Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My favorite sweater's doppelganger

This is an Irish wool sweater that I recently found at the Goodwill.

For $6 I couldn't leave it behind. But then I felt a little foolish for buying it, considering that it is virtually identical to a sweater I already own.

Favorite sweater or no, who really needs two ivory-colored Irish fisherman cardigans, right?

Then I remembered that I keep wishing I had another fisherman cardigan, except charcoal-gray instead of ivory.

So...has anyone reading this ever successfully dyed a wool sweater? (I have to replace the buttons anyway since several are missing, so might as well, no?)

My very cursory research suggests that I need an acid dye (and vinegar), I should do this in a pot on the stove (not in the washing machine), and I should raise and lower the temperature of the dye bath gradually in order to avoid shrinking the sweater.

(Speaking of not shrinking sweaters, psst, Victoria, I washed this as we discussed--cold water, Woolite, handwash cycle in my front loader, lay flat to dry--and it turned out fine.)

Anyone have any other tips? Or a lead on someplace that does this professionally for a not-too-exorbitant fee?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

On traveling for work

Don't get me wrong, I miss my man and my girl a ton. But all things considered it's not so bad.

Can I just say what an incredible pleasure it is to visit this store? Of course, the fabric is amazing. Bolt upon bolt in every imaginable color, but what I was really struck by was the quality. Good fabric is really, really good, you all.

And the staff! You would expect them to be snooty, but no. So friendly and unintimidating and helpful. My (not even handmade) shirt was complimented no fewer than half a dozen times. They want to know (really) what you are going to make and they are excited about it. I loved all the different conversations going on in the store--it felt like a kind of creative hive full of people with plans and visions. A vibe that I just don't get in any of the perfectly pleasant fabric stores back home.

To be more precise, it felt like the store was full of people who not only had plans and visions, but were serious and going to carry them out. In an effort to become one of them (I almost feel a duty), I'll state for the record here:

wool and linen plaid on white background: a Tova tunic.

tan and blue wool plaid: a simple A-line skirt from this book.

teal printed knit: a long-sleeve jersey with a simple cut, maybe a Renfrew top.

elastic thread: Washi dress here I come!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How to know you've jumped the shark, crafting-wise

You guys. I am now using washi tape as a first-aid supply.

(Don't worry, it's not as bad as it looks, just a patch of uncomfortable and very persistent eczema. Which is also the reason I'm not wearing my wedding ring, just in case I have any gossipy readers with good spatial reasoning skills.)

Since this is a silly post I'll do this other thing that seems a bit silly to me and "claim" my blog with a request that you Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A supposedly dumb thing I swore I'd never do

...but I just went ahead and did it anyway.

 I planted some mint.

Reader, in the ground.

But here is my thinking. There's this irregular bed along our back fence. It's too shady for flowers (branches from a neighbor's tree hang over the fence in that spot), but nowhere near too shady for weeds. Why not fill it with something nice-smelling and useful? Suddenly mint's aggressive habit seems like a feature rather than a bug.

Plus, I've been trying to grow mint in containers for the last few years and it hasn't done well. And when mint does do well in a container it doesn't really stay in the container anyway. (See also: full-fledged lemon balm plants growing in the area where my pot of lemon balm used to sit.)

I'm sort of hoping the mint might eventually fill some of that unfortunate 4-inch space between our fence and the neighbors'. I do feel a little bad about planting mint right near the property line, but:
1) if the neighbors are getting free mint, what do they have to complain about?
2) my mint is nowhere near as annoying as their barking-for-hours dogs.

Did you have any idea there were so many different varieties of mint? And they all taste distinct, really (I checked).

Good old peppermint, of course.

Chocolate mint.

Mojito mint, for cocktails. This one was a tossup between Mojito Mint and Kentucky Colonel. I'm not sure this was the logical choice, since we are a Bourbon household, but there you go. I'm amused that this picture is the one that came out blurriest!

Moroccan mint, for tea.

And Persian mint, for savory dishes.

There might even be room for one or two more varieties, if I come across anything interesting. Man, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, I'm such a collector.

I'm really excited about working in the yard this year. There is a lot (a LOT) to do but I have some ideas about what to plant in different areas that I think are a little more sophisticated than what I've come up with in the past. And by "more sophisticated" I mean "more informed and likely to work, I hope."

Any increased confidence I feel now is the result of a lot of trial and error (emphasis on the error). I've had a hard time finding good advice about landscape design online--or in books, for that matter. Isn't that funny? Why is there no equivalent of Apartment Therapy for the outdoors? 

One idea that really appeals to me is using a lot of native plants, but instead of trying to create a very naturalistic landscape, aiming for a kind of English cottage garden effect. Or, related to this, juxtaposing native plants with non-natives in interesting ways. 

In the mint bed, for example, I also have a twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) and a hairy honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula). Both are Pacific Northwest natives in the honeysuckle family. (The twinberry is the small bush at the left of the picture above, but I don't think you can see the hairy honeysuckle--it's a low-growing plant in the back-center of the bed.) I'd like to train the twinberry to grow along the chain-link fence--essentially, espalier it--and I'm hoping the hairy honeysuckle will weave through the fence as well. I think that would be really pretty with a mass of mint below.

What are you planting these days? Do you have any good sources for landscaping "how-to" on the Internet (or otherwise)?