Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sewing Made Simple with Sense and Sensibility Patterns

Picture 2Product: Girls' Edwardian Apron Pattern and eClass
Company Sense and Sensibility Patterns
Price: $24.95US
Long ago, when I was just a wee child, I told my teacher that my mother would be happy to sew 10 little elf costumes for an upcoming Christmas concert. What I didn't realize, was that sewing actually takes some time and with only about 2 or 3 days before the show, I was expecting a lot from Mum. However, after her initial "You did what??!!" she pulled out her sewing machine and started to stitch up little elf hats, skirts and shoes. It was magical to sit beside her and watch her work. This is the first time I remember "sewing" with my mother but not the last. There was always something special about the experience and I wished to be able to create like her. Unfortunately, I did not inherit my Mum's agility with the sewing machine. Generally, whatever project I start ends with me pulling my hair when it doesn't work out like planned. Because of this, I choose NOT to sew with the kids around and if I do having sewing to do I generally stitch by hand. I would, however, love to be able to share the same type of special moments I shared sewing with my Mum with my own children. A little piece of Grandma, as she is no longer with us.

A few months ago, a friend posted a link on a website I frequent to the Girls' Edwardian Apron Pattern by Sense and Sensibility Patterns. We thought it was gorgeous but without much experience with sewing we mostly admired it, wishing someone else would make it for us! When I was given the opportunity to review it, and the eClass, I was excited but very apprehensive at the same time. Vesions of threads getting caught, and needles breaking amongst other possible mishaps danced through my head. I e-mailed Jennie Chancey (creator of Sense and Sensibility Patterns) to thank her for the opportunity to review and let her know of my fears of ruining her pattern and not being able to actually finished. She reassured me that she included the eClass as part of the review so that even beginners could complete the project. She also said that if I had any questions she would be available to help (as she would with any of her clients). With that in mind, I decided to go for it.

I am so glad that I did. It was a pleasure to be able to start a project and end up with a finished, albeit not perfect, product in the end. The eClass, consisting of a slide show and a 45 minute instructional audio track from Jennie was great! She was so friendly that it felt like having a friend right there holding my hand guiding me through the steps. Even without the accompanying videos (I could not get them, in their windows format, to run on my Mac) I was able to get a good understanding of all the steps involved (even creating my own bias binding). The ePattern wasn't near as intimidating as it looks when it is first printed off. I did get a smile from my mailman, though, when he saw me using the window as a light box to piece the pattern correctly. Despite the extra work the ePattern is great because you'll never loose a piece again, or rather you can just print off another. It also make sewing numerous patterns of different sizes a breeze. You can even use your printer settings to shrink the pattern to a size that is appropriate for a doll if you want to make an extra special matching set for that little person in your life. The pattern itself is only a few pieces so easy to handle as a beginner.

Making bias binding, however, took FOREVER, and in the end I ended up using packaged bias binding. I did need to purchase more bias binding then was called for in the pattern (I believe this is an error that has now been fixed) and as I had to buy more anyways, I ended up adding bias to the bottom hem of the apron as well. I find it gave the apron a nice finished looked. I find that the dark binding with my fabric choice is quite striking.

For the most part everything went quite smoothly, though, I did get hung up about 10 minutes from the end of the project. I ran out of thread on my bobbin and for the life of me I could not get my sewing machine to pick of the thread to bring it through the plate so I could continue to sew. The project took me about 7 hours from start to finish but I seriously spent a couple HOURS trying to figure out how to get the bobbin threaded through the top plate. Initially, my husband threaded it for me, then the second time I ran out of thread, I tried and tried, but finally got my husband to do it again ( and of course he was so quick he didn't actually show me how he did it!). The final time, I ran out of thread he wasn't not home and I desperately wanted to show him the finished project when he arrived. I fought with the machine for over an hour. At one point it actually brought me to tears of frustration. I finally managed to get it done, though. Just don't ask me to do it again because I probably wouldn't be able to! I could have completed this project, as a beginner, in about 5 hours if I had only known how to properly use my machine. It's probably a good idea to really understand how your machine works before taking on this project. The eClass is great but it does assume that you have the basics down before beginning.

In the end, it all turned out well and we couldn't be happier with the results.





As you can see, Morgaine LOVES it. Her favorite part is the pockets and I am sure that she will have fun collecting rocks and flowers in them. I'm also loving that because of the criss-cross straps she'll be able to wear size 4 for several years without having to have a new one made (though the pattern is easy enough that I have plans to make more for friends and family). I took pictures of my tall 6 year old boy wearing it and it still fits well. He, has forbidden me from posting the pictures on my blog, though! You'll have to take my word for it.

I enjoyed this project immensely and I am already looking at Sense and Sensibility for my next project. I love the modest, elegant and timeless style of Jennie's patterns and Iook forward to sharing more of my creations in the coming months. Check out her website. If you are a lover of vintage clothing you will be glad that you did! I cannot wait for my next creation!

Monday, August 10, 2009

100 Mile Diet-Foraging

Aw yes, at the beginning of the week it seemed like the better part of the week revolved around finding, gathering, preparing and cooking food. Things seemed to come to a better balance by Friday but that being said we spent the better part of the weekend gathering and preparing food. Saturday morning found us at Hank's Farm to get our vegetables and eggs for the week. Then there was a quick detour to the Cape Breton Farmer's Market to get honey. This week's grocery bill for those interested was 37 dollars for the veggies, fruits, and eggs and 15 dollars for the honey (it can be affordable, I suspect). Then, seeing as we were out, we decided to drive around for a while (Mike wanted to show me a festival going on in Port-Morien.) to see what kind of wild berries we could find. Driving along a little dirt road we finally found the elusive raspberry so we were very happy to stop and pick a little. We left Morgaine asleep in the car (we were picking right beside it). As we were getting ready to get back in she woke up and wanted to get out and explore herself. Once out she immediately screamed "APPLES!!!!!". We'd been picking all around an apple tree and hadn't even realized it. So we managed to get our apples as well. Then we made our way over to Whitney Pier and spent a couple hours picking some rather sparse blueberries. As we were about to leave, Liam crossed the dirt road and said "Look, look over here there are tons and TONS". And there were!! So we spent another hour on that side of the road, wishing we'd gone there first but enjoying it just the same.

Needless to say we wouldn't have been near as successful without the children!

Friday, August 7, 2009

I'm loving-My Garden

I'd love to say that I have the more wonderful garden and that things are growing wonderful but that would be a lie. I do not think that the garden is going to give us ear enough to survive for the winter. I do have to say, though, that for the most part I am loving this learning experience and I that next year it will be even better.

Here is a little peek at what's growing (and not growing) in my garden:


Beans. With what I pick today we should have enough for our first (and only) bean side dish of the year.




Cauliflower, if you want to call it that.


Cucumber (expecting them not to actually bees/bugs to pollinate and they've looked the same for a couple weeks now.


Want to be squash or pumpkin....yeah, he's tiny and of about 12-15 plants he is the only one with anythng.


At least we have lots and lots of tomatoes!

I am hoping to love this poor little garden into producing for me. Is there any hope?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The 100 (okay, 130) Mile Diet

Mike and I have been impressed by the amount of produce that one can find in one's backyard here in Cape Breton. We've also been appalled by the fact that no one here actually seems to take advantage of what is readily available and instead let it go to waste. As a result, we've decided to go local and only eat produce that has been grown on Cape Breton Island. The challenge we've set is to do this for the next three months but ideally, it would become a way of life. So for the next three months we will not BUY anything that is produced outside of Cape Breton or contains ingredients that are. The distance that most foods travel to arrive on our plate is just isane. Most of our lettuce, LETTUCE, come from China, (CHINA!!!). Totally ridiculous considering how easy lettuce is to grow in one's backyard. It is great to be supporting local farmers, seeing where one's food comes from, and especially NOT contributing to the the warming of the planet because of the amount of fuel it takes to transport our food from one end of the globe to the other.

We have decide that we will use what foods we have in the house even if they aren't local- nice benefit being that we have enough coffee stock piled until next year, and no, we didn't go out and buy a ton yesterday! We just cannot afford to toss the food that we have. Before long, it will run out and we will HAVE to come up with ways to replace it. We did have to make an exception for wheat (and ONLY wheat) because there is no wheat/grain on Cape Breton island (believe me I have searched and questioned). We just cannot survive without wheat-no bread, no pasta- and it would have been a complete recipe for failure. We will, however, get our grain from the closest mill, which is in NB (though I may have found a NS source). All wheat products will be made at home with all local ingredients otherwise. We've also, for the moment, made an exception for dairy as well (which is why it's the 130 mile diet....the closest, that we know of, dairy supplier is 129.7 miles "the way the crow flies" away). I will certainly be looking for a closer source though.

Day 1 (today) of the diet started with an early morning trip to The Cape Breton Farmer's Market where we bought a nice variety of local produce and meat.


Swiss chard, celery, chanterelle mushrooms, beets, white turnip, snap peas, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, free range chicken, smoked halibut (with sea salt from here), salmon and shrimp.

Lunch consisted of homemade tomato soup, spiced with herbs from my garden, and thicken with milk and potatoes. We decided that we might actually starve on this "diet".

Supper turned out to be a bit more substantial (though pricey with the free range chicken and chanterelle mushrooms...we'll wait for something cheaper to come into season!!)


Maple (local) glazed free range chicken with thyme (from my garden), salad (from my garden) with local tomatoes, caramelized carrots (local) and beans (from my garden), and chanterelle mushrooms cooked with garlic scapes (from my graden).


The kids menu: RAW...of course, they wouldn't touch the little bit of mushroom I gave them! They are catching on quick. They finished the last of the orange juice with supper and I told them that they would be getting any more and Liam said "...because oranges aren't local". I hate to hear what he says, though, when I tell him that sugar isn't local either!
Our only real fear for this week was the lack of fruit we have. Sure, we've picked cherries but that was it. Then, as if planned, after supper there was a knock at the door and some wonderful local young adults offered us fresh local blueberries that they picked this afternoon. They (both the kids and the berries) were wonderful (and there are PLENTY left over).


I'll certainly keep you up to date on this adventure in healthy eating and share any great creations I might come up with (and maybe some failures, too *lol*)

To learn more about The 100 Mile Diet click here.