Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bear paws... RARRRR!!!!

When it comes to quilt patterns, I have always loved the Bear Paw. I don't know why. Back in 2015,  I decided to make my own Bear Paw quilt. But other than a sewing machine and fabric, I didn't have many other tools of the trade. So I did all my cutting at Mom's, and brought the pieces home to sew.

I wasn't using pre-set measurements from a pattern (I couldn't find one with really big paws, which is what I wanted) so I did the math myself. Unfortunately, I did it wrong. I cut my large squares too big (forgetting the seam would make the claws smaller). Nor a huge deal  - I decided to piece as is, leaving an overhang I could trim.

Then I took all the squares up to Mom's to use her cutting mat and rotary cutter. All was going well until I managed to trim some a full inch smaller than others. I'm still not sure how I did it. But the only fix was to rip seams, trim things down and sew all over again.

I just wasn't up to facing it, so everything got shoved in a bag and buried in the deep dark recesses of the studio. That is until this summer, when I started cleaning things out. I came across the bag and was finally able to wrap my head around the best way to redo them.

Back at the start of the summer, I spent an afternoon on Mom's porch with them. She spun yarn, I ripped seams, we chatted and it made the task seem much less daunting.

And this weekend, with my Pinwheels under my belt, I was finally confident enough to take another stab at the Bear Paws. I admit, it has a lot to do with the studio set up I have now (plus Mom bought me my own cutting mat and rotary cutter for my birthday last year)
With the new/old machine, I have room to lay my blocks out while I piece them (resulting in fewer mis-sewn seams). Kitty corner to the table (not in the picture), is my ironing board and iron. I have a rolling chair at the machine, so I can just roll from sewing to pressing and back again with ease.

It wasn't too long before I had a perfect paw done
And then 11 more!
This is the layout I'm going to use. The floor makes a nice stand in for the neutral fabric I still need to get for the plain squares. Despite all the cutting down, the  finished paws are still very large - 11".
I've got a stack of coordinating fabrics collected from remnant bins, and once I get my neutral fabric in there, I'll start playing around with some colour-coordinated sashing.

But for now I'm just thrilled to have 12 paws, all the same size!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Realizing the dream

Way back in the summer of 2006, I started working at a small community newspaper in the town of Port Colborne, ON. I was new to the area, so when I had a free moment, I'd leave the newspaper office and wandering around the town exploring. One day, a couple weeks in, I walked by a house that had a large flowering bush that took up most of the tiny front yard. What was remarkable was that it was absolutely COVERED in Monarchs. There had to be at least two dozen - it was like the plant was dripping butterflies. I'd never seen anything like it.

I had my camera with me and probably snapped a hundred pictures. When I came back to the office, I showed everyone, wondering aloud what the flowering bush was as it was nothing I'd recognized. It was the office receptionist who spoke up... "Oh, that's a Butterfly bush."

At first, I thought she was teasing, but no... it's just really aptly named. (Though it's Latin name is Buddleia). Ever since that day, I coveted the Butterfly Bush. When we moved here, it was one of the first plants I bought.

Disappointingly, the only thing it seemed to attract was moths. At night. I quite like moths (when they stay away from my yarn stash), but my camera is not great for night shots. I want butterflies!!!

But finally...
My variety of Butterfly Bush is Miss Ruby - a slightly purplish magenta.
The bush is on it's third summer now, and it's not quite to the top of the fence yet - it's probably around 4 feet. She can grow up to about 6 feet though.
This far north, the bush dies right back in the winter. And it's one of the last to show signs of life come spring. I always worry that she's died off until I see those first few bits of green in late May. I've heard lots of people around here say that their bush didn't make it through winter, but I wonder if they just didn't wait long enough.
She's a late bloomer too. I'll get a couple flower spikes in mid summer, but they are usually small and weak. It's not until mid-August that she kicks it into high gear. Right now they're are probably 20 or so bloom spikes and some are quite large. She blooms right into fall providing some of the last bits of colour before the frost.

So here's to a few more months of wings and blossoms!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Home-grown mumbles

Back in the middle of July, the raspberry bushes were producing more berries than we could eat in a day. It wasn't enough for jam, but I had the bright idea that if I started freezing them, when combined with the fall crop, I could have enough for jam.

Then a week or so later, the Blackberries started to ripen. it quickly became evident that I wasn't going to lose as many as I'd thought to the  dreaded fungus. I was going to have a decent crop. Not enough for jam, but definitely more than I'd thought we'd get.

And that night, lolling in my evening bath, I had an epiphany. Back when I made the strawberry jam, I had some pureed berries left over.  I stuck them in the freezer, with the intention of eventually making daiquiris.

But what if I combine them, with the raspberries and the blackberries... all in one jam... I could call it Mumble-Berry!

It sounded brilliant to me, but just incase I'd breathed in too many bath bomb fumes, I ran the idea by Mom. She said "Go for it!"

After that, I did a quick internet search, and sure enough, there were recipes out there. Though they had boring names like Summer Berry, or Three Berry Jam.

So... idea confirmed, I started immediately popping each blackberry I picked into a bag in the freezer to keep them from going bad before I had enough.

Finally, on the weekend, I looked at my bags and decided it should be enough.
I defrosted my garden raspberries
And my blackberries.... which the freezer seemed to turn a touch red. I mixed them all up in the blender with the strawberry puree...

... and I was a cup short! I'm not an experienced enough jam maker to mess with the levels of certo and sugar, so I made a quick run to the grocery store and grabbed two more pints of blackberries.
Once I was home, it was back in action. Just look at all those berry bits. Jam making may seem daunting, but it's surprisingly easy. Just three ingredients (fruit, sugar and certo), and about 30 minutes of prep, cooking and jarring combined.
And the result is eight jars of Mumble-berry jam - enough to enjoy and share with a few friends!

Monday, August 21, 2017

FO: Old Shale

As promised...
I gave Burton final say on the buttons for the Old Shale cardigan.
That boy has good taste.
I really am so pleased with how this one turned out. The grey yarn, and the delicate buttons give it just the Victorian feel I was going for.
The pattern is Old Shale Cardigan (there's a child-sized version too). I did make a few mods. I adjusted how the raglans were constructed, and I added the old shale lace pattern to the cuffs and collar. In the pattern as written, they are just plain garter stitch. Were I to make it again, I'd rework the pattern to do it from the top down... but that's just a personal preference. The pattern is fine as is.
The yarn is Barn Car Sport - nice and washable for Mom, but soft and warm for baby. It's classed as Sport Weight, but both Mom and I agree, it's more like a heavy fingering. Either way... it may be my new favourite work-a-day yarn. Mom dyed it in a soft Dove grey at my request, and as you can see, it has very subtle variations in shade. It just adds a touch of depth to the knit which I absolutely love.

Here's hoping the judges do too!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Holding pattern

There hasn't been a garden post all week because there's just not much new and exciting. We are stuck in another holding pattern again
The mammoth sunflowers are well over six feet and should pop soon. Which is good, the poor finches fly through the yard every day looking for a snack.
One of the clearance Delphiniums will bloom soon too. This should be the medium pink one, though it could be the dark purple one... I just can't remember!
And at long last, the Passion Flower has put up a bud. But it's taking FOREVER to bloom. I've been watching it for almost two weeks now!
But everything else in the garden is all about the same. The bumble bees keep on buzzin'....

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Burton's Button Conundrum

I was hoping to have an FO post of the baby cardi for you by now, but there was a small hitch... buttons.

As you know, I've got a pretty decent button stash. So about mid-week I laid the cardigan on the floor, hauled out my jars and started the hunt.
And of course, I had help. This was Burton's first button hunt, and I have to say he exceeded in his task as snoopervisor... as in... I'm sure there's still some buttons under the couch thanks to fast little swatty paws...

But alas, there were no buttons for the cardigan. The only thing I had in the right quantity (I needed six) were plain clear dome buttons. BORING! I had some pretty pearl buttons that were just perfect, but I only had three.

As luck would have it, I got a text from Mom on Thursday, asking if I'd like to accompany her on a little shopping excursion. I never turn those down, and since of one the destination was Walmart, I knew I'd be able get some pearl buttons in the proper amount at the very least.

And I did... but then our excursion took us down Ottawa Street... and to my favourite button and notion store. They have a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge colour coordinated wall of buttons and....
Well.. I just couldn't decide! I put it out to Facebook (you may have seen it there) and the overwhelming consensus is for the flower. A few people have expressed support for the diamond , but poor heart... no one likes her.

At first I was all for the flower, but the more I look at the diamond, the more it grows on me... I think it has a delicate elegance that matches the cardigan.

Of forget it! I'm going to let Burton decide!
Stay tuned...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Felines

I'm starting to get a feeling we may end up a four-cat household by the end of the year.
This is becoming a common sight when I open the curtains in the morning. Dear sweet Relic is coming for food morning and night. Lately he's been sticking around for some lovin', and it's usually Dave... "Mr.-I-don't-really-like-cats" who is out there giving it to him.

We've talked about building him a winter shelter, but Dave has been making comments like "It's too bad we just can't let him inside..."

There are several barriers to that at the moment:
  • Rupert hates him. So far, Relic backs away when Rupert thumps the window, but its hard to say what would happen if they were in the same space.
  • Relic is still intact. I have no problem getting him neutered, but he may still spray. Not ideal for an indoor cat.
  • Being that he's a stray (we are 99% sure), he could be an FIV carrier. He'd have to be tested before being introduced to the household.
He also doesn't trust me enough to pick him up. I tried to get him in a carrier earlier this year and it didn't go well. So for now, I'll keep working to gain his trust. We'll keep him well fed, and make sure he has a warm spot for the winter... and see where it goes.