Thursday, January 29, 2015

When the sun comes out

The fog has finally left the area and we have sunshine once again!  The good weather gave me a burst of energy to run a few errands and do a little shopping.  When I came home I spread my goodies on the table, made myself a decaf cappuccino, and thought about what I would sew/crochet next.  I still have to finish my knitted slouch hat (on the decreasing part now, almost done), and add borders to the goose tracks quilt you see up there, which I'm making up as I go along.  I really hate thinking about what to quilt in all that white space. I just stare at it with a dumb face, then walk out of the room.  Oh well, no hurry.
The oven mitt was a Target purchase, to which I added some Liberty fabric yo-yo puffs.  It was the last stripped mitt they had, and I wish I could have bought more, because I think it turned out kinda cute. 
The wine cork plant marker is a Pinterest idea.  You just write the name of your plant on the cork with a permanent marker and stick it on a wooden skewer.  I have a pot in the backyard that's still full of thyme and chives, so I plopped it in there. After I took the picture, I forgot all about it.  Then my daughter found it a half hour later on the lawn chewed to smithereens. Apparently wine corks also make good doggie chew toys. Guess I won't be making any more of those.
Luna checking out Pinterest for more things to eat.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


How is everyone?  Still organizing and tidying up for the New Year?  I know I am. The weather is still poop, so no playing outside for me.  But that's what winter is all about anyway.  Staying inside, snuggling under quilts, puttering, baking, and watching movies. 
I cleaned out some kitchen drawers and threw the old dish cloths into the rag bin, so that means make more right?  I have a pile of Knit Picks dishie yarn that needs to be used up, so I made these while in the middle of a Sherlock marathon on Netflix.  Now a whole year before it's back on again!!!  Inspiration for dishcloths from here.  I swear, just show me one picture of a cute crocheted anything, and I'm diving into the yarn stash. 

I have 5 quilt tops waiting to be finished, so I pulled my finger out and pieced backings and cut binding for 3 of them, and I'm still working on my scraps, which are now even with the top of the container instead of spilling over.  I'm cutting everything into 5", 3.5", 3", and 2.5" squares. It feels like I'm getting somewhere.  New quilt started too!
Soon as I'm done with this post, I'm heading out to pick up my Mom.  We're going to see American Sniper with Bradley Beautiful Cooper.  Mom read the book, so she's looking forward to it.  I'll just stare at Brad.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Handwork for gray days

It's Tule fog season here in the central valley.  That means it's foggy when you go to bed at night, and foggy when you wake up. It makes for hazardous driving (in 2007 there was a 108 car pileup on the highway that runs through the valley), but is also beneficial to the fruit and nut orchards to help set their blossoms.
When there is heavy fog, everything drips.  If we're lucky the sun will come out briefly in the afternoon, like a big smile.  I usually have to force myself to do the yard work when it's like this.  Not because it's really cold, but because it's so damp and depressing outside.  It's much more pleasant inside, sewing in front of the fire.

I'm appliqueing my tulips onto their blocks.  It's been a long time since I appliqued anything, and I'm really enjoying it.  I have a quilting friend who taught me the back basting method (she does beautiful work), and always recommended using silk thread.  You need to get some. Your stitches will disappear into the fabric like magic.
The scissor keeper is from a tutorial I found here, (she made so many cute ones!) and it's pretty quick to make.  One of those objects that for me, is totally useless, but I still wanted one.  

This week I'm also trying to tame the beast that lives under my sewing table....
The Scrap bucket.  Seems like I just organized it last year yesterday. I'm sick of looking at it, digging through it and shoving it out of the way. Almost, for a second, I thought about buying another bucket and splitting up the pile. Then I found this which sounds doable. It's going to require a lot of sorting, ironing and cutting.
Then again, I might just take it out back and shoot it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Utility cake and quilt

I took my finished quilt out to the middle of the property, over by the old chicken coop.  The sky was white and hazy, like someone was shining a light through a glass of milk.  It made me squint.  But this quilt is so bright, especially those red blocks, I think you could find it in a snowstorm.
I started with 6 log cabin blocks, mostly made with Kaffe Fasset shot cottons, then added some Denyse Schmidt, a Phillip Jacobs floral, a pink and white seersucker, and an old plaid shirt from the Goodwill.  I was shooting for a Gees Bend/utilitarian kind of quilt made from recycled cloth. I didn't have a pattern in mind, I just figured I'd see what went together.  But while playing around with different block combinations I discovered something.
It's hard to re-create frugal, make-do quilts when you're picking from a fabric stash the size of Texas.  I had way too many choices in my cupboard. Utility quilts were usually made from Granny's old floral dress, Pa's worn work shirts, or tablecloths, or feed sacks. Whatever was handy. Because sometimes, that's all they had.  At first I threw everything I had at those log cabin blocks. It was a scrap orgy.  A scrap feast.  A scrap circus.
It looked like crap scrap.
After going back to study pictures of older utility type quilts, I realized my mistake. 
The work shirt, tablecloth, and floral dress would have been saved and put to use when there was enough to make a quilt.  Those few fabrics would have been repeated over and over throughout the quilt. I was trying too hard. As soon as I narrowed down my choices to a small handful, I got closer to the look I was after. It measures 54 x 60, and the backing was some old yardage of Robert Kaufman "Sakura" which I thought about giving away a few years ago. How silly of me.
It's not the prettiest, or most favorite quilt I ever made, but I think it was a good "lesson" quilt.

Now, have you got two apples, some flour, sugar, and cinnamon?  Of course you do.

Here is the recipe for an Apple Cake

Here are the pictures
Here are my modifications to the recipe....

It calls for a springform pan.  I have one but it would have required me to drag a chair across the kitchen to the highest cupboard and while on my tiptoes, on the chair, root around until I found it. There would have been lots of sweating and loud cursing, followed by assorted pans falling about my head.
Instead, I used my enamel baking dish which was within arms reach.

I did not have any buttermilk, so measured out 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar and added it to the 1/2 cup of milk.

I used bread flour instead of All Purpose Flour, because that's all I had.  The higher protein content in bread flour is the kiss of death if you're using it to make a cake.  But it still turned out great. (Can you tell that I really, really wanted to make this cake immediately?)

Before putting it in the oven, I sprinkled the top (generously) with raw sugar, then added sliced almonds.  This baked up to a sweet and crunchy crust.  I followed with a squirt of whipping creme right from the can. I ate some for breakfast and lunch, repeatedly.   I have no shame.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Quilty pleasures

A picture of an old quilt (c. 1950-1975) from Unconventional and Unexpected, American Quilts below the Radar was the layout inspiration for my latest project.  I'm just putting the binding on now, so more pictures to follow.  While I was at it I found a pattern in this book for a tulip block and started some low-volume paper piecing.

 Yep.  I'm happy.