Monday, February 24, 2014

New Batteries

My camera batteries died last week and I finally got around to replacing them. So a little catch up is in order.

First up, progress has been made on "Two of Us", the 2013 TQS BOM. This project has been re-energzied thanks to Lori at Inbox Jaunt. Her quilt notebook suggestion is already reaping rewards for me. This project has been moved from UFO to WIP status.

 I am currently sewing the dark backgrounds to the orange and purple pieced arcs. There are thirty-six to do, so it's a bit slow going. Supposedly there are techniques whereby this can be done with only one pin and at lickety-split speed. Not! At least I can't do a decent job of it. The amount of reverse sewing involved quickly negates any time gained in going fast. Anyway, as previously mentioned, I do slow quilting unless working to deadline on a baby quilt.

My evening TV project is inspired from this Pinterest post. So far, only two diamonds have been completed. Remember, this is slow quilting.

The lower diamond was made from hexies cut using a friend's die cutting machine. It's fast, but the look is monotonous to me. The upper diamond was cut by hand from a bag of scraps I keep under the ironing table and which will be used to for Victoria Findlay Wolfe's "15 Minutes of Play" workshop our guild is hosting in July. It's a lot more interesting - at least to me.

Yesterday our family celebrated January and February birthdays. There are nine celebrants, down from eleven, due to deaths in the family. One of those was Dad's birthday on January 2. His favorite cake, which I always made for him, was Black Forest Cherry Cake (Schwarzwaelder Kirsch Torte) made from a recipe in Mimi Sheraton's "German Cookbook." It is now out of print, I believe, and my copy is well worn. I spent a year in study in Tuebingen, Germany while in college and the recipes are authentic, but calibrated for American cooks using non-metric measurements. My friend's mother, born and raised in Germany, would consult it from time to time when she wanted a recipe for something. She also declared it authentic.

This is not the devil's food cake with maraschino cherries that you find in our bakeries here. It is a traditional German torte with no flour in the cake layers. Lots of eggs, separately beaten and folded together with grated bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, and nut meal to provide the structure that flour would normally provide. The recipe calls for chopped candied citron, which I have always omitted, as no one in our family likes the stuff and in the middle of January is nearly impossible to find in the groceries here. The layers are liberally doused with Kirsch after they have cooled, then layered with chocolate buttercream and dark cherries. Finished off with a cloud of Kirsch flavored, gelatin-reinforced "Schlag" - whipped cream. Delectable. Very rich and only 8" in diameter, it packs a wallop of flavor.

How I ever made this thing 40 years ago without the aid of a food processor is a good question although make it I did. The buttercream is tricky because 5 egg yolks and two whole eggs are beaten until almost white in color (a good five minutes on my Kitchen Aid stand mixer). Sugar syrup boiled to the soft ball stage (238 degrees and yes, I use a candy thermometer) is incorporated into the eggs in a thin stream while the mixer is running. Failure to adhere to this protocol will render sweetened scrambled eggs.

 When the egg mixture is nearly at room temperature, softened butter (1.25 cups) is beaten in along with melted chocolate.

The sugar syrup makes a bit of a mess on the sides of the bowl and on the paddle, but a ten minute soak in warm water fixes that during cleanup. With chocolate added:

The finished product:

All that was left to bring home was a small sliver which DH and I will share with our afternoon cup of tea.
As I reflected on the cake last night, I realized that it is gluten free, too.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Another Puzzler Block

I am behind in making Puzzler blocks. This rail fence block was January's assignment, so I am playing catch up. One of our little group of quilters got antsy and finished the whole thing already. The original pattern shows a black or very dark brown sashing between the blocks with a checkerboard outer border and a piano key final border. Haven't decided if I will take the easy path and follow the pattern or try to figure out something more original.

Over the weekend our guild hosted Wendy Butler Berns. Friday night was her "Capering With Creativity" lecture and Saturday she taught us "Liberating your Logs." The lecture and the workshop work well together and the workshop room was full. There is a reason some teachers are "national" level instructors like Wendy. She was fully engaged with each and every student, helping, encouraging, and critiquing.  Her instructions were clear and her enthusiasm contagious. We had lots of tired but happy quilters at the end of the day.

Here are some examples of things to make with these liberated log cabin blocks. And here is a peek at some of the work being done during the day.

 And here are mine, in two different colorways.

These may - or may not - ever find their way into a completed quilt. For now, they served their purpose in learning a new way to work.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Feel the Love

The February block at  Hexie Blog is - no surprise - a heart. Now ordinarily no heart would ever appear in anything I make. My mantra is "no hearts, angels, unicorns, or fairies." However, this one I will allow this one time only because 1. it's made from hexies for crying out loud and 2. the elongated shape is kinda cool and 3. if I don't use it, then I have to think up something else for this month and I am lazy. It is not yet sewn to the background and, as a matter of fact, the papers and basting stitches haven't been removed either. All to be done this evening. The Olympics are on, after all, so there is plenty of time to stitch along with the skiers and skaters and curlers.

Here it is again with January's block. And, Lori, yes, I have started a page in my quilt notebook for this project. The process of documenting my quilts is actually more fun than I had anticipated.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Quilt Notebook

I have started a quilt notebook upon the suggestion of Lori at Inbox Jaunt. Here is my first page, showing ideas for the cheddar bowtie blocks I am again working on. There are three possible layouts shown here. The bottom left photo is from Bonnie Hunter's web page with the directions for the blocks. The lower right hand one is a layout formed when grouping the blocks on the floor for a photo. The cheddar patches form a snowball effect and you kind of lose the bowties in the process. The yellow and white sketch at the top is one that I'm leaning towards. Alex Anderson displayed a bowtie quilt with this zig zag setting when she appeared on the Hallmark channel's Home and Family program. (See it on YouTube). This setting is less busy than either of the other two and since it bumps up the size of the blocks a bit with the square in a square setting, it means I have to make fewer blocks. Win-win!

I am still unearthing from the underground of my brain - haven't had the courage to open all the bags and boxed stashed all over my sewing room - more UFOs. I added two more to my list. One is a Dear Jane quilt and the other is a signature quilt from a Jo Morton pattern. Dear Jane is a project that I visit from time to time and will eventually get finished. The Jo Morton signature quilt - with signatures from Ricky Tims and Justin Schults no less! - is on the back burner for the foreseeable future. It is done in Jo Morton and other Civil War era repros. As you can no doubt tell from this blog, those are not exactly my signature colors. Probably the reason I lost interest.

The Dear Jane was started in Civil War fabrics as well and when I got tired of the muddy looking prints, put it in time out. A friend revived her Dear Jane project last year and I went along with her in an attempt to finish mine. That was a lesson in futility as she had already completed far more blocks than I had and did not make the triangle blocks that make up the border. I performed CPR on my project by switching over to the brighter colors that I love. I am NOT remaking the 20 or so blocks done in Civil War fabrics, however. They will be sprinkled throughout the quilt which will, of course, mean that the layout of the blocks will not follow the "traditional" layout of blocks as set out in the Dear Jane book. I can live with that.

The top row above are made with Civil War fabrics. The bottom row are made with modern fabrics. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fruits of My Labors

For a while now I have been making 3 inch (finished) cheddar bow tie blocks ala Bonnie Hunter. This particular project was posted by Bonnie as a leader/ender project. I tried that at first, but got so taken with the cute little blocks, that I began making them just for themselves. I am not real good at keeping up with cutting and organizing the pieces so that they are always at hand for leading and ending. It is also somewhat challenging for me to maintain the accuracy needed with these small pieces when quickly shoving them under the needle.

The past four days were spent at a quilt retreat and I got quite a few more made. What is depicted above are bowtie blocks pinned together in groups of four. There are 144 in the photo.The original plan was to set them together, cheek by jowl with no sashing in blocks of four each. If there weren't enough scraps to make four from a single fabric, then they were grouped into fours by color.

The most recent idea has been to set them on point, offset so as to make a zig zag pattern with cheddar sashing. These were by and large pieced on my Featherweight and I was a bit of an oddity in the group. Between my old timey sewing machine and the small blocks with tiny pieces I think that most of the others were flummoxed at what I was doing. Most everyone else was making quilts of panel prints with largish borders or another version (ad nauseam) of the Yellow Brick Road or Turning Twenty patterns. I have more quilts than I need and storage is becoming an issue. My explanation was that I do 'slow quilting' - little pieces and small blocks that need precision. I am not interested in slamming a bunch of large pieces together just to throw something together quickly. If it's not a bit fiddly, I lose interest, get bored, and quit.

Speaking of fiddly, I also worked on the TQS 2013 BOM by Sue Nickels and Pat Holly. I worked on the sashing pieces which are paper pieced. This is a departure from the authors' instructions, but a lot of us working on this project found the methods espoused by Sue and Pat to be pretty complicated. I, for one, found them practically incomprehensible. When I did understand the technique, my execution of it left much to be desired.

Inbox Jaunt (see "Blogs I Follow" to the right) has been blogging about keeping a quilt notebook. I have bought the notebook and dutifully completed the first task of making a list of my UFOs. This I did from memory, not caring to crawl and creep high and low in the sewing room to find every last bit of unfinished project. The list is up to 18 and it has been a good experience, forcing me to realize that perseverance is not my strongest suit. Interestingly not one of the projects has lost interest for me. If it had, it would be chucked onto the free table at the next guild meeting. Both of the projects pictured in today's blog were on the UFO list. They were pulled out and taken along to the retreat. If I only tell myself to work on each one for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, the task may not be as onerous and there may be some hope of getting them completed. That's my current thinking anyway.