Ta-Da!!! Qipao Finished (except for final, final fitting)

July 28, 2012 at 11:36 am (All Things Wedding, Sewing Projects)

Most of you know that I’ve been working on Amanda’s Qipao since February.  Originally, I hoped to get it finished in time for her wedding on March 24th, but the fabric was delivered five days before the wedding, which totally put the kibosh on that idea…

March 24, 2012 (my favorite picture of Amanda and Hengyi)

Me, Amanda, darling DannyO and Brent

Okay, so Amanda and Hengyi are heading to China on August 16th for a wedding celebration/honeymoon.  That’s easy!!  I will just finish the Qipao by the end of July.  Oh, the best- laid plans…   I had a whole bunch of physical problems, (sorry for not thinking of a better word than “bunch” but I need a nap) — a trigeminal neuralgia setback, cellulitis at my copaxone injection sites, an MS exacerbation – many, many issues that just slammed my body.  I worked on this garment in little increments, through pain, eye issues and fatigue, through three muslins and other fit issues.  Amanda lives in NoVA so each time she’d come home, we’d fit the muslin 🙂  As I was sewing, I made the choice to make a “skin” instead of lining the garment so it can be altered throughout Amanda’s life.  Because of that decision, I had to actually “bind” all of the seams.

The seams — all bound and finished.

I changed the bodice, added a back zipper.

I added a back zipper.

I taught myself how to weave the “frogs,” designed the “frogs” and then actually made them.

The “frogs.” This is about my fourth version… trial and error was the only way I could figure this out!

I made and discarded three muslins, finally fitted a muslin,  sewed, ripped, hand-sewed, basted, pinned, ironed, tweeked, ripped, basted…  you get the picture.  All for a simple garment that will serve as a cultural bridge from my heart to Amanda’s new Chinese family — the Hu’s.  I cannot even count the hours I spent patiently working this beautiful, very expensive silk.

A picture of the pattern — the picture doesn’t do the actual fabric justice. There is an iridescence to the beautiful flower pattern that I cannot describe.

Finally, yesterday, I finished!  I didn’t take many “in progress” pictures because I didn’t have my blog in mind while I was sewing this beautiful dress. The Qipao is finished, except for the few inches of side seam directly under the sleeve.  Amanda has to try it on for that seam to be completely fitted.  She is coming the weekend of the 12th — nothing like cutting things close!!  Here are a few pictures.

The finished dress. (Amanda’s high school picture is in the left corner — a happy accident!!)

The bodice

Another shot of the bodice.

The side view

A close-up of the side slit

One final fitting, a few final seams and the final press (whew!  That’s a lot of “finals!!”).  I can’t even count the hours I have in this dress, not only sewing but those hours spent “thinking through” the next step, and the next…  It is my gift to my precious daughter, who I love more than life itself <3.  I will post pictures of Amanda and Hengyi when she wears this in China as they celebrate their wedding with Hengyi’s family.

I think I need a vacation 🙂


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Time Flies – The “Day” Has Arrived

March 24, 2012 at 6:45 am (All Things Wedding)

I am sitting here in the dark of the early morning, drinking my cup of coffee<3, listening to the Christian music channel on our TV, remembering the last 30 years.

Amanda was born 30 years ago tomorrow, March 25, 1982 at 9:54 in the morning.  Back then the sonograms weren’t as precise and the technician “thought” we were having a girl, but until she arrived, we weren’t positive.  We named her Amanda Joy.  She weighed 6 pounds.  For the first three months she had colic so bad that people would come to visit us and meet her.  She would cry and cry until their visit was shortened… mostly because we couldn’t talk over her cries.  Her Daddy found her “sweet spot” and by balancing her belly on his shoulder blade and gently bouncing, he was able to alleviate most of the pain.

Amanda loved to sing.  We’d bundle her up straight from her crib early in the morning and put her on the bus so we could get to a singing obligation.  Thanks to Grammy, we have a tape recording of her singing “Precious Blood” with our family when she was three.

Amanda was so joyful.  She loved school.  She loved to read.  She started piano lessons when she was eight and took them until she was about 12.  When she was 10 she started ballet.  Amanda loved to dance.  Amanda was a fierce soccer player and could throw an elbow with the best of the boys!

When Amanda was in 5th grade, she tested into the “gifted” class.  She liked to say she was the dumb one on the gifted class 🙂 .  She may have not been the brightest of the brights, but she was a hard worker and graduated with First Honors.  We worked tirelessly on music,  whether it was on voice lessons, Honors chorus, NAC… I played and pounded out notes, she sang.

All through her life, I struggled with Multiple Sclerosis.  She grew up quickly and often needed to pick up the slack here at home because I couldn’t get out of bed.  I finally made the determination that I needed to get my legs to work better so she and Brent could have a better quality of life.  She was my biggest cheerleader — I was her biggest cheerleader.  Amanda is a seeker of her higher calling.  The Lord has honored her life for her persistent pursuit of things higher than this world.

In 2000, Amanda moved to Townson, Maryland to attend Towson University.  That was the beginning of the process of breaking away and moving forward from our little nucleus here in Nanty Glo, PA.  She will tell you, though, that this is her “place of peace.”  My one regret is that we didn’t attend more of her performances at Towson.  I can go into all of the very legitimate reasons, {{shrug}} but what is done is done.  She lived with Ruby between her freshman and sophomore years and worked at a deli.  I do not know many details of those days because this indeed was her breaking away, a very necessary process for children as they mature. (I think parents hold on too long and thus delay their children’s maturing process — stepping off of soapbox 🙂  ).  She graduated from Towson University with honors in 2004.

She took a few jobs, stayed in the Towson/Bel Air, MD area for a a couple of years.  Amanda then decided to move to NoVa.  She rented a room in a house and met Sarah B.  They became great friends and when Sarah bought a house, Amanda moved with her.  She has had a few jobs since moving to VA, but is now working for The American Bible Society.  She met Hengyi at the church, Ambassador Bible Church, she and Sarah started attending.  Sarah met Tim at ABC and in October she married him.  Last May Hengyi came up to see Dan and I to ask our permission to marry Amanda.  We (of course) said yes!!   In June he asked her and then wedding plans began in earnest…

…so here we are, March 24, 2012, one day before Amanda turns 30.  My heart is full of love, both for my darling Amanda Joy, and for my soon-to-be son in law, Hengyi.  The house is quiet, my coffee is nearly finished.  Brent is in his old room, Amanda is in her old room and darling DannyO in our bed… all soundly sleeping.  In about two hours this day will begin in earnest.  I am going to try to remember all of the moments, to slow them down until I take a mental snapshot with my mind’s eye.

I wish for my daughter a lifetime of happiness with her chosen partner.  I wish for her the love that her Daddy and I have for each other.  I wish for her the daily joy of waking up with the person she loves, the morning “chats” over coffee and breakfast.  The evenings spent reading the daily news to each other.  I wish for her the security of knowing that she is part of a new team — one whose bonds will not be broken by the stresses of life and circumstances.  I pray that she and Hengyi always, always, keep the Lord as the center of their lives – “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12.

Be blessed today, my darling Amanda.

I love you muchly, Your Momma

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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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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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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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January 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm (All Things Wedding)


My Sparkly Mother Of The Bride Shoes 🙂

Okay, so  I vowed to wear a pair of pink sparkly shoes for Amanda’s wedding.  Well… all of the pink sparkly shoes I found had hooker heels — from 4 1/2″ and higher.  Because I am not a stupid person, I found a pair of sparkly shoes that I could actually wear!  I found these at DSW and ordered them.  I love them.  They are comfortable.  They are fun… and sparkly 🙂




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Mother Of The Bride Shoes

January 25, 2012 at 3:14 pm (All Things Wedding)

I have ordered two pair of shoes from my favorite shoe store, DSW, for Amanda’s wedding. I will decide when I get them, which pair I will wear!

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