Friday, March 30, 2012

How To Make a Cardigan from a T-shirt

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I keep a stack of t-shirts in my sewing room in various colors around my girls’ sizes. I stock up when they are on sale for a couple bucks—usually at the end of the season. This way I always have one on hand to embroider for them or for a birthday party they’re attending. Well, I just looked through my stack and noticed several size 7/8. That is too small for my girls now so I thought I’d turn some into cardigans for them. You don’t have to button up cardigans so it’s ok if they’re too tight. The undershirt does it’s job. Plus, layered clothes are so fun for girls. I plan on making me some as well. I’m all about layers too.

Find the center of your shirt by finding the center of the neckline and the center of the hem, draw a line with tailor's chalk. Cut the shirt open along this line. This shirt fulfilled it’s plain ol’  WalMart  t-shirt destiny and is ready to be made into a cardigan.

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Make some binding. Cut a 2” wide strip of fabric (enough to bind both sides of your shirt). Iron each side in half, then fold in half again and iron. Make sure the fabric is cut perpendicular to the grainline—you want the binding to stretch.

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“Sandwich” the front of the t-shirt between the binding as seen below. Secure with pins. When you get to the bottom, cut off with an excess of 1”. Fold those raw edges of binding up and then pin in place.

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Do this for both sides. Be careful not to stretch your t-shirt. I did this a little bit and now one side is longer than the other. But who will notice on my 8 year old daughter who can’t sit still?

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Choose a decorative stitch that isn’t too “busy”, like a zig-zag or stitch #719 on the Bernina 830—a simple scallop design.cardigan 6

Practice on a scrap of binding to make sure you like the width of your chosen stitch. Alter your stitch as necessary so that it will look good on your 1/2” binding.

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Begin by stitching on a scrap of fabric or stabilizer and slowly easing onto your neckline. This will prevent the sewing machine from jamming on the thick top edge of your fabric. Even on fancy machines like mine this will happen. I used my open embroidery foot so that I could see the stitching best.

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Remove the pins as you sew. Clip off the scrap of fabric once you are done.

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Decide where you want your buttonholes. Mark with pins. Remember that women’s buttonholes go on the right side of the body.

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Determine the length of your buttonholes, either by hand or have your ultra smart machine do it by holding up your button to the screen so that you can measure the length you’ll need your buttonholes.

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Sew your buttonholes, then sew your buttons on the other side by hand or by machine.

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Isn’t it cute? Not bad for 30 minutes of work. Well, 30 minutes if you have an automatic button-holer on your machine. It will take a little longer it you need to figure out the buttonholes on your own. Google “how to sew buttonholes” as I am too lazy to teach you that.

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Embroidery Stabilizers

I am by no means an embroidery stabilizer expert, however, I do a lot of embroidery and I can think of only a select few times where I wish I had used a different stabilizer. I stick with just a couple of brands and I hope that maybe you’ll learn something. I know there are many, many ways to stabilize, this is just what I do.

Basically, you need three types in your sewing room at all times—one for stretchy fabrics and one for woven fabrics and for napped fabrics.DSC_0343 copy

For stretchy fabrics I use PolyMesh by OESD. OESD is Bernina’s company and since I am a Bernina user and I’m always at the Bernina shop, that’s the brand I use. And I love it! I keep a roll of black (for dark tshirts) and a roll of white in my stash at all times. I use these for t-shirts or anything else that might stretch like jeans. It’s a cut away stabilizer which means just that. You cut away the excess when it is done stitching, as seen below:


And because this would be itchy on my daughter’s skin I like to iron on a a soft meshy cover called Gentle Touch Embroidery Cover Up. This is optional, but it covers all the itchies. For babies I would absolutely do this step. Here’s how it looks after the Gentle Touch is ironed on:


Cute huh? This my Winter Owl applique. All of my owl appliqués are found here.


Alright that’s enough about stretchy fabrics. Now onto the second stabilizer I always keep on hand. It’s also by OESD and it’s called Ultra Clean and  Tear. It tears away like a soft tissue and it’s so very, very nice. However, it you embroider a lot, it will get expensive. And if you are embroidering on mainly pillows or other items that do not need to be “soft” underneath the embroidered fabric, then I use Stitch and Tear. It’s cheap, and yes, it’s thick and crappy. But it does a fantastic job. It’s just not as fun to tear away as the Ultra Clean and Tear. And notice the price? $1.99 yard and with a 50% coupon at Joann that’s $1 a yard. You can’t beat that. I buy an entire 15 yard bolt with a coupon.  As you can see, I am all out right now!


Now here’s another shortcut, I patch my stabilizer. It’s wicked and sinful but guess what, I’ve never had a problem and it stretches your dollar even more. Here’s how I patch:

When I’m done with a piece of stabilizer I carefully tear out just the used middle and then I save this piece for my next project.


And then I only need a smaller piece to fill in that hole. It saves several inches and that means less waste goes in the garbage can.


Just use some adhesive spray and then rehoop.


See? My scribbled roses (modified version) turned out just fine with the cheapskate patch method. No problemo!

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If you want to make badges like these buttonhole flowers then stick to two layers of Ultra Clean and Tear or two layers of Stitch and Tear. You’ll actually have to cut away the Stitch and Tear as it doesn’t tear very ‘clean’. You can find a tutorial on these patches by clicking here.

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buttonhole flowers and hearts (6)

And those are the essentials. Now if you are going to do really lightweight embroidery, something that just your sewing machine is able to do, like simple lines or redwork, you can use a wash away, or you can just stick with the tear away as mentioned above. (See first photo in this post.) I would only use a wash away on something simple like redwork.

Wash away would be fine for the main stabilizer on this turtle on a woven fabric:

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Or as the main stabilizer on this skirt which has the Linked Rings design:

linked rings

The other time you would use wash away stabilizer is as a secondary stabilizer on top of a “napped” fabric like corduroy, towels, or pique knit—something that is bumpy or has a pile. You would use your regular stabilizer underneath (either tear away or cut away)  and then the Wash Away on top. That is exactly what I did on this pink bib as the bib was made of terrycloth. It’s embroidered with my Edwardian Script. By the way, these bibs are purchased here, love them!

edwardian script 2

There is more to say about stabilizers, but these are the basics. You need one for stretchy (cut away), one for woven fabrics (tear away) and one for napped fabrics. Happy Stitching! If you like any of the designs pictured here, please visit my website at

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Bread IS Life

I’ve been on a obsessive bread baking binge this week. I’ve been on the quest to make gorgeous and delicious rustic breads—sourdough, ciabatta, and rustic italian bread. Oh my, it’s all so good. I’ve been using my favorite baking book (I gotta quit blogging about this book) as well as the stinkin’  fabulous cooking school membership that I won over at America’s Test Kitchen.

bread book

The lesson at the cooking school was invaluable in helping me make ciabatta. Everybody in my little household loved the bread. It was heaven. And better than any ciabatta I’ve ever had before. Seriously. Chewy and tasty. Just look at the texture and the chewiness? I was near giddy. I should get out more.




I usually shun recipes that make you start mixing ingredients the day before. I need instant satisfaction. I need to be able to have a thought about something yummy and be able to eat it within a few hours at the most. But I am a new convert to making the biga (or starter) the night before. Then finishing the bread the next day. The flavor is just too good to pass up. I was surprised that it only took 2-3 minutes to make the starter the night before. (The sourdough starter, however, takes 2-3 days.) Sometimes my laziness even surprises me. Heaven forbid I take a commercial break from watching Stephen Colbert to do some work.

Here’s my rustic Italian loaf. In the immortal words of Bernie Mac, “Did you see that America?”

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With bread this good, I only needed a salad to make the perfect meal. (Dang this stupid blurry photo!)

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Lastly, the sourdough was yum-yum as well. I used the recipe “My First Sourdough” from the heavenly blue book shown above. Although I am disappointed at how flat mine is. I used the amount of the flour called for in the recipe but obviously it wasn’t enough to hold a nice round loaf. No matter, we made awesome turkey sandwiches with the bread. I want that true “San Francisco” sour, which it didn’t have, but it was still sour. My daughter Ilene said it tasted like their was cheese in the bread. I had to agree—it tasted just a little sour/tangy like good feta or bleu cheese. The quest continues. Nice bubbles and craggy crust though, huh?


I’m hooked on making these rustic loaves. How could anyone ever give up carbs? Crazy folk.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Belgian Waffles

For 17 years Paul and I have been making these Belgian Waffles. I’m not sure how “Belgian” they are but Paul lived in Belgium for a couple of years, he speaks Dutch (he lived in the Flemish region), and therefore that makes him the closest person in my life that can authenticate these waffles. It’s probably not saying much, but hey, that’s good enough for me. Because these waffles are so, so, very good. Light, fluffy, yeasty, and crispy.

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I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you how I got this recipe. It’s bad and wicked. When we were newlyweds in 1995 we were still college students at BYU. We were poor kids that’s for sure. We lived in the crustiest basement apartment with an avocado green toilet and bathtub and my knuckles would scrape the ceiling when I’d shampoo my hair. The floor was uneven and there was a tootsie pop stuck in the corner of the carpet courtesy of the previous owners that never came out. The place was $300 a month. We didn’t have a TV and guess what, we didn’t care. We were blissful newlyweds who together made $800 a month at our on-campus jobs.

Explaining all this doesn’t excuse what I did. We were on the hunt for a yeasty Belgian waffle recipe and this was before the internet as we know it. So we went to a bookstore and scoured cooking books. I found one that sounded promising. So instead of buying the book, I copied down the recipe in my notebook. Gasp. What a bottom feeder. Looking back I think it was the Joy of Cooking but I’ve looked in my copy of Joy of Cooking (yes, I eventually paid for the book) and I don’t think this is exactly it—although they could’ve revised it in my copy. Either way, I adore this recipe. Make sure you have a deep-well waffle iron to make these.

After you make the batter you’ll gently fold in the egg whites that you’ve beaten to soft peaks. You still have a few white streaks from the egg whites, and that’s ok. It’ll look like this:

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Cover and let the batter rise at least half an hour if not more. Your kids will love them. So will you. Please top them with fruit and real cream and avoid crappy pancake syrup.

Click here for recipe.


Friday, March 09, 2012

I Won! I Won!

Gasp. I won. I won a scholarship to the America’s Test Kitchen cooking school!!

Oh, that’ so sweet of you to be so happy for me! And you should be. Because I’ve never won a dang thing in my entire life. Not even a cheap made-in-China stuffed animal from those ‘claw’ machines at disgusting pizza parlors owned by large gray mice named Chuckie. Nope, lucky is not my middle name.

But today it is. I was in Costco today when I received an email that made me so giddy I had to pull over at the disgusting cheesecake section. (Please don’t tell me you like Costco cheesecake. Do not.)

I saw this post last week and thought, what the hay, why not enter?

Maybe when they picked me they knew I had just on Wednesday made their recipe for Lemon Sugar Snack Cake. (Recipe found in their Family Baking Book or click here.) My friends loved it, my kids loved, and I ate three pieces, so obviously I loved it.  This is my new gotta-have-cake-right-now-to-shove-in-my-face cake to make. Stupid tight pants.

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Or maybe they had a crystal ball and looked deep into the orb and saw that I own way too many of their cook books. And that for nearly ten years I’ve been making their Chicken Pot Recipe which has given me rock star status with friends and family.

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best recipe

Maybe they knew that all I’ve been doing lately is cooking from their Best of 2012 magazine because my daughter has been home-bound after her surgery. Go get this magazine now (I got mine at Costco and it should be displayed until March 26th, says the cover) and try the buttermilk baked chicken, garlic knots, creamy orzo, eggplant casserole, boston cream pie, 7-layer dip, and especially the chickpea cakes with the worlds greatest cucumber raita sauce I’ve ever had. I even asked Paul to make the buttered carrots and he has become a pro at them. He’s made them three times. Giddy-up. (Shhh…don’t tell my kids that sometimes I put my shoes on the couch. When they buy a couch, they can put their shoes on it.)

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And maybe they just had a feeling that I’m super cool despite what my high school boyfriend said. Oh wait, I didn’t have a high school boyfriend. See, I never won anything!! Either way, stay tuned, I’ll get a guest post on their blog in May to talk about what I’ve learned.


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