Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Egg Cinnamon Cake

I'm reading Harriet the Spy. Every day, after school, Harriet comes home and has cake and milk.

This, plus just getting home from spending time with my parents and sister and extended family, then my older daughter, is making me feel a bit homesick for them. So, I'm baking a cake, which is a good antidote,even though it was at least 93 degrees when we got back to Chicago this afternoon.

A stalwart stand-by: One Egg Cinnamon Cake. A recipe inherited from my grandmother. (Perhaps the eggs were larger in her day; this version uses two.)

One Egg Cinnamon Cake

1 stick of butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. sugar, mixed together

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk by thirds. Beat well. Pour into greased loaf pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick tests clean but still a bit moist.

Enjoy with a cold glass of milk. Then go dashing at breakneck speed through the house, like Harriet, crashing into the cook and yelling aloud, just for her own pleasure.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Four Stages of Not-Knowing and the First Stage of Kaivalyam in Weaving

Stage 1: I have no idea how to do this! I've never done it before. How would I know?

A stage marked by the recurring experience that no matter how much you learn, there are still vast black holes of emptiness in your knowledge. Or that the information may be somewhere in the messy closet of the brain, but you just can't find it.

Stage 2: There must be someone or something that can show me how to do this!

This stage is marked by hours spent on the Internet, keyword searching every permutation and combination of words, as well as the growing awareness that the answer is cached somewhere, never to be found, at the depths of page 93 of the search results.

Stage 3: Maybe I can someone who can explain this to me?

More hours on the Internet, trying to locate an individual who has done this before. Search of blogs, information sites, library data-bases, social networking sites for art and craft.

Accompanied by a sub-stage: having found a living-and-breathing teacher, then making the effort to write a not-too-needy, unstalkerish email to an utter stranger, asking for assistance. This stage also is accompanied by really small, very picky, slightly obsessive questioning, such as: in the handbook, the directions first ask you to use one color (singular), and then mention colors (plural); is this intended to suggest using only one color for the warp, or multiple colors? (Follow-up to actually asking this question: it's a misprint to be corrected in future editions.)

Note: this stage can last a long time.

Stage 4: Acceptance of the existential state of being a weaver working alone on the certification process, living with person(s) who I may drive insane with my very pointed weaving questions. Such as: if you're constructing a golden rectangle, do you create the square or the rectangle first? As you are driving on a busy expressway in lots of traffic. Also marked by a sense of isolation, as in: I am alone. There is no one to show me how to do this.

This stage follows soon after the arrival in the mail or at the library of the article/book/example located and purchased. (PayPal makes this way too easy; before you know it, you've bought something on Ebay.)

And what comes next, and this is the important part of this post:

The Stage of Kaivalyam: Sometimes understood to mean freedom. But I prefer my teacher's definition of improved clarity. You realize: I can do this. I need to start somewhere, give it a try, make some (many) mistakes, learn from the mess-up's, and try again.

A stage marked by movement from despair to achievment, from frustration to problem-solving. And much less time noodling on the Internet, which means more time for yarn-wrapping and reading books about crazy mathematical proportion theories and playing with the new set of color pencils (my first, and in a nifty aluminum case - how artistic!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Attention to Detail

Preparing to submit excellent samples is a Lot of Work.

Here's round #3 on the twill sampler. On the road to finishing it, I discovered one threading error, four mistakes in treadling, which I ripped back and redid (I learned that I have to watch the pattern with an eagle eye, and not be dsitracted by listening to an audio book), and then, after completing the weaving and rereading the directions, noticed that the language asks you to make a "blanket" for this sample.

Does "blanket" mean that I should be weaving the sampler from more blankety materials, like wool? I imagine that a twill sampler in heathered, Harrisville yarns would be beautiful. Or is "blanket" just a generic term, meaning bigger than the typical sample of a minimum of 7 by 10 inches?
Having a degree in English, combined with the precision that this process calls for is a dangerous mix. (I've parsed the contrast between the singular "color" called for to separate vertical columns in the sampler, versus the plural "colors" specified in the weft directions. Intentional - meaning that I need to use one main color for warp plus one divider color, and then several colors for weft? Or typo, meant not at all to mean anything significant? What can one say but "ergghhhh."  Or "ergghhhhs."

I'll be saying this for the next two years - weaving is this wierd fusion of creativity and attention to detail. You have to suspend reliance on product and outcome and place yourself into process and serendipity. At the same time, you have to count carefully, be incredibly anal retentive in the many steps of setting up the loom - especially threading correctly, into the right heddles, no threads crossed, everything at even tension.

I'm guessing that I'll either learn patience and attention to detail, or keep finding myself where I was at 5 am this morning - wide awake, thinking about threading the loom, changing the plan for the warp, considering that I should have wound a single-color warp for this sample instead of stripes. Remember the Pushmi-Pullyu from the Doctor Doolittle books? That's how I feel.

Friday, August 13, 2010

WIP August

I'm working on napkins on a warp of 10/2 pearl cotton crossed with wefts of a teal hand-dyed cotton from Guatemala (my daughter stopped in a village and loaded her bag with as much yarn as it could accomodate - very fine, unmercerized cotton, probably around a 20/2 weight) and a 16/2 cotton in a mustard color.

The pattern is Blanket Tweel from Davison's Handweaver's Pattern Book, variation II, I believe. This draft is in the Texture Weave chapter: a smorgasbord of different weaves that create surface interest. At this point, you can't see much happening, other than a slight gap between each set of four warp ends. And this is my first time using this draft, so we shall see, once the warp is off the loom and finished by machine washing and drying. (These will be napkins, so I want them to be prepared for rough and tumble.)

This warp I can sit down, noodle away at, and walk away. The only concern has been trying to get the right selvedge to stay even.

An interesting thing about weaving: one selvedge, or cloth edge, is always more even than the other. For me, the right (because I'm right handed, I adjust better when I'm throwing the shuttle left to right and thus, adjusting the tension of the weft with my right hand) is more troublesome. I discovered this week that if I leave what looks like too large a loop at the right edge, when throwing the shuttle right to left, that the take-up (the length of warp needed to go over and under each warp end) seems to bring that pesky right edge into better alignment.
And inattention seems to help my designing. Somehow, I wound one edge of the warp with closer blue stripes and the other edge with stripes that are further apart. I like the asymmetry: a little bit Gee's Bend.

Now I'm walking down the block to photograph a chalk drawing in front on a neighbor's house. The little girls in this house always do something magnificent with their sidewalk drawings. Looks like a good prospect for my tapestry sample for the COE.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beautiful Hands

Familiar, beautiful hands of my younger daughter, wearing Joelle Haverson's Hand/Wrist Warmers, aka my Reading Mitts, on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/womens-hand-wrist-warmers.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

New Pets

Today we added several new pets to the household.
These are rosies, brought in to eat the swarm of mosquitos that are launching attacks from the tiny pond in the backyard. The hope is two-fold: that they stay small.

 And that they don't die. We started with a dozen for $1.29, and already, on the way home, the top of the bag somehow came untied, water spilled on the floor of the backseat, and I could not bear to look, out of fear that a tiny fish was flopping about. (Since we didn't double-count the fish at the store, we're going on the assumption that all are accounted for and still healthy.)

And another pet, more furry.
A very fine specimen.

In knitting news, I'm soaking the pieces of my Minimalist Cardigan toward blocking them tonight. And I'm working on a sample for the COE, which had me re-threading the loom and re-sleying the ends for Attempt #3. Then I realized, after re-threading and re-sleying, that the outside edges need another 1/2 inch or so of width so that the patterns square. Excellence is rapidly becoming another word for  Learning Through Do-over.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Supplies, Part 1

My desk by the looms.

 Necessary supplies: a notebook for keeping track of the project as I'm weaving. Stuff like what row to weave next (after I come back from letting the dog out, answering the phone, making a cup of tea, and such...in my previous lifetime as a weaver, there often were spans of months, nay, even years, between making the notation - "next row - row 8" - and weaving said row.)

A binder, divided into sections that match up with each of the requirements for the COE. (The only organized thing on the desk, and I love it because it seems to know what it's doing).

A cloth tape measure. A stack of reference books. And a glass of Prosecco.

What are you doing this evening? I'm watching the finale of "The Bachelorette." Then, the special after the finale. Very good knitting television. Perhaps working toward the armholes in the back of my Minimalist Cardigan.