Tuesday, 10 December 2013
I spent today doing a jam making meditation, making apricot jam with the fruit from our tree and your recipe. I thought about so many things - the way you gardened and cooked, the wholesome domestic life you provided for us. The way you taught me to cook, the long days I spent perched beside the stove while you worked. I thought about summers and fruit picking and jam making and watering the garden in the dusk and harvesting vegetables for dinner. I thought about the beauty of your work and the rhythm of our days. I felt you right there in the shape of my mind while I worked.
Not a day goes by that you aren't in my mind mum, and every day it's a surprise to find I can't call you on the phone, or drop by and see you. You are so present and so absent all at once - you haven't dimmed at all, but somehow everything else seems a little less bright. The jewel tone of the jam on my bench comes close to being as bright as I remember yours being, close but its very taste is missing you.
Friday, 6 December 2013
Sorting the workroom has had exactly the effect I'd hoped. Suddenly it's the place I most want to be.
Every spare moment I find myself wandering in, sitting down to look out the window, shuffle some piles or continue the work of finding a proper home for everything.
I've worked through the pile of mending. My mind is bursting with projects long languishing on the back burner and everyone will be getting hand sewn Christmas gifts. I'm ripping through a pile of new clothes for me - all part of a major linen jag while I dream of the yet to come summer.
Space and motion. I know it is true, but still I'm amazed at how deeply I'm affected by state of the room, how closely my creativity and motivation are tied to the place of work.
All of which is to say note to future self, clean your shit up when you are feeling uninspired. Nothing more complicated than that.
Monday, 25 November 2013
It is very hard to get decent photos of my work room because I don't have a camera with the right kind of lens for small spaces, but I do want to follow up my last post because the workroom is really transformed. The solution involved more storage space, but also smarter space. In the photo below you can see my existing monster storage shelves on the left. They took up about half of one wall of the room. On the right is the start of the solution.
So David extended 3 of the shelves to the other wall (at 6.30 on a Sunday night because he is awesome), creating an under bench storage area big enough for everything that had been under the layout table and up above a long bench at the right height, a place for projects or storage as I need it to be. Above that a few more shelves, not so close as to make the bench awkward to work at.
The effect of all this is the create a solid wall of storage with a multi purpose bench/work/storage area and free up the rest of the room for 3 separate work stations - the knitting machine, the sewing machines and a large desk (which in theory could be cleared to use as a work table). The room feels much less cluttered and since I took the opportunity in the re-organisation to more sensibly box and label my more obscure kit it feels super practical.
It was a great note to hit just prior to a craft camp. Packing, while still time consuming and a rich blend of taking everything but the kitchen sink and missing out on something critical, was smoother because I had the space to lay out piles and easy access to all the stuff. I still missed some things that I leaned on fellow campers to spot me (thanks again!) but in the main, it was a pretty good pack. I didn't even fill the boot!
So I might not have had the full compliment of bits, I still managed to pretty much finish a number of big and time consuming projects. Not as high a volume of finished goods as usual, but very satisfying in terms of quality outcomes.
New doona cover, fitted sheet and pillow cases in Tessuti linen sheeting in straw plus the stunning Warratah print from Ink and Spindle. King bed sized linen is enormous and very heavy so this was a simple sewing job but really exhausting! Lucky I love it lots and lots.
A shirt for each of the loved ones. Amy's still needs a hem and buttons because I wasn't sure about the length, but I'm very pleased with the various fits and designs. Amy's is in a very light weight Nani Iro linen made up using a quite fitted pattern with princess seams from Ottobre, Wil's is a light Japanese organic cotton gingham, delightfully soft, from Tessuti a few years back, and the pattern is from happy handmade sizes 100-130cm and David's is a double gauze cotton and the pattern is from a Japanese book devoted to various styles of men's shirts - very bloody complicated, but really nice.
I also made myself the new Tessuti Eva dress and Lola T, using a combo of jersey and crinkle linen bought last year at Tessuti. I really love the design of this dress, and while I found it a fairly time consuming project, and the crinkle linen wasn't so straightforward to deal with, I am pleased with the final product and am sure it will get a lot of wear in the hot.
I was also thrilled to finally get on the noodlehead bandwagon and make a couple of pouches. Love this pattern! Quick, clever and a really great finished item - I will be making more and putting a few away for Christmas presents and next years fete.
As usual camp was full of excellent food, good times and wonderfully inspiring creative work. You know what I think about this stuff - community crafting is my life fuel and joy and I remain humbled and deeply appreciative of having a corner in this world.
Friday, 15 November 2013
It's been a while since I posted a Thai recipe, but this Thai style fried rice is a perfect one to share. It's easy, its flexible and universally liked. I was about to post it, exactly as I make it but thought I should do a little research in my various Thai cookbooks first to see if I was committing any acts of culinary treason.
As is so often the case with Thai food, the experts differ quite a lot, which I think means my version is definitely acceptable. It also reinforces that this is a guide only - variation is a part of the deal - and you should be using what you have on hand with total confidence!
2 cups of uncooked jasmine rice
3 tablespoons peanut oil
3 or more cloves of garlic, smashed
2 eggs, beaten
6 or so spring onions, sliced
300-500gms sliced chicken breast/pork/tofu or a combination
Peas, shucked corn (optional and non traditional)
Soy and/or fish sauce
white pepper (optional)
Chilli sauce or chilli slices in vinegar
Cook the rice using the absorption method - put the rice with 3 cups of water in a pot with a tightly fitting lid and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as it boils, turn the heat to the lowest possible setting, simmer for about 8 minutes until rice is tender but not too soft. No need to stir or lift the lid for any reason during cooking, it just makes you lose steam. Turn rice out into a large open container, allow it to cool and lose steam, then cover and refrigerate until it is completely cold. While Thai cooking guru David Thompson advocates using warm rice he is very much a rebel in so doing - conventional wisdom (and my experience) says the colder rice is much easier to handle when frying.
Traditional Thai fried rice does not include a lot of veggies - but I include some to make the dish healthier. Having said that, it veers from the traditional dish completely if there's too much veg in there, so I usually limit it to some peas and corn, baby corn if I have it.
Heat the oil in a reasonable size wok and add the garlic, toss for a few seconds then add the meat. I have been known to pre-marinade the meat for extra flavour (soy, sweet soy and sherry is a good combo but completely untraditional), and if the meat is sliced thicker I may cook it first and set it to one side, cook the rest of the dish and then add it back to the pan at the last minute to keep it tender. Either way works just fine.
Add the rice and peas/corn if using. Keep the rice moving so it doesn't stick and use your stirrer to gently break up lumps. if it seems too dry add a few drizzles of oil down the sides of the wok. After a minute or two, push the rice to one side and pour the egg onto the exposed side of the wok, spreading it as you go to a thinnish layer. Flip the rice on top then stir it through - some egg will have cooked omelet style, the rest will form a coat on the rice. David Thompson advocates adding the egg before the rice to create more of the omelet effect because he thinks the rice gets too gluey if you add the eggs to the rice. It's a personal preference so try it both ways.
Lastly, stir through the spring onions and season with soy and/or fish sauce. Serve with a garnish of cool cucumber slices, a wedge of lime and a scattering of coriander leaves. A little optional heat is also looked upon favourably, so a good chilli sauce or some chilli slices floating in vinegar are nice to have at the table.
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
There hasn't been much making going on around here. I did finally hand hem this absolutely stunning piece of silk and wool fabric and hung it on my wall.
The ombré effect is woven by the gradual mixing of opposing colours in a back layer and front layer of threads. The end product has incredible textural as well as colour changes and I really really love it. I bought it as fabric to sew but decided I liked looking at it so much I shouldn't sully it with wear. I'm so pleased with how it looks.
I'm finally free of my huge paperwork deadline so I'm also starting to think about upcoming craft camp. My head is actually totally exploding with possibilities since D returned from a recent work trip from Japan totally laden with textile joy.
After the enormous bounty he brought back last time I'm still well covered for yarn, so this time I provided him with directions to the Nani Iro studio. I wasn't more specific than that because D has really great instincts in the main and I like both surprises and the challenge of finding the perfect project for a piece of fabric.
Needless to say with this lot, there's more than a few projects to be imagined! Many of the pieces are very light, perfect for summer and I think everyone will be getting a Nani Iro something very soon! Also needless to say I feel extremely lucky and treasured.
I've been spending a bit of time thinking too about my workroom. As a workspace it's pretty dysfunctional and I find it really difficult to work out what to do about it. I know this is a common problem in working spaces and I think it comes down to some basic and difficult to avoid factors:
- Stash. I include here not just fabric and yarn, of which I have much, but also the materials and tools that go with it - buttons, threads, interfacings, ribbons, zips, knitting needles, patterns etc etc. I am kitted for a variety of crafts and while I totally admit to next bright shiny thing syndrome, it should also be said that a lot of my kit comes via gifts and hand me downs and while I might not need such, the chances of needing or wanting at some stage combined with the knowledge that 'getting rid' of said kit often equates to landfill it is really hard to say no. There's too much stuff, I know, but it just makes no sense to throw good stuff away. Good storage systems help but they aren't the total answer.
- Multi function space. Whatever I seem to be working on most in recent times seems like the most important function. The knitting machine space, the sewing space, the desk space, the layout space and the storage space are all competing for not enough space. To work effectively on all these things require different things - different heights, different proximities, different tools within reach, different accessibility. I'd like to streamline the spaces but they seem incompatable.
- Works in progress. I am not now, nor have I ever been an a to b type crafter. I do not decide on a project, procure materials, make said project then tidy up. At any one time there may be many many projects in various states of progress from simply the raw material of ideas right through to the thing that only needs a last button sewn on. My work table is always littered with scraps I can't part with (but have no place to store), pattern books ready to be used, new fabrics or yarn not ready to be tucked away into the stash, repairs and alterations needed for myself and others, tools without homes and the stuff from the last rush job I did and never cleaned up from.
The sheer repetition depresses me, especially since I know a workspace is a gift I should be forever grateful for. Why can't I solve this puzzle? Why does it get to me so? In other parts of my life I'm a pretty good shedder, but there's just something about the infinite possibilities of the kit that I can't give up on. I really like that without leaving the house I could knit a garment, sew bed linen, make a leather bag, print 100 T-shirts, make a couple of lampshades, bead up necklaces, make brooches, framed purses or one of 10,000 other projects. So how do I find a way to live immersed but not overwhelmed by the possibilities?