6/20/18

Quilting and Binding

All that's left is quilting and binding. With that done, Sir Todd's Pawtrait will be finished. Yesterday, I added details to the eyes,


fuzz to the ears,


eyebrows and fuzz all around,


and, of course, whiskers. You can't have a cat without whiskers.


Also, I stitched in some details to the nose and mouth, and then Sir Todd was ready for quilting.


I'll keep that pretty simple. The stitching already applied to the cat goes through the batting, and so any quilting I add now will be for decoration, not function. I'm still settling on what to do for a binding. This quilt has been made from scraps in my stash. I'd like to use a dark brown, I think, but I'm hard pressed to find a piece large enough. I'll look more seriously this morning. If memory serves, this piece ends up at 17 x 16 inches.

There's still a little bit of packing left to do before we take off for the beach today, but I think I'll have plenty of time for finishing off the machine stitching on Todd. I'd like to take him with us and finish hand-sewing his binding on the way.

Yesterday's slow stitching filled the hoop on the Heart & Home block.


Now I've moved my hoop to the right, and I'll pick it up there next time around.


I'll be taking a day or two off from blogging. We're taking our truck camper to the beach, and space is very limited. Even the kitties aren't going with us this time since it's a quick trip. Our neighbor will be looking in on them and giving them their kitty treats. Expect to see me right back here by Saturday.

6/19/18

Bordering on a Finish

My morning got off to a slow start yesterday, and there was a lot to do before I made my way into the sewing room. Todd has his borders now. I toyed with the idea of doing the border on just two sides, but then opted to make the quilt a little larger by bordering all four sides. Here's how he looks.


From there, I added batting to the back, and then top-stitched down all the little pieces, using some monofilament thread.


It's easier to see what I've done from the back; and yes, I did piece together some scraps of batting for this.


My friend Susan asked what kind of photo editing software I'm using to make the posterized version of the image.


Susan, you are no reply, and so I'm hoping you'll see my answer here. I'm using Photoshop Elements Editor. Across the top of the screen, click "Filter," then choose "Artistic," then choose "Poster Edges." There are some other adjustments that can be made after that, and I won't go into all the details. This will get you started.


If you're using another photo editor, your software probably has something similar, but Photoshop Elements is the only one I use, and so it's the only one I know.

All the top-stitching is done now, and so my next step will be to add some details in the eyes and ears, and give him some whiskers. When I left it yesterday, I was auditioning threads to use for shading. Cats are fuzzy, and so I'll make him fuzzy around the edges. I'll also add some shine to the eye with embroidery floss and a French knot.


It was late in the day by that time, and so I stopped there. Smitty had to cover his eyes seeing this intruder in his sewing room.

Is he gone yet?


The only other "sewing" did yesterday was to pretty much fill the hoop on the Heart & Home piece. This morning, I'll stitch the door on the right, and then move my hoop.


We're getting ready to take off on a trip to the beach tomorrow, and so I'll be busy doing some packing today. It's also a CSA pick-up day, and so there's plenty to do. I'm hoping I'll have some time for sewing later on this afternoon. If not, Todd will have to wait for the weekend to get his fuzz and his whiskers.

6/18/18

Threadbare

We had a warm and productive Father's Day yesterday. Erik and Mae came up for a breakfast of Eggs Benedict. I made the Hollandaise, and Mae poached the eggs. Erik helped serve it up when it was time. I got a bee in my bonnet to use some vintage cut glass juice glasses I inherited from my grandmother. When we visited them, I'd always drink my milk from these glasses. They're about 6 ounce size, and they fit my child's hands perfectly. When my mother inherited them, she knew I was fond of them and gave me the whole set. It was fun to get them out and use them for our orange juice.


Matthew's Unpresidented Brass Band was marching in a parade in downtown Portland, and so we missed him. (My kids have very busy lives.) He called later in the day to tell us about the parade and to wish Mike a Happy Father's Day.

After breakfast, I got to work making the Lavender Blossom Jelly. You might recall that I was a little worried about the color this would turn out to be. The lavender blossom infusion faded to a kind of drab brownish-purple, and I worried this would be some ugly jelly.


When I added in the remaining ingredients, cooked it, and then ladled it into jars, it turned a pretty rosy pink again, and the jelly turned out very pretty. My yield was 4 half-pints, plus a bonus half-filled jar.


It has an interesting flavor with the slightest hint of bitterness, but in a good way. The fragrance of the lavender comes through, and it tastes good to me. I'll definitely do this again.

Here's the recipe I'm using. It's the same one I used for the Chive Blossom Jelly. My next try will be with mint leaves, and I'm going to pair it with apple juice to see what I get.

Herb Jelly

Adapted from learn2grow.com
Yield: 4 half-pint jars

2 cups fresh herb leaves or herb flowers (see note)
2 cups clear water, clear juice, or wine
1/4 cup lemon juice or white vinegar
1-2 drops of food coloring -- optional
4 cups sugar or honey
pinch salt
3 ounces liquid fruit pectin

Wash the herbs or flowers and chop coarsely, if necessary, and put in a medium saucepan. Add water (or clear juice or wine) and bring to a consistent boil for 10 seconds. Remove from heat, cover and let stand until completely cooled. Strain 1 1/2 cups of liquid through a coffee filter or layered cheesecloth, pressing the flavor from the leaves with a wooden spoon or vegetable masher.

Pour the liquid (now an "herbal infusion") into a large pot or Dutch oven and stir in the vinegar (or lemon juice), salt and sugar. Heat the mixture to a hard boil ()a boil that can't be stirred down), then add the liquid pectin and continue to boil for exactly 1 minute.

Remove from heat, then skim off any foam and discard it.

Pour the hot jelly immediately into clean half-pint jelly jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars and seal with the two-piece canning lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (add 5 minutes or processing time for each 1,000 feet of elevation).

Suggestions for changing up the recipe:

Add 2 tablespoons cloves to a sweet basil infusion.
Use red grape juice in lemon balm jelly
Use white grape juice in lemon thyme jelly
Try lemonade in lemon verbena jelly
Use grapefruit juice in marjoram jelly.
Use apple juice in mint jelly
Use water or dry white wine in parsley jelly
Incorporate some balsamic vinegar into rosemary jelly.
Cider or apple juice is great in sage jelly.
Try cranberry juice in savory jelly.
Water or apple juice is good in scented geranium jelly.
White wine or water with vinegar is great in tarragon jelly.
Add purple grape juice in thyme jelly.
For a tangy twist, use cherry juice with 1/4 cup cinnamon or tangerine juice and 1/4 cup crushed cloves to any herb jelly.

NOTES: The following herbs or their flowers can be used in this recipe: scented basils, beebalm, chamomile, chive blossom, fennel, garlic, ginger, lavender, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, rose petals (white heel removed), savory, scented geranium, sweet woodruff, tarragon, or thyme.

White or balsamic vinegar can be substituted for all or part of the lemon juice for a tangy, sweet flavor that is complimentary to meat and cheese dishes.

* * * * * 

With that finished, I was ready to get back to work on Todd. When I left him on Saturday, he looked like this:


It was time to give him some ears. First, the right ear...


Then, the left...


Well, hello there, Todd!

After that I finished up the right side of his neck and gave him a body. For this, I decided to add one large piece of fabric,


and then add color over the top. I spent most of the afternoon making all those intricate cuts, but by day's end, he was finished.


Here's the original image I was working from for comparison:


From there, I peeled him up off the pressing sheet. For that, I use tweezers to tweeze up a little corner, and then slide them farther under the piece, spatula style. Then, I hold them up to the light to find any little gaps in the design. There were a few above the eyes. It's easy to just put a scrap of fabric behind, and then fuse it to the back.


After I had all the little holes patched, I gave him a background...this green seemed like a good choice.


Then I went pawing through my scraps to find a piece for his border. I liked this one as a border, binding, and back, but I thought it needed something to separate Todd from the border.


This rich brown stop border should do the trick.


Today I'll sew on the borders, and then back it with batting. Then, I'll be using monofilament thread to stitch down all the little pieces, and then I'll used some colored threads to bring out the details. I like to do all of that stitching through the batting, but before adding the quilt back. I'll do a little bit of quilting when all the thread work is done, but the thread work really serves the function of holding the batting in place. There's still a lot more to do on this, but I should have it finished for June's OMG without any trouble.

This morning when I got up, I spied this rufous hummingbird sitting on the tomato cage where the half eaten cherry tomato resides.


He was shy, and so I had to stand way back and take this picture through the window. You don't suppose he's the culprit who ate the cherry tomato, do you?

6/17/18

Hot Toddy

Yesterday was the day to start on Todd's pawtrait. He's a handsome fellow, no? The lady cats probably swoon for him.


By the way, did you know a lady cat is known as a "Queen"? It only makes sense.

So these are done kind of paint-by-numbers style. The posterized version of the image is used to trace "islands" of color. The word "island" is used because the pieces need to be done so that they can be drawn in a complete "circle," although these pieces are anything but circular. I just can't think of a better way to describe it. They must begin and end at the same spot. Does that make sense?

So here's Todd and his islands of color.


Taking it off the photo, it looks like this. The dark space in the middle of the image is the reflection of my camera. There just isn't any way to keep reflections off the reflective surface of the transparency.


And these are applique, so they have to be reversed. Just to keep things straight, it helps to write a note to myself so I'm not second-guessing which side to trace onto the fusible web.


The easiest place to start is the eyes. You want to cut holes for the pupils, rather than appliqueing them over the top of the iris. It avoids having them look like bug-eyes. So I cut the iris out, cut a hole for the pupil, and then just cut a little piece of black fabric and fuse right over the top of it. Batiks are a good choice for the iris. They have a nice variability that mimics the variability of color in an actual iris.


A pressing sheet is essential for this process. You're fusing pieces to the pressing sheet and then moving them around as you go. I like to put the eyes in the right spot, fuse them to the pressing sheet and then work outward from there.


The eyes have it.


Speaking of eyes...someone else had eyes on the goings on here. He was rather offended at pictures of another cat in his sewing room. He let Todd know just what he thought of these shenanigans.

Yeah, Todd...Take a look at that. How's that fur a view?


Eventually, he settled in on my sewing chair. Fortunately for him, this was a no-sewing day. Everything was done at the ironing board, the light box, and the work table.


With so many pieces and so many colors, it was hard to tell where one piece started and another began. I figured out that I can turn the picture upside down on the light box and then lay the pattern over the top to get a better idea of the colors. Then I can trace onto the fusible right there. It was a lot easier than trying to trace from the transparency alone.


So on I went...adding pieces. When I got this far, I took a picture.


Todd wasn't popping out at me yet, and I decided I really needed to figure out the nose next. It was easier if I used the non-posterized image to draw out the shape of the nose. Todd's nose has lots of different colors, and I needed the basic shape as a guide. From there I could add colors as it made sense.


Then I added some of the orange and white to the sides of his nose, and he started looking more like Todd.


This scrap of fabric has been invaluable for the pawtraits. It once was a quilt back, and I can't even remember the quilt now. It might have been given away. In any case, it's been the best piece of fabric for pawtraits. The pinky peachy colors are perfect for cat noses and ears. It's been used in every kitty pawtrait I've done. I don't know what I'll do when it's all gone.


From there, I took it a little farther. When I got to this point, it seemed like a good place to stop. So I took a picture, turned off the iron and the lights, and headed up stairs. I even posted this image to Facebook.


Then I filled the bird feeders, watered the pots, checked in to see how Mike was coming with the iris. (He was busy digging them out, as we have been threatening for years.) I drank some water, sat around a little bit, and then I looked again at the picture on Facebook. Wait just a minute...something was wrong.

Downstairs again, I laid the transparency over the top and realized I'd put a piece over the top of another when it was supposed to go under. Oy.


You can see it where that pink line is in the image below.


Okay, so I carefully peeled up that side of the applique and tucked it under the piece below without harming either piece. Phew! Now it looks right.


So that's where I'll pick it up today. I'm hoping to finish the ears and the rest of the neck. If there's time left, I'll get going on the body.

And Happy Father's Day out there, if you happen to be one of those people. Here's my favorite dad image of all time.


This morning the kids are coming over to help me make Father's Day Eggs Benedict. We did it at their house last year, so this might be a new tradition. It should be fun. However you're planning to spend your day, I hope it's a good one.

6/16/18

Out of Gas

The lights in the sewing room were never turned on yesterday, and so it ended up an unplanned no sewing day. The morning was pretty well taken up with my walk with Sue. The trail was so pretty yesterday, and I resisted the urge to take pictures of every blooming thing. Nevertheless, I did capture a few.


These are wild roses. They are in bloom all along the trail right now.


These are tiny...about the size of a beebee.


These little red berries are about the size of a beebee too.


In yesterday's post, I alluded to having spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen on Thursday. I was making up the mixture for Best-Ever Veggie Burgers. We're not vegetarians here, but that doesn't mean I don't loves me a killer veggie burger every now and again. I was wanting to try making my own, and this recipe came highly recommended by our CSA farmers. It's made with canned black beans, roasted beets, sauteed onions, and brown rice, among other things. The mix was made up and then refrigerated overnight. (I suspect that improves flavor, but also makes it easier to form into patties.)

So last night was the night for actually eating them, and after I got home, I made up six patties to be cooked later.


I layered them between so many layers of wax paper, and then covered them with plastic wrap, then put them back in the fridge to wait their turn in a cast iron skillet.


When that was finished, I happened to look out the window to see this little sh*t having either climbed or jumped up to our peanut feeder to feast on peanuts.


Gasp! I do believe he's mocking me!


And after that, we had some lunch. I felt a little tired after lunch, and so laid down on the couch for a short nap. I think I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I slept all afternoon! Geez. I hadn't planned on that, but I must have needed it. You know we get going here at the Three Cats Ranch because there is so much we need and want to do. Then at some point, our batteries run down  and we fall over in a dead sleep.

It was practically dinner time when I woke up, which was just fine because I was dying to sink my teeth into this burger. Ours kind of fell apart around the edges and ended up more like veggie sloppy joes. No matter...they were delicious.


The recipe made six patties, and you probably know how it is when you're trying to divide something up evenly...cookies, for example. You start out making them a certain size. By the time you get to the end, you're either making huge ones or tiny little ones, depending on whether you're trying to stretch out or conserve whatever you mixed up. These burgers were no different. The last ones were rather large, and this is a LIFO delivery system (Last In, First Out). The patties we ate were also the biggest. Anyway...I think in the future, I'll make them smaller and thinner. That might help them hold together a little better. It would probably be possible to get eight patties from the mix that way. There are two more in the refrigerator. We'll have those in a day or two. I froze the remaining two. We'll have them another time.

But that's not all I was doing in the kitchen. I made this Melt-in-your-Mouth Kale Salad too. Even not-fond-of-kale Mike will eat this. It's a simple recipe...no frills...but such a delicious way to eat kale.


Mine was made with golden raisins, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. As one of our members pointed out, you can substitute any green, any dried fruit, any nut, and any hard cheese in this. I think it would be really good made with dried cranberries and pistachios too. It's easy, delicious, and oh, so healthy. After dinner, I was having a hard time resisting the urge to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

But I didn't...because we were fresh out of tall buildings here at the Three Cats Ranch, and besides, day was done.


So today, there's very little on the agenda that needs doing. I expect I'll spend most of the day in the sewing room. Todd the cat awaits.