Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Tape trims, masking tape and sweet endings...

 The shelf is almost finished.  It's taken two coats of each colour, with drying time in between.  The edge between the yellow and blue shows that even with masking tape, I'm only adequate at painting straight lines.  Not bad, but not perfect.  Now, to get brave enough to sand it down and apply the glaze.  I took the leftover ivory paint from the livingroom walls and mixed it with the leftover very pale yellow paint from the bathroom.  It's not quite as yellow as the photo shows.  I didn't want the back of my shelf to blend in too much with the wall, but didn't want a large slab of blue on the wall either.

I'm teaching a couple of friends to tablet weave later this week.  I'm using a 10 card, simple backwards and forwards design, which accommodates the continuous warping or fast warping method.  I thought I should brush up on some skills and make sure my pattern draft was accurate.  There are 2 metres of the green and white trim here.  I used an inkle loom and it really isn't worth spending the time warping it up for a small sample.  It doesn't take all that long to weave off the whole length.  I could have done another 1/2 metre or so but broke a warp thread and it wasn't worth tying on a new one for that short extra bit.  I mean, it really is just a sample.

 The inkle loom is made of Walnut and is  quite heavy.  That means that it doesn't move at all when in use.  It's beautifully finished and works like a charm.  I've been playing with the two shuttles to see which I prefer.  I've a couple of other styles as well, which I'm hoping to have tested by the end of this length.  I didn't put as much warp on the loom, so the tape should be a tad shorter than the green one.  It's pretty though.    I'm also playing with arborite cards which Maureen's handy husband made.  They have a slight curve in there, but it's a non-issue.  They work beautifully.  I only have a few though, so I'll have to see if there are leftovers after the fact.  I'd hate to see them languishing in some drawer someplace, when they'd be awesome for wider project experiments.

Peach jam, with sadly floating fruit.   Since I've still not managed to replace my food processor, I chopped these peaches by hand.  I think the pieces were still larger than they should have been.  In hindsight, I'd have run the peaches through the grinder.  The good thing is that the jam tastes just fine.  It just looks a bit ugly.  For family use though, it will be fine.  If I go to make more jam this year though, stop me.  There is plenty in the pantry: apricot jam, peach jam, raspberry jelly, strawberry jam.  Plus, there is almost a kilo of currants in the freezer.  I really don't think I need more jam this year.

Friday, 15 August 2014

This week in colour

 Despite the cool weather, the garden veggies are ripening.  We've been eating fresh tomatoes almost daily for several weeks now.  The beets are awesomely sweet and tender, making me wish I'd  planted many more.  I'm really the only one who likes them though, so there are enough for me.   The cucumbers are late this year because they either didn't germinate in the cool weather or seedlings were eaten by a very small bunny, finding his way under the fence.  Finally, the third time was a charm, though we won't get tons, we're getting enough to have a nice taste of fresh cucumber now and then.

I asked my sweetie to put up a couple of shelves over my desk.  After much discussion about whether we would attach them to the wall or have it free standing, I let it be his choice.  After a brief discussion about what it might look like, this is what I received.   There was a complaint that it would have been cheaper to purchase an antique shelf, after I tallied up what the milk paint would cost to finish it.  However, I've been using leftover paint here.  Not quite the same finish, but it's looking pretty good.   Just a bit more painting to do, and I'll post a finished photo.

Playing around with greens and yellows, plus slogging away on my homework.  It takes me longer to spin up the fibres I dislike.  Soy silk was one of those.  However, when blended with some Merino, it turned out to be something quite yummy.  It still took a bit to spin, because I ended up blending a bit more than I'd anticipated, plus other chores got in the way.  It's so soft and lovely.  Because there is about 60% Merino, I was able to use a long draw, which was also a nice change.  So far, all the man-made fibres I've used have required a short forward draw with lots of twist.  A bouncy, squishy, soft longdraw yarn was almost like a holiday.

I plied the green yarn with a chartreuse merino that I had on hand from a previous experiment.   It's quite nice and took a while to spin up, because I got carried away with the blending process.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Garlic Harvest and more socks

 I harvested the garlic last week.  It took about 3 days to dig it all up, wash it and start it drying.  Most of the heads of garlic are a normal size, but there are a fair number of absolutely huge ones, with a very few overly small.  In all, it was a really good garlic harvest.   It seems to be one crop that does well, regardless of the weather conditions.  Being cooler and with regular rain seems to be a bonus for the garlic this year though.

After digging it up and rinsing it off with the hose (I did it at the base of the new apple tree, so it was watered in at the same time and I wasn't wasting water), I lay out the garlic on the deck table to start drying.   There is a fair chance of rain in the forecast for the next few days, so I tied it up into bunches and either hung them up or laid them out on the laundry rack to finish drying in the garage.

Not only is there enough to last us the winter, but I'll have lots to give away to my kids as well.  I should weigh the garlic because there is a lot and it's heavy.  Maybe over 5 lbs of it!  The string I used to tie the bunches and hang it up with is handspun rayon leftovers from my Master Spinner level 5 homework.

The potato chip socks I started to take on holidays are done.  The stripes match perfectly; another serendipitous striping sock yarn.   They're rather sedate socks but being made of Kroy, they should be hard wearing, even if that yarn is much lighter than it normally is.  This was some of that yarn which was on sale for super cheap, but even if it's a mill mistake, I think it's nicer than regular Kroy.   I'm trying to figure out what to put on the needles next.  I have yarn for a stranded  colourwork sock project set aside, plus some solids for undecided projects. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Holiday Monday Day Trip

The August holiday is sort of the holiday that isn't.  It isn't an official holiday so everything is open and only some of the people have it off.  My sweetie is one of the lucky ones who had a 3 day weekend.  He dragged me out to Stratford for the day where we wandered through antique stores, (nope, I didn't purchase anything!) and then for a walk through the park, along the riverbank.  It's a lovely park, full of people using it.  There were kids playing, people sitting at benches, on blankets and picnic tables, with picnics, coffees or just reading and enjoying the day.  I saw a crazy tourist getting awfully close to the swans, trying to get the perfect photo.  I'm not that brave!

 I dragged the big girl camera out because a heavy camera that takes good photos won out over the camera phone convenience.  I saw a female  duck just hanging out.

 Nearby one was strutting about .  That little bar of blue is so pretty.  Funny, when I look at the photos I took, there were lots of female ducks but not so many males. I'm pretty sure these are Mallard ducks.

This swan arched it's neck for a pretty photo op although I think it's really looking for some sort of interesting tidbit of food.  Swans are huge, with monsterously large webbed feet.  They can be cranky too, although there were no young cygnets around so that would help.  As well, these swans aren't wild, so they are used to people. 

The big boys were out playing with their toys.  There were 4 or 5 remote control sailboats out in the water.  They launched them from the full sized boat launch, which was a bit amusing.  They looked so sweet out there on the water though, playing tag and racing along.  It was fun to watch.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

1852 Isinglass Jelly

From the Ladies New Book of Cookery comes a recipe for Strawberry Isinglass Jelly, to differentiate between a calf's feet jelly and a preserve type jelly. After a recipe for how to clarify Isinglass, which is from a fish's, often a Sturgeon, swim bladder, there is a recipe for how to use it to make a jelly from strawberries.  It mentions how to substitute other fruits at the end of the recipe.

I'd been looking at these, along with baked puddings and thinking about trying some of these recipes.  The pushing point for this experiment was a phone call from my friend Maureen, who offered me several old jelly moulds she wanted to get rid of.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but the box of  lovely stoneware moulds set of a flurry of activity of researching.

 This is one of the moulds and a very pretty one.  It holds two cups and see the crazing on the upper top of the mould?  The crazing is different on both sides, so I knew it wasn't all the way through and likely not a weak spot.   However, the glaze is possibly cracked and I'm just guessing that the glaze might be lead based.  So I don't mind using it once but not often, just in case.   But it's awfully pretty ...

The recipe called for boiling up 3/4 pound of sugar in 1 pint of water, which makes a simple syrup.  I halved the recipe, which turned out to be 1 cup of water and 6 oz or 3/4 cup of sugar.  The whole recipe calls for 1 quart of strawberries.     I had a bunch of cherries which needed to be used up, so I chopped them in half and poured the syrup over it.  I had more than half a quart of fruit, for the half batch of jelly but the recipe mentions that other fruits used this way might need more quantity for flavour.   It says to let them stand all night, so I tossed them in the fridge.  I actually let it set an extra day.   I didn't have the couple of tablespoons of currant juice to add, so I left it out but I did have lemon juice.  The big kicker here is finding Isinglass.   I know that it can sometimes be found at brewing stores, being used to clarify wine but was that the same type of preparation that would be for making a jelly?  I've no idea.   Anyway, I substituted gelatine, which I found out was available in the 1860's.

Gelatine comes in powder and leaves.   I can only find the powder here, either in packets or bulk and it's a lot cheaper to purchase in bulk.  1 tbsn of gelatine will gel up to 2 cups of liquid, though some sources suggest limiting it to 1 3/4 cups liquid.   It need to be soaked in cold water before using and then mixed with hot water to dissolve.  I had 1 1/4 cups of cherry juice/simple syrup and a 2 cup mould.   I soaked 1 tbsn plus 1/2 tsp gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water.  I then added 1/2 cup hot water to the gelatin mixture and mixed it really well.  The soaked gelatin was thick and gloppy, so I needed a wisk to mix it well.  Then I stirred in the drained cherry syrup and poured it into the mould, which I lightly oiled with sunflower oil.

After a few hours in the fridge, I ran a bit of warm water over the outside of the mould, loosened the edges with a knife and popped it upside down onto a plate.  How pretty is that?

Taste-wise?  Ick.  It was way too sweet and not nearly fruity enough for my liking. Next time I'll use the secondary instructions which say to just toss some sugar over the fruit and a bit of water, let it sit and drain it.  It also says any juice can be used this way, which would be even easier and probably more tasty as well.  I've got to get some white plates for stuff like this.  It would look so much prettier on plain white.

Recipe as written in the book -  Water, 1 pint; sugar, three-fourths of a pound: 15 minutes (boiled together).  Strawberries, 1 quart; isinglass, 2 ounces and a half, water, 1 pint;  juice, 1 larger or 2 small lemons.

 It also calls for egg white, but nowhere in the directions can I see where it is called for and this part of the recipe doesn't mention the currant juice that the instructions call for either.

I used 1 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar (boiled for 15 minutes).  Cherries, 3 cups, gelatin  1 tbsn plus 1/2 tsp, 3/4 cup water, divided, juice of one lemon.

Easy to do, pretty to look at and well worth other experiments.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

This week's conquests

Finally finished this quilt top.  It's only taken 2 years, sheesh.  I can't pride myself on getting that one sewn up in a timely fashion.   It's a pattern called Bento Box and was easy and fun to assemble when I actually sat down to work on it.  Now, can I get it quilted up before Christmas?   I'll have to decide whether I'm going to quilt it on an electric machine or the treadle.  It's a bit smaller than I originally planned as the second border just didn't look right, so I left it off.  I'll use the fabric for the backing instead and the remaining black border fabric for the binding.

Ramie - rainbow dyed sliver.  This was hard to spin.  Every once in a while there was a blobby bit of fibre which wouldn't thin out.  While I was able to just rip off those inches of sliver in some places, others made it into this skein.   It sure won't be one of the bast fibres I'll spin a lot of, that's for sure.  I much prefer flax, hemp and cotton to the Ramie.  

My yearly batch of sweet relish.  This year it was really watery and yep, is orange instead of green/brown as it normally is.  I think I usually don't bother with adding the Tumeric but I did this time.  It's still tasty but took forever to reduce and even so, it's more watery than in past years.   Maybe due to all the rain we've been getting? 
Apricots were at the market last Saturday.   I had enough for one batch of jam, a pie and 5 apricots to eat out of hand, from a 3 litre basket.   I got almost 7 cups of jam from this batch, but since I'd only prepared 6 jars, that last jar ended up in the fridge for immediate use.  I don't really mind mis-planning when it works out that way.  It's pretty yummy jam.  I really can't decide whether Apricot, Peach or Currant jam is my favourite.  I think it depends on what I'm eating at the time.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fibre Road Trip

 The Fibre Garden is always a great place to visit.   I needed a few things to finish up my Master Spinner level 5 homework.  I could have ordered them online, as their mail order is spectacularly good, but a trip there is absolutely always a nice thing.  It's a 125 km trip one way though, so I don't get to do it very often.

They have a great selection of fibres, dyes, specialty items and even yarns.   I needed some hemp, nylon or fake Cashmere, some cotton and bamboo. I also needed a little bit of Merino, but it was a much better deal to purchase a whole pound of it, rather than just 50 grams, that I needed to get the pound.
 As well, I needed some coloured fibres for various novelty yarns and I rarely ever have dyed top or sliver in my stash.  I don't really like dyeing unspun fibres, so I got small amounts of a lot of different shades.  There is actually another green, but it got camera shy and I found it hiding under my desk after I took the photo.

They had just gotten some amazing dyed colourways of bombyx silk.  It was only a couple of dollars more than the solid colours of tussah silk.  I slipped two packets into my shopping basket, though there was an amazing orange/rust silk that I had to seriously consider instead of one of these.  The only one I didn't like, looked like someone had put a clown in a bag of silk.  That one just didn't speak to me.  There is only 50 grams of each and it would probably have been better to get two of one colourway to have enough to actually do something with.  These colour blends are so beautiful though, that that would have been far too practical.  This will at least be a lot of fun to spin.