Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quilt as You Go Tablerunner - Super Easy!

I so want Fall to get here already!  I put in a Creamy Pumpkin Wallflower in the washroom, changed out to the September Leaves Wallhanging, and am dreaming about cinnamon, pumpkin and apple delights.  While switching the tablerunner in the dining room I found I have Halloween and Thanksgiving, but not a true Fall one.  Guess what that means – you got it!  Time to make one! 

I started by google imaging tablerunners to get ideas.  I saw one that looked easy enough and I figured I could recreate it using my 2 ½ strip stash.  Time to get out that yellow legal pad again and get to calculating! 

I decided on a center square of my favorite fall fabric (and it matches my Thanksgiving napkins).  I cut an 11” square.  This was small enough to get the most out of my strips; I would simply cut them into thirds and they would be roughly 14 inches long.  I happily pulled my fall colored strips from my stash using my center square as a guide.  Oh, I love these colors!

But first, I will have to cut my backing and batting.  I save the batting I cut off the sides of my quilts for this exact reason.  A long continuous, narrow strip is perfect for a tablerunner.  For the backing I cut two 18” x WOF pieces and sewed them into one LONG 18” wide piece.  I don’t plan on making the table runner this big and will trim it when I am finished.  I cut an 18” wide piece of batting the desired length of my tablerunner. 

Here is where I decided to do a quilt as you go type of runner.  Save a step, right?  I had some spray adhesive and “adhered” my backing and batting.  P and U - that stuff stinks!  Be sure to do it in an open area and where the overspray will not hurt other fabrics or furnishings. 

Now I am ready to go!  I have my backing and batting attached, my center square, and my colorful strips cut down into thirds.  Time for some power sewing. 

I folded the batting/backing piece in half and marked the center of the runner with a pin.  Now, with batting side up, I placed my center square diagonally on my batting.  I used my 45 degree angle marking on my ruler to make sure I had it properly placed.  Pin it into place and double check all sides to make sure the angle is 45 degrees.  If I didn’t do this step, my runner would slowly trend to the edge and I would be off the batting and backing.  This wouldn’t matter if I was not quilting as I go… but I am.  So a few moments of planning will save time later (Sounds very Ben Franklin).

Time to start the strips!  I decided to begin with gold strips for the first round.  With right sides together take one of the strips and line it up with the square.  You will want your "tail feathers" to hang off the sides.  Pin in place.

Sew 1/4" from the edge of the strip through all the layers. I am using my walking foot since I am quilting it as I piece.  Press open.

For the next strip, I pin right sides together but this piece will go along the other edge of the center square as shown.  Again line up the inner edge, letting the tail feathers dangle on the side.  

Stitch 1/4" from the edge and press open.

Continue two more strips on the other side of the center square, always sewing through the layers and pressing open after each strip.

Choose another color and repeat with another two strips on each side.  I used green strips.  Remember to line up the strip edge to the center and let the ends fly free (they will all be trimmed later).

How quickly a project like this goes!  I continued adding different colored rows based on the strips I had.  When I got close to the end of the batting/backing, I stopped.  This runner is REALLY long, but so is my table.  You can make your runner any length you desire.

Time to trim.  I began by trimming away the tail feathers and just trimmed to match the batting/backing piece with which I began. 

Trim the batting away from the ends by following the edge of the fabric strip as a guide.

Repeat for the other corner.

At this point my runner was pretty wonky.  It wasn't centered and one side was longer than the other.  Time for some squaring up.  I use my long ruler edge to match up the center points of the rows.  This is giving me a true center line.  From this line I measure 8" and trim away the access.  

I continued all along one side, then flipped it and repeated it for the other side.  By doing this, my runner is a consistent width and is not a "crooked hot mess."

With my runner squared, I happily cut five strips for binding and got to it.  I choose green for my runner.

Overall I am happy with my one evening project.  By quilting as I went, it was super fast.  Using the spray adhesive (even though very stinky) allowed me to not worry about the backing remaining flat or developing puckers.  I was pretty scared to square up the runner and cut off the edges.  One wrong cut and it would have been ruined!  So we must measure twice and cut once, right?  

I also like the large center square.  Since I usually have a bowl on my table, this large square does not seem too big, but rather accents the decoration I choose to place upon it.  

To break the project into manageable steps, take three nights.

Night One:  Choose a focus fabric and cut an 11" square.  Next, gather strips that would compliment the center square.  I pulled way to many and could have finished my runner with just 16 strips.  Cut the strips into thirds.  Cut batting and backing.  Piece back.  Adhere backing to batting with adhesive.  STOP, enough for tonight!

Night Two: Tonight you will quilt your runner!  Quilt as you go until your desired size is achieved.  STOP.

Night Three:  Trim down the tablerunner.  Attach binding.


Note: I was so happy to have such a long table runner for my Thanksgiving table.  The table shown is a few feet longer with all the leaves so it seats 12 people.  I had to see how the napkins looked with it!  I grabbed my Thanksgiving napkins from the linen closest.... oh no.  I thought it was a different fabric!  And they do not match.  I was so disappointed.  Well, guess what this quilty girl gets to do - make another runner!  It SHOULD be done by Thanksgiving!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pumpkin Time!

I received an email from one of the many home d├ęcor stores which featured three small fabric pumpkins in gorgeous autumn tones.  I am an absolute nut for anything pumpkin and had to see more.  I found they were about 6” in diameter and for a set of three it was just $30.  No way!  I looked closely at the picture and decided it was time to try and make some pumpkins. 

I happily rushed to my stash and pulled some fabrics I thought might work.  I think I have enough (wink).

Using my trusty calculator, pencil and yellow tablet I set to figuring out the size of the fabric pieces needed.  To end up with a six inch diameter I would need:

6 – 4 ½” x 9” pieces of cotton fabric

I sewed them side by side (the 9 inch sides together) and then made a tube.

I basted along the top and bottom edge so I could close the top and bottom of the pumpkin.

I cinched up the bottom, but it wasn’t quite tight enough for me. Okay, what now?  

I turned it inside out and pinched the end closed with my fingers.  I then took some perle cotton and wrapped around it tightly, tying it off.  The bottom would lay flat so I wasn’t too worried about all this fullness being on the inside.

Time for stuffing!  I didn’t have any stuffing, so I cut up some left over batting (the fluffy kind).  Now time to close the top.  This turned out to be a real pain.  The basting thread broke.   

Okay, bigger guns.  I used a strand of perle cotton.  Snap!  It broke too!  Okay, I am not messing around here… double stranded perle cotton and Michael’s finger to assist in the tie off.  That did it.  I also stitched across the top using the same needle with the double perle cotton just to make sure it didn’t bust open on me.

Now it just looks like a big ball.  To make the indentions I grabbed that double strand of perle cotton again and knotted it on the top.  I wrapped it around the ball following the seam back to the top.  Think of it as going from the north pole to the south pole and back to the north pole again.  I pulled the strands tight to make the pumpkin indent.  Then, I tied it off and went around the world again this time on the next seam.  I repeated it a total of three times so that each seam was pulled in. 

I would have like to have had a darker perle cotton, but I am using what I have here at the house and making do.  I fluffed the fabric out to let the perle cotton hide as much as possible.  I am happy with how it looks so far!

Time for the stem and leaves.  The easiest way to make the leaves would be to cut them from wool.  They could be left with the raw edge and snip, snip, snip you are done.  I do not have any wool or felt so I used fusible interfacing and fabric to make the leaves.

I began with transferring my pattern (I drew it from some pictures on the internet) onto the smooth side of the fusible interfacing.  I placed the two pieces of the leaf fabric right sides together and placed the fusible interfacing on top (the wrong side of the fabric).  Fusing the interfacing gave me a guide to sew and I did not cut until after I was finished. Stitch around following the lines, but leave the bottom of the leaf open for turning it right side out.

Trim close to your seam and snip the inside curves.  Turn the fabric leaf right side out.  I use a chop stick to get inside and push out those points.  Then I take my iron and press the heck out of it. 

Here is the link to the pattern for these three leaves (it is also at the end of the post).
It took three sets of leaves before I found a size suitable for my pumpkin.  No worries.  I will save the others for future pumpkins.

To give the leaves a three dimensional appearance, I tucked the open section of the leaf and stitched the opening closed. 

For now, I have simply pinned the leaves in place.  Time for the stem!

I was pondering how to make the stem and then thought I could use actual twigs from the yard.  I mentioned it to Michael and he said he could make them for me.  I was expecting a straight cut of a stick but he brought me carved detailed stems!  I love how each one is different and unique.

Time for the glue gun!  I had the leaves pinned so I went ahead and put a glob of hot glue in the center.  I then plunked down the stem and held it in place until it cooled.  Tah dah!  My pumpkin is done and I could not be happier.  Well, I could be happier by MAKING MORE PUMPKINS! 

This is addictive.  I started thinking about different sizes and shapes. 

For the next pumpkin I wanted a little larger.  This one uses pieces 6” x 12”. 

I wanted a tall one so I decided to make it 6” x 18”.  This one was harder to manage, but worth it when I was finished.  It didn’t bunch up as well as the shorter, fatter ones.   I realized after I was done that I had really stuffed this one tight.  If you stuff them loosely, the sides crunch down better and hide the perle cotton.  I found some black yarn leftover from another project and wrapped it around to cover the cream perle cotton.  This looked better!

Now for a taller and narrower one.  I wanted to make it in lighter shades.  The pieces this time were 4 ½” x 18”.  Since it was so tall, it didn’t make deep enough indentations when I wrapped the perle cotton.  I believe the ratio of width to length was too great.  The best were ones that had the length double the width of the cut piece (i.e. 4 ½” x 9”). 

Now for a tiny one, 3 ½” x 7”.  I kept to gold and cream tones on this one.  Small pieces are much easier.

Last one, 4 ½” x 12”.  This one turned out nicely.  Yes, the key is to not stuff them too full and keep the ratio of width to length no greater than 1:3.

So, if the width of your piece is 4", you will want the length of the strip to be somewhere between 9" - 12".  

6" width = 12" - 18" length
3" width = 6" - 9" length

You get the idea!

I have to say, I love my pumpkin patch and am so glad I made them.  You can do this too!  Start small and work up to the larger ones.  Think of the possibilities in color, fabric and texture!

Welcome Autumn!

Pumpkin leaves pattern

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Breadsticks anyone?

My Grandma Temple is the queen of homemade bread.  As a kid I remember her and my mom making bread.  It would seem to take forever to rise, and then we had to wait again!  Learning to make bread was one of those “watch and learn” experiences.  I don’t remember being taught the recipe, but rather the techniques.  Now years later I do have her recipe which makes the best bread and cinnamon rolls EVER.  Her recipe involves eggs and scalded milk which doesn’t fit into my everyday life.  It also makes A LOT of bread.  Instead, for daily (not special holidays) consumption, I make French bread.  It uses just water, flour, salt, sugar and yeast – all stuff I have on hand. 

I was thinking of making some bread (French bread) today.  I love to make bread, but was trying to decide if I wanted to go through with the effort.  Not the effort to make it, but the effort to stay away from it.  Good bread is a horrendous temptation for me and does not play well into my eating plan.  Just then, Michael walked into the kitchen.  “I was thinking of making some French bread, what do you think?”  He said nothing, but instead smiled a sly sneaky grin.  That, my friends, is enough motivation to make some bread.

I have made this recipe hundreds of times.  It makes two loaves.  I have used the loaves to make garlic bread, French toast and simply for sandwiches and toasting.  But here is my plan and we will see how it works out.  I want to make one loaf and then make breadsticks with the rest of it. 

So here we go – French bread.  I promise, it is easy and I have found some ways to make it foolproof.  Let’s start with the two most important tools.

I have a big “A” bowl made by Tupperware.  It allows room for the dough to rise and for me to mix in without making too big a mess.  I also have a candy thermometer.  The biggest part of making bread is getting the liquid the right temp for the yeast. 

Step 1 – Making the dough.

In your big “A” bowl, add

  • 2 Tbsp of active dry yeast.

I buy a jar of it and keep it in the fridge.   


Heat 2 cups of water in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave.  You will want it to be between 110° and 115° F.  I tend to overheat it and wait for it to cool down to this range.
 Add the water to the yeast.  Mix it until it is dissolved.   

Now add:
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
Mix.  The smell coming off the yeast is heavenly!  Darn, why does bread have to be so amazing!   

Now add two cups of flour.  Mix well.   

Now add another 2 cups of flour to make the dough pull from the edges of the bowl and hold together. 

Step 2 – Kneading the Dough

I was always confused by how long I should knead the dough.  My standard cookbook of reference (Fannie Farmer) states until it is elastic.  I don’t know about you but that isn’t good enough for me.  Elastic like a waistband or elastic like well chewed bubble gum?  And how exactly does that feel?  There is a whole science to why bread is kneaded and how the yeast activates, but instead of delving into all that we will move on.  With this dough we will knead it for six to eight minutes, easy enough.

Flour your counter or cutting board.  With the amount shown here on my board, I did not have to add any more to keep the dough from sticking.  As I kneaded the dough, it picked up the flour.  I would pause and smooth out the flour on the board to cover the center again.   


Continue kneading the dough until six or eight minutes have passed or your arms fall off – whichever comes first. 

Now form the dough into a ball.  I flip it around to make sure it is all sticking together and round.

Step 3 – Letting the dough rise.

Rinse out your big “A” bowl and dry it.  Now take a little bit of oil and oil the inside of the bowl.  This will assure your bread doesn’t stick while it is rising.  Plop your dough into the bottom of the bowl.  Now flip it over.  The top of the bread dough will now be oiled which will keep it from drying out as it rises. 

Cover your dough with a dish towel (not the terry cloth kind, the old fashioned type) and place on the counter.  Let it rise for 1 hour.  My sister-in-law Cathy gave me these beautiful dishtowels for Christmas.  I love them and use them all the time in the kitchen.  They do not give off lint, so they are great when handling food and dishes.

Here is the hard part for me.  I have to leave my cutting board out with the flour on it.  I will need it when the bread is done rising, just an hour.  I could clean it, but then I would have to flour it up again to make the loaves.  This OCD girl has a hard time with this one! 

Step 4 – Preparing your loaves.

After an hour, your dough will look like this:

 Flour your cutting board or counter again and take out the dough.  Punch down the dough (fun, huh) and plop it out.  Divide the dough into two pieces. 

Shape them into loaves, about a foot long.  Oil a cookie sheet and place your loaves on it.  If your loaves have a seam (a part where the dough is separating), place this side down on the cookie sheet.  Take a serrated knife and slash across the tops of your loaves as shown.

I am only going to make one loaf this time and attempt to make breadsticks.  So I am taking the second half of the dough and rolling out individual sticks.

I divided the dough into eight pieces, then sixteen. 

I took each piece and rolled them between my palms.  They were not all the same size, not even close.  I am okay with it!


Cover with the same towel and let rise for only thirty minutes.  While the bread is rising, turn on your oven and preheat it to 450°.  NOW, I can clean up the mess! 

After the thirty minutes, your loaves will look like this!

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.  When they come out of the oven they will be super hard and crusty.  

If you prefer a softer loaf, throw the same dishtowel over the loaves while they cool.  This will allow the crust to soften.  I can’t help but squeeze them a little as I walk through the kitchen! 

Breadstsick results – I heated up a little bit of butter and put in some fresh minced garlic.  I toasted the garlic in the butter and then poured it over my breadsticks as they came out of the oven.  I then covered them with a dishtowel to allow them to soften up a bit.  We all tried a bite and decided they were great!  I am thinking next time I might try to stuff them with some cheese or top them with Parmesan. 

Warning - this bread makes really great toast.  Be sure to save some for the next morning.  Good toast and a cup of coffee makes me think of my mom - she loves her toast in the morning! 

Super Warning - this bread makes superb french toast.  The bread has a good body to it which helps it hold up when cooking.  It is a really good way to use up the bread after a day or two.  This bread isn't meant to last a week - no oils or preservatives.  So you HAVE to make some french toast, don't you?