Monday, December 30, 2013

The Nice List (Giveaway Winners)!

It's been a hectic holiday week, but today we paused to finally draw two winners for our sock yarn giveaway and show off our holiday prezzies.

Dragon and Milkshake were our impartial name pullers, since we do things analog here at Trample Herd HQ.  Our winners, who most definitely were on the nice list this year, are...

In their Christmas scarves.

Lisette and T Sedai Hoosiermama*

(* T.Sedai had meant to leave a comment, and not to enter, so I re-drew for a new winner.)

Ladies, please email me your deets at Clio(dot)Phineas(at)gmail(dot)com and I will get two balls of navy Stroll sock yarn off to each of you asap.

Speaking of the nice list, there was much celebrating on Christmas day when Dragon, Milkshake and the Tramples awoke to find that Santa had indeed come and left them each a new knit scarf. Nothing is more exciting to knit critters than more knits. 

Tramples with scarves that match their ear frills.

I must have been on the super nice list this year, since I received a load of goodies including drape drape, Pattern Magic, a June Tailor pressing board and this...

... a tower of Belding Corticelli silk thread. (See here if you don't know why I'm so psyched about this.)

I also received some excellent cookbooks, including Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese. Yes, it is a cookbook entirely devoted to one thing: the pursuit of mac + cheese.  So, I think another round of my search for the perfect mac and cheese recipe will be taking off in the next week or two. For those of you new to it, here is the most recent version.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Herd Waits for Santa: Vanilla Salted Peanut Cookies

A very merry everything from all of us here at Clio & Phin, where the herd is somewhat patiently awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas!

I know. Santa wears a suit, not a cape.  I tried to tell Dragon this, but he made a compelling case that Santa is, in fact, a superhero. Since I've never seen Santa, who was I to argue? Maybe he does wear a cape for dashing across rooftops.

Cookies for Santa.

Dragon has been asking for me to make him a Santa costume since Thanksgiving so he could have adventures with Milkshake the Elf and a herd of reindeer elephants. So, I whipped up some antlers from craft felt and an online template that I shrunk down to Trample Herd size. The Santa and Elf hats are made from scraps of fabric with trim that I knit from faux fur yarn. 

Reindeer Elephant

Anyway, since the real Santa comes tonight, I thought we'd share our cookie recipe. This is from The Baking Sheet, which is a bakers' newsletter put out by King Arthur Flour. Let me tell you: this cookie is right on!  It's rather unique - loaded with vanilla and complimented by peanuts, white chocolate chips and oatmeal. These flavors really go together better than you'd ever guess.

Good enough to get us on the nice list?

Vanilla Salted Peanut Cookies from KAF's Baking Sheet
1/2c butter (4oz, 1 stick)
1/4c veg shortening (1 3/4 oz)
2c brown sugar (15 oz)
2c old-fashioned rolled oats (7oz)
2 large eggs
2 tbsp vanilla extract (1oz)
1 tsp baking soda
2c AP flour (8 1/2 oz)
1 1/4c salted peanuts (6 1/4oz)
1 1/3c  white chocolate chips (8oz)

Cream shortening, butter and brown sugar. Mix in the oats, eggs and vanilla. Whisk flour and baking soda and add to butter/oat mixture, stopping to scrape bowl. Mix in peanuts and chips. Scoop by tbsp onto parchment lined or greased baking sheets and bake at 350 for 11-13min until golden at edges. Cool on pan for 5 min before transferring to a cooling rack. Makes 4 1/2 dozen. 

I've never really been into white chocolate, but this chewy cookie breaks the mold. The only thing I might do differently in future batches is replace the shortening with butter. It would mean the cookies would spread more, but I like the flavor and texture of all-butter cookies better than shortening. 

Waiting for Santa

Now if I could just get the herd to go to bed. Like all overexcited children on Christmas Eve, they are determined to wait for Santa.

Merry and Bright to you and yours! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

In the Works: New Years Eve/Anniverary Outfit

Things are pretty busy with holiday baking, shopping and merriment, but I'm trying to finish up a few more projects by the end of 2014. One of the sewing projects that I have in the works is my knock off of this:

BCBG Max Azria

I know. I've been talking about the top for a while now. But I've decided that it will be the perfect outfit for the holidays - including New Year's Eve, aka Phin and my anniversary - if I make the trousers, too.
So, here's where things stand. I've traced and then diced up the raglan tee pattern making the changes I needed and adding in seam allowances for the new pieces. I made the net cut out not quite as deep as the inspiration piece, but still deeper than most people would wear (ie: more tape!).

I bought black matte jersey and illusion net. So, I'm ready to cut and sew the top.

For the trousers, I decided to give Burda 04-2011-120 a try. 

Burda 04-2011-120

These are definitely a much wider/fuller and higher waist trouser than my norm. But I'm enjoying trying out different styles lately - things I might have only recently passed over as being not for me.

Nice details!

And these trousers - though different from the BCBG inspiration ones - have some really great features like welt pockets and cuffs. I'm a sucker for trousers with cuffs for some reason.

I've muslined them, made some changes and am going to sew them up in this beautiful stretch wool suiting that I bought at Mood. I was worried about pretreating the wool, so I sent it to my drycleaner to have it steam pressed. How do you like to pretreat wool?

Ralph Lauren Suiting -  It's a bit brighter in person

Since there are three welt pockets to sew, I decided to bone up on my pocket skills. I've always found welt pockets tricky. I'm watching Kenneth King's Craftsy class on drafting and sewing pockets. It's excellent. I know that different teachers and teaching styles resonate with different people, but I find that KK explains things in a way that makes sense to me. 

So that's where things stand. Now let's see if I can get it all done in time for the holidays!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Finished: Knee High TARDIS Socks and Giveaway!

My sister, Erato, is one of those super humans who - when she puts her mind to it - can pretty much follow through on any goal with gale force strength single-mindedness.  

Case in point: One month after running her first marathon, she ran a 50k trail run.

Hurricane Force
That's 31 miles, folks. Hardcore.  

While not as physically strenuous, the congratulatory socks I knit for her were something of a marathon, too.

It's not that my mash up of the TARDIS Socks and the Delicious Socks were particularly challenging. It wasn't. It's just that my sister is quite tall. Her calves are about 4" longer than yours...

I know. I'm jealous of her long limbs too.

That's a whole lot of sock to knit!

I already talked about the TARDIS socks when I knit myself a pair. The mashup I did with the Delicious Knee Socks was basically to follow their increase and decrease chart for the legs. I also did the short row heel of the Delicious socks, which is not my norm, but it worked out.  I worry a little that it isn't as strong as my usual Dutch or Band heel.

Other details are that I knit these from Cascade Heritage sock yarn, which is a superwash (ie: machine washable) merino and nylon blend. The merino makes them soft and warm and the nylon adds some necessary strength for long-wearing socks. It's a very springy, cushy yarn. Not my favorite for wearing with shoes, but the color was right. Also, I experimented with the cuff by knitting in some elastic thread  to add some extra grippy-ness, which I thought the yarn lacked. I'll let you know if this turns out to be a good addition.

Hardcore, peeps.

Congrats, Erato!  You are so amazingly hardcore. I hope these give your feet and legs the cushy warm comfort they deserve!

And now, a giveaway.  You see, while I was planning this project, I ordered a lot of sock yarn. Most was rejected for it's color - just not right for TARDIS.  One reject was made into socks for Phin - the blue was too blue-green for TARDIS. But I still have other yarns left over, and well, the truth is that... um...

I hate navy blue. 

Most sincerely. This is probably due to my years in a navy blue school uniform. So very uniform!

So, I'm banishing from my sight giving away 4 balls of KnitPicks Stroll sock yarn in navy. The socks I've knit from Stroll have held up really well and look just as good as when first knit. I bought 4 balls thinking that's what I would need for knee highs, but regular socks can be made with two. So, there shall be two winners!

Merino Nylon Superwash - 230 yards each

Just holler in the comments and make sure I can contact you before Christmas (ie: December 24 at 11:59 EST) and let me know what you think you might knit with this yarn. It's fingering weight, so could have lots of uses besides socks. If you've never dipped your toe into sock knitting but are curious,  K-line is hosting a Two Socks, One Week knit along over the holidays, and she is sure to have some great tips and tutorials.

Anyway, I hope that someone will take this yarn off my hands enjoy knitting navy blue more than I would. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bread: A Much Needed Victory!!

So, I had a much needed victory in the kitchen while it was snowing yesterday. Not only did my second try at this bread look good from the outside...

Good looking on the outside!

 But look at the inside!

Big airy holes!!
This is how its supposed to look. And it has a crisp, shattering crust, lots of airy holes, a nice soft crumb and tastes good, too.

I realize now that I made some kind of measuring error in my first sorry boule. This time I measured by weight, which is how I normally bake. Conversions are in the follow-up article about the bread. The dough looked totally different when I measured by weight, so I knew at once that I had made some kind of mistake last week.

So, the verdict is that this recipe is as easy as promised and, when I actually measured correctly, the results were great. I can see myself making this bread often. I do like kneaded breads, but don't always have the time to be home to do all of the rising and punching down in one day. With this bread, I mix the dough one afternoon (it takes 5 minutes including clean up), rise untouched until the next morning, and by lunchtime am taking the bread out of the oven.  


Anyway, three cheers for bread. I'm already thinking about all kinds of variations with whole grains and other enhancements.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Now with Four Times the Fail for Your Viewing Pleasure

Last weekend was an epic fail. Sometimes things just don't go your way with knitting and sewing and baking. I'm usually pretty good at planning my projects and having successes. But every so often I get hit with a whammy or two... or four... 

First up, a few weeks ago I bought some 100% genuine Ewok fur.

The poor muppets that had to die for my fur!

Um. yeah.  I had been looking for sweater knits, but this is undeniably better, don't you think? It's faux fur with vinyl/rainwear spots.

Unlike she who enabled me into buying this fabric, I decided that for such an over the top fabric, I needed a simple pattern. Enter Burda 12-2010-101

I was seduce by how simple this pattern is to sew: just a front, a back and sleeves.  But, oh my, how (1) boxy on my figure and (2) not so easy to fit! Seams and darts - these are a curvy gal's friends. How did I forget that straight lines are not for me? Sigh.

Drag lines say we need an FBA

I graded out at the hips and now they are puffy. Oy.

Shoulder point in wrong place

And I decided I didn't really like the drop shoulders on me; they just looked sloppy. But taking them in led to all kinds of problems...

Ouch - really really binding.

Binding and pulling. Just not good.

Could I redraft the entire armscye, back and sleeve? Well, yes. But overall, this is how I ultimately feel about this pattern on me/my figure:


Yeah. This gets a rousing meh from me. On someone who is a little more proportional, I think this could be chic. But on me, I think it just isn't going to work without significant alteration, which sort of defeats the point of this being an easy pattern.

Thank goodness I muslined!

Next, I cast on a new knitting project as a palette cleanser.

This is Habu textiles Kibiso silk (L) and silk stainless steel (R) yarns.The kibiso is made from waste silk and the stainless is, well, like silk with a memory wire core. Both very cool.

Habu Kibiso Silk and Silk Stainless Steel

I was going to knit the Amime top by Kirsten Johnson. You hold the two strands together and knit on a large needle to create the open work.


Anyway, I cast on a bunch of stitches and knitted a few rows for a gauge swatch. It felt like I was knitting with barbed wire. The kibiso is so stiff that all my stitches were uneven. There was no way I was going to get gauge and it was massively unpleasant to knit even just a few rows. I can't imagine wearing it. I lasted three rows and then frogged the swatch.

SO, the next day I went to my LYS to see if I could find a different yarn to pair with the Habu Silk Stainless. A yarn bender ensued.

All for me!!!

I bought that big ball of red Malabrigo Rasta yarn to make into an instant gratification palette cleansing scarf. It knit up incredibly quickly into the Uroboro cowl by Stephen West.  Doesn't this look chic?

Yeah. I thought so too, despite Ravelry reviews to the contrary. It looks kinda cool when not being worn, but...

 Even when I hold it like the model, it is only so-so...

And when I don't...

Yeah. Why did I think I could make this work?

Hubris, my friends. Hubris.

Anyway, if you think that's as much fail as any one person could pack into one weekend, you'd be wrong. My last fail of the weekend was in the kitchen. While all this sewing and knitting was happening, bread dough was rising. I decided it was time to get on board with no-knead breads.

And look at how utterly awesome my bread turned out! Until you cut it open...

It's supposed to have big airy holes through the whole thing, like this. Unfortunately, mine only has holes at the top and is very very dense throughout the rest. I have no idea if this means that the dough was too moist or too dry. I suspect that it was too dry. (Phin thinks too wet.) It tasted ok, but Phin has started flipping through recipes for bread pudding and mumbling about the large supply of breadcrumbs.

I'm seriously the only person who has not made this recipe work on the first try.It's billed as being so easy a six-year-old could bake it.

So, there it is. My epic weekend of fail. Fear not; I am undaunted. I look at this as all my fails in one tidy little blow. And now I can move on to some successes this weekend. Cross your fingers for me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Finished Named Shane Top (and Review)

Note as of  2/3/2014: Please see the update on the Named Clothing blog - click here and here. They have made/are making changes that address some of the issues I point out in this review of their pattern.  What a great response from Named to their customers' concerns.

So, here's what I spent my spare time on Thanksgiving weekend sewing.

It's the Shane Pleated top by Named Patterns. Yes, I did it. I sewed an indie pattern.

I'm really liking this. The volume created by the neck pleating on both the front and back is a lot for me, but I love how it is balanced by the bareness of the sides.

When I asked Phin which of the many options for what to wear underneath it he thought worked best, the conversation went like this:

Clio: How about this tank top?

Phin (looking up from laptop): tape

C: What about this lacy cami?

P (quick glance up): Tape!

C: How about this lacy bra?

P (barely bothering to look up): Taaaape!

C: How about this snake skin bandeau?

P (puts laptop aside in frustration): TAPE!

So, um, here it is, with tape. (We here at Clio & Phin believe that virtually all red carpet wardrobe malfunctions can be prevented... with tape.)

Tape. You get the picture now, yes?

Although fashion tape will keep the sides in place, they are still incredibly bare. Seriously. So, while I do love this look for very elegant evening affairs, I think you have to be careful with it. Much more often than not, this top will be worn with a cami or snakeskin bandeau underneath it. Like so:

Bandeau and trouser option.

My only quibble is that the bandeau creates a bit of uniboob. Oh well.  I actually think this top would be fantastic on the smaller-of-bust. Perhaps even better than on me.

I used stretch silk from Chic Fabrics in two different colors - red and gold - for this top. It gets aces for drape, but I think it might have been a bit too heavy. The weight of the pleats make the neckline roll slightly outward despite understitching. I'm not really fussed about it because you can already see the lining at the sides by design. Anyway, if I was going to sew it again, I'd use something lighter weight - crepe de chine, chiffon or habotai would all be good options.

I haven't quite figured out how to wear this casually yet. I'd love to put it on with jeans and a cami, but all of my jeans sit below the waist, leaving a 2-3" gap between jeans and top. 

Anyway, I promised honesty in my indie pattern reviews. So here goes.

There is a lot to like about this pattern. I'm sort of impressed.  First off, there are separate lining pieces rather than the cop-out of telling you to just sew two of the same and hoping that the bulk will work itself out at the neckline. And the lining is drafted slightly smaller than the shell, which helps it pull the seams slightly to the inside at the armscyes to prevent lining from rolling out, even though the pattern is designed to show off the lining.

In addition, the crazy mohawk at the top of the shell completely lines up and creates a really smooth neckline once you fold and sew in the pleats. I admit it: I was somewhat skeptical that it would work out. Again, good drafting. Helpfully, the stitching lines are drawn onto the pattern pieces as well.

Crazy mohawk to smooth neckline

Edited on 12/11:  I should add that the pattern markings were good. Pleats, lining darts and armscye joins were all clear and accurate.

Also, sewing the size that corresponded to my high bust measurement seems to have worked out, although I would consider going a size larger in the future or doing an FBA for a little extra side coverage. However, you only get two sizes of the pattern when you purchase it, and the seam allowances are only 3/8". This is ok it but doesn't leave much wiggle room if you have to let it out or go up or down in sizing. The only change I made to the pattern was to take in the side seams by 1/2" (total of 2" less circumference) so that the top nipped in a little at the waist. This created a bit of needed shape on my figure and, if you can believe it, made the arm holes a little smaller.

And with that, unfortunately, we segue into what I didn't like.

The biggie is the instructions. There is no other way to say it: they are BWTF-worthy. Honestly, this is a pretty straight forward top to sew, but I can see how a beginner would easily be lost in the woods. There are no illustrations and some language/translation issues. I had to put on my Burda thinking cap for finishing the armholes. The instructions were either incomprehensible or incorrect. I'm not sure which. I tried to follow them but turned my top into a water weenie-esque tube. After undoing several seams, I followed these instructions for machine finishing a sleeveless dress over at Green Apples. It worked beautifully.

My other issues are not related to sewing, but impact my experience nonetheless. They are:
  • Just 2 sizes when you purchase. This is fine for a top, but with any pattern that has to fit my top and bottom, I normally bridge 3 sizes. Not ideal.
  • Patterns are formatted for A4 letterhead. This is NOT a standard size in the US and certainly not one that most of us keep in stock. Fortunately, my employer is British and I am not above stealing from work using scrap paper from the recycle bin. But large scale formatting or US letterhead formatting would have been appreciated.
  • The pattern pieces are overlapping a la Burda. So, after you print and tape them together, you then have to trace them off, too. Annoying.
  • The price. I paid $20.75 for this top. For the price, I could have bought any Colette, Sewaholic or Deer and Doe pattern - all of which are paper patterns and include illustrated instructions. Other digital downloads are not this expensive.

So, I guess my overall assessment is that this is a good pattern, but not user-friendly for the North American audience and overpriced compared to their peers. I hope that Named will fix some of these issues as they grow since I do like their designs, but have little incentive to be a repeat customer given the cost and hassle.  Honestly, they would have to put out a pattern that I really felt I couldn't find in my Burda collection for me to buy again soon. 

That said, I do really love this top.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Finished Gift: A is for Applesauce, B is for Baby Blanket

Finally, there was a little bit of sunlight on Saturday so I could photograph a number of finished projects. First up is the baby blanket that I knit for dear friends who just had their first child.

Crisscross Applesauce

The pattern is Crisscross Applesauce by Aimee Alexander that I bought from Polkadot Sheep. I think it has a very heirloom quality about it, so I knit it up in a classic off white. I used Cascade 220 Superwash Aran yarn in the colorway also called Aran.  And, really, it does look inspired by an Aran sweater, doesn't it?
Isn't it a pretty pattern?

One of the things I like about the Cascade superwash yarns for baby gifts is that they are beautifully soft and drapey merino wool, but they are machine washable. So, easy for mom and soft for baby. I wish you could reach through the monitor and feel this blanket. It's exactly the sort of cuddly thing that you would want to wrap a baby in.

The pattern comes in four sizes. I made the second smallest, which is 25x32 now that it is finished and blocked. Honestly, it took a while to knit this up on size 8 needles, but I think the results are worth it. If I was a faster knitter, I'd make one of these in the largest size as a throw blanket. Alas.

But this one is is boxed up and ready to go to it's new little owner along with this little ducky family, and just in time since I was starting to get attached to this little duckling. 


Several more sewing and knitting projects this week, peeps!