Friday, December 30, 2016


While looking for something else this morning I came across an enormous stack of postcards I'd collected over the years.  I thought this one of Gromit was a cheerful offering for a winter morning.  I've always admired Aardman's attention to detail, from the bones on the wall paper to Gromit's carefully tensioned yarn.

I've gotten out of the habit of sending postcards.  If we don't send postcards to one another every once in a while, then the only thing posted to the refrigerator will be the grocery list, and where's the fun in that?

Postcards also make good bookmarks, particularly for very dull books.  Finding a years-old postcard when you pick up Henry Esmond (the Very Dull Book currently on my night stand) briefly takes your mind off the fact that you're still reading the darned thing.

While art print post cards are probably in the best taste, I think one ought to loosen up now and again and send a silly post card, particularly to somebody who's not expecting it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


In the process of going through some books to see if there were any candidates for Goodwill, I thumbed through my 1985 paperback edition of The Modern Researcher, wondering when I'd last opened it.  Out dropped this fern frond and some weed leaves.  The weed would have been new to me when I moved to Oregon,  and I remember thinking its leaves were quite beautiful (the effect is better when they're bright green and edged with dew drops,) so it appears that the last time I opened this  book was Spring, 1997.

Despite the demonstrable lack of use in my household, I'm hanging onto The Modern Researcher, for both its content and its leaf-pressing capabilities.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, Everybody

This is as dressed up as I plan on getting today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Calling the Sun

On the Winter Solstice I invoke a little magical thinking and hurry the return of the sun by eating things that are the color of the sun, or the shape of the sun, or, most magical, both.  This often turns out to be saffron bread baked up into a round loaf.  However, I've got a lovely round loaf of pandoro tucked away, so I didn't think I needed any more bread in the house.

But this year's holiday baking resulted in two left-over egg yolks.  Try as I might, and I try different things different years, I never seem to be able to make just enough egg-yolk things to correctly balance out the egg-white things.

So this morning I invoked the color and shape of the sun in a very special, three-yolk fried egg that should certainly get the sun's attention.  It was tasty if a little rich - definitely something to eat only on special days.

For dinner - a nice, round-like-the-sun pizza bianca.

Have a fine Winter Solstice yourself.

Monday, December 19, 2016

We get a little tired of snow

We've had snow off and on since last Wednesday.  Not much - just enough to close schools and be annoying.  In this strange news season, Portland even made the national news because of it.

We're all ready for a change, including the forecasters at NOAA:

It will be nice to see the good ole rain.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The End of the Summer Blankets

After some delays, I've finally finished seaming and hemming the last of the summer weight blankets I wove last summer.  I wrote about the first two in August.

The second two full-size blankets and the little cradle blanket use a stripe arrangement I found on a blanket in the Textile Museum of Canada.  It was lots of fun to weave, but required some care to make the stripes match when the two widths were seamed together.   I did okay.

The center seam and the hems are sewing with a very sturdy linen singles.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Getting the Cookies Packed Up to Go

Some years I have lots of energy for making cookies to send to family and friends.  This was not one of those years, so the 2016 selection is a little limited.  But they do look pretty when all snugged into their tins.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

With Great Power Comes Great Complexity and Too Much Tiny Print

electronic light timer

A couple of cycles of time changes and some power outages finally resulted in my having to sit down and re-program my light timers so that lights come on and go off at useful times.

This is a task I always put off as long as I possibly can.  It's just an awkward endeavor all round.  First one has to fetch each timer, which means crawling on the floor and reaching under or behind bulky pieces of furniture.

And then one has to remember what all the little buttons do.  Amazingly enough, I had not only saved the instruction sheet for my Westek TE22DHB timers, I even remembered where I'd put it.  Reading that tiny type was another matter entirely.  Thank goodness the internet found a PDF of the instructions sheet.  And thank goodness for the entire concept of Zoom In.

The Westek TE22DHB offers 20 programmable ON/OFF settings per week.  Per week!  The power!  The possibilities!   The complexity of button pushes!  I get it - you might want one set of behaviors Monday through Friday and a different set on Saturday and Sunday.  Or even/odd days of the week.  Or front/back halves of the week.

Me, I'm happy to settle for turning the light on at 5:30 a.m., off at 8:00 a.m., then on again at 4:00 p.m. and off at 9:30 p.m.

Yes, I'm sure that the Internet of Things allows me to do all of this through my phone, but I'm not quite there yet.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How to Keep an Ancient Cat Warm

Even though winters here are mild, they're not so mild that I don't feel the need to economize on heating.  The thermostat is set at 68, and I habitually wear a sweater and heavy wool socks.  But Honey, my Very Old Cat, minds the cold terribly.  For her, the solution is an electric cat warming pad, a knitted blanket, and a little quilt.  (The alternate solution is to sit in my lap.)

Believe me, if I thought she'd wear a sweater, I knit one for her.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

I don't care if it *is* all a marketing campaign

So, I missed the official  Beaujolais Nouveau Day (November 17th.)  Thank goodness I did grocery shopping today and parked my cart right next to the stack of Beaujolais Nouveau bottles while I went to grab a half gallon of milk.

What the hey.  At $9.99, the price was right.  I kinda like young reds that you don't have to think about too much.

Next year we'll all remember that Beaujolais Nouveau Day is the third Thursday of November (which Google Calendar doesn't understand - hear that Google?) and have a glass as we shuffle through Thanksgiving recipes before deciding that the old favorites are really the best.

The Feast of the Blessed Hose Bibb Cover

The Feast of the Blessed Hose Bibb Cover is ideally celebrated about 12 hours before the first day on which the temperature is expected to drop below freezing, but the timing can vary a bit.

The very worst time to celebrate the FBHBC is about ten o'clock at night, when one is tucked into bed,  hears freezing rain hitting the bedroom window, and suddenly remembers that terribly important task one really meant to do right after work.   In this case, the feast is celebrated by struggling into one's boots, overcoat, and hat, searching the potting shed by flashlight for the covers, which haven't been seen in eleven months, and then convincing the covers to hook onto the faucets and stay there.

Honestly though, the very best time to celebrate the Feast of the Blessed Hose Bibb Cover is never.  Here in the Northwest winter doesn't always bring freezing weather.  If we do have freezing weather, it's only for a couple of days.

Are the covers effective?  I don't know.  The hardware stores always sell them at this time of year, and my neighbors and I buy them and install them.

The most beautiful celebration of the FBHBC I ever saw had Christmas lights wrapped around the cover and bubble wrap wrapped around the lights - quite striking at dawn on a frosty morning.

And why are they called hose bibbs anyway?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Keeping it Warm

Last week between bouts of Thanksgiving cooking I took breaks to knit a tea cosy for the small tea pot I use on weekend mornings (I use tea bags during the week.  It's complicated.)

I adapted a pattern I'd used in the past and scaled it down.  It was a nice way to use up some ends of skeins.

I think one either loves or loathes pompons.  Obviously, I'm a fan.   In addition to the three I made to decorate the tea cosy, I made another one for the cat, who thinks they are the very bestest cat toys.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Sun Break

After last week's flooding, Fern Hill Road finally dried out and I was able to get to the parking lot of the wetlands, where I took this photo this morning.  Don't be fooled by the sun - there were some pretty heavy showers off and on all day today.

All the turkey is et

Due to guests' schedules, this year at the Blue Door, Thanksgiving dinner was served on Friday.   I roasted one of Diestel Farm's Organic Heirloom turkeys, a smallish bird weighing in at 13 pounds.  I was very pleased with it.  I applaud breeders for making the effort to breed good turkey flavor back into turkeys and I like to support their effort by buying these more expensive birds.

Even though I have fresh herbs in my garden, I still use Bell's Poetry Seasoning* in my dressing.

I recommend that you get a box, and get into the habit of roasting a whole chicken periodically, maybe for the traditional Sunday dinner, which gives you great left-overs for Monday lunch or dinner.  Consider it training for the annual turkey.

*It's actually Bell's Poultry Seasoning, but a grocery clerk mis-heard my request for it in the store once and asked his supervisor if they carried Bell's Poetry Seasoning.  I just love the idea of poetry seasoning.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Learning to be cloth

Cloth as it comes from the loom is referred to as "gray goods" or "greige."  I think of it as proto-cloth - a coalition of warp and weft threads that haven't yet realized that they're part of something bigger.  For the cloth that I weave, the transition from gray goods to finished cloth starts with washing.

I take a fairly old-fashioned approach to washing my gray goods:  lots of water, lots of soap, and a little agitation (of the cloth, not me - I actually find the process quite relaxing.)

And when I say "soap," I mean real soap, not detergent.  Try to think back to your high school chemistry class - I'm sure this topic was covered there.  Real soap flakes can be hard to find, so for years I made soap and shaved flakes with a cheese grater.  Recently I've found that I can buy Zote brand soap flakes locally, so I'm giving them a try.  For a bath tub of hot water, I use about a cup of soap flakes that has been dissolved in a quart or two of water.

Here's recent warp of wool and cotton blankets in the wash water.  Don't see the blankets?  That's because the soap has done a good job of binding to the various waxes and spinning oils from the yarns and holding them in suspension.

Here's the first rinse water.

And here's the second rinse water - that's more like it!

In the time line between banging cloth on stones by the stream's edge and the modern domestic washing machine, many laundry aids were invented.  Most people have at least a passing acquaintance with washboards, but the aerating washer is far less well known.

Tin plated washers are still available, but I decided to go with a non-rusting plastic version.
From Mobile Washer
I really admire the Mobile Washer folks for their commitment to this piece of appropriate technology.  And isn't that a great shade of blue?

I bought my washer without a handle and then attached a standard broom handle so that I can stand while agitating the blankets in the tub.  I use it in both the wash and the rinse waters.

The Promise of Spring

The bulbs that I ordered in August arrived last week.  I don't remember whether I specified this late planting date or the vendor decided it on their own.  I was lucky to have a dry day on which to dig holes in Awful Heavy Clay to get them planted.  I amended the soil with compost I'd harvested over the summer and a little bulb food.

By the end of the afternoon I'd planted 75 grape hyacinth bulbs and 30 daffodil bulbs, about my limit for one day's work.   The weather gods then smiled on my efforts by providing some very nice showers to get the bulbs watered in.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Sampling is the part of the design phase in which I learn the characteristics of the yarn I want to use.  This is Jaggerspun 2/20 Maine Line, in Bittersweet, Natural, and Williamsburg Blue, set at 32, 36 and 40 ends per inch.  Twill and tabby each behave differently, and the very slightly sticky shed is something I'll need to get used to.   The hand of the twill at 40 epi is really lovely.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Primitive Smock

Recently I decided to make a smock, based (loosely) on the modern fisherman's smock, which seems to survive today primarily in Cornwall and Brittany; the Norfolk slop; and smocks that show up now and again in nineteenth century photographs.

I adapted the techniques I'd previously used for making an eighteenth century shirt.  The smock is cut entirely of squares and rectangles.  Some of the squares are folded in half and used as triangles.  I used some linen that had been in my stash for about 10 years.

The most interesting feature of these smocks is that there is no front opening.  This makes the smock faster to make up and is a better functional choice if the goal is to keep out sea spray, dust, chaff, and the like.

I guessed, mostly right, on the size for the neck opening.  Quite a bit of arithmetic was involved to account for the amount that the neck gusset added to the neck circumference.  The next time I make up the smock, I'll make the neck opening about an inch smaller.

I didn't make the side vents deep enough, which means that I have to hike up the smock a bit if I want to put my hands in my pockets.

Seams and hems were sewn by machine.  The sleeve and body seams were flat-felled by hand.
Neck gusset and collar band

Sleeve gusset
The hip gussets were sewn in by hand.
Hip gusset at the left
Marked so that everybody knows it's mine

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Summer weight blankets

This being summer, I decided to use up some mill end yarns I bought years ago to weave light-weight blankets.  These are woven of cotton and wool.  This type of blanket is typical of farmhouse production in the early to mid-nineteenth century.  Commercially spun cotton became available in the mid 1790s.

Home looms typically accommodated widths no greater than about 45 inches, so blankets and sheets were made up of multiple widths that were then seamed together.  The loom I'm using for the blankets will weave 36 inches wide.

Once taken off the loom and washed in plenty of soap suds and hot water, the blankets were cut and the edges of two widths were loosely whipped together, then opened out. and pressed.  This is the wrong side.

This is the right side after pressing.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Weaving again

A nice easy warp of kitchen towels. 10/2 perle cotton.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Still Not Writing, at Least Not Here

But  I did finish the (hand) quilting on this quilt.