Savory Infused Booze and a Call for Your Favorite Bloody Mary Mix

infused vodka and tequila

Brunch is better with bloody marys. For my birthday this year, I’m hosting a boozy brunch party, which means we’re going balls to the wall with the drink selection. Plans are in place for a simple mimosa bar and a not-so-simple bloody mary (and bloody maria) bar. I’ve infused liquor before, but this is my first try at savory combinations and I’m intrigued as to whether or not these will be any good! Here’s what I’m workin’ with:

  • Sliced jalapeños and Espolón tequila
  • Lemon peel, lime peel, and Tito’s vodka
  • Sliced cucumber, fresh dill, and Tito’s vodka
  • Garlic cloves, black peppercorns, and Tito’s vodka

I didn’t follow any recipe strictly, but I took inspiration and ideas from articles here, here, and here. Spicy flavors apparently infuse more quickly than most, so I’ll check the jalepeño tequila in a couple days. The remaining three I’ll probably let stew (with the occasional vigorous shake) for about a week.

As for the bloody mary mixes, any suggestions are welcome! I’m planning on whipping up this recipe, which calls for San Marzano tomatoes and fresh horseradish—nom. Other than that, I don’t really have a favorite mass-produced bloody mix. I’d like to serve three to four different mixes, with at least one spicy variety.

Stay tuned for an update on hits, misses, and fan favorites. And now, bloody mary fiends, I ask you to please ENLIGHTEN ME. What’s your go-to mix?

Chambray Archer Button Up

grainline studio archer button up view B

I don’t have a dog, but I loooove me some pups. By some karmic miracle, Marc and I moved to an apartment across the street from a dog park, meaning I can get my fill of doggie action without the responsibility of owning one. (Though I want to someday!) When the sun finally broke through the clouds this past chilly Sunday afternoon, Marc kindly agreed to snap some pictures of me outside, and we found ourselves chasing golden-hour light in the snowy field adjacent to the dog park. Within seconds, a couple of rambunctious ladies were barreling toward us, blissfully unaware that they were crashing my photo shoot. It was perfect.

archer button up view b grainline studio

Their owner must’ve asked me if I was freezing about 10 times. One of the pups obviously picked up on that and proceeded to nuzzle my legs before plopping down directly on my feet. Canine foot warmers are the best when it’s 22º F and you’re laughably underdressed.

grainline studio archer button up view B

I could muse about pups all day, but then I’d never get to the juicy stuff: this brand spankin’ new Archer Button Up, another slam-dunk pattern from Grainline Studio. I’ve been drumming up the courage to sew this for awhile now, especially after seeing so many lovely versions (here, here, and here, among many others). This turned out to be a refreshing departure from the walking foot and finicky fabrics of my recent knits binge.

grainline studio archer button up view B

(please excuse my red post-workout face)

The Details

Pattern: Archer Button Up, view B

Material: Robert Kaufman 5.6oz. linen-cotton chambray in Rust

Size cut: straight 8 (my measurements: 36-29-38; 6’0″ tall)

Alterations: lengthened the sleeves and body by 1.5″; cut the back pattern piece in a single layer since I was low on fabric (it’s supposed to be cut on the fold); used Jen’s alternate Archer pocket tutorial to create the envelope-look pockets

archer alternate pocket grainline studio

I truly took this project one day at a time, and it could not have been more rewarding. I followed with the Archer Sew Along instructions pretty religiously, sometimes sewing up a few days’ worth of steps at a time if I was in a particularly productive mood. I’ve read quite a few blog posts regarding construction and fit, and it seemed like the general consensus is that Andrea’s collar tutorial is fantastic when it comes to attaching the Archer collar. I haven’t had the best luck with collars in the past, but her instructions were incredibly clear and easy enough to follow. I got a little tripped up by being too eager to kill two birds with one stone: I should’ve slipstitched the inner collar in place rather than go straight for the edge stitching. I ended up not catching the seam allowance in two spots and had to rip some stitches and re-sew in order to ensure that I caught the seam allowance. Le sigh. I’m hoping that step that will become easier with more practice.

archer button up cuff grainline studio

For some reason, I was super nervous about sewing the plackets and cuffs, but those went on without a hitch. And the buttons! Ohhh the buttons. I picked up these awesome, kooky shank-style buttons at Soutache in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, and I’m pretty sure I ended up spending more on them than I did on the fabric… OOPSIES.

archer button up shirt grainline studio

represent, butt ruffles/duck tails of the world

Before hemming this bad boy, I sewed a row of basting stitches at 1/4″ all the way around, a curved-hem tip picked up from the ever-helpful By Hand London blog. That made it infinitely easier to press the seam allowance up and then fold it over again before stitching in place. I finished all the inside seams with a zig-zag stitch, but I wish I would’ve tried bound or flat-felled seams instead, since the chambray is ravelly and a little scratchy at the edges.

zig zag stitch finish

I’m considering adding some bias binding to the offending side and sleeve seams, but it might be tricky since I already topstitched that seam allowance to create the look of a flat-felled seam. I’d say there’s about 1/4″ of excess to work with, so I might give it a shot.

archer button up grainline studio

the relaxed, unbuttoned, 67º indoor temp look

I’m racking my brain for other pain points, but construction went more smoothly than I had hoped. The shirt also miraculously fit right out of the package (minus the length additions I made); normally my RTW button ups pull a bit at the chest since I have a broad back, but I haven’t seen any such issues yet. I’m already dreaming up a color-blocked version for the spring after seeing this little number on the Dusen Dusen blog:

Dusen Dusen shirt

The wheels are turning! The possibilities seem endless with the Archer—it’s probably one of my favorite, most satisfying projects to date. Here’s hoping there’ll be a few more in my future!

Have you sewn your own Archer yet?

two tessuti mandy boat tees

Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee x2

The concept of one-size-fits-all is kind of insane. In the real world, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants–style magic does not exist. Most one-size items leave us wondering: Will this look like a cute shift dress or a muumuu? Is it a crop top or an accidental underboob tank? This Buzzfeed pictorial, “This Is What One Size Fits All Actually Looks Like on All Body Types,” does a pretty good job of debunking the one-size-fits-all myth. Some garments fare much better than others, but not one piece of clothing got a universal thumbs up from the women in the testing group.

Naturally, I was a little wary when I came across my first one-size-fits-all sewing pattern. But the beauty of sewing, rather than buying, a one-size-fits-all garment is that you can alter the pattern however the hell you want! Lengthen, shorten, take in the side seams, deepen the neckline, whatever. I’m so glad I took the leap (can I call it a leap if the pattern was free?) and sewed up that Hemlock Tee. It was only a matter of time before the Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee—also *free*—found its way to my cutting table floor.

The pattern is essentially two rectangles and a couple of slim-fitting sleeves. Its boat neckline renders it even less time consuming than the Hemlock Tee because there’s no neckband binding involved. The pattern just calls for you to fold the front and back neck hems down 5/8″ and finish them with a twin needle, which is also how you finish the bottom hem and sleeves. This is such a quick, satisfying sew that I ended up making two Mandies within days of one other.

tessuti mandy boat tee

mandy tessuti boat tee

Mandy Boat Tee #1

Fabric: micro french terry knit in cream; $4.98/yard from Fabric.com (sold out)

Alterations: Cut off 1/2″ from the armhole and side seam edge of the front and back pattern pieces; lengthened the body about 1/2″; shortened the arms (after sewing it up and trying it on)

Tessuti posted a gorgeous Missoni-style boat tee on their blog, and that post recommended lengthening the arms if you lopped inches off the side seams. I did that, but I ended up cutting a couple inches off the arms anyway, since I like the look of above-the-elbow sleeves with this variation. The arms are pretty snug, but they fit me perfectly even after a day of wear. If you are jacked, you might want to widen the arms accordingly.

tessuti mandy boat tee

tessuti mandy boat tee

tessuti mandy boat tee

Mandy Boat Tee #2 (a very looooong tee)

Fabric: tissue french terry knit in teal; $4.98/yard from Fabric.com

Alterations: Cut off another 1/2″ from the armhole and side seam edge of the front and back pattern pieces (for a total of 1″ cut off); lengthened the body 4.5″

I wasn’t sure about the color of this fabric when I first opened my package from Fabric.com, but I have to admit that it’s grown on me. I’m about 10 shades paler than I am in the summer, and somehow this teal doesn’t make my sickly winter olive skin look green. As for the fit, this is probably the most comfortable T-shirt I own. I wanted to make a something that I could wear with leggings around the house, and it totally fits the bill (though the fabric wrinkles like crazy!). I’m not sure if this shirt is versatile enough to wear out yet, since it doesn’t completely cover my buns and I am of the camp that refuses to reveal my legging-clad derrière unless I’m in running tights. That said, I could see pairing this with a borderline pair of leggings—you know, those ones that are super thick and opaque and can almost pass as pants. We’ll see about that one.

grainline studio archer button up

Next up for me is Grainline’s Archer Button Up! I’m excited to work with a woven material again and learn some things about shirt-making along the way. The steps seem a little daunting to me right now, but I’m planning on following Jen’s sew-along for extra help. If anyone has any tips on conquering the perfect Archer, hit me!

On the Bar Cart: Volume 1

bar cart

Since I’m always curious about what other people are drinking at home, I thought it might be fun to start a periodic series to show you what’s on my bar cart at the moment.

Here’s the current lineup:

bar cart

Gin

Ransom Old Tom gin

Letherbee gin

Whiskey

Rowan’s Creek bourbon

James Oliver rye

Old Weller Antique bourbon

Rum

Cruzan light rum

Kraken black spiced rum

Liqueurs

Luxardo maraschino

Rothman & Winter créme de violette

Cointreau

Etc.

Leblon cachaça

Letherbee bësk (and a ltd. edition empty Letherbee malört bottle)*

cocktail bitters

Bitters

Fee Brothers grapefruit bitters

Fee Brothers orange bitters

Bittercube wild cherry bark, Madagascar vanilla, and cocoa bitters

Angostura aromatic bitters

Not pictured (because we ran out of room, or it’s in the fridge or freezer): Luxardo bitter, Lillet blanc, Dolin red vermouth, Du Bouchett’s peach brandy (used in a NYE punch), Jameson, New Amsterdam gin, and some Death’s Door vodka that a couple of friends left at our apartment.

* If you live in or around Chicago, you’ve heard of malört: the bitter, herbal, grapefruity, liquor with a hairspray-like back-of-the-throat feel. Jeppson’s makes the original (from an old Swedish recipe, apparently), but Letherbee Distillers decided to take a stab at their own recipe, which turned out decidedly more palatable than Jeppson’s. In early 2014, Letherbee was forced to change the name of their malört after Jeppson’s won their bid to trademark the term. You can read more about that here. It’s more of a novelty drink than anything else at this point, unless you talk to the old Eastern European man who once told my boyfriend “Is good for stomach,” a tip neither of us will ever forget.

I love using my Grandma Loe’s old vanity table as a bar, but I’m wondering if it’s just too small to hold my growing collection.

Ikea Raskog cart

I recently bought a Raskög cart from Ikea, and I’m kind of embarrassed about how much I love this inanimate object. I originally bought it for bathroom storage (it’s doing a great job holding my toilet paper, extra towels, and face-wax strips), but now I’m thinking it could make a really great bar cart. Especially since it’s got castors. What do you think? Stick with the antique, or give the Raskög a chance?

And, what’s on your bar cart at the moment? Anything you’re saving up for? Let me know in the comments!

Deer and Doe Plantain T-Shirt

plantain t-shirt deer and doe

This shirt almost didn’t get made. Not because it’s tricky to sew; in fact, it’s a pretty easy make if you’re familiar with knits. The reason it almost landed in my scrap bin is that I carelessly snipped a hole in the sleeve when clipping down the excess seam allowance. Gah! After about 15 minutes of hysterics, I realized that I had more than enough leftover fabric to cut a brand new sleeve. Crisis averted—well, almost. Unpicking an entire row of zigzag stitches in a slinky knit proved to be very tedious, and the shoulder seam isn’t as smooth as the other because I had to sew it with a teensy seam allowance. Aside from those misfires, the shirt turned out just fine.

deer and doe plantain t-shirt

These are not my sewing scissors.

The pattern is the Plantain T-Shirt from French company Deer and Doe, who released it in January of 2014. You’ve probably already seen versions of this shirt floating around the Internet, and for good reason: it’s amazing! Here’s why:

  1. It’s ~*FREE.*~ And in the words of Deer and Doe: “Even though this is a simpler design that needs less pieces, it received as much care as all our others products: detailed instructions and testing in all sizes.” Eléonore, I like you already.
  2. The neckband is drafted perfectly. Neckbands on knits have always been a pain point for me, so I was a little nervous to finally attach this sucker, especially since the scoopneck dips pretty low for a T-shirt. Lo and behold, the neckband sewed on without a hitch, and it lies perfectly flat.
  3. The shape is flattering. I figured this cut (fitted at the shoulders and flared at the hips) would be comfortable, but I was pleasantly surprised by how the top skims and flows in the right places.
  4. You’ve got options: short-, 3/4-, or full-length sleeves. You better believe I’ll be making this up as a short-sleeve tee for the summer.
  5. Elbow patches, y’alls. I didn’t buy a contrast fabric, so I just cut the patches so their stripes would run perpendicular to the stripes on the sleeve. I love the way they add a little quirk to a simple tee.

deer and doe plantain t-shirt deer and doe plantain t-shirt

(Note: To take the picture on the right, I taped my phone to the window, set it on the Best Face mode, and jumped back with just enough time for it to capture this grainy photo. (I need a real camera and tripod.) Marc took the other photos, but as the sun was setting and we were inside, the colors are totally wonky. Stupid winter daylight!)

Minus the sleeve-cutting fiasco, construction was a breeze. I cut out a 40 (European sizing) and added about 1″ of length to the body and 1/2″ to the sleeves. Those adjustments worked out great for my 6’0″, size 6/8 frame. My material is a cotton/spandex jersey from The Needle Shop. For the seams, I used a ballpoint needle, stretch stitch, and my walking foot, which turned out to be an absolute necessity with this lightweight knit. I used a little bit of basting spray to attach the elbow patch the the sleeve before stitching to make sure it didn’t slip all over the place. I’m not sure if that’s kosher to use with a knit… but it didn’t burn a hole through my material, so that’s good.

deer and doe plantin t-shirt

I finished the neckline, cuffs, and bottom hem with my twin needle and walking foot, but the bottom hem still managed to turn out a little wavy. Maybe next time I’ll use some tissue paper underneath the fabric to stabilize it. Overall, I highly recommend this pattern, especially since all you need is fabric and thread. It’s the perfect stash buster, and it’s great if you’re a beginner wanting to test the waters with knits. Let me know if you make it, or if you have some surefire tips for wave-free hems!

grapefruit mimosa cocktail

Leftover Bubbly from NYE = Champagne Cocktails

Trader Joe's "champagne"

In victory you deserve champagne. In defeat, you need it.

Lore goes that these are the famous words of Napoleon Bonaparte, and apparently that little guy loved him some champers. The act of ceremonially sabering a champagne bottle is said to have begun in the Napoleonic era, during which soldiers celebrating a victory on the battlefield would use the dull side of their blades to remove the collar and cork of a bottle.

A couple of my (badass) recently married friends asked for a champagne sword on their wedding registry, so the guests at our New Year’s Eve party had the pleasure of seeing this age-old tradition in the flesh. Have you ever seen someone open a bottle of champagne with a champagne sword? The cork comes flying off, along with the lip of the bottle and a shit ton of bubbles. It’s pretty cool and exciting and festive (until someone slices their finger on the top—watch out for that part.)

But let’s get back to the booze. This season got me wondering: does anyone actually spring for real champagne these days? Marc picked us up a couple bottles of Trader Joe’s Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne, which the website describes as a sparkling wine that’s made using “exactly the same methods employed in the making of Champagne.” Full disclosure: I don’t drink a ton of champagne, or sparkling wine for that matter, so my judgment is based purely on taste. The stuff from TJ’s isn’t too sickly sweet and has a nice, subtle fruity flavor. Somehow we still had a bottle leftover after New Year’s Eve, so I thought it might be fun to whip up a couple champagne Crémant de Bourgogne–based cocktails. Enjoy!

grapefruit mimosa cocktail

Fancy Grapefruit Mimosa

  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. Lillet blanc
  • Grapefruit bitters (optional)
  • Champagne or sparkling wine

grapefruit mimosa

In a shaker filled with ice, mix the grapefruit juice, orange juice, Lillet, and a dash of grapefruit bitters. Stir until chilled, and pour into a flute. Top with champagne or sparkling wine.

French 75 cocktail

French 75

  • 1 1/2 oz. Ransom Old Tom gin*
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • Champagne or sparkling wine

French 75

In an ice-filled shaker, combine the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake until chilled and strain into the stemware of your choice. (I really need to buy a coupe!) Top with champagne or sparkling wine.

* You can make this with standard dry gin as well, but a friend of mine mixed these up with Ransom Old Tom gin before and they were delicious.

What’s your favorite champagne cocktail?

Linden Sweatshirt

linden sweatshirt

New Year, new garment—finally! But before I get into that, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year, especially as we settle back into our desks at work and our single-digit weather here in Chicago. You’re not alone if you’re feeling a little blue, but luckily there are two simple solutions to combat your inner Debbie this winter:

1). Exercise. Seriously, get a sweat going for 30 minutes a few times a week and there is a 100% chance you will feel better and sleep like a baby.

2). Find a hobby (and stick with it.)

I rode the post-college emotional roller coaster pretty hard my first year after graduating, coming up just short of an existential crisis but with plenty of anxiety to go around. Learning how to sew was probably the number one factor in pulling me out of that funk. Any hobby will do, but sewing is great since you can tangibly mark your progress and actually get everyday use out of what you make.

So come this lazy, grim weekend, still feeling the after-effects of hosting a New Year’s Eve party, I turned once again to my sewing machine. I’d been neglecting it for the past several weeks, but with an afternoon free and Grainline Studio’s Linden Sweatshirt pattern at the ready, I got back to work.

linden sweatshirt

Like most reviews state, this top comes together very quickly, even without a serger. I sewed this up on my sewing machine (size 8 at the bust, graded down to a 6 at the hip) with a ballpoint needle and stretch stitch. The fabric is a sweatshirt fleece from Fabric.com. The one issue I had in construction was with the neckband: my initial band was way too short. This probably has to do with the lack of stretch in my material. I’m pretty sure the listing stated that my material has 40% mechanical stretch; the pattern calls for materials with at least 20% of stretch (or ribbing, which is typically very stretchy and pliable). I guess mechanical stretch and regular stretch are two totally different measurements? If you have insight into this topic, please let me know in the comments!

linden sweatshirt

I tried to eyeball a longer neckband, and then stupidly sewed that on without basting to test it first. Holy mother of god did that leave me with the most insane-looking funnel neck. I ended up cutting that off entirely while trying to preserve the original neckline as best I could. The finished neckband you see is some stretchy heather jersey leftover from my Hudson Pants, and I actually really like the look of the dark gray against the muted red. The neck doesn’t lie 100% flat, but it’s an immense improvement over my funnel monstrosity.

linden sweatshirt

I was a little worried about the cuffs and hem band also being too short, but those came together in a snap. I added about 1″ to the sleeves and body, but I think next time I’ll add 1.5″ to the sleeves and 2″ to the body for comfort. It probably turned out a little shorter than anticipated since my seam allowance was more like 5/8″ instead of the 1/4″ called for in the pattern. My machine was not liking that narrow seam allowance on fleece, and it angrily gnawed it up until I surrendered to a wider allowance.

So far, I love this pattern. I wore the sweatshirt out the first night I finished it, and Marc even said, “It looks like you bought that.” Yes! I’ll take that compliment when it comes to handmade basics. I already have plans to sew this up for a friend as a very belated Christmas gift, and I’ll probably sew another one up for myself soon. Have you tried this pattern yet? Any thoughts on fabric choice or finishing?