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:

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:
See photos 1, 2, and 4 above

Top Down Baby Raglan Sweater by Carole Barenys on AllFreeKnitting:
I haven't tried this one yet

A Simple Baby Pullover by Erica Kempf Broughton:
Photo 3 above

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Rabbit Vest

Rabbits at Dawn With Snow Falling

When you have a cat like Henry, all knitting projects are a challenge. When he was little, he wanted to climb into my knitting bag and play with partly knit sweaters, yarn, and needles. Now that he is more grown up, he wants attention and affection when I want to be knitting. He's so big now, he makes a lot of lap-cat to be knitting around.

And that is how the needles came to be pulled out of the row when I was knitting the rabbit faces on this vest. I waited until the next morning when I was calm and patiently reconstructed the rows, stitch by stitch, carefully getting the right colors in the right places (I thought). At the time, I was quite proud of the results. (Cue the foreboding music here). 

Ha! We all know that pride goes before a fall. It was many, many rows later when I realized that something wasn't quite right with some of the rabbits. There are two rabbit poses on this sweater, and only two. Well, according to the pattern that's what should have happened. However, in a world overflowing with Henry love, things just turned out differently. 

My rabbits all have individual faces and expressions. And names. Of course they have names. That one on the far left is called Mumpy because, well, what else would you call a bunny with such oversized cheeks?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

He's Henry the Plumbing Cat

Henry "the kitten" is almost 9 months old. He keeps growing and growing, as you can see in this photo, taken when he was stretched out on the end of the sofa and as close to the fireplace as he could get. 

He's a long boy now

You might remember that Henry was quite a wild boy when we first brought him home from the "kitty condo" where he lived for the first part of his life. See Hello, Henry for a look at his size on arrival here, and Catastrophe Averted, for his adventures in knitting. 

My theory is that, having spent several months in a large cage before we adopted him, he just couldn't get enough of running and jumping and exploring every bit of our house. He has settled down somewhat since his fateful appointment with the vet, but he still likes to gallop from one end of the house to the other.

For some reason, perhaps because his new living space is so much larger than the old one, he has no desire to go outside. He will trot along with the dogs when they are headed out the door, but he stops there and sits inside looking through the window, calling to them until they return. 

He is the cat-who-runs-with-the-dogs, though. He hides and jumps out and chases them, then they chase him. There's usually some kind of entertaining ruckus going on here. 

And have I mentioned plumbing? Since giving up knitting, Henry has taken to dismantling parts of the bathrooms. He stole the hinge off the lid of the new toilet, takes out parts of the whirlpool tub jets and carries them around, and removes the sink strainers and plays hockey with them. Last night I saw a Sailor Cat out of the corner of my eye--Henry was strolling by with what looked like a pipe sticking jauntily out of his mouth. It turned out to be a Bic shaver. I wish that I had gotten a photo!

Henry thinks about a plumbing apprenticeship while lounging by the fire

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Rabbits at Dawn With Snow Falling

A winter themed sweater is the perfect project for these chilly days. I found this motif on Pinterest and I see it comes from Shutterstock. I'm afraid I can't tell you more than that, except that it was called "Wayuu Mochila pattern."

I added part of this motif, also from unknown origins via Pinterest. 

Here is how it looked partway through. The sweater is off the needles now and in the finishing stage. When everything is done, I will share a photo here. 

In other news from the Zees, the former kitten Henry is getting huge. At 8 months, he weighs almost ten pounds now. His behavior is quite different from the way it was when he first arrived. I'll tell you more about him in the next post.