Thursday, September 17, 2015

Log Cabin Quilts

Log Cabin Quilts:
July 4th came and went, one of my favorite holidays of the year!  I am as excited as a small child, watching fireworks, but this year I watched from my deck, although I only saw faint edges of the display in the distance.  I was entertained by the firefly show displayed against the dark trees, however.  They seemed to be agitated by the booming noises surrounding us, and really put on a show of lights of their own.  Last summer, grandson Quentin was fascinated by the fireflies; they would sit on his hand and flash their phosphorescent glow.  We Googled them and discovered that is the way they attract their mates, and by the show of lights on my lawn, there must be a lot of firefly merging going on!  They don’t seem to be as abundant in the neighbor’s yards, and I wonder if it is because I don’t poison my “weeds”.  What most people consider weeds are actually wonderful herbal medicine in many cases, and I enjoy the bursts of color… purple violets, golden dandelions… a wonderful array of royal colors adorning my grass.  Two poems came to me while I was watching the show of lights, two tributes to summer.  I tried without success to capture the fireflies, and the fireworks were just as elusive on camera.

Fireflies, flickering
a phosphorescent dance,
seek romance;
inherent trust
Lighting the dusk
of a sultry summer night.

Fireworks hidden by tall trees;
Lingering sparks
Reach for the stars;
booming trails
shatter the silence,
On the dark side of the moon.

Nature in all her splendor offers inspiration to those of us who need to feed the artist within, whether our medium is paint or fabric.  Perhaps my pleasure in budgeting contributed to my love of scrappy quilts… they use every bit of fabric in some way.  Two of my favorite traditional patterns that I’ve made many times are the Log Cabin (it uses 1-1/2” strips of all colors) and Around the World, which I make with 2-1/2” strips.  There are many variations of Log Cabins and many different layouts of the blocks.  I prefer cutting my strips to the correct lengths before sewing them into blocks, but others just sew and then cut the strip off after sewing.  When I have leftover scraps of fabric, I often cut them into 1-1/2” strips and put them into a Ziploc bag or basket.  A plastic bin with a lid also works great for storing those bits and pieces.  If you like, you can further cut those strips into the largest sizes you can for your “logs”… see below for the lengths needed for each block.  If you are REALLY organized, you can even put the same length strips into Ziploc sandwich baggies so they are already separated into the sizes you need. 

I’m enamored with Robert Kaufman’s Far East and Luxe fabric lines!  Some have metallic accents and many have an Oriental flavor… truly elegant and lovely.  I am using them in several patterns, but the Log Cabin done in his Far East and Luxe lines is what the focus is in this blog.  It’s a very easy block to do, and goes quickly.  I cut my pieces to length before I start sewing, and lay them out in order; a cookie sheet is a good way to organize the strips according to size.  
(See photo at left)
Traditionally, the center square of the block is red, orange or shades of gold, to signify the fire in the hearth of the cabin, or the “heart” of the home.  I use a 2-1/2” square for the center, and work out from that, attaching 1-1/2” strips to each side.  The center of these blocks is a gold print.
There are four strips in each round of the block, and you can do as many rounds as you like, depending on the size block you want.  I first attach a strip of light to the center square, then working clockwise, I add another light strip, then a dark and the final strip on the round is another dark.  Four rounds will result in an 8" finished block.  One more round would make a 10" finished block.
The strips are cut as follows: 
                          Light:                             Dark:
          Round 1:  2-1/2”                            3-1/2”
                           3-1/2”                            4-1/2”
           Round 2:  4-1/2”                            5-1/2”
                            5-1/2”                            6-1/2”
            Round 3: 6-1/2”                            7-1/2”
                            7-1/2”                            8-1/2”
Here are photos of each round. 

Round 1:

Round 2: 

Round 3, Light and Dark at left

This is a photo of the quilt my son took in a guest bedroom upstairs.  It does not have a border yet.  It will be queen sized, and grace the bedroom of him and his wife someday when it is completed.  I am much better at sewing the tops than quilting them, so I hope they aren’t holding their breath in anticipation!

Here are photos of a few more log cabin tops I have waiting to be quilted.  The one with the fire-breathing dragons is for my oldest granddaughter, who wanted a quilt in blues and oranges and loves dragons.  I found this little remnant of dragon fabric for the center blocks, and discovered my daughter had found the same fabric many states away and made curtains for her bedroom from it.  My granddaughter now has her own apartment and a queen sized bed... so I need to add some borders and get this quilted, finally!

This is a lap quilt that has not had any requests for a permanent residence yet, made totally from scraps with no planned color story. 

In a prior post, I have a tutorial for an offset log cabin, where the lights and darks are not the same width strips.

I have also made a 9-Patch Log Cabin, 
with a 9-Patch block as the center, rather than the 2-1/2” square, and using 2-1/2” ‘logs’ instead.   
The quilt on the right went to my youngest daughter, and is actually quilted!

The variation on the left is made completely of 2-1/2" scraps left from other projects, and is loved by my youngest granddaughter, Charlotte.  She loves the kitten border, especially, and this one is also quilted.

Log Cabin quilts are very easy to make, a great way to use up your scraps from other projects, and they look pretty, too!  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Living on a Budget and Crayon Baby Quilts

Living on a Budget and Crayon Baby Quilts:
For many years, I was a single parent without much income, and I learned to budget my money to keep five little tummies full!  I learned to stretch a dollar from my parents and grandparents, and although money wasn’t plentiful, we never felt poor.  My mother sewed beautiful clothing for us, and there was never a day that we didn’t have homemade bread slathered with fresh butter with our meals, and homemade cake and cookies in the pantry.  My cousins, Roger and Art, were the same age as I… our mothers were sisters.  One day, we were arguing about whose mother made the best bread, and Art chimed in with, “My mother makes bread so good you can’t even taste it!”  His mother was the sister who didn’t bake!  I still like to save money on meal planning… it leaves more to spend on my quilting passion! 

Groceries seem to get more expensive all the time, but I can get a 50# bag of bread flour at Costco for under $12.  I often use the bread machine to make the dough, and shape it into dinner rolls or loaves of bread and bake them in the oven.  I can get a lot of bread and rolls from a 50# bag of flour.  One of the cheapest meats lately seems to be chicken.  I can buy a family pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for under $2 per pound, and make enough meals to feed a couple of people for a week.  I simmer the breasts in a pot of water, and then cool them.  Sometimes I grill them instead of boiling.  A couple of the chicken breasts are cut up to add to a hearty chef salad, and will make about 4 or 5 large salads.  I shred one or two of them to make chicken and cheese quesadillas or enchiladas for another meal.  Another meal I like is a pasta salad with diced cooked chicken, green onion and green and/or red seedless grapes, with a mayonnaise based dressing but because pasta is high in carbs, I don’t eat that often.   I dice the rest of them (usually about 4 of them are left at this point) and use the water that I cooked them in to make a pot of chicken rice or chicken noodle soup.  The remaining chicken goes into a crock pot to make a Mexican medley to eat as is with cheese, guacamole, and sour cream, or serve over rice or quinoa.  Here are my quick and easy recipes for the last two.

Chicken Rice Soup:
Add enough water to the pot you cooked the chicken in to have about 3 quarts of liquid. 
Add 2 Tablespoons of chicken soup base paste, or to taste… do NOT use boullion, which is saltier.
Add 1 Tablespoon of Mrs. Dash’s for extra flavor.
Bring the liquid to a boil.  Turn down the heat and add 1 cup of long-grained rice, rinsed.
Add one or two diced cooked chicken breasts.  Cover and simmer until rice is cooked.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.  May add diced onion and diced celery to the water before boiling, if desired.  It looks pretty to garnish the soup with some chopped chives or green onions, when served.
Delicious with some crusty garlic breadsticks on the side.  Another of my favorite comfort foods is chicken soup accompanied by a peanut butter sandwich.

Spicy Mexican Bowl:
Put the following ingredients into a 3 quart crock pot:
2 cans RoTel tomatoes with peppers (or 1 large can of diced tomatoes, if peppers aren’t pleasing to you)
1 can black beans
1 can chili beans
1 to 2 cups frozen whole kernel corn
2 Tablespoons dried onions
1 Tablespoon Taco seasoning
1 or 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced
Mix ingredients.  Cover and cook on high for about an hour until it begins to bubble, then turn down to low.  At this point, add 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Cilantro, optional.  Continue to cook on low for a half hour or until dinnertime.
Serve in a bowl, topped with shredded Mexican blend cheese and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and/or gauacamole.   May serve it on top of rice or quinoa, and garnish with slightly crushed taco chips.

My Minnesota grandchildren spent part of the summer with me, as they usually do.  This year, they have two new babies in their family, so I thought they would enjoy making some baby quilts.  I got some fabric crayons, and thought they would express their artistic talent by drawing their own pictures to transfer to fabric, but they didn’t like that idea.  Instead, we downloaded some simple pictures to color, and the results were excellent! 

Fabric Crayon Baby Quilt:

Cut 8” squares of paper for drawing designs (or printing).
Color designs with fabric crayons, outlining with a dark color to set the colors off best.
Cut 10” squares of white or unbleached muslin or cotton fabric.

(Coloring the pictures with fabric crayons, right)

(Ironing the picture onto fabric, below)
Place one empty 8” square of paper on ironing board to protect the ironing board cover.
Center one 10” square of fabric over paper.  Iron fabric so it is wrinkle-free.
Place one colored picture, crayon side down, on the center of the cotton fabric.
Match edges with the paper under the fabric; it can easily be seen through the fabric.
Iron with a hot iron, without steam, lifting the iron, not sliding it, so that the design is not moved.
Cut 2” strips of a color for sashing the blocks. Cut these into 10” segments to go between the blocks.
Cut 2” squares of a contrasting color for the cornerstones to put between the main color strips, if desired.   
Join the 2” sashing strips to the blocks horizontally.   (Auditioning sashing, below)

Join the 2” sashing strips to 2” contrasting squares for the row between the sashed blocks.
Join all rows.  We used 9 blocks in the quilt top.
Measure one side of the quilt top.
Cut 1-1/2” strips of the contrast color for the first border.  Cut 2 of the strips the length of the quilt.
Sew one strip to each of the 2 opposite sides.
Measure the quilt from side to side, including the borders you just sewed on and cut two9 more 1-1/2” strips that length and sew them on.
Cut 3” strips for the outer border.  Again, measure the length of the quilt and cut 2 strips that length and sew them on.  Repeat for the remaining 2 sides, cutting to the new 
measurement that includes the outer border.

Press the top well.  
(Charlotte, age 6, quilting the quilt, right)
Cut a coordinating backing the size of the front.
Cut the batting the size of the front. 
Place the batting on a hard surface, then place the wrong side of the backing against the batting. 
Place the top, right side down, on the right side of the backing, making a sandwich with right sides together.
Pin at intervals to hold all three layers together.  Sew around quilt, leaving an opening to turn the quilt right side out. 
Remove pins and turn the quilt right side out. This method of making a quilt is called “birthing a quilt” and does not require binding. 
Poke the corners out so they are square.  Turn raw edges left open for turning to the inside. 
Topstitch all around the quilt top, making sure to stitch the opening shut.
Smooth quilt out neatly, and lay on a hard surface.  Tie the quilt, using a heavy thread, crochet cotton, several strands of sewing thread, or yarn.  Knot the ties securely with a double knot or square knot.  
Start by placing knots at the corners of the blocks, center of each sashing strip, center of the cornerstones, etc., and work several ties into each block to secure the layers well.
We chose to quilt the layers with a walking foot instead of tying it. 

Your quilt is done and ready to “hug” a baby in the love you fashioned out of fabric.

You can see the looks of pride on their faces, with the completed quilt for their cousin!
This second quilt is for another cousin, and still waiting to be quilted.
The children picked the pictures, the colors, and fabrics, and signed each block they colored.  
Ava, age 14, went over spots that needed more outlining with a Micron pen.  It was a great project for them to work on with Grandma, and I think they learned a bit more about quilting this summer.  
All three of them got new Kindle Fire tablets, and this last photo shows why the second quilt didn't get quilted by the grandchildren!