An attempt to document my creative pursuits and spew inspiration into the universe.

An attempt to document my creative pursuits and spew inspiration into the universe.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Garden Begins & Homemade Amazake

I've been busy in the greenhouse.Look how they're all coming up! Mmmm...future delicious food.I've started medicinal & culinary herbs, dye plants, salad fixin's, brassicas, some flowers. I've been using this nifty little almanac from Ed Hume. It's available from their website, or at stores selling Ed Hume seeds. We used it last year and really liked it. It gives day-by-day suggestions, according to lunar and astrological cues, for the best times for planting, weeding, fertilizing, harvesting, and much more. I've found it to be especially helpful when I'm feeling overwhelmed with garden tasks, or not sure what to do next; I let the suggestions in the almanac decide for me. I've been looking through the upcoming weeks and making notes in my daily planner as to what gardening tasks to do on which days. So far, so good! Recently I made some amazake. A delicious, naturally sweet beverage made with organic sweet brown rice and koji. Koji is a culture (Aspergillus oryzae) used to ferment the rice. It's quite easy to make amazake at home, the only trick being to keep the fermenting rice at a consistent 120 deg. for about ten hours. I have a box food dehydrator with an adjustable thermostat that works great, but it could also be kept warm with a heating pad, or on a radiator. The recipe I use yields about three quarts of amazake. Usually I freeze about half of it for future use. Last year I made some pretty tasty "ice cream" out of it. It can be used as a sweetener in baking; my favorite recipe is coconut macaroons with chocolate chips. And of course, it's so delicious to drink. I like to blend some up with cocoa powder, vanilla, maca, and a dab of almond butter. Wow, what an awesome treat. I'm working on getting together a system for getting good photos in the (dimly lit) kitchen. Then I'll be able to make some more detailed food posts with recipes & how-to's. Until next time, Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sleeve Dyeing

Ever since Lee Meredith made this post about her experimental sleeve dyeing with food dyes, I've been wanting to try it. I finally found an appropriate sweater (anyone else noticing how it's becoming more difficult to find decent, recycle-able sweaters in thrift stores these days?), a smallish turtle neck knit of bulky angora/wool/nylon in a tweedy pale blue/white. I diligently recorded the entire process with photos, but mysteriously, when I went to put together this post, all the photos of this project had disappeared from my photo library without a trace! O, the puzzle of those 1's & 0's. Well, my photos pretty much echoed those of Lee's, so if you click over to her posting, you can see what the process looks like. It was an adventure, for sure.Basically the process involves disassembling a sweater into its parts (sleeves, front, back), soaking in vinegar water, and pouring different colors of food color/koolaid solutions over the sweater pieces. I did this on the floor, which was not too comfortable for the old bones. Next time I'll set up a card table outside so I can stand. I think the paste food colors are the economical way to go, but they are difficult to dissolve. Next time I do this, I'll mix up a stock solution of each primary color using my Magic Bullet mini blender and warm water. That should quickly dissolve them, then I can use these primaries to mix up the colors I want to use. After applying the dye and wrapping the sweater pieces in plastic wrap, they are heated (I used my steam canner) to set the dye; cooled, rinsed, dried, and the pieces unraveled into yarn.The resulting yarn is a lovely, mottled variegation of colors. It will be fun to knit up; I only have to decide what groovy thing to make!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Knitted Rug Finished

For someone who doesn't really consider herself much of a knitter, there sure has been a lot of knitting going on around here, lately!Some of you may remember an earlier post about this scrappy, knitted rug. I finished it, and we love it. Shortly after cast I off and laid it out on the floor in its new home in front of the wood stove, Rick stretched out on it to test it out, and promptly fell asleep! I guess it passed the test. Li'l B likes it, too.I've been liking the moss stitch these days, and I think it works well in this rug. The edges don't curl, and the texture is thick and springy. Really soft and comfy. It's funny, 'cause I wanted to try knitting a rag rug rather than crochet (which I've done several of). I thought I might like the knitted texture better than the crochet. Then I choose the moss stitch, and the finished rug does look rather crocheted! Actually, it's not as "holey" as crochet would have been.Thanks, S.C.R.A.P.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My First Knitted Garment

I'm so excited to finally share this with you! Yay...I finished my first knitted garment.One exciting thing about it is that the main yarn is some chunky wool I frogged from a thrift-store sweater (it was a huge sweater with cables; I still have several balls of yarn left over!). I dyed it using eucalyptus leaves, which gave some lovely orange tones. The yarn still caries a faint whiff of eucalypt, which I love.Unfortunately, when I dyed the yarn, I overboiled it, which harshened the fiber, leaving it somewhat scratchier than it was before. I found some mohair odds-n-ends in my stash, and decided to carry along a strand of mohair with the main yarn to soften it a bit. I randomly changed colors of mohair. I'm so happy with the resultant fabric. The changing colors have a kind of water-color quality, and almost glow. Sunset. The pattern is a Floor-Length Vest from the Fall '00 issue of Vogue Knitting. The only mod. I made was to shorten it. It was a straight-forward simple knit, all in st. stitch with garter-stitch edges. Since it was my first garment, however, it all unfolded mysteriously as I knit along.I came to a snafu when it was time to sew up the side seams. Oh no...the fronts were four inches longer than the backs! How did that happen?!?!?! Arrg. Onto the floor in the ufo pile for several weeks. Finally I got to work on shortening the fronts, made slightly more complicated by the fact that the carefully knit-in pockets were right in the way. I ended up cutting off the too-long part and re-knitting the edging. Not such a big deal when I sat down and did it. Lesson learned; next time I'll work the fronts and back in one piece if possible. Left the pockets off for now. I think the garment would be more usable with pockets, but frankly, I'm kinda over working on this thing. I would like to install a two-way zipper in the front.The reason Rick is modeling the vest is because it fits him so well and looks great on his body-type. Tall and thin. Not me. As gorgeous as it turned out, it is not at all flattering on me. (nothing like trying on yer hand-knit garments for a reality-check as to body shape!) I'll likely end up selling it. One of the reasons I've been slow to take up knitting is that I can never really know how a knitted garment will fit or look on me until it's very nearly finished. So it's a ton of work to make something and then have it not work out. I suppose that as I gain more experience with my knitting, I'll have a better idea as to what styles and types of yarn will work for me. Right now I have another vest, cabled and very nearly finished, on the needles. I'm a little nervous about how it will look, but we'll see soon enough!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Let's Felt a Cat Toy!

Li'l B loves to chase a ball (when she's in the mood, anyway). She especially likes the balls that make a sound. Since she chases, but doesn't yet understand the concept of "fetch", I've made her lots of balls (less chasing for me). Here's one way: You'll need wool fleece or roving, jingly bells, nylon stocking. First, put a handful of fleece in your hand. Place a couple of bells on the fleece. Then place more fleece on top of the bells. Wrap some more fleece around it all, forming sort of a ball and compressing it with your hands. I usually save the pretty, colorful wool for the outer layer. Sometimes, at this point, I'll wrap some wool yarn around the ball, to sort of hold it together. I like to leave a short length of yarn dangling; it will felt up and make a nice tail to hold the ball by. When you've got enough wool squooshed together, hold it tight in your hand and slide it into the toe of a nylon stocking. Tie a knot, enclosing the wool in the nylon. You can make several at once, just keep stuffing the wool in and tying knots in between. At this point, you can either felt it by hand or in the machine. I usually opt for the machine; just toss it in with a load of laundry. To felt by hand, stand at the sink with a bowl of hot water. Dip the wool ball in the water, squirt a small amount of soap on the ball, and start to knead and squeeze it, dipping in the hot water occasionally. Continue to rub and agitate the ball until it is felted the way you'd like it to be. This may take some time to get the ball nice and firm.When your ball is all felted, use sharp scissors to snip and peel away the nylon. If your kitty enjoys catnip, you could do a final soak of the ball in a strong batch of catnip tea, then let it dry. I like to put some dried catnip in a paper bag, place the balls in the bag, and let them infuse with the catnip for a few days. Our favorite family game is me at one end of the house, Rick at the other end, and Li'l B in the middle. We humans take turns bouncing or rolling the balls past the cat, while she jumps, chases, hides, and finally stretches out on the floor to take a nap.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Music to Spin By

I recently came across this gem at the library : The Rough Guide to the Music of Kenya. This CD contains a great overview of contemporary Kenyan music such as roots benga, rumba, coastal taarab, and urban rab. Sounds intriguing, no?High-energy benga, with its pulsing beat, great bass-lines, and funky, interlocking guitar riffs, puts me in mind of Congolese Soukous. Infectious, booty-shaking rhythms. Really, there is no sitting still when this music is playing! Which makes it perfect for spinning. Treadle to that beat; watch that bobbin fly. Twice through the CD gets me a bobbin-full, happy all the time. I'd highly recommend this CD to the lover of African music, or to someone who just wants to check out a new flavor of hip-shaking goodness. And if you're not in a spinning mood, then slip off your shoes, pop in this CD, blend up a batch of papaya margaritas, and do a barefoot boogaloo in the kitchen with your sweetie. As to what I'm spinning? Well, you'll just have to stay tuned!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Knitting Needle Case

In an attempt to organize, I whipped up this groovy case to hold my double pointed needles.I'll show you lots of detailed photos, in case you'd like to make one for yourself.First I did some calculating and figured out the measurements. Since I wanted to be able to store all my dpns together, I made mine 18" long by 13" high. That's big enough to fit a set of needles in each size up to 13s, with a nice flap for folding over. I think it would also be nice to make a smaller one, holding fewer needles, for a more portable case.I used blue corduroy for the outside, and an Indonesian batik print for the inside. I cut a piece of each fabric to my measurements, and sewed them together by serging around the outside. I appliqued the meandering purple lines on the outside by zig-zag stitching on thin strips of stretched cotton knit.For the needle pocket, I cut a piece of each fabric measuring 17" long by 5.5" high. I fastened the fabrics together by serging around the outer edges. If I were using a heavier fabric, I would just make the pocket of a single layer. Next I sewed on the applique (the image with the people) by zig-zagging around it. Then I sewed on the purple lines, and then the strip of tan fabric for writing the numbers on.I attached the needle pocket by stitching around three sides, leaving the top open. Then I stitched the channels for holding the needles. (fun!) I made the channels on the left smaller, to hold smaller needles; the channels get larger as they go to the right. The smallest ones are about 3/4" wide, and the largest are 2" wide.I wrote the numbers on with a permanent marker after I stitched the pockets. I wasn't able to put numbers on the smaller pockets because the applique was in the way. I really like the way that image looks, though, so I just left the numbers off. Next time I make one, I'll remember to embellish in a way that leaves space to number all the pockets.To finish, I stitched a tie onto one outside edge; another thin strip of stretched cotton knit. (when you cut a thin strip and stretch it, it forms a kind of cord).This needle case works great, and whenever I'm starting a knitting project, it's luxurious to just grab this roll and have all the dpns together in one place, nicely organized.If anyone is inspired to make their own case, I'd love to see pictures!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

felt vessels

I've been wanting to share these felt vessels ever since I finished them earlier this winter.The yarn is recycled from a thrift store sweater. All the colors were achieved using natural dyes from plants I grew or gathered myself.The pink is from a mushroom called Western Red Dye (Dermocybe phoenicea). These mushrooms are hard to come by (at least for me!), so I wasn't able to dye much pink.The yellows are from another mushroom called Dyer's Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii). This mushroom gives a lot of dye, so I was able to dye quite a bit of yellow fiber (way more than what I used for this project).The green is from a plant called Red Shiso, or Perilla. It's an edible herb that looks somewhat like basil and is used in Japanese cuisine. Very easy to grow. When I dyed the fiber, it at first was an interesting greyish lavender. But after felting, the ph of the soap changed the color to this lovely mossy green. I'm not sure if you can see it in the photos, but the green has a bit of a purplish haze to it.The pale orange (in the stripe above and in the fringed bowl), and also the blue, are both from the woad plant. Woad is commonly used to get blue. You have to use a special process to get the blue from woad leaves. Interestingly, when the leaves are merely boiled, they give a pale orange color. I like this plant, because I can get at least two very different colors from it. It's easy to grow, too! I used alum as a mordant for all the dyes except the woad blue.I used the patterns in Cat Bordhi's Second Treasury of Magical Knitting. Ever since I made my first knitted and fulled bowl, I've been wanting to play around with her patterns. The patterns are playfully written, and fairly easy to follow.I love how these came out! I think they are a nice showcase for the naturally dyed yarns. I use them in my display at craft shows, to hold smaller items for sale.As usual, I hope to make more of these!Until next time, explore!