Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Finished Object: L'Enveloppe

So, on balance, L'enveloppe worked out well for me:

The flat seam finish of the left arm piece (aka that sleeve cap that's too low on my dress form because I arranged it haphazardly) is a very elegant feature. There's a close up of it below:

In this shot, the left arm piece does sit on top of the shoulder, as it should. But I still neglected to fix the drape of the right sleeve.
A lot of the finished photos of this garment show it positioned as it's knit (on a grid) rather than as it hangs (on the bias). This photo shows how it might have been useful to position the garment in the flat schematic - the way it's worn:

I actually set this on the ground backwards - so you see the left sleeve piece on the left side of the photo...
Notice how the original, folded-over trapezoid is now rotated at 45 degrees? Notice also how the left sleeve piece attaches to that diagonal body approximately half way down the edge? That's why the point doesn't look like a floppy mess.

I will definitely wear this because I nailed the fit, which is the only thing that matters in a mostly shapeless garment. It's a fine line between chic and blob.

No doubt, this is a clever design but, if this garment looks good on me, it's largely because of what I've done to ensure optimal fit:
  • I made the smallest size. Pattern fits large so definitely go down a size.
  • I made a fabric that isn't too open / is fairly firm. It's on the edge of open, but on the right side of that edge. I could see myself using a smaller yarn (worsted weight) on the same needle size next time. I could also see myself sticking with aran weight - as long as it's on the slim side (like the Rowan I used).
  • I modified the width in the shoulders. As drafted, it's very loose and wide. So I further seamed up the neck on both sides. In total I narrowed the neck by 5.5 inches (3 inches on the right hand side of it - the side that isn't seamed because it's where the trapezoid folds in half). It also brought the neckline up and stopped the otherwise heavy collar from drooping. These small changes make a huge difference. Next time, when I create the cleft, I'll cast off 11 fewer stitches (to narrow the collar / neck width). 
  • I cast on loosely. I'm a loose knitter by nature so this isn't difficult for me. But I read a number of accounts of tight cast on's causing trouble picking up stitches for the left arm piece.
  • Although I'm not nuts about Rowan SuperFine Aran, it's a well-made yarn (if on the splitty side). It gives great drape (although I'd have preferred to use it with a tighter stitch pattern than garter). It's not overly heavy, it's springy and it's nice fiber.
  • I ensured the proportions of the garment work with mine. I knew that versions of this top with proportionately small left arm pieces tended to look off-balance. Admittedly, it's difficult to figure out how to moderate proportions if you can't figure out how the pattern comes together. So I read, and reread, many of accounts on the Ravelry L'enveloppe project page.
The reason I've given this pattern so much blog time, over the last couple of posts, is because I do believe that, when made in the right yarn in the right size, L'enveloppe can look terrific. It's an exceedingly practical finished garment. It's easy to make and it doesn't use up that much yarn (less than that required to make a sweater). It functions as outerwear at the right temperature and also as an inside garment. It's a blanket you don't have to fiddle with.

Props to Sally Melville for coming up with a intelligent and elegant design. I only wish the instructions could assist people more on the topic of how to make it so that it fits well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

CURIO for the Holidays: The Bundles

I'm thrilled to say that it's been busy on the CURIO* front. Between my Etsy and local orders, I feel a bit like Santa. Like chic Santa.

In the holiday spirit, I've assembled 3 bundles that may appeal to your loved ones (or to yourself)!

CURIO* Visage:

CURIO* Visage
This is your perfect daily face kit - which I, for one, swear by. It's luxe, organic, simple, exceedingly moisturizing - and each product smells more delicious than the next!

It includes:
  • Serum A OR Serum B (your choice) (1 oz in glass with pump closure)
  • Neroli Hydrosol (2 oz in glass with spray closure)
  • Eye Balm A: Rose (0.5 oz in glass jar)
I have written extensively about these on the Etsy shop and on the blog (see sidebar)- so please peruse the relevant listings to find out more about ingredients and usage.

CURIO* Corps:

CURIO* Corps
Body Oil A is a gorgeous combination of Apricot Kernel Oil and essential oils - either Ylang Ylang and Grapefruit OR Neroli and Rosewood - each in a 2 oz glass bottle with pump for easy dispensing. What I've discovered is that people who buy one always come back for the other, so why not sell them together as a lovely treat for the body after a morning shower or delicious bath.

Again, the Etsy shop listing and sidebar will give you all the deets you need to know...

CURIO* Three Wise Salves: 

CURIO* Three Wise Salves
What can I say, the naming got away with me!

Winter is a time for preserving moisture and rebuking the cold and damp. Between Arnica Salve (for muscle-aches), Immortelle Salve (for rheumatic aches) and Calendula Salve (for scrapes and cuts), you'll have it covered with this bundle.

All salves (2 oz each) are made with organic, extra virgin olive oil infused with flowers (and enhanced with essential oils). Of course, the Etsy shop listing and my blog sidebar will tell you more, so look over at those for more details.

Just a hint: Each of these salves works terrifically for giving (or getting) massages, just sayin', and the immortelle salve, in particular, has an off-script use as eye balm, so I've been told.

In the interests of full disclosure, the new year may well bring price increases, given the current value of the Canadian dollar and the fact that I import many of my components from other countries. So do stock up now if you're in the mood.

As always, do let me know if you have any questions - I'm pleased to chat. And happy holiday shopping! Here's to giving gifts from the comfort of your own couch. xo

Monday, November 23, 2015

Knitting in Progress: L'Enveloppe

You know I've been making L'enveloppe - this strange shawl-poncho-scarf hybrid. Well, it's just about done so I thought I share some of my feelings about the pattern and the process.

Here's a shot of where I was at last weekend (I'm almost finished now and my next post will show photos of the finished garment):

The garment is based on this main piece which, when finished will be left-right symmetrical.
About the Pattern: In short, I find this pattern to be wildly overwritten which is hilarious given that I - of all peeps - love too much detail. The problem with the instruction is that it isn't particularly clear. There's precious little rationale. In fact, the designer urges one (in all kinds of fora) simply to follow the instructions and it'll all work out as long as one doesn't over-think it?!

For all that, I made my first mistake at cast-on, where I mistook crochet cast on (something I have no experience of and which the author simply urges you to learn how to do) for provisional crochet cast on. Note to reader: They're not the same thing. Crochet cast on is NOT provisional crochet cast on. It produces fully cast on, not live (but held), stitches.

So, after making the main piece of the garment (a strangely shaped, symmetrical, clefted trapezoid). I had to go back, undo the crochet chain holding live stitches, pick up those live stitches and immediately cast off two cast on edges (I did the provisional cast on at the at the neck too, stupidly). Thankfully, it seems to have worked, though I cast off backwards on one of the edges - the neck - so now the front and back don't match exactly (the whole point of doing the provisional cast on in the first place).

Another confusing element of the pattern - which one can wrap one's head around with some experience of knitting - though for a newbie I suspect that circuits would be blown - is the degree of choice ascribed to yarn usage. This garment isn't simply sized by small, med, large, wherein one uses a yarn of a particular gauge and one ensures that ones gauge swatch, yarn-circumference notwithstanding, matches that prescribed. It's also "sized" to allow one to use any number of yarn circumferences producing horizontal gauge of 13, 14, 15 or 16 stitches per 4 inches. My point being: Too much info. Too much choice.

An experienced knitter will know how to make those changes and a newbie just wants to sit down and cast on.

I wish the designer had spent more time explaining how this pattern works - how one turns a clefted trapezoid into a 3-dimensional shawl - than explaining how to make said trapezoid using 4 thicknesses of yarn.

A propos of which, could she not include a schematic that clearly labels what the various edges of the garment are destined to become? Lettered segments go a long way so that you can say - fold the edges such that A touches D (for example). It took me 30 minutes to figure out how to block this thing because what becomes what is not well-described (and I'm not an idiot).

Why not explain, specifically, how this becomes a piece, worn on the bias, because you're going to rotate the pattern when you cast on for the left arm-piece? The designer spends a lot time telling you how complicated it is (till you've made it) and how you should just trust her - time could have been better spent just telling you about what the fuck is going on.

So let me just say this:
  • You're going to knit the wacky trapezoid.
  • You're going to fold it longways in half, along the clefted edge so that it looks like half a trapezoid. The clefted long edge will be horizontal and partly open at the neck (this is the fold-line edge), the other long edge is diagonal.
  • As mentioned, the horizontal fold-line edge is half open (the cleft part). That's the neck. The closed half of that edge, when rotated, will form the right shoulder and, when seamed, will produce a kind of kimono sleeve. You can ignore it till the final stage.
  • The short edge perpendicular to the neck edge (that open part on the horizontal fold) needs to be partly seamed up to create the collar fall. The side that meets the neck edge will be left opened i.e. unseamed. The part that meets the diagonal edge of the folded work will be seamed half way to the top edge. This seamed part forms the left shoulder which, at this point, will likely be entirely unclear to you. Once you've sewn up @ half of that short edge (a quick 4 inches or so), forget about the neck and collar.
  • At that now-seamed end of the short side - the part that touches the diagonal edge - you'll pick up the stitches that will form the left shoulder piece (a short-row shaped "cape" for the shoulder - it's not a sleeve). Those instructions are pretty clear just remember that, in this set up, you need only to pick up the stitches - don't pick up and knit. Picking up the stitches is as simple as putting one leg of the stitch on the needle.
  • Once you finish knitting the left arm piece, it becomes apparent that, in order for the left arm piece to cover the left arm (and the shoulder seam to sit on the shoulder) the garment will have to be rotated and will therefore hang on the bias. The part that hangs down (front and back) to produce that triangle point that veers to the right is made up of approximately half of the diagonal edge of the original trapezoid, the half that hasn't been used to produce the left arm piece. 
  • Finally, you'll produce the right kimono sleeve by seaming @ the middle third of the remaining edge - the long edge perpendicular to the horizontal fold line, opposite that short edge onto which you knitted the left arm piece.
If I could be bothered, I'd make this a thousand times easier by labeling each of the edges with letters and creating a schematic that showed those letters next to the relevant edges. But it ain't my pattern and this is the most I can be motivated to do. Hopefully it will help someone. I know it would have helped me.

About Yarn-Choice and Stitch-Choice: Enough bitching about the instructions. Now I'd like to bitch about the stitch pattern I chose (garter) and the yarn I used. You get to choose between seed and garter. If you're a newbie, choose garter because it's easier. Otherwise choose seed. It produces a more elegant and firmer fabric which is a key feature when you're going to wear something HEAVY (lots o' yarn in this thing, perhaps aran weight or thicker) and ON THE BIAS, which stretches on wear, (see para above).

Garter stitch uses way more yarn than stockinette stitch, btw, and somewhat more than seed stitch. So keep that in mind when buying. I will have ended up using 675 yards for size small - the pattern indicates that small in 16 gauge should take about 560 yards. I've also seen a post wherein the designer indicates that the arm piece doesn't take up much yarn. I disagree. Mine will have taken 175 yards - or 25 per cent of my pattern ration.

Garter also stretches like a bitch which, when you add super wash yarn to the mix, see below, is a challenge.

I chose a splitty, silky, super wash yarn (Rowan SuperFine Merino Aran) and I wouldn't use it again. Partly that's cuz it's splitty. Partly it's cuz superwash yarn always seems to stretch absurdly (even if I do get gauge after wet-blocking a swatch, and in this case I did). Look, the questionable yarn choice is on me. I was aiming for good drape and my choices for aran-weight (at my LYS) weren't robust.  I do want to say that this yarn isn't inherently bad, splitty-ness aside. It's of high quality and I suspect it will wear well.

In retrospect, were I to make this again - and since I haven't quite finished it, I don't know if it's headed for disaster or wearablility (it's one of those garments) - I'd make the seed stitch pattern using worsted-weight yarn that's got a lot of spring (maybe woolen spun - though that won't drape optimally) or something like Madeline Tosh or Quince (Lark or Owl). Ironically, that would put my gauge out of the spectrum of the 4 options provided (mine would probably become 17 stitches in 4 inches) so I'd be on my own in terms of altering the sizing.

A couple of important things to keep in mind when you're making L'envellope: 
  • Go down an needle size if you feel your fabric is "open" when you block your swatch. It's only going to get worse as the fabric grows and gets heavier. You don't want the drag to produce a flimsy looking garment. Lord knows, you've got enough gauge options to work from that this will be easy enough for most. A propos of this, this is an interesting video tutorial about determining that your fabric is optimal for your garment. It's geared towards sweaters but the info is widely applicable.
  • Use the size which best suits your shoulder-width, not your bust.
  • Pick up enough stitches to make the finished left arm piece at least half the length of the long diagonal edge. If you don't, that pointy bit that hangs down is going to droop (as many photos in Ravelry show) and it will look like a weird, floppy shark tail - not like a holistic part of the garment. FYI, I followed the pattern instructions and I did get a left arm piece of the appropriate dimensions, but it appears that lots of other people didn't - as photos show. The smaller your gauge, the larger the number of stitches you'll have to pick up. The pattern doesn't make this explicit but that's how it goes. And remember newbies - 16 stitches per inch is a smaller gauge than 13 inches per inch.
The problem with the majority of the more than 700 versions shown on the Ravelry projects page is that they're made using the wrong yarn in the wrong size. Ain't it always the way. Alas, with this pattern, that's a deal-breaker.

So, that's my 2 cents. Thoughts or feelings?

PS: Next post will show the finished garment...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Scene

I had one of those hilarious urban evenings last night. In celebration of my friend Sandra's birthday, we started at Rush Lane (a terrific place for cocktails). I would totally recommend this, hipster-scale breaking point notwithstanding, because the drinks are FANTASTIC and the accompanying snacks are just as good.

The weather was shit, natch, but we had a bit of a break from rain as Sandra and I walked to Queen St. to meet Nicole. Gotta say, there's nothing like the Queen West strip in Xmas shopping season. We could barely steer ourselves to drink what with all of the fantastic hygge happening in those windows. Note: We have a shopping date Sat. after next to do Xmas "recon".

Turns out that Zack, the owner of Rush Lane, just happened to be one of the peeps who opened Colette (at the Thompson Hotel) and we just happened to be going to Colette for dinner. He urged us to put our names on the list for the rooftop bar, for after dinner, and to ask for Brad when we got up there. Gotta love the TO bar network.

OK, let's revisit that previous sentence: Who the fuck puts her name on a list to get into a bar, rooftop or otherwise. Am I 23?? Have I been 23 in the last 20 years??? But here's the thing - I've been asked about that rooftop bar about 1000 times in the last 3 years and, frankly, I've wanted to see the pool SO badly. (Note: Unless you're staying there, they won't let you in the elevators.)

Alas, in late November, the (much smaller than imagined) infinity pool is more of an infinity tarp (which you could easily - and dangerously - step on by accident, fyi). In the rain, I just wasn't feeling it - though I can see that it would be spectacular in the summer.

But about Colette: The food is very good - especially the seafood tower. The atmosphere is opulent and hyper busy in true bistro fashion. It's a transient sort of space (hotel restaurants always are) but this is mitigated by elegance. Sadly, our service was over-attentive in the most irritating way. Our waiter - who pretended to know everything but didn't know much of anything - was not up to it. When I'm at a fancy place I expect excellence. Simply throwing 15 servers into the mix, to refill one's wine glass every fucking 2 minutes, does not cut it. For all of its upscale, the restaurant is not refined.

Look, I am beyond spoiled for choice. I have some of the world's most fantastic food and service at my doorstep (literally). Moreover, I can experience any sort of meal in any kind of atmosphere. I've got fun pizza (with wine sold for a buck an ounce - in a chic setting). I've got awesome Asian food like, in 5 walkable neighbourhoods - and at every price point. I can eat Hungarian like the peeps in Hungary. Lord, there are 2 other venerable TO bistros within half a kilometre of this one. So, though I had an awesome time with my ladies - and a novel experience - I won't be going back to Colette anytime soon.

Now let's get back to the rooftop bar... OMG - they put stamps on our hands. The kind that only show up under black light! There was an attendant in the elevator. He checked our stamps! When we came out, after one drink - I mean, we'd been drinking since cinq à sept aftr all - there was a line-up.

Ordinarily, I would have been super snot-ball about this kind of scene. (My kind of scene is the kind that eludes one - on purpose, of course.) But it was impossible to remain unmoved in the midst of this view:

My iPhone can't do it justice but, it was a 360 degree sky-span with lake to the south, downtown to the east (that shot is south east) and relative darkness, dotted with tall buildings and leafy neighbourhoods to the north and west.

The bar was atmospheric, in that modern way:

And here are my friends looking gorgeous:

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night, don't you agree?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

When The World Is Crazy, Might As Well Knit

Despite the gorgeous weather today and the Santa Claus Parade (it starts up the block from me), gotta say I'm not feeling my best. Maybe it's the season, maybe the recent funeral, definitely it's the political unrest... Pick your poison. Point is, I'm a total sad sack. I could barely bring myself to eat lunch (or drink my glass of wine?!?!). Scott suggested that we go out for a walk before dinner, just to ensure I get some fresh air. Note to reader: He never does that.

So, given that Ewe Knit, my LYS, moved from Mirvish Village to, um, basically the top of my street, it seemed like a no-brainer to go shopping. In truth, I've started visiting often, now I can knit again (my pain situation is much improved). There's something so compelling about thousands of artisanal hanks of wool, artfully displayed. It really does make everything seem alright. And when you can experience it against the backdrop of thousands of families enjoying a parade, right outside on a warm, bright day - well, it's a good thing.

For starters, here's the (regrettably overexposed) haul:

While this gives you a sense of the true colour of the Rowan "soot" colourway, it really washes out the gorgeous blue jewel-toned and amazing variegated yarns.
The goodies are: Rowan Superfine Merino Aran in Soot (3 skeins), Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Stillwater (1 skein) and Sweet Georgia Superwash Worsted in a jewel-toned blue called Rip Tide (2 skeins). FYI, Sweet Georgia is a Canadian brand that I LOVE. The yarn is all hand-dyed and the product is excellent. I liken it to Madeline Tosh but less expensive (in Canada at least). The sock yarn, particularly, wears amazingly because it's got a bit of nylon in it.

You may recall that the Rowan Superfine Merino Aran is what I'm using to knit the garter stitch version of L'enveloppe. FYI, you can also make it using seed stitch. I'm almost finished this unusual garment, btw (subject of my next post). I really don't appreciate the splitty nature of the Rowan yarn - as I've told practically everyone who will listen - but I want a pair of mitts that matches the shawl, so I guess I'm in it for 3 more skeins.

Here are the mitts:

Seed Stitch Mittens + Hand Warmers by Purl Soho
Stupidly, despite the name of the mitt pattern, when I started the garter stitch version of L'enveloppe, I forgot that these mitts are designed to be knit in seed stitch only (infinitely more elegant - if much more fussy - than garter stitch). My goal was to have a matching shawl / mitts set yet I went and made the shawl in garter. My reasoning was sound - garter stitch is WAY easier than seed and I have no idea of how it is going to fit in the end. Didn't want to invest lots of potentially painful wrist-action on an unknown. But now I've got to hope that dark grey yarn can provide a cohesiveness to this "set" that the pattern certainly cannot. Live and learn.

Mercifully, aran-weight yarn knits together fast - especially if you're used to making intricate sweaters in a gauge that rivals dental floss. I can see why Wool and the Gang (and their mega-bulky yarn knit with US15 needles) are so popular. By contrast, I'm used to using fine fingering-weight on size US1 needles.

After the mitts and shawl, I'm either going to use this variegated Sweet Georgia fingering to make socks (my KAL "recipe") - here's how it knits up:

OR the Sweet Georgia worsted to make the Winterlong scarf by Bristol Ivy:

Winterlong Scarf by Bristol Ivy
Y'all know how impressed I am by Bristol Ivy's patterns. She's the one who designed the infuriatingly genius Svalbard.

Would I be better positioned to have used some of the 8000 yards of yarn I already own (and that's probably an accurate count, fwiw)? Um yeah. But I'm a bit sick of matching projects to my stash leftovers right now - that's always a bit of a trick and it requires a certain degree of creativity I'm not feeling.

If only I could predict how much yarn to buy so that I'm not left with 100 yards less than that which is required to make whatever other item I'd be happy to use up my stash on...

Anyway, that's me today. What about you? Do you like these yarns / patterns?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

CURIO for the Holidays

So Lovelies, in case you're pretending otherwise, it's pretty well 6 weeks till Xmas. Time was, I would be getting a bit "excited" at this point. I had to devote precious time to the actual stores. There would be crowds. Post-shopping alcohol was vaguely necessary, like, to decompress.

But now, what with the internet and everyone being half robot (if merely in one's ability to navigate said internet), you can drink while you shop - online! I swear, if you're one of those people who still resists buying from the comfort of your couch, I urge you to get with the program. And I'm not talking about purchasing the occasional gift online. I mean buy it all online cuz, at this point, there is nothing you can't get delivered (even in Canada)!

I usually put together a gift planning post at this time of year as I always seem to have a hundred ideas. However, this year, I'm all about turning you onto the simple, luxe of CURIO, you know, my skin care line. (I'd be pretty high on drugs to do otherwise!)

Just want to advise that - in addition to my current offerings - I'm in the process of putting together a couple of holiday skin care kits. Those bundles will make their way to the shop soon and I'll certainly profile them here.

And, though I hate it when people alert me to irritating (if relevant) administrivia, according to Canada Post, in order to "ensure receipt" of a regular parcel before Christmas, one must put that parcel in the post by December 11 (within Canada), December 9 (USA) or December 1 (pretty well everywhere else). Following what I hope will be a busy next few weeks, the shop will close for hols on December 21 (for 2 weeks).

So, if you're thinking about giving a delicious, organic Serum to your mum or best friend, now's the time to get clicking. And just to entice, here's a pretty photo of Serum A sporting the new label:

No doubt, Serum A, Eye Balm A - Rose and the Body Oils are very popular, but don't forget about the Salves and CURIO Baby*:

Seriously, these scents are bound to CHILL (new parents and new babies)
Y'all know I love to chat so, if there's anything gift-related you'd like to discuss (or any ideas you'd like to bounce) feel free to contact me via Etsy conversations, email (see the side bar) or in comments.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Oh Summer, Where Art Thou?

Here's what it looked like last night (12 hours into the pouring rain):

Photos courtesy of my husband, Scott.
People, April is NOT the cruelest month.

Monday, November 9, 2015

PSA: COS is in the 'Hood

Y'all know how I love COS - that Swedish brand that's a bit like Club Monaco but much more deconstructed (for the most part). The prices are better too. Well, COS was only available to me in Europe till a couple of months ago when it moved into Bloor Street. (I know the brand has also expanded into the US recently - for example, there's one in NYC.)

What I love about it, mainly, is the asymmetric and interesting design and fabrics which are very wearable and much more luxe seeming than the price point (merino comes to mind).

At any rate, though I'd read about the shop opening on Bloor, I didn't think much of it because I hadn't yet run across it so it was basically just a fairy tale. Today, however, all that changed - completely by accident - and I'm thrilled to tell you that it's just as good in TO as it is in Barcelona (in fact, it looks almost identical). I'm particularly pleased that one can actually afford to buy something there before it goes on sale (though sales are preferable, natch).

To wit:
COS Asymmetric Merino Top - $125.00 CDN
I know, the photo make this thing look like a chic convocation gown. Don't be fooled - it's fantastic.

This photo does no justice to the beautiful quality of merino wool of which this garment is made. And really, what is this garment? It's more of a dress on me than a top - but if you were tall it would be more like a hip length top. Or is it a poncho? Who cares. It's stunning and, as much to the point, interesting - and it looks like a million bucks. One arm gets a full, fitted sleeve and the other gets a little opening where the arm goes through (like a cape). It's very warm though, even as it's rather slim in the gauge, because it's comprised of a lot of really warm fiber and it's cut high in the neck. Dress it up, dress it down. You're going to look rich either way.

At any rate, I recommend you get your butt to COS. You could also buy online - though not sure how expensive that would be.

Today's questions: Do you know the brand? Have you got some COS in your wardrobe? If yes, does it make you feel Swedish when you put on those crazy cocoon shapes? Do you feel the need to wear a black stacked boot while donning the crazy cocoon shapes? Let's talk.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Night Dinner: Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

For a person doing nothing, making dinner tonight sure took a lot of time. I followed Joe Pastry's "recipe" (but I made the crust gluten free, using a new recipe and, um, there were a few rolling challenges).

It's not difficult, but everything takes time. To wit:

First you chop and brown whatever vegetables you like...

I made a mirepoix and added a potato, peas, mushrooms and sage.

Then you add some chicken. I Scott shredded one that comes from the store:

Let that sit while you prep a veloute (stock and roux - with a bit of milk for good measure) and make a crust. Better still, make those a day in advance.

In a hilarious turn, I made the veloute with regular flour. I just didn't know what would happen, texturally, with a non-wheat flour, and I wasn't feeling experimental.

I put the ingredients in the plate before adding the veloute. I find it's tidier than trying to transfer a saucy casserole from saute pan to oven-safe container:

In truth, I don't think I'd added the veloute at this point (see photo above). Everything was going in different directions so photography wasn't my top priority.

I really should have followed another recipe for the crust. It looks alright here:

But it's unstable. It's merely butter and flour. Nothing to give it any structure (vinegar, egg, water - something!). I thought I was being minimal but I can smell this crust melting down in the oven - literally. It's not cohering.

It shouldn't have surprised me because this is what happened when I tried to position it:

I must be changing because Krissie of 5 years ago would never have shown you such an eyesore?! At this point, I don't really care. I mean, it's a miracle I got it from the counter to the top of the pie.

I didn't make the stock from scratch, nor did I prepare the chicken and I still worked for a good 90 minutes before sliding this into the oven.

I do hope it's tasty, even if the crust is a bust. Lord knows there's enough of it.

Do you make savoury pies? Do you like them? Let's talk.

Update: The finished pie was flawed, but in a promising way. Next time I'll sautee the vegetables for longer, use a different crust and brown the roux for longer (my ratios - which I followed from Joe's recipe - were off and so the sauce is a very tiny bit floury). Also, the fact that the crust from this iteration of the pie is basically butter/flour slurry (albeit of the rice variety), it soaked up the veloute and the sauce became too thick. M LOVED it, flaws notwithstanding.  Scott, who doesn't ever like veloute, was not into it. It takes a long time to make this given that one of us doesn't like it. Still, it's very hearty, warming and the flavours are beautiful. I can see myself making this occasionally - especially as, when I fix the issues, it's going to be totally delicious.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

What I Do When I'm Not Doing Anything

I've spent the last week in a haze. I don't mean this poetically. My vision (a challenge over the last year - one of those I really don't feel like discussing) has been particularly fuzzy. My head is actually heavy (but not painful, happy to report). I'm encircled in the kind of exhaustion that only the onslaught of hard-core international travel, death and loss of daylight can produce. I feel dissociative.

This weekend, I'm calling a time out. It began last night at Enoteca Sociale (my current local), eating gorgeous blue cheese (with candied pecans, made onsite - the key is deep frying), the best dense, sourdough bread in the city, soaked in copious amounts of olive oil (I don't like bread, but I'll make an exception here). I moved onto gnocchi with a smoked tomato sauce and dollop of silky ricotta. Somehow I resisted dessert - the wine pairings helped. I didn't waste my time with vegetables. Everything ingested was to soak up the floatiness and replace it with grounding. And seriously, if you care about service - amongst my most coveted requirements - you cannot go wrong here. Our Enoteca server friends bring a beautiful experience.

Peeps, if your world is uncertain, eat Italian. I mean, really good Italian.

Next week will go back to craziness at work, each evening occupied by some activity (more often than not meeting with architects and design-build firms, cuz we've got to do that reno I've been avoiding). But for the next 2 days, I'm sitting on my couch with knitting and a book. There will be some yoga. I may make a chicken pot pie. Convivially, I will drink a couple of bottles of wine.

A propos of reading and knitting, I'm fortunate to have some good things on the go:

The Knitting: Do you know this pattern?

L'enveloppe by Sally Melville
It's one of those very interestingly constructed, hybrid garments. It's either going to be great or hideous - but I'm up for it.

I'm using a yarn which is currently NOT impressing me: Rowan Super Fine Merino Aran in the Soot colourway. It does have lovely drape and it's a very nice grey meets black, but Lord, it's splitty. I had to buy a bamboo needle with very pointy ends, just to accommodate it, and I still need to be careful because the yarn is barely plied. You can actually untwist it by hand and see the numerous threads that make it an aran-weight yarn. Mind you, it is machine washable.

Since superwash yarns are notoriously expansive after blocking, I opted to use a size US8 needle which got me a horizontal gauge of 16 stitches in 4 inches and a fabric that coheres. The pattern actually gives you any number of choices to achieve 4 different gauges and numerous different sizes in those gauges. I actually find it more complicated than helpful, but if you want to use yarns of a variety of thicknesses, theoretically, you can.

I did swatch and block before starting this project because it's a fitted garment, to some extent - and I wanted to feel confident about the sort of drape the final fabric would produce. I was inclined to use a US9 needle (not that I ever knit anything with needles that big - even a US7 is an oddity for me), but the fabric would have been too open for my liking. I think this garment looks sloppy when the fabric is loose.

I've finally come to an understanding that, if one must be careful about one's knitting volume (for reasons of pain), it only makes sense to knit with bigger yarn on bigger needles. Fingering yarn on a US1 is 8 times the work of aran yarn on a US8 needle. Not to mention that aran yarn knits fast. Yeah, socks are always going to be a slim-gauge undertaking but they don't use a lot of yarn in the scheme of things. I sense my days of fingering-gauge sweaters are over for the foreseeable future (famous last words).

The wildcard here is the size. I'm making the small - which is a 32-34 in the bust.  Now, the yarn (being of larger gauge) has more stretch-per-inch than a smaller-gauge one would. Not to mention, I'm a narrow person in the shoulders (where fit matters most in this garment). In fact, I'm surprised it doesn't give measurement by shoulder instead of bust circumference. Moreover, the next size up is 36-38. Where does that leave 35 inches? Point is, I don't think the sizing info is particularly robust (and oversized versions look unlovely in the photos) so I'm erring on the small side. We'll see how that plays out.

The Reading: Recently I was interviewed by writer, Matthew Remski, who's researching a book about modern postural yoga and the injuries it can cause / the premises that underpin yogic injury. (Here's the prospectus, in case you're interested.) The thesis is fascinating, IMO, and I'm so pleased to inform a small part of it. Since I discovered Matthew and his work (which is featured in a variety of online publications including his own blog), I've been reminded of an ever-polarizing school of thought about yoga (the postural vs the pranic) and it's really expanded my awareness.

Anyway, though I appear to have been living under a rock for the last 5 years (yoga-book-wise, anyway), I finally purchased a copy of Yoga Body by Mark Singleton. Full disclosure: It reads more like someone's PhD thesis than a yoga manual. It's an academic consideration of how modern postural yoga owes much more to Indian colonialism of the 19th century and the European gymnastics movement of the early 20th century than to the ancient Indian practices with which modern westerners generally accredit it. Note: No one's proposing that yoga isn't an ancient art, but that postural yoga (that stuff you do at your studio three times a week - that stuff I've been practicing and teaching for 25-years) is a modern, quasi-western construct through and through. Does that shock you? It's pretty well what I have always presumed - particularly since the onslaught of popularized yoga (what I like to call YogaLite) in the 90s.

This book, when published in 2010, raised the hackles (and undermined the foundation) of many a yogi and caused quite a bit of discourse. I recommend it, though I'm only part way through.

Finally, BTW, I'm ready to put it out there that I have non-negligible issues with the decline of daylight at this time of year (steadily worsening till it's almost impossible to bear). OMG, it's RIDICULOUS. I can actually feel myself ebb. Yeah, if you look back in my archives, at autumn posts over the last 9 years, I'm sure you'll see this theme emerge at every turn. But it never ceases to floor me. How did people survive this before modern shelter and heating? Those Samis and Inuits are punished by geography. It's no wonder that alcoholism runs rampant in the far north of northern countries. At a certain point, hygge is everything and, while I realize that hygge more about good food, wood fires and coziness than booze, don't kid yourself. The booze is a meaningful part of that equation.

Today's questions are all over the place: Have you made L'enveloppe (or would you)? If yes, how did it turn out, size-wise? Have you read Yoga Body? Does it surprise you that yoga might owe as much to the west as to the east? Does it bother you?

And let's leave it on the seasonal affective note: If you live in the north (let's say north of latitude 40, to maximize the pool), how the fuck do you stand it?? Really, a fireplace only gets you so far. (PS: You can suggest exercise, but I've already got that one in the bag and, really, it only takes the edge off the worst of it.) Hibernation, alas, is not an option.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Finished Object: Starshower Shawl / Cowl

My arms have borne up well to knitting lately, which is merciful because I've had opportunity (to say nothing of a multiplicity of deep feelings to quantify) to make this hybrid cowl/shawl over the last week and a half :

It's Starshower by Hilary Smith Callis, a lovely, practical pattern - the only downside of which (in the knitting, not the admiring) is the excess of lacework involved.

Have I mentioned I hate lacework?

In true knitting-lace style, I came upon a stitch fuck up that cost me 2 hours (I was very tired at that point and the work moves from knitting on the right side and the wrong side of the fabric. Moral of the story: don't lose focus). At my grandmother's funeral, we reminisced on her obsession with puzzles (she was able to resolve any puzzle, no matter how complicated or how many pieces were involved) and on how she'd taught us all (seriously, everyone) how to do them. I, for one, never liked puzzles. I found them tedious, difficult for no good reason. Who cares?, I'd wonder. But as I unworked and reworked stitches to fix my mistake, I was reminded that really, I was putting together a puzzle. And, gently, comfortingly, it reminded me of the ways in which my Self has been shaped by my formative influencers.

Starshower floats atop the shoulders like this:

Starshower by Hilary Smith Callis
What I did really well: I used a great yarn. It's new to me: Quince and Co Tern (a fingering-weight yarn made of 75% wool and 25% silk). Yeah, I've spoken highly of Quince yarns before - I like them a lot. But I am finicky about silk blends. I feel they tend to sacrifice recovery for drape and that can create a garment that quickly wears badly.

Tern is a delight! It's springy and spongy - easy to knit - but it's got a bit of drape. Also, it's very slightly sheeny on matte because the silk doesn't dye the same way that the wool does.

When first I received it (last year), I was on the fence about my chosen colour: Barnacle. I mean, seriously, who names a yarn Barnacle? More to the point, who buys it?? It's more brown than grey - which is not what I anticipated and which wouldn't have been my preference. But I've grown to appreciate it for the way the silk brings out its sheen. It's very similar to the colour of shawl worn in the marketing photo.

What I could have done better: Well, I didn't swatch. Moreover, I went down a needle size from the recommended (given my propensity to knit loosely). In the final analysis, it's only good luck that I could block the finished garment to size (note the plethora of pins), stretched wet to slightly larger dimensions than those indicated in the pattern. (It's my way of accounting for probable retraction of the fabric as it dries.) Even at the recommended dimensions, I feel it's on the firm side (likely because, by going down a needle size, I made the fabric tighter than it would have been). I sense this shawl could use a tiny bit more drape, more openness, particularly at the cowl which is very shallow. I don't know that going up a needle size (or using a different yarn) would resolve this but I'll consider them when I make this again (and I may well).

The reason to swatch, I sometimes have to remind myself, isn't only to determine size, but to clarify that the properties of the fabric I've created (in that swatch) suit the purpose of the garment with which I intend to make it.

The finished shawl is very odd looking when not worn:

It's kind of like a beehive.

The pattern is excellently written - clear but with an abundance of detail to forestall concerns about potential misinterpretation. And, at 400 yards of fabric and minimal fitting required, this project doesn't drag on overly or tax one. Just one final reminder: You really do always have to focus when knitting lace. Also, you will inevitably fuck it up and then, your only recourse will be to understand how to take it apart vertically and put it back together. So there's a learning curve.

But I've never enjoyed a lacework project as much as this one (it was very elegantly sequenced) and the finished object is eminently wearable.

What do you think?