Oh hey, look at me, pretending like I'm a blogger who writes things on the regular! I finally got around to updating my ladynails page(s) with about dozen of my latest looks, including those below. Click on any one of the images to take you to the main ladynails page! I'll be back soon with a progress report on my craft loft renovations and a ladynails tutorial.
Although I've been sewing my own clothes for almost twenty years now, I didn't pick up knitting for a good long while. It certainly wasn't for lack of trying. It just look me a couple of years (or decades) and the patient assistance of a few awesome women to get me going. Recently (as in, as of March 2014), I got to that point where I felt knitting just "click" with me, and I got it. I've been a prolific knitter in the past few weeks, especially with my sewing room still hovering in the suspended animation between "moving in" and "utterly and completely renovated." I thought it was a good time to clock my progress and thank the ladies who helped me attain this new skill.
My mom is such a prolific textile artist that when I was a kid, she ran a mail-order yarn company out of our basement in addition to working a full time office job. I grew up completely acquainted with a spinning wheel and a loom; at one point she even briefly owned a knitting machine. Today her focus is on painting and dyeing textiles and making art quilts, but she still knits a mean sock. My mom tried several times to teach me how to cast on, but somehow the only thing that managed to stay lodged in my brain was how to knit and purl. But that's important enough, so the fact that I could easily remember how 15 years later showed that she did it right.
Jordan somehow managed to get stuck in my head what my mom couldn't: how to cast on. She also taught me how to knit in the round after helping me buy my first set of circular needles. We went to what is still one of my favorite yarn shops today, ImagiKnit in San Francisco. They have a truly impressive selection of beeeeeaaaautiful yarns in all types of weights, with plenty of vegan yarns. What's more, they also have a rescued shop dog named Mochi!
Jordan showed me how to cast on and do a basic k1 p1 rib on a set of circular needles, from which I freestyled some cozy and colorful legwarmers, over beers at an international beer shop because that's the kind of gal she is and that's why she is my very good friend. She moved up to Portland a while back to live with all the other angels in Vegan Heaven, and I miss our drinking sessions (and knitting, too)! But at least Portland's close enough, and I have good reason for plenty of visits, so we get to catch up in person several times a year.
Kittee is another one of those good reasons for plenty of visits to Portland! She is a wildly creative sassy smartass and is one of my craftspirational gurus. She is probably one of the best knitters I know- she knits masterpieces! I think yarn runs in her veins- her grandma used to own a yarn shop and knit dozens of intricate, tiny garments for Kittee's dolls, complete with wee buttons. I've seen them with my own eyes and fondled them with my own fingers and they are a true delight.
A few months ago, Kittee hopped in the car with her husband and their dog and came down to visit for a few days. She was knitting a cardigan, and I commented on how I wished I was good enough a knitter to do a cardigan. Kittee said "if you can knit and purl, you can knit a cardigan." She took me to the craft store that day and that evening I was at work on my first top-down raglan sweater... with buttonholes.
Although I was far from finished when it was time for the Kittee clan to roll out, I kept working at it through motivational FaceTime chats and YouTube tutorials (who needs university degrees anymore?! All the pertinent knowledge we need is on YouTube!). About a month later I was the proud owner of a completed, home-made cardigan!
Now I am a knittin' machine! YOU CANNOT STOP ME. No seriously, try to stop me, I dare you. I will stab you with my needles and then knit your punctured arteries back together to save your life! Here's what I've been cranking out in the past couple of months
Sophisticated Baby. The wonderful thing about baby sweaters is not only are you making something adorable for someone you likely love, but they are so small that you just whip right through them. The satisfaction of a finished project is there that much faster!
This pattern is free on Ravelry and is super easy to follow. I am mum on who this is for because they haven't gotten it yet. So you didn't see anything, got it?!
Ships Ahoy! This top-down raglan cap sleeve sweater is another free pattern on Ravelry. The lacy raglan was a nice detail and a good opportunity to try my hand at cable needles. I chose to make this one a little interesting by alternating stripes throughout the torso of the garment and went for the challenge of the optional short rows to create a curved hemline.
So hey, if you've been thinking knitting seems fun but you'll never be able to do it, turn that frown upside down! Grab a friend, you'll learn in no time!
If you are a knitter, or if you take up knitting, feel free to buddy me on Ravelry: my username is erikatastrophe.
I've been lucky enough to see Iron Maiden live three times now, and the thing I always love about a Maiden show is that it's just good, clean fun.
I know that sounds like an ironic thing to say about a concert where you're likely to hear songs like "The Number of The Beast," but it's true: nothing warms my heart like seeing three generations of metalheads spreading their picnic blanket on the auditorium grass on a warm summer evening, little boy riding on dad's shoulders, both in matching Iron Maiden shirts.
Although Pepper is my family, she's not allowed at any Iron Maiden concerts, and I very much doubt she would appreciate the experience. But I know she is a rocker at heart, which is why I knew she would have no problem pulling off a Maiden jacket.
I used my basic dog smock pattern, adding seams and seam allowances for both a yoke and denim jacket-inspired side panels. The main component of the jacket was a 2T chiId's tee with the Killers album cover. It's my favorite album art because (fun fact!) the original unpublished version showed that Eddie was murdering Margaret Thatcher. After cutting the main panel out of the front of the tee, I fused some heavy-duty interfacing to the wrong side to give it form and to keep it from stretching as I sewed it to two woven materials. For the jacket-style side panels, I simply used some discarded jeans for scrap denim and attached them to the reinforced tee with basic straight seams. Finally, for the yoke I used a Union Jack print purchased from Spoonflower, with a red piping accent. Striped twill straps and contrasting red lining finish the jacket off, and of course I completed the smock with a buttonhole in the center of the yoke so I can clip her leash to her harness through the smock and take her out and show her off!
Via Mr. X Stitch, one of my favorite crafty blogs, why not take your cross stitching mega-sized and yarnbomb a chain-link fence? I positively love this idea and lucky for me, my front yard is enclosed by about 15 feet of 3'-high chain link! I could make my house number much more noticeable, or I could do a rotating installation depending on the season and/or holiday.
I suppose, if I really wanted to be ambitious, I could spend the rest of 2014 cross-stitching a tetris game onto my fence, moving one square each day and taking a photo, and then animating all the photos at the end of the year in celebration of Tetris' 30th birthday.
But like I said, that would be ambitious, and this is me we're talking about. I'll put up photos of what I do get around to doing for sure!
It's been a busy couple of months for me! I was invited to help a friend test recipes for an upcoming cookbook, which was a tasty distraction throughout the holidays. Then I had to get majorly hardcore to work on finishing up the renovation of my bedroom, something that has been slowly dragging on since I moved in last August.
And now, I'm finally done (ish)!
Oh, and by the way? Some of these are shitty Instagrams because that's how I roll and I didn't even have a nice iPhone with a half-decent camera until recently. As dogs with sunglasses say... deal with it!!!
When I bought my house, the bedroom's crowning glory, and the first thing to violently punish your retinas, was a smurf-colored wall-to-wall carpet. The mirrored sliding closet doors were in nice shape and exactly like those in my parents' bedroom, which of course made me want to get rid of them immediately. The walls, in the bedroom as well as in 75% of the rest of the house, were liberally and enthusiastically slathered with white textured paint. Because why not look at your wall and say, "I want to be reminded of the grotesque Woman in the Radiator from Eraserhead every time I open my eyes"? The kickboard was a painted a blah beige, a hue I call "let's-get-the-house-on-the-market-ecru." The window frame, doorframe, and door (including hinges!) were covered in approximately 247 layers of paint, crowned lumpily by the offensively unoffensive beige. The curtains were crinkly synthetic that looked like they were maybe from a dollar store and clearly conveyed the spirit of being legally obligated to provide window coverings to the buyer.
The first thing I did, and I mean the very first thing I did once escrow closed and I had the keys in my grubby little paws, was go in there and rip up the smurf pelt. It was primal and immensely satisfying to tug and feel the pop-pop-pop of tacks giving way. Less satisfying was crawling around later, painstakingly wheedling staples out of the wooden floor with a flathead screwdriver. The good news was that there was a wooden floor! And it was in semi-decent, if neglected, shape. At this point, I called in a pro, and after four days of sanding, filling, staining, and lacquering, the wood was restored to a glossy, rosy floor that was a pleasure to walk on barefoot.
Sadly, the beautiful new floor was immediately covered up with tarps- because then the real shit show began. I tackled my walls' acne scars with fervor and a belt sander from my local tool library. The belt sander weighs around 25 pounds and the texturizing was on the ceiling as well as all the way up the walls. So, that was a lot of fun. By the time we got to the closets, I said "fuck it! My clothes will cover it up anyway!"
With the majority of the texture now sanded flat, I cleaned the walls of all dust and grit with tack cloth, put down a layer of primer, and got to work filling the divots and dents with joint compound. Then another round of sanding, this time by hand with 60 grit, another go-over with tack cloth to remove dust, and another coat of primer. Then more joint compound! Then more sanding, this time with 80 grit! Then three more layers of primer! And I'm finally ready to paint!
The painstaking work of de-texturizing my walls was made significantly less horrible thanks to the tireless assistance provided by my dad, who spent many weekends driving between my house and his to help with my labor of love. Dads are the best, right?
I painted three walls, the closet, and the ceiling in a matte-finish slate grey paint. On the three walls, I painted 4" diagonal stripes of the same paint in a satin gloss-finish with painter's tape guidelines. I learned a hard, hard lesson by using sub-par painter's tape, which, upon removal, took sizeable chunks of the fresh matte paint with it. A round of vigorous cursing ensued, followed by a further round of sanding, filling, sanding, and priming before attempting it again with better quality tape (I recommend Frog Tape for delicate surfaces). Trim and the door was painted in a barely-there ice blue (yeah, haven't gotten around to the window yet).
The fourth wall was reserved for a sumptuous wallpaper from Brooklyn-based Flavor Paper. This pattern is called Elysian Fields and features bats and venus flytraps instead of the dainty birds and roses found in traditional floral prints. This colorway, Licorice, is hand-screened matte black ink on high-gloss black polyester. This paper is as expensive as it is gorgeous, so I chose once again to go pro and hired someone through the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers (yes, that is a real thing) to worry about matched seams and pattern repeats on my behalf.
With the frames and door scraped down to their beautiful, but vulnerably soft, original redwood, I sanded away imperfections, filled in years of wear and tear with wood putty, primed, and painted anew in a barely-there ice blue. The kickboards got a nice coating as well. Using an electric drill with a wire brush attachment, the hinges and original doorknob were restored to a coppery glow. The hinges got a liberal dose of silicone lubricant to make them whisper-quiet and the door was re-hung.
It's not entirely done- a new decoration scheme of course calls for a new quilt on the bed, and that will take quite some time (especially as my sewing room has yet to be renovated or set up). I need to figure out some sort of closet door situation, and I have further plans to organize and display my wardrobe (and slowly let it get totally out of control). And a teeny tiny part of me kind of wants a chandelier!
But that's part of what makes a house a home, right? It's never done!
No, not Crapmas, although one unnamed retailer began running ads with a Gingerbread man in September this year (seriously: fuck you guys). Rather, my favorite American holiday, one to be celebrated with the frantic accumulation of cheap consumer goods, is not Christmas, Black Friday, or even one of those "let's honor the sacrifices of our veterans with a bitchin half-off sale" Memorial Day shindigs.
I'm talkin' 'bout Halloween.
October is my second-favorite time to shop for clothes, housewares, and makeup. My absolutely favorite time to shop for all these things is All Saints Day- aka the day after Halloween, when all that awesome crap is 50% off! Hey-oh! It's not all crappy plastic fake bones and rubber bats, though. You can get some fun stuff that you can use year-round that doesn't necessarily scream "HALLOWEEN BLOOD PUMPKINS!" and isn't super chintzy.
Here are some of my favorite scores from years past, as well as the best of this year's finds so far! Naturally, these Halloween finds are used and enjoyed year-round in my household:
Do you love it? I love it! I got it at Ross! These three nesting bowls are really nice and have a repeat skull print on them. And yes, I got them at Ross.
Look at these sparkly skull votives! They look classy and sophisticated because they are. These are straight-up Pottery Barn, y'all. Nicer stuff that upper-middle class folks buy at full price to complete their DIY Martha Stewart tableaux. I bought these at the Pottery Barn in The Castro the day after the 2008 election. It was an emotional time- we had just elected our first Black president, but Californians had also made same-sex marriage "illegal."* I found comfort in the simple things, like insane discount clearances of nice housewares with bones on them. In addition to these votives, I also picked up a lovely set of glossy black salad dishes with various animal skeletons printed on the underside with silver, but I think maybe my ex ended up with those in the split. It's okay, we're still friendly-- so I can stop by some day to hang out and then steal them back when he goes to the bathroom.
*How'd that work out for you, bigots?
There may be a bit of zombie overload in popular culture today, but as long as that results in zombie garden gnomes available for purchase, I'm okay with that. I got this little guy (suggestions for names? I'll take them) recently at a Spirit Halloween store. You know, the roaming seasonal stores that, for a brief two months, revive all the vacant retail spots that are likely proliferating in your local American city. This dude was was with a bevy of other zombified gnomes (and one zombie lawn jockey), but they're all pretty pricey, so I may have to go back for his friends in November. I actually think this is a bit too scary to put out front where the little Trick-Or-Treaters can see it, but it's definitely going to be a year-round fixture in my back garden (once I get it going).
Lately I've taken to saying (in reference to Spirit) "what the fuck is Halloween? This is my favorite new clothing store!" It's my corny schtick, for now- once November hits, I'm going to move on to addressing any and all females (including cats and babies) as "girlfriend." Anyhoo, these skeleton leggings are not only going to be happily worn year-round by me, they're also the most slimming pair of leggings I own!
Seriously. There are Adventure Time knee socks with Finn and Jake and I'm expected to only wear them one day out of the year? I love the Jake sock- he's saying "I'm a sock!" I like to look down at my calves, chuckle, and say "you sure are, buddy!" Also check out these sexy metal/goth chick cross tights! Oh, sorry-- I meant 'sassy.' Sassy is the new sexy.
One of the best parts of Halloween is all the fancy lady stuff you get to buy! Like extra gory nail stickers. I got these two packages at Walgreen's this year. Spiderwebs with a blingy dewdrop and a golden spider, and vampiric stickers that alternate between dripping blood, splattered blood, and sexy red lips with jutting fangs. I've heard of vagina dentata, but digital dentata is just craziness. Halloween is also a good time to source and stock up on glow-in-the-dark nail polish!
My friend Katie alerted me to the fact that every year Wet-n-Wild puts out a line of Halloween makeup called "Fantasy Makers." Wet-n-Wild does not do any animal testing, so any of their products which contain no animal products are vegan. I spent a while in the aisle of my local Walgreen's trying to read the erratic ingredients printed on shrink-wrapped plastic, but I'm pretty confident that I came away with a few good vegan items.
The mascara was way more subtle than I had expected it to be. I like the green, even if I think it could be punched up a bit more, but the pink was hardly there and if anything had the effect of making my eyelashes disappear. There was also blue but I didn't buy it. The eyeshadow palette ("meteor shower") is the only one in this year's line that I am pretty sure is vegan. The ingredients have one of those "May contain" caveats which lists cochineal, but as this palette was the only one without any pinks, reds, or purples, I figured it was safe.
Overall, like the mascara, the eyeshadow and the eyeliner (in "techno," ha) were decidedly underwhelming. When I gave it a go I didn't look like I was ready to hit Carnivale so much as I was recovering from a glittery black eye. So I used a little more to make it more realistic- this may end up being my Halloween costume: Sassy Glamorous Faerie Prizefighter.
Happy Shopping, and Happy Haunting!
It's another Freaky Friday! This week I'm swapping with Ultimate Cool Friend Kittee, also known as Cake Maker to the Stars, ooh aah! She is the absolute bee's knees, as is her scruffipup Vee. Vee's the bee's knees. Enjoy!
Hello Excellent Sews Before Bros Readers!In case you don't know me or my blog, Cake Maker to the Stars, my name is kittee bee and I'm writing today as a Freaky Friday blogger on Erika's blog.
I am a big fan of Erika's crafty ways, and am super delighted to be posting on her behalf today. If you're desperately missing Erika today, run over to my blog where she is posting in my stead.
Erika and I met on the internet many moons ago, but we are lucky enough to be friends in the real world, too. We have lots of stuff in common besides our vegan ways including our love of crafting, sewing, being clever bitches and dogs!
All month on my blog I've been posting Ethiopian dishes, so I thought I should carry the theme over here as well. I tried and tried to think of a way to tie Ethiopian vittles with our common interests, and the only thing I could come up with was Kale Tails.So that's what you're getting. Ethiopian inspired kale chips next to a very cute dog's butt.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F and get cooking.
Here's what you'll need:
7 cups coarsely chopped kale, which has been cut from the thick inner rib or kale bone (from a nice fat bunch of kale--I like to use the dino variety)
3/4 cups soaked and drained sunflower seeds
1/4 cup nooch
7 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Ethiopian berbere
1 tablespoon evoo
1 teaspoon onion granules
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
1/2 teaspoon salt
Here's what you do:
Pulverize the sunflower seeds in a food processor with the water, lemon juice, berbere, evoo, onion, garlic and salt until smooth.
Put the kale in a giant bowl and pour the sunflower seed sauce over the top. Massage the kale to completely cover it in the sauce (if you're dehydrating, toss in the grated carrot now).
Line a baking sheet with parchment and arrange the kale on top in a single layer. Sprinkle with extra nooch and berbere, then bake for 25 minutes. Flip the chips and bake for ten more minutes. Then keep flipping at 5 minute intervals until the kale chips are completely crispy, about 1 hour baking time total.
If you want to be fancy, you can call these chips Ye'zelbo besuf kolo. Which basically means a crunchy kale and sunflower seed snack.
Part of my Vegan MoFo 2013 is doing blog entries dedicated to each year I've been vegan.
Well, here we are in the present day! I've still got the job I love, I've got two super awesome dogs, I just moved into my very own house, and I just celebrated a one year anniversary with my smokin' hot, smartypants boyfriend. And I started this site, so things are going pretty good.
Although I love my boyfriend to death, there is one place he simply won't eat with me: my favorite falafel (aka 'flaff') truck. His dad ran his own falafel truck for several years, and he's simply burnt out on the stuff. I can imagine no crueler fate than to have reached your Lifetime Falafel Limit far too young. Especially before you've had the chance to try Liba Falafel.
Liba Falafel travels all over the East Bay and San Francisco, but the two places I usually catch them are at the monthly Alameda Antiques Fair or every other week at Off the Grid a quarter mile from my office. Off the Grid is an organization that puts together rotating temporary 'pods' of food trucks for weekday lunchtimes and special events in San Francisco.
Their menu is short and sweet, but even so you can expect a long line- it goes to show you don't need to make a ton of things if you make one thing really, really well. You can get your falafel in a pita or on a salad, with a side of sweet potato fries (although most people [me] just skip the trouble and put the fries right in the pita or salad). The condiment bar is so heavily laden that it's possible to make another meal entirely of add-ons. With the exception of feta and raita, everything at the condiment bar is vegan. Load up heartily, but just follow the Liba rule and don't return for more once you've started.
At least, I'm pretty sure it'll be new to you, unless you're my friend Maria from Helsingborg.
This is an avocado half with the pit filled with tångkorn. Tuh-what?!
Tångkorn (pronounced toang-corn) is a Swedish caviar substitute. My Swedish bretheren looove their nasty salty fish eggs, and often buy it in a tube from a guy named Kalle (don't mix it up with your toothpaste, no matter what you do). It wasn't until one of my many pilgrimages to Sweden that I first encountered a vegan option, made of seaweed.
About a year ago, I saw it for the first time stateside: in the food section of Ikea! So if you've got an Ikea near you, just swing on by and pick some up. While you're there, you can also pick up some Kex cookies (they are amazing with vegan cream cheese, btw), some lingon and hjortron (cloudberry) jam to put on your pannkakar (pancakes), or some elderflower juice syrup. Yum, smackar som sommar-- tastes like summer! My friend Kat recently told me that the potato pancake mix sold by Ikea is also vegan- I'mma have to check that out!
While Swedes generally like to have their kaviar on knäckebröd (hardtack) with hardboiled eggs or cheese for breakfast, my friend and fellow vegan Maria turned me on to the idea of serving it in half of an avocado. It's a great snack or side-dish: the salty caviar cuts through the rich avocado, and the gelatinous little bubbles are a perfect textural counterpart to the smooth creaminess of the fruit. Give it a shot!
Fuckin' magnets-- how do they work?!
Earlier this month I was farting around at work, looking at Buzzfeed, as you do, and came across a collection of photos from this year's Gathering of the Juggalos.
Despite their questionable taste in music, juggalos endear themselves to me: they're like a bunch of toddlers who discovered the magic fortune teller game from Big, weed, and boobies, all in that order. All they want to do is hang out with their friends, wearing as little clothing as possible, getting blasted out of their skulls, rockin' out and breaking shit with a giant ball of duct tape. What's not to like? I mean, aside from the scabies you're pretty much 100% guaranteed to catch, or the fact that you could wake up next to a dead guy? Just remember, if you do attend The Gathering, that your cash money has limited use, as the juggalos are a titty-based economy.
In keeping with the clown-based tradition of The Gathering, most of the food there is straight out of the carnival: corn dogs, funnel cakes, turkey legs, and pink popcorn. Something new in this year's batch of photos, however, caught my eye: the stoner bowl, a concoction of french fries topped with cheesesteak meat, peppers, and onions, doused liberally in nacho cheese. I knew the second I laid eyes on it I would have to veganize it.
Drew Ailes, who wrote about The Food of The Gathering for the Village Voice, succinctly described the stoner bowl as "hardly brilliant," but also "probably one of the best things we ate from the [food] stands."
Here's how I assembled my homemade stoner bowl: One large order of oven-baked fries from a local vegan-friendly burger joint. An assembly of sauteed sweet white onion, jalapeno pepper, sweet Italian pepper, and thinly-sliced homemade seitan (I used the Seitan Cutlets from Veganomicon). Three generous soup-spoons full of Food for Lovers' Queso. I had a beer handy to put out the fire, and a Faygo root beer for dessert. Healthy living!
I'm gonna be honest with you: the final result smelled like a big ol' juicy vagina. I don't normally eat vagina, so I don't know how the stoner bowl compares, but if vagina tastes this good, then sign me up! It was a sloppy, disgusting, spicy, gooey mess and it hit the damn spot. I think my homemade stoner bowl would be worthy of any true down-ass 'lette. Typing this the morning after, however, I can definitely confirm that actions such as eating a stoner bowl have consequences.