Saturday, June 23, 2012

Past the Easy Part

I finished sewing together my quilt top on a few days ago - it went pretty quickly, since it was basically just a matter of sewing some thin sashing strips between the blocks.  Having finished that, it didn't take me long to sew the two backing pieces into one, and then of course I immediately laid out the quilt sandwich and started to hand-baste the layers together.

Last night I finished the basting and trimmed the excess fabric and batting.  I've decided to keep the quilting itself pretty simple, since I'm using a home sewing machine and have little patience for cramming quilts through the small throat space provided in mine.  I'm going to use masking tape to lay out basic diagonals on the top, and then quilt straight simple lines.  Hopefully I can do it without having a stress aneurism.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cashmere Affection

Although I've mostly been showing off my quilt progress, lately, I have been steadily knitting on one project or another.  While I had Cashmere Affection on the needles, it was almost exclusively on that, since it is such a fun and easy and lovely project (and since the yarn I was using was so luxurious and breathtaking.)

It only took me about two and a half weeks to knit the whole thing up, and I really enjoyed it.  It was a bit fussy for a while, when I had three strands of yarn hanging off it, but even that wasn't enough to annoy me.  While I was knitting, I thought there was no way it was going to end up as huge as some of them I've seen on Ravelry, since it didn't seem that squished up on my needles.  Even when I bound it off and had it off the needles, it didn't seem so big.  Once I wet blocked it, however...  wow.  I tried to lay it on my bed to block, but had a foot or two of length hanging off both the head and foot end of my bed.  I had to lay it out on my living room floor, and even then it barely squeaked into the space I had.  This thing is huge!  I had expected it to have a bit more depth, but it's quite narrow.  I could have stretched out the garter stitch to give it more depth, but that takes away from the squishy-factor of the garter stitch, which I'd rather not do.  If I knit it again, I'll probably make some alterations to add some more depth to it, especially since there is lots of spare yarn to work with.

The colours I chose are pretty bold and perhaps even clashing - in some lights the Royal Flush looks more red than fuchsia, and the whole thing takes on a bit more of a Moulin Rouge feeling.  In other lights it's a bright wild pink and the shawl feels more like a wild bouquet.  In any case, it's super snuggly: garter stitch in the softest cashmere/wool blend is definitely a recipe for success.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Koi Pond Socks

A long long time ago, I bought a bunch of variegated sock yarns from Blue Moon Fiber Arts.  Over the years, I've used up most of them, but it's always a challenge to find patterns that will look good with some of the crazier colour combos.  I recently came across a free pattern on Ravelry called Harvest Dew, which has a really cute slipped stitch pattern that helps to break up pooling in these types of yarns.  I paired it up with a skein called Koi Koi and whipped up a pair of socks.

The stitch pattern itself is very easy to memorize (like, once through the pattern and you have it down) and also very quick, so the socks don't take much longer to knit than a simple stockingette sock would.  I knew it would eat up the yarn more than stockingette, so I did have to shorten the leg a bit, to make up for my big ol' feet.  If I used a yarn with a little more yardage in the skein, I could probably have made a taller leg, too.

End result: fun-to-knit, cute, comfy socks in one of my favourite yarns ever.  Sweet!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One For Good Measure

Since I had enough fat quarters in this collection to make ten quilt blocks, I decided to make a spare one.  This could have come in handy if I had somehow screwed up one of the first nine, since I'd have another one to use to finish the quilt top, but as luck would have it, I managed to make all of them without any major problems.  The tenth one will make a good pillow to set on top of my bed (albeit a pretty huge one.)

Having finished this one, I can start the construction of the quilt top.  Exciting times ahead!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mostly-Authentic Vegan Whoopie Pies

First of all, let's get one thing straight.  I'm not vegan.  I mean, bacon cheeseburgers are sort of the base layer of my food pyramid, if you know what I mean, and I do really believe that Everything is Better With Butter.  However, I have friends who are vegan, and one of them has become a regular guest at our weekly The Wire Night.  I've had to start stretching my baking muscles, lest she feel left out of our weekly snack food indulgences.

Whoopie pies are also a big part of my food pyramid, some weeks (usually of the PMS variety.)  This week, I wanted to whip up some whoopie pies for my guests, but since they are full of butter and milk (that must be the whoopie part) I had to make a few alterations.

As you can see, they ended up a bit taller and smaller in diameter than the Authentic Whoopie Pies that were my starting off point, but other than that, they are a pretty close approximation of the original.  Hopefully my guests will all like them.

Vegan Whoopie Pies
(makes 13-14 assembled pies, allowing for ample sampling of batter and filling)

For the cakey part:
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp milk substitute (soy, almond, etc.  I used Coconut milk beverage from So Nice)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Blend that together and then add:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 5 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

Drop by tablespoonful onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 375 F for 8 min.  Test for doneness with a toothpick (it should come out clean.)  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Cream Filling:
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (the real stuff in a can)

Beat this in a stand mixer for a looong time - about 5 to 10 min.  This will start out looking like a sludgy mess and you will think you did something wrong (or that veganizing this recipe didn't work worth beans) but if you are patient, eventually it will turn into an amazing fluffy creamy filling.

After the cakey bits are cooled, you can assemble the whoopie pies by sandwiching (lots and lots of) filling between two cakey bits.  You are meant to have to lick it from the sides when you take a bite, so don't be afraid to really pack it in there.

They store just fine at room temperature, and are great out of the fridge.  The conventional ones freeze really well and I don't see why these ones wouldn't too, but I haven't tried it yet, and frankly, I doubt I'll have enough left over tonight to bother.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Last of the Quilt Blocks

This is the ninth and final quilt block (but don't despair, remember I'll still get to show off one more for a pillow.)  I took my time making this one, over a couple of days.  I didn't want to rush it, since I am so close to the end of this quilt top.  In the meantime, I also picked up a long-forgotten knitting project and found renewed interest in it, which also took away from the sewing time.

I can't wait to sew on the sashing and start putting these together!  It will probably all come together next week, when I get a couple of days off work.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Up Side Down Side

I got an early start on today's block, so I'm able to show this one off before I even have to go to work.  I also bound off my Cashmere Affection shawl this morning and laid it out to block - feeling very satisfied and accomplished, today.

This photo doesn't do the yellow justice.  It's really a lovely colour, with swirls of blue-green through it.  Very very pleased with this one.

Only two blocks left (one for the quilt and one for a pillow.)  I'm starting to see the end coming, which has me both excited and a bit sad.  I've really enjoyed putting each of these blocks together, and don't want it to end, except of course that I'll have a gorgeous quilt to use when I'm done.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Second Primary

A bit late in the day, but I did manage to finish the seventh block of my Swoon quilt tonight.  For those of you who didn't love the last block I did in primary colours: sorry, but I did it again.

I do like the way the light lemony yellow sort of fades into the background, making the bright red stand out so well.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Rainbow Connection

I have a lot of stuff to do today: cleaning, baking, biking, hosting.  So of course I started out my day by doing something that wasn't on the Have To list - another block for the quilt.  This one is in a lovely deep indigo and a nice kelly green.  But then, you can see that.

I am particularly in love with this one because of the various rainbow colours swirling through that green fabric.  I made sure that it was the central fabric for this block, so that I could show it off by having a nice big square of it in the middle.  Perhaps it makes the green look muddy at a distance, but up close it's so pretty!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Little Pizazz

Between working, the season finale of Game of Thrones, and some social knitting, it took me a couple of days to finish the fifth block for my Swoon quilt, but I managed to stitch the last of it together, tonight.

A combination of bright orange and fuchsia, this one perhaps clashes a bit, but I love these colours together.

This marks the halfway point for the quilt blocks (if you include the final one for a matching pillow.)  So far, so good.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Primary Impulse

For this quilt block, I threw together a couple of primary colours.  It's bold, but what can I say?  I have always loved the combo of a bright red and light blue.  For further evidence of my obsession with that colour combo, see here, or here, or even way back here.

I think it ties in with the blue of the previous block, but is definitely very different.  I would say I really love this one, but of course I could say that about all of them.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Swoon's Blue Period

The third block (still warm from the iron) has two colours that are more similar in value and in colour, for less contrast.  It makes for a more cohesive design, with neither element standing out more strongly than the other.  I still like it.