Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday fragments


in which our plucky heroine realises that springtime does in fact involve pollen...

Every year, for a few days or more, the sweet scented ornamental plum trees put on a spectacular show in my front yard

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Each year I somehow hope that my springtime allergies will not arrive. Each year I am disappointed. For all my young life, springtime simply meant flowers, and no more snow... Then I moved to the PNW, the land where pollen falls like rain*, or sometimes is washed into the street by the rain, leaving the puddles with a vivid yellow rim. Time to go see if the drug store still sells my preferred remedy... sigh... the one that works really well, but takes two to three weeks of daily use to become effective...
* last years giant pollen balls
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between other tasks today, I have started a batch of blood orange marmalade... these have already been boiled for several hours, and are in the process of being cut into narrow strips. They then get mixed with sugar and lemon juice, and cooked into marmalade.

Citrus has enough pectin in the white parts to create a gel sans adding anything extra. It will be yummy. I try every year to make enough marmalade of different varieties to last through til next citrus season, although it seems that no matter how much I prepare, it never is actually enough. Uses for tasty marmalade expand to fill however much is in the pantry!
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Maybe I am too tired to do any sewing for me tonight, but it has been a productive day: The chicken house is cleaned out, and has nice fresh wood shavings... All the people I needed to contact about enameling and metalwork have received emails and/or drawings... Dishes have been washed, laundry has been done and put away... Some time spent on stitching trim to the current sewing commission... All the new blockprinting and textile paint has been put away... The studio is tidy for the work tomorrow, when I start teaching metalworking. This is a new endeavor, with a private student. I have been teaching enameling for a number of years, but never the basics of metalworking. I began learning metalworking decades ago as a young teen, long enough ago that it all seems mostly second nature to me now. Will be interesting to start at the beginning again for someone else...
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March SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey pinafore green onions plantedpaper recycle bin
2 2 stencils bike tires and tubesyard waste bin
3 black/cream knit top bicycle brakes dead bike tires
4 grey/blue knit top chicken house cleaned x
5 peg people playsetx x
6 needlefelted sheep x x
7 Seville marmalade x x
8 Mandarin Dream jelly x x
9 blood orange marmalade x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x
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p.s. sadly, my little virtual hamster in the sidebar, after running on the wheel and eating chow pellets for the last ten years, has succumbed to a lack of internet support and started falling apart into bits, so I let them go across the electronic rainbow bridge. Bye bye little hamster...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mandarin Dream and other delightful things


in which our plucky heroine sees a rainbow, and has a productive day...
This afternoon there was a long and very low rainbow, which cut across all the sky between the houses to the east...
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My effort for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge this month was Mandarin Dream jelly... The leftover mandarins (tangerines) from KASB were juiced, and were augmented with the juice of two lemons and a splash of vanilla. The skins and seeds boiled up for two hours in an effort to extract their natural pectins... then strained out skins and seeds, mixed all back together, added 2½ c sugar, and boiled it all down until it was concentrated enough to jell.

I ended up with seven 4 oz jars, which filled the canning kettle, and an additional 6 oz to put in the fridge and use right away. It should be an excellent treat to dollop a spoonful over a bit of Greek yoghurt. But, as always, the effort to create a clear-er end result and call it jelly seems excessive, since I personally prefer the slightly more textural jams, marmalade, and preserves. The flavor is reminiscent of lemon drop candy, and the color is a spectacular transparent gold. It is lovely, assuming it actually does set overnight as it cools, but will not be joining the short roster of pantry preserves that get made in rotation every year.
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This bowl was rather an afterthought but I particularly like how the blue underglaze spots dripped onto the dark center, and am quite eager to see how it will look next week (when our glazed and fired pieces are returned at the final class).

These experimental buttons, now underglazed half brown/black and half blue, will hopefully end up as functional and decorative fasteners on a handmade cardigan:

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March SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey pinafore green onions plantedpaper recycle bin
2 2 stencils bike tires and tubesyard waste bin
3 black/cream knit top bicycle brakes dead bike tires
4 grey/blue knit top x x
5 peg people playsetx x
6 needlefelted sheep x x
7 Seville marmalade x x
8 Mandarin Dream jelly x x
9 - x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday tidbits


in which our plucky heroine acquires some greenery...

It had been my original intention to have some spider plants here, as they are durable resilient house plants that remind me of my younger days as well as adding a bit of life to the interior decor

I decided after the kind response to my request last week for spider plant babies, that it would be a real treat to have a small collection of future spider plants from various friends of mine.

These two arrived this weekend from Karen Eccles and Elizabeth Mead, and are settling in to their new home. Soon the larger of the two will be potted into a hanging pot, and the smaller green and white stripey one will be potted into a windowsill pot
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Started in on making marmalade for the year, whilst there are still an abundance of citrus in the shops. Made very small batch of Seville orange marmalade to start, and acquired some blood oranges for a second small batch. Since there are quite a few tangerines leftover from KASB, making "tangerine dream" jelly (combining tangerine with vanilla) seems like it would be fun, and a better-late-than-never response for the current monthly Mastery Challenge over on Food In Jars.

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March SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey pinafore green onions plantedpaper recycle bin
2 2 stencils bike tires and tubesyard waste bin
3 black/cream knit top bicycle brakes dead bike tires
4 grey/blue knit top x x
5 peg people playsetx x
6 needlefelted sheep x x
7 Seville marmalade x x
8 - x x
9 - x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Giant sheep, peg people, and a visit from Blue Cedar House


In which assorted friends visit our plucky heroine, and we survive the wool weasels...

Forsythia is such a classic sign of springtime; this one grew from a wee salvaged sprig planted in the parking strip, to a splendid shrub that cheers me every year! (now I just need to find a bit of flowering quince to keep it company, those two being my spring shrubbery icons...)
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Over the weekend: spent time doing some tidying in the workroom. Got rid of most of the empty cardboard boxes, which pretty much filled the recyle bin. Yard is much tidier, weeded, grass mowed. Removed dead euphorbia shrubbery, which pretty much filled the yard waste bin. Had new tires and tubes on bike, and general bicycle cleanup, so I can now ride the bike that has baskets for shopping. Filled two round planter pots so I can plant peas. Plus finished making the needlefelted sheep and painted peg people playset for Mindy. It was a busy weekend.

the yoga class for peg people, they just love doing headstands:
This was my solution for painting clear coat on them, first clear coat their little heads and upper bodies, let dry, then clear coat their bottom halves and balance them on thread spools until their nethers are dry.

The multicultural peg people children - part of the playset that M asked me to make for her Sunday school class... I thought using different skin tones, but not to attempt specific "ethnic clothing" but just go with a variety of visual patterns and designs, would be the most appropriate way to support the ideas she was asking for...one friends comment was "I love these! They don't normalize white and exoticise everyone else"

The multicultural peg people adults + "Good Shepherd" - part of the playset that M asked me to make for her Sunday school class... All the peg people are so small that painting them is a bit of a challenge, but it was a fun project, and I was rather charmed by how tiny changes in where the eye dots were placed create such individuality of expression!

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The playset needed to include a small flock of sheep. I ended up needlefelting the sheep over a framework made from pipecleaner wound about with wool floss, which was pretty difficult. I was reassured that the children she teaches will not be as disturbed as I am by the fact that the sheep are quite the size of small horses, compared to the peg people.

Somehow, it was decided that the sheep were not particularly ovine in appearance, and while to me they ended up looking more like dogs, the consensus was that they looked rather like weasels. Or maybe it was just that the idea of "wool weasels" was just terribly amusing. There was much joking about said rogue critters all weekend by the three adults, substituting "wool weasel" for other nouns or various concepts in our conversation, with hilarious results. This was not decreased when on a trip to the hardware and garden center we discovered the "Garden Weasel" tool... and I decreed that the "wool weasels of war" were all armed with their trusty garden weasels. I know that would certainly strike fear into my heart, but then I find ordinary weasels quite scary enough to begin with...
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March SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey pinafore green onions plantedpaper recycle bin
2 2 stencils bike tires and tubesyard waste bin
3 black/cream knit top bicycle brakes dead bike tires
4 grey/blue knit top x x
5 peg people playsetx x
6 needlefelted sheep x x
7 - x x
8 - x x
9 - x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

the woodcraft of Drusa


in which our plucky heroine pays a visit to a talented friend...

So last week at Arts Evening at Tullia's, Drusa brought her wood steaming equipment, and an assortment of various jigs and wood strips, and we all became the "bender babes" and helped her begin the process of creating Norse tine boxes. Wood strips get steamed in boiling water, then really quickly wrapped around a jig, held in place with multiple angled pegs, all before the strip cools down and the lignin re-solidifies. Then the curled up wood strips get clamped in their new shape. (Extra hands make it a little easier)
She then took them home to finish drying, cut the ends in decorative patterns, glued them in place, and drilled holes to add stitching...

I visited Drusa this afternoon and helped with the decorative stitching (with waxed threads) on some of the boxes. They all still need all the rest of the parts added, the top and bottom, and the side pieces that snap to hold the lid in place

This butternut case will become the sides of a box for me!

The tine box cases from last week's "bender" - Drusa is planning on making more of these tine boxes to sell this tourney season, along with an assortment of other wonderful woodworked goods: including tablet weaving cards, boxes, and maybe some buckets, and other tourney furniture. She has the skills!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

glorious mud


in which our plucky heroine gets her hands dirty...

I signed up for a just for fun, free, Beginning Ceramics workshop series at the library, 5 short sessions of making things from clay, a crafty medium I last played with as a child. Definitely outside my comfort zone and skill set. (usually the art workshops at the library are one afternoon, not five, and usually more "dry" media, like origami, or book arts, or knitting groups)

A dozen pottery buttons (the raw clay showing the texture of the canvas we rolled the clay out on, yet to be fired and painted) might be a really fun addition to my wardrobe in the future...
This is an experiment, as I have no idea if they will even prove durable enough for use after they are fired, but it would be so nifty to have buttons I made on a sweater or cardigan jacket I made.

I was inspired by some beautifully funky pottery I saw on the internet; this odd little sculptural form will hopefully become a tiny clay flower holder. The pieces in these three photos are my efforts from the three class sessions we have had so far.

Next week we get to paint underglaze on everything we have made so far (which will have been bisque fired in the interim), and the final class, in April, we get it all back, fired again to set the color and with a shiny clear glaze over it all, and will talk about it.

and... as an appropriate soundtrack, an old favorite:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday media etc


in which our plucky heroine improves slowly...

Here is a thoughtful and visually beautiful bit of media:
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So slowly, I began to regain some energy, some tiny modicum of enthusiasm. Instead of dragging through the days, desperate for an afternoon nap, I make it through 'til evening and cook an actual supper instead of just simply opening a box of soup.

Does this correlate with the lengthening daylight, or as is more likely, with the clever ministrations of my beloved acupuncturist doing her best to encourage my immune system to wake up and do what needs to be done. Difficult to be feeling cheerful when within the last week one good friend had a stroke, and two others were diagnosed with cancer. Grateful for my five years as a survivor, and hoping for the same for those dear to me.
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Stitchy stitchy stitch... the other hemp knit top is finished, and has been washed and worn again twice. I am liking the slightly rough linen-y texture, and just delighted with the narrow dark grey/pale blue stripes. Very narrow stripes are now going on the list as one of my fashion basics; I loved the only striped knit I had previously, and I hardly want to take this one off, I like it so much.
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And should all this be too serious, and something just plain silly called for, here is a very silly bit of media nonsense:

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March SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey pinafore green onions planted-
2 2 stencils x-
3 black/cream knit top x x
4 grey/blue knit top x x
5 -x x
6 - x x
7 - x x
8 - x x
9 - x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x

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Friday, March 17, 2017

delectable stripes


in which our plucky heroine continues making progress on a renewed wardrobe...

Today's project is working on my second knit top, this one made from striped hemp jersey, which is behaving much more cooperatively than the marled hemp jersey did. Narrow 1/8" stripes of charcoal grey and a very pale blue will coordinate well with all my pinafores.

At this point in time, once this basic top is complete, if I get three more garments finished I will meet my minimum goal of meeting the requirements for SWAP 2017. If I finish those three by the end of March, I have a whole month (all of April) to do something a bit more intensive/spectacular, which is my hope. I really want to make the Alabama Chanin style cardigan that is currently taking up a big spot in my visual imagination, and that would be a most useful springtime layer.

Finished the hand-stitched neckline binding tonight, just need to do the same to the cuff edges, and hem the bottom edge, and it will be finished. For this one, my aim is a very basic wardrobe component, not highly elaborated, but with the visible hand stitching being a subtle embellishement. Given how much I wear my black/grey striped cotton turtleneck, a new stripey cool weather top, in a slightly different colorway and style, will surely become a wardrobe staple.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Thursday thoughts


in which our plucky heroine enjoys the softer spring weather...

Last week I managed to get green onions planted in the upright planter just off the front porch. It is easy to start new plants by simply cutting the bottom inch or two off a grocery store bunch and planting them out one at a time. By doing this, one or two bunches of green onions can be kept growing, if not indefinitely, at the very least for close to a year or more, increasing allium self-sufficiency.

The beautiful planter box is all made from salvage: it involved some leftover pieces of cedar fencing and some 2x lumber. The bottom is the galvanised mesh you can just see bent up in the front, and the box is lined with fiberglass screening which keeps the dirt in and lets the water drain freely. The tall wooden legs rest on leftover bits of stone or brick to level the planter just under the drip edge of the porch roof.

Currently, a wodge of bird netting is draped over the planter box (visible as sparkley mesh in photo) to keep rogue squirrels from destroying my planting. I will have to think about what will serve well as the little green onions grow taller.
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The snowdrops are almost ended for the year, and their place in my heart is now filled with the small white violets, the next spring blossom here. There are some in the front garden bed, and small clumps mixed into the front lawn, which every year I mean to dig up and move into other garden beds, and always forget to...
When I went to put the hens to bed tonight, I noticed that there was just the tiniest hint of green on the apple tree in the back yard. Maybe this year I can acquire another fruit tree for the back yard, maybe a quince, or a pear to replace the one I lost...
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My black/cream marled hemp knit top is finished. I was hand stitching down the hemline when I noticed this scrap from cutting out the pieces was all curled up into a cord, just like they describe in the third Alabama Chanin book. I decided that it would be a good addition to the neckline, just a tiny bit more embellishment, really quick to stitch into place.
It's basically a very simple "reads as grey" knit top, and is quite comfortable to wear. The hemp knit is surprisingly warm for how thin it is. I am giving up on my initial idea to overdye it a medium brown, since as is it fits in well with the current swap, as well as under all my other pinafores.
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March SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey pinafore green onions planted-
2 2 stencils x-
3 black/cream knit top x x
4 - x x
5 -x x
6 - x x
7 - x x
8 - x x
9 - x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x
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Monday, March 6, 2017

Grrrr... Jersey can go to the hot place


in which our plucky heroine dislikes some fabric...

While I love the ease of wearing knit tops, some knit fabrics are more amenable than others to work with. I enjoy sewing with ribbed knits, as the structure of the ribbing means that they fabric lays flat. I only used ponte* once, on a vest for my Mom, but it too was easy to work with, since it is a double knit and very stable. The most annoying knit fabric to work with is jersey, since it is a single knit, it wants to curl. This is a function of the structure of single knitting, whether in the form of fabric, or in knitting with wool by hand, where single knitting is called stockinette stitch.

Last week I started in on a simple black/cream marled hemp knit top. This fabric has an interesting visual texture and is a lightweight knit. My thought was that it would be an appropriate layering garment for winter, as well as being good on it's own in the transitional seasons. However, the cussed fabric rolls on every cut edge, and not just a little curl, but it will happily roll up several inches or more. This makes it rather quite annoying to work with. Nonetheless, I manage to get the main pieces serged together...

Somehow when I then foolishly serged the neckline binding in place, (rather than basting and stitching, I inadvertently stretched the neckline, which looks unattractive, as it makes the binding stick out rather than lay neatly flat. I had to remove the binding, cutting off the serged stitched portion, that will make the neckline larger, which is not the look I want.

A larger and wider neckline opening can be filled with a floppy cowl, or can become a wide deep scoop necklines, or in this case, I created kind of double facing, and sandwiched the cut opening between two pieces. Extending the neckline edge inwards on the double facing pattern pieces I created restored the original neckline. Yay! I think that the hand stitchery is a nice rustic detail on a pretty basic long sleeve knit top.

I had been trying to avoid starching the knit fabric, but it is unavoidable; there is no way to deal with the edges of the fabric otherwise. Those applied cuffs would literally curl into what looked like a heavy cord, were they not starched prior to my working with them, as would that tidy looking neckline facing, and that would make stitching them in place rather difficult. Heavy starch makes working with the curling jersey fabric a lot easier, rendering it almost as stiff as quilting cotton, but it takes time to do, requiring multiple applications of starch, makes a mess of the ironing board and of the surface of the iron.
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despite the snow this morning, there are definitely more signs of springtime every day. The days are getting longer, if not a lot warmer (yet). One or two eggs each day from the goofy hens. Many yards with sweet crocus blossoms, which reminds me... need to get self to a garden store and get some pea seeds,, because it's time!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Saturday snippets


in which our plucky heroine makes ragged progress...

springtime is on the way - the hellebore flowers are such a pretty sign of the changing seasons... I really would love it if my front garden could have some of the speckled ones, and the greenish white ones, as well as these pink flowers on the single hellebore in my garden..

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Cutting the new stencil - I decided that a new Alabama Chanin style cardigan would be a good wardrobe addition. That means some new stencils, since I get bored with using the same designs, and I like creating or choosing motifs just a little different than what is commonly seen. I am trying out this new mylar from the art store that opened up a few blocks from here, and hoping it is not too thin to work well, since it is thin enough that it is really easy to cut!... I'll be doing some trial stenciling first, before starting in on my actual garment fabric. For the striped sleeves, I can just lay out strips of masking tape, which is even easier than using a cut stencil.

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My new pinafore - grey corduroy, worn here with a teal batik stripe everyday dress (also new this year, but not for SWAP). This pinafore will be a good transition piece into spring; the darker colors seem more wintery to me, but this one will coordinate with future blouses and everyday dresses in paler colors. I have some striped grey and white set aside for a springtime dress, and some fun conversational prints for once I get a TNT blouse pattern.

Really, the hemline is level, but the camera lens makes it look very lopsided. I am enjoying stitching up my "sewing kits", and dividing up the cutting out from the sewing up seems to work well. I enjoy sewing, but really dislike cutting out for some reason...

Now I need to focus on getting the knitwear components cut out, two new tops, two pairs of petticoat pants, and then the pieces for the reverse applique shirt jacket. Once all of those "kits" are prepared, I can return to the fun of adding new garments to the wardrobe.
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Something to listen to - pick up a teacup and take a moment...

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March SMART goals (x=extra)
# THINGS MADE THINGS FIXED THINGS GONE
1 grey pinafore x-
2 2 stencils x-
3 - x x
4 - x x
5 -x x
6 - x x
7 - x x
8 - x x
9 - x x
10 x x x
11 x x x
12 x x x
13 x x x
14 x x x
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