Saturday, July 31, 2010

for C who asked...

Acorn Cottage is full of salvage, a testament to the patient faithfulness of inanimate objects. The work of our hands, (which includes the work of our machines, built by our hands), which most of all are the things that last. We come here, we do things, if we are lucky we touch others and are touched by them, and then we go away. Our things remain behind. There are tales I've read, about actually reading the record left behind, but that seems to me as much a fiction as the memories I find in discarded or gifted relicts. A kind of archaeology of everyday life.

Sometimes it comes as an echo. I carved a comb-edged pendant from wax, a design popular in prehistoric Finland, and under my knife I saw the same shadowed shapes so very subtly arising, the same thin gouges under the corners of the triangles as the unknown maker had left a thousand years ago. This makes my heart leap, to feel the hand/eye movement that passes through time. There once was someone who was a people too and now is dust, just as I am and will be.

On a journey, stopped for hours in a foggy coastal city, in the museum were, and probably still are, myriads of buddhist statues... the galleries were mostly empty of people, footsteps echo while inside. They were not made to be art, but to be signposts. The rooms so quiet, no flickering lamps, no color, no people, no recognition/connection. Waiting, to be of use.

Once upon a time, a century or so ago, a little girl hidden away. Did she feel the ground shake under their hooves, see through a crack the soldiers riding, horses trampling? I'll never know. I think that she came here not long after, and grew up beautiful.

Was she happy? Twice a bride, once a mother, did some of her dreams come true, at least for a time, in her life that I only know scraps from? I know that she was stronghearted and determined, and that she could talk to anyone at all.

I have a box, mauve and cracked and lined with velveteen, and a smattering of the cutlery that once lived inside. Some of the forks, the tines are a little twisted, a few of the knives, rust spots speckle, though emery paper and my hands will soon put that right, there is a spoon that obviously was caught in something large and grinder-ish. There are layers and layers of lives in those spoons. Not anything like a Complete Set any more, but each piece takes me back to a childs chair, a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice, and the barely seen shapes of a kitchen long gone.
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the patient objects stay, and speak silently

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

crafternoon iced-tea party Sunday?

Anyone up for getting together, a regular open house crafty afternoon on Sunday? The current forecast is for relatively moderate temperatures, but just in case, iced tea is an option. Hoping to see some friends...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trying something new

Studio time is all now about trying out a new-to-me technique, and I hope it goes well. Y'know how you read a technical book and file the information away in the wetware database. I've no professional colleagues to query, just a book published forty years ago. That little dark square is a hole that goes right through the disc to be enameled. That space will be very important in a while, once the cloisonné is finished...

So, two studio pieces in the works, and two sewing jobs, all older projects that need finished soon. Just wishing that the weather would be a little less sticky. Hot kiln or hot ironing board. Work at all is good though, not complaining about that, just the usual whinge about summertime. I aim to have all this done in the next week or two, that is the best way I know to allow for new work to find me.
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There is a company in New Zealand that makes a self closing hen feeder out of sheet metal, which would be the absolute Best Thing Ever for the Acorn Cottage hens...
This video shows how it works...

But at $210AUD, not to mention the fact that they are on the other side of the planet, it doesn't seem like a realistic option. After a bit of online research, this wooden version turned up, which looks rather doable. (inquiring mind wonders how hard it would be to make this in metal rather than in wood, 'twould be much more rodent proof)
this video shows a similar homemade version...

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Can't remember if I'd shared this one before, but it is well worth taking a look at -
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

break-time bits and bobs

Invariably whenever I do enameling work in the summer, it is always on the hottest days. Would that was correspondingly so in the wintertime. Hence a short break, and the only slightly cooler living room computer spot.

The farmers market that I go to (King), had signs up at the information booth and scattered about the marketplace, that the Foodshare Fund needs to has cut the foodstamp matching program by half. This is one of the two markets that has a matching program at all, but the program has been so popular (seriously used by many) that they need to shrink it, or run out of funding altogether. Sigh. I will still shop there, just buy less. It has been a real treat for the last few weeks, to buy a small piece of fresh fish directly from Oregon fisher(wo)men, and have a fish dinner once a week. Each time I go to the market I find something unexpected. Last week it was chinese cabbage, which ended up as part of Thai mango slaw. This week I found these greens:

I think that they were actually New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) rather than Malabar Spinach (Basella alba)as labelled. It had both the distinctive triangle/diamond shaped leaves, and the silvery appearance of the leaf surface. Both are hot weather greens, which I have only read about in gardening books. So, of course, I had to buy a bunch and try it. I did blanch it before eating, since some sources suggest that to improve the nutritional profile. It tastes rather green and mineraly, like spinach, maybe a bit milder. There were no scarey insects. It would be a good plant to try and grow here, as it sounds hearty, durable, and nutritious.
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This week, for the first time, a stranger woman told me that my sewing on the bus was stupid! I wasn't even sitting near her, which made it doubly odd. I always do handwork while riding public transit, as it makes what feels like a waste of my life into productive time, and I often get positive comments, and sometimes questions. Most often the project is knitting, but when the temperature rises, a lap full of wool is so not appealing. Instead, I've started this embellished yoke, to be used on a black on black rayon tunic, made in the same style as my other japanese pattern dresses. Inspired by this bohemian hippie-style top, (which I helped my friend R create a pattern to duplicate), I chose to apply several rows of ribbon trim and a band of pleated rayon seam tape; there will also be a small geometrically embroidered and beaded rectangle at the center front, also in black on black. It is a start anyway, on another piece of autumn clothing
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The raincoat project is currently on a short hold, as I locate some additional fabric suitable for more muslins. I've had some very good advice over at Stitchers Guild about how to alter the shoulder area, and, I realised that I also actually own the Folkwear Drovers Coat pattern, so am wondering about a grand kitbashing of the three patterns, the Baltimore Coat for the neckline and collar, the Drovers Coat for the raglan sleeve line, and my TNT denim jacket for the functional shoulder. Hopefully there will be a bit of time this week for my own sewing.
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Oh - the other bit of good news is that the ferny leafy things all over the backyard aren't any more hemlocks, the many ones that I'd not managed to rip out are all blooming now, and are the familiar and safe Queen Annes Lace. Whew! Okay, enough writing, now back to the 1500F oven...

Friday, July 23, 2010

well begun but not half done

Five years ago I got a wild hair that I wanted to make myself a denim jacket. It took five (5) consecutive muslin mock-ups to get the shoulders to fit and to function. I did it, but it took a while... Now I want to make a raincoat. This will not be easy, not because I lack sewing skills, but because fitting my shoulders is hard. I have very narrow, sloping, kind of rounded, shoulders. That are about a size 2. The rest of me is not anywhere near that small.

I have a pattern that I want to use, the Baltimore Coat. Since I know that the pattern will not fit well right out of the envelope, I figured that the best way to start was to cut out a first muslin using only the upper half, above the lengthen or shorten line, since everything below that is no trouble at all. I used some heavy flannel, not at all drapey or soft.

The good parts are: All the pattern pieces fit together easily, including the set in sleeve, which I was afraid would require excessive easing (which will not work well in the actual raincoat fabric). The shawl collar is drafted well, it curves beautifully around the neckline, and converts easily and gracefully between a v-neck and a higher buttoned closure. The size coat that matches my measurements is definitely roomy enough to wear a sweater underneath, a necessity in the cold winter rainy season.

The bad part is:
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I tried several times to get a better picture,
I think my camera was horrified at the sight...

The shoulders and armscye are completely unworkable. The shoulder seam is at least two inches too long for my arms, and the armhole opening starts about three inches too low. At least. The result is that I can't move my arms with any comfort at all. Does it make more sense to try and morph the jacket shoulder and sleeve combination that do fit me (from the denim jacket) onto this pattern, somehow; or does it make more sense to start the fitting process over from square one since the sleeve is a different kind of sleeve (one-piece as opposed to two-piece)? Is there a reason why a two piece sleeve would not work for a raincoat? So many questions from only a short sewing session...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

wishful Wednesday - unexpected gift

What do you call it when a wish is granted that you didn't know to ask... Now there is music in the studio, which is a definite improvement I'd not thought of, since I tend to work without the radio playing in the background, finding advertising unconducive to any kind of calm productivity.

I realise that this makes it ever-so-clear how very behind the tech frontline my life here at Acorn Cottage really is; my music playing options (other than my not so nimble anymore fingers) were an ancient boombox that only plays cassettes, and has a piece of cardboard jammed into the on switch so it will play at all, and the CD slot on my desktop computer.

When I moved here to the Northwest CD's were just becoming popular, and I was a poor student. When I moved to Ida-hell, I sold my stereo system and bought said ancient boombox, new, because it was the only thing I could find that ran on 12v. Now everyone mostly has laptops, or those even smaller fit in your pocket gizmos that plug into your ears for music. (do I sound like an old fart yet?) I sent my few remaining albums up north with my friend J, who will eventually transfer the contents onto CD discs, most of my albums were sold to buy heating oil one bad winter decades ago, but I still miss them...

So imagine my surprise and pleasure when last week, when E came to visit, she brought me an unexpected gift from my friends who live under the big tree, a sort of spherical purple tape and CD player, AND a tote full of CDs, all music that I really like! WhoooHoo! This has brought my procrastinating pattootie back into the workroom, and the lilting music has really made a difference. Thank you so much S & B, for such a thoughtful kindness.

Monday, July 19, 2010

electric pussycat helps out...

A while back, Zoe (originator of Me-Made-May and Self-Stitched-September) had a giveaway on her blog, offering a sweet tote bag made from vintage "flower power" barkcloth. I was the fortunate winner, and yesterday the tote got a real workout; we went to the library and to the farmers market, and as you can see, all kinds of good things came safely home to Acorn Cottage.

The label on the bag says "Electric Pussycat" which immediately brought to my mind the various psychedelic bands of my youth, and apparently that was her intention since she wrote to me "...BTW, you got it spot on when you said that 'Electric Pussycat' reminded you of sixties bands, that was the type of energy I wanted the name of my accessories label to evoke...". While she isn't making bags for sale right now, she has bird appliqued skirts in her Etsy store that are quite lovely. I enjoy reading what she has to say, both on her blog, and in the columns that she contributes to the Collette Patterns blog. I never tire of how the internet allows connections to folks that we would never otherwise meet, who are creative, thoughtful, and knowledgeable.
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It must seem like all I do is preserving and sewing, but that is not really true. Those are just the things that are easeful, that are interesting enough to engage my thoughts, and often successful enough that I feel competent in those small areas. I work at my many jobs, while not as much as would be ideal, and look for more work, though not very effectively.

I still mourn Smokey, while remaining open to the idea of finding another canine pal. I read somewhere that to find ease from a relationship that is gone, it takes at least as many months as the relationship had years. Tonight on the way home there was a young Akita waiting for their person outside Trade Joe, she came right up to me to say hello in a very charming fashion. On the way home on the bus, I had tears in my eyes.

How may it be possible to shift my life, in the places where it no longer fits well, to something that has more of what is shaped to who I am, or to who I am becoming? Don't know the answer to that. Have been thinking a lot about the various arcs in my life, some large, and others smaller and fit within, like a fractal pattern representation, for some reason the everyday now is feeling like a between-ish kind of place... Not clear enough to really share, but still percolating and cogitating.
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Went over to the Hollywood Theater, where on Monday evenings the films are all $4, and finally had a chance to see "The Secret of Kells" which has been on my wish-to-watch list for quite some time. Definitely worth watching, and particularly liked the idiosyncratic visual style of the imagery, which was obviously inspired by celtic artwork.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tigress Can Jam: tart-n-tangy watermelon jelly

Since there are still few local cucurbits of any sort showing up, (ETA for local pickling cucumbers is mid to late August), and the cantaloupe experiment was not successful, a ripe quarter watermelon was balanced across the bike rack and on arrival home was mostly chopped as preparation for making this months CanJam challenge. Of course, not all of it made it as far as the cutting board, and all the rinds and seeds went to the hens.

Taking no chances this time, it is belt and suspenders, or rather vinegar and lemon juice... The "tangy watermelon jelly" recipe in the Ball Complete Guide to Home Preserving sounded like a good possibility, and the recipe looked easy to turn into a smaller batch. I halved the recipe, and left out the stalk of lemon grass as a special trip to the asian market did not appeal; the big change was to use my homemade apple pectin rather than commercial pectin packets as called for in the recipe.

Tart-n-Tangy Watermelon Jelly
3 c watermelon chunks,
cut into pieces

¼ c white balsamic vinegar

2 T bottled lemon juice

2 ½ c sugar

½ c homemade apple pectin
Crush the watermelon and heat it in a pan, gently, for about 5 minutes

Remove from heat and crush thoroughly

Let drip through a cloth lined strainer, you should have at least 1 c juice

Put everything except the pectin in a large pan and boil

When the sugar is dissolved, add pectin

Boil till the jelly is set

Jar with ¼" head space, 10 minute processing

I'm not sure I will make this one again... it tastes only a bit melon-y and the tang of vinegar is not a favourite of mine; though it has a lovely deep amber orange color, and would make a good glaze for meat or a fruit tart. I will make the apple pectin again whenever green apples are available, (and the apple pectin can easily be turned into apple jelly*, should that be desired as a glaze or a vehicle for herbs of various sorts)
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* apple jelly from Welsh Hills Again, or from Tall Clover Farm

Saturday, July 17, 2010

the wedding of lavender and blueberry

As a little child, I had a toy record player, only a bit bigger than a shoebox, with four speeds, 16?, 33 1/3, 45, and 78. A favorite game was to place small plastic animals around the record, and gradually increase the speed till escape velocity was achieved. One of the records was "Lavender Blue"
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This one makes up for the previous jam attempt... The apple pectin was homemade*, using apples from Misty's tree. Rois and I picked the blueberries out on Sauvie Island last year. The lavender came from Karl and Molly's front yard.




Lavender Blue(berry)
1 Cup
apple pectin

1 Tablespoon
lavender flowers

3 Cup
blueberries

1 2/3 Cup
sugar

2 Tablespoon
lemon juice
Bring the apple pectin to a boil, mix in the lavender, and let steep overnight.
Strain out the blossoms using a fine mesh strainer.
You should have a scant cup of apple pectin, very fragrant.
Prep jars, rings, and lids; have canning tools handy.
Put on an apron - blueberry is quite vivid (I forgot this part)
Put the blueberries in a tall pan, with a splash of water, and start cooking them.
Once softened and starting to break down, either mash or blend, as desired.
You should have a scant 2 C of blueberry mush.
Stir in the sugar and the lemon juice and bring to a boil so sugar dissolves.
Stir in the apple pectin, and keep boiling till set is achieved.
Jar with a 1/4" headspace, process for 10 minutes.
If you like lavender flavor, you will enjoy this jam!

* to make apple pectin is so very easy, as long as you have unripe apples. I consulted Local Kitchen, and our own dear sponsor Tigress in a Jam, for advice on how best to proceed. Just wash, remove stems, and cut into quarters or eighths depending on how big the apples are. The most pectin is in the parts usually thrown away or composted, the core and the skin. Put in a pan, add water, cover and boil until very mushy. Strain out the apple mush and measure the liquid you have left. You will want to boil it till it is reduced by half or until the pectin forms. Not being totally sure how strong the pectin was, this test (PDF, halfway down page 2), using rubbing alcohol, was reassuring. The first time, the liquid totally dispersed, but the second time, it did indeed form a visible clot of pectin, and the results in both this recipe and the tangy watermelon jelly were top notch, it set the fruit mixture in less than ten minutes. If there are more green apples available, making extra pectin concentrate seems like a good idea.

Friday, July 16, 2010

danger danger - CanJam sadness

Nibbled some of the diced melon steeping in the fridge overnight. Ummm, seems like most of the flavor was vaporised into the air, they are small and kind of tough, more of a texture than a taste. The recipe, left on the countertop after last nights pectin spill, is nowhere to be found, so, time for the trusty interned search.

Well look... Local Kitchen is trying out a variation of the very same recipe. Uh oh! Apparently, water bath canning melon may not be safe.* There are many recipes out there for various jams and preserves, but the acidity of cantaloupe is much lower on the pH scale than even tomato (which needs acid added to safely can in a water bath). If the recipe I'd carefully copied out from Mes Confitures hadn't disappeared sometime today, this information would have completely passed me by.

I love putting small treats away in the pantry for later delight, to share or gift, but do not want to do anything chancy with food safety. Now there is a pan full of cooked melon dice that won't become jam; very frustrating to waste both the effort and the electricity. My refrigerator, as anyone who has visited Acorn Cottage knows, is barely bigger than a breadbox; I never make refrigerator jam. Back to the beginning for this month's cucurbit challenge, and not sure at all what to try instead. I shall repair to the hallowed halls of Powells cookbook section, an excellent reference resource.

* Cantaloupe: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy

Thursday, July 15, 2010

note to self:

Enjoying the completely local new potatoes with basil, this weeks treat from the Neighborly Roundtable, is a Good Thing (made even better with a dab of butter and parmesan)

Deciding to start on the CanJam project of the month (vanilla cantaloupe preserves) at 11 PM is Questionable (cantaloupe cubes are simmered and in the fridge steeping with the vanilla bean overnight)

Starting the green apple pectin potion, production, portion of the project at the same time, while productive, is Not A Good Thing At All... cut up green apples from Misty's tree (check) - boil/simmer till totally soft (check) -line colander with boiled teatowel (check) - pour in HOT liquidy apples (check) ...

Oh NO, simmering apple liquid starts pouring out the sides of the colander across the countertops and onto the floor! Noooo! Save the pectin! Fortunately the large stainless steel bowl that had held the uncooked apples had just been washed and was right to hand...

Aha! now I remember the steps to draining/straining the clear juice from the fruit pulp... lined colander sits in larger bowl while fruit pulp is dumped in. Large saucepan, with two chopsticks across the top, is set in the middle of the sink. Fruit filled colander is transferred to atop saucepan, and the rest of the liquid that has drained into the big bowl is poured back into the colander. The four ends of the teatowel are gathered together and the hemp cord loop is tied in a larks-head knot around the ends. The other end of the hemp cord loop is wrapped around the horizontal rod over the sink, with one of the chopsticks stuck through to form a second larks-head. Now the teatowel bag is suspended over the saucepan, and the clear juice can drip out overnight, while I go to sleep... Goodnight all ~

Monday, July 12, 2010

clouds are a brief respite

For the first time in what feels like weeks, restful sleep is possible. Awakening to cloudy sky is delightful, the morning light slides gently into the bedroom, unlike the slam of sunlight that has been visiting the east wall recently. The relative coolth allows me to contemplate projects that require a modicum of focus; recently returning home twas only possible to dip self in cool water and become horizontal for several hours before doing anything at all. Is there such a thing as "anti-seasonal-affective-disorder"?
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Tragedy narrowly averted... The pot full of alpine strawberry had been accidentally tucked away and missed getting watered. Well you know what the weather has been like the last week. I was feeling like all kinds of a bad plant mother, and rather hopeless, since it looked like nothing more than so much tan and greenish crisps, but decided to try re-hydrating by bringing it into the kitchen and soaking it in the dishpan full of cool water. Hours later, the poor plants had actually somewhat perked up a bit, and will hopefully survive. Perhaps moving them into one of the self-watering containers would be good, then they could enjoy the sunlight with less danger.
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So what else has actually been accomplished, despite being flattened by excessive warmness? Not a lot, but some sewing, and studio preparatory bits.

The vintage knitting tote has been repaired, wooden bits filled, sanded and painted dark brown, and the torn floral barkcloth replaced by textured faded indigo in a geometric weave (formerly a thrifted mans shirt) Hand stitching a small project is tolerable even if must be done while sitting directly in front of a fan, with a wet scarf wrapped around my head. Now the knitting needles and patterns have their home back.

Last year at Fair my best Monday score was two lengths of handwoven ikat... one of which is already a dress. Apparently I had also at some time already cut the other piece (indigo/black/small bits of white) up to make a VikingApronDress-style jumper. Inspired by this Colette pattern, I decided that a shaped top edge for my would be fun. Two curves up in front, scooped down under the armscye, and swooping up to a center back curve. Added double spaghetti straps on each side, just for a change.

Haven't yet fired up the kiln, somehow when the inside temperature is over 80, just not capable of standing in front of a 1500 degree oven. Hoping to this week though, three pieces waiting in the queue.

Hoping to try this mango salad tonight; it would be wonderful to have another slaw-ish option for hot weather, since there are weeks and weeks of summer yet to come...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

surviving + wishful Wednesday : presser feet

The good news is that the front porch roof really is making a difference, it is no longer necessary to put up the mylar window shields in the living room. The shields make a huge difference in the east and west unshaded windows though, and besides, they protect my home from alien mind rays {ha ha}
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Some useful errands done this morning, and then late in the afternoon E very kindly drove me and my sewing machine over to Modern Domestic, the new local sewing machine shop / nifty classroom place. The plan was to see if any of the snap on presser feet fit well enough to be useable; the short answer is yes, that the feet that fit a "Bernina 220" will also work, so it just might be possible to get a hemmer foot and a flat fell foot. My machine was brand new in 1987, and does not take most regular feet, or normal Bernina feet, but if it it possible to order just the snap on portion, all will be splendid
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Goodwill has been good to me these last few days. Their air conditioning is lovely and cold, and despite my self promised frugality, three things needed to come home with me... First, another ceramic mug. I have a bit of a weakness for Japanese mugs with painterly cobalt and brown glaze. They are from the seventies maybe, not sure, but not contemporary, and over the last four years a few have found their way here. This one is a bit bigger than most. Second, heavy cotton marled black/white (reads as grey) knit pants and tunic, which will be re-fashioned into a nice heavy turtleneck tunic for next winter. Third, 100% cotton, multicolor floral sheet set, which were intended as muslin for the raincoat project, but since they are actually in good condition, will probably just might be added to the high summer percale rotation. And there is still change from the 10$ bill in my coin purse...
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Yep, it is truly summer when the flannel sheets are replaced with the percale ones.That would be this week, early July. There is a very small collection of vintage cotton sheets in the linen closet. They are hard to find at all, it being trendy right now to cut them up and sew them into new garments, and even harder to find in likeable colors.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

hunkering

I am afraid... that I'm not a very good now-ist. Somewhat obsessively looking up the weather forecast for this coming week, rather than simply doing what it takes to get through. Feeling rather beseiged by the high pressure system that will be keeping the temperature ramping up and up and up towards the triple digits, not that I ever welcome summertime hot and sunny, but to jump more than thirty degrees in one week! (If a loud cracking sound is heard, that is home and head suffering thermal shock)

Today, some nice crafty hanging out with neighbor M. While she worked on carving a wooden spoon, and fed me tasty homegrown salad with borage flowers, various of my projects were moved forward: the last spiral on the embroidered hem band for the grey corduroy jumper was finished, pieces cut out to finish repairing the knitting tote, hem band cut out to lengthen the kokka dress, and much pelican wirebending was done.

Eversomuch nicer to have company while doing handwork. When she had to leave to go pick up K from work, I headed back home down the street in the sunny heat. Checked on the hens, they have water, and shade, and took in the laundry which was dry dry dry. Just that much time outside was enough to give me a walloping headache, but after a bit of a liedown in the mylar darkened bedroom with the fan on, equanimity was restored.

I am brave... at twilight, sometime around 9:30, when the thermometer on the front porch had gone down to 78, it was time to head to the store and gather provisions for the next few days, since it was probably the best chance to ride to the store in relative comfort. Found out that summer hours at New Season are 8 to 11, which means that future store runs can be done in the earliest AM, but now the tiny fridge here at Acorn Cottage has a half cantaloupe, and a quarter watermelon, and some valencia oranges for cold orange-ade, as well as ingredients for cold salads. Eventually the thrill of riding my bike to go shopping will fade, but hasn't yet... (Grateful I am to A, who gifted me not only with the bliinky LED light for evening safety, but also with the folding wire panniers that make toting things possible)

I am a wimp... I told the nice lady behind the meat counter at New Seasons that I wanted to simply move in there for the next few days, the store is cool, they have food, and magazines, and really I could just curl up and sleep in the deli seating area at night... or maybe just ride the bus all day, most transit is air conditioned... or maybe the library, hmmm books and computers... but realistically, there is work and projects that must needs done, errands to run, eggs to collect and plants to keep watered...

Monday, July 5, 2010

mend-it Monday

The worktable in the studio is all cleared off of non-studio bits. There are little sketches, and scraps of cloisonne wire, and tiny bowls of enamel. Of course, now that it will be summer for real, I will be enameling a few things. Perhaps becoming nocturnal will help...
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One thing was begun beforehand though. "Termite" the rescue dog not only chewed up the living room, she also chewed up my knitting tote, a wood X-framed vintage carryall much the worse now for meeting Akita teeth. Rather than send it up the street to Goodwill, (where it came from a few years ago), some paint and new fabric will hopefully add years more usefulness.

The paint is necessary as there were chunks missing from the framework, more than could simply be sanded down; my trusty tube of wood filler putty is almost empty now. As this year continues to be about use-what-is-here, and there are many small jars and large cans of paint to choose from, a dark chocolate brown will look somewhat similar to the original woodgrain.

The construction of the fabric tote that fits the frame is rather quirky, and requires quite a lot of hand sewing, but once completed, it is a Clever Thing. Rather than try to re-use the floral barkcloth, a heavy textured cotton shirt (from the scraps bin), patterned in cream on faded indigo, will make a nice change.
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Done with the mowing, for the moment, the whole yard is somewhat accessible now, with much weeding still to do, probably in the early mornings. The feral roses tried to attack me, as they have sprawled every which way, must find out how best to keep them cut back a bit, encouraged to stay closer to the fenceline. Hopefully tomorrow the OSU Extension Service will be answering the phones, I really want to find out how to distinguish juvenile poison hemlock from the harmless Queen Annes Lace. There are lots of small feathery things growing in the yard...
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For some reason, to me, having multiple garments made from the same pattern is extremely satisfying rather than boring. Once the Japanese pattern was adapted, it looks to be a kind of perfect summer dress, the kind to drop over your head in the morning and forget about. There are only three more dresslengths of rayon in the whole stash - one dark red?!?, one kind of lilac/cornflower faille, and one greeny/indigo batik of moons and clouds.

But there were smaller bits, (the sewing stash is almost all smaller bits {sigh}, though my personal style now really wants to be whole cloth rather than all colorblock and patchworky) Chose three rather pastel/Jordan almond colored rayon prints and made up another naniIRO style dress. It shows the added triangular gores in the front and at the sides rather well. Compared to the first dress, it looks a lot more funky, and will be only ever a summer dress, since those are so not my colors. But when the mercury rises, beggars can't be choosers, and the light rayon will be comfortable. I just might make up the other two blue rayon fabrics into this style as well, those will make Useful Overdresses later in the year...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday sewing

Lookout! here comes summer, suddenly but not unexpectedly... While we have been having (in my humble opinion) perfect and unseasonabley cool temperatures, the forecast for Wednesday is: Sunny. Highs in the low 90s and lows in the mid 60s.

That means that it is time to get sewing!
Well maybe not quite like that, but a few really lightweight and loose fitting popover dresses will be a Good Thing.
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A white Prismacolor pencil is a great substitute fabric marker. It lasts just long enough to allow sewing, and so far has always brushed off leaving the underlying fabric unscathed. It normally lives in the tote bag, along with the current embroidery project, which is destined to be a hem band on a future jumper.


The naniIRO dress is now finished, with a new neckline, done in the simplest way... A piece of the fabric was layered with some thin cotton lawn, right sides together (the fabric from printed Indian cotton "broomstick" style skirts is something that I find useful for things like this, and also for very soft sew-in interfacing), the desired finished neckline was marked out and stitched. Then the inside was cut away and the whole thing turned and pressed, leaving a rectangle with the new neck opening in the center.
Once edgestitched and topstitched, the desired setback was marked on all four sides, then the dress neckline was pinned smoothly in place, and edgestitched to anchor it. Now there is a more seemly neckline on the outside, and a bunch of loose raw edges on the inside, since I did not want to trim the edges till certain of how it would all fit together. Very very carefully serged the raw edges as closely to the neckline as possible, without catching or cutting off anything of the actual dress, then pressed it again, and topstitched to hold the serged edge flat against the neck.
Now the dress is wearable as a dress this summer, which had been the intention all along. There is another dresslength of rayon, not quite so wonderfully heavy/light/drapey. but instead a slightly greenish indigo batik, all cloudy moonlight. This time rather than follow the pattern draft, I'm thinking to simply use my familiar rectangular construction skills. The shape and flared gores will probably end up looking a lot like this one.
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Yesterday whatever I did and wherever I went, invariably the bus was just pulling away as I got to the stop... Meant more time for embroidery, which is my summertime switch from knitting for transit-handwork. Met with B&K downtown at Sushi Ichiban, as they were in town for a few days; good to catch up with them, and eating tasty fishies is always good. No more unagi for me, since finding out more about how it is sourced... On missing the final bus transfer, decided that stopping at New Seasons would be a good plan; lo and behold, the demo food was wild-caught salmon samples! The cook sweetly gave me a big piece of crispy salmon skin in addition to the little paper dish of salmony goodness. Love that store!
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Lastly, this looks like an incredible project; should fortune ever take me to France, Guédelon Castle (a medieval construction project) will be a must see...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thursday tidbits

Riding around on the bus this afternoon, realised what a very First World whinge it was to be upset at not being able to get my YouTube fix... maybe it was also a bit of the universe telling me to stop watching cartoons, step away from the computer, and actually get something done... and when I get home and fire up the computer, no more black screen messages and after three days without, it is working again! WTF indeed??
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Cucurbits are the CanJam food for July, as announced this afternoon by Gloria over at laundry etc. She also points out that that includes the entire fam-damily of cucurbitae... Soooo, shall I try the obvious and do some kind of pickled cucumber, even though I do not eat that sort of pickle? Maybe something like a zucchini relish? or perhaps go all exotic and do a melon conserve of some kind?
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Yesterday at the Neighborly Roundtable Misty sent over a whole bag of green tart apples, some of which came home to Acorn Cottage, and are destined to become pectin stock for future canning adventures. There are apparently blackberries in a nearby alley for picking later this year. There are this years green (unripe) walnuts in the trees NOW. Green walnuts have the most wonderful spicy scent when crushed, as well as the walnut hulls creating that renowned indelible dye result; maybe this is the year to try making nocino. Several recipes say that it is not necessary to buy spendy vodka to do the extraction, (and also read somewhere that you can run cheap vodka through a Britta filter with good results).
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The amazingly kind Adalaide traced out the pattern for this cape-coat, xeroxed all the instructions, and sent them to me. This quirky pattern seems like it would make a great rain-cape. but rather uncertain what to use for a mock up. Some kind of muslin would give a more realistic idea than the idealised pattern front drawings. So far friends opinions seem to be equally enchanted or appalled at my desire to make this to actually wear...
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About that naniIRO dress... several potential options were offered:
~ to make a detachable "dickie" so that the neckline could vary with the intended use. Thought about buttons (too many buttonholes needed), or velcro (there is still quite a bit of extra soft narrow dolly velcro in the notions drawers), or snaps (also lots and lots of hand sewing)... This gave me the idea of using snaps as a kind of steampunk embellishment, maybe not on this dress, but on one that they would actually be more visible
~ to use the fabric in an interesting way, by using both sides to get a subtle but lively contrast going on
dress yoke... This gave me the idea to use an assortment of woven ribbon and trim to extend the neckline yoke inward, but unfortunately was not able to find suitable trim in useful colors
~ to create an overlapping shawl collar neckline, inset into the overlarge opening... This is a great idea, but when I sketched it with the current dress, it seemed a bit dissonant, This is a definite GOOD idea though, and will certainly be added to a different one of the jumper yet to be made...

So through the collective brain, there are new ideas which will be incorporated into future garments. Thank you all for such good suggestions.

My most current thought is to do the very simplest thing, and use a rectangle slightly larger than the current neckline, and create either a faced or bound-edge new neckline that is a better size, then simply stitch it in place to "smallify" the opening. That would use what is currently in stash, without requiring any new notion, trim, or fabric purchases and allow the neckline to remain rectangular, which is one of the more appealing features of the design.

Should any further experiments with Japanese patterns happen here, these steps will be necessary before completing any pattern drafting and fabric cutting - check neckline size against currently wearable garments. Double-check any adjustments to said neckline. Check diameter of armscye and of wrist, and check width of garment as drafted, then adjust to desired measurement. Really these are pretty simple garments, very reminiscent of simple historical rectangular construction. I have seen other Japanese patterns, in books, that are far more complicated. Perhaps the general level or sewing expertise in Japan is higher than here; I'd much prefer to have patterns come in this form, as it would be both less expensive a format to distribute, and would make it easier to alter only the parts of the pattern that needed changed