Oats three ways

23 01 2012

It’s been a while since I wrote about cooking, and you might not sense it from reading this blog, but cooking is obviously what I do the most of, since we have to eat, and it’s something I really enjoy.  Too much, probably.  I have definitely gotten lost in a cookbook only to discover that it’s getting late and I haven’t actually made anything!  I got “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” for Christmas and have really enjoyed reading it.  Before that, it was “Nourishing Traditions” (and just for fun, I read “Eating Animals” on my iPod—back to back, these two books are the very definition of cognitive dissonance).  It’s been a lot of reading, and I thought I would share just one idea that has made breakfasts much simpler around here.  (If you’re interested, this is from Nourishing Traditions, although Foer would probably approve too, since it doesn’t involve any factory-farmed animals.)

At night, I soak about 1.5 cups of steel-cut oats in about 3-4 cups of water (I rinse them first).  In the morning, boil 1-2 cups water in a big pot and dump in the soaked oats.  Add a pinch of salt, bring to a boil, and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Soaking overnight reduces the cooking time, but more than that, it make the nutrients in the oats more available.  (Supposedly.  For someone more knowledgeable about this, I direct you here.  There are lots of online sources, sometimes contradictory, on the topic of soaking grains.)  So that’s day 1!  Oatmeal.  We like to add in mashed banana/peanut butter, or applesauce/cinnamon, or blueberries/yogurt…there are lots of possibilities!

There should be a lot left over (if like me, you are feeding 1 adult and 2 small kids).  So, the next day, just to avoid having oatmeal over and over, we mix it up a bit and make oatcakes.  The recipe in the NT book is so simple: 1 cup leftover oatmeal and 1 egg.  I found that adding a mashed banana adds a bit of sweetness, and I like to add blueberries too.  Then just fry them up on the griddle!  They need to be small or they don’t flip well, so I make lots of little oatcakes.  Very easy, and very popular with the kids!


Then if there is still more oatmeal (there always is), I found a recipe for muffins that I thought came out really well.  Actually, this search for a muffin recipe came out of a crazy desire to not throw away uneaten oatmeal.  BB usually loves oatmeal, but we all have our off days, and one day I was faced with essentially a whole bowl of blueberry oatmeal to throw out. 


So sad!  I tried several recipes, but found that I liked this one the best.  So get your little helper to don his new apron (that’s right, LB has been promoted to kitchen assistant!), and mix up a batch of muffins, either from leftover breakfast, or straight from the stash of cooked oatmeal left over from the start of the week. 


He added the blueberries one…by…one.  He really was having fun!


We also make some peanut butter bars (found here) that are a great snack!  I have to say, I liked it as is, but I also changed it up a bit; I think it’s a great base recipe that is easily tweaked.  So there you have it; oatmeal, oatcakes, muffins…three days of breakfast from a humble pot of oats!


9 01 2012

Made by Rae is hosting a series of interviews about knits, and she invited all us small-time folk to play along, so I thought I would join in!  These interviews are called (if you can’t guess from the title):

Haha!  I am just a self-taught seamstress, but I’ve learned a lot about knits as I go.  Most shirts I would buy to wear, either for me or the kids, are made of knits, so it makes sense to sew clothes from knits too.  I’ve made some shirts from wovens, but they are definitely not the ones I reach for first.  Knits are comfy, conform to your shape better without being too tight here and too baggy there… just all around a great kind of fabric to use for clothes.  So here you go:

1.  Did you ever fear knits?

No.  I was too inexperienced to know any better.  I was feeling like I had mastered diaper sewing (which is how I got into sewing in the first place), so I bought some knit fabric (online), and a shirt pattern (also online), and just went for it.  If you are familiar with knits, you might get a kick out of the fact that it was a rib knit and MAN! did I tear my hair out over that project.  I was more timid afterwards.


(This is the fabric, but I don’t have a picture of the original shirt.)

2.  If so, do you remember a specific turning point?

Well, once I got a serger, working with knits became a lot easier.  Using that same pattern, I can put together a shirt pretty quickly and with minimal swearing.  Mine was not that expensive, and if you’re halfway serious about sewing, a serger is a wonderful thing to have.  (More on this later.)

(My first serged t-shirts.  Not great, but not bad.)

3.  What types of projects do you typically sew with knits?

Well, all kinds of clothing, I guess.  Mostly shirts, but knits also make nice lightweight pants and shorts for kids.  I bought most of my knits intending to make fitted diapers, so there’s also that.


(Trainers—if undies weren’t so cheap to buy, I’d make those too.)

4.  Do you prefer sewing with knits or sewing with wovens?

Wovens, frankly.  Knits deserve their reputation.  They are stretchy and annoying to work with.  In comparison, wovens just slide like buttah under that presser foot, no problemo.  That said, I’ve made clothes with wovens and with knits and there’s no contest.  They may be harder to work with, but they are worth the effort if the result is something you will actually wear.  But I love sewing with wovens; they come in more varieties and it’s so fun to make a bag or a potholder… I’m just crazy like that.

2011 06 June3 (Left: knit shirt.  Right: woven shirt.  The woven is tight in the armpits and makes me look pregnant.  Which one would you wear?  It was easier to sew, though.)

5.  Do you have a favorite type of knit (jersey, interlock, rib, etc.)?

Probably jersey.  It’s lightweight and stretchy, yet not as super-ridiculously-stretchy as a rib knit.  It’s not that hard to sew.  Interlock is nice too, but is kind of heavyweight (IMO) for clothing.  But then, my kids get hot easily (and then walk around with their shirts tucked up in the armpits, and nobody wants to see that).  The blue shirt above is made from a jersey sheet.  There is a reason why t-shirts, the best form of clothing ever invented, are made from jersey!

02 February

(Jersey hoodie made from old t-shirts.)

6.  Where do you usually buy your knits?

Looking back at my projects, I would say it’s a healthy mix of upcycled fabric (from my closet or from a thrift shop), some junk from Wal-mart, and some that I got online.  I’ve only bought from Nature’s Fabrics, a store that was a yahoo group and started out as diaper fabrics.  Well, they have a lot of that but also a lot of knits, because people make diapers from knits with cute prints.  They also have a lot of boy prints, which is awesome because they are hard to find.  (It was hard to even look at that link, because I am strictly no-buy right now.)


(A shirt made from my Wal-Mart junk.)

7.  Any hints for buying knits online?

Not really, sorry.  The best I could say is learn well what jersey, interlock, and rib knit are, and their weights, then you’ll have a better idea of what is being sold.  I hate buying without being able to see and feel, so I don’t do it much.

8.  What brand/model machine do you use primarily for sewing knits?

I have a Brother XR-7700 that I got as a gift.  It works fine, I guess?  I don’t have much to compare it to.  It has a lot of stitches I never use, but it does have a stretch stitch that is handy for working with knits.

9.  Do you use a serger?  More/less/same amount as your machine when sewing with knits?

I do use a serger; I have the ever-popular Brother 1034-D (el cheapo) serger.  I did use it almost exclusively at first when sewing with knits.  It essentially has a walking foot, which is what makes knits feed through so evenly.  Once I got a machine with a walking foot, I often just use that and leave the seams unfinished.  It doesn’t look as nice, but personally, I think it’s more comfortable.  I still use the serger to attach cuffs or neck ribbing.  It’s just better for that.

(Shirt made with exposed serging—one thing that is fun to do with a serger.)

10.  What’s your default setting on your machine (stitch type/length/width)?

I can’t tell you exactly (because I don’t know, not because it’s a proprietary secret), but Cal Patch’s book recommended using a slight zig-zag, in other words, a stitch that is long and narrow, so it almost looks straight, but still has some give.  So for the seams, I would use a zig-zag stitch, probably about 2.0-2.5 long (not a long stitch, but longer than usual for a zig-zag) and about 1.0 wide or less.  For a hem, or attaching binding, I usually use a stretch straight stitch, which is best explained here on Omi Creates. (BTW, that tutorial is great just for learning how to do a binding, which is a great finish for necklines, cuffs, hems… it’s a very versatile finishing technique for knits!)


(Another onesie made using that tutorial… too cute!)

11.  Walking foot, yay or nay?

YAY!  You cannot sew knits without it.  Just trust me.  It feeds the fabric through without stretching it…without one you have to go through this sorcery of stabilizers, spray starch, millions of pins… and yet none of that worked for me.  Get a walking foot if you don’t have one.  Now.  Stop reading and go shopping.


(PJ’s made with waffle-type thermal knit.  Don’t even think about using this fabric without a serger or a walking foot.  You will be reduced to tears.  Or maniacal laughter.)

12.  Double needle: your thoughts. 

Too much work.  I mean, it looks nice, I did it once, but it’s too much work.  I often think I will use it for hemming or for topstitching the neckline, but I just don’t want to bother to load another bobbin with matching thread, swap out the needle, etc., when I am so close to the end.

(Bottom left: you can see the twin needle at work.  Looks good, eh?)

13.  Do you have any tips or tricks for sewing with knits that you’ve found helpful?

First, get a walking foot.  After that, pretty much all you have to do is remember to not stretch your fabric while you sew.  If it’s a big project, keep it on the table so it doesn’t pull under its own weight.


(Hoodie made using binding a la 90-minute shirt.  Using binding that encases the edge of your garment (hem, sleeve, etc.) is a nice way to keep the knit from stretching because it doesn’t actually come in contact with either the presser foot or the feed dogs, so distortion is minimized.  Wow, that sounds geeky.)

14.  Anything else you want to say about knits?

That pretty well sums it up!  They are tricky at first, but if you try jersey first (100% cotton, none of this spandex stuff), or interlock, you’ll find it’s not so bad, and then you can move on to the more stretchy stuff (rib knit, thermal, spandex blends).  Sadly, nice prints are notoriously hard to come by, especially for adults.  Upcycling is usually the only way to find decent prints.  It’s so sad to walk into a store and see walls brimming with quilting cottons, but in knits you get to choose from puppies and fire trucks.  Ultimately though, for clothes, I’d say it’s knits all the way!  Hope you find some tips from this fun series!  I know I’m feeling inspired (after the holiday madness) to try out some new patterns.


(Little does he know how silly he looks.  Isn’t it fun to make clothes for your kids?)

So check out the rest of the KNIT-erviews, and see if you get inspired to make something new!