Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Pattern Nostalgia

These delightful 50's & 60's vintage patterns arrived on my doorstop via eBay. I love all of the stylish designs and ohh those hairdos! Do you remember that pink hair tape they used to sell? Actually, I just Googled it and apparently a company called Beauty Mark still sells it (though I don't think they have spent any money on packaging design lately). It was this really light and mildly sticky tape that allowed you to curl your hair exactly how you wanted it and tape it to your face to dry!

One of my favorite things about vintage pattern finds are the little hand written notes regarding the homemaker's fabric choices, etc. The flowered number in front makes me want to make a pot roast and host a dinner party with Jason in an argyle cardigan serving Rob Roys...think Sissy Spacek in Blast from the that movie.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cardigan Refashioned

I bought this cute little 3/4 sleeve cardigan for a steal, but was a little overwhelmed by its glittery beads and citrus flair. Hmm, what to do, but make it mine...

I first removed all of the beads and buttons, which I'm sure will pop up in another project down the line. I then measured the existing fabric detail and added a 1/4" seam allowance on all sides. Then I ironed over the seam allowances and pinned the fabric into place. After that, I sat down with a good movie (crucial step) and hand stitched the fabric to the sweater. (As a side note, this would be an easy addition to any sweater whether or not there was an existing fabric detail. I also covered all of the button holes as I don't tend to button my cardigans. You could easily measure and mark the existing button hole placements on your fabric strip.) After that, I cut two strips of fabric 4" wide by about 2x the length of the circumference of the sleeve. I ironed over the edges 1/4" and machine stitched. I then folded and stitched again for a finished edge. After that, I machine basted along the length just inside one finished seam and used the basting stitch to gather the ruffle. I then pinned my ruffle (slightly overlapping the short ends) on the inside of the sleeve and hand-stitched in place. This is a great project for your fabric stash and perfect for updating an old or thrifted cardigan.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Matryoshka Inspiration

I came home to a nice pile of eBay goodies this weekend including this 1957 Russian embroidery book - inspiration for the hand embroidered Matryoshki I'm working on. The Matryoshka doll pictured is the second in a set of 7 that I purchased on our last trip to Russia to bring Nikolai home. She features many of the traditional Russian fairy tales.

I am also currently addicted to inter library loan and recently requested a very comprehensive book on the history and art of Russian Matryoshka - The Art of the Russian Matryoshka by Rett Ertl and Rick Hibberd. It is a beautiful coffee table book detailing the history of the art and artists behind this beautiful craft and artistic symbol of Russia. One of the interesting details I learned was how they paint the spirals on the heads of the most popular style of Matryoshka. A small piece of ribbed fabric is rolled into a small circle, dipped in paint and hand stamped.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Nikolai 2.5

I've been wanting to do a silhouette of Nikolai for a while. I love when people have old family silhouettes hanging on their walls. A little research led me to the history of far back as the early 1700's this was a popular form of art among the rich in Europe. In the 1760's, the Finance Minister of France - Etienne de Silhouette was known for his terrible tax policies...with disastrous effects on the financial well being of the average citizen. The art form of paper cutting was very popular at the time and a pass time of Silhouette himself. Many peasants of the time would dress only in black as a form of protest and would describe themselves as "Silhouettes". I love a little bit of history...

So, here is my dear Nikolai in silhouette. As it is quite difficult to get a 2.5 year old to stand still, I took a profile photograph and then traced his silhouette in Adobe Illustrator.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Dinner with Friends

We had friends over for dinner on Saturday night and had a delightful time. Food always tastes so much better with friends. I also love taking the time to prepare a big meal and set the table...focusing on all of the details. I love details. I have a quote that I painted above my kitchen cabinets which reads " To invite a person into your home is to take charge of his happiness for as long as he is under your roof." ~ A. Brillat-Savarin. I love this quote and at least attempting to accomplish this. We enjoy many delicious dinners at our home, but most of those are spent sitting around the coffee table...not so glamorous, but we think life should be comfortable.

I have a new favorite salad dish that we have been enjoying on almost a daily basis. It is simple and delicious. I chop up three colors of peppers and a few cucumbers. I have been buying a small imported variety from a local Armenian grocer because of their wonderful flavor. I then top it with feta cheese and tzatziki. Tzatziki is a Greek sauce that is easy to make and we use for dressing salads, on meats, as a dip, etc.


1 small cucumber
1 clove garlic
1 cup plain yogurt (Greek yogurt is best, but you can also use Stoneyfield Whole Milk Yogurt as it is thicker like Greek yogurt)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp chopped fresh mint or dill
salt to taste

Peel and then shred cucumber (or dice). Drain excess liquid and add cucumber and pressed garlic to yogurt. Add olive oil, lemon juice and mint or dill and then season with salt.

If served alone as a salad (diced cucumber), add a few Kalamata olives as a garnish.


Friday, January 19, 2007


I made it to blog entry 100! Granted, it has taken me a little over a year... However, I reflect back on this year...all of the wonderful things that have happened in my life and I am so thankful. This blog is my artistic accountability, journal and place to connect with new friends. I have loved all of the things I have learned from the blogging community and I have enjoyed carving my own little niche in it. So here it is... to 100 entries and many new new experiences and to many new friends!

A new bib for snack time... I have been working on some new designs for some soon-to-be new babies in my life. I have been working with my limited supply of some cute new imported German fabric. However, I like to try out new ideas and designs either with a basic muslin or some of the scraps from my fabric stash. As a bib is hardly complex, I sketched out a pattern on tissue paper and decided to make Nikolai a new bib out of designer Michael Miller's Disco Dot pattern. I had been debating about sewing the front and back together with a raw edge and then adding bias tape to finish. However, I decided to sew front sides together and turn inside out. I am actually fairly happy with the result despite a few glitches that I will fix on the next. I also wanted to try out some of the iron-on vinyl that I have in order to make a wipe-clean surface. I had the vinyl folded in storage, so I was a bit worried about how it would look. I cut a rectangle just bigger than my bib cutout and peeled off the backing. I found that it is a bit sticky so that you can temporarily adhere it to your fabric and smooth it out. It looked great. I then followed the rest of the instructions for fusing to the fabric. The only difficulty I cam across was that the vinyl became quite wrinkled as I turned the bib right-side-out. It ironed fairly flat again and I then stitched up the opening by machine sewing a finishing stitch around the edge. I used iron-on Velcro to finish it off. So, now the debate...wipe-clean surface or plain cotton...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Simple Day

Nikolai in Papa's shoes...East Mountain South in the CD player...Reading my favorite blogs...Shooting some photos...Sewing by hand...Whistle of the steam heaters...fuzzy socks...thrifted cashmere curled at my toes...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Babushka Buttons

I have been embroidering more wool buttons soon to be up in the shop. They are inspired by this wool Babushka Shawl that I brought back from Russia. It currently drapes a side table in our dining room. I love the vivid colors on a black background. We have been having dreary, rainy, winter days here in Boston - perfect weather for handwork and a cup of hot tea.

I haven't had a lot of updates to the shop in a while, but am enjoying this time of creativity and design as I come up with new ideas to share. Stay tuned soon for a new Simply June e-newsletter. I'm going to have a cute scarf pattern to share as well as some updates as to what has been happening at Simply June. If you haven't signed up on our mailing list yet, pop on over to sign up now!

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Process, not the Product...

I just finished ready a book about a cross-country train ride. The book was a little fluff reading left over from the holidays, but the story reminded me that life is really about the journey and not the destination. Similarly, as a designer, my art/craft is about the process and not the product. I'm not talking about the end quality of a product because I believe things should be both beautiful and well made. But rather one should slow down and enjoy the process of creating, allowing one's personality and experiences to show through. When I purchase something from another artist or crafter, I am always intrigued by the hands that have made it. When you hold in your hands a handmade item that was passed down in your family, you feel a connection to it and to those before you. So, my challenge this year is to really enjoy that process and to allow myself to slow down and take the creative journey - less concerned about the destination than the journey itself.

The photograph is a piece I did a while back that we installed in our dining room. It seemed fitting with today's post as adopting Nikolai was really a test of enjoying the journey and not just the destination. I often hear adoption described as a journey - it is often a long slow one at that and the actually journey often begins long before you take that first step into an adoption agency. My journey began long ago, but this piece made from an old window chronicles just a part of it. The bottom photograph is of me and my son Nikolai on the day we drove away with him from his orphanage. It was such an anticlimactic day - our third trip to Russia and he was finally ours - in my arms - never to be handed back to his caretakers at the end of a short visit. I had imagined this day over and over in my mind. I lived, breathed, dreamt about this moment - it was full of smiles and laughter and celebration - theatrical crescendos in the soundtrack of my life. In contrast, the moment was small, sincere, sad, happy, quiet and still. I held Nikolai in my arms. He was so scared. This was the part of his journey that would lead to a better life, but journeys are full of change and he knew to hold on tight. I held him even tighter...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Neapolitan Knits

It feels like a W.I.P. (work-in-progress) kind of day and I have pulled out a scarf that I have been working on since sometime last winter...or was it the winter before...Hmm. Well, nonetheless it is a W.I.P. that I hope to wear sometime this season! I love this combination of colors - chocolate, strawberry and vanilla - mmm...Neapolitan Ice Cream! Do you remember those little pats of ice cream they would serve in the school cafeteria? I remember bringing in my extra change for that delicious treat sandwiched between two little pieces of cardboard. Lunch itself was 70 cents. I remember always checking for my 2 quarters and 2 dimes. Our teacher would line us up and we would march down to the cafeteria. Our day revolved around what was on the menu. Would it be the mystery meatloaf or pizza day? If you were lucky enough to be first in line on pizza day, you could ask for a corner piece! Ahh,
the school lunch line. Remember "frontsies backsies"? Gosh, I hope this was not unique to the little world of my youth... Since cutting in line was not allowed, it was somehow acceptable to let your friend in front of you and then for them to let you ahead of them. What!?! Can someone explain this logic to me?

Well, hopefully some knitting will be accomplished on this cold blustery day. This print by the lovely Emily Martin from The Black Apple will inspire.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Trial and Error

I have had an idea for a while for a soft toy matryoshka doll (Russian Nesting Doll) with an embroidered face and flowers. I'm excited about the embroidery and am waiting on the post for a beatiful book I recently purchased on Ebay from Russia. It is full of beautiful Russian embroidery and I hope will be an inspiration. When we were adopting Nikolai from Russia, I splurged on a beautiful matryoshka that features various Russian fairy tales. I love this artistic symbol of Russia and wanted to create my own version of it.

So, here is the final pattern version of my matriyoshka. I had never sewn or designed a three dimensional toy before. I took some doll making books out of the library to learn a little bit about construction and then sketched out my pattern. This little girl is version number 3 after a little trial and error. I haven't finished off the bottom yet, but am fairly confident on how to do that. I also want to add some rice to her base to help her sit upright.

This sample is made with an inexpensive (.99/yard) muslin. I love having muslin on hand for trying out new ideas and patterns so that I don't have to cut into my special fabrics. However for the finished dolls, I got my hands on some beautiful Russian themed fabric with a black background that I plan to use to make the basic doll. I then plan to applique wool felt that I have hand embroidered.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Nolé Style & Beauty Indulgence - You work hard. Look Fabulous. Indulge Yourself in Style and Beauty.

Check out this wonderful new website called Nolé Style & Beauty Indulgence. Their website features indie designers from all over the world that design and create handcrafted goods. Designers join by invitation only and SimplyJune is now proud to be a member! Check out our designer page at Nolé .

Nolé also offers Holiday Gift Guides, Articles written by designers, Product Reviews, an Events Calendar, Contests and a Blog. Coming soon will be Nolé Mi, an online magazine as well as an Online Shop featuring items from Nolé designers.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy Birthday Jason!

Today is my husband Jason's birthday and we are celebrating with a little carrot cake that I made this afternoon. Happy, Happy Birthday to my best best friend!
Onion Goggles

Check these slick babies out. You can get them through Amazon from Chef Tools for under $20. I'm thinking of writing to request a cat eye retro design - maybe with some rhinestones. Ahh, but I'm seriously thinking of buying these. The lovely Lisa suggested a nifty tip "Use the freshest onions you can, cut them in half between the stem and root, and grate from the cut side toward the stem/root side. STOP before you get within an inch of the ends as that is where the bulk of the eye-torturing gasses lurk." I had never heard this before! No onions on the menu tonight, but I'm going to try this out next week!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Self Portrait of a Cook

The Stuffed Grape Leaves met rave reviews. Alright, so it was just me and Jason as the self-titled food critics. But, nonetheless a scrumptious meal. The egg lemon sauce came out really well after a temporary disaster with clumping corn starch. I highly recommend having some cheese cloth on hand for emergency straining. I actually used to have a wonderful fine mesh strainer that I picked up in Chinatown, but that alas was thrown over the edge of our deck by Nikolai and has not been retrieved from the forsythia bush. Nikolai, age 2.5, loves to throw items off of our deck. No punishment seems to dampen the apparent exhilarating joy in watching various household objects launch overboard. Maybe he imagines himself the captain of a ship on the high seas lightening his load amidst stormy waters...

Tonight's meal will feature Greek style meatballs of my own concoction - ground beef, eggs, English muffin toasting bread processed into bread crumbs, grated onion, freshly chopped parsley, freshly chopped mint, salt, pepper, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and feta. (Side note on the grated onion... please share your input on how to avoid dramatic tears during this common cooking task. I have tried refrigerating the onions, burning a candle near my chopping board and today I tried grating an onion with my eyes closed. Let's just say...not a good idea. Does anyone recall the episode of Martha with guest Donny Osmond? They provided him with some funky cooking goggles. Not exactly my they make cooking contacts?)

I promise you that you are not going to have to come over for dinner to enjoy Simply June. I'm still designing and creating and hope to have some new products up on the website in the next few weeks. I'm also enjoying creating a few things for myself and my home.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Renewed for 2007 / Gourmet Resolutions

I'm back. Sorry for the long break from the blog, but it was well needed and full of craftiness, new design ideas, time with friends, family, etc. I'm excited about all that the New Year will bring with SimplyJune! It is so incredible to me how much SimplyJune has grown in the last year even with three trips to Russia to bring Nikolai home and adapting to our new family of three! It is because of all of you who read the blog, shop on our online shop, come to our events and cheer us on! We are really thankful for you.

I, like many of you, have my list of New Year's Resolutions. I really try not to make them each year as I tend to attempt too many all at once and end up somewhere in mid-February holed up in a corner of my studio eating chocolates by the pound and lamenting over what could have been. Do I get a do-over?

Well, despite all of that, I have made one of my goals this year to return to my love of cooking. Both Jason and I enjoy cooking and are always pouring through the cookbook aisle in search of new cuisine. This hectic past year derailed us into a life of frozen food aisle concoctions with the occasional gourmet blip on the radar. 2006 is now behind us and I have spent the last few days cooking with gusto, trying out new recipes and savoring the old favorites. One of our favorite types of cooking is Mediterranean. Between my Greek heritage and our trips all over the beautiful mainland and islands of Greece, we have fallen in love with all of the savory and healthful delights of the Mediterranean. This morning I prepared Stuffed Grape Leaves for our evening meal. From blanching the grape leaves to stuffing each one by hand, there is time to think and enjoy the rhythm of cooking and creating a meal. Tonight they will be served over a bed of rice with egg lemon sauce. Dinner at 8?