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The Every Present Ironing Board

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I would buy the typical cheap steam iron that you buy at one of those cheap department stores that sells everything. They are suitable for home sewing needs and last a long time if you take care of them.

As for the ironing board, more in a moment.

I have had a love hate wirh irons. When you sew you need to use one. And you need to use it often, but that means damage is bound to happen.

My first Rowenta had a self winding cord which was on the bottom of the iron and it only took a week or so until it tipped off the board, landed hard, and broke. The center of gravity was nonexistent.

My second Rowenta's thermostat broke after 6 months.

I then went and bought a Hamilton Beach for less than $30 bucks. It heats up quickly, doesn't leak, doesn't weigh much, and gives sufficient steam for my purposes.

Some folks might need an iron with more/better steam, but it's fine for me and it was in my price range after the others stopped working.

As for the board, and this is why I like leaving it out, rather than finding a place to store it, was made using a piece of concrete that is water/mold resistant from a hardware store. The baord was 3' x 6' and we paid approximately $12 for the whole thing. My husband used this tutorial: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2uGVYK-VeNs and it was pretty easy to make. Those are his words, not mine.

I have been very pleased with this iron board, I just fear the day that I won't have space for it anymore.

But let's hope that that day is a long day away.

Tomato Care

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I think one of the things that make owning your own home so enjoyable is all of the freedom that you have when it comes to your yard. I have wrriten before about lawn and garden care, but today I want to do something a little different.

When we were young we lived in an appartment. We were living in a loft in Frisco and I was trying to grow a couple of tomato plants on our balcony. This was the nicest thing about the loft.

Well they got ungangly. And I didn't know what to do with them. Was it safe to cut off branches that too thick? Was there such a thing as "too thick?" I had no idea.

A real treat

Now, years later I got a lot better at this whole gardening thing.

To clarify, don't cut them. When I did that, I bet you wouldn't believe it, but they stopped growing. At least as well as they had been, and our tomato production dried up. I quickly learned that when you cut off flowering branches you don't get any tomatoes whatsoever!

Instead, find a way to trellis them, or support their weight and then get prepared to eat many tomatoes! If you cut off leaf branches you will rob nitrogen from the plant, which will make it unhealthy and it won't put out for you.

If you want to grow them in a small space you may want to look at the determinate variety of tomatoes. They are often much smaller, faster growing, good for containers, and still give you lots of lovely little fruits. The bonus to determinate tomatoes is that they often put out all their fruit at once. So if you care for it well, you'll wind up with a nice bucket of tomatoes from just a few small plants.

Oh So Minky

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My first quilt was a baby quilt for our daughter. It was one of those with a synthetic minky "cuddle" fabric. I wish I would have used another backing because synthetic fabrics mat up. A lot of people don't realize this and wash the minky/fleece backed baby blanket as they would everything else. That softness goes away quick! So make sure you keep in mind they have to be washed on gentle, that's always made me hesitate for something for a child.

I do understand the allure of soft minky, it's super soft and cuddly, but it is also stretchy. On a normal machine, this can be an issue and you may find it very hard to deal with. I swore that I would never do it again, but here I am still using it. I actually like it better than longram.

But it has gotten easier.

The planning stage

My process for the most recent quilt I did went like this:

  • Pin the top and bottom of the backing onto the rollers.
    • Minor stretch width wise, the trick is to put as little tension as possible at this step.

  • Start winding the rollers, keeping the end even.
    • Don't force anything in place, just smooth it out.
    • This minimizes stretch, and applies an even stretch length wise.
  • Float the batting and top over the backing, pinning where necessary.
  • Use side tensioners and make sure to grab firmly onto the backing and batting.
    • Judge your tightness based on the quilt top rather than your backing.
  • And mark everything. Before you get started. If you draw your lines ahead of time that can save you quilting time and this makes for a fun quilting experience.

    You can learn everything about quilting, but it just takes time, practice and some nerves!

    My Mission Impossible

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    It was sewing a queen size quilt with a standard sewing machine. I will admit, it is not impossible. Was it fun? Oh no! I actually completed two large quilts on my machine before I got my quilter with a 9" throat.

    The trick is to roll the quilt up as you progress. I actually learned that from my grandmother, she quilted a queen on a standard machine. Start in the middle and work your way out. Then you only have one half of the quilt in the throat instead of the whole thing. Practice with a mini sandwich from the same fabrics and batting beforehand to figure out the stitch length you want. I ended up doing a lot of rolling and tucking, rolling and tucking.

    Machingers Gloves help in this process a lot, as does a walking foot. The gloves take so much strain and pressure out of my arms while you are quilting.

    It's more work but I feel like we appreciate it more if that makes any sense.

    How Trees Work, Or Understanding Trees

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    When trees are in among other trees, they have to use most of their energy to grow tall and straight to get as much light as possible.

    When a tree is out in the open, it can get more light by spreading out and not shading out any of its own branches. So the same tree grown in different places will look different.

    If you keep pruning the lower branches, the trunk itself can get thicker and stronger. It encourages canopy growth, but bigger/wider canopies don't necessarily translate to vertical growth. Removing the two lower branches will help redirect growth to the upper canopy. It leads to epicormic growth causing a few new long, streight and usually vertical growing branches to form.

    If you want the tree to grow taller, remove one of the codominant leaders, fertilizer twice a year with a slow release fert, auxins and giberrellins are the two main hormones associated with tree growth, and give supplemental water in the summer to help prevent stress. This will make your tree grow taller.

    Made in USA

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    If Made in USA is important to you, you should know that almost all companies use this as a marketing scheme.

    The product is cut and sewn in the US, but all the sourcing of fabrics and materials is from China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, etc. Many small time manufacturers will have an ethics section on their webpage, often cited their sources for fabric.

    Only a few places, mostly expensive selvedge denim, actually have the full supply chain in the US. Every piece of clothing you own was made by a person working long hours hunched over a sewing machine. It was hard and unpleasant work.

    If a designer wants that work done domestically it's more than "a marketing scheme."

    Yesterday's Heros here in Richmond, VA sells taylor stitch shorts - you may contact them for sales over the phone and shipping, if you don't want to sign up. Keep in mind, buying clothes this way is expensive.