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Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween Treats

Today`s treat comes from the 1845 edition of The Economical Housekeeper, by Mrs. E.A. Howland.

103 Gingersnaps

Boil a tea-cupful of molasses, and add two spoonfuls of butter, one spoonful of ginger, and one tea-spoonful of saleratus, stir the flour in when it is hot, roll it thin, cut into rounds.  Bake quick.

The recipe has no sweetener save the molasses and very little butter.   A tea-cup is 4 ounces or 1/2 cup.  Because the measurement of saleratus is specific on the size of spoon, I guessed that the un-specified spoon was most likely a tablespoon.  It took 1 1/2 cups of flour to make a cookie dough from the wet ingredients.

So 1/2 cup or 4 oz molasses
2 tbsn butter
1 tbsn ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour  


Mix the flour and the ginger, and set aside.  In a pot or sauce pan, put the molasses and butter.  Bring to a boil and add the baking soda.  It will foam up a bit.   Take the pot off the heat, stir in the flour/ginger mixture.   The recipe says to simply roll it out, but it's a fairly stiff yet sticky dough, so I wrapped it in plastic film wrap and set it aside for 15 minutes.   It was still sticky, but more pliable.  I rolled it out both on flour and on sugar.  The flour worked best.  The sugar caramelized a bit more than I'd prefer but it did taste good.   The dough rolled quite thin with ease and I cut out various shapes.  I popped them onto a cookie sheet and baked them at 350° for 4 - 5 minutes.  Doesn't take long to bake these babies!

In re-rolling the scraps, I had to add a few drops of water, squish them together and let them set for a while, so the moisture could equalize through the dough scraps.  I was only able to re-use the scraps once.  Next time I'd just roll them into a log and slice, so as to avoid wasting the dough.  It is the Economical Housekeeper after all.

The cookie dough is definitely not sweet, but still quite tasty. I was amazed at the fact that though the dough was sturdy, the cookie is not.  It's not delicate and flaky by any means, but it wasn't tough and gave a satisfying snap.  While I prefer the depth of flavour other ginger cookie recipes might have with multiple spices, this recipe was easy, cheap and still satisfyingly good. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Halloween Sewing

Way back in the summer, my daughter asked me to make her a Gryffindor House Hogwarts cloak for her Halloween costume.  She's always thought of these things much in advance and thankfully gave me lots of warning.  A couple of weeks ago, she asked me how it was coming along.  So of course, I sprang into action.  I figured it would take a couple of hours, but really, it took me the better part of a day and then some.  You know, because I had to draft out the pattern from a little diagram and had to make it durable and clothing like, instead of just a one use costume.  This Hogwarts cloak could be handed down to her grandkids, if she were to have any!

The sleeves had a funky design, that I would change a bit if I ever made a second one.  Here it is half finished.  Of course I don't have a photo of it finished, because I got the last hem stitch in 2 minutes before we had to leave to drop it off on Saturday!  She promised me a photo of her as Hermione though. 

Then I had to work on a project for myself.  A project for no reason other than I felt like it.  It's not like I'll be going anywhere for Halloween, nor is it likely that we'll even have a single kid knock at our door where we live.  We've had one in the past 5 years and that was several years ago.

This hat is made of felt.  I could only find cheap craft felt, so it's interlined, plus the brim is wired, twice, since the first time wasn't strong enough for my liking.  The fabric store had every colour and width of cotton bias tape, except for black in the size I wanted.  They had some sort of shiny, man-made fibre bias tape  in the right width, in black, which I used.  I had to slip stitch it down by hand, as it was pretty slippery.   It looks quite nice though.

The flowers are made from scraps of the hat felt, some very dark Blackwatch plaid ribbon (much darker than the photo), wire and

glass beads.   They were super easy to make, being a circle of felt, cut in a spiral, rewound and then glued on the bottoms.  I used a fabric glue for the flowers, but hand stitched everything on to the hat, because my glue gun died last year and I forgot to replace it.   It was at least 15 years old, so was likely about time.  But I won't get back into town before Friday, so hand sewing it was.

If I do this again, I think I'll try a funky purple or grey, with black design quilting cotton, with big tulle and silk or paper accordion pleated poofy flowers.  And I'll replace the glue gun, just for speed and simplicity. Or just maybe I'll weave the fabric first.......






Sunday, 26 October 2014

Checking Spinning Wheel Ratios

Modern spinning wheels usually come with a description that includes whorl ratios.  For example, the Kromski Sonata description says that the standard flyer has 3 ratios: 6.7:1, 12.5:1, and 14:1.   This describes the number of times the bobbin rotates during each full rotation of the drive wheel.   A number of wheel manufacturers round the numbers up for simplicity, and humidity may affect the ratios as well.  The problem is of course that if the ratios aren't exactly as stated, the twist math calculations go out the window when you actually try to spin to a particular tpi (twist per inch).   It's best to check them when you first try out a wheel and then as weather or humidity changes.  With my wheels, once I've checked them a couple of times, I found them to be stable but wood contracts and expands sometimes, so it's better to be sure.

Starting point for checking wheel ratios
The easiest way to check the ratios is with a little bit of tape and a few minutes to hand manipulate the wheel.    I use masking tape because if you remove it right after you've used it, it doesn't leave any residue.   I would normally use the green painter's masking tape, but didn't have any, so the regular masking tape worked just fine.  I put the flyer arms so that they are vertical, just for convenience sake.  It doesn't really matter but I find it an easier visual.  I put a little piece of tape at the top edge of the whorl that I'm testing.   I also put a piece of tape on the drive wheel, directly under the tape on the whorl.  This is the even starting point.  Now it's simply a matter of hand turning the drive wheel and counting the bobbin rotations.

The bobbin will rotate faster than the drive wheel.  The aim is to find out how many times the bobbin rotates completely for one rotation of the drive wheel.  Turn slowly so as not to miss-count.  It's easier on the largest whorl, but on the smallest one, it's much easier to miss counting a rotation.    When you get to the end, there is a good chance that the two pieces of masking tape will not line up for a full rotation.  Then you need to bring the drive wheel back to the starting point, and see how far the bobbin tape has gone past the initial starting point.  This will give you a fraction of a turn.   Then you have to decide what to do with that fraction.  

If the fraction is close to a whole number, I tend to round up because the math with whole numbers is so much easier.  With my Minstrel, I know that the one whorl requires me to add an extra treadle every once in a while to make up for that difference or measure my drafting zone with a scant inch, instead of a full inch.

There are three whorl groves on the regular flyer.  My count for this wheel was 6.5:1, 12:1, 14:1.    I'll have to do some experimenting to see if that half rotation makes a difference to my spinning.   If my drafting length is accurate it could be an issue.  We'll have to see.  As it is, my default ratio on the Minstrel is 8:1, for just general spinning.  The Sonata misses that ratio on the regular flyer, so I'm going to have to make adjustments for that.

Bamboo/Yak on the new Sonata
Are wheel ratios important?  For general spinning it's good to know that the smaller the whorl, the more twist per drive wheel rotation.  For a thin, tightly spun yarn, having a whorl with a higher ratio means less treadles, which is less work.  You can treadle in a calm, relaxing fashion instead of speeding up to add more treadles per drafting zone.  The larger whorl will give you less twists for that same drafting zone, so your thicker, airy yarns also can be done using that same treadling speed.   It's when you want to spin something specific, like duplicating a yarn that you can't find any longer, or making a yarn for a particular purpose, such as a 3 ply sock yarn, where a higher twist per inch will make a more durable pair of socks, that knowing the specifics about your ratios will make a huge impact.

For the DH, who mentioned that I neglected this in my Fibre Festival post - yes, a Sonata followed me home last weekend.   I've been looking for a used one for over 18 months and haven't found one yet.  All that time I've been saving for this.  Finally I figured it was now or never, in order to get familiar enough with the wheel before level 6.  There is a good chance I'll have to travel for my Master Spinner level 6 and neither of my other wheels will do that, certainly not by air.  The smallest, which was my travel wheel doesn't have the versatility for the required spinning.  Twice I've had to switch it out for the Minstrel  when at locally held Master Spinner classes, which is a pain because it doesn't really fit in the little parcel area of the truck. It's just not as versatile a wheel as the others.  The Sonata folds up into a backpack, has a 19in drive wheel and still weighs less than 12 lbs.  It has 3 standard ratios and one can get both a jumbo flyer and a faster flyer for it if needed, which make a total of 9 different ratios from 5:1 - 18:1.

The last time I went to Olds, I used a rented wheel, which was fine, but I didn't have the control that I would want to have for a testing year.   Could I afford it?  Not really, but I tell myself that I really couldn't not to either.  I'm extremely happy with it though.  I can see selling off my Mazurka at some point in time because right now, I can't imagine using it much after this, as pretty a wheel as it is.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Fleecy Colours in my studio-

Or Stash aquisition beyond reasonable proportions - (all 10 lbs of it!)

The Woodstock Fleece Festival was Saturday.  Normally I'm found demonstrating spinning at the guild booth, but this year I was helping the guild with a class in the afternoon, so the morning was spent shopping.  I neglected to bring my list of things I'd forgotten to add to suppliers orders.  Places like Gemini Fibres will order and bring equipment to the Fleece Festival for pick up, which saves me either shipping or a rather long drive.   The Fibre Garden is my absolute favourite place to shop for spinning fibres.   They have  a fantastic selection of different fibres, reasonable prices, fabulous sales almost every month, and at least pretend that they don't mind adding to my order when I email them with an order addition two days before the Fleece Festival, when I know they are packing.

After picking up the items I'd ordered, I totally forgot about the dyed silk tussah and fine hemp roving that I wanted, and possibly some more coloured cotton sliver.  I was tempted by spectacular Icelandic fleeces, lots of Alpaca but resisted.   Instead, I was lured by pretty colours of superwash Merino mill ends which were inexpensive and so pretty.  Mixed with some nylon, these will make gorgeous sock yarns.  I can't believe that I didn't get the day glow yellow/green and some black.  It would have made perfect socks for Halloween!  (I keep wanting to put the apostrophe in Hallowe'en, but it seems to be constantly rejected by the all knowing spell checks)   I also found lots of white in sock yarn blends, and exotic Merino, Cashmere, Silk blends - also mill ends, but they card up so easily and spin nicely.  

I was playing with acid dyes a few days before when the skies were, once again, grey and dismal.   This is all Blue Faced Leicester.  I was trying new techniques, hence the odd interesting colour blends.  It's amazing that a length of fibre which makes one wonder why you did it in the first place, looks great when braided up.  The top right braid in the pinky red and light blues, looks awesome braided, but a little too much like cotton candy when unbraided. 


Playing around with little purple rolag/puni.  It's some purple Merino, tussah silk, sparkle on (nylon) and some bits of dark purple which I cannot remember even adding to this blend.  The dark purple is really short fibre, obviously wool and very tufty.  It makes interesting little nubs in the yarn, which I'll admit to pulling a lot of the larger,  globs out of the fibre as I get to them, if they don't seem to want to draft out nicely. 

The finished yarn is rather nice, considering I really hadn't put any thought into the yarn.  I was simply testing out a wheel and just wanted to see how it spun.    It spins like a dream.  The treadling action is very easy and incredibly smooth.   The flyer barely whispers as it spins around,  sweet murmurs, declarations of love with each stroke of the treadle.   It's a modern wheel though; very modern.  It folds into a backpack for travel and did I mention, it looks rather like a modern wheel?  But wow, it spins so sweetly.   The Kromski Sonata would make a lovely addition to any spinning wheel stable.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Spinning for fun

I recently participated in a spinners swap.  I sent off a packet of goodies and in return, I received all this bounty.  The pink and black project bag is a perfect pink and big enough to hold a sweater or everything I'll need to take my wheel out to a guild spin in.     The braid of fibre is pretty wonderful.  I'm not sure exactly what fibre it is, but probably Merino, Rambouillet or something similar since it's a soft, shorter/medium staple with a very fine, high crimp.

I've been feeling a little hung up on my homework.  The rattling off of small sample skein after small sample skein of yarn was getting to me.  I mean, this is year 5 and I've not done a huge amount of just fun spinning in there.  So.... I took a break.  Yesterday afternoon I undid the braid.  It was a crochet type chain, so just unraveled nicely.   I pulled a piece off, about 1 m long.  I divided the strip of roving into two.    I cleared off the bobbin that was on the wheel and tossed the bit of hemp singles that I was spinning by accident - stupid story there.  

This is three lengths of roving stripped in halves.   I made sure to keep the beginning and ends the same.  I labeled the beginning bit, with a numbered post-it note, so I could keep the lengths in order.  Hopefully I'll be able to match the colour changes when I ply the singles.

The post it note labels are just ripped part way down, folded over the end and then secured with the sticky bits together.   It would have looked much neater if I'd bothered to cut little squares and punch a hole in the middle, to thread the roving end through.  However, this is fast and will last as long as I need it too.  The other way would be more secure and long lasting if I needed to store the project for a while, but I don't anticipate having to store this for long.  If I do, I'll cut the little squares of card stock, punch the hole in the middle, label them properly and thread the end of the roving through the hole.


This is what I've spun since yesterday afternoon.  The subtle changes of the green are lovely.  It started with a pale yellowy green which reminded me of a spring green and then shifted to a greeny/brown.  Now the green has a little more blue in it and is brighter once again.  It's going to be so pretty when plied up.

Better yet, I'm having a lot of fun with this.  It's very refreshing to just play without having to worry about counting treadles and all the other stuff that goes into homework skeins.   On the other hand, I realize that I tend to sort of count anyway and get into a rhythm, but it's automatic, not something I'm obsessing over.  

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Geranium slips and socks

Every spring I plant a couple of Geraniums.  They come a variety of shades, especially shades of pink and they are readily available.  I found that for years, I would miss the sale where the potting Geraniums are on sale for .58 cents.   I decided one fall, that I was tired of that and took cuttings of the plants which were colours that I liked.  There are always pink Geraniums available, but some years they aren't actually pink!   They can be peachy pink, or pale pink, or stripey pink.  I had the perfect pink Geranium that year.  I loped off a bunch of stem pieces into 3-5 inch lengths.  I snipped off the flowering bit, trimmed off any leaves from the lower half of the stem and stuck them into a little jar of water.   I stuck the jar in a sunny window and about half of them rooted.  I usually put them into the front bathroom window, where it is very sunny but quite cool.  I've found however that I tend to forget to water them, which adversely affects the rooting rate for some reason.

Bright Pink Geraniums
I've found out since then that I get better rooting rates if I just stick the cuttings directly into fresh potting soil.  It's fast and easy.  I don't use rooting compound because I've read that Geraniums don't need it.  The fact that it's not actually easy to find, helps with the not using it either.

Dark Pink/Burgundy Trailing Geraniums
With the temperatures dropping and getting close to first frost, I figured it was time to snip my summer's plants and re-root them.   I got out my secateurs (don't you just love that word) and went to work.   My pink Geraniums cuttings are in a rectangular planter box.  I put one extra cutting into a pot, along with a rooted Geranium which I cut severely back and repotted.  Not only did I trim back about 2/3 of the branches, but I trimmed the roots back a few inches as well.   This is my security plant, in the event that for some strange reason, all my cuttings fail this year.  I also put the pots in a sunny window, in the livingroom, where I'll remember to water them!
I've had this sock yarn in wait for a while. It's bright, it's soft and it's a tad thicker than I normally use.  I had to go up a needle size and use a slightly smaller stitch count.   I'm doing a simple spiral pattern with a single traveling/cable stitch.   It's fast, interesting and unlike cabling with multiple stitches, I don't need a cable needle.   The downside to this yarn is that it was a gift and it had a few moth nibbled breaks in it.  Regardless, it's still sturdy everywhere else, it's bright and an interesting colour that I might not have chosen for myself.



Sunday, 5 October 2014

Love that Lustreware

We were in town and had a few minutes to spare.   We decided to wander through the antique/flea market warehouse.   It's one of those places with lots of little rented booths full of everything from old toys and collectables, old furniture, antiques and everything in between.   Of course there were items which caught my eye, like a handcrank Singer 99k which looked like it had never been used and an old flax spinning wheel in perfect condition.  However, I had exactly a single $5 bill in my pocket, a toonie and a half a handful of nickles and dimes.   Not enough for a big shopping spree, that's for certain.

However for a grand total of $5.65, I found  some lustreware.  I love lustreware.  It's not horribly old.  While there are lustreware techniques which date to Coptic Egypt and the Roman times, and some different styles from the 19th century, most of what I love dates from1930 - 1950.  It's pretty.  It's shiny and it's relatively cheap.  I mean if  you only want a complete set, you can pay a pretty penny for it, but for odds and ends, incomplete sets and such, it's often priced to sell quickly.   I have full sized tea cups/saucers from a variety of different sets, a teapot, a few small plates and a creamer.    I also have several different partial sets of doll dishes.

Lustreware doll dinner service

This is the most complete set of lustreware doll dishes that I have.  At some point it was probably a complete dinner service set.  I've seen some sets which even include silverware! This set still has the teapot, a tureen, what I'm thinking is some sort of gravy dish, a platter, both creamer and sugar bowl, all the saucers but only 2 tea cups and 5 plates.


Today I found this small set of doll dishes for $5.  It's a lovely pattern and since most of the lustreware I find is gold/ orange, the blue stands out nicely. It's also nice that this set has a
Lustreware doll dishes
tea pot.  Most of my doll dishes don't have tea pots.  I  played with china tea sets when I was a child though they weren't nearly as fine and pretty, being more modern.   I'm certain that the tea pot was always the first item to break.

Included in this batch of dishes was this smaller but full sized sugar bowl.  Noritake seems to be the name printed on the bottom of a lot of lustreware dishes, as is on the bottom of this little pot.  It's missing a spoon, but I have a tiny metal spoon which would fit nicely.

Lustreware sugar bowl
So for $5.65 ( gotta add those taxes), I got both the doll dishes and the little sugar bowl.  I was pretty happy with that deal today.