Move Over Coco

Okay, I’m definitely no Coco Chanel and have no desire to be, but I did successfully make two new skirts which has me pretty stoked. This is proving to be the best $9.99 that I ever spent:book

This is a great book for newbie sewers, at least according to this newbie sewer.  I wasn’t feeling very photogenic, so I dressed up Matilda. Please note, I put a t-shirt on her for modesty, not to make a fashion statement.

Here’s my first circle skirt made out of cotton. Now if it would just warm up enough to wear it:
skirt

And my first wool A-line skirt, this was super comfortable and warm on its test-run out on the town:
skirt

Pretty soon I might be ready to take off the training wheels and give this pattern a try. After reading the directions of this “VERY EASY” Vogue pattern, it seems that their definition of “very easy” is completely different from my own:
pattern

Who would’ve guessed so much inspiration would come from finding The Perfect Dress on that trip to LA?

What’s On Our Needles?

The girls were over for Stitch ‘n B*tch this week and as usual, it was fun to see what was on their needles.

The Best-Good Friend has made amazing headway on this baby blanket for a friend. She’s making the Amirah Baby Blanket pattern by Katherine Vaughn:Amirah Baby Blanket pattern by Katherine Vaughn

Our Happy Hooker is working on this lovely crochet baby blanket that has me mesmerized. No matter how many times I look at it, I can’t figure out how she does it. I secretly wish (I guess it’s not a secret anymore) that she will give it to me instead of to the baby it is intended for:baby blanket

Our third baby project are these itty-bitty pants for the Sweetest Baby in the World. Her mama has been working on these for a while and we’re excited to see them on the little peanut, she’s using this tricky “Cozy & Cute” Drops pattern. Those stitches are so tiny, the camera couldn’t even focus:“Cozy & Cute” Drops pattern

Our youngster has cast on for a new sweater. She’s working on the Cowl Neck Pullover for Vogue Knitting and also seems to have the best manicure in the group:Cowl Neck Pullover for Vogue Knitting

I’m trying my hand at my first skirt. I hope it goes well because I’ve got a whole bunch of skirt patterns in my Ravelry queue now! This is the Little Flirt Skirt by Faina Goberstein:Little Flirt Skirt by Faina Goberstein

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Most of you probably don’t know this, but I started my college career pre-med. Yes, I had the very grand aspirations of becoming a doctor. It didn’t take long before I realized that I had absolutely no math or science skills, but still I pushed on valiantly. For a whole second quarter anyway. That’s when I received noticed that I was on academic probation, felt like a huge failure, and I realized that I had to bite the bullet and give up on any delusions of becoming a doctor. Imagine my delight when years later, I found myself on the receiving end of an urgent message: There had been a terrible accident and I was the only one that could help.

Okay, I might be over-dramatizing the situation ever so slightly, but things looked grave. My young neighbor friend had decided to cut the tag out of her sweater and things had gone very badly. They needed a sweater surgery STAT, and I was the only person that they had.

I rolled up my sleeves, took a deep breath and surveyed the situation, this was serious:sweater
I prepared for surgery, this was going to take all of my skills and resources. I managed to find a color match to the sweater in my handspun yarns. I carefully separated the plied singles:
sweater
It was time to get in there and see what I could do, there was no time for fear:sweater

The graft took! The final step would be a little “no-fray” to keep the cut ends in place and we could consider this sweater in recovery:sweater

I removed the remaining piece of tag to avoid future injury:
sweater

Like most surgeries, there will a little scarring but the patient will live to be worn another day. Not too shabby for an English major.

Hacking My Way Through The Closet

The hours that I’ve spent over the last month watching NEW GIRL left me inspired to revisit my wardrobe. Until this point, I considered my style rather “Liz Lemon.” After watching all of the cute vintage-inspired dresses and fun pajama sets on NEW GIRL, I wanted to add a little “Jessica Day” to my life. I evaluated the closet and things looked bleak. Money was spent trying to kick start this plan and the initial attempts have reminded me of why I don’t like shopping, but one must suffer for their inspirations, right?

After my successful creation of my new “little green dress,” I decided to try my hand at altering garments in my closet that were never quite right.

Exhibit A: Sassy corduroy blazer with GIANT puffed sleeves:blazer

Okay, so the shoulders don’t look as ginormous in this picture, but when I wore this thing, I worried that I’d accidentally knock myself out with them. Still, I loved the idea of the blazer, so it remained in the closet.

Now that I’m an expert sewer (see green dress for my newfound confidence), I inspected the shoulder seams to see what kind of damage I could do. I was very pleased with myself for this more subdued shoulder: blazer

From there I hacked up a pair of corduroy pants that were way too big. I made this awesome skirt:skirt

So far my new look is coming across a little “Liz Day,” but it’s all a process, right?

Date Night (for One): A Girl and Her Griddler

When the Best-Good Friend couldn’t make it for an impromptu dinner date tonight to test a new recipe, I felt the only responsible thing to do was to make panini. Yes, I still can not stop making (and eating) paninis. I’ve been slowly working my way through the leftovers in the fridge in a mind-blowing experimental spectacular of panini-making. Yesterday I even used the last of the black bean spread on my breakfast panini and you know what? It was DELICIOUS. Last night there was a weird quesadilla experiment that was quite a mess, but yummy to the tummy. Wait, did you know that you can make quesadillas in the griddler too? BECAUSE YOU CAN.

Tonight I used up the last of the pesto, the spinach, half an avocado, some faux ham courtesy of The Mother, and a little Havarti on multigrain bread. The results were so good, I couldn’t stop eating to get a picture. So here is a picture of a cute squirrel instead:

squirrel

Did somebody say panini?”

Date Night (for One): Happy Accidents

Sometimes the perfect Date Night for One falls into place effortlessly.

A month ago when I made my appointment, I was annoyed to have to schedule on a Friday. Today when I checked my calendar, I see that I could not have planned a better evening.

calendar

I hope you all find something equally indulgent to do on your Friday night!

Reckless Knitting or Creative Process?

My knitting mojo has been seriously off lately. Unless it is a scarf or shawl, projects are not turning out as planned. Don’t believe me? I give you these examples.

The Baby Blue Cardi
Last May, I excitedly blocked each piece of this lovely sweater. I was eager to finish because I thought the light, lace summer cardigan would be perfect for an upcoming work trip. I added the button band and collar, and then I realized that things were terribly wrong. The sleeves were way too big for the tiny openings that were calling themselves armholes. And how did the back become such a completely different length than the front? I would like to say that I quietly tucked the pieces away in a Zen-like state of calm until I could deal with it more rationally, but the truth is that a huge temper tantrum ensued. The baby blue monstrosity is still waiting for me to come up with a solution:

blue cardigan

I swear, I followed the pattern.

The Wedding Shrug
When I found The Perfect Dress in Los Angeles, I knew I had to wear it to a The Wedding of The Year in November:

plaid dress

The Perfect Dress

Now, I’m not sure if you’ve been to Minnesota in November, but it is definitely not a time to wear short sleeves. In fact, I’m currently wearing three layers (one of which is an angora sweater) and I’m still cold. Late October, a voice started whispering in my ear that I should knit a sweater to wear with the dress. My knitting group talked me into a fitted shrug instead of a full sweater and thank goodness for that, because I have already frogged the nearly completed piece and just began again. I’m glad that I had the foresight to try said shrug on the dress form with The Perfect Dress before completing it (and that it wasn’t the night before The Wedding of The Year). My shrug was measuring in approximately 4 sizes larger than what I had intended. How did I not notice this during the knitting process? It’s a shrug. They always look small even when they are turning out ginormous.

The good news is that if I’m starting over with the smallest size, hopefully it will knit up twice as fast, right? Here’s to hoping, this will be my last chance to get it right because the first attempt was oh so wrong:

wedding shrug

The only thing that could make this shrug look worse was taking a picture of it with my phone – which is what I did.

The Chocolate Brown Cardi
This is a sweater that raised so many red flags during the knitting process, I don’t feel I can take the 100% of the blame for its outcome. The pattern called it a “fitted cardi” but I assure you, mine was nothing of the sort. I had a good 10 extra inches through the torso and the sweater sagged unflatteringly. The arms would have made a nice set of legwarmers, they were so big. The strangest occurrence with The Chocolate Brown Cardi was that when the extra large “fitted” cardigan was done, I still had half the yarn left that the pattern had called for. Um… what?

brown cardigan

Preparing for surgery.

I know what the knitters are thinking right now. “Is she not checking her gauge?” The answer is, sort of. I start checking my gauge and then feel like I’m close enough and times a wastin’ so I better get cast on already – and with The Wedding Shrug, that could not be more true. The other thing that I should mention, is that I’m getting better at fixing my botched efforts. A few months ago, I started trying to perform surgery on The Chocolate Brown Cardi. The yarn was nothing special, and I already couldn’t wear it in public, so I started trying to create a new sweater through sewing and cutting. My latest episode of playing Sweater Doctor seems to have resulted in a very appealing Chocolate Brown Cardi:

chocolate brown cardigan

Pardon the hat head, it’s cold in Minnesota right now.

So, at this point when my lackadaisical process seems to be paying off in the end most of the time, I don’t know if I will be able to bite the bullet and learn how to accurately get gauge at the beginning of the process. And tell me honestly, should you keep a girl from marching to her own drummer when she can perform sweater surgery? Isn’t that inhibiting her creative process? Personally I’m on the fence with that right now. There’s something appealing about living a little dangerously in regard to having The Wedding Shrug done in time. Will it fit? Will there be time to try a third time? Will I be racing around the mall crying, desperately searching for a sweater to wear the day before the wedding? I ask you, who would have thought so much risk and excitement could come from knitting?

As for the Baby Blue Cardi, I’m fairly confident that I’ll eventually come up with a solution for that. Trust me, it won’t be summer sweater season for awhile so I have time.

Date Night (for One): Halloween Edition

Yesterday was Halloween and is The Husband’s favorite holiday. A busy work schedule had him behind with decorating, but in the end he pulled it off and many children (and parents!) stood staring in wonder at the house again this year:


Holidays are always over too quickly, so I knew exactly how I would spend my Date Night (for One) this evening.

My favorite scary movie, The Shining.

A little bit of this:

candy

Grown Ups Like Halloween Candy Too

And some time with my favorite pumpkin:
danny

I assure you, I will be watching with the lights on.

Date Night (for One): Knitting Books and Vodka Tasting

I find that Date Nights without The Husband call for indulgent behavior. This week it would include perusing my new knitting book and sampling my homemade vodka infusions to see if they were ready for bottling. It turned out to be great fun until the next morning. Use care when sampling infused vodka, my friends, there’s a hangover creeping in every sip which is why this post is late this week.

vodka sampling

Vodkas from left to right: Sugarless Grape, Grape with Sugar, and Apple-Cinnamon-Clove

Last year I started an experiment with The Neighbor’s grapes. After two years of failed grape jam-making attempts (see my blog post on Tomato Preserving), I decided that there had to be an easier way. I did a little Googling, asked The Mother how she made Raspberry Liqueur, bought gallons of Phillips vodka and tried my first batch of infused grape vodka. What I learned from that test run was that if you let fruit infuse in cheap vodka long enough, eventually you end up with a smooth beverage that everyone ends up sipping with a raised eyebrow asking, “What is this exactly?” Then they request a recipe.

This year, I took the experiment further. Not only would I try a slightly higher quality vodka, I would actually take notes so I could try to recreate the tasty beverage. I also decided to throw in some different fruits to see what tasted the best infused into vodka.

The secret to these vodka infusions (at least that I’ve found) is regular stirring and tasting. My grape infusions have been steeping since September 24 and have been slowly improving in flavor. The first few weeks they usually taste like bad vodka with a hint of fruit. Leave them long enough and they become incredibly smooth and full of fruity body. Don’t be in a rush when you do this experiment.

I began my tasting with the newest experiment, the Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Vodka. I must have imagined writing my notes on a Post-It, because there isn’t one on the lid of the jar. OOPS. But for now, this one has not been infusing as long as the others, has cinnamon and cloves for seasoning and it is good. The flavors are strong, it is easy to finish. The color is beautiful. I imagine it will make a fantastic Hot Toddy this winter.

apple vodka infusion

Apple-Cinnamon-Clove infused vodka – great for fall nights.

The two grape infusions were started four days apart and one has sugar added while the other does not. The vodka without the sugar (that is four days younger) has a much more vibrant color while the older fruit with sugar is smoother and went down easier. I expect all of the infusions could be ready to filter in a week or two but we’ll see. It’s all according to taste and how long you want to deal with stirring and tasting, but overall it is a low-maintenance process. Last year I had the grapes infusing for nearly two months before filtering and bottling.

grape infused vodka

Grape infused vodka, with no sugar.

grape vodka

Grape infused vodka with sugar.

I’ve also made rhubarb infused vodka that is great and is such a pretty pink! That is The Neighbor’s favorite and she is planning on making cases of it next season. Rhubarb definitely requires the shortest amount of time infusing, I gave it about 3-4 weeks. Again, I seem to have misplaced that Post-It, so I will have to try again next summer. It appears that my goals of documentation were better in concept than execution – but what can you do? I made the rhubarb infusion when rhubarb was in season, so that was not on the tasting menu tonight.

As for the knitting patterns, this new book (One + One: Scarves, Shawls & Shrugs) might be my new favorite pattern book ever. I think it’s time to turn on the electric fireplace, pour another sampling of Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Vodka and see what yarn I need to shop for tomorrow. Date Night’s (for One) aren’t so bad if a girl has a good plan in place, especially if it includes a little knitting and vodka. Cheers!

Vodka Infusion Guidelines
Lots of fruit (I have 8 cups of grapes in my container)
10 cups of vodka (3-4 inches of vodka should cover the fruit)
Optional: 4 TBS sugar

** You can infuse in smaller quantities. My process is fairly relaxed, approximately 2 parts fruit to 3 parts vodka. Adding sugar is optional. Cover the jar and stir regularly. When you think it’s ready, strain the mixture through a coffee filter, bottle and serve.