Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Organizing my Farmer's Wife blocks

Through many of the Farmer's Wife blogs I have read, not many have discussed the organization method that appealed to me. 
I have a tendency to start a project and then fall off the bandwagon, so to speak, for lack of proper organization.  I know this will be a long term project for me, because I am hand piecing the blocks--sort of a challenge to myself to see if I can do it.  I'm no Jane Stickle, by any means, but I can dream, can't I?
The colors I chose were scraps from the quilt I just finished, and I'm quilting now.  It's a queen sized bed quilt made from The Charlotte line by Debbie Beaves of The Violet Patch, (RJR Fabrics 2008.)

Another gorgeous piece is the rose floral near the center of the case, it's  Heaven on Earth by Ro Gregg, Northcott, Quilt for the Cure #2761.  I couldn't find a year on the selvage, sorry. That will likely be my border fabric, it just sings to me!
I pulled out all my fabrics and lined them up in this vintage makeup case I snagged at a "primitives" sale.  It had a broken mirror, but that doesn't bother me. I don't check the mirror much while I'm sewing.
Dragging large pieces of fabric out each time I started a block was inconvenient and cumbersome when I want a hand project, so I knew I'd have to do some pre-prep in order to keep things tidy.

I have this little stationery box that fits my pincushion, scissors, thread and pencils.  I also stack my prepared blocks inside and pull out one at a time to work on.

I look at the layout and cutting instructions in the book and determine the colors, and templates, I lay out the templates and over estimate the amount of fabric needed for each block and fold the fabrics, templates and a sticky note with brief cutting instructions together.  I found some old clear envelopes from my card-making days to seal them in.  They look pretty just like that!

Once the block is finished, I place a small sticky note on the corner with the block number and name. ( I just had an idea that I should mark the date it was finished, that would be nice to add, too.) Then I slide each block down into a page protector in my binder my sister made me. 
The templates are in the binder too, under the first tab, and the completed blocks are in another tab.
I hope this gives someone an idea on how to organize any small quilting project. 
I tackle any large project just like Melinda Mae, one bite at a time.

Melinda Mae by Shel Silverstein

Have you heard of tiny Melinda Mae,
Who ate a monstrous whale?
She thought she could,
She said she would,
So she started in right at the tail.
And everyone said,"You're much too small,"
But that didn't bother Melinda at all,
She took little bites and she chewed very slow,
Just like a good girl should...
...and in eighty-nine years she ate that whale
Because she said she would!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm going to be a Farmer's Wife!

No, Bear hasn't given up becoming a full-time Lutheran pastor. No, we aren't moving and buying 50 acres. (Although that would be lovely!)
I've sipped the tainted kool-aid, I've jumped off the deep end, I've begun something for which I should have my head examined.

With all I have going on in my life; 5 kids in the midst of 5 grade levels of homeschooling, the numerous--like 25--projects already in UFO status, I've begun another.

I'm participating in the Farmer's Wife Quilt Along, FWQAL. The flickr group currently has 962 members.  Sounds mildly cultish to me.

It may take me years, but I'll plug along.  Following the winding path, walking toward the light, and
stitching long hours into the night when I should be doing other things.

My sister, Silver, made me this precious binder cover for which I shall store my secret stash of templates and instructions. Oh, and since these are all templates, I'll be working on this as a carry-along, handstitching project.

Just shoot me now.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ties That Bind is finished

Last year when my father-in-law, Pop died I knew I wanted to create something out of his shirts.  He was such an amazing influence on us as a married couple.  I lived with Pop and Nana while Bear was in basic training and Gadget boy was only 2.

I learned to love my in-laws very much during that time and respect who they became in my life.

Pop was such a frugal man. He regularly shopped at yard sales, but brought home only what he knew he could use.  He regularly repurposed items--old wood, old tools, wooden handles, etc.  Tape, wire and staples were what held much of his surroundings together. 

So when I thought about how I would recreate a quilt memorial in his honor, scrappy became the method.

Nana, Bear and I stood near his closet as we pulled clothes out and scanned them all.  His shirts were plaids, beiges, yellows--homespun and earthy--just like he was.  I took a dozen shirts and about as many ties. 

On the way home from our visit, I cut apart his shirts and pulled off buttons.  The ties sat forlorn in the bottom of the bag.

Frankly, they scared me. 

Cotton is easy to sew with, and I can handle the occasional double-knit polyester "snuggle quilt." I recently even made a cute baby quilt out of t-shirt knits.  But slippery ties in silky fabric, that have been cut on the bias and pulled, folded, and tied for years didn't seem that easy. So they sat.

I eventually started taking them apart--if I did it carefully, I could just pull one string and the chain stitching would unravel. I pressed, and folded and then they sat in a small container on the top shelf of the sewing room closet for a few more months.

Meanwhile I worked on the quilt for Nana.  She needed to feel the comfort of a quilt around her shoulders. Her quilt was finished in time for her birthday, in February the following year.  Her quilt can be seen here.

Recently Nana said that Jane has been feeling really overwhelmed and reclusive.  I think she is just now beginning to grieve after a year.  Grief can be a difficult thing to deal with and if we don't allow ourselves to properly deal with loss, it can trip us up and make other areas in our life fall apart.

Bear went back home to help Nana with some winterizing and he suggested that it was time for Jane to have something tangible to help with her grief. 

I felt also that I was now better equipped to tackle the tricky job of all those slippery fabrics.

I adhered them to lightweight interfacing and cut them into strips.  I pieced them on top of rectangles of old phone book pages and made strippy blocks. 

I ran out of blocks before I had it big enough so I searched through my Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville-books and came up with an appropriate border to use. The rick-rack border on this quilt seemed to fit the style of Pop's quilt.  After looking at it for a while it reminds me more of the lattice that covers the covered patio in their backyard.  I think it's an appropriate design element.
The final border is also a criss-cross pattern that reminds me of the sunshine and shadow patterns around the patio.

It is quilted with hearts and swirls to "wrap arms of love" around my dear sister-in-law. The border is the same feathered flower that I quilted on Nana's quilt.  Poppa loved to garden and flowers and feathers remind me of him.

I can't wait until she sees it at Christmas time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crock pot recipe review: Saucy Apricot Chicken

This has got to be the Easiest. Recipe. Ever.
One 6 pound package of frozen chicken
One jar of apricot, (I used peach) jam
One package of onion soup mix, Knorr or Lipton, (I actually used a Tastefully Simple package of Onion, Onion mix from my friend Denise.)

Dump the chicken in the crock pot, shake the soup mix over it all evenly, and warm up the jam and pour over the mixture.  Cook on low 4-5 hours. 

I'm turning mine on high for an hour or so and then turning it down because my chicken is frozen.

I'll announce the verdict later....

I was curious to find that the jam did not stay gelatinous.  It completely liquefied as it cooked in, under and through the chicken.
I lifted the chicken out carefully and poured the remaining sauce into a pan and thickened it with about 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch.  I poured just a bit of it over the chicken to glaze it.
The verdict:
Bear said nothing, which is typical.  Gadget boy loved it, true to form. (He won't complain about any meal. He knows better.) Miss Busy and Chels at it up and asked for seconds. Ace devoured his, as did Boo.  Robby didn't eat it, well because the snack of a PB&J still lingered in his tummy.

We served this with frozen peas, canned corn and saffron rice.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sewing up a storm...

I've been "occupying" my sewing room a lot these days and getting projects accomplished.

I have an old mason jar full of slips of paper that I pull each time I finish up a UFO.  Each piece of paper has an unfinished project on it.  When I pull a paper, I must work on that project until it's finished.  Sometimes that is a joy, sometimes, it's a real pain, but discipline is good.

I have to purchase a few things for the latest one I pulled, and there will be a post on that later, it's possibly the ugliest quilt EVER! But it will be loved, and worn, and drug around, and that's what quilting is all about.  Making something wonderful for someone you love. 

Just a little hint about what's coming soon...

Polyester and fur. Oh my!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

I was country, when country wasn't cool.

Barbara Mandrell and I have something in common.

No, it isn't the perky blonde hair, it's not the flannels shirts, and it's not that we are both fans of Roy Rogers.

The thing we have in common is that we've both been "something" when that "something" wasn't cool.

There is a trend today on the blogs that I read to be "all vintage!" and "back to basics."
I've done that for years, folks.

I don't need Food in Jars or Creative Canning to tell me how to process and can our harvest.

I don't need Passionate Homemaking to tell me the benefits of baby wearing. I just did it. 

I made my own baby sling and wore my last five babies until I could no longer empty the dishwasher without fear of them toppling out of the sling and into the dishes. I did it because "hands free" is practical.  When I could set the baby down, believe me, I did. 

I have always done homemade crafts for gifts. Like these and these and these. Seriously, people, I did these in 1985!

I'm so vintage it stinks! I regularly press my sheets on an "very vintage" 1940's Ironrite named Irene.

I even have a vintage Ironrite charm bracelet to wear while I press.

I have a vintage Kenmore sewing machine,

and a sad-iron that I use for a bookend.

Even a vintage potato masher that I used just last night.

I guess I am trendy!
 I'm so cool, it just oozes from every pore. It's just that I don't blog/brag about it, so nobody knows just how cool I am. (Don't you think those two words often have the same meaning?)

I've been making scrap quilts since the 80's too.  Not because scrappy was cool, but because we were poor college students and I could only afford to cut up fabric from the leftovers of a more necessary project.  And we need a pretty bed covering to keep us warm.

I've been wearing aprons all my married life too.  Oh, aren't they so cute and homemaker-ish?
Yes, they are. And practical.  And I'm all about practical.

Does that make me trendy? If you say so.

So I guess I'll just continue to be trendy, and practical, and so very vintage! I may or may not blog about it, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

June Cleaver and Barbara Mandrell have nothing on me.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekly Journal Post

The Homeschool Mother's Journal
My Homeschool Mother’s Journal
Because I recently came across this blog, I've been excited to start a journal of our homeschooling days, more than just the checks on the boxes in our teacher’s guide; this will give me a better feel for “are the kids getting it?” “Did we deal with attitudes today?” “Did anything sink in?”

Maybe those questions will not be answered, but it is my hope to get some sort of feel for those things.

Today, Reformation Day, we read through the Martin Luther chapters of Hero Tales.  This was out of order according to the teacher’s guide for Exploring Countries and Cultures. But I felt one day out of order was important enough because of the holiday.  I hope to make things as relevant as possible for my children.  I want them to know the “why” behind what we do.

I printed out coloring sheets for the Luther Rose, Reformation Day and the Luther Rose but I had read-alouds and coloring sheets to do with discussion questions afterwards. I am met oft times with blank stares and sullen attitudes.

Like right now, for instance.  I had to go upstairs and referee a squabble between two girls who can’t work together. I had to “reel in” a 9 yr old boy who gets lost and doesn’t come back to finish an assignment.

Robby is working beside me, because that’s the only place that he can stay on task.  Ace is at the kitchen counter working on math. The girls are upstairs hopefully completing Saxon math and no longer fighting.

This has been a difficult transition from public school to home school and I’m not sure the kids “get” the importance of it.  At Sunday School they had discussions with the other girls in their class about where each of them goes to school.  Most of their Sunday School classmates attend school together at Concordia. Distance and cost have prohibited that for us, but Bear and I feel that a Christian education is so very important. Chels and Miss Busy were the only ones who answered homeschool.  And then it seemed as if they were ridiculed for it.  (That was the impression I got from their retelling of it to me.)

I feel as if I am not making a difference. I feel as if I am forcing my will upon them. I feel like most days I am talking to a brick wall, or rather 5 little brick walls.

I am thankful, however, that I get to have my children around me during the day.  I do enjoy them. When some mothers say, they can’t wait for school to start so that their kids are out of their hair, I find that funny.  My daughter Miss Busy is a little Mini-Me, and we laugh and joke sometimes like sisters.

This week I’m working on a special quilt, when homeschool is not in session, for my younger sister-in-law.  My father-in-law passed away a year ago and I took his ties and have made them into a quilt, or rather, blocks for a quilt.  I have to sew the blocks together and add borders still.  Then I’ll layer and quilt it, probably for a Christmas present.  Pop’s birthday was on Christmas Day and that is a particularly difficult day for them. 

A picture to share:
I made a quilt for my mother-in-law out of his shirts, which you can see here, so this one is for Jen. I hope she draws comfort from it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ready for School

Our homeschooling adventure continues on Thursday, the first of September.  We homeschooled last year, using Rod and Staff Curriculum.  It was difficult for me and I'm not sure the kids really enjoyed themselves.  I heard them stammer when people asked how they like homeschooling.  If that doesn't reflect a dislike, I'm not sure what does.

This year I've done some research.  When you begin a venture not knowing what lies ahead, you often don't have many questions because you don't know what questions to ask.  But this year I feel more prepared.  I knew what they did not like and what did not fit our styles of learning and teaching.

Armed with this knowledge, I embarked on a search for the curriculum that would fit us better.  I really wanted Sonlight, but the cost is prohibitive.  I had heard good things about A Beka, but it's more of a school/classroom environment, which is the reason we didn't like Rod & Staff.  I stumbled across My Father's World and liked the price, the way we could combine all the students together and then have individual levels for Language Arts, Spelling and Math.

My Father's World uses a rotating course approach.  We start with an overview of God's World and the countries and continents.  Then next year we dig deeper into the beginning of civilization and work our way toward the present in subsequent years.  I'm excited, I can see a long term benefit, and continuity to this program where in R&S I felt so...lost, I guess, for want of a better word.

I have added the appropriate math for Robby, Ace, Miss Busy and Chels; and Boo has his own kindergarten program given to us by a friend.  When she gave it to me, I sort of put it aside and didn't look at it until I had ordered MFW for the other kids.  I just figured that whatever Boo had, I would shuffle it into the day as it seemed to fit.  I looked at it the other to prepare and discovered it too was My Father's World! How amazing is that!? I am taking that as a sign that this program is for us. 

Boo is advanced for a Kindergarten child, I think.  He's been doing preschool with Miss Busy for most of last year.  He's smart. He loves to be up at the school desk with the rest of the kids so this will be a fun year for him as well. 

Our school room is more colorful, more organized, and more kid friendly this year.  I'm not going to get so uptight about paperwork, busywork or schedules.  We will learn together, study God's people and His world and learn more about Him.  In the process, I am confident that the academics will take care of themselves.

Matthew 6:33 - "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quilt Studio Tour

Hi, I'm MaryLu and I'm a quilter. (Hi, MaryLu!)
My blog header's "mission statement," if you will, says "I'm just trying to make something beautiful with the scraps I'm given." Sometimes that means the situations that life throws at me, sometimes it's more literal. 
I've been given lots of scraps lately and I've tried to file them into their appropriate categories, here in my studio and in life.

 Here is my peaceful place, where I go to think, unwind, create in (relative) peace and quiet.
I just picked up this entertainment center at Goodwill and found that it fits perfectly in this little nook in my studio.
On it, I keep baskets of fabrics sorted by designer, or by use.  It also displays some of my most treasured things.
Each basket is full of specific types of fabric.  And then there's my Go! cutter.  It's wonderful for quickly making a pile of scraps into usable pieces.

Sitting atop this cabinet keeping watch over things is Uncle Sam. The sewing machine belonged to my brother Clarence.  We helped my sister-in-law clean out her basement after my brother died and I rescued it.  It's a very sturdy, (and heavy) Kenmore I've named Claire. 

I've always had an interest in antique, or just plain old, sewing accouterments.  These spools and sewing kit came from the estate sale of a neighbor.  Ms. Dorice was 93 years old when she died.  She made the most beautiful beaded Christmas ornaments.  I give her things a prominent place in my studio.

This little cabinet came from a friend, (thanks, Crystal!) It's holding my Etsy pincushions and miscellaneous projects in the drawers.

These will soon turn into pretty pincushions to go in my store.

Just like this one...

Up above, a plaque from my sister, because my sisters are awesome and sewing always reminds me of sewing at home with them.

This is one of my "inspiration-makes me smile" areas.  I painted the blue shelf a million years ago, and the old canning jars are filled with more vintage notions and buttons.

Yes, that's a sundae dish full of Lemonheads! I had hoped that the kids wouldn't notice them if they weren't in the box.  Nope, took them about 5 minutes to see them.

On the floor is a pile of patiently waiting stuffed friends. This is the ER for all things fluffy.  They need some stitches and stuffing and they'll be good as new.

The picture in the checkerboard frame is my "someday" place.  A simple little farm house next to the church where my hubby preaches, set in a hilly little scene with blue sky. 

On the opposite wall are some of my minis.  And a waiting Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll block.  I only have about 40 more of these to make.

Behind the door is my recently repurposed pattern storage.  I don't sew clothes much anymore, I prefer things that require no fitting--quilts always fit.  I also don't care for 3-dimensional items.  I can always press a quilt flat and make it work, not so easy with a stuffed bear's head or tummy.

The closet shelf holds my larger pieces of fabric, anything over a yard or so, are wound on half-bolts.  I got the idea from Gee-Gee's, the quilt shop where I used to work.  They rolled their remnants this way and stored them on a bookshelf. Very tidy!

Stacked under the shelf are my folded pieces of fabric arranged by colors.

My Bonnie Hunter Scrap User System is "filed" neatly into another bank of drawers. They are so pretty!

The basket on top holds all the spools I have emptied this year.  I thought it would be fun to see how much I actually go through.  It's filling up fast.

Here's my Quilting Queen ready for the next project.  She's quite the work horse!

Beside her sits my leaders and enders, (also from Bonnie Hunter!) These will one day turn into a beautiful "My Blue Heaven" a pattern by, (again) Bonnie Hunter. You can see a picture in this post at Bonnie's Website. When I looked up the link I discovered that it was a "Show and Tell" post, and that my quilt was the first one pictured! [Squeal!]

These sweet boxes hold my WIP projects, (that's Work In Progress,)

Next to my Quilting Queen is a special little gift from my adorable sister, Syl.  She stuck this little cute pincushion in a box of fabric. When I saw it I knew just the place--I dropped this little felted wool cutie into one my waiting cups and saucers.  This one will stay right by me, thankyouverymuch! I love it, the lanolin in the wool keeps my pins and needles rust free--a welcome benefit in this damp climate.

My windowsill holds more of my "pretties." I trade them out now and then so I can enjoy them all.

I'm even flowing out into the hallway, just one bookshelf now, but look out, soon I may be stashing fabric and notions all over.
Thanks for taking a look, I hope you have had fun on my tour. Come back soon and we'll enjoy a cup of tea together.  If I can find a cup that hasn't been turned into a pincushion, that is.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Etsy Store...Finally!

I just set up my Etsy Shoppe. I'm spelling it the Olde way just because I like all things vintage.

I'm featuring sewing items, vintage sheets, (isn't everyone?) pincushions, and handmade sewing accessories that reflect an earlier, simpler time.

I often wish that I were Ma Ingalls, or Anne of Green Gables; but not really, I rely on my modern appliances too much for that. So, I try to incorporate a bit of the nostalgia and whimsy here on my blog and in my Shoppe.

I have a few pincushions listed there and a queen sized quilt. The quilt I will showcase here as well. I'll also be setting a link on my sidebar to get to my Etsy Shoppe, (once I figure out how to do that of course!)
This is the quilt: It's a queen sized Thimbleberries pattern, made with Marine Corps and military fabrics. There are several machine embroidered emblems and icons that represent Marine life and patriotism.

It's machine quilted on my DSM in an all over stipple pattern with scrolls, stars and rippling flag waves in the borders, and bound by machine then hand stitched down.
I'm selling this for $450, with $25.00 Shipping.

Check out my Etsy Shoppe here.

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