Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cabbages and eggs, again

Boiled eggs, chopped red cabbage, turmeric, & vinegar
I wasn't going to color Easter eggs this year, what with Nora away and me not into doing the whole Easter Bunny thing anymore. Last year I announced to our two adult children that the Easter Bunny had retired, but if they wanted to hide eggs for each other, they should feel free to go right ahead and do so.

Here the eggs are inside the bowls
But I still enjoy coloring eggs, especially since I started playing around with food-based natural coloring agents a few years ago. It kind of seems more magical to me, to make your own dyes from foods and spices; or maybe it's just more appealing and kind of a novelty. It always makes me want to experiment with dyeing other things, like linen bookbinding thread (which I've done) and paper (which I've also done, but only with tea and rust—but not together; that is, I have used them together and it just turned the paper gray, so now i know better).

It's the one time each year that I buy white eggs. All the rest of the year I buy brown eggs. Either way, they're organic, free-range eggs from the co-op, but most of the time the brown eggs just appeal to me more. But I don't expect they would color up very well, would they?

To keep things simple this year, I just did two colors, with three eggs of each. I boiled up seven eggs Friday morning, and ate one of them for breakfast (taking it out of the water after only three minutes so the yolk would be soft), and let the others sit until I had finished my tea.
Not bad!

So, this year's egg dyes are from red cabbage and the spice turmeric, following the directions from Lakewinds Co-op. After letting them sit in the refrigerator for a few hours, I took the eggs out and rinsed them off and was pleased to find I got a deeper blue from the cabbage than in past years—and some little white splotches that make them look more interesting than if they were just evenly colored. The turmeric always produces a nice rich gold color. (Compare the result from a couple of years ago in this blog post.)

Next: make deviled eggs, of course. And cole slaw—there's always more cabbage than I need just for eggs. And maybe next year I'll try some different foods, like beets, too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another postal treasury on Etsy

Vintage postage stamps from Verde Studio on Etsy
I do love getting and sending fun stuff in the mail, it's the reason I joined Postcrossing, and it sometimes inspires me to look on Etsy to see what handmade and vintage items I can find to make mailing stuff even funner.

So I curated a treasury in anticipation of Mothers' Day, Write Your Mother.

My most surprising and delightful find? Vintage postage stamps that haven't been used, so you can use them to send mail. Sure, you're paying more than face value for them, but, even so, what fun!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Little knitting/felting projects

My new crafting zine, with three knitting patterns
I like to knit, but I have kind of a short knitting attention span; I'd rather not start a project unless I can reasonably expect to see it to the end in short order, before events intervene or I just get sidetracked. On top of that, I prefer to use quality yarns, but I don't like to spend a lot of money. So, I look for things I can knit from a single skein of yarn or less. This also allows me to sometimes rummage in the yarn shop remnant bin, for that discounted skein that's the only one left of its dye lot.

I like to knit socks, too, which are actually rather time-consuming, but they don't use a lot of yarn and the whole project is easily contained in my small knitting bag (it's a canvas tote that's less than a foot deep and wide). That's my other criteria: I want the project to be small and easily portable, so I can knit at the coffee shop or wherever I like. And I don't mind sticking that project out to the end, because I end up with a pair of handknit socks, which is a wonderful thing. No less an authority than Pablo Neruda has extolled the virtues of hand-knit socks in his poem "Ode to my Socks."

The other beauty of knitting socks is that you learn some skills that can be applied elsewhere; the short rows used to turn a heel can also be used for other rounded shapes, like little critters with well-formed behinds that allow them to sit up.

A couple of years ago, after knitting a bunny from a Fiber Trends pattern, which turned out much bigger than I had hoped it would (it was felted after knitting), but taught me a lot about how to knit  an animal, I started thinking about making up my own patterns. There were things about the Fiber Trends pattern I didn't like, too: it seemed unnecessarily complicated, and, like all their patterns, it's printed on a kind of dark teal paper, which can make it a little hard to read. I assume they do that to discourage people from photocopying their patterns to share with others, and I find myself simultaneously sympathetic and disapproving of that. Why shouldn't friends share patterns? Knitting is such a social activity, it just doesn't seem right to be too proprietary about it.

A random free form cat toy
I've knit some cat toys totally freehand, without a plan or a pattern, using wool yarn so that I can then felt them in the washing machine, which makes them firmer and stronger to hold up to the kind of abuse cats dish out. I can't find the mouse to photograph for this blog (it's probably under the sofa or something), but here's this random alien-looking thing that I made when I first learned how to do an i-cord. Making cat toys is a fun way to do improvised knitting, since it doesn't really matter how they turn out.

Other small projects I've made are a coin purse, a needle "purse" (like a needle book, only it resembles a purse more than a book), and a frog. With each of these, I took detailed notes, and made revisions, and finally got around to typing them up and publishing them in a little booklet, which I decided to call a zine and name it Remnants, with the intention of sharing more scrappy projects in the future, not always about knitting. It's available at my Etsy shop, and it's printed on white paper, with permission granted to reproduce and share it with your friends, because that's what I would do.

So, if you're a knitter, you might like to check it out here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Julia's Garden in Spring

When we made an offer on this house last May, it was after most of the spring bulbs had finished their blooming, and I really don't remember seeing any evidence of bulbs at all. Yet it was clear that the former owner, Julia Johnson, who lived to a ripe old age and died a couple of years before we bought the house, had been a gardener—the peonies and phlox and black-eyed susans and their many floral companions attested to that! (They weren't all blooming in May, but were tall enough to be identified by that time.)

It was a hot spring last year, and that tends to shorten the life of the early frost-hardy blooms—they take the cold with cheerful abandon, but they whither and fade in the heat. Also, the garden had been neglected for a couple of years at least, so there were plenty of weeds to hide the fading foliage of any ephemerals that might be there. Fortunately, bulbs tend to thrive on neglect: The reason for tulips' reputation as not really being all that perennial is because the bulbs rot from too much water and fertilizer during their dormancy in mid to late summer.

Yet, even though I had plenty of reason to expect to find spring flowers emerging in this bountiful backyard, it's still been a series of serendipities as each day reveals a little more of Julia's legacy. First I spotted tulip tips emerging near the house, followed soon by daffodils—more and more daffodils around the perimeter of the yard, coming up through the thicket of raspberry canes and aggressive perennials—which are already swelling in the bud, very near ready to burst open.

And today I spotted the squill, first in a patch next to Julia's patio, mingling with the seedheads of last summer's black-eyed susans, then a few sweet little blue buds in the lawn by the clothes pole.

But no crocuses, which I find rather curious. I guess I'll have to plant crocuses this fall!