Monday, May 30, 2011

Kimchi — the Spice of Life

This year’s first batch of kimchi — It’s not fully fermented yet, but good enough to make a relish for today’s Memorial Day BBQ at Freddy’s Bar. Kimchi isn't difficult to make, but it is a task. If you have refrigerator space and air-tight containers you’re halfway there. For my kimchi recupe and detailed instructions go to Kimchi-licious! Here's a pictorial overview below.

You’ll need these spices: (clockwise) fresh garlic, ginger root, sweet Korean chili (finely ground), sea salt; brown sugar, fresh onion, scallions (not pictured).

Kimchi is made from Napa Cabbage. Make sure the leaves are firm and tight when you buy a head. Asian white radish (Daikon) lends a nice deep flavor as it ferments. The cabbage and the radish are cut into bite-size pieces, then are salted and brined overnight. Ginger and garlic are the key ingredients for making chili paste. Make sure you use fresh ginger root only — they should be plump and firm. Peel the ginger before you run it through the food processor with the garlic. Scallions are optional, but i do like them.

Make some chili paste (Gochuchang). Put all dry ingredients and spices into a bowl. Mix well and add enough water to make a thick paste. Adjust spices to taste. Now mix everything together in a large bowl until the cabbage is evenly coated. Here’s the tricky part. To start fermentation you must leave everything out at room temperature for a day. After that pack everything into air-tight containers and add brine until it covers the contents completely and place in the fridge. It should be ready in about a month.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tunisian Crochet in the Round

I don't really know the origins of Tunisian Crochet (a.k.a. Afghan Crochet) — but much like the Panama hat, it probably has little to do with Tunisia. From what I’ve read, its modern popularity peaked in Victorian era — used for household items such as cushions, antimacassars, embroidery ground... Afghans, etc. Tunisian crochet is made with a hook with a long straight barrel. Some have hooks on both ends (the Cro-hook) for more complicated constructions.

One way I like using Tunisian crochet is to work in the round by spiraling a narrow ribbon that travels in one direction — as seen in the crown of my Kings County Pork Pie hat above. It's a great technique for any tube construction... bags, backpacks, etc. This modification of basic Tunisian Crochet continually joins at the right edge of the previous row as as you make a ribbon. This technique is also knows as “Linked Double Crochet” when worked on the right-facing side. For this demonstration I used a standard US C (2.5 mm) hook to make a ribbon that is 2 stitches wide. I recommend any medium weight cotton or linen blended yarn — I ran two skeins of Louet Euroflax sport weight (#2 fine).

The Working Row: This ribbon is 2 stitches wide. With a loop held on your hook, insert it through the first vertical strand, then insert the hook through the front part of the chain on top. Pull a loop through the the top chain and the strand. Leave the loop on the needle. You should have two loops on your hook at this point.

Join & Return Row: Now insert your hook through the chain from the previous row. Pull a new loop through. Pull a loop through this new loop and the loop on your needle. You should have two loops on your needle. Pull a loop through these last two loops.

The marker in the photo above is at point of origin. Repeat The Working Row and the Join & Return Row in the round until you have an open ended tube. As you see from the Pork Pie hat at the top, I created a flat base then worked in the round to the depth of the crown. By increasing the stitch count on rows I gave the crown a slight taper to fit the head better.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tunisian Crochet — the Basics

Tunisian Crochet, or Afghan Crochet,  has long been maligned as the needle and hook’s ugly stepchild with a vague history. I feel it's been greatly misunderstood and misused. It's been relegated to the “granny world” — used as a ground for floss embroidery in the Victorian era. Isabella Beeton was a successful author and domestic pioneer who chronicled home management and crafts for the Victorian household. Among her needle crafts she wrote very thorough instructions for Tunisian Crochet.

Tunisian Crochet creates a very firm fabric with an almost woven appearance, like a reed basket. I think the texture is quite handsome. This makes it perfect for structured bags and crisp hats with subtle curves. The example above is worked in the round — a minor modification. I’ve studied and de-constructed its form. But before any deconstruction, one must learn well its construction.

Here’s a basic Tunisian Crochet tutorial for working flat. Usually this technique requires a long Afghan hook, which looks like a crochet hook with a long straight barrel — some with hooks on both ends. Finer sizes are hard to come by, so if you see one in a thrift shop, snag it. For the purpose of this demonstration I use a standard US C (2.5 mm) crochet hook.

For this lesson, we’ll make a ribbon that is 5 stitches wide. Tunisian Crochet is worked on two rows — the working row and the return row. Start by chaining 6. Skip the first chain and pull a loop through the second chain. Lave the loop in the hook. Repeat until you have a total of 5 loops on your hook — the first loop and the four new loops. Chain 1 in the last stitch. The first and last stitches are the selvage.

The Return Row: Pull a loop through the chain 1 and the loop on your hook. Leave the new loop on the hook. Now pull a loop through the next two loops on the hook. Repeat to the end and leave the loop on the hook.

The working Row: First insert the hook through the first vertical strand, then insert the hook through the front part of the chain on top. Pull a loop through the the top chain and the strand. Leave the loop on the needle, and repeat until before the last stitch. You should have four loops on your hook at this point.

For this last stitch you will insert your hook into the chain that on the edge. The photo above with the blue needle shows where you insert the hook — holding two strands. Chain 1 and repeat instructions for the Return Row. Repeat instructions for the Working Row and the Return Row until you have enough length for a ribbon or a strap.

Binding Off: After completing a Return Row, chain 1. Insert hook through the vertical strand and the front of the top chain — slip-stitch these together. Repeat until the end and cut yarn. There you have it the basic Tunisian Crochet stitch. Now go out and make something that isn't a pillow sham.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Going to the Dogs

I spotted this sign on Sterling Place between 5th and 6th avenues. Although this notice is supposed to protect the tree, it's funny how it was actually screwed into the tree with drywall screws. As butcher shops and laundromats turn into coffee shops and high-dollar frozen yogurt joints, we'll see more signs like this in Park Slope.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Wedge of Pork Pie for Summer

Spring leaves are out, the sound of hatchlings peep through the trees outside my window, and the smell of fresh laundry hangs in the air. Summer is almost upon us. I’ve been working on my Kings County Pork Pie hat. This summer a few of these will be sold at Ozzie’s Coffee Shop here in Park Slope, along with other fine handmade goods.

This hat is similar to the crochet Pork Pie that I designed for Vogue Knitting — except that my Kings County Pork Pie is worked entirely in Tunisian Crochet ribbon. This woven crochet stitch closely resembles straw ribbon.

Tunisian Crochet is very firm — this and the combination of materials hold the brim upright. I used  slate linen/silk (School Products) and charcoal linen paper (Habu) yarns to create a crisp yet lived-in look. People will argue that gray is not a color, but I find that it does complement all colors.

This man’s hat is understated luxury at it’s finest. All it needs is the right band. Here are a few detail photos.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Cloche Look at Marlene

Voila! This is the second cloche made for chanteuse extraordinaire, Mz. Courtney Louvre. Mz. Louvre recently joined French power-pop band Les Sans Culottes. This is the Marlene Calla Cloche inspired by the enigmatic silver screen siren, Marlene Dietrich. The eyelet cap is crocheted in arcade stitch, the soft brim is made with Tunisian crochet. This cloche drapes gently over the brow like the silken petal of Calla Lily. Mysterious, no?

Marlene Calla Cloche is a work in progress. I scheduled a fitting with Mz. Louvre for Thursday. I'm not sure where the front or back is yet... perhaps it doesn't matter. Here's a preview.