Saturday, August 31, 2013

My two latest "addictions"

The first is zuppa toscana. Yes, the soup at Olive Garden. Having lived near so many great Italian restaurants while I lived in the Philadelphia suburbs, Olive Garden just never did it for me. But a couple weeks ago while at BYU education week, a friend and I had a quick dinner at the local Olive Garden. Since it was pretty late, I didn't want pasta and so opted for soup. I've had their minestrone but decided to try the zuppa toscana. Wow! It was so good. I knew I had to find a copycat recipe and make it myself.

I had everything I needed to make the soup except the cream and kale. So that weekend after a quick trip to the grocery store, I made the soup. This is the recipe I used. I can't take credit for the photo below, but mine looked just like it:

It is surprisingly similar to a Hungarian cabbage and sausage soup I've  been making for nearly 20 years. They both have spicy sausage, potatoes, onions, and chicken broth. The Hungarian version uses cabbage (not Kale), sour cream (not heavy cream), and also has paprika and marjoram. The zuppa toscana also has bacon (gives it a smokey flavor -- which to me means  it isn't very Italian, because Italian bacon isn't smoked). But the bacon does give the soup a good flavor. With fall weather coming soon (hopefully!) this will become a regular part of my soup repertoire.

OK, my other new addiction is Kaffe Fassett fabric.

Now I naturally gravitate toward traditional muted prints, such as Civil War prints or Kim Diehl fabrics for Henry Glass. I was starting a new quilt incorporating a traditional crossed laurels block. I made my first version of the block with scraps typical of my stash. Yep, a pretty ordinary crossed laurels block.

I started thinking about how I could make the block more exciting and knew that I had to pick more exciting fabrics. So I bought a lot of Kaffe Fassett fabrics -- mostly charm squares since the pieces in the quilt are so small. 

Here's my first version of the block using Kaffe fabrics on a white background. Definitely an improvement. But I didn't think I was quite there yet.

I wanted even more punch decided to make the block with a solid black background.

I also knew that I wanted an easy way to do the appliqué. I wasn't up to needle turn (after all, I'll eventually make about 16 blocks). And even though I like Kim Diehl's freezer paper method combined with machine appliqué, I turned to fusible web. But have you noticed, it's virtually impossible to find Steam-a-seam right now? It's out of stock everywhere. Now what was I going to do?

I also wanted to use my Go! Baby by Accuquilt to cut the pieces. Faster AND more precise than scissors. I found the perfect dye from  Accuquilt.

But that definitely meant I needed some sort of fusible web material. I had heard about Misty Fuse and decided to try it out. I quite like it (it's thinner than Steam-a-seam and doesn't have a paper backing). I'll post about my experience using it soon.

Now I've got to buckle down and get those blocks done!  I have no excuse. I've got the perfect fabric. I've got the Accuquilt die and cutter. And I've got several yards of Misty Fuse. Time to get busy! But first, I think I'll warm up some zuppa toscana for my dinner.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Quilts to honor Pioneer Day

A couple weeks ago on July 24 the state of Utah celebrated Pioneer Day in commemoration of the day  in 1847 when Brigham Young and his pioneer company first came into the Salt Lake valley. 

The "Days of '47" are celebrated with a big parade in SLC and smaller parades all over the state, as well as fireworks, and performances by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 

It is also a state holiday, although unless you work for the state of Utah or the LDS Church, chances are good that it isn't a holiday for you.

Since my birthday happens to fall on Pioneer Day and one of my great-great grandfathers (and wife and family) entered the SLC valley as pioneers only two months after Brigham Young, I've always been enamored by Pioneer Day.  So when I discovered there was a Salt Lake City quilt block, I knew I had to make a quilt (or two or three) using that block to honor Pioneer Day. Here are the three Days of '47 quilts, which are in Triple-Play Scrap Quilting.

The first version I made used Cosmo Cricket fabric called Circa 1934. I chose a dark background for the blocks to show off the unique piecing, as well as complement the graphic nature of the prints. By using the same black cornerstone with cream sashing strips, a secondary shoo-fly design was created where the blocks come together. The pieced border also uses a triangular element from the block which helps to unite the quilt. This coordinated version of the quilt finishes 61.5 x 61.5 inches.

The planned color scheme version of Days of '47 features red, aqua, pink and white fabrics which have been so popular during the past few years. It is the same block, but I added a striped fabric frame with red corner squares around each block and then added aqua sashing. This created a nine-patch where the blocks come together. The finished quilt is 68.5 x 83.75 inches -- so it's perfect for a twin bed.

The make-do scrappy version of Days of '47 was fun to make totally from scraps. I even made use of leftover backing from different quilts for the borders. I love the geometric fabrics for the inner borders -- black and cream stripe and a red and cream check. This quilt measures 63.5 x 63.5 inches.

This is the perfect block to feature a large print in the center square -- or perhaps a fun novelty print for a child's quilt. It lends itself to being very scrappy, or just a little bit scrappy. Either way, I really like the Salt Lake City block.

Have a great day -- and don't worry, be scrappy.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Variations on a Theme: Bricks and Cobblestones

I've always been amazed at how fabric choices and the use of value can totally change the look of a quilt.

For example, consider these three variations of one of the quilts in my book, Triple-Play Scrap Quilting.

When I first designed and made the quilt, my intent was to create something very simple that could be the first quilt someone makes. Plus I wanted to make it from precuts -- 10-inch layer cake squares, 5-inch charm squares, and a little yardage. The result was this quilt that is totally based on squares and rectangles. The blocks finish 7-1/2 inches in this version.

It is scrappy because every block is different and it uses all 40 fabrics in the fabric line, But it is still coordinated and easy for a beginner to make fabric decisions. They just need to pair two 10-inch squares (plus use some of the light fabric that is also the inner border). Ta-da! That's how "hard" it is to pick the fabrics.

I next made the same quilt from scraps -- yes, no fat quarters were harmed to make this version. The blocks in this version finish 10 inches.

Since each block uses six different fabrics (plus the black and cream four-patch center), it has a completely different look. It's just as easy to sew up, but there are a few more fabric choices. It is scrappy, however, which means the fabric choices aren't going to be complicated. Just a good mix of lights, mediums, and darks. 

Most people can look at these first two quilts and it isn't hard to see that they are the same design. 

But most are surprised that this version of the quilt using batiks is also the same block pattern. The blocks are also 10 inches, but because the quilt has more blocks it is significantly larger.

This one took some planning because what appears to be the block isn't really the block. While each block only has two batik fabrics plus the cream, there are four blocks with the matching fabrics that come together to form the large batik squares. To keep everything organized I couldn't easily chain piece the blocks and had to do each block in sequence and lay it out on my design floor (no room for a design wall). But I love the result. 

If you haven't seen my book, I hope you'll look at it at Martingale's website. Or better yet, encourage your local quilt shop to order a few copies. There are some great resources available for quilt shops -- including some lesson plans (that include the first quilt above) and two traveling trunk shows they can request.

Have a great day -- and don't worry, be scrappy!


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