Archive for January, 2012

Golden Date Cake

I have a lot of cookbooks.  I started buying old cookbooks when I was a young wife who couldn’t afford new ones.  At that time, it seemed like nobody but me wanted the old books, and they were only a dollar or two at used book shops.  I read them like novels, and I especially like the ones with notes written in them telling you that this recipe is excellent and that this other one is awful.  Sometimes the old books will have pressed flowers or a curl of baby hair saved within its pages.  This week I have been reading some of the old books and thought that this particular book sounded promising:

This is a Fourth Edition from 1953.  My husband likes moist cakes, like applesauce cake, carrot cake, or a delicious fudgey cake.  This recipe sounded good, so I decided to try it:

Those are pretty good instructions for an older, privately printed cookbook.  I mixed the dry ingredients except for the sugar, creamed the sugar with the shortening (I was using Smart Balance margarine) in the food processor and set that aside.  I removed about 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients and added that to the now empty food processor, then put in the dates and nuts and chopped them up.  The shortening and sugar mixture was added to the dry ingredients with the milk and vanilla, and mixed as in the recipe.  Then I added the eggs and the rest and mixed that in.  I baked it in a bundt pan at around 350 degrees and kept an eye on it.  It baked for about 40 – 45 minutes.

Since I am allergic to citrus rind, I made the frosting a little differently.  I just put some powdered sugar into a  small bowl and juiced a small orange into it.  I mixed it, adding a pinch of salt and a little vanilla, adjusting the thickness by adding more sugar until it had the thickness of a glaze.  After I got the cake out of the pan (still warm), I spread this over the cake.

A very good cake.

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I was wondering about the prices of fabrics in my Grandmother’s day, so I pulled out the old catalog my husband got for me at the Antiquarian Bookfair.  I got sidetracked from the fabrics and noticed this clever gadget:

There are still similar gadgets on the market today, but this one looks like it might really work.  I’m sure that the ones available now cost more than 15 cents.

The trims were very pretty then, too, and looked like the patterns available in the old crochet manuals.

A lot of the household linens you see in antique stores now were made from stamped goods that were bought in needlework shops and from catalogs like this one.

I have to admit that I am not drawn to the fashions of the 1920s since they look kind of saggy and unflattering, even the clothes for kids.  The clothes must have seemed very new and modern after all the long skirts, corsets, and complicated clothing of past decades.  Fashions really started to get pretty again in the 1930’s.

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I picked up these two pattern drafting books fairly recently, but I really like them.  The info is great, even though the measurements are metric.  A metric ruler is easy to find, even if you don’t already have one.  Mostly, though, these books are great for when you want to change one of your patterns around a little and need to know how to manipulate the pattern.  For example, on a recent little girl dress, I needed to know how to change a big puffed sleeve into an angel sleeve, and this book has great graphics and diagrams.  I picked up the adult version at the library booksale for only a dollar, so I didn’t feel too bad about paying the regular price for the kid’s version as a late Christmas present for myself.



Here’s an example of the diagrams in the books:

Today I am working on another top for myself, a UFO that has been cut out for, who knows, maybe 5 years or more.  My embroidery machine has developed a glitch so has to go into the shop, but it was pouring down rain today and I decided to wait for the sunshine.  I would hate to slip in a puddle and drop the machine, and I don’t think the machine would like it either.  The weatherman says tomorrow will be sunny.  I don’t have any lack of UFOs to work on while I am waiting for the repair.

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Assorted Projects

Got nothing much to show this week so will just put up a random rose picture I took when we were in Canada this summer.  I love deep yellow roses with pink/orange undertones, so I should really just buy myself one and enjoy it.  I would also like a Mexicana climbing rose.

In sewing news, I finished a couple of plain pillowcases and a tablecloth, all white and boring, and am now finishing up a few UFOs.  My sewing machine table, which is tucked into a corner of my bedroom, is an old typing table.  I made a kind of saddlebag that hangs off the lefthand side and I tuck my UFOs into that neatly sealed in ziplock bags.  When the saddlebag gets so full that it interferes with my sewing, I finish off a few things.  Today I am making a top cut from vintage doubleknit in lavender.  I have one of these tops made from a gifted piece of somewhat hideous but interesting doubleknit, and it never wrinkles, always looks good, and skims a person’s figure irregularities.  So, in opposition to the prevailing fabric snobbery, I watch out for lengths of vintage doubleknit to make this top pattern from.  Hopefully not too hideous.

Of course, sewing on the old doubleknit requires experience and a good presscloth.  I found a package of 5 dishtowels (plain white, Mainstays)  for only around $5 at the Walmart, and discovered that they make excellent presscloths.  You can dampen them and really steam a seam into submission.

Now I need to get my new presscloths and finish up the hems on my almost-finished top.

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I was lucky when I bought one of the pretty Mexican dresses because it fit me really well and I could take the measurements off of it to reproduce it in my sewing room.  If you don’t have a dress to copy for yourself, you will have to find out about how much ease you want in the dress or blouse.  This can take some trial and error.  I thought I would see how much ease is in my dress compared to my measurements.

First, I tried the dress on and found out that the total width of the dress is about 10-12 inches larger than my hip measurement.   This means that there is an extra 5 to 6 inches of width in the front and the same in the back.  This will give you an idea of where to start, but the ease can be adjusted depending on how close fitting or loose you want the dress to be.

In the drawing above, you can see how the dress hangs on the body.  The shoulders are wider than the natural shoulder line forming a dropped shoulder.   Since you will be pleating or gathering the top of the body piece onto the bottom of the yoke, the measurement you need is the width of the bottom of the yoke.  Measure from the middle of the underarm across the chest above the bust to the other side middle of the underarm.  Of course, seam allowances and any ease you want should be added to this measurement.

The drawing of the dress in red shows the more modern type of sleeve with the triangular gusset section grafted onto the rectangular  sleeve piece.  The drawing below shows a separate piece for the gusset. You can refer to my other posts to see how to sew in a gusset if you want to go the old traditional route, and to get an idea of how low the armhole is in my dress.  It seems to be about 4 1/2  to 6 inches below the finished bottom yoke line.




I hope this helps you on your way to a comfortable and pretty Mexican blouse.

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Bibs 2 and 3

I don’t seem to be the horrible procrastinator I used to be.  I was the kid who was wildly studying the night before the exam, or reading the book the night before the book report all the way through my school career.  Now it looks like I have improved a little.  I actually have the baby shower gift done early.

This bib is made from a fabric sample.  These samples are all bound together in a big book-like folder, and the samples are cut randomly so there is no control over what section of the print appears on any fabric sample.  I lucked out with this one and got a good view of the seals, whale and treasure.

The bibs are quilted a little but not so much that it makes them a pain to sew:

The tops of the bibs close with velcro.  The package of velcro I bought is a new kind that does not have two different halves, a hook side and a loop side.  The tape has hooks and loops intermingled.  I’m not sure it catches as well as the old kind, but only experience and wear will tell.

This fabric is bright and cheerful with primary colors galore so should catch a baby’s interest.

Welll, that’s all the bibs I am making for now since I have a short attention span when it comes to bias tape application.

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New Bib No. 1

Ah, robots!  This cute embroidery design is from the Embroidery Library.  It’s the same robot I used for M’s black peasant blouse except that that one was a panel of robots and this one is a single, though it can be bought in a set.  http://www.emblibrary.com/EL/search.aspx?search=Reginald%20Robot.  Here’s the link for M’s peasant blouse:  https://redpajamamama.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/raucous-robots/.

In fact, the fabric for the bib is left over from that black top.  The bib has lining and a batting layer, and bias tape around the edge.  I seem to have lost my improved skill at using bias tape if the tape is not prefolded down the middle, so I looked for a modernistic decorative stitch to cover up my inadequacies.  I wanted one that was spiky and robotish, and you can see a bit of it in the closeup below:

I have two more bibs to finish, and then I will be ready for the baby shower.  With great good luck, I was cleaning in the sewing room and found a baby sweater I had put aside and forgotten, so I am ahead of the game for the actual baby gift.

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Quick Projects

My niece is expecting her first baby soon, and I just got the invitation to a baby shower in the mail.  I’ve taken care of a lot of babies in my time, and I have a handy bib pattern I always use.  I like bibs with a velcro closure so that you can secure the bib to the baby whilst said baby is trying to either escape or pull off your earrings.  I did recently get a new pattern from McCalls to try out:

Sometimes I make quilted bibs, hand-stencilled bibs, or embroidered bibs, but one thing they all have in common is that they are a batting sandwich with bias binding edging and velcro closure.

The upholstery brothers, who own a business here in town and have from time to time given me their old fabric samples so that they don’t have to pay for dump fees, provided the fabrics for the bibs.  Here’s a picture of the bright decorator fabrics that will soon be bibs.  The one with the alligator eyes might be a little freaky, but I’ll see if the mom likes it.

These will be my first projects of the new year.  My only resolution for this, hopefully better and luckier, new year is to become proficient on the serger.  A certain relative with some white knit shirts that need shortening has been waiting anxiously for this to happen.

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