The Maxi Moneta


Yet another version of the Moneta Dress by Colette Patterns.  This one inspired by the fact that it does sometimes get rather chilly here in the winter time (or just whenever the sun decides it’s had enough of us).  I tried two new things with this dress: lining the bodice and extending the skirt to make a maxi dress that would keep my legs warm on my walk into work.  Useful lessons learned include actually lining the bodice with the same color fabric as used on the outside (I’m forever tucking the lining fabric in so it doesn’t show) and the fact that after lots of stretching during the cutting and sewing process, it’s best to wash your dress before finishing the bottom hem (the length of the dress decreased by at least an inch after I washed it, which, in this case, was a good thing).  This is by far my favorite version of the Moneta dress, with the bodice lining making the top incredibly comfortable and the large skirt acting like a tent that I can curl up inside.

full dress


Useful Things

oven mitt

Despite relative radio silence, we have been busy making things, some of them more useful than others.

1)  One of my goals for this year has been to sew oven mitts to replace the foam-shedding ones we’ve literally worn to pieces.  Peter makes a lot of bread that requires handling some 450+ degree enameled cast iron on a bi-weekly basis, and, like any sane person, he likes to wear protection.  Unfortunately, my oven mitt prototype, while very comfy for a small-handed individual, is like a straight-jacket for Peter.  The overall design seems sound though, with extra reinforcement for the areas that I’ve noticed get the most wear in our commercial oven mitts (like the sneaky area between the hand and thumb that has led to both Peter and I accidentally burning ourselves while wearing what we thought were trustworthy oven mitts).  The outside is denim from an old pair of Peter’s jeans and the inside is many layers of cotton knit from one of Peter’s old t-shirts.  The entire oven mitt was stitched by hand, mostly because I didn’t want to subject my sewing machine to sewing so many layers of fabric together.  Now if only I can motivate myself to do it all again in a larger size, twice!

the back

2)  After making a hand bag inspired by the Colette Cooper pattern, I’ve been hankering to make a larger version that could actually be used to carry more than my laptop (amazingly enough, my first Cooper-inspired hand bag does indeed just fit my lap top; I clearly should have done some measurements first!).  This new bag is grey corduroy on the outside and an awesome child astronaut cotton print on the inside.  I tried to make the pockets deeper this time so that they would actually hold things, but otherwise just followed the instructions for squaring the bottom of the bag as shown on the Cooper Sewalong.  It’s intended purpose is for carrying around small articles of clothing and other odds and ends related to the third item on this list…


bag inside

bag lining

3)  Which brings me to a project that has taken a full nine months to complete:



Program: Overture to Manfred (Robert Schumann), Piano Concerto in A minor (Clara Schumann), Symphony No. 1 in C minor (Johannes Brahms)
Conductor: Steven Sloane
Pianist: Natasha Kislenko
Narrator: Peter Strauss

This past weekend I learned that I regret waiting five years to go to the symphony here in Santa Barbara. I think it was a combination of unwarranted snootiness (the Philadelphia Orchestra that I went to as an undergrad is one of the “Big Five”–not that I could tell the difference) and plain old business/laziness, but thanks to a gift from a friend Anna and I finally attended the symphony here, for their “Valentine’s Love Letters” concert.

The use of a narrator to introduce the Robert-Clara-Johannes love triangle and read their love letters was an interesting choice, but it helped give a bit of context to the works (not that they really had anything to do with their love for each other). Sloane, the conductor, was a lot of fun to watch as well, being more physical than I remember Eschenbach being in Philadelphia. The lead viola also had a crazy hipster mustache.

The music, of course, was great. Anna liked Clara’s work the most; I thought it was great until the middle of the second movement–there is a period where the piano trades off with the cello, and after that it starts on the path to a great and energetic section but in my opinion never quite gets there. I preferred the Brahms symphony, of course–finally we have someone who knows how to use the back section of the orchestra. I have a special place in my heart for Brahms No. 3, but nevertheless I thought this one was damn good.

The moral of the story: go to the symphony, wherever you are, whenever you get the chance.

A Galaxy Sorbetto

galaxy sorbetto

You may remember that I have a slight, err, problem, when it comes to Colette Sorbettos.  The truth of it is, I haven’t gone clothes shopping for more than shoes, socks, and tights since I started sewing over a year ago now.  And as the only shirt style I have tried to sew and actually liked wearing is the sorbetto, they now take up considerable real estate in the closet.  What with a return to sewing separates in a multitude of mabels, it occurred to me that I finally have a good excuse for making a similar number of tops.  That, and I was gifted the most lovely astronomy-themed fabric by my sewing friend Alicia.  Seriously, this fabric is out of this world! (ehem, sorry about that)  I’ve seen quite a few space or galaxy themed fabrics floating around the sewing blogosphere, but nothing that compares to the real thing… until now.

neck line

Unfortunately (for viewing purposes), I decided to use the darkest sections of the fabric for my newest sorbetto experiment, but you can still see the splatter of stars in what reminds me of an image of our very own Galaxy.  Since the fabric is so light, I decided to make a looser fit sorbetto, sewing the pleat only at the top.  I have a black tank top that I wear underneath to keep things PG.

bottom hem

If scientists had uniforms based on their area of research, mine would involve a whole dress made out of this fabric (for example this beauty here).  But before you get too excited about a Galaxy dress, I should tell you that it isn’t happening any time soon.  You see, this fabric was tricky to work with and is so sheer that I would have to line it, a skill with which I am still unacquainted.  I was actually so frustrated with this fabric that I ended up finishing the neck and arm holes by hand, just so I wouldn’t have to make and attach bias tape.

One final note: I’m not the only person obsessed with sorbettos, for example see this, that, or the other.

Limoncello, Part 2

The Limoncello BountyThe limoncello was finished quite awhile ago, and it’s been well enjoyed since then. There are certainly some alterations I would make to the recipe, but first let me state how it was finished.

In mid-June (about two months after I started), I boiled four cups of water and dissolved three cups of sugar into it. In an attempt to reduce the sugar-water a bit, I let it boil for a while, but eventually gave up. It had a somewhat syrup-like consistency. This was added directly to the lemon-alcohol extract, and I let it sit in the cabinet for another couple weeks. I then put it in wine bottles for serving. I got just over two 750 mL bottles out of it (see picture), which means that it is a bit under half the strength of the original 750 mL bottle of everclear–that is, it is now about the strength of most hard liquors (just under 40% ABV).

The color of the limoncello is a bit… browner… than I would like. This I attribute to the sugar: I used unrefined pure cane sugar (or something–I don’t remember exactly but the sugar was a bit darker than typical table sugar), so were I to repeat this I would use refined white sugar. I would also cut the sugar content in half; this is somewhat too sweet for me. It’s only a bit sweeter than what I remember the commercial limoncello of Italy to be, but my personal taste would have it much less sweet.

Limoncello, Served

The Hiking Zinnia

hiking zinnia

After trekking across a dormant volcano in an elastic-waisted skirt that is very sadly past its prime, I knew I needed to make a replacement.  Thankfully I am no more scared of altering patterns than I am of deviating from recipes, so I decided to try the Colette Zinnia skirt pattern with an elastic waist.  The alteration was easy really, I just ignored the waistband and added 1-inch elastic to the top of the skirt pieces.  The end result is both comfy and practical, sporting the hidden pockets I’ve come to rely on for hiding keys and my phone while I’m at work.  I actually made this skirt ages ago, around the time I made my first Zinnia, but perhaps because I didn’t wear my hiking Zinnia much at first, I never posted pictures.  Well, it is now one of my most worn pieces of clothing, perfect in hot weather with its light layers of cotton whipping in the breeze and equally perfect for cold weather with either tights or a Colette Mabel skirt layered underneath.  The only thing I would change next time is to make the skirt less full.  I didn’t sew the skirt to the elastic anywhere but the middle of the back (which I could only identify easily once I’d added a “tag”), so the fullness tends to migrate towards the skirt front.



Santa Barbara Sourdough Bread

Santa Barbara Sourdough

Disclaimer: This is an old sourdough recipe (March 2013!) that has been somehow overlooked. This was how I first learned sourdough, but I have since moved on to the Tartine recipe, which I now recommend. I post it now for completeness.

I have a love-hate relationship with sourdough. Mostly, actually, it’s love–especially because I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. The hate part only comes in when I try to make sourdough myself, and fail. I can, at last, say that I have successfully made a sourdough that I would consider as good as San Francisco sourdough. The yield isn’t quite there yet–I’ve had only a couple batches that I would consider AGASF (as good as San Francisco)–and it’s not as healthy as I’d like–I’ve only really had success with up to about 20% whole wheat–but it’s been a few months since I’ve used any commercial yeast, and we’ve had pretty good bread (on average) for the duration.

The sourdough starter we’ve got was, like all sourdough starters, a gift from a friend. I don’t have instructions for the creation of the starter, but the maintenance is pretty simple: 60g water and 60g white flour, twice a day. Well, twice a day is the ideal, it usually works out to be once a day in practice. The starter can be kept in the fridge indefinitely, as well–I recommend feeding and waiting about 12 hours before use when taking it out of the fridge.

The recipe comes in three stages: making the sponge, making the dough, and baking, with about 12 and 24 hours between each. Here are the details:

Santa Barbara Sourdough 2

55-60g starter
225g white flour
140g water

Combine all ingredients and mix until evenly distributed. Allow to sit for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature. If you’re not ready to use it after 12 hours, put it in the fridge at that point (for up to a week, probably).

all the sponge
567g white flour
400g water
18g salt

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix (with bread hook) on slow speed for 5 minutes. Wait 10 minutes, then mix 5 more. Repeat until there have been a total of four mixings, then divide into two oiled bowls, and put them in the fridge for at least one and at most seven days.

Take the dough out of the fridge two to four hours before baking. After one or two hours, shape the dough into a boule (a mound) on a well-floured pizza peel. Preheat the oven with a bread stone and a water pan (regular baking pan works fine) to 500 F. When ready to bake, make sure the dough isn’t make stuck to the peel and then quickly slide it onto the baking stone. Pour about one cup of water into the water pan, set the temperature to 450 F, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the internal temperature is 190 F. Allow to cool, and enjoy.

As I mentioned above, I’ve had success with limited amounts of whole wheat–about 200g and it still rises fairly well. Above that, I’ve tried increasing the water as well, with mixed success.