Pumpkin Crumb Cake

Ken’s Kitchen grew 5 pumpkins this year. On December 1st, I declared that fall was officially over and he needed to do something with the final pumpkin. He roasted the pumpkin, pureed it and made this pumpkin crumb cake.

I thought it was one of the best yet. Others agreed. There were so many requests for me to share the recipe, that this post will be short and sweet – giving you only that.

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Inspirational Improv

I love everything Christmas! Decorating. Buying gifts. Baking. Family. Santa. And yes, the Biblical Christmas story.

We did not celebrate Advent when I was a child. My first exposure came when I was an adult and they started to light different coloured candles during the Sunday services. I did not know what they meant, but it was a nice tradition to add to our growing list. Now, Advent calendars are popular. One more way to convince parents to buy not just 1 gift but 24 additional gifts!

Really, Advent is about slowing down. It is reflection. It is stillness. It is anticipation. It is about taking time away from the busyness of life to reflect on the real reason for this season.

For me, this is hard. I will keep going, keep sewing, until the days are all gone. I do not seem to have the ability to put my mind into neutral and I can’t seem to concentrate on anything unless I add fabric and thread.

That’s where Inspirational Improv comes in. So far, I have only done this on paper. It was great – you can erase your work or change your mind as you go.

But this year I want to go one step further. A little more risk. I want to work with fabric and stitch my designs every day. They will be permanent once made.

Here is how it works:

  1. Pick a topic that you would like to study and document in art form. Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, so this is a perfect starting point for those who celebrate Advent. But it could also be Hanukkah, a family prayer flag, a historical event, or another topic that you are passionate about. Ideally, you want something with a definite start and end point. Make it manageable.
  2. Meditate on your selected readings and/or songs every day. I will follow the menu from the Sunday Services at Saint Benedict’s Table. If I was making a family prayer flag, I would meditate on one person each day. If I was doing a historical event, I would restrict my meditations to chapters in a book, specific characters, or years in a timeline.
  3. On the first day, decide on your size and overall structure. It doesn’t have to be big. The first time I tried this was Lent. I used a small sheet of paper and drew a path. It ended up being a path that went through the wilderness. This time it will be about the size of flip chart paper and the 5 candles will form the structure.
  4. With each meditation, determine what kind of object(s) to add to your picture that reflects your reading and/or thoughts that day. You do not have to be an artist to do this (I can’t draw a simple chair!). Use whatever ability you have at your disposal. It may be colour, shapes, words, or shading. In my case, it may be different types of stitching or a combination of everything mentioned. I usually restrict it to one object per day (although I may repeat the object) and I do not remove it once that day has passed.
  5. Continue adding objects and filling the spots in your ‘picture’ every day. Since you do not know what you will be adding in the future days, there is a sense of mystery. You have no idea what is coming and what it will look like in the end. Just know that you will be amazed. Remember too, that this is very personal. It is your project and it will have meaning to you alone. It does not need to ‘turn out’ and you don’t have to show it to anyone else. Having said that, I may share my progress with you in the coming weeks but only if I am feeling brave.
  6. Document your symbols and the source of inspiration. The more abstract, the more important this is. Ha!

I hope you will consider doing this with pencil and paper if nothing else. It will stretch your creative process, help you interact with the material, and help you remember details you would otherwise forget.

 

Posted in 2018, Inspirational, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Making Peace with the Moon

My first quilt of 2018 was a challenge quilt due in March. The challenge was to make a Christmas wall quilt which included a piece of white frosted fabric, and a button.

When I came across the Peace Moon pattern by Laurel Burch, I knew it was the one I wanted to make. In fact, I just had to make two (again!). It’s too hard to make something you love and then give it away!

Wouldn’t you know it? The gradated fabric I challenged myself to use in 2018 fit in perfectly with this pattern. Laurel Burch was ahead of the times. gradients

Sewing the quilt together was so simple it hardly qualified as piecing. Raw edge applique also is little more than tracing, cutting and ironing. So far, so good. peace1

Then it was time to pull out the paints and pens, as instructed in the pattern. peace7 Now it gets risky. I played it safe by starting with the holly leaves… then the flowers. I found out that:

  • Sharpies might be permanent, but they bleed;
  • dark fabric pens work well, but light ones don’t;
  • paint doesn’t work as well on fabric as it does on paper or wood. It is difficult to shade, and often the colour looks grey once it has been applied.

I am a minimalist and I can’t draw. So this really goes against the grain. I would quit, but something had to be done with those birds! After some penwork and some paint, this project hit rock bottom. It looked primitive, amateurish.  I had to walk away.

A break always helps give new perspective, new ideas. The lines were too short, too few. I had to make more, and make them bolder. Laurel had a lot more detail in her picture including hundreds of little white dots. There really are times when more is more. As for me, I decided to stop with the pens and paint while I was still ahead. peace8

It was finally time for some stitching. Things could still go south…

And they did. The post so far was a draft written in January. I finished the quilting on one and was hand stitching the binding when…

I spilled coffee on it.

My white moon was no longer white. The permanent fabric markers bled. The Heat and Bond lifted.

Good thing I had two underway. It was a scramble to finish one (with stitching in place of markers!) in time to be auctioned off at our local quilt show. The other was put away -out of sight, but not out of mind. Could it still be rescued?

This week I decided to find out. Some free motion quilting where marker lines used to be, satin stitching in places the Heat and Bond had lifted – and more for extra insurance, a little hand embroidery, and jewels just because I wanted to give it a little extra love. peace9

It looks a little weathered and worn, but then again, it has been through a lot. Hot water baths… bleach… and every other solution people have suggested.  Plus a whole lot more stitching. Reminds me of life. It has a story, and I think I will keep it.

This week I also finished several Quilting On The Beach (QOTB) projects and started on Christmas gifts. Of course I can’t show you any of these but watch for the electronic QOTB Trunk Show in January!

Finally, here are some recipes from Ken’s Kitchen:

Until next time, keep creating and keep on stitching!

Posted in 2018, art, gradients, recipes, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Hometown: Love, Saskatchewan

Think of your home town. How would you describe it? Better still, how would you depict it on a Postcard of Fibre Art (PFA)?

I belong to a PFA group on FB that threw out a Hometown Challenge. The challenge this time was to make it a little bigger. And multi level. With such good subject matter to work with, I just couldn’t resist.

Love – population of 50; located in central, Eastern Saskatchewan. The highway on which it is located borders farming land to the south and gentle rolling hills of pine trees and rivers/lakes to the north. I still have family in the area and usually go back once a year to visit. Like most, however, I had to leave the area to attend school and work.

My card has 3 levels. The initial design was done on PowerPoint – One page for each level. It was the easiest way to get words printed onto fabric, to get perfect simple shapes (like the heart), and to ensure the size of each item was what I wanted.

The first layer was street names. It formed the background fabric for the rest of the card, but here are pictures just to show you that the street names actually exist.

Layer 2 was based on a picture I took (with the cute grandsons). It was taken facing west along the rail line on Main St. love1 To reproduce this, I used raw-edge applique and lots of thread painting.

Here is a picture of the back, just because I can no longer see it… love layer2 back

The edges were finished with a satin stitch and ‘glued’ to the first layer with Steam-A-Seam.

The third layer is a reproduction of a sign welcoming you to the community. love2The words were printed on white fabric and then I dug out my old Folk Art painting supplies to paint the rest.

My skills were very rusty, but it is what it is. I wanted a nice clean edge on the sign so wrapped it around the Flexi-firm and ‘glued’ another piece of Flexi-Firm of the same shape to the back. Spacers of Flexi-Firm also helped level the sign posts and attach layer 3 to the first two layers.

Some blue thread that came out of an Indigo dyeing session was used for the edge. I simply did a blanket stitch and then tied knots on the thread between the stitches. A few loose strands of thread represent the very fitting slogan for Saskatchewan which is “Land of the Living Skies”. So, here is the front of my finished postcard. love finished

Love has it’s own Postmark (used by many brides to mail wedding invitations). I was able to download a copy for the back. Since I do not intend on mailing this postcard anywhere, I enhanced the postmark with a little embroidery and put details of the village on the back. love-back-finished.jpg

This was so much fun, I have plans for a few more cards. Winnipeg, my current hometown, is my next project and far more challenging. It may be awhile before you see it.

Posted in 2018, art, challenges, FMQ, quilted postcards, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

Where did it go? Seems like my summer holiday from blogging extended well into fall.

I did very little quilting this summer. Instead, I was busy converting a neglected rec room/bedroom/bathroom into a quilting studio.

The goal was to paint the space and install better lighting. Simple enough. I didn’t even take ‘before’ pictures.

One item on my wish list was a place to display my quilted postcards, or PFAs (Postcard Fabric Art), as my FB group calls them. The cards from my One Million Mile Challenge got center stage

postcards1

but I was also thrilled to take the cards received from friends out of their shoe box and display them on the wall of the guest room. I enjoyed re-reading them as they were hung, and I hope my guests will too.postcards2

I did take the time to make a PFA this summer, but I will tell you more about that in another post.

Another item on the wish list was a design wall. Then, because I couldn’t decide on what I wanted, I made two. One is flannel with cork behind it, and the other has clips. I can now work on multiple items at a time, which is what I do always do anyways. (Yes, I did make progress on The Circle Game!) design wall

The Design Center was totally unplanned. We had a wet bar sink and a bar which was never used. Removing them was more of a project than I wanted to undertake so with the help of DH, I built a table to go over the sink and refinished the bar. It now is the perfect space for any design work that I want to do. There are a couple extra chairs, so come join me if you are in the neighborhood.

My old sewing room did not have anything done to it except some organizing so that it is more functional. I have three sewing machines set up, and I can simply swivel between them. No more sewing machines set up on the dining room table (I hope).  workroom1

The sob-story of this adventure was to be my crown jewel -a slab of live edge wood that I spent countless hours and hundreds of dollars on. It turned out beautiful, but it was a matter of sharing custody of it with some hardy little bugs living inside of it. I have never seen them, but mounds of sawdust and tiny little holes told me they survived the bleach, wood filler, stain, varnish and 4 (yes, four!) layers of epoxy. It was going to be attached to my mom’s old Singer treadle sewing machine frame in order to make a sofa table. Needless to say, the wood is not in my studio.

Another project only half-finished was a wrought iron bed frame rescued from the elements. It was in pretty bad shape. It would have to be a decorative item only. I sanded and painted the headboard but it turned cold just a little too fast. Maybe we will get a few more days of +10C temps so that I can finish painting the foot board. It will be used to display finished quilts. bed frame

That brings you almost up to date. The next few months will be very busy finishing up projects from Quilting on the Beach so my posts may still be few and far between. I am scheduled to do a Trunk Show in January at our local guild, and will provide you with an electronic trunk show at the same time.

Posted in 2018, quilted postcards, Reclaimed and Repurposed, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

K.I.S.S. Quilting

We have all heard about the K.I.S.S. principle. It’s what I decided to do with a kit I had purchased called Easy Summer Fun by Viv Smith of Willow Brook Quilts.

Easy Summer Fun was already a simple beginner quilt. The kit contained 10″ pre-cuts of Kaffe Fassett fabrics plus black on white and white on black squares. I have become quite infatuated with Kaffe Fassett fabrics but as you know, my focus this year is suppose to be on gradated fabrics.

My first decision was to reserve the black and white fabrics for another project and substitute it with pieces of beautiful Gelato Ombre fabrics that I purchased in Singapore (but now is available locally). As it turns out, they marry well together. summer fun1

My next decision was to leave the squares uncut. Kaffe Fassett and most Ombre fabrics are bold enough to stand on their own in large dosses.

It went to my favorite long-armer for an overall design. We picked a modern floral design and orange thread. Why not!?!

The BEST thing about this pattern is the wide binding. It is not often that binding makes a quilt, but this time it did and I absolutely love it!

This is my Summer Fun, and I could not have kept it any simpler. summer fun

Speaking of summer, its that time again when I will take a break from this blog and work on getting things crossed off the ‘to do’ list. I hope you have a great summer!

Posted in 2018, hand piecing, Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

A Lession in FMQ

“Be kind to yourself” she said. Good advice.

She, being one of the best teachers around, and the best Free Motion Quilter (FMQ) I know. FMQ has been the most difficult things for me to conquer in my sewing life. I have taken every opportunity to practice it for the last 5 years and have thrown out or turned perfectly good quilted pieces into dog beds because of my displeasure with the results. It was my third time in her class.

I wanted to show you a picture of my mediocre masterpiece before I picked it apart, but I was not able to take one that captured the whole runner where the stitching was still visible. This was the best I could do. fmq

The first design element we stitched was this motif, drawn on freezer paper. I did some echo stitching around it and matchsticks at the top. fmq1

Echo stitching, as it turns out, is harder than it looks. It requires that you look at the FM foot and use all sides of it to gauge your 1/4″ distance. There were blind spots going certain directions. Next time I would add a few reference points at the tips to ensure I turned at the right spots. Also, I am not sure about the matchsticks I added at the top. Does it highlight the tip because the stitching is denser, or does the  tip look like it is in the background because it is flatter than its surrounding?

Using freezer paper seemed like a good idea, so I looked for other designs where I could use it. There was a peacock on the fabric back that had potential. fmq6

It was so unusual I knew it would be the focal point so I placed it in an appropriate spot. It didn’t look like much initially and I hated picking out the freezer paper but with enough stitching, my peacock turned out okay. Using a plate helped me get a stitching line to ‘frame’ him. fmq4.jpg

The fabric back was a great inspiration for other designs but now I wasn’t as keen on using freezer paper. I stitched around the waterlily using freezer paper but then it was a simple enough design that I could eyeball the rest. A feather was next. I have never particularly liked feathers, but recently stitched one on a project and it was terrible. Now was the time to practice.

The stylized daisy was also simple enough to do without the freezer paper, but one seemed small and insignificant, so it was repeated three times. I also decided to try another feather, fitting into the large awkward space left.

After the large elements, it was on to fillers and borders. All can use more practice but consistency of size and stitch length will come in time (I hope).

Do you want to make a FMQ sampler? Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Start with a sandwich 15″ x WOF. A dark solid (or near solid) fabric with light thread will work best
  2. Divide your runner into 6-8 sections. Use your favorite marking tool to ensure nice straight lines and then stitch a double line 1/8″ apart.
  3. Add something of interest in most sections. Start with larger designs so that you can practice filler stitches around them.
  4. If a design you like is proving troublesome, try different variations. For me, it was circles. fmq3.jpg In the wavy section, my first circle (top) was closed but I didn’t like all the stops and starts so started incorporating the circles into the wavy lines (middle section). It worked for awhile but then lI started backtracking away from the stitching line (side ones). This gave the illusion of a larger circle and I liked that better but still wanted to try circles where the stitching came to the center, making for continuous stitching. I tried that next as a border (seen in the picture between the waterlily and first feather). This one was the easiest.
  5. Practice principles of design –
    • REPEAT – double lines look better than single lines; use odd numbers (one if large or a focal point, 3 if you want it to make more of a statement)
    • RESIZE – use small, medium and large variations of the same design (example: I have circles the size of dots, medium sized circles, and larger ones)
    • REINVENT – make variations of the same design element (example: feathers)
    • BALANCE – this is obtained from the size of your designs and density of your stitching.
    • CONTRAST – You are only working with straight and curved lines. Each will be more distinct when placed next to each other
  6. Don’t undo mistakes. Make this for you (not as a gift and not to enter into a show). Take risks and practice everything you like. In the future it will be a great reference tool. It will give you ideas. It will remind you of things that work, or not. It will help you decide on a better approach. And you will see where you have come from, the improvements in your techniques over time.
  7. Most of all, have FUN. And be kind to yourself!
Posted in 2018, art, FMQ, Highlighting others, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Alberta Two Step

I get by with a little help from my friends

Make that… “I get by with a lot of help from my friends.

A cowboy/girl boot quilt would not be my normal style, but at times like this you have to think about the bride (my niece). She has been called ‘the horse whisperer’; country is her style.

When her wedding was announced, I knew the Texas Two Step would be the perfect pattern but I was short on time and fabric that could even remotely be considered country.

Thanks to Gail (piecing), to Susan (quilting), and others who contributed scraps of country fabric, this character quilt came together. boots12

I got it back with a week to spare and it was lovely. But I simply could not resist getting into the spirit and adding some bling. I tried to deep it to a minimum – some tabs, some swirls, a few buttons, gemstones. Each boot got something different, except for the bride and groom’s initials which meant I had to add two S’s. Applique would not normally be added after the quilt was already quilted, but it worked fine.

The finishing touch was a play on the words to the song “These boots were made for walking…” Lucy had some suggestions, which I modified and inscribed with FMQ on a flange on the back.

  • These boots were made for walking into your heart
  • These boots were made for walking down the aisle
  • These boots were made for walking beside my love
  • These boots were made for walking through life’s footsteps

boots16

It is not often that a person can throw caution to the wind but this quilt was a lot of fun to make, and the wedding was great. Here are a few pictures, all including boots.

Bride with her two sisters…

Mother and daughters… boots10

The shoe game… boots8

The Texas two-step becomes the Alberta two-step.

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Mount Kilauea & lonely trees

Works in progress (WIP). It’s all about the journey, right? And memories created in the process.

This week’s post is about two WIPs – totally unrelated, and yet they feel connected.

One goes back 2 years. At the time I wanted to try some curved piecing but it seemed incomplete after it was put together. alone3

I decided this quilt might work better as a background than a simple wall quilt.. Whatever I put on it would have to be simple but visually strong, and I used this lake scene as my inspiration.

 

The blocks were arranged in similar sections with a sunset sky (upper section), water (center), rock and greenery (lower bottom and right). We carry everything in to our cottage on a short but fairly rugged path and walk around this tree on every trip. It has fascinated me for the last 20 years. Other trees grow up between the rocks until a strong wind comes in and blows them over. But this one still stands. Crows and Eagles love it.

On the background, I decided to quilt the sections to simulate what they were intended to by with some Ruler-Guided FMQ. You can’t really see it from the front but the sections are more evident from the back. alone1

This project has been a WIP for nearly two years and the spot where it will hang on the wall is still bare. All that it needed was the embellishments – A felted tree, felted rock and plants. This week I got out the wool supplies …  alone5

and ended up with this…   alone4

Now to figure out how to get it looking a little like the picture.

Another project I worked on for the last two weekends at the lake was Dance of the Dragonflies by JoAnn Hoffman.dragonfly

I have not carried my sewing machine out to the cottage yet for the season, so I have to be strategic in the projects I pick to work on. With no piecing involved, this one was perfect. The Supernova fabric panel for Dance of the Drangonflies was purchased in Volcano Village at Mount Kilauea and the pattern was purchased in Hilo during our Shop Hop. 

What I love about quilting is that memories are accumulated for every piece. Start to finish may be years, as in the first piece, or it may be simply months as in the second piece. Memories may take you back to where the fabric was purchased. Maybe some special people were involved. Or struggles with the design process.

Every day there are news clips of the Mount Kilauea eruptions. I have walked around that volcano, have walked up to the lava flows, and have seen the destruction in its path. Some trees survive in the most unlikely places, and others don’t.

As I work, and in the future every time I look at this dragonfly wall hanging, I will think about the quaint little quilt shop in Volcano Village, and the quilt store in Hilo. I will wonder how they have been affected by these events and offer a prayer on their behalf.

Posted in gradients, my patterns, travels, Uncategorized, WIP | 7 Comments

Alice

Productive with a capital P. Organized with a capital O. And happy whenever I see her. Let me introduce you to my special friend Alice. At 91, I can only hope to have a fraction of her spirit when I get there.

For our recent Quilt Show, Alice made this Challenge Quilt. alice1

It is a Victorian Crazy Quilt Christmas wall hanging that she designed after being inspired by a 2 1/2″ photo of ‘The Night Before Christmas” by Patricia Eaton of McCrea, Arkansas that appeared in Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine.

When I phoned to tell Alice that my bid was the highest and I had received her wall hanging, she asked if she could add a beaded fringe to the quilt, similar to what was in the original picture. Two weeks later she was done. Let me add the point that these beads were not purchased prestrung. They were individual beads that she strung herself! alice2

Take a look at some of the closeups. The variety of embroidery stitches, the beads added to the doilies, the thread details on the buttons…

She has been an active member of our Quilt Guild for almost 30 years. Even though she no longer leaves her house or is able to attend guild meetings, she eagerly awaits the newsletter so that she knows what it going on at the guild, and continues to contribute to most guild activities.

For example, the Challenge Quilt was not the only item Alice had in the Quilt Show. She also made several wall hangings which she donated to the Choice Auction baskets, and she had items for sale in the Boutique.

I was impressed from the first time I met Alice. She says that she never gets bored. Let me tell you why.

She makes 100 Touch Quilt tops every year. Touch Quilts are lap size quilts given to Alzheimer patients living in personal care homes. They are made with 6″ squares of textured fabrics, enhanced with items the patient can play with. Touching the different fabrics or playing with the items attached to the quilt can bring comfort, happiness, and sometimes reminds the patient of events earlier in their lives. The goal of the Alzheimers Association of Manitoba is to provide each of its 22,000 (and growing) patients with such a quilt.

One of the rooms in Alice’s house is set up ‘assembly line’ style. Trays of fabric squares are divided by fabric type and colour – cotton, denim, corduroy, velvet, polyester, satin etc.

Then the different types of squares are organized and sorted into the trays as they are made. Squares with pockets, keys, and beads …

Squares with thread spools, bears made of fleece, peek-a-boo pockets, zippers or other decorative items of interest…

50 quilt tops were just handed over in April. Here is the first one of the next batch: alice3

Alice has two sewing machines. One is a Singer she purchased in 1952, but most of her sewing is done on an Elna Supermatic Sewing Machine which Alice purchased straight from the factory in Geneva Switzerland in 1956.

Elna was a technological leader in the sewing machine world with new inventions such as the free arm, reverse stitch and decorative stitches created through the use of cams.

Families affected by Alzheimers know better than I the impact a touch quilt has had on their loved one. We will never know all the stories but we can be sure that Alice has touched the lives of many.

I have only known Alice for a short time and I am proud to own one of her pieces.

 

Posted in Highlighting others, Uncategorized | 12 Comments