Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sew a simple, hanging kitchen towel

I've shown a few of these towels in other posts on my blog, but as I got ready to make a couple of new ones recently, I realized that I'd never shown how easy it was to make them. 
All you need is a kitchen towel, a pot holder, and a large button.
I picked these up in the clearance section of our closest discount store, so they were very inexpensive.  You could even pick them up at the dollar store; my only caution is that although the printed ones are often cute, they are not usually made from very durable material.
Also, if you pick out a printed potholder, bend it in half to see what it will look like before you buy it.  Not all prints look good when folded in half.
Start by using a washable pencil to draw a line across the middle of the wrong side of your pot holder.
Then run a long, gathering stitch on either side of the middle of your towel.  I just used the fold line that was already there as my mid-line.  This is just one long piece of thread for both lines of stitching.
Pull the threads to gather your towel.
Lay the right side of the pot holder on the right side of the towel and pin in place.
I fold the hemmed edge of the towel under when I pin it.  I just think it looks nicer in the finished product.
Before stitching, flip it over to make sure the gathers were pinned fairly evenly.  The towel does like to slide away while you pin, so if you don't check it you may end up with a bunch of gathers on one side and not many on the other.
Then sew down the line you made on the pot holder.  Pulling the pins out slowly as you stitch will help ensure the gathers run under the presser foot evenly,
but I'll reach under the pot holder from time to time, just to make sure they do.
Once it's together, don't forget to pull out your gathering thread, then run a second line of stitching to reinforce the seam.  
The last step is to sew a large button on the pot holder, across from the loop.
There you go, all finished!

These are very quick and easy to make, and using towels and pot holders you pick up at the discount store or on clearance, they are also very inexpensive.  They would be great as a gift.  If you picked up an extra towel and wash cloth, you could have a matched set to give and it still wouldn't cost very much.

If you want to be super frugal, you could make two hanging towels by cutting the towel in half and sewing each half on it's own pot holder.  You'd just need to overcast the cut end of the towel, using a close zig-zag stitch after you've sewn it on the pot holder. The upside is that you would have two hanging towels, and though I've done that many times, I've gotten to where I prefer to use the whole towel when I make them.  That way, if one side gets too wet, you can turn it around and use the other side.  Since mine hang on the stove, the wet side will dry quickly if the oven is on.

I've linked this post with the Homestead Barn Hop.

I have also linked with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

You know you homeschool when...

The question on measurements in the math book is, "Is your house less than 1 mile, about 1 mile, or greater than 1 mile from your classroom?" and your child answers, "Are you kidding?"

I didn't mark it wrong.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Freezing Okra

Our garden may have had it's trials this year, but one thing certainly hasn't had a hard time -the okra.  I've never had a year when okra didn't produce, and this year, despite the mild winter that didn't kill a single bug, the late cool snap (that unfortunately, wasn't quite cold enough, or long enough to kill any bugs), the intense heat, and more rain than I can ever remember getting in one summer, we still had a bumper crop of okra.  It's coming out our ears.  So, what do you do with a bunch of okra?  You freeze it.  At least you do at my house, because I don't particularly care for pickled things, and I think boiled okra is just nasty.  The texture - oh my. I just can't do that.  Since I only ever make fried okra, freezing is the way to go.
Give it all a good rinse.
Of course, the first tip would be to pick your okra while it's still fairly small.  Big okra is tough, and not fit to eat.  
Then get everything set up.  You'll need a pot of boiling water, and a bowl of ice water.  And don't forget a towel.
Boil the okra, a few at a time, for 2-3 min. I start pulling the little ones out at 2 min and give bigger ones a bit more time.
Pull them out and place them immediately in the ice water.  Make sure they stay in long enough to get cold.
I usually wait until they've been in a couple of minutes before I start the next batch in the pot, then I pull them out right before the next are ready to go in.
Put them on the towel and pat them dry.
After that, you just slice them and put them in ziploc freezer bags, in whatever portion size your family usually eats in one sitting.
You will want to make sure you have plenty of ice handy since you'll need to add it to the cold water frequently.

Okra is the very first thing I ever learned how to blanch and freeze, and was one of the few things I learned to preserve while I was still living at home, so it brings back memories of working in the kitchen with mom to put up some of our harvest.

I've linked this post with the Carnival of Home Preserving.

I've also linked up with the Homestead Barn Hop.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tote Bag Tutorial

Have you ever seen a piece of fabric that just called to you?  I certainly have, and the fabric pictured below was one of those.  One of the ladies in my sewing class suggested a tote bag as one of our projects, and I just had to use this fabric, even though most of my girls wanted to lay claim to it when they saw it.  I can't blame them - it's so pretty.  I got the general idea for this bag from a book I have, but I changed the size, the straps, and I added a pocket.
You'll need outer and lining fabric, and braided belting. 1 & 1/3 yard of each fabric, and 6 yards of belting will make two bags. 2-4yd of interfacing may be needed, depending on your fabric choice.
You can use cotton fabric, but both the outside and the lining will need to be lined with fusible interfacing to give the bag strength, or you could use a lightweight duck instead.  For the bag I'm showing, I used duck for the outside and cotton, lined with fusible interfacing, for the lining.
If you need it, clicking on the pictures will make them larger.
For solids, or an all-over print, cut a piece that is 32"x21" for the outside of your bag.
My fabric was a one way print so I cut two, 16.5"x21" pieces.
I placed them, right sides together, and stitched using a 1/2" seam.  
Then, since duck frays pretty easily, I overcast the edges.
After that, I pressed the seam to the side and top-stitched it in place.
Next, cut the lining fabric 35"x21".
The fusible interfacing was about 20 1/2" wide, so I only had to cut for length.  
I cut it a little less than 35" so the lining fabric would overhang by just a little.  It's just easier to do that than to try and line everything up exactly when you're ironing them together.
Go ahead and attach the interfacing to the wrong side of your lining fabric.
Now cut the fabric for the pocket.
One 10 1/2"x8" piece for the outside, and one 12"x8" piece for the lining.
Cut a 12"x8" (or slightly smaller) piece of interfacing too, and attach that to the lining.
If you have a one way print, make sure the 10 1/2" length goes with the grain/pattern.
With right sides together, sew the top edges of the pocket and lining together.
Press the seam flat.

Then fold it so the bottom edges meet.  You'll have a strip of the lining showing at the top.
Press, and then overcast around the three raw edges.  You can use an overcast stitch (if your machine has one), or a wide zig-zag.  I ironed a piece of fusible web along the bottom, between the outside and the lining to help keep it from shifting while I was sewing, but you don't have to do that.
Fold your bag in half (with the 21" sides together) and press so you'll have a line that will be the bottom of the bag.  I didn't have to do that because there was a seam right down the middle of this one.  Then, at the bottom, mark the center of the bag and the center of the pocket and line them up, right sides together.  You'll want to make sure the bottom edge of the pocket overhangs the bottom line of the bag by 1/2".  Pin in place and then stitch 1/2" from the bottom of the pocket.  Your stitch line should line up with the crease you made in  bottom of the bag.  
If you have a one way print and are constructing the bag like this one, you can assemble the pocket first and then sew it in when you're sewing the front and back of the bag together, but since a lot of duck isn't a one way print, I wanted to show how you'd do it if there wasn't a seam.
Press the pocket up, pin in place, and then stitch around the sides and bottom, 1/4" from the edge of the pocket.  Don't worry about the raw edges - the straps will cover it.
Now you'll add your straps.  You'll need about 3 yards of braided belting.
Starting at the bottom crease/seam, pin the strap in place.  You'll measure 6" from the sides of the bag, and then lay the strap down.  
When you get close to the top edge, place your last pin 1" from the top.  You will not sew past this pin.  You need the last bit of the top free from the strap so you can sew in the lining.
Let the strap loop about 24" from the last pin to the first pin on the other side.  Continue to pin the strap in place down the front of the bag and then keep going onto the back side, remembering to stop pinning an inch from the top of the back, make a second 24" loop, pin again 1" from the top and meet the starting point.  You may need to trim the belting just bit.  If this confuses you, just take another look at the picture above this one.  The belting forms a continuous loop around the bag, forming the straps at the top edges of both sides.
Stitch down both sides of each of the straps.  Just slide the pins over a bit during your first pass, but leave them in to keep the belting from shifting as you go.
You'll want to stitch over the point where the two raw edges meet.  Use a wide zig-zag, but set your stitch length short so that you're basically forming a satin stitch.  
Next we'll fold the bag so that the right sides are together, and stitch down the sides.
Repeat for the lining, and don't forget to overcast the edges.  You can use a wide zig-zag for the overcast.
Now we'll square the corners. 
Fold the side seam down so that it lines up with the bottom seam.  This brings the corner to a triangle.  Measure 1 inch from the point of the corner and sew across.  Do this for each side of both the bag and the lining.
Leave the lining inside out, but turn the bag right side out.  Place the bag in the lining (the right side of the lining will be against the right side of the bag) and pin around the top edge.  You'll want to leave a section open for turning later.  I left the area between the straps on the back of the bag open.  This area is marked by the red pins that are pinned in perpendicular to the edge.  Pinning it this way helps you know where to stop and start your stitching so you don't accidentally sew it all closed.  You also need to make sure the straps are down out of the way so they don't get caught in the stitching.
Reach in your opening and start pulling it right side out.
When everything's turned, take a second to reach in and finger press your squared corners to the bottom.
Push the lining down into the bag, fitting it to the bottom.   About 1 inch of your lining should show above the top of the bag.  Press and then top-stitch around the top of the bag.
In this photo the strap is pulled down out of the way, but as it got close to the presser foot, I pulled it up so the top-stitching ran right across.  I even backed up so the stitching was re-enforced across the strap.
As you can see here, the top-stitching is very close to the seam. 
All finished.
The pocket was a little on the small side, but this was a trial run.  I want the pocket deeper in the future, so the dimensions I gave above will make a pocket that is a couple of inches deeper.

I hope the instructions are clear.  Happy Sewing!!

I've linked this post with the Homestead Barn Hop.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When things go wrong in the garden.

Gardening is wonderful.  You turn over the soil, or add compost, or whatever it is you do to prepare, then you plant the seeds and wait expectantly for those little shoots to appear.  It's so exciting when they do.  Everyone here loves to see the tiny plants poke up through the soil, and I'm certainly no exception.  Then you're even more excited to see things grow like crazy and put out their first blooms.  The girls and I take great pleasure in noticing the first little fruits or veggies that begin to form on the plant, and oftentimes we are overwhelmed with goodies when everything starts to ripen.

But then there are the days we notice something has been nibbling on the newly sprouted beans.  We see the first signs of powdery mildew on the squash, or the entire top of a tomato plant has been stripped of leaves and flowers.  We might notice that a cucumber plant has developed yellow spots on its leaves after several days of rain, or we might have to water constantly because it's been incredibly hot and there's no rain in sight. And then, there are the weeds.  You may begin to think the whole gardening thing is not all it's cracked up to be.

This year has not been an especially good one for the garden.  Not horrible mind you, we did have a fairly good start, but it's certainly not been a gardener's dream year.  We had a very mild winter, so the bugs have been horrible this year.  The squash bugs are everywhere, and don't let anyone tell you they only eat squash.  When there are a bunch of the little beggers, I've become convinced that they eat just about anything.  Also, we discovered a new little critter on our beans - I still have no idea what it was, but it was hungry.  The only bug I haven't had trouble with this year, although I've certainly had my share of trouble with it in the past, are hornworms.   Then, there was the weather.  Many gardeners down here put their gardens in early this year because they were convinced we were going to skip spring altogether and head straight into summer.  This was due in part to the mild winter, and in part to an unseasonably warm March.  I wasn't convinced.  When people spoke to me about gardening, or urged me to go ahead and start my garden, I kept telling them I didn't think a warm winter and March meant we were going to skip spring altogether.  I've lived in central NC my whole life - I figured we were in for a cool snap just any ol' time.  I've seen too many years where farmers worried when warm spells, followed by late frosts or freezes endangered their crops, to think that a warm March meant anything other than a temporary dip in the jet stream.  Sure enough, we got to about the middle of April and it got cold, and wet.  Things did mellow out for a bit, but then we got hot.  Very hot - as in, record breaking temperatures (not just highs, but also records for how many days it was consistently over 100), and not a drop of rain.  After a few weeks of that, we did get rain, and lots of it.  It's rained almost every day.  Certainly not normal for this time of the year.  Too much rain, coupled with heat, breeds all kinds of fungal problems in the garden. And though the plants may not like it that wet, the slugs sure do.  Yuck!
Then, there are the storms.  This was after a storm that I'm sure contained micro bursts. The rain was torrential, and things were being blown everywhere, in all directions.  At least in about a 1 block radius.  Outside of that there was little damage, but for those of us right here, it was pretty nasty.  The neighbor lost two trees in is front yard and half of one in the back.  Our corn took the biggest hit, but other plants in the garden were damaged as well, in addition to some things around the house and some of the trees in the back. The corn wasn't quite ready, so we lost it all.  
We did get 20lbs of potatoes.  I went ahead and pulled them since the plants were completely flattened, and though they were already on their way to finishing off, that just kind of sped it along.  Since they like to set tubers when soil temps are around 60-70 degrees, I think all the hot weather we got prevented a greater yield.  

All the negative things could certainly dissuade someone from wanting to bother with a garden, but there are positives too. What is less than complimentary weather-wise to one plant, is often great for another.  We may not have gotten the best crop of zucchini we've ever had, but we've already had a bumper crop of okra, with more coming in all the time.  And the rain may have caused fungal problems with our cucumbers, but when they were producing, they produced a lot and they didn't ever get bitter, even if we missed one and it grew very big.  A mild winter may have allowed for greater bug problems this year, but it also allowed for a great crop of garlic.  I'm sorry I can't find much good to say about squash (or any bad) bugs, but at least we learn more about them, and how to try and control them organically.
And then there's the satisfaction that gardening can bring.  Whether it be from a plate full of home-grown veggies that you're able to put in front of your family, or a beautiful view outside your kitchen window, gardening can bring a lot of blessings through all of the trials.

We've been able to put fresh veggies on the table each night, we've had enough to share a bit with friends and family, and I have some things preserved for use this winter.  While I'm certainly glad that I don't have to rely completely on what I've been able to grow this year in order to feed my family, I'm grateful for all that I have been able to produce in my garden, and I look forward to what we'll be able to do in the future.  

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