Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mmm . . .

I tried two new recipes today. Very adventurous for me! Both were super tasty.

First I baked up a new cookie. Usually I stick to my tried and true chocolate chip cookies because, well, they're the perfect blend of crispy and chewy and chocolaty. But I found this recipe for crispy salted butterscotch oatmeal cookies on one of my favourite blogs - Poppytalk. I'd definitely recommend them. The oatmeal and coconut give the cookies a wonderful crispiness while still being a bit chewy.

Then for dinner I tried paprika chicken with pasta in a tomato cream sauce from another favourite blog - Crepes of Wrath. I've had a love for paprika since vacationing in Hungary and this recipe looked too tasty to resist.

It was really good - the chicken moist, the pasta sauce creamy and the paprika gives a nice, slow burn.

I shoulda snapped photos, but I was too eager to tuck into a big bowl! Now to the paprika-stained pile of dishes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Back at the wheel

This long weekend I had time to spend an afternoon and evening spinning. It's been so long I was worried I would forget what I was doing, but I guess it's like riding a bike. I started with a jar of mixed fibres from the Roving Spinners, including wool, lots of silk and mohair locks. I carded them by hand with a blend of all the fibres. Rather than try to make uniform rolags, I mixed different colours and ratios for a quite diverse range. Then I spun a very fine yarn, and a thick and thin with the goal of making some funky art yarn with lots of coils.

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. The silk gives it an amazing lustre and strength and I like the colour variation. There are a few spots where I should have been a bit more careful with the thick coils, but the vast majority look great.

I had a fair bit of the lace-weight yarn left, so I gave navajo plying a try. It's a technique that makes a three-ply yarn with a single bobbin. It's tricky at first, but once you get in the rhythm it goes fast. Even with three plies, it's still quite fine.

This weekend I also started on my idea for earrings made on a small scale like the ornaments on my mobile. They're looking neat so far, but are definitely require far more patience because they're teeny. Plus I have to make two that look fairly similar. I should have gone with my first plan to make ones with the same beads, but different design. That would have been way easier. Stupid perfectionism.


I had many yards of a single ply left over from a box of Wellington Fibres roving, so I decided to spin it with a commercial yarn. That's a great way to make the most of handspun, and definitely easier than trying to get a two-ply out of a single bobbin.

It turned out pretty nice, but it's a bit overspun. I was thinking of running it through the wheel again for a balanced yarn, but I kind of like it with so much spring. Really, I'm still learning and every experiment at the spinning wheel teaches me something new.

Looking back at lessons learned

This past fall my mom and I went to the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, simply known as Rhinebeck to those in the crafty circle. We took a two-day spinning class to learn how to start with a design then spin the yarn we need. We had assignments to spin different types of yarn - a tricky thing to do because people naturally tend to spin a certain yarn. We spun and made cards to keep track of all the important traits of a handspun yarn - wraps per inch, twist per inch, etc. Most importantly we learned to keep checking with our sample to make sure we kept spinning the same yarn. Then we knit up swatches to get a sense of how the yarn will look. All in all, a lot of good stuff was learned. Too bad it was inside a metal shed and I had to wear fingerless gloves and every sweater and jacket I had with me to stay warm.

Here are some sample cards, yarn and swatches:

You can see two swatches with the same yarn. I knit the first and it was way too solid. With a larger knitting needle, the swatch was much softer.

When we weren't learning, we were shopping. The amount of fibre and yarn was unbelievable. It was hard to know where to start. We got a good sampling of different fibre, including a couple bags of dark grey Leicester Longwool.

The fair was so busy. Women lined up early the first morning eager to be the first to look over the fleece and yarn. By the time we were done on Sunday, the back seat and trunk were stuffed full of fibre.

Barns were full of sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas. And we got to watch a sheep dog trial too. Those dogs are crazy smart. I guess maybe it helps that the sheep are not so bright.

We had a great time and are planning to go back this fall. On the way home last year, we stopped at the Corning Museum of Glass and made a lampwork bead. It was way easier and way more difficult than I imagined. You definitely need lots of practice. Amazingly, I didn't burn myself on the torch. I'll post a photo when I decide how I want to make a pendant with my little glass creation.