Quilt for Noah

I bought the fabrics for the quilt for Noah at Keepsake Quilting in New Hampshire on my way back from the trip to Toronto late August. Six fabrics in shades of green/teal that worked with the photos I’d taken of the paint in his bedroom.

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Next, I looked through my Pinterest collection of quilts but nothing stood out. In fact it seemed that given this was to be for a boy’s bed it ought to be simple without a lot of piecing. So I decided to base the quilt on the lap quilt I’d made for myself:IMG_4072

Noah’s is a double bed - I’d bought the fabrics planning to work with the width so I didn’t have enough length in each fabric to make strips the full width of the large quilt without some piecing.

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So I inserted strips mid way, and at each end to expand the centre area. I wanted the middle to be almost the width of the bed, so the two dark lengthwise strips would frame the edge of the bed. Then I added more wide strips matching the fabrics from the middle, finishing off with narrow strips around the entire edge. The finished top measures 86″ x 86″.

Now to set up the back – I have enough fabric for two pieces of fabric which will give me 86″ in width but in order to quilt the quilt, I need between 92″-94″ in both width and length in the back to mount it on the long arm quilter, so I’ve set up a 5 1/4″ wide strip pieced from 2 1/2″ pieces (made of leftovers from the edge of the front)- those I will insert to one side of the centre of the back – joining the centre back seam using a 1 1/2″ strip of dark green on on either side of the pieced strip. 

I plan to finish the ensemble with two pillow shams, the fronts of which will also be pieced. I’ll do those after I take the quilt to be quilted – I have no room to do this myself – I don’t have floor space to lay out the back and build the quilt sandwich, and even if I did, I don’t have a work space large enough to either free-motion or embroider the quilt! So this time I will have it done for me.

If I’d been planning better, I might have set up the quilt with blocks – then I’d have been able to quilt-as-I-go; but that wasn’t the case here. Perhaps on another quilt.

 

 

Dark Fruit Cake

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I make a wicked dark fruitcake. I always make them around Canadian Thanksgiving — that gives the rum in the fruit time to suffuse into the cake. This year I was a week late but the cakes (I made 9 this year) are done and now aging in the fridge.

The two essential ingredients are the melted semi-sweet chocolate and the molasses. Don’t leave these out.

I don’t use nuts because they have a tendency to go stale. These cakes last well for more than a year.

I gave one I had leftover from last year to friends today — it was better than it was last Christmas!

Here’s the recipe [it’s a forgiving recipe – the amounts of fruit are approximate – I don’t measure, just guess]:

  • 2 lbs. mixed candied fruit
  • 1 lb. red/green candied cherries
  • 1 lb. sultana raisins
  • add whatever other candied fruit you like
  • 8 oz. dark rum
  • 1/2 lb. butter
  • 2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 c. molasses
  • [a small jar of grape jelly, strawberry or apricot jam, or marmalade – these days I use marmalade]
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg (fresh if possible)
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  1. Soak candied fruit and raisins in rum for 3-4 days before making the cakes. Add rum to the fruit, cover bowl with plastic wrap and stir occasionally to make sure rum is absorbed by the fruit.
  2. Preheat oven — 275° F
  3. Prepare loaf pans (4-5 two pound pans) by wiping with butter and sprinkling with flour. [I often use aluminum loaf pans and discard them afterwards or I line conventional loaf pans with parchment — that works very well]
  4. Transfer fruit to a very large mixing container [I use my lobster pot to mix these cakes because I double the recipe and with all the fruit and batter, it’s a large amount of stuff!]
  5. In a second large mixing bowl, cream butter until soft. Add almond extract and vanilla and incorporate.
  6. Add sugar and cream until well blended. Add eggs one at a time beating well until incorporated into mixture.
  7. Add molasses.
  8. Melt chocolate [I use my microwave oven for this] and add.
  9. [Add jam or jelly or marmalade if you’re using it]
  10. In a separate large bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices.
  11. Add about half of this mixture to the candied fruit and mix well.
  12. Add remaining flower mixture to fruit and mix.
  13. Add butter and egg mixture to fruit and mix well.
  14. Fill loaf pans about 3/4 full. [The cakes rise and will spill over into the oven if the pans are too full; I put the loaf pans on a cookie sheet to catch any spill over — I’ve had to clean the oven more than once so I don’t take chances any more]
  15. Place pans in middle of oven.
  16. Bake slowly. Test with a skewer. Cakes are done when the skewer comes out clean. [Takes anywhere from about 1 1/2 to 3 hours]
  17. Remove cakes from oven. Place on a rack to cool.
  18. Once they’re completely cool, remove the cakes from the pans [peel away parchment if you’ve used it].
  19. Wrap each cake in waxed paper. Put each into a ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least a month before using.

Depending on the amount of fruit you use, this recipe makes between 4 – 6 two pound cakes. [Since I double the recipe, I generally get 6 2-lb cakes and 10 small (~1/2-lb) cakes]

These cakes make terrific gifts—that’s what I do with the abundance I make.

A French Face

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My friend Andrea, who is traveling in France (near Avignon) knows of my penchant for seeing faces everywhere. She just sent me this one she saw on her travels yesterday.

Two weekends ago while we were in Ottawa at meetings on a very dark, rainy evening we walked past the Parliament buildings and we encountered this face on one of the towers:

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I keep noticing…

My Old Singer Featherweight

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I haven’t been sewing much since getting back from Bali because my two machines have been in the hospital! I took both for servicing just before I left Halifax expecting them to be ready for me when I got back. Both were working well but I did have some small complaints with each: on the Brother quilting machine the thread cutter wasn’t raising the needle high enough to be in line with the presser foot; the buttonholes weren’t working well on the Pfaff CS embroidery machine. When I got back I picked up both machines – the “problems” were a bit more serious – the Brother is back in being fixed; I started piecing a new quilt on the Pfaff only to find it making noises (and the thread cutter wasn’t cutting the bobbin thread) – so it’s back in the shop.

That left me with my serger (which I don’t use for quilting), and my mother’s old Singer Featherweight. This machine is an heirloom. This one was manufactured in 1956. I had to replace the foot pedal and motor belt, but otherwise it’s the original machine and does it ever still sew nicely! I hauled it out yesterday so I could continue working on the quilt – I put a strip of blue masking tape on the bed to mark 1/4″ and I was set to go.

I haven’t used this machine myself since I got it – my mother gave it to my niece about a year before she died. I’d had it serviced at that point. My sister found it frustrating to use, couldn’t get the threading correct, so I bought her a mechanical low-end Brother machine (with a needle threader, top loading bobbin, and free arm) and I took the Singer.

I’m glad I just stashed it below one of my sewing tables – I will certainly use it more frequently because it sews a perfect straight seam. At one point I thought of putting it on Kijiji, but this machine is a keeper!

Bali: Home at Last!

Good gracious the trip from Bali to Halifax is a long one – about 35 hours from the time I left Denpasar until I arrived in Halifax. I’m exhausted – didn’t sleep much on any of the flights (although I had three seats to myself from Bangkok to London and tried stretching out, it was sufficiently uncomfortable that I dozed but didn’t really sleep more than an hour to two); watched five movies, and several episodes of House of Cards, The Mentalist, and Ray Donovan (one movie I watched twice: “Words & Pictures” with Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche).

I am glad to be home. My neighbour just gave me two eggs and some bread so I can make myself a “Thanksgiving” Dinner (today is Canadian Thanksgiving). Then a long hot bath and to bed.

Life returns to normal tomorrow – I will have to find places to store the fabrics I bought – that will involve getting rid of some stuff to make room for them. My first sewing project will be to pick up where I left off on the art piece of the two boys walking beside the Public Gardens. Then who knows what I’ll decide to work on next.