Practical projects and crafts

Category: Knitting (Page 1 of 2)

A different world

So….

The last update was in 2019, and now it’s 2023. Still summer though! I guess summer makes sense for putting in a new post. There are (usually) fewer things to keep track of and worry about. And late summer also tends to be a transition time.

And wow, have there been a lot of changes between 2019 and now. Some were already in progress, some were surprises (I’m looking at you, the MANY world changing events of 2020…), but it is definitely, completely, absolutely, a whole new world. And not one I would have been able to predict. And the changes are likely to keep right on rolling! So in order to have my own sense of that, and what I’m doing and where I’m going and what I plan to do with and about all of this, writing updates on my blog seems like one good thing to add back to my life.

Of course the world of the Internet has changed too. So, how to format my blog, how much to let it connect (or not) to the outside world is an open question. But for now, it’s here, and I’m here, and having a place to talk that is mine is nice.

My projects are pretty similar by theme, though a lot of the details have changed!

For one I’m now back in the Upper Midwest instead of the Mid-Atlantic which is a big change, for another given my health constraints and the choices the world at large has made, I am basically at home all the time now, with all the pros and cons that entails, and only see my family in terms of in person stuff. At least I love my family a lot and my home is a place I love and it’s surrounded by trees, so that helps.

Gardening

It’s been a tough summer for gardening! First we had a cold wet spring and now we have a hot and super dry summer. Lots of soaker hoses have been deployed as a results. There are some happy spots though.

In the front ‘kitchen garden’ our slicing and cherry tomatoes are doing great! So that’s a big improvement! Next year I’m going to run a row of basil down the front of that bed. The lettuce and radishes kind of worked and kind of didn’t. Mostly because of the weather, and the wildfire smoke, and so on…. I am going to do some fall planting there though. Probably radishes and some cold weather greens.

And in front of the ‘kitchen garden’ (which is 3 3’x5′ raised beds) things are doing pretty good too. I planted a rugosa rose there last year and it’s growing! Also my tiny baby coneflowers have bloomed some, so hopefully they keep expanding! My herbs, the sage, lavender and our original chives plant (carried all the way from Maryland in the car!) are all looking good.

Some of the existing landscaping plants are having a tough time with the weather. I’m hoping to replace the ones that don’t like the weather with some native flowers and grasses: asters, coneflowers, rudbeckia, prairie blazing star for flowers and some native grasses. That’s a next year plan though…

The other goal is to make some space for the cold frames in front of the porch. I’m hoping to use the moveable cold frames there this fall/winter and then if it works well build permanent ones next spring/summer. I have to move some landscaping plants and probably add some compost to plant this fall (the soil is rock hard with the current weather). I want to see how long I can keep things like parsley and mustard greens and cold weather lettuce and carrots going in there.

The other garden on the opposite side of the porch is my garden. It has my rocking chair and a table and my bird feeder and a bird bath. It has most of our herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender, mint, tarragon, catnip, etc) and some coneflowers, grasses, coreopsis and a rose bush that was a present from P and the kids. It’s surrounded by my northern cherry bushes (romeo, juliet and jubilee) and some older lilac bushes.

Eventually I want it to be full of herbs, and flowers and native plants that birds like so it’s a sanctuary kind of place, for me and the birds.

I’m planning to make the space in front of it into a second garden for the more well behaved heat loving vegetables, specifically peppers and hopefully some salad ingredients (colorful lettuce, cucumber vines, etc). That will make an arc with longer narrower raised beds without sides (layers of sticks and leaves topped with compost). This will all be behind the deer fence!

And then around that will be a wide border of native flowers and grasses, this time a pollinator mix, which I think will look really cool.

The other bit in the front is a landscaping spot that buckthorn tried to consume and the deer have also tried to eat. It’s really shaded so the plan is to fence it and then plant deer resistant shade plants (ferns, spring plants, some grasses) and let them get established, plus some smaller trees like hazelnuts and witch hazel.

To the side is the two big apple trees, the baby apple and hazel nuts and the giant logs from my old tree (it came down when I was a teenager but it was huge and so it’s sort of like a log based art piece). I want to plant hazel nuts, wild strawberries and some fun plants there to make it a fun spot to be.

The back landscaping garden by the patio I’m hoping to add more flowers and berries (strawberries, blueberries, currants, cranberries, blackberries).

The orchard needs a few peach trees yet and some pollinator plants but it’s off to a good start now that the deer can’t ‘prune’ the trees.

The way back garden for the big vegetables is all in place but my plans got derailed by the smoke and the weather. It’s still producing good vegetables if not as many as I hoped though! I want this one to be surrounded by flowers (native and annuals) and have all the bulk vegetables (squash, asparagus, green beans, potatoes, canning tomatoes, etc.).

Sewing

Sewing has happened a little! H has her Christmas stocking. And I have fabric to make the kids fun shirts and me a dress and Christmas presents for H (a soft book and a blanket). Just have to find the time.

I did get the patterns for the shirts cut out at least and I’m using a favorite dress pattern so I’m inching towards actual sewing…

I really want to sew clothes again. Buying clothes is even worse than it used to be and I’d rather sew my own.

Knitting

Since knitting can happen while other things are going on and even when I’m tired (as long as the arthritis doesn’t get my fingers!) there’s been a decent amount of knitting!

I’ve got W’s sweater for this year all done and I’ve got a bunch done on small P’s too.

After I finish those I want to make hats and mittens for my parents, P and the kids for Christmas.

There’s also a pattern for a wool blanket with holiday color work patterns I really want to knit but I think I have more than enough to keep me busy. Someday!

I should also knit myself more sweaters, this is the Upper Midwest, sweaters are needed!

Food Preservation

So food preservation is a long term hobby and one that can be a challenge with three tiny people, but an increasingly useful and important one these days!

I’ve got pecans I ordered from a pecan farm in the freezer. Canning jars are pretty great for freezing dry stuff like nuts! And I found a place that sells buckwheat flour here too. It turns out fresh is pretty nice when it comes to buckwheat flour. Maybe I can grow my own someday…

We’ve also frozen our years supply of blueberries! All 70 qts of them (would have been 72 but have to save a few to eat fresh… ūüėÄ ).

Plus we got our 10 chickens from the farm north of us, probably should have gotten 15, but this year the chickens were small and last year they were huge. Next year we’ll get more, and maybe they’ll be huge and then I’ll have all the chicken I could ever want. ūüôā

Next up from the bulk farm order is beef and then the pig. Doing our meat buying this way has been nice (and beats the grocery prices overall!). Also it’s kind of terrifying how much meat (flavor, texture, all the rest) has changed since childhood, just wow. Going to be exciting figuring out how to fit a year’s supply in the freezer as the kids get bigger, but I like this method.

Oh and we froze peas, need to remember to count how many and write it down.

Corn is in progress (buy some fresh corn, cook some corn, cut off and freeze what we don’t eat with dinner).

Tomatoes will hopefully be canning. Lots and lots of canning. Probably from the farm (different farm, this one to the west of us) because between the cold spring and the super dry summer my paste tomatoes are alive and have produced but 50 lb of canning tomatoes it is not. At least the slicers and some of the cherry tomatoes in front are at least making nice fresh eating tomatoes! So that’s something!

We’re also going to buy a 50 lb sack of onions and one of potatoes. We’ve done that the last two years and it’s awesome. Doesn’t last us to the next year on potatoes but it came really close on onions! Garlic is producing super nicely so I’m really hopefully we’ll have plenty of our own garlic. Some is getting run through the dehydrator (it’s mostly hardneck so only lasts so long) and some is getting replanted (got to adapt our own types ūüôā ). But there’s still a lot. Plus all the occasional missed ones that will come up next year. I think my onion production this year also falls under “fresh eating”. Sigh.

I’m also hoping to bulk buy winter squash and stick it in the basement too. This will be a first try. Hopefully it works nice! (didn’t even plant my squash seeds this year it was so dry…)

Other than that, going to need to buy basil to freeze pesto. There’s some basil out there, but yeah, not much better than the tomato situation. The weather has not been great.

Oh, and apples, need to make applesauce, and then probably can it? The apple tree(s) have lots of apples, and there are a bunch orchards here. So probably some of each. We have 3 trees, 2 older ones and a baby tree. The older trees are a bit shaded so production varies… And the baby is a baby tree so no apples yet.

Writing/Reading

I really want to write again. This is more of a wish than a likely thing I can do right now given the number of other goals! I am reading again though and that is something that makes me happy. Being back where I have access to my favorite library helps! It’s a mix of science fiction, non-fiction and essays and things.

I’ve found a lot of great new books and learned some fun things so far.

My most recent books have been reading Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi and the Muderbot series by Martha Wells. Hard to go wrong with excellent science fiction. ūüôā

House Plans

And another example of things that are still on the list, house projects! We’ve made a lot of progress since moving, and this post-moving organizing has been faster and better than last time, which is a relief, but I’m still going to be glad when it’s done. Like last time, having a baby adds to the challenge, but being determined helps!

We’ve got most of the rooms set up now and the basement is almost all sorted out which is nice. Our next projects are setting up the little lean to greenhouse and making a shelf in the living room for books and movies (because all rooms should have shelves of books and fun things!).

It’s neat living in the house I grew up in. It’s layers of home, home from when I was small, home now with my family, it’s a good feeling.

Holiday Plans

The first holiday to work on right now is Halloween costumes. H will be a witch, W will be a ninja and P will be a Frankenstein monster. H has a little black dress and I’m making her a purple felt hat. W has a black sweatshirt and sweatpants and a purple silk scarf and I’m making him a bandoleer for ninja swords we can make out of tinfoil. P has a green PJ shirt and pants and bigger shorts and jacket to wear over them. And I’m making him a green hat with black ‘hair’ for his Frankenstein outfit.

We are going to knock on our neighbor’s door for trick-or-treat, plus do our Great Pumpkin scavenger hunt and visit their grandparents. Which is hopefully the right balance for Halloween.

Thanksgiving we’re going to have a week of family time. We’re going to cook a bunch of food on Wednesday, some for us and some to share. Then we’ll have Thanksgiving with my parents and then we’ll have our own Leftover Party on Friday with movies and board games and lots of food too. (And of course Die Hard 2 after the kids are asleep… ūüôā )

And I have plans for Christmas, this year’s goals are a trip to a Christmas tree farm (I’m going to find us a new one this year!) and a night time drive to look at the lights. And decorating together and lots of stories to read. The kids will make cookies with their grandparents (sometimes not being able to be around sugar and flour courtesy of the autoimmune things is really hard). And maybe we can make me safe cookies too. I’m hoping for making stollen I can have too, fingers crossed.

I have things to sew for Christmas for Helen, I want to make her quilt and soft book.

I like fall and winter holidays. There are lots of good ones to plan for.

There, that’s a list of fun things to work on and look forward to.

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 Weather Means Projects

Well, it’s been a week or two, so there’s been a lot of projects going on. The biggest ones are the garden projects but there’s been some knitting and sewing too.

For the garden there are the usual summer challenges related to living here (squash vine borers, cucumber beetles, etc.). If it eats vegetable plants it lives here. So the zucchini met its demise once again and the cucumbers have had a tough time, but it’s something to learn from for next year. Next time I’m going to plant the zucchini and then just pull the plant before the vine borers get going (end of June) which should be enough time to get some zucchini at least. And I’m going to plant County Fair cucumbers next year which will hopefully stand up to the beetles better (this year I tried ones the beetles aren’t supposed to like, turns out our beetles think they’re great).

Despite the challenges we’re getting lots of beans and peppers. I canned 18 pints of hot peppers. I would have also gotten 3 more quarts of pickles but my jars broke. I’m not sure if the cucumbers cooled them down too much or if they were old. It was definitely disappointing though. Still, 18 pints of hot peppers is pretty good!

We’ve also gotten a bunch of eggplants and it looks like we’re going to be getting some squash with any luck (I also planted mini-butternut squash and crookneck squash since the vine borers have a tough time with those). And maybe even some mini-pumpkins for the tiny Patrick…

It’s also time for switching over another section of the garden. I’m going to clear out the New Zealand spinach and switch it over to fall plants (scallions and beets to start, then more carrots, lettuce, radishes and mizuna). I wasn’t a fan of the New Zealand spinach, it looks like a weed to me and the fact that it’s a succulent is just weird. So the plan for next year is bush beans instead.

There should also be more cherry tomatoes and beans to pick this weekend, which should be fun.

I’m hoping to make a Christmas stocking for the tiny Patrick this weekend and maybe make some progress on his play mat. ¬†I’ve got it assembled, I just need to make some binding tape. ¬†I didn’t get any extra fabric for that so I’m going to look through the fabric I’ve got and see if I find anything I like.

And there’s knitting too. ¬†I’m up to the sleeves on the tiny Patrick’s sweater so I’d like to see if I can finish it so I can start his next sweater. ¬†I have my yarn for his Campfire sweater and for the Waffle blanket. ¬†I think I might save the blanket for when the weather cools off a little though…

I think I’m also going to have to knit a new hat, or maybe pull out the yarn and re-knit it? ¬†I was comparing pictures of my replacement hat to pictures of the original and while the original was shaped mostly like a square the replacement is more like a triangle, which is probably why it doesn’t stay on… ¬†Of course if I rip it out and redo it I may be without a hat if I’m not prompt about knitting a replacement… I’ll have to think about it.

Oh and I want to make bread this weekend.  Home made bread is always the best kind.

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

Cicadas, Heat and Long Summer Evenings

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Technically the longest day of the year is the first day of summer, but to me it’s evenings in August when the air is hot and sticky and summer has been here long enough everyone feels laid back and the main sound in the evening is the buzz of the cicadas that feel like long summer evenings.¬† Soon it will be fall, but it still feels like the middle of summer.¬† This may be because of the nice hot humid weather we get here though….

I’m happy to say some craft projects have made pretty good progress this month.¬† Not fast progress, but I figure any progress counts since there’s a tiny person who gets most of the time right now.

My hat is actually getting close to done.¬† I have a little more than one repeat of the pattern to do and then I just need to do the decreases, which generally goes pretty fast.¬† So that’s a happy thing.¬† I’m looking forward to having my hat back!¬† And this time I’m going to try really hard not to lose it!¬† I haven’t lost many hats/scarves/mittens and I always feel bad when it happens.¬† I think before I lost this hat, the last thing I lost was my favorite scarf in college.¬† I worked evenings at one of the libraries, and I set my scarf down in the restroom when I was getting ready to go home.¬† I realized it a few minutes later and went back to get it, but it was already gone…¬† I guess I just hope someone ended up using my scarf and my hat and enjoying them.

I also made progress on my skirts for work.¬† These are the knit skirts using Butterick B3134 (assorted gored skirts in woven fabric). My theory was that I could make it in knit fabric which would be easier (no zipper, no finishing, no lining, no ironing!) and would be more forgiving since my body is still changing size/shape.¬† It turns out I was right.¬† The only issue was that I forgot I should take it in more to account for the zipper, but that was easy to fix before I put the waistband on.¬† I also added elastic to the waistband to make it more stable (I didn’t bother with interfacing).¬† I started with the black fabric since I had enough for two skirts in case my first attempt needed a lot of rethinking, but it turned out great.¬† All I have left to do is hem it!¬† I just need to decide if I’m doing a twin needle hem or a zigzag blind hem.

If I finish these, maybe I can make some of my dresses, or the little winter hood or the fabric wreath… there are always more projects, but that’s part of the fun.

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…

On we go

So my projects are making progress in various ways. I’ve made progress on my knitting, the garden (luckily!) is making progress with little intervention and I’ve gotten to try some new cooking adventures out too.

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Ta Da!¬† Actual knitting progress!¬† Knitting (while not very fast) has been very useful with my new sleep schedule.¬† It’s a lot harder to space out and start to fall asleep if your hands are busy.¬† And since I’m into the cable pattern now, it’s really obvious if I’m not focused enough!¬† I want to start my Beatnik sweater too, but I think I’m going to stick to finishing my hat first.¬† For one, this gives me the chance to get used to knitting again after a few months off; and for another I want my hat back!¬† I don’t really need a fuzzy hat in July, but if I don’t stick with it, I won’t have one when it starts to get cold again so there are good reasons for sticking with it.¬† Speaking of hats, maybe I should make a hat as a Christmas present for my brother-in-law this year.¬† He likes to critique the hat I made him a few years ago…which in my defense was an early knitting project…giving him a newer fancier one would require him to up his game in terms of critiques, which would be fun.¬† We’ll see though since I don’t think I’ll be doing any projects quickly this year.¬† If not this year, maybe next year.

Things are actually looking pretty good in the garden.¬† There’s plenty of lettuce and radishes out there and there’s a bunch of beans that should get picked.¬† Also, the mystery squash hasn’t been killed off yet by squash vine borers!¬† It even looks like we’re going to get tomatoes this year and the peppers have recovered pretty well from the insanely cold/wet May we had.¬† I haven’t checked the cucumbers recently, but they were alive and trying to make cucumbers last time I looked, so I consider that doing well.¬† The potatoes look a little sad, but that’s because they’d like to be watered more, and well, there’s a lot to do right now.¬† Still, all things considered I think it’s doing petty well.¬† And since the goal was “whatever we get, if anything, is awesome” I consider things a success so far!

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The new cooking adventure is our shiny new crock pot.¬† Our old crock pot which was an older one from family no longer maintains high enough temperatures (which is a problem!) so it was time to get a new one.¬† After a lot of research we picked this one since it’s bigger (6 qts!) it’s oval (yay meat cooking!) and it’s programmable (not burning the house down!).¬† As for why we’re interested, the hope is that with the crock pot we can prepare a meal early in the day when we have a little more time and then there’s no rushing around in the evening when we’re tired and trying to get things done so we can get as much sleep as possible.¬† The other idea is making a nice big meal that produces lots of useful leftovers and doesn’t generate a lot of dirty dishes to deal with.¬† And since the lid and stoneware insert go in the dishwasher… there are some definite benefits.

So last night was it’s maiden voyage/cooking attempt.¬† I think it did well, everything fit in there, it cooked it well, the timer worked, it was easy to clean, etc.¬† Our first attempt was a nice simple pot roast (I was tempted to do the fancy recipe, but since this was our first try with this crock pot and since things are busy I went with the straightforward one).¬† I think next week I’ll try the beef and dumplings recipe I have.

So, all in all, that’s a nice bit of progress on my projects I think!

Welcome to Autumn

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We may actually get a rainy day today!¬† Well, so far it’s pretty dry, just a few sprinkles, but the weather has promised us rain…¬† I made sure to water the garden this morning to encourage it!¬† It’s been about two months since we’ve had any real rain, so it would be really nice if it managed it.¬† I’ve got a bunch of fall veggies in the garden now (broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnips) and they would enjoy some more rain.¬† It’s funny, you’d think the harvesting part of gardening would be the easy fun part, but it can also be a challenge.¬† I’ve picked the peppers, eggplants and zucchini, but it’s tough. ¬†Sadly that’s it for this year’s zucchini, it will be replaced by lettuce and carrots. ¬†Overall though gardening has gone pretty well this year. ¬†Next year I’m going to actually manage some squash though!

We got plums and apples from my father-in-law’s trees when we went up to visit him, so there¬†is now lots of applesauce (15 quarts) and lots of plum jam (9 half-pints). ¬†I’m really happy to have some more fruit stored for this winter! ¬†It also makes me really look forward to when we have fruit trees of our own since the fruit we brought back was only a tiny part of what the trees were producing. ¬†Someday! ¬†(I have plans for two apple trees, a pear tree, a peach tree and a cherry tree, maybe plums or figs if I get ambitious).

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We also canned a whole bunch of pickled hot peppers (10 pints of jalapenos and wax peppers) too. ¬†It’s awesome to go down and see our awesome stockpile in the basement. It really brings home how effective the garden can be. ¬†We’ve got a lot of food in the basement now, and if we’re smart in planning our meals it will have a pretty awesome influence on the grocery budget. ¬†I could do a lot of math to try and figure out my exact return on investment, but for me, my gardening spending comes out of money I’ve allocated for personal stuff/hobbies, so the vegetables are effectively ‘free’.

For those who wonder what the actual cost would be and whether gardening is secretly super expensive it’s about $5 for a ‘market pack’of 6 plants at the local nursery or about $5 annually to grow about 10 plants from seed (assuming you have the equipment, buy nice pre-made potting soil and buy nice¬†seeds). ¬†At that point (assuming your garden is made up) just put the plants in the ground and you’re set. ¬†There are some start up costs for gardening, but you can get good results with pretty minimal annual costs. ¬†Of course there is a steep learning curve like sewing. ¬†And making mistakes means losing plants and starting over or trying something else, but this year I feel like I’m finally starting to get it. ¬†Also even in a bad year, your plants generally still produce a little (even my poor squash…*sigh*) and that return is enough to offset the minimal annual costs. ¬†And when you win? ¬†You have at minimum a year’s supply of that food, which is amazing and awesome.

Of course you’re paying for that with time, but at least for me gardening is something I enjoy, so it’s worthwhile. ¬†Like sewing and knitting!

Speaking of which, I have sewing and knitting projects to work on too. ¬†Since the season has definitely started ¬†to change I’m sewing some new clothes for work (some shirts for me and Patrick and a new skirt too) and I made some fall decorations for fun. ¬†I’m also knitting a new winter sweater. ¬†Having unpacked my fall/winter clothes, I’ve been doing really well and knitting sweaters and cardigans. ¬†It’s nice to know this winter will be warm!

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Weather Surprises

So last week it felt like summer and this week it feels like winter again. ¬†Well, it’s a lot warmer than that, but after last week it¬†feels cold. ¬†I got out my summer dresses (and even got to wear my new Anna Dress that I finished this spring!) and now we’re back to night temperatures in the upper 30s. ¬†The worst part is I need to bring in all my seedlings every night. ¬†Since there are six trays of them plus the three big ones in pots, this is an adventure. ¬†The forecasters are saying this will continue through next week too, so there’s no chance I’m going to get to plant anything early. ¬†I’ll just have to look at pictures of the garden from last summer to console myself…

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If I’m lucky though things will warm up next weekend and I’ll be able to plant almost everything the first weekend in May (not this weekend, but next weekend). ¬†I think the tomatoes, marigolds, impatiens, zinnias, ground cherry and probably the peppers will go out next weekend. ¬†The eggplants and the basil are going to have to wait until the week after. ¬†I can still plant a lot of the seeds though, I’m looking forward to planting the beans, squash, corn and cucumbers! ¬†They’ve got nice big seeds so they’re easy to plant generally.

Having all the plants being¬†almost ready to go out makes things feel half finished to me, and I have a hard time leaving things as only ‘almost’ finished. ¬†Therefore it’s really tempting to just stick them all in the ground! ¬†Maybe I’ll cheat a little and plant the marigolds and impatiens this weekend since based on the forecast they’re going to stay out overnight ever night for the next week (starting Saturday night) anyway. ¬†I think I’m going to start hardening off the basil and eggplants this weekend too. ¬†They can’t get planted until the second weekend in May in all likelihood, but at least getting them out of the basement during the day will really cut down on the gnats! ¬†(I will never ever be getting the Miracle Grow seed starting soil again,¬†ever!)

At least since it’s cold it should be easier to focus on sewing and knitting, so I have plenty of indoor distractions. ¬†I’m almost done with my cropped cardigan, and I’ve just stared my “Summer Flies” shawl. ¬†And I have my spring sailboat PJs all cut out and ready to sew together (I even have buttons and remembered to cut out the interfacing! ¬†I’m extra prepared this time!)

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