11 June 2015

making: a shawl, yarn, and jam

Today's post is going to be more cheerful than the last one. Yes, I'm doing better, and have taken constructive steps so I don't implode. Also, I've gotten a short story rejected from two different magazines, and am setting up to take another run at sending it in to another magazine. The rejections didn't crush me (unlike my first book rejection a few years ago did - man, I did not react well to that!); they were pretty much expected. At some point, hopefully, I'll get an acceptance and it'll be a lovely surprise. In the meantime, story rejections aren't exactly personal. I've been going through my other short stories and, unfortunately, classifying most of them as "rubbish," "really bizarre and pointless," "from my way-too-religious high school phase," or "my brief foray into trying to make romance writing work." I don't think I'll give up on that last category, but the take-away has been that I need to write more and better short stories, along with working on Ley Lines.

In the part of my life where I make things, I finished a shawl for a friend and sent it off to her. It turned out beautifully, as you can see below.

Dragon Wings shawl
The shawl pattern is Dragon Wing, by the designer Patti Waters. It's available on Knitty.com. I knit it out of Handmaiden Seasilk, which is awesome, awesome yarn. The colourway is "Glacier," if you're interested. I got it secondhand from someone who was selling off part of her stash, so I got it for half-price. This is expensive stuff, and I've been hoarding my two skeins for a while until I could figure out what to make with them. This left me with about 70% of a skein, enough for a pair of mitts. I love the yarn, though my colour preferences usually lean a bit more vivid. Next time I buy some Handmaiden, I'm definitely picking one of their other colourways. The last skein I had of one of their other yarns was in "Nova Scotia," which is blue and green. It was gorgeous and I still love the mitts I made with it, but I'm really attracted to warmer colours, like purples and reds and browns lately. And Handmaiden has some amazing warm-toned colourways. (No, I don't get paid by them or anything like that; I just happen to live in the same country so their yarns turn up at a lot of local shops and they're pretty).

Silk hankies/mawata dyed with food colouring
I started (and finished!) a spinning project. It's been a while since I've done any spinning, so it's been nice to pull out the wheel and see how out-of-practice I am. I had some silk hankies (mawata) in my fiber stash, which I had dyed with food colouring (see above picture). I spent a couple afternoons working through the hankies, spinning singles. Silk hankies are hard on the hands, since you have to stretch them to prep the fiber. Silk's tough enough that I've actually developed blisters on a couple fingers.

The singles were a little inconsistent; some of that has to do with my lack of practice, but some of it was related to the material. Silk hankies aren't like working with combed top or roving, and silk doesn't adjust as easily while spinning as other animal fibers do. So there are some super-thin bits, and some puffy bits. When I plied the singles together, I ended up with a yarn that runs a little thick-and-thin, from light-fingering to DK/worsted, averaging out to a DK weight through most of the skein.

2-ply silk yarn
The final skein weighed about 45 grams (the last 5 grams are still on the bobbin; I ran out of yardage on the second bobbin and stopped there; it'll be chain-plied later so I can practice that technique), and, measuring with my 1.5 meter niddy-noddy, I ended up with about 155 meters. It's enough to actually do something with. I think it'll probably be a hat.

I've also managed to make time to do a little bit of canning. We do have a ridiculous number of jars of jam to work through over the summer, but it's also that time of year. I'm working my way through the recipes in Preserving by the Pint that pique my interest. Marisa McClellan's most recently released book is a lovely little gem of a cookbook that focuses on extra-small batch preserves. Rather than making half a dozen pints of jam, the recipes usually make a couple pints at most. The recipes I made yesterday gave me two 250-ml jars each.

Two jars of jam; two jars of strawberries
I made a batch of Whole Strawberries in Vanilla Syrup, because I had strawberries in the fridge that were starting to go. I had to cut some in half because these were bigger ones, unlike the small ones recommended in the recipe. The stuff tastes amazing, and I had a ridiculous amount of syrup left over. There's a 500-ml jar in the fridge that is mostly full of strawberry-vanilla syrup and will be going on pancakes.

The other jam I made was the Apricot Rosemary jam. Apricots are in at the produce store right now, so I grabbed a few (several more than I needed, so more apricots, enough for a different recipe, are on the grocery list) and some rosemary, and whipped these up pretty quickly. It smells fantastic and the taste is pretty unique. I think it'll go well on some kind of meat or with cheese. I got two 250-ml jars out of it. I'm out of empty 125-ml jars, so the last of it went into a container in the fridge.

I'm off to the farmer's market this afternoon, and I plan to pick up some local strawberries there. I want to do a batch of strawberry jam and another round of the strawberries in syrup. I think we may need a trip to the store to stock up on sugar, since we're almost out.

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