Wednesday, December 29, 2010

handmade holidays #12: better late than never!

spent all Christmas Day putting this together for my mom, fitted it (straps) two days later, and voila! Now, I just have to mail the finished piece to her:

I made up Colette Patterns' Cinnamon slip dress in Vera Wang hammered silk charmeuse in chartreuse (chartreuse charmeuse! fun to say!). In this fabric it's definitely a slip or nightie, not a dress. I really don't enjoy sewing a delicate, slippery silk like this; the fabric is so tricksy. I do nothing but worry and second-guess myself the whole time, but phew! I think it came out alright! The credit really must go (once again) to Sarai's beautiful and thoughtful designs.

Sorry I couldn't get a better photo; it was blowing like mad outside today and dark inside: folded on the bed was the best I could do. I still have a few gifts to get together. ahem, sorry ladies. And an orange skirt I'm finishing for myself that I need to post, before the nightmare that is winter quarter absorbs me (I am teaching and taking 20 credits - twice a full load for doctoral students). Ugh. I'm starting to feel too old and too tired to be excited anymore. Then again, I always feel this dread before returning; I just have to remember that I will enjoy it when I'm actually back in classes again. At least this quarter I have a slightly better schedule (eg, I've managed to get a full weekday OFF from campus - haven't had that in three years!) and have purchased all my books online on the cheap - or at least, all the ones I know about. That should offset the cost of having the beautiful gray boots my mother in law bought me on sale taken in at the back.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

handmade holidays #11: simple green (earrings, that is)

don't you just love this colour? This was my favorite colour in childhood; I kept it secret, though. It was "snot green" and "puke green" to most other children, and I knew well enough not to admit that, weirdo that I was, I used to colour things in in the colouring books with my olive crayon just to admire the colour on the page. I claimed I loved red. Which I do. But chartreuse and olive will always have a special place in my heart.

I'm not even sure if these are agates or some kind of jade - but I like them! I picked up the stones somewhere - Cali? Washington? I don't know - in the past few years, figuring I'd make earrings with them. I had originally planned to make a little cluster of garnet drops drape the tops of these stones, but while I was making earrings and playing in my box of beads and bead supplies, I found these little ...whaddya call 'ems? Pop-on...somethings? pendants? I don't know. Found these little metal bits and fit them to the green stone beads. Added some simple silver earwires. Because I can't wear giant tassels in my ears every day, but I can wear olive and chartreuse any day I want.

Speaking of chartreuse ... wait 'til you see my next sewing project. Hope to have it finished/posted tomorrow - so I'd better get to work!

handmade holidays #10: anthro-esque earrings for a song

for my sister-in-law: some over-the-top earrings that are as bold and fun as she is. Inspired by the Gothic Revival Earrings at anthropologie:

fun, but also $158, ouch! That is a statement! Mine aren't made with silk tassels (only because I couldn't source any locally), so I had to use rayon ones. The pearls were a gift my mother-in-law brought back from Mexico, the little bits (4 links each) of sterling silver under the pearls were leftover from another project and the surgical steel posts (because my sis has sensitive skin - like me, how convenient!) came from my large stash. I had to buy the sterling head pins and the tassels, but that was it!

To make your own: hit up a good fabric store and check their notions/trims for tassels. Usually, these are with the upholstery fabrics and trims, as tassels are so often used to tie back curtains. In fact, the tassels on my sis' earrings were attached to each other by a long rope cord. I stitched the cord together a bit, so that it wouldn't fray, then cut it off. I saturated each cut end with tacky glue and let dry for a few days.

When the glue is dry, sew the bottom link of your chain to the cut end of the tassel. The glue also gives the end some stability so you can sew into it. I made several passes, as I want the earring to be strong and durable. Slip your ear wire onto the other end of the chain.

Feed a pearl onto a head pin. Make a loop (but don't close it!) above the pearl. Slip the head pin through the chain, so that the loop is now around one side of one of the links. It's best to work from the bottom up. Secure, trim off excess wire from the head pin. Keep going, putting four or even six pearls on each link so that the pearls stack up. I used two different sizes of pearls in similar colours for this, trying to keep the smaller pearls on top.

It takes an hour or two, but it's worth it!

I even made a (much) longer pair for myself: these babies hang past my shoulders on my collarbone. I think I'll put my hair up and wear these with a low cut top and heavy eyeliner to really play up the drama!

handmade holidays #9: tasty treats - the salted chocolate caramel tradition

as last year, I didn't quite get them solid enough in the first go-round. So, I tossed them back into the pot the next day (after a night in the fridge) and recooked tme to just over 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Not as pretty (nor as salty as I'd like), but the texture is a success. This year's adaptation? Cook over medium-low heat (4/10) and stir every few minutes. The oil didn't separate out of them this year. Score one point of success!

I dream of the day I can make these right the first time. But still, they taste delicious, the unmelted flakes of Hawaiian sea salt make for a delightful surprise crunch!, and their smooth texture (aside from salt crystals, that is) is spot-on. Everything worth knowing takes time, eh?

If you haven't seen my caramel posts before, I've linked one above where I note the changes I make for a full-batch of caramels. And here's the original recipe on epicurious.

And why yes, that is sunshine on the parchment paper. For a brief hour or so, solstice morning dawned sunny (I love it when it does that):

I'm off for a walk. I overtaxed my injured wrist yesterday and am feeling the burn today. So, no gym today, a long walk instead. I'm going to pick out a nice vegan meal and go buy groceries to make it. I'll be back later this afternoon with another handmade holidays post: knocking off anthropologie again, this time it's some seriously dramatic earrings.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

handmade holidays #8: tasty treats - chestnut and rosehip turnovers

and now for something completely different, eh?

I make these with frozen puff pastry (rolled out, cut into squares) filled with a little squeeze of chestnut paste that I brought back from Paris (Clement Faugier's chestnut paste, which is also available at DeLaurenti's in the Market now), and a dab of rosehip jelly that I made from the wild nootka rosehips we foraged in the mountains last winter. You simply swipe the edges of the little square of puff pastry with water and fold it over the paste and jam, pressing with fork tines to seal it together. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut a little vent in the top (I like to make two small diagonal cuts). Beat an egg with about a tablespoon of cold water. Brush the mixture over the tops of the turnovers and sprinkle sugar over them. The egg will give them a nice gloss, and the sugar gives a tiny bit of crunch. It's that extra pzazz that makes it seem like you really know baking ;)

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, or until pastries are golden. Let cool at least 10 minutes before eating - really. The jam becomes molten and Cass and I seriously burned ourselves (both mouths and hands) the first time I made these because we did not stop eating them!

A note on rosehip jelly: a Serbian friend of mine, upon learning what I'd been making this summer, informed me that rosehip jelly is a winter tradition back home, so I gave him a jar. He was able to confirm that the flavour of our native wild nootka roses is very different from the roses used in European jam recipes - which I think favour rosa rugosa and other large-fruiting varieties of shrub rose. So my rosehip jelly is tannic, like sweet black tea, but I think these would be just as good if you were able to source a more traditional European rosehip jam at an import foods shop.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

handmade holidays #7: a necklace in leather and silk charmeuse

remember how it was on my summer to-do list to make a leather necklace a la handle and spout's creations? Well, it took me some time, but look! I made good on that pledge. I decided I liked the way it lays across the collarbone, and added silk ties for soft-edged textural contrast. This one's winging its way south to a girlfriend of mine, but I hope I can find time to make one for myself eventually - and hopefully it won't take another 6 months for me to finish!

(speaking of to-dos, you should see the ridiculous list I've made for my two weeks off. There should be plenty of posting over the break - though, if I were wise, I'd hold some in reserve for winter quarter, when I'm in for another 20-credit quarter - twice a full load for a grad student - and teaching)

holiday tree

the tree has always been a very special part of the holidays for me. I moved out a decade ago, and I still remember our first tree: we covered it with origami roses because we could only afford a few ornaments. It was about 2 feet tall, so we put it on the kitchen table so it would be more prominent in our apartment.

We still get a small tree - smaller than any I grew up with - but mostly because Rising Sun Farms (in Ravenna) has such great prices on their little trees. Plus, when I first moved to Seattle, I used to walk there a couple times a week to buy groceries at rock-bottom prices. They got to know me, and they cut me a deal on the tree that first Christmas. That kindness meant a lot to me as I was almost completely out of money that December, having only just managed to find work after months of looking. And so, I am perennially loyal.

But as I was saying. Every year I purchase 2-4 ornaments, usually the day after Christmas, on sale. And over the years, it's really become a beautiful collection of orbs, acorns, pinecones and glass icicles (a nod to the tinsel that I loved as a child). We haven't used the origami roses in a few years, but they still live with the Christmas ornaments in the Christmas box. I think one of these years I might them up in our bedroom, a romantic reminder of our early years.

Anyhow, I was struck by a ray of winter sun gleaming in through this blown glass pomegranate the other morning; it so perfectly expresses how I feel about winter, the brief glory of cold, low yellow sun.

But of course, the tree is particularly glorious after dark. So, for family and friends that won't be in Seattle this winter - here's a peek into our holiday. With presents for you under the tree, just waiting to be packed up and sent out!

wishing you a holiday as beautiful and special as winter sunshine, full of memories of love and family!

handmade holidays #6: a feathered fascinator for a flapper

a friend of mine recently celebrated her 27th birthday with a 20s speakeasy party. Dress code was black and white, inspired by the Jazz Age. I couldn't make it down to Portland (owing to Cass' firm's annual holiday party - and the fact that I'm still grading my students' final papers and will be all weekend), but it looks like it was a killer party. She nabbed an underground (literally) venue with great atmosphere and knowing this girl, whipped up some great food to pair with her prohibition-era cocktails.

In the spirit of the thing I whipped this up for her - and got it to her just in time! - for a little extra black and white flair (it was charming against her Louise Brooks wig). Black and white rooster feathers (from this project), black leather (from this one), a vintage rhinestone earring that the vintage shop owner was willing to just give me, a vintage button I had on hand, and a small piece of one of the plastic combs I bought when I made this.

Times are tight, and moving this year reminded me just how many raw materials I already have on hand; so I'm trying to use some of them up this holiday season, when I can come up with a good way to do it.