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Updated: 2017-11-17T07:31:01.980-05:00

 



Changes and Improvements

2015-10-04T16:23:41.407-04:00

Weaving the dishcloths made me aware of a few changes I'd like to make, and they are all complete now.

First, the original tie-ups weren't all the same length, and even if they were, because of levers and angles and stuff, the treadles wouldn't lift the shafts equally.  So I bought some texsolv and pegs and rigged my own system.  It works great.

I ended up just cleaning the heddles with steel wool.  I have 100 on each shaft, and I'll keep working on cleaning more while watching tv or whatever.  I just hate to waste something that is usable with some time and effort (this also applies to the reeds).

I unscrewed two of the heddle bar connectors to loosen the bars and make moving the heddles easier.

I re-laced the front and back apron rods.  Much better.

I replaced the bumpers on the beater, and adjusted them so that they actually clear the screw heads on the sides of the frame.  It doesn't seem like they ever worked (the old ones were pretty beat up), and maybe the design was improved on later versions, but the replacement bumpers weren't any deeper, so I can't say for sure.

I bought a 24" stool from BB&B.  It's not your typical weaving bench, but it's tall enough, and wasn't $300.

And now I'm ready to make the class project for the Craftsy class "Floor Loom Weaving".  I don't think I'm going to make it into pillows, but maybe I'll sew the panels together into a throw.



The 10 dent reed seems to have the yarn pretty close, and it rubs some.  It's the prescribed yarn, so that must be how it should be.  I used blind slats for the packing.  I ran out, and they aren't very stiff, so while adequate for some projects, I'll probably get some better warp sticks when I get the chance.



Up And Running!

2015-09-07T14:48:06.272-04:00

Finally.  The loom is making woven stuff.  I cleaned the 6 dent reed with scotch-brite pads, which worked pretty well.  I went head and used some dull gray heddles, and things are cookin'.
(image)
warped
(image)
and weaving

Warping went mostly smoothly.  It helps to have warped a rigid-heddle loom before, and to have watched hours and hours of other people warping looms.   I don't have a raddle, so I warped front to back, which works well also because the back beam folds down all the way to the floor, and you can sit on a stool right up against the heddles.

Things I've learned:

1.  I think the shafts might be warped a little bit, and it makes the heddles hard to move.  Solutions may be to a) not hook the heddle rods on the center hooks until done threading, b) try to un-warp the shafts, and c) unscrew the heddle rod hooks a little bit to loosen things up.  New heddle rod hooks that are adjustable are $10 each (I would need eight) so that's not ideal.

2.  The tie-ups are all the same length, but probably shouldn't be.  I'm thinking of changing them to texsolv so I can adjust easily (the current set up is loops with overhand knots).  However, I might just be being picky to have all of the shafts raise to the same level, if the weaving is fine anyway.

3.  I am going to re-lash the apron rod on the front.  I didn't mind that it was heavy, but I would have liked more room to get my fingers in there when tying on.  The back apron rod is held on with a few random threads, so redoing that was in the plans already.  I ordered some nylon cord from Camilla Valley Farm, but not enough.  Once it arrives, I'll take it around and shop for something similar in a craft or hardware store.  Also, the apron rods are rough, so I'll sand them like I did the metal rods that guide the shafts.  It would be nice if they would turn, and they don't.

4.  I might need something else to sit on.  I like the height of my piano bench with a book on it, but that's not a great long-term option.  Ouch!

5.  Using a drill to wind bobbins is perfectly acceptable.  My drill will go pretty slowly, so I can maintain control and not burn my fingers with yarn friction.  Certainly more affordable than a bobbin winder.  Those things are expensive!

Also, the loom still smells.  :-/



Heddles and Reeds, Reeds and Heddles

2015-09-05T11:53:43.375-04:00

Not a lot of progress has been made since the last post, but I've certainly done a lot of work!  Cleaning metal things is not very straightforward, at least loom parts.  Heddles are delicate and fiddly, and reeds need to be cleaned pretty well to ensure they don't get rust and oxidation on the threads.These are the four reeds that came wit the loom.  The two narrower reeds (on the left) are LeClerc reeds, and the two wider ones are from what I believe is a defunct reed company.  They all have their original papers along the edges, and they will all have shiny new "duck" tape when this is all over.  Last weekend I tried some different things to clean them, but nothing's working great.  Someone on the internet recommended a fabric buffing wheel, that it would get in between the dents, but I didn't have great luck with that.  The two that are truly rusty I've dosed with a lot of WD-40, and one of them I scrubbed with a brass brush, which seemed to remove a lot of rust, but was far from complete.So I moved on to the two LeClerc reeds which weren't in as bad of shape.  The second from the left is a 6-dent reed, so the spaces between the dents are pretty big.  I tried scrubbing this with yarn and Barkeeper's Friend, which worked ok.  If I only had a few dents to do it would be great.  But it was really messy and not super fast so I put that one aside.The left-most reed is a 15 dent reed, so there is no way I could/would go dent-by-dent to clean it.  I was just going to have to rub hard enough with a terry-cloth towel to get in there.  I used some MAAS metal polish and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed.About 1/3 done This is the oxidation that came off.  The darker cloth is just as dark on the other side.  I feel like I made a lot of progress on that one.  There are a few little stubborn spots that won't budge.  I tried a little fine sandpaper, but it wasn't fine enough, so those spots are a little rough.  I think I need some fine steel wool.  This reed had a piece of string tied in the center dent (it's still there in the picture), and where the knot and ends rested against the metal there is an imprint that I can't get rid of.Next thing to try: I bought a wire wheel that I'm going to take to the rusty reeds.  If that doesn't work, I might just give up on those two.  I might also get some CLR to try on the 6 dent reed.  Again, someone on the internet had good luck with it.  It's worth a try.The heddles have been a similar story.  I found that if I took the heddles out of the coke bath and let them dry, the oxidation wouldn't rub off, but if I rubbed them wet, a lot would come off.  So I cleaned off about 200 and was done with that.  They don't look great.  They look dull gray.  I think it's ok, but they're not slippery, and since I think it's my fault (I put them in the oven to speed up the acid bath, and that's when they turned gray) I'm inclined to try to clean them instead of buying new.  I'll probably buy new ones over time as I go.  I would like to have Texsolv heddles, but they are pretty expensive.  I polished some heddles with MAAS during class this week* but didn't get far.  I'm sure by next week I'll be posting a picture of my lovely new texsolv heddles.  Next week I'm going on a trip for work, and since I drive a Prius, the money I get for mileage far exceeds my actual expenses.  It'll be hard to not spend that money on heddles, I feel.  Maybe a reed, too.*I am working on my Master's via internet at University of Illinois.  Class is a live lecture, but I'm sitting at my dining room table, and it helps me to have something to do with my hands as I listen.[...]



A Loom In Its New Home

2015-08-28T22:13:49.117-04:00

Tonight I cleaned and Fed-and-Waxed the main body of the loom, and moved it into it's new space.  I replaced the harnesses, but haven't yet put back the beater or treadles.

The heddles are still soaking in diet coke.  I'm not looking forward to wiping them off one at a time.  Procrastination!

The reeds are still on the porch.  I haven't smelled them lately.  The longer I wait, the better the news, I feel, so I might be somewhat intentionally ignoring them.



Progress! Not stinky!

2015-08-27T21:15:07.942-04:00

I determined that this evening I would finish something, anything.  I didn't have any other commitments, so it seemed a reasonable goal.

And it was.

Here are the harnesses, with far less rust, and nearly no musty smell!
(image)
Four Leclerc harnesses, all fed and waxed
And here are the treadles with shiny new stainless steel hardware (some of it at least):
If I had been thinking, I would have taken before shots, but I wasn't at the time I took this apart.  You'll just have to take my word for it.

Shiny!
Not smelly!



Small Update, and hello!!

2015-08-27T12:45:44.651-04:00

Who knew anyone was still out there?  I seriously intended to post here just for the reference of it, for future searchers, but it appears I still have readers.  Hello!!

Short update today, since yesterday I learned that I had a two chapter reading assignment before class started today.  I have decided to go back to school for my Master's degree, and Statistics starts tonight.  Two chapters of graduate-level statistics is tough reading.  There are so many things I'd rather be doing.

So... all I did last night was take off all of the heddles, and clean the harnesses.  I also stopped at home depot on the way home and found the replacement hardware I need/want.

(image)
Heddles soaking in citric acid solution
Before and after:

Not much to see, but a little progress.  This harness is the worst.  I'm sure it'll be shining once I Feed & Wax it.



My New Leclerc Artisat

2015-08-24T21:50:21.792-04:00

I'm starting up the blog again.  At least for a little while.  I've just purchased a used loom, and I'm not thrilled with the amount of information I'm finding on the internet about it (maintaining it, using it, etc.), so I'm going to contribute my experience.Let's start with pictures:These are the pictures I got from the previous owner.  It shows the loom in one piece, front, side, and folded.  Obviously, a foldable loom is a great option if you're going to have a floor loom and don't have tons of space.  This will even fold when it has a project going.My friend Lisa and I drove all day to pick it up.  It wouldn't fit in my car, so she generously agreed to take me down in her Murano.It's quite old.  It's a loom that you can still buy new, but this is a near-original version.  It has very few plastic parts.  But it's also got a lot of rusty bits.And now it's in a bunch of small, rusty pieces.Front: without beater or harnessesBack: without beater or harnessesThe treadles:All the small hardware is in baggies, and I'll be heading to Home Depot to replace them.  So rusty.  I unrolled the aprons to air them out.  The whole loom smells a little musty.  Somehow the worst are the reeds.  All four reeds and the roll of cardboard are out on the deck in the fresh air.Plans: clean all the wood with Murphy Oil Soap, and treat it with Howard Feed-N-Wax.  I need to clean the heddles and the reeds, and a few other metal parts.  Oh, and decide where to put it.[...]



How I Replaced My Lendrum's Footman Connectors

2014-09-10T22:51:16.416-04:00

Today's blog post is a tutorial.  I recently inherited a Lendrum spinning wheel, and while it's a wonderful wheel, I have found maintenance and usage documentation lacking.  So, when one of the footman connectors broke recently, and I couldn't find any information about what to do, I decided to document how it went for me, and maybe it will help someone else.So, first things first.  First, this happened:I was just spinning along, when I suddenly stopped because the right footman connector spontaneously broke in two places.  You can see that it is not connected above or below the part that rocks back and forth.  I don't know what it's called.  If I had a manual or a diagram, I would know.  But I don't.Next, I ordered the replacement parts and one tool.  I purchased the pieces pre-cut, but I did find other places that offered one long piece that you can cut yourself.  I also ordered the square screwdriver I needed for the Lendrum screws.  Rumor has it that earlier wheels had Philips head screws, so take a look at your wheel before you buy the screwdriver.Screwdriver and replacement piecesScrew in the right treadleScrew in the back of the rocker-thingieFirst step of the actual repair: I took out all of the screws, keeping track of where they go back.  Once the screws were removed the footman connectors were a little tight in spots, but they pulled right out.  Even though the left one didn't break, I replaced it anyway.  Seemed like a good idea.Old connectors vs. new connectors.  If your connectors look like the set on the left, you should buy a new set so you have it when one breaks.  They do age. Second step: I re-installed the left connector, pushing it in as far as it would go into the rocker-thingie above, and flush with the bottom of the treadle below.  Re-installing the treadle screw was pretty straight-forward, but I really had to push on the screw in the rocker-thingie.  The screw goes straight into the connector, with no threaded guide, so you have to push a bit while twisting to get it to go in.Can you see this?  The connector is Right. There. and you gotta make the screw go through it.  PUSH!  CAREFULLY!Now, I had to guess on how to install the right connector.  It connects with screws at the treadle, the rocker-thingie, and the footman.  The question becomes where to secure the rocker-thingie.  What I did was to line up the left and right treadles and adjust the rocker-thingie to be parallel to the floor, and secured it there with the screw.Shadow makes it look a little off, but I think it is straight.Last step!  (One reminder: if you moved the drive band out of the way, or if it moved itself, be sure it's back where it needs to be before you secure the last screw, or else you'll have to remove the c clamp to put it back on.)  At first I pushed the connector all the way into the footman, but then the footman was too close to the rocker-thingie to move as far as it needed, so I backed it out a bit and looked at a few other wheels on the internet to see how they looked.  This looked about right, so I installed the last screw, and gave it a little whirl.Ta Da!I hope this is helpful to someone.  If you have a schematic or diagram of the Lendrum Original, please share.  At least tell me what the rocker-thingie is and I'll edit the post with the correct terminology.[...]



More Adventures in Home Improvement

2014-03-02T21:20:28.718-05:00

About a week and a half ago the light burned out in the ceiling fan in the craft room. Needless to say, light is pretty important in the craft room, so I ran out and bought a new ($10 halogen) light bulb, and it still didn't work.  After a new battery in the remote and a bit of experimenting, I concluded that the receiver needed replacement.  However, I really hate that ceiling fan.  It is a 52" fan in a small bedroom, the light always flickers, it takes a stupid lightbulb, and doesn't give off a lot of light.  Also, it's a very contemporary design in my early-20th century arts-and-crafts house.

And...while investigating the situation, I found this:

I am not convinced this is the best way to install a ceiling fan.  Neither is my Home Improvement book from Home Depot.   I decided that this was the ideal time to ditch the old guy and get something more appropriate.

(Also, note the highly-stripped screws.  Thankfully, removing them wasn't a big deal.)

And an appropriate box:
Much better.  Ahh.  Messy, but closer to code.

And the finished product.  More appropriate style and size, and three non-halogen 60-watt bulbs.  And no stupid remote to eat 9v batteries!


I went looking for a white lamp, but decided I liked this one so much better than the white option.  Oh well.




How do Those House Makeover Shows Do It?

2013-12-15T18:14:11.523-05:00

Over my Thanksgiving break, I used the time to turn my second bedroom into a functional craft room.  It had turned into a gigantic walk-in closet of crap, and I wasn't able to use it for anything.  It's not a huge room, but it's ample and should be room enough to get some use out of it.  One corner is Sadie's crate and pen, but the rest was up for a change.Before: I have nothing to say about this.  It was just a mess, although the panoramic view makes it look worse.After:  Much improved!Click to make big enough to see the numbers...1:  The bookshelf that used to be back by the window.  Now it blocks off Sadie's space from the rest of the room, and creates a little nook where I can put the spinning wheel when I want to spin.2: Ott floor lamp.  Hoorah for good lighting!  Very important in a craft room.3: A few things behind the new Ikea bookshelf, the carrying bag for the spinning wheel and an extra large ball-winder.4: yarn, yarn, and more yarn.  There's more under the bed.4*: sweater quantities of yarn in bins on top of the bookshelf.5:  Crates that have been modified with solid bottoms and casters that nest.  These were made by Paul for Janet (per Janet's instructions.)  They're filled with fiber, as they were when they were in Janet's studio.6:  Janet's spinning wheel.7: This is, I think, a microwave cart.  It's eligible for upgrade in the future, but does a fine job right now of holding spinning and weaving equipment.8:  Another item that's subject to upgrade, but is working for now.  It's home to general craft supplies and sewing stuff.9:  This is a table from Ikea that is sold as a dining table, but is a perfect craft table.  I put felt pads on the feet so it can move around easily, without the added height of casters.  It has six drawers and two gateleg leaves.  When both sides are up it is big enough for cutting out fabric, or blocking sweaters. 10: And the best part of the whole thing -- Grandma's sewing machine has a home that isn't the basement.  Or the floor in the dining room.The desk is cleaned off enough to use, but I didn't include it in the picture.  It's not perfect, but I think "usable" is a valid goal, which I achieved.I still have a few pieces in the dining room that need to get moved, but for the most part, the dining room is no longer the craft room.  Next steps: organize/straighten up the dining room and make it look less like another storage closet.Another thing I'd like to note: the Ikea bookshelf actually has leveling feet, which is important in an off-kilter house like mine.  I'm so glad.[...]



Fit to Flatter and Revelations!

2013-04-18T11:14:46.262-04:00

I'm a long-time listener of the Stash and Burn podcast.  I'm not always current, but I do listen eventually.  In episode 127 Nicole interviewed the author of a new book, Fit to Flatter, Amy Herzog.  It was an interesting interview, and Amy also talked about her new Craftsy class of the same title.  I pretty much bought it right away, and I must say it's been quite a learning experience.  I plan on buying the book shortly.

I feel like I've always understood the math and construction techniques needed to adjust sweaters to fit, but I've not quite known what those adjustments should be for myself.  I certainly have resisted the need for waist shaping (as I am nearly as straight as a person can be) with a fair dose of animosity towards those preaching in the Church of Waist Shaping, as they nearly always have a lovely hourglass shape.  Amy preaches waist shaping, but recognizes that not everyone has a waist and makes recommendations that are realistic and practical for me.  Also, Amy's approach to picking a size and making adjustments from there has been something of a revelation to me, although it makes perfect sense and I'm not sure why I wouldn't have thought of it before.

I'm very excited to knit a sweater with this new information, although I do have a few in progress already.  My question is: do I knit a completely fresh sweater?  Do I rip out one that I never wear and fix it?  I'm not sure which is more compelling.  Using stash is a good thing, but so is using a sweater that is languishing as moth food in the back of my closet.

Discuss.

BTW, I have enjoyed the two Craftsy classes I've taken.  I like the format and support materials around them.  I am not a person who needs a lot of teacher-student interaction, so for me these are almost as good as a class taken at Stitches or the like.  They have some very good teachers providing the classes now as well, and I highly recommend them especially for classes that you will not have access to in real life any time soon.  For example, someday I will take Shirley Paden's class on sweater design.  I don't think she's ever come to Stitches Midwest (my main source of knitting classes) and Craftsy is cheaper anyway.  Win - win.



Neither Fast Nor Easy

2013-04-05T12:30:13.480-04:00

I'd put this on Facebook,  but most friends wouldn't understand.
After nearly finishing the body of this sweater I realized that I made a mistake when dividing for the sleeves.  Instead of ripping it out, or leaving it alone, I pulled out the two rows where the mistake happened, and now I'm grafting it back together.  Yes, this is a row of seed stitch I'm putting in.  I'm not sure which would have been faster: this way or just re-knitting.  This is a pain!



Be the Match!

2012-10-24T20:31:47.535-04:00

Do you know how easy it is to be a bone marrow doner these days?  I didn't, until a co-worker's son did it, and I learned all about it.  Waning are the days of painful injections into your hip bone.  Now it's more like a mega-blood donation.  No sedation!

Also, it's super easy to get on the registry.  Just go to www.bethematch.org, and give them some information.  If you qualify, they send you a kit and you send them back some cheek DNA.

Here's my kit, ready to send back.
(image)
Cheeky!

It was easy too.  Just swab the inside of your mouth, put a bar code label on the stick, and secure it in the foam bit.  Then do the next one.  It was kind of like a little craft project, and you all know how I love craft projects!

Go!  Do it now!  It's really such a small inconvenience to save someone's life.  I hope I get a call.




Admittedly Righteous Indignation

2012-08-07T15:50:48.995-04:00

I have something to get off my chest, because I seem to be the only one who's noticed what's going on.

This month, for my book club, we read Amor Towles' "Rules of Civility".  Many many people love this book, including many of the people in my book club.  It was a fine read, and the story line interesting.  (If you feel this way, or plan to read the book, stop reading this blog post now.  Live on in blissful ignorance.)

However, it is is an historical fiction, and host to inaccuracies galore.  Many people couldn't give a crap about whether it's accurate or not, but to me it was glaring and distracting and totally broke the spell that an historical fiction should cast.  So here they are, the things I noticed (which certainly can't be all of them, I put no effort into finding things, they just stood out to me):

1.  Cooking sherry is not drinkable, it is full of salt.  If it was drinkable they wouldn't be able to sell it in grocery stores without an ID, and during prohibition, which it was.
2.  Cheesecake was not a popular (or unpopular, for that matter) dessert in 1938.
3.  Women did not wear pants in public in 1938.  They certainly did not wear jeans in New York city in 1938.
4.  Few people in 1938 had showers, and people did not bathe daily at that time.  Only the rich who had built their houses since the 1920's had showers, and many people did not feel they were appropriate for women.  Showers were associated with athletics, and therefore, men.  It is very unlikely that Katey lived in any building with showers during 1938.

Ok.  Those are the ones I remember right now.  If someone else had pointed these things out anywhere else on the interwebs and I had found them, I would have felt like I was not the only one.  But since I am, I feel I should say something, even if it's here on my quietly ignorable little blog.

It is possible that I am wrong, but if the author is counting on little-known exclusions to general rules, he should include them in the text.  For example, he could have mentioned the day's attitudes toward bathing and how Katey differed and was lucky enough to live in a newly-renovated building with modern conveniences.



Inception of a Specialty

2012-07-01T17:43:37.630-04:00

For a person who loves to cook, I don't cook very often.  Occasionally, however, I get inspired and I not only cook, but come up with something new.  My friend Nancy had a party yesterday, and when I woke up, I didn't know what I was going to bring, but I slowly put together an idea as the morning progressed.  One of my favorite flavors is caramel, and strawberries are very in season.  I wanted to make a trifle, and I used Cold Stone Creamery's Strawberry Blonde as inspiration.  So here's what I did:One of the ingredients in the Strawberry Blonde is graham cracker crust, so I made one.  I used one packet of crackers (4.5 oz.) and one stick of butter, along with 2 tablespoons sugar.  I used my toaster oven pan, because who wants to fire up the oven when it's 100 degrees outside?  The ratios came from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.  Next time, I'll use less butter.  It came out a little too crispy, and not so much cracker-y.  It was still yummy, though.The next step was to cut up the strawberries.  I bought two pounds, and as I washed and hulled them I set aside the ones that seemed most round and the same size.  The little ones, the big ones and the weird double-wide strawberries got cut up into quarters and sixths. All of the trifle recipes I read included some liquid to pour over the pound cake, so I combined some marsala and sugar, and heated it to dissolve the sugar and cook off the alcohol.  I let it cool a bit and poured it over the strawberry pieces in an effort to draw out some of their juices before assembling the trifle. Had I imagined this dessert a bit earlier, I would have made pound cake, but I didn't, so I had to use Sara Lee pound cake.  I cut it into chunks, and made a layer in the bottom of the bowl, cut sides out.  I could have cut the crust off, but with the caramel flavor central to the piece, I figured I'd leave it. Next step: I poured the liquid off the strawberry pieces, and poured half of it over the pound cake.  Then I put down a layer of strawberry topping (half a Smuckers jar) over the cake.  Preserves would have worked just as well, but I had a jar of topping already.Next came the strawberries: halfed berries lined up against the edge of the bowl, then half of the cut strawberries went in the middle.Then came about a third of a jar of caramel topping, and two cups instant vanilla pudding, topped off with half of the graham cracker crust, crumbled.First round of layers complete!Layers repeated, and ready for whipped cream to finish off!If I had to do over again, I'd do a lot of things differently.  First, as I mentioned before, I would make the graham cracker crust differently.  Secondly, I'd cut the cake in triangles so I could make a more complete layer, and I'd make the layer shorter (the bowl was really filled to the top!)  I would skip the cake-soaking thing.  I know a lot of trifles include it, but this thing just got soupy, and fast.  Next I would not use four cups of vanilla pudding.  Maybe if I made it myself, but otherwise, I'd use part pudding and part whipped cream or something to lighten it up.  It took two cups of liquid to cover up each layer of the strawberries, but it was heavy and rich.  Also, I wouldn't forget to take a picture of the finished dish with the pedestal and whipped cream on top, ready for serving; it did look pretty.Not bad for a first try (and first trifle for that matter).  I can't wait to try it again, but I need an occasion including 30 - 50 of my closest acquaintances to eat the thing; it is heavy![...]



Add it to the Arsenal

2012-01-21T20:32:10.646-05:00

I've learned, through experience, that when creating (cooking, knitting, etc.) if one uses the best materials and the best tools for the job, both process and product will be more greatly appreciated.  I've been cooking for a long time, and have amassed most of the tools I need, but have a few more items I'd like to add to the arsenal.  Most of them are pots and pans to replace the set my parents gave me one year for my birthday when it seemed I'd be moving out soon and needed to collect some of the basics.  They have obviously served me well if I'm still using them, but my skills have advanced quite a bit since then.One of these items on my shopping list is a good dutch oven.  I more often than not purchase whatever Cook's Illustrated recommends, and Le Creuset is the manufacturer of their favorite dutch oven, and the same one they use just about every other episode of America's Test Kitchen.  The thing is, MSRP is $400.  It goes for about $300 on Amazon or at Sur la Table.  Last week I got an email from Sur la Table that they were marking down the Le Creuset, in stores only, so I took a look.  Sure enough, the dutch oven of my dreams was on sale for just under $225.  I bought that sucker and ran (otherwise I'd be late for the Knitting Guild meeting, but whatever).  When I finally get something special like this I try to make something in it that I couldn't have made before with the tools I had.  Cook's Illustrated did a recipe for french onion soup a while back that required many hours in the oven and multiple reductions and deglazings, none of which my little non-stick dutch oven would have handled.  Today was an icy day with nothing on the calendar, so I used it to tackle my first french onion soup.Here are the four pounds of raw onions before popping them in the oven:Remind me to buy some onion goggles.  Ouch!Here they are after a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes in the oven:And this is after three or four deglazings:Look at all that dark browny flavor!Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture after adding the broth, etc. and before eating some, but since I don't have any soup bowls that will go under the broiler, it wasn't very fancy looking.  Just picture some french onion soup, and you'll get the picture.[...]



And....Yer OUT!

2011-12-31T15:05:40.077-05:00

 One thing I've learned from watching HGTV is that you should do home improvement when you're planning on living there and can enjoy it; don't wait until you're trying to sell. Another thing I have learned, I learned shortly after moving into my house, and that is: acrylic sinks don't take well to hot oil being poured in them.  In fact, acrylic sinks don't hold up well to a lot of things, and I do a lot of things in my kitchen.  I'm certain they're more than acceptable for those who use their sinks only to dump what's left of their day-old bottled water.  But this guy was not in great shape when I moved in and he was fading fast.  See this picture?  How nasty it looks?  That's clean.  That's bleached thoroughly a week ago.  Yuck!So I removed it.the underside: THIS SINK IS TOO THIN!And, after scraping off the big blobs of caulk(???) from the counter (and a lot of other nastiness) I headed to the home improvement store to procure a new sink and faucet.  All of the appliances are white, but I decided to go with stainless steel, due to its durability, and hoped that it would be a neutral and not matter.As all home improvement projects do, it became a bigger hairier deal than I could have anticipated, and involved nearly every tool I own, but I can proudly say that I did NOT get silicone in my hair (although it got everywhere else), and the project is complete to my satisfaction*.  I'll spare you the details.  Suffice it to say all of my muscles from the knees up are tired and sore from reaching and posing under the sink, and my fingertips are tender from all the shenanigans required to install the clips that hold the sink to the counter.  I'm resting now, in case you care.I think the stainless looks fine, indeed a kitchen neutral, and I love having a small side and a gigantic side.  And I'm certain they are of a greater volume than the old sink.  I don't care if it's not really true, I choose to believe it.  I also love that the spray hose is not tangled in the water supply hoses like the old one and I can pull it out more than a foot.* If/when this sink comes out someone will wonder what the heck was going on with this, much as I wonder about the caulk glob and spray hose situations.  However, I'm confident that this sink will outlast the counter and it won't matter anymore.[...]



How to Show an Alpaca

2011-10-26T23:51:43.247-04:00

This past weekend was the KY Classic Alpaca Show, for which I had volunteered to spin some fiber as part of the show.  Check a few posts back and you should find documentation of this, and my excitement.

Well, it was quite the experience.  First of all, I suppose I really am a city girl (as if there were any doubt) because it did not once occur to me that the area we were given might not actually be "paved".  The entire arena was dirt-floored.  So I and my Fantasia settled into the dirt along with my purse and my chair, and we sat in the dirt all day.  At least it seemed to be clean dirt, with no hay or poo or other things which would be worse to sit in all day.

Secondly, the alpacas sure were fun to watch.  They were judged in age and color classes, and the little ones were so cute.  Big ones were cute, too, but the little ones I just wanted to load in my car and take home with me.  

Lastly, it was interesting to find that some alpaca farmers truly don't know how to sell their fleeces.  Truly.  It was explained to me by a farmer who brought her knitting over to sit and chat a while that many alpaca farms have barns full of fleeces from the dawn of time.  Just sitting there.  With no one to love them, or pay for them, or take them home to wash and spin and knit.  My plan, and I think you'll join in with me, is to drive around the country, American Pickers-style, stopping wherever I see alpacas, looking for fleece someone's willing to part with for a reasonable sum of cash.  I can see it now:  picture me looking into the camera and whispering "I bet I can get $50 for that bag of fleece!"  Cha-ching.

As for the spinning itself, well, it was challenging.  It took a lot longer than I thought it would to straighten and fluff out the locks to get them ready to spin, and then it didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked.  I just have to keep telling myself that if I wanted even yarn, then I should have prepared the fiber more evenly.  Good thing I like things "rustic".  It's woolen-spun, and I believe that when it's plied it'll even out considerably.  I sure hope so.

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This is how much I can spin in about four hours, apparently.




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2011-10-05T17:11:38.445-04:00

Last week Sadie and I went on our long-anticipated vacation.  It was a smashing success, although we don't have a lot to show for it.  Our only real objective was to relax and take regular naps, which we did.  I did a lot of knitting, a little spinning, and a lot of watching HGTV, since I don't have it at home.National CemeteryWe did have one day of sight-seeing, on which we toured the Mill Springs Battlefield and environs.  We were staying on the road one takes to view the first eight stops on the driving tour, so I felt a little obligated to see what all the fuss was about.  It was an interesting and moving day.We started at the Visitors Center, next to the National Cemetery, where they have a museum and gift shop.  My hosts had year-long passes available, so I took advantage while Sadie waited in the car.  Then we walked over to the National Cemetery.  It was a beautiful day, and a moving sight.  The cemetery was established after the battle at Mill Creek, and many Civil War soldiers are buried there, but it is an active cemetery and many who have served our country since are there.  I was moved but ok, until I saw this and wept:If you can't read it, it says "Unknown US Soldier".  There were many of these throughout the older section.  We frequently give thanks to those who have given their lives for our country, but these men also gave up their names.The next stop was the actual battlefield, which included a Confederate cemetery.  A walking trail has been constructed that takes you around the field from Union to Confederate and back again, with informational signs along the way.  Sadie and I enjoyed the walk, and it was amazing to be able to imagine what had happened here almost 150 years ago so vividly.The mass grave of Confederate Soldiers killed at the Battle of Mill CreekThe monument to General Zollicoffer, whose body was leaned against an oak tree, now referred to as "The Zollie Tree", when he mistook the Union army for his own, told them to stop shooting at the Confederates, and was shot after his assistant verbally identified him.  Or something like that; it depends on who you ask.Headstones placed for the Confederate soldiers buried in the mass grave. [...]



Tensioned Lazy Kate Plans

2011-09-21T23:09:35.295-04:00

Hey all!  Last weekend I went to a fiber festival with "Tensioned Lazy Kate" on my list.  Let me clarify: I wanted a tensioned lazy kate that didn't cost fifty dollars.  None were to be had.  Why so expensive?I poked around the interwebs to find DIY solutions to my problem.  I crafted a plan, and here it is for your benefit.Disclaimer:  I am not a woodworker.  I do not have good tools.  I do not have skills.  This could be done with much more panache and skill with the right tools and skills.  Much wood was splintered in the making of this tutorial.Step one:  buy some stuff.1.  A piece of wood.  I got an 8"x11" oval made of oak.  It was on clearance for $6.  I could have gotten a cheaper piece of wood for $1.99, but the oak was heavier, and I thought that would help to anchor the kate better in use.2.  Four 6" hex bolts and nuts.  I got 5/16" bolts, but I saw others on the webs use 1/4" bolts.  I purchased them at Home Depot and they were about $3.50.  If you use a hard enough wood, and don't plan on taking apart the pegs, you can skip the nuts.3.  A little eye.  I already owned this.  It would probably be under $.25 if I had to buy it.4.  A piece of linen or twine or cotton.  I already owned this, and I bet you do too.5.  A wooden peg.  I could only find packages of six, it was $1.50.  If you live near me I'd be happy to sell you one of mine for a quarter.  Otherwise, you're out of luck, you'll probably have to buy more than you need too.  I got these at Hobby Lobby.6.  One thing that's not in the picture:  a hair band or rubber band.  I already owned this, and if you don't, I'll send you one.Total: $11.00 (If I can sell the extra pegs, it'll only be $9.75 :) )Step two: figure out where you want the holes. I used a piece of paper and my spindles to space things out.  The size and shape of your wood and what size your spindles are will affect where you want the posts to go.  I traced the wood on a piece of paper, and set the spindles where I wanted them; then I pushed the bolts through the center and pushed down to make a mark on the paper.  Then I used a similar technique to mark the wood with the paper.  I suppose you could skip the paper and just mark the wood, but I wanted to be sure everything was even and did a little measuring and adjusting once I marked the paper.Step three: Drill some holes.I am not a good driller, so I drilled some little pilot holes before drilling the big holes.  If you're worried about drilling all the way through the wood (and into your dining room table), you can put a rubber band around the drill bit at the depth you'd like to go.For the four post holes, I first drilled deep holes slightly smaller than the bolts, or 5/16".  Then I drilled shallow holes as big as the nuts (if you didn't get nuts, don't drill a hole for them).  See?This allowed for inserting the nuts flush, as well as leaving room for the bolts to go deeper.Step four:  Pound in the nuts.Next I used a hammer to insert the nuts.  I screwed them onto the bolts to use them as a "handle" to make it easier to get the nuts started into the wood, then I unscrewed the bolts and pounded the nuts in to be level with the face of the wood.Here you can see a bolt/nut partly pounded in, two empty holes, and one nut that has been pounded in completely.Once all of the nuts were inserted, I used a wrench to screw in the bolts all t[...]



So! Excited!

2011-08-16T23:06:25.676-04:00

Oh my goodness, so many exciting things are happening chez YarnEnvy in the near future.First, Stitches Midwest is coming up, and that's always a good time.  I've been looking forward to Stitches since sometime in May I think.Secondly, I have scheduled a vacation for myself.  Yes kids, Sadie and I are hitting the road.  I am going to be away from work for an entire week, something I haven't done since I lived in Sioux Falls.  I've rented a cottage near Lake Cumberland, KY and Sadie and I are going to relax, and then we're going to take a nap, and then we're going to relax some more.  All I really want to do is sit quietly with no laundry or home improvement or lawn care nagging at me.  And if I'm 200 miles away from the laundry and the house and the lawn, it will not bother me one iota.  I promise.  And since I'm just going to be in some quiet part of Kentucky, I won't feel obligated to sight-see or tour or Take In The Sights.  None of it!  The cottage does have WiFi, however, so I will not be disconnected from society or Netflix.Here she is.Finally, a strange turn of events.  In my constant quest to take up as many hobbies as is humanly possible, I've been spinning lately, which you can see in some of my previous posts.  Several of my friends spin, and they are part of a group that gets together at a local alpaca farm once a month and socializes and eats treats, and well, what's not to love, right?  What I don't love is that it's on the same night of the week that I have May Festival Chorus rehearsal, and can't make it.  Except this month, since it's summer, I was able to make it, and they twisted my arm on a trip to The Woolery on which I tagged along.  So, there I am, spinning along on my drop spindle, perfectly content, when I hear the alpaca-farming host (a lovely lady named Linda, by the way) and my friend Lorain talking about an event for which they have 23 fleeces donated and only 8 volunteer spinners, and What Are They To Do?  And of course, I happened to be free the day of the event and a fundamentally helpful person, so I volunteer to spin one of the fleeces.  Lorain and Linda assure me this is within the scope of my skills, and Lorain is going to lend me one of her wheels, and really, how much more fun could one person have?  Nevermind that I have only spun about four different fibers in my life, and certainly have done absolutely zip-o fiber prep.So, here she is, laying out on my dining room table:It is my responsibility to get this ready to spin by some weekend in October.  So far, I have laid it out, looked at it, smelled it, picked out some extra stuff, and looked at it some more.  I don't know what it weighs or anything.  It was free.  And when I dumped it out on the table, in the bottom of the bag was a commercially-spun skein of 200 yards of matching alpaca, presumably from the farm that made the donation (it's in the center of the picture, with a card tied to it).  How cool is that?  It's like I'm getting paid to ruin their product.  Egads.So. why am I so excited for this, when I never had any desire what-so-ever to even look at a fleece before?  I think it's because the things holding me back don't apply here.  1.  I'm not investing any money, only time, and I'm (clearly) not afraid of failure.  I am, however, afraid of wasting money.  2.  I'm not having to pick out a fleece myself, a prospect I know little of. &[...]



Spinning Progress

2011-07-09T20:03:50.815-04:00

 Here we see a full four ounces of two-ply Romney/Alpaca blend, spun by me.  Neat, huh?And here it is after a little skeining and washing.  Left is with a flash, and right is without.And this is the next project, laid out to show the color repeat, again with and without flash.And divided into four strips, two wound green first, and two wound magenta first.I'm excited to start this project, since it's where I should have started in the first place.  This is Blue-Faced Leicester, which is a better starter fiber than anything I've spun before.  I look forward to seeing if it comes easily after all the other spinning I've done, or if there are still gaps and skills I need to practice.[...]



Summer of the Screen Porch

2011-07-02T14:44:12.699-04:00

If I knew how delightful this would be I might have moved a little sooner on this.


It took a little trial and error and I don't profess to be a great seamstress, but I'm serviceable, and I think this'll do.  

Don't you want to come over and enjoy a cold beverage with me?



Ta Da! And now for my next trick...

2011-06-25T20:17:16.033-04:00

Look!  I got the couch done, including a replacement cushion.  I am a rock star.  Don't you want to hang out with me, knowing that I might invite you over to sit on my couch on my porch?


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Finally....Sewing Some Cushions

2011-06-21T07:50:45.680-04:00

Last summer I bought a used set of furniture for my back porch, needing only a new set of cushion covers.  I purchased the fabric nearly immediately, but it's been sitting in my house ever since.  I'm finally getting around to sewing them.

Here's a big pile of bias tape:
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Which turned into a big pile of piping:
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Part of which turned into this:
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One cushion complete.  Not my best work, but I'm certain the rest will go more smoothly (I really do prefer to work with directions and this is why).  It's certainly better than the mildewed and torn cover it had before.

(It seems on my computer that the resolution of these pictures is not so good.  They were taken with my cell phone, so no surprises.  But I will try to do better in the future.)