Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Hair.......

I've hit the bottle, and it's not even New Years Eve until tomorrow.  This is my second dabble with this colour and I have to say I LOVE it. It's a Schwarzkopf shade called burnished red. Being a natural redhead, I've always leaned towards red hair colours if I fancy a bit of a pep up. But this was a big leap towards red even for me! We're talking redder than Elmo with a bad case of the blushes. But it seems to make everything else just "pop" in the way that only a good colour combo can. I've been gagging to try some vintage hairdos but have steered clear until now, because I always think they look a bit frumpy on me (I'm not really cool enough to carry it off, lol!) but think this colour should really give them the edge I need to make them work for me.
It's very easy to apply and processes in 30 mins. It does take AGES to rinse and the water still runs a little pink for the next couple of washes (so use dark towels for a week or so!) The gloss factor is  fantastic, but it does fade relatively quickly, although it's still a very vibrant colour even after it's faded. I'm anticipating having to do it every 8 weeks or so to maintain. But, I have definately found my signature shade. So happy new hair to me, and Happy New Year to you...! (Oh, and if you happen to know of any good vintage hair styling blogs and feel like sharing, please let me know!)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fabulous Festive Fritters!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful festive season. I thought I'd share a favourite recipe for when you have the munchies but couldn't face another Turkey or Ham roast! It's a great way to use up leftovers too. Essentially you could add anything into the basic mix (apart from raw meat).
It's based on an Indian recipe, but can be adapted in many ways. You could add leeks, potatoes, sweet potato, winter squash, parsnips, onions, cooked bacon, ham .....instead of Indian spices you could use garlic and herbs like basil, chives, oregano thyme and sage to name just a few. Whatever blend of ingredients gets your tastebuds tingling!

For this batch I used 2 med courgettes, 5 small carrots, 1 med red pepper, 1 med onion. For this volume of ingredients I used 2 med eggs and 125g of plain flour. If you're using more veg, then you'll need more flour and eggs.

Grate or finely, slice, dice or chop all of the veg into a large mixing bowl. You can vary not only the type of ingredient, but the ratio too. You may want more carrot & less courgette for instance. If you are using fresh herbs instead of dried, add them at this stage, then mix together.

Next, measure out your flour.  Mix your dried herbs/spices into the flour. (I find it ensures a much better distribution  of the flavours through the mix). I used turmeric, ground cumin and coriander.

Then add the flour into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients and  fold it into the mix until the veg is lightly and evenly coated. Beat the eggs in seperate bowl before adding to the mix.

You should end up with a mix that is sticky but not too wet, and not too dry. You can play around with the quantites of flour and egg until you are happy with the consistency of  your mix. It should roughly resemble the picture on the right.

Then use 2 dessert spoons to squish together dollops of the mix, and put these 2 or 3 at a time into a pan, patting them flat as you go, and shallow fry in hot oil. (A light oil such as sunflower or vegetable) A minute or so on each side or until golden.

Turn out onto kitchen paper and drain any oil off. Serve hot or cold, on it's own with a dip (I used cucumber, mint & yoghurt) or as a side accompamiment to a main dish.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Drafting my "Go To" Dress (#4) Fitting the Muslin

I attempted my first round of fitting the bodice muslin of my Go To dress today. I've never attempted this on myself in front of a mirror before. I have so many figure quirks (sway back, full bust, 2-3sizes difference between bust, waist and hips etc etc etc) It's always seemed like a bit of an impossible task so I've avoided it. But if I'm honest, it's something that's been holding me back with my dressmaking, big time. The fitting process really ismy scary nemesis. My seemingly insurmountable obstacle.  I'm confident in my growing drafting and dressmaking abilities. I have so many ideas, designs, sketches. What's stopping me from realising them, is the idea that I won't be able to fit them properly; (and if I can't do that, then what's the point?!) So today, I climbed a bit of a mountain. I haven't quite put the flag in the top (yet) but I'm not far off (I think)! Here's how it went......

 FRONT: You can't really tell from the first picture but the first fitting was very tight across the bust but only marginally too tight at the waist and across the front of the chest. Armholes were also too high. For Fit #2 I'd let the side seams out and opened up the armhole seam. As far as the front is concerned, this was probably the best fit. However, further alterations to correct faults on the side seams, shoulders and back, affected the fitofthe front. Thismeant that I have ended up with  Fit #3, which is a bit too baggy across the upper chest.

SIDES:  You can really see how tight Fit #1 is in this picture. It's actually flattening my bust and distorting the side seam. In Fit #2, with the side seams and armhole seams let out, alot of the pulling has gone. But the side seam is still distorted, the front of the bodice is being pulled upwards because the shoulder seams are sitting too far back. In Fit #3 I have let out the side seams a little more and dropped the shoulder seams. You can see from the picture that in Fit #3, the side seams are now more vertical to the floor and the front of the bodice is sitting more happily too!

BACK: I really feel like I've cracked it here! You can see Fit #1 is way too tight. Fit #2 is still a little tight and has the added issue of fabric bunching at the small of the back. Partly because of the seam allowance, partly because I'd dropped the shoulder seams, and partly because I ALWAYS have this problem with anything even semi fitted.  Fit #3 was achieved by way of a sway back adjustment (of sorts!) which essentially resulted in a curve being cut from the hem of the back bodice piece. The curve is very apparent when the bodice is laid flat on the table, but not at all obvious when worn.. And look, not a crinkle, crease or pull in sight!

Soooooo, not as savage as I expected.  Although photographing myself was pretty torturous, it was also helpful to view the fit objectively in a photo rather than in the mirror. Am very happy with the fit at the back, and the profile from the side. The only big problem I can see is perhaps the excess fabric across the upper chest. I'm going to transfer the adjustments to my draft and cut a new muslin from that. Meantime I'm going trawl through my sewing books. If anyone has any feedback to offer me, or has noticed any potential pitfalls with my processes,  it really would be gratefully received!!!

Drafting my "Go To" Dress (#3) Bodice Muslin

I nipped into the PortiaCabin last night (hence the poor lighting in the photos) after Little Tornado had gone to bed. (If not to sleep. Boy oh boy!! That boy has some energy!). I whipped up the first bodice muslin of my Go To dress. I decided not to use calico. It was too stiff compared to the fabric I intended to use on my finished dress. I plumped for a more lightweight cotton/linen blend from my "practice" stash.

I weighted the pattern pieces down on top of the fabric. I used a soft pencil to trace around the pattern pieces directly onto the fabric itself, using a ruler (ok a set square) for the straight edges and tracing the curves freehand.

I then added a 2cm seam allowance around each piece. Larger than normal but I wanted room in case of adjustment. The straight lines are easy to add seam allowance to. With the curves,  I used the tip of the ruler marking little dashes, gradually turning the ruler as I followed the line of the curves.

I ended up with a front  and back piece like this. It looks right to me so far. I haven't added in any darts as the style is meant to be a pull on style with no darts. Although I may use this as a basis to create a fitted version as well. Lets see what happens after the first fitting.....!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Wrapping - Progress & Quick Tutorial

As per my last post, I've been playing about with making pleated paper bands with which to embellish our gifts this year. It's a great way for recycling wrapping, much cheaper than ribbon, and I'm rather pleased with the result. I kept it simple by just adding a narrow ribbon and neat bow to finish.

If you like the idea, it's really easy. To make the band I measured out some guidelines on the back of a length of contrasting wrapping paper. But you can do it by eye as well. (I'm rubbish at that though! I need rules rulers!)
I spaced them about an inch apart and used the edge of my metre rule to fold them smooth along the edge. Folding one way, then the other, to create a concertina effect.

I then pressed the band under a pressing cloth using a warm, dry iron. Just to sharpen the folds really, and  keep it nice and flat.

I wrapped it pretty snug around my gift, (don't want it sliding off or moving about) trimming off the excess and securing it at the back with sticky tape.

I added a very simple bow in a contrasting colour to finish. I'm alternating the green and turquoise ribbons on different gifts to tie in with the main wrapping paper.

To make these bands for EVERY gift would be too time consuming for my liking (and for the time I have left!) so I've compromised by alternating between plain bands (see right) on some gifts and pleated bands on others.

Now I know what I'm doing, should have it all finished by tomorrow!

Drafting my "Go To" dress (#2) Drafting the Back Bodice

Following on from my previous post, work has continued on my "Go To" dress. Next phase is the back bodice which is almost identical to the front piece, with only a few very minor alterations. Namely a different neck curve, a slight variation in the armhole curve and slightly shorter shoulder seams.

With all of that in mind I decided to use the front bodice as the basis for the back piece, rather than drafting from scratch. Logically, it seemed to me this would not only be quicker (I'm always all for that!) but more accurate too. So I began by taping the front bodice piece to a new sheet of pattern paper.

I then marked the various corners of all the straight edges on the pattern piece, and the top and bottom of the CF line. (Which will be the CB line on the new piece) These can be joined up afterwards with a ruler. I traced the curves lightly onto the new pattern paper, then removed the front bodice piece & began working on joining the dots and smoothing out the curves.

This is what I ended up with. I made the neccessary alterations with the piece folded in half along the CB line and transferred them to the other side by tracing. I raised the neckline and adjusted the shoulder seams and armhole curves. Then spent some time lining up both pattern pieces at the seam lines and truing them up to ensure smooth joins and curves once the bodice is constructed.

Next I need to use these front and back bodice drafts to create a bodice muslin and check for fit...........ooooh excitement!

Drafting my "Go To" dress...... (#1) Lengthening the Bodice

I have been tinkering with a bit of simple pattern drafting. I have a particular style of dress that I feel very at home in. I have 2 of them and they're my "go to" outfits that I never feel fat in and that are just "me". I want more of them, and if this project works out, I have various ideas sketched out on variations to the basic dress. This time next year I shall have a wardrobe full of them!

Being a relative newbie sewist, I've not tried my hand at this before, but what better opportunity to have a go at drafting my own pattern, using one of these dresses as a guide. After all, it's a very simple style, I know it fits me, I've got a workable understanding of the drafting process, what could go wrong? Well that remains to be seen, but this is how far I've got......

I began by drafting half the bodice front. I marked the CF line on the garment (using masking tape) & drew a corresponding vertical line on my pattern paper. I used this as a fixed point. Taking measurements from the CF line on the garment to various points along the side seam, armhole etc; and copying these measurements onto my draft. I used my French curve to smooth out the neck, arm and waist curves, until I ended up with half a bodice front. I then folded my draft along the CF line and traced the draft through onto the other side to create a whole front bodice piece.

One of the things that used to bug me a little about the dress I was copying was the empire waistline sat too high on my bust. I decided to use the "slash & spread" (sounds gruesome doesn't it!) technique that I'd learnt at college, to lengthen the bodice. I drew a cutting line straight across the bodice front, at right angles to the CF line. I then drew balance marks along the cutting line to help realign them afterwards.

I then "slashed" the bodice piece along the cutting line and "spread" it to insert another piece of pattern paper. I wanted to lengthen the bodice by 4" so I drew on the new piece of pattern paper: two parallel lines, 4" apart, with a vertical line down the centre.

Next I stuck the top piece of the bodice along the top parallel line of the insert, lining up the CF lines. Then using a set square, I squared lines down from each of the balance marks to the bottom parallel line. I used these and the CF lines to line up the bottom piece of the bodice front and stuck it down.

All that remained then was for me to true the side seams. Lengthening had put the original side seams out of line. Using a ruler, I drew a new side seam between points A & B which are the original top and bottom "corners" of the side seam.

You can see the difference between the old and new side seams a little better in this close up photo.
So I now have a front bodice piece that I can use as a basis to draft the back bodice piece (They're almost identical and I don't believe in creating work for myself!), and then from there, I plan to create a muslin....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gift Wrapping is underway....

It's funny how writing about the things that you do, makes you realise "stuff" about yourself. I am pretty methodical when I approach projects. Sometimes I look at the ordered manner of things in process and think "wow, that girl has control issues!!" Then I remember that "that girl" is me,and put it down to simple efficiency!

When I'm wrapping lots at once, I  keep everything pretty uniform and identical. It's quicker that way. Much as I get a kick out of gift wrapping, I don't have the time or inclination to spend days on it! I'll wrap everything first, then embellish and label them all in one go. (I use trusty post it notes to keep track of who's gift is who's). .Here they are all stacked, labelled and ready.

Next phase will be to add tags and embellishments. I have my handmade tags all ready to go as per the tutorial I posted. I have all my ribbon ready as well. I've just bought some red matt metallic paper that I'm going to try as pleated bands wrapped around each gift. Not sure of the detail yet, or whether it will work out, but that's the plan for tomorrow.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Tree - Done

A little later this year, but the tree went up this weekend. The vintage tree decorations I bought from Ebay look adorable and really do lend the tree a little magic. The Little Tornado certainly seems enchanted, and apart from a couple of close shaves, he seems content to stare at the tree rather than demolish it!

The tree itself, beads and red glass baubles were bought by my Dad before he died last year. He was besotted with The Little Tornado from day one, and I know he'd be very happy to know his much adored Grandson is enjoying the decorations he chose.  I suppose in this way, he'll be a part of our Christmas this year, and in the years to come, even though he can't be with us in person.

There were loads of baubles left from my Dad's selection and from the vintage ones I've been stashing away. Too pretty to put back in the box, I put them in glass bowls and vintage candy jars around the house

The candy canes also made it onto the tree along with some quirky tree decorations bought by my Mum. All in all, a lovely combination of old, new and sentimental. With just enough room for some homemade, once our Salt Dough Decorations are finished.......

Friday, December 17, 2010

Homemade Salt Dough Tree Decorations (inc Tutorial)

I wanted to have a go at these last year but time ran away with me! It's such a traditional craft that puts me in mind of the autumn harvest festivals at church when I was little. But I think salt dough lends itself to all sorts of things. (Loads more info here) It's kind of like a store cupboard Fimo!

For the Salt Dough You'll Need: 2 cups of Plain Flour, 1 cup of Table Salt, 1 cup Water (cool but not cold). Mixing bowl, rolling pin, cookie cutters,  palette knife, baking tray, greaseproof paper, cooling rack.
You can mix up any amount of dough you like as long as you stick to this ratio. 2 parts flour to 1 part each of salt and water.

Method: Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in a little of the water and mix. Keep adding the water a little at a time, (You may not need all of the water) & mix until it starts to form a dough. Then squeeze, knead & roll in your hands until it's a smooth, pliable ball of dough.

Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin and roll out the dough to about 50mm thickness. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters, or freehand if you're a bit more skilled than I am. I left the surface of my shapes plain as I'm going to paint them. But I guess at this stage you could carefully etch patterns or designs into the surface.

Carefully lift your shapes, using a palette knife, onto a baking sheet covered in greaseproof paper. (A couple of my stars got stuck because I didn't flour my work surface properly). Punch out holes for hanging ribbons. (I used a sturdy drinking straw for this)

Bake in the oven for an hour on a low heat (say 60C) turning them over half way through. Then turn them out onto a wire rack and leave until completely cool.  Leave for another 24 hrs before painting or varnishing, which hopefully we shall be doing this weekend....