Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hillside Houses

The sun could hardly have shone brighter over Sydney Harbour on Christmas Day.

And the balmy weather continued right through to New Year.

[photo by City of Sydney]

But a few days later the heavens opened and it seemed as if the torrential summer rain would never stop. Perfect weather! For finally getting started on a quilt, that is.

Apart from the stunning play of colours, light and shade, I imagine any of us can look at this pattern and, with just a little poetic license, see a resemblance to a special landscape from our own life's experience. 

For me, it's a little like the mansions built on the slopes beside Sydney Harbour, except, of course they're nestled among mature trees and gardens. It's also a little like the staggered skyline of the high rise apartment buildings where I live. And it's even like the pretty little houses I've seen on a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. 

The pattern comes with instructions for three sizes, to make a miniquilt, a wall hanging or a throw size quilt, and I chose the wall hanging. There are twelve blocks, each one different, and so far I've completed eight.

Block #1

Block #2

Block #3

Row #1 Completed

Block #4

Block #5

Block #6

Row #2 Completed

Block #7

Block #8

Making a quilt entirely from solids is a new experience for me, but I can see they're perfect for this colour block design, adding crispness and dimension to the angles of the houses. 

So here's my design wall, and my progress so far. 

Just four blocks to go ��

Do these hillside houses remind you of somewhere special?

Friday, January 1, 2016

My Small World Quilt

Let's begin the new year on the front foot, with a post about a finish. 

From the moment I set eyes on Jen Kingwell's My Small World quilt in the Spring 2015 edition of Quiltmania I was smitten.  

A still, small (and frankly rather boring) inner voice cautioned that I had no time to cut out and sew together the thousands of tiny pieces needed to create this amazing combination of shapes and patterns. 

Besides, I'd go crazy coping with the piles of tiny scraps all over my floor, sorted into the colour palette I needed to "paint" this imaginary world. 

Not to mention my domestic machine quilting skills which I seriously doubted could do justice to such a quilt.

All of which was true.

However, once I realised My Small World would make the perfect quilt for a very special little person due to arrive in November, there was no stopping me. 

I mined my scrap box like a maniac, digging for the brightest, happiest pieces I could find. 

I fussy cut like a fiend so I could make my version into an "I Spy" quilt.

And I single-mindedly stitched together My Small World quilt top over six or seven weeks. Those fabric piles did drive me crazy, but they gave me the impetus I needed to get this stage finished.

It's a pattern that lends itself - almost invites itself - to personalising. So I created a sunny yellow, blue and white colour-washed sky and, instead of the stitcheries in the original design, I filled my sky (created with around 700 x 1 inch squares) with a fairytale castle, busy bees, bubbles and a big Dresden style sun.

All over the quilt I've included little objects that are fun to discover - a car, The Cat in the Hat, a zebra, a daisy, little children, a sailing boat...and so on.

While I thought about how I was going to approach the quilting of the buildings I worked an orange peel grid over the sky. 

Then I decided to mentally break up the quilt into individual spaces and quilt each one separately. This approach meant that I could effectively avoid having to tackle machining over any any thick joins, but also gave the quilt a rich and varied texture matching the style of the original design. 

My quilting was far from perfect, but again I feel it matches the quilt's naive style. That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it!

This stage of the quilting took the longest, but I found it the most creatively rewarding.

I used Aurifil thread 50wt for both my piecing and quilting, and my batting was Soft and Bright from The Warm Company.

It was easy to add a multi-coloured binding using the method described here because the binding was applied in four separate strips and I could position the colour transitions exactly where I wanted them.

With this method the stitched mitred corners (almost) always turn out like this, which I love.

An "I Spy" quilt needs a label on the back with a list of objects to find. 

Perhaps you can play the game yourself?

And finally this label, so that Princess 2 will always remember her grandma who took the time (around 4 months working 2 or 3 hours most days or evenings) to make her this gift of love.

And remained sane*

Please see these posts of mine if you're interested in more details, and tips, about the making of My Small World quilt.

* Some may disagree :-)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A little unfinished business...

I was rolling a batch of ginger and macadamia balls tonight and jigging to a happy Christmas tune when it hit me.

Not a rolling pin, just the memory that weeks ago I promised some Instagram friends that I'd share my recipes here for Lemon Passionfruit Slice and Apricot Oat Bars - and I forgot!

So here we go...
 Lemon Passionfruit Slice

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup caster sugar
125g butter, melted
395g can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup passionfruit pulp, plus extra to serve

Preheat oven to moderate, 180 degrees C. Lightly grease an 18cm x 28cm lamington pan. Line base and sides with baking paper, allowing paper to extend 2cm above the rim of the long sides.

Sift flour into a bowl. Stir in coconut and sugar. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the melted butter, mixing well.

Press firmly into the base of the prepared pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until slightly golden.

Meanwhile, in a bowl combine condensed milk, lemon juice and passionfruit. Pour over base and bake for a further 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool and chill overnight.

Lift the slice from the pan. Peel away the paper and cut into 24 squares. Drizzle with extra passionfruit before serving.

Apricot Oat Bars

Ingredients for Base
1 cup Plain Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
4 oz butter

Melt butter and combine with the remaining ingredients. 
Press over the base of a greased 9 inch square pan. Bake in moderate oven for 15 minutes.

Ingredients for topping
6 oz chopped dried apricots
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Self Raising flour
1 cup coconut

Cover apricots with hot water, stand 5-10 minutes, then drain.
Beat eggs well,and combine with remaining ingredients.
Spread topping over the partly-cooked base, and bake in a moderate oven for a further 20 to 25 minutes (until firm to the touch).
Cut into bars when cool. Makes 24.

  If you've made it this far without falling asleep you deserve a reward, so here's the recipe for the Ginger and Macadamia Balls I was making tonight.

100g raw macadamias
1 x 250g packet of Gingernut biscuits
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
90g butter
1 and a half cups coconut

Place nuts on a baking tray and bake in oven 200 degrees C for 5 to 6 minutes until golden. Roughly chop nuts.
Crush biscuits in a food processor. Place biscuit crumbs in a bowl with the chopped macadamias.
Place the condensed milk, Golden Syrup and butter in a Pyrex jug and microwave on High for 2-3 minutes or until the butter melts.
Pour this mixture over the crumb/nut mixture and mix well.
Roll teaspoons of mixture into balls, roll in coconut. Refrigerate until firm.

Almost no-bake - if you don't count toasting the macadamias.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Delightful distractions

I know, I know. Long time, no me!

Life, in all its richness, has temporarily intruded on my blogging time and before I continue I'm going to break the number one rule for bloggers and apologise for the hiatus.

What could possibly have taken my attention all this time? Well, here's the thing.

I've been...

* Admiring Princess 1 when she became the first member of our family to sing on stage at the Sydney Opera House, as part of the huge combined choir performing at the Ryde Schools' Spectacular. I was so proud of her!

* Appreciating the magnificent star jasmine vines and purple jacaranda trees that brighten Sydney at this time of year.

This is our local barbecue area, and general neighbourhood meet-up spot.

I felt very honoured that the City of Sydney chose to share, in its Instagram feed, this photo I took of jacaranda "snow" on a Zetland street.

Tote Park, Zetland.

The Memorial Garden at St Mark's, Darling Point.

* Cultivating my tiny balcony garden, and enjoying the small patches of early summer colour from my bougainvillea, diplodenias, lavender and convolvulus. 

* Photographing some of the dramatic storm fronts that sweep into Sydney at this time of the year. From my balcony I get a spectacular view of the thunderous clouds, and sometimes even a spectacular light show!

* Attending a small 50 year school reunion of Sydney Girls' High leavers. My cohort has never been keen on large, formal reunions (we waited 30 years before we had the one I organised), so there was something warm and comfortable about this meet-up of around sixteen of us for lunch at the Chiswick Restaurant at the Art Gallery.

* Stitching this set of latte coloured mug mates for a friend to give her daughter-in-law.

...and these as Christmas gifts for some friends.

... and these softies for Anglicare's Toys 'n'Tucker Christmas appeal.

... and quietly making progress with the hand quilting on this special quilt I'm finishing on a friend's behalf.

* Finally - and most importantly - I've been treasuring the opportunities I get to spend with my other two grandchildren, Mr J and his new baby sister Princess 2.

More soon!