7/28/14

Halfway House

Yesterday I was able to finish the quilting and machine sew the binding on the Where Angels Walk quilt.


It ended up okay, although it is more loosely quilted than I'm accustomed to doing. I quilted a straight line grid by stitching on each side of the middle "bar" of each quilt block, and then again on each side of the sashings. You can get an idea what I'm talking about in the next image.


There are lots of fabrics in this quilt, but really one main floral, and I used that for the binding. Here's how it looks from the back:


The back was made from a 105-inch wide piece of fabric, and that was really slick. I've never used extra-wide fabric like that before, and I was thinking I would need to sew at least one seam for the back. But no. All I had to do was cut it to the correct width, and I was ready to sew.

This morning, I got a good start on the hand-sewing, and I'm now about halfway around the quilt. I love the neat and tidy look of a freshly sewn binding, and it improved the looks of this quilt significantly.


I have the label made, although I haven't printed it off yet. This quilt is a gift for our friends Greg and Jan, and I'm using the same image on the label that helped me choose the name for the quilt.


Our warm weather has returned, and so I need to do some watering this morning. Also, I have a few errands to run. I was set to make some zucchini relish today, but I might decide to wait until tomorrow. My jars aren't washed, and I like to wash them in the dishwasher so that I know they're really clean. And since I just washed the dishes, it doesn't seem prudent to run a whole load just to wash five jars, now does it?

Next on my sewing list is to quilt the Happy Campers quilt. I want to have it ready so that we can hang it in our fifth wheel before we take off on our trip to Minnesota in September.


It's a small quilt, and so it shouldn't take very long.

Also, I'm leaving for the 2014 Association of Pacific West Quilters Symposium on Thursday. And doesn't the word "symposium" make it sound all high falutin? Just now I Googled "symposium" to see what its technical definition is. This is what I found:

sym·po·si·um
simˈpōzēəm/
noun
  1. a conference or meeting to discuss a particular subject.
    • a collection of essays or papers on a particular subject by a number of contributors.
    • a drinking party or convivial discussion, especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet (and notable as the title of a work by Plato).


Okay, so I suppose they named it as "a conference or meeting to discuss a particular subject", but I kind of like the "drinking party" part of that definition. What do you think? So if you want to know what I'll be doing in addition to drinking, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post from back in April. I imagine the level of "imbibification" (I just now made up that word from the root, "imbibe") will have something to do with my success or failure in my classes. And just now, I wanted to check and see if I really made up that word, or if someone had already beaten me to it. Here's what I found upon the Google. From the Urban Dictionary:


imbibification 
A fancy name for the process of getting righteously (and discretely)plastered. Frequently used by those with inflated perceptions of themselves.
Did you see them pull ...(name of mindless celebrity, pompous senator, or sanctimonius pundit HERE) out of the Tidal Basin. He and his "friend" were definitely in an advanced state of imbibification.

Okay then.

This morning I was looking at the supply list. For one of my classes, I'm supposed to bring one yard of "Wonder-Under or your favorite fusible web" although it specifically says NOT to bring Heat-n-Bond. And since Heat-n-Bond is my favorite fusible web, I'm wondering what the problem is. It's always worked great for me, and so I've never tried anything else. I guess this will be my golden opportunity to try Wonder Under. Maybe the first thing I'll learn is that Heat-n-Bond is a terrible product and I'll be wishing I hadn't bought a 75-yard roll of it recently. And thank goodness for Amazon Prime. I ordered some Wonder Under this morning, and I'll have it by Wednesday. 

Have I said recently how much I love the internet?

So that's my day, and my week for that matter. I'll be writing some posts ahead that you'll see while I'm gone, although I'm not ruling out blogging while I'm gone. I'm staying in the dorms at the University of Puget Sound where this whole shindig is taking place. (Now that I know it's a drinking party, I figure it's been unmasked for the "shindig" it really is. And, hey! It's a college campus, for Pete's sake, in Washington, where marijuana is legal now! Why wouldn't it be a shindig?) 

But now I'm getting ahead of myself because I have more blog posts to write before I go. I feel them brewing inside of me as these particular words are laid down. Anyway...all of that to say that the July NewFO Linky Party and Giveaway goes live on Thursday. Are you ready?

7/27/14

Cheery Cherry Pie

Yesterday I went to the Portland Farmer's Market with my dear daughter-in-law, Mae. Erik had to work, but we were nice and took him a lox and bagel sandwich when we finished up. It gave me an opportunity to give him a "flash hug", which I give to my kids at every opportunity. We are a family of huggers. You could do a lot worse.

Anyway...I was on the hunt for pie cherries. I'm glad we went yesterday because I just about missed them. They can be hard to find because they have a short season. As it turns out, ours ripened about two weeks early this year. On our last trip to the farmer's market, we were too early. And now, just about a month later, we were almost too late. Nevertheless, my hunting and gathering excursion yesterday was a success!


Today's kitchen caper was to bake a cherry pie. Recall that I was going to try to make the spiral crust a la Martha Stewart. Here's Martha's version:


Martha didn't give any recipe with her picture...just a little two-step instruction on how to do it. I figured I could use the same crust I use for lattice-top, thinking it would want to be the same sort of structure, and so I used the recipe I always use from Baking Illustrated.


Only...I do mine even easier than they do because I do the whole thing in my food processor. I just keep sprinkling ice water over it until it comes together, and it works fine. A while back, I did a little tutorial about lattice-top pie crusts. You can see how I make the crust right here

So anyway...my crust was unusually cooperative, which makes my cherry pie a "cheery" one. With a lattice-top, I usually cut the strips 1 1/2 inches wide. For this one, I cut them 1/2-inch wide. Then you just start in the center, twisting, and wrapping...


until you have the whole top of the pie covered.


Then, I brushed the outer edge of the bottom crust with an egg wash made from an egg beaten with a healthy pinch of salt, and then I stuck another curl of dough around the outer edge. Then, I brushed the whole top with egg wash. Then, I baked it. 

So what do you think? Does mine look like Martha's?


This was super easy...it was a whole lot easier than a lattice top.

Several of you have said you don't do pie crust. I mentioned this in the tutorial I linked to above, but it's worth repeating for those of you who avoid pie crust out of fear. Here's the thing. If you're pie crust phobic, you're not alone.  Russ Parsons, in his food science book, How to Read a French Fry,



aptly pointed out that:

[I]t is precisely because we make pie crusts so rarely that they have the power to inspire dread disproportionate to their actual difficulty.  A pie crust ain't nothin' but flour, fat and water, right? That, of course, is disingenuous.  It is because the ingredients are so basic that pie crusts are so difficult.  They are almost totally dependent on technique, and technique is not something that you can pick up on a quick trip to the grocery store.  The only way to learn how to make a good pie crust is to make enough bad ones that you finally acquire both an understanding and a feel for how a good one is made. (emphasis mine)

I made my first pie crust in approximately 1978. It was a colossal failure, and it was approximately 25 years (no exaggeration) before I gave it another try.

So...do you want to make a pie crust? Maybe you don't. But if you do, then just try it! Feel the fear. Do it anyway. Really...what's the worst that can happen? Pie crust is very forgiving. If it falls apart, just stick it back together like play-doh. And if it's tough, so what? Who cares? It's going to taste fantastic anyway. Just put lots of ice cream on it, and call it good. And finally, as with so many things, if you avoid making it because you are afraid of messing up, you'll be depriving yourself of the one and only way you'll have to learn to make a good crust every time.

I'm no pastry chef, and I've made plenty of bad pie crusts. But I've never made one that was absolutely inedible. My pies can be beautiful, or they can be a mess. Either way, they always get eaten to the very last fork full. Here's my parting advice to anyone who secretly yearns to make a pie crust, but is afraid to try: Use lots of flour. When it comes to pie crust, flour is your friend. Sprinkle it liberally on your work surface. Roll your rolling pin in it and sprinkle it generously over the top of the crust as you roll. If it starts to stick, use more flour. Even if it ends up tough, it will get eaten. I promise.

So my other quest at the farmer's market was to find some nice zucchini to make zucchini relish. That will be for tomorrow's kitchen caper, however.


Today I'm hoping to finish quilting "Where Angels Walk". I'm quilting it in a grid, and yesterday I finished all the horizontal quilting. Today I'm hoping to finish the vertical quilting. It's not turning out as beautifully as I'd hoped. There are no puckers or pleats, but it's looking more like a tied quilt to me. There's nothing wrong with tied quilts. It's just not the look I was going for. I'm thinking that it should be washed after it's bound and then it will take on a nice puffy appearance.

My conclusion about this is that I should really stick with my rule about not quilting anything too large for me to sandwich on my ping pong table. The Sharon Schamber method worked well enough, but the quilt is really to large for either me or Big Bertha to handle comfortably. Next time I do a quilt this large, it'll be going to the long armer. Besides...I really prefer spray basting. It just works better for me...or maybe I've just had more practice with it. Either way, I'm sticking with what works best.

So with that said, I'm off. But then, you already knew that, didn't you?

7/25/14

Pitted, Cooked, Processed, Canned, Sandwiched, Pinned, Basted

Now, you might think I was cooking up new ways with tuna fish after all that, but I'm not. I'm cooking up cherry chutney and sandwiching a quilt. How's that for a productive day? You have to get up pretty early in the morning, and fortunately, my furry alarm clock insures that I'm wide awake and kicking at the dawn's early light.

This morning I got right to work with my cherries because I was determined to make a quilt sandwich today too.


I pitted and stemmed four pounds of cherries, which makes quite a mess.


Then I tossed in all the other ingredients and cooked it down for about an hour. I was supposed to dice the cherries first, but I forgot. (Duh.) As they cooked, I mashed them with a potato masher. Despite being really careful in the pitting process, I fished out four pits that floated to the top as I cooked them.


Once I had it all cooked down, I ladled it into half pint jars and then processed it 20 minutes. (I have to add five minutes for our elevation.)


And there they are. My yield was 9 half-pint jars...just about what was promised. I like putting chutney in half-pints rather than pints because it is used rather slowly. It also makes a good gift that way.


Of course, I opened one of the jars and tasted it, and it was delicious. The cherry flavor really comes through. It's a little bit tart, and it has a nice kick. Lots of folks ask me what to use it for. It's a condiment, like ketchup, and it's very good on pork, poultry, fish, sandwiches, or else spread on a cracker with some cream cheese. Dee-lish. If you'd like to give this a try, you can find Marisa McClellan's recipe right here. She's become my go-to gal for all things chutney, saucy, and salsa.

When I had that done and things fairly well back in order in the kitchen, I turned my attention to sandwiching the "Where Angels Walk" quilt. As I said in an earlier post, I was going to give a try to Sharon Schamber's method of sandwiching and basting a quilt sandwich. It worked out pretty well, and it was way easier than getting down on hands and knees. So here's how it goes, but watch the video if you really want to know.

First you lay out your quilt backing and top without the batting. In retrospect, it seems to me you could do these one at a time if you're certain your backing is large enough to accommodate your quilt top.


Once I had everything laid out and smooth, I was ready for my boards. I had Mike go with me to pick out some boards. We chose some really inexpensive boards that are nice and smooth and already painted. Thus, no splinters.


Next, you roll the top onto one board, and the bottom onto the other. I used a little painter's tape to keep mine flat on the first roll of the board, and I thought that helped quite a bit.



When you're finished, each is rolled onto its own board. This is why it seems like you could roll them up one at a time rather than smoothing them all out on top of one another. They aren't connected in any way at this point.


Next, you're ready to unroll with the batting between the two. You start by turning both boards around so that you unroll away from yourself.


Sharon Schamber goes into quite a bit of detail about thread basting at this point in the video. I had already decided to pin baste. None of her warnings about it really applied to me, so I ignored them. I had a little trouble keeping the back nice and flat and tight as I was flipping the batting back and forth while rolling the three layers together, but in the end, I think it's fine. When I was all done, I had a nicely sandwiched quilt, and no bruises on my knees.


I'm used to spray basting where everything is stuck tight together, and this pin basting felt kind of loosey-goosey to me. I don't think there's anything wrong with what I did, but it feels loose to me compared to spray baste. Also, I think as a first-timer, this would have been easier with a smaller quilt. I had a huge piece of batting that I cut to size with scissors once I had it all sandwiched, and that worked pretty well. And since this technique is new to me, I'm linking up to:


So that was my day, in a nutshell. I did a lot of stuff today, but those are the highlights. By the time I was finished sandwiching the quilt, my neck was bothering me, and so I quit for the day. Next, I'll start quilting it, but that probably will have to wait until tomorrow or Sunday.

What did you do today?

7/24/14

Fair Lady

Not a whole lot going on here today. I've been working away sewing sleeves and labels onto two of the four quilts I'm entering in this year's Oregon State Fair. And I'm happy to say they are all ready to go now.


They still need to be properly packed up for entry...lots of hoops to jump through, it seems to me, but thems are the rules.

Aside from that, it was boring stuff today: ATM. Post Office. Grocery Store. The weather has been kind of crappy the past two days, but that just means I can hang out in the house and not worry about what's going on in the garden. A couple of days like that in July is fine, but I'm ready for the return of summer now.


They had a pretty good deal on sweet cherries at the grocery store today. I picked up five pounds. Tomorrow I'm going to do my first canning of the season when I turn four of the five pounds into Sweet Cherry Chutney. I found the recipe online earlier this week. It went straight to my to-do list. I just happen to love chutney, and pretty much any flavor will do. I've made plum chutney, blueberry chutney, cranberry chutney, green tomato chutney, and peach chutney before. This will be my first try at cherry. I'm hoping it's a good one.

Mae and I are going to the Portland Farmer's Market on Saturday, and I'm going to pick up some pie cherries and some zucchini. It's time for my annual cherry pie. Martha Stewart had a pretty alternative to lattice top in one of her magazines recently. I'd like to give that a try.

Doesn't that look yummy? It's made pretty much the same way as a lattice top, only instead of weaving those strips of crust together, you twirl them into a corkscrew and then spiral them around from the center out. I'm going to give it a try, and see how it goes.

And since I just have one more jar of zucchini relish left, it's time to make some more of that. A batch usually lasts us a couple of years, with some to give away. Today I checked the tomatoes again, and now there are two red ones! Can salsa and pasta sauce be far behind? So...lots of canning in my future over the next few days. The jars are washed and ready. Also I'm needing to pull together my list of supplies for next week's quilting symposium in Tacoma. I don't leave until Thursday, and so I still have a little time to get that ready.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to get the quilt sandwich made for "Where Angels Walk".


I'm going to do some simple straight line quilting on it. The quilt is wider than will fit on my ping pong table, and so I'm going to try Sharon Schamber's method of sandwiching it. I have the requisite boards now, and so I just need to make the back and clear off my workspace to get started. She thread bastes hers, but I'm going to pin mine with large safety pins. I figure I can pin it in unquilted spaces, and they won't get in my way. I realize I'm dragging my feet a little on this, as I usually do when I try something new. Do you do that too? Once I get going, it usually ends up being easier than I thought it would. Still, it's hard to get started.

So that's the game plan for tomorrow. What's on your list for Friday?


7/23/14

A Day At Home

This morning I settled in for a badly needed day at home. There are lots of little paper-worky things on my to-do list...the kinds of things that take some time, and yet, you don't feel like you've accomplished much when you're finished. I spent the morning getting two quilts packed up for shipping. Those will go out tomorrow. 

As I said in my post yesterday, I have some things to tell you. For one thing, the first tomato has started turning red! This is very exciting.


And these greenies need to get a move on because all my canning has to be done before we leave on August 31st. I was perusing my posts from last year and discovered that I had enough tomatoes to make salsa on August 8th. It's looking promising, but it's never a good idea to count one's tomatoes before they ripen.


All that white dust you see on the foliage is sulfur dust. They get little sucking mites on the foliage if we don't use it. It's an organic product, and we try to avoid using chemicals on our tomatoes.

Karla Alexander spoke at my guild on Monday evening. She's a dynamic and fun speaker, and apparently an inspirational teacher since she was voted Most Inspirational Teacher of the Year at the Sisters (Oregon) Outdoor Quilt Festival earlier this month. That is no small honor, let me tell you.


As I said earlier, I got a chance to meet Karla when she traveled to Ireland with me in June, 2012. The tour organization has professional quilters accompany different tours, and Karla was on our bus. She was delightful, and she has a very good sense of humor. Her latest book is just about to be published, and she showed us the original quilts from the book on Monday night.


Here are the quilts that were on display, and some she brought along to show while she spoke.




I like this take-off on the Irish Chain.




As she showed her quilts, she took time to show us how the blocks were constructed. If you're familiar with Karla's work, then you know she also designs specialized rulers. She explained how some of these blocks are made using her rulers.


The leaves in the next image are pieced, not appliqued.


And she showed us a couple of these rag quilts where the subject of the quilt is pictured from the front,


And from the back.


Cute, huh? Here's another one:



Oh yes, and I had my first observation with the Coffee Creek Quilters yesterday morning. I drove down and met up with one of the other volunteers who lives down the hill from me. Another woman, also from the group, met us and drove. Then, when we got to the prison, there were three more volunteers, one of whom was "lead" instructor. It was enjoyable meeting the other volunteers, although you know I'm not fond of breaking into groups of strangers, particularly when it's a group that has been together a long time. Nevertheless, they were all friendly, and a couple of them had very good senses of humor.

The inmates were delightful, and I found myself wanting to spend more time with them. I was helping one woman learn to sew a quilt binding with mitered corners. I was stepping into a work already in progress, and so it was a little confusing. For one thing, the volunteer who asked for my help has an interesting way of sewing on her bindings, where she cuts four strips, the length and width of the quilt. Then she sews the binding on, and somehow hand stitches mitered corners. (My friend Marei explained this to me via email this morning.) I was thinking about this last night because when the volunteer asked me to help, the strips were cut in those lengths already. I had to show the inmate how to sew the strips together, and then we started sewing the binding on. We ran out of time, and so we only had sewn one side before it was time to quit. 

Also, she (the volunteer instructor) doesn't trim her quilt backs until after the binding is sewn on. In fact, the quilt in question was sandwiched and basted, but not yet quilted. That part occurred to me later. I don't know about you, but I always saw my binding on last. The quilt is quilted, squared up and trimmed, and then the binding is sewn on. Different strokes, I guess.

Anyway, I enjoyed working with the inmates. (I have to think of a better word for them...maybe the students? The quilters?) It's too soon for me to say whether this is a good fit for me. I'm being extra cautious since it seems an awful lot like social work, and I retired from social work because I was seriously burned out. I'm being very careful about committing to this, and so I'm not making any decisions until I've completed all three observations and thought it through completely.

The rest of the afternoon is devoted to getting two out of my four quilts ready for entry into the Oregon State Fair. (The other two have been shown before, and so they're ready to go.) I think I have about two weeks left to get things ready, but time's a-wastin', so I need to get to it. This morning I created the labels for the two remaining quilts,



I still need to print them on off-white fabric, and then I may decide to color in some of the details. I haven't decided for sure yet. Also, I need to add the sleeves. I'm hoping to get the sleeves made and pinned to the back of the quilt today, and then I can do the hand-stitching in the mornings when I would ordinarily do my embroidery.

Since I won't be around during the month of September, I needed someone to pick up my quilts when the fair ends on September 1st. Fortunately, a kindly person from my guild stepped forward for that. Thank you, AnnMarie. The rest of the afternoon will be devoted to the sleeves, followed quickly by getting the quilting under way for the "Where Angels Walk" quilt. I'm hoping to have this ready to gift to someone during the second weekend in August. Think I'll make it?

It's been a rainy day today with fairly heavy rain falling. I think we're all pretty glad for the moisture, although it made things pretty muggy yesterday afternoon. Still, it's nice to wet everything down, and it should help with the wildfires currently burning here in the Pacific Northwest.

How's your day going?