Thursday, April 28, 2016

Garden Plans

It's almost time for planting here at Dogwood Lane Farm. It may seem a little late to a lot of you in the rest of the country but I can tell you that living where we do in the Sierra foothills the weather is very iffy until late May. In fact our last frost date is traditionally Mother's Day and no one in their right mind would set out a tomato plant around here before then. They'd be laughed off of the Divide!
Keeping all this in mind we enlisted the help of our oldest grandson Jed when he was home for spring break to help move straw bales into place for own 2016 garden experiment. This year we're going to give straw bale gardening a go.
Of course this is me talking so I did a lot of research over the winter months and found as much information as I could about this method of growing a garden. We're using this book as our guide. Straw Bale Garden by Joel Karsten.
Basically the idea is grow your vegetables or even flowers and herbs in decomposing straw rather than in the ground. Why you ask? Well, we don't have good soil here in the forest and for years I have struggled to amend it and improve it. Secondly, I'm always looking for ways to use less water and I'm hoping this will help with water conservation. I really have very little to use by trying since straw is so cheap and we've discussed on this blog before how glad I am that I'm not trying to make a living growing crops because I would be a dismal failure as a farmer! I can't seem to grow a vegetable to save my life. I can grow any kind of flower but vegetables hate to grow for me. This confession from the mother of a certified Master Gardener no less!

The bales were moved into place in the previous raised beds that we lined with weed cloth in case of grass seeds germinating. I don't want to be weeding those beds next year. They're supposed to be in place for a few weeks ahead of planting to start their conditioning. I wanted to take advantage of the expected spring rain fall. We haven't had rain in California in so long that I'm determined to catch every drop I can and soak it up with those straw sponges. It was great to help the help of that young man power.
Just a few more weeks and they'll be ready for planting. Remember our little peach and nectarine trees? Lots of blossoms. Aren't they the cutest things? 

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself. ~May Sarton

Until next time,

Monday, April 25, 2016

Everything and the Kitchen SInk

Another UFO sees the light of day. Can you believe it? It seems like I have a never ending supply of unfinished, half done, started and never completed projects in my sewing room. Am I the only one this happens to? I swear I have the best intentions in the world but I must have the attention span of a gnat! You all must have figured out by now that I am bound and determined to whittle down this pile of zombie projects and so here's another one for you to gaze upon.
Cute right? I started this I can't even tell you when, probably when this book first came out. Scrap Basket Surprises by Kim Brackett. Luckily I had the foresight to store the book with the pieces and even mark the pages with a sticky note or I would truly be lost after all this time.
There are so many great quilts in here I could probably make all of them but remember this one I finished last month?
Well, it's made with 2 1/2" strips and being true to myself I cut way too many strips from my stash when I was making it so whats' a girl to do but find a way to use those up? I honestly can't remember now which came first. Did I cut for this Kitchen Sink pattern first and just keep going for a donation quilt? That sounds more like it. I'll never know/remember now. Procrastination is a memory thief.
The pattern for Kitchen Sink calls for 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" pieces and as you can see I have those all cut out and carefully preserved. They've been marinating for at least two years! Time to get sewing.
Turning those pieces into units.
Turning those units into blocks.
I'm on a roll to actually turn these scraps into a quilt. I might even get another UFO off my list soon if I can keep up my momentum.

Linking up to Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times along with all those other creative folks and Making Monday.

PS - Thank you all for your kind thoughts and condolences on the passing of our dear Shadow. We have been sad and River truly misses her friend. I have not had the heart to respond to you individually, I hope you will understand. Our pets fill such a unique place in our lives and they leave a hollow spot when they have to go. I do appreciate you and thank you.

Until next time,

Friday, April 22, 2016

So Difficult to Say Good-Bye

Yesterday we had to say farewell to our good and faithful companion Shadow.

What I thought was merely a swelling from a bad tooth turned out to be inoperable and untreatable  bone cancer of her jaw. I was completely blindsided as she had absolutely no symptoms nor signs that she was sick. I brought Shadow home so that she could have one more amazing day doing all the things she loved with her best friends. We went for a nice long walk in the woods and she swam for as long as she wanted in the pond by our house. She chased her ball with River until she was tuckered out and I fixed a hamburger patty just for her for dinner, an unheard of indulgence of people food.

She died peacefully in my arms.

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring—it was peace.

—Milan Kundera

Monday, April 18, 2016

Feathering My nest

Still learning the ends and outs of my new embroidery machine. Thanks to my readers and their many great name suggestions, she has been christened Emmy!  Emmy and I are getting along marvelously. I'm tackling a few of these smaller projects in order to gain confidence before I jump into the bigger stuff I have in mind for Emmy.
Spring mug rug from Seasonal Mug Rug Collection Series I San Francisco Stitch Company
I think it will pay off in the long run to have these practice sessions under my belt. I'm using them to learn about the centering and reduce and enlarge design features of the machine as well as rotating and flipping. All these functions were unavailable to me before.
 The stitch quality continues to be wonderful. All I can say is I've learned that it's all about the stabilizer. That and a nice sharp needle!
These pretties go up on the wall of my studio just because I like them and if I need a quick gift I can take one down and there you go!
If you machine embroider what do you do with your practice pieces?

Linking up to Monday Making

Until next time,

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


That's the only word for it. The wonderful scents and fabulous floral display that greets me when I step outside these beautiful spring mornings. My beloved dogwoods are just beginning to open their face to the sun. I can see the white blossoms scattered throughout the forest, such a welcome sign of spring.
From my back steps the lilac trees are in full bloom and are so splendid they honestly take the breath away. I call them trees rather than bushes because they are far taller than I am maybe 12 to 14 feet and covered in every shade of purple from soft lavender to deep violet and dark wine. I walk past on my way to the hen house each morning to greet the feathered ladies.
Making my way along the path I pass under the wisteria arbor weighted down with blossoms. 
You can see the hen house in the distance and on the left hand side more lilac trees.
Standing on my deck with my morning coffee I can get an aerial view of the wisteria in all it's glory - Spectacular! And the scent is just indescribable. Yes, intoxicating about covers it.
I hope spring is showing her beautiful face to you wherever you are. Get out and smell the flowers!

Until next time,

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pillow Talk

So now you know about my new obsession - my Janome 500e embroidery machine. A logical question might be what do I intend to do with the amazing embroideries I'm stitching? If you've been a reader for a while you already know that I love to use embroidery in my quilting and have made many quilts and wall hangings featuring machine embroidery like this baby quilt
or these sweet red work birds.
I wanted to try out the built-in Flourish alphabet on my new machine and had a pillow band embellishment in mind. Here's how it went:
First the stitch out
A capital letter D. Isn't this super fancy? The stitching went perfect. A few tips - starch your fabric really well. Two layers of stabilizer, in this case medium weight tear away, hoop fabric and one layer of stabilizer and float the second layer of stabilizer underneath. Use a thread stand behind and to the right of your machine to relax the thread before it gets to the tension disks. I never use the thread spindle on the machine.
Beautiful stitch out.
Gently tear away the first layer of stabilizer. No heavy pulling that will distort your fabric. You can see here that this layer was floated and is much smaller than the hooped layer. I usually dab some glue stick lightly on the four corners to be sure they don't flip up during sewing.
Tearing away the second layer of stabilizer. Needle nose tweezers come in very handy here. I won't be taking out the stabilizer in those leaf points, too fiddly.
I measured the circumference of my pillow plus added 1/2" for a seam allowance. As you can see I want it to be snug so I pulled the measuring tape a little tight. That's because I didn't want to use ribbons or buttons as closures. This will be a slip on pillow sleeve.
Using my new found skills learned when I made infinity scarves I sewed a tube of focus fabric on one side and bleached muslin on the other. (Here's the post where we learned how to make infinity scarves.) I didn't have enough length in my pretty fabric so I had to sew a seam to stretch it. It really doesn't show but next time I'll plan better in advance.
Press those tube seams flat and finish just like an infinity scarf.
The finished sleeve with no visible closure and nice snug fit slides right on the pillow with no slippage. The length and width of the sleeve will depend on the size of your pillow and the size of your design. This band is 8" wide on a 14" pillow.
I love how it looks in my living room!
Let me know if you try it.

It's Design Wall Monday!

Until next time,

Friday, April 8, 2016

Talk ABout Ugly!

This takes the cake! Garish, loud and what the heck are those monsterish things anyway?

My just turned eight year old grandson Owen is obsessed with all things Skylander and I know he'll love to cuddle up with what could could only be described as a blanket for a little kid. Is it quilty? Well, it will keep him warm and that's something along the those quilt lines right? No particular skills needed here. They have even printed cutting lines for me.
Actually, if you knew what a crazy busy month I have ahead of me you would understand why I've chosen this as my One Monthly Goal. It's about all I can handle and I'm pretty embarrassed about it. The truth is I do need to finish this little project and it will make my grandson happy. I hope I don't get kicked out of the link-up but if I do I'll certainly understand. (I decided not to join the link-up but I am still setting this as a goal for April. I just couldn't put this in the same league with other actual quilting goals, maybe next month.) You should still go and check out the goals of other folks and see what they're up to.

Everything doesn't have to be a work of art sometimes it just has to be a work of heart!

  Until next time,

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

It's a Wonder I Don't Have a Complex!

When you see who I hang out with you'll understand what I mean. Twice a month my gals get together for sewing, chatting and just general good times and when we do we bring along the things we've been working on for show and tell. I hope most of you have a similar group of friends to hang with. Just look at what I have to put up with when we're all together.
We're all working on donation quilts for our local food bank. Here's Leann's first flimsy.
And this one from Suzanne. Same pattern called Fat Quarter Scramble in different fabrics. The pattern was offered by our now defunct LQS some years ago and has been a go to pattern for us all for years.
If you like applique our group is the place for you. Everyone except me is an applique expert! This little Halloween wallhanging was rejected by maker Vickie as not worthy for a Christmas gift so now she doesn't know what to do with it. She doesn't like it any more. How about you would you kick it out of bed, so to speak?
Vickie tried again.
And again.
We have a winner! 
More applique talent, I'm not sure which of my friends produced this piece it could have been any one of them.
Just to prove they can be kind and helpful too here they are trying to give Patty some advise about piecing together a rather complicated pattern that had her in a twist.
See what I mean? It's a wonder I don't have an inferiority complex except that these women are supportive and generous and always great fun to be around.

Until next time,