Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pulling power

We spent the day at the Berryville steam show: antique tractors and engines, junk sellers, and a mule jump and mule pull competition.  Add to that a favorite small, local creamery selling ice cream on site, and the day was pretty much complete!

(It will surprise no one who knows me that i took more pictures of mules than of machinery.)

And though going on Sunday meant that a few of the machines had already been loaded up and hauled home, it also meant that at least a few of the vendors were motivated by the desire to avoid packing up more stock than they had to, so i got a bag of  interesting vintage goodies for a very paltry sum.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer supper

This is one of my favorites - grilled chicken, fresh spinach, feta cheese, and roasted tomatoes on garlicky naan.  It's too simple to call a recipe, and though i bought the bread, i figure that's cancelled out by the fact that i canned the tomatoes.  Half the time i'm using leftover chicken, so all it needs is to arrange the stuff on the bread, and pop the whole thing into the oven at 400F for something like seven to ten minutes.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Finally finished that pesky lino block, with the image of Hellion melting in the windowsill... it gave me the opportunity to learn all sorts of things, to wit:

  • The only transfer method that had any effect whatever was washing the scanned-and-printed sketch with white vinegar. But even then, grey linoleum doesn't show lines worth a darn.
  • The bit about heating the linoleum to make it easier to cut? Works like a charm.
  • I really, really like vintage lino cutters.
  • Inking the lino is quite a bit different than the soft rubber blocks.
  • It doesn't like the same sort of paper, either - wants something much softer in order to get a good impression. I switched to a mulberry/bamboo paper in the end.
And the finished product, framed up with what was around the house, mostly:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

First step

If i'm aiming to get this dress sewn up in time for the fair, it's high time to get started. I'm working with a 1950s mail order pattern, so the first step is to trace out the pattern.  (Yep, i'm working outside, partly for the light, but mostly for the lack of feline assistance.)  I've got my pencil and my trusty Sharpie.  The gridded mat makes it easier to align everything.

I carefully lay out the pattern pieces, one at a time, on the mat, and then spread the tracing material over the top.  If whatever you're tracing onto has a grid printed on it, it's helpful to line up the markings with the straight grain arrow on your pattern piece.

Weights come in handy here - you can buy special-purpose ones, or you can do what i do, and make off with all the tuna cans from the pantry.  Once you've got everything in place and smooth, trace the grain arrow, then the edges of the pattern piece, carefully, in pencil.  Don't forget notches and such as you go around.  I usually start by marking each corner of the piece - if i knock something out of alignment, that makes it easier to line things up again.

Once you've got the basic outline, remove the original pattern piece, and then go over the lines in marker, which will be easier to read when you go to cut the pattern.  Lay the original pattern piece over the top to check the alignment of notches and other markings - this is especially important if, like me, you've been too hasty or too paranoid to press the pattern tissue first.  Make any necessary corrections, then tuck the original pattern piece safely away.

Be sure to label the pieces as you go - it's no fun to have to go back later to try to sort out whether that's the back yoke or the front yoke, or whether the sleeve you've got in hand really belongs to that dress.  I write out what piece it is, and add the number if it's got one, and also the pattern company and pattern number, just to be on the safe side.  The same goes for any instructions printed on the tissue ("slash along this line to large dot," that kind of thing...).  I confess, i don't take the time to draw in seamlines, unless their different from whatever is the normal seam allowance for that pattern.

Next up, pin-fitting the pieces to see whether i can avoid grading this pattern (i have high hopes - it's a design that should have a fair bit of ease, and it's only starting out one pattern size smaller than i'd take by the measurements...).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I stopped in at the IGA market in Marshall, something i make a point of doing whenever i get down that way, because it is the most amazing combination of goods in a cheerful collision of cultures, from rural Virginia redneck to treehugger.  You can buy Moon Pies or local artisan sausages.  Or both (i've been known to...).  They carry the quasi-local cream line milk that i like to buy whenever i can.  Great stuff: it comes in half-gallon glass bottles ($2 deposit, so when i finally round them up and return them, i feel rich), but the caps have an unfortunate tendency to leak, and the necks of the bottles don't facilitate tidy pouring, and i hate to see any of it wasted.

But!  The Marshall IGA had a solution to this problem, too - one i'd never seen in any of the other places i'd bought milk in glass bottles - for a mere 69 cents, i brought home this wonderful gizmo:

This great little spout pops on in place of the cap, stands up to shaking the bottle to mix in the cream, and pours perfectly, much to the disappointment of the feline members of the household.