Friday, December 27, 2013

Argggh! What's This?

I'm getting ready to start a new color block, and notice one thread bubbling up like it doesn't have any tension on it. Normally a broken thread is no big deal, but as I go to the back of the loom to see where it broke, I find a whole section that looks like it's been cut!! OMG! It was hidden under the separating paper, which was probably the only reason it didn't show up sooner.

Now what? Generally when you have a broken warp thread it is a simple matter to tie in a new one and hide the ends. But I've never had this many stop at the same place. This is going to be a pain in the "you know what"! Somehow I'm going to have to stagger the new ends without the overlaps being too close together or they'll show on the surface of the fabric. I'm crushed. I'm already about 1-1/2 yards into the project, and really don't want to have to cut it off and start again. So I guess I'll muddle on, crossing my fingers that I can get past the break and that there aren't any more surprises waiting for me in the next 5-1/2 yards!!

But the bigger question is how the threads were cut in the first place...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Granny's Peanut Brittle

Every Christmas, for as long as I can remember, my grandmother made all the men in our family their own batch of peanut brittle. And as we all got married, that turned into a LOT of peanut brittle. The first Christmas after she had to move to assisted living, my husband commented on how much he was going to miss that peanut brittle. So I got her "special" recipe and made it for him. A few years later, I was comparing her recipe to the one on the back of the peanut bag. OMG! They stole my grandmother's recipe! I'm sure it was the other way around, but my mom and I had a good laugh over it.

Now I make the peanut brittle for James and Chris, and this year have added my gem of a son-in-law, Shaun. Since several people have asked how to make it, I'll share the recipe with you. I slightly changed it to make measuring easier (no one I know has a 1/3 tsp measure). Before starting, measure all ingredients and have them ready to use. Silicone is the peanut brittle maker's best friend! I use a silicone spatula for cooking, and two buttered silicone baking sheets to pour the peanut brittle onto. Makes it really easy to pick up. Traditionally, my grandmother, mom, and I all had big wooden bread boards that had been seasoned really well, which were used when pouring out the molten brittle. Most of the time this worked fine, but occasionally you'd get a batch that stuck to the board and that was NOT fun! I also use a candy thermometer so that I get really consistent results.

Sophie's Peanut Brittle

2 cups white sugar
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup white Karo (do not use generic brands if they list water in the ingredients)
2 cups raw peanuts
2 Tbl butter
1-1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, bring to a boil sugar, water, and Karo. When the mixture reaches 280º add the peanuts. Stir constantly until mixture turns amber (about 305º to 310º).
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Remove from heat. Stir in butter until melted. Add soda and salt, stirring briefly until creamy. Immediately turn out onto prepared surface.
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Use silicone spatula to spread mixture to thickness of single peanut, and allow to cool.
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Once cool, break into pieces and place in foil-lined tin. I don't know why it has to be foil, but that's the way Gran did it so I do too.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

One door closes...Another opens.

I've been planning my retirement for too many years to count, and finally that day has arrived. A long time ago I imagined it would be a special day, filled with fireworks and festivities to herald a new beginning. What I've found is the reality of a quiet transition to a new phase of my life. The day began and ended with the same exasperating drive to and from work. And in between, I saw the same patients that I do every day. They were so sweet and encouraging, as they are at that point in their lives that they know the importance on living each day to it's fullest. Spend time with those you love, doing what you love, because we never know how many days we have to take advantage.

When I changed careers ten years ago, I never would have imagined how many special people I would meet and get to know, and how much I would learn from each of them. I was granted an opportunity to give of myself, but received so much more. I learned what is important, and what to let fall away. The experience prepared me in so many ways to make the most of this new journey.

Now I'm taking that scary leap into the next phase of my life. There are so many things I still have left to accomplish, and I hope I'm blessed with the time to make them happen. I'm so looking forward to being able to spend more time with family. Not necessarily in flamboyant ways, but to cherish those everyday moments that I felt like I missed with the phrase, "Sorry, but I have to work." It's time to give back to family and friends for supporting me and understanding when I was giving to others.

So stay tuned. One of my goals is to blog once a week. Not that anyone really reads it, but I enjoy so much being able to go back and revisit projects and experiences. I'm going to have to learn now how to balance knitting, spinning, and weaving with housework and family. I have really missed having a clutter-free home, so that's going to be the first project to tackle! That and completing my current weaving project that has a fast approaching due date!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Summer Vacation - Part 1

For a long time I've wanted to go visit my sister, Tina, in Washington. It was so wonderful for the few years she was living nearby, and was difficult to imagine why anyone would not want to live in Texas. We're eight years apart in age, so growing up we were not that close as sisters. Then as we got married and out on our own, we were miles apart - literally! So this year, mom and I decided to make the trek to Sedro-Wooley, Washington to surprise her (sort of) for her birthday in June. At this stage of my life, to be able to take a trip with my mom is a blessing. I have so many friends who would give anything just to be able to see their mothers, much less to be able to travel and do something fun. So we began planning our trip many months before.

There is actually a LOT to do in the area where Tina lives with her husband, Steve, and their two dogs Turbo and Glitz. They live in the Skagit River Valley, which is ripe with lush farmlands. We arrived just in time to have missed the Berry Dairy Days in Burlington - darn! But there were still plenty of ripe strawberries to be had at the local roadside stands! Visiting an agricultural area certainly makes it easy to eat healthy on vacation! It was fun to hit the local farmer's markets each day to pick up fresh veggies for dinner. So in exchange for room and board, I taught Tina a couple of my favorite WW recipes.

We didn't have a set itinerary, so we just planned each day by the weather forecast. Wherever it was going to rain, we went the other direction! And it worked out pretty well! We started our sightseeing by heading for Bloedel Reserve via Deception Pass. The bridge is spectacular and provides a great view of the Skagit Bay.



It turns out that Tina in afraid of heights, which I didn't know. So here she is trying to look cool, calm, and collected standing on the bridge!


It was a beautiful drive across Bainbridge Island, but it turned out that the Bloedel Reserve was closed on Monday! Darn! But we did get to take a couple of ferry rides, which was fun. Here's Mom enjoying the beautiful scenery.


While waiting for the ferry across to Seattle, we stumbled upon the most awesome ice cream shop! If you are ever on Bainbridge Island, don't miss Mora Ice Cream! I had the most unbelievable Marsala custard! Now if I could just figure out how to make it at home!

Here is Mom and Tina finishing their's off before we board the ferry.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Latest Addition to the Wheel Garage

I've browsed antique shops for years and rarely even found a great wheel, much less one that had all it's pieces and an unwarped wheel. But when I was least expecting it, a beautiful wheel found it's way to me! Since almost all of my patients are in the 80+ category, I often find myself chatting about things in the past. I love listening to their stories about how things were when they were growing up, and all about their families. And frequently my hobbies find their way into the conversation as there are just not that many people around who spin or weave these days.

So one day, I'm talking with a very nice lady and she tells me that she has a great wheel that has been in her family for a long time. They had tried to sell it at one time, but it was going to cost almost as much to ship as what they had it priced. And with the hassle of having it professionally crated, it managed to keep it's place in the living room for many more years. She was wondering, since I belong to most of the big guilds here in town, would I know of someone who would like to have it and that would actually use it. I said I would help her find someone, not really thinking that I would keep it. After all, it has a pretty big footprint! But the more I researched the wheels to see what they were selling for, the more I wanted to take it home with me! Kind of like when you foster that cute abandoned puppy, then he never leaves. So we settled on a fair price, plus a little extra since I knew it was probably in good shape.

Saturday came, and I picked up my mom for the big adventure to look at the wheel. It was supposed to be stormy all day, but we were just dying to see it. We were rewarded with a beautiful great wheel sitting in their living room. I looked it over with my inexperienced eye, and it looked like all the parts were there and that it would spin. So I took a bunch of photos before dis-assembly, then loaded it up in the car.



Our other project for Saturday was to get Mom (and me) up and running on our new Nook HD's. So after a quick drive through Burger King, we were ready to spend the afternoon loading apps, downloading books, and a general tutorial so she'd be ready for book club this week. It definitely helped being able to go through the steps together. Usually we just run over and fix things for her, so it was fun to let her experience the process. And I haven't had even one "tech support" question this week! Way to go Mom! And I'm loving my Nook. Just the right size to carry around in my purse.

Sunday was spent on cleaning, waxing, and re-assembly. During the cleaning process, I found a maker's mark on the end of the bench - "SR AL". I've since learned from the folks in the "Spindle Wheel" group on Ravelry, that it was made in Alfred, Maine around the period when Samuel Ring was Trustee of the Shaker colony there from 1809-1814. However, wheels continued to be made with that mark after 1814. The tensioning system on my wheel wasn't used until after 1823. But even at that, the wheel is around 190 years old! It is absolutely amazing to me that something so delicate could survive that long. Definitely shows how important a tool the spinning was to people of that period.


GW-013 The only thing missing from the wheel, is the little rectangular block on the bottom right post of the miner's head.


And here I am. Working hard on my long draw to make my first yarn on the wheel. I'm kind of in that "park and draft" phase, but improving. I had some merino top laying around that I decided to try out first, but I think it would have been a little easier if I had carded some wool to work from rolags. It helped a lot that I understand the principles of spinning off a spindle from spinning on my book charkha. I do think that the great wheel is easier though. The charkha has a really fast drive ratio to spin cotton and other fine fibers. The great wheel is a bit slower and geared more to spinning wool, although you could spin cotton as well.


I'm practicing a little each day and my spinning is definitely improving! Here's where I stopped this afternoon. And I'm wasting less and less. While I was out on Sunday looking for a cotter pin for the wheel hub, I stopped by the storage unit and picked up a big bag of white Polworth to card. That will be my first real test after I finish the merino. So stay tuned! If you'd like to see more photos, I've got them all up on my Flickr page here.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Veggie Yarn

One of the best things that happens after retreat is that you come back inspired to create, and that you see more of the possibilities around you. For instance, the other night I was making one of my favorite dishes, kale with canallini beans. Kale is fast becoming one of my favorite vegetables, and it is delicious in beans. dinner

In this recipe, you cook the kale first and use a bit of the cooking water in the beans. As I removed all the kale from the pot, I was left with this fabulous green water! Mind racing, I grab a test skein of BFL lamb (see previous retreat post) and throw it in the pot. It is a beautiful celery color but doesn't look like it's going to be colorfast. 20130402_182234

So while dinner is simmering, I google dyeing with kale and find a reference that says it may need a mordant to be color and lightfast. So I dig through my dye supplies and get out some alum. Out with the yarn, in with the alum. Put the yarn back, and now it's purple. 20130402_183714

I let that simmer for a while, and when I come back to get the yarn out before bed, the yarn and water look a dark silvery gray. I'm sort of disappointed not to have green or purple, but the gray is pretty. I dump the water down the sink, and as I'm rinsing the kale bits out of the yarn, all the gray goes away and the yarn is back to a beautiful celery green! Yea! Kind of a roundabout way to get back to the beginning. It looks a lot nicer in person than in this photo. The color seems almost impossible to photograph. BFL yarn

The moral to the story is to keep your eyes open to the beauty of the world that surrounds you, and don't forget to take time to play! You never know where it might lead.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hill Country Spinning Retreat 2013

Ahhh! The smell of wool drying in the bathroom! Our third retreat has come and gone, and as always, has left me exhausted but filled with inspriation. Hence, the bathroom full of wet yarn. There are always a million little samples to finish before I forget what they are. Thankfully, I am much more organized this year! I put together a binder with cards where I can attach and label each yarn sample that we spun. And everything that needs to be finished is in baggies labeled with the fiber name. This year's topic was "Blends". What to blend with what, and how to do it to get the final product that you want. So there are lots of little bits of wool, cotton, flax, silk, etc. There were also fun break out groups in the afternoons, which provided other fiber diversions.

My vacation began early by picking up Sam at the airport so that she could ride up with me. Unfortunately, Roddie was going to have to leave on Saturday before retreat ended to go to her nephew's wedding, so we had to take two cars this year. It was very strange not riding together! It's not very often that we don't travel together. So we caravanned to San Antonio for our annual lunch at Mi Tierra where we met up with Jo and Maxine. Just can't to go Mo Ranch without first stopping for Mexican food and margaritas! And we made a little time for shopping at El Mercado where I picked up a good deal on two cute tie-dyed dresses and a fuffy red ribboned top. Since the weather turned out to be a little warmer than expected, they came in handy. Now it was time to high tail it to the ranch to be sure we got our usual seats in the fireplace corner. I would have hated to have to embarrass myself by asking someone to move. It is the perfect roomy spot for me with all my junk!

It was wonderful to see Judith again. She is truly a treasure trove of information on everything fibery! And she brought us fiber again! A beautiful hand dyed 86% Polworth / 15% Silk roving. When it was my turn, I chose an interesting orange and purple. Not quite sure what I'm going to do with it yet, but am looking forward to spinning it. The challenge is to come up with a finished product by next year's retreat.

Judith Judith MacKenzie

Judith Fiber

***** So many of the old crew was back again, along with some new faces. It never ceases to amaze me how we can have such a large group of women get along so well for an entire week. Don't get me wrong, there are occasional tense moments, but Mo Ranch and the Guest House are large enough that you can always get some space when you need it. And I've made some wonderful friends that I hope will be around for a long time. In fact, a bunch of us will be meeting up at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon in June. Mom and I are going out to Washington to visit my sister for her birthday and it just so happens that BSG is the following weekend.

***** Mornings began with Katie leading a yoga class. She'd do her morning meditations by the river, then guide us through some great stretches. Definitely helped counteract all the sitting we do!

YogaKatie < br />
Please make our spinning beautiful

***** Our first spinning day was on cotton and cotton blends. Definitely a challenge! And not my favorite thing to spin on my wheel. Much more fun on the charkha! Judith gave us some of her brown seeds, which will be going in my little back yard garden as soon as they're ready. In the evening, we had a little lesson on spinning using a supported spindle. A bunch of us had made a group purchase from Malcolm Fielding of Tasmania, Australia earlier in the year and they arrived just in time for retreat. I am definitely much better at using the top whorl spindle, but my spinning on the dervish is getting better. Click on Malcolm's name for a link to his Etsy shop. He is a brilliant woodworker and creates some of the best balanced spindles ever. I love mine! He also has a group on Ravelry if you want to see more photos.

Spindling lesson

Tiger Eye Dervish and Bowl

After getting severe cramps in my adductors for doing the "park and draft" method of spindling, Roddie and I bought this handy tool from Carolina Homespun to use as a support bowl with the dervishes.

Support Bowl

***** One of my favorite fibers from this year was flax, which surprised me. I took a flax spinning class at WC Mercantile a while back and didn't enjoy it at all. Could be that this lovely lilac top was just an easier to spin preparation. But it sure takes a lot of spit! I'll probably just go with a wet sponge to finish it all. Judith gifted me with the leftovers from class, so I'll be making something beautiful out of it.



But my very favorite blend that we tried was from Taylored Fibers. It was a blend of alpaca and cotton with silk noil. Nothing special to look at, but spun up into a very interesting yarn. The little sample below was dyed in the lichen pot on dye day. Roddie and I are going to go in together and order more to play with.


***** While trying to decide what to pack for this trip, Sam suggested that I bring along my BFL lamb fleeces that needed to be combed. I bought these early on in my spinning career and the ends are a bit felted together so you have to separate it out lock by lock in order to comb it in preparation for spinning. Quite a chore! So I tossed it in as cushioning for the Ott lights, and lo and behold, Jude was looking for something to comb with her beautiful new mini combs! Yea! It's not all done, but she made a big dent in it so I can start spinning it. And yes I did reward her with locks from the fleece! Both parties came away happy.

Carded and uncarded

***** Roddie finally jumped down the weaving rabbit hole! She brought her brand new Cricket, which we warped at retreat. And after receiving too many opinions on tension, selveges, etc., she tuned all of us out except Judith and was weaving away in no time!


***** As always, one of the highlights of the week is dye day on Friday and Saturday! This year we had an indigo vat, a lichen pot, one cochineal, and two with Mother MacKenzie Dyes. I had decided earlier this year that instead of doing the usual skeins of yarn, that this year I'd bring silk scarves to dye. So I brought four, all gathered up and tied, and ready for the dye pot. And we got an extra one in our goodie bag, which made five! I did break down and buy two additional skeins of yarn, and we all got a skein of bison from Judith. So I had quite a stash to play with. The bison went into the indigo pot which was really strong this year. It came a out a beautiful blue/black which is almost impossible to photograph, so you'll just have to take my word on how lucious it is. My mini skein of alpaca/cotton/silk went into the lichen pot along with one scarf. Two scarves and a skein of yarn went into the cochineal. The yarn came out a really deep pink. The scarves were very pale, so I put one back in to cook some more. That and another tightly wound scarf went into the Mother MacKenzie red. When I opened it up, there was a LOT of white! This one now got tossed into the purple dye. It now looks like something to wear to Red Hatters! The second that had been in the cochineal had a lot more patterning, so I left it alone. But my favorite scarf was the one that went into the indigo pot. I had tied pony beads on one end and pleated the other, which made for a very interesting design.! My last skein of yarn went into the acid dye pot, and after a few color additions, came out a beautiful blue-green.

DyeDay13 Judith crushing dried cochineal bugs for the dye pot.


In the wind


DyeDay31 That's my dark blue bison and green skein on the right tree limb.>

On the last night we hung all the silk scarves along the upstairs railing. Absolutely beautiful!


***** Too soon it was time to say goodbye until next year! A huge thank you to Karen and her crew for taking on the task of organizing such a great event and saying, "How hard can it be?" See you all in 2014!


If you're interested in more photos, check out my Flickr set Hill Country Spinning Retreat 2013.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Almost that time again!

The anticipation of attending our THIRD spinning retreat with Judith MacKenzie is building fast. And once again I've had some requests for Roddie's and my spreadsheet that we use to make sure we don't forget anything. This list is by no means 100% complete, and we don't always pack everything on it, but it is a great place to start. Doing a week-long fiber retreat requires a LOT of "stuff". So here's a link if you'd like to check it out.