I’ve just washed and folded a big pile of Parisville by Tula Pink fabrics. They’re destined to be boppy and cushion covers for the nursery. They are faaaaaaaaan-cee. Tula Pink sure does promote herself on Twitter, but her fabrics sure are the neatest ones in the business. I’m totally smitten with the Topiary print at top.
I am blogging on the fly before we head south to spend the holiday with lots of family and lots of food. We have plenty to be thankful for, this Thanksgiving, including our little girl’s 24-week mark. This is the “age of viability”, for whatever that’s worth. I’d still like her to stay inside for quite a while, though.
There are people who craft because they enjoy the process, and there are people who craft because they enjoy the product. For me, the very best crafts are the ones that allow me some satisfaction in both areas. Knitting is nice because handling and squishing and smelling the yarn is such a nice experience, and sometimes (just sometimes) the product ends up being something worth having. Patchwork is nice too. It’s so exciting to pick out fabrics and patterns, to press and cut and stitch, and when I happen to actually finish a quilt–why that’s nice too.
The “turn every small quilt top in the house into a baby mat” project was all about products, really. Now, for Thanksgiving, I have brought out my old Thanksgiving quilt that I started three years ago and have made very little progress on since. I have brought it out a couple of times, I just don’t feel like I’m in a hurry over it. The fabrics are so far out of my usual aesthetic, but somehow, that makes me enjoy them even more. I am determined to do the patchwork slowly and to do it right. I think that when the top is finished, I’ll even hand quilt it. With big stitches and pearl cotton to be sure… but still.
I’m also committed to only buying these kinds of fabrics when I a see a single, exquisite fat quarter in a real quilt store. No online ordering here. No machine quilting. No strip-piecing and no slip-ups. This is my little bit of mindful patchworking.
Also slowly coalescing is my new sewing room, which Sparks has been painting for me. It’s a large storage closet off of the media room, about 6′x9′, just enough room for a sewing table and ironing board and shelves… not enough room to hide piles of things when visitors come, and to house an ever-increasing, out-of-control stash. It’s time to start being mindful about what new materials I buy.
It’s a little hypocritical of me to write this while I actually have a sweater active on the needles, but I generally don’t try to knit sweaters anymore. Way back in The Day, maybe 2005 or 2006, I finished three of them. One came out too small to put on, the other two too large to wear in public. I thought I had checked my gauge, but you know, I live in a universe where two and two don’t reliably add up to four, so the bad results didn’t really surprise me.
The good news is that, at almost six months pregnant, this Hourglass sweater now fits me. Sweet.
Sunday morning, when I like to go to the church of the fancy breakfast. This morning I made french toast with the chocolate babka. Warning: for reasons incomprehensible to me, the men in my life don’t like sweet breakfasts. I’m afraid I egged Sparks into eating this one, though. You’re a hero sweetie.
I make my french toast batter egg-heavy, and flavor it with vanilla and lemon zest (or sometimes vanilla and cinnamon). For people who can tolerate Teh Sweet in the morning, I also throw a little sugar onto the second side of the french toast while the first side is cooking; this makes a nice crackly crust and makes syrup unnecessary.
This was so good and so fast, I can’t remember why I ever eat breakfast in restaurants.
Years ago, the town I lived in at the time was briefly host to a bakery that, during the month of December only, would sell chocolate babka. They lasted less than a year and I think I only got my hands on two loaves of it at the time–but it was so good, so rich and luxurious, and so evocative of the sparkling, celebratory feeling of the holiday season–that I’ve never forgotten it. I’m sure there are many chocolate babka recipes on the internet, but here is how I make it. I make no claims to authenticity, just to deliciousness.
4-5 cups flour (I use 1 cup whole wheat, the rest white all-purpose)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (that’s 1 packet)
1 cup milk
5 T butter
1/3 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1/4 c dark cocoa powder
1/4 c sugar
3 T butter
Put 2 cups flour and the yeast in the bowl of your mixer. Put milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a heatproof container and microwave until it is between 120F and 130F. Add to flour mixture. Add eggs. Stir, adding flour until mixture comes together in a workable dough. Knead with your mixer for 12 minutes or by hand for 8 minutes, until dough is soft and elastic. Leave in an oiled bowl in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour.
Punch down dough and cut it in two pieces. Combine 1/4 c cocoa and 1/4 c sugar. Melt the 3 T butter. Roll each dough half into a square about 12″ x 12″. Brush dough with butter, then sprinkle half of cocoa-sugar mixture on each half. Roll up like a jelly roll, then tuck the ends under so that each roll fits in a standard loaf pan. Put rolls in greased loaf pans, and leave to rise for another hour, or until the dough has filled the pan.
Aesthetic Nest has inspired me again… this time to put together a Nesting List of all the projects I intend to do for the baby. So without more ado…
1. Finish as many of the small quilt tops I already have as possible, for use as play mats etc.
2. Make a few plain flannel receiving blankets, by binding pieces of flannel
3. Make a cut chenille blanket (DONE)
4. Make a crib-sized afghan
5. Make a crib-sized quilt
6. Make some soft flannel toys… balls, eggs, blocks
7. Make a couple of boppy covers
8. Make a crib bumper
9. Make the nursery curtains
10. Make a few little rompers and bubblesuits for summer
That should keep me busy.
(I didn’t make anything here, but isn’t it all pretty? Click the picture to go to Flickr, and see the originals)
Yesterday was a beautiful kind of fall weekend day: it was drizzly and miserable outside, and I had nowhere to go. I spent most of the day finishing the Little Folks quilt top. That’s right! It’s a whole, real-for-sure quilt now!
So what do I do today?
String quilt! I made these blocks back when string quilts were an innovation in the Flickrworld, then put them away. Since so many of this child’s nursery goods are ending up being made of Anna Maria Horner prints, and since I’m on the lookout for smallish, portable, stain-hiding quilts, these blocks seemed just right.
There are sixteen 12″x12″ string blocks here. I bought a Designer Sampler from Quilthome, a precut pack which is sadly being phased out but was a collection of wide eighth-yard cuts of whole fabric collections. I slashed each of the 4.5″ strips into two or three smaller ones, to use as strings. I also foundation pieced on muslin, not paper, so I didn’t have to pick the paper off the backs.
Here’s the Little Folks play mat. I quilted lines 3/8″ on either side of all the seams and bound it with yellow Kona cotton. It’s by no means perfect, but, you know. It’s destined to be spat up on, so it doesn’t have to be.
Looking through baby pictures of myself, I realized that as an infant I was always put on top of a blanket. Whether this was to protect me from the house or the house from me, I won’t speculate, but it got me thinking that maybe there aren’t enough quilts in this house already (snerk).
I bought the fat-quarter bundle of Anna Maria Horner’s Little Folks flannels to make soft baby toys with, but there was plenty of fabric to make this play mat out of 64 8″x8″ squares. It’s retina-searing, yes, but I love the way this collection is spectrum-balanced, and the flannel is so so soft. I have it laid out for pinning, and will do basic straight-line quilting to hold it together.
No complaints about lack of visual stimulation here, no sir.
Oh my, I’m in love. A project I stuck to from beginning (on Saturday afternoon) to finish (on Wednesday afternoon), with such a lovely result. Wow!
Sometime, someone whose blog I read posted a link to the cut chenille blanket tutorial on Aesthetic Nest. I thought it was lovely, but as far as my own child goes I was still focused on the upcoming sonogram etc. Now that that is out of the way and we know we’re having a little girl, it’s time to get down to business.
I made this blanket the hard way. That is, I sewed the lines with my ordinary home sewing machine, and then I cut then with my fabric shears. The easier way would have been to have had a quilting frame with horizontal lock (zip! zip! zip!) and a chenille cutting tool, which sadly runs anywhere from $15 to $30 (zip! zip! zip!)
So there was no zipping at all in this project, just several hours of sewing nearly-straight lines and several more hours, spread out over days, of cutting between the lines of stitching. “I don’t think”, I said to myself, “I’ll be making any more chenille blankets.”
Now that it’s out of the dryer, though, I wonder if perhaps I will.
I used solid flannel for the chenille, a Nicey Jane print for the foundation, and Kona cotton for binding. My one mistake in this project? Using a quilting-weight fabric for the blanket’s foundation. If you read Aesthetic Nest’s tutorial carefully, you’ll see that she used a home dec weight fabric, and that was the right thing to do. My blanket’s use is going to be accompanied by a bit of anxiety about how long the foundation fabric will hold up… hers won’t.
Overall, success! I call this an A+ project. I also think that maybe this blankie is mine… if the baby wants one she can make her own. Right?
I wanted to make Christmas stockings to go with the mod new house decor, and my hoarding instinct took over. “How many stockings” I asked myself “would we need if all of my family AND all of Sparks family were here for Christmas?”
The answer was, more than nine. Nine however is the exactly maximum number of stocking cuffs one can cut from a yard of fleece. So I stopped there.
The stocking fabrics are a mixture of Twelve Joys of Christmas by Sherri Berry and Groove Holiday by Robert Kaufman.
Sparks is getting the fireplace spiffed up for the holiday. He has built a mantle shelf to put above it, and ordered a gas log insert… in the end, we decided that we’ll have more fires if we don’t have to be constantly raking ash out of the fireplace. To celebrate the upcoming transition, Sparks burned a lot of pear wood yesterday. Cozy!
I don’t think that anyone planned it this way, but the change to “winter time” comes very hard on the heels of Halloween. I lived in Indiana for twenty years and left just as they had instituted daylight savings time (after decades of not doing it). My 2007 move also took me across a time zone boundary… so while I was used to dark winter mornings, I have yet to get used to dark winter afternoons. I almost feel like Halloween and jack-o-lanterns are heralding the coming early darkness… almost as if the pumpkins are trying to scare it away.