Sunday, August 30, 2009

honeyed apple torte

After a healthy lunch of Panda Express (mmmm...orange chicken), I decided to have cake for dinner.

I made a honeyed apple torte on my aunt's suggestion. I used granny smiths. she recently tried a version with plums and said it worked great, so I'll have to make one with plums or pluots at some point. Delicious...definitely a keeper recipe.

honeyed apple tart

I also snuck in some sewing, a little laptop sleeve for a coworker who also recently indulged in a toy computer purchase. A basic two-seam outer construction, and the interior was quilted with some batting as a padding layer.

little tote for mini laptop

Saturday, August 29, 2009

random fabric post

Still no crafting photos to post. I was working on one quilt, started another quilt , and started making a shirt. Got bored with the one quilt, don't have enough fabric for the other, and then I don't like how the shirt is fitting and not that interested in trying to fix it.

So I was looking online for some fabric for the second quilt. It's not what I'm looking for, but I was really charmed by the new All Star fabric collection by Riley Blake.

I always like small prints like these, and the colorway is pretty neat too. it seems versatile for quilting. will have to see whether I can resist picking up some or not.
all star fabric from riley blake

Thursday, August 27, 2009

pizza pizza!

back to school this week, so no crafting updates, though I should be sewing some clothes since I went through a dozen wardrobe options before finding something acceptable to wear to work today.

so the highlight of my week is the opening of a Little Caesars in town. Colorado is a terrible place to find a good pizza, so even though it is no Buddy's Pizza, it is still miles better than the alternatives here.

Hungry wants me to have pizza

mmmm....crazy bread and pepperoni pizza.

here's another recent acquisition - an iPhone. it hasn't made me feel any cooler yet, but maybe I just need some new apps.
new iPhone

finally, the panda cupcakes are everywhere now! see them on Yahoo too.
cupcakes on digg

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hungry for cookies

So this morning I made some snickerdoodles. I've never made snickerdoodles before, but they turned out pretty tasty. I used this recipe, but fiddled with the ratios of baking soda and cream of tartar a bit.

DSC02341

something seems missing though...

ah, yes, Hungry did have some input as well.
Hungry loves snickerdoodles

in other baking news, my panda cupcakes remain my most popular post of all time on Blempgorf.

panda cupcakes

they hit the prime time once again, featured on the website of Woman's Day in a list of 15 Incredibly Decorated Cupcakes. These cupcakes are incredibly decorated too - amazing sculptured monkeys, detailed fondant work. My little pandas are homely in comparison, but they are flattered to be in such good company.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hungry for pluot cake

hungry and the pluot upside down cake

At Hungry's urging, I made a pluot upside down cake, inspired by my mom's pineapple upside down cake and the delicious looking pluots at the grocery store.

Honestly, I don't love the final product. I tested the cake for doneness, and the fork came out clean, but when I cut into it ten minutes later, it was not cooked through. So I threw it back in the oven, and that never really works out well. So a bit bummed that I wasted all those pluots on this, but I have eaten two pieces nonetheless. A great balance to my dinner of Fritos with cheese dip.



Sunday, August 16, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fabrics!

As my avid blog readers know, I love fabric. And I know a lot about fabric. But virtually none of this knowledge provides me practical utility. Knowing fabric lines doesn't help me at bar trivia, it has virtually no appeal as a conversation topic with coworkers at lunch, and I think my mom is only humoring me by being even mildly impressed as I name the fabric lines and manufacturers for the textiles we see at the fabric store. So here I am on the blog, talking fabrics to share one of the things I love with my blog readers who also love fabrics (and to help validate all my "useless" knowledge...).

Because I know too much about fabrics, I have favorite fabric designers and fabric manufacturers. While Michael Miller and Alexander Henry are both manufacturers who offer up some splendid novelty prints, I have to say Free Spirit is probably my favorite fabric company in terms of producing the kinds of fabric I most like to sew with.

Free Spirit has lots of great new fabrics coming up.

Today, on TrueUp, Kim featured the new Hope Valley line by Denyse Schmidt. It's a neat collection of reproduction-style fabrics that end up looking very modern (I wonder if it is just all in the color choices she makes?)

This one is a particular favorite.


There is also a new collection Little Folks coming soon, presumably by Anna Maria Horner.

Love this wavy print:


This is great too:


There's another line as well - a Folksy Flannel line.

This house print is neat.


The Van Gogh collection is crazy colorful. I like this watercolor print especially, it has a Nano Iro feel to it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

vintage style nursery rhyme fabric

Is it just me, or have American-made fabrics become significantly more rad in recent years? Japanese fabric companies have been specializing in the Especially Cute for years, and remain excellent, but stateside stuff seems to be closing the gap.

Case in point - I heart vintage children's prints. Stuff like this:
back of spiderweb baby quilt with nursery rhyme fabric

Or this:
vintage animal and letter fabric

So I think I might need to get some yardage of this:
Rock-a-bye fabric by Alexander Henry

A new release with all the charm of vintage - great illustration and great colors. It's from the Rock-a-bye collection from Alexander Henry, available at places like equilter.


(I keep a running list of fabrics I like - but don't have reason to buy, so that if I have a project in mind that I can more easily find fabrics for it - and I added this one to my list months ago...apparently my tastes are fairly consistent over time.)



Sunday, August 09, 2009

cobbled together

Hungry convinced me that I needed to use up the remaining raspberries and peaches from my jam-making in a cobbler.

Hungry wants me to have cobbler

I used this recipe, which involves melting butter in the pan, then dumping an eggless batter on top, and then covering with fruit. The texture is interesting - a chewy/crispy crust and a spongy inside batter. I'm not sure it's a keeper yet or not. Maybe.


peach and raspberry cobbler

and for my mom, who shares an affinity for a decorated Kleenex box, check out the adorable box I picked up:
cute Kleenex book

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Advice on making wonky improvisational log cabin blocks

While I've been blogging for a long time now, I don't think I've ever written a how-to or a tutorial on the blog. I see myself more as an advice-taker in sewing than an advice-giver. As such, I get confused on the occasions where my mom asks me for sewing advice, as this is totally backwards. I see her as the source of All Sewing Wisdom, gained over her years of sewing and craftiness.

But yesterday, when I was sewing some wonky log cabin blocks, I had the bright idea to fill my watering can and leave it on my ironing board. Log cabins require a lot of steaming and pressing, so I run out of water in the iron fairly often. Rather than making several trips to the faucet with the little refill container, I fill the iron with the watering can. It saves me trips, plus the narrow spout on it easily pours into the water chamber the top of the iron. While a fairly obvious insight, it did make me think that sometimes it can help to have some advice on things, even if it's kind of intuitive material.

So let me share some of my wisdom about making wonky log cabin blocks, one of the areas where I do probably have some specialized knowledge.

How I got started making improvisational log cabin blocks:
A perusal of my quilt collection quickly reveals that I love Denyse Schmidt's quilt book and her general style of making quilts. I've made versions of probably half the quilts in her book and made others inspired by work she posts on her website. Early on, I used the templates from her book. It's a good way to figure out how wonky pieces fit together, but now that I'm a more experienced quilter, I can't imagine working from paper templates. All of the quilts I've made over the last few years have been done without patterns or templates. Now that I make more blocks improvisationally without patterns or measurement, I've collected a few tips and tidbits about how to do it better.

My tips on making wonky quilt blocks:

1. Make sure you consider contrast in terms of the width of your strips.

Using very thick strips on two adjoining sides and thin strips on the other two sides will result in a more interesting final quilt.

My first visual aid:
Advice on making wonky quilt blocks: Contrast

In this example, see how different A and B look. On its own, A looks like a perfectly lovely block. And it is. But a whole quilt of A will look much more uniform and grid like than a quilt that combines a few versions like A and many versions like B.

From my own collection, compare a more orderly wonky log cabin built from many A blocks with a wonkier quilt built from more B blocks. I wish I took my own advice more often, as I tend to be more cautious when I construct blocks, and I end up with more traditional looking blocks than I sometimes want.

One way to force yourself to induce more contrast is by cutting very thin and very thick strips to use as your log cabin building material. Even if you end up trimming some of them down later, you should end up with at least some higher contrast blocks.

I also recommend doing this when you frame the block with sashing. That way when you line the blocks up together, they won't all be perfectly parallel. Some blocks will be left of center, others right, some top aligned, some centered, and some bottom aligned. Here's one of my quilts where I used this strategy - see how it results in irregular block spacing?

2. After sewing a round of strips to form one of the squares of the log cabin, pivot the block a few degrees and resquare the block.

I usually construct my log cabin blocks from straight strips as they are easy to cut. The mathematicians in the room have deduced that this will result in very square and linear blocks. One way to avoid this is to introduce angles by pivoting the block when you trim it. One way to do this is to put your block on your gridded mat, twist it a few degrees off alignment, and then cut along the grid on the mat. Or if you have a slightly irregular shape to the square, choose one of the odd angles of the shape, and then square the other sides to be perfectly parallel (or perpendicular) to that irregular side.

Sometimes I do this at each stage of the log cabin construction, choosing different and opposing angles each time, and sometimes I just do it once or twice in a block. The more you do it, the more irregular the resulting block.

Visual aid:
Advice on making wonky quilt blocks: Pivoting

You of course need not cut all sides to force a square shape. You could instead just cut one side or two, leaving an irregular polygon. The result will be a much more angular final block. I just have found that I like the look better when I rotate and square the whole block, rather than just cutting angles into one or two sides.

Here's a quilt where I used both strategies:
Advice on making wonky quilt blocks: pivots versus angles


3. Different sized center pieces

One simple way to induce irregular log cabin blocks is to start with different sized center pieces. If some centers are small squares, some centers are large squares, some centers are long rectangles, and some squares are tall rectangles, you will end up with some nice heterogeneity of log cabins even without introducing angles or pivots or wavy seams.

Visual aid:
Advice on making wonky quilt blocks: Center size


4. Advice on layout

I think layout is very important with wonky log cabins. Because the blocks are usually not symmetrical, you can easily change the look and balance of a quilt by just rotating a block 90 degrees. I don't have a felt design wall, so I end up laying out the quilt on the floor. But because you don't get a good head-on perspective of the quilt this way, I recommend taking some digital photos where you stretch your camera hand over the quilt to get a view over the whole thing flat. Then upload the pictures to the computer. When I look at the whole quilt on the screen this way, I sometimes see things I missed - like clusters of like colors together, or too much white space in some corner.

So these are just a few pointers from me. I've posted some additional advice from others below. If you have any other links or suggestions, please post them in the comments!

Other people's advice on making improvisational log cabins:


1. In the past, I've heard the advice to cut strips with scissors rather than a rotary cutter to promote wonkiness. I've never tried it but it sounds like a good idea.

2. I've also read that people will load a paper bag with strips and then randomly draw pieces to sew onto a base block, as a way to promote improvisational piecing.

3. Jacquie has an excellent tutorial for the basic construction of a wonky block.

4. The advice from Pink Chalk Studio on making wavy log cabins is also handy.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

jammin'

here's a photo of today's project, raspberry peach freezer jam. last time I made jam, I made the low sugar version, and thought maybe it wasn't sugary enough. this time I made the full sugar style, and think maybe it's too sugary. oh well. early sampling suggest it is still quite tasty.

peach raspberry freezer jam

this week, I also got a wonderful swap package of vintage fabric from Josee at Zenzhetty. I really love the fabrics. I am definitely inspired to make something in that beige, white, red, and navy colorway.

vintage fabric

I also made my last block for the Common Threads quilt bee. A crew is taking on a second round, but I opted out, for reasons I don't really remember now (part of me regrets that decision, but on to new challenges I suppose). I had a lot of fun making the blocks each month, a fun creative challenge and also a great way to meet some new bloggers.

common threads quilt block

I need to put together my blocks from my month. I'm newly motivated to work on it, as I just ordered a couch to go with it. So I need to finish it in the next eight weeks before it arrives.