Mother Of The Bride Dress – Part Two

February 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm (All Things Wedding, Sewing Projects)

Amanda’s wedding is in 25 days.  Yikes!!  I absolutely must get my act together on my dress.  I am using the Vogue Pattern –  V1162.  I began to work on the sleeves today.  I have already made a muslin mock-up and fitted that to my body.  The one concern I have is, because of my thyroid and MS medication issues, my weight is fluctuating wildly.  I asked in desperation for some help on the Facebook page for The 1912 Project.  The wonderful expert sewers suggested that instead of lining the dress I make a “skin” for it out of a cotton batiste or organza.  That way I can adjust the fit up to the day of the wedding, which I truly might have to do.  I’ve decided to make the “skin” out of batiste.  The cotton will add more body to the Shantung.

Darling DannyO is on a golf trip so I do not have to cook for six days.  I hate to cook, love to bake but hate to cook.  I am living on Frosted Flakes, yogurt and egg sandwiches.

I tackled the sleeves today.  The instructions accompanying the pattern for this particular segment are vague.  Of course my first attempt was wrong.  I ran out of organza before I finished the rose.  Then, as usual, my pragmatic, measuring, OCD brain figured it out and I’ve worked on it all day, on and off until the sleeves were finished.

Wrong -- too many gathers in the rose

The outside circles are pinned and ready to be sewed

The completed sleeves!

My new pink pin cushion -- the color pink makes me smile 🙂

The last two pictures were taken in the dark.  The picture with the pins is the best representation of the true color of the dress. I’ve got to get a better camera to photograph when there isn’t good light…  Maybe after I save some $$ after March 24th.  Weddings are expensive!!


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Amanda’s Qipao – Part Three

February 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm (All Things Wedding, Sewing Projects)

I always go into a project assuming it will go very smoothly.  Stupid me.  The pattern for the Qipao is made for a beautiful Asian woman who is straight up and down.  Amanda has curves.  She tried on the muslin.  It was a bit tight (which I had accounted for with 1 ½ inch seams).  The darts needed taken in a bit more because she has a small back.  I knew that too.  However, the shoulder area just did not fit.  I cut slits and inserted diamond-shaped pieces.  It still didn’t solve the problem.  One issue is that the pattern’s sleeves are too long.  They are supposed to be cap sleeves, but there was no shape to them, alas, they stuck straight out.

Diamond-shaped inserts

Another issue I was facing was that it was Sunday evening at 6:00.  Amanda needed to go back to Virginia early Monday morning.  Second alteration – FAIL!  Now what?  I was tired, but I knew the muslin needed to be fitted before I went to bed.  So, I scrapped the first mock-up – threw it in the garbage.

I had another stellar idea – what if I cut the pattern in half, deal with the top of the dress and then add the bottom part.  I am so brilliant sometimes I can’t even stand it.  Quickly I cut the pattern right below the darts, cut the muslin, not taking time to sew seam lines, etc… it was crunch time.  I cut about 4 inches off of the sleeves so they would just cap her upper arm.  I already knew that the darts needed to be deep so I sewed them.  I also just sewed the side seams, not leaving a gap for the zipper because it would be easier to adjust with a complete seam.  Deep breath… Amanda pulled it over her head… not too shabby.

Now we got to the nitty gritty.  Amanda is short-waisted (sorry darling, but I must give these details for my sewing friends) 🙂 .  I pinned two inches for her short waist so she wouldn’t have the fabric bunch at her belly (again, sorry darling!).

Top part of muslin with waist adjustments

So far so good.  With the muslin still pinned to her, Amanda perused through my yoga books while I quickly cut the bottom part of the one-piece dress.  By this time it was 7:45.  I quickly sewed up the side seams.  She stepped into the lower half of the dress and I pinned it to fit.  It looked and fit beautifully!!  I didn’t take any pictures because… well, I was sort of busy.

Beautifully adjusted

We congratulated each other on another problem solved.

Houston, we have a problem… the dress was completely pinned to Amanda with no egress!  Think, Mel, think!  Tick tick tick… the clock now read 8:30.  My head hurt and my fingers hurt and my right eye was crossing at random times!  Think, think!!  Once again I had another brilliant idea!  If I cut exactly down the center of the back I could cut and sew another muslin with all of the pinned alterations accounted for.  I am going down to Virginia for Amanda’s family wedding shower on March 2nd.  I can take it down with me for a final fit before I cut into the beautiful silk.

“Oh darling DannyO!!  I have a problem.  How can I make an absolutely straight cut into the back of a dress that Amanda is wearing?”  Of course, Dan had the perfect solution – a plumb bob!  He used a piece of fishing line and a weighted bottle opener.  Amanda stood against the wall and Dan held the plumb line against the center of the back, where the collar met the back.  I steadied the plumb bob and used a pencil to mark up to her waist line.  Dan took the pencil and marked up to the top of the garment.  I took a picture of this process with my phone camera, but didn’t finalize the action so we have no record of this process. 🙂

I then carefully took my very sharp shears and cut slowly from bottom to top.  She stepped away from the dress.  Whew!  It was 9:00 p.m.  The whole process took four hours.

Carefully cut down the center back

I am taking a few days off and then I will re-cut another muslin for her Qipao.  The adventure continues!

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February 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm (Trigeminal Neuralgia)

In the last 10 days, I have gone off of my betaseron because it was making me very sick.  I have developed tremors in my arms (resting tremors).  I gained 8 pounds – probably partly a result of me quitting taking the betaseron (I have taken it for about 8 years).  I have a slightly “slow” thyroid — and am on some medicine.  I have had a TN attack — this is my third day of incredible pain.  The meds make me sick, but I am being diligent with taking them.

And… (wait for it… …wait for it…) My botox injections obviously have had an undesirable effect…

My droopy left eye 😦

My left eye is drooping — just keeping it real folks!  I am going to have to figure out a make-up trick for this one!  I have a follow-up with my neurologist on Wednesday and hopefully they can fix it.

The Lord giveth  and the Lord taketh away…blessed be the name of the Lord.”

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Amanda’s Qipao – Part Deux

February 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm (All Things Wedding, Sewing Projects)

I have had a TN attack for the last two days (starting on the third day). I lose days when that happens. I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week making a muslin mock-up of Amanda’s Qipao. My first step was to rip the muslin to 29 inches width. That is the width of the silk. I then measured 5 meters (one meter = 39.3700787 inches). I ironed the muslin and then stretched it out.   It ran through the door of my bedroom. I was very concerned that 5 meters wouldn’t be enough because obviously the pattern pieces cannot be side-by-side. There isn’t enough room on 29 inches.

5 meters of muslin -- stretching through my bedroom door

I laid the pieces out with bated breath.  They fit!

Barely fitting the width of 29"

I cut the pieces out, marked them with tracing paper and sewed the seams.  The pattern says that a zipper is optional, but I need to put darts in the dress to make it fit Amanda so the zipper is necessary.  She is coming home this weekend and I will fit her and make adjustments.  By the time the silk comes, her pattern will be all ready to be cut and sewed in the silk!

Bodice in muslin

Fit of the whole dress

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Please Hold My Right Hand

February 16, 2012 at 5:31 am (Scripture References, Trigeminal Neuralgia)

My TN always causes pain and misery.  Some days, however, the pain can be off of the pain chart.  These are the days that I am desperately talking to my Father in Heaven.  I do not drive bargains with Him, but I ask him to take me home to be with Him.  Since I am writing this blog, He has not done that yet.

My plans for yesterday were to work on my MofB dress and another little corduroy dress.  I got none of that accomplished.  I folded laundry and made my bed and brushed my teeth …I think that is about it.  It is 5:00 a.m. and my pain woke me up.  Because I didn’t want to wake Danny up I headed downstairs.  I made a cup of tea, took more meds and decided to blog about what the Lord revealed to me.

Sunday, Amanda merely texted me a Bible reference, Isaiah 45:3.  “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The Lord, the God of Israel who calls you by your name. ”  In context, God intended Cyrus to be aware that The God of the Jews was giving him victorious conquests.

This verse tells me that God will give treasures out of darkness and wealth out of secret places.  I am in a dark place right now.  God promises me treasures and wealth — not wealth of money, but wealth of friends, family, blessings.

Another verse that branched off from my study of this verse is Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the Lord Your God who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘do not fear, I will help you!'”

Another verse, Isaiah 42:6 says, “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness.  I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you.”    Psalm 73:23 says, “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you have taken hold of my right hand.”

Oh that I would never let go of His right hand.  My struggles are at times unbearable, but if I hold His right hand, He is continually with me.  Here is my hand, Lord.  Do what you want with my life.

Help me.

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Triple Chocolate Cream Cheese Drops

February 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm (All Things Wedding, Recipes)

Finished batch - Yay!!

This recipe was born out of desperation.  I decided to bake cookies for Amanda and Hengyi’s wedding today.  I thought I had all of my supplies to make chocolate/m&m cookies and chocolate/peanut butter cookies.  Alas, I only had four sticks of butter.  The recipes call for 2 ½ sticks each so I was one stick short.  My hair was washed and up in a turban and I was in my sweat clothes so heading to the store was out of the question.  I spied a block of cream cheese in the fridge and my wheels started turning.  I decided to make the peanut butter/chocolate cookies another day.  Here is my recipe for triple chocolate cream cheese drops.

Triple Chocolate Cream Cheese Drops

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (one block) of cream cheese, softened
  • ½ stick of butter (4 tablespoons), softened
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 package of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 bar of white chocolate or bittersweet chocolate.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Beat cream cheese, butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat well.  Gradually add flour mixture, beating well.  Stir in dark chocolate bits.  At this point,  I put the batter in the refrigerator so I could dry my hair.  I don’t know if that will help, but that’s what I did!!

Drop by rounded teaspoons (I made them smaller because I am baking tons and tons of cookies for the wedding.) ** Because I made them smaller, I rounded them into little balls… I coated the palms of my hands with cocoa powder and rolled little balls until the dough stuck and then I coated again.  It was one big mess, but easy to do.  Bake 8 to 9 minutes.  Do not over bake!  The cookies will be soft.  Allow them to cool slightly (until you see cracks in the dough) and then move them to a cooling rack.

I then melted 3 blocks of white chocolate and proceeded to burn it.  Do not do what I did.  I then took the other three blocks and carefully melted it.  I drizzled the white chocolate over the cookies, thus the “triple chocolate.”  There was not enough white chocolate so I melted some bittersweet chocolate and drizzled that on the cookies.  I guess you can call them “quadruple chocolate cream cheese drops.”  🙂

They are soft and yummy in the middle.

I didn’t take step photos because my kitchen is a mess and my hair was up in a towel. 🙂

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Peanut Butter (Buckeye) Balls

February 10, 2012 at 3:46 pm (All Things Wedding, Recipes)

I am the kind of person who, at a wedding reception, heads straight to the dessert table!  The main meal can be sub-par, but if the goodies are excellent, I declare the party a success!  Perhaps that is the reason I have decided to make all of the desserts for Amanda and Hengyi’s wedding reception.

I decided to make Peanut Butter Balls.  I found the recipe on the Wit & Whistle blog and “Pinned” it until I could have the time to make them.  I actually made the peanut butter part two days ago.  Fair warning, the recipe says to mix the powdered sugar, butter and peanut butter in a large bowl.  My biggest bowl wasn’t big enough.  I ended up dumping the whole concoction on to the counter top and mixing it there.  I divided the dough into three pieces, wrapped them well in plastic wrap.  They were in the fridge for two days – which didn’t hurt them.

Rolled into walnut-sized balls

I have never used paraffin wax and when I opened the wax box there were four blocks of wax.  I used 1/3 of one of the blocks.  My other suggestion is to shave the wax instead of putting the large chunk into the double boiler because the chocolate chips melted before the paraffin was melted.  Also do not let any water touch the chocolate mixture.  For some reason water causes the chocolate to granulate and not be completely smooth.

Paraffin wax and chocolate chips

I made a mess!

I also discovered that I needed just a little bit more melted chocolate to completely cover all of the peanut butter balls.  I would suggest using ½ of another package of chocolate chips and a few more shavings of paraffin wax.

The recipe made 13 dozen!  I am going to write the original, large recipe first and then am going to give you a smaller recipe!


Peanut Butter Balls (large recipe)

  • 3 boxes of confectioner sugar (1 lb. each)
  • 4 sticks of unsalted butter (1 lb)
  • 4 cups of peanut butter
  • 3 packages of chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cake paraffin wax (1 ½ inches of one of the four blocks)

Combine the powdered sugar, margarine and peanut butter in a large bowl and mix them with your hands until everything is well blended.  Chill for at least ½ hour (I kept them in the refrigerator for 2 days).

Heat the chocolate chips and paraffin wax in a double boiler until they melt.  Dip the balls into melted chocolate and cool them on wax paper.

Peanut Butter Balls (small recipe)

  • 1 box of confectioner’s sugar
  • 10 2/3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups peanut butter
  • 1 package of chocolate chips
  • ½ inch of one cake of paraffin wax

Use the same directions as the above recipe.  This one will make about 50 balls instead of 150!

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Amanda’s Qipao

February 9, 2012 at 9:51 am (Sewing Projects)

Amanda and Hengyi are getting married on March 24th.  Preparations are moving along well… for me.  Amanda lives in Virginia and I live here in western PA.  She is planning it.  I am just doing what I’m told to do. 🙂  Of course, I am making my MofB dress and all of the desserts, sans wedding cake.  The dessert thing is a “just shoot me” situation, but I must have control in some area and this is the area that I’ve chosen!  I am baking every week, a little at a time.  This week I am making buckeye balls and M&M cookies.

The one task that I have embraced is the task of making Amanda’s Qipao.  Pronounced “chee-pow,” it is a Chinese wedding dress.  She needs the dress when she and Hengyi go to China, but I thought it would honor his family if I had it made in time for the 24th and she can wear it for part of the reception.

So, research, research, research… I never undertake anything without studying it first!  Qipao is the word for a dress that Chinese women wear; it doesn’t have to be a wedding dress.  In the summer it is made of a lightweight silk.  In the winter, choosing a heavier fabric is best.  The wedding Qipao is very special.  It should be red.  Black and gray are considered unlucky.  It should be made of 100% silk.  Embroidery makes it even more special.  If you can find an embroidery with a phoenix in it that is even better.

Armed with that information, I began to look on line for any Asian styled dresses.  I am almost positive I had a pattern many years ago, but alas, it is no longer part of my stash!  I found this pattern at the Folkwear website.  This is the pattern I am going to use.

Next, I had to hunt down some fabric.  Any fabric at my local Joann’s store will not work in that it isn’t 100% silk and not many Brocades are in red.  If they are in red, they have black accents, which of course are unlucky.  Sooooo… I begin my search on the internet.  I found some beautiful fabrics and of course was overwhelmed by all of the choices.  I then enlisted the wise counsel of Amanda’s future MIL, Lili.  I narrowed her choices down to five and asked her to pick the best one.  She picked #4.

The very tricky thing about this fabric is that it is only 29 inches wide.  With shipping it runs about $23.00 a meter.  I ordered five meters.  Today I am going to rip some muslin to 29 inches and see how I can make the layout work.  I do not want to even cut into the beautiful silk until I am absolutely sure of my plan… and we all know how I love a good plan!!

This is one of the projects I must finish before I really commit my time to The 1912 Project.

Off to the sewing room!

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Mrs. Farber’s Fur Coat

February 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm (Sewing Projects)

About 8 or 9 years ago darling DannyO and I were at an auction in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Farber was our neighbor on Butler Street when we were first married and lived on Margaret Street in our very very very tiny apartment.  She had passed away and all of the contents of her home were being auctioned off.  I bought an old hamper and Danny bought a few miscellaneous things.  Late in the afternoon the auctioneer presented two fur coats.  I had never had a fur coat, never really thought about owning a fur coat, but this particular coat spoke to me (you know when things “speak” to me, I listen!!).  The bidding started at $5.00.  I had a limit of $20.00 – not sure why, but there was a lot more auction to happen and I didn’t want to dig into my little kitty of cash.  It went to $12.00 and then $15.00.  I won the coat for $15.00.

The very cool thing about the coat is Mrs. Farber’s initials, BFM were on an embroidered patch on the front inside flap.  There is also a patch on the center back inside that says, “Custom Furs Fashion Fur Johnstown.”  I would guesstimate that the fur is from the late 1950’s, early 1960’s.

The inside of the coat was beginning to deteriorate, the hem was completely gone, held up with paper clips and duct tape {{!!!}}.  “Why?” do you ask, “Does someone with a beautiful sewing machine have a coat held together with paperclips and duct tape?”  My simple answer is, I do not wear the coat except for in the very cold part of winter.  I forget I have it for the other 10 months of the year.  Every year I get it out and want to wear it I see the shattered lining and duct tape, but it is cold, January and I do not have lining fabric heavy enough for the coat and I want to wear it.

This year, because the winter has been so mild, I remembered the coat and didn’t need to wear it right away, so I bought some lining fabric, a heavier fabric to hold the weight of the fur.  The first step actually took the longest time.  I gingerly took apart the lining, being very careful around the shattered parts so I could use them as a pattern.

Inside of the coat without the lining

Inside of the coat without the lining

…with the lining and monogram all sewed in.

I used the same seam allowance of the original lining, sewing it together and then hand-sewing the lining to the coat, only pricking my fingers four or five times.  Yes, I used a thimble, but often pushed the needle through with the finger that DID NOT have the thimble!  I even put the monogram and the original back tag on to the coat.  I reinforced the buttons and re-attached the shoulder pads, which were in great shape!

Ta-Da!!  The coat is beautiful.  I do not know what kind of fur it is, but I love it.  I would never buy a new fur.  However, this fur was made 40-50 years ago….

I kind of hope it never gets cold enough for me to wear it this year, but we live in the Laurel Highlands of western PA… chances are I will need it!

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Peanut Butter Fudge

February 2, 2012 at 4:43 pm (Recipes)

Mrs. Griffith gave me this recipe 31 years ago.  It is still my go-to recipe when I need something quick and delicious.  I just made two batches for Amanda and Hengyi’s wedding.

Peanut Butter Fudge

  • 1 box of confectioner’s sugar (not the kind in a plastic bag)
  • 4 tbsp. butter (1/2 of a stick)
  • ½ cup canned milk
  • 1 1/3 cup of crunchy peanut butter
  • 7 oz. jar marshmallowwhip


Mix the first three ingredients (xx sugar, butter and milk) in a pan over medium high heat. When the fudge begins to boil, stir constantly for exactly two (2) minutes. Remove from stove and add balance of ingredients.  Stir and put in an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.  Freezes well.

Mixing the marshmallow whip and peanut butter in…

The secret is to boil exactly two minutes and to use sugar from the box.

** I bought a measuring cup from pampered chef last year that I use every time I have to measure something sticky and soft.  You just push the bottom insert and out pops the peanut butter!

Very neat Pampered Chef measuring cup

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