how to do my favorite knitting increase

I often use this increase in my patterns – it’s easy and has a tidy result, so it’s my favorite in most situations. A few folks have asked me how to do this, so I made a quick video demonstrating how it works.

Are there other techniques you’d be interested in seeing demonstrated? Other videos you’d like to see?

like sands through the hour glass…

…so are the days of my quilting. Time always rushes by when I’m sewing and I can never seem to make enough of it.

I’m continuing to work on the Modern Venus quilt, specifically the hourglass quilt blocks for the sky.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I cut the squares using a rotary cutter and included room for seam allowances. Then, for one hourglass block, I selected two fabrics. It helped me at first to press one of the blocks diagonally so I could really see the line. After making a bunch of them, though, I found I didn’t need to press anymore. After cutting and pressing, I placed the squares right sides together and made sure the corners were matched up neatly.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I sewed 1/4″ on either side of the pressed diagonal line. First one side…

Making hourglass quilt blocks

… and then the other.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

So I ended up with a piece that looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I then used the rotary cutter to slice down the center, on the pressed diagonal line, cutting the block into two equal (identical) pieces.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I pressed each of these two pieces open.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

After that, I matched up my new two blocks so that the contrasting fabrics were facing each other, right sides together. I made sure to align the center seams very precisely to ensure a neat result.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I repeated the process of sewing 1/4″ to either side of the diagonal. First one side…

Making hourglass quilt blocks

… and then the second side.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

So then I had a block that looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I sliced it in half with the rotary cutter and pressed the block open.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

The back of the block looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

And the front of the block looks like this! An hourglass pattern, as you can see, very precise and with a crisp spot where all four points meet in the middle.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I need to make approximately 300 of these for the sky, and I’m almost done with that process. After that, I’ll make a final decision about what quilt block I want to use for the sea and select my fabrics for that section. I know I’d like a fairly simple block pattern since I’ll be making a lot of them, but I’m not sure exactly what it should be yet.

Have you ever used a particular technique to make a specific quilt block? I’d love to know what your favorites are!

caulk of the walk

We’ve been having pretty warm weather this week so I decided to finally replace the caulk around the back patio. It has been degrading steadily over the years (I’m sure it was last replaced at least a decade before we moved in) and there were some areas that were more gap than not.

patio caulk before replacement

You can see that there have been many reapplications over the years, and the prior handyfolks did not do a very good job with scraping out the old caulk prior to reapplying. Bad job, prior people! I expected better. (Well not really. We’ve lived in this house long enough to have discovered that you did not take a lot of pride in your DIY projects. Still. Annoying.)

patio caulk before replacement

I cannot imagine and don’t even want to think about how many roly-poly bugs have been crawling in and out of these gaps. *shudder*

I looked around online, took the advice of This Old House and other handy sites, and grabbed a putty knife for some serious scraping. Most of the caulk came up pretty well, without a ton of effort. Some of the older remnants of past applications, though, were impossible to even budge, so I decided that they could stay. I cleaned it all to the best of my ability and figured – if I can’t budge it with a putty knife, then it’s probably not going anywhere due to weather.

scraping out old caulk

In some of the areas, I was able to pull out large pieces in a very satisfying way. For people like me, this is like sanctioned scab-picking with no ill after effects!

pulled out old caulk

Just look at that yucky debris on the back of the caulk! And again, note the crummy installation job the last person did. It’s like they WANTED it to look gross. Sheesh.

At this point I got really into the task and neglected to take many pics – imagine me scootching around the perimeter of the patio with the putty knife, a dry paint brush, and a shop vac. It took a few hours, during which I listened to the dulcet tones of Mr. Stephen Fry (how is he not a SIR already?) narrating Harry Potter. (Yes, I have listened to these books so many times I know them practically by heart. So what.)

Then once the alarmingly-large-in-some-places gap was cleared of all debris and dirt, I inserted backing rod. Which, contrary to its name is not a rod at all but is just a tube of foam. I got the largest diameter available at our local Home Despot, 5/8″, and I still had to double and even triple up in some areas.

inserting backing rod

Here you can see the backing rod inserted and waiting for fresh caulk. The black layer is the Caulk That Shall Never Be Moved, at least by me.

inserting backing rod

And here we have new caulk atop the backing rod. Hooray! This stuff is a lot gloopier than I expected – it’s more liquidy than the caulk I’ve used in other applications, I assume because it’s specifically made for concrete and masonry and self-levels. Still, I managed not to make a big mess out of it. Mostly.

filled in with new caulk

It’s not as 100% neat and tidy as I’d like, but I think it came out decently. And should, at the very least, keep the roly-polys on their own turf.

seed starting

So I’ve been working on my seed-starting setup, and I think I’ve finally figured out what I want to get for equipment.

I can’t ever just buy anything – I am compelled to research each product and get the best price possible (not necessarily the cheapest item, but the best price for the best product) so it always takes me a little time before I’ve decided what I want.

I’ve been using information provided by some of my favorite garden bloggers to see what goes into a good setup. The most informative post I’ve seen so far is at You Grow Girl. I’ve also found a ton of information in the SeedChat archives and on Twitter.

First item: 18″x48″x72″ shelving unit. The best deal I’ve found is this one, which I can even pick up at my local store and not have to wait for.

Perfect Home Commercial Grade Decorative Wire 6-Shelf Chrome finish Shelving Storage Unit

Shelf: $100

Next we need lights. I’m planning for three shelves of plants and it looks like it’s best to use two lights per shelf, so that’s six lights. I could get some ubercheap ones for about half the price, but those only take T12 bulbs and T8 bulbs are better in a lot of ways (more efficient, better output), so I think it’s worth it to shell out extra bucks for these. I’ll end up saving money in energy and bulbs in the long run.

Lights: $20 x 6 = $120

Lithonia Lighting All Weather 4 Ft. 2 Light T8 Fluorescent Unit Shop light

The reviews say that the included hardware includes chains and hooks, so that should be set.

Then I’ll need the bulbs for those fixtures. The fixtures I picked use T8 bulbs which are pretty common and, for regular fluorescent, aren’t pricey. According to the bloggers, you can get away with regular bulbs for tiny seedlings, but then you need better bulbs when the seedlings get a little bigger. These sunshine bulbs are about the same price as regular bulbs, though, so I’m going to go with those to start with. I’ve seen a number of garden discussions online in which people say they’ve had good luck with those bulbs.

Bulbs: $7 x 6 = $42

To keep those lights going for the appropriate amount of time each day, a timer is handy. There are a ton of them available in-store at Lowe’s and Home Depot but the online information is incomplete (will it accept a 3-prong plug? is it rated for heavy duty use? etc.) so I’ll look at the store and see what I find. Should be able to do that for $20 or less. I already have a spare power strip to use for the lights.

Timer: $20

Next up: heat mats. I may or may not end up buying heat mats. I’m not convinced that I absolutely need them, and they’re not cheap (unless anyone out there has any you want to sell me at a discount!). For the moment I’m not planning to buy any, but we’ll see.

For vessels, I’m going to make my own from newspaper. I like the idea that the newspaper pots can just be transplanted right into the garden and then decompose on their own. I still have a bunch of old library newspapers left from when we smothered the front lawn, woot. I’ll buy some ingredients to make some starting medium – the compost pile is too frozen to use right now (next year I’ll plan ahead). I’ll also need some trays to hold those newspaper pots to make watering easy.

So we have:
Shelf:                       $100
Lights: $20 x 6 =  $120
Bulbs:  $7 x 6 =      $42
Timer:                      $20

TOTAL:                  $282 plus trays, medium, and incidentals

$300 seems like a pretty decent price to make this kind of seed-starting setup. I know that I’ll use it for years, so the equipment will pay for itself eventually. I can’t get seedlings of the sort that I want (organic, non-GMO, heirloom varieties) locally and this way I’ll have a head start from where I’ve been in years past with direct-sowing in the garden. The kits that include this type of equipment that I’ve seen online are at least as expensive, aren’t necessarily as energy-efficient, and have various other factors I don’t like that you can’t change because it comes as a bundle. So, here’s to DIY!

Of course, if any of you gardeners have done this before and have advice, please chime in! I’m off to hunt for in-person coupons for Home Depot and Lowe’s before I make any purchases.