Forays into dressmaking

I’m a pattern person.  I NEED a pattern to tell me what to do–I even like to match up the fabric shown on a sewing pattern envelope with colors I will use.  Sometimes I’ll change up the color scheme in a knitting pattern, but that’s pretty much living on the edge for me. 

Color is also something that tends to allude me.  I own a few bold pieces, but I bust them out pretty much never.  Varying shades of brown is about as colorful as I get. 

Then I saw this and had to have it:


It’s colorful.  It’s satiny.  It screamed to me in the fabric store, “make something crazy out of me and wear it proudly!” AND it was 70% off, bringing it to about $4/yard.  I bought two yards and sort of stared at it like this for awhile.  I knew it would be something flowy–definitely a dress, very stylish, and very hip.  Some lady at the cutting counter told me it would look really cute as a caftan.  I came home, Googled “caftan” and thought I would try it.  Out of scrap first.  I did not want to mess this up. 


The problem with caftans is, they look cute when your arms are down (like the photo), but do anything with your arms and it looks like you’re at risk of flying away:


I wanted to be stylish, but maybe not quite this stylish.  Then I thought: “I’ll cut two rectangles, throw in elastic around the middle, and decide if I want to add sleeves later.”  This going-without-a-pattern-thing seemed pretty easy. 

My two rectangles were about 5″ larger than my hip measurement–use your bust measurement if that’s larger than your hip measurement.  I made the rectangles about as long as my knee with enough extra on each side to hem. 

There’s a great pillowcase top tutorial where I got the measurements for armhole placement.  I hemmed the top (I simply serged the edges then folded that under for the hem), sewed the sides together, and ended up with this:


I really liked the way the neck draped, so I decided to keep it that way. 

Then I hemmed the bottom. 

I think I would have really liked this dress sleeveless, but see the bottom? All that nice blue and purple got cut off.  I needed to have the dark color–it just made the fabric so complete.  so I measured from my shoulder to my elbow and made the sleeves nice and big–about 12×20.”  I decided I wanted a keyhole sleeve, so I cut from the middle of the sleeve bottom to about 2″ from the top of the sleeve and made simple rolled hem to finish the opening.  I sewed the sleeves, right sides together, at the side seam, then hemmed the bottom of the sleeve.  

To insert the sleeve, you need to turn the garment inside out but keep the sleeve turned right-side out–any sewing pattern with sleeves will explain it in more detail.  


Cute, eh? Almost done!

The one problem with this dress so far is the back of the dress–it drapes just like the front–uncool.  So, I threw in a dart and sewed it so the back laid flat against my own back. 


Finally, the elastic needs to be sewn in.  I will be honest–I totally took the clever/lazy way of sewing in elastic–it was a lot harder, but it had to be this way, because that’s how the pattern in my head went (see? still following patterns). 

So I measured my natural waistline, subtracted 2 inches, and then sewed that together to make a loop.  Then I turned the dress inside out and pinned the elastic in place, stretching it A LOT (because the elastic was more than 10″ smaller than the rectangles!).  This made it pretty difficult to sew, but I liked the end result:


Ta-da! Looks great on the dress form, now time to try it on.


It looks…ok.  A bit dumpy, a bit clownish.  My personal fashion assistant (aka my sister-in-law) suggested a shorter hem and no sleeves. 

I was not about to give up the sleeves.  No way.  So, I made the sleeves totally split (remember when that was cool in the early 2000s?) and shortened it a touch.  And added heels. 




Not too shabby! The next time a fabric screams at you, indulge, go without a pattern, and remember: a dress is really two rectangles and a bit of elastic =)



Blue Ribbon Bread

Do you know what you can do with 40 pounds of cherries? A lot.  The hub-dubs and I went up to Flathead MT last weekend for a little vacation and came back with two cases of cherries for canning and wine-making. 


This is the product of 20 pounds of pitted cherries.  Holy cow.  I wanted to save the pits for a heating pad so I washed all this up and ended up with some really nice dry bits of cherries–the part that sticks to the stone when you pit the fruit.  I couldn’t let that go to waste so I rinsed all that off and decided to make some bread with cherries. 

Here’s the deal: the Hub-dubs likes bread with fruit, but he isn’t too keen on quick breads (too sweet, he says.  I didn’t know such a thing existed).  He keeps telling me if I found a way to incorporate fruit into regular bread, I would be his hero. 

I was in ultra superhero mode today. 


Enter the Blue Ribbon Bread.  It’s subtle, delicious, and won a blue ribbon at the fair (which is a good thing, because if it didn’t I would have to name it wheat-flaxseed-oat bran-cherry bread, and that just doesn’t sound quite as catchy.)

Here’s what you will need:

1.5 c. wheat flour

1.5 c. white flour

1/2 c. oat  bran

1/4 c. flaxseed

1 c. cherries, chopped fine and patted dry (like  you do with spinach)

1 c. milk (anything but skim)

1/3 c. water

3 T. unsalted butter

3 T. honey

1 envelope (2.25 teaspoons) yeast

2 t. salt



In a small bowl, combine the milk, water, honey, and butter and microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is warm, about 110 degrees.  Meanwhile, mix together the flours, bran, and flaxseed in a bowl.  Measure out 3.5 cups of this mixture into a large bowl and mix with the yeast and salt.  Add the cherries to the top of this mixture.  Pour the warm liquid into the dry mixture and mix with a dough hook, adding the remaining flour after about 5 minutes.  For some tips on how your dough should look, check out my other bread post here.  Mix your dough with the dough for a total of ten minutes, adding flour a little bit at a time.  You may need some extra white flour if your cherries were still a bit juicy.   It’s ok–just get your dough to the right consistency. 

Place your dough on a floured surface and shape into a nice ball.  Place in a greased bowl and cover with a towel and put somewhere warm and a bit humid to rise (some ideas are: near your wood stove, in your oven (see older bread post), in your microwave, in your window sill–there are all sorts of places to hide it) for about 60-90 minutes–if you live at a higher altitude though, cut that time down to 45-60 minutes, until your dough has doubled in volume. 


After your dough has risen, take it out and place it, again, on a lightly floured surface.  Here’s a secret I learned from the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook: stretch your dough into a 9×9″ square.  Then, roll it up like you’re rolling up a sleeping bag that needs to be crammed into a really small space.  Place that roll, seam-side down, in your lightly greased loaf pan.  Cover and let rise again, 60-90 minutes (less time at high altitude).


It got away from me a bit.  This rose a little too long.  Anywho, sprinkle the top of your loaf with some oat bran and put it in a 350-degree oven.  Fill an empty loaf pan with hot water and place that in the oven next to your bread.  You’ll get really nice texture this way.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, until internal temp measures about 200 degrees. 


Top with some jam (or eat plain) and enjoy!