Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Week 7 Project

I am slowing getting better from my flu turned respiratory infection.  I don’t know if it went all the way to pneumonia but it sure feels like it.  I have missed several planning meetings, SEVEN volleyball games,  (you KNOW I’m sick if I miss a volleyball game) multiple emails requesting details for the various projects I’m coordinating and have been generally out of the loop on many of my friend’s lives.  I was just too ill to engage.  Breathing was a full time occupation and the extreme coughing spells pulled several muscles in my rib cage along with shredding my vocal cords.  Since I am still coughing (just not as bad as before) I still cannot sing and talking sounds funny and hurts just a bit. 

With all the not good going on, I have two exciting pieces of news to share.  I have received my feedback on my final exam project for my Permaculture Course and I passed!!!  I am happy and now have to figure out what the next thing to do is.  While it was a pass / fail grade, they did offer some feedback on it in several categories.   I “exceeded expectations” in several categories (yay me) but only “met expectations” in several others.  I am curious what I can do to improve in those categories, especially since one of them was creativity! 

I’m official!!

My second joyful excitement is that I have purchased a new camera.  My Olympus Evolt DSLR has been my trusty camera for years.  Like over 10 years and we have taken thousands of pictures together.  The flash had long stopped working but I soldiered on with it, coming up with creative ways to take pictures inside with poor light.  It still worked great outside.  Well, now its eyes have stopped focusing and that is quite a lot harder to work around as it has an auto focus that just got stuck going in and out and never taking the picture despite my firm repeated pressing of the button.  This prevaricating wears out the battery very quickly.  So it is time…  We ordered a Cannon Rebel T6 with a bunch of toys and it just arrived today!  Since it also takes video, we might be putting up more content for my Youtube channel now too.

The view out my window while sitting on the couch coughing.
This past Thursday (after 15 days of feeling dreadful) was the first day I felt like trying to do anything because I wanted to rather than had to.  I sat down at the kitchen table with all my notes, several clipboards, my big calendar, my weekly planner and began to detail all my schedules.   You know when you have things flying around in your brain that need to be done but you don’t have time or can’t get to it and it causes anxiety?  I had that multiplied by about six.  It took me two and a half hours to get my life back under control and my lists all organized.

I am currently coordinating two large gatherings – a music festival in June and a large church celebration called Sukkot in September.  I am the Children’s Garden coordinator and head weeder / teacher at the local library with several projects, plans and classes that I am heading up and teaching this spring and summer for them.  I teach a couple garden classes for a Home Maintenance Program associated with Habitat for Humanity.  I play on several different volleyball teams and the new schedules had come out but I hadn’t written them down yet.  Passover is in 5 weeks and all the preparation for Unleavened bread needs to start now.  I am helping with a nephew’s wedding and I made a list of the items I need to make / complete to sell this summer at the music festival.   Needless to say, I didn’t get to my jewelry this week. 

I did however feel much more in control and started looking forward to all the awesome opportunities I get to be a part of rather than dread how far behind I was.  I read an interesting blog once about the idea to take the time to plan when you don’t have any time.  It seems counterintuitive to stop rushing about to complete tasks because of an approaching deadline, and to figure out what actually has to be done and in what order.  Taking the time when you don’t have time actually saves time… and your adrenal glands.

The project that I did work on this weekend was my piles of seeds.  I have not yet figured out my garden plan for this spring.  We are doing an overhaul of the gardens and yards and I will have three 8 x 4 foot beds to plant rather than my usual twelve.  This is a huge temporary decrease in space, but when we are done I will have two 100 x 5 foot beds to play with.  It will be totally worth it!  I finally have room to grow a watermelon!

I have ordered seed.  I have gone to a seed swap at the local Bee Club that I am a semi participant in.  (I don’t have bees yet and I usually have a volleyball game the same evening of the monthly meetings so I’m not a very good attendee either.) I have harvested seed from our yard and have mysteriously obtained packets of seed from random places that I no longer remember.  All of these seeds ended up in a big basket to be sorted, entered into the seed database on the computer and alphabetically filed.  It was a big pile.  Not only do I add all the new seeds to the seed cabinet and database, I also go through both annually to match what seed stock I have with the list.  I often use up or give away seed throughout the season but don’t always keep track of it on the list.
Baskets of possibilities

The piles of seeds sorted alphabetically to facilitate
In order to decide what plants I wanted to start this spring, I had to clean up my mess to see what I actually had.  I can’t start a new mess until I clean up the previous one.  This might be a good thing or a terrible thing, as it keeps the overall possible disaster to a minimum, but also greatly encourages procrastination if the previous pile is not put away.  Hence the necessity of my 52 week challenge.

It took me hours to go through every bag of seeds but it is all accurate and tidy now.

Well sorting seed packets is not incredibly exciting unless you come across a problem like mold in your saved seed bags.  We didn’t dry out the seed well enough or there was too much moisture in the air when we sealed the bag.  We should have put a couple of little desiccant packs in the bag.  There was a bag of purple podded pole beans and a bag of seed from big winter squash that were coated with a light green dusting of mold.  I made the mistake of opening one of them to investigate and ended up coughing and having an allergic reaction to it for the next several hours.  Sir T rescued me by taking both bags out and putting them in the garage.  I don’t know if they’ll be ok or not out there but I am much better in here away from them. 

Ugh!  Rooky seed saver mistake – we didn’t get all the moisture removed from the bag before sealing.

A joyful discovery was one of my chestnut seeds had sprouted!  I got the seeds at the bee seed swap and had them tucked into damp moss to help them germinate.  I had honestly forgotten about them.  I don’t think I even stratified them…  Huh, I really don’t remember.  Being sick made me loose some memory files I believe.  Anyway, I have at least one!  You need two to pollinate each other so I’m half way there!

Poor Timothy, there is yet ANOTHER tree growing in the house.  This one will get put outside in the spring.

So when all was sorted, typed in and filed, I have 560 seeds entries recorded.  Some of these are the same plant variety but just a different year or supplier.  For example I have Rainbow Swiss Chard seed from Garden’s Alive and Baker Creek so that is counted as two entries.  I also have a favorite lettuce mixture from two different years so that is under two different entries.  However, I have multiple packs of the same seed, same year and supplier under one entry such as 5 packages of alyssum which I plan to plant in the baby orchard as a quick ground cover as it seems to not mind my sand as long as it gets some water.  It may not be the most concise way to enter my seed data but it is very easy to do searches via name, the Latin family name or the year it was packed.  It also means I have over 600 packages of seeds…  I might have a seed hoarder problem.

DONE!!  Now it can return to the cool basement in my garden corner.

I did read quite a few garden blogs last week while I sat coughing.  It was as good a time as any to catch up on my back emails.  I came across a comment written by a seed grower in Vermont rejoicing that the number of daylight hours had crossed the threshold of greater than 10 hours.  His date of joy was February 5th.  It got me wondering when my date was.  After a ridiculously easy google search, I discovered that my 10 hour day was February 3rd.  We had descended into 14 plus hours of darkness the previous November 10.  At our winter solstice, our shortest day, we receive a measly 9 hours and 1 minute of day.  That is if the sky was clear.  Otherwise it is just a slightly lighter color of gloom.

The reason WHY I care about this (other than eagerly awaiting the return of warmth to my part of the world) is because plants stop growing with less than 10 hours of daylight.  Even if it were warmish – say in a greenhouse not tricked out with grow lights, the plants would go into a hibernation of sorts and just stop growing.  Thus, for many reasons all dealing with plants and more possibilities for sunshine, February 3rd is a day to celebrate.  Hmmmmm…. Maybe I should make it a holiday and have a party…  Let’s Grow Again Day!  Right…  If you have a cooler / better name for my new celebration let me know your ideas.  You might get invited!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Week 6

Sick… going on 11 days of being sick.  I’m pretty sure that I got the flu from chiropractor’s office that Sir T and I visited.  It has dug in deep in my lungs and isn’t letting go.  I didn’t do much this week.  I am happy that the house isn’t a complete disaster, and I occasionally made food for us.  However, I was not in the least bit creative, too busy holding my middle together as I tried to rid myself of my lungs.

So… all the complaining and nasty descriptions aside what do you do when you are miserable? Well, when you have a voice like I do at the moment, apparently you gotta make movies.  At least that was Sir T’s  idea.  After I had given him my sickness he came up with the following scenario and we created a script.  An afternoon of filming and editing, there is now the masterpiece The Virus.


Next week I hope to have my jewelry mending done.  I also hope to have my health on the mend as well.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Week 5 Project

Ladies and Gentlemen….  It is done!!  I am so happy.  After several years of sitting in a bag in the corner of the Blessings Room, our quilt is back in commission.  This is going to be a long blog because I made lots of mistakes and learned a few things and of course I took pictures of everything.
Here is a review of what the quilt looked like.

I called Pressing Matters, a local quilt shop in Holland, on Monday and talked to the owner who was absolutely lovely.  I made an appointment to come in on Tuesday for some advice.  She told me that while she wouldn’t be available on Tuesday to look at my quilt, she was confident that her staff would be able to help me.  I visited on Tuesday afternoon and both ladies who were working were very kind and interested in helping me. 

I showed them my quilt and then got some really good advice and suggestions.  Both admired it, saying that it was a very nice quilt and actually in pretty good shape for being almost 20 years old with the exceptions of where we had damaged it of course.  I was very impressed with their knowledge and helpfulness.  I would highly recommend Pressing Matters to anyone who is in need of sewing help.

 We looked at fabrics there but I wanted to run the suggestions past Sir T before purchasing fabric.  I was also curious about their long arm quilting machine which can sew different patterns to attach the front and back of the quilt together with a layer of batting sandwiched between.  I am very appreciative of the help I received from the staff of Pressing Matters.  Here is a link to their website.  https://www.pressingmattersquiltshop.com/

I came home excited to have a good plan that made sense to me and I thought very doable.  It is a huge relief to me to have a plan, it removes the daunting from an endeavor, no matter how intimidating, when a step by step plan is in place.  Then all you have to do is apply time, some practical skills and work.  I shared the plan with Sir T and he thought I should check my stash of fabric before heading off to the store for supplies.  Smart man I have.

My shelf of fabric…  yup, that blue bin on the right is full of projects I want to do yet…
let’s see if I can empty it by the end of the year.

As you can see, I have a healthy selection of blue fabric.  I just needed the right colors and material.  The quilt is made of cotton so I needed a cotton fabric to match it.  I found a dark blue 100% cotton for the main strip and a light blue 98% cotton, 2% spandex blend for the binding.  I hope that the difference in the materials will not be a problem when I wash the quilt.  Now that the supplies have been found, onto fixing the quilt!

After several fabric choice deliberations and combinations, this is what we settled on.

Step 1: Remove the damaged area.  Since the fabric was torn two strips in from the edge, the suggestion was to remove it all the way back to the blue flowered fabric.  The binding was actually worn all the way around and it was explained to me that this was because the batting didn’t go all the way to the edge.  The quilt would be slightly smaller but would be sturdier if I enclosed the edges of the quilt with the binding at the edge of the batting.

Removing the damaged fabric
All the damaged fabric has been removed and it is now ready for reconstruction

Step 2: Make the strips.  I wanted the next strip to be the dark blue.  In order to make the binding wrap around the edge of the batting, this inside strip would need to be a little over 2 inches wide.  I made 3 inch strips so there could be generous seam allowances.  One issue with cutting long strips of fabric is that you want to make sure you line up with the grain.  Otherwise you can make “crooked” strips that can be slightly on the bias.  Most of the time when you purchase fabric, it is not cut straight so you have to find the grain.  To find the grain, I made a small cut in the selvage (the bound area at the edge of the fabric) and tore a strip from the fabric.  The fabric will always tear along the grain which will give me a straight line to start my measuring.  I needed four strips: two of them were 70 inches long, the other two were 77 inches long.

I really like my rotary cutter; it is fast and makes nice straight cuts. 

Step 3: Sew the strips onto the quilt.  Normally one would sew all the quilt pieces together before the addition of the batting and back.  Since I needed to attach the strip to a “finished” quilt, I wanted to try to stitch in the ditch to preserve the most width of the flower fabric.  This would also line up my new seam on the underside with the original seam to make it look tidier.  I measured carefully and pinned my strip to the quilt.  I used dark blue thread on the top and an off white in the bobbin to match the back. 

I lined up the fabric strip with a nice seam allowance from the “ditch”. 
I just needed to sew exactly 3/8th of an inch in from the edge.
My “ditch” wandered too much and while most of it looked perfect, I had several areas that did this.  UNDO!
 I think the seam ripper is used as much as the sewing machine.

Step 3 (try it again with feeling):  I believe that I had two issues that caused my problem.   First, I couldn’t follow the ditch because it was covered up by the strip.  The solution to this problem was the decision that it would be ok to have two seams running generally parallel on the underside as it would make for a MUCH easier time to sew the strip on.  After ripping out the NOT “stuck in a rut” seam, I lined up the edge of the blue with the seam allowance of the strip that I had cut off, which was generally a quarter inch wide, mostly. 

I don’t have a big ironing board… I don’t have room for one.

Problem two was that my ditch wandered because I didn’t iron the quilt before pinning it. Solution number two … I started to iron… a LOT.  Remembering a recent blog I read entitled, 10 Reasons Why Your Homemade Clothes Look Homemade, one of the reasons suggested was that people don’t iron enough.  The definition of enough according to the blog was after every seam you sew. 

This quilt is kinda poofy.  I don’t know how much it got ironed as it was made and I also don’t think my sister-in-law had the pleasure of a space big enough to lay it out flat as she sewed.  This sucker is big and heavy and definitely tested one’s ability to guide fabric through the machine while keeping things flat and stable.  The occasional falling off the table also added to the excitement of yanking the fabric crooked while going through the machine. 

Don’t fall off, gather, rearrange and push, but not too much… don’t fall off.
Success!  Yes, iron some more.

Step 4:  Create the binding strip.  The lady at the store told me how to make the binding strip for the edge.   The binding strip has to be long enough to go around the entire quilt so you need to sew multiple strips of fabric together.  She suggested that you make the seams on the diagonal like you would for bias tape which will prevent bulky sections.  Once you have the correct length of binding strip, fold it in half with good side out and iron it.  Lay the binding strip on the top of the quilt matching the open edges of the strip to the outside edge of the last strip and sew the seam.  Then flip the folded edge of the binding around to the back of the quilt enclosing the unfinished edges and batting inside.  Then you can whip stitch it in place (the official / professional - if you ever want to show the quilt in competition - way) or you can stitch in the ditch and have a visible seam in the back.  I have no aspirations to show this thing so stitch in the ditch works for me.  She stated that most people make their strips 2 ½ inches wide but that she personally makes her binding strip 2 ¼ inches wide to save on fabric.  I thought it was a very clear and brilliant explanation for how to make and apply a binding strip.   

After some figuring, (admittedly NOT my strong point) I need 7 strips at 3 inches wide. 

I decided that I was going to make my strip 3 inches wide just to be safe.  Seven strips later I was ready to join them together.  If you put the strips end to end, it makes for a very bulky, lumpy area in your quilt as you will need to sew through four layers of fabric in one spot in addition to whatever number of other layers of fabric and batting you are encasing.  The best joining seam is to put them together on the diagonal.  Here is how I made my binding strip.

Lay your strips perpendicular to each other with the good sides facing.  Pin in place.
I used a ruler to crease the diagonal line for the stitching to follow.

Sew the two strips together on the diagonal line.  Continue to join the strips to each other in this fashion making sure to put the good sides together and keeping the seams on the same side.  It is easy to accidentally flip a strip over and put it together wrong when the front and back of the material is so similar.  Finally, iron and trim the seam allowance.

Finished 3 inch wide binding strip

HERE is where I neglected to think through exactly what she meant by a 2 ½ inch binding strip.  Upon finishing the 3 inch wide binding strip and starting to iron it in half, I realized that it was NOT wide enough.  She meant that you needed to cut a strip 5 inches wide so that when you fold it in half THEN it is 2 ½ inches wide.  Sigh…  I just spent an hour making this strip… I don’t want to waste that time and all the fabric.

Nope, nope, nope…that is not going to work!  

Ok, let’s think this through… the point of the binding strip is to go around the unfinished edge of the quilt.  It is attached to the front by a machine sewn seam, so it doesn’t have to be a tidy edge because it will be hidden.  The back does need to be a tidy edge so if I fold over one edge….  New plan peoples, born of the extreme aversion to wasting materials.

Operation save the binding strip.  Fold over a ¼ inch to make the finished edge for the back of the quilt.

Step 5:  Attach the binding strip to the quilt.  I ironed the front and back of the quilt again and then went about attaching the binding strip.   I lined up the edges of the binding strip and the dark blue stripe, already attached to the quilt, together with good sides facing.  I sewed them using a light blue thread for the top and the off white thread in the bobbin.  I could have just sewn the two fabrics together without going through the batting and the back but I thought this would make the whole piece stronger and it would be easier to do. 

The most interesting part of this portion of the journey was the corners.  I sewed to the point of the corner leaving the needle in the fabric, lifted the foot, turned the quilt 90 degrees (shuffling and pushing it to make it stay on the table) and then had to fold / situate the fabric of the binding strip to fit under the foot without too many wrinkles before putting the foot back down and continuing on.  I think it is a very good thing I have no intention of showing off this quilt in competition.  It also gives me a huge appreciation for all those quilts that I have seen.  I truly didn’t have a good understanding of how difficult it can be to sew a straight line through multiple layers of fabric.

Sewing, sewing, sewing… don’t get stuck by a pin, keep sewing…
The binding strip is attached!  Now to iron some more.

Once the binding strip was ironed flat, I now was able to start folding it around the edge.  On one side of the quilt there was extra batting which I trimmed off to use on the opposite side where it was a bit lean.  I also trimmed the corners a bit to help with the folding.  I have rounded soft corners here… no military straight corners to be seen.  Hey, it’s a blanket; it’s supposed to be soft.

148 pins were used in the securing of the binding.
 I may have snagged myself on approximately 142 of them while sewing.

The goal here is to stitch in the ditch on the top of the quilt while catching the edge of the binding on the underside at the same time.  Ahem, thus the need for all the pins.  I hope to keep the binding pulled far enough in to get caught in the seam but not too far as to expose the unfinished edge.  If it is not enough in, it will be missed entirely. 

Stitch in the ditch – to sew on a previous seam between two fabrics – in the “ditch”.
I put dark blue thread in the top and light blue in the bobbin.  My goal was to put the seam in the very edge of the dark blue fabric right up next to the light blue.  I thought this would look the tidiest.  On the back side the hope was that I would have a nice seam an eighth inch in from the edge. 

This is what happens when you stray too far from the ditch.  Probably the only time it is good to be stuck in a rut.
Upon completion of the first round I found several spots where I missed catching the back edge.  Every place it happened was because I strayed from the ditch. Many times this was because the weight of the quilt dragged the fabric away from my intended path.  I had to keep pushing the quilt around to prevent the dragging.   It wasn’t too bad and I was easily able to fix these areas by realigning the binding and resewing these sections.


I did it!  I’m so excited to be able to use this quilt again.  The ladies at Pressing Matters suggested that we not use it to sleep under to keep from damaging it again.  My immediate thought was, “Why would you even have it then?”  Further discussion brought about the good idea to use it but just fold it down when sleeping so that it won’t be able to be grabbed and yanked on.  I think it will also help that we got a “real” bed to replace our air mattress.  This one is still on the floor but is a solid mattress that retains heat and it is so much warmer. 

Yeah, that isn’t a good way to show it off, let’s try it on the bed.
Back where it belongs… on the bed and being used!

Oh boy that was a trip.  I literally worked on this every single day this past week.  No procrastination on this one!  As I sit here typing, my nose is running, I am coughing and have a wheeze in my lungs.  I don’t know who or what got me sick, but I am definitely not feeling well.  I am happy that I got the quilt done but I’m not really excited about starting another project.  It is hard to be motivated when your lungs hurt.  I had already chosen to work on my pile of jewelry that is broken, unfinished or needs to be altered for this coming week and hopefully this shouldn’t be too brain straining.  We’ll see how many of them make it to the end or get let go.  I hope you are feeling better than me!  Blessings on your week.

Pile of potential pretties.