Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Early Christmas present

Merry Christmas, everyone!

14Dec24corsage It’s been a crazy year and I won’t be sad to put it behind me. Just not enough hours in the day to do the things that need to be done AND have a life. My life gets crammed in here and there, whenever I have a few minutes to spare. I took Tuesday off, and spent the entire day searching every nook and cranny for birds during our annual Christmas Bird Count. There didn’t seem to be as many birds this year as in previous years, but seeing an enormous flock of about 400 Canada Geese on the wing was pretty awesome, as was the huge 14Dec24shapes flock of Bohemian waxwings. And I love the black capped chickadees – they are so adorable. And for the first time in the 10 years I’ve been doing this, there was no snow on the ground and the weather was above 0 (0 C = 32 F)!

Finished my Poinsettia corsage. I planned to make 10 more and give them out as gifts, but my sewing machine had other ideas. Without changing a thing, the tension went out of whack after I’d finished sewing 25 out of the 30 pieces I needed. I spent a while trying to readjust it and then realized the bobbin was making a lot of noise. I replaced it with another and everything was fine again. Weird. But I was out of time by then, so I put everything in a ziplock bag and put it away for another day.

And I haven’t done a whole lot of sewing since then. Too busy at work. I still have some presents to finish up.

14Dec24bernina This is an early present that I bought for myself – a Bernina 830 Record. The owner posted a For Sale notice on the bulletin board at the Post Office. They were asking $150 for it and I just couldn’t pass up that one. It’s missing the carry case, extension table and knee lift lever, but it came with a drop-in sewing cabinet (for an extra $25) and a million feet. And two million bobbins! And the sewing machine itself is in excellent condition. (Ginger confirms that.)  I’m looking forward to playing with it. And maybe some day I’ll be able to pass it on to my granddaughter.

Hope everyone is having a Merry Christmas and relaxing holidays.

Until next time,

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sea turtles and poinsettias

14Nov20poinsettia Lately, every time I sit down at my computer to write a blog post, I glance at the clock on my screen and find out that I'm out of time. Again. Like yesterday morning. It wasn't my blog, but I'd just finished sewing the veins on my "poinsettia" pin and I was going to start exercising when I realized I had an appointment in a nearby town to get my winter tires put on. I hate being late. Most times, being late is not even an option. The weeks between Labour Day and Christmas are a blur where I work. Summer is dead as everyone takes time off. Once September rolls around, everyone makes up for the lost time. Then January comes and the place is dead again.

14Nov19front I've been making a few Christmas presents in the spare minutes I collect here and there. I made this wallet for a co-worker I've only met a couple of times, even though we've worked together for about three years now. She works in a town about three hours from here, but we connect just about every day by internet. I know that she's an outdoorsy type - she tells me about her weekends on the ski hills and hiking, and shows me pictures of her backpacking vacations. She says she loves sea turtles, so when I began looking through my drawers of fabric for something suitable, this gorgeous Robert Kaufman pattern screamed "Pick me! Pick me!"

14Nov19back As I attempted to make it as perfect as possible, I proceeded to make more mistakes than usual. See the cool looking clamshell? It covers a hole from the metallic clasp which I put in the wrong place. And the little red stitches at the edge of the wallet? That was my attempt to tack down the fabric edge using "decorative" embroidery stitches because I cut the corners off the wrong end. The zipper opens at the wrong end, too, but hopefully that won't be a big issue. I couldn't fix that without taking too much apart. And then, I was trimming the excess fabric inside the wallet that was part of the D-ring tab - I turned my head to hear what Mr. ZQ was asking me just 14Nov19insideA as I made the cut, and cut through one of the inside pockets. I just some stiff interfacing and glue to reconnect the pieces, and fortunately you can't really see it since it was inconveniently located next to the seam!
I'm becoming rather adept at fix-its. Just have to practice those "decorative" embroidery stitches.

The “Live in the Sunshine” graphic I got off the internet somewhere and printed it onto a bit of cotton fabric with my inkjet. It’s a bit tricky to get fabric moving evenly through a printer – you have to reinforce it with something – in this case, I ironed it to freezer paper, taped a sheet of paper to it and watched carefully that it fed correctly. It worked the second time.

14Nov20wristlet Been also working on some bags that others have requested. Cats and music are the popular themes. And speaking of music, my recorder is back in action. My musical partner and myself have six Christmas concerts booked this year. We play with other acts, so we only actually play for less than half an hour at each one. Still, six is more than usual. I just love the sound of Christmas music being played by recorders. We’re talking about video-ing ourselves playing one of these days and posting it to the internet. I’ll let you know if that (ever) happens!

Until next time,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Been busy

14Oct16hallbags I'm thinking of renaming this blog. Something like, The Blog of Good Intentions. Or maybe, The Road to Hell is Paved with Blog Intentions.

I just can't juggle like I used to. The good part of that is when I'm not blogging, it's because I'm busy at my sewing machine. Yessiree, I was sewing up a storm this summer, making and selling bags at the local Farmers Market. I didn't make a bundle of money - didn't come even close to covering my time, but I made enough to be able to afford a few more zippers and remnant bundles. Life is good.

Or was. Now my sewing machine needs an infusion. Honestly, it's never been quite the same since the needle hammered the needleplate apart earlier this year. The stitches after that were less than crisp, 14Oct16hallbag and in the past two weeks they've turned downright ugly. The tension is whacked, and no amount of fiddling will make it right. So it's into the repair shop on Saturday when we go to the big city. One nice thing about spending most of my Saturdays this year at the Market selling bags is that a few people asked me for custom orders, and I'm still working on a couple. So I need my baby back in top form.

14Oct16catsbag The stitching has gotten so bad that I was sewing together two pieces of material a few days ago, in an area that was going to be covered by lining, and the stitches looked so awful that I ripped them out and did it again. And I'm not usually that fussy!

14Oct16bbag The other thing that consumed my time this past month was the vegetable garden! Tons and tons of tomatoes. And a bumper crop of hot peppers - de Arbol chilis, Jalapenos and Habaneros. Thanks to that huge mound of dirt next to the garden, left there when the paving blocks were put down last summer, the pepper plants were warm and happy all year. My husband learned how to can 14Oct16wallet1 from one of our neighbours, and has turned several tons of tomatoes into tomato sauce - a fantastic addition to our Friday night home made pizzas. I've also made a few jars of tomato chutney and some salsa. And there are still more tomatoes.

14Oct16wallet2 I highly recommend the Amish Paste heirloom tomato as a tasty and highly prolific sauce tomato. The Super Italian Paste isn't bad, either. And I entered my Brandywine beefsteak tomatoes in our Fall Fair in September and won First prize! (Yes, I still have the ribbon.) They are the BEST eating tomato I've ever tasted.

14Oct16toatoes I grew dozens of tomato (and pepper) plants from seed this Spring and sold them at the Market. What I didn't sell, I planted in my garden, but I sold a lot. Several customers came by my table at the Market later in the year to let me know that the plants they bought from me out grew and out produced the plants they bought from the local nurseries. I'm already making plans for next year's plants.

If you want to try any of these bags, here are the patterns that I based them on: you can find the wristlet here, the wallet here, and the Halloween Treat Bags here.

Until next time,

Monday, September 8, 2014

It’s all about the candy

14Sept8halloween It’s getting dark earlier around here, getting cooler at night. October will be here soon enough and with it the risk of frost. I have my fingers crossed that all of those green tomatoes and green chili peppers will turn red long before that happens. Of course, October is also notable for three other things! – my birthday, Thanksgiving (this is Canada, 14Sept8bag eh?) and Hallowe’en! I made myself wait until September before I started making any Hallowe’en things, even though I was itching to start. I love Hallowe’en.

I found these cute little bags on Fishsticks' blog. She has a free tutorial there for them. I made a little change, though. She calls for fusible fleece on both the outer fabric and the lining. Being the thrifty person I am, I cut back the fleece to just the lining. I realize that fusible fleece is usually attached to the outer fabric, but since the lining overlaps the outer fabric, I attached it to the lining. You have to work both pieces a little more once you’ve sewn them together to get the seams to match up, but it’s not a big problem. Just trim the corners of the lining piece a quarter to half an inch less than called for because the lack of fleece on the outer piece changes the dimensions slightly. I also used less fleece on the handles, cutting 1 and a quarter inches to cover one quarter of the handle fabric. Someone who saw one of my bags last week asked me to make one for her to take to bingos! Coming right up!

Until next time,

Monday, August 25, 2014


14Aug25dufront I’ve been turning out purses based on these little fabric wallets like crazy lately. They’re fun, and I love the way they look – when they turn out right. I’ve been taking these and these down to the local Farmers Market with me each week, and this week I actually sold two! Including this mistake!

14Aug25duinside I finally cut into this precious Laurel Burch fabric to make my sister in law a birthday present because she loves kitties as much as I do. But I made a mistake somewhere and the magnetic snaps didn’t line up properly. I had to trim about half an inch from the bottom so that everything would fit again. But that meant that it was a couple of inches smaller than it was supposed to be. Somehow, I also managed to put the 14Aug25front zipper in with the pull facing in the direction opposite from what I normally do, although why I put it in facing the other direction I really can’t say… So I sewed it together and I looked fine – just not the way I intended it to, so I put it aside while I made another one for my sister in law.

14Aug25inside That one turned out just fine. Actually, it turned out better. Which was no surprise because practice does that. So, I tossed the mistake into the pile of clutches and wallets that I was taking to the Farmers Market… and someone thought it was nice enough to buy! Really, there was nothing wrong with it if you weren’t looking at it expecting it to be something else.

14Aug25back I like to work on one thing at a time, and do it until I get it right. Then I can start to improvise. In this case, fussy cut. This beautiful design of cat faces were just purrfect to put on the front of the wallet, while a more “subdued” Burch fabric complemented it but was by no means subdued. It took a bit of careful planning to cut this fabric, which is designed in beautiful horizontal designs. Those are two different fabrics there. I’m happy with the outcome, and I’m pretty sure my sister in law will be as well.

14Aug25hex I made this clutch for a friend who wanted “something in brown”. I love this Japanese motif, but don’t get much opportunity to use it. It’s a nice, heavy material with beautiful shading and nuances. For the lining inside, I used another Japanese print – floral printed on a mottled purple/brown shimmery sort of cotton. It worked very nicely together. When I dropped it off to her, she was talking to one of our local painters who, when we started talking about browns, said how she like working in “colours”. It’s funny how different colours and combinations affect you once you start working with them. I t14Aug25hexfmqold her that taupes never used to appeal to me until I started working with them, and now I just love them. And they ARE colourful – greys, browns, pinks, greens…. I think they’re beautiful.

For quilting this bag, I just followed the lines around the hexy shapes. Didn’t have to lower the feed dogs or free motion quilt.

Another New Moon tonight, this time at 2 Virgo. Virgo is usually a quiet and steady worker. If she has nothing to keep her occupied, she can become critical of others, although more often than not she can give great advice on how to straighten out a situation or proceed with a project. However, tonight Neptune opposes the New Moon, tinging matters with a pleasant fuzziness. You might rather sit down with a glass of wine than sit at your sewing machine. Mars and Saturn are also combined, squaring Venus in Fixed Signs, so if your measurements are off, just walk away from it – pour yourself a glass of wine and relax – because it’s not going to get any better tonight.

Until next time,

Thursday, August 14, 2014

After the rain

14Aug14beans Now that the thunderstorm has drifted on, I’ll update you on my week. Sewingwise, it’s been a bit of a wash. I finally got one little wallet finished, but I had to unstitch and redo it at least six times. Taken me forever! In fact, that’s been my whole week with everything that has anything to do with electricity – sewing machines, computers, etc. Not working for me this week.

Sunday morning our power went off (see? electricity), so I went outside and did some watering in the front yard. Where there’s a hornets’ nest. Right under the outdoor water tap. That drips and sprays water. Right into the crack between the porch and the front of the house where the hornets live. This has been going on for months, but one of them was in a bad mood Sunday morning and stung me on 14Aug14catnip the cheek. I’ve never been stung by a hornet before. I put some ice on it right away, and took two grams of vitamin c. It throbbed for the rest of the day and itched the next day, then it was gone.

Bean production has been ramping up. Green and yellow beans and black beans, although I haven’t collected any black beans yet. Tomatoes are starting to ripen, but not as fast as I’d like them to. I’m afraid that they’ll all ripen at once and I won’t have time to pick them (again). Everything is such a mess again. As usual, I plant too much in the space so picking takes a little more time because I have to move carefully. And then there’s the bees in the catnip (above picture). I let the catnip grow, thinking that I’d do something with it this year, like turn it into catnip mice. Ha. It’s been flowering now for about a 14Aug14greenhouse month, and there are at least two dozen bees constantly at the flowers. Which is all right, because they do the tomatoes and peppers while they’re there. But I have to move carefully around them, too. I wonder if they get stoned on catnip the way that cats do. I’d like to know where their honey stash is! Earlier tonight the resident skunk was on the hill just behind our fence, digging in the soft dirt. Everyone shares this yard, but I like it that way. Although, the grasshoppers can move on, I won’t miss them.

Until next time,

Friday, August 8, 2014

Feathers and polka dots

14Aug7feathers Maybe feathers and polka dots go together in some cases, but I don’t see the connection in this little fabric wallet I made. But I love both of these fabrics, so I’ll be using them again – just not together.

And, of course, living where I am in the Thompson-Cariboo region of British 14Aug7both Columbia, we heart western! This was Canada’s original western frontier, and we’ve got the sagebrush and cactus to prove it! And the rodeos. Horses. Cows. Rattlesnakes. Cougars. We have it all. And so the western look is really popular. I love these cowboy boots – and this time, the polka dots really DO compliment the fabric.

14Aug7zipper The zippers are coming along for the most part, but pocket zippers aren’t all that difficult. You just have to keep them straight as you’re sewing them down, and I’ve been using Seam A Seam double-sided fusible quarter-inch tape for that. I used to pin the zippers down, but the zipper would still move around too much. The tape takes about as much time as pinning, and you have the added stability of the thread plus the “glue”.

14Aug7inside I’m having fun making these little wallets now. I feel like I should be moving on to other things (a quilt, for instance), but I haven’t had enough of these yet. They’re quick and relatively easy to make – although the one I’m working on at the moment is giving me nothing but grief – and the pattern is free. It’s a tad confusing only because the pattern is all about promoting the fabric line, and sometimes the instructions seem to take second place to the fabric, but I guess that’s the price you pay (or not) for a free pattern.

I like the size – it measures about 8x6 when it’s finished, has a zipper on the back for change, a big roomy pocket inside for whatever and little pockets for your “plastic”. Has a magnetic clasp to keep it all inside, and a nice hands-free 14Aug7label strap so you don’t have to be putting it down and picking it up while you’re out and about.

The co-worker who I was making the wristlets for kept telling me to put my labels in a place where people could SEE them! So, I’m started putting them a little more prominently. Whatever! It was just a name I plucked out of thin air, and I used one of my pictures with it – a western swallowtail butterfly drinking from the flowers of our local prickly pear cactus.

14Aug7grnzeeb My tomatoes are beginning to ripen. I’ve already eaten a few of them, and I can say without exaggeration that I haven’t met a tomato I haven’t loved yet. And I don’t think I will. These are Green Zebras. I haven’t tried eating them yet, but I’m eager to. I gave away these two beauties, so I’ll have to wait a few more days. Right now I’m harvesting green beans and jalapeno peppers. I think the jalapenos are going to be part of tonight’s pizza!

Until next time,

Monday, July 28, 2014

Off to the Farmers Market

14July26chicken I picked up a new book while I was at Piece by Peace Quilts in Fort St. John last month (last month already?) by Terri Degenkolb called Reminiscing: a whimsicals collection. Actually, I bought it for the Rusted Moons pattern, but it has lots of other neat patterns in it, including the Tag Along Tote. It just caught my eye. Well, really, it doesn’t take much for a bag pattern to catch my eye these days, but I decided to actually make one for my best friend whose birthday was last week. I had just bought the Summer 2014 issue of Primitive Quilts and Projects and no bags, but lots of intriguing patterns and 14July26bagfront designs. Terri had a flower as the centrepiece on the bag, but Primitive Quilts had Henrietta Little (by Deb Day) outlined as a needlepunch project, and my friend loves her chickens. I don’t do rugs, but it was easy to turn her drawing into an applique project. 

Chicken + Bag = birthday present. Terri’s pattern is so simple that I figured I’d have it done in a day! Well, except for the chicken applique. That always takes a bit of time. But her pattern was so simple, it threw me for a loop. I was expecting the straps to be much more complicated than they were and so couldn’t 14July28bagwristlet understand her instructions. Looking back on them now that I’ve finished, I see exactly how I messed up. Anyway, a little bit of unsewing and a little bit of improvising, and the bag was finished and delivered.

Because there were no pockets inside, I made up a matching Cake Clutch, which did take me less than a day to make because I’ve been making so many of them lately. I added a fob inside the bag and a d-ring outside the clutch so it could be attached to the bag. Oh yeah – the lining is dotted with chicken fabric! Just the thing for shopping at the local Farmers Market.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Back to work

14July24tom I didn’t mean to take such a long break from blogging – it just happened. Yesterday I went back to work after four weeks of holidays, and just before that, I was so busy getting my work finished up so that I could leave on holiday…. It’s always something, isn’t it?

I barely spent any time at all on my computer this past month, but I did manage to get a fair amount of sewing in as I divided my time between the garden and my sewing machine. It’s raining today (and yesterday, on my first day back to work – how appropriate!), but it was 14July24bw1 smoking hot here just up until last week, and I spent every minute that I could outside. Yes, those are some of my tomatoes up above.

I’ve been working on a few things, but I’m still making more of these cute little Cake Clutches from Make it Handmade. I made one for a co-worker as a Christmas present, and she loves it. She wanted a black and white one for her mother, so I put one together with some pretty fabrics I bought while vacationing. I visit Piece by Peace Quilts every summer when we visit family and 14July24bw2 friends in Fort St. John and I always leave with a pile of beautiful fabrics and the occasional book.

The free Cake Clutch pattern doesn’t call for an inside pocket, but I almost always add one (I think I’ve made over a dozen of these handy little critters so far). And a tab with a clasp to hold a key ring or something else small that you want quick access to. Inside welt pockets are pretty easy to add. When I first started making them, I googled welt pocket tutorials until I found instructions that I could follow.

14July24blk2 But after I finished her mother’s, my co-worker asked me to make her another one. Just a little bigger than the last one I made for her, in black, and with an inside pocket with a zipper. I haven’t done many inside zippers, and the last one I did looked horrible. So I was as careful with this one as I could be, using Seam-A-Seam 2 double-sided fusible tape. I’ve used the tape before when making zippers, and it’s useful for holding them in place while you sew. But last time I tried it on an inside zip pocket, a lot of the tape was exposed because there was more of the zipper showing. This time I fused the tape to the back of the pocket where it wouldn’t be seen, and then ironed it onto the zipper. I think it turned out pretty well – neat and even. Hope she likes it!

Until next time,