Friday, January 31, 2014

great wheel turning

Tonight is the start of the Chinese year of the Green Wood Horse, in which our plucky heroine stopped working briefly to indulge in a few ceremonial spring rolls, before heading back into the workroom to continue enameling...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

benthic strata

... in which our plucky heroine makes indigotiger paws...

Normally I adore winter, as the soft grey sky and frequent rains make me very happy, though I struggle with the cold weather. This winter is different. This winter is dry and sunny, and the wind makes everything feel even colder, and while nowhere near what those in the middle or eastcoast have to deal with, I miss my beloved misty moisty wintertime.

My fingers want more protection, so last month I started on a new pair of fingertipless gloves. While the official project name is "benthic strata", this morning they brought to mind tiger stripes, but in my favorite colors, and entirely appropriate for my online avatars "indigotiger" (who frequents sewing and design sites) and appreciates the virtues of color coordination.

Cold sunny winter weather requires wool, and these are up to the task. I have a splendid pair of deep winter, very thick, windproof, naalbound mittens that my beloved pal Ariadne made for me, but an intermediate thickness of wool is an appropriate addition to my winter wooly wardrobe.

Friday, January 24, 2014

chips here chips there chips chips everywhere

in which our plucky heroine manages to acquire several truckloads of chippings...

Thursday was long work day... when house cleaning in Sellwood I end up with about four hours transit time round trip which allowed me to almost finish the fingertipless gloves I have been knitting. A good thing, because all these Very Sunny Days are also Very Blustery Days, and new warm wooly handcoverings will be a treat.  On the way home from the bus stop, Molly Beard had a fresh load of wood chips in her driveway, and told me that there was tree work on the next street over, and more available. There is now a pickupload of myrtlewood branch chippings in my driveway, which is very fragrant. I am rather heartbroken that such a big tree is being taken out, one of the two that I collect nuts from. The wood chips will be useful though, as mulch around the future garden beds...

The same tree grinders that came by Thursday with a truckload of baynut chips brought more proto-mulch today. Whilst Leah and I were working here, we kept hearing what sounded like branch tapping noises, and people talking, and while I first thought it to be the neighbors, when it kept on I investigated, and found that there was another load being brought to the front driveway.

I hadn't realised that they would bring more, and managed to head off their filling the entire driveway with fragrant chippings, and re-routed the proto-mulch to the backyard, opening the alley gate for the first time in years. I haven't looked out back yet tonight to see how much they deposited, but it seemed like a win-win... they don't have to pay the dump fee, I get free mulch. The sad part is that there is one less big baynut tree in the neighborhood, but at least there is some small good come from that.

Today made some good progress on the Roman brooches, and wirebending on the current enamel commission, and (as mentioned) Leah was here, working on her studio project as well, what fun to have company in the shop! I wish that more students of mine ended up returning from time to time for studio time...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

the bitter with the sweet

Seville oranges, being closer to the ancestral form, are not only a lot more bitter and sour than sweet oranges, but are FULL of seeds. These have been boiled for almost two hours to soften the peel, and then cut in half ready to be prepped for marmalade
The softened halves get the seeds removed and set aside (they will be used to add their super-pectin power to the finished preserves), then the very bitter pulp is scooped away, leaving nice smooth bright orange peel to be sliced...
Don't they look lovely waiting to be sliced into thin ribbons of bittersharp goodness...
The sliced peel is simmered until it is all translucent, needs to be cooked thoroughly to remain soft in the final preserve. The seeds, in a muslin bag, are firmly encouraged to release additional pectin into the mixture...
Once the sugar is added, it takes a bit of time for the marmalade to be cooked down... I love my maslin pan, the right tool for the job!
Twelve jars of golden Seville marmalade to be stored away for future delight. It feels so good to begin to replenish the stores cupboard with homemade preserves.

and in the live and learn category: it sounds odd to say, but the new thing I learned from reading Saving The Season by Steven West, is that up 'til now I've been doing my set test wrong.
To test for a gel set: put 1 teaspoon of hot marmalade on a chilled saucer and place in the freezer for 1 minute. If the puddle of marmalade has formed a "skin" that wrinkles when you push your finger through it, then you have a gel set. If not, if the puddle is still syrup, then bring the preserving pan back to a boil and cook for another minute or two. Don't overcook the marmalade.

Monday, January 20, 2014

turn turn turn

in which our plucky heroine realises that lingerie and a raincoat do not a SWAP make...

My SWAP sewing had been rather derailed in the interest of getting other (work-related) projects moved forward. I need new clothes, but have been feeling somewhat less than enthused about my planned SWAP for some reason, so decided to look at my actual closet and think about where the real and current gaps are. Given my goal of having a weeks-worth of garments for both warm season and cold season wear, the actual inventory is pretty uneven:

1 grey cave horse indigo/black layered blue/multi hawaiian cornflower ikat medium denim indigo nightsky batik black knit embroidered slip
2 bad girl black black bleach print black print lawn black/grey polkadot black lovechild overall jordan almond leafy *
3 grey floral neckline black/grey crow * blue/grey ikat black linen cobalt linen *
4 bang said max black/grey stripey t-neck * brown japanese dogs black vertical pique blue microcheck linen *
5 blue stripey cloud black/white winter t-neck * black chambray grey corduroy * *
6 dk blue leopard black plain * * dk grey linen * *
7 brown acorn brown celtic wolf * * brown corduroy * *
8 black square lace grey zip neck * * grey chambray * *

I need not make any more knit tops or pinafores currently, those can be filled in as I notice the current ones wearing out. Blouses are a nice change from knit tops, but fill the same pattern niche. Popovers are my lightweight summer dresses, and won't be needed till that season. What I really need are (under)dresses (with sleeves/worn under pinafores), slips (sleeveless/worn under dresses for warmth) and the thing not shown on the chart: lingerie. I dearly want to make a raincoat this season as well...  Hmmmm... how to find a meeting place for what I need and the SWAP 2014 format.

The part of my wardrobe most in need of refurbishment is the lingerie drawer, and that would be fun to make three sets of three... But given that SWAP requires us to photograph our garments actually being worn, lingerie is right out - no pictures of our plucky heroine in her skivvies on the internet thank you very much! With the format for this years SWAP being:
Algebra SWAP 2014 = 3X + 2☆
X = 2t + b = t + T + B = t + d + b
t=top, b= bottom, T=overlayer, d=dress, ☆=wildcard

it is pretty simple to put together a wardrobe sewing plan, I did that earlier... but how to resolve matching the actual gaps in my closet and dresser with the formulae... Back in November one of my ideas was to make "...some leggings/loose pants (maybe made in lightweight polartec), and slightly cropped (rather than full length = wet bedraggled legs when it rains) and a few slips, which could combine a thin warm camisole top with a heavier attached petticoat skirt, maybe a layer of flannel and a layer of silk?" If I could combine this idea with the three dresses I plan on making, that would give me three "sets", but only if the slip could somehow be counted as a top.

If there is a way to combine my needed clothes with the SWAP rules for 2014, then I will continue participating. If not, then I shall simply continue sewing anyway, making what is most needed...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

that special season...

in which our plucky heroine comes home from the grocery with a long awaited find... organic Seville oranges!

The last time any showed up here was over four or more years ago. They make wonderful marmalade, more bitter and complex than sweet oranges. Needless to say I bought a few pounds, and tonight will dig into my new preserving books to see if there is anything that sounds more likely than my TnT marmalade recipe. So in addition to the already scheduled upcoming tasks, there will be preserving! Whoo hoo! I have missed messing about with kettles and hot water... Tune in later this week for the results

Saturday, January 18, 2014

this maneki neko is just right...

In which our plucky heroine is charmed by a small gift...

Though my home will never be a beacon of minimialism, I try hard not to become a "collector" of any one thing in particular. I do not, for example, "collect" acorn things in general, or dala horses, or even my beloved maneki neko. Which is not to say that there are not quite a few objects all over the house that fit those categories, but all of them are carefully curated to please my peculiar aesthetic sense.

The one exception to my not collecting things, is that I do collect maneki neko that are under 1" tall. In this way I can indulge my childhood passion for miniature things, and never fear that Acorn Cottage will be overrrun with beckoning oriental cats. Until now my "collection" has resided in a small wasabi dish on the far nightstand, right next to the box of marbles (if you know where your marbles are then you haven't lost them 0_o) Yesterday my pal luz clara brought me some trinkets and treasures, including a new to me tiny triple maneki neko! The two little ones are only a half inch tall. I shall need to seek out a new home for all of them, as the wasabi dish is getting a bit crowded...
The central cat is holding something none of the others in my collection have, and thanks to the internets I have determined that the small object, which I originally thought was some sort of barrel, is actually a hammer/mallet, known as the Uchide no Kozuchi (打ち出の小槌). The traditional folklore is that the hammer is very small, and that swinging it will grant your wishes... what an appropriate detail for this gift from one artisan to another!

Friday, January 17, 2014

the world outside the world

in which our plucky heroine gets to meet an online pal...

Today luz clara and I met for the first time outside the forums over at Stitchers Guild. We spent the afternoon gallivanting about the city; there was much chat, some tasty Thai food from Thai Cottage, and fabric shopping excursions to Rose City Textiles and Mill Ends

the stalwart gals vowed to get together again before too long!

Monday, January 13, 2014

and the days like flowers bloom and fade, and they do not come again

Really all we have are the days we are given...had these lyrics running through my head all day today... though my albums were all sold long decades ago to pay the heating bill, sometimes our plucky heroine can find those beloved songs here in the internets

Sunday, January 12, 2014

the pomegranate Laurel

in which our plucky heroine unveils the most current piece of regalia from the Acorn Cottage workroom...

This is the medallion that had been commissioned just before all my medical foo, and has been in the works for quite some time, and was finished up just before 12th Night (our big indoor midwinter SCA event here in An Tir) so as to be in the hands of my dear friend Goran, who will be moving south to Caid soon. She will be greatly missed, and our southern noble cousins will be getting a real treasure. Her heart is as generous as her spirit, and there are many skills in which her expertise is notable. I will surely be sad to not hear her beautiful voice raised in song, save through traveling long miles to her new home...

I had to make certain that this piece of my own work would be worthy of her status as a noble Laurel of An Tir, and I think it safe to say that she was as happy with my work as I was to make this for her...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

there is no one true way

In which our plucky heroine is just ridiculously excited to have thought of a new way to make pearl-guide loops!

This might not look like much other than a disc and some wire (which is what it is) that will eventually become a setting for an enamel... but In the past, I've made loops the way I learned, was taught,saw others doing it: by soldering tiny rings, then soldering tiny posts to the rings, then soldering the tiny posts in place... three steps, complicated and Very Tiny parts, lots of room for possibly dropping tiny parts on floor with subsequent cursing...

Well, my Clever Brain (unlike my Memory which was tossed out in 2012 along with my rogue uterus)for some reason seems to have started working again (yay 2014!) and came up with the idea of drilling two holes instead of one, forming the wire into a "U" shape, and just soldering it in place that way. One soldering step instead of two. True, it needs two holes drilled instead of one, but that is fast compared to the prior option. And by making the legs of the "U" uneven in length, the little guides are almost self-locating as well.

There was some happy dancing around in the workroom when this idea became reality! Not just because the idea worked, but because for the first time in can-barely-remember-how-long my BC (before cancer) mind returned. Maybe just maybe, like the tender shoots of a badly pruned plant, my functional self will come back to me in this lifetime...

enameling: it's what I do, among other things...

... in which the completed enamels are burnished and be-ringed:

a Jambe in the hand...
edges burnished and jump ring attached -

leads to a minor abundance of regalia: Jambes and Gouttes and Heralds medallions oh my!

(Jambe de Lion is the An Tir kingdom Level award for excellence in the arts and sciences, Goutte de Sang is the An Tir Kingdom Level award for excellence in service, and Heralds medallions are just because well, heraldry for heralds...)

It would be so much easier to make progress in the workroom if it were not necessary to take time out for things like being a housemaid (because every artist must have either a day job, a wealthy patron, or a supportive spouse) and necessary though stressful ongoing medical appointments. Nonetheless, this is an excellent start on my 2014 goals, and there is another more elaborate piece also in the works. Girl is pretty chuffed.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

bizzy which our plucky heroine enjoys the warmth of 1500°F...

Firing the enamels is pleasant to do in the cold of winter, as Acorn Cottage has no fireplace or insulation, "Mr Hot" the electric hearth kiln will make a nice stand-in. This weekend I completed five enameling projects, four champlevé regalia medallions and one long overdue cloisonné piece. The regalia bits just need jump rings to be finished; the cloisonne piece will get a very elaborate setting, but that will have to wait 'til tomorrow - girl is very tired now.
five little trivets
all in a row
going in the kiln
soon they will glow...

well, they actually go in the kiln one at a time, over and over again... the champlevé gets six to ten firings, the cloisonné easily gets triple that or more...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

starting off right

Well that is a rather splendid start for 2014, even if our plucky heroine is now sneezing repeatedly and uncontrollably. (every time ANY declutter happens all the nasty pollen and things in the carpet get stirred up, with the resultant disturbance in my somatic equilibrium... SOMEDAY there will be NO carpeting here at Acorn Cottage, and my allergies will be less of an issue)

BUT - I have met my goal of two grocery sacks to be discarded: one of paper recycling and one to Goodwill, AND even better, the strange case of the missing accounts book has been solved! How it ended up where I found it I have no idea, but it is going back to the proper location, (perhaps chained in place like a medieval library?) and I can now also start on all the varied paperwork for which said book is a vital component. Being able to ex out two boxes on the SMART chart feels good, and tomorrow should see another one or two boxes tagged as well...

Yesterday, New Years Eve Day, a phone call midday from my dear friend Ariadne led me to scotch my regular plans in favor of spending a rare afternoon visiting with her, poking around in Powells, (where she bought me an addition to my reference library as a late birthday gift) and rambling round downtown Portland with lots of time to chat. It was lovely and most renewing to my spirit. Eventually she needed to meet with Jess and head south to the party in Eugene, and I returned home much more cheerful.

this song came online and I stopped working to watch the video, and liked it very much... somehow the interplay between the lyrics and the beauty of all the everyday folks waiting for the bus just got to me... we are all pretty enough, however invisible we are...

Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don’t care

where it’s been, or what bitter road
it’s traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.
~ Stephen Dunn