Friday, January 22, 2010

School and Seeds :)

Well, school is in full swing! First day was rough - I sat in for the entire length of the WRONG math class! UGH! I mixed up the teacher that I have the second half of the semester...whoops. Luckily I was still able to get the homework for the correct class and as it turns out there was a huge mixup with schedules and lots of people were mixed up. Everything else is difficult, as I'd expected it to be, yet still a lot of fun. I'm trying to get a head start on that anatomy class, making note cards and skipping ahead a bit. A good chunk of the students in there are taking the class for the second time around, which is a little intimidating. Ok, a LOT intimidating! I think the lab part of the class is awesome. We did a fun little experiment where we swished around some gatorade to obtain our cheek cells, then we used a solution to burst the cells and another to pull out our DNA. I had a rather nice and chunky string of DNA, whoohoo go me! LOL* The Professor told us we could suck it out and save it...she had little containers with lids and string to make a necklace...LOL**** That's when I decided I was going to like this class! LOL* I did bring mine home just to show my daughters, my youngest had no interest, but it sparked something in my oldest daughter who now is interested in learning anything she can about DNA. :) That makes me happy. :)

Haven't had any time to sew and really there is going to be twice as much studying going on this semester as last, but I did manage to get to play with seeds a little bit. I talk about my favorite gardening website a lot, Garden Web, and recently mustered up the courage to check out the seed exchange forums. Garden Web is one of those unique communities where there are a lot of really kind people there, sincere people, who've been there a long time. Of course there are a handful of boogers, but I've been tooting around on their forums for about four years and learned more about gardening from there than anywhere else. In any case a few of the traders who've been there a long time have acquired a large amount of seeds from trades, round robins, and swaps. They also have much larger gardens than I and I would say most of the seeds have come from their own gardens. Well I answered a few exchange posts, and one in particular was from a very generous lady who had an entire box of over 100 packets of seeds that she was willing to give to one person. I happened to answer first, aren't I the lucky one???!!! At first when I answered, her offer was so generous I thought for sure I must be mistaken! The seeds are from 2004 and 2005, so there is a chance some or even many of them may not germinate...but I have heard of seeds lasting 10 years or more so I'm sure there will be more than a few success in the bunch. She even sent me a few packs of 2009 seeds to be sure I got something from them. It wasn't cheap for her to send those seeds either - and ya know just when you think the world has gone to pot and all the nice peopl have vanished, someone like her pops up out of the blue. I'm so excited!!!

Here's my seed stash now...these are not all from the one woman, but most of them are! (Never mind my chipping nail polish there...I am too busy to be pretty you know!!! I'd much rather quilt or garden or STUDY than primp!!) :)

Ok, off to take little children to school. Then I have a week's worth of chores to do and as much studying and homework. :) Will post again when I get a chance to catch my next breath... ;)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Way in Which Birds Torment Kitties

Kitties aren't allowed on the table in my house - I love how Cinnamon has found a way around our rule.

Just chillin' out after a long day of bird watching.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nothing of Importance

Spring semester starts in less than a week - woohoo! I'm actually really excited. :) I am taking an anatomy class that everyone says is really hard, and I bet it will be, but I'm really looking forward to it! We get to learn all the muscles and bones and really get into the human body in a little more detail. I think it's going to be fun. OH - and guess what? I've been looking forward to this ever since I decided to go to nursing school...we get to dissect a human cadaver! Of course I feel a little guilty for being so excited about this, but I try to remember that the individual we will be looking at volunteered his or her body for this. It's a big deal around here for a school to be able to even afford a cadaver, so I'm feeling pretty lucky. :) Bought my book yesterday too, check it's a monster:

and a peek inside...

How cool is this? I'm so excited. It's gonna be fun! :)

Aside from the anatomy lecture and lab, which is almost like two classes really, I'm taking chemistry, two math classes, and sociology. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Medallion Progress and Winter Sowing Progress

Ok now, pretend this piece is up on the wall when I show you the next picture! Lol*

I finished all my rings the other day before I became distracted by gardening. I cannot wait to see it all together! I am no doubt going to have to hand sew the first ring to each of the four center pieces. I think the rest of the rings will do ok by machine.

As I said I've been distracted by gardening. The winter sowing forum on Garden Web is kicking up and I'm losing a little steam on my quilt as my brain shifts to seeds. Luckily we're flat broke from Christmas so I'll have no choice but to quilt to keep me busy until next payday...then I can do a little seed hoarding. :) I think hoarding is my favorite hobby even more than sewing or gardening! I collect a ridiculous amount of things. I always tease that some day I'm going to end up on one of those episodes of Oprah with a hoarding addiction, with Dr. Phil as a guest host asking me what possesses me to own 73 sewing machines? "Why Dr. Phil, they are antiques! I'm saving them from a life spent rusting away in someone's basement who doesn't really love them like I do." To my credit right before Christmas I did give away to car loads full of things to Goodwill. Now I have a little room and an excuse to buy more junk!

Here's my winter sown pots - right next to the bag of rock salt. Lol*

Well so far I haven't sown as many seeds as I'd have liked to by this time. Here's the list:

Nasturtium - "Empress of India" (a fancy way of saying Red) - 2 packs

Oriental Poppies - Red - 2 packs

Oriental Poppies - "Pizzicato Mix" - (red, orange, salmon, white) - 3 packs

Delphiniums - "Pacific Giant" - 2 packs

Hollyhocks - from my Dad's friend's garden - the equivalent of about 2 packs

I have so many garden plans for this year, let's see how many I'm able to accomplish. Here's the list of plants I'm itching to get into the garden for this year:

Morning Glories - Purple and Vibrant Blue - to train over the shed and possibly the front door

Sweet Peas - They did wonderfully last year on a tripod, this year instead of 3 packs I'm going to do something more like 15 packs and put a huge patch by our bay windows. (Tip for those of you on a budget as I am, the sweet peas I grew last year were 3 packs for $1.00 at Dollar General!)

White Sweet Alyssum - I'm going to experiment with this
below the sweet peas and throughout the garden for something low to the ground at the front of beds.

Bush Beans - these were my favorite vegetable we grew last year so I'd like to fill out empty patches in the garden beds with these.

Pumpkins - I want to fill as much of the backyard as possible with pumkins to give away and maybe even sell by the road. No school in the summer so I've got to find something to keep me busy!

Nasturtium - I'd like some more nasturtium in different shades to plant next to the pumpkins...they just look pretty. :)

Monardia - Bee Balm - I just love this and want to toss it in wherever I have room.

Foxgloves - one of my favorite plants and my goal is to get as much as I can fit in my garden so every year I can have blooms!

Delphiniums - same as foxgloves! I love them, I planted lots of seeds and full grown plants last year and will do the same this year to hopefully keep getting blooms each year. Nothing beats these gorgeous show stoppers.

Poppies - last year I had a nice patch of orange california poppies and I added some shirley poppies to that area. Hopefully they have seeded and will begin to take off this year and I'll be filling in the area with the red oriental poppies and pizzicato poppies I've sown.

Dwarf Bachelor Buttons - I love bachelor buttons but these give the color with a little less weediness.

Chives - love the look of chives in the spring and I hoping to add this functional plant to my garden this year.

I can't wait to get started!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Summer and Winter in Ohio

I was inspired by Sue at A Corner Garden, one of my absolute favorite garden blogs, who was inspired by another garden blogger (isn't that the way it goes?) to do a summer/winter photo post of some of my garden areas. I took all of the winter photos this morning, and the others are from June/July 2009.

I purchased some seeds to winter sow today! Got a tip from Garden Web that seed racks were out at Home Depot...and sure enough they are. I picked up some empress of india red nasturtium and some classic red poppies. I think poppies are becoming one of my favorite flowers. Next to Iris's who's blooms are short but pack such a powerful punch when they unfold.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Let the Winter Sowing Begin

In just a few months my plant babies will return! :) Now that the snow is up to my knees, I suppose it's time to start thinking about winter sowing. Anyone else planting anything now for next spring?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Basic Paper Piecing Tutorial

I get a lot of comments about paper piecing so I thought I would do a little tutorial. There are many different methods for paper piecing but this is what works for me. I'm always open to tips or suggestions so share them if you have any! :)

I'm using a ring from the medallion/compass quilt I'm working on now as an example. The first thing you'll want to do is print the template you are going to use or copy it onto paper. I use either tracing paper or regular inexpensive computer paper. I have tried muslin, newsprint, and freezer paper as well but just regular old computer paper or tracing paper are my favorites.

The next thing I do is cut my fabric into strips into squares or other shapes to make piecing faster and easier. I know many paper piecing ladies who are very frugal and will spend a lot of time determining what size and shape to best precut their pieces to save fabric. I'm not so concerned with that as long as the shapes will give me plenty of seam allowance and I'm not wasting excessive amounts of fabric.

If you're not sure if your fabric is going to cover all the seams, you can hold your piece up to a sunny window or other light source to check. Sometimes if the pieces I'm working with are small and layered with dark fabrics I'll use a light box.

The next thing I do is match two of the squares of fabric I have cut and place them right sides together. I choose one edge to be my seam edge.

Here is the seam I will be sewing on the paper piecing template. Since I'm sewing directly on this line, I need to be sure that my seam edge is 1/4" past this line. I usually eyeball it.

I hold my fabric up to the light so that I can see the fabric aligned behind the seam line. This way I can be sure that I have allowed enough seam allowance.

This is definitely more than 1/4", but that's ok because I can visibly see that there is plenty of fabric around all edges, and I can trim back my seam after I've sewn.

Holding my fabric in place I sew the seam. Some people get nervous that the fabric will shift and like to pin it in place. You don't need to, it should stay and if you do see that it shifts a little you can move it back into place before you start stitching. This is one reason I don't mind giving myself a little extra fabric. I like relaxing carefree sewing. :)

I drop my stitch length to around 16-18 stitches per inch - that's around a 1 or 1.5 on my machine. If after sewing the paper is beginning to fall off, I just put a piece of scotch tape on it. Just don't forget about it when you go to iron! I use a press cloth or piece of scrap fabric to iron any area I secured with tape to keep it from gunking up my iron. These blocks are so big that I had to use a lot of tape just to put the pattern together before I even began sewing!

Now I've sewn, and I press my seam open. Just like with regular piecing, my seam is pressed to one side. If I'm doing lots of small intricate pieces I'll press the seams open to lessen bulk. I don't worry about pressing to the darker side when paper piecing, but if I'm working with a particularly light fabric and I can see my seam allowance underneath I'll again press open or force the seam over to the other side.

After I've sewn the paper is very easy to fold along the line. I fold the paper back so that I can trim it back...

Now I trim. If I know I'm not going to hand quilt, or it's just something small I will eyeball my 1/4 inch and just cut it by hand. I want to quilt this project heavily so to reduce bulk as much as possible I'm going to trim my seam to a perfect 1/4". I have already trimmed the seam here, and now I'm going to trim the edge that will be the seam allowance for the next seam.

The paper on this side is still stiff. To trim this side and set up for the next seam I will fold the paper back, and trim 1/4 an inch away from what will be my next seam edge. I know of some people who like to prefold on all of their lines before they begin sewing to make this folding process easier. I don't for two reasons. #1. It weakens the paper and my template falls apart much faster. #2. My sewing time is precious and when working with blocks like this, where there are more than 200 paper pieced seams per block, I don't want to spend it folding paper. So instead I line the printed seam line up with my ruler, flip it up, and over the ruler and crease the paper along the edge of the ruler with my finger/nail. It leaves enough of a crease I can fold the paper back and trim, but not enough to terrorize my paper or make me feel like I'm preparing for the origami championships.

It's a little scary at first trimming this edge, but it's helpful because now you've just set your seam edge for the next row of stitching, and once you sew you won't have to trim the seam back at all.

Once I've trimmed the unsewn seam edge I am all set up for my next piece. I just lay my next piece of fabric down right sides together, flip, and begin the process all over again.

I trim the curved edges as I go along. I leave them roughly 1/2" and trim them back to 1/4" later when I'm ready to sew them together into the block. I also leave the paper attached to the fabric until I'm ready to sew into a block. Once my entire block is pieced together I'll carefully peel the paper off, holding the stitches as I pull to keep them from weakening. Sometimes I'll even leave all the paper on until my entire quilt top is finished and ready to be quilted! :) You can use the edges of the paper block to ensure you are accurately piecing your blocks together.

So that's how I paper piece! It's got to be one of my favorite things to do. :)

**Edited To Add**  Here's some progress on this medallion quilt!  It's virtually all paper pieced but the very center star...

Slowly but surely I'm working on those borders...eventually it should look like this...