Sunday, November 15, 2015

Many Trips Around the World

Many Trips Around the World:
Fall temperatures make it feel like soup weather!  I made a pot of Beef Vegetable Barley soup yesterday, and it was delicious!  While the soup was cooking I was working on another variation of Around the World… Many Trips Around the World.  This block is made up of seven 2-1/2” strips, with one contrast colors going diagonally from top to bottom.  These blocks are put together in a way that creates a diamond pattern that appears to be edged with the contrast color, and the design that results seems to be two separate blocks but they are all formed from that one block.  I first decided which seven fabrics I wanted in the quilt, and next sewed strip sets of the fabrics, with each of the fabrics in the same place in the strip set.  Working with two strip sets at a time, I pressed each of them in opposite directions.  I evened the ends, and sewed each strip set into a tube, as instructed in my previous tutorial, Around the World.  Then cut the tube into 2-1/2” segments.  I laid the strips into two stacks, so one stack had strips pressed in one direction, and the other stack contained strips pressed in the opposite direction.  In this way, the intersections butted up against each other without any pinning.  
Open one seam, with the dark or contrast color at the top of the row.  The next strip will be staggered one color down, so the contrast color will be second on the row, and the color that was on the bottom of the first strip will be at the top of the next strip.  Working from left to right and taking strip sets from alternate stacks helps to keep the colors in the right place, plus alternating the way the seams are pressed so there is no need to pin.  I lay the seven strips out, making sure they are in the proper place, and then join the strips, starting at one side or the other.  (See photo at right, with the strip sets laid out, and then joined into a block.)  Just as when you join strip sets, alternate the end you start sewing on so the block is straight when you finish it.  When all seven strips are sewn together, I press all the seams in the same direction from the back, then flip it over and press it from the front.  Lay the blocks out in a way that is pleasing to you.  They can be put together in diamond sections or joined to look like a traditional Around the World quilt.  See photo below.  
My oldest daughter has a super king-sized bed, and I've made up a few samples for her approval for a quilt for her bedroom.  The furniture has dark marble tops, and there is one burgundy wall.  The samples I made so far were not successful.  She doesn't want much white in the quilt, and using just grays and burgundies looked dull and boring.  I finally tried adding a tan background print with apples on it, so the dark red apples blended with the burgundies, and the warm tan and green of the leaves added some more interest.  When she was here last week, she approved the design and colors... she liked it a lot!  It had some black and light gray strips with silver (Stonehenge Winter fabrics), some Jinny Beyer tone-on-tone melon rose and burgundy, and a few burgundy prints, one is a Haversham fabric I've had for a long time, along with the apple print.  (See photo at right.)  Since it will be so large, I think I will quilt it in sections of four, which will be about 28" square, finished, in a Quilt As You Go method.  The photo at right shows 12 blocks finished.  

Bonnie Hunter has a free pattern on her blog for a scrappy version of Around the World, using six strips of various colors without any specific pattern.  Here is my version of the Scrappy Trips, in a blue colorway.  I will make this in a queen size.
Speaking of Around the World quilts, one of my local quilting friends and I are planning to take a short trip in a couple of weeks, to meet one of our online quilting friends, who is visiting the United States from another country.  She will be only around three hours away from us, so we are excited to be able to go and meet her for lunch and possibly take her to visit some Indiana quilt shops so she can check out some American fabrics.  
If you’re in the mood for soup, here are two recipes I made in my electric pressure cooker… they could easily be made on top of the stove, as well, but would just need to be cooked longer.

Beef Vegetable Barley Soup:
Season and brown 1 pound of stewing beef in a very small amount of olive oil.  My pressure cooker has a browning function, so I used that.  I seasoned the beef with Montreal Steak Seasoning.
Add: 1 small chopped onion and a quart of water, with 2 Tablespoons of beef soup base stirred in.
Cover and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.  Release steam and add:
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables, 10 oz.
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
5 cups water
1 cup pearl barley (mine was quick-cooking)
Cover and cook on high pressure for 18 minutes.  Release pressure.  Season, if necessary. 

Pressure Potted Fall Vegetables & Beef Stew:
1# cubed round steak, lightly floured and browned in about 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
                (more if you want a meatier stew)
Place in pressure cooker.  Add 1-1/2 cups water and cook on high for 45 minutes.
While meat is cooking, prepare the other vegetables:
2 cups peeled and diced rutabaga
2 cups thickly sliced baby carrots
2 medium diced potatoes (if using new potatoes, scrub and do not peel before dicing)
2 cups shredded bagged coleslaw vegetables (cabbage with a bit of shredded carrots)
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 – 28 oz. can Ro-Tel Tomatoes with green chili (this makes a VERY spicy hot soup… may substitute regular diced tomatoes, if you don’t like it “hot”!)
Add the vegetables to the meat in the pressure cooker.
Add 3 cups water, or amount wanted to obtain the amount of broth you desire.
Add 1 Tablespoon Mrs. Dash’s seasoning
Add 1 Tablespoon beef soup base to enhance the flavor (no need to add additional spices; if it is not seasoned well enough, you can add seasoning when you eat it.)
Cover and cook on high for an additional 30 minutes.
Options:  Can add fresh chopped spinach, frozen corn or canned black beans after cooking, heating until everything is hot.

If you want to make this vegetarian, just cook the vegetables with the water, adding some meatless soup base, optional.  Cook about 30 minutes, and add one can of black beans, one can of white beans, and one can of kidney beans to the vegetables to add protein.  May also add some textured soy protein, mixed with water to soften, if desired, which simulates ground meat.
Enjoy this lovely fall weather before the cold of winter sets in.  I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving season! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Cold Remedies

There are still a few straggling gold leaves on the bushes beyond my deck, but the trees are looking barren.  It seemed as if one day there were leaves, and a few days later they were bare.  The cast-off colors of gold and brown drifted to the ground prolifically, almost like falling snow, and the green grass is carpeted with brown. Michelle took some photos of the beautiful Japanese Maple at the front of my house last week.  
The night temperatures fall down into the 40s, and daytime temps seldom get higher than the 60's. Daylight Savings Time has switched so that our days seem much shorter, and they will continue to dwindle for another month and a half before they begin to lengthen again.  I do not like winter much, but it does give me a reason to appreciate my quilts... and use them regularly.
This is the time when the cold and flu bugs are running rampant, the time to back up our defenses with herbal remedies.  I've been making a wonderful natural chest rub for the grandchildren for many years, that I call Eucalyptus Chest Rub.  It's great for breaking up congestion with essential oils in a light, natural base; it takes the place of commercial rubs that are petroleum-based.  Also, we have a cold and sinus tea blend that we use, that is potent enough to knock that cold or flu virus for a loop, if you take it at the first signs of a sore and scratchy throat.  That, along with tinctures of Echinacea and Astragalus whenever we are exposed to those winter bugs, help us to ward off any viruses traveling around.  Astragalus is reputed to be even more effective as an immune system enhancer than Echinacea, by some herbalists.  Echinacea is more effective if it is taken in a cycle, with a period of "rest" off the herb, rather than taking it continually.  Here are the recipes for the chest rub and cold/flu relief tea:

Eucalyptus Chest Rub:
2 cups Olive Oil
1-1/2 ounce Beeswax
1 Tablespoon Eucalyptus Essential Oil
1 teaspoon Camphor Essential Oil
1 teaspoon Wintergreen Essential Oil
1 teaspoon Peppermint Essential Oil
1 teaspoon Vitamin E Oil
Melt the beeswax in the olive oil.  Remove from heat, cool slightly, and add the essential oils and Vitamin E oil.  Stir well and pour into salve containers. When the salve has cooled and become firm, cover and label.  Relieves respiratory congestion.  Safer for children than petroleum products.  Note:  If you wish, you can make this with Lard as part of the oil, and/or add Emu oil, which has been proven to be able to travel to the deeper levels of the skin.  Lard has healing properties of its own, but some prefer not to use animal products.  Also, animal products can become rancid much more quickly than Olive Oil, so if it is not going to be used in a reasonable span of time, Olive Oil is a better choice.

Cold, Flu and Sinus Relief Tea:
2 Tablespoons Elder Berries, ground
1/2 cup Elder Flowers
1-1/2 cups Coltsfoot Leaf
1/2 cup Elecampane Root, ground
1-1/2 cups Dandelion Leaf
1/2 cup Dandelion Root
This tea is not good tasting (my children nick-named it Putrid Tea), but honey can be added to make it more palatable.  It does work, so if you can manage to disregard the taste... it will sure make you feel better! It takes some people some time to adapt to liking the taste of herbs.  I put a spoonful of tea in a coffee filter, and make my own teabag.  I flatten the filter, bring two edges together and fold them down several times, then bend it in half so both ends meet and fold that down, then staple the top.  Steep it in boiling hot water for several minutes... you will smell the potent herbal aroma.  Drink a cup of the tea every few hours.  

Another natural remedy that is available to everyone is Garlic.  I use fresh minced Garlic on my salads daily, as well as including it in many other foods.  Garlic supplements are available over-the-counter, if you prefer to take it in that form.  My younger sister told me once that people had been mentioning to her that she smells like Garlic, and offering her breath mints!  She looked at the bottle of Garlic supplements that she was taking, and it was not odor-free, as she had thought.  So be aware that is available in odorless or regular form.

Even though there is a chill in the air these days, I have had a frequent visitor on my deck.  The first time I saw him, he sat on the table and stared at me through the window for a long time, and when I went on with my sewing, he curled up on the back of one of the new chair cushions for an extended nap. He has come back several times... the cushions must be comfortable, and even though the deck is on the east side of my house, that area is usually sunny throughout the day. My deck seems to be a sanctuary for squirrels and cats!  A few weeks ago, I saw three quite large deer amble through the yard and wander off into the woods at a leisurely pace.  I tried to get a photo of them, but was afraid if I opened the door they would get spooked and run.  The pictures through the window were blurry.  It never ceases to amaze me that here in the suburbs of a big city, in an area that is well populated, there is so much wildlife!  We are crowding these animals out of their habitat, I fear.

Stay warm... and stay well!  Wash your hands frequently, as most germs are easily spread by contact on our hands.  Get plenty of rest, so your body can fight off those nasty bugs!  And be sure to stock up on fresh garlic... it will not only help you stay well, but it will ward off the Walking Dead!  If you eat enough of it, it might ward off the living, as well.

Around The World

Around the World Quilt:
It's a big help in having your intersections meet where they are supposed to if you have a true 1/4" seam.  You can check your ¼” seam by sewing three 2-1/2” strips that are about 6” long together.  Press all seams to one side.  Measure the CENTER strip… it should measure exactly 2” wide.  If it does not, adjust your needle and try again.  Bonnie Hunter has an excellent blog on how she makes a true ¼” seam.
Jelly rolls are perfect for this pattern, or you can cut your own 2-1/2” strips, cut the width of fabric.  I use my June Tailor Shape Cutter ruler to cut multiple strips at a time, without having to re-position the fabric. 
Lay the strips out in a way that is pleasing to you.  It works well to place colors so that they blend from light to dark and vice versa.  It is best to have some colorful fabrics in the strip sets to add a “zip” factor!  Remember that the colors will be repeated in all the “rounds” of the design, so the fabrics at both ends of the strip sets will be next to each other in the finished quilt. This green/blue quilt used four strip sets of 13 fabrics each, shown at right.  Borders can be added to make it as large as you wish… or you can make more strip sets and make it larger.        
I have my strips laid out on the ironing board, which is set at a right angle to my sewing table, so it’s really easy to just pick up the next strip when sewing them together. 
Join the strips together, alternating the end where you begin stitching, to avoid the strip set from being skewed.  In other words, where you end the stitching of two pieces, you will begin at that end to stitch the next strip on.  When you have stitched that seam, where you end will be where you begin stitching the next strip.  Be careful not to stretch the fabrics as you join the strips, just letting them feed naturally through the machine.  

When you have joined all the strips, you will have completed a “strip set”.  If you are a pedal-to-the-metal person (as I am), you can stitch the strip sets pretty quickly. Press all seams going in the same direction on the backside, but press each strip set in opposite directions, so one strip set is pressed toward the end color and the other strip set is pressed away from that end color.  This will facilitate joining the rows.   Place the strip set on your cutting mat, lining it up straight with the markings on your mat, as shown on the left.  Cut each end of the strip set off at the place where the end of the strip is the shortest.  Join the two long edges, right sides together.  This is one of the most difficult parts of sewing this pattern.  You may find it easier to pin the long edge at intervals, to make sure it stays even. 
Some machines feed differently on the top and bottom fabrics, so pinning helps to keep them straight.  If one fabric seems to be a little longer than the other, place that fabric on the bottom, and gently stretch as you sew this seam.
You now have a tube that is trimmed on each end, as shown on the right.  Cut this tube into 2-1/2” strips.  I was able to get 16 segments from my tube. Lay the strips from each strip set together, so you have two separate piles of strips, each pressed in a different direction.
Decide which direction you want your strips to go, and open ONE seam where you want the quilt pattern to start.  It helps if you have a design wall (I use a cheap flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth hung in front of my fireplace for my design wall).  Alternately, you can lay the strips out on a table or the floor.  You will need to add one 2-1/2” square to the top of your first strip, and remove the bottom 2-1/2” square from this strip ONLY.  I usually add a darker or lighter square in this place that will become the center of the quilt, so that the contrast is more obvious and sets the tone for the rest of the strips.  You might have a piece big enough and in a color you want from trimming the strip ends, or you can use the last square in your strip as your center, removing it from the bottom and re-sewing it to the top of the
strip… it’s your choice.
Continue adding strips to each side of this first strip, staggering the colors for each strip you add, so that the pattern emerges.  With each strip, you will open only one seam of the tube.  I find it easiest to just fold the tube where I need to rip the seam and lay it against the other strips to make sure I am at the right square.  Take strips from alternating piles so that the seams are pressed in opposite directions, which helps
the seams “nest” against each other while sewing them.  Tip: I sew with the raw pressed seam FACING the needle whenever possible, as it helps to nest the seams and match them.  I don’t worry if my seams don’t match perfectly, as when the top is quilted, it is not so obvious.  The “pouf” of the batting makes up for the error!  It isn’t necessary to press each seam as you sew the strips together, but you can if you wish.  I wait until the section is sewn and then press the whole thing… pressing the seams in one direction on the back, and then pressing from the front side.  My steam iron is my best friend, when I’m piecing a quilt… but don’t tell my sewing machine.  The photo at the right shows the first half of the quilt finished.

Tip:  Quilting should be FUN!  Remember that there are no quilt police in your home, and unless the errors are glaringly obvious, close is usually good enough, and your seam ripper can take a vacation.
Work out from the center strip, adding strips to just one side at a time, if you wish, sewing the strips into quarters, then sew the quarters into halves, and finally sew the two halves together.
The photo at the left shows the bottom half of the quilt beginning to come together.  Notice how the pattern is reversed from the top half.
Tip:  Remember, you do not add a square to the center strip on the last half of the quilt.  You build out from the center square that is on the first half, reversing the order of the strips. 
Once you get the hang of it, Around the World quilts are very simple to make and I think each one is exciting to see as it evolves into the pattern.  And for the record, I did not use one pin when sewing the strips together.  I do, however, pin the two halves before sewing them together.  My seams do not all meet perfectly, but the quilter’s credo is:  If they are riding by at 30 miles an hour, no one will notice!  

You can plan the size of your quilt easily… the squares result in 2” after they are sewn, so the size depends on how many strips you sew together into sets.  For these baby quilts, I used two each of 9 different fabrics. I will border them with a coordinating color strip, with binding to either match or blend.  I cut the strips for the pink and blue baby quilt at night, and my vision is not always very accurate! My night vision is even less accurate... I cut one of the strips the wrong size, which means I had two strips that were odd... so I could not use them in the quilt.  The quilt was off-balance, and I had a choice of either making another strip set or removing one of the strips from the top of the quilt.  I chose to do that, so the quilt is a bit smaller.
The yellow and orange quilt on the right is another baby quilt that was made for the man who takes care of my lawn, when their last baby arrived.

Whenever I make an Around the World quilt, I am reminded of all the online friends around the world that I've made through my love of quilting.  The ease of internet communication certainly has created the illusion of a much smaller world.  

The two quilts shown below are both large snuggler quilts, almost twin sized.  The one on the left belongs to my middle son, and the purple one is not yet quilted.

The last quilt photo, shown below,  is one that uses the Around the World square as a medallion center, and was a gift to a friend.

I hope this tutorial and the photos inspire you to enjoy sewing an Around the World quilt of your own... they literally can be done very quickly, using strip piecing with rotary cutting tools.

I will post another tutorial soon with variations of this pattern.

The fall leaves are dropping fast, and soon the trees will be bare.  There is a chill in the air these days, and the daylight hours are shorter.  But we, who spend much of our lives at our sewing machines, just use this as an opportunity to make more quilts.  I think of my quilts as a way to remind my family and friends how much I love them, and that reminder will be there long after I am gone... wrapping them in warm hugs.
Happy quilting!