Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New scarves in the shop!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been working on a new product line for my shop....and they're finally up for sale!

I was starting to think these things were nothing but trouble...but then I got a rhythm going and got a couple done, and I've changed my mind! I've worn both the prototypes out and about, and have gotten a bunch of compliments, so I'm excited to see how they'll do on Etsy. (I should really get a dressmakers dummy for photography....I was hoping to wait for a really good hair day to take these shots, but it just wasn't happening. Had to settle for a so-so day!)

I struggled quite a bit with pricing these. I asked for a few suggestions and got about a $40 range! I know I've been pricing my handknits pretty low for the amount of work they entail, so I'm planning to start bumping those up bit by bit. I don't want to scare people off, but I really should charge what they are worth. Yes, handmade does cost more than picking something up at Target, but there's good reason for that. An actual person is sourcing materials, perfecting techniques, and personally, I'm happy to take requests so that people get the exact thing they are looking for. A friend asked on facebook just today if I'd consider making a scarf in a gray with gold snaps - the answer is sure! I can work on that!

In the end, I priced them pretty much right in the middle of the range of what people thought they were worth, and we'll go from there. I guess that's a good reason to get one now if you like what you see - stock is going to change, and pricing might as well! If you want more details, please take a look at my shop, cozycapecottage.etsy.com. I just have these 4 listed for now, so get em while they last!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

Consider this a mini/end of season update. Things are winding down here in the Midwest. We seem to have barely started the hot, humid part of summer, and then we abruptly transitioned right into a crisp, cool fall. Strange weather, but it's been really good for my garden. I usually lose steam about, oh, June 15, so I consider the fact that I'm getting out there now and then to pick up a few ingredients for dinner to be a total win.

For example, I grew these carrots:

I grew these tomatoes:

 I grew this basil:

All of which simmered together (along with veg stock I made and froze last year!) to make this soup:

Want the details? This is my favorite tomato soup recipe, and I've been making it for several years. It's based on one I pulled out of our Sunday newspaper (and it looks like they adapted it from Ina Garten) probably....4 years ago? Pair it with grilled cheese and you basically have my favorite meal.

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Garden Fresh Tomato Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped (or however many you are trying to use up!)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 lbs tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 5 large big boy type or 20 small roma - I prefer roma)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 cups stock (veggie or chicken)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (use just a pinch if not grinding fresh)
3/4 milk (buttermilk if you have it)

(I frequently double this recipe and freeze the leftovers!)

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Saute onions and carrots for about 10 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, stock, salt and pepper, stir well. Bring to boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and stir in milk.

Process through a food mill and discard pulp if you are fancy enough to have such a gadget. I am not, so I process batches in my blender and then run them through a sieve and discard pulp. (I push the liquid through with the back of my large ladle to make it go a little faster.) Return soup to low heat until hot enough to serve. Garnish as you wish - I prefer a nice grilled cheese sandwich with a hint of spicy mustard.

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And since I'm one of the only ones in my house who eats this, a double batch usually lasts me till spring! I'm hoping that if I pull the rest of the tomatoes that are still green on the vine I'll have enough to make one more batch this year, otherwise I'll turn them into sauce. It's funny, while tomato soup has ALWAYS been my go-to comfort meal, I really hate actual tomatoes!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Commuter Knitter - Finish-a-long

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, Commuter Knitter, and she mentioned the idea of doing a knit along (called a KAL in the knitting world) for finishing all those projects that have been languishing on the needles for awhile. Now as a listener with three projects that seem to be taking forever and a day, coming up on fall when I'd like to actually be wearing them...that sounded like a great idea to me!

Here is Jen's introduction to the as yet to be named "-along," but which I've been calling a finish-a-long (a FAL?) in my own head, as follows in her ravelry group:

Do you need some extra motivation to finish some of those languishing WIPs off the needles? Did you start a KAL and then run out of steam when you didn’t finish by the end-date? Have you found a long-lost project that fell behind the couch? Or do you get distracted by the shiny to cast on ALL the things? Then feel free to join us for a year-end finish-along.
WIPs should have been started prior to 9/1/2014 and finished between 9/9/2014 and 12/31/2014
One post per person in this thread - just add all of your FOs to the post
Please include a photo and a link to your project page with all the details of your project
Feel free to double/triple/whatever dip into other KALs as applicable
Prizes will be drawn just after 1/1/2015. More details to come.
 So basically, get motivated to finish the things I've been working on anyway, and have a chance to win a prize? Well ok!

Here's the status report on my never-ending works in progress. All 3 were started back in June, so I guess maybe they haven't been going on forEVER....but it still feels long. Note to self, don't cast on so many things at EXACTLY the same time!

I've been putting the most effort in recently on the Wonderful Wallaby sweater. I joined the sleeves last week, so all that's left is to knit the shoulders, collar and hood.

As for my troubled Bleecker Street Cardigan, which I would LOVE to have finished, I'm mad at it again. The sleeves and back are finished, so I just have the fronts to go. I absolutely would have started them....but I noticed ANOTHER MISTAKE on the sleeves. Argh! Why does this stitch pattern keep biting me?! I got one stitch off again, right at the decreases. I pretend I can't decide if it matters enough to rip them back....but it totally bothers me and I probably will. Bright side I guess is that it's on the decreases....so the rows are getting shorter. Still annoying, still can't believe I biffed it up again.

The last project is just a simple pair of socks. They aren't anything exciting, but I'd just like to have them finished! It's getting cold little by little, and I can't wait to wear them!

Now, the only snag in my finishing plan is that knit season is heating up, and so is my Etsy shop! I'm starting to get the first orders of my busy season rolling in, so I've got some business orders on the needles and those always come first. (These are the always popular cottage slipper socks - they are seriously the coziest thing!) I don't mind it at all of course - it's exciting and flattering every time someone chooses me out of all the hundreds of shops out there! It just means that I have to knit like the wind!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

things to fill with other things

While I wish I was the kind of person who does, I almost never go to antique or thrift stores. Mostly, I don't have the time or patience to hunt through...but finally, I've had success! I've been wanting to find some little things to go in the studio, and I scored!

I opted against the corks...I have enough of those already.

For the past....oh, year or so, I've co-opted one of our laundry baskets to hold all of the burlap sacks I've collected for projects and have yet to deal with. I found a large wicker basket with a wood bottom that worked out just perfectly! And hey, I can stop sorting one of our loads of laundry on the dirty floor!

While backyard chickens is a dream I toy with from time to time...I decided to use the vintage egg basket for, well, yarn. Currently it's holding the stash I picked up at stitches midwest this year that I just wanted to get out of my reusable bag, as you can probably tell by the artful arrangement. The basement studio, while far from actually being "finished," is actually getting crazy close to ready to move in the big furniture, and I think these two baskets will be a great start to the "effortlessly put together and collected over time" look I'd love to achieve. Until then, these cute baskets will be unceremoniously shoved into the closet, which I call crazy overstuffed and my sister called organized. Ha!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New product line...soon

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, then you already know I've been working on something new.

My sister had a double edged idea...she wanted to make these scarves that snap, sort of like the yoga ones from lululemon, and she wanted to learn to sew.

The sewing lessons went well.

The scarves themselves....well, it's been a lot of trial, and a LOT of error.

Let me just go ahead and say a couple of things about snaps. #1. It totally doesn't work to use lightweight snaps on either leather or faux leather. #2. It also totally doesn't work to try to punch the holes through on a hardwood floor. It worked MUCH better the following day when I did it outside on the concrete patio. It would probably work much better than that if I had use of a snap press, but I don't like to invest in a lot of equipment if I'm not sure if a product is going to sell or not. #3. Leather and my sewing machine hate me right now.

In the end, I really liked the results of the test scarves pictured above, but they were too long. I was so focused on getting the leather and snaps attached, that I made a rookie mistake and didn't test out the length! They definitely work, but need to wrap around 3 times which is just uncomfortable. I tried making a couple of scarves with a real leather trim, but it's thicker than the faux stuff (which actually looks surprisingly good!) and my sewing machine seems to hate. it. so. much. I spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon having my new, ingenious method of attaching the trim just not work SO hard...and then a lot more hours Sunday evening having my bobbin skip and thread break and just general horrible things happen to me, which I solved with wine and aimless internet surfing, throwing things and avoiding the sewing room since then. Healthy coping skills!

As soon as I can face it, I'm going to try my easier method of attaching the trim with the faux leather to see if it's in fact easier. I managed to improve the snap attachment method, so surely I can do the same with the sewing...right? And if not, well.....hey, one of a kinds pictured above!!!!