Stash Busting for Charity – Put a Hat on It

Do you have lots of random scraps of things in your stash – bits of fabric that are too big to toss but too small to use for much?

Make hats! For charity! Or for yourself or your family or friends or for kids in the neighborhood. Whatever… if they have a head, put a hat on it! For about a fat quarter of knit fabric each you can have… all this!

The pink hat is the “Scrap Cap” from Green Pepper Patters F822. It’s made of fleece left over from the Pussyhats I made for the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. Damn Trump is still the damn president and we women have even MORE to march for this year. I made this for the daughter of a friend who’s marching with us in New York in January.

The duo of white hats is from Simplicity 1566 – a pattern envelope with an entire wardrobe for a baby or toddler. This is a great package of patterns for gift-making or for kitting out your kid with cute, simple, easy-to-make styles. My favorite in this package is the little hoodie. This hat is OK  – I wasn’t crazy about the shape and the ribbon ties. I decorated them with some trims I’ve had in my stash for 10+ years. The hats are made with leftover cotton jersey from a T-shirt project. I’m donating the hats to a charity that collects winter clothing for the needy.

The trio of blue, white and black hats also will go the charity. These are made from leftover border-print viscose knit and rayon jersey. The pattern is “Mountain Cap,” also from Green Pepper F822. These go together very quickly on the serger – I think I made all three in under an hour. I made one child size, one teen and one adult just to see how they fit. The teen size is perfect for me. I added a little cuff to it, just ’cause.


Fun with Vintage Piping on New Jammies

I have a couple of TNT sleepwear patterns, but I was hankering for something new for my “easy and cheap” jammies project. I chose McCall’s 7297 because I like the close-fitting top, and I thought the cute neckline detail would give me a chance to use some vintage piping from my grandmother’s stash. Plus, Joann had a $1.99 special on McCall’s patterns – must be thrifty! I had everything else for the project in stash, including four yards of 100% cotton jersey in sky blue.

My grandmother’s favorite color was hot pink. She had hot pink tiles in her kitchen and bathroom and an oriental rug prominently featuring hot pink. I inherited that rug, but I had to get rid of it when I realized the color was the exact shade of Pepto-Bismol.

We found a small stash in her home when she died – a few patterns, some thread and needles, a baby-food jar full of buttons, and a few odd trims, like iron-on hem tape. We also found a couple of packages of piping, including one in hot pink, natch:


Three yards for 19 cents was quite a bargain! I love the offer to send 3 labels and 15 cents to Wright’s in Massachusetts to get a bag of trimmings for doll clothes. I wonder what would happen if I tried that now?

I walked the pattern with a measuring tape, and I thought I had just enough to add piping to the neckline and cuffs (wrists and ankles) of the PJs. I sandwiched it with some fleece binding for extra comfiness. I got the top done and went on to the pants. Oh no!


Six inches too short for the second pants cuff! CRAP!

The vintage piping is color #67, Rose, 100% cotton. Wright’s does not make this color anymore, but it offers something similar, color #1232, Berry Sorbet, a bit more purply than the original. And it’s a cotton-poly blend. Boo.

I toyed with the idea of buying some cording and a fat quarter of quilting fabric in as close a color as I could find, and making my own piping for that second leg. But what a chore for one pant leg!

Then I wondered if a vintage store near me, the English Building Market, would have something similar. I’ve had fun looking through their antique buttons and I’ve bought old zippers and trims there before – could lightning strike twice? Behold!


The original cost 15 cents for 4 yards. The vintage shop sold it to me for $1 (I think a new package of 2.5 yards costs around $2). It’s the right color but uses slightly smaller cording than the original from my grandmother. I don’t think it’s noticeable. Can you tell on the pants which is the larger?

This piping was even older than my grandmother’s, to judge the packaging. You can get a bag of trims for doll’s clothes for 10 cents! They also call the fabric nainsook, which I had never heard of. The dictionary says nainsook is a fine, soft cotton fabric, originally from South Asia. Cool!

And I love how these old-timey packages would have a picture of the moldy founder of the company – like, “If some old white dude’s face is on the label, it’s got to be good!” Later Wright’s put a model “of a certain age” on the label, Notice her blouse uses no trims of any kind that you can see, but she does look like she knows her way around a sewing machine.


And now there’s no model at all. Double boo. Maybe if I send them a picture of me in my new jammies, they’ll make me a cover girl?

IMG_20171128_181210 (2)

I wouldn’t count on it. Nonetheless, here I am in my finished project. Note the geeky owl-face slippers.

Jammies are a great project for beginning sewists because they’re relatively loose-fitting and they require few complex construction techniques. This pattern, for example, has an elastic waist and no buttons. You can use nice soft cotton that’s easy to work with. And if they’re not perfect, you can still wear them. For example, I goofed a bit on the legs and there are a couple of small tucks in the fabric where the cuffs went in. So what? Also, the topstitching at the neckline’s a bit wavy. Who cares?

The Big Winter Coat Project

I am astonished that there are so few winter parka patterns out there! Patterns for dress coats and casual things like zip-up fleeces abound. But a parka that’s water-resitant, insulated and suitable for skiing and cold-weather activities? Hardly anything! Burda had a couple of options, but I don’t love their sizing and directions, and Jalie had nothing I liked.

I settled on Green Pepper Patterns, a sentimental favorite anyway since I made a hiking anorak from Green Pepper back in high school. I ordered online today the Women’s Fairbanks Pullover. I can make View B (no hood) and get something that’s warm and covers my butt.


I think I see why this is not a popular project. I will need probably $100 worth of fabric (almost 7 yards altogether for a water-resistant shell, insulation and lining) not to mention zippers, Velcro, cording, etc.  I found no reviews of this pattern online, so I am flying blind. I will definitely make a muslin to check for makeability and fit – and to be sure I love the thing before I lay out that kind of cash. If it’s a hit, I will probably wear it for 20 years, so there’s a bright spot. I can’t say that about anything else I’ve ever sewn.

While I am awaiting the pattern’s arrival, I chose something easy from the Magic Quadrant for Sewing Projects:

Sewing plan v2

I figured I’d do another “want” (blue dots in the grid) since I’ve had to put my big “want” project on hold. I have everything in stash to make some nice pajamas, and they should be easy, so that’s the next project.

The Minimalist’s Pie

I am not much for desserts nowadays – too rich, too sweet, too many calories I’d rather spend on something else. But a little corner of my heart still loves a fruit pie. I grew up eating them and making them, as a child at my grandmother’s side. In New England tradition, pies are simple and not too sweet, with just a rumor of cinnamon in an all-butter crust. Eat a leftover slice for breakfast with a steaming mug of creamy coffee.

My minimalist pie starts with the right kind of apples: either Baldwins or Cortlands.

This entire tote bag of Baldwin apples will make one big pie.

Cortlands are commonly found all over the place, but Baldwins are the apples to score if you’re lucky enough to have a diverse orchard nearby. Baldwins used to be everywhere years ago, but they’re  rare find today. I drive to Guilford, Conn to get some at Bishop’s Orchards.

My family grew two varieties of apples when I was growing up: McIntosh for eating and Baldwins for keeping. They’re a hard winter apple, not too sweet or too starchy. You can safely store them in newspaper in a cool place until spring.


I cut the apples with one of those eight-slice apple coring and slicing gizmos. Leave the slices whole – you want a bite of apple, not mush – and toss with the juice of a lemon to keep them from browning.

To the apples, I add a half cup of white sugar (again, not too sweet is the rule), 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (you want to taste apple primarily, with just enough cinnamon to perfume the pie juices) and a tablespoon of potato starch for thickening. You can find potato starch in the kosher section of your supermarket. It’s better than cornstarch because it keeps the pie juices clear, while cornstarch clouds the juices.

Then there’s the crust. That’s simple:

  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out  (get King Arthur, a New England brand, if you can swing it)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 pound of cold sweet butter (two sticks – I like Kate’s Homemade Butter from Vermont)
  • 8-10 tablespoons of ice water

An all-butter crust is crumbly and hard to work with, so if you’re not a pie doyenne, sub out half the butter for Crisco and you’ll have an easier time and a pretty good crust. I make my crust by hand, cutting chunks of the cold butter into the flour-salt mixture with a pastry blender in a big bowl. Sure, use a food processor if you’d rather.

Once the butter’s cut in to the flour into tiny pieces (no larger than a grain of raw rice) sprinkle in the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time. If it’s humid, 8 tablespoons of water will do. If it’s dry, you may need up to 10. Err on the “less is more” side – you can always add water if you need it, but you sure can’t take it out. You’ll know it’s done when it just holds together if you give a chunk of the mixture a good squeeze.

Rolling out the pastry is another “less is more” exercise. Sprinkle flour onto your counter and onto a rolling pin, Flatten the pastry with your hands into a disc and roll, center out, then lift from the counter, turn 90 degrees, flip over and roll again. Got that? It’s roll, lift, turn, flip. Roll, lift, turn, flip. A scraper helps with the “lift” part. You shouldn’t need to roll that much – 8 or 10 turns should do it. If the pastry is not cooperating, wrap it in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for a bit, then try again.

To transfer rolled pastry into the pie plate, wrap an edge of the pastry around the rolling pin and coil the rest of the pastry around, then unroll it right where you want it. (I can’t think of a better way to explain this – I imagine there are 100 videos on YouTube if you don’t understand.) If there are little holes or tears in the crust, just patch them as best you can. It’s homemade, after all. Don’t sweat it.

To get a good seal on the crust, wrap the overhanging bits of top crust under the overhanging bits of bottom crust and crimp them together with your fingers or a fork. Cut a couple of vents in the top crust so steam can escape. Brush the top crust with an egg wash (an egg beaten with a little water).

I use a clear Pyrex pie plate so I can see what’s going on as the pie cooks. I bake it at 400 degrees on a pizza stone to get a good crisp bottom crust. It’s done when the juices bubble thickly. Some may spill out – don’t worry about it.

Cool completely, or as completely as you can stand before eating.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Next Project in the Fall/Winter Sewing Wardrobe Plan

I am really pleased with how my Magic Quadrant for Sewing Projects has helped me prioritize my time and money. Two “need” projects down from the “low cost” side of the quadrant:  a sweatshirt (easy) and a hard-ish button-up blouse. Now I feel I can indulge in an expensive, time-consuming “want” project (upper right of the grid):

sewing plan 3

Casual winter coat, or blazer for work? I flipped a coin and got the coat. Yikes!

Actually, I am excited to sink my teeth into a complex, challenging project after a few simpler ones. This will require some planning, however, and some cash. I have bupkes in my stash – no pattern, no fabric, no special zippers or trims.

My general idea is for a casual winter coat that I can wear cross-country skiing, to walk the dog, shovel snow, and just wear around in bad weather. It needs to be lined and insulated for warmth – it can get as cold as zero Fahrenheit around here – with a water-shedding outer shell. It needs some good pockets for phone, keys, etc. I don’t like hoods, so I want a hoodless option. And I want a bright color, maybe a vibrant cranberry red, because why the heck not?

I need to decide on a pattern first. Green Pepper Patterns is a sentimental favorite of mine. When I was in high school (a looooooong time ago) I made a hiking anorak from a Green Pepper Pattern. I really wrestled with the rip-stop-nylon I bought. It had holes all around the seams from my mistakes, but I was the only one who noticed (probably). The company is still in business and sells at Joann as well as my mail or online order. I made a winter hat last year from an old Green Pepper Pattern, and it turned out great. Worth investigating.

Jalie is another pattern company worth a look – highly regarded for activewear, but new to me. And  I saw a ski jacket in a blog that someone made from a Burda pattern last year – I need to find that and see if it might work for me.

The Penguin Meets the Joker in a Fabulous Shirt

Finished my “Joker” shirt from Oki Style. Behold:

I need to get my husband to get some pictures of me modeling it.

I think it’s not as penguin-like as I had feared, with the addition of the black collar. I think it will be a very sharp look with a pencil skirt or cigarette pants.

The shirt is not really hard to make, it’s just very different from any shirt you ever had. The pleats and darts are symmetrical, but the hemline is not. And the wrap-around yoke-raglan sleeve combo is a strange shape. It all goes together very well though. This is close-fitting, but you can manipulate the darts and pleats to adjust for fit. I took in the massive center-back pleat a bit, so it doesn’t come to  sharp point at the yoke. I can live with that.

As per usual with indie designers, I dislike that the pattern does not include bust point, waistline or center front markings. Also, I kind of wish that the sleeves had a cuff or other detail – the plain fold-and-topstitch treatment is a little “meh” for such a cool shirt. I might add some black cuffs. We’ll see how it wears.

The Penguin Strikes Again?

The Joker shirt from Oki Style has such interesting seams that I thought I’d color-block it a bit to showcase the design. Crisp white shirting with black accents seemed like a great idea, for looks and wearability. But as I sewed up the unusual yoke-sleeve pieces together, I worry that I have gone wrong

Will I look like a penguin?

As you can see, the front is all white, with the black starting at the shoulder. The back has this color-blocked detail in the yoke, training into the sleeves. The final look is not unlike penguin wings.

I haven’t sewn on the collar yet – it’s a standard pointed collar with collar stand. I was thinking I would make it black to draw the color into the front of the shirt and create one line in the back, but maybe now I will make it white. The shirt will end up with a “business in the front, party in the back” look, though.

Also, the sleeves have no cuffs, and I was thinking of making black cuffs just to complete the look. What do you think?