Sunday, August 22, 2010

Taking the Plunge!

If there's a crafty bandwagon anywhere around, I'll jump on it! Lately I've been seeing many articles about canning and preserving, and I've been intrigued. I remember years ago my friend Lisa gave me a jar of preserves that a friend of hers had made. When I expressed delight and amazement, Lisa said, "Oh you would like her - she knits and makes furniture and makes her own preserves." This paragon of self-sufficiency has haunted me a little for years.

So yesterday I went to the Oreland Hardware Store and bought this:

Matthew went to the Glenside Farmers Market and bought these:

Now I shall attempt to combine the two into (insert heavenly choir here) homemade peach jam! In my mind, this is the equivalent of saying, "Well, I'll just go ahead and build a nuclear reactor here in my backyard."

Enlist a helper. Peeling peaches (after the hot/cold water dunk) is awesome slimy fun:

Unpeely goodness:

Then chopped up a bit:

I was cooking with gas up until this point, when I checked the recipe and it said to add SEVEN AND A HALF CUPS of sugar!!! Say what?! That is a veritable mountain of sugar! It was every molecule of sugar in my house. It seemed like an awful lot, but I at this point I am fanatically following the recipe to the letter, so we'll see:

Oof. That looks like a lot of sugar....

Anyway, dump the peaches and the SEVEN AND A HALF CUPS of sugar and some lemon juice into a pan and cook it on up:

I am blessedly skipping the steps (like #5-#25) where I juggled piping hot jars and lids and liners and ladles and got half of the jam on the counter/stove/floor/the cats/anything in a 20-foot radius. (Note to self: next purchase - wide mouth funnel). Here are the jars, filled with jam and safely sealed, boiling away in a water bath for 10 minutes:

Drumroll please! Here is the finished product:

Beautiful, ain't it?! I made 4 pints of peach jam. It took about 3 hours from start to finish. It was exhausting, both physically and mentally. I am all for improvising and not throwing a lot of money at a new hobby, but this is one enterprise in which you are rewarded exponentially for having the right equipment. I am definitely going to get that wide mouth funnel and try it again. We can't eat it for another 12 hours, but I will report back.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I'm back from gorgeous Lake Willoughby, Vermont - sigh! I had a lot of time to think about designs and ideas and promotions and giveaways and all that good stuff. I also found time to visit some amazing yarn stores and add to my "little" stash (ha. ha.)

From Knit or Dye in Brattleboro, I bought some Malabrigo lace yarn. I am so all about laceweight yarn these days - it's crazy, considering how absolutely 100% against it I was just a short while ago. Well, what goes around comes around or something like that.

Anyway, this yarn is a true olive green. And while I love olive green in general, I like it on the more acid-y side. A good violent chartreuse makes me shout with joy. So I decided to see if I could get this yarn more chartreuse and decided to dye it. Follow along with me!

Here's the yarn in its original form:

Untwist the skein (but leave the ties on!! You'll never untangle it if you take the ties out!! Don't ask me how I know!) Now give your yarn a little cold water and vinegar bath (about 30 minutes soaking - 4 parts water to 1 part white vinegar. The vinegar is a mordant to help activate and hold the dye):

Take a break with some Cheerios while the yarn soaks:

Then drain the water out, don some gloves and use a strong solution of Wilton Cake Icing Dye in Yellow (strong = about a tablespoon of dye and a teaspoon of water - a little goes a long way) to paint the yarn. I started out painting it, then just dumped the whole glass of dye over the yarn:

After dyeing you wrap your yarn in some plastic wrap:

Curl it up in "cinnamon bun" style:

And then nuke it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes out of the microwave (it will be hotter than Hades!), rinse gently (especially important for single plies like this yarn), and then hang on your drying rack of choice, in this case, the baseball pitchback in the backyard:

After a couple of hours sunbathing, the finished product was subtly but noticeably yellowy-er:



For more detailed instructions on using this method to dye yarn (like how to get stripes in dyed sock yarn and the like) go to Kalamazoo Knits etsy site. They are great ladies!!