29 November, 2011

The easy way and...

My way (that is, the hard way).

I am a wannabe quilter. I recently finished my first real quilt, ten years in the making. I learned a lot, mostly about what not to do. I'm working on my second quilt now Having just finished my second quilt I'm learning more still. Best of all, I'm changing how I learn.

I have a habit of approaching new and complicated tasks as if I should be able to figure them out on my own. This is how I went about making my first quilt; that didn't go too well. It's also how I started the second quilt. I learned a bunch on the first one so I figured the second one should be effortlessly great, right?

At Rhinebeck I told Craftivore about the mistakes I made with the first one, namely the unintended pleating (on. both. sides!). Then something marvelous happened, she gave me some advice:
  • Tape each layer of the sandwich to the floor before basting the sandwich together.
  • Use a walking foot. 
Maybe not earth-shattering stuff to you guys, but for me I learned some stuff the easy way and, as Homer Simpson would say, with sexy results! [eyebrow waggle]

This second quilt was a great learning experience and the key lesson learned was that I don't need to come up with all the answers by myself. Sadly, I started the quilt before my epiphany and did learn a bit more the hard way (fabric grain is pretty important, we'll leave it at that) though mostly I found workarounds to any issues as I went.

20 November, 2011

Getting my mojo back

Sorry I've been so quiet. Took a while to decompress from Rhinebeck, then we got walloped by a freak storm and lost power for a few long, cold, dark, boring, dirty days. Getting our power back was hugely invigorating and I've been riding the high. The past couple weeks have been particularly productive for me in which I've taken care of my body, mind and spirit. Some of that meant limiting my online time so I'm only now getting around to telling you what I've been up to.

Some of my best recent successes have taken place in the kitchen and since I'm talking about mojo, let's start with the marinated pork loin!

I took the marinade from this recipe and modified it a bit. I omitted the Worcestershire sauce (didn't have any), used olive oil in place of vegetable and added some finely minced shallot. Also didn't measure any of the herbs and I have a feeling that I went a good deal heavier than instructed on the cumin. Oh, and I added some ground coriander too. 

I blitzed the marinade with a stick blender then poured it over two halves of a pork tenderloin in a sealable bag, pressed out the air, sealed the bag and let in marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.

The next morning, I transferred the meat and all the marinade into a heavy-lidded casserole dish and cooked in a slow oven (275-300F) for a few hours. I cooked it until it crumbled when pressed with the back of a fork.

It was awesome; you should make some!

19 October, 2011

Pop! goes my (Rhinebeck) cherry

I don't take a lot of risks these days and I stick pretty close to home. It's not necessarily how I want to live, just a rut I've fallen into. So when Kim encouraged me to join a bunch of strangers in a house-share for the weekend of the Dutchess County Sheep & Wool Festival (Rhinebeck to those in the know), well, I had some trepidation. In the past few years I seem to have regressed to the insecurity and social awkwardness that plagued me in my teens. Still, Rhinebeck beckoned and I really liked the two housemates I already knew. I was ready to take a calculated risk.

What a whirlwind of awesomeness!

A gorgeous house

Our digs

Fun, friendly, talented people


Loads of fiber... great food... cute animals... even a baby.freaking.kangaroo!

Cute overload

I can't believe I ever felt hesitant. I'm going to try to keep in mind that this is the stuff at risk when I play it safe.

Can't wait to see everyone again next year!

(And next time I'll take more pictures.)

14 October, 2011

Rhinebeck or bust!

Big-ass ball of yarn riding shotgun. The fun is just starting.

13 October, 2011


I'm trying to get back into sewing so I was happy that on my recent trip up to Boston to visit family I remembered the Jo-Ann's near my mom's. We don't have any near us and I've found that the craft stores just don't have a good variety of sewing stuff. I went down every aisle and was relatively sensible. My best purchase: a cushioned, heat-reflective ironing board cover. I've wanted one for years and it works like a dream!

I also bought a bunch of stuff without plans. Well, they might have had plans, but none that I was aware of.
sunny stack untitled untitled

Then I spoke to my mom who mentioned another fabric store so I went there too and bought even more stuff without plans...
untitled cheater

I do a lot of impulsive stash-building of the yarn variety and a lot of impulsive knitting projects. It's not a problem; I can always frog, right? Sewing's going to be tough on me. I fear I'm going to need to be much more deliberate, organized, precise.

Or am I?

Up to my old tricks, I'm figuring this one out as I go. So far, so good!

Even if I'm still messing up the odd seam.

Quilting seems to lend itself to the type of crafter I am. True, there is something final in cutting fabric, but scrap remains useful. That goes a long way towards alleviating my fear of ruining things.

03 October, 2011

Jestem zielona

That's Polish for I'm green which I am, with envy, as my brother and his lovely wife are in Poland without me.

I first went to Poland in 2008 and loved it.
I loved it so much that I'm trying to learn the language.
I loved it so much that it was the only thing I could talk about, for weeks, once I returned home.
I loved it so much that I convinced Mr. Fab to come with us in 2009.

Last year a trip wasn't economically feasible and this year? Well, I thought it would be nice to give the newishlyweds* a year without me tagging along. I still stand by that decision but as they post pictures of so many things I miss, the green grows. So as I reminisce, I thought I'd share a little.

Really the best thing about the trips was meeting SIL's family and friends. Everyone was so warm and gracious, welcoming me and Mr Fab as family. There were parties in the city (Warsaw) and parties around the campfire (in Masuria) and lots of laughter (despite, and sometimes because of, language differences). But more than anything, there was food. Lots and lots of glorious food!

I wish I did a better job of documenting what we ate. Here's a little sample:

post-drinks sustenance






love at first bite


30 September, 2011

Mooving on up...

coffee loveuntitledCrazy Zauberballwindow viewhalf-full flipchoices choices...

Just ordered my first set of Moo cards and am very excited. It's something I've wanted to do or a while, but I kept putting it off thinking I should wait until I had a blog to list. Above are a few of the pix I went with. The cards should arrive just in time for my first ever trip to Rhinebeck, yay!

Not a thrilling post for you, I bet, but a heads-up that I'll have loads of cool stuff to show you next month. And if I hand out enough cards at the festival, there might even be a few more of you out there reading those future posts.

27 September, 2011

My first quilt - done!

When I wrote about the 10-year quilt it completely skipped my mind that it is, in fact, my first quilt. Today is monumentous in that I have actually completed said monstrosity. As I finished the hand-binding and was confronted with some tragically contorted puckering I suddenly realized, "hey, I've never done this before!" and magically my shame at producing something so gruesome was transformed to knowing smugness: I had set the bar so low, my next quilt was bound to be much improved.
Also, I'll never again underestimate the value of basting!

24 September, 2011

First things first

It's match day (COYS!) and that means a sensible breakfast is in order before we go hit our local. Today it's sourdough johnny cakes. I started with Simply Homemaking’s recipe but tweaked as follows:
1/2 C 100% rye sourdough starter*
1 egg
3/4 C whole milk (cow’s)
1t salt
1 C corn meal
2 t baking soda
2T sugar
2T maple syrup
2T melted bacon fat

*I don’t pay much attention to the hydration of my starter; when I feed it I don’t measure anything. I just add some rye flour & water and give it a good stir. I’d say it generally has the consistency of muffin batter: thick yet pourable.

They were tasty, really tasty!

23 September, 2011

Ear crack

Stuck in my head like crazy for days, but so far I don't really mind.

22 September, 2011

Work in progress

I'm currently improvising a top-down raglan tee. If all goes well it could be my first (self)published pattern. Here's a peek:

Ten-year quilt

Here's a post I drafted over a week ago. Things didn't go my way so I didn't publish it, until now:
I started a quilt 12 September, 2001. I needed to do something so I gathered all the blue fabrics in the apartment. I cut up PJs, bed linens and, with permissions, husband's shirts. Nothing clever or fancy, just 7" squares. I worked straight and had the top pieced into strips in no time. Mr fab helped decide the order for joining the strips and the top was done day one.

Today it's been 10 years since I started that quilt and God help me if it's not done by the end of this day. As with starting this blog, a desire to do things perfectly made for years of planning and false starts followed by periods of neglect. Originally I intended to hand-quilt this one but the progress was so painfully slow that I might actually die before I saw the project completed.

Perfectionism yields to the need to finish something. Having decided to machine quilt, it only took three intense hours with the stitch ripper to undo nine years of hand stitching. This quilt isn't lovely or well made (guess who decided to skip basting?). Really, it's an ugly mess of unintentional bunching and the scars of original stitches. But these flaws suit the spirit of this project and won't keep the quilt from keeping me warm and comforting me.

Sometimes it's tough to let go of how you want something to be and accept it for what it is and move on.
Ah, the irony

I did set out to finish the thing same day only to realize I was short about five yards on binding. Five yards! I was beat. I gave up. Then I reflected on the folly of my deadline. More perfectionism? OCD? Who cares about the completion date? Would a quilt that took exactly ten years to complete be any less gruesome than this one's going to be? Why do I get myself worked up over this stuff?

At any rate, the 12th came and went and that quilt is still unfinished. Although I am happy to report that I picked up plenty of binding last weekend so who knows, you might get to see the wretched thing in all its finished glory sometime soon. Watch this space!