Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quilted Cloth Coasters Tutorial - Beginner Easy

Here's another one for you guys to try. Beginner Easy. Grab your square ruler and some scraps and lets go.

You'll need to cut 8 squares of whatever fabric you want for the outside. You can also do 4 of two kinds and have a front and back, or just be crazy and cut out 8 completely different ones. Then 4 squares the same size of batting. I chose a spare piece of white 100% cotton.

I used a 6.5" square ruler for my cuts because I wanted nice big coasters that'll drink up all the condensation, which runs rampant here in Florida, even in the AC.

Layer a coaster batting, right side up fabric, wrong side up fabric and pin them in place. Repeat for the other coasters.

Sew around three sides, I used about a 1/4" seam allowance, and trim the edges.

Flip them right side out with the batting in the center and fold over the open end and pin down. Sew along this side making sure you secure all the folded over parts.

Hook up your darning foot, drop your feed dogs (reference your manual if you have no idea what I'm talking about), and free motion sew the three layers together. You want a flat surface so make sure your pretty equal with your top stitching.

and you're done! Go have a drink!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Following artistic callings

So today's posting is just something I've been pondering for awhile and thought I'd share. I've been thinking about artists. What makes people artists?

I know from my own personal experience that creating things is just part of who I am. I have to have an outlet. Whether or not I excel at that art is moot. I just have to follow what I've been inspired to do. No matter the time or place. Many times I'll just seek out a pen and paper to put down what has attacked my brain and maybe later I'll look it at and develop it. I've been known to wake up at night to jot down a stanza or idea or sketch something out. That's when the muse just happens to throw me an idea. Other times, it's a full out compulsion, hours upon hours are spent on these thoughts and time slips by me unawares.

I've dabbled in painting, sewing, fiber arts, sketching, writing, and cooking. Some I've excelled at and continued, others just mediocre, a passing fancy. When the feeling hits me that I have to, that tiny spark of creation is inside me, I have to let it out. It's almost a compulsion. If I don't have the ability to create when I need or want to I actually feel emotionally bad. I'm irritable and cranky.

I wonder if this is how it is for others? Does a muse overcome them and practically force creativity to flow through them? Does an artist have to have angst to create? I seem to feel most creative when I have turmoil in my life. The plethora of drawing and painting and poetry I did as a teen was my most artistically productive and most emotionally scarred time so far in my life (so far). While all of the paintings are gone, I do still have some of the works of poetry and drawings. Looking back, it seems almost like a completely different person did it, though I do remember with painful clarity the exact times I composed some of those writings.

Maybe that's what I felt the compulsion to do; to form a portal on paper to a world I left behind. Even if at the time I had no realization that was what I was doing. When I look back now, I remember things about my situation and surroundings with more clarity than I had being in it at the time. I am able to sort out my responsibility in what happened and know that I survived that life and was able to forge a new one.

Though I've been able to create art through love, most of those things have been specific for a certain person, mostly my children. Those times they have been my muses and I revel not in the relief of creation but from the happiness I create for them with my art. It's a different muse that directs those crafts. These types I can pick up and put down at my leisure. Still sating the need for creativity, but not the hot, firey compulsion that sometimes hits me. I wonder if that's the same for others?

A few weeks ago, a muse threw at me the plot for a story, enveloping some of my own experiences into the mix. It happened at about ten one night and I've been called back to that muse many times over, spending hours and hours at the computer writing into the wee part of the night. Whether or not the story is any good, if anyone else would want to read it isn't the most important part, though I would like to share my art with others, it's just the act of creation.

So to those of you out there that have a desire or even a raw need to create, I ask you, where does your inspiration come from?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blog and Product props - Home-N-Stead

There have been a few blogs out there that really just grab my attention and nestled in with those are the great family over at Home-N-Stead. I found them while searching for homesteading links. They're a great big large family which I just adore.

They have some really cool kids. Nine homeschooled kids produced, edited and starred in their own DVD's. The trailer alone is enough to entice you to order. What wit and imagination! Dedicaiton and devotion! I'm waiting with baited breath for Indiana John to come out. It's really an inspiration to me and my kids that a little cooperation and hard work can make something so
fun. Speaking of cooperation, I'm also enlightened that this bunch work so well together, especially in a society that seems so eager to accept family seperation as the norm.

Heading over to the Home-N-Stead store I want to share my experience with their wonderful probiotic soap. This hand crafted soap has earned it's own permanent spot on our shelves. It rinses clean, is great for body and hair and lots of other practical uses. Cordelia, whom suffers from ecsema, has been able to use this soap exclusively with out any outbreaks! That in iteself is note worthy. I love being able to support other large families where and when I can, especially with things made from their hearts and hands.
Here's Emmy all Home-N-Stead soaped up

Their blog has a lot of great information on homesteading. The part of having the husband work at home for their home particularly got me and this is now a desire of mine. With our year long separation from Rob, I don't want to give his best part away anymore. Hopefully, within 5 or less years, we'll be able to fufill this dream. There's also really great information on building a home. These guys built from the ground up and all in the family had a hand. Total inspiration.

The forum is a great place to ask questions to many other like minded families. They have a great positive and supporting attitude. Overall, Home-N-Stead has a little bit for everyone. I hope you discover them and enjoy them as much as I have.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

15 minute reversable head scarf tutorial

I really dig some of the pretty headscarves I see in the stores but the cheapskate in me just can't justify $5-10 (or more!) for just one. While checking out the dollar section at Target a few months back, I found packs of large ouchless hair bands. I picked up a 32 pack and an 18 pack for $1 a pack. That right there is awesome but I decided to increase the awesomeness and make headscarfs with them.

Now that I'm sporting (or trying to sport) some dreaded locks, these scarves will be handy to keep my hair down but out of my face. I made them a couple already but my girls are totally wish listing a bunch of these, pulling out fabric and putting in orders for their own scarves with matching dresses ;) Here's a quick and easy tutorial so you can feel the love

two 15x25 scraps of fabric
1 ouchless hair tie
matching thread (or not, your choice :)

Step 1: Measure your noggin (or the one the scarf will ultimately rest on) this will be measurement A

Step 2: Measure your hair tie, strech it out a little so your scarf will be snug (measurement B)

Step 3: Measure from the front where the scarf will sit to how far back you want it to end, measure down the center of your head to the back. I guesstimated for this and just did 10" I
didn't want it too long to hide my hair but long enough so it wouldn't stick straight up.

Here's the fun part, making the pattern...

Here are my measurements
Measurement A 23"
Measurement B -4"
gives me 19"
Seam Allowance +1"
gives me 20"
divide by two /2
gives me 10"

10" will be the straight front part of the pattern. Draft out your pattern to look something like this...

Step 4: Basically, it's a right triangle. Notice the bottom of the "triangle" is squared off, this is to wrap around the hair tie. Fold your fabric in half and cut out one of each fabric lining up the pattern on the end that says FOLD. This is what you should have after cutting.

Step 5: Put them right sides together and pin. Stitch 1/4" around the whole thing. leave a small 1-2" hole in one of the straight sides to turn right side out. Press and pin the opening closed then top stitch all around. I straight stitched the back sides and did a decorative stitch on the front band. I used black instead of a coordinating so the design would pop.

Step 6: Fold over the squared end with the hair tie in between and sew the heck out of it. Don't worry too much as your hair will hide the stitches but sew it good and strong so it won't pop open when you pull it on and off. Do this on the other side too.

Yeah! You're done!!

Tons of variations and a great way to use up scraps! Make one for every day of the week!

Here's mine, which was the first so not as good as the girls. This was my practice one but thought you might like to see what it looks like on a grown up :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Simple Squares Baby or Lap Quilt Tutorial

I had a lot of fun figuring this out. While I'm sure it's something that has been done before, I wanted to give you a simple, quick beginners quilt guide based on the quilt I made. I used 1 charm pack and supplimented with my own fabrics to extend the pack to 2 quilts. This is my first time doing a quilt tutorial so if I erred please post a comment! finished dimensions are approx 40x45".

Here are the supplies needed:

1 charm pack of fabric

1 yard coordinating

1/2 yard coordinating

1/2 yard coordinating

1/3 yard for binding

40x50 piece of batting

44x50 piece for backing

Part of the fun of working with a charm pack is that most of the work is already done for you. The fabrics are all coordinating saving time trying to match and using solid coordinates helps to focus on the fabrics in the pack. You will need to have 42- 5" x 5" squares for the center of the quilt. I supplimented some in the charm pack for the coordinating fabrics I used around the edges. I felt this gave it a more cohesive feel.

IKEA for the homestead

Who would have looked at Ikea and thought "I could get some great homestead stuff there" but
the uber-modern blue and yellow beacon is chock full of homesteading surprises. Part of the allure of Ikea is the design concept of working effectively and efficiently in small spaces; a
concept well in the heart of a homesteader. Like many fancy, overpriced city apartments, Homesteads generally run on the smaller side, combining work functions in single spaces. Homesteading and Urban life also parallel in economics; finding the least expensive and best usable item for the space available. "Going Green" is a concept that spans both environments
and is no stranger to Ikea. Limited packaging, reusable bags, and sustainably made products are inviting for any homestead.

But whether your homestead is city limited or rurally spread, Ikea has a lot of great items that
will assist you in your day to day. Here are a few of my favorite homestead items.

Height adjustable clothes dryer
The best idea for hanging laundry on a rainy day. Spacing saving design; lower to hang clothes and raise up to dry, store it raised up and you can hang laundry virtually anywhere in your house without taking up valuable floor space. Some ideas are over the tub, over the kitchen sink, on a screen porch. Just remember that wet clothes can drip! And don't forget the clothes pins! IKEA also sells the best I've ever used, 50 pack for $1.99.

Fold-away guest bed
This bed is great for guests, camping, sleepovers and rv's. Lightweight and easily stored. Would fit under a bed and hang in the back of a closet with ease, even with the matress. No need for a seperate sleep area for guests, cheaper than a Murphy bed and takes up less space. Plus the added benefit of being easily portable, take them with you when you go visiting or want to hole up with sick or expecting livestock!


Self-watering Plant Pot
$4.99 to $9.99 depending on size

I can't wait to get my hands on some of these pots! They're basically small "Earth Boxes". They have a pipe that goes down to the bottom chamber to provide water from the bottom up, encouraging the plants to shoot down firm roots to get to the water. The small is 9x9 and the larger almost 12x12 with indentations for carrying on the outside. These would be wonderful for an urban homesteader that has limited outdoor space and great for rural homesteaders to use in greenhouses and kitchen gardens. There is also a larger pot on wheels that is self-watering that runs $19.99 and is round.

Wooden, Modular Shelving
Price varies

I can't wait to get my pantry set up with the IVAR system. A wonderful solid, untreated wood shelving system that fits virtually any space. The shelves are adjustable to 1" increments providing the perfect fitting space with little waste. Shelves vary from 17" to 33" lengths and 12" to 20" depths. Storage drawers, cabinet doors, corner shelves, clothes railsand shoe racks make this system virturally indespensable. The photo above isn't from IKEA, it's our diningroom wall set up with IVAR as shelving for books, homeschooling, kitchen tools and emergency supplies. As you can see, we used one desk with a trofast bin and rails to make a desk with pull out drawer and it's own work light.

We're considering using the IVAR for an entertainment center/bookshelf area, our final homeschool room, shelving in the shed and barn and the pantry/utility room.

Have fun shopping (I know I do!) and remember products can be used for more than one function!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Garden Progress (or lack there of)

Black Mission Fig

This being my first year I feel like I'm working with only the troubleshooting garden handbook. I've gotten every kind of issue out there; aphids, snails, assassin beetles, ants, shield beetles, floods, drouts, no germination, lack of polinization and fertilization. So far this entire season I've harvested a pint of cherry tomatoes, about 2tbs dried of basil leaves and dill leaves and that's it. Out of a garden that had cherry tomatoes, a corn stalk (yes, just one), sage, basil, dill, butternut squash, lavender, fig, red and yellow peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini and lettuces. And seeds that included those plus yellow squash, carrots, beefstake tomatoes, watermellon and cantelope that never even sprouted.

New growth on the tomato vines

A very tiny cucumber

We started the garden using 18 gallon plastic totes we found on sale, pond baskets and pvc pipe to make our own "earth boxes" with organic soil. These boxes work out great except the aphids and ants had a great time in the wonderfully rich soil. Trying to stay organic I used a lot of methods to get the buggers out of there but ultimately had to turn to orange oil based insecticide and bio-chemical based ant granules. Like I said, it's a learning process!

Momma and baby Aloe

If I've learned anything this year it's not to give up. And tried to learn from my mistakes. The season isn't over yet. Here in Florida we'll be going strong for a few more months. The peppers look promising and the basil is growing strong. I have three small 1" or so cukes that I'm holding out hope for and blooms and blooms of butternut squash I'm waiting for just one of those babies to go to fruit. The fig is progressing with foliage and new blooms and tiny cherry tomatoes are making a comeback for a second harvest this season.

Thriving Basil

After dousing the tomato plants with the orange oil based insecticide which really didn't do much unless you drown them in it (in which case, just about anything would have worked, drowning is drowing) a beautiful silver frog moved into the vines and magically, after watching a very plump looking froggie for a few days) the assassin beetles disapeared. Then I couldnt' find the froggie anymore and a few days later, I found this teeny guy hanging out on a leaf. Less than half the size of the other, I'm thinking she left me a baby to plump up on my butternut squash.

Baby Froggie visiting my garden

Red and Yellow Bell Peppers

Overall, this gardening season has been a little disheartening. I have learned lots of information. One of my very favorite sites is The people there are just a well of great advice and experience. It really encourages me to see more experienced farmers and gardeners,both urban and rural, sharing their stories. The site isn't mainly gardening, but all facets of homesteading. Be sure to check it out!

Butternut Squash Blossoms

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Family Movie Night

I try very hard to limit the amount of TV my kids watch and censor what they view. Though, it seems that they end up watching TV at some point each day. Usually, in the mornings while I'm trying to wake up my brain. Once a week, I get the kids, grab some grub and put on a family movie that we can all enjoy. It's become a tradition on either Friday or Saturday nights. I think it helps pass the time through the week as they try and maintain their behaivor to earn this priviledge.

Amelia sampling the offerings.

For food, it varies, though I like to make something easy and that won't make too big a mess in the livingroom. Eating in front of the TV is also part of the treat. Sometimes I'll pop up a huge bowl of air popcorn and make a fruit salad, maybe homemade pizza, other times a raw fruit, veggie and nut tray like this night. I also made a fresh loaf of herb and cheese bread which they ate with gusto.
Emmy and the food.

Olivia enraptured with Veggie Tales.
It's nice to be appreciated for the food I make and it's very nice to have this hour or two each week to settle down with my brood and cuddle and laugh and eat. I like to make this night cheap too. Staying in has just as much appeal to kids as going to the movies, even watching a movie they've seen lots of times. We do have cable, so I am able to get a movie off the free on-demand. My neighbors sometimes loan us movies we haven't seen which is always a special treat, as it comes from them. All in all, it's a really great night. They go to bed easily after the movies over and they know we'll do it again. Soon. I can't wait for Rob to come home from Iraq to share this special night with us.

Engrossed Alex.

Cordi likes dancing vegetables. With no arms. That weild swords anyway. And hover.