Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How To: make a big t-shirt fit

If you're a woman, especially one in the tech industry, I'm sure you've gotten your fair share of men's t-shirts, which are usually too big in some places, maybe tight in others, and generally not flattering. (There's a great write up about why this sucks and how "unisex" shirts aren't that over on the Geek Feminism Wiki.)

I decline or get rid of a lot of these shirts, but there are a few that I'd love to keep, such as my MagmaConf shirt, but they fit so badly that I don't even care to wear them around the house. Honestly it kinda sucks to have to bust out the sewing machine just to comfortably wear a t-shirt that was made for the guys that attended whatever event I went to, but it's also nice to know that I can.

So! In case others of you are interested and don't know where to start, here's a pretty easy DIY. You need a sewing machine and basic knowledge of how to do a simple stitch (or a needle, thread, and a lot of patience). There are a lot of steps, but honestly it's pretty straightforward, and stretchy t-shirts make it pretty forgiving if you don't get it perfect.

Before / After
  1. Turn your shirt inside out!

  2. Cut the sleeves and neckline out.

    The neckline is optional but I think it gives it more of a casual feel. You just want to make sure the seams are gone - you can stay really close to them or add an inch or two around. The biggest thing to watch out for is jagged edges, so be careful and try to cut a smooth line around.

    If there are any inner seams sticking out, like below, trim these diagonally so the ends don't show through the sleeves.
  3. Put the shirt on (still inside out) and grab a sharpie or fabric pen. Go down each side and pull the excess fabric out from your body (if the shirt has side seams, it helps to keep that centered where you're pulling). Do this in about three places (armpit, waist, hip) and mark where the fabric hits your body. It doesn't need to be skin tight, but enough to give you a general idea.

  4. Take the shirt off and connect the lines with your marker. (I switched from silver sharpie to black - neither shows up great for photos.)

  5. Sew! I usually use thread that's about the same color as my shirt, but I'm using white here. Sew a long, slightly curved line down your drawn-on line, and make sure to go up through part of the sleeve opening, too.

  6. Before you take scissors to it, try it on! I just leave it inside out for this part. Look at how it fits and where the seams hit. If something looks off, you can take a seam ripper to your stitches and resew (if it's too tight) or just sew a new seam within the first one (if it's still loose). Mine's usually pretty close on the first try - the lines I drew earlier help!

  7. When you're happy with the fit, cut the excess fabric off of the inside (it's ok to leave 1/4"-1/2" of extra), flip inside out, and voila!
Side, before and after (with the terrible faces I was making cropped off):

Inspired by Katie's tutorial on Skunkboy Blog

If you want something easier and no-sew, check out this DIY on Twinkie Chan's blog (I tried this and it didn't look quite as cute on me as on her blog, probably because all the excess fabric is still hanging around.)

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I normally don't consider myself much of a tech conference person. I love the work I do, but it's not my whole life, and I can get overwhelmed if I'm expected to spend full days talking tech without direct tie-ins to the products I work on. (I like learning new things as it applies to something I'm excited to make, not just for the sake of learning the cool framework of the week).

However! ModCloth sponsored MagmaConf in Manzanillo, Mexico this past week, and I was able to go along. I was a little nervous/homesick at first (I've had some lonely experiences traveling without close friends/boyfriend), but by the end of the trip, I was literally crying at the thought of leaving Mexico. Not that sleep deprivation didn't play into it a bit. But honestly, it was that good. An insanely fun, educational, cultural experience unlike anything I've ever done before.

The conference talks were great, but what really did it for me was the people, the culture, and even learning more about some of the foundations of ModCloth (ModCloth has always had really close ties with Crowd Interactive, the organizers of the conference).

I've left the country before, but not often, only to Canada and western Europe, and I've never gotten to truly make friends or spend time with locals anywhere outside of the US. I felt so welcome and taken care of from the moment I stepped foot in Manzanillo, despite only speaking a little Spanish (side note: I WILL learn more before I go back). The food was amazing - fresh, filling, delicious, and local. The city was completely gorgeous with perfect beach weather, which obviously didn't hurt. And I got to spend time with super smart people (engineers and not) from Mexico, the US, and all over the world. 

It was great to be able to put more faces to the people I know of from ModCloth's work with Crowd, and everyone from the company was so great to be around. It's hard to put my finger on why, but I just can't imagine a San Francisco tech conference having that level of friendliness, welcoming, and lack of pretention. Successful investors, founders, and keynote speakers were happy to hang out with everyone down to the most junior developers or people more on the sidelines of the tech industry. Non-native English speakers were happy to switch over when one of us wasn't able to keep up with the conversation. Delicious food was had (like REALLY delicious), drinks were always flowing, and the hospitality was just on a level I've never seen before.


I think the best example of this was when my coworker Mariana told her friend Mercy that I was hoping to try some chicken mole, which is hard to come by in Manzanillo (where the specialty is fantastic seafood). Mercy got ahold of her mom in another city, who made from-scratch mole (served alongside the best ever tortillas and mexican-style rice). This meal. I can't even describe it. The chickens were slaughtered that morning, and the mole was so delicious, rich, and perfectly balanced between sweet and savory. Before I left, I thanked Mercy again for everything, and she told me to give her a heads up before I come back so that her mom can make more mole.

I stayed up late, woke up early. I hung out with former coworkers and met some that were before my time. I ate super fresh seafood under umbrellas on the beach. I really enjoyed light Mexican beers - usually not my thing, but perfect in that weather, especially with local Colima limes and salt. I can now say that I have friends in Mexico, and I really hope that I can visit more often than once a year. I came out knowing more Spanish than I went in with. I got to know my (US) coworkers even better. I jumped from the second floor of a boat into the ocean without a life jacket. I ate at some hole-in-the-wall, outdoor taquerias that put the Mission to shame. I danced at a club where a crab walked across the dance floor (and everyone stepped aside to save it). I somehow became an extrovert for about 5 days and survived with next to zero alone time and about half my usual sleep. I learned things that will make me better at my job, and I came back inspired to work better. I had one of the best, most memorable weeks of my life.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Recipe: Easter Creme Eggs

This is my third year making homemade Cadbury knockoff eggs for Easter, so I figure it's about time to share the recipe. My photos are a bit lacking in terms of 'in progress' shots - my kitchen has exactly zero windows, and it's super dark and rainy this weekend, anyway. But the important part is being able to make them yourself! (If I ever take process shots, I'll come back and add them in.)

Since making these, I don't really enjoy the Cadbury variety that much - the chocolate is too cheap and milk-y, the filling is overly sweet, and the chocolate to creme ratio is a bit high. This is probably good - it prevents temptation in the Easter candy section, but obviously it requires a bit more effort to get my fix! It's totally worth it once a year though.

You'll need a few tools for these:

  • egg molds (I tried plastic easter eggs and couldn't get the chocolate out in one piece, so I recommend investing in some sort of silicone candy mold) - I use these, and a smaller, non-egg version I picked up at Daiso
  • a stand mixer, or a hand mixer if you're willing to put in a bit more effort
  • a double boiler for melting chocolate (you could also use the microwave, but I find it melts a bit more evenly and is less likely to burn on the stove) - I use a regular pot and a metal bowl on top
  • piping bags (but you can try large ziploc bags)

Chocolate coating:

  • dark/semi-sweet chocolate (chips or baking bars) - get a pound, but you may not use all of it
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola oil (optional, for shine and smooth melting)
  1. Bring water to a simmer. Put about half the chocolate and 1 tablespoon of oil in the top of your double boiler and melt, stirring continuously with a heat safe spatula, until almost entirely smooth.
  2. Pull from the heat and keep stirring until any remaining chunks are melted. Let rest for 5-10 minutes to let it cool down a bit (but not long enough for it to solidify!)
  3. Make sure your mold is clean and dry, and put a dollop of chocolate in each well. Using a regular spoon, smooth the chocolate around inside and up the sides of the mold, making sure there aren't any holes.
  4. Pop in the freezer while you start the filling. Keep the remaining chocolate around - you'll need to reheat it later!
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups + 2/3 cup powdered sugar (used separately)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract OR 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (or extra vanilla, or another flavor of your choosing)
  • yellow food coloring
  1. Cream together the butter, corn syrup, 2 cups powdered sugar, and vanilla, using the paddle attachment on your mixer. Set aside.
  2. Start your double boiler again - this works best if you can use a one of the bowls from your stand mixer over your simmering water. In the metal bowl, whisk together egg whites and granulated sugar, then place over the boiler. Whisk constantly until the egg whites are foamy and the sugar is dissolved (pinch some between your fingers - it shouldn't feel grainy at all).
  3. Move the egg white mixture to your mixer, add the whisk attachment, and whip on speed 8 until it's room temp - this will take several minutes.
  4. Once it's cool, switch to the paddle attachment (no need to rinse from the earlier mixture) and add the butter mixture, remaining 2/3 cup powdered sugar, the cornstarch, and the almond extract. Beat on medium speed until it's all combined and fluffy.
  5. Remove about one third of the mixture to a smaller bowl and tint yellow.
  1. Put the white and yellow filling mixtures into separate piping bags. Get your chocolate shells from the freezer.
  2. Pipe white filling into each chocolate shell until it's about 2/3 full, then go back through and pipe a bit of yellow in (they should be full but not overflowing - see photo below!). Return to the freezer.
  3. Melt the chocolate over the double boiler again, adding more chocolate and/or oil if necessary. Let cool for a few minutes as before.
  4. Once the filling is cold and slightly firm, dollop some chocolate on each egg and spread to completely cover the filling. Return to the freezer one more time.
  5. When the last layer of chocolate is completely hard, you can pop the eggs out. Silicone molds are great because you can just push the mold inside out, and the candy will come right out.
  6. If you have more chocolate and filling than molds, you may need to repeat the melting, chocolate coating, filling, and final chocolate layer steps again, with a bit of freezer time between each step (maybe this is a good time to start cleaning up).
  7. All done! Store in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container - eat cold, or bring to room temp for a gooier filling.

And, some photos from last year (put sprinkles in the molds before adding the chocolate):