State of the Quilt 2016

I have been working on this quilt for 3+ years now. I never thought it would be that long. But the end is near…ish.

I have three giant pieces like this to sew together, as soon as I lug my machine to the kitchen table. The quilt is getting too big for my little sewing nook.

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Behold, 1/3 of the quilt in all its wrinkled glory!

After that, I have to iron and start assembling! Before I do that though, let me rant about crazy Fabricland prices. I went to a local quilt shop to buy some batting, but they didn’t have the brand recommended by the quilt pattern. Being new to this, I didn’t want to mess around and buy something different. So I headed to Fabricland to pick up the “right” batting. They were charging $120 for cotton-poly blends. The local store was charging $45 for 100% cotton. INSANITY. And then everybody lost because I ended up buying it from amazon. I am part of the problem.

 

Waiting for my batting to arrive leaves me plenty of time to ponder the following:

How should I quilt this?
I was thinking about quilting parallel to my seams, but some of my seams are so off. I think this because my cutting wasn’t always accurate; since I’ve been working on this for years, I haven’t been keeping track of the direction I’m sewing rows in; and I’m just plain new to this.

Should I have used starch before cutting? I’m reading a few things here and there (mostly around triangle quilts) about using starch to keep your fabrics from stretching.

What fabric should I use for backing? A solid? A pattern? What colour?

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New Years Resolutions

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The cat and I welcomed 2016 by darning socks. 

I was considering making one of my resolutions to stop being such a snob about shortening. You see, I am a snob about many many different, pointless things. If there is a reason to be uppity about something, I can usually find it. So I hate shortening. I don’t like the taste, and will always use butter when given the option. But I’ve been baking from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito Baked series. They use shortening sparingly and effectively. For 2016, I thought maybe I should open my heart and arteries to shortening .

I think I’m nearing the end of my search for a chocolate chip cookie recipe. I decided to tool around with it a bit to incorporate shortening. Yesterday, I made the recipe with  7 oz butter and 1 oz shortening. MY BIGGEST MISTAKE THIS YEAR SO FAR. These cookies have no flavour, I hate them and feel bad serving them to people.

Shortening: not even once.

So unless it’s from a trusted source (like Lewis and Poliafito), shortening has no place in my 2016 recipes.

Instead, this year, I resolve to:

  • not buy yarn for at least 6 months. I have a sizeable stash. According to Ravelry, I’ve got 17710.6 metres of yarn in my house. That should keep me busy until June, right?
  • continue keeping track of my stash and projects on Ravelry. Organization feels so good!
  • finish that darn quilt I’ve been working on for two years (three?) years at this point.

fonDONT

For my birthday, my boyfriend got me a cake decorating class at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts. The class description said students would learn fondant and piping techniques. I assumed cake assembly would also be included be part of the package.

This is what I came home from my cake decorating class with.

This is what I came home from my cake decorating class with.

Stacking and frosting a cake neatly is something I struggle with. And even if I do manage it, I then have to cart my cake on the subway and/or bus, where people do not offer me a seat (I’m not pregnant or have a disability, it’s fine, I don’t expect them to), but do offer to hold my cake for me instead. Um what? Anyway, so if the cake starts out neat, it’s usually suffered some sort of trauma by serving time. So while I was ambivalent on the fondant, I was looking forward to building up my basics.

We didn’t even touch a cake! We practiced masking a styrofoam cake mould in fondant again and again. Then we made gumpaste roses, pearl borders, swags, bows, and some other things I’ve forgotten. It was fun, and I now completely understand why wedding cakes as much as they do. But I still don’t get fondant and gumpaste. Why would you cover a cake in something most people don’t enjoy eating? Or peel off and discard?

Our class instructor said most people who don’t like fondant haven’t had good fondant. Nah.

Cake is a special occasion thing, so I think every single part of it should be OMG GOOD. Not bearable.

After two hours work I had 14 gumppaste flowers

After two hours work I had 14 gumpaste flowers

All that said, the class was good. It was fun to be in a professional-ish kitchen. But the techniques were just not my thing. I’m considering taking another fondant-less class at Bonnie Gordon. Or maybe I’ll try Craftsy?

You can do some really cool things with fondant, but at the same time, it’s like working with play-doh. And not all that better tasting. Am I missing something? Have I really not just had great fondant? How do you feel about fondant?

Vintage Cakes Book Review

I’ve had Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson for years now, but have only recently gotten around to baking from it. The book calls for a couple pans I never had at my disposal and was reluctant to buy (I’m so cheap about the strangest things: a $15 cake pan vintage-cakes1I’ll use multiple times, eh maybe not; an $8 lipstick I will try once and decide doesn’t look good, geez let’s buy ten)

In the past little while I’ve cranked out the Kentucky Bourbon Cake, Malted Milk Chocolate Cupcakes, Maple Chiffon Cake with Brown Butter Icing, and Cherry Chip Cake with Cherry Buttercream from this book and each one has been a hit.

Most recently, the Maple Chiffon Cake with Brown Butter Icing made it’s way out of my oven. OMG, it tastes and smells like breakfast, almost like French toast. Note, the original recipe calls for pecans but nuts are expensive and see my first paragraph.

The icing from this book are so good. I should confess here, I have the tendency to refrigerate cakes, including those frosted with buttercream. I know it’s a cardinal sin, but my instinct is to put everything in the fridge if it’s not being eaten right away. I’m working on it. Despite time in the fridge, the icing are still so good. Some of the best I’ve had. Lots of unexpected flavours like browned butter or cherry. However, I do find she underestimates how much icing each recipe yields. This could be a good thing, depending how heavy handed you are with your offset spatula or how much you like licking the bowl.

Maple Chiffon Cake with Brown Butter Icing totally worth buying a tube pan for

Maple Chiffon Cake with Brown Butter Icing
totally worth buying a tube pan for

I never would have thought of some of the flavour combinations in this book, so I’m really happy with this book and would totally recommend it. But if you’re a pedant or looking for truly “vintage” cake recipes, e.g, two scoops of flour, one handful of this, plus one packet of jello, you’re going to be disappointed. The recipes are adaptations of vintage recipes for modern kitchens and ingredients, or takes on more “traditional” or “vintage” ingredients. Lots of cakes here that use nuts, malt, molasses, jam, and alcohol. There are also a couple recipes here that could suit different dietary requirements, a few cakes require no eggs, or no butter or other dairy, and of course there’s your traditional Wacky Cake.

The good:

  • ingredients list include measurements in cups and weight in ounces!!! (I love when books do this! why don’t all of them do this?)
  • the book is divided by time and occasion–you’ll find everything from hasty cakes to party cakes
  • frosting and icing recipes are amazing and endlessly adaptable
  • instructions are clear, super easy to follow, and usually only a page long
  • photographs look delicious and results look achievable, no crazy fondant sculpted cakes here
  • nice blend of unique recipes I haven’t seen elsewhere (Cassata Cake, Watergate Cake) and old favourites (Texas Sheet Cake)
Cherry Chip Cake with Cherry Buttercream (and a layer of chocolate, of course)

Cherry Chip Cake with Cherry Buttercream (and a layer of chocolate, of course)

The so-so:

  • not every recipe has a photo, this generally doesn’t bother me, but I know this can deter some people
  • some recipes call for pans not everyone might have

The not so good:

  • these recipes make a lot of cake and a lot of frosting. Sometimes I just want to make a two layer cake, you know? My oven’s only so big.

I think I’ll have to check out Julie Richardson’s other book, Rustic Fruit Desserts, next.

Rear view knits

I’ve been knitting and baking like crazy, but what I haven’t been doing is taking any photos. And if it’s not on instagram, did it even ever happen?!

So a photo-less post for you, prepare yourself.

I think a lot of people tend to start the New Year a bit negatively, whether it be from the hangover or the Near Years resolution of getting in shape or getting better at whatever, which is a little reminder of ways in which we weren’t so great the previous year. In my case, I slipped down the stairs on January 2 and have spent the start of this year feeling sorry for myself and my sore bum. Nothing serious, it hurts, but I will survive. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling my mum who now assumes I’m dying. And I have my sister hollering at me to rub various oils on myself to heal. So that’s where my negativity is coming from.

To buoy my mood, I thought I’d take a look back on what I knit in 2014, because hey I did accomplish a lot! And what good is a sore bum for but to sit on it and knit, anyway?

In 2014, I knit:

  • 7.8 sweaters (3 baby sweaters, 4.8 adult sized sweaters for me. I finished 0.2 of sweater #5 yesterday)
  • 7 hats (2 baby, 4 adult)
  • 1 cowl
  • 1 shawl
  • 1 teddy bear
  • 1 pair of socks
  • 1 pair of baby booties

Not bad. Now the challenge is to look at that without thinking about all the emails and blogs I didn’t get around to writing, and the unfinished sewing projects hibernating in a drawer!

That’s a wrap

I saw this wrap/scarf on the Urban Outfitters website. 33116351_005_bI really liked it, but neither of the colours it was available in match my coat, and it’s a seed stitch triangle. Why spend $34 on it when you can spend $34 on wool and get one in the perfect colour and be able to brag about it?

I cast on three stitches, knit in seed stitch, and increased every other row. Knit until it’s as wide as you want and then cast off in icord.

How can you increase in seed stitch without throwing off your pattern? You sort of can’t. Tech knitter explains it better than I can, but it’s something only the eagle eyed will notice.

I skipped the tassels in mine because I used a single ply alpaca blend, Knit Picks Diadem in Emerald to be exact. The yarn just wouldn’t tassel nicely. Speaking of the yarn, it’s so soft, squishy, and warm. I was really excited to bundle up in it this afternoon, one of our first really cold days.

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This photo doesn’t quite capture the colour of the wool, it’s definitely emerald in person.

Three minutes into wearing it I started itching like crazy. The wool didn’t bother my hands when I was knitting it, but they must be less sensitive than my neck. I ended up having to take it off. Good thing I figured this out once I was already three quarters of the way through a matching hat. Someone might be getting a very nice Christmas gift this year or it’s going to become a new office wrap. And poor poor poor me will just have to buy new yarn and knit an entirely new scarf and hat. Gosh, it’s a hard life I lead. How will I find the time when I’m so busy listening to Taylor Swift’s new album on repeat?

All Lace Weights Are Not Equal

Yarn weights, pretty standard thing, right? WRONG.

This is probably not news to the seasoned knitter, but it was to me. I was knitting my Sombra with the suggested yarn from Habu textiles and just not loving the fabric I was getting no matter what size needles I used. The Habu textile yarn is a very fine cotton lace weight, think like sewing thread. Finally, after finishing 40% of the sweater, I threw in the towel and went to buy new yarn, thinking I’d have to go up to a fingering or sock weight yarn to get the effects I wanted. Turns out, I just needed to change the fibre. Fibre makes a huge difference in how a yarn will knit up, regardless of yarn weight. For example, merino is nice and plump and will generally plump up more after washing and blocking. It hides all manners of sins with a good wash. Cotton, not so much as I’ve learned.

The purple yarn is the Habu Textiles, blue is Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace. Can you believe they are the same yarn weight? The merino in the Debbie Bliss makes a huge difference!

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Here’s what my Sombra looks like in Habu and Debbie Bliss. Debbie Bliss is the swatch below, Habu is the blue-y green. The Habu Sombra was knit on smaller needles than the Debbie Bliss. I was dreading knitting this project when I was using the Habu, but now that I’ve changed yarn I can’t get enough of this project. That’s my progress from Friday evening.

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