Monday, February 27, 2012

Sparkle Punch Baby Quilt

I have been waiting a long time for this day.

Someone I actually know is going to have a baby.

My obsessive love of quilting and the lack of reproducing people in my life has been a sad combination. But those days are over.

My cousin and his wife are expecting a little boy very soon. When I originally saw the Sparkle Punch quilt along on Oh, Fransson!, I pinned it right away, because I knew it was in my future. So I decided to make one for them as a present.

The design is basically just stars with wonky points that are nested instead of laid out in rows. The wonkiest ones remind me of comic book 'POW!' explosion bubbles, which I love. Perfect for a rambunctious little boy.

The color inspiration came from these beautiful knitted fingerless gloves from Red Pepper Quilts. Mmmm yummy colors. Not super gender-y either, which I like.

For the quilting, I finally successfully forced myself to do something other than loopy free motion. Hooray for personal growth! I turned the loops into points to mimic the points of the stars.

The back is one of my perennial sunshiney favorites, an Alexander Henry lemon print.

And the binding is gray polka dots. I do love a good polka dot.

This probably won't' be the end of these fabrics for me, I went way overboard when cutting squares and have a huge stack left over. Get ready for some patchwork...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Colette Patterns Ceylon Dress

Before I talk about this dress, I must tell you all a sad, sad story.

There was originally supposed to be a giant red balloon in all of my pictures. We're talking a three foot diameter balloon. This thing was serious. It barely fit in my car.

Do you remember when you were a kid and you'd get a helium balloon and it was the greatest thing in the world? All you had to do was go have dinner at Applebee's or Friday's on the right day and odds were you'd end up with tied one around your wrist, this magic thing that defied gravity and floated in the air.

I remember being intensely afraid of letting my balloon go. I used to grip that ribbon with white-knuckled, terrified determination, because losing a balloon outside was the worst. One second that magic floating thing was all yours, then one weak distracted moment later it was careening into the sky. In the first few milliseconds you think, I can jump and reach it!, and you try, but of course you can't. And then it's fifteen feet above you, then twenty, and you think, wildly and irrationally, maybe I can throw something at it and knock it down. But instead all you can do it watch its ascent, at the mercy of the jet streams, thinking of its poor little rubbery self climbing higher and higher in the atmosphere all the way to outer space where it explodes into a million pieces. Shudder.

You'd think, then, with this phobia, that when I drove to the place we took pictures of my dress, I would have secured the balloon to something inside my car, or not left my hatchback wide open, or tied the balloon to my neck so that if one of us was a goner, we both were.

After taking a few test shots of the brick wall, I turned around to get the balloon.

It was gone. 

I looked around in a panic and cried out, "Where's the balloon?!?", as if it was still in my car and I just didn't see it. With crushing defeat I finally saw it in the air, probably a hundred feet up, floating lazily out towards the Pacific. And it was terrible. I wanted to cry.

But I didn't. And here are the balloon-less pictures of my Colette Patterns Ceylon dress. You have to admit they'd be better with a giant red balloon. But the dress turned out cute! As with the first Colette pattern I made, the Jasmine Blouse, the directions were very straightforward and easy to follow, with great pictures [I'm a picture person].

It fits me almost perfectly. The sleeves are a little too tight, and they were on the Jasmine blouse too, so I think for the next Colette pattern I make I'm going to cut a size bigger in the sleeves and then just gather them more to make them fit the armhole. I love the yoke detail and the way the bodice is constructed in multiple pieces. I'm already thinking about the next one I'm going to make, which I want to do in color blocks.

I was a little terrified about all the buttons, but my world was turned upside down when I accidentally discovered that my sewing machine can attach buttons. I realize this is probably a basic function, but I've always sewn them on by hand and never even thought to use a machine. Life changing.

So in closing, I'm sorry, giant red balloon, I should have taken better care of you. I hope you're enjoying your excursion into the great blue yonder. Stay away from outer space!

swinging makes everything better, even lost balloons

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Quilt - Sparkle Punch

Sometimes pulling fabric from my hoarding bins can be intimidating.

I have a lot of it. Some might say too much. I still pretend that I have it under control.

But this stack of fabrics came together in a snap. Probably because my color inspiration was so, hm, inspiring. These knitted wristwarmers from Red Pepper Quilts are beautiful, aren't they?

The pattern is going to be the Sparkle Punch quilt from Oh, Fransson!. I've already cut all the little squares. Now on to piecing...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Super Shortcut Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

When I saw a recipe for two ingredient ice cream from Cookies and Cups on Pinterest, I knew it wouldn't leave my head until I made it.

Just cream and sweetened condensed milk. I mean, two ingredients? No ice cream maker?? No frozen solid brick of shudder-inducing ice crystals??? It couldn't be.

But it totally worked. The texture is soft and light. It tastes like real, homemade ice cream. It's a little on the sweet side, but it's so little work I don't feel I have the right to complain.

I whipped up a batch for my lovey on Valentine's day, because ice cream is his favorite food on the planet. It worked out much better than last year, when I tried to make a batch of 'healthy' valentine's day ice cream out of almond milk. It was a terrifyingly weird gritty slushy mess. I showed it to him so that he knew I tried, but I did not allow him to eat it.

This year went much better.

To make the strawberry heart, just slice a strawberry crosswise to get a circle, then trim it down into a heart shape. Plop it right on top before you freeze it. Cuteness!

[PS - I tragically don't have a stand mixer, so I used a hand mixer to whip the cream and it worked just fine.]

Super Shortcut Strawberry Banana Ice Cream
[do not include vanilla]
1 pint strawberries
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp vodka
1 ripe banana

1. Cut strawberries and banana into bite sized chunks.
2. Mix strawberries, water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
3. Mix vodka into cooled strawberries [this helps prevent the liquid in them from freezing too hard].
4. Mix up ice cream according to recipe. Stir in strawberry mixture and bananas.
5. Pour into glass or plastic containers and freeze overnight.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hudson Bay Point Blanket Quilt and Free Pattern

If I could figure out how, I'd move to a wintery cabin in the woods for the rest of my life.

Ok maybe not the rest of my life. But I would go there often.

I like blankets. I like making them. I like snuggling them. My faux fur and fleece throw from Target is one of my favorite possessions. Just give me a warm crackling fire while the icy wind howls outside and I am one happy girl.

I've loved Hudson Bay Point Blankets for a little while now, but when I saw the Purl Bee's knitted baby blanket version, I was pretty inspired. So I decided to make a quilted version.

*UPDATE: This quilt has now been listed in my etsy store*

When I told a few people what I was making, instead of responding with, 'ohhh, a quilted Hudson Bay Point Blanket, why didn't I think of that,' they just stared at me. Nobody had any idea what the hell I was talking about. So allow me to give a little background.

Hudson Bay Point Blankets were heavy wool blankets made in the 1700's and 1800's to be traded amongst fur trappers in Canada and the native Indian tribes that lived there. At that time they were highly sought after for being very warm in the brutal Canadian winters.

photo courtesy of vintagebutterfly94

The traditional stripes of indigo, yellow, red and green became popular and were easily reproduced with colorfast dyes of that era.

Now they are iconic collector's items. And guess what, the British company is still in business and still making blankets.

The smaller indigo hash marks along the right edge are actually a nifty little feature - they allowed those trading with the blankets to know the size of the blanket without unfolding it. That's why they are called point blankets. The more hash marks or points, the bigger the blanket. Cool huh? I think so, at least.

Instead of doing solid stripes, I pieced each stripe with three different solids. I wanted the final product to really read 'quilt,' so I was going for that patchy look. The green was a little tricky because it was more of a bluish kelly green [like the 'jungle green' Crayola crayon, the colors from a box of 64 will forever be the basis of my color identification]. I added in a few teal blocks with regular kelly green and I think, from a distance, the effect kind of works.

The back is a homespun looking maroon and tan gingham. I thought it added to the wintery-cabiny-snuggliness.

For the binding I used a navy plaid.

The quilt's dimensions are about 48" x 78". Perfect for sitting in the sunny grass.

This quilt, by the way, is what I made from my rainbowlicious stack of fabrics that I've mentioned a few times. Here is a picture of that stack, appearing for the record third time on my blog:

If you'd like to make your own Hudson Bay Blanket quilt, here are some quickie directions for piecing the top. Please leave a comment if you have any questions! Note: I did not include dimensions for all the piecing in each colored stripe. I honestly just did it randomly and stopped when it was the right length. So just piece a random strip, then trim it down to the dimensions listed below. Also, for all the A and B white strips, I actually pieced them together in 2 parts, since I was cutting crosswise on the fabric and could only get a 43"ish strip. But if you want you could get enough fabric to be able to cut 48" lengthwise and cut those pieces all as one piece. Make sense I hope?

A: 6.25" x 48" [cut 2 from white]
B: 3.25" x 48"[cut 6 from white and 2 each from red, yellow, green and blue]
C: 41.5" x 33" [cut 1 from white]
D: 1.25" x 7" [cut 3 from dark blue]
E: 2.5" x 7" [cut 1 from white]
F: 2" x 7" [cut 2 from white]
G: 26.25" x 7" [cut 1 from white]

Use a 1/4" seam allowance.

Join one A piece and 7 B pieces, working from A in towards the center, in the following order: A, B[blue], B[white], B[yellow], B[white], B[red], B[white], B[green]. Repeat for other set of A and B pieces.

Join D pieces with F pieces in this order: D, F, D, F, D.

Join E piece to one end of F/D piece and G to other end.

Join pieced hash mark strip to short end of C.

Join one striped piece to each side of center white piece.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Colette Patterns Book Signing This Weekend!

If you live in the LA area, you should definitely come to Sew LA in Silver Lake this Saturday night [Feb 18th] at 6pm.

Sarai Mitnick, the founder and designer of the awesome pattern company Colette Patterns, will be there signing copies of her new book, the Colette Sewing Handbook.

This book is beautiful! It's chock full of sewing knowledge, gorgeous photos and cute projects.

Colette Patterns has released over 20 individual patterns so far. They're all very cute and unique with a touch of vintage flair. I have a Ceylon dress pattern sitting on my sewing table that I'm planning on wearing to the book signing [definitely have to get my act together and make that...].

All Colette Patterns will be 20% off that night, AND if you wear something you've made from a Colette Pattern, you will get an additional 10% off!

There will also be drinks and goodies [macarons, eclairs, spiked tea, etc] and a fun photobooth. It's free and no RSVP is needed. I hope I'll see you there!

[p.s. happy valentine's day! I'm not feeling very valentiney this year but if you're doing something I hope it's extra special.]

Monday, February 13, 2012

Goodbye, Mr. Fox

On Saturday morning, I unexpectedly lost one of the dearest and sweetest parts of my life - my cat Fox.

This is a pretty long post with a lot of pictures, so the rest of it is after the jump...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Balsamic & Brown Sugar

I love brussels sprouts.

I avoided them for a long time because of their terrible reputation. From movies, tv and general pop culture I associated them with those long parent-child torture sessions where they make you sit at the table for hours until you eat all your vegetables.

But then I tried them, and I loved them. They are quick and easy to saute. They taste great and have a nice little crunch. And they look like miniature Barbie-sized cabbages. What more can you ask for in a healthy vegetable?

So if we add a little brown sugar, a little balsamic vinegar, and a little bacon, things can only get better.

Gratuitous close up of brown sugar. Mmmmm.

I only recently realized you can buy bacon at the meat counter. I mean, single slice bacon purchase, where have you been all my life?? It's the perfect way to buy just a little bacon for a recipe and not be blessed with stuck with an entire package of bacon to use up. Maybe everyone already knew this. But I didn't.

This recipe makes a side serving for two people [the amount in the bowl is one serving]. So if you need more, just double and triple as needed. It would be a great side for a romantic V-day dinner! Also if you'd like it to be vegan/vegetarian, just omit the bacon and start right with sauteing the sprouts, it'll still be pretty good. I haven't tried it with veggie bacon, I have a feeling it just wouldn't be right. But try if you're braver than me.

So here's what I did [recipe follows at bottom]. First, cut off the bottom of each Barbie cabbage, then cut it in half lengthwise. The outermost little leaves will fall off. It's ok.

Then rinse thoroughly. I do this after cutting because we're getting rid of the outer layers anyway, so why spend time washing them?

Then dice the bacon and saute it in a skillet at medium high heat until just crisp. Pour out the bacon and grease onto a paper towel to drain.

Whoops, no picture. We all know what cooking bacon looks like, right?

Now heat olive oil in the skillet. Place all the sprouts with the cut sides down into the pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Saute at medium low heat for about three minutes, until bottoms start to caramelize and tops start turning a darker, vibrant green.

Pour vinegar over sprouts. I usually pour two turns of the pan. After the vinegar sizzles around for thirty seconds, flip all the sprouts over. Tongs are the best tool for this.

Take a second to admire the pretty colors. After another minute of cooking, add the bacon back in. Toss and cook for another 30 seconds.

Turn out into a bowl and serve.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Balsamic & Brown Sugar
makes 2 side servings
1/2 lb brussels sprouts
2 slices bacon
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar, not packed
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

1. Cut off the bottom of each sprout, then slice in half vertically. Rinse.
2. Dice bacon. Saute bacon in skillet over medium heat until just crisp. Reserve bacon. Pour off drippings.
3. Heat olive oil in skillet. Place sprouts in skillet, cut sides down. Sprinkle with sugar. Saute over medium low heat for about 3 minutes or until bottoms start to caramelize and tops start turning bright green.
4. Pour vinegar over sprouts and shake pan to distribute. Cook for 30 seconds. Turn all sprouts over and cook for another minute.
5. Add reserved bacon to sprouts. Toss and cook for 30 seconds. Salt to taste if necessary [I usually don't add salt, remember the bacon is already salty]. Serve.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sew LA Class Photos

Last night was the final session of my Square Knot Clutch class at Sew LA, and it could not have gone better!

Everybody was so happy with their clutch when they were finished, which made me even happier.
They were even brave / willing / gung-ho enough to add impromptu wrist straps. And they turned out so darn cute, I just might add it to the pattern.

If you missed this Square Knot Clutch class, don't fret, there's another one on two Saturdays in March that you can sign up for.

Thanks for the warm welcome, Sew LA!


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