Rita on July 15th, 2012

We’re been declared to be in a level 2 drought situation here in south eastern Ontario. The grass crunches underfoot. The air is dusty when it blows. It’s also very hot. We have no A/C but we’re doing fine, if a bit uncomfortable. It cools off enough at night, although there was certainly a time pretty recently when I would have said, “What a hot night that was.” But compared to the daytime temps, it’s cooling off adequately. It’s amazing what you can get used to, and quickly too.

I’ve been working in the basement to machine quilt 4 community quilts that I was given longer ago than I care to say but they’re done. Big yay! My recent funk caused quite a backlog of work and I’m happy to be catching up.

Be warned that this post is very picture heavy.

cq-08082, front

Here’s the first one I machine quilted.  I feel like I could have chosen a better stitching pattern (Brick Work).  I was thinking to mimic the pattern but it busied up an already busy look.  Let’s hope I never do this again.  I mean, it’s ok, but it could be a nicer effect.

cq-08082, back

cq-08082, front detail

You can click to expand any of these pics.

cq-08061 front

The next one I machine quilted was a better result.  This flimsy was a combination of very busy blocks and a calmer 9 patch.  The back fabric is a paisley with pink in it too.  I chose a busy stitching pattern (Angry Chickens) and a pink thread to tie the different parts together.  I really like how this one turned out.

cq-08061, back

cq-08061 back detail

The third one is my favourite of the four, probably due to the harvest colours which is my go-to palette.  It was the largest of the quilts, 68″ x 48″, I think.

cq-07665, front

cq-07665, back

cq-07665, back detail

cq-07665, front detail

Common to most of the front fabrics was red so that’s the thread colour I chose. Luckily the back also had a tiny bit of red. It all worked out really well. I chose a simple medium stipple.

cq-07759, front

And last was an Amish looking flimsy featuring four lovely fabrics paired with black. The look is flying geese but it’s all done in hst’s.

cq-07759, back

cq-07759, back detail

The back fabric was just black and white.  The colours on the front suggested a light green thread, but because that would have disappeared on the back, I used a different colour in the bobbin – black.  The effect was nice.  I stitched it using Bebits in the Wind, to go with the flying geese.

And to finish off, a couple of detail shots of the front.

cq-07759, front detail 1

cq-07759, front detail 2

I don’t expect to get this productive again soon. There’s a lot of work around the house that has now fallen behind. Toodles!!

Btw, I’m linking up to WIP Wednesday on TNTN.  Lotsa good places to visit there!  (Button on right)

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Rita on July 9th, 2012

Today I took my chicken poo tea and gave everyone a shot of booster juice.  It’s the second application.  No schedule, just thought it was time.  Some things are kind of flagging so this might fix it.  My cukes are wilting, for one .  I think it might be a squash bug that loves cukes too.  sigh.  There aren’t any to find.  I only found 2 of the yellow and green striped 1/4″ guys, actually a girl and a guy.  They couldn’t be responsible for 3 plants drooping.  Let’s see what the tea does.

I noticed that the radishes were bolting so I pulled some of them.  I was intending to pull them all but stopped.  Look what I found:

radishes flowering

big sigh

radishes not fruiting

Addendum: Spoke to a friend, much more knowledgeable than I am, about the radish disaster. She says, “It’s been too warm. Radishes grow when it’s cool.” Oh. Maybe next year, I’ll get them in the ground when it’s first thawed, put plastic over the row to protect it from frost and maybe get something that can be eaten.

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Rita on July 8th, 2012

First, we decided to finally catch this movie, the Moonrise Kingdom.  If you click on the title, it’ll take you to a trailer.  What a crazy movie!  I’ve watched quite a few supposedly funny movies and never even chuckled.  This movie made me laugh a bunch of times, surprised me a lot and amazed a few times.  All I can tell you is to expect the unexpected.  It doesn’t need to be seen on the big screen like some of them, but if it doesn’t hit the TV screen, you might miss it altogether and it’s worth seeing.

On the garden front, it’s time to harvest the garlic around here, that is, if you planted last fall.  If you planted in the spring, then you’ll have to wait longer and settle for smaller bulbs.

garlic scape ready to cut

You should already have had a nice meal of the scapes.  Scapes, for those who don’t know (and I didn’t until relatively recently), are the flower of the garlic plant.

Some people say you should wait until it has curled twice, certainly no more, and then cut it off to keep the energy in the bulb and not let it go towards making its seeds.  (You plant a clove to get more garlic.  If you try to propagate garlic by its seed, it takes a couple of years before you end up with a garlic bulb.)

garlic flowers that are too big

garlic scapes cooked - YUM!

Some garlic however doesn’t want to curl very badly and it seems a better measure is how big the flower is.  We harvested our scapes when the flowers looked like the twice curled pic but they had only curled once.  If you let the flowers get bigger, the stem is too hard and can’t be eaten.  You just cut the stem up and  cook it like any vegetable.  Very very yum!!  The cooked scapes in the picture were clearly picked when the flowers were even smaller.

Anyhow, a farmer friend had 15,000 garlic to be harvested and I went to help.  She gave me a bunch of garlic plus the 2 biggest bulbs I found.  I was challenging the other people who were helping to find larger ones.  Mine won.  I’ve shown Amber’s garlic below.

Amber's garlic #1

Amber's garlic #2

Amber’s large garlic are below.  I put a drink tab in each picture to show the sizes.

Amber's big garlic

my garlic failures

Then I went home and dug my own garlic.  I planted about 15, not 15 thousand, so it was quick work.  The first three I dug up were the garlic that no longer had green leaves.  Clearly they were not healthy.  The others were not bad.   Amber’s varied in size but mine are pretty uniform.  I planted bulbs from another local garlic farm but not one of them made it through the winter.  Amber said she’d had similar germination problems with his garlic.  The ones that did the best for me were Red Russian and Music.  I also planted some store garlic to try that option, garlic from China, of course.  (WHY is all the store garlic from China, when we grow it here???) I know a few came up in the spring but I don’t know where they went.  They’re just gone.  I should have kept the two types of garlic separate to compare taste and keeping qualities.  oh well. next year.  This is the first time I’ve grown garlic.

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Rita on July 6th, 2012

This post is a bit of an addendum to yesterday’s postage stamp how-to.

Yesterday I mentioned that I had been sent a large number of 2″ squares a while back, which I posted about on May 9th .  It sure seems like longer ago to me.  In any case, today, with all kinds of other things that I should be doing, I decided to spend a bit of time and create the 6.5″ square blocks that will mix with the ones that will be coming next month from my Block Bee mates.  Yes, I’m actually ahead of the game.

Not only did I not accurately remember when I received these squares but I also got the number of squares wrong.  I had thought it was 200 squares but no, it was 100.  Well, whatever.  I’ll have to make another couple of these blocks since I need to end up with some multiple of 4 if I’m sewing them together into 12.5″ blocks.

I’ve been thinking about that too.  I may just sash the 6.5″ blocks.  Why not?

Now that I look at the picture, the first row of the upper left hand block needs turned.  The dark/light thing is screwed up there.  I guess it’s a good illustration of why alternating is a good idea.  The snowman in the upper righthand block was going to be in the middle too.  I wonder how that happened.  Goodness.  Isn’t it amazing how looking at it on the screen gives you new eyes?

One thing I learned today was that if you’re cutting a mass of squares, you should iron the fabric before you cut.   And with steam too.   I’m not sure these were.  I didn’t really look at them hard before sewing but I thought when I was ironing the strips, that I saw some of them pull together.

Another thing I noticed was that while my strip method from yesterday seemed to produce 6.25″ blocks, these squares created the proper 6.5″ size.  Did my seam allowance get that teensy bit smaller because of my slightly undersized creations yesterday?  I didn’t think that I was doing that but perhaps it did happen.  It might be a good idea to sash this size of block instead of sewing 4 together and then sashing the larger block.  If the small blocks are a tiny bit off, the bigger block will be 4 times that much off.  I guess that decides it.  Alrighty then.

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Rita on July 5th, 2012

I may have mentioned that I joined a quilting block bee in January.  We all take turns deciding what all of us are making.  We send the block to the leader and she makes a quilt with the blocks.  August is my month and I thought I’d publish a tutorial on how to make a modified postage stamp block.

Strictly speaking, a postage stamp quilt has no repeated fabrics.  That’s why you take your stash, cut a strip of each of your fabrics, cut those into squares and then make up packages with one square of each fabric per package.  Then you join a postage stamp swap.  You send people a package and they send you one.  You each then have a new-to-you group of unique squares.  When you have enough, you start sewing.

Well, a while back I was given 200 2″ squares.  It occurred to me that perhaps I could get this bee to help me out with this task.  The blocks for this bee are all 12.5″ square.  I figured it out and that works out to everyone having to cut 64  2″ squares, sew them into 8 rows of 8 and then sew those rows into a block.  I decided that that was too much work to ask of my bee-mates.  Also, perhaps 64 different fabrics would be more than some people’s scrap stash would contain.  Some people (not me), don’t keep scraps (unbelievable to me  :) ).  Sometimes, they use up all their scraps to assemble the back, so as not to have any fabric left over.

left: 8 lights...right: 8 darks

Here’s my compromise:  Although all the fabrics are supposed to be unique, in this method, you’ll only need 16 different fabrics: 8 lights and 8 darks.  These light/dark designations sometimes scare people.  There are some fabrics that are light AND dark.  Doesn’t matter.  Just put them in one or the other group.  If there are any in the wrong group, it’ll be obvious.

Cut a 2″ x 9″ strip from each fabric like the picture on the right.

arranged alternating light and dark

Next, pick 2 darks and 2 lights and arrange them to alternate: light/dark/light/dark.  Do that twice.  Now pick another 2 darks and 2 lights and arrange them dark/light/dark/light.  Do that with the last 4 strips.  It will look like the picture on the left.

Now we’re going to sew these strips together.  Choose a small stitch length (mine was 14 stitches to the inch).

The strips are sewn together in the picture on the  right.  Iron the seams of half of the strip blocks to the left and half to the right.  This way the seam allowances can nest later.

Now, lie the strip blocks on the cutting board with the seams horizontally in front of you.  You’re going to square off one side of each block.  Next cut these strip blocks into 4 2″ strips like shown on the left.

Take one strip from each group and arrange them.  Do this 4 times.  This is shown on the right.  I’ve arranged the strips so that lights and darks alternate again.

Once we’ve sewn this arrangement together, there should be 4 6.5″ blocks consisting of 16 2″ squares each.  That’s what the arithmetic would tell you.  In actuality, each time you make a seam, a tiny bit of length is taken up with the folding.  In a block like this where you’ve folded 4 times in both directions, it adds up.  Although I have an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance (as shown), my blocks are closer to 6.25″.  This may happen to you too.  That’s ok.

You’re done, if you’re doing this as part of this Bee (see button on the right).  If you’re doing this for yourself, well, you might still be done if you’re making 6″ blocks (finished size).

I will be getting 4 of everyone’s 6.5″ blocks.  In order to maximize the randomness of the fabrics, I’ll be mixing up the 6.5′s, sewing together 4 to make a 12.5″ block and then sashing them into a finished flimsy to calm the overall cacophany.

It took much longer to do this post than the choosing/sewing/cutting.  The block took me just under an hour.  I hope the instructions are clear.  Thank you so much Bee-mates for doing this for me!  As you can see, colours doesn’t matter.  The uniformity of all these blocks will (hopefully) come from the contrast of the lights and darks.  You can use large or small print fabrics, or plains.  It should all work out nicely.

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Rita on June 26th, 2012

Back on May 4th, I started this flimsy in a flurry of excitement at finding the feature fabric at Ikea.  The next day the blocks were together and a few days later the flimsy was completed.  And there it sat, waiting for me to assemble the back and the batting.  I did that on Friday and finally, the rain stopped so I could take some pics.

It’s turned out just the way I pictured it in my head.  I quilted it using my Buzz pattern.  I chose it because of the flowers of course.  The buzzes look like bees to me.  Then I noticed that it goes pretty nicely with the back as well because the print there is bows.  ha ha: a fabric pun, of sorts.

I’m linking up to WIP Wednesdays at TNTN!  Check it out by clicking the button on the right!

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Rita on June 21st, 2012

Or if you prefer Celcius:

I know EVERYONE LOVES the heat…but I do not!!  My animals do not either.  Last night, 3 of 5 chickens were panting in the coop with wings held out.  They did not look happy.  The coop was 31.8 degrees C.  I put an ice-filled metal bowl in with them.  I was really worried that some might not survive.  I had left the sides of the coop open well into the evening to let the heat out but somehow, it didn’t work as well as it should have.  The ambient air was quite a bit cooler, 28 degrees.  Anyhow, the ice did the trick and cooled it a couple of degrees very quickly.  If nothing else, they could have had a cool drink.  Chickens apparently have trouble getting rid of their extra heat so it’s a serious risk and I love my girls!!  The rest of the animals, my dog and 2 cats, are lying around, looking like they’ve been shot.  I’m trying not to move either.  Today is the second day and the house has increasing trouble holding the nights’ cool.  Tomorrow this weather will break!  Yay!

brussels & english cukes

peppers & zukes

You should see the garden too.  OMG!  Limp for as long as the sun is shining on it.  It’s very pitiful.  And I’ve been watering.  My garden is small enough that I can do that.  I don’t know how the farmers’ fields are handling this!  Or my friend’s very large garden!  She’s away on an Alaskan cruise at the moment.  Is she ever going to be sad if she comes back to nothing but dead plants.

And here, for the record, is the garden today and a  month ago.  It’s looking a lot fuller.  Almost everything is flowering!

June 21, 2012

May 29, 2012, not completely planted

Last post I showed these cushion covers I was working on.  I was concerned about the outside ‘binding’.  I finished one cushion yesterday and it was not good.  DH said the binding was too wide.  I resisted this judgement because I had killed my arm hand-sewing the second seam.  The problem was the binding fabric is ultrasuede.  I had been thinking about using something else but the colour was so perfect and I feel that ultrasuede always gives a feeling of “expense”.  Is that just me?  I made a quilt once and used ultrasuede in a regular quilting width (but just one layer) and it worked out SO beautifully.  Anyhow, this morning I looked at the finished cushion (the other one was pinned and ready to handsew) and decided that yes, the binding was too wide.  Out went the hand sewing (the pain from which disturbed my sleep all night.  Grrr) and I cut it narrower, redid the mitring and this time I machine sewed the second side.  It looks much better.

Moral of the story is, sleep on it and get over how annoying it is to undo somethng.  You’ll be so much happier in the end.  Unfortunately, this is one lesson I need to relearn at regular intervals.  sigh.

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Rita on June 12th, 2012

Just two weeks ago, there was still an extra blanket lying at the foot of the bed, in case you needed a bit of extra warmth in the middle of the night.  We hadn’t actually pulled it up in a while, but the possibility still seemed to exist.  Then the temperature started to climb every day last week, hitting 31 degrees (that’s ‘hot’ in Fahrenheit) yesterday.   The extra blanket is gone.  Even the quilt is off the bed.  Goodness.  Seemed like a fast change.

I hid in the basement all day.  That’s where I sew, sooooo, I did.  I got some pants with fraying hems and holes below the front pockets turned into shorts, which was more work than just cutting and hemming.  Then I worked on a couple of cushions that I promised to do.  The future recipient has no idea that they’re way late!!  It was supposed to be done for Christmas.  ahem

Here’s the front of one with the outside attached, mitres half done and the back of the other one. Next, a pic showing the zipper and another showing the back fabric. It looks like it’s going to work out pretty well.  It’s supposed to be wood grain.  I thought that would be the most of the work but no, the quilting was the quick part.  Getting this outside mitred edge on is proving to be the tough part.  It may need to be top-stitched to lay flat enough.  We’ll see if that’s necessary.

I’m linking up to WIP Wednesday at TNTN – see button on the right.  We have 25-30 people joining every week.  Come visit and join the cheering on!!

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Rita on May 31st, 2012

Sewing has taken a backseat to other things lately.  Those annoying cubes stopped me dead, plus a couple of other projects that were avoidable, if you know what I mean.  Here’s what’s happening otherwise.

First a kitty interlude.  The black one is Mitza and the orange one, I’ve mentioned before, is Oscar.  You’d think that they were friends, wouldn’t you?  Well, that would be wrong.  Usually one cat on the bed/couch/window seat means that the other one has to find elsewhere to sleep.  It’s just something that they’ve agreed on.  Sometimes one cat gets the others’ favourite spot repeatedly.  That’s what’s happened here.  Mitza beat Oscar to this bed a couple of days running.  This morning Oscar decided that if he lies close to her, maybe she will get disgusted and leave.  It did work eventually.  Were they both unhappy until Mitza left?  Or did they learn that lying close to each other isn’t so bad?  Aren’t they funny?  If only they could talk.  It would be so interesting to listen.  Wait!  There’d be arguing – lots of it.  I take it back.

Last year we had a tiny garden after many years hiatus.  I propped 2′ welded wire around it which fell over a few times, was hard to get over for me but not for my leaping dog.  This year we fenced a larger garden and even put a gate since getting over a 4′ fence would have involved injury.  It’s still not large (15′ x 13′) but it’s a nice size, I think.  We’ll see.  It’s still pretty bare but the plants are already growing, so it’s getting exciting now. If you want to see what’s where, click a couple of times.  I put in 3 zukes between the butternut squash and the peppers today.

The front yard still needs some serious work.  Why, oh why does grass want to grow so badly where flowers are and yet it doesn’t want to fill in and get thick where it’s supposed to grow???  I hesitate to work in the front because the roses have thorns, there’s wild raspberry with its prickly stems, and worst, there’s a patch of stinging nettle.  Imagine how itchy I’ll be after getting that out.  The grass problem pales in comparison and frankly, I like grasses all tall and waving with its pretty and various flowers.  Some grasses have these beautiful though very small golden hanging flowers.  It’s so lovely.

On the positive, because we’ve had enough rain this spring, the roses are lush.  I planted them so that when I open the living room windows, the wonderful smell will waft in.  Heavenly!!

There are climbing roses between the two bedroom windows as well.  They’re not as far along with their blooming but it’s going to be lovely too.  Below the roses and on either side are what I call my Tall Yellows.  It’s an old farmhouse type flower that needs no care and blooms profusely.  While the Tall Yellows are working on height (they’ll be past the window sills when they’re done), the Dame’s Rockets  bloom.  They’re less showy, only bloom every other year but I love them too.

There were tulips in front of the Tall Yellows, planted many years ago.  They’re done now – in more than one way.  When they were first planted, I guess, about 8 years ago, it was a goodly show.  They increased for a couple of years and then started to decline.  This year we were down to 4 or 5 blooms.  I guess it’s time to dig them up.  Or is there something that can bring the flowers back.  I know the leaves will come back every year forever, I think.

I’m hoping to get sewing again, GREAT GUNS, next week.  Fingers crossed!  (hoping that it happens, that is)

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Rita on May 16th, 2012

The Common Threads Quilt Guild hosted the Mother’s Day quilt show at Ottawa’s RA Centre this year.   There were almost 200 quilts on display.  I volunteered to do a white glove shift.  I was one of the people who lifted the quilt if you wanted to see the back.  It was fun to talk ‘quilting’ with so many people.

There were vendors arranged around the outside of the venue and I actually bought some stuff this time.  Usually, I hold back.  The thing that got my money out of my wallet was a kit developed by Carla Klop, a very nice lady who spent considerable time making it possible for people to create a fabric version of the origami puzzle called a flexi-cube.  Here is a mercifully short (34 secs) irritatingly computer narrated video on youtube showing how this puzzle works.  Carla has  a website showing more information.  I fooled myself about the amount of work involved but if you think about it: 8 blocks = 12 edges each.  That’s a lot of edges.  Almost a hundred of them.  16 of the 96 edges are already ‘joined’ by cutting two squares together as a rectangle.  That leaves 80 edges.  Carla suggests sewing most of the remaining edges by machine and then after you put the foam blocks in, you hand-sew the rest.  Carla says it takes her 3 hours to finish one of these kits.

For better (looking) or worse (taking longer) I made the decision to hand sew all the edges.  This might be a mistake.  I soon found that to make the stitches as tiny as possible yet strong enough, I needed to put on stronger glasses (or as I do, a pair of reading glasses on top of my regular glasses – probably not a practice endorsed by opthamololgists).  I’ve been sort of pecking at this and not measuring the time but it’s been progressing slowly.  I’m reminding myself of all the folks in the past (and presently) engaged in working with hexies – those six sided shapes that make those old-fashioned looking quilts currently in resurgence.  And then there’s the zen of it.  Enjoy the process.  Yes, trying.

The kit comes with 6 fabrics.  You work with 3 and then the other 3.  Then you put the two halves together.  In the pink/yellow/gold picture, you can see the already mentioned reading glasses.  Near them, you see some squares and rectangle with the freezer paper ironed to the back, ready to sew edges together like their friends above.  The gold ones I haven’t touched yet.  The blue/green/purple picture shows how the freezer paper is not staying ironed on.  Love that.

Zen.  Zen is good.

I was thinking this was going to be the next gift for the current crop of babies in my life that have all gotten or will get quilts.  Beginning to rethink this.  Unless, it all turns out SO great.  Maybe I’ll try it again, machine sewing most of the edges like Carla suggests.  I wonder if the freezer paper will like that.

If you’re visiting from The Needle and Thread Network, welcome!  Or in the more unlikely case that you’re here for some other reason, go over to TNTN (see button on the right) and see what lots of Canadian thread and needlers are doing this week.