red flannel pantry

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Archive for the month “July, 2013”

tie-dying American style


With our European friends in town and the weather sunny and unseasonably cool, we decided it was a great time for our annual tie-dye extravaganza. Ursula had never tie-dyed before, and the last time Maia had tie-dyed was with us when she visited 3 years ago.


We got out folding tables and old doors on sawhorses and taped down large, cut-open trash bags on top. We then covered that with old tablecloths. The tablecloths absorbed the excess dye that would have otherwise pooled on the plastic. A box of latex gloves were on hand for those who didn’t want to have stained, zombie-looking hands for the next week.

Through the year I buy and stockpile white items when I find them on sale: t-shirts, underwear, athletic socks, boxers, bandanas. White or gray t-shirts with logos work well too. Using the school colors, D#2 tie-dyed a white t-shirt printed with her high school logo.

Jacquard, the make of Procion dyes, provides a thorough set of instructions for tie-dying.  Another source of Procion dyes and tie-dying info and supplies is Dharma Trading.

Although all of the instructions say you need to prewash items, a tie-dye pro once told me this was unnecessary–he was right. So now I never prewash stuff. However, you do need to soak items in soda ash fixer (sodium carbonate) before you begin.


After we folded, rubber-banded and dyed, we laid things out on cardboard, which absorbs the excess dye. In the past, the kids were so anxious to see their finished items that we would undo and rinse out everything a few hours later. This time, now that they are older and understand the concept of delayed gratification (a little bit?!), we convinced them that they really would get much better results if they waited til the next day. (I found take-home instructions  I will use the next time we tie-dye so people know what to do if they want to take their stuff home before rinsing.)


My husband enjoyed embellishing the tablecloths with the leftover dye.


The next day was the big reveal! We removed the rubber bands, filled a series of bins with water, and then rinsed the items repeatedly to remove the excess dye.


At the top left, you can see how I swirled the t-shirt into a twist, secured it with rubber bands, and dyed it. Top right, the end result. The boxers are the work of D#2–we like the blue butt cheeks!


We replenished our tie-dyed clothing stock, initiated Ursula into the fine art of tie-dying and had a wonderful weekend!

needlepoint gifts


My daughters and I have been needlepointing a lot lately. They’ve been working on small-scale projects–they are easy to tote and stitch when there’s a free moment. D#1 surprised me with this totally cool needlepointed iPhone 4 case. What a great idea–I love her design! She bought the case from Purl Soho. They come in white, pink, orange and blue. If you would like to see some other ways to finish these cases in needlepoint and cross-stitch, check out this post from Purl Soho.


She also finally finished this keychain, which was meant to be a birthday gift back in March. D#1 is a perfectionist–when she doesn’t like a design or color choices, she will rip everything out and start over. I don’t have that same drive.


D#2 decided she wanted to make keychains for a couple of international guests visiting friends of ours this summer.


For Ursula from the UK who likes pastel colors, we designed her name in a scripty font in melon with a variegated turquoise background. She was especially pleased by the addition of the St. Christopher’s medal, since Christopher is her father’s name.


For Maia from France, we knew exactly what to do: a chevron background using a muted palette of gray and light blue with her name in dark blue. Based on the advice from an expert at our favorite needlepoint shop, D#2 added a sparkly thread to the dark blue, so her name has just a bit of bling. We really like the effect and plan to use this technique again in the future.

limoncello {in progress}


I came across organic lemons at the grocery store today and they sparked a desire: limoncello! I made it for the first time last year for a friend’s birthday. The hardest part is the waiting.

I follow this recipe. Purists say that you need to use grain alcohol (Everclear), but I had vodka in the cabinet. I use organic lemons and a microplane and am careful to avoid getting pith in the zest, which makes for a bitter result.

In a week or so, I will make the simple syrup and add to the strained infused alcohol. It’ll be a perfect aperitif on a hot August day.

hail Britannia!


With Kate about to deliver the royal baby, Chris Froome winning the Tour de France, and Andy Murray winning this year’s Wimbledon, it seems timely to share my most recent finish, the Jack Attack quilt. It is shown here in front of the new East Wing of the St. Louis Art Museum, which was designed by British architect David Chipperfield.


For the back, I used a bandana print that I have had stashed for several years, and I tucked in a 1/4-yard London-themed piece that was too small to use in the quilt itself.


I bound it with a bright blue floral fabric.


Lynn Peterson did an outstanding job long-arm quilting this beast of a quilt. Look at all of the fun motifs and patterns.


I have a thing for the Oh Deer fabric collection by Moda. Cool swirls by Lynn.


If you’d like to read my earlier posts regarding the making of this quilt, you can read here and here.

pattern: Jack Attack tutorial by Lynne Goldsworthy of Lily’s Quilts
long-arm quilting: Lynn Peterson of Sew & Sew Machine Quilting
dimensions: 74″ x 102″
recipient: Daughter #1!

marinated olives


My husband has been on the road all week and returns home tonight. To go with the cold beer I know he’ll grab from the frig, I made one of his favorites: marinated olives. I clipped the recipe from the newspaper years ago. I appreciate its simplicity in assembly, aesthetics and fresh taste. It’s a perfect summertime treat and a great excuse to trim the rosemary by the back door. I use Greek black olives, cracked green olives and kalamata olives.  You can play with the ingredient proportions–you can’t go wrong with lemon, garlic and rosemary. Enjoy and keep cool!

the birds and the bees


This morning I worked in the gardens early, hoping to escape the worst of the heat. The bees were working as well.


Aptly named bee balm is their favorite. Their visits and attention to task have urgency, as if they know this treat will soon be gone. They crawl over the flowers’ bald pates and then dangle like circus performers from the few remaining blossoms.


Lately this greedy little fellow has been a frequent visitor to the feeders along with his surrogate father. He’s a cowbird, the only parasitic bird in Missouri. The mother lays her eggs in other birds’ nests, leaving them for host birds to hatch and raise.


In this case the adoptive parents are a set of cardinals, with the dad seeming to do most of the feeding.


Although I admire the resourcefulness of cowbirds, it does make me a little sad that the demanding cowbird was likely tended to the exclusion of any baby cardinals–so it goes.


This cardinal sits at the periphery of the gardens and looks longingly at the feeders–we call him Frankenfeathers.  He’s either molting or he has a bad case of feather mites–he should grow new head feathers in a few weeks. In the meantime, the other unaffected male cardinals pick on him and chase him from the feeders–poor guy.

I received a couple of beautifully quilted quilts from Lynn the other day. I hope to finish binding one today.

canning outdoors


A few weeks ago I read a wonderful post by Claire of The Garden Diaries about canning strawberry jam with her friends. Her photos and descriptions make you wish you were there, especially for the strawberry daiquiris! But I gleaned the most brilliant canning tip from her: do the processing outside over a propane burner.


We happen to have a propane burner and a huge pot–part of my husband’s beer brewing set-up. He hitched the propane tank from the grill to the burner in the middle of the driveway, checked the connections by brushing them with soapy water (no bubbles mean no gas leaks), and fired her up.


We filled the jars inside (all 29 of them) and then carried them outside in the canning jar boxes. We ended up needing more jars than we thought (we had about 39 lbs of cucumbers), so in between processing sessions, we sterilized a few more jars and lids outside too.


I bought this pot a few years ago at a restaurant supply store–it’s huge and can hold 9 quart jars at a time.


Once the jars were in their boiling hot water bath for the prescribed time, we lifted them out and set them on an old tablecloth in the driveway to cool.

We think we will do our summer canning this way from now on. We, the kitchen, and the rest of the house stayed much cooler. We definitely now appreciate the benefits of an old-fashioned summer kitchen.

You can read about our first pickling session of the year here. And if you’d like to check out our pickle recipe, you can find it here.

garden visitors


In the summer I often feel pulled by the simultaneous siren calls of the sewing room and the gardens. When the weather is cooperative, I usually succumb to the gardens’ more urgent needs as was the case today. While in the vegetable garden weeding, I came upon my old friend, Mr. Toad. He was enjoying the shade and the bugs beneath some lettuce that had bolted. He didn’t seem too pleased when I removed his temporary shelter and meal source.


He kept me company for awhile, tucked into the shade of the garden hod. The midday sun soon became too much for him, and he shimmied beneath the raised bed board into the cool soil.


While picking cucumbers, I spied a black swallowtail butterfly on the dill. I watched her for awhile, thinking I might get to see her lay eggs, but she was a tease and just flit about.


This hummingbird and I startled each other as I approached the pots of lantana. She quickly recovered and continued with her lunch at the lamb’s ear. I have always thought these blooms were ugly and so have been quick to cut them back, but now I might wait, knowing that both bees and hummingbirds are fond of them.

black swallowtail butterfly


This afternoon while we were removing our rose bushes (all infected with witches broom), a female black swallowtail butterfly stopped to visit the butterfly bush–a treat! This butterfly variety likes to lay its small yellow eggs on parsley, dill, fennel and Queen’s Anne lace, all of which are in our gardens. I am hoping that she did some egg-laying while in the neighborhood–perhaps we will soon see her caterpillar offspring. At first, swallowtail caterpillars are black and spiky with a white belt around the middle. Later, they lose the spikes, turn a lovely shade of spring green, and develop a yellow and black striped pattern.

Happy 4th of July!


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