I got this little circle-making attachment in an after-holiday sale at A-1 Sewing, our local Husqvarna Viking store, and I’ve been trying to get some projects going, so I can make use of it.
First off, I used it to decorate some window coverings for a superadobe building. (If you want to see more about this particular building, go to this PlenitudPR website under the heading “Bio-construction.”)
You may see this photo and think, “But that looks like a pillow, not a curtain!” True! The proprietors (who happen to be very dear to us) mentioned that their superadobe house could sure use some window coverings, that the windows to be covered were like portholes, about 12 inches in diameter and some were more oval-shaped than round.
They were currently using pillows to stuff in the windows. We came up with some options that did not work, then a few that were more useable.
This was the first attempt: it looked like a big circular potholder. I used white blackout fabric for one side, batting in the middle, and fabric on the other side, and edged it with double-fold bias binding, with a little strap for pulling it out. Unfortunately, you can see here that it was not quite big enough to plug the hole.
For the second attempt, I tried out a new design, sketched here:
The diameter was increased to about 26 inches, the center circle was padded and sewn around, and the outer circle was supposed to slide into the cylinder of the wall thickness to be held in place. But again, this design didn’t work well, although they were able to fold it a certain way to keep it from falling out, so it was somewhat useable, see it in the next pics:
The third attempt included the brown dragonfly “pillow” shape shown above. Since they were already using pillows, and that worked…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? I increased the diameter to about 16 inches and added a lot more fleece padding. Since the diameter was larger than was usable for the circle-making gizmo (maximum diameter for that is 10 inches), I did snap it on anyway and sew some circular designs in the centers of the covers, to quilt the fabric and batting layers together in the middle. The attachment comes with templates to make circles, 4-petal flower shapes, or 6-petal flower shapes.
And I should be glad to mention that PlenitudPR is an organization that teaches and promotes sustainable living, so we kept that in mind and used fabric remnants for our window covers, and thus kept those leftover pieces of fabric from potentially clogging the landfill.
It’s the day before Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Eve) and we decided to make a crafty Christmas present we’ve been wanting to make ever since Thanksgiving, when some of our grown children showed us how to do it and asked for dad’s help.
Natural-edge log tea-light candle holders were easy, earthy, and a breeze to make. We have a big pile of firewood out back, which probably won’t get burned any time soon since it’s been in the 70’s and 80’s this and the past few Decembers. And we have a pile of Yankee tea-light candles with delicious-sounding names like Christmas Thyme, Gingerbread Maple, and Christmas Cookie. I bought a bunch of them online for a friend’s son’s school band fundraiser, but you can also get a bag of tea-lights from the dollar rack at CVS pharmacy (although they may not smell as good!)
Skip explains all the steps we took to make a couple of these things, in the You-tube video:
They look good as single candle holders, completely natural with no embellishments, or grouped together and tied with a ribbon or raffia.
Thanks for all the interest and love this past year. We wish you a very happy holiday the next few weeks, and hope for the best for each of you in the coming new year.
In a previous post, I referred to the multitude of quilt tops I had ready for quilting.
Since I got the Qnique and Grace Frame, I may have quilted about 5 or 10 items. I hoped to have acquired expert status with this set up by now, but it hasn’t been like riding a bicycle. The brain and muscle memories haven’t automatically renewed every time I tried a new project. Each project has its own set of peculiarities!
Since most of the pile (seven of them) consisted of table runners, I thought maybe I could pin several of them up to the Grace Frame, and quilt them all at the same time, and see how it went.
This frame is supposed to accommodate fabric to make a king-size quilt. I was able to comfortably fit 5 of the 7 table runners across the width, with a little space in between each. The backing is pinned (with the right side facing down) onto the first (top, furthest back) leader cloth, and to the second (center) leader cloth. I have marked on each leader cloth a mid-point. Normally I would fold the fabric of the top, bottom, and batting in half and pin that half-way point to the mid-point on the corresponding leader cloths. To match up the mid-points on all these separate fronts and backs of the table runners, I just counted the marks on the top leader cloths and lined them up with the marks on the bottom leader cloths. I realized later, that not all of the table runners were the exact same length, so that was one major problem with this set up!
A while back I bought 2 big rolls of batting on sale, anticipating that I would be making a whole bunch of quilts. I use one of them most of the time, for the smaller baby quilts and lap quilts. I can position the roll on the floor in front of the frame, and just roll out the batting up onto the frame as I am rolling out the fabric to be quilted. The one end of the batting layer is pinned to the backing, and then the quilt top is pinned to those two layers, forming the quilt sandwich. I actually purchased a fourth rail for the Grace frame, onto which the batting roll can be wound. One of these days I will find that fourth rail and install it. The second of the two batting rolls is for larger-sized quilts. The batting is folded double, and then wound onto the cardboard roll. So it doesn’t conveniently unwind from the roll like the first one does. You have to unroll the estimated length of batting, cut it off, and then unfold the large section of batting in half, and pin it to the backing.
One thing I enjoy about the Qnique and Grace Frame set up is that pinning the fabric layers to the frame takes significantly less time than pinning the layers of a quilt for quilting on a home sewing machine. You pin the selvedge edge of the backing to Leader #1, then the opposite end to Leader #2, then roll it up on the rails, smoothing it out with your hands. No need for fifty-thousand pins with the little foam bobbers, or safety pins, or clips. However, in this case, since all the table runners were not the same length, and there were so many separate edges above and underneath the batting layer, a bit of mayhem ensued.
All five pieces were conjoined in the batting layer, as seen above. But when the ruler base attached to the throat plate of the Qnique slid across to continue quilting the top next to it, it sometimes slipped the backing layer of its neighbor (underneath the throat plate) out of alignment, which wasn’t easily seen from the top side. And because all the tops and bottoms were of slightly different dimensions, some of the backing layers had a bit of slack, which wasn’t easily seen from the top, and which resulted in a few big puckers.
DH (Skip) suggested that next time, I sew the edges of each runner together prior to quilting them on the frame. I don’t like that idea, because I feel that the seam ripper should be used for ripping out undesirable stitches that occur by accident, not on purpose. But, if I ever do 5 at a time again, it might be worth a try to see if sewing them together causes less shifting of layers.
After the quilting, and cutting out the separate runners, and truing up the edges, I found that I would need to rip and redo several areas of quilting, due to puckers, overlaps, and other unsightly mistakes. In a couple of spots, when I slid the Qnique over to the next runner, the hopping foot got entangled in the edge of the top fabric and had to be cut loose with scissors. Sheesh.
The worst shifting and puckering occurred in the inner three table runners. The outer two turned out with the least amount of rework needed, perhaps because the bungee clips which hold the fabric taut, are attached to the two outside runners. This is the reason for DH’s suggestion that all the lengthwise edges be seamed together for quilting, so that the tops and bottoms are one continuous piece of fabric during the quilting step. But I also feel that these errors can be chalked up to overall unfamiliarity with the process. Perhaps they could be prevented in the future by smoothing all the fabric pieces, exercising extreme vigilance of the under layer, and perhaps installing the fourth rail and rolling the batting on it, thereby keeping the batting layer more taut and uniformly stretched out during quilting.
Next pass, I pinned up the last two table runners to the frame. These, too, were of slightly different lengths, so one of them had some slack in it during the quilting step.
I pinned them up closer together, practically touching, but I didn’t sew the edges together. I ended up with a couple of minor puckers and overlaps. But the one with the pink backing, because of its additional length compared to the other one, had about a 5-inch space at the end that couldn’t be passed over with the machine, because its neighbor was already at the end of its quiltable area.
So this last little bit, as well as several areas on the previously mentioned runners that had to be picked out and re-quilted, were done on the Brother SC9500 with the free-motion hopping foot installed. BTW, that Brother is an awesome little machine, and very affordable!
I did manage to get all the quilts (3) and table runners (7) finished, reworked if necessary, and bound. Here are a few pics of the finished items.
The last one is not bound yet, because I couldn’t find anything in the stash right away that would make it “pop.” But the cats love it already. This is a slippery, satiny fabric that is possibly meant to represent snowy winter camouflage. For a backing, I used a silvery hologram-looking knit fabric. I love all of the camo remnants!
For the first time in many, many years, we decided to forgo getting a regular Christmas tree and make our own…out of wood.The reason became very clear as we watched our six month old kittens repeatedly try to climb an artificial plant in our TV room only to have it come crashing to the floor.Now, we have had cats forever and we have witnessed them denuding the Christmas tree one or two feet above the floor, drinking all the water out of the tree stand and pulling the tree skirt out from under the tree to make a nest.But this year we decided to surrender to the cats and make a cat proof tree, or as one of our sons calls it, a cat accommodating tree!
I acquired three 2’ x 4’ sheets of ½ inch Baltic plywood, and using scraps of wood and green deck screws, fastened the sheets together to form a 6’ x 4’ pallet for my wife to draw a Christmas tree. The plan was to construct a tree that could easily be disassembled once Christmas was over and to store the tree in the attic. I asked Jennifer to outline the tree and locate two large openings for shelves and two smaller openings to use for hanging cat play toys.When this was completed I took a jig saw and cut out the tree and large openings. I used an electric drill with a 4” diameter hole saw to cut out the smaller openings.
I painted the tree with forest green paint and took it inside for Jennifer to decorate the tree.We covered the dining room table with brown paper and it became our inside work bench for constructing the tree. Jennifer will tell you that our dining room table is my favorite work bench!!
While Jennifer added snow, popcorn, holly and beads, I began construction on the boxes that were to provide the support for the tree. The plan was to mount a 5” wide by 10” deep by 10” high box to the back of the tree at the center. Five inches of the box was left exposed from the front and would be decorated as the tree trunk.Two boxes 12”x 12” x 10” deep would be constructed and decorated as Christmas presents, these would be attached to the front of the tree on the left and right side of the trunk. This provided a very stable tripod arrangement to support the tree. These were fastened from the back of the tree using the same deck screws used throughout the build. The boxes were constructed using ½ inch Baltic plywood. I used a skill saw to cut out all the parts since my table saw was still occupied by the Boy Scout Eagle project we are working on (Adirondack chairs for a homeless shelter in town. Maybe a topic for another blog… how to build chairs with 10 boys 13 to 14 years old trying to use electric drills and sanders!)
Two 12” inch deep shelves were cut from the same ½ “ Baltic plywood. These had their front corners rounded off with the jig saw and painted red. Later these had a wooden strip attached to the bottom which provided a bracket for attaching the shelves to the tree.
The tree was moved to the TV room and placed in front of the fireplace. The backup plan for supporting the tree was to run a board between the tree and underside of the fireplace mantel.We then loaded the tops of the boxes and shelves with treats and hung two catnip toys in front of the small openings and sat back to see what happened. Our 16-year-old cat and the two kittens immediately put the tree to use. They climbed the front, the back and in between. The tree did not even shudder! Success!
Of course, after 30 minutes the newness wore off and they haven’t been near the tree again. However, my wife and I have felt stress-free! No broken glass Christmas decorations!No throw-up from the cats reacting to the chemicals added to the Christmas stand water to extend the life of the dying tree (only kidding about the chemicals). No urine stains on the Christmas tree skirt! No 50,000 pine needles all over the floor to clog up the vacuum! And I figure that if I get one of those tree shaped things you hang up in your car that are pine scented, we can even enjoy the smell of a real tree! Next, we might even add LED lights, battery-powered so we don’t duplicate the cat-atrophy I saw on the movie Christmas Lampoon!
As you may have seen from our previous post, we’ve gone all out for planting a raised-bed winter garden. In the prior blog entry, we go through the process of building the planters out of wood harvested from our own back yard and bolstered with our daughter-in-law’s no-longer-needed bed slats, and filling them with nutrient-building amended potting soil. We have great hopes that the planters will make it easier and better on us oldsters, to be able to maintain a home-grown garden. The planters are about waist-high, so we’re saying “no” to back-breaking shoveling, hoeing, and bending over to weed.
Today I picked out some winter veggies from our local Garden Center that are supposed to work for our growing season, although technically, I’m told the optimal time for planting the winter crop was last month. We will see if we can keep our little project going.
We have a couple of strawberry plants, various herbs, lettuce, arugula, broccoli, and a couple of different types of cabbage. We like greens, which would be an acceptable winter crop, but for me, lots of collards, turnip greens and kale are a dietary no-no (kidney stones).
Some sustainability experts say that it’s best that your garden is situated somewhere you’ll naturally see it and come in contact with it every day, like say, a spot you walk by on your way to go to work. These guys are out on the back patio, sort of hidden. If we open the blinds in the hall bathroom, we may be likely catch a glimpse of the planters if we happen to wander into that bathroom. Otherwise, it’s “out of sight, out of mind” for the garden. Maybe if we set the alarms on our cell phones each day to “go check out the garden” then our recent efforts won’t slide by the wayside. Sheesh! The ancestors had some valid motivations to tend to their gardens, such as “you want to eat some real food, don’t you?”
The weather report says we’re not supposed to have a freeze any time soon. About a week from today, it says, the temperature is supposed to go down to 35 F at night. The hay that we’re using for mulch will keep the moisture in the soil, and if it rains very hard, will prevent the dirt from splashing up onto the plants. Hopefully our shade cloth that is on order will get there by then so we can be ready to protect these little babies!
My wife and I have started gardens in the past with a moderate level of success.We have picked out a patch in our back yard, tilled the earth, worked in some potting soil and then after germinating some seeds, transplanted the seedlings and then watered and watched the bed to see what happened.We found that the bugs liked our tomatoes, but didn’t like our squash enough to pollinate the squash flowers. Our food production was minimal.And we hated having to bend over in the hot sun to tend the garden! So when I saw Jon Peters’ YouTube video on constructing a raised bed garden, I was inspired to build a couple of these beds for our future garden efforts.
Urban Lumbering and Photovoltaics
We were fairly true to Jon’s design with just a few variations.I’ll cover these variations in the following paragraphs but first, a few words on urban lumbering.About four years ago, I entered into a contract with my local utility company with what is called a feed-in-tariffagreement. Basically if I purchased a photovoltaic system for my house, the utility company would meter my power production and pay me $0.32/kWh for the next 20years. I received a 30% tax credit and was able to write off the cost of the system over four years. [I won’t go into the political ramifications of this program. I’ll save that for another rant on another blog.] So what has this got to do with urban lumbering? In order to maximize our solar exposure to the photovoltaic system, we had to cut down some red oak trees and some pine trees. Since I am a woodworker and a wood hoarder, I couldn’t bring myself to the decision of cutting down these trees and having them hauled off to the local wood-burning power plant.So I called Lumber by Lance and Phil the Tree Guy and had them come to my house and turn these trees into beautiful stickered piles of lumber.I watched as 4/4, 6/4 and 8/4 slabs of beautiful heart pine and quarter-sawn oak fell off the portable saw mill.
This project was perfectly timed, since one of my wood piles had air-dried for four years. We decided to not plane or joint any of the wood since, for this project, it was going to be used to hold a bunch of dirt!
Help from Family Sustainability Experts
Our two sons from Puerto Rico came home for Thanksgiving and wanted to help build the raised beds.Our older son is the director of an educationalnon-profit organization based in Puerto Rico, focusing on promoting sustainability and ecological agriculture, Plenitud PR (www.Plenitudpr.org or Plenitud PR on Facebook).Our younger son is an instructor and project manager at the Plenitud farm and teaching center. This was just the type of project they live for!
We used the same dimensions that Jon Peters used, 36 inches by 57 inches. The boys found lengths of lumber from my stash that were approximately 8 and 6 inches wide. These were cut to length, and using battens cut from old bed slats, they were fastened together to form 14 inch high sides for the boxes that would make up the raised beds. Hardware cloth (purchased at a local hardware store) came in 3 foot widths in a roll 10 feet long, just enough to make two beds. This hardware cloth was stapled to the bottom of the boxes with crown staples. Then 1×2 slats of wood were used to frame the hardware cloth for additional support. Before adding the 1×2 slats, pressure-treated 2×4’s were used as cross pieces to add additional support to the hardware cloth. Jon Peters had suggested that additional support might be needed. In a kit-build, Jon Peters demonstrated that another way to construct the bottom of the boxes was to use slats spaced with gaps for drainage.
We took a different approach for the construction of the legs. Jon used 32-inch lengths of pressure-treated 4×4’s.He removed half the thickness of the 4×4’s for a distance of about 14 inches from one end of the board. This formed a step for the box to sit on. My experience with the current method of pressure-treating 4×4’s is that the penetration of the chemicals into the core of the wood is not always as thorough as it could be. We decided to go with two 2×4’s, one 32 inches long and one 18 inches long, glued and screwed together. These legs were then fastened to the boxes with 2 ½ and 3 inch Robinson deck screws.
The boxes were moved to the back yard deck. This kept the boxes out of the way of lawn mowers and weed eaters. Once located on the deck, architectural (weed prevention ) cloth was stapled to the inside of the boxes. This was to provide for a layer to retain the soil while letting water drain through.
After filling each raised bed with the soil mixture, we added a layer of hay to the top of the soil mixture. This layer of mulch slows down evaporation of water from the bed and protects new seedlings.
Additional Support System for the Raised Beds
The next day we acquired some 10-ft lengths of ½ inch PVC pipe and clamps and constructed a support system for each bed. The support will provide for shade (50% black cloth) during the summer months and for cover during the winter to protect the plants from frost.
Now on to the local nursery to pick out some fall/winter seeds and seedlings!
We’re having our big get-together tomorrow so all the kids involved can also celebrate the holiday with other family members as well. We are all pretty much in good health at the moment. We’re looking forward to a fulfilling future. We’re grateful for the ancestors who survived, in spite of many challenges, to extend the familial pedigrees up to this day.
A recent tendency is to “boo-hiss” the Pilgrims who came to America and displaced (a generic way of stating it) the Natives. I don’t think I have any actual Mayflower ancestors, but Skip does. Some of our ancestors may not have done the right thing. They could have stayed in England, or France, or Ireland, or Germany, or (according to Skip’s DNA map) an obscure island out in the middle of the ocean, but somewhere down the line they made a decision to come to the New World. Did they ever imagine a time when someone could record their thoughts and instantly project them, electronically, to folks around the world, without waiting months for a letter in return? Thankful for communications, media, technology. Even though it will, at times, make me totally crazy.
Here’s the panel I hastily painted for Skip to cut into puzzle pieces–about 120 pieces.
We’ve made puzzles before that have the pieces cut out first, then we painted a picture on top of the cut-out pieces. He likes it better to have the image painted on first, then he draws a jigsaw pattern on the back and uses the pattern as a guide for where to cut with the saw blade.
Prior to cutting, he masked the image on the front with painter’s tape. Then, after cutting out, he removed the pieces of tape.
Cutting the pieces generates some dust and small fibrous pieces on the cut edges, which we will deal with once the puzzle is reassembled.
Next step: printing a copy of the subject matter to attach to the box so the kids will know what the puzzle is supposed to look like.
Last year about this time, I blogged about the local Quilting and Bluegrass Festival, here. This year it was very similar, but more so!
Similarities: the Festival was held on a day when our college town had a football game. The Festival showcases 100+ gorgeous quilted works of art. One of the bands that played last year came back: Patchwork. The vendors and store owners in the center had cool crafty eye candy to ponder and peruse, and the quilts were truly marvelous to behold!
Skip was busy helping out with an Eagle Scout project, which consisted of building some chairs for a community group home (he loves it when the younger generation wants to do woodworking),
so I sashayed up to the local shopping center to see some quilts.
Several of these pics include an information sheet pinned to the quilt, so you can zoom up and see the details, thereby crediting those who produced these amazing articles.
I learned there are several quilt guilds in the area, holding meetings at various times, day or night. So there ought to be one that fits the schedule of just about any quilter or wannabe-quilter in town.
I bought this cute mini-table runner from one of the vendors. It’s a great little project to place on a side table in the house during football season. Speaking of which, gotta go watch the game…
I saw an interesting post on Facebook about the celebration of All Souls’ Day in Lithuania. To get some background on the subject, see this post. (from a blog in 2014, but with great info)
Growing up, I never heard much about the two days after Halloween, All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). Is All Souls’ Day the same as Dia de los Muertos? I would love to start some American traditions for All Souls’ Day. Imagine, a public holiday for people to honor and connect with their ancestors! It might spark a new family history revolution!
(this mug is sitting on the desk at our local Family History Center)
Meanwhile, back in Lithuania, the government has issued pamphlets to the people, giving guidelines on what they can do if and when they are faced with an attack from the Russian Army, which is predicted to happen in the very near future: see this article. Googling Lithuania, I haven’t seen anything new posted in the past few days. Is the invading nation waiting to see who will end up being the new leader of the free world?
Skip, who is somewhat tone deaf, was trying to tell me about the famous Halloween Song that they always sang when he was a youngster.
“You know, the song “On October 31?” he said.
” No, I’ve never heard of it.” I said.
“You know, this one…” and he started singing it. It went like this.
“Oh, yes, that one. I didn’t know it actually had words.” I said. “It’s from the Peer Gynt Suite by Grieg, right?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
Same famous melody, two totally different contexts!
“Music Time” at Meade Heights Elementary School in Ft. Meade, Maryland in the mid-60’s, was sitting in the same seats in our classroom and listening to LP’s played on a portable record player. There were no visuals. Perhaps, as first or second or third graders, the teacher would have us draw what we felt when we heard the music. But I was never introduced to those lyrics that were well-known to Skip. Wonder if it was a regional thing?
Thinking, on the last day of October, how quickly this month evaporated, and that soon it will be gone altogether.
Other October things:
Lately, October has been the month of Breast Cancer Awareness, and every year we have more friends and relatives to whom we dedicate our service and consideration. Here’s hoping for a cure!
As for crafting, it’s been a few weeks of machine embroidery on dish towels and future table runners. Designs from Embroidery Library.
Kokka is a Japanese fabric company. Every once in a while I’ll go to a sewing expo somewhere and find a vendor who has Kokka fabrics–usually in 1/2-yard packages that cost about as much as a yard of other fabrics, but they are so darn cool!
The red and green dish towels were machine embroidered on packaged sewn dish towels from JoAnn Fabric. They are sturdy cotton with a loop on one corner for hanging. The beige dish towels were also pre-made, but I forgot where they came from. The others were sewn from fabric. The table runner is a Realtree cotton duck cloth fabric remnant from JoAnn’s.
Happy October 31 everyone!
Using current technology to create 19th Century crafts