Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I believe in springtime...

I finished the sixth and last top for SWAP today, which ended up being the cotton voile blouse. The colorful flowers remind me a bit of the Peter Max artwork that was so popular when I was in high school. This feels like a very daring leap in terms of color, since I pretty much wear black and grey and indigo all the time, but since the background color is a taupe-y grey, and the flowers have a lot of blue tones in them, it will look nice with all of my jumpers this spring.

The fabric is so thin and silky that it will be a real pleasure to wear, once the weather cooperates. It was just a tad challenging to work with, since it is so much thinner than my usual. I cut out and made up a simple "camp shirt" type of blouse, with short sleeves; while it is too cold and rainy yet for such things, I'll welcome it later on this year

I've been getting better at attempting to cook food ahead, so as to have useful lunches or dinners that are healthy and not something that takes me hours to prepare. This evening I tried an experiment, making a crustless quiche using leftovers and what I had on hand...a dab of cooked mixed veggies, plenty of eggs, a few slices of salami leftover from the teaparty this past Sunday, and whoops, no milk or cream, so I tried yogurt instead. It actually worked rather well; not the combination I'd usually choose, but certainly savory enough and will make a nice lunch tomorrow.

And speaking of savory - the food chosen for the CanJam in April is herbs! I'm not being immediately inspired, and have been wandering around online looking for ideas... Hmmm there is an apple based mixed herb jelly, a tomato and thyme jam, a rhubarb rosemary jelly (set with gelatin, but could be altered to be water bath canned), and even a lavender jelly... I'm thinking that it would be nifty to use some of the herbs that are growing here at Acorn Cottage: I've got parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, as well as loveage, winter savory, chives, (and some sweet scented dried lavender gifted from friends).

Monday, March 29, 2010

creeping campanula and other musings

On Saturday I took a bit of time off to go walkabout the downtown farmer's market: always pretty to look at, though I forgot to bring my camera... I really wish I'd remember to bring it with me when I am out and about, as I am always seeing things I'd like to photograph. I did run into some old friends, Malcom and Morwyn, while downtown, and invited them to come to the teaparty the next day, which they did.

As they hadn't been to Acorn Cottage since my housewarming party four years ago, there have been quite a lot of changes, (I have added a number of plants) and we walked all around the yard which was very informative for me, as they're much more knowledgeable than I about gardening and fruit trees. I now have some good advice to think about, (and act on once the intense rain diminishes), about placement for future fruit trees.

Boy howdy has it been raining! The wind and rain last night was so very loud that it woke me up several times. The hens do not like it at all, but it is actually a good thing for my transplants. I had just dug up the flat parsley clump from the side yard, and divided it and moved it to a few spots in the front yard, one near the other herbs around the star magnolia, one next to the nandina in front of the porch , and one in a big flowerpot. I figure that way hopefully at least some of it will survive. This cold wet weather is good, because it will keep the parsley hydrated 'till it grows new rootlets.

I also planted my tiny potted sprig of forsythia in the parking strip, furthering my goal of reducing lawnmower time. The half of the parking strip nearest the driveway is being overrun by some kind of creeping campanula*, and I plan on not mowing that side, but putting in stepping stones for the journey from parked car to sidewalk. I'm thinking about planting zucchini on the lefthand side of the persimmon tree, once the weather warms up, as the squash will enjoy the almost constant sunlight, and it isn't likely that many folks will want to steal zucchini!

Last but not least, the giant rosemary of doom is gone. Huzzah huzzah! Dug up and bundled into the back of Ian's Prius, it has gone away to live a new life in the country. Now I have a rather large hole under the downspout extension, which I intend to plunk my blueberry bush into, once it stops dumping rain.
~ : ♥ : ~

* my creeping campanula is probably Campanula rapunculoides, I have been trying to identify it online. While it is considered possibly invasive, it is in the parking strip and frankly I do not care if it chokes out the lawn there, it has nice heart shaped leaves that stay green in the summer, and purple flowers that can be picked as small cut flowers. While looking for more information, I found this: "A common name for Creeping Bellflower in Europe is Rampion, which comes from the plant's Latin name. Rampion figures prominently in Old World fairy tales. Rapunzel is named after the flower"

Friday, March 26, 2010

L is for Liberty of London...

...C is for cross-dressing. Target has a joint promotion on right now with Liberty of London. The Liberty of London. When I went to check out what they had locally, I decided that the women's clothing was not very nice not at all to my taste - the designs were okay but the fabric was this nasty yucky slippery synthetic stuff. I had remembered seeing a nice William Morris type design on one of the mens shirts online, and lo and behold, the store had some in stock. And instead of being sleazy petrol-fabric, the menfolks get actual nice finely woven 100% cotton... So I was very very naughty and bought one of these. It isn't Tana Lawn, but it is still very nice indeed, and I'm hoping that I can do some creative re-fashioning and make myself a Liberty of London blouse. Stay tuned for further details...

So yesterday I walked and walked and walked, which is always a good way to get the cobwebs out of my head. Our new library is still rather sparse in the actual books on the shelf, but they have only been open a week. There were plenty of people there, not surprising since it is spring break week for the schools. Probably over the course of my errands I must have walked three miles. My feet certainly told me so! I decided to stop fussing about the T shirt and jumper that I miscut, and simply to move on. The grey flowered voile blouse is already cut out, I had originally thought it was too bright and thin to be part of this SWAP, but springtime has warm days too.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

two steps forward one step back...

...or is that one step forward two steps back?

The re-over-dye project came out a great color. Too bad that the repeated washings and dryings have now made the T-shirt too small to cut out enough pieces for the project. Even though I'd planned on using black jersey for the sleeves.

And that black jersey... I cut out the sleeves one right side and one wrong side. Which makes them look different colors. AND I did the same thing with the bodice for the black jersey jumper! I guess I should only cut out such subtle fabric when there is maximum light and I am really focused, and now there is no more black or grey jersey in my stash. (very grumpy)

So now I have no fabric that is big enough to cut out the various pattern pieces. I have some narrow skirt gores, sleeves cut wrong and some small wrong bodice bits. It is not possible to match different black fabrics well. I've tried, and have some "funky" jumpers to show for it; I wear them, but that is not exactly where I have been wanting to go with this set of clothing. I'm trying for artistic, not the Patchwork Girl of OZ...

I still need to do one more top, and now I need to come up with ideas for one more jumper and one more dress. I'm going out for a walk, to clear my head. Perhaps this is a day to step away from the sewing room and do something else.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

continuing progress

I finished the teacosy of neverending ribbitude, and a very nice teacosy it turned out to be...
(If you want to see it in person, come on over to my Crafternoon Teaparty
this Sunday from noon to five-ish)
~ : ♥ : ~
Of course, now I am once again without a handwork project for the interminable transit riding (and waiting). I'm not sure what to begin, I really need a new blue wool sweater, and I've not enough of anything suitable to begin one. Perhaps, instead of knitting, some kind of modular portable sewing project might be in order. Must ponder a while and see what comes to mind...
~ : ♥ : ~
There are five weeks left in the 2010 SWAP challenge. 11 garments to complete. How is it going here at Acorn Cottage? ..6 completed and 5 to finish. #10 was going to be a re-fashioned heavy cotton long sleeved shirtdress in black, but the warm weather we've been having has turned my thoughts to springtime. I'm wanting some lighter weight transitional clothing, maybe a grey chambray dress of some kind instead...

progress report - 2010 Sewing With A Plan
1.topsplit cowl rayon knit top - completed
2.toptwist knot bamboo knit top - completed
3.topembroidered hippie tunic - completed
4.topcave horse shirt - completed
5.topstripey flannel top - completed
6.topoverdyed reconfigured T-shirt - in process
7.jumpercorduroy overall jumper - barely started
8.jumperjersey knit jumper - in process
9.dresspolkadot cotton -not begun
11.personal choicestripey knitted wool vest - completed

My first attempt at overdyeing the Nikki Mcclure T shirt was not what I'd hoped for -as this excerpt from the letter that I sent to Rupert, Gibbon & Spider makes clear

"... I was excited to try this new product (iDye) that I found in a local shop. I followed all the instructions for stovetop use, but was very sad and upset to find that my pre-washed white t-shirt instead of turning silvery-grey came out a darkish olive green, kind of similar to "army-man green"! In the past I have used several different kinds of fiber reactive dye with great success, and have also used Jaquard acid dye on wool, also with good results. I've never seen anything like this before, and the other older piece of fabric that I also put into the dyepot also turned green rather than grey.

The pan I was using was a stainless steel pan, the salt that I added was plain-non-iodized salt, and this is not the first time I have done stovetop dyeing. I wanted to overdye
my brand new Nikki McClure crow t-shirt a medium grey, which is what the information showed as "silvery grey" on your site. I had prewashed the plain white (with black printed graphic) shirt already, since I knew that I wanted it to be grey with black rather than white with black."

While I will continue to use all their other excellent products, needless to say, I will not be using iDye again. So this morning I ended up doing a second overdye. After much thought, to correct the color I used a lilac Procion dye, which looks to have been successful at shifting the color to a cool, very slightly purplish grey. Once the Tshirt is dry, I'm going to re-cut it to my own pattern, and add black sleeves. I might do some reverse applique in the Alabama Chanin style on the sleeves, wouldn't crow footprints look nifty?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Media Monday +

This Sunday at Acorn Cottage - Crafternoon Tea Party -
noon till five, snacky potluck (with a possible Sushi Ichiban trip for dinner after)
~ : ♥ : ~
Last week Mila and I traded hours to spend time doing primate sorting behavior - I got my fabric sorted through and reorganised, and she got her kitchen and living room and childs room all sorted out. We each found things to send to Goodwill, or SCRAP, and I came home with a brand new box of 4 oz canning jars (my favorite size for jam, enough for a teaparty, but not so huge as to fill my wee fridge with jam)

So, last night, after all the visitors left and my errands were done, I made some more jam. I had given away the rest of my carrot cake conserve, and wanted to make more while the local pears were still available. After the difficulty with the garlic jelly, it was great to make an "easy " recipe again. I'm curious to see what the next month's CanJam mystery ingredient will be - I'm hoping for rhubarb, and am thinking about using just a few of my homegrown rhubarb stalks for a small jar of jam, maybe Rhubarb-Redcurrant....
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This weekend was busy at the Acorn Cottage bed-n-breakfast. On Friday night Beth and Karen stayed overnight, just for a bit of rest and unwind before heading back the next day to do more cleaning and clearing of Mary's apartment. On Saturday the Olympia crew came down to Portland for a birthday party that night; I always enjoy their visits. The LBD* party Saturday night was fun, good folks and pretty eye candy (what can I say, I like long hair on men, and if they are wearing black silk shirts and black utilikilts...)
~ : ♥ : ~
Here's a fun mix of science and needlefelting and stop motion -
...and just in case you are a stickler for accuracy, there is a "corrrection" here

* Little Black Dress

Friday, March 19, 2010

once is happenstance...

...but the third time is the charm

Yesterday there was another big egg in the grass in Coventry, so HennyPenny has been reprieved, and is back in with the Speckled Hens, much to everyone's relief. This morning when I went out to feed and water them, another egg. Her eggs are noticeably larger than the other hen eggs, which happens as chickens age.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

saved from the stewpot?...

For the last ten days HP (HennyPenny) has been sent to Coventry, aka Chicken Dignity Village, rather than in the main pen with the three speckledy sisters. I'd been suspecting that her egg-laying days were behind her, several signs were pointing that way... when I refill the calcium supplements, the other hens go to town, like one of the wooden carved Russian "pecking chickens" toys, and she ignores it.

She was definitely eating more than her share of the food, and is looking particularly plump.  My friend Sharon suggested that I pick her up and feel her pelvic bones; if a hen is laying well, her undercarriage will be nice and wide, about 2 ½ to 3 fingers apart. HP was none to happy to have me feeling up her bottom, but her bony bits were much closer than that, I could barely fit two of my child sized fingers (and just to explain, you are fitting your fingers, under her feathery self, to feel for the pokey-outy bits, kind of like our elbows, but different. I think that the pelvic bones are more like the sitting-on bones when you are riding a bike, not that HP rides a bike... (but I digress)
a very muddy and unexpected egg
Today, much to my surprise, when I went out to check on them all, I not only found three lovely eggs in the nest box, but HP had laid an egg as well, at the bottom of the cage. Is this a fluke? I'll be keeping an eye on her for the next week or two at least. She is four years old, not old for a chicken, but definitely past her prime; the new young hens are laying almost every day, as opposed to once a tenday.
(click the cartoon to see it bigger)

March Madness Sale

Whist tidying up the studio, I found a modest stash of regalia. Champleve enamel on fine silver : Gouttes and Jambes and Herald's medallions, which I'm now intending to sell at a reduced price for the next four weeks. I have been selling these at $85 (each), but if you act soon, you can have a very lovely piece for $50. Soon the sun will be shining and your jewelry can sparkle at events this summer...
medallion diameter about 1"

~ : ♥ : ~
And for those camping events, I also have two lovely wooden buckets that are also up for sale. I love these, they are well made and both useful and beautiful. I used them for storing water at camping events, but since Nimblefoot is no longer available for me to travel in, any camping that I do must be minimal in terms of gear, and these are just too nice to languish in a storage closet here at Acorn Cottage. There are wooden lids for each bucket, and I've carefully added eye-spliced manila rope handles, for a very finished look. These buckets add a wonderful ambiance to any encampment - $60 each or $100 pair
~ : ♥ : ~

Monday, March 15, 2010

ribbed for her pleasure...

...or half done is well begun.

When I finished my wristwarmers at the beginning of the month, I was without a handwork project for my transit-riding time, and without particular inspiration. I turned to my list of Ravelry favorites, and decided that this vintage inspired tea cosy would be both useful and beautiful, a good addition to my teaparty regalia. After all, 94 happy Ravelers must be on to a good thing right? (only kind of sort of, Mudhead)

It is a really pretty thing, but a pretty odd knit. Getting the tension right, “pulling” the yarn across to form the ridges, is really kind of difficult, and the progress is quite slow. The pattern is a good use of the pretty varigated yarns that are a bit more bright than I want to wear. The process gets easier with time, though never with the wonderful sense of flow that knitting can have. I think it will indeed be the very warmest ever kind of teacosy. The snugged up floats across the reverse side pull the garter stitch to form the ribbed knitwork, and that will create air space to hold the heat in, just the thing for Acorn Cottage in the wintertime...
raised garter stitch ribs, like a cross between knitting and corduroy

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day!

...not sure I will bake a pie to celebrate, but I might.
~ : ♥ : ~
After resetting all the clocks this morning, including the one on the computer, I wandered off down N Mississippi to where a new fabric place opened today - turned out to be small, and quilting oriented. The "come-see-our-new-shop" door prizes were extra long tape measures, which came in very handy when I walked another block to the ReBuilding Center...
~ : ♥ : ~
First step, find appropriate lumber. Found something I've been looking for for a while, a good flat board to use for mounting my spiffy pot-rack to the wall. It's a 1 x 12 that is about 5 feet long. I'm thinking of cutting it down to 8 inches wide, which is what I was originally looking for; that would also remove the largest knots, leaving me with some narrower board to use for other projects. Sand it down, and paint it, and I can get another infrastructure project begun. The pot-rack will be through-bolted to the wood, with reinforcing washers on the back, to strengthen the connection. I want it to stay put.
Second step, figure out where the studs are on the wall behind the stove.
Third step, mark the board for attaching to the wall studs, and for attaching the pot-rack above and lined up with the stove.
Fourth step, drill holes in board.
Fifth step, remove enough sheetrock from just under the pot-rack bolts so that the wood lies flush with the wall.
Sixth step, attach the board to the wall, and the pot-rack to the board.
~ : ♥ : ~
SWAP progress - The stripey flannel shirt is done, and I really like how the sleeves turned out. The other times I've made this pattern it was with cap sleeves, or short sleeves, this time I simply lengthened the pattern to a full length sleeve. When I tried it on, it was obvious that was too long, so a 3/4 length with slight gathering into a bound edge gave me a comfortable sleeve that looks just different enough from my other shirts to make me happy. If I make this one again, I will probably do some kind of "narrow shoulder" adjustment, but it is certainly wearable as is. The other times I've made up this pattern, I used much more drapey fabric, and the shoulder line was not as noticeable.
~ : ♥ : ~
I'm almost finished with the grey embroidered bohemian tunic, all it needs is the sleeve cuff edges bound. I decided not to add the small decorative pockets that I'd initially designed, since it is quite a "busy" garment already, and being a tunic, is short enough that reaching my other pockets will be easy. I like this one a great deal, as it re-uses some of my favorite two tone grey waffle weave fabric; my hand embroidered and beaded flowers add true "hippie style".

I'll be taking more pictures as I get more sewing done, but here is a little taste of the tunic embellishment -
The embroidery had been intended years ago for an SCA gown, but by the time I finished it, I decided that it was too modern-fantasy in style for me to use that way, and I've been waiting to be inspired for a suitable use for the rectangular yoke. The stitching is all done with DMC cotton, the outlines are couched double pearl cotton, and the flowers and leaves are filled in with satin stitch done in regular DMC embroidery floss. I added a bit of sparkle with stitched clear glass beads for the flower stamens. I know from personal experience that this type of embroidery wears and washes well, so it is not at all impractical.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tigress Can Jam - Roasted Garlic Syrup

Strong and tangy and spicey, and a lovely clear golden color, but it isn't jelly... If I thought carrots were a challenge, alliums were even more so; I adore pretty much every one I've ever met - but it was difficult finding something that wasn't pickled onions, and was safe to water-bath. If it'd been later in the year, I'd have tried to make pickled garlic scapes, a delicious alternative use for the harvested stems, and one of the very few pickles that I actually like. But alas, at this time of year my garden garlic is just barely aboveground.

Roasted Garlic Jelly, from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, sounded like it would be unusual and delicious, and this month, I'd hoped a tangy savory clear jelly would be my reward. My last three heads of garlic that were grown by my beloved Mud Bay friends seemed like the perfect place to start -
3 medium bulbs of garlic
1 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 C dry white wine
2/3 C water
1/2 C white balsamic vinegar*
1 t whole black peppercorn, crushed
(I used a peeled sliced teaspoon-sized nubbin of fresh ginger)
3 T lemon juice
3 C granulated sugar
2 envelopes liquid pectin
(I used Pomona's Universal Pectin, 1 3/4 t pectin powder, 1 3/4 t calcium water)

Cut off tops of garlic heads and place each head on a small square of foil set on a baking sheet. Top each head with 1 t oil and 1 t balsamic. Scrunch foil loosely around garlic heads and roast until garlic is golden and very soft (about 40 minutes @ 400F). Let stand until cool. Separate cloves pinching each one to extract garlic. Discard the skins.

In a medium saucepan, combine garlic, wine, water, white balsamic vinegar, and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes. Cover, remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes.

Transfer garlic mixture to a dampened jelly bag or a strainer lined with layers of damp cheesecloth. Let drip 30 minutes. Measure out the pectin powder, and in a dry bowl, add it to the sugar and mix thoroughly.

Measure 1 2/3 c of garlic juice. If you don't have the required amount add up to 1/4 c dry white wine or water. Transfer garlic juice to a large deep saucepan. Stir in lemon juice and calcium water, then stir in the pectin-sugar mixture. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4" head space. Put lids and rings on, put into canner, bring to boil and process 10 minutes. The books suggested that you would get 9 4 oz jars; I got seven, plus a half jar that went right into the fridge for taste testing later this week...

It appears that this did not set up properly, I'm still figuring out how to use the pectin supplement. Rather than un-seal all the jars, which seems rather wasteful, I'm going to call this a roasted garlic syrup, since what I primarily wanted was something that could be used as a glaze or marinade ingredient anyway.

*I'd never heard of white balsamic vinegar, which appears to be a mixture of white wine vinegar and grape must, but it was easy to find at Trader Joe's. The recipe notes, in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, say that you can also use regular balsamic vinegar, but the jelly will be darker.

Monday, March 8, 2010

the paper boy, the paper man, and random bits

Flat Stanley came to visit Acorn Cottage. He is part of a geography unit for a kindergarten class in New Hampshire, they mail him (actually several of him) around the country, and his hosts sends letters back to the children. I decided that an important special thing about Portland was Powell's, so we rode the MAX downtown to visit the mothership store on Burnside...
Though Stanley has now traveled on to Olympia, (where he will be staying with Beth and Karen and Ceilidh, and learning about Olympia as part of Ceilidh's homeschool work), another paper friend has come here to stay... I have long been a fan of the artist Lindsey Carr, who sells under the name of Little Robot on Etsy. I've had a "crush" for several years on her Mystical Cowboy and she recently made him available as a free download! A quick trip to the color copy shop, some careful xacto work, tiny brads from the scrapbooking shop, and voila...
~ : ♥ : ~
The wonderfully warm weather this weekend drew me out into the yard, and I managed to get a few of the many needed chores begun. I dug up the Japanese anemone, which was not happy near the driveway, preferring a slightly more temperate location, and moved the other rhubarb into that spot, away from the behind the downspout in the dark, where for the last few years, it has started out well only to be devoured by slugs. Since it's buddy, the red rhubarb from Mud Bay, has been happy near the driveway, I'm hopeful that eventually I will have a large rhubarb colony next to the front walk, and someday a planter for strawberries as well. Can you see where this is going?... (for now, I'm going to transplant the alpine strawberries into a nearby container)
~ : ♥ : ~
Last night I attempted Roasted Garlic Jelly, March is allium month in the year long Tigress's CanJam. Everything looked good, the jars sealed perfectly, but I have syrup instead of jelly. I'm going to call it good, since my primary imagined use for this condiment is as a glaze or marinade ingredient. Add some soy sauce for teriyaki, (or stir a bit into some hot whiskey and lemon to send any random wintertime bug on the run)
~ : ♥ : ~
SWAP progress report - I'm about 2/3 finished with the stripey flannel shirt, which means that I'm about a third of the way there. The goal is 11 coordinated garments by April 30th, so while I'm not the fastest participant, I'm doing okay.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

creative Thursday thoughts

I'm planning on two enameling workshops this season - one next weekend, March 12 - 14, and one the weekend of April 9 - 11. I'll be covering both cloisonne and painted enamel detailing, $200 for either workshop, all supplies included, bring your imagination and ideas. I'm also starting up Open Studio evenings on Tuesday evenings. $40 for 3+ hrs of access to the enameling kiln as well as encouragement and information (Open Studio is for those who have some enameling experience, such as already taken one of my workshops or Ithra classes)
~ : ♥ : ~
The new Kenton library is opening next week. I'm so excited to have a branch library about a mile from Acorn Cottage, and it can only add to the revitalisation of that end of Denver Ave.
~ : ♥ : ~
In addition to re-working my sewing business card, I decided to cut printing blocks to be used for month-calendar planner pages. It is always difficult for me to find planner inserts; I have an uncommon size of small notebook. I really enjoy the simple process and slow-crafted look of this kind of handprinting. (Anyone interested in a short workshop - this can be used for printing on paper or fabric)

~ : ♥ : ~
While sorting through my closet, I found a shirt/jacket/overblouse that I'd made a few years ago, that I will be adding to my SWAP garments...I had to go back and look at the rules, but as my vague memory had nudged me, we are allowed: "2 garments may be purchased or previously sewn" So my black hemp-linen top will be included, probably taking the place of the floral voile blouse.

It has this stencilled and appliqued panel on the back:
and these wonderful handmade Spanish pottery buttons, which I think will qualify as: "buttons as the star feature"...
The buttons on the cuffs also have cave art images. I like this top very much, but it has been kind of an orphan garment. With the several black and dark grey dresses in my SWAP, it will have "new friends" and I will have things to wear it with.

If anyone wants information on the relatively simple process of making a three color stencil, I've a tutorial on my website here...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Media monday - internet cookies?

I have found some very useful recipes online...