Friday, October 29, 2010

Tip Toe, Through the Tulips...

I finished a quilt top today that will hopefully be a Christmas present (this year LOL), for my oldest niece. She was the recipient of my second or third quilt, a simple checker board quilt. At the time she was 3 or 4. We've been blessed with 5 nieces and a nephew (and 2 boys of our own). They all have at least a baby quilt that I made, and now that they're growing up so incredibly fast, I hope to start making them all bigger quilts to enjoy.

I was trying to figure out what to make for my niece. At the time, I really wanted to do a "bear paw" quilt as well. I was chatting with a quilting friend of mine about this, and joked that I should make her one, since she had been really scared of bears when she first visited our house in Northern Michigan. At the time, she was 5 or 6, and we lived deep in the woods, and yes, there were bears. Being the city girl that she was, her fear was understandable. But my suggestion was tongue and cheek at the time.

Well, no lie, the very next day, our family was out in the woods, and we saw a bear!! It wasn't a big one, and it was running down the gravel Forest Service road in front of our truck, but we followed it for several hundred yards, before it dove off into the woods! We all got to see it and were just amazed, as it's not a sight even people who've worked and lived in the woods for years see very often.

It was then that I knew I had to make this quilt! I hope she likes it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thrift store find

Last week, my 12 year old son told me on Monday night, that he had a band concert Tuesday night! I had already planned to meet with a friend that day in Walla Walla to fabric shop and do lunch. My son is growing faster than I can keep him in clothes, so I stopped at the local thrift stores in W2 after lunch to find him some new dress clothes. I've discovered that buying dress clothes at thrift stores is the way to go! Most outfits have almost no wear and tear, and they're a fraction of the cost of new. Sure enough, I scored not one, but 2 very nice outfits for under $10 (2 shirts, 2 pants)!

Being the quilter that I am, I also quickly checked the arts and crafts section. I found a whole basket of pre-cut squares, but really didn't find them stash-worthy. But I did find these 4 colorful glasses for a quarter a piece (the short ones in front)! The great thing about thrift stores is that you don't have to buy a whole set of dishes or glasses if you really want just one or 2. So I bought 1 of each!

I don't know of any quilter who doesn't like to play with color, and I'm no exception. Most of us not only play with colorful fabric, but beads, yarn, pottery, glass, photography, etc... I love these glasses because they're colorful (and cheap). I use them every day, and if one of the boys break one, no biggie. So what about you? What colorful things do you like to play with?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back in the saddle again...

Yep, I think I'm back on the proverbial horse, after my case of food poisoning last week. After discovering that my friend, whom I'd eaten out for lunch with, also got sick, and that no one in either of our families was sick too, I called the health department to report it, and they have interviewed both of us extensively. Sounds like there was indeed an outbreak of sorts in that town, which is not the town either of us live in. I hope they find the culprit...

But after being horribly sick for a few days, then having the aftermath of a neglected house to attend to (you know how THAT goes), I think I'm finally all caught up now and have been happily sewing along.

I just finished the first of 3 quilt tops that I'm currently working on, and thought I'd share. I have had the "Fire Escape" pattern, by Atkinson Designs for several months now. During my first "shop hop" here in Eastern Oregon, I decided to focus on buying fabric for this quilt, and bought a yard at each of the different stores I went to. I love it! And, though not intentional, I think it'd be a very nice masculine quilt for any guy. It'll fit quite nicely into this house full of boys and men.

I also wanted to show you a picture of the 2 fat quarters I've received in the mail and the ornament from the ho-ho-ho holiday swap over at Gen X Quilters! How much fun is that?!?! I hope to get my ornament finished soon. Any ideas for inspiration?
I also just joined up with a "Quilt along" over at "That Girl, That Quilt..." Come over and join us!

I hope all of you are safe and sound. We have many friends and family in the Midwest who are experiencing severe weather right now. My thoughts are with them and all the other folks who live there!! Take care!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bear Paws

Just a quick post to show you my latest project.... Bear Paws!

I joined a "block swap" at my local quilt store where we each make 12, 6 inch bear paw blocks out of batik fabrics, then turn them in and they all get swapped! It's one of my first "swaps" that I've done, the other being the Holiday fat quarter fabric swap, over at "Gen X quilters(&Y too!)". I just got both my ornament and first fat quarter from my friend over at "Aunt Spicy". Very nice! I hope to post pictures of that soon too.

I must admit that in making all these cute little bear paws, I became a bit attached to them, and was just a wee bit sad to hand them over to the quilt store owner. But I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes back!!

Here's one more picture of another bear paw quilt that I'd already started before I even knew about the quilt block swap. That quilt has a fun story already, and it's not even done yet, but I'll share that later.
I was hoping to continue with a "brown" theme... "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?", but unfortunately I've been suffering from a horrid case of food poisoning. My local quilting buddy also got it after we had lunch out together on Tuesday. Bummer. We're both on the mend though. That said, I'm off to bed and hoping everyone out there is doing well....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Preserving the last of summer's harvest...

Last week, we started getting little "kisses" of frost in the garden... a sure sign that the end was near. Luckily, we spent several hours harvesting and pulling up most of our veggies and plants before the hard frost came this morning. I think there's still a bit of chard and parsley left, but that's pretty much it!

Much of the vegetables we harvested will be fine for weeks or months to come, if properly stored... many varieties of winter squash, potatoes, onions and carrots. But the tomatoes and peppers were starting to attract my urgent attention after a few days in the fridge and on the counter. I've been canning produce for years. Maybe because of this, I've grown more and more fond of freezing! It's just so much easier! This year we've tried blanching and freezing everything from beans to zucchini, with quite a bit of success. Today I decided to try a few methods recommended to me by friends and folks out in the blog-land. I also wanted to test out the wood pellet grill that we bought at the beginning of the summer.

First, I roasted some Anaheim peppers on high heat, then covered them up to "steam". Instead of peeling them and seeding them right away, as I usually do, I threw them whole into the freezer. I plan to put them in bags, and use them as I need them. Word has it that they peel quite easily when taken out of the freezer and put under running water.
Next I turned the heat down, and smoked and slow-roasted almost all of the tomatoes we had left. I bought some garlic-infused wood pellets just for this occasion. After they'd roasted for 3-4 hours, I took them all off, and ran them through the food processor and into jars to be frozen. I'm really excited about this technique! No peeling, seeding, food mills, or water baths! The consistency of the sauce was incredible! Far better than any I've previously made. I'll try to let you know how it holds up to the freezer, but I suspect they won't last long! In fact, now I'm almost wishing I had more tomatoes.
To cap things off, I made a batch of zucchini bread after supper to eat for breakfast tomorrow!
All in all, we've grown a LOT of vegetables in our garden this year, saved a lot of money, and eaten healthier. As usual, I'm a bit relieved to put the garden to bed this time of year, and focus on a different season and different activities. But it's good to know that summer's bounty will be enjoyed for a long time to come!

Monday, October 11, 2010

My first quilt... completed 19 years later

My husband and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary yesterday, on 10-10-10! As a gift to him, I decided to finally finish a quilt that I started for him 19 years ago. It's the first quilt I'd ever made, and I dove into it knowing almost nothing about quilting. It would be 10 years later that I got introduced to rotary cutters, quilt stores, batting and binding. It remained unfinished mainly because after making the top, I didn't know how to bring the back, top and batting all together. I was also not too entirely happy with the result (just LOOK at that orange!), and I still wanted to make it bigger with borders.

So it remained tucked inside my fabric stash, moving from apartment to apartment, house to house. As I later learned more and more about quilting I became concerned about the open button holes, and as my quilting skills progressed this first quilt looked so homely and clumsy. But the sentiment behind it remained the same... a labor of love, made for a special person in my life.

My husband knew about it. He'd seen it move from place to place. Last week, as I pinned it all together, I hoped it would be a surprise gift. As usual, though, it took longer to quilt than I'd figured. I had to drag it out over the week-end in order to finish it on time. The look on his face when he saw me working on it was priceless! He, of all people, knows just how much time I spend quilting a single quilt.

When I first met him, he was a forester who's unofficial "uniform" was plaid flannel shirts. I love rainbows, so I went to the local Goodwill store and found as many colorful shirts as I could to make the quilt. I ended up buying some of the flannel at the fabric store, but could only find the solid blaze orange no matter how hard I looked. I thought it would be neat to leave the pockets and buttons on, and did. I bought a sheet for the back, and cut out the strips with scissors. I probably broke all of the "rules" of quilting all in this one quilt.

In order to finish it, I decided to forget the borders, keep it exactly the way it was, leave the button holes the way they were, use the sheet I still had for the back, and just do it. I started trying to stipple quilt it free-motion on my machine, but after a broken needle and some frustration, I decided to ditch that plan too, and just use my walking foot to make a grid pattern. To make things even easier, I just trimmed the back an inch all around the quilt, and brought it around to the top and sewed it to the front as a "mock binding". Quick, easy, cheap. And it's done!

Sometimes I think all the designer fabric, chic patterns and the long arm finishing does more to impede my quilting process than to help it. I want my quilts to be just like the beautiful ones in the quilt stores, shows, and blogs... But every time I see this once-closeted quilt I'll remember the couple who rented small apartments furnished with second-hand goods, and the time when I bought my quilting fabric from thrift stores. I'll also be reminded of how far I have come in my hobby. More importantly, I'll remember our new romance 19 years ago, and the true reason I love quilting. For me it's a way to show my love to family and friends.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

9 patch quilt tip

Lately I've been spending a lot time on the computer exploring the quilt blog world. It's so much fun to see others' quilting projects, and there is so much inspiration out there. Many blogs are also very informative, as quilters are always eager to share their knowledge. For busy moms like me, it's a wonderful resource! With little (or big) kids in tow, it's almost impossible to take a class, or join a guild. Add to that the rural location that I've lived in for the last few years, and books and blogs, chat boards and magazines have become my main go-to when learning new things. My local quilt shops have been a great resource as well, and I try hard to support them as much as I can.

Even though I'm relatively new to the quilting world, I thought I'd return the favor and share a tip that I learned this summer about piecing 9-patch (or similar) quilt squares. 9 patches are like tic-tac-toe boards... 9 squares, 3x3. I'm working on a quilt that uses a 9-patch, so I took some pictures of my newly learned method.

Put simply, instead of strip-sewing all the same pieces in "like" batches, I take a little more time initially and sew them in the order of the finished patch. I sew all the "left" seams first:

Then the "right" seams:

I then cut the blocks apart, keeping the 2 middle threads still attached.

Now I just fold them over, and repeat the process, finishing the 3rd and 4th seams.

It uses less thread, and I believe that it also makes the process faster. Of course it does take some concentration, and if you're like me, it's hard to concentrate on sewing like this when the kids are home. Luckily mine are now in school several hours a day :-). But even with them gone, I still make mistakes....

I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not the best teacher (just ask my kids), so I hope this makes sense. Happy piecing everyone! Cant' wait to show you my latest quilt as it progresses.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Contests and day tripping

Over the week-end, I decided to take a day trip that I've wanted to take ever since we moved here, almost a year ago. I packed the kids and the dog into our car and set out for Joseph, Oregon and Lake Wallowa.

As we headed down Hwy 82, which is also designated as "Hell's Canyon Scenic Byway" broad farmlands narrowed down to rim rock, then to the steep canyon of the Wallawa River. As the valley opened up, we saw dozens of people fishing in hip waders in the river. The Wallowa Mountains towered over us as we continued driving through the towns of Wallowa and Enterprise.
Finally we arrived at the town of Joseph, Oregon, just North of Lake Wallowa. Joseph is a town surrounded by beautiful mountains, wilderness and water.
It's not too surprising that it is also home to many artists who give the town a touch of class and comfort. While we didn't have much time to shop or eat at the many places in town, we did stop at "Cattle Country Quilts", a wonderful quilt store with lots of outdoors and wildlife fabrics. They recommended a stop at R and R Drive-In for yummy milkshakes for the drive back.

With Hell's Canyon and the Eagle Cap Wilderness still out there to explore, I'm sure we'll be back very soon to this beautiful corner of the state.

In regards to travel, I wanted to take the opportunity to mention a travel contest that Travel Oregon is having right now. It's a "Wanderfeast", a culinary trip through Oregon that you design yourself. Details can be found at their website. I'm afraid I can't enter because of my parental obligations, but maybe one of you can!!

For my fellow quilters, I also just entered into 2 contests for an Accuquilt Go! Cutter at the "Diary of a Quilter" Blog, and at "Alderwood Quilts" Blog. If you're interested, head to their websites and enter! Doesn't everyone love a contest?