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Friday, November 30, 2012

Funky Pinwheel

I joined the block swap on craftster this Fall.   I've always been intrigued by bees and round robins and other ways of sharing the construction of a quilt.  This seemed like a good way to get my feet wet.  After all,  how hard can it be to make three blocks of each pattern? 

These are two of my three pinwheel blocks.  The original pattern came with templates.  One of the swap partners came up with rotary cutting instructions.  Looking at the first ones, I realized I didn't exactly follow either set of instructions.  The block worked out fine in spite of that.  The second one is made with some sunpaint fabric.  I've got one more of these to go.  I think orange fabric is calling my name on that one. 

Chalkboard Fabric Questions

All the tutorials say to use oil cloth on the back of a chalkboard fabric placemat.

A.  I don't have any oil cloth.

B.  I do have some iron-on vinyl but not enough to make more than one or two.

So, do I just go for it without or do I wait until I can get to the store and get the 'right' stuff? 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Little Quilt that Grew

Here is a picture of the quilt monster, otherwise known as Spud Three, rounding the corner of the deck at the end of our photo shoot.  And below is the story of how one tiny little project grew and grew and grew.

 Checking my in-box one day, I found this tutorial from the Missouri Star Quilt Company: Big Star Quilt.  I watched the video and decided that I could probably manage to make a star quilt following those directions.  I was a bit concerned, as the size of one block was larger than my usual finished projects.  However, I decided to pull out some of my random (and to be perfectly honest, not particularly high quality) Christmas fabrics to try it out. This was going to be a quick, one evening project and then I could get back to my other obligations. 

I made a couple stars.  It is a simple technique.  I threw them together and I did not take the time to trim my blocks.  (After all, I was singing the second verse to my famous quilting anthem "Corners Don't Match".  You know, the one that goes "Points cut off and I don't care".)  I was playing with inexpensive materials just to see what would turn up.  Besides, this is a one month a year quilt.  The blocks are huge.  There will be plenty of room to adjust things later.... right?

A short delay and I happened upon a sale and the local fabric store for a REALLY good deal on Christmas fabric.  I bought a couple more prints and some binding.  I made some more stars.  By the time I had 5 1/2, I figured I would stitch them together into a quick throw for the holidays.  No biggie. 

The only problem was that the stars really needed to have some space between them; well that and the fact that I'd boofed on the final 1/2 star and didn't feel like ripping it out.  I laid out a random spacing, still within the operational definition of a lap robe.  Then Spud One jumped into the mix and laid it out as a nine patch.  We into the bed quilt zone now but still manageable.  Then he said it needed the half star at the top.  Once said, it could not be undone and I had to cut more fabric to fit that in. 

I was getting ready to sew it together and contemplating a border when he popped up again.  Once he suggested that the bottom star absolutely HAD to be pulled out to the edge there was no other way to do it.  That one took me a day to figure out my measurements and wait to review them.  But again, not too difficult.  Not too difficult until you realize how big it was getting to be.  

By this time the wee quick quilt had eaten the design floor and Spud Three was called in to move some furniture and approve the placement of the colors. When you are making a simple nine patch, there aren't very many seams.  When the blocks are 26 inches (give or take) on a side, the seams take a bit longer to sew.   (That is Spud Three laying it out on the lawn so I could take a picture from the deck.  I swear it looked MUCH bigger in my sewing machine!)

Yay!  The flimsy was finished.  Now for the backing.  You may have seen a few posts about the quilt that ate my stash.  I had a couple pieces of Christmas fabric that would work.  However, the quilt really needed to have the white backing.  That meant a trip to the fabric store on (cue music of doom now) Black Friday.  And no, I am not one of those people who can stand to wait in ginormous lines for a bargain.  I just wanted to get the fabric I needed to finish the quilt and move on (Dearie!).  It was always clear to me that the quilt was going to have a scrappy binding and that the binding was only going to be on three sides.  I was going to have to figure out how to do the knife edge on the top row.  

I kept looking at that boofed 1/2 star.  It really wanted to be part of the quilt.  The only place for it was the back.  It had to fold over onto the back.  Yet more time, measuring and thinking to make sure I could get it to work.  Spuds One and Three were very helpful in getting laid out, making the first seam at the top and then helping to smooth things as I ironed the batting in place.  Yes, there I was crawling around on the design floor with my iron!  Thank goodness Mr-of-course-I-support-your-quilting-what-on-Earth-are-you-doing-now was out-of-town for that little project. 

I'd never used iron on batting.  It was really the only way to go for this project.  I did discover why the professional quilters dread the phrase "you can just quilt it out".  All of those untrimmed blocks resulted in a corner that would not quilt out no matter what.  Another verse!  "Won't quilt out and I don't care."   Much as I love it, having used inexpensive materials and having some piecing issues, there was no way I was going to pay for subject a professional to quilting this piece.  I just started shoving it through my little machine.  (Which almost immediately there after decided it needed another visit to the repair shop for a little R and R!)

 The quilting is squiggly lines, which my LQS guru assures me was a smart choice because then there would be no expectation of them being straight.  As if!  The binding is scrappy.  The bottom corners are rounded and the top edge is finished without a binding.  The whole thing measures about 87 inches by 93 inches.  That is almost dead on for Queen size.  (I swear it was bigger on my sewing machine!)  The fabrics are cotton and cotton muslin.  The batting is polyester. 

And that is the story of how my one evening, one block project ended up taking over the whole house, the better part of a week and exhausted my machine.  

(I swear it looked bigger in my machine!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sneak Peek: Giant Stars

My little quilt that 'growed' is functionally done.  Here is a quick cell phone picture of some of it.  Each of the stars is 26 inches across.  I have no idea how I am going to get a picture of it, but I'll try when the sun is out tomorrow. 

Monday, November 26, 2012


My current project is just shy of king size.  If I'd known that, I'd probably have added a couple more thingies onto the edge.  After all, what is more bulk and weight when I can already barely shove it through the machine.  This quick little Christmas quilt has taken on a life of its own. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bama Bound

Well, not quite.  the binding is ready to be stitched on.  I figured I'd better get in a quick picture.  This quilt is 50 x 72.  It is likely to head off to Tuscaloosa before I can get the binding finished.  It is for Spud 2 who needs an additional blankie in his dorm room.  

 It is embroidery machine quilted with these 4 inch Alabama A's that I digitized for the purpose.  My first draft digitization had 3 rounds of stitching.  I was going to take it down to one, but the gang all liked the three rows and wouldn't let me  change it.  They do look kinda cute.  The big A in the center is fused, raw-edge applique. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gradaute to Garbage (Garbanzo) Stew

Image from Graphics Fairy*

I was 19  and in my first year of college when my Dad earned his Ph.D. 

I was 29 when I earned Ph.D.  My brother earned his the year before.

I was 32 when I got my first full time faculty position.  My office was one floor down from Dad and across campus from my brother.  My dad liked to use the phone even less than I do (which is saying a lot).  However, I think it amused him the most to ask "which one?" when the caller asked for Dr W

We  had a parties for each occasion.  But the first was Dad's!  My sister and I baked the cake.  Ask her how to spell CoNGrAtuLaTiONs (Filling in the top row of a periodic table).  I am sure it wasn't my fault!   Mom found the recipe for Garbanzo Stew and made a giant pot for the party.  It was in an old Better Homes and Gardens magazine or recipe card.  She, and I, have been making it ever since. Some one called it Garbage Stew.  We have called it that ever since. 

It is just as well I can't find the original recipe.  If followed precisely, it makes for a pretty thin gruel.  When I looked at it, I realized how much we have modified it.  What follows, as is customary for me, is a general guideline.  Soup is a very forgiving food to prepare.  Unlike baking, measurements do not need to be precise.  That makes it pretty simple to use what you have on hand.  The trade off for that simplicity is that you need to season it to suit the particular brand of ingredients and your personal taste.

Good quality smoked sausage sliced
1 package bacon, diced
Stew Beef cubed
Ham bone or cubed ham
Garbanzo Beans
Potatoes peeled and diced (about the size of the cubes of meat)
Chicken stock

Fry the bacon in a large stock pot with a lid.  Remove and drain on paper towels.  Pour off fat.  Fry sausage in same pot until browned.  Remove to plate with bacon.  Cool and refrigerate bacon and sausage. 

Sear beef cubes in same stock pot in a bit of the fat from the sausage.   If using fresh garlic, add one or two crushed cloves for the last minute of searing.  Drain fat.  Add ham, approximately 1 tsp granulated garlic (if not using fresh) and cover with water.   Add at least on can or better one box of chicken stock.  Cover completely with water.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover pan with lid and allow to simmer on low for several hours until beef is tender.  (Alternately you can braise it in the oven or you could transfer to your crock pot.) 

Once beef is tender, add drained canned garbanzo beans, and cubed potatoes.  Bring to a rolling simmer and cook until potatoes are tender.  Add in sausage and bacon.  Heat through.  Skim fat from surface. 

Now is the time to adjust the seasonings.  Add more garlic.  This soup should be very garlicky.  Add lots of cracked fresh black pepper.  Add parsley if you like  If you need more liquid add more chicken stock.  Season slowly and taste as you go.  You will know when you get to a rich, slightly salty, hearty soup.

Serve with salad, bread or in a mug as you greet your holiday or celebratory guests.

*I don't have any digital copies of pictures from Dad's graduation party.  This image from Graphics Fairy, absolutely cracked me up.  It actually looks a bit like my dad (except for the too big suit).  More importantly, the cartoon style is very similar to the cartoons he always drew. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why Measure? Stacking Coins Tutorial

I really hate to measure.  It is mostly because I have a very difficult time with precision.  It seems such as waste to spend time carefully measuring things when it is likely to be off when I am finished no matter what.  Therefore I spend a lot of time figuring out how not to measure or how to fix the wonk on my blocks because I didn't measure or I didn't sew carefully enough.  While I am more than happy to do improvisational and/or wonky, there are times when I really want to make a normal, traditional, not weird quilt.  

I bought a jelly roll on sale and didn't know what to do with it.  I wanted to make a stacked coin.  quilt.  I looked a couple official patterns that wanted me to measure and cut pieces.  No way!  I figured I could do it without all that.  What follows is the method I used to piece a stacked coin quilt.  I didn't stress out over measurements.  There are probably eleventy-seven great videos and seventy bajillion better ways to do this.  Hopefully this one will help other ruler challenged individuals. 

Fabric. I started with a jelly roll: strips of print that are 2.5 inches wide and about 42 inches long.  I cut an equal number of strips of background fabric that is also 2.5 inches wide and the width of the fabric.  You may need more or less background fabric depending upon how big you make your coins.  ( I said, I didn't measure. I don't count so well either!)  You may use any width/length of fabric you like.  The only 'rule' here is that the background fabric and the print need to be the same width. There is one other helpful 'rule'.  Make sure that the length of the print strips is less than the final width of your coin stack.  (On my jelly roll strip, I made the coins 50 inches long.  The jelly roll strip are 42 inches.  That way I don't have to worry about my coins running off the edge of the quilt.) In this example, I'm making the coins 12 inches long.)

Line up the strips, right sides together.

Sew a 1/4 inch seam across the end. 

You now have an even longer strip!

Re-align the strips but do not have the ends meet.  Place the end of the background fabric somewhere along the length of the print strip.  In the picture above you can see the fabrics positioned right sides together with a tail of print fabric to the right of the end of the background strip.

Sew the seam.  This time you will be 1/4 inch from the end of the background fabric.  Again, you can see the tail of printed fabric to the right in the picture above.

Trim the tail even with the seam allowance.  

Reserve the tail for another coin.

You now have a big long loop of fabric.

For centered coins, fold the loop in half matching up the seams.  If you want a more random stack, simply make the fold somewhere in the print fabric.

Ooops.  There is one bit of measuring.   Place the folded loop on your cutting mat. Measure from the fold in the print half the length of your final coin.  For the jelly roll quilt, I wanted 50 inch coins.  Half of that length is 25 inches.  I measured 25 inches from the print fold to make my cut.  In this example the final coin is 12 inches.  I cut the loop at half that length or at 6 inches. 

You should only be cutting through background fabric.  If you lay out the fabric and it looks like you will cut through the print, simply adjust your fold until you have at least on inch of background on each side of the print. 

Cut through both layers at that mark and you have your coin ready to stack. 

Now remember that tail?  You can do the same thing with it.  Line up the end of the tail with a piece of the background fabric.  (The only thing you have to keep in mind is that you want the total length of these two strips when sewn together to be longer than the final length of your finished coin.)

Sew the seam.  Line up the ends.  In this case the print strip is short so I lined the background up with the end of the print to make my loop.

 Line up the seams for a centered coin. Make your cut at half the final coin length. 

OR... fold anywhere in the print.  Make the cut at half the final coin length.   (You may notice in the picture that I will still have a piece of background fabric about 4 inches long leftover after I make my final cut.  Save those scraps and sew them onto the end of print fabric.  You don't have to make a loop every time.  Sew the scraps onto the print.  Fold in the print.  Cut in the background fabric half the finished coin length away from the fold.) 

Voila!  Coins ready to stack. Sew the long seams and you have your quilt ready to go.  This is very forgiving.  If you don't measure perfectly you will end up with a little wonk the on the sides.  That can be evened up without having much effect on the overall size of the quilt.  You should sew each seam in the opposite direction.  That helps prevent bowing and stretch on long strips.  I added 10 inch strips of background fabric to the sides of the jelly roll quilt to make the dimensions work out properly. 

I hope this makes sense.  Let me know if I need to clarify anything.  And let me know if you make one this way!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christmas Quilt - In

image from Graphics Fairy. 

Since moving to St Louis, the holidays haven't been the same.  To be more precise, my ability to mentally prepare for them has not been the same.  More years than not the weather is beautiful here.  Fall comes later and Spring comes earlier than I am used to. St Louis is warmer than our last address which was a bit North of here.   Here it is Thanksgiving and the weather is just starting to feel like I should be getting ready for Halloween.   I have found myself shopping for Poinsettias in sandals.  I just haven't made that transition.  

This year I am attempting to make a mental shift early enough to enjoy the season.  I'm making a quick Christmas quilt and I am playing the all Christmas Music radio station on my computer.  Join me on my Sunday night Christmas quilt in.  The coolest thing is that you can be listening to the same music at the same time.  How cool is that?  (OK, the internet has been amazing for quite some time now, but once in a while it become obvious to me.) 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Papa's Cranberry Relish

When I was a kid, my dad cooked a few things on special occasions.  The things he made were extra special for being done so rarely.  We'd have candied popcorn on a snowy evening.  He'd make peanut brittle for Christmas.  On very rare occasions we'd get some of his fudge.  It was like a chemistry lab with thermometers and boiling points and stirring just so.  What a treat.

The thing he made most often was cranberry relish.   We had it at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  His recipe is not a jello mold.  Nor is it a cooked chutney.  It is fresh cranberry relish.  There is nothing that tastes more like the holidays to me than that. 

He would get out the grinder.  When we were small, I believe he used a meat grinder of the sort that clamps on to the table top.  I don't really picture that.  By the late  sixties or early seventies he got an electric grinder or sausage maker.  To this day, it only ever gets used to make cranberry relish. 

As a kid it was fascinating to watch as the the berries went in the top and came out all chopped up.  It was amazing to see celery go into the mix.  Who would think that celery would add anything but yuck to a sweet tart treat like cranberry relish.  (For the record, once I started making it on my own, I tried it without the celery.  While you can't actually taste the celery in the mix it makes all the difference between meh and wow.) 

Now my dad was pretty clever and he made it seem that running the grinder was a job that only some one of superior talent, care and skill could do.  Not anyone would be able to push those berries down the tube and hear that satisfying pop.  You had to work up to it.  First you had to learn to sort the berries.  They need to be washed.  Then you need to pull out the good berries and leave behind the stems and mushy ones.  If you were lucky, you got to put the last few berries in the machine.  Pop! 

Of course, in pretty short order, one graduated to master relish maker.  After a few sessions of supervising, dad stopped making the relish all together.  He became the taster and I became the relish maker.  I told you my dad was a clever guy!  Now he did step in to make relish after I left home and he taught Spud 2 how to make it when he was small.  Spud 2 has become the relish maker in our house.  We use the grinder attachment for the Kitchenaid mixer.  But I know exactly where the electric grinder is on the shelf at mom's house when we visit at the holidays!

A big part of making cranberry relish is the tasting.  Cranberry relish varies with the type of apple, the sweetness of the oranges and the berries.  You absolutely have to taste it as you add the sugar.  You cannot simply add 1 cup sugar and be done.  You could end up with something so sour you can't talk or so sweet your teeth hurt.  You must taste, add and taste again.  It is part of the ritual.  But then rituals evolve and persist for good reason.  The very last thing to go into the mix is chopped walnuts. 
Dad loved it with walnuts.  The spuds, not so much.  It is up to you whether you add them in or not.  But whatever you do, don't run them through the grinder with the rest.  Chop them separately and add them just before serving.

1 package fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
1 orange cut up  with the peel on
1 orange peeled (plus about half of the zest)
1 1/2 stalks celery chopped
1 large sweet crispy apple chopped (such as gala)

Put all ingredients through a food grinder (food processor would likely work but I've never done it that way).  Stir in sugar to taste.  Depending upon the tartness of the apples, cranberries and orange you may need 3/4 - 1 1/2 cup sugar.  Add a little at a time and taste.

Refrigerate.  You may stir in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts just before serving it you like. 
Recipe can be doubled. 

*Crossposted at Recipes and Prayers.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Progress with no picture

You may recall this quilt from quite some time ago.  It is all stitched with the side panels added.  It is going to the quilter tomorrow.  I am torn about sending this one off for professional quilting.  It is mostly muslin and a jelly roll I found at Tuesday Morning.  While it isn't junky fabric, it also isn't the best quilter's quality.  But the quilt itself turned out pretty cool.  And Mr-its-my-quilt-so-I-have-an-opinion has decided it needs to be quilted in circles.  It is too big for me to handle anything other than straight lines on my own.  Actually it is close to the biggest one I've done ever.  So, off to the quilter it goes.  Perhaps with this off my list, I will be able to write up the tutorial for making the stacked coin strips without measuring.  I took the pictures when I was stitching the center panel.  I just need to re-think the text and get it posted. 

If the sun is shining tomorrow, I will try to get a picture of the top before it goes walk about. 

Things (I've been making) and Stuff (I've been doing)

Some random projects and pictures to share today.  I've been working pretty hard on things, making progress and getting some small finishes.  Here are some of them...

These are my first blocks for each partner in the Craftster block swap.  I am NOT a precision piecer.  Fortunately they are working out so far, but....

 I think I love this block, but I am not sure that I want to make a lot of them.  Using templates was problematic for me.  Once one of the partners came up with a rotary cutting process it was a lot easier.

  I think that I like these paint box blocks.  They are not very hard to do and look really cool.

This partner wants boy-ish log cabin blocks.  They are kind of a funky log cabin with variations on a color scheme in each round.  I have all of these done but no pics as of yet.  I had plenty of boy fabrics to use. 

Sadly, this picture is all my own.  A pile of patches all ready to trim.  I was working hard to get things finished before my machine decided to go back to the shop. I am hoping this is a recreational visit rather than a serious problem.  Either way, I'll be unable to stitch for at least a week.  Ugh. 

  This is a special order.  I love the way it turned out! 

  Another special order.  These ladies 'friends of M' don't want a patch, they want a pin.  I put Christmas fabric on the back and will hand stitch a pin or pin back onto them.

  I know it doesn't seem like much, but I was able to successfully draw (electronically) and digitize the open heart on the left.  That is a big step for me.  Drawing with a mouse is not easy for me. 

 I think I've shared these badges with you already. But I don't remember talking about the book.  It was able to clean it up quite a bit and then added the wee tiny heart on the cover.  This was the first digitizing project where I felt like I had some control over the process.  (I'm using free software called Design ERA and learning by trial and error so this is a big step for me.)

Today I will be putting away all of the spools of thread tossed hither and yon in my mad dash to finish before the repairman arrived at the shop.  (Else it would be 2 weeks before I might have my machine back).   I will be pulling out my wee BL9 and doing some piecing. I  have a fair number of quilty projects to get going and an appointment with a long arm quilter on Thursday.  (OK, the quilt group has an appointment and I am sneaking one in the batch.) 

My friend Miss H has been taking some pictures for me.  Here is Mr B and the orange quilt. 

Lastly, I've been winding down my GN year.  Our annual meeting was this week.  It would be a really fun celebration if I didn't have to prep and present the annual report!  But it is done for another year and I've only a couple more meetings before I can take my annual powder until after the holidays. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Corners are Unparalleled. No Really!

 OK, so they probably are parallel, I'm not THAT bad at sewing a straight line, but they don't always match.  I was posting this quilt over on Craftster.org.  In the process I again looked at this picture which shows some pretty even stitching (for me) but the corners don't meet.  A random thought entered my head and .... Well, here's the rest of that story.

My new quilting Anthem... (to the tune of Jimmy Crack Corn*)

Corner's don't meet and I don't care. 
Corner's don't meet and I don't care
Corner's don't meet and I don't care
Quilt nazi's go away!

*I am of a certain age wherein grade school music education included all sorts of songs  that are probably very unPC today.  I am also the sort who gets even with the ear worm by making up my own lyrics to whatever tune happens to be stuck today.  Fortunately for everyone involved, I can only remember the chorus so today's quilt anthem is mercifully short.
It seems, my silly song left the impression that I was unhappy with my unmet corners.  The reality is, well here is one of my responses. (Again from craftster..)

Trust me.  I do not feel bad at all about my wonky corners.  I gave that issue up on the very first quilt I pieced.  The one that was so out of kilter, the kind lady at the quilt shop told me not to tear it out and re-do it but to just finish up and move on (dearie.  Yes, I still hear her voice saying that in my head. It is my real quilting mantra... finish it up and move on... Dearie)  I just came up with my little song as I was cropping the photos on the the one that showed the fabric best happened to have the wonky corner.  Made me giggle!

While I admire perfection, am in awe of quilters who can make perfect corners and even stitches, I see no reason for anyone to give up on a project or worse, not even try because they think it needs to be perfect.  A very few of us will even enter at Paducah or Houston, let alone take honors, but all of us can get those hugs and shiny eyed looks and the whispered "for me?'s".  It would be a shame to forgo them for an unrealistic ideal.   Strive to be better?  Go for it!  Quit because it doesn't look like the picture?  Phooey! 
 I thought it would be worth a minute to two to re-post them together here. I really do want people to try something, anything, rather than sit idle because it won't be perfect.  You have to start somewhere.  I know that my quilting has greatly improved with each new project.  I learn from all of my mistakes.  But I finish and move on*.   Maybe with practice someday you  or I will produce a masterpiece. It won't happen without making something.

*Dearie!  You may have thought I could say that without it, but I can't.  I just won't happen. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Orange Stash Finish!

Yay!  I am finally done with this one.  I started it over the summer.  It is the same as the Kaffee Quilt I started, finished and gifted at the same time.  This one was primarily stash fabrics.  The little slice of fabric you can see in the middle on the left is the one Mr-I-need-a-quilt-for-a-gift choose.

 I ended up using the sunflower with the dragon fly as the anchor fabric.  It has the orange, teal, brown, yellow/green and white in it.  From there, I just pulled anything that had those colors in it and used it. 

I love the binding fabric.  It was a purchase.  I really like the orange, yellow and white plaid. 

This quilt is all 6 inch squares.  It was hand quilted with pearl cotton.  

My corners, they don't always meet.  I got over that a very long time ago!

Here is the whole thing laid out on the coffee table.  It was supposed to be a table topper.  I think it is probably too busy for that.  I'll have to ponder where it goes or to whom it really belongs. 

Details:  approximately 34 inches square.  Made from quilters cotton in my stash.  The backing is muslin.  Machine pieced.  Hand quilted with number 3 and number 5 pearl cotton.  Binding attached by machine and finished by hand.