Sunday, September 30, 2007

Inuit grass sewing

I just returned from Ottawa, Canada where I participated in a conference on the conservation of Aboriginal heritage. It was a wonderful conference filled with mutual respect and a diversity of ideas. While in Ottawa, I stayed at the "Jail Hostel." It's pretty much like it sounds: an old jail that has been converted into a youth hostel. We slept in jail cells, complete with bars for doors. It was a fun place, but I'm very happy to be back in my own (comfortable) bed!

The last day of the conference held a number of workshops on traditional techniques. I chose to learn Inuit grass sewing--a type of coiled basketry. Our instructor was from Rigolet, Labrador, and learned this technique as a child in school. The grass we used is native to her area, and was picked for us by one of her neighbors. It starts by sewing one piece of grass around a knot made from three others:As the coil builds, you continue to add grass to the inner bundle, and work thin pieces around the inner bundle--both to hide it, and anchor the coil to the previous rounds:
After a full-day workshop I made a very tiny basket. Learning these techniques gives you a genuine appreciation for the amount of time and work it takes to create these objects.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Built by Wendy, take two

Here's my second attempt at Simplicity 3835, a Built by Wendy pattern. I chose to make the mini-dress with tie sleeves, only I used the length for the longer dress. I'm pretty tall, so it ended up being a good length (not too) mini on me. I don't think I'd ever go much shorter than this, but I think this style looks nice on the short side. I used a cotton print by Joel Dewberry called Buttercup, in ochre. It's a nice quality fabric, and I like the subtlety of the print. I finished it in quite a hurry last night so I could wear it to a friend's birthday party. Overall, I think this is quite a cute pattern, though I do think it is tricky to get the arm gathering to look nice. Mine is a bit haphazard, but I'm sure there must be a trick to doing it well.
I should have a couple finished knits to show in early October, after I return from a trip to Canada. Hopefully my first vintage dress will also be ready to show soon!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Indigo Workshop

On Saturday, I participated in a wonderful workshop on indigo dyeing. We learned some traditional and modern Shibori techniques--and had a lot of fun in the process. Shibori is the Japanese art of bound resist dyeing. It is sometimes called tie-and-dye in English, but it actually involves much more than what some of us did in summer camp. Our teacher was Darius Homay, an artist based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. Above are vats of indigo, and below are some examples of our creations. I was very happy with what I made--it's really quite remarkable how a simple technique, or
set of techniques, can produce such an endless variety of patterns. Some of our work from class is currently on display at The Arts Scene in West Chester, PA. I'm planning to do more Shibori in the coming months, and will try to post more pictures of the various patterns I'm able to create. I can see some of these ending up as wide trims on flowy skirts.


My friend Sharon surprised me with 7 bell peppers last week--all home or locally grown. It's been a very pepper-friendly few weeks for me. I decided to make one my my favorite Moroccan dishes: Tchektchouka. It's ingredients are actually quite similar to the Kadai Paneer I made the other day--the main focus is peppers and tomatoes. However, with a change of some of the minor ingredients, you end up with a completely different thing.

It's actually very easy to make.


4-5 Bell Peppers (red and green)
1 large can chopped tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic
1 T chopped parsley
1 t ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne (optional)
1 t ground paprika
2 T olive oil
3 T vinegar (white wine, rice, or similar)
salt and pepper

1. Place the peppers under your over broiler, rotating, until the skin begins to blacken (10-15 mins). Remove from oven, and allow to cool slightly in a bag (I've heard paper or plastic--but don't melt the plastic). When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and seeds, and chop into bite sized pieces.

2. In a large pot, combine the tomatoes, roasted peppers, crushed garlic, parsley, and all spices. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put on medium heat, stirring occasionally until everything is cooked, and most (or all) of the liquid has evaporated. (With canned tomatoes, you tend to have more juice, so don't worry too much about the liquid.)

3. Stir in the oil and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve hot or cold with bread (pita will do if you don't have a Moroccan bread source).


Monday, September 3, 2007

Kadai Paneer

I made Kadai Paneer for dinner last night. I'm a huge fan of Indian food--especially anything involving paneer (Indian cubed cottage cheese). I used a Tarla Dalal recipe. If you're interested in cooking Indian food, you may want to check out her website. She is perhaps the most prolific cookbook writer in India. On the website, you can sign up for a free membership which includes an occasional email with links to free recipes. They range from recipes like this one--that you might know from Indian restaurants--to some pretty bizarre interpretations of 'Mexican' and 'Italian' food. One other tip--when in doubt, add more spices. I almost always find that the Indian recipes I use would taste bland if I didn't throw in more of the spices than called for. Just taste the food as you're cooking, and make sure you can taste the spices!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Misses' Hobby Smock--finished!

I came across this McCall's smock pattern on ebay, and thought that it would be perfect for work. Normally we wear lab coats, but sometimes a smock is just right. This pattern is from 1969. It has a great square neckline with nice details, a big pocket, and roomy sleeves. It came together very easily, and they even included easy instructions on how and when to make flat fell seams. My finished version is below. Although I didn't think of it when I bought it, this color fabric will work very nicely for an Indigo Dyeing workshop I will attend next weekend.