Nine Shades Of Grey

Here is one of the quilt tops I worked on during the weekend. I stitched and trimmed 95 blocks – this layout uses 88 (8 x 11 will stitch up to 44″ x 60.5″ with a 3″ border I will end up at 50″ x 66.5″ – a good lap size quilt).

Nine Shades Of Grey

The point of the quilt top was to assemble something fairly simple that I could do in that sewing retreat setting without having to focus carefully on what I was doing. I had five bright batik fabrics to allocate to ten blocks each of the nine grey fabrics – I thought that would give me plenty of latitude. Was I wrong.

Distributing the grey tones wasn’t so difficult but the batik triangles in the corners? Very difficult to get them to work out – still not completely happy with how some of the adjacent triangles are from the same fabric! I’m leaving the blocks on the floor for now so I can walk past it and think about how to exchange some of them.

Then I decided I would insert a single block of each batik fabric with a different grey corner – the question became where to put them and how to align them. I’ve decided the array looks best with the grey corners facing in the opposite direction to the bright corners.

That’s it for today. I see what I think in the daylight tomorrow.

Skinny Quilts/Banners II, III, IV – Completed

The remaining skinny quilts/banners are finished. I hand stitched the hidden bindings on the back of each hanging and added a sleeve for hanging it.

I’m happy with the combination of background fabrics and the appliqués – a close look shows I managed the edge stitching precisely. I like the quiet background and strong appliqué colours in this panel.

Skinny Quilt II

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the bright colours in this second banner but now that it’s completed I like the profusion of “dots” in the appliqué fabrics, echoed by the two small circles to fill in the space on the right. In the right location this could be an interesting accent piece.

Skinny Quilt III

I’m less happy with this banner – now that it’s finished I can see my idea to increase the spacing while decreasing the circle size didn’t work so well and I didn’t see, until now, that I have an inbuilt curve to the left! I think I chalk this one up to experiment and construct another to take its place.

Skinny Quilt IV

That’s what’s so interesting about improvising – I’m always amazed by how most of the time my experiments turn out well. It’s not that this one didn’t have potential – it’s just that I didn’t see the “flaws” until it was actually finished and hung on the door. It’s a lesson that I need to be a tad more detached and analytical when looking at these pieces at a distance.

Skinny Quilt I – Finished

Skinny Quilt I – Finished

I finished the hand stitching on this skinny quilt/banner last evening. It’s surprising how long it takes to finish the hand sewing in part because the muslin I’ve used to back the panel has a rather dense thread count and it’s difficult to penetrate even with a new hand sewing needle. Needs a thimble or I end up with a hold in both my third finger and my thumb! It’s awkward sewing, is what I’m saying.

I have a second panel ready to hand stitch and two more will get the hidden bindings sewn on this morning and then be ready to hand stitch. I’ll be glad when that part of the process is completed.

Quilt On The Go – Finished!

Finished this quilt this afternoon. I’ve been working steadily on it since early last week. First doing all the edge stitching on the appliqué (154 fused elements), adding the borders, setting up the quilt, then quilting the “blocks”.

I’d created a single run design (enlarged and modified from a previous quilt [there’s a l-o-n-g story here about embroidery software not working after upgrading my iMac OS to Catalina!]) for a 227mm x 227mm block – it was four circles in a 2×2 array which meant I needed to embroider/quilt 30 repeats and then do  5 more half-block embroideries to complete the centre panel. I used the half-block motif scaled in width to accommodate the 3″ border. In all, it took 4 days to do all the quilting.

Quilt Top

Here’s the pieced back – I didn’t have quite enough of the dark blue fabric so added in a block of the main fabric, along with the longitudinal stripes.

Quilt Back

You can sort of see the quilt block as it sits over 4 of the underlayer blocks – it’s a curved pinwheel which was large enough to overlap the appliqué circles and follow the curves of the “x” pieces.

Quilting Detail

The finishing was interrupted on Tuesday because I had to spend the day preparing for an art quilt class I was teaching on Wednesday. I finally got to binding the quilt this afternoon.

The quilt is finished, label and all.

Christmas Fruit Cake

It’s the week after Canadian Thanksgiving – time to make the Christmas Fruit Cakes which are a staple gift for family and friends. It wouldn’t be Christmas without Judith’s Christmas Cake. I do them this early because they need time in the refrigerator to allow the rum that has absorbed into the fruit to osmose into the cakes themselves resulting in a dense, moist dark fruit cake.

The process started a week ago when I bought the fruit, dumped it into my 27 cup Tupperware mixing bowl with lid, added 8oz of dark rum, mixed it, covered it, and let the fruit stand for 5 days.

Yesterday was cake baking day. I invited my friend Ruby to join me – with that extra pair of hands the cakes came together in half the time!

An Oven Full of Fruit Cake

The Recipe:

Here’s the recipe [it’s a forgiving recipe – the amounts of fruit are approximate – I don’t measure, just guess – I must end up with a 18-20 c of fruit; the Tupperware mixing bowl is ~ 4/5 full]:

  • 2 lbs. mixed candied fruit (a mixture of regular and deluxe which includes pineapple and cherries)
  • 1 lb. red/green candied cherries
  • 1 lb. Thompson raisins
  • 1/2 lb dried cranberries
  • add whatever other candied fruit you like – I add at least 1/2 lb chopped dried dates
  • a 10-12 oz jar of a good orange marmalade
  • 8 oz. dark rum
  1. Soak candied fruit, raisins, cranberries, dates in rum for 4-5 days before making the cakes. Add rum to the fruit, cover bowl with plastic wrap and stir occasionally to make sure rum is absorbed by the fruit (Add the marmalade at this stage). I have a large 27 cup Tupperware mixing bowl with a lid that is perfect for this job.
  2. I turn my Tupperware covered container twice a day – by the end of 5 days, all the rum has absorbed into the fruit.
Wet Ingredients
  • 1 lb. butter
  • 4 tsp. almond extract
  • 4 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 c. white sugar
  • 2 c packed brown sugar
  • 12 large eggs
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 c. molasses
Dry Ingredients
  • 6 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. allspice
  • 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  1. Preheat oven — 300° F
  2. Prepare loaf pans (8-9 two pound pans) by wiping with butter and sprinkling with flour. [I use aluminum 2 lb loaf pans and discard them afterwards; even so, I line them with strips of parchment from side to side – holding the parchment with clothes pins so when I add batter to the pan they keep the paper in place; makes lifting the baked cakes from the pan much easier]
  3. Transfer fruit to a very large mixing container [I use my lobster pot to mix these cakes because this is a double recipe and with all the fruit and batter, it’s a large amount of stuff!]
  4. In a second large mixing bowl, cream butter until soft. Add almond extract and vanilla and incorporate.
  5. Add sugar and cream until well blended. Add eggs one at a time beating well until incorporated into mixture [I actually used 14 large eggs this year – the cakes have come out fine]
  6. Add molasses and mix.
  7. Melt chocolate [I use my microwave oven for this – 1 min. stir, then a second minute and stir – if your chocolate still isn’t fully melted you can microwave a tiny bit longer] and add to batter and mix.
  8. Set aside while you prepare the dry ingredients
  9. In a separate large bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices.
  10. Add about half of this mixture to the candied fruit and mix well.
  11. Add remaining flower mixture to fruit and mix.
  12. Add wet mixture to fruit and mix well. [You need a strong wooden spoon and even then you may need to dig deeply enough that your mixing hand is involved in the procedure!]
  13. Fill loaf pans about 3/4 full. [The cakes rise and will spill over into the oven if the pans are too full; I put the loaf pans on a cookie sheet to catch any spill over — I’ve had to clean the oven more than once so I don’t take chances any more]
  14. Place pans in middle of oven.
  15. Bake slowly. Test with a skewer. Cakes are done when the skewer comes out clean. [Takes anywhere from about 1 1/2 to 3 hours]
  16. Remove cakes from oven. Place on a rack to cool.
  17. Once they’re completely cool, remove the cakes from the pans [peel away parchment if you’ve used it].
  18. Wrap each cake in waxed paper. Put each into a ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least a month before using.

Depending on the amount of fruit you use, this recipe makes between 8-9 two pound cakes. [This year I got 9 2-lb cakes and 8 small (~1/2-lb) cakes]

If you enjoy a tasty dark fruit cake, do try this one.

Quilt On The Go – VI

This is the completely edge-stitched, bordered top panel.

Bordered Panel

The photo doesn’t do this panel justice – I have nowhere to hang it and photograph it in a way that allows me to align it perfectly. I laid it on my bed and adjusted the sides as best as I could with my photo software. But you get the idea here.

The narrow chartreuse inner border was a good idea – it brings out the brighter greens. The wider darker blue grunge border stabilizes the blues in the panel. I’m also happy with the subtle diagonal flow in parts of the piece.

Now to build a back

Fabrics For The Backing

These are the two main fabrics I’m planning on using – I also want to build in a bit of piecing using the blues and greens from the top. That’s a job for tomorrow.

Yesterday I sat down at my iMac to play with my Pfaff TruE3 embroidery software to discover it won’t run on my recently updated operating system!

The first line problem is the dongle driver which is incompatible with Catalina (the new OS 10.15); there may be problems further in I don’t know about and can’t know about until I get past the registering of the dongle.

It infuriates me – I bought the software for a whopping amount of money a year and a half ago and now I can’t use it. I immediately contacted Pfaff TruE3 Embroidery Software support who replied they had no information on whether the dongle manufacturer was planning a dongle driver update! TruE3 was only compatible with Mojave (10.14). No help there, obviously.

So by the weekend I’m in a bind – I can stitch out embroideries I’ve already created but I can’t modify them to any great extent and I can’t create anything new.

I’m going to have to ask around among the women I know who have invested in Premiere+ and see if I can spend a bit of time on their computer creating a design to quilt this new quilt with – that’s if that software will actually run on an updated Mac!

Quilt On The Go – V

I’m making headway – I’ve got all the circles edge stitched and about 2/3 of the Xs – It’s taken me several hours each of the last three days to get this far. Tomorrow afternoon I hope to be able to finish the remaining Xs.

Circles Appliqué Quilt – Edge Stitching

I’m stitching using embroidery rayon (in many different colours to more or less match the fabric I’m stitching – the stitch is a narrow blanket stitch (l: 2mm, w: 1.5mm) making sure I’m using the needle down position so I can pivot the fabric to keep the stitching along the raw edge.

Once I’ve finished the edge stitching, I will add a narrow chartreuse inner border, and a navy/teale grunge outer border to finish the top. I have fabrics for the second side – I will do some piecing as I assemble it so my narrow width of fabric can be extended to fit the width of the quilt.

What I have no idea about is how to quilt the sandwich! The last time I did a quilt like this I simply stitched the underlying block edges as squares through the circles and Xs. However, this time the arrangement of circles and Xs doesn’t lend itself to that. I’ve discussed ideas with several people and heard many suggestions. Were I doing the quilting on a long-arm quilter I’d just do some open curvilinear design but I will be stitching in the hoop so I need to come up with some kind of “block” idea that will fit within my 360mm x 200mm hoop. (I have a large reversible hoop but I’ve learned the hard way that whatever design I create has to not cross the centre line.) I need to let this percolate for the next week or so when I’ll be ready to do the quilting.