Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tutorial: Winter Cloak

Well, hello, my good friends! I know I just posted so as far as my life goes I don't have a lot to say… I'm going to a marvelous mystery masquerade party (hey, Nan, see the alliteration?) at the end of the month and I have been sewing a lot to prepare for my costume. My most recent endeavor was this cloak, a pattern invented and given to me by the lovely Author of To Write or Not To Write.
This project started with my sewing machines kicking out on me… and ended the same way. In the middle I was able to get my 1970s one to run smoothly, but then when I tried to force it to do difficult things (I take the entire responsibility), it gave out. I'll have to do some work on it when I get a chance. But you don't want to hear about that! You want the pattern. Well, here it is.

Tutorial: Warm Winter Cloak

Difficulty (1 = easy, 5= hard): 3.
Estimated Time: A few days of sewing if you have a machine.

You'll need:
  • As many inches of flannel fabric as you are tall, plus 12-30 inches more (i.e., I am five feet tall and I wanted a spacious hood, so I got a little over two yards). The more fabric you buy, the larger and more beautiful your hood will be.
  • The same amount of fabric in cotton or muslin, to use as lining.
  • Thread that matches the flannel in color.
  • A sewing machine
  • A needle
  • Scissors
  • ½ yard of ribbon, optional

1. Wash and dry both fabrics according to manufacturer's instructions. Take your flannel and hold it around your shoulders so that the short ends are parallel to the floor and the bottom edge just touches the ground (or is as close to the ground as you want the edge of your cloak to be). Place a pin a little higher than where your shoulders are. Lay your flannel out on a surface you can cut on (I use this), and trim away the fabric that is above the pin (around 15-30 inches); this smaller fabric piece is for your hood. Lay the muslin against the flannel and cut off the same amount. Set aside the hood pieces.

2. Now you're going to pin the two fabrics together, wrong side to wrong side. Lay them out so the edges match up and pin them together. 

3. Then, go around and carefully turn the edge over about ¼ inch and move the pins so that it is holding a ¼ once-turned hem as well as holding the fabrics together. Once that is done, go around and do the same thing, turning the ¼ inch edge under ¼ inch more, moving the pins as you go.

Here's a bad picture to help explain. See, I've pinned the two layers together and I'm in the process of turning it over the first time.
4. Now, top stitch all the way around your rectangle, by hand or machine, or both if your sewing machine quits working and then starts again. 

5. Repeat steps 2-4 with the hood pieces.

6. Now here comes a slightly tricky part: the gathering. Set your sewing machine's stitch length to the largest stitch size. Set the tension as loose as it can be. Sew one line of stitching across one of the short ends of the main cloak. Then, sew one line of stitching across three sides of the of the hood piece: one short end, one long end, and one short end. It is important that you do not sew three lines of stitching but continue the same line of stitching through all three sides. Be sure to leave long tails on both the main cloak and the hood.

7. Take the bottom thread (if you were sewing with the flannel facing you on top, this will be the thread on the other side) and gently pull on it. If you are pulling on the bobbin thread, this will create gathers. Pull on the threads on both sides of the cloak and use your fingers to slide the gathers on the edges into the middle. Place the cloak around your shoulders to check if it is gathered to your satisfaction, adjust if necessary, and set aside. Repeat this step with the hood. Hold it next to the cloak and gather it as much as need be to make the edges match up without one being longer than the other.

8. Pin the fabrics together and stitch them together with a basting stitch. Be careful not to pull out your gathers as you go. (DO NOT use a sewing machine in this step! It WILL kill your machine! Sew by hand only!! Believe me, you do not want the guilt and shame that will inevitably follow ignoring my warnings and your own internal warnings!)

9. Go back and stitch the hood and cloak together again with a smaller stitch. Do it twice if you are worried about it holding together. (DO NOT use a sewing machine in this step! It WILL kill your machine! Sew by hand only!!)

You can stop here if you like and use a safety pin to hold your cloak together in the front. Or, you can cut your ribbon in half and sew each half onto the cloak as shown:

This is the inside of the cloak. The wrong side of the ribbon is facing us.
Whatever you choose, it will be a beautiful cloak! 
Get a load of that full hood!
Have fun!
Au revoir,
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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Little Letters

I've seen this done on several different blogs, and it's a fun way to tell about what's going on in my life right now without writing one long ramble. So I'm doing it!

Dear Howl's Moving Castle,
You captured my interest in the first few pages. I immediately had to get your sequel (which had disappointingly little of Howl in it). I must say, Howl, you really need to act your age. But even though you don't… I'm still hooked.

Dear Harry Potter book series,
You think you're so great. Everyone obsesses about you. Because… you are. (Obviously, since book five is interesting enough that you can keep me from the third Howl's Moving Castle). 

Dear Sewing Machines,
I really wish you worked for me. My hand stitches are just not as neat as yours (even if it is romantic to sew by hand). Get well soon.

Dear Baby Niece,
You are still very unreal to me, as I think you'll stay until you're born (which better be soon! Thursday would be preferable). I'm not yet excited about you – just like I wouldn't be excited if someone offered to take me to Narnia since it's completely fake and impossible. However, I'm sure it will be love at first sight.

Dear baby blanket,
You are taking forever. Get a move on!

Dear Lord of the Rings,
You've recaptured my heart after I searched your pages for food for our Hobbit party (sadly the movie that's roughly based on the Hobbit did not deliver). I foresee myself rewatching your movies and rereading your various books in the future.

Dear Alice in Wonderland radio drama,
I'm still a little skeptical about you, but I think you've got a lot of fun hidden in your microphones and sound effects. Being the Queen of Hearts is simply an honor, and one I trust you shall make very enjoyable.

Dear piano,
You sure can be frustrating… and thrilling… and painful… and everywhere in between. It's been nearly eight years we've been together. You're disgruntling, exacting, stubborn, and wonderful. Let's get through eight more years without killing each other, shall we?

Dear fairy tales,
You know how much I love you, and have always loved you. The castles, the princes, the magic... We've spent a lot of time together, especially in the last semester. You produced White Roses and The Castle of Caliour, while giving me increasing enjoyment through this, and this, and this, to name a few. Please stick around!

Dear writing,
I've had to abandon you for a little while. Other things in my life are more important/more time consuming right now. As soon as I can, we will be reunited. Until then,

 Lady Awdur

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cold days, hot breakfasts

Good morning! While most of you are in school/at work I am sitting here making a lovely hot breakfast – yay homeschooling!I don't know about where you live, but here it has been cold, cold, COLD. There's no solution for that other than a hot meal (or put on two more coats).
So without further ado, your cold morning solution!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal

Serves four. Approximate time: 15 minutes

3½ cups water, your milk of choice (coconut, almond, cow, etc), or a combination
1¾ cup oatmeal
4 tablespoons chocolate chips (If you wanted it to be healthier, you could leave this out, or use cocoa powder instead, or even add apples)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
⅓ cup almond milk
½ cup peanut butter

Bring the water (or milk) to boil in a saucepan. Add in the oats (and apples, if using) and turn down to a medium-low simmer (really, if you want it to cook faster, you can turn it up as high as you dare, but don't let it boil over!). Simmer until the oats have absorbed all the liquid, around 10-15 minutes. Don't forget to stir! Especially towards the end, the oats will want to stick to the bottom of the pan.

While the oats are simmering...
In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, ⅓ cup almond milk and peanut butter using a hand mixer (or a whisk).  Be careful, because it will probably splash a little (it's best to remember to close your measuring spoons drawer so you don't have to stop and clean almond milk off your teaspoons… not that I'd have any experience with that).
Divide the oatmeal into four portions and serve each one with 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips and ¼ of the peanut butter mixture. Enjoy!
If you like your oatmeal to crunch (I don't), my sister recommends cashews or peanuts. "It depends on what flavor you want," she said. "The peanuts make it more peanuty, but the cashews complement the flavor well."
If you're planning on reheating it, store the chocolate chips and the peanut butter separately. Oatmeal does reheat well.

Well, that's about all I have to say.
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