Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I'm moving!

I'm very excited to announce that I'm moving my blog to its own domain. The switch was definitely a little more involved than I had planned, but for the most part, my dork powers were able to overcome. 

Going forward you can find me at Stitchified.com. I'm hoping to add more fun things to the site, and I would be so happy to see you over there!

And an extra little note for my BlogLovin' readers... your reader will be updating itself automatically in the next few days, thanks to their great customer service. So no need to make any changes, hooray!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Summer Solstice Quilt: Lone Starburst

Yeah, so this isn't the "Another Square" block that I had planned on. In fact, I hadn't planned on including a Lone Starburst block at all. But... I found myself with a couple of free hours and had a change of heart. I'm not sure how this block will change my final layout, but I'm happy to have the extra flexibility.

The only thing that was a little tricky for me was knowing how big to cut the pieces for the foundation paper piecing. Here is how I cut mine for anyone struggling with the same issue:

Pattern Piece (templates from craftsy, here)
Cut 8
3" strips, then cut into 60 degree diamonds 
(this was a little tight)

2A/B + 3A/B
Cut 16
1.5″ x 4”
4A/B + 5A/B
Cut 16
1.5" x 5"
Cut 4
5" x 5" squares, then cut diagonally
Cut 4
6 x 6" squares, then cut diagonally


I started this quilt without any foundation paper piecing experience, and today I managed to make one of my all time favorite blocks. I am so proud of myself for conquering this one!  Like the Arkansas Traveler block, the Lone Starburst feels like a real milestone. I can't wait to make another one! I'm already planning a scrappy rainbow with fussy cuts. No idea what I'll do with it, but I absolutely have to make it :) 

And, lastly, a little progress shot. These colors are outside of my usual color palette, but they remind me so much of my sister. I'm so excited to give it to her. Three more blocks to go (for real this time)!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday's at Freshly Pieced.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Summer Solstice Quilt: Evening Star

I was finally able to get back to my sewing machine this week. It felt so good to add another block to my Summer Solstice Quilt, this time the Evening Star.

This block led me to this quilt's color scheme, so I'm really happy that it turned out just as I imagined. The color transition from yellow to grey makes me smile every time I look at it. But then again, I'm a sucker for rainbows, no matter the color palette :)

The most difficult blocks in my Summer Solstice Quilt are behind me now. In fact, here are just three blocks left and only one of them involves paper piecing. It feels especially good to be making progress since this one has been in  the works for awhile.

My next star is appropriately titled "Another Star." I've spent hours agonizing over the color selection. I even stole the toddler's crayons and experimented with the blocks, but I still can't decide. Hopefully I can pick a direction and work up the courage to cut the fabric soon!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Fussy Cut Hexagons

If you had asked me a year ago about sewing together hexagons by hand, I would have laughed... or used some colorful language. Probably both.

Except little hexagons are actually adorable. And fussy cut hexagons are even more adorable. And what a perfectly non-boring way to use scraps... and cutting them up is easy with, say, a Sizzix die-cutter. I mean they practically make themselves, right? Right?

It really is the perfect project for sewing on the go. Two weekends hosting old friends and then a wonderful weekend at a "summer camp themed wedding" took me away from my sewing machine, but my trusty little English paper piecing kit was able to come right along with me. Stitching during a long car ride? Yes. Paper piecing by the lake? Double yes.

In all honesty I started this project months ago, but I've never blogged about it. My plan is to make a coordinating pillow for my Good Fortune Quilt and Rainbow Window Pillow. It sure is slow going, but I am making progress. The only problem? It looks great, until I zoom out and see how much more I have left to do!

Ah well.  Slow and steady, right?

Linking up with WIP Wednesdays at Freshly Pieced ... because this one is sure to be in progress for quite some time!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Introducing Little Red: Janome 18750

As much as I love my big red Janome Horizon, she isn't very travel friendly. And I've missed out on some really fun events because I don't like hauling her around. So, I've definitely been hankering  for a second machine for travel. I knew I wanted either a standard sized Janome or a really great Singer Featherweight. I wasn't able to find a good Featherweight at a reasonable price, so I chose to go with a new Janome. I still hope to add a Featherweight to my collection at some point, but I'm happy waiting for the right one to come along. (And when I do, I fully intend to get a snazzy custom paint job! Eggplant purple Featherweight? Yes. Yes indeed)

After a lot of research on smaller Janomes, I decided to go with either a 3/4 size Janome Jem Platinum or a full size Janome DC1050. Both models have functions that I've become entirely too reliant on like needle up-down, a start/stop button, and a speed control slider. But once I noticed the Hello Kitty 18750 (which as far as I can tell is an exact clone of the DC1050) my search was over. Baby Bee is utterly obsessed with Hello Kitty (daughter of a toy-maker? No irony lost there!), and I thought this might be a good machine for her to learn on eventually.

I've spent some time with Little Red over the past two weeks, and she's a good little machine. She can't compete with Big Red on any front, but she is totally functional. She runs quietly and has handled everything I've thrown at her with ease. She is very smooth to piece on, and is pretty accurate as well. One of my girlfriends is learning to sew on Little Red and has really enjoyed sewing on her, too.

I will say that there is more plastic on this machine than I would like. I know it isn't a thousand dollar machine, but the ankle, needle plate, and rotary hook are all plastic. Sure, it seems like good quality plastic, but even my sad little beginner Singer had more metal. At any rate, I replaced the plastic "slide-on" style ankle right away with a metal "snap on" style ankle. Not only did that get rid of some plastic, but now I can use my Horizon feet on Little Red. Having that compatibility is great. (FYI - The part number for the metal ankle adapter is Janome #804509000. I found mine at Ken's Sewing Center here for the bargain price of $13.)  I've tried searching for replacement needle plates, but haven't had any success. If anyone out there has a tip there, I'm all ears!

Replacement metal ankle (left) vs. plastic ankle that comes standard (right)
Overall, I certainly prefer sewing on my Janome Horizon. No surprise there. If the machines were actually comparable I would be pretty ticked off for having paid so much for the Horizon. Even so, I definitely look forward to hitting the road with Little Red in full Hello Kitty style. I just need a certain red and aqua quilt-as-you-go carry case for her first :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Toddler Survival Kits AKA Quilt-As-You-Go Pouches

When I made these quilt-as-you-go panels I wasn't sure what I would turn them in to.  Now that they are finished I've decided to make them into little "Toddler Survival Kits" for Baby Bee's teachers. I'll be stuffing them with  sunscreen, hand sanitizer, tissues, and of course, chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

I had a lot of fun making these, especially fussy cutting the little critters to peek out here and there. And as much as I was dreading the zippers, they really weren't so bad. I especially love the "zip ends" technique I found here from Sew Sweetness. The little zip ends keep things neat and tidy and give the bags a more professional look. See how cute they are?

A few notes on the specs, mostly for my own memory. These little guys started as square 8.5 inch panels, and I finished them by adding box corners to the bottom around the 1 3/4 inch mark. Why those measurements? Because they were handy on my rulers. Heh. 

I have to admit that I'm particularly in love with the red and aqua one. Like, so much so that I'm planning a larger quilted tote in the same color scheme... which conveniently doubled as an excuse to add more Aneela Hoey to my stash. I call that a win-win :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Teacher Appreciation Edition

I am fortunate enough to have my daughter enrolled at a fabulous preschool just a few minutes up the road. She spends her days playing *hard* under the watchful eye of four amazing teachers.

In just a few weeks we'll be moving up at school, but I wanted to give each of her teachers a token of our appreciation. So this week I'm taking a mini-break from my Summer Solstice Quilt, and starting a few "quilt as you go" panels. I haven't settled on exactly what I'll be making with them. Pencil bags? Makeup bags? Gift card holders? Yeah, something like that.

This isn't my first time using the quilt-as-you-go-technique, but I think I've improved since my first mis-adventure. I took Tara Rebman's "Quilt-As-You-Go-Bags" on Craftsy, and picked up a lot of great tips there. I just love projects like this - lots of improv fabric play, and a great excuse to visit the scrap bin. I'm excited to pull colors for the next two bags!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced :)

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Handmade Booties With Sherpa Lining

This week I found myself in need of a lightning quick baby present; one that didn't require time, planning or online fabric purchases. These baby booties were the perfect solution! And minus a quick trip out for the wool felt, I had everything on hand.

I have to confess that I'm in love with the end product. These booties are so ridiculously adorable that they are almost magical.  Honestly, I dare anyone to hold these pint sized shoes and not hear their biological clock ticking. I don't even like babies that much (mine excluded... well, most days) and I found myself being tempted!

The design was inspired by the timely arrival of cotton sherpa from Worthy Goods Textile on Etsy. I had ordered the sherpa with a softie in mind, but once it arrived I literally *had* to make something with it right away. The timing couldn't have been better because the sherpa is perfection here. It has an amazing pile, and it.is.stupidly.soft. As a testament to its softness, after I gave the shoes to the daddy-to-be, he kept these on his desk *all* day just so he could play with them.  

Now for the specifics, because you will want to make a pair of booties for your next baby shower...The pattern is from Little Mela Design on Etsy. You can find the "Baby Slipper" pattern here. Bonus points because it includes six different sizes (for reference, I made the "0-3 month" size). The instructions are exceptionally clear, with lots and lots of pictures. (As an aside, the sherpa lining made things a little bulky, but the booties still came together quickly and easily). The  'Sly Foxes' are from Birch's Camp Sur line, which I adore and definitely need to order more of ASAP. The soles are wool felt from my LQS, Quilter's Way, in "Pumpkin" and "Copper". They are machine appliqued with contrasting thread. And lastly, the grey heels came from a random scrap, so I'm afraid I don't have any specifics there. 

I'm happy to say that these were amazingly well received by the future father. Overall, not bad for a few hours and a couple dollars worth of fabric. :)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer Solstice Quilt: Arkansas Traveler

I fell in love with the Arkansas Traveler block the very first time I saw it over on Freshly Pieced.  Since then I've seen so many beautiful versions pop up in the blogosphere, but I knew I needed more experience before I attempted it myself. Paper piecing and diamonds -- whoa. I feel like I've been practicing for this very moment for months. Well, ready or not, I went for it!

As you may know, the Arkansas Traveler combines traditional piecing with paper piecing. You begin by cutting 60 degree diamonds (measured to the eighth of an inch!), and assemble them in groups of four. I went through a lot of layout variations in my head, but in the end I went scrappy.

This was my first time doing diamonds, but it was easier than imagined. I used my Perkins Ruler to show me where the scant quarter inch seam would fall, and used that to gauge where the dog ears should go. That seemed to work really well for me. I definitely still had to pay attention when lining up the diamond sets, but I only had to rip out a few seams.

Once the diamond sets are complete, they are set into the background via paper piecing. I'm happy to say that paper piecing came more naturally this time, and passed more quickly. It took me just a few minutes to do the paper piecing and trim up my four mini-blocks.

Matching up the points was definitely the toughest part of this block. I'm happy to say that my little Janome was able to push through the center seam with the papers intact. Thank you, Acufeed. That's a lot of fabric and a lot of paper, but we chugged through it.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until I matched up all the seams that I realized I had an error in one of my four mini-blocks. See that one in the upper left of the finished block? The paper must have slid on me while  I was paper piecing that bit. By the time I noticed it was way too late to fix.  I'm a little disappointed, but my sister made me promise not to go crazy making her quilt. So I'm resisting the urge to rip it all out and start over. Have I mentioned that my sister is amazing? Because she is.

Here's a little status shot of my three blocks so far. I'm really pleased with how it is turning out!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday @ Freshly Pieced, which seems extra appropriate this week. I can't thank Lee enough -- this really is an amazing block, and it comes with a perfectly clear tutorial. Always an inspiration.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Barcelona Skirt, My Way

This summer I found myself running low on cute summer skirts. You know, the kind you can pair with a nice blouse for the office or  mix with a T-shirt for a day at the park. But whenever I went out shopping I was disappointed with what I found. Everything was either cheaply made (though not cheaply priced!), or didn't fit the way I wanted it to. So I resolved to make my own. Now, if you've visited my blog before, you probably know that I'm not a garment maker (and rest assured that's even more true after this project, heh), but I was determined to soldier through.

I just wanted a simple lined a-line skirt. I came across the Barcelona Skirt by Amy Butler and was sold.  Determined to make this a one-day project, I swung by by LQS and picked out two yards of Queen Anne's Lace by Dear Stella -- the colors and large scale print were just perfect. At which point I became fully committed to the project and maybe even a little excited... only to realize that the pattern called for an invisible zipper. Which sounded terrifying, and required a new presser foot. And, you know, an invisible zipper. Neither of which I had. Sigh.

Fast forward two days later, and Amazon delivered my shiny new invisible zipper foot and one over-priced $7 invisible zipper. I installed my zipper on the exterior fabric without a hitch (PS - invisible zippers are SO cool!), but wanted to avoid hand-stitching the lining on to the zipper as recommended by the pattern. Thankfully, I came across this wonderful tutorial on YouTube which gave me the confidence to give it a whirl my way. So, instead of completing the exterior and interior separately, I skipped the last seam (where the front panel meets the second back panel) on each -- yielding two very long strips of fabric. At that point, I followed the YouTube tutorial to attach the lining to the zipper. Sewing the lining to the zipper went smoothly,  as did completing the two seams I had skipped earlier (thereby creating the exterior and lining parts of the skirt).
Invisible zipper with sewn in lining
Everything was going great until the next step where you join the exterior and lining around the waist line. For the life of me, I could not get things to line up right around the zipper! I had to rip out my stitches a half dozen times to get it to look okay, and there are still a few puckers hiding in there. I'm still not sure what the problem was. And it honestly would have been faster and easier to just hand-baste that &^$# zipper to the lining.

That said, I am really happy with the finished product. It fits perfectly, and has a lovely weight to it. It's sturdy and feels like it should last a long time. And, thanks to the machine sewn zipper, I can throw it in the washer without worrying. Even so, I officially do not enjoy garment sewing. It just doesn't have that same meditative-mojo for me that quilting does. I'm sure I will make another skirt for utility's sake, but for now I'm happy to dive back into some quilting!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Solstice Quilt: Ribbon Star

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

This week I finished the second block ("Ribbon Star") in my Summer Solstice Quilt. Not going to lie - even though I'm in the middle of this project, it's hard to keep myself focused on it. I keep getting distracted! So, I'm linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced to keep me moving forward.

This particular block wasn't too challenging, which was nice change of pace after sewing up that tricky dragon softie. The block definitely came together quickly and easily, thanks in no small part to my new Perkins Perfect Piecing Ruler. I can't say enough good things about that fluorescent yellow beauty. Love love love!

It's nice to see the color palette starting to emerge with this second block, and I've really been enjoying working with the Art Gallery's Pure Elements. They are so soft!  

My next block is the Arkansas Traveler, which will be a bit of a sewing milestone for me. I've admired that block for a long time, and can't wait to tackle it. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I'm In Love With My Perkins Perfect Piecing Seam Guide

I'm still just beginning my Summer Solstice Quilt, but it is definitely an exercise in detail and precision. I truly have to be the world's most impatient perfectionist - I can't stand slow-moving progress, but non-matching points make me crazy, too. So, as part of my Summer Solstice Quilt, I've been looking for ways to increase my accuracy quickly and easily. I remember another blogger reviewing the "Perkins Perfect Piecing Seam Guide" (apologies I can't remember who it was now!). I was able to find one on Amazon for more than it should have been, and even forked over an extra $4 for next day shipping. I'm just that impatient.

Well, what an awesome decision all that was. I am so in love with this ruler (though for the record, I have no affiliation at all with the company or the ruler). It slides under my presser foot and lets me move my needle until I find the perfect scant quarter-inch seam. It is 100% quick, easy, and accurate. And it's so darn small that I can keep it right by machine without cluttering my space
I think the ruler is particularly handy for my Janome Horizon because it eases my transition between Acufeed and regular feet -- a switch I do constantly when I'm piecing. (For those unfamiliar with Janome's Acufeed feature it is essentially a built in walking-foot on steroids. It works amazingly well, but because the Acufeed feet are very large, the needle positions between Acufeed vs. regular feet are wildly different).
Before this ruler, I kept a mental list of needle positions for my most used piecing feet: my regular quarter-inch (O2) foot, my quarter-inch foot for Acufeed, and my open toe foot for Acufeed. The cheat sheet wasn't that bad, but I found myself constantly questioning whether my "scant" quarter inch seams were consistent across all the presser feet. Now I don't have to worry, and I can make the adjustments in seconds. See?

I've also started using the ruler to double check the accuracy of my seams. It's sort of reassuring to do now and then, and helps avoid a huge seam-ripping mess. 

And the best part? I have the most perfect half-square triangles that I've ever made. Time to start sewing them up!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Making My First Dragon Softie

You may be familiar with the now classic "sleeping baby dragon pattern" by Naomi @ NimblePhish. You can find sewists selling dragons made from the pattern in the $100 range all over the place on Etsy and Facebook. I love the pattern, and hope to make it one day for an adult recipient since the appendages are all sewn by hand (using a ladder stitch or button joints). The resulting dragons are gorgeous, but I would fear for their safety if they ever met up with my two year old.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that NimblePhish was introducing a new toddler-friendly dragon, "Doughnut." Unlike his older brother, Doughnut is entirely machine sewn in a single structure (except the wings). I picked up the pattern in a heart beat, and pulled out some dark purple cotton velour that I had been holding on to. About twenty-seconds in to pattern cutting I realized that cotton velour is a delicate beast, so I applied fusible fleece to each piece (for the record, that step takes forever!). Then I added a few splashes of corduroy in lime green and orange for contrasting details. Finally, I ended up with a beautiful pile of pieces.

And then came a sewing extravaganza, which actually took place a few weeks ago before our home renovation projects. The sewing went smoothly once I got his feet sewn on in the right direction, but I would certainly consider this little guy an intermediate level pattern. There are some tricky seams, and generally very little detail or explanation. But, that said, anyone with modest sewing experience (or a lot of drive!) could make their way through this one.
Even though I finished his "skin" awhile ago I wasn't able to stuff him until now, thanks to the arrival of new eyes from 6060 and a new batch of wool stuffing. Unfortunately, while I was stuffing him I realized that something was funky. As you can see, he is a little slimmer and a little taller than the pattern picture. My best guess is that I misinterpreted the cross-grain/length-wise symbols on the pattern pieces, and ended up putting the stretch in the wrong direction. Easy enough to do since I was also compensating for the nap direction. But still, argh. Add in the fact that he is/was intended to be a special birthday present for an amazing friend's son next week? Double argh.
I debated sending him to the Island of Misfit Toys, but thought better of it (for now!). I've been assured that he is presentable, just different than planned. 

Even so, I decided to add a little more personality and charm where and if I could (read: I lay awake for hours trying to figure out ways to redeem him) So, I fashioned a snap-on diaper for him, and made a cut-out for his tail. I also added sleepy eye-lids, which are a feature in NimbleBit's other patterns. And lastly, I added a little bling to his under-wings in the form of dark purple silk. I had to hand-baste the wings before machine sewing, top-stitching was a @%&$@$ challenge, and the silk didn't photograph well, *but* it feels lovely. I think little hands will love it. But for my sanity's sake, I'm never ever sandwiching (real) silk and cotton velour together again. I promise you that much.

But for now, he is done, though I might decide to pin his ears down. I am probably going to vacillate between exiling him to the Island of Misfit Toys and giving him as a gift about a dozen times between now and next week.  It stinks when you work on something and it doesn't come out how you expected. Especially when it's a gift for someone special. I'm hoping that he'll grow on me if I just step-away. Step away! :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Solstice Quilt

I'm officially dubbing this WIP the "Summer Solstice Quilt."  As I mentioned in my earlier post, my plan is to combine several stars from Faith @FreshLemon's Summer Sampler and Solstice Stars Series. See what I did there? Summer Solstice Quilt. Mmm hmm.

Well, after weeks of procrastinating I finally broke ground on my project. This was my first time foundation paper piecing, and I was so intimidated! I am a creature of habit and paper piecing seemed completely counter-intuitive.  I'm happy to report that everything went smoothly  despite my worrying, and I had a lot of fun! I think paper piecing might be my new favorite thing -- it was so satisfying to watch the little bits come together.

My first star in my Summer Solstice Quilt is the Star of Mystery. I am so thrilled with how it came out! Unfortunately, I'm having a tough time getting a photo that is true to color. The midnight navy is reading as black... maybe my camera is trying to tell me something about 2AM photo shoots.

I will say that this block was hugely time consuming. It took an hour and some change to cut the pieces, and then another couple of hours to complete the various sections. After investing all that time I decided to baste the segments together first -- just to make sure that  my points matched before joining them more permanently. I think the extra step paid off :)

Star of Mystery, all finished!
I'm feeling reinvigorated on this project. I can't wait to start up my next block!

Linking up with Freshly Pieced and WIP Wednesday!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Sewing Station, Revamped

I had to take a forced week off from sewing to get a bunch of projects done around the house. It was an exhausting week, but among other things, we finally got the dining room painted (also known as my Sewing Station, and the Piano Playground).  Anyone who has taken down multiple layers of wallpaper and then laboriously patched/sanded the horsehair plaster underneath knows my pain. And they can probably empathize with the nasty cough I'm sporting this week, too :)

It still felt really good to get so many of our remaining home improvement projects done. We're hoping to list the house in the fall or spring and it's starting to feel distantly achievable. A dedicated sewing room is high on our list of must-haves in the new house, but in the meantime it's very nice to look out over a finished room instead of old wallpaper. I thought I would put up a few photos since everything is nice and tidy (for a very short time!).

Here is where I sit. You can see how I'm encroaching on my husband's piano area, though this isn't even bad. Some days the piano is un-apologetically covered in fabric pulls and various WIPs.

And here is where I keep a (very small) portion of my fabric stash. Keeping my stash in different places really helps downplay the vast amount of fabric in my possession. A key tactic for sure.

I'm really looking forward to sewing for the first time in my "new" space!

Clothes Making for a Waldorf Doll, Part II

I talked a little bit before about how I was making new clothes for a waldorf doll. Well, dresses are fun, but as any self-respecting toddler will tell you, everyone needs a set of good pajamas. I still think it's a ploy to extend the bedtime routine -- because we certainly can't go to sleep until Faye is properly dressed.

Handmade Waldorf Pajamas, made from a revised AG doll patternNow I'm not a garment maker, but these came pretty close and they were easy! As before, I had to slightly modify a pattern meant for American Girl dolls. I used this adorable pattern from "Little Abbee" on Etsy. I actually ended up having to ask the author a question (a completely stupid question because I can't read at 2AM ), and she was just about the nicest person ever. I highly recommend her and her shop.

The pattern was super easy, and I'm really pleased with the results. It reminds me of the flannel PJ sets I wore as a kid (yes, I was always fashionable... not).  I've since been asked to make a PJ set for everyone in our family -- like I need more sewing projects. Even so, I might agree to make them in exchange for sewing while they go to the park or something. I just can't get into garment sewing! I'm always so afraid it will come out the wrong size! Any tips?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Veggie Redux Pickling Style.... And What to do with Two Pounds of Kohlrabi

Now that summer is finally here, it's definitely harder to find sewing time. Outdoor adventures are calling, and BabyBee wants to explore everything everywhere.  But, not one to be limited in my grandmotherly hobbies, another past time of mine is in full swing. That's right, it's canning time!  So, please excuse the off-topic post while I procrastinate more on my Work in Progress.... but I think this is just too great to skip over.

Seasoned strawberry tester at work
We joined a CSA this past winter, which was something we had been wanting to do for awhile now. The farm is absolutely perfect, and only a fifteen minute drive away.  We pick up our share Saturday morning, stay to pick a few of our own veggies out in the field, and then visit the farm animals. We come home exhausted, but refreshed. And the CSA forces us to eat better, keeps our culinary skills sharp, and provides great fodder for canning.  The "problem" is that every week I have to turn a mountain of veggies into meals. Quickly. And during the work week.
This is just what was up for processing Sunday afternoon, it's not even a quarter of this week's share.
Enter home canning. In just a few hours, I can put up a dozen jars -- relieving the pressure to consume all those veggies quick-quick-before-the-next-pick up-date.  Plus, I just love opening a jar of homemade jam in the middle of winter and reliving these sun-filled moments.

I know that caning can be intimidating, but you don't need a bunch of fancy canning equipment to make a great refrigerator pickle. Besides, a lot of early-spring vegetables aren't candidates for long term storage anyway (peas and radishes get mushy, distinctly not yummy). Almost any crunchy veggie makes good refrigerator pickle fodder, and they will last about a month. Though, good luck hanging on to them that long. I put these in everything - lunches, salads, or snack on them straight out of the jar. Don't overlook the leftover vinegar either, it makes great salad dressing!

Since these are refrigerated, feel free to play with the recipe a bit. Here's mine, adapted from Deb @ SmittenKitchen's recipe for Pickled Vegetable Sandwich Slaw.

Ingredient List:
  • Veggie Fodder - enough to fill two (2) 2.5 pint canning jars or any other large glass jars you have around the house. 
    • Note: Any crunchy veggie will do. Sugar snap peas, carrots, daikons, turnips, and kohlrabi are all tried and true candidates in my household. Though very tasty, be forwarned that radishes and beets will dye your entire batch of pickles *quite* pink.
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 8 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • Red pepper flakes to taste (I use two generous pinches which packs some heat, but doesn't scare off the occasional pickle-eating-guest)
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1-2 garlic scapes, sliced the length of each scape
  • A few stalks of fresh herbs, bonus beauty points if they are in flower. 
    • Note: Dill is obviously the classic, but I plan to play around here. Fennel, mint (minus the mustard seeds!), and mustard greens all make my heart go pitter-patter.
Pickle Production!
  • Julienne your veggies. I like a chunkier pickle and slice them into 1/4 inch sticks. 
  • Pack your veggies into the two jars. If you're me, you have fun arranging the veggies into different colored layers. Add the sliced garlic scapes and the fresh herbs to your jars now, too.
  • Bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard seeds to a boil and simmer for a few minutes (you'll add the cold water later!)
  • Add the cold water to the vinegar mix, and let it cool on the counter
  • Once lukewarm, add the vinegar mixture to your jars making sure that all your veggies are completely submerged
  • Let the pickles come to room temperature before stashing them in the fridge. They will be tasty within a few hours, but better after an overnight soak. They should last about a month in the fridge, but as with all home preserves, should be discarded if you note any strange odors or colors. 
Happy Pickling!

Notice how there is only one jar, instead of two? That's because the first jar didn't even last three days.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

New Quilty Work in Progress

I may have bitten off a little more than I can chew on this one. I am in love with my plan, but more than a little intimidated. I've spent weeks procrastinating by sewing up small projects, but it's time to get serious (or at least try!). So, I have finalized my fabric pull, and am hoping this post keeps me a little more accountable progress-wise. I'm going to use a mix of navy, grey, golds, and teal/aquas. The fabrics are mostly Art Gallery's Pure Elements, with a few others here and there.

My mission is to create a series of seven different stars, four of which are paper pieced (first time paper piecer here, yikes!).I'm going to be using a mix of stars from the Solstice Stars Series and the Summer Sampler Series -- both of which were quilt-alongs hosted by Faith @ FreshLemons. I have every confidence in the tutorials (Faith's "Lemon Squares" pattern was my first big quilt, and was a pleasure to sew through), but I'm feeling much less confident in my abilities.

To help procrastinate build my confidence, I've spent a lot of time organizing my project within Evernote. If you've never used Evernote before, I highly recommend it. It's a great tool for saving web-clippings for future reference, or keeping a running catalog of just about anything at all. Since my new project contains seven separate tutorials (and another dozen paper piecing templates!), I created a "master" page that includes cutting directions for each block, and links to the tutorials/template for each block. I also created a visual for myself so I can keep track of all my blocks. I've included a little screenshot below:

I'm a very visual person, so I think it is so useful to have all these things at my finger tips while I craft. Ok, here we go. Time to get cutting!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Clothes Making for a Waldorf doll

Up until two weeks ago, my house was a doll free zone. I don't have anything against dolls, the idea just never occurred to me. I had no interest in dolls when I was a child, and it never even dawned on me that Baby Bee might feel differently. Imagine my surprise when her notes from school started containing messages like "she had so much fun feeding the baby dolls today!" Whoops. Minor parental oversight there.

So, we decided that it was time for a doll at home, but really wanted something handmade. Enter Waldorf dolls - adorable handmade dolls made of cotton and wool (with bonus points for being low on the creepy doll meter). There was a minute where I thought about making the doll myself, but it really seemed like something left to the experts. And let me tell you, the workmanship on this doll is incredible. I am so glad I decided to go the purchase route. 

"Faye" as she has been named was meant to be a birthday present, but my curious child stumbled upon her in my closet... six months early. So her new wardrobe has been a little bit rushed, but it's coming together piece by piece. There aren't any established patterns out there that fit this doll, so I've had to tinker with some American Girl Doll patterns. Faye is a 14" Waldorf (for those curious, she is a "Jewelwing" from Dragonfly's Hollow), but she's similar in girth to the 18" American Girl Dolls. The two trouble spots are definitely the arms and legs - I've had to expand the arm holes and leg holes to accommodate her chunkier hands and feet. It's been good practice at pattern making and a garment sewing. 

The yellow dress is a  modified version of  Liberty Jane's Kimono Dress, available here. The pattern is well written, with lots of pictures. I heart a pattern with an abundance of pictures, especially because I'm completely clueless about garment sewing. Minus a few slip ups that were completely my fault, the dress was a pleasure to sew up. It has a lot of beautiful little details that make for a really nice finish. Like the decorative stitching on the waistband -- Baby Bee is thrilled that her dress has "hugging cat(s)" on it.
After I finished the dress Baby Bee asked that I make Faye some matching pants  (she insists on wearing pants 100% of the time herself, no idea why), so I whipped these up in less than an hour. They are seriously that easy. They are cozy flannel PJ pants, adapted from this pattern by Little Abbee on etsy. I'm still trying to figure out if my pattern printed funny, or if there was an error, but either way, it was a quick and easy project. I just love the little bow on the front!

I'm hoping to make the full PJ set one of these days, but I really really need to stop procrastinating and start my sister's wedding quilt. Yikes!