Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Feeling a bit overwhelmed

Maybe I shouldn't have decided to see how many quilts I had yet to finish. The problem with teaching quilting is that you have to keep on going, week after week with new designs and samples. That's when it all starts to build up. And up. And up.  We were talking about making boy quilts and this is a pattern I put together a little while ago.  I decided to call it Flow Chart.
I bought the fabric. I don't know how long ago but it could be a year. It's still in a bag waiting to be cut. The measurements are all done but the pattern is not written yet. I can do that in a couple of hours. I probably will do that today but as I was searching for inspiration for tomorrow's class I began to feel a great weight sitting on my shoulders. I have so much stuff. I'm overwhelmed. Should I go on sorting or should I bury my head in the sand?

I think I might do a free pattern for this. It's fairly common though,  I think. Is it worth doing yet another pattern for it?

There are just not enough hours in the day to do everything but if I give up working I won't be able to afford to go out and buy lovely fabrics. But I have lots of lovely fabrics I don't need any more, probably for the rest of my life! Going round in circles here. Ever decreasing circles.

It was a fairly peaceful Bank Holiday weekend and I got quite a lot of quilting done on the Worn and Washed project
There are eleven strips and six are quilted. It's not a huge quilt and I think I will keep it for my house. I also got to grips with the little bag kit I bought at the Festival of Quilts.

It was a lot of money for a little bag but there is not quite enough fabric to finish it and, when I had quilted the front and back it was smaller than the pattern shape so I had to adjust it. The joins of the handle are covered with little domes and there isn't a sufficiently large piece of fabric left to do this.

I'll have something that will go with it somewhere in my stash but I'm quite angry that the fabric supplies were quite so skimpy.  Lynette Anderson colours are very muted and not easy to match with today's more vibrant shades. Sigh.

Claire is on holiday from work until Tuesday (I thought it was at the end of September not the end of August) so I have to cover the late shift on Thursday which means I won't be able to teach this week. Well I had planned to get everything sorted today, some goodies baked and then take it to work and leave prompt at six tomorrow but John has just rung to say his MOT has run out and he needs a lift today, tomorrow and Friday so I can't leave prompt at six. That means I don't have to panic about getting stuff printed and made but then I let Hilary down as she has to take the class or call round and cancel it. Shoulders sag some more.

I have a cartoon book somewhere - it must be fifty years old. It belonged to my father.
In it there is a cartoon of Andy with a big pile of garden tools making his way out into the garden with Flo looking on in surprise. The next sketch is Andy returning saying "I didn't know where to start so I didn't".  

As John (and my mother before him) says - "the trick is to just start".  I'd better go and get some clothes on then.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Design Fun with Inspiration from talented quilters

Early mornings are classed as my Golden Hour.  When there was a house full of noise this was the time when I could gather my thoughts, do little quilty tasks or just sit quietly. It's not so noisy now - maybe not as quiet as I expected - but still not so noisy. I still enjoy my golden hour though and yesterday I came across a lovely quilt in the making (sadly I can't remember where and I can't see it in my surfing history). The block intrigued me so I set out to re-create it.
I have no idea what it is called but I have named it Binary Star for this. Essentially it will act as a log cabin block for an overall pattern with a light 'triangle' and a dark one. I'm not sure how big it is but the pattern I have written will make a ten inch block although it could be scaled up to make a 15" block.

Progress on the Worn and Washed Quilt is coming on apace although my hand is quite sore from pulling the thick cotton through. I also speared my finger but the metal thimble has allowed me to quilt without too much discomfort.
This is an all over pattern called Baptist's Fan. It got me to thinking I will hand stitch the quilt I have stored ready to machine quilt (I'm naff at machine quilting and it really annoys me - ha!). I made a quilt a little while ago which had a really simple all over quilt pattern.
It was simple to mark and quick to sew.  This is good because the quilt in question is quite large.  Over the Bank Holiday weekend I am going to frighten myself and get out all the quilt tops waiting to be stitched. I can think of seven (hangs head in shame). I think there may be more (hangs head in shame again).

At the moment I can smell warm hazelnuts and chocolate as the cakes bake for class tonight and for the clinic staff tomorrow. The icing is made and I'm going to make a nice big cup of builder's tea before I print the instructions for the Binary Star Block. I have an hour and a half before I'm due to teach - what shall I do with all that time?

Monday, 20 August 2018

Plenty behind me and plenty more in front of me

So many quilts. One day soon I will delve into my cupboards to see how many are waiting to be finished.
When Steph and I were at Birmingham last week she bought some lovely fabric from 'Worn and Washed'.  Tempted almost to the point of thinking 'what the hell, I'll just get some anyway' I pulled myself back from the brink.  When I got home I searched out the two quilt tops I had already pieced.  The first, a little one was already quilted and just waiting to be bound. I added some more decorative quilting and finished the binding. It is only very small - about 21" x 24" I think but it is so lovely.  The next one was a lot bigger. Lap size. but I so enjoyed adding the extra decorative stitching
I decided to do an all over pattern on the bigger quilt.
Baptist fans. That was Saturday night. Now there are two lines of quilting done and my finger is so sore I can't even type with it! So this will have to be done in stages and I MUST wear a thimble!  The fabrics are mostly shirts but I can see pretty bed-sheets and some table cloths and tea towels too. 

The September Mini Quilt is finished and the pattern given out at the class on Thursday. 
complete with some hand painted buttons and embroidered apples.

Fabric and wadding for the last three months will be cut out this week so I'm going to be ahead of the game.  The pattern for October is written and printed and I started on November too.

The gas board came this week and put a new pipe into the front garden - 
Someone had reported a smell of gas but it turned out the leak was further up the road. They thought my pipe looked a bit old so they just changed it anyway. Luckily it didn't take too long and I was only without gas for a few hours.

Baking this week was a big plate of Florentines. Oh yum - they are so tasty (and so very calorific!)

Very easy to make too although they spread out quite alarmingly - like brandy snaps. The boys at work polished them off in double quick time. Ryan had two for breakfast so I banned him from going near the tin until everyone had their share.

Will came for breakfast this morning. It was nice to sit and eat with him again.
 We had pretty tomatoes
and eggs from the little hens with our bacon. The yolks are the same size as a normal hen egg but they only have little whites. There is no comparison with the flavour and freshness of bought ones. Will had sausages too and a huge glass of orange.

A quiet time followed and then John, Steph and the boys turned up for a cuppa. Ben asked to stay the night so he is cuddled up on the sofa with me now as I type.  He played with next door's children and some from up the road then came in all sweaty and laughing ready for his tea.  John is picking him up on his way to drop Max at the nursery and then we'll all go to work to start another week.

Next weekend is a bank holiday and I plan to have no plans. Well maybe some stitching will creep in somewhere and the F1 is back on after the summer break.  Maybe I should sort out all the Unfinished Quilts. I'll write a list of all the ones I've finished too. Then I won't feel so bad. 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Cinderella went to the Festival

An early morning knock on the door and Steph greeted me with the special surprise that she was going to drive us down to the Festival of Quilts. I had decided against going because I wanted to do it in a day but was worried that it would be too much to be driving  for seven or more hours and walking around a crowded hall for 3 or 4 hours.

Steph's car is much more comfortable than mine for a long journey and I knew that if it got too much I had someone there to help.  My back is much stronger now and rested after a week off work.  In the end we managed fine.  We left at 07:15 and arrived at about 11:00.  We had a quick coffee and got our electric elbows out.
Lynette Anderson was there and I bought one of her books - kicked myself afterwards for not asking her to sign it! A little stack of fat eighths and a bag kit also sneaked in to the purchases.

Actually it wasn't crowded so we didn't need our electric elbows!
We broke for lunch about two - Steph had a beef burger with pulled pork and I had a chicken breast with avocado and mint dressing.  They were served with a little bucket of chips, some gorgeous onion rings and a little dish of red cabbage slaw.  Not a leaf of disgusting iceberg lettuce in sight either. We met with lovely Karen in the cafe and then, refreshed, we set out again.

I got some Kimono fabric from Euro-Japan Links, some lovely Christmas fabric and a kit for Il Mondo di Pezzi from Italy. Oh, and some gorgeous linen and a cushion kit.

I felt a bit ripped off by a kit I bought to make a little box
which turned out to have some instructions and card and a packet of tissues.
I was expecting the little metal 'book' corners and, for the price, wouldn't have been surprised to get the fabric as well. Hey ho.

A little vintage fabric stall was perched on a corner and I got a beautiful fine-spun oval piece, with delicate pulled threads and lace. I also got some old sheet music and a little bag of mixed lace - all for £1 each!  £3 in total.

Steph wanted to see the 'Worn and Washed' stall which we found and drooled over.
She got a roll of fabric to make a lap quilt (her second from Worn and Washed) and I was reminded that I had a pram cover sized quilt ready to bind and a lap quilt layered and pinned ready to quilt.  Hangs head in shame.  When I got up this morning I got them out and will have them done very soon.

The desire to make something from my stash of goodies got the better of me and I spent a happy few hours making the linen cushion.

I like to hand embroider so the heart and quilting were done by hand but the rest was made on the machine.
This may spawn a whole new colour scheme in one of my rooms -just not sure which one though.

This little bag from Lynette Anderson will be the next project on my needle
I was  so inspired by all the amazing products and all the quilts on display - a few hours at this show is just not enough to appreciate all the fine work that people do.  I deliberately buy only things that I can't get from my local quilt shops because I really appreciate their hard work and investment on my doorstep.

I went to bed last night just after eight and slept nearly the clock round, only woken at about 4am by the luscious sound of nourishing rainfall. Most of today was sunny but now the rain has started again, the sort that soaks into the ground and refreshes the thirsty plants, not a deluge and not a light shower.

Such a lovely week. I'm reinvigorated and ready to start work with gusto, like the poem 'visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads' - my visions are of fabric and threads - just as sweet to me.  

Thanks Steph for taking Cinders to the ball.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Toffee cupcake anyone?

Soft floaty spongecake, buttery icing and a drizzle of fresh cream toffee sauce. How can you resist?
My favourite recipe for cake is to weigh the eggs and use the same weight of caster sugar, self raising flour and margarine (butter makes the cake a bit too dense). Also put a dob of yoghurt in to make the cake super moist. What is a dob though?
A spoon of yoghurt for each egg but no more than three per mix. You can use cream, sour cream and flavoured yoghurt too but the plain yoghurt gives a slight sharpness which is lovely, especially with lemon cake.
Using salted butter gives the cake and toffee sauce a nice tang.
For the toffee cake replace 100grams of caster sugar with soft brown sugar.  Always make sure the ingredients are all at room temperature otherwise the mixture can curdle.
Cream the sugar and margarine until soft and fluffy. I always make my cakes by hand, I don't have a mixer. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in thoroughly. 

Add the yoghurt with a couple of spoons of the flour and beat well. Fold in the rest of the flour and spoon into cake cases. Using the small tins I can get 18 cakes from a three egg mix but would need four eggs if I used the muffin tin. I normally bake them for about 16-18 minutes at 175 degrees.

The icing recipe is simply twice as much icing sugar as soft butter (100g butter and 200g icing sugar will do for these cakes) - for this version I also added some caramel sauce and a tablespoon of ice cold milk.  

Caramel sauce - how could I forget - you should do this first!

225 grams caster sugar
45 grams glucose (or honey or golden syrup - but remember this colours the caramel at the start)
45 grams water
200 mls warm cream
65 grams butter

I've put the weight of the liquid ingredients because I put the saucepan on the scales and add the sugar, syrup and water to that. Saves washing up. Put this on a very gentle heat and let the sugar dissolve. I just swirl the saucepan a couple of times but don't stir it.  Turn the heat up slightly and let it bubble until it turns a rich colour. I have no idea what temperature but when it smells like caramel  and is the colour of brown sugar I take it off the heat. You aren't looking for it to set hard so the setting point isn't critical.  The bubbles get smaller is it reaches the right heat too.
Move the caramel off the heat. 
Warm the cream slightly and add carefully - it can spit. Then add the butter and stir until it dissolves.  I put a jar into the oven before I add the cream so that it sterilises and warms up.  When everything is mixed together pour it carefully into the warmed jar
Set aside to cool - remember it is very hot so don't leave it on the worktop unprotected
Add a little of the cooled toffee sauce to the icing to flavour it. 
If the icing is too thick add a tablespoon of ice cold milk.  Put the icing into a piping bag with a rose nozzle.
Drizzle toffee sauce over the top 
The one without the icing is for Steph - she just takes the toffee sauce straight! Some will go to work with her for Cake Friday and some for the class. Will and Alex have one each as well.

Here are the recipes in one piece

3 eggs
75g of caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
175g margarine
175g self raising flour
3 dobs plain yogurt
100 grams butter
200 sifted icing sugar
2 tablespoons of toffee sauce
1 tablespoon ice cold milk
Toffee Sauce
225g caster sugar
45 grams golden syrup
45 grams water
200mls double cream (with half tsp salt added)
65g salted butter 

Left over toffee sauce can be used for pouring over ice cream, sharp fruit or making apple upside down cake (yum).  You can also add peanut butter or tahini to it to make a filling for vanilla biscuits. Or like me you can keep it in the fridge for emergency spoonfuls, neat as required for medicinal purposes only of course.

Hope you enjoy making these - please don't take your blood sugar straight after though.