Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Brown Frock for Daisy

I had a little piece of brown linen left over from my dress, and I had a very old Children's Corner pattern, and I had some vintage buttons the color of coffee candies.

A perfect dress for the warm days of fall, especially with red tights and a pink sweater. Sets off Daisy's autumn-fairy qualities, I think.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Little Foliage Trip with Clara

Clara cashed in a little Christmas trip promised to her last December--a day of foliage, shopping, and dining. I thought I'd handle this one and let the Composer stay home and run things.

We took a winding way through the woods. It's been such a wet autumn, we grabbed the day of sunshine while we had it. Every creek and river and spring was running that clear blue-green.

It's inspiring hanging around a pretty town. Ours is decent and bustling but it's not all about putting on a show. I like a show! This fall's theme appeared to be gourd arrangements in birdbaths, *all* with twisty sticks and sumac heads poking out. I award it the Best Use of Sumac in 2009.

And fallen leaves are always decorative. Every surface and edge softened by brown or rust or rose.

But we didn't just look. We did a little Christmas shopping--I bought several things for my own stocking, so the Composer doesn't have to bother. And boy did we find the perfect thing for Daisy. But that will have to wait.

One of us is a growing girl, and the other one's in training, so we were ready for dinner on the early side. Beautiful salads, fancy steaks, and a shared chocolate souffle while the sun went down in the trees.

I did take an accidental forty-minute detour off the highway on the way home in the dark, but aside from that, we had a Best Day.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Pleasant View of the Sitting Room Window

Continuing to enjoy these new colors so much--the ochre of the oak leaves outside, the lilac orchids, and the all-mediating warm gray walls.

A lady has promised to make the canvas slipcovers for my couch and chair, but not til Thanksgiving break. I won't feel finished with this room until they are done.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lucy Gray

Very sweet, but not too photogenic yet. She very much wants to show her hiney to the camera. Don't ask me why.

Wait, I do know why! She has an extraordinarily long tail, and she wants it documented.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Red Velvet Beret for Daisy

Here Daisy models one of our current hat patterns. This is an easy beret made up in red velvet lined with fine red corduroy (see it in orange wool here). I use the instructions found in Simple Sewing with a French Twist, but the concept is basic and can be found here online. Although I must say, ladies, that if you are going for elegant you are going to have to give the bedazzling step a pass.

All you need is your fabric, a dinner plate, and a saucer. It goes together in a flash; wear it to church the next morning!

Bummer that I didn't see the wad of thread on Daisy's hat before taking the picture.

Monday, October 26, 2009

At the Pound

This was a long-awaited day: Daisy's trip to the pound to pick out her new kitten.

Our dignified tabby, Bossy, died in the spring. Daisy had been asking rather ghoulishly all year if I thought maybe one of the cats would die soon so she could get a *new* kitten. Well, tick disease had its way and she got her wish.

For weeks her heart was set on "afluffywhitePersianwithblueeyes", but surprisingly there weren't any at the animal shelter. Instead there was every kind of kitten that was a gray female. So she chose one of those instead. A dainty tiny cat with white paws and no improper pride.

Bella manfully volunteered to sleep downstairs with the kitty to prevent the squeaky lonely mews. They're tucked up soundly now in Felix's bed with a hot water bottle.

We wanted a lap cat, and I think we got one. And if the sun comes out tomorrow, I'll take her picture.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beth Jumps In

How about this? Etsy shopkeeper bethgem is donating her October proceeds to Kimmie's adoption too. Anyone else want to join? I'll be running a list of donating shops every Sunday from now til the end of the year. Comment or email me!

Bella Gets a Solo

She got herself a solo! But she's playing it cool . . . .

I hope I can share a clip of the performance with you all in December!

Friday, October 23, 2009


We are all wearing caps this fall. Daisy started it when my mother knitted her this oversized beret. I guess we all wanted to look that good.

Although for that we're going to need some more leopard-print skirts around here.

Besides the berets (we have two in different multicolor stripes), I've been making up a couple of other simple sewn hat patterns in various wools and cottons. I'll share them next week!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blue Gingham Ruffles: Vintage Simplicity 4099

I promised you ruffles; here they are on a brand new housecoat. The pattern actually calls for ruffles to define a faux yoke, but that was definitely too busy for me.

I limited my use of the ruffler to the cuff. Look at this dainty thing! Both edges of the strip are finished, then the ruffle foot is run down the center of the strip, causing a double ruffle. So grand!

And I want to say this: if you have never had the experience of wearing a floor-length garment around the house, you are missing out. It's just fun.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Ruffler Foot

Perhaps the scariest-looking of all the vintage sewing machine attachments, the ruffler is really gentle and good-natured when you get past its gargantuan size, multitude of arms, and its teeth.

Pleated or gathered ruffles make beautiful, frugal trims--no rushing out to buy lace at the last minute. Just pleat up a ruffle in a minute or two! Here's how:

1. Find the arm with a claw on the end. It fits over the bar that sticks out to the right of the needle. Make sure the claw fits around the bar when you attach the foot. Then slowly turn the wheel to make sure the needle is in the right position! My needle must be moved to the center, rather than the left where it usually hangs out. If it stays left, it breaks on the foot.

2. Check out the numbered arc. Here's where you select the kind of pleats you're going to make. Why not start with 6? It's nice and medium.

3. Cut a 3-inch width of fabric and press it in half lengthwise. You're going to feed the raw edge into the ruffler. You'll have a beautiful finished ruffle that needs no hemming. Make it at least 18 inches long for this practice run. And if you measure before and after and figure out how long a strip you need for the real thing.

Now, see that dark flat bar with the little teeth at the back edge? Your fabric must go directly underneath that so that the little pressing-down teeth can grip the fabric and move it into the pleat every six stitches (if you're working on the six). No teeth, no pleat. And DON"T pull the fabric back towards you once it's under there; you'll break the teeth and then where will you be?

What pretty pleats! The ruffler does a pleat every six stitches . . .

Or every twelve, if you scoot the selector over.

And look at what happens when I choose the number one option--a pleat at every stitch! I've set my stitch length to the longest.

I find the pleating to be almost instant gratification. Make a ruffle, baste it on a cuff or other edge, and attach with a strip of bias binding. Finished project pictures tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chocolate and Caramel Doughnut Holes

Bella made these yesterday while I was driving Felix back to school. She was going to do them like we usually do doughnuts, in the cast iron Dutch oven on the stovetop. But the farther away I drove the more the thought of her frying doughnuts without me there got me kind of nervous, so I called. "Don't tip all that hot oil over on yourself" I told her. "And don't trust the candy thermometer. I don't think it's accurate. And if the pan catches on fire turn off the burner and put the lid on. And if you burn yourself badly have Clara call 911!"

I got off the phone. Felix said, "Well, I'd be freaking out."

I called her back. "Why don't you just make them in the electric skillet? Just set the control to the right temperature." Bella sounded relieved that I had reverted to my normal state of not worrying.

They came out really, really fine. There's a caramel candy hiding in each of these. Recipe is from Everyday Foods.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Toddler's Tailored Smock

I pulled this wonderful woven plaid from my fabric archives. I believe it was my mother's pleated skirt in 1956, a big year for pleated skirts for her (junior high). Several of them have made their way into my fabric stash and I can't explain the profound satisfaction I get from making them into something new and usable.

Hence this smock! You all know how wonderful it is to turn plaid on the bias, so I'll just point out its little bias bound edges and leave the rest to your delicate sensibilities . . .

Remember that all proceeds go to Kimmie's adoption when you spend in the shop, until further notice!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

I Live in a Fairy Tale

Tomorrow she's going to put apples in her basket and cover them with a white cloth.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

An Autumn Dinner for Grandpa

We celebrated a Happy Birthday with the Composer's father tonight, our annual gala dinner with Separate Courses, a basket full of birthday cards and wishes, and a Not Chocolate cake. Always a lovely evening for us all, and a chance to tell this gracious man just how important he is to us.

• Savory Mushroom and Bacon Tart (oh my, this was delicious. Duh, there were two sticks of butter in the crust!)
• Mixed Lettuces Tossed with Strawberries and Balsamic Vinaigrette
• Soft Dinner Rolls
• Rosemary Garlic Roast Lamb
• Roast New Potatoes
• Platter of Steamed Green Beans, Carrots, and Yellow Squash Spears
• Spiced Applesauce Cake with Clouds of Cream Cheese Icing

Today was also the day that the Composer and Daisy and I went to Felix's school to pick him up for fall break and go to teacher conferences. That took pretty much all day. We went from teacher to teacher collecting accolades, then raced home with about ninety minutes to prepare dinner. Fortunately the girls had the rolls rising, the lamb roasting, and I had made the tart crust earlier (and the cake was finished, whew). So after we all madly chopped, sauteed, and steamed for half an hour, all was under control and we could set the table and take a breath.

The older I get the more I realize that it's almost never *convenient* to go to a lot of trouble for something. You just have to do it anyway. And enjoy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Bright Skirt for Clara

It's a great thing to have a go-to skirt pattern that does not fail. One that can be easily sized up or down, made short or long, and requires a single pattern piece cut out twice.

I use Vogue 7341. Here it is made up in a bright, bright flannel for Clara. I cut it a little wide at the waist so that I could gather it at center front and back. I also ditched the wide waistband piece and just cut a straight strip that I turned into a very narrow waistband. Side zip, hang overnight, trim the bias sag, hem, and I'm done.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bella Auditions

Yesterday Bella sang her first auditions ever, for the soprano recitatives in The Messiah. "There were shepherds abiding" through "And suddenly there was with the angel", for those of you who know the piece.


When she finished, the choir director said "You're twelve?" Then she looked sternly over her glasses at me. "Does anyone else know about this?" she demanded.

That's what I'm saying.

In other news, don't forget to check the shop for books and a girl's blouse! Here's why.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bringing Home Kimmie's Daughter

Here is something funny about adoption. When you tell people you are getting a child, especially a boy or girl coming out of a bad situation, people tend to remark that the child is so lucky, so blessed.

But really the shoe is on the other foot. When an adoptive family finds out they are getting a child, they know are the luckiest ones in the world, the most blessed.

Kimmie got to bring home this wonder child from Ethiopia in January. And now her baby is getting a big sister, an angelic-looking child who thought she would never be chosen out of her orphanage.

If I get to help her bring her new daughter home, I will feel like the lucky one. I'll be stocking my shop all week with things I've sewn and things I've found for this very purpose. Every penny of the things that show up in my shop this week go straight to bringing home Kimmie's daughter.

Join me and shop here!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Vintage Sewing Room Inspiration

"Mrs. Hamilton went up to her sewing-room and closed the door. There was a nice little fire in the grate and it was very cozy in there with the radio playing softly, big snowflakes drifting down past the window and no sounds of quarreling from downstairs."

--Betty MacDonald, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Messiah

Both the girls' music teachers suggested they sing in a choir, so I signed them up for our Community Chorale, and myself with them since I had to drive them on Monday nights anyway. As soon as the Composer found out we were singing The Messiah, he hopped on board too.

What was meant as enrichment for the girls has become a weekly joy for all of us. I would never have predicted that our fall would be informed by Handel's glorious music and so much fantastic Scripture memorized effortlessly, but it has!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Bella Masters Phyllo

Tell me this isn't living: I sat and sewed for an hour this afternoon while Bella put together an amazing dish for dinner. Curried zucchini and chickpeas (with spices from scratch!) turned into a phyllo crust.

The girl can cook anything, and she sings while she does it!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Faking a Tiny Chandelier

. . . by trimming the $12 Ikea sconce with crystal drops from my mother's vast collection (who knew she had this on her closet shelf?). A happy bit of sparkle in the sitting room.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Thrifted Quilt Top, Quilted

A superfluously wonderful thrift shop find: this quilt top in perfect condition, hand-pieced. Last week I put it together with a back and the batting and machine-quilted it in an afternoon.

*Such* a satisfying project! I love the mad colors--the black, the fuschia, the deep yellow. Someone had a flashy scrap box!

It's not random, and I'm sure it has a name, being made of concentric diamonds working outwards from the center.

Monday, October 05, 2009

"One Family"

"How can one family affect anything? One person battling away to put selfish interests aside, to put other people before herself or himself, even for a fraction of time, day by day, how could that help?

. . . One family and the children of that family can do marvelous things to affect the world or devastating things to destroy it."

--Edith Schaeffer, What Is a Family?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Brown Linen Shirtwaist: Butterick 5315

I made this sweet modern pattern up in a very nice tobacco-colored linen. The pattern had a lined back yoke, which was a nice touch, and a pretend pleat down the back, which was a little cheesy. A *vintage* pattern would have had a real pleat, for an "action back" or some other cleverly-named feature. Regardless, it came out nicely and is very comfortable.

The buttons you see are not functional. Because A) I only had three of them and B) they are huge and buttonholes that size seemed like a bad idea in my floppy, not interfaced linen. So instead I used snaps to close the bodice front.

I like this one a lot and will probably make it up for my big girls.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Daisy Catches Dinner

Yes, Daisy *actually* caught the fish we ate at dinner.

Grandpa took her and Bella out in the boat today. The boat has a long and checkered past and it generally breaks down while it's out in the lake, even when it's just been repaired. Or sometimes Grandpa just forgets to put the plug in the bottom. Either way.

I think the kids would be disappointed if the boat *didn't* break down.

They were out for five hours this afternoon, because the engine quit out in the middle of the lake. Fortunately there was the trolling motor. Which runs on a little battery. After that there was an oar. But somewhere in all of that, Daisy caught three fish.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Bird and Egg Tablescape

A bird-and-egg themed tablescape: thrifted birdie figurines, a maple leaf milk glass find, and my grandmother's marble eggs.

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