Sunday, November 30, 2008

Actual finished project

I have this tendency to start projects (especially knitting projects) and then my enthusiasm (or amount of free time) dwindles and I move onto something else without finishing the first project. It seems that the motivation that comes from making something for a gift helps me to complete things. I finished off the child-size artist tote - plain strap, buttons on the strap for an added decoration and an acorn for a finishing detail on the front (that's my favourite bit). I finished knitting one pair of felted clogs and just need to do another pair before I felt them both. My next project is a felted eyeglass case and a felted make-up bag. A friend showed me a bag that she made and then embellished with incredibly beautiful needle felted flowers and so I want to do something similar on an eyeglass case and bag for my mom. I dug out some wool that I've had waiting patiently in my thrifted yarn stash and got started last night. Good thing I had my yarn winder handy so that I could wind the skein into a ball. ;-0

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Child's art tote

Today I scaled down the size of the first tote bag and came up with this one - pictured on the left (...and that means the one on the right is Mine!! All Mine!!)I think the size is just right for a young child to carry easily. I love the channeled pocket on the front for holding pencils and felts.This one also has a pocket inside in the same fabric as the small pocket on the upper front. The small pocket can hold an eraser and pencil sharpener and the inside pocket could hold all sort of treasures. There is plenty of room for a sketchbook and a nature notebook inside.I couldn't resist using the brown fabric for this young friend because the barns drawn on it are very much like her barn.

Now I just need to decide on a strap. I'm dithering between a fabric one or a re-purposed brown leather belt. The birthday girl is as much into making something new out of something old as I am so I think she might get a kick out of the belt idea. We'll see what works out. I love that every bit of this bag came from thrifted items - fabric, thread, quilt batting...even the sheet that I cut up to make a pattern. ;-)

Now I need to make some for my boys.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making an artist tote

I've been wanting to make art totes for...ahem, some people in my family. ;-) I saw some very basic ones in the local art store and had every intention of making something similar. I don't sew too often - usually just to mend things or if there is something that I really want and know that I can sew one quite easily - but it seems that whenever I do sew I get carried away. The other day I dug out some fabric for an art tote and started to draw up a plan. I knew that I wanted a front pocket with channels sewn in that would hold pencils. Another pocket might be nice. A nice long strap. Contrasting fabrics? Hmmm, why not line it while I'm at it?
Before you know it I have managed to turn a very simple idea into...A Project!! All the ideas seemed so great that I thought it would also be fun to make one as a gift for a young friend. A quick trip to the thrift store to find some fun fabric and then onto cutting out a template. It has gone pretty well this morning with only a few small oopsies. (important to think before every seam and remember that everything will be lined and then turned inside out. I've never made anything fully lined before). Along the way I fell in love with the fabric and the bag design. I am almost done the first one and it just needs a strap. Unfortunately (hee hee) it turned out to be just a little bit too big for a 7 year old so I really think that I will have to keep this one for myself and make a scaled down version for our friend. Now I really better get busy because I still have to get to the boys' solstice and Christmas gifts and there is less than a month to go. Eep!

So many projects, so little time. :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Handmade Holidays's a little hard to have handmade holidays if your sewing machine quits working right when you get started on making things. I tried everything that I could think of to get it going again but with no luck and I was leery of taking it apart. This machine was given to me so I have no manual for it, I didn't want to take it apart and put it back together only to find myself with a "spare" part or two. ;-)Thankfully I have a very handy husband. (this was a "must" on my list of qualities future husband must possess) ;-)
He was able to take it apart and figure out what was wrong. He got it all fixed up so this morning I can get started on my list of gifts. First up - an artist's tote bag. We celebrate solstice and Christmas so I need to get my gift making into high gear.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thrift store score

A couple months ago I was visiting a friend and she showed me a tray of her frozen sliced beans. They were sliced in lovely thin flat slices and she told me that she uses them in casseroles, pizzas and all sorts of other ways. I thought that sounded like a great way to use up excess beans (we always have excess beans because I can never resist planting more than I should).

Yesterday I stopped in at the local thrift store en route to the library on a quest for chip-free cereal bowls. (is it just us or does everyone end up chipping their bowls? there does seem to be less bowls on offer at the thrift stores (compared to plates and cups) so I think everyone must do this). Anyway as I looked in their kitchen section I happened to spot this. Well, I simply had to have it.

I so want to try it out but I guess it'll have to wait for next summer. Now I have all the excuse I need for planting Even More beans. ;-) Thanks, Mary-Sue.

Oh...and I found some cereal bowls too. Canadian made and no chips. :-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Second sock syndrome

Yesterday I finished one of my year-long socks(yes, I started them a year ago but in my defense I only knit for about 4 months each year). I actually started off knitting two at the same time so that I wouldn't have SSS but somewhere along the line I got ahead on just one of them and this is the result...
only one sock. Sigh. So...I'm posting here so that I feel motivated to get the other one done too. It is about halfway done so there is really no reason not to get going on it....except that I found a free pattern for a really nice felted handbag and I'm sure that someone in my family would love to have it for Christmas and it looks like a lot more fun to make then a second sock. ;-) Ah, I'm so good at distracting myself when I want to. :-)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Putting the garden to bed for the winter

Jess asked me for ideas on putting the garden to bed. If there is one thing that I don't need much encouragement to talk about it is gardening. ;-) So...why not do a whole post on winter garden prep?

I'm sure there are as many methods of this as there are gardeners. I've gone through various stages myself. I used to pull everything out, compost it, and leave the soil bare with the plan of tilling in the spring. When I made this garden I decided on raised beds and no more tilling; I felt it was damaging to the soil. For several years I would leave some things in the garden as shelter and food for animals (and I still leave some sunflowers) and then just start a new compost pile with those things in the spring. A few years ago I discovered that the mulch that I was using to keep weeds down and soil moist all summer also protected my soil all winter and made it harder for weeds to sprout in the spring. I'm all about not having to deal with excess weeds so I decided to become more of a year-round mulcher.
Now I collect grass clippings and bags of leaves from my neighbours (all year) and use them to mulch every bit of each garden bed. (those garbage bags you can see in the photo are full of neighbours' leaves) The soil stays protected, the worms are happier (you know I like a happy worm), the soil is improved as this protective layer breaks down and, come spring, there are no weeds popping up on my beds. Mulching makes gardening easier for me. It's that simple. answer your questions, Jess - I do put all my plant waste in the compost at the end of the growing season (except for the very thick main stems of my tomato plants and sunflower stalks. Oh what I would do for a shredder). I don't dig up or break up my soil anymore because it is in beds and stays quite loose. I just keep piling on more mulch to add more organic matter and the worms loosen up the soil for me (I haven't used a tiller for at least 8 years). When it is planting time I will just nudge some of the mulch (that hasn't broken down) aside and plant my plants. It's a win-win-win situation. For some things - like lettuce or carrots- I do still clear away the mulch so that the seeds can sprout more easily but most things do well with the mulch all around.

Hope that helps. Have fun. One of the things that I love about gardening is that the garden tends to be a very forgiving teacher - there really is no right or wrong in the garden. You know?
Now I want to get out there and use up those last bags of leaves. ;-)

Friday, November 14, 2008

A little acorn love

I enjoy a very strong connection with nature. I prefer to spend most of my time outdoors. This is the time of year when I find myself indoors quite a bit more and so it helps me to bring a little of the outdoors in. There are many spots in my house that are "decorated" with bits of nature: a driftwood TP holder and a towel hook, little piles of "favourite" rocks, shells that we couldn't resist and birch bark made into candles. At this time of year I can never resist collecting acorns to scatter about ( a bit squirrely, heh?) . This year I was able to display them on my garage sale autumn table cloth. I can't tell you just how much I like this sort of goodness. ;-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Little Felted Animals - a penguin

This is the time of year when the boys and I get to settle into doing crafts, reading books and taking our time baking good stuff to eat. Well, normally we I decided to dung out the year's accumulation of clutter in our spare room (and by that I really mean yeeeeaaars of accumulation). Not fun!! But, the other day we had some fun doing some needle felting. We had a needle-felting class with some friends last year and enjoyed it very much; my boys especially loved making gnomes.
Our library just bought this book and I couldn't resist making something from it right away.
This is my first attempt - a little penguin. ;-)

Next I might try the mouse. The book has 16 different critters to make and the instructions (with photos) are clear and easy to follow. It's a great book, well worth buying...but since the library already has we don't really need to. Have I mentioned before just how much I love our library? ;-)

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Have Found Such Joy

I love this!

I Have Found Such Joy
I have found such joy in simple things;
A plain, clean room, a nut-brown loaf of bread,
A cup of milk, a kettle as it sings,
The shelter of a roof above my head,
And in a leaf-laced square along the floor,
Where yellow sunlight glimmers through the door.
I have found such joy in things that fill
My quiet days: a curtain's blowing grace,
A potted plant upon my window sill,
A rose, fresh-cut and placed within a vase;
A table cleared, a lamp beside a chair,
And books I long have loved beside me there.
Oh, I have found such joys I wish I might
Tell every woman who goes seeking far
For some elusive, feverish delight,
That very close to home the great joys are:
The elemental things- old as the race,
Yet never, through the ages, commonplace.
~ Grace Noll Crowell

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Back-to-school U Neck Vest

Yesterday I finally finished my Back-to-school u neck vest from the Fitted Knits book. I wanted to look back to see how long it actually did take me and found my blog post dated Nov. 13 2007. didn't quite take a year. ;-) This has been quite a year for me - there hasn't been a lot of knitting or crafting time until recently and it was with a real sense of gratitude that I finished off this vest. I am so pleased to have time and energy to devote to handcrafting again. Somehow it seems that all of a sudden it is November and I am realizing that I would like to get going on making gifts for our family for the upcoming holiday season. I don't want to leave everything until the last minute...I want to enjoy the process. I'll have to put my thinking cap on to come up with some new gift ideas, my family is all stocked up on felted slippers (my favourite thing to make the last two years). I know what I am making for E thanks to Knitting Iris' post about knitted chainmail. Many people will be getting shopping bags - produce bags and big shopping totes - made out of re-purposed fabric. Hmmm, I guess it is time to get going on some projects and see what other ideas we can come across.

Pioneer bonnet

Part of our homelearning has always included learning about the pioneers. I have a huge respect and admiration for these people. E and I have been reading A Pioneer Life (an excellent book) for the last while (W and I read it some years ago when he was younger) and E absolutely loves this book. It is a great one to read if you are also reading the Little House series because it has all sorts of drawings to really show the details of pioneer life as well as lots of fun activities - like making butter.He is fascinated with every last detail of pioneer living and it must be said that I am fascinated too. I think my love for that time started with Laura Ingalls. I have a photo (that I just came across recently) of myself at my fifth birthday party wearing my Laura Ingalls outfit - complete with bonnet- that my mom had made me. Last week I decided that it was high time I had a new sun bonnet and found a pattern on Mother Earth News website.This is my first attempt. I made it out of some plain unbleached cotton that I had on hand from making shopping bags years ago. I just wanted to make sure that I liked the pattern so now I will make a few alterations and then make one out of some floral fabric that I picked up at the thrift store.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cooking and freezing pumpkin

Someone asked how I cook and prepare the pumpkins for use. First (and I don't know if this is true or not but...) I only use pumpkins that we haven't had candles in. I've heard that it is dangerous to eat pumpkins that have had candles burning in them so we used lights in our instead. I cut it in slabs and then bake them at 350 for about 40 minutes (much as you would bake squash). This giant pumpkin is so thick that it took a little longer to bake so most of yesterday afternoon was busy with this job. I could only fit half the pumpkin into the oven at one time so had to bake in two batches. I ended up giving one slab away to a neighbour too.

When it is baked (you can tell because you should be able to poke it with a fork and it will be very tender) I let it cool a bit and then scoop the flesh out. Then I run it through a food processor for a minute because we like it to be nice and smooth - especially for use in pies. After that's done I put it in freezer bags (in 2, 3 and 4 cup portions) and freeze them flat on a cookie sheet so that they will stack in the freezer nicely. This photo shows most of the cooked pumpkin from just that one giant pumpkin. Two more to go...but one will be frozen raw and shredded in portions for our dog to eat this winter.

Forgot to show you how these were carved. Power Tools!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What to do with a giant pumpkin

We have three giant pumpkins, I can't remember if I've posted pictures of them already or not. This one bit the dust just now. Having these massive slabs of pumpkin to try to fit in our oven gave me a really clear image in my mind. Does anyone remember The Flintstones? In the closing sequence Fred took his family to the drive-in and ordered some ribs. The waitress staggers up with his order of ribs and it ends up tipping his car over. The slab of pumpkin reminded me of those ribs for some reason. I haven't thought of that show in years (probably 30 years) but the image was so clear to me.Just one slice of it over fills a 9 x 13 pan. E took a big chunk to our neighbour and now we just have two huge pumpkins to go -this one was the smallest of the three. The sight of this in the oven is just so funny to me. So...pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cinnamon buns, pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin cookies...what else?

Cherryville Gourmet Garlic

Every year I intend to plant garlic in the autumn and every year I am either tired of gardening and don't want to do even One More Thing or I just forget. This year I remembered and promptly forgot a few times and then was reminded when I read Shelia's blog about her garlic bed. I promised myself that I would get to it this year.

Yesterday I finally stopped in at our local nursery to buy some and was thrilled to find Cherryville gourmet garlic available (and 25% off). They had a few varieties available and I couldn't resist - German Early Hardy, Yugoslavian, German Red, Russian Red, and Music. One of them in particular smelled absolutely delicious, I hope it was Music because who doesn't love garlic called Music? While the boys worked on picking up the remaining walnuts and mulching the leaves I prepared a bed for planting. The garlic is all tucked in for winter now. It was almost dusk when I was finished - the days seem so short already and that was yesterday - before the time change. (anyone else find the whole Fall back time thing annoying? Just at the time of year when I would like a bit more daylight in the evening we have to put the clock back?!?)
My June planted garlic (yes, June. The April planted bed was doing so well by then that I figured I might as well plant more) seems to be ready for use, the whole head is just one big roundish clove - weird but handy because it makes for less peeling.
*Just in case you have a bunch of those small mesh bags around that you can't think of a use for - they make great pot scrubbers when they are tied in a knot or with a dish cloth put inside.