A-line mod flannel dress – McCalls 2481

I’m always cold in the Bay Area, so instead of wishing the weather to be warmer by wearing lightweight cotton dresses, I have decided to be more practical and start making things in flannel and wool. This dress is a wearable muslin I made from an inexpensive cotton flannel that I had in my fabric stash. After wearing it a few times, I am afraid to wash it since it already has several nicks where the thread has pulled through the other side. I wore it on a chilly night in San Francisco, and I was still cold even in a heavy parka. But cotton flannel is still heading in the right direction, so I think that the next few things I make will be flannel. This wearable muslin has served its purpose of being a practice garment for fitting, and I will certainly wear it again, if it does not disintegrate when I hand wash it.

Front, vintage McCall's 2481, made by Kelina Lobo.

Front, vintage McCall’s 2481 in cotton flannel.

There was a time when the majority of my dresses were A-line and modish, and I am thinking of making more of these. This dress has some of my favorite features: a scooped boat neck and A-line. It is one of the fastest things I have sewn recently, and the simplest pattern. What do you think? Maybe the sleeveless jumper with the cut-out in a solid color flannel, to be worn with a long sleeve high neck shirt under it?  Or two-toned color blocks made by the princess seams, the sides a darker color?

Vintage McCalls 2481 sewing pattern from 1970.

Vintage McCall’s 2481 sewing pattern from 1970.

The Fit

I would fit this dress slightly differently next time, and make it a little larger all around. I made the dress without any alterations to the pattern, since the standard body measurements were correct for me. I didn’t even bother to shorten the back waist length by the usual inch, since the fit looks so tubular. I did this partially since I have made several A-line dresses in the past and they turned out bell-shaped, gigantic and tent-like – see the photos of Style 3070, at the end of this post.

Actually, the fit is pretty good, and if I made McCall’s 2481 again, I would make it slightly bigger all around, especially in the hip and skirt by two or three inches. By adding just a few inches, I’d be careful to maintain the A-line, without going in to a flared skirt. I would also shorten the back waist length by an inch and a half. The center front seam contributes slightly to the bust shaping, which is a nice touch that is visible in the small plaid. When the darts come out of princess seams, it can be a hassle to alter, so I was relieved that they fit right exactly as the pattern had them. Another interesting feature is that when the dress is viewed from the front the skirt appears pretty straight up and down, but view it from the side and the fullness of the skirt is all in the back. I sometimes have to alter patterns for a sway back, but this pattern can easily accommodate a sway back, even as snug as this size is on me.

I’m thinking that my next version of this dress will be two-toned, in one way or another. I’m leaning towards dark blue and green.

Vintage McCalls 2481 sewing pattern, side view, made by Kelina Lobo

Side, vintage McCall’s 2481 in cotton flannel. It was bright, and I’ll try not to squint next time.

Vintage McCalls 2481 sewing pattern, back view, made by Kelina Lobo

Back, vintage McCall’s 2481 in cotton flannel.

Style 3070

A while back, I made the A-line dress below. I’m showing it here as an example of how illustrations and standard body measurements are often horribly, horribly wrong. This is one of the patterns I mentioned above with sizing so far off that is more of a tent dress than an A-line dress.

Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, sewn by Kelina Lobo.

Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, also from 1970.

The sizing runs large – there is at least 3 to 4 inches of ease beyond normal! This is not a slim cut dress. The illustration looks like a slim cut dress, but it is not. My bust measures three inches larger than standard body measurement for the size, and there is still plenty of ease in the bust. If my bust had been the actual measurement quoted for the size, presumably the dress would have been about six or seven inches too big in that area. My waist and hip are the exact measure of the size, but the dress is tent-like in these areas – easily four or five inches too big, if not more. The illustration looks like it has relaxed semi-cap sleeves, but the actual sleeves are certainly not cap sleeves at all, and they bunch up under the arms like t-shirt sleeves. It might not be obvious in the images, but this dress is huge. It could be a maternity dress.

Front view, Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, from 1970.

Aarg! Bad fit and grading problems! Front view, Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, from 1970.

I’m glad that I made it out of a cloth that I have no problem giving away. I altered it to fit me, wore it a few times, then took it back out to the original pattern sizing so that I could give it to someone who it would fit.

Since I had recently made several A-line dresses similarly oversized like this, I decided not to alter the McCall’s 2481 for the plaid flannel. The sizing looked about right on the standard body measurements and also when I measured the pattern pieces. And it was about right, so next time I’ll just make it slightly larger all around.

Sizing done wrong

Something must have gone wrong in the drafting of Style 3070, or some bad math involved in the pattern grading. Or maybe this pattern company always has this type of fit. For example, Burda sewing patterns are horrifically oversized and misshapen on me, even if the measurements are correct. In fact most contemporary sewing patterns have atrocious fit on me, and they are terrible, horrible nightmares to fix. The biggest problem is the wrong armscye fit, but there is also the too-big shoulders, arms, back and waist. And, hip too small. What is left? The bust measurement is correct, but the fit all wrong, bunching above and below the bust. I’m much better off with vintage patterns or drafting my own.

Side view, Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, from 1970.

Style 3070. It might not be obvious in these images, but this dress is huge. It could be a maternity dress, there is so much extra cloth in the front.

I wish that pattern companies would honor their own standard body charts.  Or course, there is a different amount of ease for every style and era, and this is what creates fashion.  But too often sewing patterns just do not fit at all, the grading is all wrong, and the body shape is all wrong.

Fixing the size grading should not be that big of an issue – vintage patterns had it down and the how-to’s of grading is easy to look up in the most basic textbooks on pattern drafting and grading. Pattern companies should be able to do this, but they are not doing this now. Proportions are different up and down the size range – for example, compared to the smallest size, plus size women’s shoulders do not expand as much as the bust, waist, hip and arms. As sizes increase, garments do not lengthen as much as they widen.

We need specialty sizing lines.  I appreciate that it takes all body types to make up the world, and I would certainly appreciate it if I found sewing patterns or clothing marketed for a certain body type, for example “pear” or “apple” or “strawberry” body types.  Since my lower body is a size or two larger than my upper body, it would save me a ton of time shopping or sewing if I could go straight to the “pear” section to get what I needed.  A while back I was with a friend who had just tried on “Apple Bottoms” jeans in a thrift store, and they fit so perfectly and comfortably that she rushed home and purchased another pair that would become her favorite jeans for years.  Imagine the thrill of it – after years of poorly fitting jeans, she finally found the perfect fit.  We know what our fitting issues are, and we just want clothes to fit.  I would love this type of sizing straightforwardness and I know many of my family members and friends would also.

Back view, Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, from 1970.

Back view, Style 3070 vintage sewing pattern, from 1970.

I wonder what percentage of American women would appreciate this type of totally honest sizing as much as we do. Probably not very many or the sizing system would have been reformed and standardized. I hear that Vogue Patterns will soon be printing the finished garment measurements on their pattern envelopes and in catalogs, so that we can estimate ease and see the true fit. In her Open Letter to Vogue Patterns, Shams at Communing With Fabric brings up many of these fitting and grading issues. Although I have very different fitting issues, I heartily applaud her efforts.

Because of these fitting issues, I always make wearable muslins of everything I sew. Then I make it fit as best as I can.

3/14/14 update: Gail G. on WeSewRetro.com has pointed out that my “Style pattern is a half size pattern… designed for a shorter more stocky mature figure than a typical Misses. It is an old time size you don’t see much any more.”  This is very interesting, and, exactly what I was asking for: specialized pattern lines for specific body types.  Thanks for your comments!

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Favorite rice pilaf – Spanish rice

Spanish rice is cheap, fast and easy to make. Rice cooker.

Flavorful and delicious – Spanish rice is cheap, fast and easy to make. My go-to comfort food.

By popular demand, this is the highly seasoned rice pilaf recipe (AKA Spanish Rice) that I often bring to potlucks. This is the basic recipe, and there is endless potential for variation. The flavor varies a lot depending on which curry you use, and the picante level of the salsa. I strongly recommend that you start with a mild salsa and mild curry the first time you try this recipe, then season to taste.

In a small rice cooker (standard 10 cup), add the following items:

1.5 cup parboiled Pakistani long grain rice (Substitution: you can use standard medium grain rice, or rice that is not parboiled, but the texture will be different.)
3 cups water
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (Substitution: or coconut oil, or margarine.)
3/4 teaspoon MILD curry of your choice (I used Shan brand “Meat and Vegetable Curry” this time. Substitution: add 1 tablespoon coriander, OR, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, OR 1 teaspoon turmeric.)
3 Cilantro MiniCubos Knorr brand (Substitution: or 1.5 tablespoons bullion powder)
3 tablespoons MILD salsa (Use up to 6 tablespoons salsa for stronger flavor. Substitution: 6 to 8 tablespoons spaghetti sauce.)
4 tablespoons unsweetened tart pomegranate juice (Substitution: or 2 tablespoon lemon juice)
1 heaping tablespoon garlic puree (about 1.5 level tablespoons, more or less to taste.)
1 heaping tablespoon ginger puree (about 1.5 level tablespoons, more or less to taste.)
1 handful (~1/4 cup) almond slivers
1 handful (~1/4 cup) raisins

Stir liquid to distribute seasonings. Push the start button and the rice cooker will do the rest. After the rice cooker finishes and while still hot, thoroughly toss the rice to mix all ingredients and flavors.

Sometimes I will also add 1/3 cup of some dried herb, such as dill, basil, or mint at the start of cooking. It is also good with your favorite sliced or diced vegetable added in the last five minutes of cooking, such as a heaping cup of shredded carrots or shredded broccoli stalk, shredded cabbage or fennel bulb, or canned mushrooms or garbanzo beans. Add vegetables to the top of the cooking rice and cover for an additional 5 or 10 minutes to allow them to steam. When done steaming and while still hot, thoroughly toss the rice to mix vegetables, rice and all flavors.  Or you can serve the steamed vegetables on the side.


red Spanish rice pilaf

The more traditional red Spanish rice. For the red color, I have eliminated the turmeric/curry and also substituted the 3 tablespoons of salsa for 8 tablespoons spaghetti sauce. BBQ sauce also works well for this, but ketchup is a poor substitute, giving you red color but bland flavor.

Highly seasoned rice pilaf, AKA Spanish rice

Almost done steaming and not yet tossed to mix ingredients.  It really is this yellow – I added a little turmeric to this batch of rice. Optionally, when the rice is almost done steaming and there is still a little moisture visible, add a heaping cup of chopped or diced vegetables of your choice. The remaining five minutes of cooking time will steam the vegetables, which you can either serve on the side or toss in with the rice.

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Green holiday dress, McCalls 6121 from 1961

McCalls 6121 vintage sewing pattern, made by Kelina Lobo. Shown with Fruitcake Freaker insulator.

My travel mug has a sweater that matches my dress.

For the holidays, I made a green and red dress.  I picked up this wonderful festive green fabric while in Ghana, West Africa, and it has served me well for several projects.  I started with a sloper from 1961, and I turned the tight round neckline into a boat neck with a slight scoop.  I laid out the pattern pieces so that the medallion and the “V” would be in the front of the chest, the dark blue edging along the waist, and the other medallions strategically placed.

I have not decided if this dress is hideous, or it is so kitschy that it is totally fabulous.  I like the nice cap sleeves and snug bodice of McCall’s 6121, so I have made this basic pattern with all sorts of alterations, such as different necklines, collars and cuffs, princess seams, or as a button-up shirtwaist dress, etc.


McCall's 6121 vintage sewing pattern, from 1961.

The original vintage pattern, McCall’s 6121 from 1961. Notice that I changed the neckline.

This pattern was a snap to put together.  The darts make it easy to fit any shape.  Since I am shortwaisted, I shortened the backwaist length by one inch.  Next time I might shorten it by an inch and a half.  I raised the bodice front dart by three-quarters of an inch.  Then I raised the side front dart by half an inch, and at the same time re-angled it and shortened this dart length.  If I had not raised and re-angled the side front dart, it would have intersected the bodice front dart.

Also notice above, my travel mug has a sweater that matches my dress.  I always match all of my accessories to my clothing (shoes, purse, and hat) so I absolutely cannot have my travel mug a glaring mismatch.

Happy New Year, may the coming year be filled with joy and laughter!

McCalls 6121 vintage sewing pattern, front view. Sewn by Kelina Lobo.



Holiday dress: McCalls 6121 vintage sewing pattern made by Kelina Lobo.

All I need to make this a true holiday dress is a Star of David on my head and some ornaments.

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Ginger carrot soup

This carrot soup is rich and flavorful enough to be a meal in itself, but it is still light, so it is great as a small side cup of soup to complement any meal. It also works as a thick, spicy sauce for vegetables or rice. It freezes well, so you can freeze it in individual serving containers to serve as a quick meal, great for last-minute entertaining. Note that this recipe is a very large quantity.

"Everyday Seasoning" from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s “Everyday Seasoning” tastes like an “everything bagel.”  The ingredients are the following: sea salt, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, coriander, onion, garlic, paprika, chilli pepper.

Yields: Makes approximately 21 cups – about 10 servings
Preparation time: 30 minutes total

5 Lbs carrots, roughly chopped into 1” pieces
2 Large yellow onions, diced
1/2 cup olive oil or other oil
6.5 tablespoons garlic & ginger paste combo (or 3.25 Tbl of each garlic and 3.25 Tbl of ginger.)
1/3 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt crystals (use regular salt if pink Himalayan salt is not available, but keep in mind that regular table salt is not as strong.)
1/2 teaspoon Trader Joes “Everyday Seasoning” (or salt/spice blend of your choice.)
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon broth starter or bullion powder.

NOTE: Trader Joes “Everyday Seasoning” tastes like an “everything bagel” or something like an Italian spice blend. If you do not have a Trader Joe’s near you, you can approximate your own spice blend. The ingredients are the following: sea salt, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, coriander, onion, garlic, paprika, chilli pepper.

1. Roughly chop the carrots into 1 inch pieces. They don’t have to be pretty, they just have to cook evenly, so keep them the same size.

2. In a very large pot – it must hold at least 30 cups (7.5 quart or ~2 gallons) – place the carrots and enough water to cover them by about two inches. Boil over medium heat until carrots are just barely soft, but not mushy.

3. While carrots are cooking, sauté diced onions in the oil in a cast-iron pan until they are caramelized. You don’t want any crunchy and sour onions in this soup.

4. Drain water from the cooked carrots into a separate container and save this water. You will be using this water to make broth.

5. Using a blender or food processor, blend the cooked carrots along with a little of the carrot water in small batches. Blend until all the cooked carrots are pureed. Next, blend the caramelized onions along with more of the carrot water. Pour all pureed carrot and onion back into the large cooking pot after each batch, and turn the heat to medium. If there is some carrot water left over, add it to the pot as well.

6. Next, add the seasonings: garlic/ginger paste (or separate garlic and ginger paste if you can’t find the combo paste), Himalayan pink salt, “Everyday Seasoning”, powdered ginger, and a teaspoon of bullion powder or broth starter.  Stir well and cook on medium for about 5 minutes to let the seasoning blend in.

7. Taste, and season according to your preferences. I have made this soup several times, and did not have to add additional water, however, since all stoves can vary, you may need to add additional broth or water.

Ginger Carrot Soup

Ginger carrot soup. It freezes well, so you can freeze it in individual serving containers to serve as a quick meal, great for last-minute entertaining.

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Pupusas – a delicate rice flour version

harina de arroz

Harina de arroz (rice flour)

Pupusas are rice flour gorditas stuffed with all manner of tasty fillings.

Yield: Makes 4 pupusas
Preparation time: Not fast, but a fun family activity, especially for kids. 20 minutes prep, 10 minutes cooking. Be sure to read all instructions below before starting.

• Harina de Arroz – 2 cups
• Warm water – 1 cup
• Filling (see below) – 1 cup
• Small amount of oil and butter to fry in – 2 tablespoons or less.


1. In a large bowl, mix together the harina de arroz and water and knead well. Knead in more water, one tablespoonful at a time, to make a moist, yet firm dough. (It should be firm enough to form patties or roll into balls, but moist enough not to crack at the edges when you form patties.) If the mixture is not right, you will have to add one tablespoon at a time of water, or more harina de arroz. If it appears too dry, don’t think you can get away with adding a whole quarter of a cup water. Stick with one tablespoon at a time until consistency is right. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes for the dough to expand.

2. Roll the dough into a log and cut it into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball.

3. Press each ball out between your hands, smoothing the edges to keep it roughly round, and about 4 inches across. Put about 2 or 3 heaping tablespoon of filling into the middle of four of the patties. (See below for filling options.) Place a second patty on top of the filling so that there are four plump patties. Crimp the edges slightly so the filling stays inside and then pat out each between your hands so that each patty expands to 5 or 6 inches across and flattens to be about a quarter of an inch or half an inch thick. Be careful that the filling doesn’t spill out, and fix any holes or thin spots in the dough. Now is NOT the time to display your tortilla spinning and slapping expertise – rice flour pupusas are delicate and can fall apart much more easily than tortillas.

4. You can also use a tortilla press, but this takes practice to keep the filling inside. Line the tortilla press with waxed paper or parchment paper and if needed, a little more rice flour. You can also roll it out with a rolling-pin, between waxed paper, but this takes practice. It is easier to start by flattening it by hand.

5. Heat a lightly greased skillet over high flame. Cook each pupusa for about a minute on each side. After you first flip it, rub a stick of butter over the freshly browned side. Flip it and then rub the stick of butter over the other side. Grill for another two minutes on each side until golden brown. Keep warm in an insulated tortilla warmer or wrapped in kitchen towels until all pupusas are done.

Traditionally served with curtado and salsa roja. In a pinch you can use sauerkraut, which is the next best thing, but it is really not the same thing as freshly made curtado! Also delicious with bean dip and salsa, or sautéed vegetables spread on top.

Filling options – Make 1 cup total

Pupusas de Queso: Cheese filling. Use grated cheese of any kind, add a little bit of minced chiles (to taste), or salsa if you like. Or, you can add beans, drained of liquid, or minced vegetables, to the cheese mixture.

Pupusas de Frijoles Refritos: A savory “bean dip” filling. (Four parts refried beans to one part salsa. Or, one can refried beans, half a cup salsa, and two individually wrapped slices cheese. Heat and mix until cheese is melted.)

Pupusas de Papas: One cup cooked potatoes, either diced or mashed. Cooked and seasoned to your preferences, for example a quarter cup of fresh onions and garlic sautéed, then mixed with the potatoes and a little (one eighth to one quarter teaspoon) curry powder, or, mild chipotle powder, or fajita powder. Cooked diced bell peppers (a quarter cup) are great mixed in as well. Then add several tablespoons of fresh cilantro.

Pupusas de Chicharrones: Mix the chopped or crumbled chicharones with a little salsa to taste. This filling can also be made with cooked bacon crumbles + salsa. Or mixed with chili powder and tomato sauce.

I give credit to this recipe, which I have adapted into its current form above.

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Crazy log cabin quilt square (Beginner tutorial)

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial cover photo

Crazy Log Cabin Quilt Tutorial – Illustrated How-To Guide For Beginners

By Kelina Lobo

The crazy log cabin design is a series of irregular squares inside other squares or rectangles, each with varying angles and sizes. It is fast, fun, very improvisational, and a great project for beginning quilters or sewers getting started in quilting.  This approach uses a backing that all pieces are attached to, so it is much easier to keep the square evenly flat and smooth. Check out these photos from a group using this technique – none of whom had ever sewn or quilted.

Also great for the more experienced quilting rebel: no measuring, no precise sewing, and very little planning make this project an easy way to experiment with color and shape in unexpected ways. If you don’t like following rules, this may be just the thing for you. You can make your crazy log cabin square as crazy as you like or as squared as you like.  Use up fabric scraps and make a beautiful improvisational quilt square in no time.  If you would like more hands-on practice and you are in the greater Bay Area, I’m teaching a Crazy Log Cabin Quilt Square class.

Let’s get started!

crazy log cabin quilting tutorial 1a


1A. Choose some fabrics that you think look nice together. I always like to have at least some kind of accent or contrast color.

crazy log cabin quilting tutorial 1b


1B. When choosing fabrics, notice how the same colors look different depending on what colors or patterns they are next to.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 2


2. Start out with a square backing cloth, and place your center piece of fabric. It is not attached to the backing fabric, but just resting there. Notice I have placed the measuring tape along the lower edge, which is where I will start attaching the second fabric.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 3


3. With right sides together, and the lower raw edge matched, sew a quarter of an inch from this raw edge, through all three layers of cloth.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 4


4. This lower raw edge has been sewn through all three layers of fabric. Be sure that the raw edge of the center piece fabric sticks out and all three layers of fabric have been sewn through. You want to be sure that the center piece fabric does not come loose later.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 5


5. Open up the seam just sewn. Fold the green cloth back down, and press open with a very hot iron.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 6


6. Follow the same procedure along the upper edge of the center piece fabric.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 7


7. After sewing all three fabrics together, flip the fabric up, and press open with a hot iron for a clean seam. You now have the top and the bottom raw edges of the centerpiece fabric secured to the backing fabric.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 8


8. Next you will need a strip of fabric that will cover the entire right side, and contain all of the raw edges on the right. It must be longer than the width of the first two green strips and center piece fabric.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 9


9. Place your third strip on top with right sides together. Notice that all the raw edges of the lower fabric stick out to the right, beyond the fabric you have just placed (the 3rd green strip.) Also notice that the third strip is as long or longer than the other fabric below it. Stitch and press open to the right.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 10


10. Follow the same procedure on the left edge. In this photo, the strip on the left is stitched down a quarter of an inch from the edge.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 11


11. All of the seams have been pressed down smoothly, and there are no raw edges exposed from the center piece fabric. It is OK if there is some fabric going over the edge of the backing fabric, you will trim this off later.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 12


12. Again, notice that all of the lower level edges of fabric are visible to the left of the stitching, and when the fabric on top is folded to the left, this will contain any raw edges.

crazy log cabin quilt square 13


13. Fold fabric strip to the left and press with a hot iron. This is how it looks! You have mastered the basic process, and will repeat this process on all four edges with squares/trapezoids of your different color fabrics.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 14


14. Now start with your next color.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 15


15. You can start on any edge, again being sure that the lower fabric sticks out beyond the top layer, and each strip is longer than the width of those below it. You will sew along this right edge, a quarter of an inch from the raw edges.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 16


16. Fold the fabric down flat to the right and press with a hot iron. On the opposite side from what you have just sewn, place the next fabric strip. Sew along this edge, fold to the left, and press open with a very hot iron.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 17


17. This is what the quilt square looks like from the back. With muslin backing faced up, trim off the extra fabric that goes beyond the muslin.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 18


18. Right side up, this is how the trimmed quilt square looks.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 19


19. Now only four corners of the muslin are showing. Please look at the lower right edge of the green square, with the small blue/red arc. If you want to keep the green square a square, rather than a trapezoid or an angled square, your next line of stitching will be straight along the raw edges.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 20


20. If you would like more of an angled square, your next line of stitching will be slightly angled, along the line of the tape measure. Again, be sure that all raw edges are secured.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 21


21. Place your next strip of fabric, stitch a quarter of an inch from the edge, press open with a very hot iron.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 22


22. Notice the blue strip is angled, and it is fine if there is a lot of fabric sticking out beyond the line of stitching.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 23


23. Press open with a very hot iron. Because you angled the line of stitching, the green is now an angled square.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 24


24. Flip the square over with the backing facing up and trim off any excess fabric. Now you are almost done! There are just three corners that have exposed muslin.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 25


25. Follow the same procedure on the three remaining corners.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 26


26. Stitch, press open with a very hot iron.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 27


27. I could have used more of the blue fabric on the last corner, but I liked this green and blue fabric, so I’m using it instead.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 28


28. All under layer fabrics stick out beyond the top layer, and you will stitch a quarter of an inch below this raw edge.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 29


29. Flip fabric strip over and press open seam with a hot iron.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 30


30. Trim off any excess fabric. That’s it, you are now DONE!

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 31


31. This looks great! All stitching lines have been pressed open with a hot iron and the square lays flat without any wrinkles or bulges. Quilt squares can be sewn together, or sewn to strips on all sides and attached together.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 32


32. Now I’m looking at this square and I think it is missing something. It is fine the way it is, but it looks a little muddy and would be better with more accent or contrast, so I am going to add more to it.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 33


33. I hold some cloth up to eyeball potential additions. I could add the green and blue fabric on the left. Or the geometric fabric on the right. I think the blue, red and white triangle on the lower right looks cool. Both of these fabrics make the blue fabric pop out more and look brighter.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 34


34. Let’s see… Green and blue fabric.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 35


35. …or geometric fabric.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 36


36. I choose the geometric fabric. The white blobs echo the floral pattern in the center, and the red is a nice accent that is consistent from the center to the edges. I stitch them down with the same procedure. This is the final result!

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 37


37. Close up looks good. Clean and flat seams, no raw edges showing, threads clipped.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 38


38. Trim any loose threads. This is how the back of the quilt square looks.

crazy log cabin quilt tutorial 39


39. The final result!  Fast and easy – and I’ve used up scraps to make something cool.

For more information: Crazy Log Cabin Quilt Square & Basic Sewing Pattern Alterations

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Two Victorian dresses – Past Patterns #702 and #801

PastPatterns #801, fan front bodice, blue stripe cotton dress made by Kelina Lobo.

Past Patterns #801, fan front bodice, 1844 – 1850s. – The skirt is big and fun, made with nine yards of cloth.

A while back I made these two historically accurate reproductions of Victorian dresses. I used Saundra Ros Altman’s Past Patterns #702 and #801. Past Patterns’ tagline is “The Historical Pattern Company Dedicated to Accuracy” and it is true – Past Patterns always has excellent patterns with very informative and detailed construction notes and historic notes. I did not encounter any fitting issues with these two. None of these photos show these dresses with the correct accessories, so I really should go out and take some new photos.


You can find more information about Past Patterns below.

PastPatterns #801, fan front bodice, 1844 – 1850s.   – According to Saundra Ros Altman’s Past Patterns, “This fan-front bodice and single skirt were fashionable between 1841 – 1847. It may also be worn as an 1850s gown because daguerreotypes abound of women wearing the fan-front bodice in the 1850s.”

Past Patterns #702, 1850s – 1863 dart fitted bodice with full pagoda sleeves – According to Saundra Ros Altman’s Past Patterns, “…full pagoda sleeves [were] fashionable from the late 1850’s to 1863 …modified pagoda sleeves were popular from the late 1850’s though 1863.”

Past Patterns #801, fan front bodice, blue stripe cotton dress, made by Kelina Lobo.

Past Patterns #801, fan front bodice, 1844 – 1850s. – Why did I have to hold my arms over the fan front? The fan front turned out well, but unfortunately you can’t see it in this photo. I know, I know, the hairstyle is not historically accurate 1844 – 1850s, and only vaguely late 1860s in silhouette.

Past Patterns #702, dart fitted bodice with pagoda sleeves, made by Kelina Lobo

Past Patterns #702, 1850s – 1863 dart fitted bodice with full pagoda sleeves – This bodice is nicely and accurately fitted, showing off a lovely hourglass figure, especially when viewed from behind, and it has the characteristic dropped shoulder seams.

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Colombian arepas – Lobo style

These tasty cornmeal cakes can be found grilled, fried, or baked in several Latin American countries. The outside fries up crisp and golden and the cheesy middle stays soft and delicious and goopy moist. You can fry them in butter rather than oil if you want them extra tasty. This is a delicious Colombian version that I have adapted and added seasonings to. They can be prepared savory with cheese and herbs/spices, as in this recipe, or sweet with a little sugar mixed in to the dough. They can be eaten for breakfast, as a side dish, or with added sugar for a sweet snack. They can also be split while hot and stuffed with any kind of filling.

Yields: Makes 10 to 12 cornmeal cakes.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes


1 cup Arepa flour. (Not to be confused with masa harina! Arepa flour is precooked, very finely ground cornmeal. Popular brands are “PAN Pre-cooked white cornmeal,” or “DonArepa” or, package will say “Harina pre-cocida masa.”)
2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup +2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup butter (6 to 8 pats butter) =OR= 1/4 cup oil
2 heaping tablespoons Sabsi Dolma herb blend (Optional. Or add your favorite herbs.)


PAN Pre-cooked white cornmeal

Arepa flour is precooked, very finely ground cornmeal. Popular brands are “PAN Pre-cooked white cornmeal,” or “DonArepa” or, package will say “Harina pre-cocida masa.” Not to be confused with masa harina!

Mix together arepa flour, cheese, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then stir in water until well mixed. Let stand until enough water is absorbed for a soft dough to form, 1 to 2 minutes. Dough will continue to stiffen.

Form three level tablespoons dough into a ball the size of a golf ball, and flatten between your palms, gently pressing to form a 1/4 inch thick patty that is about two and half to 3 inches wide, then gently smooth it around in the sides to eliminate cracks. Make all of the patties at once, rather than as you fry them. Put them on a clean plate in a single layer or on a wax-paper lined surface. Form more patties with remaining dough in the same way.

Heat butter (or oil if you are using that instead) in a large cast iron frying pan or skillet over medium high heat until it simmers. Then fry the arepas in two batches, turning over once until deep golden on the edges, 8 to 10 minutes total per batch. Drain on paper towels, or if you are frying in butter put them directly on your plate!

Eat while hot: They are delicious and tasty hot, and not as good cold.

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Two 1958 sheath dresses: Advance 8617


View 1, Advance 8617, from 1958 – I made this dress first. It has gussets in the sleeves.


Here are two sheath dresses I made from a vintage 1958 pattern, Advance 8617. The yellow “tropical dress” has kimono sleeves and the fitting is more relaxed in general, and I think it is better for it. The blue dress has gussets in the sleeves and a more fitted bodice. The original 1958 pattern was much too big and I re-sized it to my size. My weight has shifted slightly since cutting the pattern, so the fit was no longer perfect, a good learning experience for the next dress.  (Don’t wait 8 months between cutting and sewing!)  I ended up taking in the bodice side seams a little and lengthening the darts slightly.

Vintage 1958 Advance 8617 – tropical dress

View 3, Advance 8617 from 1958 – my “tropical dress.” I made this dress second. The kimono sleeves give it a more relaxed fit.  Notice that the waist falls in the right place in this version.

What I found in the test run with this pattern: This dress is best in a very lightweight cloth with good drape, especially silk, chiffon or rayon.  The pattern is more roomy than expected, leaving space to take it in or let it out later.

The inspiration was Joan’s dress from the accordion scene in Season 3, Episode 3 of Mad Men, see photo below.  But obviously I am not shaped like Joan, and few people are.

Tropical dress – I imagine myself wearing this dress lounging on a warm and breezy veranda sipping hibiscus cooler.  Since I’d be lounging, who needs a belt?!  So I set aside the belt hardware and I did not make the self-fabric belt.

Blue dress – I like the shorter sleeves and the more fitted upper body, but the extra time to do the gussets was not really worth it.  Short cap sleeves or very short kimono sleeves might look just as nice and save a lot of time.

Technical alteration details:

Both of these dresses are test-runs (wearable muslins) of each view before I purchased more expensive silk or rayon.  What I changed:

– To re-size the pattern down, I took a total of 4 inches out of the pattern, with a 1 inch vertical tuck in all pattern pieces, through the shoulder to waist to hem.  This did not reduce the neckline.
– I shortened the back waist length by 1 inch in the blue dress and 1.5 inches in the yellow dress.
– I lengthened the bust darts by 1.5 inches and lengthened the skirt darts by 1.25 inches
– I reduced all skirt seams to half an inch.


View 1, Advance 8617, from 1958 – I made this dress first.  It has gussets in the sleeves and a more fitted bodice.  This blue cloth is a more retro look, but the yellow West African print was probably around in 1958.


View 3, Advance 8617, from 1958 – my “tropical dress.” I made this dress second.  The kimono sleeves give it a more relaxed fit.  Nessa has the best expression in this photo!  She looks skeptical.

Specific fitting issues:

My back waist length is about an inch short compared to most “standard body” measurements, so I always shorten patterns in the upper torso.  Also I usually use a pattern with a bust measure that is two to four inches smaller than my actual bust measure.  I do this since my ribcage, back, arms and shoulders are smaller than average compared to “standard body” measurements.  I need for these critical areas to be fitted; I expand out the other areas that need it.  It makes more sense to expand out one area than take in four hard-to-fit areas.  Otherwise I’m swimming in the bodice even through the chest measure is correct.


Joan’s accordion scene in Season 3, Episode 3 of Mad Men.

What I found:

This pattern allows a lot of ease.  Even though I took the pattern in to a bust measurement that was an inch smaller than my actual bust measurement, as you can see, it is still quite loose in the bust.  If I wanted it to look like Joan’s dress, I would have to take in the bodice much more all around.

View 3, with the square neckline, has a huge neckline!  It is barely off the shoulders.  While I wanted an open and tropical look, this is just too open.  In retrospect, I know that I should have fitted the shoulders to my narrow shoulders, which would have also solved the too-big neckline.  Or, I could have just taken in the neckline by a couple of inches.


Advance 8617 vintage sewing pattern from 1958.

In the first dress (blue), I shortened the back waist length by an inch, but that was not enough even though the measurements should have been correct.   So in the second dress (yellow), I shortened the back waist length by 1.5 inches.

No surprise, my upper body is smaller than the lower body.  I fixed this simply by reducing all skirt seams to half an inch or less, which adds a total of five eighths of an inch + around the hips.  (The skirt had already been taken in 4 inches when it was re-sized become my size.)

I could have had a more detailed approach to sizing down the pattern, but since the sleeves and shoulders were loosely fitted, I thought the vertical tucks in the pattern would work out fine, and they did.


I will make this dress again, however I will not wear it to an event where I plan to eat a lot (!), because it is fitted in the midsection.  This dress is best in a cloth with a nice drape and a slight stretch, and I will certainly make the square neckline smaller so that it stays on my shoulders.

Advance 8617 vintage sewing pattern, made by Kelina Lobo.

The “tropical” dress in action! Advance 8617 vintage sewing pattern.

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Cuban black bean soup/sauce (with optional cod steak) – slow cooker

Cuban black beans are a great alternative to Mexican or American black beans.  Prepared with cod, it is a satisfying and nutritious meal.

1 Lb. dry black beans
3 cups broth (I prefer Maggi “Tu Sabor Latino! Chicken Bouillon” or “Knorr Caldo con Sabor de Tomate Y Chipotle Bouillon.”)
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes w/ green chiles
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles
1 green bell pepper, diced, or cut into narrow strips
1 8-oz. cod steak, cut into 1 inch cubes (Optional – this is a very “fishy” fish. Substitution: catfish.)
1 cup minced yellow onion
4 cloves minced garlic
2 Tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt & pepper to taste

Rinse beans and remove any small stones and debris.  Place beans in slow cooker (6 quart or larger) and add enough water to cover by 4-5 inches.  Bring to a boil, then boil for 20 minutes. This can be done either on the stove top in a large pot, or in the slow cooker. Since the slow cooker takes about 30 minutes to get to a boil on “high” setting, total time is close to an hour.  Alternately, bring to a boil on the stove top on medium high which will get it to a boil much faster.

After 20 minutes boiling, drain water in a colander in the sink, and rinse any filmy or bubbly residue – this removes the gassyness.  Add all ingredients to the crock pot, mix well, cover and cook on low for 8-12 hrs.  The beans should be soft enough to squish easily when pressed gently.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Serve with bread, rice, or tortillas.

NOTE: If cooking for anyone prone to gas, that is about 80% of us, soak the beans in water overnight or for at least 6 hours.  Drain of water, rinse, and prepare as described above.

This recipe can be made vegetarian / vegan by using a different broth and omitting the cod steak.

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