Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End Potholder

There are a bazillion potholder tutorials on the web, and for good reason... they're easy to make, quick to finish, and often just a tiny little quilt.

The project in this post is a hodge-podge of tutorials and techniques that I've been wanting to try, but my favorite thing about it is that each of the fabrics were used in a quilt I made in 2009, so it was a great project to reminisce a bit.

First, the potholder shape/structure (square with triangle pockets on back as shown below) came from a tutorial by Field Trips in Fiber. I made mine a bit larger than the tutorial's dimensions.

Next, I paper pieced the top with strip scraps. Film in the Fridge has a great tutorial on this technique.

Lastly, this was the perfect opportunity to try "pebble quilting" as demonstrated in a video by Handmade by Alissa. I've wanted to try this for a while, but Alissa has warned in other posts that it's time consuming and recommended for smaller quilts. Below is the inside of the potholder, to demonstrate the outcome of this technique. It's messy but very forgiving!

I so wish you could feel texture through the computer screen... here's one last photo to give you an idea of how lush the pebble quilting feels with a thick batting.

Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not so De-Vinyl...

I got a lovely KitchenAid Mixer for my birthday (thanks Mom!) and after my aunt mentioned how dusty hers gets I thought I'd sew a cover for it...

There's a free tutorial for appliance covers from
DISCLAIMER: The tutorial I followed is perfectly adequate, all failures associated with this project are from my own not-so-well-thought-out adaptations.

Like most KitchenAid owners, I think my appliance is beautiful and don't want to hide it away in shame, so I thought clear vinyl would be the solution. I changed the pattern to be 2 inches shorter, and then added 3 inches of cute fabric. (My model has a glass bowl which I think is slightly larger/wider)

Not completely terrible from a distance:

One of the problem areas up close:

The main problems are that the seams won't turn out properly, and the fabric along the bottom is not stiff enough to compete with the vinyl. I realize it could be much worse, I'm just still baffled by how bad this looks compared to my initial mental imagine of it. It's not so bad that it's not going to sit on my kitchen counter until I find a way to fix or replace it... but that's because I just moved and have too many other home sewing projects in my head that this one needs to stew for a while.

One or both of the following likely lead to my demise:
#1 - The vinyl I selected was probably too thick (16 gauge)
#2 - Sewing curves in vinyl is very challenging, and this pattern is two ovals being sewn to a rectangle. Women of the 1950s that sewed vinyl slip-covers for their living room furniture must have had crazy sewing skills (and unlimited patience).

To redeem my sewing confidence, I challenged myself to make a softie in an hour last night (challenge prompted by realizing that it was the Saturday before Xmas which meant the stores were all packed with shoppers, and I didn't have a gift to take to a First Birthday party that was going to start in 2 hours.) It ended up taking an hour and 20 minutes, but that's from the time I sat down at the computer to google a softie tutorial, and includes the time rummaging through my fabric bins deciding what to use. The green dots from the mixer cover also made it onto Lucy the Goosey, for which you can find a free tutorial from The Long Thread.

The one-year-old recipient grabbed and carried her by the beak immediately, so I figure that's enough of a compliment to get me back to my home-sewing projects.

Monday, December 7, 2009

SMS Give Away Day Apron Winner Dec 09

Wow, thanks so much to everyone that stopped by my blog to share your favorite cookie! It makes me hungry every time I look at the comments!

The winner of the apron give-away (selected at random by is FlowerMomma who just might be making gluten and dairy-free shortbread (if there is such a thing) while wearing the apron.

As a consolation prize to everyone else, check out the comments on the original post to see a great list of much-loved cookies you can enjoy this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SMS Give Away Day! December 09

Happy Give Away Day!

Once again I am participating in Sew Mama Sew's Give Away Day. One lucky blog commenter/cookie lover will win this apron made by yours-truly:

The apron is blue cotton with green/cream trim, and has one pocket. The waist tie is 7 feet long, to accommodate a range of waist sizes.

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment telling your favorite kind of cookie (homemade or store bought, you can even provide a link to a recipe if you'd like) on this post by 11:59pm MT on Sunday December 6th. The winner will be chosen at random. Please be sure to include an email address or blog link from which you can be contacted. I am willing to ship internationally, and will mail promptly after contacting the winner.

Thank you for visiting French Sleep Deprivation Study, and here's to a cheerful cookie-filled holiday season!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

No Secret No Bakes.

Nearly everyone has this cookie recipe. The recipe is quite simple. There are rarely variations in ingredients. And the ingredients are generally things you already have in your pantry... So why then am I posting this recipe that everyone already has? Because I apparently have some magical touch, and people always ask what my secret is. No secrets, just lots of experience. (Many an afternoon in my adolescence was spent making these and eating them straight from the bowl, which in hindsight was just self-medication for... being a teenager!).

So I'm laying it all out here, pictures, tips, and anything else that's missing from one of the world's simplist and most loved cookie recipes... bring on the No-Bakes!

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter*
2 cups white sugar**
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk (cow or soy)
1/4 to 1/2 cup peanut butter***
1 Tbsp vanilla (fake is fine)
3 cups quick-oats****

A few notes about ingredient quality...
* - Butter is superior to margarine in nearly every recipe, and this is not an exception. The only instance in which I condone the use of margarine in this recipe is for Vegans.
** - I have not found any suitable sugar substitutes. I've experimented with sucanat, but even with a 50/50 white sugar to sucanat ratio, they tasted and smelled like molasses, and not in a good way. While "No-Bakes" are a cookie by name, they could just as well be considered a candy, since the cooking process breaks down the sugar and then recrystallizes, so the sugar is a staple ingredient. Sad but true.
*** - It pains me to say this, but natural peanut butter (the kind you grind yourself in the bulk food section) doesn't work as well as processed creamy PB.
**** - Quick-oats really are different than regular or "old-fashioned" rolled oats. Quick-oats are rolled oats that have been cut down to cook faster, not to be confused with instant oats, which are precooked.


-Large Microwave safe bowl (don't assume, check the bottom to make sure it is safe. I recommend Pyrex), plus a small microwave safe cup or bowl for melting butter
-Rubber spatula
-Wax paper


Gather all your tools and ingredients. Spread out a piece of newspaper on a portion of counter or table that can lay undisturbed for a few hours. Place wax paper atop the newspaper, so that you'll be ready to go when the cookies are done in the microwave. (TIP: If you need to take the cookies somewhere while they are still "setting", place the newspaper/waxpaper in a cookie sheet before placing the dough to set.)

Next, cut the stick of butter into a dozen-ish smaller pieces so that it will melt more evenly. Place butter in microwave-safe dish and microwave for up to 45 seconds. All microwaves vary, but past 45 seconds generally means a big buttery mess on the ceiling of the microwave.

Watch the butter and remove it when 90% melted. Set aside.

Mix sugar and cocoa in large microwave-safe bowl, breaking up any large clumps of the cocoa.

Add melted butter and milk to sugar/cocoa mixture. You do not need to stir the ingredients completely, as they will mix much easier after some time in the microwave. A few soft turns of the spoon is plenty.

Now it's time for some cookie-cookin'... The best advice I can give is to know your microwave and let the cookie tell you when it is ready. I've made these in a dozen or more microwave ovens over the years, and most take 4-5 minutes, and a few take up to 6 or 7 minutes. But you don't want to just throw the bowl in and walk away, here's the breakdown:

Microwave 1 minute, and then give a good stir. You'll see some bubbles of air escaping from the dry ingredients.

Now microwave 1:30 to 2 minutes, and stir again. The mixture will be smooth this time, and even in color as the sugar has broken down.

Now microwave for 1 minute at a time (stirring between) until the mixture has developed a thin layer of tiny bubbles, which tells you that it is nearly cooked. (See picture below)

Both over- and under-cooking will lead to sub-par cookies. You may need to practice this recipe a few times to get the best results. (If there's a food-scientist out there that knows the exact optimal temperature, please let us know... and I'll also need to know where to acquire a candy thermometer.)

Once you've got the little bubbles, add peanut butter (just plop in in there, no stirring) and microwave for 30 seconds to a minute.

Remove from microwave and move quickly. Add vanilla and stir, but don't worry it there are still a few clumps of the peanutty-goodness that haven't mixed in. Next stir in the oats one cup at a time.

Once mixed, place dough by the spoonful onto the wax paper. Again, you will want to move quickly, as the dough is cooling and will begin to change to a rougher texture.

If the first few cookies develop a liquid border within 30 seconds of placement, as in the picture below, you can add a few Tbsps of additional oats to the remaining dough, but it's often the first sign that the liquid was over or under microwaved.

Ideally your cookies will be plump, with the oats nicely coated in the chocolate and only a small amount of the liquid settling at the base over time. (see below)

Let sit for a few hours to firm up. If firmness is not in the cards for a given batch, enjoy them with a spoon and a gallon of milk... then try again. Enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

black, white, and some good luck.

I wasn't even actively thrifting when I came across the item that started this refashion. I had met up with a girlfriend on a saturday night, and we needed to kill a bit of time between dinner and movie, so we walked by a consignment shop downtown and this vintage polyester skirt was on the sidewalk clearance rack for $2! I'm a S/M and it's an XL, so when I picked it out my friend said "uh, that's not your size" and I told her to have patience...

BEFORE: (the grid below is in inches, to give an idea of the scale/size)

I poked through my pattern stash, but decided to use an existing dress from my closet as the pattern, mainly because the bottom hem was straight across (like the skirt hem) rather than round for fullness. I had to unstitch the waistband to get the proper length of fabric. I folded the dress in half lengthwise with the side seams touching, and traced the pattern onto the skirt. The skirt's slit was in the center, but I moved it to the side for this short dress. The scraps were used to interface the neck and arms openings.

AFTER: A simple but classy b/w dress for $2 (found a long black zipper in my stash, what are the odds?). Plus, I know that no one else owns one like it! I put darts in the back and at the bust line, but the dress is still not as fitted in the waist as I generally prefer and additional darts in the front aren't an option, but I'll be wearing a white cardigan over this most the time anyway, so I'm happy with it.

Additional observations:

Add this to the list of reasons I'm becoming my mother when it comes to sewing... The slit in the front of the skirt appears to have originally gone all the way up to where the white appliqué stops. A previous owner had added some modesty by hand sewing the slit down to about half the original length. Polyester + hand stitching is not as clean looking as I wanted, and I needed to once again reduce the length of the slit, so I took apart the front of the dress so that it would be machine sewn throughout, and would lay nicely. I sure hope this new found perfectionism doesn't carry over into other realms of my life! Don't worry, that'll never happen, right mom?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

one (plus) stash (equals) two

I really enjoy infomercials, or any commercial really, in which a product is promoted in juxtaposition to "the old way" of doing something. An example is for some car washing product, and the item being sold is filmed in bright colors while the inferior item or method is shown in black and white. The people in the latter shot always have bad posture and frustrated expressions ("oh, filling a bucket with water to wash my car is so awful... isn't there a better way?")

Well, that's how my "Before" picture looks today. It was not intentional, I promise! Just the combination of bad lighting and poor fit, but it's the "Before" and if there wasn't anything wrong with it in the first place, why would I have refashioned it?

Thrifted 1970's double-knit skirt.


"But wait... There's more! If you call within the next 15 minutes we'll throw in a shirt as well!"

So as not to waste all that fabric that was sliced off the bottom of the skirt, I fashioned myself a little top using some soft double-stretch fabric from my stash.

The yoke and cap sleeves are from my converted version of this (free) Burda pattern.

I also picked up a copy of the Alabama Stitch Book recently, and decided to throw down a bit of reverse applique to give this top some much needed personality.

Happy Sewing!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Classic Refashion: Oversized to Fitted Shirt

This is a pretty generic refashion, but I figured I'd post a quick tutorial just in case anyone wanted to skip past thinking about how to make a larger button-up shirt into something smaller. This way you can jump right in.

I found this XL Women's shirt in the 50-cent bin at my favorite thrift store, it's a quality brand, nice linen fabric, and in great shape with the exception of a bit of discoloration in the underarms. But that's no matter because that portion of the shirt will be cut away.

Tutorial note: Men's shirts would also work great as they often come is larger sizes, and are less likely to have existing tailoring or darts that you would need to work around.


First I looked through my pattern stash and found a button-up dress pattern that I've used before and knew was a good fit. (Butterick B4185 to be exact, it's from 2004, not sure if it's still available but you should be able to find something similar if you don't have a button-up pattern already in your stash) A shirt pattern would be a more obvious selection, but I was trying to use what I already had :)

Next I cut the sleeves away, and lined up and pinned the front portions of the shirt, hem to hem, seam to seam, button to button hole. I placed the pattern front so that the top shoulder seam didn't line up exactly with the edge of the pattern, as you want it to overlap 5/8" -- the amount that you would have normally use for a seam allowance. This is important, otherwise the sleeve may not fit correctly.
Then the same is done with the back pattern, again letting the pattern lay 5/8" over the pre-sewn shoulder seam. Be sure to line up the outermost corner of the sleeve with the cut already made to the front.

If your pattern has darts or other tailoring marks, follow the instructions to fit the shirt to your body shape. I shortened the front darts slightly so that they would not interfere with the details on the existing shirt front.

Next, sew the side seams (unless your pattern calls for sleeves to be sewn in prior to side seams, in which case you should just follow the pattern instructions.)

As for the new sleeve, I opted to cut from the lower portion of the old sleeve to keep some of the detailing near the cuff. (the bottom cuff is pleated, so it may look like I didn't cut out the sleeve wide enough, but I promise that I did)
I thought I might keep the entire cuff, but I eventually cut off the bottom portion since it fell at my elbow wouldn't button comfortably. If the shirt you are using is large enough, you might be able to make a short, 3/4 length, or even a long sleeve while maintaining the original cuff.

Sewing in the sleeve is the only challenging part of this refashion, but just remind yourself how much time and potential frustration you avoided by not having to sew a collar or button placket!

Lastly I hemmed the bottom of the shirt. It was far too long if I kept the original length, plus the front and back were different lengths after sewing darts.


Enjoy! For other refashioning ideas, be sure to check out all the wonderful bloggers that have taken the Wardrobe Refashion Pledge!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tiny T-shirt Refashion

So many refashions seem to be taking big clothes and making them much smaller (example: adult clothes to toddler clothes) But I found this too-small long sleeve t-shirt in the 50-cent bin at the thrift outlet and I couldn't resist the cute print...

So I rummaged around until I found another 50-cent shirt in the teal color. It's an old men's polo.

I disassembled the shirt and sewed the sleeves between the front and back pieces to be come sides.

I made a pattern for the front and back yokes using the neckline and sleeve-hole portions of a burda pattern, and then cut the yokes from the teal fabric.

Then the bottom was cut from the print fabric. Since the front yoke ends higher than the back, the print fabric needed to come up higher in the front, so the previous shirt-back became the shirt-front.

The tops of the original sleeves were still left-over, so I made them into short sleeves, and sewed on the (already hemmed) bottom of the polo shirt sleeves as trim.

Lastly, I mimicked the circles from the print fabric by stitching in white onto the teal yoke... it was pretty simple, I'm not sure that it even counts as embroidery.

Shirt front:

Shirt back:
Here's a detail of the lazy-embroidery:

I'm very happy with it, especially for a $1 shirt!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Let's start at the very beginning...

(channel your inner Julie Andrews)
...a very good place to start,
When you read you begin with A, B, C,
When you Wardrobe Refashion, you being with...
green drapery reminiscent of Sound of Music!

No really, here's the curtain I found while thrifting:

The starting point for this project was a tutorial by My Mama Made It, but I wanted to incorporate more of the curtain fabric, so I put trim around the back and under arms (bias) as well as along the bottom (not bias)

The curtain was scratchy, especially on the backside, so I lined it with some white cotton from my stash.

I had to take the next picture, I assembled much of the shirt before sewing the pieces together! It was pretty comical.

End result:

The back needs a bit of work, notice how the bottom is a bit funky? It was difficult to pair the stretch green fabric with the stiff curtain. I think some darts or gathering will solve it.