30 January, 2012

Pretty, Pretty Voiles

When voiles burst on to the scene a few years ago, thanks to Anna Maria Horner, I wasn't all that interested. My style may be modern, but I generally prefer the traditional materials like plain old quilting cotton. Then somehow, somewhere someone gave me a piece of voile. I was seduced by the airiness of the fabric, the silky feel, the soft drape.

So, I made a scarf.

And then I started shopping. Just adding one or two pieces onto an order from nearly any on-line store. Only my favourites. Never concerned with collecting from an entire line. I've got more Anna Maria Horner, some Tula Pink, Joel Dewberry, Valori Wells, and Denyse Schmidt.

Then last week I received a few more and thought I better count how many I had. 29. 29 fat quarters or 1/2 yard pieces! It was time to stop collecting and start cutting.

It is going to take me a long time to get through the cutting. Each 1/2 yard piece yields 18 triangles plus 12 side triangles. There is no layering when you cut the voiles because that desired silkiness means the rulers slip. I'd rather take my time and cut properly than risk losing some of my fabric. Oh, and I'm cutting all of this for what I hope will be a king sized quilt.

In my head this pretty, ultra-soft quilt will drape on our bed in the summer months. For when you still want the hint of covers but not the weight of anything over you. Maybe this summer? Probably next.

27 January, 2012

100 Days of Modern Quilting

Have you been following along with the 100 Days of Modern Quilting feature running on The Modern Quilt Guild? If you haven't, you should be.

Colour, block styles, improv, it's all been there so far. Tutorials too. And there is more to come. Inspiration every single day. It is also a great showcase for modern quilts.

Yes, I know the debate between modern and traditional, and the blurry line too. (This is still where I stand.) Regardless of where you stand on the debate or in your own style of quilting, the series is a great place to see some gorgeous quilts, a wide range of quilts.

And speaking of gorgeous quilts... One of mine is being shared today. How's that for a pretty shameless plug? Your Parents are Cool is still one of my all-time favourite quilts and I'm proud to have it included in Improv Week in the 100 Days of Quilting.

24 January, 2012

Indian Cottons

My MIL went to India and all she brought me was some fabric.

Well, that's not true. She also brought me some lovely tea and spices. But oh, that fabric! Over 1 meter pieces of each of these. Endless possibilities. Paralyzing inspiration.

20 January, 2012

29 Weeks

Threads, flour, horizontal stripes, and an unflattering pose. Welcome to 29 weeks pregnant in my house.

29 weeks is the most nervous part of pregnancy for me. At 29 weeks one of my bridesmaids had to leave our wedding and delivered her baby that night. Then she spent 5 weeks in the hospital herself while baby was there 2 months. It all worked out and everyone is healthy now.

At 29 weeks in my pregnancy with The Monster I went into preterm labour. A weekend in the hospital then 9 weeks of bedrest followed. House arrest, really. It all worked out and everyone is healthy now.

So when I hit 29 weeks I can't help but feel nervous and antsy. I watch my body for any sign of disagreement with the pregnancy. Of course, seeing as I rather dislike being pregnant the whole thing feels like a disagreement. In this case, every cramp seems like a major contraction, every slowdown in kicks is a concern, and I take my blood pressure too many times. Paranoid much?

This week I'm distracting myself with sewing, baking, and ignoring my messy house. Evidence of all things in this self portrait above.

29 weeks.

17 January, 2012

Branch Out

I fancy myself a decent free motion quilter. No, I won't win any prizes for my quilting, but I do think I can do some fun things. That being said, it is good sometimes to push your limits.

This weekend I took a machine quilting workshop from Ana Buzzalino. Ana is a member of my Flying Needles Quilt Guild and an amazing quilter. She can do incredible things with a New York Beauty Block. And her art quilts, which involve painting and stitching are at a level that is both beautiful and well-recognized. Oh, and she is ridiculously nice, genuine, and funny.

Ana's style is so far removed from mine. That alone would discourage many quilters, particularly those of us who identify as young and modern, from taking a class with her. It shouldn't, though. It should inspire us to try something new and push our boundaries.

When you take a class from someone whose work is different than yours the best thing to do is immerse yourself, learn something, then figure out how to apply those lessons to your own work. Do not let style, age, or perception keep you from a new challenge or experience.

I am so glad I took this workshop. Sure, I love dense quilting, but maybe not as dense as Ana was teaching. I still doubt I'll try silk or rayon thread, but she had great tips regarding thread, period. I have more intent in my stitching, some new patterns to try and new inspiration for my own, and I'm heading into the next round of quilts with a boost of confidence in my free motion skills. And next month she's teaching feathers!

13 January, 2012

Goodness (Recipe: Marshmallows)

It can be messy and sure is sweet, but making your own marshmallows is one of the most rewarding activities. For very little effort you get something that tastes infinitely better than anything you can buy. And the bonus? It makes any hot cocoa better. It is still winter, after all.

Making marshmallows at home is intimidating. This was the consensus at a sledding party we attended in December. I brought marshmallows for the gang, a perfect accompaniment to the planned hot cocoa afterwards. The other parents all thought it would be messy, involve lots of egg whites, and take forever.

In all honesty, it is messy when you do it with a 3 and 5 year old by your side. There are no egg whites, no dairy. There is gelatin, so these are not vegetarian. And the longest part of the process is waiting for them to firm up.

I'm posting the recipe today for parents everywhere. Head into the kitchen with these simple ingredients and you'll have marshmallows in time for hot cocoa after school.

For the best hot cocoa, I use this recipe. For an extra kick add some garam masala. Pair that with marshmallows made with a teaspoon of the chai spice mix added to the corn syrup mixture. You can also swap out the vanilla extract with peppermint or almond to vary the flavour. My girls also like them rolled in toasted coconut instead of icing sugar.

Basic Marshmallows
Adapted from Under the High Chair (Mine are a bit more firm and don't melt so quickly into the cocoa)

3 envelopes gelatin
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
icing sugar

Prepare a 9'' by 13'' pan by lining it with plastic wrap and oiling the bottoms and sides with canola oil or vegetable oil.

In the bowl of an electric mixer sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Soak for 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.

Pour boiling syrup over the gelatin. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes with the electric mixer. It will become glossy and stiff, like egg whites. Add the vanilla and beat for 30 seconds more.

Scrape into the prepared pan and spread evenly. It helps if your hands and/or the spatula are also lightly oiled. This is what keeps the mess under control. Let sit for a few hours or overnight.

Sprinkle a clean cutting board with icing sugar. Turn out the marshmallows and sprinkle more icing sugar on top. Cut into 1-1 1/2'' squares. Lightly roll in more icing sugar. These will keep for a few weeks in an airtight container - if they last that long!

(If you still don't feel up to tackling marshmallows at home I strongly recommend an order from The Marshmallows Company. They make some fine marshmallows and the company is run by a very cool kid!)

11 January, 2012

Welcome Home

Two very large, heavy boxes came home to me yesterday. The quilts I sent off for Sunday Morning Quilts came home. This includes the quilts I made for the book specifically, as well as many from my collection that also made their way into the book. After almost a year it feels so odd to see them again in person. After so many reviews of the book it feels like I've been with them all along. Within seconds of their arrival the girls had grabbed a handful and by the end of the night my Hubby was snuggling with one.

Now... where to store all these in the midst of our reno and baby prep?

09 January, 2012

Important Letters

This is a fun little project I've got going on these days. I took some scraps and made letters. Put those letters on white et voila! I can't wait to share this one, but I need to wait as the recipient may be reading...

I'd volunteered to make the quilt for her after a tragic event. Another friend gave me some fabric and it languished. Lack of a clear vision kept me from moving forward. Then, one night, I had a dream. Pregnancy dreams are always quite vivid. And for once it wasn't a nightmare or something completely messed up. I dreamt this quilt. Hormones for good!

While I didn't follow it directly when it came to constructing mine, Elizabeth Hartman has a great tutorial here for making the letters.

05 January, 2012

Handwork Update January

In my defence, this isn't pressed. That's why the seams don't match. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

This is where I'm at in my handwork project. After mentioning it when discussing my 2012 goals I thought you deserved an update.

I have a pile of these diamonds floating around. When I have a moment, usually when the girls are in a class or we're in the car and I'm not driving, I sew diamonds together. I only finger press before I put the rows together. I'm sure if I could properly press they would match up a bit better. You know what? I don't care. This is a process project, not an end results project.

(If Hubby had his way I would be done with the process too. He thinks this is both silly and ugly.)

There is one strip done. Five diamonds in a row, all sewn together. I haven't a clue where I'll take this. It is only this size because this is what is manageable and portable for me. Maybe I'll join strips together and make it all scrappy? Maybe I'll make it striped, adding in a solid strip? Maybe I'll do something else? We'll see. For now I just enjoy the process. And I've got dance, ski, and swim lessons starting up for the girls in the coming weeks.

(Gratuitous Evil Genius shot. Also, for scale. Ignore the door handle that looks like it is trying to shoot her in the head.)

01 January, 2012


A new year. Blah, blah, blah about resolutions, reflections, and new beginnings. For me, the new year simply means a new calendar. One for the wall from Michelle Engel Bencsko and my favourite Moleskine. A good black pen and a sacred spot on the sideboard and I'm off the races. Well, in actuality I'm just closer to hopefully not forgetting something.

The last 10 days have been good for me. Both Hubby and I actually took a break. I was on the computer and sewing machine very little.We had loads of time to chat after we collapsed every night from the exhaustion of three little kids and Christmas (we had my nephew with us this year). We spent a lot of time talking about what we wanted to do with the time we will have in the coming months. So, yes, there was some reflection and resolutions.

I prefer to think of them as goals. Or maybe stretch targets. Or optimism slightly more realistic than fitting into my regular jeans by May.

...Balance promoting Sunday Morning Quilts with the pregnancy and birth of our third baby. All while staying sane.
...Find the sweet spot between motherhood and work on another major project.
...Finish a handwork project.
...At least two baby quilts, one for the dragon in my belly and one for my sister's peanut.
...Make bacon at home in order to keep up to the consumption of bacon and maple syrup of the girls.
...Survive our basement reno, hopefully without the ridiculously giant TV my husband wants.

And do it all with a smile, a laugh, a hug, and hopefully a little bit of style.