Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A Blue Afternoon

It was a little frustrating yesterday. I'd gone to town for a few supplies and totally forgotten the most important one, which was Rit Colour Remover so I could do an indigo dye vat. Normally I have an extra packet or two in my mordant box, just for those "gotta dye something blue" emergencies, so I wasn't too worried. I am generally in the practice of replacing the packet before I use it, so as not to ever run out. Of course, I didn't do it last time. What I had in my box was a half packet of clumpy Dye remover and an ancient little box of dye remover from a different company that I've not seen product from in years. I decided to work up a vat anyway, knowing that there was a good chance it would fail. I was desperate for blue yesterday, what can I say? My big jug of lye (sodium hydroxide) was in the garage and I didn't feel like climbing over the old stove, lawnmowers etc to get to the appropriate bin, so I used soda ash (sodium carbonate) for the starter compound. It worked a treat and somewhat less dangerous too boot!
The ancient colour remover box did nothing - no reducing what so ever and after 45 minutes of waiting around, I tossed in the clumpy Rit. The indigo dye vat started to reduce almost immediately, although after the required waiting time, it wasn't fully reduced - obviously not enough colour remover or it was too old - but I used it anyway. It worked acceptably and I was pretty happy. Seeing the green to blue change when the dyed item hits the air is always exciting to watch. It was a very small vat, so I don't imagine that much indigo was wasted in the whole scheme of things, regardless. The greens are the overdyed yellows from Dyer's Greenweed, done a couple of weeks ago. Some are embroidery threads and the rest are for a future weaving project. It is good to dye things blue!

It dawned on me while I was spinning the grey wool for the embroidery thread project, that if I did a bit more, I could use that as a base for the blue as easily as the white, which I inadvertently tossed into the yellow vat. I ended up with 4 skeins of the grey, so 2 went into the indigo vat. It was a good idea which worked exactly as I'd hoped. The blue over grey skeins are the blue threads sandwiched between the green in the photo above. Obligatory dime on grey threads for size comparison.

On Fanny is a new project - a rather pushing the boundaries type project for me. I'm making a simple tencel scarf. A long scarf, using a variation of M's and O's - Primitive Linen - from Marguerite Porter Davidson's A Handweaver's Pattern Book. Tencel is a type of rayon. It's slippery, unlike wool, cotton or linen. It was a bugger to get just tied on the front beam as the knots kept slipping. I've found it way too easy to overbeat it without trying. If I were to redo this project, I might change up the threading abit, but I'm pretty happy with the assymetrical look. I may not have used black for the weft though as it makes the scarf quite dark. Using the red or the purple would have highlighted either of those colours better. Still, it's quite pretty and an interesting project. I'm contemplating getting some undyed tencel and dyeing up a painted warp for a shawl or another scarf. Just contemplating right now though.. there are several wool weaving projects in the wings before another modern tencel one :)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Mushroom Pie

As requested...

Mushroom Pie
makes 1 9 1/2 in - 10 inch pie

1 single pie crust
700 gms button mushrooms ( about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 tbsn oil
1 cup grated cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
pepper to taste
2 tbsn plain bread crumbs

Parboil the mushrooms. Drain well. Mix in the oil, cheese, spices and bread crumbs. Dump mixture into the pie shell. Bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes or until crust is done.


Notes -
* You can saute the mushrooms but I found they release more liquid requiring more breadcrumbs than when I boiled them. It only takes a minute or so in boiling water.
* Next time I'm going to substitute the ginger with Thyme.
* I used Old Cheddar cheese but I imagine that many other cheeses would work. I'm thinking brie would be awesome.
* My son thinks that spinach would be a good addition as well.

The recipe is based on one from Le Menagier de Paris, found on the Gode Cookery website.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Bits and Pieces

I totally planned way too much for the weekend. It was the Arts & Science Fair for the local SCA group. I had wanted to do a fibre arts display with some demos and hands on activities. Then one of the food vendors backed out, leaving the Pie Stall empty. It was only a few weeks before the event, so I jumped in. However, it left me working out recipes for medieval pies and experimenting on my family. One night when I served Mushroom and cheese pie, my middle son asked me "why had I been holding out on them and hadn't made this particular pie before"? I figured that one was a good one. In all, I made 8 pies. The tortieres were cut into 8ths but the rest were in 6ths. That was 64 servings, which sold out in much less than 2 hours and meant that half the people attending had pie for lunch!

I did get the borrowed table loom dressed. It was there for display as I was going to let people try it, but I never did get around to it as I had to judge a bunch of things and had a bunch of meetings as well. The weave structure is a simple 2/2 twill. I'm using handspun bits and pieces that I regarded as "junk yarn" as there wasn't really enough of it for any real project and it is some of my much earlier spinning, so a tad uneven. It is dyed with Brazilwood and Cochineal. The Brazilwood will fade as the scarf gets used as it doesn't hold it's colour as well. It was spun pretty much in a woolen technique and I'm pretty sure this was all spindle spun as well. Because the yarn is fairly stretchy, I'm beating quite gently.

I also worked up a bit of bobbin lace. I used to do this a bunch of years ago but it has been packed away for a long while. It took me a few minutes to jog the memories but once I started, it was all good. Unfortunately I found that a) I stupidly used black thread so it's rediculously difficult to see and b) I was getting horrible stiff working away at it. It is a slow and somewhat tedious activity and I have to find a better way to position myself if I'm going to finish it.

Here I am in the new kirtle. I think it looks quite out of a Brughel painting. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to do some redesigning of the pattern. I know it seems horribly picky, but that look is about 30 years later than I was after! It was comfortable though and I had lots of really nice comments about it, which was very flattering. The pattern will need a little bit of tweaking to make it perfect.

Other than that, I repotted a bunch of plants, including potting up a spider plant which was a housewarming gift. Once it roots in the front window, I have the perfect place for it. I unpacked a box of novels not long ago. The whole box was just one series of mainly trilogies. I picked one up last week and I shouldn't have. I'm now currently re-reading the whole series and am on book 7. That is what is really cutting into my time. All in all though, it was a really good week and it felt productive!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Projects, new and old.

A few days ago I harvested the radishes I'd planted shortly after we moved into this house. It turns out that these radishes are 60 + day radishes and not the 30 day radishes I'd presumed them to be. I'm guessing because of the wet, grey weather, some snow, they never seemed to really start to grow. I did finally get to harvest these few after only 2.5 months in the ground. They tasted fine, but were more than a tad woody in texture. Not really worth eating.

The kirtle is done! Totally finished, except that I can't find a lace to match the dress. Right now I've a dark blue one in there, taken from another dress. I think I might have a yellow lace someplace as well. Any opinions as to which one would look better? The apron took much longer to make than I'd anticipated. That was mainly because there was a lot of handsewing on it. The hemming and the sewing together of the straps, since I really didn't feel like trying to turn a tube on each end of the middle bit. Of course I ended up doing teeny stitches as they looked "right". Do you know that teeny, tiny stitches take forever to do?

I also finished a new coif and flat cap. I looked everywhere and couldn't figure out where I'd packed the old ones. I chose to do a different style this time and it seems to look fine, fitting into the Henrican 1530-40's time period. Hubby thinks it looks funny to put the flat cap on top of the coif, but all the illustrations I could find suggest that they were worn that way. Thankfully though, I did also find the two partlets my girlfriend gave me for a gift a couple of Christmas' ago. They are awesome and so pretty . I get my choice of colours depending on my whim in the morning. I also found my old ratty sleeves. If I have time I'll make a new set, but I'm not counting on it. Right now I'm trying to finish up a new chemise, which I think is more important. I'm pretty happy that I'm back being excited about late period costuming. It's been a while with projects and materials languishing in boxes and bins. Luckily I seem to be on a roll now. Next stop - the gold and yellow brocade for a new court gown. Even better is the fact that the brocade was $3 a metre and the lining - a light blue taffeta was only $1 a metre. Score on both accounts!

I finished spinning up some dark brown Coopworth for the embroidery wool project. The obligatory coin for size reference. These are two plies. The yellow skeins are dry and look fine. I do wonder what was going through my itty bitty brain that day when I tossed the skeins into the pot. I need 4 skeins of yellow - two for yellow and two for green. I not only left no white un-mordanted but I tossed in the skeins to be dyed blue in the yellow pot as well. Now I need to spin up 4 more skeins and of course I'm out of that particular wool roving. Some days...
I am finding that it takes much longer to spin a tightly twisted fine yarn that something even just a little fatter and fluffier. This will be good yarn though. Somedays though you just feel a bit daunted by the fact that you've been spinning wool for an hour and you have to really check the bobbin carefully to see what sort of progress you've made. On the other hand, I don't need to actually fill a bobbin to get the amount of yardage that I need.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Taking Stock of Things...

It sort of feels like I got nothing done over the past few days, but I think I actually did.

I finished weaving off the towels on Fanny. They came off at 9 pm so I couldn't wet finish them until the next day. I tossed them in the washer and dryer, then divided them up and actually started hemming them. I am notoriously bad at getting the tea towels hemmed - probably why I only have one or two and I end up giving most of them away. If I give them away, I have to hem them first! They washed up nicely, almost too nice and drapey. Enough to make me think that I had a bit of 10/2 cotton in there so that the sett might have been a tad loose. They are nice though. Two have new homes. One I gave away hemmed and the other I gave away unhemmed. I only felt a little bad about that.. no I didn't feel badly about giving her an unhemmed towel 'cause she enjoys hand sewing.

I finished making a Christmas ornament in a Crazy Quilt style. It's been a long while since I'd done any and I'd forgotten how much I'd enjoyed doing that fussy embroidery in the past. This one I kept really simple as I didn't want to overdo it on the first project in over 5 years. It is pretty easy to go overboard with fancy embroidery. I thought about the difference between embroidery with wool and this type of embroidery and figure it must be the Ooooh Shiney! factor. I think perhaps the size and simplicity made it easier to get right to finishing it as well.

I went to Ealdormere Crown Tourney. Thankfully I was able to car pool with friends so it made it a much nicer trip. I had to get to their house early though as it was a 2 hour drive from there. It was dark when I left for the 45 minute drive to their house. It was also Halloween. The backroads are pretty much deserted that time of the morning and did I mention it was still dark? It started to rain and the wind picked up. The leaves spiraled across the road and whipped around. The bare trees and their shadows seemed to loom in my headlights which seemed to be inadequate to cut through the darkness. An animal half the size of a large deer, but which ran more like a dog slunk across the road and into the ditch. My imagination started to run rampant. I put on the radio - CBC - 'cause early morning weekends they have cheerful program hosts with lots of chatter. What was the first thing I heard? "nope, I'm not really into Slasher and Chop 'em up horror movies, I prefer the Paranormal and Psychological Thrillers!" Like that was what I wanted to hear right then. It didn't take me nearly as long to get into town as I thought it would, hehehe.

Sunday we did more leaf collecting. My goal was to have one of the new raised beds ready this fall, but it seems we have far more leaves than I'd estimated. Both raised beds have their compost base beginnings done. The first one will be a tad better as there are layers of green and brown while the second one is mainly brown. I might have to add a bit of soil or purchased hummus in the spring, but still I've just doubled that growing space so I'm pretty happy about that. It's does require some physical labour to get it done though, using a mulching push mower with a bagger. Go Me!... because we have a really big yard!

Dyer's Greenweed is an easy to use and seemingly forgiving dye. I started the dye bath last week by cooking up the leaves and stems that I'd harvested both at Earendel Farm and from the two bushes I transplanted when we moved. I wasn't able to use it so left the leaves in the pot and only managed to heat them up a time or two again until yesterday. I strained out the leaves and then realized I'd not yet mordanted any wool, so out came a second pot and I mordanted spun wool skeins that I had. One for a friend, the embroidery wools which need to be dyed yellow and then some of those in turn green. I forgot to leave some to dye blue, so will have to spin up a few more. Takes forever to spin that thin! I left the ones out to dye red though so at least I don't have to make that many more.

Once I'm finished the dyeing, it will be back to leaf mulching duty. My sunshine just disappeared. I really hope it doesn't rain.