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Archive for January, 2012

I made some progress on my Prince Charming quilt in the past couple weeks.  I finished the half square triangle block for the corners of the main block.  I recently came across a tutorial on how to create 4 HSTs with two large squares of fabric.  I can’t remember where I first read it, but a quick google search provided this Half Square Triangle Tutorial.  The nice thing about that tutorial is that the blogger provided an easy formula for determining the size you need for the two initial squares of fabric to yield 4 HSTs (although I think her formula is for a block including seam allowances.) The original tutorial I read didn’t provide such information so it took some time for me to figure out the sizes I needed.  Eventually I figured out that for a finished (meaning, after it’s all sewn together) 3″x3″ square, I would need to start with two (2) – 5.5″x5.5″ squares.

Half Square Triangles

half square triangles all cut up

 

Half Square Triangles

neatly pressed!

After those suckers were done I moved onto the flying geese blocks.  I wasn’t sure what size fabric to start with so I did a google search and found a Flying Geese Tutorial with 2 methods.  I don’t particularly like “wasting” fabric so I knew I had to use the second method because it doesn’t waste any fabric.  I tried the tutorial on some scrap fabrics and was very pleased with the results so I moved onto my “real” fabric and then sewed some onto the main blocks:

Flying Geese Block

Flying V! No, Flying Geese!!

Note: I usually sew a quarter inch seam allowance by placing the edge of the fabric along the edge of the walking foot and moving the needle one stop closer to that edge.  But for the flying geese blocks I shifted the needle over two stops and was able to get nice pointed corners once the flying geese blocks were sewn to other blocks.  Who knows how will this impact the seams matching from row to row……

I haven’t made as much progress on this quilt as I had hoped, but at least I have the most difficult pieces done (or so I think).  I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that I have enough fabric.  Although, the tan fabric in the flying geese is a Kona cotton that I purchased a couple weeks ago and the white is another Kona cotton that I bought several yards of a couple months ago and hadn’t used until this project.  I’ll probably use these two fabrics on the back of the quilt and incorporate little leftover pieces of the Prince Charming collection.  I wonder how much longer this quilt will take to finish, but I am enjoying learning how to create new blocks during this process.

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Archer’s Bloody Mary

P recently bought the book, ‘How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever Written‘ and was very inspired to make the Bloody Mary recipe that is in the book.  It has a ton of ingredients!!  As P read the list of ingredients and instructions out loud to me on how to make it I could feel myself starting to salivate because it sounded so good!

It has been awhile since I’ve had a blood mary and when we have made them at home in the past we usually just bought a blood mary mix and added vodka.  Despite the complexity of the recipe in the book we both wanted to make it and luckily P wanted to make it a whole lot more than I did because he went out last Sunday just to pick up all the ingredients.  Then when he came home he realized he forgot the horseradish and he refused to make any without it so  he went back to the store just to pick up the horseradish.

He did make a couple adjustments to the recipe.  He used manzanilla olives instead of extremeda olives (what are those anyway??), and used Chipotle Tabasco instead of what I assume would be regular Tabasco sauce.

Here’s a photo of the finished product:

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary for Dinner

It tasted faaaaahhhbulous!  It has a kick to it from the horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce, but it doesn’t burn and isn’t overpowering.  The tomato juice is from concentrate, but it doesn’t taste too tomato-y.  There’s a little bit of sweetness to it, which I think comes from the key lime juice.  Yeah, that’s right, key lime juice.  Never even knew that stuff existed.  Oh, and you can’t tell, but there are also capers on that “stick” along with olives.  There are so many different flavors in this drink that I could drink this for breakfast everyday….ok, every Saturday and Sunday.  The only suggestion I gave to P was that he should trim the celery ends to give the drink a finished look (not to mention that the stick of celery is way too tall for this glass).  He says this is the most complicated cocktail he’s ever made, but it’s totally worth it.   Seriously, people, how could you not trust Archer to deliver a fantastic Bloody Mary.

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I took a calligraphy class several years ago and the instructor had us use a thick drawing pencil to become accustomed to writing the strokes before we actually used a pen nib and ink.  Whenever I want to practice calligraphy strokes and styles I’ll take out a pencil and practice.

So…..sometimes when I’m a bit bored in a meeting, or if I want to pretend like I’m busy writing down important information, I’ll practice my calligraphy with a pencil.  Capital letters always give me a hard time and I’m always tweaking each letter to best suit my writing so usually I’ll practice those the most.  Here’s a scan of one of my practice sheets:

copperplate calligraphy practice

just practicing some copperplate calligraphy

If you’ve ever wanted to learn calligraphy, then I highly highly recommend starting with a pencil before jumping right into it with a pen nib and ink.  The pencil I used in the above image is a regular red colored pencil so I believe I colored in the thicker strokes.  But I really like the Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils because you can mimic the thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes of hib and ink calligraphy.  I love those pencils….I definitely need to buy more.

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I Need a Good Quinoa Recipe

Last weekend I was at Trader Joe’s and when I got to the checkout line I noticed a bag of quinoa randomly sitting in a basket containing nuts or crackers. Obviously someone got to the checkout line and decided not to buy it so he or she tossed it aside. I have always wanted to try quinoa because I have heard that’s it a great substitute for starchy side dishes, but I have never put it on my grocery list so I never remember to even look for it. It’s like the Food Gods were trying to send me a message that day so I picked up the bag to see how to cook the quinoa and was pleasantly surprised to see that you cook it like rice so even though I had no idea how much it cost I decided to get it.  Total impulse buy.

Later in the week (a couple days ago) I finally got around to making quinoa. I figured it would be a good alternative to potatoes, which I usually serve alongside a pork tenderloin.

Pork Tenderloin

Hmmm....pork tenderloin. So yummy......

I had absolutely no idea how the quinoa was going to taste so I cooked it in water first and then tried to season it properly. First of all, does anyone else think quinoa looks really freaking weird? It looks like harmless little beads in the bag, but then it transforms into an alien mass. The instructions on the bag did mention that you’ll know the quinoa is fully cooked when all the water is gone and the quinoa expands and the germ is exposed. I didn’t really know what to expect from that description, but once I saw the cooked quinoa, it made perfect sense.  In case you’re a quinoa newbie, here are before and after photos:

Uncooked Quinoa

Uncooked Quinoa

 

Cooked Quinoa

Cooked Quinoa

So back to seasoning the quinoa. I only cooked it in water and when I first tasted it I was a little disappointed with how completely and utterly bland it was. There was absolutely no flavor to it. None. Zero. Nil. Zilch. It was boring. On the contrary, I can easily eat plain Japanese white rice by the bowlful without any salt, butter, soy sauce, spice, etc. But the quinoa needed a huge kick in the pants if I was going to eat it and especially if I was going to convince P to try it.

I started by adding some salt and pepper. Still bland. So I added some butter hoping that would give it a savory flavor since butter makes everything taste better. It did taste marginally better, but still not something I would want to it a lot of. I think I also added some Tony Chachere’s to give it more saltiness and a little bit of a kick. It definitely helped, but I don’t want to get in the habit of adding Tony’s to quinoa every time i make it. Isn’t quinoa supposed to be healthy? I don’t feel so healthy knowing I add so much salt and fat to it….

So I went online to search for more hints, which I should have done before I even started cooking the quinoa. The first recipe I came across was a quinoa dish from Ellie Krieger of the Food Network. However the only ingredients I had were quinoa and garlic so I added some minced garlic cloves that were lightly toasted in olive oil and the quinoa tasted so much better! It wasn’t fabulous, but definitely edible and even P liked it. Lesson learned: look online for tested recipes.

Quinoa expands a ridiculous amount when it cooks so I still have a ton of uncooked quinoa to experiment with. Its blandness lends itself to being transformed into a host of different types of flavors and I look forward to trying new recipes and pairing it with different main dishes. Anyone have any good quinoa recipes or cooking suggestions that I can try?

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This past weekend I got my order of Tula Pink’s Prince Charming fabric!! 🙂  This was my first time ordering fabric from Hawthorne Threads and I was pleased with the quickness with which I received my order.  I was a tad bit concerned that they didn’t include an invoice or receipt with the package, but there were no issues with the shipment so I’ll definitely order from them again.

Tula Pink's Prince Charming Collection

Tula Pink's Prince Charming Collection

As I mentioned last week, I didn’t have a pattern in mind for this quilt, so I spent most of Sunday sketching ideas with the NFL playoff games in the background.  I developed a couple ideas and eventually decided I needed a pattern that would highlight the frogs and turtles; I think these will look good as 6″x6″ finished squares.

Fabric and Pattern Sketch

Fabric and Pattern Sketch

I totally f’d up fussy cutting the first two frogs.  I have a 6″x24″ ruler and completely forgot that I couldn’t just cut along the narrow sides because I need the frog squares to be 6″x6″ finished, which means that with a quarter inch seam allowance on all sides, I needed to cut them 6.5″x6.5″ , but I ended up cutting them 6″x6.5″.  I saved the two that I messed up and will probably incorporate them either on the back of the quilt or in some pillow covers…..oooooh, pillow covers, they’re so fun to make!

Tula Pink's Prince Charming Fabric

the frog is so adorable I could kiss it!

I’m hoping this quilt will be 72″x90″, but I have no idea if I have enough fabric for the pattern I have in mind.  We’ll see how this goes….Anyone have any words of advice for developing your own quilt pattern?  Hopefully the more patterns I develop, the easier it’ll get.

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Soon after I first discovered how awesome quilting can actually be, I thought it should be pretty easy to develop my own patterns. I mean, I’m an engineer! How difficult could it be? Apparently, I need a refresher course in basic geometry because I totally F’d up my first pattern. Thankfully, I actually like the outcome, BUT it’s definitely not what I initially wanted and I spent an embarrassing amount of time agonizing over the correct measurements so that next time I can create the pattern as it was intended {by me}. Here’s a photo of the pattern I sketched for a 16″x16″ pillow cover:

Diamonds Quilting Pattern

Initial Pillow Cover Pattern

Look at those pointed corners! (and my old engineering paper…..awwww, I love that stuff)

Annnnnnnnddddd, here’s how it turned out:

Little Apples Pillow Cover - Front

Little Apples Pillow Cover

ACK! What happened to the pointed corners???!!!  Don’t get me wrong, I love how the pillow looks, but my heart sank when I first sewed a couple blocks together and realized I had completely lost the pointed corners.  Even though I was pretty upset over it I decided to roll with it and keep sewing.

I used pieces from a Little Apples charm pack. I pre-washed these pieces so even though they started their lives as 5″x5″ squares, they got distorted in the washing and drying cycle. I wanted the finished blocks to be 4″x4″ so I think I did some slight trimming on the charm pack pieces.

If you’re a moderately experienced (or even a beginner) quilter or perhaps a better engineer than myself {who can actually do simple math in your head} then you can probably figure out pretty easily where I went wrong. Basically, I took the pieces from the charm pack, cut off the corners and then used those corners to sew onto other pieces that had the corners cut off. But I can’t use the corners that were cut off from these squares and end up with pointed corners like in my pattern because these corner pieces are now too small. I don’t know why I thought it would work…..I guess I forgot about the seam allowances and how it would affect the size of my blocks. I was also trying to not be wasteful….oh well. Lesson learned! After all the trouble I went through with the front of the pillow cover, I decided to do a very simple design on the pillow back: SQUARES!

Little Apples Pillow Cover - Back

Little Apples Pillow Cover - Envelope Style in the Back

The border on the front and the binding on the back is a grey fabric that I got on super sale at Jo-Ann Fabric. It doesn’t quite match the grey in the Little Apples collection, but it’s close enough for my personal taste. (Also, I didn’t even notice until I took the photo below that the greys in the fabric collection aren’t even exact matches.) Since I didn’t have any zippers lying around and I really didn’t want to leave the house just to get a zipper AND I was super anxious to get this project done, I decided to design the pillow back with an envelope style and I really, really like how it turned out. I think the finished size of the pillow cover is slightly smaller than 16″x16″, but it fits the pillow form almost perfectly.

Here are some close-up detail shots:

Little Apples Pillow Cover - Front

Little Apples Pillow Cover - Front Details

The pillow cover is lined with muslin, but I didn’t use any batting because I didn’t think it was necessary to provide additional bulk to the pillow.  Even though I didn’t use any batting I still “quilted” the front and back, but wanted to keep it fairly simple to highlight the blocks and prints on the fabric.

Little Apples Pillow Cover - Back

Little Apples Pillow Cover - Back Detail

Details:
Pillow Cover finished size: approx. 16″x16″
Pillow Cover style: envelope with binding on back flap edges
Fabric: Little Apples charm pack and grey fabric from Jo-Ann Fabric
Lining: lightweight muslin
Batting: none
Quilting: White thread

If you’re even the least bit interested in starting to learn how to quilt, I would highly recommend making a small project first before jumping into a large quilt and a pillow cover is a perfect first project.  It’s a decent size to incorporate larger cuts of fabric and/or practice creating blocks with smaller pieces.  And if you don’t want to worry about sewing in a zipper, the envelope-style is super simple to design and sew.

I really enjoyed creating this pillow cover and am looking forward to creating more.  They’re fairly quick to make, especially compared to a full size quilt, and don’t require too much fabric.  I definitely see myself making more with leftover scraps from (future) quilts and possibly for different seasons and holidays since it’s so easy to change the pillow cover (not to mention I don’t want to have hundreds of throw pillows on my couch).  The possibilities are endless!!!

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I have been following the lovely gals at IPB living for quite some time and always marveled at their quilts and blocks and close-up photos of the most beautiful fabric. After seeing one of their recent finished quilts I had had enough. I needed to learn how to quilt! The gals gave me some recommendations on how I could start learning and off I went on the interwebs searching for more clues to unlocking this mysterious world of quilting.

I came across Moda Fabrics and was thrilled to see they have so much information and free patterns! Since I was terrified of screwing up my first quilt I picked a pattern that looked easy for a first time quilter and lo and behold, it was made with the Little Apples fabric collection (by Aneela Hoey) aka one of the most adorable collections I had seen. I HAD TO HAVE IT!

The quilt top was super easy to make, but I think it took me way longer to complete because I was so anal retentive about how I wanted the colors and designs to line up. I spent quite a bit of time lining everything up on my living room floor rearranging the pieces until I was satisfied. Trying to get the seams to line up was definitely a challenge. I tried not to obsess too much since there wasn’t much I could do if a seam was way off. It’s my first quilt, I have to have fun, right?

Little Apples Fabric Layer Cake

My Design "Wall" aka Floor

The free pattern on Moda didn’t have any directions for the quilt back so I was kinda stumped for awhile about what to do because I didn’t really want it to be completely plain. Since I also had some Little Apples charm packs (because the online store sent me the wrong fabric collection!) I decided to incorporate some of the 5×5 squares on the quilt back. I was feeling frugal so I went to Jo-Ann fabric to get red and grey fabric that closely matched the red and grey in the Little Apples collection. They’re not exact matches, but they’re pretty, pretty close!

I should mention that I totally screwed up making the quilt back. I drew a design on paper and did the math in my head {HUGE MISTAKE!} and I divided incorrectly so the width of the quilt back was too narrow. I didn’t even notice the mistake until I laid the batting on the quilt back and saw the batting was so much wider than the quilt back even though I had designed the back to be wider than the batting. I ALMOST cut the batting to fit the quilt back, but decided to lay the quilt top to see what the problem was. And that’s when it hit me that I did the math wrong when I designed the quilt back. I had some leftover red and grey fabric {hooray, for always having leftover fabric because I can never figure out how much yardage I need!} so I added some fabric to the quilt back to get it to the appropriate size. Disaster averted!

Little Apples Quilt - Back

Little Apples Quilt Back

Then the quilting process……….it was so daunting! Elizabeth Hartman at Oh, Fransson! has really good posts about free motion quilting including some inspirational and motivational suggestions. For instance, who says you have to finish it in one sitting? or even in one day? Thank you, Elizabeth, for reminding me that no one is going to take away any quilting points if I don’t slave away for hours and finish a quilt in one sitting. I attempted free motion quilting in a stippling type pattern over two days. It was stressful. It was tiring. It was a learning experience. Lesson learned #1: make sure you have enough thread!!!!! I ran out of thread on the day after xmas. I couldn’t believe it. I was SO MAD at myself! I really wanted to finish the quilt that weekend before I went back to work the next day. Thankfully Sew, LA was open that day so I zoomed over there and bought a spool of thread. (Note: it was a different brand than the first spool of thread I was using, but white is white, right?) Lesson learned #2: make sure the quilt edge doesn’t get caught in the sewing path! Thankfully I was able to remedy the disaster by making small snips on the fabric edge to pull the fabric threads out of the stitches as opposed to having to rip out the stitches and redo them.

After quilting I trimmed it and then bound it following Elizabeth Hartmann’s binding instructions. This quilt was definitely a labor of love! It was time consuming (mainly the free motion quilting) but so much fun to complete. Here are some photos of the finished product.

Little Apples Quilt - Top

Little Apples Quilt Top

Little Apples Quilt - Center Back Detail

Little Apples Quilt - Center Back Detail

 

Little Apples Quilt - Side View

Little Apples Quilt - All Folded Up!

I can’t wait to start on my next quilt!

Quilt Details
Pattern: Little Apples Pattern by Moda Fabrics
Finished Size: Approx. 51″x59.5″
Quilt Top fabric: Little Apples – 1 Layer Cake
Quilt Back fabric: pieces from Little Apples charm pack and red and grey fabric from Jo-Ann Fabric
Quilt Binding fabric: red and grey fabric from Jo-Anns
Batting: Poly-Fil Fairfield 80/20

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