Thursday, December 30, 2010

Glen Plaid bowtie

Glen Plaid bowtie

Douglas got his first bowtie earlier in the year, and has been wanting to add more to his collection. I sewed this one to give to him for Christmas, using BurdaStyle's David pattern. The fabric is a glen plaid suiting left over from a vest I made when I was first learning to sew.

I didn't make this bowtie adjustable, mainly because I couldn't find the right sort of sliders at Jo-Ann Fabrics. The pattern instructions are fairly confusing, so I basically ignored them and just customized the length of the bowtie to Douglas' neck size and handstitched the two pieces together. It was very easy and I'm pleased with the shape. I would like to find a way to make future bowties adjustable, so I think with a little tweaking I could make this over and over again.

Now the only difficulty is finding classy silk twill fabric... any suggestions? (I am personally averse to geometric or abstract prints -- very classic stripes, polka dots, crests, or other such "Old School" patterns would be acceptable.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

'Roses are green' tunic

roses are green tunic

I'm a fan of tunic-length tops these days -- long enough to keep everything covered when bending over to pick up my son. I sewed this one before we left for vacation out of some cotton knit in my stash (originally bought at a great price at Denver Fabrics last spring). I was going for an Anthropologie look, hence the mix of prints and funky yoke line.

roses are green tunic

It looks cute with a cropped cardigan and skinny jeans. Bonus: it's roomy enough that it will work for early pregnancy and post-partum. Transitional pieces are a Good Thing to have in a mother's wardrobe, I have discovered.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nine Lessons and Carols

If you live in the States and are within range of a public radio station, chances are you can tune in to a live broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge, on Christmas Eve morning. You can check your local NPR station's website to find out when to tune in.

If you can't listen in, you can still enjoy last year's service on YouTube. I love watching and listening because you can enjoy the beauty of the chapel and the cuteness of the choirboys (my husband makes fun of me for melting into a puddle of maternal goopiness whenever they're onscreen, haha). I've started with the first selection, "Once in Royal David's City," below, and the rest of the clips are labeled sequentially so you can watch them in order (or skip around to your favorites like I do).

Have a very merry Christmas, and may the light of Christ shine in your heart!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pears in a row


Photo by Douglas, taken at my in-laws' house. We're "home for the holidays"!

Friday, December 10, 2010


I was introduced to this version of "Greensleeves" in Christmas 2008, when we were attending a church with a choir (of which I was a part, since Douglas was accompanist... otherwise I don't think they would've let me join, my singing skills being pretty non-existant. Perks of having a talented husband!). ;) It was one of my favorite songs we performed at Christmas that year. Have you ever heard such a hauntingly beautiful descant as in verse two?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Nutcracker tea

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker ballet has been a major December tradition for me ever since I was a little girl. I first saw Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland on PBS when I was 18 months old and as my parents tell it, I was transfixed. My mom took me to my first live performance two years later and since then it's been a yearly tradition to attend the ballet. We would often invite another mother-daughter duo to come along with us and make a day of it.

If we were traveling in December, we'd try to see a production wherever we happened to be, so I've seen Nutcracker performances in places as far reaching as Sarasota Springs, Florida; Kansas City, Missouri; Phoenix, Arizona; Edinburgh, Scotland, and many others besides. After seeing so much variety, I know what I like when it comes to choreography, costumes, staging, etc. Like, the Arabian dance should showcase feats of flexibility and strength, and Mother Ginger's children should be little acrobatic whizzes.

I haven't been to any performances since I've been married, and now with a little one taking in a show uninterrupted would be difficult. But this year I was determined that we should have our own little Nutcracker viewing. So, I ordered a DVD of the New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker and Douglas and I set a date on the calendar.

A "Nutcracker" tea

To add to the fun we had a little Nutcracker-themed tea beforehand. The treats were a motley assortment culled from the various nationalities and sweets in Act II of the ballet. To wit: Chinese egg rolls, Russian blinis, marzipan and cream puffs, gingerbread scones (for Mother Ginger), Spanish chocolate, and (Arabian) Turkish Delight. Oh, and Simpson & Vail's Nutcracker tea, a "delectable tea blend comprised of black tea, almond pieces, orange peel, cranberries and cinnamon & chocolate mint flavors."

Unfortunately, my choice of DVD was a bit of a flop. I think kids would enjoy it because the two main roles of Marie and the Nutcracker are played by young children, but that meant that dancing was scarce in the first act. When we got to Act II, I found the choreography frankly boring. Afterward I looked up the Baryshnikov/Kirkland production on YouTube and realized I should have stuck with that version for spectacular dancing. I'm thinking next December...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Patterns on eBay

As part of the Great Purge I mentioned earlier I am trying to get some stuff listed on eBay. First off I managed to go through some of my sewing patterns and choose some to get rid of that I'm not likely to use. They are all priced at a starting bid of $0.99 so now's the time to buy yourself a cute vintage pattern. :) Here's a link to my listings.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy December 1st!

We woke up to a gentle snowfall this morning...

"The Advent wind begins to stir
With sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir,
It's dark at breakfast, dark at tea,
And in between we only see
Clouds hurrying across the sky
And rain-wet roads the wind blows dry
And branches bending to the gale
Against great skies all silver-pale.
The world seems travelling into space,
And travelling at a faster pace
Than in the leisured summer weather
When we and it sit out together,
For now we feel the world spin round
On some momentous journey bound --
Journey to what? to whom? to where?
The Advent bells call out 'Prepare,
Your world is journeying to the birth
Of God made Man for us on earth.'"

--excerpt from "Advent 1955" by Sir John Betjeman

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who wants a mostly-finished housefrock?


Douglas and I are doing a Great Purge of our belongings. Our apartment is fairly small and we don't have much storage space, and things were getting too cluttered for me to keep clean (thus causing great anguish of the soul to Douglas, who is a neater freak than me). So, while going through one of our storage tubs I came across this unfinished dress. It was a little tight even before I started nursing and there's no way it will fit me now. However, it is mostly finished and I hate to throw it away! So that means if any of you dear readers are interested, I will send it to you for the cost of shipping via PayPal (the cost will depend on where you live, but I will keep it as cheap as I possibly can). First person to e-mail me at kcimedl (at) hotmail (dot) com (subject line: housefrock) gets dibs! Let me know your zip code or country so I can get back to you with the shipping costs ASAP.


Here are the specs:

Fabric/Pattern: Light blue cotton with a small floral jacquard weave. The cuffs and collar are off-white cotton and the cuffs are trimmed with vintage lace. The pattern is Easy Stitch 'n' Save M5024 by McCall's, which appears to be out of print but is basically the exact same as McCalls 4769. I will include the pattern and instructions.

Size: I think I cut this out in a pattern size 12 (bust 34, waist 26.5, hip 36). Measurements while lying flat are bust 37 inches, waist 29.5 inches, and hips 44 inches. The length from the back of the neck to the unfinished hem is approximately 45 inches.

Left to do: The dress has been assembled most of the way. The collar still needs to be attached, the facing needs to be sewn on, buttonholes need to be made, the skirt needs to be hemmed, etc. The collar and upper facings, both made of the same off-white cotton as the sleeve cuffs, are already cut and will be included. There do not seem to be any pieces for a lower facing (below the waistline) but I will include scraps of the blue fabric if you want to piece your own. There is not a belt. Buttons are not included.

Perfectionist's disclaimer: I started this dress soon after I learned to sew so it's not up to my current standards. :) The seams are unfinished. If I was going to finish this dress for myself I would rip out the sleeves and re-insert them; I am not sure whether the sleeve cap is supposed to be gathered or eased in but I didn't do a great job either way. It might not bother a less perfectionistic seamstress, though. ;) Up to you!

Please give this classy lady a second chance at life!

EDIT: Thanks for your interest... the dress has been shipped off to her new home! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Banbury Cross cardigan

A design for a vintage-style cardigan for my son has been swimming around in my brain for the past few weeks. At first I thought I might try to design a knitting pattern. Then I woke up from that fantasy and realized I am not a knitter and Edmund would likely be grown and married before I finished such a project. Playing on my strengths as a seamstress, I thought I might try to sew a cardigan, but I was not willing to pay big bucks to order a sweaterknit fabric (and frankly, all the ones I've ever seen for sale are kinda ugly anyway). I had an "a-ha!" moment when I found this old J. Crew turtleneck sweater of mine stashed away in a bag of things to give away. On closer inspection, I discovered it had some moth holes so it wasn't really fit to sell or donate to a thrift store. But it is a beautiful, slate blue color and the fiber is fine quality 100% merino wool. So here is the obligatory "before" shot:

the "before" shot

(This is not the actual sweater I repurposed, but the exact same style in a different colorway. I forgot to get a photo before I started cutting it up!)

And here is the "after":

Banbury Cross cardigan

This is basically a tot-sized grandpa cardigan... shawl collar, elbow patches, horn buttons (well, they're plastic but let's pretend). I love the way it turned out and it's roomy enough I think he'll be able to wear it even when he's in 2T clothes (he's about 18 mos. size right now). Sewing the sweater was basically like sewing any other knit. Tricky at times, but the stretch is forgiving.

Banbury Cross cardigan

Just so I could feel thrifty I went on the crewcuts website to see how much they're charging for their vintage-style sweaters for boys. Here's a similar one that's going for a hefty $72. I paid $1.61 for the buttons on Edmund's cardigan. Let the smugness ensue.

Banbury Cross cardigan

And now let me gush a little about my son. He'll be one year old a week from tomorrow and he's grown so BIG! He's been walking for about a month... the "drunken sailor" walk but walking nonetheless. His favorite activity is putting things in his mouth. Once he gets going gnawing/sucking/chewing on something his eyes glaze over and he goes to his happy baby place. I won't regale you with all the things I've found him sucking on that he shouldn't be.

He is so, so precious though, and full of energy and curiosity! I love being his mother. :)

Banbury Cross cardigan
[Edmund gallops off into the sunset!]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Most delicious spinach salad #2

  • 2-3 cups spinach
  • one ripe pear (Bartlett or Anjou are good varieties)
  • a handful of sweetened dried cranberries
  • a handful of unsalted cashew nuts
  • poppy seed dressing (Brianna's is our favorite brand)
Fill two salad bowls with spinach. Slice up a pear into bite-sized chunks and divide evenly between the two bowls. Top each with a sprinkling of dried cranberries and cashews. Top with poppy seed dressing.

Laura's Notes: I am unable to find unsalted cashews at the grocery store where I shop, so I just rinse the salted cashews in water before putting them on the salad. This makes a very pretty Christmas salad because of the red, green, and ivory colors of the salad. You could also substitute pomegranate seeds for the dried cranberries.

(I've previously shared two other favorite salad recipes, most delicious spinach salad and favorite summer salad).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My latest frock

The 1940s have never been my favorite decade for vintage fashion, but my husband likes me in '40s styles. So I took a look around at online pattern sites and found a cute one from Lanetz Living that was in my size, nursing friendly, and from the 1940s (or at least it was advertised as such -- now that I look at it closer, I think it may be early '50s, but it's close enough!).

1940s housedress

I was dismayed to find that one of the pattern pieces was torn and thus incomplete. Of course, it was one of the more complex pieces -- the front yoke. I redrew it based on the illustrations in the instructions, but I ended up taking in the shoulders and sleeves a little. I also took in the bodice by a good four inches as it was initially very blouse-y.


I made self-fabric ruffles for the yoke and pockets as suggested in one of the dress illustrations. The very large and practical pockets are lined in muslin.


The instructions on this pattern are pretty sparse and there is no pattern piece for the neckline facing. You're already supposed to know how to make a facing on your own. I guess 1940s seamstresses probably did.

I really pushed myself to finish all the details on this dress -- no skimping or getting lazy. I even learned how to make thread chains for belt loops, which turned out to be SUPER easy. I couldn't find good instructions on the Internet so I consulted my copy of Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, and all was made clear.

vintage apron

The buttons down the front give me a chance to tie on this little-worn vintage apron of mine. It may be hard to see in the photo, but there is a buttonhole just under the peak at the top of the apron, which you're supposed to attach onto a button on your frock. The sides are a little apt to flap down but I think a good ironing with starch might help.

I am very happy with this dress. It's super-comfy and the waist is not too tight to make household chores difficult. The cotton floral is kind of a "working muslin" as I had in mind a more autumnal color scheme, but I couldn't find any vintage-like fabric in dark, warm colors. Happily the blue floral cotton was on sale so the whole dress was pretty cheap.

And my husband's reaction? Well, he made a rather hilarious comment that I can't share here. ;) But I think he likes it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dear Golden Vintage

I just came across the most gorgeous Etsy shop, Dear Golden Vintage. Such a lovely selection and the cohesive presentation makes it a joy to browse through her offerings! It gets me inspired for future sewing projects. I am soooo tempted by this 1950s dress which is even in my current size, but the $138 price tag and the lack of nursing-friendliness (ha) are keeping me sane. I am also drooling over the fabric on this 1930s cotton voile dress. Some other favorites: 1920s lace dress, 1960s celadon plaid suit, and 1940s chocolate peep-toe heels. Of course I'd taken anything from the shop, especially if it was given to me. ;)

What are your favorite pieces from Dear Golden Vintage? Are there any other shops you like to browse for sewing/fashion inspiration?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reformation Faire costumes

Here are our outfits from the Reformation Faire! They turned out pretty "costume-y" but it was fun to be dressed up.

Our medieval family

Douglas was supposed to be a 14th century Oxford scholar (although he says everyone thought he was a monk). I had asked my mother-in-law to dig out his graduation gown, which she was unable to find -- but she did find his grandfather's robe. It was a little too short and didn't fasten all the way down the front, so I made him a long, sleeveless gown of cheap black suiting to wear under it. The hood is of black linen/rayon blend and I based it off a drawing in The Medieval Tailor's Assistant by Sarah Thursfield. When he wears it over his head, he looks like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars. Soooo funny.

I made my sleeveless surcote by following instructions on The Medieval Tailor. I ended up using a pale blueish-grey pique knit in my stash for the faux kirtle. The fabric was given to me (free!!) and I wasn't going to use it for anything else. In the end, the knit ended up being a boon since I didn't have a pattern (the stretch is forgiving). Oh, and did I mention this outfit is nursing friendly? I cut two slits slightly off center in the underdress, which were hidden by the surcote unless I pulled it aside to nurse. I realized after I made the costume that the colors are kind of reminiscent of an outfit worn by Eowyn in The Two Towers. I honestly wasn't trying to copy movie costumes; it just happened! ;)

Clapping to the music
[Douglas helping Edmund to clap along to the lively music of Charlie Zahm.]

Edmund's baby dress is made out of the same linen as my surcote. I dyed it indigo, hoping for a dark blue, but I got more of a greyish blue that blends in with his surcote. His surcote is made out of an old skirt I made in high school that no longer fits me. I just based his outfit off of a drawing in The Medieval Tailor's Assistant. I wanted to make him a hood or coif but I ran out of time. He was probably happier without, anyway.

Lord and Lady (with grandson)
[This is the best full-length photo we took! How remiss!]

My parents also came and got into the spirit by dressing up. Dad wore his Tudor-style costume from madrigals group in college. Mom made herself a dress from a pattern she's had since the '80s. If I remember correctly, it is supposed to be a 15th century European noblewoman's dress. Mom sacrificed her eyesight for authenticity and went without her glasses for most of the day. If her eyesight is as bad as mine, I have no idea how she did this without running into a wall.

We really enjoyed the weekend -- great lectures, great music, great dancing, great worship, great fellowship... you get the idea. I also had great fun meeting and chatting with Karen and Lily, two friends from the Sense & Sensibility historical sewing board. Their entire family had the best costumes, which perhaps they will post photos of on their family blog? We shall see. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fauré, Pavane Op. 50

(Edmund and I have been listening to Douglas' Fauré CDs lately.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October morning

Foggy morning

For my (sporadic) daily constitutional, I like to walk along the country road that heads north from our apartment. I carry Edmund with me in a front-pack or more recently, a backpack (front or back, he is still a heavy load). The traffic is reasonably sparse and there is a lot of beauty to be admired along the way.

Frosted grass

Melting frost on the grass.

Autumn trees

Vibrant, colorful trees.

Standing stones

Long shadows from an early-morning sun.

Autumn leaves

Reflections in the creek.

Purple asters

I love seeing what wildflowers are blooming at different times of the year. Right now we have purple and white asters, goldenrod, and once in a while, the last of the Queen Anne's lace.

(As an aside, I am always reading about Michaelmas daisies in my books, and I finally looked them up. Turns out it's the British name for asters.)

Autumn tree

Edmund's favorite part of the walk is when we pass the dogs. You can see one waiting for us in the background. I don't know what kind of tree this is, but it looks gorgeous right now. It has no leaves, but retains vibrant red-orange fruit of some kind (about the size of crabapples). Any clues?


"He hath made every thing beautiful in His time: also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." --Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Silk flower pin

I made this rosette pin from a leftover scrap of fabric from my sister-in-law's 1910s tea gown. Unlike the rosette on the gown, I left the raw edges facing out for a bit of texture. This crushed velvet ribbon that I've been hoarding in my stash was just right for a leaf. I could easily see a cluster of these decorating the neckline of a thrifted sweater or top... I'll be keeping my eye out for just the right specimen.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Medieval sewing

Our little family will be attending a Reformation Faire later in the month, and I'm going to try to sew some costumes to get us in the spirit of the event. One of the men being highlighted this year is John Wycliffe, so we are going with 14th century costumes in his honor (and, truth be told, I figured it would be easier and cheaper than something from the Tudor era or later).

Figuring out what to make on a really tight budget has been a challenge. Although these are definitely costumes, I hated to go to all the time and effort to make a costume out of a cheap synthetic fabric, but period appropriate fabrics (linen, wool, silk) tend to be expensive. However, last Tuesday I accompanied Douglas up to the Big City so I could look for fabric while he had a choir rehearsal. At my last stop, Hancock Fabrics, lo and behold I found some light brown linen blend on "blowout sale" for just $2.95 a yard! The bolt didn't actually specify what the blend was, but I think it may be cotton -- at any rate, it really looks like real linen and the price can't be beat. I plan to use it to make myself a sleeveless surcote. Then I am going to make a faux kirtle to wear under it (saving myself the yardage of the skirt and just hand stitching it together at the hips -- that's the plan anyway; we'll see how it works!). I think I may have enough dark red wool left over from my swing dress to do this -- I have to find it first. :-P The end result should be something akin to this.

Edmund's costume should be easy; just a baby dress out of whatever period appropriate fabric scraps I can find. I am still figuring out exactly what I'll do for Douglas; plan A is to go for the look of a 14th century Oxford scholar (as Wycliffe was both fellow and master at Balliol College) and plan B is a tunic and hose. I'm rooting for plan A as it involves less sewing on my part. :-) Lord willing, I will share photos in a few weeks!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two years

Douglas and I celebrated our second anniversary on October 4th. The weather was much like our wedding day -- sunny but not hot, beautiful cloudy skies, trees just beginning to turn. Even though October was not our first choice, I am so glad now that we did get married then. This time of year will be forever special to me now. In honor of the day, here are a few of my favorite wedding shots I haven't shared before:

the church

The church was beautiful that day.

13th century stone

"13th century stone from All Saints Church at Sutton Benger, Wiltshire, England" - in the courtyard of the church. Douglas' aunt was delighted to find this as she has traced a line of their ancestry back to Wiltshire.

blushing bride

My bouquet was made up of pale pink roses, white ranunculus, Queen Anne's lace, and English ivy in a silver tussie-mussie holder.

solemnization of matrimony

We said our vows and were married...

getaway car

...And God has given us two wonderful years together since.

(All photos by Melenbacker Photography.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bread-baking saga, part deux

Homemade bread

Since I last posted about bread-baking, my dear friend Robin gave me some freshly ground wheat flour from her hand mill. First I tried a 100% whole wheat dough, with blackstrap molasses, so it was quite dark and hearty. Next I tried half white bread flour, half whole wheat flour (pictured here, with homemade grape jelly, also from Robin!). They cut thickly so a slice of bread is a delicious accompaniment to a bowl of warm soup -- perfect for these beautiful autumn days.

(Ironically, Robin and her daughters have been eating gluten-free for the past several months, and are feeling much the better for it. If you are in the gluten-free boat, her blog has some tempting recipes for you!)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Churn Dash, revisited

Churn Dash
[A smattering of finished quilt blocks.]

When I was pregnant last year, I publicly expressed my intentions of making a baby quilt on this very blog. Fast forward a year (or more) and the quilt is not done, but I have an excuse! The fact is Edmund received a lot of baby blankets as gifts, all of them very beautiful and useful, but I figured I really don't need to go to all that work when he's got plenty of blankets already. So, I decided to turn my blanket into a toddler-sized quilt instead. I recently pulled out the fabrics again and starting piecing some more blocks. I need to do the math to figure out how many I will need for the larger quilt, but so far I have twenty done. Things are chugging along!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Classic Christie

Murder in Mesopotamia, 1936

While at a garage sale this weekend, I snapped up this wonderful 1936 edition of Agatha Christie's Murder in Mesopotamia. It's a little musty but entirely readable, and I could not resist the Art Deco font on the cover. Plus, it's a title we didn't have in our library!

Murder in Mesopotamia

I've been collecting Agatha Christie books since my teens. My husband also owns quite a few, so when we combined our libraries, we ended up with over two shelves full. Just the thing when one needs a quick Christie fix!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

1938 bib

vintage-style baby bib

Since Edmund is now having some supplementary food other than milk, we finally get to put to use his cute baby bibs. My mom made this one before Edmund was born, from a reprint of a 1938 pattern available from Pattern Bee. It goes especially well with mashed carrots.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Excerpt from my current reading

[From chapter six, "Various Conquests," on post-war flying...]

"The most remarkable flight of all, but one that strangely enough was almost uncelebrated in the Press, was that of M'Intosh and Parer from England to Melbourne. These were two Australian lieutenants who determined, when the war ended, to go home by air in a condemned D.H.9, bought for a few pounds. Almost every part of the machine was defective, including the petrol-pump and magneto, bolts kept working loose from the engine and propeller, the struts were unsound, the instruments faulty. They started on the 8th January 1920, had vexatious delays in France, climbed up to 14,000 feet to avoid a storm over the Apennines and then as they were about to cross the Adriatic went on fire at 3,000 feet, but extinguished the flames with a steep dive. They reached Cairo, by way of Athens and Crete, after forty-four days; the usual flying time for this distance was forty hours. Everyone there thought the two men crazy to persist in their journey, but they patched up the machine and few on east. They had to come down in the central Arabian desert because of engine trouble, M'Intosh keeping Arab marauders off with Mills bombs and a revolver, while Parer tinkered with the plane. He got her off just in time. They reached Baghdad -- the first time that the flight from Egypt had been made -- changed a broken propeller, and flew on over Baluchistan to India. Parer remarked, 'We'll fly this b----- crate till it falls to bits at our feet.' He did so, and more. When the engine failed over the Irrawaddy jungle they made a lucky forced landing; but soon afterwards a crash at Moulmein wrecked the undercarriage, smashed the radiator, and damaged the compass. For six weeks they worked in the jungle at fitting together the bits and pieces and then took off again. They crashed twice more, but somehow managed to cross the most dangerous obstacle of all, the Timor Sea, where they lost their bearings and flew blind, reaching Australia with only a single pint of petrol left in the tank. Their last crash was at Culcairn, close to their goal: there was practically nothing left unbroken of the D.H.9, but the two airmen escaped unharmed. The fragments of the machine were reassembled for exhibition in the Sydney Museum; Parer and M'Intosh were decorated by the Australian Prime Minister and given a purse of £1,000 to defray their expenses. They had already paid part of these by trick-flying and scattering hand-bills over the cities passed in their flight. M'Intosh died soon afterwards in a plane accident; Parer later operated a self-supporting unsubsidized air-line in New Guinea between the coast and the goldfields in the interior."

--from The Long Weekend: A Social History of Great Britain 1918-1939 by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, first published 1940

Monday, September 6, 2010

McCall's 5721: 3-in-1 shopping cart cover

shopping cart/high chair cover

My baby has a propensity for gnawing on any germ-covered surface within reach, so I made this shopping cart/high chair cover so he can chew on fabric instead of the latest virus to be going around. ;-) (You can't see the fabric very well in this photo, but it's covered with old-fashioned toys of all kinds.)

What looks like an easy project actually took me some time. There are two pockets with loops for toys on the inside of the cover, plus a larger bag on the backside which the entire cover can be folded into when not in use. I have found that the two pockets are probably overkill and you could get away with one or none at all, although the loops to attach toys are handy. The pattern calls for self-made bias tape, but I skipped that step and used pre-packaged. The instructions aren't always the greatest, but if you use your common sense you'll come out on top!

Friday, September 3, 2010


Earlier in the week, I decided to try my hand at bread-baking. I've made hand-kneaded yeast breads only once or twice before in my life, so I pulled up The Bread by Hand eBook by Kimberly Eddy (available at her website, Adventures in Mothering). It's a very readable instructional booklet on making homemade, hand-made breads. She recommends starting out basic, so I halved her white bread recipe and set to work. I started the sponge as soon as I got up on Monday and then tended to the bread throughout the morning in between a two-mile walk, an errand to the city, and lunchtime. The timer on the oven dinged just as we were finishing up lunch.

Bread loaves

Kimberly explains why breadmaking is not an exact science and warns against following any recipe to the letter without accounting for variables (such as the humidity of your kitchen). When you're baking on your own, a little trial and error is in order. I added a little less flour than called for and yet my dough seemed quite substantial. Douglas punched down the dough for me after the first rising, and his comment was that it didn't completely collapse like his mom's bread doughs did. What that means I'm not quite sure -- too much flour? Not enough yeast? The baked bread's taste and texture seem fine to me -- actually, more than fine. When slathered with butter and drizzled with honey, it's an absolute treat.

So, chalk up the first attempt as a success. Next time I'll try adding some nutrition to the bread. ;-)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Life-giving brew

English Breakfast tea
[Some boxes of English Breakfast tea that my father-in-law recently brought back from India.]

If you know me well at all, you'll know I'm addicted to black teas. This habit started when I lived in Scotland six years ago and my best friend there was constantly inviting me to her room for "a nice cup of tea." Twinings' English Breakfast is what she always favored, the water prepared in an electric hot pot and then poured into little tea mugs, given a brief steeping and served, piping hot, with a dash of milk. English Breakfast is still my favorite, but I'll occasionally branch out into other flavored black teas for a little something different. A few recent discoveries have been:

  • Lipton Vanilla Caramel Truffle tea -- a friend of my husband's said this is the most coffee-like tea he's ever tasted. To me, it's almost sweet. I like it as a treat and it's quite unlike any tea I've tasted before.

  • Simpson & Vail Decaffeinated Almond Black tea -- my husband picked this out when I placed an order recently, and I secretly thought it sounded ho-hum. But out of everything we ordered, it was the first to be finished off! It has a delicious almond flavor that is not "fake" as almond flavorings can often be. It reminds me of a homemade almond kiss cookie.

  • Simpson & Vail Victorian Earl Grey tea -- I believe this is my favorite Earl Gray. The bergamot and other flavorings are not too overpowering; only just right. Delicious!

    What teas are your favorites?
  • Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Vintage sewing tool: skirt marker

    Vintage skirt marker

    When we're at home in Indiana, I have no one to mark hems for me, save Douglas (who's not the most experienced). So I was quite chuffed when my mom brought this home for me from a garage sale.

    Based on the woman's dress, I would guess it to be from the late 1930s or early 1940s. The marker works by puffing chalk dust onto you skirt at a uniform height from the floor. This one is missing its base but I think it will work fine without it (or I can scavenge up a makeshift one). I can't wait to try it out!

    Friday, August 13, 2010


    [Mom on the left, Dad on the right]

    I made these silhouettes of my parents several years ago, just for an old-fashioned touch for my bedroom. Here's how I made them, step by step:

    1. Take a digital photograph of your subject, in profile, against a blank white background. Open the photo in a graphics editing program and set the contrast to be as high as possible. Print the image.
    2. Trace the silhouette and add any artistic or historical details you may fancy (I got some inspiration for the Regency-style touches from a book on silhouettes from our local library). Fill in the silhouette with black ink.
    3. Xerox the silhouettes onto white paper. This is also a good time to adjust the size, if you need to.
    4. Soak the paper in a brew of black tea to get an "aged" look. Quick dry the paper by placing it on a cookie sheet and sticking it in the oven on its lowest temperature. Repeat as often as needed.
    5. Fit the silhouettes into matching vintage junk-store frames and hang them on the wall!

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Folkwear #233

    Folkwear #233

    I just finished up this retro 1940s dress for my mother-in-law! She chose the fabric (a pink rayon print with hats and flowers) and pattern (Folkwear #233) and I did the sewing. I love sewing 1940s patterns because of all the fun construction details like gathering and topstitching. A neat topstitching job brings a great deal of satisfaction. :)

    Close-up of Folkwear #233

    This dress included some "firsts" for me -- most notably, I've never inserted a side zipper before or made a hidden zipper placket. The directions are excellent, though, and I had no problems. I recommend the pattern for intermediate to advanced sewers.

    Folkwear #233

    I'll pop it in the mail to you tomorrow, Mom S.!

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Pink flora

    Before we left Colorado, we spent a delightful morning wandering through the Denver Botanic Gardens. I realized that I must have a penchant for pink flowers because when I got home and looked through our photos, I realized that's pretty much all I photographed.

    flower collage

    We've been on the road again the past few weeks, but we're back to one spot now (for the present, at least!). I hope to use the next few weeks to do some sewing and pattern drafting. I have just a little handsewing to finish up on a 1940s rayon dress for my mother-in-law, which I will share photos of soon. And... it's pink. :)

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Antiquing with Cheri

    Uncle Tom's cabin happens to be just a hop, skip, and a jump from where Cheri lives, so one afternoon while the guys recuperated from their mountain hiking, Edmund and I drove down to meet up with her! Cheri kindly gave me a tour of her sewing room so now I can envision where she sews all of her beautiful projects, including the aprons she sells through her Etsy store, Peasant Cottage. Then she introduced me to a few of her favorite antique stores. (The antique shopping near where I live isn't much to write home about, so this was a lot of fun for me.)

    St. Elmo

    I found an inexpensive copy of "St. Elmo" by Augusta J. Evans -- not a book I know much about, but I remembered that Lanier had given it a nod on her lovely website, Lanier's Books. Since I tend to share her tastes, I figured I'd enjoy reading it. And the cover cracks me up -- rather tame compared to today's romance covers, eh? ;)

    I also found two silver candlestick holders so it was a fruitful shopping excursion for me. It was delightful to spend a few hours in the company of a kindred spirit -- thanks again, Cheri! (I forgot to bring my camera along, but Cheri posted a few photos from our visit.)

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Uncle Tom's cabin

    Our little family spent a long weekend in the mountains at Uncle Tom's cabin. Edmund and I had small pursuits: I did a great deal of reading, while Edmund spent time playing with toys and learning to crawl. Douglas and his friend, Josh, hiked to the summit of Long's Peak (seen on the right in the photo, which was taken on the cabin balcony).

    Mountain View

    Who is like the LORD our God,
    the One who sits enthroned on high,
    who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?

    [Psalm 113:5-6]

    Edmund was fascinated by the aspen trees. Whenever the wind stirred their leaves, they became a vision of shimmering greenery. Any form of playful lighting is totally riveting to this almost eight-month-old baby. :)

    Aspen leaf

    It's a beautiful spot and very special to Douglas and his family. I'm glad to have had the chance to see it all!