Monday, March 15, 2010

Bonjour! Je m'appelle Gigi.

I'm new to the neighborhood. When I signed up for this gig, I knew that it wasn't Paris, but come on. There's no great architecture. No boutiques. No sidewalk cafes. No men. Mon Dieu! I didn't know that I would be so lonely. Do you know that the girls at Dior have their own room? Yes, a room just for models. I can only wish. I have to share space in the atelier flou. Kind of hard to relax with all that fabric taking up space and the machines humming. There's no room to sit.

You will have to excuse my hokey undergarments. I'm kind of embarrassed about them. The gals over at Project Runway have expensive undergarments. Why can't I have designer lingerie like they have? I can just hear my parental unit now saying "If the other girls were jumping off the Oneida Street bridge, would you do it also?" Oh well. I've been told that there are good things to come. That is the important thing about a model. It's how I show and sell the garment. It's not about what I'm wearing underneath. I'm anxious to get this show on the road. I can't wait to see what I'll be modeling. I hope you're in the front row. By the way, is there a chocolat shop around here? I simply adore chocolat.

À bientôt.


Books for the Library

Last week, the UPS man dropped off a book order. I had read about Claire Shaeffer's book on couture sewing. I thought that there would be some information in this book while working on Whitney's bridal gown. Once I opened up this book, I was having a hard time putting it down. Claire Shaeffer brings you into the ateliers of London, Paris and Rome. There are pictures of the innards of couture items so you can actually see what is inside a garment. There are many pictures of couture garments from great design houses like Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy. There is even a picture of an incredible House of Worth ball gown that is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I don't know how many people out there in sewing land recognize the name of Charles Worth. He is one of the great designers of the Victorian age. He is known as the "father" of haute couture.

I wasn't so sure about purchasing this book because I had read a couple of reviews about the book being dated. That is so not true. How could a picture of a 1950's Dior dress be dated? Or a Chanel jacket? The couture techniques presented certainly aren't dated.

I think this is a terrific reference book to keep on hand for anyone interested in sewing high fashion.

The other book that arrived from Amazon that day is brand spanking new. The book is called Sewing Clothes Kids Love. This is written by Nancy Langdon of Studio Tantrum/Fledge fame. I have been dying to sew the Feliz dress from Studio Tantrum. The delay is that I have to go the mail order route. Plus, there are no 99 cent pattern specials when ordering from the independent pattern companies. I believe that the Feliz runs about $15-16 for the pattern. Feliz means "happy" in Spanish. I can't imagine any little girl not feeling dizzily happy wearing a colorful Feliz dress.

I was surfing the sewing boards about a month ago and there was scuttlebutt that there was a new book coming out that included the Feliz. There are actually 10 patterns in this book. So the book cost under $17 I think and I have 10 patterns. The book is hard cover and spiral bound. On the front cover is a very thick envelope that stores the patterns.

Nancy Langdon's business, Studio Tantrum/Fledge eventually became associated with the German company Farbenmix.

Nancy's book will take you thru how to measure children, adjusting for plus-size children, embellishing, sewing for boys and even how to make a duct tape dummy for children. This book falls under the category of Fun!

A Superb Mail Day

I've been putting off ordering an Ottobre magazine for over a year now. The price was kind of a turnoff. A whopping $18.00. I finally bit the bullet and so excited to have this little treasure under my roof. Ottobre is a pattern company out of Finland. The children's issue is published four times a year and the adult issue is published two times a year. Ottobre is similar to other European patterns. You will need to trace the size that you want onto Swedish Tracing paper or paper of your choice. Also, the seam allowances aren't included.

I had seen some kids clothes on the internet that were from the Summer 2006 issue. I decided to start with a back issue because I really liked the patterns and didn't want to loose out with this being a back issue. I love the designs in this magazine even though I ordered one that was four years old. I guess that gives you a clue on the trendiness of the European designers. They are setting the bar for the rest of us.

I would say that the magazine has more patterns for girls than for boys. This issue didn't really trip my trigger so much for boys but I've been impressed with other issues so I feel confident enough to recommend the magazine to other people who sew for boys.

Don't you agree that these designs are just too Euro-Cute! I don't think that I'll be making anything anytime soon. My cutting table is full and begging me to get into production mode so it can be cleaned off. Hopefully soon, I get to experience the true delight of stitching up one of these designs. Oh, and by the way, even though the price of the magazine seems a little stiff, there are 40 patterns included in this magazine.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Adjusting a Dress Form

I spent considerable time researching and deciding what would be the best option for a dress form for the bridal gown. I so, so wanted a professional dress form but realistically, the cost was too high. The professional models will start around $450.00. One of the big benefits would be that draping and pinning would be easier. The model would be heavier and sturdier. The downside is that it's a one size only so with all three girls being different sizes and heights, I wouldn't be able to use a pro model for the other two girls. So after much debating, I decided to go with My Double Deluxe by Dritz in a small size.

What I decided to do it to adjust the dress form to be a couple of inches smaller in size than Whitney. I then took quilt batting to increase the size to her measurements. The human body is not hard like the hard plastic shell of the dress form. So I wanted the form to be a little soft to mimic the body. I also needed to be able to pin on the form. I'm hoping that this helps.

My friend Donna suggested that I use blue painters tape to close up the gap in the dress form. The only thing that isn't quite right is the shoulder to waist measurement. The dress form separates at the waist but I don't think that I can increase this, at least I haven't figured that out. Luckily, we are not too far off. Whitney said it creeps her out to see the form wearing her bra!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Playing with Fabric

A couple of weeks ago, I was playing around with some silks and lace. I really don't have time to be playing but I wanted to start the visualization process on Whitney's bridal gown. The fabrics that are shown are not the fabrics in her gown.

We are still tweaking the design somewhat. But I wanted to see how the look changed when I moved the lace around.

Ok, enough playing. Back to work.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mineral Make up Part One

I'm a mineral makeup convert. I had worn Clinique foundation for years but wasn't happy with it. But, I was even less happy with other brands of makeup. Then about three years ago, I was diagnosed with basal cell skin cancer. The cancer was deep and it was on my face. When I was first told what was going on and the Mohs surgeon told me I would have a scar after surgery, my statement to him was that's fine, I'd rather be well than not well. Well, I didn't quite have the same reaction after surgery. I had a huge scar on my face. My surgeon actually did an excellent job but I was having trouble dealing with it. I kind of went into mid-life crisis mode. No, I didn't have an affair or go drinking on weekends. I hit the internet. I started searching for foundations and scar treatment. I don't mind looking my age but I didn't need to look older than I am. I then discovered mineral makeup. It so happened that my quilting friends and I had seen the Bare Minerals display at Sephora when we were in Chicago. We all came home with a kit. At first, the Bare Minerals had unbelievable performance. But as time went by, I didn't think the coloring was right on me. That is one issue that I have with Bare Minerals. They are very limited on the foundation shades. With more research, I discovered there were tons of small, unknown mineral makeup companies out there. I started ordering samples to test out the formula and coloring. When I'm not wearing my foundation, I use the foundation from Meow Cosmetics.

With so much time on the internet, I then discovered that people were learning how to make makeup at home. My initial thought was "this is so cool, but no way in hell would I be able to do that". Eventually, I decided that I could probably make eye shadow, blush and mineral veil. I'm still thinking "no way in hell am I going to learn to make foundation". The really funny thing was that after I had all my supplies on my counter, I started with the hardest thing first, foundation. I have yet to make eye shadow or blush even though I have lot's of mica colors to mix. So that is the story of how this hobby started. Let me show you how it's done.

I first need to talk to you about the supplies. Later, we will move into the actual making of makeup. Besides your ingredients, a really important item to your success is a good grinder. There are lots of different things to use. Some people use small blenders, tobacco grinders, coffee grinders. My two favorites are my Braun stick blender and the Magic Bullet. In the picture, you can see how discolored the handle is to my Braun mixer. This is from the oxides that I use. Several years ago, my husband got this blender for my for Christmas. After researching what to mix my ingredients with, I came up with this. I can tell you my husband wasn't thrilled with my use of the stick blender. He told me "I bought that for you to make me meals, not to make makeup!" Well, that didn't stop me. I kept using it. After all, it was under my roof and available, why go out and buy something different. Plus it did a good job with the tough task of mixing the red oxides. Well last year for Christmas, the girls and Jeff were at the mall wandering around, trying to figure out what to get me. One of the girls spies the Magic Bullet. They pretty much all agreed that I needed this for my makeup. So I might be the only person in America that has their Magic Bullet in their craft room and not their kitchen!

Let's talk ingredients now. We need a couple of things to happen. We have to have color (oxides). We have to have a way to get that color applied to the face (fillers). We have to keep the makeup on the face (adhesion). We can choose to correct some things, like oily skin, dry skin, mature skin. So what I need to do is to think about the characteristics of the individual's skin when I start to put the recipe together. Some of the ingredients that I don't use are French talc, cornstarch and bismuth oxychloride. Bare Minerals uses the bismuth as one of their fillers. This ingredient is a sharp, heavy mineral. The bismuth is the reason why you need to do so much buffing with a brush. You are actually trying to buff the foundation into your pores to hold it on your face. Many people also have issues with itchiness and sweating with bismuth. There are some concerns about talc and lung issues. I really don't have any issues using this for myself but because I make makeup for my sisters and some others, I decided not to use it. My choices of ingredients aren't superior to others, just my powders of choice. These work well for me and my recipes.

Now for the white powders. I'm sure that if my package ever busted open at the post office, I would probably have some explaining to do. Whitney made a comment one day about all the suspicious bags of white powder appearing in our mailbox.

The colorants that are used are iron oxides. These are heavily pigmented and can stain your clothes, kitchen counter, etc. The oxides can be used in just about all types of makeup, eye shadow, blush, foundation, veil. On their own, they can be kind of blah, but you can add some zing by adding mica's. I'm going to save eye shadow ingredients for another day.

The only other tool I need is a popsicle stick. I use this to cut the oxides and blend them together. Now that we've have our tools assembled, we are ready to make makeup. Onward to part two.

Mineral Makeup Part Two

Now that we have all of our supplies assembled, now the fun starts. The first thing that we do is to lay down pieces of wax paper to protect the surface from our oxides. These are intense colors and they can stain.

What I'm doing is starting to add the different colored oxides to get ready to blend. The goal is to achieve a "brown" color. Yes, you can buy a few different shades of brown oxides, but this gets me closer to the type of brown that I need. Some women have a peachy complexion, some very yellow, some pink, you get the picture.

I take my little popsickle stick and I start to cut in the colors. I've also added a little of TO2, Titanium Dioxide with a little mica to help the blending process. You can see now, with my yellow, red-blue, red, green, ultramarine blue, I've achieved a "pink" brown. I will use the black oxide if I the shade is correct but I need to darken it. One year, we met my sisters Jodi and Karen in Iowa for a weekend camping spree. I brought all my supplies and proceeded to make mineral makeup at the picnic table. It was difficult to get the coloring right for my sisters out in the Iowa sun. I sent Jodi home with a little baggie of black oxides just in case the color was too light under her lights. Later on, she gave it back to me. She said she was too scared to use it. It does look a little frightening but I've never added too much black. Now red is another problem. Red oxides are harder to mix. It's quite easy to get little red streaks in your makeup.

I've added my base ingredients to my Magic Bullet. There are maybe nine different ingredients in my veil or finishing powder in addition to the oxides. Ingredients that I use are Kaolin clay, pearl powder, silk powder, silica microspheres, magnesium sterate, boron nitride, calcium carbonate, rice powder and zinc oxide. The batch I'm whipping up here is for my boss Connie and she has sensitive skin. So I skip the rice powder and the zinc oxide and try to limit the kaolin clay. Each ingredient has it's role to play. It could be used for slip, adhesion, filler, oil absorption, UV ray protection, etc. Mineral makeup foundation uses pretty much the same ingredients except different ratios. The veil is more translucent. I also add more silk powder and pearl powder to my mineral veil. Before I turn on the blender, I add a little spritz of water to the blender to help keep down all the flying powder.

I slowly start to add my blended oxides. I add a little scoop at a time. Remember when I told you that red oxides are difficult. This help me to get them blended. I go slowly and add a small scoop at a time. Hopefully by proceeding slowly, this will eliminate going too dark.

Connie's mineral veil is finished. Her original batch is in a small container that I've used to compare with. I need to purchase a scale to be more accurate. Ingredients really should be weighed not just scooped out. There can be a lot of variance with the color. The two batches were actually very close in coloring. The camera flash kind of distorted the color a tad.

Lenten Recipes

I added a new recipe to our Lenten repertoire. I found this on the internet last week. It is from Gourmet magazine. It sounded good and it looked good. I was game to try it. Whitney was over for dinner and both she and Jeff gave this dish a thumbs up. It goes together quickly. Let me tell you that the aroma of the pine nuts and garlic simmering in the olive oil and butter makes you stop and take notice of what is happening in the kitchen.

The second recipe that I have for you is an old, family Lenten favorite. Every year, the first graders in the school of Religion would get a hunk of pretzel dough and shape their dough. All three daughters made these pretzels in first grade, then for several years, I was a first grade Catachist at St. Bernards so I made them each year with my students. Pretzels go back to the early days of the church. People would abstain from meat and all forms of animal products. The pretzels were then a simple bread to eat during Lent. In addition, a young Italian monk shaped the dough to mimic crossed arms in prayer. Lauren has asked me to send her this recipe for the last two years. About a week ago, I received an email from her asking me once again to send her the recipe. So I've included the pretzel recipe for all of you to enjoy. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture to share with you with the homemade pretzels.

Penne Rigate with Mixed Greens and Pine Nuts
1 lb penne rigate
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 (8 to 10 oz) bags of mixed salad greens with radicchio (often labeled Italian)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for garnish

Cook penne in boiling salted water until al dente or according to package directions, then drain in a colander.

Combine butter, oil and pine nuts in cleaned and dried pot and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until nuts are pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Stir in greens and cook, stirring, until they wilt, about 3 minutes. Add penne, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Stir in cheese and serve immediately with additional cheese on the side.

**To reduce the start-to-finish time, cook the nuts,, garlic and greens in a separate pot while you boil the pasta.

**I only added one bag of mixed Italian greens and that seemed to be plenty. I went to the store without the recipe so I didn't know how much I needed to buy.

Soft Pretzels
1 pkg dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 egg
coarse salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add salt and sugar. Blend in flour. Knead dough until smooth. Cut into small pieces. Roll in ropes and twist into shape. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Brush pretzels with beaten egg. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Makes about 12 pretzels.