Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall + Friends + Food + Fun = Pumpkin Tutorial

 I have such wonderful friends! After seeing a photo of DIL Katie's pumpkin from our arts and crafts day last week my friend Trish said "I want to make a pumpkin" - so she googled it and came up with this wonderfully easy way of making such cute fall decorations. Much easier than the time consuming sewing of wedges that we did last week. So easy in fact, that prior to this morning she has made 21 of the darling little creatures.

So, what are friends for but to share! And support one another.... Armed with a shopping list Katie, Trish, Annette and I headed to Wally-world for some fall fabric, yarn, poly-fil and leaves...Trish would be sharing her knowledge with us once we arrived back to my studio.

When I added the comment "support one another" that was my lead in to the food part (grin). Without a lot of details here cuz I know you want to get on to the tutorial....our arts and crafts day really stemmed from my cry for help...seems my healthcare provider has suggested a change in lifestyle....namely more veggies, dairy limited to eggs and butter, lots of protein, limited fruit, and going grain free for 30 days...recommended reading "The Paleo Solution Diet" by Robb Wolf and "Wheat Belly" by William Davis. While I am excited about the health benefits, my friends actually found me in tears stressing over the implication of this lofty goal of regaining my health (and potentially shedding some unwanted pounds). Why you ask? Well, I'm not known for my culinary skills  - and I'm what is known unfavorably as a "picky eater" today's gathering included Annette steaming some previously unknown veggies for me to "try" and Katie making a delicious Greek salad (which was totally Greek to me - things I'd never eaten before in my life!) For the record, there was a little cheating going on with the Feta cheese, but hey, this is a work in progress.

I think the girls got tickled as I was sorta like a 5 year old in discovering that I could eat things all mixed together (grin).  Did I mention that this was also the day I'd scheduled the Sears repairman to come fix my oven? Seems it's been out since April or May or quite possibly Christmas...pitiful I know....yep...I desperately  needed my girlfriends today!

If you look closely on the table above you will see the orange pumpkin Trish brought over and the smaller one she used to demo. Before you knew it, we all had one or two made.

Okay, okay...I know you are eager to follow along and make your own - trust me, they are like a bag of chips, you can't make just one!

Pumpkins ala Trish

Ingredients (grin)
 Fabric (duh)
Heavy thread, 12 wt to 30 wt
Tapestry needle (or large embroidery needle)
"Doll" needle - or large plastic needle - key is to be long and have a large eye for the yarn
Stems from the weeds growing in the pasture or the empty lot next door (as the case may be)
Misc. fall decorations such as leaves, etc.
Sewing machine and typical sewing supplies

Trish has found that the following sizes have worked well in her cut your fabrics either 6 x 12, 7 x 14, 8 x 16, 9 x 18, 10 x 16 or 10 x 20....and feel free to experiment. She suggests that you make a 6 x 12 first and then play around..

Fold the fabric in half  right sides together (if it were 6 x 12 you would now have a folded 6 x 6).  With a quarter inch seam sew the side opposite the fold, securing each end with a back stitch, forming a tube.  Finger press the  seam open.

Using a running stitch or gathering stitch sew a quarter of an inch on one side of the tube, still wrong side out (see first photo).  Gather and secure tightly with a knot. BYT, thread color doesn't matter, it won't be seen. Next turn the tube right side out and fill with poly-fil or similar stuffing. Not too full, it should feel a little squishie to be sculpt-able.

Upon completion use that same gathering stitch to close the opening. This is harder than it looks (one reason for heavy thread)....don't be discouraged if you end up with a hole and can see the stuffing - it will later be covered with a stem...Tie securely and bury your thread if you know how (not an issue if you don't).

Now it is time to sculpt your pumpkin. Using a large needle with yarn (tied with a knot of course) go through the open top and come out on the bottom, this buries the thread and knot. From the bottom travel up the side again going through the top. I found it helpful to make the placement of my first stitch to cover that one seam - but it probably doesn't matter (grin). Continue going down through the top, out the bottom, and up the sides until you have the desired number of wedges.

Pull the yarn tight to get that desired effect. You WILL have a hole in the middle...
When complete, tie off the yarn and hide the knot.

Next, if you are fortunate enough to have a hot glue gun this is where you'd want to pull it nope. Probably the only gal in town that doesn't, and Trish left her half a dozen at home. No worries, I have various forms of craft glue (Liquid Stitch worked wonders).

Be as creative as you want... Trish had some floral wire that we wrapped around a pen to make tendrils. I thought they added a nice touch.

These were my first set made with the girls from our Wally-world fabric.  After they left the oven-repairmen came so I was distracted for a while....then back to the studio to make this set. Yes, Vera Bradly fans, these are Safari Sunset...I purchased napkins from my favorite pattern and have it scattered in my living room (pillows). These should give a nice pulled together look that will dazzle my friends and family with my decorating skills don't ya think? And yes, they are going to stay stacked. Trish had a stacked trio that was very are only limited by your imagination!

And I told you they were addictive! Here's my beautiful Blank batiks (thanks Tom, these colors are going to look fantastic in the living room - can't wait to make a couch quilt out of them).

Time will tell just how many pumpkins I'll have scattered over my house this fall. I doubt that I will catch up to Trish...but who knows, I do have an addictive personality  - as opposed to a competitive one (grin).

Yes, this was quite a day. Fun time with friends, learning some new skills in the kitchen with such wonderful taste tests (I can eat veggies!), and having something to show for my day besides dirty dishes - I just love these little pumpkins!....I'm excited about the future, hopeful that I can learn to cook healthier and feel better. It's not as daunting as it was a few days ago. Changing habits is never easy, but...

"with God all things are possible" Matthew 19:26

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Living Large

Where oh where has September gone? Ever feel like life is passing you by, or at least passing too quickly?  That's where I've found myself this past month...busy, busy, busy, yet wondering why the to do list is still a mile long. Have I procrastinated too much, have I been productive enough, did I remember to stop and breath?

Thank goodness for photos, because along with my calendar I can go back and review/relive some of the highlights and record here - like that's so important (grin), but it is fun for me to go back and read my blog entries even if no one else, for your reading pleasure and my memory's September in the Reader's Digest Version!

Seems my DIL Katie wanted to have an "arts and crafts day"  She loves to decorate and I think as soon as Labor Day was behind us she was ready to think fall!  Actually, I've been thinking Thanksgiving (grin) so we decided to take a day and play in the studio...I gave her free reign to go through the fabric stash to find fall colors -- granted, that's not an easy task as I tend to be bright/tropical/hot pink/purple/lime green sorta gal...but she is resourceful! Before long baskets of fabric were pulled out, fat quarters and small bolts covered the longarm table...

We've decided that we really need more than one arts and crafts day to truly get ready for fall and Thanksgiving, but our efforts weren't without reward.  Using my GoCutter we each have prepped a fall runner that will be a future quilt project (hopefully by Thanksgiving!)  Mine is actually a cabinet runner - in a few short weeks imagine this full of delicious dishes contributed by a loving family! Oh I can smell the turkey now!

Here's a close up that also includes the kitchen hanging towels, we each made a set.  The pumpkin is Katie's, mine still needs to be sewn...

 Of course, Pixxie is right in the middle of the mix. 

 Lest you think my month as been all play and no work - here's a little quilt that I made for a customer. It's 48 x 48 and, matter of fact, yesterday it was used as a guest book for my customer's wedding. How cool is that? All her family and friends would have autographed it with their well wishes for the happy couple. I'm hopeful she will send me a photo, alas, she's not local - one of many internet customers. It's truly amazing how small the world is through this modern way of "connecting". Autograph quilts anyone? I've gotcha covered!

Here's a close up of the center. Again, I used my GoCutter for the raw edge applique. (With this fabulous tool I'm no longer afraid of the "A-word")

Speaking of love in the air... there's no greater expression of love than a new baby!  Don't get too excited, my family hasn't expanded - this is my girlfriend Trish's "baby" Jessica with her baby Everett and handsome hubby Gabe.

Of course, I just had to get my hands on this sweetie...only two days old. Nothing brings me closer to God that holding one of His creations in my arms! Life is truly a miracle, not to be taken for granted!

Yep, a wonderful distraction, but now it's back to quilting...  This beauty is one of two...Two friends made the same quilt but with different borders. I challenged myself to quilt them was fun!

This is my favorite block...don't know why, but I think it's because I liked the way the center feather puff turned out!

Last month we had a barn raising - well, the arches on the studio annex raising to be exact...things are being done in "phases"....The first phase was having a contractor pour the foundation, phase two was a volunteer crew putting up the arches...phase three was suppose to be closing in the end walls....but finishing off the fence became high priority after Ms Pixxie escaped and scared us to death!

Pixxie is now safely contained with the finishing of the fence. We are learning patience as we wait anxiously for the next phase (hum, should patience and anxious be in the same sentence?) Seriously, one day at a time, and when it's complete this will be the home of quilting classes and a new production area for the t-shirt quilts we make. It's going to be good!

One thing that I've accomplished, so to speak, is to become disciplined with my appointment with the Son - I've been walking to the bay almost every morning this summer to greet the sunrise...I've had a lot of fun doing this and truly can't wait to round the corner and see what the bay looks like each morning.

Have to admit, I like the mornings with interesting clouds the best.

One morning an older gentleman pulled up near me in this pick up and said "don't you have enough pictures of the sunrise?"  My reply, "No sir, it's new every morning!"  He asked what I did with all them and I answered, "I go home and put a Bible verse with them".   I've built up quite a collection - many mornings I've come home and posted them on FaceBook. Just recently I've started adding them to webshots.   It is my hope that others will enjoy them, and perhaps share or use as screensavers or's just a sampling of recent ones...

Well, this new found friendship with Mr. Bill (who is 81 by the way) has yielded me a new distraction...

The above photo was taken after a day out in his boat attempting to fish.  That particular day was unsuccessful but he insisted on taking me a second time and LOOKIE!!!

 I caught my first saltwater fish!! I was so surprised that he even asked me back - I mean, I'm sorta high maintenance when it comes to stuff like this. I hadn't fished since I was 10 or so...and Mr. Bill not only had to cast for me but when I found out we were fishing with LIVE bait (shrimp) he also had to bait my hook...I mean, we're talking about a gal who doesn't like to handle raw meat in the kitchen! And live shrimp wiggle a lot and and and THEY HAVE EYES!

Like I said, I was glad that he asked me back! You can only imagine how much I talked in the boat (grin). But I will say this, he made me pull in my own 27" Red, and take the hook out of it's mouth! AND hold it for this photo...oh my, I've accomplished a lot of firsts with this new adventure.

The following week Mr. Bill asked Johnny to go with him...for the record, he can bait his own hook and cast his own rod (grin) and they caught 3 times as many on their day out as we did on ours...okay, so boys rule (grin).

If I had to sum up my month (and it's not over yet - still a week to go). I'd have to say that I've learned to live life large. Sometimes the things I have going on with family and friends seem to be a distraction from my quilting, and I know there are times I probably should have balanced a tad better....but then again, maybe not...perhaps the Lord is teaching me that life is short, it's a gift, and each day IS a new opportunity.

Live life LARGE and loud my friends!