Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Own View

It was interesting to see #2015bestnine on Instagram and the Best of 2015 here on the blog, but from where I sit, things look and feel a little different. Numbers aside, I have my own favorites...

Each of the quilts pictured in this post gave me a singular pleasure in the making, and Steeped in Tradition and Mod Mood are close runners up. And though making quilts is mostly what it's been about, there have been some other moments worth mentioning, and more to come.

During the last year:
  • My daughter Rachel/Snippet of Sweetness, and I were able to attend QuiltCon, which was an amazing experience all around, and we pretty much couldn't stop grinning just because we were actually there. Plus I got to see my Fissures hang in the show. I honestly gasped when I first rounded a corner and saw it.
  • As a member of Bee Sewcial, an improv bee working only in solids, I've been challenged in new ways and found I love improv way more than I realized. 
  • I stepped up to being lead of Faith Circle, a part of the charity bee do.Good Stitches. Starting with my circle as a stitcher in 2011, then becoming a quilter in 2013, it seemed only natural to take on this new role when it was offered.
  • Being asked to share on Tsoniki's me being crafty podcast was surreal yet fun! Plus it was a good exercise in thinking about why I do what I do and where it all started.
  • Three new tutorials were created, and I even set up a Craftsy presence, just because.
  • Something I had no inking I would ever do at the year's start was accept speaking engagements. I shared The Creative Use of Neutral Fabric with the Fidalgo Island Quilters and The Improv Process with the Tacoma Modern Quilt Guild. Uh, both experiences were way more enjoyable than I expected; and though alot of work to prepare for, so very affirming. 
  • I brought The Scrap Basket newsletter to life after encouragement in a lecture at QuiltCon, and boy has it been fun! Having grown to over 700 subscribers, it's been a great place to expand what I do on the blog, as well as highlight the work of others. 
A new year is always filled with unknowns, but from what I do know, there's a couple of added roles I'll be playing:
  • Louise/I'm Feelin' Crafty and I are heading up the SMQG giving committee and we have huge shoes to fill.
  • As I already shared, I've joined the team of 2016 Finish-A-Long cohosts. This group has been so motivating to me over the last few years. I hope you consider joining us!

With that, I hope to step back from the over-posting you've been succumbed to the last week as I shared my end-of-year projects, and take some time with family. So you may not hear from me for a few days. Then again, you might. Either way, here's to facing a fresh new year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Finish-A-Long :: Changes

So are you familiar with the Finish-A-Long? If you've been around here a while, I'm sure you've figured out that the FAL is a place to find motivation and encouragement to complete your unfinished projects. At the beginning of every quarter, you post a list of projects you hope to finish in the next three months. Then at the end of the quarter, you post a link of each successful finish from your original list, and you can do that from your blog, Flickr or Instagram. Each finish is an entry for wonderful prizes from generous sponsors. But know that the FAL is a no-obligation and no-penalty affair. Just alot of fun while trying to get those projects finished. And there is big news for the 2016 Finish-A-Long!

The FAL has grown and grown since Rhonda/Rhonda's Ramblings started it in 2012 in the USA. It moved to Canada in 2013 where Leanne/she can quilt hosted it, then in 2014 it was off to Scotland in the UK where Katy/The Littlest Thistle was in charge. Then in 2015 it moved to New Zealand where Adrianne/On the Windy Side has been doing the honors. And it really has become too big for just one blogger.

So the 2016 FAL is going completely global and a community of bloggers across the world will be jointly hosting. Considering the FAL has spurred me on to complete numerous projects as well as been a companionable community every since I joined back in 2012, I couldn't resist when invited to co-host the FAL this year. Our hosts will include:
Cool, right? There will be shared link-ups that will appear on all the hosting blogs, though you only need to link on one. Other than the co-hosting aspect and the multi-site link-ups, the FAL will remain pretty much unchanged and we are sure hoping that you will join us.

Please link up your 2015 fourth quarter (Q4) finishes with Adrianne/On the Windy Side from December 31, 2015 through January 6, 2016.
2015 Finish-Along

And then plan to join me in the 2016 FAL. The first quarter (Q1) link for your proposed list of finishes will open on January 7, 2016 right here as well as on the blogs of all of the new community hosts. In the meantime, you can grab the 2016 FAL button up top and follow along with everyone in the hosting community. On Instagram and other social media, for 2016, let's all use the hashtag #2016FAL and follow the FAL account @finishalong. I'm working on a tab with all the pertinent info here at A Quilter's Table, and a facebook page is in the works. So start thinking about your first quarter list. It's going to be a terrific time!

Tuesday at the Table

It wasn't really a competition. Which is a good thing, as we are bacon-loving people, and we pretty much devour it all. But when the traditional Coffee & Brown Sugar Bacon came to the table on Christmas Morning, it had company.

We had given son-in-law a smoker last Christmas, and since we'd missed his smoked turkey at Thanksgiving, I think he was making it up to us by curing and smoking some Christmas bacon. Oh yeah, he's handy to have around, and let's just add that we enjoy his edible experiments.

So in the photo, the coffee bacon is on the left, the home-smoked on the right. They obviously are quite different, but both deemed very very good. Really, what's more to say than that?

Monday, December 28, 2015

By the Numbers

After a quick scroll on Instagram the other day, it seemed the thing to do was head over to and see what your #2015bestnine posts where - those that had gotten the most likes! On to bloglovin', and Cheryl/Meadow Mist Designs was hosting a “Best of 2015” linky party. I was curious which of my blogposts had the most views [excluding giveaways], and here's what I found out.


Studio Five :: Sewing & Cutting Surface

The Go-To Gift

Quarter-Cut Baby Quilt Tutorial

Studio Six :: Pressing Surface

Well,  I honestly was surprised - only two of my most-viewed posts were for completed quilts! And two were not even sewing projects! But what these showed me is that what I enjoy doing - making quilts, improving my space, and making smaller sewn items - is perfectly ok with my viewing audience. So then. I guess I'll just keep doing what I love!

Linking up with Best of 2015.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Zakka Fabric Bucket

Having surrounded  myself with pillows, making this fabric bucket was a welcome change. I'd happened upon one I'd pinned on Pinterest that was made by Amber/One Shabby Chick during a blog-hop for Zakka Handmades by Amy Morinaka of chick chick sewing [chickchicksewing]. Lucky me, I had a copy on my bookshelf and got to work. The pattern calls for pre-quilted fabric, but I didn't have that, and instead made my outside panel doing qayg on cotton batting. I also added fusible SF101 Shape-Flex to the lining fabric, and even though the finished bucket isn't stiff by any means, it stands up just fine, and I'd do the same again.

It might have helped that for the bottom, I did some dense grid quilting to add to the sturdiness.

This bucket's the medium option, 9 1/2" diameter x 11 1/4" high, and it's really roomy. I'm kind of thinking I need to make myself one too. Where I made this one with a very controlled scrappiness, using a handful of coordinating Cotton+Steel fat-quarters, I think it would be great fun totally scrappy, don't you?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Pillows :: Round Two

So when I counted them up, I'd made 5 pillows plus 3 pillow covers as gifts this Christmas. They've all been gifted now, so after sharing three a few days ago, here's the rest.

After visiting family in Tennessee for Thanksgiving, I came home with the plan to make a pillow cover for my mom, who traveled back with us and is staying with my brother and sister-in-law for a couple of months. Mom has a pillow back there that needed a cover, so I guessed at the size, though alas, I was off. But at least it was fun to make, and got re-gifted to my niece, which is cool.

Also while back there, I gave my brother and his wife my Askew quilt, and it was mentioned right off that some coordinating pillows would be a nice addition. I made a pair of 17" covers to send off, then ordered pillow forms on Amazon and had them shipped straight to their home. Worked like a charm.

My son-in-law's grandma is a quilter and fabric-lover, and I happened to notice her pin Cluck Cluck Sew's Sprocket Pillow on Pinterest. This one was perfect to make with scraps, which I knew she would appreciate. I made the 14" version, stuffed it with poly-fill as directed, and it went together really smoothly. I covered a 1 1/2" diameter button for each side, and then came the trickiest part - securing those buttons. I'm not too keen on doing that again any time soon, but I do love the end result.

Just a couple of days before Christmas, I got to work on one last pillow and I really wasn't sure I could get it done in time. Hubby had loved the size of The Christmas House pillow I'd made for our guild swap, commenting that it would be perfect for him and his comfy chair. When I asked what it would look like, he said whatever I thought would go in our family room. Oh yeah - free reign!

So fingers crossed, I gathered up the extra bits my Bee Sewcial beemates had sent - little pieces that didn't make it into my Mod Mood quilt that hangs in that room - and put them together into a pillow cover, filling in with more solids and some gray chambray. Considering I only wanted a 12" x 24"' pillow per hubby's request, it went together pretty quickly, and I quilted it with the same organic zig zag as the original.

I'll confess I was pretty thrilled with the end result, and better yet, so was hubby. It's already being put to good use. yay.

Linking up with Fabric Tuesday and Scraptastic Tuesday.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Wish

Wishing you and your family a Christmas
filled with wonder, joy, & peace!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Some of That Secret Sewing

Why in the world I had a yard of aqua Essex linen in my stash, I have no idea. But last night, it was the most perfect discovery. I'd decided nearly last minute that some holiday napkins would be a perfect gift, and Katarina Roccella's Fairisle Hearts (which remind me of snowflakes) the perfect fabric. And since I had no white linen on hand, what could be better but the aqua. Isn't it great when that happens?

I saw Diane/Random or "di" [ylmommyx4] show off some beautiful linen dinner napkins she had just made, and they reminded me that daughter dear [snippetsofsweetness] had made me some with that very patternLinen [Thanksgiving] Napkins by Purl Soho. I followed Rachel's lead, and made mine cocktail size (10" linen squares + 12" cotton squares). They went together perfectly, and I was able to make a set of six in just under an hour. Dare I say, I kinda love them?

Another little gift I made and gifted recently was a That Red Cup mug rug, a clever little pattern by Tessa/Half Square Quilts [tessaraewilliams]. It measured 6x9" when done, and hopefully gives my Starbucks-loving friend a smile.

So that's all I can show till Christmas is over. And I'm officially calling the frantic Christmas sewing DONE. Now to just enjoy, and take it all in.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The First Round

I don't even know how it started, but I made alot of pillows as Christmas gifts this year. They are all unique, and let's just say I do a very nice lapped zipper technique by memory now! Here's a few that have already been gifted. 

Scraps were incorporated whenever possible, so doing a log cabin with a fussy-cut center was a no-brainer. You can't see, but I used that C+S washi tape print as the backing, and it pulled the whole thing together nicely, plus the recipient loved it, which was a bonus. 

After seeing Katherine/Sew Me Something Good share her scrappy patchwork tree pillows, I dove right in and really enjoyed putting this one together. And for the record, quilting these babies up was fun and really quick. I layered the pillow tops with batting and backing before quilting, so they have a nice feel to them when stuffed.

I debated for a while what to do for this third pillow, and finally happened across Lee/Freshly Pieced's Fair Isle quilt pattern, and realized one poinsettia block would be a perfect pillow. I used two stash solids, Kona Rich Red and Cardinal and the combo really is quite striking in person against that white.

All pillow forms are 16", and I cut both the zippered backings and the quilted fronts exactly 16", and using a 1/2" seam, the resulting pillows are plump and full. Just as they should be, right?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tuesday at the Table

As busy as the season is, one of the times I enjoy cooking and sharing around the table the most is the Christmas season. For no good reason, entertaining isn't as prevalent as it once was, but this year we are at least gathering friends in one night, and family on Christmas Day. Knowing many of you are celebrating in one way or another over the next couple of weeks, I figured I'd share a few of the new recipes we're trying, and remind you of past ones that are worth bringing back.

First up was the company dinner last night. Isn't a nice cheese platter one of the easiest and most welcoming things? Quick to throw together when time is short.
We served ours with good crackers, special-occasion finocchiona, purchased quality fig jam, and pecans (recipe below). Let's just say it went over just fine.

Crunchy Glazed Pecans
from Simply Classic

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 Tb. water
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound pecan halves

Preheat oven to 250-degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Combine butter, corn syrup, water, and salt in saucepan and bring to a boil. Add pecans and stir to completely coat nuts.Spread evenly on baking sheet and bake 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool and serve.

Hubby's the in-house bar-tender and had several options for pre-dinner drinks, but everyone wanted the same thing: Apple Cranberry Moscow Mules. And until our supply ran out, they were served in the traditional copper mugs. Oh yeah.

I'd watched Alton Brown make Pork Wellington the other night on Food Network, and knew right off it was full of ingredients we know and love. And I can usually trust Alton, so took a risk, and even did all the prep the day before. It turned out deliciously and our guests raved. To serve alongside, I had also prepped ahead Baked Polenta with Fontina Cheese from epicurious. Also deemed delish, and we do love polenta with pork. Add to that a nice salad and artisan rolls, and a work-night supper was served.

So we have a bit of an entertaining breather until the family comes over on Christmas Day. We'll start things off with brunch, repeating the popular and yummy Cinnamon French Toast with Ricotta Filling, served up with Coffee Bacon. Though I hear son-in-law is curing and smoking his own bacon this year, so we'll see how it measures up with our traditional.

If you need a little treat for Boxing Day, consider Smitten Kitchen's gingerbread biscotti. Or for dessert after a large meal, Affogato is super easy but satisfying. In fact, you'll find a bunch of ideas listed under the Tuesday at the Table tab above. Whatever you make or serve, do savor your time around the table.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

That Bucket List

It surprised me to see that it had been over 18 months since I'd composed a quilty bucket list as part of the Quilty Bucket List Blog Hop hosted by Stacey/The Tilted Quilt. The other day out of the blue, it dawned on me that I should see how I was progressing, as I really hadn't been giving it much thought. Come to find out, I was 6/10, which is just where I may stay for a while. Then again it may be the end of the story. Below's a quick report - you'll see my original statements in italics, followed by my current thoughts. I've included alot of links, if you want to see my original inspiration or reveal posts.

1. Years ago when I was a beginning quilter, the quilt that seemed most beautiful and elusive was the Irish Chain. I still have pages ripped from a magazine showing my dream quilt. It seems only right that someday, I actually make one. When it came right down to it, I found I didn't actually want to make one like I had always imagined. I did, in fact, make a modern facsimile, and I may just be happy enough with that.

Mod Irish, June 2015

2. The Churn Dash block is my favorite traditional block and I'd love to make a quilt with a modern take on it. I still love this block, but. Unless I come up with that modern twist, I probably won't be making a full-size quilt. I think I'll count this pillow, using the Nested Churn Dash pattern by quilt jane, and mark this one off the list.

3. A barn quilt has been a relatively new add to my TO DO list. Hubby and I came across barns with painted quilts on a drive through Eastern Washington, and we were so taken by them. I'm not quite sure what block I want to do yet though . . . I still love them and I still don't know. I kinda think I'll just keep admiring them on barns.

4. Next up is a color wheel quilt. I'm contemplating Tula's new pattern, but we'll see. I went another direction on this one, and used Nicole/mama love quilts' pattern The Motley Wheel. Twice!

Motley, February 2015

Neutral Wheel, October 2015

5. Pixelated quilts sound difficult and mind-boggling, but I'm also very intrigued by them. I do have a pattern in mind - we'll see if I can manage to execute it. I still have the idea, but am overwhelmed by it, so....

6. I've wanted to make another hst quilt ever since I said goodbye to my one and only, HST Love, which was a project by FAITH Circle. Not sure this one will become a reality, but every time I see the original, it still makes me smile.

7. I was so taken by this Double Wedding Ring by Greenleaf Goods - a traditional block done improv. I'm mulling over which block to do for this too, but I'd really like to give this idea a go! I went with the Log Cabin - two-sided, in fact - and enjoyed it immensely.
Steeped in Tradition, November 2015 

8. I like brown. And unpopular as it often is, I'd really like to make a brown quilt. The brown stash is growing, waiting for its time. I still like brown and a nice stack still awaits. Patiently.

9. My overflowing scrap basket influenced my decision to add a Postage Stamp quilt to my list. This one is actually in progress, so there's a decent chance it'll become a reality. I did this! Though not in the way I'd intended, basically because I got bored!

2¢ Stamp, July 2014

10. LOVE triangle quilts. One of these days I've just got to get up the courage to make one! I did this one too, thanks to The Sassy Quilter and her Triangle QAL.

Triangles, April 2014

Well I don't think I've done too bad, eh? But things have changed somehow. By that I mean, I may or may not even consider completing my original list. Not that I'm not pleased where I've gone so far, but I think I want to wing it more going forward. Of course, that's my thoughts today. Anything can happen, right?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Way It Is

I'm going to keep this short and sweet, because the fact is, as thrilled as I am to have two of my quilts accepted to the QuiltCon 2016 show, it's tempered by the reality that so many folks are feeling less than pleased that theirs were not selected. We all know that's the way life is, and I've been there before and will be again. And with over 1800(!) quilts to choose from, there had to be some difficult choices. But still.

And yet, this space, among other things, is a place to document my quilting journey, and as such, I feel I owe the process enough to share those quilts and that news here.

#554 Mod Mood

#555 Steeped in Tradition

Do visit the Instagram hashtags quiltcon and quiltcon2016, as well as quiltconreject, to see some fabulous quilts, none of which are really rejects of course, though I get the sentiment. If you want an eye into the process of quilt show selection, visit this post that Latifah Saafir wrote this time last year. It's insightful and enlightening. And I appreciated the honesty and graciousness shown in this post by Marianne/The Quilting Edge. It's poignant. There are alot of raw feelings in our community right now. I'm trusting we can affirm them all.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Modern Sampler :: Block D

The truth is, I tried to squeeze this month's block for the Modern Sampler Quilt quilt along in between Christmas sewing, and overall it was relaxing and just what I needed, at least until I got to those mitered borders. I'm not sure if I didn't trim my center block correctly or what, but things just weren't lining up, when they usually don't give me much trouble. Rather than start fresh, I'm going with something I heard Gwen Marston say in the recent podcast over at Crafty Planner - basically about it being ok for your project to look like it was made with human hands -  a counter to the notion that everything we sew has to be the model of perfection.

In general, I like things accurate and all that, but I'm just moving ahead from here. Though one element I am pleased about is the fact that I made this block entirely from scraps. Let's just say it had been too long since I'd rummaged through that scrap basket, and it felt real good.

I'm waiting for better daylight to get a photo of blocks A through D all together, so meanwhile I'll be linking up with Scraptastic Tuesday, and then next week, with the Modern Sampler Quilt Along: Block D link up. Now to get back to Christmas.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Christmas House

It's always a bit of a dilema when it's time to make something for a swap. So I followed the guidelines of 'make something you'd like to receive' as well as "make something that you'll enjoy making." And I hit it on both counts. Plus I got to use a pattern I've been wanting to try - Carolyn Friedlander's "Austin House," which I nabbed at QuiltCon. Happily, the block went together so smoothly, and even though I love how it looks in Carolyn's own fabric, I couldn't resist trying a scrappy Christmas look.

Having made just one block, my project was destined to remain relatively small. Surrounded by more background fabric (a gray chambray), I was aiming for a 12" x 24" pillow insert. For quilting, I tried another something I've been wanting to try - a diamond crosshatch, with lines about 3/8" apart. What fine texture it creates.

This time around, after the quilting I trimmed both front and back to the same dimensions as the insert, after having used this lapped zipper tutorial by Pile O'Fabric, which worked perfectly. Then I sewed the front and back together with a 1/2" seam, turned it all right-side out, and voila! It filled the pillow out quite nicely, so remind me to do that next time, would you?

[Random note: after finishing the pillow, I happened upon made by ChrissieD's Quilted Pillow Cushion with Hidden Zipper, which has a zipper installation that's very very similar, except with 1/4" double-stick fusible tape....a clever idea I'd like to try.]

So the pillow got taken to the #SeattleMQG holiday party today, was swapped twice, and then happily claimed by my bee-mate Aline/augustdreamsquilts. Good times.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Go-To Gift

It's kind of become a tradition that I make a set of potholders for our family's Christmas gift swap, at least if three years in a row counts as tradition. 

So this year I chose some fat-quarters from a bundle of Bound fabrics I'd recently won and took inspiration from the Pretty Potholders tutorial from Pretty Prudent.

To speed things up a bit, rather than quilting the two main sections separately, for each pot holder I cut 2 pieces of fabric, 10" x 18", as well as 1 piece each of cotton batting and Insul-Bright. Then I layered them: fabric right side down, Insul-Bright white side down, cotton batting, fabric right side up. I really like using a layer of both materials in my pot-holders, providing plenty of insulation and a supple sturdiness. Anyway, I spray-basted the layers together, then quilted the entire piece using a zig-zagging specialty stitch on my machine.

From the quilted piece, I cut one 9" square and one 6 1/2" x 9" rectangle, a little larger than the tutorial, which makes an 8" potholder. Then on to the binding, and here's where you can learn from my mistake. I cut my binding fabric 2" wide, thinking I'd like it good and tight, but I failed to take into account the thickness of those 8 layers. So next time, I'd cut it at 2 1/4", and I think that would work well and be easier to handle. You'll need about 55" of binding.

I used the method of sewing the binding on the wrong side of the 'pocket' top, pressed it back onto the seam allowance, then wrapped it to the front side, and zig-zagged it down. Pin the finished pocket piece onto the main section, lining up bottom and sides. Pin and baste in place on those three sides.

Stitch binding around the perimeter of the potholder on the back side, finishing binding ends as you would a quilt. For the hanging tab, I cut a rectangle 2" x 5", pressing it as double-fold binding and stitching along both sides close to the edges. Fold in half and baste 1" from left top edge of potholder, with raw edges even. Then go ahead and press and fold binding to the front, and zig-zag down, mitering those corners as you go. The final step is to fold the hanging tab up and secure with straight stitches, forward and back.

This year's set of potholders wasn't traded away in the gift-exchange, so that's a good sign, and I did hear a previous potholder recipient say, "oh those are really good ones," so I trust that means the ones he got last year have served him well. Whatever, it felt good to gift hand-made.

Linking up with Finish It Up Friday.