Sunday, October 28, 2007

Laboratory refashion and other creative outlets

Things have been getting pretty busy around here, but I have managed to do a few creative things in the past couple weeks. Between clothing projects, I decided to do a little refashion for my workspace. In the lab where I work, we have these fume extraction vents at our benches, so we don't have to breathe in solvents while we work. They are covered when not in use. Formerly, they had been using ratty old pieces of mat board as covers:

I was pretty tired of looking at these every day, so I made a fancy prototype for new fabric covers. There is a piece of mat board inside, so it is sturdy and acts as a good cover, but I hope you'll agree that this is much nicer to look at:

I used some African fabric from my stash in a bright orange, printed 'batik' pattern. I'm hoping to make a whole bunch of these covers so that everyone in the lab can have them.

I've been doing an independent study on resist dyeing methods, and recently tried my hand a batik. I turned my entire dining room table into a lightbox, which saved me some tracing time:

I haven't been successful yet with the batik--I need to figure out how to get the wax to penetrate the fabric well, without running all over the place. As another aspect of this project, I have been experimenting with starch resists. This type of resist is used in Nigeria, as well as Japan--and probably some other places as well. I bought a product called Inkodye from Dharma Trading Company, which said it was a cassava starch paste resist--which is what they would have used in Nigeria. I cut stencils from sheets of Mylar based on some Nigerian designs. Here are a couple elephants:

Unfortunately, I managed to kill the elephants by using this method with a synthetic dye (Procion). The starch is semi-water soluble, so it can't withstand long soaks. The directions say to apply the dye, rather than immersing it. However, I'm thinking that this might work in an indigo dye bath, since that involves repeated dipping, rather than soaking. This would have likely been the process used in Nigeria. Stay tuned for updates on how that goes!

Finally, at the request of a friend, I attempted to make fudge for the first time:

Being ambitious in the kitchen, I decided to make it totally from scratch, thermometer and all! I used a recipe from Alton Brown, but something went wrong and it ended up soft and grainy. I then tried again using a simple recipe from the Joy of Baking website (which has excellent recipes). The recipe I used called for sweetened condensed milk, chocolate, butter, and vanilla. It was easy as could be, and came out delicious and creamy. Keep it in mind for a hostess or holiday gift.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lucky girl

Yesterday, in the middle of a gloomy Monday, I got some wonderful news: I was the lucky winner of a gift certificate from Sheree. Sheree has a lovely crafting blog, and has recently opened up a store on etsy. She just listed a bunch of handmade bags, blankets, and a lot of nice fabric bundles. Be sure to check it out, especially if you live in Europe (she's based in Germany). I'll have to continue the blog-love by having my own contest at some point.

Vogue 8392

It's been a very busy few weeks for me, but I decided to take the time to make something over the weekend. I made a top, since I had already bought the fabric months ago, and it involved less work than making a whole dress. I chose Vogue 8392--view A, but I skipped the collar, and used the neckline for views B and C instead:

I used a moleskin-like fabric from the clearance bin at Joann's. When I bought it, I liked the colors, but felt like the design was potentially too wild for me. In the end, I like it as a top, and think it could be a nice, vibrant print to wear on occasion.

The pattern came together easily--although I didn't like the instructions for the neckline on views B and C--rather than drafting separate patterns, they have you sew everything together--including the darts, and then cut off 1.5 inches around the entire neck. As a result, you end up cutting through all your backstitching, and some threads might become loose as a result. Not the best idea, but it ended up working out okay.

The fit isn't perfect on this top. It is meant to be a woven pull-over, with a hook and eye closure at the back of the neck. It's therefore drafted to be roomy in the torso, so you can slip it on and off. I didn't want it to be huge on me, so I opted for a size smaller than I would normally go. I was able to get into it fine, but I nearly got stuck in it, and had to do a brief contortionist act to take it off. After that, I decided to put in a short zipper in the back. This helped, but I find that it is still very snug around the arms. I blame this mostly on the pattern, as I have pretty narrow arms, and I'm not convinced that going up a size would completely remedy this problem.

Overall, it's a very cute shirt, and was very easy to make--just beware that you might have to make some adjustments to the arms to make them more comfortable.

Monday, October 8, 2007

New sweater

I finally finished seaming a sweater that I knit this summer. This yarn was supposed to make a lovely vintage sweater, but it wasn't the right gauge, and the variegation looked a bit too busy for a lacy knit. I decided to knit up an easy turtleneck without a pattern instead. I made the neck pretty loose, since close-fitting necks make me uncomfortable. It's very basic, and warm. I think it will serve me well on cold, casual winter days. The yarn is Shamrock from knitpicks. It's nothing fancy, but it's cheap.
Of course, now that I finished all my ongoing knitting projects, I had to choose a new one (or three...) I'll start with the "Demi" sweater from the Rowan Vintage Knits book. I'm planning to use some Brown Sheep wool that has already been a part of two previous sweaters. Neither sweater was quite up to par, but I have high hopes for Demi. I've seen a lot of great finished sweaters from other knitters.

I consider myself somewhat of an idealist, and love all things frugal and recycled. I came across this great article on recycling yarn from sweaters about a year ago. I have yet to find good thrift store sweaters to do this with (mostly due to lack of time to search), but here's a look at what I did with recycling one of my hand knit sweaters:

The unraveled yarn bears a strong resemblance to ramen noodles when taken apart. I wanted to relax the kinks with a little moisture, but I needed a place to put the yarn while it dried and straightened. Nothing that might stain it, cause it to knot or felt together...I finally realized that my dresser would be perfect:

I think it adds a nice touch to my bedroom decor.

Monday, October 1, 2007

New hat and Mexican lasagna

On my way to and from Ottawa, I knit my first hat. It's a pattern from the most recent issue of knitty, called foliage. It's a lacy pattern that knits up pretty quickly. I chose a soft black yarn from knitpicks, called Andean Silk. It took just a bit more than one ball.
Overall, I'm very pleased! This is my first new hat in about 7 years. It was about time! Generally, I'm all about sweater knitting (and dress making), but I have to say that finishing a project in a day or two is very satisfying!
To celebrate my return to home-cooked food, I made a "Mexican Lasagna" based on a recipe from a recent issue (perhaps a year ago?) of Vegetarian Times magazine. If you're a decent cook, you could easily pull this off without a recipe. It consists of three layers: 1) corn tortillas 2) beans (refried, or loose black beans sauteed with onion, tofu, cumin, and coriander, as I did) 3) veggies. I used grated yellow squash, grated carrot, onion, corn, chili powder, and some Mexican-influenced tomato sauce. It's assembled and topped with cheese. The next time I make this, I'm going heavier on the sauce and cheese--those are the best parts, right?