red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

blooming and ready to eat

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These lovely Japanese white iris are front and center this week. I like their upright regal posture and elegant delicate blooms.

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Now that the white Festiva Maxima peonies have faded, the pink peonies get their turn in the spotlight. Although they have no fragrance, they are beautiful. Like the Festiva Maxima, they are from divisions taken from the garden at our old house. I don’t know this variety’s name.

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Their frilly blooms seem to float above the foliage.

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This purply-blue salvia is a great dependable perennial. The leaves have a minty aromatic scent, it’s drought tolerant, and butterflies and hummingbirds are fond of it–need I say more? After the first flush of blooms fades, I will cut them back and be rewarded by a second blooming later in the summer.

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I am psyched to see that the white milkweed will be blooming this year!

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Although I am not keen about their lipstick-red color, these knockout roses always make a grand showing.

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The purple flowers are a perennial wild geranium. Their common name is bloody cranesbill (because of the flower’s color and because the seed heads resemble little cranes). In researching this particular variety, I learned that it is called New Hampshire Purple, which makes perfect sense: I was given this plant as a division by my friend, Ken, who is from New Hampshire. I need to find out if he brought the original plant from home. Again, butterflies love it, and if it is cut back, it will rebloom–bonus!

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I picked a load of radishes this morning. My husband brought them to work to share.

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I also harvested the first round of mesclun and lettuce–yum.

happy Memorial Day

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The farm is the perfect place for a quilt photo shoot, so I brought this quilt top along for its glamour shots.

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I used Allison Harris’ (at Cluck Cluck Sew) star block tutorial, and I shamelessly copied her color scheme as well. I love the traditional red, white and blue with the gray thrown in to give it a modern vibe.

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Happy Memorial Day!

day at the farm

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Family friends generously invite us to their farm often. With all of our older kids home from college, our two families were able to gather there yesterday, which was special.

Below are my favorite images from the day.

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Memorial Day 2013

witches broom

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As I was working at our community garden last weekend, I overheard fellow gardeners tsk-tsking about a certain rose bush. “Witches broom,” they pronounced and said it had to go, the entire plant. As I dug it out, I got a good look at its weird purplish mutant growth and realized its affliction looked familiar.

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Yep, one of my knock-out rose bushes was similarly stricken with deformed growth, so it too had to go. Removing it took some effort–it was over 10 years old and had become well rooted.

Witches broom, or rose rosette disease (RRD), is carried by a certain spider mite that if infected will inject the disease into the rose bush cane when it feeds. There is no cure, so when a rose bush shows the tell-tale witches broom growth all over like mine did, the only option is removal. The entire bush should be placed in a trash bag and thrown away. You don’t want to dispose of it in yard waste or a compost pile because then the disease can continue to be spread.

I read that if you spot RRD early on a rose bush, one approach a gardener can try is to trace the affected cane to the base of the plant and remove it carefully. This way you might be able to stop the disease before it has spread to the entire plant. I’ll be watching my remaining rose bushes carefully.

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At any rate, I now have a wide open spot for more perennials–not a problem for me!

the radish cure

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I grew up reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald.  I credit both Mrs. MacDonald and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for making the 8-year-old me understand the importance of regular bathing, which was not my natural childhood inclination.

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In the book, to cure Patsy Waters, the won’t-take-a-bath problem child, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle plants radish seeds in the dirt on Patsy’s skin–yikes. If that imagery doesn’t make you want to jump in a bath and scrub, nothing will.

Since I began growing vegetables on my own, I have come to understand why the author chose to have Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle plant radish seeds rather than carrot or lettuce seeds: radishes grow incredibly fast!

This week I picked the rest of the radishes we planted just a few weeks ago. What to do with them? In a recent New York Times article, Martha Rose Shulman shared recipes for pickling weirdo vegetables–including one for radishes. Jackpot!

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Her recipe for pickled radishes is the quick pickle type–no canning necessary. You simply prepare the brine, add it to the sliced radishes, stick the container in the refrigerator, wait a few days and eat. The radishes turn a beautiful ruby color, ideal for a Memorial Day picnic–enjoy!

the final 16th

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The birthday outlier among Daughter #2’s friends is turning 16 today–she is the last one in the group to join the legal driving set. Inspired by the gorgeous mountain sunsets where she now lives in Colorado, D#2 and I chose a simple design for her keychain that suggests her new home.

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Happy 16th Birthday, Nicole!

Festiva Maxima peonies

IMG_1895There are so many flowers I love, but peonies, specifically, Festiva Maxima, are in my top 10.

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Festiva Maxima is an old-timey, long-lived peony. Mine are from divisions I took from peonies at our first house, which was built in 1904–who knows how old the original stock was. They need some time to get established after division, so they may not bloom the first year or two. But once established, they can bloom year after year for decades.

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They have lovely painterly flecks of crimson on their curved white petals.

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Although the weight of the flower head and buds can make them floppy, peonies do have sturdy stems and make great cut flowers. In fact, seeing them bent over provides an excuse to cut them and bring them inside! The reward: their glorious scent, which fills the house with a fragrant aroma.

fleece blanket with faux blanket binding

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In my earlier post on high school graduation gifts you can sew, I forgot to include fleece blankets. I am making some in college colors as presents for a few high school grads.

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The technique I use is simple. I buy 4 yards of fleece–2 yards of one color, 2 yards of another. After removing the selvages, I trim them both so that the bottom layer (the layer that will wrap over the top layer as the binding) is 2 inches larger on all sides (eg, bottom layer: 56″ x 72″; top layer: 52″ x 68″). I trim a 2-inch square from each of the four corners of the bottom layer as shown above.

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I then fold the bottom layer over the top layer by 2 inches, overlapping at the corners, and pin. I check my measurements all the way around with a hem gauge as I pin.

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I use a walking foot to sew the binding edge down, with the needle positioned to the left so it is close to the edge.

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With the needle in the needle-down position, I lift the presser foot at the corner, pivot, sew to the corner point, and backstitch.

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I trim this little triangle close to the stitching and get . . .

IMG_1869a nicely finished mitered corner!  I then turn the blanket and, beginning at the inside corner, sew along the binding edge down to the next corner. I repeat till all four sides and corners have been sewn.

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The result is a double-layered fleece blanket that is warm, washes and wears well, and can be used in a variety of ways: in the bleachers, on the sidelines, on a dorm bed, as a spare to keep in a car, or for a picnic. You could use sports team fleece and make one as a Father’s Day gift. And you could sized them smaller to make baby and children’s blankets.

Some tips:

  • gray fleece works great as the bottom layer–it doesn’t show lint as readily.
  • I have found that solids work best as the bottom layer. Fleece prints like the checkered fabric in the blankets above are seldom printed so that they are perfectly square–this is easier to hide on the top layer. If you do choose to use a print on the bottom layer, try to choose one with an all-over random pattern–it’ll mean less frustration for you.
  • fleece can be expensive, but if you look for sales and use coupons, you can get it at affordable prices.
  • be patient when cutting fleece. This is probably the most time-consuming step. I use my extra-large rotary cutter and often return to my cutting mat to trim to get the measurements right.
  • I like to fold over 2 inches for the faux binding, but you might prefer 1 1/2 inches or 3 inches–up to you. You will have to adjust the size of the squares you cut from the corners accordingly.
  • avoid stretching the fleece when cutting, pinning and sewing. Otherwise, the blanket ends up catawampus and askew diagonally, with the layers out of alignment–I learned this the hard way!
  • use a new needle for each blanket. Fleece is tough on needles and sewing machines. After each blanket I make, I use a Q-Tip to catch the lint in my machine.
  • use polyester thread. I was having a terrible time with skipped stitches and broken thread while sewing one blanket. Thinking my problem was with the thread tension, I looked online for a solution. A helpful soul mentioned that you should use 100% polyester thread when sewing fleece–ah ha! I changed my thread and problem solved.
  • use a thread the same color as the bottom fleece layer. The stitches then disappear into the fleece.

Sunday garden stroll

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I am pleased that a couple of recent additions to my garden are happy in their new home. My garden friend, Anne, and I were lamenting the slow disappearance of our coneflowers. I think the voles may have gotten to mine. Anne suggested this replacement, a variety called PowWow Wild Berry. It has a beautiful vibrant pink bloom. It is supposed to grow to be 18 to 24″ tall. It meets my requirements for perennials: it is drought tolerant, attracts butterflies and has an extended blooming season.

This coreopsis (or tickseed), called Mercury Rising, is a fun departure from the usual yellow. Like the coneflower above, it is drought tolerant, blooms all summer and attracts butterflies. I like its thready foliage and red-wine blooms.

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Although the white iris are now fading, others are taking their turn. There’s this lovely two-toned purple . . .

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and this lemony yellow.

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The lemon balm is elbowing neighboring plants out of the way. I need to do some dividing.

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This white variety of milkweed has become well established. It didn’t bloom last year–I am hoping to see it this summer.

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See the tall stalks with the willow-like leaves? That’s pink milkweed. I have some in the back of the bed, but when it sends off seeds, they always seem to take root in the front of the bed–not the best place for this tall lanky flower, but I haven’t the inclination to move it.

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I was about to yank this little stalk out when I realized that it is bloodflower. It must have reseeded from across the garden. It’s a milkweed cousin and attractive to butterflies, so it too will be allowed to stay. Sometimes weeding procrastination pays off!

school spirit lanyards

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In an earlier post, I mentioned how I thought a lanyard would make a great high-school graduation gift. Well, today I finished up production of seven of them.

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Finding the swivel hook on a D-ring took a bit of doing–I tried Joann’s, Hancock Fabrics, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby–geez. I finally ordered them through Amazon–you can find them here. The 42 mm (or 1 5/8″) size is perfect. I added a 1-inch split ring too.

I relied on two tutorials to guide me: one by Simply Cotton and another by Ms. Elaineous. I cut the fabric 2 1/2″ wide in random lengths. I sewed these pieces together to make a strip approximately 42 inches long.

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Per Dorrie in Simply Cotton, I added a very lightweight fusible interfacing but made it 2 1/4″ wide rather than 2 1/2″–then I didn’t have to fuss at getting it to align perfectly on the strip.

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These Wonder Clips were great for holding the folded strip together when I headed from the ironing board to the sewing machine. Only once did I forget to put the hardware on before I began sewing–aye yi yi! I joined the two ends of the strip per Ms. Elaineous’ technique, which makes for less bulk.

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I thank Ms. Elaineous as well for her suggesting the use of an edgestitch foot. I had forgotten it was even in my sewing foot collection. It made topstitching a piece of cake.

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I added a split ring (like Ms. Elaineous), sewing it in place with a straight line of stitching, but first I secured the D-ring with a decorative x-box stitch pattern (like Dorrie). (This is a photo of the first lanyard I made and already gifted. I used a jewelry clasp since the swivel hooks hadn’t arrived yet. The swivel hooks are much cheaper!).

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I used fabric to reflect the graduates’ college school colors. Represented above are University of Texas (orange/white), Clemson (orange/purple), University of Colorado (gold/silver/black), Harvard (red/white), and Texas Christian University (purple/white). I also made two others in orange/blue so I would have extra on hand for last-minute gifts. Since I used modern prints and mixed in gray as a neutral, they don’t scream rah rah but are rather a subtle play on the traditional.

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I had fun with the Clemson lanyard. Earlier this year, I made a mini-quilt for a friend using great corgi fabric from Spoonflower. When I was going through my scraps to find fabric for a lanyard for her daughter, I came across this bit with Clemson-tinted corgis–perfect!

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