July 31, 2012

Bee Blocks

Sew. Quilt. Give. made granny square blocks this month! I've been watching all sorts of quilted granny squares pop up all over Teh Interwebs since the beginning of the year, and this was such a nice way to get to know the block without committing to a whole quilt's worth. Cutting out the squares for these two blocks wasn't intimidating, although it's probably a good thing I didn't do the math until just now - if I'd known I was sitting down to cut 50 2.5 inch squares, I'm might have found it a lot less approachable!

granny square block
I knew I was going to use blues in these blocks. I have lots of blue (I may have mentioned this). I'm really happy with how this block turned out. It's tricky to pair red and blue and not get something that's inadvertently only good for picnics on the Fourth!

granny square block
Blue and yellow is a classic combo, of course. This one feels beachy to me now that I look at it again, although that wasn't what I was thinking when I put it together.

In fact, I may not have been thinking much at all. Which might explain how I got a bit over-zealous about squaring up. Rather than remake the block, I added tiny borders to two sides. I think these should mostly disappear into the seam allowance and hopefully make adding in this block less of a pain for Marian!

I'm also hoping my blocks blend with the whole better this month. The fabrics in my bee blocks for June were more color-saturated than what everyone else chose. Next time someone says "baby quilt", I should check in about the color palette. Turns out my preference for high-contrast, super-saturated baby things is, well, non-standard.

July 26, 2012

What to do with even more cherries?

So, the cherry tree has out-done itself this year. I've gotten all kinds of comments from neighbors this year. There were so many cherries that if the tree wore a blinking neon sign, it couldn't have drawn anymore attention to itself.

What does one do with about 20 pound of homegrown cherries?

Well, I put a bunch in the freezer for crisps and such.

brandied cherries
I made a batch of brandied cherries, since they sounded good. (They are!)

holiday cherries
And I made a batch of "Holiday Cherries", which are basically an alcohol-free version of the brandied cherries, with warm spices instead. Prepping these made the kitchen smell like Christmas, which was seriously strange when it was so warm and bright outside!

We ended up with extra syrup after all the jars were packed. Turns out, it makes a nice little soda when you pair it with club soda. I'm totally hooked on this homemade syrup + fizzy water thing, even though I'm not really into supermarket sodas or pops. And I know my homemade versions probably aren't any better when it comes to sugar content. But they are so fun! And pretty too, how the syrup clings to the bottom of the glass and the bubbles all dance on top of it.

July 24, 2012

Even More Siggies!

siggy blocks, round 2
I've finished the 65 blocks for the Crafty Blackbird's Siggy Block Swap. Assuming we don't have any drop-outs in Round 2, I'll have a bit more than 120 blocks to play with when the blocks come back to me.

And then I'm done. Really. No Round 3 for me. I've got to focus on getting some of those WIPs in the sidebar done!

siggy blocks, round 2
There are some fun things popping up in the Flickr group as people start playing with the blocks from Round 1. I'm seriously impressed by the folks who have turned a pile of randomly colored blocks into layouts organized by color spectrum!

July 19, 2012

Summer Journal: Cherry Preserving

A few years back, I put some Bing cherries in our dehydrator - you know, for science - and I've been drying cherries ever since. Uber-yumminess! They make great snacks, easy to grab on the way through the kitchen. I put them in granola and gorp, too.

washing cherries
This is the first year that Caitlyn has gotten involved in the madness that is prepping 20 pounds of cherries for the dehydrator. That may have a lot to do with this being the first year that the box of cherries arrived at the house before dinner-time.

Using the cherry pitter, naturally, was the thing she was most excited about, but the appeal wore off once it became clear that pitting cherries requires a certain amount of precision. You can't just bang away on the pitter.

arranging cherries
She did a great job of loading the dryer trays with halved cherries, though, and loading the trays into the dryer.

So pretty!

cherry hands
Of course, everyone's hands turn purple. Cherry juice stains your fingernails for days.

dried cherries
Two days later, we have this: a bowl full of dried cherries! This batch worked out to being something like 14 half-pints. Edible happiness!

cherry jam
Oh, and a batch of Bing jam. Just because. The process of putting summer in a jar has begun!

July 17, 2012

Catching up with the Craftsy BOM

Just when I thought I'd manage to get all caught up on all my Block of the Month projects, it had to go and become July. I'm now behind in all three BOMs, again, and likely to stay there for the rest of the summer.

Quilting is a cold-weather hobby, right? Summer is time for garden projects and food preserving projects and doing-things-with-Caitlyn projects.

Back at the Craftsy BOM, in April, the blocks were all about English paper piecing. I don't think I'll take this up an a regular thing (best wishes to all those doing FatQuarterly's English paper piecing Quilt-Along, HexyMF, with your 518 hexagons!) since I'm feeling rather intimidated by all the hand-sewing that goes into a full quilt done this way. Also, hexagons? Not really my thing. But they were a fun take-along project for Caitlyn's swimming lessons earlier this month.

minimal hexies
This came out so much better than I expected. I really like how the hexies are there but not representational. They are just blops of color, which lets the color and the fabric speak more than the hexagons themselves.

pictorial hexies
For the second block, Amy (the class instructor) gave the optional challenge of doing something with the hexies other than the sun she had made. I made flowers, which I think came out fine, but are pretty much exactly what I'm not fond of with hexagons in general. It's so easy to end up with Grandmother's Flower Garden (no offense to you HexyMF-ers out there, or to grandmothers)! I do like how my embroidered stems came out, though.

framed log cabin
On to May and "modern log cabins". This one is a Framed Log Cabin and I really like it. It's more "modern" than most of what I've done (I think that means more improvisational and more "white" space), but I think I've pinned several like this to my Quilty Inspiration board at Pinterest, so clearly this design speaks to me on some level. I'm toying with requesting blocks in this style when it's my month to lead Sew. Quilt. Give.

wonky log cabin
And a Wonky 5-Sided Log Cabin.

modern greek cross
For June, the theme was Modern Nine Patch. This one is a Greek Cross.

octagon block
And this one is an Octagon. Nothing unusual here. I think both of these will look better when placed into the quilt - the edges of the block look strange because the points don't line up, but those will end up in the seam allowance and everything should be fine.

Craftsy BOM Blocks
I'm half-way through this BOM, with 12 blocks done (not the best picture ever, sorry about that). I think there are 6 to go, with the last two months of the BOM about assembly and finishing. The idea seems to be to take you from pile o' fabric to finished quilt in a year.

I doubt I'll finish this by Christmas. But maybe I should set some sort of goal: finished tops for all three of my BOMs by the end of Second Grade.

Think I can make it?

July 12, 2012

Summer Journal: Strawberries

Some people (I'm looking at you, elsie marley) can take a camera when they go strawberry picking and somehow get fun pictures of their kids picking/eating strawberries without (I assume) making a mess of the camera with their own strawberry-covered fingers. I know this is a skill I don't have, so I didn't bother with the camera. You'll just have to imagine:

A day that was forecast for rain and then didn't...

A field of strawberry plants, just to the right of the teeny tiny Christmas trees...

Caitlyn and her friend actually filling their buckets, instead of bringing us 4 or 5 berries at time, for the first time in 3 years...

Working down the rows, on hands and knees...

Milkshakes made with fresh strawberries...

Picking more than 60 pounds of berries, to the great startlement of the young man at the scale...

Listening to the kids run in the playground made of old tractor tires and culvert pieces (which vibrate you when you slide through them, and then echo the vibration back at you if you say "Ahhhh!" while you slide)...

I've got strawberries in the freezer now. Some of them are destined for jam, maybe some for syrup. Lots of them are destined for Caitlyn's lunches next school year. Some of them will get tossed with the rhubarb in the freezer for strawberry-rhubarb crumble.

strawberry lemon preserves
And some became these jars of strawberry lemon preserves. I wonder how long I can hold off opening one up?

Why do I keep making jams and spreads when I have so many jars of homemade grape jelly in the pantry??? Does anyone know what to do with grape jelly besides spread it on toast or peanut butter?

July 09, 2012

Mailbox Goodies!

I got fun mail!

Want to know what made it extra fun?

I won it! I never win things!

Back in early June, Jackie at Canton Village Quiltworks showed off a newly finished quilt and requested name suggestions. I commented with the first thing that popped to mind ("Salt Water Taffy") and Jackie chose me as the runner up. Squee!

Seven fat quarters in batiks (my fave!), in colors from the palette Jackie used in her quilt, now officially named "Berries Jubilee". I'm keeping these beauties in their bundle for now... it seems appropriate that I use them for some future paper piecing project, since that's Jackie's forte´. I played with paper piecing something like 10 years ago and I think it's time to try it again.

Sometime after the summer, though! I'm not that crazy (really!).

July 05, 2012

Summer Journal: Hexies at Swimming Lessons

working on a hexie block while Caitlyn swims
Caitlyn is kicking off her summer break with swimming lessons. For years, she insisted that she already knew how to swim. This spring, she admitted that she didn't know really, but ducklings do "as soon as they're born" and therefore young humans should be jealous. The half-hour she has in the pool for her lessons is the current highlight of her day.

The pool is warm, the community center welcoming. Waiting parents get these nifty bleachers to watch from.

working on a hexie block while Caitlyn swims
Or, in my case, to work on a quilt block with some English paper pieced hexagons. I'm enjoying the portability of this project, but I'm not sure that I'll take up hand-piecing hexagons as a regular thing. Are there English paper piecing patterns that aren't all hexagons?

July 02, 2012

Summer Journal: Homegrown Cherries

homegrown cherries
The cherry tree in the backyard has been busy.

homegrown cherries
It'll be a good crop, if we could get just a tiny bit less rain... some of the fruit is molding before I can get it off the tree. But the birds are happy, as is the skinny squirrel I startled out of the tree the other morning. I do wish the critters would eat the fallen cherries first, though, leaving me the ones in the tree. Lots of cherries are out of my reach, guys; there will be plenty for all of us!