Monthly Archives: December 2010

Darla’s Done — What Next?

Going into 2010, I had three major projects in the works. With Darla off the books, I’m left with Dalarnanana and Henrik Jane and the hopes that I can finish one of them in 2011. Dalarnanana is a fine quilt and all, and I have about 60 of 200 blocks ready to go, but… It gets a little boring. All those triangles! All that red and brown! All that pressing every five minutes! Ugh. So that leaves Henrik Jane! When we last saw HJ, it was looking like this:

Henrik Jane (Sept 2010)

Progress as of September 2010

I was hand-piecing zillions of nine-patches made from 1 3/4″ squares; I’d made somewhere around 36 or so nine-patches out of the 225 I needed. It was slow-going to say the least. The idea that I’d ever finish this quilt was sort of laughable. So I decided to rethink my approach and came up with hand-piecing 25 81-patches instead of 225 nine-patches. I’m a genius. ::eyeroll:: One 81-patch later I put the project back in it’s pizza box, and put it aside for 3 months. It took Schnookie coming up with the idea of machine-piecing the strips to make the 81-patches to get me to dig it back out again two weeks ago. Brilliant! I still get the joy of hand-piecing the strips together, but this is what the project looks like now:

Henrik Jane Progress At End of 2010

Progress as of December 2010

Holy cow, right?! I might actually finish this puppy in 2011! Seriously, while I’m not a New Year’s resolution kinda gal, I am trying to encourage myself to dedicate my energies to this quilt until it’s done. Sure, I’ll work on other stuff too (including a top secret project, as well as my “Bliss” quilt which I’m 75% of the way through but which I haven’t photographed yet [I’m making it exactly like a store model I saw and thus the lack of creativity has led to me not bothering to take pictures]), but my goal (not “resolution”, just “goal”) is to do some work on HJ every week. I think that’s doable, don’t you?

Henrik Jane Beauty Shot

It had better be doable because I really can’t wait to see what this will look like all quilted and washed. I was a little freaked out that I wasn’t getting the contrast right on the nine-patches, but based on these pictures, and based on how every other quilt I’ve finished has ended up (i.e. now I can’t find the things that made me freak out while making them), I think I can stop freaking out. (By the way, the fabric is “Nicey Jane” by Heather Bailey, and the pattern is “Chippewa Nine-Patch” by Minick & Simpson.)

As for other projects I’ll be puttering on, one has to be mentioned for it’s sheer mind-blowing awesomeness. Behold…

Clamshells Without Paper Piecing

Clamshells made with running stitch! I KNOW! We can pause for a moment to wait for the Earth to get back on its axis.

So anyway, back in September, Schnookie gave me a stack of fat quarters from the V&A Museum’s Liberty reproduction line:

V&A Liberty Fabrics

She suggested I use it to make a clamshell quilt, specifically the one in the Kaffe Fasset “Museum Quilts” book. She’s a genius! (In trying to find a picture of the inspiration quilt, I stumbled on this — a Flickr set by the V&A shop explaining where each of the fabrics came from! How awesome is that?) I ordered clamshell papers and then put them all away because I was daunted by how much work paper piecing is. Then finally, over Christmas, I googled clamshells to get a tip on how to best handle basting the fabric to the paper. Instead I found a video on how to piece clamshells with running stitch. I was all, “But… it’s just curved seams… I’ve done curved seams… WHOA.” Who needs papers?! So I cut a few out (using a handy acrylic template) and got to work.

Clamshell Plan

The quilt (sorry I couldn’t get a better shot of the inspiration one) is going to be made up of clamshell diamonds, each with the fabrics laid out in a mirror-image pattern. I think this whole running-stitch approach is working. I’m not convinced I’m being precise enough but, hey, what’s the worst that happens? I mean, it’s still clamshells. Made with running stitch! Sorry, I am not sure the novelty of that will ever wear off.

{Posted by Pookie}

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Christmas Elves Were Busy

We recently decided to renovate our basement den to be used a more of a sewing room (and a potting shed, and a secondary living room, and an auxiliary pantry, and Boomer’s mudroom; it’s going to be a mega-multi-purpose room!) so I decided for Christmas, I’d give Boomer and Schnookie sewing boxes so they could have a second set of sewing tools downstairs. I picked out a cute blue paisley number for Boomer, and found a really cute vintage basket on Etsy for Schnookie. I loaded them up as best I could with sewing doodads (I went on three separate trips searching for needle threaders but had no luck, and was going to get scissors, but both of them went and impulse-bought new Ginghers just before Thanksgiving, those jerks!). They were missing one element though… Something handmade!

Pincushions

I made pincushions! I snuck around on my comp days and whipped these puppies up in total secrecy. (Well, sort of. I ordered roving from Jo-Anns and Boomer brought the box in from the mail. She reported to Schnookie that I’d ordered a box of air, so Schnookie figured out I was making pincushions. I have no doubt that she thought I was being all cool and fancy and making awesome felt pincushions. She was wrong. Heh.)

I made Boomer’s out of “Charlevoix”, by Minick & Simpson:

I knew Boomer loves the red, white, and blue look, so I picked one of my favorite florals from that line and paired it with a bold red stripe. I picked little stars and stripes for the backing, and actually (for once) was careful to cut the stripes nice and straight. I used a white button to finish it off. Happy stitching, Boomer!

For Schnookie’s, I tried to find fabrics that looked a little vintage-y to match the feel of her sewing box:

I can’t remember what these fabrics are, but we picked the ones for the front up in Dallas. I liked the unusual mustardy color, and picked a button that looked as close as I could find to the right tone. I didn’t have anything that matched really well for the backing, so I picked something in Schnookie’s favorite color, green. About a week after I finished this up, she announced she wanted to start making a scrappy quilt using lots of greens. I was so sure she’s pull the dandelions out of the stash and be all, “Why is there a five-inch hole in this cut?!” Happy stitching, Schnookie!

As for me, I was the lucky recipient of a stack of absolutely awesome fabric:

Christmas Fabric

(Sorry, this picture seemed like it was in better focus when I took it. Oh well.)

I love some many of the funky Japanese prints you see all over, but I’ve been too chicken to buy any, figuring it’s all heavier weight canvasy stuff. Good think Schnookie surprised me with a bunch on Christmas, because I’ve discovered some of it is, in fact, perfect for hand-piecing! This gorgeous stack includes: really cute Scandinavian-style Kokka prints, including an adorable pink-and-brown cheater cloth and one with sparkly elephants and camels; a stunning vintage-button print; some Eleanor Grosch whales (to use in my AMNH quilt); one of my favorite prints from 2010 — the Kokka Trefle carnival print; and two Alexander Henry June Bug bird prints that I’m just completely over the moon for. Thank you SO much, Schnookie! I think 2011 is going to be a phenomenal quilting year!

{Posted by Pookie}

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No, I Mean It, Darla’s Really, Really Finished

A few months ago, I posted that Darla was finished. What I should have said was the top to Darla was finished. She still needed to be quilted, bound, and washed. Well guess what’s happened since then?! Darla’s been quilted, bound, and washed! WOOOOOOO!!!

Darla Totally Finished

I met the long-arm quilter at Pennington Quilt Works after work one day, telling Boomer and Schnookie not to bother coming along for the big reveal. Back when we lived in Arizona, it was always so much fun to get stuff from the framer because everyone in the store would put what they were doing down to gather around and lavish praise on the piece and the stitcher; sadly the quilt store has not proven to be as ego-boosting. I figured I’d go in, pay for my quilt, and head on home. Instead, the quilter made sure everyone came over to see Darla! There were three separate show and tells for all the people who walked in after the initial showing off session! My ego was boosted to the stratosphere! Heh. The best part was when someone said, “So you make this quilt with chain piecing, right?” Every hour I spent hand-piecing the thousands of pieces that went into each block flashed before my eyes. My reply? “You should chain piece it, yes.”

Darla Finished in 2010

The main appeal of this pattern was that it was going to make a giant quilt. Putting the final binding stitches in, I was so excited to have a massive coverlet-sized quilt for my bed. I tossed it in the washer, tossed it in the dyer, then tossed it on my bed. Then I said, “WTF?!? It’s a doll quilt!!!” Seriously, it shrank like you wouldn’t believe. The quilting is very dense (and lovely; I seem to have neglected to take a close-up shot of it, but take my word for it, it’s swirly and intricate, and works really well with the girly prints) and it’s all cotton, so of course it shrank. But dang, it shrank A LOT. It was… a little depressing. Fortunately, though, in the last few weeks, it’s stretched out quite a bit. It is now, I dare say, perfect. I love it. I love that I finished it (big thanks to Schnookie for helping me out with the final stretch run), I love that it’s so girly, I love that the pattern is so fussy, I love the bright pink binding and the criss-cross of red gingham. I love it.

December 9 2010

Favre loves it, too!

P.S. I also finished another quilt this year that I realized I haven’t posted about. It’s not nearly as impressive as Darla, but I love it anyway. I whipped it up this summer to be a largish-quilt stand-in for Darla. It was a super-easy, super-fast (even with hand-piecing) free pattern from Moda Bake Shop. I used Kona cotton in School Bus for the sashing, and “Willow Orchard” by Alexander Henry for the blocks.

Bobo City

For such a simple quilt, it makes me inordinately happy! It has a scrappy binding using strips of the busiest print, so when I go to snuggle under the quilt, I see little flowers everywhere. Also, the quilter did an all-over pattern of fruit and it’s freakin’ awesome.

Bobo City Fruits Quilting

I’m ending 2010 on a high note as far as my quilts are concerned! Woo-hoo! Here’s hoping 2011 is as fruitful! See what I did there? Heh.

{Posted by Pookie}

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Gift Exchange! WOOOO!

Yesterday we headed to Sarah and Paul’s for our annual Christmastime dinner and game night. It’s one of our favorite traditions of the holidays, and normally we target the first Saturday after Christmas for it, so we can still enjoy their wonderful decorations but can also exchange tales of our mad gift-giving skillz and be in a slightly more relaxed post-holiday-madness mood. Thanks to the dumb calendar this year, though, there isn’t a convenient non-New Year Saturday immediately after Christmas, so we had a pre-holiday game night instead. That meant that it marked the very first gift exchange of the season! WOOOO! Presents!!

As you can tell from her blog, Sarah is a prolific sewer; she makes the most beautiful aprons and clothing for her kids and jewelry rolls and zipper pouches and softies and just so many clever, lovely crafts… and pincushions!

Pincushions From Sarah

These are the wonderful dressmaker kind of pincushion, the sort you wear on your wrist, and they’re just the cutest design because of the flower petals all around them. Pookie claimed the pink and green one, because that’s her favorite color combination, and I claimed the Farmdale one, because that’s my favorite fabric. Basically, Sarah couldn’t have made these any more perfectly than she did.

Shortly before we left for their house, Sarah emailed me to say she was stressing out trying to decide whether to make one last surprise for us. It turns out she went for it, and it’s a good thing, too:

Snowman Potholder

What an adorable pot holder! Look at that snowman fabric! EEE! I can’t believe that she whipped this up in such a short time, because it’s just the cutest.

Meanwhile, we gave Sarah a snowman mug rug…

November 4 2010

(I can’t believe this is the only picture we’ve taken of these. We ended up making quite a few of them, for ourselves and to give as gifts, and seriously, this is the only picture? Man, that’s lame. Anyway, take my word for it that this is a cute mug rug.)

…and a felt-and-sequin chicken in honor of her Cornish Hen business venture.

Chicken

I’m sorry I didn’t get a better picture of this apron-wearing hen, because I have to admit that I’m really proud of her. I didn’t know I could draw a chicken that actually looked like a chicken, let alone design one in felt that’s wearing a sequined, rickracked apron. I know that she’s gone to a good home!

It was, I think, a very auspicious kick-off to the gift-giving (and -receiving!) season; of course, we’re lucky to get to enjoy Sarah’s and Paul’s friendship, so wonderful gifts are a total bonus.

[Posted by Schnookie]

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The Best Cookie Recipe We’ve Tried Yet That Lets Us Use The Pre-Crushed Peppermint We Got From Bakers Catalog

When you’re sitting there in the middle of the early-November holiday wasteland, where all you want is for it to be Christmastime, but you’ve still got an entire month before you can even scratch Thanksgiving off the list, you can fall prey to things that wouldn’t normally entice you. Like, say, pre-crushed peppermint from Bakers Catalog. We are not normally especially pepperminty people, but how could we resist? Of course, as soon as we had a bag (or two) of peppermint just sitting around waiting to find cookies to adorn, we were on the hunt for recipes to use it up.

Choco Peppermint Crinkle Detail

Our first contender* was “Chocolate Chip and Peppermint Crunch Crackles” from Bon Appetit. Thanks to the peppermint being pre-crushed, this recipe was insanely simple, and yielded cookies so utterly delicious, so cakey and not-too-sweet-chocolatey, so hint-of-peppermint perfect that we’re almost ready to close the field and declare them the winner straight out of the gate. Sure, we haven’t tried any other recipes for our peppermint, but we highly doubt there’s anything that can top these.

Choco Peppermint Crinkle2

INGREDIENTS:
–8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
–1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
–1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
–1/2 cup finely crushed red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies
–6 1/2 tablespoons sugar

–3 large eggs
–2 teaspoons vanilla extract
–1 teaspoon peppermint extract
–1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
–3/4 teaspoon baking powder
–1/4 teaspoon salt
–1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

–Coarsely crushed peppermints
–Powdered sugar

PREPARATION:
Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Stir over low heat until chocolates melt and mixture is smooth. Remove pan from heat. Mix in finely crushed mints and 6 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Cool mixture to lukewarm, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Whisk eggs into chocolate mixture, 1 at a time, then whisk in vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl to blend. Whisk flour mixture, then chocolate chips into chocolate mixture. Cover batter and chill until firm enough to shape, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using 1 generous tablespoonful for each cookie, roll dough between moistened palms into 1 1/4-inch-diameter balls, then arrange on prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until puffed and cracked on top but still soft to touch in center, about 11 minutes. Let stand on sheets 5 minutes. Press coarsely crushed mints onto tops of cookies or sprinkle with powdered sugar. Transfer to racks; cool completely. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper in refrigerator.)

(*To be fair, we did try the peppermint on cupcakes, but that was in a kit from Bakers Catalog that included the peppermint. So that doesn’t really count, because it was all bundled up for us ahead of time. [Also, it should be noted that when you sprinkle peppermint pieces onto the frosting on a cupcake and then put the cupcakes in a cake dome, the peppermint melts. We… didn’t realize that would happen. And consequently, our cupcakes weren’t ready for their close-up when we would have been posting about them here.])

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Meow! Christmas Kitties!

Shortly after we started quilting, I spotted this fabric and nearly died laughing:

Christmas Kitties Backing

It was like a bunch of little Christmas Favres, wearing little bows and smiling mysterious kitty Christmas cheer at me. I had to have it. I had to back a quilt in it. And conveniently, it was part of a line from Timeless Treasures that was all equally retro charming but sort of low-key and not flashy, in-your-face retro charming. Lots of bells and tiny trees and little sleighs, and all in a bright, old-school Christmas palette that reminded me of my youth lo so long ago.

Christmas Kitties Sunlit

I chose for it the “Morning Star” pattern from one of Pat Speth and Charlene Thode’s “Nickel Quilt” books, the series of patterns for “five-inch scraps”. It seemed like it would be simple, because I was a novice quilter and I assumed “five-inch scraps” was code for “charm pack”, and any quilt pattern designed for the Moda pre-cuts smacked to me of being slightly bobo. Not that I don’t use tons of pre-cuts myself, but I felt, in the early days, that I was being somehow lame for going in for, say, jellyroll patterns. Well. I was quickly disabused of that notion. Dude, this “Morning Star” pattern kicked my ass.

Christmas Kitties Star

It’s not that it was hard, but it was time-consuming. And fastidious. And unending. The gold stars, which I thought would be so Christmassy and festive, became my own personal hell of stripe directionality and more eensy-weensy magic triangles than a person should have to deal with in one lifetime. I finally broke down and demanded that Pookie help me finish this bastard. I have never hated working on a project (while still powering through instead of recognizing that life is too short to hate the handwork you’re laboring over) more than I hated this. And just when we thought we were done, we’d discover a whole new row of stupid stars that needed to be added. Then there were the baffling, brain-busting instructions for how to calculate the pieced inner border.

Christmas Kitties Stupid Border

You know what I’m never doing again? A pieced inner border.

Anyway, we finished the top shortly before Christmas last year, and handed it off to our longarm quilter Mary after the holidays. She got it back to me in, I think, February, and I just wadded it up in a closet in the guest room and tried not to think about it for several months. I needed some time away from it. But when it came down from its hidey-hole late this Fall, ready to be bound, it delighted me. The “I’m a seven-year-old again” reds and greens and hint of sparkly gold! The little trees and sleighs and colorful bells! The way the gold striped fabric looks just perfect in the stars! The busy, festive, totally Christmas feel of the “Morning Star” pattern! I love it. There was some pain and suffering along the way, but now that I can keep toasty warm under a seasonally-appropriate quilt while basking in the glow of our Christmas tree, it all seems worth it.

Christmas Kitties

[Posted by Schnookie]

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