Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Singer 99-31

In January I purchased a 1956 Singer 99-31 as a backup and travel machine.  It was in working condition, although it needed a new belt and needle.  And some TLC.  I planned to give it some attention after I finished the Key West quilt.

Well... guess what?  Last week my sewing machine started to make a terrible clacking noise.  One of the feed dog gears started to shred (again) and a loose rod banged with every stitch.  It stitched, and the loose mechanism didn't appear to be causing any harm, but it was too noisy to  continue.  So off to the shop it went.

I have no choice but to play with my new toy. 

The seller had told me it had been cleaned and refurbished, which I could see online from the new cords and plugs.  What they failed to say until I came to pick it up was that it sat in their basement for 15 years after it was serviced.  The box was full of cobwebs, the wood looked like it had water damage.  The case was stunning (not in a good way) - the original covering had been stripped off and you gotta love the corner bracket repair job.  The wood is old and very dry, but the construction seems solid.  It was ugly, but at least I knew the top of the case wasn't going to pull off!  That little machine weighs a ton.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Candy Making 2016

The (briefly) clean kitchen
Yesterday was candy making day.  The kitchen was spotless at 10am, and by 3pm every surface was covered with platters of chocolates and piles of bowls and spatulas.  Success!

There were six of us preparing sweets this year.  We spent the morning mixing together centers for most of the chocolates:  buttercreams, peanut butter, truffles, toffee.  The toffee was a particularly smooth batch.  That recipe never comes out the same way twice; I can never predict what I'll get.  But this batch was excellent, not a bit of separation.

I had forgotten that the cookie dough truffles used flour, and I only have whole wheat flour in the house.  I adjusted the amounts, but had no idea how they'd turn out.  I hadn't intended to be experimenting with such a large batch on candy day!  The whole wheat was nice and I liked the color, but they need more oomph.  More sugar and vanilla?  Add some salt?  Or maybe it's just time to swap them out for something else.  (They looked great dipped, though!)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Brownie Batter Cookies

I bookmark a lot of recipes then lose track of them.  Every so often I run through my lists to see what grabs me.  Some recipes I try once and delete the bookmark; they're not bad, but don't come out as terrific looking as the original recipe looked or are more work than the end result is worth.  These guys are a delicious, wonderfully addictive little cookie; it is so hard to eat just one.

I've recently been swapping out regular flour in my recipes for either whole wheat or white whole wheat flour.  I've made the change to quick breads and adapting my pizza dough recipe.  This was the first cookie I tried with a full swap.  I suspect the original recipe may have been a little lighter and softer?  I'm not sure if it would matter.  These have nice texture, are chocolatey and delicious.  Worthy of my good chocolate chips.  I'm sure the extra vanilla and salt ramp up the flavor.  (I ended up cutting some of the salt; I felt it was too strong.)

Try it.  You'll like them.  They went pretty quickly at the Rehoboth dance.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

New Hexie Templates

Whenever I get a pile of crumbs, I do some more work on my QAYG hexies.  The card stock templates I made weren't bad, but they were getting a little worn.  I didn't realize how much I'd use them.  I needed something that could take the abuse.

I have pieces of plexiglas, leftover from when I had to chew-proof the bars of the guinea pig cage.  Luckily, my current pair aren't as industrious as past guinea pigs.  I had success cutting the plexiglas to fit the cage, so I decided to try making two hexagrams with them. 

Plexiglas isn't difficult to work with.  I traced paper copies of the card stock templates and taped them to the acrylic.  Then I scored and snapped it.  Most of it broke cleanly; the little pieces left were surprisingly easy to break off as well (I just needed a pair of pliers to grab hold).  I sanded the edges and voila!  Two new templates.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Border Dilemma

I designed my border, crunched numbers and went to the fabric store.  I envisioned a creamy peach for the border, but the bolts I pulled all fought with the pinks in the quilt.  Beige and bone didn't look right.  I ended up, surprisingly, with baby blue.  It worked better than any other solid I put near the quilt. 

I centered the colored strips to the middle of the block, not including it's outside sash.  That was the plan.  I also plan to bind it in blue, because I didn't want a hard grey edge around the whole quilt.  The idea was to have the edge fade away, so your eye was drawn to the middle of the quilt.  (Plus - I'm out of the grey and fear that I won't get an exact match from another bolt.)

But now that I've sewn the first side together it looks a lopsided, like I couldn't figure out where the center was.  Nope.  I did this on purpose.  That part of me says "stick with it."  On the other hand, if I just move the colored strip down a half inch, it would be centered on the blue itself (well, minus the binding).  I would have to rip apart and fix the one corner I've sewn together, but I happened to cut the rest of the corner pieces with enough extra to handle the adjustment.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Cannoli's Gotcha Day x3

It was three years ago we trekked up to Nevins Farm to bring home a little, wheeky Cannoli pig.  In some ways she's changed a lot since when we brought her home, in others she's still the same.  She remains one of the louder pigs I've had, which is in direct odds with her wussiness.

She loves her piggy companions a lot more than her human caretakers.  Boadicea may be in charge, but Cannoli holds her own.  Noli is bold on her own - enjoying the open cage and the challenging toys.

She's our own celebration of Adopt a Guinea Pig month.  Happy Gotcha Day, Cannoli!  You've been an entertaining addition to our household.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hate It/Love It

The Key West quilt continues to evolve.  While it had still been in the planning stages, I shopped for a solid color for sashes or borders.  I looked for something that would help feature the prints.  I didn't want black and thought white or cream would be bland.  I'd been admiring a bunch of lovely quilts with grey in them and really wanted to try that.

I ended up buying some steel grey Kona fabric.  It looked stunning against the yellow, pinks and blues.  When I settled on a pattern, I began to cut the strips and sew it all together.

I hated it.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Whatcha Doin'?

The gated free range I set up late last fall for the guinea pigs has continued to work well.  I let Cannoli and Boadicea loose most days of the week.  Depending on what toys (food) I've set up on the floor, Boadicea will dart through the gate before it's fully open and will make it into the kitchen before I can.

It's odd - Boadicea had no fear of walking on the wood floor when she first arrived.  Now both pigs rarely let their feet touch the hard wood floor.  I got lazy setting up the grids to block off the living room.  Except for one little spot where the ramp touches the rug, the pigs have to cross a bit of hard wood floor to get to the living room.  It made floor setup even quicker, and I didn't have to worry about tripping over the grids heading in and out of the kitchen.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

When Chickadees Attack

This chickadee has spent the last few mornings attacking my windows.  It's been entertaining and distracting, because he's yelling and banging the glass at the same time.  I'm guessing that he's sees his reflection and attacks it.  I get a good look at him when he's at the window over my desk - his feet are out trying to grab the window.  An aggressive, frustrated little bird.

This chickadee is amazingly persistent.  He came and went like this for the better part of an hour.  He  must get tired and gives up trying to chase away the obstinate interloper.  Or maybe the sun move enough that he no longer sees his reflect.  Triumph!  At least until tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Pebble and Swirl Pouch

After much debate, I made a zipper pouch from my practice piece of quilted swirls.  I searched through a bunch of tutorial before making up my own pattern.

I didn't want to notch the bottom like my other pouch.  Cut away any of that quilting?  No!  I quilted this with a backing, so I wasn't interested in a lining, either.  So I added end pieces to give it a wide bottom and bound it all into place.  I'm pleased with the end result, but it wasn't easy.  I don't think I would do this again.

I followed this tutorial for attaching the zipper.  It leaves the zipper edge visible inside the pouch.  Not as pretty as having the ends hidden by a lining, but it doesn't stand out.  The rest of the seams are bound.  Attaching both sides of the zipper to a single piece of cloth was challenging.  The first side was no problem.  Attaching the second side required stitching from one edge, then stopping somewhere in the middle when all of my fabric bunched around the needle.  I stopped and repeated the process from the other end of the zipper.  Not a single pretty seam, but no one will notice.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Key West Blocks

About a year ago my mother gave me a large bag stuffed with fabric.  The stash included several brightly-colored silk screen prints from Key West Fabrics.  Vintage and nostalgia - I recognized some of these prints from when I was a kid.  Oh!  What could I make for myself with this fabric?  I used some of for a Japanese knot bag.  (I love it - I use it all the time.)  There was still a lot left.

I thought a simple pattern with big pieces would be best to show off the prints.  I planned to cut them all into uniform squares, until I measured the fabric.  Most of it was scrap from making clothes; to get the most out of the yardage, I'd have to make 3.5" squares.  That was too small to show off the large print.  I looked for tile-like patterns and found this one.  Simple blocks, different sized pieces.  It worked great with my odd shaped material. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Knitting Pouch

Yeah, I'm a little behind on my Christmas presents.  I finished off and gifted my last one on Sunday.  Whew!

I had asked a friend of mine if she'd like a knitting needle case.  She told me a knitting project bag would be more helpful:  a bag about this big (held up her hands) with a zipper.  Not what I had had envisioned, so I was glad I asked!

I googled around for zippered pouches about "this" big and got some ideas of what I wanted to do.  I also found this tutorial, which was very helpful in putting it all together.

I have started work in my vintage Key West quilt and decided the smaller pieces of fabric would be great for the pouch.  The grey fabric is from Parrot Plumes.  I thought it looked terrific against the hot pink.