Saturday, October 4, 2014

The last summer crop, three peppers and a blossom.

The last summer crop, three peppers and a blossom.
I'm trying to put a post together... the first part in a series about growing your own cabbage and then making your own sauerkraut.  Unfortunately between Burpee sending my seedlings, but then taking a week to get here, UPS having a delay with one of their pallet trucks, and other delays, the first post is about a week later than I wanted.

However, I do have two new garden beds installed.  I just have to get about four more bags of dirt to fill them (we're prone to flooding in this area, so I don't want to create any low spots in my yard by just shifting it) and we can get this thing started.

Warning, there are a lot of Amazon affiliate links in this post.  Help a sister out and click 'em if you're interested.  I only get compensation if you order something within a certain time frame, so feel free to browse all you like.

I have twelve cabbage seedlings, six broccoli seedlings, and six cauliflower seedlings on the way.  The broccoli I will make into florets for the freezer, shredding the stem parts and adding that to the cabbage for some of the kraut.  The cauliflower is my favorite part of my home-canned jardinere.  Okay, the pickled cauliflower and the pickled carrots.  The celery is actually quite good too, not mushy at all, which was a surprise from last-year's batch.

I got two more beds very cheaply on Amazon... Greenland Gardener 8-Inch Raised Bed Double Garden Kit.   Compared to other raised bed kits, this is pretty inexpensive.  What cheesed me off though was that I didn't do the proper math, and didn't realize they weren't a full eight feet long.  So now that they're lined up next to my full-length cedar bed, they're coming up short.  This is gnawing at my OCD/Asperger's side to no end.  If I'm still here next year, I am totally getting two more of the short beds and installing them on the other side of the cedar bed so it is symmetrical.

They are super-simple to set up... it's just a set of boards with inter-connecting tabs and grooves.   Once the boxes were in the back yard, I could set them up by myself with no problems and no tools... although I did have a rubber mallet handy.  They're made of a composite of wood and recycled plastic, so I expect them to last for quite a while.  The color is a bit... blah.  I considered painting them, but don't want the chemicals near my food crops.
The dogs helped with this one.  :/

I always put down a weed barrier of some type.  For this pair I splurged on a roll of weed barrier landscape cloth... mostly because I wanted to start a barrier between the beds so I wouldn't have to use the trimmer to keep the grass down.  This allows me to make the space between the beds a little narrower than normal, too.  Eventually I will fill this space with pea gravel and stepping stones I make myself.  Inside the beds I also put down weed barrier cloth in overlapping layers.  I topped that with cardboard boxes (what do you think I do with all my Amazon boxes?  Compost and weed barriers, baby).  The Amazon boxes use soy ink, so I'm not too worried about those... except the shipping labels, which come off a standard printer.  I peel those off as best I can.

On top of the cardboard, I put down a brick of coconut coir that I've re-hydrated in a plastic storage bin.  That's one 11-pound brick in each segment of the garden bed, so I put down four in total.  I am thinking about another four, however, as the large bags of potting soil from Walmart or Home Depot are a) friggin' expensive, comparatively and b) of terrible quality.  It's supposed to be potting soil, and it's got more wood chips in it than most bags of topsoil or mulch.  It's like wood chips and bits of Styrofoam.  And I'm really not happy about Styrofoam, but most of their "garden soil" bags ask for them to be mixed 50/50 with local soil... and I've already stated why I don't want to dig one part of my yard to move it elsewhere.

The coconut coir is NOT a nutrient rich growing medium though, so I will have to seriously amend it with compost and liquid fish/seaweed fertilizer.

Now... figuring out the most sane and humane way to keep my dogs out of the garden beds.  :/

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bread and Cheese

Hey look!  I grew food!  Not quite a pound, but it's a start.  If the hookworms hadn't eaten my only (so far) ripe tomato, that'd be more like three pounds.  It was a big tomato... sigh.

Not only is bread and cheese an excellent, inexpensive, delicious, and quick meal... it's a good morning of activity.  I had a gallon of milk that had been purchased two weeks ago but had only been opened a few days ago and was barely dented.  I knew it was going to turn, and soon.  So, craving lasagne (as one does) I decided to make it into some nice ricotta.  It's pretty simple.

Add half a gallon of milk and the juice of two lemons (I used limes, actually) to a cold, cold saucepan.  Stir briefly.  Put on very low heat and add a thermometer with a temperature alarm (easiest) or regular thermometer.  Heat sloooooowly to 175°F.  This should take nearly an hour.  DO NOT STIR during this time.  when it reaches temperature, turn up the heat to medium and reset the temp alarm to 200°.  DO NOT STIR.  It should reach temperature in about five minutes.  When it does, remove from heat.  Let stand for ten minutes, then pour into a colander lined with cheesecloth (why do you think they call it that?  Hah).  Let drain for ten minutes, then refrigerate.  Sprinkle a little salt if you like, you're done.

I like to drain it over a bowl to save the whey.  It's really good for making bread... which leads me up to my bread-making portion of the morning.

Basic Bread

This is a recipe based on King Arthur Flour's Supermarket Italian Bread, and I was going to call my variation that, when I realized that what makes it Italian no longer applied.  I don't put on the sesame seeds.  I'm using whey instead of water.  Heck, it's technically not even bread, it's sandwich rolls because I portioned them out in 4.6 ounce blobs and made them into a hoagie-shaped roll.

The whey from the cheesemaking gives it a bit of sourdough twang, but not the depth of true sourdough.  It's packed with protein though which is why you can add extra moisture (I upped the whey by half a cup over the recipe's standard water) and still have a strong dough that will hold up under its own weight.


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup dried potato flakes
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons
    instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm leftover whey, or 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

Place all the ingredients, in order, in the bowl of a stand mixer, or large mixing bowl. Stir the dough for two minutes on lowest speed or by hand.   Knead the dough with a bread hook or by hand for 5 to 8 minutes, until it's smooth and supple, adding more water or flour as needed. 

Cover the dough and allow it to rise for 1 hour, or until it's doubled in bulk.

For Italian Loaves, transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and divide it into two pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth 16" log. Place the logs into the two wells of a lightly greased Italian bread pan, cover, and let the loaves rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.

For Sandwich Rolls, divide into eight pieces and roll into rough logs.  Sprinkle a half-sheet pan with cornmeal and lay out the rolls four across in two rows, flattening slightly into oval shapes.  Cover and let rise until rolls are puffy.

Slash the loaves or rolls diagonally, making 3 slashes in each, and immediately put them in the oven. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for about 25 minutes, until they are golden brown. For the crispiest crust, turn off the oven, prop the door open, and allow the bread to cool in the oven.

So that's how I spent my day.  What have you been doing?  :D

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

School and Other Distractons

I am hoping this will be what's coming later this month... jars of pickles as far as the eye can see.

My daughter has been back to school for two weeks now, and the routine is starting to come together.  She's taking some kick-ass classes I wish I could have taken when I was her age (digital art and animation?  Yeah, our computers were all tied into a single console unit that was the size of a classroom; that didn't happen.)  I'm rather jealous.

The garden has produced its first pickle-sized cuke (I planted them really, really late) with many more on the way, and the ginormous tomatoes are finally starting to get some color.  I am a bit bummed that more of the blossoms didn't set with fruit... all those damn bees getting into my house, and a couple of them can't wander over to the garden and help with pollination?  Arg.

I spent last Thursday and Friday making jam... one batch strawberry-rhubarb, and one batch peach-apple.  Had a bit of trouble with the peach setting up... the apples did NOT help with fruit pectin in the least.  Had to process the batch twice.  Fortunately I am using my new Tattler reusable canning lids, so it wasn't a costly problem.  I only had to replace the non-reusable lids on the two jars I'm planning on giving as gifts.

I also managed to completely goober up my tea towels with sticky jam stuff.  Here's hoping they wash out.

One new piece went up on RedBubble, and fifteen fabric designs went "live" on Spoonflower.  Check em out if you like.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Gardening Roadblocks

Inspired by the resounding near-success of my late-planted tomato and pepper plants, I have decided to put in a second-summer crop (most likely a marketing term, but what the heck, it fits) of cabbages and other brassicas.

I could NOT get my basil seeds to sprout this summer.  In fact, there are four spots in my new raised garden bed that I direct-sowed SIX TIMES and nothing happened.  Either my seed storage is terrible (a distinct possibility) and I killed my stash of seeds, or a certain company that will not be named has a terrible germination rate if the seed is older than one year.  I'm leaning towards the first one, since I also had seeds from a second company that failed to produce anything.

So what I did to remedy the situation was to take my culinary sprouting skills and apply them to garden seed sprouting, then plant the few seeds that sprouted in the jar.  And it worked!  They're coming up.

It's pretty sad, though, when I got better results from a bag of beans from the grocery store (a few white navy and kidney beans reserved before making a batch of Boston Baked Beans this week) than anything in my seed stash.  Maybe the porch where I keep my box of seeds is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, or maybe it's the weird humidity levels that yo-yo up and down, or maybe the stock I bought from both the unnamed internet company and my local Home Depot was old before I ever got it.  In any case, those empty spots are now almost filled, and hopefully the first frost will hold off till very late in November (our Texas norm is mid-November, so that's not unreasonable).

I had really, really wanted to grow my own pumpkins this year.  I love our local pick-your-own, but it is such a pain in the butt to get to in the summer for strawberries (cars are lined up for two miles just to get onto the parking lot, and that's AFTER they changed/updated their whole driveway and parking system) and the pumpkin patch situation before Halloween and Thanksgiving is only marginally better.

Yes, I have made my pumpkin pies from whole, roasted pumpkins.  And I'll do it again, because it's delicious.  And it's such a Real Food thing to do, doesn't take a lot of time (attended time, that is... the oven does most of the work), and you can feel good about the ingredients.  And it's a 1-to-1 swap of canned solid pack pumpkin to roasted pumpkin flesh.  Just lose the outer rind and mash it up or run it through a food mill.  Plus the whole pumpkins last in the "root cellar" really well, or the roasted mash can be frozen or canned in a pressure canner.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to September when the unnamed company will be shipping my seedling brassicas.  I didn't have much luck with their seeds this year, but the 50% off plants I planted in June are going nuts.  Here's hoping the trend continues.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Preparedness? Sure... in a healthy way

In sharing about my life, I'm pretty sure I've shared the fact that my daughter is on the autism spectrum, and that I strongly suspect I am also based on the reading I did after my daughter's diagnosis.  I have this weird mixture of craving attention and recognition while being completely anti-social.  And aren't blogs perfect for that?

I've been reading a lot of books lately, mostly because of Amazon's new lending program, Kindle Unlimited.  With a Prime membership you can check out ten titles at a time, turn them in when you're done, and check out more.  One at a time, or all ten at once, it makes no difference.

I cannot tell you how much money this has saved me, especially in the cooking, gardening, and prepper genres.  I no longer have to spend $10 on a title, only to find out the person has poor taste, poor writing skills, created a deceptive title for quick cash, or is Paranoid Beyond Belief.  Seriously, some preppers think the National Guard is going to be marching down our streets *tomorrow* grabbing the Big Macs and rifles out of our hands and making us stand in line to beg for a cup of rice.  Some of those people are freaking scary.

BUT... being the person on the spectrum that I am, I am a big enough worrier that I DO believe in being prepared.  I have no expectations about WHEN I'm going to need these things, but the scary preppers do, and that's the difference.  They're motivated by the panic that they may already be too late.  Me, I'm motivated by the adage "better safe than sorry".  To be honest, after living through Hurricane Katrina, then Hurricane Ike just a short time later, and a couple of instances where utilities just went out for days with no apparent reason (other than the local electric or water company was abysmally incompetent), I prepare because I do not like the feeling of scrambling to make sure my family stays healthy and fed.

I mean, what would you do if you opened the kitchen tap tomorrow, and nothing came out?  You'd run to the store and buy a jug of water, right?  But what if you're in the midst of an emergency, like a hurricane or storm watch, got to the store and it was all purchased already?  Or worse, the stores were closed?  You'd be standing in the yard with a bucket, praying for rain.  Not a happy feeling.

So I prep where I can.  I believe in having a pantry of food that you can draw from if your spouse loses their job.  I believe in gardening for your own food.  Not only is it therapeutic, but with grocery prices increasing on an average of almost 50% over the last five years, it's an economic necessity.  I still haven't managed to make rain barrels to capture and store water yet, but I plan to.  You'll get the necessity the first time you cut up a chicken, go to the kitchen sink to wash the salmonella off your hands, and nothing comes out of the tap.  Yeah, that was a fun day.

At the very least, I believe every grownup in America, whether you have a family or not, should have enough food in the house to live for at least a month.  Even if you are responsible enough to have money saved up in your account, if you lost your job tomorrow would you want to see that money dwindle away on food?  You may need that to go job hunting... new suits, running to Kinko's for a nice resume printing, or gas money.  Plus, canned or stored food can be more convenient than fast food when you're tired from hitting the job market.  I mean, it's already in your house, how much more convenient can you get?  And then if you haven't got a job by the end of the month, you will have saved money otherwise spent.  Am I right?

So I say be prepared.  Don't make me trot out the story about the ant and the grasshopper.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Wildlife Be Crazy, Yo

So I'm doing dishes at the kitchen sink, minding my own business, when I notice this weird, zig-zaggy spiderweb.  First thought that flits through my mind is that my daughter had been playing with silly string out in the yard.  Then I notice the big eight-legged creepy-crawly floating in the middle of it.  I then bravely stepped two inches out my front door and snapped this with a telephoto lens.  From way, far away.

That was five days ago, and that wench is still there.  Mocking me.  I feel like I've got things crawling on my skin every time I spot her.  It's unnerving.  And she's the size of a saucer.  You're going to have to take my word for it, because there's no effing way I'm getting close enough to put something in the shot for scale.

An internet friend managed to make a possible species match, the Argiope aurantia.  If you look at the shot of its underside, it's almost a perfect match.  It says they sometimes eat the males after mating.

Okay, she can hang out for a while.  Kill a few wasps, and we'll call it even, lady.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Difference a Week Makes

So there's the same pepper you saw last week, as it appeared yesterday.  Don't get excited... we ate it last night.  I had some shredded pork in the freezer, so I fried up the pepper with some onions and made homemade flour tortillas from a recipe on the back of a 25lb. bag of flour.  Awesomely delicious.  I think this is also the first time I made flour tortillas where I wasn't completely disappointed with the thickness when they were cooked.  Let me put it this way... you could see through the dough a little bit when I was done rolling them out.  I think the proper term is "paneing" as in a window pane.  Also, I may or may not have used rendered bacon fat in the dough instead of the listed shortening.  Ahem.

I'm on my last square for a comfort project for a friend who survived a disaster.  After that the crafting for the Etsy shop begins again in full earnest.  Today, however, is Mom's Day Off.  I have plenty of posts on the subject (okay, I know of two) but I did want to get these thoughts down today before I blinked and realized yet another week had passed.

I'm already looking at plants for fall planting and harvest (brassicas, mostly... that's your cabbage, broccoli, etc.) and deciding if I'm digging a new bed for garlic.  Garlic is a little... committed.  And I was strangely reluctant to actually use last year's crop.  It was just so pretty once it'd been cured and braided.

The teenager starts back to school on Monday.  So now I'm going to have to start setting my alarm and (gasp) setting the parental time controls on the internet so she's not up until 2am.  But I will have uninterrupted days with the dogs again.  If only I could send those crazy kids off to school, too.  Especially the shoe chewer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Week At Hullion Arts...

I took photographs.

I drew stuff.

It's on my RedBubble

I crocheted several rounds on a new doily, and did red motifs for a poinsettia dimensional doily.  Lack. Of. Focus.

My problem is that even though I make very piddly amounts on my RedBubble stuff (20%... unless I mark it up outrageously) it's the format where I feel the most inspiration right now.  While crochet and embroidery are nice and relaxing, they are also soooooo very slow when it comes to cranking out product.  And I feel this need to put a lot of work out there... I feel like I've been sleepwalking for ten years and just got my artsy mojo back.

And yet I have a ton of unfinished WIPs that need to be addressed.  Not the least of which is the handwoven shawl that is still on my loom from before we moved TWO YEARS AGO.  Okay, I know why I haven't wanted to tackle that one... the warp tension got all messed up when we moved the loom, and I don't have the heart to dig in and see if I can rescue it, or if I'm going to have to cut it off.  It takes me a full day to warp the loom... I just don't know if I could do it.  Plus about ten knitting WIPs that I'm scared to work on after what the new dog did chewing on my crochet thread.

The garden is going awesome.  I have peppers and tomatoes that are working up to getting ripe.  I'd have been harvesting for a long time now if I'd gotten off my butt and planted in April and not June, but then I wouldn't have gotten those garden-ready plants from Burpee at 50% off.

If every single tomato blossom ended up with a fruit, theoretically I'd have over thirty pounds of tomatoes.  These plants are *supposed* to bear 2lb. individual tomatoes.  Not coincidentally, 2lbs of tomatoes is what you need for one quart of canned tomatoes.  I would imagine that would work out to a pint of sauce, or a half pint of paste maybe?  Anyhoo, considering the number of bees *inside* my house, I'd have more than just the one pollinated blossom outside my house.  Maybe it puts out so many blooms because it only wants to support one tomato at a time and it's making sure there's plenty left alive for the next one?  Don't ask me, I'm tomato-stupid.

But the pepper plant, now... that's got five fruits on it in varying stages.  The original one is just about to start turning color.  I'm thinking stuffed peppers, or pre-cut frozen bags for Italian beef sandwiches.  Oh yum.  I just wish my zucchini wasn't so puny.  I'd be pickling those suckers.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Yeah, I'm Weird That Way

I re-open my dormant Etsy shop to sell my doilies, and the pixels are barely dry on the screen (can I reinvent the metaphor?) when I get obsessed with embroidery and start stitching purses, tea towels, and whatever I can get my hands on.  List those, and now I'm off doing watercolor art for Redbubble and Spoonflower (Spoonflower designs are still going through the vetting process, so it's empty right now.  Bookmark for later!).  I keep switching revenue streams.

I need to focus.

I think I'm desperately searching for a workflow/method that helps promote my zen.  There is a lot of stress in my life right now with an alcoholic husband in denial, three zany dogs, and a child on the autism spectrum.  Between my allergies, side-effects from anti-histamines, and other factors, I've been having panic attacks.  Zen and calm are very important.

Am I sharing too much right now?  Probably.  But it feels relevant.

There's also the fact that setting up for clean, crisp Etsy photos is a pain in the butt.  The only unused corner of the downstairs is the area by the fireplace, and it's unused for a reason.... bees.  Somehow honey bees have nested between the chimney and the body of the house, and they keep finding a way into the house... somewhere.  Before I rearranged the living room, the main lamp was attracting and killing somewhere around forty bees A DAY.  That's a lot of freakin' vacuuming.  Now they just die all over my photography setup, and I'm pretty sure I'm wiping pollen, not dust, off of all those surfaces.  Achoo.

If you're at all aware of the bee colony collapse syndrome, and how the planet's bees are dying or disappearing, then you understand why I don't want to have an exterminator come kill them.  Besides, my tomato plants need pollination.  What would be really good is learning enough beekeeping skills to know how to move them from our chimney to a beehive.  See?  Lack of focus.

Meanwhile, it takes an hour for me to set up for photography with all the dusting, adjusting, and cleaning of what is supposed to be a pure white background so I can get my white balance just right.  If I do all this for photos of two or three items, it feels like a colossal waste of time.  But if I wait until I have a decent number of items to shoot, then weeks will have passed, my shop looks dormant, and I have a crapload of pictures to upload and listings to write up all at the same time.

Listing ten items at once is not the way to do Etsy.  It just isn't.  There's a brief uptick in views/page hits every time something new gets listed singly.  Throw in three items at once, the numbers don't increase at all, and that's wasted opportunity.  And if I list everything all at once, but then only publish one item a day, I'll start second-guessing my copy, or the photographs, and then I waste a lot of time on rewrites and fiddling with photo filters.  NONE of which is creative or zen.

Sigh.  I'm 46 years old.  You'd think I would have discovered my routine by now.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tea Wise

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time finding real, honest to goodness tea-towels in my local store.  That may be because the only local store is a Walmart, and at best all I can find is Martha Stewart branded fluffy crap.  Or cheap Chinese crap.

When I got on my new embroidery kick, the first thing I did was get a pack of plain Aunt Martha's 28-Inch by 28-Inch Flour Sack Dish Towels  and washed them all.  I know they say they are pre-washed, and they appear to be, but that doesn't mean there isn't a trace of some kind of icky factory goo on there, so I washed 'em again.  And promptly put them in craft storage for a couple of weeks because I was busy stitching other things.

But this past weekend I dug them out and started in on them.  They're nice towels.  There's a hanging loop hidden in one corner, so I made sure to put my decoration on the opposite end.

The top towel is a design from  which, to be honest, by the time I reduced it to the proper size for a tea towel was far too intricate for the project, but I forged ahead anyway.  That one will be for my personal use, as there was a small black grease stain near one of the edges.  The other two are for the shop eventually.  I took three motifs from the Doodle Stitching Motif Collection book and lined them up together.  Over the weekend I also sketched my own original design, and plan on doing that one either today or tomorrow.  It's an homage to one of my favorite tee shirts (and favorite foods).  I've been mentally calling it "BLT Buddies" but that's for convenience.

Sample portion
Creating my own design has taught me two things.  One, I really, really need to clean the surface of my flatbed scanner.  You do NOT want to know how many flecks of dirt and dust I needed to Photoshop out of that image.  And two, don't ink a drawing for embroidery with a brush pen.  You just can't get a fine enough line, and you need consistency.  It's a good thing I kept the original pencil sketch.  Fortunately you can clean up all the line weirdness when using a light board to trace the design onto a tea towel.  

I had originally planned on using iron-transfer pencils for all my designs, but found that you had to wait far too long for the iron to heat to proper temperature, and I felt guilty wasting the electricity for what ended up being a five-minute ironing session.  That and the transfer pencil just didn't transfer dark enough.  So I've landed on two methods for my embroidery transfer... lightboard and soluble pen, or printing on a piece of tracing paper and just stitching straight through the paper.

Stitching through paper, even light tracing paper, presents its own problems though.  I found it really hard to do satin stitch through paper.  I need to be able to see the fabric threads while I'm working.  And even with the thinnest paper possible, it left my stitching very loose on the fabric after tearing it away.  I'm hoping that goes away after I wash it (that's how I did the intricate stitching on the top towel) but I fear it won't.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Coin Purses

My latest obsession is hand embroidery.  I have suddenly gotten on this kick of making these tiny coin purses.  Two things I discovered while making these:  one, transferring a pattern onto black cloth is not easy, even with a light pad that shines brighter than the sun and two, a thimble is a very necessary thing when stitching through two layers of fabric, a layer of stabilizer, and a layer of padding material.  Especially when stitching at a weird angle, like the frames create when attaching them.  I broke a needle at the eye at one point.  :(

Not a beauty shot.

These are mostly prototypes at this point.  It's difficult to find a working pattern for the *exact* purse frame you've purchased... there are dozens of sizes and types.  Some square, some arched, two inch, three inch, etc.  And a lot of "tutorials" out there basically tell you to trace the frame and wing it on the rest.  So very helpful (!)

But I do like the amount of time it takes me to make one (if I keep myself in gear and not take an antihistamine nap in the middle of the workday) because I can finish one in about a day.  That includes all embroidery prep, turning seams and stitching into the frame.

These little motifs are from the new book "Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection".  I like the book for the most part, especially that it includes a CD with all the motifs on it so you don't have to break the spine photocopying it for a transfer, but it's a little difficult to find a motif if you're looking for something specific.  It was hard to find the Matryoshka dolls when they're in the "Fairy Tales" section.  And I have no idea how to spell it properly, either.

I'm going to be moving away from purchased motifs, however, as I am never comfortable putting out product that has someone else's artwork on it, even if I'm using it for the exact purpose it was intended.  This means I have to start yet another sketchbook (what a bummer) and draw my own, if I can find a pencil that hasn't been chewed to splinters by the dog.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Personal Time is Over

Yesterday I finished up my second embroidered pillowcase for my own personal use, so it's time to head back into items for the shop.  This was fun, though, and I can totally see embroidered items coming to my shop very soon.  I didn't think embroidery would be as relaxing as knitting or crochet, but the threading of the needle and weaving in ends didn't bother me nearly as much as I thought they would.

Excuse the photo, I was trying to get this taken and uploaded in ten minutes before our internet went kerplonk for the day.  Never, never commit yourself to a two-year contract with a service provider that has a monthly bandwith cap.  Bastards.

And because he's cute, a picture of a much-healthier Mr. Pickles one month after we rescued him from behind a dumpster at hubby's work.

I'm going to be crocheting a trim on the floral pillowcase I did earlier this month.  There are several new workflow processes coming into play... adding my own hemstitching, crocheting onto fabric, etc.  It helps to do it for something personal first to see if I want to add it to items for the shop.  Some things you'll only do for yourself, and are too frustrating or time-consuming to make it feasible for sale items.  The crochet trim might be one of those items.  We'll see.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Third World Household

These past two weeks were the weeks to feel like I was living in pioneer times, or a third-world country.  We had five days in a row where it rained nearly continuously, and when it rains our satellite internet goes out completely.  Then our power went out for four hours one morning and I scrambled around trying to save the frozen meat and produce, not knowing how long the outage would last.  Now, for the last three days, our water pressure slowed down to a trickle, and then completely went out yesterday afternoon.  We are reassured by the utility company that there is a "leak in the area" and that a technician will be coming out to check it out sometime today.  Not to fix it... check it out.  Meanwhile I'm washing my hands with water from a jug and the dishes are piling up... again.

So it's natural I start thinking about my zombie apocalypse skill set and how I could support myself when society breaks down.  Honestly, not much will change... except I can't watch through the X-files for the billionth time while I spin yarn or stitch.  We'll have to re-live the episodes verbally, like campfire stories I guess.  "This one time, Mulder was tracking a guy who could stretch and fit himself through impossible openings like a bat.  Only instead of getting caught in your hair, he'd eat your liver..."

So anyway, what I've been doing since my last post... I've accomplished quite a bit, actually.  I *finally* finished a doily I've been working on for a week, and thought I would be done with before the holiday weekend... but wasn't.  Yeah, I procrastinated.  What finally gave me the impetus to finish was the thought that I could work on a few personal projects when I was done.

Ever since I was diagnosed with several allergies, I've been using a special pillow protector and changing the outer pillowcase religiously every week.  I decided that was a good enough excuse to make myself some really pretty embroidered and crochet-embellished pillowcases, and if I find a new item to sell in the Etsy shop, all the better.  This pillowcase was from a cheap stamped kit I found on Amazon, but now that I've found out how drop-dead easy it is to transfer drawings for embroidery (which I will share with you in another post), I'm going to start doing some fancy patterns I've purchased in the past, and then move into embroidering my own art.  Hey, I could have 52 pillowcases and still not use them all in a year, so I think this is a medium I could explore for quite a while.  If I were to break it down, it took me three work-days to finish embroidering that pillowcase.  If I choose to crochet the edging, possibly five days total.  You can add at least a day to that, because my crochet always takes longer than I think it will.

Yesterday, before I started a new embroidery project, I felt it was really important to have a pincushion.  So I started a new embroidery project to make one.  I know right?  I have the embroiderer's equivalent of "cast-on itis".  But it only took me a day to take this cutie out of the book  Doodle Stitching: Embroidery & Beyond: Crewel, Cross Stitch, Sashiko & More and make it real.

My selection of felt was limited, so my green isn't grass green, but after discovering a long-lost stash of DMC floss in the garage amongst the items we moved into storage after Hurricane Katrina a few months ago, I was able to match my floss colors.  I may design my own pincushion later and add a nice big neodymium magnet to the bottom.  And now I have someplace to park my embroidery needle!  Here's hoping the new doggie doesn't decide this is a great chew toy... this little guy chews on aluminum cans when I'm not watching, so I won't put anything past him.

I have two doilies that need to be listed in the shop, but since setting up for decent photography takes a bit of time, I may be waiting until I have a few more items to snap before I put them in.  Plus I got a new light set and I want to clear out my photography corner a bit and run a vacuum over the dead bees that collect there (long story) and it's exhausting just typing that out, much less doing it.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Newest Addition

So I put a hint on my Facebook feed last week about what I was currently working on.  It's a doily, but very special to me, as it incorporates Irish crochet motifs (something I've been dying to do successfully) and looks quite pretty.

The flat center will easily accommodate a 6" pillar candle and glass tray.  The whole thing is roughly 10" across from leaf tip to leaf tip.

I plan on doing another one in this same color scheme, but with different materials (still cotton, but from a different source which has softer thread) and making pointed petals instead of rounded, ruffled petals, looking more like a poinsettia.  I think it would be ideal for a Winter solstice celebration, whichever kind you choose to observe.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Long Time No See

Hey there!  I know it's been a while.  While I don't like to make excuses, last October I had my first allergic reaction to food, closely followed by an attack of breathing allergies when we turned on  the heating system for the winter.  I didn't know what it was at first, and I literally thought I was dying of something mysterious.  My blog took a very distant back-seat as I struggled with my health.

Now that summer is upon us though, I am feeling a million times better.  Next winter season, I'll know what's going on and do the prep-work... getting the air ducts cleaned, getting on my allergy meds in advance, etc.  It's amazing how much such a little thing can color your entire life.

In other news, I am re-opening my Etsy shop.  Instead of dyed fiber for spinners, however, I am going to be offering home-decor textiles.  Doilies, embroidered towels and other items, crocheted coasters... you get the idea.  Here's some examples of what I've been working on.  Some of these are in the shop right now.

I'm still figuring out photograpy options and presentation.  I'm having a real problem with backgrounds.  I just don't have the space in my kitchen or dining area to photograph in there so I have a "real" background, and a cloth backdrop just seems so blah.

I was relieved to see that other crafters on Etsy have similar prices to what I'd intended... people who under price their crafted items really ruin it for the rest of us.  Materials do cost money, and when it takes three pretty solid full days of crafting to creating one doily, I don't think the prices are unreasonable.  There will always be buyers who are in the Walmart mindset who want bargains and thrift-store prices, but I hope to attract people who value real craftsmanship and are willing to compensate for it.  Maybe I'm naive.  I hope not.

I'll try to make it back on here more often in the year to come.  If you're interested in my Etsy shop, there should be a link over there on the right.  :D