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Monday, July 30, 2007

Another Day in the Midwest

Today's activities included but were not limited to:

Green beans from the garden, finally picked, cleaned, and prepped for canning. Said canning was completed by 10:30 PM. All I did was one canner load, which means only 9 pints. But I did have enough left to make another big pot to eat, and to share with our neighbors next door.

Because my morning was interrupted with three grandchildren (and one of their friends), other plans were put aside in lieu of playing. I had to send a note to our dear Bonnie of Quiltville to get her (famous in Kansas) zucchini bread recipe anyway. I only wish the kitchen fairy would come and make this zucchini bread. I don't think it will bake very well in this condition, do you? I'll post Bonnie's recipe tomorrow if the bread gets baked.

And a day would'nt be complete without a tad bit of sewing, would it? I've got the binding sewn on the basket quilt that will be donated to our local Cancer Action auction. This will allow me to sit with hubby and sew it down - which will take no time at all.

The braids for the "not-to-be" border have been packaged up with leftover fabrics, and I've been thinking I shall make a strippy lap quilt with them when I finish other projects. This might be a nice "masculine" quilt to have on hand, so I will pursue that thought later.

The flip-circles (crop circles) will be taken off the wall tomorrow. I'll post the explanation why at the time, along with some statistics. My brain hurts today.

Bonnie and Clyde always huddle together when the kids are around. With a 2.5 year old little boy who thinks they can't hear him unless he shouts in their faces, who can blame them? They seem to think this chair is their safe haven. If you click on the picture, you'll see "their" cat quilt on the back, because they love to sprawl on the back of the chair. Without the quilt, the top looks like it has a black edge!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Quilt, Knits and Cats

No, this is not my quilt. I wish it were, though. It is one of two that my buddy Carolyn made. The only difference between them is the border. Aren't those plaid baskets just darling?

I took a knitting class a few months I need another fiber addiction, right? Anyway, we made a pillow. A very expensive pillow, I might add. Like I need another pillow, right? So I've been struggling to complete it since it is so boring, and it's hot since it's wool. But I really want to knit socks, so I HAVE to finish the pillow. I let Bonnie finish it for me. Since she really wants the knitting basket and I want the pillow finished, I thought this was a fair trade.


But Clyde doesn't knit. Here he is cooling off laying in front of the fan. If you double click to enlarge the picture, I think you can see his fur is flying backwards. His tail is blown backwards, too. And I do believe he is smiling!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hardy Hibiscus, corn, and circles

This is what my hardy hibiscus looks like. We love it so much, that when we were at the garden center (see previous post) that we brought 5 more home with us. As you might know, it gets really, really hot and humid here in the summer. AND it gets pretty darned cold here in the winter too, with ice and lots of moisture (usually). It's surprising, then that these plants are hardy to 40 below zero and thrive in the sun. We got the other ones planted in the other beds - two smaller bush versions, same dinner size plate blooms of white, and three other colors. They should make a nice display.

And before you ask another question - here's an answer. Yes, that is a bowling ball "gazing ball" that I made last year from shards of tile from my master bath make-over. This gives you an idea of the size of blooms on the hibiscus, doesn't it? I have several of this kind of shard-work throughout my garden. Needless to say, no one in my family bowls anymore:)
Several questions to be answered here that I couldn't reply to otherwise. My answers are not necessarily the RULES, but just how I do it.


Get the corn clean, then cut it off the cob. I use a bundt pan and put the ear of corn (the end with the self-grown handle?) in the center hole, and cut the corn off the cob with a very sharp knife. We don't like creamed corn, so I don't scrape the cob, but if you want creamed corn, then scrape liberally.

Next step is to blanche the corn kernels over low/medium heat for 8-10 minutes (or until the water is milky looking). Blanching (according to the Ball Book of Preserving) is low/medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir the corn occasionally during this 8-10 minute step. I don't process more than 12-14 ears of corn at a time. I use about a cup of water in the pan, and get it hot before adding the corn. About a dozen ears make 3-4 pints of freezer corn.

A friend of mine adds some sugar and some saltto hers while it is blanching - I don't add anything at all.

Once out of the blanching pot drain it, then dump it onto a cookie sheet with deep sides. I have my deep sink covered with a layer of ice cubes, and then sit the cookie sheet directly on the ice. I try to have the cookie sheet nice and cold before I dump the corn on it. Then I stir the corn around, and up and down, and back and forth to cool it quickly (which stops it cooking). This is important, or the corn keeps cooking and it gets kind of soggy/nasty.

It takes about 10-15 minutes before it is cooled. Then I pack it into freezer bags, 1 pint at a time, press the air out of the bag and seal it. Straight into the freezer it goes.

The quicker you can get the back end of the stuff done, the better the corn is, and you will say you just cut it off the cob!


Here are a couple of references for those of you who asked about how to make these MACHINE PIECED circles. I don't think I can explain it on my blog better than how they are explained in these two references.

I learned how to do this in a class at Empty Spools in Asilomar this past spring, and as you can tell, I am thoroughly addicted to them. I am getting ready to teach a class at a LQS here in a couple of weeks, and then again in September. The method is pretty slick!

Dale Fleming's method is the the method I learned. Her book, Pieced Curves So Simple is more of a process/technique book rather than a pattern book. (Have you noticed that these are my favorite kind of books?) You can see the steps here on HGTV with Dale's process. You can see the Floral Fantasy quilt that I made from one of the patterns in the book for my upcoming class in a June post on my blog.

I really can't share the pattern for the flip circles, since it is copyrighted material from Dale, and I believe it is going to be in her new book. Sorry, but I just can't, and I think you understand.

Another site for a similar method is Kelly Gallagher-Abbott's Jigsaw looking quilt top at Jukebox Quilts. You must download the free pattern to see her technique. She uses spray starch instead of glue. I have now incorporated both methodologies in my circle making, and I think it's a nice marriage that works for me. MY RULE is to do what works for YOU.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Crop Circles and more

In the middle of the braid and border dilemma, I decided it would be a good time to go in search of the wonderful sweet corn that is grown in our area. After a short drive south, I found a delightful little stand at the edge of a cornfield, with it's money box glued to the top, and the corn already picked, waiting to be bagged by the customer. Totally self-serve. So I brought 4 dozen ears home.

First there's this:

Then there's this:

And then there's this (times three more times):

Nothing is better in the dead of winter than sweet corn that has been frozen in the dog days of summer. I have a friend who has provided me with her frozen corn for the last two years. This year, I tried making my own. Whadda mess! At the end of MY mess, she called and offered me 40 pints of hers that she had just made. Did I take her up on them? You betcha! So now, we have enough corn to ration out one pint per week for the rest of the year. Ha! Think that will last? Read on for more on crop circles....

I put away the Block Exchange and those delightful borders. What to do, what to do? Well, as you know - I am totally addicted to circles these days, so I brought the few out that I had, and quickly made some more. I sure felt better afterwards, too!

Another friend on the web recently reminded me of something I used to do. She takes a digital photo, changes it to black and white to check her color values. I thought it would be fun to see what these flip circles look like without all their colors.

They sure look like the crop circles in western Kansas that show so well in aerial views. Oh gosh, my brain just has another idea! How quickly can I shift gears and go play with that? Stay tuned for the results!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mama said there'd be braids like this!

The last two days have found me torn between many activities - all of which I really wanted to do. But all in all, the braids were on my mind, and I haven't been able to sleep because I've been sewing right up until the last minute before I go to bed. Because there were some fabrics that were pretty distracting in the braids, I couldn't just sew the first row together. By discovering this, I was able to disperse the existing braids with the offending fabric, stop using it all together in the new ones, and continue making more and more braid.

The interruptions to the braid finale included, but were not limited to: completely cleaning out an 8 foot patio area, adding 15 bags of dirt, 3 bags of mulch, removing and relocation about 1,000 pounds of field rock from the last decorating attempt, planting flowers and ground cover, shopping for plant material, and the perfect base for a perfect fountain. The fountain was a gift (certificate) from a local garden center from my stitch group as a memory item for my mother. At first, we thought we would do a tree, but a long story later, the fountain won our hearts and the special place near our front door.

And, while we were at the garden center, we purchased a bit more plant material... ahem, a lot more! It actually was a pickup load full. And you have to understand that it is very, very hot and humid here, so planting and working outside right now is pretty hard!

This is just one of the plants: a Lady Baltimore hardy hibiscus. I already have one, but we brought home 2 white ones, this dark pink one that is just unfolding a 5" flower, and a pink stripey one. Some bushes and lilies also made it into the truck.

But I digress.

I finally got the first row of braid sewn together. Then I got the quilt down on the floor, and laid out the braid. This is what it looked like:

And I DON"T LIKE IT! No, I don't like it at all. It looks like it should be on a cowboy bunk. Bummer! I like the braid; I just don't like it with THIS quilt.

So what to do, what to do? Hmmm, let's try some of the other hunks of fabrics I happen to have on hand. This one is sort of dark, but maybe might work....and if I scallop the border?

Hubby likes this one, but I just don't know.

I think I need to put it all away and let it simmer a while.

As a matter of fact, I think I'll go and work on my Cherry Limeade.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Speed Braids

I think this is a fine use for a clean salad container from Price Chopper's salad bar, don't you? It sure makes it nice and easy to see what color strips are available, and keeps them away from the cats paws!

The first row is now done. Each strip set makes four 9" squares, then each square is cut on the diagonal. This makes the long edge of the triangle equal to 12.75", and the top and the bottom both need a total of twelve triangles.

Voila! Two rows of speed-pieced braids completed! They still have to be sewn together, but that can wait for another day. So can the 14 triangles for each of the longer sides - I'm sure bored with sewing strips!

I am going to play with some other things tomorrow, and let the speed braids rest a while. Maybe the quilting fairy will come along and sew some strips while I am playing with freezer paper, and some cherry limeade fabrics. Ya think so?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

2+2=322 inches, 12.5" repeats, and one diet coke

Huh? Shoulda paid more attention in Mr. Cloucy's math class back in the 60's. I've been sewing the last of the rows on the Block Exchange quilt, and pressing everything ever so nicely as I go. There isn't anything more satisfying in my book, than seeing this come together and laying so nice and flat (and square, too!). As I've been working, I've been sorting through my head the fabric selections I've made for the speed braid border, and slowly laying the steps out to figure the math for the first inner border.

You see, you can't just put on the border and then make these border strips. There's MATH involved! EEEEEK! I suppose I should have warned you all about this in The Border Workbook before you all ran out and got it, huh?

It's not so bad, really. But you do need to start out with a clear head and a clean piece of paper. It doesn't hurt to measure your quilt top, either - before you sit down with all the accoutrements to figure your work, right?

Now, before you start the arduous math task, make sure that the quilt is firmly anchored under one cat (about 12 pounds of weight is sufficient). As you can see, not everyone in the room takes their job seriously. Clyde doesn't do math, but he does do "cute" extremely well.

After several passes at sizes, I have now determined how wide my border will be (6.5"), how wide the strip set must be (9") and what size the repeat unit will be (12.75) to make it come out perfectly!

BUT!! See the red fabric second from the bottom? It originally was going to be the inner border of 2". But I just bought the first red at the bottom to go into the strip, and I like it MUCH MUCH more than the first red. So guess, where I need to go next?

Yep! Gotta go shopping for exactly 12.5" of red fabric! LOL!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cherry Limeade

I'm still working on the Block Exchange quilt. I only have 8 more rows to go before the center of the top is together. Then I want to add a 2" red border all around, and a speed pieced braid as the last border. I find that over the last few quilts, I've used Janet Kime's The Border Workbook a lot. Today, I saw a 10th anniversary edition of it at JoAnn's - who would have thought it's been around that long? It's a great book for border ideas and how-to-do-them! So here's a picture of how a speed pieced braid looks:

I can't decide whether to make the braid the same size as the blocks, smaller or larger. The center blocks finish at 6"....any suggestions?

Even though the colors of this quilt are growing on me as I work with it, I am contemplating starting something new. (Bad, Quiltgranny! No biscuit!)

Last Friday I went to a small local quilt show with one of the Quilt Babes. It was sort of uninspiring and disappointing. Not only was it small, but there didn't seem to be much variety in the quilts on display. I forgot my camera, but that's OK, because there wasn't anything I would have taken a picture of! If a LQS had not had their personal quilts on display, I think there would have only been a dozen or so other quilts, but even so, they were just like the block of the month that were offered by the LQS.

Hmmmmmm, I wonder what a Fall quilt show will be like from another quild? Their quilt shows are usually jaw-dropping gorgeous, and I am hoping that it will be! I need more inspiration, right?

When we stopped at the two of the quilt shops closest to the show, I just "happened" to run across some lime green and some pink to add to the pile of black and whites I have left over from some of the "waiting to be finished" projects.

These colors are just calling to me. It's unusual for me to have a name for a quilt before I've even decided what exact pattern it will be. So, maybe Cherry Limeade will go to the top of the projects -- who knows?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How to make a 15 minute block in 86 minutes

I always use this book for my generic blocks. It has all sorts of blocks with different sizes for the same block, and it's quick and easy to use.

I've exchanged 6.5" blocks with friends for the last couple of years, and as you know from a few posts ago, I've been getting the last few of mine done to complete a king size top. I am down to the last two blocks of a total of 16 blocks to complete the set.

So, today, I perused the block book to find 2 blocks not previously used in these 82 blocks on the wall. And I found one that was all comprised of all the same size half square triangles. Not too hard, eh?

So here's my steps:

1) Choose the pattern (5 minutes)
2) Cut the fabric (10 minutes)
3) Piece two triangles together to discover the size is incorrect (5 minutes)
4) Re-cut all the fabric in the CORRECT size (10 minutes)
5) Sew the 16 correct sized HSTs, and lay them out in the placement grid (10 minutes)
6) Remove three HSTs that were sewn with one of the fabrics upside down. (1 minute)
7) Unsew them, then re-sew correctly. (10 minutes)
8) Preview in the placement grid. (1 minute)
9) Sew each row carefully keeping the HST in the correct position (5 minutes)
10) Press the block (1 minute)
11) Unsew 2 rows with 3 HSTs sewn the wrong direction (5 minutes)
12) Remove the offending 3 HSTs from their respective rows (3 minutes)
13) Get a diet coke and cool down (15 minutes)
14) Re-sew the HSTs in each row correctly (5 minutes)
15) Sew each row back together, then take one off, turn it around and sew it correctly (10 minutes)

Here's my 86 minute block from the 15 minute section(6" finished)

No wonder it's taking me forever to get two blocks done! And here's the block inserted in the top. As you can see, I only have one more to do, plus one more connector block. I wonder if I can get them done before dinner?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Paying it Forward

I can't remember where I got this picture from, but I apologize in advance for using it without your permission. I just can't remember who you are! And I LOVE this picture. I wish I could have it in MY garden. And if only they would weed!

I just joined in a fun thing over on Coffee Time Quilt Studio's blog -- I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this Pay it Forward exchange. It's been going around for a while and I finally decided it was time to jump in!

I don't know what the gifts will be yet... but I have a few ideas. The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog. So if anyone is interested and wants to join in feel free.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

And another quilting day

I've jumped on the bandwagon and upgraded my template. I think I like it better, and it seems easier to read. I really, really like how easy it is to change the banner, too. Let me know if you have issues with any of the colors for the sidebar, the main posts, or the links. I've looked at it on two different computers, but they are both Macs, so who really knows but you?

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the midwest, and today promises more of the same. It was in the 80's, and still pretty hot, but much lower in humidity than in days past. I didn't really get much done outside, but all in all, it's nice to see the sun shine again. I had to take out the last of the summer squash, and I got an entire THREE squashes from the plant. I think it's been too wet for it. Oh well, there's always next year. I'm still waiting on the zucchini plant to produce and the tomatoes to turn red.

Yesterday morning Hubby and I finally decided on a treadmill to be added to the family. After much discussion and education, we decided that a Fitline would be just right for both of us to use. Not at the same time, however!

My son's girls go back East tomorrow for their 5 weeks of the summer with their mother. Today, they'll be over for a cook-out and a swim as our farewells. They'll be missed, but I'm sure they will have a good time seeing their aunt and their other grandmother. Pool pictures later.

After breakfast, I'll be working on another Flimsy. Remember this one from a while back? It will be another big honker - I think it will finish at 94" X 106". I've got it on the design wall, and now I have 9 more 6" blocks to make. It seems that it never ends! LOL! I think I am going to make a braided border, so that means I need to pick out a few more pieces of fabric. Right now, all I have are mostly the darks, and some lighter pieces will make it "move" a lot more.

This quilt is such a departure from my usual lighter and brighter stuff. The blocks were exchanged between three/four friends over a couple of years. When I went to set them together, I used one of Bonnie's setting patterns because I liked the way it has the diagonal stripes. But, the darker fabrics were what really tied all the blocks together, and more or less showed them off. So, now, we'll have a winter quilt - or maybe, just maybe, this will be a gift to someone that occasionally reads my blog. We'll see when it's all done and quilted!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy

As my friend Nancy says, I've been busy working on Flimsies for the last couple of days. It sure feels good to get the blocks and the unfinished projects out and rolling again! The first one just needed some borders, so when I ran down to the Needle Nest, I found some green and yellow that seemed to be the right thing for this hand-painted Story of Sunbonnet Sue. I really enjoyed using Sharyn Craig's 7 Roadmaps to Spectacular Quilts for these blocks. It's a workbook I use a lot.

So the borders are all on, the picture is taken, the quilt is measured and I've got the backing done. Of course, I had to have help from Clyde when I did the math.

(All the pictures will enlarge if you double click on them. I'm not sure if the captions are large enough for you to read unless you do enlarge them.)

Then I finished the borders on Everything But the Kitchen Sink, a free pattern from RJR. This all started because of one of the Amazing Quilt Babes. I think three of us have made this pattern, and two others have made similar ones using the 3" nine patch blocks we exchanged last year. Of course, mine is bigger, with wider borders so it will fit my bed. It measures 112" X 96" - I put my quilts on the bed sideways, and then make coordinating pillowcases instead of having a pillow roll. If I make them big enough for the pillow roll, then the quilt slides off the foot of the bed, and the cats sleep on it there!

We went to Topeka this morning and picked up my two pieces that were at the Sabatini Gallery. They are now home, safe and sound. I sat at the kitchen table, looking at magazines while Hubby made lunch. My buddy is never far, is he?

Tonight, I am going to hand-stitch the binding down on the Circles Quilt. I suppose I need to make a label for it too. Hmmmmm, now what to do, what to do?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Beware of what you ask for!

The painted cupboard is one of my favorite pieces of furniture we own. We bought it a long time ago, when we could ill afford a "designer" piece of furniture. I just had to have it though, and I wish all my furniture could be in this style, whatever you might call it. It holds a television on the top, which I occasionally turn on while I am sewing, and mostly use for the satellite music channels when not using my Mac's Itunes. The grandkids generally watch their videos and kids TV channels in this room, too.

The bottom part used to house a stereo, but now it holds all my computer software and my genealogy books and papers.

This is the most recent quilt my buddy and I have made for a Cancer Action auction (in October). We finished it up this afternoon, and we're pretty pleased about it. I think we work well together - I took the handles to Rochester MN with us, and worked on that part while there, and she worked on the baskets during that time here. She had more work to do, for sure, since she also did the sashings and the 9 patches, but then she had a bit more time (I think) than I did. Last Sunday we got together and worked on putting the top together, and got about 75% of the basket blocks together. Today we worked on the rest. She finished up the top, while I worked on the pre-border sewing and the backing. She'll be taking it to the Iowa quilter we use this next week, and when it returns in August, I'll put the binding on.

We actually combined two different patterns, because we liked the smaller size of these baskets with a curved handle, but liked the triple sashing of another pattern. We sure didn't have much fabric left over from the calculations - less than 1/4 yard of the blue and the red, so that's a good thing. When we purchase new fabric for a project, we always hold our breath when we are trying to make sure we have enough, and that didn't leave much room for even one cutting error!


The following is not for the faint of heart!

In an effort to make sure I don't give the wrong impression here, I am going to post something I never thought I would share with ANYONE! All I think I've ever shown on this blog is a tidy stewdio, a tidy yard, a tidy garden and tidy quilts. Someone asked in the last post about where's my junk?

JUNQUE? Well, I have plenty of it to spare and to share, but it's carefully hidden away, of course. B e w a r e (cue the spooky music) on your journey to the dark underbelly of my stewdio!

First, you will always find a pile of it, sitting patiently by the door, waiting to be escorted downstairs. (Judy and Libby, the place you will be going to is called a basement in Kansas.)

And don't think you can ride the chair assist to go downstairs, either! The JUNQUE has priority seating! It seems there's always something waiting to go. It can't leave the station until the balcony and lower levels are both full, you know.

EEEEKKKKK!!!!! Dark Shadows abound!

It does help to turn on a light, but I gotta tell you that it's getting harder and harder to even get to the switch!

Wait a this stuff coming or going ... or going or coming? Who knows anymore. There's some of Mother's things I brought back from her apartment, there's some Christmas wrappings from last year, there's some of this year's future Christmas presents, and of course, fabric. Bags of fabric, baskets of fabric, boxes of fabric, crates of fabric, and anything that will hold fabric will have fabric inside.

You are now looking at the west side of what I call the Mezzanine level as you go down to the bottom of the stairs. Some of this stuff has been brought in and out of here several times over the last year, too. Oh, and of course, while you are there, you can always do a couple of sets of crunches on the exercise ball, too:)

The other side of the Mezzanine will show you just a bit of the custom cupboards that were made to hold....what else...fabric when we moved here about 8 years ago. And they do. But, you know, the floor just holds more and it's easier to see, right? The Inspira quilt frame was a good idea at the time (another long story). It's been been used exactly one time. Know anyone who might want or need a nice 5' frame that expands to 10? It holds ANY sewing machine sideways to let you quilt (on three rolls) easily. Let's talk. It would certainly make my hubby happy to have more room. But who are we kidding here? You know it would make me sad not to have a place to hang fabric to audition it for the next project!

So there you have it, Elaine! Be careful of what you ask for, be VERY careful! HA! (And for those of you will ask - and I know you will - the lamp on the floor is NOT plugged in for me to see the fabrics better, it's just on it's way in...or is that out?)