Thursday, November 27, 2014

Leather flowers, part two: necklace

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Leather crafts, continued.  Among Grandma’s things, lying folded amidst the yards of eyelet and flannel and poinsettia print quilting cotton, there was a big buckskin, soft and floppy, tagged by the preparer, bullet holes still apparent.  I don’t know where she got it, but Grandma was an old school country girl, and also a crack shot, and she saved anything that might come in handy in the event of a craft inspiration.  I’ll never know what she had in mind for the buckskin--I am imagining something fringed and hand-tooled--but I thought of flowers.  These are pretty easy:  cut out two flower-ish shapes, poke a couple holes in them with a nail, run a length of leather lacing through the holes, tying them together.  I put the knots in the front.  Get the whole thing wet, and then scrunch and squeeze and stretch it, pulling and twisting the petals, until it looks sufficiently flowery.  The softer your leather is, the better it will sculpt.  Prop it in a little glass to help it keep its shape, and let it dry completely.  Then use your crafty skills to finagle it into a necklace, or whatever else you like.  A lovely tutorial is here

Monday, November 24, 2014

Leather flowers, part one: earrings

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I’ve been playing with leather lately.  These little flower earrings have been sitting here, almost finished, for about a month.  I finally got it together to poke a little hole in them so an earring wire could go through, and now they’re done.  Ten seconds of work.  Why is it so easy to get 90 percent done with something and then just let it park there on the work table for four weeks?  I’ve been moving these around to make room for something else for ages.  I don’t know what that’s about. 

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These are small, maybe an inch across.  In my head, leather jewelry is so 1970’s, and there is almost nothing I love more than that.  These are begging for a long patchwork skirt and maybe a big bracelet made of cowrie shells.  Boots, for sure. I’m thinking of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Lorenz, who was a beautiful hippie with fringed vests and long red hair and dangly earrings that looked like tiger teeth or maybe bear claws or something.  She made a pillow out of an entire pair of old jeans (I mean it; she just sewed up the cuffs and stuffed them) and she let me borrow her Monkees records.  Her class is where I first heard The Lovin’ Spoonful.  Awesome.  She potted up twenty spider plants in recycled peanut butter jars and gave them to us for Christmas.  She’d totally wear these.  Anyway, I used tiny scraps of leather from my stash of somebody else’s leftovers, purchased twenty years ago for another purpose.  Save everything, people!  The lovely tutorial is here

I am also illuminating the Great Lakes and most of the Eastern Seaboard with work on the granny blanket, which is still frustratingly in the Lemongrass Phase of construction.  This yarn badly needs the tempering of a neighboring hue. 

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It looks so innocent there in the sunlight.  Do not be fooled. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Flurry

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I am working on so many different things that I almost feel a need to make an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of it all.  Socks, a striped scarf, garden marigolds for dyeing the freshly spun wool, leather flowers.  And everything here, along with a few other things still undocumented, and the spinning, and the new blanket, stubbornly still stuck in the Lemongrass phase --which is all frivolously for meeee—remains unfinished and is on pause while I spend a minute or two thinking about someone besides myself and tackle the holiday gifts.  I can’t show you any of it yet.  The finished objects are piling up nicely, though. 

I also made soup, which is my favorite thing to cook and to eat.  I have got soup figured out.   A nice beef and barley, full of potatoes and pepper.  Yum.   I also went to Philadelphia where, you will recall, my girl has taken up residence, and where there is the culinarily adventuresome “cheese steak”.  (It is nice.  There are art murals everywhere, signs that say “Come In, We’re Awesome” and a cafe advertising “Vinyl Night—BYO Records”.  Cheese Steak is a bit of all right.  My girl is happy.  LOVE.)  I also finally got some bifocals, so maybe I’ll be able to read in the bathtub again, and I am spending every single free moment at the knitting needles.  Oh, and it is snowing. 

In case I’ve made you hungry for Beef and Barley soup, here’s my recipe:

Snow Day Beef Barley Soup

1 pound chopped up beef—I don’t know from cuts of meat, so use whatever you like. 

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

6-8 cups beef broth

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 cup pearl barley

2 bay leaves

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Splash of vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

In a big pot or Dutch oven, saute the onions and celery in the olive oil until they are soft.  Add the beef, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until fully browned.  Add the broth, potatoes, barley, and bay leaves.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and simmer until the potatoes and barley are soft, maybe about 30 minutes.  Add parsley and vinegar and simmer 3-5 minutes more.  Add more liquid if needed, and remove the bay leaves before serving. 

I know, vinegar sounds strange, but trust me.  Soup begs for a little vinegar.  Okay, back to the yarn.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Neon and buttermilk

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It has been a craft tornado around here.  A craftnado.  I have got a major case of starting stuff, and I have started about ten new things and there is still a list of things to start that haven’t even been started yet.  Fabric is stacked for auditioning, and there are some knee socks I want, and I think a knit fair isle cape would be so great, must make a few notes on that...  There has been felting and embroidery and painting and metalsmithing (I am not even kidding) and a whole big mess of knitting and crocheting, and the house looks ransacked but I am having a wonderful time.  I seem to be conducting an experiment to find out exactly how many different crafts one middle-aged woman can carry out in one week.  There is a new blanket on my hook, too, the beginning of which is nothing but four skeins of Paton’s Classic in the neon, the glowing, the astoundingly technicolored Lemongrass.  Friends, that much Lemongrass all at once looks kind of terrifying.  Lemongrass can be used in the even of a power outage as an auxiliary light source, did you know that?  I think it will be okay in the end, but Must Get to the Next Color, aaaargh!  It’s melting my eyeballs right now.  Also, My friend Debbie has given me another fleece, and oh mercy me it is so lovely.  Soft and fluffy and the color of buttermilk.  It looks like Santa’s beard.  I was invited to spin some of it at a local fiber festival and church bazaar last weekend, and Ethel took this photo—with her phone--of me in the demonstration room, spinning and yammering away.

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My wheel—an Ashford Kiwi—is a blur!  That fiber is completely delicious.  Nobody, not even Debbie, knows what kind it is.  It is sheep’s wool, and that’s all we know, because her sheep are all rescue animals.  Well this fleece is made of buttercups and moonbeams.  It spins effortlessly, and it made me look like a spinning genius, which, I assure you, I am not.  Everyone, everyone, said “That looks so soothing.  Is it soothing?” and it is, completely.  It is like listening to your mother’s heartbeat while sipping chamomile tea in a warm bubble bath, but then I think knitting is soothing too, and this is so interesting to me, because when I am spotted knitting in public, people always say they think it looks difficult, and that it must be frustrating.  Hmm.  There’s a study in there somewhere.

We are barreling headlong towards the holidays now, which sets my crafty cogs to turning.  I feel bursting with creative energy.  In fact, the yarn is calling to me right now.  See ya!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Color Block Crochet Scarf

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I made a scarf, and now it is freakishly warm outside, not that I’m complaining about that for even one microsecond. The sky looks like it wants to dump buckets and leaves are flying all over the place but it’s kind of warm enough for shorts.  I want to open a window, but leave the fireplace burning…odd.   I do not understand this season, nope, I do not.  I don’t know what to do with warm and gloomy.  Anyway.  I got a little bit temporarily fed up with knitting the other day, and I just felt like I wanted to crochet something, so I scrounged up five skeins of worsted weight wool and made this scarf (the recipe is here).  I used a US G hook and Ella Rae Classic in 101 (heathery denim) and 124 (squirrel brown), Jo Sharp Classic in 911 (lovely olive) Patons Classic in Winter White, dyed by me with avocado pits to be sort of a pale sienna, and Berroco Vintage in some kind of navy heather—the ball band for that one is lost.  I’m sorry, I can hardly keep track of those things even when I’m trying really hard.  I don’t know what that’s about.  I think you could make this scarf in a day if you didn’t get too interrupted by life.  With life-related interruptions, give yourself three days, no problem. 

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It kind of made itself, while I was busy having a flashback nostalgia freakout watching a whole bunch of episodes of Welcome Back, Kotter.  (The theme song from that show!  Right?  Or is it just me?)