Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A New Robe and a Family Favorite Cookie Recipe

 The Robe

I did it! I rarely sew for myself, but I actually found the time to sew a new robe. Lovely, soft, warm flannel in beautiful turquoise blue. It's roomy and warm with enough length and  fullness to wrap around my ankles at night.

It's hard to see the details with the light behind me. 

A better photo in a shorter mirror.
 The Recipe

I only bake these little morsels of delicate yumminess for very special occasions.  They are far too rich for everyday nibbling. Crunchy nuts and sweet fruit preserves contrast beautifully with a melt-in-your-mouth, buttery cookie base. It's hard to eat only one.

Jelly Filled Swedish Butter Cookies

Half are filled with sour cherry preserves, half with fig preserves.

  • 1 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg, separated plus the white of a second egg
  • 1 T. cream
  • 1 t. vanilla 
  • 2 c. sifted flour
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts 

  1. Heat oven to 350ยบ F. 
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
  3. Add the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla. Mix well
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Stir into the butter mixture until smooth.
  5. Beat both egg whites lightly with a fork.
  6. Form dough into small balls, about 1" in diameter.
  7. Dip dough in the egg white, then roll in the chopped nuts.
  8. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet.  (I lined the cookie sheet with parchment paper.)
  9. Make a small indentation in the center of each ball. (A finger is about the right size, but I used the rounded end of a wooden spoon.)
  10. Fill the indentations with preserves. 
  11. Bake for about 20 minutes.
  12. Allow to cool slightly on the cookie sheet before moving to a cooling rack.
  13. Handle carefully as these are very fragile when warm.
In the oven and almost baked.


Only 16 days till Christmas! 

Still no tree, no decorations, no cards sent out and several batches of cookies yet to bake. 
I'd better get busy!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas Place Mats, Part 2: The Mat

Hooray! All eight of my Christmas place mats are finished! They really were quite easy and fast. I intentionally made them without binding for two reasons. 1) I didn't want to spend the time it would have taken to hand stitch the binding on the back side of the mats. Eight is a big bunch. 2) I wanted the outer edge to have no extra bulk in the seam.

Figuring out how to go about this process quickly became an irresistible challenge. An extra step or two had to be added in order to do the job right. Did it save time in the long run? Yes, but not as much as I'd hoped. 

The instructions shown here are for a set of four place mats. I made two sets.

 Place Mats: 14" x 18"
 Use 1/4" seam allowances.

Fabrics needed for four place mats
  • 1/2 yard inner background fabric  
  • 1/4 yard or one fat quarter contrast fabric for narrow, inner border
  • 2/3 yard coordinating or contrast fabric for wider, outer border
  • 1 yard backing
  • 1 yard batting

Cutting for four place mats

From inner background cut:
  • four rectangles, 10" x 14"
From narrow border fabric cut:
  • eight strips, 3/4" x 10"
  • eight strips, 3/4" x 14 1/2"
From outer border fabric cut:
  • eight strips, 2 1/2" x 10 1/2"
  • eight strips, 2 1/2" x 18 1/2"
From backing fabric, cut:
  • four rectangles, 15 1/2" x 19 1/2"
From batting, cut:
  • four rectangles, 15 1/2" x 19 1/2"

Sewing for each place mat

1. Position the tree from on the 14" x 10" background fabric. Fuse and stitch in place with a machine zigzag stitch.

Instructions for making the trees are found in last week's blog post. Christmas Placemats, Part 1

2. Sew a 3/4" x 10 strip of inner, narrow binding to either side of the 10" x 14" rectangle of background fabric.

3. Sew a 3/4" x 14 12" strip of narrow binding to the top and the bottom of the background fabric. Press.
Strip piecing makes the process quick.
4. Sew a 2 1/2" x 10 1/2" strip of outer border fabric to each side of the quilt top. Press seams to the border.

5. Sew a 2 1/2" x 18 1/2" strip of outer border fabric to the top and to the bottom of the quilt top. Press seams to the border.

To make place mats with binding, add the batting and backing at this point, quilt, and bind.

The following instructions are for making the place mats without binding.

1. With a removable fabric marker and a ruler, draw a line all around the outer border of the place mat top. Make the line 5/8" in from the edge of the border.

2. Center the place mat top right side up on a 15" x 19" piece of batting. Pin in place.

3. Stitch in the ditch on one side of the narrow, inner border. This will hold the batting securely in place under the place mat top.

3. Stitch on the line with a very long machine stitch to baste the place mat top to the batting.

4. Trim the batting to 1/4" beyond the edge of the basting stitch.

The edge of a cutting ruler can be used to flip the edge over so that the batting can easily be trimmed to 1/4"
5. Trim the corners of the batting.

6. Place the quilt top right sides together with the backing fabric. Center and pin together.

7. Stitch together, 1/4" from the edge of the place mat top. Leave an opening of about 4" on one side of the place mat for turning.

 8. Trim off the excess lining and pull through the opening to turn the place mat right sides out.

I use a large knitting needle to poke the corners out, then I smooth the seam open with the needle, pressing it flat as I go.
9. Tuck the edges along the opening inside, press, and pin in place.

10. Sew very close to the edge all around the place mat enclosing the opening at the same time.

11. Remove basting stitches. Quilt as desired. I kept the quilting very plain and simple to complement the minimalistic design of the place mat.

Simple, straight line stitching on the outer border.

Quilting around the tree with a walking foot.

Drawing the quilting lines with my removable marker.

I'm so ready to move on to other things. The last two months have been so disrupted with health issues that I decided not to try sewing Christmas gifts this year. I've ordered everything online, instead.

The place mats were the first thing I'd made just for myself in quite awhile. It felt good to be sewing for me. I think I'll sew myself something else. Let's see .... I need a new robe, a pretty spring table cloth, everyday place mats, a cozy lap quilt ...  Well, maybe not all at once.

Wishing you a very happy December!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas Tree Place Mats, Part 1: The Tree

Eight Christmas Tree place mats are in the works. So far, I have four of them almost finished and waiting for the inner panel to be quilted.

I'll have instructions for the actual place mats ready in a few days, but today, while my leftover turkey stew is simmering on the stove, I'll focus on just the tree.

This is such a sweet little tree, and it's a super stash buster to use up some of those leftover bits of green fabrics. Not too large, not too small, just right for either a place mat or for a really quick batch of mug rugs.

The scrappy strips finish at 1" each. Templates for the trees are traced onto the paper side of fusible web, fused to a rectangle of pieced fabric strips, then appliqued to a background fabric. Fast and so easy.

A. Make a template for the tree.

1. On a piece of stiff paper like card stock, draw or cut out a rectangle 3" x 5 3/4".
2. On the top of the 3" side of the rectangle, make a mark 1 1/2" in from the side. This will mark the center point for the top of the tree.
3. Use a ruler to draw straight lines from the mark at the top of the template to each corner at the bottom of the rectangle.
4. Cut the template on the lines.

B. Make a layout to use with fusible web. 
The layout shows the position of the trees on the pieced strips. Dotted red lines show the direction and number of the fabric strips.

1. Either start with a rectangle of paper to trace onto a piece of fusible web, or draw directly onto the paper side of the fusible web.

  • For two trees, make the rectangle 4" wide and 6 3/4" tall. 
  • For four trees, make the rectangle 7 1/2" wide and 6 3/4" tall. 
  • For eight trees, choose one of two sizes for the rectangle as described below.
If making eight trees, determine the size of the rectangles by the way you want to place the trees.
  • To place the two sets of four trees one above the other, make the rectangle 7 1/2" wide and 13" tall. (Many of my scraps were short, so this is the layout I used.) 
  • To place the two sets of four trees side by side, make the rectangle 15" wide, by 6 3/4" tall.
2. To draw the first tree, line the template up with one one long side parallel with the edge of the rectangle. Align other trees with side edges together as show in the photo above.

3. Set the layout on the fusible web aside.

 C. Make the strips sets of green scraps.

Six strips of green may be enough, but I cut seven just to be sure.

1. Cut green fabrics into strips 1 1/2" wide.
  • For two trees, cut six or seven strips, each 1 1/2" x 4 1/2
  • For four trees, cut six or seven strips, each 1 1/2" x 8".
  • For eight trees placed with one set of four above the other, cut thirteen strips, each 1 1/2" x 8". 
  • For eight trees placed with two sets of four laid side by side cut six or seven strips, each 1 1/2' x 15 1/2". 
2. Sew the strip set together with 1/4" seams. Press all seams to one side.

3. Lay your fusible web cutting layout on top of the wrong side of the strip set, paper side up. Press to fuse.

 4. Use a quilting ruler to cut the trees out on lines drawn on the paper side of the fusible web.

5 Make the tree trunks. Fuse a small piece of fusible web to the wrong side of brown fabric. Cut each trunk 1/2" x 1 1/4".

6. Remove the paper backing from the trees and trunks. Position them on your background fabrics and stitch in place with your favorite zigzag stitch. I used the blanket stitch. As usual.


And my stew is done, too! Oh, yum! It smells so good!

Oven roasted carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes, leftover turkey, leftover broth from the turkey, parsley, rosemary, and thyme, salt and pepper - dumped in a pan and simmered slowly.

Wishing you a lovely week!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Needing a Break from Christmas Quilts

It's two days later than planned, but the Christmas Elves quilt is completed, and the pattern is written and ready to download.

The Pattern for Assembly and Borders

I am really pleased with the way the borders and the binding work together. This crazy striped fabric pulls all of the scrappy Christmas fabrics together. It's as if it were made for this quilt.

I debated using a different fabric for the wider border, something that would contrast, but I'm really glad that I stuck to my original instinct to carry the background into the border. The quilt is so full of color that it verges on being too busy. The wide light gray border gives the quilt a chance to breathe. The added space reduces the cluttered look and gives the eyes a place to rest.

Look at the fabric I found for the back of the quilt. Could anything possibly have been more perfect?

The last two months of designing this quilt and making the pattern have been pretty intense.  This quilt has about finished me on Christmas for the time being, so I'm going to take a break from all holiday thoughts and work on something completely different. I'm not sure what that may be just yet. Ideas for projects are never ending. I want a flannel bathrobe that comes all the way to the floor, I've been wanting to make a bicycle quilt for a very long time, I have an idea for a fun sewing box, and I'd like to make a very small art quilt, too. I've been thinking about a series of small quilts with a theme of friendship and another house quilt too.

Wishing all of you a lovely October week!
And, no holiday music until December, please!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Christmas Elves Quilt Along, Block 5: Elf Checking the List

This is very last of the Christmas Elves sections. Now, I need only to sew them together and come up with a border treatment that suits the collection of small and large blocks. This is such a busy quilt, that I think something simple will be best.

Block 5 Patterns on Craftsy

There really is a lot going on in this fifth group of blocks. The elf, the list, the bag filled with gifts, and one adorable puppy make up the main block. The list of names may be my favorite thing from all the blocks. I've personalized it with the names of my children and grandchildren. The names of a few friends and neighbors, some random names, and scribbles round it off. A fine tipped permanent marker made quick work of it all.

There they are - Mandy, BJ, Sara, David, and Tim. I didn't think to put the pups on the list until it was too late.
The snowman and the mittens are basic applique blocks, with a bit of embroidery added to the snowman. The cowboy hat is a bit different from the hats usually seen on snowmen, and gives him a unique flavor.

And now, the wreath. Once again, something unique seemed to be needed. A Dresden plate style in multiple fabrics worked nicely. The block is only 4" square, so the plates are tiny, and there are only twelve instead of the usual twenty. The center of a wreath should be recessed and in the background rather than the foreground. The usual treatment of a circle of fabric stitched on the top just didn't work this time. It looked more like a green flower with a puffy gray center than like a wreath. I finally resorted to fusible web and an empty center for a three dimensional effect. Once fused, the center of the wreath was stitched to the background with my favorite blanket stitch.

The friendship stars can be made with traditional piecing or with paper foundation piecing. I've included instructions for both in the pattern.

The lighting wasn't at all wonderful when I took this photo. The stars are really quite bright and colorful.

I'll start sewing it all together next week. The finished quilt should look so much better than this diagram made of individual photographs.
I can't wait to see how this looks when it's all put together and finished!

Have a super week!!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Christmas Elves Quilt Along, Block 4: Elf with Packages

This group of blocks was so much fun!

Christmas Elves, Block4

My Facebook followers asked for skates and a toy train, so those items are here. They've also asked for a snowman and mittens, but I'll have to wait to see how or if those will fit in. I love it when people share their thoughts with me. Those ideas really do influence the final designs.

This elf may be in Block 4, but it was actually the very first one I made. It's a bit special for that reason, alone. I love the teddy bear, and this little elf as such a cute face.

The ornaments invited themselves, so here we are with a set of four blocks, all of which are made with applique. That was not really part of the plan, but I think it will be just fine. The block is 10" wide and 4 1/2" tall, so it's just the right size to make a great mug rug, too.

And now, the fun really begins. What is it about toy trains and Christmas? Every year at Christmas my grandchildren played with a little wooden train set whose cars were filled with tiny wooden soldiers. There wasn't space to make a whole train for this quilt, but I am very pleased with this little engine.

The final block I made is the one with ice skates. If you've been following my blog, you will know that I love adding little details. The skates gave me the perfect opportunity. It's all about the laces. Pearl cotton thread was just the right size for the laces and bows. Stitching the laces was almost like lacing real skates. In one side and out the other all the way from the bottom to the top.

 Only one set of blocks to go, and then it's time to sew it all together. The quilt is looking awfully cute and I'm getting excited now. I think I'll redo a couple of the smaller blocks in brighter colors. The gingerbread pair for sure. Don't you think  they look rather dull compared to everything else?

For now, I've positioned the skates and train above the elf block and the ornaments below. I may change that, but I'm not sure yet. It's a work in progress. 

Only one group of blocks to go!

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Christmas Elves Quilt Along, Block 3: Sleigh

Christmas Elves, Block 3, 8" x 9"

The center block for this wall hanging was always meant to be the very last block, but a series of unfortunate events interfered with the plan.

1. I messed up on my lovely schedule and I had only allowed two weeks between publishing Block 2 and Block 3. Calendars, counting, and dialing telephone numbers always give me trouble, so this was no big surprise.

2. Last week my other self took over, and first thing I knew I was designing and sewing a sleigh. Also, no surprise. My patterns always prefer to design themselves at will.

3.  Because of excuses 1 and 2, the companion blocks for the elf carrying packages fell way behind schedule. I made at least three attempts at blocks that didn't work at all, so the last companion block is yet to be designed.

4. Unplanned events like two unexpected doctor visits, a broken ceiling fan, numerous hubby interruptions, and other odds and ends have interfered with my already shortened work time. Why does this always happen when a person is in a hurry?

A Promise

From now on, I will do my best to stay on track and get the Elf with pakages group of patterns, now named Block 4, ready no later than next weekend. I am determined to have the entire pattern completed on schedule on October 14, as planned. Fingers crossed!

The Sleigh

I seriously considered redoing the block from scratch and repositioning the boxes. They seem just a tad off kilter to me, but I didn't know how to work it into on time to get something out on September 2. I've almost convinced myself that it will do, so it's staying as is. It will make me crazy forever, I know, but so be it.

An Option 

A couple of years ago, I designed "Ready for Takeoff", a sleigh on a mug rug. As you can see, the two sleighs have some similarities and some differences. The proportions of the two sleighs are quite different. The new sleigh is also red with snowflake trim, but it's longer, lower, and sleeker. It contains a tree rather than Santa's bag because the elf in (the new) Block 5 is stuffing a bag with packages. Two bags in one wall hanging felt like one too many.  The original sleigh also fits on a smaller block. You can see the difference in this side by side photo.

If you already have the first pattern and want to use that instead, you definitely can. You will need to enlarge it about 110% and either add to the contents or pile the contents a bit taller to fill the 8" vertical space better.

A Happy Note

It's September!

School is underway and cooler weather will move in.

When I was growing up, September was my favorite month of the year. My mother and I went shopping together. New school clothes were wonderful, but the new school supplies were my favorites. Fresh yellow pencils, unmarked pink erasers, pens, ink, plus lovely notebooks and binders filled with brand new packages of paper. I could never have enough paper! Mom always let me stock up on art supplies, too. I was allowed fresh crayons, colored pencils, water colors, and a sketch pad. Also, by the end of summer, I was really missing the chance to meet new teachers, learn new things, and make new friends.

September is also my birthday month. That made it just about as perfect. 

Wishing you a fabulous month!

School Wall Hanging