Monday, April 27, 2015

Springtime Mead Making

 Springtime in the Rockies - New growth, fresh starts, clearing out the old! The bees are buzzing around dandelions and wee shoots are rising up everywhere. I followed my personal tradition, spring clean of the body. Aided, of course, by the yeasty beasties!
I mostly used the skin of the ginger, and diced and dried the rest for cooking.

Burdock root, Ginger, Lemon, and naturally every part of the dandelion plant! Sounds like a great cleanse, right? Well, after drinking a cup or two of this tea (with plenty of honey!), I dump the rest of my mighty pot into the bucket of solidified honey.
I used up most of last year's harvest of dandelion parts to make room for a new crop!
After this dissolved a good bit of honey I put it in the fermenting bucket and boiled a bit more water. That honey was good and solid! After all my liquids have cooled a bit I pitch some yeast and cover the bucket. In one year I'll have a batch of yummy Spring mead! In the meantime, last year's bottles are being cracked open and shared around in their fizzy sweet goodness. Ah, tradition!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Garden Season

First World Garden Problems - when you want to shovel manure but you have to fix your wheelbarrow first...

I've had this since I moved into my house five years ago, and time (my neglect) has not always been kind. Finally, the last straw, the wheel kept falling off and going flat. So I ran to the store to get a new tube, and a longer axle, and.... since I was there I figured I'd tackle the rust. Shiney red enamel baby!
TIL - It's way harder to change a flat on a wheelbarrow than on a bike. Like holy shit, this took me about an hour, and my hands still hurt, and I got blisters. Blisters. Not from shoveling or raking, my hands have good callouses for that. I got blisters from using a tire tool to jam the inner tube into the 1/4 inch gap around the rim.

Also, apparently this tire is "Not for Highway Use", which really puts a damper on my plans to strap on the roller skates and jetpack and cruise this guy up I-70. Thanks a lot safety warning...

Hopefully I can get all my plants in the ground tomorrow morning, as several days of rainy weather are predicted!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sustainability from the Ground Up.

 Today is Earth Day, and I always have mixed feelings about that. When I was younger - a high-school student, starry-eyed and idealistic - each year was a new chance to rally people to the cause. A few years on cynicism and it's a day of green-washing, lip service, and singular feel-good activities. How does an activist spread the ethos of care into the other 364 days of the year?
Pictures from the first Earth Day, 1970

If I had the perfect answer to that I would be out on the streets, leading the charge. Instead, I am here to encourage the makers, the creative types, to think sustainably in their creations. Here's the simple, easy things to think of for sustainable design.
 1.)What is it made from?
        Obviously, this is where it starts. Let's say you have a great product idea, and it's gonna help people save water/conserve energy/not waste food etc... but it's made out of plastic and packaged in styrofoam. New materials are helping to solve this problem, but I opine that returning to simple natural materials is always the best choice!

2.)What happens when it breaks?
        Is the item made to last? Can it be fixed? Can it be repurposed? Seed paper cards are an example of an item that has an explicit second life.

3.)Where does it go to?
         This is where that nasty plastic causes problems, but any material can be a problem if there's nothing to do with a broken or worn-out item but throw it away! Can it be reused or recycled? Composted? Cradle to Grave is the ethos of designing an "afterlife" for an item.

4.)Does it work?
     This can be overlooked by a greenwashing company. Story time - back in the late 90s when the first bioplastic were appearing on the market my mother bought a few packs of corn plastic pens and permanent markers. How proud we were! Early adopters who are reducing our impact! Of course, the pen part didn't work for crap. So concerned, was that company, with making and marketing the bioplastic outers, that the insides of the pen were shoddy and non-functioning. If the product doesn't work very well or breaks right away, then no matter what it is made from it is not sustainable!

5.)How is it made?
     The other downside of those early bioplastics (see why I prefer natural materials?), was the manufacture. It involved toxic chemicals, those chemicals were not always handled properly, the energy required to manufacture was much higher than petroplastics. Problems like this lead to the idea of sustainability as a complex system! If an item pollutes when it is made, that's the same as if it pollutes when it is thrown away!

6.)Who makes it?
     Here's the tough part for many big companies, we handcrafters got this down pretty well. If an item is not socially responsible then it is not sustainable. This is not simply a matter of morality - oppressive systems are not stable or sustainable. And pushing people into poverty often forces them to make choices that are environmentally harmful and destructive to their culture and society. But handmakers must also be responsible about this! What are we outsourcing? What processes are they using? Are we charging enough for our time and talents?

7.) How is it used?
     Let us not forget the most important aspect of design - is it useful? What do we use it for? It drives me crazy to see the piles of "recycling" ideas that turn a throwaway item into a nominally decorative piece of bric-a-brac. I mean, sure, a few decorative vases is fine, and a pen cup or two made from old containers covered in pretty paper or such... but how many can you have in your house? And the item that is only decorative? That's like a garbage denial system, we store it on the walls and shelves awaiting it's inevitable doom. Good sustainable design make useful items that we want to use in environmentally responsible ways!

Happy Earth Day everyone! From a crabby environmentalist, and Crafty Bitch.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tumblr Wumblr

In case anyone is wondering, I've been focusing on a new project since the first of the year. Thus, there has been a little less sewing/spinning/knitting/general making of crafty things. I decided, instead of using this blog to post updates and sketches for my upcoming Webcomic that I will be posting to a Tumblr blog.

Visit my Sketchbook Blog to see what I've been drawing lately!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Very Personal Offering - Hair Art

WARNING - This post features the traditional art of making things with human hair, you might be totally grossed out by this. I don't really care. I like it.

When one thinks of Hair art, usually the Victorian Era comes to mind. While they raised the act of creating with human hair to a high art, and obsessively traded in momentos of human body parts (teeth, for example), the Victorians did not invent the art. A number of old folk traditions use hair in the making of charms, spells, sigils and the like. Both for protective and harmful magics.

 I collected hair for several months, straight from the brush. Note that it has not been cleaned, as hair is actually stronger and easier to work with when it has a bit of natural oil. I spun it up with a drop spindle, and plied each lump from a center pull ball. It spun fairly smooth and fine, with the occasional little lump or tangle.
 I then made a bias woven strap. This is a simple technique that needs no set-up nor loom, one could start it without even the pins with a little dexterity. After laying out the threads, I started on the left and wove across the other threads at a diagonal. The next thread follows the first, but alternating over and under. Thus, each thread starts with an "over and ends with an under, then wraps around to hang downwards for the next pass. Each thread moves to the left with each row, and eventually gets to be the active thread and return to the right!

It didn't take all that long to weave a few feet of this ribbon (Sewing scissors for scale.) Some of my bundles of hair yarn were longer than others, so I trimmed off the long bits to use for future projects. (It is, also, not as if I will stop growing my raw materials.) I used it to wrap a lovely bundle of flowers destined to be a very special offering. A little piece of me, carefully prepared, going back to the earth!

Happy Spring everyone!

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Dead Hedge for a Lively Garden

As the season warms a number of garden projects are getting underway. This year, among other things, I am making some new beds in underused parts of the yard. And adding some privacy. Mr. Crafty has been asking for more solid fencing since he moved in, and we have a dog now who will pace and charge the fence when other dogs are about. (Yes, we are training her out of it, no it's not happened yet...)

I first heard about dead hedges in the BBC's fantastic history programs concerning  historic farming. It was commonly used as stock fencing in spots that a live hedge wasn't growing. But there are a number of important features of a dead hedge that make it useful in the modern garden as well.
1.) It uses up material that does not compost well unless you have a mulching machine.
2.) It offers important habitat to many wild garden friends, including native bees!
3.) It's basically free. I bought a few sturdy stakes to complement my scavenged branches.
 Here it is growing and shaping up. As other parts of the yard get cleared out and suckers get trimmed down I keep finding more and more material to add to it. I've been digging my new veggie bed right in front of it and that has yielded tree roots as well.
And now, spring has sprung, the grass is painfully green, there are rows of beets planted, and the hedge is almost to the top of the fence. It will compact with time so I will have to keep adding to it. Fortunately, I have plenty of pruning yet to go, so there will be no lack of materials!

Get out and put your hands in the soil@

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Woodland Skirt.

 Every now and again a fabric comes along that just screams at you from the shelf "WEAR ME!" It's hard to believe that this cute little dainty girl holding a soft fluffy bunny would scream like that, but she did. I have witnesses. So I bought a yard and brought her home... and stuck it on the shelf.

Then, as luck would have it, about a year later some other fabrics from the collection went on sale, so I snatched up the remnants and got down to business! This barefoot nature loving girl needed a skirt covered with barefoot nature loving girls!

Of course, one of the challenges of working with such a fabric, is the inhumanity of cutting of feet and heads. So I drafted a pattern to make the best use of each row of girls, and no body-chopping. I ended up with three long strips to be the hem of the skirt. The other two fabrics were then divided into tiers, six panels around, each layer larger at the bottom than at the top. Pockets were made (skirts can have pockets! It's magical, I know.)
 So, a very swishy, swingy skirt was sewn. Perfect for running barefoot in the woods! And how did I get it so swishy? How did I protect the wee feet of these girls?
A bias tape maker, and a trip to the hardware store. Four yards of fine ball chain is sewn into the bias wrapped hem, now it doesn't ride up when I walk or fly up in the wind. Hardward store notions are the best...