Monday, September 23, 2013

Bunny Trail on a Drunkard's Path

I had made up my mind, or so I thought, not to start a new project until I quilted at least one of several flimsies.  Well, that plan lasted all of about a day.  For some reason, I found myself rummaging through the vintage fabric drawer and pulling out a piece of clothing from the far back corner.

This jacket belonged to my late mother.  Before that, it belonged to me.  I think it came from JCPenney in the late 1980s or early 1990s.  I wore it to work for a little while but when I got tired of it, Mom adopted it and wore it a few more years.  We didn't often share clothing, and I think the jacket probably ran big on her (back then, over-sized was in fashion), but we both liked its funky pattern, which seemed to go well with a number of things in the closet. 

Are you having flashbacks of Full House?  The Cosby ShowRoseanne?  Yeah, I know.

It's one of the only articles of clothing I saved after she passed away.  Thought I might incorporate into a quilt someday.  It's a linen blend.  The label says dry clean only, but I've washed it in the washer and dried in the dryer just fine.

I cut it apart on Saturday afternoon and started mulling what I might do with it.  Soon I was pulling stuff from the stash.  Being a large scale print, I worried about cutting it up too small and losing the effect.  I also couldn't decide between options for coordinating fabrics.  In the end, I used them all. 

There are four of us kids in the family.  I like to think of each fabric representing one of her children.  Not sure which is which, although I will say I'm partial to the peacock print.

I cut the binding this evening from a leopard print fat quarter.  It makes me smile.
This particular layout of drunkard's path blocks is called Whirling Arches.  It will be a wall hanging.  It might seem kind of strange looking to others (I've sort of lost my perspective on it at this point), but I think it will be something I enjoy looking at from time to time, for the memory.

There's quite a bit of jacket fabric left, which is going back in the drawer for now, until the next whim comes along.

I heard this song on the radio yesterday, by Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott.  Both of them do some nice harmonies, and there is mandolin on the studio version, which I downloaded from Amazon.  The only version I could find on YouTube is Darrell playing and singing it solo at a recent gig, but he does a masterful job.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chocolate Beet Cake: Round Two

This one's a keeper!  

Julie, who blogs at Julie Lou, commented last week on my failed attempt at a chocolate beet cake, including a link to a recipe she has used with success. 

So, with a Ziplock bag of fresh beets in the fridge, I gave it a try.  This recipe called for raw, grated beets.  Here are the little ruby gems, peeled and quartered and ready for a spin in the food processor.

I had to change the recipe somewhat to make it gluten free.  Next, I consulted Google to find out what an oven temp of 160 C. translated to in Fahrenheit (about 325 degrees), and how much was 300 grams of grated beets.  After getting conflicting information on the last query, I just went with a cup and a half.

Ready to go in the oven - the batter is sort of pink.
After baking - it looks like chocolate cake!
Before I go any further, I have to tell you that you don't taste beets in this recipe.  This is about to be reaffirmed, I suspect, momentarily.  Norm just got home from work and is loading a piece of what simply looks like yummy chocolate cake on a plate as I type this.  And he loathes beets.  I'm about to ask him what he thinks of the cake...

One moment please...I want him to finish the whole piece.

"It's a really good cake."


"Why, does it have beets in it?"

Yes.  Yes, it does.  (He seems unfazed by this admission.)

Now, I bet the only reason he asked that is because I've had the new beet cake recipe printed out and sitting next to the computer for a few days and he probably noticed it.  I made sure I did all the dishes and cleaned the kitchen of any other evidence before he got home.

"Well, you can't taste them.  Maybe it's a little sweeter," he added.

I'm calling that a success.  

Dad, if you're reading this, I will save you some cake.  Thanks for sharing your garden bounty.  And thanks again to Julie, who enjoys baking and quilting and gardening, among other things.  Her beautiful blog is drool worthy on many levels.

Below is my gluten-free version of the recipe linked above.  I made other modifications as well, and I want to remember what I did.  I'll be making this again!

Chocolate Beet Cake (gluten-free)

1/2 c. melted coconut oil (I used part ghee, about 1/4 c.)
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
2/3 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 c. beets, peeled and finely grated
1/3 c. white rice flour
1/3 c. sorghum flour
1/3 c. almond meal flour
1/4 c. tapioca starch flour
3/4 t. xanthan gum
1/4 c. cocoa
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1-1/2 t. cinnamon

1/4 c. chocolate chips
1/4 c. ground walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Grease a 9 x 9 square baking pan.

In a small bowl, mix together white rice flour, sorghum flour, almond meal, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.

In a mixing bowl, beat together oil, sugar, applesauce, and eggs.  Stir in grated beets and flour mixture, and mix until well combined.

Spoon into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips and ground walnuts.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean but moist.  Cool before cutting.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Leftovers and Fresh Ingredients

I love leftovers.  Scraps seem to hold such creative potential.  Maybe it has to do with the inherent limits of scraps (size, quantity, finding what works with what, vintage, out of print, etc.).  Then again, maybe they're fun because the pressure is off, having used the larger piece for its intended purpose, so what's left is free to play with.

And play is what it's all about.

That's what I did with the leftovers from the Little Bitty Batty mini from the previous post.  First, I made a 6 x 4-inch postcard for the Pet Postcard Challenge at 15 Minutes Play.  A little bitty birdie.

In hindsight, I guess I could have made the bird green, like the parakeets I've had as pets through the years, but that's another postcard.  Maybe it's a baby myna bird, like the one they used to have in a cage at the back of the department store when I was growing up.  It could say hello and a few other phrases.  Talk about a great way to occupy the kids while mom shopped.

I also made some spool-type blocks from more of the triangular strip pieced bits left over.  One ended up pretty matchy with the points and the others are wonkier.  Not sure what I'll do with them, but there they are.

On Saturday, we took a little drive to visit a quilt shop I hadn't been to before but had heard good things about, Mill House Quilts.  It was wonderful!  Friendly staff, nicely organized, and all sorts of fabric.

There was one room of just batiks and a bargain room, where I found all of these, with the exception of the two blue pieces.

I've noticed a lack of blue in the stash, as in pretty much nothing that's true blue (not aqua or turquoise).  That was fixed.
I could have spent a lot more time (and moola), had I not a husband in tow.  Try as I might to enlist his assistance in finding certain colors, he, too, was easily distracted by shiny things.  But he was helpful in giving the nod of approval (or not) to the bolts I held under his gaze, though he did ask a few times, "Do you have a plan for that?"

And I laughed and laughed and laughed.  

Just kidding, I didn't laugh (on the outside).  "Oh, I'll use it," I said.  Translation:  Not exactly, and what's your point?

Okay, I do see the advantage of having a game plan, but this was mostly a scouting mission.  Next time, maybe, I'll have a list.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Little Bitty Batty

This week's time in the sewing room started with a few hours of fabric pressing and folding.  A growing pile of prewashed stuff had teetered on the back of an office chair for a couple months, threatening to tumble onto the floor.  It was time to deal with it.

One good thing about the job was getting reacquainted with the stash.  I definitely have some whatever am I going to do with that? pieces.  I'm okay with it; in fact, I find it a fun challenge.  One item was a sort of creepy purple-gray, black, and white print I'd bought on vacation in July (found in the clearance bin, no big surprise).  Then there were the mottled burnt orange and poison green pieces.  Ah, yes, this could be the makings of something spooky and seasonal.

As it happened, I'd found a wicked cute bat applique PDF a few days ago (here).  Instead of putting it on a single fabric background, though, I thought I'd try a string or strip-pieced one.

So I made a strata of strips.  Then I cut four squares by turning my 6.5-inch square ruler so the middle strip would be along the diagonal, like so.
Here they are laid out on the cutting table prior to sewing.  I traced the bat onto freezer paper.

Then I layered four pieces of black print fabric, pressed the freezer paper bat onto the top layer, and carefully cut all four bats out at once, following the pattern.

In hindsight, since the bats were going to be fused onto the background, I should have ironed the fusible web onto the black fabric first.  But I didn't, so there was some more fussy cutting of bat shapes from fusible.

The bitty bats were then fused and machine appliqued around the edges.  Then it was sandwiched and quilted.  It's about 12 inches square, table mat size. 

I have, in the past, had a problem quilting through fusible (and I haven't tried another brand yet, which I intend to).  So the best course was to avoid quilting the bats and just concentrate on the center and outer portions of the mini.

I winged it on the center quilting, just following the lines where the four pieces joined and waving back and forth over the line, east to west, then in reverse to make oval shapes.  Then the same thing, north to south.  That didn't seem like enough quilting, so I did double-size waves east to west and north to south and back again, making double-size ovals.

I did concentric circles in the outside with a walking foot, since the bat wings created such a cool circular shape, and I was thinking of bat sonar too.

Isn't it interesting that the bats are sort of an illusion that you don't necessarily see immediately.  You might notice the center first, and then those curious things that look like green fangs around the outside.  And then...bats!

So that's my creepy-cool little bitty batty mini quilt!

September Finishes

Monday, September 9, 2013

Quilted and Donated

I quilted and finished the improv baby quilt on Saturday.

This morning, after a brief photo shoot, I dropped it off at Nancy's Notions as a donation for Project Linus.

This was an experiment in working with freehand cut curved strips, and I enjoyed it.  I got to use up some scraps and stash in the process for a unique, bright baby quilt, which ended up being 37 inches square.

I did ditch quilting around the curved elements and an elongated loop in the narrow border, then overall loopy quilting in the wide outer border.

I'm linking to 100 Quilts for Kids at Swim Bike Quilt.  Would you like to make a quilt or two for this drive?  You have until September 30, so there's still time.

Also linking to A Stitch in Time September 2013 Finishes at Such a Sew and Sew.
September Finishes

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Sundry - 9-8-13

It feels like a good time for a rambly, Sunday Sundry post.  It’s been one of those days.  I am bothered recently again by my stupid burning mouth syndrome, which mostly affects the front part of my tongue.  You know the part that tastes everything?  It waxes and wanes, this annoying malady, but today it’s parked like a hoopty on blocks in the front yard, and I just want to make it go away.  Eating sounds like a good idea (constantly is not good, though), but it doesn’t really work except as a temporary signal disruption.  Thankfully, when I do eat, things taste normal.  It’s just all those other hours without distraction that are annoying.

Okay, rant over.

How about I tell you about a Pinterest recipe fail.  Friends, I had such high hopes for a little single-serving “healthy” red velvet cake idea, made with beet puree.  Oh yeah, I know you’re craving it already at the mere mention of beets, right?  Well, we eat things like zucchini cake and carrot cake and banana bread, so why not a little puree of beet, just to make life interesting?  

(Roasted beets from Dad's garden)
Hint:  It wasn’t the beets that made this a flop.

I have already deleted the pin, and I won't be linking to the recipe page.  I’m sure its creator is probably a very nice, culinarily accomplished person, and it isn’t her fault the recipe bombed. 
However, I’m not ready to say it’s entirely my bad either.  I mean, I had all the ingredients and followed directions.  It looked good on paper (aside from leaving me to wonder in which universe the carb count was considered healthy, but I digress).  

I might have taken a clue from the recipe’s emphasis on being “egg-free, sugar-free, and low fat.”  As it turns out, it would have benefitted from precisely every single one of those deficiencies.  Also, one teaspoon of baking powder?  In a single serving?  I should have known better. 

This next photo was taken pre-taste test.  A foodie photographer I am not (obviously), but I gave it the old college try.  And apparently chose the most unappetizing plate we had in the house.  Oh, the irony.

And then I tried the cake.  It tasted like…baking powder.  Dry, cardboard-y, somewhat chocolate flavored baking powder with a hint of beet.  Mm-mm-UGH.

Honestly, the best thing about it was the melted square of Ghiradelli that I drizzled on top, the runoff of which I dragged each morsel through in desperation.  I so very much wanted this cake to taste good, and hoped with every disconcerting mouthful (and there were far too many) that it might—what?—grow on me? 

Not a chance.  Thus was the fate of this failure.  Destiny: Dustbin.  

If I need a veggie cake fix, I’ll be sticking with this one, which I have made an embarrassingly frequent number of times and can recommend wholeheartedly.  Caveat:  I do add one egg and halve the sugar.

In other news, I quilted and bound the improv baby quilt yesterday.  Photos tomorrow, weather cooperating.  I’m listening, while I sew, to the audiobook version of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Macguire.  Kevin the Quilter recommended it, and so far it is proving to be quite entertaining!  Maybe one day I will see the stage production, but for now I'm glad to be discovering the back story.

That’s about it for today, my pretties!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Flimsy Whimsy

The black and white, etc. string thingy is officially a flimsy — and I want to squeal like a little girl!

Seriously, it makes me happy-happy-happy.

Save those old phone books, string thingers.  They come in handy.  Yes, you could string piece without a foundation just as well, but I like the stability and size/position guide that string piecing on paper provides.  Phone book paper is lightweight and not difficult to remove; it's like tearing out a check.

For more details on the process, skip back one post.

This ended up to be about 45 x 53 inches.  I added a one-inch stop border and a five-inch outer border (cut 1.5 and 5.5).

On my trip to JoAnn for batting yesterday, I happened to "spot" a perfect backing fabric.

Linking to:

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

And just for the Thrill of It...the funky sound Robert Randolph gets out of a pedal steel guitar is incredible.  Have yourself a happy dance!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Stringing Along

As I was tidying up the sewing space the other day, I popped the lid on a box of black and white scraps left over from the black and white quilt of 2011 that I recently finished.  I'd been meaning to make a string quilt from these at some point, but as I picked through the box, I noticed that a lot of the pieces were fairly short.  So my original idea of string piecing them on the diagonal went swiftly out the window (the thought of sewing a lot of strings together end to end in order to make them long enough to string piece diagonally was not appealing).

However, I could just string piece them straight across a foundation, like onto a 7x11 inch phone book page.  Then I'd have rectangles I could join together vertically, coin quilt style.

So I set about doing that.  Long rows of only black and white seemed kind of boring, though, and as it happened, I had a scrap of the multicolored print from a recent quilt lying next to the cutting table.  What if I used that print between the rectangles to break things up?  And to set it off a bit more, how about bordering the top and bottom of the multi print with a strip of white?

Thus was the new plan hatched.  

I was able to get 16 string pieced rectangles from the box of black and white scraps.  Then it came time to remove the papers, a task best done while watching or listening to something interesting for an hour or so.

I arranged the rectangles into rows with a solid vertical sashing between them—and I did not like it.  So I took away the sashing and just butted the vertical columns together against themselves, staggering the multicolored inserts.  Better.

Now I'm in the process of sewing the rows together.  I will end up with five rows across, a squarish shape measuring 30-something inches.  I may do an outer border (or two), or I may just bind it as is.

I hope those of you in the U.S. are having a relaxing Labor Day.  Hubs actually has to work today, poor guy.  Someone's gotta make the cheese (literally and, I suppose, figuratively).