Archives

Back at it

Once the holidays were over, the decorations taken down and stored until next year, the baking frozen (ok, mostly eaten), I focused on doing the year-end inventory. This is always a chore I really dread, although it’s never a bad as I think it will be. That’s because I’m nowhere near as careful or exacting as I might be. Here’s my process.

Print out the inventory of both raw materials and finished items from last year as my starting point. I do actually take all of the finished items out of bins, count them, and organize them as I replace them in the bins. But for the raw materials? I look into my many bins of yarn and sort of guess. I mentally add up how many partial cones I have and sort of combine them to make full cones, and then tally the total. For a business my size (minuscule, really) I believe it’s good enough. In now-almost-ancient parlance, ‘good enough for government work’. And since I only do this to file my taxes and thereby report to the government, I decided a few years ago that it is good enough for me.

So what came next? I had to re-knit that cabled hat for my daughter, as the yarn I’d used previously, 90% acrylic and 10% alpaca, itched her. So I have the hat now and have worn it several times with no itchiness. She went to the local craft store and bought some variegated 100% acrylic yarn and I went to town. I dropped it off to her yesterday morning, sans pompom since she makes WAY better pompoms than I do. By afternoon she sent me this photo. Happily it doesn’t itch her.

A's 2nd cabled knit hat

Yesterday I realized I could actually get back to my loom. I haven’t been able to sit in front of it since….drum roll…the first week of November! Two whole months! The warp, of course waited patiently for me; what choice did it have?

weaving my blues & greens warp

I only got about 15″ woven yesterday when I’d had enough. I just wasn’t into it. Today I got about 45″ woven when it was time to walk the dog.

Leaving the house, I saw that I’d received the sweatshirt I ordered for the little grandson. Today is actually his 5th birthday, but I hadn’t ordered it in time to get it, dye it, dry it, and get to him today. Still, I’ll be seeing him tomorrow, so that will have to do.

For a long time his favorite color was “lello” – yellow to those of you not familiar with interpreting little-kid-speak. But for a while now when you ask him what his favorite color is he’ll say “all colors” – meaning rainbow. So I dyed a sweatshirt for him, and a mask to match. The dye job wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind, but sweatshirt looked pretty good hanging up. I was as careful as possible when removing that hanger, but one of the sleeves swiped the body leaving blotchy dye on it. Sigh. 🙁

Ro's dyed sweatshirt

Ro's dyed mask

I need to move quickly on this as I have to babysit him at noon tomorrow. So I decided to steam it to set the color as best as I can. It’s batching overnight now, and I’ll rinse it as soon as I get up tomorrow morning. Then I have to get it into the washer and dryer so I can take it to him.

On Friday my older grandson, age 9, had a Zoom guitar recital. He did great! I snapped a shot of the Zoom screen (and blurred his face ‘cuz I want to respect his privacy and not be send his image all over the internet for time immemorial). Looks good, eh?

Ru's recital

Oh yeah, I also spent a god-awful amount of hours sitting on my butt figuring out how to share screen with both my desktop and my phone, mounted on a holder borrowed from my daughter, working up 8 samples and a handout, all so I can volunteer to teach an online class on how to make a covered yarn button for the Weaving Center. I still have to organize a slide show to use during the presentation. Two friends have agreed to be my test subjects this Friday afternoon so I have a deadline.

covered yarn button

More Christmas

I’m going to start with a Christmas miracle of sorts.

On May 31st I posted some newly-finished towels for sale in the Handwovens For Sale group on Facebook. The next day a lovely woman living in France ordered 2 of them, and decided, based on her experience, that she wanted First Class shipping. I mailed the towels on June 3rd. Keep that date in your head as we proceed.

In about a week tracking information told me the package was in Jakarta, Indonesia. And there it sat. And sat. And sat. I communicated periodically with the buyer, and on June 28th she wasn’t concerned; her experience told her it was all good. On August 3rd – a full two months after mailing – we were both concerned. I attempted to do the whole ‘missing package’ thing via USPS, but because it had been sent First Class, without insurance or Registered status, they couldn’t/wouldn’t track it once it left the country. And the woman in France had no luck on her end either. By the end of September I’d given up all hope. I figured all I could do was learn from this experience if I had other out-of-country buyers.

Then on December 28th the woman contacted me — her towels were just delivered!! Five days short of seven months since they left my house!! 😀 We were both so pleasantly surprised.

towels arrived in France

*******************************

Finishing up Christmas gifts, although some packages have been delayed due to major funding problems at the USPS, the recipients should receive them today or tomorrow. Since I don’t believe either read my blog anyway, I’m finally comfortable posting pictures and information here. As I usually do, I’m going to show the things I made in chronological order.

In addition to gifts from my kitchen, I’ve made hats, fleece headbands, socks and towels, and perhaps other things that aren’t coming to mind right now. Since my two nieces live in the south, figuring out what I can make that will work for those of us in cold western New York as well as those in the southern clime is a challenge, and I like making similar things for everyone. (That must be my OCD side.) This year I decided I wanted to try my hand at beaded wristlets. I’d seen photos of them and found them rather elegant looking. A woman who teaches at the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center had offered a class on how to make them over a year ago, but I hadn’t taken it. I took a chance and emailed her, offering to buy her patterns/instructions. She graciously provided them. Thank you, Marcia Weinert!

The first pair of wristlets were for my daughter. I used a things I had in my stash – basic wool/nylon blend sock yarn in off-white and some size 8 seed beads. The beading was one of the patterns from Marcia.

tan on cream beaded wristlets

I found the wristlets easier to make than I’d thought they might be, so decided I’d make a pair for each niece and my sister. However the majority of my seed beads were size 11, too small to thread onto the yarn. So I put on my mask and my big-girl panties and made a trip to a local bead store. I didn’t really know what color yarn I’d use, or what pattern of beading, so bought a variety of beads.

The next pair would go to a niece. I didn’t want to use the same pattern, so I spent some time online looking at beaded wristlet patterns and found this one that looked complex enough to please my eye, easy enough to accomplish, and called for a number of beads that I could accomplish with my recent purchase. Because they were heading south, I dug through my stash and found some off-white sock yarn that was 45% cotton, with some wool, nylon, and elastic in the mix. I’ve made socks from this type of yarn and like it, so hoped it would be fine for more-sensitive and warmer wrists.

I used size 11 Delica beads for this pair. I had a difficult time photographing them, as there wasn’t much value or color contrast between the beads and the yarn. I honestly am not certain which niece got which pair – LOL. I THINK this pair was sent to Dallas.

baby blue beaded wristlets

I had enough left in that skein of sock yarn to make a pair for the other southern-living niece, but didn’t want to use the same beading pattern. Again I went back to the internet looking for a pattern, and after going down that rabbit hole for quite a while, I ended up playing with graph paper and a pencil till I came up with a design I liked and had enough beads for. These are size 8 beads, and I like the not-quite-monochrome nature of the finished pair, which I THINK went to Hilton Head.

cream on cream beaded wristlets

I was really enjoying myself, and these little beauties worked up relatively quickly, so next up was a pair for my sister. She lives in Buffalo so could easily use the warmth of a standard wool/nylon sock yarn. BUT. I know she’s very sensitive to wool, and while I find standard sock yarn to be fine for my feet, I wasn’t at all sure it would be soft enough for her wrists. I didn’t believe I could find what I wanted at a standard craft store, so I placed an order and did a curbside pickup at my local yarn store. Because I totally trust the quality of yarn this store sells, I was comfortable that I’d be happy with their 50/50 nylon/acrylic blend yarn without having to feel it first. And I was. I also was happy enough with the beading design I’d worked out for the last pair to do it again, this time in a size 8 peacock blue bead on black yarn. Much more eye catching.

blue and black beaded wristlets

Now the reality is that I have absolutely no idea what the younger generation will think of this as a concept. Add to that two of the three live where it’s warm, and they may simply be stuck in a drawer for a few years and then donated somewhere, but I enjoyed making them, so that’s good enough for me.

In my final holiday knitting, my daughter had asked for a specific knit hat for Christmas, in black or camel.

Michael Kors cable knit hat

It’s a Michael Kors, and in addition to the fact that the black was out of stock, I knew I could knit something similar. And I really do like knitting cables. I could have designed it myself, but would have struggled with making the decreases for the crown look good, so I again poked around online until I found a similar pattern. Then I masked up and went to my local craft store for yarn, ending up with an acrylic/alpaca blend.

black cable knit hat

I’m very happy with how the hat turned out. But while I’m confident in my knitting, it has been proven over the years that I can’t make good pompoms that hold up – but my daughter can. So I made sure I’d have a sufficient quantity of yarn left so that she can make herself a nice, full, long-lasting pompom for the top when mine falls apart. 😀

I think that’s all I’ve got to report right now. It’s the time of year for me to do the dreaded inventory. Then I think I can finally get back to actually weaving…it’s been almost 2 months since I sat at my loom!

Christmas Eve, 2020

Christmas Eve sunrise

That was the Christmas Eve sunrise. Actually it was much more beautiful than that; that’s the best my phone and I could do.

After my walk I got 2 loaves of sourdough bread shaped, baked, and ultimately delivered, masked of course, to neighbors. I’m really enjoying making bread, and especially giving it away. If it’s here I’ll eat it all. 🙂 (I’d made a loaf with rosemary and roasted garlic I gave to a friend several days ago for an early gift.)

I also made 25 meatballs and a huge pot of sauce. Then I put together this lasagna. It’s ready for the frig; I’ll bake it tomorrow and enjoy it with my son.

Christmas lasagna

Here’s another bit of my handiwork. I made this valance from 10 pin loom squares, woven with a hemp-cotton blend yarn.

pin loom valance on bathroom window

I’d seen it on the Schact website a year or more ago, and was waiting for the right place to have a reason to make one. My newly painted and updated bathroom provided that. Like almost everything in life, it took longer to make than I’d hoped. Working on the pin loom with a yarn that has absolutely no stretch was challenging, although I did get better at it as I went along. And I only needed 10 squares, so it was totally do-able.

close up of pin loom valance

Then I had to starch the squares. Not having starched anything since high school, I looked online and found a recipe for homemade starch (cornstarch and water).

I still can’t show you most of the gifts I made for Christmas, and now I know that two of my boxes, despite being sent Priority, aren’t going to arrive until after Christmas, so I figured I’d show you what I can. The box with these was delivered to West Virginia today, and while perhaps not yet opened, those friends don’t read my blog so it’s safe. 😉

If you read my blog with any regularity you know I always have socks on my knitting needles. And I have a wealth of hand knit socks in my drawer. So a few months ago I decided to repeat a gift from a few years ago for a dear friend of 40+ years and her husband. I knit them each a pair of socks.

Chuck’s socks are my basic ribbed socks all from toe to cuff. Knit in self-striping yarn, with a solid for the cuff to make them long enough.

knitted striped socks for Chuck

Anne’s socks are my new favorite lace pattern. I’ve made myself 2 pair in this pattern, and find them great – both soft and well fitting.

Anne's hand knit socks

I spent a bunch of time today reading. So nice to just sit and read. A great way to spend the holiday, if you ask me.

Baby Yoda, baking, and more

hand drawn Baby Yoda

My 9-year-old grandson, who always claimed he was bad at art, recently started getting GREAT at it! I asked him how he did and he told me he watches a bunch of YouTube videos teaching you how, stopping them as he needs to draw a bit and then hits play again. Impressive! He just sent me this Baby Yoda. (I should have ironed it to flatten out the creases before the photograph.) I like the way he tried out the various colors of marker along the bottom of the page.

A week or so before he sent me this drawing he and I were hanging out. He was wearing a hoodie with an image of Baby Yoda on it, and talked to me quite a bit about how much he was enjoying watching The Mandalorian with his dad. He told me he thought he’d like to play Baby Yoda onscreen. I asked if he wouldn’t prefer a speaking part, and he said, “Nah. All Baby Yoda has to do is sit there and be cute. I wouldn’t have to memorize anything or worry that they’d change things at the last minute.” It was hard for me not to laugh.

*******************

I have finally finished all the knitting of my Christmas gifts. Of course I still can’t show them to you. And this morning I dropped my handwritten, handmade Christmas cards into the mailbox. All my shopping is done, almost all curbside pickup from local stores (my favs!) with a few online from big retailers. My outdoor and indoor decorating is done. I do still have a few easy things to make in the kitchen and then package for mailing. Some of that will happen today, some likely not till Monday or Tuesday. Which means the packages will likely not arrive by the 25th, but I’m okay with that.

*******************

A few weeks ago I asked for and received some sourdough starter from a fellow member of my local BuyNothing group. I’d made sourdough years before, and have baked plenty of bread over the years, but had a hankering to do some sourdough again. So you heard about my first bake, with all its mishaps, on Thanksgiving day. The bread was okay, but not great. Several days later I made another loaf, using the appropriate proofing times and oven temps, and it was much better.

My daughter sent me a link to this recipe for cranberry-wild rice-cornmeal sourdough. I do love King Arthur flour so had to try it. I’m sorry to say it was very disappointing. And rather a pain in the butt to make. And insufficient information in the recipe. Dried cranberries: assuming that means sweetened, as that’s the only thing I’ve ever seen in stores, but would have liked it to be confirmed in the recipe. Wild rice: can you ever buy just wild rice? I only see wild rice blends. So instead I opted for a black rice. But I think the recipe should have clarified what they wanted. After all, they said they preferred whole grain cornmeal, so be clear on the other ingredients, too.

cranberry-rice-cornmeal sourdough bread

The dough wasn’t easy to work with, despite following all their directions. And then it took MUCH longer to reach that 195 degree internal temperature than the 35-40 minutes they said. And I have a new instant read digital thermometer that has been calibrated so I know it’s accurate. The ultimate loaf, while tasty enough, is hard and rather dry.

So I sliced it and froze most of it, starting out the next day to make another recipe that sounded enticing: tartine olive sourdough. Well. This bread is over-the-top wonderful! And I only had 2 cups of olives on hand, not the 3 the recipe called for. I used a combination of oil-cured olives and jarred kalamata and pimento-stuffed green olives.

3 loaves olive sourdough bread

You have to be patient, as it takes almost 2 full days from start to finish, but it is well worth it. Besides, most of that time is waiting, not actively working. Heck, some of it is sleeping. The bread is salty and chewy, savory and just plain delicious. Cut yourself a piece of extra sharp provolone and there’s a wonderful lunch.

tartine olive sourdough bread

I had to look up what a tartine was – it’s a sourdough that’s not very tangy, so it requires much more time ‘growing’. If you make sourdough, you’ll appreciate that for 1,000 grams of flour this recipe used only 31 grams of starter. I would cut the recipe in half next time, as I never need – or even want – this much bread at one time so had to freeze 2 of the loaves.

*******************

You saw my newly-painted and decorated bathroom. Well isn’t this towel woven by Master Weaver Laura Fry just the perfect accent?! She has many colors and weave structures available on her ko-fi page.

handwoven towel in my bathroom

Once I’m done with all my Christmas prep and postcard writing, I’m planning to make – or at least try out – a valance of sorts woven on my pin loom for the glass block window. May or may not work as planned.

*******************

Parting shot – I’m guessing it was starlings who found this tree perfect for making a themselves a little community.

tree of nests

A Different Thanksgiving

turkey dinner

This is NOT what my dinner looked like!

Like most people, my Thanksgiving was different this year – much smaller. It was also, um, plagued by mishaps. It actually started on Wednesday evening when I was gifted some sourdough starter. So I would add a loaf of sourdough bread to my menu. I knew I was likely cooking for myself, although it was possible my son would stop by.

I got up early Thursday morning, mixing the bread dough before my regular morning yoga so that I could do the 30-minute autolyse rising before I left the house for my morning walk. My plan was to bake the bread before I put the turkey in the oven, so after I got back from my walk I got the bread in a bowl to rise in the oven with the oven light turned on for a bit of heat. I decided I wanted it just a bit warmer so I turned on my electric heating pad and put it in the oven, too.

Then I started doing more time calculations and realized that I had to adjust my plan. I’d cook the turkey first, planning for it to be done around 1PM so that I could have a turkey sandwich on fresh sourdough bread around 5PM. (The bread and turkey wanted to cook at different temperatures.) So I turned off both the oven light and the heating pad.

Now I started making my family’s traditional stuffing – frying up some breakfast sausage, adding plenty of chopped onion and celery, and butter. When cooked I add chicken stock and Pepperidge Farm cubed stuffing, cover it, and let it sit while I prepare the bird.

My mother-in-law had a trick that she taught us and we have used for decades: butter the inside of a brown paper bag well, then put the stuffed turkey in that. Seal it with a few wooden clothespins and put the whole thing into a roasting pan. The bird cooks quicker, gets a lovely brown skin, and requires no tending or basting.

Before I got my hand – up past the wrist – full of butter while I preparing the bag, I got out the pan and turned the oven on to preheat. I buttered the bag, stuffed the breast (that’s all I was cooking, not a whole bird), sighed at the rip in the bag and decided I wasn’t going to start again with a new bag, and plopped it in the pan.

Only then did I realize I’d not taken out either my bowl of rising sourdough bread or my heating pad before turning the oven on!

Needless to say the dough was rising too quickly and the heating pad got slightly singed. Uh oh!

What time was it now? Probably 10:30AM but I decided it was time to open a bottle of wine that had been in my cupboard for a year waiting for an occasion; this was it.

I made my favorite cranberry-apple relish and sat and had a glass of wine. I didn’t have much choice but to shape the dough and bake it at the 325 that the turkey wanted instead of the 400 that the bread really wanted.

When the turkey was done, my son suddenly appeared at the door – YAY! He had been out hunting and had gotten a deer, which was in his truck, and because it was warm out he couldn’t stay long. He hadn’t had breakfast so we ate turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, and bread – I hadn’t yet had time to make salad or a veggie dish. So it was most definitely not a healthy meal, but it was what it was.

Fortunately I was able to laugh about everything. Life can be very funny if you have a lighthearted perspective.

He left and I cleaned up the kitchen, making myself a salad after a while.

Later in the evening we both went to my daughter’s for games with the grands and dessert.

On the fiber front, I STILL haven’t gotten any further in weaving that hand painted warp; still just 60″ woven. I finally finished the project that I’m going to submit to an exhibit.

Black Lives Matter project

The submission is due by the end of December, and I don’t expect to know for many weeks after that if I am accepted. The show won’t open till October. If accepted, I have many steps to do to make the hanging problem free – no fussing on the part of those preparing the show.

I also been making Christmas gifts. Of course I can’t show you any of those. 🙂

Now I need to make time to write out my Christmas cards – the ones I made back in February. I’m actually looking forward to this.

I’ll also be writing 100 postcards to send to Georgia voters. I’ve got my list of names and addresses, and have ordered both the postcards and the stamps.

So there’s still plenty to do in the next few weeks. How about you?