Join Janet on her adventures as a designer, writer, maker, and farmer in montana. no two days are ever the same. you might even see a bear or two.

Here Come the Apples and Tomatoes

Here Come the Apples and Tomatoes

I picked the Lodi apple tree yesterday afternoon:


It’s a respectable amount for a tree that is still fairly small. Susan informed me on Saturday that her Yellow Transparent is ready to pick and her Duchess of Oldenburg will be ready soon. I’ve used both for pie filling in the past. I think one of the other ladies from church has dibs on the Transparents, so I’ll see about going next week to pick the Duchess tree. These should keep until then and I’ll just mix them in with the rest of the apples for the pie filling.

[I am a lazy baker. I don’t like to peel apples for pie filling, which is why I prefer the Lodi, the Transparents, and the Duchess varieties. They work just fine for pie filling without being peeled.]

I tasted a Red Wealthy and I think they need another week or two yet. They are my pink sauce apples. The State Fair and Honeycrisps are mid-season eating apples. The apple tree closest to the road doesn’t have a label but those don’t look like they are quite ready yet, either. Somewhere, there is a master orchard plan with all the trees labelled. I’ll have to consult it and figure out what that variety is.

We also have tomatoes:


The one at center top is the first of my Oregon Star paste tomatoes. The varieties of crops I grow in my garden—besides being heirlooms—are ones I’ve chosen after careful experimentation. Interestingly, the varieties that other people in the neighborhood grow don’t always do well for us. I gave up on Early Girl years ago and that’s a popular tomato here. I’ve been through Romas, San Marzanos, and Amish Paste, none of which produced like Oregon Star does. Cherokee Purple is a proven favorite.

[It seems counter-intuitive when I think about it, but the varieties that have done best for us all come from Victory Seeds in Molalla, Oregon. I think of that area of Oregon as being wetter and more temperate than us. I’ve had consistent success, though, with their seeds, so I’ll stick with what I know.]

The other three tomatoes are from a plant that Elysian snuck into our garden. She and Ali start their seedlings in our greenhouse, and Elysian likes to swap out some of our starts for some of hers without telling us. It’s always fun to find something I didn’t expect later in the season. One year we had beautiful sunflowers.

I need to defrost the freezer in the laundry room and then I’ll start tossing gallon zip bags of tomatoes in there for marathon sauce making in a few weeks.


I made 62 makeup rounds Monday afternoon:


I found the sweet spot for the presser foot pressure, so I can edge these circles quickly and smoothly. We’ll see how many makeup rounds I can get from the yard of cotton fleece I bought (it is 58” wide). The die has blades for cutting eight circles, two in each of four sizes. I place three layers of fabric over the two 2-1/2” circle blades and run the die through the cutter. The dies will cut up to six layers of quilting cotton. The cotton fleece is thicker, though, and I don’t want to jam the cutter, so I limit it to three layers.

Joanns is offering a lot of lovely printed knit fabrics for fall. As soon as they go on sale, I’m going to start buying some lengths to make myself some tops. I am not seeing any ready-to-wear in the stores that excites me (shocking, I know). Now that I have a custom-drafted Rhapso-T pattern that fits me well, there is no reason not to make my own.

My friend Scott—who just finished refurbishing that lovely Singer 15-90 in a cabinet and has some sewing projects of his own planned—asked me if I would talk about why my apron seams received such accolades from the fair judges. Of course, but why is it necessary to finish a seam at all? It’s not. In certain fabrics and in certain situations, though, as with an oft-washed apron or pillowcase, seam finishes keep the fabric from fraying and extend the life of the garment. They also make the inside of the garment look as nice as the outside. As my father would say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing in excess.”

My copy of the Singer Sewing Book (copyright 1949) devotes seven pages to seams and seam finishes. I chose to do a “clean-stitched” or “edge-stitched” seam on my seams. The book notes that this is the simplest finish for lightweight fabrics. The seam is pressed open, then each side pressed under a scant 1/8” and stitched:


I knew that these seams eventually would be caught in the seam binding running perpendicularly, so this was a good choice for a finish that wouldn’t distort the seam binding with extra bulk, like a French seam would. And it looks pretty.

I also could have finished the seams by pinking them with pinking shears or by zig-zagging or overcasting the edges. Of course, if one owns a serger (or three), serging is always an option. I could have constructed the apron by serging the edges of the fabric and then sewing the seams on the machine or by serging them on my industrial serger, which sews a seam and finishes the edge in one fell swoop. (If I ever make aprons to sell in an Etsy store, they’ll be made on the industrial serger for that reason.) My beloved Necchi BF, though—for all that it is the simplest of straight-stitch machines—is the machine I turn to most often, and I sewed this entire apron on it. That machine used to belong to a professional seamstress. Sometimes I sit down and start sewing and I am convinced that it doesn’t need me to do much except step on the foot pedal, because the machine knows what to do. My straight-stitch machines make the nicest topstitching, too.

Beyond the Bounds of Believability

Beyond the Bounds of Believability

Papering the Cradles

Papering the Cradles