Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall Workshop

Saturday was my quilt guild's fall workshop. We vary between having guild members teach us a new technique and having a professional teacher come in. We've held a couple of retreats at Canton Quilt Retreat and asked the owner, Catherine Erickson, to teach our retreat this time. She's a certified Judy Niemeyer teacher and we choose to make the Compass Rose Table Runner. I was a bit hesitant since I hate paper piecing and was even less pleased when I found out that we had to use batiks. (She later changed this, but I had already used my birthday discount in May to get batiks from my LQS.) Needless to say I wasn't very excited on Saturday morning, but I love hanging out with the ladies from my quilt guild so I decided to suck it up.

I have to admit Catherine has really changed my mind about paper piecing. The methods she taught (and the extremely well organized pattern by Judy Niemeyer) actually made it somewhat easy. It also was great that Catherine told us to hand all mistakes to us and she ripped them out for us. After the third time of handing her my fabric I watched how she used a rotary cutter to cut the offending stitches. I probably shouldn't write this since my husband will read it, but on Sunday I messed up my Supernova blocks and had to rip out a double line of stitching on 32 pieces. I tried using the rotary cutter method of seam ripping and it was pretty efficient. It will take some practice before I'm as fast as Catherine, but I'm confident I've mastered the technique enough to avoid ER visits.

I was surprised that in an all day workshop I didn't finish a single block.  It was very comforting to see that the other members of the class got just as far as I did so I wasn't really any slower than anyone else. I learned so much with the first block that I think the next ones will go a lot faster. 

I'm excited to see this table runner all put together. I think I've pulled off a somewhat modern block using batiks. They still aren't my favorite fabrics, but I do like how these are turning out.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Farmer's Wife 31

I had to look back to see what number post this is and was startled to see that my last Farmer's Wife post was September 25. Oy. I'm so glad that most of the crops here are out of the fields so hopefully the dust will be settling soon. It's dangerous to announce, but I love winter. The allergens are mostly dead, I get to drink hot cocoa, and I get to wrap myself and my loved ones in all of my knit and quilt lovelies. It also means I want to spend less time outside and more time working on my quilts so it shouldn't be too long before I'm caught up with my Farmer's Wife blocks.

#4 Basket Weave

#44 Gentleman's Fancy


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Almost Done

I'm just about finished with the first purple cowl. Thankfully this weekend I finally started feeling better and was able to do some catch-up work on quilting. (I actually have two Farmer's Wife blocks to share on Friday and am half finished with the third step of my guild's mystery quilt. I'm not sharing that one until it's finished though.) All of this quilting meant that the purple cowl didn't get as much love as she needed. 

I'm still two inches away from the end, but my list of Christmas knitting has been focused a bit more so I'm not worried about this. I also had a really pleasant surprise in my e-mail yesterday. I found this great alpaca yarn at the renaissance festival last month and have been searching for the perfect pattern. Yesterday Sweater Babe sent me a link to this month's free pattern, the Deluxe Lace Cowl. I'll need to read the pattern a bit closer to see if I need more yarn, but I'm really excited to cast on the second purple cowl.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Modern Building Blocks

I'm afraid I don't have any Farmer's Wife blocks to share this week, but I want to get back to my regular schedule of posting so I'm going to share my next "slow stitching" project. I know this term has probably been around for a while, but yesterday I found a copy of Quilty at one of my local stores and they had a great article about slow stitching. I like having some faster projects that let me feel like I'm accomplishing something and meet timeline goals I set for myself. I also really enjoy having long-term projects that focus on building skills. This year that project has been my Farmer's Wife quilt. I'd started thinking about what I wanted to do next year and was debating Dear Jane, but wasn't sure I wanted to commit to another big traditional sampler. 

When I saw the first glimpse of the Modern Building Blocks I knew I had to make that quilt. A few weeks ago Quilter's Square had a sale on pre-ordered kits so I took the plunge. I think this is going to be a great motivator to finish the last 30 FW blocks since I'm really excited to start the MBB quilt.

At one of my guild's work nights I finally admitted that I'm not a fan of batiks. I know that there are countless numbers of beautiful quilts that are made from batiks (believe me the quilts the members of my guild make from batiks are stunning.) I compare it to an art museum though. There are hundreds of paintings that are amazing, but you wouldn't want all of them in your home. Likewise batiks just aren't my style right now (which is okay because solids aren't most of my guild's style.) I'm hoping that when they see this quilt some of them might be tempted to use more solids in their quilts. Just look at all of these yummy colors!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lots of Knitting Time

Sorry for the disappearance. I'm not sure if I've been struck with allergies or a nasty cold, but either way it's really knocked me off my feet. Unfortunately the meds I take for my RA weaken my immune system so tiny bugs will leave me sick for days weeks. Since Iowa is heading into winter and cold season I'm sure this is only the first of many illnesses that will hit. If I disappear for a few postings here and there it's because I've been hit with another bug. Thank you in advance for your patience. I promise I will be back as soon as I can.

The one good thing about this bug is that I haven't had energy to do much more than go to work and lay on the couch. This weekend the couch and I were very close friends and I got a ton of knitting done in between my naps. I'm just about finished with the first of the 2014 Christmas presents. 

I'm really loving the Change of Heart cowl. I think that if I wasn't sick and falling asleep as soon as I finish supper I'd have finished this two weeks ago. I'd definitely recommend this pattern for a quick and easy Christmas present.

I'm joining up with SewCalGal's Handmade Christmas Challenge. In this day and age when time is so precious I believe that a handmade gift shows my loved ones that I love them enough to spend time making something just for them. This cowl may look simple, but in it is stitched hours of me thinking of the person who will receive it. It is also a tangible symbol of my love that she can hold close to her on days when she needs a little extra love.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake Truffles

I had the good sense to marry a man who enjoys cooking and is quite good at it. This means that most of the time that I spend working in the kitchen I'm working on quilts. (Read about how my quilting studio doubles as my kitchen in this post.) Tomorrow night I'm scheduled to bring treats to my quilt guild's meeting so I've spent a fair bit of time in the kitchen working on Pumpkin Cheesecake Truffles. Since they turned out super cute and I thought to take pictures I'm going to share a tutorial for this simple dessert. (I don't know if other countries have the obsession with pumpkin that we do in America, but as soon as it hints at cold everything here is pumpkin flavored.) 

1 cake mix (I used yellow since that's what The Frugal Girls used, but I think next time I'm going to use a spice cake mix so it tastes more like pumpkin bars.)
1 15oz. can of pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 package of low-fat cream cheese (not pictured)
1 package of almond bark
1 T. vegetable oil (not pictured)
1 can of white frosting
1 bag of pretzel sticks
food coloring (In the picture I show liquid food coloring, but you'll want to use gel or powdered. Liquid food coloring causes your almond bark to seize. Seized almond bark is very good on graham crackers, but not good for dipping our truffles in.)

Mix your cake mix and pumpkin until smooth. Pour into 9x13 greased glass pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until tooth pick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow your cake to cool completely. (I covered mine and let it sit over night.)

Crumble cake with a fork or your hands and mix in the cream cheese. Blend until everything is smooth and there's no white showing. (I started with a fork and found it easier to finish mixing with my hands.) Form cake mixture into 1" balls, and roll in your hands to make them round.

Melt your almond bark. I started with 90 seconds in the microwave, stirred, and then continued with 15 second intervals stirring between each interval. When the almond bark is smooth stir in 1 T. vegetable oil and gel food coloring until the desired shade of orange is reached. It took a fair bit of food coloring to get the almond bark to be pumpkin orange, but go slowly. It's always easier to add more. Dip truffles into almond bark and insert pretzel stick immediately. (I broke my pretzel sticks in half and did the truffles two at a time.)

Mix green food coloring into frosting (if you want your frosting a bit stiffer you can also add some powdered sugar, but I just used it as is.) Put frosting into a piping bag with a leaf tip (I used Wilton 65) and add leaves to your pumpkins.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Farmer's Wife Friday 31

At the end of the month I'm taking a Judy Niemeyer Paper Piecing workshop with my guild. I'm not a big fan of paper piecing, and when we first made arrangements with the teacher she said that we had to use batiks. I'm not a fan of batiks, but since my LQS has a birthday special where you get half of your age off during the month of your birthday I bought my batiks. The thought of fabric I don't love with a technique I don't love has been filling me with dread. This week I remembered that I've done paper piecing for my Hobbit quilt (I was trying to find pictures to this finished quilt and I'm not sure if I've ever shared it.) I've also done paper piecing for a few of the Farmer's Wife blocks so really this workshop shouldn't be scary to me. This week I had 3 blocks that looked like paper piecing would be the best method for assembling them, and I remembered why I don't like paper piecing.

Up first is Gentleman's Fancy. (Yes, it's not finished.) If you look closely at the upper right black triangle you'll see some of the white paper peeking out from the corner. 

Next is Storm Signal. Would you just look at how nicely those points turned out! Unfortunately I forgot that the grey and black are supposed to trade places on two of the blocks so that there is a pattern in the block and it's not just a complicated way of making a 9 patch.

Finally is Rosebud. I still had a fair bit of reverse sewing on this block, but at least I was able to get it finished. I was too frustrated with the other blocks last night to fix them, but they should be pretty easy to finish this weekend.

#75 Rosebud


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Change of Heart Cowl

A few months ago I was listening to a podcast and found out that you can do an advance search on Ravelry for projects that use a certain weight of yarn and how many yards of the yarn you have. This has quickly become my favorite feature on Ravelry. I love being able to find the perfect pattern when I get a luxurious skein of yarn as a gift, or to start a project using yarn from my stash. I love Knitty so I'm sure I must have seen this pattern when it came out in August, but at the time I wasn't looking for a project that used a small amount of fingering yarn so it didn't catch my eye. Last Tuesday I wanted to cast on a Christmas present that night so I searched on Ravelry for a cowl using 400-500 yards of fingering yarn. I'm so glad that I found Change of Heart

I'm really surprised by how quickly this thing is flying off my needles. I normally am a fairly slow knitter, but I'm almost half done already. It's a fairly simple project, but I absolutely love the lace and cables that keep me wanting to do one more row to see the pattern grow. I definitely have to recommend this pattern if you're looking for a quick project that will make a great Christmas (or any other holiday) present.