English Paper Piecing Quilt, Part 5: The Finale

I finished it.

There were some tears when I tried to quilt it on my home machine: it was just too big to maneuver and handle and after all the work I’d put in, lackluster workmanship wasn’t acceptable to me. I caved and took it to the quilt shop in Montrose to have it longarm quilted.

Once I brought the quilt home again in late January, I decided I needed to finish binding it before the end of the school year. It had occurred to me that this quilt, in its long 4 year(!!) construction, had really encompassed a period of instability and transition in my life. Somewhere it felt important to wrap it up before moving back to Ridgway for good.

To reach that goal, I immediately attached the binding by machine to the front of the quilt and then tried to make steady progress on hand stitching it to the quilt back.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, after four years and three months in progress, it was done. I carefully photographed it and then packed it away to be used next winter in my very own home. The quilt of my wandering days is done.

 

Seahawks Cuddly Flannel Quilts

Now that the gift wrap has settled, I finally get to share these two quilts with you! I really wanted to make some gifts this year and once I made the first of these quilts I knew I wanted to make another. They’re so cozy that I almost had to keep one! I toyed with making true “lap” size quilts but since I’m tall enough that lap quilts just don’t do a lot for me I went with twin sized cozies!

Seahawks flannel quilt

Sometime laying them out was a little bit of a challenge. It really involved a lot of sweeping and herding Sprocket away: he was fairly certain the cozy rug thing was on the floor for him.

Quilt sandwich.The quilts are similar with the same fabrics, back and binding but the patterns are a little different as I played with what works best. I really do love the results!

Quilt #1:

Quilt 1

Quilt #2:

Seahawks Flannel Quilt

My sister gleefully took the quilt from the white elephant gift exchange and my aunt already had hers on their quilt rack when I visited on Sunday night. Enjoy during the playoffs you guys!

DIY Vermiculture: Composting With Worms

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling a little bit frustrated about living in a rental house and not being able to have house projects to work on. (I have no idea why this is the case since I have three furniture projects in various stages of completion, a quilt in process, a blog, a hiking project, and I’d really like to read more but alas, this was how I felt.) One of the things that I’ve wanted to try for quite some time is starting to compost. I reached out to the Twitter-verse, and Modern Steader came to the rescue:

And then, the see (er, worm?) was planted.

I read lots of DIY vermiculture posts and ultimately decided to use a post from the Washington State University Extension Center in Whatcom County. (They have a whole website about composting!) This set of instructions were clear, detailed, and, as advertised, was cheap and easy to build.

I had a sort of terrible time finding the classic Rubbermaid totes that I wanted to use. Target didn’t have them. Walmart didn’t have them. I finally found them at Home Depot where they ran me about $7 each.

Once at home, I drilled a series of 1/16″ holes around the top of each bin and in one of the lids, as directed in the WSU DIY build instructions.

Vent holes

Vent holes in lid

Next, I drilled 1/4″ holes in the bottoms of both bins:

Holes in bin

After that, I stacked the bins on a few sour cream and cottage cheese containers and waited for my worms to arrive. I ordered my worms from Colorado VermiCulture. I am still thoroughly confused as to where these guys are based because they call themselves Colorado VermiCulture and have a 970 area code number on their website but the return address was somewhere in Pennsylvania). I thought I was buying local-ish (even if they were being shipped) but I guess not..

Perishable!

When the worms arrived, I excitedly made their wet newspaper bedding (that’s a lot of newspaper!) puta handful of dirt on top and sort of anxiously unpackaged my “wormies.” (Yes, I am 30 years old and referred to the Red Wigglers as “wormies.”)

Newspaper and dirt I unpacked the box to learn that the worms were from “Uncle Jim’s” worm farm and happily noted that they were, in fact, still moving around. I still don’t know if I was supposed to put their peat moss into the compost bin with them but I decided that it was unlikely to matter so in they went with the peat moss.

Uncle Jim's Worm FarmSprocket was thoroughly confused about the presence of worms in the house.

Sprocket checks out the worms

Sprocket is confused

I fed the worms some peach peels, coffee grinds, and sweet potato skins I’d been saving for them by burying it in the newspaper then covered the newspaper with wet cardboard and nestled the other bin on top. I then moved the whole thing to the laundry room sans laundry facilities.

Stacked bins

I was a little bit freaked out about the possibility of waking up in the morning to worms desperately attempting to escape from their plastic jail. I did a bit of Googling and turned up some helpful people suggesting that worms like it where it is dark so leaving the light on outside of the bin for a few days might help the worms adjust.

When I opened the bin the next day (I couldn’t resist!) there were several worms kind of crawling up the sides of the bin, a couple on top of the cardboard, and most were existing in two masses under the cardboard. A huge part of me was convinced they were all going to die.

Worms at workToday, I fed the worms some more stuff and got excited to peek into their home. They’ve dispersed into their bedding and I’m really hoping they’re enjoying their artichoke leaves and tea bags. I’m finally feeling like they’re not going to die at any moment and I bravely have turned off the light in the laundry room the last couple of days—and no one has escaped.

It’ll be quite some time before I actually have any worm casings to use in a garden but in the meantime, I really like the awesome earthy smell when I pull off the top bin to feed my little “wormies.”

1977 Jeep Cherokee: Starter Replacement

Last Friday, after I’d decided to take a weekend off from hiking, I headed to Grand Junction to pick up some supplies for my quilting project. On my way home, I stopped for gas and when I tried to start the Jeep, I was greeted with an absolutely terrible grinding noise. The only logical thing I could think of was that the starter had gone bad. I made a phone call to #thehelpfulex who confirmed that it was likely to be the starter but perhaps it could be the flywheel.

FSM illustration

Regardless of what the issue was, the part was not going to be available at 8:30pm so I called for a tow back to De Beque. The next morning, I got on the phone and was able to get a starter ordered. Thanks to the wonders of community Facebook groups, a neighbor was able to pick up the starter for me and drop it off Sunday evening.

Monday, I tried to install the starter. First, I realized that I didn’t really know where to find a starter. Next, I realized that it’s a really simple job. Two bolts and one electrical connection and I had the new one installed. I hopped in the jeep for the moment of truth. …nothing…

There was no grinding noise but there wasn’t even an indication that the starter was doing anything at all. I could hear a click indicating that the starter solenoid was working but besides that, I was dead in the water.

I immediately blamed myself. I’m not a mechanic, therefore, it HAD to be my fault somehow. I followed wires all around the battery. I Googled. I browsed the FSJ forums. I called #thehelpfulex. He suggested that the battery was probably dead. That made no sense to me since I haven’t had issues with the battery discharging but I was willing to entertain the idea.

Tuesday, I got up and asked my neighbor for a jump. He lent me his battery charger so we topped off my battery. Still nothing. My neighbor and I poked around for awhile trying to figure things out. #Thehelpfulex called to check in on me and the project. He walked me through some troubleshooting ideas and nothing worked. I wound up in tears out of frustration. I hate being vehicle-less. I really really hate it.

Without any better ideas, I threw some money at the problem via Amazon Prime: I ordered a voltmeter to be able to better test the electrical connections and I ordered another starter. I figured in any case I could return the locally purchased one and this would help me eliminate the very unlikely scenario in which the replacement starter was bad.

Friday, the starter arrived late in the afternoon so I put off the swap until the sun had warmed things up a bit on Saturday morning to dive in. I was feeling a little defeated and nagged by a sinking feeling that something more major might be going on and I wasn’t going to be able to get Francis Sally started.

Before I crawled under the jeep for the dirty part of the job, I used the voltmeter to test a few things, many of which I had tested before but now I’d have data(!):

  1. Battery voltage: The battery measured 12.67 (about 95% charge). Clearly it wasn’t my battery.
  2. Voltage at the starter solenoid: Power appeared to be traveling through the cable to the solenoid since I measured the voltage at 12.62 there.
  3. Voltage across the starter solenoid: I didn’t actually measure this because I didn’t have a helper to read voltage or turn the key. (Santa really needs to bring Sprocket some thumbs for Christmas…)
  4. Voltage to the starter: First, I disconnected the negative battery cable from the battery terminal. then I disconnected the positive battery cable from the solenoid and attached it to the opposite side of the solenoid (essentially bypassing the solenoid). I reattached the negative battery cable and tested the voltage at the starter. I was measuring about 12.5V but the starter wasn’t doing anything.

That was enough. I’d confirmed that even with voltage flowing to the replacement starter it wasn’t spinning. I returned the solenoid wires to their correct positions and  quickly swapped to the replacement for the replacement starter.

Nothing.

I tried by passing the solenoid. The stater spun! I briefly entertained the idea that maybe I’d somehow burned up the solenoid with the bad starter. And then I remembered my neighbor had been trying to figure out why there was only one small wire going to the solenoid (the ignition wire). I swapped its position and tried again.

BAM.

The #damselNOTindistress was victorious again.

1977 Jeep Cherokee Starter Replacement

English Paper Piecing Quilt, Part 4

I knew that I’d made progress last winter towards piecing all of those darn little hexagon flowers together and I rationally knew that if I opted to machine quilt, I would probably finish it this winter. A really huge part of me really wants to see it done before mid-January. A three year gestation period is plenty long for any project.

But on to the exciting part!

Thursday afternoon, I realized that this was all that was left. After all the thousands and thousands of little pieces, there were about sixty to go.

Final pieces

So I promptly spent my Friday driving to Junction to use my 60% off JoAnns coupon on quilt backing fabric. (And then the Jeep starter decided to strike. But that’s another story.)

I worked on it Friday night and woke up Saturday down to my last row of pieces. Thirty more pieces to finish! I started live tweeting my quilting. (No joke. Sprocket just wasn’t being excited enough and I needed to share.)

Finally, I was down to the last ten.

Final 10

And then it was the last one.

Last hexagon

Two years and nine months later, the hexagon piecing is done.

Hexagons

Hexagons

I’d been removing the paper slips as I went out of necessity because if I waited too long it became really hard to manipulate the quilt to add more pieces. I did iron the backside today to make sure that most of the hexagon backs were laying flat as we start to move towards the final completion of the quilt top and making the quilt “sandwich.”

Hexagons

I still have a ways to go before I have a truly completed quilt: I’m adding a small gray border to even out the edges and frame it, then I need to prepare the backing. After those are both ready, I’ll lay it all together, pin it and prepare to start quilting.

Hexgaons

I’m about 90% committed to machine quilting. I’ve loved working on this but it’s really sucked a lot of my time. I haven’t done near as much reading as I would have liked in the last two winters because I committed that time to quilting. We’ll see. There’s that 10% of me screaming “But you did all that hand sewing! Finish it!”

1977 Jeep Cherokee: Tailgate Rehabilitation

Among the common issues on the full size Cherokee (and Wagoneer) was that the rear window had to roll down to open the tailgate. This design had it’s benefits with a truck like tailgate for sitting on and a giant opening which makes for awesome camping views (plus there’s no overhead hatch to hit your head on like the XJ). The downside is that if something happens to the window mechanism, you can’t open the tailgate.

FSJ Tailgate glory

When I bought my Cherokee, the rear window kind of worked. By kind of, I mean that it would roll down about two inches, I’d get out rock it to the left, and then be able to roll it down the rest of the way. I’m sure you can imagine that as my primary way to load and unload Sprocket that this got old very quickly. I ordered all of the internal parts hoping to only have to disassemble the whole thing once and figured I could handle the more external parts as I desired. In retrospect, I wish I would have just ordered the deluxe tailgate renewal kit from Team Wagoneer considering that I used everything but the lifter bar and its cushion (and I was just lucky, I very well could have needed this and had actually ordered it separately).

This was my first major repair on the Jeep and I was a little bit nervous. I’d tried to read descriptions on the FSJ forums (Full Size Jeep Network and International Full Size Jeep Association). I’d poured over the factory service manual diagram of the tailgate. And finally I realized that unless I just dove in I wasn’t really going to understand it.

Tailgate rebuild: access panel removed

My first order of business was to actually remove the window. I recommend having a garage or at least not being in Colorado during the wettest May ever. Removing the window was actually a lot easier than I’d expected it to be. I took off the carpet on the tailgate and the access panel. I raised the window just enough to get my hand inside and remove the clips from the lifter bar. Next, I worked one of the studs out of the slots in the window lifter and began to search for a friend to help support the window before I removed the other stud and slid the window out. Fortunately for me, Ridgway is a friendly place and I nicely asked a woman out on a walk through the neighborhood to help me for two minutes while I accomplished those things. (Fortunately for her, it only took about one minute.)

Lifter channel in the tailgate

A look at how the studs and clips hold in the window:

Lifter channel and clip

Lifter channel

I inspected the lifter channel (also known sometimes as a lifter bar?) and realized that I didn’t actually need to remove the glass from it. I’d heard that these often rust out; mine was dirty but not rusted so I opted to keep it.

I replaced the tailgate glass side channels which looked like they’d seen better days. In fact, this was all I needed to replace to make the window function. After 38 years of dust working its way into the channels, there were large chunks missing. In fact either the inner or the outer piece (I didn’t really look at it until I’d set it down) of the drivers side channel was entirely missing. Putting in the new channels only took a couple of minutes but the rain started falling before I could get them in so it necessitated this:

Redneck jeep working; beer

I became the heroine of my neighborhood when I had to leave Francis looking like this for a couple of days while I waited for the sun to return:

FSJ with tarp

Eventually, I got tired of waiting for the rain to clear so I informed my friend Bryan that I was coming over to use his garage. This arrangement also helped me to have his help getting the window back in place. (I was petrified of breaking it the entire time it was out of the vehicle. It took a little bit of figuring out how to get the clips back in (I’d bought a new pair in case the ones inside bent or broke on the way out or in…) but I got them in, or so I thought…

Lifter channel clips

I left my friend’s house and headed to the laundromat and was super excited with my working window but suddenly, right as the rain started falling, it wouldn’t roll up. One side just wasn’t going up and it didn’t take very long for me to figure out that one of the clips had fallen off. With thunder rolling in the background, I decided to avail myself of the cover provided by an after-hours bank drive through:

Fixing the FSJ window in a drivethru

Sure enough, that fixed the problem!

I found that with all the driving I do down dirt and gravel roads that I was pulling in a lot of dust. I’d learned that the original weather stripping was body mounted but somewhere along the lines, someone had replaced mine with generic weather stripping. This didn’t take long at all to replace but it had taken me until the end of my roadtrip with Amanda to choke it up and spend the money on a new seal. The seal needs the plastic rivets at the top and doesn’t come with them. I had one still floating around, fortunately, so I was able to size one for the other side.

I also went ahead and replaced the upper slide channel since pretty much everything else was new and didn’t want it to feel left out. Removing the old one was way more of a pain than putting in the new one since it came out in about twenty pieces.

I also purchased a new wiring harness for the rear window that I haven’t finished installing yet—with all of our monsoons, it’s been hard to feel comfortable cutting off my ability to close the window for a day! More on that coming soon (probably once I get to De Beque and have a garage!).

Fir Tip Simple Syrup

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of tree influenced cocktails since I heard about a restaurant in Seattle serving an “Evergreen Martini” with douglas fir sorbet years ago (I think I was in college?). Last spring, I read this post about making your own fir-tip simple syrup and it became only a matter of time and opportunity before I tried my hand.

Fir tips

While Daniel and I were hiking Mt. Washington, I noticed all the trees were still displaying beautiful spring growth. I picked a species (I think it’s the pacific silver fir) and started picking tips and dropping them into a baggie that had formerly held my bagel. Daniel was remarkably patient with me and over the course of our hike I filled one baggie and almost filled another.

Fir tipsWhile my mom was at work the next morning, I started on my project. First, I put the tips on a cutting board and tried to pick out any pinecone pieces or other “intruders” (there weren’t very many, careful picking was totally worth it). Next, I rinsed them off and left them to drain in the sink for awhile.

Fir tips

 

Next, I chopped the fir tips up. This step smelled totally divine. It was a little bit citrusy, a little bit woodsy, and really just made me super happy. I tried to not chop the tips too finely since they’d need to be strained out but I also wanted to make sure I was getting the full flavor complement. I was a little bit nervous about this step. It seemed so destructive and final! I followed the directions from Amy Pennington’s blog as best I could hoping for the best.

Making simple syrup

I combined two cups of fir tips with four cups of water, brought it and brought it to a boil and then reduced it to a simmer. They started out nice and green, but as they cooked, they blanched out a little bit as they simmered for 15 minutes.

Fir tip simple syrup

I was really excited to discover that my mom had a fine metal mesh strainer. I probably should have checked for this before I started but it all worked out just fine. I had about 3 and a half cups of fir-water so next I added 3 1/2 cups of sugar to the water and boiled it down to reduce it approximately by half.

Simple syrup making

I’d never made simple syrup of any kind before and had read many conflicting opinions of how long to boil it and how far to boil it down. I was terrified of going too far and ending up with an un-usable thick syrup but didn’t want to have to put it back in a pan to reduce it further. With a bit of trepidation, I poured the finished product into a jar and waited for it to cool.

Fir tip simple syrupSugar takes a long time to cool, my friends. When it was finally happy hour time, I mixed myself a drink using ManMade’s Coniferous Collins recipe as a guide:

  • 1 oz. fir tip simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz. London dry gin
  • club soda

I eyeballed everything so there were no perfect proportions but it all seemed to turn out just fine. And by just fine, I mean, delicious:

Fir Tip Simple Syrup, coniferous collins

1977 Jeep Cherokee: Power Steering Pump

When I had my steering debacle in SLC, I noticed that the power steering hoses were showing some wear and it probably didn’t help any when the whole steering box was hanging from them…

Since I was going to replace the hoses anyway, I checked on the price of a power steering pump and realized that for $40, I needed to go ahead and replace it anyway since I was going through the work of changing the hoses.

Power steering pump

All mechanical projects seem to take me quite awhile, but I’m learning and becoming much more proficient. It’s a process but I’m kind of proud of myself.

Power Steering pump

Power steering pump

The good news is that my steering feels so much better. The sort of good news is that I’ve located the steering fluid leak and it’s not the pump or the hoses (although I think there was at least weeping from them both before). The bad news is that it’s at the pitman shaft seal. So I’m trying to figure out how to proceed–fortunately, a rebuild kit for the steering box is cheap, it’s just another new thing to learn!

FSJ To-Do List

1977 Jeep Cherokee, Ouray Lookout point

Overall, I’m pretty lucky with my Jeep: it mostly runs and drive pretty well. But like all older vehicles there are plenty of little things that need to be fixed. Here’s what’s on the list for Francis:

Fix the heater: The heater is stuck on. This was not a problem when I got the FSJ in January (well, Dave complained a little bit about how hot it was). In fact, given the choice, I was happy it worked versus not working. Now that it’s warmer, it’s terrible. Even worse, it’s dirt road season and with the windows open, lots of dust gets sucked in. This makes fixing the heater a top priority.

FSJ Heater Diagram

Tighten the antenna: I think I must either be missing a bolt holding the antenna on or it’s gotten realllllyyyy loose. It just kind of flops all over the place and really needs to get tightened up before it gets ripped off or falls off.

Rear window: FSJ rear windows are notorious for not working particularly well. I’ve bought all the parts to totally rebuild the window plus a new relay system. I just think it’s going to be quite a process with a steep learning curve so I’m afraid to attempt it until I have a window of a couple of days without rain in the forecast since there’s a good chance the Jeep will be missing a rear window for a couple of days…

Beth and Sprocket with FSJ rear window relay

Drivers’ wing window: The pin has fallen out of the latch for the driver’s side vent window. I have the latch but I’m not sure how to get another pin for it. This is going to take some research…

Passenger window: The passenger window works but it’s really tight and needs to be “helped” past the midpoint. I’m afraid that if I don’t fix it, it’ll break. This is basically going to require me to disassemble the door and make sure there isn’t anything stuck or broken.

Locks: When I take apart the passenger door to fix the window, I also need to fix the lock. Sometimes it rattles, sometimes it locks itself when I shut the door. The drivers side door almost always locks itself when the door is shut. This isn’t really a problem since the key works in the doors but it’s annoying.

Sunroof leak: When it rains just a drop or two seem to accumulate along the sunroof. I’m not sure if this is just condensation or if it’s actually a leak. Since Colorado is so dry and its such a small leak this isn’t a big priority to me right now.

 

It’s all small stuff but it can be really time consuming. I’m hoping to start tackling this a little bit at a time but it’s hard when I’d rather be out adventuring!

 

Edit: I ordered a power steering pump yesterday. At $40 it is NOT worth constantly filling the reservoir and having a mess of ATF under there. Ahem.

A Girl’s Guide To Getting Unstuck

Okay, actually, there’s nothing gendered about this guide—the principles of getting your vehicle unstuck are the same whether you’re male or female. Although we might all try our best to avoid finding our vehicles stuck far from pavement it happens to the best of us at times. Dedicated 4x4ers will often have a winch on their vehicle but the rest of us can usually save ourselves from expensive tow bills with minimal equipment:

Tire ruts

Step 1: Take your foot off the accelerator.

Mashing your foot into the accelerator is not going to help matters. In fact, a lot of the time you can go from being “kinda stuck” to “really stuck” in a few seconds by spinning your tires in the snow, mud or sand.

Step 2: Visually inspect your situation

Now is the time to figure out why you’re stuck. The main reason is likely that you don’t have enough traction and your tires are simply spinning in place. However, if you’ve already spun the tires enough, you might find that the frame of your vehicle (or at least the axle) is now resting on the ground. If this has happened, it’s time to start digging. I usually carry a short shovel for this purpose but if you don’t have a shovel, get creative. Since the vehicle is already struggling for traction, you don’t want to have to fight any additional friction as well!

Tire Ruts

Step 3: Air down

If you still have your tires at full highway air pressure, it’s time to change that. Most cars have pressure of about 35-50 psi in the tires. Airing down can be a little bit of an art: there is no hard and fast amount you should air down to. In general, I air down a little bit at a time dropping first to 18-20 psi, reevaluating, then dropping to 15-10 psi. In some situations it might be okay to go as low as 5 psi—much lower than that and you risk unseating your tire from the bead of the wheel. You’ll want to have a low pressure tire gauge since most gauges don’t read accurately below about 20 psi (it can be helpful to have a regular gauge too for airing back up). Let the air out by pushing in the center of the valve stem which lets air pass out of the tires.

I carry a compressor in the Jeep so I’m not near as afraid to air down as I would be otherwise since I have the ability to air the tires back to a better driving pressure once I’m unstuck. Once you’ve aired down your tires, they will experience excess wear running on asphalt and they’ll also get hot increasing chances of a blowout.

(If I’m going to be on dirt roads for an extended period, I’ll often air down to at least 20 psi just for comfort. This can often help prevent getting stuck but it also removes some of your margin of error if you do.)

Low PSI

Step 4: Attempt to extricate

Attempt this step carefully! At this point, I tend to attempt to drive out of the situation with my head hanging out the window alternately checking my front tire and my back tire for traction. Often, airing down your tires will be enough to allow you to “walk out” of your situation, especially if you didn’t bury the vehicle before admitting that you were stuck.

Gently press on the accelerator. If nothing happens, continue on to the next steps. If you’re out, great! Congratulations!

Step 5: Attempt to find additional traction

Your car is stuck because it doesn’t have enough traction so now your job is to find a way to get it more traction. Tree branches can form additional traction. I’ve used a pack as traction. Vehicle floor mats could work as well. Once, I used found carpet strips to give traction on silty mud (reallllly slippery!)

Getting jeep unstuck

Step 6:  Get moving

Hopefully, by now, you’re mobilizing. Beyond airing down and giving yourself a little bit of extra traction it’s hard to do much else by yourself without a winch.

Faster isn’t always better but once you’re moving again, the gas pedal can be your friend! I once got the van stuck in soft desert wash sand, aired down, and got moving again only to feel myself getting stuck. I gave the van a little extra gas and found that the extra momentum was enough to get me back onto the hardpack.

Step 7: Carrying the tools for help

If you weren’t able to get yourself out, it’s time to start walking towards help or calling for a tow truck. Fortunately, the above tricks usually get you free!

Just in case you run into a friendly stranger who might want to help but isn’t prepared, carrying your own recovery strap and “D-ring” or shackle can be a real life saver! Knowing where your vehicle has a good tow point is always nice before you have to go crawling around in the mud to find it!