Fourth of July Borscht

For the fourth of July, we had a completely vegetarian dinner.  The star of the show was borscht, french style.  It turned out super sweet  and with a beautiful ruby color.  Here is Steve’s recipe:

3 medium beets, peeled

6 new potatoes

3-4 small carrots

1 cup purple cabbage

beef stock

5-6 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons of wine vinegar

sour cream

salt and pepper

Boil the vegetables until very tender. Discard the boiling liquid, put the vinegar and the vegetables including raw garlic into a food processor.  This is your base.  Taste it. Add salt and pepper. Pour the thick base into a sauce pan.  Add good beef stock, chicken stock or vegetable stock, to thin the vegetable puree to the consistency of a thick soup. Garnish with a tablespoon or two sour cream for each bowl.

It was delicious – enjoy!

Christmas star tutorial

I made this Christmas star on Christmas Eve over a year ago and I always meant to do a tutorial.  I figure it is probably the time to start Christmas projects if you are organized and don’t want to be crazy in December. (I prefer to start them in mid October so I can frantically be sewing all December and actually end up buying half of my gifts but that is just me.)  Finally, I included it in my ufos to jump-start myself and here goes:

Christmas Star Instructions


2 pieces of felt, store-bought squares work fine, but otherwise 12 inches square

2 pieces of silver fabric at least 10 inches square

2 pieces of gold fabric at least 10 inches square

one length of wire about 10 inches long or one length of ribbon about 6 inches long

2 paper templates; print from here : star pdf 2

White sewing thread

Sewing machine

Hand sewing needle





decorative metallic or rayon thread

machine embroidery needles

Step one:

Layer the metallic fabric, felt and then paper patterns with the pattern side up. Pin. Using the sewing machine, use a long straight  basting stitch following around the outer line of the big star of the star template. On the pdf pattern I made it is green. Sew right through paper, felt and metallic fabric.  

 Trim the metallic fabric about a quarter inch from the sewn line.  

Step two:

Next lay the other color of metallic fabric pieces on the felt side on top of each of the metallic star you already sewed. This is the felt side, not the paper side.  Make sure the second metallic fabric is centered over the red star on the other side.  You may pin it to make sure. Now, flip it over and sew through all layers on the paper side on the green line, again using a straight stitch. Trim this star to about an 1/4-1/8 inch. 

Step three:

On each of the stars separately, use a satin stitch to go around the edges of the metallic stars. A satin stitch is machine stitch that has a very short length and a wide width. Do this from the right side. You are covering up the raw edges.  If you wish, you may use metallic or rayon decorative thread.  If you use specialty thread, use a machine embroidery needle or metallic needle for best results.  Then trim the felt layer to about an inch.  Put the two trimmed stars together and trim the felt so they match leaving at least 1/2 inch edge of felt around the star.

Step five: 

Now pull any paper that is outside the outside line of satin stitching.  If you tear off paper inside that line also, don’t worry.  However, unless you plan to wash the star, you don’t need to tear off all the paper.

I made the sides opposite of each other, but you can make them the same. At this time, if you wish you can add embellishments like the small beads I added.


Baste the ends of the ribbon together to make a loop, and then to the back side of one of the stars. Now pin the star parts together, wrong sides together. Carefully straight stitch around the star about a quarter inch from the edge.  Try to stay on the felt, not the metallic fabric.

Tree topper:

Make a loop on one end of your wire, and position it as I have the screw.  You can make your loop by turning the wire around a pencil and then flattening it.  It doesn’t need to be as big as the screw. (Because of our particular Christmas tree, a screw works best, but for a natural tree a length of wire sewn partly inside with the part outside the star coiled will work better) Hand baste the loop end to the star using the picture as a guide.  Pin the stars together wrong sides together and sew around the stars about a quarter inch from the edge. Try to only sew on the felt not the metallic applique. Start about an inch from the where the wire emerges and end about an inch from where it emerges on the other side.  In other words, do not sew over the wire! If you are nervous, you can hand sew the whole thing. After you have machine sewn the star, hand stitch the area around the wire closed.  Bend the coils down so you can attach it to the tree tops.

how to make a shoe rack

Look at this wonderful shoe rack.  Now I know where my shoes are.  It’s much better than my old shoe box that I had to dig through to find the particular pair of shoes I wanted.  I want to share the joy so – here is my tutorial on how to make one.

First, trash pick a wooden bookshelf.  It should be real wood, but somewhat warped.  Sure, you could buy wood, but that would take all the challenge out of the project.

Second, use the awkward shelf with the wrong size shelves for several years until some wonderful friend gives you a beautiful microwave stand with doors to hide your biggest craziness. (Thanks again, Veronica!)

Third, tell your husband you don’t want it anymore so he takes the wonky thing apart.  (If you are a husband, this is your one and only chance to throw it out.)

Fourth, notice the wood and think, wow, I need a shoe rack.  Now that it is just wood, I could put it together better.  Cut the too long sides into the same size at the shelves so you have as many boards as possible to put together.  If you want to hurry up the process go to your hardware store.  They will cut boards for a dollar per each cut.  They will do it cheerfully without arguing that your idea will never work.  In fact, they will do it without even knowing why you want boards cut.

Five, ask your husband to make you a shoe rack.  Have the first argument about how it will never work, how the space you want to put it in is too small.  Demonstrate how it will fit with your newly cut boards. (This is why the crucial taking it to the hardware store step is so important and time-saving.) Threaten to just drive to Ikea and get the same thing for 50 bucks- but still needing to be assembled.

Six,  if you are lucky enough to have been married 20 years, go to work.  Come home completely surprised when you have new shoe rack.  This is the tricky part, if you have only been married 19 years you will have to watch the whole putting-together-part.  That is why it is best to be married 20 years.  I just discovered that when you put in the full 20 years of watching, you have paid your dues and you don’t have to watch any more. Just come home from work and Ta-Da! shoe rack!  Like shoe rack elves or fairies came to your house, except even better it is your awesome husband.

(If you haven’t paid your dues, you can sometimes use a small child to be the official watcher.  I say small child because anyone over 11 years old will just laugh at you and roll their eyes when you say, ” Why don’t you go help your dad?”)

Thank you, thank you, sweet husband for my awesome shoe rack!

new quilt for Paul

I have been working on a quilt for Paul for a while, gathering fabric.  I put together this block called Crow’s Beak yesterday.  If  you want to copy it the template and instructions are at Quilters’ Cache by Marcia Holn.  I will be altering the template myself.  The way she puts it together the last piece has to be inset.  I want to change that so it can just be sewn straight across without being inset.  My whole quilt will not be that pattern. I have so many different ideas for his quilt right now.

Here’s another block, unfinished, with a guitar I thread sketched.  You may be amazed by my awesome ability to thread sketch but there is a really easy trick to it. Get a photo or a drawing you like and then lay it on the back.  Stitch right through the paper following the drawing.  Remember to photoshop with mirror image it, if it has words. I usually drop my feed dogs and use a free motion embroidery foot. You have to be a little aware of your sewing machine tension when you do this since the bobbin thread will be the right side. When I’m done I rip the paper off.  I don’t worry too much about little paper shreds since they will be inside the quilt.

neckline alterations

As I get older (and a little heavier) I am noticing that shirts that fit well elsewhere, drive me crazy around the neck.  I remember my mom saying the same thing, so it is probably hereditary.  (Will they ever isolate the gene that makes a person feel like she is choking with any collar that rides above the collar-bone?) I can’t stand turtlenecks or mock turtlenecks, but even regular t-shirts make me feel like I am choking.  Here’s three ways to finish necklines.

This was actually Paul’s shirt.  He’s now big enough that I can fit his cast offs!  Anyway, I liked the tie dyed background.  The neck was just too tight. So I cut off the neck part plus a little extra.  Then I turned the edge under and sewed it with a wobble stitch.  A wobble stitch is a zigzag with a regular length and a width of one half.  It will be just enough stretch so the stitches won’t pop.  Since I sewed it really crooked and didn’t match my thread, I sewed twice around just as crooked to make it look like I did on purpose.

On this sweater, I did the same thing.  It was a mock turtleneck.  I felt like the neckline just made me look  heavy.  I cut off the turtleneck.  Then I tucked the edge under and hand sewed with perfectly matching thread.  I tried not to go through the front and I really ended with an invisible hem.  The neckline is now jewel.  It it acceptable, but I wish I would have made it a little deeper.  I make sure when I do hand sewing on knits that I no longer need the stretch. One way to do this is to make the neck hole large enough to put my head through without stretching so I don’t pop my stitches.

This third one is influenced by the Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin.  I used very thick thread in a contrasting color.  Again I just folded the edge under and sewed around the edge. Again, I made sure my neck hole was very big so my stitches won’t pop.

These are really simple changes that make my clothes a lot more comfortable.

reverse applique- tutorial

I am working  on a pink quilt.  It is a gift.  I won’t specify for who, but those in the know will know.  One of the blocks I have been playing with is a heart block.


I love to do random piecing and so I began by cutting a heart shape from paper and randomly piecing it.

Here’s the back:

Then I trimmed the fabric around the paper.

Then I laid the heart on a square the size of my finished block:  right side of heart to wrong side of fabric.

I straight stitched around the heart.  I stitched on the paper a quarter inch from the edge.

Then I flipped it over and cut away the fabric inside the stitching, being very careful not to catch my pieced heart underneath.

and the reveal:

The last step is to satin stitch over the raw edges.  I am planning on getting some varigated thread for this step.  Finally, I remove the paper.  If you wanted to have easier paper removal,  you could use a water soluble paper.

a interesting way to mend a spot

I seem to spill on my clothes a lot.  I try to put spot remover on the spots but sometimes they just don’t come out.  This technique would also work if you had a hole in a garment.

I  had spot on this striped tank.  Besides the spot, it was a great shirt good fit great colors. 

Here’s the spot:

It’s right in the middle front.  I thought about an applique.  I’m not really an applique girl.  I used to do it to mend my kid’s clothes but I am an adult.  I rarely even wear t-shirts with logos.  The only logos I wear is ironic logos ie A&W shirt or shirts that are so obscure that no one knows really what to make of them.

Anyway, the first step was to cut the spot out.  I cut a strip all the way through the shirt all the way around. This was easy because it was striped.  I could just follow the stripe around the garment. 

Then, I got a second shirt out. It was also spotted in several places but overall, except for its color, it didn’t have much going for it. I put it on and then layered the tank over the top.  Then, front of a mirror (or if you have an artist husband, in front of him), I moved the bottom part of the tank up and down until I had a pleasing amount of space between the two. I measured the space. Then I cut a strip from the second shirt to that width.  I sewed that strip in place of the strip I had cut out.  Then I had this:

Now when I do it next time, I will make the strip slightly smaller than the top I am inserting into. My strip does bubble a little bit.  But overall I love it.  It has an empire effect which is always great on me.  I just had validation of this from Tim Gunn’s new book: Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style (Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style) .  He recommends the empire waist for people with a belly.  This silhouette is in style now too.  However, many empire styles can make me look a little pregnant.  Because this top has no gathers, just a visual line at my skinniest spot it does slim me by drawing the viewer’s eye to it without adding bulk to my belly.

hole repair

 What can you do when a garment you really like gets a hole in it?  Of course, you can patch it but what if you make the repair a design element?  I love this shirt with its funky tie dyed background with a strange mystical symbol.  It also happens to be a unique color from my color chart.

However, it had two little holes one on each sleeve. 

So I marked a line on the sleeves from top to hem intersecting the hole. 

 I used this line as a fold line. After folding the fabric on that line, I ran a seam along  it about a quarter-inch from the fold.  You could use any width you wanted. You could put this seam on the inside, but I chose to put wrong sides together and make the seam a decorative element.   Then I cut open the seam.  You could press this seam open and have it lay flat.  You could run decorative a decorative stitch down the center, or press to one side and run a decorative stitch on that side.  I chose to do none of those things.  I like the ruffle edge of the cut edges.  Since it is knit it won’t ravel but after washing a few times it gets kind of wavy.

I may at some point bring the sides in a little on this t-shirt to make it more fitted.  I do this to a lot of t-shirts.  I’m not sure because I like the oversized comfort of it. 

Here’s the full look:

You can see that I made no effort to make the seams symmetrical.  You could try to do this, but I kind of like the rough unevenness of the finished garment.