October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everybody! I'm off to stuff myself full of candy corn.

October 30, 2010

Farm Fresh Diary: October 30, 2010

Just a quick post about the farmers' market today. I wasn't really feeling up to the market this morning--and I almost just stayed in bed--but I decided to go. And good thing too, because I bought some tasty, tasty apples...among other things.

A lovely bunch of carrots (I'm definitely going to roast these), thyme, cilantro, parsley, and pink lady apples. I LOVE pink lady apples! I had one with my reaper bun for breakfast, and it was delicious!

Speaking of reaper buns, I got my pastries from the same vendor that I bought the pretzels from last week. I still don't know what the bakery is called, but I decided to branch out a bit more and try something new. I had seen these reaper buns before, but was too shy to ask about them. And even though I wasn't really in the mood for the market this morning, I decided to be daring. Funny how that works...

Anyways, I got a reaper bun (its the one on the right) and an almond danish. The reaper bun was super good...especially the caramelized sugar on the bottom.

October 25, 2010

DIY Voter Pride: A Tutorial for Making Your Own "I Voted" Pin

Election day is next Tuesday. Below: a crafty how-to for making your own "I Voted" pin. But first, a little anecdote:

I received my vote by mail ballot a couple of weeks ago and was quite dismayed when I discovered that my district doesn't give "I Voted" stickers to absentee voters. I
love those stickers; they're one of the reasons why I vote. I took my time to read about the measures and research the candidates and mailed in my complete ballot a few days ago. As I made the finishing touches on my choices, I turned to the Internet to voice my dissatisfaction with not receiving my "I Voted" sticker.

My buddy Alison offered two suggestions: steal someone else's or make my own. Although the thought and mental image of attempting to steal someone's "I Voted" sticker makes me smile, something tells me that it wouldn't go too well. So I went with the second option and made my own. My first attempt was a bit of a disaster:

I realized half way through that I had dark blue was not the optimal background color for a non-monotone lettering, my layout needed work, and a that back stitch is optimal for lettering. What are mistakes but lessons for the future.

Let's get on with the real deal.

Make Your Own "I Voted" Pin:
A Quick and Easy DIY

What you will need:

  • Embroidery thread and needles
  • Felt (preferably in patriotic colors)
  • Sharp scissors
  • A pencil
  • Circular object for tracing needs--I used the band for a large mouthed mason jar.
  • 1 Pin backing
  • Fabric pen, craft glue, and card stock (not pictured)
  • About 1 hour

OK, let's craft!

Get a circular object that you will use as your template for your pin. I used the inner circle of a mason jar band which measures just under 3". You can make yours bigger or smaller, but I found that 3" was the perfect size for the lettering that I had planned. Use your pencil (or fabric pen) to trace 2 circles on your felt.

Cut said circles out. If you are using sharp scissors and have relatively good motor control they should look something like this.

Take your marking tool of choice (I opted for a fabric pen this time) and make a check mark that takes up just about the whole circle on one of the felt circles.

Take your handy needle and embroidery thread (all 8 strands), and embroider the check mark. I chose red thread and a split stitch. I considered other stitches, but landed on this one because I thought it would create a nice flow...but you could use another one if you think otherwise. Here is a tutorial (from a neat embroidery reference site, FYI) for the split stitch if you need some guidance.

A bit of patience and a few even stitches later and you should have something that looks like this. I almost accomplished the even stitches part, but I think it looks pretty good anyways.

Now take up your fabric pen one more time and sketch the layout of your "I Voted" message. Your letters don't need to be super perfect, just sufficiently formed so that you can stitch them without them turning out too wonky.

Use another color of embroidery thread (I chose blue) and stitch your text. For this portion I used the back stitch; like the split stitch for the check mark, I felt that the back stitch worked well for lettering. Check out this page for a video tutorial (if needed). Tip: Short stitches are key for this portion of the project, especially with the rounded letters.

I intentionally placed some of the letters so that they overlapped the check mark; I wanted to create a more complex graphic where the different components interacted with each other. To achieve this: I just stitched over the check mark without reservation. I think it works well.

Check out your work. I think it looks pretty good; I had some difficulty with the "e" and I'm not 100% happy with it, but I still think it turned out well enough.

Take your other felt circle and determine the position of the pin backing. I find that a little North of dead center works well. Take your fabric pen and mark at least one of the holes. This is a simple step, but will make sewing the pin backing much, much easier.

Sew the pin backing to this piece of felt. I like to run the thread through the holes laterally a couple of times and then vertically in each direction. Make a secure knot of the backside of the felt to anchor the stitches in place.

Set your felt pieces aside for the moment. Take your tracing tool and apply it to a piece of card stock paper. Cut this piece out and then cut it down to size until it is smaller than the felt piece by about 1/8". Use this piece of card stock to cut out another circle.

Glue the pieces together (just a few dots will do) and then glue them to the back piece. Squeeze a few more dollops of glue onto the other side and place the front piece on top. Make sure that the back and front pieces match up: the pin backing should be horizontally level and right behind the "I". (I realized this aspect of assembly after I sandwiched the pieces together, but thankfully I had lined them up right!)

Now you'll want to use a blanket stitch to put a finished edge on your pin. When I first started making catnip buddies, I discovered that I didn't like how the first stitch turned out: performed like every other stitch in the sequence, it slanted to one side. So I developed a variation of the blanket stitch specifically for the first stitch in the sequence. I don't know if this is used by anyone else--I'm sure it is...somewhere--but I haven't researched it. At any rate here is how I do my blanket stitch.

Bring your thread up, from back to front, through the top layer only. Use the outer edge of the card stock as a guide for this stitch and all subsequent stitches.

Pull it through making sure that the tail points towards the outer edge and lies behind the cardstock. (If not, the red thread will show through the front piece a little bit.)

Bring the needle around and push it through both felt layers and though the same hole or just below it.

Pull the thread through until a small loop is formed. Then bring your needle around in a clockwise fashion and pass it through this loop.

Pull the loop closed, pulling to the right. It should look like this: a thicker stitch with a knot on top.

Now you can begin creating the blanket stitch as usual. Continue stitching around the edge of the felt (without going through the card stock). Here's a video if you need a visual.

Blanket stitch all around the edge. Here is how I finish my blanket stitch: while completing the last stitch of the series, bring the needle up from the back through the base of the first stitch and then complete it as usual.

Inset your needle underneath the top bar of the first stitch. Pull the thread through. I find that this step closes the gap that often forms between the first and last stitches; some might not find this gap very noticeable, but I see it...and not in a good way.

Make a knot and pull it snug so that it rests on the backside of the edge. Insert your needle downward through the edge and out of the back piece thusly.

Pull the needle and thread through and snip the tail close to the felt.

And...you're done! Fill out your mail in ballot (if you haven't already), drop it in the mail, and wear it with pride on November 2.

October 23, 2010

Farm Fresh Diary: October 23, 2010

The farmers' market was lovely yesterday morning. The rainy season has definitely arrived, but thankfully it wasn't too wet out there; although the rain should make for interesting shopping this winter.

I didn't get too much this time; the eggs are eating into my budget. I did look into Petaluma farms a little bit: The Cornucopia Institute gives them the lowest rating on their Organic Egg Scorecard--a rating that I was grudgingly anticipating. The eggs were OK, but I have to admit that I was a little more than disappointed when I cracked the first one open and discovered that the yoke was a pale yellow and not the bright orangey-yellow that I had hoped for. I've read that this is the kind of egg yokes that well fed (i.e. free range) and generally more well cared for chickens produce. So this time around I shelled out an extra $1.50 for the Judy's Family Farm organic large eggs. I used one yesterday to make pancakes. The yoke looked a bit better, but after consulting the Scorecard (Cornucopia gives Judy's Family Farm the lowest rating as well...which considering the fact that they are a subsidiary of Petaluma Farms makes sense) I think I'm going to forgo buying eggs from this vendor and do some research to find a more ethically produced egg that we can easily get our hands on.

Enough about eggs. I picked up a bunch of basil (most likely the last of the season), some beets (they were 3 for $5; I think I'll roast them), two gigantic summer squash, three pretzels, and a bunch of marigolds-- Day of the Dead is next week and I'm hoping they last until then.

I don't normally participate in Day of the Dead celebrations--I wasn't brought up doing so--but I do like to bring some aspects of that celebration into my life every fall. I usually stick to the marigolds, some papel picado, eating lots of pan dulce and Mexican hot chocolate, and keeping my grandmother close to my heart. Maybe I'll do sugar skulls this year; we'll see.

October 20, 2010

Trick or Treat Indeed

Halloween is just around the corner and so I felt that some spooky catnip buddies were in order. I realize that I may be a little late in presenting these--especially in Etsy marketing terms--but I had fun making them...and pulling off a flash mob/drive by style photo shoot in the pumpkin display at Whole Foods.

Mr. Jack o Lantern is on Etsy right now. Here's a little close-up for your viewing pleasure.

This cute ghastly ghoul will be on BoutiqueAliciaMarie soon.

October 17, 2010

Fabric Finds

I went to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse about a month ago. I had never been before and I had the weekend off so I decided to check it out. I'd heard some really great things about Creative Reuse but or some reason or another I never made my way over there. They had lots of great stuff--scraps of paper, costume jewelry, barrels of egg cartons and paper rolls, mason jars, little boxes, patterns, yarn, fabric...and so much more. I picked up some mason jars, a leaf pendant, and some small gift boxes that I plan to revamp, but the best find of my day was this awesome fabric.

They had two huge bolts of the stuff and I was instantly drawn to it. So I heaved one of them out of the barrel that it was in and measured out about 5 yards of it. I have no idea what I'm going to make with it (maybe a skirt or a dress...or a clutch!), but I just knew that I couldn't pass it up. And the best part is that it was really cheap! The fabric plus everything else was about $15.

And then a few weeks later I went to Stonemountain & Daughter with one of my friends. It was her first time there and I needed to choose some fabric for my first proper sewing project...by which I mean a sewing project that involves a pattern. I picked up these apron patterns at JoAnn's a while ago and still hadn't found the perfect fabric with which to make pattern A. I wanted something that was bright, fun, and whimsical, and
not white. I didn't find anything like this at JoAnn's, Discount Fabrics, or Creative Reuse so I turned to Stonemountain. And good thing too, because they have an amazing selection, including these:

I was so excited when I found this mushroom fabric that I practically squealed before clutching it against my body (for safekeeping, of course). And then I found the orange fabric and thought that it would make a great waist band and help break up the apron. I completely forgot to check to see what type of fabric it is, but I know that they are both cotton. Now all I need to do is make the darn thing. This will happen soon.

October 16, 2010

Farm Fresh Diary: October 14, 2010

I'm on top of things this morning...sort of. The farmers' market was lovely today, like always. I can tell that the summer season is coming to a close; the price of heirloom tomatoes has dropped, strawberries and basil are getting scarce, and apples are taking the place of cherries and peaches. I'm looking forward to winter produce, but I have to admit that I'm already missing the basil.

Last Saturday I spoke to an egg vendor (I can't remember which one) and promised him that I would pick up some eggs next time. True to my word, his stall was the first one that I went to this morning. I'm not used to buying eggs from the farmers' market, and although I know that paying a few extra dollars for organic and humanely produced eggs is totally worth it, I can't bring myself to pay $6 or so for a dozen eggs.
So I'm taking baby steps and got a dozen, reasonably priced eggs from Petaluma farms. Once I got home I realized that this might not have been the best choice because I don't know anything about this egg producer. I fear that I made a classic mistake of trusting that everything at the farmers' market is ethically produced. But I plan on checking out Petaluma farms and their rating from The Cornucopia Institute. (Check out their short video on egg producers; very informative and influential without using the scare tactics often utilized in other food production documentaries.)

Some other things that I got: Italian and Japanese eggplant, a bunch of thai basil, and strawberries. I'm thinking of making some sort of Thai-style stir fry with the Japanese eggplant and basil. And I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the other eggplant...maybe eggplant parmesan or something like that...or maybe ratatouille.

It looks like Italian basil, but believe me it isn't. I love the color of eggplant.

I also bought some other items for breakfast: two muffins from the stall that I bought the sticky bun a few weeks ago, and two peaches--one yellow and one white. The blue berry was quite good but the banana nut was very disappointing; it was made with banana flavoring instead of actual bananas and as a result tasted like banana flavored candy instead of banana bread. I felt bad tossing it into the compost, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat it. I think I'll stick with the blue berry or the danishes from Panorama. Lesson learned. The peaches weren't very good either: not sweet and kinda mealy. I guess summer really is ending.

Panorama wasn't at the market this morning so instead I bought a pretzel from another bakery; they're dark brown, clearly handmade, and
very alluring. I had been thinking about trying their pretzels for quite some time, but never had enough money left after doing all my other shopping. Anyways, the pretzel was really good--I was planning on saving it for later, but after the "banana" nut muffin bombed, I ate the pretzel instead. So I guess it was a good think that Panorama wasn't there today. Next time, no "banana" nut muffin and more pretzels...and pictures, I promise.

Now off to the Old Oakland Beer Festival!