Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all in the US:  Have a wonderful day today!  I hope you all are able to spend time with friends and family and enjoy their company.  Try to take a little time to reflect on all the things you have to be grateful for.

Me, I'm Thankful that I have been lucky enough to be married to my husband for over 25 years and have three wonderful children.  I"m thankful that my parents are still with us and that we'll get to spend time with them and other family today.  Glad that our daughter, going to school in Philadelphia half the country away, is able to spend the holiday with my husband's family out there.  Grateful for our friend Mike who is in town for the week, even though he kept me up until 2 last night talking and I had to get up early to start cooking a few things.
Grateful as well:  for my job and wonderful co-workers, my comfortable home and all the luxuries we have that others can't afford, my wonderful furry family of dog and cats and very, very grateful for my health.

And finally, I'm thankful that you all grace me with the honor of your presence here. Thanks for being along on this wild ride of life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Feeling productive

I'm glad I had today off.  I managed to get a lot accomplished for a Monday.  My weekend was shorter than planned since I ended up working on Saturday so a co-worker could be with her critically ill father.  At least none of my Saturday plans were critical things.
But today was a good day.  It is cold and snowy outside, the perfect day to make a big pot of chili so that is simmering away in the crockpot.  I didn't have any big projects for the day, it was a day to get all those pesky little things done.  You know the kind of things. Those things that, in and of themselves, don't really take much time, you just need to MAKE time to get them done.  So, today I: made a trip to the bank and grocery store, mailing a few letters along the way, sorted and put away laundry (a chore since it tends to live in the laundry baskets once it's washed and folded- oops), made more laundry detergent, watered plants, gave the stove a good scrubbing (you know, more than the cursory wiping up spills), sorted through the junk mail that had piled up on the corner of my desk  and did a bit of pre-holiday cooking.
We've got a friend coming into town for the week on business and I'm looking forward to having time off to see him.  And, yes, he's in town on business over Thanksgiving.  He lives out of town but maintains an office here that houses his computer servers for his business and he's needing to do some maintenance. This is about the only time he can get away from his OTHER job to come do it.  So, we'll be having, I'm sure, many late nights.  I'm not sure what his plans are for the holiday but I've gotten the go-ahead from my brother (who is hosting our family feed this year) to bring him along if he wants.
I'm so, so glad that I have an extremely short work week at my job. I, in fact, have to work only ONE day this week- tomorrow.  I took today as a vacation day a while ago for several reasons:  I'm working on several sewing projects for holiday gifts and thought I could use some extra sewing time, plus, I"m dangerously close to maxing out my vacation time at work and if I don't use it, I lose it.  So, I scheduled a few days off here and there.  Anyway, back to my extra-short work week.  I would have had to work both Tuesday and Wednesday but since I ended up working Saturday, I get Wednesday as my comp and Thursday and Friday are holidays for me.  Add this onto my usual Monday off next week and I will end up working only one day in an 8 day stretch.  Heavenly!
Not that I don't like my job!  Let's get that straight.  I love my job. It's just that I've got so many other irons in the fire that it's hard to relax.  And I plan to get a lot done in those 7 days- as well as some much needed 'down time'.

I hope all of you in the US have a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday this week.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Still here

I haven't forgotten about you all!  It has just been insanely busy around here.  Nothing spectacular, just life.  I16 will finally be starting Driver's Ed tomorrow, Justine will be home from school in a month, K13 is plugging along in the 8th grade, V is busy with his freelance writing and working on the house, I'm busy, busy, busy with work and sewing.
Today, Justine's boyfriend J came over for a while (don't say anything because it's not common knowledge- but they're ENGAGED!!!!!).  He hung out with the boys for a while and I was able to get his measurements so I can make a holiday gift for him.  I would have just estimated on the size for a vest but he's 6'6" so I wasn't sure I could estimate the appropriate size.   He is such a nice guy and we approve whole heartedly!
I've been busy on sewing projects.  A couple of chicken bags, a coat for I16, a vest for J, and a few bow ties are in the offing.
In the farm/garden world:
The chickens are barely laying.  Only the new girls are giving us eggs.  Many of the older girls are moulting and look pretty pathetic.  V spent a little time yesterday clipping Magnus' toenails- A couple had gotten so long that the toes were starting to turn sideways.  They both handled it well.
I've got little seedlings in the greenhouse, they're growing slowly. I still need to finish clearing out the garden but it was a rainy, windy weekend.  Maybe next weekend....
Now... I've gotta go.  Tomorrow is another day that will come all too soon.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Feed sack to tote bag- a tutorial

Yes... I've been absent for far, far too long.  Life has been hectic, work has been awful and I've been over-run with apples.
We have had a killing frost here so it's finally time to shift from gardening season to sewing season.  Maybe that also means I'll be blogging more often... although I feel that I don't have a lot left to say sometimes.
So... at long last, the tutorial on turning feed sacks into tote bags.
Now, this will only work with the plastic/fiber sacks.  The paper ones are great for mulch but wouldn't hold up. The bag I made today has a few 'special modifications' as it is a request from Justine for hauling art supplies in college.  This one is much large than I think would be practical for shopping.
Here goes:
 First, select your feed sack and make sure it is clean and reasonably dust free.  This is a 50 lb sack so it makes a hugs bag when finished.  I think the final dimensions are 17x6x20.
 Flatten the bag and determine how big you want it to be and how you want the front panel centered.  I used my rotary cutter (with an old blade) to cut off the top and the bottom.  You want to cut about 3 1/2 inches below where you want the bottom edge of the bag to be and about 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the top edge.
 From the remaining bag top or bottom, cut one or two strips about 3 1/2 inches wide.  These will become the handles.  Generally, you can cut just one strip and cut it in half for the two handles.  Since this is a bigger bag, I wanted the handles longer so it can be slung over the shoulder, so I used two strips and cut a 30 inch long piece of each.
 OPTIONAL STEP.  For this bag, I made a pocket!  I used a scrap of pet screen material that I have lying around,  It is a great flexible fiberglass product that is incredibly sturdy.  I've used it for the bottom of beach bags before (to let out the sand).  Anyway, I used a 10x13 inch piece, folded up 5 inches to make a pocket.  I covered the raw edge with bias tape first and also the sides to give a finished look.  If you're going for this, set it aside when finished.
 Now on to the handles.  Take your strips and fold them into thirds lengthwise.  You can pin them to get then to stay in place.  I'm not sure I would want to try to iron this.  For these, Justine wanted them to be padded so I layered in a 2 inch wide strip of quilt batting before I folded.  If you do this, don't pad it all the way to the end or you will end up with too much bulk when you try to attach the handles to the bag later.  Stitch the handles lengthwise down the raw edge.  I use a zigzag stitch for extra strength.  Set you completed handles aside,
 Now, turn the body of the bag inside out, flattening it out.  Make sure that the front and back are lined up correctly.  Stitch the bottom of the bag.  I used about a half inch seam but you can do wider or narrower as you prefer.  I wouldn't go much narrower for strength reasons.
Here's the tricky part.  Pull the front and back away from each other and form the corners to a triangle.  Be sure to line up your seam with the side crease of the bag so it is even.  Make sure your seam is turned one direction uniformly across the bag (not that it would be the end of the world if it wasn't).
This is where having some quilting tools comes in handy, but a ruler will do.  Use your straight edge and pencil to draw a line across the corner, making sure to keep it even.  I tend to make it about half an inch (on each side) wider than the creases for the sides of the bag.  It's about 5 and a half inches.  Pin the corner to keep it from slipping and stitch each corner on the line you drew.
 Turn the bag right side out, paying special attention to the corners.  The little triangles will just kind of float in the bottom.  You could probably tack them down or cut them off if they bother you but they're just kind of there.
Now... fold the top edge twice to the inside- once about half an inch and then again about an inch- so you're rolling that raw edge under all the way around the top of the bag, making a band at the top..  Pin it in place to keep it from unrolling while you work.
 ANOTHER OPTIONAL STEP!! Attaching the pocket.  If you have chosen to attach a pocket, unpin a bit of the top edge at the back of the bag.  Slip the raw edge of the pocket under the band all the way to the top,  pin in place.  The pocket will dangle inside the bag.
 Stitch the top band close to the lower folded edge to secure it.
 Attaching the handles.  Handle placement is a pretty personal thing.  Depending on the size of the bag and its intended use you can place them where you like them- just make sure they are evenly spaced and centered on the bag.  Since this is a big bag, I spaced them 7 inches apart- 3 1/2 inches from the center of the bag front/back.  Make sure they handles aren't twisted when you pin them in place to the inside of the top band.
Finally..... stitch the handles onto the bag.  I use the square with an x through it for strength since there is a lot of pressure on those handles.  You could also use strapping if you didn't want to use the sack handles.  Strapping would be softer and not so stiff.
And... It's a big chicken tote!  This one is big enough to hold several blank canvases that Justine left here.

Hope this helps.  It's not too late to make a few for the holidays.  Who knows... maybe I'll talk V into getting goats since they have some really cool goat feed bags.  He was suggesting that we get a different feed last weekend so we could get a different color bag.  Too funny.