Stitch Fix #1

After hearing several people rave about their experience with Stitch Fix, I decided to give it a try. I got my first delivery yesterday, and I was very happy with it. In fact, I kept everything! I can see why everyone is so excited about it!

If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard of Stitch Fix, it’s a company you sign up with that has stylists pick out clothes and accessories for you, based on a survey you fill out about your size, shape, likes, dislikes, and price range. You can also set up a Pinterest board to give the stylist a better idea of the things you like or want. They send you a box of 5 items (you can indicate items you don’t want them to send, like bags, jewelry, dresses, etc.) for a styling fee of $20. You have 3 days to look over everything. If you keep any of the items, the fee is deducted from the cost. A return mailing bag is included for anything you want to send back, so there’s no postage charges.

If you keep all 5 items, you get a 25% discount on the total price. That actually encourages you to keep a single item that you might be a little wishy-washy on, since the discount might be as much as or more than the price of the thing you’re sending back. For example, without the discount I might not have kept the necklace – but since my total cost with the discount made the total less to keep everything than to send the necklace back, I might as well keep it. Yes, it’s very enabling.

Also, if anyone uses your referral link and orders a shipment, you get a $25 credit. (So if you decide to try it and would like to use my referral link, please click through to them using my link when you sign up.)

So… on to the clothes! (Sorry about my hair – I took these photos after I got out of the shower, and my hair was still damp.)

First let me start off with what has become my outfit by default: A plain but shaped t-shirt, paired with jeans or shorts:

Boring typical outfit

I have a ton of these shirts (St. John’s Bay from J.C. Penney) in short, 3/4 and long sleeves, v-neck and crew neck, and multiple colors. I like the fit (shaped and body-skimming but not tight or clingy), and the fabric is sturdy so they wash and dry well and last for ages. The sleeves on the short-sleeved shirts are a nice length for me and aren’t big and baggy like souvenir t-shirts. They also pair well with skirts, so they’re great for travel. Plus they’re cheap! Many days of the week I don’t leave the house, or I’m cooking/cleaning/gardening, and these shirts are easy to just throw on without thinking about it.

But I’ve gotten into a boring rut and really needed some clothes that are a little more stylish. I hate clothes shopping, and have a terrible time finding things that I like and that fit. Enter Stitch Fix!

My first box was styled by Cassandra.

First off is the Marcelle Tie Neck Top by Daniel Rainn, along with Deidra Bootcut Jeans by Liverpool.

Marcelle top and Deidra Jeans

I loved both of these. The jeans are stretchy pull-on pants, which solve the problem of my hips being a lot bigger than my waist. And the 32″ inseam is perfect for me when wearing flats, which I usually do. Cassandra said if I prefer to wear heels or boots, she can send a longer length next time. I love the fun paisley print of the top, and the blue-and-orange colors.

Next is the Abrianna Longsleeve Knit Cardigan by 41Hawthorn:

Abrianna Cardigan

The color in the photo shows a little too red – the actual color a little more orange – more like paprika. I liked this a lot, too. The warm red is a good color for me, and I’m happy with the length. I paired it with a casual dress for the photo. The color actually goes well with the Marcelle top, but I’m not sure what I think about that combo. Certainly it would be good if I wear the top and just want to take a cardi along with me in case I get chilled.

The last pieces were the Cristen Shirt Dress by 41Hawthorn and a Lane Layering Necklace by Bancroft:

Cristen Shirt Dress and Lane Necklace

I don’t wear a lot of dresses, and normally don’t wear shirt dresses since I’m not big on dresses that are belted or have a waist band. (Normally I like sheath dresses that are just shaped at the waist, or wrap dresses which are flattering on pretty much everyone.) But as it turns out, I have a need for a dress that is not too casual and not too dressy, and lightweight for summer heat. I’ve been looking for one recently without success. Although I don’t LOVE this dress, it works and fits my criteria, so it definitely solved my problem. It would be a nice outfit for office wear, if I still worked. It was funny that I got this in the shipment – I was going to ask for a dress for this purpose, but figured I probably wouldn’t get something that worked.

You can’t really see the necklace in the photo, but it works with the dress or with the Marcelle top, and is pretty basic enough to wear with a lot of different things. Since it has a clasp, it can be doubled or even used as a belt:

Lane Layering Necklace

They also send styling cards for each item, giving you some outfit suggestions.

I have such a hard time buying clothes that I figured I’d be lucky if there was anything in the shipment I decided to keep, so it was amazing when I ended up keeping the entire shipment!

I was definitely pleased, and have already scheduled another shipment for next month. One of the things I really liked about the system is that although you can schedule automatic shipments if you want, you don’t have to – you can just go to the website and request a shipment whenever you want. And for each shipment, you can tell the stylist if you’re looking for anything in particular. From looking at things other people have gotten, I see that they also let you know when new things they send might work well with items you’ve already purchased from them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fast and Easy Bread: Regular or Gluten-free

Want bread on the table in about half an hour? It’s magic!

I was watching some videos from Jacques Pepin’s “More Fast Food My Way” show, and was excited by the idea of the Tibetan-style flatbread in Episode 221. I’ve tried it several times now, making it plain, with herbs, and also gluten-free and sourdough versions. They were all great. The gluten-free version was nearly identical to the regular one! If someone didn’t know it was gluten-free, they might not be able to tell.

From the ingredients, I expected it to be like a baking-powder biscuit. But instead, I thought it was more like foccacia in both taste and texture. In fact, just add some appropriate herbs and seasonings, and it makes a great foccacia.

The most important thing about making this bread? LET IT COOL. Resist all temptation to cut into it right away. It’s hard, I know, but I guarantee that the bread will be very gummy in texture if you don’t. You don’t have to let it cool completely to room temperature, but you probably want to give it at least 10-15 minutes to rest. That lets the internal steam continue to cook the bread and then dissipate. Even with the cooling period, you can still be eating it in about half an hour, since it only takes about 20 minutes to make.

Magic Flatbread

Adapted from Jacques Pepin’s Flatbread in “More Fast Food My Way”

You will need a 10-11″ skillet (preferably non-stick) with a tight-fitting lid.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1 /2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I use Clabber Girl double-acting)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil     (enough to coat bottom of pan)
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

  1. Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, stir, then add 1 cup water and stir. It will be a very wet, gooey batter. You can review the video to see what the batter looks like. Add in any desired herbs or optional ingredients.
  2. Put the 2 Tablespoons of water in a small container and put it by the stove so it will be measured and handy when you need it.
  3. Place a non-stick 10″ skillet over medium to medium-high heat. I use 8 on our gas stove, and it’s perfect. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan, then immediately dump in the batter. (Don’t wait for the pan to heat.)
  4. Spread the dough into a flat layer with a spoon or spatula if necessary. If you have to use a pan larger than 10″, you may want to leave space around the edge of the batter, rather than spreading it all the way to the edges. I’ve made it in a 12″ pan, and just left about a 1″ space all the way around the outer edge.
  5. Pour the 2 tablespoons of water around the outside edge of the dough where it meets the pan. This will create steam. Cover the pan with a lid and cook about 10 minutes.
  6. After about 10 minutes, flip the bread. The first time you make the bread, you might want to check it a little early to make sure it isn’t burning on the bottom – reduce heat if it is. Replace the lid and cook an additional 5 minutes.
  7. Let cool on a wire rack before cutting.

Gluten-Free version:

I make it exactly the same, just substituting 1 1/2 cups King Arthur gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour. Because of the difference in flour, the batter will be runny, like thin pancake batter. This is perfectly fine. (I tried reducing the water the second time I made it, and it wasn’t as good – so stick with the original amount of water.) I have not tried making this with any flour other than King Arthur, so you’re on your own if you use something else.

Sourdough version:

Got sourdough? Just substitute some of your sourdough starter (fed or unfed) for a portion of the flour and water. My starter is 100% hydration (equal weights of water and flour). If yours is different, you will have to adjust the ratios a bit. My starter weighs about 8.5 ounces (240 grams) per cup when stirred down.

I used 4 oz (by weight) of sourdough starter (this is a generous 1/2 cup by volume), 1 cup flour, and 3/4 cup water. I kept the salt and baking powder the same, but I might reduce the baking powder to 1 teaspoon next time and see how it works out, since the sourdough provides some leavening. I’ve only done this once so far, but it turned out great. I think this will be an excellent use for “discard” starter.

If you want to use 8 oz (by weight) of sourdough starter, I’d suggest using 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.


This is what it looks like right out of the skillet – the first photo shows the side that was down for the first part of the cooking:

The next photo is what it looks like after you flip it:

I like to cut it in long slices, then cut each strip in half:

 

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October

The summer has flown by, and fall is here. It’s been gorgeous weather, and I’m savoring every minute of it.

I was out taking a photo of my latest shawl (Light and Up), and couldn’t resist a few photos of the flowers still in bloom.

Salvia

Salvia

Dahlia

Dahlia

Scabiosa

Scabiosa

Light and Up Shawl

Light and Up Shawl

 

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Make a Wish (bone)

Ever since I first read Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac, I’ve wanted to make the “Hurry-Up Last Minute Sweater”, AKA the “Wishbone Sweater“. At first it was because I hadn’t knit many sweaters, and the idea of one that didn’t take a long time to make was appealing. Then as I made more of EZ’s patterns, I came to appreciate her genius and unique approach to pattern designs.

Eventually I set aside the idea. I wasn’t sure I wanted to wear such a bulky sweater, thinking it would be hot and heavy. I hadn’t seen many pictures of finished projects, and wasn’t even sure it would be flattering on me. I thought it might be better suited for men, with their broader shoulders.

But I finally did make a few bulky sweaters, and they weren’t nearly as hot as I thought they’d be. When Garnstudio came out with some new DROPS aran– and bulky-weight “blown” yarns that are lighter in weight than conventional yarn of the same thickness, I thought they might be nice to try out. They’re mostly alpaca, with a bit of merino and nylon. I don’t normally like to wear alpaca, because I find it rather prickly. But for some reason, I don’t have that problem with the DROPS yarn – it just feels nice and soft. When all of their alpaca yarn went on sale last month for 35% off, I decided to buy some and try it out.

I purchased some of the super-bulky (Cloud) as well as aran-weight (Air), planning to use the Cloud for this sweater, as it is listed as the correct gauge. But after doing some swatching and looking at another project I wanted to make, I decided to use the Cloud for the second project. Fortunately, using Air doubled gave me the same gauge as Cloud, so I was good to go.

And the result? I love it. I’m sorry it took me so long to get around to making this pattern, but maybe it was just waiting for the right yarn. It’s soft, drapy, and cozy – the kind of sweater you can just live in. I love the wishbone yoke, and find it much more flattering on me than raglans, despite the similarity of the diagonal lines. Of course, the week I finished it we were having record-breaking heat, near 100. I’m sad that I won’t be able to wear it for months.

Hurry-Up Last Minute

While making the sweater, I re-discovered the genius of EZ. Aside from the wishbone shaping of the yoke, there are decreases at the shoulders that provide a more natural shoulder shape than you get with traditional raglan shaping. You can see the shoulders in the photo below. That’s not due to any blocking, it’s just the way the decreases make the shape.

Wishbone shaping

EZ said not to try to knit the sweater at a smaller gauge, because it doesn’t work, but only mentions stitch gauge and not row gauge. But row gauge is also critical in order to have the diagonal lines meet at the throat in the right amount of decreases. I estimated that it needs to be about 16 rows over 4″ (4 rows per inch). If you have fewer rows per inch, the yoke may be too tall by the time lines meet, and if you have more, the lines will meet too soon. But you can also do the decreases a little more quickly or slowly to make up for differences. Having too deep a yoke seemed to be more common a problem than not deep enough, maybe because some people were using such large needles, which would give them fewer rows per inch. If you need needles larger than 11 to get stitch gauge, consider that carefully.

Want more inspiration? Cheryl Oberle made a darling tunic version of it.

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A flurry of fleece

I’ve been a very bad blogger, and it’s been a long time since I posted anything about knitting.

So let’s catch up, shall we?

First there’s Mailin, made from some lovely, squishy merino. The cowl neck is optional, and I probably wouldn’t normally have made it, but I had plenty of yarn and it’s so soft that it’s delightful around the neck. I’d like to make this pattern again with the scoop neck option, and maybe even a short-sleeved version.

Mailin

Then there’s the Holey Square, which was made out of 100% silk. The pattern called for linen, but I think this made a nice substitute:

Holey Square

Next is Milana, a lovely design that I fell in love with when I first saw it. The cables don’t show up quite as well in the tweedy, slubby yarn as I’d like, but I’m still very happy with it.

Milana

Then there’s Ms. Moneybags, a totally impulsive knit. The little bunny pattern was so adorable I had to make it. Unfortunately my gauge was off and I had to full it to fit the frame, which makes the pattern a little blurry, but I don’t think my hands could have taken knitting it on smaller needles than I was using (US 0/2mm). I’m not sure what I’ll use it for, but it was fun to make.

Ms. Moneybags

That gets us caught up to this month. I have two more projects just off the needles coming up next.

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Triple-stranded yarn trick

I stumbled upon this tip for triple-stranding a single ball yarn for knitting. I haven’t ever needed to do that, but it seems like a good trick to keep in mind so I thought I’d share it here.

Spinners will recognize this as a chain ply, but since I don’t spin, it’s new to me.

 

 

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Make Do, Reuse, Recycle

For years, we’ve had this old lounge chair sitting in the back of the garage. It came with the house, so it’s at least 20 years old. The metal frame is in good condition, but the vinyl straps are broken. I kept it around with the vague idea of restrapping it – but when I finally got around to looking into it, I discovered that it’s a really difficult job, especially with the type of frame we have. And it certainly wouldn’t be cost-effective to take it anywhere to have it done. But I hated the idea of throwing it out, since the frame is much better than most of what you can buy today.

2016-04-l1

Then I had the bright idea to put wood slats on it. (Well, to have DH do it.) I have a cushion for it, so it wouldn’t really matter if it looked a little odd, as long as it was functional. And if it was a failure, it could just go out with the annual neighborhood cleanup next month. He had some scrap cedar fencing in the garage, so tried attaching a couple of pieces to see how it worked.

2016-04-l2

Not bad! So he picked up a couple more pieces of wood, and ta-da!

2016-04-l3

We have a fully functional lounge chair! And it’s already gotten a good bit of use in the past few days. Quirky, yes, but it goes with the house.

The other yard project I worked on today was the periodic painting of the metal chairs. These chairs are even older than the lounge chair – close to 30 years old. Every 2 or 3 years when they start showing some rust spots, I spray them with a new coat of paint and they’re good to go.

2016-04-chairs

I’d hate to think how many coats of paint these chairs have on them after all these years, but they’ve certainly earned their keep.

Now we’re all set to enjoy the beautiful warm days.

 

 

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Orchids Ahoy

Life has been hectic and, uh, “interesting” lately. I feel like I’m running on empty, but my windowsill orchids are doing their best to add a bit of brightness. I was watering them today, and it gave me a moment to stop and enjoy a little bit of pretty.

Orchids

They’re mostly grocery-store orchids that I’ve had for several years, and they re-bloom pretty reliably, without much fuss or attention.

2016-orchids2

Outdoors, the daffodils, early tulips, and other early spring bulbs are putting on a good show, so there’s some brightness to be found both indoors and out.

 

 

 

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February is for…

Inversion. Blech.

It’s been gray and dismal outside with our inversion and smog, but at least I’ve had more bright colors to play with.

crocheted birds

I had a burning desire to work up some of these colorful little birdies. They keep making me smile when I look at them. Especially with their little button eyes.

crocheted birds closeup

 

 

 

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Chasing Away the Winter Doldrums

I needed something bright and cheery to chase away the Winter blues, especially when my main knitting projects are not exactly colorful.

Some quick and colorful coasters to the rescue!

Grandma’s Knickknacks Coasters

They even make the snow seem cheery! I used mostly Lily Sugar n Cream cotton, but also some Lion Brand cotton. It’s a great way to use up assorted scraps of yarn.

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