Sea & Sky

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try something different on the spinning wheel. I have a few things to knit for baby boys who are about to make their grand appearance, so I thought I’d try spinning up the blue cormo I got from Crown Mountain Farms last summer.

This blue-on-blue colorway is called ‘Clapping with One Hand’ in cormo, but ‘Sailing’ in merino. That name, Sailing, was a big influence on why I bought it last year: I got it just when Tom left for his trip to Hawaii.

I’ve never spun cormo before, and this was also the first fiber I’ve spun from Crown Mountain that hasn’t been corriedale pencil roving. But cormo is a cross of corriedale and merino, both of which I love spinning.

The colors were just right for what I wanted for baby knits, though, so I got to spinning. My plan was a 2-ply worsted weight, so I split the original bump into two equal (by weight) nests.

It was during this first step that some questions about this fiber began to form in my head. As lofty and soft as it looked in the bump, I was amazed (and more than a little disappointed) to find it incredibly dry-feeling, slubby, and not very smoothly prepared as roving.

The fiber was so dry – I can’t imagine that there was any lanolin left in it at all – that it was almost sticky. That’s not the right word… clingy or catchy, maybe. This made it quite hard to spin at first, until I decided to quit trying to spin what I wanted (smooth and regular worsted) and start trying to spin it how it wanted (irregular and aranish weight).

You can see how lumpy and uneven the roving was:

I didn’t split the lengths of roving before spinning for two reasons. First, the prepared roving was already split, totally unevenly, in a bunch of places. Second, I wanted to retain as much fiber alignment as possible for a worsted-spin method – so having a bunch of pulled fibers going every which way would not have been helpful. But I did pre-draft each section as I unwrapped it to loosen the fibers and make it possible to draft them somewhat evenly while spinning.

But… even with all of that going on, it was not nearly enough to stop me from spinning! It’s all learning opportunity, right?

The two bobbins of singles were lovely.

Plied and on the niddy noddy:

The final yarn ended up too bulky for the projects that I wanted, but it is very pretty nonetheless. The colors range from the robin’s egg blue of the sky, to bits of white recalling wispy clouds floating above, to a steely teal that so resembles the waters of Puget Sound. 

Sea and sky:

Sea & Sky:

I love the experience of trying new fibers and spinning methods. What new things have you been trying lately – especially anything that seemed like it might not turn out too well but provided some type of upside? I’d love to hear.

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Greek Meatballs

As part of the provisioning preparations for the Captain’s Hawaii trip, I am cooking several things and vacuum packing them for optimal travel.

One of the things I’ve made for the crew are Greek Meatballs, one of my favorite recipes. A big reason why I’m making them is that their flavor improves with age and so these babies are perfectly suited for a bit of a rest in the freezer before gobbling down.

Greek Meatballs are a family recipe. We’ve always called them that, though I’m not exactly sure how ‘Greek’ they really are. But, my dad learned from his father, and I learned from mine. That’s Greek enough for me!

Since I was making a monster batch of meatballs for the trip, I thought I’d do a post and create a recipe. I’ve always made these from memory, with a hunk of this and a dash of that… so it’s good to think about quantities and ratios. For the provisioning batch, I started with 5 lbs of hamburger, more than twice what I usually do. I’m scaling that down for the recipe here, so no worries if you’re not planning to feed 15 people!

IMO, there are three things that make these meatballs ‘Greek’, or different from most other recipes I’ve seen: 1) lots of finely minced green bell pepper, 2) mint, 3) an oblong shape.

The mint in particular is critical. Once or twice in the past I have left it out of the mixture and the result just doesn’t taste right. It doesn’t take much, and too much will quickly overwhelm, but don’t skip it!

Greek Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
    (10-15% fat – any less than that and the flavor will be off and the meatballs too dry or mealy. More than that, and they can get heavy and greasy)
  • 1/2 large onion, minced
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, minced
  • 1/2 c plain bread crumbs
    (or finely-torn pieces of bread, no crusts)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 2t dried mint, or a little bit more if fresh – very finely minced
    (I use bulk peppermint tea when I don’t have fresh growing in the yard)
  • 1t Greek oregano (slightly different in flavor than mexican oregano, but not a big deal whichever you use)
  • ~1t seasoned salt (dad and I only ever use Johnny’s, but use your favorite)
  • a goodly squelch of ketchup (about 1-1/2T)

You will also need:

  • about 1c fine flour + 2t seasoned salt for coating the meatballs
  • neutral-flavored cooking oil
  • heavy-bottomed frying pan
  • paper-towel lined tray

Important tip: Take off any jewelry up to your elbows, or you may live to regret it.

1. Prep your station

A: In your heavy-bottomed pan (I use a huge old cast-iron frying pan that belonged to my dad), add just enough oil so that there is a scant 1/8 inch covering the bottom. Turn heat on to medium and let the pan and oil get hot while you shape your first batch of meatballs.

B: Mix the flour and seasoned salt in a shallow tray. I’ve found it’s easiest to find a tray that is about the same size as the pan I’m using to cook the meatballs; this way I can roll and flour just enough for each batch.

2. Dump all the ingredients into a BIG bowl. Bigger than you think you’ll need – this mixture seems to grow while you mix it. Dumping order doesn’t matter, just get ’em all in there. Note: Your fingers and hands will thank you in the next step if you’ve given things a bit of time to warm up.

When all the ingredients are in the big bowl, plunge your hands in. Fold everything together lightly until the mixture is of even consistency. You are not trying to pack or compact the mixture here – you are trying to fold everything together until there are no more clumps of green pepper, pockets of breadcrumbs, or streaks of egg.

The mixture should be fairly wet and look like the lovechild of raw hamburger + fork-mashed overripe bananas:

If things seem too dry, add milk a tiny bit at a time until it feels mooshy. If things are too wet, add more breadcrumbs until things firm up.

3. Take about 2T of mixture into your hands and roll  (each meatball should be about the size of a golf ball). Set down gently in the tray of seasoned flour.

I’ve found that my hands get the least goopy if I shape a full batch of meatballs all together, setting them in the drenching flour but not rolling them in the flour until the whole batch is formed (as shown in the picture above).

Then I roll each meatball lightly in the flour, tap off all excess. There should be only the lightest possible dusting of flour on them. This where I do the final bit of shaping into a slight oval just before I set them into the pan, which helps to knock off any extra flour. Give each meatball a gentle pat as you set them down flatten them slightly.

4. Cook for about 7 minutes or until the meatballs are a dark crispy brown (but not burned). The flour is frying in the oil, and so dark is ok – the outside will be darker than the inside. Then, turn over with tongs or a slotted spoon. Cook alternate side for 5-9 minutes more, until the sides are no longer pink. You may need to move meatballs around within the pan to get everything to cook evenly.

5. As they finish, move each batch to a paper-towel lined tray and let drain for a moment. You can either put meatballs into a warm oven or into the refrigerator depending on when you plan to eat them.

They are yummy right out of the pan, but the flavor develops as they sit. IMO, day 2 & 3 (and even later) are the very best eating.

These freeze incredibly well. It is worth it to make a big batch and put them in the freezer… if they last that long.

Back to my big batch cooking – Benny is never far away when the kitchen is in Active Mode.

He invariably is lying on his side *right* where I need to be, and he is somehow always most in the way when I am working with hot oil or the minute I am ready to drain a huge pot of boiling pasta.

The final results of my 5lbs: 92 meatballs!

Sailing and Spinning

Sailing!

Well I hadn’t been posting at this blog much during the past month+ because I have been full tilt on helping the Captain prepare for his Hawaii crossing trip. It is hard to believe that the crew leaves in about 5 weeks from now, when we’ve been planning and working toward the trip for months and dreaming about it for more than a year.

But things are coming to fruition everywhere! If your interested in learning more about S/V Big River or the trip, hop over to my other blog: http://svbigriver.wordpress.com/. You can see new pictures of the boat, see some of the canvas in action, and meet the crew.

Besides sewing and setting up the new blog, I’ve also been working on the provisioning plan for both legs of the trip. That means planning 3 square meals a day, for 18 and 22 day legs (over and back, respectively), for four men. Cooking ability consists of a gas range in the cabin that we’d prefer not to use, a tiny oven that has a temperature range of On and Off, and a tiny propane grill hanging off the stern. So, food needs to be GREAT to keep everyone satisfied and feeling good, ultra easy to prepare – that means not very much cooking involved, mostly heating, and the preparation based on someone who’s cooking skills may top out at boiling water. 🙂

Refrigerator space is at a premium, and there is no real freezer to speak of – but the bottom of the fridge compartment stays quite cold.

All of this means creativity in planning and pre-cooking. A draft of the plan is out to the crew. When I have it back and the menu takes solid shape, I’ll post more about it here.

Spinning!

Along with my main knitting project right now, a pair of toe-up socks being knit with Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in the Olympic Rainforest colorway:

Which reminds me exceedingly of this view, what I see when I stand in the yard on a beautiful day:

… I have dusted off my spinning wheel!

I love my Ashford Joy wheel, which I bought a few years ago. But, I haven’t spun all that much on it. When I pulled it out a few weeks ago, I gave it a good dusting, oiled the critical parts, and added my new sliding hook flyer. After about 30 minutes of spinning my muscle memory came back and it’s been wonderful.

I’ve been spinning for a few hours almost every day. The rhythm of the drafting and treadling is very calm and meditative. I typically do my spinning from after dinner until almost bedtime. I love to watch the fibers draft out between my fingers and the newly-spun yarn build up on the bobbin.

Currently, I’m spinning Corriedale (breed of sheep) finger roving (width of prepared fiber) from Crown Mountain Farms. I love this stuff. I have spun some of this fiber before, and the way that Klaus, who is the one man show running CMF, dyes the wool, the result of any plied yarn is a color-changing barber pole effect that I really like.

I’m spinning 8oz in the colorway Azure Sky, which I received some time ago as a present from my mom. I want to make socks with this, and so I want a really firm yarn in fingering(ish) weight with the classic CMF barberpole effect.

So, to get started, I split the 8oz into three equal amounts by weight (76 grams each, btw).

Then I am spinning each ‘bump’ of 76 grams onto its own bobbin. Two are done:

And the final one is underway:

When all three are finished, I’ll put them on my new tensioned Kate and will ply them into what I hope will result in a fingering/sport weight 3-ply sock yarn. I’ll report back with pictures and some notes on whether I got the yarn thickness I intended and other details.

Yay!

Blessings on you and all you undertake!

Sew Like the Wind

Sew Like the Wind! 

Yep – that’s pretty much how it’s been around here lately. Well, minus the chickens inside the house…

There has been a LOT of sewing going on around here during the past month!  The sailboat dodger is 98% complete, just a few alterations and reinforcements remain. The dodger was a complex project, requiring me to make pattern pieces and dry fit the assembly several times to get a tight, form fit.


Remember these guys??


My patterns, drawn on the back of ugly christmas wrap that never gets used…


Getting ready to cut with a stencil (double-bladed) exacto, so I can use the pattern for both the canvas and the window vinyl.


Five new window pieces!


An early dry fit.


A  bit blurry, but you get the idea!

The rear safety panels are complete and installed on the lifelines.


Cut to size, hems pinned. Ready to sew – these guys were EASY compared to the dodger.

New winch covers are done. All the winch covers now have an elasticized inset as well to keep them from blowing off.


These were so little and cute… if only *all* the boat projects were as quick and manageable as winch covers!!

In addition, I made some quilted mats for our new bedroom furniture so the wood doesn’t get scratched. I made these ‘crazy-quilt’ style without a pattern, but they still took much longer than I anticipated. It seems like these projects always do!

Next up: sheet bags for the boat lines, and some sail repairs with a NEW(!!!) metal-geared industrial sewing machine I just bought today and should be here in a week or so. Hurrah!!

A New Project

It is time for more boat canvas!

Today, I’m starting a new project for the boat and am starting to sew a dodger. Here is the old one:


Fresh out of the big black garbage bag that the pieces have been sitting in for months. Looking GREAT! Not sure why we need a new one…


All the pieces laid out with some notes and  markings for modifications we want to make for the new dodger.


Well… maybe this piece is ready to be replaced.

My materials arrived earlier this week, and today I dig in. More pictures and updates to follow!

Busy Times!

Wow – has it been busy and fun around here lately! I looked for the camera this morning to pull off pictures for a post and a few drafts, but I couldn’t find it and I think that is because the Captain took it with him today because the CANVAS is FINISHED! And he’s going to Big River tonight to get her safely protected under a square acre of electric blue canvas.

Boat Canvas

After I don’t know how many months, both the sail cover and binnacle cover are finally complete. The sail cover was one complex creation, indeed. Not only was everything form fit, but we had to work with fabric widths narrower than the total measurements so there was some piecing. Then, after the main form was complete, we needed to add fasteners (a zipper and industrial velcro), leather patches where lines and block would rub, and the near-killer: waterproof vinyl liner up the full backbone of the cover, and under most of the section that wraps the mast.

Somewhere in the process of piecing that liner together, offsetting seams to preserve waterproofing, and fitting and sewing it to the main form, we just about lost our minds. The form is more than 17′ long, and about  65″ high at its tallest point. Using my intrepid Bernina 153 and the dining room table, we made it work! But… because of the weight of all that canvas and vinyl, the sheer size of the thing crammed under the tiny arm opening of my machine, and the fact that some massive chunk of the whole thing was slipping off the table at any given point, the final work definitely became a two-person job! Yowza.

We put in the last stitch Wednesday night, and would have celebrated with cannons and whiskey, but we were too beat! Instead, I celebrated by completing the entire binnacle cover yesterday and now those big pieces are off my mind and on the boat! Whew!

(Read the first part of this adventure here.)

In the Kitchen

Yesterday included a huge pot of soup to celebrate the season, and now that the canvas is done, there will be some serious baking and canning over the next few weeks. Get ready!

Outside

Working on the woodpile with a little help from my friends. That is some fun right there!

Pictures to come soon on everything above. In the meantime, have a wonderful Friday and weekend. Blessings to you all!