Monday, December 30, 2013

project 52:14

last week project 52 was on the road with a soft winter landscape shot from the car's passenger-side window near Olympia and a sketch of the pattern from my favorite section of The Great Wall project at the south end of Tacoma as we headed home from Portland.

Hard to believe that was only a week ago. I've been sick since Christmas, and it feels like it's been soooo much longer because I hate being stuck in bed all day.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

handmade holidays: architecture-print tees

Once again, this year's installment of architecture-themed printed T-shirts. This year, I settled on a Corbu (Le Corbusier) theme for my darling modernist. I took the design on the black-and-purple tee from a poster series of "minimalist architecture." It depicts the windows in Corbusier's Notre Dame de Haut, from the inside of the building. I printed out a large version of the poster, cropped the text from the bottom and cut the window forms out to make a stencil. There was some bleed-through at some places on the delicate stencil, alas. The tomato-and-orange stencil of Corbu worked a bit better, and certainly was less time-consuming to make.

I also was working on a funny non-architecture tee, but couldn't settle on a design to surprise Cass. I ran some of my ideas by him last night and he laughed heartily, so perhaps I'll do some more printing this spring, just for fun.

Monday, December 23, 2013

project 52:13

Last week I was stuck; it was already Monday evening, my postcard was overdue, I was stressed and uninspired. And then my friend Jorah shared a snippet of poetry from Hafiz and suddenly I had a plan - Hafiz to the rescue!

I put the whole poem on the back of this postcard:

Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye that is always saying, with that sweet moon language, What every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

handmade holidays: a wreath for the door

I seem to be playing around with new kinds of wreath-making of late. Though I first learned to make small bundles of greens, and to affix them to a wreath form, hiding the bundled ends of one bunch with the free tips of another, lately I've been braiding and weaving and tucking branches. I made this wreath out of a wire hanger from a dry cleaner (that I shaped into a circle; I used the twisted hook to form a little loop to hang it on a nail on the door), and two whippy cedar boughs. I affixed the two boughs to the wire loop (and to each other, and then braided the branches on each bough around the wire and the bough itself. Then I wove sprigs of seed pod eucalyptus (from which I'd removed the leaves) into the cedar base, and tucked branches of rosehips (leftover from my Thanksgiving table flower arrangements - below) in among the eucalyptus. I'm not sure that this is as secure a way to make a wreath, but I like the slightly wilder and looser aesthetic, and it seems secure enough for something that doesn't have to travel or be handled by many people.

(for Thanksgiving I paired greenish/pinkish hued white roses with orange mums, rosehips, and some kind of greenery that I couldn't identify. It was simple, but I liked the effect with the beeswax tapers and the blue runner.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

project 52:12

Project 52 is getting into the holiday spirit this week; ink on paper. I had to photograph it on my washer just to get a little watery sun - it's definitely winter!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

handmade holidays: libations

I don't think I ever posted a photo of the last round of cider! It was so good (and so affordable, and so pleasantly low in alcohol) that we already made another batch and I have six pounds of apples to grind up tomorrow and start another round of fermentation. The process comes from Yvette Van Boven's lovely little cookbook, Home Made Winter, which Cass bought for me last year and which is a really fun resource for these dark indoor months. I haven't tried making butter yet, but I want to - soon!

This process gave me the heebie-jeebies a little bit, at first, just because there is no boiling or sterilization of the food, just simple fermentation. Grated apples (cores, peels and all) are placed in a sterilized bucket with a bit of water and allowed to stand for seven days (you stir the mash daily with a clean spoon). After that, the solids are strained out and you add sugar, fresh ginger, and cinnamon sticks and let it stand another day. Then it is strained and put in a bottle. We put up four bottles in the fridge  to ferment (Yvette Van Boven says you can let it ferment for up to two months - our last bottles only made it a month before we drank them) and are drinking the leftovers tonight.

I really like this low-tech cider. It smells and tastes a bit of yeast (no yeast is actually added to the mash; the only yeasts present are the wild yeasts on the apples' skins), and over time it develops great fine bubbles (after a month, the bottles would fizz over fantastically when they were opened).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

yuletide flavours: candied orange peel

M husband has a Satsuma addiction. Every December, I break out a tray or a bowl for our coffee table, and each week he fills it with stem-and-leaf satsumas (so pretty and cheery!) or even the piled contents of a 5-pound box. In addition to being cheery and delicious, they provide a key ingredient for my holiday baking: their peels.
I save the peels for a few days (I gradually fill a Ziploc bag that I keep in the crisper drawer in the fridge) then candy a big bunch of them at once. Candying orange peel isn't difficult; it's one of those tasks that takes more time and patience than skill. The first step is to simmer the peels in water (just enough that they have room to move around) for 2 hours, until the white pith becomes waterlogged. Then drain the peels and scrape away the pith using a spoon (I sometimes have a knife on hand, too, in case there are stubborn bits). Then cut the peels into strips (or tear into bits, whatever you prefer) and begin the candying process.
Combine equal parts water and sugar to make a simple syrup. Make sure you have enough simple syrup so that you can submerge all of your peels in it. Add the peels and simmer over medium-low heat (stirring occasionally to prevent any sticking or burning) for about 40 minutes. Strain the peels out of the syrup (you can save the orange-infused syrup for making cocktails!) and place on a rack to dry.
My peels normally remain a bit sticky if I don't roll them in sugar, so today I am trying a little alteration to my usual process. First, I simmered the peels for about an hour in the syrup, instead of 40 minutes - I kept an eye on the pan and waited until the syrup was starting to get really reduced before I drained the peels. I laid them out a cooling rack that I'd placed over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, as you see below:

 - that's a lot of peel!

Finally, I put the whole pan in a low oven (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit) for another two hours. I've just turned the oven off and left the door open, to continue to dry them in the warmth. I'll report back if this results in a candied peel that is easier to work with for baking.

Now, I've just got to dig out all the lebkuchen and pfeffernusse recipes I've been saving. I don't think pfeffernusse needs orange peel, but lebkuchen does! I haven't had a lebkuchen in so long; it was my favorite as a child. In fact, one year, I named two stuffed bears I received for Christmas "Bel" and "Kuchen." =)

Monday, December 9, 2013

project 52:11

Still life with turkey carcass, in acrylic and ink. I was about to turn the Thanksgiving turkey carcass into stock last week when I realized I needed a subject for my weekly postcard.

 It's already Monday and I still haven't quite figured out what I'll do this week. Oh well. I'll come up with something. The cat is sick with a UTI (we think; the emergency vet wasn't able to get a urine sample to confirm) and I feel kind of lost and helpless, seeing her in pain and not being able to do anything to help. Poor thing. I hope the antibiotics will help - and soon.

Friday, December 6, 2013

handmade holidays: moon phase wrapping paper

I also used my moon phase lino block to make some homemade wrapping paper. I can't believe how expensive wrapping paper is these days! And it seems half the time you aren't even buying a big roll of it anymore, just two small sheets. I realize that wrapping paper is kind of wasteful ... so I keep trying to come up with ways to reuse things we have or to use recycled materials to make wrapping paper a little more eco-friendly. For this sheet, I rolled out some brown kraft paper and used drafting dots to affix it to my kitchen table. I made some faint guidelines with a straight edge and a pencil to help me keep the block straight as I printed. I used Speedball's Fabric Block Printing Ink for this. The ink can be used on paper, but it does take a while to dry, so I can only make one or two sheets at a time, and then I have to tape them up to the back of our utility room door to dry for a week. (Hm. I'm thinking I should probably hurry up and make some more so I can start mailing gifts next week. It's getting to be that time of year!).

It's very pretty, isn't it? I used this first sheet to wrap a gift for a family member and tied it up with a bit of deep hunter green satin ribbon, and I like the colours together very much.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

moon phase blouse

Here it is: my moon phase blouse! As you may recall, I carved a lino block with a made-up print of moon phases a couple weeks ago. I used it to print one of my brother's birthday postcards in project 52, to make some of my holiday wrapping paper (I'll post that tomorrow; I didn't realize I hadn't shared it here!) and then on all the pieces of this blouse.
The pattern is Vogue's V8598, the same one I used to make my "peacock" oxford shirt in 2010. I'm not convinced that I like it as much without sleeves; I might rip the sleeve facings off and print a couple more pieces of cloth and sew up sleeves in another week. We'll see. 
The ink I used is Speedball's Fabric Block Printing Ink. It's a water-soluble oil-based paint, which means it cleans up with soap and water. This ink (more of a thick paint) is not heat-set after printing like most fabric paints; instead, you let it cure for a week before washing. I did find, as some others have reported, that even though I waited 10 days before washing, that there was a noticeable fading of the ink. I tried hand-washing this at first, but the shirt still felt a little powdery, and I noticed some of the ink was rubbing off on my fingertips as I handled it. So, into the washing machine - and that's when the colour faded. However, it isn't coming off on my fingers anymore, so I really think it was just a matter of time. I don't mind the faded look for this project; I think it works. But this is something to keep in mind if you are going to use this ink!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finally! My Irish Triple Chain quilt

I swore I'd finish hand-quilting and bind the edges before November was out this year, but I didn't quite make it; still, December 1st isn't bad. Finally, my Irish Triple Chain quilt is done. I was inspired to make this by Alicia's work over at Posey Gets Cozy, one of my very favorite blogs that I've been reading for years (Alicia's sweetly thoughtful and optimistic posts got me THROUGH grad school). I bought fabric and started cutting it up at the beginning of my 2012 summer vacation; I decided to take a whole week off from the dissertation at the start of the summer and just make things again. I managed to put the whole quilt top together pretty quickly, but then there was still the task of hand quilting the whole thing. And of course, that was my last summer writing the dissertation, and this task got shunted to the back burner pretty quickly.

But this weekend I knuckled down with lots of BBC period dramas (both films and TV miniseries) and cranked out the last of it. The results are lovely. The photo above was taken with the quilt thrown over a curtain rod; the sun glinting through makes it look quite yellow, but I do like the stained-glass effect of seeing some of the seams through the glow. The photo below gives a better idea of the colours: grey blues, a little turquoise, and then warm rose pinks, a touch of bright red, and deep burgundy and brown, on a creamy ivory background (it's backed in a gold calico with a print of delicate sprigs in coral and soft brown). It was always meant to be an "early autumn" quilt. 

And now that I've finished it, of course I've convinced myself I should do another one;  I even have images saved to a file on pinterest, of a vintage quilt someone found and posted about on their blog. I want to recreate that original.  We'll see; I have plenty of holiday gifts to finish (I'm still tying tassels for scarves) before I embark upon another big project like this. There's also the expense of it - making a quilt is not an inexpensive undertaking! I might just spend this winter stalking fabric sales and trying to accumulate the yardage I'll need.

Monday, December 2, 2013

project 52:10

Though I debated adding some colour to this, I decided in the end to keep it simple last week: this is a view of the underside of our neighbourhood's old water tower (no longer functioning, but maintained as a landmark). I used a woodburning tool on a birch postcard.