2nd for May

I’m going to make it – 2 posts this month. Yippee!

Let’s start with this.

MANY empty spools

That’s a LOT of empty spools and cones. They ALL had yarn on them a few weeks ago. Not much on any of them, but that’s was the challenge – using up bits and pieces, odds and ends of yarn in a way that was visually pleasing – at least to me.

All I can say at this point is that this beautiful sight, along with a bunch of natural, undyed cotton, turned into 8 towels. They are now off the loom and in the queue for hemming, so no beauty shots yet. You’ll just have to use your imagination about what they might look like.

Sticking with weaving for a bit, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get any of my handwoven hugs done in April. Nor in May, really. I don’t think winding the bouts on May 26th and getting the loom threaded on the 29th can reasonably be counted as May hugs. They will be June hugs. It’s the best I could do and I won’t beat myself up about it. I am very happy with the early stages of this warp. Here is bout one on the warping mill. I love the way those colors work together.

May-June tencel hug, bout 1

I also like the way the second bout looks on the mill. But I’m not positive about how these two will play together. The first bout is mostly tertiary colors in varying values, while the second is mostly primaries and secondaries.

May-June tencel hug, bout 2

This is all Tencel or rayon. I’m crossing my fingers that the colors will play nicely together.

For a totally different type of weaving, a few friends and I decided to try our hands at branch weaving. We were inspired by seeing some images of Kaci Smith’s work and started collecting suitable branches. They had to be an appropriate size, with a V that was neither too narrow nor too wide, and be very solid – no flexing when squeezed so that they’d stand up to a tight warp. Some testing was required and I ended up cutting off my first two attempts. Then finally we got together and wove. Here’s my 4th attempt (didn’t take a photo of the first two trials, or even my 3rd which is nice.)

branch weaving #4

I have ideas for another but haven’t had time to actually do it.

What else have I been up to? There’s been plenty of weeding and mulching and some planting of flowers and veggies. Then there’s this:

kayak on top of my car

I’ve made it out onto the water twice. 🙂 The first time was with the Genesee Valley paddling segment of the Adirondack Mountain Club. It was COLD that day – mid-50s when we put our boats into the creek, only low 60s when we left. I had on many layers, and instead of wearing my Keen sandals as I usually do, I opted for calf-high rubber boots. Couldn’t stand the thought of a few hours with cold, wet feet.

Then I went out yesterday, meeting a friend on a different creek, this one close to my house. We had beautiful weather and a lovely paddle, seeing several great blue herons, a swan family with 3 cygnets, a pair of mallards that looked like they were setting up a nest, and separately a group of 4 male mallards on what must have been their bachelor pad. There were marsh wrens, common yellowthroats, red-tailed hawks, and lots of red-winged blackbirds. There was a small swimming snake and a mammal – I’m guessing muskrat but it may have been an otter.

I was very happy when I got my roof rack on my car rather easily. Last year it was quite difficult, and I ended up having to drive an hour to the place where I bought it so they could fix it – the result of my having bumped it on the ground and thrown it out of whack. Taking my time and care removing it last fall and placing it this spring made all the difference.

I’m going to leave you with some information about how kind and talented my children are. On the Tuesday before Mother’s Day my son called my daughter and asked if she thought I’d like a Little Free Library. She answered in the positive and he set to work. Built it out of recycled/repurposed/scraps he had hanging around. Got it to her on Thursday afternoon. She painted it, using in part some lavender paint she borrowed from me (what I had painted my shutters with and use for my kindness rocks with), then on Friday snuck some leftover shingles out of my garage. On Sunday they made me lunch, then came to my house and installed it. The post is an old oak beam from our place in the sticks that my son had moved to his house and never used. Using a post hole digger he sunk that 5′ piece of 6×6 oak more than 2′ into the ground and attached the top.

Little Free Library front view

It’s beautiful and matches my house! I just got it registered and expect my official Little Free Library plaque to arrive this week. (Who knew you had to pay $40 plus shipping for that?!)

Little Free Library side view

Books have been moving in and out, which is the best thing of all. Wasn’t this a great gift?!?!

So much for good intentions

I wanted to get better at posting regularly. Hah! I actually got WORSE! It’s now been 6 weeks since I posted. Yikes.

Here’s my excuse – I haven’t woven much. Does that work for you? It doesn’t really work much for me. 🙁

Anyway, the time frame means this will probably be another lengthy post. As I was preparing it…and I’m not at home when I’m doing so…I see that I’ve neglected to take photos of everything I should have to show you what I have been doing. Sigh.

Let’s continue in the kitchen first. In the last post you saw & heard about my efforts with gluten free sourdough. Of course, that wasn’t the last of it. You saw up to trial #4. There were more. I won’t give you tons of details now, but here’s GF sourdough #5. Decent.

GF sourdough #5

Then I tried a different recipe from a different blogger. MISTAKE! Granted it was going to be a smaller loaf, but here it is from the top, with my potholder for size. This has an egg in it.

GF sourdough #6 with potholder

And here it is completely cooled and cut. Look at how gummy it is. It went straight into the compost.

GF sourdough #6, cut, ready for compost

Time was passing, and it was nearing my trip to my friend’s in WV. So I decided to make her one more loaf with Georgia’s now tried-and-true recipe. This time I added a few cloves of finely minced garlic and some Herbs de Provence, just for fun.

Then I realized that her non-GF hubby might feel left out, so I baked him a loaf of regular sourdough. His has more garlic than hers, and black olives (she hates olives, he loves them), and Italian Herb blend. Here they are side-by-side before being cut.

GF & non-GF sourdough

And cut in half, GF in the front.
GF & non-GF herbed sourdough

If I was lived near them, I’d continue to make her more GF sourdough, and would try more things with seeds and nuts and other additions. But this was as far as I went.

I brought her the GF sourdough starter and all my remaining GF ingredients, as well as all the bread. I told her that if she wanted, we could make a loaf while I was there so that she got some experience with the process. As I expected, she declined, acknowledging that she was unlikely to actually do it. No problem. Made me even more glad that I’d brought her as many loaves as I did.

Then it was Easter. I wanted to make an egg braid to bring to my daughter’s. Haven’t made one in many years and was looking forward to it. Doesn’t this look nice?

braided egg bread

Hah! It was not the moist and chewy delight I wanted at all. Instead it was dry IMHO. Sigh.

Let’s leave the kitchen. **********************

I sewed bead bags for April and dropped them off at the Weaving Center.

April bead bags

Then my 7-year-old grandson called me on a Sunday morning and asked if he could set up a lemonade stand on my corner. Sure! It was the first really lovely spring day we’d had. I hauled out my garden umbrella for him and a folding table. He and his mom made and brought everything else.

lemonade stand

Hand squeezed lemons, simple syrup, and just a touch of hand squeezed lime. Add ice and it was DELISH! The truth was even if it had been made from a frozen concentrate he probably would have done as well at selling. Location, location, location. Add a really cute little kid and it’s a winning combo. Plus his mom texted a few friends who came by. Some cars driving by simply stopped and gave him a donation. Most of the lemonade purchasers gave him a large tip as well.

I had to be at the Weaving Center that afternoon, so he packed up and went home and set up in his driveway in their cul-de-sac. They don’t get much traffic, but the kid was entrepreneurial. He went door to door and offered to deliver. Of course no one said no! He made a ton of cash that day.

Sticking with nature for a bit… *************

No, I didn’t take this photo recently; it’s from mid-March. But I was fascinated with what I saw on my morning walk.

power line snow impact

The shadow of the cable and power lines made a very definite and noticeable impact on the melting snow. Who’d have thought? Not me, obviously.

Last year I went to a plant sale of a local garden club and picked up a few gems. One of them was a small bit of kerria shrub. It’s blooming nicely in this, its first year at my house.

kerria blooms

As it grows it should be one more thing to offer me some additional privacy in my backyard.

And I couldn’t resist taking this shot.

iris, narcissus, tulip

This is a little corner of my garden that both looks and smells wonderful! I picked up the bearded iris years ago from a woman who painstakingly made her own crosses, using a paintbrush and lots of attention and patience. Beautiful and fragrant! I have always loved poet’s narcissus for both their simple beauty and their fragrance. Not sure how they, or the single tulip, got planted among those iris rhizomes.

Ok, on to fiber. ***********

Here are those 8 Spring Flowers towels you saw all my trial and tribulations with in the last post. Only 2 are left in my Etsy store.

8 Spring Flowers towels

Then I actually wove something for myself. A rare occurrence indeed. I saw something another weaver had done and it moved me to try my hand at it. My fabric is mostly cotton, with one of the warp yarns a rayon-cotton blend.

So I made my calculations and warped up the loom. I didn’t have quite as much yarn as I wanted so I made some last minute changes to my plan. And still, I played warp chicken. This is the back of the loom – couldn’t have gotten another inch out of this warp.

playing warp chicken for my jacket

I also played weft chicken. This is ALL the weft yarn I had left at the end of weaving. (Note that the color is quite off in this photo. It’s most red, not pink.)

Jacket weft chicken

Then I took the warp off the loom, washed it and dried it, and laid it out in my backyard. It obviously hasn’t been pressed here, nor have I yet dealt with all my thread ends.

In addition to cutting and sewing, I wanted to make button closure for the jacket. Trust me when I tell you that this Dorset button took me hours to make, as did the kumihimo braid I used for the tie to loop the button with.

Dorset button for my jacket

And here I am modeling the finished jacket. Although this type of weaving is, as a general rule, very much outside my comfort zone, I am really pleased with the jacket.

I want to make a few improvements and try something along these lines for sale. We’ll see how that works.

Lots to tell

I’m getting two posts in this month as planned, so how can there be so much to share in just the past 2 weeks? I don’t know, but fair warning – plenty of pix and detail in this one, so get yourself your beverage of choice before proceeding.

I’ll start with a shot of my first spring flowers. This is my tiny scilla. Taken on March 17, they had poked their purple heads above the mulch but hadn’t yet opened their petals.

scilla on March 17

Ok, we’ll start some detail here. Trust me when I tell you that I have lots more detail than I’m including; let me know if you need more to guide you in your own kitchen.

I’ve baked bread off and on for 40+ years. (Doesn’t that make me feel old?!) For the past 5-6 years I’ve really gotten into making sourdough breads. Easy peasy. BUT. I have a dear friend who has been on a serious gluten-free diet for years. And she drools over my sourdoughs. I’ll be visiting her in April, and wanted to make her a birthday gift of GF sourdough bread. Could I do it?

I did some online reading. Started making a GF sourdough starter from scratch. Decided to follow a recipe that used a well-known 1-to-1 flour mixture that included xanthum gum, as the source seemed quite reliable. It was just okay after 14 days, but thought I’d better try making a loaf of bread. It was a complete fail. The starter and the bread added to the compost bin.

Did a lot more reading, and decided to start again, this time using a mixture of sorghum flour and quinoa flour, no one’s mix of anything, no gum or other things. The starter was working well, so on day 11 I made a loaf of bread using a recipe from the same source.

It sure didn’t rise much, but the taste was good, although you can see a bit of gumminess near the bottom crust. Labeled and froze the loaf to take with me on the visit.

GF sourdough #1 & #2

I kept feeding the starter and a few days later I tried again with the same recipe. I forgot to take a photo of 2nd loaf, but the rise was unfortunately similar, as was the taste, but no gumminess. Sliced, labeled and froze it.

I put the starter in the frig for a few days while I did yet more online research. Got the starter back out, did some more feeding, and followed a different recipe from the same source – I came to trust Georgia. This loaf was a bit higher, lots more air holes, and better taste and consistency that loaves 1 & 2. Sliced & froze it.

GF sourdough #3

Kept feeding the starter and the next day went back to a well-known flour mixture recipe. Again, not impressed with the results. Still, I sliced & froze it; she can always decide to use it to make croutons or stuffing or something.

GF sourdough #4

Everything I’ve read has told me that the starter is better after a month. So it’s back in my frig. I plan to make a loaf a week until I leave home in mid-April, probably using the recipe for loaf #3, to see if there’s a notable difference in my results.

I may also try to make her a GF (non-sourdough) baguette, as Georgia’s recipe sounds simple enough…at least as GF bread goes.

I’ll close the GF bread discussion here by telling you 2 things:
—I’m quite sure my friend will be impressed with all the bread, as she told me she and another friend tried making GF bread and were very careful to follow a recipe exactly and it turned out like garbage – went into her compost.
—the process to make GF sourdough is just that – a process. MUCH more involved than regular sourdough.

Just for a visual break, here’s my hellebore, getting ready to open its flower heads on March 21.

hellebore, March 21

Out of the kitchen and into the studio. I made my March bead bags. Someone in my BuyNothing group gave me a big bag of fabric with lots of kid-friendly prints.
March bead bags

I also got the March hugs woven and gifted. The warp was a variety of cottons (with the variegated & textured bit a rayon-cotton blend). For the first one I used a purple 20/2 bamboo in a plain weave. I liked the way the colors played together.

purple March hug

I wove the second with an 8/2 burgundy tencel, using a straight twill. It also turned out nicely.

In my never-ending quest to use up my stash, I picked out a 5/2 chartreuse-y cotton. Honestly, I thought I’d probably have to scrap this yarn after its audition on the warp, but no. The green of the chartreuse totally faded, and it gave the whole hug a golden glow that pleased me more than I expected.

golden March hug

Meanwhile, I applied for another good one-day, indoor show to be held in late April. Or thought I did. Apparently something technical went wrong and my app didn’t go through, but I didn’t notice that. After the fact, I am glad it didn’t; the universe looked out for me on that and took away some unneeded anxiety.

So now I wanted to get another towel warp on the loom. I scrolled through a lot of pix of things others had woven and settled on one that spoke to me. I modified the threading from 4 to 8 shafts, expanded some parts, and wound my threads. With all the color changes, this wasn’t a fast as my usual winding, but I really liked it. All 8/2 cotton, sett at my typical 24 ends per inch.

2 bouts wound for Spring Flowers towels

Got the warp on the loom, thread it, spread it out, and started weaving. Uh oh. After weaving probably 10″ I noticed that in one of the cream sections I’d inadvertently threaded 4 ends on harness 2 instead of harness 1. So I made string heddles, hung replacement warp ends, and laboriously needle wove those threads correctly. I knew I wouldn’t want to do that needle weaving any more after all the towels were woven and off the loom, so just bit the bullet and did it right then.

repair heddles and needle weaving

Ok, finally I was back on a roll. Until I wasn’t. Just a few inches later.

broken apron strings

If you look carefully at the prior photo, you’ll see that my apron strings are, um, not strong. I thought they could make it till the end of this warp and I’d replace them at that time. WRONG!!

Geez! Would I be able to replace the apron string at this stage of the game without having to cut off that warp and retie? Would I be able to get consistent tension? I didn’t know, but I figured it made sense to try with the warp in place. I could always cut it off & retie it later if needed.

Spring Flowers towels

I was so pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t really much of a challenge at all to get the new (much stronger) apron string in place and have consistent tension.

I’m not happy with that left selvedge, and have again tied repair heddles and tried 2 different harnesses in an attempt to smooth that out, with *some* success. So far I’ve woven 2 with that cream weft, 2 with a 10/2 celery weft, and am now working an 8/2 light blue. Not sure if I’ll weave 2 of the blue, try another color, or return to the cream. Or the celery. So many options.

As soon as I’m done with this warp I will replace the apron ties on the back harness, as they are probably the same weak string as the front was.

In closing, here are my first daffodils to open, which they did on March 22. I have several hundred plain yellow daffodils around my foundation, planted by the prior owner. They all open early and draw lots of comments from all the neighborhood walkers.

first daffodils open, March 22

March is a lion so far

March moon glory

I’m betting young people have no knowledge of that old saw – March either comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, or comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.

Although I honestly don’t remember exactly what the weather was like for the first few days of the month, for at least the past 8-10 days March has been very leonine. Cold temps. Snow and then snow and then snow.

So it makes it somehow less understandable to me how I have managed to go another whole month without posting. It’s not like I don’t have things to share; I do. Yes, I’ve been busy, but really? I could always choose to write more frequent, shorter posts. So I’ll try to remember do that, for a while, at least. ‘A while’ is ill-defined and therefore appropriate in this case.

I freely admit that I can almost never capture the beauty of the sky. Day or night, sunrise or sunset, my phone – which takes good pix – just can’t do it justice.

That being said, the above photo was taken of a full moon in March. When I first saw it – while driving – it was newly above the horizon and so golden! I tried pulling over a few times to capture it through the windshield, but couldn’t get away from the street lights enough to make it even begin to work.

By the time I got home the moon was higher and white, not gold. But it was as bright as the streetlights near my house. I was in awe! I did not see the rings of moisture around it that show up so clearly in this photo.

Back in February we had some freezing rain. The temperatures were exactly right (or wrong, depending on your perspective) that the ice that was on every branchlet stayed exactly the same for at least 3 days. I captured this bud cluster (I think from a red maple, but don’t quote me on that) while I was on my morning walk. It had fallen on the sidewalk and sat there in all its glory.

Moving on…here are my bead bags for February.
February bead bags

I didn’t actually get them dropped into the collection box at the Weaving Center until March. I’m currently almost done with my March bags, but haven’t taken photos of them yet. Hopefully I will do another post before the month is out and will include them at that time.

As long as we had some lovely-looking snow, I had to snap some shots. My daughter gave me some solar lights for Christmas which I installed near these 3 steps to the sidewalk. I LOVE the way they look shining their light on the snow.

stair lights on snow

Back on the fiber front…I did finish the February hugs and have gifted them to their new owners. All are 100% rayon chenille. From left to right they have a purple weft, a navy weft, and one with random weft stripes of various silver-grays and red, with narrow stripes of navy separating them.

3 February rayon chenille hugs

And here are the beginning stages of the March hugs. First are the two chained warps. The gemtones of these warps made me happy.

March hug warps, chained

Here they are being beamed. This warp is mostly various weights of cotton, all on the fairly thick-for-me side. The squiggly-looking variegated section is a cotton/rayon blend.

beaming March hugs

The three hugs are woven and wet finished. Hemming remains.

Closing with a shot of a STUNNING sunrise.
Beautiful sunrise - a storm is coming

While people may not know about March weather and lions, I think most people know the saying, “red sky in morning, sailors take warning; red sky at night, sailors delight.” We did, indeed, get hit with another winter storm starting that afternoon. The lion is still roaring.

Weaving and knitting and dyeing, oh my

Fair warning – this is a long post with lots of both words and images. Proceed at your own risk.

I’ve been busy. And enjoying being busy, so it’s all good. As faithful readers know, I have determined through experience that I need to make my Christmas cards in February for the holiday that will arrive 10 months later. It’s February or never. So I had to make some decisions…will I weave them? If so, what? Will I make more paper and use that? Will I embroider or…? Although I am open to creativity that may arrive later in the year, I settled on weaving, using established designs (from the Strickler book of 8 shaft patterns). I’d chosen 5 different patterns, knowing that meant I’d have to change the tie ups on my floor loom 5 times; not the world’s most fun nor the most onerous task.

I decided I’d make the warp wide enough to get 4 cards across the width, and I’d weave a minimum of 10 motifs, 40 cards. I selected 10/2 cotton in bright white, as my card blanks were bright white. I did all the math needed, measured the warp, beamed and threaded the loom. Did my first tie up for a sort of snowflake design and set off.

The plan was use the 10/2 for tabby weft and 8/2 rayon, doubled for the pattern. Wove the first motif. (Strickler #128) Um, nope. The cloth wasn’t solid enough and the motif was too elongated. For attempt #2 I double-beat that same 10/2 weft and the same 8/2 rayon, doubled. Better, but not ideal, IMHO.

2023 cards, attempts 1 & 2

For the 3rd attempt I added a metallic thread to that rayon and liked that look. I stuck with the 10/2 for the solid white area, double beating it. I went with sewing thread for the tabby picks in the pattern area. Meh. It was kind of a pain in the butt and didn’t move me. Attempt #4 I used 20/2 for the white thread throughout, single beating it. Again, better but still not quite right.

#5 I used 10/2 for the plain white areas, double beat. 20/2 for the tabby weft in the pattern areas, and 8/2 rayon plus a metallic thread for the pattern picks. This was clearly the best and what I’d stick with. I stuck with the first motif for all of these, plus one more set, so now I had 24 of the snowflakes, some of which may or may not be usable.

Now was the time to change the tie up. I switched to a pine tree motif, (Strickler #119) using green 8/2 rayon, still doubled, still with a metallic thread.

2023 cards, attempts 6 & 7

Whew. I liked them. I wove 2 or maybe 3 of these, and switched to a different tree design. Wove the motif and didn’t like it, so took it back out and went back to the original trees. Ended up weaving a total of 4 of these tree motifs, so 16 cards. Based on what did and did not happen with the other trees, I had some insight into which of my other chosen designs I’d like.

I switched tie up to a star-like design (Strickler #134). This enabled me to use different colors of the rayon. I ended up with enough length on my loom for 5 of these motifs, each row a bit different.

2023 cards 12 & 13

So I ended up with 15 motifs for a potential total of 60 cards. We’ll see how many I actually need and how many are usable. Here’s the whole warp fresh off the loom.

2023 cards off the loom

Once they came off the loom, a bunch of machine stitching needed to be done. Horizontally and vertically to provide cutting lines. With careful measurements and stitching. I divided the length in two so I could more accurately do the measuring and sewing.

2023 cards with machine stitching

Then, because they would be easier to store for 10 months without fold lines getting pressed in, I cut them into lengths.

2023 cards cut in  widths

The last step — for February — was to roll those lengths and store them in a ziplock bag.

2023 cards on a roll

Meanwhile, in the evenings in front of the TV, I was knitting myself another pair of socks. No surprise there. I chose a new-to-me lace-like pattern on Ravelry, called Soda Water and applied it to my tried-and-true sock pattern. I found it both easy to knit and pleasing, and will definitely use it again. This is a commercially-dyed yarn.

soda water socks

I’m actually about 3/4 of the way through another pair of socks, again with commercially-dyed yarn, using a different lace structure. No pics, sorry.

Because I am about 3/4 through that pair of socks, I got motivated to dye another sock blank. I’ve had 2 blanks hanging out for probably a year waiting for me. I decided to do the painting in a diagonal fashion on the blank, just to see how it would knit up. Previously all my sock blanks have been dyed width-wise, which makes for longer-or-shorter stripes of color. This method will, I think, give me shorter runs of color that will be more like a commercial variegation. Time will tell on that.

diagonal-painted sock blank, wet

So down to the basement. Soak the sock blank with 2 TBSP of white vinegar in the water bath. I mixed up 5 colors of dye. As soon as I started painting I realized the red was too jarring, so I overpainted with a blue as soon as the red was on. That had moderate success, as the red dye struck pretty quickly.

I wrapped the blank, steamed it for about 1/2 hour, then let it cool in the steamer for a few hours until it was cool to the touch. Back downstairs at that point to rinse, wash, and rinse.

I am always amazed at how little color rinses or washes out of the sock wool. SOOOOO much less than rinses or washes out of plant fibers, regardless of how long I’ve let the dye batch. I’m sure it’s all about chemistry. Here’s the sock blank dried.

diagonal-painted sock blank, dry

And here it is rolled into 2 balls, waiting for me to finish the socks currently on my needles. It’s a real motivator for me to finish them up, as I want to see how the color plays out.

diagonal-painted sock blank, rolled into balls

When I finished weaving those cards, I knew that next up on my loom would be my February hugs. For reasons I don’t understand, my rayon chenille scarves and shawls aren’t selling well, so I’d weave another batch of rayon chenille hugs to use up more of that yummy yarn. Here is is going on the back beam.

beaming February hugs

Another bin empty – YAY!!

In between all of that we had a major cold snap here in Rochester. Highs in the 20s with wind chills of almost 20 below. Jack needed something for his feet. So I took an old wool sweater that my daughter had shrunk at least two years ago – it’s been sitting in my house waiting for me to get inspired to make something with it. I sewed them into simple tubes. Then I took the outside off some waterproof pads and sewed slightly bigger tubes. Wool next to the little guy’s legs and feet, waterproof pads on the outside, held on with some very classy rubber bands.

sewing boots for Jack

Poor Jack looked like he had duck feet.

Jack in duck feet

If I thought we’d have lots more cold that deep I’d make him an actual pair of boots that were shaped. But these only had to work for 2 days. And they did.