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Archive for February, 2011

Vests Pt. 1

Here is the post I composed before I became horribly sick last week:

If I were a fashion magazine this would be an article called “Vested Interest” and that would be just awful.  As it happens, I am not a fashion magazine I am a lass with a blog and this is a post about some cool vests I made for my husband.  We were over the moon about Boardwalk Empire last fall and every week brought new excitement about what Nucky was going to wear this time.   The menswear was a source of constant amazement and we were always oohing and aahing over something.  After a while my husband said he’d like to have some vests.  Now, to be completely forthcoming here, he’s said this before.  And when he mentioned it before I said something along the lines of, “Oh baby, do you want a vest?  I can make you a vest in an hour.”  Then I never did it.  But it’s a new day and promises will be honored and I have made him not one but four vests.  Yep, four.  I may not be quick but I’m generous.

We went downtown and got him some great menswear fabrics and lining materials.  He picked a lot of bright satin linings in contrasting colors which is just another reason why I  love him.  On a subsequent trip with some friends I found a button store and picked up some great vintage looking buttons.  It was hard to choose because there were so many great buttons.  I was zipping from bin to bin saying “look, LOOK!”

I did all the vests with bagged linings, in which the lining fabric is stitched directly to the menswear fabric right sides together.  Then you turn it inside out and press carefully.  Yes, I have a picture.

This is the vest front stitched.

This is the vest front turned and pressed.  This type of lining is one of those things that I do because of my theater background.  This is the type of thing you do when you have to make 15 vests for a chorus and the show goes up tomorrow.  It’s not lazy, it’s clever, trust me.  It has the added benefit of being cooler to wear because there aren’t lots of extra layers of fabric in the garment.  Since my husband wants to wear these to work and he tends to run a little hot (temperature wise) I thought this construction would be more comfortable for him.

In my next post I will show some pictures of all four vests.


Going back to France (on a plate)

On our last night in Paris we ate at a restaurant my husband had read about, Le Petit Sorceror.  Or something to that effect.  It means the little witches.  It was the most fully French dining experience we had while we were there.  Prior to going I had heard that when you go to a restaurant in France their idea of good service is to leave you alone for the most part because they figure you are in for the evening.  All the food we had was amazing and we took pictures of some of the things we ate and later wrote down what we thought was in them and tried to recreate them.

Last night I made one of the dishes we have learned to copy.  It is very good and the components are classically French but easier to recreate than you’d think.  Since I’m making this in the USA with American substitutions it comes out a bit differently but we have served it to guests and had a very good response.

The original dish.

There are a couple of layers to this dish.  On top is a slice of bacon, underneath is a poached egg and on the bottom are tiny mushrooms and pearl onions cooked in red wine and beef stock.

I start by cooking the bacon in a pan.


Then I remove the bacon to drain on paper towels and toss in the pearl onions.  Make no mistake they are an absolute pain to peel but they are so cute.

There go the onions.

After they start to go a bit translucent I pour in some red wine and beef stock, about a 50/50 ratio.  Last night I measured and it was about a half cup of each.  When it came to a simmer I tossed in the mushrooms.

Mushrooms in.

Then I simmer for a long time so the mushrooms cook down a bit and get the color from the wine and stock.  I put in some tarragon last thing so it would retain its flavor.  There wasn’t tarragon in the original recipe but I had some on hand so what the heck?


After that I just poached two eggs per person and put it all in a low bowl in with the bacon on top.  The only thing I was missing, I realized as I ate, was some crusty bread to sop up all the lovely sauce.  Also I think a pat of butter with the onions would not have been amiss.  Oh well.


The original dish was appetizer size and only had one poached egg but I did two since we ate them for dinner.

Purse design from The Dress I Made

One of my favorite blogs is The Dress I Made.  I really admire her designing and sewing skills and I believe that having someone of her caliber blogging raises the bar for the rest of us who want to discuss  these topics.  I appreciate having something to aspire to.

I discovered The Dress I Made through Design Sponge when a project of hers was posted along with instructions.  I loved it right away and I finally made one of my own.  Here are some photos:

The finished bag

I made the bag from scraps I had.  A while ago I purchased a large bag of upholstery leftovers and all of the fabrics here came from that bag with the exception of the shoulder strap, which is some scrap leather I had lying around.  I had to add some inside pockets to mine because if I can’t grab my keys and lip balm easily I go stark raving mad.

Bag lining with pockets attached.

The small pocket is for my cell phone because I can’t stand not being able to grab that easily, either.

Cell phone pocket.

You can clearly see here that I have used contrasting thread to stitch the pockets down.  This is born of laziness.  Yes I could have matched the thread to the cloth but I thought, “Meh, I’m the only one who has to look at it every day.”  Also the bulk of my sewing experience comes from my background in theater and as we say in the theater, it won’t read.  Which is to say the audience won’t notice.

Strap holes

I wish I could tell you that the only reason I did a contrasting blanket stitch for my strap holes was because I liked it but the truth is I got a grommet kit and the damn thing wouldn’t work.  I pounded on it with a hammer for the longest time and it defied my every effort.  Stupid cuss.  Anyway the blanket stitching is cute and adds a little color and texture.

The finished strap hole


Detail of strap closure

This bag was so quick to make.  If you are looking for instructions here is a link them on Design Sponge (another blog I love and aspire to):


Right now I think the thing I aspire to the most is to have better pictures.

Narrowing a tie

So much can be said about the design influence of Mad Men and in my house it has made itself felt in the menswear area as my husband expresses his dissatisfaction with wide ties.  He has been more interested in neck wear in general lately and all the purchases he has made could have easily been incorporated into the Mad Men aesthetic.

Ken sports a narrow tie on Mad Men

My husband had one wide tie hanging around which he wanted to wear.  It happens to be the tie he wore when we got married and neither of us likes buying things for only one occasion so I offered to narrow it for him and he was delighted.  “Can that be done?” he asked.  Yes it can, and this is what I did.

This is the tie in its original form.

Opening up the back of the tie revealed the lining and batting.

I measured the tie against a tie my husband likes the width of and determined that the offending tie was 1/2″ wider on each side at the widest point.  I marked the new widest point with chalk and used a ruler to mark the cutting line up to the point where the two ties matched in measurement.

Marking the cutting lines

Then I cut the batting and repositioned the fabric over the new silhouette and steamed the fabric lightly with an iron to remove the old crease lines. I trimmed out about 1″ of the tie and lining fabric but that was almost too much and I had to do a bit of finagling to get the back of the tie lined up.  After that I lightly pressed the fabric back into place over the batting.

The fabric pinned back into place.

I sewed up the back with an invisible slipstitch and put the label and the other bit of fabric (the one you stick the back end of the tie through) back in place and the tie was ready to go.  My husband wore it the next day and he loved it.  By the way I am certain there is a name for that bit of fabric you stick the back end of the tie through.  It is probably French and I don’t know what it is and a quick Google search has not answered the question so I will save it for another time.

The finished product.