Sunday, July 29, 2012

Make a Mix Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, A Reflection on the Past

Ice Box Cookies, they harken back to when I was a little girl.  My mother would mix up cookies and store them in the freezer, neatly rolled up and we would slice and bake them.  When my son was little, as a new mother, I of course wanted to replicate those warm feelings that I had as a child with my son. 

I forget how I was introduced to the Make-A Mix Cook Book Series and I had forgotten how fun their recipes were.  Last week I got the book down off the shelf and made up the Sugar cookies, today I made up the Oatmeal Raisin cookies.  There is something inside me that feels smug and wonderful, just knowing I have dozens of cookies at my disposal in the freezer.  It's soothing somehow.  I know that may sound funny, but I am from a generation that absolutely cannot have dinner without a little desert!

So for those of you who, don't have this book, here is the recipe with a few modifications by me (butter instead of shortening and spices where there were none)

1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla ( we make our own!)
Cream the butter and the sugar, then add eggs one at a time along with vanilla, cream well.
Sift together 1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
Add to creamed mixture and mix completely. Then add:
4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup of raisins
nuts if you wish.
Divide dough into 4 portions, Shape into logs on wax paper or freezer paper, roll up, label and freeze.
To bake, slice a 1 inch piece of dough, then cut it into four pieces. (make as many or as few as you like) Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 F for about 10 minutes, cool on rack and enjoy.

Mine are in the freezer right now and will be ready when my son arrives for dinner this evening!  Won't he be surprised!

Swooning on a Sunday

We are waiting for my son to arrive to spend the day with us.  He lives up the hill in Squaw Valley.  We are planning a family Sunday Bar-B-Que together.  I will enjoy his visit.  While waiting for him to arrive, I finished sewing Block #6 for my Swoon Quilt.  I spent the better part of yesterday fussy cutting the fabric for this.  Each block in the quilt will be different and I am playing with placement now, trying to decide what will go where and where the color focus should be for the remaining blocks.

There are many elements in this block that I love...What delights me most about this particular block are the "torches" in the 4 corners.  When you are back from the quilt, they really stand out.  

The Swoon Quilt Block is very easy and completely suitable for a beginner.  I have just taken it to a different level with the Stack center and the fussy cutting.  You do not have to do that.  Here is a link for the pattern:

You can see from the pattern that it can be a very modern, stylish and simple quilt, beautiful in it's simplicity.  To see some other examples of how folks have completed this pattern you can look on Flickr at The swooning on a hop along group, here is a link:

Now, I am going to look at cutting out the next block while we are waiting for Andrew!  Who knows, I might just get another one done today!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Quick Fun Strip Block

There was a cute little video on this block done by the Missouri Quilt Company.  They have so many great little video tutorials.  I am just replicating the block for my class here.  Enjoy, they are quick and fun!

First cut strips 2 1/2 inches wide, or purchase a precut "jelly roll".  

Now select 4 strips and sew them together in a strip set and press.

Measure the width of your strip set and cut blocks the same length. You are making squares with equal sides.  

Take two of your squares and lay one on top of the other right sides together with the stips going in opposite directions as shown below:

I like to place a pin in each corner, in far enough so that it won't impede my stitching.  You don't have to pin, but I think it helps to keep the corners straight and accurate for a nice final result.

Now stitch a 1/4 inch seam around the entire square, all sides, sewing the top block to the bottom block.  Hard to see in my photo as I am using white thread.

Now take your ruler and your rotary cutter and make your first cut on the diagonal as shown.  Do not pull your pieces apart, leave them.

Now cut across the diagonal in the opposite direction and then press open your bits!

You have four completed block that you can put together any way you want.  

Okay, show me your blocks!!!

Squaring Up The Blocks and Application of Sashing

This is the time that you will start to see the vision of your quilt top come into fruition!  It doesn't matter if you have all the same block, different blocks or some of the blocks.  It's your top, the way you want it!  

RULE #1.  MEASURE, THEN MEASURE AGAIN.  I cannot stress this enough.  Once you cut your block, you cannot go back, so of course we want to make sure our cuts are accurate.

The first thing we are going to do is learn to square up our blocks....yes, that again.   Squaring up is the use of a square ruler on units, blocks or quilt tops to assure a right angle in all the corners.  

Fabric has give and no matter how careful you are at each step in the construction of your block or your quilt, things may be out of square as you move along in the process.  If you square up as you go, then you'll have a more successful outcome.

A 15.5" block that really is 15.5" and not 14.5" or 15.75" means that your quilt top will be flat.  Your sashing or borders will fit as they should.  The corners on the quilt will be square.  There will be no nonsense about "quilting it out" when you find a bubble.  Why spend a lot of time working around your mistakes when you can do it right in the first place?

You can get a square up ruler like the one shown which is a 16" ruler by Quilt in a Day, which will run you somewhere around $20. they also make larger sizes that are, of course, a little more expensive.  They are a nice addition to your quilt tools.  There are many brands to choose from, this is only one example.  Shop around online for the best deals, watch Joann's for your 50% off one item and use that to purchase for great savings!

Measure all of your blocks and find the smallest one.  We are going to square up your smallest block first and then square up to that measure all of your other blocks.  Square your block up the same way that you squared up your individual units.  Refer back to the video in lesson one:  The Friendship Star Block

Once you have your blocks squared up you can start laying them out to see the order in which you would like to see them in your completed quilt.  Stand back, enjoy the helps to take a photo to get perspective.

Once all of your blocks are squared up we will start to audition our sashing.  A great way to do this is to lay out your potential sashing fabric (before you cut it) and lay your blocks right on top.  If you like it, make your cuts.  You can do this right at the fabric store, just lay your fabric selection out on the counter and audition your blocks.  You may want to refer to your lesson on color before you do this.  Think about what effect you are looking for.  Sometimes a pop of color from the other end of the spectrum can be very exciting, sometimes you may want to have a more monochromatic (all the same color) effect and you will look for differences in "values" (light and dark) to give you the desired pop.  Just play with it until you like what you see.  You can audition several fabrics at once by laying them out next to each other and placing your blocks on top.

Here are a couple links that you will find valuable in completing your sashing. 

I am going to suggest for this project, that you cut your sashing 2 1/2 inches wide and I am going to suggest for a first time quilter, that you stay away from "setting squares".  I would just work with straight pieces.  You will piece 3 "rows" with short strips of sashing.  Once completed, you will need to piece your 3 "rows" together using a long strip of sashing that you will need to piece as it will be wider than the width of the fabric.  The link below will show you how to do that.  Center your sashing "seam" in the center of your middle block so that it will not be so obvious.

For the first border on the outside of your quilt, I will suggest that you stay with the 2 1/2 inch strip.  Piece several together and you won't have to stop and make more.  I think mine took 5 strips.

When you are finished, it should look like this:

For our next class, I am thinking about perhaps having a catch up day, so everyone can get up to speed.  Drop me an e-mail and let me know how you feel about that.  I would like everyone to have their top completed before we move onto quilting.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Flouncy T-Shirt Dress, Strappy Sun Dress and A Tutu!

We are heading over to Mendocino County the first weekend in August to see our Granddaughter Maliyah who will be celebrating her 1st birthday.  I am whipping up some little frocks to take over.
One of the gals that I work with, Michelle, is having her first granddaughter and she made some little onesies like this.  I absolutely loved the idea so I copied her!

Here's how I made it.  I cut two pieces of fabric for the is 9 inches by width of fabric and the other is 11 inches by width of fabric.  I serged together the short ends of each strip of fabric to create two bands.  Then I folded them in half with wrong sides together and laid them one on top of the other (no hemming this way).  To gather them, I placed a cotton string next to the raw edge and zig zagged careful not to catch the string.  Before drawing up the ruffle, I marked the piece in quarters and pinned those quarters to the quarters of the t-shirt. (front, back and sides)  Then I pulled the string to gather the skirt.  Pinned the ruffles in place and then surged them onto the skirt.  It really is that quick and that easy!

Starting on dress #2 which will be completely different!  More to be revealed!  Finished #2 and a tutu this morning.  Have to go get some pink and lavender ribbons to work into the tutu...on our way to town now!  

Grandma is having fun!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tutorial - Creating the Stacked LeMoyne Star center for the Swoon

In the center of the Swoon block, there is a Lemoyne Star.  I love the Swoon Pattern by Camille Roskelley....

 ...but wanted to take it a bit further and create some interest in the center by using the Stack N Whack method as outlined in the book Magic Stack n Whack by Bethany S. Reynolds.  I have had so many requests for additional information on this that I am blogging it today.

 To get started you may want to get a copy of her book which also has a number of other stack ideas and options.  You may also want to use some template plastic, some scotch tape, a fine tip permanent marker and two mirrors which you can attach on the backside with duct tape.  (you'll see as we go along how these are useful)

Step one is to select a fabric that has sufficient repeats for your pattern.  I need 8 pieces to make my star so I need 8 repeats of my fabric.  I purposely selected a fabric with close repeats.  That means that instead of seeing that image once every 36 inches, I am seeing it once every 4 inches.  This lets you get a lot of bang for your buck as you will not have to purchase so much yardage to achieve your design.  

The fabric I selected is called Deja Vue by Paula Nadelstern.  Google her, you will be amazed at her work, it is something to aspire to.

Okay, now that I have picked out my fabric, I am going to cut 8 repeats and stack them one on top of the other.  I will carefully stick a fine point pin though an element in the design which I can easily match up.  I will match this up through all eight layers.  Then, holding my pin perpendicular to the fabric I will carefully pin next to it through all layers to secure it.  I will do this in several areas around the fabric.

Okay, right about now, I can hear you saying, this is way to much work.  Well, it's not and it's worth it.  All the hard part is at the front end and if you take your time and carefully do your pinning, you will have stunning results and you too will be hooked!

Once you have everything pinned the way you want it, take your two pieces of mirror and duct tape them together on the backside of one short end.  They sometimes come with a slit so you can just hook them together, but for this project, duct tape works better as it allows more flex in the range of motion.  (you can purchase these at Joann's, Beverly's, Online at Connecting Threads, Amazon, just about everywhere)

Now you can pick out something on your fabric that looks interesting, and using your folded mirrors, slide them around till you get an effect that you like.  Below I have placed the mirrors on the fabric and I am just sliding them back or forward a bit to change the image, or side to side.

Here are the images in the mirror.

Okay,  so you get the idea, this is all from the exact same fabric!  So you have found a design that pleases you.  Now what?  Well, in the book Stack n Whack, Bethany Reynolds has kindly printed templates.  Get yourself an old school folder, a piece of translucent plastic from an old can lid, or milk carton...or if all else fails, you can purchase template plastic.  Use a ruler and trace the template onto your plastic and carefully cut it out using an old rotary cutting blade (I save my old ones for this or cutting paper)  Now you have your template.  Take your ruler and the permanent marker and draw from tip to tip in both directions.  This will help serve as a guide.  Get your scotch tape and make a loop, stick it to the underside of your template.  This way you can put it on your fabric, move it around and when you are ready to cut, there is nothing to pin!

The plastic is just see through enough to let you see what is on the fabric and line up your design.  You can also randomly place your template, which I did in some of my blocks, and it will give you a rotating effect in the fabric. 

Once you have your template in place, carefully place your ruler along the edge and cut your fabric with a rotary cutter, this way you are not cutting your template, your template should be underneath your ruler.  You will end up with 8 perfectly matching pieces!

When you are all done cutting your bits out, you will have some swiss cheese looking fabric, but you will have some amazing blocks!

You could stop here, make several stars and put together a beautiful quilt.  I am continuing on to make my version of the Swoon!
The next step in this process, is to turn these into "Swoon" blocks.

More to be revealed!!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Robber's Ravine Fire - Foresthill, CA 2012

Many of our friends are worried so I am blogging about the fire.  We are about 8 miles from the fire and currently it is moving in a north east direction away from us.  The fire started in the canyon about 3:30 today and quickly spread to over 200 acres by 6pm.  Due to the rugged terrain this fire will be fought from the air and hopefully they will be able to contain it.  The photo above was taken on my way home from work tonight.  The photo below was taken about 1/2 hour later at the lot next door to the Post Office in Foresthill proper.  We live in Todd Valley .  They have staged the fire fight at the High School, all the fire trucks are being dispatched from that area as needed.  Evacuees are being directed to the Memorial Hall.  It will be an anxious night for many tonight and we will pray that they are able to get things under control!  We have many friends from church that are located in the Yankee Jims area and are in the path of the fire, they are in our prayers tonight.

As you can see from the map below, we are located on the top of a ridge between canyons, One of the highest bridges in the United States links our ridge with Auburn.  On either side are the deep canyons of the American River.  The Forest Hill and Iowa Hill Divides, east of Auburn, are rich in mining lore. The 49ers roamed the rugged river canyons of this region in search of richer strikes of that elusive treasure: gold! Early communities in this area included: Yankee Jim’s (1849); Todd’s Valley (1849); Deadwood (1852); Bath (1850); Iowa Hill (1853); Wisconsin Hill (1850); Elizabethtown (1850); Last Chance (1852); Bird’s Store (1849); and Forest Hill (1850).

In the spring of 1850, miners came to the Forest Hill Divide in large numbers. There was one route from Auburn through Yankee Jim's and one from Coloma. At the junction of these trails, the Forest House hotel and trading post was built. The height of mining activity in Forest Hill began in 1853 after a winter landslide at the head of Jenny Lind Canyon exposed numerous nuggets of gold. The Jenny Lind mine produced about $2,500 of gold a day for a while, up to a total output over $1 million by 1880. The combined production of all the mines in the Forest Hill area was estimated at $10 million by 1868 with gold selling for $16 an ounce. In the 1860's, there were about 125,000 feet of hard-rock runnels dug into the hillsides in, around and under Forest Hill. By 1857, this area had become an important center for trade among the many gold camps on the divide. In 1862, the Hardy-Kennedy building was erected - the first fireproof store in Forest Hill. This building, now known as the Langstaff building, is still being used by the merchants of Foresthill. By 1880, Forest Hill was one of the largest towns in Placer County. The town had an 80-foot wide main street befitting such an important place.

Built in 1862, the Langstaff is the oldest standing building on the Foresthill Divide, surviving the test of time, Indian attacks, earthquakes and fire. Originally a mercantile and one of the first Wells Fargo Stage Stops, the brick walls, wood ceiling with a layer of sod op top and another layer of brick on top of that, were structural oddities designed to fend off Indian attacks and fire. The city of Foresthill has burned to the ground several times and this particular building has remained standing.

So there you go, a little history in the mix!  We live in an amazing place, full of history, beauty and danger.

View Larger Map

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Swooning on a Sunday

You may remember a while back, I started making the blocks for my  Swoon Quilt.  The quilt takes 9 blocks as shown above.  Each of the blocks are made in different fabrics with a similar color scheme.  The center of the block is a Lemoyne Star and I have decided that I would like to use the Stack and Whack method to create a kaleidoscopic effect in the center of each block.  So tonight I dug out my fabric and got the remaining centers cut out and three of them stitched up. 

Only two more to go.  This is a project, you have to line up 8 layers of fabric perfectly so that when you make your cuts they are identical.  Then, when you stitch them, you have to make sure that they are all lining up perfectly.  I like the challenge!  Here is a picture of the fabric before it's cut.  All of the centers come from the exact same fabric.

This fabric is from the Deja Vu series by Paula Nadelstern.  It doesn't look like anything you would want to quilt with, but you have to look past that for the potential in it.  Paula is known for her Kaleidoscope quilts and this fabric has loads of possibilities in that realm.  You end up with Celtic knot looking centers that are quite elaborate.  Here is a link for Paula's Gallery, be sure to check it out, you will be so amazed if you have never seen her work before.

Here is a link for the Swoon Quilt Pattern by Camille Roskelley:

There is also a Flickr site with folks that are making the Swoon Quilt.  You can view that site here:
If you can make a HST unit and flying geese, match your seams and cut straight, stitch an accurate 1/4" seam, then you will have all the skills needed to make this quilt.  It's really not complicated.  

Give it a go....come Swoon with us!