Hippo Baby Bunting

Pattern envelope for Simplicity 9215 showing a baby in a fleece bunting.

While I spend more of my time knitting than sewing, it’s safe to say that I tend to reach for both with a mentality of either “this will be fun” or “I could make that”. While perusing baby patterns last fall, I stumbled across Simplity 9215 which offers the sewist the ability to transform fleece fabric into a jacket, pair of pants or baby bunting. Combine that with Joann Fabrics having a sale on fleece during the upcoming weekend and it felt meant to be.

Now, the pattern envelope claims that this is an easy project. Having just curned out a wonky looking baby bunting I think it’s safe to say that the pattern pieces were finicky and the instructions left a lot to be wanting. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the indie patterns I’ve been working with or perhaps I’m simply not in a place where I can picture how what I’m about to do will translate into the finished garment. Either way, I will aknowledge that my beginner sewing status played a role in the wonkiness of the finished garment as well.

For starters, the zipper is one of the first items that you sew on rather than the middle or last steps as I’ve previously worked. This is tricky because the instructions have you working with the front and back piece without the extentions in one step and then add in the extension in the following step. Honestly, it would have been easier to either attach everything together and to attach the zipper after sewing the shoulder seams and inserting the sleeves. In the end, I skipped the extensions (I’m still unsure how they fit together with the final grament, which is ok because I opted for a contrasting zipper on purpose) and was able to manuver my sewing machine around the extra bulk caused by installing the zipper so early. Also, my 14 inches zipper was a little smaller than the length of the body, I should have opted for 17-20 inches.

Another modification to the instructions I would have made (and highly recommend) is sewing the toe piece to the front before attaching the front pieces to anything. The area you’re manipulating is so tiny that any reduction in bulk is going to make it easier. Then, while I would like to think I could try pinning the bottom of the foot in such a way that I could sew around the foot and then up the side seam, the reality is that the bottom of the foot really can’t be attached until both leg seams are completed. So this step would indeed need to wait until closer to the end.

Finally, I couldn’t wrap my head around how to attach the mittens to the sleeves in a way that would make them usable. Now that the project is over, I think I would be able to if I were to rework the pattern? The directions here left a lot to be desired, but I’ll chalk this one up to being a newbie.

Would I make S9215 again? Perhaps in a larger size than 0-3 so that the manuvers are easier to make, but I also don’t see myself making this as a gift for anyone until I’m a little better at sewing. Luckily our little one will be small enough that the sizing won’t really matter (the feet in particular didn’t work out quite right). All in all, happy that I worked through the pattern (I learned a lot!), but a little bummed that one foot is smaller than the other and the larger foot is a weird shape.

A hooded baby bunting made of fleece with a hippo pattern on it.

Combo #12 Harlow Hat

A hat knit in brioche stitch with black stitches set against a rainbow striped background

Brioche is one of those stitches in knitting that you either love or hate, there doesn’t seem to be much of an in-between. It’s squishy and one of the few ways to add vertical stripes, but also takes you double the amount of time to knit one row (because for every one row of normal knitting you need two rows of brioche). There’s also more loops to keep track of and a high level of patience required if you drop a stitch. Still, I find myself reaching for brioche projects when I want a project where I need to pay attention, but not too much attention. Where I want the wearer to be able to reverse the garment depending on their mood and when I want to provide the wearer a little bit of extra warmth.

Direct contrast of the extra warmth tends to be the woven scarves that I make. They breathe more against the skin due to my habit of creating airier fabric in favor of less bulk. So while this Harlow Hat by Andrea Mowry is meant to keep the wearer’s ears a little warmer, the matching scarf is meant to be more of an accent piece.

A hat knit in brioche stitch with rainbow stripes against a black background

I liked knitting Harlow, the hat knit up relatively fast for brioche being knit on a size US 3 and it was the first time in a long time I’ve done brioche decreases. The only modification made while knitting (besides using only one needle size) was skipping the tubular cast on in favor of the long tail cast on. This doesn’t make a huge difference beyond being a little less stretchy and only incorporating the black color.

Curious about what it’s like to knit brioche? I highly recommend giving the Harlow Hat a try! Really, while the final hat is gorgeous, it was so much fun to make that I was a little bummed when it came to bind off. Andrea Mowry added details to the pattern that outline what to do and she’s created video tutorials to help get you started.

A hat scarf set from one package of Wonderland Yarn’s Combo kits? With a plethora of colors to choose from? I probably do need to decide if everyone is getting a set for the holidays this year, or at least start planning my holiday crafting. Does December sneak up on anyone else?

Trying something new: Meringue Cookies

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Second Batch, made with chocolate chips 

Well, it happened. Again. My partner and I watched enough Great British Baking show that I had to try a new cookie recipe (just like when I made my own fig bars). This time, I was inspired by all the meringue being used on the show and Mary Berry tapping the top of the structures to see how solid they were.

To be completely honest, I’ve had the recipe that I used since high school when a friend of mine was taking baking and I sampled one of her cookies. Though they look fancy, they don’t actually require a ton of crazy ingredients and, once you’ve figured out what’s supposed to happen, are easy to make.

 

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First batch made with semi melted chocolate, these spread more because the eggs weren’t initially whipped enough

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (I used about 1/2 a teaspoon of white vinegar as a substitiute
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. In a bowl, combine egg whites, cream of tartar (or vinegar in my case) and vanilla. Whip aggressively or use a mixture on medium. You should see your mixture form a lot of bubbles and begin to form “soft peaks” (that’s what the recipe says and I can’t really think of a different way to describe it).
  3. Add sugar in slowly while you whip it into the batter.
  4. Whip. It. Good. No seriously, if you don’t have a mixer you’re going to be mixing it for a while. The batter is going to become stiff but light and you should be able to pull the whisk out and have the batter stand stiff. If your mixture is too runny, add a tiny bit more cream of tartar (vinegar) to help stiffen it up. According to the Great British Baking Show, it’s very difficult to over whip the batter.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips. All of them, the first time I made these cookies I thought there wasn’t enough dough only to find out that when they were done there wasn’t enough chocolate.
  6. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper and drop cookies onto it. I’ve gotten about 12 both times, but you could probably get more if you make yours smaller.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Note: You have to let them cool completely before removing them from the baking tray, otherwise they’ll collapse in on themselves.

All in all, I’m happy to have learned a new skill and am definitely planning on gifting tins of cookies around the holidays this year.

Just in case I didn’t do enough baking this month, I also made banana muffins for the first time tripling a recipe promising to be the easiest banana muffins. They were fun to make, but I don’t think I’ll be putting as much sugar in them next time – the bananas made the batter sweet enough.

Trying something new: homemade fig bars

Between the general goal of trying new things, a desire to suck up to the poet in my life, and withdrawal symptoms from a lack of new Great British Baking Show episodes beginning to show, I found myself perusing Pinterest in search of a homemade fig bar that wouldn’t take hours of prep and millions of ingredients.

Enter Alida’s kitchen, or more specifically the blog that I found the recipe of choice on. Alida’s recipe, known as Oatmeal Fig Bars, is seven steps (check) and everything on her ingredients list, minus the dried figs, was already located in my cupboard (check). Skimming the recipe, the only piece of equipment I didn’t own was a food processor. Having a friend I could borrow one from, this satisfies another checkbox for me: no crazy equipment that I need to purchase for one bake.

Sliced dried figs cooking on the stove top.The best part of this bake? Each part was delicious on their own. I can see myself using the fig filling as a jam or as something to add to brownies. Or using the oatmeal base to create other types of cookie bars.

I can’t get over how easy it was to make the fig filling, which was the part of the fig bars that in my mind would be the most difficult part:

  1. In a small saucepan, put figs, water, lemon juice, and zest, and bring to a boil. Simmer until mixture starts to thicken (about 3 minutes). Let cool for about 5 minutes.
  2. Put filling in food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

That was it. Two steps, totaling less than ten minutes. Ten minutes meant the kitchen smelt so good my dog didn’t want to wander too far from it. Another five minutes to make the dough and 25 minutes until they were sitting on the counter waiting to be eaten.

Close up of homemade oatmeal fig bar before being cut.Some general notes on the recipe that it may be helpful to be aware of:

  • The dough is very dry — that’s ok! Do NOT add water. I made this mistake, it made the dough sticky and hard to spread. It also meant my bars needed a little more time in the oven and never goldened.
  • There is not enough dough to have a top and bottom layer. Alida says as much in her recipe, the top of her bars have the dough “crumbled” on top. I would consider doubling the dough recipe in order to have two complete layers
  • The figs are delicious — but that step would be a fun place to add additional fruits.
  • For a fig bar lover, the 35 minutes this process took was too long. I thought it was very reasonable.

March Book Club: Gilded Wolves

39863498I was not expecting the elements of this book to be what they were. In other words, I was expecting a heist that took place in Paris in 1889, not a book about people who have the ability to forge objects through manipulating elements. Actually, I might even go so far as to complain that the story really didn’t need to take place in Paris at all because it didn’t rely on any Parisian elements.

Forging, as it is in the book, is an interesting concept that served as a way to drive the plot forward. I don’t understand why the summary of the book didn’t include a description of it. While I don’t mind a realistic fantasy novel, I found myself longing for the story that was described on the back of the book. The one that exists without magic.

Additionally, this book felt as though it was trying to check a lot of identity boxes without incorporating the identities into the story. This reminds me of when JK Rowling decided to go back and fill her readers on information about her characters that weren’t explicitly said within the narrative (ie Dumbledore being gay) because it feels as though the reader took the opposite approach. Instead of building characters through the reader’s experiences with them, Chokshi just told you “this person is Jewish” or “this person is bisexual”, leaving me torn in my feelings. On the one hand, I want those populations to be incorporated into stories. On the other, I want those characteristics to reflect the character who has them. I was told Enrique struggled on the fact that he was attracted to both men and women, but how much better would it have been to listen to his internal dialog? Especially considering the location of this book is 1889 Paris?

All in all, this is a book I would put into the “passible” category. I read it cover to cover, without feeling the need to abandon it, but it didn’t really engage with me until Tristian was kidnapped. Even then, this novel felt very formulaic. Frustrated, I read the review from NPR and found myself wondering if we read the same book. I didn’t read a book rich with detail, I read a book that told me instead of showing me what was happening. I’m left feeling a little frustrated by this read, frustrated and left wanting things flushed out.

For April, possibly in honor of April Fools, I thought it would be interesting to read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s been on my “to-read” list for a while, the cover and description appealing to my inner child. This book reminds me of the Cirque De Freak series that I couldn’t put down in middle school. Although, probably minus the vampires.

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The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway – a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.