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Sunday 27 April 2014

Hexagons and Dandelions

I was all geared up to start hand quilting my improv quilt and then I realized that all of my safety pins are on the hexagon baby quilt. I am not prepared to thread baste so I just stopped procrastinating and started quilting the hexagons.

I'm doing a basic stippling pattern again, still working on my FMQ skills.
Stippling is so fun!

There are tonnes of dandelions blooming in the yard and today I went around and picked a bowl of them for an experimental batch of dandelion wine.

David helped me and we pretended that the flowers were gold doubloons.

The little chickens are so funny, they won't let us pet them but if we wander out into the yard, they follow along behind us, just to see what's up. Still no eggs yet but we had our first rooster crow this week!

Here is David down by the lake, where the goaties live. The goat pasture was fenced in long before the goats arrived, and it was not originally intended for animals. Luckily there are established nut trees, oaks, and rhododendrons, all of which the goats avoid. There are too many tannins in the oak and nut trees and the rhodos are poisonous.

Individual goats have different tastes and food preferences.
But there are certainly many plants for them to eat. I rescued some tea roses and flowering currants, and here is Firefly eating a flowering Spirea. Oddly last year and the year before that, the goats didn't touch the Spirea. I want to save it so it is slated for removal and will be transplanted into the main yard where it can grow. On the upside, the goats are doing a great job mowing the lawn.

I've been looking for a source for cheese-making supplies. I want to try making homemade Havarti. The first place I stayed on the West Coast was a dairy goat farm and the ladies there made amazing dill Havarti cheese.

David studiously filling up the tub
Finally, the cast iron bathtub is ready to go!! After working all day it is so great to sit in a hot outdoor bath, listening to the birds sing and breathing in the scent of flowering fruit trees.

I keep meaning to get a photo of myself in there with my toes hanging out and the fire going underneath it, but you get the idea. The water can stay hot for hours as long as I keep the fire stoked. I always find it a little bit ironic when doing things the old country way is actually more luxurious than the modern, more convenient version.

Then there is wee David who is content just to get soaked with the cold hose.

Hope you all saw some sunshine today.

I'm linking up with Stitch by Stitch's 'Anything Goes' Monday. 
Thank you for stopping by!

Thursday 24 April 2014

Blogging and Sowing

My work in progress this week has been my blog! I'm trying to complete some pages including an "About Me" and photos of my quilt finishes and quilts in progress.

Nalia's Love Blanket
Including the knit blankets that our community has made for our friends who have been affected by cancer or other life threatening illness. I was involved in sewing together the first 3 and the women of our island have gone on to make at least six more! It has been a great way to send warmth and healing energy to someone who is going through a hard time.

I am writing tutorials on traditional skills (canning, making candles, brewing beer and wine at home, hide tanning) gardening (how to prepare a bed, planting tips, using mulch and cover crops) and keeping dual purpose animals like chickens, goats, and rabbits, which can be used to prepare land for planting crops and also provide fertilizer to the garden and meat for the household.

I guess that makes this more of a farm blog than a quilt blog, even though my blogroll is all quilters.

I have a passion for making quilts but I am still a beginner. Living off the grid and growing food for the last eight years, I have learned a lot along the way. There are so many beautiful quilters out there and hundreds of great tutorials, but what is much less common is good information relating to homesteading and self-sufficiency. I hope to fill the gap and maybe inspire others to grow their own, buy locally, and learn about how to survive away from corporations and processed food.

I started as a suburban teenager who ate fast food and didn't know squat about nature, armed only with an independent spirit and willingness to work hard and learn. Living off the grid means that we supply all of our own electricity, water, and heating. This is often hard work but is very satisfying and I wouldn't trade it for a high paid job in the city, no way.

Good Morning!
Gardening is also more work than grocery shopping but well worth it in food quality.


Strawberry Plants

And a nice bed, fertilized, turned to a fine tilth, and ready for some snow peas which are soaking overnight.

In the meantime I have really enjoyed meeting quilters through the online community of quilt blogs and I am continually inspired to try new things.

Thanks for teaching me how to quilt!!

Sunday 20 April 2014

Piano Keys From Gee's Bend

I literally could not help myself. I have so much to do this time of year - and many sewing projects on the go - but after seeing the beautiful quilts that came out of Gee's Bend, Alabama, I had to put together an improv quilt top.

I am calling this quilt "Piano Keys"
I didn't use a ruler, or my rotary cutter and mat, just some mid-sized fabric scissors. I didn't measure anything! IT WAS AWESOME! I was commenting about this to someone else and she told me that after she saw the quilts from Gee's Bend, she made 28 improv quilts!!!

I might never follow a pattern again!!

This quilt was made from 100% wool pants, shirts, and sweaters. I kept the buttons on one piece from a plaid shirt that I cut up for the quilt, as a reminder that the patches in this blanket are all repurposed materials.

This quilt top is going to get a border and will then be hand quilted in an imitation of the quilts from the Gee's Bend book. Generally I'm not a huge fan of monochromatic color schemes but this quilt was really fun to make, and I'm going to give it to my son's dad, who isn't a bright colors kind of a guy anyway.

I even let the dog lie on it. This is usually blasphemy.

Stewie is kind of color-coordinated, don't you think?

In other homesteading news, I managed to throw some seeds into the ground this week and I can only hope that they germinate and grow. Carrots and parsnips and a big beet patch are all in my hopes for the garden this year.

Chicken Tractor
The bantam chickens are still super tiny. We were worried about them getting eaten by a larger prey bird after we lost a bigger chicken to the ravens. So now they have their own little coop with a run attached. Over time the chickens will scratch up all of the grass and the dirt will be fertilized by their poo and food scraps. 

This is a win-win for the birds and for us as it creates a fertile garden bed and the chicks have a place to peck and scratch.

Yesterday I visited a friend in the community who just had twin babies, a boy and a girl. They were like fuzzy little peanuts, and because they are twins they seemed sooo tiny. The baby boy was about 5lbs, like a sweet little doll. It gave me an idea for a large baby quilt that is half blue and half pink. I don't think I have enough fabric in my stash but I might have to come up with something so that I can do a photo shoot with those little babies. So precious and a very fitting experience for this Easter weekend as we celebrate fertility and birth!

Happy Spring!

Thursday 17 April 2014

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

I stopped by my friend's house today to pick up a dozen eggs, and she handed me this book.

I'm sure a lot of you quilters out there are already familiar with this collection but I had never seen it before, and I was so blown away I have to recommend this to all artists and quilters everywhere.

The book is about the women quilters of Gee's Bend, a small, black community in Alabama that produced hundreds of stunningly beautiful quilts. They are incredible works of art, abstract and made with pure creativity and recycled materials.

One quilt that really stuck with me is one that a woman made from her husband's work clothes after he died. They quoted the woman who said that she wanted the quilt made from his clothing to "cover up under for love". The quilt was made with practically every stitch of his clothing, stains and all. It was completely un-square. Probably the most beautiful quilt I have ever seen.

It felt good to flip through this book after my little rant about recycling. I don't want to get too political or anything, I know that sweatshops are a touchy subject and it can be really uncomfortable to think about where a lot of the fabric we wear and use comes from. 

These women said it all with their quilts. Made with love and made to BE loved, made used and made to be used. 

Truly touching.

Monday 14 April 2014

Quilting and Recycling

The batting is cut to size because I'm planning on binding with the back.
I'm making this little quilt to test out a pattern I drafted for a hexagon quilt that is sown in strips. Mostly I made the top out of articles of clothing. A few pretty tops and a brown skirt and this blue vintage sheet, plus some scraps of plaid. The batting is an airplane blanket.

I love to recycle and re-purpose fabric into quilt projects. I often drool over designer collections and I do buy fabric sometimes, but mostly I find lines of fabric to be pure inspiration for how to pair fabrics in my own stash. So much fabric is readily available in the way of clothes and cotton sheets, so much of it in perfect condition aside from minor flaws that can be discarded when choosing quilt pieces. It is like a puzzle, trying to decide what to use. 

Especially for a project like this one, which is a practice piece. I have it basted and ready to go, just as soon as I decide how to quilt it.

I am inspired to finish up this quilt because I was telling my BC quilting friend Caroline Heinrichs at Good Earth Quilting about my interest in recycling and I won her giveaway! I am so excited not only to win some beautiful fabric but to have made a connection with another quilter who enjoys the economical and environmentally friendly practice of re-purposing fabric.

We have so much surplus in this age when things are made to be thrown away.

Also I just have to bring to light that clothing manufacture is often outsourced to factories where people are paid poorly and have no rights. Banana Republic, GAP, Old Navy, Levi's, Victoria's Secret, etc etc... it is shocking to do some research and investigate how many popular stores and brand names get their clothes from third-world countries with the cheapest labor.  For me, using these like-new but discarded items is a way to honor the people who made them, who might work in a sweat shop, while we in the developed world might buy something and never even wear it.

The age of consumerism is soiling our planet. I love new fabric and I do buy it with pleasure, however I also want to advocate for reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling products whenever possible. For thrift of course but also for the Earth and for our oceans.

Okay, now I will get off my recycling soap box, promise!

Up close and personal with a baby goat's breakfast
At home I am counting my blessings, and among them my three milking goats and the bounty of milk and poo for the garden that they give us. Animals always pick up on my mood and every morning they offer me a reminder to have gratitude for the abundance in my life and to live in the present moment. The goats love having a routine, and they give me a reason to maintain stability in my life.

I might be in danger of becoming a crazy hippie goat lady.

I can always count on these two to help make the milk disappear.

It is my sweet boy's birthday today.

We had a pirate party and he had a wonderful time, greeting every guest at the door with a big "Happy Birthday!!"

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading my rambles!

On this Work In Progress Wednesday I am linking up with Lee at her blog, Freshly Pieced.

Have a beautiful week out there.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Blackberry Patches

Finally I am finished with my FMQ project!

I am so happy with how it came out, mistakes and all.

I'm going to call it "Blackberry Patch" because the little flowery black fabric used throughout the quilt reminds me of blackberry flowers. The quilt also makes me think of blackberry lemonade, with all the yellow squares.

This was the first time I free motion quilted a project larger than a potholder or oven mitt.

The quilt backing is a vintage polka dot sheet.

As you can see I had some tension problems along the way. And, there are a few places where my quilting "skipped" because the weight of the quilt was pulling it away from the machine. This created the odd stitch that was about 3 times too long and veered off in the wrong direction. But, that only happened a few times before I got the hang of how to maneuver the quilt and hold it properly.

I also employed a few techniques from Crazy Mom Quilt's Quilt Making Basics. This is the most popular quilt blog I've come across, and I think that is because this lady is really, really good at writing tutorials. I used a flat strip of binding and didn't do any ironing, I just machine sewed it to the front and then folded and pinned it in place before hand sewing it on the back. So easy!

Poor little guy, look at that sad face. Wrapping him up in the quilt made him feel a bit better but all in all it was a rough and ready photo shoot because little David needed some attention. I just managed to get a shot of his little Easter basket that I made this out of willow this morning - first basket I have made in years. It is really tiny but it was a nice project for getting back into the craft of weaving.

The problem with basketry sometimes is timing. I put this willow on to soak about 8 days ago - it has been ready to weave with for a few days already. I had to make something or else the bark will peel if it soaks too long, and the willow will kink up instead of bending nicely.

This quilt was made with 100% recycled materials, except for the thread and batting.
It measures about 52" x 70".

I am so happy to have saved this project and turned it into a finished quilt. It feels really good to have it all done! Time for a picnic?

Thursday 10 April 2014


Time to celebrate one of the most wonderful perennials in the garden! Rhubarb crowns are one of those plants that keep producing food year after year, and only require a minimum of care to do so.

Under the shade of rhubarb leaves, few weeds dare to emerge.
One secret to growing healthy rhubarb is to heavily fertilize the crowns. Generally speaking, chicken manure is too "hot" to use directly into the garden. But, not for rhubarb. This plant loves fresh chicken manure and... wait for it... it loves pee. That's right, if you have a garden, tell your husband and sons to "water" the rhubarb!!

The secret to cooking with rhubarb is to cut the stalks into pieces and then toss with sugar. Allow to sit for a few hours or overnight and the sugar will cause the rhubarb to release its fabulous juices. Otherwise if you add water, your stewed rhubarb will be too runny. If you don't add liquid and try to cook it immediately after dicing, the fruit will burn.

Technically rhubarb is considered a vegetable, but it is almost always sweetened and can be eaten with strawberries or made into jam. My friend makes great "blue-barb" jam with a mix of rhubarb and blueberries. Rhubarb also makes delicious pale pink wine.

When harvesting stalks of rhubarb, do not cut them off the plant. Instead, pull them away at the base so that the whole stalk comes off, like a stem of celery. This way, the crown will continue to grow to replace the harvested stalks. Leave the lovely red skin on the stalk when you cook it for that beautiful pink color.

Healthy rhubarb sends up a flower in the spring, and to encourage the growth of the edible stalks, cut the flower off of the plant as soon as it starts to open.

A budding rhubarb flower.
Also of utmost importance is to NEVER EAT THE LEAVES, as they contain a toxic amount of oxalic acid and are poisonous to both people and animals. I use the big, thick leaves as mulch in the garden for my brassica plants (kale, broccoli, cabbage, etc) because the oxalic acid helps to discourage club root. The leaf cover also retains soil moisture and discourages the growth of weeds.

The best way to eat rhubarb?

A perfect pastry waiting to be filled with fruity goodness.


 Raw rhubarb is crunchy and sour so just remember to stew the rhubarb before filling the pie shell and baking. My personal preference is a little on the sour side, so for about 5 cups of chopped rhubarb stalks I'll add a scant cup of sugar. Again, rhubarb's favorite companion in the kitchen is strawberries. Rhubarb and strawberry pie or crumble is the perfect spring treat, with a dollop of whipped cream.... heaven.

Monday 7 April 2014

Bounty and A Bathtub

Finally after a long winter there is purple broccoli in the garden! I also harvested the last of the leeks and the first of this year's rhubarb. In another week I can direct seed root crops like beets, carrots, parsnips, and potatoes.

I finally finished quilting this sucker, it took longer than I thought but it was totally worth it. The whole quilt now has this lovely crinkly feel to it. I was kind of sloppy and it isn't perfect, but this was my first try at free motion quilting a large project so I'm just glad it turned out as good as it did.

I did a basic meandering stippling pattern all over the quilt, mostly in purple except on the lighter squares, which were quilted in yellow.

The weather has been warming up slowly and we've been spending more time outside.

David was watching the backhoe today as it brought my bathtub into the yard!!

I'm going to put a firebox underneath the tub so that I can have a luxurious bath that will stay hot for hours! The thing is cast iron and weighs like 500 pounds.

My boy, curled up under my first quilt with his bunny wabbit.

Boating on the glassy water, looking over at Vancouver Island.
It's almost kayaking weather!

More quilts and stitching to come!


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