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!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tigress Can Jam - tiny-tangy sweet-n-spicy

Seckel Pears are the perfect size for a child; I remember eating tiny perfect pears, sweet and fragrant.

Though this recipe for pickled pears looked appealing, I wanted to just temper their sweetness with a small bit of tangy vinegar. I felt confident enough to work this one out myself; since pears can be canned in just water (but why?), anything added will not compromise safety.

Inspired by this recipe here for spiced poached pears, I scaled it to the eleven pears that I had. Would that I had checked my canning supplies before I started, there were enough pears for 3½ halfpint jars but only two canning lids left in the box... so one bigger jar will sit in the fridge.

11 seckel pears
lemon or lime juice
2½ c water
½ c white balsamic vinegar
1¼ c sugar
3 1" pieces of cinnamon
1 star anise
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Peel the pears*, leaving the stems on, but removing the blossom end. As they are peeled, drop them into acidulated water to keep them white. Usually I just add a few splashes of lemon juice to a bowl of water and call it good, but there was no lemon in the fridge, so a few of the frozen lime juice cubes did a useful stand-in.

acidulated pears

Make up a syrup with all the ingredients, bring to a boil, then add the pears and simmer until the pears a somewhat tender, about five or ten minutes. Using regular fruit canning procedure, put the pears into clean jars, cover with the hot syrup leaving a ½" headspace, tuck one of the cinnamon sticks into each jar, cap and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

simmering in syrup

I expect this would be splendid with roast pork, and quite delectable as part of a winter holiday cake...

two jars full

* some recipes do not call for peeling the pears, but to my mind, the tender pears would not be a much of a treat with the tough texture of canned pear skin. You might feel differently, and certainly the spice mixture is another area for personal preference to "spice to taste"

Next up, quinces...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday thoughts - a knitted partlet, and quince

In which our plucky heroine continues to prepare for a cold winter.

This pattern for a knitted neckwarmer looked like just the thing for wintertime, being both cute and supremely useful. The resulting garment, a kind of knitted partlet, is currently wrapped around my neck and shoulders. The textured stitch used here is a kind of cross between garter stitch and 1x1 ribbing, so it lays nice and flat and pulls in just enough to be really thick and warm, perfect for a dank grey day like today.

The original design had the knitting basically flat, with shaping only at the front edge to create the pointed collar and center front edge. On trying it on partway through, it seemed that the shoulder area needed to be much more flared to sit well, so that part was frogged and reknit with three increase zones. The lower half is now a small capelet and will serve well to keep my shoulders warm, 'specially when sitting at the computer.

Were I to knit this one again, as is quite possible, since it is rather charming and completely suits my aesthetic, I shall certainly also add additional shaping to the collar, so as to allow the front edges to come closer to the center front as well. I also might use a different buttonhole technique, since the yarnover buttonholes are rather loose.

The vintage buttons arrived safely, and the white mother of pearl ones were perfect for this. (the blue-grey ones were rather more blue than would look well with the yarn colors) Given the excellent price and quick service, I'm glad I bought them, they are also beautiful and will work well on other clothing projects. Since collar edges are more or less along my shoulders, it seems foolish to run the buttons all the way along the front edge, since they will not be seen and will unbalance the collar edge in a way that would be less of a problem if the edges met in the center front. Tee hee, this leaves me with a dozen beautiful white shell buttons to stash in the button box for a future project...
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Though CanJam** week is almost over, the quince from S is going into the crockpot tonight anyway. Stewed quince bits will be preserved with sugar and rosewater* for a treat later in the winter, and since quince takes long cooking to soften and sweeten, the crockpot will be my friend.

* besides the fact that I adore flower flavors in food, the renowned Tigress herself thought this was a good combination: Quince in Rose Syrup

** CanJam food for November is pome fruit

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

wishful Wednesday

Well that was quick! And there I'd just been wishing deciding that the two projects that need done by the end of the year were to fix the windowsills that Termite the Wonder Dog destroyed, and to replace the Cranky Commode...

Yesterday B stopped by, as he was down here working on the building in SE. It turns out that B&K bought a brand new toilet for one of the bathrooms there, and it didn't fit the old plumbing, so they are giving it to me! All I need to do is hire someone to remove the old one, and install the new one, and Acorn Cottage will have a new dual flush, chair height throne. Much gratitude to the generosity of friends (and the quirkyness of old plumbing)

Now 'tis needful to ask around for recommendations for plumber and/or handman type folks here in Portland that my local circle of friends have had good experiences working with... Any advice?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday musings

Three words written on the chalkboard in my kitchen: Kindness, Handicraft, and Infrastructure. Those were my guideposts for 2010, and while the year is not over yet, there has been varied progress...

Handicraft, yes, lots of it. Nowadays my closet actually has clothing in it that fits me, makes me happy to wear it, and amuses the passers by. Still room for progress and additional bits will be necessary, but overall an improvement from the year before. Much knitting happened this year, both for me and for friends, and even a bit of studio work (though the price of silver continues to skyrocket, which is making me think hard if creative thoughts about jewelry-making)

Kindness is slower going, but my daily gratitude practice is helping. Despite all difficulties, my life here is full of goodness. Eventually I will not struggle so much to be kind to myself, to care for myself gently and lovingly. I only ask that I be given enough more years to grow into that as my reality.

Infrastructure is the most difficult, the area where I still stand in my own way. The porch did get mostly primed this year. There is now a cabinet on the bedroom wall. There are many projects that I can do, but put off. There are some projects that I could ask for help with, but needlessly timidly don't. And, of course, there are projects that are beyond the resources I can summon. Thankfully November is not over yet, and with effort, a few more things will happen to continue the repair and renewal of Acorn Cottage. My challenge is to not get bogged down in the difficulty my perfectionism, but to move forward and also to figure out what of the useful necessary things can be done. While a solar hot water/on demand water-heater is way out of reach, the doors could have additional weatherstripping, for example...
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I've written before about the patient faithfulness of inanimate objects, a quality that is present in greater or lesser degrees, or not at all. My Nana's few pieces of silverware are very resonant for me, being almost a century old. Less alive, but still patiently faithful in a different way is my wheelie cart. This little metal luggage cart was a gift to me from M, when I lived with him in Seattle over twenty years ago. Oh how I love things that are simply and well designed, that work, that don't fall apart, that are intended to be used for a long time. I use this just often enough that I continually appreciate it. Last nights walk home from the grocery was much easier, since the gallon of vinegar and various other heavy staples were safely tied down to the metal frame of the cart, much easier than carrying grocery bags, and allowing me to focus on my walking. Not as exciting as the trip to Paris, or trundling down a Roman sidewalk, but each time I use the car those memories are also there... So, belated gratitude still to M, for the gift, and to Kart-A-Bag, a company that made something durably useful, a refreshing anomaly in a world of planned obsolescence.
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For those planning on an early start to holiday gift giving, here is a helpful video...
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Did a spot of test knitting this weekend, the Ravelry group "Free Test Knitters" sometimes offers up real gems, and this leafy vine pattern was too appealing to resist. The alpaca yarn ended up not being fun to work with at this gauge, with size 0 (2mm) needles. With larger, oh say, worsted weight yarn, the vine would make an interesting decorative scarf, and I'm imagining a shawlette with a leafy fringe-y edge someday...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I need a hug - or a surfboard

Now mind, complaining is boring and not useful. But I miss having someone(s) to bounce hard ideas of off, to talk things out as a way of making sense out of what might be possible, to get a feel for what may become common ground. The closest I come is to write things here, but it is a pale imitation, without the reassurance and challenge of contact.

Now mind, I have many friends, both here in Portland and all around, good people all, with busy lives and kind hearts. It feels greedy to want a bestest friend, a someone who I can call and say hey, I need to talk, and know that they will make the time, that they know me deeply enough that we can communicate beyond just the surface. Maybe such connection does not happen more than once or twice in a life; maybe most folks look for that in their mate or partners. I'm not intending any slight to any or all of my pals.

Now mind, for years as a young adult I paid someone to listen to me, to help me "sort things out", Despite my best efforts, it made no difference at all, and in the end started feeling like a kind of surrogate life, like paying a whore for the facsimile of love. And I'm not looking for counseling now, I don't think that I'm somehow out of adjustment with reality.

When reality itself is shifting, does it make more sense to adjust to how it was, or to figure out how to surf the changes?

...I'd still like a hug, and a chance to sit down with a cup of tea for a talk

weekend fragments

The blue cardigan vest is finished. It is another of the good for wearing around the house knits, like my acorn hat. Someday there will be insulation in the walls, and boy would it be nice to have a tiny woodstove to make the house cozy. Navigator Stove Works is on Orcas Island and their stoves would make William Morris happy, they are both beautiful and useful (Halibut and Little Cod); these Morso stoves are bigger and come from further away, but are equally lovely.
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There is a rule of thumb, various folks say it differently but basically it is "don't cut fabric late at night" Do I follow this rule - no, not usually. Last night, cut out the pieces for a corduroy jumper promised to J, starting with the lining; hmmm, there are only three wee index cards of notes and sketches, (the actual dress this is copied from is still in Olympia) now how does this fit together? There is a real drawback to putting the pattern pieces for two dresses in one ziploc - my cut pieces were the fronts from one and the back from the other! Fortunately it was only the lining, and not the dress fabric. The pattern pieces are now labeled "dress 1" and "dress two".

This particular jumper/dress fastens in front with a button waistband and buttons all down the front of the skirt. Needs seven ¾ " buttons, preferably plain dark brown and definitely washable. Whilst out-n-about today tried to find said buttons without luck. Now mind, the long trip out to Fabric Despot or Millends was not an option, since there had already been a long trip out to Clackamas for vitamins.

On the way home, after a stop at New Seasons, I decided to walk home, as being faster than waiting for an evening bus; the weather was misting and not bitter cold, and walking is the best thinking time I know. (though I did be careful to pay attention to my footing, no more falling down for this gal if I can help it) Didn't solve the big issues, but realised that I could use some of the cast pewter buttons that are languishing in the tiny pile of SCA backstock. (They are washable and durable, used them on my old pair of overalls) Funny how objects move into virtual boxes and live there. They were a good idea, but not many folks wanted to buy them; those buttons could move in actuality into my button box and they might as well be used...
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I've read several books now by James Howard Kunstler, most recently The Witch of Hebron, a kind of sequel to World Made By Hand. Kept me up waay too late reading last night. He has a lot of interesting things to say, that have me wavering between hope and despair, the overall sense that resonates in my bones that the way things are now will not last.

When we were young the consensus was that the shit would hit the fan and we needed to be ready. Just no one was really sure what that meant, and it mostly consisted of having a knapsack and knowing the route to the roads out of the city, kind of like how as a child of the duck-and-cover age I always made a point of knowing where the fallout shelters were. A kind of false practicality.

When I chose to move here, to the city, it was with the full knowledge that it was/is a gamble. Olympia is more sustainable longterm, but Portland is less lonely. (I told a woman once that I didn't gamble small, but only with my life. That is perhaps why making committed decisions is so difficult for me, each one shifts the possible future, including the time before deciding.) Still uncertain what to do first, it is all about infrastructure, water-shelter-food. Here in the neighborhood we are taking babysteps towards community, which is hopeful...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

its curtains for you my pretty...

Living with a Goodwill at the end of the street makes it easy to drop in and check for useful things. Today there were two sets of Woolrich cotton flannel twin sheet sets, (missing a pillowcase), that were only $2.99 each. Flannel works quite well as a sewing muslin, and given the brand name, these were a surprisingly low quality flannel, somewhat loosely woven and pilly, so I had no compunction about their fate. (Oh how I love my now seven year old set of black Garnet Hill flannel sheets, worn, but still so soft and smoothly fluffy)

After washing them, while spending some time folding the laundry pile that is what remains of Mt Washmore, I realised that there was enough yardage, in a rather pleasant medium blue chambray color, to make a complete set of curtains for the living room from said sheets... As curtains, the slight overall pilling will not matter at all, no ones tender skin will be next to the draperies! And it would be a visual improvement to have the long window and the side window match. This will be added to Mt. Sewmore the current sewing pile; an easy project, just with many many little buttonholes to fit the hooks on the curtain rods...
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The knitted neckwarmer is almost done, the buttons have been ordered and shipped (on their way here from Texas), and soon it will be ready for the colder days ahead. Each thing that I knit I learn new techniques, some join the list of trusty tools. For this one I tried out a new-to-me cast off, the "Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off" I really like it, it is easy to do, though a wee bit time consuming, and really is stretchy and resilient. It just might become my favorite plain cast-off. (Video tutorial here and Knitty article here
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There was some interest from folks about custom rainhats similar to this one that I made for myself. It looks like the cost would be around $80 - $90, and I can get the Goretex fabric in a variety of colors. Let me know if you are wanting a special hat made...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

wishful Wednesday - helping hands

What I am wishing for is to set up at least one workday here, to do some of the projects that need more than one set of helping hands. I want to get the pot-rack mounted on the wall, and that involves sawing a heavy oaken board to the right length, and then attaching it, properly leveled, to the wall above the stove. A three person job, and some kind of power saw would be very helpful; my japanese hand saw could do it, but very slowly.

Glorybower berries, such an amazing color combination

There are so very many beautiful colors in the yard here, hopefully I will be able to add additional seasonal tidbits of eye-candy as well as the planned improvements to the foodstuff-generating capability of Acorn Cottage. The Harlequin Glorybower was one of the plants that I fell in love with before I ever moved here, and fortunately it is one that does well without much fuss. This is the first year that there were enough flowers for the berries to form, I love the way that they look like alien plant parts, with the vivid magenta and the slightly metallic porcelain blue. The persimmon tree is three years old, the more successful of the two trees I've purchased from Friends of Trees. Someday there will be actual persimmons to eat, and that will be wonderful. Fuyu persimmons have a sweet floral tangy flavor and are a bit firmer than mangos - I adore mango but not the climate that they live in, so these will be a good regional "substitute" I read a post about "Land Efficiency" the spatial equivalent of energy efficiency - that is the aspect of householding that is my ongoing challenge, to design and implement and maintain the place here in a way that is sustainable for my lifestyle and for the resources I can pull together. Interesting stuff to think about...

Fuyu persimmon - someday the tree will be big enough to fruit,
but for now, bright autumn color

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday thoughts

Once the steampunkish neckwarmer is finished, knitting will be on hold for a while.

I have been completely unable to find 3/8” buttons anywhere that look good and are not plastic; the vintage buttons I’m attempting to order from Etsy are between 1/2” and 5/8”. We’ll see if they work with the buttonholes… I have no real desire to make so many buttons by hand, 23 buttons is a lot of cutting and soldering
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I have fallen rather totally out of love with my blue cardigan sweater project, and am planning on simply binding it off as a vest, rather than throwing good knitting after something no longer exciting. It will be useful, and warm, and blue, and that is good enough. There is always a disconnect between the image in my head, and the way things look on my actual body being worn with my actual clothing. Sometimes finished objects look pleasing, or even better than I'd thought, and sometimes my galloping imagination has far outrun the reality. Light bright horizontal stripey sleeves on a dark bodice make me feel as big as a barn - not good...Perhaps some kind of blue/indigo jacket would be a better fit for that wardrobe niche?
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There are numerous sewing projects that are higher priority right now, and some embroidery that can become the next transit project (part of the SCA sewing I volunteered for) Next up in the stitching queue is a corduroy jumper for J . The studio work is progressing slowly but steadily. I miss having my open studio pal here tonight, she had a bad interaction with her cat, and needed to let her finger heal.
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Still hurting from the fall I took on the 29th. Went to my final PT appt. today and could NOT do the new exercises, my shoulder is too sore. Nonetheless took home a new color of elastic band and the pictures/instructions; once my shoulder stops hurting more progress will hopefully be possible.
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On the "needs-fixed-November" list, the bedroom wall cabinet project is done; good enough for now. Two more small peg racks from Ikea were cut to fit the rest of the space between the cabinet and the wall, and there is now enough room for my decorative trinkets to live, and the visual lines are extended in a way that looks complete. It is lovely and convenient to have a mirror that is just my height. The back of the door peg-rack was swapped with the one that formerly held tools in the furnace closet; now the lacey carved one is there, holding brooms and canning rings, and the simple wood one is on the door at a height that will be easier for me to reach. (the fancy wood one has really long pegs, being originally a mug rack, and they needed to be above head, and cabinet, height) One corner of the room is approaching functional, needing only paint to be beautiful as well as useful...

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original sketch and final result, started 11/1, finished 11/9

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before starting this project... and halfway through...

Monday, November 8, 2010

back from Knitfest

A long road trip each way, it seems like the weekend passed in a flash, and now back to Acorn Cottage with more ideas and estrogen batteries fully recharged. It was great to see old friends, and put some faces together with Ravelry names of the folks I'd not met in person. Visited three different yarn stores, a tiny bit of rambling in Fairhaven, and lots and lots of knitting. My sister's recipe for savory corn pancakes* as a breakfast contribution were well liked. It was lovely to have a getaway out of the city; to see a different place and rest my eyes on a long horizon - we were literally right across the street from the bay, though we never did any actual beach walking...

I started working on the sleeves for my blue sweater. The sweater will be a longish project, since making the sleeves all stripey means lots and lots of color changes and lots and lots of ends to weave in. Hopefully it will look good enough to be worth all the effort; right now it is at an awkward stage. (revised Monday morning) After sleeping the night in my own bed, and looking at the sweater in the clear light of day, my ideas definitely need revision. It will, in fact, drive me crazy to weave in two billion yarn ends, and having the focal point be at the edges of the sweater, which looks nice on a size zero model with long skinny arms, will, in fact, not be ideal for Little Teapot. What I am envisioning now is a simple two-color, alternating every two rows stripe. That way the yarn can be carried along the inside without becoming too bulky, (which using a dozen different colors** would preclude; it will simplify this particular sweater design quite a bit, and make it more thoroughly the BLUE sweater that will actually fill the gap in my wardrobe.

Great progress happened on the neckwarmer, but when I ran a lifeline and tried it on, I decided that the lower half was too much a straight line to lie smoothly around my neck and shoulders, even if stretched and blocked. After all, if you think about it, that area is more or less a cone shape of about a 3/4 to 7/8 of a circle, not a cylinder. Soooo… I unraveled about a third of my knitting, back to the central area before all the increases, and will be knitting it up again, this time with additional increases to make it more closely approximate (the shape of) shoulders.

* Savory Corn Pancakes

4 ears sweet corn
(or 2 c frozen corn)
1/2c cornmeal
1/2c flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4c buttermilk
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and partially cooled
2 green onions, finely chopped

If using fresh corn, cut from cobs, you should have about 2 cups. Or just use 2c frozen corn if it is not fresh corn season.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix in buttermilk, egg, and melted butter. Mix in corn and green onions. Let sit, in the refrigerator, for at least a half hour, (to help hydrate the cornmeal) You can make this up beforehand and let it sit overnight.

Fry like pancakes in oil till golden brown. The batter is pretty rich, so if you have a nonstick griddle, or good cast iron, you probably will not need additional oil after the first pancakes. I tend to drop the thick lumpy-with-corn batter onto the griddle and “help” it spread out into more or less round shapes. Eat with sour cream and savory sauces.

**have no fear, the myriad yarn balls of random colors will be reincarnated as a Philosophers Wool style two handed fair-isle cardigan or vest at some point.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Between all the other doings here, studio work has been happening, and somehow, the idea of a kind of chatelaine/sheath started percolating... This is only a rough prototype, worked out last night after putting the rest of the studio to bed, but I wanted to have it in time for Knitfest use and feedback.

the prototype

My idea is to have a way to carry along the most useful tools, a kind of modern chatelaine, similar to the way that Viking womens tools were carried hanging from brooches and belt. I've wanted a snips case necklace for ages, and the knitting needle size-gauge makes a beautiful, and useful, pendant decoration. I used 16ga brass wire and an old necklace to try out the idea; if it works well over the weekend, I'll make a more permanent arrangement, maybe with some decorative beads...

snips, and their holder

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

a lovely autumn day + boots!

Are these not the most amazing pink! They are fall blooming cyclamen, a gift several years ago from my friend K, and they are obviously happy next to the front walkway.

The dry warm day was perfect for raking leaves, and the front lawn is (temporarily) cleared; there are plenty more still on the trees. The compost bin is full and the rest of my leaves, and the maple leaves from my neighbor, will be going in the hen yard - chickens love leaves to scrabble in.

I also saw this clump of mystery mushrooms, growing from the base of one of the ornamental plum trees in my front yard. Should I be worried? Mycelium colonising a tree is probably not a good sign of health, and researching online it seems that ornamental plum are not long lived trees "...but it is particularly short lived (up to 15 years) in the urban environment."
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Stash Amassed Beyond Life Expectancy = SABLE...

I'm doing what I can to not fall into that trap - the clothing projects planned for the next few seasons are all being primarily done from stashed fabric and yarn. The completed projects so far have really worked well as a coordinating wardrobe, and there is no reason not to continue the process.

current wardrobe combinations diagram

There is some overlap between the winter 6-piece collection and the 2011 SWAP, and completing both will put me in a really good place as far as clothing. Not too much, but not too few pieces either. Then my sewing will be all about replacing pieces as they wear out.

6 piece winter collection
2011 SWAP
"Venta" neckwarmer< cowl n/a
handknit cardigan< cardigan n/a
raincoat (w Goretex capelet)coat raincoat (w Goretex capelet)
cotton lawn blousetop cotton lawn blouse
rayon tunic toptop
rayon tunic top
pinafore dressdress pinafore dress
n/adress >vintage style sailor dress?
n/a dress >?
n/adress >?
n/a dress >rayon layered dress
n/a top >Ottobre design top ?
n/atop >Teagarden T ?
n/a bottom >denim overalls

The winter collection sewing runs from November to the end of February, SWAP from December 26 to April 30. Obviously, more thinking needs to happen for SWAP, more dress designs, and of course deciding which new techniques will be used for which garments. The color theme now includes cool brown in addition to the usual black/grey/indigo, not clear yet on other design themes other than probably including a rounded version of the cloud lift motif.

My Moody Blues cardigan in progressing nicely. The basic sweater body is finished. Now to work out the multicolor stripe pattern design of the sleeves, and think about whether to adapt some of the other pleasing details from my inspiration. Really this will end up not really looking at all the same, but hopefully with a similar feel to it; a cropped cardigan, but with a higher neckline, and made from thicker yarns, more outerwear than a knit top.

And...heading a bit further new winter boots arrived today!!! WHee!!! Boots have been on my wishlist for-ever; they look splendid, and the last is the same as on my favorite Keen shoes, so the foot is super comfy. I can actually zip them up, though the calf is pretty dang snug; hopefully they will gradually stretch out a bit, since my leg muscles are not likely to atrophy. There is a layer of breathable waterproof membrane between the outer leather and the leather lining, so I'm not sure that any kind of mechanical stretching would be a good idea. Instead, the current plan is to wear them around the house for gradually longer periods.

Monday, November 1, 2010

the perfect is the enemy of the good

Needs-Fixed-November: this is the month to make time for repairs, to start working at the multitudinous projects that keep being put off. Too much perfectionism has kept many things from happening here that would make life better.
My original idea/sketch, and the space behind the door
With that in mind, today's project involves an old medicine cabinet and the bedroom wall. It has been leaning against the wall for at least a year and a half, the idea being to attach it to the wall between the nightstand shelves and the bedroom door, as a kind of wall-hung dressing table. Something tidier than hanging my earrings on plumbers chain pinned to the wall. Storage for the various bits that end up on the nightstand, like my wooden comb, and the box of hairbands, and suchlike.

It doesn't really need to be painted beforehand, though that would be the best way. Not certain what color to paint it, since the bedroom is still also unpainted (after almost five years!) The cabinet needs a new handle, and the inside made delightful instead of dingy, but all that will come if only a start is made.

Once it is up on the wall, the pegs on the bedroom door are awkwardly placed, and that needs removed. The things stored there are embarrassingly dusty. What does belong on the back of the bedroom door? Surely not old handwoven scarves, however lovely, if being vivid purple they are never worn any more. A belt from the leather shop in Harvard Square where I worked as a young woman, the embroidered woolen hood from my first year in the SCA, a blockprinted scarf from the trading circle at OCF back when it really was for trading; these are sentimental textiles, not currently in use. Instead, the back of the door could hold a hook for a robe or two, perhaps, rather than a clutter of memories...