Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
It was as easy as making any quick-bread recipe...and I got to give away some more canning jars (I really am trying to thin things out around here before we move - no, no one has looked at the house in 3 weeks, but a girl has to be hopeful, doesn't she?).
I made Pumpkin Spice Cake and here's the recipe:
1 c seedless raisins
1 c walnuts
2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 c granulated sugar
1 c salad oil
16 oz can pumpkin
Preheat oven to 325-degrees.
Brush the inside of 8 (1 pint, straight-sided) Kerr or Ball Quilted Crystal (12 oz, straight-sided) canning jars with shortening (DO NOT use Pam); set aside. The 1 pint jars are shorter but bigger around than the decorative 12 oz jars, use either one. Sterilize the jars, lids & rings first.
Coarsely chop the raisins & walnuts; set aside. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon & ginger in a large bowl. Add raisins & walnuts; toss to lightly combine. In another large bowl, beat eggs at high speed until thick & yellow (2-3 minutes). Gradually beat in the sugar until thick & light. At low speed, beat in the oil & pumpkin; blend well. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until well blended.
Divide among the 8 canning jars (should be slightly less than 1/2 full).
Wipe the sides of the jars off (inside/ outside) in case you slop or it'll burn. Place jars on a cookie sheet or they'll tip over. (I used our canning funnel to fill the jars, so there was no slop).
Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until a long pick inserted into the center (deep) of the cakes comes out clean. (My jars took about 15 minutes longer!)
When the cakes test done, remove the jars, one-by-one & immediately place a lid & ring on & screw down tightly. Make sure to use HEAVY-DUTY hot pads because the jars are VERY hot. Place on the counter to cool. You'll hear a "plinking" sound when they have sealed. I nearly forgot, keep the lids & rings in the hot water until you're ready to use them; you want the gaskets hot so that the jars will seal.I did use pecans instead of walnuts, but aside from that I followed the recipe. Only one didn't seal, so we will eat that one!
I printed out the recipe (partly so that the recipients can make it themselves if they want to, and partly so that they can see what's in them - in case of food allergy or some such) and the boys decorated each one. We ribboned and tissue papered the top of each jar, attached the recipe/cards, and sent them off to school.
The good news is that we still have five jars to share with friends and neighbours.
**later edit - sorry about the wacky fonts...I don't know what's up there, and can't seem to get it to be normal!** -L
Friday, December 14, 2007
We do that 'each brings a gift' game - is there an official name for it? We draw numbers and each, in turn choose gifts from the table - or choose to 'steal' another's gift...things can get quite spirited! It's loads of fun, and it never fails that the most beautifully wrapped things go 'round and 'round. One year I'm going to wrap mine in crinkly brown paper and jute, just to see what happens.
The last two years I've played with the idea of giving an 'ornament'. It struck me that we never said 'tree ornament'!
Last year I made silver earrings loosely shaped like Christmas trees, and this year I wanted to do a collage.
Being book club, it made sense to do something based on book parts and imagery. I built the background with scrapbook paper and laminated some cherub/angel tissue to it using fabric medium. I lucked into finding this charming picture in a '50's era Reader's Digest Condensed version of a book called 'Joy in the Morning'. The picture is perfect, the window in the store reads 'Merry Christmas' backward, and the date on the calendar is Dec 24. I cut out words that said 'Merry Christmas' (top) and 'love and joy come to you' (bottom) and laminated the whole works along with a bronze skeleton leaf using another layer of diluted fabric medium. A light sprinkle of bronze 'radiant rain' watercolour spray, put everything in a dollar store frame, et voila! A Christmas 'ornament'.
Trish got this one, and I'm glad that she did.
It all sounds pretty seamless, but in reality I have 2 others here that weren't so successful. They'll go back into the paper bin and something else will be made from them, no doubt.
Hope your season is shaping up to be a merry one, with those you care about most.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
My Mom has been a wonderful gift in my life.
The picture is of me, Mom and her mom, my Nana, circa '71 or so, somewhere in Saskatchewan (probably Moosejaw), I think.
Nana was a prolific knitter and crocheter, and my memories of her all involve partially formed wooly things taking shape beneath her hands.
I know I've mentioned my Mom here and there in this blog, but I don't know if I've properly given her credit for teaching (enabling? :) ) my fibre skills from an early age.
Growing up my Mom and Dad never discouraged my love and exploration of handwork (I remember saving up money for yarn to make a sweater and Mom going 'halfers' with me on it). They always were interested and encouraging, making technique books abundant and available. Mom taught me to tat, and even once knit back part of a sleeve that I'd unravelled after discovering an overlooked mistake. Although I learned the basics of crochet from an Aunt, Mom taught me everything else...how to put all the pieces together, how to diagnose and fix my mistakes. She managed to reach into corners of our basement and find whatever tools were needed (even a beautiful old hand crank Singer -and carding brushes...I never did ask why she had carding brushes).
She has always been there when I needed her, and came as soon as possible to meet each of our boys (meeting youngest when he was just a few hours old). She has redefined 'Grandma' and made that moniker her own.
I get to talk to her often, and wouldn't trade our relationship for anything in this world.
Thanks for everything, Mom. Happy Birthday.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Using the Shiva paintstiks proved to be interesting, as silk is somewhat wiggly and squiggly, not wanting to stay put. It made doing the rubbings challenging, but well worth the effort. For most of the scarves I kept the colours in the same or analogous colour family (some were highlighted with a little sparkle,too) so that the effect was more 'emergent' than stamped or printed on top.
It would be hard to pick a favorite out of these!
The grape colour to the left is actually a rich plum in real life, and for some reason I can't get it to photograph well.
All 12 scarves, done.
Back to quilting!
Friday, December 07, 2007
Working on the assumption that wool and silk are both protein fibres, I tried the same methods that I tried last month for sock yarns on the remaining silk scarves....success!
The photo does NOT do the colours justice. There is almost no natural light around here these days, certainly not powerful enough to get a decent photograph. These colours are beautiful Kool-Aid bright and lustrous.
The only thing I did differently from the sock yarn was to use a much larger bowl and more water so that I could agitate things with a wooden spoon in between zaps in the microwave. That and pre-dampening the scarves helped to give lovely, even colour. Next stop, Shiva Paintstiks! I have it in my head that they would look wonderful with an allover rubbing design of some kind, in lustrous colours...
I dyed all those scarves (7 in all) while making dinner last night. Can't beat that for multitasking.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I did things MOSTLY as presented in the tutorial, but changed a few things (surprise, surprise). Rather than re-write the whole works, I'll just catch you up to date on my modifications...
First, I made it with a 10" circle for the bottom, bringing on an avalanche of math. The bag was originally 12" tall, but I cut it down to 10" later in the game as it just seemed too tall.
The inside pocket: It's the black floral stripe in the photo at left - I didn't use a piece of bias for the top edge, I just turned it twice and topstitched it. I stitched the whole lining to a layer of black batting (to give the bag some body, but did not use interfacing). The pockets are segmented to hold specific tools. Lines were stitched from edge to edge across the short width to create the divisions and add vertical strength to what will eventually be the up/down axis of the bag.
Bottom (no photo): fused Timtex to the bottom before assembling outside of bag.
Once the lining was placed inside the outer bag (handles already stitched in place) I ran a line of stitching around the bag to hold the two layers together and keep the lining from collapsing inward.
Photo at right: The drawstring top...
I combined two things here, attaching the top and covering the top edge.
I put the drawstring top on the bag right sides together, matching the top raw edges. I stitched around the top through all layers using a 3/8" seam.
Then I flipped the drawstring top to the inside and stitched in the ditch around the top edge (photo left). You can see below how it looks once completed.
Trust me, it will all make much more sense if you click on over to the original tutorial.
And here it is, pressed into service for it's intended purpose:
I made it because the cats have taken an unhealthy interest in my knitting lately. Now I can pull the top closed and they won't be able to play 'unravel' anymore.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
I couldn't resist.
This is from one of the knitting pattern books I have from the early 1900's.
Something to knit for the man in your life, with clever buttons under the arms so that this lovely vest can be 'converted' to - ah, well, let's let the book speak for itself, shall we?
"This model is adjustable (I assume the author is talking about the vest and not the fella). For a sleeveless sweater it is buttoned down both sides under the arms as in the illustration to the left. When the thermometer runs so high that less protection is desirable the buttons may be unfastened and the sweater turned around for a chest and back protector with the ends buttoned into half sleeves as in the second illustration."
Is it me, or does he look happier with it as a vest? Perhaps he doesn't feel the need for chest and back protection? Or is he disturbed by the way his tie hangs down beneath?
I think there's just enough time before Christmas to make on one of these special gifts for that special man who finds himself in need of the occasional chest and back protection.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Okay, so it's my first attempt at a photo collage. I can see already how I could make it better.
Oh, and the bottom left corner...
An 'on the fly' fix for a customer who didn't see that this one block unit was rotated. (Nothing like getting most of the way through the first pass of quilting and finding one of these little guys.) Thank goodness for zippered leaders! I zipped it off, unpicked the unit, sewed it back in with my domestic machine, zipped the quilt back on. What could have taken well over an hour to do was done in 1/2 hour. Did I say thank goodness for zippers?
I don't use them TOO often, but when I need them they make a huge difference.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
gorgeous tan lines
Yes, someone typed in 'gorgeous tan lines' and it brought them to this post.
Sorry, no tanning advice here, aside from the tongue-in-cheek variety.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The rest of the photos were taken on our walk to school.
I shoveled the driveway this morning, so this snow better not all melt away by noon!
Happy snow day,
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I'm calling them the "Rock Paper Scissors Mitts" in honour of our favourite portable game.
I used leftover Alafoss Lopi for Oldest's, and 3 strands of mystery acrylic for Youngest's.
With 6.5 mm needles, cast on 26 sts. (Use a provisional cast on if you like. I used a two needle cast on and was still able to graft the mitts at the end...read through and decide for yourself)
K 34 rows garter stitch (K each row). Cast off 4 sts at beginning of next row.
Continue in garter st for 10 rows more.
Graft 22 sts on needle to cast on sts. Graft last 4 sts to the ones cast off 10 rows ago.
Now make another one...before you do the grafting, make sure that you have a left and a right. I actually made the second one in reverse (casting on 22, k 10 rows, cast on 4 sts, k 34 rows, graft), but you don't need to. I do suggest that if you want to do this that you make a right and a left just so that the grafted stitches will be on the palm of each hand - in case of small grafting idiosyncrasies...
These mitts fit me, too, but you can make them larger by knitting a few extra rows. Try them on as you go. The first 34 rows should go around your wrist with a little ease. If not, knit another 2 rows and try it on again.
I know it's a pretty bare-bones pattern, but I was able to reproduce it enough to make mitts for both boys in time for the arm wrestling competition.
Let the games begin!
(I know some of you eager and competent knitters out there will treat this like jazz and make your own modifications and variations - if you do take the time to make some, let me know. I'd love to see them.)
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I am tired, though. I stayed up waaaaay too late finishing the other mitt. (Something that shows in my pattern knitting toward the end. I was working kind of 'off chart' in the wee hours there.)
Yikes. Mustn't make a habit of this. I'm positively pooped. It's almost enough to make me have a cup of coffee...almost.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
My late night knitting has taken a serious turn since the invitation in my inbox here about a month ago. It's amazing the sheer number of people out there knitting and designing knitting.
I think my favorite feature is that when researching a pattern one click of the mouse I will let me look at any projects that other members have made/are making using this same pattern (or yarn). I can read their notes for modifications or errata, can see the effect of different yarns knit in the same pattern and how the finished projects look...on REAL people. It's fantastic.
My latest obsession is fingerless mitts. I've designed a pair that knit up quickly, and once the boys slow down long enough for me to take their pictures, I'll post the pictures and pattern for those.
On the right is a picture of my first 'Endpaper Mitt'. I haven't done multicolour knitting in a while and wasn't sure that I was up to the challenge, but things are progressing quite well. I'm looking forward to doing the next one so that I can actually wear them! I used leftover sock wool (the red/pink/orange is actually a self-striping wool, not a bunch of different wools). Of course I've already sat down and charted a version of my own - for the NEXT pair - maybe I'll do dragons on the back, maybe leaves and vines... aaaaaAAAAAA! Too many ideas! Too little time!!!
The magic of Ravelry is that I know that there are, at this time, 524 different people either making or finished making these mitts, and over 1300 who have this on their 'must make' list. There are over 35,000 users of this site. My goodness.
Now if someone could design a site like this for quilters....imagine.
Back to quilting,
Sunday, November 18, 2007
This photo was taken at what was by no means the peak, but it was at a good point. It was a point at which I felt like, "hey, I DO get stuff done around here!"
The photo of my space is taken from behind my quilting machine...a vantage point that I often have, but most visitors here never get.
I spent some time this week outside of my regular work doing some charity quilts for an organiziation that's close to my heart, the Heartstrings Quilt Project. I was sent three quilt tops earlier this year from one of the other members, Sue, and they have been waiting for me to quilt them...at long last they are done! This first one was quilted with a pattern called 'popcorn' by Jodi Beamish. Look at how Sue carefully placed these blocks to give make two hearts...so pretty, so subtle. This quilt will be donated to the Support Services area of the Kelowna Cancer Clinic.
In that same package Sue sent two other quilt tops (pieced by Sue and Joan) that are destined for the Canadian Quilts of Valour program. Both are wonderful, aren't they? This is another charity that has spoken so deeply to me. With family in the military it's often present in my mind the real danger that our soldiers are in. Quilts from this project go both to wounded soldiers and to families of fallen soldiers.
At what point do I mention that Sue and Joan are in the US? It takes generous hearts to give over such a distance.
The pattern I used to quilt these is 'Maple Syrup' by Jodi Beamish...she generously donated the pattern for this purpose.
It was a bit of a blue week for me. I was a bit lonely, feeling like our move is never going to happen, like I'm not getting anything done. Working on these quilts made me feel so much better! I hope they will bring joy to someone. Someone who can feel that there are legions of caring people out there, some who took the time to make something just for them.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Today I've got my machine part way through my 'large maintenance routine', waiting for the WD40 to drip out of the bobbin area. Every month or so I take a day to check the timing on the machine (99% of the time it is fine), clean out the excess oil from inside the machine head, clean all the wheels and rails thoroughly ( I use q-tips with rubbing alcohol on them on the wheels) and clean out the bobbin race really thoroughly with WD40. It's amazing how much gunk gets in there, even though I wipe out that area frequently with my stiff brush and oil often. Once the WD40 has dried completely, I'll re-oil the bobbin race, let it run for a while, then stitch out some test bits to make sure there is no yucky stuff in the oil, no residue left in the race, and then I'll be ready to go again.
This week I did a bit of playing with my new-to-me knitting machine, and have consequently ordered some parts for it (!).
I did finish a hand knitting project I've been working on for over a month, a fan-and-feather stitch shawl in a lovely, soft merino wool I bought on Etsy. I'd give you a link to the specific store, but it seems to have temporarily evaporated! The photos, sadly, do not do this hand-dyed yarn justice. It's far more plummy/purply/raspberry/rhubarb than the photos here would suggest.
I also crocheted a couple of child-sized hats for a charity my Mom works at...and I realize now with our long weekend they'll not get to her until Wednesday (sorry, Mom. The holiday/post conflict completely slipped my mind).
I got a little bit more work done here and there on Blossom Lady, mostly just filling in the background with a nice dark indigo blue (their name for it is 'Midnight'), and deepening some of the shadows in her garment.
Now that there is some real contrast going on the areas that I was already working on seem quite washed out...time to go put some BOLD contrast in this baby. Unfortunately I spilled one of my ink pots on my work space and now have to wait until it is THOROUGHLY washed and dried before I dare to put the piece back on it. Of course I spilled the darkest colour. Of course I lost more than half the little dye pot to my clumsiness. Blargh.
Well, off to check on my machine and put it back together. It always runs so much happier after this little wee pick-me-up.
PS - I was floored by an unexpected and generous hearted gift this week. Thanks so much, Tracy. You really touched my heart. Thank you.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
It was the perfect day to make granola.
I've been making granola since about '92, I think, when I worked for a family in Vancouver as the nanny. The Mom in that family had a recipe that I made regularly for them and have been making variations on ever since.
This makes the whole house smell amazing.
If you ever want to make it, this is how:
In a really big bowl mix:
1/2 C raw sugar (demarara)
5 C rolled oats (the old fashioned kind)
1 C wheat germ
1 C unsweetened coconut ( or chopped nuts if you have an allergy to coconut)
1 C sunflower and sesame seeds
(and 1/2 C poppy seeds if you like)
In a separate container mix:
1/2 tsp sea salt dissolved in 1 Tbsp milk
1/2 C honey
1/2 C oil (canola, sunflower, whatever is in the cupboard except olive)
Heat the honey, oil and dissolved salt in milk. This will help the two combine better (before you heat them you can call in your kids for a little lesson on liquid densities, water vs. oil based compounds, and emulsifiers - or not).
Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and mix well. Divide out on to shallow baking sheets and bake at 275 degrees, stirring occasionally, until toasted.
Let cool, store in an airtight container. Serve with milk, or yogurt, or just eat it straight out of your hand for a crunchy treat.
I make it this way now and then. Mostly I wing it a bit (as I do with most recipes). Usually I add about a cup of chopped nuts and more seeds. Usually I double the recipe. I do use the basic framework ratio of dry to wet, sweetener to oil, but I have made this substituting maple syrup for the honey (all or in part), or buckwheat honey for the regular liquid honey. The dry ingredients usually are somewhat dependant upon what's in my cupboard. I've used 9 grain cereal mix to substitute for part of the oats when I didn't have enough. Once it's all done and cooled, it's nice to chop up some dried papaya or mango (or even to throw in a handful of raisins or other dried fruit) and mix them in your finished granola.
So there. Go. Have fun.
Oh - and this is the view from our kitchen. I'm starting to say little goodbyes to this house (not that anyone has looked at buying it), and have started to take photos here and there of daily things I have loved living here the last 8 years. Looking out over the treefort that DH built has certainly been one of those things.
Oh, and a second confession...
We didn't stay in all day. We went to the hotsprings.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
This is a cloud of waste thread from the past month or so's worth of quilts:
And this is what I did with it this morning before school:
The spindle is a home-made one, using a piece of dowel sharpened in a pencil sharpener with a craft-store wooden wheel glued at the cup-hook end. The whole works cost me about $1.15 to make...and I have enough materials to make another just like it, maybe a low-whorl version.
What'll I use the spun thread for? Well, I've got a couple of ideas...
Happy stitching (or spinning)
Oldest is carving the second of the two big pumpkins that he grew in the garden (we ate the first one!) and youngest picked out his at the grocery store the other day....a really BIG pumpkin!
To succeed you need a lot of concentration...
And a very steady hand....
The thing that didn't get captured in the photos is the cats. Our cats wandered around and through all of this, very curious as to why and what we were doing (well, the young cats were curious. The old one just came up and did what she did every year: eat pumpkin innards right out of the bowl! I don't know if that's her very own peculiarity or what, but it seems pretty strange!)
For those out trick or treating in our neighbourhood...You are not seeing double - and - fear the reaper. Yes, fear the reaper.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Again, not the greatest angle, but things are starting to really take shape now. I stood on a chair to take this picture, so the angle is slightly 'up' the figure, further accentuating the bottom part of the piece.
The dye I used for the dress and hairband is 'Sky Blue' - a lot like a nice cerulean blue. Having some of the sepia ('Autumn Leaf' - much like a burnt sienna) lightly pushed into the shadows was really helpful when it came time to do the blue for the dress. I've never worked a single colour over such a large area before and there were many challenges to be met in getting the colour even in the large, open, lightest areas. I tried several techniques and finally settled on working with a really dry paintstick in large motions in the 'grain' of the fabric's wrinkles.
I didn't want this to get too dark yet because I'll eventually fill the inside area of the ring with some very dark colours, and I want to be sure to have enough contrast to let the figure remain in the foreground. It's hard to let it go, but there are many hours of painting left and only so many for sleep before the new day comes. I love how the few 'tightened up' roses have so much dimension. It bodes well for the rest of the piece, I think.
I should probably go and try to sleep now.
All the best,
Pardon the oddball angle, but with this on the table it's hard to get a good shot of her. I've been doing the sepia toned wash today, and you can see that I'm setting up some shadow areas in the drapery of her dress. Just a sense of where the shadows will fall, nothing too definitive just yet.
I love this stage (do I say that at every stage?) as the image really does grow and change from minute to minute.
I'm looking forward to working on it more after supper. The sepia is not done yet.
Don'tcha just love how the contrast just brings the image into 3 dimensions? I think I'll cutaway trapunto or false trapunto the figure and maybe the roses, too. We'll see.
*edited to add - the funny line shadows that are in the left of the photo are actually shadowing coming through the muslin from the big ironing pad that I have underneath the piece (It's a big machine quilting practice sandwich. Multiuse). On the right, the big shadow is the iron. I tend to work really hot and dry (fabric, that is) for the detail stuff, and a little more loosely in the larger areas. If you've ever used these inks you know that they want to BLEED. Any time there is a hard line I've really heated things up so that the ink is drying almost as it's applied.*
Thanks for the comments, though. Gosh, they're fun. Don't encourage me too much, ladies, 'cause I've also got some Beehive pattern books from the '30's and '40's that are ripe for lampooning!
Yesterday afternoon and last night I got back to working on the Blossom Girl. Once I traced her on to the fabric (Roc-Lon bleached muslin with mechanical pencil) I untaped everything from the wall upstairs and moved it down into my studio. I'm pretty lucky with the size of my space - there was room enough for both drawings to be pinned to my design wall, then to work at the sewing table (a twin to our dining table...DH made them both for me).
When working with Tsukineko inks I find it's best to work up in layers of colour, much like watercolour (all those who followed me through this process in Jan/Feb for the Cherub Quilt might not find this part all that interesting).
The first wash was done in Banana Creme (their colour name). It was applied to the parts of the painting that are going to have skin tones, or as under painting for areas like leaves and the circle that she's sitting in.
The next wash was done in Apricot - again focusing on the areas the will be warmest in colour.
This time, just so that I could keep an eye on how the whole piece is developing, I started in with the Orchid colour, then the Celadon. Normally I'd work the warm tones all the way up through their next two (at least) washes, but because the piece is so big, it was better to work over larger areas.
If you enlarge the photo at left you'll see some of the roses to the far left have already had some dark purple (purple mist? I'll have to look up that name) shadows pushed into them.
I know things look a little amorphous at this point, but stick with me...it'll all come together. And if it doesn't? I've got another piece of muslin waiting in the wings.
(P.S. I'm totally jealous of all you Houston travellers out there....have fun, have fun, have FUN)