Renaissance Costume

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! 

Calling all ladies of the Kingdom…..
It’s been a while since I had a sewing tutorial. You may recall that one of our family’s summer adventures was to attend the Renaissance Faire, and I whined about not having a costume to wear. No more! I am exited to work on this project, I have wanted to make a costume for the fair for years! 
This particular design is inspired by Simplicity Pattern 3809. I must tell you that the corset is the most difficult of the three pieces to make, the chemise (or blouse) and skirt are not complicated. But, since you may be a sewing novice, I have lots of tricks of the design trade to share with you! I will be making the entire outfit, so be sure and stop back for the rest of the tutorial!
You must understand, I use patterns a bit differently than most people. I think of the instructions as guidelines, not something that is written in stone. There are a few simple methods the apparel production industry uses to speed things up, I tend to take these short cuts and still have a great result, but if you are not comfortable with my methods, I would recommend sticking with the pattern directions and making a muslin garment first to be sure you understand how it all goes together. No need to waste expensive fabric and not have it turn out!
This costume design comes from the middle class collection of designs. During the Renaissance period there were different classes of folks, some wealthier, some poor. The design on the left is middle class because it is made of more expensive materials such as brocade, silk, taffeta or velvet. It also has decorative gold braid and ribbon trimmings. The design on the right is a peasant costume. It is a simpler design, made from cotton or linen, without any trims or embellishments. Don’t be thinking you have to make a fancy garment, I find that the simpler ones are usually the ones that stand out the most. Need inspiration or ideas? Check out my Pintrest Renaissance Inspiration Board.
There are also certain colors that are appropriate for each class. The list on the Bristol Renaissance Faire Website is a great resource for appropriate fabrics and colors.
The corset pattern is made of several small fitted pieces. It has a lining, an interlining and the brocade. I found my brocade in the costume department, but you can also find appropriate fabrics in the home decor department, although they will be a bit heavier.
2 yards 45″ brocade
2 yards 45″ muslin (for interlining)
2 yards dark colored, lightweight cotton 45″ (for lining)
6 3/4 yards of 1/2″ gold braid for trim
14 metal grommets
3 3/4 yards of 3/8″ ribbon for lacing
1 7/8 yards of featherweight boning, 3/8″ wide
matching cotton thread

I ordered all my notions online. It was much easier than spending hours searching for what I needed at the fabric store. I would highly recommend this method, it is far easier and it is delivered to your doorstep! No lines here!
Before you begin, make sure you wash and dry your fabrics before cutting them. The brocade and trims may be dry clean only items, so it’s okay not to wash that one, but definitely do the other fabrics.
Next, check your measurements against those on the back of the pattern. Center back length, bust and waist will be the most critical for this corset design. Alter your pattern if needed, here are some tips:
Altering Center back length: Add or subtract paper from the marked waistline on the front, sides and back pieces. I am long waisted, so I find I always have to add a couple of extra inches here. You can use brown paper bags, computer paper, or extra tissue paper to fill in the gaps on each piece for consistency. After altering, walk the pattern edges together with the point of a pencil to be certain you have added the amounts consistently on all pieces. 
Altering Bust: If you are adding or subtracting a small amount, say an inch or less, alter the pattern at the underarm seam only. If you are adding or subtracting more than an inch, split the amount up and add a little bit to each bodice piece. Blend the extended or decreased seam into the pattern ending at the waistline.
Altering Waistline: It’s easy to add or subtract fullness here, but as with the bust alteration, if you need to increase, or decrease your pattern by less than an inch, do so at the side seam only. Additional alterations can be split up between the bodice pieces and blended into the bust-line.
I recommend cutting the pieces out of muslin or scrap fabric and baste them together to be certain you have the correct fit before continuing!
Layout and cut your fabric, we start sewing tomorrow! 
This is the first in a 4 part series, be sure and stop back for the additional posts!

Easy Tomato Salsa

I was up late last night. I started a batch of salsa about 8:30pm. What ever possessed me to begin such a project at that late hour, I have no idea. But regardless, I was on FB chatting with a couple of friends even later, and I promised them I would share my recipe today.
So, here it is. This is a really Easy Tomato Salsa, adapted from The Kerr Kitchen Cookbook Home Canning and Freezing Guide.

I used our home grown tomatoes, but I purchased the peppers and onions in this recipe. I am not sure what variety these peppers are, but they are hot! I loved their beautiful dark color in the store and had to bring them home with me.
You will need:
5 lbs ripe tomatoes
3 cups chopped onions
1 cup seeded and chopped chili peppers
1 cup cider vinegar, labeled 5% acidity
3 1/2 teaspoons salt 
(Use canning salt, Kosher salt, or sea salt. Regular table salt will discolor your salsa.)
This recipe yields 6 pints of salsa.
Core and chop tomatoes, add them to a large stock pot. Seed and chop peppers using a food processor. Peel and chop onions with the food processor as well. Add peppers and onions to the tomatoes, then add the vinegar and salt. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare your jars. I spent the entire day shopping for jars yesterday. I don’t think I have nearly enough, but they will have to do for the time being. Target has the Blue mason jars, I couldn’t wait to use them, they are so beautiful! I bought all shapes and sizes for a new project I am working on, I will clue you in very soon!
For the salsa I decided to use the blue jars, but I also used a couple of the 1/2 pints just to see what they are like. Boil the jars to sterilize in a water bath for 10 minutes.
Fill the jars leaving 1/2″ head space. Using a plastic utensil, release trapped air bubbles along the sides of the jar, wipe threads clean and add hot lids. Twist the band over the lid until finger tight. It is important that you do not over tighten the lids, or your batch will be spoiled.
Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Make sure the water covers the top of the jars by 1/2″. If you have hard water you can add 1/2-1 cup white vinegar to the bath to avoid residue on the outside of the jars. I just learned this tip, it really works!
I made some labels to put on my jars using this method. I love how they turned out! Can’t wait to have salsa and margaritas with friends!
Off to can some more…..
Linking Up today:

Italian Tomato Salad

I love all things Italian. Ever since I read Frances Mayes journals of her years in Italy, I have been addicted. In Under the Tuscan Sun she talks about the simplicity of Italian cooking. She writes about how the Italians do everything the old way and how easy it is to cook with fresh ingredients that she finds at the market daily.
My market is the garden outside my back door. Right now, we have red tomatoes daily which we are just stuffing ourselves with because they are so delicious. One of my favorite ways to use cherry tomatoes is in this salad.
You will need:
1 quart cherry tomatoes, yellow or red or combination
1 can whole black olives, pitted
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
(You can also purchase prepared Balsamic Vinegar Dressing, Paul Newman’s is a good brand to try)
Salt and Pepper
Wash tomatoes and pat dry, slice in half if desired (my kids like them better this way, they don’t squish in your mouth when you bite into them). In a small bowl combine tomatoes, cheese, olives and basil. Sprinkle the tomatoes liberally with olive oil, then add 1 table spoon balsamic vinegar. Toss until coated, add salt and pepper as desired.
Serve with fresh Italian Peasant Bread, some cold sliced meats and perhaps a glass of wine.
You could even feast outside in the garden for the ultimate taste experience. It’s the next best thing to being in Italy.
Linking up today!

August Garden

This year is our first garden in this location. We have learned a lot of things, and can make adjustments for the next season. Introducing, our August Garden. 

August Garden|Designers Sweet Spot|
I was up early this morning. No particular reason. Just awake. With coffee in hand I strolled outside to see the garden in the mist that rolled in during the night. Our nights are getting cooler, there is no doubt that fall is coming. Time is running short for the garden, August will be over soon.
August Garden
August Garden
I have been avoiding writing this post, our garden this year has been productive, but certain things have not worked out as well as I would have liked them too. For example, the bean trellis we made from sticks, it has toppled repeatedly and I have given up on it.
The marigolds that I planted around each garden bed, however, have been amazing. The baby bunny that has been eating my second crop of beans, has been incredibly irritating.
Our tractor/mower has not worked all summer, I have not been able to gather the grass clippings to use as mulch as I normally would do. The weeds are grateful, I am not.
Perfection does not live here. I am okay with that.
The herbs have done well, despite being attacked by both soccer balls and chickens. By the way, the chickens love drinking out of Bird Bath that I found in the trash. I find that incredibly amusing.
Butch n’ Betty have done well this summer. Butch’s optic grass hair went brown for a time, but since I gave him a mow-hawk, he is once again looking good! Betty’s butterfly hair ornament has faded a bit in the sun, but I think it adds to her character.
We had a family of turkeys visit us yesterday, two adults and eight fuzzy babies came through the yard to wander in the corn field. I hope they come back, makes me think Thanksgiving can’t be far away!
I couldn’t resist buying a few mums yesterday, they are just the pick me up the garden needed at this time of year.
The tomatoes, are finally coming along despite the chickens sitting on them. They are still being quite productive. I have been canning a few each day. If you like Basil Tomatoes, click here. I have discovered that cherry tomatoes just make a mess. All that work for less than a mouthful of produce, I don’t think I will plant those again next year.
The Moon flowers have done well, at least the vines have.  I planted them from seed, they are growing up the side of our canopy on the deck. They are full of buds but still no blooms. I am impatient to see them in bloom.
This year is our first garden in this location. We have learned a lot of things, and can make adjustments for the next season. All is not lost, learning what works and what doesn’t is part of the creative process.
Hope you enjoyed the tour!
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August Garden|Designers Sweet Spot|

Basil Tomatoes

One of my favorite recipes is for Basil Tomatoes. It’s a very simple stewing process I use as a base for anything that calls for tomatoes. I either can or freeze it for later use in spaghetti, chili, salsa and numerous other recipes.
Easy Basil Tomatoes|Designers Sweet Spot|
Basil Tomatoes
It’s that time of year again, the tomato harvest is here! They are ripening daily, and I find that I have to plan time to keep up with them or they will be wasted.
Wash and quarter tomatoes, place in heavy stock pot. I use about 5 lbs. of tomatoes per batch that I make. Add salt and pepper, or a dash of lemon juice if you wish.
Basil Tomatoes in process
I also add a handful of fresh chopped basil. Using a potato masher, gently crush the tomatoes as they cook over medium heat.
Basil Tomatoes finished
Continue to mash and cook for 2 hours. I do not bother to peel or seed my tomatoes, there are those that will be bothered by their presence. I find that the longer they cook, the less noticeable they are. You can process the entire works in a blender or strain through a food mill after it has cooked if you prefer.
That’s it! Super easy!  When the sauce has cooked down you can can it and process in a boiling water canner for 35-45 minutes depending on the size of the jar, or freeze in quart sized containers for later use.
You will be amazed how wonderful it makes your house smell!
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Easy Basil Tomatoes|Designers Sweet Spot|