Just DIY It: Gin Edition Part 1

It’s no secret that I love gin. Or if it was a secret, it isn’t any longer because I just told you I love it. Luuuuurve it. I want to marry it.

So I decided to make my own.

Don’t worry–I didn’t go to all the trouble to buy a home distillery and blow up my apartment building. Home brewing of various alcohols is extremely popular here in Sweden, as you can see by this photo of the DIY alcohol section at the supermarket. It’s also semi-illegal, I’m not quite sure exactly what the law says but I know that the home distillery would definitely be crossing the line.

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I opted instead to go look on the internet on how to make this stuff by sourcing my own herbs. Fortunately, a lot of people make their own gin at home. And juniper berries are as easy to find in Sweden as going down to the corner store. So I bought a bunch of crap and went to town.

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I used Polish vodka because I’m rather partial to the stuff. I have no idea whether the flavor will affect the finished product. This guy uses a Brita filter to make his gin which is supposed to help get a really clear flavor, but I don’t feel like going to all that trouble my first time out. I decided to go really easy on the cardemum in favor of loading up on the coriander. I thought it would really complement the lemon zest (not pictured). Apparently I need to let it sit for a week to let the flavors meld together. In the meanwhile, this BBC article is an interesting introduction to the science of alcohol. In two weeks I will post my results along with a few of my favorite recipes.

Good Friday Links

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Smack in the middle of Passover and about to head into Easter weekend and what feels like spring! I define springtime in Sweden by that magical day when I stop guzzling coffee and start guzzling tea instead. Not at all reminiscent of springtime in New Orleans, which is defined by crawfish boils and Mardi Gras recovery, but there you go. Broadening our horizons!

  • I’ve been busy tearing my hair out over drafting patterns this month (and learning a lot in the process) and dreaming one day of being able to make my 3D imaginings into a 2D draft so they can eventually come full circle into a 3D reality. Until then, I can make 3D objects out of other people’s much more interesting patterns. Over at SHOWStudio they’ve still got downloads of Gareth Pugh, John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Junya Watanabe, Margiela, Antony Price, Giles Deacon and  probably the most currently trendy pattern, Alexander McQueen. I’ve never attempted to use a pattern printed from home, so it should be an adventure.
  • I’m never going to watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower because the book is just too good. I’ve actually never been much for watching movie versions of books, but here’s a list of 10 authors who loved the adaptations of theirs.

Hope everyone enjoys this end of the month weekend!

Just DIY It: Rolled Hem Edition

I don’t know about ya’ll, but I really hate crew neck sweaters. And ribbed cuffs and bottoms. They’re almost universally unflattering, even to men. But they’re so common! I always find very nice sweaters in great patterns and nice material…ruined by the cursed crew neck and ribbed bottom and cuffs. But there is a solution, even if you don’t own a sewing machine. It is faster if you do have one, but go ahead and marathon some semi-interesting tv show and bust out the thimble, because this is absolutely worth it.

Step 1: sew a new hemline at the place where you want your new neckline, hem, cuffs, etc to be. If you’re using a machine, go with a zigzag stitch with a wide stitch length. If you’re hand sewing, wing it! Actually, a blind hem stitch would work nicely. If you want additional stability, you can stitch a ribbon or bias tape on the inside.

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Step 2: Cut off the offending cuff/crew neck and any extra fabric outside the stitch line.

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That’s it! It gives a nice rolled hem, or if you stretch the knit while you sew, a little bit of a wavy finish.

Friday LINKS, WOOO!

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It’s been the kind of week where if I just had one more letter…

It’s been a heck of a week, ya’ll. Heck. Of. A. Week.

Check out these bad ass black cowboys over on the BBC.

Check out this cool marketing from the olden times of mail order. Times don’t change much, the internet is just a fancy mail order business.

Sweden does have homeless people, and the city I currently call home has a novel solution for spreading awareness.

Vocoders for the win, not to be confused with voice boxes, ya heard?

The BBC killed it this week. And guess what RIAA? Music sales aren’t affected by illegal downloads. So fuck you.

And lastly, Dr Frank N Furter talks about the gender spectrum and makes us all feel a little bit awesome.

Friday Link.

I really don’t get Casual Friday. On Friday I’m usually headed out after my class is finished, so I want to be able to make my school outfit work for an evening out. It should be Casual Monday, because that’s the day you really need to be cut some slack on your wardrobe. None of this really applies in Sweden of course, where everyone except maybe lawyers and financiers wear business or business casual to work. Jeans are the wardrobe du jour here. Even magazines come out with a special “Jeans Issue” every year. I don’t get it, but I think my tenure at Catholic school prepped me for a love of uniforms and suits. Those of you who have known me since I served time in halls of parochial school will undoubtably be surprised at this. Or maybe you won’t.

This week I’ve spent most of my Internet time delving deep into university cooperative extension service websites across the US in search of free information about fibers and woven textiles. In case you’ve never heard of them, cooperative extension services are informal educational programs designed to provide research-based knowledge “to improve lives” (thanks, Wikipedia!). Extension services are affiliated with land-grant universities (the one with the agricultural program, you can read about land-grant universities here) and are most often affiliated with agricultural pursuits and everyone’s favorite youth club, 4-H.

If you’re sewing or trying to learn to sew or just need some help or information, I found the Utah extension service website to be particularly helpful.

Other than that, I spent lots of boring internet time reading emails. But I will leave you with this awesome shred of the Beach Boys.

Is JCPenney Doomed?

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Anyone who reads financial news will tell you that the JC Penney Company Inc. is in trouble. The stock is 60% down from last year, they’ve reported 25% loss in revenue for 2012, and everyone suspects that new CEO Ron Johnson is about to be fired.

I think it would be stupid to fire Johnson. It is short-sighted to think that one person can turn around an already failing company in 18 months. Collaborations with Joe Fresh, Lulu Guinness, and Duro Olowu (which got me to shop at their online store) look very appealing. They don’t need to hang on to their old customer base, they need to pursue a wider audience of people who want to shop without hoarding coupons first. Kohl’s can cater to those types of customers. In an environment where luxury is strong and retailers like Wal-mart struggled to recover from the recession, a new focal point would be prudent for JCPenney.

I love the shops in shop idea, and frankly, everyone else in retail loves it too. The similar concept and trend of designer collaborations has been exploited by retailer-manufacturers like Target and H&M for a good 5 years now. The difference between H&M and JCPenney is that H&M uses designer collaborations to get you into the store to buy their other, basic products which are cheaper to manufacture and promote and are the crux of their billions of dollars in sales every year. Whether or not the shops-in-shop concept with big names like Sephora and Marchesa (and hopefully Martha Stewart if they can get the legals sorted out) can be successful for JCPenney remains to be seen. The concept seems ripe for exploitation though, and if Target is any indication, something the American market is ready for.

The death knell has sounded for traditional department stores. They can’t compete with retailer-manufacturers like Inditex (owner of Zara) or H&M on prices or inventory. Small manufacturers don’t have to rely on them to distribute their goods and don’t want to deal with the high cost margin of doing business with them. Macy’s is doing alright now, but if it doesn’t innovate, it’s future is not going to be looking so bright. With absolutely no knowledge of the actual company, I can guess that sales of their collaborations are high and that like JCPenney, everything else sits on the rack unsold, unless they offer deep discounts via coupon schemes. I suspect it’s stock looks so good because of parent company Bloomingdale’s and we all know luxury spending is just rosy right now.

I’d like to see JCPenney succeed with their shops in shop idea and go on to embrace new trends in retailing, specifically responsibly sourced garments and energy smart retail spaces. Their online store has a ways to go with design but Net-a-Porter has paved the way for successful online shopping experiences and hiring a firm to redesign their site would be easy. But of course as they’ve already learned with the coupon fiasco, slow and steady wins the race.

Do you shop at JCPenney? Or do you want to now that you’ve seen their new collaborations? What do you think their future looks like?

Friday . . . err . . . Saturday Links

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At least my virtual cat thinks I’m special.

This week in links (after some chaotic scheduling fiascos…time to get it together in the organization department), my internet browsing lead me to think about investments, responsibility, and how the fashion industry adds up in both categories.

Unsurprisingly, fashion is a decent investment but horribly unsustainable and pretty bad for the rainforest too.

I like this stock market game.

A pair of boots, a nice bag, and a skirt that even I couldn’t pull off in the same outfit.

Another fashion criticism journal that I really like.

Fashion today is basically what happened when the fashion industry figured out that being cool was something they could never achieve by ripping off street culture, so they decided to make their own. It may be nice to have a designer bag, but it’s not reflective of your style prowess and never will be. It’s just a manufactured trend.

These graffiti GIFs are awesome.

Just DIY It: Felted Elbow Patches Edition

Ever need or want something that you just couldn’t find anywhere? Or just think that it would be the coolest to make it yourself?  That happens to me ALL THE TIME and now I’ve finally organized everything I need to be posting a project once a week. You can check them all out by clicking on the Just DIY It category in the drop down menu on the left!

This is a DIY that I’ve been wanting to do for about a year. I first saw it over on Honestly WTF and thought it sounded easy and fun. Unfortunately these elbow patches were not as successful a project as the mustache shoes (which incidentally were received with no fanfare when I wore them out. That’s what I get for waiting for so long: the wave has crested on mustaches, people).

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Felting is kind of a pain in the ass. Now I know why a lot of crafters watch so much Downton Abbey. I got bored punching the felting needle into the foam fairly quickly. That being said, when I try this DIY again I will have learned some things:

  1. Felting foam sucks. I broke two needles into it and it offers too much resistance to be feasible for larger projects unless you like getting tennis elbow. A needle mat is definitely the way to go. 
  2. The instructions talk a lot about tape and marking things that way, but I think a tape measure and some more accurate measurements are in order. As with sewing, the leg work really pays off in the end.
  3. Gonna buy some real roving this time. The roving-like wool I had was weird and it shows.
  4. Definitely need some experience on how much roving is enough roving to make a patch that is neither too thick nor too thin. This also goes for figuring out how much I need to wear out my elbow poking the needle into the sweater over and over. I don’t have a good feel for how “felted” the roving needs to be.
  5. Alternately, I might just buy some wool felt, cut it out in the shape I want, and then attach it to the sweater with the felting needle. It sounds a lot less painful.
  6. I’m glad I used a sweater that I don’t like all that much.

I’m not going to close the book on felting, but it certainly needs some practice before trying it out on any piece of clothing I want to wear again. Anyone else like to felt? Any tips or tricks or disaster stories you can share?

Friday Links

I’m woefully unprepared for this edition of Friday Links. I’ve been busy with the seemingly endless paperwork of being an expat among my regularly scheduled programming, with a dash of getting used to being back in school thrown in. But here are some things that I hope you find interesting all the same:

This is a great slide show from the BBC about a side of Botswana I just didn’t know existed. I’m thinking Swedish-Botswana metal cultural exchange could be in my future.

I love buying second hand for myriad reasons but I’ve never really been able to separate the experience of finding things with the actual objects themselves. I’ve never bought vintage from Ebay or anywhere online, but apparently it’s about to get really popular.

And since I was not trolling the interwebs as much as I usually do, I’ll leave you with some links to my favorite stuff on Tumblr this week:

This photo of Leigh Bowery and Pete Burns.

Nina Simone’s birthday was 21 February.

This astronaut selfie.

Kittehs.

My new favorite Tumblr blog.

My friend Ryan posting some sweet soul music that I hadn’t heard of yet.

And last but not least, Noise Park does it again with an awesome Residents gif.

My friend Ryan posting some sweet soul music.

Just DIY It: Penny Loafers Edition

Ever need or want something that you just couldn’t find anywhere? Or just think that it would be the coolest to make it yourself?  That happens to me ALL THE TIME and now I’ve finally organized everything I need to be posting a project once a week. You can check them all out by clicking on the Just DIY It category in the drop down menu on the left!

I fell in love with these Mr Bathing Ape loafers a couple years ago.
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Alas, they are men’s shoes and I have miniature feet. But I reeeeeaaaaaalllly want them and have been searching around for a substitute to no avail. Last week it occurred to me suddenly that I could just make my own with a pair of loafers I picked up from the Red Cross store and some glue and glitter.

With the help of a couple tutorials over at a pair and a spare (go check them all out, really!) and a stencil, I turned these boring old lady shoes:
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Into these:
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