Julie Bowersett


Blog Writing Course Alumni

From Guide to Art Schools



Heading to the Expo

For those of you in the United States, you know what kind of winter we have had.  Record low temps and snow totals, ice storms in places that rarely see that type of weather, and school closures.  I've nearly lost my mind.  You might think that all of this time stuck inside would have led to lots of sewing projects.  Well, you would be wrong.  Most of my time has been spent refereeing two little boys who have had quite too much "togetherness" and cleaning up piles of Legos and other messes.  So, I have nothing to show for what is usually my most productive time of the year, winter.

I am, however, heading off for a bit of inspirational time at the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo in Baltimore on Thursday.  But this year I won't be shopping and attending classes (well, I might do a little of that, too), I will be teaching some of those classes.  I have been offered a most fantastic opportunity to fill in for a teacher who couldn't make it at the last minute.  I was only asked to do this about a week ago, so I have spent the last week (in between yet more snow and more school closures) coming up with lesson plans, making samples and packing supplies.  Here's my table all piled up with my preparations.

I have to say that sewing these samples has really inspired me to come home and make myself something from the lovely heavy-weight linen that I used for my samples.  Perhaps it will be ready by the time spring arrives.  Which can't be soon enough in my book.  I will leave you with this link to a post from the past which conjurs up memories of spring and cherry blossoms:  What I Like in March:  Cherry Blossoms.


Have Yourself a Retro Little Christmas: Medicine Cup Kissing Ball

I can't decide which side of the divide this post will fall, retro cool or super square.  Regardless, I decided to recreate a favorite Christmas decoration from my childhood, the medicine cup kissing ball.  I'll be curious to see how many of my readers remember these.  The one my mother unwrapped from tissue paper every December and hung in our front hallway had Christmas-green glitter and plastic mistletoe.  I've changed a few things on mine to update an old classic just a bit.

One of the reasons I love reading craft blog DIY posts is that someone else has gone through all of the trial and error for me.  This project had quite a bit of both trial and error.  I hope you will take advantage of my experience if you decide to make one of these for yourself.  You aren't likely to find any help elsewhere.  A thorough internet search turned up essentially nothing on the subject of medicine cup kissing balls with the exception of one or two posts asking if anyone remembered them.  As I have noted before, when I run across a topic that seems to be missing from the interwebs I like to cover it, since I know I am not the only person out there looking for information.

You can find the instructions over in my Tutorial section or by clicking here.  I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane.  I would love to hear if any of you remember these icons or perhaps still own one.  I hope you are busy making your own memories this holiday season.


Dressy to Casual: A Challenge

Sarah Veblen is one of my very favorite teachers.  She recently began offering a series of challenges designed to spark creativity in garment making.  The first such challenge asked the participant to find inspiration in one of the photos in Sarah's Dressy Dresses Gallery and use that inspiration to create a casual garment.

I thought this sounded like a great way to jump start some garment sewing for myself so I decided to sign up.  What could be more quintessentially casual than a t-shirt?

The inspiration for this casual tee came from pictures 1-7 of Sarah’s gallery.  Additional inspiration came from one of Sarah’s garments that I loved from the first Knits Class I took with her that used a sheer lace with a knit fabric.

I worked with two chocolate brown fashion fabrics, one an embroidered point d’esprit stretch lace that I bought at Metro Fabrics in NYC and a bamboo knit purchased from Vogue Fabrics.  I added the additional personal challenge to only use items that were already in my stash for this project.

I began with a tried-and-true tee shirt pattern with a bust dart and drew in a style line for the “yoke” portion on the front and back.  I decided on a long sleeve and cut them on the cross grain so I could take advantage of the lace fabric’s selvage for the hem.  After much consideration I decided to underline the yoke portion with a flesh colored 4-way stretch knit.  I thought this would add some stability to the very fragile fabric, simplify construction and allow me to wear a conventional bra with the top.  At first I wanted to leave the sleeves unlined but in the end warmth won out over allure.

I feared that the top would be boring without a little something extra so I opted for some piping along the yoke seam made from stretch panne velvet.  I constructed the piping with cording which I later removed once the piping was applied.  In the end I hand tacked the piping from the inside to keep it flat against the garment.  I also used the same stretch velvet to bind the neckline.

I’m pleased with the final result, am happy that the challenge gave my creativity a little kick start and got me sewing for myself again.  I am looking forward to the next one and I really hope some of you out there will join me.


Cake Pops, Burger Cookies and Birthdays

Hello, friends.  Wow, I have been missing in action for quite a while, haven't I?  I am not even going to offer any excuses except to say that life has gotten in the way of my creativity lately.  But recently my sewing mojo has been seeping back in and I have managed to spend several days this week in my sewing room.  I've been spending even more time in my kitchen in the last few weeks; fall is birthday season at our house and I have been making and baking like crazy.  Since I don't have any of my sewing projects ready to reveal I'll share the goodies I've been making.

I like cupcakes.  I have always liked cake, and since I've found a great icing recipe I even like that, too.  This year I decided to try out a chocolate version based on the same recipe.  Here's a link to the site where I found the recipe.  I added extra cocoa at the end as suggested in the recipe.  This definitely boosted the chocolate flavor but I found it added a bitterness that some kids might object to.  I think I might up the sugar a bit next time, or try adding more semi-sweet chocolate.

I baked a lot of cupcakes.  I also baked an extra layer cake to make some cake pops.  Cake pops have been around for a while but this was my first attempt at them.  Bakerella is credited with this craze, and I used her book on the subject to get started (her website is full of ideas and recipes).   I read a lot of helpful hints on the internet and found lots of differing opinions about the best way to make them.  Most people agreed that their first attempt was far from perfect.  My experience was the same.

Folks also disagree on the best method for making the cake balls that become cake pops but the general gist is that you bake a cake (boxed mix is fine for this) and once cooled crumble it up into fine crumbs (with your hands, a mixer or any other tool you wish to try).  Add (canned) frosting, anywhere from a few tablespoons to 3/4 of the can.  Mix this up (again, by whatever method you prefer; I used my stand mixer) until you have a soft dough.  You then shape the dough into round balls (I used a cookie scoop for portion control).  Again, people don't agree on whether you have to chill the balls at this point -- I found it was necessary.  I actually made up several batches and put them in the freezer until I was ready for the next step.

The first batch I made I tried candy melts as the coating without a good result.  First, I don't really like candy melts.  I don't like how they taste and I don't love the artifical coloring (you will notice that with most of my cupcakes and baked goods I stick with vanilla and chocolate).  Once it was apparent that I was going to have trouble with the melts I quickly switched to melted chocolate chips (mixed with a small amount of vegetable oil) and had good results with that.  For my first batch I dipped the balls in semi-sweet chocolate and sprinkled on some star and tiny ball sprinkles.

These were really fun (and a great size) to send to school for my youngest son's birthday.

The second batch I attempted worked much better.  These were a lot more complicated than the first but not hard, just a little time consuming.  I made the cake balls as before and dipped them in melted white chocolate chips, then set them into mini ice cream cones (you can find these Joy brand cones at Walmart).  It's OK if the coating drips down the cone a little.  While the chocolate is still soft, add some sprinkles. 

For the chocolate sauce I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and thinned them down with vegetalbe oil.  I poured it into a squeeze bottle and used that to drizzle it over the top of the cookie ball.  The "cherry on top" is a pretzel M&M though you could use plain or peanut M&Ms or even cinnamon candies.

It's a little hard to get a sense for the scale of these from the pictures.  Here's one of me holding one of the finished cones

and another with the mini cones next to a full-sized cone.

These were really delicious and I will make them again.

I also made some really cute hamburger cookies for my kids' birthday parties.  I first heard about these cookied from my sister-in-law Sue who made them with her grandkids this summer.  These are really easy -- they require no baking, just assembly.

This picture shows the steps by row.  First lay down a vanilla wafter with the flat side facing up (not shown).  Top each wafer with a Thin Mint-style cookie (I used Keebler brand Grasshopper cookies).  You can either place them in the oven for a minute to melt the chocolate a bit to adhere to the wafer or use a squirt of icing as "glue" (the latter is a more sure method).  Next, using red and yellow icing add some ketchup and mustard.  Tint some coconut with green food coloring and sprinkle it on the icing.  I added another little dollop of icing in the middle after this step to act as glue and topped the whole thing with another vanilla wafer.  The original recipe called for real sesame seeds on top but I knew my kids would balk at that so I used tiny white sprinkles.  I used my finger to rub a little light corn syrup on the top cookie to help the sprinkles stick.

This is the icing I used -- it worked great as it sets up and glues everything together nicely.  I had to mix my own yellow as I couldn't find the color I wanted in the store.

I also treated myself to a cupcake decorating class at the lovely Occasionally Cake.  In this class we learned to make rolled fondant animals to use as cupcake toppers.  It was fun but I now know why bakeries charge $6-7 for one of these.  I think I'll stick to frosting that tastes yummy and work on perfecting my swirl technique for icing cupcakes.

Now that birthdays are out of the way I have turned my attention to Halloween costumes and three challenges that are coming due very soon.  The first is one sponsored by my sewing guild chapter.  Each participant was given one yard of the same fabric and charged to create something from it.  I can't share my project until after our annual meeting which takes place on October 26th.  My ASG Neighborhood Group is also holding a challenge.  Members exchanged fabric pieces at the beginning of the year with instructions to decorate, embellish or change our given piece anyway we want.  We'll be returning the fabric to its original owner in November.  The third challenge is one that I am very excited about.  It is being sponsored by Sarah Veblen.  Sarah is offering several challenges each year to help sewers approach problem-solving in a creative way.  For this first challenge participants are asked to use one of Sarah's Dressy Dresses as inspiration to create a casual garment.  You can find more information here.  I hope you will consider joining me in this fun challenge.


Mission Maxi:  Marvelous

Well, I'd better get this one posted while there is still a little summer left (though the weather here in Washington, DC has been very un-summer-like for the past few weeks).  I am usually seriously behind the times.  I might really like the look of the latest fashion trend but by the time I actually get around to sewing it, the fashion world is off to something new.  It is pretty hard to ignore the popularity of maxi dresses these days.  I see them on every corner, at the playground and the grocery store.  They looked right up my alley -- comfortable and cool, wearable with sandals, easy to re-create.  I did a little online snooping and checked out what fellow seamstresses were saying on PatternReview.  The go-to pattern was clearly the Mission Maxi by Jamie Christina Patterns.  (Google Mission Maxi and check out all of the possibilities under Images!) 

As is usually the case I did not have the right fabric for this dress (what good is my stash, anyway?) so I headed to the fabric store and picked up two pieces, one a deep discount number that I could use to mock up the pattern.  As it turns out, the fit of this pattern is so forgiving that my mock up was easily wearable.  This dress works up in a flash.  The pattern comes with a tank or haltar top; I made the tank version.  I took the shoulder seams up which also raised the neckline which many found too low when reviewing this pattern.  I also shortenend the overall length by 5".  I changed how I attached the neckline and armhole binding.  The pattern has you sew on the binding flat with the adjoining seam left open, sewing the seam afterwards.  I chose to sew the seam first and apply the binding in the round.  I think this creates less bulk as you can offset the binding and garment seams just a bit. 

The black and red stripe was my "muslin" and the blue graphic print my second attempt.  I used black binding on that one and made the finished width a little wider for added contrast.  The pattern also includes a version with a center back godet.  I would love to try this style -- maybe next summer.

Others on PatternReview have noted this dress is as comfortable to wear as a nightgown, and they are not wrong.  There is something fantastic about summer dressing when you can slip a garment on and be done.  This dress works up so fast you still have time to make one and wear it before summer ends.  You won't be sorry.