The past few years, I have been part of a charity quilting group called do.Good.Stitches. It’s run by Rachel over at Stitched in Color. There are multiple groups and they each have quilters and stitchers. Everyone makes quilt blocks every month that the quilters organize. This way of organizing allows anyone, even the most time pressed or beginner sewer to join a circle and sew for a good cause. It was a great way for me to have something to sew on a regular basis without the pressure that comes with choosing colors, etc. I have learned a lot being a sewer and have discovered some new and fun techniques in the process.
My group, the Aspire Circle just went through a little reorganization and I decided to try my hand at being a quilter this time, not because I feel especially skilled at quilting, but because they needed more quilters and I could use a little more help in developing my quilting skills.
Quilters are responsible for choosing the colors and design of their month’s quilt. All other members make blocks and send them to the quilter of the month. Then, the quilter assembles the top, quilts it, and sends it off to the group’s charity of choice.
October happens to be my month for organizing and it has been quite a learning process already! My first idea was a total disaster and had to be scrapped. Sometimes, I get myself in a situation where I try to reinvent something that doesn’t need to be redone. Basically, I was trying to figure out how to regular piece a block that is normally paper pieced. It’s not that I mind paper piecing (that much), but I wanted a different sized block. Anyhow, after I basically made two blocks that didn’t quite fit together, I decided I had better do something simpler.
Then, this past week, I had two sources of inspiration for our October quilt. First, on a quilting show on the telly, I saw a layout of a quilt with varying sizes of sawtooth star blocks, from small 4 inch ones to really big 16 in ones. I liked the look of lots of big and little stars all in one quilt.
My second inspiration came from this leaf that I found on a walk. I loved the vibrant veining and the color combination. Fall colors are starting to show up everywhere now and I thought it would be appropriate for October to work with the shades of fall: oranges, greens, yellows, orangey reds, and deep purples.
I also liked how the green veins in the leaf were enclosed within the red orange perimeter and thought it would be fun to try to get a similar effect with the sawtooth stars.
What do you think? It took me several tries, but I think I finally got the cutting list and sewing order right. For the Aspire group, I would like two blocks. One should be with a white background like the first picture above. The second should be reversed, like the one below.
Please let me know if you have any trouble putting these together. Each block should finish to a 16 1/2 inch square and use two fall colors in addition to white. My directions below use the no waste way of making flying geese blocks, but you can use whatever method you prefer. Also, if you want to make it scrappy, that would be fine as long as you stick with just two colors (plus white) in a block. The photos are a bit dark as I was working on them at night and there aren’t as many as I would like. I guess I must have gotten carried away with the sewing and forgot to take a picture of each step. Still, I hope you can figure out the layout, but just as if you have a question!
For clarity, the cutting list below is ordered beginning with the smallest star and ending with the largest.
For the 4 1/2 inch star
Color A (or white for reverse):
One 2 1/2 inch square for the center
Four 1 7/8 inch squares for star points
White (or Color A for reverse):
One 3 1/4 inch square for geese
Four 1 1/2 inch squares for the corners
For the 8 1/2 inch star, you will need
One assembled 4 1/2 inch sawtooth star
White (Color A for reverse)
Four 2 7/8 inch squares for star points
Color B (White for reverse)
One 5 1/4 square for geese
Four 2 1/2 inch squares for corners
For the 16 1/2 inch star, you will need
One assembled 8 1/2 inch star in a star block
Color B (White for reverse):
Four 4 7/8 inch squares for star points
White (Color B for reverse):
One 9 1/4 inch square for geese
Four 4 1/2 inch squares for the corners.
Beginning with the pieces for the 4 1/2 inch star, make 4 flying geese blocks as follows.
Draw a diagonal line on each of the 1 7/8 in blocks.
Take the 3 1/4 inch square and lay two 1 7/8 inch blocks in opposite corners, lining up the drawn lines like this.
Sew a line 1/4 away on both sides of the drawn lines.
Cut on the line.
Press the seam towards the colored side.
Place another 1 7/8 inch square in the remaining corner of each piece, with the line going in the other direction.
Sew, cut, and press as before. You will have 4 flying geese blocks that measure 1 1/2 inch by 2 1/2 inch. Check this and do any necessary trimming before going on. I like to trim those little triangles that stick out.
Sew the block together, trying to press towards the color side as much as possible, if you can.
Next, get your pieces for the 8 1/2 inch block. Make four flying geese blocks in the same way as before but this time you will use the 5 1/4 inch block and the 2 7/8 inch blocks. The finished geese should be 2 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches.
Assemble the 8 1/2 inch block as before.
Lastly, add the final layer by making four more flying geese blocks with the 9 1/4 inch square and the four 4 7/8 inch squares. These blocks should measure 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches when done.
Assemble the final block together, press, and admire.
Last week we went on a biking and camping vacation to Acadia National Park. It was a significant trip for us for a couple of reasons. First, we got a hitch and bike rack to put on the car so that we could take our bikes with us. After fifteen years of waiting, we are finally a biking family! This may seem inconsequential, but biking did not come easily to the boys (nor me, if I am honest). We wanted it to be a fun biking trip and not torture for anyone, so we waited until everyone was comfortable biking for long stretches and found it enjoyable as well.
This is also our first camping trip since moving to New England. Previously, we usually took a fall camping trip in October sometime to western Maryland or down to Virgina. But, the nights get a little nippy earlier in the year up here, so we decided to go in September.
And it was glorious.
We had wonderful weather for the first three days.
The biking was not too difficult.
The views were fantastic.
All the food we ate was delicious.
We wished it would last forever.
Unfortunately, it came to a halt when our older son fell off of a rock he was walking on and injured himself on some other granite rocks. We had to get him down the mountain, a two mile bike ride, and then to a hospital for stitches. Fortunately, he could still bike and those two miles were all downhill. We were very thankful it was not worse than it was. If he had fallen in a different direction, he would fallen down a very steep ravine, littered with rocks. As it was, he only needed a few stitches and some ice cream.
Our last morning in the park started off in a rush of breaking camp as we woke to the sounds of rain on the tent. The rest of the morning, we spent enjoying the park through the fog and an occasional downpour, which gave the park a unique beauty. My only regret is that we did not get to the top of Cadillac Mountain on a nice day because the views from there are truly spectacular.
Instead, with the wind buffeting us around, we pretended we were summiting a much taller mountain and tried not to get blown off.
Something that I was not expecting during our vacation was the lack of a cell phone service. I only had service when we went into town, which we did almost everyday, but other than that, I was completely off the grid. At first it was annoying because I missed the convenience of looking things up on my phone and posting to social media. But, I soon forgot about it and enjoyed the time I had to focus on the things we were doing without any temptation to connect with the cyber world.
Sadly, we had to come home and get back to all that comes with a busy life. However, it’s only a matter of time before we go back. Promise.
Someone must have flicked a switch on fall because we have not had to turn on an air conditioner in the house for a week. It’s been heavenly to have a quiet house (no loud droning of multiple machines) and the ability to go outside without getting all sticky and hot. I have also been able to turn on the oven and bake things.
What a wonderful thing to be able to bake without heating up the whole house! However, summer is not quite done with us, but I can bear it now because I can feel that the end is near. I can even see it in a few trees around us.
With the cooler weather, it was inevitable that I would start thinking about warm knitted things and that mecca of knitting events, Rhinebeck. I did finally finish and block my Olympic sweater, yay! I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. It fits great and feels great.
Then, I took a look at all the other projects that I have yet to finish and picked one that I thought I could complete in time to wear in October.
Shadow knit with Miss Babs Yowza has been on my needles since 2013. It was time to finish or repurpose the yarn. It actually did not take me much time at all to finish the front and back pieces and now I am making slow progress on the sleeves.
The progress is slow because I found myself distracted this weekend and cast on another sweater.
#16-Geurnsey Pullover knit with Plucky Sweater. I was so intrigued by the construction and different look of this sweater that I actually made the husband drive me to the closest big bookstore and bought the magazine. It’s been years since I have bought a knitting magazine, but once I forked over my $6 and some cents, I wondered why I didn’t do this more often. There are over 20 patterns in the issue, which is quite the bargain compared to buying patterns online one by one.
Anyway, being me, I have already modified the pattern from the beginning to knit the bottom body in the round. I do what I can to avoid unnecessary purling and the thought of knitting 9 inches of stockinette on two flat pieces was a recipe for non completion.
So far, things are going well, but I haven’t reached any of the interesting bits yet. It has made for fantastic knitting while we tackle our first full week of school this week, though. I’ll try to keep you posted, but I have to say that as the kids get older, homeschooling takes a lot more time.
Well, it seems like every time I blink, two weeks passes by. How does this happen? I don’t know, but I hear it happens to everyone, so I am trying not to let it get to me. There’s a lot happening around here and most of it is good, I think. Here are some things I have been working on, in no particular order.
First: Knitting. The last time I talked knitting, I was trying to decide what to knit while watching the Olympics. I ended up deciding on a sport weight pullover called Polwarth by Ysolda Teague. Out of my stash, I dug out some sport weight yarn called Brigantia by Spirit Trail Fiberworks that is a polwarth and silk blend.
After doing a quick gauge swatch, I cast on during the opening ceremonies and attempted to do brioche stitch for the first time while watching. For the most part, I did not find the brioche stitch all that challenging, but the little triangle gave me some trouble. The shaping directions for the triangle were a bit confusing, but I muddled through. I think it looks pretty good, but not perfect.
The rest of the sweater is mostly stockinette stitch, which is great for watching sports. Unfortunately, by the time the second week came around, I was growing bored with it and for some reason, the track and field events were not holding my attention as well as the swimming in the first week. Despite my ennui, I plodded ahead and by the end of the closing ceremonies last night, I had finished all but half of a sleeve.
Even though I did not finish, I am pretty happy with how much I got done, considering I really only knit while watching the olympics. The last half sleeve should only take another night or two of knitting and then I’ll have a new sweater!
Second: Baking. Blueberry season is pretty much over (sad face) and peach season never arrived up here in New England. A couple of frosty days in February and March killed almost all of the peach crop in the New England states. We’ve had to rely on the grocery stores for our peaches (another sad face). Last week, I was able to score a bunch of organic peaches that were pretty good and was really happy to make these peach buns.
These are my version of the traditional Baltimore Peach Cake and to say that we love them would be an understatement. Since I posted this picture on Instagram, I’ve had a few requests for a recipe. It’s really something that I have cobbled together over the years by combining a brioche recipe and a crumb topping recipe. All you need is a good brioche recipe (here’s one if you don’t have one) and your favorite crumb topping recipe. Combine those with peaches and you have a wonderful fruity breakfast or afternoon snack bun. I froze a bunch of blueberry ones, which I think will be good. The peach ones do not freeze well and are best eaten within 24 hours, just so you know.
Third: Sewing/Quilting. Gift quilts are so tricky to sew because I can’t show any photos anywhere until the recipient receives it and then sometimes I just forget. So here are two small ones I have finished in the past year. The first is a baby quilt for a dear friend.
If the fabrics looks odd, it’s because 13 different people went out and picked a fabric to represent themselves and sent them to me to put together a quilt. It was really fun to see what everyone picked and a fun challenge to figure out how to put them together in a quilt. I just realized I don’t have a photo of the whole quilt, but that’s ok. I love that it is being used by that cutie pie!
The second quilt is for my dad that will go well with in his log cabin in the woods.
He picked out the fabric a couple of years ago and I finally got it finished (almost-I was a week or so late) in time for his birthday last month.
I made the front and back different so that it could be displayed in two different ways. It was more work that way, but I like the way it turned out. Hopefully, he does, too!
I’ve also finished another couple of blocks from my craftsy block of the month class. Sewing progress was minimal the last couple of weeks because of the heat and all the knitting I was doing. I’d like to get back to that and finish off the blocks for the class and then get back to sewing the Splendid Sampler blocks.
Fourth: I have a bad case of wanting to start lots of new projects.
Today, I plan to cast on a mystery knit along shawl by SusannaIC using the yarn above, and I want to join in on the Fringe Association’s Top-down sweater knitalong. That last one might just take more brain energy than I have right now. There are about five other sweaters I would like to start as well as a couple of other little things. Oh, if only there was more time in the day!
What do you want to work on today?
One of the first things I did when we returned from our travels a couple of weeks ago was to look around for blueberry farms that would allow us to come and pick our own. We’ve been blueberry picking every summer for almost two decades! There were several that popped up, but most of them did not seem appealing for one reason or another except for one that happened to be rather close to our house. Well, close meaning it was a 25 minute drive, which is how far we are from just about everything. Anyway, we jumped into the car and drove over there and the whole time I was thinking that if it was a bust, at least it wasn’t that far away. Happily, it was a fantastic little farm and we were there on the opening day of blueberry picking, so the blueberries were very plentiful.
We were there for less than an hour and picked all this, including the raspberries.
I can”t tell you what a relief and joy it was that we were able to find this farm. After a long first year here with countless moments of homesickness, this was a couple of hours when we all felt actually really happy and glad to be here. Don’t get me wrong, none of us regret moving (well, maybe a little), but living in a place where everything is new and nothing is familiar just wears on a person.
It was nice to enjoy a familiar activity. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we went back the next week and did it again. And I am hoping they will still be open for another week so we can get some more because, unbelievably, we have gone through 12 quarts of blueberries in two weeks. There were a couple of tarts and batches of jam. Three or four of those quarts went into the freezer for the long winter. And, of course, there were pies and breads and smoothies. And recently, with the last quart of berries facing me, I also made a lovely loaf cake dotted with blueberries, flavored with zingy lemon, and enhanced by the subtle crunch of cornmeal.
Best of all, the cake is super easy to mix together. The hardest task is zesting the lemons. Everything else can be done with a whisk. These are my favorite kinds of recipes. Simple. Tasty. Unfussy.
When the loaf comes out of the oven, it gets a sugar and lemon juice glaze.
Then, once it has cooled, it gets a drizzle of icing. You may be tempted to skip the icing and it would be ok without it. However, the cake itself has less sugar than most, so the icing really enhances the cake instead of just adding to the sweetness. Plus, it makes it really pretty.
Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Quick Bread
makes one 9 by 5 inch loaf (I used a 11.5 by 3.5 inch pan that I got from Ikea, but the 9 by 5 is about the same volume. If you don’t have that, an 8 by 8 pan would work, but it would be shorter and probably need to bake for a shorter period of time.)
1 1/4 cups (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) fine cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar
zest of half a lemon
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until mixed.
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and lemon zest together. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until almost fully mixed. Add the melted butter and whisk until smooth. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in 1 cup of blueberries. Scrape the batter into your loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of blueberries on top.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely golden on top and a tester comes out clean. Meanwhile, mix together the 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar for the glaze. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven brush the glaze over the top of the cake while it is still in the pan. After 15 minutes, remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.
Mix together the ingredients for the icing. Begin with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Whisk the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and juice together in a bowl, adding additional juice until the icing drops smoothly from a spoon or whisk. Drizzle the icing decoratively over the top of the cake. Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature. The cake will keep well, covered for a day or two.