Saturday, 30 January 2010

More Sickness

Yesterday I acquired - after the illness of the beginning of the week - a rather unpleasant stomach bug.  Fortunately it seems to be short-lived, as this evening I was able to progress from the invalid diet of Coca-Cola and Saltines to the slightly more substantial Dry Toast and Applesauce.  I'd still appreciate prayers for full recovery, both for myself and for my mother, who's come down with a similar ailment as of this afternoon.  Since we are both supposed to be driving to Tennessee on Monday (early) -- a distance of nearly 700 miles -- good health for both of us would be a huge blessing.

At least the weather looks clear for driving!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Sickness, Health, and Birthday Sewing


I've spent the first part of this week sick in bed, and so have not been nearly as productive as I would have liked to be -- indeed need to be - this week.  Monday I head back to Tennessee for another semester of college, so before then I must finish my recital dress (all but the hand-sewing), tie up other loose ends and projects, and -- oh, dreaded word! -- pack.

I've a few things to show you, though, completed in the past few weeks; a shirt, a pair of jeans-turned-skirt, and my brother's birthday present.

Firstly the shirt.  It's a nice, basic, button-down shirt pattern, from McCalls.  Six buttons, a collar, cuffs - pretty normal.


The only unusual things about it are 1) that I didn't have to alter the bust darts AT ALL and 2) even though the pattern called for 2 1/2 yards of fabric, I squeaked it out of just under 2 yards.  I'll admit I was pretty proud of myself.


Bias-cut placket binding.  Buttons from my stash.
And, just for fun, this photograph:


Blurry, but, um, you get the idea.  I think I was reenacting the moment, a few seconds before this, when I had tripped over the cat.  But I really don't know!  (This is just to show that I am not always a quiet, proper young person!)

I don't have any great photos of the jeans skirt.  We had a pair second-hand that was too big for my sister, too small for me, and too short for both of us.  So I ripped a lot of seams, took it apart, and put it back together into a skirt.  The fabric is navy blue with white flowers on, so I used a white linen/rayon blend fabric (.6 yards of 60" fabric, bought for $1.99 as a remnant) and used that for the triangular inserts front and back.  Then I made a pleated ruffle, about 4" long, out of the rest of the linen and stitched it to the bottom of the skirt, both to add length and to make the white insets look like they belonged there.  I wore it yesterday but I think Kate will get to keep it.

Then - this probably should be its own post, but I'm impatient! - my brother's birthday vest.  This was finished several weeks ago, save for the buckle, but only today was I able to corner him and get photographs.  He put up quite a fight, but cooperated in the end.

Here he is - he could be a model if he could only stand to have his picture taken!


I used a McCalls pattern for the most part, but changed the collar significantly.  David is very artistic, and some of that comes out in his care about clothing, so when I told him I'd make him a vest, he went away and came back with a sketch of how he'd like it to look.  Which included a collar with, in his words "jaggy bits".

So I made a collar with jaggy bits.


I think I went through four or five permutations of this collar pattern before I got it to work, and then three more as I messed up one in sewing, and then made a second version of the same side of the collar when I tried to fix it.  But I made it work in the end!


The back looks very smart - when it's not wrinkled - with a brass buckle attached to the straps, to adjust the width.  The fabric is a heavy cotton - I'm not sure what it would be called, but it's significantly more sturdy than broadcloth.  The lining is the cheapest JoAnn sells, but it's a very nice cloth and feels better than the more expensive brands.  All the buttons were from the button box, and the top one doesn't match, but it's hidden by the collar anyway!


One last shot.  I envisioned this vest being worn in a more dressy setting - and in fact he wore it, with a white shirt and black suit and tie, to church on Sunday - but I didn't get photos then, and he makes it work very nicely in a more casual look as well.

(I've been reading Northanger Abbey, so every time I use the word "nice" now I imagine Henry Tilney lecturing me!  "Oh! it is a very nice word indeed! - it does for every thing.  Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement; - people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice.  But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word."  And true this is... but I will continue to use it!)

Adieu for now, my friends; I hope my next post will not be so long in coming!

Love,
~Gillian

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Goodness, it's been a whole week since I posted.  I haven't been neglecting the blog on purpose... but first I had bad weather for picture-taking, and then my brother had a birthday, and then on Monday I came down sick and haven't felt like doing much of anything for the last few days.  I'm better now - to the point where I'm merely hideously congested - but still not feeling like doing much of anything.

I hope in the next few days to be able to post about some of the sewing projects I finished last week.  That'll be whenever my brother and I are well enough that we don't cringe at the sight of our faces! ;)

Keep well, my friends!  This crud seems to be making the rounds.  I hope to be back up and running normally in the next few days!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Dress Diary!

Well, I've decided to set up a blog for dress diaries, starting with the documentation of my recital dress.  I've got it set up and will hopefully put up what I've already recorded for this project sometime this evening.

Check it out!  Dress Diary Blog

I've mostly been working up the pattern for my recital dress the last few days, but I'm hoping to have some photos of my brother's birthday present up soon, and maybe a non-sewing post as well :)

Love,
~Gillian

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Odds and ends and Mondays

It was lovely to have the Monday holiday this week - that means Daddy gets to stay home.  Which means that I get photos of my latest projects from Daddy's wonderful camera.

Well, that's not the only reason I like long weekends, of course!  But I did get some good shots :)



The past few weeks I've been working on knitting these arm warmers; they're super-long, reaching over the elbows, and they button all the way up, with eleven buttons each arm.  I used Slither, from Knitty again, and altered almost nothing; I did recalculate the spacing of the buttonholes, since I couldn't find quite enough buttons and had to leave one out on either arm.  I'll probably move the top two buttons further in, and possibly run elastic around the ribbing at the top, to counteract their slight tendency to sag above the elbows, but all in all I'm really pleased with this pattern and the result.  Instant long sleeves!

Saturday and Sunday I made an apron.  I need one for when I cook at school, and Saturday afternoon the mood and inspiration came upon me.  So here it is!



This was a quick, fun project, with the added benefit of being stash-busting!  I made the main body of the apron, and the lining of the straps, from an old corduroy skirt which I, my mum, and my sister have all worn, and which I believe came to us second-hand to begin with.  Eventually the elastic in the back waistband gave up the ghost and it was consigned to my rag box.  But it was just right for an apron!  I removed (and saved) the zipper and two buttons, ripped down the centre front seam, and turned it back-to-front.  Then I cut off 10" or so from the bottom of the skirt, unpicking the hem and using this fabric for the bib and the inside of the straps.  The ruffle and pockets are leftover from a dress I made back when I was 15, and the straps are from the Romantic gown I made my sister a few years ago.  The bib is lined with fabric from another skirt I made; looking back, I had enough of the darker fabric that I could have pieced it together for the bib, and I wish I had, just to use it up completely.  Oh well!



I used rick-rack, of course.  This time I layered 1/4" satin ribbon on top and stitched it down, for a slightly different look.  I think I'm in love with rick-rack; I'm going to be sad when my stash of white is depleted!  I guess I'll keep an eye out for sales.



I stacked two widths of satin ribbon, stitched them together, and used them as a sort of binding to cover the raw edges where I stitched the ruffle on at the bottom.  It's funny - I didn't like either of these colours, individually, with all the different fabrics I used, but used together they work perfectly.  I didn't have to buy a thing for this project - everything came out of my stash or my scrap box.  I love projects like this!

It's a grey, gloomy sort of day here, and I wish I'd put socks on this morning, because my feet are cold!  But my sweet cat is sleeping in my lap and I hate to move her.  I'll have to, soon, though, because I need to get some sewing done.

I discovered last night that it is possible to cut a long-sleeved shirt out of 2 yards of fabric, even when the pattern calls for 2.5 yards!  It was close though.  Pictures of that to come soon, I hope.

I'm also about to start work on the dress for my recital.  I could post updates here, but I was thinking of making a separate page and just putting the link here, so that I can keep the "dress diary" together.  Does anyone know how I could do that?  Input would be fabulous!

Off to more sewing,
~Gillian

Friday, 15 January 2010

Adventures with Knits

I did a little sewing for myself this week -- a knit shirt. This was sort of an adventure, as it was my first time working with knit fabric (except for actually knitting the fabric -- and this was somewhat different!) I think it turned out fairly well, although there are some things I would do differently another time.

Here, also, is the debut of a new look for me - glasses! I've never had them before but at my most recent visit to the eye doctor I was pronounced slightly near-sighted, so I have glasses for everything but reading, sewing, and other close work. I really only need them for driving, and for recognizing people at a distance, but they do make the world a little clearer! I'm still getting used to seeing my reflection with them, though.


Just to make things more difficult for myself, I didn't use a pattern specifically designed for knit fabric, but started with the Sense and Sensibility Regency Gown pattern and made alterations. I blended the back and side back pieces into one smooth piece, and took out the back opening so that it just pulls on over the head. I lengthened the bodice a bit because this is definitely meant as a modern garment -- no stays! -- so I knew I'd need extra length. Then I ended up trimming off quite a bit because I'd lengthened it too much, and it still could've been a little shorter. Oh well!

I used the width of the "gathered bodice" pattern piece from the ELC pattern to alter the bodice front - I think I added even more width for gathers than that pattern has. I do wear this with a camisole because otherwise the soft gathers tend to fall in the middle, placing more emphasis on my bosom than I'm comfortable with. But it works very well with the camisole. The gathers are stitched down at the "waist", and at the neckline there is a narrow casing with small round elastic to draw up the fullness. Originally the neckline gathers were to be stitched as well, and the neckline finished with self-binding, but the whole shirt ended up a little less "structured" than I had originally planned and so I thought elastic worked well.


This photograph is not a good shot of the shirt at all. But I had to show off my cute little mop of a dog! It's not a bad look at the sleeves, either. I used the Regency short sleeve, but slashed and spread it to be wider, and then added about three inches to the length. It ended up very gathered, just as I'd hoped. Originally the sleeve bands were going to button closed, but they stretched so much as I sewed them that the "tabs" I'd planned ended up wrapping almost around to the underarm seam, so I just stitched them down. They're loose enough that they don't need to unbutton to be put on, anyway.

The "belt" at the raised waist was going to button, as well, but since I changed the design of the sleeve bands I decided to go with a less structured look at the waist as well. I ended up making a belt out of the extra fabric I cut from the "skirt" of the top -- which was almost a tunic before I trimmed it -- and then making a twisted loop of another piece of fabric to hold the belt closed. I don't have any very good photos of this (although I'm not sure it's photo-worthy either!) so I'm sorry if that's confusing. Maybe I'll get a picture of it at some point.


Altogether, I'm fairly pleased with this project - I love the colour, and the shirt is very comfortable to wear. For a first attempt at working with knits I think it came out pretty well.

(We've had gorgeous snow the last few weeks, but the last few days we've been in the midst of the usual January thaw - so though there is snow on the ground in all these photos, I was perfectly comfortable outside in short sleeves!)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Concerning Scones

There has been a discussion of scones going on at Sarah Jane's blog, in the course of which I mentioned my recipe for Scottish scones, which was then requested. Here it is, along with the discussion of them in the recipe book!

Scones
Scones belong to the British family of small tea cake though their Scottish pedigree goes back at least to the 18th century when Robert Burns rightly describes them as 'souple (soft) scones, the wale (choicest) of food'. How they got their name is difficult to say. The OED [Oxford English Dictionary] suggests that the word may be a shortened version of the German 'schonbrot' meaning fine bread, while Chambers Scots Dictionary suggests that hte word is from the Gaelic 'sgonn', a shapeless mass. There is no confusion, though, about its pronunciation, at least in Scotland, where it is universally spoken of as a 'skawn' as in gone. The English pronounce them in some regions as the Scots do, while others pronounce the word to rhyme with own.
When to eat
They should not be limited to teatime. Savoury ones make excellent accompaniments to soups; they are also good at the end of a meal with cheese. They are so incredibly quick and easy to make, five minutes mixing and ten minutes or so baking, that it is not impossible to make them for breakfast or perhaps for the meal which crosses boundaries between breakfast and lunch, and which the Americans call brunch.
The secret of a good scone
The dough should be as wet as you can handle. The mixing should be done quickly and lightly. There should be the minimum of handling and they should be baked until they are just risen and dried out.
Ingredients
Scots traditionally make scones with buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda [baking soda] -- known as Soda Scones. There is a subtle difference in the result which is softer, lighter, moister and with a sharper flavour than scones made with fresh milk and baking powder. If buttermilk is not available then sour milk may be used or fresh milk can be soured by adding about 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
Mixing and Shaping
'Deftly mixed' is probably as good a description as any of the technique which depends on light quick handling for a perfect result. The flour should be well sifted and the buttermilk poured into a well in the centre. [I don't think we ever sift our flour, just for the record!] Dont add the liquid drop by drop. Stir with a wooden spoon, gradually bringing in the flour; if you get the mixture dry and 'ragged' looking the scones will not be light. The mixing should be done with as little 'working' as possible and it should be a soft elastic consistency, sticky unless well floured. It should not be handled more than is necessary and for this reason it is not rolled out but lifted in well-floured hands and placed on either girdle [griddle] or baking tray. Then it is well floured on top and lightly pressed down into a rough round shape (a bannock) for the girdle 1/2" and for the oven 1 1/4" and only at this point is it divided into scones. Chambers is right, they are a 'shapeless mass'. If liked, they may be separated or touching; if the latter they will take longer to cook but can be broken after baking. [We usually cut ours into rounds with a biscuit cutter - although a small glass, upside down, works too! - but you can cut them into squares or triangles or whatever suits your fancy.]
Baking
All Scones may be baked either on a girdle in the traditional way or in the oven. There will be differences in shape and texture. Those baked on the girdle will have smooth flat top and bottom surfaces while the oven ones will be rough on top. The oven ones are more likely to be drier while girdle scones will be moister. [Unless you, like us, have a tendency to forget to turn them if cooking on a girdle... and the oven ones are very moist as well.]
The girdle baking technique allows more control over the baking since you can watch them as they cook and learn to judge when they should be turned and, more importantly, when they are ready. The girdle should not be too hot to begin with or the scones will brown too quickly. Cook slowly till risen and till there is a white skin on top. This usually takes about five or six minutes. The heat should have penetrated to the top and the centre well set before turning. Increase the heat if necessary till brown underneath then turn and brown on the other side. It should take about 15 minutes altogether. Open up a little at the edge to check they are quite dry. Wrap in a towel to keep them soft. It is more difficult to judge when they are in the oven but they will take a shorter time than you imagine. Overcooked, they lose their softness and lightness.

SODA SCONES made with buttermilk

The Irish, who have perfected the art of making these scones, call them bread, which they are, reserving the scone term for the sweet variety. No additional flavouring should be added to soda scones. [And none is needed! Served hot with butter and jam or tart marmalade, these are heavenly.]

8 oz/250 g plain flour (2 c) - you can use at least half whole wheat if you prefer
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 fl oz/250 ml buttermilk (1 c)
Moderately hot griddle, or Pre-heat the oven to 450F/230C/Gas 8
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk. Mix till soft elastic consistency, flour and place on baking tray or girdle. Cook till risen and dry. Wrap in towel when cooked. Serve warm.

SWEET MILK SCONES - BASIC DOUGH
makes 8 scones
These scones can be made either sweet or savoury and can have all kinds of things added to them, even fruits or vegetables. Like shortbread, absorbency of the flour will dictate the exact amount of liquid required for the right consistency, so add more if necessary. Wholemeal flour will absorb more than white.

8 oz250 g plain flour (2 c)
Raising agent, either
1. 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2. or 3 teaspoons baking powder
3. or use self-raising flour
With
2 oz/50 g butter (1/2 stick) - this can be varied according to taste or even oil used instead
5 fl oz/150 ml fresh milk (3/4 c)
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 450F/230C/Gas 8; bake on third from the top
or
Heat girdle till moderately hot

Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in the butter. This can be done in the processor but the mixing should be done by hand so it seems hardly worth it unless you are in a desperate hurry to get them into the oven. Pour the milk into the centre and mix to a soft elastic dough, slightly stiffer and more manageable than for soda scones. Knead lightly on a floured surface till smooth and press out with your hands or roll out. Cut into shapes, flour or brush with egg on top and bake. Wrap in towel when ready to keep soft and warm. Serve warm.


Then there are all sorts of additions suggested! Here is a list:
raisins
2 tablespoons of treacle or molasses with 1/2 c. of chopped walnuts or pecans
Substitute orange juice (fresh) for 1/4 c of the milk. Add 2 T. honey and the grated zest of a lemon and 1 T. chopped walnuts.
Use 3/4 c. cream, either sweet or sour, instead of the milk, and add 2 eggs.
Add about 4 oz. soft fruits, and sugar to taste.
Add 1 teaspoon dried herbs, or 2 teaspoons fresh herbs to the mix.
Add 5 oz/150 g grated Scottish cheddar cheese (1 c generous) and a large pinch of cayenne pepper sifted in with the flour. Season well with salt. Brush with egg and sprinkle cheese on top. For serving with soup or dinner. [I imagine just about any kind of strongly flavoured cheese would work well in this!]
Add 1 small onion, cooked until soft in 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Add most to the dough but keep some back to put on top after brushing with egg.
Or, add both onion and cheese.
Or, add both onion, cheese, and herbs - chives are particularly good.

~from Scottish Cookery by Catherine Brown. Everything in brackets [] is my comment, and I merely summarized the last list of add-ins.

We usually make the buttermilk version, baked in the oven, with at least 1/2 wheat flour, and they're delicious! I haven't ever made the sweet milk ones myself, although I think my mother has, but they are a little more of a "production" as you have to cut in the butter. I think I'll try the cheese ones to go with dinner this Saturday, when I cook next, and if so I'll try to take some pictures along the way to illustrate the process and report back here with the results!

If you try any of these, or even just read through it all, I'd love to hear back from you about what you though :-)

I am off; my mother is having a routine test done today but it involves sedation, so I must go with her to the doctor's and drive her home afterwards. I'm not particularly looking forward to upwards of two hours sitting in a waiting room, but perhaps I'll manage to get some knitting done!

Love,
Gillian

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Peace

Peace is quiet contentment.


Peace is hot tea in a lovely cup... a sweet cat purring sleepily....

a warm vantage point on a cold day.


The gentle whispering of a soft snowfall.

And peace is reminders of God's great love, like this selection from my reading in "Morning and Evening" yesterday:

'Ye are Christ's.' You are His by donation, for the Father gave you to the Son; His by His bloody purchase, for He counted down the price for your redemption; His by dedication, for you have consecrated yourself to Him; His by relation, for you are named by his name, and made one of His brethren and joint-heirs. Labour practically to show the world that you are the servant, the friend, the bride of Jesus. When tempted to sin, reply, 'I cannot do this great wickedness, for I am Christ's'. Immortal principles forbid the friend of Christ to sin. When wealth is before you to be won by sin, say that you are Christ's, and touch it not. Are you exposed to difficulties and dangers? Stand fast in the evil day, remembering that you are Christ's. Are you placed where others are sitting down idly, doing nothing? Rise to the work with all your powers; and when the sweat stands upon your brow, and you are tempted to loiter, cry, 'No, I cannot stop, for I am Christ's. If I were not purchased by blood, I might be like Issachar, crouching between two burdens; but I am Christ's, and cannot loiter.' When the siren song of pleasure would tempt you from the path of right, reply, 'Thy music cannot charm me; I am Christ's.' When the cause of God invites thee, give thyself to it; when the poor require thee, give thy goods and thyself away, for thou art Christ's. Never belie thy profession. Be thou ever one of those whose manners are Christian, whose speech is like the Nazarene, whose conduct and conversation are so redolent of heaven, that all who see you may know that you are the Saviour's, recognizing in you His features of love and His countenance of holiness. 'I am a Roman!' was of old a reason for integrity; far more, then, let it be your argument for holiness, 'I am Christ's!'


May you always remember that you are His, and he is watching out for you! Therein lies peace indeed.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sunday Musings


For some reason I always find it harder to "be good" on Sundays than any other day of the week. I'm not sure why this is, though I keep thinking about it - maybe if I find out why I'll be able to fix it. I've thought of two reasons: one is just that perhaps Satan chooses to be more active on the Lord's Day than during the rest of the week. This one feels like a bit of a cop-out or an excuse though; as if I'm blaming my own sin on Satan and therefore it's not my problem. Which isn't what I want to do.


The other reason I've thought of is simply that there's less structure, and more "lazy" time. Put that way, this one sounds wrong too. After all Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest - we're not supposed to work. (And maybe there's my problem... I never do completely rest on Sundays, I always have a project I'm working on, whether sewing or writing or something outside. Maybe I need to focus on really resting?) But though the morning is always the same - wake up, eat breakfast, go to church and Sunday school, come home - the afternoon sort of falls apart. Sunday dinner is supposed to be at lunch time but usually happens around 3 PM... we sit at the table for hours, and if I do get around to any of my projects it's late, most of the day is gone, and I have no structure or time schedule to plan around. Then things tend to go the way today went, which is to say, not well at all.


(I started out upset already because Kate rearranged our bedroom while I was at school, and I couldn't find my slippers I'd left under the bed this summer.) We didn't get up from dinner until past 4 this afternoon. I was going to cut out a shirt I'm working on designing, using the S&S Regency pattern as a base, so I went upstairs to get the pattern. It wasn't in the box I thought it ought to be in. I asked my mother and sister... no ideas. I searched Mum's sewing basket... ransacked my own boxes... went through my sister's things. No luck. Finally I returned to the closet and started digging through the clutter on the floor -- to find the pattern exactly where it was supposed to be, in a crate with other patterns, which had been so obscured by my sister's belongings that I hadn't even seen it the first time I looked.


Then I went downstairs, annoyed with my sister, and found that my parents had gone out to take a walk on which I had been counting on joining them, without telling me they were going. And I lost my temper, and scolded my sister for making a mess in the closet, and stormed about my lost walk, and banged things around, and generally made a scene and felt pretty sorry for myself. Then I went in the bathroom and cried miserable, selfish, angry tears. I'm not proud of my outburst - I'm glad my sister was the only witness, and I'm sorry I inflicted it on her.


But then when I was calming down and praying for forgiveness, I started wondering why these meltdowns always seem to happen on Sundays. And I haven't any ideas, really - is it the prospect of a new week? But I'm looking forward to this week. Is it just that my guard is down because I've been to church and ought to be feeling righteous? Is it just a coincidence? I've no idea. All I know is, most of my major temper flares, and most of my huge emotional melt-downs, seem to happen on Sundays.


And so I reach my conclusion - which is not really a conclusion at all, except that I'll be praying for added strength and patience and wisdom on Sundays. And if any of you feel so led to pray for me, I would appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.



May you all have a blessed Sabbath! Tomorrow I should have some more sewing photos to show you, and maybe a sneak peek at my recital dress!


Love,

Gillian

Friday, 8 January 2010

Birthday Sewing

My baby sister had her fifteenth birthday this October while I was away at college. Quite apart from the question "How can my baby sister be fifteen already?!?" I managed not to get her a gift, as I was 600+ miles away at the time, so when I came home for Christmas I promised to make her a dress as her gift.

We made quite an expedition of it - Kate had been reading Color Me Beautiful and we decided to use the trip to JoAnn as a way to figure out the colours she looks best in as well. I'm sure we attracted attention -- Katie and David and I, lugging cart-fulls of fabric bolts back and forth across the store. But we ended up with a good idea of what suits her, and fabric for a dress.

It was snowing, and she was freezing - I'm impressed at the smile!

Actually, fabric for two dresses. Katie couldn't decide between two sets, and she had some birthday money from our grandfather, so I agreed to make up a second dress for her.

The pattern she chose is Butterick 4790, which is darling. I'd read a lot of somewhat negative reviews, however, so I went digging around trying to figure out the issues with the pattern before I made it up. Kate ended up not having a lot of the fitting problems that people mentioned - she's got about the 1950's figure, slim, but curvy! Lucky girl! I did add width to the front, under-skirt - I just cut the whole width of my fabric, then put darts in the back for her hips. It's still too wide, but since she's still growing I just moved the button off-centre a little and she can adjust it as she needs to. It's supposed to be a wear-alone dress, and I think it'll work very well that way for summer, but it also works as a pinafore over a shirt if it's cold - and as she wore both for these pictures.

I added patch pockets - partly just because I always need pockets, and partly because the scraps left from cutting out the circle skirt were exactly the right shape for patch pockets! They're bound with bias tape and top-stitched to the underskirt, where they don't show normally, but they're easy to access.


And, because I seem psychologically incapable of resisting rick-rack for more than about three projects in a row.... I added some to the pockets of the second dress. (It was already in my stash, so I am completely unrepentant!)


I changed the closure a little bit - instead of the snap closure with decorative buttons, I skipped the snaps entirely and made self-fabric loops and functioning buttons. The buttons are fabric-covered; this was my first experiment with covering buttons and I have to say I like how they turned out!

Oh, and all that bias tape? I made it myself... measured, marked, cut, folded, pressed, and applied. I never was so sick of bias tape in all my life. But I figure I probably saved close to ten dollars, compared to if I'd bought enough ready-made to bind both dresses, so it was worth it - and this way the colours matched exactly!

I'll probably never make this dress for myself - it isn't really my style - and I don't highly recommend it, as it is a bit "fussy", both to make and to wear. But I think these both turned out pretty well and Katie is thrilled - I seem to have achieved my objective of a pleasing gift, and so I'm happy with them as well.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Wrist-warmers

I knit these wrist-warmers in the space of just a few days while we were in PA for Christmas. The pattern is Queen City Fingerless Mitts, from Knitty, and they were quite simple to make.

The directions were clear and straightforward and gave me no problems. I did have to alter them a bit, as I have small wrists and long, square palms - I think I started with the medium size at the wrist and by the time I got past the thumb shaping I was at the extra-large size! I also added some length. Altogether though these were a very quick project, and only used about 100 yards of yarn, so they'd be great for using up little odds and ends.

I'm finally getting back to sewing, now that I'm home for a month - I hope I'll be able to post about that soon!

Love,
Gillian

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Happy New Year!

This evening we finally had the chance to light the final candle of our Advent wreath, the "Christ Candle". One of the things I hate about traveling at Christmas is that the Advent wreath, readings and carols get interrupted... often we never get to finish them. This year though we seized an opportunity, reading the final passages and lighting at last all five candles.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...."


We also had our traditional New Year's Day meal, Pork and Sauerkraut. This is a traditional Amish/Pennsylvania Dutch dish, and probably a German one before that... but as my mother grew up in Pennsylvania and grew up with this meal, we have always served it as well and it's one of my favourites.

I set the table for the meal this evening, and as I set out the silver I noticed it was very tarnished.... but our silver polish, probably 25 years old at this point, was completely dried up and useless. But I had been struck with a strange and persistent desire to polish something, so I settled on the brass candlesticks, which were looking decidedly shabby. And I told my mother that if she'd buy me more silver polish, I'd polish all the silver. It looks like I got myself a project!




I love setting the table for holiday meals - it's the perfect excuse to bring out my grandmother's silver, and my other grandmother's china, and the red tablecloth we never use. To put out brand new tapers in the shining candlesticks, and to set out the Waterford crystal that my parents bought each other for their anniversaries over a period of many years. To fill the table with a special meal, prepared with love.



Lest you think, though, that it's all bright crystal and glimmering candlesticks, let me show you the pot we cooked the pork and sauerkraut in. It, um, overflowed a bit in the oven...


And here is the meal itself! Pork loin, slow-cooked in the oven amongst a bed of sauerkraut, apples, tomatoes, and onions... mashed potatoes.... peas... freshly-made applesauce. There is little better, to my mind! And even people who "don't like sauerkraut" like this version.

Well, I have gone on long enough. I hope no one thinks it too strange that I post so much about food! But it's one of my great interests... I love cooking and photographing food, as well as eating it, and there are so many great opportunities for fabulous meals during this holiday season!

I hope the first day of 2010 - the last "first of the year" for this first decade of a new millennium - has been as good for you as it was for me!

Love,
Gillian

Friday, 1 January 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas

Well, there are a few days of Christmas left but I thought I'd put up my "Christmas" post since it is officially the new year now!



We spent Christmas, as we often do, in Pennsylvania with my grandfather. The day itself was smooth and uneventful - a leisurely morning, gifts opened, and then a lovely dinner which we all pitched in to put together. In my family, gifts are usually fairly small and inexpensive - we don't have much (although I know we are blessed far beyond what we deserve and beyond what many have, and for that I am grateful!) but what we have is given with love, and that for me is better than whatever material gain there may be.


The table set for Christmas dinner!

Later in the week we visited my aunt and uncle, and also saw my cousins and their families. I have to show you this picture of my little brother and our cousin's daughter - she just adores David, and has ever since she was tiny.


Wednesday we drove home; a trip which ought to have taken twelve hours turned into a seventeen hour odyssey, and everyone was tired and exhausted by the time we got home. (A portion of interstate 80 in PA was shut down due to a tanker which split in half and spilled toxic chemicals... this caused a huge traffic backup.) The darkness and the red taillights made for some interesting photographic opportunities, though!


This is just some of the traffic which we encountered.



And today, in preparation for the New Year's Eve party to which we always go, I made an enormous Apple Cake and a huge plate of brownies. Then, because I couldn't help myself, I took pictures!


Happy New Year to all of my readers! I hope 2010 is good for you; and I hope you were as blessed in 2009 as I was. It was a rough year in many, many ways; tough courses in school, hard lessons regarding matters of the heart, the death of several dear friends and family members. But I have so many sweet memories of friends and family, and have been taught so many necessary and valuable lessons through all of this. God knew what he was doing - and he knows what he's going to do with 2010, as well!


Love to you all,

Gillian