Archive for August, 2008

Blog Action Day is October 15th

Blog Action Day is an annual event that calls on bloggers to post about the same issue on the same day. This year, the focus is on poverty. The goal is to raise awareness and initiate a worldwide discussion. Click the link in my sidebar or here to find out more about Blog Action Day.

I’m planning a special post for October 15th. Here’s a hint: it has to do with goats, chickens, and bees! I’ll also sponsor a giveaway here on that day, so please check back and take part. I’m looking forward to participating in the discussions that will take place on other’s blogs as well. If you have a blog, please consider joining in by posting about global poverty on October 15th. If you don’t, you can join the discussion here and all over the internet on Blog Action Day.

I’m in. Are you?

August 27, 2008 at 3:48 pm 3 comments

A pretty picnic blanket

Last weekend I made a quilted picnic blanket. My last project, this baby quilt, reminded me how much I enjoy the process of designing a quilt. Its tiny size, however, made me forget how much more time-consuming making larger quilts can be. Even this project, which is relatively small at about 62 inches by 62 inches and is relatively simple in design, was a lot of work! Of course, as is usually the case, I started out with a somewhat simpler plan and decided to get a little more elaborate as I went along. I worked most of the kinks out this time though, and I’m sure it will go much faster next time I make one of these.

You know you have a substantial fabric stash when you’re able to put together a quilt like this one with coordinating fabrics without going to the store! Most of these fabrics were left over from old projects, and a couple were fabrics I bought without knowing what I’d do with them (which I’m trying to stop doing, now that the cabinet I keep my stash in is full, but that’s another story.)

Here’s the plan I drew up:

I made the center out of small squares, about 8 inches, in a 4 by 4 pattern. Then I did a border of the larger squares, which were 16 inches.

If you want to attempt this pattern, I recommend cutting the small squares a bit larger, say 8.5 or 9 inches, sewing four of them together to form a larger square, and then cutting the large square to 16 inches. Then everything will line up better. I learned this (as usual) the hard way. The problem arises because four 8-inch squares sewn together are not exactly 16 by 16… they are somewhat smaller because of the seam allowance! I tried to fix the problem by using double the seam allowance when I sewed the larger squares together. What I would do next time is make a 16 inch cardboard square and cut a circular hole directly in the center of it. Then I would use that hole to center my large square (made from four small squares) and then cut it to exactly 16 inches. Then the large squares and the small squares would line up perfectly.

For the back, I trimmed the selvedges off of a piece of fabric that was 45 inches wide. I needed to add about 20 inches of width so I cut 8 squares using a legal-size FedEx envelope, which was 10 inches by 16 inches, as a template. (Shhh, don’t tell FedEx I misappropriated one of their envelopes, they get rather upset about this kind of thing.)

I added triangular corner pockets to the back side of the quilt, to put rocks into for holding the blanket down. I got the idea from this tutorial, which was my starting point in designing this quilt. (Of course, I had to make things more complicated.) I recommend checking out that tutorial for much more detailed instructions than I have written here, and very helpful photos.

I thought about adding ribbon ties to the center of one side so that the blanket could be folded into thirds, rolled up, and tied together neatly for travel. I would probably make the ties from double-fold bias strips from a coordinating fabric, or possibly from twill tape. I didn’t add them though, because I thought they might be bothersome when the blanket was being used for other things, like cuddling up on the couch on a chilly night. (Did you ever use a sleeping bag as a comforter and wake up with those darn ties stuck to your face, or is it just me?) I’d love some input on this idea, and maybe I’ll try it next time.

At the last minute, I decided to quilt the layers together, rather than hand-tie them. I really love that quilted look, although even when quilting by machine it is time-consuming to make sure all the layers are laying flat as you sew them. I think I need to buy a walking foot. Maybe that will make this part of the process easier. Or maybe I will just hand-tie next time. Does anyone have an opinion on whether either method is preferable for a picnic blanket?

Forgive the blanket for looking a bit rumpled in the photos. That’s what happens when you roll around on a pretty picnic blanket with your puppy.


August 13, 2008 at 1:54 pm 6 comments

Nature’s Bounty

Our garden has been yielding mountains of zucchini and summer squash every day. To put them all to good use, I set out find a simple recipe for a big pot of soup. The fewer ingredients that weren’t growing outside my door, the better. A quick internet search later, I found this recipe.

Creamy Zucchini Soup

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 4 large zucchini, chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 1L chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • salt and cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 coarsely chopped onion, 1 crushed garlic clove, 4 large chopped zucchini and 2 large peeled, chopped potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, making sure vegetables don’t brown.
  2. Add 1L chicken stock and 1 cup water. Bring soup to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Blend with a hand-held blender until smooth. Return soup to the heat and add 3/4 cup cream, salt and cracked black pepper.

I doubled the recipe (at least) because I used a couple of zucchinis that were starting to resemble baseball bats. I also replaced some zucchini with summer squash. I didn’t bother peeling the potatoes (the picture above reveals my laziness.) I used vegetable stock instead of chicken. I substituted half and half for the cream, and even used a bit less than the recipe called for. Before using the immsersion blender, I added a few fresh basil leaves. Delicious!

And now my mountain of vegetables is more like a hill.

August 7, 2008 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

A sweet quilt

With a stolen hour or two here and there over the last two weeks, I made a baby quilt for a friend who is having a baby soon. I used this adorable fabric as my starting point. I decided to keep it very simple– I like a simple look these days, plus I didn’t have the time to do a lot of detailed piecing. The fabrics I found are so cute that the quilt didn’t need a lot of embellishment anyway. I used a colorful, delicate plaid fabric as a thick border on all four sides, and a dainty pastel alphabet fabric that I happened upon at Marden’s in Lewiston last month as the back.

I quilted the layers together by machine, so all in all this quilt took only a few hours to make. I’m very happy with the way it turned out, and I’ll definitely use this method again when I need to whip up a baby quilt quickly.

August 4, 2008 at 12:09 am 3 comments


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