This was my first experiment with a downloaded pattern, so there was a little learning curve.

When you use one of these patterns, I cannot recommend printing out the sheet with the test square on its own strongly enough. And measure that test square!  I had to really fight with my printer to get this right.  Turn off any automatic scaling your printer does (this made my test square 3 5/8 inches).  After doing this, my square was still only 3 3/4 inches; I scaled up to 105% and eureka! 4 inches.  However, this made the pattern fall off the bottom edge of the page.  I spent a swear-filled half hour trying to recenter the page or change the printer’s margins to no avail.  Finally, I just went and got some legal sized paper and problem solved. I haven’t seen any one else who’s had this much trouble, so I blame my technology. But if you do have this problem and you happen to have access to A4 paper (it’s slightly longer than the 8.5 x 11 paper we use as standard letter sized in the US), that would be even better.

Once printed, you need to put the individual pages together like a puzzle to get your pattern pieces.  On the Sorbetto, like most e-patterns I’ve seen, there are lines around the area of the page with the pieces and notches on those lines that you match to align the pages correctly.  Most people seem to put the horizontal rows together and then tape those rows together vertically.  I did a lot of cutting–for the horizontal rows, I would cut the line on the right edge, then match it to the next piece, leaving the left edge of that piece uncut to give some stability.  I’ve since seen the advice that you can (d’oh) just fold along that line rather than cutting.  Still, my cutting precision could always use some work, so it wasn’t a total waste.

After fighting with getting the pattern out of the printer and together, sewing the garment was a breeze.  This little top goes together almost instantly–I think I spent about an hour start to finish.  The edges of the neckline and armhole are bound with bias tape; I relied on the Colette Sewing Handbook for an explanation of how to match the edges of the bias binding  Essentially, it walks you through making a tiny seam at the ends (this is a similar tutorial); previously I had always used the method where you lap the ends. I really prefer the seamed method, it looks so much cleaner.

This version of the pattern is such a fail that I’m just going with a hanger shot.  The fabric has no drape, which doesn’t work with this pattern and it turns out that green is way too yellowish to work well with my skin tone. I should have made bias binding rather than using the commercially available stuff, which can be kind of stiff. (I did steam it, but didn’t prewash–I know, very bad!)  All this means I ended up with a slightly distorted neckline.  I think I will try it again in a softer fabric, but I do agree with this post by Lladybird and its comments that there is something a little wonky with the fit, despite (or maybe because of) it being such a simple pattern.  Those side darts are really high.

Posted in Sewing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


Once again, I’m playing catch-up.  I’m getting used to the blog thing and got completely derailed last week in everything by a Neverending Sinus/Respiratory Thing.  I’m still pretty much voiceless–I sound like a broken squeak toy, which is frustrating to me, and adorable to Mr. Windows.

I did get some sewing done weekend before last, before I became a human repository for tea with honey, Sudafed, and ibuprofen.  The good news, I was productive, cranking out not just one, but two Colette patterns, and getting started on something more exciting–an evening dress for an Art Deco event I’m going to in a couple of weeks.  The bad news, I’m pretty meh about both of the things I finished.  The first, the Macaron, is below–I forged ahead with a bad mirror shot since I’m not that excited about it, and if I put this off any longer I won’t get it done.  (I’ll deal with the Sorbetto tomorrow.)

I should say, I adore the Macaron, and everything I don’t like about this version is entirely my fault. It’s a good pattern gone wrong thanks to some changes on my part and bad fabric.  I lengthened and straightened the sleeves, which I will do again if I don’t want to have a lined sleeve.  (Or, there’s this cute sleeve variation by Lazy Stitching.) I lengthened the skirt as well, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, I’ve successfully done that before.  The problem is that I unpegged the skirt as I lengthened it removing the nice taper to the Macaron as its drafted, which changed it from nicely curvy to super widening on me.  I might even make the skirt in a smaller size next time–the top of the pattern is very fitted, but the skirt is quite loose.

The other problem here is the acrylic tweed I found diving in my stash.  It wants to ravel very badly and doesn’t want to stay on grain.  I had high hopes for better construction techniques, but ended up running all the pieces through the serger as quickly as I could so they would stay together.

I still like the Spring-ness of the pastel colors, but I’m seriously thinking this is going straight to the donation box.  Maybe I’ll feel differently when the cold meds wear off.

Posted in Sewing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A tale of two skirts

I’ll admit it, I have a tendency toward git ‘er done-ism. It’s always easy to feel like time is short and you just want to finish. Among many things I’ve promised myself this year is that I’ll try to slow down, learn some new techniques and focus less on quantity and more on creating things that are well-crafted at least some of the time. And so, the old and new habits, in the same skirt pattern, New Look 6032.

I found the pattern while rummaging through my stash and wondered why I hadn’t used it in a while–it’s got a nice shape and only uses a moderate amount of fabric for a full, long skirt, especially if you’ve got a 58/60″ fabric. I thought it would be nice in a wool tweed that I’ve had buried in my stash waiting for that rare LA winter where it actually makes sense to make something out of wool.  (Another promise to myself this year: work through as much of that stash as I reasonably can. Yes, I know those are contradictory goals. I’m complicated.)

First, I decided to make, essentially, a wearable muslin out of a quilting cotton:

Yes, more birds! (And our cat, Iggy.)  There’s nothing wrong with this skirt, it’s cute, it’s serviceable, I like it.  The great thing is, I could whip this version out in a little under two hours, start to finish, with some dawdling in the middle, and I decided this was definitely wool-worthy.

The tweed version, with better technique:

Look at how much more movement and drape there is to this! It just hangs so much better.  In addition to using a fabric with more body, stepping up the technique helped.  This version is fully lined; the pattern doesn’t have lining pieces, so I simply cut the outer pieces again out of lining, minus an inch at the hem, and attached them to the yoke facing.

I did bias bound seams for some of the seams. (Not the yokes, where I worried about bulk; I serged those.  Also, this technique is sometimes called “Hong Kong binding” for reasons mysterious to me.) This was my first experiment with bound seams, and there was a lot of swearing involved.  I tried both the method where you just do one pass on the machine, and the method that requires sewing the binding twice.  (You can also splurge on a machine attachment, which looks a little easier.) The one pass version worked beautifully on the first seam I tried it on.  “Too easy!” I thought….and then the swearing began on the second seam, which is why I switched to the two-step version.  That also involved serious swearing, so I honestly don’t know which technique to recommend to you.  Something that gets overlooked in tutorials is when to stop the bias–do you go all the way to the ends, stop 5/8″ away to allow for cross seams (or whatever for hems), what? I decided that it makes no sense to have extra bulk where the seams cross, so I stopped back, which seemed to work pretty well.  (I’d love to know if someone knows the right way to it, though.)
Also, I hand sewed the hem invisibly with a catch stitch.  The fantastic thing about this wool is that I could, frankly, be kind of sloppy about how much of the other side I was catching and still have it be invisible.  Even with all the added work, this skirt still probably only took 3 or 4 hours, and most of the extra time was swearing over the bias binding.  I don’t know if I’ll give this much attention to everything, but it’s a first step toward handmade rather than homemade!

Posted in Sewing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What to do with the leftover parsley

Since you only need a little parsley for the butter bean salad and it’s usually sold in big bunches, you’ll probably have a ton left over, which is perfect for chimichurri.  Chimichurri is most often thought of as a sauce for steak, but it’s also great on chicken or fish, or just on bread.

I essentially combined this recipe and this recipe and used less oil. If you’ve got a food processor, this is a 10 minute or less recipe. You can also do this by hand if you’re more patient than I am.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bunch parsley, leaves only
  • 6-8 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon red onion
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper (optional if you don’t like heat)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Pulse parsley in food processor until roughly chopped (about 8-10 pulses).  Add other ingredients, pulse 3-4 times to mix, then run food processor a few seconds until all ingredients are fully mixed and finely chopped.  Chill overnight in refrigerator to allow flavors to meld.


As you can see, even with less oil than the original recipes called for, this it still plenty rich, but if you’re using it to dip bread in, I’d would thin it out with a little more oil than I’ve used here for flow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Put a bird on it*

I’m back to work this week after a holiday staycation where I got a chance to catch up on some sewing, including this skirt, which I’m making my first review for Pattern Review, and a quick post here. I know, I know, the novelty bird print is a bit of a hipster cliche, but I love it anyway.  It’s a quilting cotton from a stash I’m trying to work through.  I’m trying to wean myself off the novelty prints, but I’ve got yards to go. (Also, sorry for the mirror shot–I need to figure out the timer on my camera or get Mr. Windows to help next time!) This is Simplicity 4235, which is a great quick pattern that I’ve made before and don’t mess with much.  It’s simple, and a good chance to practice your gathering tecnhique.

The only change I made was shortening the yoke by about 2.5 inches.  As drafted, it fell at the most unflattering position imaginable on my tummy.  I think the shorter version is fairly flattering, though.  As you can see, the skirt overall falls at mid-calf (what they’re calling a “tea length” these days), which I love, but there are people that loathe the length.  I think if were to make it shorter, I’d take some length from both the skirt and ruffle, but shave more off the ruffle to keep it hitting close to the knee, and take some of the fullness out to keep it from being too poofy with the shorter length.

*With thanks to my co-worker M for pointing me to this hilarious “Portlandia” clip.

PS Here’s the review.  One more thing I realized while writing it–I mess with this pattern a little more than I thought.  Ignore the terrible pattern instructions about finishing the waist with a bias binding and cut extra yoke pieces as facing or you’ll have a collapsing waist.  You need that facing (and interfacing) there for stability.

Posted in Sewing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Butter bean and red onion salad

The first day of 2012 was the kind of gorgeous day that reminded me why I love living in LA in spite of all its occasional irritations (like, for instance, the minor issue of my neighborhood being on fire at the moment) and inspired me to make this Bottega Louie inspired salad for lunch.  When I worked in downtown, I loved having this simple, refreshing cold salad.  There are two problems for me with getting it now; I work in Westwood and, more seriously, it’s no longer on the menu as far as I can tell, so I decided to try to copy it.  I’m not sure it’s exactly the same, but it’s still pretty good.

Here’s what you’ll need:


  • 1 can (15 oz) butter beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 small or 1/3 medium red onion, medium dice
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped (leaves only)


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, preferably fresh
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 small shallot, chopped very fine
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, crushed

(Things pictured here that you will not need: champagne vinegar, charging cell phone)

In figuring this out, I decided to try 3 different oil to vinegar ratios.  3:1 is the traditional vinaigrette, but I thought I’d bracket that with a tarter 1:1 and a Julia Child inspired 5:1.  (My other reason for the 5:1–the “secret” to restaurant dishes is depressingly often some combination of more fat, salt and/or sugar than you’d normally use as a home cook.)  I started with champagne vinegar, which just didn’t work, so I switched to sherry vinegar.

My initial test was swirling a bean through the dressing.  1:1 was a clear loser right off the bat; way too tart and assertive.  I couldn’t quite decide between 3:1 and 5:1, and I realized that both were a little flat.  I tried doubling the amount of lemon juice (originally, I’d had half the amount of lemon juice as vinegar), and that made the dressing pop, so I put a couple of spoons of the whole salad mix in each bowl of 3:1 and 5:1.  I shouldn’t have been surprised that 5:1 was the winner.

Putting this together couldn’t be simpler.  Mix your salad ingredients in a medium glass or plastic bowl (vinaigrettes can pick up a metallic taste from metal bowls.)  Put all your dressing ingredients in a container with a tightly fitting lid and shake, shake, shake your groove thing until the dressing is creamy, like so:

You won’t need all the dressing for this salad; I’d recommend starting with pouring about 1/3 of the dressing over the salad mix and seeing how it looks.  You want it well coated, but not drenched.  (The leftover dressing will work over greens, or you could add a spoon of mustard and make a French-style potato salad with boiled-until-just-barely-done fresh green beans and baby potatoes.) Chill in the refrigerator for at least a half hour to overnight.  Will serve 2-3.

Here it is after chilling, with a little more fresh pepper on top and a slice of crusty bread smeared with goat cheese on the side. Finally, while this is meat-free since the original was (this is one of those dishes that I think of as “accidentally” vegan), it would probably be lovely with a can of drained tuna tossed in if you must be a carnivore. Either way, hope you enjoy!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment