Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A quilt in an evening

A long evening admittedly, but still pretty cool.

I started it after supper, at about 7 o'clock, and finished it shortly after midnight.  In keeping with the speed of this project, here are some quick stats:
  • The top is made from a pack of pre-cut 10" squares of Amy Butler fabrics which I bought from Cotton Patch.  The pack had twenty squares, and I cut five more from my own stash to make a square quilt, five squares by five.
  • So it's a much smaller quilt than the ones I've made before.  But the perfect size for a lap quilt to keep you warm while you're watching the extraordinarily exciting ski-cross in Vancouver.
  • The back is a £1 fleece blanket from IKEA, trimmed to fit.
  • There is no binding on this quilt.  I laid the pieced top face down onto the fleece backing and sewed all round the edge, leaving a gap for turning.
  • Once the quilt was the right way out, I machine-quilted an outline in each square, which closed the turning gap.
  • I didn't use any pins at all to make this, which sped things up considerably.  The fleece sticks to the cotton very well; it didn't shift at all when I was sewing the top to the back, or quilting the squares.

My favourite part of making a quilt is choosing the fabrics, and the worst part is all the cutting out.  By using a pack of pre-cut squares I lost the fun of agonising over fabric combinations, but I also lost the endless, tedious cutting, and I think this is a compromise I'm happy with.  I won't make all my quilts like this, but I will definitely use this method again.  Quick results are sometimes just what's needed.

I am impressed with how well the different colours of the fabric go together.  Having come from one designer does unify them somehow.  You can see another lovely big-square-one-designer quilt here.

And now there's a satisfyingly tall, bright pile of quilts sitting folded on the back of the sofa.

In a desperate attempt to overcome the gloom of this endless rain, my thoughts are turning to summer camping trips, and I think a few more of these quick quilts would be great to take along.  They could be picnic rugs in the summer and lap quilts in the winter perhaps.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Lists for all

I put all the solo lunch ideas together in a pdf sheet for you to download from Google Docs.  The link is over there on the right hand side of the blog, under my Twitter updates.  There are a couple of other lists for download there too, and I want to add more. 

I could have sworn I'd done a blog post about breakfasts, but I can't find it in my archives, so maybe that's just one of those posts which is still in my head rather than written down.  I shall sort that out very soon and perhaps turn it into a downloadable list too.

Meanwhile, if you like the idea of downloadable lists (and really, what's not to like?) you should have a look at Amy Karol's recipe cheat sheet here and Erin from House on Hill Road's wonderful packing list for children here.

Friday, 19 February 2010

I'm in a sock funk

I'm in a sock funk.  I'm heading down the foot to the toe of the first sock in the pair, and that familiar, urgent thought has begin to creep into my head:

"Do I have enough yarn left to finish both socks? Do I really?"

This is the sock funk.  That doubt, that nagging voice in your head that asks again and again if you're sure you're going to have enough yarn left when you get to the toe of the second sock.

I squidge the ball of yarn.

Should it really be that squishy? I should have cut a centimetre off the ankle; I know I should.  Or done a few rows less on the ribbing.

Common sense says I will be fine.  I've knitted socks before and never run out of yarn.  I'm following the pattern precisely and the pattern says a 100g ball will be enough yarn. I have lots of these little balls of leftover sock yarn in my knitting basket to illustrate that there is always some yarn to spare.

And yet...and yet...that sock funk is still there.  And I know it will be until I'm grafting off the toe on the second sock.  The solution is to knit as fast as I can and prove that sock funk wrong. 

Again.  As I always do.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Ten things

  • All the solo lunch suggestions from the comments on my last post were great.  I am much cheered to learn that I am not the only one who finds lunch at home a bit of a non-event.
  • There are some snowdrops in the garden.  Just a few, but enough to make me smile when I squelch through the mud to get the eggs each morning.

  • For pancake day I made a batch of little drop pancakes for breakfast.  But remember, just because they're really small, doesn't mean they don't fill you up!
  • O has discovered she likes doing embroidery.  Like other parents who love to sew or knit, I have to back off and look nonchalent in order for her to remain enthusiastic. 

  •  Tomorrow, C and G are going to hear Jason Bradbury, from the Gadget Show, talk about his Dot Robot books at the Southbank. C is immersed in the first book and loves it - highly recommended for any computer/tech minded pre-teens you know.
  • O's quilt is well underway.  I have cut up the 184 four and a half inch squares needed for the sashing around the appliqueed blocks, and started sewing them together.  I wish I got on better with my rotary cutter, but I'm so cack-handed with it that it's quicker for me to use scissors and a plastic template.

  • I'm re-reading My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, for about the four hundredth time.  I dug it out to give it to C to read, and ended up re-reading it myself.  Reading in bed last night I was laughing out loud so much that I woke G up.
  • I bought some scarily expensive, but incredibly beautiful, ribbon yesterday.  I am going to re-trim the denim skirt I made at The Make Lounge eighteen months ago.
  • This might make me want to make more skirts - I find that the more I sew, the more I want to sew, until my head is bursting with long lists of projects, fabrics, trim, patterns and ideas.  But this is not a bad thing.
  • We went to down to Sussex to see friends yesterday.  They took us to the seaside at Birling Gap, and I was exhilarated; filling my lungs with huge breaths of cold sea air.  However, G does not like any weather that I describe as 'bracing' and the toddlers in our party were struggling to stand upright in the wind, so we ended up going for a wander through Seven Sisters Country Park instead, which brought a smile back to G's face.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Birthday banquet

Those of you who think that 14th February is for expressions of love, have been misinformed.  It is all about birthdays!  We had a birthday banquet today, for three family birthdays. 

The three birthday boys

There were drinks; chosen from a menu whipped up by C.

There were nibbles.

There was a feast - cooked by one of the birthday boys.

There was a v...e...r...y long table.

And there was family.

Oh, and not forgetting a birthday cake AND a plate of birthday buns for pudding.

But the best thing? Place markers for everyone made by C and O.  This was mine.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

What's for lunch?

I do struggle with solo lunches.

When I worked in an office most of the week, I took in sandwiches, bought a salad from the staff restaurant and ate my lunch chatting to colleagues. It was easy, quick and kept me feeling full all afternoon.  But now I'm at home, I find it harder.  I do still eat sandwiches sometimes, but they seem like more of a pauper's lunch when I'm eating alone.  Several people eating sandwiches is a picnic, just one person eating a sandwich is not so much fun.

Sometimes I eat leftovers, but not very often because I like variety in my meals.  Eating the same thing for lunch as you did the night before can make you feel a little bit unloved.

So there are rules for solo lunches:
  • Variety is necessary
  • Healthy and light is mostly necessary
  • It must be quick to make
  • It MUST be tasty and good; poor lunches do not make for a good day.
This is my current list of solo lunches:
  • Minestrone soup (although hard to make in small, solo quantities, so does create its own leftovers).
  • An omelette and salad.  Omelettes always make me want a glass of wine, but that's generally not a good idea in the middle of the day when the children are at school.
  • Couscous - easy to make in small quantities.  I throw in all kinds of things.  This week it was some chorizo, pine nuts, a couple of chopped tomatoes and some chopped cucumber.
  • A very basic ploughmans - a homemade roll, some nice cheese, an apple and pickle (got to be Branston).
  • Scrambled eggs and toast.
  • A substantial salad.  I'm getting better at these.  Lettuce and cucumber doesn't keep me going until supper, but something like a salad nicoise does.
  • Anything involving smoked mackerel.  Because I love it but nobody else in my family will eat it.  Often I'll make a very lemony mackerel pate and have it with toast and carrot sticks.
  • Baked eggs
Baked eggs are a new discovery of mine.  I can't remember where I found this recipe, but I love it.  A good, warming yet healthy, winter recipe.

Baked eggs for lunch

You will need an egg, plus ingredients for a tomato based sauce:
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • other veg - I used a small green pepper and sun-dried tomatoes this week
  • a pinch of chilli flakes if you like it hot; I do.
Make the tomato sauce.  Soften the onion, garlic and other chopped vegetables in a little olive oil.  Tip in the tin of tomatoes, and the chilli flakes if using, plus a splash of water.  Bubble for ten minutes until thickened.

Spoon half of the tomato sauce into a small ovenproof dish (save the rest of the sauce for another day - it freezes well).

Make a depression in the sauce with the back of a spoon.  Break an egg into this depression and then put the dish in the oven at Gas 6 for ten minutes, or until the egg white is set.

Eat hot, with a toasted pitta bread to mop up the sauce.

What else can I add to my list?  What are your favourite solo lunches?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

In praise of ordinary, quiet weekends

  • A new pair of socks cast on.
  • Bacon rolls for Saturday breakfast, scrambled eggs and toast for Sunday's.
  • Bikes, skateboards and mud in Victoria Park.

  • Getting up unhurriedly, but finding that we're still up before the children.
  • strange film (but a good one).
  • Signs of spring - even in the murky morning light.

  • Secret plans for six family birthdays happening this month.
  • A brilliant book, started and finished.
  • A banana cake baked.
  • Family to hang out with.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Small projects - a mask, a hat and a dress for a favourite doll

Under the guise of helping and supporting my sister-in-law, I have been indulging in what some in this house have described as  'more than my fair share' of baby-gazing, baby-cuddling and sniffing-of-baby-head over the past couple of weeks.  I drop the children at school, hop on the bus, and head over to Hackney to help out with my newest nephew.  The children are not impressed that I get to baby gaze while they have to do spelling tests.  Can't say I blame them really.  I mean just look what a poppet he is in those lovely Auntie-knitted booties!

He is very happy with the kicking bag and booties I made for him, but what he really needs is a matching hat.  And I need something to knit on the bus over to Hackney.  So a small beanie hat is now on the needles.

My last attempt at a beanie hat was too small even for O's smallest doll, so I found a different pattern and cast on more stitches than I was supposed to.  It's looking just about right so far.

Today I left my sister-in-law and nephew alone and got two small sewing projects done which have been at the back of my mind for a while.  O always appreciates more dolls' clothes, and when she asks me to make something for a particular doll, I don't even try to resist.

This is Molly Dolly.  Named by C when O was born.  C was adamant that his new sister should be called Molly, but we had already chosen a name (and anyway I wasn't about to let a three year old chose the name - look what happened when Fifi Geldof was allowed to name her younger sisters).  So we persuaded C that naming his sister's first doll, which she was given by my mother on the day she was born, was much more important.  Being three he fell for that, and so we have Molly Dolly.

Molly Dolly normally wears a slightly tired looking fleece top, and O thought she should have a dress.  Quite right - nobody should have to wear a tired-looking fleece top.  O picked the fabric, and three pink buttons (yet to be sewn on in the picture above) and I made a quick a-line dress (based roughly on the Clothkits Poppy dress).  And yes, the fabric is left over from making O's Christmas house trousers, so she matches her doll now!

The other thing I made today was a quilted eye mask. 

The pattern is from Amy Butler's In Stitches book.  Making the scarf two weeks ago reminded me of all the tempting patterns in the book, and this eye mask was another straightforward project, started and finished in just one morning.

The pattern calls for two lengths of ribbon to fasten the eye mask, but I can't imagine how having a ribbon tied in a bow at the back of your head is conducive to a good night's sleep, so I knew I would have to try something else. 

Tory from Funky & Delightful used elastic in a casing when she made this mask.  I love the way this adaptation looks; ruffled and yet neat.  But I was still worried it might be too tight or too loose, so I plumped for a long length of velcro instead, for ultimate adjustability.

The mask is quilted on the front and plain on the back and it is padded with a layer of quilt wadding.  The fabric is another house trouser remnant - this time the beautiful WIlliam Morris fabric I used for G's Christmas house trousers.  William Morris always looks good I think, and will add an air of gentle Victoriana to bedtimes.


For those of you reading on Google Reader or similar, I have given the blog a small spring clean.  There is a new February banner, an updated cast list and an updated list of favourite blogs.