Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Spring Things

 We have Orioles this year!   They are so pretty and colourful, with a nice little song.   Once we saw the first one, I started putting out oranges for them.  I tried apples too, but I think I just fed a raccoon with those.   

We also have a Rose Breasted Grosbeak, who apparently likes to eat oranges too.   I've never seen one of those before.  It was gone before I could grab the camera.

The robins have finally moved their nest.  They have built a nest in the light fixture beside the garage door for the past several years.  When the chicks finally fledge, they spend forever flying from nest to whatever vehicle is handy.  Back and forth they go, all day, leaving the car or truck with large white streaks.   Now they are in side yard.   I took this last week.  Today the nest is empty and the babes have fledged.   
 Last weekend I took a class on Pysanky.  I learned to do this as a child, using a somewhat different method.  Although still using the same materials and tools, this way was much easier.   While the lack of light, finishing the egg up in the evening, without a proper light source, shows on some of the missed spots, I am really pleased with how this egg turned out.  There are virtually no blobs an icky bits.  The class was really well done and the participants were a great group of people.  I had much fun.

I was away for the weekend.   I checked my garden on Friday, before I left and the Madder plants were  all back, about 2 inches high. I came home Monday afternoon and the Madder was at least 12 inches tall.  This particular plant was taller.  Absolutely unexpected and crazy growth.  The Madder patch has finally started spreading.  I will dig a bit out of it this year and then hopefully, the rest will fill in the gaps.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Berries and Weaving

I have a European Black Currant bush in my garden.  In the past 5 years, I have harvested 3 berries.   That's it, a paltry 3 berries.  It isn't that it doesn't bloom.  It gets tons of flowers.  However, as soon as it flowers, we get light frost or a couple of cold days, which cause blossom drop or that is what I think is happening from the Omafra website on currant information.  Anyway, we get a couple of cold days and we don't get berries.  

I was hoping with the very cool weather this spring, that maybe the flowers would just hold off enough to allow a currant harvest this year.   However, they are in full flower right now and we are supposed to have frost on Saturday and Sunday nights :(

For Mother's Day, in hopes of allaying the yearly black currant disappointment, some garden centre hopping happened.   I was looking for a Black Currant variety recommended by Omafra, but couldn't find any at all.  However, I came home with one that has good recommendations.  We also found a North American Black Currant - similar but not the same and much hardier.  Then on Sunday, most of the garden centres were closed, so we went to one that we rarely visit.  My son found me a white currant bush, a pink blueberry bush and then he hunted down a Josta berry bush.  Josta berry is a cross between a gooseberry and a black currant.    Our gooseberry bush is really old.   Everything I read about them says they should be replaced every 10 - 15 years.   I've taken cuttings in hopes of propagating some new ones and then we can replace it with the Josta berry.  If it works, we'll probably have half a dozen gooseberry bushes popping up in weird places though.

I decided to put a quick sample project on the floor loom.   I found this draft of the Birka 10 textile that I put on the warp weighted loom.  It was a small sample, only 15 inches wide, with rug yarn that I sett at 9 ppi, much coarser than the original textile.  I used a light beige colour and a woad blue, the same colours as on the warp weighted loom.  My hopes are that one day, it will be an interesting comparison between the two.  That is of course, presuming that I actually get the warp weighted loom project woven off.

This is off the loom and drying after wet finishing.  

Monday, 9 May 2016

WW Loom Diamond Twill

Stupid threading errors are infinitely more obnoxious to fix on the warp weighted loom.   I had a threading error on the first twill threading and it made it into a broken twill, which was nice enough but really not what I had intended.   By the time I had realized that I had undone the wrong heddle rod, I decided to redo them all in a diamond twill.  This is what I had wanted to do in the first place, but was getting a bit confused on how to tie it up. 

I am currently reading a thesis on the warp weighted loom and she has surmised that multi-harness weaves are better worked with only one row of weights.   I thought I would try it, since it sounded like she had experimented herself.  However, having tied up the loom, with all new heddles, it turns out that it didn't work for me.  The pictures and diagrams of old looms, show 3 heddle rods and it is thought that the bottom support bar acts as a "shed bar", helping the 4th shed being just open.   This

works really well.  However, the open shed wouldn't actually open at all,with only one row of weights.  It might have worked well with an extra heddle rod, but I only have 3.  The next redo had me make my heddles too short, so I had virtually no workable shed.  It was miserable to weave with, so out they came again.   By now, I had done more research and found Marta Hoffman's diagram on how to thread one of the Birka twills.   Of course, the open shed in this diagram was 1/4, rather than the plain twill 3/4, so I  un-knit all the heddles and re-tied them again. 

  I made a mistake on one of the shafts and had to do it twice then finally got to start weaving!

Low and behold, a diamond twill - Birka 10, I think it is.   How cool is that?

I am using a stick shuttle instead of a weft butterfly, mainly because I sometimes need to travel with the loom and my weft butterflies keep getting too tangled to be of use.  I don't think it makes weaving any easier.  

It still isn't my favourite way to weave.  I do like my floor loom, but it is very satisfying doing something other than tabby weave, which is by far the easiest way to dress a warp weighted loom and what the weave structure is of virtually all the projects on looms I've seen in real life or in photos.  I'm sure there are project twills out there, but I just haven't seen them.  

Monday, 2 May 2016

Warp Weighted Loom

3in - 4 in section of the original warp.  The rest is the same or worse
Dressing the loom....  I really, really didn't want to do this right now.   It takes a lot of time and I've got a couple of major time consuming activities happening right now.   However, one of them is preparing to speak about Early Northern European Textiles.  For that, I need the warp weighted loom.   I've only used this beast a couple of times in the past few years.  Mainly, it has been sitting in my garage; that same garage where Kevin likes to play.

The project that was on my warp weighted loom has been there for a few years.  It was getting ratty anyway, but I'm pretty sure that Kevin has been playing with the warp threads, knowing how much he likes to chew apart wool projects which are important to me.  I was going to try to repair a few of them, but it turned out to be just too many to bother with.  The fact that I hadn't tied on the tablet woven warp header in enough places, so the tension was uneven, really meant that I had to put a new project on.

weaving a tablet woven header and warp for the w.w. loom
It meant winding a new warp and weaving it through some tablet weaving.   There are examples of this in archeological textile finds, including a completed warp, ready to dress the loom, hanging from a tablet woven header.  I didn't research the tablet woven pattern, just stuck something on which used only a few tablets and was easy to weave.  (Note to self, incorporate a reverse turn in there so that the threads  unwind on their own and you don't get the twist setting in on the finished band.)

tying on the header and warp to the warp beam.
I tied it onto the warp beam every few threads, going one way and then back the other.  I have enough string to make heddles but I wasn't sure if I had enough to tie on the warp, so I used 2/8 cotton.   I had some linen thread, but it was only a single ply and I really wasn't sure it was strong enough.   I may go over it again, just to be certain, only because my weights are about 1 lb each.  I don't want to have to re-tie the header just because there was too much weight for the cotton string.

warp ready for weights and heddles
This photo bothers me because of the busy background.  Unfortunately with the kitchen renovations going on right now, my kitchen bits and pieces are scattered throughout the house and the dining table has become storage space.  The table was pushed back to the window, to make space for cupboard storage, which will be needed soon.  Right now though, it is the only space large enough and open enough for my warp weighted loom.  It works only because my warp weighted loom is self supporting as well, with non-period back legs, hinged at the top.

I am hoping I made my warp long enough to be of value.    The cereal box weaving cards are also not authentic, but they are functional and cheap.

Next step is to knit the heddles onto the heddle rods or rod, depending on if I do a tabby or a twill.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Blending project update

That blending board spree ended up using almost all of my leftover commercially dyed Corriedale top from the level 4 and 5, Master Spinner programs.  I have an 1880's chest of drawers which I use for fibre and equipment storage and the coloured bits of roving were taking up the bottom drawer.   My aim in doing this was to use up the rovings, free up some space and have a bit of a break from spinning the project fleece.  These are just a few of the blending board rolags that I made.  The orange is a bit misleading as it is much more orange than in actuality.   It was my least favourite of all the colour combinations, although I'd hoped I'd used up all that Chili Pepper Red and I think it was Cheese Cake yellow, in a way which didn't end up looking like clown hair.   I was trying for something autumnal and pumpkiny.
I spun it all using the traditional longdraw.   There are 5 different colour combinations there and while I thought my favourite would be the blue - lower left, I ended up liking it the least.  However the orange turned out to be one of my favourites because it really did remind me of pumpkins.   There are 65g - 75 g of worsted weight yarn for each colour, so enough for mittens at least, or maybe a hat.  
more accurate colour of the orange blend
 I spun and plied more white project fleece yarn.   I did a rough check on yards per weight of the yarn. I counted the wraps on the niddy noddy, did the math and then weighed the skein.  I divided the yardage into the weight and got 1.9 y per gram.  By then weighing the rest of the skeins and multiplying by 1.9, I got a rough estimate of 1398 yards.   While by no means truly accurate, I have enough spun to start looking at sweater patterns.   Hmmmm, leave it white or dye it?
I started with the Raspberry/blue rolags.  They had the most yardage but I should have probably started with the smaller yardage lots.   I will have leftovers from these mitts.  Not enough for a decent project and if I'd made larger mittens, I could have used them as a present for someone with bigger hands than mine.  But since I have small hands and a habit of losing mittens, maybe I shouldn't worry too much.  Of course I usually make my pairs of mittens of similar colours, so I can mix and match.  I wonder if odd mittens are a trend yet?

I'm knitting these on brand new bamboo needles.   The first time I tried bamboo needles, I really liked how light they were but I wasn't sure I liked the feel of them.  However, I received a couple of pair free with a yarn purchase one time and since they were the only knitting needles I had of those sizes, I ended up using them several times.  The first time, they were a bit rough but by the third project, they had been sanded incredibly smooth, by the fibre and were getting a glossy finish, I presume the oils in my hands.  They ended up being lovely to work with.  Hopefully these will turn out the same.  Otherwise, the local store has just stocked Knit Picks wooden needles and they are really nice to work with.  I may pick up a pair just so I can put a second project on the needles, stuff it in to go project bag and drag it along with me.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Colours of Spring

 The daffodils are starting to bloom.   The bi-colours and whites bloom a bit later, but these yellows are a beautiful burst of needed colour.

 The hyacinths are bright and cheerful, with an amazing scent.  They start their pretty show  even before the daffodils.
The light pink hyacinths are showing a bit of frost damage, but they are still gorgeous.

Pretty bright green new leaves starting to push forth on the currant bushes.  The lilacs and maple trees will be following soon I hope.

 The Siberian irises bloom very early.  They come shortly after the crocuses and are gone before the daffodils and hyacinths are even thinking about blooming.

The blue scillia carpets the ground and flower beds.  For such tiny flowers, they are a significant source of spring colour.

The never ending job of splitting wood.  This is the rest of a load of large pieces which needed a more macho log splitter than we had.   The axes, mallets and wedges, nor the chainsaw made a dent in those huge chunks, but a 25 ton hydraulic splitter took care of the job in just a few hours.   Despite the mechanical help, there were a couple of tired guys after a weekend of splitting.   They've stacked up almost 3 face cords from this pile already.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

HFF- Literary Foods - Marigold's Cake

This fortnight's challenge: Food is described in great detail in much of the literature of the past. Make a dish that has been mentioned in a work of literature, based on historical documentation about that food item.

Lucy Maud Montgomery is well known for Anne of Green Gables, but she wrote goodly number of other works, including one of my favourites, Magic for Marigold (1929).  This is a delightful story of a child's adventures, from birth to womanhood,  in a single volume.   I was quite taken with the story when I was 12 and still remember my visions of the chapter, when at age 11, Marigold was left to watch the house, Cloud of Spruce, alone, with no cake in the pantry, because surly nobody would visit.    Cloud of Spruce and the Lesleys were known for their cake!

The references to any particular cake are quite vague, but the cake that I remembered was one with "golden orange crescents on it - the special company cake of Cloud of Spruce".   The only description of it was a delicious feathery concoction with whipped cream, and golden orange crescents on it.   My childhood vision was a cake with little orange slices on it as decoration and lots of chocolate icing.    I went to my copy of The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, 1912 (Boston).   The recipe needed to be tasty enough to be a cake that the family had been known to make for some time, which is why I chose the 1912 book.   It also had to be easy enough for an 11 year old to make.   I chose the recipe for Cream Cake
It was an easy enough cake and the spice mixture looked really tasty.   I substituted the thin cream for almond milk and used gluten free flour and xanthan gum in place of the wheat flour.    I would use an 8 in. pan next time, instead of the 9 in. pan.   I think it would fill the pan better.

The icing was from the same book.   This icing was really, really good and super simple to make.  Next time I'd add just a little less icing sugar as it was a bit more fudge like than frosting when it set up.  Not a bad thing by any means.

I chose to serve the whipped cream on the side.  A cake that was kept in the pantry, even in a cake box, wouldn't likely have been covered with whipped cream as it wouldn't have lasted.  It might have been coated with whipped cream just before serving, but I know in my family, the cake wouldn't have been finished for several days, so the cream would have gone bad before we finished it.   I decorated it with little mandarin oranges, from a tin.

This was an awesome combination.   If the cake had been in a smaller tin, it would have been higher and lighter.  The spice mix, with the chocolate and oranges was a really perfect blend.   This is now on my cake for special occasions list.
Cost - .79c  for the tin of oranges
        $4.79 for a box of baker's chocolate.   I used Baker's because it was called for in another recipe.   It is a good thing I am old enough to remember how it used to be made, because the squares are half as deep as they used to be, so I had to use 4 squares, rather than 2.
The rest of the ingredients I had on hand.
It took only a few minutes to mix up, and the icing took only a few minutes to make as well.  It was a quick, easy to make cake, which tasted of much more effort.