red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

fit to be tied–a quilt finish


We finally had some sunshine yesterday, so in between cooking and eating Thanksgiving dinner, we managed to take a few photos of the tie quilt for my in-laws.


Construction could not have been simpler: four panels, 15 x 62 inches, with 3-inch sashing and borders.


For the back, I used fabric I found on the sale table (score!) and a couple of strips pieced from the leftovers on the front.


For the binding, I found a subtle black/brown houndstooth in the Mizzou fabric endcap display–perfect, especially since my father-in-law graduated from Mizzou (school colors: gold and black). I like how it fits the menswear theme, picks up the black in the tie fabric and creates the sense of a frame.

By far, the greatest challenge with this quilt was the free-motion quilting (FMQ): finding the optimal machine set-up, choosing the right FMQ designs and executing them. I had never FMQ’d a quilt this size before, so wrestling with it under the machine took some effort.


Fortunately I came across some timely posts, which bolstered my confidence and offered some great tips. As part of her virtual quilting bee, Amy Smart provided links to a quilt basting tutorial and a FMQ quilting tutorial, both by Kati Spencer of From A Blue Chair. The best suggestion was to move the sewing machine to the kitchen table. My sewing machine usually sits on an old, generously sized drafting table of my husband’s. The problem with this set-up is that the table is pushed against a window, which means a large quilt runs into the window as I quilt! Here at the dining table, the quilt had support and plenty of room to move.

I also found that gloves are a necessity when working with a quilt this size. They allow a greater sense of control. I looked at quilting gloves at Joann’s: $20-$30! Forget it. I stopped at Lowe’s and bought an inexpensive pair of rubber-coated gardening gloves (they will now be dedicated to the sewing room)–they worked well.

As for the actual FMQing . . . well, let’s just say I need lots more practice! I don’t think I’ll ever reach the 10,000-Hour Rule (which Malcolm Gladwell espouses in his book, Outliers) when it comes to FMQing–20 hours a week for 10 years?!–but I do recognize that with practice come experience, knowledge and improvement.


In addition to the tutorials mentioned above, two books were great references: Free-Motion Quilting by Angela Walters and The Modern Quilt Workshop by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. I used Walters’ wavy line design for the horizontal panels and a wonky box design for the vertical borders–I figured that with these designs my “mistakes” would be less noticeable.


As for the horizontal sashing, I took my cue from Lori at the Inbox Jaunt: I drew on “rails” with my chalk pencil and


FMQ’d rows of simple wonky ties!

While I consider the Ringle/Weeks book a valuable resource for great modern quilt designs, what I found most helpful was their encouragement to the novice quilter:

Slow down, take your time, be willing to try a new technique, and reap the rewards of good craftsmanship. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. . . . Remember also that, in the end, it’s your quilt, and all that matters is that you like it and that you had fun making it.


Details: 68″ x 75″

Happy Thanksgiving


After making turkey rolls last weekend, I decided that what they needed to look more like turkeys (and less like doves or baby seals!) was a wattle. Sliced dried cranberries make good-looking turkey beards.

Happy Thanksgiving!

birdfeeder hitman


This morning I wondered why there weren’t any birds at the feeders, especially since I had filled the feeders and added water to the birdbath yesterday. I glanced out the kitchen window and realized why: a Cooper’s hawk.


He was sitting atop the birdfeeder stand, surveying his domain. Although the Cooper’s hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk look similar, my guess is that, given the rounded tail, it was a Cooper’s hawk.


This hawk knows a meal ticket when it sees one–he’s a birdfeeder hitman. We believe his most recent avian victim was a mourning dove; we found the feathery remains near the edge of the lawn, which saddened us. This time, however, he swooped down to the lawn and grabbed a vole or mouse. Good riddance, I say!

baby turkey dinner rolls


Daughter #2 and her buddies are having a Friendsgiving dinner tonight, with each girl bringing a dish or two to share. D#2’s contributions: the ubiquitous green bean casserole and dinner rolls. At Easter, we often shape the rolls like baby chicks, so today we thought, why not make baby turkeys?!


We divided the dough into 16 pieces. We rolled each piece into a short rope, made a knot, squeezed the tip of the dough to make a beak, added peppercorns for eyes, and used scissors to cut the dough to make a feathery tail.


In the end, they look more like sweet little doves, but no matter. They will meet the same fate as the turkey: gobbled up!

diagonal-seam binding closure

Since it’s a cold, rainy day, I am staying indoors and finishing up the quilt for my father-in-law. Although my free-motion quilting technique can use lots of improvement, I have making and attaching binding down cold. A few years ago, a quilting teacher shared a clever way to attach two ends of binding that’s easy and results in an exact fit–I’ve used it ever since. She learned it from a Simply Quilts episode (host Alex Anderson). Although I can’t find Alex Anderson’s directions, you can find a similar explanation here–scroll down to Method 2 under Finishing the Binding Ends. I join my binding pieces with diagonal seams, so I like that with this method the final closure seam in the binding is diagonal too.


I overlap the two unattached ends of the binding. Then I measure and cut the overlapping piece of binding by the width of the binding strip (before it’s folded/ironed it in half). Here my binding is 2 1/4 inches wide, so I cut one end of the binding so it overlaps the other by 2 1/4 inches.


I then pin these two ends on the diagonal at a right angle to each other, right sides together. . .


and do a dry run on the binding finishing to ensure that (1) my future diagonal seam is oriented correctly, matching the angle of the other binding seams, (2) I haven’t twisted the binding the wrong way, and (3) it fits.


I then join the two ends with a diagonal seam, marking the opposite corner for accuracy.


I trim the excess triangle, press . . .


pin in place and finishing sewing.

Now it’s on to hand sewing the binding in place.

If you are a visual learner (as am I), you might find this video (below) of this binding-closure technique helpful. If possible, I leave 8 to 10 inches of the binding unattached at the beginning and end (rather than the 6 inches the video instructor suggests). This way I have more room to work with the binding ends.

Charley Harper fabric


I finally received the pile of fat quarters of Charley Harper fabric I ordered from Fabricworm–I’m psyched! I am a long-time admirer of the work of Charley Harper, so I was thrilled when I heard that Birch Fabric was coming out with a line of fabric based on his designs.


These two prints are my favorites. Although I have yet to see a red-headed woodpecker in my yard, cardinals and nuthatches visit my feeders daily.


This cardinal stopped to give David a bit of style and flair!

bird spa


I installed the heater and filled the bird bath yesterday. Today cardinals, sparrows and even blue jays are taking turns. The robins, however, are not so egalitarian. After chasing several other birds away, this fellow took an extended bath, fluffed himself up to dry, and then continued to have a long soak.

the ties that bind


I have learned to follow my quilting/sewing muse–she leads me to the most interesting places! A week ago, I came across this tie fabric at my local fabric store, and it called to me. Well, actually, it called to my father-in-law; he just wasn’t close enough to hear it.


My FIL has collected ties for decades, has been know to wear multiple ties at the same time, and has incorporated ties in his artwork. The man is a dedicated tie-wearing dandy. (Here he is with my MIL.)

So although I wasn’t planning on it, I am making a quilt for my father-in-law for Christmas. Given the size of the print and its directionality (and my need to get in gear quickly), I went with horizontal slabs. I incorporated subdued prints suggestive of men’s dress shirts and ties. The mustard fabric is in homage to a vintage mustard tuxedo jacket that belonged to my FIL, which he then bequeathed to my husband and son. It has since seen action at Mardi Gras parties, the 8th grade dance and prom. The blue sashing evokes the standard oxford blue dress shirt.

Now comes the hard part (for me): the machine quilting of this beast (it’s approximately 68″ x 75″). I am going to give it a go, but I’m apprehensive, especially having read today Ashley’s (of Film in the Fridge fame) confession that she doesn’t always feel up to snuff about her machine-quilting skills–yikes. If she feels insecure about her machine-quilting abilities, then I am toast! I did take consolation in the kind-hearted, supportive responses to her post, and of course, these folks are right: no one is going to look at the quilting as critically as I, the quilter, will. So I plan to cut myself some slack, do some practice quilting first, and then get to work. Wish me luck!

cardinal in repose


This little cardinal was resting in the river birch outside my kitchen window. We planted the birch this summer, and the birds now like pausing here before they swoop over to the feeders.

canna babies


We worked on garden chores today. My husband cut back and dug up the canna rhizomes so they could be stored over the winter. Last spring, he planted one box full of canna clumps; this afternoon, he dug up three boxes full! I guess they were in a happy place and feeling prolific. Once they dry out a little, we will store the boxes in the garage till spring. We plan to share them at our garden swap party in May. One of my grandfather’s pet peeves was oxymorons (eg, “jumbo shrimp”); this situation reminds me of one that drove him crazy but seems appropriate: free gift!

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