Monday, March 30, 2009

Ikat love

My good friend Sara emailed me this weekend to ask if I knew of any good sources for ikat fabric. Ikat seems to have gained a bit of a following lately. For those of you who aren't familiar, ikat is a type of resist-dyed weaving that originated in Indonesia. The warps and/or wefts are resist dyed with one or more colors prior to warping and weaving. It is quite an advanced weaving technique that can result in the most beautiful fabric.

I was lucky enough to see some ikat weavers in action two summers ago at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC. The picture below shows the resist dyed threads (not sure if these are warps or wefts, I'd guess warps?). I find it staggering to try to imagine how to create a particular pattern this way...

...let alone the skills it must take to get the design to actually line up properly while weaving:

I have no idea how she kept track of all those bobbins.

In my search this weekend I actually found quite a lot of fantastic ikat fabric. I'm sharing it with you so that I can hopefully inspire more of you to make something of ikat fabric, because I'm dying to see all of these in action.

From Batik Tambal, 100% cotton, made in India.

Mmm...madras ikat, from The Cotton Club.

Silk Shoi fabric from Uzbekistan, Uzbek Applied Arts

Cotton ikat, Uzbek Applied Arts (remarkably good price for 10 feet of fabric!)

More Silk Shoi fabric from Uzbekistan, Uzbek Applied Arts

First quilt

I am so thrilled to finally be able to share this project with you. I've been working on a surprise wedding gift quilt since January, and just this afternoon I got a call to say that it had been received! So here it is, my first quilt:



I have a lot of thoughts to share on this process, the decisions I made, and the lessons I learned--I'll spread that out in a few posts as I have the time and energy. For the time being, you should know that it is a twin sized quilt, 100% cotton, and it was machine pieced and quilted. It took me the better part of three months, and craft monogamist that I am, I offer this up as the main reason my finished craft posts have been a bit infrequent. There were many highs and lows experienced during this project, but now that it's finished I can honestly say that I'm very happy with it, and I'm very proud to have finally made a quilt! I'm also very happy to have it out of my house, and hope one day to sweep up every last little thread that has found its way into the darkest corners of my house. More to follow soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vintage Pattern Thursday

This week: cute vintage finds I wish I had time to make for the summer.

Beach-ready capris with the perfect belt. McCall's 9229, from 1952.

Classy blouse with a great shape. McCall's 6185, 1945.

Mail order play suit--adorable in a cute print fabric. Vintage 1940s.

Simple yet effective dresses--I love the blue and red ones. McCall's 9465, 1968.

Sailor inspired, and I love the way the bow pops through the jacket opening. I'm picturing blue and white stripes for the contrast fabric. McCall's 5021, 1959.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This week in food

Well, actually the past two weeks. I'm going through a brief spell where I don't really want to think about food. Or rather, where nothing in particular sounds appealing. Despite that, I did manage to cook and eat some tasty things.

Chinese scallion pancakes
These were easy, fun to make, and I'm already making a second batch. I made six and stuck the dough in the fridge to cook them as needed throughout the week. I also whipped up an easy sauce of low-sodium soy sauce, Sri Ratcha chili garlic sauce, and tahini.

Rosemary potato bread
Historically, this has been my favorite type of bread. I must say that I was slightly disappointed by the outcome--perhaps I need to buy better flour? However, three friends who tasted it thought it was very good. Perhaps I just had very high expectations. This recipe appears in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which is a really excellent book. A few years ago I made the most amazing cinnamon rolls using his recipe. They tasted just like Ann Sather's in Chicago.

Roasted cauliflower in lemon-tahini sauce
Don't let the less-than-appetizing photo fool you, this is an amazing recipe. It won the reader's recipe contest from Vegetarian Times a couple years ago. I make it often because it is easy and delicious. Sometimes I add carrots and/or whole chickpeas to the roasting pan.

Trader Joe's Canelés de Bordeaux!
I saw these magical looking creatures on some foodie blog [perhaps this one?] a few months ago, but figured that I'd never get to try them since I didn't want to invest in a special pan. Then last week as I perused the frozen food selection at Trader Joe's I found these! They are really really tasty. I did not bother looking at the nutritional facts, as I don't want to know. They go quite well with black tea.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vintage Pattern Thursday

This week's vintage pattern finds:

Dress with fantastic gathered neckline, circa 1950s

Mail order dress pattern, circa 1960s
I thought this was a pretty cute wrap bodice, then I saw that it came from the Progressive Farmer Pattern Department, and that gave me a whole series of interesting mental images.

Sleeve drafting patterns, circa 1945
I think this would be such a great resource if you're at the point where you're learning to draft your own patterns. There are some really unique sleeve designs here that would look spectacular and current. A1, D, and C are my favorites.

Cute hats, circa 1940.
I especially love the plaid one.

Vintage Davy Crockett Frontier Costume, 1976.
Ok, you might think I'm totally nuts, but if you take away the hat, rifle and powder horn, and make the pants a bit slimmer, wouldn't this outfit be completely in style right now? Ok, maybe you'd have to draft slightly different sleeves with the above pattern...but really, I think I've seen this ensemble in Lucky Magazine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

¡hola Shalom!

The Shalom Cardigan pattern has now been translated into Spanish by the lovely and generous Ruth a.k.a. stealtheshow on Ravelry. The translation can be found here, and through the link on my sidebar. I'm so grateful to Ruth and the others who have volunteered to translate and share the pattern. Muchas gracias!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book search

Does anyone have this book? I'm interested in finding some patterns for scalloped knitting as pictured on the cover. I'd like to have a number of options for a design I've been thinking about, and before I drop $50 for a used version of this hard-to-find book, I'd love to know more about its contents. Or, if anyone has any other ideas about sources for scalloped knitting patterns, I'd love to hear! I've already found a few good ones on ravelry, but I'd like to cast my net as wide as possible. I haven't checked the treasury books yet, does anyone know if one volume has these type of patterns?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vintage Pattern Thursday

Vintage Pattern Thursday: DIY Vintage Bombshell edition.

Vintage evening gown, 1940s?
I don't know if I've posted this one before, but every time I see it I'm stuck by how gorgeous it is. I'm sure it would take 30 years to make by hand, and I wonder what kind of yarn they recommend...but regardless, you'd knock the socks off of all of your knitting friends.

Perhaps a more updated (by a decade) version of the first dress. More streamlined, certainly more feasible to knit. I think I have a real attraction toward black and dark blue knitted lace.

Some glamour for you sewists. Though I think to fully achieve this look, you would need to have the whole ensemble: gloves, perfect coif, and pose.

Evening dress in two lengths, 1960s
I was really struck by the lines of the gray dress--I hadn't seen anything quite like it. I imagine it would be far less dramatic on your average woman, but still eye-catching.

Minerva, 1941
For the fully DIY look, perhaps you could even make your own fancy stockings. Again, I wonder what type of yarn/thread one would use for these?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yarn substitutions for Sweetgum Duncan

I received a question from Vanessa, who asked if I could recommend other yarns for knitting Sweetgum Duncan. When I knit, I almost always substitute the recommended yarn for something more economical. The Queensland Soft Wave cotton I used was purchased at WEBS for pretty cheap, making the sweater cost no more than $30. That being said, if you live in another country, or prefer to shop locally, you'll probably need to find a suitable replacement. While I don't have any particular brands I will recommend, since I have not worked extensively with anything similar, I can give you some ideas of how to look.

Queensland Soft Wave is 100% cotton, DK/8 ply, and has a bit of a wavy texture. I chose this because I wanted to work in a natural warm weather fiber that had had a bit of texture. It would be completely acceptable to use a smoother yarn--this would give you better stitch definition, and a slightly different overall appearance.

One great way to find yarns to substitute is to use Ravelry's yarn browser. You can click on your desired fibers (in this case perhaps cotton, bamboo, hemp and linen), your desired weight (DK/8ply) and then see what you find. You should be able to see from the picture (or in person) if the yarn is textured or more smoothly plied. You can click on the image above for a better view of Soft Wave's texture.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

And the winner of Project Bridesmaid is...

Me! I finished my yellow bridesmaid dress, and I'm very pleased with it. My sewing skills improve with each new project. The dress fits my needs very well--it is cute, yellow, appropriate for a beachy environment, and it should look nice in pictures.

I used New Look 6799, view B. I was very pleased with the pattern--it is very easy to sew, the instructions are great, and I ended up with a very nice looking finished product. I did add a lining to the skirt, and added 5/8" to the length of the bodice. My only disappointment was that there weren't any lengthening/shortening lines on the pattern pieces, so I just drew a line myself and hoped that it all worked out in the end.

The fabric is a lightweight yellow cotton clip dot fabric that I found at Joann. They also had this in a bright pink, and it was still available this week. I'm a sucker for anything yellow and/or textured, so purchasing this fabric did not require a second thought.

I'd like to give a big thanks to everyone who responded to my recent post about lining fabrics. My favorite thing about writing this blog is that I'm able to connect with so many smart and talented people. I ended up taking Paco Peralta's suggestion of using a cotton fabric for the lining. Unfortunately I don't have any nice specialty fabric shops in the area, so I was a bit limited, but I did find a lightweight cotton in the same yellow color that seems to have done the trick very nicely.

Baked and unbaked

Cherry Chocolate Mousse Mini Pies
Vegan tested, and wholeheartedly approved. This was extremely easy to whip up in the Cuisinart, and was very rich and chocolatey. I used honey instead of agave nectar, and it came out a bit too sweet for my taste. Next time I will taste it before I add sweetener and adjust accordingly.

Corn Jalapeno Lava Bread
This is my second bread recipe from this website, and I must say that I am thoroughly impressed. They are by no means quick breads, but they come out lovely, and the directions are very clear. This is a white bread speckled with corn and jalapeno, with a cheese-corn-jalapeno swirl running through and erupting out of the top. Very nice!

Check out that swirl!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Vintage Pattern Thursday

The other day, I came across a vintage knitting pattern book that I absolutely loved. The seller says it's from 1953, which I found a bit surprising--I would have guessed they were from the 1960s. I decided to do a little search for other patterns from 1953 to see what was going on that year, and if these knitting designs fit in, or were ahead of their time. You be the judge:

Above and below, the adorable knitting patterns from Women's Day Magazine, 1953.

I love the blue striped dress above, I suppose this might be in keeping with the knitting styles. Simplicity 4341, 1953

Super fancy ball gown, Butterick 6011, 1953

Are those tiny llamas on her shirt, or have I spent too much time looking at Pre-Colombian artifacts? McCalls 9651, 1953

Finally, something that I see as typical 1950s: the shirt dress. Advance 6460, 1953

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Seeking lining help

I've taken the last two days off of work to recover from a bee sting to the face--lemme tell you, it was not a pretty sight. After a good long while of wondering if I'd be left permanently disfigured, the swelling finally went down today, and I'm feeling like myself again! I took a little time to start working on my yellow bridesmaid dress. I could probably finish most of it today, but I've run into a sizable issue, and I'm seeking your expert advice. The fabric I chose is a lightweight pale yellow cotton, and is very see-through. The lining I chose is also pale yellow and very see-through. I had hoped that the two would act as one solid when sandwiched together, but alas, this is not the case. As you can see in the image above, the pair of fabrics is still fairly see-through. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I might remedy this situation? Should I buy a different type of lining material? Please keep in mind that this dress will be worn in a tropical, summer environment, and the skirt is gathered at the waist (so perhaps I need to avoid too much bulk?)

Sweetgum Duncan is up at Popknits!

My latest pattern, Sweetgum Duncan, is now available for free at Popknits. Click here to see!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

La feta fatale

This weekend's kitchen adventures were quite satisfying.

This was definitely the best bread I've made so far. The flavor is nice--though the spinach and feta were very subtle. The more successful part of this experience was that I added boiling water to a casserole dish in the oven to create steam. As a result I had the best crust--this could definitely be sold in a nice bakery.

Chickpeas with eggs [sorry, the recipe link no longer works]
As soon as I saw this recipe on Ana's blog, I knew it was made for me. I already had the main ingredients, and ad libbed the rest. I used canned tomato puree instead of enchilada sauce. I love the idea of using enchilada sauce, but I haven't found a store brand that I've been satisfied with, nor did I have time to whip some up from scratch. This came out really well, and could easily be adapted to different tastes by adjusting the veggies and spices.

Vegan lemon sugar cookies
I've been on a vegan baked goods kick lately mostly because I love to share the things I bake with friends, and currently the friend who I share the most baked goods with is vegan. It's actually been a great learning experience for me, as I'm very surprised at how nicely many of these vegan recipes turn out. These cookies have a great lemon flavor, and are very simple to prepare. They were best right out of the oven. As they cooled they got more crispy and less soft. The second batch might be cooked a bit less.