Monday, November 23, 2015

Wearing Handmade

Finally, here is the finished version of my Cascade Dress for grown ups. After the pattern was sewn up, I died the entire garment using a natural dye method with black beans. I then added vintage lace details, also naturally dyed. I still think there are a few changes I'd like to make down the road if I continue making the pattern, however, I am quite pleased with the final result. A lot of time and love went into this dress. It has a comfy playfulness to it and wearing it makes me feel young at heart.

After working on my Cascade Dress, I decided I needed a break from the drafting and turned to a published pattern for my next project.

I chose The Peplone Jacket Pattern by Tina Givens. I had found this beautiful deep amethyst linen/rayon blend at my local fabric shop and just knew it would make quite a statement. So it did! I loved working with this fabric and may have to hunt down some more,

I used some organic cotton scraps I had for the pockets and sleeve trim, and a fantastic big vintage button I got from my mom some years ago. This worked up wonderfully. It's a very full fit coat-like garment reminiscent of the turn of the century boho movement. To be accessorized with a languid pose and an artistic flair. I love it truly. I can't help but feel decadent and creative whilst wearing it.

 I can see that my promise to sew more for myself is taking some interesting turns and I'm really enjoying it.

Have you made anything lately?

See you after the holiday, be well!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Vintage Color

Ooh it's getting cold and rainy 'round these parts. This morning I couldn't quite shake a chill and toyed with the idea of starting a fire in the wood stove. I didn't, but I can see that the season's first fire is not long off. How's the season treating you where you are I wonder?

Yesterday I spent the morning visiting a friend in the hospital and got home just in time to put on a dye pot. It was an easy dye as I was using the water from soaking black beans, this dye pot does not need heat so it's a bit less intensive. However, I was dyeing The Cascade Dress from my last post and it was rather a lot more fabric than I have dyed at any one time. I learned that I am going to need one of those super duper giant enamel canning pots if I intend to dye whole dresses on the regular.

I also threw in a few vintage lace and doily bits. Before I sunk my dress into the murky depths of the black bean dye pot, I did a few experiments with modifiers. On it's own, black bean water can produce purple, purplish grays, blues, and the like. Adding an iron modifier creates a really lovely blue gray, more sombre in tone, or if left to soak for a longer time, it would produce a dark gray. Vinegar, depending on the length of soak, can produce a light fuchsia pink or a brighter purple. Using soda ash as a modifier will create a really pretty vintage cream color. I am sure the variations would continue using other modifiers such as copper, etc, but I'll have to experiment with that at another time.

In the picture above you'll see some of the variations from the black bean dye pots and some from an earlier dye day using Madder.  I love looking at the pieces, especially the vintage bits. I continue to be enthralled with the process of natural dyeing and all of the variations that can happen. It is an ancient process and as with many old ways, it takes time. It's slow color, always changing.

As the seasons change and fresh dyeing ingredients are less available, I'll learn to adapt and work with what is at hand. Not to mention that with the cold moving in, those steaming dye pots will be far more welcome than in the heat of Summer. I started my natural dyeing journey earlier this year, and I can see that there is such a very long way to go yet to learn all the things I desire to. I'm ok with that, in fact, I look forward to many years of learning and travelling along this journey.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cascade Dress Part Two -

I'm working out all the kinks in grown up version of The Cascade Dress. It needs pockets, you all know how much I love a handy dandy pocket! I'm also uncertain of the contrasting band, but as I plan to dye the whole shebang, I think it will blend nicely. Plus, it's prototype #1. Will there be a prototype #2? Perhaps, I need a little break from this baby.

Going through the process of creating a new design, especially one to be worn by adults, is incredibly detailed, time consuming, and unpaid. It's a real labor of love. It makes one really appreciate handcrafted items; be they clothes, woodwork, print making, knitting, etc. Back in the old days we owned less, so what we owned needed to last longer and... ok, I'm not going to go all Nana on you and wax nostalgic for the way back times, but you know what I mean. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I would hope that we, as a society, thought about what goes into the things we choose to buy. I hope that people understand that when you look at a well crafted item made by someone's hands you understand that hours and hours of passionate labor have gone into it, not to mention quality materials. It may seem expensive to some, but the truth is, most of us makers charge less than the product is worth in time and materials. We don't do it to get rich, we do it because it's what we love and we hope others will love it too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

New Design - The Cascade Dress

The Cascade Dress
Oh hello!

This weekend I got an itch to make up a new dress design. I was inspired by another dress, and one of my favorite places on the Oregon coast. It's an over-sized overdress. Ever expanding  my love of smock frocks, I think this one is a keeper.

I made it for Pony Girl, but I may have taken the idea of over-sized a bit too far and it nearly fits me! Once she gets home from school all shall be revealed. If it does prove to be a disaster on her, it may end up for sale in the shop. For now, it's hanging up in the lounge making for some pretty scenery.

What do you think?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Tis the season. Are you done with pumpkin spice everything, everywhere yet? I'll be honest, when the coffee shop advertises "Pumpkin Flavored Lattes," I am not the least bit tempted. It seems the only pumpkin stuff I like is a handful of home baked goods using real pumpkin, and if it is one of my tried and true recipes... then, yes I'll have some more please!

This includes my recipe for Pumpkin Spice Bread. I've tried a lot of pumpkin bread recipes over the years, and never found THE ONE. So I played around adapting from a couple different recipes until I found, The One! It isn't overly sweet, it is nice and moist, and it gets better the next day if you can resist gobbling it all up the first day. No, this isn't a health bread, but I did cut down the sugar and oil amounts from most recipes I came across.
It is also made from the pumpkins we grew in our own garden!

Seriously, you should make this, the smell of it baking in the oven is out of this world!

Pumpkin Spice Bread

2 cups pumpkin puree (non-sweetened and no spice added)
¾  cup granulated sugar
¾  cup brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour 
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½  teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 9x5” loaf pans.

In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat until well mixed.

Measure the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices and nuts into a separate bowl and mix until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans. Bake on middle oven rack for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes, then remove loaves from pans and let cool completely on a rack. Slice and enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A little yarn

I can now declare that it is absolutely indeed Fall! It's not just the crisp mornings and evenings, it's not just the changing of the light, or the turning of the leaves; I mean it is all of these things, but it's something else that makes me certain of the season. I have pulled out my yarn.

Simple as that. It seems I'm not the only one to celebrate the autumnal shift with a bit of yarny malarkey, I've been seeing woolly creations popping up all over the interwebs and social media these days. It makes perfect sense of course.

I had two skeins of fat foggy gray yarn that I contemplated for a bit. Then I began, as you do, working my rusty crochet stitches one after the other until it became familiar and easy again. I love falling back into the meditative rhythm of loops and motion... well, until that moment (many moments) where I've made a crucial mistake and the peace is interrupted.  I am ashamed to admit that when that happens, some less than lady-like words have escaped my mouth on occasion. Then, I begin again.

Eventually, the last stitch is made, loose ends sewn in and I have a lovely and cozy Fall cowl for the coming colder days. It is indeed Fall!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fall Color, Natural Dyes of the Pacific Northwest

As I mentioned in my last post, I attended a Natural Dyeing class on Sunday. It was held at the amazing Wild Craft Studio here in the Northwest.

First, let me say that the setting alone is worth the trip. What a beautiful area, and so different from the landscape here in Portland, though it's only a little over and hour away. Wild Craft Studio holds a large range of awesome classes, there are so many I would like to take!

It was a bluebird day. As we arrived, we were invited into the cozy studio to have tea or coffee while we waited for the rest of the class to come. The class on Sunday was taught by the very knowledgeable and lovely Chelsea Heffner. What a grand day it was! Chelsea went through all the basics, processes, plants and so much great information. While I was familiar with most of the information from my natural dyeing fever earlier this year, there was plenty of new things to wrap my head around, and I really appreciated the way Chelsea presented everything.

 Coreopsis flower and Poke Berry

Poke Berry stains on my hands

We processed some plant material and started our dye baths. Then it was time for a forage out in nature. We learned to identify some native plants and picked rose hips for another dye bath.

I spy my good buddies Tif and Meg!

After our hike it was time for lunch. We ate outside with a beautiful view, and wow, what a gorgeous meal they prepared for us! We ate and chatted in the sunshine, all of us soaking in the new knowledge from the morning.

Then it was back to the dye pots! We had samples to dye, wool and silk. Then we were all given a silk scarf to dye and take home. I loved seeing all of the scarves and experimenting that the group did.

Our Fall Color samples: Coreopsis, Lichen, Pokeberry, St. John's Wort, 
Black Walnut, Rosehips

If you live anywhere nearby, I highly recommend taking a class with these amazing people! I know I had a blast and my love of natural dyeing has been re-energized! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Little Cabin in the Woods

This past weekend I was so fortunate to be able to have a getaway to a little cabin in the woods. I packed my bags, kissed my family goodbye, and headed out on the road. A beautiful drive up the Columbia River stretched before me on a warm fall Friday afternoon.

It has been awhile since I've been able to get out on my own and connect with the natural world. While I usually take my solo weekends at the coast, this time it was a real treat to travel to an area I have not spent too much time in. A place of rolling grassy hills, scrub oak, shadowed mountains and ribbons of rivers running through.

This was my view from the deck where I spent my mornings with coffee and my afternoons reading. It was lovely weather, quiet and peaceful with a fair amount of bird watching and crocheting. No TV, no traffic, no schedule to keep... Ah yes.

Everyday I walked down along the river and breathed deeply of fresh air and blue skies.

I slept in a cozy nest where sunlight streamed through the windows. When I opened my duffle bag upon arrival, I found that Pony Girl has sent along a little friend to keep me company. The Little Red Hen and I had quite a time.

Part of my trip included a nearby class on Natural Dyeing from local plants. It was great. I'll tell you all about that in my next post! 

For now I'll just say how grateful I am to my family for keeping the home fires burning and giving me the chance to have this relaxing and lovely weekend. Many thanks to my friends for letting me stay in their sweet little cabin in the woods, it was so special. I will keep this weekend in my heart and soul for a long time to come.

Thank you cabin 21