Like every summer, I am taking a break from doing the things I love but that are still work – so there will be no sending out of orders from the online shop , and there will be no blogging until the end of my summer break on August 12.

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Summer! Hanging out with friends! Doing fun stuff!

Just to dampen any feelings of jealousy or awe you might get now – I’ll not be on holidays for the whole time. Yes, I’d love that, but alas – a good chunk of the time is set aside to finally take care of some things that are never getting done in the day-to-day business-as-usual business, such as taking stock, trying to solve a few website problems, getting the shop software up to date again, working on some ad and info material, finishing a paper or two, and so on.

There will be a healthy chunk of doing nothing, too, though, and probably some additional ice cream, and there will be a bit of holidays and getting out and doing things that are purely fun.

So – have a lovely time, and I’ll see you back here on the blog on August 13!

Posted in and now for something completely different, work-related | 1 Comment

There’s been a hype (or something sort of like a hype) for knitting on big needles for a while, even extending to knitting huge, extra-thick blankets or rugs out of wool top (though why anyone would want such a dust-gathering blatant invitation to a moth infestation that is heavy and cannot be washed, totally eludes me). Now personally, I’m more a fan of small needles and small stitches, though I will make exceptions for nice lace patterns.

This, however, is pretty cool: A garden fence knitted in a lace pattern.

That, for me, would actually be a reason to take up fence poles (or curtain poles), dub them “knitting needles” and have a go. Luckily, we already have a fence, so there’s no ral temptation for me… but if you are a knitter with a garden and in need of a new fence, maybe it’s something for your next project?

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The V&A has a nice film with English subtitles on natural dyeing in Japan – which is well worth taking a look at just for the beautifully coloured silk fabrics moving in the wind right at the beginning of the video:

It’s good to see that natural dyes are re-discovered at different spots in our world!

Posted in textile techniques and tools | 3 Comments

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I like buttercream… though there is one thinkg that still eludes me, and that’s a good chocolate buttercream.

Basically, there’s a few different types of this stuff. There’s French buttercream, which uses egg yolks (whipped up into a froth), sugar, and butter as a base; Italian or Swiss buttercream, which use a kind of meringue fluff made from egg whites and sugar to mix with the butter, and the good old German buttercream, which is a base of custard (with or without egg added) that is beaten into the butter. (Theoretically there is also American buttercream, which is just butter and sugar.) All of them are nice (well, I never tried the American version, since the first thing I do is reduce sugar amounts, and that type won’t work anymore that way), all of them are water-in-fat emulsions, which means that there is a point where you cannot add more of the base to the butter, and I suspect all of them are both softened, texture-wise and stabilised, emulsion-wise, by sugar (which would explain why I sometimes have trouble with the amounts of custard per stick of butter given in a recipe where others don’t – one day I will try it. Possibly.).

This is what happens if you beat in too much of the watery base - even if you have enough emulsifying agents in there, you start to get pockets of the watery phase. Next step if you beat in even more: "curdling". Which means you need to have a bit more butter, and beat the curdled stuff into the butter, and all will be fine again.

This is what happens if you beat in too much of the watery base – even if you have enough emulsifying agents in there, you start to get pockets of the watery phase. Next step if you beat in even more: “curdling”. Which means you need to have a bit more butter, whip that nice and soft. Then beat the curdled stuff into the butter, and all will be fine again.

Now, my problem is this. If you make a ganache (a filling of cream and chocolate), it is very nicely chocolatey, but it’s also very solid. Combining that with a buttercream filling makes for a weird difference in texture that does not please me. So I thought I might solve the problem by making a chocolate buttercream instead, using a recipe I found for Swiss buttercream… and unfortunately, while it did taste very nice, it was just as hard and solid as the ganache. So not a winner either. (The recipe promised very high fluffyness, by the way, “like biting into a chocolate cloud”. Well, no. At least not here.) Now I have gotten around to try the good ol’ German style buttercream, which has you make a choc custard and then add that into the butter. The result had a pleasing texture, but a relatively mild taste that was somehow chocolatey but not really in-your-face-here-comes-chocolate-y, which is what I sort of hoped for or expected.

So… the search will go on. Maybe some French buttercream with chocolate in it next? Or a different recipe for the custard, making it more chocolatey? Hm.

If anyone here has a recipe for glorious, not-concrete-solid choc buttercream, by the way, please let me know!

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Our oven finally died last week… it was an old one, probably put into the kitchen when the house was built back in the 1970s. It was also a rather simple one, having only one setting: Convection fan on full. (Well, it could also turn on the “Grill”, which was full-on heat from the top to quickly brown things, or burn them, depending on how good you are at handling this, but that was it.)

So for about nine years, all I did with the oven was done in convection fan mode. When we moved in here, it was perfectly able to bake three large sheets of things perfectly at the same time. Recently, though (which means in the last two or three years), there were some colder spots here and there, and the dough was not perfectly done everywhere. Still good enough, though.

About half a year ago, we started thinking about thinking about a replacement, since the oven would clearly not last forever anymore… and then, last Wednesday, it died a quick and quiet death on a Biskuitrolle (Swiss roll is probably the best translation).

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So. Time for a new one… and we hope to make a good choice for one that will both do what it’s supposed to do, and do it for a long time. Though I am not expecting it to last as long as the old one, which must have been somewhere between about 40 and close to 50 years!

Posted in and now for something completely different | 4 Comments

A colleague of mine is doing PhD research about best practices in experimental archaeology and is looking for people belonging to a research or academic institution or carrying out independent activities.

So if you are a demonstrator, crafter, re-enactor, or professional who works with or in museums or other spaces, you could do my colleague a favour ahd help with her research by filling out the questionnaire here.

I’m curious to see what she will find out – we’ve had a long and spirited discussion a few years ago about the problems of experimental archaeology in open air museums, and the possibility or impossibility to run experiments involving the public. (I’m still convinced that an archaeological experiment, in about 99% of the cases, is not something that you can open up to the public and still run successfully.)

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The Making of the Dragon Chalkbag, continued:

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The fleece lining was finished off on top with a band to give it a proper rim, and to make a twist-closure possible. A magnetic clasp, covered with the last leftover bit from the original carrying strap, holds the closure in place.

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To round it all off, the little dragon got a loop beneath one paw to hold a brush…

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and a small clip hidden in the other one to hold on to papers, cards, or whatever might be there to hold on.

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And now he’s happy to take a ride in a bike pannier bag twice a week to hang out with his friend Ratthäus on the mats…

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…where he is getting a lot of attention!

(And makes it easy for me to find my husband if we’ve split up for a bit. Just look for the little dragon.)

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