Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Instagram Update

Things have been very busy around here lately, so I'm sorry for the lapse in posting. Hopefully, once the weather warms up it will be easier to get good pictures. For now, here is a little glimpse of what has been going on from my Instagram feed.

Sock blockers my boyfriend bought me
                                
New fabrics and Fiestaware bowls from a weekend trip.
          
Work on my Fruit of the Month Sampler
          

New fabrics I ordered from Fat Quarter Shop
           
Duck embroidery in progress
           

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Orange Creamsicle Marmalade

I have really enjoyed learning about canning lately. I had a good time making berry jam last weekend, and decided to try some marmalade this weekend. My boyfriend loves oranges, so I went with a pretty traditional orange marmalade recipe, except I added some vanilla extract at the end to give it an almost creamsicle taste without any cream.


I started by scrubbing the oranges really well, and halving them then slicing them really thin and combining them with lemon juice and zest, and water. Cooked it down for over an hour until the peels broke down into smaller pieces, and added the sugar. Then cooked it more until it reached the gel point.




Then I put it in the jars and processed it for 10 minutes and voila! Delicious, bright tasting orange marmalade, with a hint of vanilla. I think it really could have used more vanilla to really get the creamsicle taste, but it still tastes really good. It set up perfectly, I had just a little extra that I was able to taste test. All my jars sealed too, which is encouraging in itself. I really can't wait until summer when I can put up things from my own garden. We usually do mostly tomatoes, but I have a blackberry bush, that hopefully will put out enough this year to make some more jam, and maybe I can convince my boyfriend to take me to some pick your own farms nearby :)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mixed Berry Jam

Just a quick update post, we've had a crazy amount of snow and bad weather and I took a tumble a week or so ago and busted my rump so I haven't been nearly as productive on the sewing front as I would like to be, but I did make some jam! 


I've been wanting to try canning for a while now, as I mentioned before, and last weekend I have it a shot. The jam came out perfect! It set perfectly, all my jars sealed and it tastes amazing! I hope to make some orange marmalade this weekend and finish the other dress for my boyfriend's niece!

Hope you're all staying warm!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sewing Machine Review: Brother SQ9050

I've only been sewing for a few years now. I guess I started sewing about 3 almost 4 years ago, and after sewing mostly by hand for more than a year I decided to get a sewing machine. I couldn't and didn't want to spend a lot of money, mostly because at the time I wasn't sure that sewing was going to turn into this huge hobby for me. I wanted something easy to use, because my previous experience with sewing machine was fraught with curse words and frustration. I read some review online, looked at a few different brands and decided that the $200 machine at my local Walmart was the way to go, at least at the time.

My mom had an old Singer, one of those huge heavy all metal deals, and it was a great sewing machine for longer than I have been alive, but not long before she passed away she had a few problems with it and the ancient Singer was banished to the storage shed in our backyard. Unfortunately now it is rusted inside and several of the parts need replaced, I am sure it is repairable but I am not in a position right now to have that done.

Regardless, I was at Walmart one day after I had done all my research and decided to bite the bullet. The machine was in stock and I bought it. The main reason I decided on that one was the included quilting feet. A walking foot for straight line quilting and a free motion foot, and also the ability to drop the feed dogs to allow for free motion quilting. Plus it was in my price range.



I was worried that it would be as good as the much pricier machines that all of the blog authors used but there was no way I could shell out a thousand bucks for a sewing machine. I would have had to save for a year before I could afford a Janome or Bernina.

Now that we have a little history on why I decided on this machine let me tell you what I think of it. I have had this machine for about a year and a half now and I LOVE it. It is the perfect machine for someone who is wanting to learn to sew. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it has been. I have gotten my money back on this three fold, at least. I have made so many quilts on it I can't even count. And from start to finish, I piece and quilt my own quilts on it. The only thing I don't like about it is the harp space. I wish it had more room to allow me to quilt larger quilts a little easier. It is still doable with some practice, it's just awkward. That is the only con. Let me touch a little more on the pros.

1) As I said earlier, the quilting feet and the ability to lower my feed dogs is a big deal. I wanted to be able to free motion quilt and I can with this machine.
2) Error messages- when you do something wrong, and as a new sewer or quilter you will (you will forget to lower your presser foot, or you will forget to move your bobbin winder back after winding bobbins) it gives you an error code that tells you what you did in case it takes you more than a split second to realize it on your own.
3) Decorative stitches and alphabet- this wasn't a deal breaker for me, but it does come in handy. I have used the decorative stitches and even the alphabet stitches before. Now, don't take this to mean it does embroidery, it most certainly doesn't. The letters are one font, one size but they are handing for making labels, or sewing a name on a tote bag or something along those lines.
4) It's TOUGH. For a $200 machine it is beyond what I could have imagined. If you sew a lot, or read a lot of sewing blogs, you have probably heard the tale of the Weekender bag, and broken needles. Lot's of people had trouble getting their Weekender bag together, saying their machines had trouble sewing through the several layers of batting, canvas, piping and patchwork. Mine was a champ. Not a single broken needle, and although it did struggle at times, it was not nearly as frustrating as I had read on other blogs. I also made my sister a Kitchen Aid mixer cover for Christmas, using the same method and the only problems I had was topstitching along the bottom edge where there were 3 layers.

If you are just starting sewing and are looking for a good machine but don't want to invest a lot of money then this is the perfect machine for you. I am looking to upgrade to another Brother machine with larger harp space to allow me to quilt a little more freely, but I plan on keeping my machine to sew clothing and for the decorative stitches.

So what machine do you use?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Canning Goals and Dress Sewing

Ever since my last post about my non-sewing related goals for this year I have been doing a lot of research on canning. I have been following the blog Food In Jars for several months now and I picked out a few more recipes I thought would be good to try this summer. I also bought a couple books that came highly recommended. 

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is called the Canning Bible. I have another Ball book, The Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving. It's a smaller book with fewer recipes, but lots of good tips so I feel pretty confident that this bigger book will have a lot more good recipes. Hopefully, if all things go well I will be able to give out some jams, jellies and pickles for Christmas this year!


The other book I got also had great reviews and is Southern Living's newer canning book. What was the deciding factor on this one was the fact that it is geared to small batches of canned products. Most recipes are geared to huge outputs, like 7-9 quarts or pints. I'd much rather make a few half pints of jelly, especially if it is a recipe I haven't done before. I would hate to be stuck with 8 half pints of a Blueberry Lemon Jam that no one likes.
I also managed to get some sewing done this weekend. Have I mentioned before that my boyfriend and I have the most adorable nieces and nephew? The two youngest girls are the perfect age and size for adorable homemade dresses. I bought some Pam Kitty Picnic fabric around the holidays when Fat Quarter Shop had a huge sale going on and knew it was perfect for the Oliver and S Ice Cream Dress. I still have to find a cute button for the back closure, but how adorable is this? I mean really, the fabrics were PERFECT for this dress. I simply adore Pam Kitty Morning and I am hoping to snag some more of the flowered fabric for an apron for myself!

                           

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Non Sewing Goals for 2014

As a girl growing up in West Virginia we always had a garden. My mother was raised by her great grandparents, and I can remember their large garden and sitting on the front porch string green beans to be canned. A couple summers before my mother passed away we had a really good haul from our garden at the end of the year and we canned several quarts of tomato sauce and vegetable soup along with some banana peppers. I remember my mom making grape jelly as well. I helped her do the canning, but haven't tried doing it myself. Sometimes if we have lots of green tomatoes at summer end I will make refrigerator pickled green tomatoes, they never last long enough to be canned anyway. One of my goals this year is to learn more about canning. I have several of my mom's books and her boiling water canner. I think I am going to start with something simple, some jelly, jam or marmalade and try out some sort of pickles too. 

My sister and I plan on doing it together, as well as getting together for some sister sewing time every so often as well. I also want to have Sunday dinner every so often at my dad's house like we used to do at my grandparents every Sunday. At Christmas my brother in law mentioned he really missed my pork chops and homemade gravy, and at Thanksgiving my sister mentioned hopefully that I had made a buttermilk pie. Unfortunately I hadn't, I made a cheesecake pumpkin tart (which was also good)

I have a little notebook my mother got me for Christmas one year, specifically for writing down my favorite recipes. I was looking through it tonight (I made ham and spinach quiche, which has quickly become my boyfriend's favorite meal) and was thinking about all the amazing recipes that I haven't made in a long time. My mother and I loved to cook and bake together, and we were always trying new recipes, or making up or own. I have a cheesecake recipe that is AMAZING. We had been looking everywhere for just the right cheesecake recipe, and tried several different ones. There were two in particular that were ok, but both were missing something, so we took our favorite parts of both and tweaked them to come up with our own recipe.

I love my country heritage. My mother and father both grew up in families that raised their own food, made their own clothes, etc. I want to embrace that more, get back to my roots so to speak, and I think canning is one way to do just that. I have picked out a few different recipes I plan on trying this year.


These are pretty basic canning recipes, with few ingredients, and just the basic techniques that I have used before with my mom. It's been a long time since I have canned anything, and never without my mom around to do most of the work (I usually ended up blanching and peeling the tomatoes, boiling the jars, etc)

If all goes well I would also like to invest in a pressure canner so that I could can lots of other vegetables and some meat.

My other goal this year is to work in my garden a lot more. My dad always has a little vegetable garden with tomatoes and lettuce, sometimes cucumbers as well. I'd really like to convince him to build some raised beds this year and try planting a few other seasonal things like radishes or cabbage. I neglected my flower garden a lot last summer too and hope to work on it a lot more. I have a blackberry bush too, the last several years it has put out a few blackberries the last several year but birds always seem to get them, hopefully this year I can keep the scavengers out of it and have enough to make some blackberry jam or at least a cobbler.

What non sewing goals have you set for yourself this year?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Progress

My main goal this year was to really work on my WIP pile from last year. I really wanted to finish up my UFO before starting to work on anything new. My first goal was to quilt my St Louis 16 Patch quilt. The top has been  done for months and just sitting in a corner folded up. I found a great backing fabric at Joann Fabrics that was just right, and happened to have the perfect yellow binding fabrics in my stash. I had picked up a few fabrics to audition for the binding, you can see them with it below, and was leaning toward the gray dot (that I love!) but my dad told me he thought yellow would be great, and he was right! I just happened to have just the right yellow.

                         

                       
The weather here has been horrible for the last couple days, and I haven't had a chance to take a decent picture, but here is the quilt before I put the binding on. I quilted it with an all over stipple. I had originally wanted to do orange peel quilting, but couldn't get it to look right no matter what I did, I think I just need some practice on a smaller project first.

                              

My next goal is to finish the Log Cabin Barn Panel quilt. The top is basically done, but just needs an outer border, then I just have to finish setting my Farmer's Wife quilt blocks and finish my Modern Maples quilt. I hope I am able to finish things ups soon because I have a lot of new things I can't wait to work on!