Practical projects and crafts

Month: July 2015

Christmas in July


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.


Pickle Season!


We now have our first batch of pickles!  These are fridge pickles using my Grandma’s recipe.  They’re some of the best, and they usually last about 3 months in the fridge (if we don’t eat them all before then).  This time I made them with one pickle from our garden and some others from the farmer’s market.  I had one really early cucumber, so I needed to supplement from the farmer’s market….

They’ll be ready to eat tomorrow!


Cicadas and Summer

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I heard cicadas this week, so it must be officially summer. It’s also July so that makes a certain amount of sense!

There are other signs of summer, the corn has tassels forming, the potatoes are dying back and we just pulled up a huge amount of garlic. There were even nice big heads on most of them (a few got shaded out by other important plants like catnip…). I’ve even been able to pick a couple of tiny tomatoes.

We still have some semi-bolted lettuce, and it seems like the beans might be slowing down so I may need to plant a new round of those soon… I did get two gallons of them (measured in gallon freezer bags) plus some meals, so overall I think my little section of the garden did well. Especially since cut worms got all the pole beans again…

I’m also drying some herbs (catnip, oregano, sage and mint), so hopefully that will work out this year too. Last year was just too wet and nothing would dry.

This weekend I’m going to cover the tomatoes to keep the mocking birds out. I’ve read that they only go for tomatoes if there’s no water around, but we’ve had tons of rain, and I have a full bird bath, and they still got one. So it’s time to get out the netting. I think being able to drape it over the cages will make it easier this year. And it will have a side benefit of not getting in my hair. Getting netting in your hair after you’ve been removing horn worms from tomatoes is hard to handle with dignity…

I’ve got flowers now too, which is awesome. The impatiens despite all the hassle of getting them going are beautiful and fill in the space at the base of the porch. They have expanded nicely, and I’ve got a few Morning Glories climbing above them too. The zinnias and cosmos are also getting going which is nice. And the pansies have held on surprisingly well given that I fell behind on dead-heading them a long time ago… And we have some Black Eyed Susan’s/rudbeckias too. And given the number of those I’ve seen around the neighborhood it looks like most of my neighbors also planted the little seed packets they got in the mail. I wonder if the realtor who sent them ever drove around to see all the flowers their ad resulted in? Either way, it’s pretty neat.

The white marigolds are sort of a mix, they look awesome when they’re blooming, but less so after they’re done when they get a bit messy. I think they’re actually part carnation, because they smell like carnations not marigolds. Maybe I’ll go back to the regular red and orange ones next year…

I’ve made some progress on summer crafts too. Patrick has new seersucker shirts and I have this year’s 4th of July dress. Maybe this weekend I’ll use my extra day to finish my sleeveless button down shirts (I’m taking advantage of leftover fabric from the earlier seersucker projects). That will leave only a couple of projects left on the list of planned projects for this year: a holiday dress, work shirts for me and a proper apron…

I also have some projects for Patrick too, but those come up as he requests them. At the moment, that’s mostly going to be work shirts (luckily I have the fabric already so that makes it easier). There may also be work pants in the future, but those are less fun to sew than the shirts, so I’m going to do the fun projects first!

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