Never-ending Quilting

Last week, my friend Cynthia from It All Changes came over from her “smack in the middle of nowhere, Massachussetts” home to help put the finishing touches on my “fake” quilt.  Or so she thought.  Unfortunately for her, I had some other plans up my sleeve as well.  They included walking to the mall to A) get some exercise in and B) to buy a new suit for a job-related activity I had the next day.  I felt bad that I dragged her along for that, but it needed to get done and I’d run out of time.  But don’t worry, Cynthia, my husband thanks you for going, because that means he didn’t have to! 🙂

Anyway, when we got back from the mall, we got back to work on the quilt.  Unfortunately for Cynthia again, I was like a little child who’d forgotten to do her homework when I realized I had forgotten to trim the batting and material where needed, as well as pin the binding to the quilt.  Oops! But once again, she was very patient with me while I did both.

Here’s Cynthia’s bag that she bought in New Hampshire that made her think of me.  Sure, I don’t own a farm (or heck, even any land) but I seem like a farmer girl to someone!  She brought it all full of sewing supplies for finishing my quilt and we didn’t use one. 😦

Unfortunately ONCE AGAIN, my old, hand-me-down sewing machine was acting up that day, and Cynthia spent a bit of time trying to figure out what was making it jam.

Cynthia hard at work fixing the machine

Still not sure what’s wrong with it…but it’s now well oiled!

After the binding was sewn to one side, she taught me how to pin the other side to make the complete quilt.  I know she’s going to kill me for this, but I think I’ve forgotten already.  Seriously, I am very slow when it comes to tasks like this, and require lots of repetition.

Cynthia showing me how pin the other side

So here, for the most part, (with the exception of the other side binding, is my “fake” quilt.  I call it that because until recently, I thought quilting was just sewing LARGE pieces of cloth together. I didn’t realize the intricacies that can go into ONE quilt block, as seen here:

Meadow in bloom quilt block

Fake quilt

Despite the fact that it’s not pretty, it is warm! I’ve already pulled it out on a cool day (yes, pins stuck in there and all, since it isn’t finished) and draped it over me.  It will definitely come in hand next winter.

The quilt’s still not done, but I think self consciously I may have sabatoged my progress just to give Cynthia another reason to come over another week.  I’m going to try to keep up on my homework this time!

Quilt Block of the Month – Month 1

I’m almost done with my “fake” quilt (i.e. I didn’t know what I was doing so I decided to sew big pieces of cloth together and call it a quilt 🙂 ) so I’ve decided to take the next step in my sewing education and learn how to do a proper quilt.  Without getting TOO complicated though, I’ve decided to do Joann’s “Quilt Block of the Month.”  Ok, it really had nothing to do with easy – I just got captivated by the colors of this thing! They are colors that I would never think to put together, but they’re bright and intriguing and I was hooked!
What the final quilt will supposedly look like: (Yes, I say supposedly because you never know with me.)

I’ve had the first block sitting in the package for almost a month now, but this past weekend, I finally broke it out to try to put together.  I was actually nervous!

The pieces are pre-cut though (really, I could have done it myself if they had just told me what colors/fabrics to buy) so it was easy enough.  With 1/4″ seams I began sewing the block called “Sweet 16.”

First, I sewed two blocks each together (a yellow blue, another yellow and blue, then blue and green x 2).  From that, I made these rows.  Then I sewed the four rows together.

Finally, I sewed all the triangles together, and then to the correct sides of the “sweet 16.”  The finished product – voila!

Not too shabby for my first quilt block ever.  My only concern is that the package told me it should be 17.5″ all around, and it’s 17.25″ one way (and 17.5″ the other way).  I tried to stretch it out every step of the way, but it still didn’t come out perfectly.  I’m hoping when I put all the quilt blocks all together at the end, it will work out ok.  I’m sure this sizing problem will happen again.

Current Sewing Projects

I’ve been on a roll with my sewing “projects” this week.  It’s been a lot of fun, and I think I’m hooked!

I started off the week making a grocery bag – you know, those kinds of reusable canvassy-type bags you bring with you when you go shopping?  We have a bunch of them around the house, but never enough, and the kinds we have can’t be washed.  Oh sure, I tried to wash them (even though the tag says not to) and they came through ok, but all stiff and wrinkled and they’re not looking so hot.  So I decided I should make my own, so that I could wash it when it was needed.

Voila!  This was my half-assed shopping bag try, and it came out wonderfully.  It’s only a plain cotton fabric, so not as tough as canvas, but I’m pretty sure it’ll hold up just fine.  I didn’t even really measure the fabric (I did buy a full yard though, not knowing I wouldn’t need that much); I just cut out a piece that I thought would make a good sized bag.  Instead of doing anything fancy, I folded what I decided would be the top edges of the bag over 1/4″ toward the “wrong” side and pressed.  Folded the pressed part another 1/4″ and pressed again, then pinned it and topstitched 1/8″ from the edge of the fold.

After my edges were done I merely folded the fabric in half (nothing fancy, I used the bottom fold as the bottom of the bag) with the edges together (nice side INWARDS) and pinned along the side edges.  I then stitched a 1/2″ seam along the edges.When that was done I pressed the seams open, but didn’t bother hiding them.  It’s not a fancy bag and it won’t get caught on anything, so I didn’t bother.

Then it was time to make the straps.  I took cut 2 pieces of 4×20 fabric (the very same fabric, though any matching fabric would do) and folded them lengthwise in half with the two “wrong” sides on the outside. I pressed.  Then I opened it up again, and pressed on raw edge toward the crease I had just created, and pressed.  I did the same with the other edge.  Then I pressed in 1/2″ the short edges of the strap, then folded along the original crease again, and pinned and top stitched around the edges of the strap.

I sewed the straps to the bag and it was done!

I was so excited over my first creation that I decided to make a lunch bag to work.  Again, I use a canvas bag right now, but it’s a lot bigger than what I really need, so I decided to make something a little smaller and with shorter straps so it would be held in my hands (not over my shoulder). Here’s the finished product:

I love this one.  I even added double-bias tape along the edges of the top (instead of folding over the top edges) to match the straps. I’m doubly excited because the straps are made of plain broadcloth but exactly match the double-bias tape (They are not made from the same thing!).  It’s the perfect size for my lunch, and again, when it gets dirty, I will be able to throw it in the washer and dryer and easily iron if needed.  I made this one the same way (just a smaller sized bag and straps) with the exception of the bias tape which was hard to pin on, but I got it in the end.  What do you think?

So there’s my projects for this week. I’m not sure what to make next!  Any suggestions? I think I’m getting good at my sewing machine!

I’m a Sewing Machine!

I have finally conquered my fear of the sewing machine!

All right, I’m no expert, but I can do basic stitches on the hand-me-down my MIL gave me in December of last year.

One of my first project ideas was to fix the spice bags that have been falling apart.  They’re made of natural muslin, and I picked a few up at the co-op some months ago to use for preserving various things like pickles and pears.

But they’ve started to fall apart.  They were really cheap, but there’s no point in throwing away things that can be fixed.  I didn’t want to sew it with just any thread though. Conventional thread (along with fabric and batting) are made with heavy doses of toxins.  The spice bags go into my food, and there’s no way I wanted those toxins to go with it.

Solution?  Organic thread.

I bought this from Near Sea Naturals. Though they are in no way local to me, I really liked their commitment to socially-responsible sourcing.  They’re also located in an off-the-grid, solar powered facility! In addition, I loved the fact that even after I ordered, I sent them some questions via email and they answered them promptly and personally.

I wound a bobbin full of this thread, and then got to work mending my spice bags.  The thread is a little thicker than I am used to, and a little more…fuzzy, but I love that it was organic.

My spice bags are ready to go! Now I just need summer to come so I can preserve again. 🙂

Taking It Easy

Thank you folks, for your kind words on my I’m Stressed post the other day.  I’ve taken your words to heart and doing some soul-searching on what I really want to focus on in my homesteading activities.  Now I just have to narrow it down, and that will be hard!

Instead of doing any big projects this week, I spent a lot of time with friends.  The hubby and I attended our friends’ JOP wedding in Schoharie smack-in-the-middle-of-effing-nowhere Tuesday night!  I got a call from A on Friday night asking if we would be their witnesses at the wedding.  Hell yeah!  A and R actually had a destination wedding in the Bahamas in May but no one except them was there, and I really wished we could have been.  Well, apparently, Bahamas weddings don’t transfer to the U.S., so they haven’t been “legal” this entire time, so I got my chance!  On Tuesday night, we pulled into the gravel parking lot of an old building in Schoharie, where the town judge and clerk were waiting for us.  There, A and R proceeded to repeat their vows (which were very nicely done by the judge I might add) and then we all drove back up the street to their house for pizza.  All weddings should be that simple. 🙂

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Last night, I met up with some old and current friends from work at the Mexican joint down the road, and we enjoyed catching up with each other, relaxing with some drinks, and having some fun outside of the office. Neither night did I get home early, but I stopped stressing about all I had to do, and made sure I got to bed earlier than normal.  Sleep still isn’t great, but I’ve been getting a little more.

Lots of my current homesteading activities are about to be done for the season, mostly gardening and food preserving.  K went out to our garden today (as I sat at the car dealership dealing with a very important recall on my Honda) to see how the plants made (or didn’t make) it through the frost.  Good news for the most part to report!  The peppers and melon did indeed wither and are now done, but the baby spinach has thus far made it through, hurrah! He wasn’t able to take any pics, but hopefully I can get out there this weekend.  (Again, sure wish the garden was in my non-existent backyard!) He reported the golden chard is actually looking the best it’s looks so far this year (it must like cold weather), the garlic has all sprouted, and the brussels sprouts are still fine, as expected.

Does anyone know when brussels sprouts get harvested?  A quick Google search says anytime between late fall to early winter, which taken literally to me, means we can pick it in January (if winter starts in late December). That doesn’t sound right, but ours are still pretty small and I’m hoping they will at least keep growing till November.  We’re in Zone 5 though, so I’m not sure how long they will last.

I’m still very new at this, as you can tell!  🙂  But I’ve come a looooong way since last April, when I had no idea what THIS was! 🙂

Mystery plant

Mystery plant

Bwahaha! I had seriously NEVER seen what brussels sprouts grow on. Never in my life!!

It’s supposed to snow overnight, now, so the hubby has renewed his quest to finish the coldframe before the next season starts. 🙂 He spent much of the night tonight in the garage and has thus far come up with this:

Front of coldframe

Front of coldframe

K drilling the back of the coldframe

K drilling the back of the coldframe

Apparently he still has several hours of work left on this, he says.  Yea, I’m so not getting this this weekend. 🙂

New Project

IMG_0151Have you ever heard of Habitat for Humanity Re-store?  I hadn’t until this week.  I forget exactly now where I read it (though it was definitely online) and I think it was in some blog or another that I was reading.

Habitat for Humanity Re-store is sort of like a Salvation Army or Goodwill store, except it’s for home improvement items.  They accept donated items like old appliances, windows, doors, paint, anything related to house stuff and sell them to earn money for Habitat for Humanity.

So, K and I wanted some old windows to use in our coldframe project. Instead of running out to Lowes or even the local hardware store, we hit up the Capital District Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.

Man, they had EVERYTHING there. Some very out of date appliances, some old couches, LOTS of cabinets, mirrors, lighting fixtures, you name it – they have it.

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They had lots of windows, but at first we didn’t see the size/kind we wanted.  We kept checking around. With so much stuff, we knew we’d find something.

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In the far back corner of the store we found a bunch great looking windows for our purposes.  Then we also found a pile of 2x4s that they were selling for $.50 each so we chose 4 of the best looking ones.  Added to that an old can of exterior paint (quart) and we were almost entirely set!  We got all of it for $15, helped “recycle” some old items and HfH made a little money.  It works out well for all of us.

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K spent a good portion of the evening planning out his cold frame design (oh help, the engineer is coming out!) and I’m pretty sure we’ll have the best made coldframe ever this time tomorrow night.  Unless he’s still planning it out. And measuring.  I mean, I understand the “measure twice, cut once” mantra, but this could go to extremes. 🙂

Stay tuned…

Seed Markers and Garlic

I got honest-to-God sunburned Saturday as I sat outside on my deck painting little wooden plaques for 1.5 hours in the upstate NY sun!  I am bright lobster red on my shoulders and the back of my neck – I have quite the tank-top tan lines going on.  How embarrassing, and it was only May 2nd!

Finally, finally made my seed markers! And not a moment too soon, we were getting all mixed up as to what we had planted where.  And we may have stuck in the wrong lettuce markers – I guess we’ll be able to tell later when they get bigger.

I just went for a simple wooden seed marker, made of dowels and wooden plaques.  From Walmart.

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We had leftover primer from painting our den earlier this year (oh yea, the room is stilll not done) so even though it’s interior paint, I just used that for the markers.

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Painted plaques

Painted plaques

Then I painted the names on there – some more specific than others.  I didn’t specifically write Catskill Brussels Sprouts or Danvers Carrots because I figure I can use those year after year.  But we have 3 different kinds of lettuce so I need to be able to tell those apart.  I can always paint over them again next year.

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And then, finally, I just glued the dowels to the back of the plaques and voila! Ready to plant in the proper beds.

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And plant them I did 🙂

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I weeded out the little maple saplings you see next to the fence, before they crowd out my lettuce.  We also planted sugar snap peas this evening.  A little late, they probably should have gone in last month, but oh well. We’ll see how they do.

While there, we saw Terry working on her plot.  We started talking, and there was this really nice fragrance coming from somewhere in her garden.  She said she had been munching on raw garlic stalks and offered one to me.  She said she didn’t like the garlic she was growing because it was turning out to be too mild.  Well, I’ve never had them before, but sure, why not?  Man, that was pungent. And strong to me, but also good.  Since she was trying to get rid of them, she offered us 7 garlic plants.  They should be growing the scapes in a month or so, and then they will be ready to harvest by the end of our summer.  These things have been planted since before last winter, so there’s no way we would be able to harvest our own garlic this year if we were to go plant some.  As it is, transplanting them from her garden into ours may set them back a bit, but we will have our own garlic soon. Yay!

Garlic plants transplanted to our plot

Garlic plants transplanted to our plot

Dude, WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF ROOM IN OUR PLOT! I never thought this would happen.