Friday, February 26, 2010

March is coming!

I've been out of pocket again. My father has had some health issues, including a short stay in the hospital, and I've not been feeling tip-top myself. So, both my home keeping and my posting has suffered some.

However, I'm glad that March is nearly here. Aren't you? I just read about how one woman uses March as her "preparation" month. She does her taxes and catches up on other things.

Wherever you live, March is usually a transitional month from one season to another. There is much that can be done in March to renew our minds, our bodies, and our homes.

One chore that is urgent is to clean your mattress and wash any mattress pads. We've already discussed this, but keeping your mattress clean and sanitary goes a long way toward keeping your health and your sleep sweet. If you have any tendencies toward allergies, this chore is even more vital. You must clean your mattress at least twice a year, if not more often.

Vacuum the top of your matatress using your upholstery attachment. Also, inspect your mattress for any stains taht need to be sponed off. You can wipe down the surface with a cloth lightly dampened with col water and a small amount of upholstery shampoo or something like Woolite. Be careful not to soak the mattress. You don't want to feed any lurking mold with moisture or damage the inner materials.

You can help protect your mattress from dust mites by investing in a quality mattress pad and washing the pad every six months -- or more.

Speaking of dust mites, there is a rumor going around that the average mattress will double its weight in ten years due to dust mites and their waste. I, myself, have heard this quoted in conversation a number of times, and I believed it. Fortunately, this yucky bit of gossip is not true. See this. However, mattresses do harbor some dust mites, as well as collect some other unlovely things. So, again, be sure to keep your mattresses clean.

I also believed that you needed to flip your mattress as well as rotate it when cleaning it. Sometimes, that's hard to do with a mattress that has a pillow top built in. (Since I do have allergies, I personally prefer a mattress pad that you can take off and clean to a mattress with a built in pillow top.) The most important thing to do is to rotate your mattress head to toe every six months or even every quarter. Why? Because this ensures that your mattress will wear evenly. It's a bit like rotating your tires to make them last longer.

Cleaning your mattress is a weather neutral chore. Some deep cleaning chores can be done only when the weather allows. Others, however, can be done any time of year. So, if your area is still cold, snowy, and rainy, start with weather neutral chores to give your house that fresh springy feeling a little early.

Speaking of spring cleaning, check your front door. Nothing makes the front of your house sparkle like a freshly cleaned or freshly painted door. Also check the hardware on the door. Keeping your door properly maintained sends a welcoming message to family and guests. Also, it adds curb appeal should you need to sell your house for some reason. Even if you live in an apartment, see what you can do to make your door look fresh.

If you have a storm door over your front door, be sure to shine that, as well.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Moving on with our Quilt

If you're doing the quick quilt with me, you're ready to start cutting your fabric.

We will be cutting and stitching three strips to form Patterns A, B, and C

For strip A --

If you are using the colors suggested by the original quilt instructions, use your blue check and white for this strip. Otherwise, use a patterned fabric or a medium toned fabric and a lightest or white fabric of your choice.

Cut 5 4 1/2 inch by 44 inch strips of your check or medium toned or patterned fabric
Cut 5 2 1/2 inch by 44 inch strips of your white or lightest fabric

Pin the whites to the checks or patterned or medium toned fabric (whichever you are using) along seam lines (right sides facing together). Stitch 1/4 inch seams. Make sure your 1/4 inch seams are precise. Press all seams toward the checked or patterned or medium toned fabric.

To make sure your cutting is precise, you can mark the backs of your fabric with a #4 pencil or silver-colored pencil or washable fabric pencil and a ruler. Or, you can use a quilter's cutting mat and a rotary cutter.

Good friends are like quilts; they age with you, but never lose their warmth.

Before Prozac, there was quilting.

Blankets wrap you in warmth; quilts wrap you in love.

Finished is better than perfect.

From Quotes about Quilting, A Prairie Home Quilts

Happy Home Keeping!

Friday, January 15, 2010


Quick Quilt...

If you'd like to learn how to make a quick quilt with us, here's the fabric you will need. (I think I posted this before, but I will list it again just in case people need a reminder.) (You can hand piece this if you do not have a machine, but it will take you longer. That's ok; if you are willing to put in the time, many people find it soothing to hand-piece quilt blocks and even to hand-quilt the whole quilt once it's pieced and ready to be quilted. After all, that's how our great-great-great-grandmothers did it!)

This quilt will be made up of rectangles and squares, so there is no fancy cutting.

The pattern I'm following was done in solid white, solid blue, and a blue and white plaid, but I am doing mine in two pink fabrics and white. You can use any tri-color scheme that you want. In fact, you could do three fabrics in the same color family, provided that they work well together.)

This makes a finished 44 inches by 50 inch quilt and has 56 6 by 6 blocks in it. There are only three patterns you need to know for the blocks; we will turn some blocks upside down when we lay out the quilt to make five different patterns.

If you want a 72 by 84 inch quilt, you can add more blocks, or even add 6 x 6 blocks of only one fabric. You'll need to buy extra yardage for that and also play with the layout to make it look the way you want it to.

For the basic quilt, here's what you need in terms of fabric:

If your fabric is 44/45 inches wide, buy 1 yard of a solid fabric (dark blue if you are using the colors in the pattern to which I refer), 2 yards patterned fabric (blue/white check or plaid if you are using pattern colors), and 3 yards of a white or lighter colored fabric. Look for cotton fabric suitable for quilting.

You will also need two spools of thread (white if you are using pattern colors. I'd suggest white for most color schemes, but if you are doing three shades of one color and are backing it with that same color, you could use that color thread if you like. For example, let's say you use three fabrics in the green family that are similar in tone and also back the quilt with a similar green. You could use a green thread if you prefer.)

Also, you will need white quilting tape (two 3 yard packages for the 44 by 50 inch quilt; quilt batting for a 44 by 50 inch quilt, and enough material for backing the quilt. (White is what is used in the pattern, but you can use a colored fabric if it fits your color scheme better.)

A higher contrast in your fabric -- such as the blue, white, and blue-checked fabric makes the quilt stand out. You may, however, prefer to use fabrics that are close in shade. It's all up to you.

Choosing colors for quilts has become quite an art. Experienced quilters usually have developed an eye for how colors fit together on the color wheel, which combinations from light to dark work well, etc. Most real quilters keep stashes of fabrics that range from dark nad/or bright to mid-tone to light. They are gifted in picking just the right fabrics in a colorway to give the effect they desire. Some even have color walls in their sewing areas where they can place fabrics and step back to see if they are pleased with the combination. They can move fabrics and pieced blocks around on the color wall to come up with the most pleasing arrangement.

If you are a beginner or even if you have quilted a lot and still don't think you have an eye for color, don't let fabric color selection intimidate you. Use fabrics that your eye is drawn to and that you think work well together. Chances are, you are not making this particular quilt to enter in a quilt contest. So, either you are making the quilt to use in your own home, which means that you can use whatever you like, or you are making the quilt to give to someone else, in which case you can choose colors that you think work in their home. Since this is an exercise in quilting, it's not the end of the world if your color choices wouldn't win first prize at your local fair. This is for you or for a loved one, and the love put into a quilt is the most important "color"!

If you want some help picking just the right fabrics, take along an experienced quilter to the store with you or consult someone who works in the quilt or fabric store. My mother in law has a wonderful eye, so I sometimes ask her to help me select colors for sewing projects. Also, you might read the info on a couple of quilting sites to glean some basics about color. Remember, your goal is for the fabrics to look good in the finished quilt. So, try to look at the fabrics from a distance to see if they look good. You can ask someone to hold them for you or simply pull three fabrics out, stack them together on a shelf and step back and take a look.

Of course, the easiest thing to do is to pick a dark blue, a snowy white, and a blue plaid, as the color pattern suggests. Your blue plaid could even have a little red in it if you want to use it in a red, white, and blue decorating scheme.

Before cutting your fabtics, wash them. Trim the selvages, except on the backing fabric.

NOTE: In quilting, it is important to measure and cut precisely and to use precise 1/4 inch seams. If you are piecing your quilt by machine, make sure that your machine quide shows a 1/4 inch seam line. If it doesn't, use masking tape to tape a 1/4 inch guideline to your machine. Sometimes, you can use the distance from the needle to the edge of presser foot -- Try sewing a straight line that way on two pieces of scrap fabric placed right sides together. Measure the hem to see if it is precisely 1/4 inch.

For hand piecing quilting -- measure and cut precisely. There are many sites on the Internet that teach how to hand piece and hand quilt. For hand quilting, you will hold a hand quilting needle and rock it gently to take a few stitches at a time. Practice this technique on scrap fabrics before actually quilting.

Whether you intend to hand piece and quilt or machine piece and quilt, remeber the old rule of thumb, "Measure twice and cut once!"

Are you set up for all of 2010's birthdays and other special occasions? (I already missed a January 6th birthday!) Do you have a calendar system especially for remembering birthdays?

Also, how is your stash of cards and little gifts? Do you have stamps on hand? Would you be able to simply go to your stash of cards and gifts and pull out a little something if you received an unexpected invitation to a shower or party or if you needed a hostess gift or if someone should need a sympathy card or a get well card?

Of course, you will want to buy some gifts and cards as the occasion arises. But, if you have a sufficient number of little things on hand, you will never be in a panic to get something in a hurry. I don't know how many times my little gift or card stash has stood me in good stead! But, as it's a New Year, it's time for me to replenish my stock.

PS. If you have any ideas for little gifts to keep on hand for men, please leave your suggestions in my comments section. I find it easy to pick up little gifts for women and children, but have a harder time keeping gifts ahead for men. I'd love some ideas!!

Happy Home Keeping!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back in session -- Didn't make it in a year!

Well, my goal was to create a one-year course in home economics for my own improvement, as well as to share with others. However, I did have a busy year and didn't quite get to everything I hoped to study in one year. I particularly did not get to finish going over hands-on projects, such as our crochet efforts, a quick quilt, etc. So, I have extended my deadline to match my daughter's birthday -- March 21st! So, starting in the next few days, I'll be posting more about practical projects for the home and outlining a pre-spring cleaning schedule.

After that, I may continue on in my studies of home keeping, but -- if so -- that will be the subject of another blog.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from y'all. What ways have you improved you home keeping this year? What are you goals in the home for the next year? What tips, recipes, craft patterns, etc., can you share with us? We'd all love to hear from you marvelous keepers of your homes.

Happy home keeping!