Sunday, December 29, 2013

Still Celebrating

It's been a fun holiday season. Visiting family and friends, eating tons of yummy food, holding babies, playing with toddlers and puppies. There was a fun game of Dirty Santa at my Aunt's house Christmas Eve. Today is the first day I'm home long enough to catch my breath and tackle Mount Laundry. I made this pecan pie for Christmas Eve. Such an easy pie to make and most people love it.

I finished my Catvent blocks Christmas Day during a quick lull. Now to add borders to the blocks and put them all together. I'm hoping to get a bit of time today. It's rainy here, so it's perfect for sewing. Or watching movies. Or reading.

I received two! grills for Christmas. One charcoal, and one gas. Both are Webers. Love them! Everyone knows I love to grill. My big gas grill was on its last leg, so I had been using my charcoal grill most of the year. Clearing the ashes was kind of messy. This new charcoal grill has a fancy ash removal pan. Yay!

My dad wanted an iPhone for Christmas. This was us trying to explain to him how to send messages using voice recording. No idea what a wiggly Alma is! Hilarious. It's his first smart phone, so he should have some fun with it. I put a bunch of apps on it for him, and we blew his mind with Face Time. So fun to see him learning. Good thing we and the kids have had years of practice to show Gramps the smart phone ropes. Heck, the kids still show me stuff. I think they're still learning tricks too. Technology keeps us on our toes.

I hope you're still celebrating and having lots of fun.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Elves Have Been Busy

A double batch of Chex Holiday Party Mix. I used fresh garlic for a change. And lots of Tabasco. Hollywood was my sous chef all day. She prefers to bake sweets, but I had other ideas. We'll get to the sweets tomorrow. We did make a batch of fudge. I was pretty proud it turned out. I've wasted many pounds of sugar making fudge and other candies over the years.

These spiced nuts are served at the Gramercy Tavern in New York. I used peanut and pecans because I had those on hand. The nuts are sweet, salty, and spicy. Delicious. They would be great with a festive cocktail.

I packed the Chex mix into bags for sharing. Remember when they called this stuff Nuts & Bolts? I love all the variations of the recipe. It's different every time I make it, and so much better than the bagged stuff.

Sunday's roast chicken. Inspector Gadget said this one was only the second biggest in the meat department. He tries to snag the biggest chicken every week. It sure was good. Good thing, because we'll be eating leftovers for a day or two.

Wishing everyone in blogland a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 16, 2013


Yeah, yeah, I drank the Catvent Kool-aid. It started with Ralphio, cat 5. I was just going to try one and see if I liked it. I made him before dawn and didn't realize he was supposed to be done in reds. As a result, I have a ton of orange cats laying around here. The blocks are quick and easy to make, so I can make extra.

It only took me five days to realize that Catvent was an ode to Advent. *cough* A cat a day until Christmas. I get it now!

Progress...I love that they are all named. There's Bernadette, Zeke, Sunny, Chowder, Lucy, Barley, and more! Poor Yanick, my Sew Day next door neighbor had to listen to me keep track of the names.

My blocks so far. I made two of the same cat. One in yellow, one in green. Oops. My Catvent may go longer than 25 days! I can throw the extras kitties on the back.

Cat Quilt by Elizabeth Hartman at Oh, Fransson!
This is what the quilt looks like finished. Isn't it cute? I can't wait to make more blocks.

My first Christmas present. Thanks Kathryn!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Stash #79

On the left Essex Yarn Dyed in Flax and on the right a fat quarter bundle of  Moxie by Erin McMorris for Free Spirit. I loved the speech balloons.

All of these big chunks of fabric were in a scrap bag. There were some really fun ones in there. I think scraps will always be my favorite. I especially enjoy buying them online and being surprised when they get here. It's hard to believe I went a month without buying fabric. Well, almost a month. That kind of gives you an idea of how crazy pants it's been around these parts.

While I'm more of a dog person, I have loved seeing all these colorful cat blocks on the Oh, Fransson! blog. I'm going to admit it right here that the Kool-aid is tempting me. I'm so easy. But how cute and scrappy are those kitties?

I ate shrimp several times last week. The dish on the left is my favorite and from our local watering and eating hole, Fish on Fire. They take the most flavorful large pink shrimp and stuff a piece of jalapeno and cheddar cheese inside. Then they wrap the whole shebang in bacon and grill it. Dip them in melted butter, I dare you.
The seared Ahi tuna salad on the right is the Inspector's favorite.

Their smoked fish dip is pretty tasty too. And it comes with a few veggies, so it's practically good for you! I can also highly recommend the bacon, blue cheese burger too. Oh boy, I need to take a bike ride.

Here's a shrimp dish I whipped up for dinner. Charleston Shrimp and Grits. It's one of the Inspector's favorites. College Boy digs it too, but he's been busy with finals, work, and girlfriend. Hopefully in that order! This quick dish couldn't be easier. Get the best shrimp you can find and feel free to substitute some turkey sausage for the andouille. I couldn't find andouille at my grocery store. What? I probably didn't look hard enough. I also substitute a 14 oz. can of fire roasted tomatoes for the four cups of crushed tomatoes. And I cooked the grits in water not milk. I'm healthy like that. Ha! I dumped in some shredded cheddar after the grits cooked. Had ya going huh?

Our guild's January BOM is this adorable Butterfly Block by Four Wise Monkeys. We're using a pink, orange, and yellow color palette. I did some saving my sanity Sunday sewing and these were just what the doctor ordered! I feel so much better. I might even fire up the vacuum. Hope your week was wonderful.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Coiled Baskets, Bowls, and Trivets

I made this little red and white coiled bowl ages ago. I wrapped fabric strips around clothesline and formed a coil. To secure the coil, I took little hand stitches in between the stacked coils. Since I'm not a fan of hand sewing, the bowl didn't get too big. But the technique intrigued me. I did a little more research and found a way I could make these bowls with the aid of my sewing machine.

Materials Needed:
Clothesline or other cording
Fabric Strips (approximately 1/2" - 3/4" wide, any length)
Two clips (binder, clothespin, Wonder clip)
Sewing machine with zig zag stitch

Once I found out how to construct the bowl using my sewing machine, I started collecting clothesline. Cotton is the best, but the polyester stuff works too. You can buy macrame cording or other types of cording as well. Check your craft or fabric store for options. Clothesline can be hard to find, but now I see it everywhere. Your hardware store should have it if you get desperate.

My basket of strips. Most of these are selvage edges that don't have the color dots or writing. I collect and use those for other projects. I have one bag under my cutting table for strips and I store the the selvages with color dots in a different place. I dumped the bag of strips into a laundry basket so I could pick and choose colors. You could also cut strips from fabric in specific colors. Longer strips are a little harder to work with, and you don't want anything wider than an inch. No need to measure, but 1/2" to 3/4" wide works best. Wider strips are harder to wrap around the cording. The wider strips tend to bunch up.

The polyester cording unravels, so I usually melt the raw end with a scorpion lighter to reduce bulk at the end. Scorpion lighter optional.

A few of my sources suggest cutting your first fabric strip at an angle and gluing it in place. It doesn't have to look perfect, you will never notice it in the final piece. Gluing is optional, you can just cover the end of the cording with the fabric strip and start wrapping it around the cord. Continue wrapping the fabric strip around the cording covering all the cording and secure the fabric strip end with a binder clip, clothespin, or Wonder clip. Now it's time to sew!

Tightly coil the cording and set your sewing machine to sew a zigzag stitch. If you have a needle down mode, set that. I make the zigzag stitch width a little wider than the normal setting. You can play around with it and see what works. The zigzag stitch is stitched to catch both sides of the cording, so adjust as needed. The beginning is a little hard, but after a couple of times around, it gets much easier and faster. Continue stitching and turning/coiling your cording. When you get close to the end of the fabric strip, add another and secure with a clip.

When adding a new strip, cover the tail end of the previous strip with the new strip. Hold everything together with a clip so nothing unravels. Make sure you leave yourself enough cording to add a new strip. I was cutting it close in the photo above. The coil stays under the presser foot the entire time. This is where having a needle down mode comes in handy.

Keep going until the base of the bowl or tray is the size you want. You will keep the coil flat as you stitch. You can kind of see the white thread zigzags and how they catch two rows of cording. Use coordinating thread for less contrast. I'm not sure any thread would have coordinated with my multiple colors and that clear thread always fails me. I have a wad of it in my thread drawer.

To make the bowl shape you simply start tilting the coil toward your needle. Keep the angle consistent for several turns around the bowl and then start tilting the bowl toward your machine to build the sides. For a bowl shaped like the one I made, make subtle tilts toward your machine as you add more fabric-covered cording.

Toward the end of my bowl, I've tilted the bowl at almost a 90 degree angle to get the sides of the bowl higher. You could make shorter sides to form a tray, or higher sides to get a deeper bowl.

Finished! This bowl measures 11" in diameter and stands 4.5" tall. Don't forget to change your needle after your completed project. The cording probably dulls it.

There are plenty of great tutorials on the internet for coiled projects. I've listed a few below, but I'm sure there are others out there. I hope you give it a try. It's very easy and you can watch a movie or listen to a book while you zigzag away. Mindless sewing is sometimes just what I need.

How to make a coiled fabric bowl.
Handled fabric bowl.
Fabric coil coasters using hot glue.
This one uses 1/2" cording and is hand sewn.

If you need more inspiration, here's a collection of images of coiled baskets.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Challenge, Indeed

Yanick encouraged Orlando Modern Quilt Guild members to try the Double Wedding Ring Challenge the New York City Modern Quilt Guild was hosting. I was a little late to the party, but I still wanted to give this block a try. It's a challenge all right! I chose a paper pieced pattern from McCall's to play with.

The paper piecing part was fun and easy. I used my colorful scraps and stitched away. Sewing the white melons was also not terrifying. Well, maybe a little. ;)

It went downhill from there. Fitting that white center part was easy, but I had difficulty matching everything up for the Y-seams on the connector blocks. Gah!! Unsewing was involved. I contemplated taking out the white melons and appliqueing the rings on top of a white background, but that would have been more unsewing. Then I relaxed by ripping paper off the paper pieced sections.

Finally I was ready to sandwich the quilt. I'm low on batting, so I had to Frankenstein my last two big pieces together. No biggie. This was the last of the bamboo/cotton batting I bought to give a try. I really like it.

I decided to quilt the dog out of it to get my less than perfect joins to behave. Simple, organic wavy lines in white thread. I used my walking foot and went to town. This baby has mad texture.

Round quilts need bias binding. Eek. There's a first time for everything. This mini quilt is a learning adventure. I used this tutorial by Tinkerfrog and was on my way. Six years ago I didn't know what a bias was.

The binding was hand sewn to the back. Boy, I almost ran out of orange thread too. I think a trip to Jo-Ann's is in order.

Whew, challenge complete. I wasn't able to enter the contest because my quilt was a bit larger than 20", but it was a fun challenge none the less. I hope you'll go see the entries and how clever they all are.

Rene's Double Wedding Ring Mini
Yanick's Modern Beauty
Kathryn's DWR Mini
My guild buddies made some beauties too! I hope they don't mind me grabbing photos from their blogs. I'm moving on to Canoe Ridge Creations' Giant Starburst Quilt Along and the Quiltville Mystery Quilt. The fun just never ends!

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