December 29, 2013

I LOVE, Love, love Coloured Glass

I found this pretty little hobnail hurricane lamp while I was shopping for my daughter's present.  I found her a lovely lamp, in fully useable condition and very pretty.  Hiding in a corner was this little hobnail lamp.  It's a good bit smaller than most of my other hurricane lamps but I'd never seen that hobnail pattern on the base before.  I thought it would hold just a little bit of kerosene, but the whole base is hollow, so it holds almost a full bottle.  It's fully functional as well, but not as pretty as the restored one I bought my daughter.  However, this one was a whole $14, so I couldn't leave it at the shop.  Cheap and in great condition and did I mention really cheap?  Yep, it had to come home with me.  I ended up using it for a few minutes on the morning of the ice storm, when it was early morning and still dark outside.

I found this ruby red beauty under our Christmas tree and I know it was a very good price too.  I'm pretty sure it's not an original, although it's obviously been well used.  There was another couple of similar red lamps that day, but neither with the milk glass shade and one was the same price and the other 3 times as much, so it was a no-brainer for this one to come home with us as well.  However, it had to sit in a box in my closet for well over a month.  I won't tell you how hard I had to work at forgetting it was there.  Regardless of whether it is an original or just an older reproduction, it's really well made and probably the only way I'd be able to afford a coloured glass hurricane lamp.  Most of the one's I fall in love with, the cobalt, greens, purples or reds, all cost in the $200 - $400, plus range. 

But sometimes cobalt glass shows up unexpectedly.  Two cobalt glass tumblers with a grape and vine pattern were a huge surprise.  I'd seen these, loved them but couldn't justify purchasing  the red lamp, the cobalt blue tumblers and the matching blue glass pitcher.   My sweetie snuck back to the shop at a later date and while the matching pitcher had already been sold, the two tumblers were still there.   Very pretty and since the little purple pressed glass bottle I'd been eyeing had been sold, right under my nose, these were a lovely surprise.   I'm hoping they're not horribly old because I am using them regularly every once in a while.

December 24, 2013


a few moments of glorious sunshine washing out the photo
  It was a bit of non-stop weaving yesterday.  Normally I like to take breaks every 20 -30 minutes so that I can stretch, move and get  cup of tea.  Not doing that made it feel like a bit of a marathon, but I figured that was the only way to get it done.   Joining the two halves takes a long time.  It felt like almost as long to run that centre thread along each alternating pick took the same length of time as it did to weave.  Like I said it felt like that, although I'm certain it was not nearly that long.  Urgency as well as fatigue and a desire to finally be done just made each minute feel like it was ticking by at half speed. 
Last night at 9 pm, I was wet finishing the final blanket! I spread it out to dry on my drying rack. This morning, I couldn't tell if it was cold or still slightly damp so I draped it off the back of my spinning chair, in front of the woodstove for a bit.  In no time it was toasty warm and definitely dry.

  That is a nice looking lot of blankets, if I do say so myself.  I hemmed the 3 larger ones.  I was going to fringe the final one, but in my rush, totally forgot to leave the fringe space on the warp,  between the two halves.  Oh well, it's faster to hem than fringe anyway!

Now I'm trying to catch up with my holiday baking and cooking which I let slide due to weaving those blankets. I got the cranberry sauce made this morning, the Christmas cake done last week.  Now for the gingerbread and pumpkin pies.  That will be it for this year though.

I reminded myself why I don't turn heels when I'm tired.  After finishing the heelflap at 10 pm, I decided to whip through the heel turn.. Nope, I got to frog it before I remembered my own advice.  I did get it turned this morning with my morning tea.  It's a plain vanilla sock, but the colours are soft and pretty.  Because of the simple pattern though, it's flying off the needles.  Not a bad thing in the winter and functional socks are a wardrobe staple.

December 22, 2013

We were lucky!

The storm blew through our area.  The rain saturated the snow.  The frozen ground held the water and then the ice started forming.  We've lots of branches down in the yarn and one sad pine tree which lost a good many thick branches.  Luckily it's over by the garden and not over our roof!  There are inches of water under the snow though, threatening to flood the chicken coop as there is no place for it to run off right now.  The ground is frozen and there is too much snow for the water to just run off.

We had power this morning for a few minutes and then, because it was still dark out, we were scrambling for the wind up LED lamp and the kerosine lamps.  I keep at least 2 of them ready to go at all times.  It does suck though that it's still so dark in the mornings.    It's warm enough outside  that the woodstove kept the house cozy, despite not having the fan on.   The menfolk weren't so lucky though.  With all the rain, the sump pump alarm came on.  Two of them hauled buckets of water and when it was empty, they took a break and 10 minutes later, the alarm would come on again.  They spent  6 + hours bailing for 15 minutes and getting a 10 minute break.  Then the time before the alarm started squealing got shorter and shorter.  At 4 minutes between bailing and the alarm, a mad dash was made to town, in hopes that a store was open, selling a handpump.  By the time DH got home, the sump hole was filling faster than my son could bail.  Of course by the time the pump was almost assembled, the electricity came back on and both my guys could take a well needed break.  The new pump is installed for next time!  Because we all know that living in rural Ontario, there will indeed be a next time. 

The downside for me was I've a makeshift bobbin winder, made from an electric drill.  Not even a battery operated one, but the kind you have to plug in.  Since I'd stopped weaving last night at about 9:15 pm, I decided to wait to refill the bobbins until this morning.  The drill is noisy and the guys were listening to the hockey game on the radio.  Bad decision as it meant I couldn't weave all morning unless I wanted to wind bobbins by hand.  I've tried that before and it's rather ineffective, not to mention really slow.

I'll go for it this evening though.  I have just under half the blanket left to weave and surely that shouldn't take more than a couple of hours.  I've not timed myself on this project, so I've no idea how long it's taking me.  That also is a silly idea.  I should have kept at least a cursory track of time, so I'd know how I was doing when it came down to the really last minute like this.

December 19, 2013

Blanket number 3 is off the loom, joined and hemmed.  I wet finished it in the washer like the others.  However, I was a little looser in my picks per inch, so it got a few more minutes in the washer to allow it to full up a bit more than the others.  This has made it a very soft and cuddly blanket.  The red has a bit more brown in it than the photo shoes and the pink is really more blue, fuchsia rather than just pink.  The colours work together quite nicely in real life.   The 4th blanket warp is half wound off.  I was going to shake things up and change up the pattern.  Then I realized the date.  There is no time to change the weave structure.  That warp needs to be wound off, the loom dressed and ready to go by tomorrow morning, if I want any hope at all of getting blanket number 4 under the tree in time.

Yesterday I had the joy of going to the dentist.  While I waited for the freezing to take hold, I started a new sock.  When they had to go back in to freeze it a second time, I knit some more.  By the 3rd attempt, I had a good start on my sock.  The 4th shot worked, but it was in the wrong place for the place they needed to work on.  So while my tooth didn't get any work done on it, my sock sure did. 

Sock yarn is misfit Kroy from the bargain bin. 
 It's lighter weight than normal Kroy.  It's a joy to work with and I sure wish all Kroy was this thin and nice to work with.  Usually it's much too thick for my liking.  Best yet, it was really, really on sale, for cheap!  

The freezing was finally coming out of my lower jaw, when my dh mentioned that he wondered what he could give his guys at work for Christmas.  Last year I wove scarves for him to give as presents.  Then he added that they needed to be done by tonight.  Yep, come up with handmade Christmas gifts in 24 hours.  Finally he told me that he had thought perhaps Dryer Balls would be a good gift.  Phew, I could do that.  So last night I wound off 6 core balls and felted them.  I hunted down a bunch of suitable rovings for the outer wraps.  First thing this morning, I wrapped the 6 cores and put them through as wash and dry cycle.  I did laundry as well as there is no use wasting the water or power use.  I needed to make sure they were large enough and dry enough before wrapping.   However they are about the size of tennis balls or a tad larger, so they are good to go.  Right now they are in front of the woodstove, drying thoroughly.  The bonus to all this is that absolutely all the laundry is washed!

December 11, 2013

Done, started and OMG!

The Fall socks are done.  They are beautiful and fun!  I think the pattern is just perfect, though it did take a wee bit of concentration.  By the second sock I was memorizing the pattern, so that halfway through I just had to mark my spot on the pattern when I finished so that I could pick up next time without thinking about it.   The yarn is amazingly soft and cuddly.  Belfast Mini-Mills - you guys rock!

Next pair may actually be knee socks or over the knee socks.   I've been thinking about something to wear over leggings for wearing skirts in the winter.  But I also picked up a huge amount of Kroy at an amazing discount and they work up to be heavy duty, hard wearing and quick to knit socks and those are sometimes advantages for socks, when one is suddenly finding themselves heavily into level 4 homework.  No brainer, easy to knit socks for relaxation aren't a bad thing.

Blanket number 3 is on the loom.  The 4th colour, which I managed to leave out is a dark red.  I was testing two colours here, a green and a grey.  While the green makes a lighter, more fun blanket, it rather overtakes the other colours, so I'll go with the dark grey once again.  The weaving is pretty easy, but the finishing takes the time.   I'm still hopeful that I'll get all 4 done in the next 13 days. 

I've had this bisque ware sitting around for years.  The plates were an experiment in slab work before I had any idea what it really entailed.  Okay, I still don't really know, but I know more than I did.  The bowls are from the pottery day with the girls .   I kept the bowls even though my kiln wasn't hooked up. I packed and dragged them through a move and they sat mournfully on a shelf for years.  My friend Maureen's husband  is a potter.  He does amazing stuff, not much in the way of dishware now but art, with a capital A.  It's very sleek, modern and interesting work.  However, one days Maureen dragged me out to her studio.  I got to play on the potters wheel and they then took my assorted mongrel dishware, glazed and fired it for me. Actually, Maureen mixed the colour up for me right then and there.  It was an interesting process to watch her weigh and mix the bucket of glaze.  She showed me how and I got to wax the bottoms and dip the bowls.   It's a beautiful colour, like an I'm in love type of colour.  With a drizzle of white or grey, I could definitely see this colour as dishes for the table, if I could actually learn to throw that well.    Anyway, hubby even liked  them and he's much harder to please that way.

Happy days, even if it's cold, blustery and stupidly snowing :)

December 05, 2013

Easy Peasy Dryer Balls

One of my kids asked me if I could make some wool dryer balls.   They're supposed to be environmentally friendly, shortening drying time by 30% - 50% and eliminating the need for fabric softener.   I don't use fabric softener anyway, but they didn't look very hard and it's not like I don't have the sorts of materials they might use on hand.   A quick interweb search showed tons of tutorials and yep, easy peasy to make as long as you have the right wool on hand.   Acrylic and superwash won't felt and for wool dryer balls, you definitely need felting to happen.

From searching for the workability and durability of wool dryer balls, I found out that you can use either yarn, roving or batt type preparations.  There were a few warnings out there that yarn balls don't felt completely and can start unrolling after a few months, requiring rewinding and felting.  I decided on a yarn core with a roving outer layer.  The yarn would make it easier to get a solid core while the roving should add durability. 
I dug through a box of scrap yarn and roving.  I found lots of bits from my first experiments with natural dyes which would make perfect cores.   I've all sorts of roving which is either in bits too small to make anything with, slightly compacted from sitting waiting for it's turn in the spinning queue or just stuff I don't really feel like working with right now.

It really didn't take long to wind 8 core balls.  I tried to keep them fairly round, neat and remembered to tuck in the ends to keep them from unwinding before the first felting could take place.  I realized that I'd need a nylon stocking /pantyhose leg before I could continue.  I don't wear those things normally, so I actually had to run out and find some, which were on sale for $1 a pair.  The idea is to stuff them in the pantyhose leg and tie them off, in order to keep each one separate and facilitate felting while keeping the ball from both unwinding and keeping it round.    I just tossed this in with a regular laundry load, but you could use wet, soapy water and do each ball by hand as well.
Don't use wool yarn to tie off between the dryer balls or it could felt and make it hard to remove.  I used white, cotton, butcher string.  Crochet cotton would work just fine as would knotting the pantyhose between each ball.  The latter might require cutting them out and I'm too cheap to use the pantyhose leg just once though.

I tossed the whole kit and kaboodle into the dryer after washing and the cores were adequately stuck together to start winding roving.  It took more than I'd expected but I also made fairly large balls.  The smallest is a bit larger than a tennis ball.  I'd wrapped them with enough roving to make them a good bit larger than my smallest desired circumference as I wasn't sure how much shrinkage I'd actually get in the felting process.   It shrank more than I'd hoped but not as much as I'd expected, so it was all good on that front.  I did a little bit of needle felting where the roving ended and any place where there were rough or loose spots.  It only took a few pokes here and there to needle felt the outer roving securely down.  I don't know if it really was necessary but I'd rather spend the two extra minutes to make sure than have them unravel during the washing process, or while one of my kids is doing laundry.  I stuffed them back in the stocking, tied them off and tossed them in with another load of laundry. 

Now I have another batch of cores ready to go but am now waiting on more laundry to need washing!  Since the first batch worked out so well, I figure that it will be a useful pressie for several of my kids.

December 03, 2013

Blankets - seaming and finishing

 2 down and counting!

Finally, the second blanket is finished.  Because I wasn't going to fringe this blanket, I ran a zig zag stitch along each end of both halves to secure the weaving.  It keeps the whole thing from fraying before I get to the hemming.  

Seaming the two halves is a little finicky, but not difficult.   I simply run an extra warp thread though the weft loops, alternating between both selvedges.  I find a really blunt ended wool darning needle works best for this.  It makes a fairly unobtrusive seam line.

You can see it of course, but it doesn't stick out as the first thing you notice.  There is no ridge or edges to deal with.  If you get the tension of the seaming thread right, the drape of the blanket isn't affected either. 

I hem by hand, using a wool darning needle and whatever I used for the weft.  If I used multiple weft colours, I use whatever colour that was in the area of where my hem will be.

After hemming, I fill the washer with cold water, toss the blanket in and let it soak for a few minutes.  Then I turn the machine on and let it agitate for a couple of minutes too, checking regularly to make sure it just fulls nicely to be properly wet finished and not fulled/felted completely. 

The finished blanket turned out exactly as I'd hoped.   It's a gift but really, I'd be quite happy to keep it for myself.

November 25, 2013

Blankets, blankets, blankets

 Blanket 1 is off the loom.  Because my loom is only 36 inches wide,  I had to piece it.  I'm slightly off on the one blue block, but the rest are fine.  Leave it to me to do a checky or plaid pattern for my first big weaving project in a while, that had to be pieced at any rate. 
It took a while to twist those fringes.  Even with my handy little fringe twisting device, my fingers were a little roughed up from it but I guess it's an occupational hazard for fringed items.   I have to admit that fringes on a throw type blanket make it look nice.  I don't really like them for practicality though.  When you pull a fringed blanket up to your chin, the fringes get in the way and tickle your nose!  

I tossed it in the washer with cold water and agitated it on and off for a few minutes, checking every minute until it was perfect.  It took just a couple of minutes for the yarn to get clean, fuzz up, soften and fill in the weave structure.   It's soft, drapey and yummy.   If it hadn't been slated for a gift, I'd keep it myself.  

Same with blanket number 2 which is on the loom right now.  I love the wide bands of colours.  The weft is a dark grey.  If I had a lighter grey, it would have been my preference, but the dark grey does look really nice.  I'd forgotten that I'd switched the direction of the twill every colour change for the plaid, so the pattern on the wide stripes is interesting.  It doesn't detract from the look though, so I'm going to leave it.  I don't want to have to re-thread the heddles unless I get an virulent attack of inspiration. 

This blanket won't have fringes.  I'll just hem the ends for a clean and useful finish.  That change brought up a major problem with my math.  I forgot to remove the amount I'd allotted for fringes and when I subtracted the excess loom waste, I manged to wind on a longer warp than for the checky blanket.  I'm thinking I might have enough extra (about 3/4 yard or maybe more) to have a couple of matching pillows or a bag of some sort.  What was I thinking?

I'm not that fond of tying on warps but I'll have to admit that it's really fast and effective for multiples in large projects.  I wouldn't be comfortable about winding on more than one of these blankets at a time because they are pretty bulky and I'd worry about keeping my tension even with that much on the loom.   Since the piecing of the two halves, the fringe twisting and all the other finishing bits and pieces takes as long as it does to weave off the fabric, not having to re-thread heddles and re-sley the reed speeds up the process immensely. 

November 18, 2013

Spinning, threading and cleaning

I started spinning this Blue Faced Leicester sock yarn a while ago.  It was my "fun" project while starting my level 4 homework. I was spinning it on the Mazurka at spinning nights and demos.  However I suddenly had a need to free up bobbins.  This is a 3 ply, so I needed 3 bobbins plus one to ply to.  As of the last spinning night, I was on the 3rd bobbin so it was time to hurry the project along.  I spent the weekend spinning up the rest of the roving and found time to ply it last night. 

It's superwash and has some added nylon for strength.  It's 3 ply worsted and there are unfortunately only 275 yards of it, so I'll have to spin up a bit more for security.  I like my socks with longer cuffs.   I'd weighed and divided the rovings into equal portions before spinning.  It worked a treat as I had only 1 yard left on the second bobbin and only 3 leftover on the 3rd bobbin after plying.  Sometimes my scales are a little off and it doesn't work quite so well at making equal amounts of string on each bobbin with little waste.

I've got a new project on the loom - finally.  This is wool and was quite to wind the warp thanks to finally finding a place to mount my warping board on an unused wall.  A bunch of us have used this yarn in our guild so I was able to query a friend as to the correct sett.  However I'm going to resley and rethread the heddles.  I have a stupid 4 thread float which I don't like.  It's my own fault for not bothering with a draw down, as I usually do.   However this is a blanket and a float that long will just catch and be a nuisance.

My back up sewing machine has been making an awful squealing noise.  The last time I took it in to be serviced, the guy didn't even bother to look at it.  It had the same lint and the same problems that I'd asked to be fixed so I'm a little leary about some of the repair people out there.  Being so far out of warranty, I opened it up and found this huge wad of lint hidden on one of the gears.  I got it back together but it's still making noise.  It's coming from the gear/belt area though.  I am pretty sure I can change the belts but I'm not sure about changing the gear if that's what it needs.
 This old girl makes pretty decent button holes with a minimum of set up and fuss so I hope I can keep her going.  My other machines makes great stitches, but takes so much fussing to make a button hole that even a great button hole is not worth the effort when compared to the back up.

November 11, 2013

Small November projects

It's starting to feel like I'm making progress on this year's Fall socks.  For some reason I always find that if I actually spend a few minutes here and there actually knitting the socks, they get finished much more quickly than if they sit there in the project bag, ignored.   I love the pink and decided to do the toe in the opposite colour, just to tie the two together.  The blue one will have a pink toe.  Then they will definitely be a pair and not two lost socks finding their way together.

I've respun the cashmere.  I'll have to admit that the results are a bit better this time and I've kept it high enough that Kevin can't get to it.  I still have to wind the sample skeins required for homework and do all the calculations and measurements for the tags.  That's really the part I dislike the most.  I think it takes as much time do the math for count, % blends and even just filling out the darned labels with all the identifying info, like tpi, wpi, fibre, how it was prepped and spun, and what I would actually make with this yarn.   

On to Cotton.  I have always thought that I didn't like spinning cotton.  However all of a sudden, with this exercise, it seems that I don't mind it all that much.   I guess it's just practice coming together making it easier to spin it more efficiently and consistently, not that it's perfect by any means.

Projects on the go - the loom is about to be dressed with a couple of projects, blankets and scarves I think...
I'm also about to start on a new coat for wearing at the bake oven.  The costume department calls it a Sacque coat, but online info suggests that Paletot might be another name for it.  Regardless of the name, I have a nice bit of wool, which is really a tad too lightweight for a coat, but it's in the stash so I don't have to  purchase new yardage for the project.  It will make a nice coat if I line it properly.  It will be perfect for wearing at the bake oven in December.  Last winter I found wearing a cape just too awkward to be actually working in.  Sleeves will make a huge difference in being able to work and keep warm!

November 07, 2013

The Cat ate the Cashmere!

Kevin, looking cute despite being a holy terror.
It was a grey, cold, wet and windy day.  I had finally started my level 4 homework.  I spent the summer playing around with trying to spin Lopi type singles, practicing with cotton on both a takhli and the wheel and then pretending that I like to spin novelty yarns.

  Finally, I felt energetic enough to start my homework.  After the fiasco of the 3 ply spiral attempt, I set to spinning Cashmere.  My first assignment was 100% cashmere, which turned out nicely, despite my not really liking it much.  It's soft, fluffy and lovely, but not something I'd really use much of as it's way too expensive to use for weaving,  too expensive to make into mittens for the  wool sensitive menfolk around here and too frou frou for anything I'd use such a fine yarn for.  However I washed it up and it turned out even better than I expected.  I set it to dry.

100% Cashmere yarn with lots of Kevin chewed ends
Then Kevin decided he wanted to go outside.  He's still not putting weight on his hurt leg, despite the passing months, so he's not allowed outside yet.   Then he wanted to sit by the screen door to gawk outside, but it was, as above, cold, wet and windy; not a day conducive to leaving a drafty screen door as the only protection against the elements.  I shooed him away and shut the door.  Then Kevin wanted to play in the Icelandic fleece I was sorting and prepping to wash.  I had to pick him up and move him away.  Finally, he grabbed the prepared packets of sorted wool locks that I was ready to wash.  He started wrestling and rolling around with them.  I took them away and started to wash them.   Kevin wandered off sulking.  In a few minutes he came back, rubbed up against my legs and went off to take his morning nap.

When I went to set the packets of wool locks to dry, this is what I found.  The darned cat chewed up my 100% Cashmere yarn.   Don't tell me they don't have some sort of miserable thought processes which seek revenge or try to make a point.   I'm going to have to spin a whole new 100% cashmere skein.  I hope I have enough fibre left.

Polwarth/Cashmere yarn which is delicious.
I mixed up two blends with the Cashmere, one Merino and the other Polwarth.  The Merino turned out to be too long to really work as I'd hoped.  However today, I finished plying the Polwarth/ Cashmere blend, which I love.   It's soft, bouncy and yummy.  I've way more than I need for a sample, but not enough to really do anything with.   I'm keeping the details on how I spun it so that once I'm done with the rest of my Cashmere homework and have a bit of time, I might be able to spend a bit of time spinning up more.  It would make an awesome shawl.

October 31, 2013

Pumkin Sunday

Pumpkin Sunday was a lovely day.  I knew it was going to be cool and I would be outside, so I dressed appropriately, with lots of layers.   When I left home the weather was sunny and the sky was blue.  However, the closer I got to the museum, the skies became darker and drearier.   So much so, that I popped into the costume department and grabbed a cloak to ward against the chill which invaded when the sun was hiding behind the clouds.   Part way through the morning, it rained a miserable, cold rain.  All said the icky weather was less than half an hour and then we went between sun and cloud for the rest of the day.  Eventually I just tossed the cloak aside because I didn't need it when it was sunny and it was becoming too much work to put it on and take it off.

I was pretty lucky as well because people look after each other here.   I was loaned an umbrella, brought a cup of very interesting herbal tea which tasted very much of chocolate and was fed steaming hot potato soup for lunch.   I worked with a young lady who despite being only in grade 7, was interesting, personable and quickly picked up what we needed to do for the demos.  She jumped right in and helped out in a most welcome and useful fashion.   It made for an enjoyable afternoon.

We did a lot of baking, almost all of it pumpkin related.  Not only did I bring pumpkin foods to bake, but a friend did as well.   There were two different pumpkin pie recipes.  Mine was from Miss Beechers Domestic Receipt Book from 1850, which was my cook book choice of the day.   I'm not sure of the providence of the other pie recipe as someone else brought it for me to cook, along with a bread pudding stuffed in a pumpkin.   I made a pumpkin corn bread (Miss Beecher 1850) which disappeared pretty quickly as samples.  I also made a pumpkin yeast bread, based on the corn bread recipe which wasn't period at all, but wanted a contrast to the corn bread.    I tried my hand at a raised paste pie, using Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery Plain and Simple, 1740, Cheshire Pie recipe.  It's a pork and apple pie which is amazingly delicious. 

The recipes were pretty delicious.  The pumpkin corn bread was fairly plain, having no sweetener in it and it probably could have used a tad more salt.  If one were to add a couple of tablespoons of sugar or honey to it, the recipe would have been more appealing, although it was well liked. 

Miss. Beecher's Pumpkin Bread ( 1850)

Stew and strain some pumpkin, stiffen it with Indian meal, add salt and yeast and it makes a most excellent kind of bread.

1.5 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 - 2 cups pumpkin
Corn meal
2 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water

Mix sugar into warm water and stir until dissolved.  Proof yeast in water mixture for about 10 minutes or until it starts to bubble up nicely.
Stir yeast into pumpkin, adding salt.  Mix well.   Add corn meal until batter is stiffer than a cake batter but not as firm as a bread dough.  I think I used about 3 cups of corn meal.   The actual amounts will depend on how moist your pumpkin is.   Pour batter into greased pan.  Let rise for about 40 minutes.  Bake in a pre-heated oven, about 375° F, for about 35 minutes or until centre comes clean when tested with a toothpick and bounces back. (190° on a baking thermometer)

I'm guessing at the oven temp and time because the bake oven was actually 450° but cooling fairly quickly due to a breeze which had popped up unexpectedly.  I'd check after 20 minutes though.  I didn't bother to use a toothpick as just pressing lightly on the top of the cake and having it bounce back is pretty reliable.  I doubled the amount of salt I originally used.  If I were eating this with a stew or other savory dish, I'd not bother with a sweetener, but otherwise, I'd add 1/4 cup of sugar or honey.   If I were eating it with chili, I'd add a whole whack of diced jalapeno to it, whether it was period or not!

October 24, 2013

The Icelandic Fleece

Yep, woke up to snow this morning
All I can say is Wow!!!!!    So far this fleece is amazing.  I'll admit, I haven't tipped it out of the bag yet and examined the whole thing.  I
purchased it on examining a few pulled locks and the colour.  It's cold and wet outside so not really conducive to spreading out a fleece.  The two cats would go nuts if I unrolled the fleece inside.  Except for the scary part of the cellar, there really isn't a good place to unroll it in the house, since the laundry room is still under renovations.  (Nope, I'm not going into the scary part of the cellar, because did I mention... it's scary!)

I dug out my good old window screen for washing separate locks.  I put a small handful of locks in a lingerie bag and laid out a single layer of locks in 2 separate packets.  I washed them at the same time.  When dried, I realized that the handful washed in the lingerie bag had not only lost most of the lock structure but also looked like it was starting to felt up.  It pulled apart easily, but not something I wanted to risk with the rest of the fleece.   However, the single layers of separate locks were perfect. 

The fleece isn't overly full of lanolin, something I've found that can happen with pet sheep kept in perfect conditions.    Medium grade fleeces like Shetlands with more lanolin than a Merino fleece, are just a pain to wash, but that can easily happen with happy sheep.  So far this Icelandic fleece is also beautifully free of VM, with only a few pieces of easy to pick out large bits of straw.   I'm so looking forward to processing this pretty fleece.

Two types of locks on this Icelandic fleece
Right now though, I'm washing.   Every morning, I align a layer of locks each of my 4 bits of window screen, pin them together and wash them.  It takes 2 soapy soaks in hot water and 2 rinses to get them clean.  Then I lay them out and dry them.   I might pick up more window screening because at this rate, I'll still be cleaning Icelandic fleece next July.

So far I've found 2 types of locks.  The tight curls of the shorter locks and the longer curls with practically no curl.
Tog (long, dark fibres) and Thel (short, soft fibres) are separated

I pulled the Tog and Thel from some sample locks.  With a very quick and easy tug, the two separate, with no fuss or muss.   Oh they are nice.  The longer, darker Tog is definitely coarser, but not awful. The soft, pale Thel is gorgeous.  It is so soft and yummy.    If I had several fleeces to play with, I would seriously consider playing around with spinning the Tog and Thel separately for a strong Tog warp and a soft Thel weft, as suggested by some of the Greenland finds.  However, with only one fleece, I'm not sure how much fibre I'll have to play with,  once it's washed.

October 21, 2013

Fleece Festival and Finished Projects.

The Woodstock Fleece Festival has come and gone.  My guild puts together a booth, demos and offers a class every year.  This year, the class had a limit of 6, which was quickly filled and expanded to 18 spaces.  Phew, I was glad that I wasn't teaching that one, but rather was one of the demo crew for the day.  I sat at my wheel and spun for the entire morning, which is always fun. I enjoy answering questions about the technical aspects of how a wheel spins, how to actually spin and about spinning wheels in general.  This year I had lots of questions about the type of wheel I was spinning by a number of people who were interested in the Kromski brand.   Of course there is the inevitable shopping.  This year I pre-ordered most of what I wanted and allowed myself 1 or 2 impulse purchases, so kept the budget well in control.  The next day I realized I'd forgotten one of the impulse purchases that I'd wanted, so while I'm disappointed as missing this fall's issue of Jane Austen Knits, I don't mind having spent less money.

What I did get was a glorious Icelandic fleece from Willow Garden.  They had lovely fleeces and this
one seems to be fairly low in veg. matter and other contaminants and the varigated grey colour is spectacular.   The Tog or long coarser hair is very dark, almost black while the Thel or inner coat is so very soft and ranges from a light to medium grey.   It will be fun to work with, I'm certain of that.  There is also  Blue Faced Leicester sliver , some Merino/Cashmere blend rovings and some acid dyes.   Both cats decided that the Icelandic fleece was something to paw over and I had to hide it, at least until I get it washed up, nice and clean, not smelling quite so much of fresh sheep.

I finished up the chemise.  It was a quick project, only take a couple of hours to sew it up, including hand work.  It was really meant to be a wearable muslin so it wasn't made with expensive materials.  Good thing too as I don't really like it.   It misjudged the size so it's too large.  It's also too long, which if I liked wearing it and it fit, would be an easy fix.  Mainly, it has this weird, mandated by the pattern construction instructions, unfinished internal seam, which drove me buggy when sewing it up.  It's something that I've decided that I can't live with, so the chemise will become a nightgown and I'll find a better pattern.  No lace or tucks on the next chemise either.  It's just too much and unnecessary frou frou, for a garment meant to be used while working at the Bake oven.  

October 16, 2013

Victorian Undies and the coolest sewing tool

I've recently found myself in a position of needing new costume clothing as most of mine is now way too big.  As I'm working the Bake oven for 2 Sundays in a row upcoming and the weather is noticeably cooler, I decided to start with 1865ish stuff.   Since you need to build these costumes in layers, starting with the inside and working out, I am replacing all the Victorian undies first.

I drafted a new pattern for the drawers and while I was testing the pattern hoping to make a useable muslin, I kept the decoration fairly low key, I didn't want them completely plain.  Even if nobody else will see them, I wanting something I knew fit in with period style ornamentation.  I started these a week before a family member was schedule for surgery and I was pretty stressed.  However, the pattern came together flawlessly or so I thought, with the most even, spectacularly perfect tucks I'd ever made, which I then noticed were on the inside of the drawers.  I think it might have been faster to bin them and re-cut the pattern, but I didn't have enough fabric left.  So after tossing them in a corner for a couple of weeks, I went to pick out the stitches and found that my seam ripper didn't make it home from Fruits of Our Labours back in May.  Back in the corner they went until I could get a new seam ripper and dump the lethargy of a rapidly failing project to go at those tucks again.

The threads came out easily while the nicely pressed fold lines didn't disappear, making it a little more difficult to fold them the opposite way and resew them.   They aren't as perfect second time around, but they aren't too horrible and I can live with them as functional clothing.   The eyelet edging I had considered for the hems of the legs was all wrong.  All the extant samples I've seen use cotton laces.  While I have a significant amount of cotton lace in my stash, most of it is narrower, being bought for doll clothes and for what was really supposed to be a sample, and might not fit, I wasn't going to use the good stuff.   I did find a bit of flat cotton lace in a rumpled ball, which after a bit of a pressing, turned out to be not really expensive lace, but quite suitable.  I did have to pull a gimp thread - the thicker heading at the top to gather it. I used a machine heirloom sewing technique to sew it on.  I've used them a lot for doll clothes and other projects which don't take any stress or wear and tear.  I hope it has the strength to stand up to actual wearing.

The two tucks are functional tucks, meaning they are put in after the legs are sewn together and they can be let down if more length is needed in case for some reason I suddenly grow 2 inches taller or damage the bottom edge and need to length them to keep using them.
They are constructed with flat-felled seams and facings to reduce chafing possibilities.  I dragged them out to a guild meeting last night where I finished the hand stitching although they still need a button and button hole on the front waist band.

Today I drafted out a pattern for a new Victorian chemise and had the fun of using my pattern notcher.  I have a couple of cool tools but this one never fails to amuse me and make me happy.  It makes the sweetest, most perfect little notches in patterns which work so much better than any I've put in with just nipping with scissors.  It's a solid feeling little tool which works perfectly every time and is just fun to use.  I'll have to admit it was a gift and something I'd probably have never purchased for myself but definitely adds enjoyment and makes patterns look much more professional!

October 11, 2013

Fall socks

My friend Maureen went to PEI to visit family, build a deck and do some touring around.  One of the places she stopped was Belfast Mini-Mills.  Not only do they make small industrial wool processing equipment, but they also process fibre there.    Maureen decided I'd need a keep busy project for a couple of weeks in September, so she surprised me with a care package of fabulous sock yarn.  I mean fabulous as in roll around in squishy, soft and yummy superwash sock yarn that feels as nice as the high end yarn, not the affordable stuff, or at least the yarn I can afford.   Honestly, if the colours weren't so perfect, I might have just sat around squishing the yarn rather than knitting it up.

She mentioned that they only had one skein of the pink.  When she matched it with the blue, that gal in the shop said it would make lovely stripes.  Apparently Maureen knows me quite well as she told her that more likely I'd make one sock in one colour and the second sock in the other.   She was right.  This yarn is much too nice to waste on fussy stripes.   I started one pattern and realized that the yarn was just a little splitty for the all over cable pattern I'd chosen, so I switched it to a simpler pattern which just runs down the outside of each sock.  It's a little fussy to knit, but the large area of plain stockinette stitch makes it a little faster and definitely has relaxing aspects to it. 

I love, love, love the colours.  I love the yarn.  The pattern is Deflect from Knitty, which is a lovely on line Knitting magazine.  They have great articles and tons upon tons of patterns in each issue.


October 09, 2013

Frustrations and Fun

I just spent the past week and a half spinning.  I carded, combed and spun with a mission.  I took my time so that everything was as perfect as it could be and then too my time spinning so that I had lovely, consistent yarns that I was happy with.

I started with some indigo dyed mohair locks.  There weren't enough, or so I thought, so I blended them with an equal amount of white mohair to make a yarn which would be a core yarn.  The instructions said it had to be tightly spun, so I did just that, spinning a smooth, higher twist yarn.

 Then I carded up some commercially dyed wool roving, again with an equal percentage.  I roughly blended the two colours and got this interesting green/blue blend which spun up beautifully.   I tried for something with less twist and fatter than the lovely  mohair singles.  The finished singles weren't quite as vibrant as I'd hoped but they were pretty enough for the job I'd planned for them.

I spent days spinning a lovely lemon yellow fine silk single to go with the above two.  I then tried my hand at 3 ply spiral plying and I can tell you that my results suck most spectacularly!  Not even worthy of a photo.    After 3 days of practice plying, just the spiral wrapping, not even the final ply, I know that sometime in the future I will be doing this whole darned thing over again, putting way less twist in the core yarn that the instructions say is necessary, because the Z twist core, wrapping with a Z twist wrap just wasn't gelling for me this week.  I was frustrated to the max and had used unpleasant words more than a few times, I'm sorry to say, while I drank way too much herbal tea and listened to way too many miserably sad country songs trying to find one which talked about loosing it while spinning.  Turns out they're all about losing women, dogs and trucks, not a single thing about a spinning wheel!

Last night, I headed off to the guild's Spinning Night.  It was a miserable drive in because this time of year, traveling west, puts the setting sun, exactly at my eye level and I'm too short for the sun visor on the truck to work for me in any useful way, unless that sun is just before or past high noon
.  However, when I picked up the room key, a cheerful Pat, our guild president, informed me it was her birthday and we had a nice, albeit short chat which put me in a much better frame of mind.  By the time spinning night was done, I was relaxed and having again.

Linda had brought a bunch of Mohair for us to play with. Mohair is the hair from Angora goats.  We had a lovely, green mohair 20% /Shetland 80% blend which spun like butter, mohair batts and mohair locks.  It was informal, informative and really good company.

This is the Mohair/Shetland blend.  I spun it as thin as I could, though it's really not a useful sort of yarn weight.  It would work for a strengthening thread for sock yarn perhaps, or a very fine lace weight.  However, it was fun to spin and fun to see if I could keep it that fine without breaking (yep, I did!) and fun to see just how much yarn I could get with the bit of roving we had to play with.  Linda was pretty generous though, so it wasn't difficult!   I'm now ready to start to battle the Level 4 Master Spinner homework again.  Phew..