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These pillows were a long time in the making!

They are jersey-knit reverse appliqué in the style of Natalie Chanin’s Alabama Stitch Book.

I started them two summers ago when a sweet friend came for a visit.  We knew that there would be lots of times that we would be sitting and talking, so we each had some hand-work to do while we conversed.

Before she arrived, I prepared my fabric and stenciled the design, which is an image I cut out with my Silhouette from the “Sealife” dingbat font (letter “U”).

I don’t think I really considered just how much hand work would be involved with this design!  Not only did I not get through stitching the first crab during my friend’s visit, but it took me about a year and a half to finally finish the stitching on both.

They came with me on car trips and plane trips; they came out (if I thought of it) while I talked with other friends… And I finally finished the stitching one day while nursing my son!

Once they were done, I began carefully cutting out the centers of each spot (with fear and trepidation! Wouldn’t it be awful if I chopped through the under layer after all that work?!).  I think it took me at least an hour to cut out each panel.

I thought that it would be a zip-zip-zip job to put the pieces together into envelope-style pillow cases, but I managed to jam up my serger with all the layers!

But finally, finally!  I sewed the cases together with a machine stitch (they are slightly smaller than I’d planned, due to the serger fiasco), and they are in a place of honor on our bed!

Throughout the whole process, I envisioned these crabs with their claws down (as they are displayed in these photos).  But Husband saw them  and turned them claws-up!  Now it’s a running joke with us how the crabs should be positioned.  How do you think they should be? ;-)

At our final class, we worked on piping letters, both printed and script….

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At tonight's class (the last one), we worked on piping letters, both printed and script.

At tonight's class (the last one), we worked on piping letters, both printed and script.

At tonight's class (the last one), we worked on piping letters, both printed and script.

Boy do I wish I’d had this information before I attempted Husband’s birthday cake!  Remember, Natalie: lift the piping tip during the strokes–only touch it down at the beginning and the end.  Go slowly!  Use thin consistency frosting!

And last but not least, we made roses! Oh what fun!  I was so pleased with the way my first one turned out, and of course I took a lot of photos.  I will certainly be looking for excuses to put frosting roses on things, haha!

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At the end of class, we decorated the cakes that we’d brought.  But I’m not going to show mine to you just yet!  ;-) I used this time to work on my idea for my son’s first birthday cake–and so I will write a separate post about the cake(s) I made for our celebration of his one-year birthday!

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Some musings on paying for a live, in-person class:

At first I wanted to take a class (any class) because I just wanted some truly “me” time away from the house and my responsibilities there. The Wilton class seemed like a good opportunity, because my friend and I had talked about taking a cake decorating class. However, I wasn’t sure how this particular class would be more worthwhile than say, watching YouTube videos.

I can say now that I am really happy that I took the live, in-person class for several reasons

  • Specific, directed content. Taught in a logical order, without me having to strain out extraneous information or spend (waste?) a lot of time looking for the exact tutorial that I needed for a particular technique.
  • Dedicated, hands-on time. The class is a reserved time where I “have” to practice. If I were just watching a video, I’m personally not necessarily self-motivated enough to attempt and practice all the techniques on my own, over and over again. Plus, in class, our instructor came around and showed us a technique up-close, or corrected our form when necessary,
  • Camaraderie. The other ladies in the class made it so much fun! I loved getting extra time with the friend I came with, and I felt like we all became friends with each other during the class. Obviously this would not have happened if I were working on my own!

I am really looking forward to taking more cake decorating classes in the future!

I began working on this dress when I started watching the “Sew the Perfect Fit” class on Craftsy.  I’d made a muslin and had started fitting it (thanks, Mom!) but hadn’t gotten much further than that when the SOSM was announced.  Since the second round of the SOSM was a dress, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to finish this one!

click photos to enlarge

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The pattern is Vogue 8766, view A.  I’d thought about adding straps, but when I found this lightweight dark denim (almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? haha), I decided that I’d keep it strapless.  According to my measurements, I was “exactly” size X (you didn’t think I’d actually tell you my size, did you? ;-)).  However, when I cut out and sewed the muslin for size X, it was at least an inch too big at each of the main measurement marks.  I had to take it in at the hips, waist, and bodice.  It kind of makes you wonder what those size measurements actually mean!!  Special thanks go to my mom for helping me adjust the muslin, from which I made an adjusted pattern, and to Husband, who pinned me into my actual dress several times throughout the sewing process to that I could check and adjust the fit even more.  I also have to give even more gratitude to Husband, who understood my desire to keep up with the SOSM timing and watched our kids so that I could work on this dress: we were out of town for the first 7 days of this round, and so I made this dress from Friday to Sunday.  In fact, I finished the dress literally minutes before we left for church!

 

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The dress is fully lined, with boning at the side seams of the bodice.  In fact, the bodice has an “underlining,” which I’d never encountered before.  And I will probably think hard about using one again, at least made from the same lining fabric (as per the pattern instructions).  I felt like it made the pieces more difficult to work with, and therefore less precisely constructed.  I decided to use zebra-print lining– I did a project about zebras in fifth grade, and I’ve never lived it down! ;-)  It’s really fun to have that little “secret” flair to the dress, even if no one ever sees it!

 

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Watercoloring is really popular right now in papercrafting, and I finally jumped on the bandwagon ;-)  As soon as I saw this “I love Art” cut file from Wilna Furstenberg, I thought of my artist cousin, and I knew I had to make her a card using it.  I knew I wanted to cut it from white cardstock, and I thought a “puddle” of watercolor behind it would be pretty and appropriate!

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I cut down some watercolor paper to the size of my card front and wet it with plain water, then dropped in color using my daughter’s watercolor set(!). I was so pleased to see the vibrancy of the colors!

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Because I wanted the die cut and the watercoloring to be the star of the card, I simply mounted the watercolor paper panel to a coordinating mat and adhered it to the front of my card.

Now that I’ve dipped in my toe, I want to do more with watercolors!

I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 and 2014 to make at least one new recipe from some of our newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2015.”

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Recipe:  Super-Crispy Oven-Fried Fish from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (page 190)

ATK super-crispy oven-fried fish

  • when did we make this? Tuesday, June 9, 2015, for supper.
  • did we change anything?  No.
  • what did we like?  The coating is very crispy and flavorful.  We definitely enjoyed the fish.
  • what didn’t we like?  The raw shallots in the coating were a little bit strong, so I had a stomachache later (sadly, I don’t do well with raw onion-like foods).  
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?   I would like to make this again, to expand our seafood recipe repertoire.  However, I would like to figure out a way to soften the shallot flavor a bit– maybe saute them?

 

I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 and 2014 to make at least one new recipe from some of our newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2015.”

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Recipe:  All-Purpose Corn Bread from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (pages 550-551)

ATK all-purpose cornbread.

  • when did we make this? Saturday, May 16, 2015, for supper with friends.
  • did we change anything? Not really, though I substituted powdered buttermilk for the regular buttermilk.
  • what did we like?  Tender crumb, and savory while being sweet!  Surprisingly (and delightfully) moist.  A great combination.  
  • what didn’t we like?  Nothing :)
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?   Yes.  No changes necessary!

So, I wasn’t 100% pleased with my first top for round one of the SOSM Community Match. So, being me, I made another.  I didn’t have time to tweak my previous top‘s pattern within the time limits for the first round, so I decided to make a different top altogether.

It’s a simpler top, in terms of construction, but I am very pleased with how it turned out!

click on photos to see them larger

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My black jersey tie top is inspired by THIS one, which I’d pinned a few years ago.

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I challenged myself to make it entirely with my serger.  The only time I used my sewing machine was to baste new side seams to produce a more flattering fit.  Once I’d determined the proper shape, I serged those puppies up!

I started out with two 30″ wide by 28″ long rectangles of jersey (the same 95% rayon, 5% spandex as the green top).  I finished the top 9″ or so on each side by using a cover stitch.  I folded down the top edge by 2″ to form a channel, again using a cover stitch, for the tie.  At first, I sewed the side seams straight, and after trying it on and seeing that it looked terrible, I went through a couple iterations of curving the side seams inward with a basting stitch until I liked the look.  Like I mentioned before, I then serged the side seams at the final seam line.  The hem is a 1/2″ cover stitch (I LOVE that function on my serger!  Cover stitched everything! :))

To make the tie, I cut a 3″-wide strip of the whole 60″ width of the fabric.  I folded it in half, serged the long edge (leaving a small gap for turning) and added angled ends.  Turn, press, hand-stitch the gap, and done!

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it is unfortunate that the shorts that I’m wearing have back pockets with flaps that make odd bulges near the bottom… the shirt truly does hang nicely!

I think it would be fun to have a contrasting color for the tie, maybe one made of silky fabric (like the inspiration top’s), or even a chiffon.

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