Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Golden State

I grew up in California in a farmhouse built in the late 1800's, about an hour north east of Sacramento. My mother fell in love with this house in the 70's, when she used to do the paper route for the Sacramento Bee and drove by it every morning. One day, she drove by and the top story of the house had burned. The house was old, overgrown, and under-loved. But beneath the weeds and the peeling paint and the ash, she saw it's beauty. 

Her and my father purchased the house (and it's accompany 2 acres) in 1980 and immediately began restoring it. Lucky for my mother, my dad is an incredibly talented carpenter. They took years to rebuild and restore as much of the original house as they could. If an old house or hotel or business was being demolished, they would take as many of the original doors, bricks, windows, hardware, flooring, trim, moulding, shelving, as they would be allowed. 

They found multiple "dump sites" on the property and my mom spent days digging and sifting through the rubble. The above bottle collection is just a fraction of the goods she found. There were forks, the soles of leather shoes, fragments of china, pieces of porcelain and metal toys, perfume and prescription bottles, beer and alcohol bottles, tin cups, plates and bowls, cast iron pans and pots. 

They've never had a dishwasher, and they still don't. Our Christmas dinner is cooked on this little stove every year (and then we spend an hour and a half washing the damn dishes by hand...).  It's a small kitchen, but it contains some of my fondest memories, and (as is the case with many homes) finds itself packed with too many family members at our get togethers.

They hacked back the blackberry bushes and discovered a creek and a spring (my mom tells of how they could hear the water, so they knew it was there, they just didn't know where). They uncovered pear trees, apple trees, and grape vines as old as the house.  

Daniel and I are getting married on my parent's property in May and I could not have thought of a more perfect place. My childhood home is a lovely symbol of the hard work my parent's have put into their life, their marriage and their children and that is something I can only hope to reflect throughout my life. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dotted Swiss, Why You do Me Like This?

The fiance and I are headed back to California in a couple short weeks and I am SO. HAPPY. One of my life long best friends is getting married and I'm counting down the days until Dan and I will be surrounded by friends and family and the joy of a union of two wonderful people. While we're home, we're also having engagement photos taken by Marie of Permanent Glimpse Photography. I already knew I was going to wear the rayon dress I made in this post, but the other outfits I put together just weren't quite right. When I discovered some vintage dotted swiss in my fabric stash, I was pretty excited to combine it with Simplicity 1607, by Cynthia Rowley. And by time I'd finished it, I knew it would be perfect for our little love-bird photo session. 

I had made this dress previously and it turned out about, ohhhhh two and a half sizes too small. I shed a few tears for the vintage fabric I'd used to make it, and then angrily packed the pattern away. This time, I was determined to make sure it fit. I also knew I didn't have the time or patience to deal with the complicated (albeit, awesome) criss cross straps, so I made some major alterations to the top 1/3rd of the pattern and forged on. 

It is fully lined with 100% cotton muslin and enlarge by about 1 1/2" everywhere. 

And it fits beautifully. Thank goodness. The dotted swiss was, admittedly, a bit of a pain to work with. It just kept shifting, and fraying and I think it has a bit of polyester in it because my iron didn't seem to like it very much. Anyway, I did my best to finish the seams so that they wouldn't all unravel, and I'm overall very pleased with how it came out. I can't wait to wear it for pictures!

So, here's to successful summer projects, and only a handful of days separating me from warm California nights with some of my favorite people on the planet. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Happy Tuesday, y'all! Trish from Trishstitched nominated me for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award, and gosh, am I flattered. Thank you, Trish!

Here’s how the award works!
Award Guidelines:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
2. Display the award logo in a blog entry
3. List the award guidelines so your nominees will know what to do
4. State 7 hidden facts about yourself OR 3 things that inspire you.
5. Nominate other blogger friends for the award.
So, I'll choose option 3 and tell you a little about what inspires me, and my creative process. It's easy for me to find inspiration in most things, pictures from magazines (and Pinterest, 'cause let's be real, that site is inspiration overload), other people's work, things I see at Target, spools of thread, just about anything, really. If I had to narrow it down to three specific things, however, I would say that nature, my Mom, and old stuff are the three things that I draw the most from. 

1. Nature

I have a pretty healthy love for plants and nature as it is, so I often find myself soaking in the beauty of the natural world whether it's a single leaf or of those little mushroom that grow on the football field where I walk the track in the morning. Color is always an enormous inspirational factor that I find in nature (look at the color of that Zinnia! #nofilter), but there are such beautiful patterns and emotions to be taken from nature as well. 

2. My Mother Dearest

Sigh. What to say about my Mom? Well, she's simply the most incredible person I know. She is an absolute powerhouse of creativity. She spins, she dyes, she weaves, she sews, she woodburns, she beads, she paints, she writes, she felts, she photographs. She can turn stinky seaweed into the most beautiful baskets, and she is the queen supreme of making new wood look old. My Mother (and my sister) own a business in Northern California called The Tin Thimble, and you can find more about her and their business on their website. My Mom can read a sentence in a book, see a coral color rick rack she loves, and build a whole children's clothing line out of it like *THAT!*. I can't even imagine my Mother's creative process, but damn is it inspiring.

4. Old Stuff

"Old Stuff" is sort of generic, I realize. But I mean that old things in general are inspiring to me. Old, dilapidated houses, shards of vintage Pyrex, sewing patterns from the 1930's, Sears & Roebuck catalogs from 1904, atomic-era pink tile bathrooms, victorian undergarments, and photographs from just about any era older than myself. 

Lastly, I would like to nominate Jenny of A Domestic Wildflower for the award. She's a Northern California girl like myself (we even went to the same university) and I think her blog is just lovely. Please take a moment to check it out!

As always, thank you for reading and have a lovely week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Life in Bloom

Happy Wednesday, Everyone! I put together this top sort of on a whim and I am so, so happy with how it turned out. This voile is by Amy Butler, and you can find it at The Tin Thimble's Etsy store. I originally planned on lining the top, but with the recent humidity (it's been 100% a few times lately. And NOT raining. I didn't even know that was possible.), and the heat, I ended up just leaving it a single layer and finishing the inside with a combination of bias tape and french seams. 

The original pattern was for a dress, but I knew I wouldn't wear it as much, so I cut about 3 feet off of the skirt and decided to gather the peplum, as opposed to pleating it like the original.  I added extra gathers in the back to give it more shape, and added a small keyhole above the zipper. 

I love, love, love it when a project goes off without a hitch and turns out to be something I can wear often. The husband-to-be and I went on a date the next day and I proudly wore it out! 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Words through Food

I grew up in a household where we ate dinner around the table together every night. Every. Night. My mom is a great cook, and has a seemingly endless supply of recipes both on paper and in her head. I don't remember a time when my mom taught me how to cook, but I guess I absorbed a lot of her knowledge simply by watching. My sister, Lisa, has also taught me a lot about food. How to try things, how to tweak recipes, how adding dijon mustard to everything makes it better. When I was in college my roommate and I did nightly dinner together a lot. I missed those evenings when we graduated and I lived by myself. Cooking for yourself is hard! Portions for one?? Please. That's extremely hard to accomplish. When I met Daniel I was thrilled to be able to make dinners for two. I'm also thrilled that he's not a picky eater (ain't nobody got time for that). I look forward to the end of the day when he comes home, boots caked in mud, safety vest in one hand, lunchbox (or dinner box, as some West Virginians call it) in the other. We sit next to each other at the dinner table, sometimes we talk a lot, sometimes only a few words pass between us and we stay deep in our thoughts, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we talk about important things, sometimes we watch stupid youtube videos. Mostly, we just sit next to each other and share a moment, and a meal. 

I'm blessed to be in a position where I have the time to put a lot of effort into our food. To me, it's an act of love. The minutes spent rinsing, chopping, slicing, heating, stirring, and seasoning are minutes of silence that can express 'I love you', 'Thank you', 'I'm sorry', whatever it may be. This week, those minutes built a sentence that said 'I'm proud of you, and also, I really like middle eastern food so I spent $20 over the grocery budget this week, it'll be worth it, I promise.'

Dan had a recipe for 'Pakistani Chicken', I made a cucumber yogurt salad, mint lemonade, and we bought hummus and naan (both of which I should have made, but was a little short on time...)

Pakistani Chicken

2 1/2 lbs Chicken Breast
2-3 Cups of Plain Yogurt
6 Cloves Minced Garlic
1 Tsp Ground Cumin
2 Tbs Ginger (fresh, graded is best)
1 Small Onion, Minced
2 Tsp Ground Coriander
2 Tsp Salt
1Tsp Black Pepper

Mix all ingredients, except chicken, in a bowl. Transfer to large tupperware with chicken and let marinate. We let ours sit for 2 days, but a minimum of 4 hours will work too. We prefer to grill the chicken, but you could also pan fry it. 

Cucumber Salad with Mint Yogurt Dressing

4 Cups of Sliced Cucumbers (I prefer Armenian or Persian)
2 Cups Plain yogurt
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
2 Tbsp Chopped Mint 
1 Tsp Salt

Slice cucumbers. Mix all ingredients and let sit in the fridge till nice and cool. 

Mint Lemonade

1 Jar of Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade (any lemonade will work, but I like this one)
1/4 Cup Roughly Chopped Mint
1 Tsp Honey
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

Pour about 1/2 cup of juice out of the jar (and enjoy it!). Add mint, honey and lemon juice and let sit in fridge for several hours. Taste, add more honey to make it sweeter, or more lemon juice to make it more tart!

This made a delicious summer dinner that didn't require me turning on the oven, stove, or staying in our tiny (and hot!) kitchen for very long, so that's a big plus. If you try any of the recipes let me know what you think, or what you changed!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Flashback Friday

Several years ago, Marie Clark of Permanent Glimpse Photography photographed some handmade works by my mom, my sister and me. What an honor! Unfortunately, shortly after those photos were taken, I fell out of the blogosphere and wasn't able to share them with you until now! 

This top was made with a Simplicity 9438, a 1980's pattern for one-yard wrap tops.  Remember how I just moved across the country, and had to leave 3/4 of my things in a storage unit? Yeah, well that means a lot of my patterns didn't make it out with me.  I kind of wish I had packed this one, it was fun to make, and is super versatile. Sigh. 

It ties on the inside, and closes on the outside with three tabs and buttons. 

The original pattern didn't have the peplum, I added that because I'm not a big fan of midriff tops, and to give the top a bit more shape. I used a vintage, lightweight, polyester. For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know that I despise polyester. I made an exception for this one, how could I not? Look at that awesome daisy print. 

Other details: Jeans by Gap. "Oscar" pumps by Jessica Simpson in coral. Vintage fabric from The Tin Thimble

This top gets me through a lot of spring and summer days, and I'd love to make another out of cotton. Do you have a favorite wrap pattern? Wrap dresses, pants, skirts? I'd love to find a great new pattern!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Five, Six, Seven, Eight

I've been hanging onto this beautiful 100% silk for a while now. I'll be honest, I don't really like sewing with silk. It's slippery, it frays (and frays, and frays some more), my sewing machine prefers to suck it into the bobbin case and tear holes in it. This color was so lovely, however, that after sitting at the top of my fabric stash for a couple of weeks, I decided that I would heed it's tiny cries to be made into something. I decided upon using New Look pattern #6286, gathered all of my patience, praised my sewing machine and got to work.

About halfway through, I tried it on for the fiance and asked "Doesn't it kinda look like a dance costume?". He chuckled, and while he didn't agree with me, he also didn't disagree.  Before I added the skirt, the wrap bodice and those flouncy sleeves looked just like the top half of a cha-cha costume. I looked at myself a little horrified in the mirror. "Oh god, please tell me I didn't waste gorgeous peacock colored silk to make something you would see skittering across the 'Dancing with the Stars' stage. Please. No."

Luckily, once I added the skirt, and made a few adjustments to the fit, I think it's actually sort of pretty. It's a bit more...ruffly? than things I normally make or wear, but it was actually quite fun to make. I also feel more comfortable with sewing silk now that I have successfully made a garment.

I've been sewing for long enough now that I have a small arsenal of tricks that come in handy. One of the big ones? Using paper when sewing with thin or "slippery" fabrics. I used good old printer paper to sew the narrow hems on the sleeves, as well as around the bottom of this blouse. If I had an automatic hemming foot for my machine, I probably would have used that. They make such amazing, tiny hems, don't they? I also used a microtex (sharp) needle and I swear they make a big difference. I tried utilize french seams as much as possible, and the neckline was finished with bias tape. Would you like to know more of my tips for sewing with silk or other light-weight fabrics? What advice do you have?