Create a T-Shirt Quilt

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A homemade quilt is much more than a bedcover, it is pieces of our lives stitched together with love. You can make a personalized 48-by-72-inch quilt from your children’s favorite T-shirts that they’ve outgrown. The quilt will remind them of special events in their lives.

Quilt materials
15 T-shirts
15 121/2-by-121/2-inch squares of medium-weight fusible interfacing
41/4 yards pre-washed, 100-percent cotton fabric for borders and backing
48-by-72-inch batting or an old flannel sheet
One spool of matching thread and two skeins embroidery floss or tying floss
Construct the quilt top
Cut a 121/2-by-121/2-inch square around the image from each T-shirt.
Use an iron to press a square of interfacing to the back of each T-shirt.
• Arrange the T-shirt blocks three across and five down, and stitch them together with a quarter-inch seam allowance.

Cut and sew borders
• Cut six 61/2-by-44-inch strips from the border fabric. Sew a strip across the top and bottom of the quilt top with quarter-inch seams, trimming off the excess fabric from each side. Sew the remaining four strips into two long strips. Sew one long strip onto each side of the quilt, trimming off excess fabric.

Layer the quilt
Cut the rest of the cotton backing into two equal pieces and sew together to make a backing about 57 by 88 inches in size.
With the right side facing down, tape the backing to the floor. Place the batting or flannel sheet over the backing, smoothing it out to eliminate wrinkles.
Place the quilt top, right side up, on the filler, making sure to smooth out any wrinkles. Starting in the middle of the quilt, pin the quilt through all three layers, about every 7 inches, smoothing the material as you go.
Remove the masking tape. Tie your quilt with the floss about every 7 inches, starting in the middle and smoothing the material as you go. Push the needle and about 12 inches of thread through all three quilt layers and then back up, tying the threads in a square knot; you can then trim the thread ends to about 1 inch.
• Remove the pins and trim off excess filler; leaving 11/2 inches of backing all around. Fold and press a half-inch seam in the backing. Then fold a 1-inch seam over the quilt top, pin and stitch.

Finishing touches
• To make a label, use a small square of muslin material and a permanent marking pen. Write your name, the date, who the quilt was made for and anything else you want. Turn under all label edges and hand-sew it to a back corner of the quilt.

Joanne Kennedy
Plattsburgh, New York
Great Goat Grub
Here’s a great winter treat for your goats. Every autumn when the leaves fall, we put them in the sun to dry until they are crunchy. When they are thoroughly dry, we put them in large grain or garbage bags and store them in the shed until the snow flies.

On winter evenings, when we tuck in the goats and sheep for the night, we give them a few handfuls of the dry leaves. As we close the barn door, all we can hear is the sound of crunching leaves from content animals; it’s much like the sound of people munching potato chips.

Recycling leaves in this way not only helps clear our property of them, it also makes for very satisfied animals.
Danby, Vermont
Use Yarrow for Healing
Several years back, I sliced my index finger with a rotary cutter, down into the muscle, leaving no flap of skin to cover the wound. My brother-in-law treated me with all the usual first-aid techniques, but couldn’t stop the bleeding.

Finally, I listened to my grandmother’s insistent little voice in my ear and sent my husband out to cut a yarrow leaf. We crushed the leaf into a wad the size of a pecan and bound it over the gushing wound with gauze and tape. In the process, one drop of blood about the size of a pencil eraser came through the bandage.

Twelve hours later, I gently cut off the bandage (no more blood other than the original spot), plucked off the yarrow leaf, and never had to bandage the wound again. Yarrow truly is a “blood stopper.”

Hewitt, Minnesota
Make Exotic Lavender Nougat Candy
Nougat is a traditional French candy—originating in the Roman Empire—made with sugar or honey, egg whites and roasted nuts. Infused with lavender, this version of the sweet treat tastes like summer in Provence. Once you have tasted lavender nougat, you’ll know why it was made for special occasions as an offering to the gods.

The story I prefer tells that a farmer’s wife created nougat candy to take advantage of plentiful almonds, honey and eggs from her farm. I am sure she also added a touch of lavender.

This modern version of the candy can be a tasty holiday gift. Wrap individual pieces in colorful foil wrappers for a festive touch.

Lavender flowers give this confection its fragrant flavor. If you have lavender in your garden, you can harvest the flowers in the summer. Simply dry and store them in an airtight container in your pantry. Or you can buy dried lavender at natural food stores.

Lavender Almond Nougat
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp lavender flowers
11/3 cups light corn syrup
2 egg whites
1 cup blanched almonds
2 tbsp butter
To make lavender sugar, blend a quarter cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of lavender flowers in a food processor. Add the remaining 13/4 cup sugar, mix well and store. To allow time for the flowers to perfume the sugar, prepare the lavender sugar at least 3 days before you make the candy.
Combine 6 tablespoons lavender sugar with 1 tablespoon water and a third cup light corn syrup in a heavy 2 quart saucepan, stir over low heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Cover and cook about 3 minutes. While the syrup mixture is cooking, butter an 8-by-8-inch pan and dust with powdered sugar.
Remove the saucepan cover and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Continue cooking the syrup over medium heat, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 234 degrees (soft-ball stage). Remove the pan from the stove and let it sit while you do the next step.
Beat 2 egg whites with a mixer until very stiff with dry peaks. Slowly add the hot syrup to the egg whites, beating at least 5 minutes until the mixture is thick and creamy, like marshmallow cream.
In a heavy quart pan, blend 1 cup light corn syrup and 1 cup lavender sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring until the mixture begins to boil. Cover and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to boil rapidly without stirring, until the candy thermometer reaches 285 degrees. Remove from heat.
Pour this syrup into the first mixture, beating well. The nougat will be glossy white, the consistency thick and sticky. Stir in 1 cup blanched almonds and 2 tablespoons butter.
• Pour into the prepared pan, and set in a cool place for 12 hours. Remove nougat from the pan and cut into 1-by-1-inch pieces.

Kathy Gehrt Seattle, Washington
No More Insulation Itch
Anyone using fiberglass insulation knows that a case of itching almost always follows the installation. To prevent this reaction, liberally apply cornstarch or talcum powder over your body before you start the project. You’ll be amazed at how this simple trick reduces the aggravating itch of working with fiberglass.

Huntsville, Texas
Heavenly Hot Rocks
I was lying in bed, my toes like ice, reading a historical novel that mentioned servants warming bed sheets with hot irons. Earlier in the evening, I had read an article about hot stone massage. It did not take a genius to envision combining these two bits of information.

Since a woodstove is roaring in the corner of my bedroom on most cold nights, it is simple to heat the rocks on top of the stove before bedtime.

The rocks warm quickly, so I slip a cotton sock over my hand and use it to pick up the hot rock, then pull the sock inside out over my hand, leaving the rock inside the sock. It is ready to be placed in my bed. Ahhhh—the heavenly feel of a warm rock on a cold night.

My husband loves a good back rub. I wrap the rocks in a cotton towel and warm his back. After the rock is cool enough to hold in my bare hand, I unwrap it and coat the rock with massage oil. Gliding the rock over large muscle areas makes deep tissue massage a breeze. Our favorite rock is relatively flat and oval. I can hold one end at an angle and push the rock along a muscle with the other hand to work out really tense knots. You can collect different shaped rocks for different large muscle groups.

Most river rocks have been smoothed from centuries of tumbling in the water, but you must be sure to find dry rocks, or allow your rocks to dry thoroughly. Water can be trapped inside the rocks and when the water is heated and expands, the rocks can explode. To make sure the rocks are safe, heat them a few times on a fire outside before heating them on your woodstove. Granite rocks work well, because they absorb less water than sandstone or limestone.