Sunday
Nov052017

Quilting Everywhere

I've got a good mix of sewing projects happening right now. There are a few bag projects in the pipeline—with, of course, ideas for a few more—but I've also been getting some of the backlog of quilt tops out of the PHD (projects half done) pile. I finished the binding on the jelly roll quilt last night:

The backing is a print that I picked up at Jo-Anns a few months ago. It was the closest thing I could find to the "vintage sheet"-type fabric that was in the jelly roll and I think it worked perfectly. It is busy enough to hide all my quilting mistakes. I bound the quilt in Kona Royal to pick up some of the blue in the jelly roll. 

Done and done. 

The husband discovered a sort of "books on tape" last night on YouTube. He is a Robert Heinlein fan and found a clip of someone reading Time Enough for Love, a book he's read twice. I found it pretty engrossing, actually, to sit there and be read to. We'll probably do more of that. We listened to enough of the book last night that I got hooked and want to find out what happens next. 

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A group of us had a breakfast meeting in town yesterday morning to plan our church's Advent and Christmas Eve services. It was fun, although I would have preferred the potato pancakes I actually ordered to the lumpy wads of fried wallpaper paste that Perkins was trying to pass off as "potato pancakes." I could only find a few bits of shredded potato here and there. (I ordered potato pancakes thinking they would be mostly shredded potatoes with a tiny amount of flour holding them together. Silly me.)

Should I have sent them back? Probably. I am just getting so tired and worn down by all the lousy customer service out there. It's everywhere. Employees don't care. Companies are producing lousy products designed to fail spectacularly within a short period of time. My mother-in-law is battling Maytag over a refrigerator she and my FIL just purchased a few months ago. Trying to find quality clothing is next to impossible. The husband happened to see some of this fall's fashions on some TV show a few nights ago and asked me why on earth women were wearing tops and sweaters with the shoulders cut out. In Kalispell?!?!?! In winter?!?!?! I have no good answer for him. Cut-out shoulders rank right up there in fashion stupidity with the bell sleeves that also seem to be all the rage. I can't wear those—I would set myself on fire cooking dinner. 

I am inching ever closer to getting ready to make my own tops. I am still in the information-gathering stage and need to practice more with the serger, but I expect that by next spring, I'll have at least half a done nice jersey knit tops made for myself that will be long enough and will cover all body parts. Until then, I have started shopping in the mens' department for some basic shirts, as so far they seem to be immune from all the idiocy that is so rampant in women's fashion. The quality is higher, too. 

Bleh. 

After the meeting, I went to Jo-Anns to see if I could find fabric for another quilt back. I am kind of disappointed in their fabric offerings now. They seem to have jettisoned all the popular designers—Tim Holtz, Susan Winget, etc.—in favor of their house brand of fabrics, and the selection just isn't as good. You can still buy some of those designer fabrics online, but I like to shop for fabric in person. I wonder if they are getting any feedback from other customers about the change (I fill out their periodic e-mail surveys.) They didn't have anything that I found suitable. I ended up over at Hobby Lobby where I picked up four yards of a nice light blue calico on clearance for $4 a yard and a cotton quilt batt in the size I needed for a different project. 

[I pay full price for lots of yardage at the quilt store, but quilt backs use up a lot of fabric. For something I will probably end up donating, I like get the backing fabric on sale if I can find some. I also prefer the look of all one fabric for the back rather than backs pieced from several pieces of different fabrics.] 

When I got home, I pulled out a top and backing and pin-basted it together with the batt I had just bought:

This is a variation of the Candy Coated quilt from Sunday Morning Quilts. I made one out of a variety of turquoise fabrics a few years ago for DD#1. It's a great scrap-busting design. For this version, I decided to separate the rows of strips with horizontal rows of Kona Royal. I like the effect, but it's requiring me to think long and hard about how I want to quilt it. An overall loopy design just isn't going to cut it. I think I am going to stitch in the ditch along each edge of the blue Kona strips (horrors!—modern quilters hate stitch in the ditch quilting but I think it has its place) and then do some kind of ribbon candy horizontal quilting in the pieced parts. 

I am out on a limb with this quilt, too—I am using solid Kona Royal for the backing. I've matched the thread color to the backing, but every single stitch is going to show and not be hidden as it would with a printed backing. Oh well. I'll never get better if I don't challenge myself. 

It's good to have a selection of projects to work on. I can pick and choose depending on how much time and energy I have. I still have about a dozen pillowcases cut out and ready to finish, too, and I am going to have to tackle the scrap bin shortly. It overfloweth. 

Friday
Nov032017

Finished is Better Than Perfect

I finished quilting the jelly roll race quilt last night. Just after dinner, the husband got called to a chimney fire around the corner and then went off to fire training. I had the scanner on while I was quilting, listening to all the calls to car wrecks in town (neighboring fire department). We didn't get the huge snowstorm that had been predicted, but it did snow yesterday afternoon and then the temperature dropped just as rush hour began. One of our neighbors was on his way home and texted me that it was a "skating rink" in town. The road department was doing its usual stellar job of sanding the roadways, apparently. Also, a lot of people clearly put off getting their snow tires put on until it was too late. (And to them I say, "What is wrong with you people?")

Stuff like this makes me really appreciate the 10-foot commute to my office every day. 

I got into the weeds a bit with this quilt; I thought I was finished and then turned the quilt over to discover that part of the backing at the edge had gotten flipped back onto itself and quilted. Bad words were said. I had to unpick all that quilting, straighten out the backing, and then re-quilt it, attempting to blend the new quilting in with the previous stitching. It looks okay. If someone wants to get down there with a magnifying glass and look for it, be my guest. I am going with the philsophy that finished is better than perfect. 

I am not a very creative machine quilter. I did my favorite quilting pattern again, which is back and forth loops:

The corollary to "finished is better than perfect" is "finished is better than fancy," and if my family inherits a bunch of quilts with the same stitch pattern, will they care? I suspect not. I am pretty good at this kind of quilting. I enjoy doing it and I like the way it looks and makes the quilt feel. I would definitely use that wool batting again, too. It quilts nicely. I need to check the washing instructions on it. *I* know how to wash wool but I might need to put a label on the back of this quilt for someone else. 

The binding is all cut. I'll make that tonight and then work on sewing it down this weekend and this can go onto the finished objects pile. Yay. I am moving at light speed now that farming and canning season is mostly over. 

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This arrived yesterday:

The husband is getting no end of amusement from this. He called me Steve, Jr. (Steve was my dad's name) and said that only I would order a 55-gallon drum of sewing machine oil. I pointed out that it was only a gallon, but he said that it was the sewing world equivalent of a 55-gallon drum. ("You don't see any lube aisles at the quilting store, do you?") I didn't really want to have to buy such a huge container of it, but the only choices are a 4-ounce squeeze bottle and a gallon jug. I have already gone through a couple of squeeze bottles of this, so it made sense just to get it in bulk. This isn't any old sewing machine oil, by the way. This is Bluecreeper SMO. Bluecreeper is the penetrant that I use to loosen up frozen machines. It was designed by a guy who repairs and restores sewing machines as his business, so he knows whereof he speaks. Bluecreeper is amazing. This is now the only stuff I will use on my Necchis, and with such tight tolerances, they go through a lot of SMO, especially that industrial. 

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I asked the husband how fire training went last night. They are doing Firefighter I, which is a prescribed training regimen for the new people, and we have quite a few new people on the department. The husband has no patience for theory. They were doing some classroom work and he finally said, "Look, we don't have fires in well-lit engine bays that are heated to 65 degrees. We need to get out in the weather and practice." All the new people had to go outside in the cold and snow and practice putting on their gear and hauling hose. I said that his picture is probably now on the wall of the engine bay with a big red line through it, although he never asks people to do anything he is not willing to do himself, so I don't think they can complain. If the Deputy Chief of Fire Operations is willing to haul hose in a snowstorm, the rest of them should be, too. 

Wednesday
Nov012017

Farm Meetings

The husband and I had a short, impromptu farm meeting on the way home from taking the pigs to the processor on Monday. He said that he would like to let the pig pasture lie fallow for a year, but the problem is that we don't have another pasture set up for them. We have plenty of land and he has kicked around the idea of making a second paddock out in the woods next to my office. They could root around out there and dig it up. (That would eliminate a lot of the ground squirrel real estate, too.) The issue is finding the time to put up the infrastructure of fencing and a shelter. When the weather is nice, he would rather be pouring concrete. When he's home because the weather isn't cooperating, it's not likely to be conducive to building projects on our property, either. We've been trying to build a garage for several years now and that project is moving at glacial speed.  

We could also forego raising pigs for one year, but we have several repeat pork customers and they might be disappointed. The pasture isn't in awful shape. It *is* starting to show some wear, especially after the hot, dry summer that we had.

I met my friend Cathy for dinner last night. That is always enjoyable and I need to make time to do it more often. I got caught up on the details of her cattle operation. She has a pregnant cow that she'd like to foster out and I told her I wished we were set up for cows. We can't even keep pigs much past the end of October because we don't have a buried water line out to the pasture and hauling buckets of water in cold weather gets really old really quick. If we could, though, I'd love to keep the cow for her until it drops its calf. 

[I mentioned this to the husband and he said, "It is 2 x 4 time?" I've told him that if I ever come up with any harebrained schemes that he should hit me upside the head with a 2 x 4 and stop that nonsense.]

Oh well. I don't have time for more projects anyway. 

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I got to see my friend Christi the other night. She is the one who suffered that awful back injury in the deck collapse in June. Her oldest daughter is a junior in high school and first chair violinist, so I went to the orchestra concert and sat with the family (Christi's in-laws are our friends Tom and Marcie). Christi is able to walk, which is great, but she is still in a lot of pain. They are working on getting her into a specialized pain clinic for treatment. She is too young to have to live with debilitating chronic pain for the rest of her life. My friend Marcie is still in a lot of pain, too. There are scars that last long after an event like that and they aren't always visible. 

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I'd like to finish quilting that jelly roll quilt tonight. It shouldn't take long. I'll make some binding and sew it on and then I'll have some hand sewing to do in the evening while watching YouTube with the husband. I also need to get some pictures of the finished blog tour bag. I'd like to do them outside because the light is so much nicer than here in the house. If I hadn't been playing catch-up for the past two days, I would have done it already while the weather was still nice. Now we have this:

This is the start of what is supposed to be a three-day snow event. We'll see how much we actually get. I should still be able to get some decent pictures. I'll just have to be judicious about where I take them. 

My creative pursuits come with an interesting side effect, and one that I am trying to figure out how to handle. I make a lot of things. Some of those things, like quilts, are earmarked for special people or will get donated to the Mennonite relief sales to help raise money. Some of the smaller items, though, I make for the challenge of making them and/or for learning new techniques. I don't need all the bags and purses I am making, but I am also pretty clear that I don't want to get into doing production or custom work. I like making one or two of something and then moving on. I am not interested in making 50 clutch wallets to sell at the farmer's market, nor do I want to have to be beholden to customer demands. I've been a bit surprised to discover that the idea of designing bags (or other items) really appeals to me—once a designer, always a designer, apparently—but I told the husband that was another 2 x 4 situation and that he really needed to rein me in if I start that kind of crazy talk. 

I have bins and bins of sweaters in storage from all my years as a knitting designer. I don't want to end up with bins and bins of bags and other items. I am kicking around the idea either of putting them up for sale here in some way or of having periodic giveaways. I'm still mulling that over. It's an interesting problem to have and one I wasn't anticipating. Thoughts?

Tuesday
Oct312017

Carrots and Quilts and Pigs

The internet went down literally minutes after I logged in to work on Friday morning. When it was obvious that the issue wasn't going to be resolved immediately, I decided to make my Costco run in the morning instead of the afternoon. I much prefer to shop there when it is devoid of people, and at 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, traffic is pretty light.  

I was very pleased to discover that Costco had 10-pound bags of organic carrots. That saved me a extra trip to an out-of-the-way produce stand on the other side of the valley. I bought two bags, and when I got home from running errands and discovered there was still no internet, I queued up some podcasts on my iPhone and Bose Bluetooth speaker and got to work. Within a few hours, I had the first half of 27 pints of carrots canned up:

 

I love having carrots on hand for putting into soups and stews. Freezer space is at a premium this time of year so canning works better.

I am trying to move some projects along and out of the UFO pile. I had a jelly roll race quilt top that was waiting to be finished. This was from a class last spring at Regal Fabric and Gifts in Spokane. I actually had made several of these before I took the class, but the class was offered on a Friday night when I happened to be in Spokane, so I took it. It was a lot of fun. One of the ways that fabric manufacturers market fabric is as "pre-cuts," which save quilters time on cutting out fabric. A jelly roll is forty-two 2-1/2" strips of fabric rolled up together. A jelly roll race quilt is usually done with a group. Each person sews the strips together end-to-end and then sews the long strip back onto itself, and the first person to finish wins. 

I had the top, I had the backing. I just needed some batting and some time to pin it all together. The jelly roll race top is an odd size. It's too big for a crib size quilt batt, but using a twin size quilt batt results in a lot of excess batting cut off. I had a couple of 100% wool quilt batts that were just big enough—at 60" x 60"—so I used one one of them and got the top, batting, and backing pinned together Friday night:

I have never quilted with wool batting before. I am about two-thirds of the way through quilting this on my Janome 6600P machine and it's going pretty well. The wool batting is a lot puffier than cotton batting. It's almost like polyester. 

Saturday morning was devoted to sewing. The blog tour bag is now done and I am thrilled with how it turned out. It's one of those projects that I keep picking up and admiring because I love the way it looks. I also cut out the parts for the Molly's "Grab and Go" Bag pattern that I bought in Boise a couple of weeks ago. I didn't realize when I started that the pattern called for several pieces to be quilted, so it was rather serendipitous that I had set the Janome up for quilting. Those bag pieces are cut and quilted and waiting for me to get back to them when I finish quilting the jelly roll top. 

[FYI, my date on the blog tour is Wednesday, November 15. You'll want to make sure to stop in and check out that post, because there will be some giveaways associated with it, but you can't win if you don't stop by!]

I canned the second bag of carrots on Saturday afternoon. The husband spent the weekend making sure the stock trailer was ready to go. It needed to be moved over to the pig pasture so we could coax the pigs into it on Sunday (what he refers to as the "pig rodeo"):

I don't know how he manages to maneuver it into that spot between the trees, but he does. The last couple of years we borrowed a stock trailer to take the pigs to the processor. This year, we bought one. It needed some work—new tires and new wiring—but it's in relatively good shape all things considered. The picture doesn't show the setup very well; the pig pasture is to the left. There is some additional fencing set up that forms a "chute" from the pig pasture to the trailer. After the stock trailer is in place and secure, he opens the gate to the pasture. At that point, theoretically, the pigs wander from the pasture into the trailer, where their food is. 

Last year, we waited until late Sunday afternoon to try to get the pigs into the trailer, and it was dark by the time we got them all in there. This year, having learned a few things (this is not our first pig rodeo), we started earlier in the afternoon. We armed ourselves with marshmallows, swiss chard, leftover tomatoes, and all the things that pigs like to eat. The husband stood in the trailer (they like to come and rub up against him) and I lobbed bits of marshmallow over the fence. Once one of them goes in, the others usually follow, especially if they think they are missing out on something. It took a lot less time this year and we had them all loaded up by mid-afternoon. 

The processor we use is two hours away, up on the Canadian border. We like their operation and are willing to make the trip. I wasn't sure if I was going to go along. I am not much help with the pigs, honestly, but I'm the one that tells the butcher how I want the pork packaged and the husband says he likes having me along for the company. We still didn't have internet at 7:30 a.m. Monday morning—the time I would normally log in and start working—so I hopped into the truck and went with the husband. 

Internet service had been restored by the time we got back a few hours later. I was able to get some work in yesterday afternoon. I lost a day and a half's worth of pay, though, and that makes me kind of cranky. (I complained and got a credit on our bill for this month, but it's still not enough to make up for not being able to work.) I don't like being so dependent on technology. If the power goes out, we have a generator. If the internet goes out, I have no backup system. Technology is a double-edged sword. It works great until it doesn't. 

Monday
Oct302017

The Big Disconnect

We have been without internet service since Friday morning. CenturyLink suffered an enormous outage in our area that took several days to get resolved. I have a bunch of blog posts waiting in the queue, but first I need to get back to work—the paying gig—and make some money. 

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