Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Wedding Fever aka a Meal Fit for a Prince

 So, unless you don't read the paper or perhaps you've been on a remote island of some kind, most of you would know that yesterday (April 29th) Prince William of Wales married Catherine Middleton.

No matter which side of the republican debate you're on, I think we can all agree that the English Royal family really do know how to "do" pomp and ceremony!  I have to admit that I was quite excited about the wedding, I remember when I was little that Mum would talk about watching Princess Diana's wedding, so I thought this would be my chance.  Even better, the timing of the wedding meant that it fell in prime time TV viewing here in Australia.

Now Sir Pinkying is fairly tolerant when it comes to watching an assortment of shows that he isn't interested in, but I knew that 3 or more hours of royal wedding was a little extreme!  I also wanted for us to be able to have a mildly English feeling to the meal, so I decided on a menu:
Roast Beef with gravy (and I NEVER make gravy), Yorkshire Puddings (that I've never made before) and Vegetables with a dessert of Apple Crumble.

I came home from work and figured out the timing of everything - hard to do when you have to take into account things like "7.51pm - the bride leaves for the church"!  I was most nervous about the Yorkshire Puddings, I've never made them before and I was led to believe that they're easy to get wrong.

On the advice of my sister I used the Jamie Oliver recipe from his book "The Ministry of Food" (I also did his roast beef and gravy recipes from the same book).  The instructions were very clear that you're NOT to open the oven door while they are cooking but I managed to snap this shot as I opened the door to get them out
 I'm so happy that they worked!  They were crisp on the outside and warm and soft in the middle - just like Jamie said they should be.  I had to rest the roast for 30 minutes, and it was quite cool here last night - so a double layer of foil and a tea towel helped keep it all warm.
 I don't think I've ever cooked roast beef before (pork, chicken and lamb: yes, beef: no) so very happy that the Jamie recipe made it perfectly medium.
 Needless to say Sir Pinkying was very satisfied with his meal, and this morning reading some of the wedding coverage - what do I see on the menu at the royal wedding reception?  Roast Beef, with Yorkshire Puddings!  It really was a meal fit for a prince.
Last up was a small apple crumble from a "secret" family recipe.
The wedding was great fun to watch, complete with texts from a very special person who was my "royal correspondent" on the Mall in London.  My highlights from the coverage were the carriage procession after the ceremony, the balcony appearance, and the sight of dozens of members of the royal family packed into "mini coaches" to travel to the palace!  
My absolute favourite though was something I only saw this morning - William and Catherine driving from Buckingham Palace in an Aston Martin decked out by brother Harry in bunting and ballons

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

While I've been gone....

So, I realise that it's been some time since I've posted, and it's really just that life has gotten in the way of me having some quite time on the computer to blog.

Sewing wise I've been working on my current projects, and also one more thing that I didn't share with you the other day... because we just moved house I've been wanting to do some new placemats for us to use for dinners and things like that. I absolutely LOVED the High Society range from Anthology fabrics, they have a good compromise feeling in that they are not too girly, but are quite earthy and fun.
So I've been making some placemats for us - just some little touches for our new home.  I picked 5 of the prints above to be included (taking out the ones that were too flowery) and added Kona solids in Coal (I think).  At the moment they look like this - stacked up waiting to be finished

But soon they will look more like this.  I had lay them all out to ensure that I had a "random" enough look in the designs of each placemat.  I've already bought the special thermal wadding and I'm going to use a dark brown for the binding, hopefully they'll come together!
The other thing that I've been doing is a little "gardening".  We have lots of outside space here and I would really like it to be a lush green oasis - but given my brown thumb past we decided that I should start small - 3 herbs - and see how I go with these!

p.s. don't forget to keep dropping in to Chasing Cottons to follow Rebecca's great beginner's quilt class

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Current Projects: Celtic Applique

Another current project! When i first started quilting, I bought a LOT of books, including this one. It was at the time that all things Irish were cool, Riverdance was huge and on tour, and I got swept up in it all. So far I have cut all the pieces for the background (the patterned fabrics that sit behind the celtic lines), and I've also done ALL the bias bars for both the centre applique, and also the border.

Then I basted everything in place and have been stitching it down with a running stitch. But wait, what is that in the top right had corner? Just to the right of the golden loop...
ARGH! On pulling this out of the current projects box that it was residing in, I found a mystery splotch and I have no idea what it is. I really honestly don't know what it is or how it got there. I've tried removing it, but have had no luck so far. My plan is to finish the applique, and then wash the top to see if I can get it out that way (with some stain remover). If that doesn't work then I'm going to cut around the design and then applique it to a new background.
Laying the bias bars was interesting because they all over lap, and wind in and out of each other. It's one of the reasons why I basted everything in place, because I wasn't going to do that a second time!
What I have noticed about all my current projects is that each one of them has taught me a different technique, which makes sense because I'm self taught, so all these books have to serve a purpose!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Chasing Cottons

Rebecca over at Chasing Cottons is running a really great beginners quilting class covering everything from fabric, to design, to construction, to finishing. It will be a great resource for not just new members of our fabulous quilting community, but I'm sure the rest of us can pick up some tips too.

Rebecca's invited the rest of us to join in by blogging about the topics she's discussing in any given week, and considering that this weeks topic is FABRIC, I just couldn't resist joining in.

I LOVE fabric. I have done since I was a little girl, and I suspect that I always will :) I can remember when I was about maybe 6 or 7, sitting next to my Mum as she went through her fabric and knitting supplies, and stashing a little pile of the things she was getting rid of that I liked.

For quilting I use 100% cotton fabrics, and I make a decision about whether or not to pre-wash based on what I'm making, and with what fabrics. There is a lot of debate about the wash/don't wash issue and you can find people who passionately fall on both sides of the debate.

As an initial general rule, I either wash ALL of the fabrics in a quilt, or I wash NONE of the fabrics in a quilt. I have to admit with the increasing use of pre-cuts it's becoming less and less likely that I will pre-wash fabric. You can't pre-wash pre-cuts (at least not in any "easy" way), so if I can't wash that part of the fabric, then I won't wash any other fabrics in the quilt. This means that when you wash the quilt the first time, they should ("should") shrink evenly. The only time that I would wash the fabric would be if I'm using pieces that are all a fat quarter or larger, because then any threads pulling off the edge are not going to be a problem.

Now, for the shopping! I do a combination of online shopping (USA and Australia), physical shopping, and ebay. Rebecca has a good list of shops on her website - and I've used a number of them - mentions would go to Hawthorne Threads, Pink Chalk Fabrics, and for GORGEOUS catalogs Keepsake Quilting.

My other favourite tip is :) If you know the name of a fabric designer you really love, or a fabric range then you can type it into that search engine and it will look at a whole bunch of online shops and show you who is selling it. It doesn't show ALL the shops out there, but it does show some great ones, and it's a good way to compare prices.

If you're a beginner living in Sydney, then I can't reccomend highly enough the discount fabric section at Craft Depot at Pennant Hills. They have a huge selection of fabrics at $10 per metre, so if you're not too sure of yourself, and you're nervous about spending HEAPS of money, or cutting into a special fabric, you can easily get some great things there. It's where my collection of Alhambra fabrics came from.

I completely agree with Rebecca when she says that you should buy what you love - especially if you're "stashbuilding". I read through Rebecca's post a second time, and I don't she talks about a "stash" at all so I'm going to have a go.

I think that most quilters would have a stash, don't get me wrong, I'm sure that they vary in size, I know people who only have tiny bits of left over fabric from their last quilt, and I also know people who have a stash that could literally fill a room, but almost every quilter I know has a stash. For me it started out as pieces of fabric that were left over from things that I had made. However this quickly morphed into me buying pieces of fabric that I had no specific plan for, but that I knew I HAD to have. For example, the gorgeous "Plume" by Tula Pink. I have no idea what I'm going to use it for - but I needed to have it! :) At the moment my stash spreads across about five 50 litre plastic tubs.

Deciding how much fabric to buy can be tricky too. If you know what you're making, and what you're using the fabric as (i.e. using a fabric as a border, background or binding is going to use a lot more fabric than if you're using it as the highlight colour in 20 blocks) will make it a lot easier. If you're just stash building then I would suggest no less than a fat quarter, because you'll regret it later!! A word of warning - a lot of online shops do a minimum half yard (USA) cut, which is fair enough, because if they cut a fat quarter for you, and don't sell the other half then the shop is stuck with a piece they can't sell.

The most important thing about fabric is to enjoy it! Relish the colour, dive into the patterns and designs, examine the textures and figure out what you like, what you LOVE and the things you aren't so keen about. It's one of the BEST things about being a quilter.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Current Projects: Asian Circles

So I continue my adventure through projects that I'm currently working on. This next one is very much a work in progress. It all started with a piece of gorgeous Asian style fabric. It started with one of the techniques in this book. You can't quite tell, but all the blocks are slightly different sizes and what I'm planning to do is to actually cut them into circles which I'm going to applique to a background. It's just this week looking through all the blocks that I've decided that I might piece the background, out of an assortment of creams. Maybe. I'm considering it! :)
I want them to end up looking like the Japanese Temari balls, and in my head, I want them to kind of "float" across the background of the quilt, and I think that I will quilt loose kind of "wafts" of air.
The techniques in the book are great, I just love how you can get so very many....
different blocks from a single fabric! :) ... and the way the patterns seem to rotate around the centre of the block

Monday, April 4, 2011

Current Projects: Odd Fellows March

Wow - that was a trial! It's taken me 45 minutes to load the photos for this post! Moving right along to today's current project, this is Odd Fellows March: This was the result of one of my very first adventures in online shopping. I loved the pattern in the book, but I didn't like the "old man" look of the prints in the pattern, and then one day I saw these beautiful pastel/bright coloured plaids in the Keepsake Quilting catalog, and I just HAD to have them! The pattern is called "Odd Fellows March" and is from "Quick Quilts from your Scrap Bag" by Leisure Arts. (sorry I would crop the photo below to get rid of the carpet background, but I'm SO not reloading it!)
It's a great book, and has lots of fantastic ideas in it. One day my Odd Fellows March will look like this

But for now a lot of it looks like this!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Current Projects: Part 1

As I mentioned the other day, part of moving house has meant that I've had a chance to go through all my current projects. I've rediscovered some that I've started working on, and not completed. So this week I am going to show you a couple of them, explain where I'm up to, and what I think I will do next.

Up first is this Hydrangea.

I think that I stopped working on it because I wasn't quite sure what I should do with it once it's finished. It's about 15 inches square at the moment, and I think that it would probably make a good little wall hanging.

It comes from the brilliant book "Fabled Flowers" by Kumiko Sudo.
Each little petal starts out as a circle and then you do some folding, and you wind up with a petal.

I've always loved Hydrangeas so I do still really love this block. Now I think that I will put on a skinny border in one of the purple fabrics, and then to mirrior the petals, I might do a border of little hour glass blocks, then bind it.

I haven't really thought about quilting it yet, but I will require a fairly close amount of quilting on the background, to help hold the weight of the flowers.

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