Monday, September 7, 2015

Toffee Rum Cake

Friday I baked this cake from items I had on hand.  It was just too hot to out to the grocery store.

1 box yellow cake mix
1 box vanilla pudding mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup water
1 TBSP RUM Flavoring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup or half a package of Heath Toffee crumbles.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour or spray cake pan with baking spray.

Blend together all ingredients except Toffee bits.  Mix at medium speed for approximately 2 minutes until well blended.

Pour 1/2 of  cake batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle toffee bits on top of batter in pan, distributing evenly.  Cover with remaining cake batter.  Tap pan on counter covered with a dish towel gently to release air bubbles.

Bake for 45 minutes in pre heated 325 degree oven.  Test cake at this point to see if done.  Cake is done when tester or inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Do not overbake.

Cool cake for 1 hour in pan on rack.  Turn onto serving platter and allow to cool completely before lightly dusting with powdered sugar.  Cover cake to keep fresh.  It will last 3 days without refrigeration, longer if you keep in fridge.

Enjoy this easy and very moist toffee rum delight.  It turns out very pretty with the inner ring of toffee chips melting into a delicious surprise.

#toffeerumcake  #toffeesurprisebundt  #lovetobake #anotherbundt

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Gluten Free Cranberry Cosmo Cake

Today's Baking adventure called for a bit of experimentation. I decided to keep working on my Gluten Free recipes. I found some GF packaged mixes by Pamela's and decided to give this a whirl.

1 package Pamela's Gf Vanilla Cake Mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract or flavoring
1/2 tsp Almond extract
3/4 cup of Cranberry Cosmos mixer
1 cup of dried cranberries or craisins
Optional. cosmos rimming sugar

First of all soak the cranberries the in the cosmos mixer for about an hour to plump and soften them. Drain the liquid off the cranberries into a measuring cup to ensure you have 3/4 cup to add to the cake. Pour the oil,,extracts, eggs and reserved cosmos mixer into the mixing bowl. Gently blend together until well mixed. Add the Gf baking mix and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary. Be sure not to over mix. Stir in the cranberries and toss to coat with batter.

Pour into a prepared (I used coconut oil cooking spray) BUNDT pan. Tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles. Place cake into a pre heated 325 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Test for doneness. Cake is done when it springs back when you press your finger into it or when the tester comes out clean.

Cool upright in the pan for 20 minutes On a wire rack and then invert into a serving platter.
Continue to cool cake for the better part of an hour. Once cooled you can decorate the cake with a little cosmos rimming sugar and serve.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Tropical Orange Papaya Cake

So earlier today I was shopping at my favorite discount store, and I ran across a couple of cans of Libby's Tropical Chunky Papaya mix in natural fruit juice. I also purchased a classic yellow cake mix and decided to bake when I got home.

1 15 oz can of Libby's Tropical Papaya Mix with juice. Drain and reserve the juices into a measuring cup.
1 16.5 oz box yellow cake mix
1 3 oz Orange gelatin dessert mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup of oil
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut flavoring
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground cloves and nutmeg

Add as much water as needed to make 1 full cup (8 oz) of liquid combined with the reserved fruit juices from the can.  Mix together with cake mix, eggs, oil, spices, extracts for 2 minutes. Add in gelatin, coconut and drained fruit chunks and continue mixing for 5 minutes on medium speed until smooth.

Pour into a prepared bundt pan (I used Bakers Joy spray with oil and flour). Place into a pre-heated 325 degree oven (if using a non stick pan, otherwise 350) oven for 40-45 minutes. Cake is done when the tested comes out clean.

Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes before inverting onto serving platter. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

A very economical cake to make. Gelatin was .49. The cake mix cost $1.25. Three eggs are 1.25. Oil estimate to be .25 and the coconut and fruit maybe $1.25 total. $4.49 or so not counting the spices, extracts and spray which I keep on hand. Makes 12 servings costing about .375 cents per serving

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thread Choices - Day Three Thread Weight

Okay, I admit it. I am very late in posting the third installment of my Thread Choices discussion. You see I got very busy with the long arm business (which is wonderful) and I also had two deadlines for quilts to be completed of my own for various reasons. So better late than never, what follows is the third installment of this discussion on thread choices regarding THREAD WEIGHTS.

Thread Weight

I don't know about you but when I started sewing and even up until the point where I started my long arm quilting business, I really didn't know that much about thread weight.  Sewing thread weight was probably not something I even thought about when I learned to sew as a child.  We bought small spools of thread in the closest color that matched what we were sewing, usually clothes.  The local fabric store had Dual Duty by Coats and Clarks and that was it.

These days, I am a big fan of Essential cotton thread from Connecting Threads.  It comes in a wide variety of colors and 1200 yard cones.  Its 50 weight and sews well in both of my Berninas and my featherweights.  The cones are compact with little waste and its 100% long staple cotton with a satin finish.  And lets face it, its economical.  If you are thrifty, try it.  I think you will like it.  It sews best with a 80/12 needle.  I have also used it successfully in my long arm machine when I needed just the right color and didn't have it in one of the other bigger cone brands I normally use.

But let's discuss thread weight numbers before I continue.  The smaller the number the heavier the thread.  The larger the number the more delicate or finer the thread thickness.  An easy way to remember this is that thread weight is the opposite of needle sizes.  In needles, the bigger the number, the bigger, heavier the needle.  In thread, the 30 weight threads are pretty hefty and they will require a needle with a much larger eye to successfully sew them.  A 50 or 60 weight thread can work with a smaller eyed needle which leaves less of a hole in the fabric when sewing.

When I started long arm quilting, I bought several large cones of Signature Cotton thread in various colors.  Its a 40 weight thread so its pretty strong and works well in my long arm machine.  I also purchased some PermaCore Thread which was also a 40 weight thread, but I bought it because it came on really big cones of 6,000 yards.  It works very well in my machine and I still will use it today if the color I need is in that thread line and I can get it easily.  Below is a picture with Signature on the left and Permacore on the right.  I also use Signature cotton to piece with on my domestic machines. with a size 80/12 needle.

More recently, I have started to replace my long arm thread collection with Superior threads.  I love the OMNI threads, which is a 40 weight polyester thread that comes in over 170 colors and it gets along best with my Gammill when quilting.  It is such a high quality thread that it doesn't shed or break and I can quilt fast and long with it with no issues.  I can use a size 80 domestic machine need or a size 90/4.5  long arm needle to sew.

Another Superior thread set that I really love is Magnifico.  This thread is a high strength Trilobal polyester thread that comes in at least 200 colors and is a 40 weight thread.  Its shiny and beautiful.
This thread looks great on quilts that need extra spark to them, show quilts and when you want the quilting stitches to really show on the front and back.

So Fine #50 is a 50 weight thread also made by Superior.  Its a really high quality thread that works well both in the top and bottom for quilting and you can use a #16/3.5 needle to quilt with it. This thread is flat (no shine) and it looks great on applique and background fills. There are 134 colors.

Bottom line thread by Superior Threads is a  60 weight thread.  Its a super fine polyester thread and it works beautifully in both the bobbin and the top of my Gammill machine. It has a slight sheen to it and it also comes in pre-wound bobbins from the manufacturer.  You can see how fine it is in the photo below, wrapped around my fingers.  It doesn't shed and you get alot more on a single bobbin load than other threads, meaning you have to change your bobbins left often.

So remember, don't be afraid to try new threads in your machines at home.  The larger the thread weight, the finer the thread.  And always remember to use the correct type of needle in your machine for your thread choices.  It will make your sewing fun and easy.

I just want to note that I have not been compensated for my review of these various threads by their manufacturers.  The content of this blog post is just what I know from my own personal experience.

#Threadchoices #threadweight #superiorthreadsrock #Essentialthreads  #love2longarm

Monday, August 24, 2015

Clover Wonder Clips

Do you like to do your quilt binding by hand? Or do you prefer to apply it front and back by machine? This weekend I was under the gun to finish a quilt binding for my latest original quilt and it needed to be finished for photographing ASAP. I actually had two quilts to bind, the other being a charity quilt I had made and quilted.

I took both quilts to the sewing day for my modern quilt guild. It was nice to just have hand work to do for a change. No lugging a big machine in from the car to the meeting room. I grabbed my pins, snips, thread, needle and a couple of those little leather thimble dots before heading out. I got here right in time and was one of the first to arrive. Got myself set up and started out to stitch, happily greeting people as they arrived. One of the ladies, the lovely Stephanie Mullen had not brought anything to work on. She offered to help me bind the charity quilt. I set her up with needle and thread and she borrowed snips and pins to get sewing.

There was one small problem. I only had about 10 straight pins. Not enough to share to do binding on two quilts. Stephanie asked around and another quilter, Kimberli loaned us these two boxes of binding clips. I had never used the, always opting for either straight pins or metal hair clips to hold the binding in place as I sewed it down. I asked if I could try them and I was immediately convinced how wonderful these WONDER CLIPS by Clover really are!

They come in sets of 7 or 8 or a 50 pack in their own little storage box. They are very small, made of red and clear plastic, similar to a clothes pins with a metal clamp. They have a rounded side and a flat side to them. The flat side is clear plastic and has these wonderful hash marks them so you can use these to ensure your bindings are straight as an arrow while sewing. The reverse is red plastic and more rounded, especially useful to ensure your bindings are "full". Those of you that had entered your quilts in shows to be judged know that this is something that most quilt show judges will look at and comment on if the quilt edges do not fill up the bindings clean to the edges. While this is normally not a problem for me, these Wonder Clips make it so easy to ensure your binding goes on straight.

The best feature of these clips are that you will never get stuck by pins again nor snag your skin, clothes, furniture because there are no sharp edges. I cannot tell you how many times I have stuck myself to the point of bleeding while binding quilts. No more ouchies! While I haven't tried to use them yet to apply binding on the machine, I am told they work great for this as well.

While these Wonder Clips may be considered expensive at a list price around $32, they are the perfect item to buy when on sale or when you have a 50-60% off coupon to use. I was fortunate enough to have a 60% off coupon that expired yesterday plus my teacher 10% off card, so I was able to get them at the big J store for almost 70% off. I was thrilled to save on something I wanted but didn't want to pay full price to buy. While I believe in always supporting my LQS whenever possible, this was one of those rare times where I felt the need to save some bucks and shop at the J store. Now I can go and spend the money I saved at my favorite LQS! Win, WIN! I also think that these would make a great grab bag exchange gift if you can score them on sale with a coupon like I did.

Thanks to Kimberli MacKay for the ability to try out a new notion. And a special a thanks to Stephanie Mullen for working on binding the batik charity quilt. It's great to have friends that share and sew.

And here is a photo of the finished quilts....

#wonderclips #quiltingbindingtools #Cloverclips #lovetolongarm #easybinding

I want to note that this endorsement is of my own free will and I was not compensated by Clover to write this review.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thread Choices - Day 2 - Color Selection

This is a second post in a three part series on Thread Choices for Quilters.

Having been a sewer for more than 50 years and a long arm quilter for almost 15, thread color choice is very important when quilting your quilt. While one can't go wrong using a white, cream or off white thread, the design and style of the quilt and quilting pattern will help to dictate other thread color choices. Personally, I like to use colored threads when I quilt.

If a quilt is simple, pieced and the pattern choice is an all over pantograph, the best way to choose thread color is to lay or "puddle the thread across the top of the quilt to see how each thread choice interacts with the fabrics. As you can see in the photo below, some threads all but disappear on the quilt while others really stand out and the variegated thread does both. What thread you select has alot to do with the finished look of your quilt. If you want the quilting to really show, the yellow or pink thread would be a good choice. If you wish the quilting design to be a secondary player to the actual quilt top itself, then one of the turquoise colors might be best on this quilt. While the bright orange thread matches the outermost border on this quilt, it might be just a bit much as an allover. I would however consider using it in just the borders.

If the colors of the fabrics in the quilt are highly varied, I will typically work with the quilter consider a bright solid found the quilt top. If the fabrics are from a particular line or collection, I study the fabrics to determine if there is a common color in the majority of the fabrics. If this is the case, I will pull thread cones from that color family to audition as possible thread choices.

In other cases, if the quilt is more contemporary, we will look at using a variegated threadl Variegated threads can be tricky as color variation can "pop" in some places and literally disappear in others. I have found that quilts made with batik fabrics work especially well with variegated threads. The yellow batik quilt below worked well with a variegated thread choice that included most of the colors in the quilt top. The thread color chosen in the pink 'zipper' quilt did not work as well and I probably should have selected a different pattern and thread color and let the beautiful fabrics show through without the distraction of the quilting on that one.

When the quilt is more modern in its design with negative space to consider and full, a solid color thread is probably your best choice. Modern quilts tend to have a minimalistic feel to them, so the thread choice should probably be close to the color of the main background or negative space.

In the green modern quilt above, I wanted to showcase and practice some freehand quilting designs. The choice of the cream colored thread was perfect. The quilting shows, but doesn't ovewhelm the modern design of the quilt.

If the quilt is more traditional, your cream, taupe, white or black thread may be good choices. Particularly culprits when the quilt is a reproduction and the quilting pattern will be more functional rather than decorative, you will want to choose a thread color that would have been available at the time the original quilt was made.

You also should consider the backing of the quilt when choosing a thread color. When the machine thread tension is perfect, it's possible to use thread colors that are very different on the top and bottom and of the quilt. Be sure to ask how the quilt will be used. If it's a wall hanging and the back will not easily be seen, top and bottom threads should probably match or be very close in color. If the quilt is a bed quilt, will be washed and used regularly, then the thread colors should match the top and bottom respectively.

In the case of applique or album quilts, the thread choices should match the background of the album/Applique blocks and be used to add texture but not to distract the eye from the beautiful applique. I have found that quilting upon the applique motifs themselves require careful color consideration. Leaves may look better with a contrasting leaf vein added, see example below. The dark green leaves needed some texture added to them, so I selected a light green thread that was found elsewhere in the quilt to make those veins and add interest. Flower petals may look best if the thread color mimics the flower which is being quilted and just to add dimension and texture. Tread carefully to avoid the need to pick out stitching.

My best rule of thumb is to use threads that will coordinate well with the quilt you are quilting. I try to avoid introducing new colors that are not found in the quilt itself. Don't be afraid to try different threads and always use the best quality thread you can afford.

My next post will address the third installment of this discussion on thread choices, thread weight and quilt use.
Stay tuned for more thready details.

#quiltingthreadcolorchoices #pickingthreadcolors #threadpuddling #variegatedthreads #threadselection #longarmquilting

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Quilting Thread Choices - Day One Fiber Content

As quilters, we have many, many options available to us in fabric, threads and battings. I thought over the next few days I would discuss thread choices. There are several things to consider when selecting your threads. Fiber Content, color, weight and use. Today, let's review fiber content.

A quilter must consider the fiber from which their various threads are made of before they use them. Different threads work well for various tasks when quilting and sewing. I used to believe that I should only ever use cotton threads in the construction and quilting of my quilts. I had been taught that cotton thread would be the best choice, because I almost always use cotton fabrics in my quilts. Cotton thread would be the right choice because stress on the seams in the piecing of the quilt would not rip the fabric fibers like a poly or poly blend thread might do. I believed what I had been told and subscribed to cotton on my threads for the majority of my piecing, Applique and quilting choices. I also learned to avoid waxy coated threads for hand quilting as I found it too difficult to work with and it was so thick and strong that I thought it would rip the fabric where stitched years down the road. Here is one of the few handquilted bed quilts I still have in my possession.

This quilt proved that heavy duty hand quilting thread is not the best choice. When I carelessly tossed a section of it in the back of a car hatchback, little did I know it would be exposed to battery acid. The cotton fabrics melted away but the poly batting and waxy thread stayed intact. It was really strange to see. I ended up redoing that entire section of the quilt and vowed never used waxy hand quilting thread again. For those of you that know me as a machine quilter, yes I can do some pretty awesome tiny hand quilting, but choose to quilt by machine these days.

I love doing invisible machine applique and have found that clear nylon thread works well to hide the stitches and give the appearance of hand applique. Years ago I had taken a mock hand applique class from Harriet Hargraves and she had us use this invisible thread made by SewArt. This pumpkin quilt is one of many applique quilts I have done using mock hand applique, with invisible nylon as the top thread and a lingerie thread in the bobbin. It's next to impossible to find that lingerie thread these days as I used to purchase it from Clotilde online before Annie's took them over. Now they don't stock it anymore. So I substitute white bottom line thread from Superior and it works well. The idea behind the invisible thread on the top is to make almost invisible stitches and the bottom weight thread must be fine and neutral. I found Bottom Line thread to work well, light or white if the background fabric are light, and black or darker grey color if the background fabric is darker. The great think about bottom line thread is that it is a fine weight poly thread and more of it fits in the bobbins as you wind them so, whether you are quilting with it or using it to stitch on your domestic machine, you won't have to change bobbins as often.

When machine quilting my quilts in the long arm, I started out only using Signature 100% cotton thread. I think that choice was due to that was the easiest to find and buy at the time. More recently, I discovered Superior brand threads and realized how much better I liked quilting with them. Signature threads are wonderful, but they shed a lot and cause significantly more lint build up on the machine that the Superior brand. This slows me down as I have to clean the raceway and bobbin area as well as the needle and needle bar and hopping foot every time I change the bobbin. This doesn't happen with Superior. I can go much longer without significant lint build up or breakage.

Now I am slowly phasing out Signature Threads and using those cones as my piecing threads in the home sewing machine, and replacing them with the various Superior threads in a wide variety of colors. Now, if a customer demands cotton threads I will use it and they have a choice of the more expensive cotton King Tut made by Superior or Signature cottons I have on hand.

Another consideration for thread fiber content is the actual quilt itself. When I quilt vintage or antique quilt tops, I will always use a cotton thread choice. I try to select thread colors that would have been available at the time the top was made and will often take my queue from the seams in the quilt top itself. Not always, but its a good thing to consider. Here are two photos of one of the vintage tops I purchased and quilted years ago. I used cotton batting, cotton thread and muslin backing so an offwhite thread seemed to be the perfect choice.

That quilt is well loved, used alot and washed frequently. Its held up beautifully and is soft and lightweight.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 - Quilting Thread Choices, A Color Discussion

#threadfibers #quiltingthreads #myfavoritethreads #threadcolordiscussion

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Baltimore Album Quilts (BAQ)

I recently had the opportunity to quilt a stunning and carefully hand appliqued Baltimore Album Style Quilt for a customer in PA. I needed to purchase backing to use on the quilt and also used 100% cotton Warm and Natural batting as the filler. I had the perfect color of threads to use on the top and backing, both in the green blue category. I chose Superior's So Fine #50 thread to quilt it. I cleaned and oiled my machine, put in a new needle and set out to quilt this beauty.

I had spoken briefly with the customer both in person and over the phone. She told me she liked cross hatching but that I was free to quilt it as I saw appropriate. It was a dream come true!

Custom quilting is something that this quilter really enjoys. I find that looking at the quilt and allowing it to speak to me and helps me to decide how it should be quilted. There are an unlimited number of possible ways to quilt a quilt, but not all are appropriate for each different style of quilt. This particular Baltimore Album Style quilt had large wide open borders enhanced with a small curvy line and many green leaves with big beautiful ruched flowers in the four corners. The vine and leaves were a very dark green and the flowers were a printed fabric.

In addition, each border contain two sets of raspberry colored prairie points on the outside and inside of the borders. I decided to perform stitch in the ditch (SITD) quilting around the prarie points and then stitch another row of quilting inside the border away from the SITD (stitch in the ditch) thread. This gave those prairie points a dimensional quality to them. Next I employed the use of my favorite 6" ruler to sew small straight lines on the outermost section of the of the border. I call it matchstick quilting. Inside the vine and second set of decided that a nice random but curvy filler, also known as McTavishing would look perfect. I added the stitching, randomly sneaking in some hearts to echo those found in the appliqué blocks. I also stitched closely around the stems and leaves on both sides.

The center of the quilt consisted of 9 large, appliqued blocks, each one different from the others. The center block had two smaller sections of background fabric. I had to figure out how to quilt them and blend in the extra background. I had studied BAQ quilts online and saw one intricate example where the blocks were without sashing. It had been quilted with a feathery border in between the blocks. I loved how it looked and decided to use that around the inner border edges and between the blocks themselves. I sewed these feathers free hand.

I decided to cross hatch 5 of the blocks, the four corner blocks and the basket block in the center. This ended up being the most labor intensive part of the job. I had done cross hatching before, but on Wholecloth quilts not ones with tiny appliqued stems and leaves and berries. Cross hatching involves measuring the center and corners of the quilt and sewing those lines first. You set the stitches at the start and end of each line. When your line intersects an applique piece, I had to stop stitching, set the stitches, clip the threads and move the needle to the next section of the line. I figured out it took me about 1.5 hours to quilt each block with cross hatching. This also means there was going to be a lot of snipping and clean up on the back of the quilt once I was done quilting, to trim to threads that skipped over the appliqued pieces. It turned out that the clean up and snipping went very quickly in the end.

While it took many days to complete the quilt, I think it turned out stunning and the customer, her sister and the end recipient (her great niece) loved the quilt. I hope they enjoy it for many generations. It truly was a work of art.

#baltimorealbumquilt #customquilting #appliquequilt #BAQ #allinadayswork

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Dawn of a new solution!

Over the weekend I was working on a very large custom quilting job on an almost vintage quilt top. The quilt was a dark blue calico mixed with a solid cream fabric and the pattern was an 8" snow ball. The customer chose a very pretty block pattern called time after time, which essentially is interlinked double hearts. In the borders she wanted me to quilt a linear pattern called Pumpkin Coach.

I spent day one quilting the upper border and several rows of thes blocks. Each block required me to set the block pattern up, walk around the machine, check layout and centering, walk back around the machine, set the threads, trim, sew the pattern, stop, walk back around, set and trim threads and repeat. Mike watched me one afternoon and he was amazed at how much walking and movement I had to do. I think he understands why some nights I am tired from just quilting. It was another one of those quilts that strengthened my desire for a computerized longarm.

After the first day of quilting, I cleaned and oiled the machine so it would be ready for the next day's early start. The following morning with a steaming mug of joe, I headed to the studio and began my quilting day. I decided to quilt little double hearts into the snowbal corners. I started to stitch from the front of the machine and I noticed, the oil had soaked onto the needle and bobbin threads and created a dark line in the stitching. I was beside myself. This didn't happen in the dark pieced section, it happened on the lightly colored cream fabric and cream printed background. I immediately stopped and took the stitching out and wiped out the bobbin and needle to remove the excess oil. I stitched on a fabric scrap to ensure the oil was gone. I marked the section with a small safety pin and kept on quilting. I was really mad at myself for not remembering to do this before I started to stitch.

That evening, I did some ruler research online and found this set of videos by Rusty Farrell. As we watched Ancient Aliens on TV, I worked my way through his YouTube video channel and I really enjoyed binge watching most of them. He has one video on how to clean and oil your long arm. He was working on an Innova machine, but I figured I can always learn something new. As he was putting the bobbin case back in he casually mentioned that if you ever get oil on a quilt the easiest way to remove is with a touch of SEW-Clean or Dawn dishwashing liquid. I thought, wait, what did he just tell me how to fix that problem with the oil in the quilt? I backtracked and listened intently to the video 2 more times. Sure enough, there was my answer! THANK YOU RUSTY!

I googled Sew-Clean and realized it was not easy to find locally on short notice and expensive. So I decided to try option 2. Thankfully I use Dawn dishwashing liquid in my kitchen and for cleaning around the house. I had a bottle of white Dawn. I found a new baby toothbrush in the cabinet, put a little dab of Dawn in a small dish and headed down to try it. I also grabbed a microfiber towel en route.

I carefully put a little Dawn on the toothbrush and gently scrubbed the area on both sides of the quilt. I let it soak for a couple of minutes and then added some water to the dish and rinsed the brush. I dipped the brush into the water mixture and continued to brush the fabric. Low and behold, the oil disappeared!!! I blotted with the microfiber towel and rinsed the brush again with clean water. Rubbed it again onto the quilt top and back to remove the residual soap. I repeated this on the back of the quilt until I was sure there was no oil or soap left in the quilt.

I am happy to report, the quilt was saved. When it dried, there wasn't a trace of the offending oil or dark stitches. One important note: Dusty did say to only use clear Dawn, not the original blue formula which might discolor light fabric until the quilt is washed. I would recommend using the clear or white Dawn formulas if your quilt is light colored and use it sparingly.

While I am usually very careful to ensure that my long arm is well maintained, cleaned and oiled, accidents happen and I was really happy to find this great solution to a problem that I am sure is not unique to me. I just had to share it with you in case you ever need to figure out what to do like I did.

I learned two important lessons this weekend. Always wipe down the machine needle and bobbin every morning BEFORE stitching begins and DAWN works really well to get rid of sewing machine oil should lesson #1 be forgotten. I hope you never need this time, but if you do, remember, DAWN to the rescue!

#dawntotherescue #removeoilfromquilt #dawntakesitout #howtofixyourquilt #oopstheresoilonmyquilt

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


How many of you out there participate in quilt shop hops? Have you ever joined in the fun? where you able to complete the entire list of shops during the timeframe allotted? Have you tried a drive to shop hop either by car or bus? Or was your shop hop online? What did you like about them and what did you not enjoy?

I ask these questions and hope you will share with me your feedback. The reason I make this inquiry is that I just found out the quilt shops in NJ are participating in a shop hop later this month. There are 11 shops participating between April 24th and May 3rd 2015. Details about the upcoming hop can be found at

Two of these shops are in North Jersey, Aardvark in Morris Plains and Rock Paper Scissors in Montclair. I frequent both when I can since they are both within 30 minutes drive to where I live. Aardvark is owned by Sally. She has many traditional, novelty and bali fabrics, good books and notions. RPS is a modern quilt shop that also carries paper rafting and jewelry making supplies. It is owned by Beth Rowan and her staff are the nicest and most fun in the state.

Three of the participating locations are in central NJ between 60-90 minutes drive for me to each. Pennington Quiltworks is a lovely shop close to where my sister used to live in Lawrenceville. They always have beautiful fabrics, kits, a myriad of notions to peruse and Bernina parts. Fabric Inspirations is a newer shop located in Manalpalan with loads of floral, batiks and big bright fabrics. Both are definitely worth the drive in my humble opinion. The third shop is in a new location since I visited them last. It's called Mouse Creek Quilts and I remember them as a friendly place with awesome FQs, fabrics, and nicely done samples. I will go there again for sure to visit them.

The southern most shop, called The Pin Cushion is found in in Vineland. I guess I am going to have to check it out Even though it's very far south as I have never crossed their threshold. I believe I will also hit up the shop in Swedesboro, which I have attempted to visit several times but never managed to make it to during their business hours. My fault, not theirs. When I spoke with them on the phone they were quite helpful and sounded lovely. I would likely just stop by The Little Shop in Haddonfield to get my passport stamped. It's my least favorite place on the list. I found the staff rather unfriendly and the shop very small. The fabrics they carry are not to my linking, however, if Martha or any knitters were with me there is a cute wool shop around the corner in that same town. it's really on the way between two others on the list. Another shop in Collingswood, NJ would be on my travel for that day since its in the Southern Hemisphere of NJ and nearby the other three and Mt. Holly.
Whether I make it to Fabric Inspirations in Forked River or not really depends on if we have time and if we can fit it in with the others. It's the east most shop on the list and requires a drive through the pine barrens of NJ. I am always on the look out for Janet Evonovich's character Stephanie Plum when in that area. It's a great shop and I hope to make it there to see what they might have that the other places do not.

I love The Village Quilter in Mt. Holly. It's a tiny place, jam packed with fun, modern quilt fabrics patterns, great rulers, and a friendly staff. I will usually stop in there when I go to Burlington to shop at Olde City Quilts. I was surprised that this huge shop was not on the shop hop list, but would likely stop in there anyway when close by because they always have something with my name on it. There are also some nice eateries nearby and Judy and her staff are wonderful.

There are some wonderful prizes up for grabs for those that complete the entire hop. They include two sewing machines, a quilt with blocks from each shop, some serious fat quarter bundles to increase your stash and even gift cards to spend.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Extreme Quilting

I recently had the opportunity to quilt a 6 pointed star quilt made from Kaffe Fassett fabrics. The quilt top was wall hanging size and had been created lovingly by a NJMQG member named Judy Josephson. When Judy brought the quilt to me to quilt it for her, she just wanted it finished. She told me she had struggled with the pattern and finishing the quilt top. It wasn't until after she had made the quilt that she re-read the pattern and saw an accuracy disclaimer in the book. I saw such beauty in this quilt, I set out to make it something that she absolutely loved when she got it back. We discussed how to quilt it and because it had a black background and was made almost entirely from Diamond shapes, it made sense to use some straight line quilting in the black area. The quilt wasn't flat, there were some minor problem areas because of the issues with the pattern directions and all those point intersections commonly found in 6 point stars. I love a good challenge.

We drew up some ideas on how to quilt the printed stars and background. Judy always does a fun pieced backing and had given me specific instructions on where to place the piecing and that it needed to be centered near the top. Because it was a wall hanging quilt, I made sure that the back piecing would fall well below the top of the quilt, allowing for placement of a sleeve to hang it and still be visible.

Initially, I set out to quilt the black background with black thread top and bottom. I used a ruler to start off quilting on the inside edges of the black diamonds and then did a free-hand greek key design to fill them in. To finish I added a diagonal stop in the center of each diamond. I liked the effect.

Once all of the black diamonds were done, I then did a curved quilting line inside all of the outer border printed squares. This is fairly easy a technique to do, you just bounce corner to corner down the squares and then around and up the other side. Then I decided that these needed more quilting into the outer most black border. So I quilted additional curves in a rainbow type of effect. It really turned out nicely.

Next I set off to quilt the floral fabric stars. I changed the threads to match the background color of each star. Because the stars merge with 6 seams set into the center, I decided that I needed to quilt from the center of the star and used a swirl. This morphed into a squiggly swirl to form the center of a flower like pattern. It also served the purpose of ensuring that the star centers laid perfect flat. Then I quilted around the outside of each of the 6 pointed star sections creating a free form leaf pattern with flowing veins in each leaf. I quilted all of the like colors at the same time before changing to the next color thread.

The little squares themselves spoke to me and told me that I needed to quilt something inside each one. As I finished up the lightest color stars, I decided to quilt a little tiny sprout, a 3 leaf shape into each one. I set them so most of them pointed up around the perimeter. Then just for fun and whimsy I quilted several of them in different directions.

Finally, the outermost border needed some quilting. I decided to quilt it in all black thread. I used rules and my channel locks to quilt straight line sections in each piece. I broke them up to give it a more modern look, by ending the stitching in different places and taking a few stitches across the section before reversing in the other direction.

The best surprise of this finished quilt was how well the back turned out with my quilting choices. Judy had provided a mostly solid black background. The leaf and flower patterns with colored threads offset by the black greek key sections made for an amazing back. I am extremely proud of this quilt and Judy was very happy with the end result. She plans on entering it to be judged in a few weeks in a local show.


The quilt still needs binding, a name, label and sleeve, but I think its a real winner.

#6pointstars #extremequilting #kaffefassettfabrics #beautifulquilt

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hope Springs Eternal...what's for dinner

Tonight's dinner is in the oven. We need something hot and filling on this rather blustery Spring day. I decided meatloaf and garlic smashed potatoes would do the trick.

Cheezit Meatloaf
You will need
3 lb package of lean ground turkey
1 - 7 oz box of cheesy crackers, any variety will do
1 package of dry onion soup mix
2 eggs
BBQ sauce
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp dried Italian herbs

Reheat oven TP 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, crush the crackers with the back of a soup ladle until well crumbled. Place ground turkey into the bowl. Sprinkle with the pepper, herbs,,soup mix and add the eggs. Toss gently until well blended. Form into a loaf and place into a baking dish that has been sprayed with non stick spray.

Bake for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and brush with the BBQ sauce until well coated on top, sides and ends. Place back into oven and bake another 40 minutes Or until cooked all the way through. remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Smashed Garlic Roasted potatoes
6-8 medium scrubbed and pricked red skin potatoes.
Micro wave the pototes until done in two batches.

Place potatoes in a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
Meanwhile, combine in a small bowl
2 TSBP grated cheese of your choice
Freshly ground pepper
freshly crushed garlic cloves (I use one clove elephant garlic and squeeze it through my garlic press)
1/2 tsp italian seasoning

smash the cooked potatoes with the skin on with a potato masher to flatten and open them up.
drizzle with the garlic, cheese and oil mixture, brushing it over the potatoes. Drizzle with more EVOO if desired.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Catch up!

It's been well over a month since I sat down and made the time to post on my blog. It's been a real roller coaster ride these last few weeks.

There has been some serious family illness to contend with as well as gymnastic championship meets and trying to catch up non my quilting backlog. Dont gt me wrong, I know all of this is part of life and not anything more than most people encounter during their middle years. Fortunately I found out several things about myself that I am willing to share.

1). I am great at dealing with emergency situations, as I do not panic but have the amazing ability to remain calm and think clearly.

2). I am fortunate to be surrounded by friends, family and customers that genuinely care about us and are willing to help if needed at the drop of a hat.

3). I am smart enough to know that I cannot and should not quilt customers quilts when life throws me a monkey wrench.
4). I am not good to customer follow up when I know I am going to miss a deadline. I need to work on this.

Here are some of the more recent quilts I have had the pleasure of finishing.
I call this one Doodlebirds.

It was a vintage quilt top, actually I think it was a vintage tablecloth that I picked up in Paducah KY many years ago. I freehand quilted it with a beige thread and used colored threads on the birds to quilt their faces and feathers. I put a similar aged (60's calico) fabric in orange on the back and binding. The birds are all hand embroidered with embroidery silks and they have these wild eyed look to them. Its a very folk artsy quilt, unlike anything I've ever finished. It was mindless to work on in between runs to the hospital. Eventually I will throw it back on the machine and add some more detail quilting to it, but customer quilts are always a priority to finish over my own. This quilt just helped me get through a rough patch.

This one I finished quilting over the weekend. The top is beautiful batik fabrics and was made by Kathy Mitchell. I quilted it with a variegated thread on top and a deep olive thread on the back. The quilting pattern I used is called Haiku. It worked really well with this quilt.

Lastly, here is a beautiful fun and lovely quilt made by Michelle Reiter. There are some lovely Kaffe Fassett fabrics in it. It was a joy to quilt. I used a wool batting and quilted it with a swirly pattern to give it movement. The wool batting has more loft than the cotton battings, but it quilts down nicely and will work well as a quilt to sleep under in chilly Vermont, where I understand it will end up.

So these were the 'easy quilts to finish'. Pantos are much easier to do than custom quilting. I have 4 custom quilt jobs next in the queue and I look forward to being able to take my time and give each of them the attention they demand in order to get the results my customers expect and hope for by allowing me to quilt for them.

Stay tuned there will be more quilts and pictures soon to see!

Keep on stitching--Diane

#doodlebirdsquilt #freeformquilting #kaffefassetfabrics #batikmapleleaves

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mock Black Forest Bundt

Today I found myself wit some extra time in my hands due to some missed connections. I decided to bake something new from what I had on hand.

1 box Devils Food Cake mix
1 box Greek Yogurt Cherry Flavored Pudding Mix
3 whole eggs
1/3 cup of oil
1 cup of water
1 tsp bourbon extract
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
1 TSBP vanilla extract
1 cup of frozen cherries. (No need to defrost)

Mix together all ingredients except the cherries. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes until well blended, scraping the bowl as needed.

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare you favorite BUNDT pan, (I used the bavarian shape since its a Black Forest cake) by spraying with baking spray. Brush sides and center tube to ensurere all crevices are well coated. If your spray doesn't have the flour in it, you can sprinkle some cocoa powder in the pan and shake it around until the pan is coated. Tap out the excess by inverting your pan over the sink and giving it a gentle tap.

Pour 1/3 of the batter into the pan distributing evenly. Add the cherries around the ring, distributing as evenly as possible. Top with the remaining batter and spread it evenly in the pan. Tap the pan on a towel laid on your counter several times to ensure the batter fills all crevices and air bubbles are removed. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Do not over bake, you want a moist cake.

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a rack. Invert onto the serving platter and cool completely approximately 45 minutes more. Sprinkle with powdered sugar sifted through a fine sieve.

Serve the cake with additional cherries (that you have defrosted first or use cherry pie filling as shown) And top with a generous dollop of whipped cream. For me, the cake stands on its own without the additional cherries and cream, but it's up to you.

Broccoli, Ham and Potato AU Gratin Casserole

It snowed again and is so cold outside, that the walk and roads are very icy. I decided to dig deep into my fridge, pantry and freezer to come up a hearty dinner for this evening.

I found two small honey ham steaks, some AU gratin potato box mixes, cheddar cheese, and frozen broccoli florets and Bacon! Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine was already hot from a cinnamon bun cake I'd baked earlier so it made sense to just turn up the heat and pop the casserole in after the cake was done.

2 boxes of store brand AU gratin potatoes (boxes were 4.7 oz net wt each)
6 TBSP butter, cut into chunks
2 small honey ham steaks, cut into bite size pieces
1 and 1/3 cups skim milk
3 1/2 cups boiling water
1 package frozen broccoli florets, defrosted in the microwave for 2 minutes
Freshly ground peper
Italian seasoning to taste
2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
6 slices of bacon
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray. Dump the dried potato slices and the contents of both sauce pouches into the casserole. Add the ham, broccoli, mustard, milk, seasonings and butter chunks into the casserole. Boil the water and then measure it the correct amount and add to the casserole, stirring the mixture to ensure the dry ingredients are well blended.

Microwave the bacon slices until cooked but not too crispy. Crumble over the top of the casserole ingredients and sprinkle with the 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Check casserole and if getting brown, reduce heat to 350 for the remaining 15 minutes. Bake until the potatoes are done and the top is just starting to brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to set for 10 minutes before serving.

It should look something like this.

Serve with crusty fresh baked bread and butter or hot baked biscuits for a hearty winter dinner. Serves 4-6.

#broccolihampotatoeats #hothamcasserole #whattodowithaugratinpotatoes #jiffydinners