Friday, December 31, 2010

report card

There were three words for 2010: kindness, handicraft, and infrastructure. Not a resolution, (since those only ever generate overwhelming inadequacy; my list of projects and improvements is so much larger than one woman can ever do in one lifetime) but words to live by.

handicraft - became: a year of textiles rather than metals

There was quite a bit of sewing in 2010, mostly clothing, as I refurbished my scant wardrobe with newly made or re-made garments. This was handy for the two big online sewing activities: Me-Made-May, and Self-Stitched-September. The challenge here for me was not the sewing part, but the self-acceptance to clothe the body I do live in (Little Teapot), rather than the imaginary self. I seem to have been able to step outside of the whole fashion idiom to simply walk my own personal style path. Over the course of the year: nine dresses, seven pinafores, four tops, and four hats (two from Goretex)

Knitting was is transit-riding-calming, and as transit takes quite a bit of my time, quite a bit of knitting gets done: nineteen assorted projects this year. The biggest project was the blue vest stripey vest for me, the most complicated was the tea cozy, and the most fun was the jellyfish.

There was additional artisanry during the year, including a fair amount of embroidery, and toymaking (that won a contest) among other activities, though not anywhere near as much enameling as in years past. The falling dollar combined with the stratospheric rise in metals prices, multiplied by the stagnant economy, equals not a lot of jewelry work.
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Preserving: is it a handicraft, or is it infrastructure? ...seems somewhere in between for some reason, but whatever... a lot of it happened this year, which was structured by the year-long preserving challenge Tigress's Can Jam. Preserving food safely is a good skill to learn, pantry shelves full of tasty local foods helps add another layer of resiliency to the sustainable life that is my goal. By December, the process of putting up fruit and pickles in various forms had become quite comfortable, and an activity that will continue to be integrated into the cycle of the year here.

infrastructure - became: slow but steady progress
The linens shelf in the bedroom finally happened, and adds great functionality as well as being a transitional design element

A new low-flow, dual flush, comfort height commode is a step towards transforming the bathroom.

The bedroom wall cabinet/peg racks were another "Needs-Fixed-November" project, and are in daily use. Being able to see my earrings, my necklaces, with comb, mirror and hairbands right there in plain sight, really helps my morning routines.

Almost finished priming the porch columns and roof underside. Learned that overhead painting necessitates taking it slowly, or else taking time off is not optional. (next year, only paint for an hour or less at a time each day)

The day before the end of the year, a new small front loading washing machine replaced the huge water-guzzling top loader that was originally here. 15 gallons instead of 60 should make quite a difference.

Made a small garden bed next to the persimmon tree out in the parking strip, and planted the four garlic that made it from last year there, protected by half inch mesh. Hopefully that will deter the squirrels and jays from destroying the garlic before it sprouts, and 2011 will have enough garlic to eat as well as to plant.

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kindness - towards myself and the world around me...

Hmmm...Taking better care of myself (internal kindness) is still a challenge. Some things are shifting, and external awareness and communication continues to improve. However, I know what my intention was with this, and it really still needs improvement.
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Overall, 2010, despite the lack of steady full-time work, was a year of more progress than setback, more creation than devolution. There were fun online swaps, and travel to share celebrations with dear friends. There was another enameling demo at Art In The Pearl, and a cloisonne teaching workshop with my new student A, who has made open studio time a delight. There was the beginnings of greater connection within the neighborhood here and most of all there was always time to notice the small everpresent beauty that fills the world, the life that we all share.

I am, perhaps foolishly, of good cheer going into 2011. Meet you there...
and as always, wishing love and light to all of you in the year to come
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

brought to you by the letter "S"

It was the last of the "last Sunday" Crafternoons... but no fear, the current plan is to switch to "first Sundays" instead, particularly since several folks who would have wanted to attend were not able to, due to holiday weekend commitments. So - same fun format, starting next weekend Sunday January 2nd, 1 to 5 PM, with an option of Sushi Ichiban afterwards, if that sounds good. Crafting and chat, snacks and teatime.

There was some entirely unexpected birthday present giving, and an entirely planned small gift swap as well. The biggest surprise of all was being gifted with this vast amount of yarn, a vivid assortment, over 20 gallons of sudden stash enhancement. Now there is plenty of yarn for giftmaking and yarn swapping, as well as the additional grocery sack of acrylic/wool blends that are earmarked for one of my 2011 goals: to knit at least one hat a month as a giveaway for homeless folks. In the last few days, I've been thinking about goals and ideas for next year, and that one felt right, but I was wondering about affording the yarn... and before the day was over - the supplies appeared!

There were no bite-sized quincemeat tarts made. My mind's eye saw them, but since the cupboards here have had only a few pattypans, and no mini-mufin tins, the tarts remained imaginary. On my way home from kitty food and meds duty over at Hotel Drachenwald, Goodwill beckoned, and in another bit of synchronicity, two mini-muffin tins were waiting to come home with me. Perhaps there will be quincemeat tarts for next Sunday's Crafternoon...

This morning, my party preparations were slowed by the surprise of a phone call from my friend T, and we ended up talking for almost an hour, not just catching up on how we are managing to survive/get by as independent artists, but in bits and fragments being able to go a bit deeper. My heart is brightened at each glimpse of common ground; he and I have some places where the spirit that underlies the work of our hands is very congruent. (I suspect this to be true for other friends as well, but it is hard, so hard most of the time, for me to get to where those aspects can be verbalised)

Picking up the house, putting the leftovers away, washing the dishes, planning the weeks work - I am smiling...

sunday morning snippets

The first plant that I remember planting here at Acorn Cottage was the culinary sage next to the front walkway, a gift from B long before I'd a home of my own. The second plant was this Nandina domesticata, for which several trips to local nurseries were necessary, to find one that was not the fancy dwarfed or color variant forms, but the plant that matched my childhood memory.

Commonly called "heavenly bamboo", it is not a bamboo at all, but a member of the barberry family; unlike common barberry, it has no thorns or spiky stems, just a round-the-year beauty that impressed me as a child, and still pleases me greatly. It gets no supplemental water and grows steadily but slowly larger, eventually it can grow quite tall and leggy, which will look beautiful at the outer corner of my front porch, where it now crouches as a small shrub. It seems to be doing well, a plant that is not "difficult", with red berries as bright as holly in the dark of winter, sprays of white flowers in their season, and a tidy habit of growth.
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Japanese artifacts are a great and abiding pleasure of mine, as anyone that has ever been to Acorn Cottage will find apparent. So also is participating in various gift and craft exchanges; this is the second year I've done the Hexmas Sekrit Santa Swap, organised by my friend C. A few days ago a small package arrived in the mail, carefully wrapped so as to be impervious to my (gentle) shaking... bad me, I know, but I just can't help myself... It was tortuously difficult to wait till this morning to open my gift, but look at the exquisite bit of carving that the clever and perceptive T sent me:

a beautiful netsuke,
actual size ≈ 5.5cm

and underneath...

look at the chicken feet!
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Like many, this time of year has me feeling rather nostalgic, both for dear ones far away, and the dear ones that have gone where I may not yet follow. Lately, in the last few years, many images, and songs especially, from my youngerself memories can suddenly catch at my heart, (fortunately not so often when out and about in the world, since a tearful face is not my preferred one to show in public) I remember this song when it was new, and these women from long before that, but in the words of an entirely different song "we will get by, we will abide..."

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Love and joy come to you,

And to you your wassail, too...

Whatever your creed whatever you believe, may you find light where there is darkness, abundance where there is lack, love where there is fear, and kindness, peace, and joy now, and throughout your lives.

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A wish from Acorn Cottage for peace on earth, goodwill to all...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Κεφαλόποδ + other random thoughts and treats

Fortunately, my cold seems to be on the way out. Maybe the three days of mostly rest and hot soup were just the thing (note to self: remember this, even at times when work is necessary, take time to rest and drink broth). As I'm feeling better, I do plan to have an open house Crafternoon on Boxing Day ( this Sunday, December 26) Hopefully there will be some folks around town that will feel like dropping in. Exciting planned holiday snacks will include the ancestral Fine Family Rum Balls, as well as other delights. Sunday afternoon 1 - 5 PM
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Soon it will be Christmas Day, and what does that mean... Well among other things it also means that SWAP 2011 will begin! Start your sewing machines (brmmm brrrmmm)... My ideas for this year's SWAP keep changing: originally my plan was to really push myself with multiple new techniques, and several difficult fitting challenges/new-to-me patterns. Now I'm not feeling like that is what will make me happy, as the thought of all that was stressful to the point not enjoying the planning phase, which is usually one of my favorite parts.

Looking back to the original SWAP concept, the idea started with using simple basic patterns, and letting the fabrics and limited color palette create a usable wardrobe. I do have basic patterns that fit me (knit top, bias-front top, several pinafore/jumpers), and will use what works rather than add the additional challenge of developing a functional blouse pattern to the other parameters*. We are asked to use new techniques or features, and pattern development is a whole different level than that.

For SWAP 2011, my focus will be buttonholes, closures, and pockets, additional variety of those details will add a great deal of style to my sewing, and are all feature/techniques that I could definitely use improvement with. I'm looking forward to exploring the many variations on buttonholes and pockets, (remembering that bound buttonholes and double welt pockets are cousins). There are great tutorials over on the blog ikat bag, including myriads of pocket styles and how to add them to garments:

* the blouse pattern challenge will be my personal challenge for later in 2011, I still really want one, but need to come at the project with an attitude of exploration rather than my current attitude of dread
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There's a small bit of holiday cheer all around the house ~≈ : ♥ : ≈

delightful, though not traditional...

Bone Poets Orchestra holiday video
(just a tiny bit NSFW)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

say goodbye...

I am sad. HP died today, quietly, indoors and warm. She was a good hen, from when she first appeared* in my front yard, five years ago. She was always far more human-social than any of the other hens, probably since (as far as we know) she was someones Easter pet chick before being abandoned. She started me on the path of urban chicken-keeping, and hopefully had a good life here at Acorn Cottage.

R.I.P. HennyPenny

* this post has the story of her arrival

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I'm still very much under the weather, though thanks to E (who kindly drove me to the East Vancouver Costco) there are now a dozen boxes of chicken broth in the pantry, which should tide me over 'til my respiratory system expels Mr Rhinovirus.

HP is not improving, and "not dead yet". I'm rather at a loss, she can barely stand up, and cannot walk, but seems not unhappy to be in a box under a warm light. When I am nearby she makes little hennish cooing sounds. I periodically offer her water in a cup and sometimes she will drink a bit.

But this is all sounding rather pathetic. Perhaps it would be nicer just to hear something cheery instead, how about Dar Williams, and one of my favorite songs of the season...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

you say it's your birthday...

Was really hoping to get a good view of the total lunar eclipse last night. It was overcast and raining, clouds like drifts of carded wool let the moon peek through at times. Did see the approach to totality, but once the moon was "dark" it seemed foolish to stand in the cold rain watching the sky to guess where the moon was hiding.

Oooo this was a treat though... earlier this year I'd mentioned to my parents about Salley Mavor's original artwork travelling to a museum show at the Danforth Museum, (not terribly far from the ancestral abode), and suggested that it would definitely be worth a trip to see. Not only did my folks go to the show, and my mother's picture show up in a group photo on Salley's blog (my Mom is the woman on the right, holding a copy of Salley's book "Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes"), but I now have my very own copy of the book, with a signed dedication from the author. What a delightful birthday gift. I have rather a weakness for beautifully illustrated children's books, and this will be a very happy addition to my bookshelf.

My cold has progressed to the horrid streaming stage. HP is worse, and refuses to either eat or drink at all. I'm going back to bed now...

Monday, December 20, 2010

monday media and minutiae

or the good the bad and the ugly...

There are various small good things, such as this very pretty bit of calligraphic animation...

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Whilst wandering around Ravelry looking a slipper patterns, I ran across "Duffers", a quick 19 row felted pattern that looked interesting. I always look to see the various versions that folks knit up, both to get yarn ideas and to see if a design looks different when knitted by someone other than the designer (sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes a good reason not to knit a pattern) There were these sweet somewhat fuzzy grey Lopi slippers that the Original Knitter did not love. Did I mention that they were grey, and just my size, and she said that if anyone wanted them she wanted to give them away... So I sent a message to let her know that I would dearly love them and give them a good home in a chilly house where they could keep my feet warm, and now I have a nice warm pair of felted house slippers just in time for winter. They fit as if they had been made for me. Smiley happy warm feets now - thank you Amybel
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I read blogs: artists all over the world write about their lives and that is my recreational reading these days. One of many favorite blogs is purple podded peas. When Celia mentioned the artistry of Andy English it was impossible for me to resist. A tiny gift for myself, ordered from Andy English arrived today all the way from Cambridgeshire in East Anglia UK. True wood engravings, handprinted as holiday cards, (at $5 each, I could afford one). I chose "Three French Hens", and plan on framing it once I have my focus back again. There are still many lovely cards available in his Etsy shop, a rare opportunity to purchase such small delights that are actually made and printed by hand (not photo-replications) ...
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the bad thing: HennyPenny is poorly. At five+ years old, she is no spring chicken. Though her feathers are shiny and she appears not to be "sick", she fell over yesterday while walking across the yard. By the time I came over to where she was, she was up and moving around with the other chickens, so I figured no problem...

Today she was lying down on the dirt, and didn't get up when I came outside with henfood, and when I tried to pick her up she kind of fell over. In picking her up, it was obvious that she is almost completely skin and bones under her feathers. (I am reminded very much of when I realised that Smokey was wasting away under all her fur.) Not wanting to leave even an elderly hen lying in the cold rain and mud, I brought her inside. A large Rubbermaid tote with wood shavings seemed a bit less austere, with wire mesh across the top and a lamp with an incandescent bulb to warm her up.

She is willing to drink just a bit if I offer her water, but is not at all interested in eating, even warm oat porridge with egg, or fresh wiggly worms from the worm bin. She sits there all crouched down, and will make soft happy chicken sounds if I talk to her, but all is not well. A friend who is more chicken-knowledgeable than I am, said that HP is probably on the way out.
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The ugly thing is that I've come down with a turrible cold, the kind that feels like Mr. Rhinovirus is doing bad tapdancing on your face. I just want to sleep, and that is what is most difficult, since I also want to breathe. And, there is work to be done, etc etc...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

because it's time...

In wintertime, one of the things that gets made every year here at Acorn Cottage, is candied citrus peel. My father, notoriously difficult to find gifts for, enjoys candied peel, and it is a Useful Ingredient in both holiday baking and garnishing. It is rather time consuming to make, but not at all difficult, requiring only citrus peels (please use organic, as you will be eating the peel), sugar, and water.

To begin with, take the citrus peel and make sure you have scraped away any excess segment membrane from the inside of the peel, more an issue with grapefruit than with orange. I like my candied peel to be thick and juicy, so I do not scrape away all the white part. While the white of the peel can be bitter, the next steps will deal with that.

Cut your peelings into strips about a quarter inch wide. Put into a pan of cold water, bring to a boil, then let sit for at least a half hour. (I sometimes do this before bedtime and just let them sit, in the pan, overnight) Pour off the water and do this at least two more times. This "blanching" can can also be done in a crockpot, by cooking the peels till the water boils, (or overnight) draining off the water and repeating at least twice.
After you have blanched the peel strips, make a simple sugar syrup. It is a good idea to use a pan with a fair bit of height, and a nice hefty bottom; a thin pan might let the syrup burn, and hot sugar syrup boils up quite a bit, so you want some room between the liquid and the top of the pan. I use either a tall Revereware pan or my maslin pan, depending on how much peel is being processed

starting to simmer
Use equal amounts of white sugar and water to make the syrup, judging the amount in proportion to the peelings. You want enough that the peels are covered by liquid, allowing enough to eventually be absorbed as well, it is kind of a judgment call. Better to have too much than not enough, the leftover syrup can be stored in the freezer for future use. Bring the sugar/water mixture to a boil, the sugar will dissolve, making a simple syrup. Add the peel strips and turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer.

further along
The peelings will need to simmer for quite a while, usually an hour or more. They start out being mostly opaque, and gradually become more and more translucent and shiny. At that point, turn off the heat, and prepare for draining and drying the peel. The peel can simply stay in the syrup (refrigerated) till a convenient time for the next step.

fully translucent peel
Set cooling racks on cookie sheets, you will need a place to let them stay overnight. "Spaghetti tongs" are helpful to pick the sticky drippy peel strips out of the syrup and place them carefully on the cooling racks, they should be separated so the excess syrup can drip off and they can start to dry a little.

The next day, the now candied peel can be rolled in granulated or superfine sugar, this will help keep the strips from sticking together, and make them easier to pick up. Cut into cubes, they make a splendid and glittering garnish. (Another further option is to dip the peel strips in melted chocolate for a truly delicious decadent treat.)

The candied peel should keep for at least several weeks without refrigeration, I have mailed it to the East Coast in winter with no difficulty. For longer storage, it can be frozen, but it never lasts that long around here...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

well duh...

two words: rectangular construction

I have been putting the raincoat construction project off for months and months well more than a year, dreading the multiple muslins needed to get something that will deal with my bitsy shoulders. Last night, while riding the #75 on the way home from visiting L, it occurred to me that a way to stop being all weird and stressed about it, would be to make the primary construction rectangular construction and to use the "pretty" details from useful patterns as just that, added details.

Rectangular construction* preceded shaped pattern pieces, and while not suitable for all modern garments, should work without trouble for a semi-shaped (but loosely) fit rain-over-coat. Now that I've both a nifty rainhat, and my Keen boots of awesomeness, it is time to have an actual raincoat. I vaguely remember my friend K suggesting just this solution months ago, but I'd my heart set on a particular shawl collared swing coat pattern instead. Now it is mid December, and just maybe before winters end there will be a new raincoat, the right size to fit me, long enough to wear with dresses, and the shabby worn Goretex jacket can be retired.

I'll be documenting the project, once started (There are a few studio projects that need finished first). By using this construction method, it should be possible to entirely bypass the frustration of shoulder fitting*. After all, my Goretex jacket doesn't even have an armscye seam.

My idea is for mid-calf coat with a flared skirt, a zip front with a snap wind-flap, a tall cowl-ish collar lined with polartec, pockets (maybe with single welts), and a Goretex shouldercape for additional rainproofing. I have the fabric already, the black London Fog fabric (bought when I lived in Seattle years ago) so all that is needed is notions, a sturdy separating zipper, some snaps, and possibly some lining fabric. Not sure what raincoats get lined with?

* making clothing from cut to measure rectangles and triangles. (pre-renaissance, viking, and earlier clothing was often made this way)

** I still really want to come up with a button up the front shirt with shoulders that fit me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

something cheerful to watch on a dark and stormy day...

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Sunday after next, the 26th, last Crafternoon of the year here at Acorn Cottage.  I'll have tea and snackage, and was thinking about a post-holiday gift exchange as an activity in addition to the usual chatting and crafting. Bring along something that would be a treat to get, nothing too fancy, just a wrapped gift (homemade, thrifted or re-gifted is all good) and we can do a bit of round robin swapping. Sounds like fun?

Monday, December 13, 2010

a year of canning safely...

This Can Jam year flew by, (though years mostly do that now that I am older). The year of preserving was such a wonderful focus, to pay more attention to what is growing seasonally, that knowledge that drifted away for a while, which now is becoming clearly important again, as is the idea that to enjoy seasonal bounty will necessitate preserving some of it for use during the rest of the year.

The compendium posts on Tigress's websites** will be a Useful Resource for adding variety for preserves both sweet and savory. More than anything else, this CanJam year has brought me a sense of ease with the process, and a gentle but definite stretching of my flavor comfort zone. Rather than ketchup, the remaining frozen tomatoes are destined for Awesome Sauce. There is a jar of tasty tiny homemade pickles in the fridge, and pickled beets on the pantry shelf, a surprising development for this girl who did not like pickles.

Not all the recipes from this year will end up as regular pantry guests, but there will be guest and holiday gifts for a while to come, and I learned a lot. Using apple for pectin gives a nicer (softer) set than Pomona's. Jelly is a luxury product, requiring not only much sugar, but leaving behind most of the fruit (which can, of course, be used for other preserves, but still...)

Jan - grapefruit marmalade* &tc
Feb - carrot cake conserve*
celestial carrot marmalade
Mar - roasted garlic syrup
Apr - scarborough fair jelly
May - gang of 4 jam
strawberry rhubarb jam*
Jun - easy as pie sauce
Jul - watermelon jelly
lavender blueberry jam
Aug - golden treasure drink syrup (tomato)
Sep - (meant to make plum sauce)
Oct - capsicum condiments*
awesome sauce*
Nov - spiced seckel pears
Dec - quincemeat preserves*

The starred recipes are keepers, ones that delight my tastebuds and are asked for by friends, ones that are or will become pantry staples. Will there be another year of CanJamming? Only Tigress knows... With great gratitude I thank her for the inspired year, and know that my pantry will never be the same!

** tigress in a jam & tigress in a pickle

Sunday, December 12, 2010

night rain on boro mountain

Though I imagine that to those working a more normal job my life must look a lot like toddlers playtime, in fact working four self employed jobs takes rather a bit of every day, and most times when not working, my householding responsibilities fill as much time as allowed. Unadulterated playtime is a rare thing, or it'd not be so noticed when there is a bit...

Took a bit more time last night with the stitchery-scene, (inspired by Jude Hill's "cloth whispering" video series, on her blog Spirit Cloth), and it went off in an entirely unexpected direction. The cloth at the top is a scrap from a beloved well worn thrifted shirt; when torn to a rectangle, the heavy multiple light colored threads made a kind of scattered fringe off the edges, reminiscent of rain falling. Maybe it is the current ongoing rain reverberating?

So, what if the rest of the various blue fabric was simply covered with lighter running stitches, a kind of informal sashiko, reminiscent of boro cloth? What if the moon was stitched down with horizontal stitches like a haze of clouds? What if the trees were mostly dark against the snowy hills?
Not sure if the lighter trees work with the design...

the image echos memories of the year of winter in Idaho; the trees dark, the snow under moonlight bright enough to see pathways; memories of childhood: how once the leaves fell, the shapes of the hills underneath showed clear against the sky; so many memories of watching the rain move over the land in different seasons and places...

To just take materials and play, to allow them to have a voice in what they become, the collaboration... that is timeless delight.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Thursday I did a very simple change to the grey tunic from my SWAP 2010 attempt. My initial vision had large shoulder flanges, which ended up being both unpleasantly droopy-looking, and rather heavy to wear. So, after realising that said tunic had been simply sitting in the drawer ever since being completed in March... off with the offending flaps. With a bit of hand-stitching for the edges that were underneath, to align with the stitching already on the vertical seams, it is much more comfortable now, and will be a good addition to the winter wardrobe layers


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It is a good thing to have an assortment of small handwork projects, appropriate for various lengths of time and locations. Sometimes knitting is what is needful, sometimes stitching, sometimes sketching. Unfortunately, my enameling and metalwork have no portable handwork associated, they are pretty much strictly studio projects.

Just for fun, I'd decided to follow along, in my own way, the inspiring instructional videos from Jude Hill* for a winter holiday cloth. Indigo bits have been picked from the scrap boxes and stitched together as a backing. The removed tunic flanges were sitting on the coffee table in the living room, and caught my eye...


Now there are steep hills, and a place is forming. I like the way it is reminiscent of the landscapes I drew over and over again as a young adult, steep hills and mountains against the sky. Some triangle trees of various sizes are set to go through the laundry, as possible additions.

* the series of her posts starts here, just follow the links on each page...

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Because it get put away each year, in the cupboard over the hall closet, the featherbed often gets somewhat forgotten at the beginning of wintertime. It was a birthday gift one year, and is ever so toasty warm. It forms a kind of container, with the shivery human in the middle, poufy feathers around the edge and the blanketing over the top. After only a short while, body heat warms the container and warm sleep is obtainable. The trick with it is that it needs to be puffed up anew each day, as sleeping on it flattens it out quite a bit, since it is basically a big sack full of fluffy feather/down mixture. In combination with the Hot Rice Bag, this should make a big difference.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

look up, pay attention to details...

The shelf above the bedroom door is up, in a most rudimentary form. Wants painted*, but even as it is, there is now a Useful Place to store bedding, which frees up a bit of prime storage space in the hall cupboard (which was my thought behind storing the bedding in the bedroom instead, where it actually gets used!)
The way it lowers the ceiling just as you enter the room is subtly pleasing to me. Not certain if it is a Pattern Language pattern or a Not So Big House pattern, but somewhere I remember reading about how a transition from a lower ceiling to a higher one is a good thing for entranceway spaces. 'Tis one thing to read about it, and another to experience. Now granted, the entry to the bedroom is only the matter of stepping through the door, but there is a definite and noticeable transition caused by the presence of the shelf. And all my intention was for simply providing another storage space.

holding the camera overhead, not easy = fuzzy picture

As a small detail, the outer corner of the shelf is cut into the double curve motif used all around the house. Took only a little more time than just cutting it square, but in time, the house will become more and more integrated in both function and decorative aspects. The same double curve is used in the porch support beam, and in my front porch flashing. There is another house a few blocks away that is a great example of this, with flashing and brackets and moulding all with similar contours. Small details that make a big difference.

The hall cupboard could be utilised much more effectively than it currently is. The central shelves should hold things that are used often, though like all ostensibly "linen cupboards" the shelves are quite deep and far apart, which makes for messy storage of anything other than sheets and bathtowels. Must needs do some brainstorming about what belongs in the space, which should make clearer how to organise it. One shelf could hold all the stationary type stuff: tape and glue and paper and notebook thingummys, all the stuff I can never find when needed!
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There is a very interesting series of videos up at Spirit Cloth. Jude is working through her process of creation of some small holiday art cloth, and it is very tempting to join in working along. Her artwork is stunning and intuitive, and her blog is a thoughtful inspiring daily read for me.
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An egg a day almost every day; homegrown is wonderful, and unexpected in the heart of winter. Good hens!
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More boring medical-fu interfering with the daily necessities of life. Bah.Tuesday was pretty much useless, I'd intended a studio day, but got an Urgent Care day instead. Nothing serious, just time consuming. Studio work will get pushed back just a tad, but there are three almost finished project in process, two old commissions and one tiny brooch pair for me, all should be done by the weekend...
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* the whole house interior wants painted. The first room that can be easily cleared out will be the first painted. Probably that means the bathroom, but oh how I want to paint my bedroom!

Monday, December 6, 2010

housiversary the fifth

Five years here, and it seems like only a few moments away in time that my life changed so radically. May all who are homeless eventually find a home that fits them so well. For all the trials of being a householder, I'd not trade it for anything.

The traditional fifth yeargift is wood, so I am working on one of the many unfinished projects, an over-the-doorway shelf for the bedroom, to hold linens and towels. Nothing fancy, just a board, two brackets and a wooden cleat. Maybe someday projects like these will be a straightforward for me as working with fabric is, where I simply think and move forward. Not yet.



Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tigress Can Jam - quincemeat preserves

Hard to believe but the year of Tigress's CanJam wonderfulness, set in motion by the brilliant Tigress, is drawing to an end... Her choice for this last month of all was dried fruit. It would normally never occur to me to use suchlike as an ingredient for something water-bath canned, since it is already shelf-stable.

My first thought was to use something exotic, like dried mango or papaya, but on further research, there was very little information about the acididty level of dried fruits. From what is listed here, it seems that as fruit dries, it becomes slightly less acidic than the comparable fresh fruit; raisins and dried apricots are both within the safe zone

Of course, chutney is the most obvious use, but with various other savory jars already in the pantry, and not being as much of a chutney enthusiast as my dear mother, I remembered a recipe in the back of How To Be A Domestic Goddess that seemed like a good starting place to riff off of. Nigella has a great enthusiasm for quince, and coincidentally there is still a small jar of quince still in the fridge (most all of the rest was properly canned, and is stored on the pantry shelves) as well as a half jar of spiced seckel pears.

After looking over the recipe for Quincemeat, the parts that seemed vital to me were the proportions, (more quince - less dried fruits), with an assortment of spices, and candied orange peel, as well as brandy, and either suet or shortening. The suet-free recipe on the previous page calls for apples instead, "...extra apples make up for the suet by keeping everything nice and moist", so extra apples it will be.

Okay, so the plan is to make a chunky-ish spiced mixed preserve. My first step (since there is one orange in the hanging basket next to the kitchen counter), is to peel and blanch twice the orange peel, then simmer it in a sugary syrup, to approximate candied orange peel. Actually making candied orange peel is not difficult, but takes rather a bit more time, and you'd want to use more than just one orange! I'll be making up a big batch sometime later this month, as it is a favorite holiday gift for my father. If all the marmalade from January had not already been eaten, that would be a good substitute.

Quincemeat Preserves
1 c cooked quince
3 preserved seckel pears
½ c apple
¼ c dark raisins
¼ c golden raisins
¼ c dried apricots
¼ c candied orange peel
3 T dark brown sugar
3 T dark rum
½ c spiced fruit syrup*
¼ t cinnamon

*leftovers from
preserved quince & pears
Prep all the jars and canning supplies, set canning water boiling

Chop all fruit, except raisins, into raisin size pieces

In a non-reactive pan, add liquids, sugar and spice to fruit.
Bring to a boil, and simmer till apple is cooked
(you may add more syrup if needed to prevent scorching)

Using the normal waterbath canning process,
fill jars
- ½" headspace - process 15 minutes
Yield: three 8oz. jars, 1 4oz. jar

Now the house smells amazing! Using the rose/quince and the spiced/balsamic/pears in addition to the dried fruit makes for a mightily aromatic preserve, rich and strange. In the interest of using what is here, I substituted rum for brandy. They're not the same, true, but for me, dark rum is a taste of wintertime, all on account of the rum balls that were an every year New Years confection.
This is my first original recipe for waterbath canning, but all the components are safe for canning*, and there is even some vinegar in the spiced fruit syrup, though not very obvious, it adds additional complexity.

*The acidity cutoff point for safe canning is 4.6...
apples 3.3 - 4.0
seckel pear 4.0 - 4.2
quince 3.1 - 3.4
raisins 3.8 - 4.1
dried apricots 3.3 - 3.5
oranges 3.3 - 4.1

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday snippets

in which our plucky heroine attempts to return to cheerful equanimity (as opposed to the funk of the last few days...)

My viral flu-shot arm is now back to normal size. I'll spare you the rest of the other assorted medical-fu of the week, boring boring boring annoying boring.

E very kindly drove me to pick up henfood at Concentrates, with a stop at Cash & Carry for assorted large container food supplies. They do indeed carry white wine vinegar, (which proved so very difficult to find elsewhere in anything other than minuscule precious vials), but it has preservatives (:P) in it, which are a non-starter in my book. Oh well. I'll just stick to either white vinegar or cider vinegar for future pickling.

After stopping at C&C, it occurred to me that a large commercial cookie sheet would make a dandy slide-out tray for underneath the perch area in the new (yet-to-be-built) henhouse. There are various bits of wood, and random Ikea parts set aside for that project, which will hopefully eventually create a house which will encourage perching and discourage nestbox-sleeping.

Someone in the henhouse laid an egg yesterday! Is HennyPenny hoping for a reprieve, or has one of the moulting Speckldies an extra amount of vim? At any rate, even a few extra eggs in the winter will be welcome, as a favorite breakfast or snack is hot broth with an eggs stirred in.

After much online and bookstore searching, it became obvious that persimmons are not intended to be canned as simple fruit preserves. Not needing a mort of chutney, the beautiful orbs will be turned to puree and frozen, so as to patiently wait for a chance to become something sweet and delightful. Perhaps this pear persimmon spice cake with whiskey creamcheese frosting

Best of all, one of my blue handknit fingerless mitts, which had disappeared over a week ago, leaving me with one hand warm and one hand cold, has been found. While walking to the other bus stop, the one without a bench, there in the edge of a pile of soggy leafage was a glimpse of stripey blue. None other. A wash and a great deal of vegetable matter removal and there was a grand reunion in the warm hands drawer, not to mention that my outdoor wintertime workaday tasks will be much improved. Speaking of which, since it is grey, but windy and not raining, there is a load of laundry that is waiting to meet the clothesline...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday maunderings

Called to have the furnace looked at, they can come out today, which means an unexpected day off from housecleaning work, hopefully to be re-scheduled for later this week. Truly hoping that whatever is wrong with the furnace will not be too major, Furnace is dusty dirty and cranky, but basically okay. Will need a new safety blower motor at some point, but not just yet, as it is still working. Cost for service $190, furnace working now, priceless...
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Started in on another attempt at this mini-poncho. The previous attempt was with coned yarn from Yarnia, and that was a disaster; the various materials, (wool threads and rayon chenille), being not actually plied, stretched at differing rates and developed annoying yarn loops constantly. My intention is to use what I have, and since there is not a nice bundle of bulky yarn in my teensy stash, I will be using a mixture of various thinner yarns all knitted together, but since they are all wool, it should work a bit better than the Yarnia disaster.
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Several brave and hardy souls were here for Crafternoon yesterday, and textile-geekery was the mode of the day. I was very happy, as I was able to help S sort out a troublesome knitting pattern. The next Crafternoon will be on Boxing Day (December 26) and will have a theme: "swapbox". Bring a gift, in a box, and we will have a swaparound, in the style of a white elephant swap. Don't spend any more than $10, homemade,re-gifted, or thrifted goodies are great, just choose something that would be a treat to get. Sound like fun??

Saturday, November 27, 2010

among other things, an unexpected treat...

The postman came today with a small package for me, an unexpected present from my dear friend J. She has really been doing a lot of warm-glass work lately, and has all kinds of delightful things in her Etsy shop, like octopus beads, and amphorae, and this incredible necklace of the solar system.

Well just in time for my Sewing With A Plan projects, she decided to make me some buttons! The grey and black is just my style, and will be the perfect thing to set off a button-front dress. I love the random funky assorted designs, and am wondering, grey dress with black accent, or black dress with grey accent? And she included these tiny studded beads for me to play with. I have such a weakness for eye beads of most any stripe, or should I say most any dot!

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Today marks the first day that there are no homegrown hen eggs left. Don't expect any till sometime next spring. The young hens are all moulting, the backyard is scattered with black and while speckled feathers. Next year my intention is to experiment with preserving the excess eggs of summer to cover the egg-hungry gap in the winter.
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Look out the front window to see that it is not raining, not snowing, not terribly sunny - time for an immediate change of plans - instead of indoor studio work, outdoors for leaf raking! Not ever my most favorite activity, but last year not doing the final raking meant that the lawn looked even rattier than usual. Not that I am lawn proud at all, if wishes were horses both front and backyard would be all edible landscape with not a lawn to be seen, but that takes not only labor, but a fair amount of upfront cash money and access to a truck. What we have here is an incremental improvement plan, bit by bit as resources allow.

Nonetheless, the majority of the leaves in the front yard are now in the chicken yard, huzzah! As are quite a bit of the neighbors leaves, thank you both very kindly... Since the weather held dry, a bit of plant trimming happened as well, while I still had energy for yardwork. Tidied up the sage, and cut back the dead branches on the blueberry, which thankfully seems to still be alive.

Best of all, had just enough vim left to set up the planter box in the parking strip that had been imagined for months now. Dragged half the giant wooden box from the backyard, and set it atop some of the big cardboard (that I've been saving for just such projects) right next to the persimmon tree. Filled with soil and leafmold compost, then planted the garlic cloves saved from the few garlics that made it through last years feeble garden attempt.
Added a layer of raked up leaves for mulch, hopefully that will work as well as the wood chips I've used before. It is rather late to be planting garlic, but better late than not at all. To foil the furry tree rats (aka squirrels), a piece of wire mesh is tightly fit across the top of the box, and held down on the corners with bricks. Re-configured the brick border around the bottom of the persimmon to join up with the ends of the box. The long range plan is to have plantings in the parking strip, with gaps for those who park there to pass through. This is only a small start, but every bit makes a difference.

Friday, November 26, 2010

progress report

Finished stitching on the brown corduroy pinafore this morning before work, (now halfway through the 6 piece winter wardrobe project) Wanted to make a slightly different choice than simple patch pockets, which are my default.

This Marimekko dress image has been in my inspiration files for a while now, and came to mind as a possibility. Do the asymmetrical pockets have just enough whimsy without being excessively weird? Certainly the fashion police did not write me up a ticket today while out and about.

Rather than use several contrasting fabrics, a simple edge binding of the pockets seemed to be a pleasing echo of the bias bound pinafore edges, and would add the least amount of thickness, given that the corduroy is a very thick pile, at four ribs/inch. The embellishment is just a bit more subtle. There is an incredible satisfaction in the process of sewing the pockets down , the transition from disparate elements into one useful garment, and as the pocket edges are topstitched, they visually meld into the pile of the corduroy. I am such a sewing geek!
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Open studio night, and my project this evening is to complete the setting for the cabochon that will grace the pelican enamel currently on the workbench. The great challenge is that the setting will be tube-set through the enamel, so as to not stress the cloisonné; the tube must be quartered, then those quartered bits will then become tabs to hold the setting firmly but gently to the enamel surface.

To be certain, this is definitely stress-creating for moi. The teardrop shaped bezel is tiny, and the bezel itself is made from delicate cloisonné wire. Cutting the four slits in the thin tubing which is already soldered to the bezel, without deforming the edges, was not easy. Each step needed careful thought, and 'twas an inspiration to cut a small piece of wood to the outline of the stone, thereby supporting the thin bezel while all this operating took place.

the tiny bezel

the first cut

the tubing, quartered
Remember, the entire bezel is only about 7mm x 4mm, and the tubing is 1½mm dia, which makes the tubing cuts about ½ mm thick. No coffee for this gal...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I can be thankful...

to have a kitchen, to know how to use it, to learn new skills, to live connected to friends and family, to share the results...

Last night made another batch of Awesome Sauce, since the first trial batch was such a success. Out of all the recipes tried so far this year for Tigress's Can Jam, this one is by far my favorite, and will become a staple condiment here at Acorn Cottage

Also finished up actually canning the quince that L had gifted me with. Cooked overnight in the slow cooker a few nights ago; for the first time ever they actually turned red, an amazing dark red, almost cordovan color. Inspired by Tigress's Quince in Rose Syrup, they are now Rose Red Quinces. Unfortunately I didn't actually record the quantities used. Starting with large frozen quince chunks, which I peeled and cut into smallish cubes, basically they were simply cooked in a light sugar syrup. After that I simply removed them from the liquid into the jars, brought the syrup to a boil again, added 2T of rosewater (I had about 2 - 2 1/2 c of liquid), filled the jars (leaving a half inch of headspace and removing air bubbles, and processed for 20 minutes.

Oh, and that tower of preserves = Awesome Sauce + Vanilla Kumquat Marmalade* + Scarborough Fair Jelly...
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* for some reason I forgot to post my recipe for this one, but here are two slightly different ones that look suitable, from Lelo in Nopo, and from Lick My Spoon...

commode-ious seating

instead of a handle on the side, it has a button on the top,
with a dual flush option, 1.1 or 1.6 gallons...

from this
to this
I know that the angle is not quite the same, but can you see the difference in how the water line connects? New Commode is several inches taller, which is much easier on back and knees. The inside is fully glazed, unlike Cranky Commode, and the water pathway is well designed, according to the plumber (who when he saw old Cranky, said "oh, those had some real problems...") The other thing that is quite pleasing to me is that the basic design of the new one is much more visually clean, the shapes have no extraneous jig-jogs, which was a subtly annoying thing about the old one.
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Just like the song says...I will get by
There is certainly enough wool here to keep me warm, and the two space heaters if the furnace cannot be cajoled into function enough till after Thursday, + my friend/neighbor M came by and gave me a key to their house, which has a toasty woodstove...

This weather is bringing back memories of my winter in Ida-hell, only there we did have a woodstove, and plenty of firewood. Life is soooo much better here. I don't miss running and slip-sliding on the ice to the outdoor privy. I don't miss sledging in drinking water. I don't miss being so very abysmally lonesome. I certainly don't miss hearing the Federal choppers overhead*...

For all the challenges of Acorn Cottage at times, living here is a joy. I count my blessings every day, for the friends and family that I have, the delightful city that I live in, and the home that shelters me. Probably no one who has been homeless ever takes having a home for granted. I sure don't!

Called around about getting the furnace looked at later this week, whoo hoo life is so exciting! Seems to be a standard ninety dollar fee for having a technician come out to the house and diagnose the problem. (Crossed fingers for something less than replacement). One place I called made a good point, that it will be most helpful if the furnace actually does the annoying thing when the tech is there; it is almost impossible to diagnose something intermittent when it is not happening.

Didn't know till last night that if it gets too cold, the smoke alarm will start to chirp, just like if it needs a new battery, only it doesn't.
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The CanJam food for December is dried fruit. I'm guessing that not all dried fruit is safely acidic enough to use as is for canning. The FDA has a website of pH values for commonly canned foods, and the best I can figure (from what is there) is that fruit becomes somewhat less acidic when dried. I've an idea in mind for December, based on a recipe in How to Be A Domestic Goddess. Time now to go an make a new batch of Awesome Sauce...
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*Ruby Ridge was the next ridge over from where I was living that winter

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the good, the thoughtful, and the shivery

Aren't these little mushrooms growing in such a very picturesque alignment? Saw them on my way home from work today, just down the block, and had to run back and take their picture...
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Almost finished my brown corduroy pinafore/jumper tonight; just need to decide on what kind of pockets to use, and do the last bits of hem-binding. The space heater is currently living right next to the sewing machine, though it will move into the bathroom overnight, as some of the plumbing components need a warm room to be installed.
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the good - one and two
1. tomorrow morning the plumber should arrive to pull the Cranky Commode and install the spiffy new one. Having one of the two markers of civilised life truly functional will be a relief.

2. one of my cashier pals at New Seasons shared a Useful Suggestion with me, to use one of those "rice bag heating pillows" as a bedwarmer. I'd forgotten about those, since the house I lived in just before Acorn Cottage did not have a microwave. A quick trip to the bulk bins for some rice, and a quick trip to the sewing machine and voila - a new Useful Object. My guess is that a few minutes in the microwave uses less energy overall than running the water 'till it gets hot enough to use in a hot water bottle, and the rice bag not only took the chill off the bedsheets, but was lovely and warm to rest my cold feet against when heading towards dreamland last night... The microwave here gets rather little use, but for things like this it really is the perfect tool.

the thoughtful
Right now there are some pretty amazing sales on front loading washers at Home Depot. I've been wanting one ever since I moved in, the washer here only works if set on "full load", which uses about 40 gallons of water. A front loader uses less than 14. If I buy this one, this month while it is on sale, there are also two programs that will reduce the cost: the Energy Trust rebate for $75 and the Oregon Tax Credit for 25% of the adjusted price... Basically it would mean a more functional washer for not much over $200. My head says to save my money because the winter heating season has barely begun, and because my furnace is being cranky; my wishful heart says that the price is unlikely to get much better, and the savings should be pretty immediate, both in less water usage and in less dryer usage as well, since front loaders are much more efficient at spinning the clothing to damp dry.

the shivery...
Meph! My furnace seems to have developed a stutter - it gets ready to start, does start up with proper flames (at least that is what it looks like when I look down into the holes on top of the furnace) then turns off. (lather rinse repeat) Ambient temperature is okay when it is 62F, NOT okay when it is 26F... of course this would happen on the coldest night of the year right before a holiday...

My guess is that there is something not right with the fan system ...that distributes the heat to the ducts, and that it has an automatic shutoff that keeps the actual furnace from becoming too hot. If the furnace itself was not working, it wouldn't turn on at all, right? I am loath to will not do anything other than turning it on and of, with my lack of knowledge. Unlike my water heater, there is nothing on the furnace with any identifying information brand name or date... Off to go check my files to see if there is any info there...(edited: Nope)

Seems to be able to turn on properly when I shut it off for an hour and it restarted correctly. Usually the furnace starts when the temperature drops down to 54 (thermostat set at 55) and turns off again at 55. So, I can periodically turn it on and off manually, and be grateful that I do have two portable oil-filled radiator/space heaters. Still, 'tis very worrisome, it has worked well up till now, and the filter, the only part I do know how to check, is rather currently new. When the flames do come on (visible through the louvers in the furnace housing), they look nice and blue, as gas flames should... I should have gone to contractor school instead of college, it would have been more useful!

Monday, November 22, 2010

More thinking out loud about sewing...

I basically sew everything that I wear, (save for shoes, socks, and the occasional thrifted black cotton knit turtleneck or long-sleeve top) and often find that online challenges like SWAP serve to keep me from feeling isolated in my peculiar habit. Over the years I've discovered that a limited color palette makes my life easier, and working out a set of various garment patterns that fits without trouble (tried and true = TNT) is equally helpful.

So far I've a knit top pattern, three jumper/pinafore patterns, and two dress patterns that all are basic patterns that I make over and over and over again. It takes many tries to work out how to adapt the pattern to my body. (My journey started the year that I decided I wanted a T-shirt type top that actually looked good and fitted comfortably. After weeks of experimentation, there was a successful basic pattern). I still would like a TNT button-front blouse pattern...

My current sewing/knitting plans are to work through the winter 6 piece collection and move directly into 2011 Sewing With A Plan (SWAP), and have the garments made continue to coordinate with the pinafores, dresses and tops already made in the last year. Unlike in the past, despite many sketches and diagrams, I don't yet have a clear vision for SWAP, or even of how the intended clothing will match up with what is needed in my closet. My intention is to use fabric I already have, and only purchase any necessary notions (thread, zippers and suchlike) though I know that for the raincoat there will be a trip to Rose City Textiles to purchase Goretex for a shoulder capelet.

The six piece collection timeline is November to February
in processpinafore jumper - brown corduroy

top - (grey fleece tunic?, black/brown flannel shirt?, ??)

top - blue stripey cotton knit top (Ottobre neckline?)
completemiddle layer - blue handknit vest
completemiddle layer - charcoal handknit partlet

coat - black raincoat
The brown corduroy looks well with most of my current dresses, and since corduroy, especially wide wale, is a wintery fabric, it feels and looks really cozy and warm. I already have a grey corduroy jumper too, from S3. The handknits work with most everything. The stripey top might be a good candidate for trying out the neckline from this Ottobre pattern. To combine the interesting parts of new patterns with the TNT pattern pieces that fit me, how I get the best of both worlds, since the shape and size that I am is not a good match for the patterns as they are.

I love the fact that Ottobre uses real people as catalog models. There are four models in the current womens pattern magazine; two are young and sleek, one is an older woman who looks actually older, and one is plus sized and looks actually plus sized. I'm eager to try out some of these patterns, in addition to grabbing the interesting faced neckline. This tunic top №13, looks like a good jumping off point. (Of course, different fabric) Maybe combined with the neckline from the Fuji Mountain Top.
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For SWAP this year, we can use up to three garments already completed, (or purchased), since the other theme for this year is trying new techniques or perfecting challenging ones. My hope is to actually complete all 11 during the December to April timeline, but that is a lot of sewing, and there are a number of additional sewing projects in the queue, like lingerie and new living room curtains.

WabiSabi Comfort
colors : black, grey, dark indigo, dark chocolate
theme/images : cloud-lift
concepts : interesting necklines, pattern combining

black raincoat (from winter collection)

black dress, textured rayon

indigo dress, moon batik rayon

indigo dress, marble batik rayon

? dress

? dress

indigo/black top, paisley slinky knit

navy top, floral printed cotton lawn

? top

? top

? overalls
new techniques: reverse facing, different edge treatments, zipper insertion, hidden placket, hemmer and flat fell foot use, bound buttonholes/welt pockets

Obviously there is a lot still up in the air with this can't-really-call-it-a-plan-yet Plan. Yet another chance to move forward without a perfectly visualised outcome. The trick is to make clothing that actually is what I wear. That is why there are no skirts, or pants. I've learned that I only wear tunics for two occasions: if it is really cold, I like a warm tunic as the outer layer of indoor wear, and as party clothes, I'll wear a tunic over a long skirt. Overalls do get worn, they are a lot of work to fit and to make up, but they fill a function, and each time I've made a pair, they have been worn till they wear out, so durable fabric is necessary. Hopefully the new flat fell foot will make the overall sewing a little easier.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

random bits

Will the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend be a good choice for Crafternoon Sunday? Anyone planning on being in town rather than heading away, and thinking that a small crafty snacky talky gathering sounds like fun??
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Finally found a calendar that will make me happy to look at it for next year. Designs originally done as papercuts, by the Japanese artist Ryo Takagi. A few years ago a few of these showed up at New Seasons, and with very little waffling one came home and was a happy visual stimuli all that year. I'd not seen one again for a while, and was delighted to see this one at Powells; it will be the new for 2011 write things down wall calendar here. I sure have a weakness for beautifully done cut paper design*, just like for the block printing it so resembles.

Just might make another alphasketch calendar this year, for the second half of the alphabet... Skipped last year for lack of enthusiasm on my part. Drawing is fun, and there never seems to be time to just sit and do it...
December 5 will be housiversary number 5. Hard to believe that it is almost five years since moving here to Acorn Cottage. Each year I try to find the house a gift, and for year five wood is the traditional gift material. Must think on what would be needful and beautiful, as well as suited to my pocketbook...
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Everything outside Sunday AM was frozen solid. Chooks don't mind, they all cram into the nestbox at night so they are sleeping warm with their feathery selves as a blanket. When it gets much colder there are two smaller waterers that get swapped out twice a day so they always have liquid water to drink.
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Started a corduroy jumper in the rest of the brown leftover from the one I made for A. My original plan was for black edge binding and trim, but that ended up not looking right somehow, when combined with the tops and dresses that were already in my closet. After many different other fabrics were auditioned, the winner was a surprising one, a printed babycord, black background with tiny acorns and flowers in dark green, dark brown, and dark periwinkle blue. Somehow the variegated-ness of the print works better as an edge bridge for the extra-wide wale corduroy than another solid color.

Probably the meta concept at work here for me is one of gentle transitions rather than high contrast. (thinking out loud) That is one of my personal sewing themes; I am uncomfortable with wearing fabric prints or clothing combinations that are high contrast in value*, and much prefer a more subtle, wabi-sabi combination. Perhaps as my coloring has changed over the years, so has my color preferences. Even the vivid cobalt and purples that I wore only a decade or two ago now feel too bright. Hopefully, my clothing is full of has enough whimsical and subtle detailing which provides enough visual interest to keep boredom at bay.

The important thing is that it pleases me, getting dressed in the morning is no longer something to dread. While in my pinafores and partlet I do look quite different from the crowds in jeans and jackets, here in Portland there are enough folks about that dress creatively that my clothing is not seen as incomprehensibly past the end of the bell curve too weird, but rather as one end of a spectrum, and occasionally gets me pleased comments from passers-by. (I think it is my hats. Why do so few people wear interesting hats?...) Of course, I also compliment folks seen while riding the bus, or when out and about, who have chosen interesting or thoughtfully planned clothing to wear. Why not? Letting someone know, even someone you don't know, that they look well that day is a tiny spark of kindness. It certainly brightens my day when that happens.
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...and now, if you will excuse me, there is a slow cooker full of well-cooked quince that needs bottled...

* value here refers to the visual light/bright as opposed to dark/muted continuum rather than to the cost and/or quality aspect of things!