Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tarte aux Poires and an almost wearable muslin

To celebrate my return to my own place, I spent yesterday doing some activities I had been missing while away for the summer. I baked my very first tart! It's a pear tart with almond cream. Pears aren't exactly in season, so it could have been more flavorful, but I've been dying to try this recipe, so I decided not to wait. I think my favorite part of tarts is arranging the fruit. Next time I'm going to cut them very very thin and fan them more finely.

During breaks from tart making, I was sewing an almost-wearable muslin for Simplicity pattern 3835, a cute Built by Wendy dress. I used a cheap woven polyester fabric that I picked up at a sale in the spring. I'm at a stage where I'm trying to figure out what types of fabric I like to work with, and how fabrics drape. This fabric seemed to have a nice drape, which I thought might work for a dress, plus I liked the color. And it was really cheap, so why not give it a try?

I ran into a few problems. First, the polyester unravels like crazy! I could have guessed as much, but man, does it go quickly. I solved this problem for the most part by making false french seams (also a first for me--they make the inside of the garment look much more professional. I might try real french seams next--I have a feeling they might save me a little time.

I also learned that fabrics that don't wrinkle, like this woven poly, don't make soft gathers--this makes the highly gathered neckline look a little funny. On the bright side, though, it gave a really interesting look to the ties at the sleeves. They puff out, and really hold their shape as three-dimensional objects. I like it.

In my excitement to start sewing again, I neglected to notice that my sewing needle was 1/8th inch left of center--so I was sewing 6/8th inch seams rather than 5/8th! Consequently, everything ended up smaller than I imagined it would. Until I realized my mistake, I had been cursing Wendy for drafting such tiny sleeve openings--I have pretty skinny arms, but wow! Now that I know, I'm fairly certain that this size will work for me the next time around without adjustments--as long as my needle is where it should be, and I choose a less ravelly, more breathable fabric! Overall I'm pleased with this pattern. It was easy to cut out, and fairly quick to sew. I'm half tempted to try to salvage this muslin and make it wearable, but I think I'll be less attached to it once I make another one in nicer fabric.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Preview of Fall Projects

I've been living in Washington, DC for the summer--away from most of my belongings, including my sewing machine. However, this has not stopped me from planning all of the things I would like to make when I return to my apartment in a few weeks. At the beginning of my summer, I spent a couple of weeks in Chicago, where I picked up some of my stash of fabrics from Africa and Asia. Mostly they are clothes I purchased or had made for me while traveling that don't quite fit into my American wardrobe. I still love the fabrics though, and I'm hopeful that I will be able to use them in a more Western fashion so that they can become a part of my everyday wear.

Indian cottons--most purchased at FabIndia in Chennai. I love block printed Indian fabrics. Perhaps I'll teach myself how to make something similar.

Pagne purchased in Cameroon, Africa. The top and bottom are Dutch Wax prints--considered to be the highest quality available in Cameroon. The one in the middle is a Kaba (a very very large dress) sent to me as a gift from one of my host mothers. I love the little embracing people. There are large medallions featuring some building in Cameroon.

D.C. is also an excellent place to search through estate sales. They are often listed on Craigslist or the Washington Post classifieds. It can be hit or miss, but sometimes they tell you that the homeowner was a seamstress and has fabrics for sale. I've been to about a dozen estate sales this summer. I picked up a couple of pieces of fabric, as well as some curtains, pillow cases, a bed skirt, and a bed spread that I hope to refashion.

Estate purchases.

My current favorite estate find were a pair of pale yellow/gold curtains that will give me 2-3 yards of fabric for under $2. It's clearly a very synthetic material, but I like the color and feel of the fabric.

I'm thinking of making a dress inspired by this Milly dress, seen at Nordstrom's for $355. I like the simple lines and the pairing of a velvety toned black fabric with the lighter, textured creamy fabric. Now I just need to find the perfect pattern!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Chocolate Weekend

Here are some of the delicious results of Chocolate Weekend 2007. This was my second attempt at truffle making with friends, and I'm very pleased our efforts! We made a strawberry-balsamic-white chocolate ganache (topped with pine nuts, at left), an amaretti ganache, honey sponge candy (like Cadbury Crunchie bars or Violet Crumble), and chocolate dipped pretzels with crumbs of sponge candy (below). The process is somewhat tricky--tempering chocolate is not terribly intuitive--but I enjoyed it, and I think I'd like to give it a try on my own soon. I'm always up for a good challenge--especially when it ends in a pretty and tasty reward. For those of you interested in the recipes, they came from the best chocolate book I have come across, Chocolates & Confections.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


I joined Wardrobe Refashion for the next four months. For those of you who haven't been introduced, Wardrobe Refashion is an excellent project started by an Australian woman. Every member pledges to abstain from purchasing new clothing during the time of their membership. Instead, they are encouraged to make, thrift, or buy handmade items. It's a great way to reduce waste and step outside of our consumer-driven culture for a moment. It fits very well with my ideals, so it is wonderful to find a community of like-minded people. Plus, it's really fun to see what everyone is making.

Here's my pledge:

I, Meghan, pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of "new" manufactured items of clothing, for the period of 4 months. I pledge that I shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract. I pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovoated, recylcled, crafted or created item of clothing on the Wardrobe Refashion blog, so that others may share the joy that thy thriftyness brings! Signed Meghan.