Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to School....

Saturday afternoon's efforts!
Well the silence in our house at 8:45pm was simply blissful.  For those of you who do not have small children, it is very hard to get them to go to bed in the summer due to the long evenings and the fact that they can't really tell time well yet.  So they are monkeys by getting up early with the light and staying up late.  What it means for me is that I did not have any peace in the evenings.  I know with the shorter days we are a bit less productive and the weather might be bad (it might be bad in summer also), but having the small boy in bed for 8:30pm is WONDERFUL.  The stillness to hear myself think and to potter around the house--ahhhhh!  Back to school, but also back to normal.

Fionn is quite nervous about starting the boy's school tomorrow.  He is a bit sensitive and he is particularly upset about their strictness on Irish language.  I have heard that they are not to speak English on grounds at all and he is worried because he doesn't think he has enough to understand or talk, but I think he probably has a lot more than he realizes after four years of school.  I completely believe in immersion to learn a language, but I hope there isn't a penalty for not speaking Irish; negative begets negative and the kids will not love Irish like they should.  There are other boy's in his class that don't speak Irish at home, so I keep telling him that he won't be alone.  He will know a lot of boys there already, so I think once we get past the jitters then things will be fine. 

I got a lot of dyeing done yesterday with the fine weather.  I have a fibre swap to get in the post and a nuno dress project for myself, so I had to get dyeing while I had the weather.  Hopefully with small boy back in school I can get back in the studio on more regular hours as I have only been in on Fridays lately and it is not getting the big or small jobs done.  Still have yet to sew labels in--sigh. I did finish the lacy scarf and it's long and drapey and fab in a Mae West kind of way, but when I put it into the washing machine to felt it stripped the colour out of my lovely hand-dyed silk yarn.  I used acid dyes, so did I not use enough vinegar to set it???  I am wondering if I can put the whole lot into fuchsia dye and try to over dye it again.  Any ideas fibre people?

My first soy wax resist attempt
I felted a sample piece to start playing with the soy wax that I got from  They stock it now and I can get my acid dyes from them instead of ordering from the UK.  Cork Art Supplies ship fast and I receive it next day, so it's wonderful to have them stock things.  I dyed the felt piece with chartreuse (light bright green) first and then heated the wax and painted it on in a random design.  I was more interested in the wax resist, not the design elements really.  I then dyed with turquoise and the silk fibres too the turquoise, but the wool turned a deep green.  After rinsing in cold water, I filled the sink with hot, soapy water and started rubbing the wax out.  Contrary to their claim (I should know better by now), it did not come out all that easily.  I left the piece to soak in hot water and Googled soy wax and it turns out that the wax has to applied very hot for it to absorb well.  I think that I had probably used too much wax in an effort to make sure that it penetrated the dense surface of the felt.  So it took a little work to get it all out.  I think I will do another sample tomorrow and try to keep the wax constantly hot and be a little lighter with it.  It also warned that rinsing out can add waxy build-up in your plumbing, so it might be a good idea to use a bowl and then you can pour it outside because it is all bio-degradable.  So more to come!

And my final piece of news is that I did a big Christmas-Come-Early order from WollKnoll in Germany and I got lots of Merino, Wensleydale, silk, prefelt, shoe lasts for felting slippers, and a hat block, which I have wanted for a long time.  I suppose I need to get going on these things to start making more things for ETSY.  I really need a long table for laying out the scarves as I am working with two tables pushed together in the studio and they are both too short and I have to roll and flip to get coverage on both sides.  It's awkward, but I know it will get easier.  Santa please bring me a long table to felt on!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The day was lovely til it wasn't....

I started cleaning with the high hopes that I would have the afternoon for felting and dyeing projects, but as soon as I started the last (dreaded) task of washing windows the wee little droplets started to fall....sigh.  Perhaps tomorrow.  I have a clean house and I made lovely food for us, but this is not going to get my ETSY on the way.  This brings me to the observation that I have had lately that I notice most artists don't have the cleanest house.  It is perhaps due to some common allergy to cleaning, which I fully appreciate, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they just wouldn't have time to have a sparkling house AND make lovely, handmade items.  My white skirting boards are very dirty, fully of dust that ran in the house when the kids left the door open for the 9th time every day, and I have just decided that if I spend five minutes for the next four days, I might be able to get them back in order.  When I am up the walls, I just don't look down for fear of what I might find or what it might do to my blood pressure.  Don't get me wrong: I LOVE a clean house, but I just don't seem to have enough time to devote to it.  Small children are wonderful, but they are built on the foundations of chocolate, germs, dirt, and sticky kisses.

I have been working on another lacy crocheted scarf since the other ones seem to be getting great reviews (and that leads me to believe that they might sell), but I ran out of the recycled sari silk yarn that I was using as the final row to give it a VA-VOOM!  I was rummaging around my silk drawer and found a skein of white silk yarn that I was saving for a wedding/Holy Communion project that I hadn't gotten to yet and decided to chance dyeing it colours to compliment the charcoal and fuchsia wool I had already used.  I used yellow and them a bright fuchsia over it.  The first time it came out a bit orange, so I used MORE yellow and MORE fuchsia and it's a lovely mix of yellow/orange/pink that suits the other colours.  I reminds me of a sherbet.  Now I have to crochet the last row on and felt it in the wash.  All it needs is a label....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are the Days Still Getting Longer????

 It feels like I am going non-stop these days.  Where are the lazy, hazy days of summer?  In between mist/rain I am dyeing fibres for projects and leaving them out to drip.  I have received my labels and must start sewing them in garments.  I am steadily building up a supply of hand-dyed wool yarns.  I hope Santy is bring the good fibre people plenty of pretty wool in their stocking! 

The chiffon piece on the left is for the bodice of a dress I am making myself for a wedding coming up soon.  I have black wool jersey that I bought in Dublin and I want to nuno felt over the chiffon with some lovely hand-dyed Merino and silk.  I dyed some Wensleydale to add in also.  I think it will be a range of pinks/reds in many shades.  Those tend to suit me and so I must do some lighter colours next time to balance the shades. 

Tomorrow I want to start with some of the cotton gauze that I received and nuno felt a scarf with that to see how I like working with it.  The weave is quite fine so I'd say it will make a lovely scarf if I lay my fibres out well.  And I must start my journal cover challenge!  I joined the Clasheen Crafty Swap again for summer, so I will felt fibres into the prefelt that I bought and then try my hand at resist dyeing.  I am all experimentation these days!  I might use some of the soy fibres I bought when I was in America. 

Meanwhile, I am admiring the lovely fuscia/red/orange colours that I got today.    I want to do some more gold and greens tomorrow, because I ran out of daylight today.  Hopefully a dry day for more fun!

Monday, August 16, 2010

August Occasions...

Well, we are halfway through August and the summer is flying.  We had a perfect day yesterday, hot and sunny with blue skies in every direction.  Today, we have THIS--->  Really horrible misty, low cloud day.  Outright pouring now.  Friends in America are sweltering in the heat and we are wondering if we should light the fire!!  There is a mountain range in the upper part of the photo, but you can't even see it.

I got precious little done last week.  Wasn't feeling the best and the weather just did not help motivation any.  And dragging small boy to the studio is getting harder and harder.  Roll on school!!

I did get a scarf felted on Friday.  I think it needs a bit more fulling, but the colours are lovely.  I dyed the chiffon red and then used the hand-dyed merino batts that I got in my Clasheen Crafty Swap for spring.  Very dramatic colours and I do love my reds!  Speaking of Clasheen Crafty Swaps (you can see pics of the swaps on, the summer one is upon us and we are doing journal covers and are supposed to use experimental materials--in other words, step outside the comfort zone!  I love this.  I have done two journals and I have learned a lot making them.  The last one I placed design bits in the wrong place, but I know now where I should put them, so I think this one will come out well.  I think I will use prefelt and then felt my design and colours over it.  This is my third swap and I highly recommend them because you get matched up with interesting artists/designers and it's great fun opening up the box to see what treats lie inside!  Sometimes you need the pressure/challenge to a new idea going.The winter swap I got at Christmas was fabulous from Reinventing Fashion.  She's Australian and she upcycles clothing and does really funky, retro work.  Hard to find antique fabrics for her in Dingle! 

Since I have to order everything online, I will have to have a few goodies set aside for this winters so I don't have to dig around in a panic.  The bonus of living in a city is that you can just walk out the door and go buy stuff when you want it; here we must PLAN, which is not as much fun.  However, we do not sit parked in our cars for an hour each way to work, which is a real bonus.  Life is a trade off.

How can I dry anything in this???
I have loads of dyeing to do, but will have to wait for a decent day to line dry them as I just don't have room in my house to let things drip dry all over.  I need to dye chiffon for the top portion of a dress that I need to wear to a wedding in a few weeks.  I have wool and silk bits to dry and bag up for sale and I have more of the knitting yarn to dye.  I think I will get more chiffon and then some other silk and try dyeing or painting for effect.  I just saw some lovely felted scarves that had pieces of silk cloth felted in and they were gorgeous, so I want to try that.  It's all money!!

Back to school is upon us and I must get into Tralee and sort out the uniform and get small boy's books.  He is changing schools to an all-boys school and so he has the usual excitement (boys!) and dread (Irish!)  about the change.  He will be fine.  I am going to TRY and get him a new bike while we are in Tralee, if funds allow.  I am trying to clear as many bills as possible before the wedding September 11th.  My dress is mostly sorted, I have shoes, but I will need hair sorted and I need a new handbag anyways.  And drinking from 3pm til the wee hours does not come cheaply!  Irish weddings are all-day to two-day affair. 

Isn't my model gorgeous??? 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The End of a Busy Week

I have had a quiet weekend, but a rather busy week overall.  The details for Lámhdhéanta/Handmade are coming together.  We have instructors for Crochet, Felting, and Patchwork.  We have space at Aiseanna na hOige, the local community centre.  Funding for marketing is underway and I just need to sort out the insurance issue.  We are in pretty good shape for September 25th!

I spend yesterday afternoon getting started dyeing.  I received a nice Merino lace weight wool and a lovely blend of Merino/Alpaca/Silk in a chunkier weight.  I am really happy with the colours!  Today I over-dyed a vest that I felted on Thursday a deep red, but the light faded and it is now a misty, dirty rain so there will be no photos taken now.  I am so delighted with the dyeing process.  I love mixing the colours and testing out new fabrics.  I spent the morning on the Internet and trying to figure out how Chad Alice Hagen dyes her wool so beautifully.  I think she must use encaustics somehow, perhaps the new technique of using soy wax?  I am going to try that and see if it works.  It can't hurt and the soy wax washes out with simple soap and water, so it doesn't involve chemicals and messing around.  Chad Alice's notebooks that she makes are sooo gorgeous.  I would love to be able to dye pieces with such vibrant colour and texture.  I am perhaps light years away from that!  But I have my Wollknoll order to play with and new dyes that came this week.  I mostly use Jacquard Acid Dyes, but Arty's little pen liquid dyes for microwave dyeing (from  is handy because you can quickly space dye pieces with the pen tip.  I got some prefelt from Wollknoll, as well as a kilo of undyed Merino, some cotton gauze for nuno felting, and the Merino knitting yarn for dyeing.  That will keep me busy for the next week.

 I also made the rest of the appliques for my brother and sister-in-law's wedding blanket.  Or rather their wedding present!  Here are a couple of the appliques that I felted and machine stitched.  I decided not to add too much ornament to the appliques because this blanket will need to be washed and glitzy stuff will most likely fall off with normal wear and tear.  This blanket is 100% wool and will last a very long time, possibly the rest of their lives, if they take care of it.  It feels like it has been hanging off the arm of my chair, patiently waiting for me to complete it, for a very long time.  I crocheted nine panels and the stitched them together like a traditional nine patch quilt.  The rest of the quilt is simply filling in the gaps, but the variegated purple wool is a nice silk and merino blend that's baby soft.  All of it should be nice and soft.  I hope they like it because I have spent about 70 hours on it so far.  Sewing a traditional quilt would have taken far less time!

Must go rescue dinner!  Free range roast chicken, one of my favourites, with roasted onions and garlic and spuds and broccoli.  Life is good!

Sneak peek: almost finished!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Calzone 101...

For a change, I thought I would do a food post since my camera is still a bit wonky :)  I got the memory card sorted, but now the little gadget that transfers the pics to the compute has quit on me!  So, a foodie post...

I worked for years at Pete's Pizza as a college job and sometimes a second job.  Not rocket science, but people would come from all over for them because they are fab.  I made them over the weekend and I forgot how wonderful they are and how easily adaptable: you can do meat or vegetarian or even small ones for hors d’oeuvres.  It's one of those dinners where you can please everyone because you can customize for all likes and dislikes.  Here we go...

As always, read directions all the way through first so you know the whole process…:)

Pizza/Calzone Dough

(Half this recipe makes two medium pizzas or four good size calzones)
• 2 tsp. dry yeast

• 2 c. warm water (blood temperature)

• ½ tsp. sugar

• 5 c. flour

• 2 tsp salt

• Olive oil
In a small bowl, add yeast and sugar and slowly pour water over and stir until dissolved. Leave to bloom (the yeast will start growing and you can smell it in the air) for about 10 minutes. If it doesn’t grow, then you have the water too hot and killed it (start over) or too cold to activate it (add a bit of warmer water).

Meanwhile, get a large bowl out and add your flour, salt, and a swirl of olive oil to the bowl. When the yeast is ready, add it the flour mixture and stir until it becomes a decent lump. Mix it with your hand until the dough all comes together, catching the dough around the sides of the bowl and adding flour to your hands to keep it from sticking too much. If you added a little more water, then you will need to add more flour.  Smoosh and knead the dough for about a minute, pour olive oil on top of it and turn the dough so the bowl and dough are all covered. Put a tea towel on top and leave in a warmish place for an hour.
This whole dough process should take about 12 minutes, tops. Leave it and make yourself a cup of coffee and relax or go do some awful chore that you would rather not do, but has to be done.

Sauce: you can make your own in five minutes or you can buy a jar of decent sauce and make your life easier. I make my own because it takes no time at all and it’s cheaper. You need 16 oz/large can of tomato sauce, pinch salt, splash balsamic vinegar, pinch sugar, and 1 tsp. oregano. Stir in a skillet and heat through. Garlic is also nice to add. Let it start to boil and then turn off. I use a cast iron pan and it stays hot, but the flavors will develop as it cools. Better to not have the sauce too warm for assembly as it’s messier. I have an herb garden and so I use fresh oregano and that makes a huge difference.  Fresh basil works also.
Fillings: You have to have cheese and plenty of it. This is not time to cry diet. Make your life easier and buy the grated mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella is too wet and causes sogginess, so don't get too fancy. I highly recommend ricotta cheese, especially if you put anything spicy in the calzone. Olives and spinach are excellent, but you can do any combination of things. One thing to watch out for in the veg is the amount of water that cooks off when heated. Spinach is lovely, but you should blanch it and squeeze out the excess water so it doesn’t make your calzone really soggy and watery. Mushrooms are okay, but broccoli cooks off a lot of liquid also. My favorite is spinach, mushroom and meatball with red pepper flakes or jalapenos and ricotta. Yum! This is a great thing to make for friends that are vegetarian because you can easily customize for everyone!

Assembly: It is not as scary as it sounds.  Once you have made one you will see how easy it is. 

Roll out dough to a circle (not too thin or the pressure of the filling will make it burst=disaster) and put a small handful of grated cheese in the middle; this will make a barrier so the heavy ingredients aren’t pushing at the back of the calzone and forming a hole. You are going to build a mound from the middle forward so you can fold the part nearest to you over and make a half moon. Add a spoon of ricotta on the cheese and the meat or main veg onto the top of that. Pour 1/2 cup sauce over the mixture. Add the remaining toppings and then more grated cheese, about a cup (Pete’s uses 8 oz if I remember right). Fold over the half of the circle on top of each other and line the edges up. Starting on the left side, put your thumb down on its side and use your right hand to fold the dough over it. Pinch down to seal as you go around the half circle. Repeat until you have a neat "roll" all the way around the calzone. If this is too tricky, use a fork around the edges to seal it.  Air bubbles in the calzone are good, holes bad. Cheese in the roll looks a bit messy, but it's delicious. Now, if you are making different calzones for everyone, take a bit of the main ingredient and put it on the corner of the roll (small piece of pepperoni, mushroom, and olive) so you can identify after they come out of the oven. Otherwise, chaos trying to tell them apart.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes in a hot oven, around 425 degrees.  If the top gets dark, put a small hat of tinfoil over the top.

Three notes for eating:
• A half cup of sauce over the top is REALLY good. I make extra sauce just for this.

• They are VERY HOT inside, so take a fork and break open the top like a vent and let it cool a second, even though it’s very tempting to start wolfing it down.

• They are really filling. Make half-size baby calzones for kids and some adults. I recommend half size portions if you are drinking beer with them because you will want to take over the sofa like sea lion afterwards. And perhaps not flattering for a date to look six months pregnant.

Bon appétit!