Sunday, April 15, 2018

Hot Patterns: 1230 Metropolitan Bouvier Jacket


I am really pleased with how this turned out. I purchased some linen/rayon blend fabric from JoAnn's and whipped it up in a day and a half (unlined). The only adjustment that I made was to increase the bust dart slightly, and shorten it overall about 3/4 inch. I wanted a lightweight jacket for spring/summer. I love the lapels and all the rounded corners. It looks soft and easy to wear. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

What have I been sewing lately? Pattern roundup

...Since the last time that I posted anything about sewing, I made some stuff.

My man here picked out this flannel fabric, end of fall last year, so I made him a good old-school flannel shirt. I got the pattern askew on the front button band, and it's a little crooked on the back yoke, but otherwise, it fits nice and looks sharp.

Looking to do something similar for myself, I found this McCalls pattern that could be adjusted for bust size. Being a DD, it's an issue for me, and having a pattern that already has cup size options made it a bit easier to get a good fit. I was inspired by the styles at Duluth Trading. On the left, I used an old calico fabric that I had in my stash forever, and on the right is a recent purchase of flannel from JoAnn's. Once again, lining up the plaid was tricky, but it's still a cute comfy shirt.

I used that same calico (I had several yards of it), and some scraps to make this apron-dress-coverall thingy. It's perfect for days when I feel like baking, gardening, cleaning. These Dottie Angel patterns from Simplicity are so adorable.

I am obsessed with bags, and I like the waxed canvas styles that Duluth Trading carries, so to get that look, I found this pattern at Colette (#ColetteCooper), and some waxed canvas at It was spendy, but I think it was worth it to get the look, and the durability. Haven't tested it, but it is probably water-resistent, too. I used a scrap of leather for the handle.

Used another Colette pattern - Anise - to make this cropped jacket in black velveteen (I had several yards in my stash), with vintage buttons. This was a more challenging tailoring project. It is fully lined. Not sure how I am going to wear this yet...

...but I did make this top, out of a light silky charmeuse designer fabric that I got on clearance at JoAnn's.

I used the sewstylish Simplicity pattern on the left for the top, with the intention of constructing the full suit at some point. The pattern on the right is another option that I am considering. I have some odds and ends that might work for some of these pieces, but not enough of anything to make a whole suit, so I am still shopping for this one.

Earlier last year, I made this attempt to knock off the Geneva dress on Universal Standard:

I had this nice olive jersey in my stash. I started with Lotta's Esme tunic pattern, gave it cap sleeves, and gathered the hem on one side. I wore it a couple times last fall, and getting ready to bust it out again for warmer weather. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Pittsburgh history as told in it's cemeteries

I do a lot of walking around my neighborhood, and one of my favorite places to walk is the nearby Monongahela/All Saints Braddock Catholic cemeteries that span Braddock and Braddock Hills. It is an interesting place to walk, and has an interesting story that reflects the history of Pittsburgh. I even found a personal connection (through and

The information here is what I could gather from the Internet, mostly collected by other people who were doing ancestry research. It's two cemeteries now, but it used to be one called Monongahela. Each Catholic church in the area had it's own dedicated section: St. Joseph, St. Thomas, Good Shepherd, etc. In1929, when the cemetery manager asked the Catholic churches to pay for repairing the road that ran through the cemetery, connecting Braddock with Braddock Hills, the churches refused to pay. So, they built a "spite wall" that cut the road off, and created All Saints Braddock Catholic Cemetery. The road was heavily used, and I can imagine how inconvenient it was for residents to go all the way around the cemeteries after the wall was built.

The wall was originally 8 feet high, but at some point it collapsed and is now about 2 feet high, not too difficult to clamber over if you are on foot.

The cemeteries were built on the steep hillside above Braddock, on what was cheap land at the time, so I get a good workout during my walks. I also get a great view. When standing on the highest points of the cemetery, you can see Braddock and the Monongahela valley below.

I found another interesting article about the cemetery that was published in the Spring 1990 issue of Pittsburgh History. It describes how, from the 1880s until the war in 1914, immigrants from Europe came to work the mills in the valley. The preferred sections of the cemetery were already claimed by the older, established English, German, and Irish communities. The people who came later from central, eastern, and southern Europe filled the more obscure lots and steeper slopes. As you walk through the cemetery, you see the timeline "marking successive waves of migrants to the Pittsburgh region."

I can see this timeline clearly as I walked from one section to another.

Turkeys! I see them all the time in the cemetery. 

Estate of Anthony Burns family - he was my great-great grandfather.

This is the entry in the ledger for my great-great grandmother's interment, in 1884. Records prior to the 1930s can be difficult to find because they were split between the two cemetery offices, but not necessarily according to where the interments occurred. This ledger is in the Monongahela office, but the record for my great-great grandfather, who died in 1933, is in the database for All Saints Braddock. They are both buried in the same lot. 

The markers on some of the steeper slopes have deteriorated, the inscriptions are obscured.

The low "spite wall" is visible on the right.
More turkeys:

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sewing: Lotta Jansdotter's Everyday Style

I was looking to freshen up my wardrobe, so I picked up this book last fall...

...and I've made several projects from it since then. The book includes patterns for several basic wardrobe pieces, including accessories. It goes through each season, showing ideas for how to customize and style different pieces for that time of year.

Elsa Bag

I started with something simple, and I have an addiction to bags anyway. The Elsa bag is a very simple, roomy tote with leather handles. I really like the look of the handles, and they are just riveted into place. It was not difficult or expensive to get the required tools and supplies to do this. I picked up the rivet tool, leather, and copper rivets at the Tandy store. 

The fabric is a piece of canvas-weight upholstery with a Persian motif that I had in my stash. I can fit books, magazines, lots of stuff in there. 

Esme Tunic

I wanted a dress that I could wear in cold weather with leggings, so the next thing I made was the Esme tunic. I scaled the pattern up a bit from the largest size, and adjusted it for a large bust. 

The fabric is a medium-weight wool melton that I originally got for making viking garb, but decided to repurpose it for mundane wear. It's very comfortable and cozy to wear in the winter, with boots and fleece-lined leggings. 

Tedra Skirt

Having invested in boots and leggings, I decided to add a skirt to my winter wardrobe.
This was a large scrap of wool tartan from my stash. I had just barely enough to cut the pieces out on the bias, but it didn't take much for the short skirt.

Patchwork Scarf

In addition to the patterns, there are instructions for making accessories, like this patchwork scarf:

This was a great opportunity to use up some of my smaller scraps, and put some fun combinations together. It's a good scarf "recipe." I will probably make a few more of these.
That's all for now. So far, the book has been very useful. The patterns are basic, but versatile, and they look good on a variety of body types. You can change the look of each piece by using different fabrics and making some of the accessories. 

With warmer weather coming, I'll probably make some lighter-weight stuff to wear through spring and summer. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A couche for making bread

So another thing that's new is that I've been baking bread without a machine. Not only that, but I've been hearth-baking the bread: baking it on a stone in the oven, rather than placing the dough in a pan. One way of proofing free-form loaves like that is by using a couche, which is just a piece of cloth that is used to cradle the loaves while they rise. You can buy a couche, but I have skills. I sewed two rectangles of linen fabric together, like you would to make a placemat, and viola!

Educate and Inebriate!

A rainbow of bittersweet Italian liquors. We have gotten really serious about this. Like, reading books about it and everything. Aperitivo time is a thing that we are totally down with. 

Cleaned out a closet and found this. Didn't know what it is or where it came from, but it is probably a leftover from when I used to host a lot of parties (many years ago). I looked it up. Mandragora means "demon." It is a sweet liquor made from the mandrake root, and it reminds me of Absinthe. We are keeping the bottle around as a "curiosity."

Speaking of cleaning out closets, I also found several bottles of mead that I brewed umpteen years ago. I was very skeptical that it would still be palatable, but it was indeed still good. Very smooth and mellow. I savored every drop as I reminisced about that time period in my life. 

Homemade Negroni. Yum.

The Scarf

Did I mention? I finally finished that Doctor Who scarf for my bro, not quite in time for Christmas 2016, but soon enough after that he could use it during the winter. And, I'm only just posting about it now. I have some catching up to do with this blog. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A curious ancestry

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of my great aunt Sarah, who was my mother's father's sister. I only met her once in 2008, but I grew up hearing stories about her, like the one time at Thanksgiving, when she shot a fox off the hen house from the kitchen window...that sort of thing - and she is one of my heroes. She was an amazing wonderful person, and I'm glad that I made the trip with my mom to Addison, PA, for the funeral. It got me thinking again about where I come from, who "my people" are, etc. 

A quilt and puzzle that aunt Sarah gifted to her pastor.

During that visit in 2008, Sarah got out the photo albums and documents, and told us about our ancestry. I captured my notes on it in this journal entry. That's important because, recently, my uncle (my mother's brother) had an ancestry DNA test done, and the results that he told to my mom were surprising because...

I grew up in a family that made much of it's Irish-German ancestry. When ever I asked the question, "what is our ethnic background?" the first answer was usually Irish, with German being a close second. That was probably because most of my relatives on my maternal grandfather's side called themselves "Pennsylvania Dutch" - a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania. We definitely had the culture, in the form of traditional food and recipes that were passed down through my family. And, that branch of the family is Lutheran.

So imagine my surprise when...

I don't see any German in there, specifically. Unless, it's tucked away in that Western European bit. The 25% Irish is no surprise. The large share of English is not that surprising, but I wasn't expecting it to be such a large part. Italian and Swedish? Where the heck did that come from?? Interesting. 

Now, this is second-hand information. I should probably confirm it with my uncle. And, I'm curious enough to think about doing the test myself (or having my brother do it - to get the Y chromosome in there). My father's side is mostly Irish and English as far as I know, but who knows what kind of surprises might turn up? 

Apparently, my Lakota ancestor is so far back in there and so isolated, that it doesn't show up at this level of granularity. 

The Western European bit - probably comes from this: I'm a direct descendant of John Minear, 1730 - 1781 - from the Palatinate area of Germany. 

Yes, I am curious now. 

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Vikings in the Woods: Making the Goods

I just got back from an immersive SCA event that I really enjoyed. The group that hosted the event is forming a new SCA guild devoted to "Viking Hiking." I spent the weekend learning skills like how to start a fire by using a flint and steel, cooking over a fire, building a smoker, making bread and skyr, identifying useful wild plants, and more. Here are some photos:
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