Friday, April 1, 2016

Handspun: Jacob sheep, bi-color, drop spindle.

In approximately 2011, I was gifted some beautiful sheeps wool already prepared into this pretty roving, stranded bi-color black and white, and I feel nearly certain that this is Jacob sheeps wool but I can't be certain since the gifter bought it from a farmside table. Endearing, right?

This yarn was spun very early in my spinning career, shortly after I had taken a spinning class and was only using a drop spindle for production. I had relocated from Utah to Washington, and took the wool with me.

The yarn itself was spun into single and then 2 plied against itself, resulting in a very homespun-feeling yarn. I've never used it for knitting, but believe it's still tucked away in my handspun stash somewhere amongst lavender sachets and the wooden hand cards that I hated using.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sewing the Moneta Dress (x 3)

Moneta Dress with 3/4 sleeves
When the Moneta Dress was published in partnership with Colette Patterns and Alyson Clair, I pretty much had a sewing love affair which has continued intermittently because it's now my TNT knitwear dress pattern. It's not new to the sewing scene anymore, but I love it as much now as I did in the very beginning -- it's flattering, easy to alter/swap the skirt, easy to grade between sizes, and a great showcase for fun knit fabric. In this post, you'll see my first three that I sewed right away and I still love these three because of my fabric choices, all of which were found at the thrift store. The paisley dress fabric cost $2 total, and both the sailboats fabric and veggies fabric cost $1 each. In total, the cost of the dress is roughly $5 each, though with each Moneta I sew the "cost" of the pattern is distributed even further amongst all the dresses. I think I've sewn 10+ adult Moneta Dresses, including hacks in which I used Moneta as the base. I've also sewn 4 child Moneta Dress hacks, where I graded the XS size down a bit to fit my step-daughter.

As far as the actual cutting and sewing is concerned, I definitely recommend a roller cutting blade and mat for maximum speed and ease-- it's easy to whip out 3 or 4 of these in a day if you cut them all at the same time. 

When sewing the dress with skirt as-is, meaning I don't swap it out for a circle skirt like I commonly do, pockets are pretty standard with a solid cotton knit. If I sew the dress out of something like a rayon blend or with lots of drape, I won't add pockets because it can affect the way the skirt hangs-- not to mention, a cell phone in the pocket of a stretchy/drapey fabric actually looks strange.

When sewing the sleeveless/collarless version, don't forget to grade the lining fabric. This pulls the seam to the back side and helps keep the lining from rolling out to peek when you have the dress on.
When I sewed my first sleeveless Moneta I felt sort of confused about the way it is constructed-- it feels like some sort of loopy twisted mess, but it's magical when it all comes together with such a clean finish.

Moneta Dress bodice, inside-out during construction.

Moneta Dress, complete.

Moneta Dress bodice, close-up finishing of armscye and neckline.
 When it comes to the skirt construction, I actually attach the clear elastic by seger/overlocker, rather than switching to my sewing machine. To make this part more manageable, I take my measured elastic piece, and fold it in half, marking the halfway point with a pin through the elastic. I then fold it in half again (quarters), marking the 1/4-way points with a pin through the elastic. I then take my skirt pieces, which have already been serged together to make a free-standing skirt before attaching to bodice, and I pin the elastic into place. This way, I don't have to worry about free-handing the stretch as I sew it in place. I flip up the blade of my serger to avoid cutting the elastic (seriously annoying, trust me) and then ZOOM, elastic attached! I then serge the skirt to the bodice, with the blade down, taking care not to trim off the elastic I've sewn in place.

Here's where I admit something: it might actually be better to just use your sewing machine to sew the elastic in place. I can't say for sure, because I've never bothered to do it that way, because I can't be bothered enough to switch out my jersey/ballpoint twin needle that I use for hemming the skirt, sleeves, and neckline on the unlined versions. I am too lazy to re-thread my machine, and this works well-enough, so there. I have enough sewing machines that I could always leave one set-up as a single-needle knit machine, a double-needle knit machine, and keep my woven-ready machine(s) separate, but I don't have the space for that. Someday, however, I fully intend to have two sewing stations, one of each set up with a serger and sewing machine, so I don't have to switch out jersey needles for sharps or try and remember what I've put in there last-- I just have them both ready to go, depending on the project!

Have you been sewing Moneta dresses too? What is your favorite aspect, and are there any parts of the construction you find challenging?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Yarn Haul, 2016


This weekend was a fabulous yarn event in Portland called the Rose City Yarn Crawl, where all these awesome local yarn stores have promotions and sales and special patterns and cookies and drinks and PARTIEEEESS! I've loved knitting for about 8 year, with varying amounts of gusto depending on how much time I have, season, whether I have a knitting group, etc.

Note: nothing can ever replace my Seattle knitting group, but I've finally found a group in Portland that is near my home and full of awesome people. Yay!

Anyway, it was a good weekend in this city for yarn and I decided to do what I do instead-- ignore commercial retail establishments and head for dingy, dark basements with track lighting, collections of mason jars, and the occasional 1970's nudey magazine: ESTATE SALE HEAVEN.

I love good yarn, I really do. I love new, modern brands with ethically sourced wool, naturally dyed or not dyed at all, from rare breeds of sheep in conservation status. But do you know what else I love? 1) Old things and 2) A good deal. 

And apparently I have great luck in the basements and attics of Portland finding what makes me happy-- LOTS of old stuff. There were so many things I did NOT buy: vintage baby clothes, creepy dolls, twin bed frames with 50's decals of cats wearing party hats, baby play tables, kids' records, kids' books, every year of LIFE magazine from like 1947 onward and a modern collection of National Geographic, etc. 

I did, however, buy as much yarn as I could physically carry when stuffed into two oversized paper grocery bags that were unusually tall. 

The fabulous knitter who left behind a MASSIVE collection of yarn (truly, massive) is owed much gratitude for her hoardy ways, because it meant that I walked out with 66 skeins of yarn, 5 knitting magazines, and two children's puzzles for $10 total. Miss Knitter-- with glee from the part of my heart that cannot wait to knit a vintage fisherman's sweater pattern from vintage fisherman's yarn, thank you. 

I can't believe this is all I bought, as it was hard to leave behind entire bags of matching yarn for sweaters. Steve might regret supporting my extensive purchase when he finds the closet can't actually hold anymore yarn and that's why it's still in the living room, but it's ok, because it doesn't even need to go in the closet yet because of the requisite freeze/thaw/freeze/thaw moth treatment plan. I saw no signs of moths, but a girl's got to be careful. 

I just googled wool moth to find an upsetting picture to enrich the content of my blog and your reading experience, and now I'm going to sleep upset and worried. Goodnight! 

Monday, March 7, 2016

What's stitchin in 2016.

This blog has all but expired, sitting here collecting dust in the corners of the Internet while I plug away at real life. It's interesting to see the ebb and flow of the blog, and how much more creative/willing I feel to engage in pleasure-writing when I'm not stuck in front of the computer 8 hours a day. I digress, apologetically. 

My point here is to say that for the few followers that may still exist, I do too! And I picked up my knitting needles after months away due to a really dumb story:

In an effort to be more stitchy, I started carrying a knitting project with me for waiting periods throughout my day-- before classes (I'm back in college to finish my undergrad degree), on break at work (still doing social services), and on the bus. 

Like the fart that I am, I LOST, straight up LOST, my exchangeable Addi Lace set-- the entire case of them. I put up lost ads, cried for a minute, and nearly clicked the purchase button online TWICE, but felt shitty for losing another important thing and for spending money on something that may someday turn up. 3 months later I saw them sitting in the lost and found box at my office reception area-- nobody there had mentioned to our work knitting group that they were found after a lunch movie party one day! I was both overjoyed and unreasonably pissed to have not knitted for 3 months while they sat approximately 10 yards from my desk. The break from knitting was probably best for me anyway, due to school, but isn't misplaced annoyance laughable after it's said and done?

Once found, I decided to forgo the various sweater projects sitting unfinished and cast on a new shawl instead (A New Season by maanel on Ravelry, knitting in generic 100% alpaca from Weaving Works in Seattle) since washing/felting my handspun Brass and Steam scarf.

Life is good, because knitting in low-light bars amongst friends and strangers is socially acceptable in Portland and because I am really pleased with more important personal matters like the people I love, the wedding (!!!!!) we are planning, my new experience of being a step-parent (!!!!!), and everyday satisfactions like getting licked in the face by my massive(ly lazy) St. Bernard. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Winter: Hearty Vegetarian Stroganoff

It's raining in the Pacific NW, after a long, hot, and very dry summer. I'm glad the weather has finally turned-- cozy months ahead!


** Note: I don't have any exact measurements when cooking, so these are all approximations and you can adjust to taste.

1. Roast some vegetables. Whatever you want-- an organic variety of mixed veg, especially if in season, is best! 
Pan 1: I added Rosemary to the mix on left (chopped finely after taking picture): potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower, red onion, and entire head of garlic, peeled and left in whole cloves. + olive oil, sea salt

Pan 2: cauliflower, sweet potato, onion. + olive oil, sea salt. This is set aside for tacos later this week!

2. While veg roasts, cook 1 cup whole spelt with 2.5 cups water until tender. Bring to a boil, then simmer with lid on for 30 - 45 minutes. 

3. While those things cook, make mushroom stroganoff!!

-- add oil or butter to pan, enough to prevent sticking and make the food a little fatty too, because fat is delicious. 
-- add sliced/chopped onions, chopped mushrooms, and either eggplant (my most frequent choice), TVP, tempeh, or veggie sausage. I prefer the brand Gimme Lean for this dish if I'm going to use a meat replacement. 

Sauté this together until mushrooms are well-cooked. 

-- add ~1 cup semi-concentrated broth. I mix my broth paste with less water for bigger flavor, and if you are using prepared/liquid broth I'd recommend cooking it down a bit in the pan. 

I like to buy little jars of broth extract paste that one mixes with water to make broth. I like the brand "Better Than Boullion," and their vegetable broth is good here. They also have a great no-chicken chicken broth that is vegetarian and really great for other dishes. 

-- In a small jar, mix flour with cold water in a ratio that makes sense for the amount of liquid in your mushroom pan. This will be the thickener for all the liquid, turning it into delicious gravy. 

Add flour thickener, and stir until gravy textured. You might need to add more water or more flour thickener. Relax and imagine how delicious the gravy will be. 

-- add dried dill weed and smoked paprika to flavor. 

Let this all summer for a bit, then let cool for a bit. Once the gravy mix is no longer hot, add thick, plain yogurt and stir it up! Avoid adding yogurt while hot or it might curdle. 

Layer the foods, add some extra yogurt if you like, and serve with a side of your favorite pickles. 

I added pickled kale (recipe is in my canning archives) to mine. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Banana Bread; 1941 recipe

Roughly 20 years ago, my grandma Bonnie agreed to host 4-h classes at her home for a group of 'neighborhood' girls one summer. We 
lived on a farm in a rural area of northern Utah and neighborhood is a loose term there, meaning people living within about 5 miles of home. Grandma was one our nearby neighbors-- just a single mile bike ride toward the neighbor's dairy, and up the canal road lined with cattails and wild plums, past the shop that housed all of our farm implements. 

That summer, we rode bikes to her house once a week and learned the basics of baking: the purpose of sifting flour, the correct way to measure flour in a cup, and how/why we should fold the batter of quick breads. My baked goods won a prize ribbon at the county fair that year, and went on to the state fair. Grandma's baking (and her guidance) is just that good!

I learned to bake banana bread from her, a memory I'll cherish forever. When she moved into assisted living this year, her household goods were divided amongst the many kids and grandkids and I inherited a bread pan-- this bread pan. I keep it in a special place and use it like she would have, except I don't pull it out of the oven with bare hands (how did she do that??).

I greased and floured the pan, filled it with the folded batter, and spent the morning thinking of her. Thanks grandma-- you're the best. 

Recipe adapted from a 1941 edition of Fisher's Blend Baking Book. 


1.5 c white flour, .5 c wheat flour

2 tbsp almond milk, 1 tbsp Greek yogurt instead of buttermilk, just to use what's on hand 

1/2 c pecans, added

2/3 c sugar instead of 3/4

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Handspun: Merino/Bamboo yarn

I'M BACK! What's the occasion? I drank coffee in the evening.

Merino / Bamboo Blend Handspun Yarn

Many, many months have passed while I've ignored this space. There were times when blogging was a major past-time for me and now it feels like a fleeting memory. I'm considering reviving the space, in large part because this is how I take notes and document my craft-- the details in what I do, the changes I consider making, the troubles I have, and the successes I celebrate. My appreciation for others' blogs continues and I read many faithfully, thankful for their insight, amused by their lives, and glad to have something to do when I have downtime (though, truthfully, my iphone has taken place of knitting in the purse and I have very mixed feelings about the amount of screen time I maintain...).

So, on that note, I've been spinning again and loving my time at the wheel. I bought this fiber eons ago-- the receipt in the original bag I've kept reads Sept 10, 2011, purchased at Fiber Gallery in Seattle when they were hosting a Black Trillium Fibres trunk show. I purchased two hand-dyed rovings, the first of which was spun while I was still living in Seattle and also knit shortly thereafter into a lovely kerchief. This was put into a plastic tote, moved from an apartment on Queen Anne in Seattle to a farm in Poulsbo, WA, then to a house on Beacon Hill, Seattle, then to Columbia City, Seattle. I packed everything into a U-Haul 2.5 years ago and it went with me to a house in SE Portland, then into a storage unit while I stayed temporarily in a studio in central SE/NE Portland, and then it arrived at my current house in SE Portland. Phew! What a travel partner.

Travel-- that's right. I spun this yarn on a binge of watching repeats of Doctor Who, and may have spilled a few tears when Donna Noble lost all of her memories of the doctor and time changed, again. Time travel, space travel, real travel, whatever. This yarn has seen it all!


4 oz fiber
60% Merino
40% Bamboo
Singles spun S-twist, then chain plied Z-twist
Singles yardage: 1195 yards
3 Ply / Chain Plied yardage: 398 yards
Knitting Weight: ~13 stitches per inch, somewhat variable

And so, here it is. I wrote a full blog post (there are many in draft form collecting dust somewhere on here...). I survived. A few thoughts I'd like to share:

1) Why do I love spinning yarn in summer and fall more than any other time of year? Spinning and knitting seem like such winter crafts to me but this summer I've had a real sewing block (though, I sewed all winter long) and want to spend lots of time on easy, mindless spinning. Maybe it's just that I can justify a TV binge during 100 degree miserable weather a bit better this way. During our heat wave(s) I realized that with the windows shut tight, drapes drawn, blinds tight, it stays a mild (eyeroll) 84 degrees inside the house and with an overhead fan I am quite (relative statement, here) comfortable sitting at my wheel, giving minimal exertion with a product to show at the end.

2) Is blogging just another form of the selfie? An ego stroke at best, or a genuine form of sharing and socialization via the internet? Whatever. At least I'm writing for fun-- a welcome change from the usual case notes and data entry at work.

3) Have you been spinning? Do you want to join me on a spinning retreat on the Oregon coast this winter? This is something I'm really, truly going to plan. I'm going to dye some yarn with lobster mushrooms I've had in the freezer too long, binge-spin some lovely yardage, and comb the shit (literally) out of some fleeces that are stored in my closet(s).

4) Let's talk about carding and combing fleeces. Do you hand card? Do you drum card? Do you comb? I have hand cards and am happy to use them for small bits of fun, but there's no way I'm going to hand card multiple fleeces, and being real... I have something like 4 full alpaca fleeces, a mohair fleece, a romney fleece, and partial other fleeces of Jacob and Romney and who knows what else. My mom owns alpacas and angora goats and I think I/We should really bite the bullet and invest in a drum carder. Do you have experience with different drum carders? What's your favorite and why? We/I want to be economical, but because I intend to spin for the rest of my life and want something durable, I feel like I'd be happier purchasing a chain-drive carder instead of band-drive. Hand crank is great. I'd love your input.

Now, for a real treat, a video of me using my hand carders for the first time in 2009. The technique is terrible, but the short hair is great. Thanks, past self!



Your Long Lost Friend