last costume!!!

last but not least… costume number four!

okay, i think after my sewing marathon of trying to finish these costumes as fast as possible i started to go a little crazy and get kind of exasperated with simplicity’s children’s patterns and their bizarre fit. however, i will not rant. i did plan on adding useful tips and whatnot throughout the costume posts so they weren’t a complete bore, but i ended up chucking the camera to the side (or losing it under a pile of fabric) and just went for the finish line. i barely stopped to eat, let alone snap pictures so, my apologies if i am boring you!

anyway, my eldest daughter anastasia who is 7 years old, is dressing as dorothy from the wizard of oz. if you don’t know, i grew up in kansas and lived there until after college and i’ve always wanted to dress up one of the girls as dorothy. you know, because everyone in kansas lives on a farm and watches their houses get picked up and blown around by tornadoes every spring. i’m kidding. sort of… completely independent of my kansas roots, i just happen to love this move.

i used simplicity 4139 which really is a nice replica from the movie. i chose to disregard the directions which had you sew the faux blouse and faux jumper together at the side seams and shoulder seams. it was kinda weird. i mean i get it, it’s a costume, but i couldn’t quite do it that way. so i left the blouse and jumper independent of each other except  at the waist and center back. i didn’t want to mess with two separate closures or two entirely separate pieces so that’s what i went with.

again, like the snow white pattern, this is cut for a curvy figure! my daughter perfectly matched up to the waist and chest measurements of the size 5 (she’s tall and skinny) yet after trying it on her i still had to take a full 2″ out of the top of the bib pieces. weird. anywho… 

i’m really happy with the results and of course, she loves the outfit! the kids can’t wait for halloween, let’s just hope it isn’t freezing! right now it’s 40 degrees and we’re supposed to get snow tonight. why can’t halloween be in september or something?

so now that i’m done with all that i can start tackling everything that i neglected while i was sewing. like my children, laundry and general housekeeping. oh, and all the other sewing projects i have lined up!

have a safe and fun halloween!

vote for me! vote for me! vote for me!

okay, shameless plug here… i entered the bee costume i made into the costume contest. i know there are some fabulous and creative costumes entered, but if you have a minute hop over there and throw in a vote for mine! there are prizes involved so that’d be awesome, however unlikely. thanks!

vote here: buzz!


heigh-ho… heigh-ho…

next up in the halloween costume department is my 5 1/2 year old daughter sylvia and the little man of the house, 2 1/2 year old oliver.

sylvia is our reigning princess, fashionista, diva, you name it. i’ve always thought she would make a cute snow white so that’s what we did this year! i used simplicity 2563 which was great because i didn’t have to make any design changes. i used this pattern last year for the cinderella look so i knew i’d have to make a few adjustments. i don’t know why but the cut straight off the pattern is so curvy! as in tiny at the waist and tapered out at the chest. now, my kids aren’t particularly busty (???) so i fit the pattern at the chest and brought it out at the waist. also the neckline is cut really low so i raised it by a full inch. doesn’t someone test these things out first? i mean, really! busty and low cut for a toddler pattern??? c’mon. fortunately i knew all that going into this dress so i could make the adjustments ahead of time.

i used a basic acetate satin, same as the bee, in fact. since it is a little thin i underlined and lined the bodice. not trying to go all crazy on this one, but i wanted the point at the front of the waistline to stay in place so since i happened to have a small piece of boning laying around, i put a strip of it down the center front. yes, i know, a 5 year old doesn’t need boning in a costume… but it always bugged me about the cinderella dress i made last year. the point kinda sticks out and without support this would have done the same. don’t judge me, i’m not crazy. oh, wait…

i lined the skirt with taffeta to give it some body and up the “swish” factor. i hand stitched the yellow bodice lining, made the detachable collar and red headband… this dress has far more details than i realized when i started it so it definitely takes a while to put together. but, it is a great snow white replica so i won’t complain. some of the patterns out there are way off base! i do kinda wish i had done the bodice in a navy velveteen or something, but as i will never make this dress again(!!!) i’m not going to dwell on it.

so after all that we thought it would be cute to dress oliver up as dopey to go along with the snow white costume. he was originally going to be something completely different but after an afternoon of mad searching and being unable to find a very key piece… i had to come up with something else. his favorite color is green and he has a speech delay so he doesn’t talk much, and since dopey doesn’t talk at all… well it’s a match made in heaven. he’s shy, so he’ll probably do a lot more nodding than talking anyway!

this one i pretty much drafted myself. i had a robe pattern that was several sizes too small so i used that as a starting point. the great thing about a dopey costume is that his outfit is huge and disheveled so i really had no need to go crazy about fitting anything! i made it out of fleece for comfort and warmth (and it was 60% off at the fabric store, bonus!). i resisted the urge to line the outfit and simply went au natural on the inside. i barely even trimmed my seam allowances. i sewed big buttons down the front but used velcro on the inside for the actual closure. typically i’m against fake closures, but if you’ve ever tried to button up a wiggly 2 1/2 year old, you’d know that this was the most appropriate option. i hand stitched patches on the elbows and whipped up a slouchy purple fleece hat. throw on a belt and there you have it!

a halloween costume, in which i take something very easy and choose to make it very complicated…

i have been buried underneath mountains of fabric for this year’s halloween costumes and i’m sooooo close to being done. just need to finish off the last details! so here is the first one in the lineup. it is a project in which i take a super easy pattern and turn it into a super complicated one. fortunately, it turned out really great.

i really got my start sewing by making my girls their yearly halloween costumes. after several years of that it finally dawned on me that my skills were good enough to make “real” clothes. you know. for me! at any rate, i really look forward to halloween. the days (weeks, now that i have four munchkins to dress up) slaving over the sewing machine for the hour or two the outfits are paraded about… it seems silly, but i guess i enjoy the crazy.

first up this year is a bee costume for my almost 4-year old isabella. we’ve called her “izzie busy bee” ever since she learned to crawl, and finally this year she went for the bee costume. i used this really easy pattern, 2073 by simplicity. it’s designed to be a funky generic princess/fairy/witch starting point. it has this great hoop skirt hem to make it all space age and kinda of dr. seuss like. i thought the shape of the skirt would look killer done up in stripes all the way down and that’s just what i did.

i won’t go into much of the details of construction here, but i took each of the seven panels of the skirt and cut them into 2″ stripes. this gave me a total of 49 pieces for the skirt alone. as i was penciling in the stripes on the pattern pieces i had this brief moment of clarity where i could have turned back. but i snuffed out the little voices and went with it anyway.

despite the hours and very meticulous planning and—please don’t anyone touch the pattern pieces or even breathe anywhere near my sewing table!!!—it was totally worth it. to keep the most continuous stripes i sewed all the stripes together first, as in from side to side, then sewed the stripes together to build the skirt. i could have just pieced each panel individually but i was worried about my seams/stripes not matching up. so i did the front and back then joined the side seams. if that all didn’t make sense, don’t feel bad. a project like this is only for the insane. while it’s not perfect, it’s pretty darn close. in fact i can’t believe i pulled this off… did i mention 49 pieces for the skirt alone???

i fully lined the dress and added boning around the hem for the stand out skirt part, made a stinger to sew onto the backside, a set of wings and a headband antennae… and there you have it. the perfect little bee!


as american as… well, you know…

steve jobs passed away yesterday.

it’s always weird when a well-known person dies. you can’t really mourn over it, it’s not like you actually knew the person. yet, you know some things just won’t be the same… i wasn’t an apple lover until my husband introduced (read: forced!) an imac into my life when we got married. it wasn’t long before i completely fell in love with the brand and their products. somehow steve jobs created solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had (hello, ipod)! he was an american innovator whose products are integrated into my daily life; and so in his memory, how about an apple pie?

3-2-1 pie crust:

don’t be intimidated by pie crust. it’s not hard. plus, homemade tastes far superior to anything that comes in a tube or a box.

i have used the following method for a while now and it really never fails. i learned it from michael ruhlman’s book “ratio.” seriously, get this book! the ratio (by weight) for pie crust is 3:2:1 (flour:fat:liquid). for a double or latice topped crust, you will need 12 oz of flour, 8 oz fat (i use half butter, half crisco) and 4 oz of water. the beauty of the ratio method is that you can scale up or down as needed and never have to go in search of that random piece of paper that has a recipe on it.

12 oz flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 T sugar (omit for savory applications)
8 oz butter/crisco diced and very cold
4 oz ice cold water

in a bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. add half to the food processor along with half of the butter/crisco. pulse until crumbly. add remaining flour and butter/crisco and pulse.

pour into a large bowl and sprinkle about 3/4 of the water over and mix with a spatula. if the dough is still very crumbly, add the rest of the water a little at a time. you don’t have to use all the liquid.

once the dough begins to stick to itself when pressed together, turn out onto a floured surface and kneed gently until you can form a smooth ball.

divide the dough into two rounds and wrap with plastic wrap. refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

apple filling:

3 lbs apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T lemon juice
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
2 T ap flour
2 T cornstarch

in a large bowl, toss together sliced apples and lemon juice. 

in a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and whisk together to incorporate. add this to the apples and mix until it is coated evenly.

take one disk of pie dough from the refrigerator and roll out large enough to fit into the pie plate with about 1″ of overhang. gently move the crust to the pie plate (do not stretch the dough!!) and trim.

give the apples a final stir and pour into the crust. arrange the apples so there aren’t any sticking out funny.

roll out the remaining crust and place over the apples. trim so that the edge of the crust will just come to the edge of the pie plate (the bottom crust will be longer). bring the bottom crust up over the top edge and press together gently. then crimp with your fingers or the tines of a fork to seal the edge. brush the top with egg whites mixed with a splash of water and then sprinkle sugar on top for a shiny crisp crust. (my camera battery had the audacity to die on me as i went to take a picture of the last steps here. my apologies.)

cut a few slits through the top of the crust and place on a cookie sheet. bake in a 425 F preheated oven for 20 minutes. then, decrease temp to 375 F and bake for an additional 40 minutes, or until the apple filling is bubbling and thickened. check often to monitor how brown your crust is. if it looks like it is browning too much, move it to a lower rack and/or cover it with foil.

let cool completely before serving. if desired, warm individual slices in the oven at 350 F for about 10 mins. and, of course, top with vanilla ice cream.

here’s to the american creative spirit. thanks steve!

apple muffins!

lest you thought i have become one dimensional and stopped baking/cooking… here are some fab apple muffins! i’ve been anxious to dive into some fall baking, but the weather keeps alternating from hot to cold and back to hot! right now it’s cold again… i’m ready for all the warm cozy sweaters and the hot apple cider and long simmered stews. i bummed this recipe off the king arthur flour website—an awesome resource for anything baking related—and headed to the kitchen.

apple muffins, adapted from king arthur flour*

2c (9 oz) ap flour (you can sub half the flour with whole wheat or whole wheat white flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 T cinnamon
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 lg egg, lightly beaten
1 c (8 oz) buttermilk
1 1/2-2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 c coarse raw sugar

*note: i made only minor tweaks to this recipe and it’s directions. the original calls for 3/4 c brown sugar, 1/4 c for the muffins and 1/2 c for the topping. i like the crunch from the raw sugar but if you don’t have it you can follow kaf’s directions!

preheat oven to 375 f and prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by greasing and flouring each cup or using muffin liners. if using muffin liners also give them a spritz.

mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

in a standing mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. add the egg and mix until completely incorporated.

slowly add the buttermilk and dry ingredients, alternating: 1/3 of the liquid, 1/2 of the dry, 1/3 of the liquid, remaining dry then remaining liquid. doing so will help keep the buttermilk from curdling and help incorporate the ingredients more evenly.

gently fold the diced apple into the batter.

divide amongst the prepared muffin cups and top with a generous sprinkle of the coarse sugar. don’t skimp here, it may seem like a lot of sugar topping but it’s soooo crunchy and yummy!

bake for 25-30 minutes… you know the drill. if you used muffin liners, remove from the pan after 10 mins. if not, allow to cool in the pan before removing.

i still had to fight with these beauties a bit before wrangling them out of the pan. they don’t rise to a nice dome quite like they are pictured online, but they’re delish nonetheless. so, definitely use the muffin liners if you have them. my guess is that there is too much apple and/or moisture in this recipe, so 1 1/2 smallish apples is probably sufficient.

hope you give these a try, enjoy!