Friday, December 30, 2011

handmade holidays: coming soon.

cannot wait to show you this project; I've been working on it (off an on; drafting patterns for clothes for this guy has been a HEADACHE) for most of the year and now it is finally going out in the mail to my friend who probably has no idea I've been engaged in such silliness (it really is very silly, I was giggling all evening as I finished it and even Cass couldn't help but laugh at it all). As soon as it's landed, I'll post better pictures. Ah, the packages - winging their way out a bit late this year, friends. If yours hasn't come yet, hold tight! I'm slowly getting through it all!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

handmade holidays: plaid shirt

believe me when I tell you that matching the plaid was nerve-wracking. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to cut out the pattern and which parts were most important to match (the way the shirt is cut, with a back yoke, and pleated back, it's actually impossible for all of it to line up perfectly). So, I matched the vertical stripe on the center of the back yoke and the shirt back. I matched the sides of the shirt front and shirt back, but didn't worry about the sleeves. I wanted the verticals to match on the pockets, but decided I didn't care about the horizontals - I actually wanted the pockets to be a little less camoflauged against the shirt front.

All in all, I don't think I saved a penny over just buying him a j.crew shirt for Christmas. BUT I have the pattern, which I can use again. And I won't always have to use such expensive fabric - I used a nice medium-weight yarn-dyed plaid, which means the stripes have been woven in (as in, the shirt is actually made of differently-coloured threads - and it looks the same on both sides) not printed onto a woven fabric. As he tried it for fit, he even commented that it's heavier than his other shirts (some of which are rather flimsy, if I do say so myself). I say good! It'll last longer!

It's a great fit, isn't it? I used Colette Patterns' Negroni, in size medium. For any other tailors or seamstresses out there interested in this pattern, I've heard that the arm holes can be small on some who have very muscular arms or a broad chest. For reference, Cass is about 6' 1/2" or 1". He wears a size medium in jcrew shirts, but a size large in gap (or a medium tall). He doesn't have very broad shoulders - we've never found a man's blazer that doesn't look oversized on him. He told me that the sleeve openings on this, far from being too small, were just right - whereas some of his other shirts use a really large opening, so that the body of the shirt pulls up when he raises his arm above his head.

It's a bit of a labour of love, matching plaids and painstakingly pressing and doing all of those flat-felled seams (the arm openings AND the side seams are flat-felled seams), but the result is a quality garment with a good fit. Score yet another win for Collette patterns - so far, every pattern (see this skirt, this dress, this blouse, this slip) I've tried by Sarai has turned out an excellent garment that fits amazingly well. Sarai, I thank you!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

holiday spice: gingerbread scones with candied ginger and orange

ohmygoodnessyum. I have a new favorite - also, I think my holidays needed a bit of gingerbread a LONG time ago. I made these scones by modifying this recipe for gingerbread raisin scones on epicurious. According to the reviews, the original was a little dry, so I added extra liquids and increased the flavour and incorporated something better than raisins: chopped candied ginger and bits of candied orange peel.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a baking sheet and set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and spices in food processor and pulse to combine. Add pieces of cold butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a large bowl, combine half and half, egg, molasses and vanilla. Add flour mixture and ginger and orange peel and stir together until just combined. Gather dough into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Pat into a disk, about 6" diameter. Cut into eight wedges.

Place on buttered baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes, then cool on a rack.

note: the scones didn't puff so much as just spread out as they baked. But they taste INCREDIBLE, like soft moist gingerbread cakes. Yum. We're serving ours tonight for dessert at our friends' place, with roasted chunks of apples and a bit of whipped cream.

happy holidays, indeed!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

handmade holidays: this year's wrap

I'm quite pleased with how this turned out this year - especially this little package, isn't it pretty? Instead of buying paper, I saved the leftover scraps of Cole and Sons' Forest wallpaper from when we wallpapered our kitchen this summer, and used them to wrap up all the presents. Though arguably rather expensive to use as wrapping paper, I'm not sure what to do with the remnants otherwise - and I'm loathe to waste something so pretty.

I tied up Cass' presents with green garden twine and little paper tags; aren't they pretty under the tree? Our tree is all decorated in ivory, clear, silver and bronze glass ornaments in the shapes of acorns, pomegranates, icicles, and pinecones, and our tree skirt is a simple semi-circle that I made from some heavy-weight silk/cotton suiting fabric I bought for a song several years ago. I definitely have a thing for forest themes.

god jul!

the winter solstice occurred at 5:30am this morning. The longest night of the year, the shortest day; already the days are lengthening - just think! Seattle's shortest days are about 8.5 hours long, our longest ones about 16 hours. That's a big change - and turning back to the bright side of the year always feels happy and hopeful for me, especially when we have such a beautiful winter day on which to celebrate. The light is going down, at 3pm, here in Seattle - it'll be twilight here in 90 minutes - but isn't it so beautiful on these trees? I'm glad I've been able to get out and about for the last few nice days; KOMO is calling for a WEEK of rain starting tomorrow. (Well, it has been unseasonably dry; we can't really complain, not in good conscience. I know Cass was looking forward to a great ski season this year, but for a "la nina" cycle, it's been uncharacteristically dry.)

the light on the tree inside might not be so majestic, but that's only because it comes into its own at twilight. You'll just have to trust me on that one - the camera doesn't really do it justice after dark.

Wherever you are, whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you a very happy and joyful one! More from me over the next few days - I'm finishing up another gift for Cass, a new shirt (and hoo boy, is it ever intimidating to sew men's clothes! the precision involved is crazy).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

light winter fare

made this salad the other day for the first time and I thought it was delicious. Cass said he could do without the dates, but to each his own.

dressing: mix together 1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 part red wine vinegar and 2 parts olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper. (So, make as much as you'd like!) whisk together in a bowl or place in a canning jar, screw on a lid, and give it a good shake.

toast a half cup of hazelnuts (or so) in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a dish towel. Rub to remove the inner skins, then chop nuts.

Toss a generous handful (or two) of arugula with about one tablespoon of the dressing (just enough to lightly coat the leaves, but not so much that they are soggy/limp/weighed down). Place in a bowl and top with 4 medjool dates, pitted and cut lengthwise into quarters, a few tablespoons of chopped toasted hazelnuts, and 1 or 2 oz of good, fresh goat or sheep's milk feta, crumbled.

I have got to get some more sheep feta and make this again.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

handmade holidays: a twist (loop?) on the classic handmade scarf

I ran into one of my girlfriends on campus the first day I wore my hot pink handmade silimba loop scarf and she flipped. "You have to make me one!" she said. She wanted it in pink and purple - such a girl! I accidentally made the fringe so long on this one that I was at 4 balls of yarn just to finish the purple, so I hope that just-purple will do.

Btw, if you want to make yourself a silimba loop, here's how it works: chain a loop the length of your scarf (the original is something like 60 inches? - but keep in mind - as I somehow always manage to forget - that it is going to stretch as you make it, so make it shorter than you'd like your final scarf to be). Then single crochet. I do the center on a size Q crochet hook - it's a monster, yep. With big, fat wool and a softie wool-acrylic blend here for my friend's sensitive skin (it's Lion's Wool-Ease Thick and Quick).

Then it's simply a matter of chaining the fringes. This scarf has one fringe loop for each of the single crochets. My pink one has two. Up to you. For the fringes, I used a size N hook, so that the chain is a bit tighter and more compact than the center of the scarf. And that's it. It can be done in two evenings, easily.

handmade holidays: winter citrus gifts

I can't believe the holidays (the actual holidays themselves) are basically upon us! The lines at the post office were crazy today; I still have to get my brother's package out to him - and it's not even complete; the actual baked goodies/candies haven't been tucked in. I'll have to send some to my parents to hold for him.

I got back to an old favorite this year: candied orange peel. These are actually candied satsuma peels. Cass will eat 5-7 satsumas a day, and he saves the peels in a tupperware for me in the fridge.

It's quite easy to candy orange peels. It takes a bit of time, but most of that time you do not need to be watching the peels. First, simmer the peels in water over low heat for about 2 hours, until the white pith becomes waterlogged and can easily be removed by scraping a spoon over the inside of the peel. Drain all the peels and sit down and scrape the pith away, being careful not to tear the peels. Then cut the zest into strips or little bits or whatever shape you like, removing the thick "navel."

Combine equal parts water and sugar in a sauce pan and stir/whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the zest and simmer over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. The zest can either be tossed in fine sugar and laid out to dry on aluminum foil (as with the pieces above), or you can skip the sugar-sanding and just lay the strips out to dry. The non-sugared pieces take several days to dry and remain a bit sticky, but I like the non-sugared ones better. A bit more bitter, a bit less sweet - and excellent additions to gingerbread, a must for true fruitcake, and I think I may look into making lebkuchen with mine.

Now on to the new recipe: I am trying out my first batch of preserved lemons. I bought two big bags of Meyer lemons at the grocery store (they're in season now - and for a limited time, if you don't live in Southern California. Pick some up and enjoy their sweetness for months to come!). I used the basic American/Moroccan style, which means you cut a lemon almost into quarters, not quite cutting all the way through the lemon so that the four pieces are attached together at the base of the fruit. Then pack about 1Tbl. kosher salt into the lemon - really mash it in. Place the lemon in a freshly-sterilized jar.

Now I have to pause for a brief digression about these jars! I only recently learned about these jars- they are German canning jars, brand name Weck, invented in 1900. Crate and Barrel just started carrying them for a very reasonable $4.00 - $4.50, depending on the size of the jar. The rubber rings need to be replaced each time you use the jar for canning/sealing, but that's it. The lids can be reused! - and if you are simply using the jars to store dry goods in your pantry or leftovers in the fridge, the rubber rings can be used over and over again. I like the idea of using these instead of tupperware: none of the danger of leaching chemicals if you want to reheat your food in a microwave!

back to lemons! So, you put your salt-encrusted lemon into the jar and kind of mash it down in there. Keep going. Every two or three lemons, sprinkle some spices in over the lemons. I used coriander seed, cardamom pods, and cloves. I decided not to add chilies, but that's pretty traditional, too. Keep smashing the salt-encrusted lemons in on top of each other - the juice will start to run from the lemons and fill the jar. When your jar is almost full, pour in some freshly-squeezed lemon juice to cover the last lemon (if your lemons haven't juiced enough to cover themselves already) and pop a lid on that sucker.

Now, most of the recipes I read say that this jar sits out for 30 days, and that you should shake it once a day to keep the salt evenly distributed. That means: no canning, no processing; these are not technically sealed. I'm not surprised. I've made the famous turnip pickles (recipes for which can be found in basically every arabian country, all basically the same) that are also a kind of fermented pickle; the salt and lemon juice are going to safely cure the fruits for you. However, a freshly sterilized jar is highly recommended (even though these were brand new, I boiled the lids and jars for 20 minutes and then let them dry for 2 hours in a low-heat oven, handling them only with freshly-washed tongs, not my hands). I actually put the rings on and put my jars in a water-bath and processed them (boiled them) for 10 minutes, just for added security. I also plan to store these in the fridge once they've been opened, though that is probably not necessary, either.

So there you have it: preserved lemons. Aren't they beautiful? And so tasty. I love to throw them into a rice pilaf or add chunks of them over mediterranean dish. They are so flavourful and bright! They would be lovely gifts, too, but since I only have the two full jars (and I'm not sure how well these Weck jars would hold up with the jostling of going through the US post??), I think these babies are staying at our house. Besides, they won't even be done for another three weeks!

Monday, December 12, 2011

handmade holidays: holiday sparkle - that you can eat!

oh, hello, blog! Sorry about that - school, life, etc. getting in the way of me making things. Well, rest assured, more to come. I just proctored my students' final exam today; let the grading begin!

So, what are these fabulously purple sparkly things above? They're sugar plums! Yeah, like "Sugarplum fairy" and all. I always figured there must still be a recipe out there somewhere, but I'd never really thought about what it might be.

LinkThen I saw these: Beakman 1802 sugar plums at Williams-Sonoma. Four sugarplums, a total of 2oz., for a whopping $22. ouch. They sound amazing: figs, dates, apricots, a bit of brandy, a bit of orange oil, spices... yum.

So, after a bit of digging around on the internet, I found Alton Brown's recipe, which is similar: fig, prunes, apricots, slightly more unexpected spices (caraway, fennel, cardamom). No orange oil, but I bought some from the natural foods section of the store and just put a few drops into the mix. They are delicious; our favorite barista at our favorite coffee shop said it was like eating a disco ball! Don't you want to eat a disco ball at your new year's party? =)

I think this recipe could be similar to the one used by Beakman: if you put in 2/3 c. each dates, apricots and figs, and substituted orange oil for the orange zest, the ingredients seem to be just about the same. But I prefer the spices in Alton Brown's recipe - the caraway was totally surprising and delicious - and I think the prunes may be more traditional, even if they turn some off. So, I'll probably make Brown's again (maybe with some dates?) and I'll add some brandy to the mix and let it ripen for a few days before rolling in sugar or coconut (coconut sounds good).

Give 'em a try. They don't take long at all to make. More from me soon - sterilizing some weck jars and I have two bags of meyer lemons sitting on the table... oh yes!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

In honour

of my birthday, Cass created a holiday cocktail - it tastes like eggnog, which delighted this eggnog-lover who is allergic (alas) to the eggs:
The Saggitarian
1 oz coole swan
1 oz batavia arrak
.5 oz dark rum
.5 oz allspice dram (aka pimento dram)
ground cinnamon
combine all ingredients and shake over ice, then strain for a glass of holiday cheer!
A note on some of these ingredients: Batavia Arrack is a precursor of our modern rum, now considered to be the rum that sailors probably drank in the 18th century. Its ingredients remember European trade routes, as it is made from sugarcane *and* Indonesian red rice (the "east indies" meets the "indies"). It tastes like rum but with a distinctive earthy funk.
Coole swan is a dairy cream liquer. You could substitute Bailey's irish cream, but the whiskey flavour will be more pronounced in the drink.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

so I can find it more easily

here's a recipe for a drink we came up with back in October - I had to scroll through a month's worth of posts on my facebook wall to find it! It definitely belongs here, where it'll be easier to access for the future. Cass is becoming quite the mixologist around here.

The Katydid:

2.25 oz vodka
1.5 oz rhuby
.75 oz grand marnier
½ capful green chartreuse
½ capful maraschino
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
Dash angostura bitters

Shake together over ice. Strain. Serve up in two glasses, with a maraschino cherry.

watch out - it tastes like a sweettart candy (remember those?) but it packs a punch! Drink water afterward!! =)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

next: hot streak clutch

I'm loving the envelope-clutches with a bright stripe of neon paint down the middle lately. It seems like they are everywhere! This is the hot streak clutch from anthropologie. It's quite small, actually, only 6.75" high and 9" wide - but $148. Ouch! Definitely one to DIY.

From the reviews I learned it's rather squishy-soft, so it doesn't need very stiff leather to make it - which means I may be able to do it on my machine and not have to buy a sewing awl. And it looks to me like it's lined in very lightweight suede. Okay.

I'm starting my first test run now; pics soon if it works out. It'll be about the same size, but lined in a heavier weight leather (I'm using up what I've got on hand); it's a good test for my sewing machine to see if it can handle the bulk, with a leather needle and heavy-duty thread. The little button/knob closures - whatever you call them - cost about $2.50 at Tandy Leather, and my mother in law was telling me over Thanksgiving that she actually has a bunch of deerskin hides that she once purchased and is never going to use (how PERFECT, no?) so if the test-run works, I'm definitely going to make a big pretty one, maybe even make some for gifts!

make-do: waxed suede shoes

my old oxfords were literally falling apart after Europe - I'd had them four years and walked oh so many miles in them. When these Matt Bernson shoes came up on sale for $30 (down from $150) at Urban Outfitters, I snapped up a pair for my mother and one for myself. They needed a few tweaks, though; these were laceless oxfords, the top of the shoe held together by a strip of elastic affixed between the suede and the leather lining, and fed through the two layers of the tongue. They were too loose on my narrow feet. So I cut the elastic out and sealed the slit in the layers shut with shoe goo. Next problem: I needed oxfords I could wear year-round here in Seattle, and these are made of suede.

The inexpensive solution? Sno-seal. Sno-seal is a beeswax-based leather sealant, and it really works. We would use sno-seal to seal a new pair of ice skates - you did four coats over four days when you first got your new skates, and never had to worry about it again. Use a hair dryer to heat the shoe to a comfortably warm temperature, then just rub gobs of the sno-seal in with a rag (I cut up Cass' old shirts and boxers into rags for just this kind of thing - you're going to have to throw the rag away afterward). Let the shoe sit for 10-15 minutes, and wipe away excess. TO do multiple coats, just warm the shoe back up and apply again, wait, wipe excess.

The sno-seal darkened the colour from a very lackluster, ho-hum grey to a nice slate. I even sealed the sole and heel, to protect them from water damage as well. Then I threaded in an old pair of laces leftover from when I painted my fryes green and switched out their laces, and there you have it! New, winter-ready brogues!

Of course, now I'm on a sno-sealing kick - all my boots are getting a good coat, especially my poor frye boots that got completely soaked in a rainstorm last year.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

make-do: sweater leggings

It's that time of year; I'm pulling out leggings and wool tights to wear under skirts and add a little insulation to my wardrobe. I love the look of intarsia sweater leggings, but geez, the things are so expensive.

What's a girl to do?

Well, last year (yeah, last year! I am so behind on getting things done!) I bought a pair of gorgeous intarsia sweater tights by Eloise from anthropologie's clearance section ... for $5 (down from $38). score! But here's the thing: I bought these tights even though Eloise is too small for me (btw, from what I read, Hansel from Basel tights are too short for anyone over 5'2" or 5'4"). I figured that with a little elbow grease, I could turn them into leggings.

Here's how I did it:
first, take your seam ripper and carefully cut apart the stitches that hold the toe together. You don't want to pull or yank too much, so that you don't start the tights unravelling. These eloise tights are essentially long tubes - there is no figured heel or toe cap. I think if you have a pair of tights with a figured heel, you may want to just cut the tight open above the heel and continue.

next, fold the tights over and pin. Then fold again and pin. You want to trap the loose edges inside this roll. Use pins to keep it together, and remove while you sew.

You can hand-sew a stretchy stitch if you use a catch stitch. Catch-stitch around the opening, stretching the fabric slightly as you sew. I made one line of back stitches (half of the catch stitch) down the middle of my double-folded hem, and one at the top edge.

voila! done! Cute geometric-pattern wool sweater leggings for $5 and about 1 hour of time.

hm. Lots of bright pink lately ...

happy thanksgiving!

green salads with warm walnut-crusted goat cheese balls, roasted brussel sprouts with chantrelles and shallots, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest and pomegranate molasses.

pumpkin pie, champagne with rhuby, and a nice slow afternoon and evening with Cass and his parents. Here's to family time and relaxation. Tomorrow's black Friday and I think I'll spend it grading, cutting down my mla paper, and putting some finishing touches (read: alterations) on some thrifted pieces.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

handmade holidays: wrapping up gifts

literally - more on the wrap itself later, though. I've been so stressed out with these fellowship applications and whatnot that I've been crafting like a madwoman in any free moment I can get - hammering and filing brass and copper into necklaces, weaving another wrapped glow bracelet," this time with pearlescent white leather and lapis lazuli beads, making more sets of those cinched quartz earrings, etc. It's all in the name of sanity and peace in the home.

So, the net result is, I'm basically ... done preparing for yuletide. Before Thanksgiving. Isn't that insane?? It's a little sad, actually. And I'm totally broke, so I really need to resist the siren song of "holiday sales!" after next week.

Well, I have a few things left to make up to keep me busy - I ordered a pattern to make Cass a new plaid shirt, and one to make him some chic skinny wool ties (a post coming up on that soon, with an inspiration scan from the recent j.crew catalogue) that I'm sure he won't wear as often as I'll want him to! I've heard tie-making is difficult; if I can get the knack of it, I think I'll have to start giving them away. I've always wanted to make ties - it's just the right mix of precision and handwork, and the kind of accessory that can really make (or break, or change) a look. I'd love to master it.

Other than the guy stuff, I finally decided to commit to sewing something with my ralph lauren red plaid fabric - colette's jasmine blouse. I haven't decided what to use for the contrast collar and cuffs yet, but I think I want to embroider the blouse, just at the top of each shoulder. Something ... Slavic-inspired, I think. In thick white thread or yarn. I think the juxtaposition could be interesting. Hopefully. Oh, and I've got a scarf/chiffon wrap I want to make for a friend, we'll see if I can pull that off.

Hm. Maybe my holidays are not quite so "finished" after all?


you know it's winter when it's suddenly impossible to get enough light at 2pm (or noon, for that matter) to get a photo that isn't grainy.

Had to make my silimba loop in pink (rowan big wool "glamour" instead of "madras") when the golden colour was sold out. Oh well.I still like it! Though I feel like it's going to take a bit of chutzpah to wear this thing. I feel a little silly, but shouldn't we all be able to laugh at ourselves from time to time?

Monday, October 31, 2011

oh, and -

this scarf, anthro's silimba loop scarf. It's hand knit in Peru by a group of women earning a decent wage, but I just don't have $198 for a scarf. For $42, I have ordered five skeins (yes, I'm aware, it's probably way too much, but i get anxious about these things - and heck, if I have extra, I'll just make two and give one away) of Rowan's Big Wool chunky yarn in Madras (only $7.49/skein on amazon, half off retail), a size Q (!!) crochet hook for the central ring of the scarf, and a size N for the loopy fringe. The scarf is a 62" loop (as in, 62" in total) and 14" wide. I'm assuming the fringe is about 6" long (or rather, a 12" loop folded in half).

More on this when the materials come; I don't think it'll actually take a terribly long time to make; those loops, after all, just seem to be simple chains. Oh, this should be fun, I've never used such a big needle before! I also found an etsy seller offering remnants of metallic leather lace and snapped those up, too - looks like both these upcoming projects will be coming to fruition soon!

(This is what happens when I'm laid up with what I hope is a badly sprained/dislocated and not broken toe. argh. Happy halloween, indeed.)

next up

anthropologie's november catalogue is up on the website; in it, I found the ice amulet necklace, made by the same artist (and using the same technique) as the cinched quartz earrings. I think this is lovely, too - one of the nicest quartz-point necklaces I've seen lately (and I have to admit, I kind of love this trend; I grew up in Eugene and still have a bit of hippie earth mama in me). The pendant is only half an inch long - can you believe it? it seems so much bigger in the image! I've heard that sometimes the pieces shot for the catalogues are one-offs, with slightly different proportions than the items sold in the stores - I wonder if that's the case here?

Anyway, it is strung on lambskin, which seems to have been dyed bronze with a metallic finish. I'm going to go dig around and see what I can find; I bet a simple 1/4 or 1/8 inch metallic leather lacing shouldn't be too hard to find - I think I've seen this treatment on deerskin lace, which is even softer than lambskin.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

happy halloween!

ah, at long last! There was more I wanted to do, but I just plain ran out of time. Oh well, I can add more to it next year. We decided to throw a Prohibition party for Halloween, complete with a big hors d'ouvres spread (next post) and classic cocktails, and we projected Ken Burns' new documentary on the wall of our friend's apartment (you can buy episodes on itunes already!)

so, getting in the 20s/30s spirit, I found this silk ombre dress (Gap!) at Goodwill. It's a bit big, but I figured, that's really going to give me the silhouette I want, anyway.

This is the dress after I dyed the dress with idye on the stovetop for a couple hours. I used kelly green because green and red are opposite each other on the colour wheel. Therefore, I knew I'd end up with a green dress that faded to brown where the pink colour was stronger. The colour seems much more Art Deco to me. Note: if you put silk chiffon in hot water, it shrinks. See the hem sticking out at the bottom? I thought I'd have time to take the dress up (it's a bit long for a flapper, anyway), but I didn't - oh well, another project for next year!

Next: I pinned appliques and bits of lace that I had cut up on the dress. Pin, pin, pin! I looked at images of 20s fashion for a few days and started noting the trends: deep Vs at the neck, whether overlays or appliques or just trim, there are a lot of deep Vs at the neck. And then a horizontal line right at the widest part of the hips. I arranged my appliques accordingly.

Then the real work begins: sew sew sew! I added little seed beads for additional sparkle after I got all the appliques and lace on.

And voila! The starry headband is a project from a few years ago; I also bought a wide headband base to cover with green silk when I take the hem up. So, hopefully next year I'll have a matching headband with appliques and maybe even tassels on the sides - next year, next year.

Cass made himself a foam-core tommy gun - isn't it cute? It's sculptural, too - about five separate layers. It was a hit at the party, everyone wanted to play with it. We don't know what to do with it, but it's too cute to throw away, so it's sitting in our bedroom.

Happy Halloween, everyone! Have fun tomorrow! I am looking forward to hanging out and seeing all the kids in their costumes and handing out candy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

handmade holidays, the early edition: It's a cinch!

Oh, I love it when a plan works out! These cinched quartz earrings from anthropologie were SO easy to make. Let me show you how!

You'll need:
hollow brass rod, approx 1/4" diameter (from the hardware store!)
wire/metal cutters
metal file
needle-nose pliers
a strong but flexible epoxy appropriate for metal and stone
2 quartz points (drilled or not is fine)
14k gold filled jump rings (2) and ear wires (2)

since the original earrings were about 2" long overall, and it looked like the brass "cinch" took up about half the length, I cut two 2" pieces of my hollow brass rod (because this is going to be folded in half).

next, use your hammer and anvil to flatten those pieces of rod. Hammer the ends a bit flatter than the rest to really seal the rod into a flat bit of brass, and to give you some extra width to play with when you file.

Use your metal file to round the edges of the hammered piece so they are smooth, not jagged. Then use needle-nose pliers to fold in half - you want a gentle loop at the top, not a tight crease. Use the metal file to rough up the brass on the inside of this "cinch," as this will help ensure adhesion when you apply the epoxy/glue.

If your quartz points are too long, you can gently tap the ends with a hammer on your anvil and gradually chip away some of the length, leaving blocky points like the ones I have (yes, I hammered mine to achieve this proportion). Then, make sure your "cinches" fit tightly around your quartz points. My cinches closed quite tightly, so I'd have to kind of wedge the quartz into them - this is good.

Once you've guaranteed a tight fit, remove the quartz stones from the cinches.

Place a drop of glue/epoxy (I used Gorilla Glue's superglue gel, as it promised flexible hold for metal and stone, was suitable for indoor/outdoor usage, low temps, and in humidity, etc.) on either side of your quartz stone where the cinch will come into contact with it. Carefully wedge the stone back into the cinch. Do your best to avoid smearing the glue about so you don't end up with detritus stuck to your earrings.

Let these dry overnight. I stuck pins into my dress form at an angle and hung the cinched quartz bits, free of contact with anything, to dry.

The next day, add jump rings and ear wires. Note: if you're really smart, feed your jump ring onto the cinch before glueing the stone in. I got very lucky that the jump rings I bought fit - but what if they hadn't? I would've had to start all over, boo.

and that's it!

A group of my girlfriends receives care packages every year with a little jewelry surprise tucked in amidst the pickles and jams; I hope you all are into the brass-and-sparkle? I think this is the theme of this year's gifts!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

love these

anthropologie's cinched quartz drops. Lovely, aren't they? $128 for brass and quartz, with a gold-filled earwire. Do you see what I see? Look closely; you can make out where these pieces of quartz were drilled. That's right, these are quartz point beads; a strand can be bought for approximately $30. Now, the challenge is - do I have any quartz points that are short enough to recreate this style? Would it be too tacky if the quartz crystals were longer? They could be masked - to some extent - by the brass. Oh, that reminds me - I forgot to share my little quartz point necklace that I made. I'll have to do that.

So, how to do the brass? I'll get a hollow tube of brass from the hardware store, cut two lengths, pound flat on the anvil and smooth the edges with a file.

How to affix the crystal to the metal? I'll use a heavy-duty epoxy glue; rough up the back of the metal with the file to help ensure adhesion. Probably superglue, whatever the hardware store has.

I may not find oversized jump rings made from a square wire like this, but I'll find heavy duty jump rings of some kind or another.

Definitely not $128 of materials is what I'm saying. Anthro, challenge accepted. (Besides, wouldn't they make really pretty gifts at the holidays, even for my friends who are less outlandish in their dress as I am? Yes, I do actually realize that not everyone goes around with taxidermied starling wings on their head.)

ok, I have GOT to go finish my Halloween costume so I can get started on this.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

halloween fun: glitter bats!

Our neighbours really go all out for Halloween; in order to keep up a bit, I made a garland of these cute glittery bats for our porch! Here's how I made them:

Download a picture of a bat stencil. Print it out and cut it out, then trace it onto your cardstock or cardboard (I had to use foam core because it was all we had on hand. I think a thin cardboard would be better.) You can use a white charcoal pencil if you are tracing it onto a dark surface, so that the outline shows up.

Cut out your stencilled bats. I made about 10 or 12, using an exacto-knife to cut them out.

Next, punch holes in the tips of the wings. I used a leather punch and a hammer, but a regular hole punch would probably be fine for thin cardboard. Also, you might want to paint your bats a dark colour - whatever colour you want them to be. Coloured glitter can only do so much to alter the colour of the material underneath.

Next brush a thin layer of elmer's glue all over the bat. Keep a cup of water on hand for soaking your brush if you need to step away. I used glue-all from the hardware store. Note: we are only glittering one side of the bat at a time!

Set your bat on some kind of drop cloth or mat to keep the glitter from going everywhere. I used a trash bag. Sprinkle glitter all over the bat. You definitely want to immediately glitter the bat after brushing it with glue - don't try to glue and then glitter three at once, as the glue will dry and then you'll have to start over.
Let your bats dry for a few hours. Afterward, I sprayed mine with a fixative designed to keep charcoal from smudging. I figured it would help keep the glitter together - and even better, it gave the parts of the bats where the glitter didn't stick (if I had a dry patch, for example) a bit of a sheen. Then I let them dry 24-48 hours before starting over again with the other side: glue, glitter, fix.

Link your bats together with a bit of wire (see the photo at the top of the page) and use a bit of wire to hang them.

Ta-dah! Cute, aren't they? We're carving pumpkins tonight, and I'll wrap our porch light with some orange cellophane or tissue paper before Halloween night, to give the porch a suitably spooky atmosphere. I had two bats leftover, so I might hang them with a bit of fishing line taped to the soffit. One more halloween post coming - my new costume!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

by the pricking of my thumbs

something wicked this way comes!

I love fall quarter. I always give my students Macbeth to read and then write a paper on just as we hit Halloween. I love it.

Everyone on our street, it seems, goes all out for halloween. There are decorations everywhere. Not wanting to miss out on the trick-or-treaters by broadcasting a candy-free message, we're putting up a few bits of holiday cheer to make sure those monsters and witches come a'knocking in droves again this year. Try switching out the bulb in a streetside lamp or your outdoor lights with a "flicker flame" bulb (our smaller local hardware store didn't have them in stock, but Home Depot did) to create some atmosphere! You can always switch it back later!

More halloween posts from me in the next few days, including the glittering bat garland I'm cooking up for the porch and a new halloween costume for me this year: a dress with some flapper attitude, just in time for a Prohibition party. (bonus: I think I'll wear my costume to the university on Halloween this year, something I surely couldn't do with my faun costume!)