Thursday, June 28, 2012

What's the point of having them if you aren't going to use them?

Another refashion ALREADY? I've got a million irons in the fire and lots of stuff I eventually want to blog about, but getting to the completion part is always the hard part. Clothes are easy!

So, I'm pretty sure you'll notice right away the problem with today's shirt:

This is an American Eagle Outfitters size small, and I am many things, but small isn't one of them.  You can't really tell from this picture, but it was pretty tight across the bust. There are three tiny pleats just below the band, and I decided to take advantage of this.

Looks a little off-center there, 8-year-old Chinese girl who probably made this shirt.
The hardest part of refashioning, as I've recently learned, is making the first cut. Because in you're head it's all "THIS COULD GO HORRIBLY WRONG!!!" But, you know, it probably won't, and even if it does, the shirt only cost me $3.50 from the Juniors rack at Goodwill.

So I cut it down the middle and pinned it, like so. This moved the eyelet on one side to the inside, and I intended to do the same on the other side to make it even, but it didn't hang well when I did, so I just let it be uneven and undid the stitches over the cord so the drawstring still works. Because it's such a narrow turn, I hand-basted the fabric into place and then top stitched it by machine.

Oh good, you cleaned the machine!

Actually, truth be told, it's a different machine. LOOK I HAVE A LOT OF THEM, OKAY?! This one already had red thread in it from sewing some pillows earlier this week.


Taking a picture of yourself in a mirror is actually pretty hard. I miss my dedicated little child photographers, but they're visiting grandparents this week. Hence the actually getting around to sewing pillows. Now this shirt has a bit more breathing room and it was comfy for an evening of gardening and going for a walk with Neal who told me I looked like a bar wench. Whatever, that's totally a southwestern thing they're going for there, but drinks sound like a terrific idea!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Of Obsessions and Cleavage (which is slightly different than cleavage obsessions)

I'm a big girl, I can admit it: I get completely obsessive at times. Truly, completely, totally obsessed with something and everything else can go suck it while I do whatever it is I'm doing. Sometimes it's unproductive, for example I've been playing this game I remembered from my childhood -

(Evidently there's a Wiki page - WHO KNEW?!) But it's okay because I'm almost at the end of it. And yes, that makes it okay.

Another recent obsession was The Refashionista, a blog about re-making thrifted or old clothes into totally new and much more wearable fashions. She comes up with some of the most clever things, like turning skirts upside down into shirts. Stuff I would never think of because, while I make a lot of my own clothing, I generally do so from fabric yardage with patterns, either commercial or drafted from pieces I already own and love. For several weeks I worked my way backwards and read every single post in her blog. And by the time I finished, I was sold. I've been meaning to clean out my closet forever anyway; why not see if I can make anything I don't particularly like into something custom and perfect?

I've been in the mood for red lately, so I dug through my dresses and found this one that I'd thrifted a couple of years ago when I was a few pounds lighter and a whole lot sluttier on a daily basis:

As you can see by the little tag still attached, I've never worn it.
I really liked the color and sort of bandana-ish print, but it was low cut in the front, low cut in the back, and pretty much skin tight on me. Looking more closely at the tag makes me wonder...

"Ambiance Apparel"
It's by Ambiance Apparel, which pretty much sounds like code for cosplay. I can only assume this is some Malaysian factory worker's interpretation of a slutty cowgirl costume to be worn for bangin'.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I just beat Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom while waiting for that photo to upload. I thought you'd want to know.

So to take this dress that's only appropriate for the bedroom into something to, say, wear to the park with the kids, I was going to have to move the looser part up where the tighter part had been. I smoothed it out to see what could be done.

Maybe if I just chop off a bit?

Nope, still slutty.

Time for another cut:

And this way, I won't even have to put in another hem. I pinned the bottom piece to the top, right sides together, then used a zipper foot to get right up close to the piping.

Geez, do I need to clean that machine, or WHAT?

Alas another obsession with cleaning thrifted antique sewing machines got in the way. That one's not a bad habit to have, though! But that's all it took to make this dress into a shirt that's perfect for those occasional jeans days.

It's still a little cleavage heavy, but I don't see anyone complaining. Do you?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

[Insert Inappropriate Michael Jackson Joke Here]

He deserves it, though. It is physically impossible to can beets without getting "Beat it" stuck in your head. Some of the blame falls to me, however, as I was the one who thought it would be a great idea in February to plant about 16 sq. ft. of beets in the garden knowing full well I'd be the only one willing to eat them. I managed to get everyone else to try some roasted, and Neal was a good sport consuming them roasted, boiled, sliced raw, and hidden in other vegetables served over couscous. He also ate so many sauteed beet greens that I'm pretty sure he'll never eat ANY green again (as evidenced by the uneaten swiss chard I tried to feed him under a fried egg for breakfast).

And there were still beets left. Luckily, a good friend of mine sent me a book for my birthday last year, CANNING For A New Generation Bold Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff.

Isn't it pretty?

It's a beautiful book with lots of pictures and sweet anecdotes, and the recipes are written with both taste and healthfulness in mind. A refreshing change from classic recipes that often call for more sugar than actual fruit (I'm looking at you, Ball Blue Book). On page 55 there is a recipe for pickled beets, which I will include below but JUST IN CASE this is found by the publisher or someone involved please just tell me that you would like it removed from this post and I will promptly do so. There is no need to make anonymous reports to the government and send them after me. TO BE CLEAR I share this only in praise of the book and I encourage people to buy it. (The internet can certainly traumatize you into hating people, especially the anonymous ones)

Pickled Beets
from CANNING For A New Generation
makes about 4 pint jars

3 pounds beets, tops removed, scrubbed
4 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup mild honey
2 teaspoons pure kosher salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Cook the beets in boiling water to cover until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Rub off the skins, trim, quarter, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. Set aside

In a wide, 6- to 8- quart preserving pan, combine the vinegar, 1 1/2 cups water, the honey, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately add the beets; bring just to a simmer. 

Working quickly, using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the hot beets (and some of the spices) to the hot jars*. Ladle or pour in the hot vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top. Use a chopstick to remove air bubbles around the inside of each jar.

I left out the parts about prepping the jars and processing because those are easy enough to find elsewhere. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes. One of the best parts about this book is, I think, the way she also includes recipes in which to use the items you are canning. Which I find helpful because I gotta say, staring down a jar of pickled beets leaves me somewhat less than inspired. The suggestion in the case is for Pickled Beet and Pesto Sandwiches, which I have yet to try but to be fair, you could spread pesto on a shoe and I'd probably eat it I love pesto so much. I did taste the beets prior to canning and despite the fact that I'd subbed regular white vinegar for the cider vinegar and canning salt for kosher salt, it was pretty good!

Messy, though!

And when it was over, I was left with a pot full of this beautiful beet juice. Seemed a shame to throw it out, so I decided to try dying something with it. 

Like, say, a dress?

Indeed. This one is boring, but it has pockets! So I balled it up and shoved it in the pot of beet juice with a bit of vinegar added, just because it seemed like a good idea. 

Maybe it's working?
I decided to leave it overnight, partially for the color to soak in, partially because I was exhausted from pickling beets. The next morning I couldn't wait to see what I'd created.

Seems a little messy, so I moved to the sink.

And pulled this out!

Oooh! It's so pink!!
I was THRILLED at this point. Pink is WAY better than white, and for FREE! But alas, I ran it through a rinse cycle on the washer, not even using soap, and it came out totally white again. Not a trace of the pretty pinkness. Oh well. I'm certainly less afraid of accidentally staining my clothes when working with beets, and I do have five pints of this to turn to for comfort:

Ohhhhhh.  .... ...yay?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Oh what a tangled web we weave when we try to listen to an .mp3 audio book recording of Bleak House

Okay, so that's not exactly true. I'm not currently listening to Bleak House (because I'm not suicidal, obviously), but I do have a phone-based job so I'm constantly in and out of headphones. Which leads to a lot of tangles, even when I carefully coil them and store them in a wide-mouth mason jar in a desk drawer. Suspiciously, I get the exact same number of tangles when I carelessly toss them into my purse full of approximately 28392837428374 store loyalty cards, tiny bottles of hand sanitizer, at least nine different tubes of lip gloss in various shades of nude, and A COMPLETELY REASONABLE AMOUNT of parmesan and crushed red pepper packets.

So when I saw this on Pinterest with a caption about how it would "stop earphones from tangling!!!", I was intrigued.

It links to an Apartment Therapy article that vaguely explains how to make them.  It seemed like a good opportunity to also personalize my ear phones so they aren't snagged by the kids (mistakenly or otherwise). My current system involved my precious label maker:

Cause I'm creative like that.

The only material you really need for this project is embroidery thread. Luckily I spent the vast majority of my teenage years cross stitching murals of wolves (I wish I was making this up), so I'm prepared for that.

From the time before label makers.

What is that labeled with? A sticker that says "Kimberly"? Of course. I've pretty much been exactly the same since I was 12 years old, but thankfully with less wolf-themed sewing projects these days. I actually recall buying that case for $0.20 when the K-Mart on Winchester went out of business. It was right across the street from the weird church with the Statue of Liberty now (it was Central Church then) which STRANGELY ENOUGH is in a roundabout what what brought me together with Neal. Thanks, creepy Memphis church people! My grandmother sent me the labels in a Christmas present. Thanks, Granny! 

The case has plenty of colors to choose from. Like, ALL of the colors.

I've been obsessed with blue and orange lately, but that's not girly enough to repel boys. I need enough "girl colors" to keep anyone from being willing to use my ear buds, so I settled on purple, magenta, coral, and blue. 

From there I decided to follow the suggestions from the original link and tape it down, but since I've found it MUCH easier to pin the whole thing to a pillow as I did making friendship bracelets as a kid. An aside - before Pinterest, before eHow, before the internet at all, I made friendship bracelets. I learned how from the back of a box of Fruity Pebbles cereal with thread they included inside. So I might have been eating solid sugar, but my sense of craftiness was being nourished at least!

So first you tape all that stuff down.

Then you pick the color you want to start with and make a 4. 

Then you pull the tail under the rest and through the hole.

Then you just slide the tail up to make a knot. This is the part my 9-year-old had trouble with, but if you do it enough, you'll get the hang of it. Which is good because you have to do it A LOT. iPhone cables are RIDICULOUSLY long. INSANELY. 

But eventually, hours and hours later, you'll get this:

I glued the ends down with a bit of tacky glue just to tidy it up. The biggest problem with having ear buds this awesome is that all your kids will want some, too.