Saturday, February 2, 2013

I'm sure you've heard the great news....

At Gobbler's Knob his morning, the "seer of seers" and "sage of sages," Punxsutawney Phil,  proclaimed an early spring with winter lasting only six more weeks.  I don't think it was a coincidence that I also heard some kind of song bird outside by bedroom window teasing me with a sweet melody.

Make some banners, let the festivities begin!
It is no secret to my husband in the joy I feel every February 2nd.  Think of it as hump day, or Wednesday, where one half of the work week is done and smooth sailing the rest of the week.  Winters grey days of sharp winds, bitter temperatures and relentless snow will soon pass way to warmer, more colorful skies. Ahhhh...

My banner for celebrating is made from a vintage tablecloth I needed to repurpose.  While the embroidery was beautiful, there were some areas of the tablecloth suffering from previous spills damaging the linen.

The back was as beautiful as the front.

Something was spilled and never removed effectively before putting away in storage.  The result was deterioration of the fibers.  No problem, we'll just cut those areas away!

The hand crocheted trim from the tablecloth edge was also salvaged.  So much time and effort by the this needle worker was not going to be lost!  Good bye snow, you'll soon be a distant memory.

But, back to the top I finished quilting, the Kansas Dust Storm.

This is what the quilt looked like from the listing when I purchased it on Etsy.  Notice the colors.  Notice the top row, 2nd from right.  The star shape looks like it is a light print with white background.  Look below to the top right corner.  It is actually a light green.  You can compare the rest of the blocks using the green block as your guide.

I quilted circles in the center, outlined the star shapes and did swirls in the "apricot" background.

At first I was thinking of backing in purple.  Purple and orange look great together - something I discovered studying 30's feedsack prints.  But on my shelf was this "soleil" print by Annette Tatum for Free Spirit.  The colors matched perfectly.  I couldn't believe the little "suns" emulated the quilt design as well.  That did it - I had to use it!  The solid cotton for the binding is listed as apricot.  Perfect!

 The Etsy seller said this was a chrome orange print.  It wasn't.  I could see there were 30's period prints used in piecing the top so I already knew the possibilities of it being "chrome" orange were slim. Either the photo was taken in direct sunlight or tweaking the photo for a listing caused the color modification.  That was too bad though, because the actual color of the quilt is what makes it "sing."

Go back to the original seller's photo and take a look at the make-do attitude of assembling the blocks together.  Bless that quilter's spirit because those blocks were going to fit together dust bowl or no dust bowl!  It is amazing how patience and lots of quilting can straighten out even the most impossible of seams.

A successful quilting adventure!

So if you couldn't tell, I am washed in a euphoric glee; thank you needle workers who I will never have the pleasure of knowing, and thank you  Phil.  Tonight I will watch the movie, Ground Hog Day, and continue my merriment.

**For those of you in the southern hemisphere....enjoy those summer days and close your eyes and let the sun kiss your face!!!**

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saffron reminds me of Chrome Orange - Best Cinnamon Rolls Ever

You're probably wondering how I'm making a connection between saffron, chrome orange and cinnamon rolls.  Believe me, in my household it isn't hard.

Let me start from the beginning.  It all started when our larder water pipes burst; not from the cold, but just from being old.  My neighbor across the street was quick to lend a hand and his expertise.  To thank him for being so obliging, I offered him either cinnamon rolls or banana bread.  He said he had my cinnamon rolls before, so he chose those.

I'm going to give you my cinnamon roll recipe that I've been using for the last twenty-five years or more.  It is a basic sweet dough recipe with eggs.  Then, I'll give you three things I've done to the recipe to make them memorable.

Here's the recipe:
4 pkgs. dry yeast (this translates to 9 teaspoons of loose yeast)
3 cups lukewarm water
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
4 teaspoons salt (I omit this)
1 cup shortening
9 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in water.  Add remaining ingredients; mix well. (Mix well is easy when you have a dough hook and you're letting your mixer do all the work.  Warning...9 cups of flour is a large amount of dough.  Make sure your mixer motor can handle this.  I have a Kitchen Aid and have never had a problem.

Let rise till doubled.  Divide dough into thirds and knead (it will be sticky - just add flour as needed).  Roll each section out jellyroll fashion.  Spread rectangle with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Roll up like jellyroll and slice into 12 equal pieces.  Place in a greased 9 x 12" pan.

At this point you can either let them rise and then bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes....OR, you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  This works well for either a Christmas morning breakfast or anytime you have large crowds and company.  You would allow the rolls to rise at room temperature until double, about 45 minutes and then bake.

Frost with powdered sugar frosting or your favorite frosting glaze.

This makes 3 pans of rolls.

You're probably thinking what you're possibly going to do with three pans of rolls, but rest assured they will go fast and if you give them away, all the better!

But there are three secrets to amazing cinnamon rolls that I've discovered along the way. Here is the first:
Secret one is saffron.

A pinch of saffron will transform baked goods into aromatic delights.  When baking, the crocus stamens turn the dough a golden yellow and the sweet aroma will fill your kitchen.  I would always use saffron with my traditional Ukrainian Easter recipes, but it wasn't until years later I decided to add it to my roll recipe.  That was a great move!

Secret Two - potato flour.  I am a fan of King Arthur flour including their potato flour.  I substitute around 1/2 a cup of potato flour for the white flour.   The potato flour gives your baked goods a moist texture that doesn't go stale after a day or two.  If you've never tried potato is a great staple for your pantry.

Secret Three - Graham crackers.  For my filling I grind up a package of graham crackers and add to my filling along with my cinnamon, sugar and butter.  The crackers beef up the filling without adding more butter and sugar.

Back to sewing now....  I got the rolls made and I have been working on a 1930s/40s quilt top I am machine quilting; more pictures to follow later.  But after having the saffron out and baking, it reminded me of what I would consider a true chrome orange.  The orange of the 30's, 40's quilt was listed as chrome orange.    The orange color of the 1st and 2nd quarter of the twentieth century is more of an apricot.

The orange on the left is from a schoolhouse block dating 1880-1910.  It is the stable orange dye Barbara Brackman talks about in Clues in the Calico.  All of the fabric is stable without croaking.  The orange on the right is part of the quilt top I am working on now.  Do you see the difference in the intensity?    

To me, is is as though the left is saffron, the right is apricot.  Sounds minor, but knowing this makes a difference when you are dating fabric. 

Stay turned for more pictures of this quilt because I found the PERFECT fabric to back it and I can't wait to show you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

For the Bird Lovers

A Temple owl perhaps?

This month I purchased this sweet quilt top from Bridget who owns the Etsy shop, Bridget Bright Arrow. "Sweet" was how Bridget described it.  I felt the same way when I saw it. So much in fact, I moved it from the bottom of the pile of tops for machine quilting to right under the needle.

There are 24 hand embroidered bird blocks representing birds of North America, both domesticated and wild, from warm and cold climates for our feathered friends. The finished size is 43 1/2 inches x 63 inches.

It is quite exciting to take a vintage quilt top and breathe some new life into it.

I knew I wanted to quilt a fiddlehead fern in the green alternating blocks. When I did a google search for a picture of a fern so I could get an idea of how to quilt it unfurling its greenery...I came across this web site with free motion quilting for the fern. Leah, the free motion quilting blogger,  is amazing and there are videos attached on how she quilts.  (Time out for a confession - okay, so I spent a few hours fascinated with her blog.  Sometimes these things happen.  For me, it is machine quilting.)  While my fiddlehead fern looks nothing like Leah' is because free motion quilting can be as different and individualized as handwriting.

The embroidery designs are outlined and where I felt the thread was a bit loose, my machine quilting acted as couching.

January is slowly winding down and soon the countdown to spring will begin.   Until then, I'm going to keep locked away in my sewing room and get through some projects I've allocated to the back burner for too long, because more time spent quilting means less time thinking about how cold it is outside!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Some Flowers for You

I was just writing to Chris in Australia about how much I am missing the earth blooming.  I told her I was going to have to stop by my local grocery store just to get some cut flowers to put in a vase to chase away the winter doldrums.

I came across these little pieces of ephemera from the past filled with flowers as well as hearts and thought they were the perfect pick-me-up.  These were the surprise goodies in a box lot at an estate sale.   Hope they bring a smile and some flowers to your day!

Here is Steve helping Alessandra with her skating lessons.  I LOVE the bonnet.

Little Red Riding Hood in winter and at night?

When the receiver is moved up and down, the eyes move in unison.

This valentine stands and the horse's head is jointed and moves up and down.  The little girl reminds me of Dolly Dingle.

While not in the best of shape, this valentine also stands and has a honeycomb heart in the front.  

Happy Valentine's Day..... one MONTH EARLY!!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hello 2013!

Hello 2013! 

My goal for the New Year is reorganizing, cleaning and making efficient use of my time in order to spend more time sewing!

Forget about shedding those gingerbread cookie pounds, no lofty ideas of being nice to mean dogs on our street, no delusions of grandeur; just spending time sewing. 

Through the estate sale tubs and onto Etsy, I am listing vintage finds from the previous year.  I'm anticipating filling the tubs with new finds in 2013 and there is no time like the present to make way for the new year!

Chimney Sweep blocks, also known as an Album block, date from late 19th to early 20th century.

A Sisters Choice block from a group of blocks measuring in a variety of unfinished sizes.  I am theorizing family and friends contributed blocks as they are machine and hand pieced.  As I see it, it is like sharing a recipe and no one you share it with makes it the exact same way.  Friends quilting are no different than having friends in your kitchen.

Fabric cut into 3 x 6 inch quilt blocks from possible salesmen samples of fabric.  Again, another theory, and this time I am theorizing the seamstress was going to make a bars or Chinese Coin quilt.  

A pound of mid twentieth century fabric from a frugal household.

And of course, vintage spools of thread.  Since I wrote about the quilt from nylon, I'm coming across nylon thread, nylon blanket binding, nylon trim, etc.  It is as though the gods of nylon are flooding me with inspiration which I am ignoring.  Did you know that Emerald Green is the Pantone color for 2013? 

Please feel free to theorize about what was going on with the prior owners of these vintage items.  I know for me, theorizing sounds more exciting than cleaning and reorganizing!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The world is changing...

While I am often miffed at how quickly the world seems to be changing and my inability to keep up with the speed of change, I remind myself that this is likely to be a universal conundrum.  I think about when electricity was introduced to the home and suddenly those gas lamps that were quite functional were being replaced.  I think of how quickly the technology changes with cell phones today making the cell phone from a year ago seem obsolete.

I have a quilt top that reminds me of change, and how it is possible that change doesn't always work out for the best.

It was described on the estate sale tag as a "silk coverlet".   It is neither silk, nor a coverlet.  It is a machine pieced quilt top with nylon fabric.

Nylon was first introduced at the World's Fair in New York in 1939.  It was the part of the innovation of synthetic fabrics - nylon to replace silk - and promoted at the fair for replacing silk for the production of ladies stockings.  The production of nylon went to the war effort in the 40's and it was used for parachutes for the troops; functional and more economical than silk.

At first glance, this quilt top looks like an Amish framed square pattern, except in a pink and blue colorway popular during the 40's.

The nylon strips measure 1 3/4" wide.  Forgive the wrinkles, I'm not brave enough to press this top.

The top is on a full size bed.  The top measures approximately 87" square.
Take a peek at the reverse side.  The nylon is starting to fray at points where it was cut at the end of the strips.

What a nightmare this top must have been to piece.  How did this individual cut the nylon with such accuracy?  Did she rip her strips?  How did she possibly iron the fabrics without getting her iron overheated and melting her fabric?  Did the sewer use strips of nylon binding rather than nylon fabric?

I keep thinking about the top and I am often glad it was never made into the "coverlet" or quilt or anything covering one sleeping.  Think about the 1940's when smoking in bed was commonplace.  Nylon melts when it is heated.  Not only does it melt, but it adheres to the surface of the object making contact and this disastrous scenario would end with the individual caused more severe burns than an organic/natural produced fiber bedding (which would burn and turn to ash).

But back to assembling this top.  I am amazed.  I had sewn with nylon in my youth and vowed never again.  Pressing was a nightmare.  I never selected the proper size needle so holes wouldn't appear, and keeping the slippery surfaces from shifting was just too much for a young, inexperienced seamstress to handle.  A few dresses ended up wadded up in bags thrown in my closet which meant I had wasted my allowance money without anything to show for it.  So for this top to be quite straight and uniform means an experienced or very patient seamstress loving assembled the new fabric of the future.

I never really considered making a quilt of synthetic fabrics.  Synthetic fabrics don't appeal to me mainly because they aren't comfortable.  I get hot and sticky in hot weather because they don't breathe like natural fibers.  In the winter, I feel cold because they don't retain body heat.

Double knits?  Oh, that's another synthetic nightmare of the 60's and 70's  right along with a fashion malady called "Hot Pants".  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Another Antique Wild Goose Chase

My last post featured a wonderful two color antique Wild Goose Chase quilt made in the early 19th century.  Here is the same pattern in a quilt with fabrics dating mid to late 19th century.  The entire top is hand pieced.  The consistency in the quality workmanship points to the work of one individual.  The blocks are 11" square.  The top measures 44" x 77".  While the pieced blocks feature different fabrics, a single brown print was used consistently in the alternating blocks.

I purchased the top at an antique show this past summer.  Not only was the size a bit of a mystery to me, but there are two tops of the same wonderful quality and size.  It was two tops for the price of one!

My first inclination was to theorize if the quilt was a top for the Sanitary Commission since there was a call for quilts 4 feet by 7 feet.  Certainly this top would fall within the perimeters of what they were requesting for soldiers cots during the Civil War.

Were the two tops originally made to be one large quilt and then split down the middle for donation, but then put away and forgotten?  I'm not sure except to say this secret has been lost with the maker.