When your dear Aunty was very young, I got into the habit (as some comic in years past put it) of ‘sending away’. Now, of course, this was years before the internet was a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye, and even years before true mail order as it became known became a huge industry. It was the sort of thing where you saw an advertisement in a magazine or a newspaper and you sent in your postcard or a letter (with a self-addressed stamped envelope!) and you got stuff in the mail back to you. Addressed right to you. (more…)
If you are the sort of person who has a closet full of stuff that you don’t wear and the feeling that you don’t have anything to wear, then this is for you. Please watch the video – it’s 5-6 minutes long. keep an open mind (don’t get all bound up with the rack, table and shoe display, ok?).
Now, a really good exercise is to take out a piece of paper and analyze what the stylist is doing here, so you might want to watch the video again. And this time, boil it down. (more…)
Something which, even after 35 years plus of gardening together, the DH and I are still fine tuning is the issue of where to put stuff to grow, keeping in mind the path of the sun versus the orientation of our garden beds. In the picture above, taken this morning at about 11:30, you see your dear Aunty, standing outside (in the rather windy 16 degrees F, I might add – the things I do for you guys..) in one of the garden beds, in the snow, holding up a door. (more…)
Readers who visit regularly will note that your Aunt Toby doesn’t do sewing pattern reviews often. I’m not sure why I don’t but when I come upon a pattern that did not cause me fits in terms of fitting or sewing, I feel I have to pass along the good news. I figure that if a) I don’t have to make huge changes in something in order for it to fit my admittedly older, plumper body with a big bust and an expanding waistline, and b) it comes out reasonably flattering, then it’s a keeper.
This, ladies, is a keeper. I made the long sleeved version and I have to say that I will make this several more times. It is a very nice blouse with some pretty details and is actually quite easy:
1) It doesn’t have a zillion buttons in the front. Hurray! It had one button at the back of the neck and buttons at the cuffs. They also want you to put in a zipper in the side seam but believe me, you can just eliminate that.
2) It has some extra breathing room in the front, achieved with that gathered bit at the neck line. Since I have a very large bust, I actually gave myself a little bit more room by pulling the center line slightly away from the center fold and then I made the tucks at the waistline slightly larger. Could not have been easier.
Things I will change for next time:
1) The sleeve cap. If you look at the artwork, the sleeve looks as if there are no tucks or gathers whatsoever at the top of the sleeve. There is actually no way not to end up with a gathered top to the sleeve, which I did not like, so to put a big tuck at the center top of the sleeve. The next time, I will re-draw the sleeve cap to bring down that height somewhat. No gathers for me.
2) The shoulder. This is actually set up for shoulder pads (it is a fashion of the 1940s after all), which with my narrow shoulders, actually is a good thing but in this case is just a little bit too wide. The next time, I’ll take those shoulder edges in by about 3/8″ and I think that will do better. One small note – I realize that when I put on the blouse, I did not fasten the button at the back of the neck. The blouse really does button up reasonably close to the neck, as in the photo on the front of the pattern.
So, if you have been following this (if not, go to Vest 1-A), what I have at this point is a back and two fronts of vest fabric sewn together at the shoulders and the fake pocket flaps sewn onto the front. I also have sewn the back and two fronts, which were cut out of lining fabric, together at the shoulders also. At this point, we are now entering (cue scary music) “The Tricky Part”. If you need to go make a cup of tea and go lie down for a bit with a cold cloth on your forehead, please do so now. It really is ok. (more…)
Now, I know there are all sorts of beginning sewing curricula out there. Some people start with an apron; others go straight for a knit tee-shirt. I have really strong feelings about starting folks on crafts – I don’t like to start people with stuff that they are not going to use. My very first project in home ec in the 7th grade was the most horrible pull-over-your-head blouse ever. It fit no one; no one wanted to wear them either and I’m going to bet all sorts of money that every single one of those that got made ended up in the trash or in a bag stuffed at the back of the closet. When I learned how to knit, the very nice lady who taught me said, “What do you want to make?” I told her mittens and that’s what I got to make. Challenging, yes – but I wore them. How many of those eyelash scarves do you think got worn? How many beginning knitters ever got beyond the scarves?
But a vest – everyone likes vests. (more…)
There comes a time, my little wombats, in everyone’s life, when you are left with two bananas which are, shall we say, ‘long in the tooth’ and your ‘go-to’ dead banana recipe calls for three and then, where are you?
Well, for one thing, you are there with two dead bananas and either you give up the ghost and pitch them into the compost heap or, you start thinking about things to do with said objects.
In my case, I decided that there had to be a better way to deal with two bananas when I needed three. And it was not going to be to substitute a third of a cup of apple sauce or some such weeny thing. So, I looked at all sorts of recipes and everyone has this three-banana fetish. I mean, seriously people. Has no one ever ended up with only two?
In any case, here is what I came up with tonight. I needed a fast little something sort of sweet for after dinner and had a limited number of options in the cupboard, yet at the same time knowing that over-ripe bananas can carry their own, taste-wise, in baked goods and a lot of sins can be masked with chocolate.
Two Dead Bananas Chocolate Loaf Cake
Two old bananas, mushed up
3/4 cup of olive oil (or other good vegetable oil – not corn or soy, please, people)
2/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
flour (either 1 1/2 cups of cake flour or 1 cup of all purpose)
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 cup of baking cocoa
1/2 cup of Greek (or other plain) yoghurt
Possibly: orange or other sort of juice to thin things down if you need liquid
1 loaf pan, greased
In a bowl, put:
Olive oil, the eggs, the vanilla and the yoghurt and beat together. Add the mushed up bananas.
Sieve together the flour, the baking cocoa and the baking soda.
Add, bit by bit, the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. You should end up with a batter that is a little bit thinner than banana or other quick bread batter. If it is too thick, add a little bit of juice until it comes to the consistency that clumps off the mixer beaters.
Put batter into the loaf pan. Put pan into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, until the top is humped up, cracked and the center is firm. Take out and cool on a rack. Turn out onto a plate and serve.
This needs nothing. No frosting, no meddling with cherry pie filling or any of that truck. Just plain, moist, unbelievably great smelling and tasting cake with a wonderful crumb. If you can’t serve something without any sort of decoration, sieve a bit of confectioner’s sugar over the top before you start slicing it.
If you ever saw Jurassic Park, you will remember the whole basis of the (oh, the horror!) story was that scientists extracted DNA from the blood found inside mosquitoes trapped in amber and then did some kitchen magic with some frogs and voila – instant dinosaurs. Now, we won’t get into the whole ethical and just plain nutty arguments on this, but suffice it to say, the scientists took building blocks and created something else.
Now, in our last episode, what I resurrected was something ‘out of whole cloth’ (so to speak) from the past. This time, I am doing what the scientists did in JP and taking a building block and creating something else, in this case, a set of baby clothing out of an old acrylic sweater.
Other than the ‘gee whiz’ aspect of this, why both to do it?
Well, finding exactly what you want in baby clothing (and at the price you wish to pay) is not always possible. I find that in general, winter baby things are created with American homes with thermostats set at 75 degrees are pretty much the norm. Chez Siberia is just not that. Even on days when we are feeling the need to be tropical, the thermostat only gets set at 65 and there are spots in the house where 60 degrees is as good as it gets. For little teeny babies, this is Arctic. I’ve created some pretty specific clothing for the grand-kinder to wear while here (wool sweaters, overalls lined in wool flannel or fleece and so on), and wanted a nice little cuddly sweater suit for when the latest addition comes to stay with us.
So, here’s the drill: Aunt Toby had an old, much loved but no longer fitting acrylic sweater, long sleeved, with ribbing around the neck. It was a little bit saggy-baggy but the ribbing at the bottoms of the sleeves and the sweater body was still good, as was the ribbing at the neck. So, as you see at the top, I took it apart and ended up with two sleeves, a front, a back and the neck ribbing. I chose a pattern from one of the Ottobre magazines that I have (the patterns are from Finland and if anyone knows how to make warm kids clothing, it’s the Scandinavians). What I was able to eke out of the pieces of sweater surprised even me.
First step – cut out your pattern and start folding your sweater body pieces to see the best placement. i knew that the sleeves would probably be best used for the leggings. One of the things I want to note (and the scissors in the photo are pointing to that), if you have ribbing at the bottoms of sleeves and the sweater body, take advantage of that. That ribbing is knitting right into the fabric, so just use that for the bottom of your sweater, or skirt or dress or leggings. Your pieces will then be all pre-finished for you, which is a real time-saver.
Once you’ve cut out all your pieces, sew them together with either a coverstitch machine or a stretch stitch on your sewing machine. Be aware that cutting knitted fabric throws off a huge amount of fiber and fluff and you might want to stop every once in a while and brush out your mechanism and so on so that you don’t jam up the machine.
And here you have it, a complete baby set, including a hat (made from what was left of the top of one of the sleeves). I had a piece of ribbing left over which I inserted into one of the raglan sleeve seams; I’m going to sew on snap tape there for the neck opening (the original pattern wanted invisible zippers in both sleeves, which I definitely thought was overkill). What you are not seeing is the little handful of scraps that were left over.
So, this is just a reminder – just think creatively about things if you want to make something and that fabric per se, doesn’t seem to be out there. Cutting up an adult-sized garment into its component parts can yield actually a lot of fabric with which you can make a whole something for a child.
Guys – you can go out to the kitchen and pour yourselves a beer or something. This is strictly distaff, ok?
Are they gone? OK, your Aunt Toby is going to jump right into this. It’s been cold the past week. Really cold. And if you like to wear a skirt for school or work, it can get pretty air-conditioned down there. Mighty chilly.
When your dear Aunty was just a young sprout, we did wear skirts and dresses to school (shoot, girls in New York State did not get the right to wear slacks to school until my senior year in high school, which was 19..well, it was before Watergate, ok?). And a lot of us walked to school or work and at that time, the style was sheer hose. As in Kate Middleton sheer hose.
And that is mighty chilly, especially if you were wearing miniskirts. (more…)