Wednesday, July 7, 2010

happy old 2: stoopid purses

I’m finally emerging from my comfortable little dark hole made of knit hats, and am cautiously stepping into the light of day with other accessories. It took me long enough. Now that we are officially about 16 or so days into summer, I finally realized maybe wool hats are not the best way to spend my time. Enter the purse.

For Brittany’s big 3-0 I made a navy blue boiled wool (felted) purse with fabric lining. Being the first purse I’ve attempted, I limped my way through it as best I could. The length of the bag is knit on the round, making a cylinder. Then I picked up one edge separately and knitted it off in a quick decrease to make a flat base. On the other end of the cylinder, I bound off about two-thirds and knitted the rest straight to make a flap. The strap was knit separately and joined later. With the body finished, I tossed it in some hot freakin’ water to felt. The felting process shrinks the item a bit but also seems to add structural integrity that works well for a purse. I still wanted to see some stitches and didn’t want too much shrinkage, so I pulled it out pretty quickly.

The liner is pretty dern cool. It’s sorta anime with angry pandas and little men dressed up like dinosaurs and ghosts with coconuts and other weird stuff. I do not get it at all, which is why I chose it, so if anyone can make sense of it please let me know. Is it from an actual cartoon, or is it just nonsense?

I sacrificed the plastic base of one of my fabric grocery bags and cut out a circle the same size as the purse. The circle got covered in fabric and sewn into the bottom of the purse, where it also secured the side liner down. The flap liner was separate, and I quilted it in with bright green thread to add a little more flair. I sewed in a magnetic snap and finished it off with a cool lookin resin button on the outside.

I won’t call it professional grade, but I think it turned out pretty cool.

Now onto purse number two:

My second prototype was very different. This one did not get felted cuz I used way too cool of a stitch to let it get all melty. This is a winding leafy vine stitch pattern that I knitted a big swath of, folded in half and seamed up the sides. Separately, I knitted another swath of black wool with a little stretch to it in a tighter gauge to serve as the liner. I wanted it to be tighter for stability, and to make sure things like keys wouldn’t jab through the fabric and tear holes. The two are seamed together to make sure they’re securely attached. The black part is a bit longer than the green, and bound off to make two straps sticking out of each side. The straps got wound around circular wooden handles et voila. Purse. I'm thinking it still needs a little something though, so I might weave in a black ribbin along the top or something.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

happy old

Ah, the novelty of a landmark birthday. Especially when it’s your fantastically terrific sister. Older sister. Brittany turned 30 over the weekend. A drunken celebration was held in her honor with my Dad’s famous BBQ ribs (insert Homer Simpson drooling noise), some fresh crab CK caught the day before, jerk chicken, a plethora of delicious side salads, and birthday cake. Of course. Brittany wasn’t allowed to make her own dessert, so instead she commissioned me to make a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Snore, except the recipe came from a cookbook I gave her 12 years ago for her 18th birthday, and apparently it’s the most dog-eared and worn book in her collection. Yeah, that’s right. I know a good’un when I see it. The icing is a recipe I use often, stolen from a bakery I used to work at called Macrina. It’s stupidly simple to make, which is a requirement. Fuck a bunch of italian buttercream.

So the food was incredible (I'm still bloated), the alcohol was flowing, and the sparklers were all used up by sunset…we couldn’t wait. It’s a good thing 30 is the new 20, or some shit, cuz Brittany is old now.

1-2-3-4 Cake (Yellow Cake), from “Classic Home Desserts” by Richard Sax
makes 3 8-inch round layers, or 2 9-inch round layers

3 cups sifted cake flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Pre heat oven to 350. Butter and flour cake pans. Resift the flour with the baking powder, soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until very light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Lower speed to slow and beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in vanilla. Scrape batter into prepared pans, dividing gently.

3. Bake until the cakes are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 30-35 minutes

4. Cool completely on wire racks. Run the tip of a knife around the sides to loosen them from the pans; invert the cake layers and use as desired.

Mom’s Chocolate Icing, from Macrina Bakery (slightly adapted by me)
Makes ample frosting for a 9-inch layer cake, plus some for piping

12 oz. bitter or unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temp.
1 # butter, room temp.
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 Tbs vanilla

Cream room temperature butter, cocoa powder and powdered sugar in mixer. Start slowly, cuz cleaning powdered sugar off the walls sucks pretty bad. Scrape bowl often. When it’s light and fluffy, slowly add the melted chocolate in a steady stream, then the vanilla.

This icing is VERY EASY and holds marvelously at room temperature for a long time without melting. But once you refrigerate it, it hardens. So if you must stick it in the fridge while you’re working with it, give it a warm water bath and whip it back up before sticking that palette knife in there. I just leave it on the counter throughout masking and icing, and leftovers go in the fridge later on.

Stay tuned for pictures of Brittany’s birthday present.