Pearl Shift, Reading and Books, Sewing

Fall 2016: Checks and Plaid, Muffins and Soup

Fall has come to Connecticut in all its glory. The view from my front porch last week:img_3922With the cooler weather, I am turning to the Pearl Shift which I previously made, and lived in basically all last winter, in heavy cotton flannel plaids from Jo-Ann. You can see those versions here. When I saw the new Checkers fabric from Cotton and Steel, I thought it would be perfect for a Pearl. I was inspired by a similar dress, an Esme tunic which can be found in this bookimg_3685-1When I make changes to patterns, I write notes to myself on the pattern pieces. Ironically, sometimes I forget to read the notes until after cutting out the pattern as I did here. I did not actually add enough to the seam allowance to allow for french seams. Note to self: read notes to self. img_3686-1This is a very straight-forward pattern and if I didn’t insist on adding a zipper, it would be even quicker but I think the zipper adds a lot so I used one here. I sewed it using a techinique I modified from Dana by watching this video of how to sew a lined zipper pouch. It was this video that inspired me to use wonder clips which work well. The picture below shows where I lined up the top of the zipper but I think I will move it up a bit on my next version because there is a bit of a gap at the top in the finished version. img_3879Sewing the first side:img_3882After sewing one side, I do the reverse and then top-stitch. I find it works best to sew the zipper initially going from top to bottom but I have better success with the top-stitching when I start at the bottom of the zipper and sew to the top maintaining some tension on the fabric to prevent puckers.img_3885Lining up the second side.img_3881Ready for top-stitching.img_3888After top-stitching. It took three tries to get this. Sewing from the bottom of the zipper to the top was the key in the end.img_3891I used my usual hem facing technique. I cut up an old muslin into 3 inch strips. I have described this technique in my prior Pearl posts here and here. It is very straightforward.img_3943I am able to use the metal plate edge as the perfect guide to sew the hem when I use the 3 inch strips.img_3958Since I had extra of the 3 inch strips, I finished the sleeves the same way. I bound the neck using 1.5 inch bias binding leftover from my Checkers Gemma Tank. The hem and sleeve facing is not cut on the bias since there is very little curve to the hem and the sleeves are cut straight across. It worked well and was very quick to finish,. img_3956Finished dress on the front door.img_3985Back of dress.img_3990And as worn. Although I thought I cut it the same length as my previous versions, this one is a little longer. I am not sure how I feel about it. I really like the way the linen one fits but I also find that when there is less heft to the fabric as in my Alison Glass version, the tunic rides up. I will have to wear this for a while and see what I think about the length. I think on me, the shorter version is a little more flattering but time will tell.img_3972Side view.img_3975Back view.img_3965Linen version for comparison.img_3705One more picture with fall foliage.img_3969Other things we have been enjoying here in Connecticut: a tour of a new craft brewery in our town which is expanding. It was fun to go on the tour and great to see a new successful local business. img_3939A beautiful sunrise. I love watching the sun come up and I miss the sunrises when I have to leave for work in the dark. (I am not a fan of shorter winter days.)img_3876My nasturtiums finally bloomed (in October). Note to self: plant earlier next year. They were cheap and maintenance free and pretty. img_3712Fall is soup and muffin weather chez Nursebean. My usual modus operandi is to make what I call refrigerator soup. It is when you open the refrigerator and see what you have and make soup. It is a great way to take those leftovers and make a meal. This post from one of my favorite bloggers is a great description of how to do this. I also made this Broccoli and Dill soup which was enjoyed by all (from one of my other favorite bloggers).img_3660 I have had this pot and this bowl for over 25 years.img_3691 I get nostalgic cooking on Sunday afternoons thinking about how many pots of chili, soup and even lasagnas have been made in this blue Le Creuset pot which was a wedding gift over 30 years ago. I remember buying the bowl as a young broke new mom. It was a big splurge at the time. I don’t think it was actually very expensive but all purchases felt like big purchases at that point in my life (and in many ways still do). I still love it. Many muffins and cookies have started in this bowl. Mr. Nursebean has found that he feels better when he avoids gluten so I made some adjustments to the cornmeal muffin recipe from this book which is one of my go to cookbooks and which has excellent muffin recipes (they all start with a stick of butter so it would be hard to go wrong). Here is my version. I  actually think they are better this way, sort of nutty and you can convince yourself that they are healthy because of the nut flour and the yogurt. They are great right out of the oven with butter and raspberry jam but I also freeze them and then zap them in the microwave for a minute and they are perfect for breakfast.

Cornmeal Muffins:

Pre-heat oven to 375-I use convection setting.

Melt a stick of butter in a big bowl. I usually microwave for 2 minutes. Let cool a bit

In a separate bowl combine: 1.5 cups each of cornmeal flour and almond flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and a dash of salt

Beat two eggs into melted butter and combine dry and wet ingredients. Don’t over-mix.

Add one 6 oz lemon, plain or vanilla yogurt to the mixture. Add approx 4 oz milk (or as much as you need to make the mixture mixable and about the texture of wet scrambled eggs.

Bake for approx 20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Serve hot out of the oven with butter and rasberry jam or next day-I find they reheat perfectly with 30 seconds in the microwave or 1 minute if frozen (I often freeze them so they don’t disappear too fast. They make a great breakfast.)

My daughter and I have been trying to walk most days. The trees along our walk have been beautiful.img_3818I have been doing a lot of reading. I inhaled this novel and this mystery. I highly recommend both. This fall is the 10th anniversary of the fall that this sweet puppy joined our family. She still greets me with love every time I come home. A gift to us all.img_3914Next up are two more Pearl shifts in plain flannel purchased last year at Jo-Ann’s. img_3689This time I remembered to add the extra seam allowance for french seams. This is why I often make more than one of a pattern in a row. It takes a couple times to work out the bugs! One of these will be for me and one for my daughter who I will see (yay!) for Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for. Wishing everyone a beautiful fall!

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Sewing, Uncategorized

Alison Glass Beatrix Tunic

I started a couple of projects during May, but life got busy and I had some zipper issues and they stayed unfinished until today when I had a lovely unplugged Thursday and had the time and energy to finish them. The first is another tunic using the Made By Rae blouse pattern, the Beatrix. I used this great fabric from Alison Glass. All over the internet there are dresses and Beatrix blouses made with this plus-patterned fabric in different colors but I was actually inspired by this post by Tara whose blog Girl Like the Sea is wonderful. When I saw the same fabric on sale, I snatched it up. I liked the white strips Tara used in the blouse for her daughter and it made me think a white exposed zipper would work well.imageThis is my third Beatrix Tunic. The first two were blogged here and here. I have made several versions of the Green Bee Pearl shift and this project is sort of a combination of the patterns. I had used exposed zippers when I made my plaid Pearls and was really happy with the extra zing the metal zipper gave to a relatively simple pattern so I decided to try it here. The hardest part was finding the right zipper. I finally ordered two sizes of white zippers from Zipit, an etsy store with a good selection. I had already cut out this pattern and a linen Pearl and prepared the back for the zipper using Megan Nielson’s tutorial. When I previously inserted the zippers on the plaid Pearls, I used a technique based on Dana’s zipper bag tutorial. It had worked really well for me but I thought the Brumby method might give me a cleaner look. What I learned about the Brumby method, in which you prepare the opening for the zipper first, is that measuring accurately is key. Sadly, when I went to insert the zipper into the opening, it turned out that my measurements were off and the opening for my zipper was too long. One of my zippers was too short and one was too long (sort of a Goldielocks problem). So I had to order more zippers. And this is why these tunics did not end being worn during May! I now have a lot of zippers. 🙂imageSometimes I will make a great deal of headway on a project and then weeks go by before I find the time to get back to it. I have learned to relax and know that some day I will finish, even if it takes weeks (or months).  For this tunic, I cut out the top of the Beatrix and graded out to the width of the Pearl. This time, I didn’t curve the hem but used the Pearl hem line. My new go-to work uniform is a tunic over leggings with boots in the winter and sandals in the summer. It is easy and comfortable. I will definitely be making more of these. Some pictures below.imageStay-stiched neck line above and darts below as per the Beatrix Sewalong, a great tutorial broken into smaller, manageable steps. I don’t own a serger so I zip zag most seams to finish.imageSleeves are turned down once, ironed and then a second time and stitched with two rows of stitches. Quick, easy and durable.imageMy favorite way to make a simple pattern more interesting is a contrasting hem. I love these two fabrics together.imageI have blogged about my very simple method for hem facings here and here. Pictures of the steps below. I start with a 3 inch strip of fabric and sew it on right sides together keeping in mind the direction that it will face once the facing is turned up.imageLots of ironing is involved.imageI actually use the  metal plate on my sewing machine as my guide as I sew. It works perfectly for  the measurements of this hem facing.imageWhen I think of it, I leave the threads long and pull them to the inside and knot them using the quilter’s technique of sliding the knot down the thread using a big pin or needle as seen here.imageSome pictures of the finished hem. I was really happy with how this one turned out.imagewith facing showingimageMy zipper didn’t completely line up with the top of the dress so I added a hook and eye at the top. My top stitching along the zipper is not perfect but as my dad actually used to say, “It wouldn’t be noticed from a trotting horse” which is true. I think the machine sometimes has trouble with the layers.imageFinished Dress/Tunic ready to be worn. I intentionally made the back slightly longer (you can see the back facing peeking through in the picture below) because that is where my weight is (ahem) and if I make the front and back the same, the back appears to be riding up which is not the look I am going for. imageRae also recently posted about a Beatrix with a zipper. Hers has an invisible zipper, something I have yet to master. You can link to her post and see her beautiful blouse here.