Monday, September 22, 2014

Batch 2 of dyed fabric for the quilt that needs a new name

Here is more fabric. I love dyeing! This batch was able to sit in the dye bath for 24 hours, the recommended time for batching. After 24 hours, the dye bath was very pale and clear indicating that had very little dye left in solution which is a good sign that most of the dye has attached to the fabric. These photos show damp fabric. It is such a surprise to unfold each bundle and see the explosion of colours and spaces in between that makes such interesting patterns.
dye batch 2

fabric in the dye bath after 24 hours

Front: fabric that has been dyed twice, first scrunched then folded. Back: folded

Front: pleated and knotted. Back: pleated and ironed

Scrunched, the bottom fabric has been dyed twice.

This quilt project will go on. I will need a new name for it. It is a sampler quilt, for now the bogus underground railway quilt sampler. I think the book has some good quilting instructions and I'm not about to throw the baby out with the bath water. I will continue to read about stories of quilt squares and the history of the underground railway and this myth of quilt codes. I think this is an invitation to write my own story into this quilt.

The first block reminds me to question everything. I heard a Judith Lasater interview on the Liberated Body podcast. She reminds us to extend our questioning to our own thoughts and "not to believe everything you think".

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dye batch 1 and first quilt square done!

Nothing like a deadline to get things done. I finally got around to dyeing some fabric for my first quilt with more than one square. I have made very minimalist quilts with one giant square for the quilt top. I wanted yoga blankets and thought it would be more fun to make them than pay the $30 per blanket, which in hindsight seems like a really reasonable price. I made two and then bought a couple of blankets.

I've been doing an online craftsy course called The Art of Cloth Dyeing with Jane Dunnewold. Here is my first batch of fabric.

The fabric was in the dye bath for the minimum time because I dyed the fabric the day before I needed it for the first meeting of my quilting group. I will dye some more today for a longer time. I was unsure whether I would dye all of my fabric for the quilt, but after sewing my first block, I think I will.

Here is the first square...
Bogus Underground Railroad block

The project is an Underground Railroad Sampler quilt. The story is that quilts blocks were a kind of code giving information to slaves making an escape to freedom. The quilts would be hung out to air out, marking safe houses and passing along information to escaping slaves. The version of the story presented in the book we are using comes from Ozella McDaniel Williams, a quilt store owner from South Carolina. The story of the role of quilts in the underground railroad has become popularized but under scrutiny it appears that it is more fiction than fact and our book is listed in the 'Quilt Code' hall of shame by Hart Cottage Quilts who provides a short FAQ sheet about the myth of the quilt code. I am intrigued to learn more about the facts about the true history of slavery and the Underground Railroad and the persistence of this false story.

I'm suddenly rethinking whether I want to continue with this quilt. I'll have to rename it - for now the Bogus Underground railroad sampler quilt? I still want to learn to quilt. I give the writer the benefit of a doubt that she did did not know she was propagating falsehoods. But why not? In part because it is easy to believe this feel good story rather than look head on at the full reality of slavery, the good the bad and the ugly. Before I sat down to share a few photos this morning I thought it was true.

On a lighter note, it was my turn to bring a snack. Here is the recipe for the apple cake I made.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Project 50: Yoga pants re-groovenated - second chance pants

This is the first pair of yoga pants I ever made over 10 years ago. They have shrunk and faded and only get worn when the laundry has not been done. This past spring at the Lilac festival I saw these pants that I like. I've been thinking of making a similar pair ever since. I have worked on these on and off for a few months, mostly off.

Finally done, here are some pants selfies - not as easy as you might think. I used my serger to sew an overlock stitch in parallel lines along the length of the leg. Then I threaded a hemp yarn through the line of stitching and gathered the bottom of the leg. I decided to trim off a couple of inches from the bottom and made a ruffle to add to the bottom of the leg. I'm wearing them today!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Project 49: A coffee cozy from a stash of granny squares made from odds and ends of yarn

For the last part of our trip, we stayed with my in-laws at the farmhouse where my husband grew up in the Laurentian mountains, south of Mont Tremblant. There were lots of projects that my whole family got involved in. My husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law did a major repair to a huge old barn. My daughter baked lots of bread and desserts. My son learned how to use a wood lathe and made a bowl. He was so taken with it that he and my husband bought a $100 used lathe a couple days after returning home. Those were just a few of the things that kept us happily busy for the last part of July.

Here is one of the projects that I did on a rainy day. My step-mother-in-law, Meg, had been given a stash of yarn that had belonged to her mother. In the boxes was a collection of crocheted granny squares. Her mother had made about 40 of these to use up odd bits of yarn but had no project in particular in mind for them.
a bread bag full of granny squares
coffee pot cozy with bright red squares

cozy on an insulated French press coffee pot

more subdued colours of the second cozy

 opening for handle of the coffee pot

I had garden envy after seeing gardens belonging to my mom, Dan and Meg. Everything was easily two to four times larger than anything I had ever grown in Calgary. The difference was in part the skill of the gardeners, the soil and compost, longer growing season and the hot humid weather. It was not unusual to awake to mist and fog in the mornings. That just doesn't happen in Calgary - land of the dry heat.

Raised bed gardens with garlic, parsley and greens

We had some beautiful salads and vegetables. The Swiss Chard and kale was as large as store bought but much more tender. Also ready to eat were peas, snow peas, lots of lettuce, spinach, radish, carrots, herbs, onions, lots of raspberries and even a few blueberries. One lunch featured kale two ways, stir-fried and in a salad! My kids were not as enthusiastic. One day I prepared a bunch of lamb's quarters (weed) that I pulled up. I cooked it like spinach. There is no need to eat the lamb's quarters when the swiss chard grows the way it does, but it did taste good. I was inspired to do so by friend Swati, who told me that it is commonly eaten as a vegetable in India. I have also heard that advice to eat the lamb's quarters from Calgary gardeners. Lately, I have let the plant grow when I see it. I wonder if I can get enough to cook and eat.

snow peas, swiss chard, and perpetual spinach

Back at home, my garden was kept alive by Mary and Marj. It was a hot dry July in Calgary and if they hadn't watered, I would have returned to crispy brown plants. We arrived past midnight with an overnight temperature of 25°C. I was stunned by the exuberant growth of the plants. They grow a lot in 3 weeks time. The U of Saskatchewan cherry bushes were happy. I have Carmine Jewel and Crimson Passion cherry bushes. This is the first year that they have produced more than a handful of cherries. The raspberries were just enormous. My garden envy was replaced by astonishment and gratitude.

Carmine Jewel cherries - almost ripe

I picked them a bit early and made a sour cherry sauce for waffles. 

giant raspberries

I've been picking a tray full of berries every couple of days.

Self-seeded bachelor buttons that have taken over my vegetable garden. I have been cleaning things up and even have a few beans starting to grow.

I took 8 pounds of unripe apples off of the September Ruby apple tree because the branches looked overloaded. I pruned mini apples earlier in the year, but clearly not enough. The Zestar apple tree did not produce as many fruit to begin with and the size of the fruit on that tree was about 3 or 4 times larger than on the other tree. That would be my last observation of "less is more". Be more severe in the spring when pruning apples. One apple per cluster is enough.

I made some apple and date chutney (loosely following this recipe), some pectin and an apple cake using the apple sauce left over from making pectin and I froze some apple slices to use in cooking and baking. To keep the apples from turning brown before freezing, I used a trick that a friend's grandmother used - dipping them in salt water. I think it helped.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Less is more - Part 3: Less sleep = more giggles

Stuff that is not funny becomes funny when tired. So unless you are tired or otherwise impaired while reading this, it is likely that this could be a very unfunny post. While away from home, my sleep has been variable with a few late nights thrown in.

One night as I was going to bed after a family BBQ I recalled this exchange between two cousins.
J has a plate full of meat.
H - Would you like some rice or salad?
J - No thanks, I'm cleansing my body.
H - With meat?
J - No, I'm cleansing my body of carbs.

At the time I may have laughed, but as I was lying down to go to bed I just cracked up. Casey was already in bed half asleep when suddenly the sofa bed started to shake. I had a bad case of the giggles and I was trying hard not to make any noise. All I could say was, "It's not funny. " More giggles and then I was just barely able to repeat the dialogue that had come to mind amid giggles and silent laughter. After a few minutes I calmed down. I thought of it again in the morning and had the giggles again. A few days later I tried to tell someone about it and could not get the words out without erupting into another fit of giggles. I know, it's not funny.

Two more potentially unfunny things met with unusually hearty laughter, but this time led by my mom. Here are two riddles told by my daughter.

Q-What's green and has wheels?

A-Grass, I was just kidding about the wheels. 


Q-What's blue and smells like red paint?

A- Blue paint. 

Maybe you smiled, groaned or thought, "I guess you had to be there."

Feel free to leave your favourite groaners below.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Less is More - Part 2: camping

We got away for a short camping trip last week. Camping is very much a less-is-more pursuit. How perfect to have your day be filled with cooking and eating meals, hiking, eating some more, swimming in a mountain lake, cooking and eating some more, making fires, reading, chess, frisbee, and for me a little yoga under the trees. We have been enjoying some summer heat and the cold lake waters, being in the forest, finding some snow in the mountains and time together as a family, mostly working well together and playing.

our home away from home in Moyie Lake Provincial Park, BC

our neighbour

just hanging out
view from my yoga mat

hiking in Fernie

summer snowball fight

from the top of Tamarack Trail from Island Lake Lodge in Fernie, BC
Whether camping, or travelling near or far, I hope you have a chance to enjoy all that comes with travel. A time when all our stuff is pared down, our focus simpler (sometimes) and joy, presence and re-groovenation abound!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Less is More - Part 1: Less = fewer textbooks, more = space

While on holiday in July, I'll be posting smaller pieces on the theme of "less is more". Here is one task finally accomplished. What to do with those old textbooks?

It seems that textbooks are very seldom wanted. They are refused by libraries, used book stores and used book sales. I once found a place that would take them in the states. One professional organizer told me of a textbook burning party she hosted where her husband's textbooks which had been stored for over 20 years were "given back to the universe."

Or you can recycle them. The city of Calgary recommends removing the covers and putting the pages into the blue cart. Only when we did this, our cart wasn't emptied. I think we may have gone over the weight limit. We'll try again, adding fewer books to our cart.

I have to thank Casey for actually carrying out the book recycling.  He did ask me to double check my pile of books. I only saved one.

Casey also made a few hundred squares of paper for Origami using a band saw. He also folded a frog.

I hope you have a chance this summer to put 'less is more' into practice.