Thursday, October 31, 2013

Apple cider donuts and donut holes

You know those incredibly perfect donuts you get when you go apple picking on a farm? Well, these are just as good. Enjoy them throughout the fall months! You could use any apple cider, but nothing could possibly beat Trader Joe's Spiced Cider, which is only available for a few months each year. This recipe was inspired by this one and this one. Here's the modified recipe:

1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup greek yogurt (nonfat)
1/4 cup skim milk
1 cup apple cider
3.5 cups AP flour, plus at least 1 cup reserved
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Cinnamon sugar for coating (~2/3 cup sugar+1/4 cup cinnamon)
Canola oil for frying
Start by pouring yourself a nice glass of apple cider. It's so delicious, and this is the best way to kick off this recipe.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

First frost watch!

Our kitchen currently looks like a jungle, and all the remaining plants outside are snuggled against the house!
Lemon tree, lime tree, calamondin orange tree, dwarf pomegranate, spearmint, orange mint/chocolate mint, lemon balm, serrano pepper, oregano, parsley, small container of basil, ginger (new, from grocery store ginger), rosemary (from cutting earlier in the summer), and some petunias (from cuttings). All safe and sound inside the door.
Pineapple sage, cherry tomato/petunia/parsley/Thai basil, small container of Thai basil, orange mint/peppermint, cabbage, Better Boy tomato/petunia/Italian basil/snap peas are all snuggled up against the house. Since the pineapple sage and Thai basil are already flowering, I decided to leave them outside. Mint is a little hardier, so I didn't bring it all inside. Cabbage likes to be cold. The big tomato pots are just too big! Hopefully the basil and tomato survives!
Tonight's frost is only supposed to hit "areas that tend to frost before other neighboring areas," whatever that means. But later in the week, we're expecting a real frost. I think the citrus trees are in for good, but hopefully I can give everything else a few more weeks outside!

Vogue 1241: sew along, day #8

Now it's time to hem your dress with a back vent. You can either follow the pattern instructions (which confused me) or just kinda wing it. I went with the second. To make the back vent, I pressed the back seam in one direction and made a little snip in the lining so it could come on the outside of the dress. Then I sewed narrow hems attaching the outside to the lining and top stitched the outside of the vent (sandwiching in where I snipped the lining) before actually hemming my dress. Note that if you do it this way, you'll have to make a pleat on one side of the lining as you hem. 

This probably all sounds very confusing (and it still is to me), so I hope my finished product pictures make sense to you.
Back vent, closed (note the topstitching)
Back vent - for the side on the right of the picture, I stitched a narrow hem on the outer fabric before folding it over and sewing it in place.
Back vent from the inside - for the side on the left of the picture, I just sewed a narrow hem and then sewed it in place.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Vogue 1241: sew along, day #7

Today will be a hand sewing day. You need to hand sew a few things:
  1. Stitch below the zipper to connect the zipper to the back seam (see this post for more details - ignore the ruffle step for this dress).
  2. Hand sew the lining to the zipper. This is easiest if you baste the lining closed all the way to the neckline, press it flat, and then re-open that seam. You'll hand sew the fold to the zipper using a blind stitch (see this post for more details - ignore the ruffle step for this dress).
  3. Sew a hook and eye at the top of the zipper.
  4. Sew the front panels together to avoid wardrobe malfunctions (optional).
Now all that's left is the hem! Since this post came late, I'll post the final day of the sew along later this evening, and I'll post photos of the finished product tomorrow.
This is what the inside of your dress should look like after all your hand sewing. The zipper will be visible on the inside but not messy, and there will be no visible raw edges.
Here's what the hook and eye should look like when it is open. I clearly need to lint roller this...
Here is what the hook and eye should look like when closed. I clearly need to lint roller this...
And here's the zipper from the outside. You have to look closely to find it! That's a good thing, it's supposed to be invisible.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Vogue 1241: sew along, day #6

Today we'll put in the zipper and finish the back seam! Your dress is almost finished. As I mentioned in the end of yesterday's post, I went ahead and sewed the side seams before doing the back seam (step 28 in the pattern). I recommend you do the same. If you need to take your dress in or out bit, it sometimes works better to do so from the back than from the sides because the armholes won't grow or shrink in the process. That being said, for dart placement, etc. it can be better to take things in at the sides. Once you finish the back, you could still subsequently alter the sides. With this dress, I thought it would be difficult to alter at the sides because the gathered pieces are all at the sides, which makes it difficult to pin everything in place while wearing it (even thought there isn't any gathering at the side seam itself).

Try on your dress. This step should be in the pattern instructions, it's so important. Pin the back shut (it's easier to do this if you have help). Mark where the back seam/zipper should go to make the dress fit perfectly. For me, this meant a 1" seam at the top of the back (waist and above), and a less than normal 3/8" seam from my hips down. This corresponds to taking the dress in 3/4" up top and taking it out 1/4" on the bottom. Unfortunately, I got lazy and really only paid attention to the top 1" seam, so I took the dress in all the way to the bottom, resulting in a dress that fit way too tightly on my butt and legs. Once the zipper is in, you won't want to take it out to make changes! I ended up making my changes along the sides.

Unpin your dress and even out your markings. You can trim everything to a 5/8" seam if you're taking the dress in, or just remember to sew along the markings you made without worrying about the excess fabric.

Push the lining out of the way. If you stitched the back neckline all the way to the edge of the fabric, undo about 5/8" (or up to your markings) so the top of the zipper can line up with the top of the fabric.

Here, I've pushed the lining out of the way. My back neckline only goes to about an inch from the edge, so my zipper can reach the top of the fabric. The top of the zipper will ultimately be encased by that neckline seam. I saved the topstitching for last. In this photo, I've already started on the invisible zipper with the first step after ironing the zipper flat, pinning one side in place.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Vogue 1241: sew along, day #5

18. With right sides up, lap right upper front over left, matching centers. Baste.
If you followed my instructions and extended the base of the front panels, the width of the crossover shouldn't really change, but it could be too wide (if you extended it more than a little bit). If this happens, just chop off the pointy part to make it fit. Use the middle front panel (piece 9) to determine the correct width. Make sure you're overlapping at the center front.
Cross over the panels, matching center front. I did not extend the width of my panels when making this dress, so the points don't reach the opposite side. Your points could reach the opposite side, just make sure they don't extend the whole thing beyond the correct width. Baste them in place.
19. Pin LOWER FRONT (9) to lower edge of upper front... Pin lower front LINING to lower edge of upper front lining, right sides together... Baste between small circles. Stitch between circles, through all thicknesses.
I actually didn't baste the lower front to the upper front before adding the lower front lining. I just pinned carefully.
Pinned the center front panel. I actually didn't baste here, but I did do this before pinning on the lining panel behind it and then adjusting the pins.
Added the center front lining panel
This is what it looks like after sewing

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Vogue 1241: sew along, day #4

10. Stitch dart in UPPER FRONT LINING (6). Press fold of dart toward center.
You should be a pro at this by now! Just remember, when stitching a dart, always start at the wide part and sew all the way through the point (off the fabric). Your last few stitches should be right along the fold of the fabric. Then tie a knot at the point instead of backstitching.
Dart in lining
Dart pressed toward center
11. Staystitch...
This should be self-explanatory by now.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Vogue 1241: sew along, day #3

5. To make dart in BACK (4), slash along solid line to square.
By slash, they just mean cut along the line. Don't cut out a wedge or anything.
5a. Staystitch back section closest to center, between upper small circle and armhole edge.
5b. Gather back section closest to the side seam, between upper small circle and middle circle.
Check out the photos under step 6 if this doesn't make sense yet. I didn't take pictures of the cutting, staystitching, and gathering since you just used those techniques yesterday.

6. Fold dart seam, right sides together, matching lower circles and solid lines, continuing to pin side back edges together, matching... Adjust gathers. Stitch... Press fold of dart and seam toward center.
When sewing this seam, the gathers might move around a little bit. To make your life easier, baste this seam, then check to make sure the gathers fall how you want them to, and then go back over with regular stitching.
In this picture, you can see where I adjusted the gathers and then sewed the seam. The dart is on the left side of this picture. There are markings on the pattern to indicate where to start angling toward the dart if it's not obvious.
Here's what the back looks like after you open it up and press. The center back is on the bottom of this picture.

7. Fuse BACK INTERFACING (5) to wrong side of back.
Again, I skipped the interfacing. It's up to you!

8. A note about reinforcing the back center seam at the bottom, where the slit will go.
I didn't do this. It really depends on your fabric and personal preference.

9. Stitch back to front at shoulders.
This should be self-explanatory, but here are some pictures for clarification.
Stitch shoulder seams
Shoulder seams open flat (this photo was actually taken at a later step... you might be able to see the lining peaking out a little under the outer fabric.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vogue 1241: sew along day #2

Let's get to work! Today we'll assemble the upper front and side front pieces. Since these steps might involve some new skills for some of you, I'll stop there and pick up with the next steps tomorrow.

1. To make pleats in the UPPER FRONT (1) on outside, crease along lines of small circles. Bring creases to lines of large circles. Baste. Baste across upper edge. Press.
I don't really know what the first basting step is. I only basted once. See the photos below.
Fold the pleats along one line (marked with a small circle) and then adjust the fold so it rests along the line marked by the large circle. You'll be pointing your folds toward the center front when you fold them down. Pin them in place, and make sure the fold follows the line you traced onto the pattern.
After folding all your pleats, baste them in place. This means you should use the longest stitch your machine has to offer. I tend to baste about 3/8" away from the edge so I don't have to worry about the stitches showing/needing removal after I actually make a seam.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Vogue 1241: sew along day #1

Today you should cut out your pattern pieces. I won't walk through the details of grainline, selvedges, etc. because you likely already know these things. If not, read through the last few sew alongs for links and details.

The fit of this dress is weird! Your measurements should tell you what your pattern size should be. My measurements put me around a size 10. Take a look at the finished pattern measurements (the circles with crosses in the middle on the tissue paper itself - for example, the finished bust measurement is on pattern piece 1). They are ENORMOUS (at least on the top half of your body) relative to your actual measurements. Because of this, I sized down to an 8 before cutting, and I also had to take the dress in about an inch in the back. Ultimately this was too much from my hips down, so I had to take it out at the sides along my legs. 

Do you see the circles with a cross in the middle? These list the finished garment measurements at the bust, waist, and hips. There is also a bottom finished measurement. Check them and compare to your actual measurements. You're most likely going to have way too much ease. Size down.