Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Time to work in the garden


It has been a while since I have worked hard in the garden.  Today the weather was perfect and the moon is in the right place to get my potatoes in, so I had to prepare the soil and cut my seed potatoes so they will be ready to go in tomorrow. It was quite the task to wrestle with the roto-tiller, but I should only need to do this for the potatoes... most of the rest of the garden is in raised beds.




I have been given lots of gardening advice regarding my potatoes.  They require good fertile soil which is not what we have here.  Last year my potatoes did not do well, even after all the work I put in, so this year I tried to gather more information to see if I can get a better yield this year.  I have my cut seed potatoes coated with ashes and are on the deck drying overnight.  They will be ready to go in tomorrow.  After I tilled and then made my furrows, I put some aged manure first then some Azomite which is rock dust (trace minerals) that is supposed to be good for lots of things in the garden.  I also added some Epsom salt and some crushed egg shells.  I then covered that layer with some of the good garden soil that we had brought in last Fall.  Only problem is I think I need to make another row.  After I cut my seed potatoes I determined that two 20 foot rows are not going to be enough.

On the other side of the garden where my raised beds are, I discovered that my asparagus thinks it is spring already.  One of the many shoots that are coming up is well over a foot tall. 
Back after the first cold snap I wanted to raise the level of the soil in my asparagus bed... the nursery lady said that it would be fine to add the soil after I trimmed them back.  I cut the plants all down to the ground, then I added about 4" of soil on top.  My husband added another board around the bed so the soil level is still well below the top of the bed.  I probably need to seek some advice about whether I should leave these new shoots alone, or clip them off.  The trimming was supposed to be after the first frost to ensure they don't try to start new growth too early.  Another frost could damage the new growth.

I have a whole bed of Brussel Sprouts.  We have had a meal of them already, but there are lots getting ready to be harvested.  This also is a first for me.  Never grew Brussel Sprouts before, so I'm not sure if I need to leave the stalk alone until they are all a good size.  I cut the whole stalk to get the first batch, but there were lots of little ones that maybe would have continued to grow.  I may go up there tomorrow and snap off some of the bigger ones and leave the stalk in place.

I am just amazed at how well my winter garden has been.  I have kale and spinach and Swiss chard.  Several heads of cabbage are waiting to be picked.  Broccoli is producing new shoots every day.


Monday, February 2, 2015

February fun

 I had a fun time making some Super Bowl mementos to give to my guests at our Super Bowl party.  These little birdies are pincushions, or just a cute little birdies.  Lots of flag waving going on during the game.  The last few moments of the game were the most exciting.  Good fellowship, and lots of  fun for everyone.


We had a good group at quilting today... there were not many of us, but quantity does not determine quality.  Two ladies finished their pillows today, adding to the two in the back that  I had previously finished as samples.

There are a couple more still in the works, but everyone is moving in a forward direction.



For those who are interested in joining us for the woven mat demo on Monday the 9th, I have the supply list repeated here.

Fabric strips for a 20" by 30" mat:
   2 1/2" strips 16 - 30" long and 24 - 20" long  
   Backing fabric - this fabric will not show when mat is complete
   Non-slip liner 20" x 30"
   Additional 2 1/2" strips for the binding

If you would like additional information about this mat, scroll down to my January 20th post.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Finished pillow

We have had lots of fun with our pillows at quilting on Monday.  I am one of two completed pillows so far.  Of course I needed to get mine finished first to be able to show the other ladies, but I wanted to let them get closer to completing their pillows before I showed the last step.

This was a more structured layout of the pillow... I used 2" strips to give it a uniform look.  It really does not matter what size the center starting square is, or even if it is square... but on this pillow I started with a 2 1/2" square.

The back is mainly two pieces that are approximately 10 x 16.  I used a contrasting strip to face the edge of the opening, but if you have enough fabric and don't want a contrast you could make those two pieces 13 x 16 and fold over 3" to form the facing.  On this particular pillow, I used fabric from another project that had two finished edges, so it was not as wide as I needed it to be, but wide enough that if I offset the overlap, it worked just fine.  So the overlap can be whatever you choose.  The facing strips are top-stitched on both the opening edge and the edge of the facing that has been pressed under about 1/4".

I pinned the back two panels in place, then I put the pillow front on top and cut the back to the same size as the front.  I did not want my corners pointed, so I cut them rounded, which makes turning easier.  You can draw a line using something circular (thread spool) that gives you the curve you want... I just eyed it as I was cutting.  Pin as you feel comfortable, then start stitching in the middle of one edge that does not have the facing.  This is so that your ending stitches are not where they will be pulled apart when you are putting your pillow form inside.  The outside seam is continuous.  I did not backstitch because I over-stitched about 1" when I came back to the start.

The first pillow I did using a 14" pillow form, I trimmed the top to 14 1/2".  I thought it was a little snug.  This pillow I trimmed the top to 15" which was a better fit. You could also choose to add a Velcro closure, but I did not use one here.

 I don't have pictures of other pillows, and the one issue I saw more than once, was when the strips are being added around the center, even though it appears that they are squarely around that center... as you get close to the edge several ladies found that their square was twisted a bit and they were running out of backing/batting on one or two sides.  If this should happen... not to fear, fold your batting out of the way and add a strip to the backing.  It does not matter if it matches as it is inside the pillow.  It is also not necessary to press that seam open.  Next, fold the backing out of the way and butt up a piece of batting to the batting... you do not want to overlap here.  With the butt edges as your center line, zig-zag the two together.  You can now go back to adding strips on the front.  At the start of your project, because this is easy to happen, it is a good idea to make your backing and batting a good 3 or 4" wider than your finished size.  Lots of reasons why it appears your batting suddenly has a mind of its own and runs out on you.

Maybe I can get a group picture of all of the pillows when everyone has their pillow completed .
Does this look like a happy kitty?  He really likes this new mat... it fits almost perfect.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

February Project


Starting in February I am taking on a new challenge.  I am going to demo a new project at our Monday quilting group at church.  Each month I will introduce a new project on the second Monday of the month.

I have decided to use this space here to provide a source of information for those interested participants.  This first project looks like you are dealing with small squares, but even a novice will find this project doable. 

February I will introduce this project which is a mat that can be used for your pet. Currently this mat is on a foot stool in my living room.  Two of my cats wait for their turn to use their new mat. It really is a big hit.  It has a non-skid backing (shelf liner) and as a result pretty much stays in place.  Can you envision this in your car or truck? 

For this particular mat I used scraps from my stash, but a Jelly Roll has strips already cut to the right width.  This mat also is 20" x 30" which made it easy to find the shelf liner in a width that did not have to be pieced.  Of course the length of the liner has to be cut.
 
On the Monday that this project begins, I will be explaining how this mat is put together.  Anyone is welcome to come and watch without actually making a mat, but for those who want to make one, the supplies you will need are listed below.

The fabric prep takes a bit of time, so no construction will begin in the first session.  The proper number of strips need to be cut to length, pressed in half and then stitched along the long edge.  If you have a portable sewing machine, you need to bring it with you to the first session so you can get your strips ready for the next step, which will not begin until the second session. Your sewing machine will need to be capable of doing a zig-zag stitch. We have an ironing board and a couple irons available in our supply closet.  We also have cutting mats and a few rulers.  You will need to bring some common straight pins (20-30 at a minimum).  Your stitching will show, so choose a thread that will work for you.

Fabric strips for a 20" by 30" mat:
   2 1/2" strips 16 - 30" long and 24 - 20" long  
   Backing fabric - this fabric will not show when mat is complete
   Non-slip liner 20" x 30"
   Additional 2 1/2" strips for the binding

The non-slip liner is available in many stores.  You will not need to bring the liner to the first session.  You may decide you want to make a different size, or someone may be able to split a roll with you.  I found a 10 foot roll at Bed Bath and Beyond, but it was only 18" wide.  The rolls at JoAnn's were available in 20" rolls by 48".  It would be best to have the backing in one piece.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Quilt-As-You-Go Block


The pillow on the right is the one that inspired my tutorial to show how to do a quilt-as-you-go technique to finish a quick project. This pillow was made using scraps to demonstrate the technique at my Monday quilt group.  After I got home I finished the back to complete the pillow.  For just grabbing random pieces of fabric to fit the side I was adding to, this turned out pretty nice... kind of wonky.

I then wanted to show what it would look like done with two fabrics... not counting the center.  The following is a tutorial to show the Quilt-As-You-Go technique for the block below. 


This blue and white block was trimmed down to 15" when done.  I started out with a backing fabric that was about 17" square. 
The back will be inside the pillow, so it does not matter if it matches anything.  I only was concerned that it was a light color that would not create a shadow with white being a major part of the block.  I cut the strips of fabric for the block at 2".  The batting was a little less than 17" square.
Start by laying the backing face down with the batting on top.  Put the square piece in the center of the batting. You can use whatever stitch pattern you choose to quilt the square in place.  I used the edge of the foot for my spacing.

The first strip right side down on the square.  Stitch with a scant 1/4" seam only to the edge of the blue and trim even with the edge.  Turn out the white and finger press.

Again, using the edge of the foot as a guide, stitch lines to quilt this piece.  There is room to stitch one more line but it is not necessary because the next row will cover this edge.
On the left it is a little hard to see that this is the second strip as it is white against the white batting. On the right, I flipped the piece over and quilted the lines.

Here is where the third side was added.  I did not show the trimming for the white pieces, but this is how I trimmed the strips to the correct length.  I squared up the end with the edge of the line underneath and cut with my scissors.


Keep adding pieces log cabin style and you are using the Quilt-As-You-Go technique.  I used a straight stitch, but you can get fancy and use a decorative stitch, or use a larger space between lines, but with the first pillow above being a little wonky, I wanted to show a more structured look with this block.

The first pillow above I trimmed to 14 1/2" which is what I thought would fit the pillow form I had.  It turned out that it was a little snug, so this time I trimmed it to 15" to give me a little more "wiggle room".

I hope to post a follow-up with this block finished as a pillow.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter garden

This is a couple of my raised beds that sit end to end.  The beds are 7 feet long.  This was a couple weeks ago.  I have not harvested any of the cabbage yet, but they are ready anytime.  I brought in the last of my cauliflower two days ago, and I froze the last of the broccoli that I planted from plants back at the end of September.  At the same time as I set those plants in one bed, I also planted a row of broccoli at the end of this bed... from seed.  I noticed 3 or 4 days ago that the broccoli from seed is starting to show signs of little heads.  These are now full size plants that you can see behind the beets. I have a full bed of brussel sprouts that will probably be ready in a couple weeks.  I regularly pick spinach or kale from another bed to use in my green smoothies.  Swiss chard is tall and shiny. Lots of onions and garlic are distributed in several beds.

Today was a beautiful day.  I had planned to get up to my garden this morning, but our day got turned in a different direction, so I didn't get out there till late afternoon.  We are having some frosty cool mornings and I'm figuring it is a good time to cut back my asparagus plants.  This is my first experience with asparagus, which I planted a year ago about this time.  A friend said I needed to cut my asparagus back in the winter.  I thought I wasn't supposed to do any cutting until they were three years old.  I then asked the lady at my local nursery and she advised me that I should cut them down to the ground after there has been a frost.  Well I think we have had a few frosts, so I wanted to get it done.  If you cut them back too soon they could start new growth and then get hit by frost and damage the plants. My asparagus bed is now all trimmed back and I have covered the whole bed with an additional 3 or 4 inches of soil.  All of my raised beds are 18" deep, except the asparagus bed... because I didn't want to disturb the bed when I was adding to the depth of the other beds.  My husband will add another row of boards around the asparagus bed tomorrow, then all beds will be where I want them.

I am really enjoying my gardening experience.  Lots of work, but it is good work.  Brings me great joy to be able to share some of my produce with others. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

A special orange

I have a dear lady that I became friends with early in my transition to living in Texas.  I first came to know her through my quilt group at church.  I have learned a whole lot from her, in fact she comes to mind often as I am sitting at my sewing machine.  One of the things that stands out most in all those little tips that she passed along is... never put pins in your mouth, you have no idea where they have been, and the conditions under which they were manufactured.  Seeing that I was not about to go around gathering all of my sewing needles and pins so that I could sterilize them, I determined that I would have to learn to not put them in my mouth anymore.  If you are a sewer/quilter, or even if you know one, you are well aware of how easy it is to hold your pins temporarily in your mouth as you are pinning a seam.  I no longer put pins in my mouth... thanks to this dear lady.  There are lots of little tips that she passed along, but this one sticks out most, because it is something that I encounter most frequently.

Another thing we all looked forward to from MaryAnn was oranges from the trees that she planted way back when... in her back yard.  These oranges had to be the absolute best tasting oranges that could be found... at least by me.  Because we all get older, there comes a time when things have to change, and MaryAnn and her husband could no longer maintain their home, so they had to move away.  The house is still there with a grandson as the new owner, but one of her daughters rescued a bag of oranges from one of her mother's trees.  A couple weeks ago I was given a gift of one of these oranges with the hope that I might try to save the seeds and grow a tree... just like MaryAnn did so many years ago.
This is that orange, and it is an heirloom orange.  Most of the oranges that I buy at the supermarket are loaded with seeds.  This one only had 3 good size seeds.  I consider them to be treasures that I will make every effort to grow a tree from.  So Sunday, January 4th is when I cut open this orange and set the seeds aside to start drying.  My fruit tree experience is not good.  I have had very little success at getting any type of fruit tree going.  I am very hopeful that this orange can help my fruit growing experience become as great as the tree the seed came from. Oh, and did I say... the flavor of this orange was true to what I remember... awesome.  I will try to keep a photo record of this memory orange tree and its progress.