Five for Friday 4.10

1. I made lip balm a few months(!) ago, using Mari Rayma’s peppermint cocoa lip balm recipe. I didn’t have any vitamin E oil on hand, so swapped in jojoba oil for that. My cocoa butter wasn’t as fragrant as hers apparently was, so mine balms are more of a straightforward peppermint, but the consistency is lovely and it made a lot for very little money. I’d like to add a lip balm or two to the Schoon offerings eventually, but I’d like them to be vegan, which this one isn’t (beeswax), not to mention that it’s not my recipe. It’s terrific for my personal use though and a good benchmark for starting to play around on my own.
meltunnamed2. I watched Going Clear, the HBO documentary about Scientology this week. Totally fascinating.

3. I signed up for my NYC Municipal ID today—I made the appointment back in January—but who knows if I’ll ever get the card. I never updated my address on my driver’s license and didn’t have anything with my current address on me, so had to use the old one on the forms unless I wanted to wait another three months for another appointment. The change of address forwarding expired two years ago and that was a goofball sublet situation, so there’s no official record of me ever living there and no one at the building will have a way to reach me. I supposed I could send a postcard to my old address and ask them to email me if the ID shows up there. What a mess.

4. How great is this Alabama Chanin dress made from a Vena Cava pattern? I just want to make everything.
Blue-Dress2-e13547306348425. But I also continue to flirt with minimalism. I’m toying with trying out the Wardrobe Workbook from Into Mind. I’ve been watching on Instagram as Jen from Grainline Studios works her way through, and it looks pretty great.

Bento tee prototype

I have nothing but good things to say about Liesl + Co’s new(ish) pattern the Bento tee, but I’m not really crazy about this iteration of it. Partly that’s because I made it out of some cheap jersey I had on hand and the fabric was thin and stretchy and hard to control. This silhouette benefits from fabric that has just a smidge of heft to it, I think. The boxiness is a big part of the appeal and fabric that’s too drapey doesn’t work; the way it falls into pleats off my bust points is all wrong with the shape and the higher neckline. I have some really nice, more substantial bamboo jersey washed and ready to cut out for the next one that should work better. Also, I need to add at least an inch to the body; this is unhemmed and it’s even a little short for my comfort level here. I just ran a line of zigzag stitches along the lower edge to keep it from unraveling. I haven’t tacked up the cuffs on the sleeves here, though I will do that when I make for-real versions.
unnamedMade in better fabric, it’ll look chic and modern with full skirts and culottes and slouchy pants this summer. The instructions are easy to follow, as always, and I really admire Liesl’s attention to detail, thoughtful construction, and consideration of trends while designing garments that can be worn for years. This was my first time sewing knits on my new machine and my first time using a stretch stitch at all. I hadn’t realized how slow it would be—stretch stitches do two forward, one back and it cuts sewing speed in half somehow—but it really does produce a stretchy, unbreakable line of stitching.

Five for Friday: Cativersary edition

1. The one-year anniversary of adopting Fuzz Ferdinand (3/30) happened while we were in California. I don’t know much about his life before he came to live with us, except that he was found in someone’s backyard in Queens and spent some time being fostered before we adopted him. Watching this little monkey slowly come to realize that we’re his forever people and make the shift from the nervous, cautious creature we brought home to a confident, affectionate member of our household has been one of the great joys of my last 12 months.
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2. Rob used to live in one of the buildings (on the top floor of an illegal seventh-floor walkup, no less) that burned down after the terrible explosion in the East Village last week. I can’t stop reading about it.

3. For some reason, the narrator of this video approves of turning a perfectly cromulent beatnik teenager into her mother.

4. ” If you walked around New York you would think there was a terrible mirror famine.” Two of my favorite things that I read online this week: Fran Lebowitz on style and this incredible account of a young man who became friends with the man who ended up with his stolen iPhone and how they both became celebrities in China.

5. I can’t stop looking at these stunning photos of huskies walking on a frozen lake.

Made up my mind to make a new start, or, apparently the denizens of LA are all old friends of Rob’s

I went to California mainly to hang out with friends, read in the shade near water, and cast my eyes on things I hadn’t seen before. I’d only been to the Los Angeles area for work

unnamed-1We spent the first night in Santa Monica where we walked around on the pier and along the water, ate at The Misfit, and were asleep by 8:30. We stayed at the Seaview Hotel, which I’d chosen because of its convenient location, retro vibe, and relatively gentle price. While it turned out to be rather short on amenities—I had to wash my hair with soap because it hadn’t occurred to me that they wouldn’t provide shampoo—it was extremely long on charm. Rob and I both tend to get up early anyway and with the time difference factored in, we had hours to spend out on this deck the next morning before driving out to the desert.

unnamed-2Since we bought the tickets, I’d been daydreaming about drinking fruity drinks by the Ace Hotel pool. For years, I thought I hated sunshine and tropical anything, but it turns out that when there’s consistent shade available, it’s bliss to stare out at the mountains or float in the water or read with a fruity drink at hand. Who knew? (Everyone. Everyone knew.)

unnamed-3The other reason I wanted to go to Palm Springs, though, was to visit Joshua Tree. It was, unsurprisingly, spectacular. My only regret is that we didn’t camp out there, but that wasn’t in the cards for this trip. Just thinking about what the stars must look like out there though…swoon.

unnamed-9unnamed-8unnamed-4unnamed-6unnamed-5unnamed-7Then we went back to Los Angeles for the rest of the week. We spent a couple of days with a high school friend of Rob’s and his family who live in Eagle Rock. They took us to an unassuming strip mall in Burbank where I ate the best sushi I’ve ever had, to the Griffin Park Observatory, and for my first In-N-Out. (Confession: I kind of didn’t get the hype. It was perfectly good! But nothing special? But I’ve always wondered and now I know.) They had another old friend over for dinner one night and while everyone’s kids played, we drank wine and watched the sun set. It was magical.

unnamed-10Then, keeping in mind Benjamin Franklin’s words of wisdom about fish and guests, we took off, had dinner with a college friend of Rob’s and spent a night at a chic hotel in Koreatown, which has a gorgeous greenhouse-styled restaurant on its roof and concrete walls in its rooms that I was obsessed with.

unnamed-12IMG_4946.JPGOur last full day was spent running around indulging our various interests. We made a trip to The Fabric Store for me, where I got some spectacular material for a few projects, and visited Amoeba and Meltdown. We had been planning a trip to LACMA, but put that off since another old friend of Rob’s called in a few favors and got us on the guest list for an outdoor Van Halen show, which was fun and ridiculous—David Lee Roth had to stop the first song (“Panama,” for the record) halfway through because he somehow cut his nose on the microphone and had to go get taped up. The friends-of-friends section we qualified for was far enough back that it was easier to see what was going on onstage by watching other people’s phone screens.

unnamed-13(Fun fact: that hand belongs to Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali.)

Then, in a fitting LA-ish end to the trip, we met another old friend of Rob’s at the Chateau Marmont for a drink before crashing at an airport hotel and getting up early to return the rental car before heading home. Much like New York, Los Angeles is the kind of city that outsiders think is another, likely uninhabitable planet, but also like New York, millions of completely normal people live completely normal lives there. Everything everybody says about the traffic is true though.

Exeter, onward

I’m in the final stretch of knitting Exeter. The back is done, one sleeve is done, and both fronts are done, shown here pre-blocking. The construction method the designer chose is one I haven’t seen before: you cast on for the full width of the front and knit the ribbing and pocket lining, then you divide it in half and knit the cable panel separately from the ribbed section and collar, which are done on a smaller needle for added stability and structure.

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It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that with all of the ripping out and recalculating and reknitting I’ve done on this cardigan, I’ll have knit the whole thing twice over by the time I’m done. I don’t mind redoing my knitting, generally speaking. I’m certainly not hurting for sweaters and since I’m on something of a mission to make fewer, better garments for myself, I’d rather put in the extra effort and end up with something that’s as close to perfect as I can get. Some of that extra effort on this sweater has been required because my row gauge is so far off from the pattern, so things like the increase rate of the shawl collar and the decrease rate of the sleeve caps have taken a lot of trial and error. But a whole whack of it has been pure boneheadedness, like when I left out an entire pattern repeat on one of the fronts or this buttonhole error:

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The ugliness of the one on the left had bothered me all along, but it wasn’t until 30 rows on that I realized it was especially ugly because I’d put it in the wrong place. See how the one on the right just disappears into the fabric? That’s because the hole cuts across a knit column and the tightly pulled edges disappear into the recessive purl columns. The one on the left is exactly the opposite. I tried to ladder down to fix it, but that wasn’t happening. And because that row of buttonholes is located below where the two halves of the front were split, I had to rip out the entire, completed cable panel, the pocket lining, and a couple rows of the bottom ribbing until I could redo the buttonholes. It was not ideal, but the only way out is through, after all.

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Lucky for me, I had a lot of help from this little monkey.

Sewing for spring

It’s been more than two years since a repair guy told me my sewing machine (an entry-level Kenmore I’ve had since 1998) would cost more to fix than it was worth and since then I’ve developed workarounds for the things it had stopped doing two years ago (zigzag stitch) and all the new things it quit (sewing in reverse, winding bobbins evenly), but it stopped maintaining any semblance of even tension whatsoever over the weekend and there’s really no workaround for that. So I’ve spent the last few days reading reviews all over the internet to pick out a new one. I decided on a Janome Sewist 500—I’m looking for a solid workhorse garment-sewing machine (even though I make a quilt every couple of years or so, I don’t need the kind of features that serious quilters want) and I couldn’t find a single negative review of it anywhere. It’s supposed to get here today, so I’ll be able to play with it a little this weekend.

Naturally, this is making me antsy for new patterns and new fabric. For Christmas, I asked my mom to do some sewing for me, so I have several really nice pieces coming my way from her, but I’d like to tackle at least some of these myself:

Girl Friday Culottes from Liesl & Co.
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I love these unreservedly. They’re chic and practical and manage to be both on-trend and classic. I also really love the styling suggestions and inspiration photos Liesl shows when she introduces a pattern, as well as her How I Wear It series.  I was ordering some notions from JoAnn earlier this week and noticed that they had what looked like some perfectly nice linen on sale, so that’ll be my first pair.
1299338I also like Liesl’s Bento Tee. I like the proportions of it with the culottes and I like that it looks like a pretty simple introduction to sewing with knits.
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I’ve also recently come across the patterns from Verb for Keeping Warm. I’d love to make a couple of this tunic, maybe one in chambray and one in double gauze. It’d be perfect on its own in warm weather and under cardigans in the spring and fall.
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And this bias-cut linen dress looks like something I’d wear weekly until it fell apart:
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Plus, after seeing Fancy Tiger Crafts’ version of the Bess Top, I’m plotting one or two of those.

What a nice coat.

If $500 landed in my lap and I had to spend it on a new coat for some reason, this is the coat I would spend it on:

541Marimekko14_isoMarimekko’s Loiste coat. Cozy and chic and the very best shade of blue.

 

WIP: Exeter

One of the ways I’m choosing to be guided by my word of the year is to focus on a few core projects that may take longer to make and require more thought and attention, but that I’ll love wholeheartedly and want to wear to tatters. The first project coming under that umbrella is Exeter.
exeter-6-600x900The silhouette is similar to one of my most coveted ready-to-wear pieces of recent years, Everlane‘s chunky knit cardigan, but with a more knitterly stitch pattern and nice construction details like knit-in pockets.
main.original.585x0The yarn I’m using, Imperial Yarn’s 2-ply Columbia, s amazing, especially once it’s washed. It’s incredibly soft for such a sturdy yarn, has phenomenal stitch definition, and manages to feel both rustic and luxurious. I love how essentially sheep-y it is. I’m finding that I have less and less patience for the kind of heavily processed yarns that make up the bulk of the handknitting market, though that’s a rant that’s probably best saved for another time.

It’s a little heavier weight than Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter, which the pattern is written for, so I’m following the numbers for the smallest size in order to end up with a medium-sized sweater. The back came together pretty smoothly and I was almost finished with the first front when I made an unhappy discovery: I’d left out a full repeat between the ribbing and the armhole shaping. (Since the ribbed portions are knit to a firmer gauge than the cable and lace portions, each of the front pieces is separated after the bottom ribbing, knit in two pieces, then seamed later.)
IMG_4548.JPGThere was nothing for it, but to rip back and reknit it.
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Scrappy little thing

I’ve gotten rid of a lot of yarn over the last couple of years, but through every purge, I’ve held on to a big bag of fingering-weight black and gray yarn. Most of it isn’t anything special, but some of it is, and I knew that the collection wouldn’t get any love at craft swaps or Goodwill or on Ebay. I’ve made a couple of attempts at blankets with the yarn—you can see a couple at the top of the photo below: a chevron blanket that was crocheted too tightly and a couple of double-stranded single-crochet squares that were different enough in gauge that I knew a blanket made that way would look terrible—that didn’t end up sticking.IMG_4536_edited-2
The new one, though, at the bottom of the photo, is a keeper. I’m doing it in half-double crochet, which I think is my favorite stitch. I’ve never liked the look of double crochet and while I like single crochet better, I think it’s too dense for blankets. I’m using two strands held together: one dark gray, which will alternate between Valley Yarns Huntington, which I had bought seven skeins of for some unknown reason, and some dark gray alpaca I’ve had for yonks; I’m hoping that having one constant background color will make the finished blanket look like harmonious and tweedy, instead of crazy. The other strand will include all of the black and lighter gray yarns. I’d planned out the progression to make a more or less symmetrical striped pattern, but the way the blanket is sucking up yarn is making me think I’ll run out before it’s as long as I’d liked it. I’d started this blanket as a way to use up scraps I’d had hanging around and don’t relish the idea of having to buy yarn to finish it, but needs must, as they say.afghan closeup
I’m a little surprised at how much I’m loving working on it, since it’s just a big rectangle and the same stitch over and over (and over and over). But the yarns change enough to keep things interesting and it’s a nice change from my current knitting project, which I adore beyond reason, but requires a lot of attention. I’ll post more about it this weekend, but in the meantime here’s a sneak peek:
blocked back Exeter

 

Soup for the blizzard that wasn’t

Earlier this week, the denizens of New York City were warned that a blizzard of historic proportions was on its way. Like everyone else, I stocked up on enough food to keep us going for a few days if we couldn’t get out of the house, including the ingredients for this soup. Rob had been feeling a little under the weather, so I’d been thinking about making a pot of chicken soup anyway. I figured I’d deviate from my standard formula and add a healthy dose of ginger and leave out the dairy I generally add. Plus, a good dose of heat is always good for a cold. All of this got me thinking along the lines of Thai chicken coconut soup tom kha kai. This is sort of a simplified, Americanized version, the kind of thing you can make with ingredients from whatever downmarket grocery store has the shortest lines the day before the blizzard that’ll kill us all, especially if you keep decent-quality chicken thighs in your freezer.

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The “blizzard” ended up not being much more than a decent snowstorm (6-8″ or so), but this soup is a keeper. It came together very quickly and is one of the tastier things I’ve made in a long time.

Spicy Coconut Chicken Soup
feeds two for dinner with leftovers for the next day’s lunch

1 onion
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 jalepeno pepper
1 hunk of ginger roughly the size of your palm
1-2 Tbsp. soy sauce
3-4 oz. shitake mushrooms, sliced
1.5 lbs. chicken thighs
4 c. chicken broth
1 c. peeled, chopped carrots
juice and zest of 2 limes
1 can coconut milk
Cooked rice

Put the onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno in a food processor and pulse until you have a uniform puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Heat a bit of olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat and add the puree, along with a teaspoon or so of salt. Cook, stirring regularly for a few minutes. Add soy sauce and mushrooms and continue to stir until the mushrooms soften a bit. Add the chicken, chicken broth, and carrots. Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for half an hour or until the chicken is cooked through. Take the chicken out and shred or chop roughly. Add the chicken back to the pot, along with the lime juice and zest and coconut milk. Heat through and serve over rice.