Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cranberry Apple Sauce

I made a pretty, nutritious, and yummy side dish that you might want to make to serve at Christmastime. There are only four ingredients: cranberries, apples, cinnamon (optional), and sweetener. So maybe only three. I used my Vitamix and my crockpot, but the recipe could be adapted to leave out the apple peels and hand chop the apples and cranberries, and it could be cooked on top of the stove (or not cooked at all). Another adaptation is to vary the proportion of ingredients, using more or less cranberries/apples, according to taste preference or what you have on hand. I love recipes that can be made in whatever way works for me.

4 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen, washed
12 small or 8 medium or 6 large apples, washed and cored

First, I washed the cranberries.
Then I washed and cored the apples.
I peeled the apples.
I measured the peels: 2 cups.
I Vitamixed them with a little water. Time: about 10 seconds.
I added the cranberries and Vitamixed them, too. Time: about 15 seconds.
I rough chopped the cored and peeled apples and placed them in a crockpot. I added the apple peel and cranberries mixture. I added two sticks of cinnamon after I took this picture. I cooked on low for about an hour.
I removed the cinnamon sticks, added some sweetener to taste, stirred, and spooned some into a dish. Would you like to try some? I put one container of it in the freezer to take with us on Christmas when we will have dinner with dear friends.

p.s. Two quick things about my Vitamix: 1) I was able to minimize waste and optimize nutrition by using my Vitamix to puree the apple peels and 2) it takes about 20 seconds to clean the Vitamix. Really. After I give the container a quick rinse, I put some warm water and a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid (note: not dishwasher detergent), putting on the cover and placing it back on the stand, turning it to High, and Ta Da! It's clean. Rinse and air dry. It is cleaner than if I hand washed it.

Disclaimer: I am an approved affiliate for Vitamix. You can get free standard shipping and handling (a $25 US/$35 CN value) by purchasing through Vitamix and using code 06-007841 when placing your order.

Blessings and peace...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vogue 7281 Vest - Part 2

I was doing pretty well for a while.  I cut binding strips 2 in. wide and the width of the binding fabric. I attached the binding as follows:
Secure (with pins or clips) the binding
right sides together along the raw
edge of the fabric.
Stitch 1/2 in. from edge. Steam and
hand press, then fold the binding, wrap
it around the raw edge, and secure.
Secure the wrapped binding on the
right side.
Here's how it looks from the wrong side.
Stitch from the right side, very close to
the binding.
Trim close to stitching on the wrong side.
Please feel free to appreciate that I changed
the bobbin thread to match the binding. Never
mind that it will never be visible, which I
thought it would, at that point in the process.
On the right side of the "under"
piece that will be overlapped
by a piece with a bound edge, mark
seam allowance (soap sliver).
The piece on the left is ready to be
overlapped onto the piece on the right.
Stitch overlapped seam close to
binding. I used my #10 edge foot.
That's the part that went well. Are there any emoticons here in bloggerland?

I then made every sewing mistake imaginable and then some. Well, almost every mistake possible. Here are a few:
  • I neglected to add seam allowances to vertical seam under pieces. The effect was that it made sewing the overlapped front and back almost impossible. I had to redo parts of each seam at least three times. Have you removed stitches from spongey fabric lately? Oh and I lost about 2 inches in the circumference of the vest. Well now it will be cozy, that's for sure.
  • I somehow thought that one of the side pieces was all wrong, so I was able to eke out a new {ahem} corrected one from the little bit of remaining fabric. The real problem was that there was nothing wrong with the piece I replaced. And, the new one was for a different pattern piece. I had to put the original piece back in and all was well. Except for my psyche.
  • I forgot to change the needle position, more than once. 
  • I forgot to change the stitch length, more than once. 
  • I ran out of bobbin thread at the beginning of a seam that I was stitching for the second or third time. 
Then I pinned the side and shoulder seams and tried it on. All I could think of was... The Jetsons. Does anybody remember that super-futuristic family cartoon from when, the 60s maybe? Anyway, here's an image I found of Jane:

Please note in particular the wide shoulder wings (as in airplanes not angels). In this case, it's a collar; but Jane Jetson always sported that neckline.

Well. It's my own fault. I didn't take into account that this felted fabric does not have the drape of oh, say, the vest made up and photographed on the pattern envelope. Oops. In other words, the shoulders just keep going and going.

So, in addition to all of my technical errors, I spent more time than you would believe clipping, trimming, trying on, noting changes on pattern pieces, {lather, rinse, repeat}. This is a small portion of what I cut off and disposed of:
Well, I am now back on track. I have stitched and top stitched the shoulder and side seams. Next will be adding binding all around. Oh, I have a question. Do you have any suggestions for handling the binding at the corners:
These corners, marked by green circles
This vest is not a difficult pattern or project. It's just that it's full of operator errors. On the up side, I am a persistent person, and it takes a lot for me to abandon a project.

I will have a vest to wear. And now I've decided that I will wear it on Christmas, just in case I start to get any ideas of setting it aside for a while. Which I might already have thought of. A hundred times.

Blessings and peace...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Vogue 7281 Vest - Part 1

I've started a new sewing project, a vest for myself, out of some red wool that I "felted" (technically, it's "fulled") in the washing machine and dryer. I've added lines to the seams and armholes to show where I am planning to finish the edges with some brown wool. Here's what it might look like when completed:
And here's the pattern envelope:
When cutting out and pressing the pattern pieces, I noticed that the front and back pieces are not multiple pieces but that the shaping from the shoulder down and from the hips up, front and back, are from (oh no) darts.
Pattern pieces
So I cut the pieces apart in a way that accounts for the darts and added seam allowances, creating a princess seam vest, which is what I thought it was.
And here's my fabric all cut out:
Thanks, Maxwell, for holding down those pattern pieces. You never know when a gust of wind might blow everything around.

Here's the fabric:
Felted wool on left, new wool on right
Here's a close up to show the thickness:

This vest should be nice and cozy.

I always mark the right side of each piece after it's been cut out. The placement is determined by the fabric; sometimes the mark needs to be in a seam allowance. But for this project, any place is fine. I leave this mark in as long as possible, sometimes until the section is pressed.
I use small safety pins, clips, sticky dots, whatever is on hand that will work for that project.

I'll let you know how it's going. There's been some Santa's Workshop activity here, too, so progress might be even slower than usual.

Blessings and peace...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sewing Some Charm Ornaments and Cat Toys

It's all Ruthie's fault. She put the Christmas hearts idea in my mind. Then, I knew I wanted to make this... soon as I saw this pewter charm at Sew Thankful last week.
It's about 3/4 in. across.
I bought six gold tone and six silver tone charms. They are sold out now, but if you do a search for nativity scene charm, you'll get plenty of results at a wide price range. Or you could use any other charm – or no charm at all – to make these sweet ornaments.

For the charm ornaments, I gathered my supplies, clockwise from the top:
Plaid flannel fabric left over from table linens made for a baby shower this summer
Red felted wool left over from dining room chair pads I made a few years ago
Green/red/gold ribbon
A heart-shaped cookie cutter
(Not shown: small pieces of white/pastel cotton flannel plus the usual sewing supplies)
I made a paper pattern from the cookie cutter for the heart shape. I used a plastic lid for the ornament shape to which I added a rectangle shape at the top and a slightly smaller plastic lid for the white flannel.

For Each Ornament
Cut out one heart shape from the red wool, two ornament shapes from the plaid flannel, and two circles from the white flannel. Cut 1 piece of ribbon 6 in. long.

Hand sew the charm to the felt heart.

I was having a bit of trouble tying the knot on the back because everything was so small and light. Until I set a pattern weight on the plaid flannel to hold it in place while I tied the knot.
Place the heart onto one plaid flannel ornament so that the charm is aligned with the little rectangle at the top. Using any decorative stitch, stitch the heart to the plaid flannel. I used two threads together in the top so that the stitches would stand out, and I used stitch #26 on my Bernina 1130, increasing the stitch length to 3 and setting it to mirror image. (Please pardon my too-detailed information here. I might want to make these again some day!)
Place two layers of smaller white flannel in the center of the second plaid flannel ornament shape and stitch around.
Place the "charmed" heart embellished plaid flannel onto the plaid flannel that has the white flannel circles so that the white circles are on the inside.

Fold the ribbon in half and insert it between the layers of plaid flannel, at the top little rectangle. Stitch all the way around all the layers as close to the edge as is easy.
I used all of the charms – some to keep and some to share.

Cat Toys
I exchange a small Christmas gift with my friend Mariquita every year and always include something handmade for her kitties. She has two young Ragdoll kitties that I will see for the first time when I visit next year. I'll be sending Mariquita one of the nativity scene ornaments and these for the kitties:
I gathered my supplies:
Two 4-in. square pieces of blue felt left over from a jacket I made some time ago
Red felted wool small scraps left over from the nativity scene charm ornaments
Two squares of TP
Small amount of catnip
Usual sewing supplies

First, use your zigzag (or plain) rotary cutter (or scissors) and cut a few thin strips from the red wool. Straight stitch them onto the blue felted wool in no particular pattern but keeping them 1/2 in. away from the edges.
Fold the embellished square in half, with the embellishment on the inside.
Stitch a 1/4 in. seam along the long open side.
Press open.
Turn right side out. Sew across one end.
Place a small amount of catnip on a square of TP.
Fold to enclose the catnip.
Slip the little packet of catnip into the opening. Turn the blue "tube" 1/4 turn, then insert the end of a ribbon and stitch across. That looks kind of like a mouse, doesn't it? If you squint your eyes almost closed and then turn off the lights? I happen to know a few other kitties that might like these.

I hope you enjoy reading about my (sometimes very little) sewing projects, and that they will inspire you to make something easy, simple, fast – if you feel like it, that is.  

Blessings and peace...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My First Charted Knitting Project

I used a charted pattern for the first time this past summer. It’s named The Alberta Seamen’s Scarf, and it’s from Stahman's Shawls & Scarves, by Myrna A. I. Stahman.
I used some alpaca yarn that I purchased at a local fiber festival (ahem) some time ago.

This scarf required two skills that were new to me: 1) a provisional cast on and 2) working with a charted pattern. Both took a few tries, but I am persistent – and I really really really wanted to have those skills. I was tempted to write out the pattern but decided against it. I’ve done that before, which is exactly the reason I still didn’t know how to read a chart.

Tutorials for a provisional cast on are plentiful. But for me, sometimes it's easier to quickly glance at a web page and think, "That's too complicated for me" and click away. This time, I followed the instructions in the book. By the way, a provisional cast on is one in which stitches are cast on with "waste yarn" (preferably a smooth yarn about the same weight/thickness as the one used for the project); it's used for many reasons (to write about another day, perhaps), one of which is when you are using a one-way pattern and want both ends or "tails" of a scarf to match. 

There is a very nice history to the seamen’s scarf.

Since 1898, during the Spanish American War, volunteers of the Seamen’s Church Institute have knitted, collected, packed, and distributed gifts to mariners who are miles away from home during the holidays. The gift consists of a handknit garment, a personal letter, and information on SCI’s services for mariners. In addition to this, SCI also includes several useful items like hand lotion, lip balm, and toothbrushes—things difficult to come by when working long stretches on the water.

Knitting groups around the country connect with SCI in weekly knitting meetings at churches and at knitting-sponsored events. Through online sites like Ravelry and the CAS blog, the Institute works with hundreds to make the program effective.

The historic name of this volunteer program, Christmas at Sea, only partially describes the work of the people who make holidays a little warmer for mariners. While gift distribution happens during winter months, collection and creation of items happens year round, and while many gifts go to international mariners working "at sea," thousands of gifts also go to mariners working on inland waterways here in the United States.

The Christmas-at-Sea Program of the Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey provides volunteer knitters with patterns for knitting scarves, watch caps, sweaters, and socks. -- Seamen’s Church Institute

Christmas at Sea that’s a Seamen’s scarf he is wearing
Christmas at Sea patterns free knitting patterns available

The traditional Seamen’s scarf is knit from end to end by knitting 14 inches of garter stitch [knit every row], followed by 18 inches of knit four, purl four ribbing, followed by another 14 inches of garter stitch. The garter stitch tails provide warmth to the chest of the wearer, and the knit four, purl four ribbing provides both a wonderful fit and warmth as it hugs the neck of the wearer. – Myrna Stahman, Stahman's Shawls & Scarves, page 4.

I have made many of these scarves for our local City Mission. We love gifts of warmth here in western New York! I have also used the pattern to make a few for my favorite guys. My husband lets me borrow his all the time. That is, until now. Because now I have my very own hand-knit Seamen’s scarf!

Here it is, drying after blocking.
Here's a close up of the left "tail" drying.
This is the center ribbed section.
On my lovely styrofoam head and box
See how it cozies up around the neck?

I've already started my next charted knitting project. Someday it will look like this (but in a different colorway):
It's called From Dawn Till Dusk and is designed by Tetiana Otruta. This pattern is a free download for Ravelry members. Ravelry is free to join, and is a treasure of resources, help, and fun. I think that there are now more than one million members, so if you're a knitter, head on over. On Ravelry, I'm DearKnitter.

Blessings and peace...