Summer of the White Shirts

I can't explain it, but I have been on a white shirt kick.  I haven't actually owned a white shirt for years and I can't remember the last time I wore one, so this white shirt spree is curious.  Not wearing white has mostly been a practical matter.  If I'm going to spill something on myself it's going to be when I'm wearing white!  (this by the way does not mean I don't spill things, it's just not as obvious on a grey or olive green shirt!)  

Since March I have made 3 white shirts, a white dress for me and one for my sister-in-law.  AND, I have two more teed up on my cutting table!  What the ....?  The other theme seems to be antique-ish linens.  All but one has been made from 'old' fabric or other table linens.   I really do like the lovely edges and open worked details of antique linens.  The quality of the fabrics is also wonderful, particularly when they have been washed umpteen times.

My latest white creation started as a dresser scarf.  It has an amazing lace border along one of the long edges.

My woven T shirt pattern fit absolutely perfectly on the piece!  What are the odds?!

I decided to use the finished side edges as my center back.  

Like I said....it fit perfectly!

I did have to find a piece of bias white linen to finish the neckline....hmmm I wonder if I have any scraps of white linen around?😆😜  Since I used the finished edges for the center back opening and the lace edge for the hems, this was a very quick shirt to put together.  I did do french seams so that took a bit of time.  Neck binding and buttonholes...bam! 


I used some porcelain buttons that have been inventoried for a very long time!  I wasn't sure if they would wash well, and we already discussed the need for me to be able to launder any white garments in my closet!  So, I made a thread loop on each button and pinned them to the back so I can remove them when I wash the shirt.


I'm not sure how many white shirts a person needs, but for now I am having fun and if I spill too much I can always dye them other colors!  Like "pasta sauce red" or "blueberry pie" 😂

Note:  If you subscribe to Threads Insider you can read about the shirt in the bottom lefthand corner of the picture.  I wrote about how to turn beautiful collar points!  check it out HERE


Provence with no Jet Lag!

...so...my husband and I had been planning a trip to Provence.  We have traveled with Yale Educational Travel Group in the past and have been eyeing the French immersion seminar for several years.  It is a month in Aix en Provence living in an apartment, taking language, cooking and art classes.  Visiting wineries, farmers' markets, and historical sites.  They only offer the trip every few years and this was it!  The last time they offered it some of us (i.e. my husband) were still working, this year with both of us gainfully unemployed, we were planning to go.   We would have been in the south of France for the end of June and the first part of July.  I have been thinking about this for years, but something has always caused it to be put off.  2020 was the year...NOT!

I was trying really hard not to be too disappointed.  Our adventure in France had been hijacked, yet again!  As the summer of isolation approached July I decided that we should go to France, regardless.  The trip had been cancelled and getting on a plane was not going to happen, so I put together an itinerary for a virtual trip to Provence.  I know, pretty lame, but it kept my mind off the reality of still being in Michigan.  I have to say, it has been really fun!  Obviously not the same as being there, but it made cooking dinner...AGAIN...a bit more entertaining.

Here is a recap of our "Virtual Stay in Provence..."

Day 1
Today in virtual Provence we made macaron.  I had taken a class at SurLaTable a few years ago and learned to make these finicky little treats.  I had made a batch of ice cream base a few days before which left me with 8 egg whites!  What else do you do with that many egg whites...make macaron, of course!  It takes the whole dang day!  I made lemon with lemon curd and blackberry jam filling, pistachio with dark chocolate ganache filling, coconut with chocolate filling and an almond edge, and my favorite, Earl Grey Tea with honey butter cream filling.  Mine turned out a bit 'rustic' but they tasted great!

For dinner we had:
Provencal Roasted Chicken
Roasted Potatoes and Fennel
and course, Rose!

Day 2
Today in virtual Provence we made bread.  There is a particular flatbread that is made in Provence called Fougasse.  I saw lots of versions for it on the interweb, but decided to go with the traditional that is filled with black olives.  I am not sure when French people find time to do anything but bake!  Again I spent the whole day fussing with flour!  

In preparation for our trip I had ordered several French cheeses and olives to sample.  So for dinner...

A cheese platter with four cheeses (the Roquefort was my favorite)
Olives and olive spread
Fig and blackberry jams
Apples and pears
Butter dipped radishes with sea salt
and of course wine (this time white!)

Day 3
Today in virtual Provence we visited a lavender farm.  For real!!  There is a lovely lavender farm about a 20 minute drive from our house (in Michigan, shhh)  We donned our masks and headed out to enjoy the amazing smell of rows and rows of lavender.  

...not quite as never ending as in real Provence.....


....but still pretty fragrant!  The farm has a U-Pick option that let me spend all the time I wanted wandering along the gravel paths and clipping and inhaling!  Sigh!

Dinner tonight, which did not include spending most of the day slinging flour....was a summer vegetable gratin and wine, duh!

Day 4
Today in virtual Provence was a bit rainy.  For inside fun, we made lavender wands.  It's a bit like making a tiny basket that surrounds the flowers so when they dry they make a sachet.  So pretty.



We also made cheese!  Now I only know how to make one kind of cheese and it happens to be ricotta.  But I decided to go with it!  The south of France is really pretty close to Italy!  

It cleared up later in the day so we could enjoy our Provencal soup outside.  I think this was my favorite dinner of the week.  The soup is loaded with vegetables and broken spaghetti noodles.  It doesn't have much seasoning as it's cooking, but you make something called "pistou" which is kind of like a pesto with tomato paste, basil, parmesan cheese and loads of garlic, which is stirred into the soup just before it is served.  It gives it such an amazing fresh, herby flavor.  ...and more rose!

Day 5
Today was our last day in virtual Provence and we tried to find some sunflowers, but the closest we got were the daisies along the fence.  Still pretty happy!

I'm not sure it is strictly Provencal, but one of my favorite dishes from France is Cassoulet.  Basically, French baked beans.  This time the wine was red!

Dessert was an amazing Roquefort and pear tart.  Salty, sweet, luscious!  The perfect final note for our trip!

Bonus!!!!  What fun, we decided to stay in Provence for a couple of more days!  (Translation:  we had several batches of leftovers that needed to be used up!)

Bonus Day 1
I always have a knitting project when I travel.  It is perfect to have along for long plane rides.  My project this trip was a cardigan using two different linen yarns so it has a tweedy look to it.  I finished it on our trip, with assistance from my favorite knitting helper...

Who was also eyeing le fromage at dinner....

Bonus Day 2
This really was our last day in France, and it was rainy again, so back to the kitchen.  The fougasse was finally finished and we had been in France for 6 days with nary a single baguette!  Mon Dieu!

I don't think you forget your first real French baguette.  It's hard to imagine that it is simply flour, water and yeast!  Crispy crust, tender inside, ahhhhhhhhhh.  It was 1989 when I had my first baguette.  When I got home from that trip I decided I was going to learn to make french bread.  I tried a whole bunch of recipes and learned that the right pans can make a huge difference in the quality of the bread.  For several years I made it quite often.  At some point it became easier to find good bread and I got busy with kids and work so it's been a while since I have made it.  I pulled out my Henri Emile baking pan and my favorite recipe and again spent the day immersed in flour!


I wish I could share the smell in the kitchen when this stuff is baking...heavenly!

On a rainy day in virtual Provence leftover cassoulet with fresh french bread and more wine!  Perfect ending.

...and a new knitting project for the plane ride home! 😉


A Little Wander Down Memory Lane

My husband and I have never been "collectors."  (as long as you don't count fabric....but really that's "inventory" amiright?)  We don't have shelves full of souvenirs or memorabilia.  We designed our house 25 years ago intentionally with a minimum of storage space so we wouldn't be tempted to keep things that had out lived their usefulness.  And on the whole, it has worked.  (Can you hear the "but?")  BUT....even with our draconian approach to 'stuff' we still have managed to accumulate way too much of it!  Like many of you I'm sure, we have been wandering through our cupboards and storage bins and coming across interesting things.  Sometimes I remember why something made the cut to become 'precious' and other times....to be blunt about it... I don't know why some of it is still around!  As we think about consolidating into smaller spaces, I know I will need to make some decisions about what makes the trip to the new storage areas and what ends up in someone else's basement!  Some of the choices are easy, "what the heck is this and why is it the closet"  and some are more difficult, "awww, this was our son's favorite stuffed elephant."

Note annoying mouse hole....

One of the things that turned up in my rummaging was a tablecloth.  A gigantic tablecloth.  It arrived at some point when my husband was moving things from his childhood home in Wales to our home in Chicago.  It had been a wedding gift to his parents in 1951 and I'm not sure they ever had a table big enough to hold it!  The thing measured 100 inches square!!!!  It was a monster.  At some point during it's residence in my cupboard (I think it was when my boxes were being stored in the garage in California) a little mouse nibbled on the center lace motif.  Of course it was folded neatly so the mouse was able to get all four corners with one chew!  I am quite sure I swore and cried when I realized that it had been damaged during my watch.  It went back in it's box, this time with cedar chips, until I unearthed it a few weeks ago.  I realized that there was never going to be a table large enough in my house for the tablecloth, and it looked a lot like gorgeous linen fabric to me!

The last time my sister-in-law visited from Italy she asked if I could copy a dress that she really loved.  It was a straight forward loose fitting dress and she was very happy with the new one that I made.  I pulled out the pattern, knowing that she loves it and that it fits, and started moving it around the on the tablecloth/fabric to see how to get around the mouse holes and how to take advantage of the amazing embroidery and lace motifs.  I wasn't sure I could actually cut it up, but the mouse had already made a start for me, so I chopped away.

I placed the hem on the lovely worked edge of the cloth and the lace inset landed perfectly across the back and chest of the dress.  I matched up the sleeves so the lace danced all the way around the shoulders.  I gathered the sleeve hems into a 3/4 length cuff and bound the neck.  I am so pleased with how it turned out.  In fact I liked it so much I started laying out the pattern again to see if I could manage a dress for me too!


I think my sister-in-law will really like the dress and that it was once her Mom's tablecloth...awwww!

There wasn't enough lace real estate left that was not chewed so I focused on the embroidered corner pieces for my dress.  It took a bit of fussy cutting but I managed to get a pleasing arrangement.

I had a lot of trouble figuring out what to do with the neckline.   For me, it felt to high and the raglan seams made my shoulders look like I should try out for the Green Bay Packers!  

I thought maybe adding some of the lace would open it up...

Nope, it just competed with the embroidery...

I tried a lace yoke that I had scavenged from another top...talk about your line-backer look!

...Maybe an interesting collar?   ...Maybe, but not that one!

...OK, now we're getting somewhere...

Once I opened up the neckline, I really like the second version, almost as much as the first!


Did I mention that this was a gigantic tablecloth?  I couldn't let those other lovely corners go to waste.


After hauling that tablecloth across the ocean and back and forth from one side of the continent to the other and storing it in four different basements, it is finally covering something...or should I say, somebody.  I never knew my mother-in-law, she passed away before I met my husband, but he says she would like the dresses and the top and be glad that the tablecloth was finally being used.  I know I will definitely enjoy seeing it on a regular basis instead of once every 25 years or so.

P.S.  Here's another long ago item that was surfaced in the Marie-Kondo-purge....

My wedding  dress!  Yikes!  I couldn't resist...I had to see if I could still get into it.  The slips that filled out the skirt are long gone...

YES!  And I could still breath with it zipped up!  

Yes, I made it.  My husband loves to tell the story about how my mother and I spent a whole afternoon pinning in the hem and as I was gingerly taking it off, I dropped it to the floor without realizing that the cat had hawked up a hair ball exactly where the center front panel landed!  😩😩😤😱
I remade the skirt, removing the offending panel, and spent another long afternoon pinning.  If you notice the dark stain in the picture, it is not from the fur ball incident as it has come to be known, but from a glass of champagne that my husband dropped in my lap in the car on the way to our reception! 😲 Fortunately it didn't darken until many years later.

Here's the dress on the actual day...

OK, no wisecracks about the hairdo!  
Remember that my mother and I spent two days hemming that dang skirt.  It was perfect.  It was a perfect 1/8 inch off the floor!  It wasn't until the pictures came back that we realized that the church had put new carpet in a few weeks before our wedding and my shoes sank into the fluffy new pile causing the perfect hem to bunch up!  The best laid plans....

I'm sure there will be many more memory lane moments as we make our way through the cupboards.  Maybe hanging onto a few things isn't such a terrible idea...