Saturday, June 30, 2012

Friendship Quilt

I have been working on a small quilt -- curl-up-on-the-couch size -- for one of my children's classmates, who is going through a lot of health problems.   We wanted to do something nice for him as a class, so I thought of a friendship, or autograph, quilt.  As the name implies, friends sign a block and contribute that block to the quilt.

I do know how to sew and I have made quilts, BUT I have never made a quilt on a machine.  All my quilts have been made by hand.  This was a little out of my comfort zone.

I decided to use a brick pattern:  rectangles seemed to be a good size for signatures, plus the rows didn't have to exactly match up.  I don't have a rotary cutter, so I just made a template from a manila folder (about 5"x9") and cut out the fabrics -- enough muslin for the signatures, and the greens were all either fat quarters from Joann Fabrics or scraps I already had.

I took the muslin squares and a fabric pen to class and collected the signatures (instructing the signees to leave at least an inch margin -- some listened better than others ;)  Once I had those, I arranged the blocks in rows on the floor.  I sewed the blocks in each row together, end to end.  
Then I sewed the rows together until I had the top done.  To make the brick pattern, I had to stagger the rows, so some rows had six blocks, and alternating rows had seven.  
After it was all put together, I just trimmed down the excess block that stuck out on the sides.
I put batting in between, and for the backing I used minkee fabric, which is a textured polyester, very soft and cuddly, it feels a something like a supersoft towel.  The internet information on "sewing with minkee" was a little intimidating, especially since I had never quilted anything on a machine before, but I safety-pinned everything together fairly well and jumped in.

Minkee taped to the floor:
Batting laid over the minkee and trimmed to size:
Top laid on batting:
At this point I safety-pinned it, starting in the middle and working towards the edges.  I tried to evenly distribute all the safety pins I had (probably around 30).  It wasn't as closely basted as it might have been, but it worked.
I just quilted in the ditch (along the seam lines), starting with the middle rows and moving out.  I sewed the whole thing on my Singer 301, and I have to say despite my inexperience and working with a potentially difficult fabric, everything went off without a hitch.  This is a very capable sewing machine!
I used a brown print for the binding, and the only part I did by hand was sewing the back of the binding down. I washed it and everything came out beautifully.  The minkee feels really good.

While there is nothing particularly complicated about what I did, all of it was pretty new to me.  Be encouraged to jump in and try something new :)
My hope for this quilt is that it will be an encouragement and comfort -- both physically and spiritually -- to its recipient.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Birthday Present and a New Project

I was out of town for a couple of weeks visiting family, and look what greeted me when I got home:
I love the fabrics and the big velvety ribbon

a birthday present from my friend Elizabeth of Mrs Thomasina Tittlemouse fame.  My birthday was a couple of months ago, and little did I know that someone was working on a gift for me :)

It is a crochet hook roll and inside was tucked a raspberry colored crochet hook:
I wasted no time filling it with all my crochet paraphernalia.  Everything fits beautifully -- hooks, scissors, stitch markers, yarn needles, even the pattern for my current project.

The little flap folds down to keep everything safe -- no falling out of the top.

Mrs T, thank you from the bottom of my heart:)  Truly one of the best parts of blogging is making new  friends from around the world.

I wanted to take a little break from blanket-making and venture into some new territory (for me).  Here is the beginning of my new project -- a free crochet tote pattern on ravelry.  (Note:  if you decide to make this tote, follow the corrections listed.  Otherwise, your square will not turn out -- ask me how I know).  I saw a multi-colored tote that I really loved, so I am trying for a similar effect with this self-striping yarn.
Bernat Mosaic Yarn -- Optimist Colorway
While this is a smaller project - only 16 squares - it's a good skill builder for me: joining squares together, making straps, lining a crocheted bag.  It is also a great travel project, and I'm happy to learn a new block.

I love these colors, but if you want to see similar blocks worked up in a very different -- but beautiful -- color way, go visit little cotton rabbits, where she is making up a blanket.

Hope your summer is filled with fun projects!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Zucchini/Squash Stew

My zucchini and squash have already come and gone (thanks to the infamous squash borer), but zucchini season, while brief, can be intense.  What to do with all that squash can become a dilemma. This zucchini/squash stew (a recipe from an old church cookbook I have) is one of my favorite ways to fix that prolific vegetable. The stew is delicious and plus it uses up quite a bit of zucchini.

First saute a chopped onion in olive oil.

While the onion is sauteing, chop 4 quarts of zucchini and squash into half-inch cubes.  I usually use half zucchini and half yellow squash, but I shredded a lot of my zucchini and put it in the freezer, and when I went out to the garden for more, my zucchini plant was dead :(  So this version only has yellow squash.

When the onion is clear, add the squash to the pot.

Also add a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce, salt, pepper, basil and oregano.

Simmer the stew until the squash is cooked down.  Serve over pasta or rice, with fresh grated cheese on top.
It's very simple, delicious and summery tasting.

Zucchini/Squash Stew

1 lg. onion, chopped
2 T. oil
2 qt. squash (yellow, zucchini or mixture) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
shredded cheese (parmesan is good)
cooked rice or pasta

In 4 qt. saucepan, saute onion in oil until clear.  Add squash, tomato sauce, black pepper, salt, basil and oregano.  Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until squash is very tender and sauce has thickened. Serve over rice or pasta, or top with shredded cheese and serve as a vegetarian stew.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Crochet Ripple Blanket Ta-Da

approximately 66 inches by 58 inches

This past week I finally finished my crochet ripple blanket that I started back in October.  It is my first ever crochet blanket and I love it.
The pattern is Lucy's neat ripple.  If you have never crocheted a blanket, you might want to try this pattern.  Many, many people have made it -- there's lots of visual inspiration out there.

I love the random stripe look.  Each small section has its own color personality......

and yet the blanket as a whole fits together.

My blanket is certainly not perfect.  The ending width is wider than the beginning width.  At first I was crocheting too tightly, plus I made the foundation chain too tight.  Learn from me and make that foundation chain very loose.  Hopefully, these kind of issues will lessen as I become more experienced.  And I don't think anyone will notice when they are curled up in it.  

You can see how my earlier rows (top) are tighter than my later rows (bottom).  The foundation chain is the royal blue in the middle.

I used 16 different colors of I Love This Cotton yarn from Hobby Lobby.  All the colors are together in a shoebox here.  There are 67 double rows, four of each color plus three colors got an extra row.  It took a little over one skein of yarn, so I had to purchase two of each color.  Needless to say, I have tons of yarn left over, but that is fine with me -- it just gives me that much of a head start on another blanket:)

The cotton has a good weight and feels great across your legs.  The color changes kept it fun.  I arranged the 16 colors in different ways for each round, for the most part not duplicating any combination.

Making this blanket was such an enjoyable process, and I think staying warm underneath it will be just as pleasurable!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Another Snake!

Sorry for the bad picture, but I found this snake (in motion, that's why his tail is ablur) on my kitchen COUNTER today!!  I barely had time to snap a picture because he had to be CAUGHT ASAP.

I was cleaning the counter after lunch and from the corner of my eye saw some motion behind a water bottle, which I assumed was a fly.  I got my fly swatter from its hook in the pantry and returned, moved the water bottle, and instead of a fly I saw a snake!!  I uttered a very weird scream of surprise, which did not disturb my teenage boy who was napping on the couch.  My daughter promptly woke him up because I wanted him to catch the snake.  Thankfully, he did.

The snake was 8 inches long or so and was a harmless earth snake, so my son let him loose out in the front yard.  I do not know what the snake was doing on my counter.  I would not like to find one in the floor, but on my counter??  That goes beyond the pale.  The only thing we can figure out is that there was a bucket of produce from the garden on the counter.  Maybe my husband had inadvertently picked up a hitchhiker along with the cucumbers when he was out in the garden.  HOPEFULLY that is how the snake got in.  Otherwise.......

What is it with me and snakes?  I've had enough snake encounters to do me for a very long time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Purse Parade

After showing my daughter's most recent purse(Simplicity 2205, above),  I thought I would show you some of her other purse-making endeavors.  (A side note here:  the words "purse", "bag" or "pocketbook" shall be interchangeable here -- I never know which word to use.)

Here is one of her very earliest efforts -- a little hand-stitched felt bag (so sweet):

This is the first purse she made using a sewing machine:
It's a basic tote with contrasting lining, and a pocket inside and outside, very similar to the little diaper bags blogged about here.

This next bag is the reversible bucket bag from The Bag-Making Bible (which is a very helpful resource, if you are into making bags).
I love this fabric and the little flower button.  This is a really cute bag but if we make it again, we won't worry about making it reversible so that we can put pockets inside.
This next purse is the Piping Hot Hobo Bag, also from The Bag-Making Bible.  I love the green piping!  We added a chain for the strap.  Unfortunately, we found out that using a chain for the strap may look good, but it is very uncomfortable.  This bag also had snaps on the side so that you can make the purse wider or narrower.  But the snaps had a bad habit of coming unattached, so I'm not sure we want that feature on any more bags.
This bag (also called a hobo bag -- what exactly makes a bag a "hobo" bag?) is from an on-line tutorial here.  The directions were not as clear as they might have been, and this bag would definitely have benefitted from fusible fleece in the body and the straps, but it still turned out cute. The size is good.
And here's a view of the lining.  My daughter added the little zippered pocket.
The messenger bag below was made from a tutorial on mmmcrafts.  (The wrinkles are just from it being stuffed in the closet).  The felt appliqué on the front was designed as well as stitched by my daughter.  The directions were good and the bag turned out just as it was supposed to, but it was a little small for my daughter's  books.  If you plan to make it  I advise you to measure it against what you want to carry.  You may have to increase the height and/or the width.
This is a bag totally made from scratch:  designed by me and sewn by my daughter.  I drew out the pattern (per my daughter's requests) and wrote up the directions.  It is also a messenger bag style, although it is more of a purse size.
There is a pocket on the inside and also one on the back:
The bag closes with an inset zipper (which took me awhile to figure out):
The last bag is the only one I have made, and I made it for myself ;)  It is  McCall 5599 View B, a pattern which is now out of print, although I think you could still find it.  I love the size of this bag -- lots of things can fit in there -- and at the same time it is very comfortable to carry.  If I make it again, I may add fusible fleece or some other heavier interfacing to give it a little more body.
With bag-making there is always something new to learn or a new technique to try, but at least there are no fitting issues like there can be with clothes, so your self-image doesn't have to take a beating ;) You can be bolder in your fabric choices and embellishments.  There are many, many resources on the internet -- some free, some for purchase -- and loads of visual inspiration.  Making bags is fun and it is so useful!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Purse -- Simplicity 2205

If you look closely on the right in the picture above, you will see a vertical metal bar.  That is a crutch belonging to my daughter, whose right leg is in a purple cast for a few weeks.  She broke her ankle at the end of May playing soccer.
That translates into boredom for her and also a problem of how to transport all her stuff around while on crutches.  So she decided to make a new purse.   We have been stocking up during the recent pattern sales at Joann's, and Simplicity 2205 was one of our finds.
She chose some fabric (quilting weight cotton, also from Joann's) and whipped up this cute purse -- the one with the adjustable strap in the bottom right of the pattern cover -- this week.  She had to sew it on my Singer 401 because it has a knee lever.  Her little Kenmore only has a foot pedal and that was not doable with the big cast.
The only change she made to the pattern was to extend the strap by ten inches because she wanted it long enough to go across her body.

The pattern was very clear except it doesn't tell you specifically what kind of interfacing to use.  She used Shape-Flex for the pockets and the lining, fusible fleece for the outside, and a fusible mid weight for the straps and flap.  If she makes this purse again, she will use a stiff interfacing for the flap to help keep its shape.  (BTW, Sara at Sewsweetness has a very helpful post here about bag interfacing.)

Here's a peek inside at her red polka dot lining:
The purse itself is a great size -- not too big, not too little.  We couldn't find any dimensions listed on the pattern, but it is roughly 12 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches deep at the bottom, and it is 11 inches tall.  There are two flat pockets inside.  The pleats add a nice detail, as does the band and flap at the top.  In fact, it would be really cute made up with a contrasting band, flap and straps.  The only extra hardware she needed was a magnetic clasp and a rectangular slider for the strap, which we also purchased at Joann's.
Simplicity 2205 also comes with a cute clutch pattern.  It just seems inconvenient to have to hold on to your purse with your hand all the time versus just slinging it over your shoulder, so I'm not sure if we'll ever make it.  However, I can see us making future versions of this pleated bag.  We really like how it looks and how it functions.

Thank goodness my daughter gets her cast off soon.  She's moved from wanting to sew something to wanting to build some furniture for her room :O

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hawks Again

(A continuation of the hawk story, which was first blogged about herehere and here)

The three remaining hawk babies have made it successfully to young adulthood.  It took longer than I expected for them to learn to fly, but eventually they began getting brave and venturing out of the nest.

We would see them on various limbs of the pine trees testing their wings --

and making little tiny flights from branch to branch.

There was a little mishap where one fledgling got a little too brave and ended up on the ground -- much to his surprise:
My neighbor had to get him out of the street, and he also put a ladder up against the tree to help the little fellow get back up.  The little hawk hopped around the yard for awhile and we went to bed not knowing what had happened, but the next morning all three hawks were back in the nest so somehow he figured it out.

They were screeching all the time -- I could hear them first thing in the morning, and I thought the momma had quit feeding them (maybe her way of motivating them to learn to fly and get their own breakfast), but my son saw her do a drive-by feed where she flew over and dropped a snake into the nest and kept going.  So she was still keeping an eye on them.

They have since learned to fly, but they haven't ventured too far from home base yet.  We see (and hear) them all around the neighborhood.

Sometimes they are flying low and haphazardly, like teenagers learning to drive.  My husband saw them practice their hunting skills today, playing with a worm.

I will miss seeing them in the trees --
sometimes lurking --
sometimes pondering --
sometimes looking quizzical.
Hope to see you around, little hawks!