Monday, November 24, 2014

Blueberry pie and quiche muffins

Predictably, I got no sewing done so, nope, no new dress for Thanksgiving.  Damn.

I did, however, make a successful blueberry pie.  Fruit pies are on the list of things that hate me, so I count this as a genuine accomplishment.  My fruit pies are notoriously weepy, and I hate making pie crust so they're always saddled with storebought crusts that taste like rawhide.  Blueberry pies, for some reason, seem to be particularly finicky.  My sister-in-law said that blueberry pie was her favorite, though, so we were determined to put on a good show.

One of my problems starting out is that I don't actually like pie crust.  It's always supposed to be flaky and buttery, and I have never in my life liked buttery, flaky, pastry.  Not croissants, not stollen, not pie crust, not phyllo, none of it.  I actually prefer the softer, semi-cookie-like crusts on Kroger's bakery pies even though they're not at all what pie crust "should" be.  I don't have time to reverse-engineer Kroger pie crusts, though, so we dug out a recipe for one that we remembered liking ten years ago.  A friend of a friend got it from his mom, who got it in her high school home economics class.

2 cups flour
1 cup shortening, chilled (we used butter-flavored Crisco)
1/4 cup tepid water
1 capful white vinegar (used a tablespoon)
1 egg
Added: Two tablespoons sugar

Cut shortening into flour (and sugar).  Add egg and . . . distribute.  The recipe wasn't clear on how to do this without overworking the rest of the dough.  Add water/vinegar until crust is just roll-able; should still be slightly crumbly.  I added very little water, though, since the crust seemed almost overly buttery already.  I ended up adding two tablespoons of flour and then rolling it and putting it in the pie plate before it got any warmer.  Rolled out two crusts.  Had a little ball left over (more about that later).

The pie filling was the basic Betty Crocker one, tweaked.  This is for a 10-inch pie plate (I used a big Pyrex one).

6 cups of blueberries (3 fresh and 3 frozen but separated, in our case)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
2 tablespoons lemon juice (will try some zest next time)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 tablespoon butter, cut into little bits

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients (include lemon zest if you're using it).  Toss berries in flour mixture and fill pie plate.  Cut strips to do a lattice top if you want.  I'm far too lazy to do a lattice and always just cut some rounds out with a bottle cap; I'm considering putting a little tiny spool handle on a bottle cap just for this purpose.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and dot with butter.  Seal edges and brush with an egg wash if you want.

Bake 35-45 minutes.  Make sure the filling is bubbling or the tapioca won't be effective.

Tips from friends suggested that my biggest problem was that I'm too impatient to let the pie cool before cutting it.  Ha.  But when I finally did cut it this time, the next day, it only wept a small, totally acceptable, amount:

That was it.  I split the difference between flour and tapioca because I was a bit worried that all-tapioca might be gummy, but all-flour might be . . . floury.  As it is, I'm A-OK with the texture of the filling, and it tastes good.  It doesn't ooze but it's not gelled, either. 

The pie crust is actually pretty good as far as the way pie crusts should be.  I don't like it, but it's a personal taste problem, not a bad-pie-crust problem.  This must be a pretty foolproof recipe because I have no idea what I'm doing where pie crusts are concerned, beyond "don't overwork them".

I had a small handful of dough left so I rolled it out, pressed it into two cups of a muffin tin, and mixed:

1 egg
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1 tablespoon shredded Cheddar
(should have added salt, but forgot)

350 for 17 minutes.

These were awesome, too.   They could have all kinds of fillings.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Unrealistic expectations

So, the idea was to spend this weekend sewing and figuring out how to make a decent blueberry pie out of frozen berries (advice on this, anyone?).  Realistically, I'll probably accomplish 1/10 of what I have in mind, but whatever.

I think I'm about ready to do another muslin of the New York 1490 Acorn Dress, and it's warm again now but the recent cold front reminded me that I need flannel pajamas, stat.  Mom has been pestering me to reduce her stash of flannel for awhile, including this holly print that she used on my Christmas quilt, and for pillowcases.

So, holly print it is:

I have a zillion pajama patterns but I'm wimping out and going with the most uninteresting.  I'm doing cuffs instead of ruffly wrists, though, because those would drive me nuts.

Butterick B4903 (2004): I think I got this at the Texas Art Asylum.

I splurged on the most squee buttons: 

I know, I know--matchy-matchy overkill.  I could have used plain white.  Whatever.  I wanted those anyway.  They might be too big, but then I'll just save them for later flannels or something, because they're adorable.  On a green nightgown?  I only need flannels a few times a year, even.  Ha.

Worse, I actually have flannel for two nightgowns.  Damn you, Joann's, and your stupid coupons:

Swirly buttons, just because:

Butterick 3960 (1975?) nightgown with round yoke:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gearing up for Thanksgiving

Not much going on here.  I subjected my coworkers to experimental cornbread yesterday for the office Thanksgiving lunch.  I think "new flannel pajamas" needs to move up the list of sewing projects.  I need to find out how to make a good blueberry pie using frozen berries.  I need to work on New York 1490.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Butterick 4948 Belle France 1983 drop-waist dress - DS Quilts 2014 Sweet Ruby Part II

I mothballed this for a little while but then I had an event to go to on Saturday and felt like I needed it.  I didn't have much left to do--some seam finishing, buttons and buttonholes, and the stripe on the skirt.

Friday, November 14, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part V: Tweaking, round . . . uh, whatever

I made a test sleeve last night and, of course, the sleeve ease was running wild:

Seriously, it has like ten tucks in it.  They're not quite leg o'mutton sleeves, but they're thinking about it.

The pattern does show tucks or gathers in the sleeve caps: One of my biggest peeves is when a pattern illustration shows a smooth sleeve cap and then the actual sleeve cap has a zillion extra inches and they expect you to miraculously "ease" all of it into the armscye and get the same results.  Right.  Even so, this pattern doesn't show that many tucks in the sleeve cap.  And my arms aren't skinny--a normal sleeve should fit, you know . . . normally.

So, recut #1.  I was kind of winging it.  I lowered the cap, took a little bit of width (only a half-inch, total) out at the armscye, and shifted the shape of the sleeve toward the front.

The second test sleeve was a lot better, both on me and in terms of approximating the pattern illustration:

The test bodice:

There is still plenty of room, and the crown of the sleeve is still pretty puffy, so I recut again and flattened the cap a bit more. 

I also did an upper-back width adjustment + neck darts on the back yoke.  The test bodice fit pretty well but with the smaller sleeves I think it will pull.

My next dilemma involves the bodice and [lack of an] inset belt.  The pattern actually has a waist seam and the "waistband" shown is an external belt (tied on the housedress, buttoned, apparently, on the sundress) over the waist seam.  I don't really like extraneous pieces like this, especially on casual dresses.  I added a half-inch of length to the bodice already.  It needs more.  The other option would be to shorten it again, and then shorten it a little more, and add an inset belt.  I don't see why a pattern should have the look of an inset belt and not actually have an inset belt, right?

Yeah, I'm leaning toward adding an inset belt.  I think I'll be happier about it in the long run.  So . . . more test muslin this weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part IV: Tweaking, round III

Sorry, no pix.  It was too cold.  We're getting the heater inspected for the year today, then we can turn it on.  

The underarms were much better.  I think the bodice needs to be a little bit longer and I suspect I'll need to do an upper back adjustment for width.  I'm going to resize and cut a test skirt next to make sure about the bodice, since I'm notoriously bad at estimating these things, but it has not inset belt so I suspect it will need another half-inch of length, at least.  (Or I guess I could add an inset belt.  Hmm.  The "inset belt" in the pattern illustration is actually an external tied or buttoned belt.)  I'll do a test sleeve and if it pulls across the upper back, I'll fix that, too.  It should be easy since it has the separate yoke piece.

The fabric got here on Tuesday and it's lovely--small acorns on a rather dull brown background.  I wasn't going to do any trim but now I think it could handle some dark-brown rick-rack for detail.  We'll see.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part III: Tweaking, round II

I had a lot of stuff to do this weekend and didn't get much--any, really--sewing done.  I did run off a fast bodice muslin last night.  I think the whole thing is in pretty good shape, although I'm taking about an inch out, total, under each arm, tapering out to the waist, and 1/4 inch off of each shoulder.  Baggy underarms seem to have been a thing, midcentury?  I don't know.  I don't think this would work with the sundress version, especially.  The half-inch I already added to the length of the bodice appears to be about right.

Saturday was Pioneer Day at Jones Park and Sunday, Mom and I went to Galveston.  We went on an impromptu birding trip with a local friend after meeting, and saw a bunch of night herons, an osprey, a willet, and a rail.

I took off of work on Monday and Mom and I went "Christmas shopping", such as we ever do in our family.  I confess I'm the Queen of in real life, but it was an excuse to go downtown and get fancy bagels for breakfast.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part II

Listening: 1980's playlist on Spotify.

Cut and spread.  This doesn't feel like I did much--Mispickel was sitting in my lap half the time--but I guess I kind of did.  I haven't done the skirt yet.  Resizing skirts is kind of a pain, and the fit of the bodice is more important.  

I added an extra 1/2 inch length to the lower bodice but we'll see if I need it.  If it's raining again this evening I can cut a test.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part I

Listening: Dulcimer Potential list on Spotify.  Stuff for which I need to write tab.

Also: Up to my eyeballs in Internet mourning of Tom Magliozzi.

Yes, I have a Rust-Eze sticker on my car.  And a Car Talk Plaza "parking permit", which I'm very lucky has not been stolen by any of my friends or relatives.

So we're going to by brother and sister-in-law's for Thanksgiving and, because that online quiz I took last weeks says I'm 53% girly, I want a new dress.  Of course, around here, that never means just going out and buying a new dress.  Oh, no--there's work involved. 

New York 1490, circa, um, 1950?  Unfortunately, New York patterns weren't dated and finding information on them is difficult because most pattern companies that sold in the U.S. had offices in New York, so searching "New York patterns" or whatever brings up too many hits to be of much use.  New York patterns were made from 1932 until the early 1950's, so this would have been a very late one.  If anyone has a New York catalog that features this, let me know.

 This is an impulse project. I wanted to make the housedress at left out of brown fabric with acorns (don't ask; sometimes patterns just make demands). And you can never have too many sleeveless dresses in Houston. 

I found the fabric I wanted for the sundress (DS Quilts fall 2013 Union Station, from Joann's) . . . 

(with a million miles of medium blue rick-rack trim.  This dress will be lined in muslin)

. . . but brown fabric with acorns turned out to be elusive. I got some faux-midcentury-modern fabric but it was really too orange/rust.  I've also learned, finally, that I'm a pre-MCM girl.  I just couldn't get into this.

(OMG way too orange/rust, actually.  Okay, it's not quite that bright in real life, but it's bright enough.  It will be a quilt back or something now.)

But then brown fabric with acorns (Benartex Northern Exposure acorns in "bark" brown) fell in my lap, and it would be oh, so, autumnal for Thanksgiving, so we're back on.

I've been looking for acorn buttons online.  I haven't found any I like just right, but maybe I can make some from Fimo or something.  I could do plain cream or mottled cream and brown, but acorn buttons would be so perfect.  I'm actually investigating making silicone molds, because sometimes you have to go all-out.  Also, because I'm a crazy.

It's a size too small so I spent last night--I got home early because my awesome job gives us time off to vote--tracing the pattern pieces and drawing cut-and-spread lines.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Butterick 4948 Belle France 1983 drop-waist dress - DS Quilts 2014 Sweet Ruby Part I

It seems that, if I paid attention, didn't improvise too much or decide to use too many buttonholes, and Mispickel was asleep somewhere else, I could probably make the sleeveless version of this in a day. 

I started this after lunch yesterday and have gotten in assembled.  I have to finish the armscye bias, finish a lot of seams, and do the buttons and buttonholes.  Not bad.  Buttons will be plain white; I had three left over from  . . . I think from the DuBarry daisy-print blouse.  

Somebody on Flickr asked me if bias necklines were hard.  They're not, but I used this project to do a half-assed tutorial

I'm not sure I'm wild about this dress, but I added small darts to the back of the neck and widened the upper back--the black floral dress with sleeves pulls across the upper back--and I needed to test it, anyway.  This is new fabric that I can replace if I screw up and decide I really want to re-make the dress (it's DS Quilts Sweet Ruby red tulip print and white-and-black plaid, from Joann's).

It will probably have a narrow stripe, or maybe two, of the plaid around the skirt.  It looks kind of plain.

I've made just about enough of this dress for awhile, although I'd like to get the umbrella version done because the fabric is adorable.  I didn't want to test the neck darts on that, though, because it was out of print and I can't replace it.

Butterick 4948 Belle France 1983 drop-waist dress - black floral, Part III

Listening: Gin Blossoms, "Found Out About You"

I did finish it!  I was running on way too little sleep but whatever.  You can't see the skirt buttons here, but they're there, I promise.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Butterick 4948 Belle France 1983 drop-waist dress - black floral, Part II

Listening: Old-time mix on Spotify

Crunch time!

Seriously, it will be a miracle if I get this done and get any sleep tonight.  I'm so unrealistic about sewing projects and time constraints.

I got the skirt attached last night.

 I still need to do:

1. Front facings on skirt opening.
2. Hem (facing or tape, and the hem itself)
3. Finish side seams.
4. Finish pocket seams.
5. Sleeves
6. Buttonholes
7. Buttons

I think I can get the pocket seam finish done today at lunch.  It's a little thing but every little bit helps, right?

Update: Painted fingernails!  I actually bought a new polish last night; black with purple glitter, but I wanted something more subtly creepy so I went with OPI "Planks A Lot", also known as "cyanosed lilac".  I looked for something a little darker and slightly grayer, but nobody has anything like that right now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Butterick 4948 Belle France 1983 drop-waist dress - black floral, Part I

Listening: "Long May You Run" by Emmylou Harris

Reading list: Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart.


I've deluded myself into thinking I can get this done for Friday.  Right.  I stayed up far too late last night working on it.  I got a lot done--retraced the pattern pieces, cut the bodice, did the darts, did the front facings, started the neck binding, and ran up the side seams--but I've got a long way to go.

It will have short sleeves gathered into cuffs and dark-gray pearl plastic buttons up the front.  I'm not sure yet if it will button all the way or just up the bodice:

It's kind of Wednesday Addams' grunge phase.

Later: Neck binding started.  Didn't get a whole lot done, but that's all right. 

I think it's going to have to unbutton all the way down, too.  I feel like that's more, well, grunge.  If I ever have any tattered lacy underthings, I have to have a skirt to unbutton a bit to let them peek out, right?  So . . . deploy seam ripper.  But only a little; it's not a big setback.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


I'm getting ready to go on a short trip this weekend.  Butterick 4948 Cocheco Mills blue is on hold--I suspect that taking the extra width out of the hips was a mistake.  I think it will be OK, but I'll add it back for the next one.  But I have other stuff to do this coming week.  

I'm still looking for my apron fabric but I did find my dark fabrics for the next drop-waist dresses: Black floral, gray and black homespun plaid, and two pieces of dancing skeleton fabric that a friend gave me years ago.  I thought I had about a yard and a half, total, and was trying to figure out how to make that work, but I realized last night that it's closer to two and a quarter yards, most likely.  That is doable.  

I'm still going to do a solid black yoke and skirt band.  I ordered some skull lace but it has to come from Japan so it probably won't be here in time.  I'm also going to try doing cap-style "sleeves"/extended shoulders:

More or less.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Camp Hearne living history day 2014

Saturday was a lovely day for a road trip, so Mom, Dad, and I went out to Camp Hearne to their World War II living history day.  Dad and I went last year.  I paid a $3 donation to crawl around inside a B-25 Mitchell bomber.

This year, we didn't even make it into the museum.  When we arrived, we found that the Graham-Paige car club was there.  Graham-Paiges were only made between 1927 and 1940.

There were only eight cars but one of them was a Blue Streak.  The 1932 Graham-Paige started the trend both in enclosed fenders and in shield-shaped radiators.  The black and silver car also has an 8-cylinder "Blue Streak" engine:

I'm not sure specifically how rare this car is, but my father claims he can "die happy" now that he's seen it.

The Graham-Paige Flickr set is here.

The Commemorative Air Force was back.  This year, they had the B-25 Mitchell again (although the line to go inside was really long) and a P-51 Mustang.  

The clouds were magazine-perfect, by the way. That picture was taken with a small Lumix point and shoot.  No frills.

Mom and I were standing in the shade, watching the Mustang buzz the crowd (yes, they flew it), when Dad ran up and said, "I know what you're getting for Christmas this year!"

What would that be, Dad?

"The last seat on the B-25!"

In retrospect, I'm not sure if they were trying to give me an awesome early Christmas, or trying to get rid of my by sending me up in a seventy-year-old airplane, but I got a forty-minute joyride in a World War II bomber.

They're not big inside, even if you're a six-inch crocheted chicken:

The outskirts of Hearne, Texas, if you were the nose gunner.

More here, including some short videos.

It's a little like flying in a school bus: Mostly like riding in a normal vehicle, only somewhat more rattly and with a lot more engine noise.  You wear radio headsets, partly to save your ears and mostly because you can't communicate otherwise unless you know sign language.  Also: I totally recommend it.  

I came home feeling I need to sew more 1940's dresses. 

Butterick 1983 4948 Belle France #2 Marcus Brothers Chocheco Mill blue calico: Part III

We went on a road trip on Saturday but I did get some sewing done on Sunday evening.

The skirt is attached, and I got the buttonholes sewn.  I have to finish the pocket seams still, and do the sleeves and buttons.  I have a test sleeve to baste today.  I had to piece the fabric but I should have enough.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Butterick 1983 4948 Belle France #2 Marcus Brothers Chocheco Mill blue calico: Part II

I was working on another version of this using a blue striped sheet.  I didn't like it, though.  I didn't like the fabric, I didn't like the way the dress was shaping up, it was holding up all my other projects because I felt obliged to finish it first.

I gave myself permission to be a quitter.

Sometimes you have to let yourself quit.  This was so not worth the time and effort.  It wasn't even nice fabric.  I threw it in the rag bin and moved on.

So now I'm back to the Cocheco Mills blue version, and things are back on track.  The fabric is nice.  The print is lovely.  It's behaving itself.  I sat down last night and assembled the entire skirt; I just have to finish the pocket seams and gather it onto the dress.  I need to make a sleeve mock-up, too, before I mess with the very-little yardage I have left for the actual sleeves (this is out of print; I can't get more).  But that's cool.  

The hem facing is an old-fashioned star print from Joann's:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Butterick 1983 4948 Belle France #2 Marcus Brothers Chocheco Mill blue calico: Part I

I'm still working on the blue striped version of 4948, but I started the Marcus Brothers Cocheco Mills blue print one on a whim.  I have barely three yards, though, and I had hoped to make at least short sleeves on it.  I think I can get whole sleeves if I piece them vertically.  I made the front facings and the pockets out of plain navy to save yardage.

 I'm going with plain gold-tone buttons.  I had to order more because Joann's stopped carrying them, and I had to order them directly through Blumenthal Lansing's online shop because apparently plain gold buttons with holes instead of shanks are insanely rare.

I'm shooting for long bishop sleeves, but we'll see if I can scrounge enough fabric to make that happen.

Catching up!

Oh, wow--I had no idea it had been that long.

I've been headache-inducingly busy at work, and that horrible head cold I caught on the plane is taking its dear sweet time to go away; I'm in pretty good shape except for a slight cough, and if that doesn't go away, I'll have to cave in and go to the doctor.  Ugh.

I spent this weekend running errands but finally sat down on Sunday and made an apron.  I got this awful cotton-poly fabric from great-aunt Marian, but somehow it makes a good apron.

One of the interns at work missed a chance a year or so ago to go to Wales, and I promised her Welsh cakes.  They're kind of in between a biscuit and a pancake.  The recipe I had was too buttery, but they were still good:

This past weekend was the Trinity Lutheran Quilt Show.  I made them four charity blocks and donated a bag of scraps.

And I saw the blood moon.  This is from my phone.  My real camera pix, oddly, were even worse.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cornbread and peas

Predictably, I got no sewing done at all this weekend.  I did get a bunch of cleaning done, though, and laundry, and some cooking.

This, folks, is how you cornbread.

Texas Cooking's "Grandma's Buttermilk Cornbread".  This is the real thing: No flour, no sugar.  It will clean your teeth as you eat.

I did it right, melting a spoonful of Crisco in the pan--that's a vintage Wagner, by the way--while I mixed the batter.  You can smell it insta-baking when you pour it in.

Flipped right out:

And then back (onto a Fiesta cake plate):

Of course, if you have cornbread, you need peas to go with it:

1 cup dry peas
3 cups broth, more or less
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1/4-1/2 pound ham, diced
water as needed
small amount of oil

Soften onion in a little bit of oil. Add ham and broth and cook a few minutes, then add peas. Cover and cook until done. Keep an eye on the liquid level--the peas need to cook before the liquid can be cooked down.  You probably won't need any salt because of the ham, but pepper to taste.

Serve hot over split cornbread.  Top with chopped tomatoes, onion, diced jalapeƱos, etc.