a fresh trim before hemming, so add 3/4" to your circle radius. You'll cut out this much and then trim off about a half inch before hemming.