isabelle’s

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The last eight weeks have been crazy busy.  During that time I’ve worked almost exclusively on just one project – Isabelle’s Quilt.  

Out of the blue, my childhood friend approached me about making a quilt for her daughter, Isabelle.  When her son was born, I made the very first Bricks and Bunnies quilt for him, and she wondered if I could make something for her daughter.  I was pretty inspired and chose a bunch of rather soft, girly-looking fabrics from my stash to play around with.  At that time, I wasn’t sure if my friend had something specific in mind that she wanted, but I just felt like playing around with those fabrics, whether I ended up using them for this project or not.

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Original fabrics pulled out. I based it all around the green sheep.

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Stack of 33 quilt blocks I worked on with Schped at night.

It turned out that my friend left everything totally up to me, so I went with the soft colors of pink, green, yellow, and purple, and I chose a pretty simple block.  I had this green fabric with little sheep on it, and I based everything else around that.  I work full-time, so I usually work on my projects late at night, as I tend to be a notorious insomniac.  I stayed up late with my dog Spiro sewing these blocks and watching late night news coverage of the Boston marathon bombing.  Spiro died on April 25, and in those last few days when it became clear that we were going to lose him, the two of us stayed up late together, and I will always remember that this quilt is what I was working on.  It is hard for me to give it away for that reason – it’s just a connection to my beautiful, faithful little dog who I still miss so much, and what a great dog he was, and what a sweet companion to me in the wee hours of the morning when nobody else was ever awake.

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My sweet Schped (Spiro), laying on his own quilt.

It’s hard for me to know if the reason that I love it so much is tied up in my feelings for Spiro, or if I just think it turned out awesome.  Maybe some of both 🙂  I love, love, LOVE the backing I made for this quilt.  It’s a deep purple solid (Art Gallery Pure Elements), with a giant strip of random pieces sewn up.  That idea came about because I wanted to use up some of my scraps from the front of the quilt.  I have so many scraps laying around here and I love scraps as much as anyone, but I just don’t need any more right now.  So I started playing around with sewing them together, and then I came up with the vision of making a giant, randomly pieced strip to go across the back.  It was so fun to make.  I actually didn’t have quite enough scraps to make the strip long enough, so I also got to raid my scrap bin and use up more scraps from other projects that fit in with my color scheme.  For that reason, I think the strip is my favorite part of the quilt.  I love to see all the pieces of this quilt along with pieces of previous projects that all bring back good memories.  And I think it looks really modern and cool.  I bordered it with some mustard yellow and the deep purple matches, yet doesn’t match, the girly front.  It’s almost like having 2 totally separate quilts, yet they look good together.  The front is soft, girly, and traditional, and the back is a little edgy and awesome.  I just love it.

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Quilt back (part of it) draped over our front porch rail.

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Random sewing of scraps for the quilt back. I kind of wished my nieces were over while I was making this so I could suggest they count the scraps on the back, which I’m sure is several hundred. I’m kind of curious how many, but definitely not curious enough to count them myself!

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We rented a townhouse on Lake Superior in mid-May, and I spent a little time working on the back strip while it rained.

Of course, there are always a couple things that go wrong with any project, or things that don’t turn out *quite* right, or things you’d do over differently if you had the chance.  With this quilt, my main “complaint” is the giant size.  It’s only a tiny bit bigger than a standard twin (according to the internet), but it just seems really big and I wish I had made it a little smaller, maybe the size of a twin mattress with no hang down.  My other complaint is with some of the purple fabrics on the front of the quilt which I think are a little too blue.  But hopefully it’s all ok and nobody will really notice too much.

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Close up.

I love this quilt, and I had so much fun making it.  I’ll also always remember it because it was what I worked on during those last nights that Spiro was with us, and he was my constant nighttime companion.

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The whole thing 🙂

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Backing strip detail.

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The full quilt back (love this part!)

I hope it is well-loved in its new home in Connecticut.  

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Catch Up

Just because I haven’t finished a ton of stuff recently doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on things. I’ll give a run down on what I’ve been working on for the past 11 months, hopefully with pictures!! (Fingers crossed.)

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Gratuitous shot of my beautiful homeland.

First we have my bag-making phase that I went through last summer and fall.  I had made a couple of simple bags before, but suddenly I got really into bags, and not just simple bags, either, but bags with hardware and adjustable straps and everything 🙂

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AMH Mail Sack

One bag that I’ve used a lot, especially in the fall, is my Anna Maria Horner Mail Sack.  This pattern and these AMH fabrics were the inspiration for me tackling bag-making in the first place. I had previously made the Mail Sack and the Mini Mail Sack in quilting-weight cotton, but doing it in home-dec weight cotton gave the bag a really nice, sturdy feel.  I really like this bag and use it in my purse rotation often.

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Topstitching detail.

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AMH Mail Sack.

Then there was my Bricks and Bunnies (Surgery) Quilt. I actually started working on it a year ago, if you can call a fabric pull “working on it”.

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Cutting bricks and having tea in my favorite mug during surgery recovery in September.

I began working on it in earnest after a minor surgery in September left me home from work for 2 weeks. I even made a funky pieced backing which I might love nearly as much as the top side. I worked rather diligently for quite a while, but then when I got to the quilting part I petered out. It still sits in my WIP pile, about a third of the way quilted. But I do really love this quilt, so I want to finish it soon. I just can’t get excited about the quilting part of making quilts, I guess.  My favorite part of this quilt is that I cut up some of my precious collected bunny fabrics to make it.

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Cutting bunnies.

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Quilt top, finally!

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I used some scraps from the front on my pieced backing and made a few random blocks.

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My pieced backing. I adore it.

As I was losing interest in quilting my Bricks and Bunnies quilt, I started my Lobstah, Mingo, Skyrat & Friends quilt.  The only fabric line I’ve ever owned all of in yardage is Emily Herrick’s Shore Thing.  And that is actually thanks to my husband who bought me a full set of half-yard cuts, plus extra of the blue lobsters 🙂  Anyway, I decided to cut into my Shore Thing fabrics to make a blockless quilt that basically just uses large pieces of the super-cute fabrics.  What a great way to show off these terrific prints.  My color scheme was blue, which isn’t a color I’ve really used much of before.  I pulled out all of the blue prints, most of the multi-colored prints, and some navy solid to make my quilt top.  The pieced back is rather like the front, only with no vertical strip, and an orange-blue color scheme.  So I still have a lot of my Shore Thing fabrics left over after making this, including all of the red prints, which I didn’t touch at all for this quilt.  Right now this sits in the WIP pile as a quilt top and a quilt back.  I just need to make the sandwich and quilt it.  Can you see where I always lose interest??

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Piles of “Shore Thing” waiting for me to cut them up.

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Quilt top!! Only part showing in this picture.

Well, I think that is a good enough catch-up for now.  When I finish these, I’ll share for sure!  I have several other things I have worked on or that I am *still* working on (sigh…), but I think those will be a post for another day.

I’m Ba-aacckkk!

It’s been awhile, I know.  I have so many issues with my pictures importing into my posts and it’s so frustrating.  I will give it yet another try, though.  It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been here.  Wow, time flies.

A lot has happened in the last 11 months.  We’ve gone on a few vacations, had a surgery, cooked a lot of new recipes, started quite a few projects (finished very few of them), lost both of our beloved, old doggies within 6 weeks of each other, and got a new dog, Percy Faye, who in no way fills the holes left by Oscar and Spiro, but is nice to have around in an entirely different way.

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Miss Persephone Faye

This is kind of a test post, to see if I can get any pictures to work.  If so, hopefully I can write a catch-up post on projects that we’ve been working on over the last 11 months.  Many of those projects are long-term type projects that are now coming to their ends!!  I haven’t had a lot of finishes in the last 11 months, but I have a lot of projects that are almost finished, so that’s exciting, huh?

Well the picture actually worked, maybe because I am importing from my iPhone rather than my nice camera?? Can’t caption the photo, which sucks, but at least it’s there??

Tote Bags! And More Tote Bags!

We’ve used my Farmers’ Market Tote Bag so often and loved it so much, it really was only a matter of time before more tote bags made their way into our lives.  The tote bags are so useful, and so much fun to make.  They’re great for showcasing some really cute fabrics, or even large scale fabrics.

The second tote bag we made was for my mom’s birthday back in February.  My mom is a bit of a minimalist, and not into sewing or crafting at all, but I thought she would appreciate the utilitarian value of a large tote bag.  She loves turtles, so I cut up some of my treasured sea turtles fabric for her tote bag.  The lining is a Denyse Schmidt print.  I love this bag, and she seemingly does, as well, as she has been taking it on almost all overnight trips since we gave it to her.

My mom’s Turtle Tote

Turtle Tote close up

The next tote bag was for my sister-in-law Steph.  Steph had commented a few times how she could use a bag like my Farmers’ Market Tote, so I finally got around to making one for her.  I picked a fabric with dogs on it, which I loved.  The stripe fabric is from Hancock – that fabric has made its way into a lot of my projects!  The black piping/binding fabric was a free prize and this was the perfect project to use it in, and the lining is a pink ric-rac print.  I thought it turned out pretty cute.  I hope she likes it.  FYI, I know a lot of people complain about their in-laws, but I seriously won the in-law lottery.  I have the best in-laws evah!!

Steph’s Tote

You can really fit a lot in there!

The horses tote bag was Greg’s project.   He wanted his own Farmers’ Market Tote Bag, because we sometimes need two of them at the Farmers’ Market or Mississippi Market (if we are buying a lot), or if we’re going on a short trip, we could each have our own.  He really wanted to use that horse fabric, and I think it looks amazing.  The whole thing is batiks.

Greg’s Horses Tote

full of stuff

Modeling his new bag. No, my husband is not too proud to carry a bag to the Market.

Finally, I wanted to experiment with stabilizers/interfacing a bit, so the final tote bag was a bit of an experiment with light interfacing and minimal quilting.  It turned out pretty well (not perfect, though), and I do like the extra body the interfacing gave it. 

sewing that bad boy

Trees Tote Bag

My pretty Trees Tote. I love this picture. I look like a way better gardener than I really am!

Me with my new tote bag.

I think I’m tote-bagged out for a while.  Unless somebody really wants one, or I need a gift for somebody, I think I’ve made quite enough of these bags lately.  They are great though.  We use ours all the time.  They are our bags of choice for weekend trips, the Farmers’ Market, CSA pickup, or walking to the Co-op.

Welcome to my WordPress Blog

I’ve moved andasbackpack over here from its former location.  I’ve had too many issues with my Blogger location, so I hope this one will be better and I can post more often.  I plan to post most often about new recipes we try and of course sewing projects and other DIY projects we undertake.

I have a lot to catch up on, so I look forward to doing that soon.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some images of my babies.  Here’s what they think of my blogging.

Sleepy Schped Baby

His Evil Highness has apparently had a tough day.

Catch Up

 
This is kind of an odds-and-ends post. Lots has been going on around here. It’s tough to remember it all. We’ve made some pretty good food. Like these pizzas. The first one was barbeque chicken pizza with smoked gouda, red onions, and cilanto. Delish! And it looks gorgeous to boot. The second is just plain, old pepperoni. What can I say? It’s my husband’s favorite. And it’s pretty darn good.

We had a garden visitor.

I’m pretty sure this is who’s been eating my pea plants!! Oh well, he’s so cute I can’t be too mad. I found a new lunch that I love. And it’s real food approved. White bean and avocado wraps. These are really good and super-filling. The veggies are delicious, too. It’s just a little purple cabbage, a carrot, some cilantro, and a little onion in an oil and cider vinegar dressing. I know, they sound a little weird. My husband wouldn’t try them, but he hates avocados. They’re a little messy to make, especially with our misshapen homemade tortillas, but we just wrapped them up in foil, rather like a Chipotle burrito, and they were perfect. They keep in the fridge without getting too soggy, too. Perfect lunch 🙂

I don’t think I ever showed off the super-cute Easter baskets we made for my sister-in-law and nieces. They turned out to be so adorable. I just love them. They are each made out of a paper bag, cut into strips and weaved back together. That was a LOT more difficult than it sounds, trust me! But the end result was so cute, I think I’d do it again. Ask me next year, haha. Everybody got a little candy, some new socks, and the girls got beach towels, too.

I’ve also been working on a few projects. Guess what this is going to be??

 

Larry’s Quilt

 

So… our friend and neighbor Larry was turning 60 years old, and since he’s currently living in hospice, we haven’t seen him in a while. I thought that some type of a nice, bright quilt might be a perfect way to celebrate his birthday. There was a pattern that I immediately thought of using, but the intricate blockwork would have required more time than I really had to spend on this project. So I decided on a nice, bright, value quilt. It’s made entirely out of half-square triangles arranged in a warm color/cool color pattern. I’ve made quilts with half-square triangles before, but I had never arranged them according to color to get a pattern. It turned out pretty neat! This is a really easy quilt to make. You just need some warm colors and cool colors (scraps work great!) in about equal amounts. I pulled these ones out and went from there.

The quilt back is a really soft, colorful, plaid madras. We quilted it in a diamond pattern with green thread, and bound it in an orangey-red dot print that we also used on the front. And that’s it. Larry’s Quilt.

 

White Bean Soup with Rosemary

 

I don’t know how most families solve the problem of the dreaded HOUSEHOLD CHORES. With two people working 40 hours a week, we try to divide things up fairly equally. I’m not going to lie – we succeed at this only sometimes, and it’s always an ongoing challenge. On those busy weekdays, usually one person cooks, and the other has to clean up. I never cook on Mondays or Wednesdays, because I get home late from work on those days. The only day when I am reliably home first is Friday, so Friday is usually when I make new recipes or more involved things that take longer. I also don’t generally cook with meat, so Fridays are often vegetarian at our house.Last Thursday night I set out some white beans to soak overnight. I had a handful of small, spotted white beans (pinto of some sort??)leftover from last year’s garden, and I supplemented those with plain old Great Northern white beans. When I got home from work on Friday afternoon, I decided to make soup with them. I love soup. When in doubt, you can almost always make soup with whatever you have on hand. I decided to make White Bean Soup with Rosemary and Parmesan. The recipe is adapted from the Williams Sonoma Cooking at Home Cookbook. By the way, if you ever run across this cookbook, I HIGHLY recommend it. I found my copy at Half Price Books – only $9! Anyway, that cookbook rarely fails me.

To be honest, this was an experiment. I didn’t know if we would love bean soup. I like beans, but they do need a lot of flavoring to make them palatable (in my opinion). I especially wasn’t sure how my husband would feel about this soup. We don’t tend to have the same taste in soups, and I think he likes meat in things a lot more than I do. But we both LOVE rosemary, so it seemed a good starting point.

So, long story short. We both LOVED this soup. Seriously, we couldn’t get enough of it. It’s a hearty soup, too, so it’s a meal in itself. If you do want something else, a small salad or sandwich would be great. One night we made one habanero grilled cheese sandwich and split it between us with a cup of the soup, and the other nights we each had a larger bowl with a simple side salad. The flavors in this soup are not complex, but the longer cooking time really infused the flavors throughout and gave it a very satisfying taste. It has become one of our new favorites – a really great comfort food. My husband even wanted me to make more of it so we could store some in the freezer. I didn’t think that was necessary, because there’s nothing seasonal in the soup – all ingredients are basically available all the time, so you can make it any time you want to. But his point was that he would like to have it on hand for a quick option, if you don’t want to spend an hour or more cooking. HA, your classic miscommunication! After we each explained ourselves, we each saw the merits of the other’s argument. And I did agree that if he really liked the soup that much, it would be good to have some on hand in the freezer for quick dinners.

Another great thing about this soup is how economical it is. Our co-op sells both carrots and celery stalks individually (if you want), so that’s an inexpensive option for this soup that only requires a few of those. Dried beans are dirt cheap, and if you have herbs on hand your only real expense is the parmesan cheese. I don’t have herbs in the winter, so I have to buy them, too. Next winter I hope I can fashion some sort of indoor herb garden, so I can have access to at least some herbs all year long. I had a lovely rosemary plant that my mother-in-law gave me, but my dog peed on it, and after that I never wanted to use it for cooking again, dog urine being a culinary delicacy that I don’t care to become accustomed to. I want a new one terribly…

But I digress…

Try to soup – it’s a winner. Or don’t. But you’ll be missing out 🙂

2012 Garden: So it Begins….

 
Yes, we’ve started our 2012 garden! It’s not unusual for me to start seeds indoors by mid-March; I do this most years, because we grow tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants from seed. It always amazes me how tiny these plants start out, and how by July they are almost as tall as I am. It’s a bit of a miracle, really. I started 5 kinds of tomatoes. I don’t know if we’ll end up growing them all, because we have limited space, but as of today, all five have sprouted and they’re growing quickly. None of the eggplants are up yet, and only one kind of pepper has so far emerged.
However, it would be UNHEARD of to have any plants outside at this time of year. This is Minnesota, people. Normally we would have snow on the ground, or just recently melted, but we freeze at night all the way through April and part of May in this part of the country. Usually.

But this year has been just WEIRD. We barely froze at all in the winter, and once March came, it was like full-on summer was here. We’ve had temperatures in the 70s and even a few 80s for the entire month of March. Well, if life is going to give us crappy winters and global warming, I am at least going to get good food out of it!

We don’t plant much in the ground, anyway, so we have more leeway against frost in the first place, but with temps in the 70s and not looking to plummet for a long time, we put out cold-resistant stuff last weekend. We planted three window boxes of lettuce and salad mix, two tubs of peas (one snow pea pods and one snap peas), and a cool-weather mixed box of radishes, green onions, and bright lights chard. This is a good month to six weeks before we would normally put even cool-resistant plants out, but this is a strange, strange year.

cool weather box – radishes, green onions, bright lights chard

the peas are coming up!
The plants are a lot of work. Not so much right now when they’re tiny little spindly things, but come summer we will have to spend a fair amount of time caring for them. And I love it! I love coming home from work and checking on all my plants first thing. Mostly I love eating them. Can’t wait for what’s in store for us this summer!!

The Ugly Quilt

 

Do you ever have one of those projects that you work on for-EV-er? That was The Ugly Quilt for me. I love this scrappy pattern, and there’s nothing about it that’s terribly difficult. But I thought about this quilt for a long time before I attempted it. I pieced the top fairly quickly, and then my husband and I worked on the quilting for almost a year. It’s a really large queen-sized quilt, so that was part of what took so long. We also quilted clovers along the border, and those took forever. Now that it’s finished, though, The Ugly Quilt was totally worth it!


The Ugly Quilt got its name from the scrap fabrics used to make it. I went for that ugly look. I love the navy and white background fabric, and then I just chose a great hodgepodge of colorful fabrics (some very ugly!) to make up the patchwork middle and the ring around the edge. It was supposed to have a lot of interest in the fabrics, and I think it does. When it came time to find a backing fabric, we totally lucked out. I found this perfect reddish-pinkish floral which matched the look I was going for perfectly, and it was even on sale. Then absolutely NOTHING except the green dots would do for the binding. I love the overall effect.

I made this quilt with a thin batting, and it’s one of the few quilts I’ve made for myself that’s had a definite purpose. I wanted it for a bedspread for our bed. I just wanted something colorful, yet kind of old-fashioned. I loved how this quilt turned out so much that on a whim this past summer we PAINTED OUR BEDROOM and I chose the color to MATCH THE UGLY QUILT!!!! Even now, I love to sit in bed and admire the different squares on my Ugly Quilt.