Thursday, August 28, 2008

My 50 cent skirt

What can you do with 50 cents these days? Not much. However, …just a week ago, I was out running errands, and on a whim, stopped in at Ross store to browse. It was one of those lucky moments when a real treasure appeared. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A silk skirt in a perfect shade of brown caught my eye. Now, I really don’t wear brown well, but it is a neutral, and I just happen to have a few dressy tops that I have not worn in forever, because I never had the right bottom part. One set is a gorgeous silk shirt in a creamy tan, and it goes over a juicy dark brown halter-top with sexy beads to spice things up. I have actually never worn these two, but they were serious bargains too.

The second set is one I made years ago, when I wrote and published a book entitled: Cutwork Embroidery for the Sewing Machine. At the time, I was working as head dressmaker for the Burda pattern company, and I had been planning on teaching a class for a local heirloom sewing shop. As the instruction sheet began to exceed its boundaries, and eventually grew to two-dozen pages, I realized that I had a book on my hands. Never knowing what I would do with a book like this, I just kept going with it, cashing in my life insurance policy to get enough money to get it printed. It poured out of me, and The Powers-That-Be blessed my efforts. Clotilde, a huge icon in the sewing supplies industry noticed me at a regional home sewing show, and picked up the book for her catalog. As time went by, I picked up a few others, and it eventually sold 15,ooo copies. One of these days soon, I will revive it and publish it as an e-book. It is on the To-Do list!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


It’s Saturday, and this is pizza day at our house. All these years in a second marriage, and my hubby and I never started any traditions that stuck. However, we recently discovered that we didn’t want pizza any day except Saturday, because that is when we usually made it. Go figure! It just happened that way. It needed a day that I knew when the DH would be home from work, and knew what time we would eat. Every other day is “iffy.” Making good pizza takes time, and it tells you when it is ready.

With a husband from NYC, making pizza is a risky business. His mouth is programmed for something he grew up on, and New York is famous for it’s pizza.

For years, we would trek to Black Mountain, NC. …A small town nestled into the mountains not far form Asheville. Besides being a wonderful get-a-way because it’s an artsy-crafty little village, it also boasts one of the best restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of eating at: My Father’s Pizza. They make the best Italian food. A few years back, our waitress told us the dough was the secret of their delicious pizza. The owner would come in late at night, after everyone had gone home, and make the dough after a long held family tradition. No one else knew the recipe, or how it was made.

Once gas prices started to rise, we cut back on our trips. So, I dusted off the bread machine, and tried a few recipes. After several adjustments, we came out with a decent pizza dough and crust. What really accelerated our success, however, was the new convection oven when my stove died last year! Oh, how glorious to watch the crust rising in magnificent golden-ness, as the cheese bubbles. …And it’s so fast! In just 10 minutes I am slicing and serving. Yumm…

Now, it isn’t necessary to have a bread machine to make good pizza dough. I have often made it the “other way.” It takes about the same amount of time, just less labor on my part. I like the eating part best!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tunic Tank Pattern

Here it is, …the tunic pattern. I made it up as I went. It is very basic, and an easy one to follow, as it really doesn’t need a lot of directions. I used yarn that I recycled from 2 sleeveless shells bought on sale. The 100% cotton yarn was in the sock weight category. It was a little loose, about 3 or 4 ply, with very little twist. I used large needles to create a very drapey and open fabric. As I got to the armhole area, I switched to smaller needles to close up the stitches and firm up the fabric, as well as make the pattern smaller without decreasing a lot of stitches. It creates a gentle gathering and a nicer fit over the bustline.

This pattern is not for commercial purposes, and is protected by copyright.

Needles: sizes 11 and 8 (US) circulars
Yarn: about 1000 yards sock weight
Stitch holder
Stitch markers for both needle sizes
Gauge: 6 stitches to the inch with #8 needles, but this is really not too critical as the garment is meant to be loosely fitted, it is only included to give a better representation of the yarn.Directions: Front and back are knit exactly the same. Entire garment is knit in stockinette stitch.
With #11 needles, CO 100 stitches. Continue with stockinette stitch for 13”. Slip these stitches to a holder. Set aside and begin the back.
With #11 needles, CO 100 stitches. Continue with stockinette stitch for 13”.

Pick up the front, placing stitch markers at both side seams, and knit front and back together in the round. Use stockinette stitch until it is as long as you want it, finishing your row at the sideseam join. Hold it under your armpit to judge this. My tunic measures about 8”. Pay attention to the depth of the armhole (that is, do you want to wear a cami under this and have a deep armhole, …or do you want to be able to wear this on its own and have a closer fit?)

When it is the length you desire, begin the armhole shaping for front and back: BO 3 stitches, continue across “front,” BO last 3 stitches, purl next row, BO 2 stitches and knit across back, BO last 2 stitches. (88 sts each side) Purl row. On following knit row, decrease I st at each side. Purl wrong side row. (86 sts)
Switching to #8 needles, Knitting across right side, begin deceasing. Use stitch markers if needed. Finding the center front (or back), divide up into groups of 10 stitches, with odd stitches at each edge. (13, 10, 10, 10 (center) 10, 10, 10, 13)

Knit right side rows:
K 11, ssk, * k8, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k8 * 3 times, k2tog, k11. Purl row wrong side.
K 10, ssk, * k7, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k7 * 3 times, k2tog, k10. Purl row wrong side.
K 9, ssk, * k6, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k6 * 3 times, k2tog, k9.

Purl wrong side row.
K 8, ssk, * k5, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k5 * 3 times, k2tog, k8.
Purl row wrong side.
K 7, ssk, * k4, ssk, * 3 times, * k2tog, k4 * 3 times, k2tog, k7.
Purl row wrong side. (52 sts)

At this point, we are ready for the neck edge!

Neckline shaping (same for both front and back): The following rows are stockinette, and at this point, it is time to begin the neckline shaping. Again, find the center of your row.

Knit 21 sts, BO 10 sts, k21. Purl wrong side. Left side: Knit 1, ssk, k19. Purl. K 1, ssk, k18. Purl. Continue in this way, decreasing at neck edge for 13 rows. (8 sts left)
Right side:
Knit 1, k2 tog, k19. Purl. K 1, k2 tof, k18. Purl. Continue in this way, decreasing at neck edge for 13 rows. (8 sts left)Continue to knit and purl until you reach the proper length for your armhole depth, BO. (I did 12 more rows.) Repeat for opposite side.

Sew shoulder seams. Pick up stitches around the armhole and neckline, doing 2 rows of knit stitches to neaten and firm the shaping.