Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tuesday tidbits


Working on some of the details: these are the "pearl cups" for the Dragon's Mist coronets getting their edges smoothed and polished before being attached. Bit by bit this project will be completed. By the end of the month. At the end of this week...
:::

Never know what I'll find in the morning when I go let the chickens out of their house... today there were several Northern Flickers on the side yard fence, doing a courtship ritual. They continued while I stood there, though they flew off to the nearby neighbors garage roof when I let the chickens out.

This is similar to what they were doing:

:::

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday musings


in which our plucky heroine cogitates on imposter syndrome, or at least the variant that seems to be one of her particular demons...

I am struggling, struggling with fear of failure, to such a degree that I often stop working at all. Convinced to where I have endangered my own good name and commitments. This is not okay. Injuries and broken tools have stood in my way this year. I have decided to simply push myself through all this. Somehow. Set a timer and do ten minutes in the workroom. It has not gotten any easier. Why does my artist mind seize on the failures, and why do the good words of others not ease me. I am convinced my efforts will result in yet more wasted effort and broken projects. Set the timer and do another ten minutes... this is no way to get things done, and yet as I am so fond of saying, incremental progress is still progress. The trick will be to see if these tiny increments will combine to get this project finished in time.

Part of this struggle is that in my deepest self, I don't see myself as an artist, as a metalworker, or even really as an enamelist. I am a designer, who makes things with fabric, and occasionally with other media. When left to myself, I draw dresses, or I draw toys, I do not draw jewelry. I wonder sometimes if I have chosen a sideways path in my own life. But I must needs get the projects done that I have agreed to complete, and must needs continue to find ways to earn my daily bread, ways that folks in the bright world are willing to pay me for my efforts. And there will be more cogitation, more daily pages of writing to let go of and ideas to mull over, and in the meantime - set timer and do ten minutes in the workroom. This is far harder than when I was feeling i'd lost my sewing mojo. Set the timer and do another ten minutes, and hope that the ten minutes will prime the pump...
:::


This is encouraging, even when the world is difficult
:::

Strange spherical flowers, not alliums as I expected but apparently a thistle/sunflower relative: Echinops ritro aka "little globe thistle", and good bee fodder (though our plucky heroine saw fit not to go nose to nose with the honeybees) One of the British common names for this is "blue hedgehog"... I like that even better than little globe thistle!
:::

Sad apples, infested with codling moth, destined for the yard waste bin, as they cannot be safely composted on site. So far I've discarded about 3/4 of this years apple crop. Next year will try various things to prevent this. Took a break from the workroom project to feed the chooks their before bedtime snack, and got distracted when picking up the windfall apples and decided on some pro-active apple removal... there are still a few apples left on the tree that are not obviously damaged, but discarding so many is discouraging. The learning curve is a challenge, but I didn't grow up doing any gardening at all...
:::

July SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 blue tunic for B chook shade tarp recycle bin full
2 grey gown for M toilet seat replaced yardwaste bin
3 linen gown for S - codling apples
4 black batik popover - -
5 Laurel brooch setting - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -

Sunday, July 26, 2015

soggy Sunday


in which our plucky heroine gets unexpectedly soaked to the skin, but managed to rotate assorted mop buckets and pour almost forty gallons of water into one of the empty water barrels...

We had about a half hour long cloudburst this afternoon. Very rare indeed is any rain at all here during the late spring through early autumn. This, the rain plus the stored water, will be a great help to keeping pet plants (strawberry starts, feral grapevine, frontyard potted figs, rhubarb) alive for the rest of the summer. Someday will hopefully have the resources to build a system in place to actually channel downspout water into the barrels without requiring hand carrying three gallon buckets from assorted downspouts... but water in storage for plant watering later is a big win!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Friday fragments


Another hummingbird sighted in the front yard this morning... apparently hardy fuschia is a treat for them? When I walked out the front door to see what was flowering this morning the bird came right up to the fuchsia while I was standing next to it!! Brave little hummer and what a delightful way to start my morning! I need to plant more things in the yard that are hummingbird treats...
:::

Progress report on the reverse applique project: the front neckline design had to be applied and painted in several stages in order to place the stencil in a centered and smooth orientation on the already sewn RTW garment

The back neckline motifs are painted as well; all the painted bits need to cure for 24 hours and then be heat set with a dry iron, before the kelly green layer can be basted in place and the reverse applique stitching begun
:::


Just found out that there are times once a week when the local city pool is free; if my ancient swimsuit is still wearable, can take advantage of the option and do some water-walking which is a recommended aid to my PT and recovery
:::

Need to make a framework to hold bird netting above the salad table. Glad I didn't yet reseed it, since local squirrels had a field day today digging and tossing the dirt all over the porch. Some of the saved plum withies, lashed together with cord, should be a suitable way to support anti-tree-rat netting, and I can start growing some more greens...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday tidbits


in which our plucky heroine considers a definition, and makes progress slowly...

artisanry (n.) - artifacts decorative and useful, skillfully made, with love and a touch of whimsey.  See also: Artisanry,The (n.) - the largest and most favorite room in Acorn Cottage where materials and ideas dance together with my clever fingers to become something new.
:::

The initial sketch for the neckline embellishment was dubbed "too floral", so the small flowers were removed from the design in favor of more leaves and tendrils:

In order to transfer the sketch to the semi-opaque freezer paper, the simplest way (for those without a lightbox, as is the case here in Acorn Cottage) is to tape the layers to a bright window, allowing for tracing whilst standing up in a simple process. The two sheets of the design were aligned and taped in place first, and then a large-enough piece of freezer paper was taped on as an overlay...
.
The design, though only sketched out, is clearly visible, and the tracing process is comparatively easy - the second image shows a partially completed design motif.  Once traced, it is necessary to cut out the freezer paper stencil; I use an exacto knife, with a plastic kitchen cutting board underneath the paper. There are an assortment of gadgets and processes that can be used for making these tasks either quicker or less direct; some folks use a light box for the tracing, some figure out ways to print the design directly on the freezer paper with their computer printer, or use graphics programs to do the sketch and design work, and there are dedicated machines that can cut the stencil for you... but our plucky heroine is somewhat old school and does these tasks by hand.

Once the stencil panels are cut out, they need to be ironed to the fabric prior to applying paint. Because this project is being done on a RTW garment, each section of the neckline needs to be dealt with one at a time to keep the paper flat and smooth. The first quarter panel, on the back neckline, is ironed in place:
Once the paint has been applied, it needs to dry, cure for 24 hours, and then be ironed on the wrong side - the heat treatment makes the paint permanent and washfast. Then it will be possible to begin the actual reverse applique process of stitching and cutting. There is a reason why Alabama Chanin garments sell for the couture prices they do. Even a relatively simple quantity of embellishment takes a substantial amount of time.
:::

while I know I've not been cooking as much as usual because temperature from Hades, was it really necessary for a spider to build a web across the stovetop/pot-rack? Don't worry, I scooped her up in a bowl and took her outside, and being a kindly person, did not dump her in with the hens...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

well begun is half done


in which our plucky heroine starts something sketchy...

This is the initial stage of adding a reverse applique design to the RTW dress neckline. First lay a piece of thin newsprint over the front bodice, and use fingers to locate the neckline edge and the seams of the front panel; this allows me to create a design that doesn't overlap the seams, since cutting through the construction that holds the dress together would be a bad idea; using newsprint rather than, say, transparent plastic, means that I can then cut out the paper as if it were a pattern piece, and draw my initial sketch directly:
This also lets me revise my design as much as needed, to get a pleasing and balanced look. Taking a break between the initial sketching and/or taking a photograph and looking at that, allows a bit of objectivity - for example, some of the curves of the stem and the location of the rightmost flower are not quite right, and will be corrected before the design is cut. The next step is to either trace or transfer the design to freezer paper somehow*, and then cut out the temporary stencil, iron in place, and apply the paint. Once I do that, I will also add designs to the back portions of the neckline as well.

* what I will do is to pin or staple the design sketch to the layer of freezer paper, and cut them out together. I also do this when making more than one identical stencils, as for the two cuffs - I stapled two layers of freezer paper back to back, which gave me a mirrored pair of designs.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday snippets


in which our plucky heroine devours the 20%...

The first of my five tomatoes is ready to eat. When touched to see if it was ripe, it fell off into my hand.

Two tomato plants live on the front porch: one with zero blossoms or fruit, and the other, smaller, plant has five fruit in various stages of growth. Am tempted to remove "Plant Zero" and put in something else, but in the meantime, I hear a salad calling my name...
:::

There's never a dull Friday evening here at the cottage... last night's amusment : minor home plumbing repairs! Our plucky heroine, after some careful research as to how best to detach the former "permanently attached" but recently broken biffie seat, has spent several hours doing some less than glamorous home improvement. Detachment was easy, replacement acquired and almost finished being installed. The "Sta-Tite" nuts need to have the final delicate torque applied with a proper socket wrench ratchet, and I seem to have misplaced mine. A ratcheting screwdriver is not as useful a substitute as it normally is. Nonetheless, a potty with a secure seat is a very good thing, compared to the alternative! (Saturday morning update: some very careful use of the adjustable wrench finished the job)
:::

My friend SR bought a RTW black cotton jersey dress, and I am going to customise it for her with decorative reverse applique designs on the neckline, cuffs and at the hemline. Custom cut original freezer paper stencils of foliage, flowers, and a few bunnies, kelly green cotton jersey, soft slightly darker green textile paint, and forest green craft thread for the stitching...
 
The design is first applied using textile paint and a freezer paper stencil, then the inner layer of knit, which will become visible through the cut away areas, is basted into place, making sure to match the grainline. Dark green on black is hard to photograph... and just a glimpse of the inner layer of bright kelly green cotton jersey, which will make a vivid accent against the black dress and dark green stenciled motifs

Spent several hours on hold on the phone* earlier this week which gave me a good opportunity to finish the reverse applique cuffs... This is Alabama Chanin style raw edge reverse applique - knit fabric is stenciled, layered, hand-stitched around the design, and then the center of the stenciled areas are cut away to reveal the inner layer of fabric. I personally love the somewhat bohemian look of this technique, and have used it quite a bit on my own clothing
It is difficult to get a good photo of the combination of solid black with vivid green, it looks darker in real life. I am eager to start on the neckline border, which will be much easier to set up and to stitch... working inside already completed sleeve ends was tricksey
:::

It occurred to me this morning that a workshop later this summer, on "how to do the Alabama Chanin reverse applique technique" might be both fun to teach and fun for potential students... (and also not require turning on the kiln!)
:::

July SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 blue tunic for B chook shade tarp recycle bin full
2 grey gown for M toilet seat replaced yardwaste bin
3 linen gown for S - -
4 black batik popover - -
5 Laurel brooch setting - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -

*sorting out insurance coverage foo so I could actually get the physical therapy my doctor requested for my injured knee.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Steeleye Span 2015


in which our plucky heroine revisits an old favorite, more than forty years later...

On their 2015 tour, Steeleye Span played a show this last Tuesday, at the Triple Door in Seattle; I was gifted with a ticket to the concert. This is the view of the stage from our seats, which although towards the back of the hall, were excellent. I'd last seen the band in Cambridge MA, in the Harvard Square Galleria, in 1974.

The first set was mostly familar material, some similar to what I remembered, and some in new arrangements...

Maddy Prior's voice still lifts my heart, brings tears to my eyes and chills down my spine. Oh how that woman can sing!!

The second set had more new material, or songs that were new to me anyway, including pieces from Wintersmith, their fairly recent collaboration with Terry Pratchett


Maddy Prior and Liam Genockey
:::

if you want to know what has held my interest for all these decades...

Steeleye Span in 1971
and

Steeleye Span in 2009

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday fragments


in which our plucky heroine grasps at equanimity with open hands...

I've been listening to this song for a long long time. Decades. Every time I hear it, I hear it differently, stepping into the same river again and again, and always new. Just heard this version and it lights up my heart. This is one of the songs that always does take me home, one of the canon of Sunday morning come back down songs from my younger days, that rocks my spirit as kindly as ever my mother rocked me as a babe in arms...
:::

Wednesday started out with a real treat: I was getting ready to go to the bus to my morning appointment, when E phoned me that they were coming through Portland on the way to Oregon Country Fair, and they could stop and visit... when I explained I had an appointment, they offered to drive me there, so instead of an hour+ on the bus, I got social time with M and his family, plus got to see older daughter W who is awesome and I rarely see her. I definitely got an abundance of hugs, which I shall store up for the days when there is no tactile component at all.

Also when I couldn't figure out how to easily get into their van, M asked if it was okay, and then just picked me up carefully and lifted me in. Doesn't sounds like something as cared for as it made me feel. It is so funny that every time he sees me he remarks (kindly) on how he forgets how tiny I am... (M is 6'8") A girl my size does not often get *literally* picked up! Indeed cannot remember it in decades and decades, was a rather odd but good feeling and they all were so happy to see me, which did my heart good... Then when I was headed out to catch the bus home, I accidentally saw them again on the street, so we had another short visit.
:::

With minor trepidation, loppers and cutters in hand, our plucky heroine approached the overgrown backyard tree which is laden with young apples... Over the course of the last three days, I have removed the "water sprouts" growing straight up from the branches, as well as the "crossing sprouts", and most bravely headed back the branches growing too tall or in weird directions. There are two branches I would like to cut, but they have several apples still on them, so I will do as the book suggests and mark them with ribbon.

As I understand it summer pruning is good for shaping and limiting tree growth, and winter/dormant pruning is good for encouraging growth (rather like pinching back a smaller plant to get it to sprout new leaves) Since reading "Grow A Little Fruit Tree", my terror about pruning seems to have abated. The concept of keeping fruit trees small enough to reach has always seemed theoretically sensible, but the experienced folks I knew believed otherwise. Plus pruning seemed so esoteric, and the decisions so permanent.

Hopefully the opening out of the tree center to allow more sunlight, and the shortening overall, will prove helpful to me and not harmful to the tree. If I can reach all the branches, then next year I can barrier the fruit to help avoid the ubiquitous codling moths and apple maggots, and maybe get some non-wormy apples!
:::

The rest of the week was a lot less stellar, with medical discouragement and an excess of OHP paperwork do-overs that entailed spending literally hours on hold. Hopefully and eventually that will be sorted out and I can maintain insurance coverage, my cranky knees will heal, and I can continue to live in the bright world a good long while, but for the meantime our plucky heroine will imagine herself floating on the affections of the people who love me for who I am, since my wealth is not in the bank, but in the care and kindness of my friends and family...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tuesday tidbits


in which our plucky heroine writes a 6AM haiku...

soft and grey and cool
sweet respite from the day star
temporary june...

Haiku are fun; and this morning, grey and cooler like the "June gloom*" we have not had in several years, was truly a respite. My house is down to 68 now after running the fans for three hours, which will help buffer the afternoon heat.
:::

in the ongoing saga of attempting to figure out where plants will be happy... apparently the Japanese anemone wants more sunlight than it had been getting - moved it to the south side of the front porch, and it has a vigorous new stem and two large clusters of flower buds! Stay tuned for future beautiful blooms... Hmmm maybe planting it in the ground next to the porch for next year would be a good plan?

My two tomato plants, in the planter on the south side of the porch... don't know why they look so different, as they are the same variety, but from two different sources... one is much more robust than the other, the stronger one has three large tomatoes already of good size
Front porch green tomatoes; I may get only a few, but they will be a real treat
:::

Took a break from commission work and made good progress on my black/cream batik rayon popover dress, finished  sewing the 4+ yards of ikat bias edging along the hemline this evening. Though it seems that a dress made simply of rectangles and triangles would be super speedy to sew, it indeed would be if there were not always a myriad of adjustments to make because of using random and adapted materials. Still the challenge keeps things interesting, and sometimes the forced changes generate pleasing new changes...

I am quite liking the strip of plain textured black rayon that was added to the hemline edge, in a sort of lantern line edge band effect to get enough length. Shall remember that option for other garments; in fabric with a good drape, it is a subtle detail. Made an attempt at the "twirl factor" photo, I don't know how other folks manage that image, and my knee made sure to remind me what a bad idea that was, but the volume that the gores add to the skirt is very obvious:

:::

July SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 blue tunic for B chook shade tarp recycle bin full
2 grey gown for M - -
3 linen gown for S - -
4 black batik popover - -
5 - - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -


* June gloom here is not quite the same as the coastal sort from further south, but is more like days on end that are lovely and soft and grey in the morning, with the sun burning off the cool and turning the afternoons hot and sunny.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday snippets


In which our plucky heroine makes slow progress and has a cooking revelation...

I've been slowly making progress on the batik popover dress, and have just come to find out that for some reason I cut the entire dress about four or five inches shorter than my usual, so just above knee length. While that would work well for layering, summertime is not the season of layers around here. I will cut out a hem band of a different black rayon, since there is not a smidgen of the batik leftover. In fact I will be edgebinding the neckline with a different fabric entirely, some black/cream lightweight cotton ikat, for the same reason.

At this juncture I need to sew the pocket bags on, bind the neckline, deal with the too short factor, and hem the sleeves. I am wondering about maybe doing something vaguely lagenlook with the hem band, in a drapey lantern sort of way. It would not have the architectural effect I often see, but would truly simplify the adding of length, as a straight strip is infinitely easier to attach and hem than a curved panel.

I also found pieces I'd cut out to make a textured black rayon popover dress several years ago (back in 2012), with a decorated neckline. I began the embellishment and then unaccountably simply put the whole project aside. This will definitely be the next dress in the summer popover collection
:::

Dinner tonight was sliced cold poached chicken thigh on mixed salad greens, drizzled with homemade "Thai" peanut sauce. I have decided that poached chicken is perfect for hot weather: it uses minimal electricity (drop chicken in boiling water, turn off stove, let cook using residual heat in pan) and if the water is brought to boil in the electric kettle, it generates the least amount of indoor heat as well. Also it is very juicy, even if using the almost-always-too-dry chicken breasts instead, and it adds no additional fat to the dinner. Plus, you get some chicken broth generated, which can become part of breakfast the next day!  Whyever have I not been doing this all along??  Mixing poached protein with steamed or raw veggies, and a little strongly flavored sauce, will surely be an easier, faster, less messy and less caloric way to make a main dish than stir-frying. All the way round it looks like a win, and a tasty one at that!
:::

I found this information fascinating (and relevant to enameling, as enamel is after all, colored glass) Hopefully Obviously I am not the only one that is curious about what makes all the different pretty colors.

Of course, we do not use uranium any more, but some of those elements are pretty rare, and others very common. Our clever ancestors figured this all out by empirical trial and error over the course of centuries. (I also wonder about the colors that we see in historic enamels that don't seem to be available now, and what material or combination of materials was used to get those colors...)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

more antinomy


in which our plucky heroine is staying awake, and alert, in case some random bit of fire and brimstone brings danger from the sky to my little cottage...

When I was a child, we mostly lived in places where home discharge of fireworks was illegal. On the 4th of July, we would, as a family, along with friends, neighbors, and strangers, go to see the large public displays put on by professionals for everyone's enjoyment. I remember seeing fireworks at the beach, in some of the large fields behind a college, and in the center of the town on the playing fields of the high school. I remember seeing two different fireworks at once from the roof of a house. One memorable year my Dad drove to a different county and bought us sparklers, and some little ground flowers and a spinny bright thing that he tacked to the roof of our playhouse, and we stood around on the concrete patio with a bucket of water and our very tiny, safe, (and probably illegal) home display.

Then I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Or as it feels tonight, the wild wild west... Fireworks are sold from stands, and stores, and booths in church parking lots, for profit or as fundraisers for an assortment of good works. Despite this years intense heat and drought, and the extreme fire danger, for hours the neighborhoods will be full of people setting off loud and large explosions. This is a holiday celebration that is traumatic for many veterans, for any folks who have lived in a war zone, for animals who do not understand why the air is full of BOOM, and for those people who will end up hurt, maimed or burned from careless behaviour. It is, in fact, my least favorite holiday celebration, though I have great love of my home country despite my disagreement with her politicians and behaviours. (I myself have no personal dislike of sudden loud noises, but greatly prefer that to be a consensual activity, preferably at a gun range or some safe place up in the hills, with friends). Perhaps had I grown up here in my adopted bioregion, this variety of isolated amusements rather than a common civic one would seem normal to me, but girl can dream of a world where celebrating the birthday of our country involved activites more constructive than setting off explosives...

Here is wishing all and sundry here in the USA a happy and safe 4th of July!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday fragments... or festival seating in the chook yard


in which our plucky heroine adds to the hen habitat...

6:15 AM and time to let the hens out... and they immediately start heading out to look for food and forage for bugs.  Boneclaw Mother is keeping a wary eye on me. Early morning is the only real time to get anything done outdoors, and so a number of trips between the water barrel and the backyard make sure that the strawberry bed and the baby feral grape are watered, as well as feeding and watering the hens.

Yesterday was 97F in the shade here, 83F in the house. Today is forecast the same. My cope function is broken, am attempting repair with repeated topical external application of cold water. By running the (five!!) fans before bedtime and in the early morning, am able to cool the house down about ten degrees, which helps somewhat. Am cogitating on what other strategies can also help, besides the mylar bubblepack and fan deployment. Wondering about making some type of seasonal "shade screens" for the east and west facing windows; our south facing windows already have permanent metal awnings that some former owner installed (they many in fact be original to the house)

My idea of having the fig trees in pots shade the west window has not proved functional, as they do not provide either dense enough or tall enough coverage to make a difference and actually would prefer to be located somewhere with morning sun instead of shade until the afternoon...
:::

Managed to limp outside yesterday, before the temperature hit hellacious, and tied up a small 4x6 silver tarp I found in storage to help add some more shade to the hen habitat... For most of the day the area just along the fenceline is shady, and there is shade under the arborvitae and under the chicken house as well, but in the heat, any additional shade is good.
... and another view of the shade tarp, with the "rosebush bower" in the background. Underneath the feral roses is another favored hen hangout spot, since they are in the shade most of the day, shade is not great for roses, but the hens are happy. Last year I let the roses sprawl, and they took up most of the space between the fence and where the hen house is now, with many lovely flowers and masses of thorny canes; this year that space is dedicated for chickens instead.
:::

July SMART goals
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 blue tunic for B chook shade tarp recycle bin full
2 grey gown for M - -
3 linen gown for S - -
4 - - -
5 - - -
6 - - -
7 - - -
8 - - -
9 - - -
10 - - -
When I looked at the year chart, am currently running ahead of schedule in all categories save "things gone" and that one is on track (though not ahead), which really surprised me. A bit more attention in July on the KonMari process and decluttering will get things balanced, though of course there will be continued artisanry and repair happening as well.