Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More Geese Flying South

I still haven't really sunk my teeth into anything since the big rush to finish things off for the bazaar; I've been puttering at a few things here and there, but just sort of floating and not really landing. I did, however, manage to make several more flying geese.

There was a good supply of red and several green squares cut and waiting to be sewn so I tackled those before cutting more. I did a few in each sitting and have ended up with another 128 that I can add to the pile.

I've been using a Frixion pen for marking the diagonal lines. It's nice and fine and great because as soon as the heat from the iron hits it the marking disappears, making for a nice neat finish. I have to admit though that I can be a bit slow. I marked 4 squares and then thought it would be a good idea to press them before I stitched them. Duh.

Still some corners to be trimmed, but that's the perfect job to do in front of the TV. It's time to focus on  the greens now. My stack of whites is the total number of geese that I need, if memory serves me correctly, and it looks to me like it might be about half gone now so I'll do a batch of greens and then take a count to see where I am and start sewing strips of geese. This is to be my not-so-Christmassy Christmas quilt but it certainly won't be finished for this year. Maybe next.

And the last of the White Chocolate Lemon Truffles from the bakeoff are now rolled and in the freezer - three dozen in total so that takes our grand total to 100 dozen, and counting.

They never really firmed up totally so they will need to be enjoyed soon after they come out of the freezer; next time I will add just a little less cream and butter just so they firm up better (notice that I won't be cutting back on the chocolate!)....M

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Reindeer Games

It's that time - the most wonderful time of the year, in my books. Time to bring out the cookie cutters and dragees and chocolate and nuts and a host of other goodies and start the Christmas baking. Yesterday was our Christmas Cookie Bakeoff - a little earlier than usual, but still great fun. And, we got lots done.

Winter visitor
And, as if on cue, there was a sprinkling of snow overnight that covered the ground for the first time this season, and light snow fell throughout the day, which only added to the festive spirit; that, and the spontaneous singing of carols throughout the day. It also meant that the birdfeeder did a brisk business.

Jane busy rolling rum butter sandwich cookies
By the time I got to Betty's at 9 a.m. she and Jane were already busy rolling cookies, with pans in  the oven - no sleeping in for these two! Seven of us, along with two little ones, happily launched our Christmas baking season mixing and rolling and embelishing and packing tins.

Linzer hearts - a fave
At the end of it all we had a great selection of 14 different cookies and a batch of white chocolate lemon truffles, for a grand total of 1,114 cookies headed to various freezers. That figure will grow slightly as there are still several truffles to be rolled so I suspect we'll end up around 1,150. That's almost a hundred dozen cookies - not bad at all.

Meghan busy icing cookies
And everything went so smoothly. We figured out that this is either the 19th or 20th year that we've been getting together to bake so we've developed a bit of a rhythm and things run along like a well oiled machine.

Jane and Julia 'working the line'

The lovely Julia with linzer hearts and wreath cookies
We also make a few batches of dough in advance so that it's chilled overnight and ready to roll first thing in the morning, avoiding any down time for the oven. This time we had linzerhearts, cinnamon stars, almond wreaths, chewy chocolate gingerbread and butter rum sandwich cookie doughs all made in advance.

Frances perfects the art of the squeeze bottle

Frosted holly gingerbread

Happy birthday, Steph!
It was a doubly special day as it fell on Stephanie's birthday so we had to celebrate that too. And little Emmy was kind enough to help with blowing out the candles, all bedecked in her trusty chef's hat. Nothing like chocolate cake with buttermilk chocolate frosting if you have to be another year older!

Frosty bling
We always have a tough time getting Jane into the spirit of the season (NOT!) so, in addition to coming with her Christmas apron she was sporting this lovely snowman that Linda gave her for Christmas last year.

Chunky chocolate snowballs ready for the oven
Steph with her favourite ingredient - ready to 'rum'-ba
Chocolate espresso snowballs
Emily and Jen rolling chewy chocolate gingerbread
At the end of the day the kids were keen to go into town for the Santa Claus parade (ours starts just after sunset so there are lots of lights on the floats) and when everyone got back home we enjoyed a tasty lasagne dinner and finished off the birthday cake.

Today the Official Cookie Tester asked the age-old question - do these all have to go to the freezer or are there some that can be eaten now? I used to take a really hard line on this and save it all till at least the week of Christmas but then I realized that I will still do lots of baking before Santa arrives, and he loves them so much that he might as well enjoy them to the fullest. Needless to say, I joined him in a cup of tea....M

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Special Sunday

Two weeks ago four of us got together at Jane's cottage for a day of hand stitching. It was sort of a consolation prize - we had thought we might be able to swing a trip down to Niagara for a Sue Spargo workshop at Stitch in Jordan but, unfortunately, schedules did not allow for it so we did our own mini workshop with her in mind.

Betty and Jane had gotten a head start on Saturday and by the time I got there Jane had two of these wonderful felt Christmas trees made and was well on her way to finishing up this very rustic, very adorable little snowman.

Betty was working on a covert Christmas gift so she kept cutting wool for her piece and disappearing into the next room to lay it out (me thinks all will be revealed Christmas morning).

Jane also started work on this cushion top. It is wool and the beadwork just brought it to life that much more. She's still thinking about how to finish it off.

Linda joined in with me on Sunday and she was working on a beautiful piece with wonderfully embellished leaves. All three ladies are crafting commandos so they made great progress with their projects - I always feel like I am sitting with idle hands when I am around these three because they work so quickly.

I was working on felt birds for the bazaar so Jane got a quick tutorial ...

...and whipped up this pretty little one out of blue wool (I told you she was quick).

The place was bursting with fabric and felt and beads and buttons and yarn and ribbon and all manner of embellishment and lucky me came away with a little supply of irridescent white & pink snowflakes to use on my birds, compliments of Linda.

All in all, a wonderful day....M

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crazy Eights

I thought it was pretty cool when I figured out how to make 4 HSTs at one time but last week I saw where Lynn from Sew'n Wild Oaks had a method for making eight at a time. What's a girl to do but try it, right? And what do you need to help you make them?

Why, a new Magic Wand, of course! Who doesn't want a magic wand? (I could use one for more than quilting). So I found one on the weekend while I was out doing errands and it followed me home. This one is pretty basic, with the only demarcation being a groove down the centre of it, 1/4" from each edge, but the Omnigrid version wasn't available and I was anxious to try it, so I took it. Actually, I paid for it and then I took it...

I selected two 8-inch squares of fabric and went to town; Lynn's tutorial is very well explained and they came together quite easily. I particularly like the size chart that she provided for cutting.

Of course, I hadn't really thought about what I'd do with them when they were made, and didn't want to get into HST production for a new large project, so I made them into pinwheels for the front panel of a Christmas stocking. There were just enough.

This is the same stocking pattern that I've been using all along, I just modified it slightly, simplifying the design by removing the prairie points and extending the length of the stocking.

I also tried a new quilting pattern for the bottom part and quite like it.

The back of the stocking is a solid panel of fabric, quilted the same as the bottom of the front; the others were totally reversible. It's the same snowflake fabric that I used for the cuff. And I still had red gingham binding left so I finished it off with that.

Wa la! A new Christmas stocking.

I'm having withdrawals from making things for the bazaar and haven't really landed on the next project to get my teeth into other than a bit of hand quilting on Confetti, so this filled the void.

There are still a few journals that I could cover - maybe I should sit down and finish those off and I could put that pile away. Am I the only one that keeps piling piles on piles - what one friend referred to as her piling system? A sorting of my sewing room is long overdue...M

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sewing For Sandy

We continue to watch in disbelief as our neighbours to the south grapple with the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, and can't help but feel extremely lucky. The storm passed by here but we dealt only with some heavy rains - nothing compared with being in the heart of it.

So when I saw Erin's post at My Patchwork Life I sat down to cut a few blocks. She's asking quilters to make a block or two - or more, if you are so inclined - using the Disappearing Nine-Patch pattern. She will assemble them and give them to needy families. She's even included a step-by-step tutorial for you, so no need to look things up - just find two pieces of fabric that meet her specs and off you go.

Originally I was going to make one block, maybe two, but when I got into it I ended up making six, using two different pinks. The yellow print is pretty bright so they would be fun in a little girl's quilt. With winter just around the corner they will be welcomed with open arms, so if you have a little time and would like to help out please do. It doesn't take long at all.

And Michelle at the Quilting Gallery is working with Victoria Findlay Wolfe at Bumble Bean quilts. Victoria is collecting quilts and blankets, either handmade or store bought, for those who need them. Michelle has a Wonky Log Cabin block tutorial and is looking for volunteers to make blocks and team leaders to assemble them, provide the backing and batting, quilt and bind the top, and then ship them to the distribution centre in New York City.

If you want to make your own quilt and send it directly you can - all the details are on Victoria's site. So spread the word and help where you can. A little of your time will be a huge and meaningful gesture to those who need some support and comfort right now.

And, if you don't quilt (or even if you do), or have the time to put together a few blocks, Christie at The Fabric Shopper has created the Disaster Relief Raffle. She has received wonderful donations that will provide added incentive to consider a donation to the American Red Cross relief efforts. For my friends here in Canada, 7 banks across the country are accepting donations for the Canadian Red Cross from November 7 to December 7, 2012...M

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Sweet Table

There was so much in my last post that I completely forgot about the baked goodies that I made for the bake table at the Bazaar. The Bazaar has lots of components to it, from a delicious glazed ham lunch to a craft table, a White Elephant table, and a bake table and it is a lot of work, so I like to help out as much possible. The baked goods are always a great hit and there is so much to choose from.

This time around I made three different cookie recipes - Tiny Fudge Tartlets,

Double Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies,

and White Chocolate Gingerbread (a favourite of my friend Stephanie).

I'm not sure which is more fun - the baking or the packaging.

There were a few rejects (the first batch of fudge tartlets - I mismeasured the butter) and a small surplus of White Chocolate Gingerbread, so the Official Cookie Tester was very happy to clean those up, with a little help from moi. It was also the perfect excuse to start using my Christmas cookie tins. I have several Mary Englebright tins that I just love and I'll use them throughout the year just because they are so beautiful. If I could do just one thing in this world I would love to be able to illustrate the way that she can. This image is a little distorted - it's the lid and there is a bit of a curvature to it - but you get the idea.
All the cookies are gone now so today I'm thinking of making more of the gingerbread. They were really delicious but I remembered just a little too late that I had wanted to try the recipe with 2 eggs to make them chewier, so maybe this time around. Or maybe the oatmeal cookies - they were pretty good too...M

Friday, November 09, 2012

It's a Wrap

There are times when I just don't know enough to put my hands in the air and back away from the sewing machine, and this past week was one of them. With the journal covers in hand I couldn't resist the temptation of trying a Christmas stocking or two. I think I must thrive on the thrill of the deadline.

Anyway, out came the Christmas fabrics and pattern and I was off to the races. I hadn't made these before but it's the same pattern for the stockings that I showed you last year - the ones that my sister Betty had made for the Official Cookie Tester and I a few years back. I have been wanting to try them for years so I figured there was no time like the present.

The green check fabric is the lining - fun!
They are lots of fun and, with so many potential combinations, I can see more of these in my future. And the quilting was fast on them too. I didn't want to go through the hassle of marking them and then removing the stitching lines so I used a little painter's tape.

I loved not having to draw the quilting lines.

For the first one I aligned the tape with the edges of the prairie points using my ruler and then stitched along both sides of it. Then I removed the tape, placed one edge along a quilting line and stitched alongside the other; when all the lines were completed in one direction I did them in the opposite direction to create a grid.

The line of prairie points helps cover the start of the quilting too.
The tape also helped keep the prairie points out of the way of the stitching. One piece of tape did both sides of the stocking and it was much faster than marking and removing the lines.

Love this fabric combo
For the upper section/cuff I marked a few lines because it was quilted in a different pattern. And on this one I went back to the variegated blue/green thread that I've been using for the journal covers.

The second one went together even faster
On the second stocking I tried a different quilting pattern and ecru thread - vertical lines through the sock and diagonal lines on the cuff. To make the diagonal lines closer together I just placed the tape half way between the first two lines and followed from there.

The longest part of putting these together is the hand stitching for the binding, but even that goes together relatively quickly; prep a few of them and it's relaxing hand stitching in the car or in front of the TV. So, a few new additions to add to the the craft table at the bazaar.

Ready for the finishing touches - at 6 a.m.!!!
And, despite my best laid plans, I was burning the midnight oil to finish off a dozen little birds with beads and ribbon (I'm blaming it on having to do a trip to Toronto for 3 days).

Sweet tweets
Regardless, they all got finished and to the church in time and another Holly Bazaar is now in the books...M