Saturday, 26 July 2014

Caturday Wisdom #78

You may encounter large obstacles in your life, but occasionally you'll find something...
 ...that Ralph's large obstacle of a butt can't fit on. Ivy

To be fair, Ralph is also too scared to even try to get onto this little shelf as it's over the fireplace we have been using A LOT this past freezing week. The heated-floor effect of the fireplace is what makes it so desirable but really I think Ralph's inability to kick her off makes that smug little cat smile you see above.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Megan from Jaffa Quilts

Today I'm thrilled to welcome a fellow Kiwi quilter as my Thursday Inspiration interviewee.  Megan from Jaffa Quilts makes awesome modern quilts and I've loved watching her journey as a quilter.

Megan and I yet to meet in person, but we are planning a catch up some time when we're both in the same city.  In the meantime I'll keep enjoying her blog and her lovely quilts from a distance.  Here's Megan - as always, my questions are in bold and her answers are in normal text.


Does your family have a quilting or sewing history, or are you a first generation quilter? 
I'm a first generation quilter. Both my grandmothers were knitters and one was a spinner and weaver as well but I think sewing generally fell into the 'mending' category for my nanas. I talked mum into letting me go to a community college night class when I was still at school because I wanted to learn how to sew. Yep, I was the 15 year old in the class of mature women...

How did you start quilting, and how long have you been quilting for? 
I started quilting after I went into a patchwork shop to buy some fabric to finish a cross-stitch project. There was a quilt on display that I fell in love with and I signed up to a beginner's class on the spot. That was in 2011, so that makes this my fourth year of quilting.

How would you describe your quilting style? 
I don't think I have one. I like trying out different styles and techniques as the spirit moves me. I like the modern aesthetic but quite often I'm drawn to more traditional quilts. I like quilts that have a sense of depth or movement but I'm still trying to figure out how to achieve that.

Peaks - I think Megan playing around with equilateral triangles inspired my own equilateral obsession

Where do you find inspiration for your quilts? 
I have a number of favourite bloggers so often I'll see something of theirs that inspires me to try something, whether it be a pattern or a technique.

Do you like to follow patterns or create your own designs (or a bit of both)?
I quite like patterns because I'm really lazy when it comes to quilt maths. But invariably I mess around with a pattern and adapt it a little, sometimes unintentionally if I'm honest. I'd create my own designs more if I worked fewer hours and had a lovely designated sewing room with a huge design wall and a door that I could close *sigh.

Are you a member of a local guild? 
I belong to a fun little Auckland group we call Monday Modern. We meet once a month to oooh and aaah over each others' projects, make confessions about our fabric issues, laugh, and complete challenges or bees.


Have you ever met any of your online sewing friends in real life?
Yes! One day when I was bogged down in the final stages of writing my thesis, Liz (Shush, I'm Quilting) emailed me out of the blue to ask me how I was going with my thesis because I was on a blogging break. I was touched that a stranger (albeit a stranger that read my blog) had considered my real life, it was a lovely bright moment at a bit of a grey time. We started emailing and eventually we met and became friends in real life. I've not had online 'friends' before, so it makes me giggle to myself when I'm trying to explain how I met Liz to my non-quilty friends. I'm hoping to meet Rachel@woodenspoon, Deb and Julie at their next sew day, and disappointed not to meet you when you came along to Monday Modern. Hopefully another time?

How did you decide to start your blog?
Honestly, on a complete whim, and mostly to have a journal of my quilting adventures. I was very shy at first and wouldn't comment on blogs and thought no one would ever comment on mine so it was a bit of a solo endeavour for a while. I think Nicole (Mama Love Quilts) was one of my first few followers and kindly gave me some helpful tips.

Do people in your personal and professional life know about your quilting and blogging or do you keep it under wraps? 
I don't actively keep it a secret, but let's just say I may not talk about it all that much ;-)

AMH (I don't think regular readers will be surprised by my love for this quilt)

What is your favourite thing about the online quilting community? And what is one thing that you would change, if you could?
I like that it IS a community, so that if you have this quirky hobby and don't know anyone else who does it in your real life social group, you can connect with other quirky types :-) As far as changes go, that's probably best answered by talking about what I like. I love blog posts that narrate. I'm a reader, so I like some story and a discussion of process. I particularly like reading about how people make their design decisions. I would like to see us celebrating 'slow' a bit more and focusing more on process than end product. As Karyn (Milly Made It) likes to say "quilting is not a speed sport". I've also stopped following bloggers who are now predominantly advertisers. Probably enough said there!

Confession time - how many quilts do you have in your house right now?
A very modest five tee hee. I'm glad you didn't ask how many of my quilts live at my mother's house.

Do you do any crafts other than quilting?
I've done cross-stitch and tapestry on and off over the years. I used to do quite a bit of dress making but I haven't done that for ages.

Where do you see your quilting going - is it a career or a hobby for you and would you like to change that?
Haha, definitely a hobby only, it's the way I relax as a healthier alternative to wine drinking. Having said that, some of my academic research interests (I'm an education lecturer) are around alternative education spaces like online teaching and learning communities, and also around the complexity of relationships between capitalism and education spaces. So, while a big part of my involvement in the online quilting community is purely hobby based, quite often I find it helps me think in different ways about my work - maybe my quilting contributes to my career?!


Do you have any tips or tricks or things that have changed your quilting life that you'd like to share? 
Mmmm. Don't use your ruler upside down when cutting. Measure several times before cutting, especially when trying to simultaneously watch tv. Have a large dark drawer or cupboard for naughty projects that need time out. Oh, and try a Sewline pen at least once for basting hexes.

What is your favourite part of the quilting process (and what's your least favourite part)? 
I love trimming (I'm reliably informed this puts me in the 'weird' category). I also love hand stitching bindings. I struggle to enjoy alligator wrestling which is how I think of machine quilting.

If you could do a quilting class with anyone at all, who would you choose?
I think I'd really like to do a class with Gwen Marston. Or Robyn Croft, who is a New Zealand quilter whose work I admire. Or probably just about anyone who had a quilty skill they wanted to share and was enthusiastic about sharing it.

Baby plus quilt

Are there any quilting techniques you haven't tried yet but that you'd like to? 
I've been a bit coy (read terrified) about appliqué to date. It's right up there with FMQ, which is my ultimate Moriarty.

What's something about you that people might be surprised to know? 
I'm really really squeamish and inclined to faint at the sight of blood or needles. When I taught in schools I used to warn my students not to count on me if they injured themselves. It goes without saying I'm super careful with my rotary cutter.

Thanks so much to Megan for participating.  She's name-dropped a heap of awesome New Zealand quilt bloggers, so as well as checking out Megan's blog, Jaffa Quilts, you should really pop along and visit them too.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Fat Quarter Friendly Oven Mitt Tutorial (with patchwork option and afghan recipe)

I wrote this tutorial last year for Leanne at she can quilt as part of the 2013 Finish Along.  I've been meaning to re-post it here but came up with the idea of a version with patchwork pockets and felt like I really needed to try it out first!  So, here is the original tutorial, with some additional instructions in case you feel like making a version with patchwork pockets.  Also, I posted about making afghans, a very New Zealand biscuit*, on instagram lately, and someone asked if I'd post the recipe, so I thought I'd include it here.

This oven mitt is a pretty quick project, which I think is perfect for gifts - what could be better than an oven mitt customised to the recipient's kitchen?  It is also a solution to that gifts-for-guys dilemma we all face - it's something practical that a man who likes cooking will actually use (I made one for my Dad for Christmas 2012 and he's still using it). I personally really like this style of oven mitt because even if you don’t have any hooks in your kitchen, you can easily hang it over the handle of your oven, and it lets you use both hands.

To make this oven mitt, you only need a single fat quarter of your chosen feature fabric, which makes it a perfect project to use up those “just because” fat quarters – you know, the ones you bought just because you love the fabric, not because you had a plan for it at the time!

What you will need

- 1 fat quarter of your feature fabric
- 2 scrap pieces of fabric, 9” by 7”
- 34” by 11” piece of backing fabric
- 30” by 10” piece of low loft cotton batting
- 30” by 10” piece of Insul-Bright (insulated batting)
- At least 70” bias binding (2 1/4" or 2 1/2" wide)
- Freezer paper
- Printed template

Download templates here

Tips before you start

It's a good idea to read the full tutorial all the way through before you start.

When choosing fabrics for this project, bear in mind that they will be touching hot dishes.  For this reason, I would recommend that you stick to natural fibres like cotton and/or linen which can stand up to the heat. If you're not sure, think about whether you would iron the fabric hot and with steam.  If not, it's probably not suitable.

You need bias binding for this project so that it can go around the curved ends of the oven mitt - straight grain binding will not work. You can use store-bought bias binding or make your own.

If you use store bought bias binding, make sure it is 100% cotton, otherwise you run the risk of it melting on contact with hot dishes (I used poly-cotton binding on the first version of this oven mitt I made, and had to rip it off after I melted it with my iron...).

If you make your own bias binding, cut it the width that you would normally cut binding for a quilt.  I like a narrow binding, so I cut mine 2 1/4" wide, but with the extra layer of the Insul-Bright, it was a bit of a squeeze so 2 1/2" wide binding might have been better.

Finally, don't be put off by the inclusion of Insul-Bright in this tutorial.  I thought it might be expensive or hard to find here in New Zealand (we don't generally have as large a range of quilting goods available here as in the US, for example), but I found it easily and at several places.  I know it is definitely available at Spotlight in New Zealand and Australia, I believe it is available at Joann's in the US, and if necessary you can buy it online quite readily.

Step 1 – Preparing templates 

Print the template on A3 paper, making sure that your print settings are “actual size” or "scale 100%" – measure the 1” test square to check. Put a piece of freezer paper over your template, with the shiny side down, and trace around the template. Cut both piece 1 and piece 2 out of the freezer paper so that you have two freezer paper templates.

Step 2 – Preparing fabric 

Iron your fat quarter and fold in half, aligning the shortest cut edge with the selvedge. Square up the edges. Cut your fat quarter into two strips approximately 9” by 20”. Trim the selvedge off both pieces. Sew one scrap piece of fabric to each end of one of the fat quarter strips, and press, so that you end up with a strip approximately 9” by 34”. Press the fold line again to keep it crisp. 

If you are making the patchwork pocket version, you can use a strip of plain fabric for this step - but the principles are the same.

Step 2A - Preparing the patchwork pockets

You can make whatever patchwork you like for the pockets - you just need to end up with two pieces about 8.5" square.  You don't want to leave all the seams of your patchwork exposed though, because your pocket will fall apart after a bit of use.

Patchwork oven mitt

The solution is to line your pockets and it is really simple to do.  Take a plain piece of fabric which is the same size as your patchwork piece (I used white fabric to line my pockets because of the white based fabrics I used).  Place your patchwork piece and lining fabric right sides together and stitch together along one edge.  Fold the pieces so they are wrong sides together and press the seam so it is nice and neat.  Topstitch along the seam to create a nice finish. 

Patchwork oven mitt

Step 3 – Cutting pieces 

Put the freezer paper template for piece 1 on the longer strip cut from your fat quarter, aligning the straight edge of the template with the folded edge of the strip. Iron the freezer paper on to your fabric using a dry iron. Cut around the freezer paper template.

Put the freezer paper template for piece 2 on the shorter strip cut from your fat quarter, aligning the straight edge of the template with the cut edge of the strip. Iron the freezer paper on to your fabric using a dry iron.

Cut around the freezer paper templates and remove.  You should now have a single version of piece 1, and two versions of piece 2 for the pockets.

For the patchwork pockets version, follow the instructions as above.  Since you will have made each pocket separately, you will need to stick the freezer paper onto each patchwork piece and cut twice.

Step 4 – Making your quilt sandwich 

Make a quilt sandwich in the following order, and baste using your preferred method:

 • backing fabric – right side down
 • Insul-Bright insulated batting
 • cotton batting
 • piece 1 – right side up

Step 5 – Quilting

Quilt as desired. For durability, I recommend that you quilt the oven mitt quite densely. Personally, I think this project is perfect for trying out a new free-motion quilting design. A small project is easier to manoeuvre and doesn’t take long to quilt even if the design is complicated or dense.  That said, I was in the mood for straight lines when I quilted this particular oven mitt, and I think they look good too!

Once the oven mitt is quilted, use the edge of the feature fabric as a guide and trim away the excess batting and backing fabric.

Step 6 – Add the pockets 

Take both of the pocket pieces and fold the straight edge over ¼” and press. Fold over another ¼” and press again to create a tidy hem. Top stitch along the edge of the hem on each piece. If you are making the patchwork pockets version, you can skip this step because you have already created a finished seam at the top of your pockets.

Pin each pocket piece onto the quilted body of the oven mitt. Sew around the edge, about 1/8” from the edge. You won’t see these stitches once the oven mitt is bound, so don’t stress too much about making them perfect.

Step 7 – Binding

Pin the bias binding around the edge of the oven mitt, attaching it to the front side (with the pockets and feature fabric). Stitch in place using a quarter inch seam.

Finish the binding using your preferred method - I hand stitched mine down, but you could machine stitch it.

And you're done!

Patchwork oven mitt

This is my version with the patchwork pockets - you can see that I made a patchwork panel for the other side as well, just for fun.  I used the Arcadia collection by Sarah Watson for Cloud 9 Fabrics for the patchwork - it's just so pretty.

Patchwork oven mitt

Here you can see that my pockets are lined, so there are no exposed seams.

Phew - if you've made it this far through this mammoth blog post, you deserve a snack.  Afghan biscuits* are a peculiar New Zealand delicacy, although why this deliciousness hasn't spread further escapes me, because they are really good and really easy to make.  Here is the recipe, from my well used copy of the Edmonds Cookbook (another kiwi classic).


200g (7oz) salted butter (use real butter, it's better)
1/2 cup (110g/3 7/8 oz) white sugar
1/4 cup (20g/3/4oz) cocoa (dutch cocoa is extra yummy)
1 1/4 (160g/5 5/8oz) cups plain flour
2 cups cornflakes (not the sweetened kind)

Chocolate icing*

Knob of butter, melted (again, use the real stuff)
Icing sugar*
1 tablespoon or so of cocoa
Boiling water

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (360 degrees fahrenheit).  Soften, but do not melt, and then cream butter.

How to make afghans

Add sugar, and beat again.

How to make afghans

Sift in flour and cocoa.

How to make afghans

Mix to combine.  Don't worry if your mixture seems too dry to start with - keep mixing and it will come together.  Use your hands if it's easier.

How to make afghans

Add cornflakes and mix well to combine.

How to make afghans

Form into balls (or thick discs, depending on your preference), and place on a greased or baking paper lined oven tray.

How to make afghans

Bake for about 15 minutes.  I usually put mine in for 10 minutes and then check how they're doing, and leave them in for another 3 to 5 minutes.  You want to err slightly on the side of undercooking, rather than overcooking.  Remove from oven using your pretty new oven mitt.

How to make afghans

Allow the afghans to cool completely, and then top with chocolate icing (mix all the chocolate icing ingredients from above together until you have a thick but still spreadable icing.  It's hard to give quantities but expect to use about 1 cup of icing sugar).  If you want, put half a walnut on each biscuit while the icing is still soft.

How to make afghans

Consume with tea or coffee or just on their own.  Store in an air tight container (we are using our delightful heirloom tupperware) until they've all been eaten (I'm sure afghans would go bad at some point but we've never hit it - they don't last more than a few days in my household).

*Translation for my US friends:
Biscuits = cookies
Icing = frosting
Icing sugar = powdered or confectioner's sugar

I hope you enjoy!  If you make an oven mitt (or afghans) using my tutorial, let me know!

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Block a Day July - Week 3

This weekend I managed to take a quick photo of all my blocks so far.  I'm quite pleased with how my quilt is coming along (and that I'm more than halfway through the month).

Block a Day July - Weeks 1 to 3

This week's blocks, all in the bottom row. From left to right: 14 July - Fussy catting, 15 July - Stars, 16 July - Dreaming of summer (it's so bloody cold at the moment), 17 July - Drifting away.  Nine patch because that was what I was teaching that night, colours chosen because of that annoying but catchy song. 18 July - Nearly didn't happen but then I decided it was more fun than cleaning out the litter box, 19 July - Nearly silent, 20 July - A heart because that's a shape I can draw.

Here's the link-up for other people who are playing along.  I love seeing everyone else's blocks and there are some seriously cool things being made.

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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Caturday Wisdom #77

Get out and about, it could result in delicious cobwebs! Ralph

I suppose they're like candy floss for cats but it's totally revolting, anyone else's pets indulge in this?
I think I need to plant some more cat grass for them when it gets a bit closer to Spring.
Happy weekend!