Sewing

On cold days and sourdough

Hello winter, I like your chickadees and tiny snowflakes. The trees are all dark criss-crossing lines now, as though all colour was whisked away in the night.

Friday seemed like the sort of day for falling asleep on the couch with a pile of books. I will admit to feeling a little trapped by snow falling on slippery sidewalks.

A modest, buttery proposal: let's have a cookie party. Gingersnaps, tassies, shortbread... get in touch with me if you want to help bake and put away much more than I can consume and make my house smell good.

Now let's talk art vs. craft. While it may seem like an age old debate, I believe it was, like so much today that is concerning, propelled by the industrial revolution. The shift from individual craftspeople making our every day objects to a mechanized, cheapened process not only gave us more uniformity and sometimes lower quality products, but created a shadow that still looms over craft today. We expect our utilitarian goods to be cheap, because after all, we can get them cheap. Art on the other hand, is just art for art's sake so it's okay if it's expensive. I agree that artists should get paid for what they do, but this vast canyon of separation between art for the wall and art that say lives in your kitchen and gets used every day (craft), that's just silly. Thanks.

This week I learned something new about sewing machine needles. Maybe everyone already knows, but I guess it didn't seem important to me until my machine started skipping stitches like crazy. There are three main types of needles: sharp, universal and ball-point, and then all the specialty needles. Sharp is designed for woven fabric and is particularly good for straight lines. Ball-point is for knit fabrics and universal is a combination of sharp and ball-point that will work on both knit and woven but not as ideally as sharp or ball-point. I've been sewing a lot of straight lines on woven fabric using universal needles; it's time to switch to sharp needles.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: does anyone, anyone at all in the Kootenay area want some rye sourdough starter? It's very nice; I started it myself last summer but can't quite keep up with it. Most recently, some of it went into a 66% sourdough rye bread with caraway, that very sadly got overbaked by about 15 minutes. The bread is good, but requires a strong hand with the bread knife. Next time I will check on it sooner... In the meantime, stollen with homemade marzipan should redeem the sourdough and my baking reputation quite nicely.

Outside on Saturday, the snow was melting off the roof in great slumps and dripping wildly in a way that could make spectacular icicles. The sun was shining in full force after illuminating pockets of snowy mountain, trees and glacier surrounded by heavy mist in the morning. I've been hoping for a clear, cold snowy day to photograph my newest teatowls on the clothesline before we move. Today could be such a day; it is beautiful out. Yes, we're moving in December and there are collections of empty boxes scattered around the house. I've agreed to try an alternative packing technique this time round, of packing all the important stuff first and sorting through what's left, culling. We have a few weeks crossover in both our houses so we can afford to do this, but the important things are still in use and I really can't bring myself to put anything in a box just yet. Hopefully I'll come around later this afternoon and at least pack the wineglasses and some dishes.

Yesterday morning, my boyfriend walked in the door with a KitchenAid mixer! Love, love, love him! Oooh there will be a lot of baking happening for him to sample.

66% Sourdough Rye

adapted from Jeffrey Hamelman's book "Bread"

Plan on this bread happening the day after you begin...

First, the starter (this requires a ripe sour)

3 1/2 cups (12.8 oz) medium rye flour (I used whole rye flour)

1 1/4 cups (10.2 oz) water

2 tbsp (0.6 oz) mature sourdough culture

Mix these and cover. Let sit to ripen for 14 to 16 hours at room temperature or 70° F. It will be a stiff dough. If you need to add more water, only add enough to hold it all together.

Then, the final dough

1 1/8 cups (8.3 oz) medium rye flour (again, I used whole rye flour)

2 1/2 cups (10.9 oz) high-gluten flour (I used white spelt, but certainly a bread flour helps with volume and structure)

1 3/4 cups (13.8 oz) water (not cold, maybe a coolish lukewarm, warmer if your house or your flour is cold)

1 tbsp (0.6 oz) salt

1 tsp (o.1 oz) instant dry yeast (this is different and superior to the little packets of active dry yeast, and contains about 2/3 more live cells so if you're using active dry then you'll want to use up to 3 times more and do that warm water thing. The instant can be added directly.)

1 lb 7 oz sourdough (all of above minus 2 tbsp)  (The 2 tbsp is for your ongoing sourdough culture to keep it going, though if you've already fed it then I think it's optional.)

Mix with a dough hook or knead... Maybe 2 1/2 minutes on 1st speed and 4-5 minutes on 2nd? I kneaded it by hand for at least ten minutes. When the dough is tugged, you should be able to feel a bit of gluten strength from the white flour, but the overall dough strength will not be much.

Cover, possibly in a clean, oiled bowl and let rest for 30 to 45 minutes.

Divide and shape into 2 loaves, then cover these and let ferment 50 to 60 minutes at 80° F.

Bake at 460°F for 15 minutes with normal steam (can be created by pouring cold water onto a hot pan on bottom rack, and/or mist the walls of the oven), then lower the oven temp. to 440°F (removing the steam pan at this point) and bake 30 to 40 minutes more.

Ideally, the baked bread should rest for up to 24 hours before slicing to improve its eating quality. (Sourdough rye bread is one of those things that, to a point, improves with time.)

A delicious blur of pastries and studio time

Friday morning deserves mentioning simply because it was the last day of my uninterrupted art month. It required strong Oso coffee and a breakfast bun made by the gorgeous Rew (toasted croissant, scrambled egg, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, melted cheddar and Antoinette's Salt Spring dip). I went down to the old brick building that was Ellison's grain mill and is now Ellison's Market, a general store for the health-foodie, gardener, pet owner and tea lover, to get cat kibble and vegetables. Usually I bring home a little food each day but working at home has meant the fridge running low, very low in between town days.

The rest of the day was a blur of silkscreening and sewing.

Oooh, I wish I could write that every day. The rest of the day was a blur of silkscreening and sewing. Yes.

I am happy to report there is a giant vat of walnut dye on my stovetop with a duvet cover transitioning through various shades of coffee over the weekend. With the lid on, it really smells okay.

Somehow during the afternoon I gained the audacity to finally print a few years worth of  "poetry" which will make its way onto a screen and then merge with the leaves and birds on my fabrics.

All in all, it was a successful last day to my art month. I have loved my freedom immensely and will seek out more in the spring. For now I'll squeeze my hemming and printing and various processing into the hidden moments between work and dinner and sleep.

Saturday was something else entirely. It was the birthday of wonderful Cor, and was fittingly devoted to baked goods. Wise girl that she is, she requested that all her guests bring pie. To start off the day on the right foot, I whipped up some raspberry peach chocolate muffins using a blend of prairie grown ancient grains, and coffee of course. Then I traipsed through the drizzly rain to Cor's house and we talked baking over some more coffee and then we made a sour cherry-black cherry pie and an apple cake, drank cherry juice and flipped through recipes. Then the pies and celebrators began to arrive and we feasted. True to style, it was a glorious spread. Particularly of note was Gavin's "Kootenay Lime Pie" which seemed to be a particularly excellent rendition of traditional key lime pie.

I think I've hit on a new technique for parents. You see, I ate nothing but baked goods all day and around seven o'clock was struck with a strong urge to eat salad. Hefty winter greens salad comprised of rainbow chard and lacatino kale, the kale "massaged" as I have been couseled (impatiently, however, so it was more of rough toussle). The intense greenness of the greens were balanced by sliced carrot, chopped roasted almonds and cubed rocky mountain cheddar. I like to make salad in my favorite metal mixing bowl, whisking the dressing in the bottom (olive and flax oils, crushed garlic, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, tamari, maple syrup, grainy mustard, tumeric, marjoram, poultry seasoning and pepper). When it's just me eating the salad, which it generally is around here, Jeremy's reaction to kale being to give it to the mice, I will sometimes (read: yesterday, often) eat it out of the giant silver bowl. I will say in my defense, that it's an excellent bowl, handy for not spilling salad when vigorously tossing it, also handy for washing dishes in, with the added benefit of chiming charmingly when clanged into something.

Snowday

We have one of those streetlights on our corner that turns on and off at the slightest provocation. This is all very amusing, but I was hoping to see the snow falling in its glow, and it extinguished as I crossed the room, leaving me to stare out into a pale snowy haze, for while it is certainly dark now, it never gets that dark in a snowstorm. So... back in the studio. I am sitting in it now. This is, in fact, the best studio I've ever had. Despite its lack of a sink and smallish size, it has a big window with a spectacular view, and is relatively warm.

Looks like people back home on the Islands are actually having a snow day. I just stayed home because I'm sick.

I have *actually* been making some stuff during this long absence (see, I was using my time wisely).

Here's what I've done:

lilac snowdrop  lilac snowdrop  lilac snowdrop, inside

I made a rough pattern from scraps, then put together a shoulder bag....

the easiest, coolest thing ever

My awesome boyfriend and I used my new printer to make wintergreen transfers. This is incredibly easy. All the tools are in the picture. Essentially, you paint wintergreen oil onto a freshly laser printed or photocopied page, which you have placed face down on some fabric, then rub the image with the back of a spoon until it transfers.

ready to print

I've been dyeing fabric this winter. I have numerous pots and buckets in varying stages of completion. This is quebracho, madder and lac. I got it ready to print on yesterday, but felt too ill to make it past the first layer.