Monday, May 11, 2015

Making the Chocolate No-bake tart

I saw a video on Facebook that several of my friends had posted, so I thought I would try my hand at making it.

(Here's the link: )

It seems fairly easy on the video and, in fact, it was. I had some problems with the mechanics of the recipe, though. I think I may need look into making more tarts. I've never understood the difference between a tart and a pie, really.

I went out this weekend and bought a tart pan because, although I had a springform pan, I didn't have a tart pan. The tart pan I bought has a removeable bottom, and straight-ish fluted sides. It's red. It's not like the one in the video, which is rectangular. I'd never seen a rectangular tart pan before. I looked online at the department stores in my area for a rectangular one, but there were none in stock. Most stores only offered one or two tart pan options and all of those were round. I wanted to make the thing this past weekend, so ordering it from someplace was right out.

The filling is a basic ganache (you pour hot cream over chocolate bits, let sit for a minute, stir/whisk to combine, and that's it.). The recipe called for about a 1:1 ratio on the chocolate to cream (1 cup each). Some comments on the recipe stated a problem with the filling not setting up. I looked up the ratio for ganaches, and increased the amount of chocolate to about a 2:1, instead. No problems with it setting up. I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips, the 60% cacao ones...the recipe advocated a 70 to 73% cacao, but in my opinion, that is a bit too bitter for the taste I'm looking for. Also, then I'd have to chop the chocolate, which is why I use chocolate chips in the first place, and chips melt better.

It was the crust that gave me problems. The recipe calls for 32 oreos (or joe-joes, or hydroxes, or whatever black chocolate sandwich cookie suits your fancy on the packaged cookie aisle.). You dump them in the food processor, whirl them to crumbs, add a stick of melted butter, combine and press into the tart pan. The recipe says you should freeze the crust, which I did, and then add the chocolate filling.

I did not add strawberries or the chopped nuts that the recipe calls for. They are just a topping. Some people at my house won't eat fruit that's put into a recipe. (O! the horrors!) Strawberries are expensive and it's a little early in the season yet.

When I tried to unmold the tart, the crust crumbled. The sides stuck to the pan. I did spray the pan before I put the crust in. I think I may need to spray the sides more, and maybe put a round of parchment in the bottom.

The filling only reached halfway up the crust, so I may have needed to make more filling. The volume of the rectangular pan (5 x 14) is probably less than the 9" round pan...I don't know. I think the top of the tart should be nearly even with the sides--that may address some of the crumbling issues, but not all of them.

It was very edible. It's VERY rich, of need to have black coffee handy for this and eat it slooooowly, one bite at a time. The crumbly crust only added impetus to make it disappear.

I think part of my problem with the crust could be solved by baking it for about 10 minutes or so, similar to what I've done when making cheesecake. It needs to adhere to the filling, not to the pan, and making sure the filling goes nearly to the top of the shell would help with that, too.

Other cookie crust recipes call for less butter, less cookies, etc. I will have to research this a bit more.

Taste-wise, it was very may have needed a bit of salt or something to bring out the chocolate tang more. Maybe some chilis...but then that may be a bit too wild for some people. It's also better eaten at room temperature. I cut very thin slices...there's still a few left, if you believe it. You can't eat more than one sliver of it a day, it's really that good.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Discoveries! Making a Weaving Planner.

Weaving Planner: Notes, Calculations, Yarns and Samples
Since I got my own loom, I am in the process of planning--or trying to plan a project for it. My house is stuffed to the gills...well, maybe not quite...with piles of loose papers--recipes, crochet and knitting patterns, books, photos, etc. I didn't want to add more loose papers for yet another craft into the already burgeoning piles. I was looking for a working weaving planner/journal/scrapbook type of thing. So I had googled "weaving planner" and I was looking around online, but not really finding exactly what I wanted or needed.
For a weaving draft, you need to have a grid portion or page, regular lines to make notes, and a place to tape (or post) actual yarns, and a finished sample--or photo/scan of the woven fabric. I could have taken a binder and interspersed graph paper and college ruled, too. I wanted something I could lug around that would stand up to falling off the loom bench onto the floor, scribble ideas on and not have to worry about messing up.Granted, eventually I'll want to make up a scrapbook with nifty papers, and pockets, etc., maybe as something to show (off) to others. But not right now.

Someone had posted photos of a notebook a weaver had used to plan and record his/her projects. I forget what site I was on. It was from the either the teens or twenties in the 1900's. The person who posted the photos had found the notebook in a thrift, um, Scotland, I think. The photos really grabbed my attention because one side had quad rules (a grid) and facing page was ruled (i.e. regular notebook paper). Just what I was (sort of) looking for! 

A closer look at the cover of the notebook revealed "engineering notebook" printed on it from the publishers/printers. So I did another search...this time on Amazon and a couple of other office product websites. I also searched for post its with a grid pattern...since I was sure that those existed, as well. I was right!

 The Mead composition book to the left, has the top half of the page in grid format and the lower half wide-ruled, the way it looks on the cover.

The National Brand notebook to the right, has a full page of each type, facing each other.

I looked for these on several websites, trying to see if they had them in an actual STORE where I could run over and grab it myself. No such luck. They had them available for order online, but not in the brick and mortar location. Or at least, not in the places I'd normally shop for paper products.

I suppose I could have found the post its and one of the two notebooks at a college bookstore or a teacher's supply store, but it would probably also be overpriced. It is possible that the notebooks are in stock in the office supply stores in the late summer and fall when they have back to school sales. But I don't ever recall seeing the grid post its anywhere. I ended up ordering these from Amazon as part of another order so I could get free shipping.
National Brand  Engineering and Science Notebook, interior

Post Its with a grid pattern!

The post its can be used to temporary drafts, and that way, you don't mess up an entire notebook page. They are "super sticky" so you can stick them to the castle of the loom or the front beam. That way you can see what you're supposed to be treadling and keep track of the pattern while you are weaving. Tape messes up the finish on the wood. You can also stick a post it with the draft on any kind of paper to use as a weaving planner/journal if you don't want to bother with an engineering-style notebook.

I couldn't decide which of the two notebooks to get, so I got both. The Mead has a sewn composition-style binding, which I like. I'm concerned about the smaller space for the project development, though. The National Brand one because it has full pages of each type for notes--plenty of space to develop an idea or design, if only to do the math for warp and weft calculations. The spiral binding can be problematic because it can get scrunched.

I will have to try them both and see which works better. I will post updates.

Update: 3/14/15
I am in the process of entering my dishtowels in the white weaving planner. I've made some mistakes, because the squares are very small. So I decided to combine 4 of them to make a size I can see to work with.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

So how DO you weave someone's hair into the fabric on the loom? A speculative look at Delilah's loom. DO you weave someone's hair into the fabric on the loom? Without cutting the hair off, first, AND without waking him up?

This is the sort of thing that niggles at me when I do a Bible study. I send myself down ecclesiastic and archaeological rabbit holes. That's always assuming that I don't get sidetracked by someone's name or other, resulting in several fun and exciting hours spent in Strong's Exhausting Concordance, leaving my original Bible study homework neglected and unfinished.

(Yes, I KNOW the proper name is Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. If you've ever attempted to pick one up in order to casually leaf through its pages only to undergo emergency hernia surgery for your trouble, you will understand my alternative appellation.)

This particular post traces some of its origin to when I was researching the different looms that would have been in use during the First Century BC/AD and also during the construction of the Wilderness Tabernacle and the Conquest of Canaan. I looked up every biblical reference to weaving I could find. Samson and Delilah was one of those.

Samson, bless his heart, does not appear to be using his brain for thinking. Especially when it comes to his relationships with women. This is a crucial point. The story of Samson and Delilah runs like Weird Al Yankovic's song, "Got a Funny Feeling You Don't Love Me Anymore" from the album, Smells Like Nirvana. His lack of mental acuity might partially explain why he didn't wake up when Delilah was tugging on his hair while weaving it into the loom. Ah well, "God's grace is made perfect in weakness," etc. But I want to focus on Delilah's loom.

Let's look at the passage:
Judges 16:13-14 (NIV)
13 Delilah then said to Samson, “All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”
He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric 14 and[b] tightened it with the pin.
Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.

There are a couple of factors that will help to narrow down the loom possibilities. Samson has to be able to stay asleep the entire time while he's getting the "hair weave". The hair is tightened/secured with a pin. It is possible that his hair was used as warp, not weft, but either one would work.

At this point in cultural development, there were two or three types of looms that would have been used. There may have been more, but a working loom has never been dug up. If we didn't have models found in an Egyptian tomb, we'd have even less of an idea of what existed. Weaving is a very conservative trade. At this point in time, we have the warp weighted, the double beam vertical, and the horizontal peg looms.

Warp Weighted Loom
The warp weighted loom is a vertical loom with the cloth beam held in the crotch of two uprights, and the other end of the warp threads tied to weights. You weave standing up. The resulting fabric is beaten upwards and wound around the cloth beam.

While it is possible that this was the loom Delilah was using, it's not likely. Both she AND Samson would have to be standing in order to weave in his hair. If you remember, in each of these "Samson, tell me the secret of your strength," episodes, Delilah waits until he's asleep to try out whatever cockamamie story he's told. Also, Samson says that his hair should be tightened (secured?) "with the pin". There is no pin used to secure warp or weft in this loom.

Double Beam Vertical Loom
This loom was used in Egypt, around the time of the 18th dynasty. It may have come in before that, but that's when the tomb painting depicting this loom was found. This is more what we're used to as far as weaving is concerned. The cloth beam is at the bottom and the warp beam is at the top. Some similar modern examples would be the Navajo loom and the tapestry loom--these are both double beam vertical looms. You can sit down to weave at this loom. The fabric is beaten downwards, toward the weaver and the cloth wound around the bottom beam.

This is more plausible, but still awkward. The plane of the fabric is vertical. There would be too much pulling--too much of an angle involved to keep Samson sleeping soundly. There is also no pin needed for this loom.

Horizontal Peg Loom
This loom consists of a warp beam, a cloth beam, maybe a heddle bar, pegs or posts to hold the beams in place, and, possibly, pegs with a slot or a shelf (think of a newel post with half of the "ball" on top cut away) to raise and lower the heddle bar. It is similar to a rigid heddle loom. This loom works for the story. It was used mainly for linen weaving and done during the dry season, where it could be pegged out in the courtyard. There would not be room to have it pegged out inside.

In my opinion, this may have been one of the reasons for the move to the vertical looms. You can lean those against the wall and they don't take up all the floor space. Significant others are not going to trip over a vertical loom when coming in after dark, perhaps injuring themselves, or worse, tearing up your project.

So we have Samson, sleeping obliviously beside the loom (or perpendicular to it) with his head next to Delilah at the loom. She takes and weaves his braids (some versions say "locks") into the cloth, maybe interspersing them with lines of normal thread--I would have--and one translation of the passage sort of bears this concept out. When she's finished, on the opposite side of the loom from where Samson is lying, Delilah gathers up Samson's braids, and ties them to the pin, maybe winding them around the pin so that they won't pull out and pounds the pin into the ground.

I don't think she would have made more than one pass or pick with each braid, two at most. If you are going to do more than one pass, then you'd have to do three if you want all the ends on the other side. Assuming a growth rate of around 4 inches a year, and that it had never been cut, and estimating that he was between 35 and 40 when the loom incident took place, taking into account that his hair was braided (maybe), it could have been up to 10 or 13 feet long. Length would also depend on how curly/straight and thin/thick the hairs are and the length lost from braiding, if it was braided. I'm assuming a weaving width between 18-22 inches to possibly 36 inches. It is hard to reach anything wider than that, even with modern shuttles, which Delilah didn't have. I'd want to leave about 6 to 12 inches from the scalp--you don't want his head up against the edge of the warp--not if you want him to stay asleep. All the ends of the hair need to be on the opposite side of the loom so you can tighten them with the pin. So, you'd end up with 2 to 3 feet of braided hair in the loom per braid, one foot on the head side and then you'd need two feet for tightening. Not all the braids would be the same length.

Although it would be possible to have used Samson's hair as warp, rather than weft, it would have taken much more time to set up. Besides, Judges says "...into the fabric..." or "...into the web...". Web meaning the cloth that has been woven already. The Complete Jewish Bible is even more specific: "...if you weave my hair across thread in the loom..." and "...he pulled away the loom pin and the interwoven cloth...". This version does something different with the pin and doesn't make sense for this loom to me. I think my explanation of the purpose of the pin is the correct one.

You know, it's really amazing how dense this whole situation was on Samson's part and how horribly cruel on Delilah's. He ought not to have gone back to her after the first time she sicced the Philistines on him. She didn't love him. She had to know that the result of binding him and turning him over to them would be his death. But anyway, I had fun figuring out the loom and what I think would have happened. I could be wrong, of course.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Paper to Felt: Flannelgraph systems

My church's Vacation Bible School program finished a week ago. My front room is still awash with homeless felt figures and flannel boards that need to be put away and stored for yet another year. I'm ignoring it, of course, because I've decided that I really need to transfer some of my paper figures to felt.

"Here we go again!" I can hear you rolling your eyeballs at me, you know. Okay, so some eyeball rolling may be justified. I know. I should put my felts away and THEN tackle the job of transferring the paper flannelgraph to felt. Now I'm rolling MY eyeballs at you. Okay? We're even.

If you've been working in Children's ministry in a smaller church setting over the last 40-80 years, you probably remember paper flannelgraph sets. If you were working in the smaller church setting within the last 30 to 40 years, you probably know about the Betty Lukens/Little Folk Visuals Felt systems. If you're a newcomer to Children's Ministry--i.e. you've only been working in it for the last 20 years or less--you're probably saying, "What's flannelgraph?"

You newbies might want to have Wikipedia or Google as extra tabs while you read this.

So. I was the storyteller for my team again this year. I use flannelgraph to tell Bible stories because I am familiar with it--I have, quite literally, been playing with flannelgraph since I was two. I do not remember learning the basic Bible seems to me that I've always known them. The heroes in the Bible are childhood friends.

Flannelgraph or Felt figures work very well if you are familiar with this media AND with the stories you are telling/teaching. You have to have some organization, though.You can't let the students play with the figures, for example. It helps to have your boards, backgrounds and figures put in order so you can just put them up when it's time for them.

The Felt systems:
The paper flannelgraph is not sold least, if it is, I can't find it. When the Betty Lukens and Little Folk Visuals Bible Felt systems came on the market, they ran the others out of business, because of the quality and visibility of their figures, but also because you only needed to buy the one set. Both companies each have a lesson plan book that takes you through the entire Bible in about 3 years, or so. Each lesson shows you photos with sample boards, gives the scripture reference, and lists the figures, backgrounds, and scenery for each story. Most figures are used for more than one story--i.e. the figure for Mary is used for any young mother in the Old or New Testament. You can tell most of the stories without a problem using either system. It isn't perfect. There are some pieces that don't exist, or that you would need more of, in order to tell some stories. For other lessons, it seems that the publishers went hog wild on detailed scenery pieces. There are a bunch of apples (which you have to cut out) just for the tree in Eden, for example. There aren't a lot of crowd pieces and there aren't a lot of soldiers, either. You don't need many of either of these, but you DO need more than one.

If you get a felt system (either Betty Lukens or Little Folk Visuals--they're interchangeable), I would get the 12" figures. The 6" set is not as adaptable--even if you homeschool and mainly use it there, get the big ones. You may only intend to use it at home, but it won't stay that way.

When it says 12" figures, it means that is the length/height of most adult figures in the set, not that all the pieces are 12" big. Remember all the apples I told you about? They're less than a centimeter in diameter in the large set. They're annoyingly small in the 6" set. Also, if you're homeschooling, you may have children in the house who are not yet "school" age. It is more difficult to swallow pieces from the large set.

I have both paper and felt figures. I don't have the complete felt system, I just have the Story of Jesus one. I made it work this year for VBS, but I had to use my paper ones, too. The paper figures are about 6" to 9" long. My backgrounds are from the 12" set.

My VBS site had over 50 children from ages 3 to 13 (I know, right?). We were doing the program in the backyard of someone's home, not on our church campus. We couldn't split them up for crafts, games or storytime. I had to have the visibility. I didn't have the money to order a whole set, nor the time to cut everything out. My church used to have the large set, but it had disappeared.

I took some of the figures I had from Joseph the Dreamer and Joseph in Egypt, (pub. Scripture Press) and ran them through my scanner/copier/printer. I enlarged the pieces to 130% before printing them on paper. Some pieces took several sheets of paper and had to be, literally, cut and pasted together with scissors and glue sticks.

Even if I had had the entire deluxe Bible set, I would have enlarged and used the paper ones anyway. As I said before, the felt sets are not perfect. Neither system has proper figures for the Egyptian stories in Genesis and Exodus. The systems do not have Persian, Assyrian, or Phoenician style figures for the stories in Kings, Esther, and Daniel. The paper sets came in individual stories, so they had the luxury of having semi-period correct pieces--they were just too small for me to use as they were.

I will see what I can do to make the paper ones into felt. I have some ideas, but I haven't had the opportunity to try those ideas out as yet.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Pendleton Loom

 I've bought a floor loom! You have no idea how excited I am! It's used, of course. It's a Pendleton (see the logo on the right?) but other than that I know next to nothing about it and believe me, I've been googling away.

It folds up, so it's a jack loom, similar to the ones made by the Schact company, except this isn't a Schact. It has a 45 inch front beam, 8 harnesses and 12 treadles. Update: 3/14/15, Happy Pi Day! I've re-measured, in order to start a project. The weaving width is actually 40 inches.

 This has the potential for hours of FUN! Most importantly, I have a warping board, which I didn't have before. A warping board is used to measure out the warp (the "uppy/downy" threads). I think I can maybe get 4(?) yards on this?

There was an odd stick with two screw eyes on one side of it, and evenly spaced holes drilled through the adjacent face...I don't know what it's for. Neither did the lady who sold me the loom. I thought maybe it's for a supplemental warp? It's shorter than the weaving width and one of the screw eyes is wonky. But that stick is the only thing that is messed up on the whole loom.

An 8 harness loom means I can do some interesting patterns. The reason there are more treadles than harnesses is so that you can lift more than one harness (set of threads) at a time when the pattern calls for it.

The weaving bench has storage, and there are a lot of stick shuttles, as well as two boat shuttles and bobbins. There are also extra wire heddles.

The warping board

Weaving bench
What was inside the bench.

Now, all I have to do is shovel out the garage so I can set up the loom!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Simple Lace Shawl--the scarf version

Finished Scarf!
All DONE! Yaaayyyyyyyyy!

It's 15 pattern repeats for each "arrow". Each repeat is 8 rows, with the increase/decrease that makes the arrow on the right side (as opposed to the "wrong" side). The eyelet row is a "wrong" side row.

I went right from the "less than" side to the "greater than". If I do the pattern again, I will do 10 of each arrow (that's 20, if you're counting) with 10 rows in the middle just straight, no increases or decreases. When you reverse the arrows, it makes a diamond-y point in the middle on each long side. I don't really like it, but I don't hate it enough to frog it back and redo it.
The start of the scarf.

With this pattern, you don't cut your yarn. You knit two rows and then change colors--so you are always changing when you start a "right" side row. When it was time to change colors, I would position the yarn so that the ending row was twined around the yarn of the new row to lock the stitches in place. It's kind of hard to explain with still shots.

I made 6 extra rows after the final pattern repeat so that it would mirror the beginning side.

This scarf used probably about half of 1 ball of the Berroco, almost all of just one ball of the Debbie Norville, and probably about half to 3/4 of the Simply Soft skein. I'm happy about that, because the sock yarn is expensive. I am NOT going to unwind the yarn just to satisfy my curiosity as to how much is left. The before and after photos of the yarns are below. You can see what I mean, about the amount of yarn used.

Here is the Berroco, before it was used.
Berroco--it's fairly "squishy", now.

Simply Soft, before.
Simply Soft, after.
Aaaaand after.
Debbie Norville sock yarn, before

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Doll's Capelet

Both ponchos. The one for the doll is the smaller one.
I was asked to make a capelet for a little girl and a matching one for her doll. (See my post from 8/26/2013.) I'm using the pattern for poncho #1 for the girl.

The doll in question is an "American Girl" doll. The capelet should fit this kind of doll and any of the similar-but-not-quite-as-expensive types sold in various department stores. I do not have a doll like this. I have a couple of old fashioned china headed dolls, but their measurements are not the same, so I had to borrow one for a few minutes from the daughter of a friend to get the measurements. (Thank you, Karina and Nikki!)

A matching pattern for the doll's capelet did not exist. I did a cursory google search and found a grand total of ONE crochet pattern for this type of doll. I could have used that, but the client had asked that the doll's capelet match the little girl's. I tend to be a tad literal.

So I got to make a pattern! Yay! More blog fodder. Because you just can't exist without me, I know. This also means I had to do math. Ugh. I endeavored to face the math with proper Early Christian Martyr-ical fortitude. I used numbers of stitches that are multiples of 12's, 8's, 4's and 3's. You don't HAVE  to use those numbers, I just find it easier to work with them when crocheting in the round, maybe because of the geometry thingy.

I'm using scrap yarn for this, provided by the client. It's mostly older Red Heart worsted weight acrylic. I usually don't like to use this kind of acrylic, because they are scratchy to crochet. But this is for a doll, not for me. Additionally, when I run the completed item through the washer and dryer, it softens up.

I'm starting with a varigated green.
The Doll's Capelet

Size K crochet hook

Scrap worsted weight acrylic

Chain 24, join in a round. Chain up 1.

Row 1: HDC in each chain stitch, join with a slip stitch, Chain up 1.

Row 2 and 3: 1 hdc in the first stitch, *2 hdc in the next stitch, 1 hdc in each of the next 4 sts. Repeat from *. Join with a slip stitch,Chain up 1.

Rows 2 and 3 are the increase rows. At the end of Row 2, you should have 30 stitches. By the end of Row 3, you will have 36.

Rows 4-9: Repeat Row 1

Row 10: 2 hdc in each stitch all the way around. Join with a slip stitch and fasten off.

Don't crochet tightly with this kind of yarn. When you are working with smaller scale items, like doll clothes, sometimes the yarn diameter/hook gauge gets to be too chunky. In general, I prefer to use a dk or sport weight or thinner yarn when making doll clothes. Remember, you don't have to use the exact same yarn I use.

I was very pleased with the way this project went. I was most happy with how quickly I was able to complete it--it only took an hour, once I had the pattern down. I plan to make up some more, since it was so easy. I may also see about getting back into making doll clothes again.