Thursday, June 23, 2011

Eating Well

My kids are growing up in suburbia, but I was raised in the rural farmlands of New Jersey. Stopping at roadside produce stands was de rigueur during the summer months. I picked strawberries and blueberries with my mom. And while I now live in the suburbs of one of the largest cities in the country, I'm just a stone's throw from some of the finest produce this country has to offer.

I have taught my kids about locally grown produce and how eating local and in season makes for the best tasting food. My kids love going to the local farmer's markets and eating their way through them. They choose not only produce that is familiar, but show a great curiosity towards things that are new to them, like sunchokes. And fava beans. And cherimoyas.

Beyond buying from farmer's markets, I think it's important to show my kids where food comes from. We are growing our own food this year, and we're big fans of the local Pick-Your-Own farm - we go multiple times every year to get the best of what each season has to offer.

Yesterday we were on a mission for strawberries to make jam with. What we came home with was this.

The vines were heavy with blackberries and there were even raspberries to be found, though I know they'll be more plentiful in a month. Looks like my plans for strawberry jam will be revamped. Hello triple-berry jam.

And we couldn't leave without veggies. Bean wanted radishes - he'll nosh on them with butter, salt, and rustic bread. Sprout wanted to pick potatoes - I see hash browns and fried eggs in our future. And mama needed summer squash and lettuce. Those lovely squash blossoms are an added bonus (try finding those in your local megamart).

We came home sweaty and dirty, but with a greater appreciation for the food on our plate.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Selvage Table Runner

My kitchen table is a heavy wooden piece. Once upon a lifetime ago, it had a lovely medium-dark stain. And then we had kids.

Like all kids, when Bean transitioned from a highchair to a booster, he was a messy eater. The area in front of his seat got wiped down more often than any of the other areas of the table. We removed his drips and crumbs and also a lot of the wood stain. After some time, we had a lovely medium-dark stained table with a lightly stained area in front of Bean's chair. I moved him to a different seat and then another at the table in order to mitigate the concentrated stain loss in front of his seat.

When Sprout moved from a highchair to a booster, we had the same problem and she was moved from seat to seat around the table until I was left with a table that was stained a lovely medium-brown in the center and a light brown around the perimeter.

I told myself that this was okay. The table had a rustic feel to begin with, having only been stained but not varnished. The uneven stain simply enhanced the rustic effect. But the table has had a lot of other abuse love lavished on it in the years since we had kids.

There was the time period that Bean realized that forks make the coolest little divots in soft wood. And that time that Sprout had a blast coloring, sometimes on her paper and sometimes not, with red washable marker (note to self: washable markers are washable off of people but not off of tables).

At this point, there's no denying that my table can no longer even pull off "rustic." It's just annihilated. And while a table runner doesn't cover the whole thing, it pulls your eye to the pretty fabric rather than the disaster that is my kitchen table.

It's 17"x44" and covers a good portion of the table. It's made with my beloved selvages, is sashed in Kona Black, and is bound with Moda Hoopla Dots in Pink.

It was inspired by these great blocks, which are in my gallery of really cool projects that I'd like to tackle. I'm so happy to have this on my table.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gardening with a Brown Thumb

It is no secret in my house that although I have grand visions of gardening like this, the reality is that I have the power to kill plants just by looking at them.

Earlier this season, the kids and I planted seeds in little peat pots. Much to our delight, little sprouts appeared.

The little plants soon became too big for the peat pots - too much root structure and not enough space. And before they could be transplanted to some larger pots, they died, leaving long crispy stems as a reminder of the bounty that could have been.

So this year, for the first time, I created an in-ground garden in my under-utilized side yard. The bed is about 4'x17'. Bean and Sprout helped me plant some seedlings that we bought - tomatoes, basil, and melon (at Bean's request). We're also giving a second go at the seeds we I killed earlier this season - spinach, beans, snap peas, pumpkin, radishes, beets, and corn (at Sprout's request).

Here she is. I put some bird netting around the perimeter of the bed - we have opossums, raccoons, and skunks in my neighborhood and they all like tasty morsels. I'm *hoping* this keeps them at bay. I'm also hoping that I remember to water my veggies and not kill the whole lot of them.

Keep your fingers (and green thumbs) crossed for me. I'll keep you updated with my progress (even if I fail miserably). In the mean time, if you have any gardening tips, please do send them my way.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Teacher Gifts

And just like that, school is out for the year. I'm not sure how nearly 6 months have come and gone but school is over and summer is here. I stashbusted to make some Jane Market Bags as teacher gifts this year. I wasn't brave enough to let the kids choose the fabrics that they wanted for their teachers' bags, but I did give them the option of choosing which bag went to which teacher (though I did pull aside the red one for myself ahead of time).

If you don't own this pattern, go buy it now.
Right. Now.

It's such a great pattern to have - easy to follow, with clear, simple instructions. The finished product looks gorgeous, folds up nicely, and has so many applications besides being used for groceries. I use mine all the time - earlier today it held a towel and swim trunks for Bean's swim lesson. The day before that, I used it to take some returns back to Target. Tomorrow will be a different day with a different use.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Single Fold Binding - Tutorial

I've read from a lot of people that they'd love to improve their bindings, so I thought I'd do a tutorial for Single Fold Binding. This is not what I use to bind large quilts, but I do use it for binding small items like doll quilts, mug rugs, place mats, and table runners. I really like this binding - Carol turned me on to it and I think it finishes off little projects so nicely.

Let me start by saying that I've never been good at writing tutes - have a go at this and do not hesitate to ask questions if something isn't clear.

The first step is to prepare your binding. Start by cutting strips of fabric on the grain - I like to make mine 1.5" tall. To sew your strips together, set them perpendicular, corners aligning, right sides together.

Mark a line corner-to-corner and sew on the line. Trim to a scant 1/4" seam allowance and press open.

Repeat with as many strips as necessary until you have a long enough binding for your project.

To attach the binding to your project, lay binding on project top, right sides together, raw edges together. Be sure to leave a long tail ahead of where your stitches begin. You're going to want up to a foot of space (or as much space as you can get, if you're making a smaller project) between your start point and your end point, so take that into consideration when deciding on where to start sewing. Stitch together using a 1/4" seam allowance.

When you get to a corner, stop sewing 1/4" from the edge. Back stitch to secure your stitches and lay your project down as shown below with the binding extending from the project.

Take the binding and fold it up at a 45 degree angle (see below). You'll notice that when you make the fold properly, the tail forms a straight-line extension from your project.

The next step is to fold the tail back down on itself so that it aligns with the next side of your project, right sides together.

Stitch the binding starting at the top edge of the project and continuing down the side until you are 1/4" from the next corner.

Repeat until you have completed all four corners and you are approaching your starting position. Remember to leave up to a foot of space (or as much space as you have) between your starting and ending points. Leave a long tail of binding at your end point.

There are two ways to join your tails - a straight seamed join and a diagonal seamed join. I prefer the former for very small projects, like mug rugs and potholders, and the latter for larger projects, like doll quilts and table runners.

To create a straight seamed join, lay your project flat. Fold your binding pieces straight back on themselves near the midpoint of your un-stitched space. The two folds should meet each other with a tiny bit of space between them.

Finger press the heck out of the folds, then join them, right sides together. Pin together so that the raw ends are together and the folds meet. Stitch on the fold line. Trim seams to a scan 1/4", press open, and stitch your joined binding down. Whoot!

To create a diagonal seamed joint, lay your project flat. Near the midpoint between your start and end points, trim one side of your binding with a straight line perpendicular to the raw edge of your project. Take the other side of your binding and fold it back on itself so that the folded edge meets your newly cut edge with a tiny space between them. On your folded side, measure from the fold the height of your binding. My binding is 1.5" in this example, so I measured 1.5" back from the fold, marked a line, and cut. Did that make any sense at all? Probably not. Check out the photo below.

Once your tails have been trimmed to size, it's time to join them. Start with both tails wrong side up. Take the right tail and fold it down to you so that it's right side up. Simply lay the left tail on top of it, corners aligning as show below, and pin in place. Mark a line, corner to corner, and stitch.

When you remove the pin, your binding should lay flat on your project, like this. Check to make sure it's laying properly before trimming your seam.

If it doesn't lay flat, pick out your seams and try again. If it does lay flat, clip the extra fabric triangle that's sticking up, leaving a scant 1/4" seam allowance, press open and then stitch your joined binding down.

Awesome. Now it's time to sew the binding down. You can use your machine - there are oodles of tutes online. I've tried them and I just don't have the zen to make it work. Each time I machine bind, I drop bits of the binding and it just drives me batty - I much prefer to hand stitch it.

You'll hold your project with wrong side (both project and binding) facing you. Fold the binding down so that the raw edge meets the raw edge of your project. You're now viewing the underside of your binding. Knot the end of your thread and push it through the underside of your binding, very close to the fold, as shown below.

Then fold the binding down again to cover the line of stitching that was used to attach the binding to the front of the quilt. I like to whip stitch one stitch to secure my thread before using a ladder stitch to invisibly bind the quilt.

When you reach the corner, make sure to fold the binding on the next edge of your project in half, making the raw edges of the binding and the project meet.

Then fold the binding again, covering your row of stitches and making sure that you have a nicely mitered corner. I like to make a single whip stitch to secure the corner before continuing with my ladder stitch. You can barely see the stitch in this corner - unless you go looking for it, you'll never see it.

Continue all the way around your project and you're done! Whew. If you've made it this far, I hope you found this tutorial helpful.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to all of my visitors, new and old, who left comments for my giveaway. Using Stattrek, here are the two random winners - Karen will receive the pile of selvages and Julie has won the potholder.

2 Random Numbers 05 20

Specs: This table of 2 random numbers was produced according to the following specifications: Numbers were randomly selected from within the range of 1 to 58. Duplicate numbers were not allowed.

Both winners have been contacted. Congratulations and enjoy your prizes!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Selvage Goodness Giveaway!

I'm honored to be guest blogging over at Stash Manicure today. Thanks to everyone who's visiting me today by way of Madame Samm. She's featuring all things selvage, and anyone who knows me knows how much I love selvage.

Seeing as this was my first invitation to guest blog, I'm celebrating with my first giveaway. If you love to sew with selvage, enter to win a pile of lovely selvages to create with.

If admiring selvages is more your thing, enter to win a selvage potholder in springtime pinks and greens.

Just leave a comment letting me know which goodie you're most interested in and I'll draw two winners on Monday at noon Pacific. One entry per person. Please make sure you include your e mail address if you're a no-comment-blogger so that I can contact you.

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