Friday, December 26, 2008

Snowpocalypse 2008

Okay, so I live in Oregon, and snow is pretty rare for us in the Willamette Valley. It usually happens once a year for a day or so,  and then it's done. This year it's lasted at least a week and half and it suuuuucks. I just want to drive my car. I got a holiday job at a department store, and am lucky I can walk there,  and to stores for minor provisions, but I have things I need a car to do.

Like drive to Salem and get my cutting system and sewing machine. Or drive to a store and buy a better sewing machine. Or drive to a store and buy heavy groceries. I'm being a huge baby about the snow because I hate it, and am seriously glad to see it leaving. I thought I'd be able to get my table runner done by Christmas, but lack of a sewing machine really put a damper on that. I'd just about finished stitching in the ditch (poorly I might add), so it's almost there. It'll be ready way in advance for next year!

I've been plotting my next quilt. Quilt Pro has been driving me a bit crazy with their triangle measurements, but I'm just going to have to work around it. It's taken me a while to find a color combination and style I like, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to go with this.

I think it looks like rows of dancing monkeys, or monkeys holding hands. It also looks easy enough that it won't drive me completely crazy, but interesting enough that I feel like I'm accomplishing something.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Molasses Cookies

When I was a little kid, my mom worked for the State Fair. She worked for the Wine Pavillion, or something like that, and we got a lot of free passes to the fair every year. We used to go almost every day, and I have a lot of strong memories of those experiences.

I also spent a long time perfecting a chocolate cookie recipe, and love to bake. In 2006, I decided to combine State Fair and baking, and enter some baked goods. I entered berry pie tarts, and chocolate cookies. I got red ribbons for both, but I don't think that was necessarily impressive. The pie was 3rd out of 5th, and the cookies were 3rd out of 8th. Don't get me wrong, I was very pleased with the outcome, but my competitive nature called out for more.

This past summer I entered again, with the same pie, cookies, and also banana bread and peanut butter cookies. I was working at a summer camp at the time, which hampered me a bit. I didn't have my own kitchen, or supplies, but I did a bit better in the showings. I placed second out of 15 for the berry pie tarts, and got 2nd out of (I think, I'll check my records) 18 for the peanut butter cookies. I was beyond delighted! I had some ingredient issues with the chocolate chip cookies, and forgot to pick up muffin tin liners for the banana bread muffins, so I felt like I didn't have my best showing there.

Now I'm on the hunt for blue. I'd like to enter molasses cookies, but I haven't found a recipe that I really love yet. I really enjoy a cake like cookie, and my molasses have been coming out kind of flat.

I tried out a new recipe this weekend, which blogger isn't letting me cut and paste, to mixed results. They were fine, didn't have much loft to them, and needed a little vanilla I think. They also came out crisp on the bottom when fully cooked, and undercooked other wise. I'll keep trying.

This is not to say that I didn't eat them anyway!

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Christmas Time!

Okay, so, BBW was driving me crazy, and not in a good way. I realized that one of the things I like about quilting was the repetition and ease of it. It's not that it doesn't engage the brain,  but there is a rather soothing quality to the clear destination a quilt can provide. BBW was too much work, so I just wasn't working on it, which was no fun. I have a lot of ideas I want try out, and spending time not working on something fun was no good. 

So I started my Christmas Placemat plan.

And I got Quilt Pro 5, which doesn't seem as cool as Electric Quilt, but what can you do? I ran into a few pitfalls. I looked up placemat sizes online, and made the above pattern at 12 x 18. More on that later.

I also got the Alto Quilt-Cut system, which takes a part of quilting that I'm not to good at and made it a lot easier. All of my cut pieces came out uniform, and it took less than half the time. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than what I was doing before.

And here is one "placemat" finished. I found out some things along the way, the first being that the initial double square I had planned for the middle wasn't really the best thought out. I took a pre-planned block from the Quilt-Pro, and stuck it into my layout. I checked the yardage requirements and thought I was good to go. Turned out that the middle square bits didn't fall into 1/8th inch increments. That was no good, as I couldn't really get a consistent cut between the pieces. I settled for just a plain square, after I cut out the bits for the more complicated middle square. The second issue was that I still am not getting a good consistent 1/4 inch seam.

I'm going to blame my sewing machine. :) Oh, it's probably me, but this machine isn't exactly top of the line. It's something my mom bought, so I have no idea when or where it came from. I taped a piece of paper to mark where the 1/4 inch seam is, but sometimes I make and sometimes I don't. I would like to get a new machine, but the Internet isn't being very helpful. I'm wary of going to a sewing machine shop, because I don't know which machines are rated well (there isn't a clear consensus online as to how brands compare) and I don't want to get some salesman who is working on commission. Consumer Reports is coming out with sewing machine ratings in February, but I don't know if I can wait that long! My friend Leslie has a Janome, so maybe I'll test hers out.

Oooh, another problem. 12x18 really isn't big enough for a placemat! I should have just looked at one I already had! This photo is my "placemat" on top of a correctly sized placemat. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself at this point, with all the cut out pieces I didn't use due to poor planning, and a wrong final size, due to poor planning. It was almost enough to make me give the whole thing up. But when the goings get tough, the tough make table runners! I used my original design idea, and sewed them together for a table runner. Which may or may not be how table runners were invented in the first place.

Here was another issue I should have thought of. I've made sawtooth blocks before, for my first quilt, and they involve flying geese. I didn't really think about it when I was cutting out the triangles in the photo. It was what Quilt-Pro recommended to cut out, so cut I did! I forgot that last time I made these, you use rectangles, and cut them down to the triangle part. It seemed like a lot of extra work at the time, but making them with the triangles already cut was more frustrating. The points were very flimsy and harder to pin and get through machine than if I had done them correctly.

This would make any long-time quilter laugh, and it's for posterity, but here's my stash. That's all I've got so far. If I'm still doing this in 20 years, I'll look back at this photo and laugh.