Saturday, May 31, 2014

Keeping Chickens

Our family has been keeping chickens for almost a year now. I wanted to have them ever since living in Australia when all our neighbor thought we were nuts for NOT having chooks. Well, I have been converted and we all just love our little flock of characters.

Their coop is located down in a little shady spot in our backyard. They get to free range around the yard when we are out with them (too many hawks, neighbor dogs and eagles in the area for them to fee range all the time).

Right now we have 7 laying hens. Our ladies are breeds selected for their egg laying skills.

Our hens are Brahma, Golden Comet, Cinnamon Queen, Road Island Red, Aracuna, one silly Polish hen and a Black Sexlink named Midnight.

During the day they come and go from their coop. At dusk they put themselves to bed up in the roosting room and we lock the coop behind them.

This is their nesting box. They all fight over the same spot to lay their eggs. This particular hen has "Gone Broody" She is desperate to hatch out some chicks and refuses to leave the nesting box. We do not have a rooster so the eggs are all unfertilized. YOU DO NOT NEED A ROOSTER FOR EGGS. Poor Michelle. We felt sorry for her and traded 3 of our eggs for my friends fertilized eggs. If Michelle can stick with her broody nature for 21 days she will get to have 3 chicks to tend. She is very excited about motherhood.

This is the back of the coop. The doors open so we can clean the poop out and change the bedding. We switch back and forth between wood chips and straw for bedding. The ladies don't seem to care.

They get to eat a mix of whole grains (this time I bought millet and whole wheat. Sometimes I get oats). They happily eat table scraps and dandelion leaves when I weed. Their very favorite food is bugs and worms. You haven't lived until you watch a fat hen chase down a grasshopper. It is hilarious.

I also feed the hens Layena feed. This is the crumbles. I won't buy crumbles again because they make too much of a mess with it. I prefer the pellets.

We keep our hens for fresh eggs, bug control, weeding and the peace we get from watching them cluck around the back yard. Here is a comparison of one of our eggs (the big orange yolk on the right) and one I bought from the store. The store egg was labeled as a free range, organic vegetarian egg. It looks rather puny to me.

Chickens are lots of fun and if tended well they really don't smell bad. Dog poop smells much worse than chicken poop. Anyday. My family has learned so very much taking care of these birds. They each have a different personality


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Teacher Tote Bag 2014 - A tutorial

Hey there! 
I made bags for my kids teachers this year. I have been asked for a tutorial over on instagram, so here it is! This is a really simple tote bag. I did not quilt it, but it would look great if you felt like taking the time to quilt the body of the bag. That would be a great option for customizing it for yourself.

Bag Ingredients:
  • 35 x 22 inch piece of denim or heavy weight fabric for body of bag
  • 10 x 22 inch piece of denim for long pocket
  • 10 x 9 inch piece of denim for the pleated pocket
  • 35 x 22 inch piece of fabric for the lining of the bag
  • 52 inches of heavyweight 1.5 inch wide twill tape

  • rotary cutter
  • sewing machine
  • cotton thread
  • chalk pen
  • iron
  • pins
  • sewing machine foot for sewing through thick fabric seams. I used my Bernina Denim foot.
*the pictures are not the best. Please ask questions if you can't see due to my dark basement studio lighting

after cutting out your pattern pieces plug in your iron. For both pockets I flipped the denim over and used the lighter side to give it some contrast. For the long pocket press the bottom under 1/4 inch and press the top part under twice. Top stitch the the seam in place. On one of the bags I added some rickrack during this step...but I was running behind and wasn't wild about the result.

Find the center of the bag. I marked the center with a chalk pen and marked lines 3 inches on each side of the center. This line is important so you know where to place the pockets. Pin your long pocket right on the chalk line. Sew along the bottom of the pocket. You don't need to sew the sides of the pocket because you will make the sides when you sew the sides of the bag.

I thought this piece was to long to be just one pocket so I made it two by making a pen slip at the center point. This was easy by just stitching a tiny divider at the center point.

The pleated pocket is easy to make with pressing and pins. Press the top towards the light side by folding over twice. Press the sides towards the dark side by folding over 1/4 inch. Make your pleat by pinching the center of the bottom and finger pressing it so the fabric makes a pleat. Pin the pleat in place and press with a hot iron. Fold the bottom of the pocket up about 1/2 inch and press with a hot iron. The ironing should be enough to hold the shape of the pocket until you can sew everything down.

Pin the pocket to the body of the bag and stitch down. This is a good time to change your machine foot out to one that easily sews through multiple layers of fabric.

I try to make the straps early on because I hate making straps and just want to get it over with. Fold up the bottom of the twill tape, finger press and pin. You can stitch this down or not. If you don't it is no big deal, because you will catch everything when you sew the bag down to the body of the bag.

Sew down both sides of the body of the bag and the lining. When you sew the lining leave a 6 inch gap in one of the side seams so you can flip the bag right side out. See the next couple pictures if this is confusing.

You will also need to box off the corners of the bag to make gussets. I made my gussets 6 inches.

See - here is the opening I left in the side of the lining.

Pin or clip the lining to the body of the bag. Make the body of the bag right side out and make the lining inside out.

Marry up the side seams of the lining and body.

Sew all the way around the top of the bag.

Flip bag right sides out and stitch up the opening in the lining. Press the seam, then top stitch around the top of the bag a couple times. I thought four lines of stitching looked pretty.

Now for the straps. Use your ruler and chalk to mark a line 5 inches from the side seam. Place your strap to the inside of the mark and sew your strap in place. Do this with both sides of the strap.

You can make a strong box (a stitched box with an X in the middle) or just go back and fourth a bunch of times. What ever you like the best.

Bamm! You are done. Make lots of them and give them away. Show me what you made and share the tutorial with your friends. Please asks questions if something isn't clear.

It would be easy to add pockets inside, but everything in my bags winds up lost in a snarl at the bottom anyway so I didn't mess with it.

Happy sewing folks! Let me know what you think and I will do more tutorials.

Tia Curtis

Get ready for a Bag tutorial!!!! Teacher Tote Bag 2014

This year I made the kids Teachers a tote bag as a thank you for working so hard my my kiddos this year. LauraJ wanted a tutorial for the what the heck right? I am putting the finishing touches on the tutorial on this really quick and easy bag. Below are some shots of my Emma being a fine little bag model...she is trying to hurry me along so we can go to the pool.

Hero Bags for SSG Robb Rolfing

I blogged about this set of Hero Bags I made out of SSG Robb Rolfing's uniform over on my other blog. Camp Follower Bags and Quilts.

A Simple Baby Quilt - for my son's teacher

Once upon a time I used to give all my children's teachers a quilt at the end of the year. Typically they involved handprints and they were always awesome and so much work and coordination went into them. I was so proud...but I never heard anything about if they were liked at all. So I stopped doing it. I still made bags because they are so easy, but quilts became a thing of the past. Until last year when my Son's teacher had such a rough year. But EVERY SINGLE DAY she was so positive and gave my boy a passion for learning that he was rather desperate for. I made her a quilt and at the beginning of the year she chased me down in the hall to show me my quilt. Three little kids were snuggled up under it in her reading nook reading books. She said reading under the quilt was a reward. Oh! Jeez! Is there a better use for a quilt? Or I guess I could ask are there any bad uses for quilts? Being hidden in closets or left to get dusty on a wall...those are bad uses I suppose, but I digress! This year my son's  4th grade teacher was in a pretty bad car wreck. She had just found out she was expecting a baby too. I really liked her and was so happy to see her recover and her baby thrive in her body. Well, I decided to make her a baby quilt. I had about a zillion things going on, with quilt market and pattern design deadlines, so I just quilted a whole cloth quilt. It is made with shot cotton so it will be so soft after it is washed a bunch of times.

I just quilted all over it. It was a blast to quilt. Very relaxing to just do what I totally love before leaping back into my work obligations. I think the mix of swirls and lines look really good, this will definitely be incorporated into customer quilts.

It almost looks like a landscape...hills, storm clouds, rain. I love it. Someday I will make some more.

Here is the back

Some detail too.

So, if you want to make one for your teacher... I used a yard of blue shot cotton, a little more than a yard of natural muslin for the back of the quilt and a 44x36 inch piece of thin cotton batting in request loft. I quilted it with blue thread. I chose a contrasting binding (for the binding you will need to cut five 2.5 inch strips, sew them together on the bias and press the entire length in half. Bind the quilt the way you love to do it.

Quilt it like you would draw...just go for it!


Quilts quilts quilts

Happy Summer folks! I have been busy quilting. This is a custom quilt for a friend on post. It was her first sampler quilt. I quilted all the blocks a bit different.

This is a Swoon quilt I quilted custom. I never get tired of that swirl!

This was a really large Irish Chain quilt that I used both the Statler Stitcher and freehand quilting.

I have wanted to use that big feather for a while and was excited to use it on this quilt.

This was a fun quilt. It is going on a boat, so it was to be nautical...but not too nautical incase they wanted to use in their living room. I custom quilted it with both the Statler Stitcher and free hand.

This was a MASSIVE  quilt. the background was osnaberg, which I have found has a tendency to fray. I think the quilting I did will prevent that.

This edge to edge is named "Modern Snails"I love it.

I quilted this big vintage quilt with infinity loops, or figure eights. Denyse Schmidt made this quilting design famous. I do wish I would have shrunk the design up a bit more. All the vintage fabrics were so fun to look at.

And since it is summer, I have a kiddo (or 3) down in the studio with me. This guy helps me with the pinning and unpinning of quilts. It is nice to hear him jabber on about legos while we works.

This quilt I quilted with an all over feather. I think it is really pretty and adds great texture.

OK, I have a bag tutorial I am putting stay tuned!

Tia Curtis