Friday, June 29, 2012

Race against time

Race against time II

The knitting on my hopefully-I-can-wear-this-on-Saturday cardigan is finished; it didn't dry overnight on my living room floor (and who could blame it in this weather), so this morning I hung it out on the fire escape while I slung garbage bags and boxes around. Dry in twenty minutes! With twenty-six hours to spare!

More anon when I am less crunched for time. In the meantime, the yarn is a 2/15NM cashmere/merino from Colourmart; the pattern is a plain old top-down raglan with lace bits all over it and many short rows starting at the bust point to add length to the fronts. I have a feeling I will want more cardigans much like it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A descent into chaos

I am provisionally declaring my jam spectrum project finished.

Jam spectrum

There are twelve jams, jellies, and marmalades all told. Left to right: red plum and white pepper jam; cranberry, hibiscus, and ginger jam; rhubarb and lemon marmalade; apple and jasmine jelly; tangerine and rosewater marmalade; Meyer lemon and vanilla marmalade; rosemary and lemon jelly; lemon and camomile jelly; kiwi and jasmine jam; dill jelly; blueberry, lemon, and vanilla jam; black plum, blackberry, and cardamom jelly. Whew. There are more oranges and yellows than anything else and the blueberry one is not especially blue, but it looks indigo next to the black plum and blackberry jelly, which is quite purple. If I discover borage in bloom that someone will give me before next Saturday, though, I will make jelly out of that and switch it out for one of the yellow things in the middle.

Meanwhile the rest of my life looks basically like this.


We have not too many hundreds of books, but taking an inventory of all of them and dividing them into piles for shipping to various places (dissertation pile! postdoc-maybe pile! someday-book-project pile! wait-I-meant-to-read-that pile! why-did-we-buy-this pile!) is time-consuming and tiring and hot work in the heat wave that has settled over my city.

Race against time

Now that the jam project is polished off and I need breaks from and rewards for packing, I have turned my attention to a cardigan project from a few months ago, and have added a deadline to it. I have an amazing Liberty dress with oranges! on it, with which the cardigan will coordinate handsomely. It's a top-down raglan one and I intend for it to have elbow-length sleeves; right now there's about an inch of body left to knit, with sleeves, front bands, and neckband remaining. If I can also finish this before next Saturday, I will be extra-adorable at the wedding of the friends for whom the jams are intended. WE WILL SEE.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A padded drawstring bag for lenses or other precious bits

This afternoon I spent some quality time with the sewing machine, making a little bag for a lens that didn't have one. It was a pretty good time—with some fun hand-finishing details for extra cushioning and sharpness of appearance—so I'll share! Also illustrated: the drama of the shift from late-afternoon to early-evening light through my apartment's west-facing window.

You'll need:

  • an item that needs a cushiony bag to keep it safe
  • a measuring tape or ruler
  • fabric for the shell, lining, and drawstring casing: I used shot cotton scraps
  • batting
  • a marking tool for drawing quilting lines
  • something to use as a drawstring—a length of cord, a ribbon, hot pink seam binding ribbon?
  • matching threads
  • pins
  • a hand sewing needle
  • sewing machine

Measure the diameter and length of your object. Add 3" to the length measurement for seam allowances and space for gathers. Divide the diameter measurement in half, and add 1" for seam allowances and at least 1/2" for ease (add more for a looser bag). Make a note of the resulting numbers—mine were 8" length and 6" width. Cut two pieces each of shell fabric and lining to these dimensions. Cut two pieces of batting slightly larger.

Set aside the lining pieces for now. Smooth each shell rectangle against a batting rectangle. Mark quilting lines on it with a hera marker or fabric marker (if you have neither, use the needle you use for weaving in ends from knitting projects to draw creases).

padded bag - marking lines

I quilted a 1" grid, leaving an extra 1/2" all around for seam allowances.

padded bag - quilted shell

Cut off the excess batting around the edges of the shell fabric rectangles. Put them right sides together and sew up the bottom and sides at 1/2".

To form the bottom of the bag, fold it so that one side seam is aligned with the bottom seam. Measure 1-1/4" from the point and sew a straight line across. Trim off the point 1/4" from the new seam. Repeat for the other side. (The depth of the bag will depend on how far these seams are from the corner—estimate where you'll want to sew, pin it, and check that you're satisfied with the shape of the bottom before sewing these seams.)

padded bag - forming the bottom

To make the padding for the bottom of the bag, measure the bag bottom and cut 4–6 squares of batting slightly larger than it. Arrange them in a stack and sew them together with a fairly closely-spaced grid of prick stitches. The goal is to make the batting stack into a firm square of padding about 1/2" thick; the neatness of your prick stitching is immaterial as it'll be completely hidden in the finished bag.

padded bag - prickstitched

Once the padded square is finished, tack it to the inside bottom of the shell, and turn it right side out.

To make the lining, place the lining rectangles right sides together and sew around the sides and bottom at 1/2". Form the bottom of the lining the same way as for the shell. Slip the lining into the shell and trim the raw edges at the top to match. Baste them together at 3/8", easing the lining to fit, then sew them together at 1/2".

padded bag - basted together

To make the drawstring casing, measure the diameter of the bag and cut a piece of fabric 2" wide x that measurement + 1". Fold the short ends in 1/2" and press; fold one long edge in 1/2" and press again. Edgestitch close to the fold along each short end.

Attach the drawstring casing to the bag by pinning the unfolded edge to the edge of the bag, right sides together. Stitch at 1/2", then trim the seam allowance to 1/4".

padded bag - edgestitched drawstring casing

Cover the raw edge of the bag where the drawstring casing will open by cutting a piece of the drawstring casing fabric 1" x 1.5". Fold in half lengthwise and press, unfold and fold the long edges toward the centre and press again, then fold in half again along your original fold line (like making double-fold bias tape, but with fabric cut on the straight of grain.) Pin the folded piece around the raw edge where the casing ends meet and slip stitch in place, first on the outside of the bag and then on the inside.

padded bag - covered seam allowance

Finish the casing by folding it to the inside and slip stitching the folded edge to the lining. Finish the ends of the drawstring as you prefer. Attach a safety pin to one end of the drawstring and thread it through the casing.

A little bag for lenses


Saturday, June 9, 2012

The simplest apricot jam

I made this photoset to reassure a friend the other day, but it may as well also be shared with the internet at large! A small batch of the absolute plainest apricot jam is a fun project to break up a weekend—it only takes a little bit of attention each day, and the result is delicious and fresh-tasting and tart and intensely apricot-flavoured. You will need apricots, sugar, and lemons.


1. First find some apricots! A little underripe is best; ripe is adequate though not ideal; overripe is not worth the trouble.


2. Wash them thoroughly and chop them as you desire. I cut mine into lengthwise eighths and then into wedges about 1/8" thick. If you are troubled by apricot skins, you can blanch the fruit and peel it first; I find them soft enough that I don't notice their presence in the finished jam.


3. Measure the volume of chopped fruit. Add to it the juice (& optionally the zest) of one lemon per cup of fruit, and three-quarters of the fruit's volume in sugar.


4. Heat the fruit-and-sugar mixture gently until it just barely reaches a boil—the combination of heat and sugar will draw out a lot of liquid. Remove it from the heat, cover, and let it rest in the fridge for at least six hours and up to 48.


5. After its rest in the fridge, strain the chunks of fruit out of the thick golden syrup that's developed, and remove them to a bowl. Pour the syrup into a pot and put it back on the heat. Bring to a full boil and keep it there until...


6. ... the syrup has reached its gelling point, 4° C above boiling. Check this without a thermometer by dipping a spoon into it and watching how the syrup drips off. The syrup is done when it sheets off the spoon, pictured above—the drops will be thick and slow-moving, clinging to each other and the spoon. Add the strained fruit back to the syrup, return to a boil, and cook for five more minutes.


7. Transfer the jam to sterilized jars and process them in a boiling water bath following these directions. Or just pour it into a clean jar and keep it in the fridge if you plan to eat it in the next few months.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: before and after

Raw ingredients Jellies

("Dill" stops looking like a word when you write it a bunch of times!)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Weekend plaid

My very stylish friend wears plaid to distinguish weekends from weekdays, and I am envious of his strategy. And I have been admiring Jenny Gordy's Wiksten clothing for a long time, some patterns for which were recently made available in .pdf form. Clearly this project's time had come!

Tova shirt

This is a Tova shirt, and it probably won't be the only one I make (bloggers seem to make them in twos and threes and now I understand why!). It was quick and fun to put together with room for lots of the hand-sewn finishing details that I cherish. The inset (here cut on the bias), collar, placket, and cuffs don't take up much fabric, and I imagine that they would be fun places to put pretty FQs to good use. If I used a fabric with an obvious wrong side I'd underline the inset, though. This mellow straw-coloured shirting was supercheap from, and is soft and light without being silky or slippery.

Tova inset

Don't look too close at the placket, which I sewed in upside-down and only noticed quite a bit later (oops). The inside of the collar is folded up and sewn down by hand, which is my favourite treatment for this kind of edge, much preferred over topstitching. My gather distribution below the inset got kind of uneven in the middle there—the machine had a bit of trouble powering through all the layers of the placket and inset—so next time I'll take a bit more care with my basting in that area. Setting the inset into the front was a challenge until I figured out that you can do it in three stages (straight across the bottom from drillhole to drillhole; up one side; up the other).

I made a few very minor alterations, because I am relatively bounteous of bosom and buttock compared to the rest of me. I cut a size L, but added 1/4" to each side at the armhole, tapering to nothing at the waist, for a total of 1" extra room. I also widened the sleeves by 1/2" and shortened the shirt by 3" so it hits just a couple of inches below my hipbone. It's comfortable and easy to wear, and I am satisfied!