17 November 2017

An Early Christmas Gift

I seem to be drawn to quilt-alongs lately.
I found this Merry and Bright wallhanging on Sunday...
and started it on Monday.

I didn't take the time to think about how many
little pieces are in it.  Or that a large portion was paper-piecing.
(Note to self:  take the time!)
But sometimes we all need some "hole up in the sewing room" time
and that's exactly what I did, emerging last night with a completed
early Christmas gift that is already on its way to it's new home.

One down.

12 November 2017

"Apple Orchard" Top Completed--by Grandma

My last block is complete!

I have to admit that in keeping this a scrap- and stash-busting
project, the beauty of this quilt rather surprised me.  

These are just phone pics--one at night, one on a cloudy day--
so, sadly, neither image really does it justice.

"Apple Orchard"

But it really does look more striking in real life.  I can't wait to see how
well the apple pantograph I bought just for quilting this works out.
And, even more, I can't wait to gift it away.

But first on the quilting machine is another gift, October Winds.
After several rows of happy leaf quilting, I ran into tension issues again,
though not near as bad this time.  I think I have them fixed already
but other, more important things came up so it has sat unfinished
for a bit but I am looking forward to finishing it tomorrow.
Not much longer and both will be able to go right under the
Christmas tree when we put it up in a couple weeks.

I did decide to go ahead with hand-sewing the binding on the baby quilt;
my husband was in New Zealand for work so it was looking very likely
I'd be driving myself up to Kansas City to see our new grandson arrive.
No "road trip sewing" for me.

As everything turned out, hubs was able to switch the last leg
of his flight home to KC and, just hours later, we were both able
to be present for the big moment.

Forty-six years old, 25 years of marriage, four kids
and so many memorable life events, and just like that,
suddenly there I was, at 1 o'clock in the morning, a grandma.

A sewing, quilting, knitting, baking, cooking, canning, gardening grandma.
I think I got this.

04 November 2017

Quilt Top Complete: October Winds

It's late (actually, it's now very early!) but I wanted to post
my latest quilt top completion. Even better?  It's already
 loaded on the frame, ready to go.
(I'm getting quicker at that loading process!)

Perfect fall fabrics for what I think resemble
tumbling leaves all around the pumpkin patch.
I used this HST layout and directions from the Moda Bake Shop
for the quilt but with a different applique center.

"Maple Island" by Holly Taylor

I try to make at least one fall quilt every year; this project
went together so quickly I can't decide if I should try to
squeeze in another or move on to Christmas gifts.
Even though this has a fall theme, I'm still giving it as a Christmas
gift (the recipient loves decorating for fall).  I just need the November
block for my BOM to move on to completing that gift.  And then one
more (ahem) for which I still need to choose a design.
I say "ahem" because there are too many days between now and
Christmas for me to not decide on making more quilts for gifts.
But, stranger things have happened so we'll see...

29 October 2017

Pear Clafoutis and Baby Quilt Finish

Everything is in safe from the freeze; now comes the struggle
of trying to get it all used fresh or preserved for later.

Using the recipe from Julia Child's French cookbook
(that I've made several times 
with black cherries), 
I tried out some of our pears in a clafoutis.
Amazingly simple and so yummy, this summer
recipe has just been extended to the fall!

A portion of the roasted Anaheim chilies and green tomatoes became
16 pints of salsa verde.  (Using green tomatoes is a first for me;
but I didn't really get any tomatillos this year.)  Another portion went
to make 13 bags of enchilada sauce (freezer).  The remaining roasted
chilies went to the freezer but there are still piles of peppers and
my first crop of lemongrass to deal with in the fridge.

These herbs are for keeping in vases to cook with over the next week(s);
pears to cook with and lemongrass hearts to freeze.  Other herbs are being dried.

Over the late fall & winter, I store the extra pumpkins in the
garage--I cut them up as I get time over the next few months.
I've had pumpkins last to mid-February so why bother freezing
all the pumpkin puree when we can have it fresh?

This very yummy recipe of Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles hit our
table just this morning.  We all loved them but I did cut the spices
 in half--when you make a lot of pumpkin recipes, the strong
flavor of these spices can get old quick.  Turned out to be a good
choice as I don't think I'd want more.  I also question all the butter.
I'll cut some next time but I'm a little concerned that may alter the texture.
And we like our waffles to be a little crispy.  Either way, these are
very worth trying but be warned they are rich with fall flavors.
(And calories?!)

My fall display on our front porch has been breakfast, lunch and
dinner for someone.  Fortunately, he only hit the gourds up there
but when I went to get the pumpkins out of the old wheelbarrow
that I use to display even more produce in the flower garden,
I found he had done some real damage. 

I decided my only option was to tear down most of my fall display early,
or I'd risk losing a good portion of my pumpkin crop.
So, leaving what I don't cook with, I set to work loading up everything else.
But I soon discovered the criminal was still at the scene of the crime 
inside the above pumpkin--a very large field mouse.  After what all he'd
been eating, I was not surprised.  But I was mad, and I will just say that he
will no longer be damaging anything on my front porch or anywhere else.
Mice are a given around here but lately they seem to be out of control.
I'm grateful the cats always keep them out of the house but something
has got to be done outside.  They live under the chicken coop.  Almost any
walk into the garden among the vines you'll see at least one and hear
another scurrying.  Traps and poison are out of the question with the
cats on patrol--and yes, they do catch them.
More cats are out of the question as well.

Onto more pleasant topics...
My second go at the long-arm went a lot better.  No tension issues!
I did have to learn how to load each layer (remember the first quilt
was already basted).  I've watched so many videos but I have yet
to see one that explained the direction of each roll/lead attachment
so I'm a little fuzzy here.

I still find these sea creatures to be very difficult
but I'm pretty sure they aren't perfect in the ocean
so why worry about it?

I have the binding sewn on from the front but I'm saving
the hand-sewing on the back for either tonight while we
watch football or for the upcoming road-trip
to see our new grandson...whenever he gets here.

23 October 2017

The End of the Growing Season

The first freeze is on the way so this week,
as much as I'd like to be in the sewing room,
I need to focus on the close of garden season.
Peppers, tomatoes (green and red!), pears and pumpkins.
Not to mention the herbs.

It's really a shame we don't have another month because
the great rains we've gotten this fall have kicked everything
in (finally!) and I now have what would be a bumper crop
of peppers.  As it is, many are only half-size and even more are
just blooms or too tiny to be worth my time.  

Igor, my "accidental" rooster that I didn't order but I love beautiful roosters
and he's very tame so far.  So tame I may change his name to Rupert.

But, as nothing goes to waste around here, the chickens were able
to pick through the pulled plants for snacks.  I've got more
than I can want to deal with right now anyway!

Just 1 of the 4 batches I grilled up.

Over the next few days I'll be making green enchilada sauce for
the freezer and canning up salsa verde so, as I type this,
I'm also roasting well over 100 Anaheim green chilies.
The pops and crackles and the smells of the peppers
cause me to be very thankful for what I have to work with.
Peeling all of those peppers is a tedious job but outside
a bluejay is claiming his space, the drying leaves are rustling
and the air is crisp.  It's a little hard to focus on the pears and the herbs
as well when the sewing room calls but I'll look instead on the colors and
take in the smells, and know what we'll enjoy in the coming winter.

I can't help but love Thanksgiving--it's smack in the middle of my favorite
season with its use of the harvest and colors.  But I really love it
because the message of stewardship and thankfulness
surrounds us in such a way that it cannot be avoided.
Life gets busy and the attitude of gratitude, no matter how hard
I try, sometimes slips a little.  In the fall, however, the scramble
 and the hard work comes to a close and the rewards pile up so much
that they can't help but smack me in the face--sometimes literally even. 
Like juice from a sizzling hot pepper.

On the note of gratefulness, I'm pretty thankful for Internet
after a week with none.  I found the hardest part to be lacking the
ability to access the printer.  I was really wanting to start on my
Farmer's Wife quilt but couldn't even print the templates.
I suppose it is just as well as there are enough other quilts to
finish first.  Instead I worked on the applique center of my fall quilt.

This isn't a favorite craft of mine but I do like how it fits into this
quilt so I thought I'd make an exception.  This is a "rough draft"
that I'm still working on--not quite happy with it yet.

For now, I have gloves to don and many peppers to seed and peel.

14 October 2017

Tension Issues Aside, I Finally Quilted on My Long-Arm!

Firstly, I've completed the October block
to add to the other 9 of my BOM quilt.

This is just a project on the side that's to become a Christmas gift.
A bonus block came out with the October one so I think I'll just
use that as my December block to move that quilt along a little faster.
Next month is November.  November!

Ok, what's really moving along is my LA quilting practice.  Because I'm
still waiting on one more yard of fabric to finish the back of my
nautical quilt for my grandson (still not used to the sound of that!),
I set aside the sea creature pantograph and pulled out my fall one.
The leaves are very forgiving but the acorns I'm still struggling with--
even after all that practice and doing my first quilt.

This flying geese quilt top was made all from scraps last fall.
But when I began to quilt it, either it just wasn't working or I wasn't
so I set it aside, basting pins, sad quilting and all.

This quilt is just for me so it seemed like a great one for my first
go on the long-arm.  I was a little surprised to see that my messy
quilting came out, after a whole year, with virtually no traces.

Yes, I put a pin-basted quilt onto the frame.
It's just that I never dreamed when I basted it together that I'd
be owning a long-arm in the very near future,
and there sure seemed no point in removing all that work.
Somehow that all worked out for me, too.

But that's where the smooth sailing ended and things got ugly.
REALLY ugly.
Talk about tension issues!  And a major problem here is that
you've got your good quilt loaded on the frame so what are you going
to practice on to get that tension straightened out?
Up until this point, I had never seen tension regulation for
winding bobbins--which may very well be my problem.
I tinkered until I got decent stitching but that bobbin case tension
is still way too loose.  If I tighten it, things go way amok so I can
only assume that when I wound the bobbins, I didn't have that
tension set correctly and I'm making up for it down in the bobbin case?
I also feel like the tension on the upper thread is way too tight but,
again, this was how I needed to leave it for things to work.

It was really difficult to find a rhythm when I was constantly stopping
to check under the quilt to see how things were going but I did finally
finish this.  As far as first quilts go, I suppose it sure could've been worse,
though I really thought it would go better.  However, with the busy pattern
of the quilt itself, it's fairly difficult for the average person to even notice.
Hopefully I will always look on it as just the beginning of my long-arm days.

The quilt itself is one of my favorites already.  Other than the sashing,
the entire quilt is made up of scraps of so many quilts that I've made
that it practically reads as a quilt journal to me.

I'm having my husband extend the frame out to its full
twelve feet, at least until we need to put the Christmas tree up in
that room.  Hopefully I've worked most of the kinks and can get right
on to quilt number two.

09 October 2017

Fall and I Are Settling In

With the shop hop behind me, it's time to settle in and enjoy
the beautiful season of fall, and quilting!

The leaves are beginning to turn and our porch is once again
displaying a bountiful harvest from the garden.

I even put a little pumpkin display just outside my sewing room window.
As I sip on a hot salted caramel apple cider, I'm thinking some
some of those pumpkins may end up in the oven tomorrow.

When the high temp is predicted to be 50.
I didn't even know the forecast this morning when I made a batch of
English muffins and started getting out my sweaters.
Or this past weekend when I decided it was finally time
to turn our older chickens into soup meat and stock.
But I'm right on schedule.
Soup and something pumpkin will definitely be on tomorrow's menu.

Did you catch that?  I butchered chickens--something I do my best
to avoid; it's unpleasant work, especially if you rarely do it.
I'm sure later we'll all appreciate it but right now
I'm not sure I'm feeling it was worth it!
Making stock is something I do enjoy, though, and I was able to cook up
100 cups of great quality hormone-free stock.  I left some regular flavor,
but in the largest pot, I added sprigs of fresh thyme and a little sage.
Perfect for chicken noodle soup.
And it is now all packed away in the freezer to enjoy over the winter. 

I was able to spend just a little time practicing on the long-arm this afternoon.
I only made two rows of these and I know I need more practice but
I'm starting to feel like I might get the hang of it.  I try to look at everything
as a learning opportunity and today I learned that if I'm going to do this,
it's going to have to be when I'm well-rested and with minimal pain.
I also discovered that my frame must've settled into the carpet a little and
so needs leveled out again.  
(the machine was wanting to drift)
All of which is a recipe for:  start again tomorrow.

06 October 2017

Shop Hop Finds and More Projects Up

Before I hopped through the quilt shops, I started
yet another quilt.  Fall and simple were the two
goals with this one, and I knocked off a third goal
by using a good part of a layer cake.

I don't like having left-overs but those are better
than waste--which is something I did not have
when making these HST's.  And maybe I'll just
make more up for the back, or a bigger quilt.
I'm still deciding on my setting but this is
a sneak peak of my first fall quilt of the year.

We're just beginning to see a hint of bright
colors in the trees but today's humidity and warm
temps are, sadly, sure to delay them a little longer.
At least I can work with them in the sewing room!

I came up pretty short in finding fabrics for specific
quilts but I was able to load up on a couple pieces
that jumped out at me along with a few bolts
at $5/yd clearance prices that are backing-worthy.
I did successfully avoid adding any
pre-cuts to my stash.

I was able to find a good matching navy for the
border on the grandson's quilt.  He's due
very soon so this is at the top of my finish list.
Just waiting for one additional yard
of backing fabric to show up in the mail.

It's a simple quilt with fabrics my daughter
picked out on a recent trip to Missouri Star
to match his room perfectly.  At 51X70, it's not
really a crib quilt but, as we all know, those little
ones grow fast and soon he will be needing it
on his toddler bed anyway.

For anything else I wasn't able to find, our
local shop is having an "end-of-the-bolt" sale
next week--including some clearance fabrics
that I'm hoping will still be there for me in a week.
Till then, I should be able to get
lots of long-arm practice in.

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