Tuesday, November 27, 2012

And the Traveling Stash Box #5 Winner is ...

It has been a busy week now that Thanksgiving is past, the Christmas gifts to be shipped out are awaiting wrapping and boxing up.  I'm incredibly happy to report that all six gift quilts are finished!  Photos to come right after Christmas!  So, once the boxes have been mailed I can concentrate on catching up on the FMQ Challenges missed over the past couple of months, and eagerly awaiting publication of our December challenge tutorial by Patsy Thompson.  I'll be sad to have this Challenge behind me, it has really helped me focus on this aspect of my quilting and that focus has led to noticeable improvement.  Best of all the Challenge has led to many new blog friends who all are ready to offer encouragement and suggestions when questions arise.  We're all in debt to SewCalGal for her dedication in taking on this monumental project and who has persevered far beyond what we can imagine to keep everything running smoothly. 

A while back I was the lucky winner of the monthly FMQ Challenge drawing, and on Friday my prize arrived.  Sew-Slip mat, sampler pack of various sizes of Aurifil thread, and a Sew-Line marking pencil with ceramic refill leads in three colors.  I've been wanting to try other weights of Aurifil threads and each little spool is a different weight.   An all-around great addition to my quilting room stash of supplies.  Thanks to each of the sponsors of our FMQ Challenge and to SewCalGal! 

OK, the Traveling Stash Box has been sitting in a corner of the sewing room long enough.  At press time there were 10 comments, and I asked my husband to be my random number generator.    He immediately said "One - the first person never thinks they're going to win."   OK then - Martha, this is your lucky day - I hope you bought a mega-lottery ticket!  Your box will be heading out as soon as I have an address.  Thanks to all who participated, and I hope you will enter again when Martha posts the box in the near future.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Spiraling toward the Holidays

Does it seem to you that we've been spiraling headlong into the busiest season of the year?  I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with friends and family and love!

Our November FMQ Challenge tutorial was presented by Sarah Vedeler, well known for her meticulously gorgeous quilting and embroidery designs.  Sarah provided us with templates for practicing basic spirals in a row using a grid system.  She challenged us to practice by tracing over the prepared templates and then moving on to blank templates before proceeding to our fabric.
I spent the first half of the month tracing those templates for 10-15 minutes each day, then attempted to free-hand draw them.  I won't bore you with the results of that.

Last week I decided upon a design and marked out my basic grid lines with blue washout marker.  Since the basic grid lines were a part of the design, I stitched the longest ones using the walking foot on my machine, before proceeding to the free motion quilting.
From there I spiraled my way along each of the strips, some more successfully than others.  The grids were marked at 1", 1-1/4", 1-1/2" and 2".   After filling in the grids, it was playtime, filling in the remaining areas with a variety of backgrounds.

 Finished at last:
 A detail of the back:
 One last view:

Last week I won one of the Traveling Stash Boxes and a chance to choose some items from the box and replacing them with items from my own stash of quilting fabrics and books. I've added some great FMQ books and other items which you can see here.  I hope you'll leave a comment on that post and enter to win a chance to have this stash box travel to your home!  The stash box giveaways are open to U.S. residents only, due to the high shipping costs of mailing abroad. 

Thanks to Sarah Vedeler for an excellent tutorial and to SewCalGal for hosting this fabulous challenge! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Traveling Stash - Fun in a Box and a Giveaway!

This has been a lucky month for yours truly, a couple weeks ago I won a FreshTech Automatic Jam and Jelly Maker which I posted about earlier today, and then late last week learned that Traveling Stash Box #5 would be paying me a visit!  Such fun!

The box arrived yesterday, and this is what I found inside:

And a close-up of the items at the back of the table:
After pondering all my choices from this wonderful stash, I selected two charm packs of Dots & Stripes, some child-themed fat quarters and one slightly larger coordinating print, a package of fancy multi-hued blanket binding, a pattern by Venezie Designs for a "melrose tote" and the book Quilts from Aunt Amy.

Now, what to add to the box to get it ready for its next journey and let the fun begin again!  I've been a participant in SewCalGal's Free Motion Quilting Challenge this year (link to this challenge can be found in the right sidebar), so it seemed fitting to add several items of interest to budding free motion quilters.  Into the box goes a copy of Don Linn's Sophisticated Stitches, a copy of Maurine Noble's book Machine Quilting Made Easy, a rotary cutter, and two spools of variegated cotton machine quilting thread to add to the two spools of Gutermann quilting thread already in the box.
I also included a pattern for a wall or baby quilt featuring sailboats and stars, a nearly 2 yard piece of cute springtime bunny fabric, and in keeping with the upcoming season, a sweet vintage Hallmark apron panel, one of two I found at a recent estate sale. (The panel is a uniform dark green in excellent condition, not faded as the photo would have you think.)

Something old, something new ... I've collected vintage sewing items for many years, and since there was a bit of extra room in the box, it now contains two vintage 1940-50s needle books (Happy Home and Sewing Susan), two packages of vintage 40s-50s transfer patterns, a circa 1950 automatic needle threader with thread cutter, and the ultra-new Groove Quilt Pattern by Emily Cier!   Who knows what else I'll find to add before the giveaway ends!
You can be the next recipient of this traveling stash box by leaving a comment on this post by Tuesday, November 27, 8 p.m. PST.   The traveling stash box giveaways are only open to U.S. residents due to high shipping costs to other destinations.  The complete set of rules for all the Traveling Stash Boxes and their current travels can be found at the Sewingly Along blog where Cherise manages to keep track of all of us!  A copy of the rules is also included in each box, along with a list of where it has previously traveled!

I'll choose a winner at random next Tuesday evening and post the winner on Wednesday, November 28!   Hope to send the box your way!

Jamming November Style

Yesterday was a stormy November day in the Yamhill Valley, with rain in inches and branches falling at nearly the same pace what with winds approaching 40-50 mph during the worst of it.  Couple that with intermittent power outages and what's a girl to do but whip up a batch of raspberry jam!

Marissa over at Food in Jars held a giveaway recently for a Ball FreshTech Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker and I won!  My new toy arrived late last week and for the past few days has been sitting on the counter beckoning me to experiment, so experiment I did.  The appliance comes with a small recipe book for several varieties of jam and jelly, all using the classic pectin that requires a huge amount of sugar in order to achieve a gel and preserving quality.  For years I've made all our jams using a low-methoxyl pectin that requires very little sugar to achieve a set, allowing your homemade jams and jellies to taste like real fresh fruit and not overpowered by sugary sweetness.  Low-methoxyl pectin is sold under the brand name Pomona at your local natural foods store, or can be ordered in bulk online which is the way we purchase it. 

So, would my low-methoxyl pectin work in this new contraption that uses an entirely different cooking method than the directions for my pectin required?  And, more importantly, would the power stay on for the required 21 minutes to make a batch of jam from start to finish?  I figured what did I have to lose - if the jam didn't come out exactly right, the worst we'd have would be raspberry topping for ice cream or chocolate cake - not exactly a losing situation in my book!  So, off to the kitchen we went.

My recipe:  6 cups crushed raspberries, in this case we had frozen our fruit immediately after harvesting in July, it was mostly thawed when placed in the pot along with 2 tsp of calcium solution (part of the low-methoxyl pectin process); then 2 tsp. of the powdered low-methoxyl pectin was mixed into one cup of sugar and added slowly after the raspberry/calcium solution mixture had heated for 4 minutes.  Then the vented lid is added and the jam boils vigorously for the remainder of the preset time. 
Simmering along - the jam maker has a non-stick inner surface plus a removable non-stick paddle system that stirs the jam during the entire cooking process - Nice!!   Even better, we didn't lose power again until literally seconds after I had turned off and unplugged the appliance!
The finished product:  one 8 oz jar for the freezer and one 12 oz jar for the frig, plus approximately 1/3 cup additional jam.    My assessment:  the Automatic Jam Maker works great for small batches of fruit and is great for wintertime canning projects.  In this case, the jam had a firmer set than I typically aim for, no doubt because the appliance keeps the mixture at a full boil the entire time, not to mention that my recipe was a total experiment and not one of the Ball-recommended recipes!  But, the finished product is delicious and I think that either shortening the cooking time from the preset one and/or using a bit less pectin mixture would achieve the slightly looser set I'm more used to.  A shorter cooking time would also lessen the amount of evaporation taking place, increasing the yield closer to the expected 4 8-oz jars.  More experimentation is definitely in order.   The good news is you don't have to use huge quantities of sugar to achieve a satisfactory jam or jelly!

I love the fact that the paddles do the continuous stirring for you, and this will be a great method for making some of my favorite recipes that typically yield small batches, mango chutney and tomato-peach marmalade to name a couple.  Could this appliance also produce tomato paste?  Next summer's crop of Roma tomatoes will provide us with another tasty experiment. 

I hope you'll check out Marissa's delightful Food in Jars blog for tons of  delicious inspiration!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bloggers Quilt Festival Nominations

It's November 1, a chilly rainy, windy day here in the Yamhill Valley.  What better day to brew a fresh cup of green tea and spend some time reviewing the 628(!) beautiful entries in the Fall 2012 Bloggers Quilt Festival, going on right now at Amy's Creative Side.  Just click the link to the right of this post to go to her page containing the links to each entry.   Grab a pencil and a big sheet of paper to make notes on your favorites, because nominations begin today.

Nominations and voting are open to all, even if you haven't entered a quilt.  You can click here to go directly to the nomination form. 

My little teddy bear toddler quilt, entered under the scrap quilt or baby quilt categories, is #127, should you choose to honor me with a nomination and/or vote.
Enjoy the Festival!  I'm nearly halfway through all the entries, and looking forward to seeing all the rest!  Good luck to all of you who entered this twice-yearly extravaganza of quilting fun!