8/24/16

Bird Feet and Kitty Feet

It was a marvelous day of almost nothing but quilting yesterday. Once I had my housework done in the morning, the rest of the day was devoted to the Baby Birds quilt. When I left off, I was working on the simple swirls for the applique background.


When that was finished, I was ready to work on the ruler lines in the chevron portion. It's been a challenge to get the hang of holding the rulers in place to make nice straight lines. For one thing, the throat plate of my machine was about a quarter inch higher than the surface of my Koala table, and that meant my rulers rocked when I tried holding them level. After consulting The Google to find possible solutions to this problem, it occurred to me that the addition of the table overlay that comes with the standard table for my machine might raise the surface to level.


It still isn't perfect, but it's high enough that the rulers no longer rock.


Mike and I have talked about creating a template using simple cardboard to bring it just a tad higher, but after working with the rulers for the free motion quilting sampler and working with the quilt yesterday, I'm starting to think it's fine the way it is. Even with the level surface, however, holding onto the rulers and keeping them in place for a nice straight line has required some practice. Working on these motifs for the free motion quilting sampler gave me a good bit of practice.



When I started on the quilt yesterday, it was much easier for me to stitch without getting a death grip on the ruler. By death grip, I mean death to my neck, which always ends up sore at the end of a long session of quilting.


I've outlined the trianguler portion of the chevron and then added a stylized heart to the center. The whole quilt started with the section of that purple fabric, and so I'm sticking with the designs from the fabric...hearts and flowers. Oh yes, and birdie feet.


You might recall I was working on the little birdie feet and trying to figure out if I could turn the corner in the zigzag portion of the quilt. It worked out fine. The trick was turning the quilt so that the ruled lines ran horizontal. That helped me keep my bearings as I worked my way across the quilt.


Here's how it looks from the back.


With those two rows done, the quilting is halfway finished. 


It always photographs better when I take it downstairs in front of my living room windows. It's the one place in the house where the lighting gives me enough contrast for the quilting to show. Lay a quilt down on the floor there, and you will catch yourself a cat.


I like this quilt, Mom. It has birds. I *really* like birds. They're so delicious.


Here's how it looks from the back. I've outlined the birds, but after seeing it from the back, I've decided to go back and outline the birds' wings too.


Generally, I don't do a lot of quilting on applique because it can make holes that are a little too obvious for my taste. Nevertheless, I can outline next to the top-stitching line, and I think that will look better from the back.

Does this side have birds too?


So I'll continue on my way today. While I'm hoping I can finish the quilting today, I'm not really expecting too. My goal is to have this one finished before the week is up.

8/23/16

Cooking and Jamming

It was a long day of food preservation yesterday, and my efforts were well-rewarded. The tomatoes have been gracious this year, producing lots of fruit that has only just begun to ripen. There were enough tomatoes for a much-lusted-after batch of tomato jam. I forget who told me about tomato jam last year. It has changed my life. Thank you. When I'd used almost all the tomatoes last year, I used the remainder in the first-ever batch of tomato jam. It was so delicious that I really wished I had more tomatoes for more jam. That batch was quickly dispatched into my mouth. Enter this year's tomatoes. Salsa was my first priority, but jam was quick on its heels. Yesterday I squeezed 7 half pints out of the tomatoes from our harvest so far.


This recipe is from Marisa McClellan's Food in Jars cookbook. Thankfully, she's posted the recipe on her Food in Jars blog. When I made this last year, I didn't cook it long enough. It's always hard to tell when making something for the first time. Since I'd been canning for days on end at that point, I think my patience had worn thin. This year, I started it and let it simmer for about 2-1/2 hours while I chopped and cooked down some tomatillos for salsa verde. The salsa verde was actually ready for processing before the jam. I'm still expecting 40 pounds of tomatoes from our farmers (any day now), and so I have a plan to make more tomato jam. Having experienced the long cold winter without it, I don't want to run out again.

This morning I was considering what to make for breakfast, and I remembered the jam. (Yes, mind like a steel trap.) It's was nothing fancy, but its only purpose was to be a vehicle for the jam. I just toasted an English muffin, slathered on the jam, and made some egg scramble with diced ham and cheese. Yum, yum, yum. Breakfast of champions...if you're a quilter, anyway. Don't look at me to be running any marathons.


Oh yes, and I can't depart from this topic without showing you the four pints of salsa verde. This is another of Marissa McClellan's recipes. Again, someone posted it online, so I can share it. You can find the recipe right here


I'll tell you that I've made this salsa three or four times now, trying to get the cooking time right. The recipe tells you to simmer it for 10 minutes, but my experience has shown me that isn't nearly long enough and produces a rather watery salsa. Since I like it thicker than that, I cooked it long and slow yesterday...over an hour. I noticed that after about 10 minutes, the salsa appears to be ready. Cook it longer, and more liquid develops in the pot. If you were to stop at that 10 minute mark, fill your jars and then process them, all that extra liquid accumulates in the jar. It really needs to cook a lot longer. Believe me, your patience will be rewarded.

So all of that cooking and stirring pretty much used up the day. I stitched about ten stitches on Block 18 of the Bee-utiful quilt, and then picked it up this morning to do a little more. 


This has been a fun little summertime diversion, but when this block is finished, I'm going to put it aside and take it in the regular rotation with my other embroidery and hand-quilting projects. Since I have plenty of quilts in my to-be-quilted pile, I'm in no hurry to finish this one off.

As for today, I'm going to make sure I get some sewing time in. It's a CSA pick-up day, and I have some housework to do, but sewing will take first priority. Sometimes you just have to put your sewing foot down. Pedal to the metal, as they say.

8/22/16

Quilt Shop: Piece By Piece, Eugene, Oregon

We don't get down to Eugene often, and when we do, we're generally just passing through. Since we were staying the weekend, I wanted to look up at least one local quilt shop. Checking my quilt shop app, I discovered quite a few listings.


Oftentimes these listings turn out to be long arm quilting businesses or shops that have gone out of business. We've gone on more than one wild goose chase, but in general, I like the app and use it whenever I'm looking for a quilt shop close by. The best way to find a good listing is to use the "map view". I chose Piece by Piece because they had a website...always a good sign. Plus, I can look up the hours.


There was a nice big parking lot to the right of the image below, and there was also some on-street parking, although you wouldn't need it.


Here's their business card. They were training a new employee the day I visited, and so I figure business must be good.


Walking in the front door, you see this...lots of fabrics. Something for everybody's taste.


They had their Christmas fabrics out.


To the rear of the store was a classroom, and I heard them discussing their beginner quilting class.


To the left of that image above was a nice shelf of sale items, including fabric, fat quarters, patterns, and books.


They had a nice supply of good-quality thread. To the left of the Presencia were some pretty Sulky threads.


Lots of fun buttons. I wish quilts required more buttons because I love buttons. Let's face it, I love all things sewing-related. What I really need are more hours in my day. Just now, I went in search of more hours on Amazon Prime, but I came up empty. It's the first time Amazon Prime has let me down.


They had a good supply of notions for a small shop...pretty much anything you'd need.


They also had several sizes of these Creative Grids rulers. These are my new favorite ruler. They have a non skid surface on the back, and I just like how they're marked. I'm gradually replacing all my rulers with this brand. They're great.


And just so you know I'm not kidding around, I bought this size that I haven't seen before...4 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches. I really like these smaller ones when I'm working with blocks.


Just beyond the notions, they had some pretty batiks.


They had a nice supply of quilt patterns and books, and they also had a lot of children's patterns, including the pattern for these two adorable bibs. Sigh.


Okay, and then I saw this.


Well, don't you know I snatched that pattern off the wall quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.


Did you ever wonder about Jack Robinson? Well, here's the skinny. It seems the phrase can be traced back to the 18th Century (when I was a teenager). It seems Jack Robinson was an English gentleman who changed his mind quickly. A person had to be quick to catch him in a decision. But don't take my word for it. Check it out for yourself right here.

Okay, and I picked up a few fabrics along the way. As I was standing at the cutting counter, I was looking back the other direction. Here's how it looked from deeper inside the store. Nice light coming in from those windows.


So what did I take home? Well, you know I needed this.


And I liked these next two for bindings.



And you know I'm collecting fabrics for my 365 quilt when I go into quilt shops these days. Since we were in Eugene specifically to visit the Cascades Raptor Center, I chose this owl fabric. It was the closest thing they had to represent a bird of prey. 


Surprisingly, they didn't have any University of Oregon fabric. "We don't do that," I was told. "You can find it at Joann," she finished with a sneer. And who can blame them for not wanting Ducks in their shop? What do Ducks do but walk around quacking and sh*tting all over the place. A Beaver, now, that's an industrious little bugger, although I'll admit to not seeing any Beaver fabric either.

So I really liked this shop, and I give it my highest rating of five out of five rotary cutters


for their well-organized and brightly lit store, their wealth of fabric and notions, and their smiling faces devoid of support for Ducks. We'll visit again if we find ourselves in Eugene, and you should too!

*Disclaimer:  Cat Patches accepts no advertising, nor any sponsorships.  The opinions expressed on this blog are based on the personal impressions and perceptions of the author. They are formed  on the basis of one short visit, on one day, and may or may not reflect the experience of others visiting on a different day.  They are no more descriptive than a single snapshot image can be, and nothing written in a review of a quilt shop should be construed as objective fact.  The reviews are strictly the author's subjective opinion and should not be interpreted as anything more.

Home Again

We had a very enjoyable weekend in Eugene, Oregon. Eugene is the home the University of Oregon and the U of O Ducks (insert gratuitous hissing and booing here). Generally, we would not deign to set foot in this town since we are OSU Beaver fans all the way. (Go Beavs!) For this fundraising event by the Cascades Raptor Center, however, we lowered our standards.

We were staying at a nice park...nice, if you don't mind having trucks and traffic whizzing by on Interstate 5 all night long. We're used to being close to freeways and railroad tracks. It's one of the drawbacks of RV travel. Even by RV park standards, however, this was very close. To give you some idea, I snapped this picture of our own rig as we exited the freeway.


Here's a different perspective. You can see a truck passing by just above the bed of our own truck.


Aside from the freeway, however, it was a nice park, and we were right next to a pond. You can see the little fishing dock just across the way.


Sadie did very well for her first RV trip. 


She was a little nervous at first, which is kind of her normal state of being. But she found the potty box right away. Smitty was using it.

Smitty, I really need to go. Are you going to be long?


It's all yours, my young furriend.

Oh, thank goodness. Did you warm up the seat for me?


A good potty and some kitty treats, and all was well in her little world.


For the first couple of hours, this was all we saw of her.


Or you might also see her rear end as she headed behind the couch.


But then, we opened a can of cat food, and she was all about that.


Oh wow! You guys have got Spiderman bowls?


If I'd known that, I'd have come out a long time ago.

The food tastes purretty good from these, doesn't it, Sadie? There was a cat here befur us named George. He picked these out. He must have been one cool dude.


Smitty showed her the ropes about looking out windows and doors, and he was a purrfect gentleman, being very sweet to little Nervous Nellie.


They both were out on the catio together the first night. During the day, this was as close as she got to going outside.


Smitty, are there woofies out there?


What about over there?


Do you see any woofies?


Okay, look, my young furriend. You have to chill a little bit. Just lift your nose, breathe deep, and repeat after me, "Ommmmmmmmmmmmm".


Like this, Smitty? Am I doing it right?


Keep working at it, Grasshopper. You'll get it.

Aside from minding the cats, we did some other things while there. We did find a quilt shop, and I'll tell you about that in a separate post. Also, we visited the Cascades Raptor Center on Saturday afternoon. 


What a fabulous place! They are doing some wonderful work there. Aside from being an education center, it is also a hospital for injured raptors. They treat between 200 and 250 birds per year. You can read more about the center at their Wikipedia page. This is their brochure.


The backside contains information that can be found on their web page right here. The first stop when visiting is to stop off at the visitor center to pay admission and to pick up a map. The area in the center marked "staff only" is all hospital. The exhibits are the green areas surrounding.



It is permanent home to about 30 birds of all different species of raptors. All the pictures I took this weekend were taken with my iPhone. Unfortunately, the birds at the raptor center were all in enclosures with small gauge fencing, and so the pictures aren't very good. Nevertheless, I'll show you a few of them.

The one non-raptor bird is an American Crow who seems to have gotten herself into some trouble with the public.


Her story is both amusing and sad.


The first exhibit we came to was this one of Dmitri, a Eurasian Eagle-Owl. 


Here is Dmitri's story.


It was amusing to note that Dmitri has his own Facebook page. I friended him right away. Yeah. Dmitri and me...we're tight.


Also, I found a better picture of him there.


It was a very hot day. Fortunately, the exhibits are mostly shaded, and so we were comfortable spending an hour or two there.


A few of the birds had their wings spread cooling themselves. 


Here is Atticus the Bald Eagle's story. There were several Bald Eagles on display.


We were able to see a couple of ospreys. I'd never seen one up close, but we often see them when we're boating on the Willamette River.


Danu decided to call out while we were there, and I was able to capture a short video of her.


If you can't see the video, click right here.

Most of my pictures aren't worth sharing, and this is really a place worth visiting in person. Still, the white-tailed kite was so beautiful I wanted to share this rather poor image.


Here is their story.


We attended the fundraiser later in the evening, and I was able to get some better pictures. This is a Peregrine Falcon


She was very photogenic. Her trainer explained to us that her talons are designed for catching smaller birds. Her long toes make it possible for her to reach into a richly feathered bird and catch the "meat" beneath the feathers. A bird with shorter talons would come back with just a foot full of feathers.


This is an American Kestrel, one of the smaller varieties of falcons. We sometimes see these at our bird feeders.


I believe this is a Swainson's Hawk.


Here's our friend, Dmitri again. He was featured in a flyover during dessert.


While it was fun to stand next to the birds during the fundraiser, it was a little crowded for our comfort levels, and so we stayed just long enough to devour some appetizers, down a couple of glasses of wine, and then we left. We'd had a long day, and we were ready to head back to the trailer.

We were able to get Smitty out for a walk after dark. We'd tried earlier that morning, and although he'd begged to go out and stood patiently while we put on his leash and harness, he was not happy at all being outside during the daylight hours. Too many people, and too much noise.

Do I have to wear this harness? The woofies are calling me names!


Can't we go back inside?


Yes, I am still mad at you.


No, I will never forgive you.


And now we're back home. We had a good time, and we were very glad we went. Everything is unpacked and put away. The weekend was unusually hot, and so I watered everything yesterday and harvested more tomatoes and baseball bat zucchinis. Even though I harvested all the zucchini I could find on Friday morning, there were still four new baseball bats on the plants when we arrived home on Sunday. It's amazing, really. And since I already have several in my refrigerator waiting to be shredded, I took the newest ones and heaved them out into the field. Enough is enough where zucchini is concerned, and we have way more than enough at the moment.

It's a busy day ahead. I need to drop off a sample of "you know" at the vet from Sadie McWormypants. She's doing so much better, but they want to make sure her worming treatment really got all of her parasites. 

After that, I'm making tomato jam from these tomatoes harvested from our plants. 


While I'm doing that, I'll also be boiling up some salsa verde. My recipe only makes about three pints, and so it's already time for more.

Block #17 "Bee Happy" was finished over the weekend.


Although I haven't started stitching Block 18 yet, Block 19 is out now. This reminds me of my grandfather's old pick-up truck. His was a dark green, and so I'll probably stitch mine like his.

There is just one more to go, and I've kept up pretty well. It feels like the pressure is off a little, and so I might start putting these into my regular embroidery block rotation.

With all that going on, it's time to get a start on my day. Hopefully, I'll have some time to tell you about the quilt shop after I've done my canning. It was a good one, and I picked up a few little things, as you might have already guessed.