Sunday, November 29, 2015

Beaded ornament completed

Hello, everyone.

There's not much to say today, but I wanted to post a picture of the diamond shaped beaded Christmas ornament discussed in the last post.

Right in the middle, where it will reflect sparkle from the lights!
Also visible in the picture, some of the eggshell ornaments that have been done over the years. This was a pleasant activity to do with children when we had a larger flock of laying hens. Or ducks! Duck eggs were great to decorate--larger than hen eggs and with a tough shell.

If you should do the egg decorating thing, a word of advice: use sealer spray over acrylic paint before using gloss lacquer spray to make it shiny. (Otherwise the paint will run.) You can use model paint instead of acrylic paints. That is glossy to start with. But it's messier to clean up--uses mineral spirits. And you have to get all those tiny little jars of paint. You could use unwanted nail polish, too, if you have some that's thin enough. Last observation about eggs: if you paint the hollow eggshell with gesso it will have a smooth surface to accept spray paint, which will provide a base for the other decorating you might do.

Elementary-school aged children love to paint eggs with little bitty paintbrushes. It will keep them busy for an entire afternoon during summer vacation.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thinking Christmas often means thinking decorations

Hello, everyone.

We got the tree boxes out yesterday. (Sorry, gang, we went with fake trees a few years back. Even if they don't smell wonderful.) And all the boxes of decorations and lights.

Somewhere in the midst of all this Thanksgiving, Christmas, decorating mood I trolled around on Pinterest and found a really cute instruction that was supposed to be for earrings. Well, if you have a long neck, and/or if you're wearing your hair up to show them off! The smaller bead size recommended is already 2" (5 cm) long, which is pretty showy. If you go the next bead size up, the lady says, you're looking at 3". The link is to a Youtube video by the amazingly relaxed sounding Miss Gina. Who gives very clear instructions.

Ornament in progress

I am using Fire Mountain Gems 4mm bicones, from the stash.
I'm only about half of the way through with this cute little dangle--intended for the Christmas tree--and I've already learned some things.

Miss Gina doesn't follow the standard Right Angle Weave thread path, as I had expected at the start of her video. When I broke a bead on the fourth or fifth pass through it, I learned why. If you follow her thread path there is one less strand going through the middle of various connecting beads, and thus less use of the pliers to pull the needle through, and less risk of breaking a bead in the previous row. With all the unthreading that creates! So I adopted her thread path.

I also dug out my handy-dandy little container of Thread Heaven. I am using 10 pound Fireline thread, and it seems like the thread itself is creating friction inside the bead and causing some of the binding, even before the thickness comes into play. So a quick run across the surface of the Thread Heaven is being tried. It will make the thread a little slicker and less likely to hang on the previous strands.

One of the things I like best about doing crafts projects is that, as long as you are trying to to a well-crafted piece and try new techniques, you are constantly learning new things about the materials, the patterns, the techniques, and sometimes even yourself.

Thank you, Miss Gina, for putting up your lovely video on making sparkly diamonds.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Too busy cooking to make a post yesterday

Hello, everyone.

For all USAians, I hope you had a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.

We were busy all day, cooking and then enjoying family, so there was no post written.

The theme of the season changes, of course, once Thanksgiving is over, from:

to Advent, the season of preparation:

Cross-stitch Advent calendar, made by DM
I wish you all a blessed and fruitful Advent.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The season is turning

Hello, everyone.

I almost called this post "winter is here"--except that in my area the winters are so mild that anyone who lives where snow is regular would laugh themselves silly at the idea of our winter weather getting the name "winter."

Still, for a couple of nights this past weekend the low temperatures hit in the low to mid 50's. (That is in the 12 C temperature area. Quit laughing at us!) We brought in all of DH's orchids so they wouldn't get a fatal chill. The weather forecast for this coming weekend says we'll be doing it again, too. Our kitchen corner looked like this for a couple of days:

We also brought in the hanging spider plant.

This was given to me last May as a young plant with only one or two pups hanging down. The summer outside in the lemon tree agreed with it!

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's odd how busy one can be, while still having nothing to talk about...

Hello, everyone.

As the title says, we've been busy on a myriad of little, boring things around here.

We did make fruitcake, to share with our friends and relative who like it...and also to have some for DH to eat!

Fruitcake ingredients, ready to rumble.

And DH saw some unusual guests in the yard the other day.

He was sitting out in the "steel palapa"--a.k.a. under the carport--and he observed not one, not two, but three redbirds in the yard. Unfortunately, they were not inclined to all pose in a tidy row for him!

I'm so lucky that he grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures of them.

Monday, November 16, 2015

It was Camino-like weather for a few days

Hello, everyone.

Our minds returned to the Camino in 2014 recently when the weather turned cool and we were able to open our windows for a few days.

We got frozen peeled-and-deveined shrimp for Friday evening's meal and made barra bread to eat with it. DH turned the shrimp into gambon al ajillo, and we ate the garlicky, olive-oil covered shrimp bits on slices of the bread. (Barra is a Spanish version of the French baguette. All of 4 ingredients, and you need to add steam to the first half of the baking.)

As part of the winding-down experience of remembering the Camino, a new quilting project came on deck. (Hey, the stash is still at tsunami-like levels around here. Using up fabric is winding down.)

This is a tree block that is about 12 inches square, before piecing together to make a runner.
 I had found a table runner pattern on Pinterest, for pieced trees in a really interesting gray and white assortment. The pattern is for 4 trees, plus edgings, and it seemed a little too long for my little table, so after making the 4 tree blocks, I only assembled 3 of them into the runner. (The fourth will become a smaller item of some kind.) The picture shows the piece (partly quilted) with basting pins.

Note to self: get some quilt basting spray and try it out!

The hibiscus in the garden bloomed. 

In the lemon tree at the back door, a whitewing dove. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It wouldn't be a pilgrimage without at least one steep climb, right?

Hello, everyone.

We left Ponte de Lima after having the (totally unexpected) experience of drinking coffee at 7 in the morning. This was the on this trip that a coffee shop or bar was open that early in the morning.  We promptly found ourselves walking on lovely forest area paths and passed a dam with pretty water flowing over the top.

After that we came to a Fishing Park, a place where people could borrow poles and catch fish (pay by the pound for the fish) in a pleasant location. There was a snack bar with a nice, clean bathroom. (Don't laugh! Someone, somewhere will be glad to know that, if they make it to the Fishing Park, there is food, drink, and a bathroom.)

We passed the famous Fonte de Tres Bicas (Fountain of Three Mouths) and shortly thereafter came to a road crossing. Our way along the trail continued on dirt--not only straight ahead but steeply up! We stood there looking at it and trying to get up nerve to go. While we, and some other pilgrims, were doing that a young man walking solo came up, said "huh," and trotted right up the hill! After seeing that, we had to quit waffling and go.

We saw sap-gatherers marks on the pine tree trunks.

After we got to the top, and rested a bit on the considerately placed bench, we got to go down. There were even more rocks on the downhill side.

Note the yellow arrow hidden in the electric pylon. This was a standard place to put them on the Portuguese way--apparently folks aren't so in love with having yellow spray paint on their walls and rocks as all that.

DH went out onto the top of the dam to get this picture.

It's amazing how much less steep this things look when you aren't walking them! This is the uphill side. 

The down hill side. 

We reached Valencia/Tui on this day. This is the fort on the Portuguese side of the border.
 We reached the Spanish-Portuguese border this day and crossed over. There is an albergue close by the cathedral in Tui and we happily stayed there. An afternoon snack of tortilla de patata, a tour of the interesting cathedral, and dinner ended the day.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Returning to our pilgrim notes

Hello, everyone.

The mind returns to the pilgrimage over and over, when any little thing cues the thought. DH got a book of Portuguese home cooking--written by a person whose family came to the US before she was born, but who was raised in touch with the ancestral culture and foods--and we found a recipe that reminded us of the next day of walking in the sequence: after the day in Braga, the day walking from Barcelos to Ponte de Lima.
The recipe calls itself "Beans with Rice" and I got my hopes up--beans cooked separately from rice, then mixed for the plate, with onion and garlic. No ham bone, but we could fix that. Oddly, there is a bit of vinegar in the recipe in this cookbook. So I made it today--it turns out to be somewhat similar in taste, but not quite the same.

As you can see, there are both older and newer route marks.

This was just a little place on the side of the road. But this was the best meal we ate of the entire trip.

The tomatoes had a light vinaigrette, the pork cutlets were tasty, and the beans-and-rice was the perfect food for a pair of walkers that needed food, liquid, and salt. The soupiness of the dish was a major feature for us.

The ancient stone bridge of Ponte de Lima. The water was beautifully blue and calm. There were rowers rowing and a set of fake Roman soldiers on the bank of the river.
This was a beautiful walking day for much of it. We got into the town at a reasonable time (not as early as we like, but not hugely late) and had time to shower, wash clothes, and wander the town in search of dinner.

Zachary, Elizabeth, and the young John? Note that Elizabeth has a stuffed lamb in one hand.

The parish at Ponte de Lima was having a procession--this was the very last day of the weeks-long Festas de Sao Joao--with Roman "soldiers" in red, various Biblical personages in costumes, young ladies representing the Works of Mercy, a band, and even the parish priest. It was very festive.

After watching them all go by, we wandered around, found a grocery to buy some Pringles and fruit, and then we found a place to eat.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stash bustin' again

Hello, everyone.

Some several years ago, I bought a floral rayon knit. The plan was to make one of the Burda World of Fashion wrap look tops with the integrated tie sash. As happens sometimes, the plan was never accomplished and the brown-and-cream knit languished in a box in the sewing room.

Yesterday I bumped into it again and pulled it out.

The pattern:

I have made this before and it comes out to  nice, flexible little tank top that can go under things or stand alone. The FBA (full bust adjustment) is already marked on my pattern piece tracings, too, so it was a straightforward layout. I did cut the front of the neck a little higher than the pattern shows and the hem a little longer.

I added Fusiknit to the shoulder seams for stability.

A general look at the print. It's busy by itself but by the time it's combined with a solid bottom and maybe a sweater or jacket it will be fine.

Fusiknit strips to add to the side seams.

Today I'll finish it up and have something to wear for fall. And a little less fabric in the stash!

Monday, November 2, 2015

First Charm Pack project completed

Hello, everyone.

As happens, a friend went into the hospital recently. And all that looking at mug rugs and baby things and table toppers combined with that to produce a simple project to give to her: a pitcher mat.

What's a pitcher mat? you ask. It's a cousin to the mug rug and the placemat and the trivet. It is to go under the little water pitcher they put at your bedside in the hospital--those little plastic pitchers sweat all over the table top--and keep a wet blob from forming on the surface.

It involves a quick-pieced heart that uses up parts of various charm pieces. The white fabric was from stash, the top parts of the heart are also from stash, and the bottom, dotted, pieces are from two charm squares. I added a tie ribbon to the opening before stitching it closed.

1. Pick out your colors. I used three 5 inch squares of red prints and enough white 5 inch square to produce the hears, plus an 8.5 inch square of a background fabric and some Warm and Natural batting for the interior.
2. Use Quick piecing to make half square triangles in red and white. How to do quick piecing for the triangles. (This uses up all three of your red squares plus three white ones, and gives you some extra red and white half square triangles.) Press and trim the little "ears." Use a further white square to turn one of your half square triangles into a pair of squares with 1 red quarter square and the remainder of the square in white. (These are the top parts of your heart.) Press. Attach one top part to one bottom part of the heart for the left side, and the other top part to one bottom part for the right side. (Set aside your surplus half square units for later use.) Press. You should now have a tall left side and a tall right side, 4.5 inches by 8.5 inches. Square up your pieces, match the center of the dip of the heart and sew the center seam. Press and trim.

This is the general shape of the heart you're aiming for. You will need to trim the bottom squares to fit with the top ones, as the top ones have one more seam (with seam allowances) than the bottom ones.

At this point, you have some design decisions to make. Don't wait until after it's assembled to decide to embroider words, like I did, unless you like working without access to the back side! There is a big background area open above your heart. You can applique something simple there, avoiding a lump that will make the pitcher wobble, or you can embroider something, or you can leave it blank if the background is making a pleasant appearance. Driver's choice!

If you decide to embroider something, you want to use a flat stitch like chain or stem or similar. Mark your design (here, "Get Well Soon!") and baste the heart square to a piece of scrap muslin so you can hoop the piece and do your embroidery while the back side is accessible to you.You want to avoid big globby knots here and use tiny backstitches to secure the thread--the knots will make the pitcher wobble. After you embroider or applique your embellishment, you proceed to assembling the pitcher mat.

3. Place the heart square and the background square face to face and add the square of batting on one side. Using your walking foot, sew the edges except for your turning opening. Trim the corners so they will go inside without a blob.

4. Turn the square right side out. Gently poke the corners into shape.
5. Cut a piece of tying ribbon big enough to wrap around the rolled mat and tie a bow, fold it so one side is slightly longer than the other, and tuck the fold of the ribbon into the opening. (You want the ends of your bow to be approximately even, so you need to have one tail a little shorter, to account for the difference in ribbon taken up in the parts of the knot.) You may pause to baste here if you wish. to avoid playing with so many pins while assembling this last bit.
6. Close the opening, catching the ribbon in the seam. I used ladder stitch for this.
7. Quilt the outline of the heart and the edge of the square. If you didn't choose to do colored embellishment before, you might want to use quilting to embellish it now. I left the quilting very simple to avoid the risk of large rumples appearing.
8. Give to your recipient when you go visit!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Charm pack ideas

Hello, everyone.

I'm gong to 'fess up: I've never had a charm back before. And was running a little low on ideas, after having tried a number of different fabric combinations and realized that I needed to think about something different.

An idea or three, plus useful comments below.

More ideas.  Makes me think of aprons, too!

The latest playing with colors session:

I do have some 4" thick foam lying around the place, and a grandchild coming to visit at the holidays...maybe blocks are the way to go with some of it. (Would use up some stash, too!)