Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving planning

This is the first Thanksgiving that I will be cooking for my husband's family.  (By family I mean his mother) We'll be driving up to Tulsa, OK from Houston to visit his mom and I am in charge of the cooking.  I don't really mind it, actually I'm relishing the planning and showing off my cooking.  Everything is planned, I just need to figure out the timing issue to make sure everything is nice and hot and nothing is over/under cooked.  My husband made only two requests: 1) have ham at the table and 2) have twice baked potato at the table.  Everything else is up to me. Here is what I have planned:

1) Ham, the fully cooked kind that comes with a glaze
2) Chicken, brined and roasted (I know it's a bit excessive to have two proteins but it just doesn't feel like Thanksgiving unless there is a bird involved) and brown gravy from the drippings
3) Stuffing, the kind from a box, but with lots of additions
4) Green bean casserole, recipe from Pioneer Woman, slightly tweaked to my liking (I would love to put some mushrooms in there, but alas, the husband has a strong dislike for mushrooms)
5) Twice baked potatoes, my own recipe (will post later with pictures :))
6) Corn tomato salad, I needed something that doesn't require cooking since the burners and the oven will be occupied
7) Yeast rolls, store bought, just need to pop them in the oven before serving

So it looks like a lot of work, but I think I can do it.  It's a good thing that the husband's mom likes leftovers because I will be cooking enough food to feed an army!  I shall hand the camera over to the husband during the cooking and hopefully end up with some pics I can share about the process... Wish me luck!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I think I'm a horrible blogger

... or that I'm just horrible at updating. I tend to get something in my mind and just run with it without taking the time to chronicling the process.  So on this find Friday morning, I saw my camera and *finally* realized that I haven't taken a single picture of my current project or the process. A while back i stumbled upon alamode's quilt as you go method.  Basically, you make quilt a bunch of smaller quilt sandwiches and then attach them to make a final big quilt.  I've heard many good things about this method since quilting a large quilt is pretty hard on a short arm machine. The past couple of quilts I put together always had fabric gathering on the back and (although minor) looked bad.  In an effort to improve my quilting skills and try out some new techniques, I set out on this venture.

I needed a design and I came up with a simple block pattern.

There are 6 different block designs, and with each design I used 4 different fabrics to create 5 distinct blocks for each design.  In total, there are 30 different blocks to be quilted to the backing and then put together.  I've already made the 30 different quilt tops, but didn't get a chance to take a picture of them before the battery in my camera died. :( I did get a chance to take pictures of some mistakes I've made. Hopefully you can learn from them...

So you can see the fabric puckering, a recurring theme in my quilting it seems... :( Then i realized that I was using the regular presser foot. 
... So I popped on the walking foot and voila! the entire thing is nice and smooth and more perfect than the last one! yay!
 I never realized the awesomeness of the walking foot.  I mean I read that it really helps when you have multiple layers of fabric, but my last quilt still puckered.  I think I'm just not pinning the sandwich smoothly. Will need practice on that.

As for the backing, I had some white on black fabric that I found in the remnants pile at Joann's that I can't find a use for.  So I thought it would make a nice pieced look with a common theme.

So here is one with pretty flowers.
And here is another one.  With this one, I decided to just follow the lines on the fabric pattern.

Which made an interesting pattern on the front. :)
I still have a huge pile of quilt tops to be quilted to the backs. I'm about to try some free motion quilting. The blocky design and the fabric pattern should make it "interesting."

Now, lets talk about quilt appreciation.  When I show my husband my newly finished quilt, his usual response is "oh that's nice." He doesn't really reach for a quilt when he's cold on the couch, he prefers to just put on another jacket and stick his foot under my butt. So I'm on the couch alone and is the only one that uses my quilt.  Then it got cold. My dog looked cold when she was chilling on the couch, so I put one of my first quilting tries on her. Now she's not so cold :).  I'm glad someone besides me appreciates and actively uses one of my quilts.

Monday, November 8, 2010

International Quilt Festival roundup

I know, I know... I've been meaning to post the pictures I took at the Quilt Festival earlier, but a series of random events have prevented me. (long story...) Soooooooo... I finally have the time today and I'm going to share with you what I saw.

This is one of the first quilts that caught my eye (and was able to take a picture of). I thought it was just "quaint" until I read the description and realized what it was made of.

It's made of selvages! This is as close as I could get to it.  It's just too cute... 

And this was a quilt right next to it. It's so pretty reminding me of Monet paintings that I used to stand in front of for hours at museums. 

From a far, this quilt doesn't really stand out *that* much from many other entries in the show. 

HOWEVER!!!! when you take a closer look, the quilt just pops at you.  It's so 3D  with the flower petals and the buttons! I love it. :)

And then something shiny caught my eye. 

I saw this quilt from across the room.  At first, I was attracted to it because I thought the green lines on the flower are made of stitches and quilting lines.  However, on a closer look, the lines are just a print.  This is that kind of quilt that the longer you look at it, the more interesting it becomes...

... for example, the ric racks used for edging. and the different fabrics used, and the quilting used to define each part of the quilt. 

I was on my way out of the exhibition part of the Festival, and I just *had* to stop and take a closer look at this quilt. It was one of the award winners, and I can clearly see why.  The fabric choices are pretty simple, but the quilting and the bead work is just *amazing*! 

Just look at the details! 

I would have taken like a million more pictures, but alas, my camera chose the wrong time to run out of batteries.  I was soooo excited to go, I completely forgot to check the battery level before I tossed my camera in my bag and ran out of the door.  I didn't get a chance to take pictures of the all the other awesome quilts at the vendor booths and all the cool quilting toys I saw. boo :( 

Anyways, moving on to my thoughts of the vendor floor.  There were so many amazing vendors with awesome things to sell; anything from the typical fabric, threads, and appliques to huge and industrial quilting machines, and foot massagers (odd, I know).  I wasn't in the market for any large tools so I mainly looked at all the fabric shops. I felt like a kid in a candy store.  I looked everywhere and touched everything. I was in heaven.  After taking stock of what was available, I took out my plastic and started shopping. 

So here is a fat quarter stack of Civil War Chronicles from Schoolhouse Quilt Shoppe  
A close up of the fat quarters

Here is a fat eighths pack of lavender Civil War.  I've been looking for some purple/lavender fabric for some time, and this pack is just awesomely pretty 

Here is a stack of random fat quarters

and a closer look at them :)

 So here it is folks, my first trip to the International Quilt Festival and I'm sure I'll be back next year. I will have a plan next year so I can better plan my time, and not just wonder aimlessly and touching everything. One thing I was disappointed about is the fact that I didn't see that many Japanese imported fabric.  I've been wanting to add some Kokka fabric to my stash, but I didn't see any vendors that was selling it :( ah well...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quilt festival, cont'

So, I have been meandering around the festival for about 2 hrs now. Spent the time split between the exhibitions and the booths. Since this is my first time, I didn't have any specific vendors I wanted to visit. However I did find and excellent array of fabrics being sold and some excellent tools. I think I'm about to call it a day. This event is huge and I think I walked most of the isles, but there is no telling! I took some pictures of some very pretty and inspiring quilts at the exihibition portion that I will upload when I get home. It's a shame that the prettiest ones have a "no photography" restriction. Also, my camera ran out of power before I got a chance to finish looking at the quilts. :(

My final thoughts and pictures should be posted in a few hours.

Quilt festival, first impressions

So I made it here! Quilting not being a young person hobby and I'm here in the middle of a weekday makes me one of the youngest people around (except for the few little kids dragged along by their mother). I heard that to fully experience this, you would need a game plan. I brushed this off and decided to walk around as my game plan. Boy was I wrong... Now I'm feeling like a lost kid in a grocery store.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

two posts in one day?! unheard of!

So, remember the pile of cut, upcycled denim jeans I showed you a few days ago? Well, I decided to start working with them.  I wanted to do a traditional triangle pattern (actually, I just wanted to try out one of the methods I learned to do triangles with), so I started sewing.  And then I quickly stopped.  I forgot how hard it is to work with denim.  It is thick and the resulting seams are really bulky... My little machine is just not geared to handle it (or maybe it just needed to be oiled).  Instead of some thing large and grand, I ended up with something small. I ended up with a pillow because I had extra fiberfil laying around.

The front in the pattern I wanted for the denim quilt.  

I needed a back, so I just sewed 4 pieces of the squares together

Now, I need to reorganize and redesign a project that will use up the rest of the denim squares that won't end up with bulky seams.  Any ideas?

It's Election Day and I'm showing my second quilt!

This is my second completed quilt and I'm participating in the Blogger's Quilt Festival.

First off, lets see the quilt and then I'll tell you the story behind it.

Here is the front
And here is the back
A close up of the front (ignore the the fact that some of the blocks didn't line up right)
From the many imperfections you see on this quilt, I'm sure you can tell I'm a beginner quilter.  I start quilting not too long ago, about 5 months ago to be more exact.  I'm not sure if there is a story behind this particulart quilt.  I needed something to do and I started sketching out something on graph paper and started sewing.  However, I'll tell you why I started quilting.

I've always been a crafter/diyer.  My entire family likes making and fixing things.  My mom is a knitter, my dad loves fixing things around the house and building things, my grandmother makes clothes for my little cousins, and for the longest time, I've been a crocheter.  Then I got addicted to fabric.  I had piles of fabric even before I learned how to use a sewing machine.  I wanted to make something with these pretty fabrics and I've never been a clothes maker, so I turned to quilting.  5 months ago, I was gainfully employed and never had the time to pick up a new hobby. So the fabric pile just sat in the corner, slowly growing. Then I quit my well paid job as an immigration attorney to follow my husband to his new assignment.  Because of a series of events, I didn't end up moving and I didn't go back to my last job.  So now, I had a ton of free time on my hands. Too much time actually.  Aside from doing the normal housewifey things, my hands remained idle.  Idle hands and idle time leads to a lot of unnecessary thinking and stress.  I mean I didn't have the stress of going to a job I didn't like alleviate some of the stress I was feeling before, but not having a job brought on new stress.  Not being able to find a job, worrying about the future of my career, and blaming myself and slightly my husband for it was slowly turning me into a person I didn't want to be.  I *needed* to do something, anything to prevent my mind from going to the worst case scenario.  So I picked up a new hobby: quilting.  I had a simple short arm sewing machine and a pile a fabric, so I turned to the internet for sewing lessons.  It was nice to be concentrating on learning something new.  I like designing a look, picking out the fabric, cutting the fabric, focusing on the right seam allowance, and finally arriving at something new and pretty.  I stopped over stressing and over thinking EVERYTHING.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still worried and stressed over my current state of joblessness, but now it's more manageable.

Things I've learned about quilting while making this quilt:

  • seam allowance matters
  • pressing the seams open and ironing the seams open are two different things
  • thinking synthetic/cotton blend material would be okay and would not affect the overall quilt is wrong; doesn't matter how much synthetic material is in the fabric, it's gonna shrink and mess up the measurements when you put a hot iron to it... 
Things I've learned in general while making this quilt:
  • it's okay if things aren't perfect; it's just another opportunity to find a way to correct your mistakes
  • don't buy fabric just because it's pretty; it might have synthetic material in it and is completely useless
  • don't worry about the small things; everything will work out in the end

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oh man, I made a major boo boo...

When I signed up for Pamknitty's market report, I thought the "Market" also covered the quilt festival that's going to be here after the Market... After checking on my blog traffic the past couple of days, I realized that a lot of people have visited my blog in hopes of seeing postings about the Market.  To clarify... I will be going to festival, and not the Market.  I truly apologize for the mix up.  I hope all of you will come back next week to see my report of the festival!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things I've been doing (and things I plan on doing)

As I've said in my last post, I've decided to make things for charity.

I've made a big stack of pillow cases to be dropped off at my local shelter after I wash them. 
That took a lot less time than I anticipated so I started organizing materials for another project.  Not too long ago, I made a doggie bed for Mags using old blue jeans.  I didn't have enough at home, so I bought a bunch from a local thrift shop.  Apparently, I bought too many and I ended up with a big pile of XXXXXXL jeans. Now I'm thinking of making an area rug or a heavy blanket with the leftovers.  I cut them up into a bunch of 6x6 squares.  I have no idea what design I'm going with though.

It's a big pile of squares. 

Look at the colored jeans! Greatest contributions of the 80's!
Through other projects, I ended up with a big box of random scraps that are too big to toss, but too small to put into a full quilt. (actually, I'm sure that if I gather enough, I can put together a scrappy quilt with it. BUT!!! I'm too impatient) Therefore, I just took out all the scraps and just started sewing. Not sure what I'm working towards, but the scraps are ending up in something...

On another note, I'm planning on quilting together the top and backing from last week's posts together to participate in Blogger's Quilt Festival.  Although I haven't been quilting too long, I kind of want to get in with the online quilting community.  (I think I've been preparing the jeans and sewing the scraps together in an effort to avoid quilting everything together.  I've had a bad experience working on my first quilt and I'm kind of scared to quilt it together...)

Speaking of quilt festivals, the big International Quilt Festival is coming to Houston.  I've always seen the billboards every fall for the festival but never really paid that much attention to it.  Ever since I started quilting, I've been stalking several popular quilting blogs such as alamode fabric and jaybirdquilts and fabric blogs such as fabricworm.  Then I realized what a big deal the quilt festival is!!! So, since this year, I'm jobless thus free during the weekdays, I decided that I'd take a field trip out to George R Brown Convention Center to see what the big deal is. I'm excited! I'll be blogging during all the festivities and participating in KPKM Market Report and showcasing all the pretties I'll be seeing! So stay tuned!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Last little bit of finishing week

Over the weekend, I finished the quilt backing to the square quilt top I posted last week. It's a very simple pieced squares with a white boarder. 

The boarder pieces are arranged in a pattern with additional fabric mainly because I ran out of scraps...

I'm putting off quilting this puppy together for a while.  The other day I saw this piece on my local news about how charitable donations have significantly decreased since the economy tanked. There are *tons* of stuff I'd like for my birthday and/or xmas, but there are people out there without even the basic necessities of life.  So, in addition to our yearly donation to the local food bank, I decided to make some stuff for the local shelter. The easiest thing to make are pillow cases.  I've contacted my local shelter, and they welcome any sorts of material donations.  For the next week or so, I'll be making a batch of pillow cases from my scraps along with some simple blankets. I urge everyone out there to give what they can.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finishing week

So this week is a week to finish my WIPs. I've has several in the process, and I figured it was time to finish projects that I've started in the past month. And it's show and tell time!

First up, the scarf from the last post.

It's a nice bulky, spirally scarf. Just as I intended. However, there are certain *unintended* consequences. It doesn't look right on me. The ruffles just looks like an odd Victorian collar, but the ends are pretty. Not sure whether I'm going to wear it this winter or not. Think I'll make another scarf...

And then I finished a quilt top.

Originally, I was just going to have the center squares, without the scrap border. However, after i finished the center, it seemed a bit too small. So I added a border with the scraps I had left over. 

And some scraps that weren't in the original center square :)

 The quilt backing will be a bunch of scraps, just like this border. Hopefully it'll turn out well.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

crafting misadventures

While I was posting my last entry, I was in the process of felting the sweaters in the washing machine. Most of the interweb crafting sites agree to wash the sweaters in hot water with detergent and rinse in cold water.  The temp change in the cycle plus the mechanisms of the washing machine will agitate the fibers causing the sweaters to felt and shrink.  So I hear the end of the washing machine cycle and went to check on the sweaters to see if they need another round in the machine to get the texture of what I want.  I opened the lid, took out the sweaters and found this:

The washing machine bottom was covered in little felt pellets. Apparently, one of the sweaters decided to fall apart during the wash.  Then I examined the three sweaters outside, and this is what they look like...

I think the culprit is that green one because out of the three sweaters, it was the only one that was not 100% wool. Also the colors seems to match with the pellets. I shook as much of the pellets out as possible in the yard, and now my back yard looks like an army of rabbits invaded and decided to poop every where. I guess my bunny minions can't be good, all the time. :)

show and tell

So yesterday I decided to trek on over to my local thrift store to see what they've got. I needed new solids for sashing a quilt and thrift stores are always a bundle of fun.  While I didn't quite find what I originally set out to find, I did find several project inspirations.  I picked up some 100% wool sweaters that were already heavily felted for some upcycle projects.  Not completely sure what yet. Maybe a felted blanket? or maybe a pillow? scarf? I'm just going to super felt them by washing them with hot water and soap and rinsing with cold water.  I'm sure something will come to me.

While I was there, I also found a bag with random stuff in it. From what I could tell, there were some lace trimmings and some sort of clasps. 

Vintage Bonnie Clasps. Not sure exactly what I will do with it since I don't make clothing

Some old ribbons that will find their way into a future project

A close up of the blue ribbon. It's very pretty and in that shade of dark blue that  is just so pretty :)

Also, these lace trimmings. The package said they're suppose to be elastic, but I think time took that away. Now, they're just pretty lace trimmings with no elastic. 
Along with the vintage pretties and wool sweaters, I also saw bags and bags of yarn.  I was going to buy several bags of these 100% wool yarn. However, they were in this drabby brown and tan colors. While I do love browns, it just didn't look right, and I didn't have any projects in mind.  Instead, I picked up these babies:

It's 3.75 skeins of Yarn Bee Fleece Lite in Cranberries.  I've seen them in stores before, and they normally cost $4-$5 per skein, and I picked ALL of these up for less than $5. STEAL!!!! The color in these pictures are darker than what these yarns are.  In real life, they're more like this bright pink with black threadings.  Very very pretty. I predict it will end up in one of my friend's xmas present!

Monday, October 4, 2010

First fall meal of the year

The weather has finally cooled off for us to eat something that's not light pasta or salads. So this past weekend, we made our traditional first fall meal - a totally inauthentic version of gumbo.

As you can see, our version is a tomato based gumbo, and we've added *a lot* of spice to make it nice and hot.

Here is how we made it.  First the ingredients:

Add caption
The veggies: One large bell pepper, a medium onion, a few stalks of celery (I used 4) and 4-5 cloves of garlic (minced)

The protein: a large chicken breast, 1/3 lb of shrimp, and two large links of sausage (diced)

The spices: black pepper, cayenne pepper, tony's, and salt.  At the last minute, I also decided to toss in 5 whole, dried chili peppers, not pictured. As is with all my other cooking, I can't put a quantity with the spices since everyone's taste is different. However, as a guideline, I put in about a table spoon of each in and then added more as needed.

Lastly, the canned goods: a 10oz can of diced tomatoes, 8oz can of Rotel (I know that Rotel is not available everywhere.  To compensate for this, add in 3 diced jalapeno peppers and another can of diced tomatoes) and about 4 cups of chicken broth (another rule of thumb - since we're putting in the broth last, make sure the broth covers everything that's in the pot)


1) brown the chicken and shrimp with about 1-2 tsp of olive oil on medium high heat.  If you're using a non-stick pan, you can use less.  It should take about 8 min. Take it out of the pot and set aside.

2) Now we're browning the veggies.  Toss in the green pepper, onion, and celery.  Stir this constantly to avoid it sticking to the pan.  After about 5 mins or so, toss in the garlic and cook for 2-3 min more.

3) Now put in the sausage with the veggies.  Stir and cook for 3 min.

4) Add the two cans of tomatoes and the browned chicken and shrimp.  Bring it to a light boil.

5) Add the chicken broth.  If 4 cups is not enough, add more to cover the top of the mixture in the pot.

6) Now we season.  Since the flavors have not cooked in yet, the "gumbo" is going to taste rather bland and one dimensional.  So don't over season.  It's always easier to correct under-seasoning later than over-seasoning.

7) Bring this mixture to a boil and lower the heat to have a light simmer going. It's going to cook for 2+ hours. The longer it cooks the fuller the flavor of the "gumbo" will be.  Check on it every 30 min to an hour to make sure there is enough liquid and taste to correct the seasoning.

After it is done, serve over rice (and have some bread for dipping) and enjoy!!!!