Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer miscellany.

Ah, summer. Just a few moments from the past couple of weeks. (Scroll all the way down for some sewing.)


We are inundated with cucumbers in the garden right now, so of course we had to make some pickles. Over the past couple years my brother and I (mostly my brother) have been experimenting with making pickles the old fashioned way - by fermenting them in brine rather than packing them in vinegar. Once you have tried pickles made this way, there is no going back. They actually have a little fizzle - like champagne - and the flavor is spot-on (if you're a pickle person - I am). For my brother's birthday, we got him a beautiful ceramic pickling crock (one of those wonderfully selfish gifts where I was as excited as he was). There are weights to hold the pickles down in the brine, and the lip at the top can be filled with water and covered with the lid which allows the contents to release carbon dioxide while preventing oxygen from entering. A simple, primitive "airlock" (a brilliant and simple design) for delicious pickles.

Maggie trying dill weed

Maggie enjoyed "helping." Here is she is gamely trying some of the dillweed to make sure it was up to snuff. After a week of sitting on our counter (requiring almost zero labor from us), we now have two half gallon jars of delicious pickles in our fridge!


Blackberries can be a pernicious weed in Northern California, and in our backyard. They are fast-growing, hardy, can survive anything, and because of the spines, are extremely tough to pull out or cut back. But they sure are tasty and they attract all kinds of wonderful wildlife (bees, butterflies, birds). The spineless domesticated varieties just don't compare, flavor-wise. So we try to keep them confined to one corner of the garden and out of our vegetable beds. This requires constant effort (and heavy gloves), but as you can see, Maggie clearly enjoys the fruits of our labor.

This is what happens when you don't strap her in

I guess we should probably use the lap straps on the high chair, huh? Maggie says, "Meh. I'm fine. Just chillin'."


Joe, looking delightfully impish and full of trouble. He has been so much fun lately. He made up a new song recently, called "The Omie and Crouton Song." (Omie and Crouton are our dogs.) The lyrics go: "Omie and Crouton. They pee outside. They eat from bowls. Dogs have bones. Big boys don't let dogs eat their toys." Brilliant, right?

Daddy and Maggie

 Miss Maggie hanging out with her daddy. This little girl. She's an adventurer, but she also loves to snuggle. And she really loves to snuggle with her Daddy.

Briar top

Okay, finally, a little sewing (though you gardeners can check out my cukes, peppers, and tomatoes in the background). I made two more Briar t-shirts this past weekend. I have been wearing my first version all the time. It fits perfectly into my work "uniform," which, in case you were wondering, consists of a knit top, solid skirt or pants, and a cardigan or blazer. Rinse repeat. Hey, once you figure out what works for you, I say stick with it!

My first top was a little too big, especially in the shoulders, so I went down to a size medium. Much better. There is plenty of ease in the bust and waist, so I would recommend picking your size based on your shoulder width for this pattern.

This pretty soft green print might look familiar to long time readers of the blog - I made a maternity t-shirt from it (also a Megan Nielsen pattern), which I wore to death when I was pregnant with Maggie and then passed on to my sister, and she is now wearing it to death (she's expecting her second baby in late September). I was just able to squeak this Briar top out of the leftovers. I would have liked longer (elbow length) sleeves, but there just wasn't enough fabric. I managed a little pocket, but had to piece the neckband!

It's always such a good feeling to use every last little scrap of a fabric that you love, though.

Briar top

Having set up the walking foot/twin needle, I decided to make another t-shirt. This pretty tie-dye inspired knit was part of my recent "break the fast" fabric shopping trip, and was bought specifically for a Briar shirt. Again, I had hoped for elbow length sleeves (just wanting a little variety here), but unfortunately, this light tissue-rayon knit really shrunk in the wash! So I had just barely enough for a short-sleeved Briar, this time without the pocket.

I modified the neckline a little bit on this version. As drafted, I feel like the Briar neckline has almost a V-neck, but not quite. It's difficult to stretch the neck band around that curve and have it lay flat. So for this version, I scooped the neck out a little bit. My method for doing this? I just took scissors and hacked at it. Ha. I'm happy with the result! It's a softer curve which is easier to bind, and it's a more flattering neckline on me.

I think I am going to get more use out of this pattern and use it as a base t-shirt pattern for a variety of styles. I need to take a break from that twin needle/walking foot set-up though - it was driving me crazy towards the end. Two problems: First, I have to go excruciatingly slow, or something always goes wrong - the threads tangle with each other or tangle with the bobbin thread, or something. Second, the two threads rub against each other, causing friction that eventually results in one of the threads breaking. Sometimes this would happen after 12 inches of stitching. Sometimes after 2 inches. So I had to stop and restart many times on the hemming. Does anyone have a fix for this? I realize this is where a coverstitch machine comes in handy, but hello budget!

Moving on; take-away points on sewing for myself! Finding good styles, and getting them to fit correctly, is not always easy. So when I find something I really like and tweak it 'till it's just so, I should make a bunch! It's just the best use of my time and labor.  And the process of tweaking helps me to understand better what makes for a good fit and flattering style and develops my skills. Also, cute t-shirts! Win.


  1. I am just loving the pictures of your kids...munching on dill, scarfing down berries, and singing songs. Perfect summer activities!

    1. Indeed! I love summer, and we have had a beautiful summer so far.

  2. i love this post! it is so hard to grow anything here in texas. mostly because it's so hot and dry and we are always under water restrictions. surprisingly, perhaps, san antonio has gained notoriety for their efforts/ability to conserve water as such a large metro area. anyway, i am so interested in your cucumber recipe. maybe i need a pickling crock?
    that photo of joe is one of my favorites that you've ever taken of him. those eyes! those catchlights! so sparkly. and now i see where he gets his curls!
    your shirt is cute! i give you lots of credit for sewing for yourself!

    1. Thank you for the photo props! It's this gorgeous lens, I'm telling you. ;-)

  3. Oh those gd blackberries! We futily try to wrangle them to the edges of the garden but the harvest really is a treat, the chickens are over the moon about it!

    1. Exactly! I mean, if we went on vacation for a couple weeks, we'd probably have to beat the stuff back with a machete! It's nuts! But they sure are tasty.

  4. You all look so lovely and happy :) Sorry I can't help on the twin needle thing... this is why I eventually got so blimmin frustrated I actually bought a coverstitch machine, but although it's good, I'm not really best friends with it, either. I actually think it may have a looper tension issue, but I've been in denial about that since it was so freakin expensive. Consequently, it has probably finished its warranty period before I've got it checked out. Boo. Anyway, nice work on your Briars and the modifications. And isn't it super-satisfying to use every scrap of a great fabric! Pickle jar thing sounds great, too :)

    1. Oh no! Hemming knits is just a pain! I need more patterns that can be left raw.

  5. What a lovely post Inder, you are obviously all thriving.
    xx N

    PS Jane, I have a love/hate with a very expensive cover switch machine too, ouch!

  6. I definitely need to make fermented pickles. As a huge pickle fan and a lover of probiotics, this is a win for us! Just need to grow cucumbers - or anything, in the Texas heat. Maybe next summer when things are more settled and back to normal... whatever normal is.

  7. The pickles sound delicious! I'm not too fond of cucumbers but I do love pickles...perhaps next year I'll have to plant some and give pickle making a try.;) The tops look great! As for the twin needle issues...double check your machine's manual on how the threads are supposed to be placed when using a twin needle. I know on mine one thread isn't put behind the thread holder, keeper? whatever the thing is called that's the last place the thread goes before it's threaded through the needle. Whichever one it is on mine, is the one that doesn't feel intuitive so I always goof it up and end up with tangled threads. Just a thought!


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