Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Church Fete [cakes galore]

I don't bake. It's not that I don't enjoy it, it's just that there always seems to be something else to do. But once a year I do bake. The end of June means Wimbledon and the Church and Mum and I run the cake stall every year, and bake approximately half the cakes for it.

I started on Wednesday with 48 jumbo cookies (that's 6 batches). And Thursday was brownie day. And the most amazing brownie ever is the Chocolate orange brownie which started as a tripled chocolate cake with rich icing in a magazine I borrowed and photocopied, but which has changed unrecognisably over the last few years..... it takes me an hour from starting to getting in the oven and I normally make 4 btches of the recipe all at once (if you're doing it, you might as well do it properly!)

Ingredients: (four one quarter of what you see in the photos below)

100g marg
100g dark chocolate - I use Bourneville
125g caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated (I hate separating eggs)
zest of two oranges (I hate zesting oranges)
4tbsp of orange juice (you should be able to get this from the oranges you zested)
30g plain flour
25g cocoa powder (supposedly sifted, but life's too short)

Heat the over the 180degrees (160 if fan assisted). Grease a 20cm cake tin (I use square tins obviously)
Cream marg and sugar till fluffy
Add the egg yolks - mix until creamy
Melt the chocolate (I do this in the microwave - be careful to melt and not cook it)
Add orange zest, orange juice, and melted chocolate.
Add flour and cocoa and mix
Beat the egg whites separately to medium peaks, the carefully fold into chocolatey mix
Spoon into cake tin, bake for 30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean, cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out and when cool dust with icing sugar

Et voila!

Oh - and don't drop the mixing bowl on the floor - or if you must, do it before you've washed it up! Ooops....

Yesterday Mum and I both hit the cakes: Mum made seven chocolate sponges, six coffee sponges, and eight coffee and walnut sponges. I made seven Raspberry and White chocolate cakes, 6 Gingerbreads and six lemon drizzle cakes. And this morning Mum made over 100 scones - some cheese (yummy) and others fruit.

All set up ready for the fete!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

WIP Wednesday [Summer Hexagons]

I'm spending the week with my parents, which means no sewing machine.... and that means I can get some hand sewing done! So far this week I've been basting hexagons.... nothing as satisfying as a row of neatly basted hexies.

And this evening I started piecing them into flowers

This will form part of the mini quilts I'm making for the Fat Quarterly Retreat sample swap.

I've also been plotting some embroidery - some to go with the hexagons, the next few months of my own BOM, the name tag for my partner at the Fat Quarterly Retreat, and some quilt labels. So the next few days may see some embroidery too.

I'm linking up with WIP Wednesday and heading over to check out some of the other eye candy! WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Monday, 24 June 2013

To Ireland with love [a finished quilt]

It's finished. Actually finished! And in time....

This quilt started as place mats, and grew a bit - you can read through the conversations I had with my father in this post here - at one point, when asked what colours the recipient liked we got the answer "I don't know. She wears a lot of scarves".....

In the end he did pull the fabrics we ended up with (with assistance) - 7 batiks in oranges, green, browns, blue and black, and Mum picked the background fabric, Floral Elements from Art Gallery. He also picked the layout which is from Gen X BOM (but made bigger). I love the negative space and it meant we could create a large double bed quilt in just a couple of months.

I knew that if I did the same block over and over I would get bored and the quilt would not get finished, so I picked a sampler style - 15 different traditional blocks from a variety of sources - the Gen X BOM, the Farmers Wife, Jelly Roll Sampler Quilts...., each made twice but with different combinations of fabrics and colours. I used about a meter of each fabric, a bit more of the bark brown for border and binding, and seven meters of the yellow.  The finished quilt is 106" x 106".
the colours in this photo are quite close to reality -
the background really is yellow-y

The backing nearly pushed me over the edge. Dad didn't like any of the backing fabrics I could find, so we ended up going for a super king size flat sheet. When it arrived it was 100" x 120". I might have said a rude word.... so I cut it apart and pieced a stripe. I could tell Dad wasn't convinced, but by this time he wasn't really being given much of a choice.

Linda and I basted the quilt. It did not want to go together smoothly. The backing was STILL too small. I might have said another rude word. Or two. We finished basting it and I cut a strip off the length, got home, forced the quilt under the sewing machine and stitched the strip onto the offending side. Then I re-basted. And got to the corner. And it still wasn't big enough. I said another rude word. And then grabbed a piece of a random fabric (used on the front of the quilt - not entirely random) and stitched it on. Dad is even less keen on these two little additions but they are tiny.

Quilting it went quite smoothly. I did a large stipple in the empty areas and a smaller stipple in the backround round the piecing, leaving the batiks unquilted. We basted it Monday night and by Wednesday I had  finished quilting and on Thursday it was bound and finished!

I still need to make a label, and write a letter which explains where the blocks have come from. But at the beginning of the quarter I put this on my Finish Along list with barely a block made, and in just three months I have a completed (large) quilt. I'm quite chuffed, and despite the odd additions to the backing, Dad also seems thrilled. In just a couple of weeks time it will be heading across the Irish Sea to its new home. About the same time that I will be linking up with Leanne!

she can quilt

Saturday, 22 June 2013

One Day, Three Quilts

Thursday was a great day for quilts. I finished three! That is not something that happens often.

The first finish was the big yellow giant which refused to be basted nicely on Monday. It's so large that I can't photograph it. I'm hoping to take some really good pictures this weekend - I just need it too stop raining and stop blowing a gale. So watch this space for a post all about it.

In the meantime I also finished two baby quilts! The blue and pink quilt for Ellie-Jo made from Color Me Retro is now finished.

This started as an "I love that fabric" moment when Color Me Retro first came out and before I knew whether Jane was expecting a boy or a girl - I'd been admiring plus quilts online so I made a piece 20" x 20" and wondered what to do with it. Luckily it was a girl (who will probably be a bit of a tomboy) so dark pink and blue is perfect. I made it bigger - 36" x 24" and then ignored it for a while. I finally got round to layering it up and decided to quilt 1/4" from all the seam lines.

I finished it off with binding in Pure Elements Fresh Water - the blue is perfect and I love this quilt.

 Ellie-Jo is a fabric baby and loves to fall asleep clinging on to a piece of fabric - maybe we have a quilter in the making! And best of all, Phil and Jane seemed to like it (Jane hadn't been keen on any quilts and was told E-J would be getting a quilt from Aunty Jennie whether Mammy liked it or not)!

This is one of my second quarter finished! So in a few weeks time I'll be linking up with Leanne.

she can quilt

The second baby quilt is definitely not eligible for the Finish Along - I only started it last Saturday! I put my 60 degree ruler to good use and made this quilt, which I'm calling Murmurations because it kind of reminds me of a row of starlings sitting on a fence (in a very stylized way) - also I just like the name which is the collective noun for a group of starlings - Mum has her very own breeding programme in the back garden and the squabble over the food like naughty toddlers.

This one is 45" x 36" and the fabrics are a total mixture from my stash: Backyard Baby, Pearl Bracelets, Architextures, Comma, Robert Kaufmann, Riley Blake, Gingham Safari, Kona Solids, Art Gallery Oval Elements, Painters Canvas, Sweetwater and some totally random fat quarters.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

WIP Wednesday [fighting back]

This quilt is fighting hard not to be finished. My deadline is bed time tomorrow because on Friday I have to go to work and then we are driving down to my parents and I have to hand over a finished quilt so Dad can take it to Ireland in the first week of July. No pressure.

Wadding for the quilt was tough. Normally my LQS has extra wide cotton wadding in. But they didn't. And it took forever to come in.....Backing for this quilt was tough. I found a lovely batik extra wide that would work with the batiks on the front. Dad didn't like it. We ended up with a super king size flat sheet in chocolate bought off Amazon. But of course, it didn't have the size on Amazon. When it arrived it turned out it was 120" x 100". Great. The quilt was 106" x 106". So I cut it apart and added in a pieced strip of leftover fabrics from the front. I hope Dad likes it - he didn't seem sure when I told him what I was planning.....

Linda and I took over the church hall on Monday evening and spent an hour and half trying to baste it. It really fought back. It didn't want to lay flat, there were wrinkles, and the backing was STILL 2" to short on one side. Grrrr. So I took a pair of scissors to the overlap from the long end, we finished basting it and when I got home I attached the strip to the side where I was short. Then crammed into a small piece of floor with the dogs desperate to help I tried to rebaste the bit of fabric I had unbasted to attach the extension strip. Only to find that in the final corner I was 3" short. I fixed it with a piece of fabric from the front - it's not really going to blend in. But right now I don't care. If Dad hates it, then that will be where the label goes:)

And then to quilt. Heavy quilt. Small table. The quilt may be misbehaving but my sewing machine behaved rather well except for some thread snapping..... all last night and all tonight and the quilt is quilted.

I've made the binding and I need to attach that tomorrow and then I have met my goal!!!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Busy Weekend!

Look at our garden now!

A whole load of mates came round yesterday and attacked the garden - we cleared all of the rubbish that was in the garden when we moved in (over four years ago) and that has accumulated since - there is currently a full skip on the drive. We still need to level off the area which will be the lawn, and then we can start moving things in - turf, flowers.... the bbq has moved in already and we thanked our friends with meat, meat and more meat!

But that isn't all we've been up to this weekend. Remember the ultimate classic - the S-reg Corsa my hubby used for the rally in May? It got another run out today - we took part in the Whickham and District Motor Club Rally. Together. As in he drive and I navigated. And we are not getting a divorce! We tested four and half years of marriage and we survived!!! We came seventh out of twenty cars - not bad!

And of course, I've done some sewing too. What would a weekend be without it. Debs's quilt is stalled. The top is fully pieced (I've added the final border) and the back is pieced - I bought a large good quality sheet, but when it came it wasn't quit big enough, so I had to add in a small pieced strip. I really hope it's big enough - I can't face doing more long seams for this project. Linda is helping me baste it tomorrow and then I need to get it quilted and bound by close of play on Thursday..... I can't photograph it at the moment - it's too big.

But with that project on the back burner I started a quilt that I had really written off as definitely not getting finished in time. Turns out I had a little time. There are quite a few baby's due at work over the next few weeks, so this is a quilt for my mentor. She doesn't know the sex of the baby, but I knew she was doing the nursery green, so I raided my stash and added in some orange (more than I had planned). Freshened it up with some strips of white and voila!

I'm calling this quilt Murmurations - it's the noun for a group of starlings and this makes me think (in a very stylised way) or rows of starlings sitting on a fence. My Mum loves to feed the birds and she has a few starlings in the garden. But Mammy and Daddy Starling have a brood and expect that nature will mean half the brood won't make it to adults. They don't count on Cafe Mum and all the bird food. So all the starlings from all the broods survive and absolutely fill Mum's garden. They are like five year-old squabbling and fighting over the food!

Something else that needs to be quilted before she leaves for maternity leave. Next Friday! I may not be sleeping much this week.....

And I finally finished block 7 of the City Sample. I've called this block Murmurations (the block name came before the quilt name) and the fabrics are Noteworthy (from Sweetwater), a yellow and pink stripe from Grandmother's Flower Garden for Lecien.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

WIP Wednesday [the one without much progress]

I can't even think of much to write. I'm not really feeling inspired to do anything at all really.....

I finished the hexagons for this month in the Get Your Hex On Bee - I love these fabrics and I've used them a few times in my own projects - it was so relaxing to put these together.

I basted a few more hexies too - still a few to go!

And I've made another two blocks of the City Sampler: Block #8: Square Sets: the name comes from ceilidh dancing where couples form square sets. On Saturday night we went to a ceilidh back home with my parents. My Dad plays in the ceilidh band (and I use to) and it was a great night, catching up with lots of old friends and making some new ones! The fabrics are Snow Queen (from Northcott), Kona Periwinkle and Natural Elements from Art Gallery.

And Block #9 Coproliters. This is the name of the band. Where I come from in Bedfordshire is an area rich in Coprolite - a mineral mined at the turn of the last century because it was a rich fertiliser. The men who mined it were known as ccoproliters. Coprolite is fossilised dinosaur dung!!!! The fabrics are Alchemy (Blend fabrics) and Flirt (Moda).

Block #7 is missing. I am really struggling picking fabrics for it..... so it will have to wait.

I'm linking up with Work In Progress Wednesday and heading over there in hope of some inspiration!

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Thursday, 6 June 2013


I don't have anything new today.  But I wanted to share with you a frustration I'm experiencing at the moment. Maybe putting it down on words will help me focus on it...

It's about hand sewing. I love hand sewing. It's where I started - with cross stitch.

My first quilt was made entirely to show off some embroidery.

This time last year I discovered and fell in love with English paper piecing.

I have so many ideas for things I would like to make that involve hand sewing.

My frustration is that I always seem to put it off. It's something I seem to do when I can't use my sewing machine like when I'm on holiday or visiting my parents. But then I'm there to have a holiday or spend time with my parents so I don't actually get as much higher stitching done as I planned.

The relative instant gratification of things made on the machine often wins out over hand sewing which takes longer. But do I do this hobby for finished items or do I do it for the process? I've always thought it was the process I enjoyed and getting pretty things at the end was a bonus. If that is still the case then slowing down and doing some hand sewing this summer should be easy. Right?

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

WIP Wednesday [Peppers]

I've jumped on the Zakka band wagon! Yesterday and today I made myself three Bell Pepper Coasters. What a fantastic design! These were really quick to put together and are so cute. They are finished, so not really a WIP but I would like to make at least one more so it's a set of three.

I love a lot of the projects in the book, but I really can't commit to a project a week, so I think I'll pick and chose which weeks I join in with, depending on other stitching at the time.

But I do have one enormous WIP this week: it's the quilt I'm making for Dad to give to some friends of his. I had planned on having a completed quilt top, but as you can see, it's looking a bit wonky in this picture.
Michael's arms aren't quit long enough -
there another row of blocks on the right too

That's because I ran out of the yellow... again. There are two more rows which I couldn't sash at the weekend. I picked up more yellow yesterday but got distracted by peppers...

I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday!

  WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

City Sampler [redo]

So two of this week's blocks have been niggling. They just weren't quite right. And I worked out why this afternoon - they just aren't saturated enough. Not bright enough! So I re-did them. I know it's early for a redo, but it was bugging me....

I'm trying really hard not to use fabrics from the same line together, to try and mix lines - it was hard today - Luxe in Bloom was tempting me....

Block number 5 [Fabric Delivery]

old one

new one

The fabrics are Floral Elements, Splendor 1920 and Luxe in Bloom (all from Art Gallery). I'm keeping the name even though I'm not using a fabric with postage stamps on any more

Block number 6 [ Horse Chestnut]

old one

new one

Fabrics are Textures, Pure Elements in Ash and Pure Elements in Lemonade (still not the most contrast but...)

And I've named Block 4 - Hebe and Lavender - because these are two plants I am going to have in my new garden - and the block colours are just right (well - a bright version of the colours)!

Monday, 3 June 2013

A few more blocks [City Sampler and Lucky Stars]

I can't get enough of these City Sampler blocks. Once I've got over picking fabrics they go together so quickly and they are so bright and saturated. So here are this week's blocks!

Block 4: as yet unnamed - I'm working on it. Fabrics are Color Me Retro from Art Gallery, Bella by Lotta Jansdotta,  Kona Dark Violet, Pearl Bracelets and Summersville Spring from Moda.

Block 5: Fabric Delivery, because I got a very good fabric delivery this week, and I'm using this wonderful postage stamp fabric from Free Spirit. Fabrics are Pearl Bracelets, a Kaufmann blender, and Postage Stamps.

Block 6: Horse Chestnut, because today we took out an enormous horse chestnut tree from our garden - by "we" I made a gardener. I loved the tree but it was just too big - you can see the process of jungle to bare earth on my previous blog post here. Fabrics are Brown Nature Elements from Art Gallery, a yellow from Makower, and Cupcakery from SPX Fabrics (this one may not make the final cut).

And I was so excited to receive the next Lucky Stars block in my inbox on Saturday that I made it straight away. Some of the pieces in the 6" block are quite tiny!

Tomorrow I need to pick up yet more yellow fabric for Debs's quilt - it seems to be eating fabric!