Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They're up!

I like the color green. Makes me believe spring is coming. The onions are just now popping out of the ground, a bright, new green. Life is starting again, spring is coming. 

Take a look at picture though, something interesting to see. The pots with all the onions seedlings are "Australian Brown" an heirloom variety I saved seed in 2008. The other pots are "Alisia Craig". The seeds are from 2007. Roughly same amount of seed was planted in both pots. You shouldn't save onion seeds for more than a year. The viability just goes down the tubes. I didn't need that many of the variety so that fact doesn't bother me here. I just planted more. Its something to remember if you are depending on most of the seeds to sprout, use fresh or use lots!

Take a good look at the picture though, you'll feel better too, I think!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Heir to the throne....

The reigning king in my barnyard, Buck, is now probably 4 years old. I bought him as a cockerel and he and his ladies have reigned in the barnyard ever since. They have their own special coop and the nicest, shaded, pen. His sons and grandsons could not come close to his type and attitude and were gotten rid of at the end of the year. I would keep one of them as a backup rooster and then get rid of him when the new hatch came along. They were just not up to par. That however, has quietly changed.

Last year I had picked out my new backup rooster from that years hatch. I took him to a show last fall, and he turned out to have "roachback". This is where the one of the back legs is actually set ahead of the other on the spine, so that the tail twists sideways and bird kind of "sidewinds" when he walks. A disqualification in any show and in the breeding pen. He was disposed of and I kept the only one I had left at that point as the back up cockerel. Then this happened:

My last batch of chicks hatched last year, the ones that were the most ignored, had the most losses due to predation was hiding a gem! The last cockerel hatched, the runt of litter, the one that I ignored, has quietly come on to be worthy candidate to replace his Dad. In my humble opinion, of course. Do you think I like him or what? I am just happy he was not of his hatchmates that I lost to the cat, the cold, or the raccoon. I have gotten very lucky with him. He has the type (I think) and a very nice attitude. He's "cocky" but does not attack. That I will not tolerate. Here's a side shot:

And a shot of his head. I am pleased with the comb and wattles. They are very small and tidy. Can you see why you would want these birds if you live in a cold climate? It is no fun to watch a bird suffer from frozen combs and wattles, the most vulnerable parts of their bodies in the winter. This breed will suffer less heat loss and be more comfortable in harsh conditions.

I have 3 chicks of his on the ground and will be mating him back to his mothers and grandmothers pens come late March. Wish him luck!

Cleaning up small projects this week

Not too much going on Butterick 4213 this week. I just finished thread tracing the fronts. That's it. I had picked out my fabric from Ely Y Yawitz, but had some small questions on what I was ordering. So I emailed them last Thursday from their website. It said they would reply the next business day. Well its Tuesday and no response. So now what? Do they really want my business? I am not going to buy something from somebody who is not interested in selling it. 

I am considering Greenberg and Hammer now. They don't have online ordering yet, but I suppose I can bear to call in an order. Just downloaded their catalog and am perusing it now. 

So what did I do last week? Cleaned up the small projects. Put in a new zipper in my Mom's coat. She has ripped 3 zippers out this winter!!! I hate alterations. HATE, HATE, HATE... I did a crappy job to boot, the fabric stretched from pulling out the bad zipper and made sewing in the new one painful. No pictures of that butcher job!

Finished off a very small quilt used as a dresser scarve for my husband. Used invisible thread for the first time. My machine doesn't like that thread, its very thin and holding the tension consistent was impossible. It will not go to the fair, thats for sure.

I then fixed my out-of-time Singer 503. That did work well. Shes sewing like a dream now. I like my old Singers. They work well. They are extremely tough and are fairly easy to fix. Quite unlike todays machines which are designed, IMHO, to be replaced, not repaired. The adjusters manuals (available on the 'net) are very clear. The manuals cost about $20, less than the tuneup would be. I also think if you have an idea of HOW your machine works, it makes you a better seamstress, as you know WHY you are making some of the adjustments you do.

So here are two of my girls:
The Singer 403:

The newly tuned up Singer 503:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

There is no turning back....

I cut up the most expensive piece of fabric I have ever purchased.

There I said it, it's out in the open. It was easily the most terrifying thing, (sewing-wise, of course) I have ever done. That first slice with the blade, knowing that if done wrong would ruin my project, was the worst. At the end of the afternoon, all 5 yards was all cut and neatly stacked. Finally....

The fabric is a heavy, navy blue wool melton from Fabric Mart. Purchased it for the princely sum (to me!) of $9.50 a yard. That is the most, up to that point, I had paid for a piece of fabric and for a project.  Well worth it though, this is nice stuff. I cut it, per pattern instructions, in half crosswise, and stacked the piece right sides together. I laid out pieces in sections as fabric was wider than my table and I wasn't about to cut it out on floor. Not with a dog and 2 cats to help me!

After I cut out the first piece, I realized that I would have to cut this as single layers. That one piece, a cuff, was off by 1/4" from the top piece to the bottom in the width. This, I believe, was due to the melton having a nap so the layers "stuck"  to one another. Impossible to smooth both out, I tried... So twice as much cutting, having to remember to cut one right side up, and one wrong side up. I was sweating bullets over that one. Check twice cut once, check twice cut once.

I then spent two days staystitching and basting in stitching lines, dart and center fronts and backs. I want this done right, so I'm taking time upfront. Next step is measuring out how much lining material and interfacing I need. I'm going to order from Ely E. Yawitz, they have everything I need at a reasonable cost. Heard about them from Pattern Review, I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A ray of hope in the middle of winter

Ever get tired of winter? Yeah, I know, silly question. I find the month of February to be the worst. Enough of snow, shoveling, nose freezing, plastic on the windows, snow on the boots, driving in snowstorms, black ice, below zero temps., being cooped up............need I go on?

I have a cure for you! Or at least a little bit of spring early. Start your own plants for the garden this year. You can pick the variety you want to grow, its a lot cheaper, and its not hard. 

I started the garden season last week with planting onion seeds. I have not bought an onion from the store in 10 years. I like that. Onions from plants instead of sets work well for me. They grow bigger, keep better and you can get more varieties. I order all of my seeds from Jungs Seed. Great company and good seeds. What I forget to get there I just get locally. This year I started the Red Bull(red storage) and Ailsa Craig(spanish) onions from them. I also started American Flag leeks and some seeds I saved from Australian Browns, a yellow storage onion I got from Jungs 2 years ago.

Here is my seed starting/chicken hatching area in the basement. As you can see, I have lots of company when I am down here! 

And here are the onions. I plant them in 4" pots, potting soil/peat in bottom and seed starting mix covering them up. My chest freezer is wonderful to use as seed starting area. Cats love the dirt, so put your pots somewhere they can't get to!

They'll be up in a week and I'll feel better to boot! There is hope for spring yet. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Moving slowly on Butterick 4213

I am still working on this coat, I promise. I told myself that I would try to put something up here every week. It only took a few weeks for that to fall apart. Oh well......

Last week I did finish creating the lining pattern. Seeing as this pattern had lining pieces, I just resized them instead of creating them from the coat pieces. More work, but seeing as I have never done a lining before, I don't want to take chances. 

I also laid out the coat pattern pieces on the floor in a test run of the layout, something I have never done before. I have never found the suggested layout in modern patterns to be of much use anyways, they are not very accurate. I just fold the fabric in half, selvages together and move the pieces around like a puzzle. But this time, I wanted to make sure everything would fit before I cut into that expensive melton. And lo and behold, the suggested layout worked! Perhaps more thought was put into this part of a pattern on the older ones. Here it is: 

I am lucky enough to have a parquet wood floor, with 6" squares. So all I did was mark out a rectangle, 54" x 90"(2 1/2 yards), the size of my 5 yards of melton opened up flat and then folded in half. That's the tape in the corners.  I then laid out my pieces as suggested, all the while dodging the dog and the cat, who picked that particular moment to be my best friends. As it fits with about 1 foot to spare, I am very glad I cut down on width of coat, otherwise it might not have.

I was going to go to Gayfeather Fabrics in Madison on Sunday to look for the flannel backed lining, hymo and hair cloth for the interfacing. Never made it though. I'll just get if off the Internet. It's a shame you can't buy such things locally anymore. Anybody have ideas where on the 'net?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bantam Light Brahmas

Today seems  a good day to think about Brahmas. So I was doing just that. Thought I would introduce everybody to them.

Brahmas are a very old breed originating from what is now India. I am not going to bore anyone with a history penned by me, instead please read this article.  It is from a wonderful website, Backyard Poultry,  and is much better written than anything I could do.   

My son has the bantam version of these, the males weigh @ about 2 pounds and the females slightly less. They are lights, which means they are a columbian color pattern, or IOWs, white chickens with black in the hackles, wings and tail. Important features of a good bird are: 

1. A good broad skull, with eyebrows projecting over eyes, making them seem deep set. They seem to look perpetually "worried" to me. 

2. Undercolor of the body feathers should be slate colored, the darker the better. This refers to the "fluff" part of the feather, which is just what it sounds like, the fluffy stuff closest to the bottom of the feather. The dark should not extend into the "web" or top part of the feather everyone sees.

3. Feathers should extend all the way down the legs to the tips of the two outer toes. They should be soft feathers, no stiff shafts on them.

4.  Penciling, or the coloring of black on white (or vice versa) should be as fine and even as possible.

5. They have a "pea comb" and abundant feathering, making them very hardy. A pea comb is basically a jelly bean shaped comb with 3 parallel rows of bumps running down it. 

There's more, of course, but I think I have hit a few of the main points. If you would like to keep chickens this would be a good breed to start with. They are hardy, cold tolerant birds that lay well and are meaty bird when butchering time comes. They are very gentle in general, even the largest, so are good for families with children. Here is one photo of my son and his pullet (female under 1 year). He was fortunate enough to win top prize, a "best in show" at the Wisconsin State Fair. Against adults too, mind you! 

OK, that was the official nice picture. Here is the one Mom likes:

Just don't tell him, OK?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I finally did another review!

Finally, finally, finally! I have been meaning to do a second review of a pattern for a long time. I really do like Pattern Review, it is such a valuable resource for people interested in sewing garments. 

I did my first review last May as part of a contest they had for sewing a fitted shirt. It was actually quite fun and really gave a person incentive to finish a project within a time frame. I have been meaning to post another ever since. I mean, its not like I haven't sewn anything, just been too caught up in life to put it on the web. Everyone at PR was so nice with the first post, I shouldn't have been shy about doing another.  In my defense, it is such a pain to get pictures taken, though. My husband means well, but....  My son would rather take pictures of the dog.

Anyways please see the bottom right hand corner of the blog for a link to Pattern Review with my own reviews on it. The most recent is on top. Got two now, and got photos for two more on Picasa. Stay tuned for more!

Look below. My son does take funny, creative shots of the dog. Me on the other hand, its another story. I'm just his Mom after all.