Monday, April 7, 2014

Off to Austin!

Dipping my toes into Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas on our last trip there (about nine years ago, in my dyed-redheaded days)
It was only after we had finished booking our family vacation to Austin, Texas that I realized I'd be missing PatternReview Weekend Austin by just a few weeks. Alas! But we have to work around the kiddo's preschool spring break and with my lack of crafterly output lately, I really have no excuses to buy fabric or yarn.

Anyway, we're really just going to relax, enjoy the warmth, wander around the city and cook homemade allergy-free food in the fire pit outside the Airstream trailer we're renting to stay in. There WILL be knitting, too—I'm going to finish my cardigan, and maybe even start a new project (probably socks—I can never get enough wool socks and they are so portable).

Any favorite kid-friendly things to do in Austin or the drivable near environs? Last time we were there we did a lot of margarita-drinking and eating at Mexican and barbecue restaurants, and saw the bats, but that was before kids. This time we can't really do restaurants (oh, allergies, how I hate you! grrrr!) but any tips on good farmer's markets or natural-foods stores are appreciated.

Luckily we have awesome friends willing to watch the kiddo for a night so we can see a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse
P.S. In other news, I started labeling my daughter's drawers so she could put her clothes away more accurately and realized she's as obsessed with polka dots as I am (we let her pick out fabrics and choose items from the thrift store).

Starting to label the little girl's drawers so she can put her clothes away more accurately and realized she's as obsessed with polka dots as I am.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Matchy Matchy + Sewing Machine Sadness + Delancey Progress

Z and her new doll on Christmas, with polka dots in abundance.
My Amazing Mom was having sewing machine issues recently, but took prompt action, got her machine serviced, and all is well. She's been making some ridiculously cute matching outfits and accessories, all drafted from scratch with paper patterns of her own design.

My mom gave Z a doll for Xmas and sewed matching outfits for them to wear.
Z and her doll "Howie Bowie Wowie" out for a winter's stroll in matching duds
My favorite so far is this beautiful original design with matching headband—I believe this is an African wax print fabric my mom picked up at Sew-Fisticated Discount Fabrics in Boston.
Christmas outfit designed and sewn by my mom: the girl version
And the doll version...
And there's a lot more! Each of these has a girl-sized equivalent, though I don't have all the photos handy:

She's also been sewing matching outfits for Z and her 3-month baby cousin, R:

My own sewing mojo is not so strong at the moment, however...

Got my headlamp on so I can see my black thread... Ready, set... Spelunk! I mean, sew! #isew
Goofy and overly confident late-night sewing selfie, right before sewing machine disaster struck
 So right before I got my carpal tunnel last October, I was about to make a Cake Red Velvet knit dress (naturally) but first I wanted to finish my third Cake Hummingbird. I was tired, it was late on a work night, but I had my spelunking sewing headlamp on (one of my favorite non-sewing sewing tools) and I was in the sewing zone and...

And then this happened. Whatever "this" is:

I think my sewing machine is really angry at me for neglecting her. Why else would she eat my fabric like this? Sigh... No new top to wear tomorrow. :(

And it's probably still sitting inside my sewing machine cabinet that way.

And then I got the carpal tunnel. And then after I recovered from that, a newfound food-allergy-free baking and cooking obsession.

I know nobody wants to read posts in which people apologize for not sewing or not blogging, but that's not really my point. My point is: why am I always so scared of my sewing machine? I'm sure it's probably 10 minutes of me tinkering to figure out the issue. Or if necessary, a trip to the shop. But somehow that tiny hurdle seems insurmountably annoying, so much more so than, say, making my own fruit leather from scratch.

Knitting is not so daunting, equipment-wise—in addition to those chartreuse Knotty gloves I mentioned before, I'm finally back to putting the finishing touches on my Delancey cardigan—just have to do the edges, button bands and shawl collar!

Finally getting back to my Delancey cardigan sweater... NOT looking forward to weaving in all those ends. Can you spot the discontinued yarn color I accidentally left on a plane halfway through? #iknit #knitting #sewcialists
I am NOT going to think about weaving in all those ends. And I have made piece with my paltry three sweaters per year knitting average (counting baby sweaters). Can you spot which color of discontinued yarn I lost on a plane?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tri-State Area Casting Call for The Sewing Bee (American Edition)

I'm sure you've seen this on other sewing blogs, but just in case... The Sewing Bee (American edition) has put out a casting call for the tri-state area, looking for applications ASAP--click on the the above flyer for details.

I loved the British version of the show—it was fast-paced and competitive, but still KIND (as opposed to cutthroat) and focused on home sewers, not aspiring fashion designers.

The American one is going to have a somewhat different format that actually makes it easier to participate—each episode will have a new set of competitors, so filming for each person chosen will only be for a few days.

Anyone else planning to apply?

P.S. In other not-sewing news, just a gentle reminder to check out my new recipe blog, Safe & Scrumptious From Scratch. It does have a food-allergy-free focus (no dairy, nuts, sesame, eggs, or mustard), but the recipes (like my no-nuts Nutella substitute or black bean, potato and pepper tacos) should be tasty enough for EVERYONE to enjoy.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My other (new) blog about food allergies: Safe & Scrumptious From Scratch!

For over a year, I've been burning to write and do more about my daughter's food allergies. My little girl is the center of my world, and I cannot count the number of hours I spend dealing with and thinking about food allergies. I did consider just including more cooking posts here at Polka Dot Overload, as many other fabulous sewing bloggers do... but food-allergy cooking is so specific, I felt like most of you would just rather hear mostly about yarn and fabric.

So I finally found a little time to muck around in WordPress and set up a dedicated home for all those ideas, recipes and thoughts... Safe & Scrumptious: Allergy-Free Life on a Budget (No Dairy, Eggs, Nuts, Sesame or Mustard). It's not much yet—just an about page and some simple recipes for sesame-free faux-hini sauce and allergen-free hot cocoa, but I have oodles of post and recipes in the queue.

I'd love if some of you readers dropped by to take a look ... and please do tell any friends you might have who deal with similar allergies or dietary restrictions. My recipes are all free of dairy, eggs, tree nuts, sesame and mustard. Most are also free of peanuts, fish, and shellfish. Some are free of soy. Many foods featured will be plant-based or vegan and lowfat. But please note that I do bake and cook a lot with wheat and gluten-containing products, so my new blog might not be of much interest to those with celiac or gluten intolerance.

Things may stay a little quiet around here for a bit, but I'm not abandoning ship and I definitely have some sewing and knitting projects in the works. Do come by and say hello at my new home!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Knitting again: Knotty cabled chartreuse gloves (in progress)

Knotty cabled gloves in progress (in chartreuse merino sock yarn)

My cheap and flimsy acrylic gloves have NOT been serving me well this winter, and after getting horribly cold and soggy fingers while sledding with my daughter last week, I decided to take matters into my own hands. This beautifully cabled design is the free Knotty gloves pattern by Laris Designs. The eye-searing chartreuse yarn is Studio Avenue 6 Bellweather Sock in the "Spring" colorway. (See my Ravelry project details if you so choose).

Knotty cabled gloves in progress (in chartreuse merino sock yarn)

The cables are super pretty, but I will admint I had to rip back and reknit these about three times so far due to lopsided chart-reading mishaps whilst watching the last season of True Blood with my husband late at night. (Clearly, it is all the fault of those vampires, fairies and fairy vampires).

My winter-glove-making timing may seem a bit off, but as I type this it is snowing outside my Brooklyn window. I'm sure I will finish them JUST as soon as they are not actually needed any more this season.

Monday, February 24, 2014

My New Obsession: Crafting Food

Homemade sourdough rye wheat batards and chocolate spread to bring to sewing club.

Sourdough rye and whole wheat batards and homemade chocolate almond bean spread, ready to bring to sewing club

I'm never fully happy without some kind of craft/make/do obsession taking hold of my brain and hands, so the months I spent healing from carpal tunnel and having to pretty much leave my hands alone were Not Easy.

But things are super good with my hands, wrists, arms and shoulders now (thanks to lots of rest, voice dictation software, meditation, restorative yoga and most especially some intensive classes in the Alexander Technique) and lately I've been MAKING and DOING and CRAFTING up a storm.

There's been some knitting (the Delancey cardigan and Knotty gloves—pictures soon!)... but mostly, I've been crafting from-scratch food: baking, scoring, stirring, pickling, pizza-broiling, fermenting, stewing, dumpling-making, miso-souping, sushi-making, kale-chip-dehydrating ... and all without any of my daughter's food allergens--dairy, eggs, tree nuts (except almonds and coconuts), sesame and mustard. Whew!

It all started with a small jar of sourdough starter gifted to me by a friend who makes fresh bread each week. It sat in my fridge for a few months and I assumed it was dead, but when I took it out and fed it, it quickly came back to life. And then it made some bread babies! My first attempts tasted good, though they didn't look quite right (the slashes weren't opening up, anyway):

First attempt at pain au levain sourdough bread... Think my slashing needs some work. Vegan sourdough English muffins are rising in background.

But now I've gotten into a sourdough groove, and I usually bake one or two whole-grain sourdough loaves each weekend, mostly from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, which I initially got from the library but finally had to buy when I reached the max number of renewals. (He also has a Craftsy class on artisan baking, but it's mostly white bread, I believe). Here's a much prettier sourdough rye boule with sunflower seeds:

sourdough rye sunflower seed bread

We also have been sticking with our Very Strict Budget, which prohibits eating out more than once a month... and getting very sick of eating the same few allergy-free recipes over and over (my daughter is so allergic she even reacts to tiny amounts of contamination in foods that are made in the same factory as her allergens, so I have to call companies before purchasing anything packaged. We have one safer brand of pasta, one safer brand of ketchup, one safer brand of... you get the idea.)

There are just so many things she had never, or rarely eaten, and so in the evenings, I've been making them. Take falafel sandwiches. There are no safe pita breads or falafel mixes I can buy, and tahini sauce contains her most deadly allergen--sesame. Enter homemade baked falafel from scratch, homemade whole wheat pita bread, homemade fake-tahini sauce (I used Barney Butter almond butter), and homemade pickled red onions:

Falafel feast (minus the sesame)

Falafel feast (minus the sesame)

And when I made banh mi sandwiches (from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen), I had to make the baguettes as well. And the pickles. Etc:

Homemade Banh Mi sandwiches

Sadly, there is no natural light in my kitchen, so most of my photos are crappy low-light Instagram shots. And I didn't even document the sushi or the miso soup or the red beans and rice or the amazing steamed buns and veggie dumplings I've made so far from Asian Dumplings (also by the amazing Andrea Nguyen, who has Craftsy classes on pho and dumplings to boot)... they pretty much disappeared into my family's mouths instantly.

I've also been baking/making tons of vegan (and nut-free and sesame-free) sweet things, from banana bread and maple drop cornmeal biscuits to fruit leather and scones and waffles and English muffins.

Yes, I have a problem (you can tell from my Pinterest habits of late), but... making food is fun. AND it saves money. AND I get to eat my favorite things ever. While having fun and saving money. And eating dumplings.

I'm almost embarrassed to show you these blurry poorly-lit photos but trust me, this stuff was yummy:

Vegan chocolate coconut pudding (from Vegan Soul Kitchen) ... Daughter loved it, never had chocolate pudding before. #vegan #allergyfree

Vegan chocolate pudding with Enjoy Life chocolate chips and shaved coconut, from Vegan Soul Kitchen

Squares of homemade fruit leather: mixed berry and apple mango. #vegan #allergyfree

Mixed berry and apple mango fruit leather

Vegan chocolate chip cookie perfection... Chewy and delicious, from the book Vive le Vegan! #vegan #allergyfreebaking

Also: the best vegan chocolate chip cookies.

Z enjoying her homemade vegan allergy-free apple crisp with frozen vanilla soy cream #fb #allergyfreebaking

Daughter-approved vegan apple crisp with vanilla Soy Delicious frozen dessert

So... anyone else obsessed with making edible crafts? Or would that cut too much into sewing and knitting time?

P.S. In case you were curious ... we do eat and cook with some very small amounts of meat and fish and poultry, but I currently aim for most meals to be mostly plant-based (and we can't even keep eggs in the house, they're so dangerous for my kiddo), and for a large number of meals to be totally free of animal products... it's better for the environment, and for my cholesterol (which went downhill after a several month cheese binge).

P.P.S. Actually, my daughter has been sewing more than I have lately. Check out her first sewing sampler (done with my advice, but not my actual hands-on help—I just showed her once, then watched and answered questions):

Trying out some appliqué. #mytoddlersews #isew

Learning to sew on buttons. #mytoddlersews #isew

Sewing her first sampler. #isew #mytoddlersews #fb

Not bad for a three-year-old!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Peace, Love and Joy to you for 2014!

Wishing you all love, peace, joy and lots of crafty goodness and makerly awesomeness for the New Year!

My sore hands and wrists are healing up briskly (more on that later... I have some good tips) and I am really looking forward to getting back to making things soon (though I do admit I have enjoyed doing excessive amounts of yoga and catching up on lots of good books in the meantime).

P.S. Don't you just love those red cowgirl boots on Z? (Thanks to Lee's daughter for outgrowing them before wearing them out... Z is three but a GIANT and wearing six year old shoes.)

P.P.S. Also, of course my amazing mom made Z's matching dress and headband.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Selling Colette & vintage patterns on eBay, starting at $1

Hi all--I'm still having carpal tunnel issues and can't get back to regular posting and crafting just yet... but for those of you who can, I've done a little destashing and have some never-used Colette Patterns, vintage repro patterns, suits and cashmere sweaters (the latter two categories were in vacuum storage bags from a previous more-formal job) up on eBay... all auctions starting at $1, and some with free shipping!

Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Coraline / Zoraline costume (+ carpal tunnel and RSI struggles)

"Zoraline" and her little me (Z as Coraline from her favorite movie of the same name)
Little Z dressed as Coraline (or "Zoraline") for Halloween, complete with her button-eyed "little me" doll, yellow raincoat and a blue afro wig
Hi all! Sorry for the silence but I've been suffering from some incredibly painful carpal tunnel and other RSI (repetitive stress injuries) from too much computer use and have to severely limit time on the keyboard/mouse (and all other hand activities as well, from baking to washing dishes to sewing to reading blogs) for the next few months.

Don't worry—I'm keeping myself busy learning how to use voice dictation software (which is how I'm writing this post!) going to physical therapy, practicing yoga, exercising, taking long walks and listening to lots and lots of audiobooks. Meanwhile my wonderful husband has been doing pretty much all the housework, and three-year-old Z has been helping even more than previously—measuring and mixing the waffle batter, cleaning up her Duplos, putting away her laundry, and getting herself dressed and undressed, no matter how finicky the buttons and zippers.

All of this obviously put a damper on my Halloween sewing plans, but my amazing mom came to the rescue. Z wanted to dress as "Zoraline" (inspired by the character "Coraline" from her—and my–favorite movie) so my mom made Z a "little me" doll for her costume. These were the inspiration images:
Coraline inspiration image, with yellow raincoat and little me doll

She didn't make the entire doll from scratch—it was a doll Z already had, but my mom sewed a little yellow raincoat and glued on some blue hair (aka leftover sock yarn) and button eyes (from an old sweater):

My mom working on turning one of Z's dolls into a Zoraline doll for Halloween.
None of Z's preschool classmates had any idea who she was supposed to be (I think this rather scary movie is intended to be for ages 11 and up, oops!) but she was just thrilled. Thanks Mom!

P.S. If you're interested in the voice dictation software, I HIGHLY recommend it. You can do pretty much everything on your computer or smartphone nearly hands-free, from sending email and text messages to searching the web to writing essays (though not drawing and PhotoShop or graphic design and such) without even touching it.

The best Mac voice software in my experience so far is Dragon Dictate (though I hear it's more expensive and not as good as the PC version, Dragon Naturally Speaking), and on my Android phone I use a combo of Dragon Mobile Assistant (free!) and the built-in Google Voice Search software (also free).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I want my kid to be able to make or fix EVERYTHING

Little hands helping Mommy tape together her sewing pattern. #isew #mytoddlersews

Little hands helping me tape together my sewing pattern

I want my daughter to be able to make, fix and understand EVERYTHING.

I don't want her to think she has to SHOP her way out of problems or challenges: I want her to know she can DIY, not BUY. I want her to know she can produce, not just consume.

I want to teach her self-reliance and self-confidence, not helplessness.

I want her to know that she is capable of making it or doing it or solving it herself.

When I was growing up, my parents made and fixed almost EVERYTHING themselves: they constructed and upholstered furniture, put in flooring and wiring, built a porch and installed skylights, gardened vegetables and fruits and canned them, fixed and customized computers ... my mom did photography and painted and sculpted and sewed and knit and quilted and baked elaborate amazing cakes, my dad built beds and tables and chairs and bookcases. (All while both working full-time as public school computer teachers).

And helping Mommy cut the pattern too. #isew #mytoddlersews

And always, always they tried to teach us.

Nowadays, I find myself wishing I had paid as much attention to my dad's teachings as my mom's — he would try to teach me how to build a bookshelf or install drywall or safely handle electrical wiring, but I really didn't listen. So I can paint, sew, knit, quilt and bake, but I can't repair a bicycle or fix a small appliance or design a computer network. Maybe next time I visit my dad I should ask for some lessons?

Little Z cut out the envelope all by herself. #mytoddlersews

Z cut out my Red Velvet Clutch pdf envelope all by herself!

Myself, whenever I am doing ANYTHING that is safe enough for Z to participate in, I let her if she is interested. She can't go near the pins and shears, but she can help me tape together sewing patterns and wind my yarn.


No, I won't get things done as quickly as if I did them myself and let her play with her blocks a few feet away. Yes, she sometimes unravels my knitting projects or puts too many chocolate chips in the cookies. Who cares? The pride on her face makes it all worth it:


Some of the things my husband and I are teaching her (or will teach her when she's ready) Sewing, knitting, quilting, baking, cooking, biking, painting, photography, cartooning, writing, graphic design, using a graphics tablet in PhotoShop — seriously:

Z using the Wacom tablet

Some of the things my parents (and my brother and sister-in-law) are teaching her: Gardening, carpentry, boating, fishing, farming (my brother has a farm in Maine)... spackling:


Here she is helping my dad (her Zadie) build a custom wall-to-wall bookshelf in her bedroom:


I think all of this is already having a big effect. Half the time when I try to help her with anything because I'm in a rush (like putting on her clothes or shoes) she says "No thank you Mommy, I can do it myself!" She also stomps around the house in her boots proclaiming "I am so brave and so strong, I can climb really tall ladders!"

Me Made May 23: Green and purple

Love you more than I can describe, my brave, strong, smart little girl!

P.S. The bookshelf in the above photo was built by my amazing dad, the sculpture of me and Masheka is by my amazing mom, and the skirt I'm wearing is by me.

So: What did your parents teach you to make? And if you have kids or plan to—what are you teaching them/will you teach them?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Red Velvet Collection Presale is on!

Oh hello... you know you want to sew me! I'm only $15.91 USD for a limited time or you can download me as a PDF right away for $14.47!

Red Velvet Collection—now on presale! 

And I just know you want to make all of my friends too... get all five of us as paper patterns for just $46.29 USD or download us right away as PDFs for $36.26.

Phew! I am so excited for the launch of these babies I can't even stand it. My husband Masheka and I are really proud of our work on the art and illustrations, and personally, I just can't wait to sew every one of these lovelies... maybe twice or three times, too!

Three of the PDFs from the Cake Patterns Red Velvet collection are already available for download, and the paper patterns will all be shipping in 2-3 weeks—at which time this lovely presale will be over.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dear Burda Style back issues: stop mocking me!

"Someday you might sew me... I looked really awesome on your friends!"

Dear Burda Style 2010 back issues falling off my bookshelves and spilling into my pattern drawer,

STOP MOCKING ME. I know I don't sew as often as some of your other lady friends, but it's not that I'm afraid of tracing or anything. 

It's just that well, you showed up EVERY SINGLE MONTH that I subscribed to you and some months I can't even pull out my sewing machine, never mind dive into a sea of criss-crossing colored lines and extract a stylish colorblocked knit dress.

And sometimes I leaf through you and circle ideas for things I might make someday, but then I don't, and I think you're laughing at me.

By the time you sent me the maternity-themed-issue above, I was already in labor (for FIVE days I might add, not that that's your fault or anything). What's up with that?

To be honest I've only ever sewn one Burda Style magazine pattern and it was awesome, but the experience of altering it for maternity and deciphering the binding instructions left me a little exhausted.

Please stop pretending that somehow, someday I am going to stand on the beach with the wind in my hair and say "oh, you know... I just traced up this Burda Style pattern last night and threw it together on my serger without making any mistakes. No big."

I just can't take it anymore. I know you are awesome and economical and have cool trench coats and unusual blouse construction and smarter, better fit than the Big Four and if I was a lot cooler, I would find the time to hang out with you.

But I just don't think we belong together anymore.

So yeah. I'm selling you all on eBay starting at $1 each. I hope you can find a faster friend who will trace you like there's no tomorrow.


P.S. Please don't be offended that I'm keeping my Ottobres.


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