Sunday, 8 September 2019

A simple rug and jam -

The loom is dressed and I've started weaving.  I've got it set up for 2 rugs.   I only put 2 on because I've found that with any more, I have to cut the first 2 off and then retie the warp.  It's not an awful chore, but I know that the last rug might take a while if I put on too many at a time.  I need to make a house warming gift, so letting a project languish at this time, is not a good thing.   I know with only 2 rugs, they will get done in a timely fashion.    I purchased 10 cones of 4/8 cotton, in natural a couple of years ago, meaning to make guitar straps.   I was going to dye all the colours I needed, only it turned out that a) dyeing all the string for the colours I needed turned out to be a lot more work than I wanted for this project and b) the 4/8 inkle woven straps were just a bit thinner than I expected.  While I knew they were strong enough, they bend and fold a bit more easily than I'd like.  I'm using one on my open back banjo and it's serviceable and pretty, but a bit fiddly sometimes.

Anyway, with all that natural 4/8, I had to dye the warp stripe.   It is a dark teal blue.    The blue warp shrank a bit in the dyeing process, which made for an interesting time dressing the loom.   The weft is a sheet that my daughter gave me when she cleaned out her closets.   It was a fitted sheet, so a little less fabric, but there are also 2 pillow cases, if I need them. I like the way the dark and light warp stripes are so effective when woven up.    I had been looking for a jersey sheet.   Jersey t-shirts and sheet make awesome rugs, but I didn't think I had enough of any one colour and I wasn't sure that weft stripes, along with the warp stripes would be effective in this case.

blackberries were purple in real life, not bright red.
 I made some seedless blackberry jam.  I had a whole set of photos to show the process and I was going to do a blog post on making it.   However I think I messed up when I transferred the photos to the computer and then since they were on my phone, I deleted them.   Yay me!

after much fiddling with colour, I left them red .
After heating up the blackberries, I ran them through a strainer to remove the seeds.   Blackberries have a lot of seeds and mine are semi feral, so pretty seedy in comparison to pulp for some of them at least.   I much prefer the seedless jam, which requires pushing them through a strainer of some kind.  I wish I had a food mill of some sort, but I don't, and I couldn't remember what I did the last time I made it.  I first tried a plastic colander, which let many of the seeds through, requiring me to re-strain the batch.  Then I tried a wire mesh strainer, which was too fine.   The next one I tried has a tiny hole in it, that got much bigger before I noticed it, requiring me to re-strain the whole batch to get all the seeds out, again.   Finally I got a strainer which worked adequately and it took a lot of effort, pushing the berries through.  The aim is to get the juice and the pulp through the strainer but not the seeds.   You don't want a clear jelly, but a jam, without the seeds which get caught in your teeth.

I addedd lemon juice and sugar.  I used pectin because I didn't want to spend a lot of time in front of the stove.  When it looked right, I popped it into hot jars, put new lids (always new lids) and finger tightened the rings down.  Then they go into the hot water bath canner for 10 minutes, once it starts to boil again.   I set a timer, so I have an audible reminder to take the jars out of the canner.   I lift them out of the water bath, and set the jars on the counter to cool.    I know every one who cans jars of anything, waits and listens for the pings that say the vaccuum seal is secure and all is good  with this batch.   They all pinged.   I opened a jar, as there wasn't any left for tasting, after the jars were filled.  It's good - not overly sweet and very blackberryish.   Yum..

I'm still finding spatters of blackberry pulp around the kitchen, in places it shouldn't be; the stove backsplash, counters, cupboard doors.  It was a messy but delicious job.    I've made apricot and blackberry jam.   I was trying to decide between plum or cherry for my final batch of the year.  Both of those rank very high for flavour.  I'd better decide soon as the blue plums won't be available for much longer.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Back after Camera difficulties

I had horrible issues with my camera.   It would only take dark, under exposed photos.  It was horrid and it was frustrating because I can't afford a new camera and it's likely not worth repairing this one as it's pretty old.    I ignored it for a while.  Today, I took it out again, fussed with a few things, still no luck.  Then I tried it with the flash -  worked perfectly... without the flash, too dark.   It turned out, it was a stupid dial that I was moving by accident.    Sheesh... talk about operator error of the stupidist kind!   As okay for photos as my phone camera is, it's not really good enough for a lot of what I like or at least usually need to photograph.
This is the almost finished - it's now completely done - traditionally hooked rug that I made with my handspun, hand-dyed yarn.    I'm really happy with it.  I learned a lot, and for a learning project, I think it turned out quite nicely.   Some areas are over packed, and learning how narrow lines work was interesting.   I was going to put a border on it.  While I started it, I wasn't sure I had enough yarn in the colours I wanted, and since these colours were one offs, using up old dyes, I opted for the smaller rug, to be certain of having enough yarn.

Before we left on holidays, I started this shawl.  I knitted a few rows in the car and hotels each night on the way down.   I knitted some while we were in Nova Scotia and then on the way home, despite my issues with motion sickness, it was a godsend.   It started to rain the moment we hit the New Brunswick/Quebec border and was scary, torrential downpours until just outside of Montreal.   I got a lot of knitting done in those hours.   I wasn't driving ;)

It's a simple shawl- Danish/Icelandic style wrap shawl in garter stitch.   Perfect for keeping the hands busy without a lot of though.    I just finished it a couple of days ago.  The thing is huge.   It's warm and cuddly though. 

 I had some scraps of handwoven wool fabrics that I ran though the washer to full up.  They fulled up more quickly than I'd expected and more than I'd wanted.  I set them aside until a couple of days ago.   I dyed them up in yellows and oranges.  The greens were blue fabrics to start with.    I've started making some proddy hooked sunflowers.   I wish I'd dyed more yellow fabric though.   It makes for pretty flowers.   The centres should be larger, but I'm using scraps of linen hooking fabric up and they are only about 4 inches wide, so this is about it for flower size for these ones.

Here is a photo of a sunflower from my garden for comparison.

I've been working on a rug warp.   I dyed it to get the colour I wanted because I'd bought a whole whack of natural coloured 4/8 cotton a couple of years ago.   Now I need to wind 22 more threads of the white stripes, because I managed to miscount the first time.    It's an easy threading project though as it's only 27 inches wide and there are only 2 rugs to weave in this warp.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Adventures in Rug Hooking

 This is the new pattern I've drawn up for a hooked rug.   I saw pictures of several antique rugs using a similar basket weave design, though many of the rugs were quite large, mine is sized for a mat.    I had some bristol board marked with a grid, and just used a straight edge to draw out a pattern in a scale which looked suitable for the rug size.    I had linen rug hooking backing for this project. I didn't however, have any red dot or any other tracing type material for drawing the pattern on the linen.  I'd cut out both pattern pieces, and was going to trace them onto the backing.  It turns out, I didn't need it.  The backing is quite an even weave.  All I had to do was follow the lines of the fabric with my felt tipped marker, checking the sizes with my pattern pieces.   I spent way more time trying to figure out how to do this, than the actual time needed to draw out the pattern this way.   Once I realized that I didn't need a straight edge or pattern, it just seemed to happen in no time at all.
Strips of wool for hooking however, are taking forever!   First I had to hunt down fabrics.   There was no suitable wool available in local shops.   I had some in my stash, which I raided.  I had lengths for tunics but not enough for 1860 skirts, so not needing a new wool tunic, I took a half yard from each length.   I had some scraps too.  I also found a couple of short wool skirts and 2 wool mens jackets in the thrift stores.   Men's jackets are a bit expensive and have a lot of waste, as only the sleeves and parts of the front are useful, but they have a good range of patterns and fabric weight compared to the skirts.   I wasn't able to find any old, old skirts, which would have been longer and slightly heavier.  But since everything needs to be felted up anyway, even the lighter weight skirts were usable.  

I wanted to use a #6 cut, but that is 3/32 in.   I don't have a cutter and the rug hooking guild doesn't meet in the summer, so I've resorted to using a rotary cutter.   I tried measuring it out, ended up with 1/4 inch, which is about an 8 cut, but most of it is slightly wider because the wool seemed to spread under the ruler.  In the end, I am just eyeballing it and my cuts are closer to the size I want.

It takes approximately  4 times the amount of yardage as the area of the space you need to fill.   It feels like I've been cutting wool strips for days, but I think I have days more cutting to do.  I figure that right now I've only got enough strips to fill about 1/4 of the rug.    I can see why people hook with yarn rather than wool strips.    One snip on a skein and you've tons of yardage cut.

I'm using this rug as a demo project for when I'm at Westfield.  I think it will be an easy project to pick up and put down without worrying about mistakes.  There isn't any shading, difficult bits to hook so showing people how it's done, will be easy.  The plus is that when it's hooked, every rug I've seen was pretty impressive looking.

Just a warning, I found some fabrics in the wool department at a local store, but they don't full up or felt and I'm pretty sure they are not natural, or at least a crazy blend.   I also found out that manufactures can label their wool as 100%, but it can have 10% of other fibres in it.   This really affects the way it felts up or doesn't felt  when you wash it.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Singing the Blues

 I started the Japanese Indigo seeds in February, in hopes of getting some seed.  I planted it in the garden a bit early, putting it under plastic cloches from the dollar store.   I planted a couple of plants without the cloches to see what difference they really made.   The Indigo plants under the cloches were definitely happier, with more growth, larger, and noticeably more lush.   This enabled me to do a small dye vat the other day.   I cut 550 g of leaves and stems.   I took some of the leaves from the stems, but I'm not horribly careful about it.  It's a lot of extra work and I don't think it makes a lot of difference.

I set up a double boiler system with my dye pots, putting some water in the larger one and then setting the smaller one inside it.   This makes it much easier to keep the Indigo leaves from getting to hot.    I put the leaves in the pot and filled it with lukewarm water.   I use a candy thermometer to keep an eye of the temperature.   It needs to cook for about 2 hours, getting up to about 160° F, and no higher than 180° F.

Every once in a while, I stir and squish the leaves  to make sure every one of them gets time covered in the hot water.    It's also important to keep an eye on the water level in the larger pot, to make sure the water level doesn't drop too low.

When the temperature gets warm enough and is there for a bit, the leaves start to look a bit wilted and a scum forms on the top.   This is a good thing as you know the pigment is being released.  The scum is a brownish colour, sometimes with a bit of blue or green in it.

When the 2 hours of cooking time is up, it's time to drain the leaves into another pot.   Using rubber gloves, squeeze the hot leaves to get as much of the brown liquid as possible.  They are really hot, so I take very small handfuls, which are easier to squeeze out anyway.    The remaining leaves can be boiled up for a second colour, but I`ve only ever done that with Woad leaves.  Because the Japanese Indigo has so much more pigment, I`m usually ready to clean up when I`m done with dyeing blue.

Anyway, take the brown liquid and add some soda ash or baking soda.  You can also use ammonia, but it smells.  Baking soda works just fine.   Then you need to aerate the liquid by either pouring it back and forth between two buckets, or I use a dedicated stick blender.  It`s permanently dyed blue, so easy to know it`s not for blending foods.

When I`ve aerated the liquid from Woad plants, I usually get little specs of dark blue sitting on top of the foam.  With the Japanese Indigo, the foam often just goes a pale blue, greenish colour.

The final step is to add a reducing agent.  I use Thiourea Dioxide (Thiox).   It`s neat to watch the foam break down and disappear almost immediately after adding the chemical.  You can use spectralite as well, but thiox is available more readily around here.

You need to let the vat sit for a while while the air is worked out of the vat.  A metallic looking scum will form on the top and the vat will turn green or greenish brown when ready.

I had put some fibre in a tub to soak part way through the initial heating time, so it had been soaking for over an hour.   I put it in the vat, let it sit for a few minutes and then pulled it out, carefully squeezing out the excess liquid near water line, just as the fibre came out of the dye.  This supposedly helps eliminate excess oxygen getting into the vat.  

It comes out green and as the air hits it, it starts to turn blue.   If you want darker colours, you need to use multiple dips with airing time in between each dip.

Eventually, I ran out of fibre and the vat was giving lighter blues, taking several dips to get to where I wanted the colour.    Indigo doesn`t need a mordant.  Although it is a little bit of a fussy process, it`s fairly simple if you follow the steps put out in most of the natural dyeing books.  I like Rita Buchannans  A Dyer`s Garden.   Look at the pretty blues!

Friday, 12 July 2019

Up, Up and Away!

On our way home from Nova Scotia, when we stopped for gas, we saw this happening in the field beside the gas station. I grabbed the camera and left Al to fill up and find me in the crowd of people who had stopped to watch.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Summer Holidays!

 We packed up our cute little car and headed east.   We'd considered flying out but as this was really a bit of a last minute plan, it wasn't affordable, so we added a couple of extra days for driving time.  It was stupid early when we left, but it was still hot and sticky.   It was a hard first day, when we drove all the way to Edmunston, New Brunswick.   Lots of highways, and since it was the Canada Day weekend, lots of traffic, although it turns out that there was more coming home.   However, we were very thankful to finally arrive at our motel that night.

We got to Halifax the next afternoon,where we plunked down for almost a week, using it as our home base.  It was a good location for where we'd planned out trips, it wasn't so good for evening explorations by foot, as it was in an industrial park at the edge of the city.   Next time, we'll either take the tent and camp, or find a small motel in a rural setting.

When we arrived it was quite cool in comparision to the temperatures we'd left.   Plus, the first day there it rained.  I was so thankful that my fall/spring jacket was in the car.  I'd probably dragged it out with me one day, when the weather was unpredictable,not needed it and forgotten it for weeks.   However that day, it was brilliant to have as I stayed both warm and dry.

Looking over a field at Ross Farm
We started our Canada Day at Ross Farm, in New Ross, an open air heritage farm museum.  It was green and lush.   There were a number of buildings including the original farm house and barn.   We were early and there were few people there yet, so the first couple of interpreters we had were spectacular.   We had an amazing conversation with the gentleman who was in the barn and the man driving the matched pair of Canadian horses knew so much about both the breed of horses, area farming and the Ross farm itself.  The cooper was extremely knowledgeable about barrel making and the barrel making industry at that time.   It made for a fabulous morning!   We headed back to the hotel, and took the ferry from Dartmouth to Halifax, wandered around a bit, decided not to stay for fireworks and instead, went to dinner and had an early night!
Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

The next morning was the Lighthouse Route and Peggy's Cove.   We'd been warned that while Peggy's Cove was spectacular, it was often disappointing because of the crowds.   We were fairly early and people were just starting to arrive.   If I were to do this again, I'd head out even earlier, or go later.   It was however, not disappointing in the least.  The scenery was incredible and so different than what we'd seen the day before.  The area is rugged and set on a huge outcropping of granite rock.   You can see out over a huge area and it is spectacularly beautiful.

Annapolis Valley Look Off
We took a day to head out to the Annapolis Valley and went to the Look Off.  You can see right across the valley to the Bay of Fundy.  We'd hoped to see the Tidal Bore but our timing and the tide's timing didn't match up in any way and it wasn't really feasible to get there for the tide times.   Oh well, next time.

Mahone Bay
It was an amazing trip.  Highlights included the Rug Hooking Museum, which we found by accident, and which had an absolutely phenomenal display of both antique and modern hooked rugs, and the friendliest people working there.   The scenery everywhere was spectacular and so different from one area to another.  Lunenburg was the prettiest town, so colourful and unique.  Mahone Bay was picturesque in a more modern touristy way, but still pretty with lots of little boutiques and shops.

Scenery from Swissair 111 memorial
The scenery everywhere was amazing.  After the cool Canada Day, the weather warmed up to comfortable temperatures and by the end of the week, it was crazy hot.   We actually abandoned our walking tour of Halifax half-way through, went to the motel, changed into our swimsuits and hit one of the beaches where we paddled in the Atlantic Ocean.

I will say for sure that I didn't get to stay long enough.  It may be the only time that I've ever said that, as I'm usually quite happy to head home.  We did take an extra day to get home, which made the trip much less exhausting.  While I was happy to get home, it was definitely too short a trip!  I'd happily go back again. 

Friday, 28 June 2019

Westfield Bake Oven Day

Last Saturday we had a cooking day at Westfield, where we worked with the cookstove in the Blacksmith house and the Bake Oven.  We had a variety of recipes which were chosen from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management and Mrs. Bradley's Housekeeper's Guide.   All the recipes had a bit of prep work which required the cookstove, and then two or three, which turned into four recipes, were baked in the bake oven.

From Mrs. Beeton's, we used the recipes for Beef Cake, Lemon Cheesecakes and Sausage rolls.   Mrs. Bradley's supplied the recipes for Cream Tea Cakes and Strawberry Jam.  As a last minute addition, Lisa whipped up a batch of soda bread.

Most of the recipes looked pretty straight forward, however the Beef Cake recipe, used pre-cooked meat and only egg as a binder.   We had to fudge around with the number of eggs, since the Westfield chickens are still giving tiny pullet eggs.  It didn't really hold together as nicely as it could have or would have with something else added to help it bind.  It was however delicious.

The Lemon Cheesecakes was actually one of the no cheese, cheesecakes, using lemon curd as a filling.  The lemon curd was quite delicious, but I didn't get more than a small taste as it was contaminated with wheat before I could get my spoon into it.  The Cheese cakes baked up perfectly though.

The sausage rolls worked out perfectly.   I didn't get to taste the sausage, but I'm told by reliable sources that it was absolutely delicious.

We baked one pan of cheese cakes in the cookstove oven and the rest in the bake oven.  The bake oven was hotter, so the puff pastry puffed up better, but they were all nicely cooked.

It was in all, a successful and very delicious morning at Westfield Heritage Village.