Thoughts of Spring

I know, the year has not even ended and I am thinking about a Spring Dye Garden.  To be fair to me, January is National Seed Catalog Month.  I have just under 2 acres of land around my home, however much of that is either forest or too hilly to be useful for planting.  Fortunately I have 2 raised beds in the back of the house and one large raised bed facing the front of the house.  Throughout these past few years the beds have gone to seed.  I intend to put down some material that is supposed to deter weeds and cut around the few plants that I want to keep.  Then I intend to make some cement blocks, with inlaid glass designs on top, to hold down the material as well as further deterring weeds.  The cement blocks will also be a great base for the pots that I hope to use so that I can plant a dye garden out front.  I also hope that creating cement blocks is truly as easy of a craft as it seems so that I can use that as a craft at the public library I work at next year.

To get an idea of what plants I want to put in my dye garden I am researching using several resources.  From Knitpicks I purchased The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr.  So far I find it to be a fascinating resource that will help me a great deal toward understanding how to create dyes from plant materials.  I also purchased A Garden to Dye For through the Amazon Kindle Store.  These should give me a really good basis for understanding what plants I am going to need.  I am also trying to figure out what plants are native to my area of the USA so that I can avoid planting invasive species in my area.

In my two back beds I do hope to plant some vegetables.  Cherry tomatoes, Zucchini, Yellow Squash, spaghetti squash, and perhaps some others.  Again, I do plan on deterring the weeds and utilizing planters to create a garden with reasonable maintenance needs.

I firmly believe that this is going to take me several months, both to figure out what plants are good for dyeing and native (or at least not destructive) to my environment.  I would love to plant some cotton or flax but the reality is I am a little too far north for that to be a realistic dream.

So, I will keep dreaming, planning, and crafting.

Happy Crafting to All!

Mice and Me

The handyman that my colleague recommended to me is amazing, he has done so much work over the past week I can hardly believe it.  He is getting the basement cleared out, going to set up traps, seal any holes, and generally make sure that more mice getting in is impossible.  He has also managed to greatly disturb the existing nest and last night I heard what sounded like claws on the linoleum.  So, I didn’t sleep last night at all.  I dragged all of the cardboard out of the house, I had to put it by the external garage since pickup is not this week but next.  I looked for detritus, mouse droppings, and found none.  I called the handyman and he mentioned that since I have drop tiled ceilings in the basement the scratching  could have been coming from below the floor, which means I might be able to sleep tonight.

This is sort of a relief, however I think I need to get a professional organizer in the house anyway.  I had it in my head that I was going to take this one room at a time, blah, blah, blah.  In reality I know what I want to do, but have no idea how to achieve it.  Hopefully hiring a professional to accomplish this will help me to succeed and overcome this overwhelming sense of not enough space, not enough time.

On another note, I have received my Mirrix Little Guy Loom and I am enjoying myself a great deal.  I have begun to understand where this shopping retail is coming from and it actually is not depression.  My sibling’s (transgendered) driving force is travel.  They have always wanted to go to Japan and see the world.  I would like to see the world, but my driving force is Crafting.  Part is the primal driving force to connect with my fore-mothers through the crafts that they used to spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years learning and perfecting.  A portion is to try everything and find out what I am good at.  Another portion is simply a love of creating something tangible, meant to be used, held, and worn out.  If I gift you a bookmark, use it until the threads fall out, I’ll make you another.  If I give you dishtowels, please use them, I would love to hear that you wore a hole in them.  Art is pretty and it functions to decorate walls, Tapestries are prettier, decorate walls, and insulate your house.  So while my sibling is going on a trip to Japan in 8-10  weeks I am stocking up my studio to see what I can create in a year.  Right now I have a pair of tapestry cuffs on my Mirrix loom, I am enjoying testing out the different weights of wool and silk that I have to see what they will do on the loom.

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It really is true, you can get by with inferior tools but working with the right tools makes all the difference.  This loom warps up amazingly quickly, I am using the 8 dents per inch, and the shedding device allows me to add weft to the tapestries at an amazing rate.  I can easily adjust them up and down so that I have more room to work, and the tension system allows me to get a much tighter weave.  Looking at these it would take some imagination to think of what a worse beat is, I have to work hard on my selvedges.  This loom is also good for bead weaving which is an art that I want to become involved in.  I look forward to that exploration.

There are three more weeks before the end of the year.  In the next post I hope to have an update on the mouse issue, the organizer issue, my current tapestries, as well as a review of my Spinolution Firefly wheel.  To clarify, I purchased a 16 shaft Ashford loom which I will be discussing, the pin loom which was in the last blog post (I still love it), the Mirrix Loom which I will be exploring in depth this year, the Spinolution Firefly (electric) wheel package that includes a skein winder, lazy kate, 32oz and 16 oz heads, and more, as well as a variety of Jacquard dyes to color my weft threads.  It turns out that four or five skeins of weft from Treenway Silks costs about the same as a big skein of undyed silk yarn from knitpicks and some Jacquard dyes.  I had a pink dye already and found a good deal on Salmon (which is a brighter pink than I would have thought).  All of these supplies should stand me in good stead for working on my breed spinning experiment this year, making bookmarks, finding the right diameter of yarn for my 7′ triangle loom, and working on my curtains for the kitchen.

For now, Happy Crafting!

I Am Infatuated

For Black Friday weekend I decided to obtain a few things that I have been looking at for years.  One of them was the Blue Butterfly Originals 2″X6″ Pin Loom.  I am a librarian and had always wondered about making my own bookmarks.  I was not certain what type of yarn I would like to use with it so I started with a couple of bits of yarn that I had spun.  According to the directions, which I skimmed over, you can use any yarn up to a bulky yarn.  Within two days I had worked out that each bookmarks takes about 4 yards of yarn.  27 bookmarks later, IN TWO DAYS, I am still going strong.  IMG_2094If any of my relatives actually read this blog, you are probably going to get a bookmark.  One of my relatives is turning her old doll house into a car house for her two sons, and race car driving husband I am sure,  so I think that these would make great little blankets or rugs for the cars.

I have ten more balls of yarn measuring 4 yards each wound up and ready to be woven, alas I actually have to work today.  Since each of the bookmarks seems to take around 10-15 minutes to create I anticipate needing more yarn wound tomorrow morning.  At first this loom seemed a bit expensive, with shipping it wound up being around $29 (Which is why I took so long to buy it), but since in two days I have woven over 20 of the bookmarks, using smaller amounts of yarn that I wasn’t sure what project I made them for, I think that this is well worth it.  I think that this would be something that I would certainly consider adding to a craft show, though in order to justify the yardage of the yarn they would probably be about $3 each.  I might make it $5 each or 3/$12.  As the year winds down I am trying to figure out where I want things to go from here.

Right now I am balancing my books with some of the insurance money, and since my work is seasonal and two of my jobs have almost a month long break, January will be supplemented as well.  In February I am going to start seeing if I can live off of my three jobs and what changes I need to make to my current situation.  Starting in March I will be calling the Handyman that Mom and I have been hiring and seeing what he wants to put siding on the house and fix up the external garage.  Those will be my two major home improvements for the year, and hopefully for longer than that.  I do have someone currently working on getting rid of the mice in the house, I have high hopes for that situation.

That is what my life looks like now, though I think I’m going to give up on the food boxes, I do not think that they worked out how I wanted them to.  I do not like sour flavors and everything seemed to have lemon juice or vinegar in them.  I will see about using my instant pot to explore some other cultures with flavors I know I have a chance of liking.

Happy Crafting!

Paradise Fibers Video

I am always surprised when I realize that there is something that I have not even attempted.  I consider myself a fairly tech savvy person, while I do not like how I look or sound on camera I did think that I made a conscious decision not to get involved with uploading videos to Instagram and Youtube.  WRONG!

It turns out I was just a big chicken.  With the help of iMovies and my photo library I have been able to upload unboxing videos and tutorial videos quite easily from my iPad.  I admit that I have added no verbal commentary nor any music to my videos, since I tend to mute those anyway I choose to believe my lack of sound does not detract from my videos.  My explanation of how I am spinning my fiber is in this video.  I am very grateful for the Paradise Fibers challenges with this month’s Fiber of the Month Box since it required me to think outside my usual box and try something new.

On another note the first yarn for my first set of curtains has arrived.  As soon as I figure out how long I want this first warp to be I will warp a loom for my first set of curtains.  The yarn is a cottolin blend that I hope will turn into amazing curtains.

I have not set up my 2019 crafting goals, so that is in the works.  Until then, try something new!

Happy Crafting!

 

Knit Picks Chroma Lace in Wildflower

I know, I do not need more yarn.  I have mom’s stash to get through, I have yarn that I have spun, I have more yarn than I know what to do with.  However when this yarn went on sale for $3 per 400+ yard hank, I was a goner.  I picked up to of the same color and wound one into a center pull ball already.  I was thinking about patterns, most people think that one is enough for a min-shawl and anything of a substantial size requires four.  Since I hate mini-shawls, and do not have four, I started crocheting a half-granny shawl.  I know, my standard pattern, but it is just beautiful!

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I have barely started and it is already 12 inches across and 7 inches long.  I am certain that if I were to stretch this during blocking it would get considerably larger.    I have a row of double crochet lattice work before the yellow starts turning orange, I am going to try and free-style several different motifs into this pattern.  The hook that I am using, shown, is a 3.0mm hook.

I have several other patterns and projects I am thinking about, along with a couple of other purchases from this huge sale of knit-picks products.  The more I work on crafting the more I realize that at present my go-to crafts are spinning and crochet.  I hope to up my weaving, knitting, and felting game in the next few years but at present these are my comfort crafts.  I wonder if crocheting a good pair of socks would get me over my troubles with the idea of knitting a pair, or should I just keep swatching for these knitted socks?  Oh, these crafting dilemmas.

Happy Crafting!

Green Chef

I want to make it very clear at the outset, this is just my personal experiences with these boxes.  I am not the greatest cook, and I do not have a very adventurous palette.

My first Green Chef box was supposed to arrive on Saturday, it was delayed due to weather and arrived on Monday.  The meat was still good, as were the vegetables.  There was absolutely no spoilage, even the chicken which was my primary concern.  The first meal that I made was the southern chicken and biscuits.  My biscuits burned on the bottom, my Brussel sprouts (cooked on medium high as recommended on the package directions) burned.    I’ll take the blame for one but not both, the sprouts were likely my fault, I should have known that lower and slower would cook them evenly.  That being said, the chicken turned out alright, the sprouts and other veg were edible, and the biscuits were on the dry/flat side.

The next dish was the Vietnamese meatballs, with noodles and veg.  The meatballs turned out alright, there was a seasoning packet to work into the meat along with salt and pepper.  I boiled the water, soaked the noodles and veg as instructed for the maximum time recommended.  Everything was perfectly edible, the noodles were a lot tougher than I would have liked, the meatballs were bland (I did not add a lot of the red pepper flakes because I wanted to taste the spices not heat), and the sauce did little to perk things up.

My last dish was steak, mushrooms, over polenta with a red kale (or something green and leafy) salad with a blue cheese vinaigrette.  I knew that I was going to have some trouble with the salad, Blue cheese and I do not like each other.  I tried it anyway, the advice to massage the leaves worked wonders and the leaves themselves were sweet and supple.  If that were the only issue I would be fine.  I think I can salvage the polenta, there was not a lot of flavor so I am going to find out what cheese the British or Italian use for cheesy polenta and throw some of that in.  The mushroom sauce was pretty good.  The steak, it was chewy, there was some connective tissue that I had to discard, and there was not much flavor even after I made sure I used the entire seasoning, packet.  I could obtain a really nice New York Strip Steak for less than I spent on this box.

This company prides itself on their organic ingredients and commitment to recycling.  I love that idea, not enough to wash out the sauce packets and find out where I am permitted to drop the bags off so that Green Chef can recycle them.  I’ll drop them in with my regular recycling, thanks.

Again, maybe I just made some bad decisions regarding the meals that I chose.  Perhaps I read and followed the directions a little too closely (the area between medium and high is Medium-High right?).  I am willing to accept that my experience is probably the anomaly.  Perhaps in the future I will try this box again, but for now I have a Sun Basket box on the way and a few other subscription services to try before circling back to this one.

Until then, Happy Crafting!

Ordered and Delayed

I officially have my Spinolution electric Firefly spinning wheel ordered.  Since they are an American based company and they make each wheel to order it will be between 4-6 weeks before mine is shipped.  This is actually a good thing, it will give me time to enjoy the anticipation and look forward to seeing if there are any huge sales that are going to occur for the other crafting materials I hope to obtain.

I know that this seems like a sudden spree, and fairly irresponsible.  Truthfully I have ensured that I am spending less than half of what I have come into, saving what I can when I can, and that I have enough left over to cover the major expenses that are going to come up in the next year.  These three purchases are not going to significantly impact my financial situation, however they will significantly improve my productivity.

For the rest of 2018 I will be working and learning to enjoy what I have and what I can do.  For most of 2019 I will be figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life, what my priorities are, and how I am going to achieve them.  At present I am overwhelmed by possibilities, and need to have time to settle down and figure out where I want my energies to go.  I know that spinning and weaving are two things that I want to have as a priority in my life.

Paradise Fibers November 2018 box was themed around Harry Potter, to the extent that they are running a house cup.  Once specific goals have been accomplished then points are assigned and the house with the highest number of points will win.  The prize is 500 paradise points for each member of the house, which in reality is five dollars off of an order, nothing to sneeze at.

On another note, my first Green Chef box was scheduled to be delivered this past Saturday, I thought Wednesday but checked again and it was supposed to be Saturday.  This did not happen, due to the weather, and I am anxious to see how the ingredients have held up over the weekend.  I will report more about this in my next post.

So, major life decisions are on hold, but pending.  Expenditures are not beyond what is feasible at this time (though some house repairs might have to be accomplished using loans).  This is going to be a year of self exploration and renewal.  It will also be a year of renewal for my home and sweeping out what I do not (realistically) need.

Happy Crafting!