When we last visited about weaving and sewing issues, I had managed to salvage some unintentionally felted wool into a vest.  But the original project was supposed to be a winter coat.  Around the Christmas break, after the vest was complete, I bought some terrific wool from my local fabric store to sew the coat that I needed.  This almost felt like handwoven.  I was literally picking out the vegetable matter from the fabric as I worked with it.  But I loved the warmth and drape of the fabric. And I chose a stunning, red, flannel-backed lining to add warmth to the coat.

I chose a Very Easy Vogue coat pattern to use and I had to think long and hard about whether to use the view with the hood.  But in the end, it was my walk to and from the parking lot of my job that sealed the deal.  The hood was a go.

Then I had to consider the buttonhole treatment.  I experimented with a variation on a bound buttonhole.

But after I purchased some terrific and rather large buttons, it was suggested that instead of buttonholes, I use large snaps.  It was a good decision.

I got the coat finished just in time for some pretty wicked winter weather.  My husband took this photo of me in the coat as the winds whipped around us one Saturday after shopping at Cleveland’s West Side Market.  The hood offers great protection against the cold winds.

When I add a knitted scarf, I’m nice and warm during a winter that’s been filled with ice, snow, rough winds and, as I write this post, temperatures that started off this morning in the single digits.

How many times have you heard the story that the face of Jesus appeared on someone’s grilled cheese sandwich?  Absurd, I know.  Twist it a little this way and a little that way and sure enough–with a lot of room for interpretation–there he is.

My story isn’t nearly so dramatic, but when I made a Chestnut Pear Soup from the Dorie Greenspan book last night, I poured in a little heavy cream for a lovely garnish.  Then my husband made a few sweeps with his spoon and had a delighted look on his face.

He turned it around to show the rest of the family and voila- there was the most amazing image of a mushroom (which is not part of the ingredients I might add).  He quickly whipped out his camera, took a shot for the record and then joined us for dinner.

Back in the fall, I joined an online group called French Fridays with Dorie where we cook through Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook Around My French Table.  I’ve been faithfully cooking the dishes designated for each month and enjoying it immensely.  Dorie is one of those cookbook authors who makes you feel like you have a friend in the kitchen.  She’s extremely generous with her readers both in her comments, suggestions, and detailed directions.

My co-worker, who loves food, bought Dorie’s book for her mother for Christmas and received one for herself after my effusive comments about my adventures.

Here’s the latest effort- Chicken B’Stilla (I think pronounced ba-stee-yah) which is a savory pie encased in phyllo dough. Now it’s not the prettiest version because I’m a complete newbie in working with phyllo dough, but it tasted pretty wonderful.

My husband and kids were suitably impressed and especially enjoyed the crunchy exterior.

I’ve never cooked through an entire cookbook before, but this online group is helping me get the most from this extraordinary treasure.

Goodness.  I’m embarrassed that it’s been so long since I visited with you. The holidays, work, and a variety of factors kept me away from Between the Threads for over a month.  But I’m back with some nice projects to show for it.

During October, I spent some time at the loom weaving up 5 yards of material from Harrisville Shetland Wool cones.  It was a very nice twill structure and I used some handspun for a contrast.

Then I decided to full the fabric as I prepared to make a coat.  I threw it into the washer on hot, just for a few minutes. And then…. uh, I got distracted by my daughter who “needed to talk.”  Let’s just say that when I ran frantically to the washing machine to pull the fabric, it was felted beyond belief.  It was toast!  The part with the purple handspun was thick enough to use for a horse blanket.  Weave structure- gone! The magenta part at the top of the picture brightened considerably, but shrunk significantly so that a coat was out of the question.

Time to make lemonade:)  I needed a new purpose.  The purple accent fabric was cut off, doubled over, and now makes a nice surface for pressing on my ironing board. Then I went to a workshop one night at my local, independent fabric shop.  It was all about working with wool.  I raised my hand.  “Anyone have any suggestions for a this?”  I told my story and got ideas for a vest.

I’m not a big vest person.  They tend to look boxy on my short body.  But with little else to use it for, I got a nice pattern from Kwik Sew and set about making a vest.

The first order of business was making something flattering out of a thick wool felt.  It was all about reducing bulk.  I spent hours carefully fitting the pattern with added darts in the front and back and using ideas from Sandra Betzina on working with boiled wool.  In this picture, you can see one of the back pieces.  I used a diamond shaped dart to create shape, but instead of cinching the fabric together like a traditional dart, I cut out all the fabric.

I did this because Sandra says it takes out all the bulk.  It worked beautifully when I pressed the edges together and zig-zagged the seam after backing it with fusible interfacing.

You can’t even see the seam on the right side of the vest.  The thread is buried in the felt.  It was a cool trick.

Well, I eventually finished the vest before the holidays by putting a nice lining in it.

And I wore it for Christmas, adding earrings and a pin my husband gave me that morning which he had picked out specifically for the vest.

Tim Gunn always says, “Make it work.”  I think, this time, I did.

Juggling each part of my life is a skill I’m learning quite well.  Fitting fiber into the daily circus is yet another challenge; but I would say it’s a necessary one. It provides me with satisfaction–making something beautiful hopefully, and it gives a focus beyond meals, children, and my day job.  Sometimes, the little projects keep things on an even keel.

I finished this little project last weekend.  It sat waiting for months and after my friend Annie got me back on track, I was able to finish it.

I’ve had a bag full of fiber in my closet for the longest time.  I finally grabbed three hanks and spun them individually before plying.  It was a combination of mohair, wool, and suri alpaca.  I thought I wanted to make socks, but the fabric was too dense.  Maybe a hat, but I’ll have to see.

I did manage to warp my loom a couple of weeks ago when I had two solid days to devote to it.  This week, I’ve carved out time to weave.  The fabric on the bottom is hand-spun as weft, the top half is the same yarn as the warp, creating more of a textural pattern.  I hope to use this fabric for a coat.

Finally, I am busy planning another weaving project.  One of my guilds is studying krokbragd.  So I’m trying to figure out the yarns for the project.  I often use my “Yarn Store in a Box” from Halcyon Yarns for planning because there are so many sample cards to work with.

So I may not be able to juggle like a circus clown, but I can juggle projects and other responsibilities like a pro– most of the time.  Until I drop the ball.

I woke up to the first real frost of the season this morning.  While the lawns all had that beautiful sparkly crust, I had to sigh at the thought of things to come.  It was time to bring out the cozy scarves and gloves.

One thing I like about this season is a return to the  kitchen and some great fall cooking.  I joined an online group called “French Fridays with Dorie” which is cooking through the entire new cookbook of Dorie Greenspan.  Dorie is a classically trained chef and James Beard award winner who has just published “Around My French Table.”  It’s a masterwork and everything I’ve cooked has turned out beautifully.  She really embraces the art of writing with clear directions and plenty of personal insight.  It’s “old school” in an age of sloppy cooking on the Food Network. Dorie is the real thing.

Here are a couple of pictures of dishes I made using her great directions.

In addition to the Mustard Tart and Shepherd’s Pie (Hachis Parmentier), I’ve managed to put together a roast chicken to die for, apple cake, and gougeres (cheese puff appetizers).

I found that joining this club is a great way to sample all Dorie’s work.  The recipes are chosen according to season and availability of ingredients.  What fun I’ve had, and my family is pretty happy too.  Viva la Dorie!

I’ve got one of her books and a DVD, but there’s nothing like meeting Judith MacKenzie face to face.  I had the wonderful good fortune to be invited to the home of a new friend last weekend, who just happens to be friends with Judith.  While she was visiting this woman, they decided to host a workshop on Wheel Mechanics and Spinning the Diameter of Yarn You Want.  It was that great combination of learning and good fun.

I have found over the years, that the best instructors are those who combine technical knowledge with good storytelling abilities.  Jacey Boggs has that quality and Judith has it in spades.  This woman has had a full and interesting life!  And she shares her tales with gusto.

So you walk away from her workshops needing time to process all her wonderful tips about the science and art of spinning while also smiling about her stories, adventures and passion for history and experience.

It was an amazing day and I will treasure it.