Monday, August 24, 2009


The weaving post I had intended for today is not quite ready, but last evening's garden walk suggested another theme. Our raspberry bushes are producing a modest crop, enough to put on our cereal or ice cream, or, best of all, just pop the little nuggets right in your mouth. Last night's berries looked so exquisite in the bowl, I just had to snap a picture.

Then, as I was walking back from the dock with berries and camera still in hand, the Giant Burgundy Cockscomb waved me over and had their picture taken too. Their sumptuous, velvety red seemed a perfect partner for the raspberries. This particular type of cockscomb is often nicknamed the Brain because of its convoluted shape. Mine are still maturing so I'm hoping they get brainier!

The other item I harvested from the garden was Red Burgundy Okra. Now I'm not a fan of slimy okra dishes but when I saw these plants in bloom last year up at the Seed Savers Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa, I had to give this okra a spot in the garden. These are handsome plants with attractive flowers. And what's better, I've found that the fruits taste pretty darn good, and not one bit slimy, if dipped in egg, dredged in seasoned cornmeal, and fried in a bit of canola oil. The deep red candle-like shapes are also fun to arrange in various poses ...

I have to sneak a bit of weaving into today's post, so here's a runner I wove in 2007 that fits in with my red theme. This is a very old tied overshot pattern named La Belle Creole. My source for the draft was Mary Meigs Atwater's Recipe Book. The warp is 20/2 perle cotton, set at 30 ends per inch. The pattern weft is 10/2 perle cotton. Don't look at all those geometric shapes too long or your eyes will start to cross!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Tomato Post

It's true. They overwhelmed me, took over the kitchen, and demanded their moment of glory.... the tomatoes, that is. So here is a tribute to our 2009 crop of tomatoes. If you don't relish the summer love apples, you'd better not read on. But many of us spend 8 or 9 months of the year anticipating the arrival of the bona fide, juice-squirting-in-your-mouth item. 'Round about mid-June or early July, many local gardeners, myself included, start to see these orbs forming on our tomato plants.

Then days and weeks drag by, until finally the warm days and nights work their magic, and the tomatoes start to look like this.

Finally all is well! We have lovely, tasty tomatoes to enjoy with any meal we choose. Bruschetta topped with cherry tomatoes - yum! Pasta a la Caprese - you bet! Pizza with tomato slices, fresh garlic and herbs - bring it on! We laugh scornfully at those sorry supermarket globes masquerading as tomatoes.

And then one day, I look around the kitchen and all I can see on every flat surface is this.

That's when my delight morphs into panic. What to do with all these tomatoes before they get overripe and - horrors! - have to be thrown out. Some we give away to gardenless friends and neighbors. Some years I can the surplus. This year I've been slow-roasting them with garlic, fresh basil and a bit of olive oil. This marvelous concoction, the essential tomato goodness, can be frozen and pulled out deep in winter for pasta sauce, pizza, and much more. Tasting those roasted tomatoes makes summer bloom in your mouth for a few minutes, even on a sullen January day.

So here's to ya, my tomato lovelies - the Sweet 100s cherry tomatoes, the Jaune Flammes, the Orange Bananas, the San Marzanos, and the Aunt Ginny's Purples - all heirloom varieties obtained from members of the Seed Savers Exchange across the country.

I have a favorite memory of chatting with my Dad about the virtues of gardens, and tomatoes in particular. I quoted a phrase from a country and western song I'd heard on the radio. My Dad immediately knew the song and the artist. That tune and that memory always surface at this time of year. It's a song by Guy Clark. Here's the chorus:

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love and homegrown tomatoes.

On a muggy August day in Missouri, that about sums it up for me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weavers of the 21st Century

I learned to weave when I was in my late twenties. With that first project, a sampler, I was hooked. I couldn't get enough of throwing a shuttle across a warp and watching cloth - handwoven cloth - grow before me. That was over thirty years ago. In that time, I've always had a project in progress on a loom, and my enthusiasm has never diminished.

For the past twenty some years, I've been fortunate enough to share my weaving obsession by teaching weaving classes at Access Arts in Columbia, MO. In addition to several adult classes, I teach a children's class once a week. Today I'd like to shine a spotlight on my young weavers. Anyone who wants a definition of enthusiastic weavers should visit this class. All the children in this class arrive eager and ready to sit down at their looms and get busy. They spend an hour and a half weaving and chatting with one another. They may not be aware of it, but they are reinforcing skills that support what they are learning in school: doing math problems, reading a pattern, remembering a sequence, developing fine motor skills, making decisions on color and design .... And they're having a good time at it!

When I was a kid back in the middle of the 20th century, I wove on one of the ubiquitous potholder looms. While I thought it was great fun to mix and match all those colored loopers and see how the colors worked - or didn't - together, I sometimes wonder how I would have liked the more complex and versatile looms my students weave on. In my heart of hearts, I hope that at least a few of the children who have passed through my classes will continue weaving as adults and that weaving will find a niche in their creative spirits to enrich their lives as it has mine.

In the meantime, here's a gallery of Weavers of the 21st Century in action.

E working on her table runner:

C weaving pillow fabric:

O concentrating hard on her pattern:

A weaving kitchen towels:

A weaving fabric for treasure bags:

M working on her first project:

E proudly posing with her pillow:

Weave on, kids. Help me pass this shuttle along to the next generation.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's a Good Day When ....

... the number of zucchini I gave away is greater than the number of zucchini I picked.

Have a good weekend!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Whoo's There?

Several years ago I designed a weaving pattern inspired by an Irish tune I was learning at the time. Because this pattern was created for my Megado dobby loom, it is a multishaft threading that has the potential for lots of variations. As I played around with some of these pattern possibilities, one variation seemed to resemble many little owls looking out at me from the cloth. After washing the fabric, the owls were even more apparent. I was delighted with the serendipitous little birds and wove quite a few towels in that pattern. Of course, after a couple of warps using that threading for the owls and more, I moved on to other projects, but I knew I would have to invite the owls back to roost in my loom again sometime.

Well, they're back and as cute as ever. For this warp, I used 8/2 unmercerized cotton yarns in 6 pale earth tones arranged randomly across the warp. The sett is 24 ends per inch. (For you non-weavers, sett means how many threads are in one inch of a warp.) The weft yarns I've used so far are 8/2 cotton and 8/2 tencel in darker earth tones. Here's a close-up of some of the owls looking at you. Above the woven fabric you can see the warp colors.

The woven cloth from this project will become towels, breadcloths, and treasure bags. I put 13 yards of warp on my loom and have lots of weaving ahead of me. In addition to the owlets, I'll use some of the other pattern variations for this threading and perhaps discover some new ones. One of the variations I'll use is the original pattern I created for that Irish tune. But that's a post for another day.