Crafting

April’s Project: Skirts (Circle Skirt Edition)

Circle skirts are adorable. They’re those super twirly, full skirts that invoke garden parties, meatloaf, and martini lunches. Wear one with heels and you look like Donna Reed. Wear one with ballet flats and you look like Briar Rose in Sleeping Beauty. tl;dr: THESE SKIRTS ARE SUPER CUTE. 

I used this tutorial. It’s not so much a pattern as a guide. Warning: you need to dust off the geometry portion of your brain and use pi. I’m serious. But I also promise that I’m terrible at math and these still turned out great. 

You need lots of fabric for one of these. If you’re a curvy lady like me, get about three yards. Extra fabric is better than not enough. Follow the elastic sewing instructions closely. It’s another situation where everything seems like it’s going to fail but it won’t. It won’t. You will succeed, but go slowly. I hemmed the raw bottom edge by folding the fabric and slowly feeding it into my machine. Pinning a curve is a pain in the ass. 

  

The hardest part of the entire process is figuring out the measurements and cutting the fabric. Everything else goes quickly–so quickly that you could make two in an hour if you had your measurements figured out and oodles of fabric.

I want to make hundreds of these and wear nothing but circle skirts. They are so comfortable and flattering. Make one with fancy fabric and wear it to a party. Make one with gingham and wear it to a picnic. Make one with every kind of fabric you can buy. Trust me, you’ll want to. 

April’s Project: Skirts

Yes, I cheated, okay? I’ve already made (and worn) two skirts. It warmed up here in the Denver metro area this month. Last week it snowed and two days later, it was 75°. 

I’d wear a skirt every single day if I could. And I probably will, once I have a stash of them. The skirts I’ve made so far are elastic waist A-line things; super easy and comfortable. For April’s project, I plan to make some circle skirts and pencil skirts. Will May’s project be dresses? (Yeah, probably.)

Stay tuned for my struggle with geometry, pi, and hemming curved seams!

March’s Project: Aprons

Gainfully Something | March's Project: Aprons

Let’s do this, pattern.

When I was at the fabric store for the hundredth time a few weeks ago, they were having a sale on Butterick patterns. They were all $1.99–ONE DOLLAR AND NINETY NINE CENTS. For comparison, these patterns normally cost $10.99-$18.99. I did a dance.

I picked up this apron pattern (Butterick 5765, version A), because it was advertised as “Very Easy.” Okay, so that was a little bit of an overstatement on Butterick’s part, but whatever. I figured it out.

Oh god what is happening

Oh god what is happening

Here’s the thing about paper patterns: they are crinkly and fragile and somehow expand ten times their size when taken out of their envelope. My dog and cats found them tantalizing, so I yelled a bunch which added to my creative fervor.

The instructions are vague and simple at the same time.

The instructions are vague and simple at the same time.

The hardest part of the entire thing is figuring out how to fold your fabric and position the pattern pieces on there, and then determine how many of each piece you need. This is probably excruciatingly simple, and yet it took me a stupid amount of time to cut out my pieces. Even a pattern that is “Very Easy” assumes that you actually know what you’re doing, which is a silly assumption. Oh, Butterick, when will you learn?

Anyway, after you cut out your fabric, things get a LOT easier. Essentially, you’re making a 3D fabric puzzle that fits together perfectly.

This bodice is adorable.

This bodice is adorable.

Ta da! When I finished the bodice part of the apron, I was so proud. It went together really easily and it looked more professional than anything else I’ve made. The rest went together fairly easily, too. This is not to say it went together quickly. It was mostly tedious (“Sew Bodice [SEVEN] to Waistband [FOUR]”, etc.). However, I think a second go at this pattern would fly by.

Oh, you want to see the final product?

It's so cute! Don't mind my terrible mirror.

It’s so cute! Don’t mind my terrible mirror. Also, the center skirt panel was supposed to be the orange fabric, too, but I ran out. Improvisation!

I really liked the end result. It fits nicely, especially in the bodice. Aprons never fit my zaftig frame, but this has a Wonder Woman kind of feel in the bust. I think I could use the bodice pattern to make a cute swimsuit.

The verdict on paper patterns: this one turned out great, and it was relatively easy to follow. Granted, I read through it about five times before starting, and there were a few confusing parts. I remember looking at one step and saying out loud, “What the HELL am I supposed to do now? Razzenfrazzenrazzlefrazzle.” (I’m trying so hard not to curse on here but that’s going to change soon, I think.) Sewing is all about taking something 2D and making it 3D, and that involves a different part of my brain than I normally use. It’s like origami, and I’m bad at origami. Basically I’m telling you that if I can build my skills to this point, you probably can, too.

I’ve also made a few other exciting things this past week, and I’ll share those soon!

Zippers (and Santa Fe Chicken)

Yes, yes, yes, I know that March’s project is supposed to be aprons. I’ve made two, and I bought a pattern for another, but you know what I learned how to do the other day?

ZIPPERS.

I was terrified of zippers because they seemed so complicated. There are two pieces, and they have to line up and they are a functional closure. I thought so much could go wrong, and then I took a step back and said, “It’s a goddamn zipper, life will go on, just do this.” So I made this pouch. Well, to clarify, I’ve made five such pouches. Three of them turned out great, and two of them are sort of wonky. But three of them turned out great! Yay for me!

When I attempt to use a paper pattern for the first time, I will definitely provide a step-by-step illustrated guide to my confusion.

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Our awesome friends from the Midwest visited last weekend and shared this great recipe with me. It’s based on a recipe from Pinterest, but I just sort of threw it together, recipes be damned. (To be honest, when a recipe is mostly, “Open cans and dump contents out,” you don’t really need a tutorial.) Plop the chicken on top of the corn pudding, top with cheese and cilantro, and eat until you burst.

Santa Fe Chicken

  • 1 can Hatch chiles (the little can)
  • 1 can spicy corn (the little can)
  • 1 can hominy
  • 1 can black-eyed peas
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • cumin, to taste
  • chili powder, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 C chicken stock or broth

Dump all the cans into the crockpot. Add spices and stir. Push the chicken down into the mixture, and pour stock over all. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until chicken is falling apart. Shred, and serve over corn pudding.

Corn Pudding

  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can cream-style corn, not drained
  • 1 stick butter (I KNOW, IT’S DELICIOUS)
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix

Melt butter in a casserole dish (I used an 8×8 dish). Add remaining ingredients and mix. Bake 45 minutes at 350F.

March’s Project: Aprons

Yes, it’s only February 19. And yet… I’ve already made two projects for March. March’s project is aprons! I cook and bake a lot, and as my friend Natalie reminded me, aprons are a great way to practice various techniques. Binding, ruffles, pockets, straight lines (my old nemesis), curved lines (probably my new nemesis), etc.; aprons are a more varied lot than you’d think.

My first apron is this little beauty. Instead of using a dish towel, I hemmed a piece of fabric to measure 27″x21″, the size of a typical dish towel, and went from there. I added patch pockets to my apron, too. The final product is absolutely adorable and functional, two of my favorite things.

I’m still making lined totes like crazy, and I want to make a few fun full aprons in the next month. Every project I do makes my sewing skills better, so who knows? Maybe I’ll make a skirt in April or May!

January: coasters

February: totes

March: aprons

Crayon Rolls (and Sautéed Spinach)

Do you know any kids? You probably do, because you are, presumably, a human person. If you are not a human person, I’m impressed.
Anyway, kids like crayons and stuff. And you know what crayons do? Get everywhere. And break. And get everywhere. There is a solution! A crayon roll!

I’ve made a few of these so far, and they are surprisingly easy and fun to make. They don’t take too much fabric, and the only extra things you need are a hair tie and a button. The roll holds 16 crayons. I put in a few shades of red, orange, yellow, etc., in ROYGBIV order (because, why not), and added black, gray, and pink. You can’t draw a bunny without pink.
These make great gifts. Throw it in a coordinating pocket tote with a coloring book, and there you go.

If I was slightly more awake, I’d put a segue here.

Spinach! It’s delicious when prepared correctly, by which I mean, with lots of garlic.

Sautéed Spinach

  • bag of spinach (or if you get the huge bag from Costco, a few giant handfuls)
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil over medium low heat in a big saucepan. Press the garlic into the oil and stir, cooking until the garlic just begins to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Stuff the spinach into the pan. It will look like you are making way too much spinach, but it’s fine. Trust me. Stuff that in there. Don’t worry about stirring just yet. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low. In about 5 minutes, uncover and start slowly turning the bottom spinach to the top. It will seem slightly impossible for a few seconds. Once it’s kind of moved around, cover again and cook 2-3 more minutes, until the spinach is mostly wilted and coated with oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

A Year of Projects: February’s Tote Bags

I started February’s project a few days early, in January. Now it’s officially February and I’ve already made four tote bags. I have a problem.

Here’s something I love about this year-long endeavor: I’m already so much better than I was a month ago. My fourth tote bag looks so much better than my first. Every mistake I make truly is an opportunity to learn, which, yes, is super cliche, but in this case it’s accurate.

For my third tote bag, I decided to make a gift for my friend’s son, who turns 5 in a few weeks. He loves Star Wars, Spider-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc., so basically he’s awesome. I found some adorable Marvel Comics fabric at Jo-Ann, and put this together the other night:

photo 1

The tote measures 13″ tall by 11″ wide. I think it’s a good size for coloring books and comics. I made the strap a little shorter than I would for an adult so it doesn’t drag on the ground when carried by a teeny.

 

photo 2

The interior of the bag; I added a pocket (the Captain America part) with a label that says “To [Kid], From Amanda”

I think it looks adorable. I reinforced the straps and bottom of the bag like crazy, because littles tend to put a lot of stress on their stuff (I assume). I’m going to put a few coloring books and maybe this crayon roll in there and call it a gift. It only took about an hour (and that’s because I’m still new to this) and cost maybe $7–yay for fabric sales!

Lately I’ve felt like a motivational poster: “You can do it!” “Follow your dreams!” “Practice makes better!” But seriously: sewing is better than any therapist I’ve gone to, and I can’t wait to make more.

 

February’s Sewing Project!

It is still January, but you wouldn’t know it here on the Front Range. Seriously, it’s been in the high 60s the past few days, which is the perfect weather for Beach Boys and windows-down driving. My brain and body are confused–wasn’t it just your wedding anniversary, and didn’t it snow on your wedding day, and isn’t there still snow on your front lawn because your house shades it? Yes, yes, yes. Nothing makes sense.

But as January weirdly melts into February (see what I did there?), so changes my monthly sewing project. January’s project, you’ll recall, was these coasters. I made about five or six sets or variations, including two hot pads for casserole dishes. I sent a set to my mother-in-law (Mother Something, I guess), the lovely lady who gifted me my sewing machine a few years ago. She loved them! I practiced using fancy stitches and attempted sewing on a curve, which is REALLY HARD. I fixed many bobbin snarls and refilled my bobbin a few times and I didn’t even cry about any of it, but I did whine a lot.

I’m starting February’s project early, because a) I’m excited about it, b) I have all my supplies, and c) you can’t tell me what to do. If you’re sewing along, which could be fun or not or whatever, you do you, February’s project is this tote bagIt seems easy enough that I can make it to the pattern and then get whacky and do a bunch of variations/gifts/if I know you in real life, get ready for lots of presents this year.

THAT WAS A LOT OF WORDS IN A ROW.

tl;dr

January: coasters

February: tote bag