Month: January 2012

Decorative mending for jeans

  I have a bad habit of wearing the seat out of my jeans.  I like to pretend it’s because I have such an awe-striking butt that the radiation of that much awesomeness just deteriorates the denim.  But it’s probably just that I play rough in my clothes and refuse to replace them.

  I hate shopping for new jeans like cats hate swimming, so when this otherwise perfectly good pair ripped in the butt, I knew I had to figure out a way to save them. 
  I’m not a huge fan of the standard patch look.  It’s a touch hillbilly/flower child for me.  But to re-enforce the hole, I was going to have to put some kind of extra fabric on there somehow.  
  I cut a small patch of denim from a pair of jeans that weren’t savable, placed it inside my jeans and stitched this lightning bolt shape over it using metallic gold thread.  To make sure the zig zags were irregular (instead of just looking like a zig zag stitch) I used my straight stitch and randomly turned the direction of the needle as I sewed.  Doing it this way pulled the hole most of the way shut and attached the extra denim really securely.
  I plan on stitching a few random thunderbolts in other places on my jeans and then I’ll be back to wearing them until the seat falls out again!
Do you mend your clothes so you don’t have to be bothered finding new ones?
Or would you rather just shop for replacements?

Slow-cooker Sesame Chicken

  Another slow cooker recipe today, another success!  This one is actually chicken, but the sauce you cook it in makes the meat turn so dark that the Mr. thought it was pork.
  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs.

1/2 c. low sodium soy sauce

1/3 c. packed brown sugar

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1 Tbsp. ketchup

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

  Place your chicken into the crockpot, whisk the other ingredients together and pour it over top.  Cook for 6 to 8 hours on low, or 3 to 4 on high. (We all know which one I did, I’m not sure why my crockpot even has a low setting).  Serve with rice, or, like we did, noodles.
  This chicken has a fabulous sweet flavor (duh, there’s a bunch of brown sugar in it).  Everybody here loved it.  It’s probably not the healthiest dish because of all that sugar, but not any worse than getting Chinese take-out either.  I think next time I make it I may try tossing in some veggies, but there definitely will be a next time!

I’m a cheap date. To breakfast.

  Any of you who follow me on Twitter already were treated to my being hopped up on caffeine on Wednesday.  If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you totally should.  I get hopped up on caffeine and then tweet.  It’s awesome.

  It doesn’t take a lot.  Wednesday I had my usual tea in the morning.  I drink a “pot” of it, but it’s only two tea bags…with lots and lots of water and milk.  What pushed me over the edge was a small iced coffee I had on the way to do some errands.
  I’m not a “lightweight” in other ways.  My ancestors were Irish, German, Scottish and Welsh, so I’m certainly not a “cheap date” to dinner.  But give me a frappachino at the wrong time of day and I literally start vibrating like a coin-fed bed in a sleazy motel.
  I know I’m a freak in this regard.  After noon I can’t drink caffeinated pop, energy drinks are just asking for trouble.  I can’t even have an after dinner coffee.  Decaf has enough caffeine in it to set me on edge for hours.  I can’t even comprehend the three or four cups of coffee most people have in the morning, my hands shake too hard for me to type after two!
  The problem is, I really like coffee.  It’s a good thing there aren’t any easily accessible Arby’s to my house…jamoca shakes are an addiction.  I try really hard to limit my caffeine intake.  I know it makes me a crazy person.  But man, that crazy person can get some stuff DONE.
  The crazier my schedule has gotten lately, the more I’ve been tempted to break my “curfew” and just have one more pot of tea.  Or stop for an iced mocha, or brew myself a cup.  It’s not like I’ve got time to sleep anyhow, right?
  So head over to Twitter.  Say hi.  Encourage me to stay strong and have a glass of juice, or, be bad and encourage me to have an espresso.  If you’re really looking for trouble, convince me to have two.
  Don’t believe me?  Here’s what happened when I made the mistake of trying to drink a few cups of coffee.

Sewing fur pillow shams (part 1.5)

  It’s slow going on the pillow shams.  I’ve already broken a couple of needles and I’m pretty sure I woke the boy up from his nap because I was making so many frustrated noises.  On the plus side, the portions I HAVE finished look fabulous.

Apologies for the fur everywhere in these pictures,
 I’m not cleaning it up til I’m done.  It’s EVERYWHERE.
  I showed you how I put the piping together on Tuesday, so I thought I’d walk you through what I’m doing for the rest of the sham as well.
  I wanted to be able to remove my shams for something a little less wintery looking in the summer, so I needed to put some way of getting the pillow in and out into the design.  A zipper would have worked, but it seemed like having an envelope feature would work just as well, without my having to mess around with zippers.  I started by cutting my back fabric into two sections.  I serged and hemmed the edge of each side that would be along the opening.
  To make sure everything fit together properly, I lay the two pieces on top of the pillow they will be going around with the fur underneath and pinned everything.  I used the faux fur side in, to give myself a little wiggle room when the sham is turned right side out.
  Once everything was pinned securely, I trimmed the edges, leaving myself about 5/8″ for seam allowance.  Then, I unpinned the twill from the fur (keeping the two twill pieces pinned to each other) and sewed them together where they overlapped.
  After the two pieces are sewn together, it’s time to pin all of your layers together to finish your sham.  The piping gets sandwiched between the two pieces, which are, of course, placed right sides together.  If you’ve done everything right up to this point, you should have approximately 5/8″ allowance for all 3 pieces.
  To turn the corner with your piping, make sure to take a notch out of your “seam allowance”.  Otherwise everything will bunch and pull and make you want to kill everyone.  Promise.
  The last part is where I’m stuck.  Sewing it all together.  I’m using my zipper foot to try and get as close to the edge of the piping as I can.  Problem is, if you hit piping this big with a needle, it breaks it.  So, like I said.  I’m not done yet.  I’ll share pictures as soon as they’re finished!

Thai Soup- Tom kha kai

  When the Mr. and I moved to the apartment we had before we moved into this house we had way too much stuff.  We had been living in a house that had a ridiculous amount of storage, and we’d taken advantage of all of it.  Despite donating, giving away and throwing out a LOT before the move, we were dismayed to discover that our remaining possessions were enough to fill up two semi trucks.  Embarrassing, right?

  We were moving into an apartment half the size of the house we had been in.  The movers unloaded our boxes into the apartment and drove away.  The boxes reached the ceiling in our dining room and were fairly deep in the rest of the apartment as well.  It was 8 at night, we were starving and there wasn’t a chance in hell we were going to be able to find our dishes, let alone have enough space to cook something.  Thankfully there was a Thai restaurant nearby that was still open.
  That night was the first time I had the soup we’re making for today’s recipe:
  This is the homemade version.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with tom kha kai, it’s a sort of spicy, creamy chicken soup.
  Here’s what you need:
2 1/2 c coconut milk
3 1/4 c chicken stock
4 stalks lemongrass, cut into 1″ lengths
1″ finger of ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
3-4 mini chilies, chopped, or red pepper to taste
1 chicken breast, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tomato, quartered and peeled
1 c mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp pepper
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
  Now, that’s a lot of ingredients, but bear with me here, you’re basically just throwing it all in a pot and boiling it.
  Start by bringing the stock and the coconut milk to a boil.  Then add your lemongrass, ginger and chilies.
  A note on lemongrass:  I know it’s not a “normal” ingredient, but try it out.  Click on the link to see a picture and find out a little bit more about it.  You should be able to find it in the fresh herb section of your grocers, and if you like it, it’s fairly easy to grow your own.
  When your spices are stirred in, add your onion, tomato, chicken and mushrooms.  Heat to a rolling boil for 4 minutes, remove from heat and then add lime juice and soy sauce.  Serve and enjoy!
  This soup has become my favorite for fighting a cold.  It has the same chicken enzymes that the traditional favorite, chicken noodle soup, contains, but the spice helps to clear out a stuffy nose and always helps me feel warmer!

Scissor containment for seamstresses

  If you know someone who sews, you most likely know someone with far more scissors she needs to keep track of than a non-sewer could possibly understand the need for.  Us seamstresses guard our sewing scissors with a ferocity usually reserved for a mama bear with her cubs.  How ironic then when we carelessly lose them into our own projects!

  There are a lot of different ways to store sewing scissors to keep them from being lost in the piles of fabric, thread and scraps that tend to accompany a project, but a lot of them involve hanging things on the wall.  Unfortunately for me, our office is only temporarily in this room.  Eventually, when we get around to having another baby, this will become G’s room and I’ll have to find a new home for all my sewing stuff.  I didn’t want to have a “solution” for my scissors that might not work in whatever space in the house I end up in next.  So, this is how I store my scissors:
  I just use a simple desk organizer.  I think I got this one at Target.  It has 4 sections within the block which keeps the scissors from falling over and makes it so I can use it for my rulers and curves as well.
  It’s not quite as neat as hanging each pair on the wall individually, but it’s easy enough that I put them away each time after using them, and it’s easy to move the whole thing up onto a higher shelf whenever I find that G has figured out how to get to them.  Again.
Do you have any tricks for keeping your sewing and crafting area in order?

Making piping for pillows and cushions

  Today I’m going to show you the first part of a project I’m doing for our bedroom.  As I’ve continued in my organizing, less and less things have been strewn all over the place…and now my bedroom looks, well, a little empty.

  The bed, especially, looks rather…blank.  I was pregnant with G when we moved here, so decorating wasn’t exactly high on the priority list.  A few weeks ago though, I saw this post on Desire to Inspire.  Suddenly my bedroom needed to be redone!
  The Mr. thinks I’m hilarious.  I go on these tears semi-regularly where out of the blue something all the sudden becomes a crisis.  He’s used to it.
  I already went on a rant at him about how the previous lamp on our desk was completely the wrong size and, this past summer, in a fit of “left alone with the baby for a week” craziness covered all of my books in tracing paper dusk jackets (it was nuts, but it looks so pretty!)
  Now, I’m taking the “glamping” post as my starting point and running with it.  I have lots of ideas for what I want to do, but first I’m making giant, fuzzy, faux fur shams for our pillows.
  Our office looks like a bunny murderer’s lair.
  I’m trying to make a point of taking my time with projects and taking all the proper steps to make something I really, truly love and that will last a long time.  My instinct is to just do it as quickly as possible, but I’m working to get over that.  Because I want them to look more polished, I’m putting piping on the pillow shams.  I think it will add a nice finish to them to have that dark, clean cording on the edges.  My hope is that it will help them to look more “West Elm” and less “Limited Too”.
  So, before I can do any sewing on my pillow shams, I have to create my piping.  To create your own, start by purchasing (or retrieving from your stash) the width cotton cording you would like to use.  I considered using some 3/4″ cotton rope I had on hand, but came to the conclusion it was far too narrow and would be lost in the fur.  I measured my pillows and determined I needed approximately 6 yards of piping.  I went to the store (I know…that never happens!) and purchased 1 3/4″ cord.  At something like 75 cents a yard, I think the difference it makes will be well worth the investment!
  Next, decide on the fabric you will use for your piping.  I’ve seen lots of gorgeous pieces with contrasting piping, but for my shams I decided to use the same dark brown twill I’ll be using to cover the backs.
  To cover your cording and create your piping you will need to cut strips of your fabric on the bias.  I’m going to repeat that: it needs to be on the bias.  I’m terrible about taking short cuts, but this isn’t one you can get away with.  The bias is the only way your fabric will wrap correctly around your cording.  To determine how wide your bias strips need to be, measure your cording and then add your seam allowance times 2 to that number.
  For example, my cord= 1.75″ and my seam allowance=5/8″ so my strips were 3″.  1.75+2(5/8)
  Once you’ve finished cutting the strips, it’s time for the really tedious part.  If you’re working on a typically sized pillow like I am, you now need to pin 100 inches of bias stripping around 100 inches of cording.  For each pillow.  And then stitch it shut.
**Please note, after a LOT of swearing, I’ve come to the conclusion this is the wrong way to pin piping.  Place your pins parallel to the cording, not perpendicular.  It will save you a lot of hassle.**
  To get the best results, break out your zipper foot, slide the cording as close as possible and go slowly.  I’ve gotten bored several times in this process and made myself walk away from the sewing machine to keep my impatience from ruining it all.
  It’s definitely slow going over here, but I think it’s going to make a huge difference in the end product.  I’m not sure if I’ll be finished with the shams in time for my post Friday, but I’ll certainly update you on how far I’ve gotten!
Do you have ideas for projects that would use piping?

Slow cooker Indian curry

  Today is another new slow cooker recipe.  My love/hate relationship with the slow cooker is fairly quickly moving towards heavy-handed love.  With G teething, he’s inevitably grouchy by the end of the day and being able to snuggle him instead of trying to cook makes both of us happier.

  Here’s what we’re making:
  Here’s what you need:
1 13.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk

 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

4-6 frozen skinless, boneless chicken thighs 

1 T tomato paste

 2 T curry powder

1 t ground coriander

1 t ground cumin

1 inch peeled and grated ginger

 few dashes of hot sauce (I used Tabasco)

1 yellow onion. chopped

2 or 3 cloves of smashed and chopped garlic

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 of an eggplant, chopped (I didn’t peel)

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped

  I got a small eggplant and so I put the whole thing in.  I would also suggest seasoning with salt, as I found it improved the overall flavor tremendously to sprinkle a touch over each bowl.
  I started by mixing my coconut milk, tomato paste, spices and hot sauce together in the bottom of my slow cooker.  Next time I’ll use a heavier hand with the hot sauce, this batch turned out a bit mild for our tastes.  I added the chicken on top, coating it as is mentioned in the linked recipe and poured all my chopped veggies and beans on top.  I let everything cook on high for about 2 hours before turning it down and stirring everything together.
  Be warned, this makes a LOT of curry, your slow cooker is probably going to be filled to the top when you put all your veggies in.
  After cooking this on high for 2 hours, I turned it down to low and let it cook for another 4ish hours.  We served it over brown rice, sprinkled with salt and some extra hot sauce.
  If you’re a big Indian food fan, this is probably going to be a little bit of a disappointment.  It’s not bad, but there’s a flavor in the take-out we get from the restaurant that the Mr. and I haven’t quite been able to recreate at home.  It’s definitely a good dish, and I’ll be making it again, but I wouldn’t use it if you’ve got an Indian food itch you’re looking to scratch.
  One thing that’s definitely nice about this dish is that it makes so much food so inexpensively.  Even with leftovers for a few lunches kept in the fridge, we were able to freeze enough that I think we’ll be able to get two dinners out of what was left.

Photoshop finishing for product photos

  Two Saturdays ago I showed you guys how I trick my point and shoot camera into using the right amount of light.  Today I’m going to show you the basic photoshop trick I use to make the pictures look truly polished.  I’m going to demonstrate this technique on two photos, a white background and a normal scene with stuff in the back so you can see the difference.

  Here are the two photos we’ll be working with:
An itsy bitsy G!
  First thing I’ll do for both is adjust the curves.  This lets you change the dark and light balance.
Mess around with the line until you get the results you want.  Mine tend to wind up like this:
  Here are the two pictures after the curve adjustment with the originals on the left and adjusted on the right:
  Obviously the curve adjustment makes a lot bigger difference in a picture you have lots of lights and darks as opposed to more midtones.
  Next I’m just going to work on the white background picture and remove the background completely so it’s a true white.  I usually use the magic wand for this, but whatever erasing method works for you is fine.
  Leave shadows where you can, it makes the object look less like it’s just suspended in space.
  Next, for both photos, we’re going to create a new layer by duplicating the current layer:
Get to this menu by right clicking on your original layer
  Once you’ve created a duplicate layer, we’re going to go to the filters and select “surface blur”
  Don’t freak out!  I know that your picture now looks like this:
  We’re going to fix it right now!  That blurring is going to soften the edges of our product picture and it’s going to blur out the background in our portrait.  So make sure you’re on your second layer (the one you’ve blurred out) and use the magic wand to select the things you DON’T want blurry.  That’s your product, the baby’s face, ect.  When they’re selected, delete them.
  Don’t forget that you can change the opacity for your layer, so if the contrast between blurred and not blurred is too harsh, make your blur layer less opaque.  You can always add another layer, blur it out and add blurriness slowly.
  Here’s the finished product:
Product pictures
  I’m still not crazy about the composition of the portrait, so I’d probably crop it down closer to his face, but, this way at least you’re looking at the baby and not the planter behind him!
  Hope this helps, as always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me and I’ll do my best to clear it up!