France may be the land of 500 cheeses, but India is the land of 10,000 snacks.
They take their snacks very seriously here. There appear to be micro-regional specialties, and a dizzying variety of basic types – far beyond the chips (crisps for my UK readers), pretzels, tortilla chips, and smattering of other items seen in American supermarkets. I suspect if a new vegetable or grain were to spontaneously appear, the US FDA would study it for two years before decreeing wholesomeness, the European Union would ban it because there is no established tradition of farming or cooking it, but India would throw open her arms and overnight it would appear in fifty new packaged fried snack foods, each with a distinctively cheerful bag.
We’ve been trying some as our weekend treat, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available at the Hypermarket down the street:
Yes, those are potato sticks. The particular variety we tried is (like much of India) perfumed with cumin. Potato (aloo) sticks come in dozens of varieties, some spicy/hot/salty, some herbed, and some plain. We really liked this one, they’re easy to nibble and go great with roasted little red-skin peanuts, smaller than those in the US, but tastier.
Oh. I forgot to mention, combining these nibbles into one’s own custom snack mix appears to be a national pastime, so we’re following suit, mixing and matching these as whimsy overtakes us.
This one is a bit messier to eat. In texture, it’s like fuzzy dust studded with little bits of roasted lentils, cashew nuts, and other seeds and spices. It’s so fine it almost needs to be spooned. It’s also intensely spicy. I love the product tag line “A Munching Device.” A good mixer to use with other, less intense varieties.
These are The Resident Male’s favorite. They’re crunchier than Cheetos, and flavored with onion and chili instead of Mystery Orange.
Puffed wheat! Very roasty tasting, and a perfect background foil to these other hot and spicy treats. I knew a little about the variety of Indian foods and was prepared for that exploration, but the wealth of casual nibbles here took me by surprise. I find it a very amusing arena for small discoveries. I’ll post more about these as we try more.
On the needlework front, I’ve made a bit of progress on the Dragon Stole:
I’m just about up to the body, half way through the first dragon.
And I’ve unpacked my stitching. I’ve set up my big green sampler.
Unfortunately, there’s no good place in the apartment to work on it. I need very bright light, and even though we finally found the exotic flavor light bulbs used in the fixtures here, and have more than one 40 watt light source in the living room, there’s still not enough light to work it by. So as a stop gap, I’ve started the Sarah Collins kit I picked up at Winterthur in 2011:
I’ve never done a kit before, preferring to muddle about on my own. I am having mixed feelings about this. It’s cumbersome, with a zillion large scale detailed charts that require constant cross-referencing. The design is pleasing, the colors are o.k., not my faves, but well suited to the design. The linen is nice, and working 3×3 is a refreshing change, quite large compared to what I’ve been stitching of late. I opted for the cotton rather than the silk threads, in part because the silk kit was expensive. That’s why I’m working it on the padded round frame. Were this silk, it would fight for space on my flat frame with Big Green.
Oh, and yes – I’m working on T2CM, too. I’m up to the exquisitely boring part, where I add proofed counts to each pattern.
Today I try to appease both my constituencies – stitchers and knitters.
First, for the knitters, I make confession that I’ve been seduced. I recently came into possession of a true one-skein wonder, two balls of Skacel’s Zauberball Crazy. One is an addled mix of red, turquoise, yellow and green (#1701), the other is chocolate, teal, cranberry and according to the official photo, on the inside somewhere – tan (#1507). It’s a lofty and soft fingering weight, 100g/459 yards per ball, enough to knit a pair of socks for me. Here are Skacel’s own photos of the two, at a color fidelity much better than I could achieve:
But looking at this stuff made me want to do something other than socks. Given the number of variables in play right now, I decided I didn’t want to take time to design my own pattern, so I began poking around the ‘net and found the Wingspan scarf. I’m working up this variant. It’s all garter stitch, with the demonstrative shaping formed by short rows. You can see the play of the extra long color repeat even in this traditional blurry String snap, taken at dawn:
A quick knit, totally on autopilot, with a clever system of traveling markers that make it impossible to make a mistake. More on this as the thing grows.
And on the Big Green Sampler, I’m inching along the fiddly bits at the bottom edge, filling in my voiding. The tightly drawn two-sided Italian cross stitch goes more quickly in an open field. Around these odd little bits – especially the Y-shaped extensions in the top and bottom borders (a detail done exactly this way in the museum original) – it’s a slow and exacting ride:
The little empty rectangles at the base of each Y are especially tricky to leave unworked. Still, I am making incremental progress none the less.
Now, why did I start the knitting project?
Compulsion. Plain and simple. I do 98% of my yarn acquisition at Wild & Woolly, my local yarn shop – a heaven on earth for knitters. But driving across the state to drop Elder Daughter off at college put me within striking distance of Webs, the Northampton, MA yarn hypermarket. My rule is not to buy stuff elsewhere that I can find locally, so Younger Daughter and I took a quick jaunt through the place looking for stand-outs – things I haven’t seen anywhere else.
That’s where I was attacked by the Zauberball. It fairly leapt of the shelf in a direct assault on my magpie color sense. It’s hard to describe this compulsion to a non-crafter. I HAD to get it, and I HAD to find something good to knit with it, and I HAD to cast on right away. That’s the way the best projects work – the absolute mandate to watch the piece take shape. Time flies on its own. Any encountered problems melt away. I look down and see more done than I realized was happening. Oddly enough, the final product while valued, is not the goal. It’s the process, the journey, the materials, and the sense of progress.
I’ll split my time between these two. Maybe I’ll figure out something myself to do with Zauberball #2. Or maybe not. But in any case, both balls have to be cooked, chewed and digested before I return to normal.
I had occasion to unroll the big green sampler last night in order to adjust the padding that was between the layers of previously stitched work. While it was out and open, I took some progress pix:
You can see that the entire piece spans the width of my dining room table. I’m more or less at the centermost strip, and at (more or less) the middle of that strip. The penny on the shot at the right will give you an idea of scale. I’m pleased with the density and patterning so far. I’m also pleased with the pulled background of the latest bit. But it is taking a VERY long time to stitch, and I’m looking forward to figuring out what will be next. Perhaps something in quick-to-finish double running, perhaps something a bit more geometric and very open. We’ll see!
In other news, I’m continuing to add both knitting and embroidery patterns to the patterns buttons at the top of the page. I’m going back through prior posts and standardizing formats, putting everything into convenient buckets for ready access. If you’ve got a request, let me know and I’ll bump it up in priority. Enjoy!
[UPDATE: A pile more patterns have been added to the Knitting Patterns page (Button above).]
Yes, I’m still porting old site content over here, but to reassure my embroidery audience, my massive green sampler is still in the works. With the quickie book covers out of the way, I’ve turned back to it:
The pulled background fill does go slowly, but progress is being made. You’re looking at about half of the strip. The large downward pointing clump of lettuce at the left is actually the center. So I’ll be working on this one for a while.
Extra bonus: See that dangling thread? That’s how I end off without adding more knots, or adding bulk that obscures the drawn mesh effect. I take several running stitches down the center of an area that will be tightly overworked. Then after I do that stitching and the loose end is captured, I snip it close to the work. Starting a new thread is done in the same way.
Extra extra bonus: If you click to zoom on the photo, you’ll see a little arrow pointing out a mistake. I’ll be ripping that little bit out. My work isn’t perfect, just proofread.
As some have pointed out, doing the fill in the voided background of this rather large strip will be a marathon effort. But I’m chipping away at it, slowly but surely:
The downward facing center spray is in fact the middle of the strip, so you’re only looking at about half of the total width. As graceful as this looks without voiding, with the background fill, it’s far more dramatic. I really like it.
Here’s another shot of the fill, held up to the light so you can see how meshy it is:
I’ve gotten better at the Italian two-sided framed cross stitch. While I had been waxing the last inch of the silk to assist in threading my needle, I’ve found that waxing the entire length really helps avoid splitting. I’ve also learned that the silk is mega-strong, and can take it when I pull firmly. So now my holes are larger and more uniform than when I began. Unfortunately I’ve also learned that this stitch is near impossible to tease out once done, so I won’t be able to go back and replace my “learning bits” stitched when I started.
For Susan – I’m using Two Sided Italian Cross Stitch, as shown in Christie’s Samplers and Stitches, 1920. I’m using the version shown in Figure 130, on page 85, but I am pulling it VERY tightly so that it behaves like a drawn thread stitch, compressing and bundling the weave while accentuating the holes. I’m using one strand of Soie d’Alger, color 1846, on a rather loosely woven (approximately) 40 count linen, and stitching with a small eye ball-point needle more commonly used for hand-hemming tricot fabrics. This particular pattern is being worked over 2×2 threads, laying down outlines first in double running, then going back and working the fill. If I had bothered to start and end my double running bits invisibly, this work would be totally identical front and reverse, with no way of telling which side is which. This is why this style was so popular in the 16th and 17th centuries for bed hangings, linens, napkins, cuffs and other items that showed on both sides. Prior to this piece I attempted this look on more standard densely woven modern even weave, with little success.
And so on to the next strip:
(With a gratuitous shot of the last strip finished out, for good measure.)
This latest pattern is rather wide, with an interesting companion edging. You can also see that the double running foreground is quite quick to work up. This is less than five days stitching, and a very short five days at that thanks to the standard run of work related deadlines. Progress will slow down now because I’m beginning to work in the background. I’m doing it in Italian two-sided framed cross stitch, pulled tightly to achieve a mesh-like effect. I’d be happier with a more profound “draw” and a more meshy presentation. I could probably get that if I were working over 3×3 threads, but I’m stitching over 2×2 here, a stitch size chosen to present as much of this large pattern as possible. But the mesh is still very evident:
There are several examples of this pattern family in museum collections, but I don’t have time to pull them up right now. I’ll save them for a future post in our “Long Lost Twins” series. Here’s the one I’m using for this stitching: Punto di Milano, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Accession #99.176. They tentatively identify it as Spanish, from the 1600s. I’ve seen similarly lettuce-like over foliate patterns identified as being North African or Italian, from around this time and persisting (in simplified form) for the following 100 years or so. But remember – these patterns are from an area in which scholarship is still developing from its Indiana Jones/Avid 19th Century Collector roots. With the paucity of provenance and documentation left by the original collectors, I’d expect to see attributions wander a bit over the next few decades, before modern methods make temporal and location points of origin more clear.
I’ve been a bit lax of late, not posting progress on my long, green sampler. In spite of steampunk outfits, work deadlines, and other craziness, slow progress is being made. As you can see, I finished the last pattern, and I’m almost done with the latest strip:
This latest one is of a particularly long repeat. So long in fact that only a portion of it fits across this space. I’ve chosen to do it foreground style, in long-armed cross stitch. The ultimate source is one of Domenico da Sera’s modelbooks, published in Lyons, in 1532. I found a single page from Lotz 69b reproduced, and charted it up from that. This pattern will be in TNCM2.
We’re quite busy these days at String Central. I continue to work on the long green sampler. Here’s the latest strip, photographed in early dawn light. This pattern is also in TNCM2, albeit without the gridded voiding. The little complementing border was stolen from a different TNCM2 pair.
TNCM2 as a whole also progresses. And to top it off, Younger Daughter and I are hard at work on an outfit for her to wear to the Waltham Watch City Festival steampunk gala.
Long time readers here may remember that last year at this time, Younger Daughter spent quite a bit of April and May in Children’s Hospital, in the throes of an argument with her burst appendix. She had wanted to attend the festival last year, and was very disappointed to have missed it. As a distraction, we planned out the outfit she would have liked to have worn. Being on the young side, what we designed for her was more steampunk than steamy-punk (no exterior corsets, hip high hemlines, or fishnet stockings). As incentive for cooperation with often uncomfortable hospital requests, I promised to make said outfit.
Now a year later, she’s totally better and my promise has been called in. We’re about halfway through the venture. A blouse/waist has been obtained (an antique barn bargain retread). We’re just finishing up a camel wool walking skirt, and will be trimming it next week with black and brown point folded ribbon. She’ll be decorating a brown suede bolero with copious brass buttons, plus a watch, a compass and a magnifying glass. The bolero and buttons were also flea market finds. Pix of all of these as they near completion. But I can present her hat:
She started with an costume top hat, and excised about 2 inches of height. She covered the surgical scar with a brown ribbon, complete with a bow and streamers in the back; then added feathers and gears.
Done with this strip, on to the next!
I spent some time noodling out what the next one will be. I tried out some complex Punto Spina Pesce patterns – the ones that use either Montenegrin or a Montenegrin-like long armed cross stitch variant to trace interlaces and intersecting lines, to make a linear design that’s fairly heavy. Unfortunately more experimentation is warranted. I’ve got a basic understanding of these stitches and how they merge horizontal, vertical and diagonal elements, but the designs I’m looking at make those changes very quickly, sometimes after a run of only one graph unit. The methods I’ve learned from the Autopsy of the Montenegrin Stitch Exhumed book take two or three units to complete directional transitions. I’ll have to play with these more off line to figure out “speed changes” and triple line conjunctions.
What am I working as the next strip instead? Stay tuned!
Yes, I’m still chugging along on the long green sampler. Here’s the progress on the latest strip, and an “on the edge” view of the last one, so you can see the dimensionality of the Montenegrin stitch accents in the last one:
I was originally going to work the entire background of the center urn motif voided in long-armed cross stitch, just like the pepper-sporting companion edge strips. I’m still thinking on that one. That much green might overwhelm the piece. It’s hard to judge visual balance when the previously completed parts are rolled on the scroll bar, but here are all the strips to date, in order (apologies for varying lighting, angles, etc. – a photographer, I’m not).
Opinions on working the urn section voided would be gratefully accepted.
Finally – are these odd bud shapes really peppers? I haven’t a clue. New World peppers would have been a recent introduction when this design was new. They might be, or they might be some other vegetation as yet unknown to me.