Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cooking post: Candied Orange Peel

It is late winter, which in Phoenix, AZ means it is citrus season. We have an orange tree in the back yard, and each year at this time it is loaded with juicy goodness--usually more than we can eat! (Citrus is Arizona's equivalent to zucchini in the Midwest USA. If you're not careful, folks will play ding-dong-ditch with baskets full of the stuff!)

So for lunch today, I served my kids fresh squeezed orange juice off of our tree. Then, instead of throwing the peels away, I decided to give my mom's recipe for Candied Orange Peel a try.

Candied Orange Peel

8 oranges (or 14 lemons)
4 cups sugar, divided
1 cup water

After juicing the oranges, cut the peel into sections and remove the remaining pulp.

Place the peels in a 4-6 qt pot, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain, and allow to cool.

Using a spoon, scrape the white pith from the colored part of the peel.

This takes awhile. No, really.

I suggest press-ganging random teenagers to help you out.

(I understand there is a recipe that blanches the peels several times to remove the bitterness, and skips this step. I'm going to try that one next.)

Discard the pith, and slice the peel into 1/4" strips.

Return saucepan to heat, and add 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water. Heat to dissolve sugar.

Add peel, and simmer gently, 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove peel and drain on fine mesh cooling rack, with a pan underneath to catch the drips. Spread the peel out so it will dry evenly. Allow to cool and dry 1 hour.

Do save the orange flavored syrup for later use. It is nummy on pancakes! Mom also uses it in BBQ sauce, or brushed on pineapple and ham slices before grilling.

Place the peel in a large bowl, and toss with the remaining 2 cups of sugar, until evenly coated.

Take peel out of bowl, letting the excess sugar sift through your fingers. Place sugar-coated peel on a cookie sheet, and allow to dry overnight. Store in an air-tight container.

Save the left over sugar. It is also subtly orange flavored at this point. You can use it for your next batch of peel, or sprinkle it on french toast. (I'm going to use it in tea, myself.)

The finished candy! Slightly bitter, very sweet, and altogether addicting. This is my first attempt, and I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. Now I know what to make if someone sneaks bushel baskets of citrus onto my front porch in the middle of the night! Yum.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Medieval Box Loom

The above link will take you to the Louvre's site, and a picture of a tapestry from the 1500's that shows a lady weaving on a loom very similar to the one I picked up earlier this month. Today, I finally had an evening free enough to warp it up and give it a try...

I measured out 4 yards on my horizontal warping mill. As I came to each color change in the pattern, I simply cut the old color, and tied the new one on to the old thread.

I tied several choke ties to keep everything in place, then chained the warp off the mill.

I had ordered this Beka rigid heddle from Paradise Fibers. However, my usual sley hook didn't fit through the holes. I fixed that by making a mini sley hook out of wire. I put a coil at one end so I would have something to hold on to, and a little hook at the other. Then I pounded it with a hammer to harden the wire, and make it stiff enough to use. Worked like a charm!

Next, I sleyed the reed. I used a couple of binder clips to hold it upright while the job got done. Yay for improvisation!

I tied one end of the warp onto the back apron rod, then used the reed to space out the warp evenly. I wound on with my left hand, using my right to keep tension on the threads. I wound strips of paper onto the back beam along with the warp, to keep the threads from sinking down into each other. That helps with maintaining an even tension.

Then I tied the warp onto the front apron rod...

...and wove a header. I experimented with 4 or 5 different weft threads before I decided on a nice green.

Here's a shot of the band in process. The side threads are actually greener than shows up on my monitor, and the yellow stripes down the middle are brighter. I call this pattern, "Road Trip", as it was inspired by looking out at the road stretching before me on long distance meanderings.

And here is a picture of the loom, all up and running. Isn't it cute? It will be a great take-along project!

EDIT: I got the loom from for $75.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Misc update: socks and modeling

I haven't had much time in the studio this week, because I've been up to my eyeballs in modeling for the life drawing classes. Even so, I have gotten one pair of socks made and delivered, and have an order for another pair. Hopefully I can get to them tomorrow. It will take a bit of pattern figuring, as the lady has specified that she has short toes. I should be able to accommodate that, though, just as I figured out how to make extra wide socks for her husband. (I loosened the tension dial one rotation for the feet for the 'Triple E' socks.)

That is a project for tomorrow, though. Tonight, I think I'm off to the hot tub. 12ish hours of modeling may make the pocket book happy, but it definitely gives me a work out!

(These pictures are of one of the sets of 2-3 minute gestures.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Back from Estrella

I know it has been a bit quiet here recently. For the past while, I've been out at an SCA event, Estrella War. There were about 4000 of us crazy historical recreation people, creating the Middle Ages and Renaissance in the middle of the Arizona desert. Oh man, did I have a marvelous time! Friends and hugs, shopping for one of a kind hand crafted items, coursing my spaniels, cooking over an open fire, cheering on my warriors... I need to wash the pile of laundry, sleep for a week or so, and then I want to go back and do it all again!

Arts wise, it was a great week. I delivered some of my wool socks to their happy new owners. I was able to spend some time demonstrating spinning, which is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

In fact, on Friday we had bunches and bunches of school kids who came through the event. I spent most of that day discussing how folks in the Middle Ages made clothes, from prepping the raw wool, through spinning, through weaving, and to sewing. Hopefully some of the kids went home appreciating the luxury of having a mall nearby.

Shopping wise, I picked up a new little box loom for making belts and bands.

Isn't it cute? I'm going to try card weaving on it, and maybe some warp faced inkle bands. The inkle loom I've been using is actually out of period for Medieval recreation. This would be much more appropriate. I look forward to trying it out.

I also picked up the book "The Warp Weighted Loom" by Marta Hoffman. I sense a project coming on.

My camera got a work out too, as I took around 100 pictures. Some of those images will be turned into paintings sometime in the future. I have them in an album, here:

Now, I need to re-group, and figure out what project to tackle next. More socks? Hair sticks? Trying out the box loom? Making new costumes to show off the custom buttons I got? (From Epaul at Grypon Song Gems. Dangerous man!

Hmmm.... Anything but tackling the mountain of laundry. It smells like stale campfire smoke.

(Pictures by me, Jeff Kahler, and Christi Martin.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

More socks

I think grafting the toe closed has got to be my least favorite part of making socks. I'm really not one much for hand sewing--I am more into the whole instant gratification thing. Zipping up the toes by hand takes almost as long as making the whole rest of the sock on my machine! But I have yet to find a quicker method. And I suppose it isn't actually all that bad. As long as I have decent lighting to work under. Those stitches get tiny.

The end result is worth it, though. I have the bugs pretty well worked out of my basic calf-high socks now. The socks in the picture were made from Serenity sock weight yarn, from the Deborah Norville collection. They are 50% superwash merino wool, 25% bamboo, and 25% nylon. My antique machine loves this yarn--hardly drops any stitches at all! And the resulting socks are very snuggley and warm, as well as being machine washable.

These two pairs are sold already, but after I get back from Estrella I'll be making up some more to put into the Etsy shop.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Estrella: Etsy on Vacation Mode

In preparation for the upcoming Estrella SCA event, I've put my Etsy store on vacation mode until the 16th of this month. If you'd like to make an order still, and will actually be at Estrella, go ahead and contact me here this weekend. I can bring it to the event, and we can save shipping charges. I'm planning on having the hand woven White Scarves, and a few sets of juggling balls with me. I won't bring the shawls unless someone asks for one ahead of time.

(Four of these scarves are still available.)

(I have several colors of the juggling balls in stock, but the lavender/maroon set in the picture just shipped to the UK yesterday.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tutorial: Hung hem on the Circular Sock Knitting Machine

I was busy on my Creelman Brothers sock knitting machine today. I have some folks who have ordered socks, to be delivered at the upcoming Estrella War SCA event. The ones in the picture are of a wool/bamboo/nylon blend, which is really warm and soft to the touch. I have a pair out of the same brand of yarn, and they are one of my favorites.

While I was working on them, it occurred to me that I haven't posted the tutorial on how to hang a hem for the top of the sock. So I grabbed my camera, and snapped some shots as I was working. Here's what I did today...

To make a Hung Hem:

Cast on, then knit a bit of waste yarn and set the tension. Then knit about 20 rows in your sock yarn, depending on how wide you want the cuff to be. Stop the yarn carrier at the right hand hash mark.

Take the weight off the sock, to release tension for the following steps. It makes things much easier.

Count over 4 needles beyond the hash mark, so you are just clear of the yarn carrier. (I sometimes go 5 needles over.) Raise that needle up just slightly, so you can see it easily. I've learned not to raise it so far that the stitch drops below the latch of the needle though--it is too easy to drop a stitch that way.

Follow the line of stitching down from your chosen needle, to the bar at the bottom. Stick your hook into that bar...

...and lift it up and over the needle. Now there are two stitches on the same needle.

Continue around the circle, hooking each successive stitch over the needles. This has the effect of folding the knitting in half.

When you get almost all the way around the circle, you will run out of needles in the upright position. Grab the completed knitting and hold it down firmly while you crank forward just enough to raise those needles. Then finish hanging the yarn on the needles, until every needle has two stitches on it.

Re-hang the weights.

Slowly and evenly, crank around the circle. The two stitches knit as one, and the cuff is completed. Continue on with the sock.

This is how the finished hem looks.