Saturday, January 30, 2010

It Is Time

The seed catelogue came in well before Christmas. So early in fact, that I thought that there must have been some sort of mistake. I guess that the seed people must have been lookig to cash in on some Christmas shoppers.
However, I was busy with all things Christmas (mostly of the making kind) and so it was set aside. And, I will admit, forgotten.
It resurfaced the other day and so Bill and I started to look through it. I chose the peas, he chose the tomatoes. We also ordered broad beans, green beans, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and dill.  Lettuce, beets and brussel sprouts round out the order. We have other seeds left over from last year and so will also have spinach, broccoli, onions, corriander, and basil. Mira might try her gourds again. Hopefully this year, we can keep them in check a little better. They really grew. A lot! Very quickly! And for a long distance. I was quite shocked to go back to the garden after a few weeks absence and find gourd vines having traveled more than 30 feet!
Over the last couple of weeks, we have been blessed with weather that was unseasonably warm. There were a few days when I was able to go about with my jacket unbuttoned and my hat and mitts in my pocket. Sunshine, no wind and temperatures just above freezing. Now we have been dropped back into the deep freeze with night time temperatures in the -18 to -24 C and the daytime highs being -15 C ish. Reality in my little corner of the world. The thought of green things growing in the warm summer sun is a little balm for my frosty toes and nose. Only 4 months till last frost!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Loom

Well, actually it is an old loom. It is not even new to me seeing as I have owned it for at least 14 years. What is new about it is the fact that it is set up in my house and I am able to weave on it!

It's a Fanny LeClerc was the first loom that I bought. When I bought it, it was dismantled in a junk pile of a house and I had to go back three times before I had all of the pieces. The place was way out in the middle of nowhere and at least 30 minutes away. We were not amused.

But once I managed to get all the pieces, I set it up in the spare room and started back on my weaving adventures. Then my boys were born and my "studio" became their bedroom. This loom was dismantled and shuffeled to the shed and eventually out to the garage.
Where it stayed.
For years.
A few years after the boys were born, Susan gave me the little Dorset and I was weaving again. I only thought of Fanny occasionally when I wanted to do something like overshot which requires you to switch back and forth between plainweave and twill. The Dorset is a direct tie up and not, in my mind at least, the type of loom to be weaving anything that requires a lot of foot dancing.
This past summer we got rid of the couch and a space in the living room opened up. Then we had the washing machine incident and the old washing machine ended up in my living room for a little while. When we finally move THAT out, I looked at the space left behind and thought "Hmmmm, that Fanny is just about the same size!" And just like that, Fanny was back in my life. It is tucked between a chair and the plant stand which makes it an ideal location because I have great lighting and a place to set my cup of tea and some weaving tools.

Currently on the loom is a set of four scarves to submit to a show that my weaving group is having in March.  I tried to take a picture of the first scarf but the lighting, while great for weaving, is not that great for photographing silk. It just looked really wrong. So you will have to be content to know that the first scarf is orange (as you can see) and the others are all different colours.  And, yet again, you will have to wait to see the results.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting down and dirty

A couple of weeks ago, a new semester of school started, and along with it was a new session of evening classes. One of the classes is a throwing class. Throwing pots on a wheel that is. Not throwing things across the room. Although that may happen with pots from time to time. All accidentally of course.

As I mentioned this past summer, I had taken a year of pottery back in my student days. I really enjoyed playing in the mud, most days, and thought that it would be nice to do a little more. I also would like to make a few large bowls and the perfect mug. I looked for my prefect mug at all of the craft sales that I was at this past Christmas season and didn't find what I was looking for.

So now I have a goal.

Here is what I threw the first day of class. 9 muggy forms and 3 bowls of various sizes. Unfortunately, they ended up being a little to dry to put handles on by the time that class came around again so I h=now have a bunch of "vases" or "handle-less mugs".

 Here is one of the 4 bowls that I threw last night. The circular batt that it is sitting on is about 12 inches in diameter to give you a rough idea of the size of the bowl.

And here are the other three bowls that I did last night. They make me very happy!

Next week, I get to trim these babies and try and throw my perfect mug form. And for those of you who have never done any pottery, when you throw a pot on a wheel, you usually leave some extra clay on the bottom and when it has dried a bit, you put the pot back on the wheel upside down and use a special tool to "trim" away any excess clay. That is how potters put a little rim on the bottom of pots. We call then feet.

As for the two things that didn't work out, well, you all know what a lump of sloppy clay looks like right? But I saved my clay and spread it out of a plaster bat to dry a bit. Next week I will get a wedging lesson. I tend to kneed my clay, which is a bad thing. Wedging is sort of like kneeding except that you are both softening the clay and removing any air that is present. Kneeding is an action that introduces air into the mass that you are working with and air pockets in clay are bad in so many levels. When you are throwing, they make your clay uneven on the wheel. Think unbalanced spin cycle in the washing machine and then translate that to wet clay. Not good. It can also cause your pot to blowup when being fired because the air pocket heats up and has no place to go, pressure goes up and a piece of your pot comes off. Also not good.
So I need to learn how to stop kneeding my clay and start wedging it.

Everyday is a new adventure.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Silver Spoon

For Christmas, I got a gift card from mom for Chapters. I had to go to the mall on Thursday to return something and thought that I while I was there I would look to see if I could find something at Chapters that sounded appealing.
I looked at novels, craft books, the sales shelves and nothing really popped out at me.
And then I went to the cookbook section. There many books popped out but there was one that really grabbed my attention.
The Silver Spoon. I had heard a review of it on the CBC last year and it sounded pretty good. I believe that it had been compaired to the "joy of Cooking" except for Italian cooking. Bill had also been expressing an interest in doing some more ethnic cooking. So the Silver Spoon it was.
And it fits nicely on my cookbook shelf.

When faced with recipes from a different part of the world, you can expect to find some ingredients that you have never heard of before. But I really never expected to see Beef Cheeks as one of them. I never realized that they were a part of the cow that one ate.

 And by beef cheeks, they mean the cheeks on the front part of the cow, not the back end. Apparently they are quite tough and stringy, no surprise with all of the chewing that a cow does. But when cooked correctly they are wonderfully flavourful. I don't know that I will ever actually try this recipe, but if ever presented with beef cheeks, I will know where to look to learn how to cook it.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

First official FO

Last year, my friend Amber came home from BC. She had moved out west a couple of years earlier and when her mother told her she was moving, Amber knew that it was time for a visit. Time also to sort through some of the things that she had stored at her mother's.

We had a pizza night and she brought along some of the things that she had decided that she didn't want to cart out west again and among the yarns was a skein of her slubby handspun in white and cotton candy pink. Or Barbie pink. Or Girly girl pink. It was such a shock to see such a colour among Amber's things. She is bright, vibrant colours. Bold, in your face. But pale pink?
It was so odd, and I knew that Nicole would LOVE it, that I grabbed it and intended to make a hat for her.

Well, time passes and other things get made and stuff gets piled on top of other things. And then suddenly it is Christmas time and you realize that people will be showing up at your house and maybe it is time to do a little cleaning. Excavating in some cases.

And I found Amber's Pink Yarn. And a hat was born. It was a really quick knit and I finished it on New Years Day. So it really was the first official Finished Object of 2010.

It is a simple hat. I took a guess and cast on 60 stitches and did the typical k2p1 around until, after trying it on the correct head many times, I decided that it was safe to decrease. Near the end of the skein, there was an unexplained colour change which made this cute little bulls eye. I had some yarn left and thought that it would be cute to give the hat a little..... thing? on the crown. She likes it so far but if she decides that her stem must go at some point before she out grows the hat, it will be simple enough to make it disappear.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Earthy new yarn

Yet more new yarn. This one 100% merino that I added some silk sliver to as I spun. The silk is mostly white. I dyed it in the same pot as the yarn, but silk sliver is really hard to dye through. The silk doesn't want to open up and let the water in and the fiber on the outside of the sliver is so thirsty for dye that it soaks up all the dye in the area quickly and it doesn't have time to penetrate. So the inside of sliver dyed in the way that I did for this experiment, can have a white core. There are ways to overcome this. The one that I use most often when dyeing silk sliver is to heat the pot up before adding the vinegar. The heat helps the dye to penetrate. You can also paint the sliver, let it sit for an hour, wrap it in celophane and steam it. The benefit to this method is that you can manipulate the silk and pull the fibers apart so that the dye can penetrate.

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Yarn

Over the Christmas holidays, I managed to get spinning again. It was wonderful! I hadn't really done any spinning since the Spinning retreat around Halloween. I started to spin this 80% merino, 20% silk that I dyed, thinking (haha) that I might have enough time to spin the skein and weave another handspun scarf for my sales table before Christmas.

It didn't happen. At least not before H1N1 hit in mid November. At that time, I just gave up doing anything extra. I was in bed for a week and tired for a month so what I had to sell was going to have to be what I had.

In any case, I finished the skein the other day. It is still not washed and set, but it is all plied and skeined off.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

matching colours

Sarah helped me with the Christmas Choice Craft Sale because my co-organizer was home with a preemie baby and was not available. However, I am very glad to report that Connor is doing fine these days.
When I found out that my co-organizer (coincidentally also named Sarah) would not be able to be there, I called other friend Sarah. Why do I feel like I'm in the remake of the Bob Newhart show?
In any case, Sarah was more than happy to keep me company, and refill the cookies and keep an eye on the mulled cider and do a thousand other things that needed doing while I was in at the sale and trying to flog my wares.
As payment I offered Sarah anything she wanted, such was my gratitude. Money, fast cars, drugs (well. Maybe Tylenol and Sucrets would be as far as that offer would go)
In any case, she just asked that I dye a skein of yarn to match a skein of silk that she bought off of me last year. No worries! I said....until I realized that the skein that I had dyed before was silk and was dyed with acid dyes and the skein that she wanted dyed to match was a silk bamboo blend and needed to be dyed with fibre reactive dyes because acid dyes will not dye bamboo.
Lesson time.... in my world, there are two basic types of dye. Acid dyes dye protein fiber, which is basically anything that comes off of an animal. Or out of in the case of silk.
Fiber reactive dyes are dyes that will work on cellulose fibers or anything that is plant based. Or, again, silk.
SO my task was to match a colour created with acid dyes with fiber reactive dyes. This is like comparing apples to oranges. There are two different types of dyes with two different types of base colours. Next to impossible. For most people. Thankfully, I had a secret weapon on my side. Her Harriet. She has been the studio head of the Surface Design department for many years and this woman knows colour. As in KNOWS COLOUR. She was in one day before Christmas and I begged he for a moment of her time. I think she was ironing some burnout velvet at the time and so had a moment to spare.
The conversation went something like this.
Me: Hi Harriet, can I use your brain for a moment?
Harriet: Sure.
Me: I need to match this colour (points to one colour in the multi coloured skein) It was dyed with acid dyes, but the skein that I have to dye has bamboo in it so needs to be dyed with FR dyes.
Harriet:Hmmm. Try 70% Navy, 20% Teal, and 10% Black.
Me: Thank you thank you thank you (accompanied with much bowing and scraping)

And here are the results. Top skein is the silk dyed with acid dyes and the colour that I was trying to match is blue in the center. Bottom skein is the silk bamboo skein that I dyed and rinsed until the cows came home.

I know that monitors present colours differently and all, but I am pretty impressed with Harriet's assessment of the colour and her knowledge of the fibre reactive dyes that we use at the school. I hope that one day, I will have half as much knowledge of colour and how to reproduce it.

Happy New Year!

Doesn't that look lovely? And nasty? I'm sure that it is not the hardest puzzle going but thanks to mom and dad and Christine for doing most of it. Somehow, I wasn't particularly in a puzzle making mood this year.

One thing that we were in the mood for was food! We had a few people over for New Years Eve and Bill went all out with the food preparation! Starting in the upper left near the green CD case, mushrooms in puff pastry, chicken samosas both hot and not, coriander hot sauce, potatoes in garlic mayonnaise, sour dough olive bread, spinach and feta filo triangles, chicken tikka, black bean dip both hot and not, and corn chips for dipping. What is not seen is the flan that was going to be for desert. Seriously way too much food, but I didn't have to cook a single thing yesterday.
Sarah brought over a game that her brother bought her for Christmas called "Dirty Minds" if memory serves me correctly. It features rather risque clues to mundane things that you have to guess, IF you can get your mind out of the gutter. Some were easy, some rather hard. No pun intended. We laughed and laughed and Bill has said many times that he really like the game.

I have found that lately it has been getting increasingly hard to write blog posts. The lead up to the Christmas season was particularly brutal this year and I took a while to recover. I didn't feel like doing much of anything beyond the usual things that need to be done at home as well as what needed to be done at work. That left me with little to post about and no energy to try and be entertaining. Typical post from December would have probably gone something like.....

Work today, cleaned dye kitchen, again, fixed the Clement, vacuumed under looms, put new warp on for media class. Couldn't think about supper so left it up to Bill, again. Did laundry. Homework with kids. Fun fun. Read for a while, went to bed.

Not riveting reading.

But I have had a break from many of the usual routines and I am feeling a little refreshed. I hope that this will lead into a new surge of creativity. I started a new felt vessel last night so I think that the year has started off on the right foot. I also plied the yarn that I spun at the spinning retreat two months ago. I have had both Bill and Mira asking to be taught how to spin and so my excuse is that I needed to clear my bobbins. The real reason is that I needed to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing some of the UFO's that are sitting around. But more on that later.
Happy New Year everyone!