Sunday, September 29, 2013

Good news/bad news...

Gave up on the acetate sheets, pilfered some acrylic from the spouse (and mooched his scribes, too), and had better success with the drypoint bit. This is a proof of the second design (i'll probably go back to the goose later, but this was more suited to the theme of the print exchange i signed up for, and - at the scale i had to work on for that - lino just wasn't cooperating).

The bad news? After i'd pulled the one decent proof pictured here, i came home from an errand to find the plate in pieces on the floor. Back to the drawing board for the print exchange...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Not quite ready for prime time...

I got a bit of a wild hair on Saturday to try my hand at drypoint - a printing technique that involves scribing into a plate, inking the plate, wiping most of the ink off, and pressing onto dampened paper to transfer the ink that remains in the scribed lines. It didn't go entirely as planned, of course, but the process and the troubleshooting has been kinda fun. It's still not there yet, but i think it's got promise. I was working from a photo of the neighbor's self-important goose. (Come to think of it, "self-important goose" is probably redundant...)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Variance and seredipity

Just as i was contemplating hand-coloring the eyes on a few of the new prints, i discovered a loud but serendipitous lime green frame... i expect i'll have to go back and pick up a few more.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Been meaning to...

After stopping at the meetinghouse today to talk with an art conservator about a picture there that needs some care and feeding, i decided to take a short walk around the burying grounds - it was fascinating to see how plain - or not - the stones were (where there were stones), and to see which families opted for carving "4th month" instead of "April," and to look for the heartbreaks and mysteries that always crop up in old graveyards: the little boy with dates 1916-1919 (was it influenza?), the stone with no name, only "Daughter of..."

No one else was there, so i went ahead and snapped a few pictures. My favorites of the lot:

Monday, August 5, 2013


Lulubelle J. Fuzzbutt (it's a long story) was, briefly, my grandmother's cat, but landed here after Grandma died. She loves people and attention, and bullies other cats. She isn't actually dumb as two thick planks, but has a tendency to hurtle through life without thinking (e.g., an attempt to rub against my leg turns into a somersault, which turns into tumbling down half a flight of stairs...). She's cost me an astronomical amount at the vet's, mostly following her decision to eat a spool of thread.

I decided it was time for her to help pull her weight around here - and i was looking for something straightforward to carve in between the hen blocks and a half-hatched idea for another multiple color print - so i adapted a photo i'd taken, and sat down to carve.

I'm still trying to work out what to title the print... (if inspiration strikes you, feel free to leave a comment!)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Experimentation (or trial by fire)

I like the county fair, because it's a good, deadline-enforced kick in the pants to get some lingering projects done and to try some new things. This year, i decided it was as good a time as any to start to play with multiple blocks in the prints, and so:

It's just a quick proof, while i'm making sure of how it works, and the best paper and inks for this one. It isn't, perhaps, the simplest design to pick for experimenting with registration - getting everything lined up just so, so that the colors from each block fit together and interlock the way they should - and that made the carving a slow process, but soon i'll be printing some up for the shop!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

All set

...or not. Couldn't quite decide whether i ought to add pectin to today's batch of black raspberry jam. The mixed berry jam that i do a little later in the season is usually fine sans pectin, since the berries have enough of their own, but the black raspberries are always a little... unpredictable. So i figured i could set it on the stove for a while, and if it didn't look like it was starting to gel, i could always add a bit of pectin.

Of course, it was well into the 90s today, so with a pot of proto-jam on one burner and a massive boiling water canner on the next, i got impatient and went with the pectin - not the full amount, but a bit. Only i discovered (belatedly, as i was ladling jam into jars) that i hadn't mixed it in all that well, so it looks like i've got two jars that are set, one that's sort of halfway, and four that are on the syrupy side.

Still, i know from past experience that syrupy black raspberry goop has its uses: among other attempts at salvaging un-set jam, i've made a killer black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream, and a lovely, summery lemon cake filled with black raspberry syrup and frosted with lemon buttercream. Not too shabby.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Neo-gothic brunch gear

Sometimes, you find things that you simply didn't realize were missing from your life. For me, at the flea market this weekend, it was this waffle iron - now, i should say that i'm primarily a pancake girl, though i like me a nice fluffy Belgian waffle on occasion - but this was not just any waffle iron.

Fleur-de-lys and elaborate little crosses to hold all the butter and syrup (or fruit compote and whipped cream, if you go that way...)? This takes decadent brunching to a new level.

It's not marked except for the size, but i've found a couple examples with the same design that seem to be linked to a Philadelphia manufacturer, and my knee-jerk guess is that this one is probably on the order of a hundred years old. Obviously, it's desperately in need of some care and feeding, but there's nothing badly wrong that a bit of elbow grease and a lot of time, heat, and oil won't fix.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A rare bird

Yes, it's a finished project! Actually, it was finished months ago, while i was visiting my sister and didn't have a camera handy... it's that play mat i made for my friend's kiddo, although it's the little sister of said kiddo who's actually sacked out on it here:

Apparently, it's quite popular all around, and when it's not occupied by one or the other of the kids, the cats are trying to stake their claim to it. The front (except for the border) is made entirely from a batch of receiving blankets i nabbed at a thrift store, and the "batting" is an old wool blanket. Probably the most expensive part was the backing, which i made out of a denim with tiny olive green pinstripes - i knew i wanted something tough, with a nice, tight twill weave, so the bottom would brush off easily. Everything that went into the project was picked out specifically to be highly washable and breathable...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fast and loose with the terminology

Indulge me in a small textile rant, here. I just got an e-mail from the local quilt shop (i don't, for the most part, quilt, but it's the only place this side of G Street Fabrics that carries the thread i like...), and one of the new fabric lines they're flogging is called "Quilter's Linen Tussah" by Robert Kaufman, and which, the shop e-mail points out to reassure the quilters, is 100% cotton.

Now, Kaufman generally makes quality fabrics, and they should know better than this: a cotton fabric, called "linen" and "tussah," which is a term used to describe silks produced from wild rather than cultivated silkworms. They want "linen" to describe the texture of the weave, i'm sure, but linen is a fiber, and not a particular weave, and there are other ways - you know, accurate ones - to describe a weave and its texture, perhaps in this instance, something like "homespun." And tussah? That's really reaching. Next thing you know, they'll want to describe it as worsted, too. Puts one in mind of the line from Voltaire about the Holy Roman Empire. Thank you, rant over.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Merry Olde West-by-God...

May Day in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Yep, real people still do this. And i adore the fact that their border morris team is called "Hicks With Sticks." Really. (And the little girls who dance before the maypole is wrapped? "The Morris Minors," of course...)

We went to play, and had a blast jamming near the entrance to the farm market, between the morris and clogging sets in the morning and the afternoon parade and maypole festivities. It's madly chaotic every year, and somehow still works.

"What tunes are we playing for this?"
"No idea. But 'Sellenger's Round' is probably in there somewhere."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Must. Resist.

This adorable little creature is a Singer 185J - which is, basically, a Singer 99 in new clothes. It's a 3/4-size machine, although not anything you'd call "lightweight." The "J" in the model number on this one just indicates that this machine was manufactured at Singer's factory in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, in Qu├ębec. Possibly the cutest detail? Even the bobbin winder tire and belt are green. Alas, the belt is shot, and i'm doubtful i'll be able to find another green one to replace it with...

I'm tempted to adopt it, of course, but i do have a 3/4-size machine already - a little Pfaff 30 i bought in a mad sewing machine binge at the favorite flea market (came home with four machines that day... luckily, that doesn't happen often, and none of them were in cabinets). So once i've replaced the missing bits and made sure everything is clean and working properly, i'm determined that it should go to the shop.



Monday, April 1, 2013

A little embroidery

...or, "i can't leave well enough alone."

I had to make something to bring to Easter breakfast at meeting, and time was getting short for baking. I scratched my head a bit, and thought okay, they'll have the eggs, sausage, and ham covered, so if baking's out, that leaves fruity things... and i'd just impulse bought a giant box of medjool dates on the last trip to buy provisions. Now, when i was a kid, we used to snack on dates stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese, but i'm not the biggest peanut butter fan, and cream cheese seemed a little dull. Thought about what was on hand and what might jazz it up a bit, scanned a couple recipes to see if similar things had worked, and ended up with a filling that involved cream cheese, a bit of orange peel, the juice from a tangerine, a little ginger, and a goodly dollop of a cinnamon creamed honey (it would be just as easy to use plain honey and add the cinnamon separately...).

They've been pretty popular. Made a few more for myself and the spouse this morning, since i had a little bit of the filling left over. The picture is lousy, but it'll have to do for now, because, well, i've already eaten them.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Warm, and the measurement thereof

We just replaced the catalytic combustor in the old woodstove, so things should again be humming along to keep the house warm, which means that the hearth will once again be covered in kitties.

In watching the cats try to form a sort of living hearth rug, i developed a new theory: the warmth and comfort level provided by a stove ought to be measured in CCs. That's right, "Contiguous Cats" - for the number of felines that are drawn in to make a pile in front of the stove. I think i could probably set up as a testing lab for this certification scheme... here we've got a (fairly modest) three CCs, namely Winston, Fitzgerald, and Lulubelle J. Fuzzbutt.