Tank Top Dreams and Gout


Tank top from Pattern Master Boutique. No Darts. Mistake was that I put two backs together.

I had some great summer sewing plans, but as sometimes  happens life gets in the way. More about that below.

Using Pattern Master Boutique, I wanted to perfect the fit of a tank top and also test other tank top patterns I had. I had been so inspired by the Sorbetto Top  This top is free to download if you want to experiment .

I drafted a tank top, with no darts and a curved  hem. After doing this I learned that when you draft a tank top in PMB the bust darts are rotated to the armhole. My major complaint with most tank top patterns and ready to wear tank tops are baggy armholes.  With the tank above, I should’ve realized I wasn’t feeling well enough to sew. I actually sewed two backs together.  I didn’t realize it till I I tried it on and couldn’t get it over my head. I just took a pair of scissors and scooped the neckline out.  I used the gathering foot at the armhole and neckline to ease out the excess fabric.  I did this with all of the tank tops on the armholes. Both of these were made using my Bernina 830E for the main construction.

Great to use for easing larger amount of fabric to a smaller area

The  photo was before the hem. I used a rolled hem on my Babylock Evolve Wave for the hem because it was fast and easy. I also love using the thicker decorative threads I have in the looper.

Rolled hem with Babylock Evolve and Superior Brand Halo thread in upper and lower loopers

I used self made bias for the armholes and neck

Betty Boop tank. Drafted using Pattern Master Boutique v5


Rolled Hem with YLI Designer 6 Rayon in upper and lower looper on Babylock Evolve Wave

The final tank top I made was from Kwik Sew 3254. I made this one the traditional way with regular neck and armhole facings. I only had to gather the armholes a bit with the gathering foot.   For the neck and arm facings, I referred to Louise Cuttings video on perfectly smooth facings and as you can see, they look pretty darn professional.  I got my newly repaired Pfaff 2034 back from repair and it ran like a champ.

Kwik Sew 3254. Used Louise Cutting method with the facings.

As I am writing this, it is October 1, 2012. It’s supposed to get up into the 90’s today in Santa Cruz. I had these completed just in time.


The next few paragraphs I’m going to speak about my experience with a severe episode of gout. If you are only here for the sewing stuff, stop reading now.

Gout is a type of arthritis that consists of uric acid crystals in the blood that congregate by a foot joint. In the past it was thought to be a ‘Kings Disease’ from eating rich foods. My Rheumatologist assures me though, that it happens to all kinds of people. It is extremely painful and caused swelling of the involved joints.

In 2007 I came down with my first gout attack. It lasted about 7 days and was controlled with Indocin a non steroid anti-inflammatory medication. On and off since then, I’ve had some minor attacks, always responding to NSAID‘s and not lasting a very long time.  In the  second week of July  2012, I came down with a pretty bad flu.  The week after that while the flu was gone my right foot became very painful, red and swollen. In the past the gout had attacked my left foot and was always located in the big toe. This time, the whole area by my toes was swollen and the pain was excruciating. NSAIDS were ineffective in relieving the pain

Went for X-Rays and even after 2 courses of steroids, these symptoms continued. It would get a little better during the highest doses of the steroids and then come back with a vengeance.  This lasted 2 months. Finally, I’m happy to say that it is subsiding. It had been so bad, I couldn’t even wear shoes.  This gout will now be controlled by Allopurinol 300 mg daily and a diet low in purines.

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Vogue 1291 Sandra Betzina’s Todays Fit


Vogue 1291 Sandra Betzina's Todays Fit

These blouses are wonderful. I fell in love with the pattern and ordered it immediately. I have a few pieces of rayon and silk with wonderful drape and I thought this would be the perfect pattern for them. As per usual when I make a pattern, I scour Pattern Review so I can see how others have interpreted this pattern. First there was the lovely Bernie Gee who loved the pattern and as you can see, she looks so elegant in it. Here is her review of the pattern.   The beautiful Cenncetta of the Mahogany Stylist blog, also created this pattern.  I want to thank them both for the help with this pattern when I became confused. After thirty years of sewing, I couldn’t figure out how this went together.  The directions are well written with lots of hints and tips from Sandra.  In the middle of assembling this pattern, I did get sick. I also was distracted trying to make my pants sloper from Pattern Master Boutique.  Finally, I just put it away for a few weeks and went back to it. Something clicked and I was able to finish the wearable muslin.

The first blouse is made up in a stable knit with not a lot of stretch. It also has less drape then this blouse needed. It is wearable. The neckline can be tricky and Sandra gives some tips for making the neckline lay flat. In this instance, I stitched it to the neckline as Sandra instructs then topstitched the seam allowance to the body of the blouse. This seemed to snug up the neckline so the band would lay flat.

Wearable Muslin of Vogue 1291

The second blouse, I made out of a rib knit for the body and a very soft drape rayon for the sleeves.  This blouse was easy to assemble, but the neckline went bad. I probably should have used the rayon for the  neckline instead of the the knit. The neckline stretched out beyond repair. I tried the same treatment of stitching down the seam allowance but that only made it worse. Then I tried to turn the neckband to the inside like a facing and that was a mess also. I was honestly about to throw the whole thing in the garbage when I had an idea. I jacked the differential up in my Evolve and set it to a 2 thread overlock. I then shaved off the neckline with the band. I then folded the  neckline to the wrong side about 3/4 inch and threaded 1/2 inch elastic through it. I was able to live with that.

Completed Vogue 1291


Close up of the neck

One final word….. Be sure to look at the completed measurements that are written on the pattern. In certain fabrics, this pattern could be too tight. In the directions, Sandra even accounts for that saying that if it’s too snug around the belly you can put in a gusset. I would rather cut a larger size in advance.


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SuperFantastic Shirt #2


Completed Challis SuperFantastic Shirt

My second Hot Patterns Superfantasic Shirt is now complete. I started the second one in a rayon challis (that feels delicious) and sadly the front was terribly off grain. I managed to get a second piece and salvage the collar, cuffs, sleeves from the first shirt. I just needed to cut out a new front, yoke, collar stands and interfacing.  The collar stand application was making me crazy. I finally fudged it by hand-sewing the stand facing down. The  side seams were sewn and finished on the Babylock Evolve and the hem is sewn with the CoverStitch on the Evolve.


close shot of the collar and buttons

The buttonholes are so easy to do on the Bernina 830E and it’s kind of cool that I can sew on the buttons by machine also. Most zig-zag machines will sew on buttons if you’re able to drop the feed dogs. I was playing with the 50’s Rocketeer and was able to sew buttons with that also. (Love those old machines, but that is another post)

I was reading a post Carolyn from Diary of a Sewing Fanatic and she wrote how she seemed to make the same dress over and over. That really made me think and suddenly I remembered how in 2003, I made almost the exact same shirt in the exact same fabric!


Click image to see more views and photo of Kwik-Sew Pattern. Embroidery pack was OESD Sunflowers and the green is the exact same shade as the current blouse, but the photo is not true to color.


A trip to the storage unit revealed all kinds of goodies. I found more of my fabric stash and brought home a bunch of older sewing books and older Burda Mags I’d been looking for.


V1291    This is Sandra Betzina’s Today’s Fit  V 1291. I found some beautiful lavender floral georgette in my stash that this will be perfect for. In the directions, Sandra recommends making in a knit first to get an accurate fit. I have a blue/white floral with will also be perfect. This is my next project.. But first..

I plan to make a simple tank from PatternMaster Boutique 5 just in case we get a real summer here!

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Sometimes a Great Notion

Hotpatterns Superfantastic Shirt

No, not the movie. It’s not out on DVD yet. With my new blouse I created using Hot Patterns Superfantastic Shirt, I found two super notions that made my task easier. In addition I will share sources I have found to complete a perfect collar and an encased yoke.

First, I want to talk about this pattern. I believe that Trudy from Hotpatterns uses the Wild Ginger engine to draft her patterns. This pattern fit me perfectly (I needed to shorten the sleeves as I do with all of my patterns) I also had to shorten the bust darts as in the wearable muslin they past the bust point. These are french darts which are oh so flattering.   The first shirt I made to be a wearable muslin from inexpensive fabric I got from Fabric.com  a few years ago. I’ve been sewing for thirty years plus, so I admit I’m rather cocky sometimes about my skills. When I do not use PatternMaster Boutique, I use one of the major pattern company’s  patterns and over the years have become spoiled with being spoon fed every step of the instructions, i.e. sew side seam, press seam open, etc.   I’m not putting such comprehensive instructions down; I learned how to sew with these instructions and  have nothing but admiration and respect for the people that take the time to write them.  Today though, we have such a plethora of resources in books, blogs and Youtube videos.  I also can’t tell you  how long ago I put in an enclosed yoke or neckband and did a sleeve placket, and I had to relearn these skills.

I love the collar tutorial on this blog.  This is Nancy Zieman‘s technique, but

described beautifully by Bunny.  Another technique I’ve learned from Nancy Zieman to sew perfect darts is to make a clip in each dart leg and just mark the point. Close the dart; take a few stitches leaving a very long tail. Then pull the thread tail to the point using the thread as a guide.  Both of these techniques are shown on a wonderful DVD from Nancy Zeiman called “Nancy’s 25 Favorite Sewing Techniques.”

Stitch Guides

Slips through the holes on the back of the Bernina Presser Foot

This is the kind (above) I used when I made the tote bag. It worked well and allows you to sets stitch lines 6 inches from the needle if desired.

The seam guide closer to the needle is magnetic and works well with most machines.

The plastic seam guide comes with the 830, and as you can see adjusts to the measurements you need on either side of the presser foot. Note it can only be used when the table is in place

With the #10 foot, you just have to move the needle as far from the fabric as you want and guide the fabric by the lip of the foot. This type of foot available for many machines.

Another option is the 1/4 inch foot. The Bernina 1/4 inch foot (with guide) lets you lift up the guide so you can line up to another stitching line.

Peter Lapin from the wonderful Male Pattern Boldness blog has a great video on topstitching using older machines

Another great article on topstitching is on Carolyn’s Blog called Diary of a Sewing Fanatic.

This is the wearable muslin made out of a cotton lawn from fabric.com that I got for 3.99 a yard a few years ago. The only pattern alteration I made was to shorten the dart and shorten the sleeves.

Here is a close-up of the collar/stand and button placket which is the basis of the soft tuck down the front. Very flattering blouse.

And now for my sad tale of woe….

As I was making the challis shirt, the front was poorly off-grain. I didn’t realize this till I put the ‘PERFECT COLLAR’ on and it was crooked compared to the placket. Soooo I have to start all over again with a new front piece..

To quote the  beleaguered New York Mets announcer today: Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug. SPLAT.

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Meatball Mania

Yummy Meatballs

My husband Richard absolutely loves meatballs. For Christmas, I asked for this meatball maker. I found out about it from my friend Mattie’s Blog . She also loved this because the meatballs browned evenly in less then 15 minutes.

Meatball maker I got for Christmas. Hard to clean

In December and January, there have been many occasions for hor d’oeuvres. I prepared cocktail meatballs for both News Year’s Eve and each time the New York Giants won a game except for the Superbowl, when I made rigatoni and meatballs.

News Years Eve meatballs

The following recipe is from Allrecipes.com:


1 pound lean ground beef
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons minced onion

1 (8 ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
3/4 cup chili sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, egg, water, bread crumbs, and minced onion. Roll into small meatballs.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once.
In a slow cooker or large saucepan over low heat, blend the cranberry sauce, chili sauce, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Add meatballs, and simmer for 1 hour before serving.

I remembered a recipe from the ’60’s that was easy and great for a Crockpot. It was simple and was reminded of it by my high school friend Ruthann Lagrega. The recipe consisted of a jar of chili sauce and a jar of jelly. It was spectacular!

Bestest Cocktail Meatballs Sauce is just chili sauce and jelly

Italian Wedding Soup

I searched for recipes for this wonderful soup, and I saw many. I finally decided to make my own, based son some of these recipes.

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1 cup soft bread crumbs
2/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1 onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
1/4 cup bacon fat
2 bunches of escarole coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup white wine
6 cups broth (3 cups chicken 3 cups beef)
1/2 cup of pastina

1) make meatballs, place in refrigerator

2) saute onion and carrots in bacon fat, add chopped escarole and stir till wilte

3) add tomato paste. Stir. Add broth and white wine, bring to boil

4) add pastina and meatballs and simmer for about 10 minutes

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Bernina Tote Bag and Miss Hilly

Bernina Series 830 E Tote Bag

Richard gifted me with a beautiful new Bernina Series 830E in November of 2009 from California Sewing. We knew and liked Roza for the years we were Bernina dealers.  I’ve blogged about this machine before, but I’ve also had my share of problems with it. After having it only 2 months the sensor died. One day I turned on the machine and the machine wouldn’t boot. The bobbin mechanism kept spinning and the machine couldn’t be used.  We took it back to Roza who took the sensor off the store machine and the tech installed a new one.  I was working full time and really didn’t explore the machine, yet it did seem like it worked okay when I used it.  The bobbin threading requires you to thread it ‘blindly’ from the bottom and then check it with a mirror. The thread has to be between a ‘fork like’ thing for regular sewing and inside a clip for embroidery. This is unlike any sewing machine I ever used, and it really took a long time to master the technique.  After threading the bobbin, I have to put a mirror under it and then use a flashlight to make sure it’s threaded correctly.  That brings me to the actual bobbins. It’s true as Bernina says that the bobbins have 40% more thread then older models but it comes with a price. The bobbins are black plastic with silver paint on the front. (I never thought Bernina would use plastic bobbins)  After about a month, the silver paint wears off in spots and wreaks havoc with the sensors in the machine.  With this machine, Bernina has introduced updating via the internet. You download a Bernina supplied file; put it on a USB drive and plug the drive into the machine. This worked well until the last update. After the update is installed, the feed dogs no longer lift when going to sewing mode. For the past few months, Bernina has pulled the update off of the web site and instructed you bring the machine to your dealer.  For me, it was after this update that the needle threader stopped working.    Honestly, before that, it functioned but only about 80% off the time. (for a $12,0000+ machine, I expect 100% of the time)  We brought it in to California Sewing and Roza called me a few days later telling me the machine needed a new ‘needle threader’ and it usually costs $300 to fix. He further told me that ‘for me’ he would charge me $150.00. The documented warrantee stated 5 years for circuit boards and 2 years for electrical parts.  I was angry, but I did learn a lesson. I decided to name my machine Miss Hilly and sharpen my understanding of the machine.

After watching the DVD again, I downloaded the instructions for the Bernina 830 Tote Bag. The set of instructions I had was sparse and even though I’m an experienced sewest I found them hard to understand and unclear. I want to thank Sue Halter for her help in the completion of this bag.  It turned out that there was another more comprehensive set of instructions for this bag.

Other side of bag

I do love using this machine.  The features are wonderful and it does drive like only a Bernina can.  I do have a new favorite goodie Bernina gadget:

Slips through the holes on the back of the Bernina Presser Foot

This gives me a guide to place the stitching the exact  measurement from the last stitching.

Close-up of one side of bag


Close up of other side of bag

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US Senate Bean Soup

Senate Bean Soup, delicious and satisfying

I got this recipe from “Not Your Mothers Slow Cooker Cookbook.” and have wanted to make it for awhile. If you google Senate Bean Soup you will get a zillion hits

1 lb dry navy beans picked over; soaked in water overnight and drained

1 large ham hock

10 cups of water (I find this will vary according to the size of your pot)

2 medium size yellow onions minced

3 medium sized baking potatoes peeled and cubed

6 ribs of celery including ribs finely chopped

1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1/4 tsp of freshly cracked black pepper or to taste

salt to taste

1 put drained beans and ham hock in slow cooker and cover with fresh cold water. Cook 1 hour on high.

2 Drain taking care not to splash yourself with  hot water. Add onions, potatoes, celery and half the parsley, the beans and ham hock. Add the ten cups of water. (I have a 7 quart crockpot and 10 cups was too much water) Cook on low 8-10 hours. (I cooked on high for that long because the pot was so full.

3 Add the rest of the parsley, salt to taste and more pepper. Cook for 15 minutes more.

4) Remove ham hock, let cool and take meat off and put it in the soup. (I sliced up some polish sausage and added them to pot to heat through)

I did some research on this soup and found this from the United States Senate

Unbelievably flavorful and delicious (and good for you!)

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