Thursday, April 10, 2014

Introducing PAINT for Windham

Holy wow - it's been a whole year since I blogged.  My last post was exactly a year ago, and I was extolling the virtues of Carrie Bloomston's Collage line.  And while that was a very fun line to sew with, I think I'm even more excited about her upcoming line - Paint.  Carrie's motto is "Celebrate Your Inner Artist," and with this line, she certainly gives sewers an incredible palate to make something gorgeous.

The colors are stunning - rich, bright, and saturated.  And in fitting with her now signature style, there are lots of newspaper-like scraps throughout the line - lovely little bits worth examining closely.  Each word or phrase was carefully curated by Carrie and, her personality can be seen in them for those who know her personally. 

The line features a mix of textured solids, large scale prints, and smaller scale prints.  I really wanted to make a quilt making the most of all three of these, and chose Erica Jackman's Stacked Squares pattern.  

I feel like both the larger and smaller prints both got chance to shine here.  And the solids play so nicely in this line - they bring so much to the rest of the line and also made an excellent canvas to highlight the quilting on the back. 

I can't say enough about PAINT.  The colors are bright but sophisticated and the prints are fun and creative.  It's such a creative mix.  Are you loving this line as much as I?  I know you are - it really is a delight.  Wanna play with it?  I have a charm pack up for grabs - leave a comment by Sunday night and I'll draw a random winner next Monday morning.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Introducing COLLAGE for Windham!

Eeps - I haven't blogged since October.  Let's just call in a winter hibernation, okay?  And if there's any reason to come out of hibernation, it's this.  Do you know Carrie Bloomston of SUCH Designs?  If you do, you already know why I adore her, and if you don't, you should head over to her blog and get acquainted with her right now.  I had the pleasure of meeting her nearly three years ago at the Long Beach International Quilt Show and have considered her a friend ever since. She’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and her enthusiasm for life and creativity drew me in immediately.

  (Photo courtesy of Jill McNamara)

Carrie is amazingly artistic.  Her patterns are easy to follow and are so varied in their design from whimsical critters to sophisticated stepping stones. I have always loved her patterns; I made this using her Wonky Little Houses pattern, and it’s maybe one of my favorite quilts.  Needless to say, I love her products, so you can imagine how delighted I was to find that she was creating a line of fabric for Windham – COLLAGE.  It’s a gorgeous collection and very much speaks of Carrie’s aesthetic.  Vibrant shades of purple, red, and yellow.  Birds.  And little scraps of words and phrases that she carefully curated.  It’s a fantastic line and I was honored when she asked if I’d create something with it.

In making a quilt using COLLAGE, I chose Jessica Kelly’s Simply Woven pattern – I love how it the strips of fabric in the quilt pattern mimic the the strips in some of Carrie's prints.

 (Photo courtesy of Jill McNamara)

 I also used Carrie’s Giggle and Squeak pattern to make a pillow using COLLAGE.  The saturated colors of the fabric and the whimsy of the pattern play so nicely together, don't you think?

(Photo courtesy of SUCH Designs)

And now it’s giveaway time.  You're going to love playing with this line when it's released this summer, but until then, Windham has generously donated a Layer Cake for me to give away.  Leave a comment with a fun fact (or two!) about yourself before I wake up on Thursday and I’ll pick a random winner.  International is fine, just make sure that if you’re a no-reply blogger that you’ve left your e-mail in the comment. 


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

For my Granny

There comes a time in your life when, if you are as lucky as I am to have three of my grandparents still alive as I turned 36, you must face the cruel realization that humans aren't immortal. 

People age - sometimes at a seemingly exponential rate compared to all but the very young.  Their bodies get creakier and move slower.  Ailments show up with greater frequency.  Surgeries, routine for someone half their age, come now with more complications. 

I remember my Granny as a spry woman.  When I was a kid, she and my Papa would host "the cousins" - all five of us - for a week at their house in the Berkshires every summer.  It was a magical hundred-plus-year house on beautiful grounds.  We'd swim.  And hike.  I knew Granny spent time playing tennis.  And golf, which she still occasionally plays all these years later.  My Granny was hardcore in ways that I didn't fully appreciate when I was a kid but that I do now.  She was fiery, with a head of bright red hair to match. 

Her opinions, her fire, is still as strong as ever.  But her body isn't.  I find myself once again being in the helpless position of wanting to horde as much time as I can with a grandparent but being 3,000 miles away from them. 

I loved that magical house that Granny lived in all those years ago.  It's been decades since I've been in it, but I feel like I can still trace every step of that house in my memory.  One of the most prominent memories I have of that house is the kitchen.  It was a huge room complete with a wood-burning fireplace and a wall filled with blue and white china.  It is the one thing that I associate with my Granny more than anything else - that china.  Those dishes, along with the house, have long-since been sold, but they are seared in my memory.

It's hard being so far away from the ones you love.  Distance stands in the way of the meals I'd like to make for her and the visits I'd like to have.  But the love in a quilt travels the miles easily.  So I created a quilt for her made with fabric that looks just like that china.  It's blue and white with patterns so swirly and varied that you get lost in them and can only focus on the colors.

It's only five weeks until my next visit with her, but until that time, and after I leave, I hope this quilt reminds her that she is always in my thoughts even if I can't always be in her presence. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Whereby I Create a Jam Recipe

I started canning in earnest a bit over a year ago.  I progressed from the sugar-laden and pectin-set recipes on the back of the Certo box to recipes that featured interesting and unique flavor combinations.  I learned how to set my jams without boxed pectin.  I was evolving. 

I started reading the Food in Jars blog and bought a copy of Tart and Sweet.  Both taught me a lot of the basics of canning as well as some more sophisticated techniques.  I have since made a lot of delicious jams - all using someone else's recipe. But Marisa recently challenged her readers to create their own small-batch jam recipe, and here I am today. 

I found Italian Prune Plums at my local Farmer's Market last week and quickly loaded up my basket with them.  I love plums, as do my kids, and I couldn't wait to introduce them to these little gems.  But while they gobble up fruit of nearly every kind, they turned their noses up at these.  "They're too small, Mommy."  "They got all banged up in my lunchbox, Mommy.  They're too soft."

While I had eaten my fair share of them, I had bought enough for three people and only one was eating them.  They were starting to get too soft and there was no way I could eat them all before they were too far gone.  Jam seemed like the perfect solution.

After they were pitted and chopped, I had 14oz. of plums.  While plain plum jam is one of my most favorite jams, these plums were crying for a bit more.  I opened up my spice drawer and looked for inspiration.

Ummmm.... Bay leaf?  Yes. And??  Uh.... Balsamic. Yes, balsamic.  It was such a small batch that it cooked in no time - not more than 10 minutes in my very wide jam pot and it was ready to be canned. 


The finished product is a gorgeous ruby color.  It's slightly spicy and very earthy.  Complex and deep.  I kind of love it and wish I had more than just three 4oz jars of it.  It was delicious on warm popovers this morning.  Sweet and jammy and a lovely addition to brunch with a dear friend.  The very same jam was seemingly transformed this afternoon when paired with with whole grain toast and some shaved pork tenderloin that was left over from last night's dinner.  The sweetness of the fruit and the savory notes from the bay leaf paired perfectly with the lightly seasoned tenderloin.

I love the versatility of this jam, and I hope you do, too.  A huge thank-you to Marisa for expanding my horizons and showing me that I can create a recipe nearly as easily as I can follow one.

Fresh Prune Jam with Bay and Balsamic
14oz. of Italian Prune Plums, chopped
5oz. of sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Combine chopped fruit, sugar, and bay leaf.  Leave to macerate at room temperature for an hour.  Add balsamic vinegar and cook until jam sets using whatever testing method you prefer (I am partial to the spoon sheeting test).  Because this jam cooks so quickly, the fruit doesn't have a lot of time to break down - you might find that you need to use a potato masher to make the syrup and the fruit a more homogenized mixture.

Once jam is set, pour into sterilized jars and process for 10 minutes.  This tiny recipe yielded a mere 3/4 pint - just enough to enjoy a bit now and have a half-pint waiting for me in my pantry on a dreary winter day. 

Monday, May 28, 2012


I was recently asked to make quilts for twin girls.  Beyond being told that the twins' room is painted grey, I was given free reign to make two quilts that were complimentary but not exactly the same.  I thought about using two different quilt patterns and the same fabrics and colors, but ultimately decided that a single quilt design with two different color palettes would look more cohesive.

After searching Flickr and Pinterest for inspiration, I decided to make two lattice quilts - one in turquoise and pink and one in turquoise and purple.  Both quilts feature a Kona Coal background and a stripey (*love*) binding in the quilt's accent color. The nearly-identical backs are a solid piece of a Michael Miller grey and white damask with a feature strip of the quilt's accent color.

I was really torn on how to quilt them, but after much deliberation, I decided to take a risk and try something totally new to me.  I used Elizabeth's Orange Peel quilting design.  Firstly, I need to say that Elizabeth is a rockstar to be able to FMQ this pattern - there is no way I could do it that way.  I used my regular foot with my feed dogs up to achieve this design.  That said, I love the effect of this pattern and it was surprisingly easy to accomplish.  I do see myself using this style of quilting a lot in the future.   

After a nice wash and a hot dry, these quilts finished at a soft and crinkly 47" square.  They'll be on their way to two sweet little girls tomorrow and I hope they'll be loved dearly and used often.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Silly Sally Walked to Town, Picking Berries Updside Down

These are Sally's mulberry trees.

Sally is my neighbor and I remember her name only because I made my kids memorize a little mnemonic device based on this oldie but goodie.  Sally lives in my neighborhood and her trees are in the alley (note the abandoned car bumper) on the edge of her property.  Her trees are old and heavy with fruit.  Sally didn't even know the fruits were edible and happily agreed to let me harvest them this year.  For that, I love her. 

Every other day, I swing by her house and pick berries - as many ripe ones as I can reach.  Within two days, the tree will be full of ripe fruit all over again.   Mulberries aren't easy or fun to pick.  They stain my fingers.  They stain my shoes.  Mulberries are a much higher reach than a bush berry like blueberries or raspberries, so I often have to use a ladder to pick them.  And they aren't as large as strawberries, which only take a dozen or so fruits to yield a pound - it takes forever to pick a pound of mulberries.  But you can't get them at stores.  Or even at the farmer's market.  And their season is short.  So when they come into season, I pounce on them.

Have you ever had a mulberry?  They are insanely good.  So juicy.  And sweet - almost cloyingly so.  I have fond memories of picking them as a kid - not caring how messy they are and trying to stuff as many of them as I could into my mouth.

I'm desperate to preserve as many of these delicious berries as I can.  I started to make jam with them, only to realize that their sweetness is nearly overwhelming when combined with the sugar required to properly set the jam.  But the addition of rhubarb is spectacular with them - it cuts the sweetness of the berry without overpowering it's taste.

For the life of me, I couldn't find a mulberry-rhubarb jam recipe online.  There were a bunch of strawberry-rhubarb recipes that looked promising, but called for more sugar than I was willing to add to those already-almost-too-sweet mulberries, so I cobbled together a recipe myself.  I am so not an experienced enough jam maker to commit my recipe (and I use that word in it's most loose interpretation) to the internet, but I reduced the amount of sugar that most recipes call for, tossed in some lemon juice and zest, and added half a package of liquid pectin as an insurance policy that it would set.  It came out perfectly. 

I also put up some Mulberry Lemongrass Syrup using the recipe for Blueberry Lemongrass Syrup in my copy of Tart and Sweet and subbing out a bit over 2lbs of mulberries for the blueberries.  It's very sweet, but delicious on some unsweetened yogurt, as the author suggests. 

Conventional wisdom tells me to remind you not to eat any wild berry that you can't identify with 100% certainty.  But if you can verify that the berries you have are mulberries, enjoy them while the season lasts or put them up to enjoy later.  You won't be sorry.

Friday, April 27, 2012

KCWC - Spring 2012 v2

Today I finished up another dress for Sprout as part of Elsie Marley's Kid's Clothing Week Challenge.  She's newly in love with her American Girl doll, who is called either Julia, Juliette, or Kazzi, depending on the day.  I decided to make matching Popover Dresses for Sprout and her doll. The dresses are going to be a gift for Sprout's fourth birthday in July, so I don't have a photo of her modeling her new duds. 

The bodice is made using some DS Quilts fabric and the contrast is a vine print that I ABSOLUTELY DIE FOR that I picked up at Superbuzzy earlier this month.  It couldn't be a more perfect match.  Sprout's dress features a bit of yellow ric-rac and her doll's dress is identical except white lace replaces the ric-rac.

I think between now and July, I'll add some Velcro to the doll's dress straps so that Sprout can dress the doll herself.  Beyond that, it's a perfect pattern.  As with all Oliver + S patterns, it's well written and the finished dress is simple and classic.