Friday, August 30, 2013

hiatus schmiatus

my computer was on the verge of crash, and my awesome brother fixed it. except that now the internal camera card reader doesn't work and the touch pad for the mouse is super sensitive. Try commenting on a status on social media and suddenly you've scrolled up the page about 15 other statuses.

The solution to the problem, at present, is to make use of the library computers.

Someone gave my parents a half a bushel of peaches, and I canned them [In Brittan they call it bottling - which makes way more sense than canning - it's not a can, it's a jar]. Because that's a lot of peaches and no one likes peach pie at our house and I don't know know to make wine or shrub, and let's not talk about how much peach preserve I already put up. And this time, I remembered to bring the canning bath back with me. So I packed the remaining peaches in a simple super light syrup with some brandy and cinnamon, and there was one small scoop of peaches left, so it got plopped into a half pint jelly jar. After the 25 minute processing time, I pulled the lid off to discover peaches floating in the water - the bottom had sheered off the jelly jar. I think it's my canning rack. There was nothing under the jelly jar to keep it from touching the bottom. No jam processing for me, unless it's in the big jars, or I get a different rack. At least I didn't loose all the peaches. This is rather sad, since I really wanted to can the cantaloupe and blackberries this weekend [they're taking up valuable real estate]

 I spent Labor Day making kiwi daiquiri jam, black berry jelly, and out of this world peach salsa. The kiwi jam isn't as green as you think it would be. The recipe suggested adding food coloring... but since the whole purpose of canning is to avoid additives, that seemed a little counter productive. Of course, once I got all of these tasties packed, I ran into the small problem of where I was going to put it...

This is what reorganized looks like. I have room for more now. The peaches are separated by what I suspect are spiked/not spiked. The flat on the very top is stacked two deep. I'm pretty sure this isn't the best way to store canned goods, but it's what I've got, and the room maintains a fairly constant 68 degrees all year long.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

British Invasion

Once again Loom stands and delivers. Incredibly fortunate to have a cotton quilting fabric store within the city limits of Pittsburgh, Loom is one of the first places I stop if I'm looking for something. Of course, it's not just a quilt shop; pure serendipity that they have cotton quilting fabric as well as other textiles.
Admittedly, I did not get the Union Jack panel from Loom; that came from a shop online. They (Loom) did however have both of the other Riley Blake fabrics pictured above.

This product is for a relative; I didn't start making baby quilts until probably the third baby come along, so there are three outstanding projects. Happily, I can guess what will please one of the three. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

a canning adventure addendum

Blueberry love. Blackberry love. Peach melba love [you read that right]. Love, love, love. I saved the boxes that the jars came in have have them stacked three deep in the cellar - soon to add a fourth, because some kind soul gave me a 12 pack of sealed 8 ounce jelly jars. There are still blackberries to process. While dog sitting for a friend, I reprocessed my grape jelly which had turned into syrup, and it became so thick a jelly you now have to cut it with a sharpened knife. Maybe I'm going to cut it into squares, cover it with chocolate and give it as gifts... Up next will be kiwi daiquiri jam, when I lay hand on some 4 ounce jars. And maybe some champagne blush, done up with a spumanti or muscato and some blackberries. Because I think that sounds fabulous.

I processed the blueberries I picked a few weeks ago with lavender [and vanilla] using this recipe from Serious Eats, and I split the batch with a friend who bought the jars and supplied the sugar and the kitchen. I was initially concerned about what the lavender would taste like in the jam, but it isn't overpowering; it's just a little "hmm, what could that be?" that is loverly. We added the vanilla for the second go round, one tablespoonish.

We came out with 8 jars a batch as specified by the recipe, and it's low in sugar. Which is great, since everything else in presently packed in my cellar will send you into diabetic shock... I'm only half kidding.

What I discovered about living in the city is that one cannot procure 4 ounce jars for love or money, from anyone. And for reference, four ounce is the one that says blueberry lime jam on the lid - it's the tiny short one. The two in the middle are eight ounce jars [one is labeled and the other is filled with Apricot Peach Mango goodness]. The one in the back is a 12 ounce square-ish side jar. That one is tutti-fruity mash up. I digress: 4 ounce jars can't be found in the city unless they are from Italy, in which case they cost an absurd amount of money and can only be bought one at a time. This, I feel, is insane. The next time I go picking berries out afield, I'll try to stop at the local hardware or big box store and pick up a flat of tiny jelly jars. Down side of city life : not everything your little heart desires is available, contrary to popular claims. I did find wide mouth pints, which are short like the 4 ounce, but are obviously bigger. Cost prohibitive. Also not what I was looking for.

Because I ran short on fabric for a project and will have to get some more for that one, I was thinking that, since I am planning on giving this as gifts anyway. it might be fun to find fruit fabrics with the type of fruit featured in the jam or jelly. Since I'll be out there looking anyway...

Friday, August 9, 2013

seeing green ... or "please don't make me have to find and buy more of just this fabric"

I meant to buy plastic bins to store in progress projects in, or at least, the fabrics... right now my studio apartment looks like a fabric shop exploded. I have three quilts being pieced right now and one on the hoop. It's a little nuts. Also, I ran into a little problem. More accurately, a shortage problem. One where I didn't buy quite enough fabric to finish a project, I've got nothing that matches the description in my stash and the shop I bought it from is 25 miles away. Ish. I really don't want to drive that far for a number of reasons I won't bore you with. That said, read on.

For the green Moda variation quilt that I am currently working on [picture provided for reference of the original],
I wanted to sash my nine patch squares with a solid green. I have 4 different shades of green. 13" of one, 30" of another, 18" of another, kissing 36" of still another [and another piece that matches one of the mentioned colors that is almost 2 yards... so we'll save that for the back and piece something together] making a total of 97" of useable solid greens to sash the 9 patches with.

My nine patches are 7 3/4" square; each block needs two [2] short green strips and two [2] long 12 1/2" strips to sash it. Which, when I discovered at 11PM, is where things got interesting and I realized that my initial plan of having a 6x6 set might not be necessary. Especially since a 6 x 6 block set of this size won't fit in my living room. Also, I'm not going to leave white space between my blocks in the border. There's more than enough green in my stash for an entirely green pieced border to go all the way around. And I don't have enough of my background fabric to create that. [And someday, I'll be teaching grammar and the fine art of writing to small children. ;)]

The Moda website only specified having two jelly rolls for this recipe, one of print and one of solid. They mentioned a half yard of coordinating fabric for "border" and an unspecified amount of yardage for the back [their's sizes out to a twin] I purchased 2 yards of a creamy fabric to use as the equivalent of my plain jelly roll. Just looking at this thing, one jelly roll did not seem to be sufficient to accomplish what they claimed it would set out to do, and no one seems to know exactly how much fabric is in a jelly roll. REALLY?!
A side note about the other difference between the Moda directions and what I'm making... I'm not cutting to jelly roll width, which is apparently 2 1/2". I'm cutting everything by hand and went with a 3" width for my strips, which made the overall size of this project bigger anyway.

This one's gonna be close...

I started cutting the length of the fabric, six strips the length of the two yard cut so I ended up with something a little like this...
see what I mean about not fitting in my living room? and this isn't the whole thing

There is no room for strips 5 and 6 to go on the ends, but they are cut - I know it'll shrink up a bit when it's sewn together, but it will have to be sashed some more after that. I cut long strips mostly because I hate piecing. Had I known at the cutting counter that asking for two and a half yards instead of just two would have yielded me exactly what I needed to make non pieced strips for the outermost border around the pieced square border and all the short little cuts I needed, I would have gotten two and a half yards. But I don't do that kind of math. Certainly not in my head on the fly. Ultimately, I didn't cut from selvage to selvage for any strips 44", I cut the entire piece of yardage into long strips.  Since there is only about 27" of the cream boarder fabric left, I'm just going to leave it off and either try to buy more from the shop I got it from or start with something else.

This creamy sashing fabric looks so much better in person; it has a subtle greet pattern [one of the reasons I picked it]. I'm not sure why that is. The looking better in person than in a photo bit. I used all 97" of solid greens for sashing... there was a little bit of waste - a rough inch shaved off here and there with maybe one or two extra sashing strips and was, without planning ahead, able to create the X pattern. Which you can't really see in this picture because the living room is small, the picture is cut off, and the upper left most corner block is actually sitting on top of the grey bin.
[I apologize for the creepiness of the Lyd in this picture. She doesn't usually look possesed.]

Sometimes I'm terrible at visualizing things, so I brought the w.i.p. top over to a friends house who has double beds. The top is presently set as seen in the picture above... and it fits on the top of the bed! Which means that with the solid border and the pieced border and all the sashings, it will look great and fit on the bed with a little extra drape. All was fabulous until I got to the second to last border, where there was enough to go sash two sides, and no more. And I discovered that I actually needed something more like 3 or 4 yards to accomplish this sashing task [the 4 accounts for matching binding]. The good news in that I have about 10 months before I need to have this quilted, so I have my winter project cut out for me. Also, when the recipient upgrades to a bigger bed, this thing will still fit. As long as there is no upgrading to a California king or something.

And in case you were wondering, here is the link to the origional project: Sweet Menagerie Nine Patch

Thursday, August 1, 2013

new shop!!

there's a new shop in the Metro-Pittsburgh area!! In Sewickley!!! It's grand opening is tomorrow!!!!

Why am I so pumped about this? For two reasons - first, there aren't any shops on the west side. Well, not indy shops, anyway, there are big box retailers. Second, when I first moved to the 'burgh four years ago and would drive through Sewickley, I'd always have to remind myself there wasn't a shop there, and there was much grumbling and lamenting involved. Why?

Jennifer Chiaverini.

I can't remember which book it was that she wrote, but one of the novels featured a quilt shop in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. Fictitious, of course. It is incumbent upon me to add that -at the time - not only was there not a shop in Sewickley, but Waterford, PA isn't in the center of the state. It's fiveish miles from the college town where I grew up. I mean it in the nicest way possible when I say batting 1000, dear. [Also, there's no quilt shop in the actual Waterford, but there is one in Cambridge Springs, which isn't far from Waterford - Jennifer, you should come visit if you haven't. It'd be neat. And the area is passable to the Waterford you describe in your books. Actually, we felt right at home when we read the books, except for the proximity to Lake Erie]

So imagine my delight when I learned that there is FINALLY a quilt shop opening on the west side of the city. And it's in Sewickley. It's nothing like the shop as described in the book. This Sunday it will be hosting Pittsburgh's own Modern Quilt Guild's meeting. I'm not actually lying to myself anymore when I say "Keep on driving, there isn't a shop in Sewickley... grumble grumble grumble... There should be a shop in Sewickley... grumble grumble..."

STITCH ... studio and shop. Cheers to the proprietor!