Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Exploring Tunisian Crochet -- Afghan Stitch

When I was in my early teen years, my grandmother taught me to crochet -- she gave me a crochet hook and three leftover balls of yarn from one of her projects.

Between times of seeing her, I practiced making crochet chains and single stitches, then learned double and triple crochet stitches.   I thought I knew it all!

Then my grandmother brought me a afghan that she had made for me, but it looked alot different than the crochet that I had already learned.   She said it was called an afghan stitch, but somehow she never got around to showing me, or perhaps because I was a teenager, I just never found the time to sit with her and take the time to learn and practice this 'new' idea.

And, even though I always found time through my young married and child rearing years to crochet various things from bags to sweaters to vests and scarves and hats, I just never got back to the idea of the 'afghan' stitch.   I think perhaps part of it was that it required a special long hook and this thing called Tunisian Crochet was not particularly popular through the 1970's and 80's....

It was not until quite recently that I came to realize that Tunisian Crochet was what my gramma called the Afghan Stitch!   Imagine that! Something Completely New (to me)....

Still today, I don't know alot of other people who crochet -- seems that knitting is what everyone is doing --- but I like crochet.   My hands know crochet.

A year or two ago I saw a lady working on a project using that extra long hook used for Tunisian Crochet -- that's when I learned it wasn't just called the Afghan Stitch, but that the whole category was 'Tunisian Crochet'...  Then not too long after I just happened to come across a proper Tunisian Crochet hook at the 2nd hand store and thought "Why Not?"

So, now I have embarked on the learning process of this whole new category of crochet.   I do like it!   I am still in the practice and experimenting stages of it and have made nothing other than a scarf and a couple of test pieces...


the right side of my scarf - above - and a picture of the wrong or backside - below

My first foray into Tunisian Crochet is this Scarf.  There is no pattern instructions because it is my practice piece, but through sheer chance the varigated yarn I chose to work with has done something a bit unusual for varigated yarns and I am VERY pleased with it!

So what I learned with this is...
(PS. video links for the stitches can be found by clicking on the highlighted text)

The yarn is Phentex Worsted that I bought a Michael's for just under 10 dollars
 ( 300 g skein)
I chained 26 and picked up 25 loops to start off the project.   One of the things that bugged me about the afghan or Tunisian Simple Stitch was that it tends to curl up, so since my Gramma is no longer around to show me how, I resorted to You Tube where I found this video on how to do the Tunisian Purl Stitch.  I must say it took a few watch throughs of the video to get the hang of it, but when I did the simple stitch for a row and the purl stitch for a row, I came up with an almost ribbed effect!  I thought the two combined in alternate rows was a whole new world to my crochet!

Now, after some rows I noticed that one side of my piece was slightly different edge from the other.... hmmmm... Why?

So I went back to You Tube and decided to watch another video of the Tunisian Simple Stitch (Kim Guzman) and learned how to properly end the row that you pick up loops on.  Now, not only did I pick up an interesting tip from the second video of the same stitch, but I learned that each video is just a little bit different and you learn different things from each!

Here is my practice piece on doing just the Tunisian Purl Stitch - the right side

and the wrong, or back side.  The interesting thing about the purl stitch is that it seems to have alot more stretch than the simple stitch.  I am not quite sure how to make use of this yet, but it does seem to me that for making a sweater or other clothing it might come in quite handy.  The other thing about the purl stitch is that it doesn't curl like the simple stitch...

Oh and again, this piece is 25 stitches wide and that effect where the colours of the varigated yarn basically stayed put and caused 'waves' in the piece worked the same as doing the alternate rows of simple then purl -- I think if my tension was more exact the "waves" would not have such big ups and downs, so as I worked I purposely loosened and tightened my tension just a bit to give that effect.

I am still learning and practicing these basic stitches in Tunisian Crochet, but have checked out a few of the other videos on You Tube explaining what and how...

This is a whole new adventure!  I am totally enjoying learning this new process, and perhaps as I progress I can revisit this Tunisian Crochet again on my blog to show you how I am 'getting along'!

I love to learn new things.  How about you?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tunisian Crochet ----> Yard Sale

I started out planning to write about the latest trend in crochet, Tunisian Crochet -- but then one of my neighbours dropped by to give me this...

So that sent me off in a completely different direction!

For awhile now I have become somewhat disillusioned with my fabric stash!  Over the years I have made purchases of fabric - very lovely quilting cottons -- at least that's how I felt at the time!  Sometimes just a fat quarter and sometimes 3 meter lengths, but rarely did I buy a piece of fabric with a particular project in mind.... So now it has come to pass that pretty much everything that I make is "SCRAPPY" even though it is not scraps that I am working with!

So the announcement of a yard sale for our whole townhouse complex seemed to be the exact motivation to clear/sell some of my stash so that I might plan and purchase the exact right fabrics for my next quilt.   I want a quilt that doesn't have a dozen shades of various colours!  I want to make a quilt that has maybe FIVE perfectly coordinated fabrics.  I don't know yet what that quilt will be but that is my ultimate plan.  I want to PLAN each quilt, work on it using fabric that was carefully chosen, then when it is finished, think about the next quilt...

I think it might be what is called SLOW QUILTING now.  I even want to get back to hand quilting the quilt!   

So this Saturday I am going to have for sale a good portion of my fabric stash.

I have even thought about why I want to get back to slow quilting!  I find that I don't have alot of people who I need to make a quilt for, so if I make one quilt from start to finish in a year that should be quite fine for my closet space!

Another reason I want to make this change is I want to make something special for just me.  I have made too many small quilts with basic blocks. Those kinds of quilts are not particularly challenging to me anymore. They are sort of like working in a factory and doing the same thing over and over and over.  They just serve as a project that I would have to force myself to finish.

So, a fabric stash project is in progress!  Sorting and measuring fabric and stapling a tag with the amount of yardage and the price I want on to each piece of fabric.  I am going through some of my drawers and boxes and deciding which of the other sewing/quilting things can be cleared out too!  I have some acrylic rulers that are duplicates, I have dozens of embellishments, purse making things, zippers, doll eyes and " so much more"!  Every one of them can be sold off !  Oh!  I am hoping for empty drawers and boxes!

Its a big job, and it requires a heavy hand, because I keep coming across "special" fabrics that I think I might keep!  The keep pile is growing too fast, tho! I think I have to re-evaluate that keep pile!

One of the dilemnas about this project is that I want to start my plan to PLAN a quilt, but that means selling alot my fabric, but if I don't sell the fabric then I have to keep making scrappy quilts that I don't really enjoy... What is the saying? Six of one and a half dozen of the other!

I think I shall be happy with either outcome, tho!  Shall I see you on Saturday?

So, I will get back to my Tunisian Crochet project after the Yard Sale, I think.

Linking up with the Needle and Thread Network this week...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cooking in Hot Weather

When the temperature goes up around 30C cooking for a couple of fellas who are resistant to green things on their plate, becomes even more difficult and requires some creative or unexpected ideas...

The choice here if my husband were to be in charge of the meal would be to turn on the oven -- to like 450F to cook a "quick" lunch of  Frozen French Fries and a Pre made Frozen burger...  forget the green!

So, some of the things I have come up with over the years to avoid turning on the oven is first off to pay attention to RAINY DAYS...  For meat lover men, Meat is a requirement, so if there is not some cooked meat ready or close to ready, they don't hesitate to turn on the the oven and create excessive kitchen heat...  So I try to cook ahead and freeze things like pork sausage, "minute" steaks, pork chops, even chicken breast.

So, how to make "meat and potato" type meals without turning on the oven and increasing the heat in the house?

 My saving grace for this turns out to be my very old 1970's waffle iron! (but if you want to test out a couple of these ideas I am sure a more recent waffle maker would do just as well) I make those OVEN fries right on the waffle maker  -- I turn on the waffle maker to its highest heat, then I just layer the fries on the iron, close the lid and give it about 3 or 4 minutes (check your fries progress on your waffle maker because there can be considerable temperature variation).

The fries come out a bit flat but crispier than when done in the oven and to me, tastier because they have a crispier finish!  Much quicker than when done in the oven and causing much less heat in the kitchen!  How about thin slices of potato done in the waffle maker?  Peel, or not your favourite type of potato, layer the slices on the waffle maker, close the lid -- a couple of minutes makes interesting CHIPS...

Oh, I should mention, some waffle makers are non stick and some like mine because of its age are 'tempered' cast iron so perhaps a spray of Pam or similar cooking spray would keep these foods from sticking and making clean up a messy problem.

This wonderful "olden days" appliance is a tool that works not only for making waffles on Sunday Morning.   

Now since having the bright idea of making squished waffled fries, I have gone looking for other ideas that might work with this amazing appliance.

How about cookies?   Check out this You-tube video for making cookies using your waffle iron?  It has the whole process start to finish!
I haven't tried these, but will be very soon!

Hey! how about fried eggs in the waffle iron?  

Now if you think of your waffle iron as a version of a Panini press (it is a bit of a stretch!) but how about a grilled cheese sandwich?  This I have tried.  Just butter the bread, put one bread slice down on the waffle iron with butter/margarine facing down, plop on your cheese - whether processed or REAL cheddar or your favourite cheese - then put on the second slice of bread, buttered side up.  Close the lid, wait 2 or three minutes and voila`!  Grilled Cheese Waffle Sandwich!

A few other things that I have thought might work on the waffle iron would be to cook weiners -- they would be almost like being done on the bbq, I think -- but I haven't actually tested that out.

I would not do burgers on the waffle iron because they have considerably more fat run off and the waffle iron does not have a 'drain' to get rid of the fat, like a "George Foreman" Grill, so best to keep away from fattier meats and things.

So just a bit different way to do your cooking on a hot summer day!

Do you have an idea or suggestion that might work or that you have tried using your waffle maker for? Leave me a comment!  I can use all the help I can get when trying to cook for a family who just prefers no green things!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Tutorial Update to Sidy Blocks Quilt

Quite awhile back, at least 1/2 a year, I switched my blog to connect with Google Plus and Google Friends.  When I did that, something went 'haywire' with all the photos on my blog posts...

Well, I have not managed to fix them all, but I have corrected the problem with the Tutorial I did for the Sidy Blocks Quilt...

So If you want to check that out you can either click on the tab at the top of my page where it says Sidy Blocks -- and I have no idea why they are called that, or you can just click on this link http://susanbeingsnippy.blogspot.ca/p/blog-page.html

This quilt idea is great for an I Spy project or as a Theme quilt, especially if you collect a particular theme such as cats or football logos or maybe even christmas fabrics....

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hexagons-- Hand Pieced Long term Work in Progress...

Summer is not really the time to sit inside the house and sew quilt blocks together or to manoeuvre a quilt sandwich under a home sewing machine to quilt hearts and flowers or straight or wavy lines!  But to keep a quiltmaker from working on a quilt just because it is HOT inside and out, is alot to ask!

I have had "in Progress" a variation of a Hexagon with triangles and stars for going on 7 years!  And I am still just piecing the blocks together...  It has been such a long time since I first saw this pattern and cutout the pattern pieces that I have lost the original measurements of it and I have forgotten the name of this block, too!

The Hexagons are not too small, each side measures at 1 3/8 inch, but then you come to the diamond shapes and the other long pieces (they are called a parallelogram, I think) that form the outside edge and they do get a bit tiny.

I made myself alot of the little shapes so that whenever the spirit moves me, I can cover the shapes with the fabric in order to sew the pieces together accurately...

Sewing Hexagons together was pretty much my first exposure to sewing and quiltmaking -- I think, roundabout the time I started into grade school.

My grandmother first showed me how to sew fabric scraps to the cutout pieces of newspaper or magazine pages.  She would take the scrap of fabric and fold one side over the paper and hand sew a few stitches through both the paper and the fabric, and she would do that for each side of  the hexagon...

Some time ago, I learned a slightly faster but still as accurate way of making those little fabric hexagons.  Now I use cardstock -- which I got from my son who works in a Printing Shop.  I just tack the corner of the fabric and don't even sew through the cardstock, just a little double stitch at each corner of the pattern piece...

PS, do you notice those lines or "x's" on the cardboard pieces? Those are to mark the backside of the shape, especially for the parallelogram pieces, because if you sew the piece the wrong way, it will not fit in the block...  So make sure you mark them so they all go in the same direction!

Now when the pieces are done in this manner, after they are sewn together you remove the cardstock  just by slipping it out and the pattern piece is ready to use on your next block or two...

Those cardstock pieces help to hold the shape of the block and make it so you sew accurately along the edge.   As I progress I take out the center pieces, but until I sew the blocks together I will leave the parallelograms in place.

When I don't feel like doing the whipstitch to join all those bits together, I paw through my scraps trying to figure out what fabric goes with what other fabric...

It is kind of like digging through a box of buttons trying to find the ones that match!
For each block it needs 6 diamonds of a dark or bright and 6 of a light, it needs one hexagon for the center which I try to do as a fussy cut, and six of the white parallelograms.

I put the matched up pieces together in a little 'snack' size ziplock bag so the pieces are ready for me to sew together when ever I am sitting on my covered bench swing in the backyard on a warm summer afternoon...

Every Summer I manage to make a few more blocks for this eventual Heirloom Quilt....
It will be nice to someday see a finished quilt from this project but I am enjoying the process of hand sewing these blocks  and choosing the fabrics.   If it never actually gets finished -- I think I may be just as happy that I kept my hands busy on the hot summer days that you just don't want to do too much active 'work'...

Do you have something that can fill those summer days that gives you satisfaction?

Now, I do know that some quilters want the quick satisfaction of seeing a completed project, so I am, as usual for me, going against the trend.

If you are interested in learning more about hand piecing hexagons or other shapes.  Here is a You Tube video that explains how to sew the hexagons together, the WAY MY GRAMMA DID IT...

and another way to put the hexies together...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRY3IRB_ELY which is really the most difficult and convoluted way to do it....

And this last video is the way that I do it.   This really explains the process VERY well!

There are also a multitude of videos that explain how to machine piece hexagons.  There is even a Hexagon pattern that is sewn as half hexagon shapes and it makes it so that there is no inset seams, every bit of it is straight lines -- quite ingenious actually!

Hexagons were 'trending' a few years ago, so maybe if they didn't grab your interest then, now might be the time for you to make a few blocks... Or even just one block that you can sew on a cushion to show off your Hand sewing expertise!


Friday, July 4, 2014

He Ain't Heavy....

Well actually he is getting there...

I am overweight and have been for a long time, my husband is overweight but he gets alot of exercise in his job and taking our Border Collie, Pearl for 3 or 4 walks a day.  My son is beginning to show signs of weight gain, even though his job requires alot of walking and lifting...

 My family tends to gain weight, we are not thin athletic people -- tho I certainly loved to run just to feel the wind in my face when I was 'young and cute'!

So lately my son who lives in the same house as myself and my husband has been asking for lighter meals or meals where he can perhaps shed a few pounds...

But there is a major problem that I see no way of solving except the generally accepted principles of weight loss.  That being fruit and vegetables!

Now, how to get over that hurdle?  At this stage of life, the men I cook for usually make their own choices and 99% of the time that choice is meat and something white, like potato, rice, or pasta.   Putting chunks of zucchini in the pasta sauce only means I will clear plates off the table that have been licked clean with a pile of zucchini on one side.

I know that the men in the house should be able to accept the idea that vegetables are GOOD for you and that it is their choice to eat them or not, but they keep telling me to cook something good but that will help them loose a few pounds...

Got any ideas?

I watch the Food Network almost everyday and sometimes I come across things that might work.  In General tho one of the greatest difficulties with TV cooking today is that almost all those shows are silly competitions that really have nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with making people feel like loosers!

Quite a few years ago I  bought a Stock Pot and it has been one of the best things in my kitchen.   Who loves the convenience of a  cooked Rotisserie Chicken from the Supermarket, picked up on the way home from work?   I gotta say it is one of the most useful fast foods anywhere.  Forget about stopping at a "FAST FOOD" Burger place!  In my house -- three adults here -- a chicken is two days of supper... And then a potful of chicken stock!

My Stock Pot gets filled with 3 Rotisserie Chicken carcasses about once a month -- I put the bones and skin into a freezer bag and freeze it --- 
And that pile of "junk" or "leftovers" becomes the basis of quite a few recipes...
So, you need a big pot, three chicken carcasses, three stalks of celery, three big carrots, about 1/2 an onion and some salt and pepper if you like...  Put as much water in the pot as it will hold without boiling over, turn on the heat to boil then turn the heat down to the hotplate's lowest setting and leave it for at least two hours...  Strain out the bones and veg and find some jars or containers to put the broth in, cool down, put in the freezer til you come across a recipe that says Chicken Broth.

This STILL leaves us with the dilemna of getting my family to absorb vegetables and/or fruits...
I suspect since it has taken quite a few years of exploring food that will make them happy but also help them maintain a healthy body, this search will be ongoing.

So, Fridays are For Food.

 For myself I found a very interesting and delicious GREEN soup at Skinnytaste.com
I used my homemade chicken broth as the basis of this soup and I love it!  But it is GREEN and the men of the house will not even consider it!

Now in this search for healthy choices for my family there is not only the criteria that fruits and veggies not really look or taste GREEN, but that the cost remain low (because honestly we are a family of working poor) and the making should be relatively uncomplicated and able to be made in a reasonable length of time. (unless it is done in the slow cooker)

So I don't want to make this so long that you get bored reading, so suffice to say, that I am going to dedicate Friday to the Food Journey in my household and maybe I can find some ways for you to improve the way your family eats too...

I am going to name names, so you can find healthful recipes or ideas and provide links with useful things - but I am NOT doing this for a reward other than it is a journey for me and I just have to tell somebody about it...

So.  Lets try to eat an Apple or an Orange or a Banana Today!