Thursday, April 19, 2018

Mmm, Chocolate!

Dave and I had a little get-together with friends last evening. Pizza, beer, and a little something sweet. I brought the little something sweet. And as long as I was making this yummy, quick-to-make treat, I thought I'd share the recipe. It's called Chocolate Covered Cherries Cake.

I got this recipe years ago from the local quilt shop owner. I'm usually not a fan of using cake mixes, but sometimes, a cake mix is just the ticket for a fast, easy, no-frills, tasty dessert!

This recipe calls for only four ingredients for the cake: devils food cake mix, cherry pie filling, almond flavoring, and a couple eggs.

Mix everything up  . . .

 . . . and place it in the pan. Ready for the oven . . .

In the oven (350˚) for 30-35minutes.

Out it comes!

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. A few more ingredients: butter, sugar, milk, and chocolate chips.

Mix and boil it all together in a saucepan . . .

Then pour the warm glaze over the warm cake.

As everything cools, the glaze firms up, but the cake stays really moist and cherry- chocolatey.

Did I mention that the house smells amazing while everything is baking?

I confess. I cheated. Fortunately, my friends 'get me,' I *had* to cut a slice yesterday before the party, so I could take a picture - for you! Business first, right?, then fun!

You might be asking, what did I do with that slice of cake - put it back in the pan for the party? Silly question. Somebody had to sample it to make sure it was okay to eat, right?

(It was okay! *wink!*)

Want the recipe? CLICK HERE . . . This would be great for the guild break table! Click on the button to nab the instructions!


Happy Stitching

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pear Bound!

It has been a while since I've talked about binding, and 'binding' is one of those things that, I think, you just can't get enough of. Everyone has their own technique and tools they like. There are lots of good tutorials online, but I just thought I'd share, one more time, my take on putting the binding on a quilt. Or, in this case, a table runner.

The table runner in question is made from the pear blocks from Farm Girl Vintage by Lori Holt (aff link). It's a cute book, and I started the project a year or two ago as part of a monthly group meeting at the LQS.  I wrote about dragging it out of the UFO stack to finish it up here.

I arranged the rectangular half blocks in two rows. With a strip of white-on-white print between, and a white border around the outside. This isn't an actual pattern, I just made it up as I went.

And yes, I realize that the pears aren't all lined up up-side-down-side in an evenly alternating sequence. That was on purpose, to give the runner a more casual, fun feeling.

Once upon a time when this project was started, I was determined to use up some scraps, and pulled a bunch of green, greenish blue and yellow chunks of fabric for the top. With a few left, I patchworked leftover bits for the backing.

I had enough leftover pears for two place mats. To add interest and make the place mats rectangular, I improvised two borders for each mat using the exact same technique I used for the sashing on 99 Bottles in Scraps Plus One.

Layered and quilted. The quilting was done entirely with my walking foot.

I started with a line drawn at a random angle across the middle of the quilt with an air-erasable pen (the ink disappears after a couple days on the quilt). Then using the width of the walking foot between stitching lines, I filled in the quilting. I changed directions a couple times to create interest and texture.

Quilting done, time to bind. I trim the backing and batting even with the edge of the quilt top. Others like to trim after the binding is applied. It's a personal preference.

With the quilt flat, I secure the binding to the top of the quilt, aligning raw edges of the 2-1/4" binding, folded in half lengthwise, and secured with pins or clips at 2-3" intervls before I start sewing. I spent a lot of effort to make sure the quilt was flat through the piecing and quilting process, why ruin it now with a binding that is applied too loose or to tight risking quilt-wonkiness? (yep, that's a made-up word, but you get the idea - don't rush the end game!)

I leave myself a good 12" or so unsewn then clip (or pin) the binding in place. I use my dual feed quarter inch foot on my BERNINA to apply the binding, if you don't have a dual feed option, I'd switch back to a walking foot because of all the layers to sew through. (It's another end-game precaution).

As I approach the end of the first (and each side) I stop sewing about 1/4" from the (imaginary/estimated) quilt edge - the red dashed line in the photo - with needle submerged in the quilt, then pivot 45 degrees, and sew the last few stitches off the edge. This will keep the layers from getting puffy and out of shape with wear.

I break the thread and remove the project from the sewing machine to the work table. I fold the binding to the right, so the fold creates a 45 degree angle between the binding fold and the bottom edge of the quilt, and the binding raw edge forms a straight line to the right of the corner.

Then fold the binding back on top of itself. This is a 90 degree mitered corner. 

I start sewing right at the very top edge, at the binding fold.

Then I go through the process all over again. Clip or pin the binding in place (keeping everything flat and happy), then sew 1/4" from the raw edge with the dual feed (or walking) foot, and miter at the next corner.

Continuous Binding Closure. These next few steps are where everyone has lots of variations and preference. This is my preference.

I stop sewing to leave myself about 12" of unsewn binding on the last side. Then I make the two binding ends (the beginning and the end) meet, and I fold the binding back so the folds just *kiss*.

I measure half the binding width (in this case I started with 2-1/4" wide strips so half that width is 1-1/8") and make a mark on each side of the kissing folds. In this case I'm using my air erasable marker again, although it doesn't matter as this mark will be hidden once the binding is complete.

This step is important, otherwise the quilt will pull and drag. Pull up and temporarily accordion fold the quilt at the future location of the binding connection to give yourself plenty of slack to work on the binding. Secure the quilt folds with a clip or a sturdy pin.

Pull the binding ends away and to the right of the rest of the quilt, open the binding folds, place the strips right sides together, and align the marks with the outer edges of the binding fabric as shown below.

Then draw a line parallel to the quilt edge and diagonally on the wrong side of the top binding fabric. Secure with pins. Notice the red dashed lines in the photo below - one at the quilt edge and one where the purple pen marking is, and they're kinda parallel. The lighter mauve line is not what you want.

Then trim the binding fabric 1/4" away from the seam  . . .

 . . . and press the seam open. Then remove the clip holding the runner out of the way. The binding should be perfectly flat with the runner and it's ready to sew to the quilt edge

I'll nab a little time in front of the TV to sew the fold to the back of the quilt by hand. At the corners I'll reverse the miter bulk so they lie flat.

If you want a complete review of this process along with my take on a bunch of quilty techniques, grab a copy of Cut the Scraps!, Scraps Plus One!, The Versatile Nine Patch, or When Bad Things Happen to Good Quilters.

I do love the feeling of a finished project. Once the binding is done, the only thing left is a label. How about you? Is this how you do your bindings?

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Knit Knightmare

Quilting and needle work are my truest crafty love. But once upon a time, it was all about the needles - knitting needles, that is.

After a few short instructions from a local knitting shop coming on 40 years ago, I taught myself to knit. For many years, I kept all kinds of knitted items--mostly sweaters--on my needles at all times. Like any good crafter, I was always thinking ahead to the next project or two, purchasing and storing yarn for its turn.

When quilting came along, my knitting interests turned to more portable sock-making projects. That means that some of those stored yarns for future projects landed on the dreaded shelves in my storage spaces.

Quilters: Think "UFOs."

So a few weeks ago, just before I headed out for the quilt cruise, I received an email from Purl Soho with a pattern for a knitted shawl.

I needed a travel project, and I immediately thought of these giant skeins of yarn that have been 'temporarily' gracing a prominent shelf in my master bedroom closet since the day we moved in (the house was completed in 2000).

I grabbed the appropriate needles from my stash and a skein of the cream color and got to work.

As an experienced knitter, I'm pretty familiar with lots of different stitches--complex fisherman knit sweaters were among my favorites back in the day. But I never really experimented with the various stitches--like this honeycomb cable--without something else to start it off, like a rib. If you're a knitter, you'll understand, quilters, maybe not (after all, this is a quilting newsletter). I mean, knitters know that there are some stitch patterns that are meant to be used in combination with other stitch patterns to keep them flat.

Some patterns curl, irreparably without their tempering counterparts.

In the photo below, do you see what I see? That curl at the bottom materialized right from the first few rows. . . But I kept going, surely it'll 'press out'--this part should sound familiar to quilters and knitters alike - it's kinda like making a cardinal sin in the quilt piecing and hope that 'it'll quilt out' knowing full well that the rumple will be there no matter how much thread painting layers are applied!

I couldn't bear to rip it all out.

So I tried a different tactic. I grabbed another skein of yarn. In a slightly different color and started anew, this time I started with about 1" of rib. Then the honey comb.


Not enough rib, apparently.


Let's try 2" of rib. Honey comb. Curl. Rip.

How about a different pattern (I was beginning to think all those pretty photos in the pattern were some sort of evil photoshop trick).

The Trinity stitch doesn't have any cables, but it's a lot of knit three togethers and knitting and purling in the same stitch across 170 stitches. A little tedious but it has really nice bumpy texture.

I should add--for none of these attempts did I start with a smaller swatch to test the curl/no curl issue.

The trinity stitch seemed to be the answer! It was perfectly flat, and I was on a roll. I finished up a skein of yarn, and went to get another from that shelf stash.

Guess what?

Yep. I only had ONE giant skein of that color. At first I thought I just had a different die lot. Nope. Three skeins of cream (that's what I used on the honey comb), One skein of this natural stuff. And 8 skeins of wheat. These last two look similar, but they really are two different colors.

Not the look I was going for (a color switch about 12 inches in).

I've got maybe 30" of knitting between these two failed projects (for a wrap that will ultimately be about 60-80" long) and I'm starting over. . . .AGAIN!

This time, I took up the wheat color.

And a new pattern, a really soft and squishy fisherman rib (purl, then knit in the stitch below - same pattern both sides).

HOWEVER, my first attempt started with a plain rib, then a switch to the fisherman's rib. 



Start over.

I think I may finally be on the right track. (Don't sneeze!)

And this pattern isn't tedious at all, it's rather soothing to make, in fact.

From the chair opposite me across the family room, my husband has mainly kept quiet these last few weeks as yarn keeps going in and out of projects.

Smart man.

I don't want to think about how many quilting stitches I could have made while I was attempting to make/start this shawl.

How much you wanna bet the thing doesn't fit (yes, it's a one-size-fits-all kinda project) whenever I finally get it done.

And the honey comb curl thing. Maybe that'll become an infinity shawl. . .Is that even a thing?

Shaking my head! Does this happen to you, or am I the only one having knit knightmares?

Happy Stitching!


Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Week Aweigh

I've been away on a quilt cruise for the last week or so. With so many good memories, it's really difficult to sort through tons and tons of photos. I've tried to capture the essence of the trip for you. The introductory text is brief to make this post a quick and (hopefully) enjoyable read.

For starters, I left Syracuse a day early ahead of our Saturday cruise departure. I planned it that way far in advance, just in case Syracuse (which is known for annual snowfall levels of 100" or more) experienced a weather event in early March. Turns out, this was a good plan, as a Nor'easter took hold of much of the East Coast (US) on what could have been my travel day on Friday, causing travel delays and headaches!

To make good use of the extra day in Miami, I joined a few of the other sea-going quilters for a visit to the Miami Sequarium. Such fun!

Dolphin, sea lion, and orca shows were quite entertaining. In one section of the park, I had a chat with several macaws and parrots (including the African Gray, below). When given the choice, I'll always choose 'the Highway' (below)--the Hummingbird Highway, that is. . . wouldn't you?

On Saturday morning, we were able to board the ship and say good bye, for now, to beautiful Miami. Look at those lovely yachts! (below). Time for our first of many delicious meals on board, along with a frozen mojito! (below)

Finally. .  . the big reveal of our on-board quilt project. Water Logged (right) is a generous fat-quarter friendly quilt. The project is inspired by classic log-cabin-style blocks which benefits from all four, but especially two of the BlocLoc log cabin rulers.

Everyone on the cruise received, as part of their quilt package, a pre-cut kit. The pieces were purposely cut over sized, so the BlocLoc tools could be used to trim each round to perfection.

We had forty-two very enthusiastic quilters anxious to get started sewing during our first two days at sea.

Our ship, the Celebrity Equinox (below) finally was able to dock at St. Maarten (carved map in the street pavement, below center). Along with a few others from our group, I took a tour of several art galleries on the island of St. Maarten. Ruby (below) tells of her life as an artist on the island.

Our next stop, was St. Kitts. Our group of quilters was split in three to visit Caribelle Batiks on the lush and beautiful Romney estate (right). We got to sample first-hand how batiks are printed.

Using metal stamps and hot wax, the fabric starts out white, the stamps, dipped in hot wax protect the fabrics from the dye in a wax-resist process.

The white fabric with waxed shapes is then dipped in dye, then rinsed in cold water, waxed and dipped again to add to the colors. Once the fabric is dyed the final color, it's placed in boiling water to remove the wax.

Once we got the introduction, we made our very own batik print! Elma applies the wax with a butterfly stamp (below). The group in a room below takes a break from stamping for a cheesy photo (below).

Mary (below) in a different room dyes our waxed fabric a bright orange color. Back inside the main building, we can observe the fabric artists creating larger pieces of waxed, then dyed examples (below). And of course, like any good tour, there was an opportunity to purchase some hand-painted batiks to take home (and we did!)

Both St. Kitts and St. Maarten are such beautiful islands! One of the main streets at the pier in St. Kitts is lined with sunshine and palm trees (below). So nice to see brightly colored flowers again (below).

Time to leave beautiful St. Kitts in the early evening (below) and get back to our project. Murray, one of the quilter spouses sports his new Caribelle Batik tie for dinner (below)!

Back on board in our beautiful classroom for the last few days at sea. You could find all the essentials at each work station: fabric, pattern, blocks in various stages of completion, and maybe a little caffeine (below). On the upper deck you could join Corning Museum of Glass to make a blown glass tumbler or a variety of other items, just like in Corning, NY! (below)

 . . . And did I mention the food?! Delicious meals and desserts each day (below)!

I've said this before and I'll say it again. . . Any time quilters get together--at a retreat, on a cruise, or for an event or show--it's not just about all the food, the tours, and the project. It's about the memories, the mementos, and the laughs that you take with you after the event is over!

It's not about the quilt. . . it's about the people you meet along the way to making the quilt!

Wanna come along on the next cruise? Start saving your pennies now!

Happy Stitching!