Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Last Look

Well, Fly Away Home is now complete and I have to say that it's difficult taking my eyes off it. It is just such a happy quilt and I'm thrilled to have it moved into the 'finished' column so that we can start enjoying it every day.

The last of the binding was sewn down last night and finishes it off beautifully (thanks again, Jane, for spotting that fabric!).

Here's a close-up of the quilting pattern so that you get a sense of the swirls that run throughout - just a little bit feathered but not overdone.

And another.

At times when I was sewing these flying geese I was thinking that it was just going to look like a dog's breakfast because I'm a tad anal and was having trouble getting them all trimmed to suit. When I see them all together it is hard to believe that I fretted so much - I should learn from this, shouldn't I? Anyway, as I've said a few hundred times before, luv, luv, luv it!....M

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Holiday Stitching

Despite my best efforts, the closest my Fly Away Home got to being bound by Christmas was having it land just outside my sewing room door. Close, but no cigar. I put my back out about a week ago and that  messed up my plans just enough that this wasn't going to happen by December 24, despite having lists coming out my ears. No biggie.

With all the hustle and bustle of the last few days now behind us, this afternoon I pulled it out to see if I'd have enough for a sewn binding or if it was going to have to be self-bound. Eureka! There was at least three inches of backing all round so it was going to be my Christmas miracle - a sewn binding.

It is beautifully quilted - I think I've mentioned before how talented Roberta is. The swirls are reminiscent of snow on the breeze, a nice complement to the pattern.

I wasted no time in trimming the quilt and getting the binding made and attached. Now it's ready for a few lovely hours of relaxing hand stitching by the tree, a perfect gift to me....M

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas!

A very merry Christmas to you and yours. May you keep the spirit of Christmas in your heart all the year through.....M

Thursday, December 18, 2014

His 'n Hers

In addition to her beautiful star quilt, Betty continues to work on this one, the name of which I don't even know. From this strip it looks like a bowtie pattern but it's more random than that. Made from repurposed wool shirts and blouses that once belonged to mom and dad, it will not only be extremely toasty, it will be a lovely memory quilt.

I'd forgotten some of the plaids but it's fun to see them all again mixed in with the solids.

It is predominantly hand sewn except when she adds the little black floral triangle pieces. Because those seams are on the bias she's putting them together by machine to avoid unnecessary stretching and fraying.

The photos don't do the floral fabric justice at all. It is a rich, almost Jacobean print and was once a lovely skirt and I think maybe a scarf as well. It sets off the solids and prints of the other fabric beautifully. Love that turquoise plaid.

Mom was incredibly good with stretching a dollar and loved to see things get well used so she would be thrilled to know that all of these shirts will have a beautiful second life, thanks to Betty's creative hands....M

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why We Bake

With the Cookie Bake-off in my rear view mirror I still had more baking to do for the tins that we give as gifts, so I sifted through books and recipes to see what else all of that butter could be used for. In the introduction to The Gourmet Cookie Book that I got from Stephanie a few years ago I came across this:
     "Buy a cookie, and it's just a bite of sugar, something sweet to get you through the day. Bake a cookie, on the other hand, and you send an instant message from the moment you measure out the flour. Long before they're done, the cookies become a promise, their endlessly soothing scent offering both reassurance and solace. And even the tiniest bite is powerful, bringing with it the flavour of home. For anyone who is comfortable in a kitchen, a warm cookie is the easiest way to say I love you.
     Somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know this. It is the reason we bake cookies at Christmas, why we exchange them as gifts."

How great is that? As you may have guessed, I love  Christmas baking and this just seemed to explain everything perfectly. It also inspired me to take another look through the book and I found two new recipes to try.

These little Walnut Acorns were fun to try but I didn't assemble them using the 'two-spoon' method prescribed - just couldn't figure it out - so I shaped ovals instead.

And these Mocha Cookies - they don't look like much but they are D.I.V.I.N.E.!!! Soooo rich, but what a treat. They are about twice as large as I usually make my cookies but I couldn't get them any smaller.

My faves like Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread, Pecan Chocolate Shortbread and White Chocolate Gingerbread made the list. And then there were these Cherry Pecan Cookies that Linda pinned. The lure of almond and cream cheese was too much to resist. I haven't used Maraschino cherries in years but this was a good excuse to - they reminded me of a yummy cherry loaf that mom used to make.

Last year I missed making my Grand Marnier Glazed Pain D'Epice so they were at the top of my list. Actually, they were responsible for the browsing through my Gourmet cookie cookbook in the first place.

And these little Christmas Trees filled with raspberry jam have been AWOL for a Christmas or two, so they are back in the rotation.

It was another weekend of baking and a little bit of testing by The Official Cookie Tester; the fragrance of almonds, butter and chocolate still hang in the air, but I think I might now be done. So how about you - are you a baker?...M

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Little Bit of Hand Sewing

I did something this past weekend that I haven't done in ages - I picked up Minnie and spent a little time cutting more hexies and doing a bit of hand sewing. It seems that much of my quilt sewing this fall has been on the machine or sewing bindings and such, but now that all the little felt birds and other Holly Bazaar sewing are out of the way I've been dying to just sit and stitch on Minnie for a bit. I was so pooped after our baking extravaganza that it was about all that I could do.

There were a few strips of a pretty dusty mauve that I had cut so I cut them into hexies and then sat down to watch my favourite seasonal tear jerker, It's a Wonderful Life. About an hour in my lids were slamming so The Official Cookie Tester kindly taped the rest and we trundled off to bed.

We finished watching the movie on Sunday and I managed to get about half of the hexie diamond border sewn on. It felt good to be back....M

Monday, December 08, 2014

Eight Bakers Baking

Christmas Cookie Bake-off 2014 is now in the books and what a good one it was. All the fun started at 9 a.m. Saturday morning and the mixing, rolling, baking, filling and packing carried on 'til 5:30 p.m. - a full day with lots and lots of cookies to show for our efforts.

Both Emily and Meghan were sporting new holiday aprons bought specially and 'Auntie Betty' had hers decked out with red ribbons.

Betty's husband Steve is a bit of a card. He spent a little time online researching noise level at NFL stadiums and hockey arenas and posted this to the side of the fridge; he seemed to be betting that we might be able to best one of them as the day wore on. :)

We didn't keep an exact tally but there were at least 12 different recipes prepped.

With double batches of a few favourites made I'm thinking that we came away with at least 16, maybe 18, batches in total.

Most of the usual suspects were there but Jane and Frances didn't make it this year. It was Anne's first bake-off and Stephanie was able to join us again, so with Jen and the girls we had eight bakers working all out for the day. Baylea was in charge of quality control and kept a watchful eye on everyone.

Jen really found her niche in 'shipping and receiving' this year - dividing up the spoils five ways and carefully packing everyone's treats in tins.

Emily took some time out to capture a few photos on her iPad for posterity...

...another pan of Toblerone shortbread fresh from the oven...

Mother Bauer's Butter Rum Cookies ready to be baked...

and Stephanie quickly perfecting the art of buttered rum filling.

It was a full day but a wonderful time spent with family and friends - such a great tradition. Meghan had the great idea to film this short stop action video which will give you a sense of how some of the day went - take a peek.

I had hoped to get my tree up on the weekend too but we didn't get it until today. It's defrosting in the stand and filling the house with its wonderful fragrance as carols play. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....M

Friday, December 05, 2014

A Happy, Tiny, Little Fleet

Linda is expecting the arrival of her third grandchild early in the New Year so she's busy, busy, busy. After welcoming two beautiful little girls, this one she knows will be a boy so it's ships ahoy.

These saucy little vessels are just so much fun  that it's impossible not to smile as you look at them; you can tell that she's enjoying playing with the fabric combinations. It's all hand sewn.

The green and red ricrac waves set the whole thing off. Who says waves need to be blue and white?

And check out the tiny little ribbon flags atop the masts. She sews a couple of strips into the seam and leaves the ends flying loose. How cute is that? The colours and prints in this block are my faves, the vine print in particular.

I love the large polka dot sashing between the blocks - it's just the icing on the cake. What a happy little quilt this will be....M

Thursday, December 04, 2014


Fly Away Home came home from the quilter earlier this week and it's sitting in the corner waiting to be bound. This is a busy week and then we'll have the Cookie Bakeoff and hopefully put up the tree on the weekend, so I won't get at it 'til at least next week. The waiting is killing me.

That doesn't mean that I haven't been thinking about it though. Because there is so little backing fabric I've been thinking of self-binding it. I found this tutorial but I'm going to take another look at how much I have to play with. If I can trim two inches all around, and keep my fingers crossed just so, I should be able to make a traditional binding. It won't be on the bias, but it will have to do. That's next week's puzzle.

In the interim, I've made and finished off another half dozen birds - I needed to replace a few for Anne that she graciously gave up so that they could be sold to someone else at the bazaar. I've made so many of them now that I think that, given how they seem to be multiplying, they might be related to the rabbit family :).

For some time now I've commissioned one of the red birds into acting as a pincushion. It's speared through with a long hat pin to secure it to my chair and I use it for my appliqué pins when I assemble them. They are so much shorter than my regular pins and this makes it easier to get at them; very handy. Wonder if he'll stay there through the holidays?....M

Monday, December 01, 2014

Going Home

I thought I'd try and get the corner blocks for Stars in the Forest together this weekend but that just started me on my road to the finish line with this one. Hard to believe, but by yesterday it was all sewn together. Yaaaa!

The corners are all the same. I wondered after I got them made if re-orienting the trees in the border would matter to the layout with the corners, but they work well.

It would have been fine just finishing things off with the tree border but the last border was already cut and makes the quilt just a little bit larger, so I attached it too.

This one really makes me think it would look great in a rustic log cabin.

Shortly after I started working on this UFO I realized that there really was only one thing to do with it - give it back to Elizabeth. This is her first (and likely last) quilt and she should enjoy it; it's going home.

So I made the bias binding for her and will drop it off with Roberta's card so that she can have it machine quilted and get using it. Twelve years is long enough to wait to enjoy it....M

Friday, November 28, 2014


I was digging through my embroidery floss box the other day and, the deeper I dug, the more I found - more than just floss, that is. In what seems like another lifetime, I used cross stitch. A lot. And I was in good company. My friends Nancy and Dawn were addicts as well; we were all hooked thanks to an absolutely wonderful shop called The Sampler that sadly no longer exists. It was when I lived in Toronto, so more than 20 years ago; I'm always amazed when I can use two digit numbers to recall times in my life!

Anyway, there are a few pieces that have been sitting in the dark patiently waiting for me to remember that I was working on them, and this one made it out of the box. It's called Believe and is a Mary Engelbreit pattern. This is one of my favourite of her illustrations - I also own a Christmas cookie tin with the same illustration on it and just love bringing it out every year.

It is so close to being finished that it's just sad. The pattern is dated 1990, so I suspect that it was started around the time I left Toronto. All that's left to do are some finishing accents and outlining with black floss - the needle is still in it! It's done on a raw linen and the stitched area is 10" x 14" so with a mat it will be about 14" x 18". I wonder if those fold lines will ever come out?

Well, I've decided that it's not going back into the box. I'm going to finish it and then figure out if it will be framed or made into a pillow. Not sure if it will be completely done by this Christmas given everything else that's on the schedule, but it will be finished and used. Maybe if I just do what the pattern says and 'believe' it will get finished in time. Regardless, even if it's just stitching on it, I will enjoy it this holiday.....M