2014 Umbrella Prints Trimmings Competition

I stumbled across Umbrella Prints a few weeks ago while taking a lazy tour through a bunch of new-to-me sewing blogs. Turns out I discovered the Australian company, which makes beautiful organic printed fabrics, just in time for their 2014 trimmings competition, which challenges artists, seamsters, and crafters of all types to make something awesome out of a packet of leftover bits of fabric. The competition is in its fifth year, and previous winners have included this bright pink fish puppet, a jaunty mask and crown, a gorgeous art book, a matching set of sewing accessories and stationery, and an entire collection of whimsical collages.

This year’s competition is already underway, with entries due on May 30. Six different packets are available on Etsy or directly from the Umbrella Prints shop. And they’re beautiful:

Trimmings from Umbrella Prints

I ended up going with the “Earth” packet on the bottom left, a set of bright reds and yellows and oranges that I am so excited to work with. Now I just have to wait for it to ship from Australia….

(Want to play along? Full rules and information are here.)

Another use for my sewing machine

At the beginning of the year I decided to stop buying clothes.* I’ve given in to the flurry of “30% off today only!” and “[obscure holiday] weekend sale!” emails from way too many retailers, and my closet is full of clothes I bought because they were seemingly affordable, not because I actually liked or needed them. (Pro tip: if you never wear it, that sweater you found for 60% off was not actually a good deal.)

A month or so ago I signed up for Unroll.me to hide all of those emails, which has gone a surprisingly long way in cutting down on my unnecessary shopping. I also started sewing (um…in case you hadn’t noticed), which has opened up a pretty sweet world of custom-made clothing.

My first attempt dress making felt like I had conjured magic out of thin air. That’s not to say the end result was perfect—if you look closely at the neckline or the sleeve hems, you can see how I accidentally stretched the fabric out when I was pressing it, so everything is a little bit crooked. And the color is…vibrant? I’m proud of it (I MADE A DRESS), but I haven’t yet mustered up the courage to wear it to work (some day! soon. I promise).

I’m not ready to give up, though. I’ve been wandering around the blogosphere, stumbling upon patterns that make me want to permanently abandon buying new clothes in favor of sewing everything myself (dresses? obviously. but also workout clothes and a bright yellow hoodie and fancy tailored shirts!). Behold the amazingness:

1. Albion Jacket, Colette Patterns
2. Coffee Date Dress, Pattern Runway
3. McCall M6657: Misses’ Unlined Coat, View B, modified and sewn by Nikki Brooks-Revis of Beaute’ J’adore
4. Nicola Dress, Victory Patterns
5. Sorbetto Top, Colette Patterns, modified and sewn by Lizz of A Good Wardrobe
Victoria Blazer, By Hand London, sewn by Leila of Where the Orchids Grow

*Err…mostly. This year has a few obvious exceptions (exhibit A: a wedding dress, which I feel neither confident nor qualified enough to attempt), but the gist is to only buy the things I need, as opposed to the things I think I want when I’m bored.

A quilt for a kid, part 2

In between singeing my taste buds off and watching a ton of Ugly Betty (how did I miss this show when it aired?), I put in a few more hours on my Quilts for Kids quilt this weekend.

Last weekend I pieced the four patch blocks and started sewing them into rows, alternating with solid blocks of this fun pink and orange scooter print. This weekend I finished the rows, sewed them together, added borders, made my first “quilt sandwich,” and (!) actually quilted something. Ta-da!

Weekend project: homemade Sriracha (-ish)

I’ve had “make homemade Sriracha” on my life list for four years, which is weird because I don’t actually eat very much Sriracha—I put a little in phở or tomato soup now and then, but I’m not the type to slather it over everything (I made that mistake the first time I ever ate it, using it like salsa on top of a bowl of rice and beans and nearly burning my face off). Now I actually wince when I see people squirting more than a dab on top of eggs or into a burrito.

A New York Times article on homemade hot sauces burrowed itself into my thoughts nonetheless, though, which is why I found myself stirring a boiling pot of chilies today while trying not to breathe in too many vinegar fumes.

A ton of recipes exist for homemade Sriracha, ranging from a Paleo version with jalapeños and honey to a fermented version using xanthan gum for thickening. Some need a week of fermentation, others a few days in the fridge to let the flavors meld, and others are ready to go as soon as they’re cool.

Given the amount of variation in these recipes—fresh fresnos, red and green jalapeños, ground habañeros, bell peppers, dried anchos—I figured I’d be good using a bunch of Thai chilies that have been hanging out in my freezer for a while, a handful of dried chilies (type unknown) I discovered in my cabinet, and half a red bell pepper I found in my fridge. Rather than measure or weigh them and use an actual recipe, I decided to wing it:

Step one: break or chop off the stem end of the chilies and chop the bell pepper. I ended up with around a cup and a half of loosely packed chilies and around a cup of chopped bell pepper. Add to a saucepan with enough water to cover.


Step two: Add a few chopped cloves of garlic, around half a tablespoon each of sugar and smoked salt, and a healthy pour of apple cider vinegar (around a quarter of a cup, maybe?). Bring to a boil, and keep there for around 25 minutes, or until all chilies and peppers can be easily mushed (technical term) with the back of a spoon.


Step three: attempt to blend with an immersion blender; splash hot chili juice over yourself and your computer. Regroup; scrape everything into a food processor and process until no chunks of pepper remain.

Step four: strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds (not necessary—you could totally leave the seeds in, but I wanted to make sure I could squirt the sauce out of a regular Sriracha bottle without clogging the tip).


Step five: bottle (in a recycled Sriracha bottle, obviously) and taste. Burn face off, which is how you know it’s good…? I am not at all the right person to evaluate whether this is quality Sriracha or not, or whether there’s any nuance at all to the flavor, as I’m still drinking milk and trying to stop sweating.


Verging considerably from the seamster angle this blog has been taking (if you’re only here for the quilts, feel free to ignore): I made my first-ever pull request (and had my commits successfully merged) on GitHub today! Voilà.