Thursday, October 14, 2010

Adding to the Stash : Bassetti Tessuti, Rome, Italy

Rooms upon rooms of fabric. Heck yeah!

Have you heard of Bassetti Tessuti? (which is really fun to say!)

Before I'd read the NYT article about them and been to Rome, I hadn't either. In planning my trip to Italy last month, I KNEW I had to stop there. I'd heard it was overwhelming, amazing and so fabulous they gave you a GUIDE, but until I got there, I had NO idea what kind of "Alice in Wonderland" kind of experience I was in for. Floor-to-ceiling fabrics of all sorts. Here, a room full of men's suiting, there, a room full of crisp cotton shirting. 99.9% of it completely unavailable in the US. I was like a kid in a candy store, but oh, what candy!

So, without further ado, let me show you what I bought and what I plan to do with it.

Alpaca wool in teal and purple : Soft enough for some beautiful sweaters!
Anyone got a good sweater pattern?
I'm open to suggestions.

100% silk panel. This will be hemmed into a scarf.

Black and white burnout velvet. I'm thinking of a long-sleeved button up. Cute over a tank top and trousers.

Bitmapped 100% silk fabric from Gianni Versace (!!). Destined to be one of these.

Olive burnout velvet. Will be lined in nude and made into a tank top.

Heavy lycra jersey destined to be cute, long-sleeved tops. Possibly with cowls (my new favourite thing!)

The splurge: sequins! That are black on one side…

And silver on the other. This will be a tube top to be worn under sweaters and jackets.
None of it was cheap – averaging about $30US/yard. It was a PITA to ship (and spendy!), but I don't regret a purchase. Or the fact that my handsome "helper", Marcello, flirted with me mercilessly and begged me to go to lunch with him that day. Who am I to resist? I was furthering US/Italian relations. Just doing my part. Viva Italia!

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Fall! Time for Bread and Soup!

I love bread. And carbs. And anything bread-adjacent.  Give me a good sized tub of butter and a fresh loaf of warm bread, and I'll make quick work of it. 

That being said, this was my first time actually baking bread, and although it was time-intensive (two rises! Four hours!?), as I hustled through my Saturday, I found that I could do everything I wanted to and STILL make bread. Healthy bread.

Let's just cut to the chase here. It was AMAZING. And also really, really tall. Next time, I'll make two smaller loaves instead of one big one. 

I paired my bread with some delicious Zucchini and Turkey soup from the "Cooking Light: Best Recipes of 2007" book that my friend, Kimo, let me borrow. It's simply the best soup I've had all year. Try it and I bet you'll agree. (recipe below)

Next challenge: sourdough!

adapted from “Good to the Grain” by Kim Boyce.

Makes one ginormous loaf or two smaller loaves.


  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2+1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
  • 2+1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  1. Lightly butter a large bowl and a 9x5 inches loaf pan and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir water, yeast and molasses to combine. Allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to bubble. Add the flours, rolled oats and melted butter. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Add salt to the dough, attach the bread hook to the mixer and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes, until the dough no longer sticks to the sides (add a tablespoon or two of flour if necessary).
  4. For the first rise, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times. Put the dough into the buttered bowl, cover with a towel, and leave it to rise for about 1 hour, or until it is doubled in size.
  5. Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface. Shape it into a square, then fold it down from the top to the middle and then up from the bottom to the middle (just like you fold a letter). Bring the top and bottom edges together, pinch and seal.
  6. Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down, and press it gently into the corners of the pan. Cover the dough with a towel, and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to half again its size.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Freezes well.

From Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007, Makes 10 (1 cup) servings.

1 tsp. olive oil
1 c. chopped onions
1-1/2 tsp. minced, fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 c. chopped zucchini
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 ground chicken, turkey or tofu
4 c. broth (chicken, veggie)
1/4 c. dry white wine
3 T. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (or more for spice)
2 - 15-1/2 oz. cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
2 - 14-1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes [darcinote: I used one. It was fine]
1 bay leaf
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, rosemary and garlic; sautee 2 minutes. Add zucchini, pepper, salt, red pepper and chicken/turkey/tofu; cook 5 minutes or until chicken is browned, stirring to crumble.
  2. Add broth + wine, tomato paste, chickpeas, onions, tomatoes and bay leaf; bring to boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf, sprinkle with cheese.

Monday, October 4, 2010

V8580 CAbi Erte Tunic Knockoff

I've always loved CAbi's clothes. So easy, so elegant, so DAMNED expensive. (Take a look here). When I first saw this season's collection, I was immediately smitten with the Erte Tunic. The fabric was beautiful, much like Erte's 1920 Art Deco designs. I've been a fan of Erte's since 1988 when I first saw his work in a gallery in San Francisco.

I sweated out this purchase, alternately 1) chiding myself for BUYING something when I know I can make it and 2) moaning, "but I looooove it!!". Trouble is, I don't looove it $128 worth and when I tried it on, it hung nearly to my knees. Not attractive.

So I set about making my own. Luckily, the Vogue 8580 was closer than anything else I could find on the market. With a couple of design changes, I think it turned out beautifully. Armed with a 40% off coupon and a pattern sale ($4), I spent a grand total of $22 on this project. Not bad. Not bad at all.


Pattern Description: Pullover tunic A, B, C in two lengths have kimono sleeves, self-faced elastic casing with flat front and A-line lower section. A, B: short sleeve with self-cuffs. C: three-quarter length sleeves. Pullover top D is semi-fitted with stitched hems.

I made a straight medium (MEDIUM, people! HURRAY!) of View C with modifications.

Pattern Sizing: Y(XS-S-M), ZZ(L-XL-XXL)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?Somewhat. My inspiration for this tunic was the CAbi Erte Tunic from the FW CAbi collection.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I might have glanced at them once. Maybe.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? It went together in about 2 hours. Nothing like an instant gratification project!

Fabric Used: 100% Polyester from JoAnn's.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: This tunic runs voluminously LARGE and runs LONG, ladies. Check out the flat pattern measurements before you cut. I only made a high round back adjustment and removed 2" from the hem. Simple! I hate elastic, so I also added a channel through the middle of the casing pieces, added two buttonholes to the CF and included a waist tie. 

The pattern of the fabric is really busy, so you don't see these design changes in the photo. In hindsight, I'll be removing a couple of inches from the side seams next go 'round. I also hate hemming, so used the roll hem on my serger for the neckline, sleeves and hem.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Heck yeah I'm making it again! I just got back from Italy with TONS of new fabric and have one Gianni Versace silk black and white bitmapped flower fabric I'll be using this pattern for.

Conclusion: This is as close as you can get to wearing elegant jammies at work. I highly recommend this easy pattern for a sewing quick fix!