I’m all about the cake, ’bout the cake…

90th-cake

So no sewing for me this weekend, I stepped away from the Janome and up to the Kitchen Aid for a special birthday! My Father’s sister Aunty Eileen reached the magnificent milestone (oh how Dad would have enjoyed the party), and provided a marvelous excuse for the extended family to get together without the stress of a wedding or the sadness of a funeral, huzzah!.

I dont know about you but this is the first 90th birthday party I’ve been to, and not only was I in charge of the cake, the party was in our front garden. So naturally I’m throwing soil and petunias into hanging baskets like a crazy gal on Sunday morning trying to make everything look pretty. My back still hurts, apparently some people find gardening quite relaxing…..??? Give me a wooden spoon/sewing machine/glass of wine any day thanks.

Given what is happening in the world today , any excuse for something to make the day a bit brighter is a good thing. I thought I’d share my (ok and Martha Stewart’s) go to chocolate cake recipe, perfect for birthdays, high days, very especially low days…..anytime you need a delicious moist cake that is super easy to make (one bowl people!!!) and can be decorated as simply or not as desired.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C

375 gr/ 2 1/2 cups plain flour

1 cup dark rich cocoa powder

450 gr/2 cups sugar (I keep a vanilla bean in my sugar jar)

2 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup vege oil (I use canola)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups warm water

Now its very complicated. Put everything in the bowl of your mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you are doing it by hand) and using the paddle attachment, beat together for approx 2 minutes until it is well mixed. If you are using a wooden spoon give it an extra minute or two. Yes, that really is it.

Pour into two 8 inch cake pans, well greased & lined with balking paper and bake for approx 20-25 minutes until a sharp knife poked into the middle comes out clean.

Cool, and either sandwich with buttercream or fill with whipped cream and berries (raspberries for the win!) and glaze with a simple icing made with icing (powdered) sugar, cocoa, a small knob of butter for shine & warm water until it is pouring consistency.

I filled my cake with raspberry buttercream, and covered with vanilla fondant and pink fondant flowers, simple, but very pretty. The birthday girl liked it anyway.

What we need right now, cake and kindness ………..and chocolate obviously.

Kristina xxx

blackboard

 

 

 

 

Lets streamline this shall we…?

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There is a lot I like about this top. It has drape, interest around the neckline and cuffs, is comfortable…but we are not there yet!

I first came across the dress version of Scroop patterns Henrietta Maria on Pinterest, and was immediately intrigued . Those lovely tucks, generous raglan sleeves, this could be a summer go to. It still could to be fair, but a few adjustments are required.

The sleeves, oh dear reader those sleeves. Now I have spent a great deal of my adult life having sleeve “issues”. Even back in my racing snake days, my upper arms,like those of the woman in my family going back to my grandmother at least (Mum’s blaming her anyway) are substantial. Which is most handy for bread making (and I make fabulous bread!) but a bit of a drag for finding comfortable RTW tops . It’s become my mission in sewing to make great comfortable well fitting sleeves .

Well the Henrietta Maria has taken us from the sublime to the ridiculous. Those sleeves are HUGE. Its blowing a gale in Auckland at the moment, I’d be in danger of rouge gust catching my voluminous arms & parachuting me into a tree! *

In fact the picture above is after I have chopped about four cm (approx 2 inches) off the inside sleeve seam and sewn up, as you can see below, there was a lot of fabric involved.

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Is it a bird, is it a parachute…..no, it’s a sleeve (or somewhere to put my lunchbox?)

I used a beautiful soft Cotton Batiste from Atelier Brunette (I know, I should make a muslin, dont practice with expensive fabric etc etc…….I’m just too impatient !), which is quite delicious to wear. Taking some excess fabric from the sleeve has helped, but as I also have quite narrow shoulders, and this pattern sits quite wide I need to do a bit of adjusting in that area also.

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Zen and the art of tuck pleating…..

I do love the tucks. They are a little time consuming, but not nearly as much as they look, once you get into the rhythm you’re away. The essential tool is your trusty sewing gauge, which makes me feel terribly serious and professional, like draping my tape measure around my neck (at least until the cats attack it…)

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The pattern comes in a size range 30-50, the largest being 127-112-137.5 (50-44-54), but please do bear in mind there is a lot of ease in this pattern! I shall be going down at least one size for my next attempt, possibly two (I made up a 44).

The pattern is PDF only, but their are only four pieces, and the instructions are clear, especially regarding the tucks, I had no issues.

I do think with some adjustments for size, sewn up as a dress in a light/medium weight linen this would be really great for both weekends and the working week.

This is a perfect style for a holiday, so I shall leave you with a gratuitous shot of the lovely Mr PK and myself sinking into the sand on a beach in Fiji, bula!

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Excellent loose top for eating a delicious meal…..!

Kristina xxx

* It’s a real danger on a slow news day in Auckland I could end up in the paper….

It’s a top, no it’s a dress…..

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I actually love this dress. A Fielder pattern from UK firm Merchant & Mills, its super comfy , quick to sew, I think looks fab and the pattern also contains a sweat-shirt style sweater version, nice! So why do I look so miserable?

Yes, that face. In a moment of inspiration I thought I’d recreate the pose of the girl on the Fielder pattern envelope*. I feel like a bit of a plonker standing in my front garden while my husband takes 400 photos of his wife as quickly as possible (including on this occasion a selection with a branch in front of her face…?) complaining the whole time…..so I figure as I’m using exactly the same fabric as the version on the website I’d go full model. No, I hadn’t been drinking…

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Yes, what was I thinking??

Anyway, about the pattern. I had the grade it up, but as the fit is pretty easy I figured it only really mattered for the sleeves. Now I wont pretend I have much experience grading patterns. Actually I have none, so it was a You Tube/Bodge it special, which turned out pretty well I think?

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Scientific….not!

I have previously made a Merchant & Mills Trapeze dress, which has a good amount of ease, so I calculated my size as best I could, and hoped for the best. If you’re a sewing professional please look away now. I literally traced the largest size pattern pieces onto tracing paper, then added the additional cm’s required (divided by two) , grading as I went, and cut out.  I told you it wasn’t scientific.

For the sleeves, always my Waterloo, I turned to the Curvy Sewing Collective, and their excellent sleeve fitting tutorial. I added the extra width nessesary to my traced off sleeve piece , then actually sewed my sleeve seam together, to make sure it fitted. This is the beauty of Swedish tracing paper !

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Hack that sleeve. Literally.

There are many far more correct ways to do this, but until I learn them, I  figure I will do what seems most logical (I’m an Accountant remember) and see if it works. The sleeves on the top version of the pattern, which I made first, are to long, and the ribbing too loose. Ditto both versions around the neckline. I have not used ribbing before, and I cut it far to long. Naturally I only realized this when I had sewed it in….and serged. Sigh…

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Longer & looser sleeves than I wanted

Its still perfectly wearable, and so comfortable, made from a delicious soft double cotton, from my most favorite sewing store here in New Zealand Miss Maude There is a nifty little dart in the shoulder, which works well for rather sloping shoulders like mine, and the ribbing gives shape. I have visions of the pink Hard Rock Cafe sweatshirt I had in the 80’s….ok, maybe not.

The dress version is made using a delicious Merchant & Mills laundered linen. I love linen, yes it creases, but I think  that just adds to the appeal, especially in a casual dress like this.I love the swish & feel , and the fact it just gets better with age. I hanker after gorgeous linen sheets.One day Grasshopper, one day……..

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Much better…

The instructions are simple, and clearly written. To be honest , while I love the  industrial, utilitarian style of this brand so much, as a beginner I do prefer clearer , less “hand drawn” illustrations, but they were actually ok for a simple garment like this.

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So, while the size range isn’t as big as it could be, this is a relatively easy dress to grade , and the results, a cool casual top/dress that works for so many situations,  is worth the effort.

What do you think? What’s your go to dress?

Kristina x

 

 

A Harrison shirt to begin…

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Just proving I really can lift my arm, the sleeve fits!

Well look at me, a new shirt and a new blog, all in one week! Now I will fess up, this isn’t technically my first shirt make. I made a Colette Negroni shirt for Mr PK a few months ago (post to come). While it’s far from perfect (unless twisted plackets become a “thing”, in which case I’m ahead of the game) it has proved a hit , worn regularly through winter.

But here’s the thing, my man is basically a walking mannequin. By that I mean he is such a standard menswear shape he can wear almost any RTW item with no alteration required. Tall and  lean, I didn’t really have any fit challenges with his shirt. My shape? Now that’s a whole new ball game kids…curves, bumps, squishy bits, flatter bits, its a virtual Himalayas for what is already a complicated piece of clothing to negotiate!

Hence, I haven’t actually worn shirts for years. A combination of generous chest , narrow shoulders and shall we say “lush” biceps mean unless I’m happy to flash my bra through a gaping bust or risk my arms falling off from lack of oxygen , they are a no go.

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No gaping here thanks…

But no longer *insert wobbly but awesome arm fist-pump here,  yeow!!*. The very clever Jenny at the curvy girl nirvana that is  Cashmerette has come up with a gorgeous shirt that uses princess seams to create fit and room where its needed, without billows of fabric everywhere you dont.

I used the paper pattern (it also comes as a PDF) , which I traced off onto Swedish tracing paper. Currently I get this sent from the UK, but hopefully I can find a New Zealand supplier soon. It is so easy to use, I cut the pattern a size 18, but graded up to a size 20 for the sleeves. While its does look like a lot of pieces, it comes together quite easily, not least because of the GREAT instruction booklet.

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Clear instructions

For less experienced sewers like me, clear precise instructions, both written and pictorial are essential. I have spent many years cooking and baking, including writing a food blog and teaching cooking classes, and one thing I’ve noticed is how a newbie will almost always blame themselves if a recipe fails. Now forgetting the eggs is going to make a cake a challenge to rise (??!) but I’ve also seen some seriously crapola recipes, with missing ingredients, confused or missing instructions and incorrect proportions that would be a challenge for anyone, experienced or not, to create successfully. Something as complex as a shirt needs a darn fine recipe, and the Harrison is a cracker.

The princess seams come together without too much drama *, as does the collar and stand, even the placket instructions are simple (I’ve ditched the twisted look for Summer 17). I used a soft cotton voile, which was nice and easy to sew, overlocking (serging) my seams . Obviously I made no attempt at pattern matching , I’m more wild flower meadow kind of girl anyway ….

So, the curvy:

Harrison shirt by Cashmerette

Size: 18, but I cut out size 20 sleeves

Fabric: Cotton voile from Spotlight

Difficulty: This wasn’t actually that difficult, the instructions are good, I think its a case of taking things slowly and not rushing the process. I hardly used my quick unpick, aside from a missed bit of the cuff seam when top stitching, which is great.

Next time: I would make the sleeve approx 2 cm shorter, they feel a wee bit long, and I would tighten the cuffs up.

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Hmmm, a wee bit long, a wee bit loose

Fuel: This make was fueled by coffee (my sister left her Nespresso with us for a few weeks after Xmas!) , Xmas ham and episodes of Foyles War , those fabulous 40’s dresses…..

Will there be a sequel? Heck yes, I’m thinking rayon and linen versions….for starters…AND there is now also a shirtdress version , happy dance!

*** Open Kimono***

Ok, in the interests of full disclosure , I can confirm I made a load of absolute cock ups on this sew, all fully operator error (actually I blame my cat Tommy for distracting me constantly……)

Cutting out the wrong sized sleeve, despite having measured myself carefully

Stitching my seam on the outside of two of my front panels

Running out of fabric after above….

Ironing my interfacing on the right side of one of my collar pieces (really!!)

Cutting the bottom off my button front an inch too short

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Hmmm, sewing impediment Numero Uno

Are you a shirt maker? What works for you, I’d love to hear!

Kristina xxx