02/24/14

Design Wall Monday – Jelly Stars

Today, there is something new on my design wall. Jelly Star Blocks.019The first time I made this star block was in 2006 as part of a high school graduation quilt for my daughter, Sarah. I was recently reintroduced to it by Jenny Doan from Missouri Star Quilt Company when she was a guest speaker at my local quilt guild. You can click here to see Jenny’s video on how to make it.

I liked the idea of using a pre-cut roll of 2 1/2″ strips for the stars but I didn’t like the part about making the star points with folded corners (although that is exactly how I made the block in the fore mentioned graduation quilt.) I already have a drawer full of cut away corners and I only had a little bit of the purple background fabric. That put me in a fabric conservation mood! With a little figuring and using a fabric saving trick I learned from a Marti Michell instruction insert I came up with an alternate way of making my star points.

This technique uses the Marti Michell template set B, triangle template B-13 (pictured) Note: These measurements will work with solids and batiks but not prints that have a right and wrong side.

For each block cut four strips that measure 8 1/4″ x 2 1/2″. (I cut mine from a jelly roll, thus the pinked edge.) Using a ruler, mark 6″ from one end.

Mark 6" from the end

Mark 6″ from the end

Position Marti Michell Template B-13 as shown with the tip of the triangle aligned with the top edge and with the mark you made in the step above. Cut.

Position template B 13

Position template B 13 like this

Cut with a rotary cutter, I stack and cut all four at once.

Cut with a rotary cutter, I stack and cut all four at once.

Use the template and a rotary cutter to nip the corners.

Cut a 2 1/2″ strip of background fabric. Using the same template B-13, cut the strip into triangles and blunt the corners. Cut 8 triangles per block.

Cut 8 per block

Cut 8 per block

Flip the 4″ piece over (wrong side, although solids don’t usually have a right or wrong side). You want the triangle peaks going opposite ways. Sew the background triangles to each end. Press the seam toward the triangle on the longer piece and away from the triangle on the shorter one.017

Complete the block according to Jenny’s video. Here is a finished block. The corner squares are cut 4″.

Jelly Star Block

Jelly Star Block

I will keep on making blocks until I run out of purple background fabric – which might be soon!

Click here to go to The Patchwork Times and find out what others have on their design walls today!

02/23/14

Potholders in the Sewing Room

I’m an okay cook. I actually enjoy cooking and baking. When my children were growing up I made home cooked dinners most nights. But that was then. This is now.

At the kitchen sink

At the kitchen sink

Most days I’d rather quilt than cook. For years my “Gone Quilting” sign has hung in my kitchen.

Is it an apology or an excuse? Neither, really. I just think it’s funny.

When I first got the sign I hung it by the front door until visitors started telling me they stopped by but didn’t ring the bell when they saw I was away quilting. I wasn’t away, I was just on the other side of the door and I may not have even been quilting at that moment. I was sorry I missed their visits, so I moved my sign to the kitchen.

I have another sign in my kitchen.

025

Yup. If I’m going to cook, my favorites are fast meals, meals that don’t cost a fortune in fancy ingredients and, yes, the easier the better. I know plenty of quilters who prescribe to my Fast, Cheap, or Easy philosophy and are still great cooks – just because it’s made quickly doesn’t mean it tastes like fast food.

I also know that I’m not the only quilter who has permanently relocated her roll of Reynold’s Freezer Wrap to the sewing room. There are far more uses for freezer paper in the sewing room than in the kitchen!

023

But potholders?

024Surely they are more practical in the kitchen, even if they aren’t used very often. What can you do with potholders in the sewing room?

Until yesterday I would have said, “Not much.” That was before I met up with friends for a day of sewing and saw Sharon’s ironing station.

Ironing station at sew day

Ironing station at sew day

Here, look a little closer

Potholders to the rescue!

Uneven floor? Wobbly ironing board? Potholders to the rescue!

So, whether you are a gourmet cook or a short cut cook (like me), when the ironing board wobbles, remember the potholders!

(Disclaimer: Sharon is an excellent cook and only uses potholders in the sewing room in dire situations!)

02/21/14

Here a Star, There a Star!

It’s fun to spend time sewing with friends. On Monday I spent all day and evening as a day camper with friends on a quilting retreat. Late in the afternoon, I pulled out my Star for the Day and found a place to sit and do a bit of handwork. Kathleen took a break from her sewing machine and joined me. We chatted as we stitched, sharing Star-A-Day stories. Kathleen is making her tiny stars with the English Paper Piecing method, they are scrappy, happy and perfect.

Kathleen's English Paper Pieced stars

Kathleen’s English Paper Pieced stars

Across the room, Christy finished sewing some of her stars together and Amy had her first three done, as did Kaye.

Christy's first section.

Christy’s first section

Amy's first three stars

Amy’s first three stars

Kaye is going for a Star-A-Month so with three completed she is ahead for the year!

Kaye is going for a Star-A-Month so with three completed she is ahead for the year!

There were stars over here and stars over there.

Christy's stars. She is using a uniform background throughout.

Christy’s stars. She is using a uniform background throughout.

Not everyone on the retreat is making tiny stars. Deanna was working on eight pointed stars too, but in a more reasonable 12″ size.

Deanna's 12" Star made with the Tucker Trimmer Ruler

Deanna’s 12″ Star made with the Tucker Trimmer Ruler

Although not on retreat with the rest of us, I snapped these photos of my Weds Sewing friends’ star blocks.

Kathy's is working from her scrap basket. Anything goes!

Kathy is working from her scrap basket.

Kathy's stack of stars, 27 blocks high! Many were stitched on the deck of a cruise ship!

Kathy’s stack of stars, 27 blocks high! Many were stitched on the deck of a cruise ship!

 

Nancy's red, cream and blue stars

Nancy’s red, cream and blue stars

It was the first time so many of us who are making tiny stars had been together in a group, so it was fun to share the insanity. As we laughed and stitched it didn’t seem like such a crazy idea after all.

To read all my Star-A-Day posts click here.

02/20/14

It’s National Cherry Pie Day!

Who knew? National Cherry Pie Day! I learned about it at 3 pm today. I had already missed the cherry pie for breakfast and cherry pie for lunch part of the celebration. You can be sure I wasn’t going to miss cherry pie for dinner too!

There was once a time, not so very long ago, that there was no way on earth I would have started to bake a pie at 4 in the afternoon. Heck, until 2011 I didn’t even know how to bake a pie, much less whip one out in an hour.

That was before I spent a year teaching myself to make pies. I read old cookbooks, collecting bits of pie baking wisdom. I invited myself into the kitchens of great pie bakers, in three counties, and watched them mix pie dough and roll out crust. I found pie taste testers in my neighborhood and beyond. And I baked, and baked, and baked.

Pie baking with Arlene Lawson

Pie baking with Arlene Lawson

I asked my sister, Dora, how she learned to make good pies. She told me, “I baked a lot of bad pies.  That’s the way to learn.” So I baked more pies. My pie testers ate up every last bit of crust, wiped their mouths and said, “That was good pie, but I think you need more practice.”  So I went home and tried again.

Working my way through a list of fruit pies I tried double crust pies and open faced pies. I tried cooking the filling on the stove top and I tried putting it between the crusts partially frozen. My vintage cook books became tabbed with bright pink sticky notes marking pages of recipes to try. Notes to myself reminded me “if the crust is too crumbly decrease the amount of shortening” and “add two tablespoons of butter to the pie dough for a golden brown finish”.

My friend Kathleen, reigning County Fair winner, Best in Class, Best in Category, Grand Champion Cherry Pie Baker extraordinaire, taught me to make cherry pie. There were other cherry pie recipes before hers and after hers until somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I ought to not mess with something so good. So, when the occasion calls for Cherry Pie it is Kathleen’s recipe that I pull out.

In Kathleen's kitchen making my first latticed top crust.

In Kathleen’s kitchen making my first latticed top Cherry Pie.

Not quite ready for the county fair

Not quite ready for the county fair!

Along the way I burnt cherry pies and I undercooked cherry pies. Fillings boiled over in the oven, and steam vents split open so far that it looked like a gaping wound. I forgot the salt and I forgot the butter.

When your crust looks like this it's a sign to throw it away and start over.

When your crust looks like this it’s a sign to throw it away and start over.

But I never admitted anything to my taste testers. I just served up the pie and watched as they ate every crumb, wiped their mouths and said, “That was good pie, but I think you still need more practice.” I didn’t matter how bad I thought the pie was, it still got eaten. That’s when I learned that the real trick to learning to make pie is this: Get a bunch of taste testers who love pie so much that they don’t tell you the truth for fear the river of pie will go dry.

Boiling over is a sign that the pie is done. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Boiling over is a sign that the pie is done. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

May all your cherries be pies today on National Cherry Pie Day!

Kathleen’s Cherry Pie

Pastry for 9″ Two crust pie

2 cans (16 0z each) Tart Pitted Red Cherries, drained

1 1/3 cups sugar

1/3 cup flour

2 T butter

1/4 tsp almond extract

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pastry.Mix sugar and flour. Stir in drained cherries. Turn into pastry-lined pie plate. Sprinkle with almond extract and dot with butter. Cover with top crust that has slits cut in it. Seal edges and flute. Bake until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust, 35-45 minutes. For fresh cherry pie, substitute 4 cups fresh red tart cherries for the canned cherries.

02/17/14

Design Wall Monday – Flying Geese

Today I’m headed out to a quilting retreat – I’ll be joining the Eudora Quilt Guild as a day camper. They always go on retreat over the President’s Day weekend and they invite me to come and sew with them. So my design wall is empty but my basket is packed with flying geese.

Flying Geese Blocks

Flying Geese Blocks

The flying geese are a friendship trade I’m in the middle of with a group of 8 quilting buddies. Every month or so we swap little packets with four completed flying geese blocks.

Flying geese friendship trade

Flying geese friendship trade

Ours are stitched in 30s prints and we are all using the Marti Michell flying geese ruler so they are coming out very accurate.

Marti Michell's Flying Geese Ruler with today's fabrics - packed and ready to go

Marti Michell’s Flying Geese Ruler with today’s fabrics – packed and ready to go

I’m connecting mine into long rows each time I get a set.

One row completed- 80" long

One row completed- 80″ long

Huge flocks of Canada Geese winter in the rice fields near my parent’s home in CA. At dusk the fly over the farm in great V’s.

Flying Geese - the real deal

Flying Geese – the real deal

Honk. Honk.

“Fly” on over to The Patchwork Times and see what others are working on by clicking here.

02/16/14

A Woodpecker at the Window

We feed the birds. The regulars are the cute little birds – Chickadees, Titmouse, and Goldfinch. Adding a bright splash of color, we see Cardinals, Blue Jays, and House Finch. The Juncos and Mourning Doves clean up the seed on the ground, so who wouldn’t like them? On really cold days, when the ground is snow covered, the country birds come to town and our feeders are filled with swarms of Red Winged Blackbirds and brown Cowbirds. The cats are not particular about which birds are at the feeders, they consider them all good kitty TV. However, I think the woodpeckers are the most fun to watch.

The Red Bellied Woodpecker has been stashing treats in an old hickory tree outside the dining room window. When he comes to the feeders he has to use acrobatics to hold on, tucking his tail under the base of the feeder and arching his back into a C. He holds on and eats while smaller birds dart to and fro grabbing a sunflower seed and flying off with their lunch. A little Downy Woodpecker has been working on a hole on the dogwood tree in front. I watch him tap away while I do the dishes. Twice, in 5 years, I have seen a Red Headed Woodpecker on our property. His brilliant crimson head contrasting with the black and white of his feathers is a stunning study of black, white, and red. And one day last year I saw a Northern Flicker. He was gorgeous. I invited him to stay for the summer. But he flew away in spite of my hospitality.

I’ve thought of that Northern Flicker over the months so was surprised and delighted when he came to call the other day. Bird-watch cat, Finn, alerted me, with a throaty, “Mew”. I watched from my chair as Mr. Flicker flew from the tree, flashing the yellow under his wings, lighting on the feeder. It was empty at the moment, empty of birds and seed. He didn’t waste any time flying from the feeder to the stone window ledge where he landed and pecked at my window. He looked right at me, cocked his head this way and that, fretted a bit, puffed up his chest, rippling the black feathers of his crescent bib, and tapped at the window again. Finn crouched low on the window seat, his ears pointed forward, his head tilting from side to side – in admiration? It was, after all, a sight to see! Or was he wondering what Northern Flicker tastes like?

As quickly as he came the bird was gone, down the road I suppose, to see what the neighbors have in their feeders.

Both of my Northern Flicker sightings left me with a sense of wonderment – so many interesting colors and contrasts in one bird:  A speckled belly, rosy breast and cheeks, yellow beneath his wings, and a splash of red crowning his head. His long pointed beak, good for tapping on trees and rapping on windows.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

I once made a quilt with an appliqued Northern Flicker block but I have a new quilt in mind using the color and texture palate that Mother Nature dropped at my window.

Northern Flicker in applique'

Northern Flicker in applique’

Northern Flicker inspired fabrics

Northern Flicker inspired fabrics

As I pulled on my coat to venture out in the cold afternoon to re-fill the feeders I laughed that a strong willed bird was bossing me around!

 

02/10/14

Design Wall Monday – Woolwork Pincushion

My design wall is empty today but I got a new toy in the mail the other day – a Sizzix die cutting system. This afternoon I set it up and gave it a whirl. See what I made:

008I used the 3″ circle die and the medium sized flower die to cut out the shapes for this little wool work pincushion. The only part I had to cut manually was the hot pink strip that goes around the side. I found the brown circle already cut out in my bin of wool scraps.

Maybe I should have finished my year end book keeping before starting to play around with my new Sizzix toy! I might spend a lot time with this little guy!

Sizzix die cutting machine

Sizzix die cutting machine

I’ve also been busy machine quilting these little wallhangings:

"Backdoor Bear" by Toni Whitney 12" x 14"

“Backdoor Bear” by Toni Whitney 12″ x 14″

"Hidden Lake" by Toni Whitney 13 1/2" x 15 1/2"

“Hidden Lake” by Toni Whitney 13 1/2″ x 15 1/2″

With a little help from a friend.

Wanda is sort of bossy when she helps quilt.

Wanda is sort of bossy when she helps quilt.

What’s on your design wall?

I’m linking to Judy’s,  Patchwork Times so click here to see what others are working on.

02/10/14

And Then There Were 100

Feb 8, 2014

Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, ONE HUNDRED! That’s right! 100 tiny stars completed!

When my children were young their classes celebrated the 100th day of school. Students could bring 100 of anything to school and they spent the day comparing piles and jars of 100 items. My children are adults now, but if they weren’t, and one of them needed 100 of something to bring to school for the 100th day of school celebration, this year I could send them with tiny stars!

100th Tiny Star

100th Tiny Star

02/7/14

Three Days and Ten Inches of Snow

That’s what it took to get my Farmer’s Wife blocks sewn together – three days with 10″ of snow to keep me inside. Being snowbound is one of the selfish little pleasures of winter in Kansas. When, earlier this week, we got pounded by our most recent winter event, I was happy to have a big project to work on. (Read more about this project by clicking here.)

Farmer's Wife in Indigo

Farmer’s Wife in Indigo

I’ll be adding borders to this project later.

Are you wondering why it took three days to sew it together?

I had to work around this:

Finn always feels compelled to give his immediate and unsolicited stamp of approval to the newest quilt in the house. Or maybe he found the warmest corner for a nap!

02/5/14

Today I applique’

Okay, all you applique’ enthusiasts – have you been wondering if I have become so caught up in my tiny stars project that I no longer applique’? I can see how you might get that impression but let’s get real here! Give up applique’? NEVER! I’m in for the long hall. Which means that I generally have three, or four, or five, or more, applique’ projects going on at one given time. And just to prove it, I’m going to let you take a look in my sewing bag. I’ll show you the current projects I’m working on plus anything else we find! This could get interesting.

Handwork to go bag

Handwork to go bag. It isn’t big – only 11″ x 9″ x 4″.

A peek into my sewing bag

Take a peek.

Okay, let’s empty it and see the goods!

What can I say? When you need them you need them!

What can I say? When you need them you need them!

My applique' on the go kit

Applique’ on the go kit.

Misc thread and tools

Misc thread and tools.

Star a day kit. (Sheepish grin) Gotta get it done too!

Star a day kit. (Sheepish grin) Gotta get it done too!

It's a secret. I'll show you after my guild challenge due date.

Applique’ project #1. It’s a secret. I’ll show you after my guild’s challenge due date in April.

Pastel applique' project. Currently on year 15!

Applique’ project #2. Currently on year 15!

Current Lady of the Sea block.

Applique’ project #3. Current Lady of the Sea block.

This block is huge - 32".

Applique’ project #4. New for 2014 – this block is huge – 32″.

The following item is not actually in the bag but it’s next to it, ready to work when the whim strikes me.

English Paper piecing project. A frisbee is the perfect work tray!

English Paper piecing project. A Frisbee is the perfect work tray!

And a few random items that I can clean out.

a 2007 invoice, a pattern cover but no trace of the block, and yes, those are tea bags, Republic Tea, Ginger Peach, to be exact!

a 2007 invoice, a pattern cover but no trace of the block, and yes, those are tea bags, Republic of  Tea, Ginger Peach, to be exact!

And last of all.

A gift for my Sweet 16 quilting machine from a quilting friend.

A gift for my Sweet 16 quilting machine from a quilting friend.

Sometimes there is an embroidery hoop and floss stuffed in there too, but I’m between projects on that front.

Now then, after cleaning out my handwork bag, I’m in the mood to applique’!