Category Archives: collections

Sew-Along Challenge: Deconstructing Dot

Dot, our vintage "volunteer" blouse

Dot, our vintage blouse, in her “before” state.

This sew-along challenge is just that, a sew-along. It is not a crash course in pattern making, so I’ll be glossing over the bits where I deconstruct Dot, our “volunteer” blouse, to make a new pattern from the parts. Another reason for skipping this part? I’m a self-taught hobbyist, not a seamstress. There are more efficient ways to make a pattern from an existing garment. And I don’t want to teach any bad habits! But I did want to check in and let you all know that we’re getting ready to get ready to go. With a lot of encouragement from my trusty seam ripper, Dot is coming apart. I’m at a stopping point not because I’ve hit a snag, but simply because my hands ache. I hope to complete the deconstruction tomorrow, and to get a good start on the new pattern. Check back for updates, wherein I estimate how much fabric you’ll need! It’s entirely possible—if I can stay on track with this—that you’ll have a new, vintage-styled wrap blouse by the end of next week.

Dot, deconstructed. Mostly. I *could* mathematically calculate the assorted darts, or I could use a seam ripper to take them apart and just trace the dang thing. I'm choosing option 2.

Dot, deconstructed. Mostly. I *could* mathematically calculate the assorted darts, or I could use a seam ripper to take them apart and just trace the dang thing. I’m choosing option 2.

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Sew-Along Challenge: Your Help

(No, you didn’t miss any of the posts that I promised were forthcoming. I’m just skipping around. Consider this a bonus post.)

And we shall call this blouse, Dot.
Matches the pleated wool skirt perfectly, yes?

Once upon a time, I bought a vintage blouse that is a very flattering cut but which is damaged-beyond-wear. That is to say, the seams are all intact, but the fabric itself is starting to fall apart. However the price was right (probably just a few dollars, I don’t exactly recall) and I planned to deconstruct the blouse and make myself a pattern. Planned.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I’ve once again tipped over the overflowing box of patterns that is not yet listed in Winkorama’s live inventory. I stack the patterns back up and on top of the pile now sits Butterick 5074, dating to 1949.

Hmmm, Butterick 5074. It sure does look an awful lot like the blouse I’ve been meaning to deconstruct. I could leave the vintage blouse alone, and use this pattern instead. Easier!

Naaahhh, the old blouse is already at the end of its life. It would be nice to let it be useful one last time. I’ll sell the pattern as planned…oh, but maybe I can have a one-on-one sew-along with the buyer of the pattern!

Naaahhh, that means finding the right customer for the pattern and who wants to play along. Okay, okay, what if I deconstruct my old blouse, and post the pattern online as part of an anyone-can-play sew along! Which means that the bulk of this challenge is in getting me to finally deconstruct the blouse. So I need YOU, my dear readers, to inspire (i.e., pester) me to continue with this plan.

Butterick 5074, ©1949

Since they are so similar, here are the blouse details for Butterick 5074: “This surplice blouse fits snugly into the midriff. It sweeps across the front to the shirring at the side. Cropped kimono sleeves. A ‘Quick and Easy’ blouse for suits. With complementary skirt, a perfect background outfit.”

What’s a “background outfit”? Anyone?

What I do know is that either blouse would be nice for warmer weather and also work well for layering under cardigans or jackets. While both are excellent patterns for novices, I think the Dot Blouse (as the vintage blouse shall now be known) might be even easier to sew because A. there is less gathering to fuss with and B. the true wrap style makes for a more forgiving fit. The end result isn’t as tailored, but that’s the trade for less effort. Another nice feature of the Dot Blouse is the short “tail” along the back, which lets you tuck the back side of the blouse in to a skirt or trousers. No surprising breezes!

So, for those of you who want to sew along because you’d like to add a classic staple to your wardrobe, or who want to learn to sew with a pattern more versatile than an A-line skirt (yawn), please comment below and give me some encouragement! The hardest part of this sew-along will be on my shoulders; deconstructing the blouse and drafting a new pattern. The pattern is simple, but drafting is something I rarely do and I’m sure to goof it up a time or two before I’m ready to have you guys join in. This means that we won’t start until after the first of the new year, when time is more plentiful. If you simply must sew up a blouse for a Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve party, you can buy Butterick 5074 here (while it lasts).

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Public Service Announcement: Why don’t I simply copy and post the Butterick pattern for this sew along? Just because a pattern is old, does not mean it’s out of copyright. Copyrights can be renewed, thus protecting the copyright for 95 years from the original publication date (provided the original publication date is 1923 or later), and believe me, companies like Butterick aren’t going let their patterns go into Public Domain if they can help it. You can not (legally) sell or otherwise make available copies of their patterns. Some pattern companies have more lenient rules about the sharing of their intellectual property, but Butterick isn’t one of them.

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WABAC Wednesday: Applesauce Meatballs

Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes, 1949/1965

I’m not sure what I was looking for in the index of Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes, (published 1949, this copy printed 1965) but I spotted Applesauce Meatballs, checked the recipe, realized that I had all of the required* ingredients, and so put it on my cooking schedule.

It was “scheduled” for two weeks before I actually had the time and energy to make it. Not that the recipe requires much of either, but I’ve been that tired after work lately. Besides, Thanksgiving provided so many leftovers that cooking more food wasn’t necessary.

So. Applesauce Meatballs.
Serves 8 

2 lbs ground beef
1 cup applesauce
1 cup soft bread crumbs
2 eggs
salt & pepper to taste
flour
2 Tbs fat
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, minced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups tomato juice

  1. Mix beef, applesauce, and bread crumbs; add eggs; season with salt and pepper.
  2. Shape mixture into small balls, roll in flour, and brown in hot fat.
  3. Place balls in a casserole.
  4. To drippings in pan, add vegetables and tomato juice; season with salt and pepper; bring to a boil; pour over meat balls.
  5. Cover and bake in a moderate oven (350°F) about 40 minutes.

If desired, the gravy can be thickened with a little flour-water paste before serving.

If I were REALLY obsessive-compulsive, I’d have cleaned that bit of tomato gravy off of the rice ring. Not that I noticed it.

Here’s where the above asterisk comes in: I had ground beef in the freezer, but used ground turkey instead. I did not have one stalk of celery, one green pepper, and one carrot. Or tomato juice, for that matter. What I did have, though, was a few small cans of V8 vegetable juice. Which seemed to me like the equivalent of all that tomato juice plus the infusion of a few other veggies. And would save me not only a  trip to the grocery store, but a bit of slicing. Because V8 is seasoned, I also left out the salt and pepper. As far as the fat goes, well, all of my readers keep a small jar of leftover bacon grease in the fridge, right? Right?

End result: these meatballs are delicious. I don’t detect any apple flavor, but the meatballs are tender in a way that makes me think perhaps the applesauce is responsible. The tomato gravy, in my case, did not require thickening before serving. Oh bonus! I got to mix apples and tomatoes in a single recipe again!

I’d forgotten to plan a side dish, or rather had forgotten that my planned side dish was to be the spaghetti squash which is still sitting on the counter, so in a panic I cooked up a batch of brown rice and used it to make the Easy Rice Ring from the same cookbook. Not much of a recipe, it’s really just the handy hint that adding a “generous amount” of grated cheese helps hold the ring together. Assuming you have some sort of ring mold in which to bake said rice. Of course, the Shoes & Pie Test Kitchen has a ring mold.

Throw some microwave-heated frozen green peas in the center, arrange the meatballs in a Crazy Kitchen Lady just-so sort of way, and voilà, you have the photo shown here. Also: dinner. I halved the recipe because the Significant Other is out of town, and I don’t mind eating meatballs 4 nights in a row but 8 is asking a lot.

Fussy.

Gratuitous Photo: This object is a, um, meatballer. I’m sure there’s a technical term of which I’m unaware. Automatic Meatball Scooping Tongs or something. It does not save any time, nor is it any less messy than rolling the meatballs by hand. Mostly because the meatball tends to fall apart when exiting the tongs, so you have to roll it back together by hand anyway. Which, frankly, is more satisfying than “machining” a meatball.

What it is good for, however, is keeping your meatball size consistent. I noticed that when I wasn’t using the tool, my meatballs were getting slightly larger with each new portion. That’s not a huge deal except that you want your meatballs to cook evenly, and that isn’t going to happen if the first and the last are wildly different sizes. Besides, you can also use the tong things to make tiny snowballs. To throw at tiny adversaries, I suppose. Anyway, if you have your eyeballed-meatball-portion sense under control, or if you have a #20 or #24 disher, skip this fussy little item.

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Future Past, Tense

I’ve been Way Too Hella Busy To Blog for a while. Still am, really. But I feel bad for neglecting Shoes & Pie, and you, my dear readers! Rather than catch you up with one painfully long post covering an unrelated variety of subjects, I’m going to try to break it into bite-sized chunks that I’ll post as the week progresses. In no particular order (as I’m writing this as much as a reminder/outline for myself as I’m writing a Table of Contents for you), I’ll try to cover:

  • WABAC Wednesday vintage recipe: Applesauce Meatballs and Easy Rice Ring (1949)
  • Kitchen Pr0n: Yes, it’s possible that I added more stuff to the Shoes & Pie Test Kitchen
  • Vintage Food Propaganda/Ephemera (scans)
  • How To: Shop An Estate Sale (subtitle: Myths, Truths, and Don’t Be That Person)
  • Crafts ’n’ shizz. Oh man, do I have so many crafts (sewing, painting, drawing, assembling) lined up, and not enough time!

So until next time (this afternoon? tomorrow?), see ya!

EDITED TO ADD: Oh right, I should write a post about what has now been dubbed Holy Shit Pie, as in, “Holy shit, this pie is good!” Which was the actual text I received when I packed a slice in the boyfriend’s lunch one day.

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(Many) Shoes and (Pumpkin) Pie

Hi, my name is Wink and I used to blog with frequency. I’ve been with the busy, however, what with this whole the-boyfriend-is-moving-in dealio, as well as filling my free time with helping a local estate liquidation company organize and price a hoarder house for an upcoming sale. Since we last met…

That there above-mentioned boyfriend* moved in. He didn’t bring a lot of Things into the household, but what he did bring was Not Small. We had his parents over for dinner last night, which forced the issue of (finally) organizing the living and dining rooms. They look pretty dang good right now, at the expense of the guest room and basement. Which currently look an awful lot like the hoarder house I’ve been working in.

The hoarder house. Whatever you’re picturing, it’s wrong. This house is in an upper-middle-class neighborhood, and was inhabited by an upper-middle-class couple. For decades, these were “normal,” rational people. And then, about 10 or so years ago, the woman cracked. In a ceaseless attempt to fill that crack, she bought stuff. Lots of stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. In fact, during the last couple of years, she bought so much stuff and with such frequency that she didn’t always have the time to remove the price tags or even take items out of their shopping bags before heading out to buy more stuff. A professional organizer was hired to help deal with all the stuff, which only wound up making more room for more stuff. Which she filled. And then she died. Leaving behind a husband who had grown accustomed to living in a smaller and smaller space, and a hell of a lot of stuff. So the husband moved out and said “to hell with all of this stuff.”

I’ve been to estate sales described as hoarder homes, and I’m always disappointed (?) that they don’t look like the dark, magazine-and-newspaper addled homes that I’ve seen flash by on the news. (I hear there are a few different reality shows that focus on hoarders, but I’ve never seen one so I can’t compare.) I now know how much work goes into clearing those homes out so people can actually walk around in the space. Which seems obvious, but I never did put 2 and 2 together. For two or three weeks now, we’ve been going through this house room by room, clearing out the receipts and tissue paper and shopping bags (we filled a roll-off Dumpster) and trying our best to organize and price the remaining clothing and shoes and furniture and DVDs and artwork and cosmetics and collectible figurines and avoiding altogether the packed-to-the-rafters basement, which will have to be an entirely separate sale.

So anyway, if you live in the greater Denver area, you should really swing by this sale. We’re running the first half (pre-basement) for four days, and while the selection will be greatest on Wednesday (day 1), I can guarantee that there will still be plenty left on Saturday (day 4). Everything is in like-new (or brand-spanking-still-with-tags-new) condition. In an interesting twist, when we finally worked our way into the husband’s home office, we found that it was loaded with antique books and historical artifacts from his family. So this sale has the brand new AND the very old!

Above-mentioned pie: I’d stopped in at Dollar Tree for something or other, and was greeted at the door by a display of canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin! For a dollar! How could I pass that up? Pumpkin pie is super easy to make, especially when using a store-bought Graham cracker crust (which I knew I had in the pantry), so I whipped one up. A week later, I made an eggnog cake for no reason other than I had some eggnog in the house. I’m crafty that way.

A few posts back, I’d mentioned that I was going to have to start meal planning now that there are two mouths to feed. I’ve been doing it, and it’s surprisingly easy so far. I understand how it might get tedious over time, but so far, so good. This week we’ll be eating a lot of recipes that call for fresh tarragon because I needed it for one recipe and you can only buy one size package which is enough for, like, four different recipes. I used it last night to make the béarnaise sauce required for Sautéed Steak, Henri IV, my very first attempt at a Julia Child recipe. It was delicious and pretty easy, if a bit fussy to plate. Tonight we’ll dine on Fluffy Cracked Wheat With Mustard And Tarragon, and tomorrow I’ll roast up some tarragon chicken.

Part of the meal planning adventure includes serving up something every Wednesday from one of my many vintage cookbooks, and we’re two for two so far. On Halloween I cooked up an Irish Stew (or, since it was Halloween after all, Slaughtered Lamb stew) in ye olde pressure cooker. Actually, I used ye olde (1954) Mirro pressure cooker cookbook, but my spiffy late-model (2011) Cuisinart pressure cooker did the work. I’ve never eaten, let alone made, a lamb stew before, and I have to admit that I am floored by how absofreakinglutely delicious it is! And because pressure cookers are magical things, I went from raw veggies in need of dicing to hot stew ladled into a bowl in just about an hour.

The following Wednesday, I turned to my copy of 641 Tested Recipes from the Sealtest Kitchens for something a little less meat-centric and more retrotastic. I had hardly flipped through the pages when I came across Peppy Cottage Cheese Peppers (“A man’s main dish”) and knew that I had the week’s winner. Green peppers, stuffed with a mixture of rice (I used brown), cottage cheese, sautéed onion, tomato sauce, a bit of Worcestershire sauce, and topped with diced bacon. Not vegetarian, but at least it wasn’t based on meat. And while the squishy pink filling in the peppers looked dubious going into the oven, this turned out to be another will-make-again recipe.

My selection for this week is something called Applesauce Meatballs (Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes, 1949), and I’ll have to report back with the results at a later date. I plan to serve them up with a side of spaghetti squash seasoned with, you guessed it, fresh tarragon. If there’s still any tarragon left at that point, I’ll put it in a small bottle of vinegar to steep for future use.

And on that note: until next time, my dearest readers!

*For the first time in 12 years, someone else did my laundry yesterday. IT IS DELIGHTFUL.

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