Byzantine Captive Beading, or Chain Maille by any other name would smell just as pinchy.

ooh shiny pretties!

Friends!  Romans!  I have found a bead store!

I know that shouldn’t be super surprising, but the bead store I really liked closed a few years ago (or so I thought), and I hadn’t really found another local source for good beads, just a few antique shops that occasionally had the odd strand of mislabeled jasper or “Check glass” beads (insert facepalm here, please).  So imagine my surprise and utter thrill when I was driving around the west ends of town one Friday and discovered the bead store I thought was closed had, in actuality, just moved from St. Paul to Minneapolis!  Hooray!  Of course I stopped in immediately and came home with *ahem* a few new beads.

I used to do a lot of beading when I was younger (believe it or not, there was an awesome bead store in my hometown that one of the highschool kids opened when I was in middle school, so it was one of the few hobbies that didn’t involve a trip to another town for supplies!)  I still have quite a few beads, but my now-30 something self doesn’t have quite the same taste that middle-school-me did (though I will always love those little stone polar bear looking beads–you know the ones…adorable!).  So I haven’t done much with beads lately and even if I wanted to, my supplies were kind of…scattered.  In that “I have one of everything and can make nothing” sort of way.  But now that I know a good bead store just down the bike path from me–well, let’s just say I see more beads in my future.

But!  You don’t want to know about future beads!  You want to see now beads, yes?!  Of course you do!  My first beading project in a long time was a pair of earrings for myself.  I like long, dangly earrings, but I’m really picky.  I found a lovely pair of giant silver-tone cutout leaves at the bead store and built my way up from there.  I knew I wanted them to be really long (think collar-bone length), and the leaves are about 2.5″ on their own, so I just needed an inch or so between the leaf and the ear wire–and while I was wandering around looking for the perfect 1.5″ bead, I stumbled upon some very cool black & white round beads, but they were only 6mm across.  Not quite the size.  But they looked super cool–black on one hemisphere, white on the other.  So I added 4 of them to my horde and kept looking.

That’s when I spied a sample pair of earrings on display with this cool interlocking jumpring setup holding smallish beads inside.  And it appeared that the beads were not in any way attached to the earrings, just held by the intersection of the jump rings–so cool!  I surreptitiously took some notes (because the earrings in question were pretty expensive), then found some 8mm giant jump rings to try it out myself when I got home.

And that’s where the needle-nose pliers come in.  And where the pinchy bits start (needle nose pliers + my fingers + stubborn jump rings =  ouch).  I knew how I wanted to hold the bead in the rings in the end, but I had some trouble getting my fingers to make it happen, so I turned to google to find out how to make captive beads in jump rings.  Turns out, it has a name!  Byzantine chain maille, to be exact.  And once I could see how it was done, it was dead easy (I was, of course, over complicating things trying to get all the rings set up and closed before I put the bead in–no wonder it wasn’t playing nice!)  Much easier to close the rings over the bead and then add the top jump ring to keep everything closed and in place.

And so I finally made myself what I think are pretty neat earrings!  Once I figured out the method, it only took about 15 minutes to get everything assembled!

I love how these turned out, and they are exactly the length I was going for!  I get lots of compliments (and a couple requests for copies!) when I wear them!

Fall Wardrobe Sewing Update – A Cozy Oslo

Remember with me, dear readers, all the way back to the gilded days of summer.  Those ambitious hours spent hiding away from humidity and heat and dreaming of fall fabrics and sweaters.  Ah, yes.  Take a pull on your frosty mint juleps or G&Ts (or whatever your summer beverage of yesteryore happens to be), and recall, if you will, my grand fall sewing plans.  And then chortle along with me as I snicker at how my “plans” all came to a screeching snails pace thanks to massive end-of-summer-outdoor-house projects (aka painting the damn house).  Instead of painting for a couple weekends, then sewing for the remainder of September, I ended up painting nearly every waking moment in September and early October (except for one golden, glorious Sunday that John told me to go sew something because I was way too crabby to work with–ah, love.  He gets me, that one.)  So in short, I am waaaaaaaay behind on my planned fall sewing (but my house looks amazing…a blog post on that to come).

To date, nearly 2 months to the day that I settled my plans and ordered my fabric, I have sewn…….drumroll, please……..1 cardigan.

Yup.  And it’s awesome!  So let’s talk about it, shall we?  One of the fabrics I ordered for fall sewing was a great abstract-ish grey & white giant houndstooth print on a “medium weight” (according to the fabric seller) jersey.  Medium weight is…a generous descriptor.  I’d call it lightweight, myself, but then I suppose since I don’t really deal with sheer knits, on the grand spectrum it may well be medium weight.  It drapes really nicely, and is the perfect weight for layering over a tee or tank at work, which is all I really ask for in a cardigan.  And the pattern is great.  From a distance it reads giant houndstooth, but up close it’s a bit deconstructed and brushy.  I love it, and paired it with an Oslo Cardigan from Seamwork/Colette.

I made an executive decision after taping my pattern together and just cut out the 3X, assuming that since my last known measurements were pretty close to that for the hips, it’d work just fine.  Two problems with that assumption, right off the bat.  1) I think chest/upper body measurement is probably more appropriate in this case for determining size, since it’s a loose-fit boxy shape and seems to have lots of ease at the hips.  2) The pattern is written with bulky, heavy-weight knits in mind, so when drastically changing the fabric used (say, going from bulky heavyweight stable knits to a light/medium weight jersey), one should probably size down a size (or maybe two?) to avoid a humongous garment.

As I said, executive decision was made.  Size 3X was cut.  Resulting garment was comically enormous.  I wish I’d snapped a photo…the sleeves were 4-5″ too long and a good solid 2-4″ too big around the girth all the way to the armsyce.  It was amazing.  Did I mention that I was sewing this up the afternoon before John and I were going to see a play with his mother?  Of course!  (Coincidentally, if any of y’all are around the Twin Cities, go see Sweeny Todd at the Ritz–Theater Latte Da does an AMAZING rendition).  So I’m on a bit of a timeline here.

Luckily, this is a super fast sew.  From cutting to all sewn up I think it took about 2 hours?  Of course, then I tried it on and had to shorten the sleeves, take in the width, and trim in the side seams, so all-in-all, it was an additional 45 minutes before it fit.  But still in time for the play!  I think I ended up shortening the main sleeve by 2.5″ overall, and drawing a wedge from the armsyce to the newly shortened sleeve that took out 2″ overall by the time it reached the cuff.  Side seams came in about 1/2″ each, and I took a solid 2″ out of the wrist cuffs because I want those suckers to stay put when I push the sleeves up my arms.  So I basically made something between 1X and 2X when all was said and done–and here’s an object lesson in the effects fabric choice can have on the finished garment!  Yippee!

I do really like how it came out, though.  And I enjoy the finish on the shawl collar and cuffs–very nice overall effect.  So.  Without further ado, here’s a few pictures of my handiwork (hastily snapped in the gloaming before we hopped the train to the theater).

And just look at those seams, all lining up and whatnot…

I skipped the buttons, figuring that the knit was too stretchy/drapey to bother with them, and I’m glad I did that on this version.  I do think a ponte or maybe heavy thicky cozy fabric version would look really nice with them, though.  Overall I’m really happy with this little make.  Now here’s hoping I get to the rest of my very long list before spring rolls around!

Rushcutter Dress

I’m super excited to be able to publish this post!  I tested this dress a while ago, and I’ve been patiently waiting for the Rushcutter pattern release from In the Folds so I could talk about it!!  I have to admit, I was a little skeptical when I first saw the view I was going to test–view A, a super loose A-line long sleeved dress.  I don’t wear dresses super often, so when I do, I like them to be both flattering and funky (a tall order, I know!).  When I first saw the line drawings, I immediately saw the potential for funkiness, but I wasn’t convinced it’d be super flattering on my figure.  But I was game to try, and I’m so glad I did–I might just have a new favorite dress pattern!

I used some cotton lawn from my stash that was a fun orange paisley.  I toyed with the idea of doing contrast fabric for the side panels and yoke, but in the end, decided to try it all in the orange paisley on the first go–I was a little afraid that contrast fabric would take the dress too over the top (all I could find in my stash in a similar weight was a gingham-printed orange check–clearly I need to go fabric shopping for lawns again!).  I really want to do a version highlighting those amazing huge side pockets in the near future (I mean, pockets that’ll hold a trade paperback, on a women’s garment, that I didn’t have to draft myself!?!?!?!?  AMAZING!!!).  I also really appreciated the wide size range–I made the top size and didn’t have to alter a thing (which isn’t the end of the world, but sometimes you just really want a pattern to fit out of the gates, you know?!)

Printing, assembling, and cutting out the pattern went super smoothly.  It is quite a few pages to print, but Em has added a printing guide to the finished pattern so you can print just the pages you need.  And everything lined up perfectly.

Speaking of lining up perfectly, can we talk about the notches for a moment?  A huuuuuge pet peeve of mine is sewing pattern notches that do not perfectly line up.  I mean, as I’m sewing, I don’t want to take the time and bother putting notches in the pattern pieces if they’re not going to line up perfectly and actually be useful!  The notches on all the pattern pieces in the Rushcutter?  PERFECTION.  Not only did everything line up, but it didn’t need any tugging, easing, cursing, or cajoling to do so!  Really top notch (sorry, couldn’t help myself!).

Another thing I really liked about the pattern is it has the standard “tutorial” format for instructions, but it also has a quick & dirty “cheat sheet”, which I admit I prefer!  It’s nice to skip the explanations of how to insert a zip and just do it, but for folks who aren’t as confident/experienced, it’s great to have the details available at hand.  Really nice feature!

As I mentioned, I had some doubts about view A, but after sewing it up (which was super quick!), I discovered I really liked it!  It’s super comfy just as is, and looks really nice with a belt to nip in the waist.  I do prefer the sleeves rolled up, but I don’t generally wear long sleeves anyway.  Here’s my “wearable muslin”:

…it does occur to me that you can’t really see all the lovely panels on this one, so here’s another version I made (it’s mostly view B, but instead of the button-up back, I did the zip from view A):

I made the view B-ish version out of poly crepe de chine (I don’t often sew with that fabric, but I really like wearing it!).  I was originally going to use the cream for the side panels, too, and add the pockets in the flamingo fabric, but the cream turned out to be a bit more sheer than I cared for, and in the interest of time, I nixed it and the pockets (was making this to wear to a wedding the next day, otherwise I’d have just lined the side panels and run with it!).  I do really like the way the dress flows in the crepe de chine!

So there you have it–a new favorite dress pattern for me (I’m imagining the possibilities of fall plaids–am I crazy?!).  If you’re looking for a funky, fun, comfy dress with lots of possibilities, go check it out!

Disclaimer: I did receive a copy of the pattern for my testing efforts, but as always, opinions are all mine.

No Food, Only Ingredients!

This is the bane of my existence…I’ve got nothing ready to pop out of the fridge and eat on a busy (ahem…lazy) weeknight, but I’ve got tons of great ingredients, if only I weren’t so lazy/pressed for time/unmotivated to cook.  For a long time, if nothing jumped out at me after staring deep into the soul of my refrigerator, John & I would decide that nobody felt like cooking any of the food we had–maybe we should just order pizza.  Cue a complete lack of logic (when did scrambling eggs ever take longer than waiting for delivery?) and some wicked unhealthy meals (because Pizza Luce’s buffalo wings are delicious, and obviously need to accompany any pizza into my life).  Not a horrible decision every once in a while, but when you find yourself contemplating how likely it is the same pizza dude will ring your doorbell for the third time this week?  Bad news bears.

So hubby & I decided to clean up our acts, pull out our Adult Cards, and start eating home-cooked food on weeknights.  (If we made new year’s resolutions, that’d be it.)  We have been going strong since late December (only five delivered dinners so far in 2015, and we’re already through August!).  That’s not to say we always hit the healthy mark, but we’re eating so much better than we had been (and our wallets are much happier not paying for take away all the time, too!).

One thing that’s been really, incredibly, helpful?  An arsenal of quick, easy, staple meals–things we always have the ingredients on hand to make, and that don’t require a sous chef, an array of cooking pots, and 5 to 6 hours to put together.  (You may think that last bit is hyperbole, but I shall direct your attention to weeknight boeuf bourguignon.  It’s happened, on more than one occasion.  Though it might better be termed “how to eat dinner at midnight”!)

We’ve come up with a few hits on our own, but I’ve also been leaning pretty heavily on this 2007 article from Mark Bittman: Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.  It’s got tons of ideas (some super simple, like #101 – beans & hot dogs, and some pretty decadent, like #12 – boil a lobster, serve with butter).

And I’ve discovered the joy of soups!  WhatchaGot Stew (comprised of, you guessed it–whatever you have on hand) happens pretty regularly.  A few variations:

  • Root veggies + broth + maybe some meat + canned beans + maybe some cream = tasty winter soup.
  • Loads of sliced onions + beef broth in the crockpot = slow cooker onion soup, just add swiss cheese & croutons!
  • Raw beets + raw cucumber + stale bread + tomatoes + vinegar + olive oil = gazborscht (a hybrid of gazpacho & borscht that’s really quite awesome hot or cold!)
  • Raw corn sliced off the cobs + cobs + onions + carrots + beans = sweet summer soup, great hot or cold (obviously, pull the cobs out before serving).
  • Lamb soup bones + barley + onions + a little cream = pure cold weather comfort soup (just pick the lamb meat off the bones before serving).

This summer, we also learned how to make a pork shoulder roast on the grill (I know, how did we make it this long missing an essential life skill, right?!), so now quite often we will make a 4 pound roast on the weekend, then turn it into dinners for the week: sliced roast to pulled pork to tacos to soup (with the bone and whatever summer veg we have lying around).  We also learned how to make pizzas on the grill (future post coming on that!)–outdoor cooking is awesome since it doesn’t heat the house up, and you get to sit around the grill (perhaps with an icy adult beverage) while everything cooks, so it mostly feels like you’re just relaxing in the back yard–win win!

Anyhow, this post is getting a little rambly, but I thought it might be fun to share some ideas!