17 May 2013

Send One Your Love--Finish #3

Another week, another finish!  This week's quilt was a little 18"x18" miniquilt, a challenge for the May meeting of the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild, of which I am the treasurer!  Earlier this spring, we had a color theory workshop led by our president, Jessica Levitt.

So, in accordance with our new info, we were to create and swap a miniquilt of 24" or less, with an "analogous complement" color scheme:  three colors next to each other on the color wheel and one opposite. I had a bear of a time selecting, but after a morning of playing around with the color wheel here I settled on yellow-green, green, and blue-green with red as my complement.

Now I had colors--what to do?  I had this song title floating around in my head. I'm not sure why.  It's by no means my favorite Stevie Wonder song, but still, something about it lingers with me all the time.  So I decided to start there, and the rest came to me the next morning, literally as I woke up.

First, the phrase.  I considered paper piecing letters, but didn't think it would give me the look I wanted--I wanted very consistent and clear lettering that would stand out.  I wanted to applique.  I found this website for making letter templates, printed the words, figured out where they would go

and then I traced and cut the letters from fabric, using freezer paper to make iron-on templates!

tracing on freezer paper
ironing onto fabric

cutting out letters from fabric with freezer paper templates attached

arranging letters!

I glued them on and zigzagged them down.

Then I made a big heart by using the ticker-tape method from Sunday Morning Quilts--a look I LOVE but would take FOREVER to do quilt-sized--on a rectangle of solid cream fabric, and I cut a heart out and appliqued it on.

I liked it.  It was just what I had in my head!  But I was afraid it was too spartan.

So while I looked at it, I cut out three more hearts from my ticker-taped rectangle.  Then just for the heck of it, I threw them on, along with another square as a stamp.  I expected I would hate the extra stuff.

But I didn't!  EGADS.

So then a week of polling random friends and colleagues ensued.  No one hated the second version, while some objected to the first, and I had my fears about the first for reasons I'm about to get into.  So I decided to go with it, while I mourned the demise of the first. 

Why was I nervous?  Though I liked the blank space it meant that was more space that needed to be quilted thoughtfully and neatly.  Sigh.  I am not a good quilter at all, but I decided to take my chance and quilt connected spirals.

Then I added hangers and bound in light green.  I appliqued more hearts on the back as a label:

I think it came out well in the end.  My first completely self-designed quilt!  I hope my swap partner liked it.

28 April 2013

Another Finish: And-it's-not-even-my-birthday-Birthday Cake

Next in the "out of my head and onto my bed" category:  a take on Elizabeth Hartman's "Birthday Cake" from her Oh, Fransson! blog.  The original was done in blue and grey.  I decided to go for birthday-cake-appropriate pinks and browns:

Ta da!

This quilt finish has been a looooong time coming, worked on in fits and turns here and there over nearly three years.  I started cutting fabric for it at Christmastime in 2010, during Snowpocalypse 2.

From there began the slow process of piecing blocks.  Piles of them.  The original pattern is for a small quilt, but I decided I wanted it bed-sized, so I doubled it.  And spent a lot of time cursing myself for doing so.  At least I finally figured out chain piecing!


Then I took the blocks to work to lay them out (confounding some of my co-workers in the process, no doubt) and then I pieced them together.

I found a nice backing at the Crate and Barrel outlet near me, where bolts of Marimekko are frequently on super sale.  I wanted something quiet for the back since the front was going to be so riotous.  I picked a pretty pink ombre and pieced it together to have the darkest strip in the middle.

Then back to work on a Saturday to sandwich, again surprising co-workers.  I don't like sandwiching on carpet, I found. 

Then...it sat.  and sat and sat.  I didn't know what to do for quilting, and I don't have a machine that makes quilting very fun or easy.  quilting is SCARY.

First I tried a lattice pattern.  That was tiresome to the max!  I tried to mark lines with painters tape and it was tedious, tedious, tedious. 

After a long while, I ripped the diagonals out and decided to just go with roughly straight, roughly parallel lines to mimic the linear patterns, but with no regular spacing and no drawing to break things up a little.  (And to keep my stress levels down.)

My machine is left-needle (you can see it here) which makes finding feet difficult.  I had to find an open-toe walking foot to get one to work at all! (and no, I don't quilt in the dark.)
It took me several months.  Wrestling with a bed quilt under a machine is no joke, even with a sturdy machine and a cabinet to rest some of the weight on.  The bulk and weight of the quilt makes regular stitches hard to accomplish.

But I did finish, after many many nights of football, and decide to bind with a nice lime green--as it turned out, a number of the fabrics I'd used had lime green accents.  I tried machine binding for speed.  It was...ok but I had to go back and redo several places.

I even made a little label!

I embroidered it (don't look too close at those stitches!) and everything.  Then I sewed it on by hand.  I decided that rather than whipstitching I'd do a running stitch in pink.  I still might do a whipstitch to keep those corners firmly down, but for now I'm ok. 

Yippee!  Now I can take my down comforter to the cleaners...

30 March 2013

First finished project of 2013: Houndstooth Heritage, Easter style!


I finished something!

I haven't really been doing much sewing of late, but I did FINALLY settle down and complete the binding on this fun little number:

It's from The Tulip Patch's Houndstooth Heritage pattern.  She's a 'Bama girl, so her original is in black and white.  I'm a Tennessean--but I refuse to do orange and white!--so instead I made mine from Kona Bone and Kona Pear, two nice Spring-like colors I really love.

Because I'm lazy, and lose interest fast, I went with her newer "Houndstooth Magic" method of piecing, which uses strip piecing and tubes to make the blocks.  The pattern came together pretty quickly.  It was my first time working much with a lot of bias edges, but this method eliminates the need to piece a zillion tiny triangles. 

I backed it with a cute print (the name of which I do not remember) in cream and pear, and then decided to bind with the other color in the print.  *ETA:  The backing  fabric is Robin's Egg Meadow Dot from Sandi Henderson's Meadowsweet 2 line.  It just came to me!*

I pieced and basted this quilt and let it sit around a loooong time.  I couldn't figure out how to quilt the thing.  Any straight-line pattern seemed wrong--I really didn't want some other pattern interfering with the houndstooth. 

It was crying out for free-motion.  I took a deep breath and obliged.

We will not be viewing THOSE photos.  Let's just say...I won't be giving this away, or teaching classes in free-motion anytime soon (though I may be teaching a quilting class in the near future!)  I've got a long way to go.

Well, ok...maybe I'll show you guys one closeup photo:

I'm still struggling--a LOT--with keeping my stitches consistent.  I got a "Solid State" pedal for my Kenmores and that helps--it is actually possible to sew slower now--but convincing my hands and feet to work in tandem is a process.  (How I manage to drive is a mystery.)  Also I have to learn to think ahead--you can see indecision here, which resulted in a corner rather than a curve.  grrr. I should practice more, but I just hate wasting fabric! 

Ok--I feel like I need to give you something else to rest your eyes on.  Here's a quilt made by my late grandmother (probably hand-pieced and hand-quilted, without a pattern and from dress/clothing fabrics): 

That's better.

20 February 2013

Les Macarons, Parte Deux


Last week, a co-worker and I decided to try a macaron-baking class at Sur La Table, a new kitchen store in the area.  I tried making macarons on my own before (and blogged about it here) getting only about 50% of the way there.  There is a TON of information about making them online, but for some reason most of it just seemed mystical and not really helpful to me (although it always really tried to do the opposite.)  So I thought perhaps a class was the way to go.  I'd get some guidance and some pointers, and come home with recipes, too!

The class was held after work.  In 3 hours, we made 3 kinds of macarons: hazelnut, regular almond, and raspberry.  The instructor was very confident and encouraging, but his advice was not always the most sound, so they only came out so-so. They tasted very good--don't get me wrong--but didn't look right at all.  (I thought I had a picture but I guess I don't.)   I decided to continue experimenting at home, and this weekend I got to it. 

First up was trying pistachio again.  I love pistachios, and I had an annoying little bit left rolling around in the cupboards.  So I grabbed and cleaned out my coffee grinder and ground them in there with a little powdered sugar, and then subbed that for part of the almond flour (I had storebought already ground almond flour.) I then followed the recipe we did at the store, taking care to make my batter a bit runnier.  I baked them all on one giant sheet, and I used parchment paper to bake them on (usually you use a Silpat, but I only have one and it is small).  Here's the result:

Pros:  nice "macaron-y" shape, with the little feet.
Cons: they spread out a little on piping, so they ended up touching (as you can see in the front).  Some of them also got a little too brown. I also got peaks, which I tried to get rid of, as I had been instructed in the class, by dabbing at them with a damp finger.  This just caused discoloration at best and little eruptions at worse, as you'll see in the next batch:

The second batch was the basic almond recipe, no other additives.  The ones we made at the store kind of looked like these:  fat and chunky, with peaks.  They look more like hamburgers than macarons.  I'm not sure what makes them chunky--they didn't seem to be piped any higher than the others--but the little bump at the top was from dabbing at a peak with a wet finger.  I discovered that doing that seemed to ruin the cookie's ability to dry properly.  I let them sit an hour and they all dried EXCEPT the one little spot on top.    That spot turned into that thing on the top of the cookie.

I also tried the instructor's edict to always, always, ALWAYS bake two pans at a time with this batch.  That didn't work so well for me either--one batch burned on the bottom, even though I rotated and switched pans half through, and I baked them for only 8 minutes rather than the 10-15 suggested.  So much for that.  Maybe with some other oven.

Finally, at 12:30 this morning, I put my final batch in the oven--a big stinking pan of hazelnut macarons.  And:

THEY CAME OUT NEAR PERFECT!  YAY!  I used the one pan, watched the bake time closely, folded the batter a little longer to get it runnier.

I filled all the cookies with Italian Meringue Buttercream:  chocolate and rosewater for the pistachio cookies, chocolate and strawberry for the almond cookies, and chocolate and vanilla for the hazelnut cookies.  Took them to work today and they went over quite well.  I'm pleased.  I still have a few kinks to work out but I think I am more on my way. 

Now:  anyone know what I can do with 16 lonely egg yolks?


Template by Suck My Lolly - Background Image by TotallySevere.com