Monday, October 27, 2014

Wild Cucurbits in the Garden

Wild and out of control! Squirrels, as any gardener will know, love to raid the compost and deposit pilfered seeds about the yard. I am used to having a few volunteer tomatoes, sunflowers, and of course Cucurbits! The trouble with the cucurbita family is that the first few leaves are almost identical. One could play a guessing game - pumpkin or cucumber? Melon or zucchini? Most of them get (sadly) plucked out in order to maintain some semblance of order.

These two lovelies, however, decided to grow around the trunk of our recently deceased tree. I gave them no encouragement, I did instruct Mr. Crafty to mow around them. So, like any good guest, in exchange for a little yard space they have provided me with some mysterious squash yummies.

You see, across the Cucurbita family, cross-pollenation is to be expected. I have heard tale of pump-alopes, cuke-inni, and other hybrids. (Such as my Pattypan Ghost!) These two seem to be different decendants from an acorn squash, each diverging in it's own fashion. We will see if they maintain the tasty flesh of their ancestors...

Do you leave volunteer veggies in your garden? Have you had any delicious surprises?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Plant Dyes - Elderberry

I dedicated myself in the summer to building my repertoire  of plant dyes in the next year. Since one must gather as the year turns, it was time for Elderberries. It's the last of the season for berries, most had begun to wither and dry on the trees. Since I did some very large batches of syrup earlier in the year all the berries I gathered wen into the dye pot.

For the dye materials, I got into my Spinzilla stash. Irish wool, sock-weight Lincoln, and a loop of Lincoln roving. It was all pre-mordanted by soaking in alum and hot water for several hours while the dye bath simmered. Mordanting outside of the dye bath works better, as the mordant can bind up dye particles thus making them unavailable for binding to the fiber.
I left the fiber to soak in the residual heat from the simmering overnight. Plant dyes seem to need loooong soaking! Elderberry is usual considered a fugitive dye, that means that it is not terribly colorfast. (Despite how one's kitchen looks after cooking with it!) I have read some research which suggest that one can add vinegar to create a very acid bath and make a better, more long-lasting color. I thought that after one night the color was a little pale, so I placed it over low heat for another day, and let it set overnight.  I also added more white vinegar.
 The next morning the color was more purple, and had set in a little bit more. It still had a few elderberries floating around and adding in color!
 I washed the fiber, and it became disappointingly pale pink, not a bad color really, just a bit less intense than the dye water made it seem! After hanging outside to dry the color had matured to a more gray-purple. Nice and heathered. I'm planning to let the fiber sit for a while in a light room before knitting in case it fades completely!
For a first shot at this color it's not bad. Next up I'll be moving away from the food-based dyes (Which tend to be less colorfast) and into wild plants and trees. Bindweed seems like a perfect choice as there is no lack of it right outside my back door! How do you push your craft skills?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Making a Book

Greetings gentle readers, I'm back after a scheduled blogging break. (It was not intended to go this long, life seems to take over when you let it!) And so, to make up for lost time, here's a pretty intense project... Book Making.
I've gotten into the habit of using a date book lately. Not only to track events and days, but as a permanent to-do list receptacle. Lot's of research shows that organized people make list - most importantly to keep your brain from entering "Rehearsal Loop" and keeping you up all night. You ever had non stop dreams about what you had to do the next day? And always in a panic? That's your brain trying to prepare, and worried about forgetting. I started writing down all my to-do lists, and the stress dropped immeasurably! I won't say that everything on the list always gets done tho...

I made simple boxes, seen to a page. One of my big complaints about commercial day planners is that weekends get the short shaft! As I'm often busier on the weekends I need to give every day of the week the same space. It's only fair.

I printed only on one side, so that the facing page would have list space. At the center of each bundle the book switches sides, one for dates and one for lists. Notice there's no dates in it yet, much simpler to print it out then fill it in. 

Yes, that is a folder made of polished petrified wood. It's fantastic!
Each bundle is sewn into a booklet, holes punched with an awl. That's quilting cord I'm using. The registers are then all sewn together, I'm not sure I quite got that part right, but it's functional!
The cover was made with cardboard and old wallpaper. Beer boxes had the perfect light-weight corrugated - upcycling! The boards are of course slightly larger than the pages, I did make the center spine piece a little too wide. Taking note for future projects.
I used simple Elmer's glue for the covering, These binder clips are hugely helpful to hold the paper in place until the glue sets! It allowed me to make nice neat corners.
The inner booklets are glued to the cover, and the whole thing was weighted down to set overnight. Ah, look at that, just like the tacky upstairs at my folks house! I used the final page in my last planner and started filling in dates in this one, time for organization...
How do you keep organized? Have you ever made a book?