Saturday, March 31, 2012

clothes for little people II: an outfit for an autumn day, when one is 6 months old

my friend natalie gave me a fat quarter of the most adorable acorn-print fabric once. I recall her saying, "I saw this and wondered what you would do with it." Well, I've clung to it for a long time, because nothing seemed to quite do it justice.

then I realized I had just enough to eke out a diaper cover that could pair with this pretty floral-print that I had purchased to make a little dress out of.

I had originally intended to embroider the front of the dress with acorns to match, but after I sewed on all this chocolate velvet ribbon, I realized ... it's just enough. I stopped before it got busy.

I think this is my favorite so far. I wonder if the mother-to-be will like it? Is it too traditional a design? Is the palette too muted? Well. Fingers crossed.

More to come; I've got some linen cut, and I'm lingering over an online shopping cart filled with single-yard pieces of adorable knits that could make enough tees and rompers to gift all the new mothers on my list right now. It's just the expense of it all that is staying my hand - well, that and (I confess!) I've spent a bit here and there lately, culling ebay for old odille and elevenses pieces from back when anthropologie was still doing girly/vintagey stuff - though it's still just a bit cheaper than buying cheaply-made, mass-produced items, sewing isn't a terribly cheap hobby, even when one does stalk the fabric sales. It's the notions - all that snap tape and all those little buttons! - that really pushes the figures up.

Still. I always wanted to have friends for whom I could sew these little dresses and pants and things (though I have never wanted children of my own). I have a feeling that I'm going to have more opportunities to indulge these whims in the next few years than I ever dreamed of.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

it's not for me. (clothes for little people I)

... as if that needed saying

it seems that everyone in the world right now is expecting a baby girl! Time to get a'sewing! I can't believe all the adorable patterns out there these days; I was even able to order patterns to make up costumes modelled on Cicely Mary Barker's drawings of flower fairies. Do you have any idea how desperately I wanted such a costume as a child? Friends, if you are interested, I bought the larger-sized patterns (to buy myself time). Let me know and let's talk. I have a deep desire to make up the almond blossom fairy's dress in silk and hand-paint the skirt to match Barker's gorgeous watercolour hues. I think the little vest/doublet should be done in pale green velveteen, with voile fringes at the sleeves and waists. Oh yes, I have a strong desire to live vicariously through someone's child. Will it be yours?

Also, I bought a child's cape pattern. Who wants a Red Riding Hood outfit made from quality fabrics that can actually be worn on a cool autumn day - for trips to grandmother's house, perhaps? =)

this is Laura Ashley (!!) pattern M4424 for McCall's. It's quite easy to make up, and it even has adjustable straps (they button to the waistband; there are two buttonholes). Inspired by a vintage diagram of embroidery patterns for hems of garments/pillowcases/etc., I decided to start whipping up baby dresses, and used one of the patterns to trim the waistband of this garment.

I've got a set to show you next, but there are a few finishing touches that need to be put on first. It's going to be quite cute, I think. It even has a theme!

and once again, in case anyone is getting any ideas: no, these are not for me. Sorry. I'm set in my non-maternal ways. I just enjoy the tiny sewing!

Friday, March 16, 2012

at last!

check it out, peeps! Here we go - finally done! So, here's the closeup; isn't this "undulating twill" pattern beautiful? The warp is silk (white threads) and the tan weft is a silk/cashmere blend. Yeah, I have unfortunately expensive taste - way over my budget. Thank goodness I have a generous mother in law who enjoys spinning.
Here's the full view. It's so nice and warm - and fairly substantial heavy, too, because I am a really uptight weaver. I can't relax; I beat the warp down so hard that Peggy AND Cass are constantly saying that I'm weaving "a rug, not a scarf."

hurray! On to the next project - I've got some new sewing patterns to try out, but also a dinner party on Monday evening to plan; I picked up some new candlesticks tonight and some glass vases from a thrift shop; tomorrow I want to see if I can find a good price on hellebore blooms.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

late winter eats

last week we tried this recipe for cumin seed roasted cauliflower with salted yogurt, mint and pomegranate seeds from epicurious. It was quite good - and light! (we used nonfat plain yogurt.) I totally recommend it - but the pomegranate and mint and yogurt are a must. The cauliflower on its own is, well, it's okay. But it's still cauliflower, and I'm not wild about cauliflower. We're trying to make it a more regular part of our diet.

I also made a french lettuce soup (with romaine this time) and I liked the pairing together. While the cauliflower dish really feels like it is firmly rooted in the winter season, the lettuce soup tastes like spring.

Every week I check at the market for fiddleheads, ramps, morels, chantrelles...I know I'm about a month early, but I have such a hankering for these spring crops!! I cannot wait to gather nettles for soup again!


on the left, the sudden snowstorm that caught me on my way home. I was covered in snow, and I only had a half-block walk from the bus stop! On the right, the weather some 20 minutes later: bright sunshine, the snow that had accumulated already melted.

I am still hoping for a decently warm spring and summer and a good growing season this year. We are getting there, by degrees - after all, the sun *did* come back (of course, then it snowed again later!).

I had some kumquats I needed to eat or use up somehow, so I candied them. The process is pretty simple. You make a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, brought to a boil and then simmered for 2 minutes). Cut up kumquats - slices, halves, whatever's your fancy (or leave them whole, but prick the skins in a few places with a pin so they don't explode). Add them to the boiling sugar syrup, reduce heat, and simmer (to be honest, I kept mine at a really low boil instead) for 10 minutes (longer if they are whole). Strain out the kumquats and place in a jar. increase heat and reduce syrup until it thickens. Mine is quite gelatinous (maybe the natural pectins in citrus are involved?). Pour hot syrup over kumquats, let cool, and then either seal up and refrigerate (they'll keep a few weeks like this, in the fridge) or serve over ice cream, whatever's your fancy.

That little jar in the front? Extra syrup. I am saving it for making cocktails - it's really nice!

Still not done tying that scarf. I'm about halfway done with the last side, though - so, soon!

Monday, March 12, 2012

getting it done!

So, a few things coming along. That scarf is half-tied off; I will tie fringe tonight and hopefully have a picture to show you tomorrow! (Failing that - soon! I am spending a lot of time in the archives this week, reading through correspondence organized by name - not date!! - from the first five years of a theatre's life. It does take time!)

I bought the fabric to recover these chairs last summer. Last summer! It's been ... well, over 6 months. But hey, better late than never, eh? We have just two more to do (really, one and a half - one is covered, but I need to get some more screws to reattach), and then it's all done. Just in time for an upcoming feast to celebrate the spring equinox (I'll try to remember to take photos this time).

I bought this fabric to go with the wallpaper. I'm glad we'll be here another year before ... whatever the future brings, because I love it together. So Scandi!

okay. Hopefully scarf tomorrow - off to tie fringe. =)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

spring fever running rampant

also, this is adorable. The same part of me that is craving a linen dress is so ready for a springy picnic. And with all those sawn limbs from the plum tree drying in our shed-space (for summer marshmallow roasts!), coming up with a bit of tree limb for the base of this rustic wood cake stand will be a snap. Yes, I know it's supposed to be for a wedding, but like that would stop me.

Note to self: to make before Midsommar. How cute would this be for this year's cloudberry cake?

and speaking of spring fashion bug

how darling is this dress? It's the Marlowe Dress at anthro right now. I suppose $148 for a dress is rather moderately priced for anthro these days, but egads, too rich for my blood - and you know it'll only go to $70 or $80 on markdown, if it even makes it there. Still too much. But it's a lovely dress; it's made of a heavy-weight linen (I've felt it, it's like denim), so it's actually sturdy (not something anthro has offered much recently). It's actually a pretty simple shape, though; the top and skirt are obviously secured between the two layers of the waistband; there are five buttons with loops (not even button holes to manage!) on the left side over a side zip. Armholes are faced, as I'm sure the neckline and side of the dress are, too (and the button loops are secured between outer face of dress and inner facing, on the seam). Patch pockets - easy enough.

I think I need to draft a pattern for this little darling and just make it myself. It would NOT be difficult. Bonus, I can probably sew straighter pintucks (in the detail shots they're a bit wavy), so long as I mark them out carefully and take my time sewing. Anyways, for now, I'm just dreaming about it along with so many other projects (like the Russian Settler's Dress - imagine this sewn from an ivory-and-gold flecked lightweight silk suiting, with columns of heavy rose or even brown embroidery stitched rising from the hem?). Oh, spring and summer, hurry back! I want to plant and wear sundresses again!

breath of fresh air: alabama chanin corset top

here it is! So, we had a snow-week back in January. Or rather, we had half a snow-week, following on the heels of a Monday holiday and a Tuesday where I did not have to go in. It was like a mini-Christmas break. I was, in fact, overjoyed. I'd spent my winter break editing and organizing and emailing and freaking out with nerves before reading at the MLA ... yeah, not so much fun. I didn't paint, I didn't do any of the things I normally do that feed the other parts of my self.

So I enjoyed the heck out of the snow week. Cass took two days off work and we played like kids. We went sledding - my first time ever, if you can believe it! - down some of the steep hills over Lake City Way in Seattle. We made Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes and ate them after every snowy outing for several days, enough that I finally started getting sick on them (in my book, that means you've just had the right amount). I made gingerbread scones studded with chunks of apple for breakfast with lattes or afternoon cups of tea. We made big pots of tea. We made snow angels. We soaked in the hot tub under falling snow (the best!).

When Cass went back to work, I put my favorite Christmas carols on (so as not to drive him crazy) and I started this project. I've wanted one of these Alabama Chanin since I was in high school, although back then it was Project Alabama that made them. A few details, in case you are curious, Project Alabama (you can find their pieces at some anthropologie stores from time to time now) has abandoned Natalie Chanin's founding values and relocated operations to China. Since then, Chanin founded Alabama Chanin which continues to operate here in the US, where they keep American stitching/embroidery/quilting traditions alive, pay a decent wage to women who are needed at home - often to help raise grandchildren in an intergenerational living situation, use organic cotton jersey dyed with natural dyes and strive for zero waste in their business.

In short, Natalie Chanin is one of my heroines. I have great admiration for her ethics, and for her aesthetic vision - they really do create beautiful garments. However, as these garments are one-of-a-kind AND sewn entirely by hand, I've never been able to afford one of these tops. Imagine how excited I was, then, when Chanin started putting out craft books with PATTERNS for her clothes in the last few years. I own all three. I'd been intimidated about the time involvement, but with a week of falling snow outside my window, I was happily bundled on the couch and well stocked with cocoa and movies, sewing away. It came together remarkably fast, really - even with all those eyelets, which did take more time to sew than anything else on this top.

I made a medium, but used the length from the size XL to make sure the piece was long enough for tall me. The medium's a little bit too big, but I like that it doesn't squeeze my hips. I think I'll use the size small for the tank dress, which is the next piece I intend to make from Chanin's new book, Studio Sewing and Design. I'll use my burgundy merino jersey for the outer layer and grey rayon jersey for the inner. Cozy and warm - it'll be a beautiful winter dress.

I'll probably start this in May or June; I want to be able to take the panels with me when we go to Paris (I'm giving a paper at a conference at the Sorbonne in July - isn't that crazy??), because I love embroidering on planes. Handicraft is such a fascinating way to meet people, especially (I've found) from other countries. I have had the nicest conversations over the years (and over an embroidery project) with a Korean woman in Santa Barbara who sat and had coffee with me one summer morning while I embroidered a linen skirt for Midsommar, with a German lacemaker at our local coffeeshop, with the stewardesses of Iceland Air who cheered me on as I stayed up through an entire transatlantic flight embroidering my friend's wedding veil (it was a photo finish, that project - I was working until 10:30pm the night before the wedding!). There's just something about it, it draws people in.

And apparently it draws me in, too. Hello? Still there? Bored to tears yet? Okay, back to (real) work, then. I'm almost done with that scarf (the tapestry-weave in undulating twill); I should have that to post soon. And then, I think, on to some machine sewing for a change. It's snowing here but I have the spring fashion bug - and a new/old Anna Sui blouse pattern that I think is just the ticket for some springy pastel-striped silk I've had in my stash for years.