June 10, 2012

Enjoying the garden

I’m taking a break from sewing again as they put me back in a wrist brace to help it heal better.   In the meantime, the herbs in my garden are going absolutely nuts.  After looking at my garden this morning, it was clear I needed to take the mint and basil in hand.

Last weekend I picked up some peaches at the farmer’s market.  It was definitely time to use them, so I decided to try my hand at a peach liqueur.  I added in some fresh mint from the garden, chopped the peaches, covered them with a simple syrup, then some bourbon and vodka.   Now it just needs to sit for 4 to 6 weeks.

Next up, I tried my hand at some vodka infusions.

On the left is a spicy basil vodka, with spicy globe basil and jalapenos from my garden.    It needs to sit for 3 to 5 days.   On the right is just a basil vodka, also using the spicy global basil from my garden.  It will also sit for about 5 days.  And in the middle is a strawberry basil vodka.  The basil is from my garden but the strawberries are local.  It needs to sit for a week.     I didn’t get a picture of it yet, but I also am working on a mint oil extraction using vodka.   It needs to sit for 4 weeks.    I’m so excited to use my herbs.   I think I’ll start freezing some of the overflow so that I can have herbs from my garden all year.

I tried my had at canning for the first time a few weeks ago.  I made a strawberry vanilla jam.  SOOOO yummy.  Today I made another attempt at canning and made mint apple jelly.   The recipe used a store bought apple juice for a starter, so I used Simply Apple which doesn’t have any  preservatives and isn’t made from concentrate.   It’s also a cloudier juice, so my jelly isn’t as translucent as you would normally expect, but I’m still really pleased with it.  I can’t wait for it to cool so I can try it out!

 

I’m really enjoying the garden this year.   I definitely am going to have to get some more strawberries and make some more jam.   And next year, we’re planting strawberries.

May 27, 2012

Black and White Postage Stamp Quilt – Top Finished!

I haven’t been able to sew for a while after straining the ligaments in my hand golfing back in March.  But this weekend, I finally got to sit down at the sewing machine.

I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to work, but in the end, I decided to pull out this UFO/WIP that had been calling my name.   I started this quilt along in January of 2011.  I stopped before I even got the blocks together. I was unhappy with how my seams were lining up.  Then last fall, I decided to pick it up again because after all, I was doing this as an exercise to build my skill.   I knew when I started it wouldn’t be perfect.   So after convincing myself that it was okay to proceed without ripping out a bunch of seams, I finished over half the blocks.   Then life got in the way, and it has sat, in progress since then.

Yesterday, I picked it up again, finished all the blocks and tried to pick a layout.   I posted before here and here on my theories and dilemma’s with using 2 different solids (black and white) in this process.   So yesterday I auditioned a couple of layouts.

Option 1:

B/W Quilt Layout Option 1

I like option 1 but I just wasn’t sure, so I pulled out some sketches I’d made for how to layout this quilt , and tried a different layout.  It was perfect.   So here’s the completed top

B/W Postage Stamp Quilt Top

Here’s another view, not as easy to see because the sun’s coming in the window behind the quilt.

I’m pleased with how it turned out.  I don’t think that it’s overly obvious that my seams aren’t as accurate as I wanted.   I learned so much over the course of this project and my seam skills are so much better now.   Mostly I’m proud that I picked this back up and finished  the top.   Now I just need to pick a backing material and quilt it.  I’m hoping I can quilt it on my machine and not have to send it to the LA.

The good news is that sewing didn’t hurt my hand. Yeah!!    I’m hoping that I don’t have to go back in a brace next week when I go in for a follow up.  At least for now, I can sew!

 

March 5, 2012

Heirloom Cut Chenille Baby Blanket

I spent last week working on a gift for a very dear friend who is having a baby boy in April.    I saw this tutotial for a chenille blanket and thought it would be absolutely perfect.    It took me a bit longer than  I thought it would, but the effort was worth it.   It was a huge hit at the baby shower.

Here’s a close up of the Chenille on the back.

I layered my flannel this way – chocolate brown on top, blue in the middle, and beige/light tan on bottom.   So if you do this blanket and one of your layers is a lot darker than the others, you’ll want to think about how much impact you want it to have.   If I had wanted the back less brown, I would have wanted to put the brown on the bottom or in the middle.    The brown seemed to overpower the blue for this blanket.  In person you can see more of the blue, but not a lot.

The tutorial calls for  topstitching to attach the binding.  I didn’t like how the topstitching was looking on my binding, so I pulled it out and attached the binding my normal way (sew the front, handstitch the back).   It was really  difficult to hand stitch the binding onto the chenille side.  I should have treated it like the front.   Then,  I restitched in the ditch on the front(which was through the binding on the back) with invisible thread.   I liked that look much better, it’s still not a straight seem on the back but it’s much less noticeable and it gives the binding  more security.

I also made a few burp cloths using this tutorial to go with it.  These were so fast.  I think I had 3 done in a half hour or so.  It’s a wonderfully easy, cute little pattern.   For the back of these I used some Minky I had in my stash.

I’m really happy with how it turned out and I think I would make this blanket again.  Next time, however, I’ll buy the chenille cutter.

 

February 22, 2012

Simply Silly Baby Quilt and Play Mat

I started this quilt over a year ago using the Simply Silly pattern on Moda Bake Shop.  I had thought I might give it to a friend having a baby, but I never got around to quilting it.   I was a little hesitant to do FMQ.   Since I joined the FMQ challenge this year, I thought I’d put this quilt on the list of ones to practice on.

Of course, now that I decided I need this quilt done ASAP that meant it would be straight line quilting instead of Free-Motion.  I just didn’t have the time to practice, pull out stitches and quilt it multiple times.   I’m really pleased with how it turned out anyway.   I think this is a great little gender neutral quilt.

Here’s a close up.  The circles were left raw edge to give them that fun fuzzy raggy feel.   I quilted some of the blocks with diagonal lines and some with nested squares.

 

February 16, 2012

Baby / Toddler quilt

I’ve been working on another quilt for baby.   I’ve just got the top done but I’m excited about how it’s turning out.  The fabric is from the Froggin’ line by Sue Zipkin.    I’ve been wanting to do the Oh My Stars! quilt along but just haven’t had the time, so I used 2 of the stars from that quilt along for this quilt.   In each of the 4 corners is a Nested star and the rest are the basic sawtooth star.

My Star quilt with lovely quilt model, Cora

The pieced border is 4 inch squares.  On the long sides I had to trim a couple of blocks to make the border fit the way I wanted.  Next up I need to actually quilt this one.   I’m not sure if I’ll get that done before or after Jr gets here.

 

 

February 6, 2012

More Baby Stuff

After finishing the diaper bag,  I kept looking at my scraps and thinking “I need to use those!”  I’ve wanted to make a matching changing pad but I didn’t want to buy more fabric and I didn’t think I had enough of the Dr. Seuss fabric to make any of the ones I’d looked at.  I was catching up on some blog reading and I stumbled across this lovely little quilt at Quokka Quilts using the same Lorax panels.  It’s so cute and love how she offset the panels so they are a little wonky.  But, I only had 6 panels left, not really enough for a whole quilt, and I didn’t think I had enough contrast fabric and definitely didn’t have any backing.    As I looked at it,  I thought I could do that on a changing pad!

I started looking for a pattern.   I really liked this one at Cluck Cluck Sew with the pocket for the wipes and diapers but I’d have to buy some fabric for it.      I really liked the idea of using the vinyl like in this one at Homemade by Jill.  I had some red polka dot laminated cotton in my stash that would match the Dr. Seuss fabric really well, but Jill’s pattern didn’t have the pocket.

Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone, and I can’t just use one pattern.  That would never do!   So I combined them, sort of.    I put my panels together like in Quokka’s quilt.

The outside

I added some additional contrast fabric and some extra length to Cluck Cluck Sew’s because I didn’t want the panels to be part of the pocket.

The wipes/diaper pocket

I used 2 pieces of fusible flannel like in Jill’s.   Also from Jill’s I used the laminated cotton and the double fold bias tape.     I didn’t fold the pocket over until after adding the bias tape to the entire piece.

The Inside for changing baby

At the very end, I added some velcro so that it would be easy to close quickly.   I think it turned out really cute!

Rolled up and closed like a clutch

 

I’m so excited to be all coordinating now!

January 27, 2012

It’s done!

In preparation for hopefully being able to adopt a baby this year, I’ve been trying to make some of the things I’ll need. This week, I made the diaper bag!

I’m really excited about how it turned out. I started with the pattern for the Miranda day bag by Lazy Girl Designs.    I wanted to use the Lorax panel by Dr. Seuss as a starting point and I was concerned that the Miranda was going to be too small.   So I made a few adjustments to the pattern.   It turned out 17″ x 13″ x 5″.  I think it’ll be a nice size.

Front of the bag

 

Back of the bag

 

The panels were taller and narrower than  the space allowed in the original pattern, so I added a section to the outer edge of each panel for the sides of the bag.   I also added a small strip of the same fabric between the panels so that the panels wouldn’t be blocked by the flap. I made the bottom long enough to cover the length of the panels but didn’t change the width of that piece.

 

On the pockets, I added trim that matched the bottom of the bag.

 

Here’s what the inside of the  bag looks like.

 

I’m really excited  about how it turned out.  I added really long leather shoulder straps to make it easier to carry.  I can’t wait to have a reason to use it.

 

 

Linking up with TGIFF over at What a hoot!  Hop on over to see everyone’s finishes!  Also linking up with can I get a Whoop Whoop!  Check it out for even more finishes to inspire you!


 

January 19, 2012

Weigh in Wednesday on Thursday

Weigh In Wednesday

Wow, another week has flown by. There’s been so many things going on that I can talk about yet except to say I’ve been completely distracted from my healthy eating. I did actually weigh yesterday, just didn’t get to posting.

Here’s a recap of this week’s progress:

Weight Loss Goal: 65 lbs
Week’s Loss: 1 lbs
Intermediate goal: 20 lbs by May
Total Loss: 7 lbs
Distance to Goal: 58 lbs, 13 lbs to intermediate goal

The most exciting thing about this post is that I crossed one of those big number lines. I wasn’t going to be honest about what I actually weigh, but I just have to celebrate this one.

I just dropped below the 200lb mark! It was confirmed by an independent scale in my dr’s office too, so it’s not just my scale! It’s so exciting to be back to numbers that start with a 1.

January 11, 2012

Weigh in Wednesday #2!

Weigh In Wednesday
Here we are, back at the scale again.  And the results are a mixed bag this week.   I’ve made great progress on my attitude.   I’m not dieting.   I’m changing how I eat.   So that means, I’m not going to eat like a rabbit unless I want to eat that way forever.  I’m still using the Sonoma diet food lists as a guideline for healthy eating, but I’m not going to be rigid about it.  I’m going to focus more on how many calories I’m consuming because ultimately it comes down to consuming less calories than you burn in a day.  This week I found a new blog Can you Stay  for Dinner?  She’s lost 135 lbs and kept it off for 5 years.  Her blog is a combination of encouragement, tips, recipes and some fun thrown in for good measure.  It’s helped me change my perspective on this diet.  I really need to be lighter, but not on a diet.  I need to lose weight in a way that I can maintain.

So here’s a recap of this week’s progress:

Weight Loss Goal:  65 lbs
Week’s Loss:  2 lbs
Intermediate goal: 20 lbs by May
Total Loss: 6 lbs
Distance to Goal:  59 lbs, 10 lbs to intermediate goal
Week’s Exercise: none
Total Time Exercising:  0 (my sinus’s kicked up and I spent a lot of time miserable, so no official exercising.   We did walk Sam’s club over this weekend)
Eating Healthy:  I ate good meals during the week.   We only ate out 3 times in the last 7 days, and all 3 were on the weekend and none were fast food.   I made reasonable choices when we ate out (except for Cracker Barrel, but hey, everyone needs a treat).
Sodas:  I did horrible with this goal last week because we still had too many sodas around and I hate to see anything go to waste.   The Sodas are down to my lone diet cokes that I only have 1 a day of.   I’ve got my unsweet tea made and ready and a new filter in the water dispenser.   This week looks much better.

Overall,  not a bad week. I got off of tracking my food at the weekend, so I need to keep that up as it really helps me stay on track.   And I’m happy with a 2 lb loss.   That’s a good long term steady kind of loss.

Here’s to kicking butt next week!

January 10, 2012

My first Free Motion Quilting!

One of my goals for 2012 is to learn how to Free-Motion Quilt.  It’s January and the first challenge has been posted, so it’s time for me to get off my duff and actually try this out.  Right?

Honestly, I had never even put my FMQ foot on my machine, let alone used it.   So first I took an online class.  Then I watched the video for this months tutorial.   I realized that before I tried that design, I needed to practice getting used to my machine.

I sandwiched a couple of fat quarters together,  put on the FMQ foot, dropped my feed dogs, adjusted my stitch length, lowered my presser foot, laid my hands on the fabric, took a deep breath and stepped on the pedal.

Lesson # 1:   This is not NASCAR.   I don’t need to drive my machine like a race car driver.

Lesson #2:  When panicking, don’t let go of the fabric as you step off the pedal.  The fabric will jump.   Just let your foot off the pedal, KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE FABRIC!!

This is what my practice piece looked like after an hour.

The Front

 

I don’t think it’s too bad for my first time ever.  You can see some straight lines at the top that I did first as I was trying to just get used to the process of moving the fabric.  Man, that’s a different sensation when you’re used to the machine moving it for you.  After that I just started playing around trying to  get a consistent stitch length.  Here’s a pic of one of the later sections.

 

I still need to work on stitch length.  There’s some long stitches, some short ones, but again, not too shabby for a first practice session.

Lesson #3:   Slow down the feet, speed up the hands.   (may not be right for everyone, but I’ve got a lead foot and at this point, my hands can’t keep up!)

On to the nitty gritty, I know you’re wondering, okay but what does the back look like.   Of course, you’d ask that.

The back

 

Not too bad, but there’s a couple of problem areas.  Really, I think they’re all the same issue.  My guess is that it’s either my machine’s tension or it’s the way I’m pulling and pushing the fabric.    Here’s a close up.

I’m seeing this in multiple places.   I really don’t think it’s my tension because the straight lines I did are fine and don’t have this problem.  My guess is that it’s how I’m moving my hands.  Can anyone confirm this?  Tips?

I’m going to take a break now, but either this afternoon or tomorrow I’m going to do another piece just like this one and hopefully see some improvement.   Once I feel more comfortable with this design that I’m calling “childhood scribbles,” then I’ll start working on January’s design.   I think I’ll be happier with my progress if I take the time to get my stitch length more consistent before I move on.

 

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