Friday, September 30, 2011

DIY: How to Remove Rust & Season Cast Iron

I was out on Vashon Island at Treasure Island Antique Store last weekend and came across and beautiful, but rusted, Jøtul goro iron. Aside from the light rust it was in very good condition and I knew I would regret it if I didn't buy it. When i got home I took a look at my grandmother's krumkake iron and notice it had a bit of rust on it as well (probably due to my unfaithfulness -I have been seeing an electric iron on the side). So I went about cleaning and seasoning them both using this method.

  • Here is what you will need:

    Rubber Gloves, Vegetable oil, Salt, Steel wool, Foil lined cookie sheet, Bacon fat/ lard, Pastry brush

  • * I donned rubber gloves and then put the iron in the sink. I sprinkled it with salt and then doused my steel wool in vegetable oil and started scrubbing away. Keep scrubbing and add salt and oil as needed. I sometimes use tweezers to push the steel wool into tight corners.

    * Rinse the iron thoroughly in hot water.

    * Place any solid cast iron pieces on a foil lined cookie sheet and put them in the oven or 10-15 minutes to completely dry them out. (To dry the iron, which has a rubber/plastic handle, I put it on a gas burner on low until it was dry).
    * Once the iron is completely dry you can paint it in bacon fat with a pastry brush (vegetable oil will leave it sticky, so it really is better to use bacon fat). Turn it over and paint the other side.

    * Put solid cast iron pieces in the oven at 250 for an hour. Re-apply bacon fat using method above and bake for another 30 min. (Again for the iron I just left it in the pan turning it once after 15 min. Or if the base is already seasoned you could put it on the base to do this.)
    * Remove from oven, wipe excess with a paper towel and let it cool.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Yes, I Can

    Alma Frink
    I can just barely remember my grandmother canning. I never saw her do it, but when I went over to her house she would often open a jar of peaches or apricots and let me drink a little of the syrup. I remember how sweet it was and how much I looked forward to it. But by the time I would have liked to learn from her, she had already given up canning and given all her tools of the trade away. My mother never took up canning and it seemed like such a complex mystery to me. But this summer a friend of mine invited me to make pickles with her and the mystery was unveiled.

    In an afternoon, four of us pickled 54 lbs of cucumbers and 7 lbs of green beans & I caught the canning bug. I went straight home and bought a pressure cooker. So far I have made a batch of ginger peach jam and canned 18 lbs of brandied peaches. I have a flat of blueberries in the fridge ready to make into a blueberry basil jam tomorrow. I found this great book, Put'em Up, in it Brooks has some innovative and tasty recipes. I made her fennel onion jam a couple weeks ago and it was amazing.

    Vintage Chief Slotted Spoon
    While canning yesterday, I realized that one of my grandmother's slotted spoons must surely have been used when she canned peaches. Although it is a multi-purpose spoon (it is stamped "Lifts, Whips, Mixes, Mashes, Crushes, Strains), it couldn't have been more ideal to fish peaches out of the boiling bath when I blanched them. So now the spoon is even more dear to me than before. I just wish she had left me some recipes, but knowing her, they were all in her head.

    I brought a jar of jam and one of peach halves to my mother. I thought it would be a nice reminder of all the peaches of my grandma's she used to eat. My mother was very thankful and told me she knew what hard work canning was. She said that while grandma did most of her canning while my mother was at school, she could remember coming home to the jars cooling on a rack on the counter. She said grandma didn't have a pressure cooker so she canned in the oven! I said surely she was mistaken, grandma must have had some sort of large pot she used. But my mother is certain that she put them on a cookie sheet and canned in the oven. I have never heard of it being done like that before. Boy, do I wish I could ask her.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Dalahäst: the Story of the Swedish Dala Horse

    My little friend, Zaza, is completely enthralled with horses right now, as many eight-year-old girls are. Any picture, book or likeness of a horse catches her eye and so I wondered if she had ever seen a Dala horse. She had not and her curiosity was piqued and so I have researched their history so that I might better answer her questions.

    Since my Swedish friend, Inga Marta, has a Dala horse plaque on her front door, I thought she might be a good starting point in my quest. According to Inga, as early as 1700, Swedish lumberjacks in the Province of Dalarna near the villages of Mora, Vattnas, Risa, Bergkarlas and Nusnäs would sit around the fire when away from their families after long day of tree-felling and log transport and carve wooden toys for their children. They cared a variety of animals, but the most favored was the horse.

    The horse was regarded as a creature of great value and strength to a family; a faithful friend that helped move lumber from the forest, worked the fields and helped carry equipment up to summer pastures and chalets. The horse helped in trips to the mill, village and church. Children delighted in their strength and company.

    These stocky, tailless horses become a well-established tradition. They were unpainted and had just the natural grain of the wood for ornamentation.

    In further research I learned that in the winter of 1716, while war was waged throughout most of Europe, many soldiers were housed in private homes in the Mora area of Sweden. Due to the severe winter and the war, soldiers and civilians alike suffered from lack of food and warmth. Lore has it that one such soldier, carved a Dala Horse from some scrap wood in the home where he was staying. Before presenting it to the child of the home as a gift, he painted it a bright red, readily from the copper mine of Falun. He decorated the horse with a decorative harness and saddle. This style is known as Kurbits painting and grew more popular in Sweden between 1780 and 1870.

    The woman of the house gave the soldier a warm bowl of soup in exchange for this delightful toy, and so a system of bartering emerged. Like-minded soldiers began carving and painting horses in exchange for food as well. Before long the Dala Horse was credited in part with the army's surviving the harsh winter; this is another reason why the Dala horse is now synonymous with goodwill and has become a symbol of Swedish frugality and dexterity.

    Dala Horses were traditionally made during the long fall and winter evening hours when little other work might be done. The traditional color of Dala Horses is a bright orange-red, but they are also to be found in natural wood, or painted white, blue, or black, all with ornate Kurbits-style trim. Today the village of Nusnäs, in Dalarna, is considered the home of the authentic Swedish Dala Horses. Over 250,000 Dala Horses are produced there every year. These horses also have distinctive shapes and often come in different sizes. Some horses like the Nusnäs horse are stocky work-horses; others are lean and upright with stately countenance like the Rättvik horse.
    These decorative carvings are a labor of love. Most are made of pine and the initial shape is sawed by machine and then past on to the craftsmen to finish carving. The horses are dipped in primer immediately after the craftsman’s carving, to reveal any defects in the wood that may need to be fixed. Any remaining cavities in the wood are filled in to ensure extra smoothness. They are then dried several weeks to prevent the horses from splitting after they are painted. 

    After a final sanding, the horses are dipped into the paint of the appropriate color and then the craftsman free-hands the ornate paint of the harness and bridle. The art of “rippling” or Kurbits painting requires great skill and takes many years to master. Each craftsman’s develops their own individual technique and many prefer to decorate horses of the certain size over another. That is why the horses are varying in size and no two horses are ever exactly identical.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011


    Bindmössan refers to a type of Swedish folk hat that is worn with a regional Folkdräkt. The literal translation is a bond cap, a small, rigid, rundkullig hat which originates in the dress of the 1500's. The hat is usually covered in silk or sometimes wool and embroidered using a tamburnålar. They are often adorned with rosettes or a floral pattern and complemented with a piece of lace or embellished linen. The one pictured here is worn by my dear friend, Inga Marta, and compliments her Lyckseledräkten and was made by Tora Risberg of Lycksele.

    The female headgear had a strong symbolic function. It was primarily the status of women, married or unmarried, as was shown with the headgear. Married women have since prehistoric times covered their hair with a scarf or a hat.

    The model for the Bindmössan came from Mary cap. The hat is French in origin and was worn by Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-67). The hat was originally soft and covered the entire head with deep cutout at the temples and tied together at the back of the neck.

    The tie the hat was common in the fashion of the 1500s and later part in the 1600's. Noble ladies began to wear the hat during the 1600s, but  it was mainly middle class women who wore it in a tight variation of headgear, made of dark fabrics. It became the most common headdress among the Swedish peasant women thereafter.

    The model changed over time and during the late 1700s ladies reduced the caps in size and it evolved into a harder form. Cutout at the temple fell, and in many styles the cutout eventually disappear completely. Tie hats were difficult and expensive to manufacture.

    The Bindmössan used to indicate a difference between married and unmarried women, but this differentiation disappeared overtime and by 1800s this headgear could be used by the unmarried women as well. Upon confirmation many girls would receive their first bond cap.

    I found a beautiful blog entry from a young woman named Fia in Lunde about making her own bindmössa. It was very inspiring to see the beautiful work she did. She told me she got the pattern from Ulla Centergran in Göteborg. As I understand it, once Fia finished the hat she took it to Ulla to have it shaped/ stretched into shape. I have had little to no luck contacting Ulla for patterns. Should anyone have a contact or ideas for where I could procure patterns, your comments are very welcome.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    DIY PVC Niddy Noddy

    We have all frogged a sweater from time to time and then been faced with the task of reclaiming the yarn to try yet again. I needed to reset the yarn to remove all the kinks, and realized what I really needed was a niddy noddy. Back in college as a fibers major I remember my resourceful professor had a couple great PVC niddy noddys in the studio. You could swap out the center piece for different lengths to make your hanks of differing sizes. Additionally the plastic was resistant to moisture and did not take on dyes like wood would.

    I searched a bit for a good niddy noddy pattern, but it was tricky since I wasn't certain of the spelling. Knitty knotty, nitty notty, knitty noddy, I mean really, who knew? I came across some marvelous and very clear DIY specs for varying sizes on this site. I took the directions to Greenwood TrueValue Hardware and built it right in the store (Love those guys!) I walked out with a completed niddy noddy for under $10.

    Here is  re-post of these handy instructions

    Materials and Tools
    ½ inch (12mm) diameter PVC pipe
    2 ½-inch slip tee connectors
    4 ½-inch slip end caps
    4 O-rings to fit securely around your piping (7/8”)

    Cut PVC piping  into 4 pieces that are each 4.5 inches  in length. These will be the arms of your niddy noddy. You can easily cut this with a hack saw or have it done at the hardware store. Use the chart below to determine the body length. Since the body pieces are not permanently attached in this pattern you can interchange these sizes to suit your needs. 

    Length of Hank                         Length of Body Section
    1 yard                                                5.5 inches
    1 meter                                    6.5 inches or 16.5cm
    1.5m or 60 inches                        12 inches or 30.5cm
    2 yards                                                15 inches
    2 meters                                    16.5 inches or 41.5cm

    Once you have all of you pieces cut, assemble your niddy noddy.

    Step 1: Slide the short pipe pieces through the tee connectors. Add end caps to all exposed cut pipe ends.

    Step 2: Side the longer pipe piece into the remaining holes on the tee connectors. You now have a piece that looks like a capital letter I.

    Step 3: Twist either the top or bottom (short pipe piece) of the I 90º. Your niddy noddy is now ready to use.

    Using your niddy noddy: Wrap your yarn around the niddy noddy from point A to B to C to D and back to A. Repeat until you run out of yarn, counting the times you pass point A. Multiply that number by the length of your wrap (determined by the length of the body of the I; see chart above) to get the length of your yarn. Tie waste yarn around your hank at the four arms to hold your hank together. Then, remove the hank from your niddy noddy by removing one of the arms. Twist your hank and pull one end through the other to make a nice, yarn store style hank of yarn.

    (If you are rewinding frogged yarn, spritz with water and let dry. this will remove the kinks so you can rewind the yarn into a ball and get ready for take two of that pesky sweater.)