Friday, May 25, 2012

#3 Blouse and Elasticized Pocket Tutorial

I find on-line tutorials useful for all sorts of things, but I’ve never actually written one, so here goes with my first attempt. 

This tutorial is for an elasticized pocket that is good for children’s clothing.  The elastic allows for extra carrying room, and the give of the elastic and a reinforcing technique from my mother help reduce the risk of the pocket’s ripping at the corners.  It’s also kind of cute!

First of all, decide how big you want to make your pocket and draw it on a piece of paper or pattern fabric.  I decided on a 4 inch pocket.  You will notice that the pattern I drew is 4 inches wide and 4 inches tall.  The pocket that I drew is the square in the middle of this pattern:


Using a ruler, make a diagonal line from the bottom corner of the pocket to one inch outside your original pocket at the top.  Add a 1 inch allowance all the way across, squaring the end to be even with the diagonal.


Grab something round—I used a thread cone—and curve the bottom corners.



Pin the pattern to your fabric (2 layers of fabric), and cut 1/4 inch outside the outer line.  Omit the 1/4” across the top.



With right sides together, stitch across the top of the pocket, 3/8 “ from the top edge.  Press the seam to the lining side of the pocket and understitch 1/8” from the edge.



Fold the pocket with right sides together again, and stitch a 1/4” seam around the pocket, beginning and ending 5/8” from the top edge seam.  Leave an opening of an inch or so at the bottom of the pocket so that you can turn it right side out.  Clip the seam allowance on the curves so that they will turn smoothly.




Turn the pocket right side out through the opening.  Pay particular attention to the curves, Be sure that the raw edges of the casing openings at the top of the pocket are still folded properly inside.  Pin if necessary.  Pin the bottom turning opening closed with edges tucked in, and steam press everything.




Stitch across the top of the pocket 5/8” from the top edge to form a casing for the elastic.



Cut a piece of 1/4” elastic that is the same width as your desired pocket, in this case 4 inches.  Using a safety pin, run the elastic through the casing.  Carefully tweak the ends so that the ends of the elastic are inside the pocket edges.  Sew one row of stitching across each end, about 3/8” from the edge, catching the elastic and sewing the casing shut.  I know this is not adequate security for an elastic end, but we are not through.




Pin the pocket in the desired place on the garment.  To get it straight, use the bottom, rather than the sides as a measuring point.  (The chicken leg matchup above is totally accidental.)  Pay careful attention to the turning slot at the bottom to make sure it is pinned nicely.


Now for the reinforcement:  Cut two 1-inch squares of your fabric and fold them in half.



Place a folded square underneath each pocket top corner, on the wrong side of the fabric and pin.  Then, working from the top, edge stitch around your pocket, stitching a triangle at both top corners.  It is hard to see the triangle on the front.  The triangle should go through the casing, the elastic, and the little squares (now rectangles) of fabric on the back.  Here is a back picture, and you can see the triangle.



If this garment is your project for the County Fair, you may not want to do this, but the extra reinforcement decreases the tendency of the pockets to tear at the corners when they are stuffed, as children’s pockets often are.


Here is the finished pocket from the front:



And here is the finished blouse:


Oliver + S Class Picnic Blouse, size 10. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Good to the Last Drop

I’m sewing for the granddaughters, and at the same time I’m trying to use some fabric that I have stashed over the years.  The tops I’m making right now are from some very nice quilting cottons that I accumulated, not for quilts but because I thought they might be cute for children’s garments.  This “good stuff” has all the soft comfort of cotton, but takes a minimum of ironing.  Mostly it can be tumble-dried and sprayed with wrinkle release. 

In 2003, I sewed this romper for a preemie--


Remnants from preemie clothes turn out to be fairly large.  I just finished sewing another School Picnic Blouse for her 5-year-old sister.  The color in the baby picture is accurate.  The other pics are made with incandescent lighting.


The blouse includes an elasticized gathered patch pocket that is my added detail.


I’m hoping to include a tutorial with the next blouse, which will be of the size 10 blouse for the baby pictured above.  She grew!

A Probably Pointless Post for Everyone except the 2 English Teachers who Read this Blog

I posted about this on my Facebook account, and it was pretty much ignored.  At that time I didn’t have a picture for proof, and I didn’t make an explanation, so here goes.
Items that can be measured are properly described by “less;” items that can be counted by “fewer.”  This concept can be a little tricky, as in the following sentences:
  • There is less flour in this canister than in that one.
  • There are fewer cups of flour in this canister than in that one.
The difference in the two sentences, of course, is that one word describes “flour” and the other, “cups.”
In recent years, advertising has done its best to blur this distinction, using “less” to describe everything, such as “less calories.”  It has carried over into into other places, particularly stores that seem to describe their express lanes as being for “10 items or less.”  That is, except for the United Grocery Stores in Amarillo, TX.  (It could well be all of their stores, but I don’t have evidence.)  Here is the picture to prove it:
It takes so little to thrill me these days!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Oh, My!

You know how it is to have one of those moments when you think, “Oh. My. Gosh.  I am becoming my mother?”  Well, today I am becoming my mother-in-law.  She loved to cook and to take food to people and to collect recipes, but she often prefaced her delivery with something like this:  “This is a recipe that _______ brought to the dinner after that funeral last week.  I thought it was so good, so I got it and made it and brought it to you.  It’s just like the one she brought, except I used lime jello instead of cherry and instead of pineapple I put in apricots.  She had Cool Whip on hers, and that’s real expensive, so I used a container of sour cream instead.  I do love sour cream, don’t you?” And so forth. 

Since we missed out on a home-cooked family Thanksgiving dinner this past year for reasons addressed in a previous post, I have been planning to sort of make it up to my husband.  Obviously, I have not been in too much of a rush.  A couple of months ago, I came across a recipe called Amish Roast on a slow cooker forum that I thought had possibilities.  It’s sort of a casserole version of a turkey and dressing meal.  Then I read the recipe more carefully and decided it wouldn’t do.  The recipe comes from Ohio, I think.  As everyone knows, dressing or stuffing—see, two entirely different names—differs from region to region.  Well, I started last night and this morning I put the dish in the Crock Pot to cook while I went to Bible Study.  By the time I got through, there was little resemblance to the original recipe.  Then hubby and I analyzed what we would change for the next time.  Here’s the new and improved recipe, with explanations.  It’s a good choice for just two or three people (with leftovers).

Pseudo-Thanksgiving Dinner

  • 1 rotisserie chicken from the grocery store (Plain seasoned or perhaps garlic, but not lemon or barbeque)
  • 3 recipes of cornbread made from those individual bagged mixes (I am picky about the texture of my dressing, so I would use 2 yellow and 1 white.  Stale bread can be substituted for about 1/2 of a recipe.)
  • 1 medium large onion, diced
  • 3 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • poultry seasoning  (I had one of those spice jars that are about 4 inches tall.  I used about 1/2.  This was an inexpensive store brand; the pricey stuff might not need as much.)
  • 1 more egg, in addition to the ones in the cornbread
  • 3 cans chicken broth
  • Cooking oil
  • Cooking spray

Directions:  I used an 8-inch cast iron skillet to cook the cornbread according to the directions on the bag.  Dump each completed pan into a large bowl when it comes out of the oven, and pour in the batter for the next one.

While the last pan of cornbread is baking, dice and mince the onion, celery, and garlic.  Then add a little oil to the empty cornbread skillet and cook the veggies for about 5 minutes, cover, and set off the heat. 

I did all the previous prep the night before so that the cornbread could dry out some and the veggies could finish cooking by steaming in the hot pan.

This recipe will take 2-3 hours to cook on Crock Pot low, so judge your morning start time accordingly. 

Crumble the cornbread up completely in the bowl.  Add the cooled veggies and mix thoroughly.  Add the poultry seasoning.  Taste to be sure.  Beat the egg and add it to the mixture.  (The egg makes the dressing stick together.  If you like fluffy loose dressing, you can omit it.)  Then stir in the broth.  I do not like dry dressing, so I used all three cans.  It was a little too much.  I suggest 2 1/2. 

If your chicken is cold from the refrigerator, heat it in the microwave following the directions on the packaging.  (I didn’t do this, so it was like putting ice cubes in the Crock Pot and then heating.  It slowed down the cooking time.)  Tear all the meat from the chicken and mix it into the dressing. 

Spray your Crock Pot with cooking spray and pour the chicken and dressing mixture into the cooker.  Cook on low for 2-3 hours.  If I were at home with it all the time, I think I’d start on high till it got warm and then turn it down.  If you are home, you can watch through the lid to see that it is bubbly but not too dry and sneak in a little extra broth if necessary.

This made really good chicken and dressing.  The one thing you don’t get is a slight browning of the top like you do in the oven, but you have the same taste and smell, having dirtied only one skillet, a cutting board, a paring knife, one bowl, one spoon, and a Crock Pot.  Not bad.  And you don’t have to dispose of a turkey carcass.

Of course, if you’re a purist, you can cook your own chicken, but I think that for this purpose the rotisserie chicken is better than using the frozen chicken breasts or strips.  If you’re feeding teenagers or men, you could squeeze in another chicken.  My husband said he would have liked a chopped up boiled egg in the dressing as well.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Rain, Puddles, Socks, and an FO!

In that order:

  • After months and months of drought, we had measurable precipitation on Friday, just under a tenth of an inch according to the farmers at church yesterday.  I know measuring that way may sound funny to those of you in other parts of the world, but we are quite used to measuring moisture in tenths, so that was good news.  Then it rained last night and right now we are sitting in a fairly large area of rain according to the radar.  This is not a downpour, which we don’t need because the ground is so bare in places that it would wash—this is the gentle, soaking-in kind of rain.  I have no idea how much we have had, but if you look at this really bad picture, taken through glass and a window screen, you can see MUD and PUDDLES on the sidewalk, and there are still dark skies with a gentle drizzle.  At one point, there were some puddles on the ground, but they soak in very quickly.  Thank you, God!


  • Socks—I did begin again on the socks I was knitting.  I am halfway through the gussets on the new sock, using the Sheri’s Lace pattern by Sockbug.  I’m pretty much relegating this project to television knitting at the moment, because. . .
  • the sewing bug has hit with a vengeance.  I was busily setting up a new sewing room for myself in a now mostly unused bedroom.  I got my machine table and new pressing/work center set up, and I just couldn’t stand not making something.  There are still boxes and things that need to be moved out and things that need to be moved in and a general mess, but I have a finished item, the Class Picnic Top from Oliver + S.  The fabric is some quilting cotton that I had on hand.  This is a size 6 for the youngest granddaughter.  The pocket is my own.  I found the pattern instructions to be very clear and the construction to be well-designed.  Two criticisms: First, the pattern layout is on the sheet with the pieces rather than the instruction sheet.  Since this is a multi-size pattern, and I need more than one size, I traced the pattern twice, and then was forced to unfold the whole thing again to find the layout.  Second, the instructions for the elastic on the tops of the shoulders say to use 5” of elastic and then draw it up to fit.  This is exactly what I would do if I were sewing for my own resident child; however, I’m a grandma sewing from a distance.  Suggested lengths for each size would have been helpful.  I posted the question on the Oliver + S forum and got quick help for this smaller size, but no help for the size 10 that I need to make. 


Now I’m off to do something about lunch and for an afternoon of sewing and perhaps hearing rain on the roof.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wildflower Meditations

The internet and emails from people who have driven downstate have been full of lovely pictures of Texas Bluebonnets this year.  After last year’s scant rainfall, the flower show seemed to be thick and beautiful everywhere, much to the delight of citizens and tourists alike.
Bluebonnets, however, do not grow wild in the part of Texas where we live.  I’ve never been quite sure if the lack is due to altitude (about 4000 ft.) or latitude or the combination of both.  They can be cultivated, but wildflowers that look so lovely in abundance in a field tend to look skimpy and straggly as specimen plants in a planter. 
This year has been the most severe drought ever recorded for us, even more severe than the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression.  Much of our area passed from brown to gray awhile back.  There have been a few areas that have gotten just a little bit of rain, but we have had only a few hundredths of an inch.  On the road to Amarillo last weekend, I saw something unusual on a hillside that had a little bit of rainfall. 
See the flowers sticking up?  That is yucca.  Yucca usually produces flowers on plants more mature than these, the ball-like clusters of spiny leaves that you see in pictures of xeriscaped lawns.  The flowers are usually on long stalks, with at least two to three feet between flower cluster and bush.  These plants are very small, and the flowers are thick all over the pasture, with the blooms at ground level.  I suspect that this is Mother Nature’s desperate bid to reproduce in spite of or because of the drought.  Some of the abundance may also be because no one is grazing cattle right now, although I don’t remember seeing many cattle on this slope in the past.
I remember some old timers who grew up in the Northern Panhandle during the Great Depression talking about gathering, cooking, and eating the yucca blossoms during that time.  When I heard those stories, I always thought it would be a rather scant meal because it is usually a long way between blossoms around here, but if the plants grew like this during that drought, the food source would have been more abundant than I thought.  They are supposed to be tasty.  Why didn’t I try to gather some?  This is Texas and that is fenced land.  Even if I wanted to try to struggle my way through a 4-strand barbed wire* fence, you just don’t go on someone else’s fenced property without permission. 

*correct local pronunciation--"bob wahr"