Christmas Scarves

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I know Christmas is still two months away but a couple of weeks ago I was thinking about a simple-to-make something for the knitting ladies and other friends. I was looking at Ann Williamson‘s blog – she does beautiful garments and accessories using kimono silk which she buys from Ichiroya in Japan. She had some lovely pieced scarves in her shop – I remembered the kimono silk fabric I bought a couple of years ago. I have nothing specific in mind for the fabric – a while ago I attempted a simple silk jacket but it didn’t turn out well and I tossed it. I decided to use some from each bolt to make silk scarves.

This project isn’t meant to create an expensive, elaborate gift like Ann’s scarves are – just something simple, yet useful. Last year it was shoe bags, the year before zippered bags. Two weeks ago I cut 5′ lengths from each bolt – kimono bolts are 14″ wide by 10-12 yards in length. I split each length down the centre to give me two 7″ scarves.

Yesterday I set up my serger to stitch a narrow rolled hem and got to work – I did ten scarves. Today I completed the second batch of ten.

Silk Scarves

The scarves are long enough to wrap around my neck twice and tie in a loose overhand knot in the front. The silk is soft and smooth and will be warm to fill the neck of a winter coat. I’m pleased with how they turned out.

My next step is to figure out how to make “envelopes” using parchment paper as wrapping for each scarf.

Christmas Socks

Two weeks ago one of my neighbours knocked on my door wondering whether I might have some undesignated socks to sell. Turns out I had a half-dozen pairs of women’s size socks – she took 2 – one for her daughter and one for her daughter-in-law. However, I didn’t have any men’s size. I showed her the socks I’d just started and offered to turn those into a pair of men’s socks – she just needed to send me her son’s shoe size, which she did.

These are the finished socks – to fit a man wearing a size 9 1/2 shoe.

Men’s Socks

Turned out well. They’re actually brighter than in the photo and yet subdued enough I’m guessing her son will actually wear them.

So her order is now complete and on to the next pair of socks.

Blushing Peonies II – Finally Finished

Finally finished, binding and label. I’m much happier with the quilt now that it’s finished. The quilting using a darkish bendable thread tied the Kona cotton elements to the rest of the quilt quite well and I have to admit I did one other thing – I toned them down using a fabric pastel crayon which darkened them a bit and hints at texture in much the same way some of the other fabrics do. Once pressed with a steam iron, the pastel dyes the fabric and will withstand washing.

It has the impact of a modern quilt.

Blushing Peonies II – A Modern Quilt – Top

I used flying geese to make a strip to widen the back – they don’t look like flying geese because there isn’t a consistent “background” to highlight the “geese” – however, the pattern created by the large and small triangles showcases the fabrics. The sashing elements I decided to make asymmetrical and I like how they offset the strip and tone down the red backing.

Blushing Peonies II – quilt Back With Flying Geese

After the showing in Parrsboro, my sister Donna expressed interest in the Bordered Diamonds quilt. I gave it to her. She has it hanging in in this bright green room. I love how the green makes the batik fabrics pop and how the colour flow in the quilt ties in with the navy sofa.

Bordered Diamonds – 2012

The other day I was at the physiotherapist – I was at one end of the room and this photo at the other end caught my eye – at the distance a face popped out – two eyes, the left cheekbone, mouth, the suggestion of a blue hat. It’s actually a photo of a waterfall but for me – it’s a face!

The Receipt

A couple of months ago my youngest great-nephew (age 6) decided to start a business – he loves sparkly paper, saw a business opportunity, and decided he should sell some. His father and grandfather are businessmen, so with dad’s help he built a website with images of different kinds of sparkly paper, information about the “founder” himself, statements about “100% satisfaction guaranteed”, “Committed To Quality” – but the bit of information that makes me chuckle every time I see it are the hours of operation:

Open after school Monday – Friday (except closed on Wednesday – he has dinner with his maternal grandmother), after swimming class on Saturday and all day Sunday! He provides a phone number and email address as well as a contact form so you can place an order. The website has been dynamic – becoming more and more focused (I noticed two small typos when I looked today) as he figures out how a business website needs to function.

I think I was his first (maybe his only) customer. I began an email conversation about types of sparkly paper, cost of each sheet, how to send payment… I got succinct answers to my questions. I finally placed an order and received in the mail two pieces of letter-size sparkly paper. I sent a cheque to the house with a thank you note. This all happened about a month ago.

Today I get a receipt in the mail:

Receipt for $12

My academic career focused on literacy learning in children and adults, helping teachers understand the ways children figure out how reading and writing work and what instructional situations support rather than hinder their literacy development. The receipt is a wonderful artifact of a six year old negotiating an adult literacy form – confirmation of a transaction.

He’s got the company name and the quantity of paper I purchased, and the amount I paid him. What leaps off the page for me are his attempts at writing the numeral “2” – his sense of direction is still ambiguous and we see in both instances where he wants to write a “2”, he starts from the right instead of the left, crosses it out and changes direction. He’s got all the letters in “received” and his guess at the “ee” vowel is a common writing error (remember the “rule” – “i” before “e” except after “c”? However, there are quite a few English words that actually use an “ie” spelling after a “c” (science, conscience, sufficient…) and vice versa that use “ei” after other letters (protein, forfeit…)). He’ll sort that confusing spelling situation out in the same way the rest of us have – through reading and writing, trial and error, along with a bit of memorization.

It continues to amaze me just how much we can discern about a child’s literacy strategies from such a succinct sample of writing.

All Set To Bake

I’m all set to make and bake the Christmas cakes on the weekend. The fruit will have soaked in rum for a week (large white bowl with blue lid). I have the flour and sugar, baking soda and baking powder, molasses and semi-sweet chocolate, real vanilla and almond extract, ginger, nutmeg, clove, allspice and cinnamon (the seville orange marmalade has already been incorporated into the soaking fruit).

The foil baking pans and parchment paper are on hand, butter and eggs still in the refrigerator but I’ll bring them out Friday night so they can come to room temperature before I start to mix ingredients.

The Ingredients Ready To Go

I’ll start by prepping the foil load pans by adding a wee bit of vegetable oil to the bottom and sides of each (to stick the parchment in place), fitting in parchment paper (so I can lift out the cake more easily after they’ve cooled). Then I need to retrieve my lobster pot (an old 21 litre blue/white enamel canning pot I mostly use for mixing the Christmas cakes), wipe it out, find a sturdy mixing spoon because the fruit is heavy to mix.

21 litre Canning Pot

It’ll take me close to an hour to mix the batter, add and blend it with the fruit. Finally, I’ll partially fill the lined loaf pans (too full and they’ll overflow into the oven), then bake them in a slow oven until a skewer comes out clean.

If you’re interested here’s the recipe. Trust me, it’s a delicious dark fruit cake if you like dark fruit cake.

I haven’t mentioned the Christmas shortbread bars yet. It’s the only other Christmas baking I do. I make one cookie sheet, cut it into eighths and give 7 away! They’re too rich to keep around. They’ll get made closer to Christmas and this year I will try to remember to take a picture to share.

Kitchen Chore

It started Saturday when I bought the candied fruit for the Christmas Fruit Cakes. I picked up a quart of rum as well. Came home, dumped the fruit into the large covered Tupperware bowl, added some rum and now the mixture is soaking until coming weekend when I’ll bake the cakes (I flip the covered bowl twice a day to make sure the rum gets absorbed by all of the fruit).

Yesterday, I pulled out the cake recipe to see what ingredients I had in the house and what I needed to buy: flour, white sugar, molasses, bakers’ bittersweet chocolate, baking powder, eggs (I had brown sugar, baking soda on hand). Then I checked the spices – ginger, allspice, clove, nutmeg – had enough of each of those but no cinnamon. So I headed to Bulk Barn to pick up some cinnamon. While I’m standing in front of the spices I think it’s a good idea to pick up fresh amounts of the other four as well. I came home, emptied the old spices out, washed the bottles and put the fresh spices in. Even made labels for the jars.

Then, I looked at my spice rack and think to myself – I meant to renew those before I moved out of the house, then after I moved into the apartment – it’s two years and I still haven’t done it. So I did the deed – I dumped out all the spices and herbs, put the jars in the sink to soak. Cleaned them, removed labels and set them aside to dry.

Spice Jars (With Matching Tops) Drying

Today, I made a trip back to Bulk Barn with my alphabetized list of spices and herbs (that way it was easy to find what I needed since the spices in the store are arranged in alphabetical order) to get small amounts of each to fill my clean, dry spice jars.

Just finished the job. Each jar is labelled. The spices and herbs are actually stored in alphabetical order (I’m sure they won’t stay that way but it’s a good starting point). I didn’t replace everything – only those I might actually use – didn’t bother with herbes de provence, garam masala, 5 Chinese spice, whole allspice, whole cardamom… in other words, stuff I’d picked up for a single recipe and never used again! So I actually have about 15 jars to spare which I’ve tucked in a shoe box and stashed in the cupboard above my refrigerator for when I might need one.

Addendum (Oct 16) – Just for information – the price on the back of many of the jars was 49¢! That tells you just how long ago I bought the original spices. I’ve refilled the jars many times over the years but I bet the spices in some of jars were 20 years old.

Now to return to sewing a back for the latest quilt.

Ombre Socks

These are my latest socks, finished last evening. They were interesting to make; I wasn’t sure where the colour transitions were going to happen. I knit a leg that is 80 rows after a 12 row cuff. I like a longer leg – it keeps my ankles warm since the sock comes up under my pants. However, the ombre would have worked better in this case had I only done about 65 rows and then started the heel. I wouldn’t have had such a sharp transition of colour when I picked up the front after the heel was completed.

I could have unravelled back to the 65 row point and reknit the heel. But the overriding choice is the longer sock and nobody will ever notice the transition. So into my sock drawer they have gone. I’ll start a new pair this evening.

I’ve done all the preparatory work on the alpaca yarn I bought in Italy – the skeins are now balls. I’ve even downloaded a Fair Isle  pattern.

Fair Isle sweater pattern

The challenge is my yarn is not the same weight as the yarn used for this pattern. I have to knit a sample square to see what kind of size it will turn out. Then calculate the stitch number to be able to make the pattern fit. The major part – the flowers – is based on a 16 stitch repeat so I just need to end up at the yoke with some multiple of 16 for the pattern to turn out.

My plan is to tackle the sweater sometime soon.