Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rainy Walk and Quilty Talk

We've just come home from our week away in Portland.  One of the highlights of the trip for me is always our trip to the coast.  I've spent about 15 summers on the west coast so for me it's always a little like going home.

I have my little favorites on the Washington and California coasts, but a definite Oregon favorite for me is Cape Meares.  The walk to the beach is just stunning.  It reminds me of some wild areas I've seen in Scotland.

We always see so much wildlife here!

It was in the low 40s and raining, and we basically had the place to ourselves!  We quadruple-dressed for warmth...

...and hiked over the scrubby grasses to the beach.

Except for this massive clump of bull kelp, we were completely alone.

So much rain had saturated the ground that a mudslide happened, right on the main road.

Thankfully we made it back with no difficulties!

It's back to work for me, but I took a few hours last night to tackle paper piecing.  It's a different method of quilting in which you sew on the back of a pre-printed sheet of foundation paper (thinner than printer paper)...not where the design shows, but where the piece will eventually be.  It's a little difficult to wrap your head around at first, but here is an amazing tutorial! 

I printed off my sheet...

...and got to work.  Each time you stitch 2 pieces of fabric together on the back of the sheet, you iron them into place and move on.  You then affix the next pieces and carefully stitch on the lines that you see in the photo above.  It makes incredibly sharp and accurate points.  Here is my finished star!

My stitching was actually nearly perfect, but when it came to stitching together the finished pieces, I was still off a bit.

See?  Irritating, but I just need to be more careful.  Sewing the whole thing together, I'd say I was off by about 1/4" on 2 sides.  A *huge* improvement over my last effort...and look at those straight lines!

Overall, I'm really pleased, although I'm still looking for the right pattern and fabric combination.  I'll keep practicing.

Have a great week! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Poxes on Boxes!

Oh, the Christmas rush!  I don't remember it ever being so busy, with 11-hour days and up to 75 orders to process at a time.  My office is absolutely buried in boxes and littered with faux styrofoam peanuts.

Dirty laundry is piled up, cat hair tumbleweeds are forming in the hallways, and I haven't made it through more than a paragraph of my book at night before falling asleep.  Christmas decorations?  Forget it!  We decided to forgo a tree this year, since we've just been too busy to devote an afternoon to digging out the Christmas decorations.  I'm really pleased that the business is doing so well, but I really need a break!

The mornings have been wonderfully foggy and warm...

...and we've had gorgeous sunsets.

Days are perfect:  sunny, blue skies, and in the 70s.

The leaves are gone, but otherwise, you'd never know that it's mid-December!  The animals do, though.  Birds are everywhere.  A flock of ducks have settled in our little pond.  I love the beautiful iridescent heads of the  mallards.

Our great blue herons have been out hunting more than usual lately.

Oh. the songbirds!  This white-throated song sparrow sang a lovely tune outside my office window today.

A dark-eyed junco keeps a close watch on everything.

The squirrels are incredibly active on these warm days.  They love to chase each other up and down the trunks of trees, and to scold me mercilessly when I come out onto the deck with my camera.

I've had little time to bake, but I made a few cranberry-orange loaves as Christmas gifts for some neighbors. 

The recipe is here and is highly recommended! 

I'll try to get back into a more regular schedule in the new year.  Happy holidays! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Envelope Pillow DIY

Work has been so busy that I haven't really had a free moment to make a post this week, but I did want to put up a tutorial for the pillow I made a couple of weeks ago, aka the pillow that was so quick to make that I was able to get the whole thing done in the time it took Todd to make a run to Lowe's.

The final product:

First, I picked up a .99 pillow at a thrift store.  I put it in the dryer at high heat for about an hour,  washed it, and dried it again at high heat. At that point, I generally consider it "clean," especially since it will be covered with fabric.

Next, I selected my fabric.  I had a few yards of red cotton fabric that perfectly matched a button-up shirt that Todd couldn't wear because the arms weren't long enough.  I cut out a big square from the shirt back and ironed it.

I wanted to make an "envelope pillow," or a pillow with an opening in the back so I could slide the pillow form in and out, either to wash or switch out the cover.  I wanted to red fabric to be the back, so I took a large piece, laid it over my pillow form, and cut a rough shape, making sure the finished piece was several inches longer than the pillow itself.  This shape was then cut in half.  No measurements...basically, you want each half to have an 'overhang' of about 2 inches.  You'll give each of these halves a tidy hem.  One hemmed part will lay over the other hemmed part with enough coverage so that the pillow form can't be seen.

Then you pin the whole thing together and sew all the way around.  Just make sure you have that overlap. 

Turn it right-side out, insert the pillow form, and you're done!  Because I'm partial to buttons on pillows, I used my rotary cutter to slice off the button band from the front of the shirt.  I sewed it onto the pillow front - just one side. The shape of the pillow helps it to lay flat. 

Because I didn't measure, the back has a little wave when empty...

...but it's fine when I put the pillow inside.

It was really quick and easy.  Now that I'm amassing quite a collection of fabric, it will be easy for me to make multiple pillow cases and swap them out with the changing seasons.  Inexpensive, too...I'm sure this pillow didn't cost more than $3 for all materials used!  I can't wait to make more.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Our November Color Wheel

I love the colors of autumn in the South.  You've got your traditional reds, browns, yellows, and oranges...

But you also have unexpected splashes of pink, white, and green.  The camellias are just starting to bud out, and what beauties we have this year!

Lovely creamy orange ginger lilies are still holding up their heads...

...and we've got more nice spheres of white all around our front door.

The fir trees are setting up their cones, which are light green, all over the yard.

We even have a few late-season zinnias still producing!

Somehow these odd blends of colors go together well and produce a very pleasing appearance in our late November yard.  And those branches of yellow leaves on our driveway?  I picked them all up, of course, and made big bouquets.

It's especially nice when the late-afternoon sun comes slanting in the windows...


I haven't had much time for crafting lately.  This is my busy season and I'm generally working 9 hour days (or longer) on my business.  However, I gave myself a day off this weekend and made a quick and festive plaid pillow in about 30 minutes. 

I will post a tutorial later.  I'll be making plenty more of these!

I've also been baking like crazy!  In preparation for Thanksgiving, and some extra for Todd's office, I baked about 7 batches of cookies, 2 loaves of pumpkin bread, and a plate of cheesecake bars in the past week alone.  Our freezer is fairly bursting!  I haven't had any myself, though...not one single bite.  I'm not there yet, but I'm officially nearing the end of my "six weeks of no sugar" plan, and I'm ready to wax philosophical about it. 

I've always been crazy about sugar.  I love to bake, and sweet treats are my favorite.  I crave sugar all the time, and in the past have tried to limit my consumption to a few servings a week, although that tended to grow when I was cranky, tired, busy, or stressed.   I noticed that I gained weight this past spring and early summer, and I knew there was a direct correlation between the amount of sugar I was eating and the number on the scale.  I have always been too afraid to limit my sugar - what else is left?  What about my baking? It's just too hard!  I'm fond of saying, too, that I don't want to live in a world where I couldn't have a cupcake when I wanted one.  Six weeks, though, seemed manageable. 

I stopped eating all sweets - cupcakes, ice cream, candy, pie, cookies, bars, syrups, etc.  I allowed myself 1 TB of honey a day and WHATEVER ELSE I WANTED THAT WASN'T SUGAR.  I had tried to be relatively low-carb before, but now I embraced them.  Oatmeal every day!  An occasional sandwich...with bread!  Roasted potatoes!  I didn't really miss the sugar because I so enjoyed my meals.  I had other pleasant side effects to help me along:  I suddenly started having higher-quality sleep.  No more waking up at 3 a.m. and reading for an hour - I slept all the way through the night.  I had more energy and felt better.  A weird but definitely welcomed side effect was weight loss.  Sugar triggers me to eat a lot, so take out the trigger, and my eating naturally moderated.  I lost 8 pounds in 5 weeks, doing nothing different except removing sugar from the equation.  I bounced back up a couple of pounds recently, but I realized that my desire to eat has become so quiet, and I've been so swamped with work, that I've been forgetting to eat like I should.  Not eating enough + regular vigorous exercise = weight gain.  I'm happily eating an extra 200 calories today!

With all of these wonderful discoveries, will I ever go back to sugar?  Oh, yeah!  My six weeks are up on Thanksgiving and I plan on having several cookies and a big piece of pie.  But I won't stay on sugar.  I've decided to live one week on sugar/three weeks off sugar every month.  I'll have a few days a month when I can get an ice cream cone, have a brownie, and make a big cookie sandwich dripping with homemade buttercream filling.  I'll have a week where I won't sleep as well, won't feel as well, and won't perform as well at the gym.  Then I'll have three weeks where I will.  I think it's a nice, tidy ratio and I look forward to putting it into place after my Thanksgiving week!

Happy eating!