Monthly Archives: July 2009

Handspun “replacement hat”

I have this red hat that I found in a sale bin. It is absolutely PERFECT and somehow I’ve managed to not lose it over almost a decade of winters. Last winter there were some close calls (me ransacking the house trying to find it) and Read suggested I knit a replacement hat, “just in case, Katie.” Sigh. He’s right. When my family bought cell phones on a joint plan the salesman asked if we wanted insurance, “in case someone loses their phone.” Mom, dad, brother – they all turned as if on cue and looked at ME. 

The perfect red hat

The perfect red hat

 

Alright, so this brings me to the green alpaca yarn that I recently spun. I decided it would be just right for my replacement hat project. I used sz. 8 needles and did my best to copy the red hat pattern. It’s about 78 sts. around at the base, and includes a few inches of ribbing.

Pre-blocking

Pre-blocking

 

I traced the red hat to cut a cardboard template for blocking. 

Finished! Well...need to weave in the ends yet.

Finished! Well...need to weave in the ends yet.

 

Replacement Hat

Replacement Hat

circles of ver⋅i⋅si⋅mil⋅i⋅tude

while i allow all my craft ideas to simmer … i hit up my mom for an intimate interview about her most recent craft compulsion: ‘circles of verisimilitude’

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vani modeling

when was this idea sparked? well last summer i worked on these small wooden platters covered with buttons- just those buttons you buy in the huge economy ‘grab-bags’ at michaels. i poured them out and sorted them by color. many people had their own opinions… my sister told me ‘did i know that people in mental institutions do similar activities’ and i agreed. my husband recognizing the truth decided to increase the size of the platters. he started bringing home the lids from large chemical vats from the factory. they are about 2′ in diameter.

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'birthday celebration' close up

there seems to be a repeating pattern of using circles in your artwork, is there a reason for that? no. i got the set of circles at a garage sale and the second set of circles from my husband. all my work is based on freebies. basically. now i have my eye on some laminate samples (2″x3″) that i came upon in the basement and the circles will turn to rectangles.

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the heart cans open up for small treasures

where do you get the trinkets you use to make the designs? i don’t know where i do?! junk around the house… old toys… goodwill… dollar store… people tend to give me junk. even as we sat this evening, my mother-in-law reminded me that she had emptied a baking supply cabinet and wanted to give me “the junk” (her words – not mine). thats where the word ‘verisimilitude’ (coined by my husband) comes in – for me most people’s ‘junk’ has potential.

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holiday platter

what do you see the platters being used for? each platter has its own personality – their uses ranging from table tops, clocks, serving platters, and mirrors – for the time being. i’ve named them to explain their use. for example: ‘through the years clock’ – the platter has a clock in the middle where a picture can be placed at each number, so that you can chart the years of a child growing up. surrounding the clock are children’s wooden blocks, plastic alphabet and number pieces, and a variety of other children’s ‘junk’.

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through the years clock

thanks mom for my resourceful heritage!

Spinning alpaca fiber

 

Outta the way, cat

 

All week I’ve been carding and spinning the green alpaca fiber. At first I was worried it would be too furry for my liking. And there was the whole Oscar-the-Grouch-color concern. But after plying a double-yarn, soaking it, and letting it air-dry, I’ve decided it’s really nice. Light and fluffy – and the two green colors blended into something richer than their individual hues.

Flywheel and bobbin

Flywheel and bobbin

 

Single-ply yarn

Single-ply yarn

 

 I bought my Sleeping Beauty spinning wheel (yeah, that’s the real name) from a woman near Corvallis about a year ago. I’ve noticed that owning a spinning wheel somehow booted me into a higher craft-weirdo-level. Which I suppose I understand. Tell folks you knit or sew and they’re like, coolBut when they catch a glimpse of the spinning wheel in your house, expect maybe a spinster joke or a raised eyebrow. However this is usually followed by some genuine interest and friendly questions. I think it’s fun to watch the process, even for non-fiber-enthusiasts.

Finished skein

Finished skein

For the Love of Lois

This past weekend I went with friends to Detering Orchard. They’ve got all the major fruits available for U-Pick: apples, peaches, pears, and blueberries. What are some of your favorite blueberry recipes? It’s been hot in Eugene, so cranking up the oven was a bad idea, but I couldn’t resist making a pie. 

For the Love of Lois

For the Love of Lois

Every baker has their fall-back pie crust recipe. I’m including mine here. It’s from “For the Love of Lois,” a recipe book from the former cook of  a local retreat center (local=northwest ohio). My great-grandma passed this book on to my mom. I don’t know much about the author; an internet search just turned up this old photo from my hometown newspaper. 

Never-fail pie crust

Never-fail pie crust

The recipe is my fall-back because it’s easy to mix up and handle and it freezes well. I’ve had good results replacing half of the shortening with butter…you get the flakiness of shortening with the better taste of butter. Don’t attempt to replace the fats with margarine or weird shortening substitutes though. I was talked into it once (not good).

Cutting in the butter

Cutting in the butter

I love crumb top pies. For one pie’s worth of crumb mixture, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 cup oats, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in one stick (half cup) softened, not melted, butter. 

Roll out

Roll out

My mom rolls out her crust using a floured countertop and rolling pin. She’s mastered the art, but I never seemed to get it right. The rolling pin stuck to the crust, the crust stuck to the counter, flour got EVERYwhere. Now I roll my crusts out between sheets of saran wrap. You’re not supposed to handle pie dough very much (preserves the flakiness) so this allows for minimal man-handling.

blankets blankets and more blankets

i am slowing settling into my new apartment in cincinnati after several years of life adventure in texas. part of settling in is getting out my blankets to start crocheting again. while some may pick up a cross-word puzzle book… or play with their i-phones… in the ten minutes i have here and there (which quickly turn into hours) i crochet.

for the past couple of years i have been on this kick crocheting large, crazy colored, circle blankets. im not sure how it got started. the very first one – which i call mine – was crocheted out of bits and pieces of yarn that i had collected over 4 years of college, 1 year in over-the-rhine, and 1 year in denton, tx.

the original... sits on the back of the big leather couch

the original... sits on the back of the big leather couch

since the first one i have lost count of how many i have finished ( i went a little crazy…) between christmas, weddings, and birthdays – many loved-ones have found themselves gifted with a blanket.

my mom's blanket in action (emily, a sister, on left & mom on right)

my mom's blanket in action (emily, a sister, on left & mom on right)

so here is what i am currently working on…

not just one...

not just one...

but two blankets in progress

but two blankets in progress

i don’t have any pattern for the circles… i just feel out when to increase around and sometimes drop in a different crochet pattern to add interest in the round. color-wise: i tend to stay on the cool side of the color wheel using blues, greens, purples – with highlights of yellow and red.

i did step out of my comfort zone with the black yarn (see the blanket on the right) – i had inherited a bag of accent yarn that was spun with black as the base color. so decided (against my gut instinct) to go for it and use the furry black yarn that i had been avoiding. i am a bit unsure right now about how it will turn out in the end. Any suggestions about using black yarn? and weaving in color?

p.s. to all of ya’ll who do have a blanket: i would love to receive a picture of you (and maybe someone you love) snuggled up in it! i would love to start a blanket-love album …

Dyeing alpaca fiber

 

Sal the alpaca

Sal the alpaca

 

This week I tried dyeing fiber for the first time. Until now, I’ve been using undyed fiber from Read’s mom’s alpacas, Sal and Pepe. True to their names, their fiber makes a salt-and-pepper yarn. I decided it would make a nice pair of mittens (maybe lined with fleece, for winter bike commuting).

Sal and Pepe: undyed

Sal and Pepe: undyed

 

With a few spools of salt-and-pepper under my belt, I decided I was ready for some COLOR. The saleswoman at the Eugene Textile Center suggested I buy just the primary colors and then custom mix. She kindly warned that red is a much more potent color than yellow (i.e. if you mix equal parts of red and yellow – you’ll get something oddly similar to red). Don’t worry saleswoman, I wasted enough muffin tins of tempera paint in art class learning that rule the hard way. 

fiber dye

yellow sun, fire red, sapphire blue

 

I washed the fiber in the sink with a little dish detergent. This got out most of the dirt, but some of the straw bits are very persistent. Has anyone else found a good way to remove them?

Washing the alpaca fiber

Washing the alpaca fiber

 

I filled a pot with enough water to let the fiber swirl freely, and added to it this previously-mixed solution: 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon yellow, 1/4 teaspoon blue, and a pinch of red. My thinking was that only yellow and blue would make a kool-aid kind of bright green, and maybe I could create something more sophisticated. I cooked it at near-boiling for 30 minutes, stirring often.

Heating the dye bath

Heating the dye bath

 

In my effort to avoid a child-like green color, I created a color still familiar to children: Oscar the Grouch. Now, my upstairs neighbor assures me that the color is olive and retro, but she can’t fool me. For better or worse I definitely made a pile of muppet replacement fur. Sam said that if I don’t use it, he has some costume ideas.

They both love trashcans

They share a thing for trashcans...

 

For the next batch I used less yellow,  more blue, and no red, which resulted in a more pleasant deep teal. Last night I carded them both together and spun some yarn. I will post more about that later. ..

Oscar the Grouch replacement fur?

First attempts at color-mixing

 

The cross-country quilt

A few years ago I had a summer off work, which seemed like the right time to take on a big quilt project. I had no experience, but plenty of enthusiasm and bags of fabric scraps from my grandma, my mom, and my friends. I organized the scraps by color family, pieced a 45-strip square block from each color family, and separated the blocks with denim. I used cotton batting and a vintage bedsheet for the backing.

Then I moved to Oregon. I brought the safety-pinned pieced quilt with me, and every once in a while I worked on hand-quilting a block or two. I have an old quilt from a great aunt, so it wasn’t hard to see that my  stitches are BIG and SLOPPY on the whole hand-quilting-scale. When I was about three-fourths finished, I looked at the whole thing and felt an overwhelming sense of “UGH”. It looked amateur, and not in a DIY folksy way. In an inept, inexperienced way.

I kept the hand stitching in place, ran the whole quilt through the sewing machine (block-by-block), then ripped out every last hand stitch. And people say I’m not patient!  But I AM used to ripping out knitting projects and restarting. I like the final look, plus it’s fun to have my mom and grandma point out different scraps and describe their past lives – i.e. my mom’s dance dress, my aunt’s first school dress.

trim to my heart’s desire

my sister amy rang me last week about a huge ‘going-out-of-business-bankruptcy’ sale  at a local fabric & upholstery store. so we met. walking into the store we passed rows of upholstery material – that would have been couches and chair cushions – now, in amy’s eyes, became purses and messenger bags. soon we found ourselves rummaging through scrap material, boxes&boxes of thread, and …. bins of trim! for $1 a spool this eclectic trim could not be passed up. throwing spools into my cart, i quickly reached my one cart limit (unfortunately these were not WALMART sized shopping carts) …  but  swore to amy that we would be back!

 

a portion of the trim

a portion of the trim

 

now as my trim sits all lined up on my craft shelves … i envision the adorable floor mats that i will crochet. because my big mama rug needs some babies of her own to accompany her on the beautiful wood floor in my new apartment in cincinnati.

 

 

big mama

big mama

Hello World!

Why the name “fox flat”? Until last winter, when the “F-O-X” stickers gave in to the Oregon rain, it was the name on my mailbox. Something to do with the previous tenant. I saw the phrase every time I got my mail and always thought it had a nice ring. Plus it’s easy to remember, easy to spell, and foxes and houses are fun to draw.

Why Fox Flat?