Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the month “August, 2016”

BEST CHOCOLATE MOUSSE EVER!

Our household has a bit of a problem… none of us have that much of a sweet tooth, yet over the years we have acquired a significant amount of assorted chocolate candy (much of it in the form of overly-sweet dark chocolates that Raf gave me while wooing me, that we never finished.)  We love dark chocolate mousse, though, in small portions.  So we decided to make some chocolate mousse – using up all the old candy (some of it YEARS old and stale!!) we had. As we were making it (ok, let’s be honest, RAF did all the work, I just ate it!), everything was going wrong – the eggs didn’t become silky, the gelatin didn’t thicken, and we thought we had a disaster on our hands.  HOWEVER, luck smiled at us, and the mousse came out perfectly!!  The main thing to be aware of is that the flavor will vary, depending on what candy you use (there is no way we can duplicate this batch!), however, it’s a GREAT way to use up old chocolates that are stale and inedible!! (If you’re insane like me and don’t want to just throw them out).

I didn’t manage to get any in-process photos, because we thought it was a disaster, but here’s the, er, taste-tested, results:

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This recipe is based on a chocolate mousse recipe in the Dulce cookbook by Joseluis Flores.

Dark Chocolate Mousse – Made of Old Candy!

  • 6 oz (more or less) of chocolate candy – we used assorted spiced and flavored truffles, range of dark and milk
  • 3 oz of dark chocolate (more or less) – 100% cacao (the dark bitterness will balance the sugar of the other candies)  – NOTE: You want about 9oz, total, of chocolate.
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 of a 1/4-oz envelope unflavored gelatin powder
  • 2 Tbl rum, Kahlua, or other – we used caramel sea salt-flavored vodka
  • 1 pinch powdered cinnamon

Mousse Instructions:

Sprinkle the gelatin over the rum and let sit for 5 minutes.

In the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl and let cool.

Clean the double boiler well, set it again over the simmering water, add the eggs and sugar, and whisk for about 5 minutes until the mixture has doubled in volume.  It should be pale and thick – cook to the ribbon stage: When you lift the whisk out of the batter, the batter should flow from the whisk in smooth, even, ribbons.  Add the alcohol and gelatin mixture and heat until the gelatin dissolves.  Remove from heat and gently fold the mixture into the chocolate.  The result should look smooth and shiny.

In the bowl of an electric mixture, whisk the cream until soft peaks form.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate, until well-blended.  Scrape all of it into a bowl, cover, and chill for at least 2 hours, until it sets.

Dust the top with powdered cinnamon before serving.

NOTES: Don’t panic if the eggs don’t become silky, or the gelatin doesn’t set in the 5 minutes, or the cream doesn’t whip into soft peaks…. It came out delicious, light, fluffy, and airy, anyways!!

ALTERNATIVES: This would be delicious flavored with espresso, or burnt orange, or caramel sea salt, or burnt sugar, or….  Simply use flavored chocolates, flavored alcohol, etc.

 

Sewing Room Hacks…

DIY TRACING TABLE/LIGHT BOX:

One of the sewing groups I’m in had several members asking how to see the pattern lines under thicker tracing paper we sometimes use, like medical exam paper (a popular choice) and butcher paper.  Vintage patterns are especially prone to having faint lines that can be difficult for even the most eagle-eyed of us to trace accurately.  My friend Adrianna has the best, easiest, solution for this!!

She took 2 saw horses, stuck a glass table top from IKEA across the top of it, took two clamp-on work lights and clamped them to opposite legs – pointing up at the underside of the glass.  When they are turned on, they make even the smaller notches and marks crystal clear!  Plus, the set-up can be used as a regular table, is easy to disassemble and put away, and you even easily put a little bit of storage room underneath the table!!

Bonus: Don’t forget, light boxes can be used for all kinds of crafting projects where tracing would come in handy!

 

PATTERN STORAGE AND ORGANIZATION:

I’ve also seen lots of questions about how to store and organize your patterns, so thought I’d share my method.  I use filing cabinets – I have one vertical and 1 lateral.  I divide my patterns into two main groups: New patterns, and patterns I’ve already made.  Patterns I’ve already made are put in their own drawer.  On the front of the envelope I put a post-it note that says which view I made, which garment it is, and any critical notes (doesn’t fit right, take in bust 2″, lengthen 3″, etc.). This is only a short note – I keep full notes separately (see below).

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New patterns are sorted by type of garment – jackets, skirts, dresses, pants.  On a pattern with several garment types – like the photo above, I file it under the garment type I am most interested in. I also keep a list of the patterns in an Excel spreadsheet that lists the brand, pattern number, and location (ie, filed with jackets), and any other details I care about (size, fabric type, yardage, whatever is most important to you).

In the lateral filing cabinet, I needed a way to keep the columns of patterns neat and separate so they didn’t squish into each and get untidy.  I found my local grocery store yielded two IDEAL box sizes – 1 for normal-width envelopes, 1 for wide:

The boxes are almost exactly the same length as the drawer, and they allow me to fit the pattern columns very close together!  To save on both space and the number of boxes needed, I alternate 1 column of loose (boxless) with 1 column in a box.  Here you can see all the patterns tightly wedged in together very neatly:

 

And finally, my tip on how I keep my pattern notes.  There are many different ways to do this, this is NOT the most efficient, but I like it… I buy an 8″ x 6″ spiral-bound artists pad.  I only use 1 sheet per pattern, and always leave the back of the sheet blank – so if I ever rip them out and put them in a notebook, I don’t have to choose or worry about splitting the page 😉

On the top of each page, I put a descriptive name for the garment: “Sakura”, “Gray Roses”, “Silver Rain”, “Opera Cloak”, etc. I put the date I completed the garment.  Then I list any patterns I used, their view and size.  I list the fabrics used and the price I paid for them (best guess), ditto with any trims or closures. I tape in a tiny swatch of the fabric(s), add notes about needed alterations, the amount of time it took to make, and anything else I might want to know later.

 

What kinds of tips and tricks do you use to keep your stash organized?

Bog Coat

Some years ago, I saw this stunning tutorial in Threads Magazine for a “Bog Coat” (See the Tutorials heading).  Well,  I’d been making similar jackets of sequined velvet for ages, but I fell in love with one of the particular samples they showed, which seemed only slightly more elaborate than what I’d been making:

bog coat 1

Much to my dismay, their tutorial didn’t really explain how to make this coat, it really just explained the coat on the right and its variances – which I didn’t like at all:

bog coat 2

Searching for another quick, easy, dramatic project, I stumbled on this image again, and decided to create the red coat even if I had to figure it all out from scratch myself.

I had these two beautifully complementary fabrics – both with just exactly enough yardage! A floral cotton, and a striped jacquard.

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MATERIALS:

  • You’ll need about 1 yard for the primary fabric (in this case, the floral).
  • If you plan to line it, you’ll need the same amount for the lining. (I used a deep brushed teal twill from my shop from Worth NY).
  • Trims – personal choice (I used a yard of the striped fabric to make bias strips for the cuffs).
  • Fabric for ties – I used 2 yards of gray silk charmeuse from the shop.
  • Thread to match, pins, other standard sewing supplies.

INSTRUCTIONS

It was a little complicated to figure out, and I did my best to make the directions clear and easy – please let me know if you get stuck somewhere!! On the upside, I completed this whole coat – start to finish – in half a day, and that was without having convenient instructions and having to run up and down the stairs all day because the iron and thread colors were on the second floor, and I was sewing in the basement….

Step 1: Decide on how long you want your sleeves to be – I just used the full width of the fabric, in this case about 54″, and how wide you want your sleeves to be – I made a loop with the tape measure, stuck my arm inside it and adjusted it until it felt ‘right’.  Very conveniently, this turned out to be 20″, which was so close to the length of my fabric, I just went with the fabric as is.

 

Step 2: Fold your fabric in half, selvedge to selvedge.  Fold it in half again, mark that second centerfold point and unfold that fold – leaving the first fold in place.  Draw a straight line 2 or 2.5″ (I used 2″) from the center fold to slightly below the marked center point.  Free-hand draw a graceful quarter arch from the 2″ line to the center fold – this will be the part where your neck goes.  Cut along the line – you’ve now created your center opening!

bog coat drawing 4

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Step 3: Unfold, and fold in half the other way – RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER.

bog coat drawing 1

Step 4: Sew from the selvedge in along that bottom open edge.  It takes a little trial and error to find how much you need to sew – what is comfortable for you.  For me, a 12.5″ seam worked really well (I’m a size 18).

bog coat drawing 2

Step 5: * OPTIONAL* If you are full lining the garment, duplicate all of the above steps with the lining fabric, making sure you use the same measurements you used for the primary fabric.

Step 6: With right sides together, sew around the necklines (I pinked these edges to reduce bulk and help it curve nicely), and sew the bottoms together – the parts that weren’t part of the 12.5″.  This will be a little squirrely to line up and you’ll end up with all these points converging on one spot, but take a little time to pin and sew carefully, and this is really way easier than you think.

You still need to insert the ties, which is a step that properly goes in here, but I’m putting it in later so you can try on and adjust the garment first – since really they are the next-to-last step.

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Step 7: The only parts NOT sew together should be the cuffs.  Turn the garment right-side out through the cuffs and nest them properly (lining inside fashion fabric).  Try on your jacket – this is your last chance to make any adjustments and changes. (Have I mentioned how much I suck at selfies?) If you like it, press everything.

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Step 8: TIES! Inspired by the photo of the original jacket, I wanted big full ties.  I looked at my jacket, and decided I wanted them to be no more than 3″ wide where they attached to the jacket, but then they should flare out to 6″ at the ends.  I also wanted them long enough to wrap around my body and tie in a huge bow, with plenty of trailing ends. I used the tape measure and decided that my ties should therefore be 75″ long with seam allowance.  I happened to have a piece of gray silk charmeuse that complemented this and was 77″ long – close enough.  I liked the idea of using the silk because that would drape and tie much more nicely than the cotton, twill, or stripe jacquard.  Stupidly, when I laid out my silk, I completely forgot to double it (for folding it in half and having 2 nice sides), so I cut a straight strip of 10″ wide (the math doesn’t even make sense for not folding, I have no excuse)…. and rather than waste the silk, decided to just go with that and cut a second strip, also 10″ wide. Don’t make the same mistake I did – but if you do, it came out ok, so it’s Good Enough (more on that at the end).

Folded the strip right sides together, pinned it (silk is slippery!), and straight stitch all the way down using a narrow stitch (2.5 – I usually sew everything at 3.5, so for me, this is a huge leap. But I wasn’t going to serge the interior seam, so wanted to make sure the silk didn’t start fraying.) I left one end open (to turn), and sewed the other end at an angle (just eyeballed an angle that looked nice.)  Do the second strip.  Carefully press your ties.

My ties were now 4.5″ wide (10″ fold in half with a 1/4″ seam allowance), so I gathered the open end.  I very carefully went in between the still-open cuffs and found the bottom center front corners of the jacket (be very careful you have the front edge, not the bottom edge – once you get inside, everything gets turned around! Also be careful that your ties are on the outside of the jacket, backed into the hole – not inside out 😉  ).  I wanted my ties right at the very bottom, so I measured up from the bottom stitch line 2.5″ and ripped that open.  I inserted the open end of the tie – being careful to orient the stitched seam toward the bottom – and used the gathering stitches to gather it until it fit nicely into the 2.5″ hole.  I adjusted the gathers to be even, then stitched the hole closed. Using that narrow 2.5″ stitch, I sewed up and down several times, making sure it was VERY securely attached.

Step 9: Turn everything back right-side out, and baste your cuffs together, aligning the bottom seams.  Then finish to taste.  You can fold them over and top stitch, you can bind the edge with a fancy trim, you can use a decorative serger stitch, etc.  I took a 5″ bias strip of the striped jacquard, pressed it in half, sewed it on to the outside, used a long basting stitch to sew the same seam allowance on the other side (not sewing it TO anything), pressed it in along the basting line, removed the basting stitches, carefully pinned the folded edge in place along the inside of the cuff, and did stitch-in-the-ditch on the front side (using a metallic gold top thread, and a black bobbin thread) to catch and fasten the back half of the strip.IMAG5817

(The lining is TEAL – not purple!!!  Stupid cell phone camera…)

Presenting my finished product (ignore the wrist brace):

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A final word on this tutorial, and my projects in general:  You may have noticed (ahem) that there is an awful lot of “about 10 inches”, and “roughly…” and “oops, I measured wrong…”  I advocate the philosophy of Good Enough.  Shoddy, poor-quality work is not an accepted part of Good Enough, but Good Enough is about recognizing that there some things that matter and some things that don’t really matter.  No one but me – and you because I told you – know that the ties were supposed to be a different size.  They don’t affect the finished product in any meaningful way.  All too often, we hear this chorus of perfection – from the Martha Stewarts of the world, to the super-strict sewing teacher that made you cry when your points weren’t perfectly aligned, to the endless demands from society that we somehow be Perfect Mother, Perfect Wives, Perfect Daughters, and Perfect Housekeepers (even if we have a full-time career) with Perfect Bodies.  I say ENOUGH.  It’s ok if the house is not immaculate, if your quilt points don’t perfectly match, if you never lost the pregnancy weight from the baby that’s now in college, if you fed the kids non-organic hot dogs for third dinner in a row because you’re exhausted and they’ll at least eat that without a fight.

My projects encourage you to aim for Good Enough – not perfection (highly overrated!).  For more information, please see the Good Enough tab at the top of the page.

(General rules – you may share this project and the Good Enough idea – but please be sure to properly credit me, and share it by linking back to this page – not just copying and pasting.  I know you respect the amount of effort that goes into developing interesting content for you! )

 

UPDATE! My Favorite Books…(Non-Fiction)

It seemed only fair that there be a companion post to my Favorite Fiction Book list… So here it is.  You will note that it is considerably shorter than my fiction list, not because I read less non-fiction or enjoy it less, but because non-fiction tends to be more about learning for me, and once I’ve learned something, I’m done with it unless I need a refresher.  Whereas fiction is about imagining new worlds for me, and so I’m never really done with a good fiction novel, because those worlds live on forever inside my mind, and sometimes I need to revisit them – just like revisiting your favorite friends and places in real life.

In no particular order:

I CAN’T BELIEVE I LEFT ONE MY FAVORITES OFF! : Third Culture Kids by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken

  • Survival of the Sickest by Dr. Sharon Moalam – about why some diseases have stayed with us since primitive times and what they offer the body in exchange….
  • Nurture Shock by Bronson and Merrymen – a meta-analysis of many child-rearing studies that show that almost everything you thought about child-raising is wrong (don’t get mad at me, that’s their claim!).  Talks about why lying is good, how to talk about race, videogames, discipline, and many other subjects.  Don’t be put off by the thick size! It is extensively annotated and has a huge bibliography and reference section, and each chapter is a stand-alone subject – so read in any order or just the topics of interest.
  • Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein – it’s dismissive and unfair to call this a feminist diatribe against Disney Princesses, but it is about how to raise strong daughters and how even the most careful parenting cannot protect your child from the negative messages of the outside world and popular culture and how to deal with that.
  • Noah’s Flood by Ryan and Pitman – an interesting look at the actual historical flood that occurred around the Mediterranean and how that led to the nearly-universal flood myth.
  • Gun, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond – a fascinating analysis of why Western Europeans achieved early global dominance over other cultures, and what led some cultures to succeed and thrive, and others to stagger and fail. (Spoiler alert, livestock plays a huge role in this!)
  • Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide by Maureen Down – a funny and relatable book about the struggles of the feminist movement, the difficulties smart women face in dating, (not man-bashing, just talking about the struggles between the sexes), etc.
  • Shattered Hopes, Magnificent Failure: The Road to the Nuclear Middle East by Mark Hertz – fascinating, well-researched, but very controversial, book on Israel’s foundation and threat of nuclear weapons in the region.

 

Have you read any of these?  Would love to hear what you thought of the book!

Got one to recommend?  Let me know!

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