Hello 2021. I realize that we are two weeks into 2021 but there’s no time like the present to start considering what I’m aiming to do this year. As always, I have a collection of ongoing projects, that seems to be my norm every single year. Last year was a year very much devoted to accepting that plans don’t always go where you expect them to and that allowances need to be made for brains being stupid, oh yes and for the plague.
I really enjoyed my ongoing year long stitch along last year, although I’ve decided not to do the Peppermint Purple one again this year. I have a long term stitch along and a short term stitch along that I’ve picked up although we will see if I still like the long term one in a month or two. The short term stitch along is only six weeks and we’re halfway done already.
My big plan for 2021 is actually picking up a lot of the pieces that got left scattered all over the good intentions floor after 2020. I got halfway through my plan of doing 12 embroidery samples and so that means I have another half to go. The UFO pile is threatening to take over the craft room not just strictly unfinished projects but in unstarted projects that I would love to get to. The weight of the unfinished ones bring a lot of guilt in starting new ones so it’s probably time to accept that I need to finish or toss the old ones before too many more new things get started.
The main thing to consider in 2021 is the reality of giving myself more grace and patience in my projects. That things won’t go to plan and if I schedule myself entirely too strictly then it’s only going to result in frustration and disappointment when there doesn’t need to be any. I get plenty of things done eventually but when they aren’t what I had planned on doing somehow they don’t feel as though they count and that’s frankly ridiculous. So we’ll see what this new year brings that’s still full of uncertainty and oddness even if the oddness is starting to feel normal. I have faith that there will be plenty to keep my hands busy, there always is. What do you hope to accomplish in 2021? Survival is a completely valid answer.
Like most of the world, there’s no love lost between myself and 2020. I have been exceptionally fortunate in that the hardest part of this year has been being isolated from family and friends, and not unending levels of tragedy. It did come with some serious creative slumps and plans? Ha! The universe laughs at planning these days.
I aspired to two main ongoing projects in 2020, as I mentioned last year in the blog, and it was a mixed success. The Peppermint Purple SAL actually got completed! On time! It needs a good bath and framing, but the stitching is done. It’s cute, I’m grateful not to be doing the 2021 version, I look forward to a change of pace. To me, all the riotous mix of colours and patterns makes me think of a patchwork quilt. I am glad I did it.
The other ongoing project of 2020 was the more ambitious 12 samples for the 12 Athena’s Thimble categories. That was going along great until the plague, and then it was stumbling a little and then I hit May. May is counted work. I love counted work! I decided to do a piece that was 4 months of work as my ‘sample’ because I am an idiot who probably was unconsciously trying to show off how much I love counted work. (Still do!). I finished May’s piece in December. It looks fantastic, I’m very pleased with it, but it was a looming pile of guilt for 6 months. I dabbled in a couple of other samples.. I tried Lacis and just could not get my restless and not focused brain around it, which was stunningly disappointing. I made a mess of my first smoking sample, which is normal and reasonable, but I did not react reasonably and I just stopped anything new for weeks. Which is silly, but brains ARE silly as often as not. Halfway.. almost half way really, I will want to do another smocking sample is not bad for the year. I’m pleased with my progress and very pleased with 5 of the 6 pieces. There’s a lot of my own dyework in it, and I’m chuffed. Look for more of those in 2021.
I knit doilies this pandemic. I knit a lot of doilies in 2020. More than were in that picture above. They are my happy place, my comfort craft, my handwork mac and cheese. I knit myself a cozy shawl to wrap myself up in when I first started working from home. I am on the home stretch of a sweater I’ve been ignoring for 6 years. (I really do hate knitting sweaters). I’ve baked too much, cooked too much, eaten too much, gamed too much and lost my knack of road trips. I had a vegetable garden for the first time. We met our neighbours. I canned my way through the great canning jar shortage. We are hobbits, apparently.
And now the year is coming to a close, and I won’t be sad to see it go, but there’s been a slow comfort to it all. For me, it’s been a year of quiet comforts at home, and I know how very very lucky that makes me. I look forward to seeing what 2021 brings, it’s got a giant hole to dig itself out of in the big world picture. Be well, be safe and take care.
There is something, apparently, about this time of year that prompts me into stupid knitting projects. With wire. This year is no exception at all. In fact, I got linked to a reddit post about other people who also do stupid things with knitting, and the die was cast, and this year’s stupidity was crystallized into being.
Clearly I needed to also knit with fairy lights, and because I do most of my knitting in the round, that was the plan. The initial plan was a doily, because of course it was, but ultimately I was struggling enough with the lights that I just did a glorious round blob of sparkly mess.
They plug in via usb, so they can be battery powered, and I knit with anything from 6 mm to 8 mm needles, depending on the minute and what I could find. If I ever do this again (seems unlikely), I’ll aspire to something with more shape. I didn’t try and cast off, I instead just ran another wire through the outside loops and then hung it on the wall. It’s stupid and so much fun. I’m rather pleased, all in all. I might try pulling it into a more interesting shape, blocking is pretty straightforward.. just pull!
I’ve been meaning to post this for ages, as it’s finally been sent and received! The hazard of working on gifts, you finish them and then have to wait to post about them.
For those unfamiliar, the Trillium Exchange is an artisan exchange here in Ealdormere where you get a little survey on what sort of things your giftee might like, and then sometimes there’s a theme (usually optional) and sometimes there isn’t and you get to send someone a gift! You get a gift too, and that’s always nice, but honestly? I prefer the giving.
So! The theme this time was bees, and that wasn’t really inspiring me, I ultimately decided to make her a new beaded veil as the first part of her gift. Some silk-cotton blend fabric (out of stash! Win! There’s a quite limited spending cap on these exchanges, which is good darn it.. but most of us have a quite extensive stash to pull from), and some glass beads and some inspirational photos.
This is a detail from the Last Judgment Triptych painted by Hans Memling in about 1471 or so. Very considerate of her to have a light veil with lovely little bead details in just about exactly what I wanted to use.
Mine looked a little more colourful, with green and gold glass beads (sewn on with silk thread).
Once I got the veil done, I wanted to aim for the stretch goal.. so I decided to make some veil pins to go with. I do not work with metal. I play with string, but after consults with people who know far more than I (Thank you!), off I went to gather up brass wire and pliers and a hammer. A little wonky perhaps, but I learned about how to work harden metal, and file points onto my little pins and even a little wonky, I am chuffed to bits with these silly little things.
At the last minute, just before it got popped into the mail, I couldn’t help myself but add a wee bee in the corner in silk as a nod to the exchange theme that I had ignored through the rest of it. One beaded veil with a half dozen veil pins that arrived safe and sound to its new human. Now we just need to be able to have events, darn it!
Somehow, the summer has vanished in a haze of I’m not sure what and we’re sitting at Academic New Year. Happy Academic New Year everyone! Even if it’s perhaps not exactly what we all expected and things aren’t quite running to plan, this is where we’re at.
And where am I at, you ask? I’m mostly still trying to figure out what happened to May, but here we both are at September. I am very much behind on my sample a month project (3.25 months behind to be exact, I still haven’t finished May’s project), and I’m not sure what else happened all summer long. I felt busy, but I’m really not wholly sure what I was busy /with/. Canning, and gardening, certainly. Some modern knitting, but .. it’s just a bit of a hazy fuzz. This is likely why it still vaguely feels like May!
But! A new month! A new (academic) year! It’s like being able to hit a reset button with new found interest. I did accomplish one thing over the summer, I’ll share that next time (it’s a gift! I want my giftee to get it first, no spoiling the surprise!). For now? I’m trying to keep my expectations low, because clearly my concentration is pretty shot. I have no urge at all to follow the original listing of categories, but I watched a whole bunch of smocking videos, and that’s a category! (Technically the category is pleated work, but smocking totally counts), so the aim is to work on that in September. I’m (mostly) caught up on the blackwork stitch along, and ideally I’ll keep up with THAT in September, and I have some modern knitting I need to do. That sounds like enough for one month, don’t you think? I’m also hoping to get back to blogging, because I’ve missed the accountability of wanting to have /something/ to show my 10 readers every week. (Thank you 10 readers! ❤ ❤ <3)
Know that if you’re struggling, you are not alone. Even for those of us who feel like we have nothing to worry about, it’s wearing. If you manage nothing but watching some videos while eating ice cream? No judgement here.
I know, it’s been a while, my productivity stinks at the moment, along with a lot of other people’s. I’ve spent far too much time in Zoom, I’ve played far too many phone games, and I’m almost 2000 strips into a webcomic archive. (Questionable Content.. I’ve read since the beginning, but I got behind and I started back at the beginning. Go read it, but pace yourself. It’s worth it, and the art gets better.) I’ve knit a lot of doilies and some blackwork stitch along and puttered and piddled around and I can’t get my brain around anything big and complicated and I’m not working up to my usual obsessive perfectionist standards.
And then I was chatting with a friend today, and we were lamenting about the unholy levels of stress going on in that blackwork stitch along group about having perfect work. People (almost always women) are posting extreme close up photos of perfectly reasonable stitchery and you can hear the anxiety in their post about ‘my stitches are a little woobly, should I re-do it?’ And they.. they AREN’T woobly. They might not be up to digital calliper 10th of a mm straightness, but that is, quite frankly, ridiculous levels of expectation.
Then she said something profound and I came to ramble at you all about it..
The difference between ‘doing’ and ‘excelling at’ is one that is getting increasingly blurred.
– wise friend on Discord
There’s been memes running around the internet about this, but today, this hit like a ton of bricks. We, as an artistic community, have put all of our eggs in the ‘perfect’ basket. To the point of most people feel it is better to not do at all, than do something imperfectly.
I am the first one to admit that I am not immune to this, not even the tiniest little bit. I’ve been shoving projects into the UFO bin like crazy because I don’t have the patience or temperament right now to work to my ‘usual’ standards, except in my most routine and familiar crafts. My embroidery tension is off kilter? Toss. My weaving sett got arsed up? Into the UFO bin. New craft to try? I can’t even convince myself to watch the how to video, because somehow I’ve already progressed to the ‘but I’ll run out of time and fabric when I screw it up!’ when the (much more than I need) fabric is still in the package! Why is it not okay to do anymore? Why is perfection the only available option? Looking to make nice and good things is fine, but there’s a point at which it’s too far. Where good enough is not good enough, where any level of imperfection is too much. And that’s CRAZY, and it’s crazy making.
I think on some level, it’s a thing that we can control, so we try to. There’s so much imperfect in the world, that adding more feels wrong. There’s a level of ‘but if I’m not good at this, then I’m a failure at everything’, because goodness knows the stress levels of existing at the moment are pretty sky high. Even in places where the pandemic is just worrisome and not rampaging. I don’t know how to tell my brain that people won’t think I’m a fraud if my embroidery isn’t perfect, but I think I need to start figuring out how to do that. Its okay to enjoy things you aren’t good at, I do not need to master everything I try. It’s also okay to screw things up. Remind me of this now and then, would you? We hold ourselves to ridiculous and unreasonable standards.
Conversations in the last little while has prompted me to think that I should document the process by which I natural dye and bring the blog along for the ride. I want some new colours for this month’s embroidery, so I’m dyeing up some silk anyhow.
There’s a few caveats and comments required here. I dye exclusively on protein fibres.. wool and silk in my case. There are others who are wizards with cellulose fibres (cotton, linen etc), but I don’t play in that realm. I also dye almost entirely spun threads. Sometimes I’ll dye unspun fibre, but that’s rare, and I basically never dye fabric. I am a knitter, weaver and embroiderer and I generally work in tiny so my quantities are equally tiny which has some pros and some cons. (Seriously, a 50 yd skein of tiny silk feels like a lifetime supply at the rate I go through thread. Materials are never my cost challenge.) I generally only mordant with alum, copper and iron. Tin and chrome are not generally seen in period and more toxic, so I just don’t bother anymore. I have in the past, but I don’t generally anymore. I am also a one-off kinda dyer. I work with the colours I get rather than being super obsessed about getting a specific thing. Phew. Lots of caveats.
All of that being said.. the very first place to start is with equipment. You need to have pots and utensils that are dedicated to dye work. Yes, that’s a pain in the storage butt, and feels expensive to start. (although my equipment is all dollar store and thrift shop). Dye likes to stick, and while perhaps not immediately drop dead toxic, it is not something that you want to ingest on a regular basis. It is bad for you. If you use modern dye powders, those are also toxic and not for the eating. (Or the breathing. Wear a mask until it is in solution. Fortunately we all have masks now. 🙂 ) There is one exception to this conversation and that is if you work exclusively in food dye (as I did for many many years). Food dye is non toxic, a great way to dye with kids who might well stick things in their mouths and is quick and shockingly wash and light fast. I heartily recommend it, and there’ll be a whole big blog post about it soon. No, they did not have icing dye in the 13th century, but if they could peek into my box of dyestuffs they’d be super jealous that I have that luxury. (and super confused about the digital scale, but I digress.)
There’s a relatively short list of must have items:
Something to stir with
Something to strain with
I personally dye in thrift store crockpot about 80% of the time. My amounts are tiny and I utterly appreciate the reality of being able to set it up to simmer somewhere that isn’t in the kitchen because I’m married to someone who loves to cook. This is not a practical solution if you dye kilos of yarn at a time, or have a love for chunky weight, or are dyeing fabric. I generally am dyeing < 100g of thread sized silk or wool. On the rare occaisions that I am working on a bigger batch or something, I have a healthy sized stock pot. It got a little to beat up and bedraggled (and the lid broke) to be one of our ‘nice’ stock pots, so I adopted it into the dye stash. This is another place to keep an eye on yard sales, thrift stores etc. It does not need to be pretty, it just needs to be water tight.
While I’m quite certain that our medieval ancestors did not use a digital scale to calculate their dyestuffs, modern dye work does, especially for natural dye work. I prefer a digital scale and recently got a new super high detail scale (0.01g! Teeeny!) because I routinely need to measure things less than a gram because my full batch of silk is under 10 g. If you exist at sane quantities, then you do not need a scale that makes your friends think you’ve taken up an illicit sales side gig, but that scale you got for that diet is probably sufficient.
Something to stir with
This is seriously basic. For years, I literally used a scrap of 1″x2″ lumber that was convenient, now I’ve levelled up to a dollar store wooden spoon. If you are working over a fire with a large pot, you will want a longer handled spoon. I also like having a couple sacrificial plastic spoons for scooping out mordants and dyestuffs.
Something to strain with
I do have two here, a mesh strainer and a cheapo plastic colander. The first strains out the dyestuff (if it’s very fine, line it with linen or cotton or a coffee filter), and the second holds yarn while I rinse it. These are equally of dollar store vintage and nothing fancy. Thrift store, also an excellent choice.
Random extra bits
I also seem to always have a couple plastic pots (yogurt pots, or peanut butter jars, or ricotta or the like) to hold yarn while I weigh it, or hold onto sodden stuff, or be a little cup to hold my mordant or dye stuff while I weigh it, or to let some dye soak a while first, or other found bits and pieces just to hold things such that I am not getting my countertops red. (or blue.. or or or..) I also own gloves to keep my hands from becoming multicoloured, but I don’t always remember to wear them. Any gloves will do, I tend towards the dishwashing ones because I prefer reusing them and they hold up better to being used. I destroy a pair of disposable gloves faster than you can blink and then my hands are walnut brown anyhow.
This is a wholly modern recipe, so if you’re looking for period muffins, well you are probably right out of luck. But if quarantine cooking has landed you interested in a choose your own adventure style muffin recipe, c’mon along for the chattery ride. You’re going to want the commentary on the way the first time through, but I’ll try and condense it into a real-ish recipe at the end. Also, my apologies for being wholly and entirely Canadian about my measurements.
So! I make these muffins about once a week around here, and they are never the same twice. I work by weight when I bake, so grab that scale you got to diet with and have ignored ever since and make yourself more carbs.
Starting with the dry ingredients you’re looking for:
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp soda
The flour can be a mix of all purpose and whole wheat but aim for at least half AP. The oats can be quick oats or large flake oats (steel cut oats are no go.) Sugar can be white or brown or a mix. Give that a good mix up.
Add in dried fruit until you’re happy. In this house that’s usually raisins, but it can be chopped dates, dried cranberries, currants, leftover fruit from fruitcake season, whatever’s handy and sounds tasty. Give that a quick mix in. Next up is a scoopy spatula full of jam. Whatever sounds tasty today. This is an excellent place to use that jam that didn’t set, or the one that someone gave you that isn’t really that good on toast. If you’re going to leave just scrapings in the jar after a good scoop, toss the rest in. No one likes someone who puts a jar of just scrapings back in the fridge, don’t be that person. (I’ve been using up a batch of failed marmalade in muffins for the entirety of the plague so far, and it’s been brilliant. It overcooked but didn’t burn, and that deep caramel and citrus flavours have been amazing. I am sad that today’s muffins are the last of it.) Consider how strongly flavoured your jam is and add spices to suit, or just because you love them. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, anise, whatever makes you happy. You want cayenne muffins, you do you.
In a 2 cup measuring cup, measure 1/4 cup of oil. (Canola, veggie, olive.. whatever) Add in 1 cup of liquid. Milk, fake milk, water, herbal iced tea, liquor you were gifted that you think is disgusting (perhaps cut this one half and half.. I didn’t and those were.. interesting muffins.) Add and egg and give it a good mix up. Dump the liquid into the dry and give the whole thing a good mix up ’til there aren’t dry bits anymore. You are not mixing this until it weeps, just until everyone’s nicely sodden.
Grease your muffin tin, pour your goop in and pop it into a 400o oven for 15 – 20 mins. Peek at 10 mins if you’re not sure how hot your oven runs. Every oven is different, and the recipes that are adamant that you will need /precisely/ 11 mins or the world will end are full of not accepting that every oven is different. Stab them with a bamboo skewer (or knife, or tooth pick, or whatever) and if they have no more goop inside, they’re done. Eat too many muffins, and enjoy!
200g flour (at least 100g all purpose)
75g sugar (any combo of white and brown)
75g oats (quick or large flake, not steel cut)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
dried fruit to taste
1/3 – 1/2 c jam (any flavour)
spices to taste
1/4 c oil
1 c liquid (milk, non dairy milk, water, herbal tea)
Preheat oven to 400o. Combine flour, sugar, oats, salt and baking soda. Mix in dried fruit and spices. Mix in jam. In a 2 cup measure, combine oil, liquid and egg. Pour wet into dry and mix well. Pour batter into greased muffin tin. Bake for 15 – 20 mins. (Check after 10 to be cautious). Makes 12 muffins.
I had plans, cunning plans, to write up a nice detailed and functional blog post about dye work with food dyes, and that’s still in the pipeline, but this month has been so scattered, I thought I’d just succumb to the inevitable and make another mish mashy post about the bits and bobs I’ve been up to. Some SCAdian stuff, mostly not. Come back next week for something with meat in it. 🙂
I did muse at the beginning of the month that it was crazy busy, and I was not wrong. I’m going to put it out here right now that in spite of the fact that there are two days left in the month of May, short of a time turner and a clone, May’s counted work is not going to get done in May. A heady mix of too much else needing my time and attention, the fact that I chose a very ambitious amount of stitching and the acceptance that the garden is rather particular about when it goes into the ground, and embroidery really doesn’t mind waiting a week. Or three. I’m still working on Autumn and have Winter left to do.. and it’ll get there. Eventually. I’m not super stressed about it, and honestly my back will appreciate doing it in shorter stretches rather than a marathon.
I made myself hand cream (adapted modern recipe) and I really rather like it, and then started researching how to make it more SCA period. (I also then promptly misplaced my adapted recipe, so I’ll share it when/if I ever find that bit of paper. Someday I will learn that recipes on bits of paper are destined to be lost and stop doing that.) I should have stirred a bit more, but beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter (unless it was cocoa butter.. hrm.. really need to find that paper) and almond oil. Greasy as all get out, but my hands are still able to work with silk even when I chronically forget to put on gloves to work in the garden.
I made another silly garland for the door, and remembered in the process how much I hate crocheting. But it’s cute and it’s done, and ideally I don’t come up with anything else that needs crocheting anytime soon. Also.. flowers really cover me ’til autumn, I do rather win on the longevity of this one. Pattern is this one, I found it relatively straight forward, but there was a time when I taught crochet (I do like it better at tiny, surprising no one.)
I’m generally caught up on the Peppermint Purple modern blackwork stitch along. I haven’t done this week’s yet, but it’s only been out for two days so I hardly feel as if I’m behind the pack yet. That has been a lovely respite from thinking. Every Wednesday there’s a wee bit of stitching waiting for me, already patterned out and ready. I choose a colour and listen to a podcast (Currently Runelanders, getting my gamer fix on.) and just stitch. It’s been a balm in the chaos, I’m very glad I decided to do it. I heartily recommend it, and you can start anytime. There’s no deadline for finishing, if it takes you until 2030 to get it done, so be it.
I also participated in a reddit needlework exchange, and while Canada Post says that my giftee’s pressie is still in transit, I got a mystery package last week. Amazon decided to make it properly a mystery and include not a whit of a clue that it was a gift package, nor anything. It took Penn reminding me that I’d signed up for the exchange to make me clue in that this was probably it! For someone just going on the vaguely sketch details of my interests provided, they did really really well! The embroidery book is super weird and quirky and kinda awesome. (Embroidery pattern for a dissected frog or skinned rabbit anyone?) The metallic thread is lovely and I really adore the little needlecase. They totally won!
Phew, I think that mostly catches you up on the bits and pieces I’ve been working on, there’s more I’m sure, but I’ll leave myself something to ramble about next week when a real post eludes me then too.
Phew. Well THAT was a weekend. I’ve talked about FooL before (20162017), although not nearly as often as I’d thought! Fruits of Our Labours is usually a weekend long camping A&S weekend that is full of hands on experimenting and learning goodness. It was our investiture event, it was my beloved’s first event, it was where I got my AoA five years ago. There’s a lot of sentiment wrapped up in FooL for us. But this year we’re in a plague, and we can’t meet in person, so the FooL staff took it online. (Also.. apparently I’m even worse about pictures at home than at events. Goodness. I really do own a phone with a camera, I promise. Sheesh.)
Now, this is an event that lends itself to online. Sure, we miss out on getting to do things ourselves, but classes are.. by and large.. a lot more online friendly than say.. armoured combat tournies. It’s hard to demonstrate quite the same way, but the ingenious ways some of the teachers had for rigging up cameras to show their scribal desks and looms were nothing short of brilliant. (Zoom crashing world wide 15 mins before Sunday morning classes starting? Not brilliant, but so many kudos to staff and students and teachers in generally rolling with it and google meet wasn’t quite as slick, but we got there.)
Welsh cakes from the site token recipes
There was a social space for folks to drop in and out of, and loiter about and just chatter idly, classes all day and bardic each night. It was, very much like in person FooL except with no canvas to haul, and comfortable beds at night. Even the recipes for site token suggestions were posted. I got plenty of embroidery done listening to the social space, and the bardic on Saturday night, which was nice.
More site tokens. FooL was delicious.
That being said, everything was a little off kilter. I had no idea how much we respond to the audience when we’re addressing the populace until we were talking to a camera and everyone was muted. Surreal, utterly. I am quite certain that there has never been quite so many feline attendees at FooL as there were this year. Bardic circles online are 100% performance and 0% rowdy singing along with the whole crowd in the key of army. I mean.. nothing stops you from singing along at your muted computer (which I do often!), but there’s something about a whole campfire’s worth of people singing together that has a power that no Zoom meeting can ever replace. (Over and above the fact that our campfire was a vanilla scented pillar candle. No bardic circle smells quite that vanilla-ey /either/)
I still got bacon for breakfast. (And Zoom events are like work meetings, garb from the waist up!)
I am so incredibly proud the FooL staff for making it go, even through all sorts of hurdles and challenges. I am so delighted that we got to have people visit from all over the known world, not only as teachers, but as students and bards and just hanging out. Even folks from our own Kingdom who can’t make it out to many events poked their noses in, and that was awesome. (I also nipped off to Artemesia for a class about Viking Food before bardic on Saturday, which was awesome. Fastest commute ever!)
FooL 2020 was like no other, and it absolutely is one that will be remembered.