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!

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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.


  1. love the story, I think I will try my frist attempt at making these and icing

  2. Great tutorial and memories of The Nut Tree! I didn't realize that they were no longer around. Loved their fruit salad with orange nut bread.

  3. Everything on your page looks yummy!

  4. Oh man I remember those cookies. The rainbow shaped one would turn your tongue all those colors! My dad flew his plane their and we would stop on the way to Tahoe too. These are good. Have to try this out.