Not idle hands

My hands are most decidedly not the devil’s workshop of late. In addition to the weaving — which I will photograph and post soon — I’ve been preserving fruit.

Yesterday I made my second batch of refrigerator pickles from cukes in my yard. (FYI although I had some trepidation about using my English cukes for this, they worked beautifully.) These sweet pickles are SO easy and SO good, and they can be kept in the frig for about ever. Even better, they can be FROZEN and still retain their crunchy goodness! I didn’t get any pix of them, so instead am posting the recipe for you.


Thinly slice 7 cups cucumbers and 2 large onions (I use the slicing capability of my food processor to make short work of this step.)
Add 2 Tablespoons salt and stir

Mix together:
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Pour this over the first mixture and stir. Sit on the counter/table and stir occasionally for 2-3 hours. Now you can put it in jars for the frig or freezer bags, as you prefer. (Truth be told, I save a second bowl and just put the juice ingredients right into the cukes/onions/salt and stir well.)

Then I cleaned a HUGE bunch of kale from my CSA share. Next I blanched, de-cobbed (is that a word), and froze 4 ears of corn, also from my CSA share. Then I spent a few hours visiting with a friend and playing Carcassonne. An interesting game. Only my 2nd time playing, but I enjoyed it and would play again for sure.

After he left I ran to the store for some supplies and set to work with jam. I made one batch of nectarine-raspberry jam (berries from my yard, nectarines purchased from a local farm) and one batch of peach jam (also purchased from a local farm) with lemon and ginger. Both jelled well. Isn’t it funny though, how I left the nectarine-raspberry jars upside-down too long so that the jam in the little jars is now firmly affixed to the top of the jar? Whoever receives these will have to accept my foibles.

2 homemade jams

(Another truth be told: When I pulled my SureJell out of the cupboard, I saw that it was outdated by YEARS. Perhaps that’s why my prior batches didn’t set? DUH!)

Then I went to my African line dance class, seeing these wonderful women I’ve missed for 3 weeks – 1 ‘cuz I was out of town and 2 ‘cuz the rec centers were closed.

Today I started the day with an exercise class at the Y. My favorite class all week, but the regular teacher wasn’t there, and I don’t really care for the woman who taught it. C’est la vie.

Then I made a run out to scope out a house for my son. (No, he didn’t get the one you all sent positive thoughts on. It is SO a seller’s market here, his bid of $15K over asking was the lowest of the 3 bids received on the day the house went on the market.)

When I got home I threw a load of clothes in the wash, and hung it on the line while I was heating lots of water in the kitchen. This rather forced me to close all my windows and turn the air conditioning back on while I canned 9 pints of Vanilla Spice Peaches.

vanilla spice peaches

Then I prepared several Asian pears for dehydrating.

drying Asian pears

This is a lot of fruit and so few veggies. I need to get some more veggies ‘put up,’ as my grandma would have said.

Shrugging along

I really like making the mobius wraps, and my customers seem to like them, too. I’ve wanted to expand beyond straight flat pieces for a while, and mobiuses (mobii?) was my foray. Next up for me are some shrugs. Again, weave something flat and sew just a few straight seams to turn it into something else.

In the use-up-the-stash mode, I wound a warp long enough for 2 shrugs, starting with 5/2 pearl cotton and moving to some hand painted (not by me) bamboo-cotton blend I’ve had for some time. I really like the way the warp looks going on the loom.

warp for 2 shrugs

I decided to use an undulating twill I like and sett the warp at 18 ends per inch. For the first shrug I used a natural 5/2 pearl cotton. Although this isn’t a great photo, I like it the overall look.

white weft on shrug warp

I have very little 5/2 left, so for the second am using 2 strands of 8/2 black tencel. Ooo la la!

shrug warp with white and black weft

Eager to get these off the loom, wet finished and sewn.

Good news/Bad news

In my world, the good news is often the bad news and vice versa. It all depends on perspective, right?

The good news is that my second (and last) show of the summer was great, as was the first. I sold lots of items, making the summer rewarding, both financially and emotionally. That, however, is also the bad news, as it means I have to work very hard again this year. To simply make up for the things I sold at those two shows, I once again have to weave at least 6 good pieces per month for the next 10 months. Plus somewhere stick in weaving 2 dozen towels and a similar number of bookmarks, as those aren’t counted in the above numbers.

Fortunately, I don’t have another show for a few months, so can breathe a bit, even though I can’t stop weaving.

FYI, included in my sales this past weekend were that baby-to-mobi wrap, the black & white shawl, and both the purple weft and azure weft scarves from the last post. No surprise to me on any of them.

I do like to demonstrate at shows when possible, and learned my lesson with the sock yarn warp on my rigid heddle loom in July. So this time I tried something else new-to-me-on-the-RH loom. I consulted with a friend and the internet, and chose warp rep for placemats. I used doubled 8/4 cotton rug warp for my warp, using 16/2 cotton for my thin weft and 4 strands of Sugar and Cream cotton for the thick weft. Here’s how it looked on the loom.

rep weave on rigid heddle loom

I finished the weaving at home, and after cutting them off the loom, immediately saw a fairly large Oops! Apparently I was distracted and didn’t pay sufficient attention to how many inches I’d woven rep weave for the first (shorter) placemat – which is actually an appropriate size for a placemat. The second is a solid 6″ longer.

rep weave off the RH loom

Oh well, I said, so it’s not a set. I wet finished them yesterday, and here they are after that process.

rep weave after wet finishing

I was a bit surprised to see that the long one had lost a full 4″ (17%) of it’s length. Anyway, I will use these myself but won’t sell them. They are too ‘soft’, too wimpy. You can see that the weft isn’t tied in well in a few places on the shorter piece; they won’t hold up well at all. Another rigid heddle lesson learned.

So today I had to get back to the Macomber. Before I started tensioning the warp, I decided to step on the treadles and make sure the shafts were lifting well. Lo and behold, I had 2 shafts, #6 & #7, that were fine on the left side of the warp but were substantially low on the right side. So it wasn’t really the warp from hell, but a loom issue.

I spent a bunch of time looking at various parts of the loom trying to determine what was wrong and finally decided I couldn’t figure it out the cause of the problem. Instead I simply needed to figure out a solution. This morning I walked to the hardware store with one of the S hooks from the loom, and bought new S hooks that are 1/4″ shorter. Instead of 1″ hooks, I bought 3/4″ hooks. I put them on the shafts 6 & 7 and tried stepping on treadles again. It looked good to my (crooked-blind) eyes.

smaller S hooks

So I tied up the loom, and gave it a go. Yay! This warp is now weaving beautifully. I should be able whip out these 2 black and white hand painted shawls with ease and move forward.

From baby to mobi & the warp from hell

August has been crazy busy for me, in a good way. Another night of silent disco with friends. A trip to Longwood Gardens, meeting my BFF from West Virginia there, and watching a wonderful, uplifting concert by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They sang this beautiful song, among others. Shopping with my son for his first home. (He’s putting in an offer today for one he’s really hoping for, so send all your positive thoughts this way.) So far less weaving than usual for me.

I did, however, come across a custom baby wrap that a mom had ordered and subsequently didn’t buy. (Just one of several reasons I stopped weaving baby wraps.) I decided to turn it into a mobius wrap. Based on comments I received at my last show, I decided not to cut the length, instead making it into a large size wrap. We’ll see how it goes. I can always shorten it later if needed.

handwoven mobius

I also squeezed in time to weave that red-violet and teal warp I’d hand painted. Decided to use a huck lace pattern. Wove the first one with a red-violet warp that was almost identical to the color I’d dyed. I was surprised that I didn’t like it better. Even as I was weaving it, it was too dark, too much red-violet for me.

hand painted red-violet and teal scarf

For the second scarf I used an azure weft that was almost identical to the blue I’d dyed. I also modified the treadling slightly to weave what I’ve called huck-ish…only half of the weft pattern as above. Love it!

hand painted azure and red-violent scarf

I’d planned to weave 1 long cowl, but based on my sales in July, modified that to 2 short cowls. Wove the first, again with that huck-ish treadling, using that green that I’ve-had-hanging-around-forever-and-hated-but-loved-when-I-used-it. Love it here, too. 😉

hand painted red-violet and green cowl

For the next cowl I went back to that red-violet weft, this time using the huck-ish treadling. Meh.

hand painted red-violet and teal cowl

Then my loom magician and the parts from Macomber lined up with my schedule and my Macomber was fixed! I knew I didn’t have time to weave all 3 shawls I’d warped it for, but believed I could do 1. I did, but it wasn’t fun. This warp is turning into the warp from hell. Although I completely re-tensioned it after the loom repair, my shed was consistently full of threads hanging low, so the weaving was slow with plenty of unweaving as I spotted a skipped thread some picks back, and there are still some treadling errors. Nothing that will impact the usefulness of the shawl, but it annoyed the heck out of me. Just like my weaving with rayon chenille, it’s a good thing I like it so much when it’s complete or I would have cut it off and thrown it all away.

hand painted black and white shawl

I’m hoping that when I return to it, again re-tensioning it, that I can eliminate the frustration. Keep your fingers crossed.

Now, if you’re anywhere near Buffalo this weekend, do come to the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. I’ll be there with all my wares. 🙂 Gotta run now – time to drop Jackie off at my daughter’s for the weekend.

Lots of learning going on

Warning – long post. Read at your own risk. 😉

Apparently lot has happened in the last week. As soon as I got that black & white shawl warp on the Macomber and saw that there was a loom problem, I dyed a tencel warp for a run of 3 scarves. I wanted the blue-violet and periwinkle I’d used before, so pulled out my formulas and set to work. The colors going on the tencel looked just as they should…that is, just like I thought they had last time. But as the dyes batched, soaked, rinsed, and dried, my brain was confused. Where was the blue violet? And where the periwinkle?

hand painted purple and blue tencel warp

That is red-violet and turquoise/teal. So I went back to my sample that I’d dyed using this formula. Yep, they were the same colors as what I had here. While those colors are very nice, there is no blue-violet and no periwinkle. Perhaps those were the colors I was going for when I created the formula, but they’re not the colors I got. Yet I never re-named my notes or my samples. DOH! Still I think the warp is beautiful, so it’s all okay.

While I was waiting for the Macomber parts to be ordered and shipped, as planned I got a towel warp on the counterbalance loom. I opted for a red-based bumberet. In the must-use-stash mode, I chose color combos outside my general comfort zone. Here it is on the loom, with the first towel I wove, using a red weft.

bumberet reds towel on loom

That was too much bright red for me. I used a white weft next and really liked the way it muted the colors, so wove 2 towels of that. Then I wanted to use that peach/coral color that was also prevalent, but didn’t have enough left for even one towel, so matched it the best I could. Next I used one of the dark blues in the towel, then a cranberry. Here’s the batch of them.

6 towels off the loom

Interestingly, now I like the red. Not as well as the lighter colored wefts, but definitely better than the darker colored ones. The cranberry one is too short to be a towel – not enough warp on the loom – so I’ll hang onto that for generic kitchen use.

In between weaving the towels I also finished weaving the warp that I’d put on my rigid heddle loom for demonstrations at the July show. Since I generally weave with relatively fine yarns, I have a challenge finding yarns in my stash that work well on the rigid heddle loom. So this time I thought I’d try a thick-ish variegated sock yarn in the knitting stash.

Looked nice, but O.M.G., what a pain to weave! The yarn was loosely spun, and the movement of the heddle kept abrading it. After a few broken warp threads I got wise and used the heddle only to raise and lower the warp threads, packing the weft in with a weaving sword that I’d fashioned a few years ago out of a paint stick.
Fancy, eh? But it was with me at the show, and it worked. Not a great demonstration of what the loom could really do, but this was another live and learn situation.

First I used an orange rayon chenille weft for a long scarf.

handwoven wool & rayon scarf

Then a red rayon chenille weft for a cowl.

handwoven wool & rayon cowl

Moving on…you know that saying that no good deed goes unpunished? This next segment is like that. I suggested an ice-dying activity for a winter evening meeting for my Guild. Would I teach it? Um…sure. However, since I’d never actually done it, I’d need to practice and work out some kinks.

First I dyed two little Tshirts for my youngest grandson. This was a test of whether it was better to use the dyes in powder form or after they’d been mixed with liquid. I was hoping the liquid would be just as effective, since I didn’t want to have to deal with the powders with a group of people, as they’d all have to wear masks.

Here are the Ts after I’d sprinkled on the dyes. Red & orange were sprinkled on dry, blue & green after mixing with liquid.

ice dyeing Tshirts, step 1

The next morning, after the ice had all melted, they looked like this.

ice dyed Ts after melting

After that I rinsed till clear, then washed and dried with other laundry and a color catcher. The reds are quite nice, I think.

red iced-dyed Tshirt

The blues & greens, not so much.

blues & greens ice-dyed Tshirt

Ok, so we’ll use powered dyes. (Or maybe I mixed them with a bit too much liquid…that’s for the next experiment.)

Then I realized that I’d planned on using little silk scarves I’d purchased for this process. But uh oh, silk needs to be steamed for the colors to set. No way will everyone who takes home a scarf covered with ice and dye at the end of an evening meeting have a dye-dedicated steamer at home. So next up was a test to see if other heating methods worked as well. Three little scarves are under this ice and dye.

ice dyeing silk scarves

After the ice melted, I steamed one and let the other two dry on the line in the basement. Then I tossed one in my dryer for about 20 minutes, and pressed the other with my iron set on silk. After that I rinsed all three scarves – it didn’t appear that any color ran at all.
An apparently successful experiment. Here are all 3 scarves after pressing.

3 ice-dyed silk scarves

Personally, I prefer the top one, with the most variation in color, but that’s a function of how it was in the container when I put the dye on, nothing to do with the method used to set the color.

Next experiment, which I’ll be doing with a few friends, is to try koolaid and other food dyes, and also to use both some cottons and some silks. That won’t happen till September, so the learning will continue. Glad the evening meeting isn’t until winter!