Thursday, November 7, 2013

Meet Weavie & new scarves.

The Little Dudes exhibition and auction happened this last weekend in Berlin and it was a huge success. Thanks to the dedication and hard work of the organizers many little dudes have now found new homes and at the same time helped those most in need by donating the funds of their sales to charities. I am happy to know that Weavie has found herself a new home. She was very happy here in Meimão as you can see. She loved climbing trees. But I am sure she is probably very happy for the change of scenery. If you want to help you can still adopt a little dude and help save the world at the same time. On the Little Dudes page you can see all the little dudes that are still looking for a new home. Help support this great cause. 

Meanwhile, there are four, yes FOUR, new, NEW, scarves for sale online at the EsquiloHandmade shop. Go and have a look and see if there is anything that you like. You can also custom order, just get in touch with me and we can have a chat about it. These scarves are 60 euros each and they are on average 30cm wide by 2 metres long, all handwoven on a rigid heddle loom using 100% Portuguese pure new wool. Remember everything in this world is negotiable. Make me an offer I can´t refuse ;-).

This weekend it is tradition to eat chestnuts and drink Jeropiga, a drink made essentially from grape must to which is added aguardente (firewater) to stop the fermentation. Magusto, as this celebration is called, honors the coming of Autumn and the day of São Martinho. According to legend São Martinho was a Roman soldier returning home on horseback in the middle of a storm. He came across a beggar who was cold and half naked and he took off his cloak, cut it in half with his spade and offered it to him. Later along his long journey he came across another man that was asking for his help and again he gave, this time, the remaining half of his cape, continuing on his travels at the mercy of the weather. Suddenly the storm stopped and the skies cleared, the sun came out as if by miracle. This good weather lasted for at least three days. I suppose it was enough time for him to get home. Every year, around this time, there are a few days of unusually good weather, what we call the São Martinho Summer. The weather prevision for this weekend of the 9th of November is clear, sunny and an average of 14 degrees celcius. Not bad.

If you are near Guarda and want to celebrate the Magusto with us you can visit the lovely town of Vila Soeiro on sunday the 10th for a seed meet and swap and some Jeropiga and chestnuts. 

I leave you with some delicacies. Three jars of Quince, lactarius deliciosus mushroom and cardamon pod jam. I kind of went a little nuts because we have so many mushrooms at the moment and I wanted to see how they worked in a jam. It is delicious. Equally as delicious are the berries of the strawberry tree, which I guess I´ll turn into some jam as well. If I had enough of these berries and some time to spare I could ferment and distill them to make the smoothest, tastiest firewater. Maybe next year. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Little Dude left & Autumn arrived.

My Little Dude is finally finished and is on her way to Berlin to join the other little dudes. I hope she makes it in one piece, I am afraid I may not have packed her with the super extra care required. Fingers crossed. You can see the beginning of her woven coat and a close up of the finished outfit. I can´t show you her complete, you´ll just have to check out the Little Dudes site for updates or go to the exhibition if you happen to be in Berlin from the 1st to the 3rd of November ;-).

I am as curious as this sheep looks to start weaving according to the Saori way. This was my first attempt at a scarf that follows the Saori Philosophy. A way where mistakes are valued and creativity encouraged as a zen way to self discovery. It is not easy to let go of our ideas of what is "right" , "perfect" or "technically correct". I really enjoyed making this scarf and am happy to be able to tell those I have shown it that point out mistakes that it is supposed to be that way. The idea is to create something no machine could replicate. I have a long way to go yet.

With the arrival of Autumn came gifts of pears. So then there was also pear jam to make.

A trip to the fields reminded me of the sea. The closest thing we have here to waves are the grasses that are caught in the wind and get swirled about. It is beautiful. A trip to Peniche was well deserved and refreshing and there I found fish drying in the sun, with the same golden pale yellow colours as the dried grasses back home.

Mushrooms, mushrooms... picking mushrooms has to be the funnest thing to do. Yesterday I found these underneath the chestnut trees. I believe they are Boletus Aereus an excellent edible mushroom with firm flesh. This little family weighs more than one kilo and will make quite a meal. That said I am still waiting to hear from a friend who is an expert on identifying and picking mushrooms before I go ahead and eat them.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Little Dude is taking shape

I started making my little dude. He is still missing his ears. As promised I´ll show you updates on how he develops. Next step is to glue him together and then I will weave around him. He will be nice and warm in his new little outfit. If you want to find out more about this great project or to find out how you can be involved, go to this site:

On the weaving front, I have finished my black and gold houndstooth patterned scarf. Here you can see the beginning of it, but I´ll show you the finished project some other time. Today I´ll finish setting up the loom with another scarf of the same weave pattern but using green and blue wool. Seems to be a good colour combination.

On the farm front, we have more apples than I know what to do with. I have made so much jam, apple and ginger, apple and wild blackberry, apple and cinnamon, apple and apple... And there are still enough apples to make more than double that again. Not to worry... all the apples and apple bits that are left over are being donated to at least 4 not so little but very happy pigs in town that suspect nothing of the sad fate that awaits them. I´ll give you a little clue... chouriço.

The sunflowers have given us plenty of seeds. They look pretty. I am not sure what to do with them except to save them for sowing next year. And Autumn is here which means soon I will be helping with the grape harvest and as soon as it starts to rain there will be plenty of mushrooms to pick again. Is it just me or does it feel like this year has evaporated?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Corn & Loom Socks

As I am sure you will agree, corn has such a wonderful golden colour. The dark variety you see however is blue hopi and it is a deep blue almost black. This year we were just interested in seeing which plants were best suited to our environment so that next year we can sew just those varieties. I was also looking for the corn with the smaller grains so that we could feed them to the chickens, but they are just going to have to leave fuss aside and eat all grains, big and small. Needless to say we will not hear any complaints.

The varieties that came out winning were the blue hopi, 2 local varieties and one that came labelled "Nuno Tejo". You can also see from the beautiful varied weirdness of our corn that some major cross pollination took place, as was expected seeing as they were all growing so close together and the very fine corn pollen can drift considerable distances in favorable conditions. Another drifting agent we had to contend with were the birds that enjoyed half our crop right before our eyes, dodging the hanging super reflective CDs and even a tiny wind mill with propellers shaped like little baby animal cartoon faces. Very scary... but not for the birds who are busy storing their grains for winter... many sadly forgetting where they so carefully hid them.

I am not starting to prepare for the winter, but I started again working on making socks. I say starting again because it can take me a long time to make a pair and if my warmth depended on it I would have frozen two winters ago. The sock loom is really easy to use and the heel and toe are just as easy to make as the rest. I have a Kb sock loom. It is adjustable so you can make different size socks, the foot that is, because the length of the leg can be as long as you desire. The wool I have been using is from Germany and is proper for making socks, it is Crazy Zauberball by Schoppel Wolle and it is 75% pure wool. The wool you use to make socks needs to have a very high content of pure wool otherwise the sock has very little elasticity, you will even feel how much harder it is to work with acrylic on the sock loom, it just does not give.

Last year I also started making a sock with 5 needles, but this has not gone as well or as quickly as expected and it is normally the first project to be put to the side. Just today I considered giving up on it and using the wool on the loom instead. I envy the ladies in town that make a pair of socks in a day and say that they used to make them much faster but that now they cannot see so well. I wish.

Ps. I won a prize in the sweets competition in the town´s festival. I came third almost by default, with a beetroot and chocolate cake. I won something because there were only 4 cakes in the competition, one of the entries was an apple tart and one of the jury did not like apple and so did not even try it. I won a toaster and would have seriously still preferred a truck load of manure. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Little Dudes 2013

Dear little dudes and dudettes,
I am happy to inform you that I have been invited to collaborate on this wonderful Berlin based project. Yes! I am going to make a dude. And you can make one too! All the information you need you can find on the little dudes site. There will be an exhibition with all the little dudes and also a book that will be launched on the opening night with the little creations. You just need to download the template and be creative. I will show you the progress of my little dude over the next month, little sneak peaks here and there. It will be super fun.

Should I weave him a poncho or make him a patchwork eye patch? Or both? Only time will tell.

So what are you waiting for? Get creative! Create a little dude. :-)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Hexagon patches and wind chimes.

I have embarked on a long journey. I started making patches for a quilt using hexagon blocks. It will be a hand pieced project and I have estimated that I may need a little over a thousand pieces. At this moment in time I have managed to make about 30 patches, so I clearly have a very long way to go. I decided to use my african fabrics. I had a lot of small left over pieces and figured this project was the perfect way to put them to good use. Of course I will need quite a bit of fabric for this quilt and so I have my pile of fabrics out and ready to go. I estimate that at this rate, if I worked on nothing else but making the hexagon patches I would have all the pieces I need in one month. But then I would still have to piece them all together, which I supposed would easily take up another month of solid work. and even then that would just be the front of the quilt finished. Perhaps this time next year I might have a hexagon patch quilt..

I have also started to get the wool ready to make a jacket. I am still very keen on the idea of making a ´bog´ jacket or a variation of it. You can read more about this kind of jacket here. A friend of ours Kent and his lovely parents came to visit us this week. I was very happy to learn that Kent knits. I gave him some burgundy, white and blue wool and he is going to make me a pair of mittens and a pair of knee high socks. I can´t wait to see what he comes up with. We have not figured out an exchange yet but surely it will be something woven, a bog jacket, who knows.

The rest of the week was spent making wind chimes to cheer up the garden and hopefully distract sneaky hungry birds from eating our corn and sunflower seeds. I hope that of course it does not have the opposite effect. I also took this opportunity to make the garden a little brighter and added some coloured strips of fabric. The town of Meimão is throwing its annual party next week so I may as well start getting into party mode. There will also be a cake contest and I am keen to enter it. I have not decided what cake to make yet. Perhaps the watercress cake would go down well, or maybe a zucchini or a beetroot cake just to use something seasonal. I hope I can make a winning cake. The prizes, if last year is anything to go by, are rather appealing as I am sure you will agree. The first prize may well be a whole leg of prosciutto or some cured meats like chouriço. If I am lucky I will get the second prize which could very well be some kind of blender, although a food processor would come in quite handy since I broke the one I borrowed trying to make nettle pesto. Even a small truck load of manure would be an excellent prize, perhaps I could suggest it to the organizing committee. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blue and Green

Maria and Thorbjorn came to visit. Maria fell in love with a blue and green scarf. She loves this color combination. And so this little scarf went off to Denmark with Maria to keep her warm come winter time.

I also like the blue and green combination and realized my long awaited trip to Lagos was on the cards. Perfect blue sky and crystal clear green water. By pure and magic coincidence my friend Filipe was sailing through with his dad on their boat, called "Mil Milhas", on their way from Peniche to Alvor. They invited me for a sail. I could not refuse. It was brilliant and served as much needed refreshing inspiration.

Curiously when I get back to the studio I plan on weaving a red "bog jacket". Go figure.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bag, berries, beets.

The last couple of weeks were spent making the most of what I had most of. I had cherries of the sweet and sour varieties, red currants and gooseberries. The sweet cherries were preserved in jars with sugar water. The sour cherries I used to make a liquor we call Ginjinha. To make Ginjinha you need sour cherries, sugar, cinnamon stick and the magic ingredient is Aguardente, which is "Firewater" distilled in this case from the seeds and skins left over from the wine making process. It is strong. As it turns out the best Aguardente in town is made by a lady, Laura, who gave me 2 bottles of the fiery liquid for the purpose and in exchange as a thank you I gave her a draw string bag. I think I was better served with this swap. The Ginjinha will be ready for drinking one year from now. 

I also made jam with the few gooseberries I had and got just one jar. The less is more maxim I am sure can also be applied to this situation. At least this way I will not get sick of eating the stuff. The red currants I made into jelly, but I think that it turned out a little runny. It is delicious, nonetheless, and good to eat with yoghurt or spread on roast meat or with peanut butter and cheese... yum!

The seedlings I pleaded to grow back in March have soared to towering heights. I present you the first sunflower in bloom. To make us all a little happier.

And beetroots that were grown from seed are also rewarding me now with delicious and beautifully vibrant treats. My friend Ben who came to visit cooked up a storm and made the tastiest lemony and limy beets I have ever tasted.