Monday, January 31, 2011

Completed Blanket

     I have finally finished the blanket! (Huzzah!)  Hopefully this was just the learning curve, and the ones to follow will only take half the time.  (This is most likely, as I have spent a great of time undoing and redoing.)

     And I must admit that I am hugely proud of myself.  There were a lot of first times on this blanket, and I don't think a prototype has ever looked better.

I have one last tip for you:
     If you decide to use a satin blanket binding (which I'm not sure I recommend yet) raise and lower your feed treads every time (yes, every single time) you you have to move the binding.  This is the only way I could keep the satin from snagging on the feed treads.

     These are the materials for the second blanket (which I'm planning to start tomorrow.) I need to get a better picture of the top fabric to share with you all, I'm completely in love. I have ordered it from every Joanne's in the area (I didn't find it fast enough, and they can only find six yards) to save and use for as long as possible, because I think it the perfect fabric for a little girls room.

      However, I'm having one heck of a time finding a theme for my boy nursery set. I wanted something classic and vintage-esque (like the McCall's patterns.) But most everything I find is either pirates or monkeys and way too obnoxious to be cute. I wanted trains, (or even better, airplanes) but apparently no one likes classic little boy motifs any more. (What is it with the monkeys?) And what happened to red, yellow, and cobalt for boy colors?
     I'm making a pilgrimage to the huge Joannes in Fredericksburg later in the week, hopefully they will have better selection than the one in town here. Does anyone know a good on-line site that may have what I'm looking for?

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Meet Martha

     Another of the amazing things to come out of the recent snowstorm is Martha.  She is an antique treadle, cabinet sewing machine.  I've always know that my parents had her, but I had no idea that she worked!  And now she's all mine!! (mwhahahaha... sorry...)

    I was about to start working on the play suit for Miss G by hand (because the power was out, and I had already played too many games of monopoly) when my mom mentioned (rather off hand, I might add) that the antique sewing machine that has only been used as an end table for twenty years still works! So I was up in a flash trying to figure out her secrets. 

     The latest patent date that we can find is from 1913.  And is in perfect working order, except for where the staple has pulled through the belt.  She was made by the Free Company based in Rockford Illinois.

     We spent all night cleaning her up and oiling all the moving parts.  I have since gotten online and found an owner's manual, and plan to spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how she works.  The first thing I learned is that most sewing and vacuum shops still sell replacement belts or at least staples so I can fix mine.

     I think that she is beautiful! She is decorated with this golden and green peacocks and flourishes in a delightful style that isn't quite Victorian and not quiet Art Deco either. 

     She has more feet than I have ever seen in one place, and I have no idea what they all do, but I can't wait to find out.  There is what I think is a ruffle foot, a pin tuck foot, an under braider foot, a smocking foot, and all kinds of basic feet.

       She uses the shank style bobbin, and still has three of the originals. I think one of the neatest things about Martha is that the bobbin swing back and forth in an arc and doesn't just unwind in a full circle. 

     One of the drawers (which by the way, wont open unless she open is in her sewing position, they were kid proofing even then!) was full of memorabilia that we think was my grandmother's.  There is a child's Life of Jesus, which is about the size of a silver dollar, a rosary that was probably my great grandfather's a book, a saute of Mary and two crosses.

     Does anyone know anything about antique sewing machines, I am overwhelmed by this gift, and as you can see, I don't know where to start.  I want to put her to good use, but also keep her nice.  Any hints, tips, or suggestions?

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Book to Share

     My copy of Blogging for Bliss just came in and made my day! (Mail is always the best, and packages are even better!) If you haven't read this book, I would highly recommend it.  Not only is it helpful, educational, and fully of inspiration, it is quite simply a joy to look at.

     Tara Frey (the author) also has a wonderful blog that I have enjoyed reading while waiting for my book to get here.  Although she no longer posts here, it is still a great deal of fun to read her archives.

     I think think this is a must read for all bloggers, especially if you are just getting started (like me) .  There will probably be some minor changes as I start to make my blog look more like my vision!
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pioneer Cooking

     We had a big snowstorm last night, and unfortunately it knocked out our power just as my mom and I were scrambling to make dinner.  I would have given up, but luckily for all our hungry bellies, my mom has a much better concept of the fact that the world does not end when you have no electricity.

     We had already started soup and biscuits (which admittedly are probably the easiest things to cook without power.) And so when the power kicked out, my mom had me press the biscuits into two greased cast iron skillets, and bring everything down to the basement. We have two woodstoves (they are our main source of heat) but the one downstairs produces a lot more heat.

     So we put the soup on to boil on the range itself, grabbed the oven thermometer and when the stove reached 400 degrees, we slid in the first batch of biscuits.

The flashlight was the only way we could really see how everything was cooking
     Now take in mind that we are working in the basement with no power. And our basement, like most basements, has no windows. So we are sitting in complete darkness while we wait to see if this works. Poor Danny (our lab) could not understand why we did not turn a light on and why there was food downstairs, so he sat as close as he could to me.

     I think it is amazing how quickly your eyes look for light in complete darkness. The only light to be seen was a slight glow coming from the dampers on the woodstove (it's cast iron so it's not letting any light out) and the faintest illumination from the vents that lead upstairs to the living room (which was lit by candlelight.)

     There is something in the human that needs light as much as it needs food and so it finds light in any shape or quantity as it can. There is also something quieting about the pitch darkness that so few of us see in our modern world. Anyone that knows me will tell you that without a doubt I cannot handle silence. I squirm and fret, and talk non-stop if only to keep the lack of noise at bay. But sitting in the dark with my mom and a weirded out dog, I sat in silence. I just sat and watched the little bit of light flickered on the walls, and thought about how powerful darkness is.

     If you were wondering how it all turned out, well the soup was a much bigger success than the biscuits, we didn't quite cook them long enough so they were a little gooey in the middle. The oddest part for me was the fact that the combination of cast iron skillet and wood smoke flavored them oddly. But that flavoring enriched the soup perfectly, so most of the family just crumbled them into the bowl.

     The best part about all this snow and power outage was that the husbandman and I were home. We would have starved or frozen in our apartment, or crashed in the attempt to eat out. But at my parents' it was no big deal, we just all came out of our own rooms and sat together in the warmth of the living room and ate pioneer food. I had a blast.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Update on Blanket

     Sorry about not posting yesterday, the Husbandman and I were at his parent's house until well after eleven and when we got home I just crashed, I did not pass go, I did not collect two hundred dollars, I just crashed.

     But today I wanted to share my progress on the blanket with you. I have left to do is put on the quilt binding and throw it in the wash! I have three more tips to share with you.

      I pushed a knitting needle down each row before I cut it, this helped a lot to break up the glue and made cutting so much easier. Relatedly, I also suggest that you go easy on the glue, only using as little as necessary to keep everything just barely together. Then use safety pins for the main “slippage” prevention. It is much easier when you are trying to cut each row.

      Lastly, I only cut through the top three layers, not the top four. This gave a prettier backing, as you will see the lightest shade of green instead of the backside of the fabric, it also, as my mother said it would, gives the blanket a much sturdier frame.

     And so I'm off to finish this blanket and start the next one, I'll post pictures this evening if all goes well! (They really are a lot of fun, and are so rewarding, I never thought I would have the patience to make one, but I promise, it is not nearly as mind numbing dull as you think they will be!)

As a very proud side note for me, as you can see, I have begun to figure out my camera! (It actually zooms and somewhat focuses!)

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Monday, January 24, 2011

March For Life

* I realize that by posting about this it will run the risk of alienation or even offending some of my readers.  And yet I think it is an important enough subject that I am willing to to run that risk. The following post is not meant to be offensive in any way, it is just my opinion.  As my opinion I believe it is the right one, but if you disagree, I respect that fully.*

     Today is the March for Life in Washington DC. I did not go, but know and support many who are there now support the cause of Life.  If you do not know, the March for Life is a rally and march in Washington DC every year to bring attention to the pro-life cause.  This is a link to their Life Principles that go into greater detail about what the march supports.

     Every year the March for Life gets less and less media attention. I am not trying to turn this homey blog into a political one.  This will probably be the only post that gets anywhere near that murky topic.  And yet I will post this one cause because I believe that this one cause goes far beyond politics, it goes far beyond religious belief, it goes far beyond any other debate. I think the heart of this cause is how we see others. How can we demand equality, equal rights, and the end of discrimination when our hearts feel no remorse when much of the current population is removing the next generation. Is that nor a far greater topic than the correct use of food stamps or who can have medical coverage? We are not just taking away the rights of the unborn generation, we are not just taking away their potential, we are taking away their very lives.  At the very least, is that not worth a few moments of thought?
     So I ask you, my readers, to take a moment to consider the unborn generation.  If you pray, pray for their lost souls, and that maybe, just maybe this cause will change the hearts of those in power. If you do not, perhaps just take a moment to think about what this cause stands for, and how many future doctors, lawyers, teachers, policemen, and other community servants have been lost.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Favorite Place to Work

     My Mom teaches horticulture at the local high school, and for as long as she has been teaching, her classroom has been my favorite place to work, create, or even just hang out.

     She has a traditional classroom, but just through her office is one of the best places ever.  This is her work room, it is filled with raised artist tables which are perfect for all manner of crafting and creating.  Ringing the walls are shelves, cabinets, and closets filled with all manner of treasures; ribbons, balloons, vases, and more craft supplies than I will ever have.

     My favorite part of the workroom is the flower cooler.  Every day there are new flowers, and I have always been welcome to take the left-overs from the school projects to do with as I wish.  I love playing with all the colors, sizes and textures to create something beautiful out of the castoffs. I don't have much of a knack for it, and I usually have to have my mom step in and rescue my out-of-bounds and dilapidated projects, but one way or other something beautiful gets made.

     Through the work room is the greenhouse, which, in my mind, is somewhat magical. It's warm in the winter, cooler than outside in the summer, brimming with beautiful colors and always bursting with something new.  My mom has a green thumb, almost anything will grow for her.  I try very hard, but my plants always seem to suffer for being taken into my care.  However, once in the greenhouse, they become unrecognizable, fresh and strong again, and always seemingly twice as big.  There are flowers and vegetables, of all sorts here in the green house, and even a small fish pond full of koi.

     The latest addition to the classroom has been a trough which serves as home to fluffy baby quail.  They were raised by the classes from eggs and will be released into the woods behind the school as soon as they are big enough to survive on their own

     Ruby and Gem, the resident doves, don't seem to mind sharing the attention in the least.  I had no idea how noisy doves were before my mom inherited Ruby.  They make what I call the evil clown noise which is the stuff of nightmare when it comes out of the dark late at night  (they come home with us during breaks.)

     This is in my humble opinion one of the very best places to be.  And a lot of my project tutorials photos will probably be taken here.  Where do you go when the walls of your small bedroom start to close in?

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

This will sound odd...

     But I think that when something is made with love, somthing of that love stays with the iteam.  No, not all the seams will be perfect, and it will have flaws, but when it is made by a happy, loving heart, it will be special.  Even if if is not made for you, or even made for anyone in particular.  I think the opposite is also true, if the maker doesn't care for the craft it will be obvious, even if it is done without a single mistake.

     So as a spin off of this unusual thought, I like to be happy when I sew.  I try my best to think happy thoughts, and find I care for the finished product much more if it is done with an overflowing heart rather than a frustrated one.  One of the easiest ways to do this, in my humble opinion is to watch sappy movies.  They are so filled with love (even if it is cheesy love) that that love overflows into my heart, through my hands into the project.  (I know its crazy, but it makes me happy to think that maybe the love will rub off as the product is used.)

     So today I watched Letters to Juliet as I worked on my blanket (I'm a little over halfway done with the sewing!!) if you have not seen Letters to Juliet and you like happy, hopelessly romantic movies, this is a must see.  Then I watched Little Women which is one of my all time favorites.  No it may not immediately come off as a romantic movie, but I have yet to see a movie so filled with so much love. I then moved onto Love Story which i had not seen before (it is not a happy movie at all, so it was not what I was looking for.)

     Tomorrow I think I'm going to watch my Disney Princess movies, (I have all of them but Cinderella) and I should have all of the sewing done for the blanket, and will spend the weekend cutting all the lines.  We'll see how it goes.
     But what are your favorite happy movies? What are your guilty pleasures movies? What do you watch to make you smile? (Even if it does make then men in your life roll their eyes and sigh.)

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Things that make me happy…

…that most people think are weird

     I love carwashes.  This simple fact is what inspired this post.  I get really weird looks when I tell people this, and I kinda sorta understand why.  (That doesn’t change the fact that I will use almost any excuse to get the car washed.)
It got me to thinking, there are a lot of things that make me oddly happy:
     Like the smell of Home Depot.  Or Lowes, or anywhere where they sell cut lumber.
     The smell of tack polish.

     Ice. I eat ice.  Religiously. I know it’s bad for my teeth, but once I start I honestly can’t stop.  There’s just something satisfying about that crumbling crushing crunch.
     When little ones are dressed up (Like bowties for little boys and crinolines for little girls)

     Fairy Tales (don’t judge, you know they are a huge part of our culture)
Things that the Husbandman thinks need to be added to this list but I think are perfectly normal:

I would have died for this room when I was 3, or 6, or 9...

     soft fabric, 
     facebook notifications, 

     presents and 
     “when happy fictional events occur in my books or movies you get giggly.”

     Am I alone in any of these? What makes you happy?

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday's Lesson #2

     The lesson I learned today is one I have learned many times before.  And yet, I think it might have finally sunk in today (unlikely, but I'll believe it for another day or so.)

     Today I made no progress.  On anything.  I sat and took out all the stitches I put on my blanket yesterday...

     They took me two hours to put in.  They have taken me eleven hours and counting to take out.  This is what I have done all day. Literally, all day.

    My seam ripper and I have become very good friends. (The blunt end makes a wonderful stylus for anyone out there who has a touchscreen phone, in case you ever wondered.) I think I might actually have to name him after this, that's how close we have become (but then I'll be very sad when I lose him (which I will) hmmm, dilemma....)

     My lesson for today: it's fun to leap into crafts on the whim of inspiration, but breathe and think before jumping, it is worth it. And take your time jumping, you're doing something you love, why rush it?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Big News and a Sew-Along Post.

     So I guess sew along is the wrong word... A sew-together might be better. Cause I'm not actually writing the tutorial, but rather using this one from Made.

My progress today:
     I picked my fabric for my blanket (its going to be one of three, this one is the gender neutral one, then I'll have a very girly one and a very boyish one)
     These are my fabrics:

     I also got everything glued down.  This is a lot harder than it looks at first, but by your fifth layer is much, much easier. My two tips:

     1. Dana recommends to work with half of the fabric at a time, I would recommend breaking it down even more, and working with only a quarter or a corner at a time.

     2. I would also suggest leaving the back piece for last. I found that even though it was nice and neat when I glued down the first layer, by the time I got to the fifth, it was all wonky from the shifting and prodding.

     I also began to sew everything together.  The only thing I would stress from Dana's tutorial, is to use two different colors for the front and back.  I like to make things way to difficult and I forget that this is an option. So I went with the chocolate brown of the lines on the front, but I really don't like it on the green material on back.  I think I'm going to have to take it all out tomorrow and start over with new colors to really be satisfied with it.

And that's what I got done today.

Oh, the big news? Oh that...

     ....I'm opening my own small business!!! I have the business permit all filled out and ready to take to the court house tomorrow! My aunt has commissioned enough work to really keep me busy for her charity event.  She is holding a cupcake challenge to raise money and awareness for her organization, Diapering the Need, which helps give diaper to new mothers in need.  It is a spin-off of the red wagon ministry.

     So after the fundraiser, I'll need something else to keep me busy, and I was very disapointed when I realized that it couldn't be sewing.  Then it hit me, why couldn't it be sewing? If these items would sell in a silent auction, why wouldn't they sell from a vendor or online?

     And with a great deal of prayer, and an overflowing cup of rewarded faith, my life for the next few months and beyond have been turned upside down as I went from tumbling the idea around in my head wistfully on Friday to filling out a business liscense appilication this morning.

This is kinda how I feel like right now...

     The Little Wife website probably wont be up and fully running until the end of March or the beginning of April since that will get me through the fund-raiser and give me plenty of time to work on my product line, but I am so happy! I'm 22 years old, and doing what I what to do, on my time, as I want to do it, and getting paid for it!


     I have huge news to share with everyone tomorrow!! Please stay tuned.

     But for tonight, I propose a sew-along.  This is my next project, and its something I've wanted to make for a long while now.  I wont be posting directions like most sew-alongs, because I can't think of a better way to phrase anything than how Dana already has.  However, I will post pictures of my progress, and any suggestions or tips or even just thoughts that I come up with along the way.

     If you decide to make this with me, I'll be so happy to post any pictures you send me, or have a link party!!

     We'll talk more tomorrow, but for now, I need some sleep!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Afternoon Snack and a Quick Hostess Gift Tutorial

     In my house, we use a lot of butter.  Its a part of all that southern cooking, and it just makes everything taste good.  Yes, you have to work harder after you eat to get it all to balance out, but exercise is good for you anyways, right?
     One of my favorite things to do with butter is to make Cinnamon Toast.  So I'm going to share how I make it.  I think this is the best possible way to make Cinnamon Toast, I even converted the husbandman, which is not an easy thing to do.

     Put your toast on a cookie sheet.  Butter your toast, and then add cinnamon and sugar to taste.  Really about all the prep work these needs.  Turn the broiler on, and place the cookie sheet on the middle rack. While you are waiting for your toast to toast and your sugar to caramelize (yummy), and since you still have you cinnamon and sugar out, now is the time to work on a super easy and adorable concoction that makes a lovely hostess gift.

     Add about two tablespoons of cinnamon to a small mixing bowl.

Then add about six tablespoons of plain old white sugar.

Stir together, (I'm working on a smaller scale, as I'm just topping off a previous jar).  You can play with how much sugar and cinnamon to add. I just wanted enough cinnamon to make a sharp color difference between the mixture and the plain sugar.

     Find a mason jar, and check on your Cinnamon toast. Then layer the cinnamon mixture and more plain sugar in the mason jar.  I use about two tablespoons in each layer. Tap the jar lightly to get each layer to lay more or less flat.

     Pull your cinnamon toast out of the oven.  It is amazing.  The toast is crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.  The butter has caramelized the sugar and cinnamon into a flaky and crumbling topping of deliciousness.

     Continue adding layer to your mason jar as you much on your well earned treat.  If the cinnamon sugar jar is going to be a gift, I would recommend filling it to the very, very top, so that the layers are less likely to mix together so that it is still pretty when you give it.  If it's going back into the cupboard, make as much as you like, it tastes just as good mixed together as it does in layers. For extra sprucing, cut out a circle of pretty fabric and sandwich it between the two parts of the lid (the flat lid and the screw-on ring.)