Sunday, March 31, 2013

Baby quilt season

So, it seems that almost everyone I know is pregnant.  I definitely have many baby quilts in my near future.  One of my best friends from high school (we're not super close anymore unfortunately) was due this month and I knew I wanted to make her a baby quilt for her little one.

I texted another friend to find out if Becky was having a boy or a girl, since I wanted to quilt to be a surprise.  (this was on a Tuesday)  Stacey immediately asked if I was coming to Becky's shower... that weekend... in my hometown, 5 hours away from Pittsburgh.  Well, I didn't know about the shower until that moment and thought for a minute about how I would like to give the quilt to her in person.

I worked like crazy to get the quilt finished in time for the shower on Saturday and shockingly was able to finish it Thursday night.  I didn't sleep much that week, but it was worth it to get it finished.

Since Becky was having a little girl, I was able to make it super cute.  I chose a pale pinky/purple for the main background color and used up an adorable hopscotch fabric in the same color.  I quickly made a single single girl ring (the original plan was to make 4, but because of the time crunch I only made one).  This was my first time piecing curves, but because I didn't have much time I wasn't able to agonize over it too much and just jumped in.  To my surprise it was much easier than I thought!  (Maybe now I'll have to courage to finish my king-size single girl quilt).  I improv pieced the rest of the quilt top.

For the back, I wanted to make a larger version of the Valentine's block I saw on Flickr.  This part definitely took the longest - cutting out so many little 2" squares, laying them out, and piecing them all together.  I finally finished up this part of the back late late on Wednesday.  Thursday evening I finished improv piecing the back of the quilt, basted it, and quilted it.  I really wanted to FMQ this quilt but the reality of time made me reconsider.  I was able to hand-sew the binding on Thursday night.  Whew - what a week.

It was worth it though to be able to give her the quilt in person and catch up with Stacey that weekend too.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


I know this isn't exactly quilt-related, but I also wanted to share some of the other crafts I've been working on.  One of my best friends is due in July and my other friend Megan (the one I made the quilt for in a previous post) and I are hosting her baby shower in June.

I'm super psyched for this shower and I want to make it very special for her.  We're doing a brunch shower with a French theme which basically involves really good food and drinks.  They will be crafts of course too.  While Megan and I were starting the planning, she asked what favors we would give the guests.  Favors were not something I really thought about before, but I finally came up with the idea of giving jam.

Jam is beautiful, useful, and kind of fits the theme of the shower.  I've never made jam before and I've never canned anything before, but that never really stopped me with anything else.  I also figured that we could use the jam to serve at the shower with croissants.

As many who know me will attest, I never really do anything half-way.  I decided to use beautiful Weck canning jars, which are apparently a little harder to use, but since I've never canned anything I didn't know any better.  They worked just fine and sealed up beautifully.

My plan was to make both orange marmalade and strawberry jam.  The strawberry jam will wait until it's strawberry season here in Pittsburgh, but oranges are still in season so I made 2 batches last weekend.

First up was rosemary blood orange marmalade.  I used this recipe from Canning Across America and it came out beautifully.  I made only a half recipe.  I know they recommend against modifying canning recipes but I couldn't think of a scientific reason why halving the recipe would make it any less safe.  I used 2.5lb of blood oranges and 2 lemons.  I peeled and chopped the peels and pith on Saturday evening and set it to soak overnight in the fridge.  The next day, I chopped the fruit and combined it with only half the peels (it seemed like too much to use it all) and 1/2C water (I also put the lemon seeds in cheesecloth to simmer along with the juice, etc).  I let that simmer away for 1.5 hours until it reduced nicely.  Then I added 4C sugar and one small branch of rosemary and let it boil for about 25 minutes until it reached 220 degrees (I took the rosemary out after about 20 minutes).  When it reached temperature, I poured the marmalade into the clean and heated weck jars, sealed them, and processed for 15 minutes in boiling water.  It made 7 whole 5oz jars of jam + 1/2 jar that just went directly into the fridge.  Delicious!  Next time I might not leave the rosemary in for 20 minutes since it was pretty strong - not too strong though.

Next I made Earl Grey orange marmalade.  I used the same recipe and directions substituting Cara Cara oranges.  After I added the sugar I also added 2 Earl Grey tea bags and let them boil with the jam for about 15 minutes.  This jam stayed beautifully bright and made about the same amount of jam in the end.  This was delicious and I will be making it again in the future for sure!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Finally photographed

I started this quilt for my friend Megan about 7 months ago.  It was meant to be a birthday present (her birthday was in November).  Megan and I have very different styles and so I agonized for months over what quilt to make for her.  If you came over to my house you would see bright wall colors and a mix of modern and more vintage items.  Megan's house on the other hand is more simple with Amish furniture and beige everything.  I love her dearly and wanted to make something that she would want to use.

When I saw the granny square quilt tutorial from Blue Elephant Stitches, I knew that this would make a great quilt for Megs.  I used Denyse Schmidt fabrics - such a great combination of vintage charm with modern aesthetics.

I cut the DS fabrics into 2.5" squares.  I made a stack of warm squares and cool squares.  Half of the blocks I rotated cool alternating with warm; the other half were the other way.  I think it helped me maintain a sense of balance with the quilt.  Each granny square finished around 11".

I decided to keep it simple for the quilting and used straight line even quilting.  I intended to quilt in a complete grid but I really really hate straight line quilting and I couldn't keep it up for the entire quilt.  I think that this quilt was a good compromise for me and Megan absolutely loved the quilt when I finally gave it to her last week.  Only a few months late.

This finishes as a nice lap-sized quilt - 66x70"  It's backed in an Anna Maria Horner print called hugs and kisses.  I think it's perfect.