Infinite Variety: detail shots

As I sifted through my photos of the Infinite Variety exhibition, I realized that the only detail shots I took were of allover embroidered quilts, ones with pictorial or text elements, or both. This is something that I’ve noticed before, the way themes emerge from a body of photos I take without an agenda, generally indicating interests I wouldn’t have necessarily realized I had. (Oh, subconscious mind, what are you up to back there?)

This one is embroidered with more than 100 children’s handprints, with their name and age inside. I can’t figure out what population that would have been drawn from — the ages ranged from 3 months to 4 years, so not a school. Hospital? Town? Church? There wasn’t any identifying information on it anywhere.

This one was presumably a fundraiser for the Newburgh Red Cross. There are a number of cutesy repeat motifs, then some random proverbs and adages (I thought I had a shot of the ‘Ill blows the wind that profits no one,’ block, but I guess not) and the occasional city name. I don’t know what that Battle Hymn of the Republic one is all about though.


This one was covered with presumably thousands of names, arranged into patterns. Again, since there was no identifying information it’s hard to know what sort of occasion this was meant to commemorate.


This one though, was my favorite. Simple whole-cloth panels covered with small, whimsical motifs: portraits, soldiers, real animals, fanciful animals, plants, flowers, butterflies, birds, scattered around without regard for scale or any relationship between the items. It feels like a sketchbook, or a diary even. Looking at it, I almost felt like I was prying into something I shouldn’t be.

Infinite Variety

Infinite Variety, the Folk Art Museum’s satellite exhibition at the Park Avenue Armory, is an absolutely stunning installation of 650 red and white quilts from a single private collection. It’s one of the most amazing textile shows I’ve ever seen, and I’d even go so far as to say one of the most extraordinary experiences that I’ve had, not least because every single one of the hundreds of people in the Armory with me last night (jaded, post-work New Yorkers, most of them) was walking around in a state of child-like wonder, just barely whispering one word: “Wow.”


I tried another homemade nutella recipe, this time from David Lebovitz, but this one isn’t it either. The consistency is good, but somehow the dairy managed to blunt the flavors of the hazelnuts and chocolate. It just tastes like mild chocolate pudding. I *like* pudding, but if I want pudding, I’m not going to bother toasting and getting the skins off a cup and a half of hazelnuts. I’ll just make pudding.

In happier news though, I think I finally found my go-to custard recipe: 2 c. whole milk, scant 1/2 c. sugar, 3 eggs, 1 t vanilla, pinch of salt. Heat the milk ’til steaming, whisk the other ingredients together, pour the milk in slowly while whisking furiously, bake at 300F in a water bath ’til set.

This one developed a skin because I put it in the fridge overnight without covering it. Because I’m an ignorant slut. Don’t be like me.

Another way you shouldn’t be like me: don’t bother trying to see what happens if you put a spoonful of that nutella on the bottom of a couple of your custard dishes. It’ll float to the top while it bakes and dry out and be neither pretty nor delicious. The custard, though, is ACE.

Upcycling t-shirts

There’s a growing pile of t-shirts in my bedroom that fall into the category of Too Worn to Wear Outside Anymore, Even to the Gym. I can’t possibly give them to Goodwill and since there’s still plenty of decent material there, I can’t bring myself to throw them away. Once I get around to redrafting the neckline on the pattern of the Alabama Chanin corset top (still the chicest t-shirt reuse project I’ve come across), I’ll be happy to have them to play with. But that’s also a labor-intensive project and I have a lot of old t-shirts to play with, so I’ve been looking for other projects to use them up. Kim posted her version of this scarf last week — look how happy she is! — and I figured it was worth 20 minutes of my time to try it out.

It really was easy, though I think mine took 45 minutes or so, probably because I ended up using two shirts and making a double row of loops since it seemed flimsy and insubstantial otherwise. (I ended up changing my mind about the blue.)

But the jury is still out on the finished item. I mean, I don’t hate it. I just think it looks more like a craft project than a thing that I actively brought into my life because I love it. I suppose it’s time to take out the freezer paper and corset top pattern pieces, but in the meantime, I’m still looking for fantastic t-shirt upcycling ideas…

Breakfast on the run

I try to be good about eating breakfast, I really do. I’m just not hungry until I’ve been up and moving around for a while. So anything I have for breakfast has to come to work with me, which means I have to take potential spillage and temperature issues into account.

I don’t know why it took me so long to hit on the idea of bringing my granola and yogurt in a jar. The lid screws on, the stuff stays inside. Frozen fruit — in this case wineberries that I picked last year and froze — keeps the yogurt cold. And eventually I get around to eating the most important meal of the day.

In which I learn a lesson

My brother was in town last night, playing a show with his best friend from high school. I really, really didn’t want to go out in Manhattan last night. St. Patrick’s Day is always chaos, I was kind of beat. But I’d said I’d be there, I don’t get to see him and my sister-in-law very often, and I do like seeing him play.

And you know what? I had a blast. The show was awesome, I saw a bunch of guys my brother was friends with back in the day, it was a happy, friendly crowd and I went home smiling. It was a good reminder that forcing myself to do stuff I don’t want to do doesn’t always end with me sulking in the corner. Sometimes it leads to dancing. Or a strange old man with an impressive beard affixing an adhesive mustache to my face.

Change of plans

I took my ripple blanket out to work on it over the weekend. It had been a while and as I spread it out to take a look, I was forced to admit something I’d be suspecting for a while: the color order sucks.

I genuinely like all of the colors I’m using, and I thought this sort of light/dark muddy rainbow thing I had going on would work out splendidly — and when I had laid out the skeins, it did! — but when they were all actually worked up, I hated it. I particularly hated the clear purples next to the heathery spice colors and the way the blues and teals and purples all became kind of indistinguishable when placed next to each other. Plus, it was a lot wider than it needed to be and the cast-on chain or whatever it’s called in crochet was much too tight. So I ripped out the whole thing and laid the yarn out for maximum hue dispersion, all of the purples spaced as far from each other as possible, and so on. Obviously, there are no guarantees that this will work out any better, but I feel good about it.

Small wonders

Just a quick shot of a few small projects I have on the go: a simple ribbed sock in some Regia tweed I’ve had for at least a decade, a simple triangular scarf/shawl in some handspun I’ve had for equally as long, and the lovely Osmena, growing slowly but steadily on size 1 needles.

Snow hiking

I always like to get outside when I’m upstate, but my dad and I tend to have bad luck with weather, getting rained out more often than not. It’s not all bad, since we get to see a lot of movies, but I can see movies at home. When I’m that close to the woods, I want to be IN the woods. This time, there was a storm blowing in, but it managed to hold off until we were down off the mountain.

The view from somewhere approaching the top. I spent a lot of the hike telling my dad the entire narrative arc of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, which is about a disastrous mountain-climbing expedition, and some highlights from The Tiger by John Vaillant, which is about a man-eating tiger that stalks and eats people in the snowy woods of eastern Siberia (“And they were walking single file. JUST LIKE WE ARE DOING RIGHT NOW.”).

This weird snowmelt pattern kept turning up all over the place. It didn’t seem to be located in a way that dripping trees could have explained. In some places, it was almost a trail, like here, and in some places was spread out over a wider area. Aliens, most likely. I hear they really like the Berkshires.

It wouldn’t be an outing with my dad without at least one “Go stand over there. I’ll take your picture,” so here I am, standing over there. I didn’t bring actual hiking clothes with me, having looked at the weather forecast and expecting that we’d be going to the movies again, so I’m just wearing jeans and my normal black leather motorcycle boots and my favorite cashmere sweater. But I comforted myself that in all of the Scottish-set mysteries I read, the native hill walkers snicker at the city folk dressed up in brightly colored nylon clothing and futuristic shoes, all just to do a little walking. For a couple of hours on a relatively mild day, my normal clothes did me just fine.

We had a great, if steep, hike and then drove up to Vermont and ate a fantastic dinner at my brother’s restaurant. He’s been serving local rabbit for a while and makes an appetizer with it that’s very, very good, though I can’t remember offhand exactly what he does with it. But the night we were there, the man who raises the rabbits was also going to be coming in and he’d called ahead of time to ask Geoff to make him something special off menu. And since my brother knows that I like special things, he made an extra serving in case I wanted to try it. I didn’t take a picture, since it was pretty dark in there and I don’t really like taking photos of my food in restaurants anyway, but I can’t imagine it would have done it justice in any case. He started by making rabbit and fennel sausage, then pounded a rabbit loin thin, rolled the sausage mixture inside, and braised it in what I’m going to call Awesome Sauce, since I don’t think I ever knew what was in it and it was, in fact, awesomesauce. Then he sliced the little loin bundle into roulades, arranged them on a pile of celery that had been braised in rabbit stock, which was itself settled in the middle of a puddle of Awesome Sauce, and laid some roasted asparagus on top. I actively dislike celery and it was still one of the most delicious things I’ve had in recent memory. It was just … perfect. All of the elements came together perfectly and created something that was much greater than the sum of its parts. It was a fantastic end to a fantastic day.