Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lankadontti's tweed yarn

"I may be a highly trained historian, but I am an amazing craftswoman!" And humble, of course. Regardless, I feel this is one of the best ways I express who I am. History and handicrafts entwined and even symbiotic. Of course historical crafts are a big part of this. I am pretty dedicated to the knowledge of declining craft skills, and textile crafts in my own case. While I am in principle all about a) doing crafts, b) learning crafts, c) teaching craft, d) preserving this valuable knowledge, and doing this in my own life, there are some aspects I am very much less interested in:

Dyeing. Spinning.

I feel guilty for just not being super interested in these vital aspects of textile-crafts. I would love to be able to summon the interest and energy to do natural dyes from wode, onion skins, or even synthetic dyeing, like using KoolAid. And while spinning is actually quite fun, I am so not up to plying... 

I know. Pathetic. 

I try to console myself with the knowledge that I do know how to do these, where to find information and even help, and I have done it. In a post-apocalyptic society, I will be able to process fibers from sheep to sweater. Less confidently flax to frock, but given some time, I can do it. And seeds. And sheep. How I would obtain these in post-apocalyptic America is of course a mystery...

The lovely Laura from Lankadontti and Sanavyyhti, has once again stepped in and inspired me! And challenged me to re-examine my lack of enthusiasm for spinning: She has this month published, as the part of her series "instructions of the month" (on Sanavyyhti), a wonderful guide to do-it-yourself tweed yarn (in Finnish)! Not only are the results fabulously beautiful, but she uses leftover yarn in a very interesting and creative way. She cards in snibbles of leftover yarn into washed and cleaned wool, and spins it by hand into amazing and varied yarn - tweed! What really caught my attention here is the variability and beauty of random leftovers, and the encouragement to see even the smallest snibbles as an opportunity for creativity and fiber filled joy and beauty.

Waste is always unwelcome, and creative uses for leftover yarns are a fora for imagination and playfulness, just like Sanna Vatanen's great patterns and ideas in Neulo. Virkaa. Kirjo. Jämälangasta! (Helsinki; WSOY) show us. I will add Laura's pattern to my pool of inspiration for what to do with my leftovers. In fact, I kind of want to go home and dig out the little snippets I threw away when finishing off my middle Nephew's socks the other day, or a pair of Owl Mitts! I thought: "These pieces are surely too small to use for anything, even in Sanna's book..." (Sanna is a friend of my sister's, and a godmother to one of my Nephews, so I take the liberty of calling her by her first name - name dropping!). Little did I know.... Never again (well, never say never, but you know what I mean) will little snippets be thrown away - no! I will start a special snibbly-wibbly ziplock bag when I get home, just for the eventuality that there may be some tweeding of yarn in my life.

Will I actually sit down and make my own delicious tweed yarn? Will I spin it? Ply it? Who knows. Maybe. As I sit here in the Blue Dog Café the Yale Hall of Graduate Studies, taking a break from revising my third Dissertation chapter, it seems simultaneously imminent and exciting, far off and impossible. But my sister has the tools to prep wool, and I may be spending some time in Finland some day not in the too improbable future. Perhaps if I get Enough Done (tm) on my Diss, Laura will come to our summer cottage with me and we will drink tea, chat, and make tweed yarn...

 This image belongs to Laura Hämäri at Sanavyyhti.

Addenda a couple of hours later:

Of course I have now, two pages of Diss having been miraculously produced, spent my break googling hand carders, like these offered by Webs. America's Yarn Store... If I had the money (insert tune from Fiddler on the Roof for If I was a Rich Man...)...

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Vårt land, vårt land, vårt fosterland,
ljud högt, o dyra ord!
Ej lyfts en höjd mot himlens rand,
ej sänks en dal, ej sköljs en strand,
mer älskad än vår bygd i nord,
än våra fäders jord!
Din blomning, sluten än i knopp,
Skall mogna ur sitt tvång;
Se, ur vår kärlek skall gå opp
Ditt ljus, din glans, din fröjd, ditt hopp.
Och högre klinga skall en gång
Vår fosterländska sång.

"Fänrik Ståhls Sägner" - "The Tales of Ensign Ståhl"
Johan Ludvig Runeberg

Johan Ludvig Runeberg died 100 years before my birth - who knew? Well, I probably learned it in elementary school... The stanzas above form the opening to the national romantic poem Fänrik Ståhls Sägner. In the 1840s the verses were put to music by Fredrik Pacius. This song is the national anthem of Finland. Traditionally the first verse is sung in Finnish, the second in the original language, Swedish. Swedish is the second official language of Finland. Runeberg was actually born in Sweden, but as the part of the country where he lived became the Grand Duchy of Finland after the Russo-Swedish war that ended with the peace of Fredrikshamn in 1809, he is considered Finnish. Oh, and the Grand Duke of Finland was the Czar of Russia - what we call a "personal union" in historian circles.

So, why am I rambling on and on and on about J.L. Runeberg? Well, partly out of patriotic whatschumacallit, but mainly because February 5th was the national day of our national poet, who is.... Runeberg!!! And of course the best thing about any national holiday is that it comes with a pastry! The Runebergstårta (Runeberg tart) is my favorite pastry in the whole world:
The Wikipedia article for the tart is not total crap, but it does not of course convey the deep emotive and sensorial love I have for this pastry. Now, the original ones are tall and comparatively narrow. We would hollow out the core and fill them with raspberry jam. Some day I will have proper Runeberg tart molds, but for now I am making due with muffin tins:

I still hollow out the center and fill it with raspberry jam, but now I no longer break off the bottom part and eat it from a bowl with milk. Now I eat it like an adult - with tea! And I moisten them with Amaretto, when I can. Amazing! 

I thought I would include the recipe, especially as it has some Family History. Which I may get wrong....

So, when Mother moved to Finland, my great aunt, aunt-Marita, took this poor foreign woman under her maternal wing. Moster Mita (as we said in Swedish) was this amazing woman who kept bees, had a great sense of humor, loved people, and was just all around as delightful an old lady as you could hope to be related to, or named after! She passed away when I was pretty young, but I have fond memories of her, and really wish I had had the opportunity to get to know her better. The summer cottage (tm, Finnish cultural institution beyond compare) that my family calls home was originally built by Moster Mita and her husband, Ivar. It is the center of the universe - did you not know? Anyway, Moster Mita gave Mother this recipe for Runeberg Tarts, and it is the best recipe, as far as I am concerned. This is corroborated by the evidence that several of my friends have asked me, myself, and I, for the recipe, selecting it above other available recipes. It is probably from some 1950s magazine or something, but whatever. 

I have doubled the recipe, because the original amount just makes me unhappy and leaves me unsatisfied. Yes, I LOVE this pastry!


2 eggs
2 dl sugar
2 dl whipping cream
1 dl almond meal (I grind my own here in the US)
250 gr butter, melted
4 dl bread crumbs 
3 dl graham flour
1 tsp baking powder

On top:
raspberry jam (I prefer seedless)
powederd sugar
punch, arrak, rum or amaretto

butter for greasing the molds

1. Beat the eggs and sugar frothy.
2. Mix the dry ingredients.
3. Melt the butter.
4. Mix the eggs and dry ingredients, then add the butter.
5. Whip the cream stiff, then fold into rest of dough.
6. Gloop into greased molds. The dough does not really change shape, rise or collapse. It makes ca 16 muffin bottoms. Do not pile high - you want a neat surface for the jam and icing!

7. Bake at 200 C (392 F) for 18-25 minutes.

8. Let cool. When they have cooled spoon out a dent of desired diameters with a teaspoon or apple corer. 
9. Moisten with alcohol of desire, to sogginess desired. I use Amaretto as it adds the almondiness. I sometimes dilute it with maybe a sixth of water, but sometimes not. Allow to soak in. Reapply if desired.
10. Fill the crater with raspberry jam.
11. Mix powdered sugar and water until a stiff icing is formed. You want it to be soft enough to melt into a uniform glaze, but still enough to keep its shape and not drip down the sides. 
12. Lie to people about how many you have so you don't have to share.

Smaklig kaffepaus!

Teacup brought to me as a 30th birthday present by "The Gels", and the plate is part of a tea set given as a wedding gift by soon-to-be-Dr. Nielsen.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stash Busting - This is Why...

In my last post I mentioned that I am not currently buying yarn until I have used up a significant amount of the yarn in my stash.  

Stash is what American knitters (or maybe English speaking knitters...)  use to denote the yarn they have collected/hoarded over the years. Stash busting is the effort to use/give away some of the yarn to make the stash smaller. For some of us (and you know who you are!) the stash is a problem of epic proportions - "Honey, I moved the plates from the kitchen cupbord to make space for my insert name of yarn here". For others it is a source of pride and personal joy.

Where do I fall in? Well... Somewhere in between. If I had space, It would not be a problem, but my Fuzzband and I live in a one bedroom apartment with very little storage space, and he has pretty bulky projects too (building speakers, hockey, fly tying...) When I used to work at Yarn on Whitney occasionally (summer of 2009) the owner was kind enough to extend the staff discount to me, and eventually when the store merged with the mother-store in Westville, I also got the amazing staff discount. So, I bought a TON of yarn, thinking I could now work with this stash and not buy yarn for a while. More or less true. In fact, now that I think of it - more true! 

The rule is: I only buy yarn if I need it to finish a project, the bulk of which is knit with stash yarn; or if somebody buys me the yarn to make something for them. For example, I plan to make another set of wedding gifts, and I will do the work and Fuzzband will buy the yarn. This kind of yarn does not get bought and lie around the flat. Hopefully. Or so I tell myself. So far, so good.

This is a nice and tame photo of the bulk of my stash. I took it out over the Holidays to make an inventory and enter some in to my stash on Ravelry. It looks pretty controlled and neat, no? When not in use it lives in three large bright orange buckets from Home Depot, ziplock bags in an amazingly fabulous and tacky Catholic Kitsch (tm) bag in the back of my closet. Odds and ends live in a zipper equipped bag one of our duvets came in.The hope is that these precautions will keep moths away....

However, the second photo here is a more accurate photograph - in context of the apartment. In this photo you can see the yarn, the tub, and 1/6 of our home.

My current challenge is to find items to knit with the amazing amount of lace weight fuzzy yarn I have. I have some ideas, and that is always good. And of course one idea is sometimes superseded by another, and another, and another ad infinitum...

I spent some time yesterday going through one of my Home Depot tubs and photographing the yarn so I have a visual attached to my stash list on Ravelry - planning purposes, you know. I got most of it up there! Over the next month I hope to have the other two tubs done as well. In the end I should have my stash on Ravelry, neatly organized, and easy to refer to when I take the time to think about stash busting. I have several yarns up there I have no photographs for, but this process should take care of that as well.

Are you a Raveller? Want to spy on me? You can find me under "maweisse" on Ravelry, but I think you have to be logged in for that link to work...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Alien for Paul


That was my reaction when my friend from UConn contacted me with a request to make this Amigurumi "Fat" Baby for his and his lovely wife's incubating offspring. She of course was gestating a baby, but what about him? An Alien? So he felt an alien needed to be produced from somewhere...

At the Yale/UConn working group monthly meetings we have bonded over the importance of doing stuff with our hands while listening to Scholarship. He doodles; I craft. He has seen me do mittens, socks, and who knows what! I was racking my brain what to make for the baby - whom I project-named  Gzezenoc (my all-time favorite name to suggest to ALL people with planned or unborn babies, pets, plants, cars...). Gzezenoc was a brother to an early medieval Breton saint whose name I have forgotten - obviously not as ultimately cool a name as Gzezenoc! Fabulous saints aside, I was delighted for this thought process over what to make for Little Gzezenoc to be interrrupted, down right taken away from me by the Proud Father serving this fabulously fun pattern on a proverbial silver platter. And a crochet pattern no less! I have not crocheted in For Ever (tm), so I was excited to try it. I crocheted this in two short evenings, and enjoyed every second.

I am theoretically not buying more yarn until I have used up a LOT if not most of my ridiculous stash, but the Proud Father offered to pay for the yarn (Patons), and indeed did: he bought me a vodka and cranberry in Storrs the other day. Excellent deal for me!

 One of my favorite things about the pattern were the fingers and toes - here the fingers shown thumb down. Of course, the alternation between various kinds of crochets - teeny, tall - is perfect for this.

Toes!!!! I kind of want to make a caterpillar just because I LOVE these toes!
Here the little Alien is with Little Paul, watching his sleep. No matter how cute the Alien is - Paul is cuter!

Photograph courtesy of the Proud Father.

On a sort of random note: I crocheted an Alien for a young man named Paul. One of my favorite Alien movies ever (the intertextuality of geekdom rules it from first minute to last!) is called Paul. I find this absolutely fabulous!