Cranberry-Pistachio Cookies

First of all, proof positive that Bonnie Tarses takes better pictures of Kai than I do.

Secondly, I call the photo below “Bears don’t eat my garbage.” I live out in the boonies, surrounded by woods.  Last year we had a record four bears wandering our road, treating the garbage cans as their own personal buffet.  I like bears.  I understand that they were here first and have certain rights to the salmonberries and blackberries.  I do not, however, like picking up garbage every morning at 6am.  It’s just not a great start to my day.

Putting the trash cans in the garage isn’t a great option, either, as one neighbor found out when they stored the stinky remains of a salmon dinner in their garage.  A louvered garage door is not much challenge to a hungry 600-pound black bear.

An ecologically minded neighbor researched ‘bear-resistant” locking garbage cans, and came up with this brand as the winner.  Then she got an eco-grant to help offset the cost of folks in our neighborhood purchasing them (don’t I have great neighbors?)

Judging from the tipped over can and the claw marks, the score thus far:

Garbage can: 1
Bear: 0

trash can


On the weaving front, I am puzzling out a draft for my first summer-and-winter design on sixteen shafts.  (Actually, it’s my first-ever summer-and-winter project, but there were sixteen shafts on the new loom, so it seemed like I ought to use them.)  The way I’m going about it is slow, first entering the design into the peg-plan, and then adding the tie-down picks.   I’m sure there’s a better way, but at least I’m learning  how S&W works.

And finally, I’m not much of a cook, but occasionally I improvise something and like the results.  I’ve test-baked the following recipe twice and had it turn out tasty both times.  It’s my variant on oatmeal cookies.  I especially like the way the cranberries and pistachios look together.  Very colorful.  I call ’em “Cranberry-Pistachio Oatmeal Cookies.”


3/4 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup wheat flour
1-1/2 cup brown sugar
2 small eggs *
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp chai spices **
2 cups uncooked oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup hulled and chopped pistachio nuts

  1. Beat butter for 30 seconds.
  2. Add all-purpose flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, and chai spices.  Mix thoroughly.
  3. Add wheat flour.  Mix thoroughly.
  4. Add oats and mix.  Check whether the texture will hold together for cookies.  If mixture is too wet, add flour.  If too dry, add water or part of another egg.
  5. Stir in pistachios and cranberries.
  6. Form into pancake-shaped cookies and drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  7. Cook in a 375-degree (F) oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

If you make a big batch, they freeze beautifully.

*My eggs come from my neighbor’s chickens, so they’re smaller than grocery-store eggs.  This is probably the equivalent of one large commercial egg.

** I use Trikona-brand “Chai Masala” that I buy in the international district in Seattle.  It’s traditionally used as the spices in Indian-style chai.  Its ingredients are listed as ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, clove, and mustard.  So if you have to improvise, that’s a starting point.

Spin Me Right Around

I don’t know whether it’s the influence of the spinning book and DVD recently reviewed on the site, or the Eastside Spinnersguild, but I’ve become obsessed with spinning again.  Specifically, on my charka.

It’s a Bosworth book charka, and I haven’t spun on it in about four years.  But when I was picking a wheel to take to the spin-in this past Saturday, it was the one I grabbed.

It’s ultra-portable, and since Kai was going with me (part of a plan to give Eric extra writing time to finish up his latest novel) I figured the less gear I was taking with me, the better.

I had forgotten how fun it is to spin cotton.  You cradle the fiber as gently as you would a newborn baby bird, pull back and let the twist pull the fibers into a line, then pinch the end and pull to attenuate, putting in tons of twist.

Watching the yarn even out in this last step of the long draw is somewhat magical: lumps and bumps drift apart and become smooth.  At the end (if you do it right) you have an even and super-fine yarn.

Living out in the boonies, I don’t often get the chance to socialize live and in-person with fiber folk.  So it was a treat to hang out with a lively and interesting group of spinners.  (That’s only half of them, the whole group is twice as fabulous.)

Kai eventually got bored with helping turn the charka’s wheel, and so I gave him my cell phone and he wandered around taking pictures of things he found interesting.  Which is why this post has pictures (I was too busy spinning to take any) and why they’re all from a four-foot-tall perspective, in case you were wondering…




His definition of what was interesting at the coffee shop went beyond mere fiber.

And speaking of things that spin right around (say at about 1000 miles per hour) Happy Earth Day!

I’m off to celebrate by spinning some lovely organic cotton.

Indoor Rainbows and Teaching

Hand-painting yarn is one of those things that never ceases to delight me.  Perhaps I’m just easily entertained, but every time I open up a hand-painted skein or warp, I get a jolt of surprise and delight.  The colors I selected have merged and combined in exciting and often  unanticipated ways.

There are so many variables in hand-painting that you have to let go of expectations.  The color is affected by how much dye you put on, how hard you press, how far you take the color, which colors you place next to each other, how the heating migrates the dye.  Even a normally  scientific dyer like me has to give in to the whims of fate when hand-painting yarn.

When I put the yarn into my dye microwave I never know exactly what I’m going to pull out.

drying yarn

I dyed the skeins above for a beginning rigid-heddle class I taught in Seattle recently.

When I teach—especially plain-weave projects—I like to give the students beautiful yarn to weave with.  To keep materials fees low, I buy worsted weight wool in bulk, with as much merino content as I can get for a reasonable price, and dye it myself.

I always dye more skeins than I have students, using in a variety of colorways.  That way there’s something for everyone.  I’ve also found that starting a class by giving each student beautiful yarn that you hand-painted yourself really gets things off on the right foot.

As I’m writing this, the class has happened and several of these skeins above have been transformed into someone’s first handwoven project.  I can’t imagine a better destiny for yarn.

Looking at these smiles, I’d guess the students agree…


Happy Weaving!

Surprisingly Satisfying Results from Humble Origins

This past weekend I cleaned up my studio.  It had gotten into such a state that it was hampering creativity.  So I packed up some gear to sell on ebay, carted off some yarn to a charity yarn drive, and in general tried to apply the idea “if you haven’t used it in a year, it should go.”

One of the things I had acquired and not gotten around to using was a made-for-kids screen printing kit.  My orthodontist gives out “good patient” tokens if you wear your retainer, show up on time for appointments, etc.  This was put in place no doubt to inspire the kids and teens she normally deals with.  But ya know, some of the toys in the rewards cabinet were pretty darn cool, and she agreed that an adult could earn tokens if they wished.

Kai was the lucky recipient of most of my orthodontic booty, but when I cashed in my last tokens on the day my braces came off, I “bought” the screen printing kit for myself.

And it sat on the top shelf for six months.  Twice I almost used it as an emergency present for a kid’s birthday party, but each time my inner eight-year-old put her foot down and I kept it for myself.

This week is Kai’s spring break.  And we have a lot of hours in the day to fill together.  So with the idea of using what I’ve got and having fun, I pulled it down off the top shelf and just dove in.  No plan, no project, no goal in mind other than using this kit up.

It was entirely as cheezy as you’d imagine from the package.  Everything was made of plastic or foam.  Designs were precut stencils in girly themes of flowers and hearts.  The screen was a loose mesh that degraded quickly and was only held in place at the top and bottom, which mean that you had to fiddle with it constantly to keep it taut.

I’ve taken screen-printing classes at college, and briefly in my twenties designed and sold T-shirts.  (In my twenties, I made and tried to sell a lot of stuff.  Once I even anodized aluminum using a car battery so I could dye it and make electric-blue chainmail.)

Anyway, I recognized this kit as a cheaply made thing that would quickly convince any reasonable child that screen printing was a pain and a bother. Which was exactly Kai’s reaction.  He got one perfect print, then a whole bunch of smeary ones, got frustrated and called it a day.  (He talked me into cutting up the pillowcase with his one perfect print and sewing it into a treasures bag, so the experience wasn’t a total loss from his point of view.)

Me, I was entranced.  There was one design among the hearts and flowers that Kai and I both gasped when we saw it.  A pattern of stars and spirals.  We’re big into stars and spirals around here.  That was the only design we used all day.

Because I didn’t have a plan, or any expectations, I started goofing around and mixing up colors when I did a print.

The way the colors merged together during the printing reminded me of a painted warp.  So I set aside the pillowcase I’d been experimenting on, and ran to my studio to grab up some painted-warp cloth I’d woven a while ago and never gotten around to making anything with.

I didn’t give myself time to think “but this is my precious handwoven, what if I muck it up?” I just dove in and started screening on top of it.  (Channeling my inner Mollie Freeman, who does some beautiful embellishments on top of her handwovens.)

And you know what, the handpainted, handwoven cloth was the perfect background.  The two layers of merging colors spoke volumes to each other, and also served to hide any irregular borders in the printing.

If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see that one star didn’t fill in, and the borders smeared a little, but that the overall affect is still gorgeous!

Printing a block design on top of the cloth brought out a whole new dimension in it, and has me excited about making something out of it.  A jacket?  A tote bag?  I don’t know, but it’s to lovely now to sit in a drawer.

I even used a tip from Mollie Freeman and carried the printing off the edge of the cloth so the design wouldn’t seem crowded around the middle of the fabric.

(For Twitter followers, the tarantula that was field-stripped and fixed is in the upper-left of the picture above.)

I had so much fun, I printed the whole seven yards.

(Coming home from a trip and finding this drying in the kitchen is why Eric often wins the “my wife’s weirder than yours” talks around the office water cooler.)

I used up all the ink, completing my only goal of using up the toy so I could get rid of it.  But dang, I had so much fun, I might have to see if they’ll sell me a refill pack!

Huzzah for not overthinking and just going with it.  Sometimes diving in without a plan (or expectations) is exactly the right thing to do.

Triva note: I just realized that the fabric I printed on in this post is the same fabric I photographed for the WeaveZine header.  I guess that’s appropriate.  WeaveZine gets a new look, and so does the textile!  I may just have to make myself a WeaveZine-themed jacket.  Wouldn’t that be fun to wear to a conference?

Spring Cleaning

First of all, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who left an appreciative comment on the last post.

Kai was pretty chuffed with himself after I blogged about his work.  He’d heard me talk about how WeaveZine is read by people all over the world, and immediately made the leap that this meant he was now an internationally acclaimed artist.  His comment right after I posted it and read it to him: “Finally, the recognition I deserve!”

(It is possible that being the child of two writers/artists has affected his world view a bit.)

For the next few days, as comments came in, I would call him over to the computer and read them to him.  And he was tickled and delighted.  He was one happy five-year-old boy.

Which brings me to the next point.  There were some comments I didn’t read to him.

When you’re reading something on the internet, or posting something on a website, it can be easy to forget that there are real, live, people behind the content.

It’s also really easy (and many a flame war has been inadvertantly started by this) to write something in email or a comment where your intention isn’t 100% clear and without the context of body language and vocal tone, can be misinterpreted.

When you’re writing a comment on this site, please be respectful.  You don’t have to agree with the content.  In fact, feel free to dissent and explain your reasoning.  We might all learn something new.  All I ask is that you think about how you’re saying it.  I want WeaveZine to be a place that folks feel safe sharing their work, whether that person is an established artist who’s been weaving for forty years, or a five-year-old boy.

(And seriously, the little guy is picking up reading at a frightening pace, and I may not be able to gloss over things in the future.  ;> )

Here was something I saw in my window this morning that seemed like the ultimate embodiment of hope.

It’s a cutting I took from my neighbor’s hibiscus plant.  I stuck it in some rooting gel about six months ago and basically forgot about it, occasionally throwing in some water as the gel was absorbed by the plant.  Somehow this little twig, with only two tiny roots, found the fortitude to create a bud and then flower.

The snow melted, I can see grass.

Could this be spring?