Monday, March 12, 2012

Woven : The Fuzzy Afghan

Remember when you were a kid and you used to hide under blankets and try to peer through the cloth at the outside world? And remember getting distracted by the way the yarn in the blanket went over and under and the colors crossed in interesting ways?

You don't? Ok, so maybe it was just me then. Or maybe I had a magic blanket. Or, perhaps, I was just a really strange kid.

Still, I do like to look at things from a different perspective every once in a while. So when I was putting this afghan outside to dry on and absurdly warm day last week I was inspired to snap a few photos. This one's just about my favorite.

Yup. I had the afghan hanging on the fence (over a towel, of course) and just couldn't resist sitting on the ground, making a cozy - if slightly damp - tent and peering at the world through a fuzzy stained glass window of mohair and alpaca. My neighbors already think I'm a bit eccentric. I'm good with that.

It surely was nice to finally finish this project. The weaving was done a (ahem) while ago. I twisted the fringe this past winter. Then all it needed was a nice wash. I'm a firm believer in wet finishing fabric. It gives all those yarns a chance to relax and get cozy in a nice soapy bath. Makes all the difference in the world. (Naturally I forgot to snap "before" photos to illustrate this point.)

The black warp stripes and the weft are alpaca.
The rest is mohair.
This project was designed to use up a large skein of mohair yarn that I had space dyed in some rather odd colors. I decided to put it with some purple mohair that I'd had forever since purple is a neutral and goes with everything. :-) Ditto the black alpaca, which I had hoped would tone down the whole mess a little bit.

I was playing with designing with stripes at the time (more about that in another post) and decided to try a "random stripe" for my warp. Really, if you saw my notes you'd realize I was just making the whole thing up as I went along. The transcript follows. It's short. I'm not that precise about keeping records.

Fuzzy Afghan
8 warp ends per inch
Black alpaca
Plum and space dyed mohair

Originally warped at 40.5" - too wide, removed 4" from each end to be 36.5" in reed.
(I wove this on my Glimakra 4-H Countermarche. The reed was wide enough for 40.5", but the heddle bars weren't cooperating, so I had to remove some warp ends.)

87" warp length
Threaded on Harnesses 1 & 4
*must tie up all harnesses for countermarche to balance
*a b---- to weave. Must clear each shed. Would be better on jack loom.
(I'm planning a future post on using mohair/fuzzy yarns for warp, so more about that last comment later.)

Finished dimensions: 34" wide x 60" long. Not including 4" of twisted fringe at each end.

You can click on the photos if you want a larger view.
Fringe. Twisted.
Random stripes with space-dyed yarn.
 The finished afghan is fuzzy and soft and warm. I'm pleased with the results, and will now go take it for a test drive. Nap time!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Garlic on My Windowsill

The head of garlic started sprouting, so I stuck it in some water on my windowsill to see what would happen. After sprouting like mad it started going brown around the edges, so I put it in the compost pile. The photos were taken with ambient light, eastern exposure, mid morning on a gray day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Layers unfolding inside a leek.
When you slice open a leek and see this (above) you stop thinking "soup" and start thinking "photo op." At least I do. :-)

Usually I rely on "Better Than Bouillon" Organic Vegetable Base to make the stock for my soup, but this weekend I thought I'd try a vegetable stock recipe from scratch.

Recipes from the Root Cellar, by Andrea Chesman, is a cookbook that I've been using a lot this winter. It's a great collection of recipes that use seasonal autumn and winter vegetables. Got celery root, rutabagas, and Jerusalem artichokes in your CSA food share? This book has you covered.

Some of my favorites include Maple-Balsamic Root Vegetables, Potato-Carrot Tart, Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Winter Vegetables, Barley-Vegetable Soup, Pasta e Fagioli, and the recipe that inspired my broth-making adventure, Winter Minestrone.

Since I was using Chesman's Minestrone recipe it only seemed sensible to use her recipe for Vegetable Broth. It's super easy, and relatively quick. Unless you decide to stop and photograph produce. Then it takes a little longer.

Once you're done photographing the cabbage, garlic, carrots, onion, leeks, fennel bulb, and dried mushrooms, peel, trim, and quarter the appropriate amounts, throw them in a big pot with dried thyme and water, simmer for about 30 minutes, add white wine and black peppercorns and simmer for another 10 minutes. Strain out the solids and you've got about 4 quarts of vegetable broth. It's pretty tasty even without salt. I'd estimate about an hour from start to finish (without photography), and most of that is just simmering time. Easy-peasy!

That Minestrone is going to be delicious!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cool Beans

These are the Yin Yang beans that I grew in my garden last year. The bean beetles were fierce, but I got just enough from my 4 x 4 foot patch for a pot of soup. Aside from being pretty, they were also very tasty!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Too Many Cats

Since December I've been returning to my fiber roots with a new project.

One of the very first  yarn crafts I learned as a child was crochet. I taught myself from one of those little green "Learn How" pamphlets you could buy in the crafts section at Woolworths. Among my early projects was a round coin purse shaped like a cat's head.

Crochet was followed by embroidery, needlepoint, counted cross stitch, spinning, weaving, and finally, knitting. Looks like I've come full circle now.

How appropriate that my return to crochet is with a scarf pattern called "Too Many Cats." I snatched it up at the gift exchange that my spinning group has every year. This package was contributed by my friend Lynn, who raises beautiful Merino sheep. It's a brilliant pattern, easy to do, and it's so satisfying to complete each little row of cats in a new color.

Can you see the cats? They're standing on top of each others shoulders, with their little kitty legs framing the head of the cat below.

Like I said, brilliant.

Lynn picked out as many cat colors of this yarn as she could. I've got about two dozen colors to work with, and since it only takes three rows of crochet to finish a row of cats I can't get bored.

So far I'm up to 120 kitties. That's a lot of cats!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Stuff: Pinterest

Not so new in the big scheme of things, but new to me. Pinterest is an online service that allows you to collect images that you find anywhere on the web into virtual pinboards. This is great if you're looking for ideas for a diy project, inspiration for your art or your home, or just a place to gather pretty pictures that you can enjoy again and again. You can read more about it on the Pinterest web site.

By using a "Pin It" button that you put in your bookmarks toolbar, you can pin any image you come across. (They always link back to the original image, to give credit where credit is due.) You can also look at other people's boards and follow their pins if you share similar tastes or interests. This is a great way to find things that you might never have happened upon yourself. Then you can either "like" their images or repin them to your own pinboards.

Here are a few random things that I found and pinned:

Source: via Liz on Pinterest

You have to ask for an invitation to join Pinterest. It's easy really, you just have to ask them or someone you know who's already using the site. If you're as addicted to the world wide web o' images like I am, it might be worth your while. I know I'm having fun with it!

What new WWWeb wonders have you discovered lately?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dining Room? Done!

Checking things of the ever-growing To Do List is always so satisfying. Last fall I got to cross "Dining Room" off the list.

It took a bit of planning, effort, and a very good and talented friend with a Sawzall and a nail gun, but we got it done.

First I wanted to rearrange the traffic flow. Instead of coming in the front door and meandering through the living room into the kitchen and then into the dead-end dining room, I wanted a straight line of sight from the front door, through the dining room into the backyard. So, we moved the doorway.

Hole in the wall for the new doorway to the dining room on the left.
Old doorway into kitchen on the right.
New doorway all framed in, old doorway covered with drywall and goop.
This change did a couple of things for us. It turned the living room from a traffic zone into an actual room where we could put furniture. It gave us space in the kitchen for a new refrigerator and a work table. The view through the dining room to the backyard made the house feel a little less small. And most importantly, it gave me an excuse to paint walls! Squeeeeeee!

And the results... drumroll please....
Freya, running.
She's not always this muddy.
This is the view from the kitchen, the living room is to the left, and the large window is on the right. We can sit at the table and watch the birds at the feeder and the Buhund running in circles in the yard.

The light fixture, table, white chairs, colorful cushions on the bench, and shelves are from Ikea. The computer desk is an old oak desk I found in a dumpster on the local college campus. I added the pull-out keyboard shelf.  The artwork I've collected over many decades. The wall paint color is "Popcorn" from the Martha Stewart line at Home Depot. It was a nice quality paint, a pleasure to work with.

So, dining room done! Next up - the living room, or maybe the bedroom, or possibly the basement.....and then there's the new plan for the garden, and the front porch, and....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Useful in High Winds

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Isle of Lewis, Scotland. Photo by me, Liz Ackermann 2008
 We could have used something like this in yesterday's winds. It really sounded like the roof was going to blow off last night.

Thanks Moo Dog

Just a quick post today to thank the good folks at Moo Dog Knits for their article, "A Visit With Strauch Fiber Equipment Company"!

Working at Strauch Fiber is my day job. And all those ball winders? Yeah, I build those.

Be sure and check out the Moo Dog online magazine for other interesting fiber-related articles as well.

Thanks, Moo Dog!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Fresh Start

Happy New Year Chickies!

Yes, I know it's already a week into February. I'm also aware that I haven't posted since last June. I am a bad, bad blogger....

I've written plenty of blog posts in my head. Really. It's just sitting down at the computer to put fingers to keyboard that seems to be the problem. But thanks to a little nudge from a friend I've decided to forgo another Sunday in the Teashanty carding my stash of fiber with the fabulous Strauch Motorized Drum Carder and get back to the blog. Lucky you.

So. What's new? Well, I got an iPad last summer which has been wonderful and very distracting. Words I thought I'd never utter..."Wait! I just have to finish this level..." Computer games. Who knew? But not just games! I can watch Hulu  and PBS (TV on the small screen, like back in the old days), check the weather, go on virtual vacations with Fotopedia Heritage, browse the latest Ikea catalog any time, and create my own decorating idea books with Houzz. Fun fun fun! Apple, I love you :-)

And speaking of Apple, I did a very fun little project using iPhoto back in December. I made a calendar for 2012 using photos of my garden. The quality of the paper and the printing were impressive. It was also super easy to integrate all the birthdays in my iCalendar into the printed version. I'll keep it when the year is over as an album of the best of my 2011 garden photos. Here's a peek:

I guess that's enough catch-up for now. As I think of things past I'll pop them into other posts.

In other news...

For those of you who expect blogs to be useful as well as entertaining I'll pass along my latest web discovery/obsession.

Weavers sometimes make yarn wrappings using colors inspired by images, places, and objects to create color ways for their fabrics. It's a really useful tool for seeing what colors "go together."

Original image from Design Seeds
Recently I wandered into a web site, Design Seeds, that does a similar thing with colors, using a photo to inspire color palettes that could be used for weaving, painting, decorating, or craftwork. I've been disappointed in the lack of winter we've had this year, so I thought this example was particularly nice.

If you're looking for a jump start for your next creative project you might want to hop on over to Design Seeds and take a look. You may see colors put together in new and unexpected ways.

Until next time my little chicklets, be creative, and think SNOW!