Scrap Attack quilt top finished!

Well, it looks like my worries about not finishing in time for Monday’s deadline were unfounded. I finished the top of my scrap quilt just now.

The fabric is almost entirely scraps from the Nine-Patch quilt. I had three central squares worth of strips, and pieced the fourth central square out of the edges and scraps from making the other squares. The greys all came from a scrap pack from FabricWorm, which I’m glad I impulse ordered a few weeks ago: without it I would have had a much harder time making anything even remotely quilt-sized. The only things I pulled from my fabric stash are the charcoal sashing and the green pezzy prints for one border.

It’s about 45×45″ though I imagine it’ll lose a tiny bit of size when it’s quilted.

I’m planning to bind it in the same charcoal that I used for sashing. I honestly have no idea what I’m going to use for a backing, but I suppose I have time to figure that out.

On Monday, I’ll go back to the Simple Math quilt, and what happens when the person you’re making the quilt for says “Oh, by the way, can you make it a full instead of a twin?”

Quilt along and scrap challenge

What’s this?

It looks an awful lot like I’m participating in this:

Scrap Attack Quilt-Along

When I first saw this Scrap Attack Quilt-Along I thought there was no way I’d have enough scraps to do anything with. But minis/baby quiltes are okay, so I’m going to go for it. I’m using scraps from the Nine Patch Lattice Quilt a couple of solids and neutrals from a scrap pack I bought from FabricWorm and a little bit of blue leftover from the solid colored blocks I’m adding to the Simple Math quilt.

I’m not really planning this out in advance, other than basing it around nine patch squares. This is a bit odd for me: usually I want to know everything about a pattern well before I start, and exactly how things go together. It turns out it’s kind of nice to just throw a few pieces of fabric together, add something else to the edges and see how it works. I’m figuring on doing four blocks and (if I have enough scraps of it) using the navy cotton as sashing. Backing I’ll figure out later — all you have to have finished is the quilt top, not the quilting, backing and binding.

I’m just hoping I can get it all done by the deadline for Scrap Attack: next Monday! Eeeek!

Chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies

I’ve been very focused on quilting recently, so I thought I’d throw in some baking I did about a month ago as a thank you gift to shake things up a little bit.

Chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies(Apologies for the picture quality: I borrowed an iPod touch to take these, since my camera wasn’t on hand, and they’re all a bit grainy as a result.)

I decided to give cookies to two people who’d helped me out with applications, and I knew that one of them liked chocolate, and one liked butter cookies. So I decided to make chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies.

The recipe is simple: four parts flour, two parts butter, one part sugar. You can use brown, white or powdered sugar, depending on what you want it to taste like in the end. I tend to use powdered sugar. Take the butter (preferably soft and at room temperature) and cream it with the sugar. Then mix in the flour. It’ll seem like too much, but you should be able to get it all together. (While I sometimes cheat on my order of ingredients, this is one where you really can’t — creaming the butter and sugar first is essential.)

I neglected to take photographs of the dough, so we’ll start with unbaked cookies. I rolled the dough out about 1/2″ thick and cut it with a biscuit cutter – a round cookie-cutter. You could use an upside-down glass, or jar to do the same thing. Some people pat the dough out with their hands, but I try to avoid touching it too much: the more you handle it, the more the butter melts, and that changes how it interacts with the flour when it’s baked, and then your cookies are just a smidge tougher than they might have been.

Raw cookies on a baking sheet

You can tell this is toward the end of the batch by how crumbly the ones on top look: at that point I had rolled the dough out a couple of times, and it picked up just a little more flour each time. Those cookies still taste good, but they don’t look quite as pretty.

Pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 6-10 minutes, depending on how big the cookies you cut out are. Take them out when they start to look golden-brown around the edges — very pale.

Here you see that I overbaked the first batch, by forgetting to set a timer. Ooops. They still taste okay, but the flavor changes a little bit. And these cookies were supposed to be a gift, so that whole batch was out of the running: too unattractive.

Fortunately, I’d made a triple batch, so I ended up with enough pretty cookies.

And here comes the fun part. One of the two recipients doesn’t like chocolate, so that gift was done, as soon as I boxed it up in a little tin. The other, however, does like chocolate.

So I melted some semi-sweet baking chocolate in my double-boiler.

I dipped each cookie halfway, and set them down on racks to cool, with foil underneath the racks. (I tried foil on top of the racks, under the cookies. It turns out that’s an excellent way to end up with chocolate-covered foil and half-dipped cookies. Put the cookies straight on the rack.)

Voila! Chocolate-dipped shortbread. I tend to keep mine refrigerated, and for a long time (well, as long as I can make it last, that is) — it tastes sweeter over time.

Simple Math

Of course, now that I’ve gotten to the point where I could, theoretically, bind and quilt the Nine-Patch quilt, my safety pins haven’t arrived in the mail. And I’ve seen tutorials for using a spray-on-adhesive, but I haven’t really got anywhere outdoors to spray it (or any adhesive). I suppose I could always baste the layers together by hand, but I really hate basting by hand.

That delay clearly just means it’s time to start cutting for another quilt, right?

Cut fabric for Simple Math

And maybe piecing a couple of blocks together.

Pieced squares for Simple Math

And then pressing and trimming some of the pieced blocks.

Smallest two sets of pieced and pressed blocks for Simple Math
Fattest cross blocks for Simple Math

And, well, I’ve now made 60% of the blocks I’ll need for a slightly altered (to Twin size) Simple Math quilt.

Thirty two blocks for Simple Math in four colors

I love the way the crosses vary from narrower to fatter, but it’s been making some of the blocks a little bit challenging.

The larger two, with crosses that are 2″ and 1 1/2″ inches wide, are no problem. The smaller two, with crosses that are 1 1/4″ and 1″ wide, pieced into a block 6″ square — well, in that case, you need your seams to be kind of exact — and not all of mine are. There exists the chance that I’ll have to rip a couple of them out and re-do them later, to make them come out quite right — or give them sliiiiightly wider sashing to make a row go together properly. I’ll see when I have more of the blocks done: I did a much better job with the fifth and sixth pairs of narrow crosses than I had with the first four of them.

Nine-Patch Lattice Quilt

This is the Nine-Patch Lattice Quilt from Oh, Fransson!, Elizabeth Hartman’s quilting blog. I stumbled across her tutorial on how to make crazy nine-patch blocks a year or so ago and thought it was genius. So when I got the urge to try my hand at quilting something that actually had a pattern, I thought of the tutorial, visited her blog, and found the Nine-Patch quilt. The practice blocks I did were mock-ups for this project.

I didn’t end up going for crazy blocks, because I preferred the lattice effect of symmetrical squares. I strip-pieced the blocks, which made everything much faster and easier, and aside from learning that I can’t sew a scant 1/4″ seam without a guide of some kind (and even then, I sometimes manage to sew a slightly wider seam, just enough to throw things of a teeny bit overall), it went very smoothly.

I used nine fat quarters I’d picked up at a Joann Fabrics to use together. Originally I was going to use the green sheet I used in the test pillow squares as sashing, but something about it didn’t quite look right to me. So when I went down to Brooklyn General to pick up a 6×24″ quilting ruler, I brought along one of the squares, and laid it against some of the fabrics they had there. This is Kona Cotton in Navy (if I recall the color correctly: a dark blue, in any case) and I really like the way it sets off the greens.

One of my favorite things about this pattern is the back:

The little squares remind me of stained glass windows, glowing in the darker wall of blue fabric.

Baby quilt

When my cousins had their first daughter about four years ago, I asked if they would rather have a knitted baby blanket, or a quilt, and they picked the quilt. So I pulled out a baby quilt that my grandmother had helped me start making when I was a teenager, (which had fallen into the black hole of unfinished projects that is my closet), sewed it all together and appliqued on little ducks, and sent it off.

Well, last year they had a second daughter, and I could hardly make a quilt for one daughter and not the other, so I made this:

The ladybugs are iron-on instead of applique: the idea of sewing on all the little ladybug dots by hand made my head hurt just a little bit.

The pattern is the same one my grandmother always used, which is to say none whatsoever, which made for some fun math and re-jiggering so that the two quilts hopefully sort of match. It’s not perfect, but I think it turned out okay. And it got me started on other projects.

Where it began

Getting into quilting is largely what made me start this blogging thing up again.  And that’s largely because of quilting blogs I was reading that made me think “That’s gorgeous!” and “Hey, maybe I could eventually learn to do something like that!” Besides, it’s not as if I have a dozen knitting and spinning WiPs. I’ve only got, say, eleven or so of those.

The first project I really wanted to try was the Ninepatch Lattice Quilt. Elizabeth Hartman’s blog, Oh, Fransson! is a source of fabulous information and inspiration. Her patterns are clear and easy to follow, and I love the way she thinks.

Of course, I didn’t trust myself to do anything right the first time around, so I made a set of practice nine-patch blocks, and then, when they weren’t disastrous, sewed them together into squares that I’ll probably use as the front and back of a pillow. Test pillow

The print fabrics are fat quarters I picked up at a Joann Fabrics sometime when I was in Connecticut or Indiana, and the green is from a sheet I picked up at a thrift store in Atlanta for pretty much exactly this kind of project. I don’t think they match perfectly, but for a test swatch, I think it came out okay. Front of the test pillow piece