Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Beginning Quilting Tutorial--Log Cabin Style

Quilting to me is the epitome of frugality.  I'm not a Fabric Snob, and let me just say, there are NO Quilt Police! No one is going to look at your creation that you made with your own hands and tell you that "this is wrong, or you didn't match that, etc. etc."
If they do, let them go, you don't need that kind of negativity in your life!
 So, to get started, you've got a pile of scraps. Maybe someone gave them to you, maybe you saved them from some crafty project, maybe they are clothes that you no longer wear.  Whatever the reason, this is where we begin.  I find it easiest to work with small squares and strips.  I cut my scraps into usable sizes.  I think of them like building blocks, or Legos. You are just going to take a small piece and sew it together to make a bigger piece, and so on, and so on.
 Begin by finding a strip, and a handful of squares. Lay the strip face up, and the squares on top, facing down.  Line them up in front of your needle and stitch, using the edge of the presser foot as a guide.  We aren't going to be really persnickety about a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  This is scrappy quilting!
 Butt the next square up against the edge of the last one. In our example, lay the floral up against the bottom edge of the red. aligning that right raw edge. Stitch down the strip.
Continue on until you have stitched all your squares down to the strip.  Remove the units from the machine.
 "Finger press" them to one side.  And cut in between each set using a rotary cutter or scissors. 
 Any of these blocks can be made with just scissors.  Our ancestors didn't have cool tools like we have now, but they made some gorgeous quilts!
 Lay your next strip out and lay your units from the previous set face down on top of the strip, aligning the raw edge on the right.  If you have some bump-outs from previous seams, just trim those off.  Eye-balling is fine.  Accuracy is not an issue here.
 Stitch, repeat.  Laying each unit onto the strip as before. 
 Remove the piece from the machine and at the ironing board, press the piece with the seam going towards the strip you just stitched. 
 Cut this strip apart between each "unit."
 If you happen to have a angled piece that needs squared up, fit the triangle in, making sure your triangle is BIGGER than the chunk that needs filling to allow for a seam allowance.
 Lay it face down, matching the raw edge.  Leave a "dog-ear" on each end of the seam.
 Run your stitching line in the "valley" where the two pieces meet.
 Fold the triangle back and press, finger press or press with an iron.
 As you build your blocks, feel free to trim and straighten each building block as you go.
 Again, with rotary cutter, ruler and mat or with scissors.
If you want to create a diagonal corner to create interest, lay your triangle piece on top and scoot it to the right to allow for a seam. 
 Cut off the triangle section of your block and remove.
 Lay your new triangle piece on top, right sides together and make sure you allow for those dog ears on each end.
 Stitch as before, fold back, press and trim off the dog ears.
 Continue in this manner, adding strips, and making your block larger and larger until you are satisfied with the size.  I'm cutting mine here at 6x6" square. Lay your ruler, or your square template if using scissors.  Cut to size.
 When using your rotary cutter, cut two sides and then turn the piece, and cut the other two sides.
 Be sure to carefully line up the cut edge when moving your ruler.
 Voila! Your finished block!
 I piece these when I'm bored or when I just have a few minutes to sew.  They are stacked in a drawer in bundles of ten.  I safety pin them together to help me count. 
 You can piece these together side by side or add solid colored squares.  The possibilities at this point are endless.
Thanks for reading.  I'll be posting what to do with these in an upcoming tutorial.  Keep building those blocks and we'll create something useful and beautiful!
MaryLu at Able Farm!
If you have any questions, post a comment here and I'll answer as quickly as possible! Thanks!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My family should totally thank Ree Drummond

I love me some Pioneer Woman! I have been a follower on her blog for a while now, but now that I have my own ranch--it pales in comparison to hers, but one can dream--I have been watching every episode. My DVR is full.  Don't anyone touch the delete button, either.  I'll have your hide.

I have implemented many of her ideas in my own homemaking. I store my staples in mason jars, (actually, I did that before I came to love her.) I love cowboy boots, horses and basset hounds. 

I don't have a basset hound yet, but I'm working on it.  I just have to reconcile the fact that the hound might actually sleep on my couch.  I'm not ok with that yet.

I use handkerchiefs for napkins now just like she does.
I homeschool, just like she does.  I'm a blogger, just like she is, I could go on and on!
We are practically twins!

But since I have begun watching The Pioneer Woman on Food Network, my cooking has really improved.  I have made the most amazing biscuits.
Her four layer chocolate cake has nearly put me in a sugar coma, and put me in good standing with friends and family.

Her brisket is to die for! I even nearly killed myself after making her mashed potatoes. Ok, not really.  But the knife did get me pretty good. I blame it on the knife, not the recipe or the cook.

All I got say is, my family should all be writing thank-you letters to Ree.  I obsess about her a lot, but she is the reason my family is eating so well.

Thank you, Pioneer Woman!

Monday, July 29, 2013

My name may be Mary, but I'm a Martha

We never outgrow the need for lessons. And we should constantly be learning. But sometimes we have to learn and relearn a particular concept over and over again.

A week ago I had out of town company.  The first visit from these dear friends in my new home.  I wanted everything to be perfect.  I had cleaned the guest room, changed the sheets, set out a soft stack of towels for my guests, written out a menu and purchased all the food. 

Our visit was going splendidly!!

Sunday morning though, in a rush to get the meal in the crock pot I was cutting potatoes--"distracted with much serving" and cut off the end of my finger.  I don't want to be graphic but this was bad. I gave new meaning to the term "meat and potatoes." I grabbed a handful of paper towels and, (calmly? Can't remember) asked my friend to come see if she thought I needed to go see the Doc. Um, yes. We did.

Even while walking out the door to the Emergency room I was flinging instructions to my teenage girls, "Finish the potatoes, add carrots, add some water to the crock, do this, do that, hold down the fort." Oh, so distracted!

Luke 10:38-42 "Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Oh, Lord! This lesson? That must mean that my inner Martha is rearing her ugly head again.

You see, Martha is a do-er.  Mary is a thinker.  I have always been a do-er. Now, this is not to say that doing things is bad, not at all.  The world needs Marthas. Otherwise, pot luck dinners would never happen, meals on wheels wouldn't get delivered, and quilt donations wouldn't get made. The world and the church need hospitable Marthas. 

But Martha has a problem.  She is very good at juggling. She isn't good at balancing. When you juggle, you have to keep moving, you toss this bowling pin up and while it's on its way up you toss another, then throw a spinning plate into the mix, then how about you take on a Sunday School project, or maybe a charity quilt, then surely you can take a meal to the homebound in your spare time.  While they are all in the air above our heads everything is peachy! And maybe you can get off a few classy hand tricks and get them sailing again, but sooner or later it all comes crashing down.

Mary on the other hand is very good at balance.  She knows her limits, she only has two hands.  She knows that she can only do so much and she doesn't over commit.  Balancing acts require quiet concentration.  A balance artist doesn't move around very much.  They stand still while they achieve the perfect harmony between movement and stillness.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

After I cut my finger, I was forced to be still.  It took the nurses and the Doc quite a while to get the bleeding stopped and I was told in no uncertain terms to go home and sit. No running around the kitchen, no weeding the garden, no feeding or grooming animals especially! There was danger in doing any of these things.  Bleeding could continue, infection could be introduced. The answer was to BE STILL!

Ok, God.  I get it.  Sit and visit with my friends. Stop all the busy-ness of trying to make everything perfect and just be. Being is hard for Martha. She gets so worked up watching Mary just SIT there.  Lord, don't you know that there are disciples to feed, the kitchen is a mess and, these servant girls just don't do things the way I would, and, and, and...Make her help me!!

"Martha, Martha. (Can't you just HEAR His tender voice?) You are anxious and troubled about many things. Only one thing is necessary."

I'm sure you know of Stephen R. Covey and his Franklin Planner.  I do.  I have three of them! My husband has two of them.  We are a Franklin Family! To a Martha, there is something cathartic in having all your ducks in a row. We love lists and check-boxes.  Oh, it makes my heart sing!

Well, Mr. Covey has written a book called, "First Things First." In his book he talks about prioritizing.  He uses a visual lesson with a large jar, rocks, pebbles, sand and water.  I'm sure you have all seen a similar illustration, you must fit the rocks in first, then the pebbles, then the sand in order to get all of the items in the jar.

That is not to say that if you do the important things then you can do it all.  It just means that the important things DO get done and then more of the lower-list items can squeeze into the spaces.

Jesus is the most important thing in our life.  Our relationship with Him should come first.  The pebbles would be the next layer of responsibility--our family.  They will fit in pretty easily into those spaces because Jesus will wrap our family relationships with love. The next items on our list would be church/work/friendships.  As long as our relationship with Jesus Christ is in our life-jar first, many other things can fit in.

So, my lesson? It's ok to be a do-er. It's ok to be a thinker.  Jesus loves both Mary and Martha.  He just wants our full attention when he is sitting in our parlor. No distractions, pull out some sandwiches and glasses of water.  He'll transform the feast.

He is the Rock, all the rest will fit into the spaces.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Aunt Emma's Chocolate Mint Cookies

This recipe has been a favorite in our home for years.  Mom always made them every Christmas. Mom and Dad also had them made by the hundreds for their 40th wedding anniversary in 1988.

They are printed in The Durrant Family Cookbook "A Home-Cooked Heritage" page VIII-1 (cookie section) Book published in 1991, reprinted December 2010.

 I don't know when they became a holiday staple in our house, but I have to make them every year too.  These cookies just seem to say Merry Christmas to me. 

This is a three-step cookie, but it really couldn't be easier.  It has a brownie base, a creamy frosting filling and a bitter-sweet dark chocolate topping.  Yum! I double this recipe to fit in a large, 12x14 sheet pan.

2 eggs, beaten
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract or 5-6 drops of peppermint oil
1/2 c. margarine melted (I use butter)
2 squares melted unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 c. sifted flour
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped small

Beat eggs, (but not like I did,) margarine and sugar together well. Add chocolate and flavoring. Then add flour and nuts.  Pour into a 9" square pan.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Cool and ice with:
1 c. Powdered sugar
1 T. cream
2 T. soft margarine (again, I used butter)
3-4 drops of peppermint oil
Put in the fridge for about 10 minutes until the icing is set, then cover with:
1 square of bitter/sweet chocolate melted together with 1 T. melted butter.

When set, cut into small squares.

Maybe one of my relatives can remind me who Aunt Emma is and why we love her cookie so much.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mending Jeans

My cousin asked me today if people still really do this, well, yes, I still do.
My hubby regularly rips holes in knees and so do my four boys.  Buying new jeans is just not an option for us. I have even been known to pick some up at the thrift store and repair them as well.  Boys size 10-12 jeans are hard to come by so I'll take what I can get.
Here's a little tutorial on how I accomplish this task without the use of those yucky iron-on patches.
First of all, I keep any lower pant legs that I cut off from making denim shorts out of the "too-bad-to-mend" pairs. 
This is my "patch" material.
Step one: Open up the leg seam about 8 inches past the seam on both sides.  Give yourself plenty of room to get into the leg area.
Step two: Cut your patch about 1-2 inches bigger than the size of the hole. Make it a nice square or rectangle in proportion with the hole.
Step three: Turn your pant leg inside out and stick a large ruler inside or a piece of heavy cardboard so you have a surface to pin against. Placing the right side of the patch to the wrong side of the pant leg, pin the patch in place.  Be careful, don't prick yourself, and now turn the pant leg right side out.
Step four: Using a wide zig-zag, stitch the patch down reaching underneath and removing pins as you come to them.  Stay about 1 inch away from the hole and feeling with your fingers to be sure you are still on the patch as you sew. You should have plenty of room with that leg seam opened.
Step five: Now, clip diagonally into the corners of the pant leg and carefully trim away just the frayed edges.  Turn this flap under and top stitch zig-zag over this edge holding it into place.
This shows me rounding the fourth edge and stitching all those edges down.
Step six: turn the pant leg wrong side out and carefully trim away the edges of the patch, being careful to only trim the patch and not the pant leg.
Finally, step seven: close the pant leg seam.  I zig-zag the edge mimicking the serged factory edge and then I use a straight stitch  on top of the former stitching line.
The finished patch!
These jeans have a lot of life in them still and I may be able to pass them on to the next two kids too!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Beginning Canning Class

Yesterday was my first beginning Canning class. I had three lovely ladies attend. We had such a good time learning and working together.
I heard this quote this morning and I think it really applies, "Give a woman a jar of food and you feed her for a day, but teach her how to can an you feed her and her family for a lifetime!"
What an amazing legacy. I'm honored to have the opportunity to impart some knowledge of the craft to these ladies.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Canning shelves

My kids and I built these shelves after only one day of planning and one day of building.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thrift store find

I found this at the local thrift store and brought her home with me.
I'm not good with anything other than dating the machine. Can anyone tell me what model she is and how I can get parts.

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