A Quilt in a Day *

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The finished project

 

* Okay, so this wasn’t pieced but it was quilted — and completed — in a day!

I have been on a baby blanket binge lately; it seems as if everyone around me starting having babies at the same time.  I have spent countless hours knitting blankets in the yurt and on my lunch hour but when I found the above fabric (11 yards for $8 at the thrift store, thank you very much!). I knew that after so much knitting, I wanted to try something different.  Conveniently my newborn niece has a room decorated in green and raspberry, so this bright fabric is perfect.

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Basting away

I have done a few quilts with free motion quilting and want to do more to perfect the skill.  It is intimidating to take a pieced top that you’ve spent oodles of time and money on and essentially practice quilting it.  This project seemed like a good opportunity to get some practice in and have a quick baby present made.  I started by basting the two pieces of fabric and batting with multitudes of pins.  Once the piece was basted, I was ready to sew.

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And we’re quilting

The nice thing about practicing on a blanket of this size is that you don’t have a lot of excess fabric to move around and impede progress.  Compared to the other quilts I’ve done, this was finished in a matter of a couple of hours.  Tuned into a jazz station, I let the music inspire my swirly stitching pattern.  Also, because the blanket is two sides of this strong fabric pattern, I didn’t have to worry about any stitches that were less than perfect being blatantly obvious.  I finished up the project with some complementary bright pink binding and by the end of a weekend day, I had a completed blanket and felt more comfortable with my free motion skills.  With 9 more yards of fabric to go, I think that a few more of these will be in my future, probably for charity but perhaps as back-up gifts for the when the next round of babies strikes.

 

 

 

The Simple Joy of Binding

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I know that this may sound strange to some of the quilters out there, but I find great joy in  binding my quilts.  After all of the (countless) hours of cutting and sewing and quilting are complete, finishing the binding of a quilt by hand allows the quilter the opportunity to test the quilt out (if working on your lap) and to savor the accomplishment of a another big project well done.

There are so many modern techniques that we employ today:  machine piecing, fancy rulers, long arm quilting, that binding by hand seems to be one of the few traditional techniques.  And yet this is the one time where we really get to sit with our completed piece and be with it before it goes to a new home.  Binding is like the grande finale when you get to see all of your effort come together into something really unique and special.

Despite the fact that I nick my thumb constantly and must steer clear of citrus for days after hand binding, I relish the time to just be with the quilt.

Reflections on Resolutions

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Welcome 2016

This morning marks a new beginning and a new year.  We are encouraged to be reflective and motivated right now.  I haven’t spent too much energy looking into the past and projecting into the future for I am currently involved in the present working on projects and cooking a bunch.  And these activities are a good representation of my 2016 resolution which is simply to be more present.  I need to focus on what is here and now and enjoy what I’ve got.  The goal is to not ruminate on what may happen or what has happened but to just be.  So that is my resolution, my  one all encompassing goal for 2016.

In looking back at last year’s resolutions, I was able to complete the majority of them.  My most significant accomplish was downsizing and making a major life change in my household.  I did get in a few more baths and will continue to enjoy this simple luxury when able.  I did not knit a sweater but I have been busily crafting several baby blankets, so I feel satisfied.

I think it is important to look back and reflect upon what has been accomplished and lessons learned in the past year.  I believe that it is powerful to set a goal for the upcoming year.  However, I do not buy into all of the pressure to completely reinvent yourself in the new year.  I believe we should be happy and accepting with who we are and not feel that a diet or an organized closet must be achieved in order to have a good year.

Whatever 2016 may hold, I am hopeful for another year full of adventure and crafting.

The Biggest Project Yet – Part 3 (aka Living in a Yurt)

Sunset over Mesa Verde

Sunset over Mesa Verde

The question I am often asked when it is unearthed that I live in a yurt is “what is it like?”.  There are many folks here in southwestern Colorado living differently either out of necessity, or for philosophical reasons or because there are just so many ways to create a home.  In my town, yurt living isn’t unconventional so I don’t often explain my home in detail, which is why this question can be a challenge to answer succinctly.

Visiting deer

Visiting deer

My experience living in a yurt thus far has been great.  Naturally it has been an adjustment as is any new space for the first few months.  I think the most profound difference for me personally is a new sense of connectedness, not just in the space but of feeling more connected to more in life overall.  I live simply and I can account for all of the waste that comes out of our home.  Likewise, I know how much water we use.  I know the weather outside because I am not insulated in a temperature controlled box.  I know when it is hunting season because suddenly the area outside becomes a refuge for all of the local deer.  I know when the moon rises and sets and can see the Milky Way through the bubble in my roof.  It is peaceful and without a ton of distractions.  I can take the time to just sit at the end of the day and watch the sun set or sit by the light of my oil lamp and color in my coloring book.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Living in a yurt does require a bit more planning.  I grocery shop almost daily utilizing whatever is leftover so that nothing goes to waste.  We have to haul in water and our 7 gallon jug lasts us between 2 to 3 days for cooking, dishes and drinking.  We bring in our firewood nightly and take out our sink/compost bucket daily.  All of our dishes are washed immediately and put away.  Combined, none of these chores really take up much of our time, especially once established as a routine.

Built for our yurt

Built for our yurt

Because our yurt is a full-time residence, we have the setup almost exactly like a studio apartment.  We built all of our kitchen furniture out of barn wood so everything is sized perfectly for our space and is purposeful.  For cooking we use a 2 burner Coleman camp stove; I am still cranking out risottos and curries at the same rate as before.  (Even with being a prolific cook, I can remember few times I actually utilized all burners.)  We eat meals at my grandma’s table, same as before but now by the light of an oil lamp. Our yurt is decorated like a home and feels more like a home than our previous apartment.

As the weather transitions to winter, yurt living will be yet another experience.  We have cords of wood stacked and ready for warmth.  We have our sweaters, quilts and our tea stash ready too.  We are in the final stages of winterizing the home before the weather changes.  Living in a yurt connects you to nature while providing a comfortable and cozy home.

The Biggest Project Yet — Part 2

The yurt at dusk

The yurt at dusk

I’m not accustomed to segmenting my blog posts into sections, so please excuse the bumpy transitions.  I’ve never had a project or musing large enough to merit multiple passages.

Before and scaffolding

Before and scaffolding

And now onto the construction of the yurt itself.  We did not have the luxury of time to build a yurt from scratch so we ordered a customized yurt kit from a Western Slope (of Colorado) yurt maker.  It was delivered directly to our landing spot in various rolled up bundles.  Sadly I don’t have a before picture of the delivery; it was stunning that a pile so meager would actually become a home for two.  In preparation for the big construction day, we built a scaffolding to help with the building because the yurt is so tall.  More on the importance of  — and stress of — said scaffolding later on.

Walls and a door

Walls and a door

The day of the yurt raising arrived and the skies promised to be sunny without scorching and breezy without gale force winds.  Our crew of six included my dad and stepmom and my local relatives.  After fueling up with a big breakfast and donning our sunscreen and work gloves, we immediately got to work at 8 am.  The instructions were less than helpful so there was some deciphering and decision making that occurred right from the start.  Along the way we had to remind ourselves that the Mongolians erect and deconstruct such structures throughout the year without elaborate detailed books.  The first order of business was to orient and place the door without bolting it into place.  This required someone (me) to hold the door up while everyone else worked around the upright door on an otherwise deck.  I felt like I was on a comedy sketch holding onto a door with no walls; knock, knock jokes ensued.  Next up the crosshatched walls (uni in Mongolian) were unrolled and stretched out before being bolted to the deck with the door still being held in place. We placed a cable around the top of the walls to later place the rafters on. The construction of the walls and door were so quick, we had the brief delusional thought that the yurt would be done within a matter of hours.  And then came the roof.

Rafters and a ring

Rafters and a ring

The most crucial part of the roof construction was to lift the enormous and leaden center ring into place atop the scaffolding.  This required our project engineer to lift 50 pounds plus directly above his head and then hold onto the ring.  He then utilized climbing gear to tie the ring down so that it couldn’t fall down on us below.  After the ring was hoisted up, then the rafters were rather quickly assembled around the walls and attached to the cables.  We did not work on the rafters in any order, they had to be arranged to spread the weight around the evolving roof. The ring attempted to fall off the scaffolding rig with only a couple of the rafters on, our first scare on the otherwise safe worksite.  During this process, It was helpful to have a few of us on the ground being able to assess where the best placement of the next rafter would be.  Considering the scale of the roof (20 feet circular), it was assembled in less than 2 hours with everyone working together to move rafters up to the scaffolding and then attach the base to the cable.

Project Engineer and assistant formulating a plan for the roof

Project Engineer and assistant formulating a plan for the roof

The roof would continue to be our biggest challenge yet of the construction with the placement of the actual roofing material.  The outside of our yurt is an industrial weather-durable thick canvas designed to be outside in any element for years.  In fact, our roof has a fifteen year warranty.  First we placed a white roof liner (so that our ceiling is not just insulation) on top of the rafters.  Naturally, this was when the wind kicked up to give us an extra challenge.  After the liner was down and secured, we added the additional insulation panels on top of the liner.  These were in multiple pieces and in the bright mid-afternoon sun, kept trying to fly off and not stay attached.  The insulation around the yurt is made of a reflective material and about a half inch think and very pliable.  Being in a climate with four distinct seasons, insulation is critical for year round living.  We were jumping between ladders trying to secure everything prior to attaching the true roof.  And here is where the scaffolding was both our source of assistance and consternation.  To complete the roof, we had to lift the bundle of roofing material (weighing upwards of one hundred pounds) up to the scaffolding to three adults ready to unroll it.  From my vantage point below as one of the folks bracing the scaffolding, it was pretty nerve wracking to watch them wrangle the unruly bundle up and onto the roof.  The material was not easy to unroll into place.  There was a lot of grunting and cursing from above and below.  Once somewhat in place, we created an elaborate scheme to stretch the material across the roof from below.  Although built to withstand weather, this is not a roof in which you can walk out on and fix things.  Employing climbing gear yet again, we attached carabiners to the tags on the material and looped a climbing rope through.  Then four of us pulled and tugged it into submission.  This exercise occurred in various places around the circle and for several hours until the roof was in place.  The instructions in our manual made it sound like all you had to do was plop the roof up and it would roll gently and seamlessly into place.  Yep that manual needs a few upgrades!

Bubble Up

Bubble Up

The last step of our roof was to hoist the bubble up and into place.  The bubble was lifted from below and, again using climbing gear, pulled up to the sides of the roof and then quickly into place.  And with the bubble in place, the roof was complete and the scaffolding could come down at last.  And no one was injured on the non-OSHA approved job site!

Exterior walls in process

Exterior walls in process

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The intricate wall construction

Now as the day began to dim into night, we still had to put the wall insulation and material up.  Working quickly we got the insulation panels up and tied into place in sections along the cable.  I should mention that the interior fabric of our yurt is nice bright white, perfect for construction in a field.  We naturally have some shoe prints and dog paw marks gracing our mostly pristine walls.  Once again the exterior wall was another massive roll of fabric.  I don’t even know how to accurately describe the process that was putting up the this part of the fabric wall.  Between the Project Engineer and me standing on ladders and the giant roll being handled a few feet in front of us, we crocheted (literally) ropes into other ropes all the way around the thing.  With the sun and our blood sugars quickly descending, we got to the end of the roll of fabric and surprise!, there was still about two feet of yurt remaining and no extra fabric.  There was some extra tugging and grunting and a collective decision to stop for the night before we devolved into an even more exhausted heap.  Over margaritas and mexican food in town, there was a sense of satisfaction but not completion.  There was exhaustion but the knowledge that 12 hours of nonstop work did not complete the job.  Still, it was amazing that the six of us managed to nearly build a house in a long summer day.

And, done!

And, done!

The following morning, greeted a fresh start with better can-do attitudes and full bellies and a new set of eyes on the project.  Sara (whose property we live on) spent years living on a sailboat.  She said that there was enough fabric to go around, it would just require pulling and tugging and make little progresses turn into a big one.  So we pulled and we tugged and we pulled and we tugged and after at least five times around we were within a half inch.  And this half inch was easy to fix.  A few hours later when my parents arrived, there were shocked when across the orchard they did not see the two feet of glaring insulation.  They were so impressed and couldn’t believe it was done.  Sometimes it takes stepping away from and new eyes to solve problems.  We then sat in the yurt and enjoyed a glass of champagne together, everyone enjoying the space and the quiet of our new home.

Cheers! Champagne toast to the new home.

Cheers! Champagne toast to the new home.

The lessons learned constructing our home are myriad.  First, climbing gear is super helpful in construction sites as well as adventuring.  Second, there is nearly always a solution; sometimes it just requires a new perspective.  Third, when embarking on a big project, it is good to celebrate the small successes along the way because things are never going to go as planned.  And fourth, friends and family that can support and contribute to a big project are the biggest gift of all.

And next time, projects built to facilitate full time living in the yurt and what a normal day is like inside.

The Biggest Project Yet — Part 1

New Home with Mesa Verde in the background

New Home with Mesa Verde in the background

Of all the projects I have been involved in, none have been as momentous and life changing as building our own home.  Tired of paying too much for too little and living next to neighbors with no concept of quiet hours or smoking rules, we received an offer to build a temporary home on our friend’s apple orchard 10 miles east of Mesa Verde National Park.  And this is where we now live.  The home is off grid but within an acre of a cozy home with hot water, a washing machine and a refrigerator.  We are surrounded by heirloom apple trees, roaming deer and a big open sky.  We watch the stars through the bubble of our roof instead of scrolling through endless hours on the internet.  We have a 300 foot circle in which to simply be after work.

Aha! It’s level!

The first process of the yurt building was to make a deck and to survey a flat spot for the home.  What looks to be a simple task in actuality involves hours upon hours of staking, measuring and rearranging.  Having an engineer as your companion in this crazy life makes building a heck of a lot easier!  When we placed the first center board down and got it level, we were ecstatic.  But celebratory moments are fleeting because there cannot be distraction on a job site.  Once the leveling was complete, the deck building commenced at a rapid-ish pace.

A level foundation

A level foundation

The foundation took about a full 12 hour day to construct.  Being organized and proactive was key; we ordered all of our building materials from local mills and staged everything near the site, including the van which housed all of our food, water, shade and sunscreen.  After the first night, we collapsed into the van and slept soundly.

Constructing the deck

Constructing the deck

The second full day of construction involved placing rigid foam insulation to the foundation before construction the yurt deck.  We were working in the southwest heat on top of reflective insulation pieces for hours.  Remember when it was fashionable to place foil under your face while sunbathing for optimal burning and rapid aging?  Well, that was this was like except it was underneath our entire bodies.  And here I would like to mention how grateful I am for gatorade because I have never sweat so much in my life.  Anyhow, on to the deck building.  We had chosen to have beetle-kill Ponderosa pine milled for our deck.  Beetle kill has been rampant in Colorado and there is a lot of excess lumber because of it.  It has very interesting hues from blueish to purple when it meets the natural red of the pine and a lot of character.  We had the wood milled with tongues and grooves thinking that we could simply snap it all together across the deck.  Wishful thinking!  Because our wood was beetle killed, it was wonky and not straight in the least.  We wound up having to cut the wood into 4 foot pieces instead of our 8 -12 as we originally planned.  In order to facilitate all of this new sizing, we had to rent a generator which promptly died on us mid cutting.  We then loaded all of the wood into the truck and drove it to our electricity source to cut down to the new size.  We built the entire deck with no power on the site: we used hammers, mallets and hand saws.  Building the deck was a process requiring several more weeknights after work to construct.

A round deck

A round deck

Constructing in the round created an additional set of challenges.  When we first began construction of the deck, we found the true center and marked it with nail which we then affixed with a piece of string to measure.  We needed a perfectly round 20 foot circle, so we were constantly measuring 10 feet from the nail in a circle to make sure we were on the mark.  After copious measuring, we created a length of extension cords out to the site that would have given any OSHA inspector heart palpitations.  For the task of making the deck a circle, a powered circular saw was necessary.  We attached a pencil to the string and made a perfect 20 ft circle to cut.  Once the circle was complete, we added a band of OSB to the deck about an inch up in order to attach the yurt.  We also encased the bottom in roofing material to ward off the potential for animal settlement underneath.  We also sanded and sealed the wood until we could construct the yurt.

And next time, how we constructed the yurt.