Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Slow and not so steady: WIP Wednesday

Where did the week go?  And what happened to summer?  Earlier tonight it was rainy and horribly windy--it sounded like mid-October outside, and now the temperature has dropped significantly.  I'm hoping we'll still have some good weather, but at the moment it really seems as if Vancouver's short summer has already come to a close, a good two weeks earlier than usual.

The day job kept me much too busy this past week, so I didn't have nearly as much time for sewing as I would have liked.  I did manage to make a little progress on my heron quilt, by starting work on the upper left corner.  I hadn't done any paper piecing in years, but the technique seems made for free form flying geese.  I also thought the quilt would be monotonous if I stuck to blue fabrics, so I'm starting to throw in some flecks of red.  Here's this week's piecing:

And here's what the creative process looks like on my new design wall, combined with fabric chaos in the foreground:

I also had fun making a fabric bag for scrap storage, as part of my ongoing drive for organization.  It certainly beats the plastic shopping bags that I usually use:

Happy sewing, and may all of your WIPs bring you creative energy and enthusiasm!

Monday, August 26, 2013

The final tally

Plum season 2013 has come to a close.  The final count: 207, give or take a handful.  That's well below last year's crazy bumper crop, but still an excellent harvest for our one little tree.

Here in Vancouver, the weather is already cooler and cloudier, the days are noticeably shorter, and the start of a busy semester is looming.  Fall is just around the corner, but I will hold onto summer until the bittersweet end.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What's big, orange, and furry, but smaller than a breadbox?

Our younger cat!

Actually, I can't say with absolute certainty that she's smaller than a breadbox, but at least she's smaller than a breadbox box:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Studio Makeover, Part IV: Design Wall

I wish I had a fully finished sewing room to show for the Sewing Studio Spotlight, but my studio makeover is still a work in progress.  Most of the major elements are in, however, although I'm still waiting for those darned floating shelves to arrive.  (I think they may have floated out to sea or something!)  Here's my newly completed design wall, which I just finished putting up today:

I've never managed to find room for a design wall and have instead made do with beds, tables, and floors for years.  My studio has limited free wall space, but I realized I could hang small design boards from the folding door of the closet in addition to using the space next to the closet door.  This design board triptych, made from 3/4" thick insulation foam covered with quilt batting, isn't huge, but it's big enough for my wall quilts, which are rarely larger than 40" high x 60" wide.  The two panels on the door are each 14" wide x 48" high, while the third panel is 38" wide x 68" high.

Lest you find my studio sterile in its uncluttered glory, here's a more honest angle:

Two weekends ago, I also replaced a pile of cardboard storage boxes with an Antonius drawer/basket system from Ikea, along with a much smaller pile of cardboard boxes:

I have another drawer set that can be stacked on top of the first one, but for now, I'm going to stick with the current arrangement, since I like having the open space beneath the wall cabinet.  Eventually, I'll make a fabric cover for the wire baskets, and I'll place washi paper on the inside of the glass doors to protect my fabric from light.  I would have preferred solid doors, but unfortunately, Ikea doesn't make them in that size.

Alas, I haven't made any quilting progress lately, but at least the design wall is getting some use, and the quilt on the left should get some attention in the upcoming week.   I'm linking up to the Studio Spotlight at Ellison Lane, The Needle and Thread Network, and later, to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.  If you want a more complete view of my studio and the state of the makeover thus far, please check out the following links:

Studio Makeover, Part I: The Semi-Before Photos

Studio Makeover, Part II: The Waiting Game

Heron quilt: WIP Wednesday

Studio Makeover, Part III: Organization

Happy quilting, everyone!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Smoked Spanish Paprika Chicken Stew

A couple of weeks back, I had planned on making pork cutlets, tonkatsu style, but the neighborhood grocery where I like to shop didn't have any pork.  There was plenty of chicken, however, and I knew I had a lovely, fragrant tin of smoked Spanish paprika at home, so I started dreaming up a chicken stew, with paprika as the main seasoning.  Here's the recipe I came up with:

Smoked Spanish Paprika Chicken:


1-2 Tbs. butter
6 chicken thighs
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 c. red wine (or white)
3/4 c. chicken stock
1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1 bay leaf
1 scant tsp. smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)
1 tsp. oregano
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. finely chopped parsley

Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry; sprinkle w/ salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat butter in a skillet and brown chicken on both sides (in two batches if necessary).  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Remove some of the chicken fat in the skillet if the amount seems excessive, but leave enough to saute the onions.  Add chopped onion to the skillet and lightly brown (5-7 min.).  Add the pimenton to the lightly browned onions and saute for 30 seconds or so.  Add the wine and deglaze the pan.  Return the browned chicken to the pan and add chicken stock, bay leaf, oregano, and cayenne.  Simmer, covered, for 30-40 min. until chicken is fully cooked.  In the last 10-20 min. of simmering, add the chickpeas. 

If needed, add additional salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in chopped parsley at last minute and serve.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Studio Makeover, Part III: Organization

As the floating shelves I ordered find their way to Vancouver, I've been working on other aspects of my studio makeover.  I like modern interiors with clean lines, minimal clutter (more aspiration than reality in my life!), and a place for everything.  I don't mind all manner of creative fabric chaos while there's work in progress, but I want to be able to store things away when finished and start anew with a clean slate on the next project.  For that to happen, in addition to new cabinetry and shelving, my ideal sewing room will also need all manner of storage boxes, bins, canisters, and other containers, so that I can put all of my supplies in order.

In my 10' x 11' sewing room, I have to think about how to exploit every square inch of space.  In order to put away some clutter that's been leaning all-too-visibly against a wall for a few years, I used an old sheet to make a sling.  It now hangs from the back of a door as part of my behind-the-door storage for an extra cutting mat, random bits of tag board, and some boxes:

There are also a few boxes and other items leaning on the wall just to the left of the door.  But with the door open, as it almost always is, everything is nicely hidden away:

For above-cabinet storage, the original plan was to go out and buy some nice boxes, but then I started feeling guilty.  I sew--shouldn't I make them myself?  There are excellent on-line fabric box tutorials (e.g. here and here), and as a start, I came up with this pencil box-sized prototype:

Finally, I did a little trolling around the web for insights about my likes and dislikes.  The quilt studios that appeal the most to me have light colored walls and ceilings, lots of natural light, wall space, and plenty of cabinets, drawers, and other storage to tuck fabric and other supplies away while they're not in use.  Here are links to a few favorites:

Fellow VMQG member Terry remodeled her studio last year and produced a great example of clean and efficient design in a tight and difficult space.  She's been reorganizing more recently as well--for details, click here and here.  Since I also have a relatively small studio, her approach offers enormous inspiration.

I can only envy Carol Taylor's 1570 square feet of space.  For photos of her gorgeous studio, with its multitude of windows, high ceilings, and generous closet space enclosed with large, flannel-covered sliding doors that serve as design walls, see here.

Selvage Blog also works in a wonderful, open, and brightly lit space with plenty of room to hang quilts.  She seems to have a lot less fabric than I do: she must be remarkably self-disciplined!

A builder in Missouri posted photos of a terrific garage conversion.  I love the storage cube unit with all of the bright fabric-covered drawers--it makes the space so lively and eye-catching.

By chance, it turns out that Ellison Lane and The Sewing Loft have also launched a series of Sewing Studio Spotlights that are well worth a look, so stay tuned to both blogs over the next week or so.

I had hoped to show off the heron quilt's progress on a spanking new design wall, but the latter is still a few days away, so the evolving quilt top is lying on my cutting table at the moment.  I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this quilt, beyond an invocation of flight, water, and movement, and maybe a view through a window, or a series of moments caught on film:

It's still Tuesday night here on the west coast, but I'm linking up to WIP blogs on Freshly Pieced and The Needle and Thread Network.  Happy WIP Wednesday!

Monday, August 12, 2013

And today's number is...


That's how many plums we've harvested as of this evening.  There are still a few dozen on the tree, but plum season is definitely well past its peak.  It looks as if this year's harvest will be in the range of about 150-180 plums, far below last year's bumper crop, but much more in line with the amount we can actually eat.

Plums, anyone?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Plum update

Tuesday's pickings!
As of yesterday evening, we had harvested 51 plums, which is maybe a third of the total, so plum season is in full swing!  In fact, ripe plums were dropping from the branches yesterday afternoon, so I need to borrow my neighbor's gripper-arm thingy to pick the ones that are out of reach.  Plums are definitely at least ten days ahead of last year's schedule--what a beautiful summer!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Heron quilt: WIP Wednesday

At Saturday's farmers' market, I met a wonderful textile artist, D.H. of Maritime Blues, who uses linoleum block printing to make placemats, napkins, tea towels, and other housewares, as well as the occasional quilt.  Her exquisite work immediately caught my eye, and I couldn't resist buying a placemat set and a couple of tea towels to use for quilting.  D. told me that she usually sells at the Kerrisdale farmers' market, or occasionally at Kitsilano, so I was lucky to find her at Trout Lake.

Placemat and napkins from Maritime Blues
We had such a nice conversation that I decided to start immediately on a small quilt with one of her heron block placemats, rather than the other quilt I had in mind.  I haven't gotten very far, other than to haul out all manner of blue fabrics--hand dyes, traditional width Japanese fabrics, modern Japanese and Japanese-inspired prints, and other odds and ends--and to settle on the basic placement of the heron blocks.  Here's the beginning:

It's been a while since I've had much time for quilting, since our backyard "farm" and other projects have kept me busy lately.  I'm in the midst of a sewing room makeover, but as mentioned in my last posting, that venture is on hold for the moment, as I wait for some shelving to arrive.  But I did manage to put up the wall cabinets and am pretty amazed at how good they look.  Here's the view from Sunday, before I finished cleaning up from all of the drilling and assembling:

Here's a close-up, which I think looks interesting, because the removal of all other visual context just leaves behind the basic geometry and seems almost like a work of modern art:

"Cabinet" (2013), private collection
Speaking of modern art, I was browsing in a bookstore on Sunday while taking a break from the shelf-shopping expedition, and I happened upon a book of art by Ellsworth Kelly.  Some of his work from the early 1950s offers wonderful inspiration for quilting.  I don't want to violate copyright by posting any photos, but you can see a few examples of his art here.  I particularly like the one that's third from the top--unfortunately, I've forgotten the title, but I think it's from 1950. 

As for other creative summer activities, if you're interested in making an awesome Viennese chestnut almond torte, check out my July 28 blog entry.

Happy WIP Wednesday!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Studio Makeover, Part II: The Waiting Game

Yesterday, I went to buy the floating shelves for my studio, only to find that the ones I want are on backorder, and I will have to wait 2-4 weeks for them to arrive.  I suppose it's an object lesson on home renovation as an exercise in delayed gratification.

Thus my sewing room makeover is on hold for now, although there's still plenty of organizing to be done in the meantime.  Since I didn't have shelves to install yesterday afternoon, instead I put together a metal frame and baskets (Ikea's Antonius system) for fabric storage, which necessitated refolding all of my batik fabrics, and that took hours.  Fortunately, my traditional-width Japanese cottons didn't require nearly as much effort. 

For Mrrr, chaos meant opportunity:

Mrrr discovers the benefits of home renovation

Unfortunately for Mrrr, all of the renovation wreckage has been put away, so that I can get back to sewing as I wait for my shelves to arrive.  I've started a new quilt and hope to report some progress for WIP Wednesday. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Studio Makeover, Part I: The Semi-Before Photos

As I mentioned earlier, I'm installing some new cabinetry and shelves in my sewing room in order to try and get the clutter under control.  I'm too embarrassed to show the true "before" photos, but I'm willing to show at least some of the challenge.  Here's what things looked like earlier today, with the room prepped for work:

My studio is a ground floor room, about 10' x 11', with windows that take up most of one side, as well as two doors, since the room functions as a passage way to the rear of the house (I won't explain Vancouver urban architecture and the way most houses are cut up for multiple suites and rentals).  Here you see the view from the entryway and the arrangement of my cutting table and sewing machine table.  The plan is to install 72" of kitchen cabinetry on that back wall, with a 72" long floating shelf directly below.

I also have storage just to the left of the entryway:

Here I'm part-way through my renovation--you'll have to imagine what it looked like without the wall cabinet, which I installed last week.  And no, the space didn't look nearly as orderly as it does at the moment.  In addition to the wall cabinet, I'm also planning on installing a floating shelf halfway between the top of the wall cabinet and the ceiling, and I have a metal frame and wire baskets that will replace some of the red boxes on the right.

As you've probably guessed, most of the existing furniture is from Ikea, and most of the new installations are as well, although I think I'm going to get the floating shelves from somewhere else.  I'm particularly pleased with the Billy wall shelf, because with the help of various chat forums and websites, I did a bit of an Ikea hack.  I mounted the shelf with an Akurum kitchen rail, so that I could hang it from the wall studs, rather than relying on drywall to bear weight.  The method worked perfectly, so much so that for the life of me, I don't know why Ikea doesn't recommend it for everyone.

I'm excited about how things are shaping up, and how I hope my studio will look by the end of the long weekend.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Plum season has begun!

Remember yesterday's plum?  I picked it this morning.  DH and I shared it, and it was delicious!

Plum season has officially begun, just five days earlier than last year.  I'm curious (and anxious) to see when the rest of the plums will ripen.  Last year, it took another two weeks before we were picking plums regularly.  I had thought the plums might develop more quickly this year, since it's been so sunny.  But so far, they aren't running all that far ahead of last year's pace.