Thursday, February 4, 2016

In my little sweat shop




My older son will be the houseguest of our dear friends in Philly. As I type this, they have two granddaughters. Tomorrow, their third grandchild will be born.




I decided to make winter hats for their granddaughters as our house gift. 
I had made the hats using a giant version of the little knitting knobbies I had used as a kid.
Lion Brand Knitting Spool - None
A knitting knobby


Knitting LoomsThe knitting looms are exactly as mindlessly satisfying to use as the knitting knobbies. The only difference being is that it is easier to produce something useful using the knitting looms than it is to make something with a long snake of knitted yarn. When I was a kid I produced countless yards of skinny knitted snakes. My sister once attempted to make a miniature rug out of some of her knitting knobby production. I was never as resourceful. I usually tossed my yards of knitted rope after admiring my handy work for a while. 

I bought the knitting looms earlier in December and  I have already made a couple of adult sized hats and a cowl using the knitting looms. 

I made the three hats, one baby sized and two kid sized ones over three evenings this week. I am a big believer in kid's hats being amusing for adults to look at. The hats were fine but I thought they needed big silly pom poms on top.

My usual method of making pom poms was taught to me by my sister when I was 7 or 8. You roll a whole bunch of yard around a bit of cardboard and then tie another piece of yarn tightly around the middle . Then you snip all of the yarn loops to a uniform size.
Pom Pom MakerI have been noticing that several craft sites have been selling pom pom makers like the one pictured here. I wasn't going to go out and buy a pom pom maker. I had briefly thought about making one out of cardboard, but then I had a brainstorm. Old CD's seemed just right for the job.
You cut lengths of yard and wrap the discs.
When you are done wrapping you pull another length of yard under all of the wrapped yarn.
Here you see the pink yarn being pulled under all of the wrapped yarns. Then you tie that length of yarn in a tight knot around the center.
The pink yarn is now tied in a knot around all of the other yarns.You then cut the pom pom around the outer edge of the CD's.

having two CD's makes the cutting easier. You slide the scissors between the two CD's to cut the yarns.
After all of the yarns are cut you can carefully slide the CD off the yarn bundle.

Here is the pink yarn that holds the bundle of yarn together.


Ta da!!! a pom pom! You can give it a haircut.

Yeah, they are fun to make. 



I'm loving these hats.







Wednesday, February 3, 2016

More work on Jane's tallit

I suppose that if I just had a standard tallit that I made over and over again I would be quicker at it. This tallit has taken longer than I expected because it has presented what my sewing buddies would call design opportunities. In regular people’s words it’s what you do when you have a series of problems that need to be solved. The design opportunities are what occur after you finish cursing.

One of the things that drives me crazy when I see tallitot that are constructed out of appliques stripes is that the underside of the tallit is blank, naked. When you have a woven tallit the design “reads” on both sides of the tallit. When you wear a large tallit, the kind you flip back over your shoulders, the stripes on the right side and the wrong side of the tallit interact with one another. It’s one of the visual pleasures of seeing someone wearing a tallit.
Jane who has commissioned this tallit using linens from her grandmother's trousseau, has asked that I limit the colors in the tallit to just the ivory and the gold. Each of the lace strips has been backed with gold and more ivory silk. Sewing each of those strips to the base of the tallit creates a seam. One side of the seam is clean, the other has messy parts that need to be covered.
I have been trying to figure out the best way to cover the seams. Today I reached a solution.


I had purchase this wonderful braid from the Hyman Hendler sale. I would guess that this braid is from the 1920’s. I’m not completely sure about it’s age, it isn’t marked, but it just has the feel and the look of braid from that time.
So this is what the tallit looks like now. However Jane wears the tallit, either simply hanging down or flipped back on her shoulders, it will please the eye.


Yes, I do see the threads. Yes, this tallit does need a good pressing. Never the less, I’m feeling really happy with how this is coming out.
The lace is spectacular.


I still have to edge the top and the bottom of the tallit. I have to make the atara/neckband and get the corners/pinot attached. As I look at the tallit I think I need to add one more row of the metallic ribbon.

I no longer feel like cursing.This tallit has provided me with many design opportunities. I think I have taken good advantage of the opportunities presented to me.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Food Friday - Birthday Edition

My husband's birthday is tomorrow. As usual, he is not exactly looking forward to it. We decided to sweeten the day by inviting people he really likes to dinner. Some of them are relatives, others are friends.

I made this dinner with my husband's likes and dislikes very much in mind. 
 My husband likes meat.
I made lots of it.
I also made some vaguely Middle Eastern rice with apricots.

The salad is not pictured because it is not yet made. But these are the brussel sprouts. My husband's favorite salad dressing is the Italian dressing from the dollar store. Because it is my husband's birthday, the dressing will appear at the table.

There are also desserts.
There is another iteration of the Mario Batali chocolate biscotti, with dried apricots, candied ginger. whole almonds and big chunks of dark chocolate.

There is another made up cake this one a Meyer Lemon and coconut cake enriched with Meyer lemon syrup.


 I had actually shopped for gifts for my husband this week. I was in several stores and selected several things and each time I ended up abandoning the purchase. My husband tends not to like stuff. he is satisfied with what he has and hates the thought of wasting money. My gift is the effort and thought  have put into this meal.

Shabbat Shalom.






Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Various sorts of work, and also some real pleasures

This has been a busy week. Monday I made a tea for one of the people who hosted my son during his years in Israel. I don't think that our guest got that the table setting was an oddball homage to my mother and her elegant hostessing style. This dishes and the linens were a mix of things that had belonged to my mother and stuff that ended up in our house.I think everything played together nicely. I think if my mother had seen my table on Monday she first would have been a little put out by the mix of dishes and linens and then she might have decided that it looked a little crazy, but OK.  

Tuesday a dear friend was in town. She was my mentor at my earliest jobs here in New York. I think that we haven't seen one another in 15 years. My poor friend hasn't experienced a New York winter in a long time. I met her near where she was staying.

As I walked east on 73rd street I was completely puzzled by this white terracotta mid block building.
It stuck out like the proverbial thumb. It was probably put up at the same time as it's brownstone neighbors, in the 1890's. Perhaps a real estate speculator guessed wrong.
It's such an exuberant facade.

Visiting with my friend was a real pleasure.Hopefully there won't be quite so much time between our next visits.

I have put in more time on the tallit made with the vintage linens.  But I also have more work on my plate.


I am putting together a tallit for Jack with blue, gold and red stripes. Today I began on the blue and gold element of those stripes.

At the moment my work consists of sewing strips  of silk together, folding the long strips in half and then sewing the shorter halved together and repeating the procedure. This is actually the quickest way to get the task done. the stripes will be built up element by element and then pieced into the silk base. These colors make me very happy.

I also had a video chat meeting to help someone who has known me since before I was born make her tallit. Unfortunately the video quality was not great so I took these photos of possible materials to see what she liked.

These wonderful ribbons are no-doubt quite a few decades older than I am.

They are beautiful but the colors may be too strong for my client. 
I await her opinion. 


One of the things I love about working with clients is that I learn to work with colors that I might not otherwise think of using. Working with clients has taught me a tremendous amount about color. 


Friday, January 22, 2016

Food Friday - memorial dinner edition

My niece messaged me a week or so ago. she was going to be in town and wanted to join us with her brother. it was perfect, the last day of saying kaddish for my mother and it seemed perfect to have most of my mother's grandchildren seated around the table. 

The meal then began to grow. I invited my beloved cousin who until recently was from the side of the family we didn't talk to.  I also invited my dear friend who represents the Halifax part of my mother's life. Unlike our diner breakfast where a seemingly endless number of tables and chairs can be added to accommodate the number of people we want to have at our table, our dining room and our table are very unforgiving. We can seat twelve and no more. I was not able to invite my mother's near-grandchildren, her sister's grandchildren who she treated very much like grandchildren. 

In planning this meal I realize that much of it is food my mother would have hated. 
My son cooked up a vast amount of jerk chicken. It is insanely spicy. One of my mother's favorite description of food was "mild and delicious". This chicken is delicious but decidedly un-mild.

I can't imagine that my mother was a big fan of kale. My son is making that as I type. The roasted kale will be served with roasted mandarin orange sections.
It is only with extreme self control that I have not nibbled all of the orange sections. They are that good and will look beautiful against the dark green kale.

I am also going to show you a lazy way to make delicious rice ( this my mother would have loved).
I hacked up mushrooms and put them in a baking pan with some chicken fat from last Shabbat's chicken. Once the mushrooms were mostly cooked...

I added the rice, the container of chicken juice and some water. I covered the pan tightly with foil and then set it in the oven to cook with the chicken. I will flavor correct later. 

My mother always set a beautiful table. I will use a cloth that she particularly loved, a red and white linen check and use not the napkins that came with the cloth but some vintage white damask linen napkins. The checked table cloth will be topped by a white linen cloth with complicated hemstitching. Our plates are slate grey.

My mother was big on desserts.

In her honor I have made whities, or meringues.They are flavored with orange bitters and big chunks of bittersweet chocolate.

A natural pairing for meringues is biscotti, meringues yield extra egg yolks. Biscotti need extra egg yolks.  I used this recipe from Mario Batali.

Making them I think that biscotti were invented when an Italian grandmother was busy and gave the grandchild she was babysitting for ingredients to play with. The dough feels exactly like the dirt I used to use to make mudpies with in the back yard at 22 President's Lane. Every time I make biscotti I am glad that my friend Paula Randall and I spent so many hours carefully mixing dirt and water and forming it into shapes. 

It's even the same color as Presidents Lane dirt. Unlike the Quincy dirt, the biscotti is studded not with pebbles but with whole almonds, shredded coconut, snips of dried apricots and large chunks of that same bittersweet chocolate.

It baked up looking like this and is now sliced and toasted and ready to serve. If I have the energy I will bake a cranberry wet cake.


My mother was a big believer in a multi-part dessert course.


Shabbat Shalom to all...on my first Shabbat as a non mourner, back in the world of the living.


The last morning

Today was my last day of saying kaddish for my mother. Today is the last morning for a long time that I will see dawn breaking over Broadway.

There was a group of us who had all experienced loss within a couple of weeks of one another. Over the past year I joined with people who were just ahead of me in feeling the trauma of their loss. As the year went on, others joined the roster of mourners.  As people's years of mourning drew to an end the group we were together, shifted and rearranged itself.

 After shaharit was over, we all went out for breakfast together. There were a lot of us. Someone joked that it could have been a seder. I was very aware as I ate breakfast with my friends, my community, how we all drag one another through the shoals of grief.
When I was saying Kaddish for my father I often thought of him during the service. This go around I realized that I had fewer thoughts of my mother during services. This go around I have been called on to lead fairly frequently. 
Being able to sing in public,without choking, without losing my breath has been a learned skill. This year I have been called to be shlichat tzibur fairly often. 
As I lead services, I have realized that my voice is my mother's voice. I haven't had to recall specific moments because as I sing I hear my mother's voice coming out of my throat.



at my mother's last birthday
When my mother's older brother was in his teens, my grandfather got him a job being  shliach tzibur at a small shul in their neighborhood. Hymie had some trouble leading services. My grandfather sent my mother along to cue her brother, to essentially lead from the ezrat nashim,the women's section.

So my eleven months of saying Kaddish has come to an end. I am released from the obligation.
Barukh Dayan HaEmet