Practical Makes

Practical projects and crafts

Category: Planning

New Month, New Projects

And it’s August already…time goes quickly when you have lots to do!  I’ve started the next round of the garden.  I cleared out the cucumbers (the last plants were giving in to the beetles) and the New Zealand spinach (it was too much of a succulent for me, I wasn’t a fan) and started putting in the fall vegetables.  So far I’ve got carrots, scallions and beets planted.  I’m planning to add some turnips too and probably some fall radishes and lettuce.  I think the yellow beans are winding down, so I’m probably going to plant some more over there too.  The purple beans are almost ready though, so we’ll have those soon.

I’ve got more beans to freeze too and lots of peppers.  I might be canning tomatoes this weekend too!  I figure it’s about 7 tomatoes per quart (more or less) so we’ll see…  It’s tomatoes, so canning them is extra useful, but they’re definitely more work than pickles and hot peppers.  Hopefully this time my jars don’t break (I guess I’m going to be sticking with boiling the heck out of them before filling them after all).  I’m hoping we get enough tomatoes for me to can a bunch (ideally 10 to 15, but we’ll see).  At least I’m definitely getting plenty of cherry tomatoes to dehydrate!  I’ve done two batches already.  I suppose I should also remember that they just started producing and with any luck will be going right up to Halloween, which is 3 more months of production, so I shouldn’t be too impatient…

My other projects are going well, I’m almost done with the first sleeve on the tiny Patrick’s green Bowline sweater and I’m very happy with how it looks so far.  I think maybe I’ll be able to start his Campfire sweater this weekend.

I also want to finish sewing his Christmas stocking and also plan out some sewing for me and the tiny Patrick.  Maybe the grown up Patrick too… I have the fall issues for Ottobre and I’d like to pick some projects from those.

I’d like to do some knit shirts and pants for the tiny Patrick and do a cardigan and a knit dress for me from the most recent Ottobre issue.  I have fabric for shirts for the grown up Patrick too.  And I’d like to make the tiny Patrick a Halloween costume (better to  start planning now so I finish it in time!).  I think it’s time to get a coverstitch machine too.  They fill a similar role for knit fabrics that sergers do for wovens (more or less) and I think there’s a lot of knit fabrics in my future…

So I’m going to try and plan those projects out and then see if maybe I can start one.  So goals for this weekend:

  • Freeze lots of peppers!
  • Freeze lots of beans!
  • Dehydrate (and then freeze!) lots of cherry tomatoes
  • Can larger tomatoes as crushed tomatoes?
  • Bake bread
  • Knit baby sweaters!
  • Finish Christmas stocking
  • Make sewing plans

Summer Days

So it’s now very much summer, warm humid air, weeds and the garden growing like crazy, lots of projects to do, food preservation questions to consider…  Yep, definitely summer.  I have gotten a bunch of things done though!  First, I finished the soft book from the fabric panel, which ended up turning out very nicely.  It’s cute and using the fluffy batting made it really nice and cuddly.  The tiny Patrick approves.

I also finished my 4th of July dress and it turned out great.  The pockets fit in nicely and the fit is perfect (extra yay!).  And I have officially decided that the answer is to sew the facing down under the collar (you can’t see the line of stitching that way).  I was really careful to do everything right with the facing, even grading the seam allowances and using a pinking shears (which was tricky and annoying!) and it still wouldn’t lay flat.  I think it’s just the result of the shape of my back/shoulders.  So!  It got sewn down and that’s what I’ll do in the future.  It looks fine that way.

I also started the advent calendar.  That’s been a fun project, just enough detail to be interesting without being fiddly.  I would be working on that now, but there’s a fluffy white cat sleeping on it.  Also, it looks like the dense cotton batting was the right choice for that one.  It gives it more of a tapestry type weight that I think will help it hang nicely.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to use a dowel or rings to hang it….Probably the dowel since I think that will make it straighter, the only downside is then I’ll have to store said dowel, but if I roll the advent calendar around it, that shouldn’t be too bad.

I also did my lavender packets!   I picked some lavender flowers (a nice little mini bouquet) which was enough for 3 layers in the dehydrator without crowding them.  I set it to 95 degrees for about 2 hours and they came out nice and dry.  It also made the house smell pretty nice!  Then I cut up some of the smaller bits of fabric from my grandma and made 4 little ‘pillows’ each about the size of my hand.  I thought about adding stuffing too, but I decided flat packets would do a better job at letting the scent into the surrounding area and not take up as much space in the closet/drawer/etc.  I also only used the flowers and not the stems.  The stems also have scent but a lot less and the flowers were enough to give each packet plenty of lavender.  They’re also crazy strong.  They’re sitting on our kitchen table now and you can smell them from the next room over.  So maybe that will be enough to defeat the closet that’s permeated with 50+ years of shampoo and fabric softener…

I also finished knitting the tiny Patrick’s new fall/winter hat.  I did “Bumble” by Tin Can Knits.  It’s very cute but I think the stitch work is a little open for being a nice heavy duty winter hat.  Then again a toddler probably isn’t going to be outside outside much in really cold weather so maybe this is the best way to do it?  The best part is the pompom.  I remember making one at some point (I don’t know when, like childhood sometime) and it turning out sad and not fluffy so I got a proper pompom maker (they’re like $5) and put a ton of yarn (as much as I could fit!) into it and it turned out great!  It’s super soft and fluffy.  So I’m really happy about that.  Also I did extra repeats so it covers his ears properly!

I’m still working on re-knitting the top of my Apple Pie hat.  I think I did an extra repeat the first time but didn’t write it down, so when I made my replacement I just did the recommended length.  It spent all winter sliding off my head, which was massively annoying.  So!  I cut the yarn at the top and ripped back to wear the decreases started (since there’s only 1 spot in the pattern with purl stitches and the first decrease is purl-two-together this was easier than expected…).  So I dug out the tiny ball of extra yarn and am now knitting an extra repeat before doing the decreases.  Hopefully it will stay on this time around!

The garden has also been busy.  We’ve picked lots and lots of beans so far (and I have lots more to pick today!).  These are yellow beans (my favorite) and Romano beans (Patrick’s favorite).  I think I might also plant some purple beans so we have some regular green beans around too.  Pole beans was definitely the way to go with the Romano beans, they produce so much better than the bush bean version.

We’ve also got our first round of peppers.  I don’t think the bell peppers liked their proximity to the cucumbers or the weather but we’re still getting some.  The jalapenos are doing great.  I’m hoping to freeze a bunch of those and then start pickling them.

We’ve also gotten cucumbers!  Yay!  I’ve made two jars of fridge pickles and I’ll still have plenty for cucumber sandwiches this week!  Hopefully they’ll keep going and I’ll be able to can pickles too.

We’ve gotten the first couple tomatoes (the cherry ones) too and there are lots that are almost ready.  I’m planning to dehydrate the cherry ones (I got an egg slicer to hopefully make that more manageable).  I’m also hoping if the full sized ones come through for me this year I can can small batches of crushed tomatoes.  We’ll see…

We might even get a few blackberries to try this year if I manage to beat the birds to them…   (fruit + birds is a challenge I have yet to fully resolve, bird netting has some serious downsides after all)

I also want to make jam, but I’m going to need to get the fruit to do that I think.  Our strawberries are producing enough for snacks (even with squirrel theft) but not jam and we won’t get more than a couple from the rest of the fruit for a year or three.  So jam requires a Costco or farmer’s market visit.  So we’ll see…

Oh and I cleared out the bolting lettuce (and 4 wheelbarrows of weeds from around the yard…) and planted pumpkins and yellow squash.  Hopefully those work out, that would make me happy.

Still though, plenty to do.  Next goals:

  • Finish Apple Pie hat
  • Finish Advent calendar
  • Start USA play mat
  • Start blue dress (Hawthorn again?  Something new?)
  • Start baby clothes (probably from Ottobre)
  • Start grown up Patrick shirts
  • Freeze/Can/Dry peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans
  • Plant purple beans?
  • Clear out garden bed by the shed
  • Finish attaching tomato cage tops
  • Hang reflective anti-bird tape
  • Continue cleaning/organizing the house (my room, the closet of doom, the basement, etc…)
  • Stick to goal of one slow cooker meal a week

Waiting for the weather to break

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Still no luck with rain for us. They said the heat wave would end early if we got a good storm, but no such luck. Still, there should be a change in the weather pattern today which will finally give us our thunderstorm. And after that it will be cooler.  I hope so, I’m looking forward to taking little Patrick for walks again (it’s been too hot for him during the heatwave, and going for a walk at 2 AM would be a bit too weird).  I also hope to walk down to the farmer’s market Saturday morning.  It’d be nice to have a short break and if I get cucumbers I can make fridge pickles.  We can only have those in summer (when there are good cucumbers) and they’re amazing so I’d really like to make some.  That and cucumber sandwiches since those are also really good.

My dress fabric should also arrive tomorrow so I’ll get to start those.  I have my pattern pieces already to go, so hopefully the fabric arrives on time!  I’m looking forward to those.  I still need to pick out buttons, but that’ll be easiest to do when the fabric gets here.  I have a bunch in my collection (yay thrift store button hordes!) so I want to see if I have any promising ones in there.  Otherwise there’s always JoAnn’s or G-Street.

My other sewing project is drafting a new A-line skirt pattern.  I found the tutorials I used last time so I just need to do some math and take some measurements.  I need front and back pieces with darts (darts are the hard part for drafting…) and a waistband (which is weirdly hard to get to look right).  Maybe I’ll try doing that today.  Once I’ve got a pattern again I’m going to do a trial version, probably with the surplus trouser fabric I have.  I hate sewing trousers and it’s a good color for work clothes.  It’d make a good skirt for wearing on Fridays.  I’ll just have to make Patrick a new shirt to make up for borrowing some of his trouser fabric.  On the upside I’m much better at making shirts than trousers!  I also need to go get some lining fabric.  The JoAnn’s has Bemberg Rayon lining which is probably what I’ll use.  This will be my other independent trip out of the house.  Little Patrick isn’t quite ready for the mall yet, but I don’t have to go far so this should be a good way to get out of the house for a little while.

In terms of knitting I’m still making slow progress on my hat.  But hey, the little bits of progress accumulate over time.

Regarding my other mini-projects, the exercise bike is set up now (yay for Patrick assembling large objects from the Internet!).  So I’m making progress on getting good at biking again.  The exercise bike is a recumbent bike, which makes getting started again a lot easier!  (and I can read and bike much more easily!)

Heatwave Knitting

There’s something about summer that makes me want to come up with knitting projects (and watch Predator 2 and Yakuza, which are the best heatwave movies). Maybe it’s because the summer edition of the knitting magazine always has awesome patterns, maybe it’s because I can take my projects out on the porch and enjoy nice weather (in the mornings before it gets hot!) or maybe it’s because somehow the AC always makes things feel more arctic than real winter does.

I suppose the fact that summer has actual sunshine (unlike winter around here, which is grey, damp and cloudy) makes me want to make lots of awesome plans.

I’m thinking about a couple potential projects, a knitting project and some sewing projects. For the knitting, I think I want to try making myself a pair of convertible mittens with gloves inside.  I have a nice range of fingerless gloves and a couple pairs of mittens, but I’d like to have a pair for the coldest weather.  I would want the inside to have fingers like gloves (though not covering the fingertips) under colorwork convertible mittens.  I think that would cover the bases well and still make it easy to extract my train pass.  I like the franken mittens pattern on Ravelry, but I’m not super thrilled with the pattern for the colorwork. Maybe I can use the overall mitten pattern and come up with my own colorwork pattern?  I also really want to knit a shawl, but I’m only making very slow progress on my hat, so I’m pretty sure sticking to the hat is the better plan (especially since I really want a warm fuzzy hat when it gets cold again!).  And given my rate of progress by the time I finish the hat it will be cold weather.  And I’d really like to knit a small hat and some baby mittens for little Patrick before it gets too cold.  So maybe I should aim for a hat, convertible mittens and a little hat and baby mittens by the end of the year.  I will have time for shawls later.  After all they don’t really wear out and they don’t have fit issues so there’s no rush.

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For sewing I’d like to do those sooner.  I want to sew three new Hawthorn dresses.  They button up the front so those will work well with needing access for little Patrick, and I’ve sewn them before so they should go together well.  I will need to trace new pattern pieces given size changes, but once I’ve done that I can do all three at once assembly-line-style.  I think they’ll be fun dresses, I have one piece of fabric I picked out, and two Patrick picked out.  (I decided to get both since one was on clearance for really cheap, so yay three dresses!)  I also plan to alter these to add pockets, with of course, a button hole for the insulin pump.  It will be nice to have something pretty to wear that is comfortable and fits well.  It’s been difficult needing to buy clothes, I’m looking forward to making my own again.

Speaking of clothes, the other thing I need to do is sew myself some skirts for work.  At least those are easy to sew.  Trying to buy them is egregiously terrible since apparently the only thing people want to buy is pencil skirts or trousers.  Lets just say pencil skirts don’t suit my shape (I am not and never have been a square, if they don’t go in at the waist, they fall down, even at this  point they need to go in at certain spots to fit).  And trousers are ok, and I can find some that fit if I put a lot of time in but they generally look terrible and are really uncomfortable.  Also, skirts are much more flexible for DC weather.  They’re like wearing shorts in summer and in winter I can wear fuzzy tights and they’re way warmer than pants then.  So yeah, buying skirts is a no-go so I need to make some new ones.  I have some nice wool I was given as a gift, I just need to get some fabric for the lining and then sew them up.  I have a month though to do it.

Other than those projects, the garden survives, it’s still making some peppers and tomatoes which is nice.  We’ve also got lots of herbs which is very useful.  The slow cooker also remains useful, Patrick made awesome pulled pork.  It’s really nice producing a lot of food that can easily be turned into lunches or dinners when we need them during the week.  It’s also nice for the budget.

Speaking of food, we’ve agreed to wait on canning this year since we want to move and things are busy.  I will probably miss that the way I missed clothes I made myself, but it’s probably a good idea.  And I’ll get to can lots of things next year.  And I have plenty of things to keep me busy right now anyway…

Welcome to Summer

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Well, it’s been awhile, largely because I had another big project that didn’t leave much time for my usual smaller projects…  But the start of summer is a good time to start working on my regular projects again.  And even if it’s a little late it’s not a bad time to work on figuring out what kinds of projects I want to do this year.  I have a couple categories of projects I want to work on: the garden, food preservation, knitting and sewing.  I also have a minor side project for physical fitness since I want to improve how far I can bike (makes it easier to get to some of those slightly too distant craft stores…).

Garden

Garden 2016

Patrick got everything started this year so we have a garden!  Like the map shows, the goal this year was to come up with a garden plan that would be easy to maintain since we’re going to be busy.  Overall I think it’s been successful so far (the squash is a bonus from the compost we added to the garden).  It looks like we might even get tomatoes from the garden this year!  I have hopes anyway…  No matter what I think I’m going to consider anything we get out of the garden to be a nice bonus.  I have hopes for at least some beans and some good salads at least though.  And if our peppers survive the nasty experience that was May’s weather (it rained at least 19 days in May!) hopefully we’ll get some nice peppers too.

If we have happy tomato plants I’m hoping to be able to can some small batches of tomatoes too.  I’m going to see if that’s a nice easy option.  I got a stand alone canner that doesn’t need to go on the stove, so I’m hoping doing small batches will be reasonable.

I’m also hoping that this garden will keep producing as is from now through frost.  The tricky parts will be getting the lettuce to produce in July and August and getting the beans to produce in September and October.  It’s worth a shot though.  And when the potatoes are done that row can be either more beans or more lettuce in theory.

The front flower bed is a mix of flowers, and it’s kind of weedy.  Luckily I got enough volunteers that it looks nice (mostly Jonny Jump Ups and Love in the Mist).  I also got 3 volunteer tomatoes growing in the half barrel in the middle.  I was hoping that would be full of Dahlias and petunias, so I need to decide if I’m going to leave the tomatoes, pull them up or replant them.  Technically replanting them would be the best choice, but that would also take a lot of work and at least a decent chunk of time.  I think for the moment they’re staying where they are and hopefully they won’t get too out of control.

Food Preservation

 

I want to do a mix of canning, freezing and dehydrating.  Hopefully most of it will come from the garden.  Some of it will probably come from the farmers market.  A few things might come from the Costco.  I’d like to do another couple of bulk buys from the farmers market or from the pick your own place, but this year’s probably got too much going on for that.  (it’s very much going to be a year of choosing my battles…) My goals include:

  • Canning

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    • Raspberry Jam – If I can find raspberries that is.  I love raspberry jam but buying raspberries in a reasonable volume is tough and I can’t really grow my own until we have our house.  Maybe I’ll just buy some packs at the Costco this summer.  The prices aren’t amazing but making my own jam is still cheaper than buying it (at least cheaper than buying it if I want decent jam).
    • Peach Jam – These I can get at the farmer’s market, and I think little Patrick is almost big enough I can escape for an hour or so to pick some up.  And if not, the grocery store will definitely have enough peaches that I can make these from grocery peaches if I need to.  And I found my grandma’s recipe so the spices will be right this year!
    • Plum Jam – If we get some plums from Patrick’s dad in Erie I’m definitely making this again, it turned out awesome last year.  If we don’t get plums from Patrick’s dad (for the same reasons as before) I think I can get plums from the grocery store or Costco.  They have some plums at the farmer’s market, but the prices aren’t great.
    • Tomatoes – I’m hoping our garden comes through for these so I can make a bunch of small batches of tomatoes (I like quart jars of whole tomatoes since they’re perfect for spaghetti (after a trip through the blender) or Eat More or a bunch of other things.  Technically a big batch from bulk tomatoes from the farmer’s market is probably the most effective in terms of time and the prices are very reasonable, but I think it’s much more likely I’ll manage small chunks of time for small batches than it is that I’ll manage a big chunk of time.  And hey anything that comes our of the garden will have a really great price!
    • Salsa – Last years salsa recipe turned out pretty good.  This year I’d like to make individual jars (and just put them in the fridge) of a couple types to try them out, as well as can the type I made last year.  Pint jars worked pretty well overall.
    • Hot peppers – Canned jalapenos were great, canned wax peppers were ok.  So the plan is to make jalapenos if I can at all manage it.  They were really easy to do so if I can do even a couple jars at a time it’s worth it.  These are mostly dependent on what I can get out of the garden, but maybe if I watch for a sale at the store, it would be worth doing some from grocery peppers?
    • Pickles – My grandma’s fridge pickle recipe remains awesome.  My canned pickles were incredibly salty.  Like insanely salty.  So I’m going to try something else this year if I can pickles.  I’m probably also not going to bother trying to get pickle cucumbers.  There’s only one farmer’s market that had them, they were expensive, and I’m still not very good at growing my own.  And research on the Internet suggests that if I use Ball’s PickleCrisp I can get away with regular cucumbers which are cheap and available anywhere.  Hopefully I can get down to the farmer’s market for these since the grocery store tends to have gross ones that are covered in epic amounts of wax.
  • Freeze

    • Spaghetti sauce – Using canned tomatoes and putting them through the blender is a great way to get a start on spaghetti sauce, but it’d be really nice to have some pre-made.  I’m not ready to figure out pressure canning with everything else that’s going on this year, so this will probably be frozen.  I’d also like to do pre-made taco filling and some other stuff along these lines.  We’ll see what we can do…
    • Zucchini – At least for the moment I’ve given up on growing zucchini (curse you squash vine borers!) but luckily the farmer’s market has lots of cheap zucchini and I can freeze as much of it as I want.  I usually grate them up and freeze 1 cup portions in sandwich bags that way they’re ready to go in zucchini bread if I want, and otherwise they can go in pasta sauce.  Grated zucchini is a great way to fill out a pasta sauce and make it more substantial, with an added flavor and vitamin bonus.
    • Peppers – Hopefully the endless rain and cold in May won’t prevent us from getting peppers this year.  The last few years we’ve been really good at it.  This year we planted a lot more green peppers, so hopefully we’ll manage a full year’s supply.  I’d like to try freezing some as half peppers this year so we can make stuffed peppers this winter.
    • Hot peppers – This year we planted fewer hot peppers since we still have a lot of these from last year (which is impressive given how many hot peppers we go through…).  Hopefully we’ll manage a decent year’s supply of jalapenos this year.  We stuck with jalapenos since we haven’t used the wax peppers fast enough and we always end up with way more habaneros than we need.
    • Green beans – Here’s hoping this is the year where I actually manage to freeze lots of green beans.  Growing green beans is easy.  Harvesting, replanting and freezing the green beans is hard.  I can always get a bunch at the farmer’s market for ok prices, or at the grocery store (for ok to expensive prices) but I should be able to grow and process these from the garden.  Hopefully this year’s the year…
    • Pesto – I like to grow basil and freeze my own pesto.  Patrick banned the basil this year since sometimes it’s a hassle, so we’ll see if I manage this.  It’ll depend on whether or not I can find a reasonable source of basil.  Maybe the farmer’s market?  The grocery store isn’t too reliable for basil.
  • Dehydrate

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  • Cherry tomatoes – This will depend on whether I get cherry tomatoes!  My cherry tomato plant is the saddest looking tomato plant…  I suppose I can always do slices of full sized tomatoes if my cherry plant fails me.  These were super useful last year so hopefully I can do them again.  I suppose if my plants fail me there’s always the Costco.  Having these on hand would probably make processing Costco tomatoes worth it…
  • Catnip – I have an entire Catnip hedge.  All I need to do is cut some down and stick it in the dehydrator.  This produces really awesome catnip that the cats love. So…I just need to see if I can manage that…

So those are most of my food and garden plans.  I’ll save my sewing and knitting plans for next time…

Christmas in July

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July has gone by crazy fast.  There was getting back from vacation, working on the garden, work projects and all sorts of things going on.  And of course various projects and craft things and goals to be achieved!  July is also a planning month for me.  It’s when I start to think about what I want to get or make friends and family for Christmas.  It may seem a little weird to start so early, but some craft projects take a long time.  And it’s much nicer to be able to do them a little at a time rather than a rush at the end.  It’s never good to end up frustrated and sick of presents when you want to feel happy about giving them to people you care about.

So!  July is my holiday planning month.  🙂

I have several different gifts I’m planning to make this year.  My father-in-law has requested more wool socks, like the pair I made him two years ago.  Or as he put it, “who gets only one pair of socks?”  So my goals is to make at least two, hopefully three more pairs of socks this year.  I have about one and a half socks (out of a potential six) done already, so that’s off to a good start.  And this is worthwhile, it’s nice to make things for people who enjoy them.  He’s also told me that the pair I already made are the warmest and most comfortable socks he’s ever had, so more of them should make for a good gift.

The biggest holiday project for this year is another quilt.  I’ve made four quilts so far, so at least I know what I’m getting into!  The pattern I’m going with is a flexible one, and I’m able to take advantage of some pre-cuts for part of it, so hopefully it will go well.  By which I mean I will be able to finish it in a sane amount of time!  I’m really happy with the fabric I found.  I picked bright colors with themes that remind me of the person the quilt is for.  It looks like I’ll also have some extra to make something fun.  Maybe I’ll make a pillow cover to go with?  We’ll see.  I have the first round of pieces cut out, so next is to sew them together into strips, and then cut those strips into other strips and sew them together again to make blocks, and then sew those together again.  And then of course make and add the border, make the backing and then assemble it and hand sew the edging to the back.  I’m going to tie the quilt the old fashioned way.  Or at least the way I was taught to make quilts.  I think tying the quilt rather than ‘quilting’ it makes for a fluffier quilt which in my opinion is the best sort of quilt.  And I got some nice wool batting from Nancy’s Notions so fluffy is the way to go!

Quilts are funny things.  They’re amazing once they’re finished, and working on them can be relaxing (there’s a sort of zen state when you’re tying a quilt or sewing together endless squares) but they’re probably the most challenging craft project I’ve worked on.  They take a lot of materials that have to be matched for fabric content, quality, weight and color (as much as possible).  The cutting and assembly portions take a high level of precision.  And unlike knitting you have to be paying attention while wielding a sewing machine or very very sharp rotary cutter.  And then there’s the fact that when you assemble it, there’s the need to move all the living room furniture to get a space just barely big enough, so assembly and tying the quilt had better be done fast.  Still, despite the challenges, making a quilt is a lot of fun, and with any luck you end up with something warm and awesome that can last for years.  So as presents go, quilts are up there on the list of things I like to be able to give.

I’m also planning to try making some things for Patrick, but I need to finalize those yet.  So that should give my plenty of holiday projects, while still leaving enough time for other non-holiday projects, which seems like a good balance to me.  🙂

For the non-holiday projects it will be a mix of sewing, knitting, gardening and preserving (like usual).

For sewing, I’m still determined to make myself some sleeveless button down shirts this summer.  Since we’re in the hottest part of summer I should get on that…  I have the fabric and everything  ready to go after all.  And there are plans for shirts for Patrick.  Again the fabric is out and waiting, so I just need to get started.  I also have some pretty fall fabric to make a new pillow cover (awesome though my Halloween cats are, it’s a little weird to start using them in September…).  And in other required sewing there are two work shirts and a skirt waiting for me.  And in fun sewing I’m hoping to make a wool Anna dress for wearing this winter.  I think the Anna dress is probably my go to pattern now.  It’s pretty, comfortable, and is very easy to add pockets to (yay insulin pump storage!).  I’ll probably need to line a wool dress which is a consideration…but the pattern itself is pretty straightforward so I should be able to manage this.  And I have two pieces of nice wool fabric waiting to be used.  Oh, and I need to make my second pair of winter PJs.  For those I’ll need to track down some fabric though.

So upcoming sewing includes:

  • Summer tank tops (B5526, have seersucker fabric already)
  • Patrick work shirts (Kwik Sew pattern, have shirting fabric already)
  • Pillow cover (envelope style, have fall fabric already)
  • My work shirts (B5526, have shirting fabric already)
  • My work skirts (self drafted, have wool suiting and rayon lining already)
  • Wool dresses (Anna, have wool fabric, need to consider lining options…)
  • Winter PJs (KW3553 + Tofinio, need to find some flannel)

Knitting is less decided.  I have the Christmas socks, which will be my commuter pattern for the foreseeable future.  But I just finished my holiday cardigan, so I need to decide if a shawl or a sweater is up next.   On the one hand, a shawl is easier to knit in summer since it’s not bulky (hot humid summers around here…) on the other hand, sweaters have lots of stockinette which is relaxing and I have several sweaters worth of yarn that needs to get used up.  We’ll see.  It’ll probably be either a grey tweed Rook sweater or a very dark navy lace shawl.

So knitting is:

  • Commuter project – Christmas socks and more Christmas socks
  • Home project – Rook sweater or navy shawl

And then there’s gardening/preserving.  We’re headed into the end of July, which is always when my gardening challenges show up.  I’ve decided though that as long as my garden gives my enough for fresh eating I’m not going to get worked up about it.  I’ve had the usual squash casualties (some from vine borers, some from what seems like some sort of squash disease).  But my back up zucchini’s are just getting going and look healthy and I’m probably going to get at least some winter squash.  Maybe I’ll pull the rest and plant some more beans or something over there this weekend.

My tomatoes are making tomatoes, but the slicers just can’t overcome the tree shade (I didn’t realize that corner got as much shade as it does).  So far I’m getting enough for fresh eating though, so we’ll see how it goes.  And there’s always the farmer’s market if they fail, and the pick your own place for canning.

 

I do have some canning I want to do yet this year though, and some more dehydrating too.

  • Can peach jam and peaches
  • Can raspberry jam
  • Can pears
  • Can pickles
  • Can salsa
  • Can tomatoes
  • Can applesauce and apple butter
  • Dry herbs (oregano, mint, catnip, sage)
  • Dry cherry tomatoes

I’m also going to try making sauerkraut this weekend.  I’m excited about this one since it’s tough to find good sauerkraut around here and if I get good at it, hopefully I’ll be able to do a big batch and can it later.  (Though I’ll have to convince Patrick to let me ferment 25 lb of cabbage…)

Oh, and one more fun garden thing.  We aren’t the only ones who have been enjoying the garden (see below).  The cats are also super pleased about our visitors.

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May Day

Welcome to May! It’s a nice feeling, very much spring, and not quite summer yet. It’s also an excellent time of the year for projects.  Just being outside feels nice, whether it’s working in the garden, knitting outside with a good book in the sun or sewing and enjoying a breeze through the window.  It makes working on things very pleasant.

Which is good since I’ve got a long list of projects to work on!  The biggest one of course is planting the garden.  We are now officially past the last frost date (50/50 day is April 16, 90/10 day is April 29) so it’s time to get all the plants outside.  This even includes the eggplant and basil seedlings since it’s supposed to stay above 50 degrees for the next 10 days.  By the end of next week we’re even looking at highs in the 80’s and lows in the 60’s so I should enjoy the feeling of spring while it lasts.

As such, everything is going out this weekend: tomatoes and peppers (the important producers!), the ground cherry (experiment year 2!), basil (purple and green pesto this year!), zinnias (since direct seeding was hard…), eggplants (the new experiment!) and lots of seeds (bush and pole beans, zucchini, acorn squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash, cucumbers, corn and maybe some nasturtiums).  So that’s going to be my morning tomorrow.  In all likelihood Patrick will wake up and everything will be planted.  Hopefully it all goes well, I’ve been trying very hard to do everything properly and not put in more than I can handle.

I will have to wait and see how it turns out in a couple weeks when things start to get going.

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I also have some sewing and knitting projects to sort out.  I just finished my first set of spring/fall PJs.  I used a combination of KwikSew 3553 for the top and Sewaholic’s Tofinos for the bottom (short sleeves and long pants).  I’m really happy with how they turned out.  The advantage of PJs is you can use cute prints that you wouldn’t be able to get away with wearing outside the house.  The next set will be with the same patterns but using a little blue with small white flowers.

After I finish my second set of PJs I need to decide how I’m going to use all the seersucker I ordered this spring.  Kaufman had a really awesome set of seersucker plaids in bright colors, so I ordered as much as I could find since most seersucker seems to only come in pastels for some reason.  I’m planning to use it for a dress and some shirts for me and Patrick this summer.  It’s hard to beat seersucker for staying cool and it doesn’t matter if it gets wrinkled since it starts out that way!  These should all be patterns I’ve used before so sewing them should be straightforward, even if shirts are more complex.  And I like sewing shirts (despite all the buttonholes…) and dresses.  I should also finish sewing up the second black wool skirt for work.  I’ve got the lining done, I just need to cut out and sew the wool pieces.  I should also make up the couple of shirts for work that I have fabric waiting for.  But work clothes aren’t half as fun as summer clothes.

I’m not sure why it’s so fun to sew summer things, but it is.  Maybe because the fabric is light and airy and feels wonderful?

Speaking of summer sewing, I also should probably get around to figuring out how to edit my shorts pattern.  I’ve been using the Thurlow pattern from Sewaholic which is comfortable, but I don’t think the flair on the shorts works well on me. So I need to figure out if I want to edit the pattern or try a new one…  I’m thinking about trying Kwik Sew 3614 (despite the terrible picture) they’re described as “fitted shorts” which might work for me.    I will have to find a copy though.  It’s out of stock at the JoAnn’s and on Amazon.  Maybe I’ll have better luck at G-Street.  Even if it means going to G-Street. .. 🙁    This area has a class problem in some places that if they don’t think you’re “fancy” enough they’re going to ruin your day.  G-Street is one of those places, and as an engineer who lives frugally because it seems prudent, and who sews her own clothes because it’s practical and fun, I’m very much not what they think of as fancy.  Though when I buy the nice wool suiting (yay designer lengths on sale!) and know to get the good lining fabric they will at least be polite.  Maybe I can get my invisible zipper foot while I’m at it.  The fact that Bernina will only sell feet for their machines through their dealers and the fact that the only local dealer (G-Street) is both rude and is always out of stock of half of them is not a good time.  Oh!  I could bike there on my day off when it’s nice out, that makes it more appealing!  Then I’ll have my zipper foot, my pattern and maybe something cool from the remnant pile.  We’ll see…

I also have to decide what I want to knit next.  I finished my cropped cardigan so I need another big project.  My “Summer Flies” shawl is my current portable project.  I have a couple of sweaters in my queue and  I want to make my father-in-law more socks at some point.  Or I could start working on my vest again…hm… It’ll probably be the vest or the socks, spring is to new for me to want to think about sweaters right now!

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Sewing Plans for Fabric and Patterns

The last list of plans is for sewing.  Now sewing is a little harder to plot out than gardening or knitting.  Part of this is the fact that I always have a hard time finding the fabric I want and then picking one.  Yarn is more straightforward!  (Not easy either, but at least easier than fabric.)  This year’s sewing is probably going to be more relaxed than last year’s.  I have a good baseline of clothes now so it will be less of a giant rush.  So I have two goals, first I’m not going to rush and second I’m going to make the things I really want rather than trying to sew in bulk.  In terms of not sewing in a rush, this means that if I make a mistake I’m going to rip out the seam and do it again; even if it would look “mostly ok”.  I’ve found that when I’m sewing I want to move on and do the next step, but if I leave in all the cludges I’m not happy with the end result, and I will feel a little sad when I wear it since it’s almost exactly what I want.

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Summer Dress – I like making a new summer dress every spring. I don’t know what it’ll be yet, expect it will be in a bright print and probably the Anna Dress.  I have several blue dresses so I think a nice red one would be fun, but it’ll all depend on what I find.  Picking out prints is really hard…  Sometimes though I find an amazing one randomly though.  That was the source of last year’s summer dress.

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Winter skirts – I’m working on these now.  There’s no pattern picture since I’m using a self drafted pattern.  I wanted an A-line skirt with some, but not too much, of a flair at the bottom.  Previously I’ve used a gored skirt pattern (B1314) but it comes out looking kind of frumpy.  This might be because gored skirts are targeted at women of a certain age in stores and it doesn’t look ‘modern’ either.  While I love having kind of a vintage look to my casual dresses and outfits, it’s not a good fit for work which is often very formal.  (until very recently the dress code was suites every day)  So the expected look is well cut pencil skirts or trousers.  Having a small waist and wide hips a pencil skirt hits at my widest point and then goes straight down which looks awful and wide leg trousers have a very similar problem.

So, how to have a ‘modern’ formal style that also works for a pear/curvy shape?  The answer that works best for me is A-line with a gentle flair and a curved waistband.  The curved waistband is important since modern skirts often sit a little below your natural waist and if you’re curvy there’s a definite angle at that that point on your body.  The curved waistband means that your waistband will follow that angle rather than sticking out and leaving an awkward gap.

Also by having an A-line skirt with seams at the sides, you have a smooth front on the skirt that’s visually similar to a pencil skirt (and is easier and faster to sew, a major plus for lined formal skirts!) but with a shape that emphasizes the waist and awesome curves.  Since these are incredibly rare as ready made skirts I ended up looking up some historical photos (1940s) as examples.  My skirts end up being similar to the pictures above.

I’m planning to make them out of wool suiting (at least two at standard weight and two at tropical weight).  I’d like to do at least two in black, one in dark grey and maybe one in tan if I can find a good color.  I will line them with rayon in a matching shade.

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Summer PJs – These will be a second set, the same as 2014’s summer ones (Kwik Sew 3553 for the top and Tofino’s for the bottoms) in bright colored cotton prints.  I have one pair in a dark teal/green. So I think I’d like a second pair in blue.  Or maybe navy with a small red pattern.  I don’t usually add the piping or the bow to mine (the elastic is enough).  It’s worth doing the combination since the Tofinio’s have a better fit than the basic pants pattern that comes with K3553.

And as for why bother?  Sure, PJs can be any random T-shirt and pair of exercise shorts or lounge pants, but these look good and I don’t feel awkward wandering around in them in the morning before I take my shower and get dressed.  Also they’re more comfortable.  Made in a light cotton woven fabric they’re loose and breathe well which makes them cool and comfortable for summer.

Fall/Spring PJs – These will be the same patterns as the summer ones (Kwik Sew 3553 for the top and Tofino’s for the bottoms) probably with long sleeves (or short sleeves and long pants…) and in cotton prints, probably one set with green and flowers and one set in reds.

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Winter Robe – This is going to be a standard robe for wearing around the house first thing in the morning when it’s cold. I’m planning to make this out of dark green polar fleece using Simplicity 1562.  If I could find something a little more stylish that would be awesome, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen so I guess I’ll aim for warm and comfortable.

 

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Work Shirts – This will be Butterick 5526, the test version went really well, so next up are versions using fancy shirting. I have a nice silver and grey plaid as well as a french blue with a subtle pattern.

 

Holiday Dress – This might be a Hawthorne or maybe the Anna Dress or maybe the Snowball Dress or B6089. It will be in a dark navy wool plaid with light blue and lavender lines. I want a proper awesome holiday dress that I can wear with my holiday shawl or cardigan, so this will be it. Whatever it ends up being, I’d like it to have a full skirt and either a shirt collar type bodice or a boat neck. We’ll see…

 

There will also probably be things for Patrick too, as he requests them. These are most likely to be work shirts and pants, maybe some t-shirts or shorts. I’d also like to make a second set of flannel sheets and some pillowcases to match.

Crafting for a New Year

So, 2015 has started.  That means it’s time to make plans for what to make.  These are largely projects that fill a practical need, but also include things that are just for fun.  In particular I’ve got a couple things to work on, stuff I want to make, stuff I want to learn, and stuff I want to do.

Strawberry Jam  So, things to make.

  1. Clothing – Last year I worked on learning how to make basic clothing, either with sewing or knitting. This year I want to take that a step further and see if I can make clothing that meets or exceeds the standards of decent ready-to-wear.  This will mean working more slowly and carefully.  In terms of kinds of projects, this will likely be professional wear, dresses, sweaters and maybe some socks.
  2. Menswear – Another project last year was finding decent options for P.  There are surprisingly few patterns for men, so this year I’m planning to expand my collection of self-drafted men’s patterns as well as make some new clothes for P.  This will probably be professional wear again, with some casual shirts for fun.
  3. Household items – Time to make some useful things like flannel sheets, pillow cases and insulated curtains (what can I say, it may not be as cold here, but it’s damp all winter and that may actually be worse!).  There aren’t a lot of good instructions for these, so I think they’ll also make fun posts.
  4. Food – 2014 saw my first real attempts at canning and preserving, so this year it’s time to build on that!  This means making more jams, pickles, frozen veggies and seeing if I can put up some actual tomatoes this year! I’d also like to improve on keeping up with the make-ahead dinner options.

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Next up, things to learn.

  1. Knitting Machine – It’s sitting in the living room in all it’s needs-to-be-oiled glory.  The circa-1957 instructions are pretty limited, so some experimentation needs to happen.  I want to learn to use it, maintain it and develop patterns for it.
  2. Plant propagation – Growing plants is awesome, having the means to generate more plants yourself for free is even more awesome. I want to learn to take cuttings from roses and save seeds.  I’ve got some pumpkin seeds from last year’s surprise pumpkins, so I will call that the first step!
  3. New Recipes – I want to learn to make desserts and new types of bread, so this will take some experimentation.  If I’m lucky though given that it’s bread and desserts, hopefully even the failures will be worth trying.
  4. Pressure canning – I’ve got a good start on water bath canning, so next is pressure canning.  I want to learn how to care for my pressure cooker and how to use it safely.

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And finally, things to do.

  1. See more of the world – Making things, even practical things, is still a creative effort.  Getting out to see and do things like great music and the beauty of nature is necessary to fuel the ability to make.  So more of that!
  2. Share knowledge – I’ve learned a lot, and hope to continue that, so now it’s time to share that.  With any luck this blog will help with that.
  3. Work for myself – A lot of my crafts are practical, and I use them at home or for my family.  It’s a way of using my efforts to make our lives better, happier or just get a little closer to our goals.  I’d like to see if I can build on that.
  4. Grow things – I’ve got a couple gardens under my belt, so I’d like to see if I can make this year a garden I’m proud of from March to November.

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