Tomato Time Out

It was all tomatoes all the time yesterday. After writing yesterday's post, it was time to start in on the red buggers. It was around 10:00 a.m., and the work continued until 4:30 sorting, washing, scoring, blanching, coring, skinning, chopping, mixing, stirring, filling, and boiling. That list was posted to Facebook yesterday, only to realize that I'd left out "skinning". This morning, I can add "labeling" to the list. As you can see, it's a multi-step process when you take this

To this.

Yesterday's yield was 7 quarts of pasta sauce and 5 pints of salsa. There's also a half-quart of sauce sitting in the refrigerator waiting for its mission in life to be fulfilled. 

And now, there is this much left to do. That will be today's activity. The ones on the left are destined to become tomato jam. All the rest will be cooked into pasta sauce.

First, however, I spent a little time stitching Block 18 of the Bee-utiful quilt.

Block 20, "Bee Friendly" was released last week. Blocks 19 and 20 are going into the regular embroidery rotation now with the rest of the embroidery projects.

And now that I know there are no blocks named "Bee Loving", I've decided to use that name for my version of the quilt. From here on, that's what it will be called.

The only other canning adventure on my list of things to do is to can some plum chutney. I'll wait until Tuesday for that. Tomorrow I'm heading off to the Swan Island Dahlia Festival. It's one of the best photo-ops of the year. We've been only once way back in 2011, and so I'm glad to have another opportunity. There's not much to tell you beyond tomatoes today, and so I'll leave you with some of the best photos from that last trip.


Expect more than you can stand soon. For now...tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes.


Leaving the Nest

It was kind of a lazy day yesterday if you don't count the awake hours in the middle of the night. The morning was a little busier, and then the afternoon was reserved for napping and slow stitching.

Before picking up tomatoes from our farmers yesterday morning, I took the time to pick some plums and make an Original Plum Torte.

The recipe was silent on whether to grease the pan or not. I lightly sprayed it with Baker's Joy. Next time (and there will be a next time...probably in a day or two), I'll use some of the butter in the recipe to grease the pan. It wanted to stick and break apart in my attempt to extricate it from the pan. Nevertheless, it looked pretty when we cut into it last night and topped it with whipped cream.

For ease and deliciousness, this recipe is a real winner. It's a very thick batter that has to be spread, rather than poured, into the pan. Then you simply dot the top of it with plum halves, bake it for an hour, and then try your best to get it out of the pan. I'm really hoping the butter will help with that. In any case...it's delicious. It has the texture of an upside-down cake, without the nail-biting anxiety of having to actually turn it upside down. If you have access to plums, you must try it.

After that, I went to pick-up the tomatoes. I couldn't wait to get home for a nap, and then the rest of the afternoon was spent slow-stitching the Baby Birds quilt. By the end of the day, I'd turned three corners.

This morning, it was finished. 

So it's questionable whether there will be any more sewing done during the month of August. I'm tackling tomato tonnage today. (Awesome alliteration.) Yesterday's crop came in four bags of 10 lbs. each.

Add that 40 pounds to the five we've harvest from our own plants, and you can see I have my work cut out for me.

It's a big job, but so gratifying both in the way it tastes, and in having those pretty jars of sauce lined up on the pantry shelf.

The jars are lined up. My game face and canning apron are on. 

Time to gratify my inner slasher.


Taming the Wild Quilt Edges

The weekend ahead will be busy, and my mind got an early start when I awakened at 2:30 a.m. and started working through all of it. After lying awake until 4:30, I decided to get up and do something productive. There will be time for a nap later.

This morning I'll head over to Working Hands Farm and pick up 40 lbs. of tomatoes. The weekend will be spent turning them into pasta sauce, salsa, and tomato jam. Just so you know what 40 lbs. of tomatoes looks like, here's a picture from last year's harvest. It's two grocery shopping bags full.

There are probably another 10 lbs. of ripe tomatoes on our own plants. Also, the plums are ripe, and so we'll be harvesting enough of those for a plum torte and a batch of plum chutney.

So, you can see there's lots to do in the kitchen. Also, the quilting is finished on the Baby Birds quilt. I don't know about you, but when a quilt is at that point, it's hard for me to relax until the binding is sewn on...at least by machine, if not by hand. Strangely, those raw quilt edges make it hard for me to rest easy.

Allow me show you the quilting. Wednesday, I was working on some feathered flowers. The patchwork areas that day were rather small, and Thursday's quilting taught me that this design is better worked in large areas. When I moved to the larger areas of the quilt, it felt so freeing! Here's how it looks now.

If you watched the video from yesterday's post, then you know she went on at some length about choosing the direction you wanted to travel and how to end up at the right place. My spatially- challenged mind was having the hardest time with that. I kept drawing the motif in the air with my finger again and again thinking about which direction I wanted to go and what that required of my stitching. Eventually, I figured out that the hook in the center needed to point in the direction I wanted to travel. Duh. This next image illustrates what I mean. I was at the edge of the quilt when I started the center hook, and so I wanted my "petals" to end up on the other side from there. Knowing that, I pointed the "hook" in that direction.

Once I had that figured out, I flew. It was perhaps the first time I've ever felt truly comfortable and "in the groove" so to speak so that the stitching flowed easily and I could relax into the motion of free motion quilting.

The last thing I needed to do was to outline the wing on the baby bird. This looks much better.

With that finished, I yanked the quilt out from under my needle and spread it out on the floor.

Here's how it looks from the back.

This quilt is for my cousin's newest granddaughter, expected to arrive in October. She might have to fight Sadie for this quilt.

You made this for me, right? I'm your baby, right? That baby will have to get her own.

So there I lay this morning, thinking about those raw quilt edges, and finally, I got up to sew on the binding. As you might expect, the furry nocturnals were there supporting me every step of the way.

As I got ready to cut the binding strips, I noticed this in the selvage edge.

So there you go...a little message from the quilting gods. A little over an hour later, those edges were tamed, and I could relax.

All that's left is the hand-stitching...and tomatoes...lots and lots of tomatoes.


A Day of Stitching

Quilting can be a pain in the neck...especially for me. I have a metal plate in my neck. It would be nice to say I got it from being some kind of superhero, but actually, it comes from my years as a competitive swimmer. Have you ever watched how a backstroker comes off the starting block?

You throw your head back and leap backwards as far as you can. Do that about a hundred million times in your life, and you'll give yourself a case of whiplash. As much as I try to relax my neck and shoulders, a day of stitching will send me looking for an ice pack to ice my aching neck and shoulders. Does this stop me from spending pretty much a whole day quilting? Not on your life. It actually only hurts when I stop and try to resume a normal posture. This is a minor inconvenience since 20 minutes of icing takes care of it. A small price to pay for a day of fun.

Here's what I did yesterday. I'm into the patchwork sections at the top and bottom of the quilt now. All of the longer green strips have more bird feet in them. For the smaller patchwork sections, I used Lori Kennedy's "Doodle Heart" design to quilt hearts into each one.

It's a surprisingly simple design, and I mastered it on my first practice try before moving onto the quilt. My quilting friend Marei and I were bemoaning the fact that this is not a continuous line design. In other words, each heart is stitched individually, and you must cut thread and bury your tails at the end of each. (I buried mine all at the same time.) Here's how it looks from the back.

I was thinking it would be possible to stitch this in horizontal rows using a little loopy heart between each one to connect them. I tried unsuccessfully to draw it out, but imagine using a heart similar to this one to connect a horizontal row of Doodle Hearts.

It could be done with a little practice, and it would be cute in a border or sashing. Something to ponder for future quilts.

So I finished all the smaller patches, and then I was ready to move on to the larger sections. I wanted to do some sort of flower filler there, and so I checked YouTube to find something I liked. I came up with this video for "Feathered Flower" by Amy Johnson.

If you can't see the video, click right here

This isn't so different from the Swirling Feathers I did for the free motion quilting sampler.

The difference is that Amy's design only includes two loops in the center, and she's not echoing around the feathers when she finishes them off. It seemed like a smaller design. My areas to stitch aren't large, so I opted for using Amy's design. It's a little hard to see on this first section since the fabric prints are fairly busy.

It might be easier to see from the back.

Here's a larger section with a less busy fabric.

I'm a little disappointed that it doesn't look more like flowers, but it's fine for a filler, and so I'm going to leave it and finish up the rest in the same way. When I stopped to ice my neck yesterday, I'd done two sections at the bottom left of the quilt. 

I should have time to finish off the last of the quilting today. And I snapped that image just before the quilt inspector showed up.

Today she's testing the quilt for snuggle-ability.

I give this quilt an A+ for snuggle-ability, Mom!

Here's how it's looking from the back. (I still need to outline the birds' wings.)

Today is a grocery shopping day. Word from our CSA farmers is that I can pick up 40 lbs. of Roma tomatoes from them tomorrow, and so I'm gathering supplies for a weekend of lotsa pasta sauce. It's a lot of work while I'm doing it, but so gratifying to see all those quarts of pasta sauce lined up on my pantry shelves. Also, the plums are ripe! I'll fit in some time for plum chutney while I'm at it.


Bird Feet and Kitty Feet

It was a marvelous day of almost nothing but quilting yesterday. Once I had my housework done in the morning, the rest of the day was devoted to the Baby Birds quilt. When I left off, I was working on the simple swirls for the applique background.

When that was finished, I was ready to work on the ruler lines in the chevron portion. It's been a challenge to get the hang of holding the rulers in place to make nice straight lines. For one thing, the throat plate of my machine was about a quarter inch higher than the surface of my Koala table, and that meant my rulers rocked when I tried holding them level. After consulting The Google to find possible solutions to this problem, it occurred to me that the addition of the table overlay that comes with the standard table for my machine might raise the surface to level.

It still isn't perfect, but it's high enough that the rulers no longer rock.

Mike and I have talked about creating a template using simple cardboard to bring it just a tad higher, but after working with the rulers for the free motion quilting sampler and working with the quilt yesterday, I'm starting to think it's fine the way it is. Even with the level surface, however, holding onto the rulers and keeping them in place for a nice straight line has required some practice. Working on these motifs for the free motion quilting sampler gave me a good bit of practice.

When I started on the quilt yesterday, it was much easier for me to stitch without getting a death grip on the ruler. By death grip, I mean death to my neck, which always ends up sore at the end of a long session of quilting.

I've outlined the trianguler portion of the chevron and then added a stylized heart to the center. The whole quilt started with the section of that purple fabric, and so I'm sticking with the designs from the fabric...hearts and flowers. Oh yes, and birdie feet.

You might recall I was working on the little birdie feet and trying to figure out if I could turn the corner in the zigzag portion of the quilt. It worked out fine. The trick was turning the quilt so that the ruled lines ran horizontal. That helped me keep my bearings as I worked my way across the quilt.

Here's how it looks from the back.

With those two rows done, the quilting is halfway finished. 

It always photographs better when I take it downstairs in front of my living room windows. It's the one place in the house where the lighting gives me enough contrast for the quilting to show. Lay a quilt down on the floor there, and you will catch yourself a cat.

I like this quilt, Mom. It has birds. I *really* like birds. They're so delicious.

Here's how it looks from the back. I've outlined the birds, but after seeing it from the back, I've decided to go back and outline the birds' wings too.

Generally, I don't do a lot of quilting on applique because it can make holes that are a little too obvious for my taste. Nevertheless, I can outline next to the top-stitching line, and I think that will look better from the back.

Does this side have birds too?

So I'll continue on my way today. While I'm hoping I can finish the quilting today, I'm not really expecting to. My goal is to have this one finished before the week is up.