Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shy violets

Ages ago, when i was little, i ran across a recipe for violet syrup, in an issue of National Geographic World.  I desperately wanted to try it out, but my mother (deterred perhaps by the range i'd have to cover to find enough violets around our oh-so-suburban townhouse, or perhaps by the experiences that had followed when, to keep me busy, she sent me out to gather acorns which later proved to have worms in them) would not hear of it.

So recently, when a friend posted something on Facebook about gathering some of the violets in her yard for salad, i mentioned wanting to look up a violet syrup recipe.  In one of those happy chances for which i love the Internet, another friend of hers almost immediately posted a link to a recipe.

I have lots of violets around my woodsy home, so there was no obstacle to making up a batch.
The steeping blossoms turn the water such a gorgeous color... and in the "Mr. Wizard" moment for the day, it turns out that the violet water acts like litmus paper, changing different colors when an acid or a base is added.  Since the syrup recipe calls for lemon juice, you get to see it turn a festive pink-purple shade...

The violet taste is a little fainter than i'd like, so next time i think i'll try more flowers in the same amount of water, and see what happens...

(Isn't that old Atlas jar great?  When i first made noises about canning, the spouse came home from an auction with three bushel baskets of old canning jars, so even though not all were salvageable, i've got oodles!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Half-Size patterns

Pattern companies have, over the years, come up with various ways to help dressmakers fit different figures.  One of these schemes was Simplicity's half-size patterns.  If you look at vintage patterns, you run across them now and again.  I'd noticed that the bust, waist, and hip measurements had slightly different proportions.  But from the name "half-size" and the different measurements, one might reasonably assume that they were intended for women who fell in between the regular pattern sizes...

...but it turns out, that's not all.  I discovered this reading 1940s and 1950s sewing books, like this one.  It doesn't tell you all this on the pattern envelope, and if you don't really study and compare ALL the measurements, you might never know.  Here's what i learned:

Most patterns are drafted to fit someone who's about 5'6" or 5'7" - that part i knew.  Since i'm not that tall, i often have to check and adjust waist length, skirt length, sleeve length.  But a half-size pattern is drafted with narrower shoulders, a little fuller hip, and a shorter overall height - to fit someone 5'3" or 5'4".
This is really useful information, the sort that can save time and grief in fitting patterns (and as i don't have a dress form or a handy fitting assistant, the closer i can start to a good fit, the better...).  I think i need to keep expanding my collection of vintage sewing books, to cover different decades and pattern manufacturers - i don't know what other nuggets i have yet to discover!

I've got a fair collection of books, from the 1910s to the 1970s (excepting the 1930s - have to look for something to fill in that gap).  The good news is that you can now find a lot of this sort of thing reproduced online.  There's Google Books, of course, but my first stop would be VintageSewing.info - it's a great resource.  (For handy reference at the sewing table, though, it's hard to beat having a print edition in hand!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Optimistic planting

I planted things today.

It's a triumph-of-hope-over-experience sort of thing.  I am good with small furry creatures... but plants, not so much.  Still, it being spring, i went and stuck seeds in the dirt, and maybe this year will be better than last.  I planted a little patch of native wildflowers, along with green beans, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, lettuces, and some garlic chives - that last being a batch of seeds from my friend Nancy's garden.

And if it doesn't go well, at least there's the CSA subscription to fall back on...