Monday, 16 March 2015

Tips on Making a Quit - Things I've Learned the Hard Way.

The first panel stitched.
 I have finally made a start on my Lotta Jansdotter quilt. It took me all afternoon and a bad back to cut out these strips.  After that, the sewing was easy. I plan to cut this piece in half vertically and add another panel to make a quilt that will hang horizontally over the bed.  Making the quilt top is the easy bit, however.  It's the quilting that is a real challenge, but I'll worry about that later.

I wanted the strips to be of varying widths so I played around with them on my cutting board until I got a combination that worked for me. I like the pink and orange colours the best, so I put them in the middle  The light mauve/grey at the top and the green at the bottom go well together, so I can add another panel vertically and it will work.
I cut carefully, but even so, I can see a slight curve at the bottom of the panel and I have to decide whether or not to ignore it. I think it happened because I cut the fabric folded in half and I probably got a little out of line at the fold end. (Live and learn.)

Strips laid out on in order on cutting board.
Tip 1.
Lay out quilting pieces in order.
Before sewing the strips together, I laid them out in order on my cutting board. That way I could lift them up, one at a time and stitch them without forgetting the order of sewing. If you are working with squares, put them in piles in the order of sewing.

Tip 2.
Use a walking foot and stitch in different directions.
I learned the hard way on a previous quilt, that the fabric will move whatever you do.  Even my walking foot did not prevent this altogether. You can counteract this by stitching the first strip in one direction and the next in the opposite direction.  Sometimes I had to stop and count to remember which way I was going, but it did help to minimise movement.

Tip 3.
Use thin wadding for easier quilting.
When I made my last quilt, I bought wadding that was quite thick, planning to make a nice, warm quilt. That caused me problems.  It was too thick to stitch on my machine and I had to do some quilting by hand. I do not enjoy hand sewing, so this was a problem  For this quilt, I will use the thinnest wadding I can buy.  As it will be a wall hanging, I do not have to worry about warmth. However, if my machine decides to chew the fabric, I may have to quilt it by hand.

Tip 4.
Choose a pattern that makes the most of your fabric.
I looked at many quilt patterns before I decided what I wanted to do with this quilt.  The fabrics are beautiful and I did not want to cut them too small or to use a pattern that would detract from them. Think about your fabric and how you want it to look when the quilt is finished.

Tip 5.
Don't kuse a flimsy backing.
Use a sturdy backing for your quilt.  When I planned my last quilt, I intended to use Liberty lawn as the backing. This did not work as the machine wanted to chew it up. Also it is an expensive fabric that will not be seen often.  Instead, I used a modern pattern of large pieces of Kona cotton and the equivalent and a printed cotton that I though blended with the quilt.

The backing on my last quilt.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

What are you reading?

Elizabeth is Missing is a very good read about
an elderly woman who can't find her friend.
What a blessing a good read it. I've read several good books since Christmas and this is one of the best.  The story is about a woman who is trying to find her friend, Elizabeth, but she can't remember the clues.  Maud is elderly and losing her memory and the story is seen through her eyes. The reader is sometimes as confused and frustrated as she is, but the book has pathos and humour and this is what made it a good read for me. Interspersed with Maud's search for Elizabeth is another story about Maud's missing sister.  In the course of the story both mysteries are solved.
Lately, on the news, there have been too many stories about dementia.   The accompanying photos are always of old people in slippers. Heaven forbid that it should come to that. It's something I worry about, so I flip channels immediately, putting off the evil day. I can't say that this book made me feel better about it, but it certainly did not make me feel worse.  Maud is a very sympathetic character and some of her experiences ring true. Basically people in the story are kind and Maud has some satisfaction in the end.
What are you reading?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Sunday Baking - Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Apple Cinnamon Muffins from Lee Bailey's Country Desserts.
I almost always want something sweet with a cup of tea in the afternoon. Today, after a huge lunch of roast lamb, etc cooked by Hubby, was no exception.
I didn't want to drag the mixer out from the cupboard and I wanted something quick.
Muffins are the perfect solution. They are quick and easy to make and need to be mixed gently by hand.  The butter is melted and added to the other wet ingredients, then just folded in.
We had them warm with some butter, which oozes out very satisfactorily.

Here's the recipe.
You will need:
2 cups sifted plain flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs (lightly beaten)
2/3 cup milk
3 oz melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 peeled, seeded and chopped apple
Muffin or cupcake tin and paper cups to line them.
Preheat the oven to 180 C or 350 F
Put paper cups in muffin tin.
(Makes about 12 medium sized muffins)
Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Combine eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla.  Mix well.
Add brown sugar and beat into the wet mixture.
Add the flour, then the apple chunks and mix gently until the flour is incorporated.
Do not overmix.  It should be lumpy.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Serve warm with butter.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

What are you reading?

I can't be without a book.  I feel bereft if I have nothing good to read, and it does happen. Sometimes with a house full of books, I can't find anything I want to read.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is one of my most recent reads and it was wonderfully absorbing.  I couldn't wait to get to the end of the day to settle down and read before going to bed.
It's the story of a Dutch merchant and his young bride in late 17th century Amsterdam. It features a miniaturist - a craftsperson who makes miniature houses, people and furniture.  Normally I don't enjoy historical novels, especially the ones that do the fake 'olde worlde' language.  I find that tedious. But this book is different. The prose is beautiful and the read is compelling,  I found it hard to put down.
What are you reading? Tell me.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

My Next Quilt - Using Lotta Jansdottier Fabrics

Fabrics laid on in order on my cutting board.  You can just
see my mother's quilt peeking out underneath.
I am very excited and quite apprehensive to be starting my next quilt.  Oh, the agony of indecision before cutting into the fabric.
However, I am triumphant to have a collection of Lotta Jansdotter fabrics to play with.  I bought some at John Lewis (in the sale) and the rest online from a company in California. Because they are such lovely colours and the patterns are so interesting, I want to make a quilt that is simple in design and one which will showcase the fabrics.  I have chosen 'Washing Line' from the book 'Quilt Me" by Jane Brocket.  It is made of three panels of horizontal stripes, with the fabrics carefully coordinated by tone and colour.  This photo shows just one of the arrangements, but it is the one that I want at the heart of the quilt. I will start it this week.  I hope it is simpler than my last one and if I am pleased with it, it will hang over our bed as a sort of wall-hanging, headboard.
Wish me luck.