Category Archives: Crafting

Kitchen Alchemy and Camp – July 25, 2017

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This is the time of year that the herbs and wild plants that are used in the salves, balms, and some soaps in the shop are growing and being harvested.  Once a batch is dried, jars of the herbs and the oils that make the infused oils are started.  Sometimes they are suntea processed in a window sill for a month or so, but sometimes one or more are needed sooner than that and they are infused in a makeshift double boiler system for 3 hours.  Once the infused oils are made and cooled, they are strained into a clean jar and the portion needed measured out and rewarmed to melt the organic beeswax needed to make the oil into a salve or balm.  Before our weekend away, a kitchen alchemy session was conducted and several salves resupplied, labelled, and put in the shop.  Some of the oils are needed for the Mountain Makings camp that is in session this week.

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Today was day 2 of their camp, my first of two sessions working with the young ones.  My friend, Jennifer, and I worked with them last year and again today.  The children are 7 to 12 years old and all very involved in the activities.  We had a very brief discussion of spinning and how  and why it was used in past generations.  They were each given a few ounces of hand dyed fiber and a hand made drop spindle, an improved version of last year’s with a heavier whorl.  One parent was fascinated with this portion of their program today and stayed.  She was given a spindle and fiber and followed right along with the children, making her first spindle full of yarn singles.  After the spindles were all being used without too much more assistance, they put them down and each were given a packet that contained a cardboard loom, weaving needles, yarn, and an instruction sheet for reference at home and they began a small wall hanging that they wove themselves.  Once they were all working well with that, we moved to our spinning wheels and gave each child an opportunity to spin a long enough singles to double it back on itself to create a length of hand spun yarn that they can use in their weaving.  At the end of the day, they will go home with their spindle and fiber, their loom, yarn, and weaving needles.

Tomorrow, I will return alone to take the children on a plant walk to identify some of the plants that can be wild harvested for their salve making.  They will get a handout of plants, their uses, and recipes for making the infused oils and instructions on making a salve.  We will make salves together and they will take home a tin or jar of their salve.

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Once home today, with a clear bobbin on the wheel, I tackled a one pound bag of raw alpaca locks that I had purchased at the Farmers Market earlier this spring.  I have never spun raw unwashed fiber before, but the alpaca lacks the lanolin of wool and other than picking out some vegetable matter, it is clean to spin.  The fawn colored alpaca is from “Graham” an alpaca living at Poplar Hill Alpacas, a local farm.  It will be plyed with a brown ply from another local Alpaca farm.  This yarn will be knit into fingerless mitts for the Holiday Markets.  If enough is spun, perhaps a hat will be made to match.

Back to Crafting

The shop soap supply was getting low, so 4 batches of soap have been recently made.  Two of them are the same scent, as eldest son and family will get a full batch of one of those scents.

A decision was made recently to change the name of the shop to Cabin Crafted Soap and Yarn Shop and to be more creative on my balms and salves, identifying them by use, not by name.  The new logo requires a huge THANK YOU to my artist daughter-in-law who drew it for me.  I really didn’t want to keep using clip art of unknown origin.  Last fall just before the Holiday Markets, I tried new packaging for the soaps, using cello bags sealed with ingredient labels with the soap type on a front label and putting one of each scent in mesh bags so they can be smelled.  It bothered me to have all of the bars bare and handled by many people as they tried to decide on a scent.  This choice seemed more professional and still attractive.

New business cards are being designed using this new logo as well.

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There are still some of the old lotion bars, Citrus, unscented, and Cedar/Rosemary/ Thyme that will be offered on sale reduced to clear the stock.  Also there are some pure salves, comfrey, arnica, and calendula that will be reduced as well.  They are in the 2+ inch size tins and can be purchased on the shop site.  The shipping cost is per order, not per item and is priority shipping in the USA.  International shipping unfortunately is higher.

The March “Blizzard”

I know that points north of us have gotten and are still getting deep late winter snow.  We only got about 3 inches and the roads stayed relatively clear.  The snow is wet, sloggy snow.  The cedars and pines are heavy with the wet glop.  The snow less of a problem than the ice layer beneath it.  Brushing the snow off of the car revealed an ice glazed vehicle with doors frozen shut and ice glazed windows.

Our local county schools closed for the day, announcing last night, the other counties around us opted for a two hour delay which would have been a better option for here, but the western half of our county may have received more snow.  Granddaughter’s school in the next town was not closed and driving in it was apparent that they received much less than we did, and her teacher said she received even less in the valley.

It is enough snow that the cooped chickens will not go outside their coop.  Though it is not a practice employed often, their food and a bucket of water were put inside for them but the pop door open if anyone gets brave.  The 16 chicks are cozy in their brooder as we fortunately did not lose power.  Tonight we will build fires in the woodstove and fireplace to help take the edge off for the heatpump.

Tonight we are going to have the first of three nights of temperatures in the mid teens (-9ish C),  The ice glaze, snow melt during the day today, and plunging temperatures with more flurries due today, overnight and tomorrow, the roads are likely to be a slippery mess tomorrow, especially the mountain roads to get to the main road that is always well maintained for the truck traffic that uses it instead of staying on the interstate.

This school closure makes one more day to be made up.  The built in days have all been used and they are down 2 days now.  There may be another day or two built into their schedule.  It isn’t common to get much snow this late in the winter, but it is always a possibility with our last frost date not until near Mother’s Day.

At least the garden planning and indoor seed sowing doesn’t rely on what is going on outside, as it continues to flurry.  Of the 4 small sweet potatoes saved from last year’s crop, the two purple one have roots and shoots,  one of the orange ones has roots though the other one got mushy and had to be composted.

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As soon as the slips are large enough to root, they will be broken off and rooted.  I guess the orange ones are going to have to be purchased at the Feed store when they come in later this spring.

The birds have found the feeder that was hung earlier in the winter and is now frequented by Tufted Titmice, House finches, an occasional chickadee, and the tiny ground feeding juncos enjoying the spillage on the deck. One of the birdhouses on the garden edge deteriorated and fell apart last year so there was only one.  It  too needs repair, but as we have a couple of families of blue birds each year, we bought another box to mount on the second pole.  With all of the scrap lumber in the garage, I should be making them myself.  Perhaps this one will get measured and a plan drawn before it is fastened in the garden.

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For now, it will be an indoor day with more cancer/heart health garlands being made for the yarn bombing efforts of a knitting group to which I associate.  Breast cancer, heart health, children’s cancers and melanoma sections have all been mailed off.  The skin cancer is about half done, crocheted this time, then on to white for lung cancer and a second skein of gold for children’s cancers.

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When Days Go Wrong then Right

My day was supposed to be a day when I got to sleep in (that means past 6:30 a.m.) as daughter was going to deal with the kiddos this morning and we were going to meet her to pick up granddaughter after the 5 year old wellness visit and daughter would go on to work.  At 7ish, Jim said, I don’t hear any movement downstairs, followed by daughter running for the bowl yelling up as she went to ask me to take over morning duties.  She either has food poisoning or a stomach virus.  I am sorry she is not feeling well today, but hopeful that it isn’t a stomach virus or we will all end up with it.  I took over the duties, got the kids up, dressed, fed, and delivered.  To add to the confusion, Jim had a PT appointment on the wall calendar, it was not on my electronic calendar, and he thought it was tomorrow, so he was up right with me to call the PT office to check on the date, the time we had.  That appointment was today which meant that he had to leave with me to deliver kids.  The wellness appointment had to be rescheduled as daughter wanted to be there for that.

Once she got to work today, she was going to have to teach a class and since work was totally out of the question for her today, she had to find someone else to teach the class and sent us two towns over with her materials for the class between dropping granddaughter at preschool and Jim to PT.

By then I was going full steam.  By the end of PT, it is nearly time to pick up granddaughter again and feed her lunch, which we did out to stay away from the house for daughter to rest and maybe us to stay away from the bug.

Once home, I worked on some silk I have been spinning.

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And continued to knit on the Fibonacci Infinity Scarf, now into the third color set and more than 20″ long.

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I read a chapter or two on No Man’s Land, David Baldacci before it is due back at the library.  Granddaughter was having her quiet time and Jim took some quiet time too.

When I went to pick up grandson at the bus stop, I picked up our mail and was pleased to find the 6th color for my scarf (peeking out from under the scarf) in the box along with the spool of waxed hemp from the bagpipe supply to tighten the fittings on my new/antique spinning wheel.

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The Mother of All, the two uprights that hold the flyer and bobbin were mailed off early in the week to Bobbin Boy for repair and refurbishing.  They directed me to a video on their Facebook page that showed me how to use the waxed hemp to tighten the joints where the legs insert into the table and where the uprights that hold the wheel also insert into the table.  All of these parts were loose which would prevent me from spinning on her once the repaired parts are returned.

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In making these repairs, I discovered a split in one of the uprights which disheartened me, but my choice was to either get a bit of good wood glue down in the split or have Bobbin Boy turn me a new piece.  I elected to try the wood glue first.  It is setting up now, so the wheel is sitting apart until tomorrow.  The legs no longer wobble, the footman stays in place, the uprights are tight in their fittings and I am hopeful that this wheel is going to be a gem.

So after a hectic start, the day ended up a crafty success.

Dinner has been prepped, eaten, and cleaned up and I am going to spend the rest of the evening, enjoying more crafting.

Accepting Failure

The Fair Isle sweater project would get picked up, half a row or a row stitched and then dropped back into the basket.  Each time I picked it up, I commented on how heavy just the yoke was and since we have had to cancel our ski trip and probably take that activity off our agenda in the future, I saw no time when wearing the sweater would happen.  The physical weight of the sweater was unbelievable.  If I lived in the Yukon, maybe it would have been appropriate.  Yesterday, I began to rip out the yoke, rewinding the hand spun yarn and trying to think of a project to use this beautiful yarn.  The natural and two of the colors are my hand spun and the two colors, hand dyed.  The remaining color from the sweater is beautiful hand dyed yarn from a friend, and I had another skein of her yarn in another color.  I found a pattern that intrigued me`Infinitely Fibonacci, a tube shaped loop scarf.  It requires 6 colors though and I only have 5.  I have a couple of skeins of my hand spun Leicester Longwool that I could dye, and my friend has several colors that might coordinate with my other colors.

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I decided that this would be the project to work on and when done, use the 6 colors to do a Fibonacci hat and mitts to match.  I started with Cari’s beautiful two skeins to do the first 11 sets of color stripes.  By the time I get the first 4 colors used, I will have obtained the 6th color.

I have a closet full of hand knit sweaters and maybe someday I will knit one of my hand spun that will both fit me and not weigh as much as a small child when complete.

When a project doesn’t work out, the yarn can still be enjoyed in another project.  Thus is the beauty of knitting.

Olio – 12/23/16

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of things.

Very early this morning in the wee dark hours, eldest son and his family arrived for Christmas.  Yesterday was spent cleaning up as much dust and animal hair as possible with the vacuum and a lightly dampened mop to try and reduce the allergen level of the house.  The process was taken down to the basement as well, where there are no rugs, granddaughter helping by collecting various tiny lego pieces, parts of her “kitchen” and other random toys that were not put away.  The bed in the bedroom down there was made with fresh sheets, as was the futon in the sitting area for grandson.  The last of the gifts were wrapped and sorted to be put under the tree.

After fixing sausage gravy and biscuits this morning, we visited until Jim had finished his PT and daughter has finished teaching her class and we all met for lunch out and split up in the various cars for errands.  Jim taking grandson for a haircut, daughter bringing granddaughter home to finish their laundry and to pack and load the car to await son-in-law to arrive home for them to begin their drive to Florida where they will spend Christmas with his parents, pick up the grandson who has been with his bio Dad for the week, and then on to have a Christmas vacation for the kids.  Son and I made a few stops for items on his list.

When we arrived home, a footstool box pieced and taped together with enough foam sheeting to wrap the house and holding my new antique spinning wheel was sitting on the table.  This excited me and I carefully opened the box and found all of the disassembled pieces inside.  We pulled up a photo and began reassembling it to make sure it is all there.

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It is all there, with a few flaws that may have to be addressed, such as two of the whorls missing a chunk out of them, but I think I can still use them.  An arm of the flyer has been broken and reglued in the past.  The legs had been removed for shipping and need to be reglued for stability.  The parts are pegged together and the leather that holds the flyer on the mother of all is dry and too wide in one place, covering the orifice hole, so it hasn’t been used in a long time.  I suspect it has been mostly decorative.  It is a double drive wheel and the only twine that I had to test it with isn’t beefy enough to do the job and frayed very quickly.  The bobbin is so tiny, but the wheel is gorgeous.  It was made by a Canadian from St. Andre, a wheel with screw tensioning.  Paradis was born in the early 1800’s.

Daughter’s family is on the road.  Son’s family shared a pot roast dinner with us and now they are off to a movie with Jim.  I elected to have some quiet time at home with a cup of tea and bake the pies for our Christmas dinner.

We traditionally have our Christmas dinner on the eve with turkey, country ham, and all the trimmings.  Tomorrow, we will avoid the last minute madness, just enjoying each other’s company, sharing a festive meal in the evening and do our gift opening after a big Christmas breakfast on Sunday, before they leave for daughter-in-law’s parent’s home to have Christmas with them as well.

Our house will be very quiet after they leave for more than a week, just Jim, me and all the animals.

Have a very Merry Christmas to all of you who check in on us through my blog.

Spinning and History

A couple of weeks ago, I was given the privilege to be the spinning interpreter at the local 18th century plantation house on the Virginia Tech Campus.  As summer was passing, I sold my Kromski Sonata, the folding castle style wheel that I had used the first time I was there and though a contemporary wheel, it at least looked the part.  It was replaced with the Ashford Traditional on which I had learned, a Saxony wheel that also looked the part and was used the second time I was re-enacting.  It was a nice starter wheel, though the wheel itself wobbled a bit when it spun.  It has tiny little bobbins and therefore made small skeins of yarn.  With the proceeds from selling the Kromski, I bought a used Louët, a very contemporary castle style wheel.  The Ashford was first loaned to a teen wanting to learn to spin, then sold to her, leaving me with the contemporary wheel while sitting in the old home spinning earlier this month.  I had been looking on the internet for an old (period) still functional wheel for some time and in the past couple of days, I found two.  I emailed out to the first seller to be told that the wheel pictured was not the wheel for sale, but representative of wheels he had sold in the past and he was too busy with the Christmas rush to send me any photos or descriptions of what he currently had available until after Christmas.  He also could not tell me if he had a working wheel.  Scratch that seller off my list.

The second seller had a beautiful wheel that had come from a South Carolina estate and it had been in the same family throughout it’s history.  I emailed again and the response was that it spins straight, has all of it’s original parts, is not just a decoration and not a reproduction, plus the price was so incredibly low that it seemed too good to be true, plus, if I am dissatisfied, I can return it within two weeks for a full refund.

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Since my show was successful over the weekend, we decided that I should go ahead and make the purchase.  This morning, I ordered that wheel and now I anxiously await it’s arrival.  It has only 1 bobbin and that bobbin looks small, so this wheel will only be for re-enactment, the rest of the time, gracing our home.  If I truly fall in love with it, perhaps I will have a couple more bobbins made, sell the Louët and make the antique my all the time wheel.  I’m really not a collector of wheels, not keeping more than one in the house at a time.

Lucky Day

All week, I have been monitoring the weather for today.  This week has been so very cold, and today was to dawn with a very high chance of freezing rain or mixed wintry precipitation mix and a high mid afternoon only in the upper 30’s or low 40’s.  Yesterday, the forecast improved, though there was still a chance of freezing rain overnight.  Today was the second Holiday Market at the Blacksburg Farmers Market and I was prepared to set up my booth, clothed for a very cold, wet day and worrying that the foot traffic would be sparce.

When I awoke this morning, it was overcast, but the temperature was already 42ºf up here on the mountain.  I had packed the tables, weights, canopy tent, and my chair last night.  This morning, I loaded the huge plastic box of soaps, lotions, and salves, the smaller plastic totes of yarn and knitwear, bags, wraps, and all of the other items needed to set up my stall.  When I arrived at the market, it was a bit cooler and raining lightly, but like other markets, everyone chipped in and helped set up tents and tables.  I have been fortunate at all 4 Holiday Markets to have Beth and Chuck of Dashing Dogs Pottery as my neighbor and they are so helpful with my tent that I lack the strength to erect alone.

We had periods of light rain offset by sunshine during the 5 hour market, the temperature warming into the 50’s and great foot traffic.  Many folks were out looking for their weekly purchases from the market and much shopping for holiday gifts. It was a very successful day for the vendors and we were all grateful for the much improved weather situation.

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It is interesting to see how the items sold vary from different markets.  Today was knitwear, some yarn, and lots of beard oil and moustache wax.  Handcrafted bar soap was also popular today.

This was my last show for the season.  I will wait and see what develops for spring and summer.

Daughter and grandkids dropped by after having breakfast and I was able to send them home with some pasta, sausage, and salad to help with this week’s meals.

Now it is time to finish preparation for Christmas at our household.  There are still some gifts to wrap and a few very small items to purchase, Christmas dinner to plan and a grocery run.

SHOP NOW:  https://squareup.com/store/cabin-crafted/

 

Education for all

This has been a great weekend spent in the beautiful Smithfield Plantation House, an 18th century museum home in our region.  The restored, furnished home was decorated with period decorations for the Christmas season by one of the local garden clubs.  All of the decorations were for sale or through silent auction at the conclusion of this weekend.  The event was the Holiday Teas event, a conclusion to the touring season for the home.  The weekend relied heavily on the volunteers, as the decorations, the baked goods for the teas, servers, the interpretative tours, musicians, and craftsmen were all volunteer efforts.

This weekend, I was in the house spinning.  Because the drawing room was the location for the musicians, the lace maker, and hemp rope maker were in the downstairs bedroom and I set up in the dining room.  Being in one of the first rooms visited, I was able to listen to the historian talk about the local history, the house history, the Preston family, and the furnishings.

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I had been very generously given a raw Dorset fleece by a friend and fellow Smithfield volunteer for me to work with.  I had never worked raw fleece before, so it was a learning opportunity for me too.

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I took a bag of the dirty raw fleece with me to demonstrate where the process starts.  A hemp fiber bag of locks that I had washed was also taken, the locks were hand carded as needed and made into rolags and spun.

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The room lit only by daylight through the two windows and with small electric candles for safety, I could only work until about 4:30 before it got too dark to see.  Many visitors there for the music or the teas stopped by to watch and listen to my discussion of the breeds, the fiber, and the process.  Today was cold and wet, but the visitors just kept coming.

We are so fortunate to have this home in our area and so many people who give of their time for the good of this venue.  I feel fortunate to have been given the chance to be a part of this educational and historical opportunity and look forward to help out during the private and school tours during the winter and again during the tour season beginning in April.

Olio-December 2, 2016

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

The winter is setting in.  After much very dry weather with burn bans and hardly a sprinkle, we had two days of fairly continuous rain, much needed, but none the less uncomfortable to have to be out in taking grands to their bus stops or preschools, running errands, etc.  It wasn’t a warm spring type rain, it was cold, blustery, and wet.  It is the rain that helped the Amherst County and Tennessee fire fighting effort.  Living in a rural area with tree covered mountains around us, we fear fire when it is dry.  In 1902, the community that provides our zip code was virtually destroyed by a sweeping wildfire that consumed all but a small handful of now historic buildings and homes.

The rain helped relieve some of the tension that the very dry period had caused, though the heavy downpours gouged out gullies in our unpaved state road again and swept the leaves that had filled the ditches into mounds in the road and along the sides of the narrow road.  After the first day of heavy rain, I stopped and hand cleared the leaves from the ditch just above the culvert that runs under our driveway so that the rain could flow freely through and down to the run off creek.  Our driveway is pocked with run off gouges that will fill back in as we drive it.

The chickens never have started laying again since their molt, so I am getting 1 green egg from the Americauna that didn’t molt about every couple of days.  The Buff Orpingtons will generally lay some during the cold weather, but they have not resumed. They enjoy the sunshine when it is out and forage through the lower garden that is theirs for the winter at least.

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Every time I have planned to plant garlic in the past few weeks, I have been distracted from the task by other chores or the weather.  This morning, I got my bi monthly newsletter from the host of my garden planner and it indicated that it was not too late.  After picking granddaughter up from preschool, I bundled in my barn coat, muck boots, a knit hat and toughed the cold blustery day to get the job done finally.  I knew that if I did not do it now, that there would be no homegrown garlic next summer and fall.  A 4 foot square cedar box was planted with about 90 cloves of garlic to provide the heads for next year.  There were two kinds saved for planting, Redneck Riviera and German Red.  Next year, I think I will also locate and plant a soft neck variety too.

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The first box of the new garden plan is planted and mulched.  My purchase plan of two boxes a month has been put on hold until after Christmas, but there is a stack of cardboard in the garage to use as mulch base between the boxes once they are purchased.  I still have plenty of spoiled hay to use on top of the cardboard once it is in place around the boxes.  I probably should place a layer below the second box in the above picture before the weeds decide to move in.

Once back in and thawed, I resumed plying the 4 ounces of Alpaca and Merino that I have been spinning for the past couple of days.  I had about an ounce on one bobbin and needed to finish spinning and plying it so that I have the bobbins free for this weekend.  It ended up a beautiful 250 yard skein that will be so warm and cozy as a cowl or hat with the 70% alpaca content.

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I will be spinning in the historic Smithfield Plantation House during their Holiday event this weekend.  Their theme this year is based on products that they produced such as hemp, honey, and fiber.  I am taking some washed unprocessed Dorset wool and hand carders, as well as some already processed Dorset wool roving to spin during the event on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  This is the last of the events at the site until it reopens in the spring.  I have enjoyed my afternoons volunteering there this late summer and fall.