The Knit Diaries: My Striped Maxi

The quest to become up close and personal with my serger continues, in the next installment of The Knit Diaries – a maxi skirt.  So, I’m not going to lie, when I realized that the maxi skirt was “in” this spring, I had to actually look up what a maxi skirt was.  Let me just say, wikipedia totally schooled me on my skirt lore.  Who knew there was so much I didn’t know abut skirts?  Dirndl, and Prairie and Scooter skirts, oh my!  I know, I know…..for a sewer, I’m terribly fashion illiterate.  What I quickly realized was that a maxi skirt is just a fancy way of saying a long, A-line skirt.  And since, A-line skirts are about the only type of skirt that looks good on me, I was psyched.  So, after hunting around on Pinterest for awhile for some inspiration (see the lovely skirt below), I knew that a striped maxi was exactly how I wanted to delve into this wild and wonderful world of long hemlines.

Striped Maxi inspiration

I have a maxi dress from last season, which I used (sort of) as a template to get that nice A-line shape for my front and back panel.  When cutting, I made sure to leave a lot of fabric (without the A-line slant) at the top so that I could figure out a waistline for my skirt.

Cutting a front and back panel

Once I had my two panels cut, I serged down both side seams.  Then, I thought more about the waistband.  I decided to try a shirred waistband for my maxi.  Why shirring, you may ask?   Well, I wanted to learn the technique, it’s a pretty easy way of creating a waistband, and I like the look.  What’s even better?  All you need to have to ‘get your shirr on’ is some elastic thread, which I happened to have scored a lot of in a flea market find, and a sewing machine.

Elastic thread

I put the elastic thread in the bobbin and regular thread up top in my machine.  I adjusted the stitch length to a basting stitch and I was ready to go.  I folded the top of my skirt in on itself to the inside to create 4-inch waistband – which at this point just looked like a double layer of fabric at the top.  I pinned around the circumference to hold that slippery knit fabric in place.

Waistband

I began stitching at the edge of the waistband and continued all the way around the top.  As I stitched, I began to see the elastic bobbin thread cause the fabric feeding out to begin to slightly gather. (See below.)

First row of shirring

After finishing the first row, I quickly realized that I’d better take care of securing the open edge of the waistband (on the inside of my skirt) before the waistband got too gathered.  So, I set up my serger to do a coverstitch and did a wide coverstitch at the very bottom edge of the waistband.  Then, I continued to stitch shirring rows (spaced about every 1/2 inch from one another) down my waistband.  I had to be careful to stretch out my fabric as I was shirring it just enough so that it would lay flat as it went under the presser foot, but not enough so that the elastic only brought the knit  fabric back to neutral and didn’t really gather it after it was stitched.

Rows of shirring

When I was finished with the waistband, I had 8 shirred rows.  My waistband now has great stretch and is super comfy! The only thing left to do to finish my skirt was hem it. So, I put it on and made a note of where I wanted to hem it.  Then, using the stripes as a guide, I used a wide coverstitch to put in the hem.  My maxi skirt was ready to wear out on the town…..or at least to my side yard for some pictures until later tonight!  🙂

My striped maxi, and Sadie peeking around the corner to oversee.

My striped maxi

Sour Cream and Onion Kale Chips

Sorry for the small hiatus in blogging, readers.  We headed down to the beach at the beginning of last week and I thought, “I’m going to blog like the wind. This whole trip is going to be great for increasing my creative output.”  The best laid plans, eh?  We got a midweek call from our house sitter that our chocolate lab mix was critically ill.   After several days is doggie ICU and close to $2,000 later, we still aren’t sure what happened and what her prognosis is.  Behaviorally she seems back to her normal self, but after another blood panel today, she still has a really low albumin level (protein in the blood that is super important).  We go back on Thursday.  If, it’s still low then, it’ll be time to panic.  And I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when someone I love is sick is google it, which is a horrible mistake. You just scare the crap out of yourself and feel even more worried than you did to begin with.  Bad Google!

Needless to say, I haven’t gotten much crafting accomplished since Beanie got sick.  I’d like to say that I’m not a worrier.  But, man oh man, I haven’t been able to think of much else or do much else besides love on her this week.  I mean, look at that face!

The Beaner looking sad

Since she isn’t very happy or comfortable in my craft room, I’ve been sticking to the kitchen so that we can hang out together.  So, first thing I did was can some peach jam from the 10 lbs. of peaches we picked up from the beach.  It’s Todd’s favorite.  Hopefully, I’ve been able to recreate the batch I first made two years ago, which he still claims  is “epic.”

New peach jam

Upon getting home, I also had to make the rounds and spend some time with the rabbits and chickens to make sure everyone else was doing okay.  The rabbits are all doing fine, especially since they all got haircuts before we left for the beach.  (I had to have something to spin!).  The chickens were so prolific, that I had to make several batches of challah bread in order to use up the surplus of eggs.  My recipe comes from the book, “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day”, which has definitely changed my life.  If you don’t own this book, rush right out and buy it this minute.  It will change your whole outlook on making homemade bread.

Challah Bread

My last chore upon getting home was to check the garden.  Amidst all the weeds, there was quite a bounty to pick.  Our berry bushes are finally getting going.

The first blackberries and raspberries of the season.

So many things are beginning to bolt and many more just need to be re-sown.  I’m definitely going to need to devote a whole day to garden triage this week.  One of the things that is going gangbusters is my kale.  While this might seem wonderful, right now it just seems like a chore, what with Bean sick.  Since, I haven’t really felt like cooking anything elaborate, I decided to try to make some kale chips.  I had seen a recipe earlier in the year by a vegan chef and remembered the basic ingredients.  I just went from there.  As a testament to the tastiness of these chips, let me say that Todd does not like kale.  However, after coaxing him into giving one a try, he had scarfed down a huge handful.  These chips are tangy, crispy, and yet melt-in-your-mouth.  They are also surprisingly satisfying.  So, if you also have an overabundance of kale, give them a try!

Sour Cream & Onion Kale Chips:

1 1/2 cups of lightly salted cashews, soaked for 3 hours

3 Tbsp of lemon juice

1 1/2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp of dried, minced onion

1 large bunch of kale, cut into 3-inch pieces

1/2 tsp of kosher salt

2/3 cup of water

Add all of the ingredients, save the kale, to a food processor and process until the mixture has the consistency of salad dressing.  Then, toss the dressing with the kale, making sure you coat all of the leaves as consistently as possible.  Place the coated kale onto food dehydrator trays, or baking sheets, and dry until the leaves are thoroughly crispy.  (This took about 4 hours in my old-school food dehydrator).  I’d dry them at about 150-170 degrees in an oven.  Just make sure you monitor them often!  Then, put them in a bowl, pop in a good movie, and enjoy your healthy and delicious snack!

Sour Cream & Onion Kale Chips

Homemade Tomato Sauce

My No Processed Foods challenge led me to try to make things that I usually just reach for a jar or can of in my pantry. My Dad has always made his own pasta sauce, so I figured I should try making some too! It was actually really easy and it made enough that I had leftovers for the week. The beauty of a good red sauce is that you should make it your own. Do you like it a little spicy? Add a little more red pepper flakes. Really like garlic? Throw another clove in.

Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flake, or to taste
  • 1 28 oz. cans crushed tomato
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Warm olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once you see the oil shimmering, add the chopped onion and sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and pinch of red pepper flake then continue to sauté until onions are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add crushed tomato, tomato paste, oregano, basil, sugar, a few pinches of kosher salt and several turns of freshly ground black pepper, stirring to combine. I also like to fill the empty can of tomato paste with water then add that to the sauce (6 oz.). Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to low then simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour (1.5 to 2 hours is best if you have the time).
  3. To finish the sauce, stir in a handful of chopped parsley. Season to taste with additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Serve this sauce with your favorite pasta.

I chose to serve the sauce of pappardelle pasta and added some chicken sausage and a nice handful of Parmesan cheese.

And of course a fat slice of my Homemade Italian bread. 🙂

Quinoa Salad with Pears, Almonds, Cranberries and Spinach

Have you tried Quinoa yet? No? What are you waiting for!? This ancient grain packs some serious protein, is easy to make, and is very tasty. Quinoa provides all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It’s also gluten-free, and cholestorl free, and is almost always organic.  I’ve been making it on Sundays and then packing it in a couple of Tupperware  containers and then presto, easy lunches for the week. You can get really creative with quinoa and throw in whatever you have in your pantry or refrigerator. It’s really your blank canvas to make into whatever you’d like.

Ingredients:

1 cup organic quinoa
Sea salt
2 good handfuls of organic baby spinach leaves, washed, drained
1 large ripe pear, washed, stemmed and cored, cut into pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Sea salt, to taste
1/2 cup sliced almonds

For the Maple Vinaigrette Dressing:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Instructions:

Place the quinoa in a saucepan or a rice cooker. Add 2 cups fresh water, and a pinch of sea salt. Cover and cook on a low simmer until all the water is evaporated and the quinoa is tender- roughly 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and dump it into a large salad bowl.

Add the baby spinach, pear, cranberries, and almonds  to the quinoa and fluff.

Whisk together the vinaigrette, pour it over the quinoa salad and toss gently to coat. Season to taste with a little bit of salt.

Homemade Italian Bread

I was intrigued by how many people were shocked that I made my own bread during No Processed Foods month. People just couldn’t get over that you can actually make bread. I think people are just scared to try making bread and I don’t know why. Sure, I’ve had to learn how to get yeast to work for you by trial and error,but it’s really not that hard. The key is using really warm water and giving it time to rise. If you’ve never tried to make bread before, this Italian bread recipe is a good starter recipe.

I love my food processor. It makes doing so many things in the kitchen easier: chopping veggies, shredding cheese, etc. The dough attachment it comes with is also great for kneading bread. Why do all that hard work when your food processor can do it for you? This is a recipe my Mom made growing up and my family loves it. No Italian dinner is complete without my Mom’s Italian bread. In our family we also love to eat it as a “dessert” with her homemade jam or applesauce on it too.

 

Homemade Italian Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon butter

1 package yeast

1 cup very warm water

vegetable oil and corn meal

1 egg white

1 tablespoon cold water

Directions:

1. Place 2 cups of flour, salt, sugar, butter and yeast in food processor bowl. Using the dough attachment, turn the machine on and off until the butter is thoroughly cut in.

2. Add half of the water and turn the processor on and off 4 times.

3. Add your remaining cup of flour and water. Repeat on/off 4 times, then let the processor run until a ball of dough forms. Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.

4. When you get the right consistency, let the processor run for 40 to 60 seconds to knead the dough.

5. Place the dough on the counter, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let it rest for 20 minutes.

6. Flour your surface and using a rolling pin, roll dough out in a rectangle 10×15 inches. Then roll the dough into a long loaf, pinching the seams to close them.

7. Place on a greased cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal. Brush your loaf with vegetable oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Be sure to cover well or your bread will dry out.

8. When read to bake, uncover the dough and let it sit on counter for 10 minutes. Cut diagonal slashes in the top.

9. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

10. Remove from over and brush with egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. This will given it a beautiful golden crust.

11. Return to over for 5 to 10 minutes.

Prior to serving let it sit for at least 10 minutes and it will slice better.

 

Zucchini Cakes with Tomatillo Salsa

I’ve been a blog slacker, I freely admit it. Life at work got really busy and so instead of cooking tasty things I was stuck working on PowerPoint presentations. Not fun. I’m glad to say work has leveled off again, so I can now catch you up on the last of my creations for No Processed Foods month. I will admit that when June 1st came I was pretty excited to go back to cereal and frozen Trader Joe’s food. Cooking every meal for 31 days was tough work! While I’m not going to abide by such strict rules moving forward, I have vowed to myself that I’ll cook more often and try not to take the “easy” way out by just popping dinner in the microwave.The month of May definitely made me much more aware of what goes on my plate and in my mouth and I think we could all benefit from a heightened awareness about our food.

I’ve always liked zucchini. And when you add cheese and call it a “cake” I like it even more. This dinner was a nice alternative to making a meat main dish. I had leftover tomatillo salsa from the shrimp tacos I made here, so I decided to top the cakes off with some. Delish!

Zucchini Cakes with Tomatillo Salsa

Makes about 10 cakes

Ingredients:

2 small zucchini (about 1 cup), shredded
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup corn (I used frozen)
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup orange bell pepper, finely diced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
3 to 5 tablespoons olive oil


Directions:
1. Shred you zucchini using a food processor, drain on several layers of paper towels, patting dry with more paper towels. You want to get as much water out as possible.
2. In a large bowl, stir together eggs, cheese, flour, red onions, peppers, cumin, oregano, pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in zucchini and corn.
3.In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil to medium heat/hight heat.  Form cakes, roughly 1/4 cup and drop them in the oil. Use a spatula to flatten. Cook for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain onto paper towels.


Avocado Tomatillo Salsa:

  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 jalapeno, cut in half and seeded
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 3/4  avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

Directions

1. Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth (unless you like it chunky).

The Knit Diaries, Part I: A Summer Hoodie Tutorial

As you remember from my last post, I’m beginning a small, summer series called “The Knit Diaries” to chronicle my exploration into sewing with knitted fabric.  Why knits?  I love knit fabric because it has low bulk, great drape and a wonderful feel.  (No joke, after a recent purchase of several incredibly soft yards of black jersey from JoAnn’s, I just wrapped myself in it while watching TV for the evening.  So cozy!)  The other really awesome factor in sewing with knits is that they are sooooo forgiving!  Having a little bit of added stretch means that your pattern can be a little off here and there, and, no worries!  I will now get off of my knit soapbox and get crackin’ on the Sumer Hoodie Tutorial.

Recently my friend, Gwen, added a lot of fun, new knit clothes to her wardrobe from Old Navy.  I love all of them.  But, the one that really caught my eye, was a super fun, black, knit hoodie.

Inspiration:  Knit cardigan from Old Navy

As soon as I saw her wear it for the first time, I began coveting it and plotting how I could “borrow” it from her for a day to draft a pattern from it.  Why did I want it so badly, you may ask?  I’m sure many of you have this problem, but I am a rather cold-natured person.  It can be 90 degrees outside, but if I’m in an air conditioned building, every draft seems to find me.  So, I usually never leave home without something long-sleeved.  Last summer, while in France, I bought a knit cardigan from H&M that I love.  As soon as I put it on, I knew I never wanted to take it off.  It afforded me the perfect ‘climate control’ for summer.

Knowing my innermost knit desires, paired with the fact that I now own a serger, meant I was ready for knit action!  After several bottles of wine one night (yes, that was intentional), I very easily (see?) persuaded Gwen to part with her dear hoodie for a day.  I brought the prized article home and immediately (at 12 a.m.) got to work on drafting a pattern from it.

What would you need if you wanted to steal your friend’s hoodie and also make a pattern, you ask?

Drafting tools (minus the weights, as I just used heavy things)

1)  First, drafting paper.  I like to use brown paper for drafting patterns.  It’s super cheap and very easy to find.  I buy it from Lowe’s for about $7/roll.  It goes a long way and it has a decent amount of ‘stiffness’ (I said, stiffness) and longevity — if you want to make more than one.

2)  Measuring apparati:  I used a meter stick and a see-through ruler.

3)  Pins, and lots of them.

4)  Marking apparati:  I used a pencil for my marking on the brown paper so that I could erase as needed.  I also used washable fabric markers for any marks I needed to make on the fabric.

5)  Fabric weights, or as I used, heavy objects:  Knit fabrics love to roll up on themselves, so weights placed here and there help prevent said rolling accompanied by mild swearing.

6)  Scissors – both paper and fabric.

After assembling my tools, it was time to begin.  First, a word of caution:  When using an article of clothing (especially a knit) as a template, you really have to be careful not to stretch it too much as you lay it out on the paper.  If you do that, you’re going to add a few sizes to your pattern.  I also like to pin the article of clothing to the paper in a few spots to prevent it from sliding around while I’m trying to trace it.

Gwen’s hoodie is fairly simply constructed.  Great for my first knit project!  The pieces I needed to trace were:  a back (1), the hood (x2), the front panels (x2), the sleeves (x2) and the band around the edge of the entire garment.  For this prototype, I looked to my mountain of jersey, and chose the navy/white striped.  It has a lovely nautical feel and I’ll enjoy wearing it at the beach.

My mountain of jersey

The Pattern Pieces:

So, I laid Gwen’s hoodie on the paper and started by tracing the front panels.  This is what they ended up looking like.  I included the measurements so that if you’d like to make one of these (in a large — or other sizes by decreasing measurements) you can use my template pieces as a rough guide.

Front panel pattern pieces

Next, I sketched out the back.   You’d place it on the fold of fabric to cut it.

Back patter piece

Here is the sleeve piece, which is also cut on the fold.

Sleeve pattern piece

Lastly, I traced the hood.   The hood is seamed down the back.

Hood pattern piece

Then, it was on to cutting out the fabric.  My fabric is nicely basted down the open side of the fabric.  This prevented a lot of rolling while cutting.  Thank you, factory!  If you are experiencing a lot of roll, just use more weights!  You can also use those lovely, little binder clips from the office.  They add weight and also keep the edges of the fabric lined up.  I didn’t use a pattern piece for the band.  I just cut out two strips of fabric two stripes in width, which translates to roughly 3.5″ and stitched them together at their short ends to make a very long piece.  You can really make the band any diameter you want.  Also, if you are using a striped fabric, you want to make sure that you cut your sleeve pieces so that the stripes will match up with the body.  (I learned this the hard way — one side matches, one side doesn’t.  Lesson learned.)

Next, it was on to the sewing.  I used my Juki 735 serger for this project. (You don’t have to have a serger to sew knit fabric, which is awesome.  However, I’ve never tried sewing knits on my sewing machine using a stretch/knit stitch.  I’ll have to explore that soon!)  I learned a lot of things while undertaking this project that I’m going to share in the hopes of saving you some frustration.  This project, was truly a humbling experience.  If you’re a pro, you can just skip down to “construction.”

Serger Tips & Tricks, thus far:

1)  Use ballpoint needles for knits!  They are specifically designed to go through knit fabric without tearing or ripping it.  Before I bought these, I accidentally ended up with a small hole in my project.  😦  The needles come in different sizes.  Look at the packaging to determine which size is best for your particular project.  I used size 90 ballpoint needles for this project.

2)  Use those thread nets!  Yes, they look like old lady salon hair nets, but they really do help with the thread tension.  Before I put them on, I was getting some skipped stitches on the underside of my coverstitch.

Thread nets – a necessity!

3)  Use serger thread!  When I first got my serger, we took it to the beach.  I wanted to use it, so we went to Walmart to find thread.  They didn’t have any of the “cones” that I’d seen on serger videos.  So, we just bought some larger spools of cotton.  I quickly realized that cotton 3-ply thread is not serger friendly.  Serger thread, which often comes on cones (see above) is 2-ply and lighter, which helps it go through all those loopers.

4)  Thread your serger correctly!  I had a lot of trouble with this one, at first.  Sergers are a beast when it comes to threading.  I felt like I was diffusing a nuclear bomb….one wrong move, and, destruction.  All I can tell you is, go slowly and really use your owner’s manual.  Chances are if your stitch isn’t working, you’ve threaded something incorrectly.  Also, there is a specific order to threading — upper looper, lower looper, left needle, right needle.  Order matters.

5)  Check your settings! (tension, stitch width, cutting distance & differential feed) before starting!  Sergers have a lot of dials and knobs.  So, getting things set up the way you want them is imperative.  For tension, start out in the middle of your tension range and then play with it — small increments at a time.  Chances are, you won’t have to go very far (in either direction) from the mid-range for a knit.  Also, check that your differential feed, which controls the feed dogs, is where you want it.  For knits that have a lot of stretch, you’ll probably want the two sets of feed dogs to be set to take in fabric differently.  Thankfully, I didn’t need to change mine for this project.  You may also have to play around with your cutting distance.  My fabric really like to roll, so I had to set my cutting distance larger that I would normally have liked, to make sure I got a clean cut and that my stitches were perfectly at the edge of my fabric and not hanging off the edge.  I definitely had to play around on extra fabric for A WHILE to make sure I was getting the stitch I wanted.  So, buy a little extra fabric if you’re a newbie, like me!

For the seams, I used a 4-thread overlock (with safety) stitch.  Here is what that stitch looks like on the reverse:

4 thread overlock with safety stitch

For the hems, I changed the threading of my serger to produce a two-needle, wide coverstitch.  Here is what that looks like from the front and back:

Cover stitch, reverse

Coverstitch, front

The Construction:

I constructed the whole garment using a 5/8″ seam allowance and a 1/2″ hem allowance. First,  I placed the sleeve and front panel, right sides together, and starting at the neck and working towards the armpit, serged the sleeve shoulder seam (See Pic, Seam #1).  Then, I placed the other side of the sleeve and the back panel right sides together, and serged the other shoulder seam working from neck to armpit.  I repeated this on the other side (See Pic, Seam #2).

Seam #1 and Seam #2

Doing that first, will allow you to stitch the side seams and the seam along the underside of the arm/sleeve as one long seam. (I actually didn’t do this are realized later that it would have been easier!) It also means that long seam will lay better under the arm.  So, do that next — place the front and back panels with the right sides together and starting at the end of the sleeve, stitch the side seams to the armpit and then keep going from the armpit to the bottom hem (See Pic, Seam #3).  Ta-da! At this point, my hoodie was really taking shape.

Seam #3

Next, place the two halves of the hood, with the right sides together, and stitch the entire length of the back, from head to neck (See Pic, Seam #4).

With the hood finished, place the neck edge of the hoody onto your hoodie, with the right sides together, and stitch the entire length of the hood along the neck (See Pic, Seam #5).  Almost done!

Seam #5

Then, take the band, fold it in half and press it.  Then, pin the open edge of the band along the entire left, front panel vertical edge, around the edge of the hoodie, and then down along the right, front vertical edge of the other front panel.   Serge along the edge, securing the band in place (See Pic, Seam #6).

Seam #6

Now, all that was left to do was to hem it.  I switched my machine over to coverstitch, pressed my hem allowance up and pinned it at 1/2″ and then stitched all the way around the bottom edge.  Then, I turned the vertical edges of the front panels under by 1/2″, pressed them, and stitched them, too.  Lastly, I pressed down all of the serged and coverstitched seams so that they would lay nice and flat.  Voila!  My hoodie was finished!

My summer hoodie!

Hoodie, displaying hood.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into sewing a knit garment.  I hope that this tutorial has inspired you to give knits a try, too!  If I can do it, anyone can.  So, you deserve a summer hoodie.  Go ahead, treat yourself!  Up next, is the Knit Diaries, Part 2:  a striped maxi skirt.  I am also taking ANY suggestions you have for what else I can make with my mountain of jersey.  What other striped wonders can you think of?

Sergers and Stripes – The Knit Diaries, an Introduction

As I have probably mentioned in a previous post, I am a stripe addict.  Give me striped fabric over polka dots or floral any day.  Stripes are fierce, bold and ever so clean.  I love ’em.  This year, it seems that cute striped things are everywhere.  First, it was striped spring scarves.  So, of course, I had to make one, which was a great introduction to my serger.

Striped, spring scarf

But, the stripes just kept on coming.  Next, I saw this cute, Ice Cream Social Skirt, from iCandy Handmade.

Ice Cream Social Skirt by iCandy homemade

And now, it’s the striped/chevron maxis.

Chevron Maxi from Piperlime

Clearly, this is the year of the knit stripe.  I am in fashion nirvana.  So, I knew that I needed to get my hands on lots of striped jersey.  That sounds really easy, right?  Well, it’s not.  When, I first started searching all of my usual haunts — JoAnn’s, Fabric.com, Etsy– there was simply no reasonably priced striped knit to be had.  They were all playing hard to get at $12/yard.

It’s not often that I think that the Universe actually hears my pleas.  Even less that it actually answers them.  But, in this case, I don’t see how there could be any doubt that the Universe gave me a shout out.  Todd and I went antiquing in Strasburg, VA on our way home from a weekend with the fam.  We stopped at the local antique mall, where I thought I’d hit the jackpot with 4 yards of chambray for $7 and 4 1/2 yards of gingham for $8.  Not even close.  At checkout, the woman behind the counter suggested we should check out the flea market behind their store.  So we did.  Oh. My.  Goodness.  Sitting at the back of the store, covered in some really old, nasty yellow velour, I hit the mother load.  There, in this dingy, seedy flea market, I found three whole bolts of striped jersey.  There was a black/white, navy/white, and turquoise/white.  Universe, I owe you one.  When we got it home, we counted it up — almost 30 yards!  The best part?  Guess how much I paid.  Just guess.   Ok, you won’t believe this — $7.  That’s right.  SEVEN DOLLARS!!

Piles an piles of striped jersey!

So now you see, dear readers, why I had to begin the Knit Diaries.  1) I have knit fabric coming out of my eyeballs; and 2) that brand new serger was not earning it’s keep.  So, the Knit Diaries, otherwise known as my next several entries, will entail me figuring out how to use up all that striped jersey while learning how to really use my serger.

I’ve already figured out my first few projects:

1) A breezy summer hoodie (inspired by Old Navy)

Old Navy Jersey Lounge Cardigan

2) A flowy, striped maxi skirt (inspired by Make it and Love it)

Striped Maxi by Make It and Love It

3) A beachy cover-up (with added pockets) (inspired by H&M)

H M cardigan

4)  A full maxi dress with shirring/smocking (inspired by Old Navy)

Old Navy Maxi Dress

Spoiler Alert!  I’ve actually already made a few of these.  Hee hee.  I’ve been having so much fun!  So, stay tuned for the first Knit Diary project.  Let summer begin!

Strawberry Rhubarb Buckwheat Crumble

My apologies, readers, for slacking on posts other than food as of late.  Now that “school’s out for summer,” I hope to pick up the slack.  The last few weeks of school are really hard.  The kids, after taking their SOL tests, think that they are done.  However, our administration feels otherwise and expects us to teach every minute of those last three weeks.  Thus, the last two weeks of school results in an emotional standoff between teachers and students. It’s a psyche-draining, hair-graying, tooth-pulling, emotional suck.  One of the things that gets me through this period, is sweet treats.  What can I say, I’m a bit of an emotional eater.  Pair my need for a sugary pacifier with fresh strawberries and rhubarb from my garden and you have a psyche, hair, and teeth saving recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Buckwheat Crumble.

Unfortunately, I have been waging a war this year against the slugs/snails for my big, juicy strawberries.  (Beer traps?  Check.)  So, I only had enough strawberries for 1/2 my usual recipe.  Stupid, slimy mollusks….you will die!  You’ll probably be drunk when you do (you’re welcome), but you will die.  Anyhow, some strawberries is better than no strawberries.  Let’s get started.  Here’s what you’ll need:

For the filling:

  • 2 medium stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 cups of strawberries, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of  salt

For the Crumble Topping:

  • 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup of old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup of packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits
  • Turbinado sugar to sprinkle on top

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Then, cut up the rhubarb and strawberries into a medium sized bowl.

Strawberries & Rhubarb

Add in the sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt.

The delicious mix!

Nest, mix up the ingredients, and then distribute the filling between four ramekins.  Don’t worry if it looks soupy — the cornstarch will thicken it right up!

Distribute the filling amongst ramekins.

Next, in a separate bowl, mix the crumble ingredients — buckwheat, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

Crumble topping

Then, distribute this yummy topping onto the ramekins.  Make sure you breathe in that yummy, sugary smell as you spoon!

Ready for the oven!

Place the ramekins in the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes on 375.  Resist the urge to pull it out of the oven when you start to smell the cooking strawberries and rhubarb — it will be hard.  When, your timer goes off, pull them out of the oven, let them cool briefly or you’ll melt your tongue off, and then enjoy!  Even better with vanilla bean ice cream!

Let them cool for a bit before digging in.

Dig in and enjoy!