Sunday, December 14, 2014

GIMQ Clue #3 and Nut Tree Honey Cookies!

It's a busy time of year, that's for sure!  Sometimes you have to piece meal things a bit.  I have my strips cut for Clue #3 in Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusions Mystery Quilt.  That's a good start for me this week since I just finished clue #2 on Friday morning!

I was thinking about cutting strips and how sometimes folks have difficulty with that.  I wanted to share with you what works for me in the hopes that it will help you if you are still perfecting your rotary skills.

The first thing to do is to iron your fabric.  Wrinkles and creases will give you poor results.  Take a few moments and enjoy the process of smoothing your fabric and making sure that you are folding selvage to selvage if you are cutting a WOF (width of fabric) piece.  You can see from this sample below that not only was it cut crooked by the clerk at the store but the fabric is not folded selvage to selvage.  Open your piece out, press out the wrinkles and then fold it properly, so that your selvage edges meet and your fabric is folded evenly, before you cut.  Do not be surprised if you find that you now have even more crooked edges to work with than before.  Just the process of winding fabric onto a bolt will distort the proper fold of the fabric.

You can see the uneven edges on the pressed piece below.

Now you may be a rotary cutting wizard and like to use that long ruler to make your cut at this point.  I find that you will have more control and achieve a more even cut if you will take your folded edge and bring it even with your selvage edge.  This gives you half the length to cut and less chance that your ruler will move.

Now that you have your fabric properly folded, let's line up that folded edge with one of the horizontal lines on your cutting mat as shown below. 

Now take your ruler and line it up with the vertical line on your left if you are right handed and on your right if you are left handed. We are going to cut off a bit of the fabric to make sure we have a clean and straight edge.  If you line your ruler up at the top and bottom along the vertical line you will achieve a straight cut.  

Spread your fingers along your ruler and make your cut, keeping your blade straight up and down.  If you cut with your blade slanted in or out, you will make a crooked cut.  Now we have a clean edge to work from.  Line your ruler up according to the pattern directions and make your next cut.  For this pattern it was a 2" strip.

I like to make sure that my ruler line is on the inside of my fabric, that little bit of width can start adding up.  If you look at the line, your fabric should come to the edge of the ruler line farthest from the cut line.

Take your time, don't force your rotary cutter.  If you find that your not getting a clean cut, change your blade.  If you are still not getting a clean cut, change your mat.  They don't last forever and if you do a lot of sewing you will certainly need to change them out from time to time.  With a good blade and a good mat you should be able to make a crisp cut with little effort.  I recommend not cutting more than four layers of fabric at a time.  

Lots to do this week, busy getting ready for Christmas and so I will work on Clue #3 as the week allows.  They are pretty easy and I'm sure I will be done and ready for Clue #4 on Friday!  I hope you are having as much fun as I am with Bonnie's Grand Illusion Mystery!

  * * *

I wanted to share this cookie recipe with you.   When I was a little girl, my parents would stop at the Nut Tree Restaurant in Vacaville, California on our way from our home in Sonoma up to our cabin at Incline Village, Nevada.  It was always a special treat to get one of the Honey Cookies.  They would decorate them for the different holidays and seasons and you could get your name in frosting on one if you wished.  When my son was little, we would stop there for those same cookies.  Sadly the Nut Tree is no longer but the cookie recipe lives on!

It's best if you make up the dough a day or three before you want to make your cookies.  It's actually better when the dough ages.

Source: Nut Tree Remembered: The Cookbook by Tara Baumann, Jim Moehrke, Roy Moehrke, 1997 (Vacaville Museum, CA - ordering info: 707-447-4513)
Makes about 2 dozen

Nut Tree designer Don Birrell shared this family recipe with the Nut Tree. These artfully decorated honey cookies quickly became a Nut Tree signature item, almost too lovely to eat.

2/3 cup dark honey
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
1/3 cup water
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
Decorative icing:
3 egg whites, room temperature (pasteurized egg whites)
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Food coloring, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Bring to a boil sugar, honey and shortening. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool. Beat egg and add to water. Mix and sift the flour, soda, salt and spices.

Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the liquid ingredients to the honey mixture. If the dough is allowed to ripen for several days before rolling out, the flavor and texture are somewhat improved.

Roll out dough about 1/4-inch thick and cut. 

Bake at 325 degrees until edges are golden brown. About 10-12 minutes. 

Place all icing ingredients in mixing bowl and mix with electric beater for about 10 minutes. After mixing, be sure to keep bowl covered with a damp cloth at all times; icing dries quickly and hard. If you wish, add food coloring to make colored lines.

For decorating cookies:
Fill pastry or paper frosting cone with icing, up to about 1/2 inch below the top.

Fold the paper down over the icing and cut 1/8 inch off tip of the cone. Squeeze icing through the hole in the tip with one hand while holding top closed with other hand. It takes a little practice. A paper pattern, punched with pinholes for outlines, placed over the cookie and lightly dusted with powdered sugar makes decorating easier.

Day One I make my dough and refrigerate.   

Day Two I take it out, set it on the counter to come to room temperature for an hour, then roll it out and start cutting.  I line my table with parchment and when the cookies are cooled, they are place on the parchment ready for frosting.  I let them sit over night.

Day Three I pipe a frosting dam around each cookie and then when that is dry and set, I add a little water and color to little bowls of the frosting to make it flowable.  I spoon the frosting onto the cookies and let it spread out to the dam.  When these are set tonight, I will mix up another batch of the royal icing and finish the decorations.  
Let them sit over night to harden.
Day Four, I shrink wrap the cookies and they are ready for delivery.

They are a bit of work, but so worth it!  Everyone will love them...and if you have those fond memories like I do, of enjoying those honey cookies at the Nut Tree, well...this will take you right back there!

To check out how other's are doing be sure to click on the link here:

You can also join in the fun, the clues will be up for some time before she takes them down.  Just look for the tab at the top of her page that says Grand Illusion Mystery!  Print them out and if you can't make them right now, well, save them and do them a bit later, they are lots of fun!  Or just start in on what ever clue she's on when you jump in and catch up on the prior ones as you can.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt - Clue #2 and A Turkey Pot Pie Recipe TOO!

It's pouring rain outside!  In California that is a joyous sound right now.  I love to hear it hitting the roof and pelting the windows. Something about water that is so soothing.  We had a lazy morning, got out of bed late and the girls crawled in for a snuggle together. Even they can sense that it's that type of day.

About noon, I decided to start in on Clue #2 of Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt.  I carefully printed out the instructions, read them through several times and started to cut.
Oh, sometimes we just go on auto pilot and we miss the smallest detail.  I decided I would just cut a couple strips and play with the fabric to see how it sorted out...good thing.  I decided to try her template method first.  Hmmmm...after cutting the first set out wrong and then realizing that something didn't seem right, I decided to go with her Method #3.  

Whew, now I am back in a familiar place and we are cooking along.  I still only cut about 3 strips because I wanted to make sure I got this going in the right direction.

I love chain piecing, I'm sure I may have mentioned that about a thousand times.  Again, rhythmic and soothing like the rain outside. And it's wonderful to see a stack of piecing that you just finished and clipped apart, all ready for the iron.

I'm using a constant black and a constant white in this quilt.  And I love them.  I think there is just enough going on in each one to keep it interesting.

Grand Hotel
You can see where Bonnie's black and white inspiration came from! The photos of the Grand Hotel are vivid!

Building a nice little stack of blocks and some bonus HST's too boot.  We will save those for another project.  Loving my color choices so far and still continually amazed at how fabrics can work so well together when you cut them small enough! Don't be afraid to try something in your scrappy goodness, it all works!

Oh!  I wonder how these will fit together, so many possibilities and I'm sure I'm a mile off...LOL.  That is part of the fun.  

Time to stop for dinner.  Using left over turkey and fixings from Thanksgiving I made pot pies tonight.  They were delicious!

My Recipe:

Filling:  2 cups left over turkey, chopped or shredded
              1 cup left over glazed carrots
              1 cup left over green bean cassarole
              1 stalk celery finely chopped
              1/4 onion finely chopped
              2 cups left over country fried potatoes from breakfast
              4 cups half and half
              1/4 cup flour
              1/4 tsp thyme
              salt and pepper to taste
              3 TBS butter or bacon drippings

Pastry:  I used left over pie pastry, you can use your favorite recipe or store bought. When I make my pies, I bag up the trimmings for pot pie topping.

Saute up the onion and celery in the butter or drippings, remove from pan and leave the butter or drippings, add flour, stir and cook for a minute or two, add 4 cups half and half, thyme, salt and pepper.  Stir and cook on medium heat until bubbly and thickening, add back in the onion and celery, the carrots, green beans, potatoes and turkey.  Simmer for a few minutes until heated through.

Spoon into individual serving pans and top with flaky pie crust cut into a round big enough to cover the top.  Pierce your pastry with a fork and also poke a hole in the middle for steam to escape.  Place in a 400 degree F oven and cook for 20-25 minutes until pastry is browned.  

Line your cookie sheet with parchment in case you have a boil over, makes for easy cleanup. 

Back to my piecing.  I hope you are playing along!  If you have not started, don't freak out, the clues will be up on her site for a while. It's not a race and this can be a hectic time of year. Relax, do a few each day or when you get a break in the action, or wait until the holidays are over.  Go to her blog site and download the instructions to your computer, keep them for when you are ready to start.  Jump in anywhere, you can always go back and pick up clue #1 later.  Here is the link for the Bonnie Hunter Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt:  Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt  And if you want to see how others are translating this clue you can go to the link up here:

Don't be afraid!  Give it a whirl!  You will enjoy the process, one step at a time and before you know it, you will have a beautiful quilt finished!  Make up those pot pies, put them in your freezer and you'll be all ready with dinner, no fuss...more time for sewing!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Free Tutorial - Holiday In The Pines Table Runner and A Bit About Gold Country

Living on the Divide, it's all about Holiday In The Pines.  We are literally surrounded by the Tahoe National Forest.  People come from all over the world to recreate here.  

There is an extensive OHV trail system here: USDA Government Map OHV Trail System In addition there is camping, fishing, tons of lakes, hiking, climbing...everything you would want to do in the High Sierra's. 
Sugar Pine Reservoir
Each year they hold the Tevis Cup - 100 Miles in One Day Horseback Ride and the Western States Endurance Run which follows along the Western States Trail, the historic route taken by Paiute and Washoe Indigenous Peoples, Gold Rush explorers, Comstock hopefuls, and Express Riders of the Wells Fargo and Adams Express Companies.  There is just a ton of history in this area! 

Holiday In The Pines Table Runner Tutorial

This quick tutorial will guide you in making the Holiday In The Pines table runner.  Read all the directions first.

Finished size 35.5" long and 15.5" wide.

Materials:  12 - 2.5" x WOF strips of fabric, your choice. (WOF = width of fabric) 
Thin Batting 37" x 17"
Some fabric for backing  37" x 17"
3 strips of fabric 2.5" wide x WOF for your binding

1.  Make 3 strip sets using 4 strips measure 2.5" x WOF.

These were my fabric choices.  I decided to use the same dark green pine cone fabric for both outside pieces of my strip set.

You can use any kind of fabric strips you want, they don't have to be exactly like mine.  You will want some contrast in at least one piece to create the design.  But I encourage you to play with your fabric, have fun and try different things, you may create something you like even more!

2. From your strip sets cut 60 degree triangles.  You will need 14 of these.  If you need help with cutting 60 degree triangles using a straight ruler, refer to the Candy Corn Table Topper for visual and written instruction.  If you have a 60 degree triangle ruler, by all means, use that.  Flip your ruler back and forth on the fabric to cut your triangles from both sides, this will give you no waste and create the pieces necessary for this table runner.  You will have left over triangles.

3.  Using your triangles, lay out your design so that it looks like the runner below.  Please read the notes before you start to sew.

4.  Before you start sewing, there are a couple things that will make it so much easier!  Press open all of your seams as you sew.  This will help to reduce the bulk in your final runner.  Sew one half of the runner at a time (7 triangles for each side) and then sew those two halves in one long seam down the middle, carefully matching   your points and seams, to complete your runner.  Again, press open on that long center seam to reduce bulk.  Quilt and Bind as desired.


Your quilting can be as simple as stitch in the ditch or as elaborate as you wish.  You can bind by machine or by hand.  For this runner, I stitched in the ditch and applied my binding from the back side first, mitering corners and then machine stitched from the front to finish.  You can use what every method you like.  

If you make one of these table runners, I would love to see it!  And if you are up in the Tahoe National Forest I hope you'll come visit the Divide!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Start Your Engines! The Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt Has Begun!

It's that time of year!  Bonnie Hunter has just launched her latest Mystery Quilt, the Grand Illusion.  And yes, I am playing along!  I hope you are too, they are lots of fun.  I will be posting my progress here after each clue. 


In her introduction, Bonnie had us pick out our fabrics using her color samples shown above, here is my spread.  Most are from my stash, I am cleaning out and making room for new.  But, with that said, I did not have much yellow and very little grass green, which required a trip to the quilt shop!  I know, we hate that right?  

No Lowe's in our town to get copies of the paint samples, but we have a Home Depot and I think these come pretty close.  I tend to gravitate toward the jewel tones.  So my colors are probably more on the deeper end of the spectrum.  Yellow is a stretch for me but that's what I love about Bonnie Hunter Mystery Quilts, they can push your boundaries in a good way!

I ended up switching out my Blacks and Whites for a constant called Contempo Bellissimo.

Mystery Part 1!

First thing to do is make HST units.  I want a scrappy look but I don't want to use the ruler (which I have) and strips so I pulled out my stencil from Sunday Best Quiltworks and got busy.  Each time you use it you make 32 HST units which makes it very short work when you need to make a lot!  Plus by switching up my fabrics each time, it will give me that scrappy effect I want in the finished quilt.  

With right sides of my fabric together, I trace the stencil, using a permanent marking pen.  They have lines for the quarter inch seam allowance, but I don't mark those, I can sew a quarter inch seam.  If you need them you can trace them, but I would use a water soluble marker for those as they will not be in your cut line.

Once everything is traced (it just takes a couple minutes, literally) then you stitch as shown in the photo above.  Two rectangles in opposite directions.

When you are finished stitching, give the whole thing a good steam press to set all your seams at once!  Then using your rotary cutter and a ruler, cut it apart, on the straight lines first and then the diagonal lines between your stitching.  BAM!  32 PERFECT triangles.  NONE ON THE BIAS!  This is important for beginning quilters.  Bias raw edges can just make a mess when you are learning to quilt.

Trim off all the little dog ears now.  It only takes a few minutes, then press them open to the dark side.  I like to finger press my HST's open first, then use the iron.  One of the most important things you can do in quilting is to press carefully and properly. Don't Scrub with your iron as it will distort your work.  Just press. If you will finger press your work open first, you will make sure that you open your seam all the way.  Sometimes a new quilter will think they are off in their measurements or their seam allowance, when all they really need to do is properly press their work. Remember:  Get your seam open and press, don't scrub.

No extra trimming required, each one is a perfect 2.5 inches!
Here is a little video of the technique by Sunday Best Quiltworks.

Now, normally, I would never mix these fabrics up like this, but Bonnie has taught me that if you cut something small enough it will work.  And you know what?  She's right!  Not only is she right, but I have found that it creates a lot of interest when you are actually using the quilt, you notice little fun things here and there.  Don't be afraid to try her methods.

There is something just so enjoyable for me when I am chain piecing.  A rhythm develops and it allows your mind to wander.  I find it restful and refreshing.

There is a satisfaction in seeing each step completed.  

Watching as your piles of completed units start to stack up.  You can see the simple satisfaction of completing this one portion of your task.  It's the process of eating an bite at a time.

And before you know it, all your broken dish units are neatly stacked before your eyes!   A warm feeling comes over you as you realize that you have tackled the 1st clue successfully!  That elephant doesn't stand a chance!!!

So I am a zip-lock bag freak!  I put my components as they are finished into zip-lock bags and then I put those bags into a working tub that contains my fabric and my pattern.  Everything is in one spot so I don't have to go searching for any of it.  Here is the link for Part 1!  Mystery Monday Link-Up Part 1

Can't wait till Friday Bonnie!!!

If you are not making the Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt...I hope you will jump in.  It's not too late.  Each week Bonnie will be posting clues and they will stay up for a while giving you plenty of time to catch up.  Details can be found on her blog at  Just look for the tab titled Grand Illusion Mystery Quilt.