Sunday, July 15, 2018

LANDSCAPE

Our landscape is at its best in July.  Here are a few photos:
This first is a glimpse of the Rose Mallow blooming profusely outside the solar space window.  The solar space is an area at ground level in the front which was formerly open space beneath a balcony.  We enclosed it with clear glass windows and use it two ways: to overwinter plants where they will be as cool as possible without freezing and as a wonderful place to sit and read on summer afternoons and evenings.
This little fountain is right outside the solar space and we like to hear the water splashing as we relax and read.
In between the house and the road is our front landscape, something Jim just loves to look at.  No wonder he never wants to leave this place!  Now we are turned away from the house, looking toward the road.
This is a little romantic bench along a gravel path.  To the left you can see a small part of one of his favourite trees: a weeping birch.
Here we are looking down the same path toward the house but much closer to the road.
This tall columnar blue spruce is just south of the shelter belt at the north end of the landscape.
This is one of the three Burr Oak trees on the north end of the front yard.  The other two are behind this one.  Burr Oak is the only oak that will grow in the area.
And this is a beautiful Linden tree near the house.  Linden trees have very straight trunks and seem to have flowers at the ends of the leaf clusters in summer.  This tree split in two and we bolted it back together through the trunk.  It has now grown over the split and is growing around the bolts and the plates that hold it together.
Behind it, almost like a feather crown is the top of a Brandon Elm that towers over the garage and house.  Last year we could hear a branch scraping over the roof in windy weather.  Our helper, Craig, climbed the tree with a chain saw and cut off the offending branch.

This was just a little jaunt through the landscape.  Hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

PARSLEY & PINWHEELS

There are several potted plants on the back patio: lots of pots of flowers but also four pots of veggies and herbs--Sweet Million tomatoes, lettuce, kale and parsley.  Yesterday I harvested the parsley.
I cut just about half the parsley in the pot which was quite a bit, washed it several times and pulled the leaf bunches off the stems.
Spread the parsley on a baking sheet and put it in the oven at 170º and let it dry for about an hour and a half.  This shows the parsley before drying.
 
When it was dry I put it in a jar for the cupboard.  A nice full jar of somewhat crumbled parsley to use this winter in soups, stews, and sometimes (with butter) on boiled potatoes.
 

In June I did a "demo day" at the LQS showing how to create a Disappearing Four Patch in which all the seams "nested."  It was fun and well received.  With the fabric that was left over and a meter of beige for the background I made a lap quilt using the pattern Pinwheels.  This is also a pattern for which I created a technique that insures "Practically Perfect Pinwheels.  This quilt will be displayed in the LQS (our local drugstore which has an excellent fabric section) as a preview of a "demo day" in September, showing my technique for creating practically perfect pinwheels.  (Nothing is ever perfectly perfect!)

This quilt did not turn out as well as I would have liked.  The background beige did not set off the pinwheel colours as well as a black background, which was used on the second Disappearing Four Patch quilt.  Also, the batik border, which echoes the colours of the pinwheels very, very well, does not blend well with the pinwheel fabrics.  It is just too different a fabric design from that of the pinwheels.
 

Ah well!  I will consider that a learning experience.  When I look at this completed quilt I get another idea about how to make this.  What about making "Hourglass" blocks and alternating the direction?  That would put the difficult intersection where the four points come together outside the blocks.  Maybe I'll try a few blocks that way and see how successful that approach is.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

THE KALE HARVEST

About the end of April I seeded a package of kale into a big pot for on the patio.  Today I harvested a good amount of lovely, small leaves.  How did we want to use this kale?

I looked in my few cookbooks but didn't find a recipe that appealed, so I made up my own version.  In a 12" teflon frying pan I put about a teaspoon of Sesame oil and a good hunk of butter.  When it was melted and hot I added 2 cloves of garlic crushed and about 1/4 cup of chopped onion.  I shredded a large carrot in the Cusinart and added that.  When that had sautéed for a bit I added the washed and stemmed kale.  Add a good shake of "Vegetable Seasonings" and some raisins.  Sauté until the kale is wilted and serve.  It was delicious!  I'll do that again some time.

Now I wish I had taken pictures of the process, but maybe next time the kale is ready to be cut I can remember.

Just got back from a week in Fort St. John, B.C., a visit to our younger daughter's family that included our grandson's grade 12 graduation.  He plans to take his first year of college there and then transfer somewhere that has a good accounting program.  We had a very good time with them, in spite of almost continuous rain, low temperatures and dark skies. I flew there and back with WestJet for just under $300, flights of just 1-1/2 hours--SO much easier that a 10 hour drive!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A REALLY BIG QUILT

About 15 years ago I made a large quilt, a duvet really, for us to use in the winter.  I was able to purchase 13 ounce polyester batting at a Fabricland in Edmonton.  For the top and backing I used two king-sized white sheets.  The plan was to machine quilt this together, but it was just too puffy to sew on the machine, so I hand stitched it on my Qsnap frame.  That worked well, and it was wonderfully warm and light.
It has a line of stitching every 6" across.  That was enough to hold the batting in place.

Last winter we needed to use our summer light weight quilt with it because over the years with many washings, it had become quite thin.

The summer weight quilt I had made around that time also, with a 3 ounce polyester batting.  That is still the quilt we sleep under in warm weather.  Over the years this quilt has also thinned out considerably, making it comfortable even in quite warm weather.

Last year I was given some bolts of material that weren't suitable to use in quilting because of a continuing problem of the fabric dye "bleeding."  I took two of those fabrics, cut them as long as wide, about 115" (they are quilt backing fabrics) and sandwiched them with two (!) High Loft King-sized batts.  This is destined to be our new winter duvet.

The plan was to sew "knots" at 8 inch intervals to keep the layers together.  I hoped to do this on the Q'nique, but the Q'nique didn't cooperate with that plan.  Well, I thought, let's try hand stitching this.  There were a few "false" starts with this, but now, finally, I have a method that works:
That's a curved upholstery needle that pokes nicely back up through the fabric, and that's a cone of very strong brown upholstery thread.  Here's how nice a little "tie up" looks:
This is in contrast to the machine stitching:
And the hand stitching with the light beige upholstery thread.
I think I've hit my stride with this, as it is spread over the dining room table and is reasonably comfortable to handle this way.  The rest of this project shouldn't take too long!

The "Practically Perfect Pinwheels" blocks are all complete.  They just need to be sewed together, borders added, sandwiched, quilted and bound.  This will be a nice-sized lap quilt to donate either here or in AZ.

In the meantime I have two very good books to recommend:  Bonhoeffer by Erich Metaxas and A Higher Loyalty, truth, lies and leadership by James Comey.  The first is an excellent detailed biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant pastor and theologian who was executed by the Nazis just a few days before the end of the Second World War.  The second, by James Comey, is just out, a defence of his actions as head of the FBI and a searing look into Donald Trump's "style" of leadership.  Scary stuff!!!  Comey is obviously opinionated (he says so himself) but also seems to be honest and insightful.  I heartily recommend both books.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

PRACTICALLY PERFECT PINWHEELS

Several years ago I made a queen-sized quilt of patches and pinwheels.  I struggled with the pinwheels and I mean really struggled!  When that quilt was finished I promised myself that I would never make pinwheels again.  But that quilt is pretty nice.  It’s the quilt that covers our bed here during the day.  We don’t sleep under it’s too heavy.

But then one of the members of our quilting club brought a pinwheel block that she had made according to the directions on the Missouri Star Quilt blog.  It was very nice BUT all the outside seams were on the bias.  That didn’t look so good to me.  I decided to try to make up a method which I liked.  After a few tries I did succeed in finding a reliable way to make a pinwheel block that had the bias seams on the inside, and the points almost always turned out well.

With the left over material from a recent quilt another pinwheel quilt is taking shape on the design wall.

Well, this was an experiment.  I typed the entry on my new iPad, took a photo of the pinwheels with my iPad, but was unable to move the photo to the blog entry.  That's stumping me.  There surely is a way to do that, but I haven't found it yet.  So I took a photo with my camera, downloaded it to my laptop and finished the post that way.  I'd like to be able to do all that with the iPad, as it would be much less hassle when travelling.

Maybe when I visit our daughter and son-in-law, he can show me how to do this!

Monday, May 28, 2018

PROGRESS, PROBLEMS & SOLUTIONS

The ribbing on the back is finished, and it does the trick: no more curling bottom on the back of the sweater.

Next step: hang and knit the second sleeve.  
  I had a lot of trouble with this, and it was pretty disconcerting because this was the first machine knitting I've done in a few years.  The trouble was that the yarn kept breaking.  That's a pretty big problem.  It had also curled up around the stitches, making very fat sections.  Not nice enough!  I took the sleeve off the machine.  That's when I discovered that the machine was not breaking the yarn--the yarn was already broken.  That whole ball of yarn had multiple breaks in it.  WOW! I thought--do I have a moth problem?  Even though it's been in a zipped plastic bag all this time?

I got out another ball of yarn, set it up in the machine, and there was no problem.  It was simply a bad ball of yarn.  The rest of the sleeve zipped up in no time.

Then I knit the ribbing of one of the side fronts by hand--that took one hour--and hung it on the machine to knit the rest of the side front.  My machine is very simple and doesn't do ribbing.  Here's how that looks, ready to go:

This is a view of the whole machine set up:

It took just 15 minutes to knit the rest of the side front by machine.  Jim said, Isn't that cheating?  No more than sewing a quilt together with a sewing machine, rather than taking  a month to hand sew all the seams!  I knit the other side ribbing and hung that on the machine.

But this time there were problems with the machine.  The carriage kept becoming hung up on the machine needles.  So I took the sweater off the machine and investigated.  First I read the manual to see if there was any information explaining this.  Nope!  I looked underneath the carriage and saw that the magnets that pull the needles up into position were pulling them so high that the carriage caught on them.  Why would it do that?  The manual gave no explanation.  So I went to the internet.

Thank goodness for Google!  I was able to find the explanation and a wonderfully instructive set of directions for how to fix this problem:
Turn the needle bed over and find, between the needles and the needle bed, a strip called "the sponge bar."  Aha, there it is.  It's the white 3/8" strip being pulled out from under the needles.  The manual never mentioned a "sponge bar."  You are supposed to check this sponge bar occasionally, and replace it when it gets old and compressed.  Well, this "sponge bar" is not just old, it's been deceased for a long time:

Again, thanks to Google, the solution is simple.  Go to the local hardware store and buy some 3/8" weather stripping.  Remove all the needles from the machine (that's all the needles in those two jars on the desk, sorted by colour) put the new weather stripping in the slot for the sponge bar.  Reinsert all the needles, that's not too hard, turn the needle bed back over, and you're good to go.  WONDERBAR!!!  It's fixed, and it's good as new!

Because the knitting must be weighted it stretches out very long and looks pretty weird.
But when you remove it from the machine, weights off, give it a good stretch, it turns into what you need.

The next step is to pick up and knit 145 stitches along the front for the front band.  It took me quite a while to figure out a neat way of picking up stitches for the band.  By about the third or fourth try I had it: insert a crochet hook in the space between the first and second stitches of the vertical knitting, draw up a stitch and put it on the needle.  It was actually pretty easy because there are 140 rows of knitting, so picking up 145 worked out quite easily.  I was near the end of row 3 on the front band (145 stitches in each row) when I realized that I was knitting the front band along the side seam and the armhole!

When you do a lot of handwork and want to do it well, you become very committed to taking out whatever isn't right.  So I more or less cheerfully took out all that work and started over, this time on the proper edge.

It took a long time to knit the front band because it's a lace pattern and is just over 4" wide.  But this morning I finished that right side front band:
It's pretty bumpy now.  It needs to be "blocked" -- made wet and dried while laid flat on a towel.  I'll finish the other side front band first, then block all five pieces of knitting, sew them together and be finished.  Then I really, really hope the sweater will fit me!

Friday, May 18, 2018

AND ANOTHER FINISH

Well, this one makes me really happy!  This quilt, Cascades, has been on our bed in AZ for two winters already, but was quilted only in the seams of the sashing.  I had always planned to do some hand quilting on it and so we took it home to Alberta for the summer. When I went to buy some hand quilting thread Brenda mentioned that it might be hard to hand quilt because it was all batiks.  Batiks are very finely woven and that makes it hard to get a hand quilting needle through.  I thanked her for mentioning that and thought, this would work well on the new Q'nique.  I think I've posted pictures of it on that machine.
Well, yesterday morning I finished the free motion quilting on this quilt.  I did a lot more than I had planned, and I'm very happy with how it turned out.  I started with the border.  The first three leaves I sketched in with chalk and after that I quilted them free-motion.
                       
The theme was more or less floral, blooms (or leaves) four on a center.  As I went along I got better at it, and this is one of the later ones:
This quilt is now completely finished, packed in a big plastic zippered bag, ready to go back to Arizona.  I'm happy!

I did take out the sweater that had been abandoned a few years ago.  Last summer our younger daughter suggested a cure for the curling bottom of the sweater back: a ribbing should make it lay flat.  Good idea!
 
Here you see I've started taking apart the back, four inches up from the bottom.  The bottom is at the top in this photo.  You can see how it wants to curl up.  Wouldn't be nice on the back of the sweater!
In this close up you can see that above the "soon to be ribbing" I've inserted a circular needle to hold the stitches.  That enables me to unravel the bottom 4" of the back.  However, when yarn has been knitted for quite a while, it retains all the curlicues of the knit stitches and would not reknit nicely.  So somehow we have to remove all those "bends" in the yarn.  Here's how:  I sprayed the hank of yarn that I wound from the bottom 4" with lots of cool water and then stretched it slightly to dry.  It's drying on the inkle loom, very handy!
That worked well.  Later in the day I was able to start knitting the ribbing.  It's almost all finished now.

Another project that was restarted yesterday involves two high loft king sized polyester quilt batts that I bought a year ago to make a winter duvet for our bed.  When I unrolled the batts I realized they were extremely wrinkled and could not be used as they were.  What to do?  I did some reading on the net and decided to dampen them and see if they relaxed with some moisture.  I sprayed this batt quite thoroughly with cool water but here's the result.  Not very good!
 
I wouldn't want to put that in a quilt!

This morning I took the other batt, stuffed it into the front loading washer -- and I do mean stuffed -- put it to rinse in cold water and then tried to spin it.  I wouldn't spin because the washer hadn't emptied the water from the rinse.  I guess it was just too much for the washer to handle.

I took the very wet batt--dripping wet--and hung it on the clothesline to dry.  Here's the batt on the bed, finishing the drying process.  Very much improved!
 
Tomorrow I'll wet the other batt and let it dry on the line.  But I think I won't put it in the washer this time, maybe just spray it wet with the  hose.

Also this week -- Yes, it's been a very productive week! --I finished the blocks for another "sample" Disappearing Four Patch to hang up in the LQS, just as an example of what can be done with changing the colour choices.  These blocks need to be sewed together and then have a border added.  I like it a lot!
 

Now I think I'll sit down in the Sun Space with a glass of iced tea and the latest library book.  I just finished one this morning that I really enjoyed titled The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard, about the young women who worked on uranium enrichment in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1944, '45, not knowing what it was they were working on.  They were just told to move the knobs so that the dials stayed in the right range.  Not until after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima were they told that they had been instrumental in making the uranium that went into the bomb.  The story focuses on one young woman and her experiences there.  This book was on the "new book display shelf".  I recommend it.