8/31/15

Leafy

It was a nice day yesterday...rainy and cloudy, with sunshine toward the end of the day. It gave Mike a chance to get outside to work, and it gave me a chance to sew for most of the day. I was interspersing a little cooking and some light housework in between making the last of the stemmed leaves for the Blushing Aspens table runner.

When I left this on Saturday, I had taken it this far:


The first thing I did when I picked it up again was to make the tiny little leaf in the upper left of the image below.


After that, there were two more leaves to make in Section 2. When I had those finished, it was time to sew the whole section together.


If you read my post from last Wednesday, you know this was tricky business. Remember this diagram? Partial seams were clearly in order, but I wasn't sure where to start or which order to sew the leaves together.


There were several good suggestions and a lot of cheering. Eventually, I went with the method Gayle suggested, thus:


That made sense to me, and it worked perfectly! Thanks, Gayle! You guys are so smart. I knew someone would steer me in the right direction. So I've turned the image below in the same direction as the diagram so that you can see how it went together. No seam ripper required, thank goodness.


With that done, I was ready to sew Section 2 to Sections 3 and 4:


After that, there was one more leaf to make for Section 1.


Now all of the "veined" leaves are complete. I just have the little row of ten leaves along the right hand side as you see in the image below.


The smaller leaves go much faster than the veined leaves. Each veined leaf took about an hour to make. I'm thinking I can make several of the little ones in an hour's time. Then I'll just need to add the borders, and the top will be finished.

Today I need to head back to see my orthotist. You might recall that she's been working with me trying to get my custom orthotics right since I was fitted in a half size larger shoe recently. The shoe size was a good move, I think, but it threw off the fit of my custom orthotics. My right foot, especially, has been hurting ever since. 

Going into a larger shoe makes me think of a time Mike was up skiing on Mt. Bachelor and he was complaining to a fellow skier that his ski boots no longer fit his feet. The younger skier's reply was, "Gravity, Man." And thus, I'm in a larger shoe size now too. Gravity, Man. Did you ever stop to consider how many of aging's woes can be summed up in that one simple phrase? Wrinkling skin? Gravity, Man. Falling boobs? Gravity, Man. That's all you need to know most times. Fall down and break one of your aging brittle bones? Gravity, Man. See what I mean?

Anyway...that's going to take at least a couple of hours. Also, I'm heading to the post office to mail off my letter to the Salem Municipal Court, and that baby is going Certified Mail. Hopefully, I'll have time to work on my leaves when I get home this afternoon. 

It's the last day of August. Use it wisely. Fall is on the way.

8/30/15

A Morning of Stitching

It's been a busy morning in the sewing room already today. I'm looking forward to a near-full day of NBS (nothing but sewing). Only "near" full because I'll be making some new appetizer recipes for dinner tonight. Sometimes we have a dinner of nothing but appetizers...kind of fun.

As for my morning of stitching, I finished up the 4th of nine blocks for the Gingerbread Square quilt.


Someone asked me about the color in this piece yesterday. In case you're wondering, the color is added with good old Crayola crayon after I trace out the design for stitching. Some of it is first colored with white crayon and then covered with another color. By first using white, it lightens the shade of the final color. There is also some "shading". I've done that by simply outlining the stitching lines using whatever color is designated. It usually takes me a couple of hours to make one of these blocks for stitching, including tracing, coloring, and then heat-setting the crayon with my iron. To do that, I simply place a paper towel over the design, then iron until there is no transfer to the paper towel. Then it is safe to iron directly on the fabric. 

I'm not sure how this will hold up in the wash, but I'm trusting that designer Meg Hawkey of Crabapple Hill Studios has tested it herself before publishing her patterns. I happen to love her work, and I notice she's doing more and more of this in her newly-released patterns. Here are the four blocks I've stitched so far:


The next time I work on this, I'll be doing the Town Square Gazebo. I don't know about you, but I think these blocks are impossibly cute. 


And that left me with no embroidery for tomorrow morning. Since there must be embroidery, I made up the embroidered label for Erik's Vintage Tin quilt. His birthday is in October, and I simply must get his quilt finished up in September. Starting with the label seems a good idea.


I can probably do this one in one or two sittings. After that, I'll get started on the next two blocks for Lisa's quilt.

The only sewing I did yesterday was to make one more leaf for the Blushing Aspens tablerunner. I made the one in the lower left corner. It was a little tricky because of its long, slender stem, but we got it worked out.


There are still two large leaves and one tiny leaf in section two, and so I should be able to get those finished today. Hopefully, I'll be able to puzzle my way through sewing it together then.

There's plenty on today's agenda and enough to keep me busy into tomorrow. What are you working on?

8/29/15

A Guilt Trip with the City of Salem

We had quite a storm last night. We were awakened at around 3:00 a.m. by a serious thunder storm. It was directly overhead judging from the loud CRACK! of lightning followed immediately by the rumble of thunder. We haven't heard a storm that close since leaving Phoenix in 1978. After that, it poured rain for quite a while. Even though we were glad for the rain, I wasn't able to get back to sleep, and so it's been kind of a heavy-lidded day for me. I did manage a short morning nap, but as I write this, I'm trying to stay awake so that, hopefully, I'll sleep better tonight. That makes four nights this week that I've awakened too early, and then not been able to get back to sleep. Oy.

Today I canned the latest CSA tomatoes and a few that came from our own plants. I'm not doing anything fancy with them now...just chopping them and canning them for soups, stews, and chili. I haven't done just plain tomatoes before, surprisingly enough, and so I'm hoping I cooked them long enough to concentrate their juices. Otherwise, I'm going to have chunky tomato juice.


The yield was five pints, and there's nothing in there but tomatoes and a little lemon juice. It was recommended that I add a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each jar to be sure the acid level was high enough to process them safely in a boiling water bath. Apparently tomatoes are right on the borderline of being safely acidic. Bottled (rather than fresh) lemon juice, gives some control over the acid level, and helps ensure a safe jar of tomatoes.

There's always a lot of stirring and waiting when canning tomatoes, and so that gave me some time to work on the Gingerbread Square block.


I've hooped it for the last time with just a little bit left to finish.


After that, I'll move on to a couple of little projects. I need to finish up two more blocks for Lisa's quilt. They both have some embroidery. Also, I want to make an embroidered label for Erik's Vintage Tin quilt, and then we're just days away from the latest Vintage Kitchen block release. I'll finish those four small projects and then get ready for the next block in Hocuspocusville.

If you read my post from yesterday, then you know I was the unhappy recipient of a traffic ticket. This morning I wrote my "letter of explanation" in an effort to get the stiff fine of $260 (sucks in breath) reduced. If you're interested, you can read the letter I wrote to the court right here. I figured a play on their sympathies with a hefty dose of a guilt trip might get me what I want. And if not, I'm not ashamed to go down there, throw myself at somebody's feet, wrap my arms around their legs and weep uncontrollably. "Puh-leeze don't make me pay the whole fine. Puh-leeze!" If that doesn't get 'em, nothing will. They can just take their seats among the heartless bastards of the world. Am I right about that? Who's with me?

So that's about all I've done today. After this, I think I'll get back to my leaves. I can probably get at least one more made before day's end.

8/28/15

Oregon State Fair 2015

Today was Day One of the Oregon State Fair. Sue and I headed out this morning to see it. The day started out a little rough when I was issued a traffic citation for turning left at this right turn only intersection. Bummer.


Without going into all the details, I'll just say that I did not see the sign. I so didn't see the sign that we went back to look after we left the fair. Sure enough...there it is. In my defense I'll say that I'm not familiar with the roads in Salem. As you can see, there are a lot of signs and there was a lot of fair traffic. My biggest defense is that I pulled up to the limit line and stopped, and the sign was no longer in view. Oh well. I broke the law, and this time, the law won. It's an expensive ticket. I'll just write a letter of explanation to send along with my fine and throw myself on the mercy of the court. If I can get them laughing, maybe they'll reduce it. We didn't let it ruin our day.

So then we walked what seemed like a long way around to the far side of the fairgrounds where there was no line to pay for admission. We headed directly for the quilts and mine was hanging right above the ladies who were welcoming visitors to the show. There was the Blooming Sunflower with a pretty red ribbon. Okay. I was feeling better about that traffic ticket by now.


Then we walked down a row of quilts and came to Psycatdelic, hanging there with a blue ribbon! Yay!


And around the corner from that was A Gardener's Journal...also with a blue ribbon!


Shoot for the Moon was not a winner, and that's okay. I still love that quilt, and let's face it...you can't win 'em all. I'm declaring the 2015 Oregon State Fair showing suh-weet!


For whatever reason, I wasn't much in a picture-taking mood, but I did take a few pictures of quilts and other stuff. Here are the two "Best of Show" quilts.


The one below was in the youth category.


I just thought these next two were adorable.



We looked at a few more displays before heading over to the livestock pavilion. I can never pass by an orchid without thinking of my mother. She loved orchids.



The sheep were being groomed for showing.


We were suspicious of these guys. Just what do you suppose they're up to dressed in these disguises?


They look a little like terrorists don't they? And what about this guy below? We suspect him of being their leader with that getup he's wearing.


And then there were some pigs who were obviously good friends.



We were hoping to see piglets, but there were none this year.

I haven't done any more sewing since Wednesday. We're expecting quite a downpour of rain over the weekend, and we really need it. It will be the first significant rain since March. I have another pile of tomatoes that I'm going to dice up and can just as tomatoes. These are from our CSA shares, but the two funny-looking ones in the lower left are from our plants.


When they're all diced and cooked, I should be able to get about four pints. Then, the rest of the weekend will be devoted to sewing. It'll be nice to be inside listening to the rain after the hot summer days we've had.

8/26/15

Leaves, Partial Seams, and a Question

Today I added three more leaves to the Blushing Aspen table runner I've started. It takes quite a while to make one leaf, and I was pausing between each one to do some other things around the house. When I started on the fourth one, I was just kind of tired of working on it, and so I quit for the day. Here's where I left it:


So now all you smarty pantses (and I mean that in the best way possible) who were so quick to point me in the direction of partial seams tutorials, I have another question for you. All of the tutorials I saw had nice symmetrical blocks, even though the parts of the block did indeed center around a middle piece. I get the idea with the partial seam after watching the tutorials. Nevertheless, my leaf section here seems to add another level of complexity since I have those sections at both ends. How would you do this? I've numbered the leaf sections so that you can make your suggestions using the numbers.


Since I've been staring at this and thinking about it all day, here's what I've come up with. Obviously, I'll have to make all of the leaves before I can do any of it. My confusion comes from thinking I might actually have to do two partial seams to sew the whole thing together. But where does the second partial seam go?

Here's what I'm thinking (if I can hold my thinking together enough to write this): I start with the plain center section at the bottom. Do a partial seam where the 3 leaf connects, then start with #5 and go around counter clockwise. So...Partial seam at leaf 3, then 5, then 6, then 4. But then how do I do that and still add the small upper section (with the small leaf)? Leaves 3 and 4 are already sewn together, right? How do I add the small leaf section? Do you see the problem I'm having here?

I'd love it if someone had a solution for this little puzzle because my brain is hurting trying to make sense of it.

A Day of Sewing

It was nice to get back into the sewing room yesterday. There was an apple pie on the agenda, but I'm afraid that box didn't get checked off. For one thing, Mike had the cooktop out of commission.


Now what's going on here, you might be asking. Well, as you might guess, the cooktop was absolutely destroyed when I did my canning over the weekend. Our cooktop runs on propane and it has electronic sparkers to light the burner. We use oven cleaner to get the worst grime off, and when I've done this in the past, I sprayed oven cleaner on the electronic sparkers (even though I tried not to), and gummed them all up. Of course, that required the assistance of the Resident Engineer to get them working again...and it was a pain. So now, he cleans the cooktop when it is at its dirtiest by first wrapping the burners and sparkers in tin foil, and then spraying oven cleaner and letting it sit for several hours. Not a bad scheme on my part, eh? Mess up bad enough and you get banned from doing the job. (Polishes fingernails on shirt.)

So this is how the cooktop was looking yesterday. Now, mind you...an apple pie for two does not require a cooktop for any reason whatsoever. Nevertheless, I used this as an excuse to stay out of the kitchen the whole live-long day. We were all better off for it. Maybe today I'll get to the apple pie.

It's been a busy month canning, and there's no way I'm going to get bonus points on my monthly goals. Just now I went through the blog posts for the month and found that I've spent 7 days of August canning. That's not a complaint, but it works well as an excuse for not keeping up with my sewing goals. With that in mind, I've kind of decided to power on through with the Blushing Aspens until I have all the leaves made. Yesterday, I made the third leaf for Section 4 and then sewed the whole section together.


Of course, I had plenty of help in the sewing room. 

"Hey Smitty! Mom's back in the sewing room! If we bother her enough, we can probably score some of that dried catnip!"


Great idea, Gracie...and whoa! I'm trapped in a cat trap! Gracie! Get Meowt!


So, cats aside...I managed to get both Section 3 and Section 4 finished yesterday. It was a little tricky making the leaves with stems. For one thing, I had to relearn the notion that when you sew strips of fabric together, you need to sew on the diagonal if you want them to come out in a straight line.


It only took me one time ripping out that little seam to figure that out. Yeah...I'm real smart that way.


Also, it was a little tricky because of the way I'm trimming the blocks. When I made the freezer paper templates, I also draw in the seam lines around the outside of the block and the inner stem. Around the outsides of the block, I'm trimming them to one-half inch from the seam line, and the seams within the block are trimmed to one-quarter inch. That's because I need to sew the pieces together before I can trim the block to size. Also, I learned that I must first trim the blocks before removing the freezer paper, or I'm in a world of hurt with no markings to use as a guide. 

So, you might guess that the first leaf was a bit of a challenge. When I get something finished, I always let out a high-pitched "Ha!" in amazement at my stupelligence. (I just made that word up. It means when you're kind of stupid about something, and then you figure it out, reassuring yourself that actually, you are quite intelligent. Stupelligence. Get it?) And so when this one was sewn together, try to imagine me saying "Ha!"


followed quickly by a lower pitched "Oh..." when I realized I'd sewn the stem in backwards. The wider end should be at the wider end of the leaf. And then my disappointed "Oh..." quickly turned into a big "Oh well," because I'm not a bit worried about the quilt police noticing that one. In fact, you wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't pointed it out, would you? Just say no.

So anyway...with that, I had this bit of the runner finished.


And then I finished the second leaf in Section 3 and sewed the two sections together. 


Ha!

And so all of that to say that these aren't difficult once you get yourself a system in place. That's why I think I'm going to power on through until all the leaves are made. If I don't, I'll have to figure all of that out again when I come back to it. Bonus points, schmonus points. I'm resigned to not getting my list completed in August. There's always September.

Today, maybe I'll bake a pie, and for sure I'm on to Section 2 of the runner, which is the largest of the five sections. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see any way to avoid doing a couple of "Y" seams in this do you?


Look at those two little filler sections in the middle. Do you see a way to piece those together while avoiding the dread "Y" seam? If so, please enlighten this stupelligent person.

8/25/15

Ready for the Big One

All I can say is this: If the Cascadia Subduction Zone decides to do its worst, it's good to know that we'll have pasta sauce for an army. Yesterday's day-long task was to finish up the last of the tomatoes. There were enough left for another double batch of pasta sauce and one batch of salsa. That gave me a total of 18 quarts of pasta sauce and 11 pints of salsa. Not bad for three days' work...I guess...it's hard to say. Surely it will be worth it when we're eating that bright fresh tomato-flavored sauce in the long cold dark days of winter. 

Here's how it looks on my pantry shelf. There's enough for us and plenty to share with the kids. And I'll just say that sharing with the kids is worth the work right there.


While the last of the salsa was processing yesterday, I made another batch of Mike's favorite refrigerator pickles too. No processing for them, other than putting them into the refrigerator.


I had in mind to do those from day one, but the all-encompassing work of processing multiple batches of sauce really took me by surprise. It's the largest pile of tomatoes I've ever processed at one time, and I was naive about the level of effort involved. It kept both hands busy for many, many hours. Nevertheless, when you see all these beautiful jars of canned goods on your pantry shelves, it is very gratifying. The pints of salsa are there in the middle.


On the left are jars of tomato jam and tomato chutney. Next to those are various flavors of fruit chutney from last year. Then the salsa and the dilled carrot spears I did earlier. The salsa verde is hiding behind those. Then to the far right are this year's jars of zucchini bread & butter pickles and some zucchini relish from last year. 

Someone asked me what was next, and I was kind of stuck for an answer. We'll have more tomatoes coming on our own plants, and I think I'm just going to dice them up and can them as plain tomatoes for soups and sauces. That won't happen for a week or two, however. 

So, here I am with my hands free. I was awake at 3:00 a.m., and I'm not kidding when I say I've been peeling, seeding, and chopping tomatoes in my sleep. Since I couldn't get back to sleep, I was up at 4:15 a.m. doing needle work. As long as I'm awake, I might as well be doing something. I read my email and checked in on my Facebook friends. When Mike left for work, I fell over on the couch and slept for another hour or so. 

Today is a CSA pick-up day, but aside from that it's NBS (Nothing But Sewing). It's the first chance I've had to attach the 97D foot to Big Bertha. As you can see, the quarter-inch measurement is spot on now. The left side of the foot is a little wider than the previous foot. This is so that it covers the feed dogs on that side. Apparently that was causing a problem with the fabric pulling, although I hadn't experienced that myself.


While I'm giving myself an NBS day, there are a few other things I want to do. For one thing, I've been Jonesing to make an apple pie for two. That was another thing I was thinking I could squeeze in while processing the tomatoes. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. I'll get at that in a little while. What I wanted to do most this morning was make some more leaves for the Blushing Aspens table runner. The next one on the lightbox was this one (remember that I'm working in reverse). It has an extra seam on the left.


I wondered why that was necessary, and so I took a look at Frieda Anderson's creation in the book. You can see that she turned her fabric 90 degrees there. She's working with a gradient fabric, and it seemed like my print wasn't going to make much sense beyond giving me an extra seam.


When you look at the picture of the finished table runner, you can see that there are green pieces in the split leaves.


I decided to try putting the green there, just for grins. I can always change it later if I don't like it. So I made the second leaf, and then sewed the two leaves together. Here's how it's looking. I've included the layout from the book so that you can see what I've done.


There are a few little "filler pieces" scattered throughout the piece, and I'll use green in all of those. 

And that's my morning so far. Time to get back to the sewing machine and the pie. My feet are going to thank me for an easier time of it today.