More Pages Coming Soon!

Thursday 6 November 2014

Surfing the Learning Curve

I am thrilled to be posting that one of my favorite quilts I've ever made is now officially finished. I have to laugh at myself because this quilt was "almost done" for months and months and I even pulled it out a few times to put on my son when he was sleeping. (There I go again using quilts before they are finished, obviously I don't make quilts to hang on the wall!)

 The amusing part is that this quilt was not actually completed only because of a small square foot in the corner that still had a few safety pins in it and hadn't been quilted. I ran into a bobbin problem, gave up on using my FMQ foot, and went ahead and hand sewed the binding on before I finished that last little bit of quilting. This quilt was like that for ages and I finally whipped it into the machine and finished it in about 3 minutes!

Instant gratification! I really love this quilt and I drafted the pattern from a quilt trick I saw online where the hexagons were cut in half and sewn in strips to avoid an encounter with the Y seams.

This quilt was made with some scraps and a few dressy shirts, so I could test out my pattern before I cut into some nicer stuff for a lap-sized quilt.

I have to give a huge and heart felt thank you to the online quilting community because I am finally at the point where I feel like I can make up my own patterns. I didn't know anything about quilting when I started and I have learned SO much from fellow quilt bloggers and their projects and tutorials.

Learning about quilting as I go has been really fun. Whoever said to "quilt all of your own quilts" was spot-on. (I think it was Christa Quilts). That way all of my quilting skills are improving together, and also I love the character that each quilt has when it is finished. If someone else had quilted them, they just wouldn't be the same.

I am still turning out Frankenstein corners! Not perfect yet.

And now I'll leave you with a few pictures of an expertly made quilt, made by my Aunt, Susie Dumas.

 Isn't that a gorgeous country quilt? I am in awe at all of those tiny squares.

As long as I can remember, every time I visited Susie's house she was working on a quilt and had several beauties on the wall. I remember her showing me the callouses on her fingers from quilting. She is not a blogger so I hope she lets me show off some more of her work when I visit for the holidays.

I love that quilting is in my family and I am so proud of my Aunt Susie who has been published and won awards for her quilts. 

I am almost inspired enough to go and baste my queen sized quilt....

Have a fabulous day and thank you for reading!

Saturday 25 October 2014

Nine Patch, Three Cheese

I am working away on my denim nine-patch quilt. I LOVE this quilt. It is super thick and heavy and WARM!! I have been hand quilting it so I get to cuddle under it while I work.

The denim is surprisingly not that hard to quilt through.

One of the reasons why this quilt is so cozy and warm is the backing, a solid piece of fleece. The weight of the heavy fabrics used in the top combined with the fuzzy fleece backing make for a lovely warm blanket, just in time for some rain and colder weather.

I realized that because my favorite part of making a quilt is usually hand sewing the binding, maybe I just love to sew by hand?

Yes, I do! However I am still getting the hang of making straight and even stitches. I am using thick thread in a light brown, hoping that my stitches will show up. I figure if I am going to take the time to hand quilt, I want those stitches to be obvious.

Right now I am quilting around the nine patch blocks and around the border, until I decide how to further quilt it. Am I breaking the rules of quilting by using my quilts before they are done? I may or may not have slept under this one already. Hah!

I've also been making some little dolls, and plan to make some clothes for them. The first one I made was played with right away and obviously needed some decoration. David went at it with a permanent marker and came and showed it to me. "Mom, look! This is zebra stripe man." 


Well, they are meant to be played with, right?? However I promptly began a fresh new doll companion for Zebra Stripe Man...

I have lots of beautiful fabric to play with and I have been looking through some of my stash, dreaming about what to do with it. This one is going to be fun! Thanks to my friend Carli at Good Earth Quilting.

As promised I am sharing my recipe for homemade Macaroni and Cheese, one of my favorite comfort foods. Of course, you can use any kind of noodles (like rice or other gluten free alternatives) and my favorite are those big shell noodles, because they hold a lot of the delicious cheesey sauce! My southern Great Aunt Shirley used to make her signature shells and cheese at every Thanksgiving and Christmas.


2 cups elbow macaroni or pasta of choice
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups grated old cheddar cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1tsp each salt and pepper
1 cup bread crumbs

Prepare noodles al dente, drain and set aside. In a separate saucepan, melt 4 Tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add green onions and saute until just soft. Blend in flour and dry mustard. Whisk until well blended. Gradually add milk, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Continue to stir as the mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat and add cheeses, stirring with a wooden spoon until the cheese melts and blends with the sauce. Add salt and pepper.

Add sauce to macaroni and stir until the pasta is evenly coated. Spoon into a casserole dish. Melt the remaining butter and toss with the breadcrumbs and parsley, then sprinkle this mixture on top of the casserole. Bake 15-20 minutes at 350F.

So good! Just like Great Aunt Shirley used to make.

Have a wonderful day and thank you for visiting!

Monday 13 October 2014

Why Blogging Loves Quilting

Why do quilting and blogging go together?

Because there is a story behind every quilt.

Putting together a quilt is a mammoth craft endeavor, takes a long time, and a lot of effort. Often quilts are made for special people in our lives and the work that goes into them reflects our feelings. Whatever is going on in my life gets put into my sewing, and I can look at all kinds of things I've made and remember what I was going through when I sat down and did all those stitches, sewed all those pieces together, or stayed up late quilting.

My latest quilt reflects the place my mind was at when I was creating it. It was one of those projects I made in a hurry and just wanted to finish, and it turned out rather crude and sloppy. How fitting that the word I chose to embroider on the back is "Forgiveness".

We are all only human and make mistakes and have regrets, and all we can do is carry on and forgive ourselves, and forgive other people.

I am still learning about quilting as I go and I did learn some things on this quilt. While wool is warm and can be an amazing material, if the top of a quilt is too scratchy it will be uncomfortable on your bare arms as they lay on the top of the blanket while you are underneath it!

Also, I played around with using a greater seam allowance to compensate for the thickness of some of the wool pieces, and that added to the chaos. I was still using my 1/4" sewing foot and I should have marked the 1/2" line on my machine with masking tape.

Firefly snuck her head into the greenhouse for a snack while I was out photographing the quilt! It is raining cats and dogs out there today.

I didn't have the energy to really quilt this thing, I only sewed along the major seam ditches and called it done. Ultimately this particular quilt is only practical and not so much a thing of beauty! But it will keep somebody warm... even if that somebody turns out to be the dog! Haha!

Thankfully I have other quilts I am working on that I am really stoked about, and that I think will turn out to be well crafted and beautiful. I picked up the Sister's Ten Block of the Month pattern again and I have six more blocks to make (three more block patterns, two of each) before I am ready to cut out the sashing and other bits, and put it all together! I'm really excited about this quilt, and because the background is cream colored, I am going to put it somewhere where it can be admired instead of used.

It will be the first quilt I have made for this purpose. All of the other quilts so far have been made to be well-loved and slept under, and are thus susceptible to the spills and stains of life.

I made some braided Challah bread to take to dinner tonight and I am cooking up some homemade macaroni and cheese. It is Thanksgiving in Canada and I am going to a big potluck! I know there will be lots of gravy and then whipped cream for pie!

I hope you all have a wonderful day, and since this post is my participation in the World Blog Hop! I want to direct you to two of my favorite bloggers in the blogging quilt world.

...who is participating in another blog hop today!

...whose work I always enjoy.

I realized after writing this post that the point of the Blog Hop is to answer certain questions about the creative process, which I hope that I have addressed here but I am always glad to explore more. I do want to share that one of the main things that I feel sets me apart from most other blogging quilters is that I live off the grid, and often sew and craft with minimal electricity. This means I do not have a fancy iron and sometimes when it is raining I content myself with cutting out pieces rather than running the machine.

In my next post I'd like to share my recipe for macaroni and cheese, and the top to my denim nine-patch quilt which is now finished!

Thanks for reading.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Caramelized Apple Pie

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada and the holiday season means lots of PIE making! Pie is one of my favorite things to eat and I love making pastry and different fillings. We have lots of apples this year so I've been putting them into pie, and I came across a recipe that may have changed the way I make apple pie forever...

Usually I just toss the apples with sugar, but this method calls for actually cooking down the sugar into caramel and then adding a bit of apple juice and apple slices to the caramel to cook down further before baking. I always precook the apples before baking anyway, and the caramelized sugar gives the pie an amazing flavor!

This recipe is an altered, short-cut version of a recipe from the Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook. Their recipe calls for a few things like heavy cream and brandy, and is much richer.

Caramelized Apple Pie 

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
8-10 tart apples, cored and sliced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup apple juice
1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional)

Chilled pastry, enough for a pie top and bottom

Cook the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until it turns light brown (about 5 minutes). Do not stir while doing this but occasionally swill the saucepan to ensure that the sugar is cooking evenly in the pan. When the sugar begins to caramelize, add the sliced apples and the apple juice. Stir well to re-melt the caramel and coat all the apples. Cook until the liquid is slightly reduced and sprinkle on the cinnamon. Keep cooking (and stirring, to ensure that all the apples soften) until the liquid has thickened but before the apples overcook and fall apart.

Fill a pastry shell with this delicious apple mess and roll out a rectangle with the pastry dough for the pie's lid. I use a metal spatula to score the pastry into strips and lay them across the pie, first horizontally, and then at a 45 degree angle to make lattice. 

I always think of Snow White when I make latticed pastry, and however did she train those wild bluebirds to help her in the kitchen??

**Optionally you may egg wash the pastry and sprinkle granulated sugar over top before baking.

Bake at 350 until the pastry is a beautiful golden brown. After removing from the oven, let the pie set for ten to fifteen minutes before cutting into pieces and devouring with a dollop of whipped cream.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful that both of my sweet milking goats are pregnant! Barney the stud has done his job and moved on to another farm. The milk supply is starting to wane and will not return again until the babies are born in March.

I'll be posting again tomorrow to participate in the World Blog Hop put on by the blogger True Blue Canadian.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Recycling Jeans Into A Quilt

The last couple of weeks found me with a surplus of blue jeans that had been given to me by friends or handed down through the local Free Store.

Denim is an amazing material to work with. It is durable and strong but can be soft and supple at the same time.

Some of the pants that I acquired recently had hardly been worn, and even on the pairs of pants that had some signs of wear around the knees there was still lots of great fabric for quilt patches. The first thing I do with pants to be used for fabric is cut out the waistline and pockets.

Then I was left with long, flat strips of fabric that I cut into standard 5" squares.

Jeans! Instant stash builder.


I paired the denim squares with some charm squares. The fabric in the charm pack has a nautical theme and the colors work well with shades of blue. I made some nine patch blocks to be worked into a quilt top with some sashing and a border.

 Originally I considered making a disappearing nine patch quilt, but I like these so much I think I am going to leave them as is. I love the sea animals most of all in this collection.

Unfortunately I love making quilt tops and then when it comes to actually quilting the layers together I seem to need a little push to get going and finish them up. I have some Christmas presents to complete! But it is always refreshing to take some time out and do something different.

Have a great day out there in blogland!

Saturday 27 September 2014

How To Make Leather

Feeling skinny? Making leather can be a way of honoring an animal that has perished and is a lost art that can turn something gross into something really beautiful. Today, leather is produced in factories using powerful chemicals, but you can still safely make your own beautiful leather and buckskin at home with a little bit of work. I must warn you that this craft is not for queasy people and if you are vegetarian or vegan this will be TMI.

The first thing you need is the fresh hide from an animal that has been recently "dressed."

This is the gross part - okay, its all kind of gross. The skin has just been removed and will be covered on the inside with bits of meat and membrane. This step is called "fleshing" the hide, and all of that meaty stuff has to be scraped off with a knife. I use a little kitchen knife that is not dull but not overly sharp.

One method of preparing a hide for fleshing is to nail it, stretched, to a piece of plywood. Small roofing nails around the outside are perfect because they are easy to remove once the hide is dry.

Here Noel scrapes the hair from a cow hide that has been soaking in a solution of hydrated lime, wood ashes, and water.
Once it has been fleshed there are a few options for tanning, including bark tanning, where the hide soaks for weeks to months in a tea made from bark and/or leaves with a high tannin content. Trees local to me that are good for tanning include Acacia, Hemlock, and most nut trees. Soaking the hide in a solution of wood ashes or hydrated lime for a few days will make the hair pull off easily.

Another method of tanning is to rub animal brains into the skin. I've never tried it that way, but hides have been tanned traditionally with brains for thousands of years. Sometimes the raw hide is stretched to make drums or doggie treats. Yet another method of tanning is to cure the hide in a smoker. All of these methods produce different results, colors, and textures of leather, but the method I use is Salt and Alum.

After the hide is fleshed and before it starts to dry out, sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the surface, and then sprinkle alum everywhere, and you're ready to rub it all in. I use a grill stone for this, but any old pumice stone meant for your feet would work. It takes some elbow grease but rubbing in the alum will tighten the pores, and the stone will scrape off any membrane missed in the fleshing.

Now the hide should be allowed to dry out. When it has dried and stiffened, the nails are removed and the hide is washed with warm water and soap. Then the hide is also allowed to dry - but not fully! Before the hide dries there is a window for working the hide into soft and supple leather. At this stage the hide is conditioned with oil, massaged into the soft underside of the hide. Neet's Foot Oil is the best for tanning but cooking oil that has gone rancid will work fine, as will skin conditioners and lotion.

Working or "currying" the hide is the last leg of effort. The more the hide is stretched, twisted, pulled, and rubbed as it dries, the better the leather will be. My best piece of leather is a goat hide that was soaked in lime to remove the hair, and then steeped in a bucket of chestnut leaves for 2-3 months and worked for hours as it was finally being finished. Soft buckskin requires an extra tanning step, there is a membrane underneath the hair that must be removed, therefore the hair side of the hide must be scraped as well.

I hope none of these pictures were offensive and for anyone interested there is much more information on the internet and youtube. Now you have a general idea of how to turn an animal skin into something beautiful that can then be made into all kinds of practical items! A bag, wallet, drum, rug, belt, jacket, pants, football, et cetera. My friend Noel makes cargo belts, plush rugs and even vests and stoles from beautiful raccoon and beaver pelts.

Thanks for reading about hide tanning at home, the stinkiest craft I can think of.

Denim, Peppers, and Chickens

Now that the garden is starting to be put to bed, the chickens are allowed to run free in the yard.

The birds are happier with the run of the place and we are blessed with a super awesome rooster. He is gentle with us but protective of the hens.

Big Mac was a little yellow chick in my first batch of chickens. For some reason, the other chicks pecked on him and he developed a wound that the other birds wanted to peck at even more. We treated his wound and also isolated him often from the other birds by picking him up and playing with him. He became our favorite chick and grew into this grand and beautiful rooster.

Some of the younger, upstart roosters liked to fight. One of them even attacked David when his back was turned and got a one-way ticket to the chopping block.

Lots of apples are ready to fall and I love tasting all the different varieties. Having an orchard with variety is important for production and pollination. Some of the little ones are really juicy and crispy and the best fresh eating apples, some others are tart and good for pie.

Other varieties like this King Apple are larger and store well. They are also good for eating fresh but I usually put them away to eat later in the year.

In the Hedgerow: this Portuguese Laurel tree is a favorite food for wild birds.
One thing that makes our homestead unique is the use of hedgerow plants. Many people do not plant along their fenceline and prefer to leave it open, but it can be a great place for certain trees and adds diversity to the landscape. Traditionally hedgerow plants were trained to grow into a living fence, and in our yard it has become a living trellis for edibles like grapes and kiwis.

David is tall enough for these little juicing apples that are just coming into ripeness.

We found a warty pumpkin in the garden and David is getting excited for Hallowe'en.

I can't complain about the crop of beets and parsnips.

We enjoyed the world's smallest watermelons that were juicy and sweet, despite being smaller than a baseball!

As for Denim, I have been cutting up pairs of old jeans into 5" squares to be used with some of my charm pack fabrics. For my non-quilty friends, charm packs are pre-cut bundles of 5 inch squares of coordinating fabrics. I have a few beautiful charm packs full of busy little patterns and I think they'll go well paired with plain squares of blue. Do I have pictures? Next time ;)

I have wanted to make a blue jean blanket for years!
Thanks for reading my blog, wishing you a day full of delight.


You May Also Like: