In a Pickle

It’s Sandy here, with a late summer farm <and quilting> report.

I’ve spent the last eight days babying along a batch of icicle pickles. These sweet pickles were a staple of our childhood, and I hate to say it, but I have traditionally been more of a dill/sour pickle lover myself. Mom makes icicles nearly every year and this year after being gifted with a box of cucumbers from a friend’s garden, she had to go out of town. That meant that the daily pickling chores were left to me.


Day 1 of my week in pickles.

The recipe is very simple, if a little lengthy. It takes 8 days (albeit only 15 minutes on each of the days) to accomplish the task. I forgot to take a picture of mom’s recipe, but here is a ‘modern’ version — one that contains exact measures. Mom’s recipe calls for a “walnut-sized” scoop of alum and a “handful” of pickling spices.  What??? Apparently there were no OCD people in olden times.

I love canning time of year! It makes the house smell amazing and it makes me feel like I’m creating a gift for my family. Jams, jellies, tomatoes, corn, peaches, apple pie filling — they are all part of the late summer canning ritual on the farm. I remember a time in Texas when a dear friend of mine passed away suddenly — I spent that afternoon making jam while trying to ground myself and contemplate the loss.

Putting away food helps to connect me to my place and it fills the house with the most delicious smells.

Now as I said, I was never a fan of icicle pickles. However, I have to let you know that I grabbed a few this week before they were in the jar and I am now obsessed with these pickles. Time’s change, you know?

More evidence of times changing: it’s been many years since Cindy and I were captives on the farm and required to make hay all summer. That meant hauling around hundreds of bales of hay and unloading them from a wagon into the hay mow in the barn. Oh how we hated that work and those summer days, but miraculously, we both look back on them fondly.

Dad doesn’t have animals anymore, so he sells his hay to a local mega-dairy farmer. Here’s hay-making on the farm nowadays.


It’s still not officially fall, but I have been working on Christmas gifts. Cindy helped me finish up my long-delayed log cabin tree skirt and I’ve attached the binding, so depending on how you look at it, I’m way ahead of schedule or only two years behind in my Christmas sewing/gifting!


Preparing to bond with my tree skirt!


Looking back. It’s so easy to remember walking these fields looking for cows. I miss cows. 

Today is primary day in New York. The polls are open until 9 pm. If you are from the Empire State, don’t forget to vote! Free pattern.



Little Bits

When I first started quilting I did not have much fabric. I hoarded all my scraps and, using Lori Holt’s advice, I started cutting them into “standard sizes” that would be available whenever I was ready with a project. After a while I had so many pre-cut scrap blocks that I had to start sorting them by color.

Late night surfing led me to Red Pepper Quilts where I was inspired by the vibrant colors of a Postage Stamp quilt. Later I spied another version of the Postage Stamp quilt blocks that used white space to break up the colors and tiny pinwheels that pointed to the corresponding color in the quilt. I knew I had to use that technique to dive into my ready-made blocks.

I waded through my stash of  1.5″ squares and tried to keep my sanity. Now I know that it’s better to cut strips, sew them together, then rotate them around to get this effect, but hey — I was a newbie, a dewy-eyed quilter, a Lori-Holt-following, Red-Pepper-Quilt-inspired greenhorn.

Plus I needed to learn how to sew a straight line — it was good practice to sew on these little bits and tear it out quickly when necessary (much more often than I care to discuss!).


Piecing all the blue bits together.


Pink postage block.

About two years ago I finished the top. It was so crisp and clean and bright! I was terribly excited! I started calling it the picnic quilt (can’t you just see mustard smeared across it?)…But it was smaller than I envisioned (56″x56″). It needed some seriously wide borders.


Quilt top inspired by Red Pepper Quilts.

I agonized about those borders for a long time — maybe  year or two??? The multitude of colors stumped me. I tried many black background rainbow prints, but they always looked too somber, and lots of them were juvenile prints. I finally settled on a green lawn-like dotted Swiss. And then I waited to cut out and attach said borders for another year.

But this week I have broken through my stasis. I love this quilt, but I let it languish unfinished for a long time. Now I need to cut out the binding and search for a backing. In my mind the backing has always been red gingham to go along with the picnic theme. What do you think? Too literal?


Picnic quilt top

Hanging in the Breeze

One of my favorite memories growing up on the farm was playing in the back yard around the clothes line. Someone put a lot of work into that line. The end posts, one on each end of the line, were thick metal pipes with a cross bar ‘T’ at the top. Hooks on the T were used to loop the cotton clothesline rope to make the hanging rows. The pipes were sunk in concrete — they had to be sturdy because I recall climbing on them frequently. Every couple of years my sisters and I had to repaint the posts to keep them shiny white or silver, depending on my mother’s whim.

When Mom hung up sheets, we’d hide inside the drapes and run between the rows. There is nothing better than the smell of sheets and clothes that have dried in the sun. Mom is still hanging clothes out on that line — even in the wintertime. As long as there is sunshine, she’s got her clothes on the line.

The next best thing about clothes on the line is the clothespins. Mom hoards hers like a miser. The old fashioned pinch kind with the really tight spring are her favorite. A while back we were wandering through a tag sale and I spotted a beautiful antique clothespin holder full of pins. Score! The bag had a few rough spots, but I was intrigued with the design.


I found this laundry pin bag at a tag sale. Mom wanted those good antique spring-loaded clothespins. I wanted the bag for a quilt.

I discovered that the Champion Clothespin Bag Company  was based in Minneapolis, MN.

After I took the bag apart (and gave mom her clothespins) I put the panel on my design wall while I contemplated its future. A couple of months later I felt confident enough to trim it so that the torn bits were eliminated.


Trimmed panel — all the messy bits are gone. Measures 10.5 inches square

Next I added some borders. I took my inspiration from the cool graphic — I tried to mimic that funky mid-century modern vibe.


Skinny orange-red accent and blue checkerboard border

I had to get outside of my color comfort zone for this design. The tea-stained checkerboard squares match the panel fabric. I’m usually a stark white kind of girl.


The full checkerboard border

I added some wide borders and some corner pinwheels to remind me of the wind at the farm, then sent if off to the quilter. She did a beautiful job.  I am so happy with this quilt! It’s hanging in my laundry room, far away from the sunshine and fresh air <sigh>.

I’ll post this Laundry quilt pattern soon. If you’re interested in making one of your own, check on-line for funky vintage clothespin bag options.