And back

>> Friday, February 27, 2009

I just returned home from a week of family and the archives.

I've got lots to unpack -- some food, new-old dishes from my parents, clothes, and the like. I came home to find 5 packages with fat quarters inside. I'll share the fun, new fabric tomorrow.

Until then, a cute shot of Scotch in the sink at home. He was curled up in a ball but I didn't get the shot in time.

This cat will play with almost anything.



>> Sunday, February 22, 2009

Just a quick update and apology. I spent Friday driving to my parents' house (8.5 hours, $21.25 in tolls, 3 gas/food stops, 6 cops sighted without stopping, no stop-and-go traffic), and hence apologies for no Friday recipe. I'll be immersing myself in the archives Monday-Wednesday, so no guarantees about posting. But if I find anything incredible, I might be compelled to post about it.

Thanks to those who let me know that they received their fat quarters in the mail!


More FQs in the Mail

>> Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'm also participating in the SMS February Fat Quarter Swap. I received my 4 partners a couple days ago, I cut the fabric last night, and I sent it out today. We're each supposed to send 1 FQ to each other. I sent 2, primarily because I need to make some room in my fabric box for more fabric, and once I started pairing fabrics, it was just as easy to make an extra. Some of the fabrics may look familiar from the last FQ swap post, and they are.

One person is getting my favorite frog fabric (alliteration, woot!) and the coordinating flower fabric whose green and blues pick up shades from the frog fabric.

One person is getting some Michael Miller blue and white ironworks (swirly and awesome) along with what I call my maroon "crackle" fabric. It's a great fabric for making belts, and I'm sure it will be fun in other projects as well.

Two people are getting this pair of a cranberry vintage (19th century) reproduction fabric and some fun gold-flecked dragonflies. I've used the dragonflies in a chuppah and several baby quilts, and I hope the recipients get equally good use out of it.


FQs in the Mail

>> Monday, February 16, 2009

I received my 2 Fat Quarter (FQ) Swap partners from Darci this weekend and collected and cut fabric to send to them. The packages went out in the mail today. For those wondering, a fat quarter is an 18" x 22" piece of fabric. Where a standard quarter (of a yard) would be 9" (by the length of the bolt, usually 42-45" for quilting cotton), a fat quarter is a half-yard cut in half. This means it's a wide, almost square rectangle, rather than a long, skinny rectangle. FQs are often better for one's stash because they are more versatile: one can cut many more shapes and sizes out of a fat quarter than a regular quarter yard.

The theme of this FQ swap is "wishing for spring" (which I did a lot this weekend when snow blanketed the area on the heels of last week's warm melt). I chose mostly blues, greens, and florals.

The first package included green ironworks (a Michael Miller design), a pale blue-on-white fabric called something like "Looking for the seeds" (which seemed rather appropriate for the theme), and an extra almost FQ of a heavier weight floral. I thought I had a full half yard of the floral to cut into 2 FQs, but after cutting, I realized it wasn't quite 18" so I couldn't count it as a FQ. But it's always nice to include a little extra something (as many quilters seem to do, if blog posts are any indication), and I figured I'd hop along the generous train.

Here's a close-up of the pale blue on white:

It's a very delicate-looking design, and I think it has a lot of potential in a quilt with other light fabrics. Or possibly with brighter, darker ones. Maybe one of my recipients will let me know where it ends up.

The other package includes blue ironworks, a frog/dragonfly/fly on blue (one of my favorites for baby quilts, but I've used it a lot, and I thought it would be a good one to pass on to others to use to make fun things), and an almost FQ of the same floral fabric mentioned above.

Each package also included another surprise treat, primarily because once I start making packages, it's fun to fill the envelope/box. Once I know that my recipients received their packages, I'll post a link to their blogs.


Awesome Card

>> Sunday, February 15, 2009

For a variety of reasons, Valentine's Day isn't up there with my favorite holidays. Nevertheless, this fantastic card from my awesome friend Jenny pleased me greatly:


Project Improv Blocks

About 5 weeks ago, I signed up for Project Improv. It's a group effort to make improv quilted blocks and the create quilts to donate out of the individual blocks. I said I'd make a blue/green block and today I made 3 of them. I'll send them off to Jacqui tomorrow, but in the meantime I'll show them to you.

It was my second time making improv blocks (see the results of my first time here), and it's a fun and relaxing way to quilt. This time, I got out my scrap box, plucked out the blues and greens, and got started. None of the blocks ended up looking like my mental vision when I began, and that's a good thing. You'll see that several of the same fabrics show up in the three blocks and yet each block is quite different in scheme and tone from the others.

This block uses the darkest colors and has a more "masculine" feel. I'm not into assigning gender to my crafts, but I know that a lot of charity quilting projects suffer from a lack of male-appropriate or male-acceptable quilts, so I thought I'd create one that, I think, anyone, male, female, or otherwise, might like.

In contrast, this block uses more mid-range blues, greens, and yellows. I added the yellow strip to bring out the yellow undertones in the center block. The turquoise fabric on the left and bottom of the block is one of my favorite fabrics -- I love the color and its softness. I only have about a 3/4" strip left, and I don't remember where I got it.

I have a lot (ok, a few pieces) of frog fabric. I use it a lot in baby quilts (see: gender neutral), and I find frogs fun. So I mixed up the blue frog fabric and the green frog fabric, and added some other greens and a little white to put it together.

Making these blocks reminded me that I'm a binge quilter. I go through phases of quilting and not-quilting, and when I (or piece), I do a lot of it at one time.


Friday Recipe: Molten Fudgy Brownies

>> Friday, February 13, 2009

What could be more delicious than fudgy brownies with surprise chips -- chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, or anything else you think of? Maybe the brownie batter, but aside from that, these melt-y, fudgy brownies are the way to go. This recipe slightly modifies one my friend Maya (who blogs over at Lilith) gave me. I bake them in a brownie pan, which is smaller than a 9 x 13 pan, and make the rest into brownie cupcakes.

Fudge Brownies
Makes 1 large pan

Cooking spray
8 oz chopped chocolate (a combination of unsweetened, semisweet, and/or milk chocolate)
3/4 c. butter
4 eggs
1.25 c. white sugar
1.5 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1.5 c. chocolate/peanut butter/butterscotch etc chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat pan(s) with cooking spray.

2. Over low heat, melt the butter and chopped chocolate together.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy (about 4 minutes). Add vanilla and mix well.

4. Add in chocolate mixture and combine.

5. Add flour and salt. Mix well.

6. Stir in chips.

7. Pour into baking dish (either into a 9x13 pan, or a brownie pan + muffin tins, or other variations).

8. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (a little less for muffins). When a toothpick or knife comes out clean (albeit sometimes a little smudgy from melted chips), the brownies are ready.

*I use a 50/50 mix of semisweet and milk chocolate. Maya uses 6 oz semisweet and 2 oz unsweetened. It's really about the level of sweetness you prefer.

*My favorite combinations are brownies with white chocolate chips and brownies with peanut butter chips.

*These freeze very well. I recommend cutting into small bites and freezing in a tupperware or large ziplock bag.

*If you want them very molten and melty, slightly undercook. If you're making them in muffin tins, cook for about 22-25 minutes to avoid burnt edges.

*You can make these pareve by using margarine instead of butter and making sure all chocolate is pareve. However, I don't endorse margarine-use unless absolutely necessary.


Another Fat Quarter Swap

>> Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Image from SMS

For those so inclined to diversify their fabric stash, Sew, Mama, Sew! is hosting a fat quarter swap. Get the details here.



>> Saturday, February 7, 2009

What do you usually sew?

Quilts, challah covers, chuppahs, scarves.

When you shop for fabric, what size cuts do you usually buy? (i.e. If you see something beautiful, but you don’t have a use for it right away, how much do you buy?)

1/2 yard - 1 yard, depending on the fabric and price

Do you buy on impulse or do you go out looking for something you need?

I usually go looking for something I need and end up with a few impulse purchases. I’m trying to get better about that, though.

Are you a pre-washer?

Nope. This is one of those sewing rules I break all the time and it has yet to be a problem. I know that it might be a problem one day, but until then, I’ll take the risk.

Do you iron it?

Only when I’m going to use it.

How do you sort it? (color, print size, collection, etc.)

I am normally an obsessive sorter and organizer. With fabric, however, it’s a little messier due to space constraints. Most of my fabric fits into one large box (above) and within the box there are 3 sections: fat quarters, combinations of fabrics I want to use, and other fabrics sorted by color. I have a separate smaller box for fabric scraps and those are sorted into ziplock bags by color. I wrap long strips around cardboard and place them in the ziplock bags as well.

Do you have any special folding techniques?


How do you store your fabric?

In plastic storage bins. In addition to the one shown above, I have another bin filled with flannel and fleece that I use to back most quilts I make. That box is organized by color as well.

What tips do you have for building up a well-rounded stash?

I don’t know that I have a well-rounded stash, but I’ve built a stash by buying a little extra of the fabrics I need and impulse-buying (see above).

What are some of your favorite stash-busting projects?

Challah covers: they’re small, can use lots of different fabrics, and are easy to make.

Do you have a current favorite print in your stash?

I have a few:

This might be my absolute favorite. I love the print and the color scheme.

I'm not usually a gray and mustard kind of gal, but this one works for me. I have coordinating green, yellow, and blue fabrics, and I'm looking for just the right project and pattern.

I have just a little bit of this one, and I'm tempted to use it in a scarf, but I'm holding out lest some other project inspire me.

I've gotten really into dark brown lately. It's hard to see the gold sparkle in the picture, but it's there. This is another fabric that I've got some great coordinating fabrics for and I'm just trying to decide how to use them. I'm leaning toward a baby quilt of some sort.

This is a recent acquisition that I want to use to make a quilt for my living room, which has gold, maroon, and deep purple furniture/curtains/trim. I think this print will pull it together and let me get some blue in there as well!

I actually have fabrics I love that aren't “modern” florals.
For example:

Watercolor-y blue/charcoal/yellow

Another stripy, blue-y option

And the brown I'm loving these days.

[Questions from Sew Mama Sew. Link to other people's stashes from there as well.]


Fat Quarter Swap

>> Friday, February 6, 2009

I have a semi-finished post on my stash o' fabric, but in the meantime, head on over to Stitches and Scissors if you're interested in participating in a Fat Quarter Swap. This is a great way to diversify your fabrics (and possibly be inspired to work with fabrics you would never have picked on your own).


Friday Recipe: Lentil-Spinach Soup

Lentil-Spinach Soup
~Makes 1 large pot (8-10 portions)

olive oil
2 onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
3-4 carrots, sliced
10 oz. spinach, chopped (fresh or frozen can work)
2 c. green lentils
3 tsp. tomato paste
vegetable broth or water +bouillon
cayenne pepper

1. Rinse lentils (green lentils don't need soaking but it doesn't hurt).

2. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a large pot.

3. Add carrots and lentils. Saute for about 5 minutes.

4. Add tomato paste and enough broth or water to cover the vegetables and lentils (if using water + bouillon, add the water, raise to a boil, then add and mix in the bouillon). Bring to a boil.

5. Let simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the lentils and carrot are soft.

6. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.

7. Add in spinach.

8. Eat!

*This soup freezes well, so make it ahead of time and freeze in large or small portions.

*I like the color of the carrot-spinach-lentil combination, but you could substitute other greens (kale, chard, etc) and substitute (or add/combine) parsnips for the carrots.


And There Went a Week

>> Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I didn't intend to take a blogging hiatus. But I've been experimenting with a new schedule in which I get up and head straight to campus to do some reading before class. The benefit of this schedule is that I don't spend an hour or so online before getting my day's work started. The drawback is that blogging fell by the wayside. But I'm trying to find a way to make it all work together.

So a few random things:
*I made this spinach-artichoke dip for a Super Bowl party. It was good but I think I'm going back to my old spinach-artichoke recipe --- a recipe I'll share here as soon as I make it and can photograph it. It's not as healthy as this yogurt version, but I just like my pepper-jack laced spinach-artichoke dip.

*A few readers have asked me for tips on getting started with sewing and quilting. I'm pondering the best way to do this and will soon offer my take on a few things. In the meantime, the Sew Mama Sew blog has dedicated February to Fat-Quarter month and is showing some great projects one can make (pretty easily) with fat quarters. Doll quilts may not be up your alley, but the basic instructions hold for any size quilt.

Image from here

Another one of today's projects is a patchwork floormat, another simple, anything-can-work, you-don't-need-a-lot-of-experience activity. Instruction from Montessori by Hand for a similar patchwork bath mat can be found here.

*This weekend brought home how important cooking is to me and the degree it stabilizes me. I was in a funk on Sunday for no particular reason -- it was even sunny and warm (well, warm for a midwest winter; I could run outside without freezing my face or feet). I spent the afternoon cooking (lentil soup (recipe forthcoming), the aforementioned spinach-artichoke dip, and whole-wheat cheese bread. I thought about a dinner party menu for next weekend and, poof, life was good again. I need to remember this lesson for the future.


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