Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter Weary

Dear Mom,
Okay. We've all had enough. I've lost track of how many school days need to be made up. I think we can probably count the number of FULL school days in January on one hand. And I am not sure that any of those have happened consecutively. I hope the Young Lady's Sophomore year ends before her Junior year starts.
The thought of double digits sounds warm. Strike that. The sound of temps above zero sounds warm. Double digits might feel tropical at this point. We will not be discussing wind chill.

At least the sun is shining. And snow is sparkly.

In the meantime…..

THIS is THAT Sweater is on the needles. I have my iPod loaded with good books.
I wound a warp and started dressing Donna Reed with a new ( and hopefully more successful) napkin project yesterday.
Fresh flowers were delivered over the weekend, from a thoughtful friend….
and My Hero brought more home last night to celebrate my birthday.
For variety's sake, I have a shawl in the works with some handspun yarn. This is pure comfort knitting.
My first needle punch project is back from the framer. I was unsuccessful in finding a new project at any local shops. Very discouraging. Especially, after calling my NOT FAVORITE quilt shop (name withheld to protect the guilty) and was told "Yes, we have needle punch" only to drive the 30 minutes ONE WAY and discover that they literally had the punch needles and NOTHING ELSE. As if THAT makes any sense. I should have asked if they had needle punch projects. I drove back home all disgusted and fuming mad. Needless to say, I am Not Going Back There Again. I ordered three small kits online, and they've arrived, but don't have the nice Valdani floss that this first project had. Still, I like the change of pace this needlework offers. I'll work on these and keep my eyes out for more kits.
I received a new tea cup and a new tea pot for my birthday, too. Isn't that cup pretty? The colors are perfect in my kitchen. They are "me" colors.

Sometime before Christmas, my dear Brown Betty suffered an accident when something- I can't remember what- threw itself out of the cabinet and landed on her. I thought we'd escaped tragedy when I saw no obvious damage. Unfortunately, over the next few days, I noted a slight incontinence issue with Brown Betty. In denial, I convinced myself that the puddle was just a little overflow from brewing and steeping the pot, and that it was all my fault. I told myself this story more than once and kept Betty on duty. She is was? my favorite teapot, after all. Sadly, I could not continue this fairy tale and on closer inspection saw a hairline fracture under Betty's handle. She would have to be retired- but not thrown away. Betty deserves a quiet, dignified retirement after all her faithful service. I can always line her with a cup and use her to display flowers. I am sure we will come up with fun things for Betty to do. Hearing of Betty's disability, you, My Mother Dearest, so thoughtfully gifted me with a new, bigger, 8 cup Brown Betty for my birthday.
Big Brown Betty and I have become fast friends. Don't tell the other Brown Betty, but Big Brown Betty's spout is actually better. It stands straight up so I can fill her to the brim and she doesn't spill over! I need to knit a new tea cosy for Big Brown Betty because the cosy I have is too small. There are LOTS of tea cosy patterns out there to peruse. ( More distraction from the weather and from the housework I should be doing…..)
Fresh flowers work miracles.
Especially on winter weary days.
Keep warm. Daydream about digging in the dirt and planting vegetables, and about Branson and Mrs. Hughes, and smocked dresses on little girls, and windows open to warm breezes, Olive laying in a sunny patch on the patio, reading in a comfy chair on the screened porch……
Those days are coming. Hang in there, everybody!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Fringe

Dear Mom,
The Fringe.
Of my Sanity, you may wonder, as we find ourselves confronted by ANOTHER snow day. But not yet. This Fringe I am wondering about is the fringe on a shawl.

I did not keep track of, and probably do not care to know, how much time went into the spinning of the fiber for this shawl. But at last, the spinning and plying is done and I wove the shawl this yarn was intended to be.

The fringe has been trimmed to 10 inches.
I experimented with twisting the fringe, but it seemed too heavy for the shawl. I felt the same about the look of braiding it. The ends of the shawl are hemstitched with the fringe in clusters of three strands. The body of the shawl measures 17" x  60".
Sooo- do I leave the fringe as is? Trim it shorter? Knot the ends? Suggestions are welcome!


Thursday, January 16, 2014


Dear Mom,
I've been happy dancing for the last three days, with everyone back at work and school as they should be and the house to myself (and Olive); restoring everything to order. I was craving my solitude after that extra long Christmas break. I learned that 19 days is the longest I can last without Quality Alone Time. Day 20 and the cracks begin to show. Day 21 dawned with the promise of a 2 hour school delay which then became a no-school day, and, mentally, things got dicey. So, yeah. I am soaking in the solitude and quiet and order that this week brings me. Add *A Predictable Schedule* to * Solitude Required*.

Riding high on the success of my recent handwoven kitchen towels, I immediately started my next weaving project: dinner napkins. (I have a serious weakness for kitchen linens.) Quite some time ago, I purchased a hemp/cotton blend in a natural color, for just this purpose. I did the math and wound a warp for what I hoped would be eight 12x12, fringed napkins. Then several warp threads broke as I was dressing the loom. The fiber was very sticky, with the fuzz tying itself into knots around the threads. It was frustrating, but I re-calculated for eight 10x10, fringed napkins, finished dressing Donna Reed, and started weaving.
Such was my motivation that I wove about 4 napkins worth in that first evening. I only stopped so that I would not be crippled the next day. I sensibly paced myself over the next couple of days. I took note of ways to improve my next batch of napkins. Either I have an overactive imagination or was suffering a serious Weaver's Buzz, but I was envisioning dozens and dozens of napkins coming off the loom. Hand Woven Napkins for ALL on my Christmas list next year!!!!! The shuttle was flying!
The napkins came off the loom. I finished the edges on the sewing machine and trimmed the fringe. I started thinking that maybe napkins for just this house would be enough and removed Napkins from the Christmas gift list. And then I washed them.

I now have eight 8x8, fringed napkins. Wow, Did that Stuff Shrink.
The photo below shows the handwoven napkin laid out on top of a worn out napkin in the size I was hoping for. When folded, my napkins are more cocktail size than dinner size.  I felt deflated.
BUT. I have not given up. I ordered some fiber that is the same weight as the napkins, but is the same 100% cotton as my dish towels. I made even more notes for improving the next batch. I will aim for a much bigger pre-washed size. Maybe, if they turn out, napkins will be back on the gift list. And seriously, I have the lofty  unreasonable  delusional goal of having only handwoven dish towels and napkins in this house someday.

After patiently waiting in a 1/3 finished state for a year or two, this punch needle project was finished last week. It is off being framed right now. I really enjoyed working on it and plan on making another. This never should have taken so long to finish, because it is a pleasant diversion. I just kept picking up my knitting instead. This turned out to be a nice change-of-pace sort of needlework. Like coloring with pretty floss.

Last night I finished a pair of Thrummed Slippers. These things are wonderful! Warm and comfy. Thrums are bits of unspun wool that is knitted in with occasional stitches to create a thick, warm lining- like sheep's down.  As they are worn, that fleece lining felts and conforms itself to the bottom of the wearer's foot.

The pattern is Retro Thrummed Slippers. I am teaching this as a class at Village Yarn Shop. I've been experimenting with different non-skid, sole strengthening options for finishing the slippers. These are not, but could be easily embellished with pompoms or buttons or embroidered stitches. I've been so cold lately that I am tempted to make knee-high, thrummed boots for myself! There are some cheerful thrummed mittens patterns out there, too, if you could just sit there with warm hands and not actually need to use your fingers for anything….

Keep warm!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Where I Am Sitting

Dear Mom,
The sun reflects off the snow and shines in through the kitchen window 
and upon Donna Reed, giving perfect lighting to start threading the heddles for my next project.
These dishtowels are fresh off the loom and were finished yesterday.

We've been fortunate to have not lost power (or the internet connection!) and we are all safe and warm. My Hero was able to get in to work today, and so far, school has not been cancelled for tomorrow. Things just may start getting back to normal.


....  I spoke too soon. No school again tomorrow. The Young Lady says her brain is going to rot!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winter Storm Warning

Dear Mom,
Preparing for the predicted Winter Storm …. from the heavens, it must look like ants scurrying around a crushed hill.
To heck with Bread and Milk, I say. Make sure you have heavy cream and whiskey on hand, because Homemade Irish Creme will keep you a whole lot warmer than french toast.

Homemade Irish Cream

1 c strong coffee
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1 T dark cocoa
1 T sugar
1 T honey
1 T vanilla extract
1 T almond extract
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 c Irish whiskey

Thoroughly whisk cream, cocoa, sugar and honey into a saucepan of simmering coffee. Simmer for about 20 minutes, whisking frequently. 
Pour into a glass or ceramic pitcher and whisk in the sweetened condensed milk. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Whisk in the whiskey until completely blended. Allow to cool to room temperature* and serve over ice.
May be kept refrigerated for up to one week.

*I made some of this just before Christmas and Bonnie Jo stopped by to sample. We may not have actually waited for the "cool to room temperature" part. And please note that the empty glass in that top photo is Bonnie's.

Be safe and warm.