After a week of below-freezing nights. After an ice storm that shut down Oregon. After days and days of wind and rain. What’s blooming? Pansies, of course.
They will always be in my garden.
When I began hand-stitching this quilt last January, I discovered that sewing spirals took a lot longer than sewing straight lines. As I went along, I realized it would be months, not weeks, of work. Then I learned about temptation bundling, the pairing of enjoyable activities with tedious ones, and began listening to plot-heavy audio books that enticed me back to needle and thread.
These authors attracted me for two reasons. The first: the narrators of the audiobooks had voices that I wanted to listen to. Secondly the authors wrote series, books with repeating characters or themes or locations — the Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters, the Night Soldiers by Alan Furst, and, of course Patrick O’Brian’s masterful Master and Commander collection).
Nine days ago I finished the quilt stitching. Two days ago I finished the binding.
I counted the stitches in an 8″ x 14″ section of the quilt to extrapolate the total stitches and that came out to 71,364. It took me roughly an hour to do about 350 stitches. That’s 198 hours of sewing.
It was interesting to notice that even though I only used one color of thread — a light teal — it looked white on the dark portions of the quilt and almost black on the light portions.
I think I may now be completely done with the whole quilting thing.
When you get a dozen or so ripe tomatoes from the garden every day, dehydrating them into crispy sweetness is just too easy (after all the tomato sandwiches and fresh salsas, etc., have been indulged in). A note about food safety: We freeze the dried tomatoes to avoid concerns about not getting every last bit of moisture out of them. They hold up well in the freezer for well over a year. Many state university extension offices also have great recommendations for preserving fresh tomatoes.
Oregon’s embarrassment of agricultural riches (cherries! grapes! hazelnuts! pears!) includes the most luscious blueberries anywhere ever. In order for July to feel right to me, there has to be some blueberry jam creation. This is a labor of sweaty joy, from the trip to the farmer’s market for a flat of blueberries, to the inspection of canning jars and the filling of the big pot for the water bath processing. Small-batch production takes a while. I can only do 3 pints/6 half pints at a time. This year, we rocked 9 pints and 30 half pints. Can a couple of sweets-loving people such as Craig and myself consume all that jam? No. These delicious reminders of Oregon bounty will migrate out to friends and family sometime in the winter when the skies are heavy and we all miss the sun.
Water bath canning isn’t difficult but its rules must be respected. If you haven’t tried it, check in with your local county extension office for guidelines. Oregon State University’s extension office is a good place to start. And if you want to check your local public library for good recipes and guidance on the topic, check the books out in later winter or early spring. By July, there’s a waiting list for the best books.
Tomatoes growing like crazy. Grapevines out of control with their hidden clusters of fruit. I get up in the morning and step outside to take it in before the sun gets too serious about things. Here in the southern Willamette Valley, we are about to turn the corner into the hot sharp days of August, when the tomatoes will get fat and red, and the afternoons will send us to the river for relief.
I call this blog “Exquisite Now” because I am prone to procrastination. (I used to just crastinate, but then I turned pro!) The blog title reminds me to do things rather than just to think about doing things. We planted the tomatoes in April. Craig cut back the grape vines in February and weeded in May. That was then. And this is the exquisite voluptuous now of summer.
What is it the the Zen Buddhists say? “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
Want to know what’s really hard to hand stitch on a quilt? Tight circles.
This was a thing I might have guessed from my various adventures in embroidery. But I didn’t think about it when looking for a stencil to guide my quilt stitching. I have friends who are expert quilters that I could have checked in with. But I didn’t. Just forged ahead because I liked the swirly design.
This image shows about 9 inches by five inches of work. It took me three hours. I am making a queen-sized quilt. Hopefully I will get faster as I go.
Another thing I am learning. Quilting needles are freakishly tiny. You can embed them in your thumb (and all other nearby fingers) before you even halfway realize you are drawing blood. I guess I am now in the suffering for my craft mode.
I cannot pass a fabric store, especially one of the touristy kind where they lure you in with gorgeous stuff in the window and half an hour later you walk out with $100 worth of product that you tell yourself you will sew into a quilt even though you haven’t been involved in quilting since you were in high school.
OK. That was last June in Ashland Oregon at Sew Creative. Now here we are in January and I am resolved to start quilting. It’s a single fabric quilt, not something I have to piece together so I can jump right into layering the front and back with the cotton batting middle. Lacking a quilting frame, this is not the easiest task but I found a wonderful quilter, Sharon Schamber whose video tutorial walks you through a clear way to combine the layers and baste them in place. I say “clear,” but do not for a minute think “easy.” It involves wrapping the two pieces of fabric around flat straight 3-inch boards to reduce wrinkling. You slip the cotton between them and then baste in manageable sections.
The good news is that I have a large enough dining room table to lay this queen-sized quilt project out on (wrapped around the boards). The other good news (in the lemonade-out-of-lemons category) is that since the pandemic continues with us, I won’t mind commandeering the dining room table for a while. The first photo shows the fabric wrapped on the boards and the first section rolled out for basting. The next photo shows that first section basted.
The basting will hold the three layers together so that I can hand quilt using a hoop. In my project completion fantasy it will be gorgeous. I’m blogging my progress so that I will have a hope of actually making progress.