Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More Sunflower Inspiration


The sunflowers are almost done now. Here's a shot at dusk a couple weeks ago. It was beautiful that day. Good thing I snapped them. 

Thought I would share a project I made 3 years ago for my 50 Sunflowers to Knit, Crochet, and Felt book. This project got canned by the publisher. I guess they just didn't get me or else thought the project wasn't worth the pages. I was inspired by sculpted relief tiles and thought I could turn some crochet into a plaque for the wall. Turning crochet into art - that would be a good thing. But no, it was too far over the top. 

Here's the plaque as it hangs on our porch.

Here's a side view - you can see the all the pieces and the shapes of the petals and leaves.

Here are a few process photos. I crocheted a shaped center and stuffed it w/ fiberfill.

This photo shows all the pieces before assembly.


After I made the whole thing, I added wire to the back of the crochet to make the pieces bend and curl like real flowers. I glued it onto a wooden plaque I got at the craft store. Then I painted the whole thing in acrylic paint in a color similar to cement. 

What do you think? Sometimes my work is misunderstood I suppose.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tomato Pie - A Delicious Recipe for Late Summer

Every year at the end of the summer, I pick (if my tomatoes are still producing) or purchase about 3 pounds of little cherry or gold or red or green tomatoes and make this recipe. I originally saw it demo-ed on Martha Stewart Living TV (remember that?) by Martha and Oprah. (I found that Martha and Opray segment here if you want to watch.) My printed black and white copy dates from October 2000 and somehow has survived my kitchen cyclone. Those were ancient days when Julia was really small and I was tearing my hair out. My big escape back then was to watch Martha make something - whatever it was I was happy to have some adult conversation in my head, vs the toddler conversations in my house. Boy - the choices crazed mothers have now are overwhelming, aren't they? 

The first time I made this tomato pie was for lunch when my Mom and Dad came to visit while passing through to somewhere. I always loved to cook for my Dad because he was so appreciative of anything I put in front of him. The three of us sat around this old wooden table with Julia in her high chair and we feasted on Tomato Pie and Salad. We decided then that the recipe was a keeper. I think of Daddy every time I make it. 

I usually make Tomato Pie for dinner once or twice at the end of the summer. If I have a glut of larger tomatoes, I cut the larger ones into smaller chunks and mix them with the small cherry tomatoes that Martha recommended. I actually prefer mixing the different sizes and I think it makes it taste better because the cut tomatoes ooze and add a nice saucy note to the pie. 

I use a really deep pie dish and use about 3 pounds of tomatoes. If you use a shallow dish, just make sure you overfill the pie dish because the tomatoes shrink down. If you prefer a cast iron pan, I think it would work beautifully for this pie.

Martha used gruyere cheese but I have used all kinds because I sometimes can't find gruyere. I have used grated swiss cheese and parmesan successfully. The idea is to have that cheesy flavor in the crust. 

If you aren't much for making pie crusts, I think a great substitute would be puff pastry dough. To get the cheesy flavor - which is seriously nice - sprinkle some parmesan on top of the egg coated crust towards the end of baking. 


Tomato Pie with a Cheesy Crust

For crust: 
1 1/4 cups flour 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup grated cheese (grated gruyere, swiss, or parmesan) 
     (1 1/2 ounces in case you are shopping by weight)
1/2 cup cold butter - cut into pieces
1/8 cup or more ice water
1 egg - for brushing the top of the crust

1. In a food processor, place flour, salt and cheese. Process just to blend ingredients together. Add the chunks of butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. 

2. With the machine running, using the center feed tube, dribble the water in. You may not need it all. Watch the dough and just as it starts to come together, stop the processor. Open and squish it together and see if it holds together. Add a little more water if it isn't holding together but not too much. You don't want it gummy.

3. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on your counter and empty the dough from the processor onto it. Form it into a flat disk, using the plastic wrap as your tool. Refrigerate for at least an hour. 

For the tomato filling:
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 large onion - diced
3 large cloves garlic - minced
2 to 3 pounds mixed tomatoes - cherry and heirlooms are nice
a handful each of parsley and basil - chopped into ribbons
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup flour for thickening 

4. Preheat oven to 375. 

5. Saute the onion and garlic in a pan over low heat, taking care not to burn the garlic. The onion should be translucent when finished. Let cool slightly if you have the time.

6. Cut up any large tomatoes into pieces similar in size to the cherry tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and mix in the cooked onions and garlic. Add the sugar, the parsley and basil, and the flour. Mix it all around with your hands.

7. Fill your pie or cast iron pan with the tomato mixture. 

8. Flour a surface and roll out the pie dough to form a circlish shape that is a little larger than you pie dish. I'm not too fussy about this because this dough seems to look good no matter how messy you are (and I am plenty messy). It will be thickish which adds more flavor. Place it on top of your tomatoes and tuck in the sides or form a thick rolled edging if you are feeling decorative. Cut four 1 1/2" slit in the top of the crust.

9. Using the egg from the crust directions, beat it with a fork. Using a brush, paint the top of the crust. This will give it a lovely yellowy gold color.

9. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the juices bubble out of the slits. Let it cool a bit so the tomatoes don't burn your mouth and so it is easier to cut and serve. 

I hope you get a chance to try this with this year's tomatoes, wherever you live! Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sunflower Inspiration

I've been harvesting the zinnias and sunflowers and bringing in bouquets to enjoy every evening. I love the weather this time of year and all the luscious color but I do get bittersweet about it all because I know the end of the growing season will be here anyday. If I don't pick a bouquet each day, I get all antsy, knowing that my opportunity to look at all this beautiful flora is so short. 

I also take a lot of photos of the garden. It is so nice to look back on the beauty in the dead of winter. I am continually inspired by all the color combinations and the shapes of plants and blooms.

A few winters ago, I had a bit of an accident. I was taking photos of a pizza just out of the oven and set the hot pan onto the glass top a coffee table on the porch. Really, I wasn't thinking. All of a sudden I heard a crack. Giant oops. The heat of the pan had cracked the table. 

I was never wild about the glass top because it always got dirty, full of pollen, road dust and general country grubbiness. I had a piece of birch plywood cut to replace it. That flat surface was just dying to be decorated. A while back, I got to it. I chose a simple sunflower motif, used some acrylics and latex and painted some sunflowers. I used a waterproof sealer to protect the tabletop.

Here with the inspiration laid atop it. 

Now we have sunflowers all year round on the porch. If the motif is too garish and bright, I cover it up with a cloth. It has worn really well too and adds a bit of cheer to the porch. 


The arrangement that is on the tabletop was something I made when I harvested a massive bunch of zinnias. The concept was a colorwheel of zinnias and although it isn't exactly a colorwheel, I does show the bright shades. Here's a close-up. I used a bundt pan and layered all the stems so they held each other up. The arrangement lasted at least a week and it looked so pretty on top of the painted table. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Good Morning From the Farm on Book Launch Day for Colorful Stitchery

So what does that mean? In this virtual world it means that stores - on-line and off - can now sell the new edition of Colorful Stitchery, published today by Roost Books where you will find an interview with me now live on their blog!

Yippee! If you are wanting a copy hop on over to my web shop for a signed copy. Or visit your local book store if you are so lucky or if you must, the giant bookstore in the sky.

And to celebrate, I'm sending you all a bouquet of Autumn Beauty sunflowers. They are looking rather ragged and finished but I kind of like that - the droopiness, the seed heads, the gentle arching of the stems. We all get tired -- even flowers.

I'm off to the Northampton Farmers Market to sell lamb today from 1:30 to 6:30. Stop by and say hi. I'll bring a copy of Colorful Stitchery for you to look at and have some to sell too!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pickling, Fermenting + A Fantastic Giveaway

First off - don't forget the Craftsy sale going on now. It is a great opportunity to sign up for my class or many of the other classes. 

Here is the link to the sale: http://www.craftsy.com/ext/KristinNicholas_holiday

Have you noticed how much interest there is in preserving veggies and fruits these days? When I was a kid, my Mom and Gram used to make jams and jellies out of whatever fruits we had too many of. My grandmother did some other preserving but I must admit, I never paid much attention. On the Christmas eve dinner table there was always a relish tray filled with watermelon rind pickles and bread and butter pickles. 

A couple years ago, I started making dill pickles. My family is crazy over dill pickles and the two of them can eat a jar in an evening. I had a glut of cukes in my garden so I got busy preserving them. My friend Kay who is a Master Preserver of fruits and veggies answered my questions. I found this recipe called Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles that looked good and discovered it was really easy to put up jars and jars of cukes. And once I had the jars, it was really economical.

I must say, my family is now addicted to these pickles. This year, I decided to branch out and made some classic Bread and Butter Pickles and one called Olive Oil Pickles (the jury is still out on that one so I won't share the recipe yet - they are aging). 

For the last couple weeks, I have spent hours pickling and preserving. I feel like an official Yankee farm woman putting up the harvest. It has been fun because it is something different to do and not drudgery (yet). My goal was to fill every canning jar I had (and I had a lot squirreled away in the basement) and I can happily say, my job is complete. 

These are my favorite, indispensable tools. If you are going to get into pickling, I highly suggest a jar lifter (so you don't burn yourself) and a wide mouth funnel. Both these tools make it so much easier.  

A couple weeks ago, I was rearranging things in our dirt floor basement looking for those jars and I discovered a large gallon glass jar with a big opening in it. I have always wanted to try lacto-fermented pickles. We love the ones we buy from our friends at Real Pickles. I called my friends at Storey Publishing and had them send some preserving books my way. Here are the fantastic books Storey sent me to review - all by Sherry Brooks Vinton

The first recipe I have tried is called Classic Crock Pickles. Sherry's instructions were precise although fermenting cucumbers and any fruit is a bit like a science experiment. Here's what my gallon jar looks like. Sherry suggests weighting down the veggies with a quart jar filled with water. 

The photo above is on Day One. I covered the jar up with a tea towel as she suggested (shown below). 

This is after a week of fermentation. The liquid is starting to get cloudy. As the scum appears, I skim it off. I'm not sure how long the process will take but next week, I'll start tasting the pickles. 


I will not process these fermented pickles because the heat will take away the healthful benefits of the fermentation (you can read about that here). I will keep them in the fridge. Next up is some sauerkraut. Not too much - just a little to have this winter. 

If you are interested and live close to Boston, check out the Boston Fermentation Festival on September 27th and 28th. Wow! Who was to know there are pickling retreats and events - and I thought it was only the knitters who were obsessive! The keynote speaker is Sandor Katz, the world's most renowned "fermentation revivalist." Check out his own website called Wild Fermentation here.

So here is what I have for you all today courtesy of the fine folks at Storey Publishing. One lucky winner will get a set of Sherry's 3 Preserving the Harvest books - Put Em Up, Put Em Up Fruits, and The Preserving Answer Book. Thank you Storey! Here's how you enter.....

Answer the following question in the comments section:

Tell me about your pickling or canning likes and hates? Do you do it? Is it too much bother? What recipes might you like? Did you grow up on homemade preserves? Pickles? Lacto-fermented or vinegar? Chutney? Jam? Jelly? Favorite books?

Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. September 22nd. US Addresses Only Please. 
Don't forget to leave an easy way to get a hold of you - blogger id, email, or Rav id.  

Contest is over. Winner has been alerted.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good Morning from The Farm + Huge Craftsy Class Sale

Thanks everyone for the heartfelt comments on yesterday's post. I really appreciate everyone's input. One comment struck me that a reader added to the discussion and said she doesn't comment anymore because she reads blogs on her ipad and she hates to type on it. I am with you on that. The ipad is so convenient for browsing but give me a keyboard anyday so I can bang away quickly on it. I think I am guilty of the same. If I am ordering anything on-line, I do it on my computer. No patience for that little screen keyboard (just saying Apple).

Now that Julia is back to school and on the bus very early, I've had a chance to go outside and experience the glorious autumn early morning light. I love this time of year when the sun starts getting at a lower angle in the sky. The beautiful natural colors start taking on that gorgeous autumn glow. 

Here is one of the little sheds that I have surrounded with hostas. It is filled with some odds and ends. It was Julia's playhouse when she was little but now is a catchall. Every morning the light is just spectacular around it and the hosta blooms dance in the air. The photo doesn't do it justice. 

Do you remember when I painted my studio door this crazy bright yellow color? I love it. So cheerful. 


This year, I planted morning glories on both sides of the door. They are growing haphazardly around the door along strings. Every few days I have to rein them into the string set up. I think I will do this every year. I love how the dark blue of the Grandpa Ott morning glory bounces off the yellow color.

Here is a jumble of color in the little garden outside the studio.

Today, I am announcing the big Fall Craftsy sale. All classes are on sale for up to 50% off. Have you been thinking about learning Crewel Embroidery this winter? Maybe you used to do it and want to start stitching again? Here's your chance. CLICK HERE TO RECEIVE THE DISCOUNT. My class is called Stitch It with Wool: Crewel Embroidery

Craftsy is a great organization for me to be affiliated with. Not only are their classes stellar but they give me the opportunity to earn some extra money by helping them promote their classes. I am very thankful for that opportunity because I have learned so much from the different classes I have watched. So know that by clicking my link, you are also helping me to support my family with a bit of extra revenue. And you get to learn something too.

Thanks everyone again for your kind words and encouragement on the blog.  


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Regia Design Line Winners, Update, Sunflowers + Thoughts

I've picked the winners of the new Regia Design Line Sock Yarn and have been in touch with them. Congrats to all six of you who won enough yarn for a pair of handknit socks. I'll be shipping the yarn out when I receive your shipping addresses. 

Just an update on where to buy the new Design Line Kristin Nicholas Ikat Inspired sock yarn. I've discovered that The Web•sters in Oregon has all my sock yarn available on-line including the older Garden Effects colors. You can check them out here. Also, just an FYI - the yarn is a 50 gram ball (230 yards) so you will need 2 balls for a pair of socks. Check it out here. Many local yarnstores have also stocked the yarn so check with them if you are lucky enough to have one in your neck of the woods.

Here at the farm, the autumn garden is happening. Weeds are everywhere. Some annuals are finished doing their thing and have given up. Others keep putting out the blooms, even if they are lying down on the ground sideways. Most of the veggies are over but I've still got beautiful kale and swisschard to enjoy this autumn. 


I seeded the sunflowers in two batches (not until late June and then July) and the first seeding is almost kaput. The second seeding, unfortunately, got walloped in a freaky rainstorm 2 Saturdays ago. Some of them fell over. I thought they would pop back up but some are down and out. That's the hazards of farming and gardening. It's amazing though, the plants that fell down - like these -

continue to bloom albeit a bit oddly coming up off the dirt. Makes for some curly stems but the bees and the birds don't care. 

These are Autumn Beauties from the first seeding. They are long season but worth the wait. Some are probably 11 feet tall. Stunning. Here are some other beauties.....

I realized not long ago that I have barely taken a photo of Julia since Christmas. She doesn't like to have her photo taken anymore. Gone are those days of cute little kid shots here on the blog! My baby has grown up. I began this blog in 2006 when she was a mere 8 years old. Now she is 16. Where did the time go? A few weeks ago, she was outside with me cuddling with Tommie and I got some nice shots of her. She is back to her old school - the new one didn't work out. It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for all of us. But she is happy again now. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I'm not sure about you but I have noticed the blog world changing. So many of the older original bloggers have either stopped or have turned their blogs into more money-generating sites. The newer bloggers seem to be all about brands and promoting themselves. There is nothing wrong with looking for money because we all have to make a living - me included. As family life and work commitments change, a blog has to change. It has to fit into the blog-writer's life. Jane of Yarnstorm has stopped writing her original blog and is moving into publishing. She has started a new blog which is looking quite great. Find it here. Soulemama is taking advertising and editing a beautiful magazine. Alicia is still faithfully updating even though her life must be super busy with a little one. Gale Zucker is re-committing to blogging as are her friends. Susan's blog keeps getting better.

I am wondering what you all are thinking? Do you read blogs anymore? Do you only read through Facebook? Are you only looking at Pinterest and Instagram these days? I'm trying to figure out where to go with this blog myself. I think about it all the time to tell you the truth. I stepped back in August to see if I wanted to continue. It takes a lot of time and effort and sometimes there is very little reward for the effort. I consider my reward to be comments, readership, purchases of my patterns, yarns, books, and kits. Just when I thought you all had stopped reading, I do a giveaway and get 200+ comments. Wow - thanks for that. At least I know you are out there. I loved reading what you all are planning to knit or stitch this fall. Many hours spent with yarn and needles, sewing machines, and fabrics. Hours spent making gifts for family and friends and new babes. What could be better?

I hope you and yours are enjoying the autumn weather. It is splendid, isn't it? Would love to hear your comments about blog reading if you have time. I'm sure other blog writers will love to hear too. 

p.s. I'm not thinking about stopping this thing - I'm just curious as to your thoughts and where your on-line priorities are now. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

New Design Line Sock Yarn from Kristin Nicholas/Regia + Giveaway

Attn Facebook Blog Readers - To enter this contest you must enter your comment on blog comments, not the Facebook hi-jacked blog post. Go to getting-stitched-on-the-farm.blogspot.com Thanks!

I have a passion for ethnic handmade fabrics whether they are woven, knit, embroidered or hand-dyed. When I was in college, I learned an intricate dye technique called Ikat Dyeing. For those not familiar with Ikat, the warp is wound for the loom and then the threads are dyed in a particular pattern. The warp is then used to dress the loom and the threads are woven into a beautiful fabric. It is rather painstaking, to say the least. After I dyed and wove a few pieces of ikat fabric, I realized the skill it takes to produce the incredible patterning of these fabrics. 

Above is a photo from the Author Susan Meller's website and newish book Silk and Cotton (which I'm asking for as a birthday gift M & J!) of hand-dyed IKAT fabric on a loom. Isn't it incredible? If you have time and the interest, check out Susan's website full of gorgeous fabrics. There are some beautiful hand-dyed and woven ikat fabrics here

When Regia asked me to design another collection of colors for sock yarn, we began with the idea of ikat fabric. Although this sock yarn is spun and dyed in a factory, it has the shifted, mottled look of ikat. There are 6 colors in this line and you can see them knit into socks below. 

Here is a photo of how the yarn looks in a ball. As you knit, an ikat inspired pattern will appear on your knit fabric. How very cool. Below you can see the 6 colors without the balls bands. I have included the names and numbers too in case you would like to order them.

Check your local yarn store for the new colors. They have been shipping in the US since August. 

To celebrate the world-wide launch of these 6 new shades, I am hosting a giveaway. SIX lucky readers will win 2 skeins of the new Kristin Nicholas Design Line - enough yarn for a pair of socks.

Here's how to enter the contest....

Answer the following question in the comments...... Facebook readers, please go to my blog, don't comment on Facebook. Type in getting-stitched-on-the-farm.blogspot.com on your browser to get to the blog to comment. Thanks!

What are your upcoming crafting, stitching, knitting or creative plans for this fall?

Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday September 15th. 
US and Canadian addresses only. 

Please leave an easy way to get a hold of you - Rav id, blogger id, or email. Thanks for entering everyone.  Good luck

Don't forget to check out the new Regia Kristin Nicholas Design Line colors at your local yarn store. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Brimfield Inspiration

I had a great day last Friday at the Brimfield Flea Market. It was ridiculously hot and humid and melty. Luckily I got there as the show opened and escaped before the crowds and the heat became unbearable.

Gone are my days of spending money at Brimfield. Mostly, I go for the inspiration. I get lots of ideas from old things for my current work. Today I am going to share photos of what I found inspiring or interesting. There are of course a few sheep related things, farm related, color ideas, and other things I like. I hope you like the virtual Brimfield tour. I've added commentary when appropriate.

This was a lovely embroidered penny rug:


Loved this crazy paisley pattern on a vintage dress:


 I wonder if when I am gone, my oil paints and brushes will end up at a flea market?

Another textile mill bites the dust. The sign for Wyandotte Mill of Pittsfield was for sale at Brimfield. It made me so sad, considering I worked at a mill called Warley Worsted Mills in Lowell, MA.

I am glad I don't have to use this kind of washing machine: 

A gorgeous iron door stop in the shape of a ram:

This oval box with sheep and people on the lid was large, exquisite and expensive:


While we are talking farm animals, I loved this metal chicken cut-out:

I have never noticed ironstone like this with a stippled design. There was a large collection that was quite beautiful. This site has lots of it. No wonder I liked it - very expensive.

I loved this china pattern with the fluted edges and relief:

There was a man from Africa with some gorgeous textiles. This piece is made entirely of beads. The house and checked motif is quite graphic and beautiful:

He also had this beautiful indigo blue and white fabric I think made with a mud resist:

Loved this embroidered gameboard:

This pillowcase was velvet and the wool stitching was tufted and then shaped with scissors. I am working on a piece using a similar embroidery technique so this was fun to see: 

This next series of photos are of the thing I found that was the most stunning and memorable. It was an embroidered single bed quilt. It was glumped in the back of a car. It was a crazy patchwork of embroidery on white fabric. I loved the spontaneous quality of the stitching. I wish I had taken more photos but since I wasn't going to buy it (for sale for $295), I stopped after 5. 

I hope you enjoyed your virtual trip through my eyes of Brimfield 2014.