Monday, November 26, 2018

A Sunny Fall Day in and Around Las Cruces

The day starts with a walk and a hello from the neighbor's horses. 


Next up, a visit to The Prado in Las Cruces,  a traveling outdoor exhibit of 92 photographically reproduced masterpieces from Spain's Prado Museum. Here is Fra Angelico's Virgin of the Pomegranate (c. 1426).


The paintings were displayed in the downtown plaza. 


Las Cruces has tried in many ways to make its new central plaza a welcoming destination. The fountain doubles as a splash pad for children in the summer. On this fall day it was nice to rest on a bench and watch the changing displays of water. 


The Las Cruces Christmas tree is located here. 


There is also a concert stage, sheltered from the desert sun. 




Looking back at the exhibit from across the plaza.


The food trucks were cooking up something that smelled delicious. And it wouldn't be southern New Mexico without a vendor selling red chiles from the recent harvest. 


The Organ Mountains overlook the city and the surrounding Mesilla Valley.



Day's end at a farm just down the road and around the corner from our adobe house.



Saturday, November 24, 2018

I'm Living in the Land of Cotton

This is happening just across the road from our house. 



It's kind of hard to see in the left background, but the newly-picked cotton is compressed into huge bales for transport to the cotton gin. There were a dozen bales harvested from this big field. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

In the Alchemist's Kitchen


Collecting materials for natural dyes to dye spun and unspun wool: Acorns, black walnuts, onion skins, dried hollyhock flowers, wild mushrooms, prickly pear fruit

Making dye baths: Pomegranate and red cabbage

Getting ready to make some colors! Will they be wonderful, or will they be Disappointing Beige? Who knows? Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 29, 2018

From Sheep to Shawl

I've had my spinning wheel for almost 45 years now, but haven't done any spinning for a while. I also have a lovely fleece that's been waiting for me to work with it. So...

First I dyed some of the fleece. I used a crockpot and did three different pots of dyes, using regular red and yellow grocery store food coloring, vinegar, and water. One pot was for red, the second was yellow, and the third a mixture of the two colors for orange. Here are the yellow and orange batches after being carded and piled into baskets. 


I also discovered a bag of blue wool from the same fleece that I had previously acid dyed. Starting with the red dye batch (which turned out pink), I carded some of that, then blended and carded some of it with orange, then carded pure orange, then blended and carded some orange with yellow, then carded pure yellow, then blended and carded yellow with the blue, and then carded up the rest of the blue. That sounds confusing even to me. 

I ended up with these six yarn colors: Pink, pink/orange, orange, orange/yellow, yellow, yellow/blue, and blue. Here is everything all spun up and ready for knitting.


Using my current favorite pattern called Easy Peazy Shawlette, I used most of the yarn to knit this small shawl, which will be the perfect size when we finally get some cooler weather. In this photo it has been washed and pinned while damp to the bed for blocking. Just out of the frame, an invisible Henry the cat is waiting to snuggle up on the damp shawl for a nap. 


Here is a close up shot so that you can see some of the color variations. Henry liked the pink part best and spent a couple of hours sleeping on it and helping it to dry.




Sunday, September 23, 2018

I Made a New Bag

I found a photo on good old Pinterest for a "Japanese sling bag." It looked like a pretty simple project, so with the photo in front of me I made a pattern from a paper bag.

Using leftover fabric from pillow covers and a lampshade that I made, plus a deconstructed floral print Ralph Lauren shirt from the thrift store, this is what I made.


It's roomy and it's reversible. You can see by the wrinkled fabric that it gets a lot of use.


You loop one handle through the other to carry it. Next time I make one, I'll make the long handle a bit longer so that it could actually go over my shoulder. 


If you search "boho sling bag" or "Japanese sling bag" on Pinterest, you will see lots of variations. 



Saturday, August 25, 2018

August Update

August is a good time to clear out and make space in the chest freezer. For me, that means taking the remaining bags of whole pecans from the last harvest and cracking them so there will be lots of nuts ready for holiday baking. The nutmeats take less room than the whole nuts, and the chickens just love picking through the shells. Everybody wins. 


While I was busy shelling nuts, my single zucchini plant was sneakily producing baseball bat-sized squashes. No worries--these make wonderful zucchini spaghetti when run through the spiralizer. Even the very largest ones still taste great. 


In my last post I described my experiment with gradient dyeing of yarn. Here is what that yarn looked like out of the dyepot and when knit into a baby sweater. I'm hoping there is enough yarn from this dye batch to complete the sleeves. Gracie the cat looks pretty confident that all will work out.

The gradient-dyed yarn with the accidental white spots from being tied too tightly


The white spots showed up as random flecks, which Gracie and I actually like. 

In between experimental dye pots, I was working on this Easy Peazy Shawlette from a skein of Mineville Wool Project sock yarn in the Solar Flare colorway. I finished the piece in plenty of time for my sister's birthday. She liked it! and she put together the perfect outfit to go with it, including several of her handmade necklaces. 



August is chile harvesting time here in the Mesilla Valley, and the high school Future Farmers of America had a fundraiser/green chile roast. It was like a big party--country music, lots of kids in cowboy hats and boots slinging big bags of freshly roasted chiles around, and the wonderful smell of chiles roasting over an open flame. It was a great reminder of why we live here. 


BZ photo


When we got our twenty pounds of roasted chiles home, we cooled them in ice water, drained them, and packed them into quart ziplock bags. Now you know why I wanted more room in the freezer! Now we have bags and bags of chiles ready to use for green chile cheeseburgers, chiles rellenos, enchiladas, burritos, and all the other delicious New Mexican dishes we love.

BZ photo


I've been working on the last paint details for the living room. I scrubbed down all the old worn thresholds and painted them to match the rest of the room. Henry helped, as you can see from this photo taken between coats of paint.


My morning walk has to take place a little later now since the days are growing noticeably shorter and my old starting time is quite a bit before sunrise. The crops are growing well in all the fields we pass, but the ditches are now empty and the farmers are irrigating with groundwater from wells, instead of ditch water from the Rio Grande. 

The view is the same, but the ditch is empty now. 

In addition to the views, we also come across the occasional bit of wildlife!





Thursday, August 9, 2018

Still Playing With Color

I spend a lot of time messing about with fiber. I used to spin a lot and still have my wheel, just waiting there. I mostly knit these days, but long ago I did a lot of fleece and yarn dyeing. I used natural plant materials (lichen was my favorite for the smell) for dye along with chemical mordants (alum, chrome, iron, to name a few). And I still have a set of acid dyes, which are used with care. 

Times have changed and there are some great ways to dye using a crock pot or microwave and non-toxic substances--food grade dyes like Kool-Aid, food coloring, and even Easter Egg Dye. 

There is a wonderful article called Turquoise Dreams about the food coloring dye technique I tried out the other day. It can be found on the blog called Maiya Knits, Mayhem EnsuesPlease read it for complete instructions, measurements, and timing. I'll just give you the highlights of my own experience here. 

Even though it was a pretty hot August day in my kitchen, I enjoyed this first experience of dyeing with food coloring. One advantage of using food grade coloring instead of acid dyes, or even natural dyes requiring chemical mordants, is that regular kitchen tools can be used. When I used acid dyes long ago they had to be used with bowls, pots, and utensils kept separate from our regular cooking utensils. 

After reading Maiya's blog, I couldn't wait for my order of white yarn to arrive, so I used a skein of light yellow fingering weight yarn from my stash. The color was Semolina.

Note: Food coloring will dye only natural fibers.



 Following Maiya's directions, I wound the yarn into 5 interconnected smaller skeins.


The skeins were first soaked in plain warm water to relax the fibers. This photo makes the yellow color look funny, but it's still the same as in the first photos above.


The dyeing process involves a crock pot and a dye solution made from McCormick's Food Coloring in blue and green, with some white vinegar added. 

Four of the skeins go into the pot, and the fifth skein is quickly dipped in and immediately removed. After 10 minutes the second skein is removed, the dye is replenished; and this continues with different timings until the last skein is finally removed. 

The drained and cooled skeins are gently washed, rinsed, and hung to dry. You can see from the photo below that I tied the skeins too tightly in several places, which gave an unintentional tie-dye effect. Lesson learned! However, the thought of tie-dying yarn is intriguing...

I wish that I had managed to get a greater color difference in the top three skeins, but I had used up all of my tiny bottle of blue food coloring. I hope the color change shows better when the yarn is knitted up.


When I wound the skeins into cakes, I started with a bit of the original Semolina color. I would have liked all the yarn in one cake but it got too big for the ball winder. You might be able to tell from the photo that the outside of the right cake is just a little lighter than the inside of the left cake, so the yarn would be used from the middle of each cake, starting with the lighter one, to make the color gradation go from light to dark.


Next time, I'm going to try some more overdyeing, only this time with Kool-Aid! I'll report back.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Right Color At Last

This is the "before" wall color that we have been dealing with in our living room for several years. I had wanted a warm orange but this shade was just not right. It screamed at me every time I entered the room. It was not quite the tame color you see in this photo. 

But the room had been really hard for me to paint five years ago and involved a lot of ladder work and tiny brushes taped to long handles to reach over the belly of the kiva fireplace. Time and arthritis have marched along since then and I wasn't sure I was up to all that climbing up and down. But that formerly lovely-sounding Tangerine color kept on shrieking at me, day after day. 

What you are seeing here:
A kiva (an adobe fireplace), surrounded by bancos (built in benches, also made from adobe),
with a little nicho (niche) for displaying santos (carvings of saints) or other artwork.

Then I watched The Durrells in Corfu on PBS Masterpiece Theater. I had to keep pausing the show to take photos of the screen. The colors of the water! The colors of the upstairs bedrooms! When I began to dream in teal I knew it was time to get out my old nemesis, the ladder.

This is the book [with a slightly different title] about the TV series.
 The cover shows the very colors that were enchanting me

It's the hottest time of the year here in the desert. I figured that I could put on an ankle brace and some scanty painting clothes (never to be seen by anyone else) and manage two or three hours early each morning before I tired out and/or it got too hot. And that is what I did. 



I am in love with the results. The velvety deep color seemingly changes from hour to hour as the light hits it differently. It's hard to explain the feeling of comfort I get from stepping into this room. It is cooling on a hot day and I feel like I'm floating in the Aegean Sea.


A little Oaxacan creature roots around in the nicho




Another Oaxacan carving stands in a newly-refurbished little cabinet.


I think this little bird is looking at the other side of the room, which is still that Tangerine color. Have patience, little bird. 

By the way, I am watching The Durrells in Corfu for a second time now because it makes me so happy. It is loosely based on Gerald Durrell's delightful Corfu Trilogy, which I read many years ago.  From the PBS website for the show:
"Keeley Hawes (Upstairs Downstairs) stars as an intrepid widow who decamps from dreary England to a sun-dappled Greek island with her four recalcitrant children, ages 11 to 21, on this adaptation of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals and its two sequels.
Alongside Hawes’ matriarch Louisa Durrell are eldest son, Larry (Josh O’Connor), a budding writer on his way to becoming the famous novelist Lawrence Durrell; son number two, Leslie (Callum Woodhouse), an impulsive firearms enthusiast; daughter Margo (Daisy Waterstone), sixteen and man-crazy; and eleven-year-old Gerry (Milo Parker), who only has eyes for wildlife and grew up to be a world-renowned naturalist."



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Rest of the Sweaters for Syrian Babies

These are the latest three sweater/hat combinations that I have finished for my knitting group's Syrian refugee project. Please take a look at all the sweaters made by the group here: http://sitknitshare.blogspot.com/2018/04/our-group-works-together-to-make.html




Monday, March 12, 2018

Sweaters for Syrian Refugee Babies

It's harder every day to watch the news about Syria  from my safe and warm living room, so I jumped at a chance to do some little thing to help.

A friend in my knitting group has offered to deliver baby sweaters and hats to the Salaam Cultural Museum in Seattle for shipping to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. The folks at the museum will add the baby garments to boxes made up for new mothers. The boxes also include blankets, diapers, and other baby necessities; then the boxes themselves serve as baby beds. 

Here are the sweaters and hats I have made so far. If you want to help out, just Google "knitting for Syrian refugees." I've listed a few general links at the bottom of the page, but you might want to find some place in your own area that is collecting for the refugees. 

I've also listed some free patterns below, and would like to thank those who made them available online. This helps to keep the cost down for volunteer knitters. Another note: Most of these sweaters were made of leftover yarn from other projects. The first one in the photos below owes a lot to the "sunrise" yarn in my vest, Rabbits at Dawn with Snow Falling









Check out these links for more information.

Knitting for Syrian refugees:





Free baby sweater knitting patterns:

Last two photos above

Flax Light Pullover from Tin Can Knits: http://www.tincanknits.com/pattern-SC-flaxlight.html
See photos 1, 2, and 4 above

Top Down Baby Raglan Sweater by Carole Barenys on AllFreeKnitting: https://www.allfreeknitting.com/Baby-Sweater/Top-Down-Raglan-Baby-Sweater
I haven't tried this one yet

A Simple Baby Pullover by Erica Kempf Broughton: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/a-simple-baby-pullover
Photo 3 above