Thursday, February 28, 2013

On The Design Wall

Here's the project I began working on last night.
I have a picture of a little quilt saved from some time back, I had even put together a collection of fabrics into a "kit". It has aged enough and now it's time to see if I can make something I like!
 People often ask me how I go about the construction of art quilts, and below is a progression of photos that show a bit of the process. It's like painting a picture with little squares of fabric, I stack them in box tops just like an artists paint palette.
This quilt is quite simple and not very large so it went up on the wall pretty quickly.
Step 1. In the beginning, the bare bones!
This midnight blue is too harsh a contrast up against the gold and red but I really want to use it because it is the perfect midnight sky color, even has a bit of a mottled appearance so it is not "flat" looking. That's hard to see in the photos but it does show in person! And that large plain gold star is really "in my face" on its own so it will need some "help" as I proceed.
In my stash there I find this batik which may buffer the dark blue. It has lots of different colors allowing me to choose the areas that have the most appropriate shading, this is amazing fabric!
I think this might work.
You can see how this new blue is a better transition, more pleasing to the eye. Now what to do about that star, it certainly needs something! First I tried the red square and like the color but the shape is wrong and it would need to be appliqued on......argh.
 So I decide on a red spinning star, then add another spinner up on the left to give more interest and movement and so that the red one will have a "friend". Someone told me once that every fabric needs at least one "friend" for balance in a quilt and I applied that principle to the lonely star!
The yellow in the comet trail looks a bit anemic and the trail needs to be wider at the top. Replacing it with a brighter gold gives more life, then switching out the red flames for a different fabric looks more "fiery". A few HST's make some of the color transitions softer and round off the leading edge of the comet as it speeds through the sky! I am still "tweaking" this, every time I walk by the studio door I look and sometimes rearrange a square!
Hmmm, perhaps that will almost do it! However, I have been known to sew one of these quilts together then decide that there is one little square somewhere in the middle that stands out like it doesn't belong ! In that case I simply must replace it and although I always hope it will not happen this time, there are no guarantees!
These pics give some indication of the thought process as the design develops and I add and subtract portions, and perhaps may encourage anyone who thinks they want to try an art quilt of their own!
I will probably make a yellow stop border, then a blue outer border though I doubt I have enough of that dark blue [it's a wide back batik]. I think I purchased it at 35th. Ave Sew 'N Vac, so perhaps I can get a bit more. It's too far to drive over there for just one small thing so I will wait until I am back to that store for the BOM pick up which is third Saturday.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Current BOM

Yesterday I decided to tackle the 35th. Ave Sew 'n Vac BOM I picked up last Saturday so I would be ahead of the game. It's something I can sew on for a few minutes then leave to tend to The Boy without losing my momentum!
The pieces were already cut earlier in the week so that helped, and ta-da, here is the block for March. It consists of four smaller sections connected by sashing and I have to make 16 of the small pieces to complete four like the one above. All the small sections are ready to do final construction, this part goes together fast so they should be all finished tomorrow. I tried to keep the random colors contrasting but in the end a couple of squares were very close in hue. Not to worry, it is a big quilt!
 Then I remade last months' block in the larger 12.5" size and boy it was so much easier. The smallest pieces were twice the size and my fingers were thanking me! I am really happy that I decided to switch to the bigger blocks/quilt, this will make a very economical queen size quilt. I am keeping in mind the finished article..............

 I had to borrow this pic from Andee's blog, [thanks Andee] she took the pic with her phone at the 35th.Ave. store  and it's a little fuzzy but you can pick out the blocks we have done so far, the center and the four large stars with sashing. I will take a better photo in March when I go to pick up the next block.
Gorgeous isn't it? Kind of Amish looking I think.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Not Your Momma's Grilled Cheese Sandwich!

Recently my name was drawn at Heather's 1000th. blog post celebration and I won this great recipe book.
It just came in the mail Saturday [we must make the most of that since USPS Saturday deliveries will soon be ending in an attempt to salvage our government-run-synonymous with bankruptcy- Postal "Service"! Oh, did I forget govt. subsidized by our taxes?!]
 I have browsed through the pages filled with delicious recipes for everyone and there are too many ideas to list all my favorites but below are a few notable sandwiches, sufficient perhaps to pique your interest.
The first one that caught my eye was  "Chocolate Hazelnut-stuffed French Toast" yum yum, how is that for a sweet-tooth breakfast?
Followed closely by " Smoked Salmon and Brie", " Cheese Sliders With Caramelized Balsamic Onions", "Veggie and Goat Cheese Wraps", "Turkey Jalapena Melt", "Salmon and Gorgonzola" etc etc and so on!
In case you re thinking these are a bit too exotic for you, included are new versions of patty melts and grilled cheese burgers.
 There is an entire section devoted to delicious recipes for homemade relish, salsa, mayo, aioli, pesto, hummus and other sauces and spreads.
The book is authored by Alison Lewis, published by Robert Rose and is available from either of them.
Grilled cheese sammies are such a quick, satisfying meal and actually can be made nutritious, healthy and elegant so if grilled cheese is a favorite of yours too check out this new cook book.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekend Quilt Report

This weekend I finished quilting the third QOV for the week, so I am feeling very virtuous!
I used the left over backing strips for the binding.
I still have one of the three to bind.
 Below is the backing fabric.
 Quilted with a stars and stripes pantograph.
 Saturday was the pick up for 35th. Ave Sew 'N Vac BOM, and over the weekend I also prepped the fabrics for next month's block. We have to make four identical blocks this time so I should not wait till the last minute!
Last month I had made the small block so I cut a new set of fabrics to remake the block in the larger size. Not sure how much I will get done this week, it is our week with The Boy!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day And A Sweet Treat

While I have no quilty Valentine post I do have a yummy one!
I made these Strawberry/Rosemary Scones this morning from a recipe on from "Giarda at Home". I couldn't find my heart shaped cookie cutter so they are round and while aesthetically it changes them the taste is just fine as confirmed by the recipients.
It's a simple, easy recipe and the combination of fresh rosemary in the batter and lemon juice in the frosting provides a piquancy of flavor plus that little dab of strawberry jam? Well, it's really, really good they are tender, light, and not too sweet!
The trick with these kinds of recipes is:
 a] keep the ingredients chilly and
 b] handle as little as possible,
Mix only till just barely combined and then get them into the preheated oven ASAP. I do not roll out these doughs but just pat them gently till they are the correct thickness, a light touch is very important.
I used only lemon juice in the frosting although the recipe calls for water too. The frosting sets up nicely and these scones transported perfectly without disturbing their appearance.
While not at all resembling the real Aussie/English scones, these are still very good. Even the pronunciation is different, the American version is pronounced with a long "O" whereas antipodeans say scones with the short "O".
Clear as mud, right?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

The first Day of Lent, for Christians a forty day journey of reflection, meditation and repentance.
For those who join me in this annual rite, may we all experience a Holy Lent. 

Two More Quilts Of Valor

For Wounded Warriors
PS. I only quilt and bind these two, I did not construct them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Current BOM

I am linking with BOM Monday over  at "What a Hoot".
Last night I made my center block for 35th.Ave. BOM. I originally wanted to do the smaller version of this quilt but I have changed my mind.
When I go Saturday to pick up the Feb. block/blocks [some months there are two to complete] I will ask about switching to the larger version the 10.5" blocks rather than this 8.5".
The pieces are so tiny, the squares are only .75" finished. I can handle that ok in paper piecing but not so well otherwise I seem to be all thumbs! And I am not demeaning thumbs, after all opposing thumbs are an important part of what sets homo sapiens apart from the rest!
 I suspect that all the surgeries on my hands/wrists, joint replacement etc have something to do with that. Whatever the reason, I am not very good at the very small piecing, perhaps one reason I am not crazy about applique, especially needle turn and any hand sewing in fact.
The larger block almost doubles the size of the smallest squares and I thinkI could handle that better, more accurately.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cindy's Batik Arrowhead Quilt

Cindy's lovely quilt for her younger DGD, I think the young lady will love it, after all she chose the colorway herself. It is elegant but not too much so for a younger person.
It came off the LA yesterday and I got it bound by bedtime and in hindsight probably could have waited to bind until daylight, black is always harder to sew on at night. Working with black thread that matched the border and binding so well was a bit of a challenge especially when my DSM chose to make funky stitches which required some machine adjustments and of course resewing the offending stitching!
The quilting thread is a beautiful variegated pink King Tut by Superior Threads. IMO this company makes the very best quilting threads available and they provide a huge assortment of every type and color- I use their threads for most of my quilting, the dependability and customer service is outstanding.
I am pleased that I changed my mind about custom quilting this one block by block, the quilting gets lost even using a lighter variegated thread and the floral/leafy Edge to Edge freehand is a much better choice.
See how the black binding thread disappears into the fabric, it's Superior's Bottom Line a nice result but hard on the eyes especially at night! The backing is a gorgeous batik and I am sorry but I do not remember where Cindy found it!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Soup's On!

Although it is warming up here in Arizona, I will continue to endeavor to fit in as many pots of soup as I can before it gets too warm for anything but vichyssoise!
Last week I made an old favorite, Mulligatwany soup, an Indian style vegetarian soup with curry and the unlikely addition of a tart apple-it is very yummy,
Earlier this week I made a coconut/curry soup in the Thai style with chicken added for protein. It called for "garangol", a ginger like root that I did not have, and I am not sure if that is why the flavor sort of lacked depth until I added more of my own version of fish sauce- that's equal parts of crushed anchovy or anchovy paste and soy sauce-and let the soup sit a day or two in the fridge.
[ Recommended subs for garangol are ginger root with the addition of a pinch of cinnamon and mace.]

However this evening I hit the jackpot with another Thai style soup. I looked up a half dozen recipes online and came up with my own version of "Peanut/Coconut/ Curry soup with chicken and Udon noodles"! If you get the idea I like curries you would be correct, growing up in Australia I was exposed to a heavy Indian/Asian influence and curry recipes abound.
Doesn't it look delicious? It's a very hearty soup and with addition of a fresh salad was plenty even for the large males! Next time I will try it with shrimp and let you know how that goes.
Usually I do not record my recipes so they tend to vary, sometimes wildly, but this time I did write down everything because it was that good! Normally I cook by trial and taste!
It can become vegetarian by substituting seafood for the chicken and using vegetable broth.
There are a lot of items but most can be found in the average pantry and the rest are available at the grocery store. It's very easy too, and fast, no waiting all day for this one!
"Peanut/Coconut/ Curry soup with chicken and Udon noodles"!
1cup shitake mushrooms, rehydrated                        
 2 x 32ozs. cartons  of broth                      
3 carrots chopped            
3 stalks celery, leaves and all, chopped             
1 onion, chopped
3  raw chicken breasts cubed   
 1 can unsweetened coconut milk         
 3/4 cup all natural crunchy peanut butter
3 x 6 ozs. pkgs of Japanese style Udon noodles     
 3tbl. fish sauce or substitute
4tsp. yellow curry powder          
1 heaped tsp. of Thai green curry paste   
 2 tbl. flour
2tbl. each of coconut oil and butter            
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes     
juice of a lime
 one inch of fresh ginger peeled and finely grated           
I also used 2 tbl. of dried lemongrass tied in a sachet to make removal easy
chopped fresh  cilantro for garnish

In a large stock pot heat oil and butter and saute vegetables about 10 minutes. 
Add seasonings:
 curries, fish sauce, red pepper flakes, and flour and stir till well blended, then add stock stirring until mixed. Add lemon grass, grated ginger and shitake mushrooms along with the fluid from rehydration of the mushrooms and simmer about 20-30 minutes. Add raw chicken cubes and simmer a further 10 minutes or so until cooked through. 
Then add unsweetened coconut milk, peanut butter and Udon noodles and bring to a simmer, to blend flavors and heat the noodles thoroughly. Add lime juice and serve the soup with chopped cilantro. 
I did not add any salt other than what was in the stock and the fish sauce, but you could add a pinch at the table if desired. The chunky peanut butter adds pleasant texture to the dish.
If I had not been so full I would have been back for seconds!
As it is, this recipe made enough for 6 hearty servings so we have sufficient for another meal!

We accompanied the soup with a nicely chilled bottle of a delightful Sonoma County Chardonnay kindly gifted to DS by a doc friend.  It had lovely pear tones, free from the heavy oakiness that spoils many chardonnays for me. It is highly recommended, and that from a red wine enthusiast! Available at all AJ's and Fry's Marketplace Cellar stores, and some wine shops and restaurants.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Quilting Update

Lest you suppose I have not been sewing, these two Arrowhead block quilts are now bound, and as any quilter will say, binding is a time consuming chore!
Even though I have developed a very neat, tailored and secure method of binding completely by machine, it still takes care and therefore more time than some other parts of the quilt making process.
The bindings are all scrappy, I used all the end bits left from the piecing of the blocks, I think it adds to the charm of an authentic quilt and gets those pesky left overs out of my life!
Last week there seemed to be activities every day-it was my birthday so that explains it-
 a week-long celebration of surviving to this venerable age!
This week is our turn with The Boy, so not a lot gets done other than enjoying him!
I did manage to load this lovely quilt on the longarm-last summer I taught a friend how to make the Arrowhead blocks and she made this beautiful batik quilt for her granddaughter in GD's chosen color-way.
I had originally thought to custom each block with a leafy wreath and quilt leaves in the sashing but once it was on the LA I decided that would break it up and make it too fussy.
The overall flower/leaf combo is turning out nicely and will pull all the blocks together.
It is quilted with a lovely variegated pink cotton thread guessed it, Superior Threads!
Once the quilting is done I still have to bind it.
One of my goals this year apart from catching up on longarming some tops, mine, as well as the quilts for the military, QOV's and HOB's, is to use up my selvedge collection.
I make potholders, pin cushions etc, but still the bag gets fatter so I plan to construct a selvedge quilt!
 As you can see it is about 8"tall.....
 12" wide...........
and 14" long and stuffed full!
I have seen a couple of design ideas on other blogs but if you have a recommendation please let me know, I am still looking!