Friday, December 12, 2014

Fan-Tastic Finish

In looking back over my previous posts about this quilt, at some point I must have decided its name was "Fan-Tastic."  That is, of course, giving a nod to the name of the block, which is known as Grandmother's Fan. 

Fan-Tastic sounded better than Fan-O-Rama or Granny's Fanny, but I guess it depends on your mood.

Like the Drunkard's Path block, there are so many interesting ways you can set a Grandmother's Fan block quilt.  You can get some idea by doing a Google image search for Grandmother's Fan quilt, like HERE.

It's basically a quarter Dresden plate, which I cut using the EZ Dresden ruler and then drew the pieces for the outer setting and inner quarter circle, as described in this post.  Then I roughly sketched out a setting (emphasis on rough).  I had the top put together a year ago last November.

After it had been appropriately aged (i.e., neglected) for a year, it was time to send it off on holiday to my local longarm quilter, Sandy.

I left the quilting design to her discretion, and she chose a cheery overall floral-ish and swirly kind of thingamajig.  Technically speaking, that is.  I like it!

This quilt started as a challenge to use a piece of dress fabric yardage my sister gifted me (the darkest navy blue with white flowers).  Do you know, when I showed her the finished quilt, she didn't even recognize the fabric?  Not that it blended in well or anything, she just didn't remember ever buying that fabric.  Ha!

It's bound in a bright lime green check, from the clearance bin of a big box store, as was the backing.  Because, as we say here in the rural Upper Midwest:  "I ain't that way."  We're proud of our humility around here.  Our grammar, not so much.

Well, it's Friday and Sarah is again giving us a chance to show what we're doing the happy dance about, so I'm linking to Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?

Speaking of dancing, Bruno Mars is always fun to watch.  "Too hot!"  Yep.  Also, "smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Scrappy Sixteen Finished

Binding this bright 16-patch quilt has been the perfect antidote for a cold, wet, gray winter day.  
Well, that, and pretty much any music this artist, Michael of Cologne, Germany, uploads to SoundCloud under his user name, relaxdaily.  I know, I usually listen to a ton of rock, soul, and funky stuff, but this guy's music is great for work or home when you just want to roll from one calming instrumental to the next. I've been sort of on that kind of jag for a couple days now.

Anyway, quilt:  I finished it in a neutral diagonal stripe from the April Showers collection by Bonnie & Camille for Moda.  Michelle had gifted me a half yard of this, and it was perfect!
These dreary days do not lend themselves to quilt photography, but I think I managed to get an adequate representation.
It may have looked better sprawled on the lawn in August than on my bed in December, but we work with what we have.
Here's a glimpse of the backing, seen on the left in the photo above.

This is one of two quilts I recently got back from my local longarm quilter, Sandy.  I really like the curvy all-over design she chose for this.
More bright binding to come.  I'm about to start on the second quilt this afternoon.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Oh Brother

Welp, I did it.  I caved to a "Lightning Deal" on Amazon yesterday and am now awaiting the arrival of Everett.

As in Ulysses Everett McGill, my new Brother sewing machine.

Don't be confused by the photo of Mr. Project Runway there on the front.  

Imagine instead, if you will, Everett.

I truly hope Everett is all he is cracked up to be, but honestly if he can do two things, that's all I'm asking.

(1)  Automatic buttonholes.

(2)  Blanket stitch for applique.

I have neither capability on my vintage machines or the Juki, all of which have names as well, viz:
  • Tammy, the Singer 603E Golden Touch 'N Sew.
  • Viv, the Singer 301.
  • Jane, the Juki TL98Q.
Also currently visiting are two machines of my daughter's, which I bought for her over the past few years:
  • Kenny, the Kenmore.
  • Silver,  a Singer 600 Touch 'N Sew.
For those unfamiliar with the film,"O Brother, Where Art Thou," Ulysses Everett McGill is the main character, played by George Clooney.  

"O Brother" is one of my favorite Coen Brothers flicks, in part due to the clever dialog between the characters, beginning with the first lines uttered by Everett in the movie, as he attempts to hop a box car full of hobos while still in irons from the chain gang from which he escaped (clip).

Ulysses Everett McGill:  Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?

It may seem silly to have a name before I even have the machine, but I'm okay with that.  I'm looking forward to getting to know Everett in the months ahead, and putting him to work alongside the rest of the gang, no chains attached—but those buttonholes and basket stitches better be awesome.

"I've spoken my piece and counted to three."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Bars

I have a friend who gave me a useful tip pertaining to grocery shopping.  I was lamenting how my husband could go to the store with a list but sometimes forgot a couple things, including, invariably, the thing I needed most.

She said she'd been there, and her solution was to add a few random extra items to the list before handing it over to her husband.  That way, hopefully, whatever he forgot wouldn't be the thing needed most.  She said it seemed to work, and I'm no mathematician, but it made sense to me.

However, it didn't factor into account buying the wrong item, which is what happened when "canned pumpkin" on the list became this:

As you probably know, pumpkin pie mix, or pumpkin pie filling, is different from canned pumpkin in that it already contains the sugar and spices and whatnot.  I have never used it, preferring to add my own level of sweetness and spice mixture to my holiday pie. Call me a control freak.

We did get plain old canned pumpkin in time for Thanksgiving and put the pie filling on the pantry shelf along with the receipt so we could return it sometime.

However, I got bored an idea on Friday for using the can of pie filling to make something other than pie.  How about cookies?  I added a bit of this and that to the pie filling and then changed my mind while stirring it together because the consistency was looking more like cake batter than cookies.  I am known to take the path of least resistance, and thus I settled for dumping it all into a 9-inch pan and hoping for pumpkin cake.

When my timer went off at 25 minutes, I checked it.  The center was still  mushy.  Maybe another six minutes?  Nope, still gooey.  I set and re-set the timer three or four more times.  Ultimately, I took it out after about 46 minutes, when the toothpick test finally came up clean.

By that time, I had begun to lose confidence in how this concoction was going to taste.  Nevertheless, I let it cool while I went and took a nap.  Baking is hard work.

As I cut into it later, I noticed it didn't have the kind of "crumb" a cake has.  It had more the consistency of pie...but not quite.  The texture was kind of a cross between the two.  What would you call that?

Not quite pie, yet not quite cake.  Cie?  Pake?

How about bars.  Bars works.

And, lo and behold, they tasted great!  This morning, they were just as good and maybe even better.  (Disregard the fact that I've just called them great/good/better, in that order, in the space of two sentences.  This food gig is not my usual terrain.)  It stayed well set up and the flavors melded nicely. There's some foodie verbiage for you.

I can see this type of bar appealing to folks who like pumpkin pie but not particularly the crust.  Do you have any of those in your family?  I do.  Maybe it's genetic.

So I'm memorializing the recipe here, in case anyone has a can of pumpkin pie mix lying around, or in the event I end up with one again sometime. If you don't need it to be gluten-free, you could probably use 2 cups of regular flour plus the baking soda, but I'm not sure how that might affect the texture.**  Maybe it would end up more like cake and less like pie, or maybe you'd be able to make those cookies.  If you try it, let me know.

**Edited to Add:  Marei made these and had this to say:

"These bars came out wonderfully.  I used regular flour and about 1.5 tsp. of baking soda.  I actually think I'd drop that down to no more than a tsp.  The crumb was very moist and the texture was a cross between a 'regular' pumpkin bar and a cake-y thing.  I liked it a lot and will use this again next time I buy the wrong pumpkin.  Oh...I would also add in a dash of salt and some vanilla...just because I like vanilla."

Thanks, Marei!

Pumpkin Pie Bars (Gluten-Free)

1 can Libby's pumpkin pie mix (not canned pumpkin)
1 large egg
1/4 c. soft butter (I used ghee)
2 c. gluten-free flour mix as follows, stirred together in a small bowl:
    1 c. almond flour
    1/4 c. coconut flour
    1/4 c. tapioca flour
    Scant 1/2 c. sorghum flour
    1/4 t. xanthan gum
    2 t. baking soda
1/4 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Stir the gluten-free flour mixture together in a small bowl.  In a large bowl, stir the pumpkin pie mix, egg, and butter together until well mixed.  Add the flour mixture and stir to combine.  Pour into baking pan and top with pecans and chocolate chips.  Bake 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool before cutting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Starts and Finishes

Getting ready for Thanksgiving here.  

Two gluten-free pie crusts ready and in the freezer, check.

Ducks out of the freezer and thawing, check.

Dad bagged these wood ducks (and a few more) this hunting season.  How about his XXX rating?  Triple X means they're in great condition, as in there are probably no shot pellets in the breast meat and all the parts are intact, etc.  The other end of the spectrum in his labeling system is "GA."  If you are gifted a package of wild duck or goose that says GA, he will tell you it means "Good to Average" (which may be true), but to him it means "Give Away."  Sorry, Dad, if I just busted you, but it is pretty funny.

(Image Source)
My sister will be bringing the turkey.  Norm is relieved to know there will be traditional domesticated fowl on the menu as well. 

We'll have squash in lieu of sweet potatoes.  I like both, but Dad had a bumper crop of butternut squash this year.  

He didn't plant gourds, but these hitched a ride in the tomato plants from the nursery and grew up among (and over and through) the tomatoes.  How long does it take gourds to dry, do you know?  These have been sitting since early September but they're still pretty solid feeling.  Remember when you dried gourds in grade school and they became nature's maracas?  Maybe you need an old-fashioned radiator to help the process, none of this humidity-controlled central heating stuff.

I grabbed some strips sitting off to the side on the cutting table and whipped up another kennel quilt for the animal surgery clinic.  I'm repurposing my daughter's old scrubs for these.

I did free-motion wavy quilting down the seam lines.  I asked my daughter how these were holding up through washings, etc., and she said "surprisingly well."  Guess I better churn out a few more then.

I also finished the borders on the improv corduroy quilt.  I used up all the red corduroy and almost all the blue in the process of bordering it.  You know what?  I really like it!

Not sure how to go about quilting it yet.  I think I want to keep it simple, whatever form that may take.  Feel free to volunteer ideas, if you have any.

I hope you and yours have a very Happy Thanksgiving!  And happy shopping, if you're into Black Friday sales.  I'll be home devising my Cyber Monday plan.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Sundry 11-23-14

It's not often you thank someone for making you feel small, but that's exactly what I did yesterday.  It was all in good fun, of course, an effort on my part to make conversation with the very tall, dark-haired, nice-looking young man shopping for groceries at Walmart.  He was 6'10", which gave him a seven and a half inch advantage on me.  It's rare that I have to look up when I'm talking to someone, brothers, uncles, and nephews notwithstanding.  It felt pretty cool.  And yes, he did say he played basketball, but I didn't get details.  Too busy staring, I guess. ;)

My current tall girl problem is finding pants that fit.  I recently logged onto to do a little pants shopping, only to find out they have discontinued their ultra-tall size. 

Now what am I gonna do?  As if the pickin's weren't already slim.  I haven't sewn myself pants in a long time, but I guess I'll probably have to start again.  I did find a pair of navy unhemmed pants at Land's End and ordered them.  They're just long enough to turn under a quarter inch, basically the serged part, and maybe squeak by—if they haven't shrunk already.  I washed them in cold and they are hanging to dry right now.  We'll see, but I think I will probably have to face facts and fine-tune some pants patterns.
* * * * *

I was pretty stoked to find this item at the store recently.  Gluten-free chicken noodle soup!  What?!  Noodles?!  That I can eat?!  In a convenient can?!

Wait, what is that saying?  Oh yeah.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Notice anything missing from this picture?  Someone was apparently sleeping at the noodle switch.  There was not a single "whole grain brown rice rotini" noodle in the entire can! 

Faster than you can nuke soup, I fired off an email to the company, complete with photos.  They gave me double my money back at the store, per their policy, which was sort of beside the point, but okay, fine.  Interestingly enough, there were no more cans on the shelf when I went back to the store, which I hope was indicative of a product recall, not more soon-to-be-disappointed soup eaters.

* * * * *
Let's have some happy talk, shall we?  Have you been watching "Finding Your Roots" on PBS this fall?  Love that show.

Last week's episode included an exploration of actress Tina Fey's ancestry, which revealed that her several times great-grandfather was John Hewson, an important quilt textile maker during the time of the American Revolution!  How cool is that?

Link to Article on Hewson in Folk Art Magazine (p. 61-71)
In her inimitable way, Tina admitted she tried to make a quilt once, but apparently "didn't get the quilt gene."  You can watch the entire episode online HERE.

* * * * *
I eeked out a log cabin mug rug this week.  Still playing with the corduroy and flannel scraps on the cutting table, but I'm about done with them now.

My sewing mojo seems to be in a state of semi-hibernation.  I'm trying to be gentle with it and go with the flow, or lack thereof as the case may be.  I'm sure it'll wake up in due time.

* * * * *
What would a random post be without some music to play us out? I found so many interesting options this week, including:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Odds and Ends

When my daughter was visiting last weekend, helping me with the improv piecing, she also arranged a block of her own off to the side using some of the scraps.  I sewed that together this past week and quilted it into a place mat sized mini.

I have never free-motion quilted over corduroy and wondered how it would act.  I'm happy to report that it went well and actually seemed very normal to quilt.  I experimented with some very "organic" clam shells.  Norm called the whole look primitive, and I guess that's about as good a description as any!

I really like the texture of the quilted corduroy.  For the back, I used a soft wool flannel in a subtle herringbone pattern.  

So that's my experiment of the week and pretty much the sum total of what happened in the sewing room the past few days.

* * * * * *
Back in October, I visited my aunt, who showed me two quilts pieced by my great-grandmother on my dad's side.  

My paternal great-grandparents, Max and Esther (50th anniversary, July 1944)
The story was that Great-Grandma Esther had told my aunt and her sister that she would make each of them a quilt, to be given to them when they got a little older (and married, probably).  My aunts regularly helped Great-Grandma in her later years; they lived just across the street.

Unfortunately, however, Great-Grandma passed away in 1952, when the aunts were 16 and 17, and the quilts all but disappeared in the goings-on after her death.  My aunt was fairly certain that my great-aunt had taken them home, ostensibly for safekeeping.  

Over the next many years, as the aunts got married and had children, my aunt asked about the quilts, but for whatever reason, they were never turned over to her and her sister.  

Indeed, forty years passed before the aunts received their quilts.  After my great-aunt passed away in 1994, the quilt tops were found among her things.

They were finished simply for each of the aunts at that time by one of their sisters-in-law, with what feels like a poly batting and tied with yarn.  

Aunt Celia and her double wedding ring quilt
The double wedding ring quilt went to Aunt Celia and the lavender basket quilt to Aunt Mona.  

Celia remembered quite a few dresses in the scraps of her quilt.

My aunt told me that Great-Grandma sewed may things, including the Christmas and Easter dresses made for each of her granddaughters every year.  She also made baby clothes, and the baptismal gown worn by a good number of babies born into the extended family in the last century, myself and my daughter included. (The baptismal gown is a story in itself.  If I can find photos of it around here, I'll post those another time).

This is one of the baby items Great-Grandma made in the 1920s.  My aunt has a Victorian style decor and displays this year-round.

The confirmation dresses worn by two relatives in this photo were made by my Great-Grandma in the 1930s.

It was fun to visit with my aunt about these things.  I plan to go back there again and look through some family photos with her, which I'm sure will prompt a story or two.

I can't recall how I had heard about these quilts made by my great-grandmother; it was something mentioned in passing in the past year or so, but I'm glad I followed up and asked further about them.  It was a treat to learn more about an ancestor I'd never met whose legacy lives on in her handiwork and the memories of those who knew her.