Winter is here – Boxing day traditions

I’m not much of a shopper and the thought of spending the day in a mall with too many people fills me with dread.

The bigger the mess, the better the baking tastes.

The bigger the mess, the better the baking tastes.

Instead, I spend Boxing day morning making a mess in my kitchen before heading out to stomp around in the snow looking for the perfect tree to decorate for the birds.

This year I made myself a loaf of gluten free cranberry orange bread. This recipe is an old standby and it never fails to please.

I squeezed an orange that was languishing in the fridge to get the 1/4 cup of juice needed for this recipe. I scraped out the orange peel and made a couple of bird feeders to feed the lonely winter sparrow who lives somewhere by the front of the house.

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Bird feeder from an orange peel

I also made some suet cakes and strung some popcorn and cranberries on a string to make a garland. The leftover popcorn will be given to the wild turkeys when they come to visit and the leftover cranberries will be frozen.

All done.

All done.

While the bread was cooling, I bundled up and headed out the door.  I found my tree behind the barn and set to work. I disturbed a grouse while I was decorating, so I know that someone will benefit from my labours. One day, I would like to take a bunch of kids with me and make a party of it with a campfire and hot chocolate but right now,  I relish my time alone in the forest as it sleeps under its blanket of snow.

 

 

By the time I was finished and made it home, my bread was cool enough to eat by the fire.

Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry Orange Bread

How do you spend Boxing day?  Leave a comment below.

 

 

 

Getting ready for Winter – new quilt


Kalidescope

Winter nights are a little easier to bear when you can cuddle up under a new quilt.

I made this quilt from bits and pieces from my stash of flannel. Some of it was left over from other projects, some of it came from old flannel shirts and pajamas, and a couple of pieces came from the fabric bags they use to package flannel sheets.

I used a “paper piecing” method to make each block, except I used an old sheet instead of paper. This is the way my mom did it, and I haven’t been able to break the tradition.  Paper piecing using paper would be easier in so many ways, but I feel that using the old sheet provides an extra layer of warmth. I also used another, much nicer, sheet for the back. Quilts made using sheeting are almost impossible to quilt by hand. That is why I tied this one.

I used a warm, cotton batting. In the past, I have used a thrifted wool blanket in quilts that I tie to make an exceptionally warm covering, but wool blankets are are getting harder to come by in our neighbourhood second hand stores. We have slept under this quilt a few times, and I can happily report that the cotton batting is keeping us warm.

This pattern is “Kaleidoscope.”  When I was almost done this quilt, a friend posted this on facebook:

Kaleidoscope

Stay warm.

Kalidescope 1

 

 

Getting Ready for Winter – making hand warmers to keep in your pocket

Hand warmers

The truth is winter is already here! I made a pair of these hand warmers to keep in my pocket to keep my hands warm when I am out walking. I also made a pair to slip into someone’s Christmas stocking. No, I am not saying who.

These hand warmers have removable rice inserts. The inserts usually last for about a year before they need to be replaced. There is also a good chance that sooner-or-later, an insert will get wet or overcooked before the year is out. I made an extra set of inserts so that any damaged inserts can be easily replaced.

Materials for making hand warmers.

Materials for making hand warmers.

It is important to use all natural fibers because polyesters and polyester blends could melt when they are heated in the microwave. I used 100% cotton flannel for the back and 100% cotton for the inserts. I used an old cotton sheet for the inserts. White all cotton sheets are always worth keeping or picking up for cheap at your local thrift store. They have so many uses.

The front of the hand warmers were made from a wool sweater felted in the washing machine. I used a white fabric marker to sketch the embroidery pattern to the front of the warmer. I also used cotton embroidery floss and a needle. I was very tempted to use metallic floss because I thought that would make a really nice looking snowflake. I remembered just in time that this would be a bad idea for something used in the microwave! Resist the temptation to use shiny metallic thread even though it is pretty and sparkly!

Each insert requires about 4 Tablespoons of regular cheapo rice. Do not use instant or minute rice. I added a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to each insert to make them smell nice.

You will also need the usual sewing supplies – sewing machine, thread, iron, and scissors. A small plastic funnel will also come in useful.

Cut the following:

From the wool felt: 2 squares  3 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches.

From the flannel: 4 squares 3 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches.

From the plain cotton fabric: 2 pieces that are 6 ½ by 3 ½

To make the outside covers:

Transfer the embroidery pattern onto the felt squares. I used a fabric marker. Usually, I would tape the pattern and the fabric to the window but that method won’t work in this case because the wool is too dark and thick. I ended up sketching the design freehand but I only drew the main lines of the snowflake like so:

Stitch diagram

I used a two strands of embroidery floss and a split stitch to stitch the main lines. I also used two strands of embroidery floss for the French knots at the end of each of the main lines. You can find tutorials for split stitch and French knots at Sublime Stitching.

Next, I eyeballed where I would put my Lazy Daisy stitches so that there would be three along each side of the longer lines and two along each side of the shorter lines.  I used a single strand of floss for this stitch. Here is my original pencil drawing where I sketched everything out:

Snowflake sketch

Snowflake sketch

After finishing the embroidery, I set to work on making the back of the hand warmers.  I took each of the flannel pieces and folded one edge up ½ inch and then fold it up again by ½ inch to make a hem, which I stitched down.

Overlap the back pieces.

Overlap the back pieces.

With right sides together, I placed one flannel piece on the wool piece with the hemmed edge towards the center. I took the second flannel piece and placed it with the hemmed edge towards the center. The two hemmed edges should overlap by about an inch or so. I pinned the edges together and stitched around the perimeter using a ¼ seam allowance. When I finished stitching, I clipped the threads and turned the case right side out.

Making the inserts:

Stitching the inserts.

Stitching the inserts.

I made the inserts by taking the plain cotton 6 ½ by 3 ½ strip and fold it in half with the right sides together to make a 3 ½ inch square. I used my sewing machine to stitch up one side and about an inch of the next side before I stopped. I wanted to leave an opening of about an inch to turn the insert right side out and to fill it with rice. After leaving a 1 inch gap, I kept sewing.

Adding the rice

Adding the rice

I clipped the threads and turn the insert right side out. Using the funnel, I added about 4 Tablespoons of rice and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the insert before whip stitching the opening closed.

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Tuck the insert into the cover.

I finished by placing the insert into the cover.

To use, place the hand warmers into the microwave for about 30 seconds. The time may depend on the strength of your microwave. When they are warm, place them in your pocket and go for a walk.

I am adding an instruction card to the hand warmers before I give them away. I have included a sheet of instruction cards here for you to print out: Hand Warmer Tags

Enjoy! And stay warm!

Getting Ready for Winter – crochet hats

One hat in the works.

One hat in the works. The beautiful yarn bowl was a gift from my very talented friend. More of her work can be found at her website.

Despite the warm, sun kissed days we have been experiencing, I know winter is on its way. As part of my winter preparations, I took a look at my winter clothing and realized that I do not have anything to keep my head warm while working outside or for wearing inside while waiting for the heat from the wood stove to fill our house. Even though I struggle with crocheting hats, I decided to try again and dug out my hook and went through my stash of yarn. I am making my hats out of wool because I find that wool keeps me warmer and last longer.

The green wool shown above was left over from a sweater I made for myself several years ago. That yarn was found in a house that my brother had purchased and cleared out.  I searched the local thrift stores, but 100% wool yarn is hard to find. I finally went to a local fiber store and bought a skein on sale for $2.00 of a very pretty blue wool from Ireland.

Most crocheters find that hats are not hard to make with a bit of practice.  Several patterns are available for free on the internet and most libraries will have books to lend. Many libraries and yarn stores host beginner knitting or crocheting classes for those interested in learning. These are the patterns I am going to try:

Grow Creative: Shell Stitch Crochet Hat- Free Pattern: A shell stitch hat made from the scrounged green wool.

 

 

 

Amazing Grace Free Hat Pattern

An Amazing Grace Hat using the blue, on sale wool.

 

 

 

51.1.redThis pattern would be an excellent way to use up bits and pieces of leftover yarn.

 

 

Simple Crochet Beanie Hat Plus Other Matching Crocheted Accessories - Photo © Michael Solovay

I’m thinking about using a variegated yarn in my stash to make this simple beanie.

 

 

Hats usually require only a skein of yarn.  While it’s true that good yarn is expensive, there are a few ways of obtaining good quality yarn for little money.  One is to put the word out to family and friends.  Many crafters have yarn they are willing to give away to whoever will use it. Thrift stores are another resource of not only skeins of yarn but also of sweaters that can be unravelled or “frogged” and the yarn reused.  I have done this several times and have ended up with several skeins of good quality fibre for very little money. An excellent tutorial of what to look for and how to frog a sweater can be found here.

Now I am ready to meet winter head on!

How about you? How are you getting ready for winter?