Crazy Quilt Shoulder Bag

I started with some raw silk scraps, then gathered bits and pieces of batik from my scrap boxes.

Now there are a couple of ways of setting up a crazy quilt piecing – the easiest is to cut a muslin block in the projected size, cover it with fabric pieces using a stitch,  flip and press technique, then trimming away the excess fabric when the block has been completely covered.

I didn’t make my fabric pieces that way. I began by sewing (and pressing) strips and largish triangles together until I had an assembled fabric 12″ x 10″ more or less. Then I created a second piece approximately the same size. Squared both pieces and trimmed them to 10″ x 10″.

Next I backed the crazy quilt fabric with a layer of quilt batting, top stitched each seam with rayon embroidery thread using a different decorative stitch for each seam.

I wanted a couple of compartments in my bag, so I cut one of the finished pieces in three, inserted zippers, and added the lining at each zipper location. Then the top zipper – the shoulder strap was attached at this point.

I added pockets to each side of the main compartment lining before attaching it at the top zipper. I finished the bag by placing right sides together and sewing the side seams starting with the lining; then the seam across the bottom of the bag (it’s a good idea to remember to unzip the top zipper before stitching the bottom seam so you can turn the bag right side out).

I turned the bag right side out by pulling it through the lining. Finally, I stitched the bottom of the lining and push it inside the bag.

The final step is to zipper the top of the bag and steam press it so it’s flat!

Generally, I prefer not to carry a purse, building pockets into my jackets and pants instead. But every now and again I need a small bag – this one will do nicely.


Another pair of socks from leftover yarn. Finished last evening. I unrolled the yarn, counting the number of repeats; divided the yarn in half and started knitting trying to judge just how far the variegated yarn would go. I interspersed a soft green solid at the beginning of each repeat. It worked out well – I was able to extend the patterned yarn past the middle of the foot.

And now on to the next pair.

“Whale Watching” Now Hung

Having the piece stretched on a wooden frame was a good idea. The framers were able to pull it flat – the “bubbling” disappeared. When I got the piece home I added a muslin backing with a label. Then I walked around the house looking for a place to hang it. It ended in my living room replacing “Asparagus Field” which now hangs in the spare room. 

I’m pleased with how the finished piece turned out.

Christmas Shortbread Bars

Can you believe it – I could not find a version of this recipe online. As well, as long as I’ve been making this recipe (I’ve been making it for 30 or more years – I only make it once a year at Christmas time and give 7/8 of it away), I’ve never taken a photo of the finished bars! So I’ve commandeered a couple of images to represent my Christmas Shortbread Bars but while mine kind of look like these, mine are WAAY better (I’ll add pictures when I make these in December, promise)!

IMG_8139_zps10b26850 White-Chocolate-Cherry-Pie-Shortbread-Bars4-150x150

The original recipe came from a box of Robin Hood Shortbread Mix (hasn’t been available for years) – with a recipe for a candied fruit topping. However I have a terrific shortbread recipe “Mrs. Cooke’s Shortbread” (which I got from a friend at least 40 years ago) which I thought would make a great base for the fruit mix. My fruit mix is rich and it’s all held together with one can of Eagle Brand Condensed Milk.

So here is the recipe:

Mrs. Cooke’s Shortbread

(I double this recipe when I make my shortbread bars because I need enough shortbread to cover a large cookie sheet)
Preheat oven 350° F

1/2 lb butter (at room temperature so you can cream it easily)
1/2 c white sugar (this year I will use coconut palm sugar which I’m sure will work as well since I’m avoiding white sugar entirely in my diet)
1 tsp vanilla extract (that’s real vanilla, please)
2 c. white all purpose flour

Cream butter, add sugar, vanilla, and last the flour; Mix well until you have a crumbly texture
Dump onto a large non-stick (or parchment lined or Silpat covered) cookie sheet
Press firmly, particularly at the edges
Pierce with a fork to allow the shortbread to expand uniformly
Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate cookie sheet 180° so the shortbread bakes evenly, then bake for another 15 minutes.
The shortbread won’t be quite fully baked but that’s how you want it because you’re going to continue baking after you add the candied fruit topping. Let the shortbread cool for 10-15 minutes before proceeding

Candied Fruit Topping

1 – 11/2 c shredded coconut (unsweetened if you have it)
1 c of mixed candied fruit (with some chopped cherries and citron)
1 c Thompson raisins (you can certainly use sultanas if you prefer them, or even currents)
1 c chopped pecans (you could use walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts chopped)
1/2 c dried cranberries
1 c bitter-sweet chocolate chips (can also use semi-sweet – the point is dark rather than milk chocolate)
1 can (room temperature) Eagle Brand Condensed Milk

Put all the topping ingredients into a large bowl, add the condensed milk and mix as well as you can – it’s a sticky mess but is it ever going to be good.

Spoon the fruit/condensed milk mixture onto the shortbread making sure you spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of the shortbread (try getting as close to the edges as you can – don’t want to waste any of this Christmas bar).

Bake 25-30 minutes at 350° – until the coconut begins to turn golden.

Cool on a rack, then cut into bars. I cut the entire concoction into 8 portions – which in turn can be cut into 12-16 bite-sized bars. This stuff is SOOO rich you don’t want to serve more (although you’ll want to eat more).

I make these Christmas bars about three-four weeks before Christmas. Slip each of the 8 portions into its own small ziploc plastic bag, store them in the fridge until I give them away.

Let me know how it goes if you decide to try them – they’ll be an instant favourite – trust me!

Christmas Cake 2015

IMG_5756 I’ve shared my Dark Fruit Cake recipe before — usually I make them around Canadian Thanksgiving which is in 10 days or so, but this year I started earlier because I’m travelling to Peru at the end of the month and November is too late for the cakes to age enough. So I started last week by adding 10 oz of dark rum to a large Tupperware bowl with a sealing lid, 2/3 full of candied fruit — by yesterday the fruit had soaked up all the rum and smelled wonderful. This afternoon I made the cakes. I’ve ended up with 5 half pound loaves, 7 one pound loaves, and 3 two pound loaves (and then I still have one two pound loaf in the fridge from 2014) — that’s more than enough for gifts this season! I have to admit I cut a very thin slice from one of the mid-sized cakes to make sure it passed quality control – lovely (even if I say so myself). They’re all now wrapped in wax paper, stored in the fridge in ziplock bags for when I will want to wrap them for Christmas giving.

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 (a mixture of regular and deluxe which includes pineapple and cherries)
  • 1 lb. red/green candied cherries
  • 1 lb. Thompson 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 (this year I used coconut palm sugar – seems to have come out all right)
  • 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; in fact this year I added the marmalade to the fruit when I soaked it and not in the wet ingredients]
  • 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 (Add the marmalade at this stage).
  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 and haven’t added it to the candied fruit to soak]
  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]

If you enjoy a tasty dark fruit cake, do try this one.

Ideas – Next Art Quilt

I’ve been wanting to do a floral piece for a while now. The Cana lilies on my back deck are gorgeous again this year and against a dark foliage background would be striking.

Or a rendering of a phalanopsis also against a dark background would be eye catching.

And my Echineacia have been wonderful again this year (even if I can’t get them to return in the pot). And this one has an insect visitor!

I took this photo of the three pilots “wind waiting” many years ago and it’s an art quilt asking to be made.

And I’ve have this dark image of the cloud funnel we saw from Kirk Hill in Parrsboro with Blomidon across the bay and the glider in a heap on the ground barely visible – it would also make an interesting piece.

I have a lot of great photos that would lend themselves to textile art pieces – choising which to work on next is the challenge!

Whale Watching II

Over the weekend I managed to do a lot on this art quilt – last week I had completed the piecing of the foreground, but there remained all the stitching to be done. I worked at a bit on Saturday and again on Sunday keeping in mind that “less is more”! Then I applied the narrow inner white border topped by the dark blue wide outer border – the mitres at the corners were as close to perfect as I could get them. However, as carefully as I was attempting to keep everything flat, I ended up with a bit of a buckle in the piece itself.

Before taking both borders off and starting over, I decided to take the piece to the framing shop for their thoughts on how I might deal with the problem. They suggested I could stretch it on a frame which would definitely help smooth the piece out – so that’s what I’ve decided to do. When I get the piece back from the framers, I’ll add a backing and a label (by hand, of course). I can’t put an embroidered signature on the front of the work because the piecing is too dense for the close stitching of a machine embroidery (I broke two needles applying the borders at the corners) – so a label on the back it will have to be!
I should have the art piece back in two weeks.

Now on to something new.